Tapping into the Riser in the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The initial success that BP has obtained in inserting a 4-inch pipe into the broken riser that leads from the leaking well in the Gulf, is not yet clearly evident. Although the pipe has been inserted, and oil and natural gas are being carried to the surface, the full capacity of the system has not yet been tested. The intent is to slowly increase the volume of fluids carried to the surface, so as to define the limits of what is achievable. The official statement for the day (Sunday) notes that:

Secretary Salazar and Secretary Napolitano issued a joint statement on these efforts: “Today, BP attempted another test to contain some of the oil leaking from the riser. This technique is not a solution to the problem, and it is not yet clear how successful it may be. We are closely monitoring BP’s test with the hope that it will contain some of the oil, but at the same time, federal scientists are continuing to provide oversight and expertise to BP as they move forward with other strategies to contain the spill and stop the flow of oil. We will not rest until BP permanently seals the wellhead, the spill is cleaned up, and the communities and natural resources of the Gulf Coast are restored and made whole.”

MMS reports the Development Driller III, which will drill the first relief well, has finished running blowout preventer (BOP) stack and riser and is currently latching the BOP to the wellhead for the first relief well. The Development Driller II, which will drill the second relief well, is on location and is making preparations for initiating the drilling process and performing BOP maintenance.

The hope is that the pipe that has been inserted in the riser 600 ft from the BOP will be able to capture all the oil and gas that was leaking from that particular part of the riser. This had earlier been estimated to be up to 85% of the total spill. The remainder is coming from a smaller leak closer to the BOP, and which will likely only be sealed when the well is killed using the injection of heavy mud later in the week.

It is a little difficult to tell, as yet, whether the pipe will be able to carry all this fluid. In order to control the flow to the surface there is a choke in the line, and this provides a variable resistance to the flow of fluid out of the riser. This additional resistance gives an additional driving pressure to the contained fluid that will increase the flow from the remaining leak, and can also provide some pressure for the fluid to ease past the rubber seals that surround the relief pipe in the riser. Engineers will thus have to strike a careful balance in controlling the pressure, and thus the flow up the pipe, relative to capturing all the possible oil and gas that leaves the riser.

The size of the operation to kill the well is also now becoming apparent. The mud pumps that will drive the mud into the BOP, with the intent of stopping the flow by weighting up the column above the reservoir, and then allowing a concrete plug to be inserted.

The mud would be pumped at more than 30,000 horsepower through three-inch hoses and through "choke" valves at the bottom of the blowout preventer near the seafloor. Wells said the valves could shoot as much as 40 barrels of mud a minute into the well.

"We'll be able to pump much faster than the well can flow," he said. "It's about us outrunning the well."

Wells said the company had brought 50,000 barrels of the mud, a mixture of clay and other substances, for the effort, which he said should be far more than needed. He said that the much-ridiculed "junk shot," in which golf balls and shredded tires would be fired into the blowout preventer, would be used only if the drilling mud were being forced upward and needed to be blocked.

The problem in introducing a fluid into a rapidly moving stream, is that the stream will tend to carry the newly injected fluid along with it. There is some resistance to the fluid flow within the BOP itself, given that the cylinders at least partially functioned. They began by closing off the well, but the collapse of the riser, and the possible erosion induced by sand in the fluid flow has eaten out the initial pathway through the BOP to allow the current flow volume escape.

If the leak is at 5,000 bd, then the current flow out through the BOP is roughly 3.5 barrels a minute. That is as much as can get through the orifice in the BOP at the driving pressure coming from the bottom of the well. When the pumps kick the additional 40 barrels a minute into that flow passage, the resistance to the higher flow will be much greater through the BOP than down the well, and so the mud should reverse the flow in the well and start to flow down the well.

This is, of course, where it now gets very tricky since too much pressure in the well can cause the cement and rock at the bottom of the well to fracture, allowing the potential for a much higher flow into the well at that point. Given that the next step, however, if the well flow can be stopped by the weight and pressure of the mud injected into the well, will be to pump a significant concrete plug into the well to totally and permanently block the well, there is likely little concern at this point as to what will occur down at the shoe of the casing.

In passing I see that the makeup of the “dream team” that the Government has put together to help with the crisis has now been revealed.

In recent days, the Obama administration has assembled a "dream team" of scientists to deal with the leak, including experts in robotics, physics, X-ray technology and the hydrogen bomb. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a physicist who won the Nobel Prize, met with BP engineers in Houston last week and promised that the "intellectual horsepower of the country is engaged in solving this problem."

But unlike many science and engineering problems that can be worked out in a lab or on a blackboard, this one is unfolding far from the reach of a human hand, in real time, with a potentially high penalty for failure.

"It's not just theory. It's reality that has to be dealt with," said Henry Petroski, a Duke University professor of civil engineers and history. "This is a really tough problem."

It’s that hydrogen bomb expertise that has me worried.

I thought that Joel Achenbach had his tongue in his cheek when he wrote about the possibility of using a nuclear bomb on the well in the WP but he quoted the success of the Russians in doing this, and as I have noted in an earlier post, so maybe all that brainpower is focusing on a more immediate answer. The President, after all, is getting impatient.

"Wells said . . . that the much-ridiculed "junk shot," in which golf balls and shredded tires would be fired into the blowout preventer, would be used only if the drilling mud were being forced upward and needed to be blocked."

Like one TODer said a few days back, some golf ball maker is going to cash in on this big-time. Maybe they can get Tiger Woods out there to shoot a few holes while relief-well drilling continues steadily on the beam.

If the well is flowing at say 3.5 bpm or say 150 gpm, and the difference between the pressure in the well from the reservoir and that of the bottom of the sea is 5,000 psi, then the orifice in the BOP through which the fluid is flowing is likely to have an effective diameter of around 0.28 inches. (Though it is unlikely to be round, rather more oval I would suspect, given the action of the BOP and the subsequent erosion). To push 10 times as much fluid through that orifice would take a pressure of around half-a-million psi. Since that is much more than is available, the added flow will first overcome the pressure of the flowing well and then reverse the flow to fill the well with mud, pushing the oil back into the formation. The density of that mud will overcome, as it fills the length of the drilled column, the driving pressure between the pressure in the rock, and that in the well, and the well will be effectively killed. Pouring a concrete seal into the well will then plug it.

What happens if the flow is closer to 35 bpm rather than 3.5?

Wells said the valves could shoot as much as 40 barrels of mud a minute into the well.

As long as the flow out of the well is less than this 40 bpm, there'd be SOME flow of mud downhole. It could take a while, but I'm pretty sure that everybody involved would be HAPPY to keep pumping mud for as long as it took.

If absolutely NOTHING else, even if the current flow out of the well was just replaced by mud (without reducing the flow), I'm pretty sure they'd keep pumping just because the escaping mud wouldn't float away to devastate the environment (and BP's reputation!!).

With a little nitrogen injection to boost it, they MIGHT even manage to suck the mud back up to the surface for another trip!

I am no expert but why the hell they did not do this kill mud thing immediately?! Now the BOP has been sandblasted three long weeks by the oil&sand mixture and who knows how bad it is now. Can it even withstand the junk shot/kill mud now?

Not an expert here either, but it takes time to assess the BOP, devise the plan, marshal specialized equipment, run the lines, and do the procedure. A month seems like a long time when you're watching it leak 24/7, but compared to the likely 3-6 month or longer period to do the relief wells, it's not that long.

I imagine if this were a planned-for operation, it would still have taken a week or two, just like getting a drill ship in place to start spudding a relief well. It's not, though -- it's probably the first time such a procedure has been done on a well at this depth and pressure with a compromised BOP.

Next time, they'll probably be better at it. :)

Don't forget that the choke and kill line they plan to use were badly damaged during sinking of the drill rig.

Besides clearing and cutting the lines with the ROV they have had to design a fitting, manufacture a prototype, test the prototype and then manufacture the special fittings to be installed on these lines so they can connect the hoses. The fittings have to seal and clamp to the choke and kill lines so they are capable of working at pressures of 15,000 psi and they must be installed by an ROV.

If BP can in fact introduce a backflow of mud that eventually allows the well to be capped that would indeed be great news.

As someone who has never worked in the oil industry but is experienced in creating solutions to design problems, a number of things about the attempts to slow and cap the flow puzzle me. With three weeks and a reported 300 engineers brainstorming the problem I''d have thought that someone would have understood the basic chemistry of methane hydrate formation before spending the first week building a worthless silo to contain the leak. Another week trying to thread a small hose into the high volume flow coming out of the riser pipe. Perhaps someone should have tried to insert a garden hose into the end of a high pressure fire hose by hand first---. Success means at best a small portion of the flow will be captured.

So how do you tap into the high velocity flow of the riser pipe and reduce the flow to the point where it can be capped? Fabricate a clamp-on external saddle with a 6" pipe nipple welded on to it. While you are at it build a half dozen more. If the night shift can't complete the job in 12 hours fire the lot. Attach valves capable of being closed at high pressures--- BP should have them in the parts bin--. Clamp in place near the BOP & drill a hole through the 21" riser perhaps using a water jet cutting device or procedures the industry has surely developed for such operations. Repeat until the flow is diverted sufficiently that the end can be capped. Then successively close valves until a workable balance between pressure in the riser pipe and capture processing capability at the surface is reached.

BRAVO, horizon lol i was wondering about some of these points, too. here's hoping that we're missing some huge factors!

Heading Out -

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I was under the impression that the 5,000 psi pressure was the absolute pressure in the well, rather than the pressure differential between inside the well and the sea floor. If that is the case, and the sea floor is approximately 5,000 ft down, then the pressure acting in the opposite direction to the well would be about 2,200 psi, resulting in a differential pressure of about 2,800 psi. This would necessitate a slightly larger opening to get the same flow rate.

Either way, the point is well taken and further reinforces what I have said here several times: when you're operating under high pressure, a tiny opening is capable of releasing a very large amount of fluid. I think this also highlights the danger of making thing even worse if that small opening were to be inadvertently made larger either through erosion or outright damage while attempting these various remedies.

The absolute pressure at the well head about 5,000 feet below sea level is about 2250 PSI.

The well bore goes about 13,000 feet below the sea bed, and the oil and gas in the reservoir beneath is (at least) pressurized by the overlying weight of sandstone rock with a density of 1450 kg/m^3. Thus pressure in the oil/gas reservoir is at least 8,200 PSI above the seabed pressure. The reservoir pressure may be higher due to what Rockman calls "geopressure." If the well bore is filled with gas, then this ~8,200 PSI or greater is the differential pressure between the well head and the sea water. If the bore is filled with oil, this may fall to around 4,500 PSI. But the discharge from the riser pipe seems to have lots-o-gas in it, so I'd guess the pressure is near the higher number.

What's the diameter of the leaking orifice? Given a mix of gas and oil, and assuming an oil leak rate somewhere between 3.5 BPM and 35 BPM, we're still talking about a hole less than an inch in effective diameter. A golf ball with a yield strength well above 10,000 PSI could plug it. I think it might be a good idea to include some large steel ball bearings in the junk shot.

What am I missing? Regardless of the flow rate, isn't the fix for this to use a modified hydraulic shear to "pinch" the drill pipe shut at a point where the drill pipe has little or no damage, then use a fairly standard "hot tap" to redirect the flow into a new BOP and put this well back into production? Or is that too simple.

Too simple. Installing a new valve on top of the BOP may be tried eventually. The place that needs to be 'pinched' is inside the BOP stack - mud or junk or both will be tried to accomplish this.

The well is dead - unrecoverable fault, finished - it will be stopped up one way or another and permanently plugged. The failure that lead to the blowout in the first place was catastrophic.

Thanks for your response. I'm still a little unsure about stopping the flow from the drill pipe. If the flow is coming only from the drill pipe (not the riser) why wouldn't the flow be stopped by capping or pinching or crimping that pipe?

We don't know how the flow is entering the riser but it seems pretty clear that it is entering at the top of the BOP stack. The video released today of the leak there shows three high pressure streams coming from holes or cracks in the riser where it is kinked right above the BOP. Probably all the flow from that point on is within the riser. There is a good chance the drill pipe is broken off at that point and only had a little residual flow within it that was crossing the break. It has been capped at its far end and is no longer leaking. There may be oil and gas flowing through the BOP and leaking both from the drill pipe stub and from the annulus surrounding it - but this area is within the riser and cannot be seen. BP got a gamma ray scan of the interior of the BOP but apparently it was not clear enough to tell exactly how the oil was leaking.

The riser would have to be removed from the BOP to attempt to put a cap there and removing it would probably increase the leak rate. Then one would have to deal with a high pressure stream coming directly off the top of the BOP. I think this would be difficult to work with - have you seen the video of the leak at the end of the riser? Imagine that - boiling black clouds of oil and gas obscuring the very area you need to work with your robot submersibles.

IP -- I'll take a chance and jump into the discussion late. I haven't participated much in to the leak conversation, to be honest, because it bores me. My world exists below the BOP. But as I understand the physical circumstances: the casing is set from the bottom of the hole and terminates in the BOP. The drill pipe bottom is somewhere down in the casing. The upper end of the DP is sticking somewhere above the BOP. There's only two conduits for the oil/NG to escape the formation: up the DP and/or up the DP/csg annulus. Any oil/NG leaking from the riser comes from either one or both of these exits. Thus IMHO any oil/Ng leaking from the riser is secondary: stop it and the oil/NG will find another exit. I think.

Crimping the DP: Hmm--it's pretty tough metal, But who knows...ask an engineer. Did I miss something? My nightly B&B on the rocks is hitting me fast so I'm not sure. Thoughts?

RM - now that I've got your ear, or at least a bit of it, perhaps you can help me with this.

I concur - path for the leak is either the DP, the annulus, or both. I assume no one knows how far down the well the DP extends at this point. I read a comment that suggested it had a 3.5" stinger (or some such) attached to 7" DP up to the rig. [any idea what tool they had on the end of it?] The annulus was supposedly closed. The shear ram operated but did not shear the DP (joint or junk from the well interfered perhaps). Assuming the most straightforward path for the leak is through the DP how the heck could a junk shot work if the entrance for the leak is the end of the DP a few thousand feet down the well? Maybe that is why the mud option has risen to the fore - just try and plug the well with heavy mud. Maybe the annulus is leaking too - talk that at least one of the annular preventers was damaged...

I assume that the DP is busted off just above the BOP at the riser kink.

I used to work a bit with hydraulics and know a bit about mechanics - the BOP I find easier to understand than the interaction of complex geology with the deep well hardware and unfamiliar technology/terminology.

Come back at me tomorrow if the B&B is more entertaining.

IP -- I think I read somwhere the bottom of the DP was either 3,000' or 10,000' below the BOP. The again an unknown length might have been ejected through the BOP. I agree with the junk shot. If you don't know what your potential down flow path looks like you're essentially pumping into the unkown. So many what-ifs it makes speculation pointless IMHO.

If the leakage is through the end of the DP, and that end is well below the BOP then it would seem to me that the chance of the top kill working might be substantially improved as there might be a few thousand feet with no flow to blow the mud back out so a substantial quantity of mud could be injected below it reached the leak.

Or am I missing something here - does it really make no difference at what depth the mud interacts with the flow?

My world ends at the outside of the casing.

That's the floating stuff Alan, of much concern and anxiety to us here in The Bayou State 2bsure, but not to be confused with the deeper and more mysterious "plume" being looked for as we speak. I wonder when we will see it mapping?

Never. BP will not pay for such an effort.


Take care Alan;

"Air tests from the Louisiana coast reveal human health threats from the oil disaster"


"The findings show that levels of airborne chemicals have far exceeded state standards and what's considered safe for human exposure.

For instance, hydrogen sulfide has been detected at concentrations more than 100 times greater than the level known to cause physical reactions in people. Among the health effects of hydrogen sulfide exposure are eye and respiratory irritation as well as nausea, dizziness, confusion and headache."

Only an occasional, and very weak, whiff of "diesel".

High humidity (dewpoint 69 F) and abundant trees & shrubs nearby help. Four miles from the closest possible sources (Inter-coastal and Industrial Canals) both of which are heavily boomed. Perhaps a dozen miles from nearest swamp that could be affected.

Best Hopes for Human Health all along the coast !


Deepwater Horizon Rig oil spill monitoring / Fishing Forecast


Donald Long

ok... that link to the gif's shows it already in the loop current...

A small wager.

1) The amount of oil captured is >5,000 barrels/day

2) BP only gives the water-oil mix volume and not the oil volume despite their knowledge of the oil volume.

BP treats us like mushrooms.


BP's wager is PR control vs. the open truth, full revelation. That they have their hands full is obvious, not only with plugging the gusher but with spin control and the choices it demands.

My wager is that their 'communications' department is bigger than their engineering division, and that both pale in numbers next to the legal department.

Reminds me of the old adage about GE.
GE is a finance company that just happens to make lightbulbs.
BP is a PR firm that just happens to drill for oil.

CBC citing some official reported this morning that the straw is bringing up oil at a rate of about one thousand barrels per day.

That's impressive if the flow is actually 5,000 bpd. If it's 50,000 bpd, not so much.

I sincerely hope that however much they collect, it is a heavy majority of that being emitted. IMHO, we need to give it a week before passing judgment on the effectiveness of this solution. Right now it's likely still ramping, and the engineers will want to be conservative until they get a good feel for what is happening all along the string.

Maybe, if we're lucky, they'll be able to limit clathrate risks and operate at a mild suction at the floor, capture almost 100% of the oil along with some sea water.

More likely, they'll get to 90% or so and say "good enough" while awaiting the top-shot. oi

Hopefully the technology for both mechanisms will be sufficiently advanced by this crisis that there will be tube and top-hat systems standing ready for a future blow-out, and that BOPs will be improved to both shear more effectively and to better enable intervention access.

Agreed. Plus the Fear of God put into all deep drilling ops by this BP FUBAR.

I think the only lesson BP will learn from this is the importance of buying off more politicians--so their political contributions will go way up.

If they've collected some oil, BP should be able to give us the API gravity of the spill material.

It makes a heck of a difference on how to mitigate the spill.

If the specific gravity greater than 0.85 (less than API 35), you could spray 0.80 gravity kerosene (jet fuel) directly into the spill. The turbulence would cause it to mix with the reservoir oil, decreasing its gravity of the droplets, and making them more likely to reach the surface. With a high flash point, it would be unlikely to ignite on the surface.

Collecting 10,000 bbl/d of this mixture from the surface shouldn't be a problem, at least on a calm day.

At least this could be applied to the "overflow" after BP collects a few thousand barrels per day using the existing 4" tube inserted into the riser.

BP is already taking a public relations battering based on the perceived craziness of their mitigation solutions. "Top hat" and "golf balls" are instant punchlines.

So regardless of its technical merits, I don't think "We need to spill more oil to fight the oil spill" is going to play in Peoria.

I think they've already been doing that. The primary dispersant used is Corexit 9500. According to the materials data safety sheet, one of the main ingredients is "hydrotreated light petroleum distillates". Kerosene? That might explain part of the odor that people are complaining about.

The kerosene would be just a carrier for the dispersant. Not the same as what I'm proposing, which is to "absorb" the crude in another "narrow cut" petroleum fraction that would "stabilize" the rising oil droplets. This would be done absolutely without dispersants that Could "emulsify" the oil phase in the water.

I think by combining heavy paraffinic kerosene with the leaking oil, you might cut down on the "mass transfer coefficient" for transport of light gasoline fraction from the bulk droplet into sea water, a process which causes the oil density to increase.

It might also be useful to effect a "separation" of most of the gas flow from the liquid to cut down on the turbulence created by the rising gas bubbles, as others have proposed. This could be as simple as a using an inclined and inverted "half-pipe", coated with teflon so gas hydrates won't stick to it, as an "impingement" device.

An analysis of the oil collected by the new (4") suction straw, as well as that which is collected on the surface could tell us a lot.

Why isn't the gov't monitoring this and informing everyone? These data are essential if the best method for recovering the oil is to be conceptualized and selected.

I just wonder at the utility of having "bomb makers" on Chu's "super-hero" team.

After sleeping on it, I've reached the following tentative conclusions regarding the "fate" of the oil after escaping the riser--

1) If left to rise unconstrained through 5000 feet of "unlimited amounts" of sea water, at or near the top you get "tar balls" due to the leaching out by the water of essentially all the lighter petroleum fractions and subsequent coagulation of the tiny droplets left over into larger ones.

We don't normally think of oil being able to dissolve in water, but here we have a case of an "extraction column" of extreme length and with huge supplies of an extraction phase (sea water) which never becomes saturated.

2) If "hydrate formation" were not a problem, the oil emitted from the riser could be easily transmitted to the surface for recovery by "ducting" it up, through a standard 1-3 foot diameter pipe, even if it contained (by entrainment) an amount of sea water equivalent to the petroleum fraction, or even more. This would be due to the saturating of the sea water with oil, limiting the amount of light ends that could be leached out of the oil. In other words, the water/oil ratio would be limited, rather than unlimited as in the unconstrained case.

3) Getting the mixture of gas, oil and sea water into the "duct" without forming hydrates that would block its entrance seems to be the main problem. Further up the column, there is also concern that, as the pressure is reduced, continued evaporation of more gas could cause "refrigeration cooling", and more hydrate formation.

Mitigating against the above difficulties, would be the addition of methanol to the mix, use of teflon coated piping components in strategic locations, deliberate addition of a "narrow cut" kerosene or diesel fraction to minimize cooling and to further stabilize the liquid fraction, control of the pressure inside the pipe at higher than ambient to minimize evaporation (with a choke at the surface), and the fact that sea water temperature starts to rise noticeable in the "last" 1000 feet as the surface is approached. It may also be possible to "bathe" the outside of the pipe with hot water or steam at strategic points.



May 16, 2010: Markey: BP Burying Heads in Sand on Underwater Plumes, Oil Flow

BP Refuses to Provide Information on Size of Flow to Chairman Markey; Resists Help From Scientists; Markey Calls for Release of More Video to Aid Independent Analysis

WASHINGTON (May 16, 2010) -- Even as independent scientific reports surface on the presence of giant underwater plumes of oil emanating from BP's sunken, damaged oil pipe, the oil company continued to reject the involvement of outside scientists to assist in the assessment of the size of the leak. The refusal comes as BP attempts for a third time to siphon oil from the leaking pipe on the sea floor. BP also failed today to provide any useful information to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who queried the company on Friday about its estimates on the rate of the flow and its continued refusal to engage with independent scientists, giving a 24 hour deadline for a response. A BP spokesman was quoted today in the New York Times as saying, "We're not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point."

"BP is burying its head in the sand on these underwater threats. These huge plumes of oil are like hidden mushroom clouds that indicate a larger spill than originally thought and portend more dangerous long-term fallout for the Gulf of Mexico's wildlife and economy," said Rep. Markey, chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment in the Energy and Commerce Committee. "We must bring this spill to an end and prepare for additional impacts from oil yet unseen."

Following an empty response from BP today to Rep. Markey's Friday query, which asked for documents and explanations related to the estimate of a 5,000 barrel per day flow from the leak, Rep. Markey called on BP to immediately release additional video to help scientists remotely begin a more robust independent analysis. Late last week, staff from Rep. Markey's office discussed with scientists ways to analyze the rate of flow from the leak. The scientists said the release of additional video of the leak, ideally an hour or more, could help to provide a more accurate judge of the size of the leak.

"Up until now, BP has relied on satellite information to determine the size of the leak. But if there are plumes under the waves, how can they just wave off the possibility that there is more oil than meets the eye?" asked Rep. Markey. "There is no invasion of privacy in releasing more video of the oil leak, only a risk of more invasive oil from a larger-than-estimated spill."

With NO due respect to Markey, he is an a$$. I watched him during the congressional hearings and his motives are self-serving. I would much prefer someone else or some other agency with more integrity than Markey to attempt to establish the amount of the spill. For once I agree with BP in telling him to F### Off.

Although, that is actually part of Markey's plan. He knows he wins either way. If BP does not work with him he is seen as leading the charge against BP. If BP does work with him he is seen as forcing BP to surrender.

The only thing worse than a large company's PR department is a politician's PR department.

And those politicians who scream loudest will in generally be those who have previously abdicated their regulatory duties while pocketing cash from the same companies they now publicly deride.

The motivations of EVERY politician (at that level) are self-serving, as are those of EVERY corporation. Anyone who places their trust in a federal politician or a corporation is a fool. Of course he's maneuvering to make himself look good - but it does not matter if he is an a$$, or what he is up to , as long as he is pushing BP the right direction. I do not care one bit about the survival of BP as a corporation, or for that matter of any other corporation - nor clearly do they care about my survival. People who expect corporations to act responsibly really needs to wise up about how this system works. Keep repeating the phrase "limited liability corporation" over and over until it starts to sink in.

Why just "federal politician" - I've not seen a local or state level one who isn't self-serving.

I know a few at a very local level that are OK (I live in a rural area) - but yeah, city, state, forget it.

No wonder we have low congressional approval vs approval for individual reps in their own districts ;-)

My ophthalmologist, Dr. David Heitmeier, is also a State Senator (means 1/3rd cut in income due to hours as politician). He ran after Katrina because "people were dying and no one was doing anything about it" (referring to collapse of healthcare post-K).

Arnie Fielkow could be making an honest $1.5 million/yr in Seattle or Miami, but chose to stay in New Orleans post-K and run for city council and $40,000/year. (former Saints GM).

Best Hopes for Involved Citizens,


Stacy Head would make more as an attorney. She is fine too.

Every city needs one, BUT ONLY ONE, Stacy Head :-)

My district BTW.


Management as a fire fighting activity... Most people who at the sharp end can tell you about working overtime to meet a deadline, while the management demand morning meetings, afternoon meetings, reports about the problem, reports about the solutions, reports about the progress etc etc.

Unfortunately managerial influence is inversely proportional to the timeline, so when the problems occur, they just get in the way. The time of greatest managerial influence is at the start when the key decisions are made, which is often when the are least interested.

And of course, when you try to get the overtime signed off, you are told they won't pay because it was not "pre-authorised", or is outside their budget, or some BS excuse.

An appropriate analogy - this operation is being run under the incident command system (or some bastard hybrid) designed to coordinate and integrate the operations of various agencies in a crisis. It is most effective when the incident team in charge has a track record of experience in a variety of similar situations - like some of the fire management teams who have worked together over a number of years. In theory - a good system - in practice it can easily become a bureaucratic mess where simple decisions are nearly impossible to implement effectively.

We will not rest until BP permanently seals the wellhead, the spill is cleaned up, and the communities and natural resources of the Gulf Coast are restored and made whole.”

Ha! Maybe this'll work.

"Dolphins With Mops"


Unfortunately duck and pelican washing will.

On a more serious tack, the 60 Minutes interview:



If you want to get an idea of what offshore workers think in terms of the big WHAT IFS, this interview Ghung posted will give you a pretty good idea. Every offshore hand has, on more than one occasion, been suspicious about an operator maintaining BOP's and other safety equipment properly and following prudent procedures. We might chat about it amongst ourselves but, as a rule, you never confront TPTB about it if you want to come back for another hitch. You seldom have proof...just suspicions/worries. I once spent most of a month drilling a DW well off of Africa with no suspicion that the BOP wouldn't function properly. When they thought there might have been a salt water leak the pulled it to the surface for inspection. Good news: the leak didn't damage the valve. Bad news: when they opened part of the housing they discovered it was empty: no valving to make the BOP function if needed. It was a piece of crap Russian drill ship. Needless to say the expats were not a happy lot. The only time in 35 years I've ever had a actual nightmare while sleeping on a rig. Another DW job in the GOM the entire rig shook hard when they were running the drill pipe in the hole when they got to the BOP. Something hit something. Everyone knew it including the cooks. As far as I know it was never reported to TPTB. But I'm wasn't part of that loop so I can't be sure. We just carried on hoping/assuming the BOP wasn't damaged.

The sentiment floating around the grass roots in the oil patch now is a seething anger. You won't hear about it on CNN/FOX. We don't even express it much amongst ourselves...no need. But it's easy to remember those questionable incidents and wonder how close we came to jumping 9 stories off a burning rig in the middle of the night. Obviously easy to put ourselves in the place of the dead. Not so easy to set aside. Why I had to drop off TOD for a bit...anger management. Just spent 3 days on an onshore drill site and, as odd as it might seem, that helped settle me down.

Hi Rock.
In a previous life, I was a Union Rep on the Health and Safety Committee in a factory manufacturing coils for Hydro Generators. Our biggest success? Stopping the company from putting in a Class 2 Asbestos Containment and Abatement System for a Class 3 Asbestos problem (the work went to another plant with the proper facilities.) My reward? During the next layoff, I was the final person at the bottom of the layoff list (one place higher and I would have stayed. This was a while ago; contracts now are frequently worded to forbid this type of thing.) I've lost touch with what it feels like to work in dangerous conditions, and it was never quite the immediate life and death situation of an oil rig, but the part about keeping your mouth shut I understand. I hope that this spill brings about changes in spill preparations and reporting requirements (as in forcing the companies to gather that "unwanted information" about probable volumes and flow rates), and in day-to-day conditions for workers.


Yep Lloyd...how many thousands of stories like yours are out there? Time will tell but I wonder if we'll see more whistle blowers in the oil patch. It takes a lot more motivation to be proactive as you were then to just not say anything. And knowing that there are a lot more eyes on the rig that might roll over on them could make some supervisors a little more cautious.

The President, after all, is getting impatient.

Four week clown shows tend to do that.

He doesn't have room to talk, he's going on an 18 month clown show and what has HE accomplished?

He's doing an admirable job appeasing the powerful interests who put him there. What were you expecting? It remains to be seen whether he or BP has more clout with those constituents. Your interests do not matter.

By now George W would have invaded at least one foreign country. Why doesn't Obama just pick the next on the list?

LOL. Which president had done more in first 18 months - especially given that he took over a country that had been completely eviscerated by Bush Jr. ?

You mean Iraq? If you will recall the recovery plan (such as bailouts - which I strongly disgreed with) were planned out and passed by the Bush administration. However, Bush didn't buy any car companies and didn't set out plans to nationalize 1/6th of the economy with the Health Care Takeover and didn't try to appoint Know Nothings to the Supreme Court. Remember the Obama method is "A Crisis is a Terrible thing to waste" so we'll see what this crisis causes. Obama's $1 Trillion Pork Plan aka Stimulus Package hasn't done a thing either, unemployment is stil close to 10% nationwide and higher in spots, he is giving terrorists civil rights, DOHS failure to stop a terrorist attack on NYC, bowing to the leader of Suadi Arabia, the Climate Summit failure, etc. Not that GWB was a great President but he certainly looks good compared to Obama.

Bush didn't buy any car companies and didn't set out plans to nationalize 1/6th of the economy with the Health Care Takeover and didn't try to appoint Know Nothings to the Supreme Court.


GO CuriousGeorge GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

" stop a terrorist attack on NYC " ... Uh, hmmm, 9/11?

" bowing to the leader of Suadi Arabia " ... smacked him right on the lips he did ... uh, wait .....

" appoint Know Nothings to the Supreme Court " ... welll, there is one whose last name starts with the letter "A"... no ... hmmm, who appointed him?

" nationalize 1/6th of the economy with the Health Care Takeover " ... 1/6th, other countries do it FAR cheaper while the looking in amazement at the US, shakes their head and laughs.

Don't you like pork? ... If there wasn't such you'd be SOL.

"...didn't set out plans to nationalize 1/6th of the economy with the Health Care Takeover"

lessee here... add 1... carry the 4... i think i got it...

paying 16% of a $14T economy... or $2.2.T year... for... "health" care...

ANY change to THAT equation... well...

while i'm at it... european companies pay 0%... that's ZERO percent of the economy... because they tax their oil / gas use for things like... oh i don't know... like HEALTH care and EDUCATION...

two things we'll all need a lot more of esp. after this fiasco...

It is easy to prove BP is lying: "Intensive operations to skim oil from the surface of the water have now recovered, in total, some 151,000 barrels (6.3 million gallons) of oily liquid".

So with 4:1 ratio (four parts of water to one part of oil) you got about 30000 oil barrels collected. That would be almost one week worth of oil spill with "5000 barrels" flow rate. Do those satellite images and huge underwater oil plumes support this? Hell no!

Where did you get 4:1 ratio? I suspect it's more like 10:1 water to oil. Plus we have NO IDEA how much has evaporated, how much is in those plumes, how much was burned, how much has simply broken down in the ocean. If you can develop a reasonable mathematical model of that you can say BP is lying. Some extremely expert posters here have run some back of the envelope calculations and 5,000BPD (30K gallons) is within reason. Other wild estimates from those who are not in the field and from those who just want to get their 2 minutes of fame from the press are not supportable by the data. Remember the oil is leaking out of a 9" DRILL PIPE not a 21" riser, and we know the BOP closed partially and there is also a kink restricting flow. We also know the gas to oil ratio in close to 300:1 which inflates the plume and makes it look bigger.

Some extremely expert posters here have run some back of the envelope calculations and 5,000BPD (30K gallons) is within reason.

A wild misrepresentation of the discussions here !

The consensus (especially by members here more than a month and thus unlikely to be BP shills like CG) is that 5,000 b/day is either:

- a PR lie

- the rate a couple of days into the spill (before sand erosion enlarged the hole and rate)

- the extreme lower end of the likely range (i.e 1% or 5% tail) at an earlier date

Best Hopes for removing tax deductions for oil clean-up and damages AND removing BP's license to operate Atlantis and Thunderhorse,


BTW, 5,000 barrels is 210,000 gallons, NOT 30,000 gallons. BP should not hire liberal arts majors for engineering and scientific centered boards, but I guess that they are cheaper (BP's primary decision criteria for everything).

The Coast Guard have people in BP's offices along with all of Chu and Salazar's "experts". BP has been careful to say they do not know the exact flow but that Unified Command gave 5000 BOPD as a guess. Also working with BP are people from 150 companies. So if BP had a 70,000 BOPD number they knew, you really believe that someone would not have leaked it--even from the administration. Every one picked up on a Purdue Prof (Obviously, smarter than engineers in the industry) but ignore other outside prof experts that quoted lower flows. I have watched every minute of testimony and every briefing. It is fine if you do not want to believe anything a company says but it seems to me they have been very careful only to release things that are factual seem to try not to speculate unlike like most everyone else I hear or read. But maybe I am missing something.

For the record, not a BP shill, by a long shot.

BP canceled the planned use of Woods Hole equipment (developed to measure undersea vents but could be recalibrated).

Motive for that decision ?

Given the pattern of BP behavior and decisions, I would fill in the worst possible motives.


AlanfromBigEasy -

It is becoming increasingly evident to me that BP is not merely uninterested in knowing the flow rate of the release (supposedly because it is too busy trying to fix the leak), but is actively trying to prevent anyone else from establishing a definitive and technically defendable estimate.

Knowing how corporations work, I very strongly suspect that this posture was due to advice from BP's legal department, rather than the result of their engineers being totally incapable of coming up with a reasonable range of estimates. That way, when the massive litigation begins, BP hopes it can introduce as much uncertainty and confusion as possible and then play games with the battle of the expert witnesses. As such, it would not surprise me in the least if BP's technical people had been instructed by their legal department to put nothing on paper that could be in the least way be construed as an estimate of the size of the release. Of course this will ultimately backfire and make BP look even worse, but that seems to be the bunker mentality they appear to be operating under at present.

All the footage from BPs remote videos of the leak should be subpoenaed and carefully analyzed by a team of fluid dynamics experts. This is just a thought, but I wonder if it may also be of some value to construct a model of a short section of the 21-inch rise/drill pipe, close one end, place it in shallow water and inject oil/gas into it at a flow rate that produces the same visual plume effects as the real one. This might go a long way in supporting an alternative estimate of the size of the release. That, combined with the oceanographic mapping of the release, should get us at least in the right ball park.

It is absolutely ludicrous to attempt to downplay the importance of knowing how much oil was released.

It's NOT A 21" RISER that is leaking, it is a 9" DRILL PIPE within the riser. Geez, Louise ignoring the facts and calculations of very experienced people seems to be a real habit lately. I wonder if age has anything to do with it?

As I showed you yesterday according to the CWA and other Federal Law the SIZE doesn't matter unless they can prove Gross Negligence which can be quite difficult esp. since a lot of the witnesses are likely dead and we know there is a data gap as well. Then there is even a cap on that, so really size of the leak is not important. BP has also said REGARDLESS of that cap they plan to pay whatever it takes to clean up. So again size of the leak doesn't matter to BP. I'm not even sure it mattered to the engineers looking at the solution, they were more concerned with pressures.

Just because you want a big number to make a big hammer to hit Big Oil a big whack doesn't make it happen. But, it's a free country and you can think what you want.

If you look at the Transocean morning report for the day of the 20th, it shows 3-1/2" tubing was run to 8,367' prior to picking up the test kelly and at 3 PM is the last entry.

The Halliburton last 2 hour monitoring says the bit is at 8,367' I believe. I do not know if they made a trip in between but 3-1/2" is the last thing I have seen run.

I do not know where the 9" drillpipe comes from.


A little lower on the report page there is a box named "Drilling Assembly" 26 jts 3 1/2 DP and two crossovers. This is the cementing assembly for the cement plug they planned to pump. This is then run on the rigs standard sized drill pipe, in this case 6 5/8".


as they have a 7 in liner inthere I suppose that it can't be 6 5/8 so i think the 3 1/2 is more close to the truth
on the other side they have no packer so probably the flo comes as well in the annulus


It is not a 7" liner, it is a 9 7/8" (9 5/8") x 7" taper string, ie in the well head it is 9 7/8" and somewhere down sting it crosses over to 7". From the drilling report they report only one string of drill pipe. The 817ft of 3 1/2" tubing is the cementing stinger to pump the balanced cement plug and pull out of it undisturbed. I must admit the nearly 8" tool joints of the 6 5/8" DP would be a tight fit in the 9 7/8" casing.

I must say having done Transoceans incident investigation course, where my most memorable take away line was, never take a photo of the accident scene as you may incorporate unwanted information. I see they have tried to follow this philosophy with the drilling report they published, a photocopy of a fax, and degraded some more, to the point you can not read it. This report normally comes out crystal clear of the printer.

yes you are right I'm a poor reservoir engineer so that not all this things are a"given" for me

anyhow if you suppose a 9in flow path plus the 8000-9000 psi under the BOP 7000 bbls per day will be a good estimate for the flow


We all have our expertise, I will leave all the flow calculations to others, I'll stick to keeping people on track with the hardware, well control and rig life.

Please show your calculations.

API 35 oil (one public hint that was the grade) at high temperatures has low viscosity and should flow several orders of magnitude more than that with 8,000 psi and 9" pipe. The limiting factor would be the reservoir formation.


Assuming the information put out a couple days ago is correct the limiting factor/restriction must be inside the BOP. The information was reported by the media who heard it from a government bureaucrat at a press conference so my confidence level is a bit shaky.

The pressure below the BOP was reported to be "8,000 to 9,0000 psi", the pressure above the BOP (presumably in the LMRP) was about 2,650 psi and we know the ambient pressure outside the BOP is about 2,250 psi.

This means there is a large, about 6,000 psi, pressure drop in the BOP so there has to be a major restriction or restriction within the BOP which are currently limiting the flow. A smaller restriction - 400 psi drop - exists somewhere past the BOP stack, presumably at the kink in the 21" riser a few feet above the BOP.

Whether the kink is restricting flow in the drill string or in the riser itself is probably unknown. All we know for sure is that the someplace the oil and gas get from the BOP to the riser.

If the BOP was opened up or removed then the limiting factor would be the formation or some restriction at the bottom of the well where it is a lot of casing material, cement, etc. At any rate the flow would increase by some undetermined amount.

sorry that took me so long but I wasn't near a computer since may last post

I used Hagedorn and Brown method calculating iteratively up to bottom from 20 to 20 ft (for details see here: http://www.fekete.com/software/piper/media/webhelp/c-te-pressure.htm ) though other methods Begs and brill are giving about the same results
base: 35 API oil gravity, 0.7 gas gravity, 3000 scf/bbl GOR, 13000 ft of tube (9in +7in as per well construction)with 8000 psi under the BOP getting a BHP (bottom hole pressure) of 10730 psi at a flow rate of 7000 bbl's per day
with 9000 psi unde BOP is even larger 11700 BHP at 7000 bbl/d

what I don't exactly know here will be reservoir pressure and reservoir permeability to be more exact

anyhow I would guess that the original estimate of 1000 bbl/d was done supposing a pressure under the BOP of 9000 psi while in time decreased to 8000 probably due to erosion in the BOP so a 5000 bbl/d won't be such a bad estimate

please all take a look at this and eventually if you can provide more details for the data I have enered will help a lot

I'm not even sure it mattered to the engineers

It would matter quite a bit ! BP is handicap[ping their search for a workable solution by letting legal (plus perhaps PR) prevent them from getting a good #.

One easy example. The Discover can handle only 15,000 b/day in liquids. If the leak is more (as it likely is), then they are limited in how much they can capture (unless another ship with comparable capabilities is brought in).

Another area is how much dispersant to order (two plus months till a relief well, so plenty of time to make more) depends on the volume of the leak.

As BP's spokesperson here, BP is full of SH!T in claiming that volumes do not matter !


CuriousGeorge -

I'm curious as to where you got the idea that I though the actual leak was in the riser. (?) Yes, I AM aware that the origin of the leak is is the 9-inch drill pipe, which is currently lying within the riser. That oil then exits into the ocean in a plume leaving the broken end of the riser/drill pipe assembly.

The test I was speaking of might be a good way of determining whether this 5,000 bbl/day estimate is or is not reasonable. For instance, if we inject the oil into the model riser at that flow rate and if the plume looks nothing at all like the ones shown on the video, they we would have good reason to suspect that the 5,000 bbl/day figure is a low-ball. If it looks the same, then that figure might be in the right ball park.

The size of the oil release IS extremely important in accessing the likely extent of the environmental damage and how to deal with it, regardless of BP's potential civil and criminal liability.

What makes you think I want a bigger number? What I do want is for some independent third party to come up with a well-considered and technically defensible best estimate of how much oil was released.

Why is that too much to ask?

I never said the leak was in the riser, it's a leaking drill pipe within the riser. The press was picking up the "riser" as were many people. I was just saying that's inaccurate. Your description matches my understanding.

Why are you so concerned with the rate? The BP engineers know what the pressures are and from that one could calculate the rate. There are several different rates that keep getting mixed up in various posts. One is the rate at the wellhead beneath the BOP, another is at the top of the BOP, another is past the kink which would be the rate of the leak in the GOM. The capacity of the drillship to hold the output isn't that big a deal, they can pump from the ship to a barge(s) alongside and do that for a long time until the relief well is complete.

The response would be the same if the leak were 5X or 10X bigger which is why it doesn't matter. They still couldn't stop it easily, there are only so many feet of boom available and only so many boats. It would still go whereever the ocean takes it. It might make it shore faster or make cleanup worse or make damage worse. But BP has already said they will pay whatever it takes to cleanup. There might be one reason to really know the rate, and that is the Sarbanes-Oxley law that says any item that can have a material effect on earnings must be revealed to stockholders when it is known. Thus bigger spill = bigger costs = bigger hit to the books so that has to be revealed. But since BP is not a US Company I'm not sure SOX applies.

As many people and companies as are involved with this job, don't you think that if BP was totally BSing on that rate someone would have said something? If I'm sending my team in I want the facts of what they are up against and you lie to me you are going to catch hell, lie too bad and I might talk to the press and take that risk rather than see someone get hurt. Yea, I know lawyers make them sign papers called "Non-Disclosure" but people will talk, esp. after a few drinks or when they get really p.o.'d. And who's to say "Anon Y Mous" wouldn't tell the media a good story.

They didn't know the pressures because the BOP was malfunctioning.

The BOP was known to have been damaged, and was not fixed (probably in order to save rig time and money). The invalid/unreliable pressure tests impacts everything from the cementing program to the calculation of mud weights, to the analysis of well integrity.

Go see the 60 Minutes video of the rig worker...

BP is in a lot of trouble, and so is Transocean.

Halliburton comes out of this looking pretty responsible.

Its not that Halliburton was MORE responsible, its that most people expect cementing not to be perfect. Halliburton was expected to fail in its job, therefore less people are pissed off at them.

I am saying that Halliburton looks to have done what they were supposed to do, and should probably not be held responsible for the catastrophe.

They were given the impossible task of cementing and testing a well that had a BOP with a non-functional annular.

There is no indication that the annular was not holding pressure before the accident as far as I've heard.

And cementing is not an impossible task, their cement job just wasn't good enough. Standard procedures account for that however so they're no liable, however a good cement job would have been a safeguard against disaster in this case.

There is an indication (and a pretty strong one, at that) that the annular had been basically shredded due to an accident with the drill string. First hand reports of a mud technician bringing handfuls of shredded rubber that he collected from the shakers or the mud ditch is not a very good indication of healthy seals...

If that report is accurate, then the annular was, in all likelihood, not holding pressure. If it was not holding pressure, then a good portion of the data required to design a good cement job (i.e. pressure) was garbage. The data required to evaluate the cement job (i.e. pressure) was garbage, and the data required to evaluate the safety of the well (i.e. pressure) was garbage.

There is no doubt a good cement job would have been a strong safety barrier...

But you cannot do a good cement job if you don't know what's actually happening in the formation you're supposed to cement. And if (it's still an if) the report about the annular is correct, then the people who decided to continue as planned using bad pressure data in a dangerous reservoir, and the people who decided to displace the mud, are the ones ultimately responsible for the accident.

It isn't confirmed that the annular preventer was damaged to the point it wouldn't seal by pulling up the drill pipe when it was closed, and the BOP is fitted with two of these devices. They are designed to take some wear and tear. While what you suggest is possible the 60 min piece links two events without establishing cause and effect (drill pipe pull and rubber in the mud). It suggests they are related but we don't know that they are as there are other potential sources for the rubber. Beyond that there is no confirmation that the annulus couldn't be sealed by the BOP - there were tests that stated that it was ok. It is possible that the results were fudged, but no evidence was provided that this is the case.

In my opinion the most damaging allegation for BP was that they were pushing for completion of the job and that led to cutting corners with both drilling procedures and safety concerns (the safety issues may actually be the responsibility of one of the subs - I don't know).

HI, new to forum and just starting to get all the info here. I'm not an expert in this area and understand there can be a wealth of data and information I don't know that can change my perception of what is going on and what should have been done.

I also agree the 60 minute piece didn't prove the annular wouldn't seal or that it had anything directly to do with the spill today.

That being said though as an engineer I would never, ever trust a seal that had been damaged in that way. Actually I wouldn't trust a seal damaged in any way. I don't know how difficult it is to deal with this kind of fault and can see if successful testing was done that maybe you wouldn't replace the annular but if it was possible even with successful test I sure would have had to have a darn good reason, NOT to repair/replace this part as it would now always be considered suspect. Once damaged even if it did hold the seal during a test it could still degrade and at a quick rate because of the unknown damage.

So the fact it was stated, "No big deal" show me BP's whole attitude toward safety and maintenance and I find that very telling.

All the footage from BPs remote videos of the leak should be subpoenaed and carefully analyzed by a team of fluid dynamics experts.

Hey, where do I send my resume for a job in forensic fluid mechanics? I could really use a nice new summer home on the beach in Florida in the Canadian Rockies or something.

Curious might be talking about me. I'm no expert. I was a civil engineer in a past life. I'm also no shill for BP who signed up recently. I've been a registered member of TOD for 18 months.

Some days ago I pointed out that the slick was not inconsistent with BP's claim of 6,000 bopd. (Personally, I believe it to be nearer 12,000 bopd.)

When observations of "giant underwater plumes of oil" were reported recently, it implied that the leak must be much worse than the surface slick would indicate.

I pointed out that the underwater plume was probably mostly water and we need the oil/water ratio in the samples. I suggested it might be 1%. This was a total thumbsuck. Shelburn and others have calculated that it is probably closer to 0.001% oil i.e. there's not a lot of oil in the "giant underwater plumes of oil."

I'm not trying to make light of the damage. I've seen favourite stretches of coastline coated and destroyed with a thick oily sludge. I've worked with oil-soaked penguins. And I've seen how the coast and the birds have recovered.

As long as the oil doesn't get concentrated by wind and tide into a thick sludge on the beaches and mudflats, I think recovery will be pretty rapid. The toxic dispersants worry me, though.

From 10,000 miles away, all I can do is follow the story and hold thumbs. It has been a tremendous learning experience for me, and for many others, no doubt.

The NOAA now say the claims of underwater plumes of oil were "misleading, premature and, in some cases, inaccurate."

1. No definitive conclusions have been reached by this research team about the composition of the undersea layers they discovered. Characterization of these layers will require analysis of samples and calibration of key instruments. The hypothesis that the layers consist of oil remains to be verified.


Edit: Thanks Diverdan for the heads-up.

Of course they haven't got any data of their own to offer to help clarify things. They don't mention any effort to collect such data. The impression given (right or wrong)is that they just want to cast doubt on the preliminary findings. It would be wise to use this opportunity (tragedy) to learn something about the dynamics of deep water oil release. I don't see that happening - just full on information management.


Actually, if you read the report, it basically says the media has taken it upon themselves to extrapolate from what the scientists have found and that the scientists who collected the data have NOT YET reached the conclusions the media is reporting. This is not a case of trying to discredit data. It is simply a case of of the media once more being concerned about their ratings than trying to explain the limited extent of the data. IMHO.

This all obfuscationalist BS. NOAA is a government agency that has been and will be politically pressured. It is not a university with tenured profs. The party line is that 5000 barrels per day are leaking and the surface skimming operation can handle it. This has been drilled into everyone's heads by the supposedly sensationalist media.

The key point here is that a large fraction of the oil has not reached the surface thanks to the turbulent ejection producing a broad spectrum of droplet sizes. If the oil was seeping in a laminar flow like with sunken tankers or other ships it would be heading straight for the surface on the timescale of hours if not minutes (depending on the depth, of course). But in this case we have vast quantities taking *weeks* to work their way to the surface and experiencing significant horizontal excursions before they every reach the surface.

This all obfuscationalist BS.

No, this is responsible science. Accepted practice in the sciences is that you don't press-release information until it's been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. This time, it looks like a ship-report blog post has gotten blown up into national news, and scientists got swept away by the story.

Peer review is not an administrative detail: it's what makes a scientific result *science*, rather than anecdote. It's the gold standard for fact vs fiction.

There's no doubt the oceanographers are writing up results as fast as they collect data, and we'll be seeing a rush submission to Science or Nature very soon, but until the paper is accepted, mum's the word.

Newbie to TOD but Oldbie to life.

Goodman, there has been more than enough scandal in the last ten or so years with regards to "peer" reviewed "science" actually being industry sponsored, plagiarized, buddy reviewed, journal pressured to change etc. etc. etc. to make what you are saying essentially a leaky bucket.

Western science and it's vaunted "methods" got us here. It and academia are more full of ego than substance and unutilizable theory over practical use to human-kind.

I'm sure deepwater drilling has some good peer reviewed papers on it somewhere.

The tipping point for the death of western logical "science", Newtonian at that, is in the rear view mirror, for anyone with eyes open enough to see.

I suggest everyone here familiarize themselves with a little Viktor Schauberger.

There is also the fact that the skimming is not recovering all of the surface oil. The animation of the oil slick distribution that AlanfromBigEasy posted shows a rapid change in shape that no collection of vessels can hope to cover.

We need a time series graph of the daily skimming. It has not been constant and at some point they were collecting 20,000 bpd.

While trying to look up Mike Williams of yesterday's 60 minutes story, I stumbled on this interesting analysis in the reader comment section of the NYT, by one Michael P. Williams of The Woodlands, Texas. BP-Analysis. Seems pretty knowledgable, though of course there are so many thing gone wrong here that it seems way premature to pick a single cause. Quoted in full for posterity .

All of the entirely justifiable MMS-related hand-waving notwithstanding, the Macondo Prospect blowout is more firmly rooted in errors of operator judgement and risk management by the operator, BP, than failures in the permitting process, per se.

The proximate cause of this incident is almost certainly a failed primary cementation that resulted in direct and fairly unrestricted hydraulic communication of reservoir fluids (gas and oil) to the uncemented production casing annulus. Zonal isolation is the principal function of a primary cementation, and BP deliberately chose not to evaluate the integrity of that isolation (possibly against the advice of cementing contractor Halliburton), by means of widely-used wireline acoustic logging methods, before commencing to prepare the Macondo well for temporary plugging and abandonment.

BP's failure to evaluate the integrity of zonal isolation afforded by primary cementation of the production casing before commencing to prepare a subsea well cased in to a confirmed high-pressure oil and gas reservoir for temporary abandonment was unusual, though not unheard of, and the industry needs to revisit the soundness of this practice. As low as the actuarial probability of this catastrophic loss of well integrity and control may have been, the consequential costs for this failure are beyond extraordinary, making the overall risk -- probability of occurrence times consequential costs -- of sufficient magnitude to merit a more circumspect approach to preparing and vetting subsea production wells for temporary post-drilling suspension pending completion.

In the end, Transocean, Halliburton and Cameron (the BOP manufacturer) will be found neither grossly negligent nor principally responsible for this disaster -- culpability will rest entirely with BP, as perpetrators of one of the most colossal and avoidable risk management failures in offshore drilling history.

Deepwater wells of the type currently out of control in the GoM can be drilled at tolerable risk vis-a-vis loss of life, loss of capital, and economic and environmental damage, and some operators are presently doing just that. BP's preparedness to take what appear to be ill-considered technical and operational risks in the case of the Macondo Prospect well (and, perhaps, on other projects) should not foreclose the possibility for other operators -- and even a reformed BP -- to continue the development of deepwater oil and gas resources in the GoM within a more pro-active and prescriptive regulatory framework that dispenses with the current de-facto environment of laissez-faire self-'oversight' in favor of a regulatory framework more closely resembling that adopted for U.K. waters as a result of the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster. U.K. operators must provide compelling evidence of safety and reliability in their procedures and designs, at risks that are (by statute) "as low as reasonably practicable" (ALARP), not simple good-faith assurances that "we know what we're doing because we're the ones who are doing it."

In closing, it is perhaps worth noting that current U.S. crude oil production is about 5.6 million bbl/day, which amounts to 39 percent of total U.S. crude oil demand, the balance comprising crude oil mports from OPEC (4.2 million bbl/day) and non-OPEC (4.7 million bbl/day) producers -- of that 5.6 million bbl/day of U.S. crude oil production, about 1.7 million bbl/day (30 percent) derive from crude oil production in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, making the GoM a more important crude oil resource, vis-a-vis service of daily U.S. crude oil demand, than all Persian Gulf crude oil imports combined (1.6 million bbl/day), and second only to imports of Canadian crude oil (1.9 million bbl/day). Like it or not, crude oil production from GoM federal waters is a strategically-important and substantially irreplaceable component of total U.S. crude oil production, and will remain so for some years, even in the face of rising production from unconventional oil resources and even the most aggressively-prosecuted program for migrating the nation's ground transportation fleet toward all-electric, hybrid and compressed natural gas operation. We need to find a way forward without tossing the baby with the bath water.

All the more reason to let an American company oversee the project. Why let some stupid reckless limeys run the show? Send them back to London.

I hope the out of work fisherman are reading this.

The xenophobic reaction in the US connected with this event has been deeply unappetising.

Hopefully when all is said and done BP will come out of this with a clean reputation, if only to puncture the bubble of journalistic lying that has accompanied every action. However given the corrupt nature of US politics, I somehow doubt there is any chance of a fair hearing on the matter. Scapegoats will be fashioned to fit a media narrative.

In closing, it is perhaps worth noting that current U.S. crude oil production is about 5.6 million bbl/day, which amounts to 39 percent of total U.S. crude oil demand, the balance comprising crude oil mports from OPEC (4.2 million bbl/day) and non-OPEC (4.7 million bbl/day) producers -- of that 5.6 million bbl/day of U.S. crude oil production. about 1.7 million bbl/day (30 percent) derive from crude oil production in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, making the GoM a more important crude oil resource, vis-a-vis service of daily U.S. crude oil demand, than all Persian Gulf crude oil imports combined (1.6 million bbl/day), and second only to imports of Canadian crude oil (1.9 million bbl/day). Like it or not, crude oil production from GoM federal waters is a strategically-important and substantially irreplaceable component of total U.S. crude oil production, and will remain so for some years, even in the face of rising production from unconventional oil resources and even the most aggressively-prosecuted program for migrating the nation's ground transportation fleet toward all-electric, hybrid and compressed natural gas operation. We need to find a way forward without tossing the baby with the bath water.

and there you have it... Production/duce 7; Demand 2.

We need to find a way forward without tossing the baby with the bath water.

how 'bout... having our cake and eat it too?

I'm not an engineer, but it sure looks like it will be an extremely tricky operation to overcome the upward force of the oil with that mud, especially with the open end of the riser as an easy way for the mud to go. Looks like a big experiment. Hope it work.

Great site. I've learned a lot here.

Agree with most of these posts.........until I see multiple images from the submersibles, lI don't believe a thing BP says, on the latest attempts.

It depends on which side of the constriction in the BOP they inject the fluid into. Injecting the fluid below the BOP means that to get to the riser (which has the open end with the pipe inserted in it), the fluid has to first pass through the BOP. Because the flow has to go through the small gap in the BOP and the higher the flow through that then the greater the resistance to the flow, above a certain flow rate the resistive pressure equivalent that is generated at the gap in the BOP becomes greater than that which exists in the rock that is supplying fluid to the well. At that point flow reverses and goes back down the well.

The Guardian [UK] has requested technical suggestions from people with knowledge in the fields associated with oil drilling. The link is: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/may/17/deepwater-horizon...

They say they will publish the suggestions and pass them along to BP. The newspaper sounds like they are seriously trolling for ideas. I think they would love to hear from you guys.

it seems this plan is a risky one, imo. unknown pressures, unknown flow rates, unknown well productivity, unknown depth to the influx = unknown results - hell, they could rip the bop completely apart or off the wellhead.

caution !!! do no harm.

I think there are taps into the BOP at several places (called choke line and kill line for reasons that I am not competant to explain). BP has measured the pressure at some or all of these taps. Shelburn found the measured values and reported them in one or more of these daily discussions. Measured pressures are consistent with highly restricted flow through the BOP and restricted flow in the broken riser and broken drill pipe coming out of the top of the BOP. If you want to find these posts, look at "Comments by shelburn" under "shelburn". He is a recent join to TOD. He is a just person, and has real experience in the industry.

Also look for my posts -- not for what I say but for the answers I get from people who know something.


I'm STILL no expert on the topic and don't expect to become one in this lifetime, but I'm curious as hell. I've got questions on the top-kill:

1. Does anyone know if they're talking about an oil-based or a water-based mud? I can see arguments for both sides:
a. It seems to me that a water-based mud would have less of a tendency to dissolve/disperse in the oil column downhole.
b. An oil-based mud wouldn't re-introduce problems of hydrate production in the "insertion riser" that's currently delivering SOME fraction of the leakage to the surface.

2. Would it be safe to presume that the mud will be less abrasive than the flow out of the well? It'd be AT LEAST disappointing to see the flow out the end of the riser increasing because of more sandblasting through the BOP and whatever other restrictions there are to the flow.


I need clarification. Where might they introduce junk in the 'junk shot'? I had thought it was into a pipe sticking out sideways from the lower reaches of the BOP. AND Where will they introduce mud in the 'top kill'? Is this going to be forced in through a crack in the riser somehow? In both cases I asking about the point of first contact between mud or junk with the existing equipment at the well head. Too much talk about where they hope the stuff will flow to confuses me. I think the stuff, mud or junk, starts out in a tank where it is truly under the control of BP people, and it flows through piping still under people control. But at some point this controlled piping is attached to a pre-existing pipe attachment point, and from there on the flow is not strictly under there control. For both proposed actions, where is strict control lost?

I can't picture what is going on in the part where a straight forward but difficult plumbing job ends and a speculative vision of how the flow might proceed begins. What keeps the flow from squirting out 'side-ways' relative to whatever they hope to happen?

This process has been discussed several times on here. I suggest you go back and read those posts. Shelburne, HO and others talked about it extensively. It's really a pretty standard operation, just doing in 5000' of water is the challenge. There is lot of careful planning and plumbing that needs to occur, and that plumbing has to be fabricated for use by ROVs, tested, sent to the site, lowered down, mated together, hooked to the kill lines on the BOP, the BOP valve opening sequence co-ordinated with the mud pumping and then it could all go to hell if there is any mistake. That's why it's taking so long.

So how plausible is the nuclear option?

I can't start without throwing in my disclaimer: I am NOT an expert in ANY related field and don't plan to become one in this lifetime.

That said, I can quite comfortably say that the "nuclear option" isn't a realistic one and never has been under serious consideration.

If absolutely nothing else, detonating ANY nuclear weapon underwater or under the seafloor would, I'm pretty sure, be in violation of a couple of treaties.

Perhaps more relevantly, even if the powers-that-be WEREN'T worried about treaty violations, explosives - even if they're nuclear-powered - are NOT particularly known for reducing porosity of geologic formations.

Not, for many reasons (including it would not work).


I don't understand why people think a device whose purpose is to blow things up would somehow fix a leak.
From what I've read, the Russians tried it a few times. The last time they did this was 30 years ago, and it failed, and they stopped doing it.

At any rate, detonating a nuke is guaranteed to cause all sorts of problems for the wildlife -- including the "wildlife" cleaning up the shore 50 miles away. I can't imagine the population of LA being too happy about being the testing grounds for a nuclear explosion (even assuming, for a minute, that it were guaranteed to work).

I don't understand why people think a device whose purpose is to blow things up would somehow fix a leak.

Nor do I! But blowing things up is always the answer in the movies.

Hopefully the "nuclear expert" is asking "how big do you want the crater?"

People should really get informed before making these silly pronouncements. The Soviets used it five times and it failed once. It is NOT a surface detonation, which would be totally useless. A relief well still has to be drilled and the concept, which works in practice, is that a deep underground detonation crushes the original well over hundreds of meters of depth thereby plugging it. The advantage of using a low yield nuclear device is that the relief well can be drilled faster since there is no point trying to hit the original bore hole exactly. It takes quite a bit of time to fix the problem either way.

I don't think the aiming of the relief well creates a significant time constraint at this part of the drilling schedule. It MAY when they get closer to completion, but right now they just have to deal with removing 18,000 feet of rock and installing/cementing an equivalent length of casing.

The problem with ANY solution that "crushes the original well over hundreds of meters of depth" is that it replaces the original geologic strata - which have been pretty effectively holding this oil for the last few hundred thousand years - with a totally new FRACTURED structure.

All of a sudden, instead of dealing with two or three leak paths (through the BOP, through the side of the riser at the kink, and the end of the riser) we would have uncountable quadrillions of leak paths through and around the rubble.

Unless you know something about explosives, explosions, and/or geology that you're not telling, I'd have to say NO THANKS!!

Consider the historical context. Thirty years ago and in the Soviet Union, the technology for directional drilling was not what BP has today.

If only technology in this case had been properly maintained and implemented. Who cares what you can do if you can't do it right.

If only technology in this case had been properly maintained and implemented. Who cares what you can do if you can't do it right.

Hang on. This is supposed to be an argument *for* using nuclear weapons?

It doesn't fracture the cap rock at all depths, obviously. It is a low yield device. Just as with the underground testing of nuclear devices there is effective containment of the radiation as well. Explosives are used routinely in mining and with some intelligence behind the yield and distribution there is no end-of-the-world destruction involved. Nothing beats a low yield nuke for cramming into a bore hole.

As for the time saving, there is some but not a factor of two or more. So, like I said, it still takes a long time to plug the leak.

Actually, there has been extensive use of nuclear weapons (bombs) in gas/shale oil deposits underground in the US. 30 −45 kiloton range. The Colorado tests resulted in a nice formation frac to produce gas, not exactly what we are going for here. Interesting reading anyway:

I already posted this video in another thread:
It provides a good insight into nuclear option.

Here's a picture of the top kill from BP.
I have a question. Suppose the well was leaking at 5000 bpd, and the "tube" is capturing 1000 bpd. Would the other 4000bpd still be leaking into the gulf, or is the tube+stopper blocking some/all of the flow? What matters is how much is still leaking, not how much BP can get from the tube.

Questions about the BOP Cross-Section:

1) Running vertically through the BOP is a passage way containing junk(?) at the top and a blue arrow at the bottom. This has wider places of various widths, and a fixed minimum width, or ID(? is it round?)
What is ID of this?

2) Choke and Kill lines are depicted as much smaller than central passage way. What their ID?
3) Both choke and kill have two side spurs that go over to the main passage way. Are these the same size pipe as the longer runs of piping in the main drawing?

4) Is the black stuff in the main passage really a depiction of 'junk'? Is the piping that is to be used for "top kill" really the same as was/will be used for 'junk shot'?

5) Approximately how many barrels of oil will it take to purge this plumbing of seawater after it has been installed? (supply lines from the surface included)

Why I ask: relative pipe sizes matter a lot in thinking about how this will work.
Comment: "Top kill" seems to involve squirting stuff in at the bottom of the BOP, not the top. This is really helpful for intuitive understanding, IMHO.

xazp - the 4" extraction 'straw' will siphon off some portion and the remainder of the flow WILL continue to flow into the ocean. There is another leak point and the flappers will create minimal pressure increase.

Regards the BOP stack - the central pathway must have a large enough diameter to pass the largest casing that is set following its installation - this could probably be figured from the well diagram by someone who understands the drilling process.

I think maybe shelburn mentioned 3" as a possible diameter for the choke and kill lines - they, and the internal plumbing, must be able to pass drilling mud during normal operation if I am not mistaken.

Yes the black stuff is the 'junk'. You may notice the note at the bottom of the figure stating that the internal condition of the BOP is unknown. The drilling pipe is not shown and there may be other obstructing material in there as well.

Don't know about your last question.

Anyone care to clarify how the parts are latched together? Hydraulic latches? (wellhead to BOP - they show a threaded connection; lower BOP to LMRP; LMRP to riser) Just curious how they remotely disengage this hardware.

1) from this comment:

the BOP stack is using 18¾ inch bore Cameron BOP components.

The cross section is round, it would appear that artistic license shows the BOP components as swelling out bigger than the main bore.
Each of the functional parts (rams & annulars) of the BOP are valves of a sort to block the cross section (or at least part of it in the case of pipe rams).
You can get a look at reality from the two c-a-m links in the above linked comment.
Here's the link to the ram type parts:

This new graphic does provide a good representation of the choke & kill lines with their valves, and how they have access to various intermediate sections of the BOP.
Also the connector unit and the annulars above it being detachable as the upper section.

2) & 3) the choke and kill lines would be smaller. I think Toolpush or shelburn made a statement on their size, something like 3 or 4".

4) looks like junk to me. Yes, you'd use the same pipeing.

5) dunno. depends if they use oil or water based mud.

"Top-kill from the bottom of the BOP?" - "top kill" is injecting kill fluid at the top of the well (i.e. thru the kill/choke lines), vs. using relief well(s), which inject kill fluid into the bottom of the well.

Thanks, sunnnv.
I finally feel I have a handle of this. And really good ideas about where I should go if I have more questions. And above all enough knowledge that I might have a chance at detecting a scammer.

I haven't heard any discussion of hooking up a new umbilical to the BOP - wouldn't this be a requirement for the intended top-kill, etc? Since the annular preventers are kept sealed by hydraulic pressure isn't there some danger that the pressure will bleed off over time? This thing has on-board batteries to power the electronics - right?

I don’t understand why BP hung the pipe off of the BOP if they were going to move to another location. Apparently they were getting ready to move.

A few comments:

I expect that if they try the "top kill" they will probably have to shut down the RITT recovery operation because mud leaking into the 21" riser would screw up the 4 inch pipe and line to the Discoverer Enterprise.

There is a lot of confusion that the 21" riser sees or might see the downhole pressure on the well. In reality there are several distinct flow/pressure areas.

1 - The pressure in the well, below the BOP, was initially reported to be 14,000 psi and later reports say "8,000 to 9,000 psi".

2- The pressure above the BOP at the Lower Marine Riser Package portion is reported at 2,650 psi.

That means that a restriction, or series of restrictions, in the BOP are reducing the potential flow and dropping the pressure by about 6,000 psi. If the BOP was removed the flow would substantially increase, maybe up to the full capacity of the well.

The largest completely open well gushers have all maxed out at about 100,000 bpd and usually dropped off within a few days. The Lakeview gusher (California 1910) was estimated to reach 100,000 bpd, ran unchecked for 18 months, but over that time "only" averaged between 15,000 and 20,000 bpd.

Gulf of Mexico wells, all 30,000 of them, have never been capable of delivering the flow rates of the largest onshore wells in the Middle East, Texas or California. The maximum perforated and controlled flow rates have been about 40,000 bpd so it kind of requires a suspension of reality when people outside the industry start talking about flow rates of 70,000 to over 100,000 bpd. Even if the well was totally unrestricted, ie: no pressure reduction in the BOP, it is extremely unlikely the well is physically capable of producing over 60,000 bpd.

3 - The ambient pressure at the 21" riser is about 2,250 psi

That indicates there is a additional restriction, almost certainly at the kink in the riser a couple feet above the LMRP. That restriction is reducing the pressue by another 400 psi or so.

The 21" riser has been damaged and already has at least one other leak in it. Any attempt to seal off the 21" riser will cause a increase in pressure and probably result in other leaks. Think of crimping off a rotten garden hose - as soon as the pressure builds up it starts leaking at many points.

There is no appreciable pressure inside the 21" riser. To use the garden hose analogy again if you have a garden hose running at high pressure you get a solid stream of water that can spray a long distance. If you insert that same hose in a long length of 2" diameter or larger pipe the flow coming out the end of the long pipe will be a gentle stream with no pressure behind it.

Is there any significant "water hammer" effect possible with the junk-shot or top-kill approach? By that I mean, if there is 18,000 ft of oil in the casing (at least a few dozen cubic meters? Maybe a couple of hundred barrels?) moving at some relatively slow rate rate, and you inject 30,000psi mud at the top, what does the momentum do at the top?

Is there enough vapor-phase methane in the oil to mitigate a pressure spike via compression?

Is there a risk that the already-compromised parts of the BOP and above might see a pretty healthy fraction of the insertion pressure, perhaps as an initial high pulse dropping off to some new (but higher) pressure level?

On the plus side, that thick, heavy mud likely will not flow as readily through the BOP aperture, so less leakage flow may result just because of that.

On the minus side, that same mud might increase the pressure in the crimped riser, potentially bursting it. Or maybe just clog it and reduce the flow.

Who knows for sure?

Good points !

Although given the one published # for the pressure reduction (from USCG), I would not expect a dramatic rise in pressure from plugging the hole. It has been too long out of school to do the calcs properly, but I would expect (semi-SWAG) a 10% to 30% increase in constant pressure from clogging the leak completely (absent water hammer issues).

I am willing to take that risk (rupture from clogging the leak).


Comment on questions regarding top-kill and junk-shot:

Anything that ones does to stop the flow has the possibility of stopping the flow. (Duh!)
Pressure pulse will surely happen. The trick is to keep its amplitude small by spreading it out over time. Junk shot doesn't seem to offer a way of gradually slowing down the flow. Top-kill offers the possibility of gradually increasing the rate of injection of extra fluid and thereby gradually increasing the pressure inside the BOP. Thus gradually slowing the upward flow in the 13000' of pipe below the BOP. I conclude it is smart to try top-kill first. If it doesn't maybe introduce a little bit of junk into the top-kill fluid and see if it can be detected coming out at known leaks. Golf balls with RFID tags in them, maybe? Introduced one at a time?

Further comment:

If oil that has been collected from the insertion-tool device and separated from water and gas on the processing ship whose name I have forgotten --- If that oil is injected into the upper injection point on the choke line it will compete with the flow coming up from the well bottom. Upward flow of new oil from well bottom will slow and stop. Then, pump mud in thru the kill piping. This mud enters BOP lower than where recycled oil enters from choke piping. This mud should settle to the bottom of the well pretty much unimpeded. I'm beginning to see how this can really work!

Next step is to introduce a water *slowly* into the recirculated oil going into the choke piping. This will cause a gradual build up of hydrate inside the BOP. Eventually the flow out of the top of the BOP stops due to this clogging. The recirculating oil can be stopped. Mud flow into the kill piping is continued until the pressure inside the BOP equals ocean bottom ambient pressure.

Then wait for the completion of the diverter wells.

What will I learn tomorrow that will kill this picture?

Using water in the system versus Mud was what caused the original problem. Water just doesn't weigh enough. This assumes that hydrates would form at the temperature of the oil at the wellhead. I've heard 250 degrees oil temp so hydrates won't form in that temp range. Assuming all that is wrong you don't want to plug up the BOP, you still need those kill lines to inject the mud. If you sent in seawater and hydrates formed they would likely start right at the injection point shutting off your only access points to the BOP and any chance to do the top kill.

FWIW, there is a refrigeration effect as the gas starts to expand, so there is still a possibility of hydrate formation.

Unfortunately, we'd only see the hydrates forming downstream of the pressure drops. There is still a POSSIBILITY of using hydrates to plug things up, but only if the hydrates formed at the earlier orifices in the string catch in the downstream ones. Just because of the geometry ot the BOP and the riser kink, I'm afraid that'd have the effect of transferring the ENTIRE pressure drop to the riser kink and that has the potential to blow the riser completely off the end of the BOP.

I'm pretty sure you (we) don't have to worry about the "water hammer" from the oil column. There are a couple of reasons:

1. The velocity through the BOP restriction(s) and/or the riser crimp (wherever the pressure drop(s) is/are located) will be pretty spectacular, but the actual velocity in the well casing below the BOP will be ALMOST negligibly small.

2. In the worst case under current consideration (the junk shot) the orifice won't be slammed shut. It isn't like there is a round orifice just waiting for that golf ball to slam into it and stop it dead - the geometry is much more complicated and there isn't going to be any one piece of junk that just fits it.

"actual velocity in the well casing below the BOP will be ALMOST negligibly small"

Yes, but whatever is restricting the flow might be "ALMOST negligibly sturdy" and might break under even a tiny increase of pressure. If it did break, there would be a Condi Rice type "no one would ever have thought" moment.

Anyway, thanks for response. It has helped me get a better feel for the situation.


Rockman's away and I haven't seen Toolpush post in this thread, but maybe you can answer. If the top kill works as planned and they get the well bore filled with heavy mud and stabilized can they then just cap the well and call off the intercept well?

Once the well's stable do you think they might run some wire line instruments down bore to see if they can understand what failed?


In a slightly related direction - who now owns the BOP? I know it was TransOceanic's when it was installed, but it seems to me that it's now a pretty damning piece of evidence from a crime scene.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to know what actually happened in there and what condition it was in when installed and/or at the time of the accident. From what I've read, I would be VERY INTERESTED to learn what condition the annular valve was in just prior to that last closure.

I doubt that the existing well bore can be properly and legally plugged and abandoned without the relief well.

BP may very well opt to keep kill mud in the well till the relief well is completed and then insert the required concrete plugs (three I believe would be required).


draw -- Even if the stop the flow they can't just "cap the well". There are specific MMS regs that require a complete plug and abandon process. They'll have to set cmt plugs and perhaps perforate the csg and pump cmt into it. They'll have to replace the BOP stack once they kill the well. That should be a tricky and dangerous step. But once they've establishe a standard physical setup they can go back into the cased hole. What damage/blockage they find remains to be seen. I would be surprised to see them send wire line tools down mostly because I don't know what it would tell them. With drill pipe in the hole they might be able to tell if the originl blow out came from the casing shoe at the bottom or up the casing annulus

On his show today comedian Rush Limbaugh is blaming "environmentalist wackos" for this because they "force" oil companies to drill for oil so far away that it's miles below the surface.

According to him there's plenty of oil to be had on our doorstep.

Lawsuit seeks closing of BP platform in the Gulf
May 17, 2010 12:48 EDT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A federal judge has been asked to shut down a BP oil and gas platform that operated with incomplete and inaccurate engineering documents in the same part of the Gulf as the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

A lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court says the U.S. Interior Department failed to investigate warnings of possible safety problems with BP's Atlantis platform.

Atlantis is stationed in 7,070 feet of water more than 150 miles south of New Orleans.

In 2009, an independent firm hired by BP found that the giant petroleum company was violating its own policies by not having completed engineering documents on board the Atlantis when it began operating in 2007.

The lawsuit was filed by Washington, D.C.-based Food and Water Watch.

Yes, this is the guy they interviwed on 60 minutes.

Our high school graduate that is an expert on Climate Change is ALSO a superb WORLD CLASS (GALAXY CLASS ?) geologist !


Since the USA produces (round #s) 5 million b/day of crude oil, 3 million b/day of other liquids (mainly NGL) and consumes over 18 million b/day (Cheney's non-negotiable way of life), it is VERY GOOD to know that all those college educated idiots (like Westexas & Rockman) have just plain overlooked an easy to get 10 million b/day (more than current Saudi production BTW) in the good ole US of A !

Where can I invest in his new start-up oil company ?

Best Hopes for Ditto-heads everywhere :-)


PS: Does sarcanol leave a hang over ?

Me and my buds get excited onshore with 50 BOPD! Why do people give any credibility to any pundants or news outlet people. Just proves why we need no child left behind.

Wasn't there supposed to be a trillion barrels of oil under Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Those damned enviro commies are depriving America of 15 cent gasoline!

a trillion barrels? maybe yes, maybe no.
There might be a conspiracy between the enviros and the narwhales (or was it polar bears? - could not have been space aliens because the earth is not millions of years old) to poke holes in the reservoir and let the oil leak out, like what happened at Mukluk ;-) ;-) ;-)

The Offshore? Good Luck, Bad Luck, Mukluk


Consider Mukluk. People familiar with Alaskan petroleum exploration remember this well. In 1983 12 companies spent $100 million to build an artificial gravel island in the Beaufort Sea. Drilling the well cost another $150 million. But the big bucks—rumors of $1.5 billion—had been spent earlier by Sohio to secure the lease. Depending on who you believe, the structure of interest appeared to contain 1-2 billion barrels or possibly as much as 10 billion barrels.

Mukluk #1 was drilled into formations that closely resembled the sandstones at Prudhoe Bay, North America’s greatest oil field located nearby. Oil stains were found in the target rocks, but in hindsight it became clear that the hoped-for oil had leaked out millions of years earlier. Mukluk went down as the most expensive dry hole in history. The enormous failure dampened industry enthusiasm for the Beaufort Sea, though there are still untested traps that could hold substantial amounts of oil. More recently, much smaller fields—Northstar, a winner, and Badami, a disappointment—have come on stream. But no second Prudhoe Bay has ever been found.

Well, I think we should drill. Literally right on his doorstep. Where does he live these days, anyways - wasn't he moving to Costa Rica?

Wouldn't it be the case that the mud that they inject is more viscous than the oil/gas combo that is coming up the pipe? I guess what I am driving at is that once they start to inject mud, the volume of stuff leaking past the BOP would be reduced due to the viscosity of the mud.

They should stop playing games and plug this well. Once plugged and the media goes away they can then start planning on a way to tap it safely. Right now they are wasting a lot of time trying to find ways to tap it not plug it. And in the meantime thousands of gallons of toxic oil is spewing into the Gulf Stream. This is TRAGIC for all the life forms that live in the Gulf Stream!!!

Take a look at this possible way to plug it-?


You can send comments to thomas@waterloosurveyors.com

Got to chime in here-Special thanks to all for the help in understanding this matter. A
question which troubles me is-(relative to regulatory matters). Testimony last week re:
the BOP stated (paraphrasing)that 3 conditions need to be met before the e-stop would
activate the BOP ? If thats true. Thats troubling. OSHA would have a cow if such a control
was found in ANY US hyraulic app. from Steel mills,cotton gins to a small shop stamping
out washers. In 30 years,I've been in practically all but petro- just can't happen.

What upsets me the most is that BP is not trying to plug this wayward gusher but instead is just trying to find a way to tap it while is spews thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf Stream. They should be held accountable.

I have seen a drawing of a great way to plug this well. I would like to share it with folks on this forum. I can email the drawing to anyone who wants to take a look at it and/or I would post it here if I could insert a GIF drawing.

Anyone care to take a look, if so please provide an email address.

my email is thomas@waterloosurveyors.com


For those who have not looked, the head of NOAA has released a statement regarding "plumes" on the Deepwaterhorizonresponse site.

Perhaps, this reservoir is somewhat more important to some besides just BP.

Here is a link to a possible way to cap this wayward spewing gusher


If you have a comment you cand send it to me at thomas@waterloosurveyors.com

BP = " Better Propaganda'

Your link doesn't work for me. I would expect to get a gif picture in my browser. Instead I get I get some sort of cover page from a hosting service.

In that cover page down close to the bottom is a down load image button.

There is not an available/accessible attachment point for this fix - the end of the drill pipe is already capped in fact - to little effect. The place to apply this principle is the top of the BOP stack and from the pictures released this spot was damaged rendering attachment of such a cap a difficult proposition. If such a solution could have been applied, given the configuration of the mess, it would have been.

with some trepidation I went to the link...

(1) no access to the well casing now - the Blow Out Preventor is in the way, as is the kinked over riser. If they removed the riser or LMRP, there would be much higher flow, with no assurance that one could stab another thing on the BOP successfully in any reasonable time - took them 3 tries over a couple days to put a 4" pipe loosely inside a 21" pipe with a minimal flow pressure coming out.

(2) how would you seal the bolt hole and annulus around the valve adapter?
we're dealing with several thousand psi - per shelburn's discussion above:

Did you see the size of the valve clamp they used to cap the drill pipe?
Find that picture/videos.

While I too am frustrated with the pace of progress,
there are incredible logistics challenges to fabricate/test/ship high pressure components and install them on the sea floor at 5000', managing the vicinity of two drill-ships a-drilling, one drill-ship a sucking, a 4th drill-ship gathering a fleet of 4 more ships alongside it to start pumping (and all the pumps, mud mix, mud tanks, high pressure hoses, etc. + crews/supplies to run all this), plus a half-dozen ROV tenders who are trying to keep their ROV tethers from tangling, plus the odd workboat bringing groceries and other supplies, all the above in water that is intermmitantly oily/smelly, and dealing with weather.

All the while trying to think of ways why this might now work, or worse, would make things worse.
And knowing that eventually, somebody's head is going to roll.

I do think they could spare a press flunky to make more pictures/video available.
I want to see the gas flare...

“with some trepidation I went to the link...”

I hope you at least gave it a try. In any event there is over 4,000 feet of pipe lying on the ocean floor. They could cut it much closer the bore hole eliminating a lot of opportunities to create leaks.

As for the pressures you mentioned at 5000 feet down the water pressure is 2,296 psi. To rupture the pipe at that depth the oil would have to be 2,296 psi plus the pressure needed to rupture the pipe. I doubt that they are dealing with this kind of pressure at the sea floor.

What upsets me the most is that they are not trying to cap it they just want to tap it. And while doing so thousands of gallons of oil is spewing into the Gulf. Why don’t they just cap it and then worry about taping it later--?

tooldtocare -

I did give it a try, and that's why I know it won't work.

Shelburn has looked at the rig logs, I'm believing him when it comes to the pressure in the well:
I would have zero confidence of containing the well pressure with anything less than 10,000 psi holding capacity, and would want 15,000 psi.

You might go back and read Heading Out's summaries for the last week or two.
The riser is bent, cracked, AND LEAKING right at the BOP, so capping the riser is useless, it's just going to blow out that leak at some structurally weakened steel.

So, the BOP (or mud in the wellbore) needs to be the sealing point, and the BOP is NOT working as well as it should, so what's left (besides a terribly risky pop-the-upper-part-of-the-BOP-off and try to put a valve/another BOP on)?

* disperse the oil -> poisonous, maybe better than just letting it go.
* burn it on the surface -> hah, depends on weather, having fire boom.
* skim it on the surface -> hah, depends on weather, can only get small amounts.
* capture it underwater - sounds easy, finally a bit of success.
+ Big container = hydrate formation
+ insertion tube --> avoids hydrates, - can't get it all (need some blowby to keep water away).
+ top hat = ?hydrate formation
+ ? hot tap into riser --> imagining this is hard to do at 5000', finding an undamaged, stable, unburied section of riser, peeling off the foam, hooking up a hot tap unit that works at that depth (may not be one available!), ... avoiding hydrate formation by sucking water back up the riser to the hot tap ..., +easier to seal negative pressure of two current leaks, might be able to pump all the oil.
+ ? vent some of the flow up the choke/kill lines --> small sizes, low capacity, might not reduce well pressure much if at all, try top kill first.

* top kill: mud down the BOP -> great if it works, much faster than relief well, taking time to setup, some risk of blowout.
* junk shot, then top kill -> risks messing up BOP, great if it works (see top kill).
* relief well -> sure shot, but another 2+ months to go...

Thanks for your reply. As you can see I am ignorant when it comes to this kind of stuff but still I am very concerned about the continued oil spewing into the Gulf Stream and something has to be done now. I think BP is just trying to find a way to tap this oil/gas and not trying to just plug it.

Do you agree-?

On another note it does look as though there is a lot of oil and gas to be found in the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder how much this increases gas/oil reserve tables-?

This specific well is toast. No chance of EVER using it for production.

A new well will be drilled for production, later (2014/15 would be my guess).

This is a high pressure but mid-size field (100 million barrels has been mentioned).

Overall, the Gulf just has too much oil and gas to ignore/lock away. Drilling will resume, of that I am sure.


I would also appreciate a shot of the flare - that would be somewhat reassuring.

What I'd REALLY like to see, though, is a video feed from the ROV that you KNOW is sitting at the end of the riser monitoring the flow past the "seals" on the insertion tube.

I just saw (at http://dailyhurricane.com/2010/05/two-msnbc-segments-sunday-may-16.html ) a shot of the end of the riser that I hadn't seen before. I THINK the video was shot before the insertion tube was installed. From the apparent pace of flow out of it, I feel a whole lot less confident about picking up a significant fraction through a 4" tube


not a big one, but it is a fire...


edit for 3rd pic:

Not much indeed...

anybody have any ideas on how much gas to make a (rough estimate) 15 foot flame?

only thing of large size I found was some experimental glass furnace:
6.5 m flame at 110-120 m^3/hr gas.
That's about 2 m^3/minute, or 70 cubic feet of gas/minute.
Maybe the glass furnace flame is constrained in width.
The flame off the Discoverer Enterprise looks bigger than 1 cubic foot/second, but I have no idea how thick the actual burning boundary is.
If it were, say, 1/2" thick burned per second, then one might guesstimate the flame surface as a cylinder 15' high x 8' (crumpled up) in diameter = roughly 360 square feet, x .5" is 15 cubic feet/second.
Is this totally a WAG???

says a large Bunsen burner (?Meeker burner) is 10 ft^3/hr, you might get a 12" flame if you stopped up the air port, how would this scale? By the cube? A 15' long flame is 15x15x15x10ft^3/hr = 33,750ft^3/hr, 9 cfs.

Must be somewhere in the range of 10's of cubic feet/second of gas.

5000 bpd is 3.5 bpm or 150 gpm or 20 cubic feet of oil/minute, .3 cfs, 2.5 US gals/sec.

Gas Oil Ratio of 3000 cubic feet/bbl estimated:
10 cubic feet/sec gas would imply 1/300th bbl/second or .14 US gals/sec oil.
That would imply (if all the WAGs I've made are even half close) roughly 1/20th of the leak.
But that's probably way more than they're skimming.
20 cfs gas --> 1/10th of the leak, for sure that's more than skimming would ever get.

Would be interesting to get some hard numbers from BP,
but I think I'd like to see a bigger flame.

Doug Suttles of BP said at the press conference that they're currently collecting
"a little over 1000 bbls/day".


part 1, around 9:00

"will begin to open the choke, ... slowly and carefully ... so we don't get hydrates..."

"Top kill ... late this week or early [this coming] weekend"

"second relief well started yesterday."

1000 bpd is good news - they never be able to skim that much actual oil.

1000 bpd is about .5 gal/sec.
at GOR of 3000, that's like 30-40 cfs gas, maybe the GOR estimate is high...


sunny -- A very rough guess: between 500,000 and 3,000,000 cu ft. But BP should have a pretty good idea even if they aren't running it through a meter: they have the flow line pressure and oriface size.


Not QUITE what I was hoping for, but it's a start - MAYBE it'll get bigger as they let off the backpressure at the surface (increase suction at the bottom)

hi, newdood
As of today (Monday, May 17) that shot of oil/gas streaming out of broken end of riser is at least three days old. It is about 30 sec. Everyone with the least bit of interest in this disaster really wants to see more than this 30 sec over and over again. I think the video was released about the time they announced quitting work on the coffer dam/dome/containment box (the same thing ran through three different names before its sudden abandonment.)

BP won't release the images because they want to make up numbers, like the 1,000 barrels per day they say are siphoning through 4 inch pipe. Anyone want to try the math on that? Thats 1/5 of the admitted spill.....take a look at that video and tell me that a siphon is going to accomplish getting close to 1/4 of the volume coming from that to the surface..

Repeat Post

If they've collected some oil, BP should be able to give us the API gravity of the spill material.

It makes a heck of a difference on how to mitigate the spill.

If the specific gravity greater than 0.85 (less than API 35), you could spray 0.80 gravity kerosene (jet fuel) directly into the spill. The turbulence would cause it to mix with the reservoir oil, decreasing its gravity of the droplets, and making them more likely to reach the surface. With a high flash point, it would be unlikely to ignite on the surface.

Collecting 10,000 bbl/d of this mixture from the surface shouldn't be a problem, at least on a calm day.

At least this could be applied to the "overflow" after BP collects a few thousand barrels per day using the existing 4" tube inserted into the riser.

Hope those of you who did not watch today's press briefing will do so when it is posted on the Response site. Although you might not believe the statements regarding the spill characteristics, damage etc from the BP guy, you might pay attention to those of the Coast Guard and NOAA regarding the loop current and the "Plumes". Anyone here who actually watched full interviews with the scientists who found the plumes know the press comments and many on here were taken out of context. After a full debriefing they pointed out they do not know that the plume is even from the well, or specifically what it may be, let alone the concentrations. They pointed out that the samples of water in the plume are clear, which means the concentrations could be low. The statements about size that were reported were also taken out of context and used to imply (even used by senators today) that somehow there is this thick black cloud of oil taking up the whole Gulf subsea. Fortunately, they are re looking at opening fisheries an they have a massing testing program at multiple depths. The science, data collection and analysis will take a long time to get together.
Here's hoping the tool collects a lot, the top kill is successful, we continue to get little oil onshore and minimal damage to the fishing industry. (And the people of the Gulf coast get spared any hurricane strikes this summer. (Been there done that. No fun)

Disclaimer: Poster is totally unfamiliar with drilling technology.

Would it be possible to design the Top Hat so the insertion tube stuck out from the intake opening and created the capture configuration it is currently in AND have the Top Hat then snug over the entire Riser end and get the remainder of the flow? That way there would be less pressure coming out of the Riser and the Top Hat might stand a chance to capture the remaining escaping mix.

I don't understand why they can't make a Riser with a fluted end that goes down with suction being drawn into it and sucks the broken end of the Riser into it? That way you could divert the hot flow up the Riser above the Hydrate zone and work with it from there. Or just suck it all the way up to the processing/flaring ship. A 'bear trap' with teeth could hold the damaged Riser while it is sucked into the capture Riser.

If nothing else, installing a new elbow/riser assembly over the end of the busted original riser would be HUGELY complicated by the 9" drill pipe sticking out the end of it.

If THAT wasn't there, I agree - an elbow/riser would be DAMN HANDY if it could be installed. Even a short riser (10 or 20 feet tall) could be used with the original "Macondome" (with a few modifications to turn it into a gas/oil separator) without running into the hydrate collection problem.

No chance of a saw being jerry-rigged to go down there and make a clean cut?

Seems like if you could go down there with a curved joint and draw the whole end of the broken riser in with suction while injecting methanol the whole damned thing could be coupled and you would get the full flow up to the top.

The best place to control this was in the Blowout Preventer. Seems the possible ways to cut-off flow are so easy engineering-wise that serious negligence has been committed here. Not now, I mean by pre-design.

A bypass pipe has a drill built-in near the casing. A remote unit comes down and attaches and drives the drillhead through the casing and drill pipe. The pressure forces the drill back to a seated position and two bypass tubes go around the recessed drillhead and up the new Riser connected to the emergency bypass.

"jerry-rigging" the saw wouldn't be TOO hard, Apparently, some sort of wire saw can be operated with the ROVs - they already cut off the end of the 9" drill pipe to put a valve on it.

The only problem would be that cutting it off AGAIN would effectively undo that work - everything now blocked by that valve would be released.

No need to jury rig (let's not start *that* argument) anything. Real ROVs have *real* saws: one was used to plug the leak at the end of the drill string, several weeks ago.


I believe they don't want to use this sort of technique for the leaks further back along the riser for fear that the cut-off section might be providing backpressure, so that cutting off a piece might raise the flow rate.

They HAVE a saw down there. I saw video of it cutting a circular pipe that I took to be the 9" drill pipe. Cutting a clean end on that pipe was part of operation of getting it capped. But it is a circular saw and might not work well *inside* the 21" riser.

They seem to be getting a lot of practice sticking the 4" pipe in and pulling it out. They may develop enough skill at handling this arrangement that it won't be worthwhile to switch to a different arrangement.

They seem to be getting a lot of practice sticking the 4" pipe in and pulling it out.

Yeah, that's what she said.

...sorry, someone had to go there.

I described turning the original "Macondome" into a gas-oil separator in yesterday's thread (see http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6470#comment-624383 )

I saw a different video of the flow out of the end of the riser today (at http://dailyhurricane.com/2010/05/two-msnbc-segments-sunday-may-16.html ). I'm now convinced that using the 4" "insertion tube" to try to direct flow into the separator is a waste of time.

I don't have any bright ideas about how to install it, but an elbow off the end of the downed riser, attached to a new 20 foot riser, would provide a suitable substitute. The joint between the downed riser and the elbow would have to be moderately tight to keep water out of the separator.

Napolitano to Lieberman : Stories regarding so called plumb not accurate.(When are some people going learn about what to say in press interviews?)

I accidently found TOD and a story by HO-Hooked me and I'm very grateful -to HO,Rockman,FF
Shelburn et al for your thoroughness,patience and careful analysis. After 30 years hyd.
troubleshooting-no petro, I quickly learned there was more to learn. There's a couple of
other lessons I picked up-1) Theres a hellofalot of talent in the patch and 2)Its only when the HOT NEWS of the day is a subject with which your intimately familiar, can you see the errors untruths,even total fabrication by the media. There is no longer a line between comment and reporting and its made victims of us all. Thankx again -'oh 2 weeks ago I
thought the problem with the BOP was likely delta P-still do. Maybe Im not so rusty afterall.

Latest satellite image:


"MODIS/Terra satellite image taken May 17, 2010, shows oil slick being entrained in the Loop Current, with a broad conveyor-belt-like extension of the slick sweeping in a gentle arc to the southeast and reaching 222 miles (357 km) from the location of the leaking well. Slick and sheen covers 10,170 square miles (26,341 km2), almost 100% larger than was visible in the 5/14 radar image."

Three days and doubling the size and in the Loop....

(Exxon Valdez: 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2) of ocean).

Runs counter to testimony and analysis by coast guard/homeland security today(and by NOAA in direct questioning). Mostly minor sheen that will dissipate.Said if there was threat to loop they would attack it as if it was coastline. Of course we know they are in on the conspiracy to destroy Florida, the East coast, and ultimately the U.K. which is BP's home. Sounds like a plot from "24".

Sounds like you work for the BP. All the time, "No, this is no big deal" and "you might take a look at the deepwaterresponse blah blah blah".

Tim: Sorry,never have, never will. Not in the biz. I am a greeny. Always have been. Do not use much oil. Have lots of fiends/family in the Gulf Coast(I like their seafood and after this probably still safer than imports that supply most of what we eat-although I eat very little meat or seafood) .Hate the lack of facts in the press and general inability of people to take an objective look at situations or to understand risk. Worked in public and private organizations. Great people in all of them. But the neatest of them are the folks I know from the oil patch.
Are you a shill for Greenpeace?

Never said it was not a big deal. I said wait to sea how it plays out. Where were you during the first Gulf War? Look up Carl Sagans's et al quotes. I am just not a "doomsdayer", although the debt crisis may change my mind on that. Lot's of people,lot's of opinions.

"Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?"

I'll take satellite imagery over fallible human noises any day.

Dan, did the NOAA people indicate they, themselves, were initiating any sub surface monitoring of the oil? Or that any of the resources available to the team (DOD, national labs, etc) were going to be committed for this purpose?

Here is my problem with the official response - in order to understand what is happening with this event it is vital to know how much oil (and gas) is leaking, what its composition is, and how it is dispersing - how much to the surface, how much in the water column, how it is distributed and how quickly. Without hard numbers and good data conjecture and speculation will replace sound analysis and reasonable response, as well as preventing anyone from easily understanding what the consequences are down the road.

The lack of effort here breeds suspicion.

Thanks, this sort of information is valuable. We are not seeing the action under the surface where there is lots of oil, also entering the Loop Current.

Chrys Oynes, the associate director of Offshore Energy and Minerals Management at the Minerals Management Service will retire May 31, reports The Washington Post:

Oynes, who oversaw oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico for 12 years before being promoted to MMS associate director for Offshore Energy and Minerals Management, has come under fire for being too close to the industry officials he regulated.

The Post reports that Oynes made the announcement Monday.

His move follows the April 20 explosion aboard the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent oil spill.

In the wake of the spill, Interior Secretary Ken Slazar announced plans to split MMS into two separate agencies: one that would oversee safety compliance and another that would oversee drilling leases and royalty collection.

Bottom line BP stock has lost 30 billion in value.....which is all BP cares about anyway. Maybe they should release more video.

(CNN) -- President Obama will sign an executive order establishing a presidential commission to investigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, an administration official said Monday.

Eight U.S. senators called earlier Monday for an independent federal investigation of whether oil giant BP violated civil or criminal laws in connection with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In testimony on Capitol Hill, BP told senators that its latest attempt at capping the gushing crude is working, and the Obama administration vowed it won't rest until the company cleans up the spill and addresses its impact.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and BP America Chairman Lamar McKay appeared before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to assess the response to what some lawmakers are calling a "catastrophe."

A BP maneuver to siphon oil from the well into a tanker using a tube has been working for more than 24 hours, said Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer for exploration and production.

The pipe is "producing over 1,000 barrels of oil into the drill ship, so it's good progress," he told CNN's "American Morning" on Monday.

The pipe isn't capturing all the oil gushing into the water, Suttles said, but the company hopes to increase the amount of oil it is siphoning from the site. Crews are trying to avoid mixing water with the oil, which can cause the formation of crystals known as hydrates, he said. more..... http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/17/gulf.oil.spill/index.html?hpt=T1&iref=BN1

Sorry if this has already been posted.

NYT article hypothesizing what might happen if a hurricane strikes Gulf while oil spill is ongoing:


I just found this on youtube, it's a local dutch TV interview:

It's dutch, but I'll explain:
It shows two guys who have found a powder like substance that absorbs oil but not water. So if you have an emulsion of oil and water and you mix this powder, it'll absorb the oil out of the water and as shown float to the surface where it can skimmed of easily. They talk about how they tried to contact BP but didn't get any response and how they think this could be a great tool in cleaning up the mess.

Looks to me like a real winner. They throw this stuff out chopper, plains and boats and it'll collect all the oil it small chunks which can be easily skimmed of.

I don't have time right now to check them out, the submissions email is:

OEG LLC has some flashed out website, looks like a (small) training, etc. consultancy.
Probably overwhelmed...

I haven't heard back either, not really expecting to (soon).

Mike Williams' interview on 60 Minutes is incredibly damning.

Weeks before the disaster, the annular was compromised by a drilling error - they shut the annular (probably to do a pressure test) and moved the drill string, probably caught a joint on the annular and ripped/abraded it to the point where chunks of rubber were coming up in the drill mud.

Without a properly functioning annular, any and all pressure test information from that point on was junk data, not reliable, not accurate.

There's the bad control pod, known for weeks, and the bad hydraulic connection.

Ok, so they're drilling ahead with a severely and multiply compromised BOP... pressure data are garbage...

Bad pressure data means that the cementing plan is based on poor data, the mud-weight calculations are based on poor data...

But they ignore the pressure data because... the annular is malfunctioning.

So, the time comes to cement the last casing string, and run the 2 or 3 cement plugs to cap the well, so they can move along.

They KNOW the formation is quite overpressured (there have been numerous and quite large kicks, and a previous attempt to drill and complete this well resulted in a lost BHA).

The Transocean rig manager says: (I am paraphrasing) "Case and cement with drilling mud in the hole" and the BP company man says "no, no, run the cement plugs with sea water in the hole, and to hell with the pressure test data."

End result is this disaster.

Transocean is in BIG trouble for not stopping the operation and fixing the BOP as soon as there was a known issue.

BP is in BIGGER trouble for ordering a risky operation under conditions that were already half-assed to begin with.

Cameron probably cannot be held responsible for failure of the BOP, as it was not maintained or serviced properly once its integrity was compromised.

Halliburton cemented the casing and the bottom of the hole based on bad data, and reported their well-pressure data, probably suggesting that the cement job was not going to be up to standards required. They were ignored, and probably cannot be held responsible for a cement job that failed due to bad data and improper drilling/rig operation.

Yeowch!! If your scenario is anywhere CLOSE to correct, it seems criminal charges should be considered.

I've got one issue/question about it. I'm STILL no expert in drilling or on this accident, but my understanding was that they were replacing the mud in the RISER with seawater and leaving the mud below the BOP alone. Would this make a significant difference in your scenario?

Can't replace the mud in the riser without replacing the mud in the entire system.

Mud goes down the drill pipe, out the drill bit, and back up around the outside of the drill pipe between riser pipe and drill pipe.

In order to displace the mud with seawater, you pump seawater down the drill pipe, and it forces (with the assistance of the pumps) the drilling mud up and out of the well, up and out of the riser pipe, and into the mud recirculation/storage system on the rig.

But if you pulled the drill pipe up until it was clear of the BOP and THEN started pumping seawater down it, even if there isn't a valve to close off the full bore of the BOP, you could still replace the mud in the riser without affecting the rest of the mud column downhole.

It seems like this would HAVE to be a fairly easy/common procedure to allow stuff like leaving the hole for a hurricane.

The BP folks wanted the well plugged with cement (two or three plugs at different depths) *after* the drilling mud was displaced from the well. Doing it that way makes it faster to cement, and makes it easier to re-enter the well for the production phase.

They were not talking about removing the drilling mud from the riser above the BOP, they were talking about removing all the mud from the well.

That's what they did, and it blew out.

If the well had been full of high density drilling mud, it would not have blown out.

Only when they started and were (apparently) nearly finished displacing the mud from the well did it blow out.

IANAL, but I think Transcom will have their liability limited to a share of the accident itself, including loss-of-life, but not the spill damage,

Cameron might still be on the hook because we still have the question of why the sheer rams failed. None of the maintenance issues have yet explained it.

BP is still clearly taking the brunt of the liability.

All Cameron has to do is show that the BOP was reconfigured without proper referral to Cameron or to the manual, or to S.O.P.... that "test ram" for example, seems to be one primary reason why the rams may have failed, the Hydraulic leak, and the issues with Batteries and control pods... all point to an improperly set up, poorly maintained, improperly configured, and improperly used BOP.

Cameron is not responsible for that... Transocean probably is.

The actual picture (as opposed to the one painted by 60 min) may turn out to be rather different than the one presented. Some aspects more damming while others that seemed to be bad may turn out to have been inconsequential.

As I said above: In my opinion the most damaging allegation for BP was that they were pushing for completion of the job and that led to cutting corners with both drilling procedures and safety concerns (the safety issues may actually be the responsibility of one of the subs - I don't know) with tragic consequence.

We will see how it pans out.

The most damaging allegation (as in not yet proven, but certainly charged) is that the BP company man directly contradicted and over-ruled the TransOcean rig man with respect to the cementing, plugging and capping procedure to be followed: specifically that the do the cement (plugging) job with seawater in the well as opposed to drilling mud in the well.

IF that allegation can be proven: that BP insisted, in the face of bad pressure test results (from Halliburton), and in the face of several documented mechanical and operational problems with the BOP, and over-ruled the rig manager on that issue... Then BP is in a vast, massive world of shit.

Because regardless of a bad cement job, regardless of a poorly functioning BOP, regardless of all of that... if the well had had the drilling mud in it, there would have been no blowout.

The real cause of the blowout was the removal of the drilling mud in the scenario put forward by the 60 minutes report, a scenario based on the work done by Bob Bea.

I do agree: this scenario is still alleged, not proven... but it is the worst case scenario for BP and Transocean.

If I am not mistaken, if the cement job failed and this was not detected and repaired immediately, the well was doomed (please correct me if this is not the case). I do agree that the decision to displace the mud with seawater looks very likely to have led to the deaths and loss of the drilling platform. The apparent inattention to safety measures also seems to have played a role (not repairing the BOP, etc).

One thing that puzzled me was that we heard again that the generators oversped and blew out the lights. In earlier discussions here a number of experienced people said that it was impossible for the generators to suck in gas and overspeed - that they have safety shut offs that will prevent this if gas is detected - so, these two assertions would seem to conflict.

With the mud in the well, the cement job was basically irrelevant, assuming no further drilling took place.

The mud is what allows drilling into pressurized reservoir rocks to take place at all without constant blowouts.

I am not a generator technician or engineer, so I have no idea, and it's not relevant.

So we're discussing how this piece of safety equipment called a Blow Out Preventer failed, but then the diesel safety shutoffs are always 100% reliable. ???

Uh, I don't think so.
Many a diesel engine has oversped from flamable gas or lube oil ingestion.
A sampling on an engine board:

search on: diesel engine overspeed gas ingestion
gives About 3,760 results.

There are plenty of patents, gizmos and doodads that claim to prevent runaway, but will they always work?

n.b. since a diesel is a compression ignition engine, shutting off the fuel when there is an overspeed due to ingestion of flammable gas, oil/fuel/gasoline/... mist, oil from broken oil ring, oil from crack in cylinder head, oil leak from turbo/super-charger, etc. - WILL NOT WORK!
The only sure thing is to cut off the air, and many units do NOT have an air damper/shutoff.
(I would expect an oil rig to have them, but...)

And then there's the issue of how to trigger the air shutoff, and what if that sensor/control/actuator fails.

And what one might do if a super/turbo-charger blows up, spewing oil into the engine and opening a nice big air-hole after any damper. RUN!!!


Here's the MMS rule:

[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 30, Volume 2]
[Revised as of July 1, 2001]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 30CFR250.510]

[Page 316]




Subpart E--Oil and Gas Well-Completion Operations

Sec. 250.510 Diesel engine air intakes.

No later than May 31, 1989, diesel engine air intakes shall be
equipped with a device to shut down the diesel engine in the event of
runaway. Diesel engines which are continuously attended shall be
equipped with either remote operated manual or automatic-shutdown
devices. Diesel engines which are not continuously attended shall be
equipped with automatic-shutdown devices.

Did the Transocean rig have a manual shutoff?
Did someone panic an forget what to do?
Were they afraid to shutoff the main engine and loose station keeping?

My point was that this might turn out to be another example of sub-standard or malfunctioning safety equipment associated with this operation. I am aware of the consequence of gas ingestion by the generators.

"...One thing that puzzled me was that we heard again that the generators oversped and blew out the lights. In earlier discussions here a number of experienced people said that it was impossible for the generators to suck in gas and overspeed - that they have safety shut offs that will prevent this if gas is detected - so, these two assertions would seem to conflict."

Diesel engines can suck in gas that can cause an overspeed. Normal method to shut down overspeed is by cutting off diesel fuel. Because diesel engines have no throttle (100% volumetric efficiency all the time), the ingestion of natural gas can cause the engines to continue to run even if diesel fuel is cut off. Not sure how fast they would run, such as to overspeed, but engines with turbochargers are more likely to do this. I have heard of diesel locomotive engines doing this from oil leaks that vaporise into a combustable gas and cause overspeed.

The only way to control a diesel engine that is ingesting natural gas is to block off the air intake. If there is too much natural gas in the air, shutting off the diesel fuel will be ineffective because the engine can run on natural gas as easily as diesel fuel. There's no upper limit on how fast the engines could run on natural gas, which is why the generators blew out the lights before they self-destructed.

I take it that the platform did not have built-in air intake shutoffs on their diesel engines. That would be a good idea on an offshore platform. Of course, they weren't expecting a blowout.

On a small boat that has a diesel run away, you can just stuff a rag into the air intake or put a board over it to kill the engine, but that's impractical on a big platform.

Reports show NOAA knew Gulf of Mexico drilling operations were illegal By Richard Gaines Staff Writer

Since the start of the Obama administration, an Interior Department agency has authorized more than 300 drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico without first obtaining permits from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to published reports and the notice of intent to file a law suit by an environmental non-profit.

The law suit announcement by the Center for Biological Diversity on Friday names Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as the intended defendant for bypassing permitting from NOAA, whose responsibility it is to enforce the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

In a story Friday, The New York Times, which counted three lease sales, 103 seismic blasting projects and 346 drilling plans approved by the Minerals Management Service without NOAA permits, reported that NOAA in consultations and writing has repeatedly warned that the extractive activities effectively were illegal without permits.

"Federal records indicate that these consultations ended with NOAA instructing the minerals agency that continued drilling in the gulf was harming endangered marine mammals and that the agency needed to get permits to be in compliance with federal law," The New York Times reported.

Full story at http://www.gloucestertimes.com/local/x1414103329/Oil-on-NOAAs-hands-Repo...

Air tests from the Louisiana coast reveal human health threats from the oil disaster The media coverage of the BP oil disaster to date has focused largely on the threats to wildlife, but the latest evaluation of air monitoring data shows a serious threat to human health from airborne chemicals emitted by the ongoing deepwater gusher.
Today the Louisiana Environmental Action Network released its analysis of air monitoring test results by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's air testing data comes from Venice, a coastal community 75 miles south of New Orleans in Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish.
The findings show that levels of airborne chemicals have far exceeded state standards and what's considered safe for human exposure.
For instance, hydrogen sulfide has been detected at concentrations more than 100 times greater than the level known to cause physical reactions in people. Among the health effects of hydrogen sulfide exposure are eye and respiratory irritation as well as nausea, dizziness, confusion and headache.
The concentration threshold for people to experience physical symptoms from hydrogen sulfide is about 5 to 10 parts per billion. But as recently as last Thursday, the EPA measured levels at 1,000 ppb. The highest levels of airborne hydrogen sulfide measured so far were on May 3, at 1,192 ppb.
Testing data also shows levels of volatile organic chemicals that far exceed Louisiana's own ambient air standards. VOCs cause acute physical health symptoms including eye, skin and respiratory irritation as well as headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and confusion.
Louisiana's ambient air standard for the VOC benzene, for example, is 3.76 ppb, while its standard for methylene chloride is 61.25 ppb. Long-term exposure to airborne benzene has been linked to cancer, while the EPA considers methylene chloride a probable carcinogen.
Air testing results show VOC concentrations far above these state standards. On May 6, for example, the EPA measured VOCs at levels of 483 ppb. The highest levels detected to date were on April 30, at 3,084 ppb, following by May 2, at 3,416 ppb.

Full story at http://www.southernstudies.org/2010/05/air-tests-from-the-louisiana-coas...

Pretty soon we should be hearing of cases of the "Valdez Crud" from those working to stop the spill as well as just people living on the coast.
Almost from the start, however, workers employed by Exxon contractors complained of respiratory problems and ßu-like symptoms, which became known as the "Valdez Crud." "Everybody was coming down with something," says Potter. "We'd be given cough medicine. We figured it wasn't a cold, but something to do with the oil."

Why don't they replace the rubber flaps circling the 4" pipe that has been inserted into the hole with a device that can be pushed farher into the pipe and filled with drill mud ? An expandable attachment could be filled with mud to slow the outflow so that additional mud pumped in behind it wouldn't be carried out by the flow. A concrete plug could then be inserted behind the mud.
I offer this idea free and only ask that payment is made for consultation during the next environmental disaster. Which is sure to be soon and just as horrifying given the way the federal government is completly captured and controlled by corporate America.

Problem is drill pipe that is still in the riser precludes a seal with high integrity - one that withstands much pressure. Mud needs a lot of pressure to overcome flow/pressure of oil & gas passing through BOP.

Just a new question that has popped into my head.

I assume that the relief well is intended to do NOTHING other than intercept the original bore and kill it. Would I be correct in assuming that it'll be drilled using an exceptionally heavy mud so that it is continually killed itself as it progresses?

No, because that would fracture the formation it is drilling through (with loss of mud, etc.). Only when the intercept is close will kill mud be used (as I understand it).


You got it Alan. Relief wells will be drilled with very similar mud wts to original hole. These wells are drilled in a narrow margin section. Too little mw and well flows, that's bad; too much mw and you frac the fm, lose circulation - if you can't add mud fast enough and seal the well, mud goes down and you get, yes, another blowout. That's why so many csg strings need to be set and why you have to get the relief well close to the depth of the formation fluid that's coming in. Regards, GN.

P.S. how was the NOJO concert? - sorry, we didn't make it.

Rained out, will be rescheduled soon.

Maybe we can get together soon.

Also talked with [well known organization] and went well for first contact.

As in

I am working on creating a [well known organization] vision for getting transportation off of oil as quickly as possible. Your document and the oil drum piece are very helpful. I would appreciate a chance to talk with you about creating such a vision.

She has come to the realization that higher CAFE, PHEVs and even EVs "will not get us where we need to go" soon enough (within 20 years).

She was impressed with my Swiss rail quote. 3% of transportation energy to move 1/3rd of freight tonne-km and 1/6th of passenger-km. And that 3% is renewable hydroelectric power.

The other 97% is oil.

Best Hopes,


That's pretty good Alan. What you think Geo? Allan's coming along pretty good...bump him up to AD soon? (AD = assistant driller)

I'm not siding with Transocean but some facts about the BOP should be added:
1. The rubber seal of the annular had been damaged during one of the test: a) most of the time, even damage, it can still seal. Search for some tech on how annular work. b) there are two annulars in that BOP stack. So even the top failed, the bottom one can still function.

2. One of the two control pods had lost some of its function. There is another pod on the other side. Both PODS are idential in term of functionalities.

Anyway, the problems weren't deem severe enough to pull the LMPR to change the rubber seal and correct the POD control. It would cost too much, 4 to 5 days to pull the riser string and re-run.

The spill might be pumping out 20,000 gallons a day. That means around 600,000 gallons so far. What if we had a spill amounting to 140,000,000 gallons? We did, in the Gulf of Mexico, in 1979. The deep-water well blew out and ran for 9 months. It was the largest spill ever, and so obviously the Gulf is already dead and new spills can't matter. Read about the Ixtoc 1 if you care to learn about a large oil spill:


It would be helpful if everyone just picked one volumetric measurement and stayed with it, so how about we just use barrels? In any case, 5,000 bpd X 42 gallons/barrel is about 200,000 gallons per day.

Furthermore, there is some likelihood that the BP blowout is comparable to, or greater than, the daily volumes that were released from Ixtoc 1.

We're at sea, so I propose cubic fathoms

(1000 barrels = 26 cubic fathoms)

Cubic goddamned meters!

... I'm not gonna win this battle, am I?

I supervised a flow test in Canada and was forced to use cubic meters. Our tank strap sheets were still in bbls and inches, so by the time you converted inches to cm and bbls to cubic meters, just the rounding errors became ridiculous. I took a hand outside and pointed tto the upright 400 bbl tank and said,

"That's a round tank and you're trying to force cubic stuff in there. There's gonna be some errors."

Nah, convert to elephants, or, since we're all at sea, whales.

5000 BOPD=.014 cubic furlongs /fortnight. See spill is tiny!

One inch is 2.54 centimetres EXACTLY, so you shouldn't lose any precision there. One barrel is 0.15899 cubic metres, but 0.159 is close enough for most practical purposes. Ideally, however, you would restrap the tanks in centimetres and cubic metres and be done with it.

We used to use personal computers to calculate all the production data, so the field operators could input whatever units they wanted, and the computers would do the conversions for them. Once they got used to thinking in cubic metres ("cubes") for oil and gas, life was simpler for them. It was only upper management that couldn't understand anything but barrels and cubic feet.

One thing that annoyed me about the U.S. was that they insisted in gauging tanks in feet, inches, and FRACTIONS of an inch. They wanted to input things like 1/2 inch, 1/4 inch, 1/8 inch. Standard computer input doesn't do fractions. We told them to use .5 inch, .25 inch, and .125 inch, but that apparently was too big a mental leap for their people, so we had to invent new fractional input routines for the computer.

Some engineers insisted, vociferously, that ALL tape measures are marked in fractions of an inch. So I showed them a surveyors tape that was marked in tenths of an inch.

The spill might be pumping out 20,000 gallons a day.

Help is available for you. Call now!


Your friendly BP operator will answer *ALL* of your questions !


PS: Size does not matter.

An ROV sawing off a few feet of end of the leaking Riser is not going to alter the restriction backpressure because it is only a few feet from an already-open end. Saw off a few feet of leaking Riser end, make a clean and open end, and then use ROV's to clear-out the Riser debris from in front of the leaking Riser. Lower a curved L joint on the end of a capture Riser from the surface with suction and methanol infusion. Make a brace that holds the leaking Riser on the sea floor and then connect the flared end of the capture Riser onto the leaking one. The capture Riser could have suction being drawn into it with methanol infusion as it approaches the leaking plume. The capture Riser sucks in flow as it approaches and follows it right down and onto the leaking Riser in a good connection secured by suction and maybe some braces after a good link is established. The entire flow is then directed to the surface (if a new section of Riser not far away doesn't break under all this jostling).

Disclaimer: Poster is an engineer, but with NO experience in drilling OR deep-water recovery work. If I'm wrong in any aspects of what I'm saying, I'd appreciate corrections - I don't want to become an expert in the field, but I AM interested in learning.

Jetblast: You're PARTIALLY correct. Cutting off a few feet of the leaking riser won't affect the backpressure significantly. Unfortunately, to install a Capture Riser as you suggest, they'd ALSO have to cut off the 9" drill pipe that currently sticks out of the end of the Leaking Riser. This drill pipe currently has SOME degree of back pressure in it because it's been valved and shut off.

Equally unfortunately, if they try to funnel EVERYTHING coming out of the leaking riser to the surface, they're going to have ONE HELL of a conflagration once it gets there. It wouldn't be QUITE as bad as the original blowout that started everything, but since they wouldn't be able to put too much backpressure on it (for fear of blowing the new "capture riser" off the old "leaking riser" or some other connection of unknown strength) they'd have a new blowout coming up the capture riser.

On the other hand, if they can get an elbow and a short capture riser (20-30 feet) installed on the end of the leaking riser, they could use the original "Macondome", with a few modifications, as a gas/oil separator. Then they could let the gas go free for a while and still collect MOST of the oil.

I described the modifications to turn the macondome into a separator in another thread (see http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6470#comment-624383 )

Actually the "Macondome" will never be used due a simple design flaw. It will float if it fills with gas. Float with an upward force of about 150 tons which would buckle any pipe or drill string attached to the top.

There is no way to anchor it except to clamp it to the 21" riser and I doubt that putting a 150 ton lift on the riser is a good idea.

Adding 200 tons of weight is possible but it would be simpler to start from scratch with a new design.


Yeah - that puts a bit of a crimp in the whole plan. I hadn't calculated the displacement 'cause I heard 100 tons and guessed that HAD to be adequate.

Aside from that, do you see any obvious errors in this plan? Seems to me that, with a few modifications to help deal with the hydrates that can't be avoided (easy if we're starting over from scratch) it'd be a handy little item to keep on hand for the NEXT deep-water blowout.

As mentioned earlier this blowout is unique in that the oil coming through the BOP then travels a few thousand feet through a large diameter riser so that it comes out as a low velocity flow at ambient pressure.

A "standard" blowout is like the old pictures of an oilfield gusher with a high velocity flow of oil and gas blowing out the end of a pipe or a BOP. You can't get a containment dome anywhere near them.

By the time the velocity has slowed to where you could hang the dome above the flow it has also spread out in a much larger area so the dome is not large enough to catch much of it. A larger dome to cover the area mean more buoyancy, which means more weight, and you quickly pass the capacity of your lifting equipment.

So actually having domes like this on standby for blowouts is probably an exercise in futility. But they might be helpful in case of a pipeline leak, fuel leaking from a sunken ship, etc.

I'm sure due to the political fallout from this incident that some standby domes will be built, if fact Shell has already announced they plan to have a dome for their Arctic operations.

Speaking of the Arctic - the problems being encountered in the Gulf of Mexico now with be a magnitude greater in an Arctic environment which is much more fragile than the Gulf Coast. A spill like this in the Arctic would be a complete environmental disaster that actually would last decades if not centuries, and might take over a year just to bring under control.

If this flared capture Riser worked couldn't they just split and split again the feed off the capture Riser and distribute the flare-off? You make it sound like they can't handle the full flow but won't admit it. The rig conflagration was disasterous because the rig isn't designed to be burned in the huge fireball of an uncontrolled blowout, however distributed and controlled flaring is a different issue and doesn't pose the same threat as the burning rig.

That's why I said it could take a year, or longer, just to control it. They might not even be able to start a relief well until the next season.

Way, way more dangerous than the Gulf of Mexico with much greater potential for serious damage.

Awww hell - I guess my lack of experience in the field shows up in LOTS of ways.

I agree with your analysis of how much worse things would be in the Arctic - except that you didn't go FAR ENOUGH!!

The environment is certainly much more fragile, but you ALSO have to consider how much more difficult the control efforts would (will?) be under Arctic conditions. I wonder if/when the Nancy Reagan solution - "Just say NO!!" - starts to come into play.

Things I don't get:

I've been in exploration and production for over 30 years. That doesn't make me an expert, so there are a few things I need cleared up here.

1. Do we know for a fact that they're using a choke in the line downstream of the rubber packoff?

2. If so, I can't figure out why they didn't use a bleed instead. That is, control what's going to the surface by what you're bleeding into the ocean DOWNSTREAM of the rubber packoff. This would prevent additional pressure buildup upstream of the packoff, saving wear on that packoff and limiting increased flow from the other leak. It would also be bleeding oil through a new piece of pipe, of known I.D., with a pressure-read tap (if they wanted). This would make estimations of the part of the leak not going to the boat less esoteric and more believable. I don't get it. Why increase the pressure on that already-stessed riser pipe when you don't have to?

3. Regarding the kill. Although kill mud is treated to reduce its abrasiveness, it is still more abrasive than oil and gas, even oil and gas with some sand content. Aren't they worried that the mud going up through the BOP will further abraid the BOP, possibly even widening present leaks to where they can't get anything downhole?

May 18, 2010
Shell Makes Reassurances on Drilling

By William Yardley
Responding to a federal request to increase safety measures for its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, Shell Oil on Monday vowed an “unprecedented” response in the event of an oil spill, including staging a pre-made dome in Alaska for use in trying to contain any leaking well.

As the Obama Administration reviews the safety and environmental risks of offshore oil drilling after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the fate of the pending Shell project in Alaska looms more urgently. Shell has received initial permits and hopes to begin exploratory drilling this summer. Yet the project, which would be the first offshore drilling in Alaska in many years, still requires final permits and could be delayed.

Environmentalists and Native Alaskan groups that have long worked to stop the project have seized on the Gulf spill to emphasize risks in the Alaska project. The drill sites, far out in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, are in some of the most remote and frigid waters of North America, with ice forming much of the year, endangered whales and other animals living in the area and little onshore support in the event of a spill.

In a letter sent to the head of the Minerals Management Service, S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, Shell’s president, Marvin E. Odum, said Shell the dome it would have ready would “take into consideration issues with hydrate formation.” In the Gulf spill, a huge box built to try to contain the leaking well proved ineffective after it became clogged with gas hydrates — crystal structures that form when gas and water mix.

Shell also said it would be ready to apply dispersal agents below water “at the source of any oil flow” after “all necessary permits are acquired.”

The company also said it would work to prevent a spill from happening, including refining how it drills, increasing the frequency of inspections of its blowout preventer to 7 days from 14 – the blowout preventer failed in the Gulf spill – and adding a remote underwater vehicle nearby that would be capable of working on the blowout preventer.

Marilyn Heiman, the U.S. Arctic program director for the Pew Environment Group, said in a statement, “Basic questions remain about Shell’s ability to respond to any significant sized oil spill in Arctic waters” and she called for Minerals Management to “suspend offshore lease operations in the Arctic until these issues are addressed. It would be irresponsible to move forward.”


Inspect the BOP weekly instead of bi-monthly? Just because I go to McDonald's twice a day instead of once a day does not mean I will not starve to death. I still have to order, pay, get food, and eat. They have good salads and coffee.

Guy -- IMHO I don't think the inspection schedule is as critical as the quality of the inspection as well as a reevalaution of the basic design. I've been on a semi once that I suspected they damaged the BOP to some unknown degree while going in the hole with drill pipe. That was done just a few days after the regular inspection.

Last week I offered what IMHO would be the fastest and cheapest method to improve all safety issues - both mechanical and procedural: independent third party observers on the rig. Given that the daily ops cost for a Deep Water rig runs $800,000 to $1,000,000 per day adding several more thousands $'s per day would have no impact on the bottom line. Just giving these observers the right to shut down ops with a single phone call would get the operators to voluntarily tighten up the process considerably. The Deep Water players might bitch some but given the possibilty of stalling drill permits out there for a year or more is a much worse pill to swallow (pun intended).

To whatever extent it is appropriate, welcome back ROCKMAN - hope the respite (short as it was) did what was needed.

Good to see you back, Rock.

The trouble with any regulation is that over time the regulators tend to become cozy with the regulated, as the industry experts are the most knowledgeable pool to draw from to get regulators.

Maybe we need to figure out how the IRS manages to stay so aloof and universally feared. Probably wouldn't be bad for the red-phone guy to be universally feared (and probably hated) aboard ship.

That's easy Paleo: just give the inspectors the power to fine the hell out of the operators and occasionally send someone the fed prison. Works pretty good for the IRS.

Easy to keep seperation: pay the inspector $180,000/yr just to sit and watch someone work. And then make it clear he loses his plush job if he doesn't handle it properly. On a few rare occasions I've been responsible for safety issues and I made it a point to be the most hated/feared person on the job. As long as it didn't bother me to eat by myself I didn't care.

What you are implying is putting Federal Inspectors on board?
Isn't that ... Un American?
Incidentally, it would be a Very Good Thing for TOD to accept that the only effective solution is a relief well. Live with it.

This is why the spill should have been nationalized. I think we could have captured more oil without any industry insider insults and corporate excuses based on cost. There's a clear conflict of interest here that is presently killing the Gulf.

You don't think the top kill has any chance?

I understand they're only feeding it into the kill and choke valves through 3" hoses, but I also understand they've got something like 30,000 HP worth the pumps lined up to move the mud. I may be grasping at straws, but I HOPE they can move mud into the BOP faster than it'll be pushed out into the riser.

I ALSO hope that the 50,000 barrels of mud on-hand will be sufficient!

BTW, does anybody know whether they're using water-based or oil-based mud?

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


I have not seen this particular question addressed yet so I thought I would post it in this thread. Lets assume that the top kill option doesn't work for some reason.

If the relief well intersects the well bore as planned two months from now, could the conditions of the well bore be so bad that a cement job could not stop the flow? Or is this pretty much a 100% fix assuming that they hit the well bore as planned? I suppose what I was thinking is that there has been significant damage to the formations surrounding the casing and the oil and gas has found a new path to the surface around the BOP by then.

Cog -- your concerns are valid. but a little clarification. I don't think they'll pump cmt down the relief well. It will be a heavy mud "kill pill". I doubt they'll try to do more than that with the RW...just too small a hole to do much more work in. Once they've shut the flow off BP will have to re-enter the BOP stack and plug and abandon the original hole as per MMS regs. Multiple cmt and other types of plugs. And probably significant testing as they go. This process could take quite a few months but at that point the flow would have been stopped. Just a rough guess but the final P&A ops could run $150 million...or more.


Thanks for the claification. A couple more questions for you. The BOP stack that is in place now is suspect in its capability.

Will they need to pull it off and replace it with a new one and can they do that with just the kill mud in place pumped in from the relief well?

Since the current BOP and subsea casing has some length of drill pipe in it, they would have to "fish" that out of the way in order to run their tools down the well to finish setting their plugs? I wouldn't think they would have stuck drill pipe down the hole since the well is cased(formation collapse) but it did occur to me that the drill pipe could be jammed up in the BOP.

Cog -- I think it's a good bet that the existing BOP is a total loss. The BOP was designed to de-latch from the well head. How difficult that will be remains to be seen. But it will definately need to be replaced before they try to re-enter the original hole...that's the law. I think they'll try to test the kill pill to an extreme. If the pill fails just as they are replacing the BOP you could have a spill many times greater than we've seen already.

The csg is landed into the top of the well head and not the BOP. The BOP is attached to the top of the wellhead. I would bet they'll have to fish something out of the hole. Other damage, such as partially collapsed csg remains to be seen.

I have designed a few different ideas to shut the flow from the BOP. I have been going at this blindly as there was not much information at the time. I have not been able to get much or any help from people that knows more about this but it has not kept me from research and brainstorming. The first idea that I had was basically a modified hot tap to be installed on the riser just above the BOP. Not knowing how much good riser stands above the flex connector I was thinking that this may work. Here is a link to the animation, http://www.wehdeinteractive.com/Deepwater/BestSolutionBypass.html This design if there is room to install would allow a diversion valve to be opened so the pressure would not exceed burst integrity of the existing riser. Then once installed with new riser diversion valve is closed and riser valve opened.
I came up with the second method once I saw the framework that surrounds the BOP. The design is self explanatory in the animation below. Obviously there is some factors to consider in this design but the general theory is there. Here is a link to animation http://www.wehdeinteractive.com/DWHsafeTopKill.html

Then in basically the same method as above remove the riser from the flex joint. from what I understand the drill string is still there and I would think that it is held in place by the shear ram in the BOP. So the drill string needs to be cut along with the riser. Yes you will have full head of pressure coming out limited by the restriction of the bop. After the riser and string is cut now you can remove the rise flange from the flex joint. There should be a Collet connector on top of that. Now either press into place from above (more difficult) a new valve in open position with a collet connector attached. Then once the valve is in place close the valve. Otherwise use a device like in the first animation that you are able to install from the side in a clam shell fashion to attach to the collet connector and then proceed to close valve.