Gulf Deepwater Oil Spill Open Thread - Dispersants, Flow Rate Technical Team, and other topics

The purpose of this thread is to discuss current issues with respect to the oil spill. Two issues I have noted are

1. BP has released a letter, saying that COREXIT, the dispersant it currently is using (that has been on the market for 20 years), seems to be the best choice for now. Dispersant monitoring data is also being posted now.

2. A Flow Rate Technical Group is analyzing the size of the spill, and expects to have a report by "early next week". (Since the letter is undated, it may really mean "early this week".)

Other updates can be found on the Deepwater Horizon Response site.

Dispersant Choice and Monitoring

One of the issues recently with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been a question of which dispersants to use. On May 10, with addendums May 14 and May 19, the EPA issued a directive to BP to use a less-toxic and more effective dispersant than it had used previously.

BP has now responded to that directive, and basically said what the EPA is asking is not possible. In its view, Corexit EC9500A (which it is currently using) is the best alternative.

According to BP's letter, only five products meet the criteria requirements (less toxic according to standard tests, and at least as effective as Corexit EC99500A). These are Sea Brat #4, Nokomis 3-F4 and Nokomis 3-AA, Mare Clean 200, and Neos AB3000.

Of these only Sea Brat #4 is available in the near future. The letter notes:

One relevant criterion, given the amoutn of dispersant that is required at this site and the proposed application near the ocean floor, is the potential for long term effect and persistence of the chemicals in each dispersant.

In this gregard, Sea Brat #4 contains a small amount of a chemical that may degrade to a nonylphenol (NP). The class of NP chemicals have been identified by various government agencies as potential endocrine disruptors, and as chemicals that may persist in the environment for a period of years. The manufacturer has not had the opportunity to evaluate this product for those potential effects, and BP has not had the opportunity to conduct independent test to evaluate this issue either. BP learned of this issue after it applied for permission to use Sea Brat #4 at the incident site.

The letter goes on to say that it would be prudent to do more evaluation, before using Sea Brat #4. It also notes that further study is needed to determine the status of the other products on the list (the ones not currently available in large quantities, quickly) with respect to the potential NP issue. COREXIT does not contain chemicals that degrade to NP. In addition, COREXIT biodegrades within 28 days, so appears to be a better choice, even though other dispersants appear to better on some tests.

The letter (which has certain parts withheld, for confidentiality reasons) provides additional information.

The EPA web site also gives sampling results with respect to dispersant monitoring, for those interested in reviewing these results.

The EPA web site also gives answers to a number of Frequently Asked Questions.

Flow Rate Technical Group

A Flow Rate Technical Group Fact Sheet has been posted. (The new group was announce at a press conference on Friday.) According to the sheet:

The FRTG is leading a coordinated effort across the federal government to determine oil flow rates from the spill at multiple time periods following the explosion, fire and sinking of the oil rig in order to compute total outflow.

This will be achieved by:

• Obtaining a wide variety of data available on the reservoir, wellbore, blowout preventer, subsea flowing pressures, leak points, discharge plums and surface discharge observations, and others, as well as video review; and
• Using that data to identify and run state-of-the-art models to calculate flow rates and compare results.

Within the Group are two teams:

• A Modeling Team, which will collect and analyze data, and run state-of-the-art models.
• A Peer Review Team, which will conduct an independent review of all reports and findings of the modeling team under a contract with an independent organization.

The FRTG, chaired by MMS National Outer Continental Shelf Oil Spill Program Coordinator David Moore, draws on the experience of the best experts from the federal government, including the U.S. Coast Guard, Minerals Management Service, Department of Energy, NOAA and the U.S. Geologic Survey, as well as members from academia.

The group expects to have an initial flow assessment completed by early next week. Reports will be posted at Flow rate estimates produced by the group will include the sources of data used, a description of data quality, any assumptions made, and the names of models used.

It would seem to me that the report is expected by early this week, rather than early next week, but since the sheet is undated, it is unclear which week is intended.

Last I heard is May 28 for the report. If they are going to really look at all the flow video, data on the oil type(GOR/Condensate) from area wells,reservoir, other BP info, correlation with surface observations and put together a report that stands up to scrutiny I would think it would take a bit of time. Although BP is not a party to it, I would assume they have the right of review/comment prior to release.
Like Shelburn et al I would think BP or some consultants and their partners are working this hard to be able to refute or support the group claims.

Question: I know many are claiming the riser end leak has very high numbers. Just hypothetical, but what if the number came out to a range of 3500 to 7500 BOPD. What do you think would be the reaction? What would we hear from the prof and pols who latched on to high numbers? Obviously this may be a mute point if some high number comes out(and we know the reaction to that) but just asking?

So what you're saying is that you like to operate with the most optimistic of assumptions based on no data and no understanding of the physics?

The oil is coming out at high pressure as you can see from the video.

When you take 2 immiscible fluids and mix them at high pressure you get an emulsion. This is basic chemistry 101. This means the majority of the fluid may never reach the surface because it is trapped in suspension. In fact, huge oil blooms have been measured at various depths suggesting that there is substantially more oil in the water column than previously thought.

Additionally, oil on the surface will have different thicknesses depending on whatever the surface conditions are locally. So any estimate of flow rate based on surface measurements is optimistic at best, even if surface observations could account for local variations in thickness.

If the numbers come in low (unlikely since estimates are in the 50kBOPD range) that's great. It still doesn't fix the problem that the oil industry does not know how to cap a blowout at depth. This seems like a major failing based on optimistic assumptions.


First, he asked a logical hypothetical question and you respond with a less than helpful statement.

Second, what you call "basic chemistry 101" is in no way proof that "the majority of the fluid may never reach the surface." It is just one of many complex factors.

Third, no huge oil blooms have been measured at various depths yet that I'm aware of. Could you provide a reputable source that has specific details of density and size of the blooms you refer to?

Anybody heard anything about the analysis of the various samples taken from reported underwater plumes by the research vessel that was out there for ten days or so? Samples were apparently split up and sent to various labs - surely there have been some preliminary results by now.

I haven't heard of any other boat continuing that effort.

I think these are the plumes he's referring to.


I disagree with the premise of his question, that the BOPD can be estimated from the amount of oil visible at the surface. I also disagree with trying to minimize how much oil is going into the Gulf. To date, minimization of the amount of oil has led to a poorly coordinated ineffective response.

You are wrong about oil blooms as they have been measured and reported by several groups. Just type oil bloom into Google News and you'll get the info.

2nd when you take a liquid at high pressure and you release it into a lower pressure environment, the result is an aerosol. That is the liquid is broken up into fine particles. Think of a can of spray paint. These small particles enter into suspension with the surrounding liquid which means that the forces on those fine droplets of oil are no longer dominated solely by the difference in density of the 2 fluids.

There's also a great video from 2 professors of Mathematics at UNC- Chapel Hill showing what happens when alcohol is dispersed in a stratified salt water system. The mechanism for oil should be quite similar. I recommend it highly.


Thanks for trying to help, but I was unable to find anything other than a couple of speculative articles about oil blooms using Google News search.

To deal with underwater oil blooms we need to know their density, composition, rate of decay, size, and direction of flow; at a minimum. AFAIK, that information has yet to become available for any oil bloom. Until it is, we are all simply guessing about their impact (minor, large, extreme) and the resources that will be needed to deal with them.

I agree with you that there are many complex variables that affect the ability of oil blooms to form.

Again, if anyone has a link to a reputable source that actually has data on one or more underwater oil blooms I'd love to see it.

Can you clarify what you would consider to be a reputable source?

We have estimates of the flow rates from other credible sources. We also have the data point that BP was collecting 5000 BOPD by inserting a 4" pipe into the broken riser. This would most certainly mean that the total flow from the broken riser is well above 5000 BOPD. From what I understand, BP's initial estimate of the flow rate was based on the amount of surface oil.

If the total amount of oil on the surface does not come close to the actual flow rate of the broken riser, then where is that oil going?


Exactly, where is that oil going? We simply don't know yet. We have not found it nor do we know what, if anything, we should or can do about it as the data is still lacking.

I'm in no way implying it does not exist.

What I've found for myself is that facts are critical if I'm to not fall into thinking about this tragedy from an emotional perspective only.

I watched the MSM TV tonight and just about puked. This is not entertainment to sell dish soap. Yet all I see are surveys on how upset people are, pictures of dead animals, oil soaked beaches, and interviews of people claiming they know what's best. Facts were few and far between.

God willing, in a few months the worst will be over and the long healing process in the Gulf will begin. But, and this is important, if any positive changes are to be made as a result of this tragedy, people must know the facts. New regulations based on mistaken opinions, half truths, and outright lies will not result in effective regulatory change and punishment of BP and others who might be responsible.

We all have the emotional part needed to pursue change, what we need to add to that is a clear understanding of ALL factual aspects of this tragedy. The Senate and Congressional hearings show it is obvious many of our elected representatives are ill informed. If we are to demand action from them it is up to us to know we are demanding the right thing.

That's the beauty of TOD. The critical debate that goes on here ensures that the careful reader can become an effective advocate. At the heart of these debates are verifiable sources of information which can be debated on their merits. Mix in expertise from all manner of backgrounds and you end up with a pretty good soup.

Good points. Just bringing up the topic of dispersion will get lots of people very confused. As a concept, it can help us understand lots of the behavior we see but it has to be placed in the right context. See my blog where I post at least one dispersion-oriented post a month. How it plays out here remains to be seen.

You didn't answer my question. That's ok because I'm getting the feeling that trying to convince you is a waste of time. So this is more for others who may be reading it.

It's wrong to just throw up our hands and say we don't know where the oil is going when the physics tells us where we should be looking for it. There's laboratory experimental evidence, links to which I've posted on this site, as well as field observations that have found 150 foot thick layers of oil at depths below 300m.

At first it was the flow rates can't be that high. That was proven wrong. Now you are going with this line of "we don't know" when in fact we do know where the oil is probably going. It's true we don't know how much unless we actually try to measure it.

The reality is the NOAA has deployed resources to measure the amount of oil in the deep ocean. So if they didn't think there were oil plumes at depth, why would they be looking for them?

From the NOAA Deepwater "Incident" site

# NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
TJ departed Galveston, Texas at 1400 CDT on Sunday for a mission to deploy US Navy current drifters, profiling floats, and profiling gliders in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The instruments will be used by scientists to monitor the surface and deep currents that are distributing the oil.
# R/V Pelican (NOAA contracted)
Mission 1: May 2 – May 16
Supported by NOAA Research Ocean Exploration Program
Bottom sediment sampling and water column work in the spill area
Water sampling, new sensors including a Wetlabs fluorometer intended to detect oil at depth

R/V Weatherbird (NSF/NOAA/USF)
Water sampling at depth and deployment of glider to provide samples and detection of oil to see if sub-surface materials have entered the Loop Current in dispersed but detectable quantities.

Again, if anyone has a link to a reputable source that actually has data on one or more underwater oil blooms I'd love to see it.

I assume you mean plumes and not blooms but the excerpt I post below is one of many links you can find at the Deep Sea News blog Oil Spill Update

The first scientific mission to assess deepwater impacts of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, conducted from the research ship Pelican and funded by NOAA, discovered massive plumes of dispersed oil up to 30 miles long by seven miles wide and hundreds of feet thick. Though the data collected by the Pelican was criticized by NOAA as being too preliminary to draw conclusions from, scientists say the finding is not surprising and is in line with the results of previous studies.

One such study, a 2003 report by the National Research Council, considered what the effects of a deepwater well blowout might be and predicted that such an event, particularly of a reservoir rich in gas (as the Deepwater Horizon reservoir appears to be) would generate diffuse underwater plumes of microaerosolized oil much like what the Pelican scientists found.

A few years earlier, the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) organized a study in 2000 in which scientists released oil into deep seas off the coast of Norway, but could only account for a small amount of it on the surface—suggesting that much of it remained in the water column. (While the conditions of this study aren't identical to the conditions of the current spill, Overton says the general findings could be expected to apply).

Why aren't there hundreds of scientists out there right now gathering data on these plumes?! The available science gives us strong reasons to suspect the plumes are there!

I used the word bloom as that is what Brian is using.

Once again, all anyone can point to is the Pelican (a inconclusive report with speculation) and theories about what is going on in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the one paragraph from the 2000 study is a start in the right direction.

If you want to discuss oil plumes from deep water blowouts, the place to start is here:

In the first report on page 89 you will find a disturbing conclusion:

The results from these measurements show that the rising of the oil through the water column represents a kind of a “stripping” process of some of the most toxic compounds in the oil. The end result is therefore that a portion of the most toxic compounds is left in the water column. This is contrasted to a surface generated slick, where a portion the most toxic compounds merely go into evaporation rather than dissolving into the sea.

However, later on in the report on page 151 you see this:

The experiment also indicated that the rise time of the largest oil droplets were somewhat shorter than expected. To account for the observed rise time of 1 hour from a depth of 844 m, the rise velocity must have been considerably larger than presumed maximum rise velocity of oil droplets of about 0.13 m/s 15. Some shortening of the rise time might have been gained by the more rapid rise of the droplets in the plume stage, but this effect does not seem to be large enough to account for the observed difference.

We therefore recommend that the drop size formation processes as well as the rise velocity of oil droplets are considered further. It may be that laboratory tests will be the most efficient way to arrive at results for these two items. For the rising velocity of oil droplets, it should also be considered what influence the presence of gas in the release might have.

Okay, I know that last quote glazed over quite a few eyes, but bear with me ;-)

Is the "stripping" process related to the size of the oil droplets generated by the test nozzle? Is the amount of the oil that reached the surface a function of the size of the oil droplets used in the test?

I don't know. What I do know is after spending an hour or so skimming a couple of the reports is they have produced valuable information that can be used to interpret DATA collected in the Gulf and predict outcomes.

For example, have we made things ecologically worse by using undersea dispersants because the resulting oil droplet size is then optimized for the stripping effect? Please, I don't want anyone to take the "stripping" effect I use as an example here out of context. It may or may not be relevant in the Gulf. I don't want it to start showing up as "fact" in the Gulf.

Given the critical nature of undersea oil plumes, it might be appropriate to suggest a TOD contributor put together an article for us that is based on the reports linked to above.

Did I say anything about optimistic assumptions? I asked a hypothetical. You answered by saying what others would say if the number for some reason was small. You would find something else to attack . The point is that even if it was 10 BOPD people would be attacking BP with the same ferocity. Look, all spills are bad. You think they or anyone else does not know that? .
Tell me more about the Physics. Also, take the Purdue profs number for particle speed that is in the presentation he made to congress. Now calculate the actual cross sectional area (Its is published and less less than he used) Convert to barrels of oil per day. Next look up the characteristics of the oil in this part of the gulf and what has been published. Now based on what you wet adjust the rate by anywhere from 50-75% of the total due to gas content. Put on error bar on the velocity then put a range on the oil. Take the oil gravity and the gravity of condensate. Look up their properties and determine a range of light parts that may have broken down/evaporated. Take the PPM of the samples taken by the profs (they have not published them yet as far as I know )and the actual dimensions of the plumes and calculate the barrels in there(with ranges). Then go through satellite imagery to get all thicknesses and sizes on surface. Come back and tell us exactly what the flow is and what it has to be.
Clearly the panel of experts are wasting their time because everybody in the world already knows. A waste of taxpayer money?

Not attacking you personally, just the attitude that "it's not that bad." In my view, that attitude is what's driving BP's (and our government's) ineffective response to the spill.

So your numbers just don't jive. If you take BP's numbers for what they are capturing with a 4" pipe (initially 5000 BOPD and now ~1100 BOPD), it's fairly clear they are not capturing even 25% of the total flow. Let's make the math simple so we can do this back of the envelope calculation, let's say you can capture 100% of the oil in a 4" diameter with the inserted tube. Now let me also assume that the effective diameter of the riser pipe is only 15" and not 19.2" due to the presense of the drill pipe, debris,etc... This is optimistic.

If I take the ratio of the cross-sectional areas and multiply by the initial 5000 BOPD produced by a 4" pipe inserted into the gusher, then I could put a very rough estimate as to what the flow rate would be if I captured all of the oil from the entire cross-section. If I do this I come up with a number of about 71,000 BOPD. Even if I derate this flow by 50%, it's still a very high number.

Would love to see your calculation. Could you please post it somewhere?

Very good point. But it is even worse than that. There is a shock front around the intake of the 4" pipe that limits the amount of oil entering it. The relative drag inside the 4" pipe is higher than in the 15" (idealized) pipe so the flow velocity is slower in the 4" pipe.

Yep, I totally agree. There's turbulence at the input of the 4" pipe that limits the coupling efficiency (reducing its effective cross-section). Therefore you are undersampling the flow. Also in this simple back-of-the-envelope calculation the distribution of velocities inside the pipe is assumed to be uniform. This is also not true since there is friction at the oil/pipe interface, the velocity of oil at the edges is slower than in the center. This would reduce the effective cross-section leading to lower numbers.

However if we are in the turbulent flow regime, which appears to be the case, a uniform velocity distribution is a reasonable approximation. It's not terribly accurate though for laminar flow.

Here's a handy comparison.

The main point was that you can get to very high numbers, well in excess of 7000 BOPD, with just a simple geometric calculation.

Happy to make a more accurate calculation for both turbulent and laminar flow if there's interest.

Couldn't find the BP live feed on CNN today, but BP has it on their site:

Right now, I am seeing a robot work on what looks like a leak of dispersant from a main box to feed tubes. Lots of yellowish liquid squirting out from the box/hose connection. Robot is twisting levers and pulling tubes around. All the interesting stuff happens early in the morning. Someone needs to check this late at night to see what goes on.

By the way, if anyone from BP reads this blog. I am a stockholder and I do vote. I may not be a stockholder much longer considering recent events. If you want others like me to believe in your company, you should consider some changes to your PR.

Official: BP 'devastated' by Gulf oil spill

Hmmmm...right on cue. But, may I make a suggestion. How about pledging to increase the same amount of $$$ in damage to the environment from DH to research and manufacturing of alternative energy sources? How about using this as a springboard to tell the world that our future does not lie in pursuing ever more difficult locations for reservoirs of crude, but something else.

Just a thought. Actions will be believed. Words from a CEOs and administrative directors are increasingly not.

In the "oh good grief" category ....

Asked about comments made by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, who alleged BP has "lost all credibility," [BP managing director Robert] Dudley said. "Those words hurt a little bit."

U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen, also speaking on "State of the Union," said the event is unusual because "access to the discharge site is controlled by the technology that was used for the drilling, which is owned by the private sector."

"They have the eyes and ears that are down there," he said. "... Our responsibility is to conduct proper oversight to make sure they do that. And with the top kill that will be coming up later on this week, that's exactly what is happening."


Asked whether he trusts the company, Allen said, "I trust Tony Hayward. When I talk to him, I get an answer."

But, shown a clip of Hayward's recent comments on Britain's Sky News in which he said the environmental impacts of this disaster is likely to be "very, very modest," Allen said, "Obviously, they are not modest here in Louisiana."

Dudley also mentioned trying a third option if the top kill and junk shot fail - "And then we've got a third step we can take. It's something called loss circulation material."


"The collective term for substances added to drilling fluids when drilling fluids are being lost to the formations downhole. Commonly used lost-circulation materials include are fibrous (cedar bark, shredded cane stalks, mineral fiber and hair), flaky (mica flakes and pieces of plastic or cellophane sheeting) or granular (ground and sized limestone or marble, wood, nut hulls, Formica, corncobs and cotton hulls). Laymen have likened lost-circulation materials to the "fix-a-flat" materials for repair of automobile tires."

It's probably noted somewhere, but...

What's the estimated size of this particular field? All this trouble for how many barrels? (Sadly, probably still a positive EROI when all is said and done).

Regards, Matt B

Some source said 100 million barrels.

No link, sorry.


100 million barrels of oil in place. If the blowout continues until it naturally stops, less than 100 million barrels of oil would leak into the GOM.

"The Macondo Block 252 reservoir may hold as much as 100 million barrels."

So that's about 27 hours of global supply (less, after energy invested).


When the Congressman requested the 24 hour stream, did he just specify the one on the riser? "The Leak" is not just the riser. The real action is at the BOP. Which, comparing videos, seems to be trending worse up until we quit seeing video of it.

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.

I have a little bottle of butyl cellosolve on my desk at work. It was marketed as whiteboard cleaner -- I occasionally use a tiny spritz of it to clean the greasy fingerprints off my glasses, it works! I feel safe in using it this way, although it probably exceeds those NIOSH limits for a few minutes.

(I'll take butyl cellosolve over the reddish-black gunk that I see surfacing in the GOM, thank you)

I ass u me you are joking about wanting this continued poison dumped? You do realize 40% of the seafood we eat comes from that part of the GOM! This isn't about what people with protective clothing can ingest, this is about what happens to sea-life including the coral that is or will be dead! Shame on you!

All I was trying to say is, I believe the reddish-black gunk from the well is a lot more toxic than the cellosolve. No, I wouldn't really want a brazillion gallons of cellosolve dumped in the gulf either.

If it will actually improve anything, I'd say they should use the dispersants. Though I must admit that (even with some background in chemistry) I don't see how dispersants can have much effect on the volcano-like underwater plume. From the satellite views, and the underwater veiws, it looks like a force of nature which will just have to take its course.

And I have a feeling we won't be eating gulf seafood for at least a couple of years now. It's looking like it's going to be tarball city from Sarasota to Tampico and, as I recall from the Ixtoc spill, the beaches were nasty for about ten years after.

[edit] Someone posted some interesting information on Ixtoc below:
So it seems there's hope for a recovery after all ... all that crude (and presumably COREXIT as well) will eventually be processed by the ocean after all.

Toxic is as toxic does. Riki Ott has commented on the effects already being felt by the fisherman going out to do cleanup. She spoke in Chicago yesterday to the Rogers Park Coffee Party and noted that BP is pretty much controlling all that you see and hear. The fishermen, on the other hand, are pretty upset. They can't ask for respirators because if they do they'll be dropped like hot rocks from doing the clean up work. They can't fish so they need some source of income. It's a mess.

Step back for a second. Do you honestly think the governors of any Gulf states whose citizens are involved in the cleanup would let BP control what we see and hear about the health risks to those workers? No, they would be holding news conferences immediately.

Now I'm not saying there is zero risk. I am saying that it is possible Riki Ott has a personal agenda. Safety of the workers is primary and it is up to their elected officials to ensure that is the case. A fisherman may not want to talk to BP, but they sure can make a phone call or two to people who will take action on their behalf.

"At Elmer's Island, crews hired by BP worked in shifts to laboriously remove oil from sands once teeming with wildlife. Some workers rested under tents while others scooped oil into clear plastic tarps and piled the mess away from the beach.

"Slowly but surely,'' said a site manager, who requested anonymity for fear of losing his job. Contractors have been instructed to not speak with reporters, who were escorted by local police onto the island on Saturday.

Read more:

"Safety of the workers is primary and it is up to their elected officials to ensure that is the case."

snd there's lot's of precedent of... "elected officials [...] ensur[ing]..." (sarcasm).

WTC cleanup.
Gulf War I

maybe we oughta get some NYC firefighters... Iraq war vets... or Vietnam war vets to chime in on their experiences with exposure to hazardous chemicals AND the role of "elected officials [...] ensur[ing]..."...

i'm just saying...

Right, an elected official is going to risk their career and the scorn of their community, the media, friends, and family for siding with BP against their citizens?

We are talking about BP here. This is a no brainer. Have you watched some of the local press coverage down there? People are pissed, really pissed. They would tar and feather Bobby Jindal, or any other politician they believed he was colluding with BP, and send them out of the state on a rail.

I know Alan would ;-)

The difference in your examples is the lack of a major corporation in the mix.

They would tar and feather Bobby Jindal, or any other politician they believed he was colluding with BP, and send them out of the state on a rail.

No one is colluding with BP. Just step back for a second and imagine what would happen if those in authority started acknowledging that exposure to fumes for a few days is making people sick when there's a chance of months more of this to come. You risk creating a public panic. Where would all the people fleeing go? Would you like another Katrina exodus?

I'm not picking sides, I'm just trying to think a few moves ahead.

at the risk of sounding "tinfoil hat" take another step back and ask yourself if you really think the Governors of any gulf state who have endorsed the offshore drilling, who are almost certainly very close with the Oil&Gas industry are going to try to tell BP what to do? I dont think that the Governor of Louisiana is holding the leash of the 4th largest company on earth. Considering what happened to the CBS News team that was denied access by Coast Guard Boats with BP Officials on board, i'd say BP is pretty much running the show. The fact that they have been allowed to try anything OTHER than a top kill tells me that they have far more control over this situation than they ought to... of course they're gonna try stopping an ecological disaster on Tuesday, ya know, when they have time.

Tomorrow look for an announcement out of Baton Rouge. There are some pretty pissed off legislators who are convinced that while BP may be cleaning things up, the cure is as bad if not worse than the disease. And they don't think BP is coming clean on that.

I'm going to repost this link that another member posted a couple of days ago, because I think it is important ( apologies to the one who posted it first). There is a lot of cussing in it, so avoid it if you are shy, but what it does show is how terribly wrong the boom is being deployed. It is funny, even though it is tragic.

BP Fails Booming School 101
I would advise fast forwarding to 1:54. That's where the funny and informative part is.

Down here in the reddy-red-red states workers are expendable. Don't know where you're from, but yeah, I would agree with your comment if we're talking about a moderately civilized part of the country. Hayley f*ing Barbour and Bobby f*ing Jindal Howdy Doody? Are you kidding me?

Yes. I'm sorry, but I believe Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal would do exactly that.

"Do you honestly think the governors of any Gulf states whose citizens are involved in the cleanup would let BP control what we see and hear about the health risks to those workers? No, they would be holding news conferences immediately."

I live here. The local/state gov't has been controlling information on health effects of industrial pollution for decades now. That's not a political statement, it's just necessary for them to be elected in the first place.

Also, these are tourist destinations. Bet your a$$ they'll control information about toxic fumes wafting randomly about.

Do you honestly think the governors of any Gulf states whose citizens are involved in the cleanup would let BP control what we see and hear about the health risks to those workers?

Yes - that's how it works. Where do you get the notion from that governments have the occupational health of its citizens as a high priority - in a context where economic and long-term issues prevail? I fully expect BP to sack anyone who they thought was agitating, and for "government" to do nothing about it. Press conferences don't change that.

A full face top notch respirator is about $150 and replacement cartridges about $15-20. If a fisherman can't afford that then maybe they need to refocus thier prioritites and quit being cheap. I also suspect that they could bill BP for it after the fact. BP certainly isn't controlling all you see/hear, that's just nonsense, as THIS site is proof that is a false statement. Problem is that some people are just dumb as rocks and if it comes from a certain person it HAS to be true and so they start repeating it making the rumor keep going.

Problem is that some people are just dumb as rocks and if it comes from a certain person it HAS to be true and so they start repeating it making the rumor keep going.

That's your most unintentionally hilarious comment yet.

"stop being cheap" well, gee thanks, thats some great advice, i'll have to tell my fisherman buddies that. Small time commercial fishing is NOT a business people get into to "make it rich" the GOM is NOT the Deadliest Catch. Shrimp Boat Captians do on average make a near 6 figure income, however consider that the cost of owning, insuring and maintaining a boat and a business come from that, oh and right now as i understand it they're making about $10/hr. These guys are cleaning up oil because a multi-national conglomerate took a dump on their means of living. try and show a little understanding, these guys are trying to fix somebody elses problem and trying to keep it from ruining their livelihood. For a company the size of BP to provide basic Personal Protective Equipment it shouldnt be too much of a stretch, especially not considering that BP has pretty much ruined these guys income for at *least* this year. it shouldnt be a matter of "billing them for it later" Does your employer provide what you need to do your job safely? the law requires that they do.

Does your employer provide what you need to do your job safely? the law requires that they do.

Exactly. There are laws in place for this type of work. The question is is BP able to break those laws with no one catching them? Not the media, not the lawyers, not the Coast Guard, not the EPA, and especially not OSHA!!!?

It is such a stretch that a single dubious article, the only one I've seen so far, is still being held up as proof of BP forcing workers to work in an unsafe environment.

I'm in no way defending BP. I'm simply stating the obvious.

my impression is that the dispersant used is banned in the UK and not fully tested in the US. correct me if i'm wrong here. also according to OSHAs own MSDS doesnt it list the maximum safe exposure to something like 50ppm / work shift? How do they know what the exposure actually is? as i understand they are wearing exposure tags that nobody has seen results from but BP.

i'm not one to jump on the "Secret Corporation Controls the World" wagon, but BPs poor judgement througout the handling of this, both on the ground and in the media is really starting to take its toll on me here. Multinational corporations do a lot of things because they feel they can get away with it. BP is one of the largest companies on earth so i dont doubt that they act with impunity (and i'm not talkin about me) on a fairly regular basis.

Exactly. There are laws in place for this type of work. The question is is BP able to break those laws with no one catching them? Not the media, not the lawyers, not the Coast Guard, not the EPA, and especially not OSHA!!!?

Just going by 15 year old Health and Safety Training from Canada...

To mandate the use of respirators, you have to have test samples or other expectations of encountering specific concentrations of a hazardous substance. The filters in place in the respirator have to be appropriate for the substance and concentration (a Self-contained Breathing Device is required if the concentrations are high enough to outnumber breathable air), and the user has to be tested to prove that he or she is healthy enough to use the Respirator (they reduce the amount of air you take in each breath.)

To be caught, an OSHA inspector would have to either be contacted by an employee through a complaint procedure, a health and Safety committee escalation, or make random checks. They would have to prove the employee was being exposed to illegal concentrations of a hazardous substance (which in an open space may depend on environmental factors like the wind direction and speed, and the last time it rained), that the company knew or should have known, and that the employee had not refused to wear safety equipment.

The conditions are continually changing; to catch someone, you would either have to catch them in the act and take your own test readings, or get company test readings and prove that people were exposed in the place where the readings were taken at that time.

I suspect there are not enough OSHA inspectors to make a dent in this particular problem, particularly if what the other posters say about lax enforcement ("even laxer than usual enforcement" may be a better term) in Louisiana. The fines are tiny, and the odds are in the company's favour even if action is taken against them.

From a legal standpoint, if I were a BP Lawyer and a weasel, I would be more concerned about potential injuries from the use of respirators by untrained and untested employees and contractors. Health effects from these short exposures would not appear for years, and would be nearly impossible to link, while a shrimp boat operator having a heart attack while wearing a respirator is going to cost you money right now.

The final link is the workers and contractors themselves: they would need training in health and safety, and would actually have to care. My experience is similar to Rockman's: there are a significant number of employees who do not care about the future, or are willing to risk their health for money. Without employees who care, nothing can be done.

BP is NOT their employer, for the deck hands the boat is the employer, or they may actually work on shares with no real contract or employer-employee relationship. Whoever the boat is contracted to is NOT the employer it is the CUSTOMER. The customer doesn't normally have much say in the way things are run day-to-day as long as the job is done properly. I suspect that if respirators were really needed the Coast Guard would require them.

And since BP committed to paying the costs of cleanup, you don't suppose they should foot the bill? BTW, the fishermen won't be caught wearing respirators if they want to keep working on the cleanup. BP's narrative is that there is nothing wrong with the air. Riki got an earful on that too, plus a lovely cough, sore throat and headache after 3 weeks down in the Gulf communities. She is certain it is from stuff (don't ask me details I am not a chemist) being released into the air by the oil and its components. She ran into the same situation during the Exxon Valdez cleanup.

I'm sure she already has a good lawyer lined up ;-)

Curious, Actually I am quite sure that BP has some hired bloggers on this site and others making the case for BP. Either that or their attempts at blaming anyone but BP are indications that they are "dumb as rocks".

Is your intent to degrade this website?

The Fisherman has probably been unemployed several weeks now and has just had his whole life taken away. He was probably living check to check before the leak. They've already had Katrina to deal with. BP can afford the respirator. BP should be supplying the respirator and keeping the guy's mortgage up to date also.

And landrew,
As for that coral, it isn't the BP spill that's killing it. It's Global Warming. If you care about it, you should stop driving your car immediately.

In fact, the super-rational (I'm not saying reasonable) thing to do would be to off yourself, taking as many as possible of your carbon-burning hominid life forms with you. However, I wouldn't want this to start looking like a wingnut rant, so I'd say just relax about looking for someone to blame. I am in fact about as non-right-wing as they come.

And I reject your shame. So there.

Yes they studied the consequences on human health. That's why COREXIT is forbidden to use in Europe since years.
But of course it gives BP the opportunity to make profit with their site company who is the producer of COREXIT.


No, your facts regarding the use of COREXIT in the UK are incorrect.

From the bottom of Page #4 of the BP response to the Coast Guard on dispersant use. Full report available here:

We have learned that COREXIT 9527 and COREXT 9500 were removed from the list of approved dispersants in the UK. Our understanding is that these two products were removed due to a new test added by the UK regulators. This test known as the "rocky shores test," is designed to evaluate the toxicity of the dispersants when sprayed in the tidal zone , and the mortality of limpets exposed to the dispersant.

The test was added because of concerns that dispersants may cause more significant ecological impacts on rocky shores than they do on sandy or pebble beaches (primarily seaweed overgrowth due to increased mortality in the harvester species). The UK regulators continue to allow the use of existing stockpiles of these COREXIT products away from rocky shorelines, with approval. We have not been informed by the On Scene Coordinator that the "rocky shores test" is applicable to conditions in the Gulf, as most tidal areas near the release are not rocky, and again US EPA and Coast Guard have approved both products for use in this response.

I can help,give me a call,256-710-6997 cell,I will bring 10,000 Mexican and clean the beachs and wash the wilflife at the same time.lamppost-( or email me at

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.

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
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.

Good find. Thanks for all the info. They are probably thinking that the final dilution of the Corexit when it reaches the surface is not so toxic, but this really is an unknown on BP/EPAs part.

I would like to have a marine biologist chime in and explain the ecology of GOM at deep and medium depths. We know much about the coastal marshes ecology, but not about what goes on and lives in the pelagic zones.

I would like to have a marine biologist chime in and explain the ecology of GOM at deep and medium depths. We know much about the coastal marshes ecology, but not about what goes on and lives in the pelagic zones.

That is precisely what worries me the most and the fact that "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" makes it that much more likely that all those responsible are trying their damnednest to keep the focus on the surface and the marshes and wetlands. Don't worry folks the beaches are still pretty clean come on down and enjoy them! Meanwhile the real damage is happening in the water column.

Right, I know fish are mobile to some degree, but some are limited in their habitat requirements for breeding, escaping danger, water temp, etc. If they are forced to move due to the plumes of oil, can they really survive in water 100 miles south or southeast? How are the plumes affecting phyto and zooplankton? Those organisms are not really very mobile compared to the speed of the oil leak.

I am aware these are not "immediate" concerns, but it's time to start thinking about those effects in addition to the surface effects.

Wow, what a coincidence. I just popped over to and they had posted this.

GALVESTON, Texas -- The mysteries that lie beneath the ocean have always been part of the allure of the sea.

Think of Texas A&M - Galveston marine biologist Dr. Gil Rowe as an undersea detective. He is on the case of a haunting new tale.

"It is just amazing to me that they haven't been able to get it under control and I don't know what the problem is. Just amazing," Rowe said.

Just before the massive oil blowout began, Rowe finished a study that found the part of the Gulf where the blowout is happening is the most diverse when it comes to sea life.

Exactly how that deep-sea ecosystem is being impacted is another mystery.

Mysteries just seem to pile up, Rowe said.

"It’s about 10 percent known and 90 percent unknown because it has never happened, and figuring out what is happening down there is going to be really difficult," Rowe said.

You learn something every day. I had always understood that MC 252 was slap in the middle of the dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi. Scientists have been telling us that the damage caused by various toxins and fertilizers pouring in from the river have made this an area with minimal marine life. But I guess now it the most diverse area in the Gulf.

No an area with reduced marine life. The problem is we the general public and even young fishermen no longer have any idea how rich some of these areas once were (scientist studying decline however do). The dead zone from fertilizers, the overfishing, the wet lands destruction have all had an impact and reduced sea life. This is insult to injury and possibly a death knell.

Shifting environmental baselines are inter-generational changes in perception of the state of the environment. As one generation replaces another, people's perceptions of what is natural change even to the extent that they no longer believe historical anecdotes of past abundance or size of species. Although widely accepted, this phenomenon has yet to be quantitatively tested. Here we survey three generations of fishers from Mexico's Gulf of California (N=108), where fish populations have declined steeply over the last 60 years, to investigate how far and fast their environmental baselines are shifting. Compared to young fishers, old fishers named five times as many species and four times as many fishing sites as once being abundant/productive but now depleted (Kruskal–Wallis tests, both p<0.001) with no evidence of a slowdown in rates of loss experienced by younger compared to older generations (Kruskal–Wallis test, n.s. in both cases). Old fishers caught up to 25 times as many Gulf grouper Mycteroperca jordani as young fishers on their best ever fishing day (regression r2=0.62, p<0.001). Despite times of plentiful large fish still being within living memory, few young fishers appreciated that large species had ever been common or nearshore sites productive. Such rapid shifts in perception of what is natural help explain why society is tolerant of the creeping loss of biodiversity. They imply a large educational hurdle in efforts to reset expectations and targets for conservation.

When an biologist thinks he/she can comment negatively on the actions of engineers it's really funny if it wasn't so stupid. They have no idea what the complexities are, they just want to add thier name to the list. I thought the area of the GOM where the well is was one of the areas where runoff from the Mississippi River was killing things off due to algae blooms sucking the O2 out of the water? So that publication and all the associated wailing and moaning was over a study that is contradicted by another study? Can we really trust anything environmental scientist say is not biased or based on bad science and bad statistics?

George and shelburn - if you read a little more carefully you would see that this study is talking about the deep water environment while the dead zone affects much shallower depths. Your eagerness to find fault with science doesn't display much intellectual curiosity.

Hmmm...biologists vs. engineers. Sounds like something from Monty Python.

When an biologist thinks he/she can comment negatively on the actions of engineers it's really funny if it wasn't so stupid.

Actually you have that ass backwards, which is why environmental impact studies rely on biologists and other scientists to tell engineers the consequences of their projects. Engineers just don't have the requisite expertise and knowledge of the complex synergistic ecological systems to make decisions on their own.

Can we really trust anything environmental scientist say is not biased or based on bad science and bad statistics?

Heh! Now that's what I call funny! Dunno, but then I haven't met too may biologists and ecologists who were convicted felons either.

Take a hike monkey man!

Curious George,

You sound as if you were trained in the "Exxon School of Climate Denial for Fun, but Mainly Profits".

Truth is "unwanted information" there.


As your link goes back to one of my comments, I'll respond.

First, while an engineer I do have some years of performing water quality of both chemical, and biological impacts studies for fresh and marine waters from sewage and stormwater, and I done all sorts of flow measuring utilizing all types of techniques.

I've thought about what the potential impacts of an oil emulsion at 600 meters would do and have made some comments on this, and given the choice of where the oil will do the least damage, photic zone (0-200m for the GOM) or 600 m, believe its better to trap it deep. Now that being said, I would characterize the trapped oil emulsion as a forest fire the size of Pennsylvania and getting bigger every day.

The data EPA posted on the three days of testing, one rotifer test and three days of dissolved oxygen test support the findings of the research vessel. The oil emulsion is trapped between 300 - 700 meters and has consumed around 30-40 percent of the dissolved oxygen (DO). The comments by NOAA downgrading the significance of this are terrible and without scientific basis. The issue is not the percent reduction, which is significant, but that the DO levels at the plume depth are in the three mg/L range. This is in the stress level for most aerobic organisms and just above the lethal level of 2.0 mg/L.

The most likely reason for the decreased DO is the result of consumption of the emulsion by bacteria. I don't have a feel for the rate of decomposition (would be very good information to gather) but would put it in the range of months due to the low water temperature. The rate will be somewhat self regulating as when the DO gets to 2 mg/L it will slow down as facilitative bacteria will begin to take over and when it reaches 0, strict anaerobic bacteria. At each level the rate will go down significantly as metabolic efficiency is reduced as one goes from aerobic (with oxygen) to anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions. Because the size of the emulsion droplets are quite small, the bacteria should be able to consume most of the oil at the maximum rate allowed by the temperature, DO, nutrients and mixing. The rate will be less than if the oil was allowed to rise to the surface where the temperature, re-oxygenation rate, and mixing are all significantly higher, along with an additional component, solar degradation.

Any organism with movement will being trying to get out of this area now, leaving just the non-mobile ones. Think of it as the deer leave, but the trees stay to be burned. Even if the mobile organisms are successful in getting out of the oil-emulsion plume, the plume area may be 20 percent or greater of the total area of the GOM. This will most likely lead to increase predation and starvation for these organism as you pack more organisms into a smaller area. The organisms that can't move will likely die, especially anything going through their larval stage.

You will see the impacts from Out-of-site, Out-of-Mind. You are seeing it now when BP talks about limited environmental impact and how the amount of oil released is very small in relation to the volume of the GOM. That is total BS.

This oil spill will have a significant adverse impact to the GOM as a lot of organism are going to be killed. In the choosing of the lesser of two evils it will be less at 600m than at the surface, and my feeling is, it has the potential to recover faster. In reading an article on the larger Mexican spill researches were finding 80 percent mortality from the oil in the inter-tidal zone but also recovery after two years.

So, back to dispersants. The Norwegian paper people reference states that the reason the model underestimated the amount of oil that surfaced (found in the second experiment) was most likely the result of shearing from the very high velocity (15-16 meters/sec) of the dischage jet. The velocity values I've seen for this discharge are an order of magnitude less (meters/sec), so I'm not sure how much of the oil will emulsify by itself. Based on this and the fact that dispersants are designed to reduce the buoyancy of the oil, I'm a proponent of their use at depth. It eliminates all the human heath impacts from spraying it out of a DC3, and maximizes its effectiveness.

Hope that helps

Acceptance, thanks for that information. Unfortunately it pretty much confirms my worst fears.
but that's where we are. Not good!

Thanks for this well-considered information.

Clearly the cold deep water of the Gulf is a very different environment for natural oil degradation than the shallow tropical Bay of Campeche or a Louisiana salt marsh.

One very important effect of the dispersant, besides making smaller droplets, is that the resultant droplets are far less likely to adhere to surfaces, such as gills and baleen of whale sharks. I had a job working on asphalt and coal tar emulsions, and I know that it is possible to design an emulsion so it will plate out on some surfaces but not others. I sure hope they picked a dispersant that won't stick to gills. (I think they are using non-ionic surfactants.) Incidentally, I would advise them to try ethoxylated castor oil, which is commonly used to make up agricultural sprays, and has very low toxicity.

Should the discussion only be about dispersants? On the EPA site, four categories of products are listed.
Dispersants, surface washing agents, bioremediation agents, and general spill control chemicals are all listed by the EPA. The question I have is when are the other products recommended? Could a bioremediation agent do the job, perhaps even more effectively and safely than a dispersant? I have not heard about it much save for Corexit, Dispersit, and Sea Brat #4.

EPA list of approved 'Contingency Plan' chemicals and their alleged toxicity.

Has anyone estimated the percentage of oil prevented from surfacing by the use of dispersants? Is it possible they are more concerned with rendering the coast between New Orleans and Lafayette uninhabitable by the fumes than they are killing the sea life? That's a nice chunk of Louisiana'a population.

I have to believe the air quality here would be far worse right now and in the future if no dispersants were used at all.

Has anyone estimated the percentage of oil prevented from surfacing by the use of dispersants?

Could be quite high...up to 98% of it, see my link up top.

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.

I can see a brilliant opportunity here for Canadian oil companies.
Just bring their oil sands technology down to the GoM and they can make a killing. LoL
A rich band of oil bearing sands, guaranteed to refresh itself for years to come.
You don't even have to move from your chosen beach, just re-mine it anew each day.
And it's warm...

Sure beats Alberta in the winter.

Could we start a thread for simple ideas which won't work?

Right now, my fave is Chris Matthews..Obama needs to take charge so all our subs will dump tons of cement on it cuz, ya know, Capt Nemo could have done this with welding torches 150 years ago..

Right, Chris; you just turned the site into an uncontained nuclear waste disposal site with lots of dead sailors.

Modern nuclear attack submarines like the American Seawolf class are estimated to have a test depth of 1,600 feet (490 m),[1] which would imply (see above) a collapse depth of 2,400 feet (730 m).

speaking of simple ideas that won't work. Does anyone know why we cannot induce hydrate formation in the BOP or Riser. The have injection points that were going to be used for the top kill option. Why not just inject seawater in those points. If the kink in the riser is a choke point you should start to see hydrate formation if you can get enough seawater in upstream.

Good idea, but the oil coming up the pipe is too hot to form hydrates. It needs to mix with a lot of water to cool down to around 4 °C first.

Actually the expansion of the natural gas as it passes the restrictions on the BOP has a massive refrigeration effect. Real life example - watch then fill a propane tank quickly. Even on a hot day the fittings will have frost on the outside.

The freezing point of methane hydrate is about 18 deg C (64 deg F) at the sea bed due to the surrounding pressure.

That's the thing, I haven't seen any information about the temperatures of the oil past the BOP and the riser choke point. If the hydrate formation due to the dome was due to water mixing rather than a quick temperature drop, then altering the composition upstream could get em started.

It was just a thought I suppose....I would have imagined someone else would have thought of it.

Not so on the thermal effect of the expansion. Propane is a very different case, as it is subcritical. Liquid propane from ther filling tank boils as it is pumped into the depleted tank. This is a Joule-Thompson expansion, and will be close to isothermal. If it is 450F before the BOP, it will be close to that downstream...the small difference is due to the "Joule-Thompson coefficient" + an increase in temperature (I think) due to nucleating a liquid phase. (Most of the oil will be in a supercritical solution prior to the pressure reduction at the BOP orifice; maybe all of it. It is also possible that some asphaltenes have already separated during the nearly adiabatic ascent from the reservoir to the BOP; since this is "light sweet crude" I now doubt that is likely to have happened.

For a while yesterday, the BP video feed appeared to be coming from a ROV positioned near the riser kink atop the BOP. Three distinct leaks were clearly visible, with a possible fourth behind them. A few seconds of that angle are visible at the start of a CNN video that is primarily about Obama's announcement of the commission.

Thats the feed I want..... looks like it is getting worse at the "kink.." Lets hope that "top kill" works because two more months or more of this catastrophic leak is impossible to imagine. (I personally think its a bad idea.........injecting more crap into a pipe that is already stressed doesn't make a lot of sense to me.)

The EPA has not yet formally responded to BP's response to EPA's amended directive requesting information on alternative dispersants, in which BP basically says that they intend/want to continue to use Corexit because of its availability and because of possible toxicity issues with Sea Brat.

The head of the company manufacturing Sea Brat claims the NP risk is negligible.


Despite the continuing use of Corexit, BP is not in violation of the EPA directive, which said that should the company not be able to identify alternative products, "BP shall provide ... a detailed description of the products investigated [and] the reason the products did not meet the standards" required by the agency.

"We will continue to review and discuss the science through the end of the 72-hour window on Sunday, and then we will reach a decision," an EPA spokesman said Saturday.

John Sheffield, president of Alabaster Corp., which manufactures Sea Brat, took issue with BP's response, saying Saturday that the company is "nitpicking my product because they want to use what they've always used."

Sheffield told CNN that he discussed the nonylphenol issue with EPA officials earlier this week, saying the chemical makes up less than 1 percent of the Sea Brat dispersant.

"I've already diffused this issue with the EPA," he said, adding the agency "accepted that response days ago."

The EPA has not yet publicly issued a formal response to BP's letter. EPA officials met with BP executives on Friday to discuss the issue and to explore alternatives.

The EPA said Saturday that it "will continue to work over the next 48 hours to ensure BP is complying with the directive," but did not respond to requests for additional comment.

Too bad nobody appears to have seriously considered these issues in depth before now. It's a bit late to be doing sophisticated research while thousands of gallons of this material is being dispersed.

Decsion making in a maximize profit, minimize losses capitalist environment..........

I'm imagining the BP meeting to discuss using dispersants. Legal and PR advantages include: Oil "dispersed" onto the sea floor -- not seen by cameras or the public, easier to legally defend against damage claims, fewer visable birds flopping around in the sickening oil death dance, minimize visible oil slick seen from space, dispersed oil components may actually be more toxic, but will allow for possible legal defense against claims of anyone whose on-shore businesses are destroyed. Dispersant profit margins will also be realized for BP's advantage somewhere along the supply chain. In short -- legal and PR advantages of using dispersants outweighs any environmental impacts -- which are legally irrelevent with toxins suspended in the water column and not washing up on the beaches and marshlands. Put the oil as much out of sight and out of mind as possible -- maximize use of dispersants. Legal and PR departments are on board -- destroy all meeting notes -- High fives all around........ I'm senior VP material........

The principle of dispersion certainly does wonders of placing things out of sight out of mind. It has a relationship to entropy as we cannot easily see or measure the disorder that slowly engulfs us.

Is there any particular reason why BP is being 'asked' to make a change vs being 'directed' to make a change? It is their mess to clean up but it is also a leased site the impact on the environment, and apparently also on the public's health, is significant.

Corexit 9500A was (and still is) on the EPA's list of approved National Contingency Plan Products.

So, now it is big oils fault that the EPA approved it's use and there were large quantities on hand ready to be used?

Why they are being asked to change is probably to respond to the various public outcries.

I have no doubt that whatever product they would have started with probably would have caused the same outcry as I don't think any of these chemcials are something you would want to take a bath in.


There will finally be a conference call today on BP's use of dispersants.

WASHINGTON - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry will hold a press conference call at 3:30 p.m. Central (4:30 p.m. Eastern) to discuss BP's use of dispersants to address the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

On Thursday, EPA directed BP to analyze available pre-approved dispersants for toxicity and effectiveness and report back within 24 hours. The directive called for a 72-hour window to analyze the options – that window closed on Sunday night. After receiving BP's response to the directive Thursday, EPA and NOAA scientists immediately called a meeting with BP scientists to discuss BP’s response. EPA and NOAA have been reviewing the science and Administrator Jackson and Rear Admiral Landry will announce the next steps on this call.

I received the above release via email after signing up to join the email list today on
(under the 'more info' drop down menu)

The problem with BP operations is 'Lack of Trust'. Tony Hayward BP boss repeated the phrase "Trust us" several times delaying the U.S. coast guard's sending of observers at the BP site in the initial days. Since then, be it the monitoring of the oil spill by video, cleaning up the spill by using dispersant, or the plugging of the leak, BP actions have always been a bit of a suspect due to its attitude of avoidance, low cost mitigation and cover-up.This needs to be quickly addressed by the U.S. Government by enforcing controllers in each operation that BP does. The control team must consist of experts who will report on each aspect of operations and ensure transparency, even if it delays the operations marginally as BP will undoubtedly claim.

Gulf recovered from last big oil spill, but is this one different?

"By Tim Johnson | McClatchy Newspapers

MEXICO CITY — The Ixtoc 1 oil spill in Mexico's shallow Campeche Sound three decades ago serves as a distant mirror to today's BP deepwater blowout, and marine scientists are still pondering what they learned from its aftereffects.

In terms of blowouts, Ixtoc 1 was a monster — until the ongoing BP leak, the largest accidental spill in history. Some 3.3 million barrels of oil gushed over nearly 10 months, spreading an oil slick as far north as Texas, where gooey tar balls washed up on beaches.

Surprisingly, Mexican scientists say that Campeche Sound itself recovered rather quickly, and a sizable shrimp industry returned to normal within two years.

Luis A. Soto, a deep-sea biologist, had earned his doctorate from the University of Miami a year before the June 3, 1979, blowout of Ixtoc 1 in 160 feet of water in the Campeche Sound, the shallow, oil-rich continental shelf off the Yucatan Peninsula.

Soto and other Mexican marine scientists feared the worst when they examined sea life in the sound once oil workers finally capped the blowout in March 1980.

"To be honest, because of our ignorance, we thought everything was going to die," Soto said.

The scientists didn't know what effects the warm temperatures of gulf waters, intense solar radiation, and other factors from the tropical ecosystem would have on the crude oil polluting the sound.

There were political implications as well; the spill pitted a furious shrimping industry, reliant on the nutrient-rich Campeche Sound, against a powerful state oil company betting its future in offshore drilling, particularly the continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico it began developing in the late 1970s.

In the months after Ixtoc 1 was capped, scientists trawled the waters of the sound for signs of biological distress.

"I found shrimp with tumor formations in the tissue, and crabs without the pincers. These were very serious effects," Soto said.

Another Mexican marine biologist, Leonardo Lizarraga Partida, said the evaluation team began measuring oil content in the sediment, evaluating microorganisms in the water and checking on the biomass of shrimp species.

As the studies extended into a second year, scientists noticed how fast the marine environment recovered, helped by naturally occurring microbes that feasted on the oil and degraded it.

Perhaps due to those microbes, Tunnell found that aquatic life along the shoreline in Texas had returned to normal within three years — even as tar balls and tar mats remained along the beaches, sometimes covered by sand.

"We were really surprised," Lizarraga said. "After two years, the conditions were really almost normal."

Read more:

The news clip video at the top of the page is also of interest.

More from the imaginary BP PR meeting:

"We can stretch out the start of "top-kill" through the first week in June, its a two week process of pumping, when it fails stall another week after that, and we are at the start of July. Maybe go back to "junk shot" for a week or so, and we are in sight of the finish line in August, the relief well and the "final solution." Yeah.....we did it......lets go to a bar and relax. Drinks on the BP plastic."

Actually, I expect they are pretty upset, and as anxious as anyone to get the spill to stop. How would you like to be in the limelight for this long, for what appears to be error(s) on your part?

while i'm certain that they want the leak to stop, and they dont like the bad press, they didnt want it bad enough to kill it immediately. i think they believed their own lowball 5000bpd estimate and thought they could get away with trying to salvage the well. they should have realised however that their estimates are likely way off and capped it from the outset. obviously as an armchair observer i'm privy to very little information or expertise in the area of Oil Exploration, but what can only be described as a lack of motivation or a greedy desire to save profits from BP is JAW-DROPPING. when something goes out of control like this, you make a list of what options you have to stop the catastrophy, and then you order that list from MOST likely to work to least likely, and start at the top. BP appears to have ordered their list from least likely to affect PROFITS to most. in my mind this is criminal.

Salvaging the well was never an option for BP. Any oil industry expert familiar with this well will say the same thing.

You are correct in saying "you make a list of what options you have to stop the catastrophy, and then you order that list from MOST likely to work to least likely, and start at the top." That is what is being done in this case. What is so frustrating is how limited the options are and the fact that each has to be engineered from scratch. They are not using off the shelf equipment and solutions (except for the relief wells being drilled). Many components have to be designed, fabricated, and tested.

Work that normally would take many months is being completed in weeks because of the urgency to shut down this well. At the same time there is the real risk that attempts to control the flow could result in failure and the flow worsening. This means more time spent as MMS (Mineral Management Services) reviews every detail and risk of each proposal to stop the flow.

I feel your pain, but these are the facts as I know them.

so you're telling me that the straw insertion had a greater chance of working than the Top Kill or the Junk Shot will? thats not comforting and i honestly dont see how that could be the case.

What is so frustrating is how limited the options are and the fact that each has to be engineered from scratch. They are not using off the shelf equipment and solutions (except for the relief wells being drilled). Many components have to be designed, fabricated, and tested.

i used to work (albeit briefly) in hazardous waste disposal, the largest part of our job was non-hazardous disposal of used motor oil (this was recycled into heavy fuel oil or used in hot mix asphalt plants. in our dirty industry, there were procedures set in place for these sorts of contingencies, there were containment walls and cleanup tools etc. what i find frustrating is that the tools in this case werent designed, fabricated, and tested before they started dropping pipe into the Gulf. i understand there are procedures and equipment in place (such as the mystical Blow Out Preventer) but that only represents one layer, in every dangerous job i've ever had (and i've had quite a few) there are at *least* 3 or 4 additional layers of Just In Case (tm) to prevent the worst case scenario. Those layers in this case should absolutely include a device/method/team ONSHORE that is prepared to close it down in 24 hours notice. end of story.

having worked in the aforementioned hazadrous disposal field and in Emergency Medicine, it blows me away that this is all so seat of the pants.

Hey, I tried to help. Don't close yourself off to learning more about a field you are not familiar with, and don't attack the messenger.

The straw, or insertion riser tube, was never intended to stop the leak, only reduce it. It has prevented tens of thousands of barrels of oil from leaking into the Gulf. I never said it had a greater chance of working than the Top Kill or Junk Shot.

I'll stop there as I sense talking about the BOP will ruin your supper ;-)

i'm not mad at you. i'm sorry that i come off that way. my totally un-expert opinion is that this thing should have been capped within 72 hours, i certainly dont know the engineering or logistical details, and to be honest it shouldnt be important at this point. there should have been a contingency already in place is all i'm saying. the math should have been done before the pipe casing went down. that way you engineer to meet certain criteria that the individual provides instead of engineering within a criterion that a disaster provides.

What I got out of your remarks is that, given that we require such precautions for relatively small amounts of hazardous waste processed on land, how is it possible that BP was allowed to drill, if they did not have a credible plan for stopping an oil spill in 72 hours? And if the rare but still present disasters are so large and so complex that the 72-hour standard cannot be met, should anyone be allowed to drill?

The spill puts BP and the rest of the oil industry into a tricky position; if this is the outcome of best practices for deepwater drilling, then it's perfectly reasonable that many states wish to ban it completely. Alternatively, suppose BP was not using best practices. The other oil companies are probably reluctant to throw stones, not knowing exactly how much of their own houses are made of glass, but it would be to their advantage if this were shown to be the result of avoidable mistakes by BP and its contractors. And if it rose the level of willful negligence instead of ambient human error, even better for them.

so you're telling me that the straw insertion had a greater chance of working than the Top Kill or the Junk Shot will? thats not comforting and i honestly dont see how that could be the case. >>

I don't think you get it. They've had 100 people working on the top kill/junk shot around the clock almost from the beginning. They have world experts in the process. They have two separate rigs, costing probably a million dollars a day, drilling relief wells, also in parallel. Separate teams also did the container and the siphon. In addition, there are people burning, skimming, placing booms, etc. All told there are tens of thousands of people working their asses off on this. I'm totally frustrated with the progress, too, but a lot of very good people are trying their best at this.

The top kill hasn't started yet for two reasons. First, they wanted to make sure the top-kill didn't screw up the BOP even worse. The additional pressure of trying to push mud down when everything is going up might have increased the flow. Second, there's a lot of engineering details that I don't understand, and you probably don't understand, that Shelburn was nice enough to talk about here:

dont get me wrong, i've got nothing but respect for both the muscle and the brains behind the cleanup and containment. Hell, i'm sure even BP is doing everything within their power to close this off. i know so far they've payed out over 500million to keep things going. thats great.

where my understanding fails is why there was no system designed to handle a wild well underwater with off shore drilling haveing been going on for decades. to me, not having a plan for this scenario ready to be put in place in short notice is asinine.

If you can explain, how would the top kill risk messing up the BOP, and if the BOP has failed then what does it matter anyway?

how would the top kill risk messing up the BOP, and if the BOP has failed then what does it matter anyway?

My understanding is that it is likely that the BOP is currently partially restricting the flow of oil and gas. If the top kill attempt wound up inadvertently widening the existing path(s) through the BOP, the flow could increase, rather than cease or decrease. I assume that is why BP is taking so much time in the pre-attempt measuring, decision making,fittings machining, etc.

The answer to the risk of the Top Kill question is a bit above my pay grade I'm afraid. Rather than try and piece together the bits and pieces I remember from other posters, maybe someone can provide a quick review of issues faced by working with the BOP from the Top Kill and Junk Shot perspective.

I would love a full article on the top-kill and/or junk shot, with all the issues surrounding it. I'm not an expert.

Imagine that you've got a champagne bottle that's corked, but for some reason it's still fizzing out. For that bottle to be fizzing, something must be structurally broken. Maybe the cork is broken, or maybe the bottle is fractured... you're not sure. So before you try to stop that leak by applying pressure to the cork, you want to make damn sure it's not going to bust open the cork or worse yet, the entire bottle - because that would make the situation much worse.

The "even BP" comment is misguided. Every incentive: financial, ecological, reputational, political ... is for BP to fix this as fast and painlessly as possible.

It *is* BP's fault that there was no backup plan for this event. But, any other company would be equally unprepared. Government agencies are even worse prepared. It's BP's mistake, but no one would be doing any better if they were in this situation.

BP likely caused this massive pollution by penny pinching safety, a trait that BP is uniquely known for. No CBL is one good example.

A more responsible oil company would be drilling four or five relief wells NOW ! Every additional well reduced the chances of a month plus delay (the wild well was about 1.5 months over schedule).

But each additional well costs $100+ million and that is against BP's corporate culture. So only two RWs.

Best Hopes for several more (if deserved) felony convictions for BP itself and various of their employees,


YOu've been posting this crap about extra wells and felonies for a week or so now. As several experts have told you MORE wells doesn't work any faster or make the chances any better. And so what if BP Corp is convicted of a felony? What does that mean? Nothing..and there isnt going to be any BP exec put on trial either. Best thing you could do is sit in a bar on Bourbon street, drink lots and moan about it, you are not getting any support for such ideas from here.

Heh, you've been a member here for 2 weeks. I suspect a high level BP employee is getting nervous?

Even BP would be smart enough to not hire a shill who repeats Sean Hannity lines as if they were fact.

I support his ideas.

Hrm, British Petroleum screws the pooch bigtime six months before midterm elections and a two week old user pops up, criticizing a well respected, long time contributor to the site?

Let me explain exactly what British Petroleum's negligence means: $75 million damage cap? There are more independent expenditure dollars that that out there right now explicitly marked for lighting a fire under the behind of any Representative or Senator who gets in the way of us getting all the way off oil as a transportation fuel. And that guy who isn't getting any support here? Well, we'll just let what comes next be a surprise, OK?

Given the choice of receiving the British Petroleum CEO's bonus check or a Christmas card from the Sierra Club ... I really like nature scenes.

If I can answer your last question from what I believe to be the case, there was alot of concern about the integrity of the BOP once it failed to shut off flow and then the riser kinked off of it. The concern was that putting a top kill on it could overpressure it and destroy it entirely, giving oil a direct (rather than restricted) path to the ocean, which would make the leak worse. After weeks of analysis (and gamma/x? ray) of the BOP itself, they believe now that it could withstand the pressure of the top kill, so they're confident enough to give it a chance (believing that it won't fail the BOP entirely by overpressuring it).

Did the Campeche spill spread into the marshlands? The wetlands here are not coming back....once dead, they are dead. The oil is already with ten miles of New Orleans in the Barrataria can't quantify this kind of loss. If shrimp come back in two years great....the wetlands, American soil, is never coming back. The hurricane threat to New Orleans will be increased 5 fold......compounded the loses of the 2005 hurricane season.

Of course the circumstances are different and the ecological impact will be different. Hopefully some reasonable data about the oil plume will be generated - how much is reaching the surface vs the fate of the remainder. Bottom line - it will take a few years to understand the extent of the impact/consequences. Time will tell.

That's not true at all. They said this after every major hurricane to hit wetlands area in the Gulf Coast and Atlantic. Too much salt water they said..ruins it forver..funny they seem to be coming back OK. The marsh areas will be affected for years no but "forever" is just another over reaction that seems all to common. Nature will break down the oil or cover it up with something and while that might take 10+ yrs it will happen. Humans just have too short of a time frame, we want everything to be fixed immediately.

Humans just have too short of a time frame, we want everything to be fixed immediately.

Perhaps BP will give the 4th generation fishermen a paid vacation for a decade (NOT !), so they can come back when the fish do ?

And I give up shrimp, oysters and local fish for 40% of my remaining life expectancy ?

No big deal (according to YOU !! and BP shills like you)


Lets just hit BP with damage claims greater than their April 19, 2010 stock market valuation. THAT would be "no big deal".

ruins it forver..funny they seem to be coming back OK.


Louisiana has lost 1,900 square miles of marshland. The oil industry is a major culprit with their canals introducing saltwater and erosion far inland.

The marsh areas often become open sea after being damaged. I wonder how many hundred square miles of marshland BP's malfeasance will cost ?


You've got that stupid cap on pretty tight. You are deliberately confusing EROSION from storms with damage from the spill. I didnt say a thing about LOST area, I said the people who said too much salt water from storm surges would kill the marshes and it didn't. The canals were approved by the EPA and other agencies Federal and State, don't blame the oil companies and for damn sure I don't think any of you or any of your fisherman buddies should use them as a shortcut to the Gulf. And please dont you DARE take advantage of any of the things the taxes the oil companies and thier employees pay for.

Please share your links showing what the big oil multinationals paid in U.S. corporate taxes in recent years. Would it make you even a little angry if you knew their 'on paper' tax rate was lower than your rate as an individual and they then use accounting tricks to avoid even paying that?

I don't think I've ever seen commentator continuously attack Alan as consistently as you. He is one of the more respected members of TOD so what is up with you?

Many of those canals were dug before EPA was founded or before the Wetlands Preservation Act (requiring a permit before disturbing wetlands) was passed.

And the oil industry, with their political influence (see what was exposed in Alaska with payoffs) has avoided paying for the damage that they have caused. An unpaid liability for damages.

And why shouldn't I take advantage of taxes (minimal) or royalties (substantial) paid by oil companies ?

I would like to make a claim against BP for the higher prices I have paid recently for fish and shrimp at the local Farmer's and Fishers Market. And when I can no longer get local seafood, I would like to be compensated for that loss as well.


BTW: I do not think BP is getting good value for money from you. Member 2 weeks, 1 day.

You've got that stupid cap on pretty tight.

Kettle calling pot black much?

Monkey boy, do yourself a favor and get lost! You may not actually be as arrogant and stupid as you sound but you sure as hell are profoundly ignorant.

Don't know who is paying you or what your agenda is but you're just an ugly little Troll, why don't you get back under your stinking oily little bridge where you belong.

"Perhaps due to those microbes, Tunnell found that aquatic life along the shoreline in Texas had returned to normal within three years — even as tar balls and tar mats remained along the beaches, sometimes covered by sand....."

So the Ixtoc oil blowout was over 350 miles from Texas (Padre Island) and the beach was damaged for two to three years.
In looking at a map of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida beaches that are 350 miles from the spill, the area covers all the prime beach areas from the Chandeleur Islands, LA to St. Petersburg, FL. If the oil and tarballs are washing up on these shores you can bet the cost in loss of tourism dollars will be in the tens of billions $$. Can BP afford to pay $10 or $20 billion in damages (real, not punitive)? With the purported cap at $75 million by federal law (should be hundred times that) the US taxpayer will be the one to pay out such damage claims.

BP is one of the largest companies on the planet with assets value estimated to be nearly 500 Billion. IIRC most oil companies reported earnings last year of around 5-10 Billion, so yeah... they can afford it.

Can BP afford to pay $10 or $20 billion in damages (real, not punitive)?

With a profit of $5.598 billion in just the first quarter of 2010, probably, yes, they could.

Thanks for the article. Ecological impacts of Ixtoc in Mexico are not easy to find. I had tried researching previously and couldn't find anything.

No info on effects on coral reefs.

I agree the wetlands of the Mississippi Delta totally different ecosystem.

I probably visited Padre Island during that time, and don't remember anything significant at the beaches. The usual debri such as seaweed and jelly fish probably overscored tarballs. (I was young at the time and wasn't aware of an oil spill. )

This may be a dumb question... but here goes anyway...

Why use a dispersant at all?

Doesn't it seem that a coagulant of some kind would be better, esp. in the deep ocean?

A coagulant would allow the oil to collect into clumps and balls that would sink and be buried by the sediments in the deep water, and would cause the spill itself to form clumps and clusters, rather than hugely extensive sheens.

It may be that it's not technically possible, but it seems that it would be a better overall idea.

Or am I off base?

Not a dumb question at all.

I'll take a stab at it. Oil, being less dense than water floats. For a coagulant to work as you describe the combination of the oil and the coagulant would have to be more dense than water. That would seem to indicate an application problem. Trying to dispense the heavier than water coagulant on the surface would simply result in it sinking immediately without taking more than a tiny fraction of oil with it. The only way around that would be to drop an immense amount of coagulant over thousands of square miles of sheen. A problem of scale and resources.

As to the benefit of trapping the oil in the deep water sediments, that seems the lesser of two evils.

Bacteria and other natural processes eat/bio-degrade oil, and they'll eat/biodegrade oil in proportion to the surface area that is exposed. Dispersants break up the oil into small pieces to maximize the surface area - thus letting those natural processes happen faster.

Can someone tell me why the simple spraying of sand onto the oil, therebye causing it to sink, will not work?
Bearing in mind the oil is 100% natural, as being straight out of the ground. The sand is natural, as being staight off the nearest beach.
In practice, some of the sand would sink, entraining oil.
But with the funding now being used, enormous quantities of sand could be gathered and sprayed onto the oil, sinking large quantities.
No environmental consequences.
Fish would avoid the sinking sand, they are good at that. Ever tried to grab a fish in a pond?

The fish are already dead and imagine the oil shooting through the sand to get to the surface. Sand is not absorbent save for the air space between grains.

If the Blowout Preventer leak goes to full bore a sea water exclusion skirt should be fashioned onto the Preventer and the whole leaking stack should be used as an insertion tube into a Riser that gets the oil to the surface. Since you can't make the leak much worse at that point it would be time to end the excuses and start getting oil to the surface in meaningful quantities.

Though I have commented little in the forums, I have been an avid TOD reader since 2005. But I have been following the BP oil spill mostly through other sites, like Zero Hedge.

There is a reason. Though TOD staff remain sharp as ever, the forum has become so utterly captured by the oil industry, littered by professional PR mouthpieces and shills, who spread disinformation and inaccurate numbers, that TOD has been rendered useless, IMHO.

I guess that's the price you pay for success - the establishment eventually (and unwittingly) captures you, your old readership sees through the ploy, gets driven away, and the medium succumbs.


Not sure if this is all true. There have been more professional petro folks posting lately, but I have not seen any censorship of the rest of us or our comments. I have been critical of the disaster and cleanup since the get go, but I'm still here posting. Same with others, like Alan.

The technical info coming out here at TOD about the leak has been phenomenal. With that comes, the industry culture and biases, but I am still thankful to hear it.

So anybody who might actually know something about what is going on and might try to use facts and perhaps limit hyperbole or might actually have an alternate view is a shill and PR person? Now there is an objective post if I a have ever seen one. Reminds me of a conversation with an educated person who said: "I do not care about facts and we shouldn't have to use them if we are fighting for a cause". No lie. That was from someone who claimed to be a scientist(at least by degree he was).

I think you're onto something...
Maybe we could get a bunch of straw men down there and fish for red herring off the back of their band wagons

Sounds like that 'educated person' should apply for a job with the Texas Board of Education; he'd be a shoe in!

One comment I have heard is that The Oil Drum is viewed as too anti-oil industry. It all depends on your perspective.

A person has to understand the technical jargon to take part in the discussions, so this will bias discussion toward people who have enough knowledge to understand the discussion. This includes some from academia ( like Heading out) and some from industry. We are lucky to have commenters from a number of perspectives, so we can provide a range of understanding.

In my observations Gail, more folks accuse this site of the opposite. I see that as confirmation of a spirit of neutrality that I observe here. Sorry I called you an Actuarian earlier. I do not run into too many mathematicians around here. No oil to report on the beach today, but the economic impact around here is already profound and undeniable. Keep up your site, it is very well done and very informative. Here's to a successful plugging operation Tuesday.

Dunno if I've said it before, but the quality and experience of the commenters on this issue has kept me coming back. I don't see evidence of pro-oil or anti-oil bias. I see a lot of people from the industry who know a little piece of what's going on sharing their experience, which, added together, gives a better understanding of the blowout than anyone in the media has grasped yet. And added to that is the perspective of Louisiana and Florida residents who understand the ecosystems affected.

Trust me (ooh, did I say that?) I read a lot of lefty sites that quote and blast the righty sites and none of them give anywhere near the sense of reality that I see here.

I thinks hearing both sides of an issue is helpful, especially when judging viewpoints on the technical details.
There are plenty of sites that will tell you just what you want to hear and exclude the irritation of a differing idea— if that is what you are looking for.

Kinda rare to find a site like this.

But I am new, what do I know?

A quick look at Zero Hedge shows the last article about the oil spill was the idiotic one on the 19th about the White House covering up Navy submarines chasing the oil blob. A quick glance at the Zero Hedge forum shows no discussion about the spill.

Perhaps you are a shill for Zero Hedge?

I'll be glad to visit any other sites you feel have valuable info about the oil spill if you care to share their names with me. I'm sure we all would.

I also read Zero Hedge from time to time and the commentary on the oil spill has been juvenile at best. ZH is great for insights on financial things going on behind the scenes and within the noise, but is not even on the radar screen for oil spill commentary compared with TOD.

I, for one, am very grateful for the informative and thoughtful posts from those with oil industry experience. They've been extraordinarily patient in their responses both to requests for further clarification of unfamiliar terms and conditions and to questions that have been answered repeatedly in earlier threads.

It's easier for me to filter out the occasional industry slant than it is to read yet one more board that is pushing nuclear explosions as a reasonable solution. I want to understand as best I can the issues involved even if I don't agree with someone's conclusion.

I'd like to find - but haven't yet - a board as useful on the environmental impacts, both underwater and on the marshes. I know that this area wasn't exactly pristine to begin with. A number of years ago the pre-Murdoch WSJ had an excellent series on the degradation of the LA wetlands due to the opening of channels related to the shallow water wells.

It takes some work to sort through the site, but NOAA products are a good resource.

This particular publication offers a good starting point for assessing broad environmental impact, especially since Rabelais cites data sources that apparently are predominately from the 1980's-90's.

Hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico

"...Midsummer coastal hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico was first recorded in the early 1970s. In recent years (1993-1999), the extent of bottom-water hypoxia (16,000 to 20,000 km2, see Figure 1) has been greater than twice the surface area of the Chesapeake Bay, rivaling extensive hypoxic/anoxic regions of the Baltic and Black Seas. Prior to 1993, the hypoxic zone averaged 8,000 to 9,000 km2 (1985-1992) (Rabalais et al., 1998, 1999). The hypoxic area covered 12,400 km2 in 1998, about the size of Connecticut..."

I had a look through this for depth affected:

"Hypoxia occurs from late February through early October, nearly continuously from mid-May through mid-September, and is most widespread, persistent, and severe in June, July, and August. Hypoxic waters can include 20 to 80% of the lower water profile between 5 and 30 m water depth, and can extend as far as 130 km offshore. Throughout its distribution, the impact of hypoxic bottom waters is exacerbated by the release of toxic hydrogen sulfide from sediments (Harper et al., 1981, 1991).

The timing and location of low dissolved oxygen conditions in coastal waters is now fairly well documented, and there are studies that link the frequency and volume of summer oxygen depletion to increased nutrient inputs (Officer et al., 1984; Larsson et al., 1985; Tolmazin, 1985; Andersson and Rydberg, 1987; Justic et al., 1987; Cooper and Brush, 1991, 1993; Diaz and Rosenberg, 1995; Rabalais et al., 1996). Growth in population, changes in land cover, increase in agricultural acreage, and increases in fertilizer use and animal husbandry have resulted in two- to tenfold increases in the level of nutrient inputs during this century, with particularly dramatic increases since the 1950s (Turner and Rabalais, 1991; Justic et al., 1995a, 1995b; Howarth et al., 1996; Nixon, 1997, Goolsby et al., 1999). "

This seems to imply the effect is concentrated in the upper regions <50m deep. Algae blooms feeding on excess nutrient input from the Mississippi drainage de-oxygenating this zone being the cause. The article about biodiversity posted earlier was talking about deep water organisms I believe - probably unaffected by this seasonal phenomena in the upper ocean. The effect of bio-degradation of the slick could synergize with the dead zone algae leading to additional oxygen depletion, perhaps at depth as well - or maybe it would be toxic to the algae responsible for normal red tides/dead zone effect, in effect replacing algae with bacteria and again maybe over a greater range of depths.

So the dead zone in the Gulf is in the upper waters? I'm used to the Chesapeake, where the dead zone is on the bottom in the drowned former Susquehanna River channel. Surface water quality has sufficient DO, but the bottom is too low.

Now that I think of it, the lowest depths in the Chesapeake are around 60-70 ft, equivalent to the upper strata of the Gulf. So maybe it's not that different after all.

...yet one more board that is pushing nuclear explosions as a reasonable solution.

If not for The Oil Drum, I would never have learned that the floor of the Gulf is essentially pudding, thousands of feet down, and that an explosion would be equivalent to sticking your face in the pudding and blowing as hard as you can.

(Hope I got the metaphor right.)

Oh yeah, you sure did. What a great visual!


Still ROTFL, can't stop!

Wife starting to suspect I'm going nuts.

Would that be "pudding" in the English or the American sense ... ?

Uh oh. Did I just run afoul of Bernard Shaw's quote "England and America are two countries separated by a common language."

I think it was intended to be in the American sense, but I'm not sure it would make much difference if it were in the English sense. ;)

I'd like to find - but haven't yet - a board as useful on the environmental impacts, both underwater and on the marshes. I know that this area wasn't exactly pristine to begin with. A number of years ago the pre-Murdoch WSJ had an excellent series on the degradation of the LA wetlands due to the opening of channels related to the shallow water wells.

You could do worse than to start here:

You do have to be willing to follow links and read some of papers to really get a more in depth understanding. Marine ecology is a multifaceted synergistic science. There is no quick soundbite or short cut to understanding it much less getting a handle on what is happening right now in the GOM or even the long term consequences and the multiple domino effects that will ripple through the links of the food webs.

Anatomy of an ecological catastrophe: what to expect in the deep Gulf of Mexico
By Dr. M, on May 22nd, 2010

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is now over a month in duration and continues to worsen. Estimates of the total oil flowing from the damage were estimated initially at 5,000 barrels per day. Now the 26,000 estimate by FSU professor Ian MacDonald looks more plausible. Moreover, the greatest impact of the current spill may occur below, not above, the ocean surface. But the impacts of oil drilling to the deep sea began long before the first oil leaked from the damaged well.

Our scant prior knowledge of the deep sea in its natural state, combined with the technical challenges we face in understanding this remote habitat, mean we may never really know what change to expect or even how to detect it when it does. What we do know is that compared to shallow water, recovery rates in the deep-sea will be lower due to longer lifespans, slower growth/reproduction rates, and overall lower density and population sizes of organisms.

Thanks ...

I'd look at the posts mostly for info on technology of drilling. When someone new here says the long term implications are zero - obvioulsy you take that with a sack of salt.

Of course the vast majority of people who post comments here are very well-informed. It is also true that BP's PR agency, whoever that is, realizes the need to influence the debate somehow on TOD, because TOD is the place everybody flocks to in a situation like the one we are witnessing in the GOM.

I meant no disrespect to the brilliant technical posters who comment here. Thank you for your efforts.

But, especially in the threads that are less number-heavy, one can detect a large number of posters who appear trained in the art of disinformation, propaganda, and deceit.

Does anyone doubt that BP is involved in message control, and that TOD is a necessary element of any effective message control plan?

I don't. Therefore, it becomes necessary to assume there are fifth column elements among us. Who they are, what they are up to, whether I myself am one of them - those are questions that will likely go unanswered.


PS: ZH is not a business - it can hardly afford shills and mouthpieces. I am but a fan.

From WIkipedia:

A fifth column is a group of people who clandestinely undermine a larger group, such as a nation, from within, to the aid of an external enemy. The concept, as any concept dealing with enemies, is sometimes associated with the potential for, or paranoia of, "the enemy within," rather than its actuality.

BP or oil industry in general (I have heard that KochOil has a number of older registration names that they activate as needed).

I personally promise that I never have (and likely never will) accept payments from BP.


No BP gasoline or other fuels? No plastics, chemicals or medications that might have been made from feedstock from a BP refinery?

BP BS !!

I said "accept payments from" which you may be doing.

And I have avoided anything that I can identify as BP since the Texas City felony by BP.

Best Hopes for several more felony convictions for BP and various of their employees (only when deserved),


You do know that it's better known in the US as Arco (which they bought some years back)?

The wetlands are getting bombed. I have traveled to the wetlands before this event. I noticed in many places a sheen on the water that created a prismatic effect. Does anyone know what causes this? Is there some sort of lipid production going on due to microbes, plant production or a chemical reaction. Does the marsh have some natural oils that are made in the marsh? I am hoping that the marsh has some natural ability to cope with oils.

If you are asking about the prismatic affect from the sheen it is just like a bubble. You are seeing thin film interference where light that reflects from the top of the sheen interferes with light from the bottom. The varying thicknesses of the sheen result in constructive interference of different wavelengths of light (result of the delay time of the travel path)...hence a prism effect ..if that is what you meant.

Sure, like this.

The point I was trying to make is, I see this effect in marsh and swamp areas all the time. With no source of oil or any other obvious contaminant visible.

Gotcha. I do not know but if it truly is alternating colors of a rainbow something on the surface acting like a diffraction grating (like light coming off a CD at an angle) or a thin film of sorts. Some bio expert on here can tell you what the substance might be.(TFG, are you always chasing rainbows :)?)

Rainbows and young women. I blog here when I am broke, which is only going to increase here in Gulf Shores, AL.

Yeah, but you are broke in a beautiful place. Be an optimist and think of all the places you could be (No offense to those from anywhere else in the USA or world)
Hope not too young.

I consider 30 year olds young women.

Party pooper.

Next you'll be telling us the salt marsh already smelled bad before the DWH spill.

Yes, it is often accompanied by the smell too. What is that? Methyl alcohol fermenting via anaerobic decay of the biomass? Is the smell the bacterial digestors digesting?

Yeah, it's the smell of anaerobic decay. The sheen is from that too. You get a big pileup of dead stuff, the sea grass and whatever washes in on the tide, or down from the river, you get the collision of salt and fresh, and stuff piles up faster than air can get to it. There's a whole bunch of organisms that specialize in that kind of environment -- anaerobic bacteria mostly, but brackish-tolerant marine life and burrowing worms and such. And as they say, a lot of important fish and shellfish species breed in the stagnant smelly water (most of them need a little oxygen at least, but it's there at the surface). The spill derived gunk will smother it for a while, but it should be able to recover; of course people respond emotionally to the bird loss, and most wildlife is so beleaguered these days, just because of the paving march of "civilization" ... that too shall pass.

The salt marsh is probably very similar, or the same as, the environment where crude oil was created all those eons ago.

I have seen similar sheen many times on stagnant pools with a lot of organic matter decaying. Oils of various kinds are ubiquitous in nature.

A thin film of anything with a refraction index different than water will act as a diffraction grating (and separate colors). Could be natural plant oils.

Could be pollution from boat fuel, other small petroleum leaks, fertilizer, or natural oil seeping from the bottom of the water.

When we're doing freshwater stream assessments, we frequently see a sheen. It comes either from oil or natural bacteria, and they both look identical. If you toss something into the water and the sheen comes back together, it's oil, otherwise it's from bacteria.

We see it a lot in wetlands, BTW. Not sayin' bacteria is necessarily good, 'cause I'm not a biologist by any means, but it may not be oil or lipids.

Growing up in Miami Beach during WW-2, we kids would walk beaches every morning that summer of 1942.
German subs were sinking so much Gulf-Stream tonnage every night, we all secretly feared we would find a dead body. What we found was mostly sacks of flour soaked in sea-water and bunker C. That lighter then crude, fuel oil kept coming ashore for the next 20 years. Now that sludge has entered the 'loop current' Miami Beach lifeguards will no doubt soon begin to hand tourists detergent soaked rags to tourists like they did two decades ago.

I guess there were 24 oil tankers sunk off of the East Coast during those days also. I bet a bunch in the Pacific also.

Mostly Atlantic and GOM. I don't recall reading about any shipping sunk by Japanese subs off of the US mainland. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

Sizing up the oil gusher from the Deepwater Horizon disaster has proven difficult so far, but one scientist suggests that measuring methane in the water could give a better idea of how much oil has spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

Methane makes up about 40 percent of the leaking crude by mass, according to BP. Much of the gas (made up of one carbon and four hydrogen atoms) would dissolve into the water as it rises up from the oil well deep below the surface, and many U.S. research vessels already have the equipment to estimate the size of these rising methane plumes.

"Methane follows the water [currents], so if you can follow the water you've got a pretty good idea of where to look for the plumes of gas," said David Valentine, a marine geochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Current estimates of the oil spill range from BP's initial figure of 5,000 barrels per day to as high as 100,000 barrels per day, with many scientists leaning toward an estimate higher than 5,000 barrels. Tracking the oil slick size through methane could at least put a lower limit on the estimates, Valentine explained.

But the methane won't linger in the waters forever, and so that puts some pressure on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and researchers to get started.

Why methane is better

Getting an accurate estimate of the amount of leaking oil based on the oil itself has been tricky. For one, there's always great uncertainty about the mix of oil-water-gas at any given time.

In addition, "spot measurements of the flux at any given moment can't be scaled up reliably, because the flow may not be constant," Valentine writes in an opinion article published in the May 23 issue of the journal Nature. "Satellite photos and boat measurements help to assess the distribution and thickness of the surface slick, but these measures are also highly variable with time, place, weather conditions and dispersant application."

However, methane, in addition to not being a mixture, dissolves uniformly in seawater.

How to get it done

The first research ship to reach the scene of the spreading oil slick has already found large amounts of methane. Some methane seeps out naturally beneath the Gulf of Mexico, but scientists can use measurements such as isotopic composition and oxidation rates in the water to filter out that background signal and identify on the methane from the spill. (Isotopes are atoms of the same element but with different numbers of neutrons, and can differ depending on their source.)

Two ships looking specifically for methane could do the job for less than a few million dollars, Valentine said.
"I don't think finding plumes is going to be very difficult," Valentine told LiveScience. "Finding all of them will be much trickier."

Even measuring ethane or trace gases such as helium might work for the experiment, Valentine said. He envisions one ship starting its measurements right on top of the oil gusher site. The second might start far out and move toward the site to find the outermost spread of any methane plumes.

The scientific vessels would deploy submersible instruments deep down that could return data via wire to researchers at the surface. Getting estimates of methane-plume movement in the water could also help estimate the rate of the spill from the gushing oil well.

Still, scientists would also need to figure out just how much methane from the oil gusher ends up dissolving in the water, and how much might end up trapped within the oil slick on the surface or even escape into the air.

Race against time

A recent study with satellite-linked underwater probes in roughly the same region of the Gulf of Mexico showed that all except one ended up circulating within the region for three years. That gives scientists some hope that methane plumes will also remain within the area.

"The biggest concern is that some massive plume gets washed away quickly and becomes hard to track," Valentine said.
Yet there's still a strong urgency to act, Valentine pointed out. Gulf microbes that break down methane will gradually consume it within a year, but that time period could be shorter if microbes have crowded toward the unexpected methane bounty from the oil well.

Valentine has urged that the two-vessel expedition reach the area by June, so that the main methane plumes should still be around. Any delay beyond that point leaves more room for uncertainty about how long the methane stays concentrated.

For now, Valentine can only wait and see if the scientific community adopts his plan or not. But he already plans to get out to the oil spill site for other research - a topic which came up unexpectedly when a phone call interrupted the interview.

"I have to take this," Valentine said. "It's actually about getting out on the boat."

and here is the link:

Track methane to gauge size of BP spill –scientist
Amount of dissolved methane linked to volume of oil

just anonther wag method, imo.

BP should have an accurate estimate of flow including the methane as they have a pipe siphoning up part of the flow.

BP has already admitted that the 5000 bpd estimate was low.

It's obvious that BP is lying thru their teeth.

So they get 'useful idiots' to back up their bad PR.


Exactly, their insertion tube is as good a pitot tube as you are ever going to get.

I have a question for everybody that drives a car. While you are analyzing the LC50 of the dispersants being used and Mysidopsis 48 hours death rates, ask yourself, "What is in my radiator?" Most folk uses water and ethylene glycol, a very toxic substance. Propylene glycol, a much less toxic substance, is now widely available at about the same price and performance, and can be mixed with ethylene glycol with little problem. It is also an airplane deicing agent and of course, used in oil dispersants. So while we are so justifiably worried about what BP is doing to our environment, let us not forget what we are doing to the environment.

I once worked at an auto shop where the owner was too cheap and morally bankrupt to pay for antifreeze collection/recycling, so we were told to just dump it over the back fence. I refused, and then quit. This was only 2 years ago and I'm certain they are still doing it. If anybody here is in a position to make use of the details, I'll gladly provide them.

As for the oil 'spill', I'm almost out of energy to maintain the appropriate level of outrage.

Here is the link, and I hope you use it. You have a moral obligation to report such activity.

i dont know about your car, but my radiator doesnt leak. yes, there are toxic chemicals all around us, and we use them every day. There are heavy metals in your computer circuit boards and component chips. the difference is these things are contained and are not being 'dispersed' in the environment. i cant speak to their use in the airline industry but additionally consider that over half a million gallons of this stuff has been used.

My only point was how hard is it to make the less toxic choice? Not very hard, but hardly anyone takes the time to do it. I imagine more ethylene glycol has been exposed to open water from radiators than all the dispersants that will ever be used. How many millions of cars are there? Each car holds what a gallon or two? Sure, most gets recycled now, but some slips through. How many years has Prestone been in use? I am not making light of the dispersants, I am saying do not forget the radiators too. Always leaving it up to someone else like a company or government to do it for you is part of the problem. It is easier to go buy a gallon of Low-Tox vs. toxic than it is to post here.

TinFoilGuy Do some reading about anti-freeze. You may find something regarding class action law suits. Propylene glycol is great for those who do major engine repairs. It likes to eat gaskets. If you want to mix ethylene glycol and propylene, go ahead, make a repair shop happy. Propylene glycol is great stuff, used in food, medicine, deodorant and even toothpaste.

Been using it for years no problems. I make sure and change it every 50,000 miles. My cars usually go 250000. I also do a dip test every oil change.

Most of the lawsuits were for Dexcool. That uses OAT, Organic Acid Technology.

How about poking a Pitot Tube in there before Top Kill? It would require about 2 minutes of readings and and their best guess of the I.D. a few inches in front of the PT. There would have to be inexact corrections made, but certainly fewer than with the visual information.

They're going to have to rig down the catheter before Top Kill anyway. Why not grab one more data point?

I get nervous with non-oilfield scientists trying to calculate flow. There are superb oil and gas measurement people and I would trust their estimates. Is the present group considering stuff that is liquid at 2200 psig and 40 F that would be gas when corrected to measurement standards? We don't know. The media won't report anything but their number.

Crankbait: I heard that even Ms. Science at We Know More Than You Do Elementary School has her fist grade class calculating the real number.

Once the BOP is recovered (I'm not aware of any likely scenarios why it won't be) the size of the leak(s) within the BOP can be accurately measured and those measurements, along with estimated erosion rates from grit over time (based on where the leaks are), will be critical elements of any analysis of the flow rate.

In fact that data may directly contradict parts of the special committee report on flow rates we are expecting next week. Something for everyone to keep in mind. The committee report is simply an interim report. It will be months, if not years, before many aspects of this investigation are concluded.

You can't think of ANY circumstances where the BOP might... mysteriously vanish...???

It's about 45 to 50 feet tall, not something you put under your arm and walk away with ;-) Although I'm sure Cameron, the manufacturer, is sweating a bit.

If you have not watched the CNN interview with Thad Allen it is posted but be warned, you might not like hearing what he says about the head of BP.

I trust Tony Hayward
(today's CNN interview with Thad Allen)

Sec. Salazar: I am not confident in BP
(today's statement by Interior Sec. Salazar at BP headquarters in Houston , also via CNN)

Sec. Salazar: I am not confident in BP

For some reason the Salazar link isn't clickable. I think this is the story (with video):

Here's a working link to CNN's Salazar video.

I don't trust BP

(editorial comment - I don't have a lot of confidence in Salazar either. Doesn't sound like the brightest bulb in the pack)

I don't have a lot of confidence in Salazar either. Doesn't sound like the brightest bulb in the pack

You said it. Lots of Oil Spill Theater, like this press conference.

Ummm... yeah, well: U.S. government slams BP for missed deadlines on spill

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Washington is frustrated and angry that BP Plc missed "deadline after deadline" in its efforts to seal the well more than a month after an oil rig explosion triggered the disaster.

Now, I do think Salazar may have what my English acquaintances refer to as "part of a point". On the other hand, it's hard to imagine when anyone in government except a tax collector might meet a deadline. So I might have more faith in Salazar's threat to take over if government could accomplish even the most utterly trivial task on time, such as, oh, say, getting the 3:35 bus underway at 3:35, or getting the 5:50 Amtrak arrival in at 5:50.

Government does do a fine job of vetoing, stalling and delaying, but that's much more about putting lights out than about making them shine brighter. It's not the sort of thing that can get this spill stopped.

PaulS, you're painting with a bit too broad a brush. I've worked in government and we met deadlines. When the EPA proposes to fine you $25,000 a day if your permit application is late, you meet the deadline. If the Board of Supervisors wants results for the next board meeting, you meet the deadline.

Now ... my last two Amtrak arrivals were 10 minutes and 20 minutes late, which I didn't consider too bad for a 5-hour trip, considering the freight railroads run the system and give their coal trains priorities on the single track line.

As far as Salazar's comments, I wonder how anyone thinks we can set a deadline on a technical effort that hasn't been done before? Do we expect Washington to be Captain Picard? "Make it so, Number One."

I'm more concerned about Candy's lack of interest in producing facts that educate. The interview was a waste of time. She simply wanted to beat the dead horse of "why is BP in charge" and "why should we trust BP?" Good for ratings, lousy for learning.

BBC online has a breaking news story that Sec. Interior Salazar said US
may push BP out of the way and the US government would take over.
Does anyone who knows about the GOM oil spill and clean up have any idea what this is about?

That comment likely came during a Q&A session after his statement to the press expressing his lack of confidence in BP (link to video of his statement, but not the Q&A, at

Why would the gov't voluntarily assume the responsibility and thus the blame for what happens from here on out? I doubt very much that it will happen.

Only possibility is for governement to take over cleanup efforts and let BP handle the well.

Maybe, but at some point this might be a threat to our National Security. If I threatened to drive Exxon Valdez II into the New Orleans riverfront, what would happen? How many Exxon Valdez's does it take? This should have been federalized from the moment you could see it clearly from space on the state sized scale.

Thanks for the answers. What bothers me is that if the gov't took over any part of the spill, wouldn't we own it? And wouldn't the taxpayers be on the hook. Try to get money from a corporation after the fact.
Can't you hear the howls of, Obama has failed to clean this up in minus 5 minutes?
I have dial up. There is no such thing as video playing.
National Security does come into play. It's our shores, not BP's that are getting damaged.

BP's liability is limited by its net worth and then the government will have to step in. They already have. We were always on the hook. We were never off the hook. Ask Alaska folks about Exxon.

"Thanks for the answers. What bothers me is that if the gov't took over any part of the spill, wouldn't we own it?"

Take the concept of "ownership" further: If our government approved the drilling of the well (or solicited drilling, or approved continued drilling, especially if aware of potential problems), would that not de facto attribute ownership of the spill to the United States as well as BP?

You folks in the GOM want the same folks who "helped" with Katrina helping with this? While the administration has changed and the heads of agencies come and go the bulk of the people who are worker types stay. Don't be fooled to think the agencies change when an election cause changes in Washington. The Government doesn't have the knowledge or ability to fix the problem in the well and they may be OK doing the cleanup but the are resource limited so they would likely hire the same people BP did. So let BP pay them instead of the taxpayers.

Yes, we would have to hire some of the same folks, but then they would be responsible to the American people instead of BP. Regardless of what BP pays for now, they will run out of money and/or willingness so we are on the hook anyways.

Yes, we would have to hire some of the same folks, but then they would be responsible to the American people instead of BP.

Yes. If BP is providing poor priorities, such as please suppress anything that may increase out liability, then government managers would have different priorities -mainly to avoid being made to look bad on 60Minutes. They'd be the same people doing the work, but they wouldn't be looking over their shoulder at BP legal and PR types.

Yeah you can't impress em. Seems like we settled that in 1815 near the incident site. See my NATO idea below. Don't bill BP, bill London. They would bill us if it were Chevron.

No they wouldn't. The Government of a country has ZERO Liability over what a company chartered in it's jursidiction does unless of course it was directed by the Government to take such actions and they resulted in harm. NATO is a military mutual defense treaty, this is a civilian issue and doesn't fall into thier area. Next you'll bs suggested putting the even bigger idiots at the UN in charge.

OK, then maybe not go through NATO, what about filing suit in the EU environmental court or filing in the various Caribbean islands. Like the BRITISH Virgin Islands. Certainly parallel lawsuits will be filed there at some point if not already. This is truly an international incident. This has to effect our international image.

The EU environmental arm in Copenhagen would probably take the lawsuit. Does the EEA logo look like BP's logo or it is that just me?

Don't worry I only took off my hat for church and forgot to put it back on.

You have a very strange understanding of how International Law and Corporations work. The EU can't exert influence over something that happened in the USA even if it was a corporation chartered in the UK. BP-USA is a wholly owned subsidiary of BP, PLC and BP-USA can be sued in US courts but BP, PLC cannot not, nor can the UK Goverment be in any way liable for the actions of BP, PLC just like the US Government isn't responeible for ExxonMobils actions. Additionally this is NOT an "International Incident" as nothing has harmed any persons or property outside the US territorial waters. You have to realize that most of the Fortune 500 are now GLOBAL corporations but what they do or don't do in a country does not make headlines as an "internationl incident".

If oil washes up on the shores of Cuba, does that not make it an international incident?

I wonder what on earth the logo designer could possibly have meant by that... a daisy-chain gear???

nationalize an oil spew ?

Oil spill, nuclear meltdown, large toxic release, biological epidemic, chemical weapon attack, and large earthquake. How many feds are on the job right now exclusively to protect animals? Aren't we animals too?

you're on your own. remember christie todd whitman/rudy guiliani, 3 days after 9/11, saying 'the air is safe to breathe'?

worst case as per matt simmons is it bleeds out until it's empty. best case it stops tomorrow? even then, the damage is done, portions of the coast will not have clean drinking water, might not even have reliable electricity.

you're on your own. bp's rights trounce yours, in the eyes of our government.

BBC online has a breaking news story that Sec. Interior Salazar said US may push BP out of the way and the US government would take over.

Salazar at a press conference today (quote from CNN story):

"If the government finds out that BP is 'not doing what they're supposed to be doing, we'll push them out of the way appropriately, and we'll move forward to make sure everything is being done to protect the people of the Gulf Coast, the ecological values of the Gulf Coast and the values of the American people,' he said."

You know who is missing from the party? The government of the UK. If BP is a UK company, is not the UK government in this mess too? How about declaring a NATO environmental disaster. The oil is supposed to be heading to the North Atlantic anyways. Then BP would have to be all in. NATO can run a joint US-UK operation like nobody's business. Let the UK pay its share. If this happened to Chevron in the North Sea, do you think London would give Washington a pass? Obama needs to call Brussels.

BP's press conference said the insertion tube was producing 3000 BOPD with 14 MMSCF/D, or a GOR = 4666 SCF/STB. This seem to be in the general range of a gas condensate reservoir. BP said that at the inlet, they felt there were equal volumes of oil and gas. This also makes me think the oil is very light. My calculations show an oil shrinkage factor of about 2 from insertion tube subsea to surface.

Is the pressure of the oil changing?
IF this is a gassy well, how dangerous is the mud push?
They are going to push the mud down the top of the BOP, is that right?
I'm here in NJ. We have had toxic problems going back a long time.
Does anyone know why there is less oil coming through the straw?
I am grateful for this site.

Spill rates are lower due to the insertion tube. There are no pressure measurements, but BP considers the Macondo prospect to be large, so I doubt any pressure changes in the system. The top kill involves pumping the kill mud down the choke and kill lines via a manifold. These lines go into the lower part of the blowout preventer. I don't think the high gas-oil ratio makes the top kill any less or more dangerous.

Can you link me to where BP believes the Macondo prospect to be large? Or at least quantify what large is.

As this well was going to be a tie-back to an existing platform, the prospect was not large enough to justify it's own platform.

There is no reason to believe that the pressure isn't dropping. The pressure starts to drop the second the first drop of oil moves towards the well bore.

This is why oil companies inject water or a gas into the reservoir, so that they can maintain the pressure.


Slatz: I have heard the reservoir is not that wonderful and the field is marginal and only economic due to its location relative to facilities etc. High gas, high condensate, lighter crude low sulfur. Although the flow could turn out to be an anomaly and really high, explorer/engineers who I know who are familiar with this would say that when proper diameter is used and reasonable values for gas the flow as far as oil may be lower than people outside BP have been saying. I have yet to hear a reasonable government person state the high number was accurate either.I could really be off but I am thinking an average of 7000-12000 range (I would not bet more a pizza on it even though my sources have adjacent blocks and are buds with BP folks). I will say if the flow is bigger and BP knows it is really big this might be the first time that company and gov folks have kept a secret in my life time.
It was clear from the beginning there would need to be a fact finding task force to gauge spill volume. It is not the same as a tank farm leak from a hurricane or a tanker. Onshore well blowouts are tough enough to measure but I do not know of a situation where there had been a wild cat blowout that had a pipe and full time video in addition to being able to see inside the stack and get measurements. So here we are in well in the deep gulf trying to stop the spill but due to technology maybe actually coming up with ways other than surface observations and analogies to measure it. Kind of interesting. I remember in the 1978 Arun field gas blowout everyone was trying to gauge the flow of this onshore inferno. Could have been up to 400 MMCFD. Like so many others it became a laboratory to test out new kill techniques that are now more common.
There will be so much learned from this operation in many areas that can be applied in the future.I just hope they can get this sucker stopped so everyone can focus on cleanup and restoration with no additional oil to add to the mess.
I am nervous about the top kill.

Why do you keep estimating 7000-12000 BOPD?

You say you want to see info from government scientists but even initial NOAA estimates were 10x what you are saying. Furthermore, the siphon alone was producing 5000 BOPD and that's less than 1/4 the diameter of the broken riser pipe. Just taking the simple ratio of the cross-sectional area would say that the flow rate would have to be north of your numbers substantially. BTW, the siphon is ~12.5"sq/in compared to ~226 sq/in (283 sq/in if we use the full drill pipe). That would indicate, in a very rough estimate, 18x your flow prediction. In reality that's probably a bit high so even if we derate by factor of 2, we numbers way higher than you keep saying.

There are pressure measurements. They have the logs from the well so they know formation pressures, I suspect they know the other pressures too such as at the choke and kill lines. What they are doesn't matter to the general public, only to the engineers working to kill the well, so I've not seen them published. They need to know this to do the top kill.

For some perverse reason I've been watching the live feed. What was the smaller leak at the end of the riser is now massive, way way more than it's been before. And that's the small one compared to the one at the BOP, which there's no live pics of. Maybe 20 minutes ago the ROV pulled back and up and showed the plume, not the regular static shot close in on the pipe. Massive. What the hell is going on down there? And it's snowing white crap at the bottom of the ocean. The ROV's props occasionally suck up an eel or something, and the cloud of shredded critter flushes out in front of the camera. Currently the ROV is a good ways off the bottom and doing something incomprehensible, I think it's lost in the brownout.

The leak at the middle of the riser was originally stated by BP to be 85% of the flow......and to my eye it looks like the flow at that point has indeed increased. What is going on? The Gulf is being polluted, that much I am damn sure of...

It does seem to be really pouring out now. No recent pics of the BOP leak either... I wonder it the straw has been shut off for some reason. The ROV they had down there earlier got globs of oil spattered all over the lens - maybe had to go topside for a wash.

Before the closeups showed the stream exiting the riser and billowing upward. Now it seems to be shooting more or less straight out of the riser. The dispersant tube is going pretty strong too.

I don't recall seeing any official comment from BP or anyone else regarding the increasing rate of leakage. There were some comments about sand erosion, but nothing by way of "the rate has been slowly increasing".

The seafloor appears to have collapsed after a series of explosions and all hell has broken loose at the well head. Apparently, the BOP blew up and all bets are off.

Houston, we have a doomsday-well problem.

My theory: The well consisted of the casing with the drill pipe inside it. The sand and rocks that turned the gusher into a giant sandblaster that blew out holes in the riser pipe at the kinks was coming from the walls of the well that the cement between the casing and the wall was supposed to protect. Therefore, the hole has been getting bigger and bigger and now it’s like a volcano vent with the piping inside it probably a twisted mess.

The relief wells can’t possibly stop this because anything they add will just be blown out of the volcano.

Now what?.

Yes, it will stop it. The relief well will kill the flow at the formation that is producing. Top kill may still work too, they just have to pump enough to get past the losses where the subsurface leak is. These problems have happened before onshore so fixes are known but if they'll work in 5000' of water I have no idea.

it is hard to understand your confidence. if the cement job is bad, the kill wells are not likely to succeed as they depend on the weight of the mud being contained in the pipe.

certainly, if bp was so confident that the top kill would work, why didn't they try it 3 weeks ago?

Who says the cement jobs in the kill wells would be bad?? They will be extra extra careful. If you had been paying attention to this site and others then you would know there was a lot of work to do on the BOP to fix it up and there were manifolds to build and mud to mix and people to hire, equipment to move, etc. and this does not happen overnite.

(you can attack my information if you like. how bout you don't waste people's time telling me i don't read this site or that bp is committed to making this right? be informed, then express your opinion)
"It looks pretty on paper, but you can't accomplish that successfully and have a good cement job," said Tom McFarland, a cementing consultant from Marrero who has decades of experience cementing oil wells. "The chance of getting a good cement job on that is nil."

McFarland said the diagram indicates the space was completely open to the reservoir of oil the Deepwater Horizon had just tapped, and he is convinced that is why the well blew.

McCormack, the University of Texas professor, isn't so sure that the blowout went through the annulus, rather than breaching the center of the well and blowing out the top. But either way, he was baffled by the diagram Halliburton gave to Congress. He was so surprised by the lack of an O-ring seal that he wondered if it was an error.

"There's a free path all the way to the top of the well bore. Normally you wouldn't do that," he said. "If the well was completed as designed, I think that would be an issue the way it's shown there."

McFarland said a cement bond log is costly and takes time, but it would have told the crew right away whether the annulus was exposed to hydrocarbons. He and McCormack said that if the log showed problems, the crew would have done what's called a "perf and squeeze," perforating the weak spots in the liner and squeezing more cement in to defend the well against the gas pressure of the earth formation around it.

BP spokesmen did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the decision to send Schlumberger home without conducting a cement bond log or on the cementing schematic Probert gave the Senate committee. And Halliburton didn't respond to questions about the accuracy of Probert's diagram.

Nice, take things out of context or maybe you just don't get it. The "expert" was talking about the process BP used was very flawed and the fact they didn't run a CBL which would have shown they cement job was poor. He said NOTHING about if the formation could be cemented in. Everyone here who has the sort of expertise the person quoted in the link has tells us it CAN be, IF they follow best practices and watch things carefully and don't get in a hurry.

kimyo -- Just a little clarification on the relief well effort. Since I haven't seen a detailed plan I'll have to make some assumptions but this is the typical process. The sole purpose of the RW is to stop the flow from the formation up the casing. The entire flow could be coming up the inside of the last casing string, between two casing strings or any combination thereof. After hitting the original well bore they'll pump heavy drilling mud into it. The mud weight will be sufficient to stop the flow but not high enough to fracture the rocks or the casing shoe on the RW. After the last sting of casing in run in the RW they'll do a leak off test (LOT) on the casing shoe. The well will be pressured until the casing cement begins to leak. The LOT is a critical aspect of all cement jobs. They might estimate they'll need a mud weight as high as 17 #/gallon to kill they flow. If the LOT reaches only 15.5 ppg they have to go back into the RW with a special tool to squeeze more cmt in to the csg shoe. They let it set up and then do another LOT. BTW, some folks seem to be obsessed with bad cmt jobs. Bad cmt jobs happen all the time. That's why we do LOT's and have standard procedures for re-cementing. Getting a bad cmt job is no great sin...happens all the time. Just this weekend one of my wells had an insufficient LOT so we did a squeeze job. Cost extra money but that just the cost of doing business properly. Not getting a good test on the cmt and fixing it IS THE BIG SIN. I'm fairly neutrol on the value of cement bond logs. They are difficult to interpret and often lie. Good CBL = bad cmt.....bad CBL = good cmt. I put much more value in a LOT...they rarely ever lie.

Back to the RW. Once they've pumped the heavy mud into the original hole and kill the flow we are still a very long way from fixing the situation. After they are sure they've stabilized the blow out the RW will be suspended. Now the really difficult part of the job begins. They'll have to clear the damaged BOP off the top of the well and install a new one. This could take a couple of months depending on the damage. They may even have to design a new system for tying into the well head if damage is severe. Once they can re-enter the original hole the law requires BP to plug and abandon that hole as per regs. This will mean going down the original hole to specific depths and set a series of permanent plugs. Whether BP can get to those depths remain to be seen. They'll first have to remove the drill pipe. They could run into collapsed casing or other problems that could prevent them from getting to the required depths. That might force them to drill another RW to cut the original hole shallower so they reach those depths in the old hole. Just a guess but the entire RW and permanent P&A process could run the better part of $500 million just for that effort. Or more.

Maybe they were trying it 3 weeks ago..... :)

Earlier today, I saw a sequence similar to what this person described. I wasn't sure what was happening, but it sure looked exciting. You see ROVs moving around and crap flying everywhere.

I've come to think (based on a different comment) that the black pipe over time fills up with rocks and other solid debris from the well. As it fills up with more rocks, the flow of oil is reduced. So periodically, they flush the pipe by moving it away from the riser and the accumulated debris flies out. They point the ROV somewhere else while this stuff is being emptied because they don't want the glass hit by the debris flying out. Then, after everything is reconnected and running normally, they go back to the original camera angle. If you look at the camera now, it's just back to business as usual.

I'm curious if there is anyone things that the pipe collecting less gas/oil means anything... i.e. the well is depleting, the leak over the BOP is getting worse, etc?

One of the biggest hurdles to covering the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was actually getting a good look at the oil. For somewhat murky reasons (health, safety of fragile habitats), press has been repeatedly forbidden to enter impacted areas by the Coast Guard, BP, or the Fish & Wildlife Service. I was on the ground in the Gulf, and trying to get the story from one of the fishermen contracted to work with BP was like asking them if they’d like a root canal on the spot. Word is that cleanup workers are told if they talk to press, they’re fired. And then there are the toxic chemical dispersants, which plays the biggest role in masking the extent of the disaster’s damage by breaking the oil up and spreading it out — at who knows what cost. So, the question is, will anyone ever see the worst of the catastrophic BP Gulf oil spill?

full article at

I'm a total newbie, but have a question that's been bothering me. I understand the oil damage being created, but what about all that nat gas being spewed into the GOM ? Does the gas have harmful effects or is it just digested by the ocean and briefly causes problems. Should we be worrying at all about the amounts of gas from this catastrophe ?

Natural gas (methane) has an extremely low solubility in sea water. In other words, its "residence time" in the water is short. As water saturated with methane approaches the surface, the methane is released into the air above it, just as a can of coke would lose its fizz in a few minutes if you poured it into a saucepan and swirled it gently.

However, the residence time in air is about a decade before it is oxidized to carbon dioxide and water. It will cause some "temporary" GHG warming.

Methane from this spill, though significant, does not come close to the "acute" damage to the GOM coastline that will be caused by heavier fractions.

Read Wikipedia concerning greenhouse gases.

However, the residence time in air is about a decade before it is oxidized to carbon dioxide and water. It will cause some "temporary" GHG warming.

Uh... CO2 is also a greenhouse gas. In the air, methane is equivalent to 25x or so the effect of CO2 over a 100 yr period. In the shorter time frame, it is on the order of 100x that of CO2.

Nice try, though.

In this case, at that depth, little of the methane will reach the surface directly. The long-term effects of all that methane/CO2 on acidification, etc.... well... much depends on just how long this goes on.


BAD (worse than Just Horrific) THINGS on Spillcam ??

I cannot bear to watch it, but I got an eMail about a seabed eruption of oil. Busted casing ?

Also greater volumes of black.

Any confirmation ?


See Monkeyfister blog a few comments up.


I'm Monkeyfister.

I live-blogged all of that all day. Little sleep. But all the images are real. I wrote it as I witnessed it. Lots of other folks were watching, too.

I sure would like to better understand what I saw. Three major eruptions in less than 24-hours. I've been pretty glued to SpillCam all week, and have seen nothing as violent as what happened today.

Is it possible that the riser pipe is acting like a giant garden heater coil, and thawing hydrates, and forcing them up? That's my only gues as to what I saw... beside casing failure. I don't know which would be worse.

Please be gentle good folks.


Just speculating, but is it possible that some of these "explosions" are actually BP testing for the topkill? Does anyone know if the camera would be able to capture the color difference between drilling mud and the oil itself?

The explosions may be BP injecting mud through the c/k lines to see how much flows out through the BOPE to judge if topkill is still a possibility.

Maybe. Though it does sound like you may have stumbled upon a good way to measure resistance in the BOP and damaged pipe, and therefore compute the volume coming out of the riser/drill pipe.

The "white out" happens every few hours. I am guessing the dispersant hose comes loose or ROV maneuvering kicks up a bunch of the hydrate flakes covering the sea floor around the venting.

I commented up above, I've seen these eruptions and thought they were exciting (and wasn't sure what to make of them).

Now I think the periodic "eruptions" are them flushing out the pipe of solid debris (rocks, random crap) that collect in the siphon after hours of them sucking up stuff from the well. I think the solid stuff collects in the pipe, the flow-rate intake decreases, so they just detach the pipe from the riser and let the solid junk spill out. The camera does point away from the debris when this is happening. Immediately after the flush, I noticed the siphon was letting very little out of the riser, but over time it went back to normal "gushing" status.

So over a several-hour cycle, immediately post-flush the RIT is collecting nearly everything, as the junk clogs the RIT, it gets worse and worse until it's collecting nearly nothing; they do the flush and the cycle restarts.

I also think this may be the reason behind confusing/inconsistent flow rates and also people's differing opinion on the amount of oil spilling (numbers between 1,000 bpd and 5,000 bpd). I think if you stare at any particular time, you can see the riser leaking very little up through a whole bunch. At least this is my observation/guesswork!

I wouldn't think any "rocks and junk" would be coming up through the well or that sort of 'junk' would have already clogged the leak. Could be hydrate crystals forming in the riser or around the RIT - but I would think that the flow is quite a bit too warm for that until it exits the riser. The general character of the flow seems to have changed with considerably more volume and force apparent - but they change the camera position enough that it is hard to be certain exactly what is happening.

[edit] to add - if the flow were suddenly to diminish at the end of the riser I think that would be either very good (they have succeeded in shutting in the well) or very bad (the riser has blown open at the BOP). I wish they would put a live camera at that point too, but they seem to be shy about showing what is going on there.

[edit] again - looking at the earlier videos it is really hard to say about the flow rate - without having that same camera angle and zoom comparison is quite difficult.

These are turbidite sands, so I would not expect a lot of rocks and junk.

You've been watching this feed longer than I have, but I've seen something like you describe. Video showing plume coming from broken riser end (not BOP), I looked away for a sec, then came back to see turbid chaos everywhere. It cleared up after a minute or two.

I think the simplest explanation is the best. Ever gone scuba diving over a muddy bottom? Unless you're *very* careful, every kick of your fins throws up a huge cloud of seafloor sediment that takes forever to clear. There's a *lot* of ROVs down there, and they all move with thruster jets over a very muddy bottom. If either the camera ROV or one of its buddies moves around at all, it's gonna throw up a lot of gunk.

Now, that doesn't rule out total disaster, but in the absence of other evidence, "when you hear hoofbeats, don't think 'zebra'."

FWIW Upstreamonline (I think) had a comment from a BP exec who indicated that the returns in the RITT had slowed down. No explanation at the time.

Also - there was a pic posted awhile back that looked like methane coming up from seafloor outside the riser tube. Speculation on this board was that perhaps it was coming from a busted part of the riser that got buried.

If something wierd is happening over at the BOP I sure as h*ll hope it's BP testing for topkill....

PS- I haven't been able to connect to the vid for a couple days. Is it really intermittent or do I need to reboot?


There should be a short course in viewing ROV videos to go along with this live streaming. There is always a learning curve when a new oil company man comes onboard until he understands the peculiarities of ROV video. A lot of this is not intuitive and no one should feel stupid because things in the pictures confuse them. I’ll try to hit just a few of the highlights.

Debris in the picture – This area of the Gulf of Mexico is covered with incredibly fine soft mud. If an ROV is working near the bottom and he has to move upwards his thruster wash will hit the bottom and stir up this mud and any other light debris (hydrates, tar balls, strings of heavier petroleum products, etc). The currents at this depth are usually slow and it can take a long time, as much as 15 minutes or more, before the visibility clears. And if the ROV is working anywhere near the bottom it is very difficult not to occasionally kick up some mud.

There are a number of other ROVs working in the area (any light you might see is another ROV vehicle or cage). So if any ROV upcurrent from the one feeding the live video stream kicks up some mud and debris that will drift over the area and cloud or obscure the picture.

It is also possible that another ROV is doing some excavating which will stir up LOTS of mud.

If there were any actual “eruptions” of gas coming from around the casing or elsewhere I doubt conditions would return to normal.

I would guess the “snowstorms” of white material are methane hydrates. They are near neutrally buoyant so chunks would float around just like the mud does. Methane hydrate at the surface melts at about the same temperature as water, 0 deg C (32 deg F), but at that depth the ambient pressure is over 2,000 psi and the melting point of methane hydrates is 18 deg C (64 deg F) and the surrounding water temperature is about 4 deg C (40 deg F) so they stay “frozen”.

Color – Be careful about making any judgments based on color. There is no ambient light at that depth so everything you see is being illuminated by the lights from the ROV. ROVs typically carry lights that may have different color temperatures and the angle of the light, the intensity and the distance between light and subject, the amount of turbidity (mud) will all have an effect on the apparent color your eyes see. I noticed that the leaks coming out of the kinked riser often seem to be different colors. I think that they are actually all the same and the visual differences are due to the factors I just listed.

Distortion – ROV cameras are usually ultra wide angle and have considerable distortion. A straight length of pipe can look like it has a very pronounced curved bend in it when viewed from one angle and then look straight or even bent the other way when viewed from different angles. This is one of the factors the task force measuring the flow will have to compensate for if they try to measure flow based on videos.

For some reason the human eye is comfortable with very high levels of distortion. For example how many people do you know who stretch a standard 4:3 TV picture to fit their 16:9 wide screen. They would rather view a picture with 33% distortion that to have the smaller but undistorted picture.

Also the apparent difference in the size of a leak between a video you saw earlier and one you are looking at now could be because the pilot has zoomed his camera in or out or has switched to a different camera with a different focal lens. ROVs typically carry several cameras. Or it could be because the volume of the leak has changed.

Holes in the Seabed – Originally the broken end of the riser was partially buried in the mud. Before the RITT was deployed the ROVs spent a lot of time excavating around the riser to get access to insert the RITT and probably to try to get the mud down some feet below so they wouldn’t stir it up and obscure their visibility. Typically these excavations are a series of large holes as the ROV often has problems seeing where he is working. When the ROV pans around and you see holes in the seabed that is most likely what you are seeing.

Do they have any info on the integrity of the casing, especially in the upper section? Speculation on how much damage if any was done to the casing during the original blowout? How about when the rig sank and ripped the riser apart, and then when the riser crashed to the seafloor?

What I'm getting at is, what are the chances the upper section of the well will suffer catastrophic failure if/when they try the top kill? Does anybody who's worked with this stuff have confidence or suspicions in regards to the well's ability to withstand the top kill?

The "junk shot" is akin to closing a valve. As with all valves, this will hold back the pressure (and thus force) within the well. I've said before that BP are very, very cagey about the BOP, and are treading very lightly,and hence (IMHO) the reluctance to do anything which will add additional stress to the connecting upstream and downstream pipework. Given the high pressures invloved, pressure thrust alone from the junk shot is going to strain the BOP (dont forget, the junk shot works at the top of the BOP, and, that the BOP acted like an anchor point for the sinking rig).

If the BOP could stand the pressure thrust from a junk shot, then all good, but we have to stop 3 miles of flowing fluid as well! This momentum (called fluid hammer) is absolutly massive, and is well capable of popping the BOP of the drill string like a champagne cork. The key component of the hammer, is the length of the fluid column. 3 miles is a hell of a column!. To eliminate fluid hammer, one must "close" the "valve" very, very slowly. This is not possible for a junk shot (all or nothing AFAIK), So, they are probably looking at slowing and stopping the column with hydraulic pressure (mud). and then, junking the BOP with cement. I suspect, BP would just like to leave the status quo until the relief well is complete, and hope that errosion does'nt set in. If they do a junk shot, its out of desperation and panic, fluid hammer is king here....

I also suspect that they are playing for time as well pressures naturally drop (as they usually do for wild wells).

Drop "8,000 to 9,000 psi" to, say, 6,500 psi increases the odds to avoid disaster.

OTOH, flow (and hence velocity) is increasing as the restrictions erode away.


Pressures naturally drop but this reservoir is not like the shallower ones. I can see the pressure being lost rapidly in some east Texas wildcat of long ago, but in this case we have an extremely pressurized gas oil mixture (no gas cap) that will exhibit similarities to gas well blowouts that lasted for years.

A truly horrible point that I had not considered.


Point of confusion: What do you mean there's no gas cap?

Greg -- In some reservoirs there can be separate layers of NG/oil/water. Due to density differences the NG will sit above the oil which sits above the water. Typically you don't produce a NG cap until you've depleted oil layer.

But the truly worrisome aspect of the BP blow out is not knowing the reservoir drive mechanism. If it were pure pressure depletion the NG would come out of solution and pressure would drop proportional to the amount of oil produced. But in a water drive reservoir the pressure can remain fairly constant over the life of well and the flow rate doesn't drop until the reservoir is depleted. What makes this blow out so unique and dangerous is that it's a cased hole. Had it blown out in a open hole it probably would vae collapsed ("bridged over") and stopped flowing long before now.

Then why not blow it up.....?

Yah know...This particular conversation has been more worry-some than anything else I've heard so far....

I am sure the BP engineers are equally troubled......first junk shot was on, then off. Now top-kill is pushed back again and again. First Wednesday, than Sunday, then Tuesday, and now again, Wednesday. Don't be surprised if "top kill" is killed. Don't be surprised if its September and this well is still flowing oil....and if even a tropical depression comes, all that oil in Barrataria Bay, the Breton Sound, and god knows where else is going to push up onto the areas that normally flood at even a really severe high tide during a storm, ie all over Plaquemines, down the Bayou toward Chauvin, etc. Tropical storm of greater and its all over Ile des Chenes, etc.

And if BP wants some incentive to stanch the flow-- how does totally out tens of thousands of homes sound?

A question...

There has been discussion on the possibility of catastrophic casing collapse...Would that cause the section to act more like an OH section? Or would there still be enough 'junk' in there to keep the borehole from bridging?

Per the reported temperatures and pressures, the NG is dissolved in a supercritical solution with the oil. A uniform mixture goes into the BOP.


Anyone able to get the LiveFeed? I haven't been able to access it since 4am....

Yes, I can see it at
A lot of oil, but no blizzard of methane

Howdy--I've got a couple of big questions and it seems like this is a good place to ask them. The first one is the "rip the band-aid off" question: Why hasn't the tangled mess of a riser not been removed from the top of the BOP?

I've looked at the illustration of the BOP stack at and I wanted to know how far the riser is inserted beyond the flex joint at the top. Cut the riser and remove the flex joint. Even if there is part of the drill string in the stack and below the seafloor, if is cut flush with the level of the newly exposed flange, couldn't a small stack of blind rams (and an appropriate support structure) be added as a temporary fix? What if you added an offset to the small BOP to mitigate the leftover string causing damage to the short stack? I have read that the way the riser is bent at the top of the existing stack is restricting the flow through the rest of the riser--that seems logical. It's a little late to think about the extra oil that would exit in between removing the riser and adding a valve. Wouldn't this be a lower risk than potentially destroying the BOP and wellhead mount with a top kill?

The second one is the "why are we still fighting the last war" question: It seems like the vast majority of effort has been put into surface recovery, but why aren't we actively recovering the emulsified subsurface oil?

Can't that be mapped--ironically--in the same way that solid geologic strata are identified with time domain reflectometry? Wouldn't impulses reflect differently within a non-heterogenous medium? Couldn't you do a test with the SONAR equipment that may already be used on a lot of fishing vessels in the Gulf to see if it could identify the oil as if it were schools of sealife? The followthrough concept would be to get greater recovery capacity on the 1100+ boats deployed by dropping lots of inlets to where the oil is distributed throughout the area and depths of the Gulf and separate it with centrifugal pumps from companies like EVTN and the one funded by Kevin Costner. It would make sense to take samples of the seawater to determine exactly what needed to be filtered out and add the appropriate post-filtering beyond the pumps.

Divide and conquer. Repurpose stuff we already know about that can scale to the magnitude of the problem. I think we all are chomping at the bit to do something. Comments?

Why hasn't the tangled mess of a riser not been removed from the top of the BOP? ....I have read that the way the riser is bent at the top of the existing stack is restricting the flow through the rest of the riser--that seems logical.

I have absolutely no education or experience with oil drilling. I'm trying to understand a few really basic things about the oil spewing into the gulf. Please correct me if I have any of this wrong or imprecise (imprecise within reason.)

At this link is a one minute video of a news report which uses an animation to describe the oil escaping into the gulf.

Is it accurate that the oil is coming from sections of the fallen riser? Is it also leaking from the well head?

Here's another thing I'm not sure of...

When the platform is up and functional, does oil flow get stopped at the platform or does it only stop at remote valves at the well head? It sounds like it should be able to stop at either. One thing I read was that the oil was 100 degrees or so and had a tendency to wax or solidify in the cold riser piping if other precautions aren't taken.

What I'm driving at is an answer to the question of whether the riser piping, by itself, can withstand the pressure of the oil? I would think it should, but I don't know.

The real question I'm wondering dovetails on the comments which sensenotcynicism made.

IF the riser is attached to the well head, and IF the well head is not allowing oil to escape, and IF the riser piping can withstand the pressure of the oil, then for the purposes of at least least slowing down or stopping the oil escape...

what is wrong with trying to crimp the piping?

If they can thread smaller tubes inside the larger tube, what would be wrong with taking a big wedge and dropping it like an anchor on the riser to pinch the piping?

I was just wondering if it might impede the flow of oil.

Probably just an unrealistic thought.

Sharp -- the oil/NG is coming up the well and flowing out of the well head with the BOP sitting on top of it. Any oil/NG leaking from the riser is coming from the well head. Some of the flow is coming up the drill pipe and some from the casing that the drill pipe is sitting in. So in that sense the leaking riser is just secondary source . If the riser weren't there the same amount of oil/NG would be spilling into the GOM.

On the production side: The well head would be sitting on the sea floor: no BOP or riser. It would have pipelines lines running to some distant processing plant. Perhaps on a platform or all the way to the shore. Control lines would run back to the well head from the process facility and that's how they would control the well, such as shut it in. There would also be safety chokes systems that would hopefully shut the well in should it ever start leaking. And yes, pipeline plugging problems can occur. These systems allow a "pig" to be run inside the pipeline occasionally to clean out such materials.

Crimping the drill pipe isn't that unrealistic but I've never seen it done. In fact, drill pipe specs are designed to prevent exactly that. Drill pipe, especially that used in DW, is very, very strong. I suspect the equipment to do such crimping may not even exist. I don't know much about riser design but they do handle very heavy mud weights and thus can handle pressure fairly well. But this one is bent and split so I suspect that's a mute point now.


I suspect the gas/oil/water mixture has breached the casing in multiple places and it's eroding the sedimentary rock and widening the drill hole. I suspect that the cement gave way and, since no intact boundary separates the contents of the drill pipe from the contents in the space between the drill pipe and the casing and the contents of the space between the casing and the sedimentary wall, this is why there is so much sand and rock in the gas/oil/water mixture exploding out of the riser.

This puppy hasn't shown any sign of weakening during the past 34 days. If anything the plumes appear to have increased, which suggests to me that the volume vomiting out of Hell, so to speak is increasing. I don't think the pressure is increasing. If I'm right, the sand blaster is blowing more and ever larger holes in the drill and riser pipes before and after the BOP, plus widening the hole, and this is why more stuff is coming out.

I don't see how the Top Down and/or Jam Shot, if successful, can do anything but divert the flow outside the casing increasing the pressure and erosion of sedimentary rock and substantially widening the hole. Since the first few hundred feet or so below the seafloor is mud, I suspect that the well hole is much wider at the top and the dramatic turbidity increase some people noticed yesterday was mud displacement at the well head.

Again assuming my scenario is correct and this is a water driven blowout, what are the chances that a relief well can shut this puppy down?

Seems to me we're in a race against time and the biggest long-shot Louie at Hialeah wouldn't put a fin on our fate now.


Mason -- I think you have a pretty clear view of some of the worse possibilities. But I also think the RW will work even with a water drive reservoir. But it won't easy, fast or risk free.

Thanks for reviewing and responding to my comment. I respect and value your insights and opinions.

Now, I'm trying to figure out what to make of Monkeyfingers's observations of apparent BP monkey business positioning ROV cameras possibly to conceal explosions subsurface subsidence of the seabed at the well head.

Best wishes,



Many thanks for taking your time to respond to my low-knowledge-level post. Getting oriented somewhat, I've gone back and re-read some of the thread from much earlier yesterday.

BTW, some folks seem to be obsessed with bad cmt jobs. Bad cmt jobs happen all the time. That's why we do LOT's and have standard procedures for re-cementing. Getting a bad cmt job is no great sin...happens all the time. Just this weekend one of my wells had an insufficient LOT so we did a squeeze job. May 24, 8:56 a.m.

Cement. What is the composition of this kind of cement?

An early report in the local paper, probably off a wire service, indicated that there was a possibility that the cement mixture caused the methane hydrates to come out of their "slush" (my word... as I understand it)state into a gas? Is that something that can happen?

If the BOP could stand the pressure thrust from a junk shot, then all good, but we have to stop 3 miles of flowing fluid as well! This momentum (called fluid hammer) is absolutly massive, and is well capable of popping the BOP of the drill string like a champagne cork. The key component of the hammer, is the length of the fluid column. 3 miles is a hell of a column!. To eliminate fluid hammer, one must "close" the "valve" very, very slowly. This is not possible for a junk shot (all or nothing AFAIK), So, they are probably looking at slowing and stopping the column with hydraulic pressure (mud). and then, junking the BOP with cement. I suspect, BP would just like to leave the status quo until the relief well is complete, and hope that errosion does'nt set in. If they do a junk shot, its out of desperation and panic, fluid hammer is king here....

I was a little confused by superpiper here. I understood the depth of the well to be some 35,000 feet or a little less than 7 miles deep. Here's a link.

Is there a section of piping closer to the surface that is approximately 15,000 ft. long or are there 35,000 feet of pipe which acts as a Liquid Hammer?

What is the process of pumping mud into the pipe? How is that accomplished?

I assume (but don't know) that based on some of the comments on this thread that this well is done, meaning that it will be sealed with no possibility of use.

One slight observation I have by looking at the rover images is that the oil looks like one of the deep sea thermals.

You addressed your comment to Rockman and I'm not Rockman, but I think I know the answer to your question about the cement. It was a foam containing nitrogen that is not commonly used. I suspect that had to do with high porosity of the approximately 800 meter thick salt formation they drilled through to reach the reservoir.

Go with Rockman's answer, if he disagrees, because he's the expert.

So here is my crazy oil spill idea.

At the sea floor, the static water column has a pressure of Pw = just pgh.

At the leak points, the oil pressure, Po, must be >Pw, since Po = Rreservoir pressure -pipe losses

And, since there is a density difference [is there? IS the oil coming out less dense than cold ocean water? Anyway, assume a slight density diff; then

Po> Pwbottom

Can we assume at the spill points, at least the first, that Oil Temp > ocean water temp at base??

So, instead of complex "top hats" and junk shots, why not lower a big f***ing tube - like another riser assembly. Build into it some sort of simple valve -or maybe not; maybe a series of small pumps along its path. Or perhaps a series of restrictions, to create a venturi, and thus, require smaller pumps. hell. just build a production string with downhole pumps.

At its base could be a simple anchoring system - it need to be a fixed system, but just get close to the spill points. Something that would allow for a few meters of sway at the bottom. Maybe the tube could have a top hat, or funnel shape. The key is that the bottom of the tube has to be in the vicinity of where there is Po>>Pw, and before the emulsion process begins to gel the oil-water mix

If you can get the region of high pressure - in the REGION of Po > Pw, to "see" the surface pressure - ie, induce a suction, or even a pressure gradient that is steeper than what the oil sees in the static column, won't the oil at higher P flow towards the lower P riser? And, if the oil starts to flow [and I know that hydrates are an issue], there would be the bouyant effect working with with you to reduce the cold bottom water getting in along with the pressure diff, to displace the static water in the pipe? And thus, get oil to the surface via a controlled tube rather than the ocean water?

It seems like all the geniuses in the piping and ocean bottom world have thought about this, but who knows ....

Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Multiple Plumes due to Supercritical Oil Fractionation

Re-posted with edits May 24, 2010 (posted to The Oil Drum Roger Faulkner)

I have consulted with several experts, and I have modified this blog post somewhat from previous posts, but the essential ideas are intact. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is different from all previous blow-outs because of four separate unusual or unique aspects of this particular blowout:

1. The gas: oil ratio (GOR) in this well is reported to be about 3000, which means about 150 pounds of gas per 285 pounds of oil (34% gas by weight, more than 70% by mole ratio methane + ethane). This well is between a typical gas well and a typical oil well. The high amount of gas at the high pressure of the reservoir means that the properties of the reservoir must be understood as a supercritical solution which I here term petrogas. It is possible that there is no fluid phase boundary within the reservoir, but the expert I spoke to (Dr. Robert M. Enick, Bayer Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh) thinks that is unlikely. On the other hand if two phases do coexist within the reservoir, it is very likely that more than 50% of the weight of the petroleum is in the supercritical phase, since at 12,000 psi Methane is a very strong solvent. We bet a beer on this; I still think the petrogas is a single supercritical phase in the reservoir. We both agree that by the time the petrogas rises to the wellhead, it is probably a two-phase flow.

a. According to information given to the team that is tasked to estimate the flow, the pressure in the reservoir is about 12,000 psi, but only 180 Fahrenheit, which surprised both of us (TOD bloggers: is this credible?). If this pressure is correct, and the 8500 psi estimated pressure behind the BOP is correct, then the average density of the petrogas in the drill pipe is 0.62 g/cc, which is reasonable for a supercritical solution of gas + oil.

b. The supercritical nature of at least part of the petrogas persists all the way up the drill pipe to the seabed (13,000 feet). The 13,000 foot rise of the supercritical petrogas is expected to be a nearly adiabatic expansion against gravity. In essence, the work to lift the petrogas 13,000 feet is performed by pressure-volume work done as the petrogas expands and cools coming up the drill pipe.

c. The expansion and cooling of any supercritical solution reduces the solvent power. It is possible that the least soluble components of the crude oil (highest molecular weight and/or most polar components) will precipitate out of solution during the 13,000 foot nearly adiabatic rise of petrogas from the reservoir to the BOP. This implies that the material entering the BOP is likely to be phase separated into a supercritical methane-based solution, and liquid droplets containing the least soluble components. (Dr. Enick was skeptical about whether this oil contains much asphaltene, but he has not yet seen samples. The anomalously low temperature of this reservoir makes it more likely that it does contain some asphaltenes.) I continue to think that most of the oil is still contained in the supercritical methane-based phase (at 8000-9000 psi) when it enters the blow out preventer (BOP). The phase makeup just before the BOP can be determined experimentally by recreating these conditions in a lab. I’ve been talking to various scientists & engineers who have the right kind of equipment to do these experiments. (These experiments are pretty vital; any influence that TOD bloggers can bring to bear on getting these measurements funded will be helpful)

d. Dr. Enick points out that some of the observed tar balls may be from partially burned oil.

2. Most of the pressure drop going from the reservoir to the environment occurs very fast, probably in milliseconds as the supercritical methane-based petrogas, and possibly a viscous liquid phase as well, passes through a severe flow restriction at the BOP which is partially closed. In the Horizon Spill, the pressure of the oil goes from 8000-9000 psi before the orifice to 2650 psi right after the BOP according to Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard on May 15 (

a. The sudden reduction of pressure at the BOP must produce a phase separation just downstream of the orifice, with most of the heavier molecules condensing out to form one or more liquid phases, and most of the methane and a portion of lighter fractions staying in the gas phase. Given that the temperature is apparently much lower that I had estimated earlier, not much oil is likely to remain dissolved in the gas downstream of the BOP. As the pressure goes from well into the supercritical region (~8500 psi versus methane’s critical pressure of 6600 psi) to subcritical conditions, it is possible that several precipitations occur. It seems likely that most of the initially formed liquid phase droplets are quite small and mutually miscible and will form a single liquid phase given enough time.

b. The expansion through the BOP is sort of a Joule-Thompson expansion, but because it results in formation of a liquid phase, it is expected to produce a temperature increase due to the heat of vaporization that is released. It is quite possible that the temperature downstream of the BOP could be higher than the reservoir temperature because of the condensation of this oily phase.

3. The environmental pressure at the ocean bottom is around 2225 psi. Expansion to this pressure rather than to atmospheric pressure has an effect on the resultant phase separation. Although the gas phase formed downstream of the BOP orifice is subcritical, it is still fairly dense and has solvent properties. Right after the BOP, it is likely that a major portion of C6-C12 molecules will remain in the hot gas phase. The pressure right after the BOP is still about 400 psi above the local sea water pressure, and the flow is trapped inside a damaged and twisted riser pipe. There are two escape routes from the damaged riser pipe.

a. A small leak is just above the wellhead where the kinked riser pipe lays over onto the seabed. On April 15, it was estimated that 15% of the effluent from the blowout was exiting this hole (this fraction of the total flow has been increasing since then). The material blowing out of this hole has had very little time to cool. Insofar as there is very little time between the BOP orifice and the first leak into the ocean just above the riser, the phase structure and partitioning of components between the phases at the first leak from the riser pipe is expected to be very similar to the properties immediately downstream of the orifice. If a heavy oil phase separated from the petrogas on the 13,000 foot rise through the drill pipe, they are likely to survive as a third distinct phase at the first leak.

b. The second leak from the collapsed riser pipe is about a mile away from the BOP. The two phases formed at the BOP orifice will cool significantly during passage through the collapsed riser pipe, and they will remain in contact for a goodly while. I think it is very likely that if a heavy oil phase did separate from the supercritical methane-based petrogas while it rose the 13,000 feet to the BOP, they will re-dissolve into the hot liquid phase as the liquid phase moves along the mile long riser pipe.

4. The majority of the total methane entering the ocean will be in the high pressure gas phase, though some will be dissolved in the oil phase too. Unlike spills at low depth, the pressure at the Deep Horizon spill is well above the pressure required to form methane hydrate [46(H2O)•8(CH4)]. The spill itself may heat the water too much for methane hydrate to form near the leaks. As the plume carrying the methane mixes with more cold sea water, it will become cold enough for some methane hydrate crystals to form. Crystallization of the methane hydrate will release more heat. One aspect of the plume is that it contains warmed water; it is not as if petrogas bubbles need only rise within a vertically stationary water column; there is a plume of warm water that also is rising, at least for a while. I expect a lot of the methane to eventually precipitate out as methane hydrate “snow.” This snow will probably rise, and dissolve into the water rather than make it to the surface as bubbles.

check out this patent to see that the concept of supercritical fractionation occurring at the well head is credible. Kerr-McGee has licensed this "Rose Process" to many other refiners.

United States Patent 4,290,880
Leonard September 22, 1981
Supercritical process for producing deasphalted demetallized and deresined oils


A process for effecting a deep cut in a heavy hydrocarbon material without a decrease in the quality of the extracted oil caused by the presence of undesirable entrained resinous bodies and organometallic compounds. The heavy hydrocarbon material is contacted with a solvent in a first separation zone maintained at an elevated temperature and pressure to effect a separation of the feed into a first light phase and a first heavy phase comprising asphaltenes and some solvent. The first light phase is introduced into a second separation zone maintained at an elevated temperature and pressure to effect a separation of the first light phase into a second light phase comprising oils and solvent and a second heavy phase comprising resins and some solvent. A portion of the second heavy phase is withdrawn and introduced into an upper portion of the second separation zone to countercurrently contact the second light phase. The contacting removes at least a portion of any entrained resinous bodies and organometallic compounds from the oils contained in the second light phase.

Great set of posts Roger! Very interesting stuff. I could see light colored flakes swirling around the leak at the end of the riser yesterday while watching the live feed - I thought they might be hydrate 'snowflakes'. You know the folks studying the moons of Saturn had some interesting chemistry to think about - the deep ocean is in some ways 'another planet'.

Adsorbents versus absorbents: polymers, charcoal, plant material.

I've been thinking a lot about what I can do on the clean-up side. I am a polymer system formulator, and I've been thinking about ways to clean up the oil. In this post, I'll talk about the trade-offs for adsorbants/absorbants from relatively cheap sources, and mention a few relevant patents.

Straw is often used to clean-up beaches, and this video has gone viral: The problem with this approach is that the straw must be dry when it first contacts the oil. Other plants that have waxy stems, like kenaf stay dry longer, giving them a better chance to adsorb dispersed oil out of sea water, but kenaf too can become water logged. (I have been working with the inventors of US Patent 7655149 on oil cleanup with kenaf fiber.)

I've also been thinking of charcoal, and a special kind of charcoal (biochar, which leads to Terra Preta). Activated charcoal has been mentioned as a possible solution:(
but I think that is the wrong kind of charcoal. The ideal type of charcoal must have high porosity and be very hydrophobic. Activated charcoal is “activated” by exposure to steam at high temperature, which gives it a hydrophilic surface. What is needed here is charcoal that was made in dry anaerobic conditions; charcoal that can float on the water for weeks without becoming water-logged.

Such a charcoal will be effective at cleaning up quite dilute oil sheens, I think. There are also far more expensive man-made materials that might work better, but the cost differential makes charcoal preferable versus any synthetic polymer system (such as in US patents 7048878, to AbTech Industies), if charcoal can work, it should cost less.

The only feasible way to clean up an oil sheen that is quite thin is to have small, hydrophobic particles that are dispersed onto the ocean. In one embodiment, these particles sink when oil soaked, but float until then; such particles could efficiently clean very thin oil layers and when exhausted, sink into the deep ocean. Wouldn’t that be better than an oil slick, which I think must reduce surface oxygenation, decrease evaporation, and increase surface temperatures (perhaps leading to a more intense hurricane season?). Perhaps a form of granular charcoal could work for this? Such particles can’t be so small that they become an air pollutant particulate; I’m guessing about 40-100 mesh would be ideal.

I would be grateful if people more knowledgeable than me could clarify the geology underneath the leaking riser and BOP.

Here's my basic understanding:

BP has never publicly released geological cross-sections of the seabed and underlying rock. BP's Initial Exploration Plan refers to "structure contour maps" and "geological cross sections", but all detailed geological information, maps and drawings have been designated "proprietary information" by BP, and have been kept under wraps.

However, Roger Anderson and Albert Boulanger of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory describe the basic geology of the oil-rich region of the Gulf:

"Production in the deepwater province is centered in turbidite sands recently deposited from the Mississippi delta. Even more prolific rates have been recorded in the carbonates of Mexico, with the Golden Lane and Campeche reporting 100,000 barrel per day production from single wells. However, most of the deep and ultra-deepwater Gulf of Mexico is covered by the Sigsbee salt sheet that forms a large, near-surface “moonscape” culminating at the edge of the continental slope in an 800 meter high escarpment.


Salt is the dominant structural element of the ultra-deepwater Gulf of Mexico petroleum system. Large horizontal salt sheets, driven by the huge Plio-Pleistocene to Oligocene sediment dump of the Mississippi, Rio Grande and other Gulf Coast Rivers, dominate the slope to the Sigsbee escarpment. Salt movement is recorded by large, stepped, counter-regional growth faults and down-to-the-basin fault systems soling into evacuated salt surfaces. Horizontal velocities of salt movement to the south are in the several cm/year range, making this supposedly passive margin as tectonically active as most plate boundaries.


Porosities over 30 percent and permeabilities greater than one darcy in deepwater turbidite reservoirs have been commonly cited. Compaction and diagenesis of deepwater reservoir sands are minimal because of relatively recent and rapid sedimentation. Sands at almost 20,000 feet in the auger field (Garden Banks 426) still retain a porosity of 26% and a permeability of almost 350mdarcies. Pliocene and Pleistocene turbidite sands in the Green Canyon 205 field have reported porosities ranging from 28 to 32% with permeabilities between 400 mdarcies and 3 darcies. Connectivity in sheet sands and amalgamated sheet and channel sands is high for deepwater turbidite reservoirs and recovery efficiencies are in the 40-60% range."

The BP oil spill leak is occurring in Block 252 of the "Macondo" Prospect in the Mississippi Canyon Area of the Gulf. The Mississippi Canyon Area is very typical of the Gulf oil region.

If the geology at Block 252 is like that described by Anderson and Boulanger for the Gulf oil region as a whole, then it might be difficult to stop the oil gusher without completing relief wells (which will take a couple of months). Again, if there are salt layers right under the sea floor, high porosity near the surface or salt movement, then sealing the leak by plugging the risers and blowout preventer might not work. The oil pressure is coming up at such high pressures that sealing the leaking equipment at the level of the seabed might just mean the oil will flow out somewhere else nearby.

Any insights would be much appreciated...