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What the Russians used was a sub-kiloton fission device, AFAICT, one or two hundred tons. The advantage of the nuke is that it WILL melt the rock and, if properly positioned for a suitable type of rock, could seal the shaft. If oil, gas and sand are currently in the casing, especially if there is a leak from the drill pipe, the force of the leak can cut through anything, as the article showed. It would be nice to know where the materials are coming from and going to.

If the drill pipe is ejected we will have a path at least the size of the casing. I don't know what size casing is used in these wells, and we know that it will not withstand pressures as high as drill pipe. To make casing that would, given its diameter, would be prohibitively expensive. That is another reason why BP's "reckless disregrad" for normal, safe practices was so stunningly stupid. At 250,000 bl/day and with a fine of $4,300/bl BP would face ongoing fines of $1 billion/day. That would surely drive their stock to zero, especially with no end in sight.

The US Government seriously needs to position itself as the first and possibly only creditor of BP in case of such a development. If ever the doctrine of eminent domain were to apply, I would think this would be it. All revenue that the BP organization may generate over the remainder of its existence or the existence of its former revinue producing assets would likely be woefully insufficient to pay for the damages incurred.

The situation could be just that stark.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 04:40:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Technical point:  Well casing--actually a well-liner--was 21 inches at the top (about 53 cm.)  Slightly less deeper down.  The rock hole is larger than this of course, and if it starts to erode, as it seems to be doing, it will get wider.  

Bottom-kill--the relief wells--is certainly the thing to do, if the liner is still in the well, and if damage to the liner is not too big too allow the kill-mud to be contained and fill the well bore.  These are two big ifs.  If the liner is gone, they will not be able to find the well from the relief wells--as they depend on magnetic homing to do this, and it is game-over before you start.  If the liner is still there but the damage to the liner is too great, the kill-mud will flow away without filling the well bore and nothing is accomplished--the gusher will still gush.  

Then what?  Suppose you could crush the well bore closed.  This would take a very powerful overpressure, which is why they are talking of nuclear explosives.  Now I would prefer filling the bores of the relief wells with conventional explosives, but I have not done the arithmetic, and the issue is straight math.  But there are other reasons they want to use nuclear weapons--there is a hidden agenda here.  But never mind that.  

The problem is that the geology is nothing like that that the Soviets dealt with.  They had a thick clay layer that was essentially self-sealing, once the well was crushed in.  The Gulf is crumbly rock.  At best we can expect the crushed rock that would plug the well after an explosion to ooze.  

Oozing is better than gushing, so no one will waste time worrying over the fact that the leak will not actually be stopped.  

(Have I said it yet?  If the relief wells don't work the leak will never actually be stopped.)

The worse chance is that the broken rock essentially quits being impermeable and containing the oil--as it is and does now--and allows the whole of the reservoir to rapidly bleed out into the Gulf water, and thence into the world's oceans.  

Now melting the rock--as is specifically described--is not actually so good, because once the rock is a hot fluid, the oil will explode right through it as a bubble-column of vapor.  The gusher would continue to gush while the rock is trying to cool to a solid, and the likelihood of sealing the hole seems small.  

The Soviets did not claim that when they did it they melted and vitrified the rock at the well bore.  

So what are the chances?  Nobody knows.  I do not believe anyone can even make a reasonable guess.  

Nonetheless, there is the stark possibility that right now the relief wells are not actually relief wells, but bomb tubes.  The media has been softening up the public to the idea of nukes, as though the decision to use them has already been made.  As the damage from the gushing oil spreads and panic begins to ensue, the public will buy it.  They will be ready to buy anything.  

That is the possibility to watch.  

May you be elsewhere as this disaster unfolds.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 10:28:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But there are other reasons they want to use nuclear weapons--there is a hidden agenda here.  But never mind that.

What do you mean 'never mind the hidden agenda'? I want to hear it.

there is the stark possibility that right now the relief wells are not actually relief wells, but bomb tubes.  The media has been softening up the public to the idea of nukes, as though the decision to use them has already been made

Ah, okay. Makes sense.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 12:51:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Soviets did not claim that when they did it they melted and vitrified the rock at the well bore.

Right. The video simulation I watched showed the shaft for the nuke as distant from the well bore so that the area of rock through which the bore passed was part of the rock that was compressed. I don't know if it would be advisable to attempt to vitrify the area of the well bore or not. Would depend on the degree  of control possible.

A possible problem with "bottom kill" is that the cement would be propelled up the shaft, both inside and outside the casing. If the path outside the casing were to properly set, that might make a kill possible, but in order for that to happen, pressure greater than that from the reservoir would have to be applied to the drill pipe and casing from above, unless the combined weight of the injected material, say a barium compound, and the existing mass of existing material in the casing and pipe plus injected material exceeds the reservoir pressure.

Likewise, unless appropriate countervailing pressures are maintained in the relief well bore as it approaches the casing that approach could trigger (an additional?) failure of the casing. I have no idea how "appropriate countervailing pressures" could be determined at this point. Other posts on TOD have indicated that the casing is probably still intact for at least a considerable distance down, else the BOP would not be the major source of discharge.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 03:49:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
unless appropriate countervailing pressures are maintained in the relief well bore
 

The drilling mud is designed to do that.  If reasonable care is taken with the relief wells (good procedures followed, as was not done with the original well) they most likely will not blow out.  

But yes, as with any well, the chance is always there.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 03:42:22 PM EST
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