Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Credibility Geyser Seep? Or, BP vs. the feds, the continuing story

Daniel Chang and Curtis Morgan report on the arguments between BP and the Coast Guard/Obama administration over the current phase in the BP oil catastrophe response in U.S. keeps pressure on BP over oil spill seepage Miami Herald 07/19/2010:

The biggest success in three months of trying to plug the runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico -- a cap that has shut the oil down for four days -- has also underscored the lingering distrust between BP executives and government officials overseeing the response.

A case in point: It took a late-night teleconference Sunday for BP to persuade the government's point man on the response that the company is doing all it can to ensure that leaks of oil and gas from the seafloor around the well will not make the situation worse.
They also provide a roundup of various important information on the disaster, including the first reference I've caught to multiple "seeps" having been detected. This was buried down inside the story, but it kind of slapped me in the face:

[Coast Guard chief] Allen gave no details on the size or exact location of the seeps, except to say that one was detected within two miles of the site, another within 80 yards and several others within a few hundred yards. [my emphasis]
Say what? There are numerous "seeps"? And they are right by the main well but are unrelated to the oil geyser? This is starting to sound like one of those Perry Mason episodes where the cops catch someone standing over a dead body holding the smoking gun that killed him in his hand but Perry eventually proves the guy's innocent.

I don't think Perry would take BP's case, though. It would spoil his perfect record of acquitals. Not that either BP or the Obama administration has inspired huge confidence with their secrecy during this disaster. But we definitely have a Credibility Seep here. At this rate, maybe only hours from being a Credibility Geyser.

Chang and Morgan include a target range on the pressure in the well cap that is notably above the 6,000 pounds/square inch (psi) that BP likes and the 7,500 reportedly favored by the Coast Guard:

Since shutting the well with the experimental cap last week, BP has monitored the pressure and reported a slow increase -- an encouraging sign -- to a reading of about 6,800 pounds per square inch as of Monday.

Ideally, engineers are looking for pressure readings between 8,000 and 9,000 pounds per square inch, which would indicate minimal or no damage to the well bore. Lower readings could suggest a leak. [my emphasis]

Among the issues the two sides had to smooth over during the Sunday night teleconference: the availability of Remotely Operated Vehicles -- submersible robots that roam the seafloor with video cameras and tools -- to respond to seeps; the types of sensors BP uses to gather data from the well site; and "to make sure on a routine basis they were doing seismic and acoustic testing, and that resources were available to respond quickly."
Speculative translation: the Coast Guard thinks BP is lying about the "seeps" but is letting them keep the well capped anyway.

Kent Wells, BP's senior vice president, said at a briefing Monday after Allen spoke that the company's meetings with federal scientists have been spirited and constructive.
Speculative translation: they yelled and cussed at each other.

"It'd be very, very premature," Allen said, "to say the well is shut in until the relief well is done."
Speculative translation: We think BP is lying to make it look like they have things under control but we still aren't shutting down their fake capping operation yet because [fill in your own guess].


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