After installing the new cap on the broken Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, and then fixing a last-minute crack in the cap, BP has announced this afternoon that, for the first time since April, the flow of oil from the well has completely stopped.
Reporting from the Gulf, an offshore oil rig worker finds mundanity, a complacent obsession with safety, and the doom beneath it all
By Jasper CollumPosted 06.29.2010 at 2:00 pm 8 Comments
It's a recurring dream. I'm standing next to a machine, some giant warm Fritz-Lang-inspired monster. I live in it. I am a piece of it. But I know at any moment this machine could destroy itself and there won't be a thing I can do about it. What a mutinous thing when a machine, usually so faithful and repetitious, turns against us.
I'm afraid of this dream, and every morning I wake up in the Gulf and go to work on an offshore drilling rig the dream gets worse. Though it shouldn't.
The New York Times today has a long, detailed investigation into the concrete causes of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon disaster. It describes how the well was equipped with only one blind shear ram, not a prudent two, and how the shear ram's hydraulic system failed, preventing it from shutting off the flow.
As BP sits down for a not-so-friendly back and forth with Congress this morning it seems the oil giant is resigned to let the Gulf oil leak flow until the relief wells are completed in August. But a nuclear physicist from California thinks he’s devised a method that could stop the gushing well by pumping steel balls into the riser. It’s likely to work, he says, and even if it fails it won’t make matters any worse. Naturally, not everyone involved is so optimistic.
Remember back when 1,000 barrels a day sounded scary? The latest daily estimate of the oil spurting from the Deepwater Horizon leak has doubled to 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day. That's up to 1.3 million gallons--roughly 10% of Exxon Valdez--every day.
While the world waits to see if a "top kill" operation can seal off the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf, the staggering proposition of dealing with the more than 11 million gallons of crude spilled to date remains. To combat the massive slick, BP's primary weapon is chemical oil dispersant. The company has already used an unprecedented amount of dispersant—over 840,000 gallons—and is poised to deploy more.
So what exactly does oil dispersant do?
BP's latest attempt to plug the Gulf oil leak is now more than 24 hours old, and initial assessments look promising. While we're by no means out of the woods yet, government and BP officials are cautiously optimistic that the so-called top kill is succeeding to stem the flow of oil from the busted riser into the Gulf of Mexico.
Huge C-130 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force Reserve have joined the fight against the Deepwater Horizon oil slick, which now threatens to ravage the local ecosystems and fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.
Robotic submersibles could help energy giant BP contain a leaking oil well following an oil rig explosion last week. The mission: use robotic arms to activate a large valve designed to seal off a well from the surface, according to The Chemical Engineer.
Producing a biofuel cheap enough to compete at the pump with oil has remained as elusive as a ghost on the walls of Elsinore castle. But this week, two Danish companies announced they had developed enzymes capable of breaking down cellulose into ethanol cheaply enough to produce $2-a-gallon gas.