Monday, July 19, 2010

News On Seepage Detected 'Some Distance From Well'

There is no reason to panic as of yet.  There is some indications that there is "seepage" but what exactly is coming out is unknown as of yet, the exact location is unknown as of yet and just how bad the seepage might be is also unknown.  These factors will not be known right away, so better not to panic as of yet. It will be today (Monday) at the earliest that we could find out what this is all about.

The concern does grow when it is found that the President is prepared to order BP to open the top of the well again.  This would be done in order to relieve pressure on the well which could be causing the problems in seepage.  BP is going to fight this no doubt as if they open the well again and the 'seepage' stops then that is the indication that would show this 'seepage' is being caused by the capped wellhead.  We don't know that this is the case, as a matter of fact we don't know much at all.  Due to that lack of knowledge it is better to have a wait and see approach rather than a panic attack until we know more.

There are normal and known leaks that occur on the seabed, so that is why there is no need to panic just yet as we do not know the location of these "anomalies" as of yet.  Thad Allen sending the letter to BP is a precautionary one and is intended to make it known to BP that the government is aware of the possibility of problems, as well as wanting constant monitoring of said anomalies, and is prepared to demand immediate action should the anomalies be found to be related to the well & capping procedure. It is again, not surprising that BP will do what they can to protect themselves in this matter, and hopefully the government via Incident Command is doing all they can to get accurate and timely information to ensure that any and all precautions are taken and that the correct information is obtained.

Incident Commander Thad Allen sent a letter to BP which states:

Bob Dudley 
Chief Managing Director
BP Group
501 West Lake Park Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77070

Dear Mr. Dudley,
My letter to you on July 16, 2010 extended the Well Integrity Test period contingent upon the completion of seismic surveys, robust monitoring for indications of leakage, and acoustic testing by the NOAA vessel PISCES in the immediate vicinity of the well head. Given the current observations from the test, including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance during the test period. As a continued condition of the test, you are required to provide as a top priority access and coordination for the monitoring systems, which include seismic and sonar surface ships and subsea ROV and acoustic systems. When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours. I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed.
As the National Incident Commander, I must remain abreast of the status of your source control efforts. Now that source control has evolved into a period beyond the expected 48 hour interval of the Well Integrity Test, I am requiring that you provide me a written update within 24 hours of your intentions going forward. I remain concerned that all potential options to eliminate the discharge of oil be pursued with utmost speed until I can be assured that no additional oil will spill from the Macondo Well.
You may use your letter of 9 July as a basis for your update. Specifically, you must provide me your latest containment plan and schedule in the event that the Well Integrity Test is suspended, the status and completion timelines for all containment options currently under development, and details of any other viable source control options including hydraulic control that you are considering. You should highlight any points at which progress along one option will be impacted by resource trade-offs to achieve progress along another option. Include options for and impacts of continued twice-a day seismic testing versus once a day testing.
As you develop the plans above, note that the primary method of securing the source is the relief well and this effort takes precedence. Therefore, I direct you to provide a detailed plan for the final stages of the relief well that specifically addresses the interaction of this schedule and any other activity that may potentially delay relief well completion.
Have your representative provide results on the monitoring efforts and source control requirements described above during today’s BP and Government Science Team call at 8:00 PM CDT.

Letter from Thad Allen To Bob Dudley of BP

As is noted in the letter, Incident Command is now knowledgable about the situation and is going to do everything in their power to make sure that BP knows it, and responds to it.

Now it is understandable that people are concerned.  We've seen the problems with transparency from both BP as well as the government with nearly everything regarding this disaster.  It is normal to be fearful due to the amount of misinformation that has been put out there as well, and sometimes it is hard to know what is truth vs what is fabrication.

As I was reading the discussion about this on The Oil Drum, there were a few who were expressing concern about whether this news was cause for panic or not.  Each person stated they lived somewhere on the gulf coast and were truly fearful.   This is understandable, again as I said, due to the lack of clear and concise information.  We are left to try and figure this out on our own which should never be the case in times of a disaster.

The response to these concerns were varied with some people laughing, and others being very understanding of the concern.  The two most informative & compassionate answers given were:

No, don't panic. The scare stories about methane tsunamis etc. are meant to scare you. What the motivation is, I have no idea. There's a seep 1000+ feet from a troublesome well three days after they capped it and prevented lots of oil from escaping into the water. The Gulf seeps anyway. People who have a lot more competence than you and I are watching things and there's a plan to kill it.

And this one:

Stay, fill the car with gas, pack a bag, get $300 cash and watch the news. Do everything else normal. It is not time to hit the OH CRAP button yet. Relax and call a relative. You will be fine.

Edit: And go see professional & get some help tomorrow. Perfectly normal what you are going through. Drink two beers if it might make you feel better. You will be good to go no matter the outcome if you prepare your mind. In this case, we are talking very low chance that events will directly impact you. Smile, I am and I live in Gulf Shores.

The Oil Drum Thread Talking About the "Seepage" Part I
The Oil Drum Thread Talking About the "Seepage" Part II

Both hold a lot of truth to them.  Don't panic because there are experts in the field who are working on this matter, and they will be giving it their full attention to try and determine what is going on.  It is too soon to have all the information that is needed released to the public as of yet, but I trust that we will get the information one way or another, even if it is revealed to us by an 'anonymous source' who is going to get the truth out.  We also know that people who are experts in various fields are watching this closely, like the guys at the Oil Drum, who know when bullshit information is being offered and when it isn't.  They have had ongoing discussions regarding the information being offered vs what is able to be seen simply by virtue of watching the ROV camera's and understanding the information being relayed through them.  They are  not perfect and will ask questions of each other as well, but for the most part they usually debunk information pretty quickly and will happily answer questions or explain things to make it easier for the average joe to understand.

If you are concerned, do as the second comment suggested, and prepare to leave.  Pack a bag, get some cash and then go ahead and live like you would if this was not happening, but be ready to go if you think you need to.  Much like anyone living on the gulf coast would do for hurricane season.  I have this done already, bags packed, hurricane kit at the ready, cash stashed in my "go bag", car filled with gas and a couple of gas cans filled & stored, and am ready to evacuate due to a hurricane should the need arise, but having lived on the coast for close to 10 years, I can say that I have never needed to implement my evacuation plans, and have lived through numerous hurricanes.  I did not prepare for anything with regards to this disaster, I did mine for the normal hurricane preparation that I do every year in April.

I'm not going to suggest that people need to go talk to a professional unless you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with this situation.  I would suggest that you try and calm down, have a drink if that is your prerogative  and not worry to the point that it is overwhelming to think about.

Now this next comment from the Oil Drum (From the Part II section) is a perfect example of what I am talking about. This was posted by a commenter who goes by the name of Rovman.

As I have stated before,I work with ROVs and have done for many years. I have spent many many hours looking at footage from ROV cameras as part of my work and am very familiar with how ROVs work, what they do, and what you see in the monitors and what it is that is causing what you see. I have also spent many hours over the past few weeks watching the feeds from the Gulf. In that time, I have seen many interesting things but at no point have I seen anything which I can say is definitively, or even slightly likely to be, an oil or gas leak from the ocean floor. What all of the above videos show without exception is almost certainly silt kicked up from either thruster wash or the ROV itself contacting the ocean floor. There may be some small natural seeps, but I've not seen footage of any so far. There may even be some leaks that are to be worried about, but I haven't seen any evidence of this at all yet.

The ROVs involved in this task are very powerful. The Oceaneering Millenium, which is the commonest vehicle there produces 220hp and weighs 8,800lbs in air. They are trimmed to be 'heavy' and so will naturally settle to the bottom if power is lost. It is quite usual to have the ROV sitting on the bottom with a small amount of upward vertical thrust still applied. This sends a continuous wash of water down to the sea bed and kicks up silt, even though the vehicle is sat stationary on the sea floor. It really takes very little to disturb this very fine silt and create a sh*t storm. One the ROV takes off from the bottom, it trails with it a fair amount of silt and this creates a continuing sh*t storm for several tens of seconds as well. A classic sign that what you are seeing is silt kicked up is what appears to be black lumps with a trail of 'smoke'. These are what the commentator in the above video refers to as rocks thrown up by the erupting sea floor. They are no such thing, they are small lumps of mud trailing a plume of silt behind them.

Another thing to be aware of is the apparent scale of what you are seeing. When you see the stack it is easy to forget that it is about 5 or 6 stories high, and that the ROVs are the size of a minivan. They look a lot smaller. On the other hand, when a 'rock' flies past the camera it is easy to think it is a foot across. It isn't. It's probably about the size of a small coin.

I'd also caution people about trying to interpret the sonar images. There were comments a few threads ago which were wildly off. If you want to know what you are looking at, post a picture or a video clip and I or someone else with experience will take a look. These things are much harder to interpret than the video images.

I do get tired saying the same things over and over again, but I'm happy to continue to do so in an effort to educate people and counteract the rising tide of nonsense out there.

This comment was posted in response to someone linking to some Youtube videos they claimed showed "explosions on the seafloor".   You can see that this is detailed and reasonable explanation for many of the things that are seen but may or may not be misunderstood or mis-characterized by people who are unfamiliar with what they are seeing, or don't have an understanding of this type of work.

This goes to show that panic infused scenario's can easily become the norm just as much as "everything is fine don't worry".   We must not be complacent.  Be concerned, but don't panic at each and every story that comes along.  The more information we can obtain the better to determine the situation.

I'll keep a watch on the situation like everyone else and update as I get newly confirmed information.

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