THE BLOG
06/12/2010 06:50 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Can't You Just Crimp Well Shut? How About Nuking It? Nope...

I'm getting lots of emails from folks who are suggesting all kinds of ideas to stop the flow of BP's blowout well in the Gulf.  While I appreciate the concern and creativity, unfortunately, these ideas simply won't work.  Let's review a few and talk about them:
Crimp it shut, or use explosives to seal it shut:  Here's the problem with all ideas for a topside kill, valves, crimping, blasting, rocks, etc... I believe they can't actually shut the well in, and more damage is likely if they try.  It's very likely that the production casing, the intermediate casing around it, and/or the downhole safety valves are damaged.  This was probably made worse by the top kill effort.  I believe they are in severe danger of an underground blowout, if it hasn't happened already.  What this means is that BP must keep the pressure in the well as low as possible, which means they have to let it keep flowing.  If they shut it in, it could damage the casing even worse, possibly allowing the oil to flow outside of the well, coming through the sea floor completely uncontrolled.
Even if they could shut in the well, another weakness is the flanges and fittings in the LMRP (lower marine riser package).  These fittings, consisting of what's left of the riser adapter flange and the flex joint, which allows the riser to move with ocean currents, can't stand wellhead pressure.  As well, below the flex joint are two annular preventers (big donuts that squeeze in on the pipe) that are also are relatively low pressure, rated at 5,000 and 10,000 psi.  So, to shut the well in, all of these fittings would have to be removed and replaced with higher rated rams in order to stand the wellbore pressure build up.  In order to safely shut the well in, they would have to remove the LMRP at the riser connector, and land another valve or BOP on top of the stack.  That's supposing you could even do that, which you can't due to  the problems I talked about above.
Nuke it!  This is the one I get the most; ignoring the obvious issues of taking the largest environmental catastrophe in US history and turning it radioactive, this idea is just not feasible. Many have cited a Russian well that was killed back in the 50's by detonating some explosive device.  First, it was on land; second, much shallower; third, it was dangerous as hell.  
One analyst recently suggested "running in a nuke" to kill it this well.  You can't get into the well due to drillpipe hanging in it and obvious casing damage (if they could, they would have just run in pipe and pumped mud).  So, in order for an explosive device to even have a chance of working, a well would have to be drilled deep below the sea floor to get under shallower zones that could break down, resulting in an underground blowout.  This well would have the same risks and dangers as the blowout well, not to mention the dangers of handling an unexploded nuclear device in a never-tried procedure.  Why would you drill a well to drop a nuke, when you can use that same well as a relief well?  The answer is that you wouldn't.
I'll say this again, as I've been saying since the top kill failed.  The only way to kill this well is with a relief well, killing it at the source.  In the meantime, BP should be removed as operator, replaced by the Get the Well Killed Committee, tasked with capturing 100% of the flowing oil, and getting the relief wells drilled.  The Coast Guard should take over all surface operations and send BP home.
And I'll keep saying it.
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