Breaking: Seep Found Near Blownout Well, BP Not Complying With Government Demands for More Monitoring → Washingtons Blog
Breaking: Seep Found Near Blownout Well, BP Not Complying With Government Demands for More Monitoring - Washingtons Blog

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Breaking: Seep Found Near Blownout Well, BP Not Complying With Government Demands for More Monitoring

AP notes:

A federal official says scientists are concerned about a seep and possible methane near BP's busted oil well in the Gulf of Mexico

Both could be signs there are leaks in the well that's been capped off for three days.

The AP article implies that the seeps are new since BP shut off the oil flow into the Gulf as part of its "well integrity test", but doesn't directly address that issue.

But as I pointed out on June 24th:

The Washington Post made a very important point yesterday:

Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, said additional leaks are a possible source of deep-sea plumes of oil detected by research vessels. But this part of the gulf is pocked with natural seeps, he noted. Conceivably the drilling of the well, and/or the subsequent blowout, could have affected the seeps, he said.

"Once you started disturbing the underground geology, you may have made one of those seeps even worse," he said.

Remember that geologists have said that if the well casing is substantially breached, the oil and methane gas will find a way through fractures in the surrounding geology and make it into the ocean. For example, the Houston Chronicle notes:

If the well casing burst it could send oil and gas streaming through the strata to appear elsewhere on the sea floor ....

Obviously, if there are natural oil or gas seeps nearby, there are already pre-existing channels up to the seafloor ... so that may very well be the path of least resistance for the subterranean oil to flow up to the seafloor.

Therefore, if there were a substantial breach in the well bore, nearby natural oil and gas seeps could very well increase in volume.

Because BP would like to minimize leak estimates to minimize the damages it has to pay under the Clean Water Act, BP would undoubtedly try to pretend that the nearby natural seeps always had the same volume. In other words, the owner of the oil drilling prospect where the spill is occuring - BP - may be the only party to have mapped out the nearby seeps (Anadarko and Mitsui were partners with BP in the oil prospect; but - as passive partners - they probably didn't take a hands-on approach to such details).

So don't be surprised if - when formerly tiny seeps become gushers - BP tries to pretend that they were always that large.

Indeed - given BP's track record of prevarication - don't be shocked if BP pretends that brand new gushers are ancient, natural seeps.

AP also notes:

The official says BP is not complying with the government's demand for more monitoring.

As I argued at length on June 16th, we should not trust BP to stop the oil gusher, and they should be removed from the scene of the crime and replaced with people who don't have such a poor track record for safety and such severe conflicts of interest.

The health of the entire Gulf region is at stake.

For background on the release of methane from the oil spill, see this.

Update: The top government official in charge of the response to the oil spill, Thad Allen, sent a letter to BP tonight addressing the seep, additional monitoring, and the need to re-open the containment cap.


  1. It took this long to have Matt Simmons views affirmed?

  2. Is the US close to arresting BP officials and seizing their assets?

    Today brings news that there is evidence oil and gas is seeping from the capped well into other seeps on the seabed.

    If this is confirmed, and hydrocarbon samples from the seeps are confirmed to be from BP's Maconda well, then the US government will have a pretty solid set of evidence of criminal conduct by not only BP's top officials, but by BP as a corporation.

    By now, it is pretty clear that BP have lied nearly every step of the way, in concealing the size of the spill, the severity of the situation, and now, their prior knowledge of existing seeps and how the compromised well must have been leaking into it.

    That explains their reluctance to cap / allow the well to pressurize all this time.

    When news like this is leaked by Administration officials, it is often a prelude to the US Government having reached a tipping point, when they are prepared to move against BP.

    Next week Prime Minister Cameron is visiting with President Obama. The opportune time to make a move at BP will be at the same time as the meeting, and then the two leaders can deal with the fallout face to face.

    This may be the tipping point.

  3. I completely agree. The problem is that the only people with enough money to do research into this sort of thing is... the oil companies! So who else CAN clean up this mess? No one because we don't put enough money into our regulation and research sectors.

  4. Not a matter of money but just power, military power!

  5. I had recently sent a suggestion on containing the oil spill to the official White House website (and to BP) but got no response. The gist of this is as follows:
    Crude oil has a specific gravity slightly below one, and as such an oil spill gradually rises to the ocean surface, where it gets dispersed all over the place. I suggested that BP arrange to inject superheated steam into the mass of escaping oil. This will cause the lighter fractions in the crude oil to separate out (as occurs in a basic distillation tower) which will rise to the surface and rapidly evaporate. The balance residual oil (having a density of over 1) will sink to ocean floor and remain there till it gets consumed by microbial action or absorbed beneath the surface.

    Hopefully, the new cap may plug the leak, but this suggestion could be tried out for future deep water well leaks to help contain the spill damage.

  6. Good suggestion Mohan Advani, BP has received over 180,000 suggestions and I am sure the White house a similar amount. Sent my suggestion to one of the advisers on the advisory panel. There are are a bunch of challenges when working at 5,000 ft depths and oil gushing out at 4000 psi - a bullet in a gun is fired out at 700 psi and so you can envision the challenges. I suggested putting freezing collar on the lower part of the blowout tree - a technique used in plumbing industry or just unscrewing the flange just below the edge of the cut pipe and attaching another with a valve attached.


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