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Is the Gulf oil spill really sealed?

The Gulf oil spill either is or is not contained, and our Readers Who Comment are having the same conversation that BP and Admiral Thad Allen are having: is that seepage around the sealed well serious enough to require opening valves to relieve pressure and thus release more oil.

Some readers who appear to have technical knowledge argue one way, some argue the other. What is clear is that no one -- including Allen -- really wants to reopen the well unless it's absolutely necessary, as Allen's letter to BP shows.

David A. Fahrenthold writes, "In the confusion, this much was clear: Even if the now-infamous Macondo well doesn't leak another drop, the spill is likely to remain an environmental and economic problem for some time."

LucyLou1 wrote, "Well, let's recap: BP wants to keep the well closed so the world won't know how much oil has leaked and therefore won't have to pay as much in fines, whether there's another leak or not. The government wants to look competent and "in charge" for the rapidly approaching midterm elections, but doesn't really want to punish BP, either... It's hard to know who to root for when there are only 'bad guys.' "

MichaelOwen04 said, "From what I understand, won't they have to take enough oil from the well to at least draw off the gas pressure? Othewise, it would be like plutonium dump-waiting 200 years for the capping to degrade and then exploding out again."

jeff20 replied, "When compressed, methane is a liquid. When the well was tapped and the pressure was relieved, the methane vaporized into a gas, expanding to 600 times its volume which in turn exerted tremendous gas pressure. Now that it's capped, it can't vaporize so in a way the natural "gas" (liquid at those pressures) regulates its own pressure."

PanhandleWilly wrote, "...I'm as angry at this spill as anybody...but credit where credit is due. After a slow start BP is doing a good least in Florida. NO feds in sight anywhere...except to slow down BP's cap process at end game. That's the real news. No feds...and we're doing fine thank-you. Off to the beach."

johng1 said, "Everyone here please pucker up and kiss an engineer today. And remember, this could have been avoided if it weren't for non-engineer greedy businessmen ignoring science and taking shortcuts. Try to talk to your children about a career in the sciences. It is rewarding and good for our country."

seakeys wrote, "You can be sure that BP is biting at the bit to use this cap as the pipeline to capture, tap and sell the oil of this reservoir. Sealing this off permanently now is just killing them. Too freaking bad....

But ecat said, "In this case I agree with BP that they should not open the well and resume oil collection. You don't screw around with a precarious situation that could result in much more oil released into the gulf. In any case, the liability will be based on how much it will cost to clean up the environment, not on how much oil was spilled. Trouble is, Obama thinks like a lawyer, not a CEO."

seemstome wrote, "BP has killed tens of thousands of whales, sea turtles,dolphins,sea birds and land animals with their oil. Millions of fish will be killed or have their flesh contaminated so that they cannot be safely eaten... The billion dollar tourist industry of Florida has been damaged with mats of oil washing ashore from Pensacola to Panama City. BP has been criminally negligent in its execution of its lease and in the handling of this catastrophic event... We need to treat them like the criminal corporation that they are."

Alka-Seltzer said, "Of course, if they opened it back up with the new equipment that will capture all the oil and send it to the surface then we'll know exactly how much oil was gushing into the Gulf for three months. Can't have that can we? At approx. $6,300 a barrel fine for criminal negligence spill that would be a very bitter pill for BP to swallow."

fslearjet wrote, "An excellent article. It seems that BP is trying to skirt any further legal actions both civil and criminal by stating they want to keep the cap on permanently. I hope this administration continues to keep BP's feet into the fire and they continue to pursue all action that BP is responsible as are haliburton and the other companies who were involved in this disaster. There is no way they are going to get away from this and no way will it be done on the cheap."

zizinyc said, "Kill that well and kill the rest of them. We The People are not buying this nonsense anymore. We are already capable of creating alternative energy sources, including solar energy. The fact that the world is run by greedy people who don't care about anyone but themselves is a clear and present danger..."

MrTracker wrote, "Inflation is coming -- bad inflation. And of course, the skyrocketing oil prices will be blamed on the oil companies, not the trillions in stimulus/bailouts, where the blame truly lies. We're all being prepped."

MiriyamGevirtz said, "It was always clear that the pressure of the oil from above would force it out underneath where it couldn't be measured. I have no doubt this was a plan by BP, but why did Commander Allen and other lawmakers go for it? Please release the oil you can immediately to pipes to boats including the Whale before more damage is done."

ljsack suggested, "Now that the well is capped, perhaps some of those writing comments should direct their righteous indignation towards our continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are causing more damage to the US than this spill ever will."

We'll close with winemaster2, who said, "As long as the pressure holds within reasonable degree, keeping the cap on would be most prudent action... Once the relief well is operational then this ruptured well can be cemented, plugged and sealed...That oil can wait three to six months to be brought up. Unless of course the greed creed along with this fundamentally flawed economic system has no sense of priorities and just one track mind about the filthy money. The curse that is responsible for this catastrophe in the first place."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  July 19, 2010; 9:10 AM ET
 | Tags: BP, Gulf of Mexico, Oil spill, Thad Allen  
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Next: Let's review this racism firing


I hope it is clearly recognized by everyone out there that the huge COSTS of this Gulf Oil Spill “cleanup” INEVITABLY FACTOR INTO THE TRUE GENERAL COST OF “OUR” WHOLE RELIANCE ON OIL.

What that actually means is that the price of gasoline, and heating oil, will be incrementally HIGHER, and so YOU will have to work more hours (if you can) doing whatever YOU do (if you are "lucky" enough to actually be "working") to "cover YOUR SHARE" of the whole mess --- PLUS, of course, also the shares of all the REST of the folks who are NOT (for whatever reasons) "working" (in some cases, as a derivative consequence of the very calamity about which "we" are speaking here!).

So the point is, when you compare the "cost" of "Alternative Energy" to that of "Good ol' Fossil Fuels", YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO ADD INTO THE "MIX" A WHOLE BUNCH OF OSTENSIBLY "UNRELATED" COSTS THAT ARE ACTUALLY INTIMATELY CONNECTED --- MANY OF WHICH ARE "PAID IN OTHER COIN" THAN THAT ACTUALLY ACKNOWLEDGED IN THE "PRICE AT THE PUMP". Some of it will be paid, for instance, "buried" in YOUR GROCERY BILL, as a result of the damage to the supply of seafood from the Gulf. And some of it will be "buried" in YOUR HEALTH CARE COSTS, since "down the road" there will be responders who have worked on the "cleanup" who will end up experiencing problems that will end up adding into THAT "compartment" in the overall grand accounting.

Much of it will be "buried" in YOUR (various) TAXES, since the costs to "government" to provide even a MINIMAL subsistence "safety net" for all those who will end up losing THEIR jobs as a consequence of the damage to their industries and trades end up having to actually be borne by SOMEBODY. (And don't kid yourselves to the effect that BP will --- or even could! --- somehow actually "pick up" the multi-bazillion$ "tab" for everything! At most, they will but make a down payment on it all. And anyway, obviously if BP is indeed going to survive as a "going enterprise", it will ("down the road") HAVE TO "RECOVER" all the "wealth" being "expended" on all of this --- with that recovery "buried", of course, in prices of products it sells to "We the (Small) People".

Posted by: BirdsAbound | July 21, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Bottom line is that we don NOT have the tools to stop leaking or blown out wells at that depth. Whether it was negligence (corporate, government or both) doesn't matter. Accidents/mistakes DO happen and if we don't have the tools to stop/fix them then we shouldn't be drilling at those depths. Alternatives exist.

Posted by: thebobbob | July 19, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that most of the posts come from folks with political "bullet point" ideas or from those with BS session ideas. Let the folks who know what to do, do it and hope to keep the Lawyers and Politicians out.

Posted by: macira | July 19, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Reply to Jeff20:
Interesting hypothesis but are you taking into account the temperature? Methane can not be in liquid form above -82 degrees centigrade (-115 deg. F)regardless of the invreased pressure. I don't believe those kinds of temperatures exist in the oil resevoir/well environment so I'm not too sure the methane would be liquid as you have proffered.

Posted by: toytooii | July 19, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

>>> SCOOP: The tool able to stop the oil spill in the early days of May!!! >>>

Posted by: www999 | July 19, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Releasing the pressure by pumping the oil up to the surface could help the situation. Expect BP to recommend that solution this week until the well can be sealed via one of the two relief wells pumping in concrete. It would be a wise move, but one that will likely draw criticism of "BP being greedy and wanting to continue profiting from the oil"

In related news, check out the Steve Jobs psedo-press conference on behalf of BP....very FUNNY.

Posted by: eye95 | July 19, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

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