But hardly anybody pays attention. Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, the “incident commander” in charge of operations at the wrecked well, updated reporters on a telephone conference call this morning. (June 21)
Several questions were asked about the integrity of the well bore, the drilled and lined hole descending several miles from the seabed to the oil and gas deposits far below. If the lining is fractured, no effort to cap the well at the top would be safe because oil could flow up through the earth outside the well with no options for suppressing it. (Think of how leaks in a pressurized garden hose worsen if you close the nozzle at the end.)
“We don’t know the exact status of the well bore,” Allen said. He said that one reason the “top kill” procedure was abandoned was the realization that the well bore could be compromised.
Well okay then. Every element of the doomsayers' case that has been subject to verification so far has turned out to be true:
* The pressure of the petroleum reservoir was too great for any available technology to resist;
* The flow of petroleum with entrained silicon has been eroding the internal structure of the blowout preventer and the well head and the flow of oil has been increasing over time;
* The well bore may well be structurally damaged and the oil may find new paths to the surface.
The relief wells are in a race against even worse disaster. The whole thing could fall apart and be essentially unstoppable. I can understand why the people in charge don't want to say this publicly but as we debate whether to resume deep water drilling the public needs to know exactly where we stand and what the risks are. Even if they get this thing stopped some time in August, it will matter that we came so close to unimaginable horror. The people need to be told the truth.