Taming an Oil Well

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:

A proposal to eliminate leakage

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.

American League
EAST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10
NY Yankees 45 27 .625 25-10 20-17 395 293 +102 Won 2 6-4
Tampa Bay 43 29 .597 2 19-17 24-12 370 278 +92 Won 1 3-7
Boston 44 30 .595 2 26-15 18-15 410 346 +64 Won 1 7-3
Toronto 39 34 .534 6.5 20-17 19-17 341 316 +25 Won 1 5-5
Baltimore 20 52 .278 25 12-23 8-29 245 386 -141 Won 1 3-7
CENTRAL W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10
Minnesota 40 32 .556 23-13 17-19 337 291 +46 Lost 3 4-6
Detroit 39 32 .549 .5 25-11 14-21 321 319 +2 Won 1 7-3
Chicago Sox 37 34 .521 2.5 18-18 19-16 309 318 -9 Won 9 9-1
Kansas City 30 43 .411 10.5 14-19 16-24 325 365 -40 Won 1 4-6
Cleveland 26 45 .366 13.5 12-20 14-25 297 367 -70 Lost 5 1-9
WEST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10
Texas 44 28 .611 26-11 18-17 380 310 +70 Won 11 10-0
LA Angels 41 34 .547 4.5 19-16 22-18 355 365 -10 Lost 1 6-4
Oakland 34 40 .459 11 21-16 13-24 290 317 -27 Lost 3 2-8
Seattle 30 42 .417 14 20-18 10-24 247 306 -59 Lost 1 7-3
National League
EAST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10
Atlanta 42 31 .575 24-7 18-24 352 292 +60 Lost 3 6-4
NY Mets 41 31 .569 .5 26-11 15-20 335 282 +53 Lost 1 7-3
Philadelphia 38 32 .543 2.5 20-15 18-17 329 297 +32 Won 3 7-3
Florida 35 37 .486 6.5 19-19 16-18 346 321 +25 Lost 1 5-5
Washington 33 40 .452 9 20-16 13-24 299 335 -36 Lost 1 3-7
CENTRAL W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10
St. Louis 40 32 .556 23-12 17-20 316 259 +57 Lost 1 6-4
Cincinnati 40 33 .548 .5 23-17 17-16 350 332 +18 Won 3 4-6
Chicago Cubs 32 40 .444 8 18-18 14-22 298 321 -23 Won 1 5-5
Milwaukee 32 40 .444 8 14-19 18-21 351 379 -28 Won 4 6-4
Houston 28 45 .384 12.5 16-24 12-21 250 368 -118 Won 2 3-7
Pittsburgh 25 47 .347 15 16-19 9-28 239 404 -165 Lost 3 2-8
WEST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10
San Diego 42 30 .583 23-16 19-14 298 239 +59 Lost 1 5-5
San Francisco 39 32 .549 2.5 24-12 15-20 304 254 +50 Lost 2 5-5
LA Dodgers 39 33 .542 3 23-13 16-20 335 330 +5 Won 1 3-7
Colorado 38 34 .528 4 23-14 15-20 332 289 +43 Lost 1 6-4
Arizona 28 45 .384 14.5 18-18 10-27 347 424 -77 Lost 2 3-7

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