The effort to place a containment dome over a gushing wellhead was dealt a setback when a large volume of hydrates — crystals formed when gas combines with water — accumulated inside of the vessel, BP’s chief operating officer said Saturday.
CNN’s wire story just ran. The new is bad, though not entirely unexpected, since nothing like this has ever been tried before.
UPDATE: I would note that if BP or any other major thought 1) this type of disaster was conceivable and/or that this dome strategy was particularly plausible, then they would have pre-built and pre-positioned one in the Gulf years ago (see BP calls blowout disaster ‘inconceivable,’ ‘unprecedented,’ and unforeseeable).
BP has not given up on the dome:
Gas hydrates are lighter than water, and as a result, made the dome buoyant, Doug Suttles said. The crystals also blocked the top of the dome, which would prevent oil from being funneled to a drill ship.
The dome was moved off to the side of the wellhead and is resting on the seabed while crews work to overcome the challenge, Suttles said.
“What we had to do was pick the dome back up, set it over to the side while we evaluate what options we have to actually try to prevent the hydrate formation or find some other method to try to capture the flow,” he said.
Two options officials are looking at are heating the dome or adding [methanol] to dissolve the hydrates, he said.
Brad Johnson at Wonk Room has more:
Suttles, clearly chastened by this setback, had a much less confident tone about containing the leak than he had at previous press conferences, such as the one attended on Wednesday by the Wonk Room when he announced the cofferdam was being shipped out to the disaster site. “It’s very difficult to say whether solutions will work,” he admitted.
The methane hydrates “” natural gas that under the extreme pressure and low temperatures of the ocean floor is in a semi-frozen state “” have also been implicated in the oil rig explosion, according to rig worker testimony acquired by the Associated Press. The liberal blog FireDogLake was the first media source to discuss the role of hydrates, noting a presentation from November, 2009 by Halliburton, who was responsible for cementing the Deepwater Horizon well, that warned of blowouts caused by hydrate destabilization:
Destabilization of hydrates during cementing and production in deepwater environments is a challenge to the safety and economics.
Suttles also admitted that David Rainey, BP’s VP for Gulf of Mexico exploration, was on the rig celebrating its safety record when it blew up. Although 11 workers were killed, Rainey and the other BP employees on the rig safely escaped the inferno.
Hard to believe the tragic irony/hubris:
- Is BP the Goldman Sachs of Big Oil? CEO Hayward says to fellow executives: “What the hell did we do to deserve this?” Let’s see: How about a spotty safety record, insistence on voluntary ‘trust me’ self-regulation, a drilling plan that ignored key risks, and failure to use best shut-off technology to save a few bucks?