The Gulf Oil Spill: What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

Tom Mendelsohn

RTR2F9KW 300x188 The Gulf Oil Spill: Whats the Worst that Could Happen?

The BP oil spill has been leaking away in the Gulf of Mexico for the better part of two months. It’s already an environmental catastrophe and a political disaster, and we’ve seen numerous attempts to stop it fail, including the much vaunted top kill. Nothing is working, though, and people are beginning to wonder about how bad it might get. Predicitions are getting quite hairy, but there’s one out there right now taking the biscuit for imagined bleakness.

It’s a long post written at the well respected energy policy website The Oil Drum, which has been doing the rounds, making its particularly doom-laden suggestion: the actual ocean floor underneath the leak is getting weaker, and that it could give way straight into the well.

“All the worst things you can think of are a possibility, but the very least damaging outcome as bad as it is, is that we are stuck with a wide open gusher blowing out 150,000 barrels a day of raw oil or more.”

The commenter, who goes under the moniker dougr, adds:

“I am convinced the erosion and compromising of the entire system is accelerating and attacking more key structural areas of the well, the blow out preventer and surrounding strata holding it all up and together.”

He presents himself as ‘a fairly knowledgable person’, though there are no more credentials than that. However, the post is very long, apparently well researched and supported by plenty of supplementary information. It is also quite, quite terrifying.

His post is too long and technical to fully summarise here, but he starts with a long description of how the top kill should have worked, then looks at the outcome and what BP has been saying about it – reaching the conclusion that BP is covering something up.

“All the actions and few tid bits of information all lead to one inescapable conclusion. The well pipes below the sea floor are broken and leaking. Now you have some real data of how BP’s actions are evidence of that, as well as some murky statement from ‘BP officials’ confirming the same.

“To those of us outside the real inside loop, yet still fairly knowledgeable, it was a major confirmation of what many feared. That the system below the sea floor has serious failures of varying magnitude in the complicated chain, and it is breaking down and it will continue to.”

What does it all mean? Well, it means we might well be out of luck:

“All of these things lead to only one place, a fully wide open well bore directly to the oil deposit.”

As far as I can tell, a fully opened oil desposit is going to be far worse than the leak currently is. He can’t think of a solution:

“It’s a race now…a race to drill the relief wells and take our last chance at killing this monster before the whole weakened, wore out, blown out, leaking and failing system gives up its last gasp in a horrific crescendo.”

Finally, if you weren’t quite feeling bleak enough about the whole situation, cheery dougr concludes that:

“The magnitude and impact of this disaster will eclipse anything we have known in our life times if the worst or even near worst happens…”

Of course, dougr is just a random guy from the internet. There’s nothing apart from his display of expertise to suggest that he has any expertise in this matter, and for all we know he could be making it up. It makes you think though.

Hat tip on this one to Gawker.

(Image: Reuters)

  • activesail

    Who really knows what will happen at that depth, with the unimaginable pressures involved. Both from that caused by the weight of water and the gas pressure in the well.

    I don’t believe anyone really knows because it has never happened before.

    Lets all hope for the best is all I can say.

  • Kalamari2

    Very disappointing – sorry cr$p – jounalism. The Oil Drum is well respected, with many experienced contributers. It has it’s fair share of trolls, which includes the sensationalist Dougr. The experienced contributers have completely trashed dougr’s effort. The situation is bad enough without this level of reporting – which is more of a Sun standard. K

  • Tom Mendelsohn

    Well in fairness, I didn’t report it as fact. I picked it up as heresay, and I have a follow-up from an expert I’ll post about tomorrow.

  • Tom Mendelsohn

    Well in fairness, I didn't report it as fact. I picked it up as heresay, and I have a follow-up from an expert I'll post about tomorrow.

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