BP Attempt to Cover Oil Spill "Didn't Work" - Open Thread

Saturday afternoon, BP encountered problems with its initial attempt to contain the subsea oil leak. Essentially, at the cold temperatures found at 5,000 feet under the sea surface, methane hydrate crystals formed and clogged up the dome.

Please add links/analysis/etc. below the fold..

Doug Suttles BP Chief Operating Officer Explains

Secretly, I'm glad it didn't work... It is bad for millions of marine animals and other coastal birds... but still...

I am devastated that it did not work. Why should anyone be glad? Perhaps you love gooey beaches, dead oily birds, ocean dead zones and all the other things that this oil spill will bring.
But still.... But still what?

Ron P.

I dont see how you can come out with a comment like that and no explanation!

i can't speak for op, but i love it when things fail. the late george carlin explains it better then i can, in a way that's timely considering the aquatic problems we're having in the gulf.


I am not a geologist, but the containment dome (ConDom) idea was not well thought through, given the sea and natural gas liquid pressures involved. I wrote about this last weekend...


The George Carlin commentary is really good. Please watch!

I can't believe you really mean "glad." Perhaps "vindicated"?

Many of us "knew" such a thing was bound to happen, but decades ago I stopped caring about it because I knew there was nothing I could do about it. So I feel "vindicated," but I'd never say "glad."

Ironically, I just finished a training in animal rescue (I call it "duck washing") for a possible spill in the Gulf of Maine. It was very interesting. What a process it is. I feel terrible for the people who are going to be going in there trying to salvage the innocent animals. It will be like pissing up a rope.

I can't be glad of environmental destruction, but that destruction is happening all the time, mainly in ways too minor to make the news. In the big picture, I can be glad that this happened for the good that it will do in illustrating the choice that Americans face by laying it right on the doorstep. This is not ducks drowning in a tailings pond somewhere in northern Alberta, or some riot in Nigeria that can be watched on the news; this is happening to Americans, and in a way that even the layman can observe by counting up the dead turtles and angry shrimpers.

Maybe "glad" because it'll help make this a more effective warning/wakeup call.

I can't speak for GauharJK but I had mixed feelings myself. If the containment worked BP and other offshore drillers might point to that and say "see we can handle these things" even though tons of damage is already done at this point. OTOH if BP fails to contain it quickly it may stop any further efforts to do such deep water wells. In that case not only are future spills stopped but less total CO2 is put into the atmosphere.

How do we weigh the future of yet to be born humans against current humans. How do we weigh the future of mankind which may be at risk against current humans. Since no one seriously wants to stop burning fossil fuels perhaps disasters like this are the only way to save our species. All guess work, but there is room to hope that this spill will stop some of the CO2 from ever being released into the atmosphere. And yet the cost to sea life and those who make their living from the sea is so dire one does not know what to hope for.


Re: Kimyo's post, below.

Largest spill ever was EV at 11 Million Gallons.

18 Million to date?

This is the hangover of our addiciton to oil... the next morning we wake up sick to our stomaches, ill from the complete destruction on ourselves we have wrought. Of course, the answer is to kick the habit, 'cold turkey.' We gather our resolve, and the next evening we drive down to the auto show in our SUVs, and imbibe in the intoxication of the age of oil!

I cannot even imagine the next lines...

Strange species, homo sapiens... Wonder...

I live far from New Orleans, near Dallas, and I have good friends who reside throughout the N.O. area. Relatives live on the Florida West Coast. My last visits were pleasant affairs, and inevitably wound up at the seashore, usually to a soiree with blackend redfish, local beer and excellent stories told of good times remembered.

How sad this is for all of them... and for all of us.

I wonder if we will be missed.


"Largest spill ever was EV at 11 Million Gallons."

EV is #34
1) Kuwait - 1991 - 520 million gallons

This could be solved with a heated dome, but engineering such a device, much more massive and complex than the first one they tried, would likely take as long as the relief well

How could you heat it? It's large, offshore, a mile down and a whole ocean is keeping it cool.
Maybe with a lot of insulation, the crude will contain enough heat.

Maybe instead of heating the pipe or dome, a heated pig could serve as a roto rooter of sorts. Maybe the heated pig could be in the form of an annulus, so oil could flow down its center, while it works to clear the blockage.

Cold water from the Arctic and Antarctic flows to the bottom of the ocean keeping it very cold. e.g. around 5-6 deg C or 41-43 deg F. Here is a graph of the ocean temperature profile.

Mechanisms Leading to Co-Existence of Gas and Hydrate in Ocean Sediments provides some insight into hydrate formation.

"Engineering it" might take 3 months, but a quick design and build will go much faster -- it's simply subject to trial and error like the first box.

Actually, I'd be surprised if somebody hadn't been working on this problem since the outset, since they were already providing heating for the pipe to the surface. Clearly somebody was thinking "hydrates".

I would think it is feasible to place a heater in the box, either electric or gas, which is fed from the surface, but that'll just take time. It might also be possible to plumb the pipe heating fluid into a radiator in the box before the liquid recirculates to the surface.

How "sturdy" are the hydrates? Could a high-pressure jet ready break them up and feed a slurry up the pipe? Would simply connecting the feed pipe help, with higher flow to suck off some hydrates as they form?

Anything that might work faster than the relief well is worth trying, especially since the relief well could readily hit problems too.

Let's see:
Plan A - internal sealing - failed
Plan B - BOP - failed
Plan C - containment dome - struggling
Plan D - top-kill at BOP - When?
Plan E - relief well - check back this summer

Probably BP has other options they're considering as well, depending on how these progress.

Oh, Sorry, we've killed off an entire ecosystem, wrecked it pretty good. Our engineers are working on it. We'll find a way to heat the thing...... You all really piss me off. Nothing personal, but, I'm sick to death of "TECHNOLOGY". Best from the Fremont

Good grief, we have NOT killed an "entire ecosystem". What a stupid statement, is the sky falling too?? Nature is very resilient given time and combined with on-site cleanup the outcome can be very good. Exxon Valdez never happened if you look at the environment there. There is still a very good chance this thing is going to be fixed soon. And what ELSE is going to fix the problem, holding hands and singing folk songs, praying to the Goddess, bitching about it to your Government?

IF you want your homes warm/cool and electricity to run your lights and computer you are going to have to accept oil/gas drilling for at LEAST the next 25 yrs until people get thier heads out of their a** about nuclear. Wind ain't going to do it, nor is bio-diesel, and coal is actually MORE dirty and environmentally harmful (ever seen what harm an abandoned coal mine does? ever seen strip mining?)than oil.

Morning Curious George,
If BP hasn't killed an ecosystem, what would you say has happened? Dead birds, dead fish, dead onshore habitat, dead ocean. What should I call that instead? Maybe BP has disabled an ecosystem, or maybe BP just paddled the ecosystem's behind, a little bit? I'm at a loss. I'm sure with "on site cleanup the outcome can be very good", except for all of the dead birds, dead fish, dead habitat, and, of course a dead Gulf of Mexico. I know that nature is resilient, but, I also know that we're loosing our honey bees, our bat populations are in severe decline, I can't eat any of the fish in the state in which I live without taking on a more than is healthy dose of mercury, the creek that runs through my place is saturated with runoff from nitrogen fertilizers, that when I was a youngster the sky would be dark with millions of ducks on their fall migration flights and I haven't seen more than 4 or 5 ducks at anyone time in years, that I haven't seen a Pheasant in years, although there used to be many, that the weather in my area is no longer predictable......I could go on, but, possibly you get my point. Yes, the earth is resilient, it'll be here and will recover regardless of what we might do to it. The human being, however, is not so resilient. We need food, we need shelter, we need water, we need clean air, and we need a favorable climate. Without anyone of these "needs" we won't survive. Yet, we continue to foul our world for profit. Business as usual, damn the consequences, live with it until we can't and then nuclear will save the day. Hope so. Best from the Fremont

Where have you seen ANY reports of dead animals, other than some turtles which they don't know what happend, could have been shrimp fishermen ignoring the law and not using the Turtle Exclusion Device on thier nets? I just watched the news this AM and there is nothing reported.
This spill doesn't affect the entire GOM, look at the map and the spill area in realtion to the size of the GOM. I agree it's a possibility but not a certainty that massive wildlife damage could occur. Oil is a lot different from heavy metal contaminaton like your mercury example which doesn't break down EVER. I do agree that we have to strike that balance between our needs and our environment. I've gone back natural on my land where I live and in 10 yrs a lot of wildlife and native plants have come back, the area where the Exxon Valdez spill happened is now being fished again and that was about 20 yrs ago. Twenty years is a long time to us humans but the blink of an eye to nature. We tend to think in our time frames not those of nature.

Well - where do I start - Curious George I agree and disagree - I've worked for the energy industry and am a commercial diver and commercial fisherman by trade. No stranger to science, it is my original background. No stranger to politics either, I have a juris doctorate & also take part in fishery management. I am familiar with the concept of the tragedy of the commons as well as creeping normalcy - if you are not familiar with these concepts you should be. Some points -
1. There are more reports of dead animals than you and I will ever be aware of already.
2. The only fisherman that don't use turtle exclusion devices are mentally ill. I would say there are none but you can't account for the mentally ill, they can turn up in any business.
3. You take in the news without a grain of salt?
4. I agree massive wildlife damage is not a certainty. Less than massive damage is a certainty though. I have seen major wildlife damage that does not make the news at all. More than once.
5. The only major mercury contaminant, health wise, is methyl mercury. It is removed from the environment, eventually, it just has to run into some thiosulfate or some such sulfur compound, it'll happen, but long after you and I are gone.
6. The balance will be struck for us.
7. The herring fishery has never returned after Exxon Valdez. Some things aren't fixable by money or people or even time. Sometimes any amount of time.
8. The environment is us. We need to strike a balance with us.
9. Glad you've gone back to nature on your land, hope you're learning to grow your food. It tastes better.
10. Well - lost track of my original point 10, fallible as anyone - but would like to point out I've worked on and under the water for many, many thousands of hours - done the math, been underwater 24/7 for 2 - 3 years of my life - 14,000 hrs of bottom time. Hate to say it, but the ocean seems to be a case of out of site out of mind. I've seen many invasive species move in - green crabs, russian crabs, codium, several species of foreign tunicates, other weird critters I'd only seen previously a couple hundred miles to the south. Seen the underwater environment pushed to what the biologists call an "alternative stable state" - seen underwater dead zones, anoxic areas, the damage is already worse than you've been told, oil spill or not.

(Saw one area once that looked like a pond on the ocean bottom, ripples and all, a thick layer of bones on the "beach", everything that swum into the pond immediately died - the area smelled very sulfurous through my full face mask - could be natural except it was in Boston Harbor - I really don't know what it was, I didn't swim into it).

There's a difference between some dead animals and the death of an entire ecosystem.

It remains to be seen just how bad the ecological damage will be. Granted, it could be really bad. But you are getting ahead of actual events in your proclamation.

Your polluted state: Now you are moving on to a much bigger topic. The world is overpopulated. Most humans do not care enough about the future or even about the present beyond what affects them directly. Even with the stuff that affects them directly most are unaware (and not terribly curious) about pollutants that might be cutting their life expectancies or general healthiness. That's the human race.

Break up the hydrates acoustically. Put speakers in the dome and play heavy metal, very loud.

Drilling the intercept wells seems to be the only sure method of plugging this thing.
Why 3 months?
They certainly don't have to drill to the same depth as the 1st well?

I think 3 months is too long to wait for this - pressure on BP to do something - anything - before that will be too great.

BTW, in Australia they succeeded intercepting the well only in the 4 th or 5th attempt, IIRC.

well Ixtoc took 9 months, and it was in 150' of water.

Sheesh, hopefully their techniques have improved since then.

From the Wiki IXTOC article

Prevailing currents carried the oil towards the Texas coastline. The US government had two months to prepare booms to protect major inlets

So the slick spent a long time in open water - all that time degrading, before making landfall. Sounds like it was a real lucky outcome - something I fear we can't expect this time.

And remember, all the time since 1979, the stress on the GOM environment, caused by human industrial society, has been relentlessly ratcheting upwards, making conditions more and more unfavourable for those natural degradation mechanisms. Fertiizer-driven dead zones and oil slicks are separate phenomena, but they all feed in to the overall state of ocean health, and recoverability.

IMHO the environmental impact of this incident is going to be more significant that IXTOC, even though (at the moment, the volume of pollutants is a lot less.

Regards Chris

This BP diagram, posted here yesterday by sunnnv, indicates the relief wells are intended to intercept the original well not far above the oil reservoir.


I, too, would like to know why they have to be so deep. Is it due to concerns about the integrity of the higher sections of the original drilling?

Thanks for the repost of that link, didn't see it originally.
Some of the first hand accounts that have been posted elsewhere(Maddog) indicate that the original well gave them difficulty in its drilling. So its easy to imagine this will likely occur again.
But no mention why they have to go so deep.
What happens if these wells blowout also?

Rockman answered on the other thread:

I added a few more points:

But, Rockman has the most definitive answer, you do NOT want to do an unintended fracture job and blow out the blow out!
So you have to carefully drill, case, cement, wait, drill, case, cement, wait, ... all the way down.

This seems a bit odd. Does anyone know what the temperature is of the oil as it exits the leak? It's coming up from 18,000 feet, so I would of thought it was sizzling. Even if it is merely warm, might not a period of incubation raise the temperature inside the dome enough to melt the clathrates?

When I heard this, I assumed that the clathrates formed while the container was being lowered. I image that the concentration of methane in the water gets higher as you approach the leak. At some point, clathrate formation gets nucleated on the walls and (the longer you hold the container in cold water) the more clathrate forms. Is that wrong? Can clathrates form at very high pressures (e.g. 2300 psi) even if the methane is coming from a warm source?

Piecing together a few posts leads me to believe the expansion of the gas and resultant cooling causes the hydrate formaton.
Since they are lighter than water they cause the buoyancy the BP guy mentioned, therefore the oil won't warm the chamber since it must be floating off the BOP.

Does anyone have a video link to the dome in place?
I wonder how much the force of the escaping oil is contributing to the "buoyancy".

If the top closes off for whatever reason, the dome will float. See previous comment here.

Thanks dr, that makes sense.
Balancing/bleeding the pressures won't matter unless someone can figure this one out.
What a mess.

"If the top closes off for whatever reason, the dome will float."

No. The box is reported to weigh 100 tons, or 125 tons. Filled with ice, the floatation force will be *less* than if it is filled with oil. Surely they made allowance for it to be filled with oil. My calculations indicate that their 100 tons is sufficient to handle oil with a sp.grav. of 0.8, way less than ice or methane hydrate.


You are correct for oil or ice, probably also correct for methane hydrate, but not for methane gas. If the methane separates from the oil, it will occupy the top of the dome because it is much less dense than the oil. It will then force the oil down and out of the dome structure through the open side door 15 feet or so below the top of the dome. Then the flotation force due to the differential between the density of methane at 2300 psi and seawater will be on the order of 150 tons, which is greater than the weight of the dome structure.

I agree with georgenattaer and am also wondering why the heat of the oil isn't keeping things warm enough. I haven't done any calcs, but I would have thought there was a lot more thermal energy in the oil than would be lost through the expansion of the gas. Maybe the top of the dome was closed or choked to start with and only gas was reaching the upper part of the dome?? Maybe they need to let the oil flow up into the exit pipe at the top to keep things warm.

Has anybody done an estimate of the gas temperature right after expansion from the leak?

Are the MH's forming in the dome or in the riser off the dome?

It would seem to me that a pipe 6" rising a mile would offer a huge area to bleed off calories, and freeze the methane hydrates out, clogging the pipe.

Sounds like that guy Murphy has been at it again!


From the picture in the NYTimes article at the start of this thread, they're
still using the small drill ship Helix Q4000 - specifically its crane with cable for the dome, so there is no pipe off the dome yet.

The BP guy said something like:
"We knew it would be an issue, we just didn't expect it to happen so fast".

I'm thinking they'll need to get the bigger drillship (Discoverer Enterprise) there, hook up to the dome with its riser and 6" pipe, and start pumping warm surface water down, then use that drillship to lower the dome onto the leak.

Otherwise, some electric heating cables clamped on with magnets.

Also from the picture at the NYTimes article, it sure appears that the main leak comes to the surface in a fairly small area - how hard would it be to lay a grid of booms and capture more of the oil closer to the source?

picture description:
At the top center, with white vertical mast is the Helix Q4000. Surrounding it are some ROV tenders (typically lots of junk on the deck and helideck forward).
Middle of picture is the drillship TransOcean Development Driller III doing the relief well, with a couple of workboats (supply ships) nearby - big flat decks.
Note the oil sheen starts about where the big ROV tender is just this side of Q4000.

Think of all the diesel those ships are burning, they're all dynamically positioned.
And there are supply boats coming and going, not to mention the helicopters.

I'd do a take off of "Old MacDonald had a farm..." with
Tony Hayward had a well, EROEI 0! (zero) .... with this herd of specialized vessels, but it's late...

Exactly! The pipe needs to be hooked up at the get-go or at least very quickly. And they ought to pump hot oil rather than hot water down the pipe to fill the dome initially.

I think that lowering an electric heater at the end of a mile long electric cord would be less complicated than more plumbing and would put the heat exactly where it is need rather than losing most of it on conduction through the walls of a mile long pipe. But let the BP guys decide.

If an electric heater is put in service at the top of the funnel before the pipe is installed, it might be possible to resume the plan A experiments without other modification.

Knowing that they have experienced trouble from hydrates so quickly provoked me into think differently about the situation near the BOP. I think the hydrates are forming there now in the open seawater as follows: When the oil emerges from the pipe and comes in contact with water, hydrate crystals form in the water on the surface of the oil. If the seawater were warmer and the pressure lower, bubbles of methane would form, but under the conditions close to the BOP, it is hydrates that form as tiny crystals. They are too small to be seen in the images sent back from the ROV. These crystals also rise because they are less dense than seawater. This has been happening since the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon and they likely fill the column of seawater through which the containment box was lowered to the sea floor. The hydrates are not in the upper layers of the ocean because they dissociate into H2O and CH4 where the water is warmer and the pressure is lower. The CH4 either rises to the surface as bubble or goes into solution in the seawater. Either way this methane is not detected as a distinct feature of the general mess of an oil spill.

Hydrate crystals were already in the box before they started collecting data for their experiment. The slower the descent of the box, the more crystals were collected.

Anything that might be done to clear them from the box surely involves a change of plans in a tightly planned experiment. So the planned experiment must stop while a new plan is devised, discussed, run up the chain of command for approval, etc.

At the Suttles level in the organization, there won't be any talk of the containment vessel for at least several dozens of hours. How he spins this is an entirely different from how to revise the plan so that a better, more workable version of a coffer dam might be implemented and tested. I don't think the guys on coffer dam have been reassigned or laid off. But their leader is no longer first in line to report to Suttles at daily or hourly briefings. (And maybe they have come up with a fix already while I am composing this post.)

Also, as gas expands it cools off. That likely doesn't help things.

The issues you bring up are precisely the kinds of things that should have been figured out and been tested before a drilling permit was issued for a well this deep. Is anyone really shocked that they might have encountered extremely high pressure from a well this deep under 5000 feet of water?

Why wasn't an emergency containment dome that was tested and actually worked already waiting in the wings?

Too expensive for poor old BP? Too economically impractical?

Weighted against the ultimate total liability and cleanup costs this is going to run, a tested viable emergency plan "B" shutoff model should have been a given and part of the drilling permit process.

Seems just like in the current unstoppable financial meltdown, when the Treasury Secretary Geithner was asked what if the plan he proposed to deal with the financial collapse didn't work, what was plan 'B', he said in an arrogant cocky statement that the Fed and Treasury didn't need a plan 'B'.

Well, apparently neither did BP.

They don't have mud on their face at this point, they have frozen methyl hydrate.

Why wasn't an emergency containment dome that was tested and actually worked already waiting in the wings?

Thanks for this. I, too, wondered about this obvious hole in the system, then thought: "You're not an expert."

This teaches us: Incompetence is endemic.

Not having such a dome tested, operational, and waiting in the wings is like an EMT who doesn't know how to do CPR.

Are these people really that hubristic?

There is one possible answer to the question of why wasn't a containment dome tested, built and ready to deploy before the blowout:

Maybe because they already knew that it wouldn't work at that depth, for reasons that seem fairly obvious. And this whole readying-and-steadying the dome drama has just been for show.

If that's true they got about two weeks' distraction out of it, and in BP's eyes the dome worked quite fine, now what's next.

I once saw a quote:
"Do not require conspiracy where stupidity will suffice".

The reason there was no dome system in readiness is that people have a high discount factor, and so nobody is willing to pay for additional safety and resilience until something happens that makes it obviously "cheap" in retrospect.

Probably Wild Well Control or somebody will make a business out this for "next time", and the gov't will mandate joint funding for it by the oil industry. But that's not much help now.

That high discount rate is one of the reasons Peak Oil is going to cause so much economic damage. People aren't going to be willing enough to cut short term consumption to invest for several years into the future.

Look at home insulation and heat pumps. Great ways to cut long term costs even before Peak Oil enters into consideration. Yet lots of potential energy efficiency improvement with existing technology still hasn't been implemented.

Humans are cognitively flawed products of evolution.

The industry didn't spend much more than it was forced to spend. The pressure for short term profits from stockholders and prospective stockholders is too great for that.

The oil industry wasn't better prepared because we didn't force them to be better prepared.

Democracy fails because most individuals do not gain enough from becoming well informed and voting knowledgeably. Plus, most people are not smart enough to understand the issues. So the result is this disaster. What you see is a product of human nature.

Written by georgenattaer:
This seems a bit odd. Does anyone know what the temperature is of the oil as it exits the leak?

A better question might be what is the ratio between crude oil and natural gas? If the pipe is spewing 10% crude oil and 90% natural gas, the temperature decrease from the expanding gas could draw a large amount of heat out of the crude oil.

You are right. The expanding gas is like expanding freon in an a/c unit... it cools things off.

Noting the post in Drumbeat for 5/8/2010 about the methane gas bubble being the or a cause of the original explosion, is it possible that the drilling went into and disturbed a methane hydrate deposit? And, if so, is this going to be a common problem in DW drilling from now on?

Does anyone have any science on this?


Is the sole purpose of the relief well to seal the original well? Does the relief itself get sealed after that? Or is it subsequently used for production?

No it is just to seal the well. Even if it is technically possible to use the reservoir - I doubt it is politically possible.

I would hope the reservoir is used eventually. The oil is no different because the well blew out, and the exploration work/permitting has been done. There's plenty of other deep water drilling going on. If it is politically impossible now to tap that reservoir, that would mean that politics is utterly irrational and we are truly doomed.

The longer it takes to close this spill - the slimmer the chances of any new offshore drilling.

Without all that recent deep water GoM drilling, US oil production would be down by somewhere between 0.5 and 1 million barrels per day (assuming EIA figures are correct).


I note that Fed Offshore GoM production set a new monthly production record in December (surpassing June 2002) according to the EIA.

People care about the environmental impact only so far as it does not cause them inconvenience. There will be much posturing and fuss, and maybe some delay, but we will drill and pump that oil.

$5 gas trumps pictures of dead birds.

"... politics is utterly irrational and we are truly doomed."

That sums it up pretty well.

Was there a spelling error?

"...we are truly domed."

The real doom will come with the approaching hurricane season


The graph with offshore production clearly shows the impact of hurricanes. The lesson from all this is that we have to get away from oil as fast as possible.

"...and the exploration work/permitting has been done..."

wasn't this part of the original problem... waivers in the permitting process...

GM -- The relief well will only kill the original well and it will be permanently abandoned. And the original hole will still need to be reentered and abandoned according to regs.

What kind of determinations are used in setting the depth of the intercept wells?

SM -- The short answer is that the rock pressures in the relief well need to match those in the original well. It's pressure differentials that cause much trouble. That's why they have to drill the relief well almost as deep as the original hole.

Thanks Rocky, since this operation sounds like a pump n dump I guess there's not much chance that the cementing process used to kill the well would fail, assuming the concrete the culprit in the original blowout.

OK, now I'm really confused.
Are they only going to pump in heavy mud through the relief well into the original? I can see where a full column of mud from the bottom up to the wellhead would pretty much slow things down. I can't see how pumping concrete from the relief well into the bottom of the original would do much good. Is the idea to slow the flow down enough with heavy mud that the top of the original well can be worked on directly?

The cement would seal the producing zone in the well. No production then no leak. The cement hss to run with mud holding down the packer that is at the top of the kill area until the cement has set. As I understand it this is pretty common practice. How fast the relief well gets to the point they can run in the cement is the question. I read a post that said they are at 9,000 ft in that well already, that seems too high a figure as they have been drilling the new well only a few days. Even after the relief well is complete they somehow have to seal up the existing well by reentering and plugging it. Then if they want to produce the oil zone they found that would be a new (3rd) well.

I'm guessing that if if 9000 feet is a real number, that 5000 feet of it is water.

Do we know how far away from the original well the new wellhead is? Do they have to drill through something like 5000 feet of horizontal plus 18000 feet of vertical?

OK, so they run several thousand feet of mud in to slow things down, then some quantity of "packing" material, then finally a few hundred feet of concrete? I suppose there would be no way to clear the concrete from the bottom of the relief well if they wanted to.

I think the relief well is about 1/2 mile away, not sure though. They will actually angle the hole by a fraction of a degree so at X feet depth it has moved Y feet towards the original well, then they insert a metal milling tool and cut thru the casing around the old well to inject the cement.

The cement is never cleared out between the casing and the formation. If the well was to be produced holes are punched using shaped charge explosives in the liner/casing through the cement and into the formation to let fluids flow into the well. I think HeadingOut posted something on this method of completion a few weeks ago. If you can find that TechTalk post he explains it a lot better.

Do you think, if after they sort this problem out, they will try to tap this field again?

They will kill the OH, then plug the relief well back to the last csg, but they will likely reuse the top hole of the relief wells to sidetrack keeper wells to produce the Macondo discovery.

At least now they're sure that there's oil there!

Yeah, and they got a great flow test. This sux - I was praying for the Macondome to work. Seems like they will have to connect the new riser to the containment vessel before putting over the leak and hope they can pump enough warm water/alcohol to prevent the rapid freezing of the gas. Maybe they need another Macondome around the original macondome to fill up withe relatively warm water. I'm afraid we're screwed.

Here is the NYT story.


Mr. Suttles said the drilling of such a well was already at 9,000 feet and proceeding ahead of plan. However, it is still months away from being in a position to stop the leak by intercepting the original well and pumping it full of concrete or other heavy liquid.
With options narrowing, BP officials are considering solutions that would entail more risk than the containment dome. One would be to place a new blowout preventer — a stack of valves designed to shut off a well — on top of the one that now sits on the seabed and is not working.

The other option is what Mr. Suttles called a “junk shot,” and likened to stopping up a toilet. The procedure would involve reconfiguring the blowout preventer and injecting heavy material like rubber into it, then pumping heavy drilling mud down into the well to overcome the pressure of the oil from below. That might stop the leak.

But the mud would have to be pumped through new pipes from the surface, as existing pipes that might have been used for such an operation collapsed along with the riser when the drilling rig sank April 22.

I have a few questions:

1. Is there a test bed anywhere that something can be tested at this temperature/salinity/pressure?
2. Could a BOP be put into a test bed?
3. Is there a way to test this "plug" idea?
4. Is there a way to concoct a mixture of reactive monomers that could be aggressively mixed to react and create a more solid plug?
5. Is there something that will react with the methane or oil in the BOP to create this more solid plug- or will it get flushed out immediately? I would see this being the same potential problem with the mud...


So when the Deepwater Horizon barge, leased by BP, exploded April 20 and 5,000 barrels of oil started flowing daily into the Gulf of Mexico, neither the oil companies nor their regulators in the Interior Department were ready.

There was no written protocol, no history of drills to simulate a disaster anywhere close to this size. Interior analysts had calculated that the chances of any spill exceeding 1,000 barrels were 3% to 5%. There are no records to suggest anyone had seriously considered the possibility of such a nightmare coming true.

Interior analysts had calculated that the chances of any spill exceeding 1,000 barrels were 3% to 5%. There are no records to suggest anyone had seriously considered the possibility of such a nightmare coming true.

5% is one chance in 20. How many times did they think they could get away with it? And to say that no on seriously considered the possibility? How stupid! No... not stupid. Such hubris!!!!


I have trouble believing the explanation for the capture box not working. The specific gravity of methane hydrate is 0.95 and that of water ice is 0.92. People have been using 0.8 for specific gravity of oil. So this contamination is more dense than the oil and should collect in a middle layer between the oil and the seawater. It needs to be handled, of course, but not because of its bouyancy. I seriously hope the working engineers don't actually believe what Suttles is saying. I hope there is an actual believable engineering problem because bouyancy of ice is not a reason and if that is what they are working on they surely won't fix the real problem, whatever that is.

Take an ordinary garden hose at 60psi, have it pointing up, flush to the lawn.

I give you a clear inverted drinking glass with a riser pipe on it's bottom going up 10 ft or so to let off the pressure from the hose when you attempt to cover the full blast water hose geyser with the glass.

As you get close to the covering the water geyser with the inverted glass, the pressure rapidly builds in the approaching 'containment vessel' because the riser pipe has a delayed pressure relief effect. But more important, the turbulence inside the 'containment vessel' (i.e. the glass) approaches insane levels. Forget any kind of buoyancy, the turbulence created by the oil well pressure in the small confines of the dome is more than enough to cycle the rapidly forming methane ice chunks up into the riser pipe, like a run away blender at a cheap bar.

By the time the 'containment dome' seals to the ocean floor, the top of the dome is packed tighter than a bull's ass in fly time with ice.

Yes, turbulence can be a problem, but Suttles said *bouyancy*. I don't doubt they have a real problem, but not bouyancy. And you say "forget any kind of buoyancy", as if that is a correction of what I say. I think you RIGHT, mainly because you are repeating my point in different words.

The actual situation is a bit different for the leak they are trying to capture. The amount of oil coming out is more like the volume a 1.5 to 2 inch fire hose, except it is flowing out the end of a 21 inch diameter pipe - so no turbulence, pressure or high velocity flow at the leak point.


I like your explanation, posted elsewhere, that they clogged up the top vent of their box and got a gas bubble below the clog. A gas bubble has a lot of bouyancy, and they did not have any way to clear it. They need to stop testing and figure out a way to separate the hydrates and ice from the oil before they flow the oil out of the top vent.

I don't think turbulance is a problem, only that it is so silly an idea that I don't want to discuss it. Your post, I think, supports the position that worrying about turbulance is as I say.

When hydrate and ice form, it must be at the interface between a body of oil and the enclosing seawater. Water from the seawater combines with methane that is dissolved in the general mix of hydrocarbons of the 'oil'. This chemical reaction H2O + CH4 is, I guess, endothermic and cools both the remaining seawater and the remaining oil. This cooling is like the cooling of air in a swamp cooler (the low cost alternative to air conditioning). I think the ice and hydrate are both more dense than oil, so both ice and hydrate should *sink* if they get mixed into the oil. They should not rise up to the top vent unless the oil is being extracted so fast that the vertical velocity of the oil is faster than the sinking velocity of the ice and hydrate crystals. The BP engineers can achieve any desired reduction of oil rising velocity by increasing the footprint area of their box.

They have the theory skills to figure out what they need, but they surely can't *do* it in time for an announcement to the press on Monday. When they *have* figured it out they will own a very valuable new piece of IP and will make pots of money from what this disaster forced them to learn.

A thought about what the real problem might be and how to fix it:

BP people will have to figure out some plumbing configuration that brings the ice and methane hydrate crystals out of the middle layer on a separate pipe to the surface. The methane hydrate will likely decompose to water and pure methane on the way up to the surface so this flow will need serious throttling. That is a *small* diameter pipe. This is good. Small diameter pipe is more easily fit into a system as an afterthought, which this is. At the surface, the methane gas will be easy to separate from the solid ice, liquid water and residual oil. Any gas is much lighter than any liquid or solid at sea level.

So run a small diameter pipe down inside the drill pipe that they are planning on using to recover the oil. Make this pipe extend down into the collector box 15 to 20 ft. If there is methane hydrate sludge at this intake the flow will drive itself. There is seawater, throttle the oil flow in the outer drill pipe slightly and build up the amount of oil held in the collector box, thus lowering the band of methane hydrydrate sludge.

I don't know what they were planning by way of instrumentation to monitor the oil level in the collector box. Their existing plans might already be adequate to monitor two liquid interfaces even though they expected to have only one interface.

So they need an extra small bore pipe string and time to plan the installation. This is reason enough to pull the box away for a few dozen hours. I still don't accept the nonsense about bouyancy.

CNN reported this afternoon, after the news conference, that this was an "unanticipated problem". I guess they don't surf TOD. It's been suggested here that this could occur (gas hydrates cooling/freezing due to gas expansion and low temps at this depth). I wish we had search functions so I could post links.

I can't find it this morning, but I recall reading a piece from a different source this week that had a list from a group of engineers of reasons the cofferdam approach might fail. Hydrates were definitely on that list.

Call it the Apollo 13 syndrome: the media expect engineers to make sh*t up as they go along and that it will all work properly the first time.

I have read where large buildings being constructed, sometimes in order to prevent water from pouring into the excavation have refrigeration systems installed to freeze the soil to prevent water from pouring into the hole. Maybe it would be possible to install a coil around the BOP and dump liquid hydrogen and freeze the thing shut. Plate coils can be made for any shape and installed exteriorly on the BOP. It might thicken the oil and freeze the water enough to slow the discharge. The piping would need to be exotic SS material and insulated. The gaseous hydrogen could relieved at the surface by another pipe.

You'd want to do some testing on this idea first. Steel becomes quite brittle at very low temperatures, and water expands when frozen. There is a non zero chance that super cooling the BOP could cause a complete structural failure, then you've got an open hole. Not. Good.

No one has suggested the enormity, potentially, of this. Does anyone have a sense for the scope of the damage this will do?

Is it, as some have suggested, a 1000 year ecological disaster in the making?

Hello Bobby! The possible impacts of this event have been discussed in depth here. I suggest you review the last couple of weeks of posts, especially some of the submisions from some of the petroleum profesionals that post here regularly. I've noticed a remarkable lack of humor in the tone of their posts recently. Not much optimism.

My wife asked me just now what disaster will occur to make this one as forgettable as the recent ones.
Two major earthquakes in populated areas, the continuing volcanic eruptions in Iceland, two feet of rain in one day in Nashville, the economy, etc...
The new abnormal just sweeps aside the old abnormal.

It certainly has the potential to be a massive disaster but suggestions like Armageddon and 1,000 years of dead zone are fairy tales.

The best history here is the Ixtoc 1blowout in 1979 in the Gulf of Mexico in Mexican waters. That well was blowing just as much and probably quite a bit more than this well and it ran for almost 10 straight months. The oil spill reached Texas and some even Louisiana and Florida.

I'm sure there are studies showing that the oil from that blowout is still causing environmental damage but it would seem that the overall fisheries, tourist and other industries are in reasonable shape - at least as regards that particular environmental disaster.

I'm sure everyone is aware that there is a large "dead zone" around the mouth of the Mississippi probably including the Deepwater Horizon's drilling location. That dead zone has nothing to do with oil production but is due to the concentrations of pesticides, phosphates and other toxins that daily flow down the Mississippi from farmlands and cities from western Montana to eastern Pennsylvania and all points in between and south of those areas.

thank you and hello back

learning the ways and means of interacting

reassured to know we have screwed the sea bed before in a similar way

however, it seems to me, and I may well be wrong, the situation is one that may well be greater in magnitude than we have ever before seen

suppose, just suppose, as we enter hurricane season that Bastardi's model for the season happens

will there be any complications or compounding of the problem as far north and inland as Lake Charles?

will there be an over spray throughout the path of any storm that could cover the Mississippi or Alabama or Florida Gulf Coast?

would it be within one and a half standard deviations of possibility for a real food shortage cascading into food price emergencies, fuel price spikes, work stoppages, attendant civil unrest and perhaps the unthinkable of suspension of elections?

I am envisioning a hurricane crossing a well-established oil patch in August and dragging a great deal of oil several miles onshore. Very nasty.

I read some speculation (and I can't imagine that it is more than that) that the oil film would retard evaporation and thus slow heat transfer from the sea to the storm - that you can kill a hurricane with an oil slick. I don't think anyone has ever run that particular experiment.

I am a little more concerned about LOOP. Yesterday I posted an AP clipping quoting the people that operate LOOP saying that when the slick reaches them, they will close it (upon being ordered to by the Coast Guard). If we have an oil slick for three months, does that mean no LOOP for three months? That could get interesting.

Interesting is an understatement. LOOP handles 1.5 MBPD or 13% of our oil, and impacts 50% of refined gasoline. Imagine gas prices this summer if they stop operations.


That dead zone has nothing to do with oil production but is due to the concentrations of pesticides...

Do your homework. Dead zones are created by the process of eutrophication, NOT pesticides.



Sorry - I was writing fast and should have put phosphates at head of my list and added nitrates or maybe just a generic "fertilizers", but toxins, particularly pesticides are detrimental to marine life all around the Mississippi delta area.

No worries, but I'm just curious, what exactly is your point anyway? How does any of that excuse the fouling of hundreds of square miles of North Americas greatest wetlands with millions of gallons of toxic sludge?

Anyone else getting the impression that our Mr. "shelburn" is a shill for BP?


No, I think he is trying to give useful info to balance the comments.

Chill out Jerry and give the guy a break. Simply pointing out that there have been other major oil spills which have not resulted in Armageddon is hardly grounds to start making accusations like that.

But shelburn didn't simply point out that previous oil spills had not caused Armageddon, or thousand-year environmental dramas:

I'm sure everyone is aware that there is a large "dead zone" around the mouth of the Mississippi probably including the Deepwater Horizon's drilling location. That dead zone has nothing to do with oil production but is due to the concentrations of pesticides, phosphates and other toxins that daily flow down the Mississippi from farmlands and cities from western Montana to eastern Pennsylvania and all points in between and south of those areas.

This really is a non sequitur - as if the ecological damage from the chemical output of the Mississippi River into the GOM delta is relevant to the issue of the damage that will be caused by the current BP blowout. I am reasonably certain that shelburn is not a "shill for BP", but drawing this long bow was unsubtle, in the context of this thread, I would think.

Cargil -- Is it a non-sequiter or the answer to a question? But I too share a concern that shelburn may be a shill for BP. I've noted a large number of TODers jumping on the "let's not blame BP" bandwagon as a result of his postings. A damn effective shill, IMHO.

I note shelburn has been registered on TOD for more than 6 months and his first post indicated that he was at ASPO Denver.

I would guess TOD staff know his real identity but could be wrong on that.

Actually, the issue isn't "pesticides" at all, or "chemical output" but the sheer DOSE of it. Including the oil.

The dose makes the poison. Most "pesticides" are harmless at low doses, just as natural poisons are safe at low levels.

Dose is directly related to the number of people that need food, and the more we feed ourselves, the more we grow in number.

Jerry and others.

Shelburn has been lending needed information about the issues at hand in other threads, and even has a key post up top.

What I got out of his comment which was an answer to someone else commenting about a "1000 year" death to the GOM, was that we have a current, (before this oil well event), problem called a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, which likely extends to include the region where this oil well is.

The reason for the dead zone has been in the news for years, depending on who you talk to, it is from agri-business runoff and city waste streams. Almost all major river deltas in the world have dead zones in them now because of man's actions.

It is not an excuse, as much as a side note to what mankind is willing to let happen with no real push to stop it from going on.

If you knew you were killing your future, would you stop a habit you have right now that would in time kill you sooner?

We have knowledge that our habit of using FFs has the potential of killing us sooner rather than later, yet we don't do anything about it.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

You know what is really ironic is that the fertilizer causing the "dead zone" will actually speed up the microbial biodegradation of the oil. I still think both issues are terrible problems, but this would be an interesting side note.

The reason a dead zone is dead is that biologic activity has depleted the O2 to the point that only anerobic metabolism can exist. I think the oil eating bugs are aerobic. When they "break down" oil into H2O and CO2, the at least some of the O comes from disolved O2, which is not there in the dead zone.

I started posting here because I thought with what was going on and my background I might possibly be able to help correct a lot of technical misconceptions for people who are actually interested in the facts.

I had real reservations about getting started just because of the political crap like this that might come from it.

Yes – I am prejudiced in favor of the offshore people, I worked there for almost 40 years and still consult on occasion. The vast majority of those people are hard working, highly motivated and many very well educated. From the rig hands to the engineers and geologists they are just trying to earn a living and all most all are trying to do the best job they can in a highly technical and often dangerous environment.

I know a lot of the people directly involved in trying to stop or control the leak at the BOP and talk to some of them every day. They are doing everything they can to stop the leak. They do not deserve to be disparaged by people who have little or no knowledge of the deep water offshore environment and lump them into some amorphous mass along with all the top management, lobbyists and lawyers.

In most large American and multinational companies the cream does not rise to the top. In many of the oil companies including Exxon and BP there is an invisible barrier to those with less than flexible ethics.

I thought that Tony Howard was bringing a breath of fresh air to BP, and maybe he is, but BP's history is certainly one of the worst in the industry and I’m definitely not a BP fan.

I shape my own opinions and not like to be led down some garden path by a MSNBC or FOX commentator. To do so requires a lot of research, something I have only had time for since I retired.

My take on this is that BP’s response to the blowout has been very good. They have thrown incredible amounts of money and resources into the effort. As with any huge undertaking there have been and will continue to be mistakes, but I can’t fault their effort.

That does not relieve them of the fact that they are accountable for the blowout and that somewhere in the chain of events there will be some significant faults. From the information available it is starting to be evident a major reason for the original kick was cutting corners and trying to save money – on BP’s part. The reason, or reasons, why that progressed into a disaster are still only a matter of speculation.

I mentioned the dead zone not as a comparison to the oil spill but to try to point out that there are even worse problems out there but because they are out of sight they are out mind.

20 years ago we were burying a subsea communications cable in the Baltic. The gunk that came off the bottom on our equipment was the foulest stuff I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t put it in my septic tank. It smelled worse than any sewage I’ve ever smelled and it stripped all the paint off the equipment and corroded the metal – immediately. That was 20 years ago – what is it like today?

Before you jump on me for saying the dead zone in the Mississippi is worse than the oil spill I won’t get into that argument, neither of us know.

But one thing, of many, that I think is much worse than this oil spill is the acidification of the oceans due to the carbon we release daily into the atmosphere. I think that is a problem that may be more detrimental to mankind than global warming, and quicker.

The oil spill will have a profound effect on some miles of coast line and wetlands – tens, hundreds, maybe over a thousand miles – out of hundreds of thousands of miles of ocean coastline, most of it environmentally sensitive. The acidification is effecting every ocean – worldwide.

We are a species of 7 billion living on a planet that can probably support 2 or 3 billion without massive inputs of abundant cheap energy, artificial fertilizers and pesticides.

We are reaching the limits of our natural resources in many critical items. Peak oil might be the one that that pulls over the breaking point, or it may be something else.

I think there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to embark on a crash program towards renewable energy while we still have the fossil fuels to make that transition and at the same time a massive push to reduce the population through means other than war, famine and disease. That and only that will allow humans to survive without a compete cultural break down and dieoff

I see absolutely no movement towards any feasible solution. All those who volunteer to jump off so the rest of us can survive please raise your hands. Sorry we need about 4 billion more volunteers.

I’m outta here.

I would request that you don't leave - the dialogue between various 'camps' I see as something very valuable and too frequently succumbs to suspicions, heated words, and insults when attempts are made to begin a conversation. As a community we need each other, and just being able to hear the 'other sides' perspective is extremely valuable in my opinion. But I have no standing here - just a few posts over a couple of days and beyond that I can empathize with your sentiment. Thanks for your insightful informative posts regardless.

I see such problems as a microcosm of the world at large and it is more than a bit discouraging to see this same play enacted over and over again. Oh well, human nature in action - what do you give our odds?

You took a chance and, in my opinion, it paid off. Please don't let a few comments, some which the posters in retrospect may wish they had either refrained from making or perhaps framed differently, keep the good work you have been doing from continuing.

I'm sure I'm just one of many on TOD who look forward to seeing your posts every day.


Hope you stick around shelburn -- takes a bit of a thick-skin to spend much time blogging, though. It's worse when there is an emotional component in the comment streams, and that is worse when hot-button issues come to the fore. Unfortunately, this spill hits a bunch of them!

Your experience and knowledge is valuable.

I am going to make some very rash and unsubstantiated assumptions and take a wild guess at what actually happened to the dome as I don’t believe that the hydrates actually provided the buoyancy to lift it out of position.

My guess is that the hydrates just stopped up whatever pipe they were venting the oil out of and when it stopped it immediately started filling with natural gas and that is what lifted it.


The 100 ton dome weighs 80 tons on the bottom due to the displacement of the steel, wood and concrete.

Several reports indicate they think they have 3,000 cu ft of gas per barrel of oil, at depth that would be about 20 cu ft/bbl.

2,500 cu ft will lift about 80 tons as it displaces sea water at 64 lb/cuft.

2,500 cu ft of gas would be about 7 feet down from the top of the dome based on 14 ft x 24 ft and a bit going into the top pyramid. Well above the mud line which is approximately 25 feet below.

85% of 5,000 bpd is 4,250 bbl which at 20 cuft/bbl would be 85,000 cuft of gas per day so from the time the pipe is blocked with hydrates it would take about 42 minutes to start trying to float off the bottom.

There are several other factors such as the buoyancy of the oil that I didn’t calculate in but using this same approach I think that BP can make a reasonable guess at how much oil and gas is actually leaking from that location.

But then there is the hydrate freezing problem. I can't tell how the warm water-glycol mix is going to spill or return in the piping scheme.....It seems a gas bubble will form in the top of the dome if the delivery clogs and then we hope they have the lifting capability of that difference well calculated.

Me earlier yesterday based on purely reading what you, Rock and others were speculating.

Shelburn If this thing is accelerating as many of us have surmised based on sand-cut working the restrictions what will they try next?

Seems like
1. Junk shot 2. Second BOP stack 3. ??? 4. Wait for the relief well.
Do either you or Rock know if the top-kill/junk shot will mean cutting off the still attached riser and drill string? I am figuring the second BOP stack will?

I was thinking of something along the lines of what idontno is asking directly below here. What about using the containment dome as a cement plug for the kinked riser. If the kink is elevated enough instead of allowing the hydrates to form attach the Enterprise riser and push warm water and glycol down it enough to keep the top clear. Once in place over the pipe substitute fast cement to lay a floor in the box (that should at least hold it down) while allowing the overpressure to spill out one of the side openings. Once the floor is in place then push cement until it seals or slows down. If it spills out a dome opening and you have it contained underneath then that opening being a square cut could be sealed ala leak #1.

If the next step is to cut the string away anyhow, with it's own set of risks, what's to lose by trying to use the dome as a giant concrete plug? Anyone with expertise.

Bingo! Based on the photo of the dome I would guess the gas would go down 15 feet or so to the top of the side door that sits over the pipe. This would be about 300,000 lbs (or 150 tons) of bouyancy, more than the 100 ton weight of the containment.

The one thing that doesn't make sense is that a hydrate chunk or chunks would have floated up to plug up the pipe. As geek pointed out, shouldn't chunks of hydrate sink within the dome? I mean for sure the hydrates would sink in gas and should also sink in oil. Once the water has been displaced down out of the dome, I would guess that hydrates should also quit forming. Would the gas be cold enough after expansion to straight freeze the seawater?

I am curious if they had the bouyancy problem with a pipe connected up to the ship and open or if the pipe was closed at the ship. Still lots of unknowns.

I understood the pipe was not connected to the dome at all while it was being settled - and the hole in the dome apex clogged with ice/hydrates as they formed on the dome ceiling.

If this is the case why not prefreeze the interior volume of the dome with a material that can be dissolved or chemically liquefied with a catalyst? I'm sure the chemists and engineers can concoct a neutral buoyancy solid that can be quickly dissolved once the dome is in place and the piping is connected.

Or perhaps a quasi solid Jello like material that would prevent gasses and liquids from passively entering the volume but offer practically no resistance to the metal pipes and erode rapidly under moderate pressure.

I am no chemist (heaven forbid) - but it seems to me unlikely that you can concoct something effective at the surface (under standard temperature and pressure) that will work to prevent hydrates at 1600 metres, and almost 0C, in the face of an expanding gas that is cooling things down as the pipe pressure drops. Maybe they can - but what would it be?

Under the circumstances the only way they can safety place the dome and hook it up to the drill string is to ensure it does not become buoyant even if completely filled with gas. If it was hooked to the drill string and started to float up it could, probably would, kink the drill string and you would develop an uncontrolled event. Something you never want in 5,000 feet of water.

Adding about 200 tons of steel weight to the dome, cutting a relief area out of the side of the dome about 10 to 12 feet feet above the mud line, or a combination of both should do the trick.

For those of you doing the calculations don't forget that steel displaces about 15% of its own weight in salt water and concrete considerably more, and you need a safety factor.

It seems to me if they can plug the dome with hydrates, it seems they could plug the BOP with hydrates.

The BOP is already running at high pressure with hot oil so the hydrates won't form until the stream exits the BOP.

These domes or containment vessels do work. I have heard of several being built and I project managed one myself. But all of them were in much shallower water where hydrates were not a problem.

The one I worked on was off Santa Barbara. The problem – There was a natural seep a few hundred feet or yards from an Arco (now BP) platform. Arco was continually receiving bad press, stinging editorials, newspaper articles; etc saying their platform and/or pipeline was leaking and causing spills. Very bad press in Santa Barbara.

Arco finally decided to spend the million or so dollars (this was in the mid-80s) to do something about it. We got the contact to fabricate and install a structure to capture the oil.

We fabricated pyramid about 50 ft x 60 ft or so - long time ago so I don’t remember the exact dimensions. We then took it out and anchored it permanently to the seabed and connected a pipeline over to Arco’s platform. From a design stand point the major concern was the uplift on the structure from the oil.

No pump was needed as the oil buoyancy in sea water was enough not only to lift it up from the 150 to 200 foot water depth but also from the water to the production deck on the platform where Arco could put it in with the rest of the oil they were producing.

The system worked well and the oil that was formerly leaking into the Santa Barbara Channel started going to the Arco platform the day after we finished the installation.

Throughout the project their manager was continually complaining about the PR department using his operating budget money for this “publicity stunt”.

The upshot of the story is that there was way more oil coming out of the seep than anyone thought, about 50 to 100 barrel per day, and even at the low oil prices in those days Arco paid for the project in a couple years or less.

As far as I know that pyramid, or a replacement, is still capturing oil today.

Interesting to hear about that from the industry side; I was a student at UC Santa Barbara at the time and was somewhat familiar with the structure from our geology studies. While the seep was natural, the faculty's concern was that the fault would incur slippage if disturbed and increase the rate of seepage. Sure made hell out of local surfing but gave a good reason to head to other - let's go surfing now - locations on weekends. 50 to 100 barrels a day was enough to make the beaches recreationally unusable for about thirty miles up the coast. Understandably, the press reported their indignation.

We just strapped the boards on the Corvair and headed for Ensenada.

Obviously Arco (BP) wasn't going to admit they were doing it to counter act bad publicity so they must have used that reason. Something I didn't know.

I don't know the geology well enough to know if the excuse was valid or just an excuse.

To be perfectly frank I say 'sod it'.

Why are BP drilling in GOM anyway? Because Americans like to live 50 miles from work and like to live a consumerist lifestyle too. All of which needs oil, and a bloody shed load too.

So perhaps Obama and all you other Americans should take the plank out of your own eyes before trying to criticize and damn BP. Y'all want the friggin oil... live with it.

If BP can't stem the flow, and they still get all this abuse, they should just say 'Bugger off and go get your own oil.' Sure the shrimpers and fishermen's livelihoods will be wrecked but then they can only remain competitive with imported shrimp because of cheap oil. C'est le vie.

Sure the local birds and ecology didn't ask for this, but when was the last time homo sapiens gave a flying fuck about the planet.

To all those who are wringing their hands and demanding that BP be held to account, I have one question: 'Today, did you use a petroleum based product?' If you did you are at best misguided and at worst a hypocrite.

Just my thoughts.

"Just my thoughts."

such as they are, facile and empty though they be

facile and empty? Are you kidding?

Which part of my post is facile and/or empty?

It is a fact. Americans want oil. No, NEED oil. Americans have done bugger all to move away from oil since Jimmy Carter first told the nation it needed to. Since then complicit administrations have allowed progressively more risky oil ventures and now we should all be surprised at the outcome and blame the company that is only doing the bidding of the country in going and getting the oil in the first place?

Are you not able to put 2 and 2 together and get 4?

And how totally ironic that Obama had to promise to allow more offshore drilling to Reps in order to get his health care bill through Congress and now this!!!


If you want the oil, live with the consequences.

hyperbole and hostility aside, does any one here know the estimated size of the pool of oil below the hole?

can anyone here speak knowledgeably about the current technology, using the necessary tools, equipment, and material capable of successfully and safely extracting same?

Rumor is 50-70 mmbe recoverable, maybe a bit more, but probably less than 100.

Some here have a deep, profesional understanding of the situation and have been working this problem from hour one. If you weren't a newbie you would know this. These guys are tired of responding to reactionaries like you, so lighten up. Do your homework.

perhaps the problem supersedes mathematics and modeling, and if I'm a reactionary then perhaps one day I may become an astronaut

What about my casting idea at the end of this list? Any merit at all?

There is a company that re-lines old concrete and old cast metal piping with epoxy liner. A flexible sock is run down through the pipe and then air pressure is forced into the sock to force it down the length of the piping if I am not mistaken. Hardner is then pumped into the sock. They claim that th epoxy liner is more durable and stronger than the original piping. If a sock ( for lack of a better term could be made with a pre attached valve and a perforated section of sock where it would attach to the existing piping with a clamp mechanism. The sock would be pulled over the existing BOP and tightened at the base while oil still flowed through the sock. The chemical hardner would then be pumped into the sock while the valve remained open. The force of the escaping oil and NG would keep the sock balloned open. once cured it might just work. my two cents

NO. The more things they try the more data they gather to better refine the math and the models. An Engineering solution WILL be found, however I wouldn't even hazard a guess as to WHEN. Reactionary posts just make people upset and eventually they will quit posting all this great information they have gathered in decades of real-world practice.

the engineers have done such a brilliant job so far, I'm sure we can count on them, besides, if the posters were truly of any value, they'd be inside the situation room earning their fee instead of giving it away for free

edit: decades of real world practice got us here

checking out

enjoy the ride

Why don't yoU READ the older threads and find out about people and thier background before running your mouth and proving your ignorance? HeadingOut is retired as is Shelburne, RockMan is actually out on a rig working a lot of the time. Others here are active in the business in many different areas. BP has a lot of very talented people, the people on TOD don't have a monoploy on ideas, BP has probably had many of the same ideas The ideas here may NOT work as no one here has access to the DATA needed to make a REAL engineering decision while BP does which is why they may do something TOD has not thought about. The ideas presented here are from years of knowledge and training BUT each of the folks will tell you that EVERY case is different and common sense will only take you so far.

Can you critique my casting idea at the end of this section? I really want to work on the science.

bayou bobby

Member for
11 hours 50 min

Engineers don't have all the answers. They simply have all the answers that are not just made up.

Perhaps we should put this into the capable hands of astrologers? Therapists? Mimes?

"Besides, if the posters were truly of any value, they'd be inside the situation room earning their fee instead of giving it away for free"
I'm in Khartoum :)

Whay dont' you shut your gob about the Merkians bit?

You do NOT use oil or its products in any way???

Cry me a river jerk and quit your whining and where is the moderators as regards his usage of the forbidden F word then? Getting a free ride is it?

When your riding a bike or walking and eating free range food grown with zero offsite inputs and using NO light bulbs or gas or fuel then come back and chasten us Americans with your superior insights.

I despise the aristocratic attitudes of some Europeans who think they have all the answers as their Eurostates sink slowly into oblivion thru THEIR desires for cheap credit.

Athens is burning man.

Gosh, that's some tough love, brother

I guess I'll row ashore today and turn off this computer.

Written by HAcland:
Why are BP drilling in GOM anyway? Because Americans like to live 50 miles from work and like to live a consumerist lifestyle too. All of which needs oil, and a bloody shed load too.

Because they failed to create low cost, high efficiency photovoltaic panels when governments paid oil companies to create them.

Because industry refuses to provide options for consumers and prefers to use methods like General Motors used to destroy the EV-1.

British Petroleum is run by oil men who know no other product. Since they have no interest in adapting to something else, they seek to extract oil where ever they can still find it, even though it lies in ever more difficult locations. At the fuel pump American consumers do not give a hoot whether their fuel came from BP or Saudi Aramco.

Where's the electric car that would put oil men out of business?

Y'all want the friggin oil... live with it.

Keep your shirt on comrade, it is a civilised, intelligent forum, and all the better for it. A couple of comments in response:

(1) There is very little point in making a major distinction between Americans and - say - the British, or Canadians, Australians, Japanese, or rich people anywhere - they all consume oil in very heavy doses, compared to the world's poorest three-quarters.
(2) Nobody is drawing a particular distinction about BP (and its subsidiaries) being British - they are not beating up on the British for producing such a delinquent corporation, and in any case, the oil majors are transnational, multinational, and international entities - way beyond sovereign state boundaries.
(3) Why beat up on the TOD membership - why aren't you railing over on the NASCAR - Doritos - Budweiser chat-rooms - most of the punters here are very knowledgeable about the role of oil in all our lives, but just happen to think that the end of that reliance will not be pretty, and requires careful (but possibly unattainable) management.
(4) And finally - having a detailed discussion (both hard-core technical but also interestingly speculative) about the causes and the remedies for this blowout - does not mean any of the members here are uncaring, doped up on FF, or otherwise pathological.

Lots of people are angry and critical - at human failings in the face of hubris ... but it's been going on for a while. And it's worth noting, if there were another North Sea equivalent oil patch discovered off Cornwall tomorrow, everyone in the UK would rejoice, and grab it with both hands ... Americans are not unique in this.

Well said. Thank you.



I agree that all of us stateside petro-users share responsibility for the mess oil makes of our home. One hopes that this event can destabilize the oil-FF-energy complex a little bit, and we can move down the road pointed to by the prescient president Carter.

That said, BP is responsible for this well. If it was too risky, they could have said "no."


Though you are angry, you are correct in saying that we are the ones needing the oil.

Ages ago we knew this was going to be a problem, 30 years ago people were telling us that the world was going to end in a polution nightmare, no one seemed to listen. Those that did were called crackpots, and hippies and worse.

True that we have dug ourselves into this hole all of humanity is in now, but some of us are trying to help others build a ladder to get out of it.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future, without FF.

Let's face it, the dome idea failed and any attempts to make it work using an infusion of hot water, etc. is probably not going to work due to the conditions at that depth of water.

All efforts should now be geared to ramp up the skimming of the oil already spilled, while the relief well is drilled.

a band aid on a sucking chest wound

If this is a duplicate question please forgive me, I have not read all the threads here. Many thanks for the very informative posts.

What is the best educated estimate for how much time is left before the pipe is sandblasted away and the leak turns into a greatly magnified gusher? Are you optimistic that the pipe will hold up until a relief well is drilled? Can it withstand the amount of sand and rock going through for several months or longer? Is it more likely it will give way in a matter of days or weeks? Any sandblasting facts out there?


lynnie: a most prescient question

I spent my entire career, almost 40 years, working in the underwater service business in one form or another. About the first thing you learn if you want to survive in that business is that you never give up.

I can probably count on one hand the number of large underwater projects that every went exactly as planned.

From the beginning it was known that hydrates would probably be a problem, it just turned out they were a problem earlier than anticipated. Now they go to Plan B, then C, then D and so on, but you don't quit.

There are a number of parallel tasks going on here - drilling a relief well, working on the containment vessel, cleaning up the oil as quickly as possible, trying to find a fix for the BOP, drilling a second relief well and other things I don't even know about.

None of these projects takes resources away from the others. All of them need to go ahead as quickly as possible.

I know of several companies where whole departments have gone to 12 hour shifts, 24/7 working on anything that can mitigate this disaster.

There are thousands of people working on the spill and probably at least another thousand working on these other projects plus all the government people.

>>I know of several companies where whole departments have gone
>>to 12 hour shifts, 24/7 working on anything that can mitigate
>>this disaster.

what we who love the planet more than BP are saying is, these people should have been working 24 hour shifts BEFORE the leak occurred.

ixtoc means you cannot say 'unexpected'. it is readily apparent that BP is/was not prepared to solve/manage this crisis.

this is not an issue of blame, let's leave that for our children to decide.

this is a matter of trust. do i trust the company which caused this disaster to fix it? do i trust a company which says 5,000 b/d in public, but 60,000 when in front of congress?

(i do not mean in any way to disparage any of the excellent and dedicated rig-workers, the engineers, the people who actually do the work.)

There have to be several directions of effort. One to contain the spill. So far we see how that is going.

Second, how to mitigate the spill. Does anyone have a basis even for a cost projection in doing this... say based on 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, etc., of continuing spill. Also based on the rate of flow. So far I have read 52,000 BPD, and 40,000 BPD as being very real possiblities. For how long, max time?

Next, considering Murhpy's Laws, and assuming the worst in time and flow, what is the max cost for mitigation and repair and recompense?

Finally, in the end game let us be real. It is very likely that the state governments and the Federal government will be paying the freight here in the long run. How much farther into the toilet are we going with this? Economic impact? Political impact? Legal impact?


what we who love the planet more than BP are saying is, these people should have been working 24 hour shifts BEFORE the leak occurred.

The problem with working more than 12 hours per day is that it leads to exhaustion and that leads to mistakes and that leads to death and mayham.

A long time ago right after Sept 11th 2001, I worked at a company that got a contract doing work for issues around those events, we were asked to work 10 hours a day for a solid 3 months to get the job done. The first month was okay, the second month burnout started showing up, and the third was really bad. You can only press the human body so far, then you get into trouble.

So even though You might want "THEM" to pay with a death like work load, don't expect the workload to not dull the results.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

"So even though You might want "THEM" to pay with a death like work load, don't expect the workload to not dull the results."

you can put words in my mouth if you like, that doesn't serve the purpose of this board very well though.

if they had no plan to address the "1-5%" possibility of a 1,000+ barrel spill, they shouldn't have started drilling in 5,000ft of water.

again, this is not about blame. this is about trust.

do i trust bp to solve this problem? do i trust them when they say publicly 5,000 barrels/day, but when in front of congress 60,000?

please do not shift the conversation away, and make emotional claims. yes, i am grateful to the engineers who are putting in 24 hour shifts.

it is the management that i have a problem with. which of their decisions do you support? you like the 'junk shot' idea? do you prefer the 'top hat'? or, are they massively incompetent?

do we trust them with our shoreline? with the health of our children?

The article in the New York Times linked in the original post also mentions the possibility of pumping methanol into the dome while it is being lowered into place to prevent formation of the methane hydrates.

I think waiting for 2 more months is out of question - atleast they have to keep trying. You never know when things might get worse.

How about an in-place metal casting? Make a mold for the top of the BOP and the bottom of the riser. It should provide for enough thickness to ensure the casting is twice as able to withstand pressure as the pipe below it. Once the mold is in place, then sink an electric-arc heated molten patch vessel. Both modules can be made neutrally buoyant, with thrusters, GPS and video. This eliminates the need for ROV's, for they would be their own ROV's. The flow of the oil would not be interrupted until everything hardens. Then a part of the casting can be imploded into the flow path, causing cessation of oil flow. In essence a workable variation of the cork idea. A metal cork in a metal bottle, but a corking operation nonetheless. Sort of like the Little Boy bomb. You could design a closed system where the molten alloy patch material never touches the seawater.
This solution also uses some of the problems of the incident site location as part of the solution. Being underwater, the mold and casting vessel can be cooled by an endless supply of water. Heat can be applied with electricity to the mold and vessel as needed. The continuous flow of high pressure gas and petroleum would aid in keeping the riser pipe or BOP from losing structural integrity during the casting process.

"I had a dream"..... A large dome constructed of fabric (kevlar?) suspended above the entire "mess", anchored by heavy weights or mud suction anchors, a sort of hot air balloon, inflated by the escaping oil and gas. Plenty of heat transfer area to allow for expansion of gases. Oil and gas floats to the top and gets pumped to the surface. Room at the bottom for ROVs to get in to do their work. Multiple ports at the top to remove the oil and gas. Huge area for separation and stablisation to occur.

Interesting. It would seem the currents would play havoc with the fabric. If it were on open system, the oil and gas would go around it. If it were a closed system, the oil and gas would destroy it. At least, that is my guess.

A balancing act , for sure. Well anchored and strong fabric (steel reinfirced kevlar perhaps, off-the-shelf stuff), with high bouyancy from the oil and gas could resist currents. Not much different from the "dome" idea, just big, flexible and it gives the hydrates time to "melt". Otherwise, the same concept. Use bouyant pipes to remove the oil gas to surface ships. The system will lower the pressure to manageable levels. If some of the oil/gas escapes under the bottom, still better than what we have. ROVs would also have access to the wellhead under the dome.

If they made a lid out of the stuff they make those rectangular sardine tins out of - you can never get those suckers open. Then pass a cable tie over it and around the earth and pull it tight. Everyone knows cable ties can be used to fix anything.

Thanks for the laugh amid all the grimness.

The hot air balloon analogy is intriguing. Have multiple balloon-type fabric structures, suspend a ballast from some cables to stabilize it, place the whole thing over the leak. Let it fill partially (under observation from the ROVs). Let the oil/gas buoyancy float it to the surface (and replace it with another empty balloon). The gas will expand enormously, so at the wellhead it would look like one of those barely-inflated high-altitude balloons, but would be substantially full near the surface. Use divers to guide a pipe/hose into the balloon, pump out the oil/gas mixture and separate it. Deflate the balloon and use an ROV to guide it back down.

Or maybe I just need some sleep...

"Or maybe I just need some sleep..."

That makes two of us.....Sweet dreams!

There have been some very interesting ideas posted about various ways of corking or plugging the BOP.

The major problem is that we are dealing with pressures that are just don't occur in normal everyday life except in very small diameter hydraulic lines.

The BOP probably has about a 20 inch diameter flange at its mating surface. To seal that you have to overcome the pressure. A guess is that the pressure is about 10,000 lb. Even subtracting the ambient water pressure the resulting load is over 1,250 tons. And that is assuming the pressure is not over 10,000 psi which it could be and there is no factor of safety.

So any design that tries to shut off the BOP flow through brute force has to be able to handle over 2,000 tons of force.

As Rockman says go rent "Hellfighters" with John Wayne to get an idea how this works. But in this case the pressures are much greater and the valves and machinery that much bigger.

My casting idea would use a stainless steel alloy for patching material. The casting could be made twice as strong as the pipe below it. It could use a gate valve design and be blown into place with a small explosive charge. The pressures we are dealing with seem to be no worse than those dealt with in fission bomb primary explosive charges. Uranium and plutonium are more dense than steel, and we have no problem imploding those metals.

It is an intriguing idea. I guess I don't understand how the casing will attach to the BOP so that it won't be blown off.

I think I get the picture of imploding the casing and there are a number of shaped charges that could be adapted for that. We used to use Jet Propulsion to design and manufacture out shaped charges, explosive nut cutters, etc.

The casting would not blow off because it would be a cast stainless steel unit around the pipe and BOP. The petroleum and gas pressure does not come into play until the plug is set. Until the plug is set, the flow remains uninterrupted. It simply flows through the BOP and riser pipe while being encased.

Still confused. I understand having the open area like a gate valve during the installation but after imploding - which has to be a 100% metal to metal seal - then there is a 1,500 ton upward force on the casing, how is it anchored to the BOP?

Obviously you can see I'm missing something.

Or do you mean something like a collar around the riser, without removing the riser?

Yes, the casting covers the top of the BOP and bottom of the riser in place. The top of the BOP is irregularly shaped. Just ensure the mold goes down the top of the BOP enough to ensure a strong physical connection. The metal of the BOP and riser pipe might also fuse with the molten steel enough to provide frictional forces. The flow of the oil and gas actually helps. It ensures that the riser and BOP are kept structurally sound during casting. It would also ensures that the riser and the BOP would not completely melt away or deform and lose too much strength.

Seen the movie many times, great movie. IIRC, the new BOP when it is installed is OPEN. The well flows thru it until it is secured with massive bolts onto the wellhead, then the BOP is closed. Now try doing that 5000 feet underwater and with 10,000 psi or more pressure.

I am wondering why BP can't connect to the kill lines on the old BOP and pump in mud to kill or slow the well? Were those lines damaged? I also recalled something about a "black box" (which is yellow) that they took off the BOP and are going to reprogram it and put it back on. Can someone clear up what the box does and why it would need to be taken topside and reprogrammed?

Outside my area of expertise but I believe one of the ideas being thrown around are to use the kill lines to pump in "junk" and mud or quick setting cement.

Another is to remove the broken riser and try to place the BOP from the Discoverer Enterprise on top of this one. If that worked they would be back in control of the well and even if they couldn't pump mud and cement through it they could hold until the relief well was finished. If they could pump cement through it that portion of the drama would be quickly over.

My understanding is that there is a possibility that either of these procedures has the potential to make the situation worse while the dome at least is relatively safe in that respect.

OK, here's my great idea. I've got absolutely no experience in the field and have little or no idea what the hell I'm talking about, but that's the beauty of the Internet...

First, sink a cylindrical concrete structure over the blowout preventer, so that it has (say) six feet of clearance at every point, and rises (say) 10 feet over the top of the blowout preventer. The walls on this cylinder are thick enough to take the pressure, of course, when ...

Second, a cap is lowered onto the cylinder, where the part which corresponds to the inside of the cylinder is (say) twice as thick as the part which corresponds to the outside of the cylinder, and this cap has got whatever piping is needed to make it possible to bleed off the oil/NG. The cross-section of this cap looks like this:
[ ]
[ ]
------------ ---------
[ ]
[ ]

Maybe put a bevel on the lower part to make it easier to get it into the cylinder. This way, there's no place for methane hydrates to be trapped.

To stop nucleation, maybe the answer would be to put a coat of wax on the inside of the cylinder and on the cap...

OK, that's my idea. Have at it.

the illustration got screwed up, so much for ascii art. so what we have for the cap is like two layers in a layer cake, the top layer is of broader diameter than the bottom part, and the bottom layer has a bevel...

Pressure isn't the issue it seems, the methane hydrate "clogs" have to be removed to allow the oil to flow out of the box. As someone else said the riser that circulates somethings to break up the hydrates may need to be attached first and be circulating fluids while being lowered over the leak. Maybe that's the next thing they will try. This is just a pause in the action, I don't see BP giving up on the dome idea so quickly.

There have been a lot of comments about the need for having an emergency containment dome on standby.

One of the things to consider is that this is actually a unique situation. The normal condition of a blowout is a broken pipe or open BOP where the oil and gas are coming out with a enormous force. That is the standard situation and you couldn't get a containment vessel anywhere near it.

I know they did try some sort of containment vessel at Ixtoc 1 (which was blowing straight up) but I don't think it was very successful due to the force of the oil coming out.

In this case there is something restricting the flow, either internally inside the BOP or the kink in the riser pipe so that when the oil leaks out the end of the broken riser is does not have a lot of pressure and high velocity behind it. It is only because of this particular situation that a containment dome was even contemplated.

A containment vessel or dome is not in the standard tool list of ways to combat a blowout so that is why there were never any emergency units.

your, Rockmans' and other oilpatctch folks' expertise is much appreciated by all
I wonder if I could get any of your evaluations of an idea I had up thread. thanks in advance X


x - I'll focus on all the thoughts regarding pumping anything into the drill pipe, BOP, riser, etc. The first is dilution: what ever is pumped into a stream of oil/NG will be diluted by that volume. In addition to thinning the kill fluid there's the aditional problem of containing it in place long enough to be effective. But enen if this could be accomplished the problem of strength of the plug remains. I can guess th flowing pressure of the stream of oil/NG but lets say it's just 1000 psi. But lets look a producing well that has a flowing tubing pressure(ftp) of 1000 psi. If ou close the valve and shut the well in you could quickly see a shut in pressure (sip) of 6,000 psi. Thus as a plug begins to block the flow the pressure cold rise quickly and defeat the plug.

Bottom line: BP is trying to deal with a situation that has never been engineered.

"Thus as a plug begins to block the flow the pressure could rise quickly and defeat the plug."

Thanks for responding Rock. As I understood it the kink did rise a certain distance within the dome when in place. My initial idea was to simply push enough fast cement in this lower area under the kink to set a floor under the kink to anchor the dome and provide a lower seal. If you tell me the weight and consistancy of that cement will not be enough to displace that layer of seawater and not dilute then that's the end of it ,thanks.

I think the notion of a fluid by itself is a mistake. Why not "inject" something that is high-density but porous, like steel wool (or a long ribbon of steel), to form a permeable matrix in the low-flow, low-differential-pressure 'body' of the BOP, and not worry about the high-pressure leak point? Then add a bunch of something heavy but malleable, like lead shot or a heavy epoxy, to fill the matrix and stop the flow.

As the matrix fills, the pressure will force it toward the leak, but that will pack and seal it. The matrix would also tend to collect sediments during the low-flow area, and help prevent the sand-blasting issue.

Why not pour molten steel AROUND the BOP and riser. This would allow the addition of a cavity and a plug like a gate valve. Corking can work. Just use a steel cork and bottle. Once the metals harden, they would be structurally sound enough to withstand more pressure than the pipes below it.

And where does one find this molten steel? 50+ miles offshore? At this hour?

The relief wells will be done before you could solve that one problem.

Now you've got hot steel at the surface, but you need it 5000 feet down a pipe, that's a bigger problem than stopping the flow.

The molten steel would come from an electric-arc vessel. Watertight and full, easily able to withstand the 2300 PSI at that depth. The vessel need not be made of ceramics or even lined, all surfaces will be water cooled by the Gulf. I plan to use the problems of water, remote access and pressure as part of the solution. I could also make this vessel have buoyancy control, video, GPS and thrusters. This would eliminate the need for an ROV, it would be its own ROV. The vessel could transfer the molten steel in a closed system, never touching the seawater. Then let the patch harden. A precast cavity would then have a plug imploded into it stopping the flow


Thought about using thermite days ago, but I kept thinking that the defined casting offered by a mold was necessary. Then came the problem of filling the mold with molten metal in water where it cools instantly and do it in a ROV only worksite. That is when I derived that a closed system using a vessel and a mold would work best. In this way the molten metal never touches the seawater and you eliminate the need for ROV's.

skytruth finally has new imagery:

"Our friends at CSTARS just posted this stunning image. Taken by the Canadian-operated radar satellite, RADARSAT-2, it clearly shows oil slicks and sheen spread across a wide area (about 5,025 square miles, or 13,000 km2) in the Gulf of Mexico early this morning.

UPDATE 5/8/10 7:00 pm - The first attempt to place a 70-ton containment box over the main leak failed today; the box has been moved aside and is being troubleshooted, and tar balls have begun to wash up in Alabama. The leak is continuing unabated, at a rate we calculate to be about 1.1 million gallons (26,500 barrels) per day - five times higher than the last official estimate (5,000 barrels per day) the Coast Guard made, before they quit making estimates a few days ago, admitting they had no accurate way to estimate the spill rate.

We estimate more than 18 million gallons of oil have spilled so far."


Why don't they put a new BOP below the broken one instead of cutting the old one off. This way there would be no risk of increasing the flow rate. You could cut away a rock to expose the drill pipe. INstall a new BOP and ram the pipe.

Could that be done or would removing the rock create more problems?

My thought too. But a little different.

- get to an area with the most known and the fewest unknown variables. i.e. the well casing below the BOP
- stick with what you know best. i.e. mud and cement.

Fabricate a sleeve in two halves that is larger than the casing.
Run a flange along the length so that the sleeve can be bolted together over the casing.
Put half flanges on each end with an ID that matches the casing. At least two flanges at each with gasket ( O-ring style ) between them.
Put a drill ( with a second for backup ) inside the sleeve.
Drill the casing. As it breaks through adjust the mud to equalize the pressure.
Complete the drill hole.
Pump mud to drive back the oil, then pump concrete to seal.

Even if it leaks somewhat, the flow would be almost shut off until the relief well is drilled. If something fails the sleeve will prevent a catastrophic leak.

Everything can be fabricated and tested on shore.
It would be light and easy to install on a known component - the casing.
It wouldn't matter if it leaked around the flanges while the concrete set.

Interesting idea, basically a hot tap, which you could argue is well-established technology. BUT:

1. You must excavate (and clean up) a fair depth of well casing underneath the leaking well. The excavation equipment has to be deployable by ROVs, and I'm not sure suitable technology is available off-the-shelf.

2. Hot taps are normally done on horizontal pipelines. I expect a hot tap tee can be made to work OK in the vertical, but I'd want to do extra tests first. It takes some time to manufacture and test a normal hot tap tee, so the vertical special might not be ready before the relief well.

3. To kill the well, you'll have to hit it hard with a lot of mud. If the well is leaking 5000 bpd, then the first 5000 bpd of mud just gets washed straight out of the nearby leak. Needs a lot of mud, some powerful mud pumps, and the pressure will get pretty high at the hot tap and wellhead - maybe enough to blow them.

A hot tap at 5000' is anything but established tech. Probably impossible, as is casting or major welding. Just figuring out how to do it would take months or years, if it's even feasible.

Heating the inside of the containment vessel is probably also a non-starter. No heaters would work at that depth of salt water, it would have to be specially designed. Even pumping hot antifreeze down a mile of uninsulated pipe won't work, if I can trust my quick calcs.

Electric heating would work at that depth. Why would casting not work at that depth? Isn't that how islands are made?

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

I didn't think the sleeve would have to be more than about 3ft long so the length of cleaned casing would not be very great.

The flow rate of the mud would be indeed probably be a serious problem.

The pressure in the well head / BOP shouldn't be that bad. Most of the pressure required to pump the mud would be lost across the casing hole.

Maybe cement with some form a particulate could be pumped in and carried along with the oil towards the leak. The idea would be to gum up and plug both the pipe and the leak. The flow rate of the cement could be much less than 5000 bpd.

Thanks again for the response.

This idea is probably feasible but would almost certainly take longer to put into place than drilling the relief wells.

1 - excavating the area is not a problem and could probably be done in a day or two, maybe a few hours. Standard tooling carried with these ROVs includes sizable jet and mud pumps as excavating around a work site is a common task.

It just occurred to me that the casing may be in the way and in that case - another good idea down the drain - but to continue.

2 - Welding can not be done at these depths and pressures with current technology and trying to develop that would take years.

3 - Casting offers its own set of problems and has no track record underwater. Attempting to perform it under a mile of water and over 2,000 psi of pressure present a lot of challenges.

Any container has to be (a) open to the ocean pressure, or (b) pressurized to resist the external pressure, or (c) strong enough to keep from collapsing. You will rarely find a container on a deep work ROV that is filled with air. All the electronic are contained in oil filled boxes with hydraulic bladders that allow them to be pressurized to the surrounding water pressure, etc.

Casting requires a lot of heat and so you have to figure out how to supply the heat and also insulate it from the surrounding water. Pretty much all standard insulations utilize air in their design and will collapse.

Take a 7" Styrofoam coffee cup down to 1,000 feet and you get back a 1.5" high, hard piece of white plastic - they make great souvenirs for customers and visitors.

You might be able to use the syntactic foam that is used for the large yellow flotation blocks you see on the ROVs as it won't collapse under 5,000 psi external pressure but it also is easily destroyed by heat.

4 - Mechanically sealed pipeline clamps, connectors and hot taps for deep water use are common and the designs for them are on the shelf. There are a few problems:

The existing tested and certified designs are pretty much in the 2,000 to 5,000 psi range and would have to be revised to accommodate much greater pressure, that would take several days. Then a prototype would have to be built which would probably take at least a month, the metal and materials used are not available at your local hardware store.

For safety the test unit has to be tested well about operating pressure, maybe to destruction, so it can't be reused.

After proof of the design an operating unit will have to be manufactured, another month.

Add to this all the time for approvals from BP, MMS, various engineering consultants, etc and then the time to transport and install I think it would arrive substantially later than a relief well.

The last sizable project I lead was a couple years ago and was very similar in many ways. It was the design, test and manufacture of a pipeline connection system for 18 inch pipeline to be used in 5,000 feet of water. The operating pressure was 2,000 psi. The entire onshore portion of the project took about 9 months including the testing which was 14 straight days at 12 hours a day with about 12 to 15 people plus the customers personnel.

It is very difficult to explain to the average person the size, complexity and cost of deep water oilfield operations.

realist -- The drill pipe isn't the only thing sticking up thru the BOP. There area number of casing stings sitting inside like layers of an onion. I'm having difficulty envisioning you thought: can't install anything below the BOP without removing it. What am I missing?

Hi ,

Here is a link to a diagram from BP showing the relief well plan . Can anyone give an estimate of how long this will realistically take and so estimate the total volume of oil leaked into the GOM ?

Thanks, Dartmoorman .


Better if we report oil spill quantity in barrels here rather than gallons. Gallons are more associated with gasoline and barrels are with crude oil.

Off-shore drilling shouldn't be allowed at first place, not just because of environmental damages it can result in but also because it takes the oil addication way too far. Right from the start those in decision making positions knew that oil is not infinite and not large enough to last for a thousand years or even 500 or 300 years and that more we use it more we get used to it and harder it would be to go back when its production decline. If we must fall we should fall from a lesser height.

On the same reasoning I am against coal mining in Pakistan. We have 200 billion tons of it, 20% of world's remaining and we have not started to take it out in significant amount. Better we never do because of the environmental damages and also because of moral damages, wealth usually results in greed, injustice and concentration of resources in a few hands.

About the efforts of containing the recent BP spill, I find it hard to believe that a major corporation like BP has no technological solution to it. I think public is fooled by aimless, futile and extraction-diverting attempts of non-solutions. In 21st century it shouldn't be a problem in controlling the spill technologically. I think BP is just using the least expensive methods to create an impression that something is done as part of its public relationing efforts but no real thing is being done.

I am not an expert in this but why not just suck the oil near the mouth of well at the sea-bed and take the oil along with water in ships. The well was capable of producing I think a few times more oil per day than the spill and there should be enough transport capacity made available through ships or pipes or whatever. When the spill happen ofcourse oil get mixed with sea water and its volume and mass increases but still there should be capacity to take it even when mixed with water. The mixed water can then be dumped in some desert, the oil remains on soil while the water get evaporated by sunlight and absorbed by sand at no cost. If water is sucked at appropriate position near the mouth of well at sea-bed the percentage of oil in the oil-water solution would be high because the oil didn't yet had chance to get mixed with water. Thats a layman solution and apologies for being blunt if its technically a stupid solution.

Better we never do because of the environmental damages and also because of moral damages, wealth usually results in greed, injustice and concentration of resources in a few hands.

Please tell me, you don't have all those "greed, injustice and concentration of resources in a few hands" in Pakistan now ;-)

Written by WisdomfromPakistan:
.. why not just suck the oil near the mouth of well at the sea-bed and take the oil along with water in ships.

This is essentially what BP is trying to do by putting the dome over the second leak. The dome is the interface between the leaking pipe and the riser to the ship on the surface. As to doing that at the mouth of the well, the BOP is in the way. The BOP or the kinks in the pipe may be restricting the pressure and flow of oil and methane. If the BOP is removed, then any method to capture the oil at the mouth would have to contend with the full pressure and flow. Their current attempt to place the dome seems easier.

Dmitry Orlov is calling it American Chernobyl.

That implies that usa today is at the same place soviet union was in 1986. That was 7 years after it invaded afghanistan. Its been 7 years since usa invaded iraq. Perhaps iraq is usa's afghanistan.

The Chernobyl Incident forever changed the nuclear industry in entire world. It showed the declining industrial competency of soviet union. It also showed the increasing placement of politically supported and technologically inferior personnel at key management positions. The BP incident can forever change the off-shore oil extraction industry in entire world. It is showing the declining industrial competency of usa, other signs of that includes rise of industries in emerging economies. It is also showing placement of politically supported and technologically inferior personnel at key management positions.

Soviet union lost economically when opec flooded markets with oil bringing down oil prices to 3 or 4 times below its maximum of 1970s. Usa is losing economically when china and other emerging economies are flooding markets with cheap industrial products.

In 1960s soviet union could covertly or overtly enter any country and either take it by war or install its puppet govt there. 1990s was that era for usa, shortly after the fall of soviet union.

In 1970s soviet union won some wars but started to decline and its people start to dislike its govt at large scale. That perhaps is 2000s, the first decade of this century for usa.

On 11th March 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev was made the General Secretary of Politburo which means defacto ruler of soviet union. He came with the idea of perestroika or "restructuring". 1 year, 1 month and 16 days after that happened the Chernobyl incident. Barak Hussain Obama was made the President of United States on 20th Jan 2009. He came with the idea of "change". 1 year and 3 months after that the BP incident happened.

Industralization of soviet union started in 1920s after the soviet revolution and gone in full swing in 1930s as it was unaffected by great depression being a communist economy. Usa was in continuous depression till early 1940s and its non-war industralization resumed only after the end of world war 2 in 1945. In rough terms 1950s of usa can be comparable to 1920s of ussr and 1960s of former to 1930s of latter as far as rate of growth, rate of technological advancement, social and cultural effects are considered. Sure its not a neat comparison as usa was already well industralization before the great depression of 1930s but to some degree an analogy can be made.

The Soviet Union collapsed a few years after their oil production peaked and this happened while they were bogged down in a hopeless war in Afghanistan.

U.S. oil production peaked in 1971 but as the reserve currency holder and a massive military force we served as guarantor to the world's oil supplies for almost forty years - functionally acting as a proxy for the oil producers. Now our military is exhausted by twin wars we can never finish, one of which has probably placed the world's last supergiant field out of reach due to above ground issues, and all the military force in the world can't get blood from a stone.

I think Orlov is right - this is America's Chernobyl.

I also think Orlov is right in his overarching thesis, but as usual I am troubled by the comparison of things so different. Chernobyl radiation pollution floated around in the air sickening and killing people wherever it went throughout heavily populated Europe.

The BP oil spill floats around on the ocean killing mostly fish and other animals. Only about 11 people on the oil rig have died so far as I know. And the half life of an oil spill is likely shorter than the half life of a radiation spill.

The former Soviet Union and the United States while both being unsustainable empires differ in how they were built and sustained. The Soviet Empire was one of overt coercion and manipulation.

While their is an element of that also in the American Empire as in Wars for Oil Security, the American Empire is sustained and financed through the hegemony of the dollar which has no obvious replacement at the moment.

With the Euro facing self destruction, the dollar's reserve status is rising if recent market action tells us anything.

I find it hard to imagine American Empire collapse even as its financial situation improves with a rising dollar. But if we do, we will drag down a lot of the rest of the world with us. So an American Empire collapse likely means a world collapse.

We saw what an American financial meltdown started in 2008.

Ultimately he is trying to predict and extrapolate when he only has one datapoint to use as a guide. While it may well be true that we are on a decline, I think he is overanalyzing - trying to draw conclusions that his data isn't good enough to support.

did you read orlov's article? what is the single data point you refer to?

The largest health impact from Chernobyl was in Belorus and Ukraine. Radioactive dust large enough to matter sedimented out quickly. A fraction of the dust was micron scale and was carried by the atypical winds over some of Europe and then to North America (over the pacific). But the radiation and particle concentration of this plume was extremely dilute and if we are going to engage in the cold war hysteria about "radioactive cloud menace" then you have to worry about the radioactive dust from coal power plants.

I would not want to eat any sea food from the Gulf of Mexico in the next few years unless it comes from south of Cuba. Oil is full of carcinogens no less significant than radiation damage.

Perhaps iraq is usa's afghanistan.

No, Afghanistan is USA's Afghanistan! :)

That was 7 years after it invaded afghanistan. Its been 7 years since usa invaded iraq

so glad to see the science of numerology represented on TOD

Written by WisdomfromPakistan:
The BP incident can forever change the off-shore oil extraction industry in entire world. It is showing the declining industrial competency of usa, other signs of that includes rise of industries in emerging economies. It is also showing placement of politically supported and technologically inferior personnel at key management positions.

Except British Petroleum is incorporated in the U.K. Dmitry Orlov is blaming yanks for the failings of Brits.

Are all or majority of operatives(engineers, scientists, technicians) related to incident and employed by BP from uk or from usa?

You could reinforce the area around the area you want to hot tap with a large thick pad. Thermit welding under water.Then weld an extension to the riser at 90 deg. Weld a flange to extension. The add gussets for strength. Install high-pressure valve. Hot tap. Pull tap out. Close valve. Now you’re set to perform your magic.

Rather than submarine welding, how about submarine casting. Cast a new case in place from the bottom of the BOP to the riser pipe. Implode after the case hardens to cease flow.

That's not likely to work. You are trying to cast something around a 5,000PSI plus stream of liquid. A mold for casting is static not dynamic. Also how to prevent hot metal from contacting explosive gases? I've never heard of casting metal underwater much less under 5000 ft of water pressure.

A hot tap might might work, but you have to cut thru several layers of pipe to get to the actual flow, that's going to be very hard to do, plus after you tap it you have to get a valve on it. Cutting off the riser and stabbing in another BOP, securing the BOP on and shutting it down seems to be the best idea, that's a process they do for on-shore blowouts. HOWEVER, they need to be sure the new BOP can handle the pressure. I don't think anyone actually knows what the flow pressure is at the wellhead, when you shut in a 5,000psi well the pressures can jump even higher so the concern would be can the BOP and other components handle the increase pressure. With the containment dome they don't have to worry so much about that pressure, just the flow rate and the hydrate formation.

Rocket engine nozzles are cooled by fuel to keep them from melting. I imagine they are under pressure. Actually the pressure and petroleum help. During the casting process, the riser and BOP would remain basically intact. Underwater casting at such depth occurs in nature every day. That is how islands are formed.

It just dawned on me. You could use a full encirclement saddle. Weld that to the riser. Then hot tap.

They need a very big concrete cork.
That dome was tiny.
Just bury the leak.

Just in case somebody missed seeing my question up above, as opposed to not knowing the answer.....

How long until the pipe gets sandblasted away? days, weeks, months, years? Any idea? Not a concern at this point? Huge concern?


Without real-time data on the structural integrity of the riser and BOP, any answer would be pure speculation.

Of interest on this subject may be some pictures Undertow had from gcaptain off a blowout in Turkmenistan. We were having this same conversation.

The lower pic clearly shows what sand-cut did to a damaged BOP over time. I don't know the pressures(depth) or lenght of time but there has been plenty of discussion about the upward revision in leak estimates and the possible role of sand-cut in this process.

If the real rate increase was known and plotted over time, then I think you could get closer to an educated guess. I'm thinking this can do nothing but add to everyone's sense of urgency.

A relevant hypothetical interview from 2007:

by Saif Lalani
May 31, 2007

Kaffee: Just one more question. If you plan to increase capacity to 5 million barrels per day and Exxon always executes on time then why arent you building any new refineries? Mr. Tillerson? You stopped building refineries because you knew there is not going to be enough oil to run through them didnt you? You saw your own discoveries and that of other companies, you saw that accelerating treadmill you were climbing just to stay in place and you knew we were in deep trouble. Fearing windfall taxes from hell and nationalization everywhere you spun this yarn that peak oil will arrive after 100 years. Mr. Tillerson are we at Peak oil?

Mr. Tillerson: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I'm entitled to them.

Mr. Tillerson: You want answers?

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Mr. Tillerson: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world of petroleum products and those products have to be produced in increasing amounts to keep our economy alive. What are you gonna do it with? Corn ethanol? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom as the acknowledgement of peak oil will itself have grave consequences for the world economy. You weep at the gas prices and you curse the Oil Companies. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that gas prices though higher than before are still cheap. And Exxons existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, produces 4 million barrels of oil a day for you NASCAR morons. You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me producing all I can. You need me producing all I can so that your American Idol obsessed culture can be spared the truth for as long as possible.

We use words like oil, rigs, refinery...we use these words as the backbone to the American life you have got used to living. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who consumes petroleum products 24/7 and uses those very products to protest against oil companies! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a shovel, dig yourself an oil well and build a refinery in your bathtub. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

Kaffee: Are we past peak oil?

Mr. Tillerson: I am doing the job you want me to!

Kaffee: Are we past peak oil?

Mr. Tillerson: You're goddamn right we are!

The funny and sad thing is, is that we aren't ready for the truth. At least most people who don't already read TOD, those of us who have been reading here and posting for a few years understand that the common folk just aren't ready to understand the issue. When we get a new reader who laments all the actions of the past and worries about the future we are seeing the tip of the iceburg, of those yet to understand.

If there were easy oil to still get they would be getting it, not going places like 5,000 feet below sea level then more into the ground. We'd be awash in easy oil still if it were as plentiful as they like to tell us it is on the "Radio" shows.

In the end we all need to try to use less of it as much as we can. I am just as guilty as the next person, as I am using a plastic and not wood computer to voice my opinion.

Oh well, looks like until we are forced to lessen our impact we won't.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

So then we need it rammed in our faces, even "unready", rubbed in there again and again and again until we are forced to admit to it.

Nonetheless, we need to broadcast that truth as much as possible, as some _will_ listen.

And I've posted, and will continue to post, about the reality of Peak oil and Peak fuels again and again on different forums when the various topics involved (like oil, energy, etc.) come up -- maybe 99% won't listen, but if even 1% do... and the more it is made visible, the less places there will be to "hide" from it.

But if you can't complain about the use of oil, then it seems you're hogtied and stuck to it! The message has to get out, and the words need to be followed with action.

Or is the "Kaffee" guy in the above supposed to be someone who thinks we can just keep going and going with more and more oil, thinks we should have as much oil as we want, etc. and not someone who sees the wrong in it?

Let's just hope the "unhandleable" truth is jammed in our faces so tight and hard and we experience the full brunt of what "not being able to handle it" actually means, and then are forced to change.

Question for Nate - why is "Didn't Work" in the title in quotes ?

It didn't work. Thanks in advance for clarifying.

I think the reason the statement is in quote marks is because it's a quote, something the BP spokesman actually said (rather than a euphemism, which you seem to imply).

Nate's use of the marks was quite correct.

Regards Chris

Another TinFoilHat special. How about payment to individuals and organizations for recovered crude. Pay $10 a gallon to individuals and $5 a gallon to companies. Water is separated and does not count. There is a basic inspection, survey, and id requirements to reduce fraud. Make BP write the checks. You would have all kind of folks figuring out how to get that oil up and BP gets to keep and sell the oil. What is that at $10 a gal? $440 a barrel? BP would get $70 for it. Sounds like a good deal for both, given the current circumstances. I wonder if the dispersants ruin any commercial value of recovered crude.

Here are some videos from the press conference (they discuss a number of things, not just the dome failure) and includes Q&A by reporters.


Going out on a limb here......nothing will work to contain the spill oil short of a relief well. This is like trying to fly a NASA mission from scratch in 90 days. Not going to happen, IMO.

here is an article advocating killing oil soaked birds instead of trying to save them

Actually NASA redid a complete mission in a few hours, on the fly with men in the sky. They did it because they had to. It was the Apollo 13 mission. My specialty hobby is the history of military and technology. This is a bad problem, but there are workable solutions. I still say cast in-place metal patch is the way to go. The reason I think the riser and BOP will be able to retain function during casting is the Saturn V nozzle. Engineers were having problems keeping the rocket nozzles on the first stage from melting. The solution was simple as it was genius. They just routed fuel through the nozzle and that kept it cool during liftoff. The rocket fuel was used as a coolant. They used a problem to fix a problem. That is why I think there is a solution.

5-9-10 4PM
Great but in the meantime....
Just open back end of semi-trailers- lower them vertically down into the water and let the air out then lower down to the oil well head- the oil just drifts up inside and displaces the water --- tried it and it does, of course, displace the water. and when full pull it up to the surface. The trailer will be lighter now because it's filled with oil. Styrofoam could be add to the upper end of the trailer to not only stabilize the container but also to add enough buoyancy to float the container to the surface when filled with oil or methane without the use of a heavy lifting device. When the top - front- is on the surface, pump out the oil/gas, and repeat. They should be able to calculate the filling progress by the less weight pulling on the cable. The average trailer weighs 10 tons ...half that weight could be equalized by adding about 3 or 4 feet of Styrofoam to the front of the trailer.
I believe that the crude oil if it is left floating on the surface for a while will lose it lighter oils to evaporation and then begin to sink again and become more trouble to clean up so time is crucial containing it.
Thank you for reading this.

Just posted this on yesterdays thread but can't remember if it has been discussed here - the notion that the damaged riser coming out of the BOP limits BP's options rather significantly:

Here is a picture of the top of the BOP stack:


(If anyone knows of a larger version how about a link?) You can see that the top of the stack has been tweaked and stressed with probably unknown consequences for the integrity of the BOP should BP decide to mess with it.

The following:

"Horizon37 says:

The choke and kill lines are out here is a side view, as you can see they are kinked shut. And the only other way into the stack is to remove the LMRP, which they can't do. Here is a link to the side view of the kinked and collapsed riser twitpic.com/1m8f4c as you can see it has the gimbal joint pulled over and there is not enough room to put on a saddle tap, even if one could be made to fit the egged riser."

was posted here:


Looks like the "box" is on hold - clearly its problems cannot be solved quickly so other tactics have come to the fore for the moment:

From the AP: "Crews are planning on parking the giant oil containment box farther away from the massive Gulf of Mexico leak, and they are going to offload equipment that could be used in a new attempt to stem the flow of oil.

A daily activity sheet reviewed by The Associated Press on Sunday says there are plans to unload equipment that would be used to try to seal the leak from the top. BP PLC spokesman Mark Proegler told the AP that no decisions have been made, but that the company was considering three options, one of which is called a top kill.

The technique uses a tube to shoot mud and concrete directly into the well's blowout preventer, a process could take two to three weeks.

Crews planned to secure the box about 1,600 feet from the massive leak site, much farther away from where it was placed Saturday after icelike crystals clogged the top when it was over the leak, according to a daily activity sheet reviewed by The Associated Press.

It could be at least a day before BP can make another attempt at putting a lid on a well spewing about 200,000 thousands of gallons of crude into the Gulf each day.

The company's first attempt to divert the oil was foiled, its mission now in serious doubt. Meanwhile, thick blobs of tar washed up on Alabama's white sand beaches, yet another sign the spill was spreading.

It had taken about two weeks to build the box and three days to cart the containment box 50 miles out and slowly lower it to the well a mile below the surface, but the frozen depths were just too much. BP officials were not giving up hopes that a containment box -- either the one brought there or another one being built -- could cover the well. But they said it could be Monday or later before they decide whether to make another attempt to capture the oil and funnel it to a tanker at the surface.

The box was moved hundreds of feet away while officials tried to figure out their next move."



xburb, thank you for the link to the thread with the nasty pictures of sand-cut, and the concerned comments about the subject.

Maybe "thank you" isn't exactly the right word- I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about it getting worse if the sand blast destroys things.

Prayers for a miracle.

Oh your welcome I had basically the same inquiry as yours.

Yes this is a terribly tough object lesson about what true future energy independence is likely to mean. To me pretty much JHK's 'other arrangements' and Heinbergs 'powerdown' are now at the doorstep. We can continue to ignore the warning signs about all sorts of unsustainable activity but limits are limits and we hit our head pretty hard on this one.

The stomach turning is something I caught too. Esp as I see how intractable and immediate this problem has become with the possibility of further acceleration of the flow and devastation to the ecosystem. I feel like an addict who is undergoing aversion therapy.

Yes best hopes for a miricle both at Macondo and in our energy choices.

AP has a short update:

"A BP PLC official is saying that the company is considering more options to stop the flow of oil spewing at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Chief operating officer Doug Suttles said Sunday that BP is thinking about putting a smaller containment dome over the massive leak after a four-story, 100-ton box became clogged with icelike crystals a day earlier.

BP believes a smaller dome would be less vulnerable because it would contain less water.

The company is also now debating whether it should cut the riser pipe undersea and use larger piping to bring the gushing oil to a drill ship on the surface.

Suttles says cutting the pipe is tough, and considered the less desirable option."

in the american lexicon... "it won't work"... is for sissies...

but... at risk of not "man-ing up"... do we miss... what "won't work"...

at SOME point... this leak will stop... and ONE possibility... is the whole resovoir will empty out into the gulf...

but... that is like sooooooooooo negative...

According to some on this site offshore wells die unforseeably quick.
e.g. The North Sea and now Thunderhorse.
This may be the first time a oil co. hopes for an underproducing well.

Suppose we had a canvas sleeve 20' in diameter, a mile long. Ponder the dynamics. First it would tend to drag out horizontally in the water current, but then oil and gas would give some buoyancy tending to pull it upright. Gas and chunks of ice would start rising. There is room for a lot of sea water in the sleeve too. Up top the sleeve could end in some buoyant skirts. As the ice and gas started rising in the sleeve it would accelerate causing the sleeve to close up behind it until the next chunk coming up opened it again. Would the process be unstable and break up the loose surrounding fabric? Or may I hope for a stable fountain?

About the ice: I had a chance to actually watch a video of the press briefing at which Suttles announced and described the setback in the coffer dam project. He described the problem as a buildup of crystals "that are like ice." The phrase, "that are/is like ice", was repeated. I have just realized why he said it so many times. I think he wanted to make sure that everybody understood that these crystals are NOT the kind of crystals that gather and focus cosmic spiritual energy.

There is no ice in the real spill, or, at least, he certainly avoided saying there is with some vigor.

As to the canvas sleeve, I think BP is giving serious consideration to switching to a larger diameter pipe to conduct the oil to the surface. I doubt that they will select canvas for the pipe material, but the larger diameter is likely a good idea. They already have experience deploying large diameter steel pipe. They may even have a spare set of the riser pipe the was lost in the accident. The destroyed riser was 22" OD. Is there any reason why you choose 20' ? I think people who intend to actually do something would like to use the smallest diameter that has a high probability of success. Twenty feet seems overkill to me, but I really don't have a reason.

Aren't the difficulties of a new pipe (steel or canvas, or whatever) that the oil is discharging from more than one point (including from the top of the BOP - very hard to tap into it seems), and such a response doesn't stop the flow at all, and three, there are no assurances that the eroding effect of the blowout flow won't create additional leaks over time - and much sooner than the relief wells can be completed.

I still haven't seen the info clearly stating whether any pumping was attempted to establish flow from the dome. I think it clear that gentle wafting upwards isn't going to do it. Perhaps if flow up the pipe or hose from the dome is begun then buoyancy might then perpetuate the flow PLAUSIBLE but I can't understand the procedure if ZERO pumping is used to initiate the beginning flow. A concrete truck can pump concrete loaded with gravel, after all.

I do have 10 years experience in the oil field, and I have actually seen pumper try to pump out a 20,000 ft. well with suction (you can only pull water some 28 feet with vacuum; oil or hydrocarbon mix maybe a bit higher.) You need probably real 60 psi differential MINIMUM. (By the way, we watched him suck fumes -water vapor - for maybe 25 minutes , me silently laughing at him until he reversed his procedure and blew the well out which he should have done in the first place but I digress.)

The pump needs to be at least 60 feet below the Gulf's surface to achieve the right head pressure, minimum.

Although I'm no expert on low-temperature hydrates. How hard are the damned things anyway?