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Today In Gulf Gusher News

The spill comes ashore | Photographed by Astronaut Soichi Noguchi from the International Space Station

Today, the fabled “containment dome” is lowered onto one of the leaks in the fallen riser, not the well head itself as some seem to think.

… Once the containment dome is lowered, remote operated subs will guide it into place. Engineers will use the drillship Discoverer Enterprise to lower two pipes, a smaller one inside a larger one. They intend to flow the leaking oil up 5,000 feet through the smaller pipe into storage tanks on the drillship at the surface.

Think of it as placing a slushie lid over (what I hope is) the leak closest to the well head, sticking a straw within a straw in the lid and gas-lifting the emulsion to the surface. Oilfield engineers explain that this is a dangerous procedure given the gas needed to mobilize the oil. Hence the straw within the straw.

[BP executives Bob] Fryar and [David] Clarkson said they are concerned about gas hydrates that form ice plugs inside the drill pipe as the oil begins to flow upwards. They intend to pipe warmer surface water down between the larger pipe and the smaller one to keep ice plugs from forming. Injecting methanol may also help dissolve ice plugs, they said.

The New York Times warns, “The dome will not shut off the gushing well, which is still spilling an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day; the goal is just to keep some of the oil out of the water by capturing it and then funneling it [out].”

Speaking of the estimated amount of oil still spewing out, a Florida State University professor says that satellite images indicate that 10 million gallons of oil could already be in the Gulf so far, much higher than the three million gallons estimate. Basic math time: 210,000 gallons per day estimated x 16 days = 3.36 million gallons total to date. 10 million gallons as hypothesized by Professor Ian MacDonald divided by 16 days = 625,000 gallons per day. That’s 3 times the BP and Coast Guard estimation. Let us hope he is SO SO wrong.

“It may be that they’re right.  I hope they are,” he said.  “The less oil that’s out there the better, and the only purpose of trying to do this is to get as many points of view as we can so we have the best understanding of what we’re facing, ’cause we’re all in this together.”

2 comments… add one
  • Ryan May 6, 2010, 3:05 PM

    Heard it thru the grapevine that hydrates may be the reason that the BOP’s didn’t function (riser above BOP full of cold water; big gas bubble right below BOP – when they opened a hydrate formed). Hydrates can be mitigated if planned for…this will work.

    I hope we figure out what happened b/c we sure as hell want to do what needs to be done to prevent it from happening again.

    The world isn’t powered with unicorns, sunshine, or hope & change so like it or not, the oilfield is here to stay in Louisiana. If not for the oilfield, Louisiana would be like Michigan times 50. My hometown would cease to exist…

  • Maitri May 8, 2010, 10:32 AM

    I agree, Ryan, but as things stand, Louisiana may be saved from looking like Michigan times 50, but it will look like Prince William Sound many years from now. Either way, whether the oil industry stays in south Louisiana or not, your hometown as you know it will change.

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