Oil Spill - New Thread - May 9

With all of the comments on last night's thread regarding the Dome not working, it is probably time to start a new oil spill thread. The prior thread is still available; we just moved it down the page a bit.

A couple of updates:

Deepwater Horizon Response Joint Information Center sent us the following information in an e-mail:

Right now, we have approximately 9,900 personnel who are responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife with an additional 9,500 volunteers. There are already 335 vessels that are on the scene, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels that are here to assist in the containment and cleanup efforts. We also are using aircraft, ROVs, and multiple offshore drilling units in the effort to stem the oil flow. If anyone wants to volunteer their time or their boat to the effort, they can find out more at our web site: http://deepwaterhorizonresponse.com

The amount of boom being used has been a hot topic of discussion, so here are some numbers for you:

* Containment - Staged: 424,504 ft.; Assigned: 928,265 ft.
* Sorbent - Staged: 941,603 ft.; Assigned: 143,087 ft.
* Fire - Staged: 2,650 ft.; Assigned: 1,000 ft.

In total, that's nearly 1.4 million feet of staged boom and 1 million feet of assigned boom. We're working with everyone we can, including the international community to ensure there is enough boom.

There are also 23 helicopters assigned and 14 fixed wing aircraft being used in this operation.

In the past 24 hours, 43,250 ft of boom has been deployed, more than 3.4 million gallons of oily water mix has been recovered, and 308,885 gallons of dispersant deployed.

Regarding the dispersant being used by BP in the Gulf, it is authorized as part of the "National Contingency Plan Product Schedule". However, at any time, we reserve the right to stop BP from continuing to use the dispersant on the water's surface if we determine air quality is being adversely affected.

As you have probably seen on reports, there has been confirmation of tarballs coming ashore at Dauphin Island. A tarball is a small patty of oil that can be hard on the outside but sticky on the inside. It is recommended that all individuals avoid contact with oil, but brief contact with a small amount of oil will rarely cause any harm. As tarballs make landfall, Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Teams (SCAT) will evaluate the situation to determine how best to remove them, which is done either by hand (with protective gloves) or with beach cleaning machinery. We're asking the general public that if you find new tarballs on a beach please, call 866-448-5816.

Regarding SCAT (yes, I know, interesting acronym choice - not my call, so don't shoot the messenger), they are being deployed using all available means (air, land, and sea).

Some folks are saying that oil came ashore at Grand Island - that is not correct. It was algae. Algae can look similar to oil.

It is also important to note that all shipping channels remain open and no vessels have required cleaning or decontamination - teams are on standby if necessary. Mobile Bay also remains open and no change to its status is immediately anticipated. They are, however, constructing gating and booming for the entrance to Mobile Bay.

The containment dome does present some challenges, but that was expected with this operation as it has never been tried at this depth before. However, work does continue on it.

You can find a lot of this information and more, including updates, from our web site: http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com

The Wall Street Journal has as its top headline:

U.S. Considers 'Malfeasance' in Leak

Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday said he had dispatched Justice Department officials to the Gulf Coast to determine whether there had been any "misfeasance" or "malfeasance" related to the leaking oil rig off the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. Holder, speaking on ABC's "This Week," said he sent the officials to the area to advise him on "what our options are." He said the government's primary focus was on preventing the leaking oil from devastating the coast when it reaches land.

I really need a solution guys. I am at ground zero here in Gulf Shores AL. So far my metal cast in place idea has not had an obvious fatal flaw exposed, please find one. That is why I post here, and that is how science works. I think all need to work together. I also think trying to fix the caisson is futile.

The solution is to reduce oil use dramatically, which in an economic system based on growth, high energy gain, interconnected systems, high expectations, and increasingly funded via credit from thin air, means reducing all consumption dramatically and allocating 5-10% of our assets immediately towards non business as usual energy descent trajectories focused on basic goods and services.

Oh - you meant for the short term solution for the ongoing oil leak? On that I have no idea...

"...reduce oil use..."


i have a flame war on another site where i posited... GAAAKKKKKKKKK... reduce oil use... wherein i am being dismissed as "moronic"...

WHAT? You MEAN poeple can't live 40 miles from work? How are people supposed to live in the city and commute to their homes in the suburbs? "I" deserve the FREEDOM to live and work where I WANT to...

there ya have it... FREEDOM... to USE... as much as "I" damn well wanna... pffffffffftttt...

let's put this in perspective... the first "production" well was probably 1861 in pennsylvania... prior to that.. steam engines... wood (coal? i gotta research that)...

but... to the wind and solar crowd... no don't get me wrong... i'm ALL for wind power... but... the LAST time wind power was in widespread use... was circa the american revolution from britian... historians have posited... had the british navy ships had steam... wood... coal... oil... powered ships... they would not have been limited to offshore and deepwater inlets... would have been able to offload more troops and put down the uprising...

so... in perspective... life with wind power... existed... in the context of 18th century technology...

sure... drilling 3miles deep in 1 mile of water makes perfect sense... and after that... we'll just drill more... drill deeper... drill more often... seems simple to me...

had the british navy ships had steam... wood... coal... oil... powered ships... they would have been able to offload more troops and put down the uprising...

So true. And if they had helicopter gunships and missile firing drones they wouldn't have even needed those troops. ;-)

Just shows how the right and left define freedom differently. For the right freedom means the right to buy and sell without government interference despite the harm it may cause to the makers and users of different goods. So what if a few dozen miners die or an avoidable accident pollutes 100,000s sq mi. As long as a person can buy as much gas as the can afford and use as much electricity as they want no matter how many people die as a consequence. Yiu can't really prove that pollution has killed anyone just like you can't prove what is causing Earth's temperature to rise.
What the right doesn't mean by freedom is a woman's freedom to make medical decisions about her own body or the freedom to marry the consenting adults' mutually agree to.

My Thomas, you attribute sanctity to the left and evil to the right. Well, at age 74, I'm pretty consevative in my way of life and my viewpoints. They include using no more of good things of life than is necessary, taking care of the environment, being as kind an gentle with all I meet because "everyone you meet is fighting a great battle", caring for the less fortunate (I work with severe and profundly handicaped young adults).

And yes, I believe life is sacred, and no one has a right to kill another human being (except in self defense obviously), and while I have a number of gay friends, I consider marriage the backbone of society, and as it collapses, so does society, as it is doing right before our eyes.

I am quite convinced of peak oil and I take the problem of global warming seriously, although I am not quite sure man will do much about it or even if he can do much about it.

I can't change the world, but I can make a differnce one person at a time, and that I hope to continue to do until I am called home.

They include using no more of good things of life than is necessary, taking care of the environment,

That has always puzzled me. American conservatives (atleast the party types) don't include environment as something that needs to be conserved, as part of what is meant by "conservative".

Assigning zero cost/value to environment has greatly distorted our market/capitalistic economy.

Neither are they fiscally conservative. They're just ignorant and bigoted for the most part, or easily swayed and prone to fearmongering at the least.

And before anyone thinks I'm a Democrat apologist, let me put it this way: there is no left party in American politics, just degrees of right.

If you can make the arguments in terms that they understand, then you have a better chance of making headway.

For example, many folks in rural areas enjoy fishing and hunting. But where I grew up, they now tell people to limit the amount of fish that they eat which they caught in the local lakes - the mercury levels are too high. And where does the mercury come from? Burning coal.

Even the oil spill in the gulf can be made to resonate. The watermen down there who go out fishing every day to make a living are now effectively unemployed. Well, they might get some work for a while cleaning up tar balls and servicing the booms, but eventually that will end. It will take decades for that to come back.

there is no left party in American politics, just degrees of right.

Absolutely "right" ! Almost every one of the 2008 candidates of both parties are on the right upper quadrant. Even Ron Paul is above the line (closer to authoritarian than libertarian).


This is silly -- the scale is obviously subjective. I maintain almost all of the above are liberal -- certainly everybody in blue, and some in red.

Even relative placement requires some criteria, which will also be subjective. The diagram must have been made by somebody with a specific agenda.

The world is a big place, the US is only one country within it. The scale is set by what is internationally understood of the political spectrum, not what a regional enclave might be used to.

The US, collectively, could do with getting out more and seeing there are many other points of view than they are usually exposed to. Maybe then we wouldn't get the continued misuse of the term 'socialist' to refer to anything to the left of Genghis Khan - and as an insult.

PS Liberal is something to aspire to, its not an insult either.

If anything, by international standards the US has absolutely no-one in elected federal politics who would be accepted as a member of any of the socialist parties anywhere else in the world (which BTW typically get only perhaps 10% of the total vote anywhere, eg. see last week's election in Britain). Certainly Britain's Labour party, lately led by Tony Blair into the war in Iraq, is not a socialist party. Might the British Lib-Dems qualify? Even if, they got only a very few seats in parliament even though voters were totally PO'ed at the other two.)

Your confusion is equating "liberal" and "left". America does not have a "left", and never did (not with any power, anyway). An American "liberal" is basically "center-right". Most American political commentary is over-dramatized debate over tiny variations of conservatism. What passes for a "Democrat" today is basically a pro-choice moderate Republican. You know, like the one in the White House.

EDIT: Well, that was fun. Not that anyone cares, but I took their test and came in at (-8.38,-8.10). That Gandhi, what a fascist...

I stopped taking the test at page two. It's complete B. S. One has to pretend to "know" the answer to all the questions. There is no "I don't know" option for any of them.

For example: "Controlling inflation is more important than controlling unemployment."


How is it that in USA, the "Right Wing" Republican Party is RED, the International colour of the Socialist/Communist parties, whilst the "Left Wing" Democrats are painted the BLUE of the Tory/Facist parties?

Thanks, garyp. Still seems weird that the parties didn't have an associated colour for rosettes, flags, banners etc that most other voting nations use.

All that tends to be red-white-blue for both parties.

joebbryner wrote:

I consider marriage the backbone of society, and as it collapses, so does society, as it is doing right before our eyes.

Can you explain:

(a) how the collapse of marriage causes Congress to engage in reckless spending?

(b) how the collapse of marriage caused Bush/Cheney to invade Iraq on fabricated claims?

(c) how the collapse of marriage caused the Supreme Court to declare that corporate money has no untoward effect on politics? Or that because one belongs to no incorporated church, that one cannot specify your religious day of rest?

(d) how the collapse of marriage causes liberals to laud criminals as "victims" and hand out taxpayer money to the incompetent?

(e) how the collapse of marriage causes conservatives to decry the wall of separation between church and state and claim this is a Christian nation, even though the founding fathers specifically said it was not, and hand out taxpayer money to the incompetent (that they support)?

(f) how any straight couple's marriage would in fact be affected if two gay people wed, even though
* most will never meet them unless they're dealing with wills/health directives/...
* the gay couple's behaviour in all but a few legal/contractual contexts will not change

How about America's issues instead coming from:
* abandonment of Deism with its emphasis on thinking for oneself, the rejection of biblical inerrancy, and not judging others or trying to impose upon them. Replacing thinking for oneself with dogmatic religious of emotional righteousness.
* abandonment of Enlightenment Values of questioning established dogma and thinking for oneself and allowing others liberty.
* the slide into more and more adolescence (and lack of taking responsibility for oneself) that comes from public schooling replacing apprenticeships with the Industrial Revolution. In apprenticeships, even to one's own father a farmer, one saw adults in all circumstances, and so modeled that behaviour. In school, one sees only one adult, in a very artificial situation, and models an oversimplified "adult" of "when I grow up, I'll make the rules".
n.b. in olden days, there were ceremonies to establish that one is now an adult and must be self-responsible, such as the issuance of journeyman papers. These days, anyone who lives to 18/21 is automatically "adult", without having to (publicly) choose that they are an adult.
* from schools run by educators, who have a narrow view of the world (based on their background in the arts & letters culture of academia), constrained by political correctness/family values to dumb down the curriculum lest someone's feelings be hurt by the truth. Further, these academics strip shop and other "lowly" subjects from schools, trying to force all people into academic paths.
* the ignorance and carelessness of the fools paradise of heretofore unimaginable wealth for common people.
* the rise of large numbers of people in the welfare recipient classes, who have actual disdain for work (covering their fear due to ignorance).
* the complexity of modern life, the fear of which causes so many to avoid thinking.
* the complexity of modern life, with specialization into so many jobs (many of which are arbitrary paper pushing), that causes so many people to be alienated from the connection to the soil, water and air on the one hand; and from the art and craft of mechanics and cause and effect on the other.
* the modern use of advertising/propaganda to shape the masses into blind followers instead of sentient, self-actualized beings.

I think rather the malaise that affects this land is more due to the lack of connection/knowledge/respect for (physical) reality.
The farmers and craftspeople who founded this nation had to have that, or they would have starved.
And they also had the concomitant humility (thence tolerance) that humans feel when they face nature with the limited power of man and beast.
There has been for some time little/no such evolutionary pressure, so the fools and foolishness and arrogance and intolerance have multiplied with the enormous power from the burning of fossil fuels.

And, now - now we're at peak oil ... .

The great battle - to see though eyes unclouded by longing.

ps. have you given any thought to reincarnation?
A good place to start: http://www.amazon.com/Life-Before-Scientific-Investigation-Childrens/dp/...

The Left and the Right do define freedom differently. But they also are both wedded to their entitlements. They just define their entitlement to "The Commons" differently. The Right is entitled to the commons of the world of natural resources, the Left is entitled to the commons of the combined fruits of all individual labors (taxes). Ultimately, it's all the same problem of entitlement to the commons. When are people going to learn that they are NOT entitled to ANYTHING material? They are entitled under our system to; life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but this doesn't mean any kind of guarantee of anything material; any particular standard of material well being.

Though I subscribe to no religion and consider them all to be simply tools for control of the masses, still there have been some good ideas put forth by several founding philosophers, eg. a certain carpenter's son in the Middle East about 2000 yrs ago. I think he'd have found your position particularly distasteful.

I beg to differ.
Christ never taught that the Kingdom of God was the Kingdom of Material Things.

That's my whole point.
Until humanity finds a way to share without exploitation, of either one another or the natural world, we will never find a way out of this mess.

But the Apostles practiced an "all things in common" doctrine. Now who taught them that?


It is certainly part of the acceoted wisdom that religions are simply tools used by the elite to control the masses.

I do not disagree.

But you may find it more enlightening to think of religions as organizations of people banded together for mutual benefit, which is equally true.

The elites in many cases emerged from within the religions themselves, for example the Borgias.

In other cases the religions have been hijacked to greater or lesser extents by secular elites, but I don't think you can realistically explain the EXISTENCE of religions as creations of secular elites.

From the Deepwater Horizon
Audio by Alex Smith (Radio Ecoshock)

The Gulf of Mexico "spill" is really a man-made underwater volcano of oil. This accident taps a primeval fear in the human mind. Something dark and uncontrollable rushes out of the Earth, poisoning the global oceans. Could that really happen? Richard Heinberg, Anita Burke, Riki Ott, Antonia Juhasz, and new song "Corporate Catastrophe".

Listen/Download the podcast

I'm not sure the caisson didn't work, at least not in the way BP wanted it to. What if their plan was to siphon off the oil from the box to pay for the spill, and when the hydrates formed it blocked that possibility? And now they are stalling for time to try to make it work somehow with hot water, or whatever?

Keep in mind that box weighs nearly 200,000 pounds, and at 5,000 feet of depth the weight of the water on top would be tremendous. Would the oil coming out and hydrates really be able to create that much bouyancy to lift it off?

I'm not saying that's what happened, but is it a possibility?

This is a pretty marginal exercise in damage control. They're operating at the limits of current technology.

It's really just basic research into well blowout control techniques in ultra-deep water. Most likely it can't be made to work with the technology available today. The only sure solution is to drill a relief well.

That means it will blow out of control for two or three months. These things happen. It's all explained by Normal Accident Theory.

Better luck next time. We'll know more then.

Perk Earl -

Regardless of what depth the box is at, the net force of the water on the top and on the sides of the box is effectively zero. This is simply because the inside of the box is open to the water, and hence the pressure inside the box is exactly the same outside the box, so with regard to water pressure the box is in static equilibrium.

Of course, when (and if) the oil starts flowing, there will some resultant pressure differential created between the inside and the outside of the box, but being that the box is open to the surround water (via that large slit and possible leakage pathways through the mud the box is resting in), this will be nowhere nearly as great as the pressure actually within the well. So as long as the pipe connected the box to the surface can be kept clear, most of the upward force exerted by the escaping oil will just be the frictional forces of the moving oil against the inner wall of the pipe.

As the density of sea water is about 64 lbs/cubic ft and that of crude oil roughly 55 lbs/cubic ft, if the box were entirely filled with crude oil, each cubic foot of volume would create about 9 lbs of lift. As I understand it, the box is something like 40 ft high by 20 ft by 15 ft, thus having a volume of roughly 12,000 cubic feet. So even if the box were completely filled with pure crude oil (which it won't be), the net upward buoyant force would be about 108,000 lbs, which is only about half the weight of the box. Hence, as I see it, that shouldn't be a problem.

I think once the methane hydrate problem is solved, the whole thing should work more or less as intended. There ought to be some reasonably practical way of getting heat into the box. I would tend to think that inserting some large electric heating coils inside the box might do the trick. Of course that would require over a mile of electrical cable, but that should not be an insurmountable problem for a company that already has considerable expertise in deep water operation.

Did you factor in the buoyancy effect on the caisson, applying Archimedes' Principle?

TinFoilHatGuy -

I'm not sure in what respect you mean this. As the caisson is filled with water when it sits on the bottom, the buoyancy effect does not pertain to the entire volume of the caisson, but rather only to the solid volume of the structural steel and concrete that makes up the caisson, and that is but a small percentage of the entire caisson volume as defined by its overall dimensions.

This is pretty much the same things as the difference in buoyancy between an upside-down coffee can held below water with it's open face pointing down so it is still filled with air and a coffee can with the open face pointing up and thus filled with water. In the first case it floats; in the latter case it sinks.

Did you catch my reply below? I am not a gotcha guy. I am in the line of fire and I need help.

There is a buoyancy effect.

The caisson I presume is predominantly made of steel. At the surface steel weighs around 7.85 T per cubic metre. Submerged steel weighs 6.85 T per cubic metre. With concrete you will also loose 1 T per cubic metre on the volume as a result of the displace volume of the material. Hence the caisson with a surface weight of 100T ?? will only exert a downward pressure of perhaps 85 T when submerged.

I would be pretty confident the design engineers would have taken this into account.

There is no net bouyancy in either direction due to the DEPTH of the water.The force of the wter pushing DOWN on the upper side or top dome is exactly balanced by the force of the water pushing up on the bottom side.

The bouyancy effect is measured b the volume of the dome;for each cubic yard of concrete and steel , one cubic yard of water is displaced,and the EFFECTIVE WIEGHT of the dome, which holds it down, is reduced by the wieght of the displaced cubic yard of water, roughly around 3500 lbs iirc.

Since concrete and steel are denser(meaning heavier per unit of volume) than water these materials sink in water.

I don't know exactly what kind of ice mixture is forming in and or on the dome but it will be lighter (less dense) than water and therefore it will float. If enough ice forms on and or in the dome it could actually float up off the sea floor as I understand the situation,since the only thing holding it in place is its own wieght.Of course it is possible that the riser pipe could be exerting a good bit of downward force on the dome, but it apparently is fitted with flotation material for the express purpose of reducing its effective wieght.I would therefore guess that the riser does not contribute very much to the stability of the dome.

Actually methane ice is slightly denser than water. The problem is that the riser stub is plugged with clathrates, while there's a bubble of gaseous methane in the chamber.

Thanks for the new data, DIYer.

I an not at all up on the chemistry of methane /water /oil mixtures, but with some oil in the mix it would still seem likely the ice would be lighter than water.

I should have added one more "if I understand correctly". Learning something is the primary reason for my hanging out here.

Now the question becomes "if the flow can be started, will the heat of the oil be enough to overcome the cooling effect of the expanding gas?"

Apparently it will not. A new frost plug would probably form quickly.

Somebody elsewhere here on TOD has suggested pumpimg in a little oxygen and starting a fire.There is no doubt in my mind the ice will be gone in very short order.

This seems like an eminently workable idea to me;by controlling the oxygen flow, which should be very easy to do, the size of the fire could be very precisely controlled, and it could be extinguished more or less more or less instantly..

Ordinary air would probably work just fine, but there's nothing else like concentrated O2 when you want a compact, hot fire.

Fuel-oxygen mixture at 2200 psi. Terrific explosion. Destruction. Fun, fun, fun.

You could use an electric water torch to do the same thing without the high pressure O2.

"Terrific explosion"

Details please. My understanding is that crude oil will auto-ignite when mixed with pure oxygen, even at much lower pressure. So how do you accumulate a sufficient volume of fuel O2 mixture for an explosion?

“You could use an electric water torch”

I believe the amount of power they could transmit through a small diameter pipe, say 2 inches, would be at least an order of magnitude more than they could transmit with electric cables of similar weight.

Hi, HRH,

Yo are correct in a general sense, but an explosion of this sort is really only a very,very fast burning fire.The technology of controlling such explosions is mature, cheap, and simple.

Guns and internal combustion engines are two primary examples.My oxyacetylene welding and cutting equipment is another.The explosion in a gun or engine is controlled by controlling the compostion of the fuel , the quantity , and the shape of the combustion area, etc.

The size or the burn rate of the fire is determined by many factors, many of which are beyond the scope of my limited knowledge, but the upper limit on the burn rate and or size of the fire/ explosion is directly and absolutely linked to the quantity of oxygen available.

If the fire is supplied with oxygen thru a pipe or hose,and there is a variable valve regulator mechanism used to control the flow rate , the fire could be kept as small as a match flame, if there was no turbulence to blow it out.

Such regulators are available for underwater work, off the shelf, but maybe not for use at such depths.

But the REGULATOR valve need not be at the full depth;if the delivery pipe has a specifically sized orofice, the flow could be precisely controlled even with the regulator at the surface;and a fast acting shut off valve could be located in the oxygen line very near the dome.

The shut off valve could be a fail safe type, held open by a powerful electromagnet;if the electric current falls off , or the operator turns it off, such a valve slams shut instantly , propelled by a powerful spring or perhaps by gravity or a ccompressed gas charge, etc.

I'm no engineer, but I have spent a considerable amount of time working with such equipment as would be needed for this scheme.I am willing to bet that it could be organized and tested in very short order, perhaps as little as a day or two.

A source of ignition might not even be necessary;given the very high ambient pressure, ignition would probably be spontaneous,even at thirty degrees or so F.

It would require only very modest amounts of materials, and the necessary work would obviously be well within the capabilities of the rov s used on such jobs.

PS- Does anybody have links to video of such rovs at work on other sites?

Won't the oxygen corrode the dome itself?

The oxygen will oxidize the fuel forming water vapor and CO2. The water vapor will condense into droplets that will sink to the bottom and leak out into the sea. The CO2 will dissolve into the oil or bubble out the top.

I would therefore guess that the riser does not contribute very much to the stability of the dome.

you are correct in that guess.

a 6 5/8" diameter pipe 5000' long would exhibit a buckling resistance similar to cable.


"Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove." -- P.G. Wodehouse

I'm not sure if you are serious on this or not, but it's Sunday and I'm into the Johny Walker Red, so here goes.

1. It's never been done under 5 feet of water, let alone 5000.

2. The molten metal would shock heat the BOP. (Ever see that second Terminator movie?)

3. The metal of the BOP would lose significant strength due to the heating and would likely fail due to simple softening.

4. You'd need one hella mold to put around the BOP, which is spewing hydrocarbons at a prodigious rate.

5. If you thought the pressures of the water & hydrocarbons were bad now, contemplate what happens when they are superheated.

I had an old boss once show me a burn he got while casting lead bullets. There was a sheen of moisture in the mold, and half the lead came back out after him.

The problem here is that the BOP appears to be acting as a flow restricter, and damaging it has a good chance of making things Very. Much. Worse. If you prowl this and other TOD threads, you'll see that there are many other more practical ideas to stop this that are in the queue.

1. Nature does it with lava and builds islands from deeper.
2. The BOP would be cooled by the petroleum and gases. That is what cooled the nozzle of the Saturn V rocket. Rocket fuel.
3. See 2 and the pressure that the petroleum is under would help maintain structural integrity of the BOP and riser.
4. You do not need to encase the entire BOP. Just enough to ensure a good mechanical connection to withstand more pressure than the pipes below it.
5. The hydrocarbons would not get superheated. They are flowing out too fast. Also the Saturn V used lots of hydrocarbons, and much of it ran through the nozzles first with engines blazing. It kept the nozzles from melting and allowed men to walk on the moon.

The only way this works is to use the problems of access, pressure, and water to our advantage. Do you have better solutions to be able to pull this off? I really want them, that is why I am here.

It seems to me that the problem of the generation of hydrates is the result of a combination of cooling (caused by local environmental temperature) and the sudden decompression of the ejected oil/gas mixture. The answer has to be to eliminate the decompression. Easier said than done as it means configuring your draw off pipe to operate at a similar pressure to the well head.

You should have access to plenty of large bore drill pipe in the area that would be suitable for the pressure containment. The coupling is the hard part. Then if you are going to produce a temporary coupling that is capable of withstanding the well head pressure then you could just as easily cap the pipe and do away with the draw off pipe.

Only suggestion is to configure a standard BOP with a hydraulically operated coupling that can be clamped over the end of the pipe.

1. unlike nature, we can't make lava. also, this hole has to be plugged from below. that plan is very workable, and has succeeded before. there aren't any bop attachment options. top hats, drop kills, containment domes, this is bp distracting us from the seriousness of the catastrophe.

2. a saturn v rocket engine would be crushed into bits at that depth. it is a vastly complex piece of hardware, it was engineered to cool the nozzle. the bop was engineered to let oil and gas thru, or not.

i suggest you invest some of your creative energy planning for what you and your family might do if the flow rate is indeed 26,000 barrels a day for the foreseeable future. consider what your options are if a hurricane washes the surfactants and heavy oil ashore. consider if that possibility has an effect on the value of your property. consider what happens if oil tankers cannot access loop. plan for the worst, hope for the best. prepare to get people in ill health away from the gulf shore.


Points 1 and 2 were helpful but the last point not so much. TinFoilHatGuy is working on a problem and I agree it's a long shot. But the man is looking for help with a problem that needs solving one way or another and if tapping the TOD brain trust can help him solve it sooner we will all be grateful.


Assuming you can work out a casting plan how would you sever the riser and then close the hole? If you cast around the riser then there is still a leak. And if you sever the riser before casting how would cast a hole and a plug for that hole, knowing that it absolutely had to work.

team10tim (say that fast 10 times? not easy)

so, are you prepared to assure tinfoilhatguy that there will be no human health concerns as a result of this leak? is that your opinion? it's perfectly fine for him to send his children out in the yard to play?

how much do you estimate is leaking every day? how soon will bp be able to fix this? can oil tankers traveling to the loop proceed through oil-slicked water?

let's talk about the real issues instead of golf balls and junk shots, please. tinfoilhatguy is trying to solve the wrong problem. we face a new reality.

Won't work Tin Foil Hat. The molten metal idea can be tried out in a pressurized tank with some near-freezing water and an injection system... See if you can create a prototype where your molten metal doesn't solidify too soon. Allow time enough to move the metal 5000 feet slowly, a few hours, making sure it passes through some near-freezing water for hours. Standing outside your tank with some chopsticks poking through water-tight, flexible entry points, try to build a mold where you want your metal to fall.

Me, I am arguing here and elsewhere, it IS possible that DICK CHENEY'S HEAD is big enough to plug the main hole. Since is it worthless and should be used to solve this problem, let me be the first to offer this idea to the public, a deluded lot lied to 24/7 by the MSM and TPTB.

Honestly, it's no joke and no one here seems to be mentioning the criminal nature of this case. I favor of criminal prosecution of all parties responsible for this massive disaster--Including BP's upper management, even Mr. Scuttlebutt. All US officials involved in MMS team should be included, of course.

TOD should call for a Grand Jury Investigation. Put out a petition. 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.


Politics and "criminal" conspiracy, is not what this discussion is about. This has NOTHING to do with Cheney or anyone else in Washingtong. This is an ACCIDENT likely caused by a mistake in judgement by BP or a subcontractor. The best you might get is Negligence and that's a civil issue.

If you had been following this accident FROM THE START, the BOP WAS ACTIVATED, they have telemetry that says so. WHY it didn't shear the riser is what needs to be discovered. The acoustic fail safe WOULD NOT HAVE MATTERED. Right-wing conspiracy web sites are NOT a valid source of information and for darn sure don't offer any solutions to this problem.

Been a reader for years, but had to create a log on to reply to this...

Hey Curious,

Sorry, this was not, and I repeat, not an accident. This was an EVENT that happened because a group of people got together to decide to take this risk, and failed. This is not an accident.

It always seems in this fxxked up country, no one is to be held accountable for the decisions they make. This was a decision made by BP, and they should be held in jail, right now, subject to criminal charges. If anyone, up to the President had a hand in the decision, he to, should be held accountable.

Only when the people responsible are held to account, will there be any change in this situation for the future. Nature will hold us all accountable very soon, but some should go before others.

The Martian.

No it was NOT an event, it was a mistake in judgement likely driven by financial pressures. This will all come out in the investigation by MMS and others. Fines will be paid, any technical issues will be addressed and new regulations written. I strongly suspect someone WILL be held accountable if they are still alive. BP will fire whoever made the decisions that lead to the accident. That person will be personna non grata at any oil company worldwide, hows that for accountable? BP will pay fines and cleanup costs, ism't that being accountable? By the way I was part of the NASA Columbia Accident Investigation Board so I feel pretty confident how this will play out after the leak is capped. Let's wait to hang someone until the problem is solved and let's don't jump to conclusions about root cause, this is a very complex "failure". In fact it could well have been a chain of events thst started with failure of something downhole, we may never know exactly.

It's unfortunate that you sat on the NASA Board then....this same techno whiz bang attitude, that no one is liable for their criminal behaviour, is typical of the big business/big gov you seem to represent.

Sorry, but many, many people in this country feel otherwise. The groundswell is rising to address the massive failures in this government. The Columbia "EVENT" is a sad and poor choice to defend. There again, no one was held accountable....How much were you paid to "sit on the Board"?

"Fines will be paid" ? WTF ?? Is it just about money to you twits? Do you even have an idea how much damage this has done and will continue to do?

I would suggest you get a bucket and start cleaning up.....

The Martian.

The Challenger blew up because a powerful senator required that the boosters be built in Utah which required them to be segmented, adding unnecessary weight, complexity and additional failure modes to the boosters. They still are segmented, yet he was never mentioned in the investigation. I doubt you will find a similar connection in this case.

Me, I am arguing here and elsewhere, it IS possible that DICK CHENEY'S HEAD is big enough to plug the main hole. Since is it worthless and should be used to solve this problem, let me be the first to offer this idea to the public


Thanks for that. I find the mental image of the severed head of Dick Cheney, with a very "surprised" version of his classic sneer on his face, impaled on the top of a BOP at the bottom of the ocean to be at the same time both disturbing, and yet strangely satisfying...

I know next-to-nothing about the actual workings of any oil rig... BUT I DO know about casting metal.

I realise that others will give you a better, more considered response and I gladly defer to them, but the idea of pouring some form of molten metal down 5,000 feet deep into the Gulf of Mexico is... breath-taking to say the least.

The present problem is caused by some methane clathrates (ice-like crystals) forming in the top of the chamber and clogging the pipe up.

OK, how cold do you think it has to be in order to cause this?

If you think about how difficult it is to keep molten metal molten (ie: liquid and pourable) then even trying to pour such down some sort of pipe that deep is going to present the most insurmountable of problems. I know from casting over many a year that getting metal to flow into those corners and "fiddly bits" is very difficult.

I have helped a friend try to cast a set of frames for a steam locomotive. He was using cast iron which is said to be 8 times MORE liquid that water (no, I don't know how that's measured) - and every time, when the thinner sections of casting were examined, they would be full of flaws - the metal simply did not run very well due to chilling. Heating the mould up didn't work very well, as the thermal mass of such was so great it was more work (heating) to warm the mould up than what it was to heat the metal up to pour it in.

So, you need an ENORMOUS amount of energy to get molten metal (presumably inside an insulated pipe) a little ways. It would take stupendous amounts of energy to get the metal to the floor of the Gulf of Mexico in a molten state (ie: fluid and pour-able), PLUS you cannot have any liquid in the immediate area. Molten steel is usually poured at above it's melting point. Given that the lowest melting point of steel is about 1200 C (2192 F), the pour temperature is probably just shy of 2,000 C (3632 F), to enable the steel to handle the chilling effect of the mould, spout and so forth.

So, this pipe has to transport a hot liquid at around 3,500 degrees F which is very VERY heavy (steel, when it melts, does not lose it's weight) and does not flow very well. Molten Cast Iron is very fluid. Molten Cast steel is not. So, this tube had to keep it's internals warm at over 3,500 F, plus keep it moving and support it's weight.

Assuming you can get a 5000 foot long tube that will handle the thermal stress of a temperature difference of the molten steel (3,500 F) as compared to the water of the Gulf of Mexico (cold enough to freeze out methane clathrates) and support the weight of such, while not allowing it to chill - wouldn't it just be a whole lot easier (and not to say FASTER) to warm the presently existing pipe mildly (say 20 C) to thaw the methane clathrates? And if they cannot do THAT (and it seems they cannot) how the heck are they gunna get molten steel to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico?

... and then you have the problem at the other end - the molten steel has to pour INTO something.

This introduces us to the biggest problem:

If you pour water onto a cooking-oil fire, as demonstrated by Mythbusters, you get a HUGE fire/ explosion. This is, in part, a steam explosion.

If you pour molten metal into any container which has water in it will ALSO cause a huge explosion. This is almost wholly a steam explosion. Water boils at around 100 degrees C or 212 degrees F. Water, when heated to it's boiling point, will expand 1,600 times upon converting to steam. Almost all molten metals have enough heat in them to convert water to superheated steam. Molten steel or molten cast iron are more than hot enough to flash water instantly to superheated steam. Brass might be a bit better, but steam is still superheated at brass's melting point (look it up). Yes, the water at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is at a somewhat greater pressure than the water at sea-level and that raises the boiling point but it will still boil given enough heating. 3500 F is more than enough heat.

OK, so you need to have some form of casing which excludes the water on the bottom of the gulf of Mexico - OR you'll get the mother of all superheated steam explosions, which will cause the water molecules to separate into oxygen and hydrogen (the hotter end of superheater fires do this). Thus you'll have a huge volume of quite explosive fuel (the oil and the gas belching out of the holes in the sub-oceanic oil field structure) PLUS some enormously hot source of ignition (the molten iron or steel) plus a goodly supply of oxygen PLUS an expanding gas (the superheated steam) propelling all of your delicate structure (Blow-Out Preventer and all) towards the orbit of Mars.

But how DO you exclude the water? If they could do that now, they'd have a large part of the problem solved - a water-tight container is certainly an oil tight one. And that's where we get back to the original problem. The problem is the containers are NOT oil-tight.

So, assuming you have a water-tight container around the Blow Out Preventer, would you not expect the Oil to fill it really quick? THEN you're going to pour molten steel into the container? What the heck are we making this container out of? There's no known material that would be able to do all of the things all at once (keep the water out, keep the Oil in, keep the steel molten) AND resist the resulting almost thermonuclear sized explosion that would inevitably follow when forcing molten steel into close contact with 5,000+ barrels of oil per day (or is it per hour?).

The cure is worse than the problem.

If you had such a container, it would be simpler to lower it down to the bottom of the Gulf, let the Oil fill it up, and then leave it alone. The pressures will equalize, and that's when the Oil stops leaking out of the Blow Out Preventer.

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

I have a friend who's idea to stop the leak will work, I think. He built a protoype this morning, and it works great. Don't know who to pitch it to. It's quite simple, really.

This may sound a bit detached from the magnitude of the environmental disaster, but I wonder if what they are finding out about methyl hydrates will be of use in future efforts to mine the stuff.

ET -- Unless I missed it, these NG hydrates are the result of the escaping NG cooling to the freezing point as the pressure is reduced when it reaches the surface. These are not the hydrates folks talk about existing in the Deep Water areas. The freezing process is very common with all NG well. Producing NG wells have a "heater treater" at the well head that heats the NG and prevents the flow lines from freezing. We can make all the artificial NG hydrates we want but it would just be a conversion of existing NG.

Thanks RM for this and your many other contributions.

Am I correct in my belief that the NG expands suddenly as it is release, thereby cooling everythng off in the vicinity? Much like freon gas in my a/c?

So that the natural coolness of the water at 5,000 ft is made much worse. And in the restricted volume of the bell, it cools to the extent that methyl hydrates result?

Just wanting to clarify and make sense of what I have read to date.


Why not put such a "heater treater" into the dome. Power is available, cables to bring the power down to the seafloor should not be the big problem. All you need to turn let‘s say 10000 Volts 100 Amps into 1 MW heat is 1.2 km enameled copper wire AWG 24. All you need to fix it into the dome is available in the next hardware shop.
And before anybody asks, AWG 24 is available with 7000 V breakdown voltage. Since there are TWO layers of insulation between any two parts of wire, that‘s enough.


Won't work for a number of reasons, your electrical calculations are wrong to begin with, and to install heating cables in the dome means pulling it up and working for days to string the cables. Even then recall there are gaps in the side that let in seawater so you wouldn't get any heat that isn't just carried right away. Enameled copper wire isn't rated for underwater use either, its for use in AIR like say an oven or a toaster.

My electrical calculations are correct, my thermal calculations were wrong. At 800 W/m the copper would get too hot, because of the insulation provided by the enamel. Two parallel strings, 2.4 km each would work. A simple copper wire would neither be damaged by the pressure nor by salt water. We‘re not talking about decades of lifetime. Who cares that it‘s not rated, neither are rocket engines.
Of course it‘d need to be done at the surface and take some days. And I‘d mount it above the doors.
ROCKMAN, the copper wire IS the heater, connection to the supply cables can be done in a connector box filled with salad oil. In a pinch, a tupper bowl would do. That‘s all that‘s needed subsurface.
On the surface, some monitoring and safety equipment would be needed, but that‘s pretty much off-the-shelf.


As I understand it, the pressure drop is happening mostly in the BOP and the kink above it. The leak we‘re talking about is at the end of the riser. Large diameter, slow flow, pressure equal to water pressure.
A copper wire is a copper wire, when current flows through it, it gets hot. On the surface, subsea or on the moon, same difference.


maybe rat. Now all that have to do is invent a heataer treater that will function under 5,000' of water at near feezing temps.

Most if the ideas, like yours, that I've seen have a sound basis but only at surface conditions. The most difficult aspect to work into the equation is the pressure of the oil/NG flow. If the blow out were happeneing on dry land it would be difficult enough to stop.

What about taking a damage mitigation stance, rather than requiring a total and complete package solution?

I'm wayyyy outside my expertise to comment effectively but would something like this at least allow us to capture a greater portion of the crude than letting it all get to the surface?

Where, rather than placing an encasulating dome to capture everything that comes out of the BOP, why not place a "vacuum head" of sufficient size to capture the greater portion of what is escaping. BUT leave some space (similar to an air gap in plumbing) to allow for the depressurization of the gases and crystal formation to happen naturally, and attempt to vacuum up as much as you can after the crystals have formed BUT before current and natural dispersion have too much time to spread the greater portion out into a plume you cannot control?

The key concept being the "air gap" (in this case a "water gap") to allow the processes we cannot control, time to happen naturally and then gather what we can. Suck in water along with the oil, and whatever gasses and crystals that happen to get vacuumed up, pump the mixture to the surface and separate it there with the ships already onsite. (I can't recall the name of that ship that is there that has that capability)

Yes I know it cannot be a vacuum created at the surface sucking up beyond 20' or so, but rather pumped up from that depth instead. The vacuum wording is simply for descriptive purposes of the inverted funnel.

This idea is not meant as a resolution, but rather as a "damage mitigation while resolutions are being developed" concept. In spills response (a previous career of mine before drinking water) this was always the primary concern in responding to an ongoing spill - mitigate the continuing damage, THEN go after the better resolutions.

I'm more just spitballing an idea, but hey it might spark ingenuity in others.


Just what would prevent a controlled fire from keeping the dome ice free, in principle?

I can't see that providing the 02 could be that big a deal, or controlling the size of the fire.Some additional water and the co2 created by the fire should not be that big a deal, the pipe is going to be delivering a mixtur of oil , water and gas anyway.

Of course the dome might not be shaped in such a way that it would work, but the combustion products will rise and heat the inside of the dome and the pipe leading to the surface;and after a few hours of fiddling with the oxygen delivery, I can't see any reason in principle why the operators couldn't locate a "sweet spot"-just enough fire to keep the dome and riser pipe ice free.

But of course the dome might be shaped in such a way that too much cold water will be drawn in , or something of that nature.

I'm not sure, but I think that the idea of cooling and ice is a misinterpretation of loose statements of explainers of the situation: Some people call methane hydrates, methane ice. It looks like ice mixed in the bottom mud, but it is, as you know, not ice. It is a chemical compound with the chemical formula 20(H2O)6(CH4). In it the twenty (H2O) form an icosahedral structure in which the six (CH4) are enclosed. This is a stable arrangement of C, H, and O atoms in a cold, high pressure environment, where ice (H2O) can also exist, but it is not ice. But mainly it forms in a slightly warmer environment on the seafloor where ice cannot exist. The seafloor is a few degrees too warm for ice, there is not gaseous methane from evaporation of methane, so there is not evaporative cooling taking place. Ice is a red herring (figuratively or course).

I present this as a more plausible explanation of the materials involved, than the evaporative cooling explanation because I don't see one of the obvious products of evaporation, namely a gas. The actual thermodynamic properties of methane hydrate have been measured, but there appears to be little replication or validation, yet. Until recently there was little interest in funding this laboratory work.

Suttles in his explanation of why they suspended work uses the phrase "crystals that are like ice" several times. He never says "ice crystals". I think he wants his audience to understand that these are not the kind of crystals that collect and focus cosmic spiritual energy. He probably has focus group results that indicate he needs to make this distinction. So he uses that set phrase without ever actually mentioning that better known type of crystal. To mention that better know type of crystal would get him seriously "off message".

I am going to hypothesize that the reason the dome didn't work the first time may be a flow rate problem. If they close the pipe from the dome for any time more than a few minutes, the gas will separate from the oil and float the dome. If they let the flow go up the pipe too fast, they will entrain a lot of seawater in the mix and that could possibly cause the hydrates to form in the dome or pipe.

If they want the dome to work, they need to manage the flow so that they are getting most of the oil up through the pipe all the time. Once the dome top is filled with oil, they should let a small portion leak out of the window to insure that they are entraining very little seawater in the flow going up the pipe. However, they also have to be careful to not lose so much oil out the window that they have only gas going up the pipe, possibly resulting in the freezing and flotation problem.

So my suggestion is to pump some hot oil down the pipe into the dome to the level of the window as they are positioning the dome over the leak. Then have an ROV watch the leakage of oil coming out the window and throttle the flow coming out at the top of the pipe so that there is always a little bit of oil coming out the window. There is probably a more elegant way to sense the oil level in the dome and control an automatic valve up at the ocean surface, but that's what needs to be done. Once they start, they cannot stop.

They might also think about adding 70 tons or so of weight to the dome - maybe on the mud flaps - to eliminate the bouyancy problem altogether.

Or they could just pump more. If they pump up more than is leaking from the pipe, it'll be seawater. This obviously is above freezing. Don't know by how much, but if they flush enough seawater alongside the oil and NG that should be enough to keep temperatures above freezing.

Other option could be to add electric heating. They reported a capacity of 15000 barels a day.
15000 barels/day × 159 L/barel = 2385000 L/day
4.18 kJ/L/K × 2385000 = 9969 MJ/day/K
9969 MJ/day/K / 86400 sec/day = 115 kW/K

That's obviously a worst-case scenario where I assume the specific heat of water which is on of the highest around. So 50 standard immersion heaters could provide a significant difference in this case!

I think the electric heating is cheaper than extra pumping. What's quicker to implement, I don't know.

I wonder if the problem is when the gas comes out of the well or whether it is the decreasing pressure as it goes up the pipe. In the case of the pipe they could also simply add a gass release valve. The gas will collect in the top of the dome because it's significantly ligther than oil and then add a gas release valve to the top of the dome and collect the oil just below the top. Should be easy.

The freezing problem apparently is not seawater freezing, but methane hydrates forming. At the pressures on the bottom, they can form at maybe up to 10 degrees C, so it doesn't have to get down to freezing. Keeping the oil flowing together with the gas should help keep things warm as long as there is not too much seawater mixed in. Apparently they didn't have the pipe on the top of the dome when they started getting the hydrates forming, so there was probably a lot of seawater being entrained and flushed up the dome top. Maybe that was cooling things down too far along with the low temperature of the expanded gas.

A gas release valve is a good idea, but if it were open continuously the hydrates might form in it. They ought to at least have a manual gas release valve that an ROV could open if necessary.

if they flush enough seawater alongside the oil and NG that should be enough to keep temperatures above freezing. --- ever make ice cream? Maybe I'm missing something in your post.

No never made ice-cream, but I'd definitely like to! :P

But what I meant is that if the water is warmer than the temperatures at which the hydrates form (which I wrongly assumed to be the freezing point of water) then flushing enough water through the system should keep the temperatures high enough. However now it seems that the hydrates form at above freezing and maybe even at the temperatures of the seawater. In that case flushing doesn't help obviously. This only works if the seawater is warm enough for the hydrates not to form.

When they make ice cream, they stir the cream periodically to break up the ice crystals as they form. This keeps the crystals small and makes the final result creamy.

I thought perhaps they could agitate the oil in the dome to keep the hydrate crystals small. I'm thinking you'd end up with something like an oily soft-serve ice cream which would flow up the collection pipe. Once the sludge is moving I think natural turbulence and the external heating fluid might be enough to break up crystals going up the pipe so further blockages don't occur.

To agitate the oil, they could install propellers in the dome driven by hydraulic motors powered by high-pressure water piped down from the surface.


The pipe was not yet installed when the clogging was discovered and the testing suspended.

Their first deployment attempt failed. But I'm sure they will try again once the have decided what they want to do differently in their next try. And that might also fail. I hope they do get much more egg-on-the-face before they finally succeed.

Photos from the WSJ taken as the containment dome was being lowered appear to show that there was no valve on top where the pipe is attached. A double valve or "christmas tree" setup would allow some manipulation of the flow out of the containment dome. For example, by closing the upper valve of the "christmas tree", air could be pumped into the top of the dome to loosen the methane hydrate blockage. Alternatively, once a pipe string to the surface was attached, the bottom valve could be closed and air could have been introduced at the bottom of the pipe and allowed to "gas lift" some or all of the sea water out of the pipe. Then, opening both valves on the "christmas tree" would result in a large upward pressure at the top of the containment dome. This upward pressure could force the oil and clathrates up the pipe to the surface.

I'm really surprised that no such valving was included on the containment dome when it was still on the surface...

E. Swanson

I don't think that BP really thought the dome would work......but they felt they were obliged to try...

To get back to this hot tap thing. The valve, pipe stub, and flange are welded and bolted at the surface. The open end of the stub is welded to riser. The hot tap machine is bolted to open end of valve. Hot tap through the valve, flange, pipe stub, and cut wall of riser. Extract tap, close valve, and remove hot tap machine. You don't hot tap and later put the valve on.

I posted this on yesterday's thread a few minutes ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would happen to an unopened can of corn @ 5000 feet? Crushed and maybe bust open, but the pressure forces would act equally on all sides. It might just get smaller. What if it where a sphere of corn instead of a cylinder? My cast in place idea would work, it might be the only one that can in this situation.

One more thing shelburn. I am guessing you are older than I. I am betting you remember the Apollo 13 mission. The amount of engineering and on the spot re-engineering required to get those three men home far exceeds what we are facing here. Yet those tasks were completed to a successful conclusion, defying all odds and reason. It was also completed in hours. I greatly appreciate your time and knowledge here, but never forget that several failures in imagination got us here. It is going to take perspiration, inspiration and imagination to get us out. I like to think I have all three in spades. I am not the only one. One of us is bound to be right. Please try to work my cast in place idea seriously.

Fluids are generally incompressible - meaning that even under incredible pressures, the volume doesn't change.

For your example of a can of corn, the contents are mostly fluids, with a small pocket of air in the top, so there would be a small amount of deformation as the little pocket of air is compressed. The corn and the water it is packed in would remain unchanged..

So I could create a vessel full of liquid (molten) metal and sink it to 5000 feet and it would retain its structural integrity?

What kind of structural integrity does molten metal have?

It would be an interesting experiment, to see the shape that would form as it rapidly cools (well before it sinks to the bottom). But no, it wouldn't compress.

In theory, but one would need to design a delivery vessel that would hold the molten metal, would insulate it to keep the metal from cooling while you get it down to the BOP (keeping in mind that many insulators effectively use trapped air as an insulator, so the pressure would crush the insulating material). Water is a very good thermal conductor, so you would need to use something to keep the metal hot on the long trip down.

Finally you would need to figure out how to empty the contents in the desired location. You couldn't just tip it and pour - in a foundry that we are accustomed to, air effectively displaces the metal that you are pouring out of a bucket. What would you use to displace the metal in the delivery vessel? You would have a hard time delivering gas at a sufficient pressure to do the job due to the extreme depths - the only fluids that you have readily available would be seawater, but that's too cold and would freeze the metal.

I suppose the best bet might be a collapsible vessel of some sort - sort of like a syringe, where you could try and squeeze the metal out. Even here you would have problems - there would be an orifice where the molten metal would come into contact with seawater, and if you aren't careful, the metal would solidify too quickly and clog the orifice.

A final problem that I could anticipate is that the metal would solidify unevenly, and hence would not have the structural integrity that one would require. Normally when one does casting, you let the metal cool slowly so that cracks don't form. If you were squirting molten metal out underwater, you would have very uneven cooling, and many cracks would likely form.

Maybe some of these problems could be solved given enough time. But it would take time, and that we don't have.

I have thought of many of these problems so I will try to break it down.
1. The vessel is heated by electric-arc, just like an electric arc furnace. Cables could run a mile.
2. You do not need an insulator. Since there is a source of heat in the middle and cooling for the metal vessel, you just need to ensure a molten core and path for pouring. The path for pouring could have a valve.
3. It would be a closed system where the molten metal goes directly into the mold never touching seawater. Some type of connection on the mold and vessel. You could make one fairly easy if it only had to open once.
4. Delivering powerful gases at 5000 feet is easy. Offhand, sodium metal comes to mind. Delivering hydraulic pressure is even easier. Just sink a vessel full of hydraulic fluid with a compressible surface such as a piston. Hookup a hose and you have free hydraulic power. Granted this is limited by the size and mechanics of the vessel, but can resurface to 're-charge'.
5. The mold might be electrically, mechanically, or chemically warmed. Electricity seems the quickest to get ready.
6. A gravity pour would work, maybe assisted by letting a few drops of seawater in the top.

Sorry but there are just too many logical problems with what you are suggesting to effectively deal with.

Suffice to say, if it were possible to make an electric arc furnace operate at 5000 feet underwater then why would you simply not just use the arc to melt the top of the BOP. Sorry but you had better come up with another idea.

Probably better than dropping garbage and concrete on the leak, but expensive and may not work and then where are you?

Past method: drill relief wells. Slow but no new experiments.

Prosecute the criminals--that's how to stop it from happening AGAIN. Too late to 'fix' it now--the damage is massive and will last decades.

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

And that, sir, is one of the major problems we see as we pass Peak Oil. It becomes much more complex and costly to harvest the needed amount of the stuff.

Assuming that with enough money thrown at it, we can continue producing what is needed for a few years, the cost of that is going to rise and the rest of the economy is going to suffer. Eventually, no matter the money invested, insufficient oil comes out of the ground, and triage begins, with rationing and other draconian measures.

The leak in the GOM is just a harbringer of problems to come, as costs rise and complexity increases. Eventually, the oil paradigm fails, evidently in our lifetime. Later, coal and natural gas will faced their own declines, as will Uranium based fission power. Fusion is the only possible sustainable future.


I got a piece on this mess up on the front page at DailyKos.


The issue is as you say in that post:

Our choices would appear to be letting the massive right wing corporate media continue to dither and spin, letting politicians piss away the time and resources we need to prepare for a lower energy world because none of them have the courage to say, “We can not do this any more.” Or one of us can say just that, and then we get on with the business of what happens next.

We can not do this any more. – Neal Rauhauser

This being said, what do we actually do about the problem?

We really do need to be figuring out what is really workable on a low-energy basis on a long term basis--you mention 90 years in the post. We also need to figure out a way so that our priorities are changed so that what little capital we have is spent in that way.

It seems to me that additions that just add to the comfort of today's people, or even just preserve some of today's comforts for the lifetime a product with a 30 year lifetime, are not all that helpful (like solar PV panels on homes, if they last for 30 years)--they absorb capital, and but over a 90 year or longer term, the payback may be nil. We need to get to figure out what we can really keep up for 90 years or more--preferably more, and work on those things, even if it means doing without other things that seem better.

The difficulty is trying to figure out which ones are really feasible for the long term. I know you, Neal, are working on stranded wind. If that can be made so it is really repairable within an overall system we can maintain, it would seem to be a possibility.

Another possibility might be repairable small wind (perhaps for water pumping, or for small factories). It may be we need to try different approaches, and see what can be made to work.

The trick is (1) to get the new items to be repairable within the overall system we can maintain, and (2) to make them operate with energy that really is available locally, over the long term.


Solar panels today won't last 30 years. They will last much much longer.

They are warrantied to produce 80% of their nameplate value 25 years from now (most panels have this guarantee today) so extrapolate that. The very first panels produced by Bell Labs in the 1950's are producing at 80+% percent of their original capacity TODAY.. So for clarification 20 panels today will produce 16 panel's worth of electricity 25 years from now.

The very first panels produced in the 1950's are producing at 80+ percent capacity today.

The idea that solar panels won't 'last 30 years' is absurd, stupid, and illogical.

Depending on what you pay for electricity, those panels will pay off your investment in 5, 10 or 15 years. Send me your electricity bills and I'll tell you the facts. The payback is large, fast and tangible.

Solar panels add no comfort to folks who purchase them. They are an extremely good investment that puts money in your pocket every month. Much more than granite countertops, SUV's or salad spinners.

Expending our available energy today on something like solar panels, that give payback for decades to come, is an excellent use of capital. Especially relative to all the other crap out there.

Who told you solar panels won't last 30 years?

Why did you believe them?

We deal a world with a lot of interconnected systems--the financial system, the international trade system, the world oil system, the electrical system, the Internet system, the highway system, and nearly all high tech manufacturing, to name a few. All of these are tightly tied together. The big question is how long we can keep this system operating in a way similar to what it is today. Everything is closely intertwined--it is hard for me to see one lasting much longer than the others. There other systems closely intertwined too, including our current political system.

We can argue how long this system will stay together. Some might say the outcome of current financial problems will pull down our current system in five years. Some might say that things can hold together for 10 or 20 years. Maybe these interconnected systems can hold together for 30 or 40 years. Liebig's Law of the Minimum would seem to be the relevant factor--when some necessary element for the system is lost.

Even if solar panels hold together after the point where the overall system stops working, they will quickly lose the ability to provide the functions that they were originally intended to provide. Electrical bills will no longer be an issue, if there is no electrical service. The panels and inverter will work only as long as all parts function, and the owner has appropriate appliances to plug into the devices. If we can no longer manufacture light bulbs and back up batteries, the panels won't be much good for providing light in the evenings.

To me, the current intertwined system is almost certain to fail within the next 90 years--probably much, much sooner. We need to be coming up with a system that is sustainable with local materials, and a very minimum of long-distance inputs. I expect such a system will not include much electricity, except possibly to the extent that hydroelectric can be kept operational in local areas. The system may look a system from many years ago--with animal power.

Maybe solar panels will do a little, but not a whole lot, if they do last 100 or 200 years. What we really need is to build a new overall low-energy system that works, and populate the system with devices that can be made and repaired within this system.

We need to get to figure out what we can really keep up for 90 years or more--preferably more, and work on those things

Its not clear to me why solar thermal electricity may not be permanently feasible in future? As I understand it, it returns its invested energy in about the first three months of operation, and uses primarily glass and aluminum construction, which are essentially sand with the 3 months energy added.

Assessment of Parabolic Trough and Power Tower Solar Technology - Cost and Performance Forecasts - Sargent & Lundy LLC Engineering Group Chicago, Illinois

And confirmation from this paper,ReflecTech® White Paper - Embodied Energy

The embodied energy of the ReflecTech®-based mirrors is attributed to the aluminum support substrate (62 MJ/m2), the ReflecTech® polymer substrate (22 MJ/m2), and the Reflec - Tech® silver layer (1 MJ/m2). The total is 85 MJ/m2.

The embodied energy of the curved glass mirrors is attributed to the curved glass (345 MJ/m2, including the silver layer and the back-coated layers) and transportation of the mirrors to the project site (20 MJ/m2). The total is 365 MJ/m2.

So let's say the total embodied energy in a large baseload solar generating system with thermal storage and 3x standard curved glass mirror collection capacity to generator capacity is 1.5 x 365 MJ/m2 = 548 MJ/m2. (1x for mirror area, .5x for storage and turbines). Each m2 in fair to good locations with 16.6% net electrical efficiency should deliver 1 kwh/day net electrical, = 3.6 MJ / day, so the total embodied energy should be returned in 548 / 3.6 = 150 days. Now, assume we use instead the ReflecTech aluminum mirrors, that calculation drops to 85 + 183 = 268 MJ/m2. The total embodied energy should be returned in 268 / 3.6 = 80 days.

Either case is entirely feasible, all materials are recyclable at considerable less energy than fabrication from raw materials after the 20+ year life is exhausted.

So what is the issue exactly?

By putting out an artificial number like '90' years, you are limiting many possibilities that work and are likely to work for 30 years out--which it seems to me is all that matters. Why? Because in 30 years, runaway global warming may have made all these speculations moot.

Phase out using fossil fuels ASAP and attempt to feed people, house people. Switch over to wind/solar/solar thermal/passive solar.

Study the Cuban model. Prioritize community gardens.

END THE WARS NOW! No money should be wasted on the Military Industrial sector. Abolish the CIA, NSA, and other nefarious and wasteful projects.

Instead of using coal and nuclear power, POWERDOWN now. Focus on energy efficiency. No more lawns. No more clothes dryers.

Use all the money from the military (60 percent of the budget) to fund emergency 'mitigation' projects, energy efficiency projects, etc.

So back to burning wood for heat are we? I guess you are OK with deforestation then? Enviro-wackos make such dumb arguments that one wonders where they got their education. Even IF the USA and EU did this, the Indians, Chinese, Russians, etc would just ramp up and use up the energy and take over the world. If this is the product of the education systems these days I really think we might need to worry about "peak intelligence" as well as "peak oil".

So what's your proposal?

Nuclear power for Electricity - this may take 25 - 50 yrs to build out
Solar Power where practical for Electricity - rooftops and solar farms in the Southwest
Wind Power where practical for Electricity - this is going to supply maybe 5-8% max.
Increase the use of Hybrid/Electric vehicles - this may be limited by a shortage of materials used to make high-energy density batteries.
Increase the use of Diesel engines in cars - these are much more efficient than gas
Use of Natural Gas for Industrial/Manufacturing and some Power generation (on-demand power for grid stabilization)
Phase out Coal Electric Plants over 30 yrs, require coal ash to be mixed with sand, melted amd made into glass to prevent ash pond leaching
Intensify recycling of plastics - this may happen naturally when prices get high, but NG can also be used as feedstock for plastics
Remove subsidies on Ethanol - it doesn't pay back the energy to make it, let it compete with other sources.
Work on better hybrids for plant oils

Those are just starters to reduce oil use.

Electrify ~36,000 miles of railroad main lines - 7 years

Increase rail capacity (better signals, add back double track, rail over rail bridges, more grade separation) enough to divert half of truck freight to rail - perhaps ten years, maybe less.

Build 5,000 miles of light rail and 500 miles of subway - A dozen years.

Best Hopes,


Agree with the ideas (mostly) but not the timeframe. Where I live light rail has been expanding slowly for 20 yrs and still doesn't offer much coverage. Light rail is normally funded by a slight tax (say 1/2 of 1%) on General Sales. In some states (Texas for instance) food is not taxed and other taxes (such as property) don't include any for mass transit. In the current economic times, light rail is SHRINKING plans to expand as there just isn't any money for it, and I for one DO NOT want it to be subsidized by the Federal Government.

Converting freight rail to electric I'm not so sure about, Diesel-Electric locomotives are pretty darn efficient, and sending such high voltages required to power a freight train is non-trivial infrastructure not the even mention the railroads would have to buy/convert the locomotives they have now. I doubt this idea would work, plus how many power plants and of what fuel would have to be built to supply the electricity?

High speed passenger rail using mag-lev "bullet trains" I would like to see (say Dallas - Houston or San Fran - San Diego), but I'm still not sure those are economic as they don't use the same kinds of tracks freight trains do and purchasing right of way is expensive and time consuming due to legal battles.

The French are going to build 1,500 km of new tram (light rail) lines this decade. Adjust for population and work week (we do not take August off every year) and 5,000 miles for the USA is comparable.

But of course, it is impossible for Americans to work with the speed and efficiency of French bureaucrats.

The Swiss voted in 1998 to spend 31 billion Swiss francs on improving an already excellent rail system. Many goals for the money, but #1 was shifting freight from trucks to electrified rail.

Adjust for population and currency and that would be >$1 trillion for the USA.

But of course, you said "No federal involvement". Too bad about the interstate highway system, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

Getting off oil for transporting food from farm to cities is just not as important.

Electrical use for ALL electrified rail is a couple % of US demand. Easy to conserve that much.

The Russians finished electrifying the Trans-Siberian RR in 2002. But we lack the technical expertise of the Russians, Swiss, Chileans, Chinese (in the midst of electrifying an extra 20,000 km of rail), Indians, South Africans, etc.

I am against the USA building high speed rail now. Lets build the basics first.

Not Much Hope for the "Can't Do" Americans,


The laws in those countries are MUCH different, and they have had passenger rail and light rail for many years so a lot of the infrastructure is there. Rail in the USA is much different too and a small to mid sized city that is NOT in the Northeast doesn't have a rail service so all that has to be built out. You also have to realize the taxes in those nations are much higher to support such things.

Comparing USA distances to France and Switzerland is silly, Texas alone is bigger than those two combined.
Russia ran a single line RR to Siberia, the first line took close to 25 yrs to build, how long did electrifying it take?
I'm all for using rail for the first 90% of trips to market and trucks for local. In fact "piggyback" rail of trucks is really growing.

Comparing rail to the interstates is apples to oranges, Interstates were from major city to major city and the small branch roads already existed, rail is nothing like that, we have main lines from Point A to Point B but no side lines to where the people live.

Yes, the "Can't Do" American Spirit that we are famous for.



I too get discouraged by this- seems every time someone comes with an idea, everyone has to jump in all negative and dismissive and pick-it-to-pieces.

So-called "constructive criticism"- rip someone's ideas to shreds, tear it to pieces; but to make a positive suggestion is verboten, it isn't 'scientific method' to help, only to attack.

I have already gone through the TOD meat grinder and my proposals have been accepted as an "existence proof" by the consensus.

It can be done (several historical examples, no technical obstacles), but will it be done ? (A majority on TOD doubt it).

I decided not to spend a lot of time addressing each point of his, but I have done so in the past.

Best Hopes,


Large parts of rail infrastructure have century plus lifetimes.

I routinely use streetcars built in 1923/24 and they will not collapse before 2024 (best estimate is 2050 to 2075).

Railbeds can be made for 100+ years service (US railroads, with their extraordinary axle loadings of today, will wear out in 50 or so years. But reduce axle loadings by, say, 30%, and they will last a century).

Rail tunnels and bridges easily last a century plus. MANY examples.

At ASPO-Boston, I went to the conference every day on the Green Line, opened in 1897.

Stations expanded in 1920s to handle larger #s of people again now for ADA/wheelchair access. Ties and rails replaced once or twice (current set may last 100 years).

I saw new Greenbush commuter rail line into Boston then. First quality materials and construction. Easily 100+ years before major rehab will be needed.

However, I see nothing wrong with three generations of PV or wind turbines in 100 years. Good EROEI.

New nukes should last 60 years.

Find a "good spot" with viable infrastructure and make them there.

Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland (perhaps with Iceland) seem likely to keep the basics going to be able to produce hydroelectric equipment, wind turbines, solar PV and new nukes for centuries.

France, Switzerland and Germany are another possible combination, connected by rail to the Nordic nations.

Ships (sailing, nuke, coal or biomass fired ?) trade energy producing equipment for food and whatever else is trade worthy.

However, large parts of the USA & Canada should be able to "hold it together" enough to compete.

Hydroelectric power is inherently multi-century with a few exceptions.
A good foundation to build a durable infrastructure around although other energy sources are possible.

Best Hopes,


I saw new Greenbush commuter rail line into Boston then. First quality materials and construction. Easily 100+ years before major rehab will be needed.

Sorry, Alan, the Greenbush line is going to have a major rehab starting in August to replace failing concrete ties, see this article: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/04/28/urgen...

Bad batch. Some graft I suspect.

These were for the two "Old Colony" lines added before Greenbush. I took an engineering tour prior to opening (right after ASPO-Boston) and was slightly puzzled that (from memory) that they pointed out that they with a different supplier of concrete ties. Normally not worth mentioning.

In heavy freight use, concrete ties are expected to last 30 to 50 years (composite/recycled plastic ties are another option). In light commuter use, the lifetime should expand.

Hopefully, originally supplier will pay for replacement.


PS: I was impressed with the cracked granite ballast. VERY stable & durable.


I guess the Perdido Spar depicted here is/will be the deepest drilling platform in the U.S?

several people at TOD have remarked that 'we are at/past our limits' wrt deep water drilling. Is Tupi the current leader wrt deep water drilling? Are they having issues?

Also, how much more OCS is there left to explore/exploit? Is there no more oil or NG found past the OCS in the abyssal plains?

Well Heisenberg, the answer is uncertain.

The Perdido Spar would more properly be labeled a production facility but it does have drilling capability. It will be anchored in deeper water than any other production facility so that's its claim to fame.

There have been numerous wells drilled in deeper water and some of them are producing, others waiting for production facilities.

Perdido's wells are actually fairly shallow, about 6,000 feet of actual drilling depth, for deep water wells.

Are there issues - always.

Petrobras (Tupi) is the leading oil company IMHO in deep water drilling expertise. They have had issues, the first pre-salt well cost $240 million to drill, now they claim they have them down to about $50 million each.

There is oil and gas left on OCS as there is onshore in the USA, both of which are being drilled extensively. The problem is that the wells get smaller and smaller as the good (cheap) prospects are played out.

Heisenberg wrote:

Also, how much more OCS is there left to explore/exploit? Is there no more oil or NG found past the OCS in the abyssal plains?

Here's the MMS's guestimates of OCS resources: http://www.mms.gov/revaldiv/Maps/National.pdf

No oil on the abyssal plains.

Very little actual seafloor is more than 100 Million years old:
True seafloor spreads from spreading centers like the mid-Atlantic ridge, as magma.

Mid ocean sedimentation rates are in the 2 to 3 centimeter per thousand years range,
so the sediment would only build up to 3000 meters max, barely within the oil window depthwise or timewise: http://oilandgasgeology.com

BUT, the deep oceans are fairly well oxygenated, so organics decay instead of hanging around. And no traps/permeable reservoirs due to the fine-grained, boring geology (all flat mudstone/shale, no folding).

The OCS and places like the Gulf of Mexico, pre-salt in Brazil, Arctic were all places that
were at times closed basins that went anoxic, preserving the massive algae or Azolla blooms that we use as oil today.

Shelburn and sunnnv, thank you both for your informative replies.

I say they play some kind of odd or silly or "suitably appropriate" song on HUGE loudspeakers both underwater and abovewater around the mess for those attempting to "fix it" and those looking on, like the teams of lawyers, etc., licking their chops.
Am I to presume that the whole theatrics are being broad/net/-casted? (If so, then maybe interspersed with SUV commercials and audience applause, laughter and moans as appropriate.)

That said, feel free to nominate any songs in this regard. Myself, I nominate Randomagestiq's 'Net.surfing', which can be found at Kahvi dot org.

OK guys, you are making me do math. The apparent immersed weight of a submerged object is equal to weight of the object minus the weight of the water displaced by the object. Using Joules 12,000 ft^3 figure we multiply by 64 lbs/ft^3 or 768,000 lbs. OK, the volume figure is off. What I need is the volume of the components not total volume. Let us say a rectangular parallelepiped of 40X20X15. Let us assume 1 ft wall thickness. So we would have multiple sections at (((40X20X1)2) + ((40X15X1)2) + (20X15)))* 64 or (1600 + 1200 + 300)*64 or 198,400 lbs. Subtract that from the land weight and the thing is dang near buoyant or would float. Engineers, please fix my math.

i think 'buoyancy' is not the issue here. as soon as the hydrates fill/block the opening the force of the outflow is lifting the cofferdam off of the pipe.

i'm sure that bp had 100 engineers saying, this cofferdam is not going to work. those are the ones who should be running this operation.

i'm not saying we should do nothing. i'm saying that we have to stop trusting bp's management when they foist unworkable solutions on us. another example of this is the dispersants, i don't trust bp when they tell use that human life will not be harmed by the dispersants. remember 3 days post 9/11, christie todd whitman and guiliani, saying 'the air is safe to breathe'? i'm worried for the health of recovery workers in the gulf.

lastly, no matter how much warm water you pump down there, the change in pressure as the gas escapes the leak is going to freeze up any contraption. (my non-engineer guesstimate)

I wonder how/where/when water pressure affects the math.

"Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul..."
- The Future,
Leonard Cohen

TinFoilHatGuy -

Whoa! Why on earth are you assuming a 1-foot wall thickness?

This thing is made out of steel sheeting, and I doubt it's much more than 1 inch thick, as it is in no way intended to serve as a super pressure vessel. It just has to be a sufficiently rigid box. So I think your calculation for the volume of steel is probably off by roughly a factor of 10. As such, the buoyant force resulting from the amount of water displaced by the steel is probably more like 20,000 lbs.

As a further check, consider that common carbon steel weighs about 480 lbs per cubic foot. If the caisson had a 1 -foot wall thickness it would weigh 480/64 x 198,400, or almost 1.5 million lbs, which is 750 tons, about 7 times more than it actually weighs.

The buoyant force is not really the issue. Besides they can always add more concrete to weight it down should that become a problem. The key problem now appears to be finding a way to keep methane hydrates from forming due to the cooling caused as the gas phase expands.

No matter what it is made of, buoyant force was an issue. Because hydrates were clogging up the hole at top, gas was building up inside the dome, and that could lift it easily if gas displaced all other fluids. But true, it wouldn't be an issue if they could melt the ice and unblock the clog.

No. The hydrates were blocking the outflow but were not lifting the dome. Methane hydrate is a solid which was formed by expansion of the NG when it comes out of solution with oild which dropped it's temp and it reacted with the seawater to form a slush. The engineers calculated that the dome even if full of oil/gas/seawater mix wouldn't lift and if it did just add weight. The dome is also open somewhat on two sides, so excess would flow out the sides or would displace the mud and flow out. They may try to attach the drill pipe which can circulate something to prevent hydrate formation. But that would be tricky to lower it 100 foot at a time as sections of pipe are added to carry fluids down and oil up. Keeping things stable would be a big challenge all the way down. Some risk that too much stress could be applied and break off the pipe at the top of the box. Of course EVERY option carries some risk of failure and some chance of success, what the odds of each are is not easy to predict.

I know what methane hydrates are. I was suggesting that additional gas (not all is forming hydrates, most likely) was displacing water in the dome. This would provide substantial lift, but perhaps not enough.

What I find curious, though, is:

1) The oil is coming out of the reservoir rather warm. If it is constrained under the dome, why doesn't the heat from the oil keep the hydrates from forming (or break them up)?

2) Why aren't large clumps of hydrates forming around the leaks?

2) the gas is still dissolved in solution with the oil and the temperature is too high right at the wellhead.
1) the temperature of the water in the dome might heat up some, but it does have some open areas on the side so very cold water is coming in. Why the hydrates formed is the oil cooled and the gas came out of solution, began to rise, expand and cooled forming hydrates. It looks like the situation inside the dome was more conducive to hydrates than they thought. It was anticipated when the gas went up the pipe the issue would arise as it expanded and cooled but the that within the dome it was not as likely as the amount of gas expansion in the height of the dome was not enough to drop the temperature. Recall these are all hypotheses, no one had hard cold data to say what might happen. Sounds like his is right on the hairy edge.

Hydrates are probably forming temporarily on the blobs of oil as they float upwards. Then they either dissociate or flake off and sink to the bottom.

And I think the problem with the dome was that a gas bubble was forming and threatening to upend the whole dome. If they could hook up the riser with its downflow, they could probably control the hydrates. But nothing quite exactly like this has been done before.

That's the way I understood the situation, from what I read in stories such as this:


The icy buildup on the containment box made it too buoyant and clogged it up, BP's Suttles said. Workers who had carefully lowered the massive box over the leak nearly a mile below the surface had to lift it and move it some 600 feet to the side. If it had worked, authorities had said it would reduce the flow by about 85 percent, buying a bit more time as a three-month effort to drill a relief well goes on simultaneously.

Tho I think the gas rather than the hydrates made it less buoyant. True, they could solve that by piling weight on top, but that doesn't clean the "chimney".

The story I heard was that the riser also has various tubes for moving fluids -downward- as well as the upward flowing chimney. That's what I was talking about - warm water and/or antifreeze additives, pumped into the dome as the oil rises.

But nobody has any experience controlling a thing like this, and there's the question of how warm, how much flow, how much antifreeze, and how do they know at the surface when the thing is about to plug itself and fill with gas.

The original vision of smooth viscous flow of crude oil from the chimney has been replaced with a bucking recalcitrant technology similar to the gusher itself.

Perhaps, but any anchorages would be subject to Archimedes' Principles too. Surely the walls are thicker than 1 inch.

This says 450 tons for the weight of the thing (assumed steel):


So 9000 lbs. Using an area of 3376 ft^2 for 4 sides plus top (based on 40*14*24 ft^3 and density of steel (490 lbs/ft^3), I calculate 6 inches for the thickness.

9000 lbs of buoyancy or apparent weight?

Errr! Bad typing! Bad!

900000 lbs weight is what I should have typed, but 6 inches is correct for the approximate thickness of steel.

The apparent weight (filled with water) is 721000 lbs and the buoyant force (oil) is 161000 lbs. Oil alone will not lift it.

TinFoilHatGuy -

No, I seriously doubt the steel walls are much thicker than one inch. It only has to be strong enough to maintain its shape as a rigid box. It even has some reinforcing ribs on it to add to its strength. This is pretty much typical cofferdam or sheet piling construction. Not rocket science.

Concrete is typically a bit more than twice as dense as water. So even after subtracting out the 64 lbs/cubic foot buoyant force, you still have a 65 -70 lbs of downward force for every cubic foot of concrete
'anchorage' added to the box.

So maybe 14,000 lbs of buoyancy? OK, it does not float, but it is a significant number. Besides, the caisson is dead for now. Also the rectangular parallelepiped looks like it has a 4 sided pyramid on top, but I know that would be going even less significant. So what do you think about my cast in-place idea.

Have a look. I don't see any concrete. I keep hearing "concrete and steel". This is a picture of the inside and it appears to be just a shell. Did they somehow install forms inside and pump concrete in after this pic was taken?

I also have seen many news items mention that the weight is 98 tons. All of a sudden there is this article claiming a weight of 450 tons. Who knows for sure?


Joule (how appropriate), I think you're on to something.

I recently worked a subsea gas project with flow assurance specialists concerned about hydrate formation. If the wells are shut down without other steps, there is a high likelihood that hydrates would form in the tree, freezing it solid. There is no practical way to add enough heat to thaw, so their approach is to decrease production to near "idle" then starting injecting methanol.

Making a comparison, it doesn't look good for BP.

1. On the possible plus side: How much methane is in the oil? I haven't seen a figure on the amount of gas flowing from Macondo, but surely it's a small fraction of the oil. By comparison, the gas wells are about 98% methane, with just enough water to make hydrate formation liiely.

2. On the other hand: If the engineers I know didn't think they could heat a wellhead in 500 ft of water water at more than 60 deg F, to unfreeze a tree that was nearly shut-in then there's absolutely no way to generate and transfer heat 5000 ft down in 42 deg water to keep the containment dome thawed out.

Unanswered questions:

1. Did the methane that caused the hydrates come from the flowing well, or from methane that may have been released from the sea floor OUTSIDE the well?

2. How much water is in the venting fluid? Maybe, IF they can establish flow and keep the blowout from mixing with seawater, they can prevent a freeze.

The effective weight underwater is the weight of the concrete on dry land minus the weight obtained by replacing the volume of the concrete with water. If the thing is 40*24*14 with a lid and 1 ft thick walls, I get around 3376 ft^3 of concrete. The density of concrete is about 150 lbs/ft^3 and density of water is 64 lbs/ft^3, so the weight underwater is

3376*(150-64)= 290000 lbs

The buoyant force is the inner volume times the density difference between oil and water:

13440*(64-55)= 160000 lbs

The weight of the beast underwater is still much more than the buoyant force if it is full of oil. But displace that with gas, and there could be a problem (the limiting amount depends on temp etc.). The wall thickness could also be way off.

They could inject compressed air or oxygen into the dome with a continuous igniter or catalyst at the injection point to initiate combustion and supply any heat rate desired.

Precisely, Bill. No need for an ignition source - this was done in Wood County, Texas with very heavy oil and ran for quite a while - suspended when oil prices fell, and was supported by a DOE grant. I do not have the details, but they should be out there.

No explosions, but the formation provided a seal. The cofferdam should do the same, with a measured amount of O2 titrated into the environment.

Not really the time to start experimenting, but the earlier experiences could provide the starting point for experimentation away from the site. We do seem to have several weeks at the very least, and setting this up should not take much time if it appears to be a temporary fix.

So why cannot a cast in-place solution work? The molten metal can be taken to the wellhead by an electric-arc vessel. There can be a mold placed on the upper section of the BOP and the lower section of the riser. Deformation caused by the incident matters little, you would just adjust where the holes go. The casting would be done in a closed system manner, never touching seawater. Once the patch hardens, a precast plug can be imploded through a precast cavity ceasing flow.

Do you know anything about casting?? First of all you got to get a water tight sealed with the mold around the BOP and the riser package coming in the bottom and out of the top, then you to evacuate all the seawater in that mold leaving a partial vacuum which means the mold has to hold against the outside pressure at 5000', then it has to be BONE DRY or you get steam bubbles which blow the mold apart, then you have to inject the melt which has to get to 5000' and still be molten, and recall the walls of the mold are at the temp of seawater at 5000' (about freezing) meaning the metal is going to set BEFORE it flows to all the areas, thus you have voids that are exposed to many tons of seawater pressure and it shatters. Even IF you got it to work using an insulated mold and a crucibile that stays hot at 5000' you still have a metal cylinder with a pipe going thru it. You haven't solved anything.

Great point. What about beeswax? It could be poured into the cavity and it would naturally seal at the pipe and BOP holes. It is a natural water repellent. When I cast metal in the past I used the lost wax method. You could electrically heat the mold and cast it with ceramic chambers for insulation purposes. It would also decrease the weight so as not to stress the stack too much. Maybe you have an idea. I am just trying to save my land.

As for the metal pipe with a cylinder around it, who said cylinder? I imagine a box with a pipe running through it. Running across that flow path is a cavity and a plug is on the mold. You would detonate the plug in the flow path to cease flow like the Little Boy bomb.

The physics and engineering WON"T WORK PERIOD, so go think about another idea. Casting underwater at 5000 ft has NEVER been done and there are far too many things that can go wrong many of which could make things worse. It's not like a water cooled casting mold such as those used in making pipe.

The leak is NOT on the BOP, it is in the riser that comes up thru the BOP and is bent over. If the BOP had worked the riser would have been sheared off and the other end would still be in the hole. How many pipes were in that riser including the drill string I don't know, maybe have been 5 or 6 which may have had something to do with the BOP not closing 100%.

You aren't serious, are you TinFoil.

Please tell me you're not serious ... and are just having a funny little ludicrous trollish (long-running) joke with us, to lighten up our darker moments?

Please tell me you aren't serious ... eh.

Skytruth's latest:

SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2010
BP / Gulf Oil Spill - How Big Is It?

Quite a lot bigger than the estimate being uncritically quoted throughout the media of 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) per day. That was the last "official" estimate made by NOAA and accepted by the Coast Guard back on April 29 (see timeline below). Before that, the Coast Guard estimates ranged from 336,000 gallons (8,000 barrels) per day, to zero, to 42,000 gallons (1,000 barrels) per day. None of these estimates has been publicly explained or substantiated. And on May 1, the Coast Guard and NOAA stopped trying to estimate the spill rate, with Admiral Thad Allen saying, "Any exact estimate is probably impossible at this time."

But the media continues to report that oil is leaking into the Gulf at 5,000 barrels per day. At SkyTruth we estimate the spill rate is closer to 1.1 million gallons (26,500 barrels) per day, based on the size of the slick on satellite images and Coast Guard maps, and thickness estimates derived from visual descriptions of the slick. That puts us at a total spill of 21 million gallons so far.

Considering that there are deepwater oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico capable of producing >1.26 million gallons (30,000 barrels) of oil per day under controlled flow rates; and that the oil slick continues to grow in size even though it's been under attack 24/7 by skimmer vessels, burning, chemical dispersants, and natural processes; our estimate seems quite conservative.

Are there actually GOM wells that produce 30,000 bpd, or are they talking about platforms that produce 30,000 bpd from numerous wells?

BP claimed initial flow rates of 50,000 bpd per well for Thunder Horse.

This is a graph of production from individual wells at Thunder Horse Main shown in the recent post, Thunder Horse to Underperform?

Those wells built up to a little over 40,000 barrels of oil a day over a period of time, then dropped off pretty quickly. The amounts shown in the graph exclude natural gas. I suppose when you add those, total hydrocarbons would come to something in the range of 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day. I wouldn't call it an initial flow rate, though.

Just an idea - is there anyway to reconfigure the 'box' to act as a crude gas/oil seperator i.e have two outlets, one at the top to release methane, perhaps heated to reduce ice, and another outlet lower down the box to draw off the oil that is less contaminated by the methane? The methane could be released undersea (until the well is capped), and mostly oil sent up the riser which might still need to be heated somehow. Some sort of control mechanism would be required to keep oil from getting too high in the box. Wouldn't be perfect but might reduce the methane content enough for the box to work as intended.

It's obvious what needs to be done.
A MUCH bigger cork.
I would guess BP management considers this 'accident' as a 'learning opportunity' and put a tiny dome over the leak hoping to pump the oil to their surface operation.
This way they could keep drilling deep with a bell over the BOP.
It's hard to say 'so long'
to a $200 million dollar investment.
They don't want the public or Uncle Sam to see a huge frickin' patch over their well.

The large patch could be built out of precast concrete slabs and lowered on top of the rupture. It could be fabricated in a few days.

But a giant patch sends a terrible message.

Ah, management finese strikes again!

You know, you cannot help but think a Giant Pyramid of Giza dropped dead center on the problem would fix it. I thought of that the first day. It does seem like a workable solution.

Can you imagine a BP commercial showing a giant block of cement being lowered over the leak?

It's not exactly the high tech image they want to show off.

Obama will have to probably ORDER them to do it, otherwise it will keep on leaking 5000 bpd forever.

Not forever. You will get a peak oil spill ;-)

That probably won't not work either. The surface is uneven. The concrete, despite its weight, does not change that fact.

Imagine a leak coming up from a piece of corrugated steel and saying that putting a concrete block will 'plug' the leak.

Won't work.

It IS possible that DICK CHENEY'S HEAD is big enough to plug the main hole. Since is it worthless and should be used to solve this problem, let me be the first to offer this idea to the public, a deluded lot lied to 24/7.

Honestly, it's no joke and no one here seems to be mentioning this rather outrageous OVERSIGHT, I'm in favor of CRIMINAL PROSECUTION of all parties responsible for this massive disaster--Including BP's upper management, even Mr. Scuttlebutt.

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.


Dick Cheney's head. lol.

I've heard of no evidence that the availability of a remote acoustic trigger would have made any difference in this case. The BOP failed to fully seal when triggered by hard line, triggering it remotely would have had the same result.

That said, I expect that the acoustic control, along with other new safety gear will become minimum required equipment on all future leases.

Actually Joe I expect to see an entire new generation of BOP's . And it won't take a lot of research to come up with it. Essentially just beefing up the current design and adding a few more safe guards. IMHO won't take very long or costs that much (compared to the money spent drilling DW wells). And tougher mandated ops protocols that are strictly monitored by third parties. again, an additional cost to doing business but not prohibitive.

"This way they could keep drilling deep with a bell over the BOP. It's hard to say 'so long' to a $200 million dollar investment."

Besides the fact that it cant and wont happen, the $200M is chump change.

If BT could write a magic check for $3-4B or so and vanquish the issue they would do it today.

OK folks, the caisson idea is dead for now.


Who has an engineering problem for my metal patch in place idea or a better idea that does not use the caisson or an ROV?

Copied from older thread:

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

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


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

The following:

"Horizon37 says:

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

was posted here:


and the latest news I am aware of:

AP has a short update:

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

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

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

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

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

I believe they (BP) discussed setting the box down 'hot' with the warm water circulating also, but it seems that there isn't an easy fix available.

Meanwhile I believe it is likely, though not certain, that the leaks are continuing to grow due to abrasion through the BOP and breaks in the riser.

The time-line now seems to be 'weeks' to implement any of the potential fixes contemplated for the leaking BOP stack and riser. I am sure that there is considerable nervousness that the leaking could accelerate - even to an open well situation - especially if the chosen method involves the BOP. Waiting for the relief wells to reach the main well to seal it may seem like a bad choice, but if something goes wrong with the repair efforts that leads to a complete failure of the BOP that would clearly be worse.

I asked on one of the earlier threads if it was possible to guess how effectively the BOP had functioned based on the pictures of the rig fire - did that look like a fire fueled by an open well or a partially sealed well? The implication would be how much of a role the crimp/bend in the riser, which occurred after the rig sank of course, was playing in restricting the flow of oil and gas. Perhaps it is not possible to know - and that would seem to be a real headache for those trying to consider the implications of messing with the BOP and cutting the riser...

Has anyone heard a number for pressure inside of riser
at leak#2?

No but several such as FF, Paleocon and Interested_Public above have been speculating on that. The size of the fire and the fact that the riser is severely kinked means there is a serious question as to any solution which would cut away the riser either at leak #2 or atop the BOP.

As I understand it the installation of a second BOP would mean just that unless one of the oilpatch folks would like to explain how it is done. Also the above makes this sound very problematic.

Your question goes to the heart of where the main restriction really is and where the sand-cut problem is greatest. If skywatch is right and the leak has accelerated to 26,000 barrels per day and 85% of the oil is coming out at leak #2, then I think we may be getting to part of your answer.
That being quite possibly 'a greater pressure drop than across the BOP' Perhaps that is why the dome effort was the first shot out the gun after a valve was placed on leak#1.

I have not, but I warn you that if there is one out there, it is certainly speculation. There are certainly not working pressure sensors inside the crushed and twisted riser. If you really really want a number, I can give you one, but I only guarantee it to work on pocket calculators the don't have + and - buttons.

In other words, why would you believe such a number if you got it?

Deep water oil... it was never going to be easy


Ok - looks like the box is out now. Next up
- Put a smaller BOP on top of the current BOP
- Push mud & concrete into BOP. This will take a couple of weeks.
- Cut the raiser pipe below see floor and put a larger pupe. BP would rather not try this.

Does anyone know whether BOP was ever tested & certified at this level ?

"Information is the new opiate of the masses."

Another idea on the front page at Daily Kos:


I have no idea if this would work but figure it needs to be thrown to the wolves.

Another idea for consideration--

The problem is that the methane hydrate "slurry" cannot flow fast enough from the caisson (aka contraption) through the restricted opening into the "drill string" (I'm not sure if this is still in place, but the "plan" was certainly to have one) or it just plugs it up.

Here's how to fix this--

1) fill the drill string from above by pumping down a say 50/50 mixture of seawater and methanol giving a specific gravity which makes the drill string "approximately" neutrally buoyant (maybe somewhat heavier).

2) Connect the drill string to the caisson where it is now located away from the leak.

3) Pump down more mixture from the surface until the existing gas hydrates trapped in the dome are dissolved by the methanol. Some gas will be released and start to bubble up through the drill string tube.

4) Fill two other drill strings (or preferably hoses), one with an acid, the other with a base, and bring the ends (tied together) to a location very near to the leaking pipe . Start pumping the acid and base SLOWLY down from the surface.

5) Using Crane, transfer the Caisson with connected drill string to point above spill and lower in place.

6) As oil fills up the caisson, crack open valve on top of drill string at surface ship.

7) Increase flow of acid and base through hoses to create heat from neutralization as they mix together and flow upward to mix with escaping oil. (Alternatively, just use more methanol).

8) Separate or distill out methanol from water at surface or transfer water phase to another vessel.

9) Open valve at the surface vessel slowly to wide-open position over several hour period to maintain flow stability.

10) Hope that the flow from the well doesn't increase over time.

It seems the oil leak is doing well, despite attempts by certain individuals to stifle it. I have high hopes for its slick, bubbly future.

For months or perhaps years hence, its brown excretions will continue to shoot forth from the depths, an orgasm of the petroleum culture.

Sally forth, brave hydrocarbon-fluids! The future above awaits, in the livers of all ingrates.

Meanwhile... Red Meat's “Rust-Colored Rivulets of Regret” really hits the mark on this sticky beast: http://www.redmeat.com/redmeat/2010-01-12/index.html

I have lurked a long time here and commented only a couple of times, but I don't like to do so unless I have something worthwhile to contribute. As I understand it, the way things stand right now the BOP is probably holding back most of the flow, so this probably sounds insane, but what if it was removed to allow direct access to the well casing below? Of course, the flow would probably increase to between 50,000-100,000 bpd, but even at that rate the actual speed of the oil moving up the casing would only be about 20-40 ft/sec, depending on the flow rate and the casing diameter. The point is, this would open up several direct approaches to deal with the flow.
1. Stand by with a new riser and maneuver a flexible coupling over the well head, sort of like the Fernco's that plumbers use on drains. Pressure would not be an issue since the fluid pressure would be the same on both sides of the mating, though a heat-proof material would probably have to be used.
2. This idea I like better, although it would take longer and would release more oil. Lead has a density of about 11,300 kilograms per cubic meter. Lead shot of about 2"-3" diameter could probably fall with sufficient terminal velocity to move down the well against the oil flow. It could be dropped directly down a feed tube positioned directly above the bore, or fed from the side with an ROV directing the flow. Dropping them with sufficient spacing (say 2-3 feet) to prevent them from clumping and being blown back up should allow them to reach the bottom of the hole. Once there, they will "boil", being randomly jostled about by the oil emerging from the producing layer. As the depth of shot increases, say to several hundred feet over the course of a couple of days, the oil will be forced to move through more interstices between the shot, especially as the bottom layers of shot begin to settle into place from the compression of the upper layers. As they settle into a lattice, they will impose increasing resistance, gradually slowing the flow as the accumulation depth increases. As the flow slows, smaller diameter shot in greater quantities can be poured more rapidly downhole, slowing the flow further. Finally, finer material can be funneled in, and ultimately the flow will slow enough for concrete to be pumped in and have a chance of setting.
I am well aware of the drawbacks to this procedure. First of all, increasing the flow by an order of magnitude for even a few days will guarantee massive pollution for years to come. Just 10 days at an average of 50k bpd would release another half a million barrels, and is probably unacceptable right at the start. In addition, the temperature of the oil is high, the shot may simply melt. Steel is less dense but may work better, or some kind of lead-cored ceramic. But time is the enemy and we can not develop something special for the job. Lead is easy to get and mold, and production of large shot could start almost immediately. Finally, just funneling the shot into the hole could prove far more technically challenging than it sounds. Doing it from a mile up, even with ROV assistance, may prove impossible. Gas bubbles, rapidly spreading unconstrained oil flow, and turbulence near the flow could disrupt the effort, and things could be made much worse for nothing. But it is an idea. Many of you guys are a lot more technically savvy than I am and perhaps you can take the "seed" of the idea and hash it into something that will work.

The lead is not a bad conceptual idea, except one wouldn't want to open the casing. Maybe they could inject something very dense into a side valve on the BOP.

the lines to inject below the rams of the BOP and into the hole are kinked and cannot be fixed so this idea is out.

"the BOP is probably holding back most of the flow, so this probably sounds insane, but what if it was removed to allow direct access to the well casing below?"

Joules, I think it would be an excellent idea to remove the BOP. It's holding back the flow's true potential, which as you commented could be between fifty thousand and a hundred thousand barrels per day.

At that rate, large portions of various oceans could be painted with those adorable rainbow-coloured hues and the tasteful yet earthy-rich brown of thicker excretions.

Such a revolution could alter the genomic path of life in the planet's seas and also create the largest work of public art ever seen. Certainly such great potential should be carefully considered when deciding whether to remove the blown-out preventer or not.

(This may have been discussed before, and if so, please point me to the appropriate link.)

If in a worst case scenario nothing works, how much oil is supposed to be under there if the well gushes until the pressure equalizes? If it just bleeds dry on its own until it finally stops, how may Exxon Valdez equivalents is it, or how much more oil than what has already spilled? Would it keep gushing for a year or several years or what? Would it be the end of the oceans globally?


Thunderhorse is nearby. Perhaps an estimate can be made in proportion to that. What percentage of the OOIP for the Thunderhorse field complex will be pushed up by the natural reservoir pressure before secondary methods are applied? What does this break down to in barrels/well? Average barrels per day? The comparison may be apples and oranges, but they are both deep water, deep beneath the surface fields that probably share a similar origin and geology, and both are under extreme pressure because of the great depth. An analogy between them is reasonable. I have seen posts here indicating that Thunderhorse production is coming with a water cut, but it was months before that happened. I fear that the well could produce for years before petering out unless a relief well manages to shut it off. That could mean several MILLION barrels total. Let us hope that THE BOX can be made to work, or something else before it gets that far.

I think the worst case is "nothing works before the relief well is completed". It took three months to drill the initial well. It should be about that long for the relief well, maybe a bit longer. There is no reason at this point to think that the relief well will not be successful.

The worst realistic case is that the riser pipe gets cut/knocked off screwing around the wellhead, and the BOP is eroded until it is fully open, and the well has no restriction at all and the rate of leakage goes up an order of magnitude, and that runs for three or four months.

So,10x the current rate, four times the time it has already been leaking. 40X the amount already spilled. And I find it hard to believe it will be that bad.

EDIT: if the guesstimates of 26,000 bpd current rate are correct, then it probably would be more like a 2x-3x increase in leak rate, for a total of 6-12x the amount already spilled.

So with my cast in place idea, I think there is a good chance the vessel could maintain integrity. Heat can be supplied by electric-arc. No insulation is needed, the molten metal itself and the solid metal vessel will provide the necessary insulation. The water provides the cooling. I imagine a candle. You can touch the sides, but not the flame. The paraffin is melted in the center, but the outside remains cooler. It will float in water and burn nicely.

Why can't they just attach a giant hose to where its leaking? Couple of huge hose clamps.

At 2300 PSI any non rigid hose would collapse.

Getting tired of hearing this idea spammed over and over despite numerous objections from folks who know better.

Essentially what you're trying to do is to create a glob of molten metal about 1 meter in diameter, underwater, with the solidified outer wall of the metal in direct contact with water, right?

I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation: if you start of with a 1 meter diameter ball of molten steel at its melting point and expose its outer surface to seawater, thermal conduction through the solid crust means that without an internal heat source, the whole thing will freeze solid in about 4 minutes. No way you could lower it from the surface fast enough.

If you heat it with some sort of electric furnace, to balance thermal conduction you need to provide something like 1-10 megawatts of heating, depending on the thickness of the outer crust.

Now, the BP folks have a lot of great tools on hand, but I doubt they have shipboard generators and cabling that will allow them to deliver enough power at depth to light an entire town -- to say nothing of the specialized underwater arc furnace you need, which isn't exactly an off-the-shelf item. Honestly, if they did have this sort of power and equipment, the methane clathrate clogging their oil dome wouldn't be an issue.

You're seriously underestimating how good water is at keeping things cool, and how fast heat conducts through metal. Melting metal underwater is like trying to cut copper pipe with a cigarette lighter.

Give it up.

2 megawatt diesel generator in stock. Make BP provide the diesel.

Could you not add a ceramic lining or lead filled space to help in insulating? I had mercury but BP is too low.

Tinfoil - by the time such a scheme could be safely engineered the relief wells will be done and the well sealed at depth. Just my opinion.

Hey, gotta try something. I would love to see a small scale sea level experiment on the idea. I am one block off the beach in Gulf Shores Alabama. I am surprised I have more folks figuring out why not instead of how, no matter how impractical. I guess I forgot how science works. I remember throwing my crazy ideas out there and getting some constructive input, not arrogance. You can cast in place underwater and it will become a standard practice one day. They cast in place railroad tracks together today. There will be a submarine need for this one day.
One thing that seems to be getting lost is my idea, as unlikely as it may be, would solve many more problems than this one leak. It might be able to stop the next one too. That is another way I came up with this. I added two criteria to my thinking. I made the problem bigger. I thought of spills and leaks in general, especially at depth. I also thought how to use the problems of access, pressure and water as part of the solution such as my hydraulic vessel to provide hydraulic pressure from sea pressure idea.

Well, yeah, part of science is having to play devil's advocate, and try and shoot down the idea. If an idea can withstand scrutiny on a blackboard, then one can move onto whatever is next. A backyard mechanic might just go out and try some things to see what happens, but scientists and engineers generally won't do this until they have thought through all of the steps. In an emergency situation (which this arguably is), they might take some shortcuts, but even then - if someone identifies a fatal flaw that can't be addressed, the plan is never getting off of the blackboard.

Look at it this way - say you were building a bridge support. In theory you could just pile up some rocks and dump some concrete over it, but then how much weight could that support? No way of telling for sure, really. But an engineer has all kinds of experience and would be able to design something that could do just what you need, and it would all be down on paper before any concrete gets poured.

The relief well is 60-90 days out from plugging the thing, but my understanding is that they are quite confident that that would work once they get there. Yeah, it is a lot longer than we would like, but what it fundamentally means is that the ideas that they can try in the meantime are ones where they can use more or less off the shelf pieces, or where the required items can be quickly obtained or quickly fabricated. And as bad as things are now, it is actually possible to make things worse, and that must be avoided.

Ultimately it will be the people with real deepwater experience who are in the best position to decide what makes the most sense to try next. My underwater experience is limited to recreational SCUBA, but this thing is far deeper than I will ever be.

Agreed and well said Ericy. I've been trying to tell him and others this for a while.

I'm wondering on the 60+ days for the relief well, they are at 9000 ft now in less than a week, unless the other 9000ft is a heck of hard rock they should beat 60 days. Of course they also have to be safe as well and follow good practices but they have the well logs from the other well so they know a lot more this time which speeds things uo. But going too fast has risks too and having to trip out to replace a worn out bit takes a lot of time with 9000+ ft of pipe to pull out!!

For the 3rd time - the "9000" feet is from the deck of the rig on the drillship.


Note the scale on the left.

Note the notations X,XXX' MD-RKB.

That is "Measured Depth (below) Rotary Kelly Bushing" i.e the drill rig floor.

The Seabed depth is 5,249 MD-RKB, i.e. they went 5,249 feet "instantly" once they hung the riser pipe.

The current progress on May 7th went to 8,788' MD-RKB, i.e. they drilled 3539' in 5 days,
an average of 707 feet per day, with 2 short-ish casings placed and cemented, and running the 22" casing. (and cementing it means a day of waiting, so I guess the average is really 589 feet/day).

They have 18,000 - 8,788 = 9212 feet to go.
9212' / 589'/day = 15 days - IFF they could drill and trip the dull bits at the same rate as they did during the 1st 3539 feet. But the drilling will be harder, the trips longer, the casings longer with more cement, and they'll have to start steering the thing.

At least they have (some of) the logs/knowledge of what rock was in the original well, so they can optimize bit selection, mud weight/composition, etc.

Very good explanation sunny.

See an additonal parameter at the end of this section..

Thanks, had not seen the link explaining 5K+ of the 9K was seawater!!! I thought about 2K ft/day was awfully fast.

No names, not even describing the back channel method, but I'm told the caisson is out of the picture due to a structural failure and that a barge full of old tires meant for the 'junk shot' has long since passed out of the harbor on its way to the site.

There has been a lot of theorizing here today, but I don't see much from the people with deep water experience. Brainstorming is all well and good, but without even a little knowledge of how things actually get done in that environment it seems to me to be a sketchy use (at best) of one's time.

Submitted with the disclaimer of "no idea too crazy in a crisis":
In regard to "Leak #2". Would it be possible to put a
housing around the leak in the riser pipe? Thinking something relatively "Off the shelf" 21 inch ID production valve or housing cut in half and retooled so it could be rebolted together at riser pipe. One half connected directly to drill string or production casing,
other half hinged clamshell fashion. Seat on riser pipe at leak, swing clamshell closed (possible hydraulic pistons), bolt to compress to crush strength on riser pipe exterior.
Is this within the capabilities of ROV's, and drill rig
for a rather tricky placement? Can ROV's Place and thread Lg Nuts and Bolts? Probably wouldn't be a 100% seal but if directly connected to drill string,might avoid the Hydrate issue. Doesn't need to be to BOP pressure specs, just match of interior riser pressure.
Even if it leaks like a sieve a 50% capture rate would probably be considered a major victory right now.
Fire at will...

The riser is bent throughout its entire length including just above the BOP. That is why I am currently floating a cast in place metal patch idea.

I can tell that you have a lot of enthusiasm for problem solving but I can also tell that you underestimate the complexity of the problem at hand. Not to mention the extreme complexity in delivering your hot metal casting solution.

This problem will eventually be solved with existing or slightly modified technology that has a track record of operating at these extreme sub sea depths.

I suggest that you move on to another solution.


Yes, a smaller containment dome might work, perhaps with a larger outlet.
A smaller shorter dome might funnel up the oil mix with less chance of crystal formation, and a larger outlet (& larger diameter pipe) might prevent crystals from blocking the flow.
Also, the pipe might extend down into the dome close to the leak to catch the flow before crystals formed.
It must be difficult to know how quickly crystals form as oil mix leaves the leaking riser. Smaller dome might be the only way to find out: try it and see.
The crystals form because of the sudden drop in pressure as the oil mix exits the riser leak. So minimizing the amount of time of pressure drop is best chance. Placing a pipe down through a big hole in the funnel might be best, right down to the riser leak. If some of the leak fails to flow into the pipe, that might be no problem, crystals might form at the top of the funnel (outside the pipe, inside the funnel) and block further leakage all by itself.

This smaller dome would NOT be placed on top of the large dome (as suggested by someone above), that would defeat the purpose.

I have not read all the comments, but I wonder if it has been considered to place a massive collar on the riser pipe and collapse the piping? This could be done at any point on the riser before the leaking sections. If the collar was build in a way that a massive hydraulic wedge within the collar compressed the riser to a point where it "pinched" the oil flow off or at least greatly minimized the flow, wouldn't this be enough to allow the time for the relief wells to reach their entry point?

If not with hydraulic pressure, then one or two wedges fired by explosive charge? Wedge ends rounded so as not to cut the riser, just collapse it. Seems this type of device could be built fairly quickly and can be tested on similar riser pipe to confirm the design.

No way to attach it. The riser pipe is a piece of cooked spaghetti bending just above the BOP. Also you risk damaging the riser or BOP and increasing flow.

I think that right now the pressure differential between the wellhead and the riser exists across the BOP. Someone suggested a few days ago that a even a very tiny cross-sectional area of pass-through could account for all of the leakage. If the riser were crimped some of that pressure differential would simply be transferred to the new constriction, raising the velocity of the flow at that point to compensate (according to the continuity principle in laminar flow). I doubt if the riser pipe was made to withstand the same type of pressures as the BOP. However, it would amount to two flow constrictions instead of one, effectively doubling the resistance to the flow. It would not stop all of it, but half would be quite a victory, even if it proved temporary. Sounds like it might be a comparatively "easy" thing to attempt, with a good potential for payoff. Of course, nothing is easy at that depth.

There is a report in the Wall Street Journal saying:

BP also said it would try to deploy a smaller "top hat" dome that will form a tighter fit around the leak, hopefully preventing more water from entering the device and forming hydrates



Phew. It has this advantage - it is simple (not to be sneezed at in environments like this). I suppose that they have options for adding valves and other options (e.g. an in-place drill to clear the opening, or heaters of various sorts). Gotta hand it to BP for having the discipline to keep one box on the surface. It must have been tempting as hell to get both boxes to the bottom. Still, this is a rough place to be.

What is the problem of accepting hydrate formation as unavoidable & uncontrollable? Let it form and design a recovery system that it won't clog. Or are hydrates too hazardous and must be avoided?

1861... first oil well in pennsylvania...

2011... 73mbd... worldwide daily oil production 150 years later... in millions of barrels per day...

7,000,000,000 (billion world pop) 7+fold increase since 1861...
73,000,000 worldwide daily oil production 73,000,000 fold increase since 1861...

that's 95.89 barrels per day... for every person on the planet... in a 150 years...

any dimbulb can see... the numbers DON'T add up... population cannot keep increasing AND oil use per person remain at such rates...

like a lttle kid... we ALL need a serious TIME OUT...

or not... just like the beer parties in college... we'll drink 'till we drop... and those left standing will plod on in search of more suds...

and the normal people who went home after a decent buzz... will get caught with the cleanup...

please... please... aim the first nuclear strike at my back porch... i'll post the coordinates so the rest of ya can high tail it outta here...

Leak Collection Question... I saw a video clip that gave a quick peek at the leak and I noticed there were bubbles in it.

Not surprising, but had collection dome not gotten clogged w/ Hydrate crystals, and the oil leak -mixed with gas bubbles- flowed up the pipe, wouldn't the gas bubbles expanded greatly due to the reduced pressure as they rise to the surface?

And what of the Hydrate crystals? Is there any hazard associated with that material being brought to the surface in the gas, oil & water mixture that will be collected?

..and another one from your Outside the Box Department...

Why use a heavy steel funnel and a relatively small pipe? Picture this... surround each leak w/ 4 or so cables that reach the surface and drop some flexible plastic tubing (nylon netting may even work) over the cables like a big flexible hose... maybe 6'-10' diameter with cables kept taunt to keep the tubing open.

If it just channels the a majority of leak mixture into a sort of vertical collection pool, it could be pumped out and the water separated.

...sort of like herding cattle through a chute into a corral. Maybe a better idea than trying to force the slurry to flow through a 7" tube.

You would need a sidewall sticking 6' or so above the surface to enclose the "swimming pool" and to vaccum it out of the "corral" into awaiting vessels before it overflows.

You would also need to avoid sparks and pray the weather stays calm.

Yep ... a long wide chute ... maybe even wider at the surface. And while it'd be a water mixture, it would become more concentrated at the top as time passed. If one didn't pump out the top, it would just displace water downward. As far as fire danger, one could even float a dome over the top of the floating 'oil-pond' on the surface and purge it with CO2 ...

..this maybe crazy enough to work.

When pumping our ship's oily bilges in port we used to call in a "doughnut", literally a doughnut shaped floating barge, open at the top and bottom. The oil floated to the top, was contained and pumped away. The water exited the bottom. I had the same idea about a week ago. A large fabric tube leading to a large doughnut. It would take a while to construct such a structure, IMO. Currents would be an issue as well.

Not a bad idea, however the flexible tube would need to be much greater than 6 feet in diameter. The problem is that the density of the oil contained within the tube will be considerably less than the surrounding seawater. This induces two problems. The surface level of the inside of the tube will be much higher than the surrounding sealevel and there will be a net inward pressure on the tube at all levels. However if you increased the tube diameter to say 10 metres(30 feet) I imagine these effects could be brought down to a manageable level.

Thanks phoenix ... I'm imagining the collection effluent would be a mix of oil and seawater; somewhat less dense than seawater, and that the bottom would not need to be sealed around the leak ... just wide enough and draped around the leak to collect the majority. I was thinking the cables on the insides, held taunt from bottom to top would keep the chute open... but I didn't think the level inside would rise above the sea level... especially with an open bottom end.

I know the level inside would rise above sea level for a pipe which contained oil at "no-flow" or "blocked discharge" conditions.

But what if you pumped (vacuumed) the oil-water mixture out from the top fast enough to keep the material "inside the corral" (oil) from overflowing?

I like the idea of a balloon-like cover-dome at the surface with an exit hole (say 10-15' D) at the center (25-30' above surface), and perhaps a light plastic air-riser held aloft by a second helium-filled balloon or "blimp" to improve the rise 10 or 20 more feet.

At least the workers would be able to determine where the HC gas plume would be. I'm assuming the MW of the HC gas may be similar to air. If lighter than air (rich in methane) no support would be needed--the exiting gas would always flow up.

A commonly held misconception is that sea level is always consistent. The level at any point in the ocean (or within a contained tube) is inversely proportional to the density of the fluid column at that point. Hence if you fill the column with a fluid with average density 1% less than the surrounding seawater then the surface level will be 1% or 50 feet higher. Not a good thing when you are only containing the fluid with a plastic bag. However if you constructed the above surface component out of 4 steel pontoons you could tolerate a 1 or 2 metre rise in level over the surrounding sealevel. In fact it would make the pumping of the effluent easier. By allowing the rise it also maintains a positive pressure on the inside of the tube keeping it expanded.

I was amused to see on the nightly news that BP is now seriously considering a so-called "junk-shot" wherein they try to stuff the BOP with, and I quote, "golf balls and bits of old car tires".

Next step to stop oil: Throw garbage at it:

Perhaps some of the oil patch folks can enlighten us as to how this could possibly be a good idea, but from a PR point of view it comes across as a total joke. It just screams "desperation".


From Shelburn's superb analysis:

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

It sounds like the BOP cut-off vales activated, but not completely, so let's suppose the sand cut has now enlarged a ragged hole to something like 1 inch total cross section. Now imagine gaining access to the flow just below the BOP and flushing in a mix of shredded golf balls and tire rubber, making sure that the mix has both large and small chunks and some even smaller particles. Very quickly the various bits of junk, driven at 5000 PSI would wedge in the path, and smaller bits would flush into smaller holes, blocking them. Maybe it still seeps some, but at a lower rate the big dome wouldn't fill with hydrates, so it could be used.

This sounds doable.

I don't know if there is an easy* access port (Say a mud return) just below the BOP that could be cut, but drilling a hole also sounds possible.

*Nothing at 5000 feet is easy. Ever.

This has the advantage of leaving the BOP mostly intact so that after the relief wells are in, the BOP could be removed for analysis and a new one could be installed for final decommissioning of the hole.

It's in everyone's interest that there is a Challenger-style commission that looks into the BOP failure, otherwise it will be politically challenging to lease new offshore plots.

Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP's exploration and production division, denied the operation had failed and said the company was trying to figure out a way of providing heat at a depth of 5,000 feet to melt the crystals. BP had anticipated that the crystallized gas, called hydrates, could form in the pipe connecting the dome to the surface vessel, but not inside the dome itself.

BP also said it would try to deploy a smaller "top hat" dome that will form a tighter fit around the leak, hopefully preventing more water from entering the device and forming hydrates, Mr. Suttles said. The top hat will be lowered on Tuesday or Wednesday, he said.

so let's go back a few days, where i asked for an explanation of the need for an opening for seawater into dome,
and i was answered by experts who explained why the dome had to have such an opening
now we see that the entry of water into the dome is the problem, causing crystal formation/blockage
so what is today's expert consensus, how large an opening is really needed? how large can this opening be without causing the crystals?
or perhaps the smaller dome will not have this problem with crystals just because it is smaller and closer to the leaking riser
so there will be less opportunity for water to mix into the flow?
or perhaps there really was no need for such an opening
or perhaps the opening needs to be controlled (valved?) so that it only opens enough to prevent sucking up the Mississippi mud, but stays closed enough that it prevents seawater from causing crystals???

Or perhaps these attempts are really for show?

Or perhaps these attempts are really for show?

AP INVESTIGATION: Blowout preventers known to fail


Try containment box again but with this apparatus installed at the center/bottom, above where the riser pipe would lay inside it:

Build a small rocket engine that would be supported inside the box, maybe having about 1/2 mole of flow compared to expected oil/gas flow. Connect two hoses or pipes (each 5200' long) to the rocket engine, one to supply gaseous hydrogen (or hydrazine) and the other to supply gaseous oxygen. Rocket engine is positioned to have exhaust directed right up the outlet of the funnel. Large generator set topside provides power to make oxygen and hydrogen by electrolysis (65% efficient in separating O & H2, balance of energy makes water and O2/H2 gases hot).

Now lower the modified box to ocean floor, start flow of gases and hit ingniter. Exhaust is very hot steam although pressure at 5000' gives it density of water. This keeps methane hydrate ice from forming and helps propel oil up the new riser pipe.

Get NASA to work out the technical details. Helps justify their budget too.

Mark S. Bucol

Here's my final recommendation.

Now, the gas bubbles and oil are spread out over the surface over and area of, let's say half a square mile or larger, due to chaotic fluctuations in how the oil/gas mixture rises through an unlimited, pool of water having both currents and eddys.

This makes in difficult to "enclose" the area where the oil reaches the surface, because its location keeps moving or jumping around randomly. If the oil and gas were to always come out in the same place, it wouldn't be that difficult to "corral" and collect essentially all of it.

How can we get it to break the surface always in the same location?

By building a "squirrel cage" around the leak with fixed vertical airfoils that directed the seawater "inflow" tangentially either clockwise, or counterclockwise. This squirrel cage could be about 20' in diameter and 60' tall. The airfoils or "vanes" would be about a foot wide and about 2-4 feet apart. The cage would be placed over the center of the leak. They could be made in 20' tall sections and be "stack-able" having a mechanism to lock each one onto the one below.

The oil and gas rising from the bottom entrains-in or "advects" the surrounding seawater, which would be deflected tangentially by the squirrel cage, creating a rising seawater whirlpool which would confine the rising oil and gas to a single column.

The "whirlpool" with the oil and gas at the center, due to conservation of angular momentum, breaks the surface at a specific identifiable location, the center of which either doesn't move or does so slowly. A scheme for vacuuming up the accumulating oil at a specific, identifiable, location can then be devised.

May the (AVE) Force be with you!

If it can't be collected from the center of the whirlpool, at least it could be burned more efficiently from that location--but I think it could be collected.

Probably the dumbest question so far...

The powers-that-be seem to think controlled burns are part of the solution/cleanup. Seems a bit drastic. Might there be a way instead to burn the oil as it escapes from the leak? Not sure what this would achieve, good or bad; just asking.

Concerned Joe Ave

No, in fact an intelligent question.
But are you old enough to remember Torrey Canyon?

Directly from wikipedia:
On 18 March 1967, owing to a navigational error, the Torrey Canyon struck Pollard's Rock in the Seven Stones reef (almost exactly) between the Cornish mainland and the Scilly Isles. An inquiry in Liberia, where the ship was registered, found the captain, Pastrengo Rugiati, was to blame because he took a short cut to save time in getting to Milford Haven.

This was the first major oil spill; a fairly adequate outline of how to deal with a coastal oil spill had been issued to local authorities some years previously but had apparently been forgotten, so it was widely reported that no plans had been prepared beforehand to deal with it. The tanker had to be ready to deliver its cargo to anywhere in the world, and so only had small-scale charts; she used LORAN but not the more accurate Decca Navigator. When the risk of collision with a fishing fleet became obvious, there was some confusion between the Master and the helmsman (who was actually the cook and had little experience) as to whether she was in manual or automatic steering mode; by the time this was resolved, it was too late. Unsuccessful attempts were made to float the ship off the reef, and one member of the Dutch salvage team (Captain Stal) was killed.

Detergent was used by Royal Navy vessels to try and disperse the oil. However, the ship had started to break up and UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his cabinet held a mini cabinet meeting at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose and decided to set fire to the remaining oil to avoid the oil disaster getting worse. On Tuesday 28th March 1967 the Fleet Air Arm sent Blackburn Buccaneer planes from Lossiemouth to drop forty-two 1,000lb bombs on the ship. Then the Royal Air Force sent Hawker Hunter jets to drop cans of aviation fuel to make the oil blaze. However, exceptionally high tides had put the blaze out and it took further attacks by Sea Vixens from the Naval Air Station at Yeovilton and Buccaneers from the Naval Air Station at Brawdy as well as more RAF Hunters with napalm to ignite the oil. Attempts to use foam booms to contain the oil were of limited success due to their fragility in high seas.

The UK government was strongly criticised for its handling of the incident, which was at that time the costliest shipping disaster ever. The RAF and the Royal Navy also came in for ridicule, as, of 42 of their bombs dropped on the stationary target, 25% missed their target.

And therefore the joke: "I say Prangworthy, remember the railway marshalling yards at Hamm?"

Idea for making the caisson thingy work: As I understand the problem, the inverted funnel is being clogged with methane hydrates, and heat and pressure are needed to clear it during placement. The notion here is to think of this caisson as the nozzle of a low thrust solid propellant rocket motor, which is directing heat and pressure downward as it "lands" (cabled down) on top of the busted leaking well head. The heat generated may also be balanced as not to damage the "landing zone", and of course the thrust should not be sufficient not to create sideways thrust vectors that would make it unwieldy. Once this crazy caisson "lands", it jettisons the motor top of the motor casing, exposing an interface which should allow the connection of a collection pipe. The caisson "nozzle" should contain the desired heat once placed, at first from the rocket motor exhaust, and later from electrical coils as required. And of course the motor should not be lit until sufficiently close to the target site. Talk to the Navy, or Morton Thiocol, or whoever supplies rocket motors, to see if they have anything you could strap/bold to jury-rig some heat and pressure on this thing. Good luck.
I hope this doesn't happen again (like next month) somewhere else.

Does anyone know how much methane is bubbling on the surface with the oil? Thanks

Marie -- Each reservoir has a unique amount of NG dissolved in the oil. The volume is typically noted as cf/bbl....cubic feet per barrel of oil. I've yet to see BP offer a NG yield for this reservoir. But in general reservoirs in this trend at this depth tend to be rather NG rich. Just as a rough guage if the well is flowing 5,000 bopd it might also be flowing several hundred million cubic feet of NG.

That's one reason these wells can produce at such high rates: as the well is produced the pressure is lowered and the NG comes out of solution and acts like the CO2 in a warm bottle of soda when you shake it up.

Posted elsewhere:


The well has a gas oil ratio of 3000"

IP -- Couldn't quit figure out what they meant. Gas/oil ratio is given in cubic feet per barrel and not ("). I'll dig around for a number.

Just quotes around the text of the post ("") Rockman. Maybe they meant 3,000 cuft/bbl?

IP -- Could be. A GOR of 3,000 could be in the ball park IMHO. If the GOR is greater than 10,000 cf/bbl, then the field is usually described as a gas well. If less than 10,000, then the field is generally described as an oil well. At the depth involved a high GOR would be expected.

Is Deepwater Horizon explosion linked to the ratio of the well? If so, can the drilling of a relief well be risky too?

Yes Maria...always risky. But the guys on the RW know what's ahead of them so they'll be paying at lot closer attention then they did on the original well. When it comes time to cut into the casing they evac all non-esentials from the rig.

So, the methane is at the root of the problem. Evac saves human lives, but things can get worse if there is another explosion. In Italy we say "Oh Madonna!" Be very carefull, and good luck


A little confusion over depths of the relief well. There are various ways depth is reported. The number that will be commonly seen is MD = measured depth. This is the distance from the drill floor to the drill bit/bottom of the hole. Thus if the relief well is at 9,000' MD then that includes the roughly 5,100' of water depth. And only 4,000' of hole has been drilled below the sea floor.

One more parameter that might confuse folks in time: TVD = true vertical depth. When a well is directionally drilled there are two measurements offered: MD (measured depth) which is essentially the length of the drill pipe in the hole. TVD is the vertical distance PROJECTED from the surface to where the hole is. So a well might have a 14,000' MD but the TVD is only 12,000'. This will be a potential area of confusion as the relief well gets close to the target. They might say the intersect target in the wild well is 17,500' MD. It was a straight hole so it would also be 17,500' TVD. The relief may have to drill to 19,500' MD to reach that target at 17,500' TVD. It's essentially a trig calculation. Some not so clever talking head may throw out another measurement: subsea depth which is usually noteD at -X,XXX'. This would be the TVD minus the elevation of the drill floor (where all MD and TVD numbers start) above sea level. So if the hole is at 17,500' TVD (which could be 19,500' MD) the subsea depth could be -17,400' SS (17,500' MD - 100' which is the distance of the drill floor above means sea level.)

Got that? There will be a quiz later to today.

Even a straight hole wiggles around a few dozen feet, and the kelly is about 80' above the sea (from vague memory), so MD = 17,500' should give TVD = 17,400' or so ?

Best Hopes for Extra Credit Points,


You got it Alan. By subtracting 80' (if that is the kelly elevation) would give you a TVD but only for a straight hole. Except, as you note, for any "walking " of the bit. I suspect we'll commonly see the depth of the relief well given as MD even if they don't annotate it properly. What will confuse the MSM is when the relief well "is a depth 0f 19,000'" drilling for a target at 17,500' or so. At that point they may bring in a directional hand to draw them a picture.

How about a huge quarter-mile circumference heavy weighted iron hoop with fasteners all around it. Sink it to the ocean floor with the leaking gusher dead center. Have a high-tech flexible metal and/or plastic sleeve sewn up and then take it down into the depths and fasten it to the hoop which is secured to the ocean floor. Where the flexible sleeve reaches to the surface of the water, have the sleeve attached securely to another ultra-strong hoop that is floating on the surface. Siphon the oil from the floating quarter-mile circumference, (or larger), hoop at the surface. No heavy, technically precise and precarious alignments are needed. I don't think methane hydrate ice buidups would be a problem. What do you think?

Why not place a large diameter steel or concrete
open ended cylinder ( think sonotube ) over the BOP

Allow it to settle in the bottom mud/goop ..
Then pump it full of concrete ??

Essentially you'd be encasing/entombing the BOP in a
concrete plug ..

I'm assuming that due to the kinked riser or partial
crimping of the well head that the current flowrate
thru the BOP is low relative to the completely unrestricted
flowrate that would result from just an open wellhead ??

Triff ..

A Partial Answer

BP cut off the end of the riser to make a smooth cut and attached a valve to it, thus shutting off "the third leak". Done deal.

Option A - Connect a new riser to the recently added valve and pump some oil up for processing aboard the Explorer (max capacity 15,000 b/day liquids). Reduce the pressure on the two upstream leaks.

Option B - Cut the riser some feet beyond the mid-riser "kink" leak and attach the riser there, taking close to half of the leak (?).

Option C - Cut the pipe between the mid-riser "kink" leak and the BOP, attach valve and optionally attach riser. Pressures may be too great for this option.

Option A2, B2 - Attach an electrically operated pump near bottom of the new riser to be attached and help suck more oil/gas/water up that way.


Just back on-line @ father's in Kentucky.

Option A shows promise..it would remove some of the back presssure and maybe slow down the leak but it wouldn't shut it off. Perhaps if the pressure was lower a patch could be put on (weld? bolt?) the other leak, or the dome might work then.

That is, I meant to say, a quarter mile diameter for the hoop, (not quarter mile circumference). It could be bigger though. Basically, a long fabric sleeve.
Peace now.

That is, I meant to say, a quarter mile diameter for the hoop, (not quarter mile circumference). It could be bigger though. Basically, a long fabric sleeve.
Peace now.

Good if such a contraption was stored in a warehouse in New Orleans. But months to design, fabricate cloth and assemble.


Thanks All for your time and energy not only history of your career but for this forum.

After discovering TOD and reading most of the recent threads I'm struck by one thing.. especially after seeing the image of an intact wellhead with some bent pipes.. and no one seems to have addressed this yet:

BP 'could' stop the gusher at any time using catastrophic means -at the wellhead- but CHOOSES not to in order to save their investment.

Is this correct?

I have the distinct impression that "capturing and controlling" the oil flow is BP's current strategy;
as opposed to "just stopping the damn thing" at its source.

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 far less then the cost to recover it. And no, the relief well won't be used for production. It will also be 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.

If BP develops this field then I'll esitmate 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.

The valve at the wellhead - the BOP or blow out preventer - failed to close off the flow of oil and gas (its intended function)and is basically non-functional junk with the caveat that it is apparently restricting the flow from the well. Hydraulic rams within the device were supposed to shear through the casing and drill pipe to close the well after the accident but it seems that they only crushed the piping and oil and gas can still make their way though the valve. Repeated attempts to get it to completely close have failed. If there was any way to get it to operate BP would be jumping for joy. Not sure what you mean by "catastrophic means", but if they could do so they would. There is contemplation of injecting cement and debris into the well to seal it but there is a very real fear that such an attempt may fail and lead to complete loss of control of the flow of oil. Your impression is entirely mistaken. The object of the relief wells being drilled is to permanently seal the well - it is done - a complete loss with all the added costs of cleanup and liability for other losses and the deaths of 11 workers.

All of the efforts are designed to limit the flow of oil, and thus the environmental damage, and to close the well as soon as it can be safely done. If there was a way to do so today, tomorrow, or a week ago it would have been done.

BP 'could' stop the gusher at any time using catastrophic means -at the wellhead- but CHOOSES not to in order to save their investment.

Is this correct?

It is really the other way round, if they had a means to shut it off right now, they would do so even if that meant losing the well. With the ongoing clean up costs, claims for damages and the two relief wells they are drilling that adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars. It would be far more cost effective for them to plug the gusher, then start on a completely new production well.

The fact is there is no quick way to plug the well, not even a catastrophic one.

In fact Bob, even if BP had controlled the original well kick and gotten it under control before it exploded I doubt they would have tried to produce this well. The pressure surge in the reservoir when it came in probably did unrepairable damage. And even if they were to try to produce it the potential for failure during the production phase would have been very high IMHO.

BP, and the rest of us, were screwed the second the well came in on them. The only question was how painful it was going to be. Turned out to be unbelievably painful for all involved.

I've been reading this from a link off another internet forum. I thought maybe a KISS principle could be applied and the end of the crumpled riser could simply be grabbed by some kind of clamp on a cable and pulled back straight and up to the surface. Since you already have a mechanism in place that is doing most of what you need to do just pull the riser back straight and unkink it. You can then apply patches to the breaks where hydrate accretion might actually aid in patching the leaks. When you get the riser to the right depth you can get above the hydrate zone and do your encasement trapping at a depth where hydrate icing is no longer an issue. Even if this is only a 50% solution you are still capturing a good percentage of the escaping crude which is a lot better than where you are now.

Just a guess, but attempting to straighten the riser would likely 1) put stress on the BOP and wellhead plumbing maybe causing it to fail and 2) result in fracture of the pipe where it is kinked near the wellhead - just a guess though.

Why wouldn't this idea work: Take a piece of small diameter pipe (say 1" or smaller). I'm assuming the pipe leaking the oil is not much bigger than 10". Put an air fitting on the top end of the small pipe. Along the pipe, drill a small hole in the side. Clamp a bladder around the small pipe (a section of heavy duty balloon tubing, maybe made from the stuff the balloons were made of to float the 767 up from the Hudson), above and below the small hole drilled in the side. You could do this 2 or three times, depending on the length of pipe. Run compressed air (or compresses whatever)to the fitting at top of small pipe. Insert the small pipe down into the leaking riser, and send the air into the small pipe. The bladders inflate, sealing the riser, and all the pressure is going out against the leaking pipe. We made a prototype this morning with a half inch piece of copper pipe, drilled a hole in the side, clamped a piece of rubber inner tube above and below the drilled hole. Then we pumped water through a 6" piece of PVC pipe. When we stuck the copper pipe in and put the air to it, it immediately sealed up the pipe, totally. We could carry around the water filled PVC pipe by the copper one, no leaks. What's wrong with this idea?

Sealing the riser pipe will cause it to experience wellhead pressure - beyond its design capability - and burst. That is the fear I believe - otherwise they would bandaid the leak at the kink and cut and cap the end...

Doesn't look to me like there's a tremendous amount of pressure pushing out the oil at that depth. Seems to me you could seal up that pipe near the bottom without rupturing it. Seems to me like pumping a bunch of garbage and cement down into it would create a lot more pressure.

Try this experiment: Take an old garden hose and hook it to the faucet. Turn on the faucet just a trickle. Now cap the end. If it has a weak spot I guarantee you it will blow out within a few minutes. As for the pressure, it was enough to blow oil, mud, water, and gas out the top at the drilling rig a mile up. If the pressure wasn't an issue the well would have been capped off a week ago. That is why passive collection like the boxes was tried first. They are afraid to mess with the wellhead plumbing directly for fear the whole well will open up and spew until the relief wells can shut the thing down in a couple months. There was quite a bit of discussion of these points a few day ago if you look through the threads.

My my, what a lot to read.

The oil is coming out hot.
The steel box is cold, and sucks out heat to the water thus freezing the methane/natural gas.
If we wrapped a nice electric-blanket thingy around the box, would it slow the heat losses, and allow the hot oil to eventually melt the ice-like crystals?
And/or we could also insulate the box to help hold in the warmth?
Physics isn't my strong point.

The cold, cold sea is draining the heat away - the current plan is to try a smaller box and warm it with seawater pumped down from above. Smaller box = less cold seawater to deal with. We will know if it works in a few days time.

A lot of work to get that gasoline to the pump isn't it?

That makes sense, I'm not familiar with this site, and had trouble finding the threads you mentioned. I'm not knowledgeable about oil wells, but I thought looking at the live feed of oil leaking it didn't look like a lot of pressure. Also, I thought that when oil flow slowed from one of these wells, they pumped water down there to boost pressure. I thought maybe the pressure that blew all that stuff out the top was created temporarily. I do think that this whole thing is a result of some sort of sabotage. Anyway, just floating ideas. Thanks for the feedback.

Sabotage? No, just a difficult and complex task that went awry as such things sometimes do, complicated by the fact that the well is too deep to work except with robots. A BP executive was interviewed by NPR today and he said "look at our record - 25yrs and ~1,500 wells and this has never happened before" The problem is that the odds over a long period are against you - eventually there will be a confluence of factors that result in an accident. Then all the safely completed jobs and near misses where luck or skill prevented disaster count for nothing.

There has been a new post with comments every day or so for a while now - it is a lot to pick through. Quite an interesting view into the subject if you have the time though.

The pressure in the damaged riser is probably not much higher than the surrounding water pressure. But that is because the pressure differential is across the BOP. The well reaches about 15,000 (?) feet deep below the sea bed. If the rock density is about 3X that of the oil in the column (which is approximately the same as seawater, though a bit lighter), the pressure at the depth of the hole is about the same as that of 45,000 feet of seawater, say 23,000 psi. If the pressure of the oil column itself is about one-third that (about 7,000 psi), that gives a differential of about 16,000 psi across the BOP. That is the pressure that has to be weighted down onto the oil column if the flow is to be stopped. Messing with the riser could cause the BOP to give way, and that would cause the real mess.

NYT has a good description of BOP's, notice this statement:
As a final backup, B.O.P.s must be able to be activated by robotic submersibles. So the control units have special valves that can use hydraulic fluid provided by the submersible using a probe called a hot stab. BP officials said that since the accident they had been able to activate some of the rams to some degree using this method.

so apparently the rams were NOT activated until SOV activated SOME of them

final quote:
If the blowout preventer is damaged or contains an unsealable section of pipe, the best hope for stopping the leak, other than drilling a relief well, is to route heavy mud around the preventer stack and into the well. This would involve first reconfiguring the preventer, something that is difficult but not impossible, experts say. BP officials say they are exploring this option.


Blowout preventers are essential for drilling on land or underwater, and the rig accident has prompted talk of improvements, like use of modular parts or better materials. And the broader application of different drilling techniques may help operators become less reliant on the devices.

Catastrophic failures are rare, but the devices are not without problems. Hydraulic circuits can leak, seals can erode, and other problems can crop up when the devices are tested, as they are supposed to be regularly. And as the April 20 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico showed, a device’s redundant systems and backups may not help. Investigators still do not know exactly why this B.O.P., which was tested 10 days before the accident, did not do its job.

But there is currently no alternative to the use of blowout preventers on many wells. “As the second of two barriers to containing formation pressures, the B.O.P. is integral to doing our job,” said John Rogers Smith, an associate professor of petroleum engineering at Louisiana State University.

The key to safely drilling for oil or gas is controlling the pressure in the well-hole. The primary method involves circulating special fluid, generically called “mud,” down through the drill pipe and back up the space between the pipe and a larger pipe called a casing.

The mud recipe can be altered to make it lighter or heavier as needed. As long as the hydrostatic pressure of the column of mud exceeds the pressure in the formation being drilled, the well remains under control.

But if the drill bit hits an area of higher pressure, there can be a surge of oil or gas into the mud — a “kick” in oil-speak. That is when operators on the drilling rig will activate the blowout preventer to block the upward flow of higher-pressure mud, which if not controlled can quickly be followed by oil and gas.

In the blowout preventer, one or more massive rams mounted perpendicular to the flow can be activated, sealing the space between the drill pipe and the bore of the preventer, covering the opening if there is no drill pipe or even shearing the pipe if necessary. Another device on the stack, a doughnutlike rubber ring called an annular preventer, can seal the space between the drill pipe and the bore but still allow the pipe.

However the flow is blocked, the mud can be diverted into a separate line with a valve called a choke. By closing this valve, the open loop of circulating mud becomes a closed one, and back pressure builds until it exceeds the pressure of the kick. Then heavier mud can be circulated and drilling can be resumed.

“The whole point of using the B.O.P. to react to a kick and control it properly is to prevent it from becoming a blowout,” Dr. Smith said.

The principle of using brute-force rams to control a well was developed nearly a century ago. “The basic function hasn’t changed,” said Bob Sherrill, who built and repaired blowout preventers for 20 years and now runs Blackwater Subsea, a Houston company that supplies personnel for deepwater work. “What has changed are the materials — they’ve gotten a lot more sophisticated, a lot stronger.”

They have also been made more corrosion resistant, to counteract problems caused largely by hydrogen sulfide gas found in oil deposits. Still, Mr. Sherrill said, the harsh conditions mean that preventers must be rebuilt every seven years or so.

“As you cycle these things back and forth, you end up with small scratches,” he said. “Cavities wear out.”

Blowout preventers also changed when offshore drilling began in earnest in the 1950s and ’60s. Preventers used on land are far easier to repair, and the rams can be locked in place manually or closed with wrenches if hydraulics fail. In water, below about 1,000 feet, they can be serviced only by robotic submersibles, and locking the rams in place requires a second hydraulic system.

There is also no way to close them by hand if the hydraulics fail. So the control systems on subsea B.O.P.s are far more elaborate and redundant, with two identical pods on each stack.

Those pods are huge — 20 feet tall in some cases — and filled with a hundred or more hydraulic valves, electrically operated solenoids and other devices. The works are enclosed to protect them from pressure and moisture, but exposed, the gleaming array of pipes and switches, fabricated from high-strength steel, looks like a techno version of an old telephone operator’s console.

Graeme Reynolds, manager of B.O.P. controls at Oceaneering International, a company that is best known for its robotic submersibles used in deepwater work, said pods had to be custom-built for each blowout preventer.

“We can’t go into the industrial hydraulics market and buy stuff that will satisfy us,” he said. “It won’t meet our thermal criteria, it won’t meet our pressures. So we have to make all that stuff ourselves.”

As a result they can be extremely expensive — as much as $18 million or more for the controls on a typical deepwater B.O.P.

In normal use, the controls are activated by an electrical line that accompanies a hydraulic line running from the drill rig. If a decision is made to close a ram, a signal activates solenoids that open valves, allowing water-based hydraulic fluid to flow into the proper cylinders on the stack. Special pressure tanks on the drill ship called accumulators, which contain hydraulic fluid and a charge of nitrogen, provide a burst of power to close the rams, usually in about 30 seconds.

But the control pods have backup systems, including accumulators on the stack itself that can provide enough hydraulic power to close rams if power is lost from the surface. A deadman device fires some of the switches if both electric and hydraulic power are lost. (A 2003 report for the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, found that deadman devices often were not armed because of fear that they would activate prematurely, necessitating costly fixes. BP said the deadman switch did not activate in the April 20 blowout.)

In Norway and Brazil, another backup is required: a switch that works on acoustic signals received from the drill ship. The industry in the United States has successfully fought proposals to require the switches, arguing that they are unreliable. And industry experts pointed out that in the current spill, if the regular and deadman switches could not activate the rams, an acoustic switch would not have worked either.

There's something I don't buy about the Blowout Preventer being so fragile that you can't pull the riser back up vertical. The danged thing has already taken a blowout surge and riser collapse. If it was going to blow it probably would have already. I'm not an expert and don't know anything about this, but that doesn't smell right.

If you can get the top hat encasement on the primary leak in the riser I doubt you are going to exceed pressure capacity on the riser simply by straightening it back out to vertical. With a successful attachment you could bleed pressure off with the top hat connection and then very carefully pull the riser up slowly while watching it with the submersibles. In my opinion the pressure force into the riser from the BOP has already reached its equilibrium so stretching it out and unkinking it will only spread this force out over greater length.

This pressure differential business is already at its maximum. The only physical influence would be the mechanical pulling of the riser on the Preventer stack. I'm not sure if unkinking the riser would increase the escape rate from the BOP (Maybe that would finally trigger it?) but I think not because the flow has already reached its limits. The physical stress is something that is already happening at the worst angle because shear forces from the unnatural sideways bend of the riser is one of the worst directions of force you can apply to the BOP stack. If anything straighting the up pipe vertical would actually relieve threatening lateral stress on the BOP that it isn't designed for.

In my mind you want to try anything that will get the crude to a warmer depth nearer to the surface where it can be channeled and collected. I hate to be cynical, but is it better for the company to let the Gulf absorb it rather than try these extraordinary measures? I feel the negatives are being courted here before at least trying to see if it works.

I'm a laser engineer, so this might be totally useless. If I understood correctly the dome didn't work because the inverted funnel got clogged. Since water and metal are great sound propagators, would it be possible to fit the top of the dome with some big ultrasonic generators that would break/prevent the clogging from forming? Also, since the clogging is a function of how the inside surface of the pipe is treated, did they try to polish the pipe so that the ice will not bond easily to it? Even more crazy, would some sort of teflon coated pipe work, at least at the top of the dome?

Almost two weeks after the accident, rescue crews had not managed to get the blowout preventer working. “We have found that there are some leaks on the hydraulic controls” of the blowout preventer, Bob Fryar, senior vice-president of BP’s exploration and production operations in Angola, in southwestern Africa, told the Houston Chronicle.

Hayward said he was mystified that the blowout preventer failed. The last-ditch shear ram is rarely tested under real conditions because of the destruction it causes. In a 2002 laboratory test for the MMS, researchers found that three of six shear rams failed. Seven other makers declined to be tested.

Within a day of the accident, BP had sent as many as eight underwater robots to the scene. Hayward and other company executives watched from a special room inside the company’s suburban Houston complex as the robots, which look like sleds and are painted yellow to be visible at ocean depths, did their work.

Tethered to a mother ship by wire, they fed video images to their pilots, who use joysticks to move the vehicles and manipulate their tool arms. BP executives hoped the robots could pull external levers and get the blowout preventer to snap shut. A BP spokesman said the company no longer expects the robots to get the device working.


Forgive me for a (probably) stupid question, as I am not an expert at any subject even remotely related to this issue, and barely have time to read this site occasionally as it is (much less do additional research on my own), but what exactly is this "relief well" that is sometimes mentioned supposed to accomplish? Is it supposed to reduce the flow from the original well by providing another outlet? If the BOP is choking off the flow already, it doesn't seem like it would make that much of a difference. Is it supposed to drain off the oil so there's less of it to flow out the other end? That seems like it would take several months at minimum, with the only short-term benefit being recovering some of it for human use. I'm obviously either missing something or don't have any clue how the physics work.

sd -- the relief well will be drilled at an angle to hit the original cased hole close to the 18,000' reservoir that is spewing. That's why it may take a few months to drill: need to get to about the same depth as the blow out source. A mill bit will be used to cut thru the steel casing. At that point a very large volume of very heavy drilling mud will be forced into the original well bore. This should put enough back pressure on the reservoir to stop the flow of oil/NG. After the wild well is killed BP will still need to reenter the top of the original hole and plug it according to Fed specs.

But based on the calculations above and assuming 18,000 ft is measured depth how come it takes a couple of months? Or is the 18,000' a vertical depth and as such the MD will be considerably longer? Based on the apporoximate location of the relief well is anyone able to make an approximate guess at the MD?

Thanks and apologies, oil novice here!

Gotama -- My basic smart a** answer is because it takes a few months to drill 18,000' of hole. Just teasing. The first 5,000' is real fast....that's the depth of the water. It's included in that 9,000' MD number tossed out recently. So they had only drilled 4,000' of hole. And the penetration rates also decreases significantly with depth so it will start looking even slower as we go. But in addition to dilling they'll have to set a number of casing stings as they go. This could add 5 to 8 days for each string. And they have to directionally drill which is a slower process. You may start hearing about "sliding" vs. "rotating". We'll explain at that time. Just a guess but the direction work could make the total length of hole around 21,000'. And the last couple of hundred feet could take many days as they try to steer to hit a 12" target almost 4 miles away.


Many thanks, your informed input really is appreciated.

Okay, I see... I think.

Why can't they intercept the runaway hole 1000 feet into the well? Pressure?

Couldn't they time the intersect so they buried the BOP in cement just as they broke into the blow-out hole and get the flow to direct into a controlled pipe?

A gravel, tar, sand & rubber mixture should be dumped from barges to form a 200 ft tarmac mountain over the BOP to stop the gusher and cap the well.


Some of you might enjoy these pictures from a guy at LATOC who just came back in from a skimmer boat on the gulf.

Jet - The problem is the pressure differential. As a well is drilled the pressure increases with depth in a linear manner. But at certain depths the pressure rapidly jumps. At those points the mud weight has to be raised. Picking those points is what I did as a well site pore pressure analyst. But the higher mud weights will fracture the lower pressured shallow rocks. Very similar to what the do when fracing those shale as plays. If they cut the flow at a shallow depths it would fracture the rocks surrounding the relief well. Not only would it end that effort you could end up with a second blow out spewing oil/NG into the GOM. And you could also have an "underground blowout". Thus when the relief well cuts the original close to the depth of the spewing reservoir the pore pressures will be similar.

Well, I felt a little silly floating our idea after it was explained to me that "clogging the leak" would put more pressure on the riser than it was designed for.

Then I read in the news this morning that the leak is also leaking natural gas, which will make it easier for them to fire shredded tires and junk into the pipe to clog it.

I don't feel silly anymore. I still think you could cut that pipe fairly close to the bottom and clog it right up. My idea (May 10, 5PM post on this thread) would work a lot better than some asinine plan to fire golf balls and tires into the pipe. So far the only criticism of our idea is that a clog would put too much pressure on the riser. How would a golf ball tires and trash clog put any less pressure on it?

T-Tex, what is being contemplated is trying to plug the wellhead valve - the BOP stack - to stop the flow at the wellhead and prevent it from reaching the riser. This is the 'junk shot' that has been talked about in the press. If the engineers thought it was safe to do so they would most likely unbolt the riser from the BOP and install a new valve there to cut off the flow. It seems, however, that they believe the kinked riser is restricting the flow somewhat (a good thing as long as it doesn't fail there) - that and the fact that the top of the BOP was damaged when the riser collapsed have left few options except for trying to collect the leaking oil without disturbing the riser and trying to figure out how to plug the valve itself - safely, without making the situation worse. It is also quite possible that the leak is getting worse over time and this may be another reason they are trying to figure a way to plug the valve - as the high pressure oil and gas make their way through the BOP stack they may be eroding the pathway and enlarging it.

Where can I go to see a picture of the BOP, wellhead, and riser so I can see more clearly what how the thing works?

Is it possible to force a short tapered pipe down inside the existing one and then shut that one off
with a valve? I don't know how that could be done so deep, or if the submersibles are able to weld a joint underwater.

This rather large .jpg graphic shows the scene reasonably well:


Or maybe they should just run a pipe to fit down right inside the other one and let the oil
come right up to the top where they can load it into a tanker while the're drilling the other