Monday, June 14, 2010

"Drill Baby, Drill!" - A Common Denominator

Port Townsend, today. Like you, my concern about the developments below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico continues. Due largely in part to my interest in geology, I am a member of a couple of discussion groups composed of professionals in the oil drilling industry and have learned more from those groups than mainstream media, for sure!

Not to fear, the focus of "Oil-Electric" will always be twin shiny rails. Some 18 articles are in various stages of development from EMD's GM6C Thyristor locomotives through Northern Pacific's U25C's. They are, so to speak, "In the hole!"

For me, the most distressing aspect of the loss of the Deepwater Horizon is the arrogant attitude BP projected from the beginning. The interview of Michael Williams, Chief Electronics Technician and survivor of the Deepwater, by Scott Pelly on 60 Minutes, Sunday May 16, 2010, reinforces that opinion.

As I watched the interview, I was struck by the comments Mr. Williams made about the damaged annular seal in the blow out protector, and the decisions made between BP and Halliburton to replace heavy drilling mud, as much as 14 pounds per gallon, with much lighter sea water, approximately 8 pounds per gallon, to prevent gas from making its way to the surface.

As you watch the interview, pay particular attention to the role Halliburton allegedly plays in this gothic horror story.

The Deepwater Horizon incident was preceded last fall by yet another offshore drill rig losing its seal and blasting gas and oil into the Timor Sea, off the Australian Coast. The Australian accident, known as the Montara spill, began Aug. 21 with a blowout of high-pressure oil similar to the one in the Gulf.

I'll wager you never heard of it.

Montara's crew escaped unharmed and there was no immediate explosion or fire. But with the well spewing 17,000 to 85,000 gallons per day, precious weeks passed before the relief wells were started.

Four attempts were made to drill a relief well, on October 6, 13, 17 and 24. Finally, as the 5th relief well was being drilled, Montara Platform and West Atlas Drill rig finally exploded into fire.

It took 3,400 barrels (142,800 gallons) of heavy mud pumped through the relief well, bringing the incident under control on November 3rd, 2009.

While the companies involved in the Australian and American accidents are different, there is a common denominator:

Halliburton was the concrete work contractor in both the Montara and Gulf of Mexico spills.

A Halliburton employee, David A. Doeg, testified to the Australian commission investigating the incident, that he made the problem worse at the Montara well by re-pumping concrete during an incorrectly handled procedure before the blowout. But Mr. Doeg testified that he was taking direction from PTTEP AA (substitute BP) managers. Sounding familiar?

The Montara spill differed from the gulf spill in some ways that made it easier to stop, and in other ways that made it harder to stop. To begin with, the Montara drilling platform was operating in water that was 250 feet deep, while the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased by BP was on a seabed 5,000 feet deep.

It is interesting to note the Montara oil well had no blowout preventer on the sea floor. The oil spill is ravaging some 10,000 square miles of southern waters, and experts warn the effects may take as long as 7 years to mitigate the destruction. Halliburton's role in the Gulf of Mexico disaster is also under scrutiny.

In a statement Halliburton said it was "premature and irresponsible to speculate" on the cause, and that they were cooperating with investigations into the spill.

See Also:
M/V Joe Griffin and the Magic Box

Tragedy in the Gulf

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