Ongoing methane leak near Los Angeles is the "worst environmental disaster since 2010 BP oil spill"


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I bet if they poured mercury down it would fix it.



Flood the area with CO2 to flush out much of the oxygen, then light it on fire.


OK, I recognize snark for snark. I doubt we have enough mercury stockpiled to do that effectively.

However, I was just talking to one of my cousins yesterday who is a very experienced horizontal well driller. He designed the relief wells for the Macondo BP disaster. He was not on the original drilling team, but he was well aware of the issues.

In the Macondo well, they were using lightweight nitrogen concrete as the drilling mud. But they were using it in a nonstandard way at depths that nitrogen concrete is not typically used at. So it couldn’t hold the oil down. They needed to be using something much heavier, and the well blew. At such deep depths, there wasn’t much they could do to fix anything because the wellhead had been damaged and the blowout preventers were destroyed due to being under-spec. He quickly designed the two relief wells and they got started on them right away, one a failsafe for the other. And those relief wells were what eventually got the Macondo under control.

I suspect a similar thing happened here with this methane well. Wrong or insufficient mud, big blowout, damaged blowout preventers and other safety equipment.

My cousin also told me a story about a well he was on in East Texas as a consultant. He was in the command booth and the operator told him how the mud pits were filling as he had turned on the pumps. My cousin took a look at the type of pumps and watched the readout on how fast the pits were filling, which was very fast and deduced that there was about to be a blowout.

The operator resisted, “But no, my pumps are filling those pits.” My cousin convinced him that the physics are all wrong, those pits are filling faster than any of their pumps could possibly be filling it… ergo… that crude is coming up the stack and pushing out the mud. He told the operator to get down there and close the relief valve. That operator ran down there just as the rig started to rumble and he was able to throw the hydraulics into gear to close the wellhead and divert the blowout horizontally, towards a relief pool, as is standard in the industry. It all happened within about 2 minutes, and takes a quick eye, deductive reasoning that is not taking a nap, and the ability to quickly explain what the hell is going on so that a disaster is avoided. Basic survival instinct. It took that crew a week to cap the well after that blowout. It would have been months longer if my cousin hadn’t given them the warning to divert it.

I tell this story, because whenever I hear of one of these well disasters, it is a human error that caused it. These damn wells have more sensors on them than an endoscope up your butt. They have sensors for every damn thing. It’s HUMANS who ignore the data imperiously who cause these disasters.

Stupid humans.


Just gonna leave this here…

The tl;dr…

Global Warming Potential is a metric standardized on carbon dioxide with a value of 1.

Methane has a GWP of 21.


It’s a US company, not a half-British one. Also, oil is visible, whereas methane is a gas. (Literally) nothing to see here, Citizen. Move along.


Any word on whether SCG has found a way to write off the gas emitted as a charitable donation for tax purposes?


It’s also faulty user interfaces. If the data are shown as arrays of numbers, tough luck divining out something useful in real time. Sacrifice some screen real estate to graphs, both of values an their change rates, clearly indicate what is limits of the design, what was normal at the same situations in the past…


For a moment there I thought this was a Trump joke, on several levels.


I would go further and say there’s also the human error/greed that causes improper and dangerous shortcuts with regard to initial materials and construction.

As you said, using the wrong type of concrete while mudding…good thing they had the sensors and your cousin there, but it would have been better if the drilling had been done properly from the start.


Oh it’s definitely human error. Prior to drilling, there were no well disasters.


witness the genius of the limited liability corporation. If they gamble and lose, it’s not their problem, they get to declare bankruptcy and do it again elsewhere. If they gamble and win, they get to keep all the proceeds. Capitalism guarantees this kind of outcome, eventually, with enough spins of the wheel.


This differs from the BP well in that they are not currently drilling. It is an old oil well being used for gas storage. So there was no mud, and no drilling rig. But apparently a similar failure to the DWH well – a cement job or something failed deep underground.

The original post had part of the right idea: [quote=“Scrub, post:2, topic:71280, full:true”]
I bet if they poured mercury down it would fix it.

Put something heavy over the leak. Couple of problems there: mercury is a liquid and the gas can just bubble through it. Also, you can’t force anything down the wild well against the flow. It just comes back out of the hole with the approximate force of cannon fire.

So they have to drill a releif well. Put some properly weighted concrete at the bottom, where it is possible to do so, where the pressure is approximately the same as the escaping gas. They’ll use concrete, and for extra weight they add cesium formate. Why the formate salt, I don’t know (I’d think the bromide would be heavier). Maybe your cousin would know.

And good for your cousin’s action in diverting that blowout. Though they usually like to get control of them earlier, by noticing the ‘kick’ in the mud flow, and tweaking the mud mix or turning some valves…

(stuff I learned as a reader of The Oil Drum … by the way)

PS … The experts on The Oil Drum were saying, back in the first days of the DWH event, that the operator at the time of that blowout must have had about 20 minutes or a half hour of excess mud flow in between the initial failure and the visible blowout and fire. The well was so deep, that would have been how long it took to blow all the mud out of the wellbore. It was particularly sad for BP, because they had finished the drilling operation and were preparing to put the well into production.

As I recall, that operator did not survive. Bad time to be napping, or not know what you’re doing.


Yep. My cousin described this. The concrete that they put down the hole is supposed to sit on top of the column long enough for it to set up and stop the flow or restrict it, because they don’t always want a full seal, just a smaller bore. There’s a calculation of temperature, pressure and other factors that can predict whether the concrete will set up (solidify) down there and if those calculations are off by 10% (according to cousin) then the concrete approach will fail.

Also, just for simplicity, think about where the oil or methane is underground as a big chamber. It’s not like that in reality, but just imagine a big cave down there, with a little hole that we drilled down into it that comes out of the roof of that cave. Well, if you put a bunch of drippy liquid down there, won’t it just leak down the roof of the cave to displace stuff at the bottom of the cave and push more stuff out the top back up through your little hole? Why yes it does. So we have to put sticky stuff down there and approach with caution, and also use injector wells to pump sea water or something else down there to displace at a comfortable rate.

So it’s not as simple as filling the hole with stuff. The hole doesn’t have a cap on the bottom. It’s a hole to a void. So the hole has to be systematically restricted for any capping to work.

And yes, the alternative is a relief well that is capp-able, but those take months to drill, because they aren’t straight down and have to be homed in with magnetometers and all other kinds of tech to get them right.

I don’t know, and I’ll have to ask him. They experiment with all kinds of crazy stuff, don’t they? I don’t know how they have engineered this stuff. It all seems so voodoo science to me, even after he explained it all to me.


Yeah, that amazes me, too. They can find a six inch steel pipe, under three miles of rock, and hit it dead center with the second drill. Of course the pipe is magnetic, but I wouldn’t think it could be so accurate.


I said a variation of that exact thing to my cousin! And he said finding that 6 inch pipe is the least of his worries because the magnetometers that find the specific signature of the pipe are that sensitive. It is amazing.

He didn’t explain why the operator was “asleep” on the DWH. All he said was he consistently cannot believe how weak people’s “survival instincts” are on the rigs he visits. He said that it’s so common to engage in group think on these big rigs where guys think other guys “will just take care of it.” Instead of keeping one’s natural skepticism and will to survive front and center.

Otherwise, he made no attempt to explain what actually happened in the booth that day. He said he was amazed at how much like a hotel the DWH was, because he had visited it once well before the disaster.

Wait… weren’t the blow out preventers destroyed in the initial mud gush? Am I remembering correctly?


Couldn’t they collapse the hole by exploding a small nuke nearby and push it shut?

What about freezing it in place with e.g. liquid nitrogen? Use it as a temporary seal until something else can cap the hole above?

Bromide may be too corrosive. Halogenide salts eat metals like mad. Also, formate brine can be 80% concentrated or more; how soluble is caesium bromide?

What technology are they using? How possible is it to rig it from off-the-shelf part? Thoughts, temptations, todo…

Maybe it’s the nature of the group mind people tend to get when in collectives. If it sets in even on oil rigs, no wonder it is so common in boardrooms.


I dunno, but it’s cool to think about!!!


Imagine hanging one under a drone on a long string (away from the engines, possibly also using a glider drone with lower motor currents involved) and doing your own magnetometer surveys of the 'hood! :smiley: