Home > Uncategorized > Oil Industry, MSM Both Out-Of-Sight Out-Of-Mind

Oil Industry, MSM Both Out-Of-Sight Out-Of-Mind

If you think the Deepwater Horizons oil blowout disaster, the worst in the nation’s history, is horrific, add this to the on-going horror story:

An exhaustive investigative report by the Associated Press released Wednesday said there are more than 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf and 17% or 4,590 could be leaking.

Abandoned off-shore Gulf wells are not inspected but the rate of abandoned wells on land that leak is that 17% factor. The AP said there was concern for at least 3,500.

The AP investigation said federal rules for “temporarily abandoned” wells in the Gulf are routinely circumvented and about 1,000 wells in that category have not been checked for decades.

Geology experts say years of exposure to sea water and underground pressure can cause cementing and piping to corrode much as a volcano can awaken.

Industry spokesmen quoted in the AP story deny such events can happen if the wells are plugged properly. It is true that the technological process has improved in recent years but not to older wells sealed in the Gulf dating back to the 1940s.

“There has been a few occasions where wells that have been plugged have to be entered and re-plugged,” said Greg Rosenstein, a vice president at Superior Energy Services, a New Orleans company that specializes in this work for offshore wells.

The AP report maintains the rules set down by the Minerals Management Service, now the Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement agency, lack teeth and rely solely on paperwork provided to them by the industry.

In California, it said, state inspectors sealed “several dozen” abandoned offshore wells, and in Texas,more than 21,000 abandoned wells were plugged to control pollution, according to that state’s comptroller’s office.

“In deeper federal waters, though — despite the similarities in how such wells are constructed and how sealing procedures can fail — the official policy is out-of-sight, out-of-mind,” the AP said.

It reported MMS fined seven companies $440,000 between 2003 and 2007 for improper plug-and-abandonment work.

The report concludes no one really knows how many abandoned wells are leaking — and how badly because they don’t want to know.

Both the government and industry appear unconcerned. As an example, a team of researchers tried to locate a well 20 miles off Louisiana reported leaking five years after it was abandoned. Satellite radar images were no help because MMS withheld critical information that could have helped verify and locate the well.

John Amos, the geologist who wrote the study, said “I kind of suspected that this was a project almost designed to fail.” He said the agency refused to tell him “how big and widespread a problem” they were dealing with in the Gulf.

Other incidents of failure to respond:

– A General Accountability Office report warned of Gulf offshore leaks from abandoned wells as far back as 1994 and asked for inspections. None.
– A 2001 study by MMS said its agents were “concerned that some abandoned oil wells in the Gulf may be leaking crude oil.” Nothing done.

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EPILOGUE

As early as the first week in May following the April 20 blowout and explosion that killed 11 crew on the Deep Horizons platform two days later I began reporting the story consistently in terms of a worst case scenario. I was accused of being an alarmist. The facts to this day prove me correct. The Gulf oil disaster keeps getting worse and it is not a bad dream. The combined effort of the MMS regulatory agency turning over the role of safety inspections to, in this case, BP and failure to offer a proven plan to address a blowout of this proportion at a depth of 5,000 feet — or any feet — below the Gulf surface by all the operators of the 4,000 active and 2,700 abandoned wells is a criminal disgrace. It is not an issue of limited regulation or too much regulation. It is a case of greed trumping accepted common sense. Whereas the banks that were too large to fail, here we have a blowout both the industry and government said would never happen. It did. And it was not a 6,700-to-1 longshot that it did despite what the oil industry and southern governors indebted to the oil industry for revenue and jobs are telling you. For the naysayers who contend no leaks from abandoned wells have been found and why stir up this pot of hysteria, I say, seek and thou shalt find. If no one is in the forest, how can they know if a tree fell to the ground.

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