Monday, May 24, 2010

Oil Be Damned Update II

In British Petroleum’s latest gambit to try to stem the flow of oil out of its gusher in the Gulf, they successfully inserted a 4 inch (10 cm) pipe into the well, which looks to be at least a foot wide, to siphon off the oil. At first we heard they were getting 1000 barrels per day or 20% of the flow, then they upped that to 2000 barrels or 40%. Last word was they were up to 5000 barrels which should have completely stopped the flow since we’ve been told right along by BP (and parroted by the government) that that was the total amount being spewed into the Gulf.

Meanwhile, after three weeks of intense pressure on the part of congress and independent researchers for more information on the gusher, BP released a 30 second video of it, the first to the general public. By virtue of modern digital technology, researchers determined that the amount coming out of the well is at least 10 times and possibly 20 times the figure stated. That means somewhere between 2 million and 4 million gallons per day or a spill equivalent to the Exxon Valdez every 3 to 5 days.

Therefore it’s easy to understand why BP was desperate to withhold the video. They were probably hoping one of their magical cures would stop the flow before anyone found out the true extent of the damage. The fundamental problem is they have no idea what they’re doing or how to cope with a spill one mile down.

That, however, didn’t stop them from cutting corners to save a few bucks, like lobbying against the requirement to include a remote controlled switch on the blowout protector. Or, as has recently come to light, BP failed to do a required final inspection on the just installed concrete casing on the well. This in spite of the fact that failure of concrete casings was the cause of about half of all underwater spills.

Now they want to shove old shredded tires or heavy mud or some other such bulky, funky thing into the well to try to stop the flow. I’m not an engineer but that seems to me like trying to plug a high pressure fire hose by shoving a cork in it. LOL.

What’s remarkable to me is that the oil is coming out like a geyser even though pressure at that depth is about 2300 pounds per square inch or one metric ton per 6 square centimeters.

The only sure way to stem the flow, which could take another two months, is to drill a companion well into the original one and plug it from there. Meanwhile, they are using large amounts of chemical dispersants to try to prevent the oil from coming ashore. What this does is break up the oil, which otherwise would come right up to the surface in large coherent blobs, into tiny globules that hang below the surface.

While it’s probably a good idea to try to stop the oil from coming ashore, it’s hardly benign having millions of barrels of oil hovering below the surface, besides the fact that a million gallons of dispersant, which is basically a solvent, can’t be too good for the water either… so a lose-lose situation.

Meanwhile, the doomsday scenario, which has to put fear in the hearts of all involved, is a good strong hurricane which would coat everything inland for miles with a toxic mixture of oil and dispersant.

Meanwhile, in spite of the current disaster, oil companies are itchy to start drilling in the Arctic Sea. You can just image a blowout happening under a frozen sea with no way to get to it through the ice and absolutely nothing to be done about stemming the spill until next warm season.

But those are the kinds of places where the remaining oil is and we’re hungry for it (and the profits involved) 0so desperate measures are required and warranted.

Meanwhile, though BP has said it will take responsibility for the damage, you can bet they will spend the next couple of decades fighting proper compensation in the courts. So what if they spend a billion dollars on legal fees, they’ll still save billions in comp costs. The bottom line is what’s important.

The current fiasco is another reminder that corporations desperately need to be reined in. If I as an individual cause death and injury, even if unintended, I’ll serve time for it. When a corporation causes death and destruction on a scale we are now seeing in the Gulf, it should face the death penalty and the CEO’s and top managers who okayed cutting corners in spite of the danger should face jail time. The US cannot shut down BP because it’s a multinational corporation, but it can ban it from doing business in America. LOL again.

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