Engineer who worked for BP: Geology around blow-out is “FRACTURED” and “could keep leaking for YEARS”

Robert Bea, a former Shell Oil executive, is a University of California Berkley engineering professor specializing in catastrophic disasters.

“In 2002, BP executives asked [Bea]… to study organizational issues in the company’s U.S. refinery operations. … Bea and Roberts delivered a report on their findings. Three years later, one of the refineries that the two researchers considered a problem suffered an explosion and fire that killed 15 people,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Thursday, Bea was interviewed by Washington’s Blog. Read the enlightening article here.

Transcript Excerpts

BEA: You have to ask why did this location blow out when nearby wells drilled in even deeper water didn’t blow out. You have to look at the geology of the Macondo well. It is in a subsalt location, in a Sigsbee salt formation.

BEA: The geology is fractured. Usually, the deeper you drill, the more pressure it takes to fracture rock. This is called the “fracture gradient”. But when BP was drilling this well, the fracture gradient reversed. Indeed, BP lost all pressure as it drilled into the formation. …

BEA: This well could keep leaking for years. … The oil will follow lines of weakness in the geology. The leak can travel several horizontal miles from the location of the leak. …

BEA: There are two uncorroborated reports [BP unwilling to share information with public or scientists, including Bea]. One is that there is a leak 400 feet west of the present well’s surface location. There is another report that there is a leak several miles to the west. …

4 comments to Engineer who worked for BP: Geology around blow-out is “FRACTURED” and “could keep leaking for YEARS”

  • Gulf Wells Are Tolling For BP Execs

    by Fintan Dunne – 20th Aug, 2010

    Dr Robert Bea, a top scientist on Pres. Obama’s Gulf team has just confirmed our previous story, stating that BP drilled a second undisclosed well, which could even now be leaking unseen.

    Dr. Bea confirmed BP drilled the second well in Feb, 2010 –before it drilled the well which exploded fatally in late April.

    He said BP is blocking access to data by Federal scientists, so he cannot verify whether this second well is leaking or not.

    His confirmation may have legal implications for senior BP execs who sold tens of thousands of their shares in the company after an accident at this second well.

    An official BP well report available online says a single well was ‘sidetracked’ and omits any mention of a second well. Public relations for the firm has denied BP drilled an earlier well.

    However CBS ’60 Minutes’ broadcast an eyewitness accident account identified by CBS as taking place at a previous well.

    So, are both wells leaking? Is there oil flowing between the wells underground? And which well has the public been shown?

    Breaking ……Standby for more.


  • Bubba

    Wellbores are a matter of public record. BP cannot block the information about their other wellbore since it belongs to the government (the old MMS). Any wellbores penetrating the seafloor must be approved by the government first. If journalists and investigators are having problems retrieving information, then I believe that the government is attempting to shield BP from scrutiny (to what end, I do not know). No one can independently confirm anything about BPs’ wells as it requires very expensive equipment to take videocameras to the seafloor (out of sight, out of mind). Sidetracking is a fairly common procedure in the GOM as many wells encounter similar problems to BPs (though with non catastrophic outcomes). I’ve personally drilled two wells only a few miles from the BP blowout, and encountered similar well control problems. Wells in the area are highly overpressured at depth and have narrow drilling margins (dangerous). BPs lackadaisical response to this common problem is without precedent. BP are very seasoned drillers in the eastern GOM and have dealt with these types of issues in the past. Their corner cutting approach and lack of vigilance this time round has had catastrophic consequences for us all. There is no excuse of their behaviour, I believe it is criminal.

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