BP cheapos create extravagant disaster
Systematic investigations of the properties of black ice only started in 2002 at DOE with token funding at $200,000 per year. According to an insider, BP was doing no research on the properties of these hydrates. BP has systematically reduced its R&D since the early 1990s starting with Hatchet John Brown and continuing with his predecessors.
We now know that that these hydrates blocked the dome but they may have caused the explosion on the rig itself. Certainly we know that methane was involved. Was it a gas leaking somehow and explosing or was it initiated by unstable black ice. On the surface on the platform at atmospheric pressure and temperature, fire ice would become unstable and be easily combustible.
Since this platform and well was a first in getting oil from under 1 mile high pressures, handling black fire ice safely may be critical. We better understand these methane hydrates before we allow more deep water drilling. As the lawyers say, "I didn't know" and lack of knowledge is no excuse.
For the DoE fire ice work see http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/oil-gas/FutureSupply/MethaneHydrates/projects/DOEProjects/FEAB111.html
Hydrate Formation and Dissociation via Depressurization
Last Reviewed 01/25/2010
The goal of this research is to characterize natural and simulated sediment samples, and to use these sediments as hosts to form methane hydrate and to investigate the kinetics of hydrate formation and dissociation. ....