Russia has done 5 times if I remember correctly. Has the US even considered this option yet or are we not that screwed yet? I know Russia loves nukes and has used them for things like mining. I know the prep time is probably gotta be on the magnitude of months to dig a hole for it and stuff and I am sure it is a complex issue but instead of trying to figure out a solution why can’t we use one that has already been proven?
I don’t think anybody’s done it a mile under water before. In any case, a the relief wells will probably be finished before a nuclear weapon could be properly prepared and put into place.
What would it do, exactly? Fuse the ocean floor into impenetrable glass?
I think more along the lines of having the bore hole cave in on itself stopping the leak. Sort of an instant sudden top kill if you will.
Could a nuke cause a tsunami?
I imagine a small nuclear weapon would actually be quite handy for this type of thing, and minimally damaging to the environment (at least compared to all the oil gushing out otherwise).
Here’s a video of a gas leak stopped by a nuke.
Looking at the video you will see that they capped the well and tried to divert but appear to have put too much back pressure on the formation and thus fractured the shallower surface sediments leading to oil and water leaking up all over the place.
They then go ahead and drill an adjacent well and try to get it as close as possible then detonate a nuclear device to close off the wild well.
Given that they have to drill a well it would be much easier and less hassle to drill a relief well and intersect the original well then pump heavy mud to kill it followed by cement rather than try and engineer a nuclear weapon to withstand the pressures to survive long enough to get down there.
Whilst the relief wells certainly have to be drilled down to the reservoir level , or close to it, a well with a nuclear war head in it would have to be pretty deep as well. If you were to destroy the casing at too shallow a depth you would have a direct path from the reservoir to that shallow depth up the uncollapsed casing. Those rocks would then see the full reservoir pressure (minus oil column hydrostatic) and most likely you would end up with an under ground blowout followed by the rocks fracturing again back up via the casing to the surface.
One of the big challenges of drilling deep water wells is the fragile nature of the rocks you have to drill through, drilling teams have a bad enough time not fracturing the formations with excessively dense drilling fluids whilst avoiding taking a kick with too low density drilling fluids (or a fine window between pore pressure and fracture pressure).
So easier, high probability of success and quicker to drill a relief well than try nuclear weapons.
I suspect the reason the Russians used a nuclear weapon is because the technology to intersect a blowing out well did not exist (active and passive magnetic ranging) - and it is highly unlikely they had even surveyed the original wellbore so an intersection was probably impossible. I spent some time working in Turkmenistan dealing with some entertaining well avoidance issues due to this very problem.
I think detonating a nuclear device outside of American territorial waters would violate at least sixteen treaties and cause a massive political kerfluffle, which takes the option off the table.
If science-fiction fans ruled the world, we would have nuked it from orbit already, just to be sure.
The 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, which the U.S. has signed and ratified, says
Can’t we replicate the effect with a really large conventional bomb? We’d be delivering it by ship and we need it to sink, so weight isn’t a problem. Don’t we have some unused MOABs? Or just pump conventional explosives down a tube or something?
This hypothetical nuke wouldn’t be a test, so that wouldn’t be applicable.
Well, curiously, the people who spent a lot of effort thinking about this actually seem to have thought of that, and included the language bolded above:
“or any other nuclear explosion”
The bomb has got to fit in a twenty two in (or so) inch hole.
The Mark 84, a mere 2000 pounder, is already 18 inches in diameter.
There’s likely some sort of cubic relationship, or worse, between the strength of the bang, and how near the bomb has to be to the well to collapse it, and smaller bombs likely also have a tighter range between doing nothing, collapsing the well, and just making a cavity for the oil to fill on its way up the pipe.
The MOAB, AKA Daisy Cutter is an air-fuel device…ain’t gonna work at all underground or underwater. Air-fuel devices achieve high yield because they are all fuel and do not contain their own oxidizer, they depend on atmospheric oxygen for their bang.
As someone pointed out above, the pressures at the depth of the seabed are tremendous. I think I heard 2,000 pounds per square inch. I doubt that any existing atomic or nuclear bomb is designed to survive those pressures, so one would have to be custom-made for this job. Then, it would need to be delivered to the seabed at the opening of the well. And who knows if the explosion will correct the problem or make things worse?
Well, it is the only way to be sure.
What we need to do is go across the world to find the best team of underwater drillers, led by a hard-bitten old man and a young hotshot who’s in love with the old man’s beautiful daughter.
Seriously, if a single nuke can shatter an 800-mile asteroid when properly placed, the leak should be no trouble.
While the surface casing on a well might have an appreciable diameter, there are a number of factors that mandate putting in increasingly slimmer casing strings as you progress downhole; overpressured or underpressured zones, hydrostatic head, etc. Each one of these has to be progressively smaller to fit within the string above, not to mention there’ll be a joint to navigate at each junction. This and the tremendous pressures involved make it highly problematic to get a device even anywhere near your target depth. If it gets stuck along the way you can’t pull or bang on it like you could with a conventional drill bit or logging tool.
Then there’s the fact explosives, pressure and acids are routinely used to increase the reservoir volume proximal to a production stem. There’s always the change a nuke would simply create a cavernous, unpluggable supply of radioactive oil and gas.