May 14, 2010

Why Not Nuke It?

National Geographic warns that the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico could leak for years, wrecking the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico and once it hits the Gulf Stream, the East Coast as well.

Why not nuke it?

A low-yield nuclear device detonated deep in the relief well now being drilled in the would fracture the rock around the leak and seal it, would it not? Presumably, the detonation sealing the well would trap any radiation far under the seabed.

It seems a potentially practical solution at a time where we seem to be running out of ideal solutions, and one that might be far less ecologically damaging than allowing the leak to spew oil for years.

Any experts out there care to weigh in on this?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 14, 2010 03:22 PM

Why? The relief well will do the trick and cheaper yet. An underground nuke would mean the reservoir could never be produced - and it's still a significant amount of value. (100 million barrels assuming that was the recoverable number is worth 1.6 Billion to Uncle Sam at $80 oil. The 'expert' quoted in your link is a "former head of an energy investment bank" meaning he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about on the technical side. Believe me - the capital guys in the energy industry know NOTHING about the technical side. I'd classify that article as classic green fearmongering. I can tell you that while it is difficult to drill in deep water that has essentially NO impact once you are at depth and in your directional steering. Additional evidence of his cluelessness is his dismissal of the interim plugging attempts. They may well work and if they don't it won't be because they are as silly as he suggests - it will more likely be due to the high flow rates and especially the likelihood of multiple channels having developed by this point.

Posted by: gasminder at May 14, 2010 07:09 PM

I don't know where gasminder gets his extensive technical knowledge, but I sure know who Matthew Simmons is. He's one of the most respected people in the oil industry and he knows plenty about the technical side of the industry.

Accusing Matthew Simmons of "green fearmongering" is ridiculous. He's an oil man to the core. It appears to me that the alleged technical wizards have royally screwed this one up and Simmons is right. At this point, they don't have a clue what will work.

Posted by: DB at May 14, 2010 07:51 PM

even an underground nuclear blast at the well point could have unforseen consequences...for all the other oil rigs and wildlife in the area...

Who's brilliant idea was this? As a last resort, possibly, but there are a lot of other alternatives before a nuclear detonation looks attractive...And who's gonna write the environmental impact assessment on this puppy? That will take years and be challenged by both the fishermen and the greenies.

Posted by: kalashnikat at May 14, 2010 07:51 PM

There isn't a man or woman, politician or oil executive that would have the STONES to set off any type of nuclear device in the Gulf no matter if it were proven it could be 100% successful. Certainly not THIS administration. Great conversation and science fiction - but will NEVER be considered.

Posted by: mixitup at May 14, 2010 08:11 PM

Nuke from orbit ... just to be sure!

Posted by: Adriane at May 14, 2010 11:07 PM

Well it took a grand total of one post before someone misunderstood - note that I said the ARTICLE (which quoted Matthew Simmons for exactly one paragraph) sounded like geen fearmongering & I will reiterate that. Second - one can be extremely respected in their field but not be the appropriate expert for a given analysis. And the analysis given is very suspect on the two points I mentioned - directional drilling is NOT significantly more difficult at a given depth in deep water than on land (rock properties where you are trying to steer are much more important) and the interim measure are NOT a 'joke'.

This well will NOT "spew for years". And mixitup has the real money quote - no one has the STONES.

Posted by: gasminder at May 15, 2010 06:49 AM

No need to go that insane into Sci-fi. This well will not leak for years, 12 month is more than enough to drill at least 3 relief well.

Only one successful well will be enough, since once it is drilled they will pour in a mixture of Water and chemical so dense that the oil won't flow. Then they will cap and every one is happy.

A nuke seems romantic, but it will complicate future drilling, and sedimentary rocks likely to occur in the Mexico gulf are way to weak to wistand the explosion. so Instead of a 10 inch well leaking, you can have a tens of meter wide fractures and no plan to deal with

Posted by: Sams at May 15, 2010 07:18 AM

The question has been asked in Russia, with the added info/claim that the USSR used nukes at least five times to close off wellheads.

Posted by: John A at May 15, 2010 12:00 PM

Why not just pump it out before it reaches the sea bottom and heads for the surface??

Posted by: Lord Whorfin at May 19, 2010 10:30 PM