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Gulf Oil Disaster; Deja Vu All Over Again

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On: Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 3:39PM | By: Clay Ritchings

Gulf Oil Disaster; Deja Vu All Over Again

It amazes me that in today’s day and age, with all the technology that we possess, we can’t cap the well to stem the onslaught of crude from poisoning the gulf waters. It all sounds pretty easy to us armchair well drillers—just screw the cap on and call it a day. But, in reality, it is not that easy; in fact, the company responsible for this disaster should be well aware of just how hard the task is because they had to deal with the same scenario in 1979. Only back then the company was called Sedco, before it became Transocean, the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor.

The Ixtoc drilling platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on June 13th, 1979 spewing 30,000 barrels of oil into the water every day because of a malfunctioning blow-out preventer. Sedco used planes to drop chemical dispersants and utilized “containment teams” to deploy long booms and “oil skimming vessels” to help control the spill, all with little success. Concerns about underwater plumes of oil and the spill reaching Florida’s beaches were growing every day. Does any of this sound familiar?

Sedco made gallant efforts to get their well under control for weeks that turned into months. They tried to capture the oil with a large cone, nicknamed “operation sombrero,” very similar to what BP is calling a “top hat.” The “top hat” plan is to capture up to 90% of the oil and pump it to ships at the surface. It failed 30 years ago and it failed now. The similarities do not stop there; back in 1979 they tried to pump cement and sea water down the well to plug it up—and failed. Much like the “top kill” method used today where they pump cement and seawater down the well to try to plug it up. I guess try and try again is their motto, even if it is 30 years apart and both resulting in failures.

It took Sedco nine months to cap the well, but only after relief wells were drilled. Relief wells are the only affective way to reduce the pressure so the main well can be capped, but it takes a long time to drill them. Every day for nine months, 30,000 barrels of oil were dumping into the gulf waters while they worked on the relief wells. The Ixtoc was in a paltry 200 ft. of water and could not be contained with the booms, cones, skimmers, dispersants, or top kill. Why on earth would you try these methods on a well that is 5,000 ft. under water? Was it BP’s Hail Mary?

How easy would it have been to cap the well if there were relief wells already in place? Common sense says that if we can’t rely on the blow-out preventers, then relief wells should be mandatory. Many countries already require relief wells, why can’t we? Since the oil industry makes more money than any other industry can even fathom, I think they can invest in better blow-out preventers and the immediate use of relief wells. If you look at the sheer economics, BP is going to pay far more for clean-up and law suits than the cost of some additional safety requirements. Factor in the public relations nightmare and the herculean efforts that will be necessary to repair BP’s image and it seems like a no-brainer.

The oil companies would have you believe that they are a technologically-advanced industry, and maybe they are, but only in the drilling aspect. After all, drilling deeper makes them money. Time has stood still for advancements in the prevention and countermeasures, but the deep drilling techniques have been pushed fast-forward. We can put a man on the moon, build smart bombs, smart phones, smart cars…but we can’t figure this one out.

BP is throwing money at the problem as we speak, around $20 billion. I know that money is the cure-all for everything, but before you start to get all warm and fuzzy after watching the BP commercials telling you how much they care, remember the 11 workers who perished on the Deepwater Horizon, remember the images of the dead sea turtles, dolphin, birds, and fish. Remember the faces of the commercial fisherman and fishing guides who can’t work and put food on the tables or make their bills. Remember all the people who are indirectly affected by the lack of tourism. Above all, remember that the representatives of this great nation are too busy working on getting re-elected, and insuring that their benefits are always getting better, to tackle something as important as this. If the oil industry refuses to learn from its mistakes then maybe we should learn from ours when election time comes.

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gator done | 11:49AM (Fri, Jun 18, 2010)

Why aren't the Hollywood Stars throwing their telethons for this horrible disaster? I know several of them have million dollar homes on our Florida Beaches. I guess their private beaches aren't going to be effected.

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