Oil Spill Discussion - May 6

Drumbeat will continue to have a lot of oil spill articles. But to keep oil spill discussion together, this is a separate thread, with a few links.

The most worrying story from Drumbeat is

Gulf Oil Slick Moves Near Southwest Pass, Port Official Says

Oil leaking from BP Plc’s damaged Gulf of Mexico well has drifted within 1.5 miles of the buoy marking the entrance to Southwest Pass, the main approach to the Port of New Orleans, a port official said.

“I just got a call from the port commissioner, and he said the oil is a mile and a half away from the main entrance,” Wayne Mumphrey, secretary treasurer of the Port of New Orleans said in an interview in New Orleans. “Once it passes the buoy, we have to start decontaminating every ship coming into the port.”

Mumphrey said two floating decontamination stations have been set up near the buoy to scrub oil from the hulls of ships entering the Mississippi.

It will take 10 to 12 hours to decontaminate each ship, which will dramatically slow incoming port traffic and that may cause ships to begin backing up into the Gulf, he said.

BP reports on its website:

Work continues to attempt to bring the MC252 oil well under control, to stop the flow of oil and to contain the oil subsea.

A valve that had been attached to the end of a broken drill pipe, one of the three points from which oil was leaking, was closed. This has stopped the flow from this point, but is not expected to affect the overall rate of flow from the well. BP continues to use remotely operated vehicles to monitor the flow of oil from the other two leak points.

A containment dome was loaded aboard a transport vessel at Port Fourchon, Louisiana, and began its transport to the MC252 well site. The 40x24x14 feet steel vessel, which weighs almost 100 tons, is expected to be lowered to the seabed today.

The drilling of the first relief well, which began on Sunday May 2, continues. It is estimated that it will take some three months to complete.

NOAA is saying:

The latest trajectory forecast shows a potential for westward movement of the oil. Twice daily, NOAA oceanographers continue to release updated trajectory maps showing the predicted trajectory of the oil slick. Drifter buoys have been placed near areas of the slick to provide tracking data that will be used to ground truth NOAA’s predicted trajectories. The buoys transmit location information and can be used by the NOAA modeling team to better understand how currents and winds are moving the slick and accompanying buoys.

So this would seem to indicated the spill seems to still be staying mostly away from the coast.

NOAA also says:

Decreasing wind and sea state should allow the full spectrum of surface operations until the weekend. NOAA’s National Weather Service has created a special forecast for the incident area which you can access here: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lix/

Earlier, Rigzone reported:

Loop Current Should Stay Away from Spill - NOAA

Charlie Henry, an oil spill expert and NOAA's support site coordinator with the U.S. Coast Guard, indicated that he does not expect the approximately 5,000 b/d of oil leaking from Macondo well to enter the current. The Loop current, which flows clockwise and is part of the Gulf Stream, largely governs the movement of water in the Gulf of Mexico. Platts stated that the current travels south of Macondo, which is in Mississippi Canyon Block 252, and that NOAA does not expect the current to move closer to the well site.

Henry explained that "strong" northern cold fronts appear with extended winds this time of year, reducing the potential for the oil slick to connect with the Loop current.

MMS keeps updating its news. The big news item now is photos of the cofferdam, being loaded on a ship.


BP was leasing the Deepwater Horizon oil rig from the owner, Transocean, when it exploded on April 20. BP officials said they hoped the dome would be working by Monday. If successful, it will remove about 85 percent of the oil spilling into the sea, officials said.

BP wants the 85 percent of leak put into a cargo hold, "SAVE the oil, DAMN the fish".

This is a HUGE oil spill so 15% is still far too much oil leaking into the Gulf. By the time all the dead fish and mammals start washing up on shore, Obama is going to toast. BP owns Obama and all of congress as WP writes:

The onslaught underscores the expanding political role of BP, which has spent nearly $20 million on Washington lobbying since January 2009 and now ranks second only to ConocoPhillips within the powerful oil and gas industry, according to lobbying disclosure data.

- And Obama got $ 77,000 from BP.

This is WHY congress and Obama are simply sitting on their collective rearends and letting BP call all the shots. Obama wouldn't dream of letting the US Army Corps of Engineers take a look at how to solve the problem. And BP is only interested in in the per gallon money being lost, nothing else matters. BP has been lying for long time so a few million more lies won't bother them. Meanwhile the Gulf is going to be seriously damanged.

ONE big step for BP and big oil ruining the planet by whatever means necessary.

LOL, the "let's blame Obama" game.

I guess Obama got Bush/Cheney to take out the requirement that offshore drilling operations have that remote control for closing BOP's - like might have worked immediately following the explosion, before the collapse. Quite a bit of stroke for someone in Illinois State government at the time !!

All indications are that the BOP was successfully commanded. I have yet to see any indication that BOP control was at fault -- certainly blow-out detection was slow (if THAT could be automatically detected by the BOP it would be good!), but the BOP was apparently activated.

Obama doesn't want command, because there is no control Of course BP wants to capture the oil on a ship -- what else would you do with it? Isn't sequestering the oil the whole goal?

The BOP was somehow closed, at least somewhat, but there has been a lot written on the earlier thread that the BOP / conductor pipe / drill pipe / production string had been bent and deformed the BOP. This would not have happened until after the top structure collapsed, or at least that was my assumption. If that was the case, the timely closing of the BOP would have needed to be handled before the rig collapsed, and should have worked. Of course, everyone has a lot of supposition about what happened, so no one knows exactly what the conditions were. In any case - it could not have hurt and may well have been one of the contributing factors to this situation getting continually worse.

I can say for sure that if the BOP was successfully commanded, they would have been trying for DAYS to further activate it.

It's been stated by BP that the BOP was commanded shut from the rig prior to the evacuation. The BOP confirmed back that it had received the instruction and activated.

The good thing about this website is that virgin ignorance floats to the top like a big....."enter appropriate noun here"

You will be skimmed off the surface hopefully as efficiently as this oilslick.


I appreciate a well worded put down as much as the next guy, but really there is enough ignorance, virgin or otherwise, to go around on this one.

Many 'experts' on this site harshly ridiculed those of us who early on doubted the early official statements that the flow rate 1000 bbl/day.

But now even BP is using figures as high as 60,000 bbl/day. There is huge uncertainty on many fronts, and many who say that they know for sure that it could not be higher than X bbl/day or that it could not total more than Y bbl total have been and will likely continue to be proven wrong.

Any recent estimates on flow rate out there that people have found. I'm a bit astounded that on a site devoted to PO--which is all about peak production/flow rate--so little has been said about this. Is it just too hard to estimate accurately? What are the formulas used for such estimations? Does anyone know?

I wonder about BP and "60,000 bbl/day." I have a question for the experts here, about the industry attitude towards exploratory wells. When a major oil company drills an exploratory well, I presume that they will be happy if the flow rate from the well is high. But what do they consider to be "high"? And, a different queation: What is the biggest flow rate which they would find dissappointing? Of course, they have to make some sort of announcement for any well, but one can gauge how happy they are by the quality of the goodies they provide for the press at the press briefing. In particular, this well. If there had not been this accident and they had gotten to the point of running flow test, what is the smallest flow that they would have found to be cause for celebration?

The reason I ask is because I think the major issue driving what the BP guy said seemed to be keeping his words consistent with what the company had already told the stockholders long ago.

The best well flow from Thunderhorse was considered to be 50,000 barrels a day and reports have them worried that they're tearing up the formation by producing at such a rate. Given that this is uncontrolled flow, where a formation has only minimal backpressure on it, it could be more, but unfrac'ed producing more than thunderhorse's best well??? I'd be very shocked. Its appropriate for BP to give worst case estimates, but I'd be skeptical of actually seeing a rate as high as 60,000 bbls/day.

geek -- Avery complex answer but I'll break into some digestible pieces. The project economics determine how happy they are much more than bragging rights for high flow rates. Simply: a project produces a cash flow (think interest). The principal is what you spent to get to the cash flow: exploration cost, platform/facilities costs/cost of development wells. All things being equal the higher flow rate the better the return. But high flow rates cost. Not just in the initial amount invested but risk and recovery. High flow rates can damage the well and the reservoir. It can also reduce the ult recovery from that well. Start a well at 60,000 bopd and you might recover 2 million bo. Flow it at 20,000 bopd and ult recovery might be 3 million bo. While you make more cash flow from the lower rate you also make a lower rate of return since you recover the investment slower. The NPR (net present value) parameter is used to make the comparison. But you might damage that 60,000 bopd so severely it stops producing after recovering only 200,000. And the repair/replacement might cost $150 million and take a year or two to do. And that effort isn’t always successful.

From my personal experience I really don’t care much about stated initial flow rates. I’ve seen two wells in the same reservoir come on at 400 bopd. But one recovers 20,000 bo and the other makes 300,000 bo. Such a mismatch is not uncommon.

Pretty much confirms my suspicion that they are not lying by enough to make a significant difference from reality. The whole game here for me is focused on trying to identify believable information within a torrent of verbal garbage. Unfortunately, most of the garbage comes from people for whom I feel empathy.

The cream floats to the top. Cream of the crap.

Its easy to blame and point fingers.

Might I suggest something more constructive such as:


The section on energy clearly shows a coming oil supply constriction *without* these new developments. The reset of the document is a great read.

So if you want to shut down all the drilling, great. But please couple this with a constructive, proven, scalable replacement that folks can get around.

Might I pitch a new nuclear movement as discussed here:




There are no doubt some brilliant engineers in the US Army Corps of Engineers, just as there are in NASA and NOAA or the USGS, but that doesn't mean that they have relevant deep water experience.

I have no problem with the administration demanding that (for example) the plans for the cofferdam be examined and checked by the corps or NASA or NOAA for deficiencies, but inserting them in the design loop could only slow things down, and leak more oil.

One thing is for sure, the BP Rolodex is full of people who know how to get things done, and quickly (time is money, and if there is one thing they know, it's money). They have all the engineering talent and suppliers on the gulf coast on speed dial. They know who has steel plate and pipe in stock, and can pull in favors to borrow materials and talent to get things done. How many years do you think it's been since the corps had a crash program to build something outside of their experience? Would you ask the corps to solve a problem on the international Space Station? Why ask them to deal with a situation 5000 feet below the sea. It's just not in the DNA of the corps to do fast projects without competitive bidding.

Seriously. I've been following this as closely as anyone without industry experience could, and I've not seen one credible suggestion to mechanically stop the spill that is not being tried.

This would be a great time for anyone who's heard of a good idea that's not being implemented to chime in.

BTW, I don't consider the explosives route to be credible at this time. It appears that the leak is above the BOP, and there is no report of any leakage below the BOP. It seems to me the top of the BOP could be capped, the leak could be stopped long enough for the relief/kill drills to be completed. The talk of using explosives has been about using them below the BOP, which seems highly risky at best. My opinion could be swayed if there was suddenly a major leak from below the BOP, but we're not there yet.

Blame Obama? You can blame me. I drove to Wal-Mart today to buy dark chocolate truffles (Lindt) and some Mexican mangoes (Ataulfo). Both had to be shipped long distances to get to my belly and man they were good! On the way home i filled up at Kwik Trip with some of that yummy oil sands gasoline (Kwik Trip mainly uses Canadian oil sands derived gasoline).

BP is not out to destroy the Gulf of Mexico. They are losing serious money on this deal. I'm sure they are as saddened as the rest of us, its a huge hit to their image and to the planet. While i believe mother nature will brush us off lick fleas at some point, for the time being she'll be just fine, even covered in an oil slick.

The real pain comes when people can't afford energy or can't get it period. I have not doubts a Catholic church full of SUVs owners would bulldoze the Vatican if they knew oil was to be found underneath.

They may be worried about the monetary loss, but if you believe they give a rat's butt about the ecological havoc they are causing, you may have drunk a bit to much of that corporation's coolaide.

As to your dismissive "mother nature will be just fine" um, er... you may need to do a bit more reading on the subject.

While i believe mother nature will brush us off lick fleas at some point, for the time being she'll be just fine, even covered in an oil slick.

Under normal circumstances when I come across such a stupid ignorant comment I just roll my eyes and move on. Unfortunately these are *NOT* normal circumstances.
If you were to say something like that, to me in person at this point, you would quickly find my fist in your mouth. As for anyone who reads these words and thinks I'm crossing the line by saying this, let me be clear, I don't give a SH!T. Ban me if you must!

I am very much at the end of my rope of patience with people who think like this!

I have to thank you for using Catholics as an example, where Jews would usually be used. Spread the hate equally. India and China are just getting into the game, so I'm not confident that the use of fossil fuels is going to plateau even if the price triples, and with the US and EU implementing ambitious conservation mandates and mandates for alternatives.

I think it's quite a close contest who is the bigger f*ckwit, 1smartass - you or mymomishot. Both talking absolute drivel, in a world where there is far too much of it already. Hopefully this forum can have a little less of it, so please lift your game. Or go away - your call.

You're reply to an attempt at humor is something I'd expect in the youtube comments. Or wait, you take issue with the second part of my comment? Feel free to chime in with a valid argument if you disagree with it, otherwise you're just another troll on the internet.

Your comment was drivel, pure and simple - your attempt to diffuse it as "humour" doesn't wash. So I suggest you grow up, troll.

Following is the serious part of my comment, and if that's your best response to it, you're not very bright: India and China are just getting into the game, so I'm not confident that the use of fossil fuels is going to plateau even if the price triples, and with the US and EU implementing ambitious conservation mandates and mandates for alternatives.

So far, just youtube level trolling from you.

I have to thank you for using Catholics as an example, where Jews would usually be used. Spread the hate equally.

Google: YouTube Tim Michin Pope Song

As I've mentioned, I no longer give a SH!T.

O-M-G that was perfect. Thank you FMagyar.

There seems to be a big bump up on the "I no longer give a SH!T" sentiment here on the OD.

Maybe a good song to calm the Savage Beast... (with apologies to Van Halen and the many other covers of this song)

Ah yeah!

Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new (beatin').
Summer's here and the time is right,for (rantin') in the streets,

(there's the Guard) in Chicago ( They'll be dancing )
(Oil slicks) in New Oreleans ( Dancing in the streets )
(Stock Exchanges) in New york city ( Dancing in the streets )

All we need is a spark ( (flick, flick) ) a flickin' spark (sweet sweet music )
There'll be confusion everywhere.

(They'll) be swinging(Machette's),swearing and flailing, dancing in the streets,Oh!

It doesnt matter (where you hide), just as long as (you'e not) there,
So come on Grab a guy, grab a girl, everywhere (Black Swans divin' on the) world...

etc., etc

Yep, got a match?


Kieran Suckling, the Director of The Center for Biological Diversity, seems to think that the buck should stop with Ken Salazar, Obama’s Interior Secretary:


But if Kieran Suckling knew that Obama was fully aware of the fact that Salazar would be an Interior Secretary who’d protect Big Oil over protecting the environment, he’d realize that the buck ultimately stops with Obama, not Salazar. Suckling apparently doesn’t know that Obama is bought and paid for by anything and everything Big on Wall Street — be it Big Finance, Big Military or Big Oil. This is probably why he doesn’t understand that Obama won’t ever fire Ken Salazar, an eco-disaster enabler in his Interior Department, just as he won’t ever fire Tim Geithner, an econ-disaster enabler in his Treasury Department. I must say that between his Treasury, his Interior and his Pentagon, Obama has managed to put together one helluva wrecking crew — something that only a disaster capitalist could love!

I agree, Cynthia. I feel snookered and duped for having voted for Obama.

Now perhaps is a good moment to explain a bit about conservatism in principle-not as it is USED AND ABUSED by the current big biz bau establishment, or as it is BLAMED for all of our troubles by so many liberal idiots who see everything in Mr. Magoo sized sound bites.

Speaking as a principled and reasonably well educated thinking conservative,we need two things, absolutely, in order to survive, at least for the short to medium term.

( We are already at the table , deep into the game, and we have ABSOLUTELY NO CHOICE but to play the game out with THE CARDS IN OUR HANDS.We can't walk away from the game because ALL OF OUR CHIPS are in the current pot.)

The one thing is the business establishment, and the other is a govt more interested in KEEPING AN EAGLE EYE on the business world than in trying to solve all the world's problems by managing people's affairs for them.

Now as it happens I am FULLY aware of the fact that my own personal family has benefitted handsomely from social security and medicare , as well as some other govt programs that were the work of the great liberal leaders of past generations.As it happens, given the choice between seeing little kids go hungry and having a poorly managed and unnecessarily complicated and expensive school lunch and breakfast program,I of course feel compelled support this program.Ditto many others.

But even as I do so, I know that the humane and decent short term solution is creating the long term problem of ummanageable public obligations."From little acorns" is the correct response to the question "Whence the mighty oaks?"

IF we could have a citizenry that understands there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that govt should be mostly limited to doing those things to the things only govt can do well,such as protect the country , or regulate business of all kinds in any fashion necessary to protect the commons,or to ensure the rights of individuals,we would all feel some additional pain in the short term.In the long term, we would all be far better off.

I just finished a college course taught by a practicing psychologist.The instructor's fondest dream is that everybody have instant access to a psychologist (well paid of course, with a full benefits package) at public expense.

Said instructor has not even the faintest clue about the state of the country or the world, despite a doctorate,except that somehow scumbag tea party rednecks are out to destroy the country, and the prevent the free dissemination of counseling , and thereby the GOD GIVEN right of all psyc graduates to an easy life in an air conditioned office with at least thiry days piad vacation, holidays, personal time and sick leave.

Of course we have no more hope of having a citizenry willing to rely on it's own efforts , and a govt willing to take it's responsibilities seriously, while refraining from the impossible, than we have of growin g wings and flying.

It seems that we are due for a hard crash dictated by natural laws, and that there is no hope of avoiding it.

After a year of carefully sifting the evidence for any serious indications that we are not screwed,and royally,I must conclude that few if any such indications are to be found.The crash may be fast, or it may be drawn out,but there is no way a reasonably intelligent poerson acquainted with the basic physical and biological sciences and the political realities of the current world can come to any other conclusion.

While it might be possible TECHNICALLY to solve most or even all of the critical problems, most of the attempted solutions will only make the problems worse in the long run by delaying the days of reckoning.

We just MIGHT be able to skinny by more or less intact in the US and a few of the other richer parts of the world and manage a controlled descent.


BP was leasing the Deepwater Horizon oil rig from the owner, Transocean, when it exploded on April 20. BP officials said they hoped the dome would be working by Monday. If successful, it will remove about 85 percent of the oil spilling into the sea, officials said.

BP wants the 85 percent of leak put into a cargo hold, "SAVE the oil, DAMN the fish".

This is a HUGE oil spill so 15% is still far too much oil leaking into the Gulf. By the time all the dead fish and mammals start washing up on shore, Obama is going to toast. BP owns Obama and all of congress as WP writes:

The onslaught underscores the expanding political role of BP, which has spent nearly $20 million on Washington lobbying since January 2009 and now ranks second only to ConocoPhillips within the powerful oil and gas industry, according to lobbying disclosure data.

- And Obama got $ 77,000 from BP.

This is WHY congress and Obama are simply sitting on their collective rearends and letting BP call all the shots. Obama wouldn't dream of letting the US Army Corps of Engineers take a look at how to solve the problem. And BP is only interested in in the per gallon money being lost, nothing else matters. BP has been lying for long time so a few million more lies won't bother them. Meanwhile the Gulf is going to be seriously damanged.

ONE big step for BP and big oil ruining the planet by whatever means necessary.

WaitJustASecond .....Member for 22 hours

jmygann, thanks for the info. We have an old saying down my way when referring to folks in elected leadership. "If you can't eat a mans steak, drink a mans liquor, and obscenity his women, and vote against him tomorrow, then you don't belong in an elected office." frankly i don't think obama has done a great job, but it sure is nice to have someone with innate competence as our president. He, obama, sure does worry me sometime. But then, things are complicated these days. reminds me of things going on the the UK. Damn tough jobs, President and Prime Minister.

You are new around here, so I will try to explain a few things to you. The oil that is currently flowing from MC252 needs to be contained in something. I suppose we could use empty 1 gallon milk jugs, but trapping and pumping the oil into the cargo hold of a tanker is a bit more practical. Naturally, this oil needs to be taken somewhere (just like all the crude oil that is extracted from the planet) and usually the best place for it (other than deep in the underground reservior from which it came) is an oil refinery. First, it has to be treated to get all to the salt water and other contaminants out, then it gets 'cracked' (refined) into usable distilled products (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, plastic toys painted with lead...that sort of thing).
While no one can dispute that BP has a pretty bad safety and environmental record (this current disaster is a case in point) the fact remains that the collected oil has to be transported someplace, and as long as we have a world economy that is totally addicted to oil, it should be a refinery. As for President Obama taking campaign contributions from a politically powerful industry, all I can is I am shocked...just shocked...that a politician would take money from a multinational corporation. Unfortunately, that is what politicians do, and for all of Mr Obama's campaign promises for change and hope, I see none of the former, and have none of the latter.
That being the case, Obama's is nonetheless playing this quite expertly, from a political point of view that is. By letting BP be the face of this disaster, he allows them to take the heat (rightly, I might add) while acting as an advocate for 'responsible' oil drilling. Naturally, I am a bit disapointed (to put it mildly) that a missed opportunity is, in that this catastrophe could be used by the president as a teaching moment for the American public about what kind of price we are increasingly going to have to pay for our society's wasteful use of energy in general, and crude oil in particular. I personally would be overjoyed if President Obama came on national television and leveled with all of us regarding the finite amount of fossil fuels available on this planet, the extremes and expense that extracting those depleting resources is going to have on our society, and the consequences of that for our economy and perhaps even the ability of this planet to sustain the huge diversity of life on this planet. The fact of the matter is, unless and until large numbers of the our fellow citizens understand that our problems cannot be solved by 'drill baby drill,' no politician, not even our president, is willing to come clean about the kind of future we face.
For what it's worth, I think we need that oil. But we also need to understand that we can't keep going on just filling our gas tanks with cheap fuel so that we can drive down to the local 7/11 for a Big Bite hot dog and a Slurpee. If you really want to know who is ruining the planet, take a look in the mirror. I see him every day.

Pete Deer

"If you really want to know who is ruining the planet, take a look in the mirror. I see him every day."
I've been trying to stress that with my friends. They see Rachel Maddow saying "Bad BP". I tell them the problem is Rachel went from NYC on Thurs. to DC on Fri to NO on Mon, where she drove to the coast to take a boat out into the gulf. Next day she drives to Baton Rouge to see the lab analyzing oil. Wed, she is back in NYC. Burned a whole lot of barrels, she did.

We don't want oil cuz they drill; they drill cuz we want oil.

RFK Jr...Don't drill, don't mine coal, don't build windmills where I can almost see them.

Of course, john q public has a huge portion of the blame for this, but are you really saying BP is totally blameless?? There seems to be a general lack of critical perspectives of the oil industry around here.

For those interested in something other than knee-jerk pro-industry stance, here is a very recent overview of BP's influence on policy, specifically their push to gut regulations on oil rigs:


Sorry, but you started it:

I'm Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change
His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change)
(Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na,
Na Nah)......

Sorry, couldn't help it.

There is also the issue of paying for what you ask for -- if you say "money is no object", you have to mean it. A local supplier with years of BP business knows he will get his money, and he knows who to send the bill to, and who to call if something screws up. If the gov't says "we'll pay you", it may not be at all clear which bureaucracy will pay the bill, how you get on an "approved vendor list", how you submit it, what they might hold up or deny payments about, or when they might actually staff up to handle the bill at all, or what budget tranche might be needed to cover it all. Most businesses avoid fed business simply because it's so much hassle -- others specialize in it because they've mastered the paperwork game and can't be competitive elsewhere.

I could agree more that whats going on in the minds of the oil elite save the hole collect the oil and let the lawyers deal with the public.I cannot understand how it is that on site robotic submersibles built especially for the deepwater exploration of oil do not come with a shear and crimper arm for crushing a choker into the pipe string. And although I'm not there the best guess on the dome is that it will rest on top of the bottom mud, they aready have designed this dome with horizontal fins as not to sink so does this mean that the internal flow pressure into the dome housing is so low that they do not think that it will just blow out the bottom silt and continue leaking? And so this being the case, Why did not they proceed with shooting via high pressure slick lines off barges Tremie concrete ( underwater hardening concrete)to bury the entire site and encase the pipe stems. Unless its' about save the hole and damn the fish, beaches,and everybody else cause there's money to be recovered here .

I think you are completely off-base. A $200M hole is peanuts compared to the big-picture. They do not wish to save the hole and could care less about a 100K barrels of oil -- their fear is doing something that shifts it from a mostly-closed BOP to an open blow-out with 10x the flow. IMHO, that is.

As for a mobile shear, it's an interesting concept, but if it doesn't exist today, it doesn't much help.

The dome housing presumes no pressure inside -- it's a passive funnel, pretty much.

Just because flow is low doesn't mean it would be easy to plug -- as soon as you constrain it the full pressure will build, and wet cement won't hold back 5000 psi. Dry cement has limited tensile strength too -- it's strong point (pardon the pun) is in compression. It would take a massive pile of concrete to definitively hold down a cap with 5000 psi under it - the goal has to be to keep the pressure area small, else the aggregate force becomes massive.

I believe applying a new BOP on top of the failing one is one piece of the plan -- just not plan B or C. The current plan C -- the dome -- is likely intended to buy time while slow-but-sure contemplation and efforts continue.

BP has enough blame and obvious goals without presuming insidious goals now. Probably as insidious as it gets is shifting public blame via PR spin and limiting payout via clever legal moves -- and that's pretty much required of a public company these days.

Good comments you seem to know something of this field. The wet cement tho- is not exactly the case it's a fast hardening process that is delivered in a semi slurry, heavier than water concept, that can be applied with over whelming force as to negate the obvious out flow of the leak, works very well in an emergency situation such as dams and levies, underground utility tunnels and mines or blow outs of pipes under pressure. Because of its unique properties this has superior tensile strength. The trick is more volume than the flow of the rupture. This actually should be considered as a collar around the dome itself to prevent the silt floor from blowing out as well. Since this dome will have relief string pipe atached to it, before or after the dome vessel is brought to rest on the Gulf floor is the question.
Engineering of such and rigging means that attachment at the surface is probably impossible or at least improbably. So now arises the question of wether this structure has suffient weight to remain upright. With the flow of the containment will no doubt contain much natural gases and or lighter than water substances that are under pressure adding to its boyancy, a concern that an untethered vessel, that's likly to be out of plump because of the, or depending apon the unequal sinking in to the loose porous ocean floor. So with that in mind how long will it be before this vessle is secured and has its pipe string attached? In this period of time pressures are building against the soft silt bottom. Could this be the alchemy of a failed attempt? I personally hope not because I live and work on the Gulf of Mexico and its our livlyhood as well,Just as my friends and neighbors are at stake here.
The Submersible with the shear claw are apart of the U.S. Navy submarine rescue units located at Norfolk Va.and St. Louis Ga. Are in fact designed to choke off pipe before cutting and pull bulkheads apart that are blocking the escape hatches or to create new ones.
But honestly do you or anyone else for that matter believe that these oil companies have our best interest in mind or theirs. Hundreds of millions of dollars went into drilling that hole with more than a reasonable expectation of recouping the investment and securing a profit. Thats what oil companies do isnt it.Its called Free Enterprise. Pardon the obvious but, what would you and I do in this obvious P.R.debacle, Give in to the sentiments of the general public fearing their short sighted outrage. Hardly. You see if it were you or I we would work to preserve both well and public image, knowing that the public forgets all too fast, usually at the pump. a few cents off the price off a fill up buys alot of forgetfulness.Public's fault there.So that really becomes a secondary concern. But how much is that well estimated value. That new field is worth around a trillion dollars so in reality whats a risk here . Even if we end up spending say 35 or 40 billion to make this right Big oil still wins

That is a good take, Paleocon. I think there is more to it, having to do with their liabilities. BP PLC is a limited liability company, probably owned by BP Corp. BP PLC is the entity on the hook for damages. They are also the entity that would tap the resources and sell the oil. What they want to do is save the well. If the potential liabilities exceed the potential gain, using some risk/reward analysis, BP will decide when to stop. At which point, BP PLC declares bankruptcy, and we get stuck with the bill for clean up.

For the moment, BP has hope that the iron maiden thingie will work. Or that they can put a cap on it. Or that in some way they can salvage a profit. Otherwise, they would dump us so fast your head would spin.

Interesting days ahead.


So I've seen a lot of skepticism that the containment blocks that are being lowered won't really work. To me, as a non-practicing engineer ... it seems like a pretty good temporary solution as long as the flow rates are matched.

Anyone have any well reasoned worries about why it wouldn't work? Curious to hear.

Also thanks to those that post here with such great insight into this work ... both as bloggers and commenters...you know who you are!

Well seeing as how it hasn't been tried at this depth with exactly these conditions before I guess we have a little latitude to speculate.

To me these are essentially two pumps in series. One being the well leaks and two being the shipboard pump(s). This is admittedly a crude (sorry) comparison but we sometimes put two pumps in series some distance apart to gain access to a big slope gain for firefighting w/o using special high pressure hose. It's a little dicey but I have done it and as you have pointed out it's probably a lot about getting the flow rates dialed in ,with a little more push than pull, and then trying to keep them dialed in.

If they are trying to get those built on 'wings' to set on the floor on top of the soft silt then that might provide enough containment to create positive pressure which could be monitored. The idea of drawing liquid 5000 ft vertically ,with sea pressure outside, w/o creating some positive pressure behind it makes me think of collapsing pipe or cavitation. The trick may well be in producing the oil topside at just a bit less rate than it's going in at the dome.

The riser pipe leading out of the top of the collector box up to the surface will contain oil. The column of oil in the pipe will experience a bouancy force because oil is less dense than seawater. googling gives spcific gravity of oil as .711 and seawater as 1.022. A 5000 ft head of seawater needs a 7200 ft head of oil to be in static equilibrium. If the riser were extended above the ship far enough, the level of the top of the oil would rise to 2200 ft above the surface of the ocean. So, at the ship, the oil should siphon into the holding tank at some significant rate without active pumping, i.e. by gravity alone. Careful engineering calculation needs a better number for the s.g. of this particulay variety of petroleum, and might indicate that a small pump at the bottom will be needed to increase to flow rate to keep up with the flow from the leak. But more likely what is needed is a flow restrictor valve at the outlet to keep the flow rate low enough so that seawater doesn't infiltrate at the bottom end of the pipe. Greater flow rate could also be accomodated by merely fitting a bigger diameter pipe. Oil floats on seawater. It doesn't need to be actively lifted to the surface.

Yeah I picked up the buoyancy drive factor too a little later. Wasn't thinking about that so much. Been out for a few days.

Although there may be some restriction in the pipe. Some of the oil folks around here would be able to give us a notion about how eagerly that oil will move up the pipe as opposed to out every possible gap in the dome configuration.

The thing I'm getting at is that the pressure at the wellhead is an unknown. The eyewitness report was scary high like 30.000 to 40,000psi at depth. Once that is contained in the dome I think that even with the volume of the dome and the buoyancy drive if the amount of leakage is sufficient they may have to coax it a bit at the topside to keep it from exiting through the silt or out a planned spillway lower down on the dome. The ROV pictures could get murkier too.

Also this fix may not be able to reduce the sand cut at the restriction by too much so the volume of oil can still change while waiting for the relief well(s). To my mind these folks wouldn't be trying this w/o some idea they can make it work, but like one article I just picked up said there are bound to be unexpected additional factors to contend with.

IMVHO, the weak point is the floor of the box. Loose unconsolidated sediment.

A slight overpressure of oil inside the box (say 20 psi ?), trivial, and yet enough to erode the sediment out from underneath the box.

If the erosion stops with one gap (plus square hole over round pipe) the situation could be stabilized and a good % of the leak could be captured. But I think it more likely that the erosion will continue (what is the slump angle of sediment ?) with the continued flow and the base under the box will erode away.


I agree - it seems to me it will only "work" if the flow of oil from the leak into the dome is fairly close to the rate at which it can exit up the pipe to the ship. And how could you ensure that, let alone regulate it - there are too many unknowns. If the rate of leak is only a few percent higher than the "pipe rate", then presumably the whole upper dome will fill with oil, and leaks will the appear in the sediment maybe, plus oil will pour out of the top part of the door above the seabed floor.

I still don't understand how the first oil can force the water column in the pipe out ... even though the cross-section area of the oil in the upper part of the dome is far greater than the pipe area, is there enough pressure to force out a column of water that is a mile high?

Displacing the original water column has two options (at least).

Fill the pipe with a lower density fluid as it is lowered from the ship.

Use a suction pump on the ship to pull out the water column and get some inertia going for the oil column as it moves up the pipe.

Of course, the oil will continue to pump xx,000 barrels/day out as the pipe is primed and that will over pressurize the box.

Going offline soon as I go to my father,

Best Hopes for Long Shots,


I think it can be self-priming, though that may be slow. Simply, oil floats, so as the box fills with oil, it will force some water back out the bottom of the tube and more water up, though it will only passively exit if at sea level.

As they circulate warm fluids down the string, that will warm the fluid mix inside reducing density and aiding the flow.

As the oil mix rises, and pressure drops, gas will bubble out and expand. On the one hand this is a cooling process, which will offset the warming above, but it will also greatly reduce density.

As the bubbly oily mix moves upward, the differential will increase, and a sea-level tap could then be closed.

Note that the pipe will be empty as initially lowered. To keep water out of the top part of the pipe to "prime" it, it would seem that sealing the top of the last piece or two of pipe until the box is placed would work as well. Not sure what capabilities the ship has, but inserting and removing plugs inside a string might be something that is "easy" for them. Or inserting a pipe to introduce a purge gas might be too.

It may be that nobody knows how well it will self-prime, and that's some of the trial-and-error they expect to perform.

You'd think, once it is placed, it would be possible to floor it with some high-density cement. If the calc a day or two back are correct, though, the major concern will be water rushing in and sucking up mud, not blowing out oil. I suppose there may oscillatory effects which would make both possible, though.

Lots of sharp people, and plenty of money -- they'll work through those issues I think.

A minor point - it would not go 2200 ft above the surface of the water, as the oil is much more dense than the air. But not as dense as I was when I first tried to figure out what would cause the oil to move. However, the thing to remember is that the oil coming out of the well and the oil going up the pipe are really two separate systems. There is no way the box on sediment can hold much pressure, nor does it appear to be intended to. So if the flow rate up the pipe is not greater than what is coming out of the well there will still be leaking. I gotta believe they've been calculating that. It's worth a try anyway.

I think at this point it is anyone's guess. The specific gravity /weight of the oil is not known. Probably of bigger concern would be the gas content. The fluid coming out of the well is a mixture of the formation connate water, oil and gas. I would imagine as the fluid travels upward, the gas will come out of solution as expand, thereby decreasing the fluid density and possibly accelerating. You could imagine if they had no pump or control system at the surface, the result would be a flammable geyser. They will need to maintain some level of pressure until the gas can be separated and either condensed or flared off.


Can some of the more informed regulars explain why the explosives idea is considered stupid?

I've followed all the fantastic posts by various people explaining how the whole drilling process works.

From what I understand, if you were to seriously fracture the pipe and rock all round the well at a reasonable depth, seems that the well would choke.

But several well respected people have laughed at this idea . I'm sure they're right, the knowledge here always amazes me.

Can you explain why though?


Any explosion will have an undetermined effect on the pipe and the hole. The original hole will have to be re-entered after all this is under control and be properly plugged. If the hole has been lost due to trying to obliterate it, that will not be possible, and even if it shut the whole flow off now, the potential for continued corrosion and future failure requires nothing less than a proper plugging job in the future.

There are many problems with explosives. But let's talk about the main one, this was a completed hole it has a casing with a concrete filler around it and quite possibly a drill string running down the middle of it. This well was designed to take the pressure of the ocean above and the reservoir below, so very strong casing pipe everything. If I get some very high explosives and place them near or on top of the hole, it is very likely that the rock around would fracture but not the well itself, maybe making the problem worse not better. What will work would be a precise shaped cutting charge place in several places along the casing, but you would have to do what they are doing now anyways drill to get up against the casing, and if you have to drill anyways you might as well fix it without blowing up anything.

I'm not well informed, but ...
It is clear that something is restricting the flow of oil out of the breaks in the riser pipe to *only* 5000 barrels per day. They were expecting a much greater flow rate than 5000bpd when they decided to drill the well. It might be that they made a gigantic mistake about the amount size of the resource, but that is *very* unlikely.

There is a very real fear that a poorly thought out response will break open whatever is restricting the flow and the flow rate will become vastly larger very quickly. Explosives break things. Using explosives may not seem stupid to you now, but I assure you that it will seem stupid if it turns out to increase the flow by 10x or even 2x.

It is not clear at all what the flow rate is. We don't have anyway of measuring it. Based on the geology, BP estimates a high to be 60000 bbls/day (possibly from the most wildly optimistic production data), but it could be anywhere from 1000-60000.

100,000 bbls/day is unrealistic because that would make it the most prolific subsea well in the world I believe and no one was THAT excited about its prospects.

explosives are often used to put out a wild well fire but that is to rob the fire of air. explosives would destroy whatever control the current pipe and disfunctional bop are providing. i think the rule here might be "do no harm".

Ben -- there is a technical explanation but way too long right now. Please don't take offense but lets try this: you seen the flow from a fire hydrant. Imagine a car hitting one and knocking it off the supply line. Can you imagine throwing some explosives on it? Wouldn't that just make a bigger hole and more damaged pipe? The pressure pushing the oil/NG out of the ground might be 50X or more greater than a fire hydrant.

And again, honestly, the old J Wayne movie "Hell Fighters" really is a good primer even though it's only about onshore blow outs. Your idea really wasn't dumb. It's just very difficult for folks to imagine the force behind such a flow. They don't have a real life comparison to judge it by.

Under normal circumstances, when a well is abandoned but still has reserves and thus pressure under it, how long can one expect the structure (concrete and whatever else is used to seal a well) to survive before degrading and maybe letting oil leak out? 100 years? Longer?

Question on the coffer dam: are the struts around the equator intended to support the walls against internal pressure? Is it correct to view this thing less as a dam and more as a pressure vessel?

I think it is support for the weight needed to keep it from floating back to the surface when it fills with oil.

Think of it more like a fireplace flue with the oil taking the role of the hot air to be guided away than as either a dam or a pressure vessel.

And Gail posted a great diagram below.

Thanks, the diagram is also very helpful.

The differential column weight, based on the analysis yesterday is 500psi. For a 7" pipe that's only about 30 sq in, or 15000 lbs. Not too much, so the flaps will definitely be needed to keep a 100-ton device from sinking a good bit if the floor is soft at all.

I have a question. I don't really have a good visual picture of the equipment at the bottom of the ocean, but I just encountered this graphic at the NYT .

What is the chance that riser pipe is stationary when they lower this thing? Would the pressure of the oil leaving it make it shift? Will there be metal wreckage and other material around it making it difficult to drop this thing over the riser pipe? Will the pressure of the oil leaving the pipe be strong enough to shift/move the dome if it pushes against the wall of it?

This is the graphic from the NYT. Has some details I hadn't noticed before.

The contraflow of warm water explains the vent at the apex/top of the pyramid that I saw on local TV and asked about yesterday.


If the flaps are keeping it at 15' into the seabed, and the door is below the flaps, doesn't the pipe get constricted between the seabed and the door?

Also, isn't the end of the pipe where they put the earlier cap? Does anyone know where, on the riser pipe, the 3 leaks are, and where the 'new' valve is?


http://www.flickr.com/photos/uscgd8/4563035602/sizes/l/ is a diagram that shows an interpretation of what is on the seafloor.
I think the illustration of how the cap would work was done by someone who didn't realize the other people were working on capping off the end of the pipe.
It not clear to me how many holes there really are. In this picture, I see the drill pipe sticking out of the muck at quite a distance from BOP. I had thought the drill pipe was *inside* of the riser and sticking out from the end of the riser. I'm sure I read that somewhere. But reading it somewhere doesn't make it so.

Spend some time looking carefully at the photograph. This is a picture a pipe with a kinked bend in it. The other, smaller diameter bent pipes, two on the left and one on the right are service lines that ran down the sides of the main riser pipe. That main riser was a 22"dia. cylinder before it got scrunched in the accident.

It looks to me as though this kink could be what is restricting the flow. But this picture is my evidence. If you don't see it that way, say what you think is there.

I have no idea which leak is which. If they capped the drill pipe, that only sequesters the current volume in the pipe - no more is coming into that if the other end is the rig.

I worry that if they plugged the riser pipe, it'll back-pressure that part of pipe, and either leak more elsewhere, or worse, add stress to the leaky kink. If that works anything like kinked plumbing, any stress added will make it leak worse, and it might leak worse all by itself. I really hope that kink isn't the only thing preventing a full unconstrained blow.

So is the first cage going over the BOP, or just the leaky end?

"I worry that if they plugged the riser pipe,..."

They did cap the riser pipe, but in the report that I read, they said there would not be back pressure buildup because one of the other two leaks is upstream of the one that they capped. By capping the end, they said just reduced the number of those big rectangular boxes they would have to put in place. Had the pipe capping failed, getting the boxes built and positioned would have taken 50% longer than it will this way.

"So is the first cage going over the BOP, or just the leaky end?"

There is only one cut-out on one side of the box. The only way that works on a leak somewhere along a length of pipe is if there is a kink in the pipe and the leak is close to the kink. I'll be interested to learn what is really going on.

"There is only one cut-out on one side of the box." That is interesting, since they did get the other pipe cut and a valve on it. http://www.marinelog.com/DOCS/NEWSMMIX/2010may00062.html

The ROVs first cut the end of the pipe to leave a clean end and the valve, weighing over half a ton, was placed in position on the seabed.

Maybe the plan is to just see if they can successfully place the first dome initially over the BOP and get the leak flowing out of the upper piping stub and then bring in the second for the remaining riser leak. If both domes can be placed and risers connected then the pressure monitoring and pumping can begin.

I don't know. After posting what you responded to, I saw another picture in which there were two cutouts on adjacent faces of the box. A view from a different angle. Makes a hash of my reasoning.

I hope they don't do their first try on the BOP. They need to learn how to move the collector box before they bring it close to the BOP. If they knocked the BOP off the top of the well casing ... bad, bad, bad.

Yep I saw those too. Ok what I have so far from indusrty sites is that they have managed the valve on one of the two riser leaks. They are preparing the smaller dome for the other broken riser section AND that they are still getting ready to have a top kill option for the BOP with heavy fluids using an existing BOP opening to latch onto.


Even so it appears this dome could still be for that section of riser pipe. That's not to say the top-kill might not be deployed through a cut and cleaned section of riser like they did the existing valve that was placed on leak #3. One report had the BP official saying that there was little chance of further damage from the containment operations. Thinks the BOP is tough enough. Hope he's right too.

We had been talking around here a few days ago about sand cut and why that meant that the escalating estimates could be from high velocity damage to the existing restrictions. Given that danger there is some added incentive to try to get an interim throttle in place while waiting for the drills to intercept from what I've gathered.

Thanks for the picture.
It's amazing how hard it is to get the non-technical press to take pictures (or publish them) that actually contain relevant technical information.

Yes, the diagram is somewhat incorrect.
The drill pipe runs inside the riser, and continues some distance from where the riser was broken off (i.e. the point of the main leak) as a bare drill pipe to the point at which it was capped off.
They should show a smaller pipe coming from the riser (as well as some oil), then going into the seafloor for a ways, connected to the right-hand most leaking pipe.

The containment dome has TWO OPENINGS in its sides.

The pictures on this page:
show that there are two "doors" in the side of the containment dome.
You will have to view the larger pictures to see the labels on the openings, as the pics on the above page have been cropped.

is one of the two pics at the bottom showing the dome being lowered onto the end of the workboat.
On the North side ("N") is where the riser pipe is to go in - says "RISER".
Looks like they have a removable tie bar at the bottom of the opening to stabilize the structure during handling.

Looking at the (out of sequence picture) picture above those, showing the man chaining the dome to the workboat:

He is standing on the East side of the dome (reference the crane position), and the opening
is marked "drill pipe".
The (now capped) drill pipe will continue out this opening.
n.b. the foot markings - I guess in case the paint gets obscured, each 5 foot mark has a ring welded there in a line - the number of doodads being "N * 5 feet".

You can see a more complete view of the South and East sides here:
(and barely make out "drill pipe" on the East side).

Hopefully the open end of the riser pipe (out of which is coming oil and the drill pipe)
will be positioned within the dome, so the oil will rise up and be collected within, while the
drill pipe will continue undamaged out the East hole.

Now - anybody got the skinny on what the yellow things are up near the top on the West and East sides?
sonar beacons?

What about the shiney cylinders hanging down on cables?
?weights attached to some kind of float to indicate oil level inside?

Or why the openings are on a diagonal? N - E instead of on opposite walls?
Is the drill pipe bent left coming out of the riser?

Anybody got any pointers to more ROV pictures?

These may be old news for you but some may not have seen...

Video of cutting operation BR reports 8 ROV's working.

Video of valve being placed (oil seen gushing at 2:15)

BP cams in background

"BP Won't Say What Toxics It's Dumping Onto Its Oil Spill" (http://www.ombwatch.org/node/10984)
"Chemicals Meant To Break Up BP Oil Spill Present New Environmental Concerns" (http://www.propublica.org/article/bp-gulf-oil-spill-dispersants-0430)

“There is a chemical toxicity to the dispersant compound that in many ways is worse than oil,” said Richard Charter, a foremost expert on marine biology and oil spills who is a senior policy advisor for Marine Programs for Defenders of Wildlife and is chairman of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. “It’s a trade-off – you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t -- of trying to minimize the damage coming to shore, but in so doing you may be more seriously damaging the ecosystem offshore.”


So, does anyone here know the makeup of the dispersants BP is using?

I was on the API call this afternoon and asked for clarification on what was happening with dispersants, because I know ABC reported yesterday that the use of some dispersants had been discontinued.

What I found out is the dispersants that are being used on the surface are continuing. These had been approved by government agencies earlier.

The use of dispersants down deep has been discontinued. Some data was gathered during some initial tests of this approach, and this is being looked at by some governmental organizations from an environmental point of view. The use of these underwater dispersants will not be resumed until governmental approvals are obtained.

After the call, I found an article that says a little more about the situation.

The technique has undergone two tests in recent days that the U.S. Coast Guard is calling promising, and there are plans to apply even more of the chemicals. But the effect of this largely untested treatment is still being studied by numerous federal agencies, and needs approval from a number of them before it can be rolled out in a larger way.
. . .

A decision on whether to inject the dispersants undersea on a more routine basis could be made late Wednesday or early Thursday, said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for exploration and production for rig operator BP PLC.

. . .

If deep water spraying is approved, Landry said crews would scale back their use of dispersant on the ocean surface, except to treat pockets of oil that escaped the well before the undersea injections started.Corexit is included on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's official list of products that can be used to fight spills in an emergency. To qualify for the list, manufacturers must complete specific tests to demonstrate a chemical's effectiveness, ingredients and aquatic toxicity. Charles Pajor, a Nalco spokesman, declined to provide the ingredients for Corexit, saying that was proprietary. The company's website says the agent has "low toxicity" and is "biodegradable."

Environmental tests on Corexit indicate it can be stored in the tissue of organisms, or bioaccumulate, and that more than half of the agent in tests wound up storing in sediment, with less absorbing into the water and a smaller amount evaporating into the air. Even so, Corexit is classified as having a "low" potential environmental hazard.

Thanks Gail for finding this. While reading it, I tried to make a connection to other stuff I have heard.

On PBS Newshour on Tuesday an expert who is an oil industry consultant said that the oil would be consumed by microorganisms that live in the Gulf seawater. The microorganisms are already there because there are oil seeps in many places on the seafloor and that is what they eat to live. It sounded pretty good. They can metabolize the oil and change it into biomass, a green fuel? But in the article you found, I see that the dispersant accumulates in living tissue. That means, to me, that it is not metabolized. I wonder how long these organisms will survive if they are pigging out on a great BIG oil seep that they can't fully metabolize.

Also, these dispersants are surfactants. They coat the oil with a layer that attracts water molecules. I wonder how well the organism will like to eat an oil drop tastes like water. Will they go for it?

Of course both of my worries can't BOTH be true. I'm glad there are government scientists involved.

There are biodegradable surfactants. BP won't say exactly what they are using, but it doesn't sound smart to use something that would bioaccumulate.

Regarding biodegradation of the oil, microorganisms should eat the oil if they have the right nutrients and other conditions. If could take a while (many years, decades?) if conditions are not good.

Read my post. If it accumulates in the flesh, it is not biodegraded. The data sheets indicate that it accumulates in flesh.

Maybe you can say it is biosequestered, but I've just made up that word so saying that doesn't make it OK. Source of my information asserted that the oil IS the nutrient that supports the metabolic activity of the microorganism. So microorganisms do not eat oil in order to please us, but because it is in their nature and it is their nature because of natural selection. I'm OK with that. But natural selection probably has not affected their relationship to surfactants. It may be OK for them, or it may be bad for them. Maybe someone really knows, but I doubt it. I hope government scientist can speak intelligently on this.

I think you are right that their are biodegradable surfactants, but the one that is being used is not biodegradable, according to published reports.

A LSU professor who has published several papers on the subject (EV among others), says most fin fish have specific enzymes that metabolize oil. IN most cases, less than a week in clean water will clean them out if the initial dose does not kill them. Not true for oysters, crab, shrimp, birds. He did not mention plants.

The dosage required to kill eggs, spawn and fingerlings is significantly lower than adult fin fish and this is the spawning season.

A reasonable expectation is that it will take a decade for the fisheries (all types) to recover and quite a few square miles of marsh to disappear forever into the sea.


"you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t"

Actually, BP ishping to be less damned by the public because most of the harm done by the dispersants is done deep underwater--out of sight, out of mind.

They don't give a frig about the ecology of the region, but they are concerned about public perception of their concern about the ecology of the region. Few deed baby seals on the shore, less damage control they have to pay for with eco-porn, green-washing ad campaigns.

"BP" is an acronym for "Bad Publicity".

Radio Ecoshock has a new one hour special on the Gulf gusher.

It features interviews with: Richard Heinberg (of Post Carbon Institute), Anita Burke (former Shell International VP), Dr. Riki Ott (Valdez oil spill expert, reporting from New Orleans), and Antonia Juhasz, oil researcher for Global Currents.

Plus a new song written about the spill by Dana Pearson "Corporate Catastrophe".

Download or listen at

Find more details, with many links at
http://www.ecoshock.org/transcripts/ES_100507 Script.htm

Please pass on word about this program through your web sites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. It looks at the big picture, not given by most mainstream media, from experts long active in the field, and well published at the Oil Drum. It also includes the Peak Oil perspective, as motivation for such risky deep water drilling.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock

Have we enough to worry about? Here is another thing:

The official beginning of the hurricane season is less than four weeks away.

But maybe a really good rain shower would flush the oil out of the bayous.

Speaking of Hurricane season.....(what follows has no evidence in the least to back it up) since the slick is clearly visible from satellite images and at least the light oily sheen covers a very large area (even if it's not thick) could this have an effect on the average water temperature up or down of the GOM over the next few months. Hurricanes are not usually formed in the GOM, however thier strength and size once in the GOM are very related to the water temperature.


The last time i looked, the GOM was very cold relative to normal for this time of year. Its going to take plenty of time to warm back up enough to support strong hurricanes. I have no idea what the slick is doing to water temps. I would think if its shiny it would be reflecting sunlight back into the air.

Hmmmm. Not sure when the last time you looked was, but this recent report does not look so cheery:


"Hurricane Forecasters See Worst Looming in 2010 Atlantic Season
By Brian K. Sullivan
May 4 (Bloomberg) -- The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season may rival some of the worst in history as meteorological conditions mirror 2005, the record-breaking year that spawned New Orleans- wrecking Katrina, forecasters say.
The El Nino warming in the Pacific is fading and rain is keeping dust down in Africa, cutting off two phenomena that help retard Atlantic hurricane formation.

Perhaps most significantly, sea temperatures from the Cape Verde Islands to the Caribbean, where the storms usually develop, are above normal and reaching records in some areas."

So at least the run-up to the Caribbean is pretty overheated right now. Anything could happen, but I see no good reason to be sanguine about the prospect about what could happen this hurricane season.

Just go read Jeff Master's blog on the Weather Underground. He's level headed and has probabilities out for a number of spill-related events, and a regularly updated short-term spill movement forecast.


Looks like AP is the only news organization that's onsite:

Video: Exclusive Report From Oil Spill 'Dome' Ship

AP Exclusive: Crews prepare to lower 100-tonne device to contain oil spewing from ocean floor

...A pinkish oily substance was lapping at the shore of New Harbor Island, washing into thick marsh grass. It looked like soggy cornflakes, possibly because it was mixed with chemicals that it had been sprayed to break it up before it reached land. ...

Streaks of putrid, orange and rust-colored oil were also creeping well west of the mouth of the Mississippi River in an area that has received less attention.

Much of the oil west of the river was still kilometres out in the Gulf, but there appeared to be little or no effort to contain or clean it up. There were hundreds of dead man-o-war there. ...

D'oh! Thanks for the QA.

Here's a new video: AP Exclusive: Hoping to Stop the Gulf Oil Flow .

Demand = 1,000 barrels per second See: Peter Tertzakian's book

Thanks a lot!! I went to print that, and now I'm out of ink!

titan a moon of saturn is covered in hydrocarbons. IT HAS LAKES OF METHANE!! if we had mined that moon we would not have needed a mile deep under water oil well in the gulf of mexico. and i understand the the drill is an additional 13,000 feet deep . i like the way the oil conundrum puts everything into perspective. so much so it makes me PUKE! i'll post another comment when the next well blows up. see you all then. wishing you all a wonderful new dark age, TA-TA!

Now there's an EROI to contemplate, moving the hydrocarbons off Titan to earth. Probably just easier to colonize Titan, nights are probably a little chilly though, days too for that matter.

You'd have to drill for oxygen if you lived there.

Local News

BP spokesman said they hope to get box operational by Monday.

Oil west of Mississippi, all the way to Four Parishes Pass. Series of closures for fishing.

Oil behind barrier islands East of MS River.

Lake Pontchartrain may be closed due to fishing pressure. Too many moving there.

Fisherman Quote of the Day - "My bills are still coming in. Everyone was counting on this season. I hope BP calls because that is my only hope for making some money".


I'm relatively new to the site and I'm interested to know what the program was for casing strings in the hole. What was the surface, intermediate and longstring sizes and land depths? Has anyone seen these data.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported late Thursday that plans to lower a 100-ton concrete-and-steel box a mile underwater to cut off most of the oil spewing from the blown-out well has been delayed.

The delay was blamed on dangerous fumes rising from the oily water, the captain of the supply boat hauling the box told the Associated Press. A spark caused by the scrape of metal on metal could cause a fire, Capt. Demi Shaffer said.

If the box is eventually lowered, and works, the system could collect as much as 85 percent of the oil that's been leaking from the ocean floor since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 workers.

Hard to get technical details...

I think your answer might be on the bottom of this page:

bottom picture/diagram:

If you read the labels on the well lines, they say "CSG-XX".
The note of "Current Progress" says "28" casing string set..." and points to a label with an arrow "CSG-28 ->". So I'm inferring that CSG-28 is 28" casing, CSG-18 is 18", LNR-11-7/8 is
11 7/8" liner, ... .

So, on the main (blown out well), you see the casing and liner program.
Depths/lengths rough estimates from depth from surface scale on left side of diagram.

AP: Oil fumes delaying lowering containment box

By HARRY R. WEBER and TAMARA LUSH (AP) – 50 minutes ago

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO — The captain of a boat hauling a box that is designed to capture the oil spewing into the Gulf says the delay in lowering it into the ocean is being caused by oil fumes that could ignite.

Capt. Demi Shaffer tells The Associated Press Thursday night that the crews do not want to be fighting a fire while trying to unload the giant concrete-and-steel box over the blown-out oil well at the bottom of the sea. The AP is the only news organization on board the vessel 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Shaffer says because of the lack of wind to circulate the air, the fumes from the thick oil surrounding the boat were rising to a level that any spark could start a fire. That includes metal on metal.

Crew members are wearing respirators. It was unclear when they would be able to proceed.

Capt. Demi Shaffer tells The Associated Press Thursday night that the crews do not want to be fighting a fire while trying to unload the giant concrete-and-steel box over the blown-out oil well at the bottom of the sea.

Inadvertent humor is not an infrequent happening with such disasters.


Let's try to keep this simple and see if we can find out what BP knows that the Government doesn't know yet.

What is the chemical analysis of the oil?

This analyis should come from the nearest possible sample to the source and other samples should come from the degraded oils as they wash onshore or are recovered in the booms. BP should have plenty of samples of the reservoir fluids in their labs. In particular, we need to know the asphaltene content, the wax content, the sulfur content and the levels of benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). This analysis will aid in determining the biodegradability of the oil and its toxicity to humans and other life.

What is the chemical composition of the dispersants used?

It is not acceptable for the company to argue that this is a proprietary formula. BP has already added close to 200,000 thousand gallons to the marine environment and we have a right to know the levels of toxicity of these substances. BP claims that they have collected a third of the world's supply of dispersants. Does that mean that they have used older dispersants allowed in other countries that are not supposed to be used in this country due to their higher toxicities? Only the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all substances used on the oil flow will suffice.

Will BP pay for maintaining long-term health records of the clean-up workers?

Thousands of workers involved in the Exxon Valdez have complained of health impacts ten and even twenty years after. Workers involved in the clean-up of European oil spills have also had health problems. Also, natives of the Amazon who were exposed to oil spills have also gotten sick.

What was the exact configuration of the pipe and the blowout preventers (BOP) stack at the time of the blow-out?

The well reportedly had 5 different types of blowout preventers and it is important to know which of these were activated successfully (if any?) and which failed. Of particular interest is the pipe configuration in the BOP stack at the time of the blow-out. Were casing collars improperly left in the BOP stack or did the bit or other downhole tools prevent the BOP from closing off the pressure?

What is the risk that the oil containment dome could damage the wellhead and increase the flow.

Is it possible that when the attempt is made to position the containment tower over the well that it might shift in position enough to knock the stack off of the wellhead?

Exactly how much time elapsed between the cement job and the resumption of operations.

Did the cement have sufficient time to cure? Where is the operations log or video for the cement job to verify the time sequence. Where is the temperature log for this operation? Is there evidence that the warming cement destabilized the frozen methane hydrates.

What is the exact depth of the well?

Has this depth been verified using logs or drilling instruments? Have independent contractors checked to see if the proper strength and volume of the cement was used to hold back the pressure?

What is the pressure - temperature profile?

Was the original well design adequate to withstand the pressures.

Why did BP not deploy the booms in a large circle around the well when the rig caught fire?

Wouldn't it have been prudent to have booms in place in case there was any leakage from the subsea well or sunken rig? Reportedly, the rig alone contained over 700,000 gallons of hydrocarbons.

Why are there no time and date stamps on the video images from the remote submersibles?

Howwill BP manage to get clear robot images of subsea operartions when they are at about 5000 ft and above a leaks shooting black oil and gas into the water column at more than 5000 bbls/day?

How does the blowout of the Ixtoc 1 well in the Gulf in 1979 differ substantially from the BP Blowout.

This Mexican well was one of the largest blowouts in the world and was caused by failure of the BOP to close properly.

Seems pretty simple to me. Whatever the exact composition of the petroleum, the lighter fractions will evaporate, and leave less toxic ones. I personally think dispersants are a bad idea. It's just going to ensure that more petroleum stays in the water column, which might be more appealing to the public, but overall more harmful to the environment.

There are just a couple questions you raise that I can answer.

The time and date stamps on the ROV video have been removed or cropped out, along with the depth, heading, company names, and probably other data. They are on the original video records which incidentally are seen real time in BP's war room and the subcontractor's offices.

The ROVs are getting clear pictures. The oil leaks are above or well away from the BOP and as the oil rises it does not interfere with operations on the bottom. The oil is not come out of the damaged areas of the riser with any substantial force and it immediately rises towards the surface.

If the 700,000 gallons of diesel on the rig is not currently leaking, and I don't believe it is, that is a problem that can, and will, be addressed after the immediate emergency is dealt with. When the well is killed then ROVs can hot tap into the tanks (the rig is upside down) and safely remove the diesel. This has been done a number of times, in fact there are some ongoing operations removing fuel from WW II vessels in the Pacific. That said, as with ANY deepwater operations there is no such thing as a totally risk free project.

We won't know how this spill compares to Ixtoc for some time. Ixtoc ran completely uncontrolled, and pretty much with out any oil spill recovery, at well over 10,000 bpd for 10 months. It was an interesting job, the first subsea blowout I was associated with.

Forgot to mention that the MMS is also watching all the ROV video real time.

I hope the rest of your questions get answered. I'd like to know the answers myself.

The MSDS of the two dispersants used is on the response website:

at News/Media -> Fact Sheets:

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for dispersant type 2

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for dispersant type 1

The "proprietary Organic sulfonic acid salts" are detergents.
Sulfonic acid
Sulfonate - the "salts"
The only thing proprietary is the cation (probably sodium - cheap, non-scaling) and the organic group ("R") (probably a simple alkane chain - cheap, relatively non-toxic, hydrophobic to bind with oil and not a good foam former like common detergents like Sodium Laurel Sulphate).

Propylene Glycol is used in cosmetics,
"non-toxic" antifreeze, tattoo ink, etc.

The 2-Butoxyethanol is kinda toxic,
as are the "light distillates" (think diesel fuel).

The use of dispersants seems to be a mixed bag - smaller oil drops degrade faster and cause less harm on the surface, but the oil droplets spread further and the dispersants are somewhat toxic themselves, though I would guess less so than crude oil - which is very nasty stuff.

Is kinda ironic - to clean up an oil spill, we use products made from oil...


One of our TOD cohorts asked a question earlier today that made me realize there may have been a big hole (pun intended) in our ongoing conversation. Those of us here with oil patch experience didn’t think to offer the obvious because it was just that to us: obvious. Backing up some and talking about the potential for a blow out in an offshore drilling well, it occurred to me that many think the circumstances leading to such events are uncommon and thus our technology isn't really geared to such “mini Black Swans”.

Far from it. While drilling a well the potential for the well to “kick” (oil/NG come up the hole in a dangerous manor) or come all the way to the surface isn’t considered an uncommon possibility but is planned for. There are a number of parameters that can indicate a well “coming in” (taking a kick). There are several different jobs on the rig that are responsible for monitoring for these indicators. As a pore pressure analyst my primary job was to recognized conditions that could lead to a kick. My job was to do nothing but look for kick indicators.

Each drilling operation has a “kill sheet’ that shows the sequence of events required to handle kick or actual well flow. Activating the BOP is actually the last step in the process. The first is to shut off all the flow back routes the oil/NG might take. And if you can’t shut them off quick enough you can divert to the flare boom: a steel tube that directs the oil/NG away from the rig. And when you go “on flare” you actually ignite it. Much safer to let it burn then for an explosive cloud to build around the rig.

So when you take a kick and “go on choke” the common response is pump a ”kill pill” (very heavy mud) down to apply more backpressure to make the reservoir stop flowing. Of course it can take a few hours for the pill to reach the bottom of the hole. But eventually you can “circulate the kick out” and regain control of the well. And then you adjust your mud parameters and get back to “making hole”.

I’m sure many will not get much comfort to realize that taking a kick and having a well come in on you is not an unexpected event. Happens all the time. About 25 years ago I had a deep well outside of small Texas town come in on me at 8 o’clock on a Saturday night. My engineer refused to believe me when I warned him. So all the mud was blown out of the hole and we had a 100’ NG flare roaring like a jet. We were eventually able to get control by pumping a kill pill down. The state troopers had to shut the highway down next to the rig. Not because of the flare. Because the whole town was parked on the highway (with beers in hand, of course) waiting to see the rig blow up and men die. But it didn’t. So no CNN choppers overhead, no Wild Well Control hands rushing to the drill site, not even a story on page 32 of the local paper. I’m not trying to act blasé about the incident…did rattle me some. And everyone else on the rig. But that’s the nature of the job. You just call the family, tell them you love them and then you get back to work.

The point I’m making is that all the technology on the rig is designed for the LIKELY event of a well coming in on you. But the BP blow out occurred at a phase where few would anticipate the well coming in on you. Thus chances were taken that weren’t perceived as really risky. And much of the defensive system was probably turned off or at least not monitored for the same reason. Kind of like pulling into a parking spot, taking your seat belt off and then getting hit by another car and suffering brain damage because you didn’t have your seat belt on. I know…a silly comparison but perhaps a lot closer to the circumstances of the BP blow out then many would want to believe.

Wish I had a job I could get a kick out of.

1 -- No one accuse can you of false advertising...I really do like your name. Wonder why?

One more add on to my post: drilling hands actually go to "kill schools" where they pactice dealing with well kicks
Complete with computer simulators. Not really thought of as a big thing. Kinda like taking a CPR course

>Not really thought of as a big thing.

Well that explains the current disaster.

Rock - Your seat belt comparison helps explain what they might have been thinking on the rig. Thanks for all the posts the last few days.

You're welcome WP. But I hope folks got the point: safety is constantly on the minds of the offshore hands. They train constantly and maintain equipment that is specifically designed to deal with such possibilities. One more bit of insider trivia: a rig is always noisy but after a few days you stop noticing it. Until there is a break in the rhythm or an odd "bump" in the night. If it happens when you're in your bunk the response is always the same: you roll onto one elbow, cock your ear and listen. While you wait for more strange sounds you remind yourself of the route to the escape capsule. You remember where you put your car keys. And when no more odd come you lay back and go sound to sleep. Thus the origin of the answer to "How was your night?" Answer: "It was a two elbow night".

The type of incident BP suffered is always in the back of everyone's mind. So despite all the promises by the companies and the gov't that safety will be much better in the future thanks to tech improvements, there really isn't much potential on that basis IMHO. But improvements in procedures and, more importantly their strict enforcement, could significantly reduce (but never eliminate) the possibility of similar spill. I can't say it's an intentional misdirection, but many folks would more readily accept the potential of tech improvements to solve the problem than changing human nature. False comfort IMHO.

I have been playing with some very rough calculations and trying to develop analogies that are understandable to laymen about what has happened and what is/can be done.

I’m not a downhole expert so I’ll leave that side to Rockman and others with the necessary experience.

I do have some relevant background as I retired a few years ago after almost 40 years in the offshore industry primarily in the underwater service side so I am very familiar with the ROVs, in fact some of the operators currently working on the BOP used to work for me. I also was involved in building an oil capture and recovery dome (actually a pyramid) in much shallower water and was also involved in the Exxon Valdez cleanup and environmental surveys several years after that incident.

First off there is every indication that the BOP was activated and at least partially worked. It is almost a certainty that the “leak” is inside the BOP and as that oil leaks through the BOP it then finds its way through the damaged riser and drill pipe where it will exit out any open end or damaged area.

Therefore trying to repair the leaks in the riser does not decrease the flow but it can reduce the number of places where oil must be captured which is why they capped the end of the leaking drill pipe.

Factoid: If you assume that there over 5,000 psi of downhole pressure at the BOP - and everything I have heard indicates it is substantially higher than that - then a 1/4 inch diameter hole is large enough to “leak” 5,000 barrels a day. That “leak” would probably cut off your arm if you passed it in front of it.

Every deepwater work class ROV has a sector scan sonar. Sonar can pick up oil leaks that the naked eye cannot see. The picture of oil bubbles painted on a sonar screen is like explosions going off.

There was an ROV survey of the BOP and riser within hours after the rig sank. At that time there was no indication of any oil leakage from the BOP. And everyone breathed an extremely premature sigh of relief.

Estimates made about leakage are primarily done from aerial surveys and satellite photos and notoriously inaccurate as is stated clearly in the USCG manual on reporting oil spills. The gravity of the oil, the temperature, weather, currents, time, weathering of the oil and other factors all have a major impact on the size of a slick from a given amount of oil.

For example; if you are on a lake in very still water and pour a gallon - not a barrel, a gallon - of gasoline over the side in a matter of minutes you will have a slick covering a square mile – which will evaporate just a quickly, especially on a hot day. If you do the same with heavy crude like the Exxon Valdez spill it will probably take 500 barrels to cover that same square mile although with the fullness of time it will end up covering an area many times larger, and take months to dissipate in the absence of heavy weather. This sweet light crude is somewhere in between.

It was sometime the night after the sinking that oil leaks started appearing from buckles and holes in the riser. This was stated to be about 1,000 barrels per day. I would read that to mean the leak was between 250 and 3,000 bpd. And a 5,000 bpd leak is probably between 2,000 and 10,000 bpd. Until there is some way to measure the flow like capturing it into a tanker it is impossible to have any accurate measurement of the leakage.

There is almost certainly sand in the oil and as that sand passes the leaking portion of the BOP it acts as an extremely high pressure sand blaster eroding away the area around the leak and enlarging it. So there is a perfectly rational explanation why we could escalate from 1,000 bpd to 5,000 bpd to ???. Nobody was lying about the volume, the leak was, and is, getting worse.

How much is 1,000 bpd? It works out to 30 gallons per minute, about the output from 3 garden hoses running wide open.

Let talk about the dome a little. It would appear from the photos that the dome is designed to be large enough to encase the BOP if the broken riser were removed. It has mud mats 16 feet off the bottom so obviously the idea is to let it sink into the mud.

It is to be connected to the drillship with a 6-7/8” drill string. I wore out a whole napkin making these calculations but if you assume the specific gravity of the oil at 0.89, the specific gravity of sea water is 1.03, the depth of 5,000 feet (actually this is of little importance in calculating the maximum flow), a freeboard of 33 feet to reach the drill ship deck piping you should be able to get about 24,000 bpd on the ship using the natural buoyancy of the oil.

If there is any gas entrained in the leaking oil that will change the whole picture as the gas will expand approximately 150 times going up the drill string and act as a giant airlift so the problem won’t be getting the oil up the pipe but throttling back the flow onboard the drillship. Luckily, about the only place in the world you would expect to find the proper equipment to do that just laying around is on a deepwater drillship.

They will have a problem separating the oil, gas and water but I understand the Discoverer Enterprise has processing equipment on board.

This is obviously a disaster and it is quite possible that a human error or series of errors, coupled with possible equipment failure are to blame.

Does BP have culpability due to trying to move too fast? At over $500 a minute they certainly have the incentive to move fast. We don’t know - yet.

Is Transocean to blame for some sort of well monitoring negligence? We don’t know - yet.

Was Haliburton’s cement job faulty? We don’t know - yet.

Did Cameron International’s BOP fail due to manufacturing or design fault? We don’t know - yet.

There are unsubstantiated, I repeat unsubstantiated, reports that the kick registered over 30,000 psi. If the BOP stack saw that kind of pressure it could be a important factor, both in determining what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.

For those who are appalled that BP had no contingency plans in case of a spill I guess you think the skimmer vessels, the miles and miles of boom and the couple hundred trained oil spill control personnel that you see on TV just materialized out of thin air. In fact they have been on standby for a couple decades. They train, work on small spills and prepare for this type of disaster. Think of them as a fire department, paid for by the oil companies, under duress from the US government.

For those who are appalled by the lack of government response consider that the US Coast Guard was underway in minutes after the blow out and their spill response personnel as well as the teams and equipment from the oil industry were already on site standing by before the rig sank.

For a week after the initial incident, from the blowout April 20 until April 28 things weren't going well with the BOP still leaking and the weather slowing recovery operations but it is fair to say that the incident was reasonably "under control". There was no need for Obama to get directly involved, mobilize the Dept of Defense, etc.

On April 29 everything started going to hell, a true worst case scenario. That morning it was obvious the leakage from the BOP had increased dramatically. Even worse the weather changed and strong offshore winds start moving the oil directly towards some of the most sensitive barrier islands in Louisiana. Not only did the wind change direction but by evening it also increased to the point it effectively shut down all skimming and recovery operations and most boom deployments.

The media, which had only superficial coverage up to this point, got heavily involved and disseminated a great deal of information that was technically just plain incorrect.

There is a certainly an expectation that there may be someone to blame for the uncontrolled blow out with its loss of life and potential for extreme environmental damage. But, it is my opinion, with some understanding of the complexities and technical and operational challenges involved, that both the oil industry and the government operational people have responded to the incident quickly and professionally. I wish I could say the same for the media, the politicians and the bloggers.

The only operation after the blow out that I might question was the decision to keep pumping water into the rig. Would it have been better to let it float and let the oil burn? But with the rigs engines and thrusters dead the only thing holding it in position was the riser so the potential of it further damaging the BOP probably played into that decision. It is always easy to Monday morning quarterback, especially if you don’t understand the technical or operational problems, but they have some of the best and most experienced people in the world working the problem.

BP has stated they will pay for the cleanup and environmental damage (as required by law) and will pay any legitimate claims for economic damage. This is a reasonable requirement. During the Exxon Valdez disaster we saw numerous outlandish claims from “fishermen” who couldn’t tell you the difference between the bow and the stern and “landowners” and “tourist industry people” who had never been to Alaska until after the spill.

There is a lot of press about a $75 million cap on BP’s liability. This has been taken out of context as it does not apply to the cleanup or environmental damage – there BP’s liability is unlimited. The $75 million is in reference to economic damage and BP has stated they will not hide behind that limit. Time will tell but at this time I take them at their word.

I’m sure this will require some effort on the part of people filing claims. For instance if you are a charter boat owner or fisherman I expect BP will require you to submit business records proving you are really in that business and substantiating the amount of business you had before and after the event. It is fair for BP to protect themselves from scams, just as it is fair that people who are economically damaged get reasonably compensated.

We are lucky that this happened to one of the very few companies in the world that has the financial resources to pay the billions of dollars this will cost. This is similar to the Exxon Valdez where Exxon, despite their overwhelming arrogance, did pay all the cost of the cleanup although they fought paying many of the economic damage claims I thought were valid and all of the punitive damages.

If either spill had happened to a foreign tanker firm or an independent oil company, the taxpayers would have ended up footing the cleanup bill, the people economically affect would have been out of luck and the companies would have already declared bankruptcy.

Thanks for the insights - especially explaining the buoyancy drive for flow to the Enterprise from the cofferdam. My thought (without the math) was that I was more concerned about handling the flow rather than getting enough.

I think the oil in this area is likely to have a high GOR, so negative pressure head will be large. Also, the gas cooling would likely freeze components of the oil in the DP, hence the planned pumping of methanol and warm water in the riser annulus.

Apparently this has never been tried with live oil in deepwater, so there may be unanticipated problems. For instance, how much seabottom mud is going to be mixed up in the fluid going to the Enterprise? Can they handle that?

Fortunately the Discoverer Enterprise is an awesome vessel with large processing and storage facilities. Also they have borrowed a specialized tanker from PetroBras that I think was going to be used for the Cascade-Chinook FPSO this summer - it will be used to offload stored oil on the Enterprise.

Check it out (click on "watch the video"):

Any comments on the likelihood of a "top kill" working using the original BOP stack?

Thanks again for the rational and informed perspective - the amount of misinformation flying around the internets is scary.

I doubt the bottom sediment will be a problem, the dome is big enough for a pretty complete separation - oil/water/mud. As you can see in the ROV video there is no interaction from the oil leaks with the bottom, I would expect the same inside the dome.

It is my theory, not shared by everybody, that once the oil starts flowing the ice plug problem may go away. The oil should be pretty warm, if not hot, when it exits the well and with sufficient volume will keep the drill string warm until it gets to the much warmer surface water. Again the amount of gas in the oil stream is a major factor.

Petrobras gave up one of their FPSOs, even for a short term - unbelievable - BP is pulling out all the stops.

It's nice to see other nations coming to aid the US during this disaster.

Could you please elaborate on "even for a short term - unbelievable" ??? How significant is this and why?

Thank you for your wonderful contributions (same for the rest of you oily-hands on deck).

aardy -- Petrobras may in fact be acting as a good neighbor. But a few of facts: Petrobras has been actively leasing fed tracts in the GOM for some years and is also a fairly active driller in our OCS. Any operator in fed waters is required by law to provide any vessel support they have at hand if requested during such an emergency. I mentioned before that I actually took over a BP workboat years ago to deal with a very minor incident. Haven't heard where that processing ship was stationed, though. And while they might provide the ship I didn't notice a statement that it would be provided for free.

OTOH, I wouldn't be surprised if they are pitching in voluntarily.

One of the main constriction points of Brazil bring their pre-salt oil development on line is the availability of FPSOs. I was assuming this was an FPSO designated for that development.

While Petrobras may being a good neighbor, and they have a close relationship with BP, I'm sure it is not being provided gratis.

Rockman, I didn't see your previous comments about the law - it's good to know that.

Shelburn: " I was assuming this was an FPSO designated for that development".

Your point is still a good one - no matter where this particular FPSO was designated to be, Petrobas now has one less FPSO available for their preferred "normal operations."

And no doubt the "good business sense" helps them to be a "good neighbor" in this particular case.

Thank you both for the education.

My back-of-envelope calculation of flow rate:

From the NOAA diagram above, the oil slick can be approximated by a circle 120 miles across.

I think metric. That's a 190 km diameter, 95 km radius. Assume the oil slick forms a cone 1 mm high at the apex with a 95 km radius.

Volume of a cone = 1/3 Pi R^2 H

Plugging in the numbers I get an oil volume of 9.5 million cubic metres.

The well blew on April 20, so it's been flowing 16 days.

9.5/16 = 0.6 million cubic metres per day

at 0.159 m^3 / bbl, that's 3.8 million bbl/day.

Oops. Far too high.

Okay, 6,000 bbl/day x 16 days = 96,000 bbl x 0.159 = 15,000 cub metres total volume spread over a circle radius 95 km.

15000/Pi x 95000^2 = 0.5 microns thick oil layer. Believable?

Yes - see this:


They have tables for spill thicknesses.

But their estimates of spillage are higher than the "official" number of 5000 bpd.

I see they use 0.5 microns for the outer slick area, so it's not out of line. Nearer the upwelling source they use a bigger value.

But clearly, guessing volumes from the slick appearance and area is tricky.

I enjoyed reading your post.

In the oil business, we term this a problem of Nodal Analysis.

What everyone seems to be missing is that the reservoir has an Inflow Performance Relationship (IPR curve). That is rate versus pressure. Let's say one point is 40,000 BOPD versus 2,300 psi. This is what BP told Nancy P about unrestricted flow. Let's say another point is 0 rate and 13,000 psi. This is the x intercept. Draw a straight line between those points. This is what the reservoir can deliver against what it sees, backpressure. It doesn't have to be straight but this problem will get complex enough soon enough.

Now we have a downhole choke on that--which is the kink. So there is a pressure drop across the kink which inhibits the IPR curve. Instead of 40,000 BOPD against 2,300 psi we have 5,000 BOPD--- let's say(I'm not here to argue that). So we need to shift our reservoir IPR curve down for that choke. Still, we get 13,000 psi eventually at 0 rate.

The other curve is the tubing curve. This is the 5,000' of 6" ID pipe to surface. We need to build a rate versus pressure curve for that, which many of you have done. It depends of course on the surface pressure, the gravity of fluid in the tubing, and the frictional loss.

I would suggest that you need a family of tubing curves for varying water cut's. We definitely have an extraneous source of water in the methanol line, but also we cannot assume a perfect seal around the box. Also, we do not know that the well is not making saltwater.

Now let's say that the box leaks like a sieve. The seawater invades and the fluid in the the tubing is 99% water. What happens??. Then assume the box is tight and dry oil is coming to see you. You have to shut in for a problem on the surface (this is going to happen). What happens??

For an engineer or physicist, these thoughts and other time dependent possibilities should cause a nice seratonin (sp?) release. Enjoy.


PS- The thing I didn't say above is that in Nodal Analysis where the 2 system curves intersect... the reservoir curve and the tubing curve-- that is a stable operating point.


you mention removing the damaged riser, can most of it be unbolted from a hopefully good first section near the BOP section and replace the whole thing. I know it sounds too good to be true.

Safety fluid was removed before oil rig exploded in Gulf

The investigation into what went wrong when the Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and started spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico is sure to find several engineering failures, from cement seals that didn't hold back a powerful gas bubble to a 450-ton, 40-foot-tall blowout preventer, a stack of metal valves and pistons that each failed to close off the well.

There was, however, a simpler protection against the disaster: mud. An attorney representing a witness says oil giant BP and the owner of the drilling platform, Switzerland-based Transocean Ltd., started to remove a mud barrier before a final cement plug was installed, a move industry experts say weakens control of the well in an emergency.

Not sure if any of you have seen this....its a 3 1/2 minute underwater video of the oil leak at the source


The video is very degraded from the original quality and has been partially cropped to remove some of the data but it does give a good idea about what the ROV pilot sees. It also shows that they have pretty good visibility.

An attorney representing a witness...

And as everyone agrees, attorneys know more about medicine, finance, real estate, petroleum engineering, and quantum physics than anyone else on the planet.

And it's in the water:

AP: Giant box lowered in Gulf to battle oil spill

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO — Workers late Thursday started lowering a giant concrete-and-steel box over the blown-out oil well at the bottom of the sea in a risky and untested bid to capture most of the gushing crude and avert a wider environmental disaster.

A crane lifted the box from the boat named The Joe Griffin and crews from a second boat started the box on its slow journey a mile underwater. It would take hours to reach the seafloor. ...

Times-Picayune Explanation of Explosion - Mentions Early Removal of Mud

New Orleans paper (and good one), contacted some TODers



PS: Leaving today for a week with my father. Few "on the scene" reports

Spill to stay out of Loop Current

same link as on top

For now. This is massive oil spill that will expand in all directions over time. And the Loop Current "wanders" over time as well.

The two shall meet.


Oil Regulator Ceded Oversight to Drillers

The Journal also found that the safety record of U.S. offshore drilling compares unfavorably, in terms of deaths and serious accidents, to other major oil-producing countries. Over the past five years, an offshore oil worker in the U.S. was more than four times as likely to be killed than a worker in European waters, and 23% more likely to sustain an injury, according to International Association of Drilling Contractors data, which is adjusted for man-hours worked. . .

In recent years, oil wells in the U.S. were more likely to go out of control—as was the case with the Deepwater Horizon's blowout last month—than in other countries. According to data from the International Regulators' Forum, a group of offshore regulatory bodies, the U.S. reported five major "loss of well control" incidents in 2007 and 2008, the most recent years for which data are available.

The five other countries in the forum that reported the data (U.K., Norway, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands) reported no such incidents. Last year, those five nations had roughly half as much drilling activity as the U.S.