I'd like to thank a friend of mine for taking me through the steps BP is going through to come up with a solution to their problem in the Gulf.
I've asked him to produce a drawing of the shelf the drilling has occured upon in order to help you understand the problem being faced by the BP guys.
The current "fix" being offered by BP isn't, and probably wasn't meant to be, a long-term solution to the current blow out. It's hard to imagine the pressures that this company is being challenged to deal with. And I'm not talking about the political pressure. I'm talking about the physical pressure of working hundreds of feet under the ocean.
If any of you have gone diving, you know there is a great deal of difference between snorkling and diving. Snorkling can create a lot of problems for the swimmer. There is a great deal of difference between swimming ten feet under water and twenty feet under water. This difference is magnified when you approach 100 feet under water.
They are drilling under some three thousand feet of water, before they hit bedrock. Let's assume that the pressure at that depth is 2,500 pounds per square inch. And, we're drilling with a ten inch pipe. How much pressure is in that pipe?
After they hit bedrock they stop using pipe. Instead, they put a cap in space and start drilling into bedrock. On top of this cap is a stand pipe, with a sub-bedrock depth of ten feet, around which will be placed the future tailings of the rest of the drilling process. After the intial ten feet of drilling of ten inches, BP continues to drill, but with an eigth inch drill. For another two to five thousand feet. As they drill, the tailings will be used to hold the cap in place.
This is all good, unless there is a blow out.
We had a blow out. There was too much pressure under the cap, although the design of the cap was adequate, given certain preconditions. Like, lower pressures in the hole they were drilling. It seems obvious that the pressure the sub-continental oil was held was greater than was predicted by the engineers.
Challenges like this shouldn't stop oil drilling. If anything, it should encourage drilling at shallower depths. But nobody is making this argument.
Near land oil rigs have greater safety than deep water rigs. It's obvious.
We need oil. Wind and solar will never replace more "sustainable" energy sources. It will take us, perhaps, decades to prove the point. Until then, we can be assured that the anti energy lobby will take us further and further into debt. Free health care, without the means to pay for it. Legislating brilliance by reducing the standards of merit for both teachers and students. At a certain point, we'll stop thinking we're smart and start acting smart. Not today, but soon.
But understanding the way we extract oil from the sea will help us get on the right track. What is the pressure under twenty-five hundred feet in the ocean? What is the pressure under five thousand feet?
It's great that our President is taking charge, but has anybody explained the math to him, or to his supporters?
There's a reason why we teach math in grade schools. I just think it would be neat if we could require math for our talking heads during the news.
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