If a BOP Could Talk

A little BOP engine was employed about a deepwater drilling site for such work as it was built, stopping a surge of gas that could sink a drilling rig, killing people and massive amounts of marine life, devastating communities, polluting a major body of water and coast line, and causing health problems and environmental and economic devastation for years to come. One day it was waiting for the next call when a train of company men asked a surge test to prove that the plugging of the well was possible, though the reserve had released a long train of kicks before, "I can’t; that is too much a pull for me," said the surge test. Then the long train of company men asked another failsafe, and another, only to hear excuses and be refused. In desperation, the train of bickering company men asked the little ten-year-old BOP, not configured on the bottom of the Gulf floor to stop the buildup of methane hydrates, to keep a massive surge of ice crystals and gas from going up the grade of a 5000 foot riser and raining down fire and ice. "I think I can," puffed the little BOP, and put itself in front of the great heavy train of pressure from deep below. As it went on the little BOP kept bravely puffing faster and faster, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can." As the final huge kick reached the inside of the little BOP he went more slowly. However, it still kept saying, "I–think–I–can, I–think–I–can." The methane hydrates built up so thickly in the little BOP that its shears could not work. Then the bravery of a rig worker kicked in and he decided on his own, in terror, to hit the last failsafe mechanism to help the little BOP. Damning itself, the little BOP said, "I thought I could, I thought I could.”

This is of course a fairytale, but a fairytale that the little BOP that thought it could so desperately wishes it could relay in just one of the numerous hearings and “investigations” as to why it failed to be the failsafe it was not designed and configured to be in a deepwater drilling environment that is known for large reserves of methane hydrates that have historically built up in this geologic region and naturally release their pressure straight from the ocean floor. The little BOP would bring so much deeper meaning to the term “Whistleblower”.

The little BOP might spill the whole kit and caboodle of methane hydrates and say, “I am not to blame. You all are. What were you thinking when you passed The Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000? I quote from an update from the Government Affairs Program American Geological Institute”, the little BOP continues:

There are technological problems that must be addressed before methane hydrate can be economically and safely extracted. In its natural state below permafrost or under the seafloor, methane hydrate is a solid and cannot flow up the drill stem. Recovery methods, such as steam flooding and depressurization are centered around causing the methane to sublimate, which enables production as a gas. However, expansion associated with the phase change of methane hydrate to methane gas has historically been a hazard to oil exploration and production. For instance, the escape of methane gas to shallow depths has been responsible for the disappearance of whole rigs from the induced liquefaction of sediment into which they were secured. Methane hydrates are also thought to be responsible for some massive submarine landslides.

The little BOP chugs on, “I submitted this for the record weeks ago, along with the amendment to the act, and the follow up legislation from 2005. Not one of you has brought it up today. Mr. Lamar McKay cannot even say the word ‘methane’. ‘Don’t know the specific fluid’. ‘That particular fluid.’ That ‘very unique fluid.’ ‘Learning about the fluid’.’ ‘No one could have predicted.’ A research crew from the Gulf of Mexico Hydrate Research Consortium funded by the Department of Energy sits within eye shot of the explosion, videoing their research of capturing methane hydrates straight from the ocean floor. Even with massive amounts of government research, Mr. Cohen doesn’t even seem to know or can’t bring himself to say exactly what ‘froze’.”

Gaveling for dear life and trying desperately to talk over the cheering proletariat, the chair yells, “We will tolerate no outburst! The BOP’s time has expired. The BOP’s time has expired. We will take recess.” When the hearings begin again, the little BOP, that wanted to be the hero to control one of the most abundant sources of fossil fuels that the public seldom hears by name and greatest forces of Mother Nature that has ever existed on our planet, was only to be found on live cam serving no purpose than to be an image of something to blame.

If a BOP on land or sea could talk, it just might ask what exactly were the 33 rigs that are affected by the drilling moratorium going to explore. Where oh where and in what deepwater formations were its little BOP buddies going to be? And would the Q4000 drilling and intervention vessel need to intervene on their behalf if the moratorium is lifted once its contracts expire with BP?

Perhaps contracts with industry and the government and Helix Energy Solutions for design and fabrication of a "toolkit" to help with methane hydrate control will give its little BOP buddies a sense of safety that one day they might not be the ones to blame but the heroes that bring our environment and economy the abundance of what has disarmingly become known as clean-burning natural gas. We–think–We–can, We–think–We—can, says government and industry: Methane Hydrate: Future Within our Grasp.

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