Engineer who worked for BP: Geology around blow-out is “FRACTURED” and “could keep leaking for YEARS”

Friday, August 20, 2010
By Paul Martin
August 20th, 2010

Robert Bea, a former Shell Oil executive, is a University of California Berkley engineering professor specializing in catastrophic disasters.

“In 2002, BP executives asked [Bea]… to study organizational issues in the company’s U.S. refinery operations. … Bea and Roberts delivered a report on their findings. Three years later, one of the refineries that the two researchers considered a problem suffered an explosion and fire that killed 15 people,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Thursday, Bea was interviewed by Washington’s Blog. Read the enlightening article here.

Transcript Excerpts

BEA: You have to ask why did this location blow out when nearby wells drilled in even deeper water didn’t blow out. You have to look at the geology of the Macondo well. It is in a subsalt location, in a Sigsbee salt formation.

BEA: The geology is fractured. Usually, the deeper you drill, the more pressure it takes to fracture rock. This is called the “fracture gradient”. But when BP was drilling this well, the fracture gradient reversed. Indeed, BP lost all pressure as it drilled into the formation. …

BEA: This well could keep leaking for years. … The oil will follow lines of weakness in the geology. The leak can travel several horizontal miles from the location of the leak. …

BEA: There are two uncorroborated reports [BP unwilling to share information with public or scientists, including Bea]. One is that there is a leak 400 feet west of the present well’s surface location. There is another report that there is a leak several miles to the west. …

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