Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BP Oil Spill: Case of Nitrogen-Infused Cement

The more I read, the more I'm convinced that BP is still hiding the vital information to assess the situation, let alone to devise plans to tackle the leak.

And the Obama admin is not too keen on seeking that information either, judging by Obama's speech last night, in which he talked about some "post-spill" policy actions. We are still in the middle of the spill, Mr. President, in case you haven't noticed.

Take this for example: the rumor is circulating that the well casing has been either severely damaged or destroyed, and that's why BP called off the "Top Kill" quickly.

Oil industry experts say if the well casing is destroyed, there is no way to seal off the well. (See this post on Washington's Blog.)

The well casing was sealed with a relatively new type of cement - light, quicker-curing nitrogen-infused cement offered by Halliburton. According to the testimony of Halliburton's cementer Christopher Haire, the new cement was used in the deepest casing, contradicting the testimony of Transocean's Jimmy Harrell, the top drilling official on the rig when it exploded in the Gulf on April 20, who testified that the rig had only used the nitrified cement on shallower casings.

From Halliburton's website, this type of cement, "Foam Systems", is promoted as a cost-saving alternative to conventional cementing.

Nitrogen-infused cement was known to have caused problems in other rigs. Nitrogen in the cement could get in the well hole; chemicals used in the cement for faster cure "create a lot of heat, which can thaw the methane hydrate into the gas that causes dangerous kicks". (Source: The Oil Drum)

Then there is this case of a cheap ($7) rubberized plastic seal that probably broke in the Blowout Preventer (BOP), rendering the BOP useless.

The last (and bottom) segment of the BP-designed well casing didn't have an O-ring seal.

Fluffy cement, a cheap plastic seal for the BOP, a missing O-ring - minor details that may have caused the blow-up and which could have easily, and cheaply been corrected.


OracleofMumbai said...

Dude, before you blog, why not try and get the basics right? Your comments are as ignorant as they get. The BOP didn't fail because of a few effin plastic seals, it failed to close because the well casing failed, driving the casing up into the BOP and preventing the shear rams from closing (and they are hardened steel actuated by massive hydraulic rams). As for the nitrified cement, it is an expensive alternative to regular cement that is typically used. Halliburton is expert at designing and installing cement jobs - almost surely BP relied on Halliburton's engineering recommendations on this well. The idea that anyone dealing with huge costs and potential danger would cut corners to save a few pennies is preposterous.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Halliburton's new cement is cost-saving not because the cement itself is cheap. It is cost-saving because they may be able to get away with not doing the logging, which is costly. As for the cheap plastic seal, follow the link. It is an allegation by an industry expert, not mine. I once worked for a multinational large engineering company and I was amazed how they cut corners to save a few pannies. I don't think it is preposterous at all.

Jay Murphy said...

They knew this material didn't work to begin with. On September 17, 2008 BP's Central Azeri platform blew because BP used an ultra-risky cement mix that sets to quickly.

The massive blowout occurred right after the same nitrogen cement job was completed. They knowingly used a failed product in an untested way.

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