Pipe Insertion into the Riser of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

There is a little confusion about the current status of events that will take place to try and shut off the oil flow into the Gulf. At the present time it appears that the first line of attack is going to be a tube that will be inserted into the riser, capturing all the hydrocarbons, and feeding them to the surface. The intent in trying this route first is that it captures the fluids before they mix with seawater, and thus will prevent the formation of the methane hydrates that were a problem with the first containment box. Should the pipe insertion not work, the “top hat” is sitting on the ocean bed near the site, ready to be deployed.

Source Deepwater Horizon Unified Command

The pipe is being inserted at the leak that is creating about 85% of the flow into the Gulf and could start siphoning oil as early as this evening (Friday, May 14).

At the present, the next alternative to this is planned to be the “junk shot.” After taking a gamma ray scan of the Blowout Preventer (BOP), there is a path to get the bulk particles (golf balls, bits of tire etc) into the well below the BOP where they will fill most of the voids in the flow path, and hopefully slow the fluid flow to the point that a counter-flowing feed can be introduced that will weight up the hole, and then stop the flow. It is expected that this will be tried, regardless of the pipe insertion success, some time next week, since it will effectively kill the well.

Because the pipe that is being inserted into the riser won’t be a perfect fit for the pipe it is going into, there has to be some form of seal to make sure that the oil and gas flows into it. This planned seal is based on the use of rubber flaps.

The 6-inch insertion tube is intended to rest inside the 21-inch riser pipe, surrounded by rubber flaps meant to prevent more oil from pouring out. The tube would carry the oil to a tanker on the surface.

Proegler described the procedure as a stopgap measure.

I have mentioned that specifically because there has been a lot of conjecture on how much fluid is flowing out of the riser, and what pressure that it is at.

The condition of the BOP seems to suggest that the flow through it is still acting as an orifice that resists most of the driving pressure from the reservoir that is moving the oil and gas into the well. By relying on rubber flaps, BP seem to accept that there is little additional pressure in the fluid beyond that point (which is somewhat evident by the behavior of the fluid leaking from the well as shown in the video). It is the size of the flowing orifice, and the velocity of the flow that has given rise to some of the recent higher predictions of oil leakage which have reached up to 70,000 barrels per day.

While the velocity of the flow can, to a degree, be point estimated using particle image velocimetry, the ability to average that over the whole flow, and the actual size of the orifice (it is leaking through a crack in the riser) makes the orifice estimation more of a guess, as is that of the total flow volume. I suspect that once the flow is captured, then the actual flow will be reported, and will come in closer to the BP estimate, which remains about 5,000 barrels per day, and remains much lower than the more recent estimated values.

Looks like a vasectomy reversal, but probably much more difficult.

Can somebody PLEASE tell me how/why I'm wrong. I HATE the answers I'm coming up with!

The insertion pipe is a dream and so is the "tophat", but hydrates AREN'T the problem! If the gas escaping from the end of the riser is conducted to the surface inside a pipe, the expansion of the gas will make the velocity near the top unmanageable. If you try to close a valve on it to control the flow velocity, the backpressure will blow the insertion pipe out of the end of the riser.

I've said it in a few different threads now, but I'll repeat it here. Unless they figure out some way to separate the oil from the gas AT DEPTH (where the gas is under pressure), any attempt to recover the hydrocarbons is a waste of time.

If the GOR is anywhere close to the 3000 cu ft/bbl that I picked up in another TOD thread, then they're talking about something on the order of 15 million cuft of gas/day, even if the oil flow rate is only 5000 bbl/day. If that's coming up a 6" pipe, we're lookin' at somewhere near 600 miles/hr when it expands to STP.

I SINCERELY HOPE that I'm just a bungling calculator jockey and that I've missed by a couple of orders of magnitude somewhere, but so far, nobody's said anything convincing about where I've screwed up.

That's scary, and makes sense to me. I heard one of the workers from the rig say that gas had come up the pipe really fast and then was ignited by the drill engines. In short, a blowout, right?- where all pressure control over the huge volume of evolved gas was totally lost.

The tube in the pipe idea is meant to just transfer the force of the gas/oil gusher to the surface, without pressure control, and they'll be back to having a blowout on the surface, which can't be pressure-capped without blowing the small pipe out at the bottom, unless it is made as a high-pressure connection, which these mud flap thingies probably won't provide. That's what it seems like to me, (basically the same as the way you already explained).
So if they get this "straw" to take all this fizzy foamy flammable fluid out of the bottle, so to speak, to the surface, what then? The ultimate Mentos foamarama, only highly combustible?

I'm not trained in anyting oil, but just an interested amateur, and find this TOD site the BEST, by far, that I've seen for scientific/technical discussion of the problem.
This is my first comment. I registered just to participate in the discussions here. It was very refreeshing to read the comments here compared to most other forums I've seen, which are too general, to say the least (and to be kind about it!)- and populated mostly by people who can't even calculate the area of a circle, or who just want to gripe about lefty-righty politics; or top each other in creatively blaming various "they"s and "them"s; or hate on the "drill baby drill" cheerleaders.
But if one's house in on fire, the only important thing is to put it out, not assign liablity and blame. The only important thing is to get the well plugged, and then roll heads later, if heads are gonna roll.

I've always been fascinated by marine salvage, having grown up on the coast around ships and mostly submarines (near the SUBASE in Ct.) Which reminds me, we sure could use the abilities of the late great marine salvage dude Edward Ellsberg on this job. I bet HE could have had the thing plugged by now. He was really really good at impossible-looking marine salvage jobs.
But since he is gone, I wish the president would order the Navy to take control of the whole operation, to get on it with everything they have got- that is, if they have any necessary capabilities BP doesn't have.

The Explorer is one of the few ships capable of handling the mixture, up to 15,000 b/day.

Since most of the pipe area (and flow) has to just blow by the flaps (not sure why they are there), this could significantly reduce the back pressure that would force/eject the smaller pipe out.

Just positioning the pipe 1 yard/meter outside the blowout pipe would likely capture a certain % of the flow (2% - 5% SWAG) and that would be good.


The BP spokesperson said that the GOR (Gas to Oil ratio) is 3000 quoted in Upstream. 3,000 cu ft of gas per barrel of oil is close the limit of 10,000 where it is considered a gas well. What will happen if they let the gas escape at 600 mph?

Maybe Matt Simmons was right. I thought he made a pretty bold prediction at the start that they would not be able to fix it.

(to clarify) matt simmons said:

"We don't have any idea how to stop this," Simmons said of the Gulf leak. Some of the proposed strategies—such as temporarily plugging the leaking pipe with a jet of golf balls and other material—are a "joke," he added.

"We really are in unprecedented waters."

If the oil can't be stopped, the underground reservoir may continue bleeding until it's dry, Simmons suggested.


new question - if the cement job is bad, will sealing off the bop be effective?

perhaps someone at BP should read this paper from Journal of Hydraulic Research Vol. 41, No. 4 (2002), pp. 339–351
A model for simulating deepwater oil and gas blowouts – Part I: Theory and model formulation

A model developed to simulate the behavior of oil and gas accidentally released from deep water is presented. This model presents major modifications to a three-dimensional model developed earlier (Yapa and Zheng, 1997) that simulate the behaviour of oil from under water accidents (shallow water). In deepwater, the ultra-high pressure and cold temperature causes phase changes in gases. These combined with relatively strong currents in some deepwater regions presents extraordinary challenges to modeling jets/plumes from deepwater oil and gas blowouts. The present model incorporates the phase changes of gas, associated changes in thermodynamics and its impact on the hydrodynamics of the jet/plume. Hydrate formation, hydrate decomposition, gas dissolution, non-ideal behavior of the gas, and possible gas separation from the main plume due to strong cross currents are integrated with the jet/plume hydrodynamics and thermodynamics.

This paper presents the complete model development and testing of various computational modules with available data. A companion paper presents the comparison of model results with three large-scale field experiments conducted in the Norwegian Sea.


Your link is wrong. It actually points back to HO's initiating post on TOD. At least that's the way it shows up on my computer.

newdood, I'm not an engineer nor have I ever worked in the oil business. But I do have a degree in physics. And the first time I read about this option (Rube #2 I call it), my thoughts were exactly the same as yours.

If this brew does get to the surface I wouldn't want to be anywhere close to it. No way would I even think about getting on that containment ship.

If they're using rubber "flaps" the intention is not to achieve a complete or "airtight" seal. If the conduit to the surface is initially filled with oil, let's say, with a valve at the surface and (2) pressure gauges, one before and one after (before receiving vessel), you can crack open the valve as you start to "thread" the six-inch tube into the larger riser. I think as the pressure builds up inside ahead of the insertion tube, the idea is to have much of the gas "blow by" the flaps to keep the sea water from entering. They don't need gas to enter the tube, and it's better if most of it doesn't, both from a hydrate point of view and excess velocity as it nears the pressure level at the surface.

By observing the behavior remotely, one can determine if the "right" amount of gas is blowing by and also by monitoring the flow and pressure at the top, although there will be a significant delay, decide how far and fast to open the valve. That's about all I have--hope it helps somebody.


I think as the pressure builds up inside ahead of the insertion tube, the idea is to have much of the gas "blow by" the flaps to keep the sea water from entering. They don't need gas to enter the tube, and it's better if most of it doesn't, both from a hydrate point of view and excess velocity as it nears the pressure level at the surface.

That is an interesting observation. Has anyone else thought about these issues?

Yes Gail. The rubber flaps are only to control the amount of water going into the old riser. Net flow must still be out of the riser to guarantee that no water is flowing in to cause hydrate problems. A throttling valve at the bottom end of the new oil pipe would be adjusted to allow all of the oil and as much gas as wanted to pass up to the tanker above. This valve should be at the bottom end as the dynamics of a mile long pipeline filled with a mix of liquid and gas would be very difficult to control at the top end.

All the equipment from the bottom going up is standard equipment used for drilling and producing oil and gas from these water depths.

The Discoverer Enterprise is purpose built to drill and test wells in water depth up to 10,000 feet. At the cost of almost a billion dollars it is specifically designed to handle high pressure, high velocity, mixed phase flows.

It has equipment on board to separate the gas from the oil - the gas will be flared and the oil put in storage tanks.

The processing equipment is rated at 15,000 bpd but, depending on the composition of the flow they may be able to handle more.

I did a back of an envelope calc about how much oil could flow to the surface through a 6 inch drill string based on the buoyancy of the oil and came up with a minimum of 20,000 bpd, probably about 30,000 bpd or more. As soon as you add some gas that will act as an air or gas lift that number increases.

In other words they use the same physics that concern you to actually produce the oil and gas.

When the oil/gas stream reaches the surface it is still under pressure, the 6" drill stream does not go to STP, the stream goes in to separation pressure vessels so the velocity is reduced to near zero during the rest of the processing.

BUT there is a very real problem. The flow rate will be controlled at the surface by throttling the stream as it exits the drill string into the processing system. Control of that flow is critical to stabilizing the flow where the pipe is inserted into the broken riser.

Open the valve too much and the pipe will develop a suction that will try to draw salt water into the system which will cause hydrate formation.

Close off the flow and it will cause a build up of pressure behind the seals or flaps and try to blow the pipe out of the riser.

If it was my project I would try to install a clamp on the riser that would attach to the drill string with a chain or cable - similar to a thrust block.

It may be that the sheer volume of the riser - 21" dia by several thousand feet long, and the compressible gas inside will be slow enough to react to pressure changes that they will be able to adjust the throttle on the drill ship.

I don't know if anyone heard this before but "its never been done at this depth". And actually as far as I know this particular procedure has never been done before at any depth.

if the cement job is bad, then any plan to plug the bop will fail, is that not correct? it certainly won't stop the leak, right?

If they can slow the flow enough to pump in drilling mud then they can kill the well, at that point bad cement, nonoperational BOP, blown casing, etc, will no longer matter.

After it is killed they can reenter and do a complete P&A (plug and abandon) as is standard industry procedure for any non-producing well, even dry holes.

I have to leave for a couple days, will be interested in seeing the threads when I return.

You are contradicting yourself. If the flow is due to buoyancy you need water in the pipe. They you say you can't have water in the pipe because of hydrate formation.

Buoyancy is obviously provided by entrained gases in the oil flow, the gas bubbles tending to rise in the column of oil in which they are mixed, and dragging the oil along.

I don't think that is what he had in mind and I think that would be stretching the meaning of the word buoyancy. You can drive flow that way, e.g. shaken soda water shooting out of the bottle (also not buoyancy), but the immediate consequence is that the the force of the gas expansion in the tube are going to push the 6" tube out of the riser (Newton's 3rd law)

I think what shelburn meant is he was taking the buoyancy of the oil into account in his calc. Obviously the main driver of flow is the reservoir pressure, but acting in the opposite direction is the weight of the oil column - and also, although less significant, frictional loss from the fluid flow.

I haven't done any calcs but the figure of 70,000 bpd being bandied around seems implausible. If you were designing this as a production well (ie coming up tubing perhaps 4 - 5 inch NB) even 40 - 50,000 bpd would be considered high rate. And here we have some obvious impediments to flow in the kinked riser sections. So I think 20 - 30,000 bpd with the kinks removed seems a reasonable guess. And I'm sure BP is very grateful for those kinks and in no hurry to dislodge them until a reliable gathering mechanism is in place - or the well is killed.

I don't see why he is using buoyancy at all if there is not a lot of water in the tube. I agree that BP seems to be setting this up to be driven by reservoir pressure, but driving a lot of oil for a mile in a 6" tube seems to be wishful thinking since the pressure is limited by the seal of the rubber "skirt" on the 6" pipe.

Spot on - the oil would flow quite nicely a mile up a 6-inch pipe, AS LONG AS it was anchored firmly to the riser end. The differential force between the two pipes will be large, particularly if the flow goes from horizontal to vertical in the "new" pipe (due to change in fluid momentum). Way more than could be resisted by any form of rubber seals, unless a mechanical anchor or big deadweight was also included. And if you just had a big deadweight on the "new" pipe then the free end of the riser would fly away like an out of control garden hose.

Unless the idea is only to capture a portion of the flow and have a (significant) portion bypass the seals. And that would seem a bit pointless.

I would like to see a diagram of this proposed scheme - anyone come across one? I might be talking nonsense if I have got the wrong end of the stick.

The keyword you‘re all missing, except shelburn, though he‘s not using it, is hydrostatic pressure.
They will try to keep the pressure inside the broken riser equal to the water pressure outside (~160 bar). Shelburn has explained why. Now if you imagine the pipe to the surface filled with oil of density 0.85 and closed on top. The weight of the oil column will cause a pressure difference of 136 bar from bottom to top. So the oil will be under a pressure of 24 bar at the top. When you open the pipe, these 24 bar become available to push the oil through the pipe. Enough for 20-30000 bpd.
With gas in the oil, density and pressure difference decrease, even more pressure to drive the flow. A rather high backpressure will be necessary to maintain 160 bar at the bottom. Newdood, that‘s why the 600 mph speed is wrong. Outflow at the surface is not at STP, if it‘s at 30 bar (I‘d expect more), speed would be more like 20 mph.



I understand the hydrostatic pressure point. When no oil is flowing up the tube you will have equal pressure at the bottom, but once you have flow, the pressure of the oil at the bottom has to drop. The more flow you allow, the more the pressure will drop, the more water enters the tube.

Yes. The pressure at the bottom of the pipe is going to be close to the hydrostatic pressure of seawater at that depth, since it is effectively open to the sea. The driving pressure within the pipe will be caused by the difference in density between the pipes contents and the surrounding seawater. The more gas content,then I would presume that the tendency is for the density to drop and pressure differential to increase. Since the flow is going into the pipe and up, the pipe bottom pressure will be less than seawater pressure, i.e. it is a suction force. It shouldn't blow away from the BOP, more like it would stick because of suction. Unless the drill ship applies enough pressure at the top to overcome the hydrostatic head (caused by the density difference).

Of course if the flow rate from the riser is greater than can be stably handled, then they can only siphon off some -not all of it.

Buoyancy driving the flow would be reduced by water in the pipe. The driving pressure due to buoyancy scales with the difference of average density in the pipe compared to the surrounding sea water. The end of the siphon tube will be sucking with a an increasing pressure differential as the pipe to the surface fills with oil (presuming it is originally full of sea water). If the pipe is full of crude oil at .8 g/cc, and the oil rises 5000 feet there will be a pressure at the top of the pipe (at zero flow rate) of ~500 psi. Interesting about the gas...it's expansion would decrease the average density in the pipe, tending to increase the differential pressure at the surface. Therefore, I wonder if it might be OK to suck in enough water to allow the methane to be converted to methane hydrate...which will not expand on the trip up the pipe...problem with that, how to shed the heat of crystallization without sucking in a great deal of sea water?

"you need water in the pipe"

Certainly not! You need a column of water that is connected to both the top and bottom of the pipe. Bouyancy is a shorthand way of talking about balancing hydrostatic forces the situations where the geometry is simple to visualize. If bouyancy talk causes argument, you map out the pressure gradients cause by the gravitational field to get a correct answer. I often get into arguments with myself when I try to stick with bouyancy. So I often jump directly to presure gradient maps to get an answer I believe. Then I sometimes spend some time trying to construct a bouyancy argument that gives the same answer.

I realize this all boils down to minimizing potential energy in a gravitational field.

Nevertheless you will not have flow without water in the tube after t=0. If, somehow, you start out with oil filling the tube and the tube is open to water at top and bottom, the oil will travel up, displacing the water at the top. Water will displace oil at the bottom of the tube. Now you have water in the tube and any new oil to be transported will need to move through this column of water at the bottom of the tube. Now you have water in the tube. The tube will continue to fill with water until a steady state is reached. The steady state oil:water fraction in the tube presumably depends on the diameter of the tube, friction, and density differences between oil and water, viscosities, etc.

More realistically, the tube will start out filled with water. Oil will float up through the column, displacing some water, eventually reaching the same steady state as above.

I think you have missed some of the boundary conditions. If you have a closed system what you say would be correct. But in this case the tube is open to oil at the bottom and as the oil moves up it is continuously replaced with more oil.

Think about it long enough and you might believe you have discovered perpetual motion. At that point - think again.

I understand what you are saying, but in the actual case we are dealing with, the tube will have difficulty sucking in only oil at the bottom. Even with the rubber skirts, presumably some water will get in, particularly if high flow rates are attempted. Once water starts entering the tube it will tend to accumulate since it will want to stay at the bottom of the oil column. The other issue is the starting condition. Presumably the tube will start out filled with water and it will be hard to prevent the accumulation of methane hydrate.

I don't know anything more about the difficulties of handling the expanding gas in the oil /gas mix than I have learned here, and I have no real idea if the idea is to have a controlled leakage between the larger pipe and the smaller pipe that is to be inserted into the larger one.

But I am very sure if a tight seal between the two pipes that will not blow out is the goal , it can be easily achieved.

If long rubber ribbons are attached to the smaller pipe so that it looks like a wig with lots of long straight hair hanging down, and 1 the pipe is forced several feet into the larger pipe,2 a TEMPORARY barrier of some sort is inserted behind the ribbons , and the force being applied to keep the pipes together is relieved, the pipes will start to shoot apart, obviously.

If the ribboms or streamers are sized correctly they will jam or bridge , locking themselves into place,and the more pressure from the well, the tighter the locking effect.The ribbons can be made of something similar in construction to the sidewalls of truck tires-VERY TOUGH, VERY STRONG, VERY FLEXIBLE.It would probably be necessary to embed some sort of abrasive in thier surfaces, so that there would be ample friction between the ribbons and the inner surface of the larger pipe.The temporary barrier behind the ribbons must hold long the outer ends of the ribbons in place for a few seconds, just long enough for the ribbons to bridge.

I lack the proper words to describe the effect, but many of us here will remember seeing a toy called a Chinese finger cuff;this is a tube woven out of scrap paper or cloth.

If you stick a finger in each end of it and pull, the harder you pull the tighter it grips.Although the construction differs, the effect will be the same.

Isn't that a good reason to leave the methane in the form of methane hydrate for the trip to the surface? Surely there should be a way pump a slurry of methane hydrate slush to the surface without destabilizing it by increasing the temperature or adding methanol?

So...Containment dome #1 is rumored to be seafloor junk,due to some sort of structural failure? Wasn't there several of these being built a few weeks back? I remember seeing a second "big box" being built back when they were going for 3 caps for 3 leaks.I'm thinking they may have abandoned this angle a bit too soon.
The problem being Methly Hydrate formation, wouldn't it be possible to deny precipitate environment by simply filling containment vessel with a slightly overpressured medium such as glycol or other(I'll leave that fluid choice to the chemistry dept.)? No H2O- No Hydrates. What happens up tube is beyond my pay grade. Certainly drill ship has the capacity to run the hydralics. Not worth a second try?

Containment #1 is absolutely seafloor junk.

From reading previous posts here, I believe that there was a plan to drop the "building" on top of the blowout, and then hook a riser to the "chimney" on top of it. Even before the plan failed, one of the knowledgeable TOD contributors mentioned that they -do- have plumbing in the riser to supply warm water and methanol, an antifreeze, to the device so hydrates wouldn't clog it up.

The plan failed because the hydrates formed more quickly than anticipated. There was never a chance to hook up the riser. The container was choked with hydrates and gunk from the blowout within minutes of hovering over the leak. It had to be simply moved off to the side and abandoned.

This tube-insertion plan is an attempt to do just what you are saying, and siphon off some of the oil/gas mixture without the H2O in it.

Here's hoping that this, the junk-shot, and the top-kill all work.

I seriously doubt this will work.


... once the flow is captured ...
- Heading Out

So you think this is really going to work? For the sake of the dolphins and turtles, I hope you are right.

Can't they side flare this tremendous gassy flow as it emerges and burn the rest in a fireproof boom surface corral? Or is that just too much of a hot volcano?

Isn't there a processing ship for this kind of thing?

Think back to what the rig looked like while it was on fire - that's what the flare would look like. This setup leaves no way to control the flow, which is the same process that melted the rig and sent it to the seafloor. They know this won't work. I just hope these PR stunts don't create even more carnage.

I have an idea that's more likely to work: build a dam from Florida to Yucatan, then pump out all the water. Easy! xD

A lot of what was burning on the rig was oil from the well
and fuel/flammables on the rig - if you look at one of the burning rig pictures, you
can see a rectangle burned in the helideck - probably stored fuel nearby.
Also, they were using oil-based drilling fluid.

So, flaring off the natural gas should be less of an issue.
They can throttle the flow at the surface ship with the oil/gas/water separation facility. Hope there really is < 15,000 (or 20,000?) bpd, cause that's all the Discoverer Enterprise (nice video there) can handle.

This new graphic
claims a methanol line to the insertion tube too.
Also claims they will use nitrogen to pump the petroleum up.
Maybe the whole idea is to let (most of) the gas leak out at the seafloor,
and only snarf up the oil.

I'm looking at:

This new graphic
claims a methanol line to the insertion tube too.

Can anyone tell be what LMRP means and what the box labeled LMRP is supposed to do?

I'm very worried by this graphic. It seems to me that they think they have to blow nitrogen into the pipe to get flow of oil up to the surface. This indicates a very different view of what will happen than the one Rockman has given. I think Rockman's view is much more realistic. They don't realize they is danger of another blowout --- why else would they not indicate any provision for controlling it? This is like indicating how one intends to get flow of oil started in a graphic of a plain old oil well.
A little detail indicates serious ignorance.

Lower Marine Riser Package

Basically a quick release connection from the riser and all the misc. pipes (control/kill, control lines, etc.) so the riser can be disconnected from the BOP if the drillship needs to leave due to hurricane, etc.

I would think the nitrogen only has to get blown in at the top, maybe 50' or 100' down, just to get some circulation going - like an air-lift that sub-sea archeologists use.

They may have calculated the viscosity of cold oil affecting the flow,
or want some suction to bust loose clathrates - dunno.

I think the problem is that the gas doesn't emerge from the surface at one specific, albeit "wandering" location. The "physics" seems to require that the gas break-up randomly into "bubble trains" which interact chaotically with the much denser and more viscous water phase.

Thus you could be burning gas in one location, and the flow would suddenly disappear and pop-up somewhere else. In fact, the gas could be emerging from several locations hundreds of feet apart from one another at virtually the same time, or at least, within seconds of one another.

Somebody who's actually seen what happens, please correct me if I'm wrong about this.

As I've suggested before, it may be possible to "rotate" the water column around the rising gas and oil, creating a "virtual chimney" to make sure it all comes out in one location. It may require quite a bit of energy to maintain this rotation in a 5000 foot water column, but how much is being expended in the clean-up?

Of course, you would have to vacuum the oil phase up as fast as it reached the surface, or you would hardly be any better off than if you did nothing.

Something just occurred to me--could a fleet of medium/large ships in motion be employed to maintain the rotating water column or "whirlpool" on/from the surface--or would the forward motion of the ship cancel out the "backwash" from the propeller jets? Hmmm...not sure.

Personally, I think these efforts are all doomed to failure and exist only to buy time for the relief well drilling. BP could not just do NOTHING, or the public would have their heads. This slow deployment of Rube Goldberg devices is simply to appease the public. Like booms in 4 foot seas, useless. Note: I have no deep water PE experience ( other than classroom).

Disclaimer: I may come by my skepticism genetically, my Mississippi rough-neck cousins say you cannot reliably directionally drill by dropping through 5,000 feet of water and directionally drill another 18,000 feet and meet a 24 inch target (like the leaking well bore). They say you can take pressure off the formation by drilling close into it, best case. Or you can try to kill the well with a huge injection of seawater into the formation near the well. Maybe.

Is that true?

I cannot think of a case where (eventually) they did not get a relief well working, though it sometimes takes several tries.

Read this paper:

for how they sense the target borehole with electromanetics..

The result. In 1989, the result of 20 years of new technology and strategy proved itself in the North Sea on the Saga petroleum 2/4-14 blowout, with a direct intersection of an 8 1/2-in. borehole at a depth of nearly 5 km.(7) No sidetracks were requred and only nine electromagnetic fixes were made.

acronym alert:
BHA - bottom hole assembly, the mud powered drill motor + steering unit + (probably) Measurement While Drilling and/or Logging While Drilling.


Thank you for that information!

I´m a novice, but why no´t use a FPSO wessel as a vacuum cleaner over the leaking pipe.



This beyond my understanding of the physics down below the water depths, but could the out flowing mixture be ignited as it leaves the riser?

Even if large amounts of air or pure oxygen were injected down @ 5,000', it might mingle with the natural gas (to a very limited extent) but not the oil. Ignition would quickly go out.

Such NG & air/oxygen mixtures are explosive so they would likely explode as much as burn.


Not any oxidizer to speak of down there.

That could be a suggestion - pump compressed air at 5000 feet * .445 psi/foot-of-seawater = 2225 psi. Possible, dive tanks are filled to that (more likely about 3000 psi).

But what's the stoichiometric quantity required? (a rough calc, done late at night - caveat emptor)
assume 5000 barrel/day of API 35 crude oil.
Specific Gravity = 141.5 / (35 + 131.5) = 0.85

5000 barrels * 42 US gals/bbl ---> liters is 795,000.
795,000 liters ("same" as kg of water) * specific gravity of 0.85 = 676,000 kg crude/day.

Call the crude oil dodecane (C12H26), molar mass 170.34 grams/mole.
C12H26 + ___O2 = 12 CO2 + 13 H2O
12 + 13/2 O2 = 18.5 O2 to burn the dodecane molecule.
(i.e. each mole of dodecane requires 18.5 moles of oxygen to burn it)

676,000,000 gram dodecane / 170.34 grams/mole = 3,970,000 moles dodecane.
3,970,000 moles dodecane/day * 18.5 moles O2/mole dodecane = 73,000,000 moles O2 per day needed.

Air is 21% oxygen. One mole of gas at Standard Temperature and Pressure is 22.4 liters.
To get one mole of oxygen at STP requires 22.4 / .21 = 107 liters of air.
73 million moles of O2 * 107 liters air/mole of O2 = 7.8 billion liters of air, or
7.8 million cubic meters, or a cube 198 meters on a side.

Hmmm, "largest air compressor" gives a hit on a 4000 cfm, 600 psig compressor from Ingersoll-Rand.
7.8 million cubic meters = 275 million cubic feet.
4000 cfm * 60 min/hr * 24 hr/day = 5.76 million cubic feet/day.
275/5.76 = 47.7.

Well, you'd only need 48 of the worlds largest air compressors to get to 600 psi, then you need to boost the pressure further.
Uhhhh - I don't think so.....

A big scuba compressor can fill an 80 cubic foot tank in 7.5 minutes.
275 million cubic feet / 80 cubic feet/7.5 minutes = 26 million minutes to compress enough air to burn one day's oil leakage at that depth.
That's 18,000 days - can you round up 18,000 largish SCUBA air compressors?

That's all assuming that 5,000 bpd is really the leak number...

I'm going to bed - and praying that the insertion tube works.
Good night all...

That would be so cool. The high partial pressure of oxygen in the riser would light off that 2' carbon steel pipe too, assuming you got ignition of the gas at the end. You'd get a one-mile long underwater sparkler. I'd for sure want video of that.

LOL - would be a sight - just keep feeding pipe down from some huge airlock on the surface. ;-)

I get 21 cfs at 2225 psi, that's some flow rate.

Obviously impractical, but one can dream big.

One would need a complex burner manifold to get good mixing, maybe made out of alumina to disappoint the fireworks fans.
But the biggest stock tube I see from Coors Ceramics is only 8" diameter.

Evening All:

Looking for some TOD'ers more informed than I;

IIRC, there is a leak from the sea floor some distance from the riser. I assume it is leakage from the shoe/cement/borehole interface and migrating up through rock/mud. Is this correct?

Assuming the junk shot works:

Would a mud injection be sufficient to seal all leaks, or would a large cement injection be required? It would seem to me that we could just have a mud leak instead of an oil/gas leak. Preferable, but not ideal.

Assuming the relief well is successful:

A nearby relief well will reduce leak flow (pressure) but it seems to me that an intercept of the existing well is essential to completely stopping the leaks, by cementing or mud injection.

IOW, total success (if you can call it that) can only be achieved if the existing well is killed.

Lastly, are there any implications of BP not wanting to kill the well for financial reasons? Considering the present liabilities, I doubt it, but just asking. Always looking to learn.

I work in the patch, but about as far away from the mud and bits as possible (remote sensing) so I would appreciate anyone setting me straight on my assumptions.


The other leak is from the bent over part of the riser atop the BOP.
Sealing the BOP would stop this leak (too).
The main leak is at the end of the riser, some distance from the BOP.
There is no leak around the casing that I'm aware of.

Heavy enough mud would stop the flow down inside the well.
The junk shot is to cut/stop the flow rate through the BOP so that kill mud (extra heavy) can settle down in the well.
Then they might put in cement through the BOP to seal that.
I think to officially seal the well, they have to go in through the BOP and fully cement the thing, but don't quote me there.

Relief wells (in the oil patch) are misnamed - they are kill wells.
Did you see this reply in this thread?

Rockman has implied that "by regs" they must plug and abandon a blown-out well. He'll have the definitive word, but given the high flow rates and who knows what else is going on down there damaging the formation/casing/cement/..., it would be safest to plug it full of (dense) cement and start all over.

BP is on the hook for cleaning every inch of oiled beach, every oiled bird, every disappointed hotelier, every out of work fisherperson, etc., so unless they want to loose a lot of money, they have a lot of incentive to stop the flow ASAP.

latest relief well graphic (pdf):

May 9 - BOP maintenance and testing
May 14 - running the BOP
guess they're about to start drilling again.

BP is on the hook for cleaning every inch of oiled beach, every oiled bird, every disappointed hotelier, every out of work fisherperson, etc., so unless they want to loose a lot of money, they have a lot of incentive to stop the flow ASAP.

I wish this were the case, but I believe you are wrong. BP is on the hook for the total cleanup, with the assistance of $1 Billion from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. They are NOT liable beyond $75 Million for any other costs. That means all the fishermen, all the hoteliers, all the people who lose their jobs over this are not their problem. They will push back on every single claim, and the litigation will go on for decades. That is probably the ONLY aspect of this disaster that is absolutely immutable at this point.

Now, congress is trying to change the law to raise the $75 Million limit to $10 Billion, but even that probably wouldn't cover the losses, and the oil companies (predictably) are pushing back. Besides, they can't pass an ex-post facto law, and that is exactly what they are trying to do by going retroactive.

Oil companies obviously have absolutely no fear of repercussions from gerrymandering our society. They do very positively OWN us.


Normally I'd agree, but when BP's American Division CEO testified before both Senate and Congressional committees last week and categorically stated the 75 million dollar cap will not apply, that's going to be pretty hard to back away from.

What did you *expect* him to say?

Talk is cheap, and when it comes down to the Tens of Billions of Dollars likely to be claimed, the talk will be forgotten and exchanged for ruthless legal defenses.

A year from now, if BP hasn't put up a massive wall of legal defenses against any claims they can't be absolutely forced to pay, I'll line up for public flogging. They might cover a few obvious claims like the fishermen who are currently being banned from pursuing their livelihood, but a small hotel owner on the Alabama coast who loses half their business due to the uncertainty over the path of the oil from the spill? They are screwed.

It appears that the US Government was not convinced by BP's proclamations last week any more than I was:

"The US government has demanded immediate clarification from BP over its commitment to pay for costs caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."



Keep in mind he was under oath when testifying. There is no legal way to get out of it. BP's only option is to argue the individual amount of each claim. That option will not sit well with Congress, the Administration, or the Courts. BP will focus their efforts on making sure the scammers don't get paid.

What the Government is doing by asking BP for clarification is simply further tightening the noose and assuring the public they have BP by the throat.

This is not the same type of case as the Exxon Valdez where punitive damages where the issue.

When he said the $75 million cap would not apply, he did not say that every claim, no matter what would be paid. He could have thought that $200 million was enough. And that cap is over and above the actual costs of the clean-up, and the $75 million applies to categories like lost future income, mental problems and categories like that.

Actual clean-up, they are the hook for that no matter what, up to liquidation of their company.

I wonder how much I could get for wasting my time reading all this BS due to this damn event rather than working.


Exactly my point. BP have total legal control over how much they pay above the $75 Million. Another point being glossed over is that the Oil Spill Liability Fund will pretty much certainly be tapped to its maximum limit here (it already has paid out to the Coast Guard to the tune of $100 Million), meaning $1 Billion of the cleanup costs will come out of that fund, not out of BP pockets. It wouldn't surprise me if in backroom meetings BP has already decided that they will pay One Billion plus Seventy-Five Million in damages, and call it good. Everything over that? Boo Hoo for you. Therefore, their actual cost above the cost of cleanup? Seventy-five million.

What do you think the odds are that my previous example, a small coastal Alabama hotel that loses half its business simply due to the uncertainty over the spill, will see full reparations? I put the odds at somewhere between slim and none.

You do know that very early on in this catastrophe that BP had sent people to Alabama to try to get them to sign away their rights to sue for a measly $5000, don't you? What does that tell you about what kind of company we are dealing with? What possible defense can you come up with for that behavior, other than pure, unmitigated greed?



I'm part of a team working on a solution to deal with deep horizon oil leaking. We'd need 2 more informations to go further on our plans.

1) What's the temperature of the oil at the time it exits the broken pipe?
2) How long is the oil able to stay in contact with sea-water before degrading?

Could someone help me with these questions?

Thank you!

Maybe this is old news but last night was the first time I saw a BP Exec in Houston categorically reject the 70,000 BOPD number. Until then, they had said they did not know but would go with the Unified Command number. He said they know what the pressure drop is and that the high number made by the Purdue prof, who is getting his 15 minutes of fame on all the networks, is wrong. So they must have a lot better idea of what is going on inside the BOP and of what this well can do.

I actually think if they can show by way of data the range of flow and that some of the arm chair quarter backs, who assume the team working on this are not a bunch of "know nothings" it might help their PR. Of course one of these other ideas would need to work to really help.

As others have said, the capture and insert methods have a lot of drawback but are being tried while they engineer for the junk shot /top kill and after that perhaps cut the riser to put a valve or new BOP on the well. They are experiments that they can do quickly , learn from, and at least show visibly that they are trying something while designing things that have a better chance of working.

Organizationally I like the way they are approaching problem solving, checking ideas, and the way the coordination is working with the agencies. That part beats what I have seen in past disasters.

The kill wells, of course, are the proven way. They are each being engineered to make multiple attempts. Fortunately, well bore mapping is much more accurate, as are directional drilling tools and procedures than when I was in the "patch". I am sure the best folks are involved in the drill planning and work.

Maybe this is old news but last night was the first time I saw a BP Exec in Houston categorically reject the 70,000 BOPD number. Until then, they had said they did not know but would go with the Unified Command number. He said they know what the pressure drop is and that the high number made by the Purdue prof, who is getting his 15 minutes of fame on all the networks, is wrong. So they must have a lot better idea of what is going on inside the BOP and of what this well can do.

it is puzzling to me why anyone would trust any bp management statement.

but, okay, they're sure it isn't 70,000. WHAT IS THE FLOW THEN?

the 70,000 figure is from 2 different teams, you can go on about how the purdue prof is milking this.

we only get to use science when it supports your position, is that what you're saying?

if bp knows the flow, it's time for them to release a number. easy, simple. why isn't that happening?

I would ask you why I should not? I gave the context of the BP information.

i repeat, if bp knows what the flow is, why don't they just say so?

the trust issue has to do with their decision to give one guy the power to kill the entire gulf of mexico, and to have that moron decide that he's man enough to wager $500k against the homes, families, businesses of the gulf coast. if you're not yet ready to accept that story, fine. then, here, they lost my trust when they sent down the containment dome. you guys have been hopelessly optimistic about 'solutions' that matt simmons calls 'a joke'. these seem like desperate moves to me, doesn't seem like they have a clue. top hat. junk shot. please get serious, join reality, stop pretending that bp has any option other than the kill wells.

if bp knows the flow rate, tell them to share the info. as they refuse to do so, we have to rely on the satellite and surface monitoring and gathering, all of those confirm at least 25k bbl/day.

another number i'd like from bp - how much oil have they skimmed off the surface? should that also be impossible to gauge? please stick your head in the sand if you like, but don't expect everyone else to do the same.

who would pick these people (bp) to run the recovery operation? the guys who helo'd off the rig 6 hours before it blew, put those guys in charge. they sound like they understand how this stuff works.

I think you can pretty safely assume that, by the time it has wandered through the riser for almost a mile at a FAIRLY leisurely pace, the temperature will be pretty close to that of the water in the area. I think I remember seeing somewhere that this is about 40 deg F

As to the dynamics of hydrate formation, you'll have to find somebody a few pay grades above mine.

Oil temp from a well that I know about up on the north slope is about 450 degrees F.

oil and water do not mix, certainly some of the compounds in the oil degrade or are affected by water but your guess would be good as mine.

I am a refrigeration engineer, who did some work years ago up in deadhorse.

if you part of this team, i know its bad, i always for some reason gravitated towards where the shit hit the fan.
good luck!

Pit: I believe that the oil will rapidly approach the ambient temp of +/- 4C after it leaves the riser. The degradation of the oil takes place at surface due to evaporation of light ends and release of dissolved gas. The UV from the sunlight and bacteria also start working to degrade the oil on surface. There may be dilution of the oil underwater but I don't expect that there will be any degradation.

Thad Allen quote,"He said an X-ray type analysis of the failed blow out preventer indicated that it had worked partially and was limiting flow from the well to some degree. He said officials had been able to measure the pressure, learning that oil was flowing into the device at 8,000 to 9,000 pounds per square inch and flowing out into the Gulf at around 2,650 pounds per square inch."

From http://blog.al.com/live/2010/05/national_incident_commander_oi_1.html

How much oil is that?

Knowing the pressure differential is a good start, but we can't calculate flow unless/until we also know the effective orifice size. Given the spectacularly convoluted flow path through the partially closed BOP and the riser kink, there isn't going to be any way to even guess at this

You mean to tell me that X-ray analysis can measure pressure, yet you cannot use an X-ray image to measure linear size? If you know the image scale and can see how big the flow is at the smallest point, could not a reasonable estimate be measured? After all, is that not at the point where greatest pressure differential exists.

You can see the flow's smallest dimension from one side at a time in each location in the flowpath. If you've got unlimited use of the gamma-ray imaging equipment, you can even get shots of the flow path from multiple directions that'll give you a sort of three-dimensional picture of the flowpath.

Unfortunately, without some SERIOUS computer modeling (super computer, months of programming, etc) there's still no way to figure out how all these weird-shaped orifices - in close proximity to each other - interact.

The realistic way to estimate it is to measure (estimate) the flow through it and calculate back to the orifice size.

And for what it's worth, X-rays can do some pretty cool stuff, but they DIDN'T measure the inlet pressure with them. As I understand things, they've picked up a signal from a down-hole pressure transmitter

there's still no way to figure out how all these weird-shaped orifices - in close proximity to each other - interact.

But, I'd bet if you just took the two or three smallest orifices and assumed you can add up the flow impedences you'd get into the ballpark. So you wouldn't know the details, but you might have a halfway decent estimate of flow rates and pressures.

I bet they have a good effective orifice size range and know enough to model it to get a flow magnitude range. They can then compare it with surface observations to come up with some reasonable guesstimate. As they have always said "do not hold us to 5000 BOPD, that is from Unified Command " but if it is 20000 that is a far cry form 70000. At least they have not been like a prof who says it has to 70,000 BOPD per day plus or minus 20%. I am not sure I would go on TV and be so emphatic given what he had to work from. He then went on to say he did not know what information BP had or how they made their calculations. I'd prefer the BP approach using Coast Guard, NOAA and their own knowledge to say they are not sure but use 5000 as a number.
The issue with the high BOPD number is it give people the ammunition to say "See this means there is all sorts of damaging oil that is stuck beneath the surface which is why it has not covered the sea shore!(and of course to compare it to Valdez for scale while ignoring Ixtoc which is a better analogy). The uncertainties in all this are apparent and all sorts of folks with all sorts of agendas trying to justify their need for more funding or who would benefit from saying this will destroy the planet for hundreds of years, pop up all over the gazillions of available media outlets. 99% of everything that comes through these outlets is there to fill time and like Wikipedia is poorly sourced or for entertainment rather than for accurate information delivery.

If I know the pressure differential and the density of the outflow, could I not calculate the orifice size?

It's complicated because it is mixed phase (gas/liquid) flow. That said, volumetric flow rate is proportional to the pressure difference times the area of the orifice. Even if the orifice size isn't known, one could calculate an upper boundary assuming an open BOP, IMHO. I think it was said somewhere that the well was projected to produce 60,000 barrels per day.

tealeaf -

This is more or less what I have been saying in several ways in several previous posts.

One doesn't need to estimate the flow with extreme accuracy to determine what is the likely range of flow rates.

One thing that I hope should be readily apparent is that a large volume of liquid can move through even a relatively small effective orifice area provided there is sufficient pressure differential.

For example, if we had an effective orifice area (i.e., the total area of the openings in the damaged pipe) of only 1 square inch, then a velocity through that orifice of 20 ft/sec would give you a liquid flow rate of roughly 2,100 bbl/day. And it doesn't take an exceptionally high pressure differential to achieve a velocity of 20 ft/sec through an orifice.

Of course, once the fluid leaves the orifice, its velocity starts to drop off quite rapidly as the flow stream fans out to a much larger cross-sectional area. That is why the oil doesn't appear to be moving all that fast in the videos of the leak; it has already fanned out to a much larger area after leaving the orifice.

My point? You don't need a major rupture to release a very large amount of oil/gas. Even a relatively small break in the pipe can easily result in several thousand bbls/day of released oil/gas. That is why I tend to be skeptical of the lower release estimates.

Actually, for an incompressable fluid, flow rate is proportional to thw square root of pressure.

As they have always said "do not hold us to 5000 BOPD, that is from Unified Command " but if it is 20000 that is a far cry form 70000. At least they have not been like a prof who says it has to 70,000 BOPD per day plus or minus 20%. I am not sure I would go on TV and be so emphatic given what he had to work from. He then went on to say he did not know what information BP had or how they made their calculations. I'd prefer the BP approach using Coast Guard, NOAA and their own knowledge to say they are not sure but use 5000 as a number.

it is reported that skimmer vessels on site are picking up 20,000+ barrels a day. where is that coming from? shouldn't the whole leak be mostly cleaned up by now if we're only seeing 5,000b/d?

The skimmer vessels pick up a mix of oil and water. In calm water under ideal conditions it may be 5 parts water, 1 part oil, in rougher weather it could be 10:1. So when they say 20,000 bbls that is probably closer to 2,000 to 3,000 actual barrels of oil.

Apparently burning the oil in fire booms is much more effective than skimming:

Skimming oil spill mostly ineffective; controlled burning destroys more

One day of controlled burning at the site of the Deepwater Horizon spill apparently destroyed more oil than virtually all of the skimming efforts, according to Press-Register calculations.

as i said in the previous thread, this is the total oil skimmed after being decanted. no water, just oil. 20,000+ barrels collected every day.

Given that through the 15th they have only skimmed a total of 6,000,000 gallons of oil/water which equals 142,000 barrels, your number of 20000 barrels of oil per day seems more than far fetched. Every skimming report I have ever seen says 10-20% max oil in the oil/water mix which is more inn the 22000 barrels skimmed range.
Your number means they have created oil. Things are bad enough we do not need more to oil drop out of thin air.

If the pressure at the output side of the BOP is known a good estimate of the total gas/ oil flow rate can be made by modeling the geometry of the twisted mile of pipe. No super computer required but CFD software is (which unfortunetly I don't have access to) plus a good map of the geometry of the pipe and images of any kinks.

A simple calculation can be done however to put an upper limit on the flow just by assuming the pipe is straight and unkinked. THis could be done with a paper and pencil. The unknown is the ratio of oil to gas I've seen a few estimates but they mostly amount to guesses.

Big storms in the Gulf this morning, south of LA.


Probably not a good thing. Moving north x northeast.

I don’t think the rubber flaps will work. But the seal doesn’t have to be perfect.

There was some discussion about the smaller pipe being blown out from the 21 inch. This will definitely happen because of the change in flow direction-a momentum change causing a huge force. This is much like the change in direction in a steam turbine blade causing a reaction force. What can be done is drop a huge concrete block next to the ell so that the thrust can be absorbed by the block. Everyone says the floor is pudding so I don’t know how they will support the block. The block will need to be massive.

This is done all the time around underground piping such as fire mains and pipelines.

Even relatively low pressure lines will "walk" from pressure pulses without hefty anchors.

The only way I can see the internal tube mechanism working is to positively anchor the sippy straw to the riser or drill pipe. Assuming the ROVs can weld, perhaps they'll simply scab on anchors, attach a structural member, and then stab the straw? Or perhaps there is an insertable expanding seal that could be put in place as an anchor? Or an external crimper that could crush the pipe around a lip on the straw? For any of this one would think the straw must have a release valve to allow oil to flow through unimpeded while they stab it.

As for the expanding gas, the obvious solution would be use a big enough pipe to keep the flow velocity down to something you can handle at the pressure you have to work with. There certainly can be a good bit of pressure maintained, given the density difference between sea water and a very gassy oil-water mix.

With a high gas fraction, the pressure available for lift is a couple of thousand pounds, IIRC from last week's math work. Part of this can be used to maintain gas pressure, and reduce volume, without preventing flow. In fact, there might be a solution point where the rubber flaps keep water out, instead of oil in, due to a partial vacuum at the bottom of the straw.

EDIT: I think I have a logical inconsistency in my rough analysis -- if the gas/oil/water mix rises with constraint (back pressure), the straw will actually suck itself into the leaky pipe. Only if it is sufficiently restricted at the top will pressure build against the rubber flaps and the straw itself.

It's the same physics at work as for the top hat and dome, only with an "innie" instead of an "outie".

The thing I am not getting is that some of these approaches don't preclude any of the others. Why not go ahead with the "crap-shot" - worst case is that nothing happens. Best case the flow is reduced somewhat. It seems like they are waiting to see if some of the other things work before they try that one.

My understanding is they are working in parallel on the "crap-shot" but that technique is more complicated than it sounds (I read there are 100 people working on it). I've read three reasons for this. One, they want to choose their materials carefully, and shoot them in pre-defined waves, one after another, at certain time intervals. Two, they need to figure out how to monitor its success/failure (in particular, they want to make sure it's not accidentally making things worse). And three, the BOP has weird curves in it, and they want to make sure they don't plug a valve (rather than the BOP).

In summary, they are working as fast as possible, it's just more complicated than shoving some junk in some valve.

I talked to someone who has been over at the BP offices. He estimated BP had about 250 to 500 people working on at least a dozen different approaches in the BP offices and that most of those people (the majority are specialist subcontractors) was probably backed up by 5 to 10 people in their own offices.

Just for example I know of one company that has a department that specializes in the design and manufacture of underwater equipment for the drilling industry. Within a couple days after the initial incident virtually everyone in that department (over 100 people) was pulled off every project they were working on, split into two 12 hour shift and have been working on this 24/7 ever since. That is only one company working on one aspect of the problem.


(and I would add we need the same sort of effort on some other large scale problems, that are as bad but just don't seem as urgent)

Exactly, right on. Thank you Nate for injecting some sanity into this insane situation. I vote for a manhattan project on solar-thermal electricity generation and electric vehicles. If Florida was entirely using solar thermal powered electric autos would BP still have a market for the oil from DWH? Or the next one at 3,000 m sea depth?

as you know, the only reason this amount of expertise and resources have been marshaled is because there is a clear and present danger. ALL of our environmental success stories (DDT, chlorofluorocarbons, unleaded gasoline, etc) had smoking guns. Sovereign debt crisis (and oil leak) are the current smoking guns. A system based on unlimited growth on a finite sphere doesn't have a 'natural smoking gun' with enough lead time to be mitigatable. So adaptation will be our likely course, though perhaps we will learn from, on wider boundaries, from this situation in the GOM.

The broader problems we face are not technical but political.....

I just finished reading Jared Diamond's "Collapse" and he said much the same thing.

His conclusion in a nutshell is that societies that are pre-disposed to long term thinking, either through accident of geography or through enlightened leadership, are more likely to effectively manage both their population and resources and therefore avoid most of the worst mistakes, such as the tragedy of the commons that we currently see playing out so vividly in the GOM.

Societies that are pre-disposed to short term thinking and immediate social/political gain, on the other hand, are more likely to either degrade their environment to the point where it can no longer sustain them, or fail to adapt to gradual changes in climate that play out over decades (if not centuries), but in either case ultimately leading to collapse.

He ended the book on a highly optimistic note by citing examples of societies that were able to recognize that their accustomed behaviors were un-sustainable and then quickly adapt those behaviors and customs to that new reality, albeit with sometimes authoritarian methods such as China's one child policy.

This, however, is in striking contrast to the bulk of the rest of the book which provides one example after another of complex societies that utterly failed to adapt to the ecological reality of their situation. This includes examples where there was simply a flat out refusal to adapt, such as the Greenland Norse who slowly died out with nary a fish bone in their middens despite the presence of Inuit (whom the Norse considered sub-human) thriving all around them on a diet of plentiful seafood and marine mammals.


Shelburn, this is a good point, ditto your earlier post about the need to process the stuff properly at the surface and work backwards down the system as part of designing how to intervene at the leak point. I'm afraid I don't know anything about drilling, but I have been involved in design of deepwater production systems and FPSOs for many years. These are the issues we have to deal with all the time, and I am sure BP have a whole bunch of such people working the problem who have this knowledge as a starting point. (But I would rather not be doing it on the hoof with only a few hours' sleep a night...)

In one sense this is reassuring - contrary to some sections of public opinion, the industry is not sitting there scratching its head saying "gee, we never expected these kinds of phenomena to occur...". But the other side of the coin is - given we already know how tricky these fluids are to bring to the surface and process safely, how come we, as an industry, haven't engineered a few workable options for intervention and "emergency processing" in the event of a deepwater blowout? The public might well ask - if we have oil booms and skimming vessels accessible for such an incident, why not have a few caissons capable of fitting over a BOP in storage somewhere? And if a caisson won't work because of flow assurance issues like hydrate formation (again, something we grapple with in design of most production systems) could we not perhaps have worked that out in advance rather than wasted days building and deploying one only to find out the hard way - with the public looking on?

Yes BOPs and well cement jobs are pretty reliable - for the most part - so are aeroplanes. But when your plane crashes during takeoff or landing, you expect the airport will have fire engines ready to race down the runway, rather than the airport manager saying "you know, what we could do with is some kinda vehicle which could head over there and spray large quantities of foam - or maybe it should be water - what do you think?".

The idea that there should be standby containment dome(s) has been floated around a lot. And if any blowout could be expected to be configured as this one is then that would make sense.

But, I have never known of another blowout that had the oil flow going into a large, riser where it escaped at near ambient pressure a long way away from the BOP.

The "standard" blow out, if there even is such a thing, is blowing a high velocity jet of oil and/or gas and and you would not be able to get a containment dome near it. By the time the flow velocity and turbulence has decreased to where you could have a dome hanging over it, it has also dispersed out into a much wider area than any of the domes contemplated.

If you try to build the dome large to contain the flow area you run into the same problem that doomed BP's first large dome to failure. The dome must be heavy enough that it will not float up when filled with gas.

Basically this is a one off situation in that it is probably the only underwater blow out where a containment dome could help.

There was an attempt on the Ixtoc blowout to build a massive containment dome. It was after I left, but some of the other divers that were there said it was an almost total failure, irregardless of the PR from the oil company and the construction company that built it.

OTOH - A containment dome could be usable in the case of a pipeline leak. Gulf of Mexico pipelines (there are thousands) are relatively safe and have break away sections and flow restrictors to stop the flow in case of a leak. I think over 50 pipelines were damaged or destroyed during the 2008 hurricane season without, in the words of the MMS, any "significant oil spills". But this incident reminds us that when a system is 99.9% safe it really means it will fail 0.1% of the time.

Would it be possible to use a large diameter fabric-based dome. e.g. based on neutral buoyant rubberized fabric, say 300-feet wide at the base, to form a "chimney" for the rising oil? such a fabric structure could be very large without being too expensive.

Shelburn: Thanks I used to live a few blocks form that office and many friends from other companies are still there. I do not think people understand the Oil Patch network and the ability of a company like BP who has to deal with hurricanes, to mount a response campaign. I laugh when pol and others think they would not have university and government folks in from the beginning. I would love to be on one of those round the clock teams. Have done that before and it is amazing the work and drive and commitment. Despite the competition at times like this people come together. Aerospace is similar.Some of thee execs were just young bucks when I was working and have moved up. Hate to be in their shoes now. I had heard 165 organizations working the problem.

Which brings to mind a different question - if they can pump stuff in there, can they pump in a viscous fluid of some sort - (perhaps even increasing the viscosity as time goes on)? No risk of jamming the valves. They would need to continually keep pumping it in to keep it all from being blown out, of course.

I don't know what sort of viscous material would be best suited for this sort of job. Something that wouldn't readily mix with either the cruide oil or the seawater, I suppose.

After the junk shot slows down the leak at the BOP, they would inject heavy drilling "mud" (specialized heavy fluids - 16ppg or more) into the well via the kill lines that are underneath the rams. BP would inject the mud under pressure until the hydrostatic weight of the mud balanced the pressure of the oil/gas coming from the formation. Then they close off the BOP lines the well is "killed" and the leak is stopped. After the relief well is done, at some point they will have to re-enter the well via the BOP (maybe with a 2nd BOP on top) and put in a cement plug starting at a predetermined depth and about fill up about 300 feet of the well with cement, wait for it to dry, then cement another plug just below the seabed, then the well is plugged forever. This all has to happen to be in compliance with Federal Law.

Even if the leak were stopped today it's going to be a few more weeks and many more millions before everything is wrapped up on-site. Of course about then the courtroom will heat up to determine what happened, was there negligence from BP/Transocean/Haliburton, and who is heed liable to pay for what damages. Of course then comes the lawsuits from the dead workers, shrimp fishermen, Federal Government, etc. Fixing the leak is only the beginning of the next chapter,not the end of the story.

Maybe not. Worst case is they blow the seals on the wellhead and there is a wide-open flow path for 8000 psi oil to the sea bed. Low probability, but possible.

To me it looks like the riser is making gas and the drill pipe is making oil. It is difficult to see, obviously. Could be wrong. But if gas is in the annulus and forcing oil down to bottom of hole inside casing, as seems possible, that's exactly what it would be doing. If pipe is stabbed, might be most of the oil in it; allow casing to keep blowing.

As I understand things, the drill pipe has been shut off - valve installed last week. The remaining leaks are at the end of the riser and at the kink just above the BOP.

I have not seen a clear explanation of the dynamics of the leak and its path through the BOP - BP likely has some reasonable idea, but I haven't seen information posted by anyone who knows. Some of the pipe rams operated and I believe the annular preventer is closed. Its hard to evaluate the situation without more information (in order to discuss what reasonable solutions might be).

The NYTimes released this graphic of the BOP re the 'junk shot:


So you can see that they have re-plumbed the choke and kill lines that were damaged when the riser collapsed. It seems there is not an easy place to connect new plumbing at the top end - perhaps because that connection has been damaged, but I believe some people are working on how to do that.

Full article link:


Why are they doing this from the hole in the bent riser pipe?

Why not sever the riser pipe above the BOP, so that they can get a direct shot into the top of the BOP without having to maneuver around a bunch of bent and twisted steel with holes - and weak spots that will be holes if they plug the existing holes?

This has been bothering me for a while now.

Maybe they think the kinked riser is backpressuring the BOP to some extent?

Tey're not sure how much of the down-hole pressure is being held back by that kink in the riser.

If they just slice it off, they MAY make the effective orifice bigger and wind up releasing MORE oil if they can't get the thing shut off or plugged up.

I was reading this morning that the government approved the use of underwater dispersants to help combat the spill.


One of the lines in the article states: "Dispersants are generally less harmful than the oil itself, which is highly toxic, and they biodegrade more quickly, the Coast Guard said."

Is this true? I am just wondering why it needs Fed approval if it is less harmful and biodegrades quickly... is BP more concerned with public perception of the oil spill than with the actual environmental effects?

I remember someone using Dawn as an example of a dispersant but what will they really be using down there at 5000 feet?

from the msds for corexit 9527a:

"excessive exposure may cause central nervous system effects, nausea, vomiting, anesthetic or narcotic effects," and "repeated or excessive exposure to butoxyethanol [an active ingredient] may cause injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver."

"No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product"

this is not dishwashing liquid.

If they come out of the top, that would eliminate the momentum and all they need to do is stop the pressure thrust. The weight of the pipe would probably be enough conteract the pressure thrust.

A reader sent in this proposed solution.


This solution uses "storage barges" to store oil near where it comes out.

This appears much like the initial containment box, only several magnitudes larger...almost like sinking a bottom-less oil freighter on top of the leak site like an enormous inverted bathtub. Why not pre-fit the "barge" with couplings to allow a reconnect to the risers that go to shore?

I'm not sure the capacity of one barge is several days of oil, more like 1 day? Barges are not that cheap. One problem I see is that it prevents work around the leak area.

It is not dissimilar to the containment dome idea. If the problem of hydrates could be addressed, and oil separated sufficiently from gas, a riser could be attached to a filled barge and oil removed. So while one barge fills, the others are drained. It would seem such a system (or two) could be built and tested and kept on standby, before the next deepwater leak happens.

At this point in the game, I don't think anyone's worried about the costs of the barges. I'd personally be more worried about MOVING one of 'em after it had been filled with oil/gas.

On the other hand, it has some possibilities. There would still be a problem with the hydrates, but this'd provide enough volume to act as a realistic gas/oil separator. You could tap in a riser to take the oil to the surface and just let the gas go - as far as I'm aware, the gas isn't TOO environmentally dangerous.

To deal with the hydrates in the long run, you could cut off the end of the drill pipe and install an ell over the end of the riser to direct the flow up a few feet. This'd get the flow up to the gas pocket or at least into the oil layer.

To deal with the hydrates in the medium run (while the gas/oil layers are being established) lower the barge with the receiving compartment filled with light oil.

To deal with hydrates in the short run (while the barge is being lowered) EITHER:

1. Lower the barge far enough off to the side so that the floating hydrates don't collect under it, then slide it into position at depth.

2. Install a deflector (wouldn't have to be much more substantial than sheet metal) over the opening in the "deck" (now the underside) where the ell from the riser will enter. Move the deflector aside at the last minute.

3. If I got my numbers correct, the hydrates are SLIGHTLY lighter than the seawater at depth, but heavier than the oil. It's POSSIBLE that the bottom of the "installation oil" pool will serve sufficiently as a deflector

@BobCousins Since everyone is uncertain about the flow rate of the leak, you may be correct. The video was created considering a barge with an internal volume of around 2M gallons. The lift system shown is capable of handling a barge with a volume of around 6M gallons. Let us suppose that the leak is triple what BP is saying: 15,000 barrels per day (630,000 gallons per day). A barge with an internal volume of 6M gallons would be able to capture oil pollution for roughly 9.5 days. With regard to cost, we're probably still talking in the 10s of millions of dollars for even the largest of barges. Smaller ones cost less than that. With the relief drilling, ROV, and support vessel spread that BP has deployed to address this disaster (easily in excess of $2M/day), and not to mention the increased lawsuit and punitive damage potential, I doubt they would blink at spending the money on the barges themselves. And as you astutely pointed out, the barges could then be drydocked and then redeployed in the event of another disaster.

I don't see preventing work around the leak area as a big problem assuming we can contain the oil reliably. We propose that the oil is stored until the relief wells are in place or they devise a way to repair or replace the existing BOP stack. The big "dissimilarity" with their prior attempts is that it decouples the capture and extraction efforts. BP seems hell bent of doing both at the same time, which makes the entire operation significantly more complex. We feel that taking each task on separately is the way to go and increases our chances of success tremendously.

Ok, the barge volume is higher than I estimated! I guess you allowing that the oil/gas/hydrate volume which needs to be collected is higher than the nominal "oil" volume? Either way, I agree that KISS is a good approach, and BP are perhaps over-engineering.

It seems like this system is simple, could be deployed very quickly (in future if not for this). It also doesn't require custom solution for the pipe topology which BP are attempting. How quickly could a barge be converted for use?

We should not be worrying about BPs profits, but if a solution has potential for economic recovery of oil spilled then it could be used to offset the cost and provide an incentive for developing the system and having it on standby. If I was the MMS, I would mandate that offshore operators must have access to such a recovery system as a condition of the lease.

Does anybody know the volumetric properties of the hydrates? It occurs to me that you might have to provide several cubic feet of storage volume for every cubic foot of gas that comes in the form of a hydrate.

Some general properties of methane clathrate:

Stoichiometric ratio of CH4 to H2O in clathrate: 1 to 46

Molar mass of CH4: 16 g/mol
Molar mass of (CH4+46 H2O): 844 g/mol

Moles of CH4 in 1 cubic foot of gas at STP (ideal gas law): 1.16

Moles of CH4 in 1 cubic foot of gas at 5000' depth (ideal gas law): 1850

Density of methane clathrate: about 900 kg/m^3
Moles of CH4 in 1 cubic foot of methane clathrate: 30

Ratio of gas volume at STP to clathrate volume, same amount of gas:

Ratio of gas volume at 5000' depth to clathrate volume, same amount of gas: 1:61

Thanks - not exactly what I was HOPING to hear, but precisely the information I needed.

Wikipedia Methane clathrate

The average methane clathrate hydrate composition is 1 mole of methane for every 5.75 moles of water, though this is dependent on how many methane molecules "fit" into the various cage structures of the water lattice. The observed density is around 0.9 g/cm³.[4] One liter of methane clathrate solid would therefore contain, on average, 168 liters of methane gas (at STP).

So molar mass 16 + 5.75*14 = 96.5 g/mol
Gasvolume (STP) to gasvolume (5000') 145:1 (Somewhere in this thread)
Ratio of gas volume at 5000' depth to clathrate volume, same amount of gas:~1.16:1


Bah. Rainer's figure is correct.

I assumed that since each ice "cage" was 46 molecules, that the ratio of CH4 to H2O was 46:1. But of course, each water molecule is a vertex for four different cages, and I suppose more than one methane can fit in each cage.

A few questions to fellow TODers regarding clathrate formation:

1) What fraction of available methane becomes captured in clathrate formations? The figures quoted above seem to suggest 100%.

2) How reliable is the 3000 GOR mentioned elsewhere? As others have said, that seems a bit high.

3) Would the shape of the containment vessel influence the clathrate production? We will have a large flat volume compared with a tall conical volume used offshore and which instantly (?) iced up.

4) Is anyone familiar enough with clathrate destabilization to know if we lifted the barge and melted the clathrates would the gas and water separate allowing us to vent the gas off from the top via valves?

Methane hydrate is destabilized by a reduction of pressure (a major cause for ending past ice ages apparently; as the ocean depth decreases, methane hydrate on the bottom is destabilized). About 50 Atm (1500 ft depth) required for stability, but it does not immediately blow up at lower pressure. I saw a picture of about a one cubic meter chunk of methane hydrate that was being handled at the surface just off the side of a rearch vessel at the surface, I think the discrepany in densities cited above (0.90 g/cc)versus the mineralogical data I cited of 1.04 g/cc at depth (http://www.webmineral.com/data/Methane%20hydrate-I.shtml) could be due to gas bubble formation at less than 50 atm.

The stoichiometry of methane hydrate is 8(methane):46 (water)....eight times as high a concentration of methane in the hydrate as goodmanj guessed. The density is 1.04, high enough it should sink in sea water (how else could you have all those sea-floor deposits?)


As I posted elsewhere, since clathrates consist of 46 water molecules per methane molecule, the production rate of clathrates is pretty phenomenal.

At a gas-oil-ratio of 3000 cubic feet (at sea level) to 1 barrel of oil, 21 kg of clathrates will be produced for every 1 kg of oil.

Since the density of clathrate and oil is similar, with your assumptions above that means your 6 Mgallon barge will fill in 12 hours. It's going to take more than 12 hours to raise a barge to the surface and replace it: you won't be able to keep up the pace.

And when you do bring the barge to the surface, when it gets above 300 meters depth, boom all the clathrates destabilize, suddenly releasing 600 million cubic feet of gas.

Now what?

We never mentioned raising the barge to the surface as a way of extracting the oil after its been captured. That might be a viable option, but as you've pointed out, you'd have to manage the hydrate problem first. We drill through a mile of water and then through several miles of earth to get to oil during normal deepwater production. After we've addressed the pollution and the crisis has subsided, I'm convinced we possess the technology to reliably extract the oil from a few barges sitting on the seabed.

Another thing they need to account for is the vortices around the 6 inch due to currents. This a very important factor in riser design. The forces caused by vortices will bow the piping or set up vibrations This wouldn't be such a problem except for the length of the pipe and the small section modulus.

All the equipment from the bottom going up is standard equipment used for drilling and producing oil and gas from these water depths.

Many deepwater riser designs have vanes for vortex shedding.

Crew Argued Over Drilling Plan Before Rig Explosion

About 11 hours before the Deepwater Horizon exploded, a disagreement took place between the top manager for oil giant BP PLC on the drilling rig and his counterpart for the rig's owner, Transocean Ltd., concerning the final steps in shutting down the nearly completed well, according to a worker's sworn statement. Michael Williams, a Transocean employee who was chief electronics technician on the rig, said there was "confusion" between those high-ranking officials in an 11 a.m. meeting on the day of the rig blast, according to a sworn statement from Mr. Williams reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Williams himself attended the meeting. . .

What is known from drilling records and congressional testimony is that after the morning meeting, the crew began preparations to remove from the drill pipe heavy drilling "mud" that provides pressure to keep down any gas, and to replace this mud with lighter seawater. Ultimately, the crew removed the mud before setting a final 300-foot cement plug that is typically poured as a last safeguard to prevent combustible gas from rising to the surface. Indeed, they never got the opportunity to set the plug.

Mr. Williams declined to be interviewed. In his sworn statement, he described the meeting as including ranking personnel from BP, Transocean and Halliburton Co., a contractor that dealt with cementing the well. According to Mr. Williams's account, Transocean's rig manager, Jimmy Wayne Harrell, was discussing the plans for the next few hours' work, including taking out the drilling mud and running a test to make sure gas wasn't seeping into the well. Mr. Harrell explained in the meeting that he had received the plans from BP. Then, according to Mr. Williams's statement, the top-ranked BP employee assigned to the rig, Donald Vidrine, disagreed and said "that was not the correct procedure."

. . . At about this point in the meeting, according to Mr. Williams's attorney, Scott Bickford, all other employees were asked to leave the room so that Messrs. Vidrine and Harrell could talk in private. Mr. Williams's statement doesn't include a reference to asking others to leave. It's not clear what position either BP's Mr. Vidrine or Transocean's Mr. Harrell took on when the drilling mud should be removed.

So we had an initially routine meeting in the morning. Afterwards BP and Transocean Senior Managers talked with each other to resolve a question between them on the plan for the day. The attorney says people were asked to leave the room but, as the WSJ points out, the actual sworn statement by Williams doesn't say that. Was it just the end of the main meeting and they left anyway but Harrell and Vidrine just had a quick chat and resolved a simple issue which will turn out not to be relevant in any case - or was this really something mission critical and the start of the disaster? We'll find out in due course I guess.

methinks the name 'Donald Vidrine' might become the new Joseph Hazelwood

I don't see a major impediment to success in the latest BP approach, except that it could be somewhat tricky maneuvering the insertion tube into the horizontal casing with the drill pipe extending out through the hole. Also, they may not get even half the oil that's being spilled.

Should this fail, they might consider a "stacked doughnut pyramid" approach.

First, even out the sea floor around the leaking end as is best possible.

Second, place a 6' x 1' "seal doughnut" with an ~ 18" hole in the middle. It could be made of metal, ceramic or cement, with the center at the pipe-end, and a "duct" cut through to the hole that conforms to shape of the last three feet of the 21" casing.

Tamp down the first doughnut as best possible to achieve a seal with the sea bed. A perfect one isn't necessary.

Third, place another similar doughnut on top of the first one, with a similar groove conforming to the casing, but this time there would be a flat, continuous surface on top when finally placed on top of the first doughnut. At this point the "leak" is starting to be confined and directed upward.

The "final" doughnut also a foot thick, maybe only 3-4 feet in diameter would not have a groove or cut, but in the center would be welded-in or "wedged" in a reducer (pipe) that reduced the diameter from 18" to 6". This pipe reducer (plus extension, if desired) would extend maybe 2-3 feet above the top plane of the final doughnut.

To minimize hydrate build-up on the surface during the process, a "sliding technique" bringing in the doughnut from the side could be used.

BP would now be in a position to place its "top hat" or any other "vacuuming device" on top of the "new" 6 inch ( or 4" or 5") riser.

Looks like someone thinks that perhaps cotton could be used to plug the leak.


There is one thing I don`t understand, is BP trying to keep the leak going and recover the oil (for benefit) or seal it for good. If they can recover that flowing oil, it is still worth $80 a barrel since they can separate the water from it. With all the world technology how the hell, can`t they plug a leaking pipe ? There`s huge pressure outward but here`s 2 solutions for them :

1- insert a rod of low diameter which has rows of circular spring loaded metal flaps folded outward for the insertion. Once inside a mechanism release the flaps which once opened, grip the inside of the pipe. Since they are opened outward, the more pressure on the flaps, the more they grip the inside. Better the tip of the flaps contains diamond power which grip even more. A cement block can also be put at the other end to help stop the rod from going out.

2- insert a drill bit almost the size of the pipe (20 inches ?). Like a regular drill bit, it`s grooved half the length. The rotating bit goes in slowly and since the oil flows through the grooves there is low pressure to get in. Has it goes in, the groves becomes shallower up to nothing basically sealing the pipe. The bit outer surface can be also be diamond dusted.

There you go, sealed !!!

While re-reading some of the old material and reading this thread, I keep wondering why the third leak, closed with a valve, is not being hooked up to recover even some small portion of the leak and reducing the overall flow. This should have the benefit of reducing the pressure at the other two points instead of the current, or previously hypothesized anyway, increase in pressure on those points. At that time, whoever is in charge, if anyone is, can also see what the pressure and flow rate is at that point and give at least themselves a better grasp of the problem.

And, this would not be a "Rube Goldberg" type of solution in any sense.

Personally, I do think that BP is trying to be honest and not just spinning every last detail. The "truth" is going to come out eventually, and that will be bad enough. If it were me, I would prefer to take the beating now rather than later, and I am going to assume they are smarter than I am.

This ain't a bad idea. It's unclear how much of a pressure reduction they'll get in the rest of the failed riser (especially if they have to choke down the flow to control velocity), but if worst comes to worst, they can still just shut it off and be back where they started from.

I operate some shallow production, onshore, and if we find a flow line leak, we immediately work to take all the pressure off of it that we can. I know they are confident about their abilities to stop the leaks eventually, but they could certainly mitigate the bad press with something positive, and do something right now. This could do both. The only downside is that it will take some folks off the other efforts, but not for that long.

I agree with "PriorityX"'s comment elsewhere that all who are working on the problem right now are sincere in their efforts, by the way. Many of them are probably working as many of the 24 hours in a day that they can, and nobody has any time to relax, or at least that would be my bet.

Oil washes onto U.S. shores as latest spill solution stalls

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, May 15, 2010 (AFP) - Oil leaking from a ruptured well pipe in the Gulf of Mexico washed ashore in two new locations Saturday, the Coast Guard said, as the latest attempt to contain the spill faltered. ...

"We were hoping it was going to be operational last night," BP spokesman John Crabtree said, acknowledging that the process was proving more complicated than expected.

It was unclear why engineers had failed to connect the tube, and how long they would keep trying before turning to alternative methods.

They almost have the hat trick.

ya know... looking at the BOP in the graphic again... HOW... is... ANYONE... saying... ANYTHING... that "this could not have been anticipated"...

the first BOP patent was 1926...

seems blowouts and oil wells... are well like... one gets the other...

why would a 4 story multi ton apparatus be deployed as standard operating procedure... if... "this could not have been anticipated"

problem is... they DO work the vast majority of the time... like nukes... and terrorists... nuclear energy is very reliable... and terrorists are 1-2% likely to pull off a major attack... but when it does happen... like the BOP not "preventing"... you get the mass of steel tubing laying around a mile deep like a 3 year old given an open tube of toothpaste to play with...

THAT... is the part that ...could not have been anticipated"...

now its just a matter of pulling out every engineering and physics know how from their collective asses before the resovoir empties completely of its own accord...

not to worry, shelburn assures us that they have hundreds of people working on this, around the clock.

It's funny how much free time's being spent conjuring up homemade analysis on every "fix" BP releases to the press. The media consistently tells us the smaller pipe will stop the geyser, but none of these ideas are designed to do more than capture some of the oil/gas mix. In reality, none of them ever had a chance of doing any such thing.

As seen with BOP failures of this type, the relief drill is the only option and the timing and effectivness are far from certain. Wouldn't a "junk shot", or dome, or smaller pipe have been used at Timor Sea or Ixtoc in less than 200ft of water. Certainly the company would have wanted to collect as much mix as possible rather than waste it in the sea.

Watch and listen as the Coast Guard and BP spokesman fumble over their own lies. Details for mitigating the geyser get fuzzier and timetables drawn out. It's always next week by Friday.

Yesterday "tar balls" some as large as notebooks washed up in numerous places in MS but there was no TV news coverage.

Yesterday's LA press release hidden far down and no TV coverage:

"DEQ has confirmed shoreline impact at Fourchon Beach, Chandeleur Island, Whiskey Island/Trinity Island, Raccoon Island, and South Pass. DEQ has also confirmed visible sheen emanating from the marsh at the southeastern most part of Pass a Loutre, light sheen coming off of the west tip of Whiskey Island and drifting into Caillou Bay, and oil sheen near the beach at Trinity Island and Raccoon Island.

The Governor said that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) found an oiled Brown Pelican yesterday on the rocks along Bayou Rigaud, across from Sand Dollar Marina. Biologists collected the pelican and brought it to veterinarians for rehabilitation.

LDWF and SCAT teams also inspected the Fourchon beach yesterday and found a substantial number of tar balls, some up to eight inches in diameter. Biologists also found tar balls on the banks of Belle Pass, which is a few hundred yards north of the mouth of the waterway. Biologists documented approximately 25 nickel-sized tar balls per square foot from the southwestern end of Fourchon beach to the midpoint of the beach. One biologist documented more than a dozen tar balls on the far west end of Elmer’s Island."

Keep it simple as possible. IMO, the original top hat was way too small and also didn't have a means to siphon off enough pressure through bleeder lines. If the top hat had been big enough, had bleeder lines, and also had additional means of injecting hot fluids into the hat the crystal hydrate formation would've been IMO significantly ameliorated. Also had it had rotating 'scraper blades' at the top of it (inconjunction with bleeder lines siphoning off the continuously now broken up crystal hydrate formations into manageable dimensions) it would've worked. The following approach takes that into consideration. Someone posted that they had located a good amount of 156" pipe in the general vicinity. That's getting closer to the right size needed. But they would need to take this same size pipe and triple its dimension by cutting it up into halves and rearranging it to form a 'clover' pattern at least for the first 500 feet. Again, bleeder lines tapped into it as it gradually gets closer to the surface will eliminate the explosive pressure problems previously addressed. Bottomline the top hat approach would work if it had been big enough to start with. So ultimately if the top hat idea is scrubbed even with the foregoing modifications the most viable solution is again to use the approach below. The current tube insertion approach IMO will create too much back pressure (with intermittent huge pressure spikes to boot) and furthermore risks additional rupture failures somewhere else.


(Originally posted 5/13/10)......

"Should the new top hat fail IMHO there is a better temporary solution.

Picture an inverted funnel. A open at both ends tube of 'x' feet in diameter and 'x' length would be lowered over the leak(s) and or well head/BP. This tube can be 'solid' rigid walled or conduit designed much like electrical conduit to afford inherent flexibility. The tube diameter is then gradually narrowed through reducers until it reaches the surface to 'x' diameter. An important design redundacy feature is that through the first 'x' feet of the tube from the sea floor a series of 'bleeder' tubes of 'x' diameter are t-connected. Picture a 'mennorah' if you will.

Finally as the main tube reaches the ocean surface a floating containment 'funnel/lid' is attached to the tube's end. Picture one of those oil drainage capture funnels you see in automotive quick-change oil businesses. This funnel/lid will have an 'x' foot high wall and would be 'x' yards in diameter. As the funnel/lid fills with oil and sea water it is then pumped into oil processors.

The end result, weather permitting, is a vast containment of the leak(s) until a permanent relief well is functioning.


If this so-called 'junk shot' using golf balls does indeed work, I know one party that will be thrilled: the manufacturer of the golf balls. The advertising potential is almost limitless.

I can just picture ads like:

"If Top-Flite golf balls can make a hole-in-one at 5,000 feet down in the ocean, think of what it can do for YOUR game! "

Or maybe the CEO of BP lovingly holding a golf ball and saying, "If it weren't for Top-Flite golf balls, I'd still be in deep doo-doo. Thank you, Top-Flite!"

Perhaps as we speak, other products are competing for the privilege of being on the junk shot - anything from silly putty to sanitary napkins. (Use you imagination re potential ads for the latter.)

None of the hundreds of people working incredibly hard each day to find solutions are responsible for this disaster. Yet people sometimes infer, unintentionally or intentionally, that they are at best just going through the motions or, at worst, incompetent.

I applaud them for taking on the challenge. Will their collective efforts produce results? Time will tell. Even if a viable solution is not found and the kill well in a few months is the only answer, these people, under immense pressure, gave us the best they had. Please, if you know any of them personally or know some of their family or friends, let them know how grateful you are for their dedication.


BP mum on latest oil containment effort

PORT FOURCHON, LA.—British energy giant BP declined to say Saturday whether its latest effort to contain the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill worked, as BP’s chief executive appeared to dismiss the disaster as “tiny.” ...

With crude oil gushing unchecked from its blown-out offshore well a mile deep on the floor of the Gulf, London-based BP said on Friday that it was attempting to guide undersea robots to insert a small tube into the 21-inch pipe to funnel the oil to a ship at the surface.

Read the article and the context and more of the interview. The comment "appeared to dismiss" is BS.Given the absolute sensationalism of the press I an surprised Tony (who is a geologist) oould even spend as much time fielding reporters questions as he does.

The linked article is areference to an interview with the Guardian...


...in which Haywood compared the relative volumes of the GoM and the spill, noting that the oil volume was "relatively tiny". Even though this is factually truae and accurate, it was a wildly ill-advised remark in the context of this incident - Haywood should easily have recognised that, and avoided using such inflammatory words.

For someone of his seniority, in so deep a hole, I found it astonishing that he should start digging further.

Regards Chris

I expect Tony is extremely sleep deprived by now and likely knew his choice of words was incredibly dumb immediately after they left his mouth.


We might be getting close to seeing the flow funneled to the surface. This is a good time to point out how unprecedented this effort will be and how dangerous. What won’t be known until the very second the flow reaches the surface: how much oil, NG and water will be in the flow and what will the pressure be. Beyond those values a second level of uncertainty: how will those numbers vary over time? Flowing a known volume of oil/NG/water at a known pressure is standard ops for a processing ship. The NG is separated from the liquids and flared or piped away. I sat in a field offshore Africa and watched 25 million cf of NG flared every day. Very impressive and more than a little unnerving if you’re working on the ship. Those hands might live in their fire resistant clothing 24/7 and always have emergency breathing gear on the belt. And this is under very controlled conditions.

Now look at what BP will attempt: as soon as the flow reaches the surface all the NG will have to be separated, trapped and flared. If they don’t the NG will accumulate around the ship until some spark sets off the explosion with the possible loss of the ship and all souls onboard. There is almost nothing more dangerous than NG vented to the atmosphere. The most powerful non-nuclear bomb (fuel/air bomb) in the world is based upon the fact. Here’s the problem in a nut shell: when the flow reaches the surface they have only two options: direct the entire flow into the ship’s separation system or shut the flow off. And if they close some sort of a surface control valve while the oil/NG continues to rise what will happen: increased pressure ruptures the capture system; the system backs up all the way to the sea floor and the oil/NG escapes; and whatever other nightmare scenario we can think of. These are not academic questions: the success of the recovery effort and the life of every hand on board depends on these answers. I assume they’ll have all non-essential personnel off the ship when the flow reaches the surface. That’s SOP when you thinks there’s a fair chance of killing your hands. Like the old saying: Be careful what you wish for (oil/Ng flowing up the funnel) because you might just get it.

thanks rockman for your (as usual) clear and helpful analysis.

I'm scientific, but not oil. Learning fast . .. but still not clear how much suction there will be at the bottom of the newly inserted riser (due to gas expansion). More than the pressure in the wellhead? Or less? Or do we not know -yet? If there's too much gas, will we suck water in round the 'flaps'?

Why not some sort of choke valve at the _bottom_ of the newly inserted riser - surely safer in case of suddenly getting too much oil/NG to safely separate & flare?

Obviously shutting it completely would blow the insertion out, but a partial choke could be useful? And safer than shutting the top surely?

I agree with you Ben. But I see another problem with a control valve at the bottom of the system: something goes wrong on the surface and it will take a good while for closing that valve to have any effect 5,000’ above on the surface. Again, the bottom line: if they lose control of the flow at the surface they’ve effective reproduced the conditions of the original blow out. Except now they don’t have a BOP as a last ditch safety factor.

I sure a bunch of folks at BP as well as the horde of consultants working for them have good theoretical ideas on controlling the situation on the processing ship. I wonder how many will be on the ship to see first hand how well their theories hold up. I've dealt with folks who thought such risks were acceptable....as long as it was my butt at risk and not theirs.

Except now they don’t have a BOP as a last ditch safety factor

Their "BOP" is to order the ROVs down below to pull the pipe out of the riser. Hopefully before everyone is on fire.

I wonder if the 11 guys that died on the rig were involved in the decision process. Do they have veto power like astronauts do? Does anyone know if any of the decision makers were in that group that died?

realist -- Only two people on the rig have power to make decisions: the company man and the head man for the drilling contractor. The only decision the rest have the hands can make is to head for the escape capsule or stick to their post.

Well if we are to believe the story posted yesterday there is also the option if you are Schlumberger to call in your own private helicopter to get you the hell out of Dodge and leave everyone else to their fate.

I asked this before but didn't get a response, and I'm really curious: Is there no official enforcement body/agency Schlumberger could have contacted with their safety concerns, which would have been able to order BP to shut the thing down?

Swifty -- Anyone on the rig that observes a violation of federal law is required to report that violation. OTOH, observing what one would consider an unsafe ops is a different matter. One man's alarming situation is anothers BAU. As a general rule service companies won't go looking for such a fight...not good for repeat business.

it's hard for me to see schlumberger as the villain here.

if it was up to me, i'd put them in charge of the kill well effort. i bet they'd be using more than 2 rigs.

why is bp in charge? haven't they demonstrated, beyond any doubt, that they are incompetent? they made the choice that blew up the rig, yes? after being warned, yes?

BP was the operator so they are responsible. But anytime the gov't is disatisfied with BP's efforts they have the legal right (and obligation) to take over management of the event. No court orders...no lawsuit: the gov't says they are in charge and that's it..no appeal. Such a prospect scares the heck out of all operators: the gov't takes over and spends money like there's no tomorrow. But the operator still pays the bills.

Anybody want to bet how much this administration (or any other) wants to be the one in front of the cameras every day to tell HOW MUCH PROGESS THEY HAVE MADE?

Like I said tow: no decision power to alter ops but everyone is free to shut up as do what they're told or walk off the job.

I'd like to see an explanation why they couldn't have started 2 relief wells and directed the current one over to intercept the runaway hole NOW. Is it because the pressures would get outside the casing and cause an open hole? I'm just a member of the public lurking here to learn, but it seems to me that the best way to solve the issues being discussed is go over there and get to that blownout hole NOW in order to contain the spill. If this emergency intercept didn't work the second relief well could just keep going.

If it worked the pressures could be taken off the blown hole and extraordinary measures could then be taken to seal it.

I also think this could have been easily prevented by a special emergency remote device that is lowered as a unit onto the Blowout Preventer and attached in order to get a guaranteed shear cut-off. You know like a device that has the works inside it and tested and known to be functioning that simply attaches to the BOP and fires a guaranteed deployment of the shearing jaws.

re immediate relief well - see Rockman's comment:

You don't want to blow out the blowout.

I agree about the sorry state of the BOP.
One hand of BP changes the BOP to include a non-functional test ram,
the other tries to use it to seal the well.
Not sure if you could attach a seperate set of shear rams post-facto though.
In this case we have a bent-over riser in the way.
They do have connections that ROVs can use, and that's what they tried.
But the BOP had a hydraulic leak, so didn't work.

They need BOPs that can shear the pipe joints, are tested for real and properly maintained.

Which is why a remote unit, that has all the working hydraulics and other mechanisms just tested at the surface, which is lowered to an attachment mount that couples into a unit on the BOP that only contains the shearing apparatus would get around all the in-situ equipment failures. The BOP emergency device would just have the shears and the remote unit would provide the rest. Fairly simple and would have stopped the disaster on the second day. The only negative I can think of would be debris that fell and blocked the attachment points.

I think that is the problem - the connection point is damaged. If the junk shot fails I believe they will try to install a new valve on top of the BOP.

got it.

Supposed it could be done.
would have to redesign the locking mechanism on the outer ends of the shear rams, would have to have access in the crowded state for this, and it introduces some seals that would be potential leak points, but could work.

It does not solve the "pipe blowing out of the hole while rams closing so the shear blades are damaged" problem (or the rams tried to close on a joint problem).
One could add another set of shear rams (beefy enough to shear a joint) above the 1st set, to be explicitly activated, either from the surface or by an ROV.

I think they're playing with tremendous added risks by inserting backpressure into the system. I think with the sand erosion undoubtedly already taking place increasing adding backpressure into the equation will risk more weak link ruptures. This latest solution is ripe with risk.

The solution again here is to avoid backpressure whenever possible. The top hat idea was the right approach, just not adequately thought through and certainly not big enough in scale.


Drilling the relief (kill) well is a proven and well understood procedure. I believe Rockman has explained a couple of times in older threads that the wells must intersect at the bottom so that the same weight of kill mud will service both holes. A higher intercept introduces unnecessary risk of making the problem worse. (poor explanation but I am a novice like you and can't do better without searching back for the explanation)

The long and the short - although progress may seem slow, the engineers are working as fast as they can to complete these wells in a safe and effective manner.

I'm no expert in the topic, but as I understand things, the problem with an early (shallow) intercept of the well bore is that any mud or cement injected will be lifted by the flow and vented through the busted riser.

The "kill fluid" only works if it's in a column (pipe) thousands of feet tall.

Rockman's explanation basically says if you intercept the runaway hole now the surrounding rock structure might not be strong enough to handle the ensuing pressure blast. In the worst case scenario the pressurized oil flow would get outside both casings and blow out an open hole on both wells causing maximum uncontrolled venting. Perhaps the orginal well might shoot the blowout preventer on the end of the casing pipe out the hole like a spear gun and repeat on the relief well. Hmm.

Seems to me, depending on the amount of oil that is escaping, there's a formula here where it becomes reasonable to take the risk. The factors would be: amount of oil escaping vs the full potential of the worst case open holes scenario vs how much further the second relief well has to go. Unfortunately it sounds like the early intercept plan would be reasonable when the second relief well was not too far from the planned depth.

What would be tragic is if the rock could take the pressure where it is now and it wasn't tried.

Jet -- you’ve got a pretty good handle on it. But a little clarification: the volume of oil/NG is almost unimportant. It’s all about the pressures involved. They have a pretty good handle on the change in the rock pressures as you drill deeper in the immediate area. This is exactly what I did as a pore pressure analyst. Estimating and projecting those pressure changes ahead of the dreill bit is THE challenge. But once you’ve drilled a well in that area you have that pressure profile in the can. Check back to the diagram with the different casing setting depths in the blow out well. Those casing were set for one reason only: the changing rock pressures as you drill deeper.

Jet -- finally an easy answer…thanks. It’s all about the money IMHO. First, I believe a second RW is planned but they are waiting for the rig to be available. Haven’t heard anything about that plan is a week or so. A RW could easy cost $100 million and perhaps a good bit more. Given availability of rigs they could easily drill 4 RW’s: one from each quadrant. They would not interfere with each other. IMHO two RW’s is a good plan: the first well could run into drilling problems completely unrelated to the blow out. Having a second well underway is a good idea IMHO. Now how many “insurance wells” would I try? If I knew the drilling conditions were not too difficult I would go with two since would be likely both will make it to the target. But if I were BP I would have opted for all 4: even though the odds would be in their favor with 2 RW's they obviously don’t need any more bad PR.


With hurricane season coming soon, would that be a factor in deciding how many rigs to deploy?

I wouldn't guess so X. When a hurricane enters the GOM all rigs are evaced. If the hurricane hits the two RW's they would have already shut in the wells and delatched the riser from the subsea well head. Then even if both rigs were destoyed they could mobilize two replacement rigs and continue drilling.

Rockman said "If I knew the drilling conditions were not too difficult"...

I am sure that I read (although unsure where) that this well was considered to be a difficult or tough hole. And no well is a sure and easy one to drill at those depths.

Relief wells will have an easier time because of the well logs and experience from the first wild well.

This was a factor in my call for four relief wells. The high probability of delays for any given well.

Best Hopes for Less "Economy" by BP,


Where is the oil?

Ed Overton, a Louisiana State University chemist who's analyzed the spill for NOAA, said he thinks most of the oil is within a foot of the surface. . . .

"That's the fate of a lot of oil spills: sedimentation on the bottom," Fingas said.

Overton disagreed, saying the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill is too light to sink all the way. . . .


ADIOS2 (Automated Data Inquiry for Oil Spills) is an oil weathering model that incorporates a database containing more than a thousand crude oils and refined products, and provides quick estimates of the expected characteristics and behavior of oil spilled into the marine environment. The predictions it makes, presented as both graphics and text, are designed to help answer questions that typically arise during spill response and cleanup. For example,

* By predicting change in an oil's viscosity (resistance to flow) over time, ADIOS2 offers an answer to the question: Can the oil still be dispersed with chemical dispersants?

* By predicting the rate of increase in an oil's water content over time, ADIOS2 offers an answer to questions like: If 1,000 gallons of crude oil has spilled, will more than 1,000 gallons of oil-and-water mixture need to be cleaned up and disposed of? How much more?

NOAA Summary Deepwater Horizon Incident

FYI - BP history

Their predecessor company was (partly) behind the coup in Iran back in 1953 that is key to so much violence and unrest in the Mid-East.


BTW - I heartily recommend the book:
Kinzer, Stephen, All the Shah's Men : An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer, John Wiley and Sons, 2003

And right-wing Americans are also at fault.
Not that they'd admit it, or learn from this lesson in history.
(except that one can fabricate trumped up charges of threats to national security and often get away with it).

Right. Its very clear that my idea of democracy (majority rule with guaranteed rights and freedoms) doesn't coincide with that of Dick Cheney et.al. (any means of disciplining the masses and providing for elites to exploit).


Thanks! Your first link regarding the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was a real eye opener.

Not quite sure how this improves our understanding of the current situation.

Sure, BP was once upon a time a state-owned British company called Anglo Persian, which was involved in the less-than-glorious colonial escapade to overthrow an Iranian regime - but that was nearly 50 years ago! Along the line it got privatised, bought Amoco, bought Arco etc etc. The landscape of the industry has totally changed since then, as have all oil companies including BP.

The point is - the Horizon blowout could have happened to any deepwater operator in the GOM - and there are plenty, most of them right now probably thinking "there but for the grace of God.." They all use Transocean rigs, Cameron BOPs, Halliburton cement jobs. The guys responsible for the well design have probably worked in a variety of operators. And so on. BP happened to be holding the parcel when the music stopped.

Or was it all some dark conspiracy aimed at further destabilising the Middle East?? I think we should be told.

Right on the nose snowball. I can tell you for a fact that every OCS operator is going over protocols right now and every hand will be going to refresher schools to beat new safety policies into them with a big stick. If (IF!)the unfolding story is true it could have happened to any operator that didn’t have strictly enforced protocols to avoid such bad decisions.

A small clarification since you brought up this point. Along the way comments such as “punish the oil industry by no more offshore drilling” and the “oil industry must be panicked over the blow out”. Nothing could be farther from the truth if they are talking about the entire industry. I would guess that 95% or more of the oil/NG companies don’t drill in Deep Water and never will. If the feds permanently band such activities it would be a huge plus for domestic producers. The Deep Water is the biggest potential source for significant oil reserves in this country. Taking those out of play would be good news for the vast majority of us: the gov’t would be eliminating our biggest competitors and increasing the future value of our reserves. Not that we don’t feel horrible about these recent events. But from a pure cold hearted business view point it’s not bad news for us…not by a long shot.

That's an interesting point. Most people won't differentiate between deepwater operators, "conventional" offshore operators and onshore operators. It's all "the industry".

I suppose it depends if the punishment is logically targeted at deepwater wells - on the basis that shallow water is manageable in the event of a blowout, but beyond a certain water depth (or bottom hole depth, or reservoir pressure, or some combination thereof) the risks are too great - or if it is a kneejerk reaction to all offshore drilling, despite a GOM track record going back decades. Or a kneejerk reaction to deepwater production as well... and what about those ol' tankers sailing back and forth?

I can't see USA government saying "OK, we'll cut back consumption by the amount we would have got from future deepwater GOM but we've now decided not to explore." Instead imports will go up, and in effect the GOM deepwater blowout risk will be exported to countries like Brazil, Nigeria and Angola. No doubt their coastal populations will be delighted, if they ever work it out.

But the key word in your whole post is IF. As I understand it, the root cause of the incident is still unknown - bad well design, bad operational decision, failed equipment, dodgy equipment test, failed cementing job? A lot of people seem to be overlooking this inconvenient but rather basic fact.

there but for the grace of God....

yep....and I see both lots of new safety training, new regs, new training on those, and possibly some more things along the lines of survival training coming.....

The point is - the Horizon blowout could have happened to any deepwater operator in the GOM - and there are plenty,

I wouldn't jump to that judgement. Perhaps there are systemic issues with BOP's, but I think we are likely to learn that some practices and decisions made would NOT be universal amongst GOM operators.

You might be right, but I'd wait till we know about the decisions made and the data available to the decision-makers. Also, I think some of the procedures used would not be undertaken by some operators - but, let's wait and see as this is an important question.

As always geo, IF the story is true the blow out was caused by a judgement in error. Last time I looked I beleive all Deep Water operations were conducted by humans. Eliminate the potential for human error and I'll go along with you. Over the last 35 years (almost without exception) every fatality, dismemberment, injury, blow out and near miss I've witnessed has been caused by failure in human judgement and not equipment failure. Equipment does fail but almost always because it was improperly maintained or operated.

Yeah, you right, and of course humans will always figure out a way to screw up. OTOH, I gotta think that corp. culture matters - say, for instance having all key decisions subject to peer review on a daily basis in an non-threatening environment. OTOOH, maybe I'm naive - just a dumb geologist. If there is an obviously unsafe procedure, design, or test interpretation, I have to think that in the right "culture," this would be stopped in some companies. Am I wrong?

geo -- As one dumb geologist to another I would agree. I'll also point out that the most safety minded operator I've dealt with in the last 10 years is EXXONMOBIL. The shock...the horror...the Rockman has been bought by XOM. But that's my honest opinion. Wonder if the Valdez incident has some bearing on this?

I wonder how well the Corps of Engineers builds retention dikes to hold back 12 feet of water?


GeoNola, point well taken. I actually concluded another post saying in my opinion that none of us knows the root cause of this incident, so maybe we shouldn't rush to judgement - and then I go and make a completely unsubstantiated judgement!!

I suspect you are right - it may end up being the result of a bad judgement call (rather than, say, equipment failure), and different company cultures/practices would have led the decision one way here and another way elsewhere - even with the same rig on the same well.

Latest Effort to Stop Gulf Oil Leak Hits a Snag
Filed at 12:55 p.m. ET

HAMMOND, La. (AP) -- At first, BP tried to stop the oil rushing into the Gulf of Mexico by flipping a blowout preventer switch. A week ago, they attempted to capture the leak with a 100-ton box. Now they've hit a snag as they try to guide a mile-long tube into the gusher to siphon the oil.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said BP PLC had a problem Saturday with the latest effort to stop the leak, but was continuing its work at the ocean floor.

"There was a problem. They had to reconfigure. They are back down again ... trying to get it inserted," he told reporters during a briefing at a bird rescue facility in Louisiana, declining to offer further information.

BP has offered scant details of its progress in trying to thread the 6-inch tube into the 21-inch pipe spewing oil from the ocean floor. Company spokesmen said technicians are continuing the methodical work that began early Friday of using joysticks to guide the deep-sea robots that are manipulating the contraption. They wouldn't elaborate on Salazar's report.

"We've never done such operations before and we need to take our time to get it right," spokesman Jon Pack said in an e-mail Saturday after Salazar's comments.

The company planned to brief reporters on the tube work in the afternoon. The tube is intended to suck oil up like a straw to a tanker on the surface, while a stopper surrounding it would keep crude from leaking into the sea....


BP expects Gulf oil siphon to work after setback
By JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press Writer
[filed around 3:02 p.m.]

ROBERT, La. – BP says it expects to be using a mile-long tube to siphon crude from a gushing well beneath the Gulf of Mexico by Saturday night. The company said it had a setback but is working again to insert it.

The company began early Friday with the latest effort to contain a massive oil spill caused by an exploded drilling rig. Engineers have been carefully trying to insert the tube into a damaged oil pipe a mile below the surface by using robotic submarines.

Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, said Saturday that the contraption was brought back to the surface Friday night to readjust it. But he says the company working again to insert it and expects to be bringing oil up to the surface by Saturday night....


BP said it was confident that its experiment using a mile-long pipe would capture much of the oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, but engineers failed to connect two pieces of equipment a mile below the water's surface. BP PLC chief operating officer Doug Suttles said one piece of equipment, called the framework, had to be brought to the water's surface so that adjustments could be made to where it fits with the long tube that connects to a tanker above.
The framework holds a pipe and stopper, and engineers piloting submarine robots will try to use it to plug the massive leak and send the crude through the lengthy pipe to the surface.
"The frame shifted, so they were unable to make that connection," said Suttles, who believes the adjustments will make the device work.

So what does the framework look like. What kind of force will be needed to get the stopper into the pipe? The back pressure of inserting a smaller pipe into a bigger pipe with oil and gas flowing though it under pressure will be beyond that which can be provided by submarine robots surely?

How about a stopper (with a hole in) that could use the oil flow to pull it into the pipe, like a cork screw that has rubber fins designed to pull it through the oil coming towards it using basic aerodynamics/fluid dynamics. Could the oil/gas mix act in the same way as air passing over a wing, creating the high and low pressures to create a driving force for this to work?



Man - if it was ONLY THAT EASY!!

It takes a bit of digging, but read through this thread. There are some DAMN GOOD REASONS why they haven't just gone hogwild and tried to crimp the riser shut.

FWIW, they are NOT leaving things as they are in an effort to try and make some money off the oil they're skimming off the surface of the gulf! The money coming in from oil salvage - even if it went to BP directly, which I'm pretty sure it doesn't - wouldn't cover a fraction of what they're spending to try and stop this catastrophe.

Hi Everyone, I recently finished an article on Peak Oil and I thought it would be interesting for the readers of this site, I would love to hear your feedback, http://www.thecactusland.com/ Thanks and regards.

There are enough issues in the GOM right now. I don't have time for Jew baiting, today. I hope the conclusion I jumped to without reading beyond the first paragraph is incorrect.

You were right to stop there, geek - from the second paragraph:

Their parents were the Great Generation. The most hollowed American generation since the Revolution

Apart from the questionable sentence structure and the inappropriate capitalisation, this guy doesn't even know the difference between "hollowed" and "hallowed".

Don't give up your day job, Cactusland.....

Regards Chris

It seems American oil industry relies on duct tape and a lot of luck. Cheating on crucial tests is "not unusual" and government watch dogs are toothless. They let the oil guys just do whatever feels bests. And this motherf*cking BP is still playing peek&poke games with the public. Releasing as little information as possible and trying to hide the real facts as long as possible. Lawyers are obviously in charge and trying to "limit the damages". I can imagine a bunch of PR managers and lawyers of BP there trying to think "how we are going to turn this to a positive thing?".

If this had happened for example in Norway rigs, we would have live video&audio feed from down there and they would bore you with too much details instead of this American style white smile, polished PR campaign. Like this is some kind of celebrity related scandal!

I wish I could disagree tim but from the little bit I know many of the NOC's run safer ops. And some countries, such as Brazil seems to, have better safety protocols for all operators. But I don't think the oil indistry has more laxed oversight then the rest of the country. Start searching your memory for past non-oil industry screw ups and you'll get my point. It seems that most of our systems are more concerned with appearences than substance.

Perhaps because the NOCs (National Oil Companies) owner (the national Gov't/the citizens of Brazil, Norway, etc.) also owns the ocean resources (fishing) and shoreline as well as the oil company.

Can't let one subsidiary (the oil company) screw up the other subs !


Rockman: In my experience with NOC's they seemed to vary. Many of the private firms helped to set up the protocols for them. Some countries were more stringent regarding environmental issues than even ours. We also do not get all the reports of problems from other countries.
I am surprised thought, given all the wells offshore Africa through the years, there have not been more spills there.
I know you are more up on this thread regarding the BP casing program than I am. Many are making pretty blanket negative statements regarding its design. I would think that Anadarko who is an active driller, as partner would have objected big time if they thought it was flawed. I know guys there and some would have been pretty aggressive. I still think with all the dribs or drabs everyone is taking stuff out of context. Like you I think, as in most disasters, the mistakes will jump out in hindsight only and will come down to bad judgment. Whether or not it would meet the "prudent man" test in a courts, who knows.

I am new to this sight & didn't know of its existence until last night. I, however am not new to the oil business. I have done drilling, workover, completions, & P & A s for almost 30 years now. I have also worked on platforms & done well testing work. I was willing to give BP some slack until I saw the video of the flow yesterday. I have done my own unscientific survey based upon the size of the slick in square miles converted into square feet using 1000 sqaure feet per gallon as a basis for slick occurance. Based on those factors & converting the gallons to barrels & come up with approximately 9,500,000 Bbls. of oil so far. this divided by the amount of days since the blowout occured I come up with an average of 42,000,000 Bbls./ day. I can't vouch for the scientific accuracy of these numbers, but unlike BP I am willing to disclose my basis for this conclusion.
I have sympathy for the families of the people who were killed & the people who were injured during this catastrophe, but I am swiftly running out of patience with BP. They have lied, covered up, told haf-truths, & mislead the public. I was willing to cut them slack until I saw the massive flow rate coming out of the riser. Now I am convinced that these people are dillusional. They actually believe there is a way for them to recover this oil & save this well. They have to, otherwise, they would have called out Baker, BJ, Halliburton, & Schlumberger with their frac fleets & pumped this well dead. If they can pump tennis balls in it they can damn sure pump barite & cment in it. This well, if undevieated would have no more BHP than 13,600 PSI. It is probably flowing at around 7000 PSI @ the stack.
The biggest problem with BP right now is they don't respect this hole just like they don't respect any of us. If they did they would get the thought out of their heads of RECOVERY & go for the only option available & that is a KILL. They can't screw it up any worse for God's sake. If they wanted recovery, they should have repsected this well to begin with & not ignored the failed negative test on the annulus. This well has a massive flow rate & the undeniable fact is this slick now covers 15,000 Sq. miles of the gulf of Mexico. If it is not killed before the relief well is drilled & pumped dead from the bottom until then, it will have flowed AT LEAST some 60,000,000 Bbls. or more into the gulf covering over 85,000 square miles of water. There are not enough ships & boom in the world to deal with a spill of this magnitude. The gulf is about 615,000 Sq. miles & some 15% of it will be covered in oil.
Screw the fish & shrimp, every single homeowner & vacationer on the gulf coast will losse the value of their property & every inch of beach from Tampa, Florida to the Yucitan penninsulas will have come in contact with this mess. I am sorry to have to say this about BP, but I make my living in this business as well as LIVE here, unlike the board of directors for BP & Transocean which are foriegn owned companies. HOOK UP THE FRAC BOATS, PUMP BARITE & REAL CEMENT, & QUIT SCREWING AROUND LIKE THIS IS YOUR PERSONAL CHEMISTRY SET!

Two questions spring to mind.

1) Mobilising frac boats is all well and good, but what exactly are you going to connect them to? The current marine riser is still connected to the top of the BOP and is lying on the seabed like spaghetti. There is no way to unlatch it and latch a functioning one in its place with the well flowing.

2) How do you conclude that this well is going to spill "at least" 60 million barrels in the three months it will take to drill a relief well? There may not be that much in the whole reservoir, and if there is it would certainly not be drainable from a single point. Even if it took 6 months, that would require a flow of 330,000 barrels per day. It's not physically possible from a single well, even if you tried to design it to do so. You'd be lucky to get a fifth of that.

What is the "LMRP" attached half way up the "insertion tube" pipe to the surface ?

And they plan to add nitrogen gas to help lift the oil to the surface ?

I thought the entrained NG would do that *TOO* well.


LMRP = Lower Marine Riser Package. I'm not an expert in such things but it is probably simply a few control valves and pressure gauges to control the flow before it reaches surface.

The N2 will give an excellent lift and will generate a good initial suction, you are correct the NG should maintain this suction. The only problem will be, too much suction will draw in too much sea water, and form hydrates again. I guess that is the reason for the flow control in the LMRP.


The LMRP is a quick-disconnect to be able to disconnect the riser from the BOP, so a drillship can wander off if needed (like a hurricane).

It's probably way near the bottom, the graphic is also simplifying the riser path and not showing the riser leak on top of the BOP.

The hinged arm at the bottom end of the insertion tube is interesting. It seems to be less than two feet long and has a hinged "foot" or pad that will rest against the outside of the riser once the insertion tube is all the way in. Will this be used to hold the insertion tube in place, perhaps by using an ROV to weld the "foot" of the arm to the riser?

Notice in the relief well diagram they have 4 more casing runs before the last hole segment. That's one reason for the long drill time. Can take a week or more for each csg run in addition to the drill time.

Rock let me ask a stupid question. Would it have beeen possible to gain any control of the well if the bottom of the BOP had a T coming off with a control valve with access to the annulus between the drill string and the bottom casing? I suspect if it could it would have been in the design.

I just realized that since the Blowout Preventer is where the runaway flow is already contained that it is the best place to deal with it. It's too late now -but- a simple diagonally-angled bypass pipe could stick out the side of the Blowout Preventer with a special puncturing drill inside that a remote unit would come down and attach to. The remote unit arrives, attaches, and then drives this perforated drill cone into the pipe shaft. The drill is designed in such a way that once it's breached the casing and drill pipe the oil can flow around or through it. The "early intercept" is best done here in the BOP where no pressurized flow can get outside the casing. This eliminates all the hang-ups happening in every other location. And it prevents a sudden flow shut-off bursting of the BOP off the sea floor wellhead.

This does nothing to fix the current situation. I am wondering about future or even current designs for BOP's. Does anyone have a guess, wild as it might be. If the BOP was "aware" of the drill pipe location and movement, could it be designed in such a way as to say wait to fire the shear rams a number of seconds until the drill pipe had been ejected to a point that it was clear of the BOP or at least was not moving? Probably would have made things worse if that's possible for the people on the rig, but would the BOP then been have able to shut off the well comepletey?

Right now it seems that one reason the well is not completely out of control (at least not running at about 4 times higher pressure) is that the drill pipe is stuck in the hole. At the same time though it feels like if the drill pipe were not stuck in the hole they would have a lot easier time capping it or the BOP would have worked in the first place.

For any oil recovery scheme to work they will have to do a gas-oil separation at the bottom. As posters have poined out there is a lot of gas comming from this well and it will expand big time on the way up. I was amused by the calculation posted below that indicated a 600mph exit velocity for the gas at the surface and though that could make a mighty big flare.

One possibility is that the "straw" or "top hat" could be fed immediately into a large cyclone separator (heavily weighted so it will not float). Oil can be drawn from the bottom and conducted up a line to the surface. It's boyancy would eliminate any need for pumping and the flow could be throttled as needed by a valve at the cyclone exit to keep the flows in ballance. Gas would exit out the top of the cyclone through the normal central pipe and bubble freely to the surface, perhapps forming hydrates but not until out of the cyclone.

An alternative is a separator tank doing the same thing. But gas could exit through a high capacity float valve that keeps the oil level in the tank at some fixed headspace level.

If all else fails why can't they corral the flows where they bubble up at the surface using a huge fire boom and burn oil and gas as they emerge.

It seems to me they should have been able to repair the leaking hydraulic fitting and manually activate valving as needed to close both POB shear rams (or blank rams) using an axiliary hydraulic supply or a freshly charged accumulator system lowered from the surface.

If you petroleum guys don't shut this off Chew is going to detonate an H-bomb to glaze it shut!

For any oil recovery scheme to work they will have to do a gas-oil separation at the bottom. As posters have poined out there is a lot of gas comming from this well and it will expand big time on the way up. I was amused by the calculation posted below that indicated a 600mph exit velocity for the gas at the surface and though that could make a mighty big flare.

One possibility is that the "straw" or "top hat" could be fed immediately into a large cyclone separator (heavily weighted so it will not float). Oil can be drawn from the bottom and conducted up a line to the surface. It's boyancy would eliminate any need for pumping and the flow could be throttled as needed by a valve at the cyclone exit to keep the flows in ballance. Gas would exit out the top of the cyclone through the normal central pipe and bubble freely to the surface, perhapps forming hydrates but not until out of the cyclone.

An alternative is a separator tank doing the same thing. But gas could exit through a high capacity float valve that keeps the oil level in the tank at some fixed headspace level.

If all else fails why can't they corral the flows where they bubble up at the surface using a huge fire boom and burn oil and gas as they emerge.

It seems to me they should have been able to repair the leaking hydraulic fitting and manually activate valving as needed to close both POB shear rams (or blank rams) using an axiliary hydraulic supply or a freshly charged accumulator system lowered from the surface.

If you petroleum guys don't shut this off Chew is going to detonate an H-bomb to glaze it shut!

As I said in a previous post, I believe a gas/oil separation at this depth would not result in a clean gas layer over an oil layer. The gas is supercritical, and most of the light oil fractions (think gasoline) will remain in the upper supercritical gas phase...so you can't just vent the gas.

Well, it looks like BP's first attempt to insert the 6-inch bleeder pipe into the opening of the 21-inch riser has failed (for reasons that aren't entirely clear but seem to involve a difficulty in positioning the lower end of their new "mile long" riser near the breach). C'est la vie but they say they're going to keep trying.

Honestly, I don't see how those rubber flaps are going to work (if they ever get the bleeder pipe inserted into the fallen riser tube). Judging by the video of the leak, there's an awful lot of gas coming out of the riser. Of course, BP hasn't released any pictures or drawings of their bleeder pipe assembly, so it's not clear how the rubber flaps are attached to it, or how they could even minimally seal the gap inside the riser -- are they spring loaded, or something?

Maybe that's their "gas/oil separation" scheme that others have questioned on this site -- just let the gas leak around or through the supposedly spring-loaded rubber flaps. This kind of thing might end up looking something like...well, pretty much a "Vampire Squid". Now that could be useful here, but where (aside from Wall St) can you find a certified, down-and-dirty Vampire Squid when you really need one. One that will really suck the life out of that oil the leak, the way that other Squid on Wall St vacuums up those investor dollars. Now that would be some real engineering.

Oops...edited because I was totally off base:


The plan called for ROVs to put a 6-inch pipe into the end of the 21-inch riser.

Around the pipe is a stopper-like washer that will plug the end of the riser and diver all the flow into the smaller tube.

BP operations boss Doug Suttles said that the tool shifted inside its metal frame, making it impossible to connect to the riser.

Crews hauled the riser insertion tube back up to the surface and adjusted the frame and then lowered it back down to the seafloor for another attempt by mid-day Saturday.

Suttles said the smaller tube would be shoved as far up the riser as possible to ensure try to make a seal that would keep water out of the production stream.

The tube will then be linked to the Transocean drillship Discoverer Enterprise, which can process the oil-water mix and lighter the oil to a tanker.

Suttles estimated that about 85% of the leak was coming from the end of the riser versus about 15% coming from a crimp in the riser just above the crippled BOP.

'Top hat' doffed

In choosing the riser insertion method, BP decided to delay putting on a “top hat,” a dome that would cover the riser leak.

Suttles said BP engineers believe the riser insertion tube offers the best option to try to control the formation of hydrates, because it will keep the gas-rich Macondo production stream from mixing with the cold Gulf water.

The “top hat” was lowered to the sea floor Thursday and remains ready should the riser insertion tube fail, Suttles said Friday.

BP tried a larger containment dome earlier this week and was foiled by the build up of methane hydrates, which form when natural gas hits extremely cold water.

The top hat has a port that would allow BP to intervene with methanol or hot water if there is a hydrate build-up, but its design would allow the production stream to mix with water before it is pumped through a riser.

Deep oil plume tracked

The plume is compact, much thicker than the lighter remnants reaching the surface and suspended in about 3,000 feet of ocean, he said. A deepwater current is dragging it out to sea. The underwater oil cloud is not connected to the surface slick — now the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.


I assume towards the Loop Current (unless it does not go that deep) and then out of the Gulf.


This goes a long to toward explaining the apparent discrepancy between the oil spill rates calculated recently from measurements taken from that video of the leak and the earlier estimates based on the size of the oil patch on the surface of the ocean -- a 5 or 10-to-1 discrepancy. Now we have evidence that most of the oil coming out the pipe hasn't reached the surface yet, and some (or even most) of it may never do, or it might take a very long time, or happen in a far-away place.

You've gotta wonder about the strength of the currents at depth. Why, for example, did the sunken wreck of the Deepwater Horizon impact the seabed so far from the wellhead? We're certainly glad it did, for if it had sunk straight down in the water and landed directly on top of the wellhead, that would have presented insuperable difficulties (and perhaps worsened the leak a very great deal, unless it somehow serendipitously sealed it off).

I can't picture the sinking rig "gliding down" to the seabed at a serious angle from vertical. How did it land some 1400 feet away from the wellhead in just 5000 vertical feet? Could deep ocean currents be at work there?

One more thing -- what about all the methane gas? Where is it going? If methane hydrates (like the ones that clogged up the containment dome) form easily at that temperature and depth, there might be something like a "snowstorm" going on above the leaking riser, as the methane diffuses upward, cools, combines with seawater, and subsides back down to the seabed in a kind or underwater snowstorm. Is that happening?

And finally, why have so few pictures or videos of the wreckage and the leaks been released? Yeah, I know BP doesn't want to release any, but how come the government lets them get away with that? Doesn't the public have a right to know more about what's going on down there? The feds should be doing much more to keep the public informed -- a little arm-twisting of BP management is needed here.

there might be something like a "snowstorm" going on above the leaking riser, as the methane diffuses upward, cools, combines with seawater, and subsides back down to the seabed in a kind or underwater snowstorm. Is that happening?

Clathrates are lighter than water, so the "snow" rises slowly up toward the surface. At about 300 meters depth it will destabilize, releasing the gas: at that point it either bubbles to the surface or dissolves into the seawater.

not according to my information:
which says that methane hydrate has a density of 1.04 at 50 atmospheres (around 2500 feet), so I predict there is indeed a methane hydrate snowstorm occurring somewhere down-current of the rising plume.

In a manner of speaking, the team had struck oil, or at least that was the best guess. Both the transmissometer, which measures particle levels, and the fluorometer, which detects dissolved oil (see previous posts), were showing very large concentrations of something at about 1,000 metres down, something we had not seen anywhere else.

"That, my friend, is the smoking gun," says Asper, "We've got to home in on this. You never see signals like that in the open ocean."

Oil spill science: The smoking gun - May 13, 2010

Vernon Asper, oceanographer, with the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology is scoping out the underwater plume:

Today, as far as 37 kilometres out from ground zero, the readings still show signs of the plume. There is no longer a signal for dissolved oil on the fluorometer, but according to the transmissometer there's still a layer of particles, and that could contain un-dissolved oil. Oxygen levels remain low, as they have throughout the plume, suggesting heavy microbial activity, perhaps as the little buggers consume dispersed oil and any organic material associated with it. . . .
Tonight and tomorrow morning we'll be heading out as far as it takes to find the end of the plume. We'll likely end up about 70 kilometres from ground zero, at a spot the team used as an initial control site at the start of their work on 4 May, when the water seemed free of oil contamination. . . .

Oil spill science: Mapping the plume - May 14, 2010

Scientists Find Giant Plumes of Oil Forming Under the Gulf

Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given. . . .

Scientists studying video of the gushing oil well have tentatively calculated that it could be flowing at a rate of 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. But the government, working from satellite images of the ocean surface, has calculated a flow rate of only 5,000 barrels a day.

The undersea plumes may go a long way toward explaining the discrepancy, suggesting that much of the oil emerging from the well could be lingering far below the sea surface. . . .
“There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.”. . .

Interviewed on Saturday by satellite phone, one researcher aboard the Pelican, Vernon Asper of the University of Southern Mississippi, said the shallowest oil plume the group had detected was at about 2,300 feet, while the deepest was near the seafloor at about 4,200 feet. . . .

Dr. Joye said the findings about declining oxygen levels were especially worrisome, since oxygen is so slow to move from the surface of the ocean to the bottom. She suspects that oil-eating bacteria are consuming the oxygen at a feverish clip as they work to break down the undersea plumes.

While the oxygen depletion so far is not enough to kill off sea life, the possibility looms that oxygen levels could fall so low as to create large dead zones, especially at the seafloor.

Oh, sh#t.

Here's my post from yesterday -- any ideas on how the deepwater plumes could be efficiently mapped? So far the only reason we know about this at all is one intrepid vessel that decided to ditch their plan and start looking for deep oil by direct sampling.

Here's some background on differences between deep water and shallow water blowout plumes:
Fate and Behavior of Deepwater Subsea Oil Well Blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico

So, where's the oil?

From what I'm reading, deepwater oil leaking from the seabottom is poorly understood and likely to be quite different than shallow water spills - gas bubbles coated with hydrates, methane solution into seawater, complex mixtures with different oil drop sizes, deep currents. In particular, apparently hydrates are only very slightly less dense than seawater.

OK, if the oil leak rate is larger (my guess is 20-25 KBOPD) and the surface analysis suggests much less, and the reports upthread about oil deep in the water column are correct, shouldn't NOAA, USN, and private research groups be putting together a survey effort to find the damn oil?

My question, what technologies could be used to do that?

1) Direct sampling, hopefully with onboard analysis, e.g. flourescence. Presumably a ship could lower a tool with many chambers, and collect samples from a range of depths rather quickly. Still this would be slow way to make a 3-D model of the plume(s).

2) Some kind of logging - how about resistivity tool quick run down and up the water column? Other ideas? Ballast at the end of a wireline? Quicker

3) Remote sensing - acoustics, resistivity, something else high tech from a navy sub with our without surface vessel to reciprocate signal. Possibly could cover large areas more rapidly

Any ideas?

I've got a background in physical oceanography, and have done a few cruises on vessels like the one mapping the plume now.

For this sort of measurement, you're pretty much limited to direct in situ observation using a dedicated oceanographic research vessel. A boat like this has a top speed of about 10 knots, and takes about an hour to lower an instrument platform on a cable down to 2 km and bring it back up. If you want a map showing the daily extent of the plume underwater, you're going to need about a dozen of these ships working full time. And the US only has about a dozen.

As for onboard technology, these ships do have have a "tool with many chambers to collect samples from many depths rather quickly" as you say. They also have in-situ measuring devices which can detect many ocean chemical properties and transmit the data up the cable in real time. However, all these instruments can only be used while the ship is stationary.

There are lots of other measurement platforms out there -- autonomous robotic drifters and gliders, expendable probes you can throw off the side of a cargo ship, etc -- but they generally only measure temperature and salinity, not ocean chemistry.

Oh, wait, looks like they do have a towed sensor package, I take back what I said about "only while the ship is stationary". However, these towed devices generally can only look at the upper few hundred meters of the water column. To get below that, you need to stop the ship and do a CTD cast, 1 hour per data point.

I expect sonar may be usable, though it may take multiple sources/sensors using the acoustic tomography. Might be declassified by now. See the Hunt for Red October.

Blowout modeling may help.

A multi array induction logging tool may be the perfect method of determining the ratio of oil to water in the subsurface oil plumes. There are about 12 orders of magnitude difference in the conductivity of sea water and a pure light crude.
The tool could be fitted with a pressure monitor to determine depth. The tool could then be towed behind a vessel with depth controlled by adding tool weight and vessel speed and cable length, while conductivity is monitored in real time. These tools can be purchased or leased from some wireline co's. By simultaneously recording GPS data a 3D map of the plume could be produced.

This report (http://www.mms.gov/tarprojects/287/287AA.pdf)assumes a scenario different than the present one, in which pressure reduces as the flow occurs along the 18000-foot pipe between the BOP at the sea floor and the reservoir...this would be the normal case. The report does not even consider the phase structure of oil in the reservoir;the authors blithely ignore the possibility of a single phase supercritical solution in the reservoir. In this case, the partially closed BOP means there is a sudden pressure reduction at the BOP orifice. The pressure behind the BOP is fairly close to the reservoir pressure (after accounting for pressure drop due to lifting the gas/oil mixture 18000 feet), and I believe the pressure in the reservoir is high enough that the oil & gas are a one-phase system. There could be a phase separation as the oil/gas supercritical solution rises from the reservoir to the BOP, but there will definitely be a phase separation at the BOB "orifice." As I said in another post, the gas remains slightly supercritical after the orifice, and there will be a fractionation of the oil...consistent to what is being seen.

Here's the NIUST group's blog on the surveying they are doing from RV Pelican:

They are doing direct sampling, sediment box cores, and 2D fluorescence mapping in the water column from a towed fish.

Without these guys, we would have no clue.

Here is the sad part:

On Saturday we'll be running back to some of the previously sampled sites to see if the plume is moving up or down.

Then it's back to port. There is much yet to be done by this group and others to assess the ongoing spill's full offshore impacts, but there's only so much one team can accomplish in two weeks. Vernon Asper, oceanographer with the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology team, says, "I'm really surprised we're still the only research vessel out here."


Follow up -- they are looking for a grant to fund another month, but BP, the USCG and NOAA say they will not fund it. Strange... strange like the 5000 bpd and the limited undersea video.

I hope they can identify the source of the oil through isotope analysis or whatever and link it back to the spill. Because I have my doubts that the spill is the source of the plume.

When you see the video of the leak, the plume is so gassy and turbulent it's hard to visualise it settling into a monolithic, spread-out plume drifting along quietly. I'd say the source is more likely an oil seep.

Scientists say they have detected filaments and flakes of oil from the leak drifting underwater. That's understandable, given the turbulent mixing, bubble trains, clathrate fall-out etc..

Perhaps the large underwater plume is not pure oil but is actually composed of these filaments and flakes, i.e. may be only (say) 1% oil? In which case, yes, the leak is the source. I'd like to see results of the samples.

I am pretty sure that within the reservoir the oil + gas are miscible; a "supercritical solution." There is not a separate oil layer & gas layer. My hypothesis, to explain the subsurface heavy oil plume: when the solution goes through the flow restriction at the BOP, its pressure goes from ~9000 psi to near 2500 psi, causing a phase separation in which the natural gas remains slightly supercritical, the temperature is quickly reduced, and the result is a two phase flow of primarily heavy oil & asphaltenes (viscous liquid, specific gravity close to sea water) and a supercritical natural gas solution containing most of the light oil fraction. This 2-phase mixture vents out of the riser about a mile away, and due to mixing with sea water, the natural gas phase separates again with the light petroleum fraction. Most methane forms hydrates and slowly settles to the ocean floor (methane hydrate at this depth has density of 1.04 g/cc, so it sinks). Light oil (density ~.80 g/cc) rises quickly, while the heavy oil (density ~ 1.0 g/cc) rises much more slowly. It is sort of a doomsday scenario, which can only happen this way because (1) the sea water pressure at the exit is high enough for the methane phase to remain a good solvent for the light oil fractions, and (2) the mile run in the riser pipe allows the two phases to equilibrate before escaping into the sea. At shallower depth, the phase separation would be too fast to fractionate the oil. If this hypothesis is correct, the small plume escaping near the BOP may not have enough time for phase separation, and so the light & heavy oil comes out mixed, as in all previous experience...if I'm right though, the oil/gas coming out of the riser after a slow one mile trip is fractionated, resulting in the double plumes...God help us.

I would now modify what I said slightly; the gas is subcritical downstream of the BOP orifice:

Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Multiple Plumes
I think I can explain the fractionation of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill. This is different from an ordinary blow-out in that the methane remains supercritical all the way up the drill hole to the blow-out preventer (BOP) the way the well is discharging now. Since the hydrocarbon reservoir that was penetrated has a high methane content, and is at very high pressure (~15000 psi), I am pretty sure that within the reservoir the oil + gas are miscible; a "supercritical solution." There is not a separate oil layer & gas layer until pressure is reduced. My hypothesis can explain three subsurface oil plumes:
1. A preliminary phase separation occurs between the heaviest oil components (asphaltenes) and the rest of the crude oil, which remains in a methane-based supercritical solution, as the crude rises the 18000 feet from the reservoir to the bottom of the BOP. Gravitational pressure drop depends on average density of the solution, which I guess to be ~.6 g/cc; a pressure reduction on the order of 6000 psi can be anticipated, and a corresponding temperature reduction and volume increase corresponding to adiabatic expansion. The heaviest fraction is hypothesized to have already phase separated from the crude oil prior to reaching the BOP, and this phase forms the deepest oil plume, floating within 40 feet of the sea floor. (In rising from the reservoir, most of the pressure drop is due to gravitational lifting, as the flow is too slow for much viscous dissipation. The flow may be fast enough to sweep the phase separated asphaltenes up the pipe, if the velocity is greater than the sedimentation velocity of the asphaltene droplets.)
2. A very large pressure drop occurs in passing through the partially sealed BOP. When the solution goes through the flow restriction at the BOP, its pressure goes from ~9000 psi to near 2250 psi, causing a phase separation in which the natural gas based phase goes subcritical in less than a second. Even after the expansion, the two phase flow is still very hot, high enough for the methane phase to remain a good solvent for the light oil fractions. (The expansion should be close to an isothermal expansion, differing only from isothermal due to the Joule effect, and due to condensation of a liquid phase; I expect a small increase in temperature going through the BOP orifice.) As pressure and density are reduced, the supercritical methane phase decomposes into two phases, a primarily heavy oil liquid phase, saturated with methane (I expect this to be a viscous liquid, specific gravity ~.8; still containing quite a bit of dissolved methane), and:
3. A subcritical dense gas phase solution containing most of the gasoline and light oil fractions, and some heavy oil. This dense gas phase also forms downstream of the BOP “orifice.” This dense gas phase contains most of the methane. After this exits the pipe and mixes with sea water, the methane separates out as this solution cools, leading to the lowest density, lowest viscosity, fastest rising oil plume. This fraction, the light oil/gasoline plume could have a density as low as ~.75 g/cc) and would rise quickly; perhaps this is the only plume to reach the surface so far.
4. A fourth subsea plume of methane hydrate is formed as the natural gas separates from the light oil/gas phase as it cools and expands (after exiting the riser pipe). Most of the methane forms hydrates and slowly settles to the ocean floor (methane hydrate at this depth has density of 1.04 g/cc, so it sinks).

This scenario can explain four distinct plumes emanating from the leaking Deep Horizon well head. Most of the 3-phase hydrocarbon mixture vents out of the riser about a mile away from the BOP, while something like 15% of the hydrocarbon flow exits from a kink just above the BOP. After the three hydrocarbon phases mix with sea water, the fourth phase (methane hydrate) forms. The asphaltenes, which form the densest phase and the lowest plume, may take years to reach the surface, by which time they may well have mixed with the Atlantic deep waters via the circulation around Florida.
What is happening at the Deep Horizon oil spill is sort of a doomsday scenario, which can only happen this way because of the unique stepwise pressure reduction as the oil exits the reservoir. Because the oil has been fractionated, it is not rising as a single phase, as has been the case in all previous oil spills. If my hypothesis is correct, most of the oil is contained in two separate plumes that have not yet reached the ocean surface...God help us.

The lead article about the spill on the main page has links to both the newest video release showing the leak at the riser kink by the BOP stack ans well as links to a half a dozen other clips. Perhaps they would be of interest if you haven't seen them.

If I read your post correctly you are suggesting that only the lighter, more buoyant fraction is reaching the surface and a large volume is forming subsurface plumes that will rise more slowly or not at all - correct?

There are testable predictions that come out of this theory:

1) If there are three oil plumes as I suggest, and the oil that has made it to the surface so far is from the "lightest" (lowest molecular weight, lowest boiling point range). The tarballs that are forming now will be the residue of the light fraction, after evaporation of volatiles, and should be depleted of asphaltenes compared to the oil samples obtained by BP before they attempted to kill the well.

2) Similarly, there should be asphaltene content differences between each of the plume samples collected by the Pelican Research vessel (http://news.olemiss.edu/index.php?/niustblog/)such that asphaltene content is highest for the deepest samples.

I reiterate - why not post this comment (the text of your fractionation theory) in comments to today's oil spill article? I am sure it will stimulate some discussion there.

Haven't seen this tidbit of the BP Transocean discussion before:


Panel reveals litany of failures on oil spill
by Anna Fifield
The documents also revealed that the well failed several pressure tests on the day of the explosion, but that at 8pm – two hours before the disaster – BP decided operations could resume, with Transocean apparently disagreeing.


Could someone point me to the document submitted to the Congressional Hearings that supports "at 8pm – two hours before the disaster – BP decided operations could resume, with Transocean apparently disagreeing."

As that doesn't seem to match Transocean's verbal testimony that I heard but I'm perfectly willing to believe I've missed something.

The revelations, gleaned from 100,000 pages of documents from the companies involved...

Don't know how anyone could have missed it. ;)

That's why I am going by the verbal testimony (in answer to questions) where Transocean seemed to be saying that, as far as they were concerned, the first indication something was seriously wrong (to their rig personnel) was close to simultaneous with the blow-out. For example, if Schlumberger employees really ran from the rig, none of the companies, when specifically asked if anything else unusual, not previously mentioned had happened, brought this up.

If there genuinely are written submissions contradicting this then I really want to see it to help me make sense of what happened.

Stop wasting time with conventional approaches. Each additional day is a calamity.
Nuke it now with a low yield subterranean-detonated device. The Russians have done it before. Radiation would be contained or minimal in environmental impact as compared to the continuing calamity. Perhaps the DOE's experts will come to this conclusion. A 500ft radius fracture zone would be much more effective than golf balls and shredded tyres.

"The Russians have done it before"


Can you give a reference for this claim. You appear to believe it is a fact. I have seen many statements about the Russians that are shurely urban myth ("they eat Christian babies" kind of stuff).

How many times have they done it? In what kind of well? On-shore or off-shore? Depth of well? etc. Above all dates and locations.

Jeremy Hsu of Live Science sez that "according to a translation of the account in the daily newspaper Komsomoloskaya Pravda by Julia Ioffe of the news website True/Slant" (no link), they've used nukes only "to extinguish gas well fires in natural gas fields." They've attempted it six times, two of which were failures,


The article cites a couple of dates/places (e.g., Uzbekistan in 1966) if you're interested.

My claim is not an extraordinary one. I don't feel the need to document extensive Russian experience using nuclear detonations in engineering projects, including petroleum disasters. Here's a passing reference to one
gas well case in 1966. Our ability to model the detonation in advance (i.e. Sandia Nat'l Labs or similar) would guarantee predictable results.

In contrast, there is no record of success with any of the current crazy sh*t being tried, by any country, at any time. Sure, relief wells will probably eventually work, but weeks and months of continued spewing already constitutes epic failure.

Has this been done before in exactly the same conditions? No. But to rule it out represents a failure of imagination.

That being said, even as a confirmed Internet crank by virtue of having suggested this approach, I hope that BP succeeds tomorrow and that I am completely wrong.

From the csmonitor article ref'd above:

Weapons labs in the former Soviet Union developed special nukes for use to help pinch off the gas wells. They believed that the force from a nuclear explosion could squeeze shut any hole within 82 to 164 feet (25 to 50 meters), depending on the explosion's power. That required drilling holes to place the nuclear device close to the target wells.

So you have to drill:
(a) within 82 feet
(b) down deep enough to where the rock is competent (i.e. strong enough) to contain the pressure of the nuke AND the gas.
i.e. - almost exactly what the relief wells being drilled are doing.
(the sediment/mudstone for like 5000 feet is just mush).

Methinks the Russians used nukes back in the day (1966 1st , thru 1981, which failed) because:
(a) it's a macho thing to do, giving the gov't lab a purpose.
(b) they didn't have advance locating equipment that can zero in exactly on the wellbore (as soon as we had such technology)

From the above link:

In 1989, the result of 20 years of new technology and strategy proved itself in the North Sea on the Saga petroleum 2/4-14 blowout, with a direct intersection of an 8 1/2-in. borehole at a depth of nearly 5 km.(7) No sidetracks were requred and only nine electromagnetic fixes were made.

That's 21 years ago they could directly intersect a subsea borehole.
No nukes needed.

If you've got to seal off the bomb hole, you can cement off the relief and main bores. Now that the equipment/techniques exist, why risk a blowout with a nuke, since the time to implement is about the same.

It is unfortunate that the leak is underwater, so it won't just cleanly burn the oil & gas. Hopefully either the top kill via choke/kill lines in the BOP and/or the insertion tube/top hat work to stop/slow the mess.

I understand the Russian attempts were onshore, which makes things a lot easier. I also read that one of the gas wells had been burning for 5 years, which suggests that it was very much a last ditch attempt.

But the important point is that if you need to drill down to set the charges, we can now intercept the original well so it really makes the nuke idea moot.

I also have to say that given the former Soviet states' record on industrial accidents and environmental conservation, it may not be something to emulate.

I've been trying to understand some of the characteristics of deepwater drilling and one publication I found very helpful was "Geological Controls and Variability in Pore Pressure in the Deep-Water Gulf of Mexico* "(http://www.searchanddiscovery.net/documents/smithmm76/index.htm#00%20top). Mr. Smith addresses issues which seem pertinent to the current situation.

Where would an explosive device be placed relative to the well? Can someone explain if there would be any risk of destabilizing existing geological structures within the area impacted by the explosive device? Could there be a domino effect if destabilization were to occur?

Thanks for answering this question and for your patience with those who are not familiar with geology/engineering issues.

Given that the geology is probably sedimentary, there would be planes of weakness along bedding planes. I'd worry that the blast would drive a plasma along a bedding plane and cut the well casing like a thermic lance, providing a new path for the oil to escape while becoming radioactive as well.

Yes. A 500 ft radius fracture zone would be very effective. Unfortunately, what it would be effective at is releasing all the backpressure on the flow. It would also bury the new "top" of the casing some 500 feet out of reach under newly porous rubble so that NOBODY would EVER be able to get back into it to finally cement the damn thing DEAD for a proper abandonment - even AFTER we waited for the relief (kill) wells to reach their target and mud it into aquiescence.

Fellow TODers. I’m out of here for a while. Just wanted to you know in case you thought I suddenly turned rude by not answering questions directed at me. I almost bugged out early on…just too disturbing. But used an old mind trick I developed in my youth (compartmentalization) to not give a crap about any of it. Worked well for a while. But now I’ve hired a fellow who lost his son in an accident just a couple of weeks before he lost his nephew in the blow out. Too much to deal with so I’ll bug out for a while. Fortunately there’s HO, WT, the tool pusher and Alan who can handle it all quit well. I’m sure I’ll be back in a week…a month...whenever.

Wishing you peace, Rockman.

bye...thx for what you've done to-date. hope to see you back....

Take care of yourself !

Best Hopes and Wishes,


Rockman-Thanks for sharing your wisdom and your patience with us newbies.
May Peace be with you soon.

Rockman, you have made your tour here. Good Job.

"but for the grace of God" has gone through my mind many times since April 20th. Like many of you in the industry I can visualize myself on that rig floor that evening. At some point there will be closure, at what cost is yet to be determined. For those of us who are currently in active operations, we must focus on what is in our direct control and Rockman I admire what you have done here with the load that you are carrying.

1. Thanks Rockman, much appreciated.

2. Who cares what the Russians say they did? And what if they did actually do it? No nukes in the GOM!

3. Who knows anything about this potentially very large "plume" of deep-water oil heading southwest from the gusher that the Research Vessel Pelican reports, I mean in terms of where it is going? What are the prevailing currents of concern, LOOP and otherwise. What has to happen for it to mingle into the Gulf Stream or reach The Flower Gardens to the west, say?

in re. question #3:

What I know is stuff I learned on this blog. Several links are available above in the vacinity of this character string:

"Scientists Find Giant Plumes of Oil Forming Under the Gulf"

This string links to this URL:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/us/16oil.html

The Research Vessel Pelican is instrumented for general oceanographic data collection. It is out there because of a sudden change of plans. The data that is being gathered is slow to get with the instruments that they have, but they are out there and they have no hidden adgenda. They think the plumes are moving to the south west. But their thoughts may have changed due to new data by the time you read this.

What they are finding is quite surprising to them. New phenomena that surely were not considered in any advanced planning for Macando well. Read it.

The next major event seems to be the junk shot. In preparation for making sense of any annoucement, I have been looking into details of this BOP. My research indicates that junk shots involve a 'choke line' or a 'kill line'. I haven't found descriptions of either of these that satisfy me. I have found descriptions that seem to confuse the two. I would be very appreciative if you could put together a description of BOP that covers both choke and kill lines (are the different or just two names for the same thing?) Where do they make contact with the BOP? What do they do? Where is the other end of each? Which way does stuff flow when they are in use? What is the stuff inside of each? etc.

Has Cameron released a detailed diagram of what should be the internal arrangement of this particular model of BOP?


The choke and kill lines are 2 high pressure lines that run down the riser and into the BOP, 3" ID for shallow water, 4"or 5" ID for deep water due to friction effect, there will be two entrances into the BOP for both, upper and lower. The difference between a sub sea choke & kill is the name and nothing else. The history of the names come from land rigs. The choke line was the line that took returns from the hole while the BOP was shut in. The kill line ran off lease with a check valve, and allowed Red Adair an easy way to kill the well. Offshore platforms and jack ups kept the check valve but tied the Kill back to the choke manifold. Sub sea stacks got rid of the check valve and tied the Kill to the choke manifold. So in effect you have two choke lines.

To some up they are identical lines with different names. Just as well call them Mary & Sue.

They will have a pressure rating the same as the BOP.

Strictly speaking, the choke line on a BOP leads to a choke manifold, a set of valves that can bleed off pressure at slow/controlled rates.
The kill line is used to pump in "kill fluid", heavy mud or other stuff to control the well pressure.

On a deep subsea BOP, the choke manifold is up on the drillship, as is the kill line feedin,
so they are (at the BOP) two essentially identical lines.
Given the controllability of the BOP stack, there will be valves leading from the choke line into the top, bottom, and probably intermediate levels of the BOP, and same for the kill.

So, depending on what you're wanting to do: for example:
* test the BOP by activating the pipe rams that seal around the pipe, you can feed pressure into a section and see if it doesn't bleed off.
* to contain a kick, one might close the pipe rams if there was pipe in the hole, or the annular valve if not, then circulate out the gas bubble by pumping heavy mud (a "kill pill") down the kill line, and slowly bleeding pressure off the choke line.

you activate the correct valves at the BOP and at the surface.

So stuff could flow either way in either line.

I have not seen a good schematic of a full subsea BOP, but it's essentially the same as a surface BOP: a series of valves stacked on top of each other, with some short sections of side ports between the main valves to measure pressure, allow choke/kill flow, etc.

BOPs are put together from parts, the Transocean site says of the Deepwater Horizon's BOP:

2 x Cameron Type TL 18¾in 15K double preventers; 1 x Cameron Type TL 18¾in 15K single preventer; 1 x Cameron DWHC 18¾in 15K wellhead connector

Then you have to go to Cameron's site to see what a TL BOP assembly is.

And I'm thinking they left something off - don't see an annular valve listed, but it's mentioned by BP:

It's a bit fat squat barrel looking thing aligned on the axis of the BOP, toward the top, but under other barrel looking things that are the flex connector to the riser.

This BP briefing has a model, explained starting at 26:00

Shows the choke kill lines coming down from the top, and a valve at the top. At 34:00, he turns the model around, so you can see some of the valves on the choke/kill line going to each section of the BOP.

edit to add ref to OSHA page with some land BOP pics:

What is amazing is this sub-surface slick is behaving exactly as predicted in the government study posted further back in the thread. A narrow slick at 3000 foot depth is moving far from the source. Right on the money. The result should be more of an ocean hit than shore, but this hasn't maxed-out yet.

Here is my idea. I am guessing someone could provide a number of reasons why it will not work, but I think it could. The idea is to place a casing around the end of the main leak: something like a steel clamp that would be two pieces each with half the external diameter of the pipe carved out of it. It should be as long as possible. Fit the clamp around the leaking pipe extending about a foot beyond the leak. Anchor the clamp in place so that it cannot move. The clamp would have a series of 3 or 4 inch hollow drill bits with valves that can be opened and closed. The end of clamp with the leak would be fitted with a means of closing the end. Then start tapping holes in the pipe. As pressure is relieved at the point of leak, close the end. Then instead of depending one six inch pipe inserted into the pipe to get some of the oil, there could be as many as 30 or 40 4 inch pipes. Then BP would just have to handle all of it coming to the surface.

Reasonably informative video from bp:


(posted on bp.com website)

Is it practical to flash oil off the ocean surface far at sea with a fuel-air bomb for ignition? It seems to me that the rapid heating of the oil by intense IR radiation is quite different than slow combustion at the boundary layer (oil/sea water). Perhaps it is possible to efficiently "clean a patch of ocean" by flashing off ALL THE OIL (including the heavy tar components). That never happens if oil is burned at the ocean surface.

Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Multiple Plumes
I think I can explain the fractionation of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill. This is different from an ordinary blow-out in that the methane remains supercritical all the way up the drill hole to the blow-out preventer (BOP) the way the well is discharging now. Since the hydrocarbon reservoir that was penetrated has a high methane content, and is at very high pressure (~15000 psi), I am pretty sure that within the reservoir the oil + gas are miscible; a "supercritical solution." There is not a separate oil layer & gas layer until pressure is reduced. My hypothesis can explain three subsurface oil plumes:
1. A preliminary phase separation occurs between the heaviest oil components (asphaltenes) and the rest of the crude oil, which remains in a methane-based supercritical solution, as the crude rises the 18000 feet from the reservoir to the bottom of the BOP. Gravitational pressure drop depends on average density of the solution, which I guess to be ~.6 g/cc; a pressure reduction on the order of 6000 psi can be anticipated, and a corresponding temperature reduction and volume increase corresponding to adiabatic expansion. The heaviest fraction is hypothesized to have already phase separated from the crude oil prior to reaching the BOP, and this phase forms the deepest oil plume, floating within 40 feet of the sea floor. (In rising from the reservoir, most of the pressure drop is due to gravitational lifting, as the flow is too slow for much viscous dissipation. The flow may be fast enough to sweep the phase separated asphaltenes up the pipe, if the velocity is greater than the sedimentation velocity of the asphaltene droplets.)
2. A very large pressure drop occurs in passing through the partially sealed BOP. When the solution goes through the flow restriction at the BOP, its pressure goes from ~9000 psi to near 2250 psi, causing a phase separation in which the natural gas based phase goes subcritical in less than a second. Even after the expansion, the two phase flow is still very hot, high enough for the methane phase to remain a good solvent for the light oil fractions. (The expansion should be close to an isothermal expansion, differing only from isothermal due to the Joule effect, and due to condensation of a liquid phase; I expect a small increase in temperature going through the BOP orifice.) As pressure and density are reduced, the supercritical methane phase decomposes into two phases, a primarily heavy oil liquid phase, saturated with methane (I expect this to be a viscous liquid, specific gravity ~.8; still containing quite a bit of dissolved methane), and:
3. A subcritical dense gas phase solution containing most of the gasoline and light oil fractions, and some heavy oil. This dense gas phase also forms downstream of the BOP “orifice.” This dense gas phase contains most of the methane. After this exits the pipe and mixes with sea water, the methane separates out as this solution cools, leading to the lowest density, lowest viscosity, fastest rising oil plume. This fraction, the light oil/gasoline plume could have a density as low as ~.75 g/cc) and would rise quickly; perhaps this is the only plume to reach the surface so far.
4. A fourth subsea plume of methane hydrate is formed as the natural gas separates from the light oil/gas phase as it cools and expands (after exiting the riser pipe). Most of the methane forms hydrates and slowly settles to the ocean floor (methane hydrate at this depth has density of 1.04 g/cc, so it sinks).
This scenario can explain four distinct plumes emanating from the leaking Deep Horizon well head. Most of the 3-phase hydrocarbon mixture vents out of the riser about a mile away from the BOP, while something like 15% of the hydrocarbon flow exits from a kink just above the BOP. After the three hydrocarbon phases mix with sea water, the fourth phase (methane hydrate) forms. The asphaltenes, which form the densest phase and the lowest plume, may take years to reach the surface, by which time they may well have mixed with the Atlantic deep waters via the circulation around Florida.
What is happening at the Deep Horizon oil spill is sort of a doomsday scenario, which can only happen this way because of the unique stepwise pressure reduction as the oil exits the reservoir. Because the oil has been fractionated, it is not rising as a single phase, as has been the case in all previous oil spills. If my hypothesis is correct, most of the oil is contained in two separate plumes that have not yet reached the ocean surface...God help us.

Why don't you post this on the current discussion thread for comment?

where is the current discussion thread...I'm new at this?
RSVP with instructions to roger_rethinker@yahoo.com

Roger, the 'current discussion thread' would be the one on the front page of 'The Oil Drum' website. Today it's the "Tar balls on Florida beaches" one.

Main page:


Tar balls:


There has been one or two new posts about the spill each day. Discussion about the spill generally moves to the newest one with some residual discussion continuing on the older ones for a day or two.

Thanks for that, but how would you explain the first evidence of petroleum hitting beaches being asphalt? By your hypothesis, the asphalt shouldn't be making it to land, yet it is.

BTW, walls of text are hard on the eyes. This is great commentary from you, regardless, and I think it'd be much better with a break every few lines.