I have a some questions about the oil well recovery program that I would like someone to answer.
1. It appears that a relief well, to accomplish its objective must intersect the original well. That seems like quite a challenge at 18,000 feet. So my questions are: 1) What is the technology that provides such precision location of the original well, and guidance of the relief well? 2) What is your estimate of probability of success, with what confidence level?
Update 27 June 2010: I found an LA Times article “Relief Wells 101” that tells me most of what I wanted to know on this question. They pull the string periodically, and put down a sensor that detects the magnetic properties of the pipe, so they can tell how close they are, and which way to turn. As they get closer, they do it more frequently, so progress is much slower. Sounds like a plan. I have also learned that if they miss the pipe on the first try, they can back up a short distance and give it another try. I feel much better now.
2. I have read an extended comment to a Reuters article by a retired oil and gas man who signs himself Alkan that offered an approach that makes a tremendous amount of sense to me. It’s a 2-stage operation: First send down an assembly that fits around and over the end of the BOP, and takes an impression of the sheared end of the pipe. It would not stop the oil flow. Then build an assembly that contains an pipe that leads to the surface, and a lead or other malleable metal ring formed to the impression obtained earlier. Include it in an assembly with bolts that clamps the whole assembly with all the force needed to make the malleable metal conform to the end of the pipe. Once clamped down there would be no leakage at all. Here’s a picture of the device:
Here’s a link to the originally posted picture. It seems like such a rational plan. I wonder if it ever found it way to the decision makers, or how one could make it happen.