But can they stop the Gulf floor blowout? It’s not nearly as simple as it sounds. And when they did it with the massive underwater Ixtoc I blowout in 1979, it took months longer to complete than originally thought. Plus it was in shallower water.
But relief wells are something that, fortunately, engineers don’t have to do very often. Drilling the relief well also can be fraught with challenges — especially working in deep water on a well that has already had problems with gas bubbles.
“You have to hit something the size of a dinner plate miles into the earth, ” said Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser at the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, who follows spills around the world. “Even in a shallow-water blowout, the drilling of a relief well can be complicated and problematic.”
So, where did the relief-well-will-stop-the-blowout meme start? I’m guessing BP. Who has been consistently wrong about most everything so far.