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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
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