Lisa Margonelli, writing in the Atlantic, asks the questions that weren’t asked in Congress’ spectacular grandstanding while grilling BP exec Tony Hayward, the questions some of us have had on our minds the past 59 days. What happens if the structural integrity of the well casing doesn’t hold up? What if this baby is un-cappable and will continue to spew oil and gas whether a relief well is drilled or not? What then?
“Right now, a disaster that keeps flowing until August is the worst anyone wants to imagine, but there are worse possibilities– it could be the start of years of unchecked oil flowing into the Gulf. (See this Bloomberg article suggesting that the relief well could take until December to solve the problem. One expert in the article mentions a decade. Keep that in mind as you read onward.)”
“The reason the casing’s integrity matters is that if it’s cracked, oil will push out through the cracks and into the surrounding ground, destabilizing the ground around the casing, and bubbling up from the ocean floor. Here’s more, with Senator Bill Nelson’s interview a week and a half ago saying just that. A seeping well, of course, will be hard to contain.”
“And finally, more alarming, and possibly a gross overstatement, there is the possibility that as the ground and the casing shift, the whole thing collapses inward, the giant Blow Out Preventer falls over, the drill pipe shoots out of the remains of the well, or any number of other scenarios that could make it very difficult or impossible to eventually stop the gusher even with the relief wells. (I do not know the author of this post, and cannot vouch for its accuracy. I do not share the author’s fear that there is a conspiracy to hide this information. My sense is that it’s unthinkable and so no one is asking the questions.) Thus the relief well are being drilled in a race with the integrity of the ground around the well and the casing.”
And this brings to mind another question: why hasn’t the President declared a national emergency and attempted to get the U.N. to declare an international emergency? It has become increasingly obvious that this is more than a Gulf problem and a U.S. problem. It’s rapidly becoming a Western Hemisphere problem, and in a worst-case scenario, could impact the rest of the world as well.