Monday, June 28, 2010

Oil spill: Even worse worst-case scenarios! (BP)

Joel Achenbach is the Washington Post writer whose line:
...When in doubt, go with the most hysterical headline.
(Rule one of blogging is that the End Of The World will be good for page views.)
-World War Five

struck our fancy a couple years ago.
Here he is at Achenblog:
My geology professor from way back sent me his worst-case scenario for the gulf disaster:

Somewhere, you might want to bring in the Lusi mudflow in Indonesia. The Wikipedia entry has the basic story. (There are 6.8 oil barrels in a cubic meter.) Lusi is a blowout that's been going for several years. There is no present hope of containing it.

Back to the Gulf: Having oil and gas spew up through the seafloor, away from the plumbing in the well, would say that the surface casing had failed. Like you, I find the rumors about oil leaking through the seafloor are not yet convincing. However, the possibility belongs in a worst-case scenario. The verb in the oil patch is "to crater." Around 1960, it became a slang synonym for any kind of failure, "we cratered."

Going further into possible bad news: About the time the two relief wells are penetrating into the reservoir near the bottom of the Macondo well, here comes a Category 5 hurricane. The hurricane heads straight for the wells. Both of the relief wells activate the emergency disconnect from their risers. The disconnect works on one rig and fails on the other. The crew on the still-connected rig has to be evacuated and the rig sinks in the storm. We get Act II of the drama.

Four weeks later, the disconnected rig gets hitched together again and is ready to work, and here comes a Category 4 hurricane.

Some late-season hurricanes do not travel across the equatorial Atlantic. They are born in the southern Caribbean and move north quickly, with only a brief warning. Hurricane Hugo of two years ago was an example. Make that second hurricane a Caribbean hurricane.

BP files for bankruptcy. Anadarko files for bankruptcy....

You might warn your readers to mix up a strong drink before starting to read the piece. My recommendation is the "Papa Doble," a double grapefruit daiquiri. The recipe is in Hochner's biography of Hemingway, but normal people have to add sugar.
Here's my story in today's paper -- crazy stuff. (But wait: Whatever happened to that Loop Current thing? Wasn't the oil supposed to be at the Outer Banks by now? Didn't I report that on the front page of The Washington Post???)...MORE