The Gulf Deepwater Oil Spill - The EPA Changes its Mind

The concerns over the oil leaking from the BP well in the Gulf are increasingly focusing on the amount of oil that is still leaking from the well, and the overall rate at which the well has been producing oil and gas in the past. It is now possible to view the site where the riser insertion tube (RIT) is drawing oil from the well. Clearly there is still a considerable amount of gas and oil escaping into the sea, despite BP now drawing some 5,000 bd up through the RIT. This has led BP to recognize that the spill is larger than had originally been estimated. (Note that there are live feeds from Senator Nelson’s office and the House, both of which can be overloaded with demand. (They were when I just tried to get an illustrative frame.) This, instead, is a shot from a video of the remaining leak that is just above the BOP, and that is not currently addressed, but should also be stopped when the well is killed.

Source Youtube

Part of the problem remains in the complexity of the flow of an expanding gas in oil, coming out into an unconfined (apart from the sea pressure) space. Estimates of the flow have ranged up to 100,000 bd. At the moment the evaluation is relying largely on either visual evaluations, or relatively crude analysis, albeit with sophisticated systems, based on estimated behaviors of the flow volumes. Whether the flow has, as BP have stated, been significantly reduced by the riser insertion tube (RIT) tap, or whether the current tap has had little significant effect is largely, at present, left up to individual judgment without measurements of the actual flows. Unfortunately useful real information is not being provided in quite the open and transparent way that BP and the Unified Command had originally promised. And, having watched the video of the flow intermittently this afternoon, it largely depended on where the ROV had positioned the camera as to how much gas was visible in the plume.

Since BP are the ones getting much of the data, it is therefore not surprising that the Federal Government is beginning to lose patience with them over this situation. It may be, as BP have stated, that a higher proportion of the flow is natural gas, and that this distorts the evaluation at the mouth of the riser. However it is possible, based on other available measurements, including those established using the gamma ray survey equipment from Sandia, to get a ball-park estimate of the flow upstream of the riser end. It is disappointing that BP has chosen not to make that information public.

Public anger at BP is continuing to build. The arrival of oil, both as crude and emulsion in the Gulf Shores is going to become significantly worse in the short term, and questions will likely turn to how this oil was able to circumvent the booms that have been put in place to contain it.

At the last count the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command lists the following efforts to stop the oil reaching the shore:

• Personnel were quickly deployed and more than 24,000 are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife.

• More than 1,000 vessels are responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.

• More than 1.43 million feet of containment boom and 560,000 feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill—and approximately 370,000 feet of containment boom and 1.28 million feet of sorbent boom are available.

• Approximately 8.3 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.

• Approximately 655,000 gallons of total dispersant have been deployed—600,000 on the surface and 55,000 subsea. More than 340,000 gallons are available.

17 staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines, including: Dauphin Island, Ala., Orange Beach, Ala., Theodore, Ala., Panama City, Fla., Pensacola, Fla., Port St. Joe, Fla., St. Marks, Fla., Amelia, La., Cocodrie, La., Grand Isle, La., Shell Beach, La., Slidell, La., St. Mary, La.; Venice, La., Biloxi, Miss., Pascagoula, Miss., and Pass Christian, Miss.

It is perhaps a little surprising, seeing this effort, that the oil has been able to bypass the barriers and to come ashore in the volumes that are being reported. Regardless of the outcome of the top kill try that will likely take place this weekend, the oil that has been released will be the center of public attention for the next few weeks. Public concern has already led EPA to change their mind over the use of the dispersant Corexit 9500 being injected into the flow underwater. (A selection previously approved by EPA, after testing both on the surface and with undersea release.) But if the kill works this weekend, that concern will go away, while the concerns over the quantity of the oil released and its effects on the beaches and marshes will become more of the headline.

The EPA directive reads in part:

1. Sampling of dispersant/oil and oil‐only waters must be continued per the Directive, and in addition, baseline data of waters without direct application of dispersant or oil shall also be collected by BP. Monitoring of subsurface dispersant application by BP shall be performed from a vessel capable of performing all requirements of the May 10, 2010, Dispersant Monitoring and Assessment Directive and Addendum 1 on each day that dispersant is applied. As used in this Addendum 2, a “day” shall mean a calendar day.

2. Within 24 hours of the issuance of this Addendum 2, BP shall identify to the FOSC and the EPA RRT Co‐chair for EPA’s and the FOSC’s approval, one or more approved dispersant products from the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule that are available in sufficient quantities, are as effective at dispersing the oil plume, and have a toxicity value less than or equal to 23.00 ppm LC50 toxicity value for Menidia or 18.00 ppm LC50 for Mysidopsis, as indicated on the NCP Product Schedule ( The less toxic dispersant product(s) shall be used by BP for surface application and subsurface application as directed by the FOSC. Within 72 hours after submitting the list of alternatives, and after receiving EPA approval, BP shall immediately use only the approved alternative dispersant.

Does anyone here actually trust BP to do the top kill without screwing it up? Maybe find a drilling organization that's not a demonstrated clown show?

BP will probably use a contractor (Halliburton?) to supply the mud and pump it in but there will be the rig owners, the drilling contractor management, BP Execs, MMS, Politicians and God only know who else "supervising". They may even use someone like Wild Well Control who specializes in killing wells. I worry about too many chiefs and not enough Indians to do the job right. How to keep the people who are not directly involved off the job and who has the final say in when to start, what to do and when to say it's done. Is that BP's call, is it the drilling contractor management, it is MMS?

Good stuff. I personally am surprised that more oil has not made it to the shores at the mouth to the Mississipi. The coast line there so irregular and hard to completely protect. Just zooming in on Google Earth and looking at the location of the reported oil shows it would be an impossibilty to stage boom and skimmers in every nook and cranny. It is hard to assess the overall extent of the amounts onshore without large perspectives and scale.
A little sludge can go a long way an all of it is bad. From a cleanup and capture perspective a long beach on the the seaward side of a barrier island would be a lot easier. There are going to be a lot of individual locations that get hit in the coming days due to the prevailing winds. We will not know for a long time the effectiveness of the overall mitigation strategy.
The directive, I believe, calls for different dispersant subsea only. Perhaps EPA should have modified the approved list prior to it being used for this spill. Maybe it will become a mute point in a few days if they can stop the flow. We can only hope.

FWIW, a guy over at the GOS who actually attended booming school remarked that the little booming he'd seen on TV looked wrong to him. You don't just lay it parallel to the shore, there's technique involved. Possibly BP is using untrained staff.

Re. Booming the MF oil spill, see:

Warning: Speaking in tongues prevails

Good catch.

Good basic info.

We thought the criminal negligence was confined to the rig operations themselves--and perhaps the well plans that preceded the operations--but actually, it continues--day in, day out, ceaselessly, without end.

The water from the Nashville floods have significantly increased the flow of the Mississippi River and this has helped keep the oil away. We are already well past the crest and in a few more days, that surge will have dissipated.


I'm not surprised the oil has surfaced past the booms and neither is NOAA. Test shows oil/gas mixture released at 700m found zero evidence of oil rising to the surface (doesn't mean it didn't somewhere)and only two percent of the natural gas surfaced.

The oil/gas mixture encounters mass turbulence as it makes it way to the surface. It sticks to various particles it encounters forming localized plumes at different subsurface levels. The plumes slowly move, some reaching the sandbars and shallow waters near shore breaking apart into smaller plumes that move under the booms.

The carbon molecules slowly surface and collect so that if you stood there watching you wouldn't see oil floating toward you on the water's surface. You'd just see a slow pool of oil forming in the marsh. That's the black stuff that IS not weathered. It's as fresh as the day it left the well.

Those poor kids swimming out in the water while workers in hazmat suits pick up tarballs on shore is heart breaking. But say anything that hurts tourism and they'll likely lynch you. My water at home might be clear but I know from tests it's full of prescription drugs, VOC's, and concentrated dangerous compounds and minerals.

Reading your description of your water at home: To paraphrase George Carlin why sweat the small stuff like petroleum?

Also does anyone think they'll be able to let millions of gallons of oil accumulate in the marshes without burning them?

They can let everything die and wait for nature to clean up the oil, but how can people live a few miles from three plus months of oil piling up in the grasses? The stench and air quality in July will be unbearable.

August will probably be worse.

Lots of variables, including how much oil is needed to kill marsh grass (experts differ).


Right. Imagine the pools of oil collecting right now.

We need to bypass the MIT grads on this one and ask Fire Marshall Bill what's about to happen.

"but how can people live a few miles from three plus months of oil piling up in the grasses?"

A couple weeks ago I got a strong whiff of the smell for about an hour. It was the only time I've smelled it here (Boutte, LA), but remember thinking that this whole area could become uninhabitable if those fumes remained for any length of time. I have no evidence but my gut tells me this may be why they've tried so hard to keep the oil from surfacing (consequences be damned). Of course I have no idea what I'm talking about, but it made sense.

FYI: The smell was identical to a charcoal grill that had been saturated with lighter-fluid and left to sit before being lit. In fact, that's what I thought it was until I could still smell it a mile in every direction.

strong whiff of the smell for about an hour. It was the only time I've smelled it here (Boutte, LA), but remember thinking that this whole area could become uninhabitable if those fumes remained

This is more or less what we have been expecting.

This is one movie that is going to have a VERY long run. We are not even through the opening credits.

BNO what you are describing should be a red flag to all persons in the areas affected by the oil spill.

I want to point out that BP has stated that one of the main, highly volatile, constituents of the spill is benzene (I lost my link to their statement)

Benzene is a known powerful carcinogen causing leukemia and other blood disorders. If BP was correct about what they said about benzene, everyone who is exposed to the constant odor you describe is in grave danger of ( threatening blood disease.

Benzene is no joking matter and knowledgable chemists avoid exposure to its vapours like the plague

BP = BhoPal

Only this time the Lethal Clouds of chemicals are drifting in the ocean and on land.

Query: implications of natural gas leaks vs. oil
Having no technical expertise in oil and gas, I find myself unable to assess the consequences of natural gas leakage. Virtually all of the discussion and coverage I have seen concerns oil. There has been some discussion of hydrates, but only at the very beginning.

The following link mentions an gas:oil escape ratio of 3000:1. Seems like a lot. Is this routinely bad, or perhaps the bigger story that the BP information operation has helped keep from our notice.

Would there be a more rapid metabolic update and therefore faster impacts? Would there be acidic byproducts?

When some of the Oil Drum staff looked at this, we noticed that the author had made a lot of errors, in the direction of making the story worse than it really is. There may be some element of truth in it, but I don't think the post is close enough to accurate to tell from it.

There's units confusion in that 3000/1 number.
AFAICT it's 3000 liters gas per barrel of oil.

I think the units are at sea-level pressure and room temperature, so it's likely very different a (few?) hundred degrees warmer at 160 atmospheres pressure..

Also AFAIK oil is a compressible liquid, and, given the unknown exact constituents of the spill spubstance, it's anybody's guess what the volume or weight ratios are...

oops. having trouble with first post.

A question about GOM:
What is the amplitude of the tide? I know tides vary seasonally and with phase of Moon. If those effects are important, then what is the amplitude of the time over the time since the blowout?

I ask because I suspect that oil dispersed in seawater flows UNDER to floating booms and is pumped into salt water marshes by tide. If true, booms only work if oil is spilled ON THE SURFACE as in Exxon Valdez.

I also wonder about the effect of water and oil temperature on how quickly the light fractions seperate out of the plumes and then can be burned, skimmed or broken down by nature. Does all the dissolved gas come out and just blows away in the wind, or is it still entrained in the plumes? I also wonder (if it's not too deep) could some sort of gigantic suction device be lowered into the plumes (assuming one can find them) to suck them up or is it futile as you get tons of water to a few barrels of oil?

The government study on deepwater blowouts that was posted a few days ago said at 5000 feet 100% of the gas crystalizes into hydrate ice and that it separates out from the oil. This is why deepwater blowouts have unique dynamics that don't drive the oil right to the surface in the gas plume like shallower blowouts.

So there is a huge pile of methane hydrate covering the sea floor around the area of the leak? I guess that's not a hazard of any kind since it's not going anywhere and would eventually be silted over.

not a hazard of any kind

Much of the world's methane hydrates will one day warm up and go into gaseous form and feed a runaway greenhouse effect (methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2, but does not last as long).

After a few decades the methane will degrade into CO2 and we may be past Peak Heat then, or perhaps not. An experiment planned but not yet run.


Under 5000' ft of water how will they degrade? Unless there is a drastic lowering of sea level they are just going to sit there and get covered up. I don't buy the Global Warming theory either. But that is another topic for another day.

I think it will be buried and remain sequestered for an age or two. Most of the hydrate deposits are not subject to rapid release into the environment because of the surrounding conditions of burial and temperature etc. Melting of permafrost in some areas of the arctic may (and are now in at least some situations) result release of methane.

Why is Mars cold? Why is Venus hot? What's the main difference between them? (and no, distance from the Sun doesn't have nearly enough effect to explain it.) A basic understanding of how planets work is absolutely fundamental to understanding much smaller issues that affect our everyday lives.

(of course by asking this I'm assuming you accept that Earth is round and not the center of the universe)

Highly recommended: BBC did a series called "Wonders of the Solar System", 5 parts, 1.5 hours each part, answers the questions you ask.
You can download the program and watch it free at Utorrent. Download takes awhile, I just let my computer download while I sleep at night.
Review of program here:

Actually, distance from the Sun explains it very well.

Thank you for a real-life example of what a 'logical fallacy' is.

The CO2-rich atmosphere, along with thick clouds of sulfur dioxide, generates the strongest greenhouse effect in the Solar System, creating surface temperatures of over 460 °C (860 °F).[32] This makes Venus's surface hotter than Mercury's which has a minimum surface temperature of −220 °C and maximum surface temperature of 420 °C,[33] even though Venus is nearly twice Mercury's distance from the Sun and thus receives only 25% of Mercury's solar irradiance.

Care to try again?

Actually, Mercury has a high surface temperature of 450 C, But no real atmosphere.

sidenote: If your comparison of Venus vs Mercury is to make the point is that global warming would be less of an issue if we had no atmosphere — I agree.

However, I believe the gentleman's point is in reference to Venus vs MARS rather than Mercury, re: your post above, which would be explained primarily due to distance from the sun, no?

I COULD be wrong, but my understanding of the situation is that the hydrates are VERY SLIGHTLY less dense than the seawater at that depth.

I THINK they're just slowly drifting up to the lower pressure/warmer waters where they're degrading/melting. From what I understand, the methane is just dissolving into the water as the hydrates dissociate.

Curious George,
Hopefully you can overlook any snarky comments from the exasperated,
and in the meantime (waiting for another day), you will satisfy your curiosity and read, online/free from the American Institute of Physics:

The Discovery of Global Warming

Two early, key references:

direct link to English translation of Fourier's 1824 paper:
General remarks on the temperature of the earth and outer space

direct link to Tyndall's 1861 paper:
On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connection of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction

Alan: I will not be around then but hope I can be watching from afar!

Apparently if the gas freezes into block ice it has a negative buoyancy and sinks. However in this case I think it precipitates into a blizzard of hydrate flakes that slowly drift and rise with a buoyancy slightly lighter than water. I think I read that the rise rate is so slow that the methane would melt and then diffuse into the seawater before it surfaced. If I read the study correctly there should be large clouds of small drop oil drifting at depth and surfacing far from the wellhead. The hydrate gas never surfaces, it is absorbed.

Tides are rarely more than a couple of feet.

Here is an index


I would greatly appreciate if one of our senior members here could explain to me what exactly is happening in this "never before seen" footage from the Senators website/Youtube.

It's truly frightening in its apparent intensity and rate. But is that because of the leak or because of what they're doing to it? What *are* they doing to it. That blue that appears almost looks like a flame. Or is that the dispersant?

Quite the footage.

Yes, the bright white stuff is the dispersant. It was easier to see in an earlier video, an arm on the ROV is holding a wand near the exit point of the plume.

Seems like there's so much flow off the BOP now that they should be trying to tap some of it.

Mobile scientists’ warnings about oil dispersant toxicity ignored by BP, Coast Guard

Mobile-area scientists warned BP PLC officials and Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen a week ago that the use of dispersants both on the surface and underwater at the Deepwater Horizon well could have grave consequences for the Gulf ecosystem.

The scientists, Bob Shipp of the University of South Alabama and George Crozier of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, said they felt their concerns were ignored at the time.

BP did not respond to the Press-Register's questions. ...

Crozier said Wednesday that he and other scientists were contacted a week earlier by a BP official who wanted to discuss underwater dispersant use.

That official told him that BP would start a testing program Saturday, Crozier said.

EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard approved the increased use of underwater dispersant the day before the testing was to begin.

Here's the digg, SU, and reddit links for this post. If you are so inclined to help us share this information with more people, we appreciate your help spreading it around.

Thanks! (We do this each day for all of the posts, we just don't always put these in the comment threads...)

I suppose I should wait until today's press conference to verify but I heard that BP said that the yesterdays collection rate was 2200 BOPD because gas flow was higher (I did not hear how much gas was collected). It does appear from visuals I have seen that the flow is irregular (I know many have said they felt it is getting larger). Call me a skeptic, but given this irregularity would not the new task force have to view the totality of the archived data and then still have to estimate percentage gas over the whole time leading to quite an uncertainty of getting a total flowing and thus having to go back to the NOAA surface observations, which in themselves are uncertain, to get the amount. I just get the idea that the task force, if intellectually honest, is not going to be able to come up with a number that is exact enough to appease congress who ordered it. I believe if they give a range, we only hear about the top end, with few people,as usual, reading the full report,caveats, and context.(This coming from the guy who actually read the whole health care bill and CBO reports.Exciting life !)

DD, another possibility is that the leak dynamics have changed and as more flow exits the riser above the BOP the gas fraction reaching the end of the riser has increased.

Agreed - and additionally the use of the riser insertion tube (with its rubber "skirt" to stop water ingress) clearly must exert some back-pressure along the riser, encouraging more flow to come ot ot the kink holes above the BOP

If these holes are eroding and getting worse, the overall effect of the RIT might even be an unintended consequence, of incresing overall uncontained flow. The report of 2.2k bpd from the RIT over the last 24 hours lend some weight to this viewpoint

Regards Chris

Which is why I don't understand why they don't use that Top Hat that is sitting by doing nothing to at least capture some of that BOP leak?

In my view all this taking offense and parlor sensitivity about endangering crew and equipment is secondary to controlling the worst oil disaster in American history. I think more of this spill could be captured with about as much risk as the present insertion tube tap but isn't.

My sense is if they thought the top hat was better it would have been tried. MMS and other agencies would not let them have a better approach sitting around and not being used. I am anxious to hear if the pressure measurements they have been trying to get will allow for a reasonable chance of success for the top kill or if they are going to upgrade another approach because of increased risk.

The 'tophat' was designed to fit over the riser and rest on the seafloor. The situation at the BOP leak is quite different. Even the cofferdam isn't large enough to slip over the BOP - and - they need access to the BOP to try the mud injection. The nice thing about the insertion tube capture was that it made use of the riser to contain the flow, but didn't restrict the flow as the excess could bypass the tube. If they should bump or disturb the riser by the BOP the likely result would be to open the leaks there, maybe even to full-bore whatever the leak there will deliver unrestricted.

My guess is that full attention is now focused on the top kill with mud and whatever physical arrangements and planning are required to pull that off.

IP: I'm with you on this. Rumor has it the boat with significant pump capacity and mud is there and getting ready to set up and go.Let's hope they can get this to work.If does then we won't get to see all those pretty ROV shots anymore.

"If does then we won't get to see all those pretty ROV shots anymore."

We can certainly hope!

All that is fine and dandy except when they try the mud shot they are going to jostle that stack fairly good. If it doesn't work then the same potential exists for increasing the flow. What frustrates me is there is no sign that BP is jumping ahead on these possibilites and designing equipment to handle that contingency. At least as far as public information anyway. And at this point there's no reason for them not to share this openly.

yuck....i had been wondering if that was a possiblity....

From my perspective the fed's need to take a more active role in this spill. BP's expertise is in mechanical things. They are best suited for stopping the discharge which is going to take weeks if not months to complete. The government has the scientific expertise to address the real issue of the spill, the environmental impact.

At this point it does not appear that it will be the ecological disaster many people believe it would. Not to say it isn't nor won't have significant environmental and economic impacts. The primary reason is most of the oil is not making it to the surface, and the portion that is has not made it to shore in any significant quantity. The booming, skimming, burning and the currents seems to be keeping it offshore. There have been few birds caught in the surface slicks and few dead fish, shrimp, etc. observed.

Between the options of having the oil surface or trap at 600 meters, I would choose trapping. The benefit of keeping the oil at a depth of 2,000 ft is this is not the area where a lot of biological activity happens. The mobile organisms that live at that depth can most likely avoid the trapped plumes by swimming out of the area. Its called an avoidance reaction.

The one tool which could be better optimized is dispersants. I wouldn't worry that much about the raw toxicity of the dispersants, (the concern EPA is currently addressing), but the toxicity of the mixture of dispersants and oil (the toxicity of the dispersant will be less but its unknown what the toxicity of the combined mixture is), and how best to mix them. The one rotifer toxicity test released shows a possible minor toxicity, but its too limited to really know.

Since the dispersants seem to be working (keeping the oil submerged below the photic and primary productivity zones), its use needs to be optimized. That requires knowing the discharge rates for each release point so the correct amount of dispersants can be injected into the rising plume. It also requires a good method to inject the dispersant into the plume to maximize initial mixing.

They need to bring scientist of varied backgrounds together to lay out the breadth of potential environmental impacts of both the surface oil but also the submerged oil emulsion that is trapped at the 300 to 700 meter depth. It shouldn't take much effort to find the submerged plumes, (measure the DO, salinity, and light scatter with a CTD array). It can then be better studied, so the public isn't left worrying every time someone brings forth some environmental concern.

Its obvious this is not an area of expertise for BP, nor will their lawyers want to collect any of this information. The EPA, NOAA, COE, USCG do have this expertise and should be fully utilizing it. Since dispersants are being used on a large scale, what better time to assess their effectiveness. At this point dispersants seem to be doing more to protect the GOM than anything BP's engineers are.

The one tool which could be better optimized is dispersants.
I've posted on dispersants in a couple of previous threads. Oil dispersed with Corexit 9500 is more toxic to, say shrimp, than either the oil or the dispersant alone. A move to a less toxic product is a welcome one, and my experience suggests that there are probably biologists in EPA arguing against the use of any dispersant at all.

The LC50 figure referred to in HO's quote from EPA refers to the concentration that kills 50% of the test organisms in a bioassay, usually calculated from a 2-day or 4-day exposure. Menidia (a small fish) and Mysidopsis (a shrimp) are two of the organisms used in bioassays as the aquatic equivalent to laboratory rats. So we have EPA calling here for a dispersant which has a toxicity to shrimp greater than 18 ppm. The 48-hr LC50 of a #2 oil/Corexit dispersion to Mysidopsis is just 3.4 ppm. Put another way, half the shrimp exposed to a Corexit 9500/oil emulsion of under 5 ppm are likely to be dead in two days. As the rust-coloured dispersed oil drifts into coastal waters, I think this is not a healthy situation for either the ecosystem or fishers.

But 'dead' is not the only endpoint of interest. Sublethal effects are also important, and here the dispersant, any dispersant, will increase the biological availability of the toxic components of oil. This enhances not only lethality but also the probability of reproductive and mutagenic effects.

Sorry if I've missed your previous posts. Not to get too picky but I haven't seen data on the toxicity of the crude oil by itself.
"The 48-hr LC50 of a #2 oil/Corexit dispersion to Mysidopsis is just 3.4 ppm. " can not be used in this instance as #2 oil (diesel?)is not that relevant. I've seen LC50 data for crude which is less (more toxic) than the toxicity of the dispersant.
But this misses the point of my post.

As regards the use of dispersants. If the dispersants allow for the trapping of oil at 600 meters versus having it come to the surface, which would you prefer? I would choose trapping at 600 meters as it will have less adverse environmental impacts.

Now if there is a less toxic surfactant then by all means use it. Makes you wonder why the regulatory agencies approved it in the first place.

I agree that there will be adverse environmental impacts from this spill, both lethal and sub-acute. Its going to be less at 600 meters than the nearshore and photic zones. Therefore enhancing the trapping of the oil plume at deep depths should be done.

Thanks for your reference on crude oil. If you're interested in reading more on the dispersant side of the picture and the complexity of the decision to apply or not to apply, may I suggest a look at Oil Spill Dispersants:Efficacy and Effects,, a 2005 publication of the National Academies, starting around page 39. There's a lot more to it than "trapping depth" and, in oversimplified terms, the decision is a complex tradeoff between protecting shoreline resources or pelagic and benthic resources. In a blowout like this one, it's not a question so much of protecting the environment as it is of deciding which components of the environment you're more and less willing to see damaged. In Canada, where I live, and in the USA, spill response groups go through periodic exercises to evaluate just what might be the better responses to almost every imaginable situation, allowing decisions to be made more quickly when the time comes. And the decision is never made on the basis of science alone, no matter how much scientists like me like to argue the case.

I have trouble with the idea of trapping. One of the issues with dispersing oil at depth in the water column is that it's much more resistant to degradation there and in the sediment than it is exposed to air, nutrients and mixing at the surface. It's also inaccessible to cleanup efforts until it comes ashore, as it will. Trapped in the water column, the lighter fractions of the oil dissolve and it's these lighter fractions that are the most toxic to marine life. As the oil degrades, its buoyancy decreases and it should eventually sink or in other ways enter the sediment. I note that subsurface application of the dispersant, about which not all that much is known, ended early.

Once it enters the sediment, the rate of biodegradation slows dramatically as adequate oxygenation and nutrient availability become more of a problem. Storm waves are quite effective at moving sediment towards and onto the shore, so 'fresh' contamination from this incident can be expected onshore, mostly likely in the Eastern GOM, for years and years and years to come.

Finally, the main vehicles for dispersant application in this incident have been aircraft and vessels. With aircraft, obtaining adequate mixing of the dispersant with the oil isn't possible, and that's even difficult with vessel application. For the aircraft applications, natural mixing though the action of wind and breaking waves is pretty much it, and calm conditions make that inefficient. And of course, "trapping depth" just isn't a factor. If the dispersed oil sinks before it drifts ashore, see above. If it doesn't, and I've seen pictures of what looks to me a lot like dispersed oil in the marshes, well we're back to enhanced toxicity. As the saying goes, you pays your money and you makes your choices, none of which are consequence-free.

I posted this on a more recent TOD thread but I thought some might look for iot here.
In government, as with life, it is frequently necessary to drill down through the BS to get to the truth. A case in point is the EPA decision to allow BP to utilize Corexit. In a previous post at TOD, it was estimated that more than 200,000 gals of Corexit 9527 has been used on this blowout. That represents about a third of all the dispersant (mostly Corexit 9500)used.
If you follow the link to the EPA dispersant website above and then look for the question about human health risks you will see another link to the CDC reducing occupational exposures while working with dispersants during the Gulf Oil Spill Response. On this page you will see the two critical components of Corexit.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

In addition, COREXIT EC9527A contains between 30-60% of 2-butoxyethanol (solvent) and COREXIT 9500 contains between 10-30% of petroleum distillates (solvent).


2-butoxyethanol, also called butyl cellosolve, is a widely used cleaning agent. The potential human health effects of 2-butoxyethanol have been studied. Dispersants containing 2-butoxyethanol may irritate the skin. 2-butoxyethanol vapors or mists can cause respiratory irritation such as coughing.
Several occupational exposure limits (OELs) have been established for 2-butoxyethanol. The legally enforceable OEL in the United States is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL). For airborne 2-butoxyethanol the OSHA PEL is 50 parts per million (ppm) for up to a full work shift.
The NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for 2-butoxyethanol is 5 ppm, also for up to a full work shift. The NIOSH REL is intended to minimize potential long-term health effects to workers, primarily hemolysis of red blood cells (RBCs). Hemolysis of RBCs has been found in animals exposed to 2-butoxyethanol, but recent data suggests that human RBCs are less susceptible to these effects. Both the OSHA PEL and NIOSH REL contain guidance to minimize skin contact with 2-butoxyethanol.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

Petroleum Distillates

Petroleum distillates are a colorless liquid with a gasoline- or kerosene-like odor. They are composed of a mixture of paraffins (C5 to C13) that may contain a small amount of aromatic hydrocarbons. Because dispersants containing petroleum distillates are sprayed and generate mists, OELs for mineral oil mist are applicable.
Exposure to oil mist can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, or respiratory tract. The OSHA PEL and NIOSH REL for mineral oil mist are 5 mg/m3 up to a full workshift. NIOSH also specifies a short-term exposure limit for oil mist of 10 mg/m3, which is the average amount of oil mist a worker may be exposed to over 15 minutes without experiencing health effects. NIOSH also recommends preventing skin contact with oil mist.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

If you drill down further to the links at the bottom of the CDC page you will find
Links to more information on 2-butoxyethanol:
• NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
• NIOSH Topic Page on 2-butoxyethanol
• New Jersey Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet on 2-butoxyethanol

At the New Jersey site you will see additional warning for 2BE

ACGIH: The threshold limit value (TLV) is 20 ppm averaged over an 8-hour workshift.

2-Butoxy Ethanol may be a CARCINOGEN in humans.
There may be no safe level of exposure to a carcinogen, so
all contact should be reduced to the lowest possible level.
The above exposure limits are for air levels only. When skin
contact also occurs, you may be overexposed, even though
air levels are less than the limits listed above.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

Health Hazard Information
Acute Health Effects
The following acute (short-term) health effects may occur
immediately or shortly after exposure to 2-Butoxy Ethanol:
Contact can irritate the skin and eyes with possible eye
Inhaling 2-Butoxy Ethanol can irritate the nose and throat
causing coughing and wheezing.
2-Butoxy Ethanol can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
and abdominal pain.
Exposure can cause headache, dizziness, confusion,
lightheadedness, and passing out.
Chronic Health Effects
The following chronic (long-term) health effects can occur at
some time after exposure to 2-Butoxy Ethanol and can last
for months or years:
Cancer Hazard
2-Butoxy Ethanol may be a CARCINOGEN in humans
since it has been shown to cause liver cancer in animals.
Many scientists believe there is no safe level of exposure to
a carcinogen.
Reproductive Hazard
2-Butoxy Ethanol may damage the developing fetus.
There is limited evidence that 2-Butoxy Ethanol may
damage the male reproductive system (including decreasing
the sperm count) in animals and may affect female fertility in
Other Effects
2-Butoxy Ethanol may damage the liver and kidneys.
Medical Testing
For frequent or potentially high exposure (half the TLV or
greater), the following are recommended before beginning
work and at regular times after that:
Liver and kidney function tests
Any evaluation should include a careful history of past and
present symptoms with an exam. Medical tests that look for
damage already done are not a substitute for controlling
Request copies of your medical testing. You have a legal right
to this information under the OSHA Access to Employee
Exposure and Medical Records Standard (29 CFR 1910.1020).
Mixed Exposures
More than light alcohol consumption can cause liver
damage. Drinking alcohol may increase the liver damage
caused by 2-Butoxy Ethanol.

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Further down on the site

Where the potential exists for exposure over 50 ppm, use a
NIOSH approved supplied-air respirator with a full facepiece
operated in a pressure-demand or other positive-pressure
mode. For increased protection use in combination with an
auxiliary self-contained breathing apparatus operated in a
pressure-demand or other positive-pressure mode.
Exposure to 700 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and
health. If the possibility of exposure above 700 ppm exists,
use a NIOSH approved self-contained breathing apparatus
with a full facepiece operated in a pressure-demand or other
positive-pressure mode equipped with an emergency escape
air cylinder.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

The NIOSH document links to information on mortality for 2BE.
Documentation for Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLH)
The IDLH documents the criteria and information sources that have been used by NIOSH to determine immediately dangerous to life or health concentrations.
Here you will find the following:

Lethal concentration data:

Reference LC50
(ppm) LCLo
Time Adjusted 0.5-hr
LC (CF) Derived
Mouse Dodd et al. 1983
Werner et al. 1943 450
700 -----
----- 4 hr
7 hr 900 ppm (2.0)
1,680 ppm (2.4) 90 ppm
168 ppm

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It is not at all clear that the EPA has even read all of these links and the documentation that supports these conclusions. Still given these warnings it is imperative that the EPA immediately halt the use of Corexit 9527 with 2 BE and demand the complete formula for Corexit 9500 with petroleum distillates. At the very least the government should set up a protocol to carefully monitor the long-term health of all workers involved with cleaning up the BP spill. It is likely that the manufacturer never anticipated that these products would be utilized in such enormous quantities and expose 20,000 workers to their effect. They certainly never imagined that they would be applied near public beaches where millions of people enjoy their recreation every summer.


0ops, how did you do the greenwash trick?
I didn't know that the greenwashing spill now even reached the 0ildrum :-/

Perhaps the reality of this event will not be a Chicxulub level event, but the political fallout must be considered. The international community is now starting to worry about the possibility of oil spillage reaching or affecting their countries. I said earlier this event represents a direct threat to the well being and security of the United States. As it continues on unabated, the world is going to get impatient with us. I am not saying there is a direct military threat to the US, but what did WWII start over? One can argue access to petroleum was the most significant root cause.
Congress, please authorize the President emergency powers to deal with this event. The pros that know how to deal with this stuff can continue doing what they do, but it needs to be done for the country not a private company.

This link shows what how our scientists are already stirring the pot. It may only be a matter of time before the UN starts raising Cain over this.

At this point it does not appear that it will be the ecological disaster many people believe it would. Not to say it isn't nor won't have significant environmental and economic impacts. The primary reason is most of the oil is not making it to the surface, and the portion that is has not made it to shore in any significant quantity.

Acceptance, I have now read a few of your posts and comments on the technical issues with regards this spill and have been quite impressed with your rational assessment and technical knowledge.

The fact that most of the oil is not making it to the surface is precisely why it could be much worse than any of us might have expected!

In my opinion your comment above is indicative, that with regards the environmental impacts, you and other engineers are completely out of your depth (no pun intended).

Would you be able and willing to give your opinion as to what kinds of environmental impacts the massive plumes of underwater oil are having now and will have into the future on say the multiple larval stages of crustaceans that need very specific salinities, temperatures and ocean chemistry and that are different for every one of those larval stages? They need to migrate to different depths within the water column of the the deep ocean throughout their multiple stages of metamorphosis with each and every stage being critical to their normal development! That is just one example of one the life forms possibly impacted, there are thousands of others in the interlinking food webs.

Engineers and technical folks as good as they are really don't have a clue about what environmental impacts even mean. Hint, oil in the wetlands and marshes is just the visible tip the environmental disaster iceberg. You should be thinking micro fauna and zooplankton, not just oil soaked pelicans, as bad as that might be.

If I understand it correctly the oil we are seeing is but a minuscule portion of what is in the water... as for the environmental impacts I think your worst nightmares don't even come close as to how bad this could really be!

It seems that most of this spill is underwater.

Why deep-water oil spills do their damage deep down

* 16:03 18 May 2010 by Phil McKenna
* Magazine issue 2761. Subscribe and save
* For similar stories, visit the Energy and Fuels Topic Guide

Surface slicks may account for as little as 2 per cent of the oil now spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, according to a study of a controlled deep-water spill conducted in 2000 by the US Minerals Management Service and a consortium of oil companies, including BP.

The study challenges the estimate by federal officials, based on the amount of oil on the sea surface, that around 5000 barrels (800 cubic metres) of oil per day are pouring into the sea from the site where the BP-operated drilling rig Deepwater Horizon was destroyed by fire last month. It also adds weight to reports of massive underwater oil plumes that government officials are now downplaying.

In June 2000, Project Deep Spill released hydrocarbons into the sea off the coast of Norway at a depth of about 800 metres. The tests included releases of 60 cubic metres of crude oil and 60 cubic metres of diesel fuel over separate 1-hour periods.

Researchers were unable to calculate the amount of crude oil that surfaced because it emulsifies or mixes with water. They did, however, determine that only between 2 and 28 per cent of the diesel fuel that was released rose to the surface. The average was 8.7 per cent.

Under a controlled, well-monitored experiment, you couldn't find it all, says environmental engineer Eric Adams of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Now you've gone deeper by a factor of 2, with a more violent release; it's not surprising that you might not see it all."

The large percentage of diesel fuel that went missing in the 2000 study was put down to evaporation and natural dispersion. In a 2005 review of the experiment, however, Adams suggests that much of the diesel fuel and crude oil remained submerged in the form of droplets that only slowly made their way to the surface.

In the Deepwater Horizon spill, the chances of oil remaining below the surface are even greater, Adams says. If oil mixes with water at depth, the high density of this water can balance out the hydrocarbons' natural buoyancy. "It can reach a point where the aggregate density of water and oil is neutral to its surrounding environment."

The result could be large quantities of oil remaining suspended in the water column in droplet form. The recent addition of chemical dispersants injected into the plume at depth is likely to encourage this.

Massive subsurface oil plumes have been reported from the Deepwater Horizon spill by the research vessel Pelican, including one up to 90 metres thick that extends for 16 kilometres by 4.8 kilometres. Researchers aboard the Pelican also reported a 30 per cent reduction in oxygen levels in waters near some of the plumes.

But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which funds the Pelican, has called the reports misleading and premature. NOAA's Charlie Henry says it is "totally untrue" to call the plumes – samples of which reveal them to be transparent – layers of oil. NOAA also says the reduction in oxygen is not marked enough to be of concern.

Carys Mitchelmore of the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory says a 30 per cent reduction in oxygen would be "highly significant" to some species. Toxicologists, she says, need detailed information on the chemical make-up, concentration, movement and longevity of the suspended hydrocarbons.

So far, federal agencies haven't been forthcoming, Mitchelmore says. "We don't even know how much oil is being released."
Issue 2761 of New Scientist magazine

Where can I get a diagram and list of the sub sea well head and riser assembly used on this well? Diverter, riser, flotation modules, BOP's telescoping joint, ball joint etc?

While watching the live feed last night about 9:00p CT, they cut the camera to the top of the BOP for a few seconds. I did a little screen capture, sorry for the quality, but I have not seen a shot of this angle before:

Hmmm...that's an interesting segment. There are 3 points of effluent, all of different color. Is the white effluent dispersant?

I think that they had to stop underwater dispersant yesterday...

Thats the one that I want to see......thanks.

IS the 3rd plume in the video above new?
I do not see it in the video below from BP, taken a couple of days ago.

There were in fact three plumes in the first video - two were streaming out in volume and the third was down off the side and wasn't squirting out the same as the others, but it's flow was becoming entrained with that of its neighbor. If you look carefully I think you will see it.

Ah yes. Thanks.

interesting that this material is no longer up online. even paranoids have REAL enemies, right?

The video is back up. Sorry, the first few hours volume of data transfer exceeded my quota for the month, so I had to buy some more bandwidth.

thanks--just saw it. taking my tin foil hat off right NOW!

Re Press briefing:
1. Top shot not until Tuesday.
2. RIT average since start 2000 BOPD. Sometimes getting all gas sometimes, up to 5000 BOPD for short periods and as low as 1000 BOPD.
3. Using the 5000 BOPD to calculate dispersant to use and for top kill and other plans
4. Erroneous information was given out regarding task force flow report. Will take "some time" as per CG.
5. CNN and others pictures of good dispersant sitting in Houston. Apparently it has some problems as do some others that have been touted on the the approved list. BP working with EPA to find other possibly better alternatives. Apparently this has been going on for awhile
6. Surface dispersant not used yesterday and today. Water too calm; therefore, better skimming and burning.
7. Only one marsh sight got oil;rest were shore cleaning ops.
8. Details from NOAA on cleanup approaches. Also more aerial photos are now to locate these strands before they get ashore.
9. More questions to CG regarding Corp dredging permits. Apparently meeting La gov today.
Think those are salient points?

I'm fairly certain the well casing is compromised and gas/oil are erupting outside the BOP.

BP knows this and they're deathly afraid of the pressures exerted by a top kill destroying more casing, making the leak outside the well head much worse.

But they have little choice. They're out of safe ideas and the public will have their heads if they don't try to stop the well soon.

I think we're all going to regret come August, that someone more important than me didn't ask why five relief drills were used instead of two.

One drill has a catastrophic failure and the second can't intersect the Horizon bore and then it's three more months of waiting. Oh well. It's money that's important.

I'm fairly certain the well casing is compromised and gas/oil are erupting outside the BOP.

Outside the BOP? as in directly into some under layer of the seabed? meaning that gas and oil may be working their way up through non-well paths?

or is there space between the bottom of the BOP and the top of the drilled well that may be an escape path?


I'm fairly certain the well casing is compromised and gas/oil are erupting outside the BOP.

BP knows this and they're deathly afraid of the pressures exerted by a top kill destroying more casing, making the leak outside the well head much worse.

But they have little choice. They're out of safe ideas and the public will have their heads if they don't try to stop the well soon.

I hope this isn't the case. I'm just a public citizen and simply by becoming educated, I've realized a relief well is the only real option. I think those who feel passionate about GOS will study the situation. I hope and pray that the "top kill" doesn't make this worse.

. . .pushing back against critics, BP . . said estimates based on the width of the 19.5-inch pipe aren't correct because the opening was narrowed by about 30% in the accident, plus the flow has been reduced by 10% from a broken drill pipe inside the riser. About half of the flow coming from the pipe is natural gas, not oil, the company said.. . .

New estimates on Gulf spill rate due Saturday, BP says

As per today briefing Saturday date is bogus and Task Force(not BP) not expected to have number before May 28. It will take team some time to analyze and come together with any meaningful numbers,66133.4395.html

I posted this question on another thread, maybe more likely to get answered here, thanks.....

This is a picture from today of methane erupting from the seafloor, posted at LATOC.

Is this new today, or has it been happening for a while? Is it coming up outside the pipe from the drilling borehole? Are people needlessly worrying or is this a serious development, I mean, can oil come up outside the pipe? Is the seafloor getting unstabilized from gas under there? What is going on? No way this is a natural seep, right?


I think part of the crumpled riser got buried. The sea floor there is very soft, very deep mud. The methane might be coming from that.

Here's hoping the "top kill" works. If they can kill the well, it will put a stop to all of these various leaks.

So if you take that guy's original estimate of 70,000 bpd.

Adjust for smaller radius (drops volume by 50%).
10% for drill pipe.
And divide by 2 for natural gas.

I get about 16,000 bpd of oil which sounds a lot closer to what people here have been saying all along.

"BP said May 20 that the recovery rate had reached the equivalent of 5,000 barrels a day," (plus flaring gas) BP later backed off of this as an average recovery estimate under questioning about how it equaled the previous total leak estimates.

To that we would add this

and this

Both of which are larger IMVHO than at the time the insertion tube was deployed. It does not look like 2 more 4" insertion tubes would collect it.

note BP's current live shot is pulled back considerably from the earlier RITT video
Riser is apx. 1/3 frame in May 18 shot vs. 1/10th frame in live feed

Meanwhile, the crude still flows.

I seriously hope that this isn't going to be TEOTGOMAWKI.

You know the one thing that no one has mentioned (as far as I've read) and yet says most of all...

No one was prepared for a spill of this magnitude. Not BP, not industry, not the government, not the environmental groups. Nobody is prepared to handle it. That says alot about our society and its preparedness for disaster. Blame BP, TransOcean, Halliburton, Cameron, etc all you want, but apparently there was no one in the world ready to tackle this. Damn shame.

In BP's permit application they said that they were ready for a spill larger than this.


What, as opposed to Shell's permit application, Anadarko's? Your statement does not change the fact that our government nor any of the other majors were prepared, no matter what any piece of paper said.

So lies are acceptable if everyone does it ?

I can accept that reasoning if the question is "Honey, do I look fat ?"

But not when the consequences of lying are so devastating.


PS: In a relationship, the consequences of NOT lying in certain specific instances (see above) can be devastating :-)

I would suggest that industry was not lying, but was incapable of imagination.

In any case, my point is merely to point out that if there was a problem, it was a systematic and industry wide problem, not an anomally by BP. Even if you bankrupt BP and ensure they never drill again, if you do nothing about the systematic problem, then you merely move the problem around.

I understand you're emotional Alan, but try and think through the "why" beyond your assumption that its just a BP thing.

if there was a problem, it was a systematic and industry wide problem, not an anomally by BP

I challenge and dispute your assumption.

This is a BP specific problem.

If a CBL log had been run *OR* the BOP had been properly maintained and installed, this spill would not have occurred. Perhaps a better drill string plan was needed as well.

A more responsible company (i.e rest of industry AFAIK, BP is the bottom of the barrel, but there may well be a stinker one layer up in the barrel) would have done both a CBL and installed a good BOP (as well as other systemic steps that could have prevented this).

Rockman has specifically endorsed XOM as one contra example.


I am ready to look at any data you have to show that other companies are better prepared for the spill and more conservative in their drilling techniques. I await the proof.

I would point to posts by Rockman and others in the field.

Some specific ones that come to mind:

- I would have done both positive and negative pressure tests and CBLs and not removed the mud until I was 100% sure that I had a good seal.

- Cement needs to cure for 24 to 48 hours before pressure testing, not the 10 hours reported for BP

- There is a deep hidden anger in the industry about the behavior of BP @ Deepwater Horizon

- BP is well known for being the cheapest and most cost cutting major offshore

- Why was the BOP not properly set up ? (may be a TransOcean issue, although TransOcean stated that BP oversaw and paid for last BOP overhaul).

60 minutes witness reported "chest bumping" between TransOcean and BP shortly before the accident. I strongly suspect that TransOcean was not arguing for cutting corners in order to complete the job quicker so as to stop the $500/minute lease of the rig ASAP.


- Unfortunately we do not know really what happened between 3pm and 10pm definitively. From the collective intelligrance here on TOD, it looks like a CBL should have been performed, but wasn't, however I'm not sure if that points to something BP opted out of against industry practice or something that simply isn't standardized in industry yet.

- I have no idea about the cement. I find it almost impossible to believe that any company would have violated standard cement curing time rules.

- I have not witnessed the "hidden anger" like Rockman apparently has. I'm not sure who is angry and what they know that makes them angry.

- Once again, I don't know if this is true or not. Facts would be nice to have to actually prove this true or just industry gossip.

- The investigation will show what occurred and what caused the BOP to malfunction, but once again TOD discussion does suggest there was something wrong.

If proven wrong, its no skin off my back to admit BP's faults, but I do worry about the desire for alot of people to turn a serious investigation into a witch hunt. Let the facts speak for themselves.

the $75 million limit on damages payable by BP applies only to the USA. Cuba, the Bahamas, Bermuda (UK) and most of Western Europe are all likely to be able to make claims larger than $75 million.


Alan, you have managed to convince me that BP should be trying to drill a third or fourth relief well but let's not get into hyperbole about where the oil spill is going to end up.

Mother Nature will eventually dispose of this spill as she has every other spill or seep for the past hundreds of thousands of years.

Louisiana's coastal marshes, wet lands and barrier islands are starting to experience a devastating calamity. The beaches of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and even Texas are in clear danger. It is possible the spill will have some effects on Cuba and the Bahamas, but the chances of there being any significant damage to Bermuda or certainly Europe are extremely remote.

By the way the $75 million cap is on economic damage. BP is on the hook for unlimited amounts for controlling the well, cleaning up the spill and environmental damage. They have stated they will not stand behind the $75 million shield and have already given a $100 million grant to the Gulf Coast states and a $70 million grant to the tourist industry.

OTOH it is quite possible when the furor dies down that they will renig and hide behind their lawyers.

OTOH it is quite possible when the furor dies down that they will renig and hide behind their lawyers.

Maybe that will be the case. If the government decides they believe this will happen, I'm sure they'll find a way to make BP pay regardless. The oil industry sure hasn't engendered trust from the public, but past occurances at Texas City seem to indicate BP is willing to talk money with its victims rather than take them through litigation forever (ala Exxon Valdez, but even that incident has some caveats)

It is possible the spill will have some effects on Cuba and the Bahamas, but the chances of there being any significant damage to Bermuda or certainly Europe are extremely remote.

Not too many people thought the volcanic ash over Iceland would have much impact on flower growers in South Africa either, yet it did a have big impact because they couldn't ship their wares to the European market. There are a lot of things that are connected that are not necessarily immediately apparent in our man made systems, yet you are sure there will be no ecological butterfly effect brought about by this catastrophe? How do you know? On what are you basing this assertion? A gut feeling? A hunch?

Are you confident that you know enough about food webs, migratory species and all the possible side effects and consequences of damaging the ecosystem of the GOM to categorically make such an assertion?

Perhaps you are right and it is indeed an extremely remote possibility but I for one would like a few second opinions from oceanographers and marine biologist who actually study these interconnected webs of life.

the $75 million limit on damages payable by BP applies only to the USA.

The $75MM doesn't apply in the US if gross negligence is proven. I don't know about you, but I suspect juries in both Texas and Louisiana will not be sympathetic to BP.

BP backed off of its statement that it had begun siphoning 5,000 barrels of oil a day from a leaking well on the Gulf of Mexico seabed, throwing into further confusion efforts to estimate how much crude is flowing.
“We never said it produced 5,000 barrels a day,” Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, told reporters in a conference call Friday. “I am sorry if you heard it that way.”
Suttles said an average of 2,000 barrels of oil a day is being drawn to the surface through a 4-inch tube inserted into a leaking riser pipe on Sunday. Over the most recent 24-hour period, he said Friday afternoon, the tube has captured 2,200 barrels of oil and 15 million cubic feet of natural gas.
“That's 2,200 barrels of oil that never reached the sea,” Suttles said.
The Chronicle and other media nationwide reported the 5,000-barrel-per-day figure, based on interviews with BP officials, starting Thursday morning, and BP did not challenge it until Friday. BP's statement Thursday that it was collecting that amount added to speculation that the company and government have understated the size of the spill.

Looks like BP is having a bit of a problem with their spin machine. Mr Suttles "I am sorry if you heard it that way". I expect that the BP spokesperson who said 5,000 gallons is on tape somewhere saying it exactly that way and the fault is with the speaker not the hearers.

I suspect that Mr. Suttles wants to continue to assert 5,000 BPD spill and that of course will not work if they say they are capturing 5,000 BPD yet oil is still spewing.

Tangled in their own lies.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." Sir Walter Scott. Some things never change.

I was wondering about this - is there an attributed quote that actually says the RIT was getting 5,000 bpd? Where did that number come from?

I do not remember Suttles ever saying it was sustained and he had been careful to say they were trying to optimize the flow. Somebody in some conference had said at a point it was a rate of 5000 BOPD (not sustained). That does not mean it is getting that much each day all the time. Like instantaneous versus average velocity. As an aside during what I think was the financial reg debate Sen. Nelson stopped the debate and posted video that "proved BP was lying about the 5000 BOPD" and AP was in the process of releasing the fact that BP said it is much bigger. That never happened and as it turned out the clip he used was before the RIT had started to collect. He went on and on talking about the gusher and making unfounded statements the same way he had about all the tar bars washing up in the Keys that would destroy them. Of course those tar balls(still being collected) were not from BP and if the base line survey shows the environment has survived these and other tar balls for years, he might do better to shut up instead of scaring tourists away from his state--of course when you are fighting against drilling and have an economy in shambles congress folks are allowed to make unfounded statements to boost there standing but a corporation that gives an estimate with caveats and one sanctioned by Unified Command is evil and a liar. People, especially pols,love to take things out of context and use inflammatory sound bites but that does not stop the leak or track the oil.
As much as people insist on more and more information release the odds of misinterpretation and misuse of data increase dramatically with such an approach Seems like half the briefing are taken up by shooting down claims made in stories floating around the net.(Before damning BP, folks should go back and listen to all briefings and testimnoy by NOAA, CG, MMS, EPA an others throughout this crisis)

Just because others are less than 100% pure and accurate in everything they say and do, does not mean that BP is not evil and does not lie.


Ah yes, the continuing saga of I'll forgive everyone else's "errors", but BP is evil therefore everything they say is lies. I think I'll just include a standard disclaimer every time I give some information presented from BP:

"Barring the above, we should remember, per Alan, that BP is an evil and lying sack of shit so any facts that show otherwise are probably just manipulated by BP PR"

Sound good Alan?

That's a really inappropriate comment. People have been having a mostly civil conversation about the spill. It is an emotional issue and that sometimes causes people to make emotional posts. However, I don't see why you should react to Alan's post emotionally, unless you have a relationship with BP that I haven't seen you disclose.

Here's hoping for more civil discourse.

I made no untoward comment towards Alan nor do I feel I misrepresented his position (which appears to be the BP will lie and all "facts" should be treated with disdain if they came from an investigation that BP had any comment on).

There has been a great deal of civil comment and I have praised all of it. However, Alan has developed a prejudice I feel is important to disclose, one that I can't see arriving from the facts at hand, but rather his own vision of what he believes occurred. That I posted a sarcastic reply to his prejudice is merely a response to his posts against me when I have tried to advocate a wait until the facts have come out before anyone is judged. I think there is alot of emotion in the industry and branding one company as evil and a liar leaves little room for the rest of the industry to be judged fairly if we accept that narrative. Preventing the spread of misinformation and prejudice is important not just to BP in this spill.

It is not my place to speculate why Alan has been so hurt by the blowout. However, I can imagine several reasons why this tragedy would have cut him so deeply. Since Alan has long been a reasonable voice on TOD I'll simply continue to benefit from his contributions and understand that he may have good reasons, not appropriately disclosed here or at this time, for being so hard on BP.

Alan lives in 'the big easy' and is a well informed concerned human. He is close to the scene--good reason for not giving BP the benefit of any doubt. I live where BP has run roughshod over legislatures and governors for forty years, so I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of any doubt either. They tend to look at Alaska, where they have been half owner of the slope's leases, as old Britain looked on its far flung colonies, as theirs to do what they please with--I'm guessing their attitude is no different in the Gulf.

leaves little room for the rest of the industry to be judged fairly

As I have noted, 97% of intentional safety violations were made by BP.

That leaves only 3% for everybody else !

Really, not such a bad record for "everyone else".

I am not aware of any other oil company that has been convicted of a felony (much less two) in the last couple of decades. Although Texaco's actions in Ecuador may rise to that level.

So, I am not attacking "the rest of the industry". Just those that deserve it.



I don't even know where you got that 97% number. Maybe you posted the link already, but there's alot of comments on this story and I can't find it.

As far as BP being convicted of a felony, I'm not even sure what that means considering how many disasters have occurred around the world to many different companies.

Anyway, go check out this link and add up how many are BP related.

A disaster does *NOT* = a felony.

Serious malfeasance is required for a felony. A disaster that kills a dozen workers will surely result in fines, penalties and lawsuits. But almost never a felony conviction.

Serious safety violations are, unfortunately, common.

Egregious willful safety violations are, fortunately, quite rare outside of BP.

Serious safety violations lead to injuries and deaths. Egregious willful safety violations lead to injuries, deaths and felony convictions.

There is a difference. And the difference can be traced to the management and their corporate culture.


During an interview Thursday with CNN’s Larry King, BP Managing Director Bo Dudley said that the RIT was capturing about 5,000 barrels a day. Since subsea video from the leak site shows more oil leaking than is being captured, that implies that the leak is much larger than BP’s 5,000-barrel estimate.

Company spokesman Mark Proegler said that the siphon lowered by BP to suck up some of the expelled oil is currently collecting about 5,000 barrels a day.
also at

Whether these are accurate or not it took a few days for BP to disown the 5,000 a day capture. If it was a misunderstanding rather than a misstatement (lie) wouldn't they have immediately disowned it as soon as it hit the press?

OTOH Perhaps Proegler meant 5,000 barrels total, not just oil. Perhaps the spin machine is so busy that they didn't hop on this one for several days. I haven't found a link for the full Larry King interview to check exactly what was said.

Perhaps their ineptness has handling the well is being manifested in their public relations?

I haven't found a link for the full Larry King interview to check exactly what was said.

From the transcript of Larry King Live, CNN, Thursday, 5/20:

DUDLEY: So, two days ago, or really a day and a half ago, we began the first successful probe to be able to begin pulling oil right out of the pipe. That well now is producing between 2,000 and 4,000 barrels a day on -- at the surface. We had a four-hour period where it was as high as 5,000 barrels a day. [my emphasis]

(If I'm understanding him and my math is correct, there was a four-hour period during which around 833 barrels was produced--833 x 24/4 = 5,000, or around 208 barrels per hour.)

Transcripts of all CNN shows can be viewed via a daily calendar menu at this link:

Clicking on the day the program aired takes you go to a page with a listing of all that day's programs; click on the program name for the transcript. NOTE: Each program lists its various segments, but it doesn't always list all of them. The Dudley interview, for example, isn't listed for Larry King Live this past Thursday, but it's in the transcript.

It usually takes at least an hour or two after the program airs for the transcript to be posted on the site.

We had a four-hour period where it was as high as 5,000 barrels a day.

But no video of 4 hours when no oil was flowing out of the leak.

This is a more moderate claim but still gives lie to the 5,000 BPD leak scenario unless they can produce the video.

This is a more moderate claim but still gives lie to the 5,000 BPD leak scenario unless they can produce the video.

I'd be willing to bet no BP person claimed they were getting 5,000 BPD from the RIT on a consistent basis. This is the sort of thing reporters easily get wrong; they miss the qualifications. If one story says it, others pick it up, and it quickly becomes received wisdom that's difficult to correct.

Today AP reports:

"Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Friday that a mile-long tube inserted into the leaking pipe is sucking about 92,400 gallons of oil a day to the surface, a figure much lower than the 210,000 gallons a day the company said the tube was sucking up Thursday. Suttles said the higher number is the most the tube has been sucking up at any one time, while the lower number is the average."

"I would encourage people to take a look at the changing amount of oil coming from the ocean floor," said Steve Rinehart, another BP spokesman. "It's pretty clear that now that we're taking 5,000 barrels of oil a day, there's a significant change in the flow reaching the sea."

Italics are mine

At any rate as long as they claim 4 hours of 5,000 BPD they should show the video of the complete cessation of the oil leak for those 4 days

Which is of course why they are now admitting the leak might be more than 5,000 BPD

As I have posted before I have watched every official briefing by BP et al and all hearings. Every organization,government or not, has said they are using 5000 BOPD based on surface measurements and some understanding of the well characteristics but they have always said it can be quite variable and is just an estimate.Like others I would have given a range e.g. 3-15 or whatever. The only thing BP has challenged was the really high rate (up to 100000 BOPD)and they gave their reasons.

Then there were the deep giant thick black plumes ready to swallow up Florida on their way to consuming all of New Jersey......

Say, maybe the tar balls in the Keys are from Cuba? Cuba sues BP, Florida sues Cuba and everything is cool..

BP says it's capturing 5,000 balles a day from gulf spilll

BP said Thursday that it is now capturing 5,000 barrels a day of crude oil and 15 million cubic feet of natural gas from a leaking pipe at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the first official admission that earlier estimates of the amount of oil spilling into sea were too small.

UPDATE 1-BP capturing 5,000 bpd oil at Gulf leak site

"It's now capturing 5,000 barrels per day of oil," BP spokesman Mark Salt, said.
Previously, the company said it was capturing 3,000 barrels (126,000 gallons/573,000 liters) per day.

Just a quick google. Maybe the reporter got it wrong but I have seen the quote in several other places and at least one other with ""'s. IIRC Bloomberg said Sen Markey pressed them and they backed off the higher number.

My sense is that the folks who have the RITT throttle along with the best access to the real time video get to watch what happens below as oil is delivered topside and have to have some idea how much crude is getting hauled away in the support vessels on a daily basis. These would be the same folks who have a pretty good idea what the reservoir pressure range is and what the drop is across the leaks. These would be the same people who have been sticking ROV arms into the output streams and have access to the type of equipment ,per our resident oilpatch veterans, to get a pretty good estimate of the velocity and magnitude of the leaks.

It seems satisfactory flow rate estimates abound for most other historic oil spills on land and sea. If BP does not have a pretty good idea of how much oil is leaking, what are they doing drilling off our shores in the first place?

See 4 scientists estimates of BP flow rate:

"These darker patches can represent more than 90 percent of a spill’s total volume in less than 10 percent of its area. Remote sensing images examined by two of us have consistently indicated that at least 26,500 barrels of oil have been reaching the surface each day. . . .

"Working independently, two of us, using computational methods for fluid-parcel tracking to obtain the velocity of objects moving through the video frame, made estimates with median values of 60,000 to 75,000 barrels per day. . . .

"Application of dispersants, dissolution into the water and evaporation into the air potentially remove significant fractions of the surface oil — although much of the oil could remain below the surface. And because the oil is escaping in jets at very high pressure, it is broken into tiny droplets, which aren’t likely to float to the surface and may form layers thousands of feet underwater.

"At present, publicly known evidence for deep oil plumes consists of measured profiles of ocean color and oxygen concentration. The profiles show multiple, distinct layers 150 feet thick at depths from 3,000 to 4,000 feet. Hydrocarbon analysis that would confirm that oil caused these layers has not been released.

"Taking all this into account, our preliminary estimates indicate that the discharge is at least 40,000 barrels per day and could be as much as 100,000 barrels. Certainly, our assessments suggest that BP’s stated worst-case estimate of 60,000 barrels has been occurring all along. What matters most is that we take the steps to find out if it has."

The Measure of a Disaster By IAN R. MacDONALD, JOHN AMOS, TIMOTHY CRONE and STEVE WERELEY Published: May 21, 2010 NYTimes

It is not clear if they accounted for gas to oil ratio or not.

"BP has criticized independent estimates that put the flow rate at 50,000 barrels a day or more. . . .BP was collecting about 2,200 barrels a day from the well, a company spokesman said Saturday. . . .BP estimates that gas makes up roughly 50% of the plume, on average."

BP Chief Warns New Effort to Cap Leak Isn't Guaranteed"

Several good days of weather have allowed crews to retrieve 50 percent to 60 percent oil in the oil-water mixture scooped up by skimming vessels, rather than the more typical 10 percent, Landry said, and calm seas allowed more controlled burns of the heaviest parts of the slick.

New BP statement further clouds spill size estimates Houston Chronicle
May 22, 2010, 12:15AM

What would scientists know about fluid dynamics and mechanics of heterogeneous fluid mixing, they are all bunch of enviro-commies out to make a research buck. While good, honest BP is putting bread on the tables of Americans.

A lot of posters dismiss the chance that the oil flow is more than 20,000 barrels per day, without any actual detailed numerical analysis of the available evidence. Until these posters deliver on the analysis the above figure of 26,500 barrels reaching the surface is the best available assessment. Given the *fact* that a large fraction of the oil is locked in slowly ascending plumes the total leak rate is most likely around 40,000 barrels per day as they claim. Even if it is declining it will do so slowly.

There is no excuse for underestimating the leakage to save face. The response depends on its scale.


I am as mad as anyone else and anxious for BP to do "the right thing", but what is "the right thing"?

There *are* a couple of good reasons that BP HAS TO "remain silent".

First, they owe a royalty in the range of 18-20% for each barrel produced to the MMS.

Second, damages are likely to be calculated on barrels spilled. The lawyers that will be in the courtroom a few years from now are saying "make them prove it", don't admit it.

Thirdly and most importantly, both Great Brit and US security laws specify that the officer's and directors of the company, have a fiduciary responsibility to the company's shareholders. Meaning, that the shareholders come first, and the US Gov and every other fisherman's concerns are secondary. To do otherwise is a felony fraudulent act in both countries. The "right thing" for BP execs is a pretty slippery concept right now.

This is a very fine line to walk when, other than securities fraud, criminal charges may be levied by the US. Once the President has actually made the statement that a criminal investigation may take place, the company, for the shareholders best interest, have to stop cooperating at all and do what minimizes their exposure.

The only possible loophole I can think of is for execs to make the case that NOT cooperating, though possibly good in the short term, is bad for long term PR and profits. They will of course have to personally prove this was true in court.

When the public employees retirement fund is suing you for NOT cutting costs on the cleanup or for overly- freely admitting liability that cost the company an additional $20 billion, and as a result the retirement fund of a 250,000 poor teachers lost a billion dollars (in market value of BP stock this year), is murky.

Don't be too quick to label a person or company "evil", just because they have to walk this legal tightrope.