This post is a part of a series from the Genesis of Methane Hydrate in Coarse-Grained Systems: Northern Gulf of Mexico Slope (GOM^2) expedition.
Scale is a funny thing on this project. On one hand, there are very few projects of this scale that have ever taken place at the Jackson School. On quite another, if we incorrectly install an O-ring that is only a centimeter across on the pressure coring tool, we might fail to recover pressurized core, one of our primary goals. We must concern ourselves with scales of time, money, size, depth, length, and distance, all of which vary by orders of magnitude. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of scale is that our perception of these scales can change right before our eyes.
Take size for example. When we rolled into Brownsville we visited the vessel, which had just come out of dry dock. We walked the quarter mile from the parking lot to the edge of the dock and looked up at what seemed like a massive vessel. Over three hundred feet long, over two hundred feet wide, and over seventy feet from bottom to just the deck surface. Standing at the foot of this vessel, we were in awe.
Then we think about the scale of the vessel relative where it is: the Q4000 becomes insignificant in the vastness of the Gulf of Mexico. Sixty thousand square feet in a body of water that is over six hundred thousand square miles. With the exception of a couple of passing container ships, a production rig, and a pod of dolphins, there is nothing for miles. A vessel that seemed so large when we were standing at its base seems so small when we are in the middle of the Gulf.
Then we think about where and with what we’re drilling. The drill pipe is 5-7/8” in diameter and we are going to drill a total of ~8200 feet to a layer of methane hydrate 87 feet thick. Stated another way, our drill pipe is 5-7/8” and we’re drilling to a depth of nearly 100,000” and we’re trying to hit a target that is only 1000” thick!
When all is said and done the vastness of this project boggles the mind. Fortunately, the quality of the food is also off the scale, so I think we’ll manage.