The Gulf Deepwater Oil Spill, sheen, other oil layers, and RIT flows

There have been a number of steps forward in dealing with the massive oil spill and continued oil leak from the BP well in the Gulf. BP has now posted a status illustration of the two relief wells that are being drilled to intersect and finally kill the initial well.

Click for larger image.

The picture shows both of the relief wells and the original well, as of today. It gives some idea of the overall layout of the three wells, and the points where the original well will be intersected.

UPDATE: CNN has been carrying live feed of the flow out of the riser, as the RIT is now removing around 5,000 bpd from the riser.

While there has been steady progress on a number of fronts; the riser insertion tube (RIT) is now pumping 3,000 bd; a check on the fluid being collected shows that the gas content is higher with a gas:oil ratio of 5,000 rather than the 3,000 initially estimated; and the top kill injection is now scheduled for Sunday. There were four successful surface burns yesterday. There is not a lot otherwise that is new in terms of killing the well, though the oil is now arriving on shore and starting to have an impact. There was also the possibility of a Kevin Costner idea being adopted; a problem for a CBS crew; and a clarification of the role of Schlumberger.

There was a Press Conference today, and a BP official on PBS News Hour, and it is from these sources and a quick reference that I am writing the post tonight.

One of the issues that has been continuously referred to has been the progress of the oil spill both on the surface, and underwater. Unfortunately the underwater, and heavier oil, is now beginning to appear in the marshes of Louisiana and the surface traces of the plume are beginning to get drawn into the Loop Current. The surface indication is the presence of a sheen on the surface. The thickness of that layer can be assessed by looking at the refraction, but it is not that easy.

An estimate of the quantity of oil observed at sea is crucial. Observers are generally able to distinguish between sheen and thicker patches of oil. However gauging the oil thickness and coverage is rarely easy and is made more difficult if the sea is rough. All such estimates should be viewed with considerable caution. The table below gives some guidance. Most difficult to assess are water-in-oil emulsions and viscous oils like heavy crude and fuel oil, which can vary in thickness from millimeters to several centimeters

Source (MMS)

The transcript of the News Hour interview with Bob Dudley of BP this confirmed the 3,000 bd recovery figure through the RIT, and that they are continuing to open the choke that controls the flow up to the surface ship that is collecting the oil, and flaring the gas. He noted the high gas content, at the greater oil flow. The pipe is now collecting more than 13 million cubic feet of gas a day. With that high a gas content, at least half the plume that has been coming from the pipes is made up of gas. Because of that gas content, it is hard to measure the exact volumes of fluid that are leaving the pipe. But he also noted that the larger numbers that have been quoted in the press, of 70,000 to 100,000 bd are purely sensational and not based on science. Unfortunately they also serve to increase alarm and suggest threats to the tourist industries of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida that do not realistically exist.

He further commented that the failure of the blowout preventer (BOP) in this circumstance is unprecedented, and that the dispersant being used is the one that the Coast Guard has been using for over 20 years, after extensive EPA testing. And, in regard to liability:

We have said we're not going to hide behind a $75 million cap on the liabilities. To date, we have spent more than half-a-billion dollars on the spill response. We're not going to ask for reimbursements for the American people for that effort.

And we're going to keep at this. And shutting the well off, containing it at sea, and keeping it off the beaches as long as it takes, Jeff.

The transcript of the press conference was not posted as I write this, but there are comments available from it, which largely bore out what the BP official said (unfortunately I have lost the site that I was getting the info from). There was, however, a comment that the “hot tap” had made it back into consideration, and that an idea by Kevin Costner was also possibly going to be tried.

Costner came forward last week with an oil spill cleanup technology he started devising after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Surrounded by local and state politicians, he demonstrated a $24 million centrifuge device that he said could be placed on barges and used to suck in oily water, separate the oil and spit out mostly pure water.

Incidentally there has been a response to the story of a CBS crew being stopped. The Unified Command issued a statement that said, in part:

Tonight CBS Evening News reported they were denied access to oiled shoreline by a civilian vessel that had clean-up workers contracted by BP, as well as Coast Guard personnel on board. CBS News video taped the exchange during which time one of the contractors told them (on tape) that " ... this is BP's rules not ours."

Neither BP nor the U.S. Coast Guard, who are responding to the spill, have any rules in place that would prohibit media access to impacted areas and we were disappointed to hear of this incident. In fact, media has been actively embedded and allowed to cover response efforts since this response began, with more than 400 embeds aboard boats and aircraft to date. Just today 16 members of the press observed clean-up operations on a vessel out of Venice, La.

The only time anyone would be asked to move from an area would be if there were safety concerns, or they were interfering with response operations. This did occur off South Pass Monday which may have caused the confusion reported by CBS today.

The entities involved in the Deepwater Horizon/BP Response have already reiterated these media access guidelines to personnel involved in the response and hope it prevents any future confusion.

And in regard to the Schlumberger crew that apparently were on the rig to run a Cement Bond Log (CBL), Schlumberger has made a statement .

The company, which had not previously revealed its work on the Horizon, said in an emailed statement that it performed wireline services for BP Plc on the rig in March and April, completing the last services on April 15 and leaving a crew on standby in case any more were needed.

"On the morning of April 20, 2010, BP notified the Schlumberger crew that it could return to its home base in Louisiana," Schlumberger said in a statement, which a spokesman for the company confirmed by phone.

The crew departed the rig at about 11:00 a.m. on April 20 on one of BP's regularly scheduled helicopter flights, Schlumberger said.

It has been suggested that they could have performed a CBL (cement bond log) to assess the quality of the cement lining at the bottom of the casing, but were not asked to do so before they left.

Probert (of Halliburton) told a Senate committee last week that the cement bond log is "the only test that can really determine the actual effectiveness of the bond between the cement sheets, the formation and the casing itself."

Gregory McCormack, director of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas, called the cement bond log the "gold standard" of cement tests. It records detailed, 360-degree representations of the well and can show where the cement isn't adhering fully to the casing and where there may be paths for gas or oil to get into the hole.

Schlumberger's Harris said the contractor was ready to do any such wireline tests, but was never directed to do so. The team had finished doing tests on the subsea layers of earth being drilled five days earlier and hadn't done any work since, Harris said.

The Times Picayune has a graphic showing that the last cement injection did not seal to the one above it, leaving a gap through which gas could enter the well. It is not clear whether the gas entered the well there, or from some other point in the well, nor whether the initial gas flow then progressed up the outside of the casing (the annulus), or up inside the production casing itself.

Times Picayune

Nice summary of all the news, thanks!

The company, which had not previously revealed its work on the Horizon, said in an emailed statement that it performed wireline services for BP Plc on the rig in March and April, completing the last services on April 15 and leaving a crew on standby in case any more were needed.

"On the morning of April 20, 2010, BP notified the Schlumberger crew that it could return to its home base in Louisiana," Schlumberger said in a statement, which a spokesman for the company confirmed by phone.

The crew departed the rig at about 11:00 a.m. on April 20 on one of BP's regularly scheduled helicopter flights, Schlumberger said.

So yeah, that scuttlebutt about SLB leaving 6 hours before the explosion for fear of their safety. Complete bullshit. Good detective work Alan...

Greg, not to take sides here, but it doesn't rule anything out - it does confirm that Schlumberger people were on the rig the day of the accident and also states that they left on a "regularly scheduled flight". It is the kind of plain vanilla statement that doesn't confirm or deny much of anything. If there is some pending legal action this is the kind of statement for the press that might be expected. That said, it doesn't specifically support the "scuttlebutt" claims either.

I personally wouldn't expect much clarity on legal issues arising from the accident for quite some time.

The details are in stark contrast to what has been presented before with no hint that any of the details match up other than the fact that Schlumberger was on the rig the morning of the accident (which hardly supports anything as I would have expected them to be involved in some aspect of the drilling).

1. The "story" said they arrived on the platform specifically to do a CBL. Schlumberger says they were there earlier for "wireline" services and they were on standby and did no more work after cementing
2. The "story" said they were told they were not going to be able to leave because there were no more helicopters for the week. Schlumberger said their people left on the regularly scheduled BP helicopter.
3. The "story" said they left around 4 in the afternoon. Schlumberger said they were off around 11am.

Unless you claim that Schlumberger is withholding information, it sounds like their involvement was minimal around the accident which is why they haven't spoken up earlier.

But don't let me stand in the way of the grand conspiracy against the American people that so many here want to believe.

It is not a "grand conspiracy", just normal greed and poor judgment that has resulted in multiple tragedies to date along with significant economic costs and other ramifications as yet unknown. If you want to quickly jump in there to defend the kind of behavior on display here that is of course your choice.

The email did not address whether there was any dispute between the subs and BP - if there was it is a legal matter that will be sorted out in due time. The specific story may well be false in some or all of its details. I am just pointing out that the central claim that there was a dispute about proper procedure was not addressed in the response.

Lets all hope that the efforts directed at containing the damage and killing the well effective, the sooner the better.

I figure everyone else is jumping to conclusions, why the hell not me.

You say greed and poor judgement and not even that has been proved out. There have been a great deal of assertions made here based on hearsay that has not been confirmed by any source, so if you want to take the cautious approach, how about not affirming the consequent.

Poor judgment is a given at this point. BP did blow up a drilling platform and got an ocean floor oil dump, both of which were supposed to be impossible, according to them. So their credibility is nil right now.

Nothing is impossible. Highly improbable yes. You can't plan for every contingency. I don't doubt that given hindsight, there should have been readily dispensable equipment to take up the flow and for the future, I'm sure this will be in consideration, but BP followed all industry and government standards for accident planning. Unfortunately, setting up this chain of events apparently did not occur or was thought to be too remote a possibility. Industry will learn and this particular event will be planned against in the future.

They (BP and TransOcean) may have followed industry and government standards for accident planning, but based on all available information to date, they didn't follow much in the way of industry or government standards for drilling, casing, or completion; not to mention industry or government standards for maintenance and care of critical equipment.

I would only point out that all available information to date is highly speculative and likely misleading.

My biggest concern is around the BOP, but I'm not going to make a call on the suitability of it or the decisions to use it or not at this point in time. I'll wait for the investigation to sort out what happened first.

Fair enough, and I am certainly waiting for that same data. I am, admittedly, biased toward suspicion: when a rig and its various and sundry attached contractors and equipment is costing ~1 million a day, and it is already weeks behind schedule... well, let's just say that I've been there when the corners were determined to be worth cutting by people who really didn't have a full grasp on the mechanics of the corners that they were proposing to cut.... and when the people making those corner-cutting decisions had more authority than the people who knew just how dangerous such a course of action would be.

Industry (not just BP) has not exactly held themselves above repproach in the past, which makes things worthy of suspicion, but accusation based on personal anecdotes unrelated to those involved does not make the situation any better. Consider the mental shortcut you're taking in painting a guilty until proven innocent sign on a company however. Granted, you're not in a position yourself to cause damage based on your shortcut, but society as a whole (through their representatives) is. Taking the easy and fast way in judgement can be just as damaging as taking the easy and fast way on technical decisions.

Did you see the 60 Minutes episode with Mike Williams? Granted, that is the personal testimony of one person, he's not under oath... but let's assume he's telling something close to the truth as he saw and heard and experienced it... It paints an ugly picture; one that meshes with my own (and I am sure your own experience) near the end of a long, frustrating and expensive job.

Thanks for mentioning the 60 mins episode - it is available at;cbsCarousel

But the interview was not just Mike Williams. They also interviewed offshore drilling safety authority Professor Robert Bea. ( )

I have over 30 years oilfield operating experience on 4 different continents. I recall the comments of a good friend when faced with difficult challenges, "you can always solve your problems in the oil industry by lowering your standards". Most of the time it all works out well, but sometimes there are consequences.

BP and its contractors are not evil people and it is wrong to try and portray them as such. The are just a bunch of professionals trying to get the job done in very difficult circumstances.

Texas City Refinery Explosion, North Slope Pipeline Leak, GOM Blowout.

Three strikes and you are out. IMO, there is something deeply wrong in the BP corporate culture.

BP and its contractors are not evil people and it is wrong to try and portray them as such

Yeah yeah yeah and the Nazi's weren't evil people either, just nationalists trying to get a break for their country.

To put corporate financial concerns over and above the health of the planet that sustains us all is EVIL.

Our society defines evil with laws about felonies.

BP is a twice admitted felon.


Alan, there you have it. They rank with other felons who are considered evil enough to be locked away in prison. "Three strikes laws are statutes enacted by state governments in the United States which require the state courts to hand down a mandatory and extended period of incarceration to persons who have been convicted of a serious criminal offense on three or more separate occasions."

In the aftermath of the 1926 General Strike -
which took such a toll on the working men of Welsh mines -
Idris Davies wrote a poem - not about the bells of London,
but the bells of the Welsh valleys - later sung by Pete Seeger :

Oh what will you give me Say the sad bells of Rhymney
Is there hope for the future Say the brown bells of Merthyr
Who made the mine owner Say the black bells of Rhondda
And who robbed the miner Say the grim bells of Blaenau

They will plunder willy-nilly Say the bells of Caerphilly
They have fangs, they have teeth Shout the loud bells of Neath
Even God is uneasy Say the moist bells of Swansea
And what will you give me Say the sad bells of Rhymney

Throw the vandals in court Say the bells of Newport
All would be well if if if if if if Say the green bells of Cardiff
Why so worried, sisters, why Sang the silver bells of Wye
And what will you give me Say the sad bells of Rhymney

I didn't want to offer some inside information until SLB made a statement. My source confirmed that the dispatcher had transported a total of 23 (or 26) hands back in from the rig that afternoon including the Schlumberger loggers. Normal procedure at this point of the operation: as I said earlier at this point it's a big rush to pack up and get on the boat (or chopper). Hands fly and equipment goes by boat.

OTHO did the SLB express concerns to the company man about hole conditions? Do know. (Corrected below to 'Don't know'.) Was the lead SLB engineer concerned about the safety of his crew? Don't know. But eventually all the hands on board will be questioned under oath and state exactly what their thoughts were on all subject matters the day of the blow out. For obvious legal reasons I wouldn't expect such statements to come out from any source until folks are sworn in.

Mass transport of hands and equipment 1 day from completion and capping of the well? Sure, it's absolutely standard operating procedure. The HSE folks I worked with, and all the statistics I've seen have also shown that it's the time when the worst decisions are made and the most accidents occur (danger time: shift change, meal/coffee break, and job finish).

Regarding what Schlumberger loggers/managers (or Halliburton cement team, for that matter) may or may not have expressed to rig manager or company man... you're absolutely right - we'll just have to wait and see what they say when testifying. your first OTOH comment 'do know' as in 'know that SLB was concerned about the well'? Or was that a typo and really a 'dont' know'?

Also - I seem to remember reading something a few days before the whole SLB rumor got posted about a CBL being canceled at the last minute. People on this board were speculating as to why (difficult to run, difficult to find tools, etc).

Am I remembering that incorrectly, or were people speculating that the CBL was canceled at the last minute as well?

Hmmm...This Huffington article seems to indicate (without specifically stating, mind you) that SLB HAD been contracted to run the CBL.....

toll -- the Huff report isn't much of a smoking gun. On offshore wells you bring almost all your equipment even if you think there's only a small chance to run it. Waiting 24 hrs and $800,000 for a 200# piece of equipment you didn't think you were going to need does not get you a gold star.

Sorry toll...meant to say I didn't know. Just one of the problems we two-finger typers have...can't watch what we type. Given the seriousness of such a charge I wouldn't repeat such a claim unless I heard it directly from the SLB engineer. It may be months down the road but eventually that engineer will testify publicly and be able to tell exactly what he thought or didn't think about the situation at the time.

When dealing with a convicted felon, my level of suspicion is raised and I am less willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if something goes wrong or missing. Quite normal behavior IMO.

BP is a convicted felon, twice in the last few years#.


# One was a guilty plea, the other was a plea bargain that held up prosecution with BP paying $100 million in criminal penalties. In yet another case BP plea bargained down to a misdemeanor.

We should really apply this kind of rational logic to all criminal matters, and not restrict it to only corporate persons. Think how much better this world would be if you could just pay a fixed fine for bank robbery. Something rational, like say $5000. As long as you make sure to steal more than what the fine costs, society will admire you for being a savvy capitalist who knows how to maximize profits.

(But only if you're wearing a nice suit when you rob the bank; otherwise, your scummy ass still goes to jail)

Since we are dealing with a convicted felon, the best suggestion I have heard yet (I've been a trial lawyer for 32 years) is for President Obama to appoint a special prosecutor.

I am gravely concerned that evidence is being lost, or not collected, and/or prevented from being collected or discovered.

The sooner a special prosecutor is appointed, the sooner someone can go to a judge and get some orders that prevents the loss of important evidence and allows and requires the collection of important evidence that is not being collected now or possibly even destroyed.

I have seen the game of lost or destroyed evidence played many times in 32 years of trial work. It is not pretty and I fear it is happening here.

Start demanding that a special prosecutor be appointed.

President Obama will not kick his big corporate contributors in the butt until he absolutely has to - he needs lots and lots more oil-soaked dead birds before he is forced to do that. This is Amerika.

Good interview on Democracy Now

Fmr. EPA Investigator Scott West: US Has Told BP "It Can Do Whatever It Wants and Won’t Be Held Accountable"

One month after the BP oil spill, we speak to Scott West, a former top investigator at the Environmental Protection Agency who led an investigation of BP following a major oil pipeline leak in Alaska’s North Slope that spilled 250,000 gallons of oil on the Alaskan tundra. Before West finished his investigation, the Bush Justice Department reached a settlement with BP, and the oil company agreed to pay $20 million. At the same time, BP managed to avoid prosecution for the Texas City refinery explosion that killed fifteen workers by paying a $50 million settlement. [includes rush transcript]

Interview and transcript at

This man was pulled of the investigation of the Alaskan Spill well before he felt it was complete. He felt a felony would be proved but at the time he was told to stop he only had enough information for a misdemeanor.

Given what we know already, believing ANY statement from BP is an act of faith.

"No senator! Nicotine is NOT addictive."

"Senator, we didn't know that we were betting that these loans would default."

"I'm sorry Senator, I don't recall."

" This spill is (only) releasing 5000 barrels a day."

"We're sorry, Senator. That information was lost when the rig exploded and sank."


....But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

You say greed and poor judgment and not even that has been proved out.

Perhaps not proved beyond a shadow of a doubt just yet but it is starting to look like there might be the beginning of a sea change with regards how the US government is now no longer accepting what BP says at face value. My only question is what the heck took them so long?!

Rep. Ed Markey, who leads a House subcommittee investigating the disaster, told
reporters, "I think now we are beginning to understand that we cannot trust BP."
"People do not trust the experts any longer," said Markey, D-Massachusetts. "BP has
lost all credibility. Now the decisions will have to be made by others, because it is
clear that they have been hiding the actual consequences of this spill."

The Obama administration Thursday ordered BP to release all data related to the massive
oil spill, telling the company that Americans deserve "nothing less than complete

The order, delivered in a letter to British-based BP Group CEO Tony Hayward, demands
that BP release sampling and monitoring plans, internal investigation reports and video
from the company and its contractors.

"In responding to this oil spill, it is critical that all actions be conducted in a
transparent manner, with all data and information related to the spill readily
available to the United States Government and the American people," wrote Homeland
Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency.

They concluded, "The public and the United States government are entitled to nothing
less than complete transparency in this matter."

So Greg, are you going to continue trying to defend these felons?

I agree, but why has it taken the Obama administration a month to take action? A whole month of trusting BP when if even the most basic common sense is applied here would have assumed trust but verify.

Did no one at the EPA or NOAA hear BP president Hayward describe the discharge as relatively tiny when the scope of surface oil surpassed tiny weeks ago?

... there might be the beginning of a sea change with regards how the US government is now no longer accepting what BP says at face value. My only question is what the heck took them so long?!

Excuse me? Why are you shocked or surprised? When in all of history has an Administration ever gone after its corporate buddies (and campaign contributors) before its feet were firmly held in the fire? Nothing will be done to damage BP - nothing.

BP as a corporation is a tool. If it is no longer useful to those whom it serves, then it will be discarded. The wealthy elite is not some homogeneous entity (more like cats in a sack), and some may lose money along the way, maybe a great deal. It looks like there is a lot of maneuvering for position among players who are becoming fearful that they may get something sticky on them. But the system will not change, and all of these entities serve that system, regardless of if they are corporations or government entities. The people have the ability to make a more permanent change to that if they were not so ignorant, distracted and easily manipulated, but there is no real threat there. There will soon be something to distract them and they will get bored of this story.

Greg--I'm with you. There's no grand conspiracy afoot, some very loud voices in the room, and it's easy to forget that "easy does it." Most TODers would prefer a return to BAU. True, some may not. Don't be deflected from weighing in on point and on target. Balance, calm, brain power, and steady as she goes is what's needed, below and above the waves of the GOM.

Good comments...let's also don't forget this is a blog and not a formal news outlet. Some comments are emotional, some factual, some boring and some humerous. It is up to the readers to decide what to take away from it.

Now, that said, in this particular case, the oil leakage in the GOM, I think TOD has probably been more effective in revealing the science and facts of the actual events than major news outlets. I also highly value Alan and others' comments on the "front lines" of this event as I did during Katrina.

... and some humerous

Is someone pulling someone's leg, then?

Balance, calm, brain power, and steady as she goes is what's needed, below and above the waves of the GOM.

You are both absolutely right! Plus there really can't be that much to worry about...even though a 15% of the Gulf is closed to deep water fishing.

Gulf Coast states' beaches still open
By the CNN Wire Staff
May 20, 2010 10:31 a.m. EDT

Gulfport, Mississippi (CNN) -- Gulf Coast states have seen drops in tourism linked to the BP oil spill in the Gulf, though it has not caused any beaches to close, tourism officials told CNN Wednesday...

...The stakes are high. Tourism in Florida is a $65 billion industry that employs more than a million people, Rep. Corinne Brown, D-Florida, told the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Wednesday.

Complete coverage of Gulf Coast oil spill

"And so we are devastated," she said. "People are canceling. They're not coming to the hotels. They're canceling, not coming to Florida. So we're in lock-down devastation."

I wonder what she knows about deep sea food webs and zooplankton, but I guess knowing about that isn't all that important anyway, so why would we want to risk people like her getting worried about the long term of effects of things like that as long the tourists are drinking their margueritas on the clean sand.

"Most TODers would prefer a return to BAU."

What BAU do you refer to?

I hope BAU does not return, though I might be of the ones you claim are different in you next phrase

"True, some may not"

But we only have the words of the posters, and how many of them are there compared to readers on this site?

But the majority of posters that I read from, don't want BAU, as that just leads us down the road of collapse.

So again I ask, what do you mean by your comment?

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

I have partly opted out BAU as I am sure many on this site have. But what TODers want or don't want is irrelevant. Continuing to burn oil is leading to destruction. Adding to that oil spills just leads us down that path earlier. And for what - BAU forever, for another 100 years, for 50 years. Deepwater oil will not as far as I know give us even 50 more years of BAU. We have to give up BAU, that is a given. We might as well do it while saving what we can of the environment that feeds us. If some TODers want no end of BAU in their lifetime, then they are trading that for a livable world for future generation. That is beyond selfish. Frankly it is time that someone or something made us powerdown as quick as possible. Calm is not what we need. It is time to panic, not about beaches but about climate, water, phosphate, air quality, life in the sea, biodiversity. Calm hasn't stopped much of anything. Lets try a little panic based not on whose estimate is right about the spill but about burning oil and coal in the first place.


More panic please!

Panic? Just because we thought our big fat trust fund was limitless and we spent like there was no end, and now we find out we've blown a billion years of deposits in just a few centuries? What panic?! Can't we sweet talk the bank manager or something? Son of a bitch!!

Xlouisiana wrote;

Most TODers would prefer a return to BAU.

Who are you to speak for the majority of us? Your perception building attempt is rather amateurish.

Rockman like BAU. Rockman sell oil. Rockman go back cave now.

Cave have LOTS of rocks to lick !


Rockman have long term vision. Rockman see many scenarios based on choices. Rockman ponder and pick right path to take...

Rockman need solar generator for electricity in cave? Me can get him good deal!

NO!! Electricity make rock taste BAD!!

Most TODers would prefer a return to BAU.

Careful, don't point that thing in my direction ...

BAU Humbug!

Clever! :-)

The team had finished doing tests on the subsea layers of earth being drilled five days earlier and hadn't done any work since, Harris said.

It was previously known that the last cement job was completed 20 hours before the blowout.

We now know that no CBL (cement bond log) was run AT ALL !

On a $200 million well with a variety of problems and issues.

Don't bother, we decided we did not need to check the concrete job out after all. Sorry to keep you here sitting on your hands for 5 days now.

THAT part of the story is confirmed.

Likely enough for a guilty verdict for negligence on that issue alone (BOP maintenance and alterations are another "risk exposure" as BP managers say).

The question is civil or criminal negligence ?


The Huffington Post has a link to Thom Hartmann's website, which has the version of the SLB story that you posted:

As discussed up the thread, it will be interesting to see what the actual testimony is--with a key question being whether the SLB guy demanded to be evacuated, or BP sent them home because they weren't needed. In any case until today, insofar as I know, we couldn't even confirm that SLB personnel were on board.

I still find it interesting that BP apparently thought that if they didn't disclose the crash in production from the main structure at Thunder Horse, the MSM and trade journals would not report it. And they would have been right, if it had not been for Glenn Morton's article on TOD. I think that this one incident tells you a lot about their corporate culture.

Hi All:

You can see if the oil has reached the most southerly point of the Keys i.e The Dry Tortugas here:

I think these are the best two links I have ever found on the internet!!! I saw a Goliath Grouper and a lemon shark yesterday and there is a barracuda sat there right now!!!!

Also just a bit further up the Keys is Bahia Honda:

Please support Teens4Oceans if you can Oildrummers!

I worked with a process engineer who designed the Kostner centrifuge and he claimed it was the greasted thing since apple pie. But you know how that goes.

"Unfortunately the underwater, and heavier oil, is now beginning to appear in the marshes of Louisiana"

What could this mean for the expanses of seafood nurseries in the Wetland State, where the word coastline includes miles of marshy estuarian shoreline? What will it do to the first few feet along every water's edge of every grassy point, inlet, and bay on the bottom of Louisiana? This is precisely where young sea life grows and feeding fish eat. Here is a link to Bob Marshall, one of the best journalists in New Orleans getting to the bottom of it:


Can't say "thanks" adequately for your superb coverage of this situation. Your clear and organized information is very much appreciated, as are your level-headed assessments.

Has there been any discussion about deploying the top-hat for the BOP leak? Given the success off the RITT, it would seem that as long as the weight of the top-hat is sufficient to prevent gas buoyancy issues that it would work as well as the RITT if properly throttled from the surface.

Can the drill-ship handle multiple inputs? Are there other similar vessels available?

I second the thanks HO.
My education is continuing.

Thanks for the kind words, they are appreciated.

In regard to the difference between the RIT and the top hat - the former is pushed into the riser, and makes it less easy for the seawater to mix in with the oil/gas and form hydrates. There is more risk of seawater getting into the top hat and blocking it in the same way as happened with the first attempt. While there are ways of getting around this, the RIT seems to be working and gradually ramping up oil removal, though to guard against having blockages I anticipate they will always allow some leakage.

18,360' x 0.052 x 13.7 ppg = 13,000 psi reservoir pressure.
5,067' x 0.052 x 8.5 ppg = 2,240 psi hydrostatic pressure of seawater at wellhead
Differential of 10,760 psi

Collapse pressure of 9-7/8" 62.8 ppf Q-125 casing is around 11,640 psi, depending steel quality.
Normal practise is to lower this value by 10% [design factor] for any defects arisen during manufacturing/transport. (for safety there is a 20% factor on top of this ---> 11,640 x 0.7 = only 8,148 psi which would be considered the maximum differential pressure to be put on the casing from the outside)

Let's stick to the 10% reduction: 11,640 psi theoretical collapse pressure x 0.9 = 10,475 psi is below pressure differential occuring at wellhead when the well was displaced to seawater and assuming leaking cement with gas migrating up the annulus.

The other casing at wellhead is 16", I do not know the weight & grade of this casing but the 13,000 psi reservoir pressure would be working on the inside of this string. The strongest 16" I find is 16" 147 ppf P-110 with a burst pressure of 10,900 psi, if we take-off 10 % design factor ---> 0.9 x 10,900 = 9,810 psi.

To me this means that if the cement was leaking gas this was able to build-up below the pack-off to a pressure well above what is normally tolerated in casing design.

My guess is the 9-7/8" casing collapsed or the pack-off started leaking.

Remark: on the daily report is written that the positive test (2,500 psi) on the casing was started at 10h30 AM which is only 10 hours after the cement job, not too good for the bonding it seems to me.

this would mean that the casing design was not appropriate

When they drilled the reservoir the last casing in wellhead was 16". I'm very interested to know the weight & grade of this casing

Dol -- actually the csg string run over the pay zone is 7" changing to a 9 5/8" csg at around 13,000'. I don't recall seeing any grades posted.

look in the drilling report, 9-7/8" 62.8 ppf ??? 125 with 7/8" wall

now we need the same for the 16"

dol -- ppf is #'s per foot...the csg weight. There are other parameters for grading uncluding burst pressure and collapse pressure.

Rockman, I know what ppf is, I made the calculations using the burst and collapse pressures for the casing and unfortunately I seem to be the only one in the whole world to understand what it means if I look at all the comments.

The question marks I put since there are 3 letters before the '125' which I cannot read on the drilling report.

Waiting for comments ......


I agree,

When rockman mentioned collasped casing the penny dropped, so I headed for my trusty Green data manual and found the same as you. I was actually surprised to see 9 7/8 casing as I had never heard of it before and I had just suspected the press had got the detail wrong again.

Q125 in the highest grade in the book, my 8th edition is published 2006. It is possible they have a higher grade by now.

When it comes to the 16" casing, what ever the specs are, I doubt if it would have a high enough burst strength for these pressures, which raises the question about all this top kill talk. As if they did stop the flow and trap the pressure, they will just end up with a sub sea blow out and a total mess. In hind sight, if the BOP had of worked 100% we may have been in a worse position than we are in now.

"In hind sight, if the BOP had of worked 100% we may have been in a worse position than we are in now."

Oops, that is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the safety of the techniques being employed here. All is well when all is well, but when TSHTF ya better be wearing your lead underwear...

[Edit] In hind sight we know it did work - at least once the initial surge incinerated the platform... as it held well pressure for some hours until the leaking began in earnest (no fault of the BOP in general - just ram specs and repair issues). But perhaps it is that initial surge you refer to here.

Some interesting reading here:

Whats the odds of counterfeit casing? Since ID and OD are the same on different grades - how would you field verify the alloy? I just don't like where a lot of the casing comes from now.

FE that page isn't working for me (over limit message). I wonder if casing being sourced out of a large Asian country known to produce lethal baby formula, toothpaste and dog food?

The link is to Google Books and to a specific page in the book "Rock Mechanics:Petroleum Applications" by Philippe A. Charlez. Page 566. 11.5.4 "Recommendations for dealing with casing collapse in a compacting environment"

Quote:" At the present time, there is no solution which can prevent casing collapse in a highly compacting environment. However there are a number of precautions which can considerably delay (sometimes by several years) the phenomenon"

The book goes on to state to use Q-125 casing and double cemented liners. There is a lot of good info on casing collapse situations, cement bond logs, cement testing and the geologic forces impinging the cased wellbore.

In regard to the grade of the casing that was used- the casing is usually stenciled on the side. I personally haven' t been around Q-125 however the tables that I have indicate that the ID and OD are identical to other grades. I think that the grade of the casing could be confirmed by finding other casing on the bank from the same batch.

What draws my suspicion is that a few years back there were "shackles" or depending on where you are "clevis fasteners" that were counterfeit. They were stamped wrong and I think some guys got hurt when they snapped.

I'm not saying this is what happened. It is something that will need to be checked. Since like Tool push I didn't have anything in my books other than Q-125 it could be that there was a special grade for this application. The tour sheet is damned hard to read.

Another good book with limited viewing is "Advanced Blowout and Well Control Handbook" by Robert Grace. I see now that the viewing on this one has been restricted within the last couple of days.

Look up the Rock Mechanics book while it's still online.

"how would you field verify the alloy"

PMI gun. It's a portable X-ray fluorescence widget that looks like a the bigger phasor from the old Star Trek.

Counterfeit metals are a problem all over now. I work at a PSM regulated plant, and we have to verify pretty much everything coming into stores. And we don't accept anything from China or Africa. And we still have trouble staying in the specs. There is some latitude for bolted fittings, but when you are welding, you have to be right or bad things can happen, starting with cracks and porosity, and finishing with sirens and ambulances.

That may be something they would use in the world of deepwater, but ID and OD and strap is what is normally done around the locations that I have been on. PMI= Pulse Magnetic Induction?

Positive Materials Identification

They use X-Ray Fluorescence to tell the elements (from magnesium on up) and approx. percentage of them.

see them used screening imported toys for lead, etc.:

Wouldn't help with temper, (small) inclusions, grain size, etc. with pipe, but at least you'd know it wasn't plain steel if you're expecting an alloy.

Amazing miniaturization - I couldn't believe it when I saw an early one at a trade show years ago - an XRF analyzer with source in a little gun?

I'm sorry, I didn't read your original message more carefully.. The subject of counterfiet steel, bolts, etc is an ongoing huge problem as you have experienced.

Most of the casing collapse stories I have personally heard were in a salt environment. I would say the Deep Water Horizon was probably in as extreme a "compaction environment" as I can conceive relative to their location near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

I'll keep in mind for future reference the PMI process that you use.

Thanks for the information.

Sorry dolf...misunderstood. I'll keep an eye out for the grades.


The strongest and heaviest 16" casing I have listed is 128lb/ft Q125 burst = 73.6MPa =10674psi

As I said before maybe we are lucky the BOP did not hold pressure as full formation presure on this casing would lead to a sub surface blow out ie outside the casing. I sure BP knows this and though they are working to control the leak I do not believe they want to stop it until the well head pressures can kept under control, and that involves getting a heavier fluid between the well head and the producing formation.


In my calculations I assume that the reservoir pressure is 13,000 psi, however, do you have any source (besides the drilling report which is stating a mud weight of 14 ppg when displacing cement)stating the actual drilling mud weight?

Shouldn't a good cement job boost the effective rating considerably by not allowing deformation failure of the casing?


We should look at it more in detail: (everything below assumes a 13.7 ppg equivalent reservoir pressure)

The differential pressure is what counts, meaning, if the cement was leaking:

There could have been 13,000 psi reservoir pressure in the 16" x [9-7/8" x 7"] annulus with 2,240 psi inside the [9-7/8" x 7"] casing, filled with seawater, giving a differential of 10,760 psi which is too high in design terms and for sure in real life, if the 9-7/8" 62.8 HCQ-125 casing collapse pressure is 13,840 psi theoretically, but (13,840 - 30%) = 9,690 psi including design & safety factor.

Now for the 16" if we assume the strongest casing, the theoretical burst pressure is 10,900 psi.
For design we subtract again 30% leaving 7,630 psi.
In the annulus 16" x 22" is filled fresh water of 8.345 ppg for a minimum.
This gives at 5,067' wellhead depth x 0.052 x 8.345 = 2,200 psi.
Differential over the 16" casing is 13,000 - 2,200 psi = 10,800 psi which is far too much.

So if the 16" would burst the 13,000 psi pressure could get to the wellhead seals of the 22" & 28" causing them to burst, since they have a much lower rating normally, ending-up in a blow-out at wellhead.

Another senario could have been a blow-out via the 18" liner top to the 22" shoe and then up to surface.

Even if the expected reservoir pressure was much lower or even zero, still the whole design of the casing programme is wrong.

- first of all it seems they never heard of 'buckling' since they leave a heavy casing string 9-7/8" 62.8 ppf x 7" 41 ppf hanging free over 12,100 ft on the casing hanger???

- What do they think will happen when they run completion and start flowing the well and is warming-up?

- if you have so many strings/liners,each with minimum cement behind it, for sure you will do a CBL at the end to verify you have isolated everything

- why is only the upper prt cemented back into the previous casings and the rest not, weak zones which cannot support cement column? never heard of external casing packers or stage cementing, specially for the production casing?

- the reservoir is probably drilled in 8-1/2", if they would have had a 13,000 psi kick, even with the BOP functioning properly and ultra heavy casing everywhere, how where they going to control this? Certainly not with the 7,500 psi max. WP mud pumps, remaining the Halliburton HP unit (probably 15K rated) but at which flow rate??? Pissing against the wind!

This design is so wrong I almost cannot believe that the data provided by Halliburton are correct.

Now next is why to have a 9-7/8" casing on the top? Of course you will answer: to allow to run a 7" completion string! Why they would like to run a 7" completion? Because there is plenty oil. 5,000 barrel/day can be easily produced through a 3-1/2" completion string. Now if there is plenty oil they could have invested a little bit more money in the well isn't it?

A lot of good insights here by the Dolphmeister.

Still don't think with your fine analysis you have to assume the collapse happened at the surface, could have happened deep.


'not appropriate' is not even close ... they can change their name in Blow-out Planners

I got an email request from a fellow PE wanting this info this morning. Thanks.

Is it necessary for it to be a closed system (able to give up fluid but not take it) in order for your scenario to develop. How likely is that given that the oil wasn't far behind.


FF, I do not fully understand the question, for pressure to build-up the system has to be closed.

The space between the final 9-7/8" casing and previous 16" casing was closed at the top (wellhead) by
a 'pack-off' a kind of cork.

Imagine a bottle of soda water, there is pressure sitting under the cork above the soda water, this pressure comes from the CO2 gas which is dissolved in the soda water. If this pressure becomes too high (like in summer when the water heats-up) the cork might pop-off and next most of the CO2 dissolved in the water will suddenly come-out (blow-out), even with the water. Now imagine there is a continuous pressurized feed to the bottle at the bottom of new water with dissolved CO2 in it and you have the average oil well, so the answer is yes, the oil is right behind the gas.

When the 13,000 psi gas migrates upward due to gravity it can either retain its internal pressure or expand. You assume it retains its internal pressure.

Now take the case when it is halfway up the hole let's say... it hasn't expanded and is setting at 13,000 psi with 13. lb/gal mud underneath it. Now oil is flowing in but you cannot re-inject?? So the pressure on the exposed formation is 18,000 psi or so but it does not frac or stop the flow of oil. At the top of the hole, the pressure on the formation face is 26,000 psi but it does not frac?

Not be critical just talkin at the whiteboard.


As long the gas migrates in a closed system the pressure and volume of the bubbles will remain the same, when arriving just below the wellhead it start building a gas cap which is getting bigger by time. The gas cap pushes back the oil /mud into the formation, at a given moment there will be a balanced situation with the well almost full of gas at reservoir pressure.

This would suggest that the fraction of oil in the leak should be decreasing? Or the dynamics of the leak will alter this tendency?

Described is what probably caused the leak [in my opinion] and has little to do with the current flow rate of the well

So would the 13,000 psi gas pressure in your scenario have to reach the mudline or just unbonded pipe above the top of cement??


Deepwater Horizon
The DEEPWATER HORIZON is a Reading & Bates Falcon RBS8D design semi-submersible drilling unit capable of operating in harsh environments and water depths up to 8,000 ft (upgradeable to 10,000 ft) using 18¾in 15,000 psi BOP and 21in OD marine riser.

Top Drive Varco TDS-8S, 750 st, 1150 hp with PH-100 pipe handler
Mud Pumps 4 x Continental Emsco FC-2200, 7500 psi
BOP 2 x Cameron Type TL 18¾in 15K double preventers; 1 x Cameron Type TL 18¾in 15K single preventer; 1 x Cameron DWHC 18¾in 15K wellhead connector
LMRP 2 x Cameron DL 18¾in 10K annular; 1 x Cameron HC 18¾in 10K connector
Diverter Hydril 60 with 21¼in max bore size, 500 psi WP and 18in flowline and two outlets
Control System Cameron Multiplex Control System
Riser Vetco HMF-Classs H 21in OD riser; 90 ft long joints with C&K and booster and hydraulic supply lines
Choke & Kill Stewart & Stevenson 3-1/16in, 15K, with 2 x adjustable chokes and 2 x hydraulic power chokes
Cementing Halliburton (third party equipment)

NOW THESE ARE THE SPECS SO STOP THE NONSENSE about a 10,000 psi BOP with 5 sets of shear rams etc.,


Regarding your question you can calculate yourself the answer since you know very well what I'm talking about, stop waisting my time!

Dolfijn and Fractional Flow,

Thanks for letting me see the conversation on the pressure differentials vs working strength of the steel and where the failures could be. I am not associated with the oil industry in anyway and I clearly understand the ramifications if your calculations are correct.

Now I understand why there is so much emphasis on the relief wells. They are the only way to stop the flow from the blown well if you are right.

Regarding your question you can calculate yourself the answer since you know very well what I'm talking about, stop waisting my time!

Settle down comrade, and keep your shirt on ... it's not compulsory to spend time here. And BTW ... anyone can copy specs from a company website - no big deal.

According to roger_rethinker, the fluid in the reservoir is a supercritical solution. In a a previous post, he estimates its density to 0.6. A column of 13000 ft would then have a hydrostatic pressure drop of ~3400 psi. The pressure on the liner would be ~5650 psi below reservoir pressure.

OTOH, reservoir pressure may be higher than 13000 psi. IIRC they used a mud weight of 14.5 ppg, which results in an upper limit of 13600 psi. 8000 psi on the liner/casing. A lot, but not above specs.
Makes your theory less likely.


So the siphon into the broken riser pipe is collecting 3000 barrels per day?

Is that barrels of oil, or oil equivalent?

And if the siphon is collecting 3000 barrels, what does that say about the actual magnitude of the leak?

Given the videos of the various leaks now available, I'd say that there is significantly more than 5000 barrels a day coming out of that well.

And with a GOR of 5000 to one, it certainly seems like the flow rates aren't going to slow down any time soon.

BP is going to actually release some evidence if they want anybody neutral to believe 5000 bpd. Their credibility went to zero when the platform exploded. You can't beat something with nothing.

The RIT certainly provides reference size for the riser leak.

Have not heard of any video being released of the RIT concurrent with the new recovery rate.

It seems we must be prepared for the possibility that pressure reduction may be a result of total flow rate increase from the two leaks.

wait, what? Explain why pressure reduction may be a result of flow rate increase.

What would the observed pressure reading below the BOP be if the well was totally sealed at the BOP? Now what would that observed reading be if the BOP was a total wide open leak?

That's highly dependent on an unknown reservoir pressure which may have been dropping for the past month and the pressure loss upstream of where we are taking the measurement. If the formation is collapsing, then there would be more pressure loss to the wellbore, or if the driving force is moving farther away from the wellbore, then the reservoir pressure is essentially dropping. Both of those events could result in less pressure below the BOP and both would be associated with a rate decrease, not increase.

That's just it. The reservoir pressure is an unknown.

There have been as I understand it x-ray pressure readings that have been taken at the BOP and apparently there is more opportunity to get the leak rates than has been done. I don't think we automatically should be led to believe that the reservoir pressure is dropping or collapsing at a greater rate than the output is increasing while TPTB have better means at their disposal to get confirmation on the rather more easily observed flow rate/pressure relationship at the BOP.

Heading Out, my apologies if this has been asked and answered already: why are the relief wells being drilled to that depth? Wouldn't intersecting the original well at less depth mean stopping the flow sooner?

Hey aangel, I heard BP officials publicly state during one of the broadcast hearings that they had determined that the relief wells would only work if they were drilled to that depth, they didn't seem to want to elaborate on why that might be so. Just a guess but perhaps they aren't willing to trust the integrity of any of the casing...

This was posted by Interested_Public in yesterday's thread. It is a must read:

"The bad press is starting to flow like oil from a high pressure pipe:

Worsening Gulf oil spill overwhelming Coast Guard:

"The Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Thad Allen, said that despite the siphoning, the spilled oil is spreading and now stretches from western Louisiana to Florida's Key West. The extent of the spill was straining even the substantial resources deployed for one of the worst ecological disasters in recent history, he said.

Allen said the approximately 20,000 people now working to prevent the spill from reaching land were struggling to deal with an environmental threat that he called "omni-directional and almost indeterminate" in size. He said federal disaster plans had been formulated to deal with far more localized spills.

"We're dealing with something that's more complicated than any spill I've ever dealt with," Allen told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. "The national system did not contemplate that we would have to do all of this at once."

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration widened its no-fishing zone to cover 19 percent of the Gulf, or 45,728 square miles, and its head, Jane Lubchenco, told a news conference that "a light tendril of oil" is spreading eastward and approaching the loop current, a powerful warm-water current that could drag the oil around Florida and into the Gulf Stream that flows up the Atlantic coast.

Lubchenco said the current would dilute much of the oil into thin strips, and some scientists have warned that these strips could cause major damage to the extensive coral reefs that hug Florida's southern coastline."

BP withholds oil spill facts — and government lets it:

" WASHINGTON — BP, the company in charge of the rig that exploded last month in the Gulf of Mexico, hasn't publicly divulged the results of tests on the extent of workers' exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf, even though researchers say that data is crucial in determining whether the conditions are safe.

Moreover, the company isn't monitoring the extent of the spill and only reluctantly released videos of the spill site that could give scientists a clue to the amount of the oil in gulf.

BP's role as the primary source of information has raised questions about whether the government should intervene to gather such data and to publicize it and whether an adequate cleanup can be accomplished without the details of crude oil spreading across the gulf.

Under pressure from senators, BP released four videos Tuesday, but it hasn't agreed to better monitoring.

The company also hasn't publicly released air sampling for oil spill workers although Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency in charge of monitoring compliance with worker safety..."

BP told feds it could handle oil spill 60 times larger than Deepwater Horizon
By Ben Raines
May 19, 2010, 5:00AM

"In its 2009 exploration plan for the Deepwater Horizon well, BP PLC states that the company could handle a spill involving as much as 12.6 million gallons of oil per day, a number 60 times higher than its current estimate of the ongoing Gulf disaster.

In associated documents filed with the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the company says that it would be able to skim 17.6 million gallons of oil a day from the Gulf in the event of a spill.

As of Tuesday, BP reported recovering 6 million gallons of oily water since the ongoing spill began four weeks ago. BP spokesman Tom Mueller said that only about 10 percent of the skimmed liquid was oil, which would amount to about 600,000 gallons of oil collected thus far.

Mueller also said via e-mail Tuesday that "the spill has stayed about the same size or even shrunk on the water as a result of our response efforts.", a website that monitors environmental problems using satellite imagery, reported Monday that the spill had grown to 10,170 square miles, based on NASA images. John Amos, head of Skytruth, told the Press-Register then that the spill had approximately doubled in size since Friday.

BP did not respond to questions about the NASA images.

BP's Deepwater Horizon Initial Exploration Plan suggests that the well's unchecked flow would be 6.8 million gallons a day. ..."

Gulf oil spill leak now pegged at 95,000 barrels a day:

" WASHINGTON — The latest video footage of the leaking Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico show that oil is escaping at the rate of 95,000 barrels — 4 million gallons — a day, nearly 20 times greater than the 5,000 barrel a day estimate BP and government scientists have been citing for nearly three weeks, an engineering professor told a congressional hearing Wednesday.

The figure of 5,000 barrels a day or 210,000 gallons that BP and the federal government have been using for weeks is based on satellite observations of the surface. But NASA’s best satellite-based instruments can’t see deep into the waters of the Gulf, where much of the oil from the gusher 5,000 feet below the surface seems to be floating.

Federal officials testified in hearings on Tuesday that they were putting together a crack team to get to the bottom of big the spill really is. That effort comes a month after the April 20 explosion that triggered the unprecedented oil spill in deep waters of the United States. Experts say knowing that amount is crucial for efforts to cap the broken wellhead and to monitor and clean up the oil.

Steve Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, earlier this month made simple calculations from a video BP released on May 12 and came up with a flow of 70,000 barrels a day, NPR reported last week. Werely on Wednesday told a House Commerce and Energy Committee subcommittee that his calculations of two leaks that show up on videos BP released on Tuesday showed 70,000 barrels from one leak and 25,000 from the other.

He said the calculation could be off by 20 percent — meaning the spill could range from between 76,000 to 104,000 barrels a day. But Wereley said he would need to see videos that were not compressed and showed the flow over a longer period so that it would be possible to get a better calculation of the mix of oil and gas from the wellhead."

and an interesting one from back on May 1st:

Video shows federal officials knew quickly of potential for massive oil flow in Gulf spill.

"... In it, officials are discussing the search for survivors of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. There is a hand-drawn map of the spill dated April 22. At one point, the video freezes on a sign next to a door that reads, "War Room."

In one scene, officials say that the estimate for the leak in a worst-case scenario is between 65,000 and 100,000 barrels per day. A dry erase board on the wall reads "Estim: 64,000 to 110,000 bbls/day. CNN reported 300,000 gal/day."

The high end of the estimate, 110,000 barrels, is about 4.6 million gallons. At that spill rate, 32 million gallons of oil would enter the Gulf every week. By comparison, the entire Exxon Valdez spill was about 11 million gallons.

Officials estimate current flow from the damaged well at 210,000 gallons a day.

It is unclear from the video what events would have to transpire to raise the flow rate higher.

A confidential NOAA report, dated April 28 and circulated among federal agencies, makes similar projections regarding spill size in a worst-case situation.

It describes newly discovered leaks in the tangle of riser pipe, attributing them to ongoing erosion of the pipe. The riser pipe, in this case about 5,000 feet long, connects the wellhead on the sea floor to the drilling rig on the surface.

"If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked," reads the report.

On Thursday, the day after the NOAA report was circulated, BP officials said they were worried about "erosion" of the piping.

Sand is an integral part of the formations that hold oil under the Gulf. The raw crude rising from the bottom of a well carries sand and other abrasive materials. In effect, the oil is sandblasting the piping as it rushes through with tremendous force, according to petroleum engineers.

"I think we need to be prepared for it to be the spill of the decade," Debbie Payton of NOAA, the meeting's coordinator, says during the NOAA video. ..."

Shows how the attempt to manage and control information has turned out badly - openness from the beginning would have been best in my opinion."


You have to intersect the original well as deep as possible, and as close as possible to the productive interval, otherwise you cannot get enough pressure in the relief well to kill the flow. You need a very tall column of kill mud, and the only way to get that tall column is to have a deep well.

In addition, if the casing of the original well is compromised (either because of bad original work, or because of erosion and destruction due to the blowout and subsequent "sandblasting"), you want to avoid as much of that as possible, and get below it.

Thanks everyone for the answers.

Rockman gave the authoritative answer back on May 8th:

The following presentation was given in 2008 and addresses regulatory issues in the Ultra-Deep areas of the Gulf.

more can be found here

Isn't the leak thru a 9" drill pipe?

Purdue research exposes error in BP video

"...Once Wereley used particle image velocimetry to create freeze-frame shots of the video, he used a computer code he developed to estimate how many pixels the diameter of the pipe was. BP said that the diameter was 21 inches, which Wereley estimated is equivalent to 400 garden hoses.

Wereley created a conversion from pixels to inches to compute how fast the oil was coming out of the pipe. He used the area of the pipe and the speed of the oil, which he concluded was 2 feet per second, to compute the volume of oil being released. It was through these calculations that Wereley deduced 70,000 barrels of oil had been leaked..."

The jet in the video was issuing from a 21" pipe, so that's what was used. The velocity in that pipe was about 2 ft/sec.

Anyone forming an oil flow prediction pool among you cohorts?

I've already made my call

My pick would be a maximum flow rate of 40,000 to 50,000 b/day which has since declined (due to normal depletion for wild wells) to the 20,000 b/day range now with further declines in the future.


Based on limited and flawed information, lack of denials, assertions made and legal implications, my guess is that it started at about 52,000 BPD, and has decreased to about 20,000 at present. By the time the relief wells are finished, it will be flowing about 5,000 or less, making the job quite a bit easier by then.

It looks like they deferred the top hat b/c the flow was dropping and there would be a better chance of success to wait a few more days, for a slower flow.

Of course, we could all be wrong, eh?


I'd WAG about 30,000 bpd. But with BP sitting on most of the video it could be a lot worse.

Is there any particular reason why the leaking pipe can't be slowly crushed, then crimped using a "jaws of life" type device? Just a thought as I was stopping up an old copper water pipe this afternoon, that didn't leak when mains pressure was turned back on.

Regards, Matt B

Every day the news seems to get worse; my best hopes for all those in the area.

If the riser is blocked completely, then in short order it will need to support the static pressure coming up from the reservoir. My understanding is that even if it is rated for that kind of pressure the uncontrolled distortion of the riser pipe while the rig sank will have weakened it considerably.

A nice, gaping split failure in the riser pipe where it has bent just above the BOP would complicate things more, I think.

WharfRat -

Aha, this is the sort of determination I previously tried to make simply by eyeballing the BP video!

First to answer your question: yes, the actual leak(s) is(are) in the 9-inch drill pipe, which is inside of the 21-inch riser. The oil/gas leaks out of the drill pipe and enters the annular space between the two pipes. However, what you are seeing in the video is the oil/gas exiting the end of the 21-inch riser pipe. Therefore, the cross-sectional area of the 21-inch riser pipe pertains.

A 21-inch riser pipe has a cross-sectional area of 2.4 sq. ft. So, an exit velocity of 2 ft/sec (as estimated by this professor) would give a fluid flow rate of 4.8 cubic feet per second, which is equivalent to 2,150 gal/min, which is equivalent to about 74,000 bbl/day. But that is the flow rate of total fluid, which consists of a mixture of oil and gas.

So, if we reasonable assume that half of the volumetric flow rate of that fluid (at the deep-sea pressure at the end of the riser is oil, then the estimate of the rate of oil release becomes something like 37,000 bbl/day. This is over 7 times greater than the original estimate of 5,000 bbl/day, but less than half of some of the more high-end estimates.

This looks reasonable to me (particularly since I myself had eyeballed the velocity of the plume leaving the riser at about 3 ft/sec.). Not bad for someone without sophisticated imagining technology, don't you think?

How do you reconcile your statement that only 50% is gas when the measurement on the drill ship is around 5000:1 gas to oil ratio? I don't know if that ratio is at STP or at the pressue in the siphon line, or if the pressure doesn't matter. IIRC, anything over 3000:1 is really considered a gas well not an oil well.

The number I keep hearing is 3500:1, but that would be at sea level. At the floor, the gas is compressed. More like 3:1 as it leaves the pipe.

(Disclaimer: I'm way over my head here. I'm just repeating an explanation I heard on NPR.)

CuriousGeorge -

The gas numbers are given at STP.

5,000 cu ft gas per bbl oil is equivalent to 890 cu ft gas per cu ft oil at STP.

If the leak is approx 5,200 ft below the surface, it is at a pressure of about 2,300 psi or 157 atmospheres. Thus, at depth the 890 cu ft of gas will occupy a volume of roughly 5.6 cu ft (assuming ideal gas behavior).

Note: This assumes that the natural gas is all in the gas phase and that none of it is actually dissolved in the oil. In other words, two-phase flow. (Anybody out there know what the saturation point of gas in oil is at that pressure?)

But for the sake of argument, for the plume we are looking at, if we assume that for every 1 cu ft of oil we have 5.6 cu ft of natural gas, then the ratio of oil to total fluid in the plume is 1 /6.6 or 0.15. This would be much less than my guess of a 50/50 split.

Then if that were the case, the amount of oil in that 74,000 bbl/day total flow would be more like 11,000 bbl/day, which is still over double the original estimate.

Again, this assumes zero solubility of gas in oil, which were know is not the case, so my pure hunch is that we might be more in the range of 15,000 bbl/day, but the real number depends on what the solubility of gas in oil is under those conditions.

Maybe someone with better knowledge of what an oil/gas mixture looks like under high pressure would be able to make a better adjustment.

I think the ratio of 5000:1 natural gas to crude oil mixture is in units of (cubic feet of natural gas at 1 ATM) / (barrels of crude oil at 1 ATM). The pressure at the ocean floor is much higher than 1 ATM making the volume ratio much lower.

I provide a more robust analysis of the ratio of natural gas to crude oil below based on the BP data.


9" DP does not even exist - how do you calculate the cross- section of a 21 inch riser?

People on a couple political websites I read are now throwing around a leak estimate of 95,000 barrels a day, thanks to this estimate:

In an earlier thread here, there was a discussion of this and I interpreted some of you to think it was probably in the 20,000 barrel range.

Any more thoughts on the estimated flow?

Best flowing well in GOM so far has been around 50,000 bbls/d peak.

Nothing about this formation suggests that it was predicted to do better than that.

Is that number for a cased, perforated, pressure-controlled production well, or for a completely unconstrained hole in the ground?

You know what I'm referring to and don't pretend you know the dynamics of an uncontrolled well vs. a controlled well. It is my belief, though I can't prove it, that the controlled flow wells would be better production rates overall than an uncontrolled well.

Do you think a 25,000 bpd rate is totally out of the question or do you think it is reasonable based on what you have seen from the videos?

Or are you sticking with the 5,000 pbd rate and if so why?

My bet (for my unclaimable salary) was that the oil flow rate was no more than 20,000 bbl/d. I base that on the fact that the highest flow rates achieved in the other GOM wells peaked around 50,000 bbls/d and this was not considered the best well by any means, added on to the fact that this was not a completed well and flow is occuring through a great deal of pressure drop. The 5,000 bbl/d number was a back of the napkin guess made in the first week and has simply not been revised, I believe, because of the dynamic nature of the well. 25,000 bpd of oil may have occurred, or even perhaps a short period of even high flow rate, but once all is said and done, I expect the flow rate average to be well below the estimates provided the "scientists" and well well below the chicken little consiracy reports (500,000 bpd, please, be serious).

I'm wondering where are the "live video feeds"?
Can't find them on Markey's site.
If anyone can find the live feeds, please provide link. Thx

( I'm wondering if BP will wait till the junk shot to produce the live feeds? )

I appreciate everyone's help here.

Perhaps they will provide the congressman with a feed from an ROV with lights turned off to show him they are conserving electricity.

Show us the live feeds now!!

Thu May 20, 2010 11:27am EDT

BP capturing 5,000 bpd oil at Gulf leak site

HOUSTON, May 20 (Reuters) - BP Plc (BP.L) said it is now siphoning 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons/795,000 liters) per day of crude oil at the leak site in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

BP had estimated the leak was flowing at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day, but scientists and the government have questioned that figure.

"It's now capturing 5,000 barrels per day of oil," BP spokesman Mark Salt, said.

(Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston, Editing by Sandra Maler)

I read they were supposed to start streaming the flow feed last night @ the Congressional website.

What happened?

live feeds now up:

The link, GlobalWarming.House.Gov: Oil Spill in the Gulf LiveCam, is presently timing out when I try to load it.

And the CNN version is showing odd shots of video screens.

eta.. now a bank of video screens, all quite dark. Oops, now one screen is showing the leak.

The truth is we don't know... My recollection of the expert consensus is that it was in the ~20k range given what could be observed. 100k was deemed to high and would put the reservoir at the top end of those ever discovered in the region - yet BP apparently discussed numbers in this range with NOAA in the early days after the accident on the rig.

A reliable estimate from evidence at the site would be welcome.

A reliable estimate from evidence at the site would be welcome.

Tell me about it. I personally would love to have the numbers and calculations. The numbers on the internet have gotten rediculous. Of course, as soon as BP released a number, there would be those yelling that they waited until the flow came down so they could make it look better than it was. Its a no win situation for them to appease the internet.

Greg, there is plenty of video of the leaks over time - may even be nearly continuous. If an accurate measurement can be made at any point it will be possible to back calculate the leak rate at any other point within a reasonable error envelope. There is really no reason this should be a matter of debate and speculation - some of it damaging.

Oh, but the assumptions that go into back calculating are treacherous. If there is channeling of flow inside the diameter of pipe (say if the main leak is through the drill pipe), then actual flow cannot necessarily be calculated using the pipe diameter visible. Or if the flow is mostly gas with oil suspension, then you have to know that ratio throughout time, which may have been more or less in earlier pictures.

Whatever their shortcomings, such estimates would be FAR BETTER than what is currently occurring. I would be willing to bet more than a round or two at the bar that the drill pipe is busted at the riser kink and all downstream flow is in the riser. The more video is available the better the estimate of the gas fraction. BP now has additional data from their capture process - data over time. Don't make this seem more difficult than it is.

The sensible thing to do would have been to set up to make reasonable estimates from the beginning - having failed to do this means that the level of suspicion has increased - especially among those inclined to be skeptical. BP may, in fact, already have pretty good flow estimates as it would be a reasonable assumption that this information was important to their efforts to control the leak - including estimates of the gas fraction.

Personally I am tired of the apparent foot-dragging and stream of excuses that seem to substitute for straight-forward information.

Me too. But as a lawyer, I know the drill. Either don't get the evidence to begin with so you can't be accused of destroying evidence, or do everything you can to keep it to yourself.

That is why I am advocating a special prosecutor, to see that the evidence gets collected.

David G. Mills -

I wholeheartedly agree that all relevant evidence should be preserved, and the order to do so issued ASAP.

Another piece of critical evidence is the broken drill pipe itself. Though it would entail some difficulty and expense in bringing it back up to the surface after the leak has been sealed, it could provide a highly definitive means of determining the size of the release.

Once one has taken accurate measurements of the size and shape of the openings, then one could use that in conjunction with the already known pressure at the downstream side of the blow-out preventer to make a reasonable accurate calculation of the amount of fluid that was released. As we already have a pretty good handle on the gas/oil ratio, we can then easily determine how much of that fluid consisted of oil.

Since they can measure the pressure below the BOP why don't they shut it in and due a pressure buildup test?

Then they could back calculate the flowrate from Darcy's law.


Because the BOP is not able to be completely closed to do that test, if it had worked as designed this whole issue of how big is the leak would never had occured. The number would have been zero. They have pressure readings at the choke and kills lines under the BOP, and that should be pretty close to the well pressure as the BOP is mostly closed. I'm not an expert but it makes sense that if you shut in the well 100% it should eventually stablize at the formation pressure which is a known value from the logs of the well. If they can overcome that pressure with the top kill mud injection they stop the flow.


Why indeed? Why don't they stick a pitot tube in the leak plume and get velocity measurements? Possibly because they know they won't like the answer.

Why don't they stick a pitot tube in the leak plume and get velocity measurements?

Hey, I think think I know of a European airplane manufacturer who might be able to get them a really great deal on a batch they no longer need. They might actually even like the results these particular pitot tubes would give. They aren't considered very accurate for measuring air speed...

Current measurement equipment is standard ROV instrumentation. Should be easy to modify for a point measurement using the manipulator. Risk would seem to be to the ROV if it got bounced around but now the RITT is installed any attempt could risk pulling the RITT out of the riser.

I would not risk anything around the BOP that wasn't absolutely necessary.

GregTX -

I think the only way there could be any significant channeling of the flow out of the 21-inch riser pipe is if the main leak is not far from the open end of the pipe (say within less than 100 ft).

However, give the fact that the riser pipe is about 5,000 ft long and is seriously bent not all that far from its upstream end, it is probably a pretty good bet that the main leak is nowhere near the open downstream end. And if indeed that is the case, then the high velocity jet has more than enough opportunity to transfer its momentum to the surrounding fluid to create a more or less uniform flow stream.

Picture filling up 55-gallon drum with a small garden hose placed at the bottom and pointing up. While the water coming out of the nozzle may have a very high velocity, by the time the water level reaches the top of the drum and starts to overflow, the flow pattern has smoothed out considerably, even over that sort distance. I do happen to have some experience with jet eductors, and it has always struck me how rapidly the kinetic energy of the jet is dissipated into the surrounding fluid.

I thought the leak was near the end of the riser? I can't imagine sticking in the "plug" 150 feet or more down the riser and into the end of leaking drill pipe with an ROV. Maybe the ROVs and the operators are really, really good.

There is good reason to believe the primary leak(s) exit(s) is(are) in the neighborhood of the kinked riser and the top of the BOP. Or is that what you meant?

This is right above the BOP.

Any questions?

Unfortunately, although there are good reasons for the agencies and others to have reasonable flow numbers most of those clamoring for a number have political or other motives that have nothing to do with stopping it, cleaning it up, or following the long term effects. Only a rigorous, water, and wildlife long term testing program will be effective.

Ironically, some "clever" people will try to use the "big leak" to their advantage in arguing that we underestimate the oil production potential of the deep gulf.
I am sure somebody will argue that with only 50 of these wells we could double the production of oil in the U.S., which of course is just as crazy as some of the other comments floating around cyberspace.

BTW. Anyone here(other than me) old enough to remember the Arun Field(Indonesia) onshore gas blowout(1978?)? I remember trying to get flow rates that were estimated at 400 MMCFD.
Heck of a barbecue grill. Took a long time to kill. Many of the techniques used to kill wells now were developed on that well.

So obfuscation, stonewalling and excuses and the attendant speculation and wild claims should be ok because having reasonable estimates backed up by data would be a source of speculation? OK, sounds logical to me.

Sorry if you misinterpreted me. I think they want to have a more accurate number before updating because if they later have to change it then nothing is gained. Maybe I have become naive in my old age but I still believe if there was better (more certain) number it would have been leaked by industry or government sources. I admit I have not made much of an effort to go through my contact channels. Maybe I should.

Heck, if the gulf coast is now indeed toast then by a BP way of thinking I can see where that just means the U.S. might as well let them drill into every oil reservoir out there before the environment 3 decades later recovers. I mean what will be left to hurt? An asphalt field? Of course, the U.S. would partake in a more than usual cut of the proceeds this time around to assuage the existing damage but all in all everybody wins except the stupid and expendable LA fishing industry. I just have a funny feeling that's the way they're looking at this whole mess: Never waste a crisis.

May I suggest a new company slogan, BP?

"There's always a rainbow to every oil rig even if it's from a sheen."

BP is now capturing 5,000 bpd of oil:

Good news for everyone :). The pro-BP people can point out 5,000 fewer bpd is going into the gulf, and the anti-BP people can point out how they were obviously low-balling their 5,000bpd total flow estimate.

Certainly good news for the gulf - all other opinions not withstanding.

"It's now capturing 5,000 barrels per day of oil," BP spokesman Mark Salt, said.

Maybe this is why we haven't seen the "live" video of the gusher as of yet. It would seem if 5,000 barrels a day are being collected..there should be NO oil at all escaping into the Gulf. ( If their predictions of 5,000 barrels a day leaking were correct.) Seeing oil still escaping would mean they would have to admit they were WAY off base in their calculations. Heaven forbid they admit they were wrong.

LOL By the way, Alan and others predicted this calculation days ago........are all of the BP statements are being cleared through their legal team? Of course they are..... :)

"The transcript of the News Hour interview with Bob Dudley of BP this confirmed the 3,000 bd recovery figure through the RIT, and that they are continuing to open the choke that controls the flow up to the surface ship that is collecting the oil, and flaring the gas. He noted the high gas content, at the greater oil flow. The pipe is now collecting more than 13 million cubic feet of gas a day. With that high a gas content, at least half the plume that has been coming from the pipes is made up of gas. Because of that gas content, it is hard to measure the exact volumes of fluid that are leaving the pipe. But he also noted that the larger numbers that have been quoted in the press, of 70,000 to 100,000 bd are purely sensational and not based on science. Unfortunately they also serve to increase alarm and suggest threats to the tourist industries of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida that do not realistically exist."

Because natural gas is much above its critical pressure, it acts much, much more like a liquid than a gas at the 2500 psi or so pressure at the bottom of the Gulf. Using pressure/temperature calculation tool I found on the Web, this means that the natural gas is about 270 times more dense at the leak site. Thus, 13 million cubic feet per day of flared natural gas converts to 8500 barrels per day of natural gas. BP says that they are recovering 3000 bbl/day of crude oil with that, so the natural gas/crude oil ratio at the leak site is about 3 to 1 (or about 75% of the leak is natural gas while the other 25% is crude oil.

If they are now recovering 5000 bbl/day of crude oil, then this ratios the natural gas flaring amount to about 21 million cubic feet per day.

If my calculations are correct and assuming that 70,000 bbl/day of total fluid is leaking at the that one leak location per previous estimates by a Purdue scientist, then before BP started to capture the crude oil with this latest method, I estimate that about 18,000 bbl/day of crude oil is leaking from that one leak point while 52,000 bbl/day of natural gas is leaking at that same leak point. When BP was collecting about 3000 bbl/day of crude oil, then I estimate that they were capturing 16% of the crude oil. Now, if they are capturing 5000 bbl/day of crude oil, then I estimate that they are capturing 28% of the crude oil.

Keep in mind, though, that there is another place from which the natural gas/crude oil is leaking.


Thanks for sharing. I had thought the 12-15 K range was reasonable guesstimate.Obviously, I realize it is just based on some info I have seen (and gut) and I know the possibility of being way off. If your or other estimates of between 10-20 turn out to be close I would like the prof who can up with 100k to show his details and sources of error. Aside from gas volume there must be other errors that could multiple to give extremely wide ranges in his approach.
If the posted GOR is any where in the ranges posted, the gas coming to the surface with 100,000 BOPD would be ginormous. I wouldn't want to be on any of the surface vessels there.

The Purdue guy did not estimate what amount of that leak is natural gas or crude oil. Keep in mind, that his estimate is +/- 20%. He was just estimating the total release and perhaps assumed that it was all crude oil. If he was able to take advantage of the recent data provided by BP, then he would have adjusted his estimate of crude oil being leaked accordingly.

This is a lot of natural gas, but remember that at that pressure and temperature the natural gas is converted immediatley to methane hydrates which have a density a lot like sea water and so they really do not float. These natural gas hydrates and crude oil which is being swept up with it are staying deep down in the Gulf and (at least the crude oil portion) will eventually come to the surface at a later date. So this leaking crude oil will be a lot like "whack-a-mole" because it will migrate in a horizontal direction deep down in the Gulf and come up in different places sometime later on in time and over time.


Retsel: My last sentence was tongue in cheek. Thanks.

Show me the live feed of all the feed, my conclusion is BP is lying. So I reject any calculation they suggest.....

Thanks, Retsel.

The discussions on this site are way more informative than anything one sees watching TV news.

Well atleast your estimate accounts for the natural gas and brings some reality into the picture. The 50,000 bbl/d peak rate doesn't account for NG, just crude, so that makes 70,000 bbl/d fluid a much more reasonable number. To be honest though, any estimate is still a highly uncertain number (I don't believe the Purdue prof when he says his number is +-20%).

I don't believe the Purdue prof when he says his number is +-20%

Why the rush to judgment ?

Shouldn't he be given the benefit of the doubt ? At least give him the benefit of the doubt until the fullness of time when we can better determine these issues. Shouldn't he be "innocent until proven guilty" ?

After all, it's not like he is a convicted felon or anything like that.


I wouldn't accuse him of being purposely misleading, but he is basing his information on visual acumen of measuring flow velocity on a grainy photograph. I simply do not believe he can achieve a level of accuracy based on this. If you would provide me a link where he can demonstrably show how he is making his guess, maybe I can reconsider.

So to review, I don't believe a professor with no discernable background in the petroleum industry is capable of making an accurate flow calc based on a video of underwater flow. You don't believe BP is anything but a greedy, unsafe, corrupt corporation trying to hide all potential wrongdoing and screw the state of Louisiana. Who has more to prove?

He is an expert on measuring micro-fluid flow with images.

Professor Wereley completed his masters and doctoral research at Northwestern University studying Taylor-Couette flows as filtration aids. He joined the Purdue University faculty in August of 1999 after a two-year postdoctoral appointment at the University of California Santa Barbara. During his time at UCSB he focused exclusively on developing diagnostic techniques for microscale fluid systems, work which ultimately led to developing, patenting, and licensing to TSI, Inc., the micro-Particle Image Velocimetry technique. His current research interests include designing and testing microfluidic MEMS devices, investigating biological flows at the cellular level, improving micro-scale laminar mixing, and developing new micro/nano flow diagnostic techniques. Professor Wereley is the co-author of Fundamentals and Applications of Microfluidics (Artech House, 2002 and 2006) and Particle Image Velocimetry: A Practical Guide (Springer, 2007). He is on the editorial board of Microfluidics and Nanofluidics Journal and Experiments in Fluids and is an Associate Editor of ASME’s Journal of Fluids Engineering. Professor Wereley has edited Springer’s recent Encyclopedia of Microfluidics and Nanofluidics and Kluwer’s BioMEMS and Biomedical Nanotechnology.

And fluid flow based on images is what he was estimating.


He is an expert on measuring micro-fluid flow with images.

If BP had invited him or other experts like him, to give second opinions, and asked them to analyze the flow and supplied them with information, access and instruments that they might need, to get the best possible measurements they could obtain, then I might be satisfied that BP was not trying to hide something. As it is I trust them not one bit.

Until yesterday, the Coast Guard seemed to be dragging it's feet about getting an estimate of barrels per day.

Edit: Assumption Coast Guard probably has a general idea about the amount and are treating it as such..

Do you think it had to do with "Too much information"? (Crowd control as they used to call it in the 60's)

For instance, Florida's tourism was hurt etc.

Maybe there was concern that "alarmist" type reactions outweighed the benefits.
(After all there isn't a whole lot more we can do, except panic)

Even the press conference regarding the dispersants created a backlash.

Just a thought...........

Deepwater Horizon blew up 29 days ago.

If the well is sealed, that will seal super-deepwater drilling in the US for quite a while.

It is vitally important that the US public believe that BP can make lemonade out of this lemon.
Will the US public and pols come to believe that leaking deepwater oil wells are acceptable?
('But look we're recovering 30-50-80% of the cool is that?')

This is BP and Big Oil's prayer.

God bless BP!
(Doing God's work.)

Actu8ally maj I suspect the prayer is for $7/gal gasoline. IMHO on that day the public will demand Deep Water drilling no matter the risk.

Illogical, ROCKMAN.
Most of US oil is imported from NOC(National Oil Companies) so US oil marketing companies have to buy that pricey oil.
Deepwater GOM is the last hurrah for the IOC(International Oil Companies).
It's a different world we are coming to.

Deepwater GOM may be the last hurrah for high profit oil, but most NOC's depend on IOC's for expertise in developing their fields (Saudi Aramco being a true exception) and IOC's cut out a decent margin business with the NOC's.

A different world we may be coming to, but wasn't that always the case.

High profit oil? How's that? Didn't someone recently report an average ROI of 6% on GOM deepwater?

I might be speaking beyond my knowledge around the profits of Deepwater oil in GOM, but US royalties compared with other countries royalties appears to be quite low, which is why I believed GOM was so prospective. Of course low royalties probably breed higher lease costs from more competition from independents. There certainly seems to be very high drive to go after oil in GOM.

maj -- And when have you ever seen me express expectations of the American public reacting logically to anything? Right now Americans are turning a blind eye to the risk to the lives of our military and the local civilians to keep oil flow secure in the ME. So when gasoline spikes again they'll develop a sense of protectionism for the environment? No idea if the poll was valid but about 2 weeks ago it said Americans were still in favor of DW drilling by 70%. Difficult to beleive but who knows?

ROCKMAN, that day is already here!

I just filled up with fuel at GBP 1.23 per litre, which I think works out at 7.91 USD per gallon (maybe more - aren't US gallons, like everything else, supersized?)

Which is why, I think, we are drilling so very deep and making it up as we go along . . .


PS: It is also why my cheap old 3rd-hand car gets 40 mpg and most of my friends wonder why I don't get a more modern one that does 60mpg.

Way things are going with the GBP that could be only 5 USD soon!

Fortunately for us Ben you don't count. LOL. Some years ago I spent a few very pleasant days in Aberystwyth. Hadn't thought about it in a while but I could desparitely use a week or two there right now.

Actu8ally maj I suspect the prayer is for $7/gal gasoline. IMHO on that day the public will demand Deep Water drilling no matter the risk.

Existing permits will still be drilled, Thunderhorse will continue production and there are other wells that may come online. The public will forget this accident and it's impact if we hit $4-5 gas. Then they (and the idiots in Washington) will blame the oil companies for gouging them, and forget that they had a fit about drilling in the GOM and other Continental shelf locations which could have helped with supply to keep prices lower. The pendelum always swings too far to the other side at first.

...and forget that they had a fit about drilling in the GOM and other Continental shelf locations which could have helped with supply to keep prices lower.

Apparently you haven't heard the can't and it won't.

The public needs to know it won't help much with prices:

be sure to look at the chart on the 2nd page of the evworld copy of the article.

Then go to and see how much oil comes from the offshore,
and how much we use.

People need to get rational.
There's no way additions to the 1.6 million bpd from US offshore will have drastic effects on the 19 million bpd the US uses, particularly given declines in production elsewhere.

I don't know anything about it but couldn't they inject liquid nitrogen into either the well or Blowout Preventer and flash-freeze the flow? That way the frozen crude would serve as its own plug and they could work on solutions from the vantage point of a stopped flow.

The flow speed of the fluid through the BOP is too fast, among other reasons.

Actually jet setting up a "ice plug" is an old pipeline technique used in some repair situations. But it's done with no flow in the pipeline. Don't think I've ever seen it tried in a flowing line. Might be physically impossible to do.

Too fast? I believe we've already seen examples posted of hydrate formation at phenomenal pipe flow rates. Such reactions occur at the molecular level and defy what might be consider regular - as in the example of the hydrate formation at super flow speeds. If I were to think of any negatives it would be liquid nitrogen shattering of the BOP materials, which is why it would probably have to be done down in the hole.

This business of supercooling a pipe with lquids flowing thru it at high rates seems pretty chancy on the face of it, not to mention very difficult to implement.

If you dip a top quality wrench (made from tempered high alloy steel) in liquid ogygen until it is cooled to equilibrium and drop it from five or six feet up onto a concrete floor, it will sometimes break when it hits.A bell made out of lead will ring like a silver bell after a liquid o2 bath.

Now add in the thermal shock from the pipe going from hot to cold very quickly, and the chances of a shattered pipe seem pretty high-but I am only a tradesman who works occasionally with heated and chilled metals.

A metallurigical specialist can undoubtedly do a much better job critiquing this possibility.

It's a general rule that you do not let carbon steel at pressure get below -20 deg F. The stuff gets brittle. In cryogenic service you use stainless or non-ferrous for your pipes.

Precisely-there are no steel pipes used in setting up the welding equipment that runs off of lox.

I just can't imagine that with the oil/ gas mixture flowing that enough superchilled refrigerant of any sort could be injected fast enough to stop the flow without the pipe cracking from the pressure and rapid temperature change.

when this was discussed some days back it was pointed out that potential refrigerants that could be used at surface pressure and temperature would not work at depth. As for hydrate formation - if they could form in the conditions present in the primary leak they would have, but they don't seem to form till the flow exits the riser about a mile from the leak. As to the possibility of creating favorable conditions at the leak - that would seem to require additional cooling - refrigeration - a substance that will evaporate or boil at depth.

It would be damn near impossible to do. Can't send it down from the surface via a pipe, unless that pipe is really well insulated. If you sent a tank down, you'd have to do it very slowly, so the internal and external pressures would equalize. Otherwise the tank would implode. It wouldn't be an off-the-shelf setup, that's for sure.

Looks like the delivery of the super-coolant fluids would be difficult. My idea was you waste the BOP and don't worry if it cracks because all you are worried about is stopping the flow. Once you freeze the crude and form a plug you then figure out how to mud or cement the hole once this pressure flow has been checked by the frozen plug.

Super-refrigerants might be tried as a viscosity enhancer in aid to the mudding process. Sort of like a catalyst that would help thicken the oil/mud mix and slow it down?

I'm confused (as usual!), somebody explain this please.

Earlier, it was stated that all the NG was in the strata, distributed between the seafloor and the target oil formation, and there was no NG in the formation with the oil. The diagram posted above shows the bottom of the well plugged, and a failed/missing hanger between casing sections allowing NG into the annulus and then up the hole. So where is all the oil coming from? Is the bottom plug not actually there; were there TWO failures, one sending NG up the annulus and one sending oil up the drillpipe, giving the mixed flow we see in the plumes?

And, how is a relief well (and mud and eventually permanent cement) going to have any effect on the NG entering the annulus?

comfy -- Just some quick statements without qualifications: all the oil/NG leaking into the GOM is coming from a sandstone formation about 18,000' below sea level (13,000' below the sea floor). It might all be coming up the casing that runs from the bottom of the hole up to the BOP or some/all of it may be coming up the area between that long string of casing and the other casing strings. The reservoir contains oil with a significant volume of NG dissolved in the oil. As the oil flow out and the pressure is reduced the NG comes out of solution and flows up with the oil.

Sorry to have to be so brief.

Doesn't matter if it's brief as long as it gets the job done. Thank you, most of my 'WTF?!' points have been cleared up.

From Skytruth: "Slick and sheen covers 15,976 square miles (41,377 km2), about 50% larger than seen in yesterday's MODIS image and about twice the size of New Jersey"

Exxon Valdez spill was 11000 square miles so that gives you some idea how big this is.

CNN is on live right now, with 2 senators showing the live feed. Also apparently the dispersents have been STOPPED at the well head as of midnight last night...epa shut it down. This live feed apparently will be available to the public any minute these senators words.

Live feed available now at

Not sure of angle .. is the black pipe on the right the RIT?

I don't remember seeing the yellow piping around the riser end before... looks like one has an arm thrown around the riser. Any idea what that white fluffy stuff lower left is?

Purely by coincidence, I wish to bring to the readers' attention this very new OFR from USGS, on the USGS Bookstore website:

USGS OFR 2010-1101 A Method for Qualitative Mapping of Thick Oil Spills Using Imaging Spectroscopy
By Roger N. Clark1, Gregg A. Swayze1, Ira Leifer2, K. Eric Livo1, Sarah Lundeen3, Michael Eastwood3, Robert O. Green3, Raymond Kokaly1, Todd Hoefen1, Charles Sarture3, Ian McCubbin4 Dar Roberts5, Denis Steele6, Thomas Ryan6, Roseanne Dominguez7, Neil Pearson1, and the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) Team


A method is described to create qualitative images of thick oil in oil spills on water using near-infrared imaging spectroscopy data. The method uses simple "three-point-band depths" computed for each pixel in an imaging spectrometer image cube using the organic absorption features due to chemical bonds in aliphatic hydrocarbons at 1.2, 1.7, and 2.3 microns. The method is not quantitative because sub-pixel mixing and layering effects are not considered, which are necessary to make a quantitative volume estimate of oil.


A rapid, qualitative, remote sensing method is needed to map the locations of thick parts of an oil spill. While simple color imagery can show locations of thick oil (fig. 1), it is difficult to assess relative thickness or volume with such data. The reason for this is illustrated in figure 2. Figure 2 shows reflectance spectra of a sample of oil emulsion from the Gulf of Mexico 2010 spill containing approximately 40 percent water. In the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum, approximately 0.4 to 0.7 microns, the color of an oil emulsion (which is significantly thicker than the wavelength of light) changes little for different thicknesses. But in the near-infrared, figure 2 shows large change in reflectance because the absorption from the oil is less at those wavelengths. At infrared (IR) wavelengths, both the reflectance levels and absorption features due to organic compounds vary in strength with oil thickness.
Color composite images assembled from both visible and near-IR wavelengths can be used to make images of thick oil (fig. 3A), but such intensity images also show strong reflections from clouds and the ocean surface (i.e., sunglint). Spectroscopic analysis of the reflectance spectra within remote-sensing imagery can, however, resolve the absorptions due to the organic compounds in oil and can better separate the spectral shape of oil (fig. 3B) from that of other materials in the imagery (for example, Clark and others, 2003a).


A method to analyze absorptions due to specific materials is called absorption-band depth mapping (Clark and others, 2003b). Clark and others showed that simple three-point-band depth mapping will show the location of absorption features but can not identify specific compositions of compounds causing these features when multiple compounds have absorptions near the same wavelength. In the case of open ocean images, comprised of pixels containing water, oil/water mixtures, and clouds, the organic compounds in the oil and oil/water mixtures have absorption features that are distinct from those from water and clouds. These spectral differences allow us to map qualitative variations in oil abundance.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS), a high fidelity imaging spectrometer, is being flown by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)/NASA over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. AVIRIS measures a spectrum of the surface at each pixel from 0.35 to 2.5 microns (the visible spectrum is: blue: 0.4 micron, green 0.53 micron, deep red 0.7 micron) in 224 channels. AVIRIS data from May 6 are shown over a region that includes the well head source of the spill (fig. 3). The method used to produce a three-point band depth map, indicating potential
locations of thick oil is, as follows.
Radiance data are converted to surface reflectance using a two step process described by Clark and others (2003a).
Three-point-band depth images are computed using continuum-removed reflectance spectra as indicated in figure 2. The equation, after Clark and Roush (1984), is:

D = 1 – 2 Rb / (Rl + Rr) (1)

where Rb is the reflectance around the absorption maximum (minimum reflectance), Rl is the reflectance of the left continuum end point and Rr is the reflectance of the right continuum end point. Equation 1 is an approximation of the more formal equation in Clark and Roush (1984) where D = 1 – Rb / Rc and Rc = (R1 + Rr)/2 approximates the reflectance of the continuum at the maximum absorption. This approximation is adequate for creating rapid qualitative images. A more rigorous absorption band shape least squares fit of the absorption band shape after Clark and others (2003a) can also be done to produce images with lower noise and better discrimination between compounds. But the results of images of absorption band depth produced by any such band-depth method alone are qualitative because effects from sub-pixel mixing (as indicated in fig. 1, for example) have not been taken into account.
For AVIRIS, the following wavelength intervals were used in three-point band-depth computations.

1.2-micron feature:
Rb = average of the channels in the interval from 1.197 to 1.216 microns.
Rl = average of the channels in the interval from 1.073 to 1.102 microns.
Rr = average of the channels in the interval from 1.273 to 1.293 microns.
1.7-micron feature:
Rb = average of the channels in the interval from 1.712 to 1.732 microns.
Rl = average of the channels in the interval from 1.622 to 1.642 microns.
Rr = average of the channels in the interval from 1.782 to 1.802 microns.
2.3-micron feature:
Rb = average of the channels in the interval from 2.287 to 2.327 microns.
Rl = average of the channels in the interval from 2.198 to 2.238 microns.
Rr = average of the channels in the interval from 2.407 to 2.447 microns.

The band-depth images produced from these three calculations are combined into a color composite image as follows: the 2.3-micron feature in the red channel, the 1.73-micron feature in the green channel, and the 1.2-micron feature in the blue channel.
This method finds any organic compounds, not just oil. For example, in the image in figure 3, small bright pixels are boats and the paint on the boats shows spectral features due to the organic compounds in the paint. Similarly, large areas of ocean containing floating garbage that includes painted materials or plastics would also show in such images. Such false positives would be easily recognized by onsite cleanup crews.
Methods like that outlined here have been used in many other applications, for example mapping hydrocarbons on Saturn's moon Titan (Brown and others, 2008; Clark and others, in press) and terrestrial applications (Clark and others, 2003a and references therein).
The results shown here highlight the utility of imaging spectrometer measurements across the visible, near-IR and shortwave-IR wavelengths for oil spills in the ocean. The method presented here provides a fundamental image analysis method, using focused wavelengths centered within and on the edges of oil-related absorption features, as a means for detecting thick oil.


A simple computation of absorption-band depth using reflectance spectra from imaging spectrometers, which includes the wavelength range where petroleum compounds produce absorption features in the near-IR can be used to locate areas with relatively thick oil. Such derivative images might be useful to guide cleanup efforts to thicker parts of the spill and as oil approaches shore the images might be useful to target efforts to mitigate the worst parts of the spill.


Brown, R.H., Soderblom, L.A., Stoderblom, J.M., Clark, R.N., Jaumann, R., Barnes, J.W., Sotin, C., Buratti, B., Baines, K.H., and Nicholson, P.D., 2008, The identification of liquid ethane in Titan's Ontario Lacus: Nature, v. 454, no. 7204, p. 607–610, doi:10.1038/nature07100.
Clark, R.N., Curchin, J.M., Barnes, J.W., Jaumann, R., Soderblom, Larry, Cruikshank, D.P., Brown, R.H., Rodriguez, S., Lunine, J., Stephan, K., Hoefen, T.M., Le Mouelic, S., Sotin, C., Baines, K.H., Buratti, B., and Nicholson, P., in press, Detection and mapping of hydrocarbon deposits on Titan: Journal of Geophysical Research.
Clark, R.N., and Roush, T.L., 1984, Reflectance spectroscopy—Quantitative analysis techniques for remote sensing applications: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 89, no. B7, p. 6,329–6,340.
Clark, R.N., Swayze, G.A., Livo, K.E., Kokaly, R.F., Sutley, S.J., Dalton, J.B., McDougal, R.R., and Gent, C.A., 2003a, Imaging spectroscopy—Earth and planetary remote sensing with the USGS Tetracorder and expert systems: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 108, no. E12, 5131, doi:10.1029/2002JE001847, p. 5–1 to 5–44. (Also available at
Clark, R.N., Swayze, G., Livo, E., Kokaly, R., King, T.V.V., Dalton, B., Vance, S., Rockwell, B., Hoefen, T., and McDougal, R., 2003b, Surface reflectance calibration of terrestrial imaging spectroscopy data—A tutorial using AVIRIS, in Green, R.O., ed., JPL Airborne Earth Science Workshop, 11th, Pasadena, Calif., 2002, Proceedings, JPL Publication 03–4, p. 43–63. (Also available at

Figure 1. Image of oil emulsion from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Photograph taken on May 7, 2010, by Gregg Swayze/Sonia Gallegos.

Figure 2. Spectra of oil emulsion from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Sample collected May 7, 2010. At visible wavelengths the oil is very absorbing and does not change color significantly with depth. At infrared wavelengths, both reflectance levels and absorptions due to organic compounds vary in strength with thickness. This sample contains approximately 40 percent water as determined by heat separation. Controlled sample depths were created in a cell on a glass window placed over a black substrate and a water substrate. The reflectance was measured over each of these substrates (no difference was observed).

Figure 3. Color-composite imagery and derived three-point band-depth oil map illustrating areas of potentially thick oil. The images were produced using data from the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS), flown aboard an ER–2 aircraft at 28,000 feet above sea level. AVIRIS measures a spectrum of the surface at each pixel from 0.35 to 2.5 microns (the visible spectrum is: blue: 0.4 microns, green 0.53 microns, deep red 0.7 microns) in 224 wavelengths. This fine spectral sampling allows discrimination of absorptions due to specific compounds in the scene. A, a color-infrared composite image in which reflectance at 2.46 microns is assigned the color red, reflectance at 1.6 microns is assigned green, and reflectance at 0.55 microns is assigned blue. B, an image produced by assigning the measured strength of the absorption at 2.3 microns as red, assigning the absorption strength at 1.73 microns to green, and assigning the absorption strength at 1.2 microns to blue. The absorption at 2.3 microns is intrinsically the strongest organic absorption in the oil in this spectral range and is sensitive to thin/small amounts of oil. The absorption at 1.73 microns is sensitive to greater amounts of oil. The absorption at 1.2 microns is weaker and needs the greatest amount of oil to register. For such thick layers of oil, the stronger absorptions are saturated and do not change significantly (as shown in figure 2) leaving the 1.2-micron feature to probe the thickest oil. The image on the left (A) shows the position of the oil well head (marked with a "w"). Pixel spacing is 8.5 meters so each pixel covers about 72 square meters. The images shown cover about 67 square kilometers, and are a subset of a long flight line. Data analysis indicates oil was detected in a total of more than 4 million square meters (more than 57000 pixels) in this scene. Puffy white structures in A are clouds (and their shadows, some of which look tan). The clouds show in analysis (B) as low level organic signatures because light reflected from the ocean surface contains oil and that light reflects into the clouds. Thicker clouds block most of that reflected light so there is no oil signature where the clouds are thick, creating what appear as doughnut shapes. Small dots, some of which appear white in A and red or green in B, are boats whose paint reflects light with organic spectral signatures.

1U.S. Geological Survey, Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado, 80225.
2Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, 93106.
3California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena CA 91109-8099.
4Desert Research Institute, 2215 Raggio Pkwy, Reno, NV 89512.
5Dar Roberts, Geography Dept., University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, 93106.
6National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Dryden Flight Research Center, P.O. Box 273, Edwards, California 93523-0273.
7University Affiliated Research Center, University of California, Santa Cruz/NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, USA.

First posted May 14, 2010
For additional information contact:
Roger N. Clark
U.S. Geological Survey
Denver Federal Center
Denver, Colorado
Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Clark, R.N., Swayze, G.A., Leifer, I., Livo, K.E., Lundeen, S., Eastwood, M., Green, R.O., Kokaly, R., Hoefen, T., Sarture, C., McCubbin, I., Roberts, D., Steele, D., Ryan, T., Dominguez, R., Pearson, N., and the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) Team, 2010, A method for qualitative mapping of thick oil spills using imaging spectroscopy: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010-1101.

and directly from .gov site

Well, what you can is 1/12 full? :)

So that was interesting, just saw something that looked like an eel swim by the leak, weird ???

We really don't have a good understanding of the ecology at those depths.

I once went out on a wildlife-watching boat-trip off the north of Scotland, and the guide was a typical Scot, dour but full of insight and anecdotes.

He was pointing out some shags or cormorants doing their stuff, and related a little story, about how we discovered the diving capabilities of these birds. No-one really had any accurate idea about how deep they could dive, until North Sea divers, working on rig maintenance at ~300m in 1-atmosphere metal suits, reported that they were seeing birds "fly past them" at these sort of depths.

There's all sorts of wierd and wacky marine-life stuff going on down there, and we have no clue about it. I just hope that the Deepwater Horizon spill doesn't kill 'em all off.....

Regards Chris

"I just hope that the Deepwater Horizon spill doesn't kill 'em all off....."

...or piss them off in Avatar-like fury!!

[added this morning]
People might want to avoid surfing in the GOM for awhile. Sharks could get hungry.

Maybe it was one of those giant-flea things that fell off the Cloverfield monster.

Anybody, here know a lot about the regularly occurring clockwise western moving eddies that might effectively move deep oil away from Florida and toward Central Gulf?

The spill will be pulled by the Loop Current around the Keys and up the East Coast as predicted. The west coast of Florida will be spared the main spill by this pattern but I suspect there's so much oil out there that eventually the backflows and eddies that drift up the west coast will bring oil by normal distribution rates.

What I'm curious about is if the bringing of deep oil up to shallower, warmer depths by the Keys will reverse some of the deepwater effects presently acting on the oil and create thicker oil emerging on the surface as it hits the Keys?

The clockwise, western moving eddies are typically formed when the Loop current pinches off the U in the form of a ring at the apex of the loop. This is a periodic event with a normal frequency of once every 6-11 months. The last such event was 10 months ago. Jeff Masters thinks the next one will be in June or July.

Once these clockwise rings form, they normally take one of three tracks: northwestward onto the Texas coast, and straight west or southwest onto the coast of Mexico. The rings transport Loop water onto the coast.

I have been waiting for some wingnut commentator to claim that the whole blowout is really a positive, because it proves that there is lots of oil there.

Oil in Grand Island, Fourchon, bigger amounts just offshore.......Garland Robinette going nuts on WWL.

Where is the live feed from the riser leak?

Where is the live feed from the riser leak?


Page says it works best with IE, but it is working fine on my Firefox/IMac

Actually I meant the live feed of the kink (Shelburne's term) for the leak just above the BOP where the pipe bends.........originally there was no oil coming from this area, now it seems to be the larger of the two leaks..

Call your congressman and have BP get that piece of equipment out of the way. I can't see anything!


OK, that's better...

The Deepwater Horizon spill was one of the subjects of NPR's Talk of the Nation today. It was painful to listen to, having read the much more insightful information on this site. Thanks for the good work!

Question on EPA subsurface dispersant data that is posted. The Oxygen saturation numbers are normal. Is the cutoff value for toxicity for Rotifer survival anything over 80% or something else? Thanks.

Did a quick look at the data
and a look at the rotifer toxicity test.

The earliest dissolved oxygen data was determine using the LaMotte colormetric test kit. This is a very inexpensive and fairly unreliable test kit. The change over to a membrane based DO device (measure the partial pressure of dissolved oxygen across a semi-permeable teflon membrane) is better and as long as the calibration is done correctly, should provide good DO values.

The rotifer test is a rapid assessment test for toxicity. Rotifers being susceptible to many toxicants. You are correct the normal cutoff value is anything over 80 percent.

The primary dispersant being used is NALCO's Corexit 9500. The primary active agent is what NALCO states is a biodegradable and low toxicity surfactants.

Surfactants are generally fairly toxic to fish and other organisms in low dosages as surfactants are quite reactive and interfere with the gills. The toxicity is significantly reduced when the surfactants have combined with something like oil/dirt, etc. That is because the reactive sites of the compound are bound up with the oil/dirt. etc. It is best therefore to mix the dispersant directly with the oil plume at depth as this reduces the chance of raw surfactants coming into contact with marine organisms. You want the surfactants to combine with the oil as soon as possible.

After writing my response I took a closer look at the three days of data that BP provided to EPA.

There is only one set of rotifer toxicity tests, and three days of dissolved oxygen testing, all at various depths. I'm assuming the stations were located near the leaking well. Not much to go on.

The data shows a clear DO sag (reduction) at the 500 meter depth. The same depth that there was an indication of toxicity from the rotifer test (75% survival). Anytime the DO gets below 4 parts per million (mg/L) you begin the worry. Marine organism become stressed. At 2 mg/L they stop being stressed and simply die.

I would start looking for the oil plumes somewhere in the 200 - 700 meter depth range.

To better asses the impacts you would need to get a reference site. Same general area but no oil impact to see if the DO sag and reduced rotifier survival are natural or unexpected. The scientists who study the gulf would know also based on past studies.

These are only two quick tests and not many at that. The areal extext of the test seems very limited. It is only to give a quick assessment of the dispersants used at the leak. They give no indication of what is happening near the layers of trapped oil emulsions afar. They neither truly asses the actual toxicity in the area the tests were taken. You could have OK dissolved oxygen levels but have toxicity from the methane concentrations.


The original survey, performed shortly after the rig sunk, did not locate any oil leaking – at that time.

Comments have been made that the bottom was obscured with mud and that is quite possible, the rig and riser reaching bottom would have stirred up a lot of the very soft mud.

But ROVs don’t depend on video for locating oil leaks, they use sector scan sonar which is standard equipment on any work class oilfield ROV. Even a small oil leak will show up like fireworks on a sonar screen, even if the optical visibility is zero.

I think it is a reasonable assumption that there was an initially a very small area of leakage, literally a pinhole, most likely inside the BOP. It is also possible that the kink in the riser, and presumably a kinked or broken piece of drill pipe inside the riser, was holding back some or most of the flow.

The 21 inch riser has enough volume to hold about 2,000 barrels of oil so a slow leak would take quite a bit of time to fill it, as much as 2 days if you assumed an initial 1,000 bpd leak rate.

Some hours and days after that initial survey other inspections started locating oil flowing from three places.

1 - A video of a small oil flow from the end of a drill pipe got extensive media coverage. This was the smallest leak and was capped in a few days.

2 - A much larger flow was located at the broken end of the 21 inch riser. That outflow is about 600 feet from the BOP but the oil travels through about 4,000 to 5,000 feet of riser to get there. The riser is kinked a couple feet above the BOP and then descends to the seabed for a distance before rising off the seabed in a long loop. Originally the top of that loop was 1,200 feet above the sea bed and has gradually descended. Several days ago it was reported to be 300 feet above the bottom. I don’t know where it is now. After the loop the riser leads back towards the BOP until it reaches the broken end which was partially buried in the mud.

3 – A small leak under some pressure was observed where the riser was kinked at the BOP. An early and poor quality still photos does not seem to show any leakage while videos released in the last few days show a very substantial flow from several leak points, some with pressure behind them.

Any place there is a reduction causing high velocity flow you will have erosion. The speed of that erosion depends of a number of factors. The primary factors are velocity (which is generated by the pressure differential), the material being eroded and any entrained solids like sand in the flow. Other factors can also contribute such as temperature, the corrosive value of the flow, etc. In this case there is almost certainly some amount of sand in the flow which would act just like a sand blaster.

A small orifice will erode more quickly that a large one as more of the flow comes in direct contact with the material, but as long as the stream is running the erosion will continue and the leak area will keep growing.

It is therefore logical that the leak would start small, grow rapidly and over time the growth rate would slow down as the pressure differential and the velocity slow.

The leak at the kink has continued to erode and it has certainly gotten larger. A week or two ago the ratio between the two leaks was described as 85% out of the riser end and 15% at the kink. As time goes on that ratio has been changing so the kink will continue to leak a larger portion of the total oil and gas.

In summary, the leak started small and grew as the leak point(s) eroded. It will continue to grow until it reaches an equilibrium with the amount of oil and gas the formation is capable of producing. I doubt that equilibrium will be reached for many months as there still seems to be a substantial pressure differential between the pressure below the BOP and above the BOP. The last information I saw was several days ago but it seemed that the pressure differential was about 6,000 psi.


From day one I have been intensely curious about what BP would say about the flow rate, so I have specifically looked for BP to make a statement. I have never seen anything where BP actually stated any flow rate or range of flow rates. Every statement I have seen, often attributed to BP by the media, has actually traced back to a statement by the USCG, NOAA, or other government agency making estimates based on the spill size.

The only thing BP has said, as far as I can find, is a couple days after the 5,000 bpd announcement, when pressed, a BP spokesman basically said "that number is as good as any other". They have also reacted to media statements that the flow rate is 70,000 or more bpd as being inaccurate.

In Congressional testimony BP mentioned a maximum rate of 60,000 bpd but I believe the phrasing of the question (conveniently eliminated by most of the media) was what was the theoretical absolute maximum rate of flow if the well was totally unrestricted - no BOP, no downhole obstructions, etc. I think in later testimony they reduced that to a maximum of 55,000 bpd.

Historically 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 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 100,000 bpd (and higher) through a well that does have restrictions. Even if the well was totally unrestricted, ie: no pressure reduction in the BOP, it is unlikely the well is physically capable of producing over 60,000 bpd.

From the above I doubt that the flow is much above 30,000 bpd, maybe up to 40,000 bpd.

At the same time I think it has been over 5,000 bpd and growing since at least the end of April. The videos shown in the last hour would seem to absolutely confirm this. There is still a substantial flow at the riser where BP says they are recovering 5,000 bpd - plus the leak at the kink.

A low range would seem to be in the area of 10,000 to 15,000 bpd.

My best guesstimate – more than 10,000 bpd; less than 40,000 bpd.

The accuracy of estimates of blowouts has always been problematic. Even in blowouts that have been extensively studied after the fact the minimum and maximum reasonable estimates seems to be about 50% and 200% of the median.

Trying to get an accurate volume from a short piece of video is also full of problems. To me, the statement that it is within 20% shows that the scientist involved does not fully appreciate these problems.

I am not a piping or process engineer and my fluid dynamics education was decades ago but I would love to know if he considered some of the following:

- He did state that this is mixed phase flow and that he had worked with that before but was his science based on flow at 2,250 psi ambient? I know that gases can have substantial changes in properties when under pressure and some liquids also.

- A portion of the gas is probably going into phase change as it combines with the seawater which might increase its real or apparent volume and velocity.

- Did he adjust for the optical distortion of the wide angle lens used by the ROV? As objects move out from the center of the lens they elongate, or if in motion seems to accelerate. If you are doing a pixel based measurement you would need to know the lens distortion and adjust for it. If he was measuring off center someplace where the elongation 1s 25% then that would already be outside his stated error range if he did not adjust for it. The human eye seems to adapt for surprisingly large variations in optic distortions unless a grid is overlaid on the picture.

- Other videos from the opposite side of the riser leak show a piece of dill pipe bent at about 90 degrees partially blocking the bottom of the riser. Not only does this reduce the flow area in the bottom half of the riser but also is positioned so it appears that it diverts the flow towards the side that he used to measure particle velocity. That diversion could accelerate the velocity which seems to be the entire basis of his calculation.

- As subsequent 5 minute videos show the flow is not a steady state but seems to vary, especially the gas flow. If you consider the length and layout of the riser this make sense as the riser acts a bit like a separator (note the gas separation and also the lack of separated gas at the kink) and as it has high places there is a real potential for gas to collect and cause the flow to vary even if it was entering the riser at a steady flow. Longer segments of video, as now available, would be more accurate.

I do believe BP knows much more than they are telling about what the flow rate actually is. There are some real solid technical reasons they need that information.

In designing for the top kill and/or junk shot it is really vital to the decision making. In fact, the approach they are now taking of trying the top kill before the junk shot could be a clue that the flow rate is not as great as they originally thought (we have no idea what their original estimate was) as they have to be able to pump the mud against that flow.

And I think they would be much better off if they had been open and communicated more information from the beginning. The impression that they are hiding information will persist long after the well is killed and (most of) the spill is cleaned up.

I think this comment should be a seperate article on TOD as its the most thorough, well reasoned response to the question regarding the spill rate as I've seen. Thanks Shelburn.

I second this. This needs to be tomorrows key post on the spill.


Agreed, an excellent summary.

The point about the maximum flowrates achieved by broadly analogous production wells is worth emphasising in bold text or capital letters, as a sense check for some of the upper bound leak rate numbers being bandied around. Someone queried earlier if an unconstrained well (by accident) could produce much higher rates than a properly completed production well (by design). I am not a well Production Technologist, who is the right person to answer that. But I can make the observation that since deepwater production systems are very expensive to build, economics dictate that operators push for the maximum production possible from the fewest number of wells in order to get quickest payback from their investment. Deepwater systems therefore tend to have shorter but higher production "plateaus" - maybe 3-5 years before tailing off - than you would normally design for, say, a shallow water or onshore field, which would have a plateau of 15-20 years or longer.

So in simplistic terms, an operator's management would be typically be pushing the reservoir folks for their deepwater wells to be designed for as close to unconstrained flowrate as possible. And they ought therefore to be better analogues for Macondo than a run-of-the-mill shallow water or onshore well.

Any PTs care to comment??

I think it is a reasonable assumption that there was an initially a very small area of leakage, literally a pinhole, most likely inside the BOP. It is also possible that the kink in the riser, and presumably a kinked or broken piece of drill pipe inside the riser, was holding back some or most of the flow.

So you think the BOP eventually worked, but a pathway was slowly eroded through it?

The 21 inch riser has enough volume to hold about 2,000 barrels of oil so a slow leak would take quite a bit of time to fill it, as much as 2 days if you assumed an initial 1,000 bpd leak rate.

But the riser was already full of oil, no?

1 - We know the BOP was activated and everything I have heard indicates it partially worked. Exactly what is restricting the flow is unknown, at least by the general public, and will probably not be finally determined until the well is killed and the BOP recovered and dissected. The ROVs tried pumping up the rams, it is possible that the riser falling and kinking may have had an impact on the flow or possibly the drill pipe is bent or partially sheared restricting the flow. Lots of possibilities. BP has done a couple different radiography inspections and may know a lot more.

2 - I don't think so, initially the riser was probably filled with water or mud and was probably blown clear during the blowout so it would have been full of seawater after sinking.

Any downhole hands feel free to correct me on this, I'm outside my comfort zone with BOPs & risers.

Thanks. I agree but wonder if they were concerned about giving a range then having to change it again after Unified Command (which includes a lot of folks) agreed to use it. I also wonder if they were hoping that once the tool is at it maximum they could get a better read. I do not think they are trying to intentionally give out misinformation. In fact, I think they are saying "Let's give out what we actually know". What looks like logical approach to us may not seem so on the inside. (Been there)
I like your explanation of the reason for the gas belches. Had seen that surmised somewhere else. As ugly as it might have been volume wise I wonder if a riser that separated might have made things easier.

Shelburne, thanks for confirming what I had thought and wrote yesterday.....the flow at the kink (well-head) was originally said to be 15%, (in one image released it showen no oll leakage at all.) Now it looks to be substantially larger, as shown in the video released yesterday.

Waiting on the live feed from the kink above the well-head.....

Very nice summary shelburn. Regarding the video estimation - I think most of the issues you raise could be dealt with if a knowledgeable person or persons was provided with the relevant data - type of lens, composition of the take from the straw, etc etc.

I hope at some point a very clear understanding develops of what failures led to this tragedy and what consequences flowed from it, so to speak.

Thanks for your comments. In the end of your comment, you talk about the top kill/junk shot procedure, and I was wondering if you (or the TOD staff) might take a stab at some of the issues BP may encounter with the approach. From reading media reports, it's hard to understand why "dumping mud down a pipe" would take weeks; so I was wondering if you could educate us on some of the preparations/precautions that might be involved with doing this at 5,000 feet. I'd find it educational and it'd probably help me gain an understanding of some of the challenges BP is working through.

I think there are some risks to the casing and BOP from this operation but I don't have the expertise to talk about them in detail. Maybe some of the actual experts could comment.

From the operational end there are some real bottle necks.

I think from what I have read that BP has assembled most if not all of the topside equipment. I heard about mud pumps totaling 30,000 horsepower, 50,000 or more barrels of mud, etc. That seems to work out to over 15,000 TONS of mud.

A lot of the underwater equipment is probably being engineered and built from scratch. The manifold would be an example.

I know the choke and kill lines were damaged and it was announced they had been cut by the ROVs. Just as an example of what has to happen lets take the task of connecting those lines to the hoses delivering the mud.

The choke and kill lines are at least 3 inch diameter and capable of handling 15,000 psi or more. It is difficult for an average person whose hydraulic experience is usually limited to his home plumbing and garden hose to comprehend what 15,000 psi means in real life.

If you go to your local hardware store the largest valve they will probably stock is a 2 inch PVC or brass valve weighing about 2 to 5 pounds. If you live near an oil patch you can get a 600 psi valve weighing about 10 lbs pretty easily.

A 2 inch valve rated at 15,000 psi is a special made item that probably weighs about 300 to 500 pounds and has a lead time of several months. They are attached to the piping in a shop with specialized welding, 100% X-rayed and have to pass a number of other tests.

In this case we are talking about a 3 inch (or larger) fitting that has to be installed by an ROV, clamped to the line and pass a pressure test before it is used. I will wager the each fitting will weigh at least a half ton, it will be machined from a solid block of specially metal, probably titanium or specialty stainless steel. It will have a variety of toothed slips, smooth slips, seals, actuation pistons, etc. all machined to extremely high tolerance. The fitting must grip the pipe tight enough it can withstand a 100 ton load trying to pull the fitting off (due to the internal pressure), seal without leakage against 15,000 psi, and still not damage the pipe.

The normal lead time to engineer, manufacture a prototype, test it and manufacture the final fittings (assuming the prototype passes all the tests) would usually be about six months or longer - as a rush job.

After the fittings are manufactured they will probably perform a SIT (Systems Integration Test) where they model as closely as possible the actual installation procedure with all the components.

In this case I expect there are at least 40 or more people working in shifts around the clock just doing these fittings. Machine shops will be keeping their best people on standby to immediately start work when the engineers have drawings ready. If this is the critical path item BP will have a jet ready to fly them from Houston to the heliport, or if they are too heavy for a chopper a fast crewboat will be at the dock with engines ticking over.

All of this will be supervised by a variety of safety inspectors from BP and in this case certainly the MMS and probably the USCG. A number of engineers from different companies will review the final design trying to find any potential flaw.

I know the public perception right now it that offshore oil people are a bunch of cowboys cutting corners whenever possible but nothing could be further from the truth. When you are working at these depths, pressures and volumes any mistake can have serious results. The industry has learned over the years that safety, redundancy and intricate planning leads to successful operations - and successful operations are profitable operations. Unsafe operations can have disastrous consequences - as we have just seen.

The fitting I have described is probably the most difficult individual item required to go ahead with the top kill or junk shot, but there are several hundred other items and pieces of equipment required. It really is a major undertaking.

I forgot to mention that while all the engineering and logistics are going on the ROV companies will have a virtual reality model of the BOP, riser and all the components set up and the ROV pilots who will do the actual installation are probably already practicing and refining the operation. These models are extremely realistic and are very similar to a commercial flight simulator. As they accurately model the ROV and the task they can often identify problems before the actual operation takes place.

The fitting I have described is probably the most difficult individual item required to go ahead with the top kill or junk shot, but there are several hundred other items and pieces of equipment required. It really is a major undertaking.

Tony Hayward to spill control team: Make sure you guys get the good duct tape this time...

Thanks Shelburn - this is exactly what I was hoping for. Most of these procedures are explained in terms that the laymen can relate to ("clogging a drain") which makes outsiders think - why does "clogging a drain" take 3 weeks? I understand they are racing as fast as they can, it just helped to have some explanation of why this is so difficult.

And you are right - I can't comprehend what 15,000 psi means, nor what it would take to hold that pressure. Is the 15,000 psi a number meant to exceed the pressures they see in the BOP?

In terms of 'what might make things worse' - is the primary fear the BOP's structure might not be able to take all these competing forces, and might tear apart causing even more flow?

Thanks again.

The 15,000 psi is the working pressure of the BOP, the designs have to have safety factor and the prototype must pass pressure tests well in excess of 15,000 psi.

The last report of the actual well head pressure was "8,000 to 9,000 psi". That pressure will increase when they pump in the mud. There were reports that during the blowout surge the recorded pressures reached as much as 30,000 psi. I haven't heard any recent confirmation of that report but if true it will probably figure heavily in the writing of new regulations and may have damaged the BOP.

Hypothetical calculations - based on well 13,000 feet below the BOP and a formation pressure of 13,000 psi.
Well full of gas - pressure on BOP about 13,000 psi
Well full of oil - pressure on BOP about 8,250 psi
Well full of 18.5 lb mud - pressure on BOP 0 psi = no flow

I'm sure that BP and all their consultants are extremely concerned about the possibility of damage to the BOP and possibly increasing the flow and/or making it impossible to take any other remedial action until one of the relief wells is successfully completed. It would not surprise me, in fact you can bet, that there is a contingent that is advising BP that to do nothing is the safest course of action.

I have a follow-up question. BP will often say "we think it will work ... but this has never been tried before at 5,000 feet."

The 5,000 feet issue slows everything down; and it's also meant hydrates clogging their first "container" solution.

What additional issues does the "5,000 feet" bring in the top-kill scenario?

As far as the actual pressures in the piping, BOP, etc the depth has little effect, in fact the external pressure can be your friend giving you a 2,250 psi "cushion".

The depth related problems are in hooking up all the equipment, designing, testing and manufacturing the special fittings for attaching to damaged piping and any special manifolds, etc. Pretty much as I outlined in the post above.

There are also additional problems and concerns as everything has to be pumped through a couple lines a mile long hanging off vessels and descending through several current layers.

Oh. Damn.

I've dealt with valves for natural gas service, but the "high-pressure" valves in the range I'm familiar with were ANSI 600#

The question that now jumps into my head is about the flexible hoses that are supposed to connect the new choke/kill manifold to the BOP stack. I've never HEARD of flexible tubing rated for ANYWHERE CLOSE to these pressures. Is that just further evidence of my inexperience?

From what I can put together, it sounds like there are shutoff valves at the kill/choke ports rated for the full 15000 psi pressure, but they know (hope?) that the actual pressure inside the stack is considerably lower.

Maybe the fitting to attach the manifold hose to the stack has to be designed/tested for ONLY 8000 or 10,000 psi.
- With an orifice large enough to pass the "junk"
- And a connection to the BOP that can be handled by an ROV

And you're STILL gonna tell me they can't run down to the local Home Depot and pull it off the shelf!!?

The Coflexip hoses to hook up the mud lines to the BOP have the same relationship to your garden hose as the several hundred pound 2 inch valve has to a ANSI 600# valve weighing about 10 - 15 pounds.

Fortunately these kinds of Coflexip hoses are used quite a bit around deep wells so they are available.

There is a more than reasonable chance that when they do the top kill the pressures will reach 15,000 psi, if not more. They have to have a substantial pressure over the internal pressure of the well to force enough mud through two 3 inch lines to overcome the flow, which seems to be increasing every day.

Lots of details we don't know that make a huge difference. Is the leakage going through the annular space? Is the flow entering the drill pipe some distance below the BOP? Is the flow going directly from the liner to the BOP? BP may have an answer to some of these questions due to the inspection of the BOP but I doubt they have any definitive information of the condition of the formation, cement, casing and liner at the bottom of the well.

Not exactly Home Depot
but available it seems.

You bet.

For example, Coflexip are one of the better known manufacturers of flexible pipe for drilling service - they can supply up to 15,000psi working pressure hoses (tested to 22,500 psi).

For all tech-heads, you can peruse their current catalogue at:

WASHINGTON - BP came under heavy fire on Thursday, as the Obama administration demanded it put more data online and told it to look for less toxic dispersants, while some lawmakers alleged an attempt to mislead the public about the size of the Gulf disaster.

In a letter, BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward was asked to create a website within 24 hours and post detailed environmental and analytical data within 48 hours.

"BP must update this data and information daily," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson wrote. MORE....

Given the state of the economy and markets wouldn't you rather have everybody focused on something else. During an early hearing Markey chastised BP about junk shots and their lack a sophistication. He told the BP president he should get some MIT folks. Have not see them yet standing next to him waiving all their ideas. Wait, maybe Kevin Costner went there? I thought he was in the Coast Guard?

Senator Nelson from Florida has recently been providing a live feed of the BOP riser, and also has static video from various times since the blowout on his website, or (better) on his YouTube page.

The riser leak appears to be worsening significantly just in the past days, when comparing it with the original video he released.

First post for me btw, hello all... perhaps not a great time for an introduction, but I cant find reference to Sen. Nelsons most excellent contributions anywhere on this thread, or others that have proceeded it, so here you go.

Thanks to all for the level-headed resource here.

They say they are capturing 5,000 barrels a day. Isn't that what was leaking. So does this mean that no more oil is leaking at all?
This congressman noted that problem with the story line.


Go up about 10 posts and read Shelburn's very well written description of how the leak may have progressed.

PriorityX, here is the point, when they said that they are now capturing 5,000 Barrels did they also say that the 5,000 barrels leaking had increased? Have they ever stated a figure higher than 5,000 barrels a day for the leak. I haven't read that they have. Maybe they have. But if they haven't, what Shelburn says about how the leak may have progressed doesn't answer the question of why there is no update on how much is NOW leaking.

I did a quick search to find if BP had made any higher estimates and found this which perhaps explains what is going on. Excerpt below, full article at the link

Lowballing size of oil leak could save BP millions
Legal experts say figure bound to be used in likely court battles
By Marisa Taylor, Renee Schoof and Erika Bolstad
McClatchy Newspapers
Updated: 05/20/2010 11:28:18 PM CDT

WASHINGTON — BP's estimate that only 5,000 barrels of oil are leaking daily from a well in the Gulf of Mexico, which the Obama administration hasn't disputed, could save the company millions of dollars in damages when the financial impact of the spill is resolved in court, legal experts say.

A month after a surge of gas from the undersea well engulfed the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in flames and triggered the massive leak that now threatens sea life, fisheries and tourist centers in five Gulf Coast states, neither BP nor the federal government has tried to measure at the source the amount of crude pouring into the water.

BP and the Obama administration have said they don't want to take the measurements for fear of interfering with efforts to stop the leaks. That decision, however, runs counter to BP's own regional plan for dealing with offshore leaks. "In the event of a significant release of oil," the 583-page plan says on Page 2, "an accurate estimation of the spill's total volume ... is essential in providing preliminary data to plan and initiate cleanup operations."

Legal experts said that not having a credible official estimate of the leak's size provides another benefit for BP: The amount of oil spilled is certain to be key evidence in the court battles that are likely to result from the disaster. The size of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, for example, was a significant factor that the jury considered when it assessed damages against

Task force to determine flow rate is established.

Admiral Thad Allen, the National Incident Commander for the Deepwater Horizon Response team, has today established the Flow Rate Technical Team, a multi-agency federal effort to determine oil flow rates from the BP spill at multiple time periods following the explosion, fire, and subsequent loss of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

Led by the U.S. Coast Guard, Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with technical representatives from the Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the team will work on a multi-agency level in order to compute the total outflow of the BP oil spill, a critical question that still has not been answered by BP.

Or Thad could just ring up shelburn and everyone else could continue to focus on cleanup and shutting down the well ;-)

I wonder if Thad knows about TOD?

I would not think it far-fetched to think TOD has had some influence in recent developments.

Admiral Thad Allen, the National Incident Commander for the Deepwater Horizon Response team, has today established the Flow Rate Technical Team, a multi-agency federal effort to determine oil flow rates from the BP spill at multiple time periods following the explosion, fire, and subsequent loss of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
Led by the U.S. Coast Guard, Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with technical representatives from the Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the team will work on a multi-agency level in order to compute the total outflow of the BP oil spill, a critical question that still has not been answered by BP.

Lieutenant Commander J.R. Hoeft, the Online Communications Coordinator at the Deepwater Horizon Response Joint Information Center, who provided with the news about the launch of the Flow Rate Technical Team, told me that:

“The team will work to obtain data that is available on the reservoir, wellbore, blowout preventer, subsea flowing pressures, leak points, discharge plumes and surface discharge observations. With this information, the team will identify and run state-of-the-art models to calculate flow rates and compare results.


Ok, this is more encouraging, but what if a worst case scenario happened? Say the inability to stop the flow until natural forces reach some sort of stasis. Would the Feds then declare a national emergency and Congress grants the President some additional limited powers such as property confiscation and/or drafting personnel into the military of the US. I would think something like a WMD strike would qualify. So if a worst case here might qualify for such a thing, at what point do you consider it appropriate to grant such powers? It reminds me of the Star Wars movies plot.
Personally, I would love it if the Feds confiscated the equipment and drafted all personnel. Keep everyone in place, and double their salaries with 100 million dollar bonus that decreases 3% every day the leak continues. Post guards around the place and arrest any high level manager that violated safety laws or does not cooperate.
If this spill does not represent a clear and present danger (Clancy, I know) to the well being and security of the United States, what does? In the aftermath of Katrina, I felt the same way. I am thinking this is going to be much worse, save for direct body count.

I was watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN. He was interviewing someone from the EPA. Wolf asked whether the government should just take over managing the leak and leave BP out of it. EPA responded that we absolutely need BP because only they (BP) has the technology to deal with this. She was absolutely right. (ughh)

Yes, I think the government should send in the Army Corp of Engineers to build a levee around the well. I am confident they know what they are doing and could solve this problem. Or perhaps NASA as we know how well they handle meters and feet;I am sure they can handle barrels and GOR. Perhaps we can get the pols to do the junk shot. They know more than anybody when it comes to throwing mud around.

You keep BP, Transocean, and whomever else you need in place, doing the same job. You just make sure the checks now say U. S. Government Treasury Department BP account, and you give Allen military powers over relief personnel. In essence, you draft volunteers and put Allen in full legal charge with arrest powers over anyone in the way. If someone raises too much heck and will not volunteer, you let them go. I bet not a man nor woman would leave their posts. Once the flow was stopped and the cleanup was making headway, Congress would rescind such emergency powers. Besides, I am suggesting on compensating the on-site response guys more money, especially for stopping the flow as soon as possible and by increasing spill recovery rates.

Diverdan- Actually I am for creating an Army Corp of Petroleum Engineers or whatever you want to call them. Give 'em uniforms too. I bet the guys would love it. A reserve military servicemember or former military officer with general or better discharges should have already been activated. Once the emergency is over the help can go back to the private sector with a Congressional guarantee to protect their jobs, but I would keep a volunteer liaison team on hand at all times in case this happens again. Again I bet there would be awesome volunteers.


I think your country needs you ASAP-

Do you have Allen's phone number?

Actually, I am a 1st LT, US Army honorably discharged, combat veteran. As I remember, an officer's oath is for life and I am subject to immediate reactivation upon authorization by Congress. Of course, I would volunteer in a second.

Nice to know Sir! And I do salute you! An Army Corp of Petroleum Engineers is exactly what we would need right about now.

Rather than a generalissimo, we need public servants who serve the public interest, and a private sector that understands that capitalism without the possibility of failure amounts to "heads we win, tails you loose" which is no basis for sustained legitimacy.

If BP as a corporation runs into serious trouble over this, look for parallels with the financial world. Neither executives nor the board of directors will be held accountable, and everyone who lent BP money will be made whole at taxpayers' expense.

I can't resist adding that Obama's playbook for dealing with this mess could have been written by Dick Cheney as far as I can tell.

So if we got a 9.9 hit at the San Andreas fault, you would count on whom? Ghostbuster's? When the security and well being of the US is on the line, then and only then should Congress grant the President emergency powers. Congress authorized the executive branch, the treasury and the Federal Reserve to fix the financial crisis. If drafting and confiscation would have helped there too, I would have said add DOD or Homeland Security if you need to. The way Wall Street works, it would have eroded public confidence. In the oil leak situation, I believe such actions would greatly increase public and global confidence, not to mention serve as an example to our allies and enemies. Being good Americans, you draft volunteers and you reimburse for seizures. Then you bill BP for all of it.

Somebody has been watching too many Hollywood war movies. In reality Army is not a solution to every problem like a hammer is not a solution to every problem. This needs creative thinking and military is not good at creative thinking unless it involves new ways of killing people. They do everything by the book, by the rules. BUT those rules must be there BEFOREHAND.

BP has the expertise despite the fact they fucked up big time. Just like NASA fucked up TWICE with space shuttles. NASA also DID NOT go around asking local airport mechanics for help after the accidents.

I think that the concept that only BP has all the technical expertise is almost as false as the concept that the government should take over total operational control of the incident.

The problem needs to be divided into its component parts:

A – Control of the Well

In this case the only companies with the necessary expertise are oilfield companies. No one company has all the in-house expertise needed and the oil companies (BP, Shell, Exxon, etc) are set-up to coordinate this expertise as that is their normal mode of business. They already control the ultra deep drilling rigs for relief wells, they know what companies have the required technical knowledge and equipment, and they have the financial and political (oilfield political) clout to make things happen.

Having someone like government bureaucrats and scientists take over this phase of the operation would be like going to your local airport and telling the Cessna mechanic he needs to make some immediate repairs to the International Space Station. He might well have the skill and intelligence to become an astronaut but he is years away from having the training, knowledge and equipment required.

B – Recovery of Oil Underwater

Pretty much the same comments as A above.

C – Cleanup of Spills

This can probably be separated into a number of subsections such as skimming operations, dispersant, installing protective booms, onshore cleanup, wildlife recovery, etc.

This is not BP’s area of expertise and I expect there are very few actual full time BP employees involved and those are probably mostly administrative rather than operational. If this is not going as well as can be expected then a government takeover of the operation, probably headed by the USCG, might be in order. In fact it might help BP because they could concentrate on the subsea work and relief wells.

D – Science

This includes survey of the spill, short and long term tracking of environmental damage, etc. This is really the province of academic and government research institutes, groups like the EPA, NOAA, USCG, etc. It might make sense for the government to organize research teams from various oceanographic institutions (using BP money of course) to do this. In this case BP has a clear conflict of interest.

E – PR and Media Relations

BP seems to be unable to make an articulate statement as to what is actually happening, at least on the seabed, and what they are doing about it. Their lack of transparency is backfiring in a big way.

The media and any politician within reach of a microphone and TV camera are using their lack of technical knowledge as license to say any inflammatory thing that enters their heads.

I doubt there is any one with competence to handle this aspect of the situation.

F – The Legal Fallout

Don’t get me started.

How do you eat a 100 pound salami? You hit the nail on the head, but I like the instant all in Federal military full court press. The military has special powers like the police in an emergency. This would all be done with the consent of the professionals involved and they would be well rewarded and recognized. It would also create a model on what to do next time. Congress would need to lead and create the rules for this emergency situation. Then they can punt the ball to the executive branch and just oversee. Just put in a time limit.
NOAA and the Coast Guard could also be provided commissions for new officers to draft needed specialties. I would also have embedded reporters and a huge media department. I would have a 10% of the JAG corp for lawyers. I would hire or draft anything I could not find in-house.

Thus the reason for the 1990 laws and the Unified Command Structure.
Media relation: Nothing will work. Oil slicks are ugly and Big Oil has been seen as evil for decades. Also anybody who makes a profit is easy to attack. Remember how the DOD has done media relations during the past couple Gulf Wars. No matter what they did they were criticized. BP has worked with CG and NOAA to try to put a lot of info on the response site and each of the organizations seems to have done pretty well with posting information even using Facebook/Twitter. Given the reality of modern information flow and the political/economic realities of the day it is really is a challenge to get ahead of the story.I believe even if the leak had been stopped in one day the political attacks would have been tremendous.( I have been following this stuff for way too may years)
Some of the hearings were held way too early.I actually think the BP USA pres on the panel became a bit of a sympathetic character.He appeared low key, is from Mississippi, and sat and took whatever was thrown at him while he kept repeating BP was responsible, would ignore current limits on liability and agreed processes going forward would have to change. Even a few of the congress folks backed off on him a bit.I do not think he made any major gaffs despite several back to back hearings. Unfortunately, just the style of Transocean CEO made him appear more defensive and coy, IMHO. The people from EPA, NOAA, CG, and Interior were thrown softballs but never indicated BP was not giving them the information they need,not working well with them, or not making a gargantuan effort to stop the well.(Unfortunately, each time I watch a hearing and see who is in our congress I lean more and more toward thinking I need to buy gold and move to Singapore. The place is short on problem solvers)
Given the current unemployment/fiscal mess, anti-corporate populist approach of the majority, the upcoming election, and the national mood, anything BP does or tries to do will not be enough. Right now you have states effectively trying to get bailouts based on things that have not even happened. Get in line. Welcome to America in 2010
Go top kill!

No, my neighbor already has been laid off due to this. It has already starting to effect Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Maybe not the oil, but the fear of the oil. My buddy is out of work all the same due to BP, Transocean, and Halliburton's inability to properly operate this well. Those are not fears, but facts. It does not matter if it based upon fear, rational or irrational as it may be.

Thank your for your postings here. You had my respect long ago.


Excellent explanation.

The science aspect is important and stating that it's a conflict of interest brings some of this to light. The science aspect is very important to the public. And we are looking to these agencies for answers.

BPs PR leaves much to be desired. I guess it's tangled with it's legal. They just don't seem to say what the public wants to hear. They come across as arrogant. They also come across as "we've got it under control". Then, we find out that they were "lying". It's like they're stringing us along.

D – Science

This includes survey of the spill, short and long term tracking of environmental damage, etc. This is really the province of academic and government research institutes, groups like the EPA, NOAA, USCG, etc. It might make sense for the government to organize research teams from various oceanographic institutions (using BP money of course) to do this. In this case BP has a clear conflict of interest.

E – PR and Media Relations

BP seems to be unable to make an articulate statement as to what is actually happening, at least on the seabed, and what they are doing about it. Their lack of transparency is backfiring in a big way.

The media and any politician within reach of a microphone and TV camera are using their lack of technical knowledge as license to say any inflammatory thing that enters their heads.

I doubt there is any one with competence to handle this aspect of the situation.

Tears -- I'll point out that the vast majority of equipment and personnel trying to clean the spill up is the industry funded consortium that has been inplace for decades. If my company had such a spill the same folks would be out there. The gov't can take over management anytime they want if they feel BP isn't coordinating the effort properly. Given that the spill clean up would go forward pretty much as it has regardless of who's technically "in charge of it", would you want to volunteer to be the one to hold daily press conferences reporting the lack of progess? Now capping the leak on the bottom and drilling the relief wells are pretty much a BP projects but those are completely seperate issues to the clean up.


I was pretty much referring to capping the leak etc. Only BP has the technology, yet they don't have anything "short term" that is probably going to work.

I do believe BP's relief well is the only solution.

So until then, I think we're going to have this spill.

It's like sending a an airplane into orbit with no way of getting it down.

Fox News: What oil?

"I don't see any oil"

Rig evacuated in North Sea.
"Unstable well" because of pressure and gas. Another BOP valve not working?

This is a production platform and well. Gullfaks field has been around for awhile.

Not enough details Barb. Probably not a BOP problem per se. These are producing wells. Probably some malfunction of some pressure control system within the production train. More than once other non-essential hands and I have been dumped onto a workboat along side a platform while such matters were attended to. In rough seas I would rather take my chances on the platform then bounce and roll for 24 hrs. LOL.

From BP: BP has, and will continue, to support the government’s work to determine the rate of flow from the well. Since the Deepwater Horizon accident, the flow rate estimate has been established by the Unified Command. Throughout the process, BP has made it a priority to quickly and consistently provide the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Coast Guard with requested information for the joint command structure to make as accurate an assessment as possible of the rate of flow.

The rate of flow from the riser is determined in a number of ways and by a number of variables. For instance, while the original riser was 19.5 inches in diameter prior to the Deepwater Horizon accident, damage sustained during the accident distorted the diameter at the end of the pipe by about 30 per cent. In addition, a drill pipe currently trapped inside the riser has reduced the flow area by an additional 10 per cent. Thus, some third party estimates of flow, which assume a 19.5 inch diameter, are inaccurate. As well, there is natural gas in the riser. Data on the hydrocarbons recovered to date suggests that the proportion of gas in the plume exiting the riser is, on average, approximately 50 percent.
To provide further specificity on the flow rate, the US government has created a Flow Rate Technical Team (FRTT) to develop a more precise estimate. The FRTT includes the US Coast Guard, NOAA, MMS, Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Geological Survey. The FRTT is mandated to produce a report by close of business on Saturday, May 22.

So we should have a new joint number soon!

Reuters reports it's a BOP fault:

changes in well pressure led to a fault on one of two valves designed to prevent a blowout.

...Methane hydrates?

Since they are producing wells, I believe it's more likely that they are sub-surface safety valves...Different animal, I think.

This has probably been discussed here but I haven't had time to skim everything, so please forgive any repeat questions and point me to any posts about this.

This picture was posted at LATOC, from CNN, of what appears to be methane rising up out of the seabed. Is this normal, I mean, I know natural seeps exist. Or is this serious doom, like everything is unstable under there and oil could start gushing up too? Is this just gas coming up outside the pipes, where maybe the cement wasn't good, but oil can't rise there? Any comments? Thanks a lot!,66133.4395.html

I have been looking, but have not found a thread that addresses these questions. What we have is a little leak in the sea bed. How difficult can it be to plug it up??? It is not 1847 or 1923 or even 1959. It is 2010. Aren't we trying to create life in the test tube and sending rovers to Mars? Aren't we smashing sub atomic particles in giant accelerators? This seems to me to be a problem akin to a drip in the kitchen when it rains. You find the hole in the roof and figure out how to plug it up. You do this before the leak rots the ceiling and walls of your kitchen. Fix the problem right away or end up with a house imploding from dry rot and mold down the road. This entire "disaster" is turning into another episode of the "The 21st Century American Clown struggles to blow own snotty nose".

I am thinking something like a pointed pipe with a valve in it that gets pounded into the leak (hole) with the valve open (so that there is not a big pressure build up, and when the pipe is pounded in, the valve is closed. The pipe could be barbed so that it went in easily, but would not come out (like a fish hook). OR, how about firing a projectile into the hole (leak). Something like a torpedo, but without the exploding bomb- just a plug, like a nail gun? Or a cannon? Or with an exploding bomb? Would explosions around the oil leak (say withing 200 meters (I am making up the numbers)) maybe unsettle the the sea bed, causing the the leak to collapse in on itself.

How about a giant screw (( very coarse drill bit) that screwed into the leak? Giant levers on it could be pulled around by two mini-submarines? There must be a thousand easy, quick ways of stopping this leak. I am not suggesting that my ideas would work, I don't know enough about the problem- but there must thousands of engineers and thinkers out there who have thought of a good fix that would stop this disaster.

A relief well will finally stop the wild well. About two more months away. Everything else is just a wild gamble.



Glad you are here.

The more you read, the more it becomes obvious just how complex this problem is. I've been constantly humbled by just how often my assumptions about aspects of this disaster needed to be corrected.

Rest assured there are thousands of engineers and others who are contributing directly or indirectly to a multitude of possible interim solutions until the ultimate solution that Alan referred to is finally implemented.

If you have the time to keep up with the daily posts, I think you will find your knowledge of the disaster is greater than 99.99% of the general population. I'd throw a couple more 9's onto that number but don't want to imply the general population does not care. It's just that they are getting their information in dribs and drabs from the media which does not give them all sides of the big picture.

I first started commenting here because I thought I had a great idea as to how to stop this mess. It turned out the solution took more resources than a moonshot. There are so many variables and reasons you can't just cap it. From what I gleaned here, the pipes probably cannot handle capping at this point anyway. The sea floor is thousands of feet of muck before you hit rock and even then I am not sure how stable this rock really is. Then you hit a reservoir of oil and gas under extreme pressure. Cut your arm right off pressure. Cut steel with water pressure. Not to mention there is only ROV access to the site and no equipment in existence to work at the depths anyway. The relief wells are the best hope, although the pros might get lucky with a shot.

I am in agreement with you that fresh pairs of eyes need to be taking a look at this problem, one set focussing on the BOP and everthing below, and another on what can be done (in the interim) with the oil that is escaping.

I won't pretend to know what the best solution to killing the well might be, or how much the BOP functioning "as is" might be preventing a situation that could get much worse if someone messes with it in some way--I wouldn't risk doing anything but accepted standard procedures.

However, with regard to the escaping oil, BP appears have to created one heluva mess, not anticipating and testing out a number of ways to mitigate such a situation beforehand. I think there are a number of approaches that could have, should have be tested and developed. In particular they should have come up with ways of dealing with the gas hydrate problem, which are known to form under these conditions.

One approach not involving "immediate capture" inside a tube would be to confine the gas and oil as it rises to a "single column" so it would surface at a particular location on the ocean. There it would "appear" as a "complete" crude oil, perhaps only missing some volatile light ends, (up to and including light gasoline), which would inevitably escape.

To do this, one would have to limit the amount of sea water mixing in with the plume--preventing the rising plume from randomly "bifurcating", time and time again.

I have suggested that this could be accomplished by "rotating" the column of water above the spill point, using the buoyancy of the escaping gas as a means of generating rotational energy. This would keep the gas and oil at the center of the vortex, and reduce its rise time to tens of minutes, not hours or days, to prevent weathering. No dispersant would be required. The oil could be vacuumed up at the surface.

Others have suggested confining the oil in some type of corral anchored by half a dozen cables around which some type of netting could be wound all the way up to the surface.

Others have suggested that better success could have been achieved by immediately capturing the pipe outlet flow in a "separation device" which allowed the gas to rise in one tube, and the oil in a separate one. Enough methanol could be used in it to prevent hydrate formation. I think an "Archimedes screw" might be employed during the separation followed by a "T" (on its side) the top end of which carried the gas upward, and the bottom of which would make a "u-turn" about 5 meters down and become the "liquid" capture tube.

In any event, even if the above ideas worked eventually, it would doubtful if they could be made to do so "on-the-fly" as in this situation. They should have been developed before this spill ever happened.



Ahh. You want to invoke Charybdis. Release the Kraken, I actually like the idea.

Not a bad rendition...I like the depiction of the escaping gas.

You wouldn't actually see a deep depression in the center, but a rather shallow one. The oil would remain at or near the center in a 1-3 foot layer over a baseball field sized area. You would have to vacuum it up as fast as it appeared, or it could escape beyond the reaches of the vortex and become unrecoverable.


Wanted to mention that startup Olaris, LLC will soon be seeking experts from multiple fields and industries for an advisory board. Currently prototype testing (with video results expected soon) is being carried out in a 15 foot tall by two foot diameter transparent plastic sheet water filled column, in which oil is released from the bottom at up to about 90 gallons per minute (and is recirculated).

The small scale prototype high capacity recovery system comprises a 4 inch diameter cylinder internally lined with bondable Teflon film and in which a water expandable gland is actuated by cables as a piston within the cylinder. Another key component is lay flat duct that transports the oil water mixture to the water surface (for full scale the lay flat duct may simply comprise what is normally used as durable inflatable boom). Within the duct runs a support cable (currents and resulting drag forces can be significant), and although not yet verified (prototype measurements expected soon, which will likely also include smaller amounts of oil pumped up while being moved through a deepwater lake for hydrodynamic effects), its expected that excessive negative hydrostatic pressure on the duct arising from the relatively low density of the oil-water mixture and extreme duct length can be mitigated by preventing a long column of oil-water in the duct. Specifically, it's expected that in the duct peristalsis like bulges of oil-water will be expanded (via the pump), break off and buoyantly rise through the normally collapsed duct.

For the full scale system (fabricated, and possibly deployed with relatively light duty equipment, independently of BP, as their capacity for unconventional above BOP operations appears wanting for whatever reasons, with a non-public offering by Olaris planned shortly for minimal funding, as this system may also be applicable to massively parallel low cost hydrate harvesting when coupled with innovative and proprietary hydrate-sediment disassociation) all nonflexible surfaces should be lined with Teflon for near zero adhesion of hydrate and paraffin deposits, which as tests have shown (with ice in place of methane hydrate) are then readily released by gas passage induced pressure fluctuations (such as the currently present rising methane). For flexible surfaces, common boom fabrics such as synthetic rubber, polyurethane and vinyl have sufficiently low surface energy and hydrophobic nature for deposit release when coupled with the significant aid in deposit release by surface flexing. All passageways (and duct when not collapsed) should be well oversized for the possible instance of large volume hydrate slush passage. A methane gas collection and venting space will minimize methane entering the duct (and hence minimize undesirable volumetric expansion near the sea surface).

The relatively simple pump assembly (with oversized Teflon lined swing check valves, and optionally two cylinders and pistons for continuous flow in which the peristalsis bulges should still likely form) is pulled to the sea floor by a cable running to a sufficient sea floor anchor weight and pulley adjacent to one of the sites of oil release (with the lay flat duct unspooling as is typical for such boom deployment). Coupled to the pump by a rubber flex joint is a diagonally oriented pipe (optionally having a concentrating hood) that is brought into position by various means proximate the oil release and substantial recovery of hydrocarbons is initiated. Based on the plume pattern and velocity evidenced in the underwater videos, its hoped the aforementioned high capacity system can "vacuum up" most of the oil for both release sites (a separate system for each, and more certainty will be known after tests). It is believed that configurations for limiting water intrusion are not necessary, and also not possible for the oil release above the BOP.

Actuation of the two ends of the cable driving the piston(s) can be achieved most simply by two lifting bladders, that if equipped with sufficient air flow for inflation and deflation should achieve desirable actuation rate. If the flow rate of recovered oil-water is excessive for conventional handling, the duct can feed into a boom corral that serves as a buffer and means for multiple ships to draw from.

We look forward to any opinions from you guys, and let me know of any needed clarification/elaboration!


Scratch that deepwater lake test, we're going to use a HvyOilGuy circulation in the water column for lateral flow on the lay flat duct.

It has been over a month now and BP and now the USA government have come up with absolutely nothing. I am thinking maybe we should call in John Rambo, as team leader, and a ragtag team of 13 misfits to plug this leak? YOu know the guys- the black guy, the wise cracking tomboy girl, the nerdy explosive guy etc There must be a secret office in the CIA that has these guys on standby? I am now sending out the secret call code- "Up up and away, Mighty Mouse come save the day!"