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2010 May 08 — Why Now?
On-line Opinion Magazine…OK, it's a blog
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Gas Attack

The AP filed a story based on interviews with survivors from the Deepwater Horizon. It matches what was said in the earlier firsthand account that I linked to, with one important difference concerning the gas.

The AP referred to the gas as methane [CH4], which is the major component of natural gas. The problem is that the survivor was very specific about the gas that caused the explosion settling on the platform. Methane is lighter than air and would rise, not settle.

There are many different types of gas in an oil well, while the majority is methane, there is also a possibility of propane [C3H8], which is normally generated during the refining process, but does exist in wells. Propane [AKA LP or bottled gas] is heavier than air and is the most probable culprit.

Both are colorless, odorless gases. The “gas odor” is an additive to make people aware of their presence. The difference may seem minor, but when you are looking at the cause of 11 deaths, and how to prevent another fatal accident the small things can be important. Possibly a propane detector and some way of blowing the propane away from the rig could have averted the first explosion.

May 8, 2010   Comments Off on Gas Attack

Concrete Ice Maker Doesn’t Work

Do ice cubes float? Does your refrigerator and air conditioner work by compressing gas and then allowing it to expand?

McClatchy reports on the latest BP screw-up Gulf oil spill setback: First effort to place dome falls short

A mammoth white containment dome placed over a leaking oil well 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico had to be moved away from the well Saturday after ice-like crystals clogged the massive steel-and-concrete box.

The buildup of crystals also made the box too buoyant, BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said.

“I wouldn’t say it failed yet,” he said. “What I would say is what we attempted to do last night didn’t work.”

This is why I wanted the pipe already connected so the oil flow wasn’t constrained in any way. The oil is being pushed out of the well by gas pressure. When the pressure is reduced by exiting the broken pipe, the gas expands, drawing heat to itself as it expands, the process used for refrigerators.

Update: Hydrate crystals are ice crystals with something trapped in them, in this case gas, like a methane slushy. In ancient times when Cokes were a nickel and kept in water filled coolers with ice floating, you often saw the process when you opened the bottle, ice crystals formed around CO2.

May 8, 2010   Comments Off on Concrete Ice Maker Doesn’t Work

When Will They Ever Learn?

McClatchy reports that Since spill, feds have given 27 waivers to oil companies in gulf

WASHINGTON — Since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded on April 20, the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico.

The waivers were granted despite President Barack Obama’s vow that his administration would launch a “relentless response effort” to stop the leak and prevent more damage to the gulf. One of them was dated Friday — the day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was temporarily halting offshore drilling.

Minerals Management Service has some song and dance that these weren’t the final drilling permits, but just the start of the process. The process should start with oil companies running the numbers on the costs of what happens if there’s an accident. They should be aware of the costs at the beginning, and post a commensurate bond before a drill touches the sea floor.

After they have done all that, then MMS can tell them it will be a cold day in hell before they are allowed to drill in the Gulf of Mexico after the total screw-up we are now dealing with. Any politician who wants more drilling is going to have to provide a 100% certain way of shutting down a gushing underwater well in less than an hour before they suggest it.

May 8, 2010   Comments Off on When Will They Ever Learn?

Boom Time On The Coast

Gulf Gusher symbolThe local county officials along the Florida Panhandle are not happy campers about the “Well from Hell”. They are geared to hurricane response, with them leading the way and then the back-up and support from the state and Feds showing up a bit later. That’s why the Local Puppy Trainer is reporting Okaloosa officials vent frustration at spill bureaucracy. The counties have to wait for BP, the state, and the Feds to approve any action before it can take place.

Apparently even getting approval isn’t permanent, as State rejects Santa Rosa’s plan to contain oil spill. It was rejected after it had earlier been approved, and they had already started to implement it. Because of seriously reduced budgets, no one has the money to just do their own thing and then apply for reimbursement.

My county, Okaloosa, has jumped on a ‘chevron’ booming strategy, because it is the plan used by the Air Force for military oil spills in local waters.

All of these plans and strategies depend on using floating booms to corral the oil. In the “3. Boomtown” section of Pensacola Beach Blog’s Friday Gusher round-up, people who have inspected the boom lines express sincere doubt that the booms will do any good. The booms capture oil on the surface, but BP has dispensed so much dispersant into the oil that it isn’t coming all the way up, and will probably flow under the booms until it reaches beaches.

Walton county as already bought hay to use to absorb any oil because it is available locally and is biodegradable. Okaloosa has asked barber shops and salons to save hair clippings, which will be stuffed into pantyhose [I’m not making that up] and used as an absorbent. [Note: look, you dillweeds, don’t try to use cat litter, OK? It might work in your garage, but it won’t work on the beach.]

May 8, 2010   Comments Off on Boom Time On The Coast