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Gulf oil spill. Help me understand.

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by RWP, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. RWP


    Jul 1, 2006
    We need oil, and I am all for drilling. But please tell me why we can have an oil rig with a valve that turns off if there is a problem. How about a valve that turns off everyday unless it receives the 'stay open' command from topside. What am I missing here? We can drive robots on MARS but we can turn off a valve 5000 feet away?
  2. I was under the impression, from what I've heard on the radio, that this particular well DOES have a value and that they've been using robots to try to turn it off, but without any success.

    Someone more clued in will correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure.

    Edit: Found on the BBC website.

  3. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    probably also has to do with the fact that you're talking about a mile of water above the drilling area - the water pressure down there is over a ton per square inch. not much complex machinery can tolerate those kinds of conditions, i would think.

    the only problem with driving something on mars is the distance, really. the conditions on mars are pretty favorable. not so at the bottom of the ocean.
  4. At least is wasn't another Piper Alpha!
  5. No, but there are still 8 men missing from this rig and that's bad enough.
  6. RWP


    Jul 1, 2006
    All they would need is a remotely operated valve and a receiver. However, I bet all that is in place and has failed for some reason. The BBC article mentions a BOP on the well head. Obviously something is not working correctly there. Sucks, this will be more fodder for the anti-oil crowd.
  7. GENIUS: Get the oil spill to reg @ TB, engage said spill in political and/or religious issues- then call JT.
  8. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    There is an automatic shutoff on the well head that activates if the pipe to the surface is compromised. It didn't work automatically, and they've been trying to activate it by manual means to no avail as of yet.

    The thing is on the bottom of the gulf of Mexico. I believe this is the deepest depth that something like this has ever happened.

    There were contingency plans in place for just such an Emergency, they just didn't work.
  9. I guess when you're working at these depths it's hard to accurately test contingency plans.
  10. RWP


    Jul 1, 2006
    LOL Pretty much the standard course for OT. :D

    Maybe they for to replace the batteries? :D
  11. True, don't get me wrong on that. But it is still a lot less than the 160+ that were lost.
  12. Fact: We have more knowledge of the surface of the moon than we do the floors of our own oceans. It's tough to work down there, the environment can be more hostile than either Mars or the moon to humans - as JT pointed out already.

    Stuff that makes perfect sense in 1 atmosphere, things that work perfectly, FAIL at depths like this. There is no way to mock up or test things at these pressures without actually being IN them, and the only way to do that is to go to them. We cannot build a test facility with that type of pressure that we can easily work in. The only way to see how such pressures work is to go to these depths directly, and that is a highly dangerous and expensive proposition.

    It's no surprise that the BOP failed here, because they have tested and employed them in much less extreme conditions up to this point.

    As someone that grew up in the saltwater marshes of southern Louisiana, and saw first hand the devastation that the oil industry was leaving in their wake there, count me in as one of those that has issues with this situation. These companies have had free reign to do as they liked for far too long, without any responsibility for the damage they left behind, with no cost for the mistakes they made.

    You know why New Orleans and the areas around the city are in danger? Two reasons:

    The Army Corps of Engineers and their levee projects along the Mississippi River cut off the only source of new top soil. Each year, before the levees existed, the river would overflow it's banks, slow down, and deposit several inches of silt, then retreat back to its channel, leaving the land a bit higher. Over the summer and winter, as things dried out, this silt would settle, dry, and compact, and of the 3-4" of silt that was deposited, an aggregate gain of 1-2" of topsoil would remain. The levee system ended this, and the areas of New Orleans that are not naturally high ground (Uptown, French Quarter - the original, older areas are quite high) began to subside.

    Here's the issue that is related to the above discussion:

    The thing that kept the tidal surges associated with hurricanes from swamping these areas were the millions of acres of salt marsh and associated wetlands along the coast. Due to the oil companies coming in and dredging channels that went directly to the Gulf, salt water was given easy access to the more fresh or brackish water areas further inland. The grasses that support these marshes are not able to survive in high salinity environments, and they die. The only thing keeping the soil in place in these marshes is the grass - once it dies, the marsh dies. The marshes act almost like a combination of a barrier and a sponge in hurricane events, slowing the inward flow and absorbing it. The southern part of Louisiana is losing an average of a football field of healthy salt marsh a day, if not more. It all adds up. It all goes back to salt water intrusion. Salt water intrusion is just one of the things that we can attribute to the oil industry and what it has taken from this area without adequate compensation or consideration.

    I haven't even touched on the affect this has on the fishing and shrimping industries along the coast, which are wholly reliant on the salt marsh ecology to even exist, much less thrive. Less salt marsh also equals less area for fish and shrimp to spawn and less area for the spawn to live in safety until they are large enough to enter the gulf and become adults.

    The entire situation is just untenable economically as well as environmentally - a large part of the economy of south Louisiana is based on the seafood industry, and that industry is dying because stocks are so low.

    Yes, there were boom times, and lots of money, but it is all gone, isn't it? Now there are just people with little left to show for it, and their state is washing away, literally.

    So, yes, you could number me as someone that isn't highly in favor of the oil industry. That and the fact that even if we produced every single ounce of crude possible from our own reserves, we will STILL be beholden to people that hate us and our way of life for the lion's share of our crude.

    I'd rather be free of the entire system of petroleum, but I'm also sensible enough to understand we cannot do that without a lot of time, money, effort, and research. Until we reach that time, we have to rely on the petroleum industry, but I don't want to give them a free pass along the way, and if we're all sensible about it, neither should anyone else.

    ...rant over.

  13. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    Maybe they could put one of these near the desk of the guy in charge.....


  14. RWP


    Jul 1, 2006
    Although I agree the conditions in salt water at 5000 feet pose a significant engineering challenge for the designers of emergency shut off equipment; this is far to important a device not to be 99.99 % effective. Maybe this is the .001% where the device failed but I am not buying that. There should have been redundant BOP. This is going to cost millions in environmental damage not to mention losses in fishing business in the area. They are drilling a relief well now. Why wasn't that in place before the accident to provide additional options in case of a rig disaster like this?
  15. As I tried to intimate in my first post: the oil/petroleum industry in the US (and elsewhere) gets a "pass" on a lot of things they shouldn't. Oversight is lax at best, non-existent is common.

    Why didn't they have a functioning system with backups? Because that would have cost money, cutting into profits. Damn the consequences to the environment or costs to businesses outside the oil/petroleum industry, all they care for is THEIR margin. Sadly, in their industry, when something goes wrong it ends up costing other industries (and the entire environment) as much or more than the cost to the oil/petroleum industry itself...damn the consequences, how much can we squeeze out of this before it's all gone!
  16. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    A big plus one for me. My experiences isn't with the marshes of Louisiana though. Mine are the marshes of Huntington Beach area. We have quite a large area from Long Beach to Harbor, through Anaheim Bay (Huntington Harbor) to the Santa Ana river to Newport Harbor. All these areas have been dotted with oil pumpers for decades. The oil company is like the government here. They don't answer to municipal laws, or even state laws really. We also have at least ten oil rigs off our coast. There is a constant seepage of tar that hits our beach, and we have a spill about once every 10-15 years. At one point tankers were mooring off our main beach only about a mile offshore. After a big spill that stopped.

    I visit the two closest rigs pretty regularly, and we have been called in for dive ops on several occasions. The stuff I have seen sends shivers down my spine. I remember pulling up to a situation where there was a dude standing on a section of piping being held by a crane that was literally being lifted off the ocean floor while still connected. I'm still not sure what they were doing. You could even hear the crane straining. But as far as we could tell, there was absolutely no reason for that guy to be on the pipe. We were standing by from a safe distance. We figured something was going to happen and somebody was going to die. Luckily no one did.

    These guys are incredibly lax when it comes to safety, and I can't imagine how they are with maintenance. So for them to install a system of redundancy in order to avoid spills and damage to the local ecosystem would be completely out of character. I can't see it happening unless they are mandated or there is a huge spill off our coast. Everything I've seen, these guys operate on a reactive mentality rather than a preventative mentality. Not sure if this is policy or even if this is consistent with the way these rigs operate across the board, but it seems to me that it's not a matter of 'if' a spill occurs but 'when' a spill occurs, things will have a chance for change.
  17. True that, it's incredible how many corners can be cut when you grease the right palms.
  18. deepwater-horizon-buring-and-going-.

  19. PSPookie


    Aug 13, 2006
    Lubbock, TX
    Ah, it's BP. That explains a lot. They have to be top-tier in slimyness even for an oil company. They have gotten away with and continue to get away with seriously questionable practices: robber-barons, production trimming, price fixing, etc. And that's just on the economic side of things.

    Dirtier than the oil they pump.
  20. Great post Gard, but I don't agree with this:

    If we utilized our own resources, we could cut Mideast oil out of the equation over time.

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