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Put a lid on it!

Unknown Source: Probably AP
Unknown Source: Probably AP

Good morning, Netizens...

Facing certain destruction if not elimination of the sensitive Gulf Coast wetlands and beaches, the engineers and scientists of British Petroleum have come up with what they hope will be the solution to the massive oil flows erupting from deep beneath the ocean. They are going to “put a lid on it.”

Here is a picture of the lid. Although the picture doesn't truly do it justice, this hefty dome, if all goes well, will be lowered over the leaking oil well deep beneath the ocean waves, and the oil flowing out of the well will be redirected via underwater pipes, to ships floating on the waves above for safe disposal. Why am I skeptical about this?

The first issue I have is that nobody has ever done emergency management of this nature for offshore oil wells. One might expect that, given the billions of dollars of damages and waste at stake, both short and long-term, engineers could have foreseen this disaster long before now. Downhole companies, ie., those that specialize in maintenance and repair of oil wells deep underground, have dedicated massive written volumes into preventing oil field disasters on the land. Why not offshore? If such documents exist, why can't I find them?

In their own admission, nobody has ever tried something like this, so there is no guarantee it will work. There are a lot more things that could go wrong in this scenario. What about the effect of severe storms at sea? How are they proposing to keep the ships receiving the crude from shifting and thus breaking the supposed impervious seal between the well and the ships? The Gulf is no stranger to such weather anomalies. Mother Nature always seems to have a way.

It still doesn't totally resolve the problem of light crude erupting from the wellhead, at least as it is being presented to the public. Sooner or later they will have truly plug the well at the well head. Perhaps by then we will know what truly failed, but that seems unlikely.


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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.