Blowout Valves, oil & water & politics

Update at bottom.

As the oil spill from the blown well in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana spreads and the blame game begins we are learning how the Corporate welfare system works in Washington, D.C.

The UK Independent has a truly enlightening history of just how this current mess by Corporate welfare queens was allowed to happen.  This deep sea well went into production in 2002 (GWB-first term) and in 2008 this owners of this well managed to get the oil boys running the white house to slacken the rules about filing plans to cover worse case scenarios about BLOWOUTS. This is now 2010 and there is a new ruler in the white house but the same hall pass is given to the mega Corporations.

As crude oil continued to pour out of control into the Gulf of Mexico yesterday, questions were being asked over the relationship between BP and regulators in Washington amid allegations that the company was allowed to drill the deepwater well without filing plans for how it would cope with a blow-out like the one now in hand.

[snip]

A Washington Post investigation concluded that in April 2009 the MMS granted BP a “categorical exclusion” from requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act to file papers on what it would do in the event of a blow-out at the new well. It reported that BP had lobbied for the exclusion just 11 days prior. Moreover in its own assessments, the MMS concluded that a blow-out at a deepwater well in the Gulf would be unlikely to generate spills bad enough for oil to threaten coastal ecosystems.

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UPDATE: The quotes below are from a much longer article which is somewhat technical. But even non engineers can probably understand the details of how mud (simple primitive MUD is used to help control a blow out, along with other systems.)

‘Mud weight is the first round of defense’

If the final cement plug wasn’t in place yet, removing the mud would be at odds with “good oil-field practice” outlined in 2003 by the federal Minerals Management Service. The MMS report, prepared by WEST Engineering Services, warns against single-point failures — counting on one mode of protection — by saying that “mud weight is the first round of defense against a kick, followed up by” the blowout preventer. Removing the mud left the blowout preventer as the only failsafe.

Blowout preventer backup not required

But the United States does not require the acoustic backup system that must be used in Norway, Canada and Brazil. Holand said such an acoustic system could have helped avert such a massive spill from the Deepwater Horizon well if the section of pipe inside the blowout preventer was normal-sized. But if there were tool joints inside the preventer, an acoustic trigger system “may not have worked” anyway, Holand said.

Generic Blowout valve-photo from Italy dry land well

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