Threading the needle at the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill site

Late on Friday night BP began to try inserting a narrow pipe into the remnant of the riser lying on the sea bed at the site of the Deepwater Horizon site in the Gulf of Mexico. Because there is a better illustration of the process that they are using, I am adding this as a separate post, rather than an addendum to the last one on this topic.

Source: Deepwater Horizon Response. Click for larger image.

UPDATE: The pipe was apparently successfully inserted, but an accident with a couple of ROV's knocked it back out, so that it will be another nine hours before it can be reconnected. (H/t lowtech architect.)

UPDATE 2: The pipe has been reinserted successfully

Technicians have fully inspected the system and have re-inserted the tool. The tool is fashioned from a 4-inch pipe and is inserted into the leaking riser, from which the majority of the flow is coming. While not collecting all of the leaking oil, this tool is an important step in reducing the amount of oil being released into Gulf waters. The procedure - never attempted before at such depths - involves inserting a 5-foot length of the specifically-designed tool into the end of the existing, damaged riser from where the oil and gas is leaking. In a procedure approved by federal agencies and the Federal On Scene Coordinator, methanol will also be flowed into the riser to help prevent the formation of gas crystals, known as hydrates. Gas and oil will then flow to the surface to the Discoverer Enterprise drillship.

(H/t xazp).

The initial attempt to get the "needle" into the pipe was called off when the equipment shifted in the supporting frame. It is, however back on the seabed, and the attempt to insert it, collect the oil and gas, and bring it to the surface should start later this evening.

The problem arose because the pipe that will carry the oil and gas back up to the ship at the surface (which they confusingly also call the drill pipe) has to mate with the insertion tool which is held in the frame (I imagine this includes the buoyancy module shown) at the seabed. It was the connection of the drill pipe to the ship that could not be made, so they took the assembly back to the surface, and fixed the problem. They are now (late Saturday afternoon) getting ready to make an insertion into the broken riser. The drill pipe is to be "stabbed into" the frame, and the intent is to eliminate any water getting into the connection, to eliminate the hydrate problem.

At the moment they have also started a continuous injection of dispersants underwater, after the three tests were judged to be successful. This has reduced the work needed to control the oil spread on the surface. They pointed out today that the dispersants that they are using were pre-approved before the spill. Distribution of these dispersants had been approved in a more limited application (on the surface), but after the tests were successful, distribution is now approved for use underwater - which actually reduces the amount needed since it is injected into the heart of the spill, rather than spread over the surface after the oil has migrated upwards.

They are, however, becoming a little more concerned about the weather, since changing conditions have made it more difficult to control the spill, since it is currently too rough for skimming and controlled burns - though that may improve in the next couple of days.

They are running the riser and blowout preventer (BOP) on the first relief well today (it is already about half-way down to total depth (TD)), and they should spud the second relief well almost immediately.

Let me close by noting that in the press briefing, Secretary Salazar repeated the line used by Secretary Chu in the past, that his folks are "the smartest people on the planet!" Sigh! Even if they are, you cannot bring folks up to speed on all the ramifications and complexities of deepwater oilfield technologies in a couple of days. It is a blindness to reality, I have commented on before, but let me get off that soap box.

Ok, now it really looks like a vasectomy reversal. I am guessing the LMRP can control flow prior to arrival at surface, allowing final control of methane buildup.

LMRP = Lower Marine Riser Package

Huge oil plumes lurk in deep waters:

Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, three miles wide and 300 feet thick.


A New York Times report on Saturday said scientists had found huge oil plumes in the Gulf, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick.

It said the discovery provided evidence that the leak could be "substantially worse" than estimates given previously by the government and BP.


Yes, there is much sub-surface oil. Not only have plumes been found, oil contaminated shrimp was harvested from 'oil-free' waters. Who the hell is making that call?

I guess BP figures that they can risk our health to have to payoff for one less load. BP is so going to be broken down by this. Good, maybe Gulf Oil can come back.

No, they won't go broke. BP knows how to deal with the Great American Lawyer Bingo Machine. They will stall, deny, reapply and do whatever it takes to convince the most of the other side to settle for pennies. Even worse, all kinds of fraudsters will jump on this like sharks on bloodied fish and even further slow things down. Or at best case, they will pay maybe 10 billion dollars to some Oil Spill Victim Fund and that is it.

Few are able to fight this in courts for years to come. Especially if their business went under and are unemployed. Then you will settle for 5000 dollars instead of possible shot at one million years later.

BP is a Public Limited Company under the British Companies Act 2006. I don't know any corporate law but in theory the US government has the legal authority to cease any assets BP has on US soil to cover any liabilities the company has in the US.

But more likely the US government need only have a private chat with the new British PM, as well as the EU 'federal government' - to get them to make a fair deal - as BP is under EU legal authority - lawyers here don't have as much power as the bureaucracy (yet).

And anyway, I don't think you are going to let "a foreign company" walk all over you - politically it shouldn't be a problem to get cross party support to press BP for full a compensation...

What is full compensation?

Fourth largest company in the world. Dissolved and auctioned off to competitors ... assets alone should fetch half a trillion. Enough?

That would be about half of the US treasuries held by the Chinese (who would likely be the high bidders).

I personally think that the MMS should start hearings about revoking BP's license to operate Thunderhorse, given their halfhearted response to this spill.

Best Hopes for tightening the grip on BP's gonads,



I don't know the facts so I can't form an opinion yet on the quality of BP's response to the spill. Can you help me out with this? What caused you to understand BP's response was "halfhearted"?

I know the number of rigs drilling relief (kill) wells is controversial. I don't remember hearing about anything similar. Or are you referring to how prepared BP was at the start of the spill?


PS. Hadn't thought about revoking drilling rights for Thunderhorse. That is one hell of a big stick to hold over their heads if they drag their feet on "we will pay all legitimate claims." Although given the rapid depletion rate, the stick is getting smaller each day:(

$10/hour for "clean-up" crews will not hire an effective group of people for conditions they must work under.

Only two relief wells.

Not bothering to measure (or if measured, share) the flow rate of the leak.

Not revealing dispersant used.

Not hiring every available oceanographic ship to measure and predict undersea plume.

Not being prepared for a spill of this magnitude.


My favorite is discharging without a permit. This is an undeniable violation of the Clean Water Act. The CEO's of BP, Halliburton, and Transocean should be served with federal felony charges for these violations. I imagine they would plead for a year in Club Fed, do six months, and we have our pound of flesh. Then those CEO's would be made to work cleaning this mess up for the remainder of their working lives, else they would be bankrupted and held personally responsible. I bet their guilt would make them do the deal anyways, but nothing like the threat of financial ruin. Like the threat my neighbors and I face now.

IANAL, nor do I play one on TV, but... Looking at the CWA statute, it almost certainly does not apply. The text states that the law applies inside the "contiguous zone" as defined in the UN treaty on that subject, which extends only 12 miles from the low-water shore line. In this case, the discharge point, and the source of the pollutant, are clearly outside that zone.

Well there must be something that would work. I want a year each. Club Fed is not too bad. They can work on their tennis game. Probably better than most of us coastal folks.

I am a lawyer and according to Wikipedia it covers navigable waters which is what I suspected.

The gulf would qualify if navigable waters are included.

A lawyer that thinks Wikipedia is a legitimate source?? I hope you wouldn't use that argument in court! IANAL and I don't trust Wikipedia as an authoritiative source on anything I can find another place. Since all Federal Laws are published on-line I used Google, and when you Google "Clean Water Act 1972" the link to the EPA where you can find the actual text is the 6th one down the page.

Here is what the law actually SAYS concerning what is called "navigable waters":

The term "navigable waters" means the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.

(8) The term "territorial seas" means the belt of the seas measured from the line of ordinary low water along that portion of the coast which is in direct contact with the open sea and the line marking the seaward limit of inland waters, and extending seaward a distance of three miles.

To get BP under the CWA you have to use the broadest area in the law called the Exclusive Ecomonic Zone which extends out to 200 miles. All that is required in the EEZ is a plan to be filed with the Government on how the pollution incident would be dealt with. I can find no specific fine defined for the EEZ, only a generic fine specified as:

(7) Civil Penalty Action.--

(A) Discharge, Generally.--Any person who is the owner, operator, or person in charge of any vessel, onshore facility, or offshore facility from which oil or a hazardous substance is discharged in violation of paragraph (3), shall be subject to a civil penalty in an amount up to $25,000 per day of violation or an amount up to $1,000 per barrel of oil or unit of reportable quantity of hazardous substances discharged.

It appears that the fine is limited to 25K per day and a max of 125K no matter how many bbls of oil are spilled. However..there is an additional fine if Negiligence is involved. There is another place that says fines can't be applied from more than one section of the Act,even if there is a violation of more than one section.

(B) Classes of Penalties.--

(i) Class I. -- The amount of a class I civil penalty under subparagraph (A) may not exceed $10,000 per violation, except that the maximum amount of any class I civil penalty under this subparagraph shall not exceed $25,000.


(ii) Class II. -- The amount of a class II civil penalty under subparagraph (A) may not exceed $10,000 per day for each day during which the violation continues; except that the maximum amount of any class II civil penalty under this subparagraph shall not exceed $125,000.

In addition to fines the owner/operator who had the spill has to pay cleanup costs. However, if you bring in the concept of Gross Negligence then the fines grow.

(D) Gross Negligence.--In any case in which a violation of paragraph (3) was the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct of a person described in subparagraph (A)[basically the owner or operator], the person shall be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $100,000, and not more than $3,000 per barrel of oil or unit of reportable quantity of hazardous substance discharged.

Based on this fine you can see why it is very important to determine who made the decisions that lead to the blowout as that company is paying the fine. And here is a point where the flow rate enters into the picture again as how well it can be determined will establish fines. I don't see a limit on fines when Gross Negligence kicks in. I would say BP is on the hook, but then again BP could try to recover from it's subcontractors who did the drilling. It will get messy. If you want to read it for yourself, here is the link:

Actually Wikipedia was right, citing the exact section of the statute you quoted. I just failed to read the entire section on navigable waters. The second part clearly states, as you say, a three mile limit from shore.

Moral of the story. No drilling offshore unless the law is amended to cover all offshore drilling.

Appears to me the law does cover offshore out to 200 miles. But it treats it the same as on-shore which may not be right. The fines are a joke, way too small plus this all has to actually be decided in a civil court action, it's not automatic. As we have seen the Exxon Valdez incident took about 15 yrs to close out. Maybe this one will not take as long as there are no Native American tribes invovled which added complexity to the Valdez case, but nevertheless don't expect a quick summation of damages and claims.

I posted a comment on another thread to count me out. I am a personal injury lawyer with 32 years of experience, the last 28 representing plaintiffs.

If the Exxon Valdez taught us anything is how foolish it is to take on a company so large that it can easily spend a million a month in attorneys fees defending itself and can drag out litigation for decades.

When you take cases on a contingency, it is a good way to go broke.


"Not hiring every available oceanographic ship to measure and predict undersea plume."

Alan, think. Do you really want all the oceanographic ships to be under the control of the evil monster?
They surely could have done this. But they did not, most probably because they did think, and did not want to appear to be the evil monster.

If BP had funded such an effort. directed by, say, the USGS or NOAA, with results made public daily, it would help.

Oceanography is not a specialty of BP, but it is of NOAA.


Of course BP isn't going to give away information that will be used against it, and certainly will not willingly pay to develop such information. Forcing the suing parties to develop their own information will help reduce the number of suing parties and/or reduce the potential severity of the lawsuits.

The company is in a bad situation and is making choices amongst the numerous lousy options available.

Remember, plugging the hole is just the first step. Cleanup will take years. Lawsuits will take even longer. $50 billion? $100 billion? More? This isn't chump change.

It matters little to BP if the rest of the industry is adversely impacted by their actions. Company survival is the top priority for them right now.

Over-reactive are we?

$10/hr is above minimum wage!!! Putting out boom is not a high tech high skill job. If you added up all the costs versus income I bet a lot of fishermen don't make this wage. You are also not counting what BP paid folks to use thier boats. I suspect the shrimpers and others who are under contract are not working cheap!!

The dispersant was documented. They had to ask the feds what they could use, and the underwater use was a novel idea and they took quite a while to approve that and that dispersant was documented.

Only two relief wells? As many people here from within the business have told you more wells does NOT make the problem get solved faster. In fact it would increase the odds some other bad thing could happen. On land only one relief well is typically drilled and that solves the problem.

Every available oceangraphic ship? Considering those belong to Government organizations this one should be laid on the Governments not BP. Also as someone here who IS an Oceangrapher said there are only a couple ships that can do the work and the work is very time consuming and tracking the underwater plumes could take a very long time.

Not prepared? So where did all this containment boom and ships come from? They were prepared as best can be, you may have missed the discussion early on where the Response Plan is a GOM wide plan where assets come from many companies and are pooled. If this had happened to any other company the response probably would have been the same, maybe worse. If this was a small to mid-sized oil company they may have ended up bankrupt.

Flow rate really doesn't matter except maybe to the engineers who were developing a fix. There was NOTHING different that could have been done or done any faster. Once the spill happened a lot of agencies got in the loop, Coast Guard, MMS, Homeland Security, Department of the Interior and of course the Congress. What did those groups do to help? And if they had known the spill was say 5X bigger would they have done things differently, or just grandstand more?

I feel so bad, now that you've explained things in such a rational way. In fact, I think we should all whip out our wallets and send poor BP a bunch of big fat charitable donations, you know, just to make sure none of their kids will go hungry after the Evil Socialists punish them over a few drops of all-natural oil in that great big giant endless ocean. Who's with me!!? Come on guys, don't be selfish...

If BP had not put saving money ahead of stopping the leak ASAP, they would be spudding four wells.

This is a difficult formation. Initial estimate, per 60 minutes, was 21 days and it took 6 weeks of active drilling.

The same can happen to any relief well, which is why four, suitably spaced far enough apart (say 0.7 miles) should be drilling simultaneously.

Sure is costs more money. But if just two wells are drilled, both may run into significant problems and delay.

No wild well on land is causing the damage every minute, every hour, that this one is.

Spend an extra quarter billion and shut down the wild well ONE DAY, or even TWELVE HOURS sooner and it is BP's money very well spent.

BTW, we should amend the tax code to make all BP expenses and damage claims not tax deductible if they are found negligent in any way, either in causing the blowout or not controlling it ASAP.


I suspect the shrimpers and others who are under contract are not working cheap!!

$17/hour for quite skilled work and $250/day for the boat, with the boat owners accepting ALL liability for damage to boat or hands.

A pittance ! Far less than normal charter rates, but no one is chartering boats for fishing these days due to the malfeasance of BP.

One may pay a security guard, working in a nice air conditioned environment, and sleeping in his own bed every night, $12 or even $10/hour.

One cannot get workers that will work effectively in the swamp, with the heat, humidity and mosquitoes, manhandling booms for just $10/hour.


The Los Angeles Times is reporting a higher number, $1500/day, for the boat charter:

Local fishermen were complainimg publicly and loudly about the low rates.
Perhaps BP's PR department (the people in ultimate charge) saw some local news reports and decided to take proactive measures before it went national.

Bad PR to have a hundred plus fishermen complaining about how cheap BP is.


I am all in favor of suspending BP's license to operate Atlantis and Thunderhorse immediately, until BP can conclusively demonstrate that their corporate culture has changed and they can act responsibly, competently and honestly.

Start shut down ASAP.

Today, they fail all three criteria.

BTW, 60 minutes also pointed out the snafu at Atlantis documents (89% not engineering approved, when 100% are supposed to be).

The oil will still be there later, and sold for a higher price when it is produced, by somebody.


Get off your enviro-soapbox.

Boat rates - $250 day plus $17/hr..but first you said $10 an hour? Which is it? It also beats doing nothing AND they still get to file claims for lost income. They could make out pretty good. By the way oil platforms are great places to fish, and the boat captains like taking people there as the catch is usually good. Living in NOLA I would think you knew that fishing and oil and really more symbiotic than adversarial.

Oh, by the way fishing boats need diesel fuel to run, and where does the oil for that come from???? So you want to close down a lot of the oil production in the Gulf? OK, do you drive a car, an SUV? Do you wear polyester clothing? Use plastics for anything? If so, watch your cost of living skyrocket. You think the ecomony is bad now, $4/gal gas after Katrina may be back and even higher. I hope you like even LESS jobs being available. So if you are NOT a user of oil then you can talk. Even if you just suspend BP's license they can't produce. You know how long it would take for a deal for someone else to take over? Years and BILLIONS in payment. Oh, well I guess we could have the MMS take over right? I'm SURE the Government can do a MUCH better job.

I'm not saying BP deserves anything but the full punishment allowed BY LAW. Not by what some people with a wild hair and/or an agenda on the Internet think. BP screwed up. They will pay to fix it. End of story.

As for the documents missing thats a concern, but if they were able to call them up via the Internet I'm not too worried. The laws date to the old days when such things as satellite links were not available. Worse case, burn them to a DVD and send them with the next chopper. This is a mountain out of a molehill and really had nada to do with what happened.
If you read the details on this case, it was filed by a disgruntled employee whose claim was investigated internally by BP and they found yes things we missing but it was not nearly as bad as you mention.

I seriously doubt that 89% NOT approved number. Why? Because I've been associated with building things for large companies and the Government. My relative managed production for a company that makes special seals and gaskets for the oil field and his take is the same as mine. If that document is NOT signed off properly we wouldn't build a thing. Why? Because then WE were liable if it broke or if something changed after we built it then WE ate the cost to change and make it right. I suspect a paperwork filing SNAFU not a deliberate attempt to go around the rules.

The $17/hour is for the very skilled labor of boat captain. $10/hour is for riff raff off the street to make a show for the cameras (one cannot hire motivated people for working in difficult conditions at $10/hour, BP just wants some shills for the cameras).

As noted I am VERY much in favor of new laws (no tax deductions for BP clean-up and damages, I do NOT want to subsidize them !), raise the $75 million limit on damages to $75 billion (including treble punitive damages if warranted) and enforcing old ones.

Like lifting the license to operate from an operator that has shown all that BP has shown to date. FULLY justified !

And just why should I step off a soapbox ? BP is about to destroy much of what I love and cherish and hurt people I know and respect.


PS: I drive a 1982 M-B 240D, manual shift (28 to 30 mpg in the city) but not very far. In 2008, I spent $178 on fuel and $158 on shoe repairs. $14/gallon fuel is quite affordable for me. And I strongly prefer cotton and linen clothing.

And how lomg have you worked for BP?

He joined TOD a week ago when he got this assignment. Probably a freelancer that gets more than $10/hour.

To give him credit, he has motivated me to pass some ideas on to Sen. Landrieu via one of her brothers and some others (good friend has good contacts with Sen. Kerry). Like no tax deduction for clean-up and damages and pull their Thunderhorse & Atlantis licenses immediately. Know several Washington lobbyists and dailyKos as well that I can pass these ideas on to and see if they get traction.

VERY limited contact with James Carville, but I can pass it on to him as well.

Kind of like BPs efforts at plugging the leak; keep throwing different things at it till something sticks !

Thanks for the motivation, Mr. BP supporter :-)


PS; Removing 450,000 b/day will not have THAT big an impact on prices.

CuriousGeorge, tells Alan to get off his enviro-soapbox.

I say George should quit monkeying around! Should I ever get to meet him face to face I would tell him in no uncertain terms and in much stronger language, than I might be allowed to use here, what I think of him...

So Mr. Curious (I seriously doubt that you are at all curious in the scientific sense). How are you even going to begin to assess the long term environmental impacts of what is begining to be found out about this spill. See Jerry McManus' comment up top:

Scientists finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, three miles wide and 300 feet thick.

Are you going to suggest that the Gulf ecosystem is just going to absorb it all? Or the harmless non toxic dispersants will take care of it and then the microbes will just eat it all up? Right? Move along now no harms been done here because we can't see it yet.

Well George, @#$%^& you!

And you gotta love this little gem of condescension:

OK, do you drive a car, an SUV? Do you wear polyester clothing? Use plastics for anything? If so, watch your cost of living skyrocket. You think the ecomony is bad now, $4/gal gas after Katrina may be back and even higher. I hope you like even LESS jobs being available. So if you are NOT a user of oil then you can talk.

Some of us here and I know for a fact that Alan is one of those people are well into the process of personally reducing their FF foot print.

As for me personaly, I drive an old compact car with a manual transmission and a rebuilt engine, less than 5K miles a year and plan on reducing that even further. I will never buy another new car again. As for gas at $4.00 a gal, I think it should be at least $10.00 with another $5.00 tax on top of that.

You are right that that will reduce employment in the current economy but that is happening anyway and will continue to do so we slide or fall off the slope or cliff on the down side of peak oil. In my case, since no one wanted to hire me at 57 when I was laid off a year and a half ago I had to start my own business from scratch. I'm sure quite a few more people will be doing the same.

BTW my business is based on "unsustainable" solar energy...

Hi,Alan, FMaygar,

I have come to trust you two guys over the last year;why?

Well ,partly because although we may disagree on the best way to accomplish something,or which of two possible goals might be the more desirable,our goals and values are basically similar.

The biggest difference is that we might not agree which monkey wrench, or hammer, is best suited to the job at hand.

But the greater reason is that when you comment on things about which I do happen to know a great deal,I never catch you making outrageous or erronous claims.Hence I have gradually come to rely on your comments as authoritative and often base my own opinions on yours, especially if I am poorly informed in some given area.

My own sense of the size of the current oil spill disaster is still fuzzy- but it is obvious to me that it is already enormous and indeed potentially catastrophic in the true sense of the word.

It is also obvious that it will be , already is, a historical turning point.Journalists and historians working in the field of energy in coming decades will refer to it in ways similar to the way thier predecessors responded to the launch of the first Sputnik.

Hopefully our country still has the will and the capacity to mount a similarly vigorous response, in respect to getting our house in order in respect to oil in particular and energy in general.I have made comments here about before about Pearl Harbor wake up events, and the POSSIBILITY that if we are fortunate enough to suffer such events, numerous enough and of magnitudes sufficient to get our collective attention, but mild enough to leave us able to respond in a wartime mode,WE JUST MIGHT skinny thru the coming bottleneck and emerge on the other side more or less whole in the ways that really matter.

When confronted with dealing with a monster lemon, it is good to stop and catch your breath for a minute, and consider the possibility of enjoying at least a little bit of unexpected lemonade later on.

Now I realize just how frustrated you guys are, and sympathize;I feel the same way but not so strongly, being more professionally, physically, and personally removed from the immediate problem.

If some company were to come into my home turf and create such a disaster, I might seriously think about becoming a martyr and giving the exucutive class a little something to think about -maybe a groundsman running over them down , and over,with a hundred horsepower lawn mower, blades engaged of course, during a golf outing.Or a bit of dimethyl mercury in thier sushi, something of that sort.I could probably manage to get a job as a kitchen helper in some fancy club-I've never convicted of anything more serious than drunk in public-and that as a consequence of being a passenger in a car involved in an accident so long ago that it might not even be in computerized records..

It feels good to vent and rant, no doubt about it;and doing so serves a healthy purpose.Some of those of us who are unable to release the pressure might otherwise actually become martyrs.

Let's not give the idiots too much ammo by talking about fifteen dollar a gallon gasoline by edict;it will arrive soon enough in the natural course of affairs, probably within ten to fifteen years in my opinion.

The vast majority of the public, and even a considerable portion of the audience here, cannot distinguish between a rant or sarcasm, and a serious proposal.Our current situation is patently unsustainable of course, but throwing a few more tens of millions of people out of work immediately via a draconian fuel tax will not help in the long run.

The bau crowd loves it when environmentalists make remarks along these lines, and has no scruples whatsoever about using them to the best possible partisan effect.Think James Carville on the other team.

(Personally I think of him the way Texans were reputed to think of LBJ-as in , " Of course he's a xxx, but he's OUR xxx".)

Thanks OFM, you are right I have been probably more than a little hot under the collar recently. I do need to take a step back and cool off a bit. Granted I'm watching that massive underwater plume coming closer and closer to the Gulf Loop Current which would bring the oil into the the Florida Keys, and up the East Coast. Those are the same reefs that I dive. So yeah its very close to home.

OFM, I agree with you 110%. We need a series of somewhat severe, but surviveable crises to awaken the slumbering masses. As a farmer, you are well aware of the adage of how you get the attention of a mule. We had one or 2 wacks upside the head (as a society) and a growing number of people are starting to gaze around, all groggy, and trying to figure out what's going on. There will be (must be?) more of such lurches and then we can begin to get serious about some solutions.

I tend to the optomistic side and believe that it is possible to get through this without having to live "beyond Thunderdome". If our leaders would just suck it up and start explaining what's needed we could be on the way to some solutions. The example of what the US did to change/increase production to win the 2nd world war is all the example one needs. Or, getting to the moon once we we got some gumption and decided to race the commies.

Like mom used to say: "Can't was defeated at the battle of Try".

As an engineer I am pretty impressed with what BP is doing to fix the well. Totally the opposite on how they got to that point. Off shore drilling will go on, but at much higher cost due to regulations and insurance. In the best of all worlds they'll be allowed to drill but it will be too expensive to make money at and they'll stop. (Dream on). Offshore wind is looking better by the day.

As an engineer I am pretty impressed with what BP is doing to fix the well. Totally the opposite on how they got to that point.

As an ex commercial diver who used to do inspections on BOP hydraulic systems back in the day when 500 ft of water was considered deep, I'm not!

Why, you may ask?

Because anyone who puts others at physical risk by not following their own safety procedures should not be considered a hero and does not deserve any respect. The shit hit the fan because they were cutting corners to save time. That just isn't acceptable!

If back in the day if I had been doing tender in the dive bell and didn't switch my diver to the correct breathing mixture just to save some time and he had a seizure and then I methodically go through the steps and save him by doing an extended decompression with all kinds of special gas mixes would you also be impressed?!

I think you misunderstand my comment. I meant to say that BP, et al, are guilty, perhaps, of criminal negligence in causing the situation. However, the technology being used in the remediation effort, ROV's that can weld and construct high pressure plumbing one mile deep, I find most interesting from a purely technical point of view.

Engineering, at it's most basic level, is simply problem solving. As an engineer I am learning some interesting facts about oil production while watching the "best and brightest" attempt to solve a rather unique problem. When this is over, my vote would be for the responsible parties to be hanging from telephone poles. But, as several folks noted during the financial meltdown - that would be letting them off too easy.

I was trying to be brief as us enjuneers are nut gud at Englush. My bad.

Minor correction - ROVs can not weld. They theoretically could put a automatic welding machine in place.

Hyperbaric dry welding has only been developed to about 1,000 feet, the practical limit for divers. While welding technology could be developed to deeper depths it would take a lot of R&D and to date the needs has not justified the expense.

Quality wet welding is only viable to around 150 to 200 feet. Poor quality wet welding can be done deeper. The deepest I know of was a job we did in the Gulf of Mexico at 670 feet over 20 years ago to stop up some habitat leaks - not great to look at - and the metallurgy was probably terrible.

I was trying to be brief as us enjuneers are nut gud at Englush. My bad

Gud nuf 4 me! LOL!

At least we're on the same page with respect how we feel about what should happen to those responsible.

So if you are NOT a user of oil then you can talk.

This is complete horse radish - every single person in the Western world is highly dependent on petroleum and petro-chemical products - that is hardly news. It does not prevent knowledgeable, concerned, and critical people from having a very strong stance against the oil industry, in all sorts of ways.

If I had to choose between the hundred-year destruction of every single thing touched by the oil industry on every continent on the planet, versus living a simpler, horse-and-buggy existence that did not rely on vast oil flows, I would take the horse-and-buggy straight away. But people like Alan (and you and I) have never had that choice - born since WW2. So get smart, and toughen up intellectually, before you write such drivel on here - it is a very critical place.

And how long have you worked for BP? A good question. Everyone knows they did not want the blowout to occur, but I think their behaviour since the accident has been disgusting, but not surprising - corporations run the world.

MMS is run by recycled oil execs... what chance is there they will go after their buddies?

See below for another note about asset management.


I personally think that the MMS should start hearings about revoking BP's license to operate Thunderhorse, given their halfhearted response to this spill

Don't know if MMS would do this voluntarily, but this looks like a good protest issue.

A good grassroots platform ..

BP PLC is a limited liability company of British origin. I don't know how their assets are held, but typically, LLCs (the American type) are used in risky operations. The profits go to the shareholders (mostly BP's real corporate person), while if things go really bad only the assets held by the PLC are at risk. I work a lot with a lawyer who does asset protection consulting with many high risk groups. This is how they always structure. it is a good way to maximize profits and minmimize losses.

I have been waiting to hear about any other holdings of BP; to date not a word.

I have not yet heard the exact way that BP PLC connects with any other BP company. My guess is it is as stated above, and while they not doubt have significant assets, most of the real holdings are certainly protected. Just wait and see. If things get bad enough, watch for BP to bankrupt with no where near half a trillion US $ in assets!


In my humble opinion, "full compensation" from BP should include some rather tender bits of anatomy from one or two of the decision makers.

For the purpose of affixing blame for this debacle there seems to be no shortage of "decision makers" responsible. For the most part they seem to be doing pretty much what they do every day -- climbing into their cars and driving to their jobs.

Like junkies who casually blame the dealers for all of the drug related violence there is no select few that may be singled out for scorn in this matter. Consumers make the most important decisions every day--not someone behind the scenes in some corporate office.

no select few that may be singled out for scorn in this matter.

Executives get enormously high salaries because (they say) they take the risks that others don't. "...part of the justification for granting executives large incentives to take risks is that, should the decisions be mistaken, the executives will pay a penalty."

Taking the risk means taking the responsibility when you fail.

If my dog gets loose due to my carelessness and kills my neighbors chickens, I am responsible not my dog. Dogs do what dogs do. Humans who own dogs are responsible for them. Thus Ken Salazar, Obama, Bush, Cheney and the head of Transocean, BP, and Halliburton are ultimately responsible.

Junkies bear some blame, but all to often the dealer is a "pusher" who encourages the addiction. Likewise advertising has encouraged the addiction of driving big autos and all facets of our energy intensive lifestyle. In fact the ad companies do research to determine just what kind of ad will most likely sell the product just as the pusher knows how to get to a young kid. (and tobacco knows what kinds of ads to put up near schools to get kids to smoke cigarettes at any early age).

Before we drop this all on the consumer, lets have Obama, and Putin, and the Pope, and the head of every major country, religion and fossil fuel company come clean with the consumer and let him know what his REAL choices are. If the people are told just how much time Offshore Deep drilling will prolong BAU and how likely it is that further accidents will happen perhaps they will be willing to car pool and take mass transit. Since this has not been tried we can't really know what the consumer would do. Until it is, while I detest the ignorance and selfishness of the American Consumer, I don't see how we can say "oh well, they had to drill because its what the consumer wants."

We do know what the consumers will do. Tomorrow morning they will get back into their cars and drive to work just like they did last week.

Many are very comfortable trying to push the blame on others who make more money than they do but the truth is that their behavior is at the root of the problem and not some sneaky advertizers. Authority may be delegated to politicians and industry executives with high salaries but not responsiblilty.

The consumer is unquestionably the moving force here and nothing will change until his behavior changes. Blaming others only makes BAU seem easier to live with for a while.

That is because consumers have no choice. Any time choice is taken away, it is easy to blame the consumer.

We have had peak oil in the US for 20-30 years now and have done little to find a means of replacing oil.

The big money was all aligned against change.

It still is. Until big money is reined in, blaming the consumer is hogwash.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Big money has made certain that necessity for invention has not had its day.

I get it. Consumers are just powerless cogs in a machine that they have no influence on.

So folks who find it too painful to even contemplate what kind of personal changes they might have to make in their own lives so they could get rid of their cars are going to save the world only by influencing those making decisions at the top?

Of course consumers have choices. I never said they were easy choices. I have made them. I have paid for it but I have done it. It was worth it. All who think change is impossible at a grass roots level are fooling themselves if they think they are somehow going to make a meaningful difference only by making imaginary changes at the top.

How well has that strategy worked out for you so far?

I think changes are needed at every level, and the changes will interact.


Consumers are powerless cogs. You just haven't realized it yet.

Mussolini said that fascism should be called corporatism because it is the merger of corporate and governmental power. The Italians even had another name: estato corporativo.

When the government and its agencies have become captives of the corporations and when the foxes guard the hen-houses, I am sorry, but you really are a cog.

Maybe you think you have made changes, but I doubt that they would amount to much. And I doubt seriously that most people could make these changes if they wanted to and even had the means. They simply wouldn't know how.

The power of consumers is seen on issues of monumental concern. New Coke comes to mind. Democracy lives.

Many are very comfortable trying to push the blame on others who make more money than they do but the truth is that their behavior is at the root of the problem and not some sneaky advertizers.

If consumers will consume more of any particular item all on their own then there would be no need to use costly advertisers to get them to consume. Come on, advertising works to create wants and that is why corporations pay advertisers so much.

Authority may be delegated to politicians and industry executives with high salaries but not responsiblilty.

With authority goes responsibility. The Water Authority in a city is RESPONSIBLE for providing clean water. The head of the Water Authority is responsible to supervise his or her employees so that they fulfill that responsibility. A parent is the authority in a household of young children and is RESPONSIBLE for their health and safety and training. If they don't fulfill that their children can be taken away. A head of a corporation is RESPONSIBLE to the shareholders to earn income for the corporation. He is also responsible for doing so within the laws of the land. He is responsible to insure that his employees work towards those ends in efficient ways.

Do you really want to live in a world with Authorities who can order things to be done but never held accountable for their actions?????

If the corporations and government level with the people and stop lying about how much oil is left, how bad CO2 is for the environment, how likely oil spills are and how devastating it is to the environment, perhaps they will change, perhaps not. But if the corporations are so sure that they know what the people want regardless of the cost, then why do they lie? They lie because they are afraid that the people will start using less oil if they tell the truth. What other reason could there be?

Agree in general, but with one caveat:

Thus Ken Salazar, Obama, Bush, Cheney and the head of Transocean, BP, and Halliburton are ultimately responsible.

The heads of companies are responsible for their companies, but the heads of government are only responsible for the actions of government, not the actions of everyone in their nation. The government is responsible for its own weak oversight here, but the overall blame for the incident lies with BP.

To continue your analogy, the dog owner is responsible for the dead chickens, but the town's mayor is not.

Yes but if the government had correctly evaluated the risks of disaster, they would have regulated much more. I was going to say this event is like Three Mile Island, but at Three Mile Island only the power plant itself was destroyed. After TMI, the NRC realized that they would have made the nuclear plants much more safer had they fully appreciated the risks involved. I expect to see the same type of response from the government this time.

Risk is probability times consequences and its very easy to get both terms drastically wrong.

I'm sure when the dust settles there will be a new safety regulator that is fully funded by the oil companies, much like the electric power producers pay for the nuclear regulatory commission.

You don't understand the concept of captive agencies.

When Congress or a legislature decides it needs to regulate an industry, often the only people who are knowledgeable come from the industry itself. Additionally, the regulated industry wants people that are sympathetic to it so the industry lobbies to get its people on the agency regulated by it. The agencies become loaded with industry people.

Example, most insurance commissions are loaded with former insurance people. Same with banking and I am sure it would be the same with oil and gas.

So you have the fox guarding the hen-house. No wonder tough regulations don't get written.

To continue your analogy, the dog owner is responsible for the dead chickens, but the town's mayor is not.

True but if the town has a leash law and yet the town's mayor refuses to enforce that law for a few of his buddies and their dogs more than once kill people's chickens or attach people, well then the town's mayor bears responsibility.

In the case of BP and our gov't clearly lobbying has gotten them exempted from regulations that should have helped protect the Gulf. The MMS is entrusted with enforcing laws not giving exemptions, especially to a company that has been shown to be at fault in previous accidents (convicted of a felony in the Texas refinery fire). If the MMS had not given exemptions I would agree with you. But they are responsible for the laws of the land and thus they bear some of the blame.

In our gov't there is often not a clear line between industry and gov't. It is known as the Congressional Revolving Door

Forty-three percent of the 198 members who have left Congress since 1998 and were eligible to lobby have become registered lobbyists.

Not to mention possible negligent homicide charges, particularly if what Alan reported a couple days ago is accurate.

Seriously, what is full compensation?

Should a gas station (ha!) hurt by declines in tourism be compensated?

Or a hotel, which may or may not have booked it rooms if this didn't happen?

What should the ocean raping fisherman get? They certainly never paid a dime for their catch.

Bhopal disaster

Union Carbide

Still in business

Of course this was India, but still........

I imagine that part of the strategy would be to stall and delay in the hopes that a friendly administration takes control in the White House that would be willing to settle this thing.

Going to be a lot harder this time. The states whose economies are about to tank don't get a lot of revenue from off-shore drilling. Unlike Alaska, they probably will cease the reflexive defense pretty soon.

I guess the crock about the leak rate being less than 20,000 barrels per day can be put to rest. The best estimate so far based on video evidence and not shill opinion has been 50,000 barrels per day and clearly most of it has not hit the surface. This explains why the skimming rate is only 20,000 bpd. It is still months before relief wells hit the target.

All the surface "fixes" have been failures and so will be the latest one.

If the "needle" / "junk shot" / "relief well" efforts fall short, how much oil could conceivably escape under its own steam (I understand there's around 50 million barrels in this particular tank).

Pressure must begin to wain at some point, right?

Concerned Joe

What are the consequences of the gas that is flowing from this blowout. I've read that the ratio of gas-oil is 3000:1.

I'm still no expert in the field, but from what I understand, the Gas Oil Ratio (GOR) is given in units of cubic feet gas per barrel of oil.

That 3000 number is the only one I've seen. Using that with any one of the flow estimates will give you a total gas flow rate coming (mostly) out of the riser. If you pick the 5000 bbl/day flow rate, that computes to something like 15 million cubic feet/day.

Just plugging some numbers in my calculator and assuming that the gas expands close to the Standard Temperature and Pressure (STP) where a cubic foot of gas will actually occupy a cubic foot of volume, they should have a velocity in their 6" riser pipe approaching 600 miles per hour.

I'm trying to figure out how they might be able to put some back pressure on the flow at the surface WITHOUT having the insertion tube blow out of the end of the pipe at the sea floor, but so far no luck

Draw a pressure gradient chart inside and outside the column. Outside, the pressure is solely determined by water depth - atmospheric at the surface linearly increasing to about 2200 psi at 5000ft.

Inside the pipe, it depends on the water/gas/oil mix. If it were water, it would match the outside, but you want little water inside anyway to prevent clathrate formation. If oil, the internal gradient would be about 4/5th of the outside, yielding about 450lb of difference. If gas, the difference is huge -- almost all of the 2000+psi will be seen at the bottom as the column of gas will weigh very little -- and all of that will act to "suck in" the tube, not blow it out.

In fact, to prevent too much water intrusion they will need to throttle-back the flow (probably at the surface?) to attain approximately zero pressure delta inside to outside at the seafloor connection. At equilibrium the straw should be able to "suck up" the leaking oil as fast as it is being emitted.

As they throttle back, the mix will go from almost all gas back to mostly oil, and hopefully no water. This will reduce the gas volume they have to deal with, greatly reduce velocity, and hopefully eliminate clathrates.

Variability in flow composition throughout would seem to be the potential problem -- shifting mixes of gas and oil could cause pressure shifts that the surface ship would have to respond to. Maybe there will also be a partial restrictor near the floor with closed-loop control from pressure sensors inside and outside the straw at the end?

I'm less skeptical than I was, but this is way more difficult than a soda straw.

As they close the valve at the top they should be able to keep quite a bit of pressure in the tube. I'm guessing that "control choke" will be on pressure control rather than flow control because of the fluctuating flow stream. The valve at the top will need to be very fast acting, I would think, to catch the occasional slug. The Broom platform in the Scottish N. Sea has a slug detecting system that signals a fast acting production choke (control valve) and it works very well (pats self on back).

This is way more difficult than a soda straw.

Thanks, Paleocon!

450 psi backpressure available at the top will give 'em some room for control, but I STILL don't want to be anywhere close to the flare(?) on this sucker!

If I was designing things, I would have still put a check valve - maybe something as simple as a flap of rubber over an orifice - at the bottom end. This would allow a bypass if they have to close a valve at the top end so they don't lose the insertion.

I think that the GOR is quoted for the mixture as measured at standard laboratory conditions of temperature and pressure (STP). If the actual measurement is made under different conditions then the raw data is converted to STP for reporting. If this is true, you should not account for the expansion to STP again. That would be double counting of a single effect. Rockman is away for a while. I hope someone else can clarify what the standard practice in the oil/gas industry actually is.

In the post where Rockman explained GOR, he also said that a hydrocarbon resource that is higher than 10000cuft/barrel is usually called a gas well rather than an oil well. So 3000 is quite high gas content as compared to the general run of oil wells.

So what is happening to all this ejected methane? What will it do to undersea life?

Most of the methane will wind up as solid methane hydrate (density 1.04 g/cc), which will settle like snow on the bottom of the ocean (density 1.03 g/cc)...not a big problem compared to the oil. There is an immense amount of methane hydrate in the ocean floor...more than all the coal in the world in terms of energy content.

You are right geek7, GOR is expressed at STP - so under pressure the gas is compressed and eventually goes into solution in the oil.

And yes, 3,000 scf/bbl is quite high for an oil well, "typically" you would find around a tenth of that. But wells can be anywhere along the continuum from zero GOR to (almost) pure gas.

50,000 barrels per day

If that much oil has been spilling into the depths of the Gulf since this incident occurred, isn't it a foregone conclusion the Gulf will become a dead zone? Isn't oil going to end up on Florida beaches, and maybe all the way up the eastern seaboard?

What will happen if all that oil at lower depths makes it to the surface at the same time a hurricane is sweeping across the gulf? Couldn't oil be splatted across New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast? What if people are once again exiting rooftops to escape rising waters only to be sprayed with a fine mist of oil? Then it gets hot after the storm subsides and the oil hardens to a stiff shell. We could be washing off people like their seabirds.

Maybe that's too doomerish. Ok, how about the oil gets miraculously scooped up and refined, the profits pay for the oil spill, the Gulf is pristine once again in a few short months, and there are no hurricanes entering the gulf this coming season. There, that's much better.

Hurricanes are largely surface phenomenon - submarines can ride these things out quite comfortably by staying underwater.

Normally warm waters and high winds lead to high evaporation rates, and that is what would keep the clouds supplied with moisture. I suspect that nobody really has any idea what happens when you have an oil slick on the ocean when there is a hurricane in the area.

I don't think you would have oil raining down anywhere however - the hurricane really isn't literally sucking water from the ocean.

I have been through many a hurricane. I can taste salt in the rain 20 miles inland. Surely the salt was 'sucked up' or at least evaporated into the cloud system .

Salt doesn't evaporate, it is wind driven mist lifted by the winds high into the clouds.

I remember now. You can distill water out of a salty solution with heat. Thanks.

I am thinking that in these cases the winds just pick up drops of seawater and blow them inland.

Where I am (far further inland), all we see are the heavy rains where all of the water comes from the clouds, and we get no salt at all.

What are the chances dipersent chemicals are caught in water vapor? Toxic or semi-toxic rain?

AFAIK, we don't know what is really in the dispersants (the formula is proprietary), so it is really hard to say.

Although if I were the right kind of academic with the right kind of equipment, I might try and take water samples and come up with answers to these questions.

What would exposure to oil harm if dispersed along the coast in the form of oil mixed with hurricane rain? I imagine oil might harm the plants, but I also remember using mineral oil as a leaf polish when I was young. I know the oil would probably not travel far from the coast, but I am only 2 blocks off the beach in cheap housing.

I might believe 30 or 40 percent of the surface sheen evaporates in arid dry climates, but in the Gulf at 60-100 percent humidity the air is already saturated.

Likely a greater proportion of the VOC's will settle into the ground level atmosphere and carry across land with the wind.

Mineral oil is no longer advised as a leaf polish because, I have read, the leaf can't breathe.

Mineral oil is no longer advised as a leaf polish because, I have read, the leaf can't breathe.

The oil will have complex effects on a possible hurricane I think. The oil should increase water temperature by reducing evaporation under calm conditions...but in stormy conditions, the oil will not be an effective barrier to evaporation. This might intensify hurricanes via the stored heat in the warmer water. Also, the oil slick reduces the oxygenation of the water.

I think you are being a bit doomerish but if you only go by the media headlines its hard not to be.

As usual the media reports part of the story and leaves out the most critical parts, in this case the density of the oil within the plumes. Although the report said the scientists stated they didn't know the density.

We can make a WORST case estimate based on some things we do know. If we assume the well is flowing at 50,000 bpd for 20 days (from rig sinking to scientists sampling) that would be a total of 1,000,000 barrels. I think this is probably double the actual amount.

Obviously a large portion, probably the majority of this oil comes to the surface, but lets assume 50%, or 500,000 barrels is suspended subsea. The articles says there are a number of these plumes and at several layers in the water column. They mention one is 10 miles x 3 miles by 300 feet thick and I assume that is probably the largest one so again we assume that 50% of the subsea oil is in that one plume. So 250,000 barrels of oil in that plume.

A volume 3 miles by 10 miles by 300 feet is about 1.5 trillion barrels. Assume it is actually an ovoid with missing bits so say a 50% reduction in volume so it is actually a volume of of 750 million barrels.

Using these numbers 250,000 barrels of oil in 750 million barrels of water is an average density of 0.03%. I would be very surprised if it was anywhere near that high. There are probably pockets of higher density.

As I understand it - it's definitely outside my area of expertise - the dispersant breaks the oil into tiny "micro-bubbles", similar to a very fine mist of water in air. The tiny size of these bubbles is why they don't rise to the surface and also why they can be quickly absorbed by oil eating microbes.

The depletion of oxygen is both good and bad. The bad is that if it depletes the oxygen too much it will be detrimental to marine life, the good is it means the microbes are eating the oil at a fast rate. When the oil is "eaten" the microbes will starve to death and the oxygen depletion will stop. I hope this doesn't start a "save the microbes" campaign.

Under these circumstances having whats left of these plumes come to the surface during a hurricane is almost a best case scenario. The power of the hurricane would churn up these micro-bubbles and they would disappear into the atmosphere and the water column.

great little quick calculations... and assumptions... but...

i am offically starting the "save the microbes" campaign...

i will be applying for funding from the BP cleanup funding...
i will be seeking government grant funding...
i will incorporate as a tax exempt LLC...
i will sell t-shirts and coffe cups...
i will appear in larry king...
i will gain "expert" status and be called upon as a consultant in future crises...
i will market a line of children's toys...

in other words... i will use this disaster to "CASH IN"... thanks for the idea!

i will use this disaster to "CASH IN"

Bingo. I think you were being sarcastic - but nonetheless, a bazillion people are going to CASH IN on this thing - in actual ca$h, in ideological self-stimulation, in crocodile tears over things they never cared a whit about before in their entire lives, in obscenely gargantuan legal fees, and in countless ways yet to be imagined...

there's three personality types germain to unregulated-free-market-capitalism... (my apologies to the great works of maslow and others)...

2)sociopaths (bordering on psychopathy)
3)sarcasists (i made that up)

#1 is required for #2 & #3 is fun when you either can't or won't take complete advantage of everything and everyone you encounter for the shameless goal of making money...

if i was cashing in... i wouldn't have time to post here... i'd be on the phone... no... better... DRIVING down there... lining up my DEALS... see: balloon boy; s palin; r limbaugh; b madoff; and a host of other noatable and not-so-notable scammers...

Please not Larry King. Do that and I will not buy your cups. Now Colbert....

A volume 3 miles by 10 miles by 300 feet is about 1.5 trillion barrels. Assume it is actually an ovoid with missing bits so say a 50% reduction in volume so it is actually a volume of of 750 million barrels.

Shelburn wouldn't that be 750 billion?

Using Shelburns assumptions isn't it about .00003%, so even smaller (again using 50000 barrels per day and his numbers)??????

YES - My bad - it is 750 BILLION barrels

That‘s what you got with those stupid imperial units.

A volume 3 miles by 10 miles by 300 feet is about 1.5 trillion barrels

I have a nice little program here that I trust in these matters.

ratz@sebigbos:~$ units
2411 units, 71 prefixes, 33 nonlinear units
You have: 3 nauticalmile 10 nauticalmile 300 ft
You want: barrel
* 5.918028e+10
/ 1.6897521e-11
You have: 3 mile 10 mile 300 ft
You want: barrel
* 4.4688196e+10
/ 2.2377274e-11
You have: nauticalmile
You want:
Definition: 1852 m = 1852 m
You have: mile
You want:
Definition: 5280 ft = 1609.344 m
You have: ft
You want:
Definition: foot = 12 inch = 0.3048 m
You have: barrel
You want:
Definition: petroleumbarrel = 42 usgallon = 0.15898729 m^3

So 3 miles by 10 miles by 300 feet is either 4.5e10 (45 billion) or 6e10 (60 billion) barrels, depending on wether you use land miles or nautical miles.


Someone earlier commented that maybe we should burn the oil up down deep...seemed funny at the time, but what with the microbes, all that may be needed is to keep them supplied with oxygen. Could it be cost effective to aerate the oil plumes?

Outside the realm of reality

So far in our thirst for oil humanity has drilled a million oilwells and consumed about 1000 Gigabarrels, which works out as 1.000.000 Barrels of Oil over the lifetime of an average borehole. So fifty thousand or 70.000 barrels a day from a single borehole would be the mythical super mega über field, which lays the whole peak oil story to rest in peace.

I am trying to figure out what is keeping this oil from rising to the surface. You can definitely get weird behavior at a thermocline (sudden temperature change), but I wouldn't have thought that something so buoyant as oil could get blocked from rising.

I'm guessing that the dispersants are acting to create a form of deepwater emulsion.

I wonder how well these things can be mapped with surface sonar.

I'm guessing that the dispersants are acting to create a form of deepwater emulsion

i'm guessing you are right and i'm also guessing they are creating a "reverse" emulsion, oil in water -vs- the "normal" water in oil emulsion.

Except weren't the dispersants only recently OK'ed for deepwater injection? So how could you have deepwater plumes created by something sprayed on the surface?

See my recent post below, under a post by goodmanj for a theory.

Emulsification and separation of fractions (heavier asphalt fractions stay lower longer).


you need a mechanism to separate out the components...I nominate phase separation as the density of an initially miscible supercritical solution is reduced. more details below, at

Water layers in a deepwater column are odd things. You can get different layers moving in different directions at the same time. A major factor is salinity - obviously less saline layers are less dense and slide over layers of higher salinity when the two meet. I am not familiar with GOM but my guess is you will get some currents which circulate the gulf, and others coming in from the Atlantic, perhaps with higher salinity and at lower levels which is different to what you would observe at the surface.

Oil particles will tend to rise upwards, but could easily get carried along by subsurface layers while they are making their way to the surface.

A couple of thoughts from someone with an oceanography background:

1) The fluorometers being used to measure petroleum in the water column are *very* sensitive. Someone here was throwing around numbers like "1% oil/water ratio", but a good dissolved-organic-carbon fluorometer can detect organic carbon levels in the tens of micromolar range -- that's in the vicinity of 1-10 parts per million.

2) Even without the dispersants, you can see from the seafloor video that the turbulent outflow is breaking the oil plume up into a cloud of very very tiny droplets. This drastically reduces the rate at which they rise to the surface. Some simple Stokes Law calculations:

1 mm droplets: 0.3 m/s
0.1 mm droplets: 3 mm/s
10 micron droplets: .03 mm/s

.03 mm/s works out to 2.6 meters per day.

As a general rule, any object suspended in water that's invisible to the naked eye is immune to sinking/floating, and will stay suspended in the water column essentially forever.

3) The ocean is full of its own natural dispersants. Cell membranes and other structures in living organisms are made up of molecules which bind with both water and oil, allowing them to mix. In short, the ocean has a lot of natural "soap" in it already.

I did the same calculations this afternoon with somewhat different results.

Diameter 1 mm: 0.05 m/s.
Diameter 0.1 mm: 0.0005 m/s.

You have to enter radius into the equation.
wolframalpha uses water viscosity at 25°C (8.9e-4 Pa/s). At 0°C viscosity is 1.82e-3 Pa/s, I used 1.6e-3 Pa/s since deep water is pretty close to freezing.

Just nitpicking here, this doesn‘t change the validity of what you say.

1 mm droplets: 11 hours to reach the surface.
0.1 mm droplets: 40+ days.
0.01 mm droplets: never.


You have assumed that the droplets all have the same density, as if there is only one phase forming the dispesion. I think there may be two or three distinct phases, already separated when the oil leaks out of the riser pipe. Some rises fast (lightest fraction); this is where most of the present surface oil came from. Then there is an intermediate fraction, and a heavy fraction.

I just looked again at the video that goodmanj is referring to in his point 2) above.

I think I agree with him that the black billowing cloud is not pure oil, but a multitude of tiny oil drops suspended in seawater. There are glimpses of less dense, more tenuous grey cloud showing in spots momentarily. I don't think this could happen if it were pure oil with no water. If it were pure oil in water, it would always have a sharply defined boundary in every frame of the video, I think.

If this is correct, it negates all the estimates of oil flow rates that have been done to date, based on watching this video (including goodmanj's estimate from a few days ago) All these extimates assumed that the black stuff in the image is pure oil. But goodmanj now says otherwise, and on looking again, I agree with him.

But I have no idea how to estimate the amount of oil in a cloud of oil drops. Is 1% oil reasonable? 10%? 0.1%? or what? With this new uncertainty, I am no longer sure that 5000 bpd is wrong. I am sure that the method that was used to arrive at the number was based on flawed reasoning. I am sure that if it turns out to be close to the correct answer it is by luck alone. But it may turn out that serious scientific reasoning will suffer a setback to it public eye. Sometimes when one pulls a number out his lower sphincter it is a good number in spite of its provinance.

His other comments call into question the idea that human applied surfactants are having any effect on the physical condition of the oil in the ocean. I think there is merit to his comments. We need more investigation here.

It looks to me like a multiphase flow. The white stuff is primarily gas with a lot of the light hydrocarbons; the black stuff is the heavier fraction. because of this fractionation, the black cloud is denser than ordinary crude oil.

See my detailed post:

I think there is a fractionation happening that is an additional factor besides emulsification.

RE oil plumes.

I know this may be gratuitous speculation, but taking these figures and doing back of napkin calculations...

10 miles X 3 miles X assuming 100 ft thick avg
assuming 1% oil in the volume
I get close to 20 million barrels
divided by 30 days yields something over 60,000 bbl/day

It might give some idea of the magnitude of the spill.

edit: comes to over 600,000 bbl/day slipped a decimal pt. Still obviously in the WAG area. Really need more data to go from WAG to SWAG. I'll bet these folks measuring the plumes have data on the % of oil/water in the plumes.


Assume 0.1% oil by volume instead. The instruments are easily sensitive enough to detect that lower concentration. Your original point still stands, IMHO. The estimate of 5000 bpd is incredible.

Yeah, I'm running a dopamine deficit right now. Should know better than to try to do any ciphering.

I think most of your reasoning was OK. The problem is that when you picked a number out of the air where the is no way to rationally choose a number, you should have picked a number that made your argument work. You could have said: "We have no idea what percent volume of oil in water is, so let's choose 0.1%" The rule is: If you are going to grab a number out of the air, first make sure it is a good number before grabbing it. ;-)

10 miles x 5280 ft/mile x 3 miles x 5280 ft/mile x 100 ft x 7.48 gal/ft^3 x 0.01 / 42 gal/barrel = 149,000,000 barrels
149,000,000 barrels / 25 days = 6,000,000 barrels a day

Obviously, this plume has huge gaps in it - the content of oil must be in the hundredth of a percent range.

Shelburn, for your example I get

10 miles x 5280 ft/mile x 3 miles x 5280 ft/mile x 300 ft x 7.48 gal/ft^3 / 42 gal/barrel = 45,000,000,000 barrels.

You are absolutely right. I will quit trying to do this on a cell phone while traveling. A total of two mistakes and one typo in the calculation. Final results should be more on the order of 0.001% oil to water vs the 0.03% so about 30 times LESS oil density than I originally calculated.

We are starting to hear concerns about reduced oxygen levels caused by the oil plumes deep under the surface. Such as this quote taken from the article linked to above: "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 sea floor.

Is there a solution for this or is the scale of the problem too large? Can air be pumped into the plume from surface ships to increase the oxygen levels? Anyone willing to do the math?

I'm guessing since the plume is a moving target this adds a huge level of complexity. It's not like a bubbler in your fish tank at home:(

Oxygen depletion is generally caused by some process consumping oxygen. In this case we don't yet know what that process might be. A plausible guess is that microbiotic life is blooming because oil is a food source for it. Such blooms happen frequently at the mouth of the Mississippi river, caused by phosphate and nitrate runoff from agriculture in the middle west. Around the Mississippi delta there is a die-off of 'good' life, ie fish and shrimp that people eat. But here, in the deep ocean, it is just a gross violation of the environment that we all ought to find repulsive whether or not there is economic loss. (Sort of like if the astronauts had left candy wrappers and bottle caps on the Moon.)

A technical fix like pumping air into the region would surely have unintended consequences that would be a different form of unpleasantness.

if we can prevent large swaths of ocean from going anaerobic, I'm for it. My guess is that it is probably more energy efficient to pump pure oxygen down there (because the work to compres 5 units of air to 2200 psi is probably larger than the work of purifying the oxygen, them pumping one fifth as much gas down there. It will never make it to the surface if pure oxygen is used. Air could wind up giving sea life nitrogen narcosis.

This sounds almost exactly what I was proposing yesterday. The nitrogen injection should only be needed to start the process as gas coming out of solution should be far more than is needed to drive the flow.
I don’t see a control valve in the system at the bottom. I wonder if they will have enough control by having a valve only at the top. If the pumping action pulls in all of the oil then you can’t tell if it is also sucking in water, and a mile long pipeline clogged with hydrates would be a mess.

From what I picked up in yesterday's thread, there are some flow control components in the LMRP

I think you'd still want the valve at the top, so you can maintain some gas pressure. Roughly, doubling the pressure will halve the gas volume, so the first few hundred pounds of pressure would seem to go a long way.

Track Surface Oil Spill over time

And with our daily weather forecast we now also get our daily oil spill forecast

With good explanations of the effects of wind, tide, eddy currents, Loop Current, increased water flow in the Mississippi (Nashville rains now going into Gulf), evaporation and more.

Just like "I think this cold front will stall north of us and these easterly winds will ..."


This is a pretty diagram from BP's communications mavens. Strange how the diagram doesn't even show the leak at the top of the BOP. Stranger still, they have not released ANY photos of that leak.

(Apologies in advance because I'm sure this has been asked a thousand times, but I haven't seen it addressed. I'm reading as much as I can, but can't read everything.)

Why can't the BOP be replaced?

Below the BOP, there's no way to shut off the well, so if they take off the bad one, they'll have completely uncontrolled flow out of the well. Aside from what that'll do to the fish and the birds, it'd make it DAMN TOUGH to try and get a replacement BOP in place.

In addition, there's apparently at least a little section of drill pipe sticking down out of the bottom of the BOP. God only knows (although the drilling people probably have some pretty good estimates) how long that pipe is.

The uncontrolled flow for a finite period until the new BOP is in place seems an acceptable trade off considering it's very possible it will keep leaking at least at the current rate (but more likely increasing with time) for however long it takes to finish the kill well. I do see your point about the old drill pipe (possibly) making it impossible.

If there's a lot of gas in the well, and if the BOP is the controlling delta P in the system, the BOP upstream pressure could be at 10,000-15,000 psi. Would be an interesting experiment to cut that off, but I wouldn't want to be within 10 miles when they do it.

If I recall correctly, from early on BP said they have a second BOP stack on location(on a ship). This was specifically discussed in their briefings as a possibility to put on top of the current BOP. They had stated that the riser had been designed to separate but had not. Had it done so one option was to piggy back a second BOP. I think on here or another site engineers had discussed the problems with the riser and the complications of removing it. Also, if I remember correctly there are/were concerns regarding the condition of the BOP itself. They have done the scanning of the internals and I believe they said they were able to determine BOP's had been engaged but the top shear ram had not completely closed. I do not remember if they said they had diagnosed why from the internal scanning (done with Sandia lab equipment). I believe they said structurally the internals looked to be in good shape. Others have talked about he condition of the kill lines (I believe they are each 3") that will be used if they do a junk shot. Someone else wrote they had heard something about ROV's working on them to improve chance of successful of junk flow. Unless they completely rule out the ability to safely figure out a way to put on the second stack, I wonder if it is still an option if the containment and junkshot/top kill and other options do not work. They claim as different options are vetted and higraded they put them in a priority list. As you imagine some of the actual engineering/ construction and setup is pretty complicated and time consuming.I hope others of you who have better memories or knowledge can fill in what I screwed up here.

What makes this impossible as compared to Kuwait/1991 - is it the water depth and access only via ROVs? What to do with the old drill pipe (noted above)? This particular hole's mix of oil/NG?

Does it make sense to say that if wells at this depth can't be controlled when something goes wrong, there shouldn't be any wells at this depth? At least until the technology catches up?

Here's the latest from Google news on the oil spill:

I'm figuring this article must already be on TOD, but anyway here it is:

Gulf oil spill: real disaster might be lurking beneath the surface.
New research suggests that huge plumes of oil might be spread at all levels of the water column, showing how much scientists don't yet know about the complex Gulf oil spill.

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.

Do you think BP REALLY wants to know ?

Or even the US Gov't ?

We have a dozen oceanographic ships in the USA (more abroad). One volunteered and found something. They have asked for more funding and ...

The silence is deafening.


No but I and a lot of other folks would like to better understand the results of deep water oil leaks. A small groop of retired wirline guys could get this set up in a few weeks.

I'm sure they want to know.
I'm also sure they don't want us to know.

BP officials say they were on the verge of a breakthrough stemming the gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, but another accident has set them back. Meanwhile, scientists have found huge plumes of oil lurking under the surface of the water.

Officials say they successfully inserted a new pipe into the broken pipe spewing water into the Gulf. That new pipe started sending oil to a ship on the surface, but, just moments later, two remotely-operated robots crashed into each other and knocked the pipes partially apart. The robots were taking photos of the operation.

Sounds like some of those guys need to get some sleep.



xxx ooo

Regarding the dispersants being used -

Last week, the government's Deepwater Horizon Response website confirmed the use of two dispersants: Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527A, which were developed and originally marketed by Exxon and are now owned by a company called Nalco.

Corexit 9527A is the older product, and considered more toxic. According to its Material Safety Data Sheet, it contains a chemical called 2-butoxyethanol -- at a level of between 30 percent and 60 percent by weight (the public information on these products is maddeningly inexact). Since writing the post last week, I've come upon the entry for 2-butoxyethanol on the website of Haz-Map, a service of the National Library of Medicine that provides "information about the health effects of exposure to chemicals."

This is not charming stuff, according to Haz-Map:

Severe hemoglobinuria and changes in the lungs, kidneys, and liver are seen in mice after 7-hour lethal concentration studies. Volunteers showed no evidence of adverse effects other than mucous membrane irritation after 8 hour exposures to 200 ppm. ... For ethylene glycol ethers, there is limited positive evidence of spontaneous abortions and decreased sperm counts in humans and strong positive evidence of birth defects and testicular damage in animals.

Moreover, such effects seem to happen at low concentrations -- as low as 20 parts per million. So I asked Jackson and her crew to "drill down" (pun not intended, I promise) on just what sort of effect dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of a substance that contains lots of 2-butoxyethanol would have on the Gulf.

Jackson gave the floor to Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Research and Development and the Science Advisor to the Agency. His answer surprised me. Rather than discuss the toxicity of 2-butoxyethanol, Anastas sought to assure us it was no longer in use -- because the Gulf cleanup crew had already dumped all of the Corexit 9527A it had in hand into the Gulf, and were now using only Corexit 9500

Full article at link below

2-butoxyethanol is also the active ingredient in the common household cleaners Windex, Simple Green, and no doubt any consumer driveway cleaner. From the materials data safety sheet:

When released into water, this material is not expected to evaporate significantly. When released into water, this material may biodegrade to a moderate extent. This material has an estimated bioconcentration factor (BCF) of less than 100. This material is not expected to significantly bioaccumulate. When released into the air, this material is expected to be readily degraded by reaction with photochemically produced hydroxyl radicals. When released into the air, this material is expected to have a half-life of less than 1 day. The LC50/96-hour values for fish are over 100 mg/l. This material is not expected to be toxic to aquatic life.

Internet news says Corexit is a toxic dispersant made by a BP subsidiary and sold to itself. They said there were at least 18 dispersants that were more effective and in some cases 10-20 times less toxic available.

I'd be more worried about toxicity to fish and invertebrates than to mammals. It's been known for a long time that dispersed oil is considerably more toxic to marine life than oil on its own. Chemical dispersants dramatically increase the available petroleum hydrocarbon fraction in seawater.

In just one example from the literature, oil dispersed with Corexit 9500 was moderately toxic to shrimp:

The nominal mean (n=4) 96-h LC50 standard error (SE) values for WAF (water-available fraction) of crude oil, Corexit 9527, Corexit 9500, dispersed oil (9527) and dispersed oil (9500) were 258,000 ppm (13,000), 49.4 ppm (6.4), 83.1 ppm (5.8), 8.1 ppm (0.3), and 3.6 ppm (0.3) in the shrimp bioassays, respectively.

This example assessed constant exposure with shrimp in a laboratory setting. In the GOM, arganisms will be exposed to dispersed oil concentrations that spike up and down. Some people think this decreases the apparent toxicity.

The marine aquatic toxicity of the Corexit family of dispersants is widely known in the spill response community. The decision to apply dispersants should have taken into account the relative risk of harm with and without their use. Nevertheless, I'd be concerned about the decision to inject them underwater if I were a GOM fisherman.

If this insertion tube fails they should redesign the encasement dome. Figure out how to wire it with deepwater fireproof heating coils and design a hydrate raker that will break up hydrate ice and either eject it from the dome or crush it and melt it. However I'm not sure if contact with heat will cause an non-combustive explosion in the hydrate. Or if it will cause rapid buoyancy.

Seems like they should be desperately trying these things and not dogging them along in multi-day intervals. When the insertion tube is being attempted they should have that dome at the surface being improved. I'm pretty sure we're being played here and jerked around with false Rube Goldberg attempts in order to buy time for the relief well. I have no doubt the insertion tube is mainly designed to get some gas and oil up to the surface where they can put on a big flare show for the public they hold in contempt.

I would have nationalized this last week myself.

We don't want to own this.
It is BP's responsibility to solve this.
That's the way it should be.
The people working on this aren't jerks or fools.
They are trying to stem the flow of oil.
This is rocket science.

With 160 companies, national labs and universities working on it, they no doubt have thought through a lot of options that have been or are being engineered. Although, it may seem Rube to you if there was an easy option they would have done it now. Every blowout, even onshore or shallow offshore, have unique aspects. During the Kuwait fires many new techniques were tried, many that seemed rinkydink, to come it with newer effective ways to stop blowouts. Ultimately, the flows were stopped way earlier than many had predicted.
The standard procedure is a relief well. If I remember correctly the regional plan that was updated last year envisions a worst case which would assume the time to drill a well.
Despite all the ideas that are being looked at, the ones that seem the most workable and are being tried now, were actually thought if of within the first days after getting a visual assessment of the situation. Nobody at BP ever said the first containment dome, that was already available but had to be moidified,was going to work. They hedged.
The unified response which was part of the response plan really is coordinated with the coast guard and BP and has about every other government and state agency involved. Looks to me like the organization and implementation is going well, so far. Of course, we will have to see what transpires if significant oil starts to reach shore!
So do you not want them to get the gas/oil up to the surface and away from the water?

Honestly I think the public is slightly smarter than that and tired of the condescension. Remember we are taking the word of the people who most likely told us a 50,000 barrel per day rate was only 5000. I think you can gauge the sincerity/accuracy of information and effort from there. I personally think there's an unspoken scale here of working towards the relief well as the main means of stopping this. And it looks like there's an "official story" being developed as well. Don't forget these are the same people who fought better Blowout Preventer technology. And they are the same ones who rigged the BOP to not be fully effective (that seems like a damning crime, considering, that isn't being fully acknowledged right now because of the disaster). Honestly, should WE be the ones answering the questions here?

"Most likely flow rate is 50000" Who says most likely other than one prof who has been challenged by other profs and experts?

"Honestly, should WE be the ones answering the questions here?Jetblast"

Maybe not you, until we know you.

Member for
6 days 57 min

Don't hear from BP or Cameron trying to replace modules and re- animate the BOP. With the drill pipe capped couldn't an annular device be activated?

If the existing annular cannot be activated then it could be replaced - in theory.

Good news, the tube got some oil and natural gas and is now hooked up again.

Overnight the Riser Insertion Tube Tool was successfully tested and inserted into the leaking riser, capturing some amounts of oil and gas. The oil was stored on board the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship 5,000 feet above on the water's surface, and natural gas was burned through a flare system on board the ship.

The test was halted temporarily when the tube was dislodged. While this is disappointing, it is not unexpected given the challenging operating environment.

Technicians have fully inspected the system and have re-inserted the tool.

The tool is fashioned from a 4-inch pipe and is inserted into the leaking riser, from which the majority of the flow is coming. While not collecting all of the leaking oil, this tool is an important step in reducing the amount of oil being released into Gulf waters.

The procedure - never attempted before at such depths - involves inserting a 5-foot length of the specifically-designed tool into the end of the existing, damaged riser from where the oil and gas is leaking. In a procedure approved by federal agencies and the Federal On Scene Coordinator, methanol will also be flowed into the riser to help prevent the formation of gas crystals, known as hydrates. Gas and oil will then flow to the surface to the Discoverer Enterprise drillship.

The Enterprise has the capability to separate the oil, gas and water mixture safely and eventually store or offload the recovered oil onto another vessel.

We will continue to provide updates as they become available.

Interesting video from web site

That is very eye opening video to the whole operation going on!

You can clearly see detailed diagrams on the walls of for example the so-called junk-shot option, which is much more clever and technical solution to achieving 'top kill' then what the media has been touting (about 'throwing golf balls and rubber tires').

Interesting details are in the box 'Major Risks':
1. Stack Valves Function
2. Connecting Coflexip lines
3. Vessel SIMOPs
4. Premature plugging
5. Casing Rupture

Perhaps someone can explain some of these with the help of the diagram:

There was also an interesting looking schematic on a laptop at the ROV control room. BOP perhaps?


photo from the

"they're really doing things we can be proud of"... Makes you think "Successful Conclusion is"?

Nice. I saw those when the video was first posted. Some of that was obviously put up to share with the big guys who visit from Washington. I was wondering when somebody would post some shots. Thanks.

I'll take a naive stab.

Stack valves - hydraulic circuit valves in the BOP stack - they need to function correctly to direct the 'junk' within the BOP.

Connecting coflexip lines - they need to hook up the lines to connect the BOP to the junk reservoir. The fittings on the BOP were damaged and had to be replaced - maybe this step is difficult to accomplish with the ROVs.

3. ??

Premature plugging - maybe they are afraid that the junk will plug the feed lines before reaching the leak path.

Casing rupture - they are afraid the material will flow through the BOP stack, exit and then plug the riser at the kink leading to riser failure at that point and then increased flow from the well.

The schematic is probably the (hydraulic) control circuit diagram for the BOP.

5. Casing Rupture the one I think they're most worried about, for good reason. 'Casing' is the pipe into the ground below the BOP, the part above the BOP is the 'Riser'. I haven't seen pics/video of the BOP or the crimped riser or the casing where it comes out of the seafloor, others here have noted the same and are also suspicious of why that is. When/if they try the junk-shot they want to inject different types of crap in stages so the flow slows down and gradually stops, rather than jamming it full all at once and causing a huge pressure spike below. Especially if the casing was damaged in the blowout.

Indeed, my mistake for not reading correctly/thinking clearly. I recall reading that the casing below the BOP appeared in good shape... but they can't see very much of it and of course can't check its integrity down the well. There is a picture available of the kinked riser - bent right over along with the associated plumbing and the fitting on top of the BOP is pulled over at an angle too. I read that this is a 'flex joint' so I suppose it is designed to take some stress but unlikely expected to deal with a collapsed riser. It is curious that they have not released more pictures and video of this area and the leak there.

The picture is posted here:

scroll about half way down through comments.

I would be worried that the "junk" wouldn't withstand the pressures and forces to seal the open area. Rubber doesn't have that high of an ultimate strength. I think it would only work if the open area was pretty small.

3 ?? SIMOP

Simultaneous Operation
Would this be operating a valve which was not intended to be cycled while attempting to operate someting else?

An alternative meaning: Methods/plans for synchronizing independently controlled operations so that they actually occur at the same time (simultaneously).

This is, in a way, the opposite of the first suggested meaning. Perhaps some people in the room think it is the first and some think it is the second. I hope they do have their jargon well defined. Too often jargon gets used by a group leader to cover for the fact that he doesn't know what is happening in the discussion.

SIMOPs in this context means simultaneous vessel/ROV operations. Basically the vessels at the surface have to be carefully coordinated becuase they are connected by umbilical tethers to the ROVs a mile below.

Normally in deepwater ops you have one or maybe two ROVs running at a time - here there are more. If you get a couple of ROV umbilicals tangled, it is a nightmare to try and untangle, since you can't see much above the worksite itself. Currents in the water column will be bowing the umbilicals out, which means you have to leave good safe clearances around everything.

Ah, much appreciated, Snowball.

Based on your obvious first hand knowledge, I wonder if you would be willing to give us your opinion as to what you see as the most likely pathway for the primary leak(s). Annulars or outer shear rams? Up the drill pipe past the shear restriction and the kink(s) to a break in the pipe? Probably both?

thanks in advance

Thanks xburb. I wish I could! Unfortunately my experience in subsea operations was in the construction side, I never got involved in the drilling process or equipment like BOPs. I'm sure some others on this forum would have better insight to answer your question.

thanks , Snowball. As always the knowledge and expertise of you and all the oil insiders here at the good ol' TOD always appreciated.

From the AP wire:

"SUNDAY May 16, 2010 14:34 ET
BP: Mile-long tube sucking oil away from Gulf well

BP says a mile-long tube is drawing most of the oil away from a well that's spewed millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP spokesman Mark Proegler said Sunday that the contraption was hooked up successfully to a tanker at the surface as crews gained partial control on the leak for the first time. Proelger said it was sucking most of the oil from the leak

The tube was carefully placed into the 21-inch piping at the seafloor by engineers gingerly steering deep-sea robots."

Huh? How can a 4" tube draw "most" of the oil away when inserted into a 21" pipe?

The 21" pipe is not full of the exiting cloud of oil and gas - maybe the upper 50%. They expect to concentrate to oil with the flappers somewhat and I believe the pipe will create some regulated suction as flow is established to the surface. I expect more details to be released - the more successful this operation is, the more detail.

On basis of area alone, 4" inside a 21" is about 3.6% of overall flow. Given the edge of the tube will increase pressure ever so slightly, lets put it at 4%.

So, if it is to take "most" of the oil flow, we're talking no more than 7.999% oil, or a 12.5:1 gas:oil ratio.

It still doesn't seem right. Or am I missing something? Considering the pressure down there already, you'd need to invest a LOT of energy in suction to make it have any noticeable effect...?

As I said, if it is really as successful as suggested I expect some more detail. I understand and share your skepticism.

It still doesn't make mathematical sense. Assuming ALL oil output flow would be concentrated where gravity dictates, for a 4" tube in a 21" pipe to be completely covered, the gas:oil ratio must about 7:1, or 13.4% oil as far as I can tell. And that is furthermore ignoring the tube casing.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good development - it's just that I don't have a lot of faith in BP press releases.

The velocity goes up as the area goes down.

It is true this will induce some back-pressure, so other leaks might get worse.

But the BP claim is not MATHEMATICALLY bogus.

Since I'm not allowed to edit the previous:

I made a paint image to illustrate my point, since I don't have any other gfx packages on my PC.

Maximum efficiency can only be 27% under optimal conditions; the suction and diversion techniques must be pretty damn efficient.

based on comments I've heard by BP, the flow coming into the 21 inch riser is via a 9 inch dia. drill pipe. This pipe has been at least partially sheared/crushed by the BOP.

So the size of the 21 inch riser pipe is somewhat irrelevant as compared to the 4 inch pipe. Its also my understanding that the oil/gas mixture will rise by itself (or with some low energy assistance) to the surface.

What is necessary to capture most of the flow from the 21 inch pipe into the 4 inch pipe is someway to reduced the area of the 21 inch pipe down to the 4 inch pipe around the 4 inch pipes opening. Some sort of a flared entrance or some way to acclude the remaining area of the 21 inch pipe.

Either that or have some very negative pressure at the opening of the 4 inch pipe so that it effectively sucks all the flow into it (I believe this would be tough to do.

That or BP is simply trying to push some "good news" out there.

One way or another, better estimates will be forthcoming.

Read the posts above. The 4" is stabbed into the 9" drill pipe which is inside the 21" riser. We've never seen a picture of that configuration which I think is why everyone is confused, all we see is the riser leaking. Gas:Oil ratio is about 300:1 as I recall. The gas drive and well as the pressure of putting 9" into 4" will push the oil up. The oil is captured, the gas flared off (that's one BIG flare). The pressure inside the 4" tubing is whatever the well head pressure is at that point, it is NOT the water pressure at 5000' as the system is isolated from the external presssure via the closed pipe. This isn't going to get all the oil but it's going to get a good bit as long as it doesn't pull loose again. Next step is the junk shot and top kill, both much more risky.

"Read the posts above. The 4" is stabbed into the 9" drill pipe which is inside the 21" riser."

There are many posts above. I'm not finding any that discuss 4" into 9" on my own. Could you help with a reply to this that contains a few hot links to the ones you mean for us to read, please?


That wouldn't be 9 5/8" (9 7/8") casing by any chance? The drill pipe is 6 5/8!

Ummm, look at this graphic:

From the headline on:

The Riser Insertion Tube Tool involves inserting a four-inch diameter tube into the Horizon’s riser (21-inch diameter pipe) between the well and the broken end of the riser on the seafloor in 5,000 feet of water

The 4" insertion tool is inserted ALONGSIDE the drill pipe,
thus the rubber flaps being segmented, so as to bend up where the drill pipe is.

obviously the pressure in the suction tube would be much lower as it leads to the surface.

Since they don't even know the flowrate officially how do they know they're getting most of it?

The obvious answer would be visual inspection with ROVs. I still find claims that they don't have a pretty good idea of the flow rate more than a little incredible as I think this information has many valuable uses for BP and the mitigation efforts. I think they need to know the rate and how it varies over time and what the gas content is. They need to know if the flow is increasing and if so what the rate of increase is. They can't be using back of the envelope guesses for this - I would think safety concerns and effective response planning require pretty good numbers.

Hey IP, do you think they would try this if it was 50,000/day? I do not know the answer. I wonder if they won't give out a better flow estimate in the next couple of days???? If I were them and could show something close to their estimate I sure would. My guess is they are waiting for more data otherwise nobody will believe them. I wish the briefing today would have been live feed.

I don't think the total leak volume is the critical factor here - just what volume they think they can handle at the top end - so the 4" pickup/'straw'.

Since they don't even know the flowrate officially how do they know they're getting most of it?

That's simple. If this catches 1000 bpd, then the 5000 bpd figure is too high. If it catches 4000 bpd, then they are getting 80% of the spill. And if it catches 8000 bpd, then the leak has suddenly gotten bigger, but BP is on top of the situation, as a good corporate citizen like BP would be.

The PR machine has lots of options.

Except NOW they are saying this:

"A mile-long tube has been threaded into the leaking oil pipe in the Gulf of Mexico and is successfully siphoning oil and natural gas to a containment ship on the water's surface, a BP official said.

Only some of the oil leaking from the riser pipe is being captured, and BP doesn't yet have "any idea" how much, according to Kent Wells, the company's senior executive vice president.

"It's a positive move, but let's keep it in context. We're not shutting off the flow of oil from this well, and we will do that when we do the top kill procedure," Wells said."

So this is working but BP doesn't yet have "any idea" of how much.

Hmmm, couldn't they just put a bucket under the tube as a starter to measure how much?

Really, how much are they getting? A pint? A quart? Come on BP, don't be shy.

Catches is the operative word. Just how much of the total is caught?

I think they should be prepared for the loss of insertion for this tube if (WHEN!!?) they have to close a valve at the top end. My suggestion:

Build a gas/oil separator to run at depth. This needn't be any more complicated than a simple chamber. If they can still pick it up while dealing with the riser from the insertion tube, I think the original "Macondome" would be a great starter.

Install an inverted P-trap to release gas a few (10?) feet below the top of the dome. This vent will need a valve on it to keep the "installation oil" (described below) contained while the separation chamber is lowered into position.

It MAY be appropriate to tee a gas riser stub into this line to collect the gas later. This stub will also need a shutoff valve.

Install an oil pickup line to lift liquids from about a foot lower than the outlet of the gas vent. The top end of this oil pickup line will require a riser stub and a shutoff valve.

Build a new insertion stinger to lead from the end of the existing riser to some relatively close location where the separation chamber can be reliably emplaced. Include, on the end of this new insertion tube, a riser long enough to reach up into the gas pocket at the top of the separation dome. Use a floation device (I'm not sure what to suggest for floation at this depth) to keep this riser upright. If appropriate, this flotation device can also be used to reduce the effective weight of the stinger to make installation easier. If needed (I don't know the realistic lifting capacity of the ROVs) additional flotation can be affixed to this pipe.

On the separation chamber, to avoid problems with the hydrates, close all the valves at the top of the dome. Lower the dome into the water, then fill it with light oil (the "installation oil) down to the "mud flaps". Lower the dome to (or near) the sea floor at a location where it won't collect too many hydrates on the way down.

If/when this chamber is required (composition and/or flow rate exceed the capacity of the 6" riser to the surface) install the new stinger, then lift the separation chamber into place over the riser end of it.

Allow the gas to collect at the top of the dome for a little while, then open the valve at the end of the gas vent line. Install the oil riser to the surface as quickly as possible. Include, if possible, some sort of disk or ball at the end of the riser to separate the water column in the riser from the oil in the separator. When the oil riser to the surface is installed, use nitrogen injection or something similar to establish a little suction on the end of it before opening the valve on the riser stub. Control flow up the oil riser to ensure there is always at least a little oil on top of the water in the separation dome.

When (if?) the gas collection riser to the surface is installed, use a similar procedure to evacuate this riser. Control flow on this riser so that at least a small trickle of gas is escaping the bottom of the gas vent line to dislodge any hydrates collecting there.

I'm certain there are some design details that I've missed, but I'm confident that this design will be checked by a PAID engineer before it's put into service.

If you burn the stuff or use plastics (etc) from the stuff , you are the problem.
if you are not willing to accept the risk ( huge) then stop using it.

but no, you whine, cry and place blame.

off shore drilling has huge risks.
and there will always be leaks , by man and by nature.

you can stop using it.
you can offer help, or find solutions?
you can stop crying.

To solve a problem , you must FIRST stop being THE cause of it.

I say stop all drilling and then watch the , so called , I DON'T need oil guys.
I'd love to watch you wiggle and squirm. but... but.. how come I can't get X, or Y ,or Z. huh? what did it do......?????
But that won't happen because you are a minority. ( China and India will see to that).

You would be the first to cry about stopping all drilling because you would probably lose your job and you would have to find another line of work for which you are not trained.

We might cry later, but the oil guys would be crying first.

Why would the oil guys cry? Aren't they all rich "fat-cats"?

As an aside I know an indepedent oil guy (family company who had drilled gas wells up north) For years he would send thank you notes to the anti-nuke guys who he said helped guarantee income for he and his family.

"Why would the oil guys cry? Aren't they all rich "fat-cats"? " - no.

I can't imagine anyone being so presumptive about someone else keeping oil or gas producers in business. Certainly, I am not. We are on the edge of neding energy reom wherever we can get it, and the producers I know are all aware of that.

To solve a problem , you must FIRST stop being THE cause of it.

Actually, first you have to recognize there is a problem..

Maybe. I always thought you had to get up in the morning first.

Since we are going to have to stop using it at some point anyway, I vote for no more drilling in deep waters where plugging a leak is so exceptionally hard. How much deep sea oil is estimated to be recoverable. How many extra years of oil would that give the world or the US? Is the trade off of a few more years of BAU worth destroying an area that gave us an important source of food - "In 2008, commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico harvested 1.27 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish"

So how many years of BAU is worth destroying that for perhaps several decades or more.

Good Lord, can't you enviro-wackos READ. The spill is nowhere near ruining ALL the fishing in the GOM, it hasn't affected ANY fishing in Texas, MS, FL, or Mexico, The GOM is BIG and VERY deep. Read Shelburne's post about what the percentage of oil in the water would be assuming WORST case leak. I'm not saying it's NOT a problem, I'm saying over-reacting doesn't do anyone any good and it ruins your credibility when the time comes to discuss something that really needs critical attention.

I will expect since you are so anti-oil you'll not be driving your car, using plastics, wear only natural fiber, don't use electricity, don't use candles (unless beeswax) and stop using your PC as a LOT of the circuit boards and chips inside use chemicals that come from oil.

Can't the turd factory apologists buy a clue? The oil isn't going to be mixed through the whole volume of the Gulf of Mexico. Some fraction will recirculate at depth but eventually most of it will be accumulated on the shores and the shallow sea bottom. Right in the key ecological production zones. And in spite of the prattle about magical bacteria decomposing all of it, this is simply not going to happen. Only a fraction of the hydrocarbons are biodegradable. Regardless, there will be plenty of toxins and carcinogens deposited in the marine life of the Gulf.

Put your money where your mouth is and eat the shrimp and fish from the Gulf for the next few years. According to you the oil is all going to be diluted and of no consequence.

The bulk of the seafood caught in the GoM is in Louisiana. Our swamps and delta are THAT productive ! The Mississippi River pours nutrients in, unlike the sterile sand beaches of Florida.


I find it unbelievable that a +- 10% measurement of the recovered oil cannot be performed at this time. Kent Wells (I swear) states, "We will do everything we can to capture as much as possible," he said. He had no estimate on how much of the leaking oil is being captured by the tool.

Come on. I find that one likely to be a lie. I guess they do not want to get busted low-balling the leaked oil estimates.


TFHG:Perhaps it is just that they see nothing but downside as it is early, they may not have steady flow, it may not last, and they want to keep focus on the continuing effort at doing other methods to stop the flow. Let's say though that video shows a significant reduction, no matter what the total was to begin with flowing out the riser, an that it can be sustained. That would mean less dispersant, less coming to the surface, and perhaps a chance to deal more effectively with what is floating now. I think that would still be a positive at the beginning of a long process to mitigate damage.

Thing is, if it is only 50 barrels a day, tell us. It would make everyone feel like we are in the loop. As it stands now, it just appears like more BP lies. I am one of those directly affected. I feel like they are nothing but greedy aholes. Maybe I am not thinking clearly, but I want and deserve to know the outflow of that pipe.

Slow down a bit;)

Here is a quote from the article you linked to: "The amount of oil and gas being pumped to the surface will be increased slowly. Wells said it has to be increased slowly or there is a danger the tool will take in seawater."

As you can see there is not a "flow rate" that can be given out to the public as it is changing as they go. If they can reach a maximum flow rate and keep the system stable, that's when I would hope to hear how much oil they are capturing.

What if they are getting 5,000 barrels of oil out and it looks like 50% is being recovered from the leak site? Then maybe we can get a more accurate outflow number. It just seems like more of the same lies and delays. I know I am being paranoid, but I live near ground zero. I deserve minimal slack.

If they figure out its 500,000 BOPD and it never shows up at Ft Walton Beach or anywhere else for that matter would that make you happy??

It was supposed to be there 3 weeks ago today.

To answer Congressmen Skids question about BPs ability to contain a 250,000 BOPD spill.

Think about what you want.


No it would not make me happy, but I deserve to know. Why withhold it? Why?

What I am saying is that the higher the flowrate number the more it favors the oil company. If its 100 BOPD and tarballs made it to the beach, then that provides a benchmark for future spill sizes and the GOM's ability to absorb it naturally.

I do not care if it is 1 or a million, the truth, good or bad, left or right. I deserve nothing less. All of us deserve the truth.

And BP cares about future ? They are trying to save their a** now.

I gave up on BP after the incident press conference. I am also about to give up on the feds. It is up to us to raise heck over this. Again, what is the outflow BP?????

Anyone repeating the 5000 barrels per day propaganda is basically spitting in one's face. This oil disaster is not the end of the world but is a f*cking long way from "a couple of dead birds" irrelevance.

If all you are going to do is throw bricks any any piece of information, any action taken - why exactly should they tell you a damn thing?

I have no connection with BP or any other company involved in this sad incident but I used to design deepwater oil production systems for a living. And I have to say that if BP provided me with all the data they have on the blowout and equipment configuration as it is sitting now, with the best will in the world I think would find it very hard to put a number on the outflow.

The reason? If you have a high-pressure reservoir feeding a single constriction at the surface, you can make a good calculation of the flow from knowledge of the fluid and the geometry of the constriction. But in this case there seems to be a number of constrictions, many of which are not visible (e.g. kinks in the 6-inch pipe within the 21-inch marine riser, not to mention what is happening inside the BOP). And by the time the turbulent mixture of oil, gas and entrained seawater is coming out of the broken riser end, you can't glean very much more just by observing it.

I fully understand why it's critical for everyone in and around the GOM to know what the leak rate is. And I'm sure BP is well wise to the PR and political implications of quoting some wide range, which may be valid but everybody is naturally going to seize on the upper end of it. But bear in mind that sometimes when people say "we don't accurately know", its because of the simple fact that it may not be possible to know. Demanding the right to know doesn't change basic physics.

Woods Hole offered to measure the flow rate and BP declined.

Yet for decades, specialists have used a technique that is almost tailor-made for the problem. With undersea gear that resembles the ultrasound machines in medical offices, they measure the flow rate from hot-water vents on the ocean floor. Scientists said that such equipment could be tuned to allow for accurate measurement of oil and gas flowing from the well.

Richard Camilli and Andy Bowen, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, who have routinely made such measurements, spoke extensively to BP last week, Mr. Bowen said. They were poised to fly to the gulf to conduct volume measurements.

But they were contacted late in the week and told not to come


That's interesting. They are right that you would need to "tune" the equipment to oil/gas mix rather than pure water, but there must be a lab somewhere in US which could do that in a day or two. I'm sure the multiphase flow research guys at Tulsa U would relish the challenge.

Can't imagine why it wouldn't be worth a try.

>If you have a high-pressure reservoir feeding a single constriction at the surface, you can make a good calculation of the flow from knowledge of the fluid and the geometry of the constriction.<

According to Halliburton's log, it was 1000 gpm in and out- a few hours before the blow out. PSI was given in log.

Hence production: 35 K barrels per day.

So, this might be the max??

Subtract friction BOP etc, I don't think it's 5 K.

Regardless of the outcome of this disaster, most of the people living in the vicinity will will suffer economic hardship, especially those dependent on fisheries and tourism.
Could we be looking at some sort of migration of people from the affected area in the near future?
Also much of the shipping for the Midwest is transported via the Mississippi thru the port of New Orleans.
We could be looking at a serious economic dislocation in the near future, on top of everything else.
Perhaps this will push us over the edge economically and socially.
What a huge mess!!!

Might be too early to say "most". Always worth while though to look at past disasters, man made and other, as to the affects of hysteria, hyperbole, and the media on tourism. The governor of Florida did more to hurt tourism by crying wolf when the spill was not even threatening yet. Coast Guard said so.(election year) Tourism has been hurt big time by economy and hurricanes in recent past.
As far as fishing, that industry has declined significantly from imports (I saw the number of 60%) and we'll have to wait to see long term results on what remains.I do not thing we know yet.

Unfortunately, a lot of people will be upset if this thing gets stopped and the doomsday results do not occur:lawyers, anti-oil types, and other seeking to benefit from the spill. Just the way it always goes.

It'll also hurt "tourism" if gov't overreacts too strongly in shutting down drilling, or even new drilling. Like commercial fishing, "tourism" can't function well without cheap oil in the short-to-medium term, and not because some people couldn't theoretically take the train (although the affluent German tourists indeed can't.) It's simply that one needs a robust economy in order to sell ever-growing mass quantities of a luxury product.

All this dicking around is a technological PR commercial.
100000 barrels per day is about what would come out of a fire truck, 24/7.
Obama has to shut these Big Oil
assholes down--a deadline stop the leak in 48 hours, period.
Bury the damn wellhead in rubble.
Pour junk on top until it stops leaking.
And it will guaranteed stop leaking.

RIP, FUBAR Deepwater Horizon.

Obama has to shut these Big Oil assholes down--a deadline stop the leak in 48 hours, period.

Yes, of course, the King Canute solution.

Your remember the King Canute story, don't you? As King of England, he sat in his throne on the beach and commanded the tide to not come in.

It came in regardless of what he commanded, of course, and his feet got wet. He was trying to make a point to his men about the limitations of government powers.

A liberal mindset in contact with physical reality.

Interesting indeed.

Maybe even funnier than a conservative wet dream.

Nice story, probably not even true.

Typical conservative fable to make some tenuous point, in the case of Canute how small the ruler of England and Scandanavia was compared to the power of God.
Maybe Obama could fight the oil spill by declaring the USA a Christian nation and banning Darwin per Pat Robertson.

Beyond stupidity.

As the Wikipedia article points out, Canute was the ruler of England, Denmark, Norway, and part of Sweden in the early 11th century.

The story of King Canute and the sea originates with Henry of Huntington, a 12th century British historian, who wrote a history of England from the earliest times until 1154.

According to Henry, Canute said, "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws."

I take it you've never heard this story before. It's a classic. It may be a legend, but it does illustrate the practical limits of government power. Just because a government orders something to be done doesn't necessarily mean it will be done. Sometimes it's just impossible.

It may be a legend, but it does illustrate the practical limits of government power. Just because a government orders something to be done doesn't necessarily mean it will be done. Sometimes it's just impossible.

Provide some context, RMG.

If the story is true(it is likely aprocryphal) all it shows is that the ruler of a newly Christianized kingdom wanted to demonstrate his Christian credentials to his ex-pagan Vikings.

If you believe that this is an Act of God
(as that idiot Pat Buchanan suggested on the McLaughlin Group) or that BP boots-on-the-ground are doing everything that is possible, you haven't been paying attention to BP's entire operation of Deepwater Horizon.
BP has consistantly downplayed the dangers
and overestimated their abilities.

The Act of God Eyjafjallajokuhl volcano ash cloud closed European air space for 6 days from April 14 to April 20.
BP's 'investment' has economically closed the eastern US GOM for nearly a month.
The Great Chicago Flood of 1992 was stopped in 10 hours.
The explosion and fires from Chernobyl of 1986 lasted from April 26 to May 10th with 56 direct deaths.

This is sure to go down as one of history's greatest man-made environmental disasters, ahead of Exxon Valdez.

Oh, come on! There are innumerable examples in history of rulers commanding things to be done, and they weren't done, mostly because they were impossible.

My favorite example is the fact that every U.S. president since Nixon has stated that he wanted to make the U.S. self-sufficient in oil. It just hasn't happened, and at this point in time the U.S. is importing 60% of its oil. But oil self-sufficiency is still one of Obama's objectives.

Most likely, as a result of this incident, oil self-sufficiency for the U.S. will recede even further into that mythical wonderland that politicians live in, where what they say makes a difference.

And no, I don't consider this an Act of God, I consider it to be a Normal Accident. But Normal Accident Theory is a whole new world for most people to explore. I'll let the book authors deal with it, it's what they do for a living.

I rest my case.

"I'll do my best Captain, but you canna break the laws of physics."

Loud proclamations do nothing of value. Sometimes it just takes 9 months to make a baby, no matter how many motivated guys you put on the team.

Actually the first one can come any time, the rest take nine months
Signed" Survivor of shotgun wedding.

What about the leak at the top of the BOP stack? I mean the pressure must be much more immense there and the speed of flow much higher, when compared to this leak?

Models indicate Gulf oil spill may be in major current

NEW ORLEANS — Researchers tracking the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico say computer models show the black ooze may have already entered a major current flowing toward the Florida Keys, and are sending out a research vessel to learn more.

William Hogarth, dean of the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science, told The Associated Press Sunday that one model shows that the oil has already hit the loop current, which is the largest in the Gulf.

This is a very important point. The undersea currents are not stationary features, but undergo significant fluctuations (even if there is some average "climatology"). It looks like there was a regime transition over the last few weeks with a lot of the oil heading for the surface at first and then "slowing" down as it was drawn into the loop current. This is "good" in the sense that not all the oil will accumulate in the northern Gulf but it is also bad as more areas are going to be exposed.

The oil sludge will be coming out of the Gulf of Mexico for decades after the leak is plugged. It is not going to be diluted to infinity.

Saw the complete report by the guys who are mapping the plumes. "There are lots of bugs that will eat this stuff to biodegrade it". One said he did not think the loop current would be a problem that it would be degraded before it got far enough to do damage especially when it get to the east side of Florida. Amazing how this part of the guys interviews are always cut off. Does not fit"the end of the world as we know it scenario. That said, their work is interesting, will give a good base line, and will increase understanding.

The reason that there are tar sands is that bugs don't eat 100% of the oil. So this whole "it will biodegrade" spiel is a pile of BS. Only a fraction will biodegrade.

Over half the original oil in place in the oil sands has been biodegraded by bacteria. However, what is left amounts to 1.7 trillion barrels of oil, which is about equal to the world's reserves of conventional oil. It just takes a long, long time to biodegrade that much oil.

The bugs will eventually eat all the oil - THAT THEY CAN GET TO,
and that doesn't overwhelm them in concentration.

The reason the tar sands are there is that they are sparingly soluable,
and present a massive hydrophobic front to the bacteria, which live in water,
with limited transport of micronutrients, oxygen for aerobic bugs, etc.
so it just takes "geologic time".

Less time for oil seeps/spills in the ocean, though perhaps longer than the oil companies might want us to believe.

Hi, go lightly on me, very long time reader, first time poster (Gosh, I lost weeks of my life not having the "[New] Comment" feature!)

Microorganisms need oxygen to feed of/ biodegrade petrochemicals, right?
Isn't that what they do when they reclaim the ground under old gas stations with their barrels and pumps and pipes before issuing building permits, at least here in Vancouver, BC?

BP released, (In accordance to what I learned here on TOD) dispersants before being certified to do so at the well, then several times (X? - amount) in tests, and now permanently licensed to disperse undisclosed dispersants forevermore, right?

This would then have created 1X unlicensed undersea dispersed oil plume, X amount test undersea dispersed oil plume, and now a (possibly occasionally segregated) continuous dispersed undersea oil plume, right?

These, at the very least estimate four plumes, are neither understood at all, but also doesn't seem any effort to understand them better been actively stifled, right?
At the very least, it seems clear that noone is willing to fund a better understanding, right? (As in, scientist seem to suggest that at least 10 research ships were needed right now, but only one finished a brief our, and right now there is no data whatsoever, right?)

It is understood, that a sudden overabundant feed source in open waters can lead to a "dead-zone" with oxygen depletion, right?

Therefore, microbial bloom in undersea dispersed oil plumes could lead to "dead-zones", right? (The possible extend and duration of which nobody can know for sure, because somehow there seems to be forces at work trying to stifle academia on this, right?)

Now, I seem to remember, that in "dead-zone" lakes in Scandinavia, caused by acid rain, "dead", sulphuric bottom water was pumped up through anchored funnels, eventually cleaning these "dead" lakes. Search for it, I'm sure I'm right on this.

Saying all this, I am a little bit confused about the British Petroleum assertions to pay for ALL of the clean up, right?
Would it not make sense to insert oxygene-rich surface water into these feed-enhanced undersea oil plumes to avert eco-system damage, right?
Perhaps from riser or drill pipe hanging off barges connected to converted surplus mudpumps or such, right?
And, most of all, monitoring what is actually going on, right?

Obviously, I'm no technical expert.

But, BP has the money for the shiniest web graphics in highest resolution, and quite possibly even to plant shills and watercarriers even in fine academic forums like this, right? Perhaps, they could also do the right thing, right?
The right thing could be affordable and be good for PR.
I implore you know who to carry it up the chain - you got nothing to lose for carrying it up - but if you are found out to be the one who did not, well, potentially career shortening, you know that.

Perhaps, the angle of the dead-zones warrants a new post all together.
However, in the last weeks I have seen none, absolutely no post making a convincing argument why the dispersants at the well are beneficial in this instance.

Please, pretty please comment on this.
Thank you,
and my thoughts are with you, people of the Gulf

I didn't mean to offend, but I am truly concerned about the "dead-zone" issue, that I am afraid will only hit mainstream concerns after it is too late.

I'm not offended, just depressed that humans have the technical means to screw up the ecosystem so badly, without being able to remedy things.
Reminds me of AGM deniers - "human's can't possibly affect something so big..."

On my list of "things to prepare for next time":
It would have been better to burn the oil, but when the rig sank, the riser went down, dispersing the oil plume too much to burn.

Next time:
Prepared ahead of time:
* have prepared ahead either a releasable spot in the riser about 150 feet down, OR
have prepared some shaped charges of the right size that an ROV can quickly clamp them around the riser.
(shaped charges are preferable, since they could also cut any drill pipe in there).
* inflatable floats and clamps to go around the riser, that can keep it in tension if the rig goes away.

When a rig is burning out of control, and everyone (alive) is off,
* attach the riser floats about 200 feet beneath the surface and inflate them.
* activate the release, or blow the riser in two.
(shaped charges are preferable, since they could also cut any drill pipe in there).
* string a steel cable between two workboats, draw it tight, have them work sideways over to the rig, then push the rig down-current from the well site so if/when it sinks it won't smash the wellhead. (boy, were we lucky this time!).

Hopefully, the oil/gas plume would be concentrated enough it would behave as a shallow water blowout, coming to the surface in a concentrated plume and would burn easily. Perhaps one can wrap a fire boom around it.

Would help if someone had actually ordered and stocked a fire boom BEFORE needed.

Something else - have you seen the aerial pictures of boats ineffectually skimming a tiny stream, while right next to them there's a big oil patch?
You can't see from the surface.
Get the Army/Marines/Navy out there with aerial ROVs to spot the oil and direct the boats to do the most good.

OK - just sent this later suggestion about the UAVs to them...

welcome Werner

(I'm soooo with you on the [new] feature)

Did you catch my post about burning the stuff at the sea floor?

(for newbie posters, to get the link to an exact comment, "copy link location" on the single plain box on the author/date line of a comment).

Anyway, burning is burning, either by flame or micro-organism, so the same stoichiometry applies.

As for your suggestion of pumping presumably oxygenated surface water down,
remember it is much warmer and wants to float back up.

Also dissolved oxygen content is amazingly low - 5 parts per million by weight (mg/L) is what I found as the "average" in the Gulf (hypoxia in the gulf is < 2 ppm).

There is some profile info, around page 10, expressed in mL/L (volume I presume at STP) in:
that is in the range of 2 to about 5 mL/L, so 2000 to 5000 ppm by volume.

(I went looking, because cold liquids tend to hold more dissolved gas than hot liquids)
Typically (as shown in that paper), there is more oxygen at depth due to colder water,
but NOT I suppose with a plume of oil in it (with high biological oxygen demand).

That is in contrast to air being 21% by volume (210,000 ppm) oxygen, so you'd need 100x - 40x the flow (that I calculated for air) of presumably oxygenated surface water to get the same oxygen down there, and then need to mix the waters well to prevent the warm surface water from rising right back up.
Hmmm - actually the warm mixed water (and oil) will want to go to the surface.

7.8 million cubic meters/day * 100 = 780 million cubic meters/day, a cube 920 meters on a side.
780,000,000 m^3/day is 9000 m^3/sec, the Mississippi is 7,000-20,000 m^3/sec per the wiki.
So, do you have a pump that can pump the equivalent of the Mississippi river each day?

So, I get back to thinking about compressed air.
The only difference is the air pressure required.
If the oil plume is at 3000 feet vs. 5000 feet, a little less air pressure required.

But I hope you can tell from my comment on the volume of air required to completely burn the oil that it seems impractical to me.
Now if you have 18,000 SCUBA tank filling compressors handy,
I've heard BP has a phone number for suggestions.

Wow - there's a heck of a lot of energy (and oxygen demand) in 5000 bpd of crude oil.

I have wondered idly about "fixing" the Gulf of Mexico dead zone by injecting air, but it seems that patching things is much harder (if possible at all) than not breaking them in the first place.

BTW - the dispersants were already licensed for spraying on the surface, the new thing is injecting them into an oil plume at the leak subsurface.
They are nasty, tho' debatably less nasty than un-dispersed oil.
I posted links to the MSDSs and comments on their makeup a while back:

About the flow up the drill string to the Discoverer Enterprise:

I'm making some assumptions here but this is pretty close to my area of expertise.

BP will be extremely careful in ramping up this flow, I wouldn't be surprised if they took 24 hours or more to bring it to maximum flow. Any misstep could cause problems and set back the operation.

They will gradually increase the flow until they reach some maximum. The maximum may be dictated by several constraints but here are the three I see as most likely, in no particular order.

1 - If the outflow is greater than 15,000 bpd they may be constrained by the processing capability onboard the Discoverer Enterprise.

2 - They may reach the maximum that will flow through the 4" pipe, which I think will also be in the same 15,000 bpd range.

3 - This is the one that we all hope for - they are able to suck almost all the flow in the 21" riser. I believe they will monitor the end of the riser and always insure that a small portion of the gas and oil is still leaking out the end. If they suck up more than the leak they will suck seawater into the system and that could cause hydrate formation which could clog the pipe and they are back to the full leak escaping to the ocean and probably a day to clean up the mess and get back to recovering oil again.

When they reach maximum flow, maybe sometime tomorrow then I would expect BP to offer some flow figures.

Your comments very much respected and appreciated.



Agreed. Sounds about right to me.

About the flow up the drill string to the Discoverer Enterprise:

Interesting, You can go here:

Then on the left look up vessel "DiscovererEnterprise".

Is that is the ship which will receive the oil, then transport it to port?

The Discoverer Enterprise will receive and process the oil and gas, the gas will be flared and the oil, when they have enough onboard, will be transferred to another ship for transport to shore. The Discoverer Enterprise will stay on station getting more oil and/or working on killing the well.

I see they list it as a "dredger", guess they don't have a category for drill ship or process ship. It certainly isn't a dredger.

I don't see any tankers in the area. Is this an indication of their confidence that this will work.

The ship holds 120,000 barrels. Doubt they would need the tanker for a few days or more if the flow is only 5000 BOPD!

The Marine Traffic Report is a report for vessels involved in shipping. It has little information on vessels dedicated to offshore oil production like drilling rigs, FPSOs, service vessels, etc. So the boats and vessels involved in the Deepwater Horizon operation won't normally show up.

I will give you a lot of information on tankers hauling imported crude from Nigeria, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia to the LOOP facility and the USA.

When I started reading this discussion, starting with HO's update, I saw the mention of 4" pipe. I recall that earlier announcements to the pipe-tool option mentioned, I think, 6" pipe, and I wonder, why the change? Now, thanks to shelburn, we have a reason. They first mentioned 6" pipe because they had lots of it on hand, but then realized that uncontrolled flow, which might happen, would overwhelm their processing ability in the Discoverer Enterprise.

shelburn, you are right about the need to gradually increase flow, even though there will be a huge pressure from - well, almost everybody - to "crank it wide open".

Not sure about your point 3 though. It would indeed be great to be able to suck at the broken riser end in order to get the maximum oil. But unfortunately, like any surface offshore production system, the Discoverer Enterprise can't "suck". The processing system, starting with the inlet separator, needs positive pressure from the arriving fluid to drive the fluids through the system. Typically this is at least 10 bar. If it's higher, you can either choke it or go through multiple stages of separation (if available, possibly not in this case). Then you have to work back down the riser, taking account of fluid density and frictional loss, to get the inlet pressure to the riser. Its then a balancing act between the inlet pressure needed to get fluids to flow up the riser, the pressure of the oil arriving from the reservoir, and the hydrostatic head of the seawater.

In a normal riser system you don't have connection with the external seawater pressure at this point, but in this situation we do. I haven't got time to do the calcs, but I'm sure BP have.

Maybe we should get them to post their process design report in this forum?? Would sure clarify a lot of the issues some people are debating!

The "suction" that can exist at the 4" pipe can be between 30 and 150 bar due to the hydrostatic head differential between the surrounding water and the oil/gas in the line going to the Discoverer Enterprise. About 30 bar is the static condition with the line filled with oil (will vary with the actual specific gravity of the oil) and the 150 bar is the static condition filled with gas.

A mixed phase flow with varying velocities as the gas expands going up the line is almost impossible to model especially when you don't know the ratio or specifics of the components. Trial and error of throttling the flow on at the surface is the only way to obtain a relatively stable stream and is why it is taking so long to bring up to maximum flow.

Almost all engineers, physicists, etc are used to considering the base conditions as being at STP which is a basis of 1 bar ambient pressure. In this case the baseline is at the seabed, 150 bars of ambient pressure.

If you visualize the problem from the seabed, as an underwater construction engineer does, then the flow into the 4 inch line looks like suction. Any commercial diver can explain the dangers of suction at depth. The most common cause of fatalities to commercial divers in the last 25 years were accidents that involved suction.

A key non-intuitive aspect of this is that the "suction" isn't a paltry 1 bar suction that a perfect vacuum on the surface would induce, but an incredible firehose times 10 or 100 but in reverse. It's more like the vacuum cleaners on cartoons, that suck up furniture and elephants with no problem.

The problem isn't really what oil blows by the straw and flaps, but what might get sucked in.

Shelburn, my apologies, I didn't read your post very carefully. I can see now you meant suction as in the effect of differential pressure at the seabed, and not suction as in some sort of pumping applied from the surface.

I spent the first 5 years of my career as a subsea construction engineer (albeit in 500 ft not 5,000 ft) and thus well familiar with the effects of suction at depth. Somewhere I still have an ROV video clip of a 6-inch crab walking along a pipeline and disappearing in an instant through a half-inch crack.

I have been looking for that video clip. It was shot by one of my crews many years ago and I gave it to the ADCI to use in a safety training film. The kerf in the pipeline was 1/8 inch and the crab was sucked into that 1/8 inch space in one frame of a 24 fps film. I vaguely remember the depth was about 1,500 feet but senility may be clouding that fact.

Can you say crab mousse?

Not quite that fast here (can't tell speed at all, really):

Unbelievable guys - that's the one I meant!

Must be 15 years since I last saw that.

I think we finally have a way to get rid of Rush Limbaugh without leaving a trace ;-)

You are right, the suction is in two or three separate steps, I think each step was 1 frame. There are some things wrong with the text information attached to the video. The kerf was 1/8 inch, not 1/10th as the cutting disk is 1/8th and I am certain the depth was less than 2,000 feet. At that time we only had one ROV capable of working in over 3,000 feet of water and that is not it.

Incidentally, the deep diving ROV was supporting the only drill ship in the world capable of drilling in more than 3,000 feet, at that time, as it drilled test holes off the East Coast (yes - Virginia, etc). Oh, and they didn't find any oil.

Just a reminder for those who are interested, 60 Minutes on CBS will shortly be interviewing one of the men on the BP rig that burned and sank.

Wow, turn on 60 MINUTES regarding BP and oil spill!

Yep 60 minutes was shocking. Should be jail for someone.

please provide a summary of any important points for those of us who can't watch it.

The 60 Minutes Web site has a long article with what looks like a very thorough recap of the TV segment:

Blowout: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster
A Survivor Recalls His Harrowing Escape; Plus, A Former BP Insider Warns Of Another Potential Disaster

Five video clips of the 60 Minutes interview with the survivor, chief electronics technician Mike Williams:

OK, these video clips (6, not 5) are Williams's account of getting to the deck and off the rig after the explosions, not about the events leading up to the disaster.

Thanks for posting the link, Swift ... those videos are riveting.

video at:

supporting article at:

Survivor on phone to wife, hears engines revving, sees lights brightening. Hangs up, lights explode. Goes to Engine control room in dark, explosion as he reaches door.
Survivor crawls out after 2nd explosion, over two dead bodies, of a room where the false floor was disheveled, and ceiling tiles on floor.
Gets outside, wipes eyes with hurt arm, realizes has head wound. Can see now - walkway missing, engine stack gone. Hears someone in dark, but too hurt to help them.
Makes way to bridge - 18-20 people there, chaotic,
tells Capn back part of rig is gone, sees a life boat in water, Capn says he'd given order to abandon ship. Makes way down stairs, 2nd lifeboat starts descending without him and ?8 others.
Tries to launch liferaft, several more "take your breath away" explosions, that liferaft going. Young girl and 23yo boy and him left, can't launch 2nd raft, ankle and one arm too hurt. Tells them to jump, young man jumps, survivor jumps, falls seemingly forever.
Went down way below the surface, pops up, feels burning all over, swims away from rig, swims harder, looses sensation, thinks he's dead, then feels pain again, realizes not dead, can see liferaft, swims more, faint voice "over here", swims toward voice, gets grabbed into small open boat.

from text:
Drilling had delays, BP was pushing to make up time.
Had lost circulation, stuck bit, ? had to sidetrack.
During a test 4 weeks before, the annular valve rubber of the BOP was damaged.
Management says "drive on".
One of the BOP control pods had lost some function.
BP man says displace mud with seawater before cementing plug to save time.
Well blows, rest is history.

Someone is complaining that Atlantis has problems. 85% of the engineering diagrams were never approved etc. The guy who complained was laid off. He says ignoring safety procedures in BP is endemic.

yes, reading the whole article is recommended.

Hard to believe the unsafe actions.

On a brighter side, I guess "Andrea" made if off too,
she's not listed among the 11 dead.

That's been bothering me since I read the CBS article. I didn't have the nerve to go check the list of the dead. Thank you for doing it.

Don't they have a list of the living? I not really satisfied with not listed among the dead, given the manifest evidence of malfeasance that has been exposed in the last few days.

haven't been able to find one.

So much confusion, misinformation, rumours and ass-covering - I was wanting to be double sure too.

wondering tho', with HIPAA etc. if the list would be private?


115 people made it off (safely I hope). So, there is no dearth of people who can give all the details.

Last thing we want here is a white wash.

Dumb question, suppose PB had decided to repair the BOP after the rubber came up in the mud. Would the BOP have to be brought to the surface? if so, what seals the well while the BOP is being repaired?


Yes and no. As the two annulars are in the LMRP, a storm packer could be run and the shear/blinds rams closed. The rest of the BOP would be left on the sea bed. All the riser and the LMRP would need to be brought back onboard, annular element replaced, tested and re run.


BTW, I don't understand everything you said, but I'll spend some time with my best bud Google to learn more. Then I'll try to get my brain around doing this repair at -5000 feet. In the dark. By ROV.


storm packer = plug left in the hole to seal off the casing if you need to leave the well as in a hurricane

LMRP = Lower marine riser package, the top half of the BOP you recover if you need to leave the well in a hurry. The rams stay behind and the top half which contains the annulars and the control pods gets recovered to surface.

As the two annulars are in the LMRP...

Ah - that's interesting - didn't realize that.
Sure enough, there it is:

LMRP 2 x Cameron DL 18¾in 10K annular; 1 x Cameron HC 18¾in 10K connector

Hmmm - only 10K psi rating on the annulars?

Is that because there's no locking mechanism like there is on rams,
so you're not likely to leave then closed if you run from a hurricane,
so might as well have it above the disconnect,
also since the rubber(s) in the annular are prone to getting chewed up, might as well have them easy to replace?
Or (also) do you close the annular when taking up a riser (running from a storm, fixing major issue on the ship, etc.) to keep the mud in the riser?

For anyone's info, the annular and connector pages at Cameron:


The saying is you cannot have your cake and eat it to!

A ram is designed for high pressure, a solid block of steel with relative small rubber seals, therefore small range of pipe sizes but able to with stand high pressure, also fairly compact.

The annular,is one size fits all. Being a rubber donut with just a few fingers of steel for support, it will mould around any size pipe and it is possible to strip through them,(move drill pipe, including tool joint through them) but the down side is,
1/ They wear out elements fairly quickly
2/ Generally have lower pressure rating
3/ Take up more space.
4/ No locking mechanism, therefore require hydraulic pressure to remain closed, though some designs do get assistance from the well bore pressure.

When pulling the riser all rams / annulars are left open, including the choke & kills, makes for a much dryer time on the drill floor when the joints are separated, also a lot less weight to lift. I would love to see a 90ft x 21in column of water washing across the drill floor. I've seen 50ft riser pulled wet and that was fun enough.

From just watching 60 Minutes it looks like days before the accident during a test of the annular seal a rig employee accidently moved the drill pipe about 10'. This resulted in what was described as a double handful of the rubber from the annular seal being broken off and brought to the surface. According to an engineering expert this would then make future pressure tests unreliable because the annular seal would not be 100%.

Oh, and when the rubber was brought to the attention of Trans Ocean, it was dismissed as not a problem according to the interviewee.


There are eight strings of pipe in this well that were set prior to the last with liner hanger float shoes and all types of possible rubber seal assemblies to drill.

How they know that rubber originated from the annular I do not know. But if you look at the Transocean daily reports the annular passed test the day of/ before the incidient.

Also the annular blowout preventer is functioning now according to Mr. Childs with BP.

I'm not saying the Berkley Prof (why not LSU??) doesn't know a helluva lot more than that show said, but the show wasn't that conclusive to me.

I thought it was impressive actually that they had a safety meeting that involved an electronics technician (among others) about finish up on the well, and if discrepancies in perceived planned procedures are not to be discussed at such a meeting, why have the meeting??


The man that gave the interview to 60 MINUTES was Mike Williams. He was the chief electronics technician aboard the Deepwater Horizon. He was below deck in his office when the explosion occurred.

I think I read about him in the New York Times. I'll check.

If the annular valve is now working, why the need for a junk shot?

There's a valve on the end of the drill pipe, sealing it.
So the annular should seal the annulus around the drill pipe, right?

try to figure this out:

CASE 1: drill pipe snagged in shear rams, not cut off.
  Valve on end of drill pipe seals that path
  Annular valve on BOP seals annulus -> well sealed.
CASE 2: shear ram cut off drill pipe, but not sealing at shear ram.
  Valve on end of drill pipe is not under much pressure, but seals
  Annular valve on BOP:
     (pipe still down there) seals annulus -> well sealed.
     (pipe got blown up riser) should seal on open hole -> well sealed.
CASE 3: drill pipe blown out of BOP before activated
  Valve on end of drill pipe in not under much pressure, but seals
  Annular valve on BOP should seal on open hole -> well sealed.

What am I missing?
CASE 4: (drill pipe cut/blown past BOP -or- drill pipe in BOP),
 BUT chunks of cement jammed in annular (by themselves,
 or around pipe), providing a flow path through
 annular valve --> well NOT sealed.
How likely is this?

CASE 5: annular damaged during test, chunks of rubber gone,
 but will seal on a drill pipe, though no longer on open hole.
 Drill pipe cut off or blown past BOP.
   Annular valve no longer seals on open hole --> well NOT sealed.

I wish BP was more forthcoming with info on the exact state of the BOP.
They did gamma ray imaging of (parts of) it.

Is the drill pipe still in the BOP?

What's the pressure on the valve on the drill pipe?

Wow. I always hoped to live to see it all coming apart. As an old man I have a front row seat. Anyone reading this entire post and those preceding it must realize that we have reached a point when it all down hill from here. Yup, looks like it was human error, driven by greed for a bonus or some other inane thing, but that's not important. what is important? After all, we'er just star dust.

"God made mud.
God got lonesome.
So God said to some of the mud, "Sit up."
"See all I have made," said God. "the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
Nice going, God.
Nobody but You could have done it, God.
I feel very unimportant compared to you.
The only way i can feel the lease bit important is to think of all the mud that didn't get to sit up and look around.
I got so much, and most mud got so little.
Thank you for the honor.
The mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud we have.
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud i met.
I loved everything I saw.
Good night.
I will go to heaven now.
I can hardly wait....."

Kurt Vonnegut

Go to bed Rube. Can't you see these folks are busy doing important science, intricate calculations, and sensitive tests. Don't worry, someone will think of something.

Rube, thanks. I'm gettin' on too, and you made me smile.

Now you are really making me feel old. What next, Holden Caulfield quotes or Zager and Evans?

I agree with you IF there is only drill pipe in the BOP then with the annular closed, there are two so if one is damaged the other should be fine, and the end for 6 5/8 DP is sealed, there should be no flow. That is why I feel the casing and seal assembly have failed and the casing and wear bushing has been jacked up into the BOP, therefore negating the pipe rams as well.

Looking at congressional hearing documents, Transocean-Deepwater Horizon BOP Test.pdf, they tested 3 x pipe rams, 2 x annular, and functioned 1 x shear/blind. 1 x casing shear not functioned as per exemption.

I am having trouble getting a handle of what was in the BOP that they were using on the 20th April. As of TRO-Deepwater.Horizon.BOP.Assurance.Analysis.March.2001.pdf page 59.

The BOP was built with 3 x pipe rams, 1 x casing shear and 1 x shear / blind rams and 2 x annular.

BP stated the BOP was modified and one set of rams were turned into "test rams". This is a term I have not heard of. I can only imagine they turned one set upside down to save having to run a test plug during BOP tests. They still have 3 x pipe rams, so I am guessing the casing shears were replaced to allow for these test rams. Does anybody know? The test rams would have to have been the bottom set, with next 3 sets being pipes with the top set the shears.

All the models of BOPs I saw BP playing with and all the lovely pictures and illustrations do not correctly represent the DW Horizons BOP.

Are the annular preventers used in tandem? Or one at a time? The pipe rams close around the pipe (I see they have a hole in the center)? So how is their function different from the annular? I actually thought they were to seal the well when no pipe is present.

Can you describe the casing and seal assembly you refer to and its function? It is it at the well head below the BOP?

Any idea what kind of other junk was down the well and might have been blown upward in the gas kick?


Each ram / annular is designed to hold its rated pressure by itself. The annular will seal on any size pipe. They say it will seal on itself, but it would be a once only attempt as the rubber would most likely to be so damaged it would require changing out! The pipe rams may be a fixed size or variable, depending on the ram blocks installed, and will be talored to the drill pipe being used. Normal sizes are 3 1/2" to 7" Variable. If they were a fixed ram on this rig they would have a 6 5/8".

The shear rams are not only there to cut the pipe, but they will seal the well when there is nothing in the BOP.

The seal assemble fits between the well head and the casing hanger to seal off the backside of the casing, ie the annulus between new and the old casing strings. It is also called a pack off in the patch.

To protect the well head damage a wear bushing is run, slightly smaller ID the size of casing. This would be the first item to move in the BOP but is only about 4 or 5 feet long and therefore not long enough to block the complete BOP.

I haven't seen any definitive description of the leak path but it has been stated that the shear ram was activated but didn't shear the drill pipe. The annular preventer was closed (I believe this is a dual package with two devices). The leak from the end of the drill pipe was the smallest of the three and was quickly capped and sealed with no ill consequence. The large flow is coming from the end of the broken riser.

Here is my guess about the state of things. The drill pipe is still within the BOP and extends down into the well some unknown distance. I would expect it is restricted at the shear ram. The annular preventers may be damaged (as suggested in the 60 Min program) and this would explain some of the leakage. I expect that the drill pipe may be broken where it exits the BOP and the riser is kinked over. It could have been carrying some flow from that point to feed the third leak, but clearly not very much and at no great pressure. The easiest path for oil leaking through the BOP would be through the drill pipe if the annulus is indeed closed. If the drill pipe was intact the main leak would have been at its broken end - but it wasn't - just a minor leak easily subdued. If the annulus was open/unrestricted the leak rate would be much higher I am guessing. I find it hard to believe that the kinked riser is the main restriction to flow, and the decision to go ahead with the junk shot suggests to me that they think the leak path is relatively restricted. The Drill pipe is 7" dia (larger than a golf ball) and I would guess the annulus diameter is at least twice that - has to be big enough to clear the drills used to start the well.

IP: Good thoughts. Looks like top kill with lots of mud will be tried first. Implied junk shot now moved down the list.

Earlier discussions around the need to have the relief well intersect the original well at depth rather than near the seabed revolved around the necessity of having very heavy mud to equalize the pressure at the bottom of the well, mud of a weight that might fracture the surrounding material at a higher level. How does inserting the mud via the BOP avoid this problem? or does a successful junk shot shut down the flow enough that the mud doesn't need to be as heavy?

Because there is already casing in the blown-out well (that runs down below the weak surface mud/rock), that demonstrably contained the mud that kept the well from blowing out (until said mud was removed). The slow pace of relief wells is due to putting casing in and cementing it (and the time drilling the hole). If they can use the casing that's already there, will be much faster.

If the flow rate upwards in the BOP is low enough (i.e. much of the pressure drop is due to the partly closed BOP or the kink in the riser), the kill mud will descend down the casing, and as it builds up in the bottom of the well, will suppress the well pressure.

I would suppose a successful junk shot would shut down the flow so that the mud would flow more directly to the bottom, but then they will still probably have to bleed some pressure via the choke line.

I'd think it's certainly worthwhile to try a "kill pill" ASAP - any reason not to?

Wonder tho', they drilled the well with oil-based mud (to avoid formation damage?),
so I suppose now they could use a water-based kill mud, which would NOT mix with the upward flowing oil, since this well is "soon" to be history.
They may have hydrate concerns if the water-based mud gets blown out the BOP into the (cold) riser.

thanks - that makes sense.

I tend to think any decision to go ahead with a junk shot would be made more difficult if they believe the main leak is above the BOP coming out of a broken drill string. More in line with trying to plug the restricted area around the outer shear rams or the percieved tearing and scouring of the annular body(s) outside the drillpipe. Or hoping the drillpipe is partially sheared or splint within the BOP.

The reason being that the junk has been described as neutrally buoyant material designed to float up following the flow to and plugging the leak. If the main leak is the (restricted) shear and a broken drill after the BOP then the junk will have to follow a different path down the well bore outside the drill string to a point where the drill pipe is open and enter it there.

Presumably BP knows how far down this is and we don't but if there is substantial drill pipe still in the well this could be a very long ways down before the material has a chance to return upward to any internal drillpipe shear ram restriction. Therefore it seems the plan will likely be to junk the shear and/or annular outer areas with buoyant junk first and then push heavy mud in after to send down the well possibly with some junk and cement ahead of it and try to force enough into the drill pipe to catch up to the restriction at the shear internally.

If the drill is broken badly above the BOP it's difficult to see the diluted mud and junk being very effective at that point.
Just supposition but this is my take on it.

US says BP move to curb oil leak 'no solution'

the video in that link shows the BP guy saying it will take seven to ten additional days to finish the setup for the top kill step.

Gee, what a surprise. By definition, the size of the pipe "straw" that can be forced into the venting hole has to be small. The more of the flow it can capture the greater the force pushing it out. They can't exert enough force with this setup to divert the leak.

Two problems I see with capturing much oil volume (flow) from the leaking riser:

1. Yes, the larger the pipe, the greater the flow and backpressure or force trying to expel the suction pipe, although this pipe is not really sucking but has less pressure in it than the riser.
2. With the drill pipe still in the riser I wonder how effective the seal of "suction pipe" to the riser? If this seal can conform around the drill pipe quite well it may cause more pressure in the riser relative to the suction pipe, thus forcing it out. Even 10 psi differential could cause 2700 pounds force trying to expel the suction pipe.
3. As gas rises up the suction pipe it will expand to create much less dense fluid at the top of the suction pipe. This again will cause high velocity flow to help remove contents of the riser, perhaps taking some water into the pipe. Solution to this problem is to throttle suction pipe flow, but again resulting in some back pressure in the riser making other leak point worse.

Bottom line is this connection better be pretty strong and seal be effective against some reasonable pressure or only a small percentage of the oil will be captured. My guess only 25% of oil exiting well will be captured by this method. But thats better than nothing.

Maybe there is a way to use the hydrates that form to plug up the pipe.

I know on the ground they will inject a bunch of water into a blow out to put out the fire. I think they call it a stinger.

I was thinking they could pump in a bunch of water(there is no shortage down there) that might solidify and at least lessen the output.

What kind of pump could they use?

So it worked (at least partly) somehow ?

One thing that really baffles me. Why don't they pick up the riser with an ROV or something to bring it closer to the surface so it would be easier to work with?? Why the heck are they still playing around with it at the bottom of the ocean floor?

This would for sure break everything up, included current link with the BOP, besides not gaining much in terms of depth (and making everything more difficult with the whole thing moving)

No! Pick up the end of the riser that has the oil coming out of it (not the end attached to the BOP), and bring it to the surface or at least as close as possible to the surface. That should not effect the connection to the BOP. it's like picking up a garden hose at the end with the water coming out of it. That will not effect the hose's connection to the faucet.

Yeah, to my knowledge a garden hose isn't made of steel though

How about connect the broken end of the riser to a cable and reel it up with a ship.

Fair question. There are two types of riser used in deepwater drilling and production operations - one is flexible pipe, which is a continuous length made from composite steel and plastic layers; the other is rigid steel and made up of 40-foot "joints" which are flanged together.

Unfortunately, for drilling you have to use the rigid type, it is basically a conduit to run other pipes through. It has to be maintained under tension from the top (the rig) to work. Once you drop the top end it buckles and collapses in a heap, as we have seen.

If you tried to lift the free end and pull it up, all the points which have kinked irretrievably would probably rupture - you would end up with a bunch more oil leak points, and one of them would likely break completely - then you have the same situation as now but with a bunch more leaks.

thank you for your clear, logical insights: each one helps me understand the situation better.

Thanks for the info. I think it just goes to show how inherently dangerous and risky it is to drill in such deep waters. Just insanely dangerous. It should have been banned a long time ago IMO. In case of accident it is virtually impossible to stem the volcano of oil gushing out from those depths!

Blathering on, without reading replies is, IMHO, rude but because you are a rank newbie I will cut you some slack.

Members have no obligation to reply to you, so I suggest you respect those that have taken the time, and absorb their responses before you post new questions.

Am I personally annoyed? Yes. That said, my annoyance extends (by pseudo-proxy) to the other posters that took the time to reply. There are many people here that are far more knowledgeable than I and I appreciate their efforts.

[edit] Snowball kindly answers on some issues already addressed and kudos to him. If I am being harsh, I will take the flak and I encourage it.[/edit]

I have no direct affiliation with TOD but I respect the integrity they they have, as I perceive it.

Should you not catch my drift, I have little doubt that the TOD moderators will pick up the slack in your further posts. Perhaps you are a minor journalist looking for a new angle on any front?

There is a plethora of good information here. I encourage you to read before you ask.


I've wondered the same question. My SWAG is that there is a fear of things breaking, perhaps further damaging the BOP, or the overall framework. Bear in mind the riser is very long and would have huge leverage It would require a large number of cables and ROV's to keep it straight as it was raised. Also bent portions are likely to be either work hardened and/or compromised, increasing the risk.

I think the Hippocratic Oath applies here:

First, do no harm.

Now, if only BP had applied that principle in the first place.


That said, I think BP's mantra now is:

Do no further harm to our image by making things worse.

It appears that their approach is that failure is OK as long as they are seen to be trying "as hard as they can" but if they really screw up, it will bury them.

hmm.. maybe I turned off the sarcanol too soon. ;)

OTOH, I think they should swing for the fences, with the appropriate press conference first, of course.

I don't think they know the difference between 'harm' and 'harm to our image'. That's why they think it's A-OK to use chemical dispersants to keep the oil away from the surface. If you can't see it, it doesn't exist. Right?

first of all sorry for my english
I have a question does anyone know#s anything about the construction of the well?

if I conssider a 5in "tubing" the maximum spill (un chocked) will be 30,000 bbl/d with an 10 in will ammount to 180,000

if i would have more data about the construction i will be bale to better calculate the "maximum" amount that can be spilled that woul be easy hidraulics any engeneer learns to calculate the pressure drop in a liquid pipe

There are also restraints on how much oil & gas can flow out of the formation and there are a series of restrictions on the pipe as well.


yes I do know this this is why I said unchoked if we consider a pipe without any problems (reservoir at 1 end and damaged BOP at the other) I also appreciate that given the situation something anywhere from 2000 and 15000 bopd would be a good guess so not so far away from the 5k BP is "guesing". Anyhow having a little bit more info on it would help like permeability of the reservoir and the construction of the well

A week or more ago there was a prolonged technical discussion of this here (check the archives).

I concluded that the rate is 20,000 to 55,000 b/day and the BP estimate is a PR lie.


can you provide a link to it I can't find it

You certainly did not work very hard !

Page 2 has a thread about "Can it be 70,000 b/day ?" but earlier work was more detailed engineering work. Both in Drumbeat and BP specific threads.


you are right I didn#t though I found something interesting
at the end you do have the construction, not sure what did the used in cementing but it should be anywhere between 3 1/2 or 4 in (given the 7 in casing

Ken Abbott has worked for Shell and GE. And in 2008 he was hired by BP to manage thousands of engineering drawings for the Atlantis platform.

"They serve as blueprints and also as a operator manual, if you will, on how to make this work, and more importantly how to shut it down in an emergency," Abbott explained.

But he says he found that 89 percent of those critical drawings had not been inspected and approved by BP engineers. Even worse, he says 95 percent of the underwater welding plans had never been approved either.

"Are these welding procedures supposed to be approved in the paperwork before the welds are done?" Pelley asked.

"Absolutely. Yeah," Abbott replied. “They’re critical."

Abbott's charges are backed up by BP internal e-mails. In 2008, BP manager Barry Duff wrote that the lack of approved drawings could result in "catastrophic operator errors," and "currently there are hundreds if not thousands of Subsea documents that have never been finalized."

Duff called the practice "fundamentally wrong."

"I've never seen this kind of attitude, where safety doesn't seem to matter and when you complain of a problem like Barry did and like I did and try to fix it, you're just criticized and pushed aside," Abbott said.

Abbott was laid off. He took his concerns to a consumer advocacy group called Food & Water Watch. They're asking Congress to investigate. And he is filing suit in an attempt to force the federal government to shut down Atlantis.

This is the reason for the accident.
Whistle blowers always always always end up getting shot. as a victim of this myself, its endemic in the human culture.

they say they are getting about 2000 bbl/day from that RIIT

Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Multiple Plumes
(re-posted from the node 6467 discussion)

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.

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 ( such that asphaltene content is highest for the deepest samples.

Here is the solution to the oil tragedy

President of the US
Makes President
Army Core of Engineers
Seizes land
Under Immanent Domain
Along shore line
For easement use only
At BP expense
To store oil sludge
At BP expense
Until Sludge is disposed of
At BP expense
Land is restored
At BP expense

See graphic at link below
At the bottom is upload button
Press it