Did BP Drill into An Asphalt Volcano?

7/19/2010

 

 

Intro

 

                As we all know BP has had a terrible accident in the Gulf Of Mexico and it has resulted in historic levels of pollution.  The final figure is still not determined, but we may be talking about as much a  two hundred million gallons of oil having been released into the Gulf Of Mexico from the broken well cap.

                As of the day of this writing they have managed to cap the well, but there are fears of seepage nearby, and BP is making the claim that it is testing the cap for integrity, while at the same time testing the well for integrity. Apparently there is some question about how well sealed the pipe leading to the well  is, and I  believe a far more serious question of how well sealed  is the well itself.

                BP is now claiming to be running seismic tests along the ocean bottom, testing for leaks, but as we shall see there may be a far more serious reason for running these seismic tests.

Asphalt Volcanoes

                As far as I know, and I admit this is not all that much, for full disclosure, the Gulf of Mexico does have a lot of natural seepage of Methane and some Oil along the ocean bottom. This is probably one of the reasons for oil companies to have clustered around this area in the first place, and one of the key reasons for there to be 27,000 sealed, or abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico, which are themselves becoming a matter for serious concern.  However, the BP well may be of particular interest, and seepage of this well is likely to indicate a more hazardous concern than normal seepage along the ocean bottom.

History

                In 1973 a group of scientists were doing some tests along the ocean bottom in the Gulf of Mexico, near the Yucatan peninsula, and apparently near the point of impact of the supposed Dinosaur Killer Asteroid in Chicxulub Mexico when they discovered something quite strange.  A sea mount, or an under water volcano that had erupted asphalt, or oil.  Upon conducting more tests they discovered that this was common around the area known as Campeche Knolls  near the Yucatan at an ocean depth of around 3000 meters.  This was to be the first such example of an Asphalt Volcano.

                By our time quite a few others have been discovered.  These volcanoes apparently are filled with  both Methane and Oil and instead of erupting lava, or igneous rock are instead erupting  Methane and Oil.   The ocean floor is pocked with sea mounts, and though not all of them are Asphalt Volcanoes, many are likely either Asphalt Volcanoes or Mud Volcanoes which erupt mud instead of Lava or Oil, or Methane. 

                Oil and Methane need volcanic heat to be produced.  Thus anywhere there is Oil or Methane some kind of geological activity has cooked the oil or gas, either in the present or the past.  If the “cooking” took place in the past, there is perhaps nothing to worry about. But if the “cooking” is still going on, then there is much to worry about.

Nature

                There are some structures near to the New Horizon BP well that seem to be sea mounts.  It is quite likely that BP drilled very close or on top of one of these Sea Mounts.  Any seepage from such a Sea Mount is probably going to be volcanic in origin.  The nature of Asphalt Volcanoes is complex, and the theories behind them are far from standard.  In other words we really don’t know all that much about them. Other than they are deep below the ocean floor most of the time, as is the New Horizon oil well, which is 14000 feet below the Ocean bottom.   At these depths, and under such pressure, any human activity is extremely unpredictable.  It’s much like being on another planet.

Dangers

               

                Again I cannot say this for fact, but there is a very good chance that BP drilled into an Asphalt Volcano.  Moreover, this Asphalt Volcano may have been active.  It is also likely that this was the original reason for the eruption which resulted in the explosion at the surface. 

                If they did in fact drill into an Asphalt Volcano, then they drilled into a highly unpredictable, highly unstable ground which may well be geologically active.  BP would not likely tell any of us if it did do this or not, and again, I cannot say for a fact that they did. But I can say that those structures near the well are likely sea mounts, and that some of them probably are Asphalt Volcanoes, whether dormant, or  active.

Government Responsibility

                Now as I readily admit that I do not know the answers to these questions. Did BP really drill into an Asphalt Volcano, and so near to the American Coast?  And so near to New Orleans with its huge population?  I don’t know, and I don’t even believe anyone has asked BP this question and even if they did, is it really likely that they have to answer this question at all?  Who is going to know barring an informant from within the company telling us what the actual plan was when they first began the drilling?  Who is going to tell us?

                The answer to this question is the United States government.  BP got the license to drill during the time of the Bush presidency. Bush as everyone knows , was himself once active in the pursuit of oil, and had as a younger man drilled a number of oil wells for none other than the Saudi Arabians looking for oil in Texas, as if they didn’t have enough in Saudi Arabia.  So I would assume that Bush would know something about the drilling of these wells so near to the coast of the United States of America.

                                In the end, however, the only entity responsible for the safety of the American people is the GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  Only this entity is trusted with the responsibility of keeping the American people safe from possible harm.  Thus it is the responsibility of this entity to spend whatever money is needed to make certain that it understands the activities of any business entities seeking to do business in or around the nation!  It behooves the Government of the United States to be fully aware and fully involved in the activity of any private local or multi national corporation that seeks to do any business in the United States of America, for only the United States government is fully entrusted with the safety of the American People, and any statement to the contrary is to me sheer  pseudo political ideology mired in ulterior motives having usually to do with the special interests of greed!  The United States government and not BP not Shell, not Goldman Sachs,  for that matter are responsible for the well being and safety of the American people, but the government of the United States itself.   It is for this reason that the United States government must understand the nature of these Asphalt Volcanoes so near to shore, and it is for this reason that it must spend tax dollars to inspect these policies, and procedures, and possibly to assist the private entities expeditiously if they are deemed safe and advantageous to  the American State.

 

Future Policy.

 

                I find this disaster to be a possible turning point, not only for the United States, but for any democracy having as its charge the safety and well being of its people.  Here we have a perfect example of why you cannot simply allow private enterprise to do as it is wont to do.  I respect private enterprise, to be sure, and in defense of BP, yes we do need the oil.  But the reality is that only the United States government is directly responsible for the well being of the American people, and this is its primary interest and motive for existence. Only the United States government can say with some level of  authority that it is reasonably safe to drill into an Asphalt Volcano so near to land, and so near to a densely populated city as is New Orleans.   Let it be known that this issue is key to this disaster.  It is ultimately the official policy that must balance our theoretical knowledge, and the practical  risks involved in drilling into an Asphalt Volcano for oil or gas!  This is the last calculation that must be made and it can only be made my  a responsible government if the possible risks will affect the well being of a particular people, as does this disaster affect the well being  of the American people along the Gulf Coast.

 

                I will not here lend my opinion on the soundness of drilling into such geological structures as Asphalt Volcanoes, or Mud Volcanoes for oil and Gas.   A catastrophe sometime ago in Indonesia when an oil company drilled into a Mud Volcano that is now continuously spewing out thousands of cubic meters of mud on what was  farmland and sea shore should have been enough for governments to take notice as to the dangers of drilling in geologically active areas.   Why was the United States of America, the most powerful richest nation on Earth caught off guard like this? 

                Again, I am not proceeding here with the assumption that I know what policy should be, or technical procedure,  but that there in fact should be a policy of some kind. It does not take a genius to know when drilling into a volcano could well be a dangerous undertaking hardly worth the risk. Especially when seemingly so little is really known as to the true nature of these volcanoes.  I am only making the claim, that our government should know, and is fully responsible if the rights of its people are violated or vouchsafed by an irresponsible entity. Only the government has this responsibility towards its people, not BP.  If this area was not geologically stable then the government should have known about since the research was there, there is no excuse.

P.S. Again, I cannot say that I know for sure that BP did anything at all wrong. I cannot know. But those structures near the well are sea mounts.  And there are sea mounts on the other side of the Gulf that are in fact Asphalt Volcanoes.  Enough to ask these questions honestly.  Enough for the government to look into.

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