[Guest post by DRJ]
President Obama flew to the Gulf Coast today to begin a 2-day visit to Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. However, his spokesman’s talking points weren’t on how to stop the oil but instead on how to force BP to escrow funds to pay for damages:
“The White House said Monday BP appears willing to set up a massive victims compensation fund, as President Barack Obama set out on a fact-finding tour in the stricken Gulf Coast that he said would help him get tough with the oil company’s leaders.
Spokesman Bill Burton, speaking to reporters traveling with Obama aboard Air Force One to the Gulf, said the White House and BP were “working out the particulars,” such as the amount of the fund and how it will be administered. The account would be run by an independent third-party entity, Burton said, and would run into “the billions of dollars,” although he wouldn’t give a specific amount.
“We’re confident that this is a critical way in which we’re going to be able to help individuals and businesses in the Gulf area become whole again,” the spokesman said.”
The change in tone is not a surprise because, increasingly, it appears the only hope to stop the oil is a relief well that won’t be completed until sometime in August. Why can’t something be done sooner to stop the spill? Via Doug Ross:
“I took some time to go into a bit of detail concerning the failure of Top Kill because this was a significant event… the system below the sea floor has serious failures of varying magnitude in the complicated chain, and it is breaking down and it will continue to.
What does this mean?
It means they will never cap the gusher after the wellhead. They cannot…the more they try and restrict the oil gushing out the bop?…the more it will transfer to the leaks below. Just like a leaky garden hose with a nozzle on it. When you open up the nozzle?…it doesn’t leak so bad, you close the nozzle?…it leaks real bad…
…Contrary to what most of us would think as logical to stop the oil mess, actually opening up the gushing well and making it gush more became direction BP took after confirming that there was a leak. In fact if you note their actions, that should become clear. They have shifted from stopping or restricting the gusher to opening it up and catching it. This only makes sense if they want to relieve pressure at the leak hidden down below the seabed…..and that sort of leak is one of the most dangerous and potentially damaging kind of leak there could be. It is also inaccessible which compounds our problems. There is no way to stop that leak from above, all they can do is relieve the pressure on it and the only way to do that right now is to open up the nozzle above and gush more oil into the gulf and hopefully catch it, which they have done, they just neglected to tell us why, gee thanks.”
There’s more at the link. As I understand it, the well casing was defective so cracks developed in the well bore. As noted above, this would explain why the top kill procedure was not successful — because the heavy drilling mud dissipated rather than pushed the oil/gas down the well bore — and why the recent goal was to capture the oil rather than try to seal off the hole.
It would also be consistent with claims that BP’s well had a cementing design flaw and/or because BP failed to adequately test the cement bond.
If so, this makes the relief wells the best hope to cap the well. According to BP’s website, Relief well #1 has almost reached 14,000 feet, with a planned intersection at 18,000 feet.
UPDATE — Congress is waiting for BP:
Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) wrote to Hayward yesterday in advance of his scheduled testimony on Thursday before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“The committee’s investigation is raising serious questions about the decisions made by BP in the days and hours before the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon,” the lawmakers wrote.
They cite company documents obtained during their investigation, including an e–mail from a BP engineer that refers to the doomed Macondo well as “a nightmare well” five days before the explosion that killed 11 workers and set off a massive oil leak that is still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico nearly two months later.
“In spite of the well’s difficulties,” Waxman and Stupak write, “BP appears to have made multiple decisions for economic reasons that increased the danger of a catastrophic well failure. In several instances, these decisions appear to violate industry guidelines and were made despite warnings from BP’s own personnel and its contractors. In effect, it appears that BP repeatedly chose risky procedures in order to reduce costs and save time and made minimal efforts to contain the added risk.”