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Atomic Bomb proposal for Gulf of Mexico blown out well a very bad idea!

Atomic Bomb proposal for Gulf of Mexico blown out well a very bad idea for many reasons
by Mud Logging Geologist Chris Landau

Before I explain why there are a few points that the lay person must understand about terminology on a drilling rig and positions of seniority.

  1. A mudlog is a schematic cross sectional drawing of the lithology (rock type) of the well that has been bored.

Without looking at the mudlogs and e-logs, we are all navigating blind. They are the forensic tool that you use to discover what happened. Without the mudlog and e-logs, it like asking a person to cross the Antarctic without a map, a compass, a sextant, a radio, a satellite phone, a GPS system or any tool to help them navigate. Let us also include no navigation by the sun or stars. Basically we are being asked to find our way to the South Pole across a thousand miles of ice by gut feel alone. We all know we will get lost and not survive. The mudlog is your map and your compass and your forensic tool.

  1. How many oil and gas horizons were there in this well? There was certainly more than one. The mudlog will list the gas horizons and oil horizons. Were there 10, 30 or 50? The picture the press is drawing of the oil zone is only good for elementary school textbooks. Which of these many horizons are we trying to seal? Are the proposed directional wells above some oil and gas horizons and below others. Why is this choice being made? Regardless the directional wells that are being drilled can not seal an open well or blown out well or blown out formation. Back pressure is required for drilling mud to stay in the well to keep the oil out to allow the cement to set. Whether you inject that cement from the top of the well or the bottom of the well, you have not changed a thing. The pressure in the well is the same everywhere. Directional wells will not work. You only create more holes with less back pressure to keep out the oil and gas. The drilling mud escapes. The cement escapes. Only new wells that do not intersect this blowout well will help drain the gas and oil pressure from this region. When this happens you can plug this well.

How much gas was there in each horizon? How thick was each horizon of gas and oil? Was that oil or gas horizon filled with seawater or brine solutions? How fast were they drilling through those horizons? How was the mud being weighted up with depth? These are vital questions that the press is NOT asking. Why should they? They have never worked on a drilling rig. They do not know what the right questions are. They need help from mudlogging geologists, roughneck drilling crews, company men, mudmen, petroleum engineers and geophysicists.

  1. Is the Company man alive? If he is or is not available publish his daily report that he sent to BP Head office. He is in charge on the drilling site. His word is law. Everybody falls under his command on that site. There seems to be confusion as to who is in charge in the press. There is no confusion. Work does not proceed without a company man. The buck stops here. Call to publish the Company Man report.
  1. Are the two mudlogging geologists alive? These guys are independent contractors who work on multiple drilling rigs for multiple companies. They are your first line of defense against a blowout, apart from the actual blowout preventers. If these guys are geologists, they are very bright people who have studied in principals of geology, physics, math and chemistry. These sometimes quiet intellectuals are working for the money in 12 hour shifts which can go on un-interrupted for up to a month depending on the site and whether there are other geologists to relieve them. Many do this job out of choice for 20 years. Others only for a few years. If a geologist falls ill and another is not immediately available, that shift is pushed to 24, 36 and 48 hours without sleep. The drilling does not stop to wait for a replacement geologist. The geologist can not leave, until the company gives him authority. In any case, he can not hitch a ride on a passing helicopter. Call to publish the geological mudreport.
  1. Are the mudmen still alive? They are your second line of defense against a blowout. They are there to monitor the mud. They have to add more barium sulfate to increase the specific gravity) of the mud (weight up the mud). If there is too much gas coming up with the mud and drill cuttings (broken bits of rock), they must add more barium sulfate. They must thin the mud down by adding water if the gas is being suppressed to such a degree that no gas readings are being detected. They must change the pH (acidity-alkalinity) to cope with different clay conditions that are plugging up the drill bit. They must do saline tests when gas and oil shows are encountered to determine if this is going to be a payable zone. Too much saline with gas or oil can lead to uneconomic wells. Call to publish the Mudman report.
  1. The drill crew or roughnecks (ruff necks). How many of them are still alive? If there were 3 eight hour shifts, two thirds should be alive. Your third line of defense against a blowout. They know through years of experience and by working in certain areas and by drilling many wells, what is likely to be happening there. They know when it is time to slow down the drilling rate so that the mud man can weight up the mud and when it is time to circulate, to allow the drill mud to degas. They are continually checking with the geologists to see what his instruments are reading for the amount of gas detected in the formation. A “kick of gas” is when a new oil and gas horizon is struck and the mud weight is too low for that amount of gas being produced. More barium sulfate needs to be added to weight up the mud. They speak to the mudman who gets the roughnecks to pour in more barium sulfate. They know when it is time to “wipe the hole” A term used when all the drilling pipes are taken out to make sure that the hole is free of sticky cloying clay and that there are no broken teeth or buttons on the drill bit. Call to publish the roughneck 8 hourly reports.
  1. Geophysical Borehole Loggers or Wireline Logging engineers. These people produce E-logs or electrical logs.

Once the well is drilled to the depth required, most of the well is still open, that is it has not been cased by steel piping. It could cave in, if it were not for the drilling mud in the hole to support the well sides and to keep the gas and oil out.

It is now time to run the wireline electronic logs (e-logs). These logs are continuous paper and digital displays that measure among other parameters, porosity, permeability, spontaneous potential, resistivity, sonic properties, active and passive nuclear measurements, dimensional measurements of the wellbore, formation fluid sampling, formation pressure measurement and others. In wireline measurements, the logging tool (or probe) is lowered into the open wellbore on an armored wireline. Once lowered to the bottom of the well the measurements are taken on the way out of the well. Sometimes these e-log instruments can get stuck in the mud or the sidewall of the well, resulting in the loss of a well. Some e-logs have radioactive sources to measure changes in radioactivity. These need to be cemented in to prevent radioactivity from reaching the environment. E-logs instruments in open holes can also lead to blowouts if the instrument gets stuck for a long time. The heavier part of the mud, the barium sulfate settles out at the bottom of the well, the mud thins and can no longer keep the oil and gas pressure from entering the hole. A blowout results.

These e-logs are used to measure a number of parameters in this open hole, to help correlate and understand the potential zones for oil and gas that have been picked up by the mudlogging geologist and the 3 dimensional aerial sonar and electrical resistivity surveys that were first done by geophysicists to choose this particular well site.

If the three can agree with each other, they have a great understanding of what is taking place at this site and where the particular oil and gas zones are and how thick they are.

The two companies that dominate the world in running e-logs are the inventors of the system Schlumberger and its competitor Halliburton, the same company that did the cement work.

  1. Who ran the e-logs in this well? Who was responsible for the mud weight monitoring? How long was Halliburton or Schlumberger down this hole, running their e-logs? Did they get stuck? Call to publish the E-Log report.

A good team has all these people working together and helping each other out in a highly dangerous, noisy environment that often stinks of diesel fumes from the gigantic engines and pumps that pump the drilling mud through the miles of hollow drill pipe and circulate it back to surface.

Atomic Blast Proposal to seal well. I stress this is not a good idea.

I always reply to this idea by giving these analogies

Let us say there were some cracks in the dam wall of Hoover dam or any of the other giant dam of the world. Now behind that wall is an immense pressure of water waiting to get out. If you put a giant bomb there, to fuse the concrete, you will break the wall and all the water will come out. I feel the same for an A-bomb down below. You will crack the formation and release more oil and gas into the environment, in this case the sea floor. So instead of one leak you will have thousands.

But let us take another look. Ideally you would want sand to fuse to glass to create a blockage of glass so that the oil and gas will not come up.

Let us say you detonated an A- bomb on the sea floor bed.

The blast would go up instead of down. It is easier to move water than earth. You might fuse 50 to 100 foot of mud. The 6000 plus pounds per square inch of oil and gas would still come up the hole but now it will be spread out through the mud and will be coming up through the sea bed floor.

Let us say you drilled a well down next to this well, say 50 to 100 feet away and drilled a large enough well in diameter down 1500 feet below the sea floor. It would have to be big enough in diameter to fit in the A-bomb. Let us say nothing goes wrong in the drilling and you do not fracture new pathways to the existing well or the oil does not find its way via either via a fracture or a porous zone to your new well and you do not have a second blowout. That would be good.

Now you detonate your A-bomb. If you look at pictures of A-bomb caverns created after blasts underground they are gigantic voids where the rock was vaporized. You now have a much larger area for the oil and gas to find its way into many more fractures that you created and through the sea floor to the surface. You will never get a homogeneous vast layer of fused glass. It does not happen in nature. There are always cracks. This solution might work if this was not a high pressure well, but if it was low pressure we could let the sea water of 2300 pounds per square inch close the well for us. Remember atmospheric pressure is only 15 pounds per square inch at sea level. This sea water pressure would shut down 99% of all wells on the earth’s surface.

What people do not understand in oil and gas drilling is that less than 5% of the world’s wells are high pressure oil and gas wells. I want to stress here, that I do not mean great depth wells, in sea water. There are places in California, on land, where new mudlogging geologists would not be sent until they understood about high pressure oil zones. It is a dangerous game drilling into high pressure oil and gas zones because you risk having a blowout if your mud weight is not heavy enough. If you weight up your mud with barium sulfate to a very high level, you risk blowing out the formation. What does that mean? It means you crack the rock deep underground and as the mudweight is now denser than the rock it escapes into the rock in the pore spaces and the fractures. The well empties of mud. If you have not hit high pressure oil or gas at this stage, you are lucky. If you have the oil and gas comes roaring out and you have a blowout, because you have no mud in the well to suppress the oil and gas. You shut down the well with the blowout preventer. If you do not have a blowout preventer, you hope that the oil and gas pressure will naturally fall off with time, otherwise you have to try and put a new blowout preventer in place with oil and gas coming out.

I saw the strain on many company men’s faces and those of the mudmen who were responsible for keeping that fine balance between mudweight and not blowing out the formation when I logged in high pressure zones.

THEY WOULD ASK TO BE NOTIFIED IMMEDIATELY THE BACKGROUND GAS UNITS WENT ABOVE 50 UNITS OF GAS OR 1% GAS WHILE DRILLING. Geologists were responsible for logging the geology but more important was watching the background gas, so they could weight up the mud and prevent a blowout.  When mud began to flow back out the well under pressure from deep underground, you knew you were losing that well and you would probably have to shut that well down with the blowout preventer and spend weeks getting cement into the well and basically write off the well. The investors who put up the money for the drilling would then be asked to pay more money in for a non functional well

Let us say whoever worked on that well from the geologist to the mudmen to the drilling contractors to the company man to geophysicists who sited the well, their reputation was mud.

Personal history on one blowout well near Sacramento California in 2006.

I was responsible for preventing a blowout just south of Sacramento at 11500 feet when the well began to flow. The company man was an arrogant man and would not believe our instruments for measuring the gas pressures during drilling and therefore would not weight up the mud. I called the offsite petro-engineer to get him to take control away from the company man. I was kicked off the site. The well began to flow and the blowout preventers were actuated to shut down the well. They lost the most productive zone of the well because of the great pressure and only saved the top 8000 feet because it was already cased with steel. It took many weeks to get the well under control. The investors had to pay in more money. I do not know if they ever made a profit, but I think they did, probably after 6 months to a year. Normally you will pay off a land well’s cost within two months from the oil and gas flows. That means you have paid off at least $5 million dollars in 2 months and then it is all profit as long as the well keeps producing. It is not surprising that the world is greedy, mad and blind. How can you get the oil companies to convert to solar? Where’s the profit?

High PRESSURE wells are not the norm, like this Gulf of Mexico BP one. It is very dangerous and although the rewards are higher, nobody likes working on them. The investors do not care as long as they make a profit.

The company knows the risks and is prepared to sacrifice people and the environment. After all money is money. There are always more people and the environment is the responsibility of somebody else. NO OIL COMPANY CARES ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT. If they did, they would not be in this business. There is no such thing as clean oil. It is all carcinogenic. It is like asking the tobacco companies to care about your health. You can not ask people with no morals to care. It is hard enough for them to manage the façade of caring. They have learnt to keep quiet and say nothing. BP gets all the flack. They deserve a great deal, but spare some for two of our other friends. Where are Transocean and Halliburton? I do not see them standing up to shoulder any of the blame. I guess they are lying low, as usual and counting their loot.

Chris Landau (geologist)
June 6 2010
530 751 9829

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