Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Static Kill = Top Kill, Likely Also To Fail, Not Be Reported A Failure

So they have stopped the leak at the top, where the cameras show that BP owes Uncle Sam a few million dollars in penalties for pouring a jillion gallons of oil into the sea. Fine. Some of us will take some convincing that the casing is not pouring oil in to plausibly-deniable seeps elsewhere on the ocean floor.

Now they are talking about a "static kill" of the broken well. The "top kill" procedure was risky and it failed. I had high hopes for it as did many people, but that was before it became drastically obvious that the casing of the well is badly compromised. The top kill would have worked but the mud leaked out the sides of the pipe, into the ocean floor. BP has not repaired those leaking sections of casing. Allow me to make a humble prediction, with regret:

The "static kill" will also leak mud out into the ocean floor, far, far below the range of video cameras. The procedure will continue, until BP is forced to admit that it has failed. The relief wells continue to be the only somewhat-sure way to close off the gusher of oil. Not that you would get that impression from the highly-positive coverage the "static kill" will be getting in the coming days, if they decide to move forward with it. I will be very pleased indeed, if I am proved wrong. The new worst-case scenario is that they call it a job with a few thousand feet of mud in the top of the pipe. The relief wells, mere yards from success, are abandoned. The gusher continues to blast out the sides of the pipe, into places where it can seep into the Gulf of Mexico. Then the seals on the top cap fail and the gusher re-opens after BP has gone home and nobody notices, until the satellite imagery shows a fresh slick on the surface.


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