The API Teleconference on the Oil Spill plus Some More Recent News Items

This post is really a combination of two things: (1) A report on an American Petroleum Institute (API) teleconference from a few days ago relating to the oil spill by Dave Summers (Heading Out) and (2) Some more recent news updates, (not supplied by API) by Gail Tverberg.

Since news keeps changing so rapidly, it seemed like including recent news items in the discussion as well might be helpful. As usual, there are also oil spill news items in Drumbeat.

A Few Recent News Items and other Updates (by Gail the Actuary)

In the Gulf of Mexico, what went wrong with the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig?

No one is sure what exactly happened on the night of April 20 to trigger this crisis. Critical pieces of evidence, including the immolated rig itself, sit under nearly a mile of water on the mud floor of the gulf.

What's certain is that more than one thing had to go wrong. Some failure of well control permitted a bubble of gas to surge to the surface, where it ignited and turned Deepwater Horizon into a Roman candle in the night. Moreover, the fail-safe mechanism known as the blowout preventer, a massive stack of valves and pistons that is the most critical hardware in the system, failed to choke the well.

(Good lay analysis article by Jeff Achenbach of the Washington Post talking about possible causes, based in part on blog discussions.)

Rig Owner Had Rising Tally of Accidents

The very day of the blast on the rig, executives were aboard celebrating its seven straight years free of serious accidents.

But a Wall Street Journal examination of Transocean's record paints a more equivocal picture.

Nearly three of every four incidents that triggered federal investigations into safety and other problems on deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico since 2008 have been on rigs operated by Transocean, according to an analysis of federal data. Transocean defended its safety record but didn't dispute the Journal's analysis.

There are indications Transocean's reputation suffered after it acquired GlobalSantaFe in 2007. Before the merger, Transocean routinely ranked near the top in surveys by Energy Point Research, which rates oil-service firms on customer satisfaction. Since the merger, Transocean's rankings have fallen to close to the bottom in many categories.

Gulf Coast States Seek Bolder Steps to Guard Shoreline

Gov. Bobby Jindal on Saturday said Louisiana had begun to pursue additional lines of defense, including asking the National Guard to drop four "tiger dams"—plastic tubes filled with a heavy mix of water and sand— to guard seven miles of coastline near Southwest Pass, the main commercial shipping entry to the Mississippi River.

Mr. Jindal said the state will ask the Coast Guard to approve a plan to dredge 43 miles of new islands connected to the Chandeleur Island chain to form a barrier against oil hitting the state's eastern coast. Other islands could be built to create a solid line of natural defense for Barataria Bay, near Grand Isle, La.

The first phase of the project will cost an estimated $200 million, which regional authorities will ask BP to pay, said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. He said the operation would take as many as six months to complete, but would provide some protection "immediately." Mr. Suttles said he had only seen a "basic outline" of the plan, and it was too early to say how BP will respond.

EPA has a web section related to the oil spill

Includes Frequently asked questions and answers

Statement on Dispersant Use in BP Oil Spill

API Teleconference Write-Up (by Heading Out)

On Thursday, May 6, API hosted a conference call to review the status of the Deepwater Horizon fire and oil spill. There were some 14 bloggers taking part in the call, which I could not attend since I was flying at the time. The transcript is now available, but I thought I would briefly review some of the points that came up, and give some links to some of the points that were brought up.

The experts that API provided included:

Richard Ranger, Upstream/Industry Operations, API
Holly Hopkins, Upstream/Industry Operations, API
Robin Rorick, Group Director, Marine & Security, API
Allison Nyholm, Oil Spill Response Veteran, API
John Felmy, Chief Economist, API
John Wagner, Upstream Consultant, API

Holly Hopkins began by noting the scale of the effort (that data can be updated by going to the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command site) which lists:

Total Vessels (including tugs and skimmers): 188

Boom deployed: 855,855 feet

Boom available: 831,553 feet

Oil and Water Mix - Recovered: Approximately 2.1 million gallons

Dispersant Used : 274,465 gallons

Dispersant available: 185,892 gallons

Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV): 4

Overall Personnel Responding: 4,520

One of the first questions asked related to the toxicity of the dispersant that BP is injecting over the spill from aircraft and underwater into the plume as a way of breaking the oil into smaller droplets to increase the rate of disintegration and dispersal. ABC News had reported that BP had stopped using the chemical, while awaiting toxicity tests. However Allison Nyholm noted that while the dispersant had been approved for aerial use, where it would not be concentrated but spread out and thus diluted, the use subsea was in a more concentrated form as it went into the plume. Since this was a new use, there were two trials of the technology, and that having completed these, the agencies and those involved had stopped the injections, while the data is reviewed.

The discussion noted that the end of the leaking pipe was sawn off, prior to a valve being attached to close the end leak of the three. (There is a Youtube video of this) .

Richard Ranger noted that the speed of the response to the disaster showed that there was a contingency plan in place, and the fact that there was such a relatively rapid response to what turned into a major disaster, showed that the plan existed and involved both industry and the federal government. Obviously, given the particular geometry that the box to plug the second leak had to fit, this had to be built after the leak became evident, but the fact that it could be built and fielded as fast as it was, speaks to the commitment to solve the problem.

Discussion switched to a letter from BP to its contractors and that had been reported in the Houston Chronicle. The letter said:

In light of the recent tragedy involving the Transocean Horizon Rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and as part of BP's overall commitment to safe and reliable operations, we are asking all our drilling contractors to review personal and process safety practices on their rigs.

Our mutual goal is to provide an environment that is safe for all personnel involved in offshore drilling and one that protects the environment. Since Blowout Preventers (BOPs) are an integral part of a safe and successful drilling and completion operation, we request that you specifically confirm that the subsea BOP and associated equipment used on your deepwater drilling rigs current intended to drill fro BP have been inspected and are routinely inspected, tested and maintained to industry standards and in compliance with applicable regulations.

Additionally, if the BOP or associated equipment has been modified from the original design in any way, please confirm: (1) that such modification were made in consultation with the original manufacturer; (2) used OEM parts; (3) pursuant to a formal management of change process; (4) and in compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.

The article notes that the BOP in question was over 10 years old. (I have heard that it was uprated from operating at 15,000 psi to 20,000 psi but have no confirmation of that).

Richard Ranger noted that the move to drilling in deeper water came about as the state of knowledge and equipment improved, based on experience in shallower waters, and that it is through this gain in knowledge that deeper drilling becomes practical.

And while the topic cannot be completely ruled out, the participants did point out the great difficulty that would be faced if anyone had tried to sabotage the rig in this way.

Recently there have been tests of a fire boom to burn some of the oil in place. There was a question on why it took so long to get this process started. Alysson Nyholm noted that it took a couple of days to get the permit, and then the proper equipment had to be mobilized. (Note that a fire boom is a relatively specialized boom, and there was only one available at the time.)

The "In-Situ Burn" plan produced by federal agencies in 1994 calls for responding to a major oil spill in the Gulf with the immediate use of fire booms.

But in order to conduct a successful test burn eight days after the Deepwater Horizon well began releasing massive amounts of oil into the Gulf, officials had to purchase one from a company in Illinois.

When federal officials called, Elastec/American Marine, shipped the only boom it had in stock, Jeff Bohleber, chief financial officer for Elastec, said today.

The extended use of this new tool can be effective in relatively calm water, but the waves at the site were over 4 ft high for a period, and this would wash the oil over the boom. But when the sea is calmer, then the tool can be more effective.

A single fire boom being towed by two boats can burn up to 1,800 barrels of oil an hour, Bohleber said. That translates to 75,000 gallons an hour, raising the possibility that the spill could have been contained at the accident scene 100 miles from shore.

The discussion moved on to the assessment of risk. The question was raised as to how many deep water wells have been drilled, and how many incidents there had been in contrast to how many oil tankers would be needed to replace that oil, and the risk of spills from their hulls. John Felmy responded that there are 500 discoveries in more than 1,000 ft of water (the current limit is 10,000 ft) and that at present some 30% of the offshore oil comes from the Gulf. And this is the worst incident in the past 40-years, so that it is somewhat uncommon.

However they did discuss the incident in the Timor Sea last year where in August there was a leak on a well under a mile and a half of water, leading to a rig fire. It took months to drill the relief well and stop the leak. While that investigation continues, Roger Ranger said that there is acceptance that the cause was, in part, a problem with the cement completion of the well.

There were additional discussions on the timing of future inquiries, and on the development of new technologies, recognizing that the industry itself is looking for ways to improve the safety and productivity of the offshore drilling rigs.

Hopefully I have captured the sense of the discussion, but the entire transcript is available for those interested.

GlobalSantaFe was a merger between Global Marine and StantaFe Drilling. Global Marine owned the Java Sea which sank in the South China Sea. It was the second worst offshore disaster behind Piper Alpha. Global marine was a Hughes Co. and also operated the Explorer.

New discussion member question -- what possible complicating effects will the oil slick have on other existing oil producing rigs in the GOM? How about commercial shipping? Comments and speculation welcome........

The only significant impact anticipated is the closing of the LOOP imported oil offloading facility. A large source of our imported oil. It was planned to happen soon but haven't heard the staus lately.

What's the risk? Fire?

Actually not sure. Might just be an insurance thing

Actually not sure. Might just be an insurance thing

apparently the ships require water to cool their engines. oil in the water may cause the engines to overheat.

not all that unlike volcanic ash accumulating on jet engines, if you think about it....

ship engine designers planned on having access to untainted water. jet engine designers, untainted air.

and what about the shore-based power plants that use ocean water as a coolant?

Thank You Rockman -- I had heard that existing production rigs may be threatened due to increased fire danger and other complications from the slick -- also that some commercial shipping may not be able to operate due to engine cooling systems dependent on seawater. Learning fast here..........

Global Marine was also involved in surveillance, and has a very interesting history.
Of course this is second hand, and could be not true.

now ain't that special. In keeping with the theory of not letting a catastrophe go to waste, Jendal wants approval to construct 43 miles of islands with via cutter head dredges. Surely, some sane organization will quickly point out the sensitive dynamics of coastal hydraulics in addition to the extreme adverse impacts on already suffering coastal ecological communities.

How common is it to use BOPs as old as this one? Are these things prone to corrosion or fatigue induced crack like most aircraft? A tightly regulated regimen is practiced by airlines to control corrosion and fatigue damage. This keeps relatively old aircraft safe to use. Are safety standards like the airlines follow even practical for oil rigs?

Lots of safety standards/protocols for offshore rigs Thomas. But just like with he airlines they only work if followed. A bit from my area but the age of the BOP isn't very relevant IMHO. As noted with our fleet of B-52 bombers: most of the planes are older than the flight crews. But they still get the job done. The BOP's are maintained/updated like all major pieces of equipment.

But from the bits and pieces I've seen so far the operating standards may not have as high as they should have been. It's been noted that drill pipe used in Deep Water drilling is much tougher than normally used. The BOP might have been more than adequately rated for standard DP but with a marginal rating for the tougher DP. No doubt this will be a major focus in the investigation.

Now THAT is interesting
From memory re the Amoco Lodgepole blowout back in 1980 which is 30 years ago now, I think one of the causes was as follows:
The target was a Nisku pinnacle reef containing over-pressured sour gas, which meant that the pipe had to be CO2 and H2S resistant.
The target was directly under a tributary of Lodgepole Creek, really vertically below, so the rig site had to be moved over and the hole deviated - but I forget by how much. So the drill pipe had to be suitable for deviated hole from the top of the Mississippian where they kicked off.
But in those days, the pipe steel was either acid gas resistant or for deviated hole but not both.
And then they had mud pump problems in the middle of the snow storm, and nobody went down below to find that the mus was actually coming back out the hole at them , etc., etc.

Interesting Harry...thanks. Not paying attention to mud returns is often the source of the original problem. If the unfolding story is correct, that was the big clue they missed on the BP blow out. It should come as a shock to many that I'm taking about as low a technology as you can get on a rig: the mud flows from the well into a tank. When you shut the mud pumps off you check to make sure the mud isn't still flowing into the tank. If it is you know something down hole is pushing the mud out of the well. That is never a good thing and tells you in no uncertain terms the well is coming in. If correct, they were offloading mud into the boat and weren't keeping track of the mud volume in the pits. The first clue was the boat captain telling the rig he was full but the rig knew they had not pumped enough mud to fill him up. The obvious conclusion - the well was pumping mud also.

By the time they knew the well was unloading mud it was too late. If this tales turns out to be true folks will be extremely upset to learn how easy it was to know there was trouble heading their way. It would have taken less than 60 seconds to shut the well in and prevent the explosion.

I can't repeat it enough: HUMAN ERROR is the cause for most blow outs...not mechanical failure.

Given what occurred is there any assurance that the BOP would have functioned correctly if it had been activated when (if) the mud flow was noticed? Is there a chance the original surge would have destroyed a partially closed BOP? Guessing more likely that there would have been a less violent outcome than what occurred.

Yes, human will always make mistakes. Good design should be able to take that consideration. Although the final report is not complete, it looks like a series of human errors and bad design:

1) human error setting concrete casing (unavoidable)
2) human error detecting mud back flow (avoidable with good training)
3) human error designing BOP, pressure rating (15,000 psi vs 30,000 psi - AVOIDABLE)
4) human error designing BOP, redundant rams (ram cannot cut drill pipe joints so you need two rams to avoid hitting a joint - AVOIDABLE)
5) human error at MMS - these problems were known in 2004 but the government failed to act
6) human error in spill control - no fire boom available to burn off oil
7) human error in mandate of MMS - supposed to maximize oil revenue and ensure safety, these mandates are at odds with each other.

This "accident" was inevitable. Fixing any one of these "human errors" would have avoided the problem as evidenced by the examples of Norway and Brazil. Looks like this British oil company doesn't really care about American ecosystems. We need the US govt to protect our shores. [comment deleted]

No, this accident was not "inevitable"
BP had a 7 year track record of safe operations in the GOM
It does not necessarily mean that an accident was inevitably going to happen on Year 7 Day 1
Think of all the times you've truly dodged the bullet and not had an accident.
In my case the last time was last Tuesday night

I didn't say it would happen this year. I meant to say, that with so many human errors stacking up (see list) above, the probability of an accident over time was (and remains) very high. I think seven years without an accident was quite amazing given the level of carelessness.

It would have taken less than 60 seconds to shut the well in and prevent the explosion.

How is a well shut that quickly? By reversing the mud flow? or some other means?

If somebody had noticed and reacted to the problem, would the well have been able to be used for production later? or is it likely to have already been too severely damaged?


"How is a well shut that quickly? By reversing the mud flow? or some other means?"

By activating the BOP valve. Rockman gave the opinion that the well would have to be abandoned because the failure of the cement job or plugs made it unsafe for further use. They would have plugged it and tried again.

However, as the BOP was activated at some point and failed to shut the well who is to say that trying to shut it down sooner in the sequence would have been successful?

Actually they would not have gone to the BOP at that point. I know this will be painful for everyone to hear but you simply shut the valves that allow the drilling mud to flow back up the drill pipe and annulus (there area between the DP and the casing). less than 60 seconds. This might not have stopped the blow out from coming up into the riser though. But if the driller didn't lose his nerve he could have made sure there wasn't a collar adjacent to the shear rams. and then could have functioned the BOP.

I've been on many wells that tried to come in and where "put on choke" to keep them from blowing out. In minor cases you "circulate out the kick": slowly let the pressure off just like opening a bottle of warm soda very slowly. A bad kick you pump down a pill of very heavy mud. Second to worse case you send the oil/NG to a flare boom, ignite it and let it burn off while you kill the well. The drill crew has a "kill sheet" that outlines the specific procedure for handling a kick. And they actually practice with the kill sheet. There are computer simulators they use to train with and guys get certifications in "kill school". But unfortunately you have to know the well is coming in before you can shift into a kill mode. And that's the truly sickening aspect of the accident if the reports are true: they weren't using the simplest technology to check for flow back. Trust me: it's very painful for me to point this out but it would have been as obvious as turning off a faucet when you see the tub about to over flow. They might still have had to function the BOP's. They might have lost the hole. But those 11 hands would not have died and the GOM wouldn't be covered in oil right now. For those of us who have been there it really makes you want to cry.

Rockman, thank you for all of your insights; I'd be much more confused without them!

thanks from me also... reading this site is like taking a cram course on DW drilling concepts. I alternate between horror at the implications of the blowout and leak and fascination with the complex technology involved, both overlaying a despair over what likely lies ahead in the coming decades.

Thanks for correcting my ignorance RM. Clarification: if the crew was in the process of changing mud for seawater would that have worked? (shutting the mud valve) The account of the people in the fishing boat said the noise of the gas blow was Extremely! Loud! - huge jet engine - is it always possible to contain the gas with that method? Is it the kind of situation like a crane with a load - if it starts to drop you can apply the cable brake and stop the fall... just as the fall starts, but in a second or two the accelerating load will go down no matter what you do with the brake? As in, if you detect the well starting to come in you can kill it with mud, but if the gas gets too far up the pipe the pressure created by expansion will become too great to control?

IP -- If the story is correct they were displacing the mud in the casing and the riser with salt water. That would have taken the back pressure off the cement at the bottom of the well causing it to fail and the oil/NG to flow upwards. The question we may never be able to answer is when during the displacing process did the well begin to kick. Had the well just started to unload and they took note of it they might have been able to shut the drill pipe flow off and closed the rams designed to just block the annulus and not cut the drill pipe. The well would have been completely shut in at that point. The kill sheet would have outlined how to do this as well as the process for pumping heavy mud down the drill pipe to kill the flow. This is a slow and somewhat dangerous process but not uncommon offshore.

Had they not seen the well coming in until the rise was almost full of high pressure oil/NG it would have been much more difficult. In addition to an all out BOP function including hitting the shear rams to cut the DP there is also an emergency de-latch procedure with the riser. Had they de-latched and the BOP still failed it would have at least allowed them to stop that route for oil/NG to the rig floor. The saddest part is that when the NG breached the drill floor and the hands knew what was happening they knew they were almost certainly dead. All you can do is hope is that those moments of terror were very short lived. Such a thought occupied me for much of last summer after one of my best friends of 30 years and his wife were killed in that Air France crash over the Atlantic. The only comfort I could force upon myself is that they died as soon as the airframe disintegrated and weren't conscious during that fall from 35,000'.

Only once in my 35 years have I ever been in such a situation. Actually just thought I was. On a poison gas well in Alabama a minor accident caused the H2S alarm to sound while I was asleep. Just a false alarm. Running out the trailer door to the emergency O2 tanks I went off the un-railed landing and hit the ground so hard it knocked the breath out of me. So I'm laying on the ground not being able to catch my breath (the first and last sign of H2S death) and listening to the poison gas alarm. Needless to say that shook my nerves pretty good. And then had to sit on the well for another 3 weeks while we finished drilling.

The funny/sad part of that story: my friend, Mike, who died in the Air France crash, was with me on that well and knew it was a false alarm. He stood over me and laughed so hard he almost puked (his own words). I laughed too but only much later. The ironic part of the story: Mike was an ops geologist (like myself) working for Devon in Deep Water Brazil. We had just swapped emails the day before regarding one of his wells down there. Over 30 years in oil patch ops and he gets it flying off to vacation in France.

Helluva story RM - my sympathies for your friend. I read they are still searching for the black boxes from that flight down in the deep black depths...

No experience in oil - worked as a wildland firefighter and as a railroad mechanic for a while though and saw how dangerous inattention, carelessness, and yes, plain old stupidity can be. And then sometimes luck is with you and sometimes against you...

Bad luck is one thing, but seeing someone nearly die because of someone else's stupidity makes the blood boil. Thankfully I never witnessed fatalities, but they did occur of course.

From the fisherman's account he said "Around 10pm the entire center of the rig started rushing water downwards over all the pipes... I've never seen such an event take place. I looked at my friend who previously worked offshore, and he said that's BOP something another and the rig took a 'kick!' I thought the rig was sinking and that was their way of bilging... But nope! Methane gas began BLOWING out of the West side of it and the noise of the thrust was louder than anything I've ever herd (except for a sonic boom I herd once, and what I'm about to tell you next) My eyes began to burn and that friend I was telling you about earlier began to SCREAM, "GO, GO, GO, GO, GOOOOO!" I positioned my compass North and put the gears in WOT! At approximately 100 yds from the rig it Exploded! Puts a new meaning to explosion. We hit the deck and continued North @ WOT, Blind because the moon was at quarter crescent and I had no radar."

So it sounds like seawater, not mud coming back, well, from my state of ignorance I can't interpret this in context effectively.

I noted the same thing IP - Water in the derrick. Mud would not have looked anything like water. Don't know the details of how they were displacing the riser and casing. Easy to guess it was the salt water they were pumping down that the fisherman saw. I don't know the exact configuration but there are various conduits that run down the inside of the riser. They would have been pumping down one of those conduits. Just a guess but I would think most of the mud had been displaced by that point.

Rockman, I'm new on this forum and according to my early but exhaustive readings, you and Shelburn have been two of the most knowledgeable and forthright posters.

Have you had a chance to review this article from the Times Picayune?

It includes transcripts and witness accounts of the final moments before and first moments after the explosion. It seems to offer several insights into why they replaced the drilling mud with seawater.

It makes for some difficult reading.

saburai -- Yes...quit familiar. I was a very minor contributor. It's seems we now have a very clear picture now of what went wrong.

Essentially by displacing the mud with sea water they took the back pressure off the reservoir. In practice the cement job would have held back the flow. But that requires two aspects. First, a good cement job; second, waiting a sufficient amount of time for the cement to harden. Both aspects will be reviewed in depth during the investigation. Likewise, tests that should have been done to prove the cmt job was holding will receive very close attention.

The article does a good job of highlighting a point I've tried to focus on: taking a "kick" while drilling is not just a possibility but it's assumed it will happen. The entire operation is geared to such an event while drilling. The equipment and training are focused on this LIKELYHOOD. And, most sadly, there are standard procedures that will alert the crew of a kick coming. Unfortunately during the phase they were in there was little expectation of taking a kick. It would seem a variety of monitoring systems were not functioning at that time which would have alerted them to the pending danger.

Why displace the mud with sea water? Required by regulations. But that doesn't mean they could not have followed a much safer protocol that would have prevented the accident. That extra effort might have only cost a few hundred thousand $'s. And that was the basis for the argument between the engineers IMHO.

Was just thinking that as the mud was replaced by seawater, and the oil in the well was displaced by gas, and then the seawater was replaced by gas, the weight of the fluid column in the well had changed significantly.

Instead of 18,000 ft of mud, they may have had 18,000 ft of gas as the water showered down. That probably channeled almost the full static reservoir pressure to the rig during the initial blow-out.

Once all the gas blew out and oil filed the pipe, and static pressure gave way to whatever the dynamic curve yields at that flow rate, the pressure was likely much less - maybe a few thousand psi rather than more like 20,000. The surface pressure would probably have been reasonably easy to deal with at that point, if not for the fire. Even if the rig had been a loss, if it hadn't sunk we'd have less flow (with an additional few thousand psi of oil weight in the pipe, and a much smaller problem now.

Seems like maybe a BOP needs an automatic flow-rate and pressure detector, such that an annular could close automatically if a well started coming in. Leaving flow detection to humans seems to be an intrinsic process weakness.


IP -- I had not thought about my "near death" experience on the poison gas well for many years until I was remembering Mike. I just remembered another part of the story that may drive home the point again about the role of human error. Later that morning Mike really enjoyed telling the drilling supervisor about my accident. The company man also got a big laugh out of it. And yes, we do have a dark sense of humor about such things...helps hide our anxieties. But the point: the company man told me about a problem with the emergency boxes. Two of them sit on opposite sides of the rig about 50 yards away. They contain O2 tanks in case of an H2S leak and a wind sock next to it. That way you know to run to the wind sock pointing at you...the upwind direction. But the problem: the tanks were either empty or nearly so. Why? Because when some of the drill crew would show up for their tower with a hangover they would suck on the O2 to feel better. Of course I ask why he didn't refill them. Because they would keep draining them and he didn't want to keep paying for refills. But everyday his report noted all safety equipment was functional. So why go thru the pretense? Required by safety code.

As said been for: you can't fix stupid.

In the operations I am used to, either violation (using the O2 tanks to treat a hangover, or reporting empty tanks as full) would get them instantaneously fired. Bottom line is that you don't mess with the safety equipment, and you don't break the safety rules, if you want to continue working for the company.

You have to fire a few people before it becomes clear in people's minds, but eventually they catch on.

And as you probably know Rocky you can only fire them or shut down ops if the big boss lets you. I've been run off/walked off more than one job for being a sqeaky wheel. You may have also.

BTW -- On a little 4,000' hole just finished I ran off a total of 7 hands out of the two 4-man towers. The last problem was a ruptured kelly hose (poorly maintained) above my company man's head. He and the crew had to jump off a 9' DF but no one was hurt. My last driller turned out to be the best hand I've had out there. Thankgoodness he had just been released from state prison just 5 days before working for me. True.

Human error is the cause for many things. That is why procedures and rules are put in place. As an accountant for a publicly funded organization I had to submit to audits on a regular basis. The audits also looked at what procedures I was using to prevent human error (and stealing) from occurring. I understood that doing this was necessary to keep honest people honest and to find dishonest people. I was entrusted with the assets of the organization and I was glad for the audits and their suggestions for stronger controls.

I understand from your informative posts that this is a very very tricky process and given the possible ramifications of even one human error the procedures should have been checked and double checked. Subcontractors should all have an excellent record at safety. Halliburton for example does not have a pristine record of safety (may have been a factor in the Timor Sea blowout and certainly didn't care enough about our servicemen in Iraq to wire things correctly resulting in the electrocution of at least a dozen soldiers).

Strong procedures and controls won't prevent all accidents but they will reduce them. However they cost money eh? I suspect the basic human error was in the greed of the companies involved that caused them to be lax.

If controls and procedures couldn't prevent such a spill in the end then the drilling should never have been done.

While the MMS assessed the environmental impact of drilling in the central and western Gulf of Mexico on three occasions in 2007 -- including a specific evaluation of BP's Lease 206 at Deepwater Horizon -- in each case it played down the prospect of a major blowout.

In one assessment, the agency estimated that "a large oil spill" from a platform would not exceed a total of 1,500 barrels and that a "deepwater spill," occurring "offshore of the inner Continental shelf," would not reach the coast. In another assessment, it defined the most likely large spill as totaling 4,600 barrels and forecast that it would largely dissipate within 10 days and would be unlikely to make landfall.

"They never did an analysis that took into account what turns out to be the very real possibility of a serious spill," said Holly Doremus, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley who has reviewed the documents.

In other words the public was not informed how bad this could be. It was not informed of all they ways things could go wrong by officials - politicians and oil industry officials. At the very least an honest assessment of risk should be available to the country before a decision is made to go ahead with something. Perhaps the public would still want to Drill Baby Drill because of their oil addiction. But how do we know that if they have been fed lies and deceptions. If the American Public knew not only the risk but also how few extra years of the Oil Age would be gained, maybe they would have decided, like they did in WWII to cut their lifestyle back for the sake of leaving a livable world. They give up their sons and daughters to die in Iraq and Afganistan because of lies. Perhaps they would give up a lifestyle for the truth.

Rockman Thanks for the insights. Re:

"The first clue was the boat captain telling the rig he was full but the rig knew they had not pumped enough mud to fill him up."

What ways are used to measure the mud flow?
This description sounds like when the tank filled up.

Any use of measuring the height of mud in the tank?
eg. ultrasonic level sensing?

Any use of flow meters to continuously measure the flow and mud density in the pipe?
e.g., coriolis meters?

Or have coriolis meters not been adapted to these high strength pipes, high pressures and large flows and slurry densities?

E.g. Micro Motion offers:

. . .a range of larger-size Coriolis meters, including six-, eight- and 10-inch meters, within our ELITE High Capacity (HC) product line. These meters have custody-transfer approvals, pressure ratings up to 1,480 PSI (102 bar), and temperature ratings up to 662 F (350 C).

Presumably both cumulative flow and mud density would provide diagnostics for the well "coming in".

david -- Various tanks in the mud system: reserve, trip, etc. And there are automatic counters that give the volume in bbls. But as mud moves back and forth the counters have to be re-zeroed. One way to catch a flow back is to have the returns go into the trip tank while you keep it isolated from the other tanks. I now this will sound unbelievable but my guess was all the tanks were in communication with each other as they were dumping all the mud out of the system. If they had just isolated the mud returns to the trip tank and watched that level they would have known the well was coming in. The only explanantion why they didn't worry about this safe guard was the assumption the bottom cement plug was holding.

As I've said before, if this is how it came down, folks can only shake their heads and ask "Why?". And from past experiences there will never be a satisfactory asnwer.

Was mud being removed only from the riser, or from both the riser and the well hole?

If they were removing it from the well hole also, I'd think they would wnat to be VERY sure of the cement plug first.

The Lodgepole Blowout was really caused by a series of equipment failures rather than one single failure. The real problem was that they were drilling in a blizzard and the temperature was about 30 below zero (C or F, I forget which). A lot of the equipment was frozen and not working like it should. Then they hit a severely overpressure formation and couldn't get things under control again. The pressures in those Deep Basin wells could be absolutely astronomical. The blowout itself was kind of a slow-motion series of events. It was another classic case of Normal Accident Theory in action in the real world.

I had a discussion with my brother, who was engineer-on-call when the thing blew. The BOP didn't have shear rams on it like an offshore well would, and I suggested that shear rams might have helped. He disagreed and said that if the shear rams didn't work, it could make the problems much more serious than it otherwise would be.

This Gulf of Mexico blowout may be a case where the shear rams are causing more problems than they would have had if the thing had just blown the pipe out into the ocean and left a completely clear wellhead. If they don't work, they really don't work.

>The real problem was that they were drilling in a blizzard and the temperature was about 30 below zero (C or F, I forget which).

The difference between -30C and -30F is about 2 degrees. It doesn't make any difference.

>The real problem was that they were drilling in a blizzard and the temperature was about 30 below zero (C or F, I forget which).

The difference between -30C and -30F is about 2 degrees. It doesn't make any difference.

I am not a metallurgist or a design engineer. But under normal circumstances, I don't think that a BOP is exposed to its maximum working pressure more than once a day, and that's a conservative (high) estimate. In ten years, that would be 3650 cycles. As far as I know, that's far, far below the values that are normally considered when talking about fatigue in steel components.

More about fatigue: Steel has a "fatigue" strength that is less than its ultimate tensile strength or its yield strength. For example, consider a steel that will fail when a stress of 100,000 psi is applied to it. It might last 50,000 cycles under an applied stress of 40,000 psi. If the stress is less than some minimum value, maybe 25,000 psi, the part might last forever, or at least it won't fail due to stress. That value is the "fatigue limit".

Alumimum on the other hand doesn't have a fatigue limit. Eventually, any piece of alumimum that is loaded will receive enough cycles to fail. That's one reason why fatigue and inspection against cracks is so important in airplanes.

Back to steel: pressure-containing or load-bearing parts are frequently inspected using X-rays, ultrasonic, magnetic particle, or other techniques to detect cracks. I have no inside information about this but in my experience, I would imagine that this BOP stack had been examined using this or a similar technique.

It's possible that one of the BOP's failed. But we don't know that it did. It might have been the closing system, which is separate from the BOP pressure and load components. We don't know whether the BOP control system on the bottom received a closing signal and was able to send hydraulic pressure to the BOP rams. And we don't yet know whether the rig sent a closing signal sent to the BOP, either manually or automatically in case of a malfunction that would be treated as a disaster.

Wondering about the mud used during the drilling. Was this
amphoteric polymer? 16-17 lb/? What is approx. cost per barrel.

Haven't seen the details Go but it probably was oil-based mud (OBM). I think I saw one report of 17.5 ppg but not sure if that's been confirmed. But sounds about right for the depth of the well. OBM can run $120+ per bbl.

Ok so 3 out of 4 Federal investigations into safety and other problems in the GOM were about equipment operated by Transocean. But for this figure to be of any use we need know what percent of the equipment in the GOM is operated by Transocean. There is a big difference in that 3 out of 4 number if they run 10% of the equipemnt or 90% of the equipment in the GOM. Anyone happen to know what percent of the GOM Transocean?

Typcial politicaion proposes a "solution" dredging to creat new islands without one thought to how this might affect the current islands. As has been pointed out many times this is a farily delicate system, without some complex modeling you may end up completely destroying and area that may have just been a little contaminated i.e. 50% of the nesting birds and eggs were destroyed from the oil vs. 100% of a particular nesting island destroyed.

I gotta keep repeating this; petroleum just doesn't wipe out ecosystems. This light sweet is probably fairly toxic as it comes out, but the most toxic fractions of petroleum are volatile and quickly evaporate. My childhood stomping ground is an area that's well known for it's natural seeps, and I'm just so used to seeing petroleum on the beach, that this accident doesn't alarm me. A walk on some So Cal beaches almost guarantees some petroleum on your feet, and it's always been like that. I've been catching some hell for making comments like this, but I stand by it. If a year from now, the local ecosystems are wiped out, I'll eat my shorts.

In the short term, this petroleum could cause some death of sea life, but in the long term, I don't think it's going to be a problem. Here's an image of one of the many seeps in the area;


A small dose of cyanide in cassava or fruit pits has little impact on your health. A larger dose kills you !

You have zero apparent understanding of the Louisiana marsh lands and ecology and think that they are just like California.

And you have zero understanding of dose rates.

Your posts are a waste, as your chosen name implies. So please just go away, you contribute nothing.

And API 35 is not light oil.

Another error of many. And despite dozens or hundreds of square miles of marsh that may well disappear into the sea due to BP#, you do not have the character to fulfill your promise to "eat your shorts".

# A storm surge of oil into the marsh (and quite possibly without) will kill the grass and cypress trees. Once dead, a few months later the waves will consume the marsh and replace it with open sea.

BTW, your ignorance extends to many other of your statements.


"A small dose of cyanide in cassava or fruit pits has little impact on your health. A larger dose kills you !"

Not really a valid argument, but I've noticed from our other exchange, you don't know what one is.

"You have zero apparent understanding of the Louisiana marsh lands and ecology and think that they are just like California"

We went over that, too, and you failed to make an argument for how petroleum would somehow be more toxic in the GOM than it is in California. You also made a lot of ignorant comments, like California being more sterile than the GOM, or insinuating that California has no wetlands. Dude, there are wetlands within a few miles of the Coal Oil Point seeps.

"A storm surge of oil into the marsh (and quite possibly without) will kill the grass and cypress trees. Once dead, a few months later the waves will consume the marsh and replace it with open sea."

Is that conjecture on your part, or do you for once have a citation for that actually happening due to an oil spill in the past?

Some sources would call API 35 light, but again, you're just being pedantic and not presenting any valid argument. Mostly just ad hominem.

API 35 is not light oil

It depends on where it is and who is defining it. NYMEX defines light oil as having an API gravity greater than 37° API for US oil and > 32° API for non-US oil. Canada defines light oil as > 30.1° API. Mexico defines it as > 27° API.

It's lighter than most oil being produced these days.

yup, everything is going to be fine. Check out this recent report smartass.

Thanks for sending me a link that has not a thing to do with oil spills.

smartass, the article was sent in an attempt to alert you to the fact that you need to learn how to rationally reframe. Small amounts of almost anything can be assimilated by the environment. However, the cumulative impact of many sources of pollution are indeed, IMO, taking sever toll on our environment. The fact that we do not recognize the tremendous free services provided by our natural world is one of mankind's biggest blind-spots. I will say no more.

I agree that we are ruining our environment, and that we're continuing to do so at an accelerated rate, but this oil spill is the least of our worries. There are much bigger fish to fry, and that's not to say that oil spills are to be taken lightly. Everything should be done to make sure an accident like this never happens again.

Crude oil is not really very toxic, and as long as you don't eat any of it, you will be okay. If it washes up on the beach in small quantities, Mother Nature will deal with it in the fashion you have observed in the natural oil seeps of California. Anywhere you find natural oil seeps, you will find bacteria that makes a living by eating crude oil.

I'm not sure that the dispersants and detergents they use to clean up the beaches and make them look nice and clean don't do more damage than the oil itself.

It's not so much bacteria eating it, as it simply degrading to asphalt, as has already been seen in the first videos of landfall of petroleum from the spill. It was on CNN, and it was already fairly firm tar balls, although maybe that had something to do with the dispersants. Even the petroleum in California is often not that degraded when it washes up on shore, and of course it's quite thin right where it seeps out. The water is quite a bit colder there, and perhaps that has something to do with it, as well. I can link to imaging of several shoreline seeps between Ventura and Santa Barbara. It's my childhood stomping grounds. There are a couple of fairly prolific shoreline seeps in the following linked imaging. They look like little lava flows, and high tide laps at them. I fish right there, no biggie.

Nice picture.
More seep info at:

I notice it's basically tar, with a weathered crust, so unless you're a heavy critter like a human and stomping on it on the beach, it wouldn't stick to you. And it is highly localized.

Something a bird/otter/fish/... could walk/swim/... away from.

The birds already found dead and oiled didn't get away from the oil in Louisiana.
The sea grass and larvae that depend on high oxygen transport in shallow water to offset the diminished oxygen holding capacity of warm water are likewise not amused to be suffocated by oil.
There is 2 to 3 months left before the relief well is done - the wind has been cooperative to date, but hurricane season opens in 3 weeks.
btw - an above average season is expected:

There's a big difference between crude oil and tar balls.

The gift that keeps on giving - a 2003 article on how the 1989 spill still affects the ecosystem
Long-Term Ecosystem Response to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

One of my favorite websites, and it comes in several sets, the first I believe from 1968. It's from the website that Barbara Streisand sued, and where the term "Streisand effect" was coined.

What you can't see is where it's seeping at any given time. It's always seeping, and it's constantly changing. Yes, it's a formation of weathered asphalt, but it's still seeping petroleum in several places. There is fresh petroleum coming out of it in various places, and it's merely one of hundreds of seeps in large region of seeps. Keep going south, and you'll see several seeps. When the tide comes up, it'll wash some of it away. It actually degrades very quickly in the summer sun.

Yes, animals will be killed by this petroleum leak, but my point is that this will not leave a lasting legacy of toxicity. The petroleum will degrade to asphalt, and not permanently poison the environment.

"There's a big difference between crude oil and tar balls."

As the first video of petroleum washing up on land shows, the oil from the disaster was already degraded to tar balls. I suspect the hotter the temps, the faster it will degrade, so even better that it's getting warmer.

The link you sent me to an abstract of a study does nothing to disprove any of my comments. I've read studies of the Valdez disaster, and there's no indisputable evidence that petroleum is responsible for some of the claimed effects, such as a decline of the local Pacific herring catch. In fact, for three years after the disaster, the Pacific herring catch was up. The Pacific herring catch is also down in regions north of Prince William Sound in areas the were not fouled by the spill.

Pacific herring spawn on vegetation like kelp, BTW.

Why NO ACCOUNTABILITY? Why is no one, NO ONE going to be facing prosecution? Why not call for a Grand Jury Investigation? Why not put out a petition calling for some form of accountability? NO accountability insures this will happen again. Why not demand accountability? Everyone toiling at the bottom knows how it works.

"Between January and March of 2001, incoming Vice President Dick Cheney conducted secret meetings with over 100 oil industry officials allowing them to draft a wish list of industry demands to be implemented by the oil friendly administration. Cheney also used that time to re-staff the Minerals Management Service with oil industry toadies including a cabal of his Wyoming carbon cronies. In 2003, newly reconstituted Minerals Management Service genuflected to the oil cartel by recommending the removal of the proposed requirement for acoustic switches. The Minerals Management Service's 2003 study concluded that "acoustic systems are not recommended because they tend to be very costly."

The acoustic trigger costs about $500,000.

It's not just about what can be done now, but what should have been done to PREVENT this and WHO the criminals are and HOW we can prosecute them.

Perhaps a consumer boycott of oil companies that get their oil from offshore sources would be more effective? Bad PR for them and hit them in the pocket.

Of course, that would mean boycotting all oil companies.

Last year's budget had a 1/8th severance tax proposal for offshore production.

The offshore industry (major oil companies) get off easy with regard to taxes, no state (severance) tax or local (Ad Valorem Tax).
In addition to these taxes which can amount to 1/8th, independents now operate with 1/4 royalties (versus the 1/8th Federal Royalty) on onshore private lands.

The 1/8th offshore severance tax would result in an additional 5-6 billion dollars a year in revenue which could be used for alternative energy build-out.

It took the Brits 237 years, but they had their Texas Tea Party.


FF -- All OCS tracks pay a 1/6 royalty except for those Deep Water tracks given a break some years ago to encourage development. Check the MMS web site. They break the royalty stream down in detail. Last time I looked the feds took in about $10 billion/year for their royalty payments. Not sure but I think those monies go into the general fund. In addition the feds also collect the winning bids from the lease sale. The OCS GOM sale last month brought in a little over $900 million if I recall correctly.

Long ago (1964) there was an agreement that off-shore revenue would be directed to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LAWCON). A few years ago I asked a federal staffer where off-shore money is spent these days (as LAWCON is never fully funded) and he indicated that our adventures in the Middle East were very expensive.

>The offshore industry (major oil companies) get off easy with regard to taxes, no state (severance) tax or local (Ad Valorem Tax).

This is part of the reason offshore drilling is so popular with the natives in whose backyard they want to drill in. We get zero dollars from the venture but 100% of the mess when they screw up.

robert -- see post above. Not that it should make anyone feel better.

The post above says the feds get $10 billion dollars in play money. Is that before or after cocaine and prostitutes for MMS employees? Anyways the locals get jack right? You didn't indicate they don't.

The locals get a multi-billion $ industry and the jobs/taxes that go along with it. They have also received billions of $'s in royalty/taxes from offshore production within the 3 mile limit. And, as just seen, they also get dead on occasion.

And no, I didn't indicate that in my answer. I just figured most folks here were aware of Google. My mistake...I apologize.

The post above says the feds get $10 billion dollars in play money. Is that before or after cocaine and prostitutes for MMS employees? Anyways the locals get jack right? You didn't indicate they don't.

I would love to see a thread dedicated to brainstorming ways that could hold these people, corporations, government bureaucracies accountable. This mega-disaster was far easier to prevent than to repair now. Indeed, all efforts and talk about 'fixes' may be nothing more than PR for the BP. They love to keep you focused on solving the catastrophe of their hush-hush criminal profiteering and avoidance of payment for known technology to PREVENT this catastrophe. Where's the outrage?

We seem to keep returning to this glandular reaction, and, as ever, to no avail. I think you answered your own question correctly, in that oil and finished fuels are substantially fungible. To get beyond ridiculous ineffectual chest-thumping, you'd indeed have to boycott 'em all. Fine and dandy - let the boycott begin with the shrimpers and fishers who are the most directly aggrieved potential boycotters. Oh, wait a minute, they wouldn't be shrimping and fishing in the first place, not without abundant inexpensive diesel for their massively guzzling boats. Oops.

The absence of an acoustical regulator -- a remotely triggered dead man's switch that might have closed off BP's gushing pipe at its sea floor wellhead when the manual switch failed (the fire and explosion on the drilling platform may have prevented the dying workers from pushing the button) -- was directly attributable to industry pandering by the Bush team. Acoustic switches are required by law for all offshore rigs off Brazil and in Norway's North Sea operations. BP uses the devise voluntarily in Britain's North Sea and elsewhere in the world as do other big players like Holland's Shell and France's Total. In 2000, the Minerals Management Service while weighing a comprehensive rulemaking for drilling safety, deemed the acoustic mechanism "essential" and proposed to mandate the mechanism on all gulf rigs.

The absence of an acoustical regulator -- a remotely triggered dead man's switch that might have closed off BP's gushing pipe at its sea floor wellhead when the manual switch failed (the fire and explosion on the drilling platform may have prevented the dying workers from pushing the button)

You repeat this same point (from speculation in an article a week old) over and over and over again even though BP has stated that the BOP was actuated from the rig *AND* that telemetry confirmed that the BOP had received the instruction and the shear rams actuated. Now they could be lying of course but that doesn't seem likely given that this information will all come out in future. The DWH was streaming data back to Houston at the time of the incident.

Don't get me wrong - I think an acoustic remote should be fitted as standard but I am not sure why you hammer on this particular point so much when there are plenty of other things to look at.

@Bob ...might as well boycott civilisation if you go down that path of culpability ;-)

We are bareley two weeks into this, you can bet there will be nearly endless Hearings and Grand Jury investigations and Lawsuits. The legal teams are just now being formed and I'm sure drooling on both sides about all those billable hours they will be getting.

All evidence in preliminary and hearsay at the moment but it doesn't look like an acoustic trigger would have changed the outcome. As the event happend it seems the crew or automatic systems triggered the BOP and the crew had every indication it had worked.

As a personal injury lawyer of 32 years (4 defense and 28 plaintiff) I can tell you that plaintiff's lawyers seldom bill by the hour. They do contingency work.

As a plaintiff's lawyer, count me out. If the Exxon Valdez taught plaintiff's lawyers anything, it is to stay away from this kind of contingency work. Who wants to wait ten years or more to get paid? Who wants to fight a defendant who can spend a million dollars a month on lawyers to defend itself? The paper blizzard these defense firms can generate would probably cover the oil slick in the gulf.

I suppose there will be a number of plaintiff's lawyers involved in this incident but I bet most of them will end up regretting it. Unless they can represent a business large enough that they can charge for costs, plus charge a reasonable, but reduced hourly rate plus a contingency, most of them are taking a huge financial risk.

By the time the case gets resolved, most of the plaintiff's lawyers who take a case against BP and its contractors, will be dead, or broke or both. And who knows, many of the defendants may be broke by then and there will be nothing to recover, even if they do win.

I and many other plaintiff's lawyers I know intend to stay as far away from this case as I can get. Sad but true. We'd like to get involved I am sure, but we know it really will cause us great hardship and produce little if any justice or reward.

Just keep doing the important stuff, like trolling for dog bite victims or folks who got their lunch break late at Costco. It has to be lucrative, or there wouldn't be a gazillion lawyers spending the big bucks on the advertising for victims of dog bites or labor law violations.

stiv -- Any accident in the OCS including spills and fatalities will be subject to a full investigation by the Feds. And those found accountable will face fines and potential prison time. Has always worked this way. But you should expect a good 6 months before such a trial begins IMHO. The technical analysis will be complex. Additionally expect dozens of civil lawsuits digging out explanations on a parallel track.

And you're very correct in assuming that all safety protocols will be reviewd and probably modified to some degree.

Civil suits for sure, big fines for sure but prison time? Got any cases where someone served time even if it was at Club Fed? The Feds can't seem to bust AIG and GoldmanSachs and others when they have hard evidence they scammed the market with bad loans packaged as AAA but they can bust oil company execs on something so technical?

Why is no one, NO ONE going to be facing prosecution?
Why not call for a Grand Jury Investigation?
Why not put out a petition calling for some form of accountability?
NO accountability insures this will happen again.
Why not demand accountability?
Everyone toiling at the bottom knows how it works".

Without shouting at you in capital letters, let me tell you why in as few words as possible - a total of eight.
Because nobody has been found guilty of anything yet.
That's why.
Just where do you think you are, some place like the US, famous for kangaroo courts by the media, lawyer and political grandstanding, and no real respect for due process of law?
BP stands a better chance of a fair hearing under sharia law.

Previously BP had a felony conviction in the Texas Refinery fire. But of course BP is a corporation and despite therefore being a person with rights, the corporation doesn't have the same responsibilities as human people, ie. you can't send the corporation to jail. So why, with a felony conviction weren't at least some of the HUMAN people that run the corporation sent to jail? This people business is a bit confusing eh?

Sometimes I wonder if the endless desperate attempts to link the "accountability issue" with the "acoustic trigger issue" are some form of astroturfing to discredit the "accountability" people. Everyone without a political agenda seems to agree the BOP control system worked/works, its just the BOP itself that failed. So, when the trigger issue is finally laid to rest, the strategically linked "accountability" issue will also be laid to rest, victory to "big oil"!

Another very sad note, is the activists types see it as an opportunity to aggressively attack the execs, the usual us against them class warfare stuff, workers of the world unite, etc. Sadly, its just as likely to turn out that the folks to blame were some subset of the incinerated workers, or some guilt ridden survivor. It seems disrespectful of the dead to harangue on and on about how we need to unite in a legal attack, against the recently deceased.

And now that I've offended everyone on the board? How about that discussion about pouring molten metal down the hole... why oh why must it always be 3000 degree liquid iron instead of "hot tub" melting point gallium or perhaps -40C (or -40F) mercury? Sure mercury is toxic but it sure is heavy and will kill the well mighty quick. Theres a tradeoff of mercury toxicity vs crude oil toxicity, at some point the total toxicity of dumping Hg is better than dumping crude.

For that matter what is the densest reasonably non toxic substance available? Extra super duper heavy drilling mud? If the crude viscosity is low enough to percolate up very slowly, would something like heavy asphalt be dense enough and viscous enough to kill the well if pumped down? Or maybe a thin tube shoved all the way to the bottom of the well, pumped full of raw unpolymerized styrene monomer and then squirt some catalyst? Although I suppose if you have a tube you'd just pump heavy mud to kill the well.


I suspect the problem with just pouring anything dense down there to kill the well is that unless you could target it to get inside the pipe itself, the out flowing fluid would channel through the material you try to cover. Imagine you have a water hose laying on the ground with it's end facing up so that water is gurgling out. if you poured cement ( a much heavier fluid, over the top of the hose, the moving water would find a way to flow even if it had to cut a channel upward. You would need such a volume that you would be able to overcome the pressure of the hose to kill all flow. I imagine even if they could get a small nipple inserted inside of one of the leaks, the ability of injecting kill fluid deep into the inside of the pipe would be limited. We don't know exactly what type of flow pressures are coming out, and if the kill fluid is too viscous then it would require tremendous surface pressure to force the fluid in. If the kill fluid has a very low viscosity, the out flowing fluids would be able to push it aside and channel paste it easily. It seems to have channeled past the cement fairly easily from what we can tell thus far.


"Mirror, mirror upon the wall, Who is the most culpable of all?"

"Thou, O Consumer of Oil, art the the most culpable of all,"

Right you are sir.

"We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Oh come now, Stiv. A couple of years back we had financial collapses that cost the US trillions, and we've had calamities like Katrina without any real culpability. Why would you expect differently now?

I think one of the side-effects of increasing societal complexity is it gets harder to assign and punish culpability, though people try harder and harder to do so. In the end lawyers make a lot of money yet the victims pay the bills and the guilty go free.

WILL YOU GET OFF THIS CRAP!!! As I and others told you in the other thread it DOES NOT MATTER. The BOP did TRIGGER it just didn't work correctly. Next you'll be blaming Cheney for the fact that the dome didn't work. Conspiracy theory is just plain nonsense.

There will be accountability. BP is saying they estimate that it will cost $350M to fix this mess. Losses like that can cost a CEO his job. What do you want to do, hang the corpses of the 11 guys who were on the rig floor and mud room and died? One of them was probably the guy who wasn't watching the mud returns or he may have seen the issue in time as Rockman has said several times. Drilling is very dangerous work, sometimes accountability means loss of life for the one(s) who made a mistake and others who happen to be close by when the fecal matter hits the rotating impeller.

Losses like that can cost a CEO his job.

The horror!

Having a wee bit of trouble with perspective?

ROCKMAN, Alan Et Al...

Please confirm that BP is using methods to 'control' and 'recover' the leaking oil but has deliberately chosen to NOT shut the pipe off at it's SOURCE!


a. Cutting pipe at the wellhead and fitting a new valve (duh)

b. Crimping pipe at the wellhead and pouring concrete plug

c. Cutting pipe at the wellhead and placing larger diameter pipe with internal valve mechanism and lock fittings

d. Using ROV to lock onto cut pipe at wellhead, mechanically forcing oval plate of steel into opening, use pressure of flow to jam the new "butterfly valve" into place, greatly reducing flow and enabling other means to stop the rest.

All of my suggestions require a new well to be drilled. Is this the problem?

If you had really read through the relevant threads about the accident you would not need to ask this question. Messing with the 'valve' could lead to complete loss of control of the flow - turning a very bad problem into a worst-case problem.

One mile underwater is the problem.

Asked if BP was operating without a playbook in looking for options, Suttles said that "there's a lot of techniques available to us. The challenge with all of them is, as you said, they haven't been done in 5,000 feet of water."

neuter: there is no investment to save. Not only is the original well a total loss but even after the relief well kills the flow BP will have to re-enter the original hole and plug and abandone it as per Fed specs. That step alone could cost over $50 million. The only money BP will ever make out there is by drilling new wells and putting in the production system. And no, the value of any oil recovered from the slick will be worth less then the cost to recover it. And no, the relief well won't be used for production. It will also be plugged and abandoned as per fed specs. Best guess the relief well is another $150 million flushed down the toilet for BP. And, IMHO, the money they are spending on the "dome" is more for PR than any reasonable hope for success. They only thing BP gains by not stopping the flow as soon as possible is the opportunity to spend more money fixing the world class nightmare.

If BP develops this field then I'll estimate it will be at least 5 years before they see the first $ of cash flow and then another 2 or 3 years before the first $ of profit is recovered.

How odd that everyone on this site is ignoring one of the more bizarre developments in this disaster to emerge over the weekend:

BP 'may stem oil with golf balls and tyres'


That is too bizarre for me to comment on.. maybe the BP execs are lacking sleep or something?

But armchair quarter backing here, it seems that the BOPs could be designed with an emergency shut off port. Normally this port would be closed by a valve. In an emergency such as this, a drill string would be connected to the port, filled with heavy mud, then the valve on the port is opened. The mud should then enter via the BOP and kill the well.

Doesn't help here, but could be used in future.

They do have something like that, but those parts were damaged. BP says that they have made some repairs and may be able to use those lines to do the "junk shot" I seem to recall a post by HeadingOut that talked about how a BOP works. Check the posts over the last 2-3 weeks for that info.

People have used sawdust, wood shavings, feathers, bits of rubbish, in efforts to change mud weights in an emergency. I've heard of golf balls and pieces of tyres before.
This is an Emergency.
SOP when you are desperate and cut off in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard is there is no SOP, and not to stand around and do nothing. Or I'd get the tool push and the cook to put you down the hole in bits to raise the mud weight. I'll use the chopper.

Jerry - It's not as crazy as it sounds.

Thanks Joseph,

I appreciate your thoughtful reply.


Any idea what happens to a golf ball at 5000'? I saw a styrofoam cup that had been taken down by a Bathysphere. It had gone from the size of a standard 16 oz cup to smaller than a thimble, and it's walls were as thin as paper.


The stuff you toss into the well to slow the flow should be heavy. When you have only golf balls, you use golf balls. But if you have time to choose you should go for something heavier like bullets, or Krugerrands. I like the idea of using Krugerrands.
Or maybe use a liquid, maybe molten gold. Molten gold is better than molten iron because its melting point is lower than iron, and it 2.5x more dense than iron. ;-) cause uh lead would be toxic right? lol

Mercury would probably work like a charm but ...

Saw a MSM report yesterday, that the relief well (or whatever they are calling it) was already 9000' deep. I assume they mean 5000' of that is the ocean above. That makes 4000' of directionl drilling in just a few days, is that even possbile? My guess is that that the story was completly wrong, and maybe they are shooting for a target of 9000' total length horizontal and vertical. Anyone have any ideas what they meant?

Actually Badger the first few thousands feet of drilling can go very fast. It's not so much drilling as it is jetting out the very soft sediments. In fact, it we had the details, we might see they've spent more time setting the shallow casings then drilling. But once you get below 6,000 or 7,000' drilling can slow up a good bit. And below 14,000' they might average only a few hundred feet per day. And there will be additional casing runs before they get to the target. The drillers should have a pretty dood time estimate since the relief well is duplicating the original hole.

Thank You for the information hadn't even thought about how deep the sediment from the ocean floor might be, was thinking a few feet and then bedrock, makes a whole lot more sense now.

The depths are quoted "Measured Depth (beneath) Rotary Kelly Bushing" - i.e. the rig floor.

also see MVD vs. TVD:

A question about the BOP effectiveness at depth/pressure.
Are the hydraulic actuators that provide the drive power source for the rams and shear assemblies less effective at depth due to working in a 5000 psi environment?

Are there any BOP's that incorporate explosive shaped charges to fire off the shear rams as a last dich method if the hydraulics fail since after that they could not be reset and would be permnantly closed? and at depth what do they use to power the hydraulic actuators?

Good idea in theory kind of like the old tractors from the 1920s that used a 12 ga shotgun shell to start up with. Live explosives, that are ready to fire at any moment, and the chance they could be accidentally set off would be an safety issue with OSHA and the rig owners. What would the rig hands think about working on top of a bomb? Also what is the precise amount to use and how do you test it every so often as required by law??

Explosive bolts have been used and certified in military aircraft and rockets for years. A demoliton engineer could give you exact figures on how much of a charge is needed to cut through x inches of steel with a rockwell hardness of x, probably need a little extra help for calculations involving the depth pressure. Probably wouldn't amount to more than a couple pounds total of high explosive for all the rams. This would be a system of last resort on a device that itself is a last resort system.

a) At 5000 ft, the water pressure is about 2250 psi.

b) I'm not sure about the hydraulic pressure used in subsea BOP's at that depth. On land, the standard operating pressure is usually 3000 psi.

c) I suspect, but I'm not certain, that the pressure in the BOP control lines will remain 3000 psi higher than the surrounding pressure.

As we know Salazar stopped new approvals for offshore drilling on May 6

TUCSON, Ariz.—
For Immediate Release, May 6, 2010

In the wake of a rapidly growing scandal, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced this evening that new approvals for offshore oil drilling will be halted for three weeks.

However in the time after the explosion an spill up to May 7, 27 permits were issues. Only one was on May 7, but that is rather interesting since the announcement was on May 6.

You can see the list of approvals at this link - each approval is linked in the detail section to the full details at the MMS site.

What is disturbing about this news is as follows

TUCSON, Ariz.— Even as the BP drilling explosion which killed eleven people continues to gush hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has continued to exempt dangerous new drilling operations from environmental review. Twenty-seven new offshore drilling projects have been approved since April 20, 2010; twenty-six under the same environmental review exemption used to approve the disastrous BP drilling that is fouling the Gulf and its wildlife.

To be fair and not just reference the Center for Biological Diversity I found this

MMS officials said the exemptions are continuing to be issued because they don't represent final drilling approval. To drill, a company has to file a separate application under a process that's now suspended because of Salazar's order Thursday. However, officials couldn't say whether the exemptions would stand once the moratorium is lifted.

Something to watch

Right. I call this a matter outrageous corruption. But for some people here, it's BAU. Passing off criminal negligence for ordinary behavior is pathological. Nevertheless, the pathological, uncaring, unconcerned, 'unbiased' observer of these tragic events will find plenty of encouragement to feel sorry for a CEO who *might* lose his job--or probably not--just kidding. He'll probably get promoted for doing such great PR work. Who would have thought of golfballs! Those guys are brilliant. They must have had some extra ones lying around. And old tires. So hard to get rid of them. No one is to blame. No need to prove anything in a court of law. The consumer is to blame! Funny stuff.

Speculation/questions on the state of the leak:

The broken-off drill pipe which was leaking has been capped. The fact that it was leaking suggests that it was partially crushed but not sheared through by the BOP rams. The other two leaks are at cracks in the broken/kinked riser. Why is there not an additional leak at the broken end of the riser? Plugged with methane hydrate slush? Does capping the drill pipe increase the risk that the remaining path through the BOP stack will erode more quickly? Has there been any information released on the remaining leaks? Increasing in volume? Stable? Decreasing?

Where is the proposed entry point for injection of 'junk'/mud/cement? I read what I understood to be a post saying that the preferred entry points at the top of the BOP stack were bent/crimped the same as the riser and were useless for this purpose.

Doh, the other leak is at the end of the riser - where the box was going to be deployed... sorry about that memory lapse.

I fully understand people are outraged and need to point fingers somewhere but I, also, think there are some things we need to take into consideration. While corporations can, most certainly, behave in irresponsible ways, we need to acknowledge that these people are not idiots and are not mindless robots. They DO NOT want the expense, bad publicity,
miles of destroyed coastline and all the other things that go with a disaster like that. We have to remember all aspects of the drilling process are engineered by people who know what they are doing. I seriously doubt there is anything Zeke can think of that wasn't thought of decades ago by people trained and have excellent expertise. I can state from personal experience, the very best laid plans of man often go astray!!

I spent decades flying in the Air Force and United Air Lines. You cannot imagine the hours of training, the hours of practice for emergencies, the examinations, the check rides, etc, etc. Millions of hours are spent flying without incident and people never think about it for an instant. But when one does, the world comes unglued and the arm chair specialists arrive. Why didn't you do this? Why didn't you change this? Why? Why? Why? Having been in a situation or two myself, I can assure you I was asking myself the same questions. The same thing is true here. Thousands of wells are drilled, countless things happen that are effectively coped with. There hasn't ever been an accident anywhere and at anytime, that Monday morning quarter backing can't find mistakes made. Do we need to investigate this? Absolutely!! Do we need to consider things went wrong? Absolutely!! My point is this: Only the man or woman who has never made a single mistake should climb up on the soap box.

If we are going to consume the amounts of fossil fuels we do, if we're going to refuse to even consider reducing our consumption and if we are going to refuse to even consider the fact the easy oil is gone and ever more risky resources are going to be utilized, then we have to begin to consider that we are part of the blame chain. Utilizing energy from ever riskier environments will have costs and sometimes great costs, get used to it.

There is an old, old saying: "Shit happens"

There is an old, old saying: "Shit happens"

There's another saying which says, "Insanity" is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results...

Maybe it is now time to stop consuming the amounts of fossil fuels we do, maybe it's time to seriously consider reducing our consumption and maybe it is time to acknowledge the fact the easy oil is gone and that ever more risky resources are not worth the risks involved with utilizing them. Yes, we do have to begin to consider that we are part of the blame chain. Utilizing energy from ever riskier environments certainly has costs and sometimes great costs, but no, we shouldn't get used to it.

Maybe now is the time to make some very serious choices about the kind of world we want to live in and leave to our descendants.

Maybe there comes a time when we have to stand up and say "*ENOUGH*!"

I we don't do it, the Chinese will do it. If they don't do it, the Indians will do it. If they don't do it, the Europeans will do it..........
There's no way off this merry-go-round from Hell. Getting off means the return to a zero sum gain, low growth economy where the only way to improve one's condition is the old fashioned way. Invade your neighbor, kill his ass, take his toys, rape his wife and enslave his kids. Sound good?

Actually if we do it, ie get off oil the Chinese and Indians will have no one to sell their products to and would have to scale back. I can just imagine in China they are saying well if we do it the US won't so why should we. Yep we are on the merry go round from hell just as we were in the arms race with Russia. I guess we just have to trash our world and then see if it still supports human life. Too bad for our kids and grandkids....

Al and Tipper Gore's latest mansion. The climate change business rocks.

Yes, the Gores are wealthy -- so what?

Why is it the Republicans adore the wealthy and seemingly can take or leave the middle class, but for some strange reason they think the Gore's having money is anti-american? I don't get it.

It really is amazing the extremely high level of hatred they continuously generate. It would seem like a sorry state to be in, but they take to it like a duck takes to water.

Wealth and success is supposed to be an expression of favour by the Big Father Figure in the Sky, bestowed for adhering to religious and/or ideological norms (or at least publicly grovelling about that mistress in Argentina). If someone outside the norms achieves wealth and success, it must be the work of That Other Supernatural Guy, and said person must be shunned, verbally attacked, ridiculed, and in all ways marginalized (and whatever you do, pay no attention to what they say, or the evil cooties might rub off on you).

This is also why only the little people should pay taxes, and the Great Men (and a few Great Women) should not be punished by having their Divine Rewards taxed away.

P E. I don't think it is a dislike of AL G. being wealthy---- More like he really does not seem to practice what he preaches, ( to us the not so wealthy). Is that house a green one? I think not. How much co2 released for heating/cooling that monster? For what it's worth, never liked him much myself anyway, and like so many pols, he is a hypocrite to the max.

He did retrofit his Tennessee mansion with green upgrades and solar panels, so I'd say the charge of hypocrisy is hollow.

"Short of tearing it down and staring anew, I don't know how it could have been rated any higher," said Kim Shinn of the U.S. Green Building Council, which gave the house its second-highest rating for sustainable design.

SNOPES: Al Gore's Energy Use

There's no reason to think that he won't do the same with any new properties.

"he is a hypocrite to the max."

It is also interesting that he and his wife do not seem unduly concerned about rising sea levels. I also live at about the same elevation in Southern California and have been somewhat concerned for many years

Wikipedia gives an elevation for Montecito of 180 ft (55 m) -- "ocean view" does not mean "ocean front."

Most of the cryosphere would have to melt to raise sea level by that much; recent projections show something like 1m of sea level rise by 2100.

But you're correct to be concerned about sea level rise.

I just spoke to a Santa Barbara architect who is also interested. There has been very little publicity. We have not yet determined the precise elevation of the Gore mansion. I do know the area well, particularly Lotusland, the Music Academy, an upscale grocery store and the Biltmore. The elevation ranges from 0 to partially up a 3600 foot mountain. Oprah's mansion is on Foothill, one of the higher elevations. Parts of my own neighborhood are actually below sea level. Energy using pumps are required to return storm and rain water back to the ocean. Probably not sustainable into the later half of this century. It seems to me that 8,000 to 16,000 square foot "green" homes are a joke, (with the borderline exception of Amory Lovins experimental home). I am familiar with one 8,000 square foot home that requires four standard Carrier units for air conditioning.

I am by American standards a poor person.

I am a conservative of sorts , but not a republican,and detest most republican politicians, and most democratic politicians.

Both the right and left wings our of political system are captive to special interests.

Right now a huge part of the environmental foolishness that passes for constructive action, such as the corn ethanol industry, is possible because misguided, ignorant , or self serving people to the left liberal side of American politics support such programs.

I don't do statistics, but only one or two people who comment here seem to be truly knowledgeable about the overall problem of co2 and in favor of cap and trade;all the rest are in favor of a carbon tax, as I am.

Cap and trdae may work , or it may not.

The only thing certainabout it is that it will create vast new buercracies of paper pushers, and give the super banks and the lobbyists another chance to engage the public in another long round of involuntary sex, without lubricants.Anybody with any real understanding of the incestous nature of the relationship between big biz and govt understands this perfectly.

Now as it happens, I know a lot of conservatives, and they loathe Algor with a passion reserved for only a couple of prominent American liberals.

This "above and beyond the noermal call of duty"passion is due to the hypocritical nature of the man's actions versus his political line.You can take this to the bank.I'm one of what appears to be a very small handfull of regulars here that actually knows anything about conservative politics at the grass roots level.

I do not involve myself in politics these days much beyond voting and reading a few journals and websites, both liberal and conservative.I do not actually know where Al gor got his new found megamillions.

The conservative rank and file is believes he got his new found fortune money by influence peddling and investing as an insider in cap and trade and other ill considered green schemes.

In the abscene of evidence to the contrary, I am of the opinion this might be true.anybody who would defend such an extravagent life style based on the installation of a few solar panels must be either niave in the extreme, or a practicioner of political double talk, an apologist of the most cynical sort.

In the eyes of a working class conservative , or any conservative, this behavior is on about the same level, in terms of contempt, as child molestation, coming from a self proclaimed liberal.

It's not the behavior itself, but the hypocrisy that is so infuriating to the conservative mind.

Incidentrally, my opinion of the current republican establishment is on approximately the same level as my opinion of the democratic establishment.

At least the democrats taken as a whole are fools with good intentions in respect to the country.

There are also a lot of republicans who also have the best interests of the country at heart, but they are even dumber than the democrats on average.They are defending something that no longer exists, a free enterprise system.Furthermore they have been coopted by the big biz boys exactly like most of the democratic establishment, but to a far greater degree.

As I understand it, Gore's wealth comes from tobacco and oil (Occidental Petroleum).

The Occidental wasn't purchased- Armand Hammer owned his dad, and was proud of it.


zinc mine

Undisturbed natural beauty for you Gorites.

You know you not only deserve the Nobel Peace Prize you deserve the Nobel Prize in Economics if you can buy a tract of land from a company that intends to mine it and lease it back to them to mine for a royalty the same day.



I can't imagine that any market based action could work. Markets provide an efficient mechanism for selecting among viable, legally allowed options. From following this list and other internet stuff, I am convinced that there are no viable, legal options. I believe that there are people who claim they have a viable option, but that it needs a subsidy from the government. If they get their subsidy, they will work very hard to proserve their subsidy.

A carbon tax might work, but not a general tax on carbon, it has to exempt 'green' carbon, and apply only to bad fossil carbon. This would, however, create a strong motivation to lobby the Government to declare all sorts of things 'green' that are not really 'green'. So the tax can't work either. We need to do something to make lobbying the Government too expensive to contemplate. I have no ideas as to how we might do that. The price of some legislators is not very high, and this is an historical fact.

And he flies all over the world in a private jet that eats fuel and that isn't very Green. Same with the limos he uses and the big Suburbans he drives. He's just a typical poltician who thinks all the rules and all the sacrifices are for other people. Oh, and solar panels in middle TN aren't much use (lived there 7 yrs) as the sun isn't out 300+ days a year like say Arizona and unless he has a boatload of them they are NOT going to power that house. I wonder if he has compact flourescent bulbs in his crystal chandiliers?

Well, it's the sheer hypocrisy of it all. Al Gore is warning us all to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, but it's very apparent that he is making a very large personal contribution to global warming. Imagine the amount of fossil fuels required to generate the energy needed to air condition this Edifice Rex.

I don't imagine he's going to turn off the air conditioning and sit out on the back porch drinking a mint julep while sweat drips off his brow and he cools himself with a hand operated fan.

With six fireplaces, he's going to be making a major contribution to the deforestation of California, and the nine bathrooms are going to add to California's already severe water problems.

Just some more inconvenient truths. If you're going to talk the talk, you should be prepared to walk the walk. If not, just admit that you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

There's every reason to expect that Gore will retrofit his new digs in the same way he greened up his old place. He might even end up with a solar power plant like Jay Leno's!

Jay Leno's "Big Dog Garage" power plant

What nonsense. Gore got geo-heating/cooling installed.

May be you should check before repeating repub talking points.

What nonsense. Gore got geo-heating/cooling installed.

And that reduces his energy consumption to how many times the already ridiculous average American energy consumption?

His previous house consumed about 12 times as much electricity as the average house. Maybe this new one will be a little bit better.

The Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara is quite cool. The Pacific Current is moving south from Alaska there. Air condition might be unnecessary, particularly it the owner is constantly away on travel. I'm interested in why the anger? Gore is frittering away a lot of money on making the place Green. Doesn't that help the economy?

The forest products industry is pretty much shut down in California because of the efforts of environmentalist. Fireplaces? I thought those were banned by Calif. clean air reg.s. His must be decor items that do not have flues. Only air-tight stoves in Calif.

I'm sure he doesn't crap any greater volume than any other man his age, or any more often. What is the harm of having idle bathrooms?

I was going to ask, do nine people using nine bathrooms use any more water than nine people using one bathroom? (Maybe shorter showers, if the other eight people are banging on the door wanting to use the john.)

It is certainly true that air conditioning is not needed if one lives close to the ocean in Southern California. But go a few miles inland and it becomes useful. I have never had an air conditioned home. I have two natural gas/wood fireplaces but they are old and don't work well.. I do frequently smell my neighbors burning wood. I doubt that Gore has done anything to green the Santa Barbara mansion. (Montecito is essentially part of Santa Barbara}. He just purchased the property. I suspect that his critics will influence him to do some green PR stunts. I am certainly not angry about this situation but am amused. Am also interested in the future of Santa Barbara. Some of the nicest parts of this lovely beach community are at sea level. If the beach is destroyed I doubt that the rest of the town will be worth much.

And he is fat! And just made that film to make money.
This is just a commie plot to destroy capitalism, and deny me my divine right to prosperity.
As a former Santa Barbara resident, one does not need aircon on the coast.
These huge mansion of old money are available, and being from the elite, he is living in one.
Probably the same footprint as a Dorito eating nascar fan with the big screen and the 4X4, living in a double wide with the $400 a month electric bill.

But he could live simpler, I will grant you that point.

Nothing unhinges conservative hate like Al Gore.

It dives wingnuts bonkers that Gore's been right on Global Warming and hasn't been corrupted by the System.

I don't know what it cost, but it looks like it was furnished by a Colombian drug baron, or perhaps a retired superstar bullfighter, putting his feet up on the Costa del Sol, or maybe Barry Manilow's sister. Blech.

It seems to me there are two basic ways to look at the Al Gore phenomenon:

(1) He is a breath-taking hypocrite, in that his political advocacy about Global Warming needs to be grounded by his own personal lifestyle, and the ownership of mansions and big vehicles just doesn't cut it at all. The jet travels aren't the issue - he is much in demand and has to get to lots of places in a month - but the purchase of huge homes (even with retrofitted green initiatives) is a real issue, just like it is for the nuclear powers fighting for non-proliferation for everyone outside the club, or the US fearing the rise of consumer wealth in China, India, etc.

(2) Or he is a very rich guy who could spend all his time doing rich-guy stuff, and buying rich-guy stuff, plus defending the American ruling class, and basically having an easy life at the very top of the food chain, but he doesn't do that (at least not all the time) - he spends a lot of time and energy on his Global Warming crusade, including I'm sure lots of boring hours in meetings, lecturers, aeroplanes, hotel rooms, and so on. He could have much bigger houses if he wanted to, and a much more indulgent lifestyle.

So you could argue that anyone who was at all serious in setting an example about the profligate use of energy by Americans (especially rich ones) would aim for a modest carbon footprint, and set an example. Or you could argue that even if he is very rich, he just buys middle-size mansions rather than monstrosities. But no-one needs 8,000 sq ft to live in - that is bordering on ridiculous - let alone 16,000 sq ft - and no amount of retrofit can make amends for that.

A technical question about BOPs. How tough is a triggered BOP? Could it have properly fully and completely triggered closed, then twisted back open as the pipe above collapsed onto it or due to weird pressure wave fluctuations as the pipe above burned? I guess I'm asking what the mechanical engineering of the innards of a BOP look like as regards re-opening after triggering. That might be the failure mode. I've seen no discussion on the oil drum about this particular topic.

Also: Is is possible that drill pipe was traveling up the well (being carried up with the surge) when the BOP was activated interfering with proper actuation (because of the motion of the pipe)?

"Very possibly"
There is a photo taken of Amoco Lodgepole from 800 m away on the far side of the valley, with 13000 feet of drill pipe coming out of the top of the rig and bending up out of the top of the photo. The top of the pipe hasn't fallen over yet. You can make out the lengths of pipe, because that is where it crinkles (from 800 m).

vinny/IP -- I'm far from an expert on BOP's but my instincts tell me that the pressure from the oil/NG stream might have been so high that it could have done severe damage. In most cases where I've seen a BOP fail it was when the shear rams don't cleanly cut the drill pipe. And that's often because they try to cut the extra thick "drill collars" at the end of each joint. The DC's make up about 10% of the DP. And then add the possibility that Deep Water DP is stronger than standard. If the BOP's weren't modified for this factor than there would be an even greater chance of incomplete shear. also, given the late stage when they activated the BOP the DP could have been moving at a fairly high speed thru the BOP. How fast can the DP be moving: I've seen a film of 16,000' of DP (about 300,000 lbs+) being blow hundreds of feet into the air durng an onshore blow out. Imagine the leaing edge of the shear blade biting into the DP as it was being shoved upwards by a tremendous force. Easy to imagine it failing IMHO.

And the BOP could be subjected to even more damage after an incomplete shear. The oil/NG stream could be carrying very erosive sand in it. More BOP damage. And if the shear wedges are caught in the DP then the upward force of the DP would have done more damage. Often it's impossible to open the shear cutting blades as a result and thus can't go for a re-activation.

"the DP could have been moving at a fairly high speed thru the BOP."

Layperson's question: DP = drill pipe, right? The drill pipe itself was moving through the BOP? Could you explain this a bit?

DP = drill pipe. The idea is that when the well blew (gas and oil surged into the well despite the cement seals and liner pipe installed to prevent this) that the drilling mud and drill pipe that were in the well were forced up the riser pipe by the pressure - very bad. So when the BOP was activated the fact that the well was blowing pipe and everything else up through the valve might have contributed to its failure to operate correctly... despite the fact that it should have done so, as after all, that is what it is designed to do - shut down a well that has gone out of control...

There are some graphics on this page that might help:

Correct, the DP is the Drill Pipe.

They may be indicating the pipe could have been moving as a result of the pressure surge associated with the blow out, and that may have caused the pipe to be moving when the rams closed. I don't know if I can see that, as there was fluid coming out at the surface, hard to imagine the pipe blocking enough flow to actually have the kick pushing the pipe out at this depth.

I could almost imagine the pipe moving a bit when the riser collapsed to the sea floor. It could be possible that the shear rams had engaged, but not severed the pipe, then as the rig was lost, initially the riser string may have tried to partially support the weight of the entire string and part of the sinking rig weight, before collapsing to the side. such a large downward force could conceivably pry open the partially closed rams. But as many folks have stated, there is more speculation than known facts at this point.


Sorry Swiftly -- we two-finger typers like shortcuts. DP=drill pipe cmt = cement csg=casing kma = kiss my...well think most know that one.

The force of the reservoir fluids can also push the heavy DP right out of the hole just like it can the mud. I don't recall any confirmation that any of the DP blew up thru the drill floor. But it could have snapped off somewhere in the riser and was sliding up thru the BOP when it activated. Imagine cutting a piece of card board with a sharp scissors. Now imagine doing that with someone moving the card board while you hold the scissors still. Easy to imagine the card board jamming in the scissors. As I mentioned earlier I saw a film of a long ago blow out in the Rockies. More than 16,000' of drill pipe shoot up thru the derrick and completely out of the hole. Though drill pipe is stiff it looked like string coming out the top of the rig. Even more amazing it wound itself around the rig in a big circle and NEVER BROKE .

Thanks for the explanations, all. I had not encountered that particular wrinkle (the drill pipe being expelled) in anything I've been reading, so it was a surprise.

swifty -- the oil patch term is "drill pipe ejection'. They try to keep the terminology simple for the sake of us geologists.

If the drill pipe being ejected from the well was a surprise to you, just think what the people who released the pipe brakes felt about it!

They expected it to fall back down the well, after which they would cap it.


I find it very disturbing that a BOP might not be able to completely shear the drill pipe at the thicker-walled collar sections. Even if those collar sections are 'only' about 10 % of the drill pipe length, those odds strike me as unacceptable by several orders of magnitude. It's like playing Russian roulette with one bullet in a 10-chamber revolver.

Or to put it another way, would you drive a car if you knew that the brakes would fail 10% of the time when you tried to make an emergency stop? Even a one-in-one one hundred thousand failure rate would be unacceptable to the DOT.

Anyway, you explanation of possible failure modes is very interesting. I can visualized the problem with the pipe rapidly moving upward as the shear wedges try to close. I would picture it as trying to pinch off a soda straw with your fingernails while someone is trying to violently yank it out of your hand. You wind up with two broken nails and a straw that is still open.

All the deep water BOP designs I have seen, including a picture of the one installed on this well (if I correctly recall), have multiple rams as well as other sealing mechanisms that are all supposed to work in concert. It shouldn't have failed because of collars or tools or moving pipe... but it did, and the criticism I have heard is that the design was not robust enough to be considered reliable in very deep water environment and high-strength drill pipe and casing used there. Better equipment is available, but is of course more expensive, and typical practice in my experience is not to replace functional equipment with something newer until the end of useful life is approaching.

"With Spill, Focus Turns to Well-Blocking System"

Pretty good article just now in the NYTimes about blowout preventers, most detailed I've seen yet in the MSM:

A diagram would have been nice, though.

All that has been discussed here over the last few days. I think the NY Times may be reading this site.

joule -- as someone whose life depended upon a BOP operating properly more times than I can remember I fully agree. About 3 years ago I was on a piece of crap Russian drill ship of the coast of Africa. After a month of drilling the first well they pulled the BOP to the surface. Not only did they discover a salt water leak had destroyed function but that didn't matter. When they took apart a control valve casing they discovered it was empty valve.

Only time in 35 years I had an actual nightmare while sleeping on a rig. Thought the ship was capsizing. Felt so real I pushed a hole in the ceiling tile above my top bunk bed trying to get out. Add two bouts of food poisoning during that 43 day hitch and you can imagine how anxious I was to get home.

I passed up the Ocean Ranger

Yeah, my next door neighbor was quibbling over salary with them when the Ocean Ranger went down. He felt rather fortunate about it, but it kind of makes you a little leery about the whole concept of offshore drilling.

When I was in Norway many years ago I saw them building a 5-story 500-room hotel they were going to tow out into the North Sea for the oil workers to live on. It later sank with the loss of all hands, much like the Ocean Ranger. Things like this make you begin to question the entire concept of working offshore and think that life far, far away from any ocean would be much safer. Wheat farmers get killed, too, but not in large numbers.

Helicopters Drop Sandbags To Protect Marshes From Oil‎

PORT FOURCHON, La. (May 10, 2010)—Crews of Black Hawk helicopters were picking up sandbags Monday to be dropped on five points east of Port Fourchon in an effort aimed at protecting Lafourche Parish marshes from the massive oil slick.

"Hay is up oil spills?"

It occurred to a Florida road contractor last week that hay might be a good way of picking up the oil. He ran a test, with surprisingly good results:

"Carpenter said he quickly contacted BP and his local county government. Last Tuesday, he wowed an audience with a Billy Mays–like demonstration of the tactic. Walton County immediately initiated a plan to use hay to protect the coast if the spill moves their way. Carpenter told us that huge bales of hay are already in place along area beaches, in addition to a barge loaded with hay and a massive hay-blower set up in the waters just off the coast."

Video demonstration:

Couple of comments, we need to do some much larger scale tests a bowl of salt water is not the GOM. Look at how much oil he put in and how much hay he then put in (if this does work even just to help protect a beach or two we are going to need A LOT of hay.) What kind of oil were they testing with, will this work with the dispersants already added etc., etc. Not saying we should not test this idea out, we should. But it should be looked at with the same skepticism as the rest of the ideas that have not worked sor far.

Hay's abundant and cheap, I think is the point. They can get a lot of hay pretty easily, obviously not enough to soak up all the oil leaking into the Gulf, but maybe enough to protect the most sensitive shore areas. And if they can get the official go-ahead, local coastal communities can distribute it on their own without a lot of fancy equipment.

In the video, the guy said the oil-soaked hay might even be usable as heating fuel with a bit of processing (like into bricks?). (The hay doesn't really soak up the oil; but the oil clings to the surface of the hay strands. With a good-sized bunch of hay, that's a lot of surface area. Same with hair, but it's harder to gather in large quantity.)

I'm wondering what they'd use for feeding livestock, though, if they took all the available hay to use to gather the oil.

Watch the video. Pretty phenomenal.

They used hay at Santa Barbara in 1969.
(There also were jokes going around about turning the Channel into a giant Italian salad.)

So about the new attempt to stem the flow with the "top hat": Why would this approach be more successfully than the big containment box? Hydrate crystals won't have time to form before getting into the warmed pipe?

That's what they are saying in the press. They are saying that it will not allow as much contact with seawater, which should reduce hydrate formation. I still think the crux will be controlling the flow of oil and gas coming up the pipe so that they don't get seawater mixed in. That will mean letting a small portion of the oil to flow down and out of the funnel. Although the first dome was probably too big, I am concerned that the new "top hat" will be too small to reliably control flow.

Thanks for the help. Won't get my hopes up, considering this other failure mode you mention. :(

I saw a group of interviews with people in Alaska about the oil spill there. Sorry I don't remember where I saw it anymore. At any rate one man said that some of them who had experience in cleaning up spills had thought of offering to help in the Gulf. However he said that so many in Alaska had gotten sick or died after cleaning up there that he was reluctant. Today I remembered that and decided to do a search on it.

Found this which maybe explains why I hadn't heard more

There isn’t much scientific literature on the topic in part because “the people who got sickest and won against Exxon got settlements that required that the records be sealed. But there were a lot of anecdotal complaints about the impact on cleanup workers,” says Short, who was lead chemist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the damage assessment at the Exxon spill.

Full article at

And this

During the Exxon Valdez spill, health problems among cleanup workers became so widespread, so fast, that medical doctors, among others, sounded warnings. Dr. Robert Rigg, former Alaska medical director for Standard Alaska (BP), warned, “It is a known fact that neurologic changes (brain damage), skin disorders (including cancer), liver and kidney damage, cancer of other organ systems, and medical complications–secondary to exposure to working unprotected in (or inadequately protected)–can and will occur to workers exposed to crude oil and other petrochemical by-products. While short-term complaints, i.e., skin irritation, nausea, dizziness, pulmonary symptoms, etc., may be the initial signs of exposure and toxicity, the more serious long-term effects must be prevented.”[1]

Unfortunately, Exxon called the short-term symptoms, “the Valdez Crud,” and dismissed 6,722 cases of respiratory claims from cleanup workers as “colds or flu” using an exemption under OSHA’s hazardous waste cleanup reporting requirements.[2] Sadly, sick Exxon cleanup workers were left to suffer and pay their own medical expenses. I know of many who have been disabled by their illnesses – or have died.

The crew that are trying to seal the well are being forced to wear respirators against the fumes; chronic exposure for weeks on end can't be good for them...

I was flipping tv channels, and settled on the Ed Schultz show on msnbc. They were talkig about BP and actually comparing them to the Three stooges, where solutions are for this disaster. One of his guests, a lawyer...said that BP has actually released a toll-free number to the public..for people to call and give them suggestions on what to do. Is THIS really where we are in this whole mess? Asking the public for ideas? I've lived along the gulfcoast for almost all of my 50 years...and this just amazes me.

I think it is part of a PR effort. They are spending serious money on trying to fix the real technical problems. Their PR staff, on which they have been spending generously, might be sitting idle if it were not for the reverse help-line. They will need the PR people when they revert to BAU, so keep them on the payroll.

That guy's partner is the outraged RFK Jr, who is at least as culpable as Cheney.
This might not have happened, if, 15 years ago, he said "Mining and drilling is ruining us, so we are gonna build windmills right over there, and make so much electricity we will be able to run our cars on hydrogen or ammonia." Instead, I think there are still a few court cases before Cape Wind actually gets off the ground.

Last week’s approval of a wind farm off the Massachusetts shore has wind energy developers in other states riding a wave of new momentum, even as the Gulf Coast oil spill casts doubt on the future of drilling.

From Maine to North Carolina, efforts to plant enormous wind turbines on the ocean floor got a boost when the U.S. Interior Department signed off on 130 wind turbines five miles off the coast of Cape Cod, the first time an offshore wind project has passed federal muster.
RFK Jr. and other prominent enviros face off over Cape Cod wind farm
by Amanda Little

12 Jan 2006 4:32 PM

A long-simmering disagreement within the environmental community over a plan to build a massive wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., is now boiling over into a highly public quarrel.

The four-year-old battle started heating up last summer when Greenpeace USA staged a demonstration against well-known eco-activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who's been an outspoken opponent of the proposal for a 130-turbine wind-power project in Horseshoe Shoal, a shallow portion of Nantucket Sound south of Cape Cod.

Schultz, who likes to boast "I've held 20 something town halls around the country..." is part of the reason they need to drill there. He consumes way more oil than his ration.

My first thought hearing the help suggestion line is that it seem like asking a rape victem who has just been violated to offer helpful suggestions to other rape victems. On one level it might might make sense. On stupid.

More like a rapist who's been caught asking his victims for suggestions as to how he can make amends. Whether it's sincere or just PR, and regardless of whether any of the suggestions is useful, it's good psychology, IMHO; it makes people feel less helpless, even if that's an illusion.

Much better analogy swifty. Can we say "Closure"? Can we say KMA BP?

Please see query above on measuring mud flow. "David L Hagen on May 10, 2010 - 8:33pm"

Just replied david

Thanks for the conventional tank measurement info.

I stopped reading when I got to Ed Schultz show on msnbc

Sorry if thsi was posted before and i missed it.
This video is a bit of company glad talk but is very informative too. I am sure that the BOP description is very out dated but it is a good start for us outsiders.

I have read all TOD threads related to this unfortunate circumstance and have yet to see anyone suggest taking advantage of the extreme cold at the depth of the wellhead to try and increase the viscosity of the crude before it emerges. Most are assuming that we are not yet seeing unrestricted flow through the BOP although I perceive a widespread dread that such may occur sooner rather than later.

Shelburn's posts have been most helpful with his real world knowledge of ROV's and the hostility of deep-sea environments. Makes Mars look like a picnic. He did mention that mud clearing jets are standard equipment on
these particular ROVs. At the moment, warm crude is passing through the casing just below the BOP and whatever restriction remains in the BOP is apparently not much
impediment to flow. Could the ROV's clear mud from the well casing some distance below the mud surface to allow cooling heat transfer to the surrounding seawater? That would likely slightly decrease the crude's temperature dependent upon actual the flow and dwell time.
Could the exposed casing then be cooled by some means (wrapped refrigerant tubing with high pressure LN2 pumped from the surface (( through a drill string? )) to an expansion valve just prior to reaching the wrap?)(some type of controlled , strongly endothermic chemical reaction introduced into the seawater adjacent to the exposed casing ? ) to further decrease the crude's temperature and increase its viscosity?
Ideally, one could get to a bitumen like consistency that might reduce the flow rate significantly , or not.
As you may correctly perceive I am "way out of my depth" here so I will sit quietly and learn why an expansion valve can't work at these absurd pressures or why it would be a "very bad thing" to leave the wounded BOP perched on an unsupported 50 foot length of cryogenically cooled steel casing.
First post in years of lurking so please forgive any bruised formatting.

NPR ran an interview with a BP exec this afternoon. He said they had been able to get pressure readings from the BOP to help determine it's state and had also used a ?gamma ray? device to scan it's interior. He said they would try to re-configure the stack to allow the 'junk shot' and this might take a a couple of weeks. They will try the small box within 72 hrs.

Up thread someone remarked that they had tried to activate the BOP rams with a submersible and this suggested they had not been activated during the initial attempt to close the well - perhaps, but as they have redundant systems (multiple rams)I believe this was just an attempt to get the well to seal by cycling the rams hoping they could crush or shear the drill pipe or obstruction and stop the leak. Clearly this failed.

Someone posted a graphic of a ram in comments here:

The NY Times has just reported that nitrogen puffed cement was used to seal the well.

Could this really have been the root cause?

From the article:

"Once the well began leaking, the pressure buildup should have been evident to workers monitoring the drilling mud that was being circulated through the pipes. An oil well blowout is almost always preceded by such warning signs, but a crew must be alert to catch them."

This is what Rockman was saying, isn't it, that they weren't monitoring the mud carefully enough?

Swifty -- if the story is true that's exactly what happened. And as insane as it sounds that's one of the lowest tech ops on a rig.

Pravda - Nuke Oil Geyser

Has Russia really done this before? Many have suggested this approach. I wonder if it's being looked at by the US govt, should BP continue to fail after weeks and months.

What was the nature of the second upper plug which never got set? Cast iron bridge plug with wireline-set, followed by bailer? Or was it a pipe positioned slug of cement slurry?

To the good people in the business I was once in:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt