Over the weekend, I've learned a lot through my own research and through contacts within the industry about BP's blowout well, Mississippi Canyon Block 252, and, even though BP and Transocean remain silent as to the condition of the wellhead and BOP (blowout preventer), it seems that consensus is growing that the damage to the stack, 5,000 feet below sea level, is serious and likely irreparable. My sources tell me that ROVs have worked directly on the BOP, doing everything that should have activated it and it has failed to close. It is believed that something may have initially jammed them and they failed to close; however, the BOP was subsequently severely damaged by the stress of the collapsing riser that remained attached as the Deepwater Horizon sank. The riser was 5,000 feet of 21" diameter pipe, some buoyant, some negatively buoyant, putting huge forces at the stack on the sea floor as it sank.
My understanding is that the flowing wellhead pressure may be as high as 10,000 PSI and that, even if the BOP could be closed now, could very well be leaking in the locking mechanism below the stack. Leaks always get worse, not better, as anyone knows who's been annoyed by a dripping kitchen faucet. The only problem here is that this faucet is "dripping" at upwards of 25,000 barrels per day. One industry source, who has knowledge of the operations, said, "[the BOP] isn't closed and In my professional opinion, its not going to close..."
The well has now been flowing uncontrolled for 13 days. As we've talked about before, these units are designed to slam shut, not be flowed through, at least at these high rates and pressures. Erosion of the ram faces and the bore is now likely severe, further reducing its chances of ever actually shutting the well in and sealing.
I understand that preparations are now being made to cut the riser above the BOP in preparation of installing the containment structure to control the flow of oil. Essentially, it is a large structure that is lowered over the source of the leak, attached by a riser to the surface. Oil will then flow up the riser to a ship that will process and collect the oil. It is believed that, if successful, this structure could capture 85% of the produced oil. This is a technique that has been used successfully in shallow water, but never this deep. It appears to me that the containment structure is the only chance BP has of slowing the growth of the spill, at least until they get the well killed by a relief well, or if well bore damage slows the flow by itself.
I'll continue to follow this story as is develops.
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