The Gulf Deepwater Oil Spill, barriers, flow rates, and top kill

The Gulf oil spill continues to generate headlines, and ABC News has been running the story at the top, or close to the top of its evening World News with Diane Sawyer. This photo was at the top of the page on Sunday morning. Their coverage, as with the most recent comments from the Administration, are increasingly unfavorable to BP.

Burning parts of the oil spill (ABC News 11 am 23-5-2010)

However, while BP has overall responsibility, sometimes (as in the accident itself) some of the problems may arise from those subcontractors tasked with some of the work, of which more anon.

Part of the ABC story deals with a drop in the production volumes that are being picked up by the riser insertion tube (RIT) that is taking oil from the leak to storage tanks on the surface.

BP spokesman John Curry told The Associated Press on Sunday that a mile-long tube inserted into the leaking well siphoned some 57,120 gallons of oil (1,360 barrels a day) within the past 24 hours, a sharp drop from the 92,400 gallons of oil a day (2,200 bd) (and 15 million cf of natural gas) that the device was sucking up on Friday. However, the company has said the amount of oil siphoned will vary widely from day to day.

Both of those numbers are significantly short of the 5,000 bd that the system was anticipated to remove from the riser, thereby significantly lowering the amount that is piped to the surface. At the same time there is an Op-Ed piece that has just run in the NYT which suggests, based in part on the measurements at Purdue from the oil venting video, that the real flow rate is around 40 – 100,000 barrels a day. BP have not released some of the information that would allow ball-park calculations of the actual flow, despite their claim to be open and transparent (I included the Unified Command in that decision initially but they don’t have that ability and I recognize the error). But there are some some factors that should perhaps be considered in evaluating the possible accuracy of these estimates (recognizing that there may never be a way of making an accurate assessment, though there now is a group, including the folk from Purdue, that will provide a final analysis that will be peer-reviewed and released to the public).

In an earlier post, BP had noted that the pressures that they were recording at the top of the well, and across the BOP were lower than they had anticipated, and that they were falling. They need to have this information before they inject the mud into the bottom end of the riser to do the top kill later this week. The Op-Ed piece suggested that this will only limit the leak, but if the kill works it will actually stop the leak and allow a cement plug to be placed at the top of the well, sealing it from leaking. However the mud must be injected at a pressure greater than that within the well itself, and in sufficient volume that it will flow down the well, rather than through the BOP and out the broken riser. This is achieved by raising the flow level to such a value (in this case 1,680 gal/min of mud) that there is too much resistance for this to flow through the gap in the BOP and the flow therefore pushes back down the well, filling it with mud with sufficient density that it will overcome the pressure at the bottom of the well.

Now the pressure along the passage that oil and gas makes as it goes from the reservoir, up through the initial well, through the BOP, down the riser, and then either into the RIT or out into the ocean, undergoes several pressure drops. With each drop the gas content will preferentially expand more and take up a greater volume of the total flow space.

Outflow at the riser (AP feed at 11 am 23-5-2010)

However the gas is still intermixed with the oil, and not knowing the relative points of pressure change (recognizing that the presence of the RIT, flaps and the drill pipe all constrain the flow area out of the riser) the velocity component from gas expansion cannot be properly estimated. Thus taking spot velocity measurements don’t really help much in estimating the average velocity of the flow, and have no bearing on the actual oil:gas ratio at that point).

After I wrote this and, as Monkeyfister noted in comments yesterday, there appears to have been a significant increase in the flow, relative to that shown in the frame above - but this may depend on where the camera is, and that view may have changed by the time that you look at the live feed. The dispersant flow seems to be a smaller part of the overall flow volume, implying that this has increased. It could mean that there has been further erosion of the orifice through the BOP or that there is some problem with the RIT, and that less of the oil and gas is going up that channel.

To assess the possible size of the total flow one might consider the flows from existing wells in the Gulf, and as Euan Mearns has pointed out, if you look at the Thunder Horse platform after it had four wells in production (with their construction designed to ease fluid flow out of the formation to the well and production lines) it was averaging 50,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent per well. This well is not in such a productive zone. Also, the well is producing through a badly damaged cement liner, and a complex path to the well head, and from a shallower depth, so that the differential pressure will likely be less. The constraint from the damaged BOP will probably add additional resistance to the flow, and thus it is hard to see how the flow could get near 50,000 barrels per day.

On the other hand it is not clear what diverting a considerable resource, currently being directed at stopping the flow, to measuring the flow volume would achieve. The booms, siphoning ships and control burns are operating to scoop up the oil as fast as they can. The system fielded is using about as much resource as is available, and as the Admiral has noted, is not constrained by estimates of the well flow volume.

Which brings me back to my opening thought. The ABC stories at the end of the week were focused on the arrival of the oil and emulsion on the shores of Louisiana. The question that I had in an earlier post was as to why the oil was getting there, when there had been so much effort put into erecting barriers to prevent that happening. There are over 300 miles of boom that have been fielded.

Admiral Landry addressed that in her comments at the press conference on Friday, noting that oil had come ashore at Terrebonne Parish, in Louisiana. She was disappointed to note that the boom had been pre-staged in Terrebonne Parish, and that skimmers were there, but folks had hesitated to deploy them. Thus while other areas along the shore had been more aggressive and successful in controlling the oil, that there had not been the same kind of action in Terrebonne Parish, resulting in a lack of success there – however she noted that this will change. (Something missing from the ABC reports, which focus more on the inability of BP to stop the oil from coming ashore.)

Weather conditions are just about optimal for cleanup, so that while skimmers would normally only get 10 – 15% of the oil, they have been achieving 50-60% recovery, the burns have been very successful and sustained, while the use of the dispersant at depth means that there is not that much oil coming to the surface to be dealt with. (It is too calm to use surface dispersants since they need some turbulence to mix with the oil.) However the problem will only start to diminish after the well stops emitting oil.

The most likely step to stop this is the top kill, scheduled for this week, though the process must be thoroughly reviewed by the MMS before it is implemented. BP will use the Q4000 as the vehicle to carry out the kill. This has two Schlumerger MD 1000 pumps which will likely be fitted to deliver the highest flow rate (which gives a maximum pressure of 6,800 psi or around 4,300 psi differential to the water pressure at the well. The pressure can be increased to 20,000 psi but at much lower flow rates). The mud pumped will have a density that is about twice that of water. They are still also looking at crimping the well, and doing a hot tap, should the top kill not work. The attempt is currently anticipated to take place on Tuesday.

Would anyone care to comment on the BAU legal "fix" being attempted as we watch? Here's two slants:

Just lawyers earning their keep.

However, once that oil slick hits Galveston Island, the trial climate is Houston isn't going to be any better than New Orleans.

"She was disappointed to note that the boom had been pre-staged in Terrebonne Parish, and that skimmers were there, but folks had hesitated to deploy them. "

By "folks" you mean BP?

Somehow even a company as large as BP is unlikely to have enough folk to be doing all this work themselves, The comment was based on the assumption that they have hired that out to local contractors (the sort of folk Alan writes about) who had dropped the ball. But because BP is in charge, overall, they get the blame.

Coast Guard officer admits to being "Dumb and Slow"

But promises to do better.

Jefferson Parish commandeered 40 boats already chartered by BP to lay boom and fight spill as it came ashore.

Under law, when the gov't commandeers any property, they compensate for it's use. Local TV reports that JP may be "slow" in this case.


PS: It was actually refreshing to hear an officer admit it. And I believed his promise to do better.

In other news, local officials want to dredge sand and build up barrier islands to block oil from getting into the marshes. Local idea that has won state support. $250 million estimated cost. 10 dredges now in position and ready to go within hours of an OK.

They say that the sand can be removed in spots if is a problem for wildlife & fisheries later. But the impact of oil overwhelms any impact from changes in circulation of water. In most cases dredging would just restore sand that was there decades ago.

Corps of Engineers is dragging feet on OKing the start (WHY NOT a provisional start on the "least likely to damage" restoration while the entire plan is reviewed in more depth ?)

Plaquemines Parish wanted to spend $1 million of their money and start dredging immediately, but Coast Guard stopped them. "They do not give a rats ass" was the comment by Plaquemines Parish President.


I guess the arguments are about the environmental impact of dredging vs. not dredging. I assume once they determine which one is less environmentally damaging, they'll give the go ahead or not.

It's my understanding that the ecology of the coastal wetlands depends on water moving back and forth between the open water of the Gulf and the Mississippi (and other rivers') outflow. Seems that blocking one side of that system would generate a series of consequences.

There's been a poster at Daily Kos commenting (with some humor and salty language) on how to properly deploy booms and deal with coastal oil:

About the Daily Kos articles: Effing hilarious!

WOnderful article.
2 questions.
How do they crimp the well?
What is a hot tap?

Crimping the well would require putting another blow-out preventer (BOP) on the well and using the rams from it to squeeze the pipe shut. A "hot tap" is where they drill into the side of the well, and inject mud to stop the well flowing and then cement to seal it.

I know nothing about crimping a well, but ...

I think I know what crimping means in other technical contexts: it means enclosing section of a long thin object, like a pipe, inside a pliers like tool and using the tool to crush a portion of the long thin object.

I can imagine that a second BOP might be fashioned out of two matching 'clam shells' that can be fitted to enclose a section of drill pipe, or riser pipe, or both. But we have seen pictures of the top of the existing BOP. The riser is bent over at an acute angle within inches of the flange that couples it to the top of the BOP. The drill pipe that is inside the riser pipe must be either bent or broken at this location. And the top of the BOP seems to be bent out of line to the rest of the BOP, below it.

I can imagine, if the BOP were not damaged, and if the flow rate were not so great, unbolting the riser from the BOP and lowering a second BOP onto the top of the first. And while this is being done have this second BOP open to flow. Then when it is fully bolted in place, closing it to stop the flow, but ... only in my dreams. Much as I can imagine flying to the Moon.

I can imagine BP PR people talking about crimping. Do you have any feel for whether or not BP views this as a realistic proposal? Either way, you have to report it. But, to me, it looks like grasping at straws.

"But, to me, it looks like grasping at straws."

Thanks for this mental image.

I think perhaps another BOP could go below the present one. It goes around the pipe...probably too complicated for ROVs, but the ocean floor is really soft, and would be easy to "blow aside" with a firehose or equivalent.

On the other hand it is not clear what diverting a considerable resource, currently being directed at stopping the flow, to measuring the flow volume would achieve.

I would have thought the US Navy would have something that could get down there independently of whatever BP has in place that could be used to monitor or measure the flow. Or perhaps something is already there, and they're just keeping it all hush-hush.

It appears to me that if there was,even for a short time, 5,000 BPD through the inserted 4" pipe, all you would need to know would the gas fraction at the surface to do some reasonable estimates. For that matter I would think visually observing the change in the plume when the inserted pipe flow is known would get you +/- 25%.

Yes, and that was done last week. Assuming that the Purdue professor's estimate of 70,000 bbl/day of total material leaking at the largest leak spot is a good estimate, the measurement of gas to oil at the surface suggested that there are 3 barrels of natural gas to 1 barrel of oil (based on the calculation that natural gas is 273 times more compressed at depth than at the surface 1 ATM). Therefore, I estimated that 18,000 bbl/day of crude oil are leaking compared to 52,000 bbl/day of natural gas.

Howeer, over time the blow out preventer (BOP) will be eroding further allowing the leak to increase over time. However, this may or may not be offset by reduced oil field pressure as the oil field depletes.


Just about everything that Obama says turns out not to be true. So when Obama said that BP will be paying for the entire cleanup cost from its catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf, what he is really saying is that BP is totally off the hook for this and the American people will be paying for BP’s mess either in the form of higher taxes or higher gas prices or some sorta mixture of the two. Nothing has changed about Obama. He’s still deep in the pockets of Corporate America, so he’ll continue to make certain that BP’s profits remain privatized and its losses remain socialized. He’s still a Swiss pocket knife for America's most kleptocratic-crony capitalists.

And since all of the privately-owned oil companies, from Exxon to Shell to Chevron, don’t have any incentive, much less any desire, to help BP put a stop to the oil gusher in the Gulf, that leaves the publicly-owned companies, mostly ones from the BRIC countries, to step in and fill their shoes. And because Brazil’s Petrobras is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to drilling for oil in ultra-deep water, this giant oil company from Brazil most likely knows the most about how to stop oil from gushing out of a wellhead that’s 5,000 ft underwater. But now that Obama has snubbed Brazil’s tripartite agreement with Turkey and Iran that would allow Iran to hand over a large part of its low-enriched uranium stockpile in exchange for a much smaller quantity of slightly higher enriched uranium, enabling Iran to produce medical isotopes, don’t be too surprised if Brazilian President, Lula da Silva, snubs Obama back by refusing to help us out in the Gulf.

It’s high time for the American people to wake up to the ugly truth that Obama is not only a neoconservative warmonger who chooses war over peace, but he’s also a neo-liberal corporatist who chooses corporate profits over protecting our workers as well as our environment.

Go ahead, call me a name caller of the lowest order, but do give me credit for not using profanity while engaging in name calling.;~}

I suppose you expect Obama to wave his magic Obama Wand and fix things. I suggest you don't understand the scale of what we (globally, collectively) face.

Obama is just a fly on the nose of the proverbial "bull in the china shop". Hard as he may try to lead, he has little ability to prevent the inevitable damage. But swat at the fly if you must.

Don't worry though. The flies eventually fly away, to be replaced by a new fly.

I think you misunderstand. He is not a fly. He is a ribbon, and the bull gets to pick the ribbon it wears.

".....the bull gets to pick the ribbon it wears."

Does it? Really?

If by bull you mean the corporate juggernaut that runs the world (which is the way I interpreted "bull in the china shop"), then yes, it does get to pick its ribbon.

One could certainly identify such influence in the 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004 Presidential elections. The others defy such an association.

Corporate influence was all over the 2008 election, notably Obama's votes in the U.S. Senate during the campaign for telecom immunity (after declaring repeatedly he would vote against it) and the bailout bill. Obama has received $748 million in donations through September 30, 2009.

It's unclear how your link is used to support your first sentence. I find this to be a better resource;

In the window on the left titled "Candidates" and second from the top, is "Obama" with the total of 747.8 million beside his name. Left clicking on his name opens a page containing details stating just above the map, "Contributions to Obama, Barack by State Through 09/30/2009." I am wondering whether that total is an all time record but could not find a source quickly.

Regardless of whether Obama is in the china shop as the fly on the nose of the bull or as the ribbon around the neck of the bull, underneath all of the eleven-dimensional layers of lipstick he's wearing, he's still a pig in a poke to me.;~}

We have a saying in Brazil, I believe other people have similar ones as well...

Rough translation: "It's always the same shit, only the flies are new."

Note to Cynthia: Brazilians are a heck of lot more pragmatic than you seem to be willing to give them credit for.

ANP, Brazil’s hydrocarbons regulator had stated that it would also send an envoy to the United States to help monitor the BP spill.

In a recent release to E&P companies, Brazil’s ANP requested that all operators and consortiums revise their emergency plans, and then submit a report on the new emergency plans to the regulator. In addition, ANP requested information about how offshore well control systems are being used.

And BTW, If Obama and BP ask nicely I'm sure that Petrobras would be more than willing to offer any help and expertise that they could.

And I periodically suggest that the MMS--tomorrow morning would be a good time--implement the apparent Brazil "Show Me" Rule, i.e., the drilling contractor reportedly has to show that the BOP shear rams will cut through a length of drill pipe at depth, before they can spud the well.

I understand BP already has had some Petrobras engineers (and others from Shell and other oil companies) in their war rooms since early on. There is a close relationship between the two companies. I think Petrobras is a 20% partner in BP's Tiber well - deepest oil well ever drilled, done by the Deepwater Horizon less than a year ago.

Perhaps you should reference this:

Most of Brazil's deep water drilling tech resides with Trans-ocean.

We voted for him in large numbers. Were we duped, or are we all really corporatist imperialist warmongers at heart?

Rhetorical question, of course. Not everyone was duped -- Alexander Cockburn, for one,had his number early on.

But really, we are still driving all over the place -- Hwy 101 to the beach is crowded, and people still keep telling me about all the neat places they are flying to. If we really cared about reducing the demand for oil that puts such pressure on companies to play Sorcerer's Apprentice, wouldn't we start with our own behavior? Rhetorical question, of course. Disclaimer -- I went to the beach, and it was way fun.

I can't see a real agent of real change in the line of succession, so a series of mysterious disappearances is unlikely to bring a strong people's leader like Uncle Joe Stalin or Smilin' Mao to Amerikka.

The best hopes lie in a military takeover with a closet real people's guy/gal/gay from the lower ranks leading the overthrow of the bourgeois banker's regime. Of course, once the people have recognized the error of their previous ways and have inhaled the wisdom of the revolutionary vanguard's consciousness of the true nature of the objective conditions, then a people's election can be held.

The people, united, can never, ever, ever ever, ever ever ever, be defeated.

That's all folks.

The people, united, have never, ever, ever ever, ever ever ever, been in control for more than about five minutes. For that matter, they've never been united for that long.

My satire-meter only pegged about halfway when I read this so forgive me if I missed the point.

Halfways? I'm hurt.

I think I may have read one too many get-your-government-hands-off-my-Medicare posts. I fear I might be losing perspective.

I think there are pundits and political gossip mongers out there who are actively trying to 'poison the well', throwing anything and everything at the wall hoping to render our critical thinking abilities useless. Somehow we're at a point where that's considered an acceptable political strategy. There's a difference in winning and leading, sadly it seems the majority of us either don't know that or don't care.

When a more-rightwing-than-centrist President can be portrayed as 'the most radical Leftist in the history of the universe' and lots and lots of people accept it without question, it would seem the scorched earth strategy is working.

Hi Cynthia, I do not doubt that you are a true lady , and congratulate you on your restraint, but you must realize that the words you do use are just cussing in Sunday clothes.;)

Perhaps it would be revealing to read commentary about the Tripartite agreement from some folks who are rather knowledgeable about arms control matters:

My career has intersection with these folks' area of per usual, the actual situation in many matters is far more complex and nuanced than lay people realize.

BTW, FWIW, I have been disappointed that President Obama has not done more to throttle back our MIC and done more to regulate the FIRE sector, etc, but what exactly was our alternative choice? McCain and Palin?

We need a new term, maybe "conspiracy salad" derived from "word salad" where people just throw togther, a la Palin, a melange of ideas, none of which are supported by evidence or any sense of looking at the situation from the viewpoint and circumstances of the person being accused.

Yes, Obama is president. We agree on that. We may not agree that he's free to act as dictator, outside the law, every time a bad circumstance happens. We criticized Bush for his assumption of royal powers, Cheney likewise, while they were dismantling regulatory agencies. Now that the corporations are much more powerful, and the regulatory agencies are staffed with Bush cronies, Obama's appointees have to first clean up the agencies while they're trying to use the agencies to regulate the corporations the bureaucrats are loyal to.

This takes time, which you interpret as willful stalling. We don't agree on that. And so on and so forth. I think you really need to show the evidence for your claims, or at least tell us why you can read peoples' minds.

First of all - thanks to HO and many others - both key post authors and commenters - you know who you are - for the outstanding writing, graphics, and pictures.

I do not recall seeing these aspects of the DWH situation discussed in this manner though it surely may have been.

Clearly a problematic well from the get go. Article explores well completion methods as well as high level outline of the problems drilling the well wrt to the geology.

Documents show BP chose a less-expensive, less-reliable method for completing well in Gulf oil spill

By Kevin Spear, Orlando Sentinel
11:55 a.m. EDT, May 23, 2010

Oil company BP used a cheaper, quicker but potentially less dependable method to complete the drilling of the Deepwater Horizon well, according to several experts and documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

"There are clear alternatives to the methods BP used that most engineers in the drilling business would consider much more reliable and safer," said F.E. Beck, a petroleum-engineering professor at Texas A&M University who testified recently before a U.S. Senate committee investigating BP's blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico.

He and other petroleum and drilling engineers who reviewed a log of the Deepwater Horizon's activities obtained by the Sentinel described BP's choice of well design as one in which the final phase called for a 13,293-foot-long length of permanent pipe, called "casing," to be locked in place with a single injection of cement that can often turn out to be problematic.

A different approach more commonly used in the hazardous geology of the Gulf involves installing a section of what the industry calls a "liner," then locking both the liner and a length of casing in place with one or, often, two cement jobs that are less prone to failure.

The BP well "is not a design we would use," said one veteran deep-water engineer, who would comment only if not identified because of his high-profile company's prohibition on speaking publicly about the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon or the oil spill that started when the drilling rig sank two days later.


According to the Deepwater Horizon's well ticket, that struggle defined almost every foot of progress made by the rig — until the Gulf's geology finally won.

In late February, the rig was losing mud in a weak formation, according to the well ticket. Among the variety of tricks drillers have at their disposal when that happens, the most reliable is to continually reinforce a well with permanent sections of casing or with liner and cement. Deepwater Horizon did that nine times.

In early March, the rig experienced a double dose of trouble, according to the well ticket: The pressure of the underground petroleum temporarily overwhelmed the mud, triggering alarms on the rig. At nearly the same time, the rig's drill pipe and drill bit became stuck in the well.

Just one or the other of those occurrences would amount to a bad day for any rig.

Deepwater Horizon recovered, but only after losing hundreds of feet of drilling pipe — likely at an equipment cost of several million dollars — and losing nearly two weeks of rig time.

The rig then progressed an additional 4,955 feet before again losing mud to a weak formation.

By mid-April, Deepwater Horizon reached the well's total depth of 18,360 feet — more than 3 miles — where it again encountered a formation that swallowed mud.

Rig workers twice lowered measuring instruments connected to steel cable into the well. The tools should have passed smoothly to the bottom, but instead they hit obstacles near the bottom — more evidence of an unstable well.


Pete -- Not arguing how well BP takes care of business, there are some blatant errors in that report. Above all else running a continuous casing string from the bottom of the well all the way back up to well head is far more expensive than just running a liner part way up. Easy to understand: running 18,000' of casing is more expensive than running a 3,000' liner. It's also makes for a much safer well: the continuous casing covers all the previous exposed casing and casing cement jobs which could fail at some point.

Sticking drill pipe, losing drill pipe, taking a kick and having to shut the well in and kill the flow: all normal events when drilling in DW...happens to all operators. This is not a risk free effort by any stretch of the imagination despite what any spin doctor might pitch. OTOH, we know how to handle these problems. BP also knew but took chances that were not necessary and now they and the rest of us will pay the price. In general BP followed the same procedures the rest of the industry follows. They just did a very poor job of it.

Sounds like the wireline guys were having trouble getting tools all the way to TD in that article....

mud can quickly vanish into subterranean voids

(from the same Sentinel article). While I am perfectly ignorant about geology, it surprises me that there can be voids at such depths. How come? (I suppose it does not have to be literally voids, but regions of lower pressure and some kind of elasticity or compressibility, but still. Why are these regions not already compressed by the surrounding formations? Could it be water-filled regions that accept the mud and give water back to the well?

Thanks for your answers.

While voids are a possibility, pressure differentials are more likely. The formation pressure does not increase linearly with depth down the well bore; it is partly dependent upon the lithology and the permeability. It is common to encounter zones of 'over-pressure', and one response to higher formation pressure is to up the weight (density) of the mud to counter the increased formation pressure (to prevent the formation collapsing in on the wellbore. Setting liners can also be done to bridge these zones, especially as you approach the reservoir section. One consequence of higher mud weights is the risk of damaging zones of lower pressure. The drilling mud will simply force into the lower pressure zone (which may be the reservoir), losing you the drilling mud, risking stuck pipe etc, and in the case of the reservoir, damaging the well bore through the reservoir, making subsequent hydrocarbon production from that wellbore difficult or impossible.

Bye Bye Sushi Tuna

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna range all over the oceans (closely related species in Pacific) but only breed in the Mediterranean and Gulf of Mexico.

The western population is already down 82% due to overfishing.

Now, imagine a bluefin tuna entering the GoM to spawn. It encounters a current of oil that it avoids. Does he or she decide "of well, next year" or is the spawning drive strong enough for it to try and find a way around the oil ?

Does the distraction of spawning reduce the ability to avoid oil ?

And once in the GoM, as it searches for the ancient spawning grounds, it will continue to avoid oil. But what if currents wrap around it and trap the fish ?

The spawn this year and perhaps next are unlikely to survive. But will the mature adults die as well ? Perhaps it depends on just how sex crazed they are.

Bluefin tuna spawn in large groups. Are they like passenger pigeons that require a crowd to have sex ? If so, how close are we to the minimum population required to reproduce ?

Best Hopes for Blue Fin Tuna and all the other species,


How about NOT to do overfishing, NOT to use the Gulf as personal amusement park or garbage dump, like for starters?

The tuna were overfished in the Atlantic (purse seines caught several year classes of juveniles). Tuna are mainly a rod & reel fish here.

Recreational fishing is being pretty well managed. When redfish showed signs of overfishing, their commercial catch was eliminated and recreational catch limited. Numbers bounced right back up. If anything redfish are were being underfished today as of April 19th, 2010 in Louisiana waters.

The "garbage" comes from upstream, especially Midwestern corn farmers are to blame (see TOD poster "x").

Fishing is an integral part of our culture (and cuisine) and can be done sustainably. Some oyster beds wiped out by BP have been in production for 130 years.


What oyster beds wiped out by BP? You report this stuff like it is FACT and no where else can anyone find data to support the claims. I'm assuming these were in the "no fishing" area? But how do they know unless they were out fishing in violation of the rules? Far as I can tell the fishing in La. was already in decline, maybe due to Katrina? Maybe due to the high price of fuel? Maybe due to the "dead zone" in the GOM which may or may not exist? But BP alone didn't wipe it out as your comment indicates. I don't trust the website as a valid source and I can't find a source from the State that validates your post.

What oyster beds wiped out by BP? You report this stuff like it is FACT and no where else can anyone find data to support the claims.

Did you try googling the topic, here it is in the MSM:

Oil is stretching further into the Louisiana wetlands. It has also hit several rookeries where pelicans nest, oiling birds and nests. Oil has also reached a 1,150-acre oyster ground leased by Belle Chasse, La., fisherman Dave Cvitanovich. He said cleanup crews were stringing lines of absorbent boom along the surrounding marshes, but that still left large clumps of rust-colored oil floating over his oyster beds. Mature oysters might eventually filter out the crude and become fit for sale, but this year's crop of young oysters will perish.

Maybe due to the "dead zone" in the GOM which may or may not exist?


The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is an area of hypoxic (link to USGS definition) (less than 2 ppm dissolved oxygen) waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Its area varies in size, but can cover up to 6,000-7,000 square miles. The zone occurs between the inner and mid-continental shelf in the northern Gulf of Mexico, beginning at the Mississippi River delta and extending westward to the upper Texas coast.

You know, up till now I thought you just had an agenda but now I'm sure you are just an ignorant Troll. Curious George, indeed. That's an insult to monkeys everywhere. The average Hermissenda crassicornis has orders of magnitude more brain power than you. Research shows that they at least are capable of learning from their mistakes.

Now go home to your Mommy Troll, little Troll boy, you are way out of your league here, some one might step on you by accident and leave a slimy mess.

You just can't fix STUPID. Before this mishap there was some good information and exchange of ideas here. I've read this site for many years but it's gone left wing nutso anti-oil bizarro now with zero moderation and very little common sense. Just goes to show the average understanding and reasoning of the US Public is about 6th grade level. I respect the opinions of people like Shelburne, Rockman, HO and others as they have been there and have the scars. The other idiots I can't stand. The idiot to expert ratio is way too high. I'll no longer be a reader or a poster, TOD can go hang.

Don't let the door hit your @$$ on the way out. On second thought, what do I care, you can go hang.

To paraphrase Groucho Marx, "Go, and never darken our shorelines again!"

The other idiots I can't stand. The idiot to expert ratio is way too high. I'll no longer be a reader or a poster, TOD can go hang.

Hip Hip Hooray! ROFLMAO!!!

You say "left wing nutso anti-oil bizarro" like it's a bad thing. ;)

How much does British Petroleum pay an astroturf artist like you? Alan Drake is a longtime member here, knowledgeable and respected for his contributions. You, on the other hand, are like a little tar ball one might pick up walking on a Gulf coast beach.

Is that SCT?
I just saw that there's an Iowa Wind party coming up. Hope you'll be reporting on it here. I'm stuck in Maine.


sorry, can't let this go.

Alan is a long and respected poster to this site...I have him by two weeks though, at least as a member of this site. So no troll here.

Alan's comment was that the oyster beds that BP wiped out (PAST tense as if it already happened)

The quote from FMagyar talks about a possible future die off of your young oysters, but that the mature oysters might survive. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the hyperbole about wiping out oyster beds.

I assume the talk about the dead zone was a swipe at the study posted yesterday about how this particular area of the gulf is now quite lush with marine life. Yes I know we might be talking about different depths, but not sure if the OP followed the discussion so closely.

If I want some opinions or facts on rails or electrifying transport, Alan is second to none and a worldwide expert in my book.

But sorry guys, I need to call BS when these all or nothing statements filled with hyperbole are posted since they are really starting to eat at me.

The marine life around the northern gulf will not end with this leak. Will it be affected, yes. Will peoples lives be affected, yes. Will Mother Nature rebound to all its glory....probably only if humans leave the area.


Slatz, nothing against you personally. I'll admit to yanking Monkey Boy's chain a bit. It has been fun.

The quote from FMagyar talks about a possible future die off of your young oysters, but that the mature oysters might survive. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the hyperbole about wiping out oyster beds.

First I pulled that quote right off the top of my first Google search on the topic. I posted it not to hold it up as scientific evidence of oyster beds being wiped out by the spill (caused) by BP. That's for another day in another court. I posted it in response to Mr. Curious' comment that it was not possible to find any information on it. I just wanted to show that that like most of his comments it was BS!

Now just a minor aside on whether or not oyster beds will be actually wiped out. First lets be very clear that oil from this spill is definitely affecting oyster beds and already killing young oysters. First and foremost those beds have been closed so if nothing else it is going to affect people's livlihoods in a big way. And yes I'm aware that BP is supposed to be footing that bill and compensating fisherman. My question is about the long term effects on the ecosystem. How exactly is BP going to be measuring that and against what baseline? You claim that this won't be a problem. Based on what?!

To be clear I would only be satisfied if BP of its own volition were right now hiring thousands of marine biologists and oceanographers and putting them on site to collect critical data so that we would actually be able to do a scientific assessment of the true environmental impacts.

This isn't just about the technical issues regarding the stopping of the spill.

But sorry guys, I need to call BS when these all or nothing statements filled with hyperbole are posted since they are really starting to eat at me.

OK I'll grant you that one.

The marine life around the northern gulf will not end with this leak. Will it be affected, yes. Will peoples lives be affected, yes. Will Mother Nature rebound to all its glory....probably only if humans leave the area.

There are already very serious problems with marine ecosystems all over the world I'll leave it to you and others to do your own research to verify whether or not that is true. The Gulf is certainly not in a healthy state as it is and it most certainly isn't going to help if people who have zero understanding of biology and ecology glibly make statements as to how this whole episode is not all that bad and that nature and the Gulf will recover.

Tell you what, let's put the scientists out there on BP's dime let them collect the data, analyze it and present it in peer reviewed papers. Then we can talk about what the effects of this spill really are and maybe it will also give us more information about all the other things we are doing that also have negative impacts on these and other marine environments and ecosystems.

Who knows maybe we will find that this spill is actually fertilizing the food chain and as a consequence there will be bumper oyster crops in the future and we will all be able to thank BP... Now don't you think that would make them look really good.

Final word on this point, maybe I'm just being too emotional about this whole mess, but so far most of what I have seen comes off as deliberate obfuscation of the truth both from BP and the official government agencies involved.

If you think the technical issues are extremely complex and difficult in stopping a blowout 5000 ft underwater just remember that small inputs into a system as complex as the Gulf ecosystem (which is orders of magnitude more complex and even less understood) can have consequences that are magnified enormously through the interconnectedness of the biological systems. Everybody needs to wrap their minds around this aspect of the spill the sooner the better.

I hate Rumsfeld but I can't think of a more appropriate way to express our current knowledge of what the consequences are going to be here, than his now infamous quote:

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.

So lets get those scientists out there now. What say you?!

Chances are the tuna will tolerate the oil in the water column and then lay their eggs. The question then becomes how will the eggs and larvae do upon hatching.

The GoM will NOT be a uniform soup of dissolved benzene and tarballs, but a sea with plumes and eddys of pollution, of differing mixtures, mixed with clean water.

The assumption that the mature spawning adults will be OK involves a large set of assumptions, many of which will only be known in the future.

Assuming a RW mud kill in late July, I see this years spawn as a write-off myself.


Perhaps BP will suggest the possibility of marketing a line of self frying seafood--you can fry the seafood in self contained oil, without adding any new cooking oil.

OK, WT. I've had this humerous thought as well, but not the huevos to publish.


Is that another word for funny bone? And it seems WT's huevos are made of brass...

FM -- I don't know if they are brass but I've heard rumors they are turning green lately. Been a while since I teased the boy and couldn't pass up the opportunity.

"I've heard rumors they are turning green lately."

Ha! That's better than blue ;->

As always, there are two primary possibilities--I am about to find an oil field only slightly smaller than East Texas, or I'm not.

To be fair to BP, they probably won't charge for the oil content in self-frying seafood. . .

As always, some good posts.

Oil dispersants an environmental ‘crapshoot’: Chemicals used on Gulf spill carry unknown risks, scientists say

While the dispersant may result in fewer oily egrets in the marsh, the bluefin is one of the creatures that may suffer greatly instead. The oil spill area overlaps with only known spawning area for one of two remaining bluefin populations. This bluefin population spends about 10 months of the year in the cold waters of the north Atlantic and then swims thousands of miles to reach an area near the Deepwater Horizon well to disseminate sperm and eggs in the warm Gulf waters between April and June. The larvae float about 10 to 15 feet below the surface in early stages of growth. No one is certain whether the oil will destroy the eggs or kill the larvae, but scientists fear that could happen.

“It is a critical habitat … and this is the most delicate life stage,” said Barbara Block, a professor at Stanford University studies bluefin tagged with sophisticated tracking devices. “The biodiversity of bluefin is at stake right now. … If we lose the year (of new bluefin) it will have a very large impact on a population of bluefin that is on the edge of extinction.”

This is the spawning ground for many other species, including marlin, swordfish and yellowfin tuna, which arrive in the summer.

Some of the chemical components distributed throughout the water will remain toxic for decades, and it's not clear what the impact could be on future generations of bluefin or other creatures — sperm whales, Bryde’s whales, offshore dolphin populations and seabirds — that fish far from shore.

Oil dispersants an environmental ‘crapshoot’: Chemicals used on Gulf spill carry unknown risks, scientists say

While the dispersant may result in fewer oily egrets in the marsh, the bluefin is one of the creatures that may suffer greatly instead. The oil spill area overlaps with only known spawning area for one of two remaining bluefin populations. This bluefin population spends about 10 months of the year in the cold waters of the north Atlantic and then swims thousands of miles to reach an area near the Deepwater Horizon well to disseminate sperm and eggs in the warm Gulf waters between April and June. The larvae float about 10 to 15 feet below the surface in early stages of growth. No one is certain whether the oil will destroy the eggs or kill the larvae, but scientists fear that could happen.

“It is a critical habitat … and this is the most delicate life stage,” said Barbara Block, a professor at Stanford University studies bluefin tagged with sophisticated tracking devices. “The biodiversity of bluefin is at stake right now. … If we lose the year (of new bluefin) it will have a very large impact on a population of bluefin that is on the edge of extinction.”

This is the spawning ground for many other species, including marlin, swordfish and yellowfin tuna, which arrive in the summer.

Some of the chemical components distributed throughout the water will remain toxic for decades, and it's not clear what the impact could be on future generations of bluefin or other creatures — sperm whales, Bryde’s whales, offshore dolphin populations and seabirds — that fish far from shore.

Oil dispersants an environmental ‘crapshoot’: Chemicals used on Gulf spill carry unknown risks, scientists say

While the dispersant may result in fewer oily egrets in the marsh, the bluefin is one of the creatures that may suffer greatly instead. The oil spill area overlaps with only known spawning area for one of two remaining bluefin populations. This bluefin population spends about 10 months of the year in the cold waters of the north Atlantic and then swims thousands of miles to reach an area near the Deepwater Horizon well to disseminate sperm and eggs in the warm Gulf waters between April and June. The larvae float about 10 to 15 feet below the surface in early stages of growth. No one is certain whether the oil will destroy the eggs or kill the larvae, but scientists fear that could happen.

“It is a critical habitat … and this is the most delicate life stage,” said Barbara Block, a professor at Stanford University studies bluefin tagged with sophisticated tracking devices. “The biodiversity of bluefin is at stake right now. … If we lose the year (of new bluefin) it will have a very large impact on a population of bluefin that is on the edge of extinction.”

This is the spawning ground for many other species, including marlin, swordfish and yellowfin tuna, which arrive in the summer.

Some of the chemical components distributed throughout the water will remain toxic for decades, and it's not clear what the impact could be on future generations of bluefin or other creatures — sperm whales, Bryde’s whales, offshore dolphin populations and seabirds — that fish far from shore.

Okay. Okay. I get it.

Unintentional duplication....sorry bout that.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

Well.. it's really
'Damned cause we already did it..' and haven't even started to stop doing it..


The flow from the riser this morning looks particularly heavy. It looks at least double what it was last night. I wonder if they will keep the 'live' feed going while they attempt the top-kill, although I'm sure if they do, it will be too murky to see anything.

Nice summary HO.Top kill attempt now early Wednesday morning.

There were mentions of significant visual indicators of movement/disruption on the Naked capitalism. Can any one explain? I looked at USGS and no earthquakes! thank goodness. Are they gas kicks?


Apologies to those who already read this on a previous thread.

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.

Shelburn: Thanks for taking so much of your time to educate us regarding the technical aspects of ROV's and the challenges of working on the sea floor.

second that, your thoughts and insights show a deeply technical knowledge that I appreciate you sharing and your posts are pretty even keel.

You call BS when it needs to be called, on both sides.


There's a new video linked from showing ROV work to prepare the BOP for the top kill.

Not exactly a thriller, but gives some insight into the intricacies of ROV ops at that depth.

Regards Chris

HO great content as usual.

This is achieved by raising the flow level to such a value (in this case 1,680 gal/min of mud)

Would work out to a mud volume of 57,600 barrels a day capability of mud delivery @ 6,800 psi? If so I guess that will give some indication of the pressure/flow characteristics at the BOP. As in, if it is successful then the pressure/flow was lower.

They need to have this information before they inject the mud into the bottom end of the riser to do the top kill later this week.

Yes I think this lends some credence to the idea that BP has a better idea of the flow rate than they are letting on. If true, not surprising based on liability.

there appears to have been a significant increase in the flow, relative to that shown in the frame above....In an earlier post, BP had noted that the pressures that they were recording at the top of the well, and across the BOP were lower than they had anticipated, and that they were falling.

This is something that cam watchers have been maintaining throughout. The two statements do not seem mutually exclusive at all. In fact this makes sense. To go from there to make the leap that the actual formation pressure is falling off rapidly does not seem to be a given.

remember that the mud viscosity could be higher than the oil...


Thought about that, but I don't know how to ratio that properly. Would 14 ppg mud be about twice as heavy as the oil? I imagine this gives the pumps a significant advantage along with some risks? Is the presence of gas important at this juncture or does the pressure keep them entrained downhole?

Given the characteristics of these pumps and what little we know for sure about the flow rates and pressures, would you be willing to gives us a little bit of what we would probably see as a progression as the top kill begins.

Will the pressures within the BOP be monitored? Will there be drill mud clouding visibility entirely? Is it going to be possible to see if the operation is damaging the kinked area further? Likely to start and stop a few times?

Any insights you have would be much appreciated. Your analysis on the separation of the fractions at depth is very important information IMVHO.


x -- Oil is lighter than sea water and sea water is around 7 ppg. So, yes, 14 ppg mud is more than twice the weight of oil. But the weight of the oil isn't the issue: it's the pressure. The force behind the oil/NG flow could be than the equivalent of 12 ppg or higher. But also remember the pump pressure adds effective mud weight: pumping 14 ppg mud under pressure could produce an equivalnet mud weight of 17 ppg. But you loose that extra when you turn the pumps off.

Just MHO but there are so many unknowns with the top kill approach I think they can only make guess as they go and adjust accordingly. Often times in such situation there's a very detailed plan on paper. And as soon as you start pumping you discover that plan is worthless. Whoever is in charge at the well site should be the most experienced hand available. There will be no time for a committe meeting or a call to the office. A delay of just 60 seconds before making the right decison could cause a worse situation. And maybe kill a few more hands in the process.

Thanks so much Rock;

It about as dicey as one might imagine then. I can relate marginally (from my wildland background) how a well laid plan will go to hellinahurry and how critical the decision tree and timing is both to life and property. In this case there can scarcely be more at stake.

Praying for a successful well kill and ice water running in the veins of the operators.

remember that the mud viscosity could be higher than the oil...

Heading Out -

It is not clear to me that making a better attempt at estimating the flow rate of the oil/gas release would necessarily divert resources away from fixing the leak, as the two tasks involve totally different people engaged in totally different activities largely independent of each other. But what is becoming more and more clear to me is that BP wants no part of any attempt to determine the total size of the release. I think this attitude is already starting to backfire on them.

Perhaps I am not looking at this correctly, but it seems to me that once the oil/gas has escaped from the small opening(s) in the damaged drill pipe and enters the annular space between the drill pipe and the inside of the 21-inch riser, there can't be very much pressure drop between the point of the leak and the end of the riser where it discharges into the water.

And the reason is that it is moving rather slowly due to the relatively large cross-sectional area of the annular space (approx. 2 sq. ft). Thus, if for example, the actual flow rate of the escaping oil/gas stream were say 20,000 bbl/day, it's velocity as it travels down the riser would only be about 0.65 ft/sec. Even over the distance of a mile of pipe, a velocity that low will result in only a modest pressure drop. Thus, it seems to me that if one knows the pressure on the downstream side of the BOP, and if one assumes some moderate pressure drop from the BOP to where the leak is thought to be in the drill pipe, then one should have a decent handle on a possible range of flow rates for the oil/gas leak.

However, mathematically determining the fraction of oil versus gas is much more difficult, but I think we already have a handle of that by knowing the gas/oil ratio of the stuff being collected topside from the insertion tube. Thus, we should be able to back-calculate what the volume ratio would be at 5,000 ft down.

What am I not seeing here?

I think that once the Unified Command put out a number with the caveat that there was uncertainty, BP probably felt it was better to wait for the team of experts to give a number(that was going to happen anyway) then to revise, knowing a revised number could be off too, and undermine perceptions even more(if that is possible). They actually may be using a range around the 5000 with a lot of gas to plan for their design regarding the top kill and other solutions. It'll will be interesting to hear what the experts calculations are with assumptions and ranges and to hear what BP says, if anything, about that number.The gas thing really does make the whole thing tough. I think, given that it is now over a month and oil is reaching shore, trying to argue about any number is kind of beside the point. Even a very small spill for 30 days(or one day) is pretty bad. It's clear people will be arguing for many years about how much leaked and where it ended up. I'm pulling for the Gulf to surprise us and recover from this mess faster and better than we fear.

DiverDan -

I hardly think that because the oil is now reaching the shoreline, make a determination of the size of the release 'besides the point'. In may respects it IS the point, particularly since most of this oil is below the surface and therefore not visually apparent (though unfortunately it's effects will ultimately be).

Anyway, I too will be very interested to see what estimated flow rate (or more likely, what flow rate range) this team of experts comes up with.

Hey, how about a TOD oil release flow rate pool? I hereby put my bid in at 20,000 bbl/day of oil (not total flow rate of oil + gas).

My guess, Joule, is that the assumption of 0.65 ft/sec is unrealistic. It’s fine based on an assumption of uniform flow along the entire riser. However, with a gas-oil ratio this high at exit and a pressure differential likely exceeding 3000 psi, I would assume sonic shocks are occurring at one or more points somewhere after the blowout preventer. That’s where most of the pressure loss would be.

That means that there’s no way to take the flow rate at one leak and extrapolate it to all of the others without knowing the geometry of the flow path in between. You can calculate a theoretical upper limit for unrestricted flow through a single orifice, but that’s not helpful in this case.

BAUHouse -

I think you might have misinterpreted what I said, which essentially was: IF the flow rate of the oil/gas fluid WERE 20,000 bbl/day, THEN the apparent velocity in the annular area between the drill pipe and the inner surface of the riser WOULD have to be about 0.65 ft/sec. It wasn't an assumption: it was an if/then analysis and a simple velocity calculation based on area and flow rate. From my own observations of the video, I tend to think the velocity is at least twice that, but I will reserve judgement until we hear from this panel of experts.

Also, the pressure differential between the leak in the damaged drill pipe and the open end of the riser cannot possibly be anywhere near 3,000 psi. Because if it was, then there would be many millions of gallons per day of fluid gushing out of the drill pipe at very high velocity. Visualize how much oil can be transported in a 21-inch pipe a mile long with only a modest pressure differential.

I also don't see what sonic shock waves would have much to do with the bulk velocity of stuff coming out of the drill pipe, other than created a slight pulsing effect, which would be highly damped by the time it got to the end of the riser.

Mind you, I'm just talking about the end of the riser here and haven't even considered the other (presumably smaller) leaks.


I misinterpreted. My comment is not applicable to the riser end + RIT alone, which are well beyond any obstructions at which choked flow could occur.

In theory that would be a way to estimate the flow and I expect the task force will look at it but what you may be missing is that I don't think they are able to get a pressure reading just downstream from the kink and that is a place that has an obvious restriction. Also there are a number of places the riser is bent or deformed and some of these may be buried in the mud so there may be more restrictions downstream.

As for BP's reluctance I think there are probably several possibilities the first two that spring to mind are:

Their legal department has put a muzzle on them, a strategy that may well backfire,

or, The know that any estimate they make will be imprecise and probably wrong so and they figure the PR a**kicking now is the same as later,

and, at the moment they have the government to hide behind as all the official estimates have come from the government and later, in court, BP can deny they made any estimates.

On May 14, an approximate pressure just downstream of the BOP was reported as 2600 psi (or so), about 400 psi higher than sea water pressure. I believe both exits are constricted...there may be a kink somewhere in the riser that we have not been shown.

I think the upper BOP pressure reading is just a few feet before the kink. The kink is the location of at least 3 pressurized leaks that seem to be eroding out over time.

Due to the angle and distortion of the ROV video coupled with a number of bent pipes in the way it is difficult to appreciate the severity of the kink. The ROV operators reports it appears to be bent about 120 degrees.

The supposition is that the kink is the restriction that is the primary cause of the last 400 psi reduction with minimal and unknown losses past that point. So no known inlet pressure to calculate flow based on friction losses in the 5,000 or so feet of riser.

In the most recent press conference (Monday) Suttles indicates they no longer believe the
kink in the riser and/or the riser itself are restricting much flow. Now whether that is due to
erosion or it was always that way, he didn't say.

That's a tiny bit of good news because if the top kill fails, BP feels like it's an acceptable option to cut off the riser and stick a new riser on it.

It looks like the next sequence of events (as of that call) -

1) Top Kill Wednesday
2) If fails, top hat over the BOP
3) Junk shot + Top Kill

I couldn't get much technical out of the press conference.

The idea that there are restriction downhole is interesting and there was a very early report, when they first reinstalled the control pod that the pressure at the BOP was 14,000 psi. A few days later a more official report stated 8,000 to 9,000 psi. I kind of dismissed the earlier report but maybe it was correct.

I got the impression from what he said (why, why no numbers for us techno-nerds??) that the pressure at the BOP keeps dropping which can only be a drop in formation pressure or restrictions below the BOP, or a bit of both. Or a leak going into another formation - real bad news.

On this next I am way out of my comfort zone and would like a comment from some of the downhole experts.

IF the leakage is through the annulus and IF they can configure the choke and kill lines to enter the main bore and IF there is blockage at the formation level then doesn't that actually give the top kill a real chance at success since it won't have to fight the outflow of oil/gas?

Could this be the best news we heard since this all started?

What do you all think of this claim that oil is now erupting from the seabed?

If it is, what are the implications?

Go up just a few posts to find what could be a possible explanation. The key is that after the visual disturbances things return to normal, if there was a blow out around the wellhead it would continue and probably worsen.

wrb -- I can't tell if the flow is coming from the sea floor or not. If it is there are two possibilities that I would offer. First, some portion of the leaking drill pipe is buried under the sea floor and that's what they are seeing. No big change in the situation IMHO. OTOH, it might be the flow is now coming from some hole in the casing below the mud line. This is not unprecedented. Over 30 years ago I had a rig sink when NG came up the outside of the conductor pipe. The conductor or drive pipe is that first string of casing run below the well head. All the other csg strings are run inside of it. If this is the case than whatever little chance of the junk or top kill had is probably gone now. Otherwise it probably won't affect the mostly likely outcome: the relief well will kill the flow close to its source. But it could make the ultimate job of permanently plugging and abandoning the original hole that much more difficult.

While understandably most attention has been focused on ecological impacts on the GOM, the impacts on the entire ocean shouldn't be ignored. Yes, I know, the world's oceans are massive in relation to this spill, but this is just another proverbial straw on the proverbial camel's back in terms of turning the entire ocean into a vast sewer. I'd like to see some oceanographers' opinions/research on human impact on the oceans. From global warming to overfishing to the dumping of vast amounts of pollutants, it seems we are gradually killing the oceans.

Why is the oil coming in past the booms.....LOL. Its going over and under them, something I confirmed in a conversation with a Hopedale fisherman. Jefferson Parish officials are keeping press cameras away from the Grand Isle beaches under direction of BP. Breton Sound is full of oil, so is Barrataria Bay....its a massive coverup by BP.

Someone needs to get down there and tell BP what to do.......according to Billy Nungasser, BP and the Coast Guard are enforcing a no-fly zone over the spill, and according to local photographers, BP is forcing local parish police to keep photographers off the beach at Grand Isle. It appears that at every point BP is restricting access in whatever way that it can.

Who is giving them this power? Salazar talks about keeping his "boot" on BP.....but who is enforcing all of these bans, bans on the Parish officials.

Check out the links posted above:

Short answer: the oil is coming over the booms because the booms are being laid incorrectly/not tended properly.

I'm no oceanographer but there have always been natural oil and gas seeps. The best estimates that I know indicate that man's activities have doubled the amount of petroleum products going into the oceans from various types of spills, the largest portion coming from waste (a million cars each leak a tablespoon of oil that is washed into the river that goes to the ocean) and tanker accidents. And the long term effect of that doubling is unknown.

There have been some reductions in the natural seeps in areas like the Gulf of Mexico and especially Southern California due to oil production reducing the formation drive but I doubt it is a significant reduction on a worldwide basis.

It is my gut feel that the damage we are doing to the ocean is much greater from all the other chemicals and toxins we pour into our waters than purely petroleum spills. Mother Nature has had millions of years to develop systems (microbes) to take care of a certain level of oil pollution. Some of the toxins we let enter the ocean have no natural counterpart and no system to naturally remove them.

As noted in the first few days of this, by a LSU researcher that investigated effects of Exxon Valdez, said that fin fish had special enzymes that processing oil metabolites out of their system after just a week or so in clean water.

As I understood the interview, this applied to fin fish only.

Best Hopes for Good News,


Most young adults if they get pneumonia recover, most nursing home patients do not. The years have done their damage and the resiliency is gone. Had we not overfished the Gulf (and all our oceans) had we not been fertilizing the algae and dumping toxins into the Gulf, perhaps the Gulf could make a full recovery if they ever stop the leak. But the fact is that the Gulf is already fragile (oh did I mention wet land destruction) and thus more vulnerable. Where there are natural seeps Mother Nature adjusts over time. Perhaps if the leak continues for several thousand years Mother Nature will make Gulf ecology that does just fine. But we are interested in what is going to happen in the next few decades are we not. Based on the Valdez the next two decades are going to be quite hard for marine life.

I'd like to see some oceanographers' opinions/research on human impact on the oceans.

There is a 20min version
and a 44min version
of this extremely depressing presentation.

OK--the usual form of advancing a proposal doesn't seem to work here on TOD, so I'll ask it "backwards".

Can anyone here give me a valid scientific reason why the following scheme would NOT work--to confine the oil that's being released to a single location, where it could more easily be retrieved from the ocean surface, at least during the time frame in which benefits of good weather persist:

Looking at surface currents for any "natural vorticity" which can be used to determine the best direction--to deploy a fleet of ships steaming in the same circular (angular) direction around a point which, as it can best be determined, is directly above the point where the oil and gas are being released from the sea floor.

I'm not talking about 5 or 10 ships, but maybe a hundred or more, that might even include nuclear-powered aircraft carriers at the outer fringe. Small, but powerful, tugboats could form the innermost group.

The momentum developed as a result of the thrust provided by the ships engines would be transferred via the propellers to the upper water layer as "angular momentum".

Over time, as a result of shear stresses, the angular momentum would be transferred both outward and downward into the water layers below.

If the vortex thus created should reach the sea floor (which might take days) anywhere close to the gas release point, by "centripetal force", this gas, dragging the lighter oil-saturated liquid along with it, should seek and ultimately maintain itself at the center of the vortex as it rises throughout the height of the column.

At the surface, the vortex would create a mild depression where the lighter oil phase would accumulate.

Little, if any, dispersant would be required. The only requirement would be that the oil on the surface be "vacuumed up" as quickly as it arrives from the depths, a transit time that should be measured in minutes, not hours or days, to minimize "weathering".

My first hesitation and doubt was to think that no "net" vorticity could be created this way, kind of like a person lifting himself up by his own bootstraps, but upon further reflection, I don't think this is a valid analogy.

What does TOD community think about this--can "net vorticity" be created or increased in this way, and if so, can it be made to penetrate deeply enough down into the sea to make this scheme work?

If not, what would be the maximum depth at which an idea such as this "could" work?


This would be the equivalent of sticking your finger in the middle of a pool and swirling it around.

more like a toothpick

There are a whole host of reasons but the primary one is scalability.

I doubt that the effect of a thousand ships tied together side by side and end to end and grouped into the smallest possible circle (we are talking theoretical here as no captain would ever let you put his ship at risk like that) would reach down more than about 100 to 200 feet, the thrust just dissipates, and would certainly not pass the first layer of opposing current.

Also to get real water movement you need to have the propeller or thruster stationary. The horsepower of a ship mostly goes into moving the ship forward, displacing the water away from the hull on both sides, not in moving the water itself as that is considered wasted power. And there is no place to anchor the ships so that the propeller thrust is primarily moving water.

Sorry to be so negative.

I had an idea of setting up a circle of powerful electromagnets just above the seabed to start a vortex from the bottom but it quickly fell apart for many of the same reasons. I think starting the vortex at the bottom is the only way it would have a chance of working.

If you could ever get a vortex to actually reach the surface it might possibly become self sustaining unless cross current layers ripped it apart. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how it could be done but I don't think its possible under real world circumstances.

There is another whole way to potentially capture the oil: using a chimney made out of inflated flexible tubes (imagine a stack of doughnuts filled with pressurized water or aqueous gel; the doughnuts have to be attached to each other). It has to be anchored due to the current, but perhaps that is feasible? I had this idea as an inexpensive riser pipe for ocean thermal energy (OTC), and I gave a paper on a version of this for underwater insulated tanks.

It is a lot like the top hat, but with a straight bore that is much larger (perhaps 100 feet, and does not taper down. This could also be done with fiberglass. This wants to be neutrally buoyant to make it easier to wrestle it into place.

HOG -- I don't fault your imagination..keep it up. But as the Aggie implies below it's a matter of scale. Just assume your vortex can reach 100' below the sea level (rather optimistic IMHO). The oil is flowing out 5,000' below sea level. When you take the Aggie's idea of swirling your hand in a pool it's actually would have a better chance of affecting dirt on the bottom of the pool. Consider 6" vs. 10' (about a 20:1 ratio) and then 100' to 5,000' (50:1 ratio). And that doesn't take in account the currents.

But it's still good to hear ideas from all corners. Sometime the "experts' can be too close to a problem to see something obvious.

To explain as briefly as I can: fluid mechanics doesn't work that way. Suction causes swirling vortexes, but swirling vortexes don't cause suction.

Here's an experiment to try. Fill up your bathtub. Take a hole punch and punch out a bazillion little paper dots, and scatter them so they float on the surface of the water. Now take a wooden spoon and try to stir the water in a way that makes the dots all clump up in the middle.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

... and this is ignoring GregTx's point, that the effect of a ship on the ocean as a whole is more like stirring with a toothpick than a spoon.

Invert your thinking. The oil and gas are trying to escape to the surface (suction is up) so a vortex could be formed from the bottom to the surface.

But I have no earthly clue how you could start a mile long vortex.

Do you mean like this idea given below, which I posted in node 6449 two weeks ago?

"Now, the gas bubbles and oil are spread out over the surface over and area of, let's say half a square mile or larger, due to chaotic fluctuations in how the oil/gas mixture rises through an unlimited, pool of water having both currents and eddys.

This makes in difficult to "enclose" the area where the oil reaches the surface, because its location keeps moving or jumping around randomly. If the oil and gas were to always come out in the same place, it wouldn't be that difficult to "corral" and collect essentially all of it.

How can we get it to break the surface always in the same location?

By building a "squirrel cage" around the leak with fixed vertical airfoils that directed the seawater "inflow" tangentially either clockwise, or counterclockwise. This squirrel cage could be about 20' in diameter and 60' tall. The airfoils or "vanes" would be about a foot wide and about 2-4 feet apart. The cage would be placed over the center of the leak. They could be made in 20' tall sections and be "stack-able" having a mechanism to lock each one onto the one below.

The oil and gas rising from the bottom entrains-in or "advects" the surrounding seawater, which would be deflected tangentially by the squirrel cage, creating a rising seawater whirlpool which would confine the rising oil and gas to a single column.

The "whirlpool" with the oil and gas at the center, due to conservation of angular momentum, breaks the surface at a specific identifiable location, the center of which either doesn't move or does so slowly. A scheme for vacuuming up the accumulating oil at a specific, identifiable, location can then be devised".

Maybe the two vortices, one created from below, and the other from above, would be inclined to "meet-up" somewhere in between.

I made a drawing in "Paint" which depicts the "squirrel cage" idea, but forgot how to upload the image onto the site--use some HTML tag??

HOG Yes - like that idea, but again reality rears its ugly head.

I think the vortex has to start from the bottom because there has to be a drive mechanism which is the buoyancy of the oil and gas. Trying to do anything on the surface will be ineffective. If you can get the vortex that near the surface it will already have accomplish its objective - to bring the oil to the surface at a contained location.

As I visualize your "squirrel cage" it is a series of cylinders 20 feet in dia about a foot thick and spaced 2 to 4 feet apart, lets assume 4 feet apart but that would have to be checked. The cylinders would have vanes that would rotate the vortex clockwise (to use the Coriolis Effect to our advantage).

Some questions:

What will the cylinders be made of?

How big are the vanes? Near the bottom you have methane hydrates and my understanding is they like to attach to surfaces so will they cover the vanes so they don't do their job? I don't know but that must be considered.

How much will they weigh - in air? in salt water?

How will the bottom of the cylinder stack be attached? Clamped to the riser? Will it have enough force from currents to bend or break the riser? A concrete or steel weight? If a weight how heavy to hold against currents? Suction anchors?

What hangs the cylinders together and keeps them separated? Steel cable? Steel rods? something else?

How are they brought out and assembled? 1,000 cylinders 20 feet dia stacked 15' high takes about 28,000 sqft of deck space. If preassembled in 60 foot lengths they will need 100,000 feet of deck space. You can't stand something 60' high up on the deck of a supply vessel. Cargo ships that can handle that height load don't have the dynamic positioning required to work on station.

If each cylinder weighs 1,500 lb made of steel then the total with attachment fittings is probably close to 1,000 tons. If made of marine aluminum, probably half that. In either case the only rig that can handle them is the drilling rig.

Syntactic foam flotation that will stand up to that depth is about 32 lb/cuft and not an off the shelf item in that quantity.

All of the above are problems that could be overcome - with time, time probably measured in a few months while every one wants a few days, or hours.

The real problem is current. There are numerous cross currents between the surface and the bottom. Near the mouth of the Mississippi some of those currents can reach 2 knots or more. To visualize the power of currents remember that you can stand without much problem against a 60 to 70 mph wind but a 3 or 4 mph current will probably sweep your feet out from under you before you get waist deep and the current is only acting on your legs, not your whole body.

The risers such as used on the Deepwater Horizon were a major design problem because of currents. There were a lot of riser failures in the 1980s as designs, labored over by engineers for months, were torn apart by currents. And the OD of these risers is probably about 3 feet or less, not 20 feet. True they are a solid pipe where your idea has spacing but the net cross sectional area of the squirrel cage is still larger.

And in the high current areas I think (gut feel - no numbers) that a 4 foot spacing would be too far apart and the currents would destroy the vortex.

There are lots of other problems I could mention but the idea, while theoretically attractive, just isn't practical.

Shelburn--thanks for taking the time to consider this "option".

The "sea-chimney" I envision would be initiated from the bottom, as we both agree. The "cages" would take the shape of cylinders, open at each end, 15-20 feet in diameter and 15-20 feet high, and "stackable". The curved "shell" of each cylinder would be "porous" and consist of (curved) water-foils in vertical orientation (perpendicular to sea floor) about two feet wide, an inch thick, and perhaps made of marine aluminum as you suggested. They might need a "reinforcing rib" ring in the middle to cut down on vibration as the sea water flows in between them (about two feet apart) and is deflected tangentially. If an inflow of sea water is achieved, they should not be exposed to methane and so no hydrate formation would be anticipated.

I had not envisioned using more than about 5-6 of these cylinders to initiate the process, so the sea floor should be adequate support, assuming a wide flange were to support the bottom one.

If it were possible to place (a dozen?) jet pumps on the sea floor around the device, directed tangentially and upward (45*? from plane of sea floor), more energy and angular momentum could be supplied to the system from external power sources.

Ultimately, I'm not sure how deep such a technique could be made to work.

So far, I've seen no comments that "prove" that significant amounts of angular momentum could NOT be added to such a system from the surface. For deep leaks, it may well be that angular momentum needs to be added from both directions to maintain a stable flow, sort of like in a "stalactite-stalagmite" relation.

An advantage is that gas hydrates should not be a problem.

Referring to one other suggestion given in this thread, maybe all that would be needed is for the gas (and oil) to follow a "string of spheres" upward in its journey--each, say 6-8' in diameter and 12-20 feet apart, filled mostly with sea water. Maybe these would need to be teflon-coated to avoid accumulating hydrates on their surface. A drilling rig could even rotate the string slowly from the surface.

In the same way that wind shear can weaken or kill a hurricane, the various currents in the water column would kill the vortex, even if you had something theoretically capable of powering the vortex in the first place. Even the biggest hurricanes don't affect the seafloor in deep water.

In my previous life as a recreational diver I remember many times finding multiple currents at different depths, all going in different directions, in only ~100ft of water.

You are certainly correct if the vortex is "weak", i.e., doesn't contain much angular momentum.

What I (we) are trying to devise here is a scheme or system to which enough angular momentum could be added to "resist" being broken-up by the currents of which you speak.

A well-formed "tornado" doesn't fall apart simply because there is wind shear--the tendency for angular momentum to be conserved is what keeps the tornado from being dissipated by outside forces. Big, well-formed tornadoes last longer than weak, wispy ones.

Waterspouts with a large, warm-water source at the sea surface, are observed to ascend for several miles into the air.

From the New York Times Blog in reference to what they should do if the Top Kill fails:

Here’s the legal reality. At the Natural Resources Defense Council Switchboard blog, a staff attorney, David Pettit, has posted language in the Clean Water Act, which was amended through the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, that appears clearly to vest the president with both the authority and the obligation to take the reins in a major oil spill where private actions have failed:

(A) If a discharge, or a substantial threat of a discharge, of oil or a hazardous substance from a vessel, offshore facility, or onshore facility is of such a size or character as to be a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States (including but not limited to fish, shellfish, wildlife, other natural resources, and the public and private beaches and shorelines of the United States), the President shall direct all Federal, State, and private actions to remove the discharge or to mitigate or prevent the threat of the discharge. (the rest of the Switchboard post)

There’s no doubt. The responsibility to run the effort to stanch the oil flow lies with the White House. It was pretty clear on May 14 and is clearer now: Move over, BP.


I understand your frustration at the pace of which BP is mitigating this disaster. But which branch of the federal government would you nominate as the most experienced in closing in a well? I understand the Coast Guard is very experienced in the cleanup aspect but to my knowledge the only people who can get an out of control oil well under control is by nature an oil company or a company like Wild Well Inc.

For better or worse, BP will have the responsibility to close this well in either with the top kill or the relief well in a couple of months.

And to add to your point Cog: while BP is in charge of managing the situation very few of the folks in the field doing the actual day-to-day work are BP employees. For instance, the two rigs drilling the relief wells may not have a single BP employee on either one of them at this stage. When they get close to intersecting the blow out they may get a couple of BP hands on each rig. Most of the technical areas of drilling and oil spill recover are conducted by consultants and service company personnel. Long ago the companies gave up trying to maintain such staffs. I've made the analogy of a volunteer fire dept vs. a well trained and full time profession firefighting crew: who would you prefer protecting your home and family. I've spent most of the last 15 years of my career handling well site activities on a consulting basis because the operators lack experience staff to handle those jobs. But the sad part is that you might have the best trained hands on the job but if management overrides their recommendations then you can be truly screwed. And no doubt BP is truly screwed...along with the rest of us.

I've made the analogy of a volunteer fire dept vs. a well trained and full time profession firefighting crew: who would you prefer protecting your home and family.

That's a hell of a slam on volunteer firefighters, who are some of the most competent and concientous public servants I've ever met. I've never met one that wasn't as qualified as any paid firefighter and came with the added benefit of not having the downsides that come from union disputes. I'd say I'd take a volunteeer fire dept over any paid city union fire dept (who, on 99% of time function just as well I will admit) any day of the week, plus Funday.

I'm sure there are better analogies than such Firefighters, but it's not hard to discern what RM's getting at. The US Govt doesn't stock a lot of Deepwater Industrial Equipment.

It comes down to Washington's willingness to put some muscle into this relationship with the private sector. No Mean Feat, with Tea Partiers like Rand Paul calling Obama's tough talk about a negligent British Company 'UnAmerican', ( ) since the Prez is clearly trying to challenge the assumed inviolability of the Business sector, when the 'Servants' in representative government might not get their tips if they treat the customers this way.

The President doesn't do a good job of being the President.

- The first thing the White House should have done (last month) was freeze BP's assets worldwide. That would a) get BP's attention and b) assure that the discharge- related costs are paid by BP.

- The second thing would have been for the Justice Department to start a criminal investigation. Where are BP's Federally mandated oil discharge response teams?

- The third would have been to appoint a Special Prosecutor.

- The fourth would have been for the JD to press in Court for the maximum daily fine for oil discharge into US waterway(s).

- Fifth would hsve been to empanel a Grand Jury.

- Sixth would have been to shut down all deep water platforms until they prove that their production regimes conform to USA regulations.

- The President should ask Congress to nationalize the remaining US oil producers.

- A real (rather than the current cartoon character) would ramrod a $5 per gallon gasoline tax taking effect immediately to assure conservation and start to bring an end the finance crisis. This mishap is not just HP's fault; they aren't the end users. The waste products of end use are little different from the oil waste now in the Gulf. Waste is waste!

The President's job is to throw the fear of God or long prison terms into those who are cavalier about their responsibilities to the country.

His job is also to lead and take the steps away from wasteful consumption that is at the bottom of this discharge.

Nice sounding ideas, but in reality Faux Noise and the usual suspects of Right-Wing-Nut-World on AM radio would provoke and rally the Tea Baggers and other rabid anti-government malcontents to storm the Uppity socialist's White House and every Democratic Congressperson's office and house to re-enact the French Revolution to protect their sacred big businesses. After that, they would celebrate with with a National Day of Prayer and NASCAR races for all the true 'Merkuns.

The first thing the White House should have done (last month) was freeze BP's assets worldwide.

I don't know whether many Americans realise it, or their WalMart lives suggest otherwise, but the authority of the POTUS (and the rest of the US government) is actually limited to the USA. That is how nation statehood works ... even if it is awfully inconvenient sometimes. What should he do - get a UN resolution?

Even to hit BP's operations within US boundaries would be difficult, and probably challenged - administrations actually need federal laws to allow them to do things.

In terms of Obama "taking over" - I think that's fairly unrealistic too. Take over what, and then do what, exactly? What Obama could be a LOT cleverer at is controlling the BP information control that is going on. By letting BP manage and censor all the real information needed (at least by TOD addicts) Obama looks like a puppet, a toady, a corporate shill, an ineffectual bureaucrat - all of which could be quite true of course.

The government is able to freeze assets held in US banks with a court order and can do so worldwide because of the cooperative arrangements of both other government's agencies and the relationships of central banks.

It would not be difficult to get that court order.

Countries do not wish to stop doing business with the US so the choice be between BP and the rest of the US.
The US actually has public support in other parts of the world when it acts like a country instead of a country club.

One reason there is no end to either this crisis or the related crises are the self- limiting contradictory rules that allow the miscreants opportunities to game the same rules.

Steve, do you play Chess?

Think at least one or two steps out from that move. It's not only unnavigable, but it's self-defeating.

Yes, BP has to be held to account, to such a degree as is possible since the damages could well be far beyond their worth ultimately, but their involvement in the response is essential, as well as that of other players in the industry.

- The President should ask Congress to nationalize the remaining US oil producers.

Well Steve, I think Obama should show everyone how it’s done. Using President Hugo Chavez as a good example he should nationalize the oil companies, and replace all of those oil well workers with SEIU members that will do the job right. That $5 a gallon gas tax increase could be used to buy small GM cars for the poor getting the vote from them in the next election, and helping to pay back his debt to the UAW. Next following President Chavez’s lead, he could nationalize the banks to get rid of the excess profits there, and maybe like Chavez did this last week he could nationalize food production to prevent speculation, and hoarding. / irony

Steve I think you should look at a book by F A Hayek called “The Road to Serfdom”. In it he shows why central planning will never work as well as a free market.

Socialism works well until you run out of other peoples money. Margaret Thatcher

As to volunteers Vs. professional firefighters, it depends on wether you want your building saved, or a pile of ashes. As my brother, a volunteer, was fond of saying "We haven't lost a foundation yet"
The real problem, though, is response time. The paid firefighters are in the firehouse ready to go. The volunteers, mostly in the suburbs or rural areas, take far longer to get to the scene and by then the fire has gotten a good foothold. And there's usually a water problem.

However, the union guys seldom leave a window unbroken.

But could the federal government enlist or force other oil companies to work on the problem? Could the federal government employ foreign aid and technology in fixing the spill/geyser? From what I've been reading, other countries possibly have superior knowledge on how to work these things.

From what I understand, most of the companies who work in the deep offshore are ALREADY involved to one extent or another.

Under the rules governing offshore drilling in this situation BP, and presumably the government, can commander any equipment, people or resources they need from any other oil company. I think BP has already done that with some engineers or maybe the other companies volunteered. Also they have three ultradeep drilling rigs on site and none of those were just waiting for a job. I think at least one, maybe all three were under contract to BP already but if not then they got them from other companies.

I know they have pulled subcontractor personnel off a lot of jobs they were doing for other companies and some, if not most, of the ROVs and vessels offshore were working for other oil companies.

The deepwater offshore oil industry is truly international and multinational. If you are thinking of expertise from the North Sea that is BP, and if you are thinking of Brazil, Petrobras is already involved.

I really doubt that threats from the government to take over bother BP very much. For the well work they know the government doesn't have the expertise, people or equipment to do anything and BP might actually want the government to take over the spill cleanup.

The only power that BP respects and is motivated by is the almighty dollar. And I can't think of any motivation greater than the fact every day that well continues to spill oil is probably going to cost BP at least $25 million.

They have every reason to do everything in their power to stop it as quickly as possible and no reason to cut corners.

If I were BP - I'd be glad if government took over. It is then, no longer my problem.

My fear is that the government under enormous political pressure to act - does something stupid.

I hope this continues to be a (last remaining) difference between Obama and Bush.

There are about 22,000 people and over 1,000 vessels working on this. Pretty much all technology is being used, there are no instant fixes. Most of this stuff has not been done at these depths so it's try and see e.g. the top hat dome. If the top kill doesn't work they are working on a better "tube" or riser pipe to fit above the BOP.

It is in BP's interests to do everything they can to get this fixed.

BP have issed a 13 minute informative video explaining what they are doing, worth watching IMHO

Thanks Tony,

Three things struck me from watching the video

1. The picture of the surface vessels getting ready for the top kill was impressive. This is an actual picture, not a diagram. These ships are CLOSE together! Really drove home the complexity of the operation.

2. Because the surface vessels are so close together, so are the ROV support cables attached to the ROV cages, and by extension the working fleet of ROVs. You basically have a need for a mini air traffic control system down there.

3. If, God forbid, the top kill does not work, the next thing everyone will be hearing about is the LMRP (Lower Marine Riser Package). It will be placed on top of the BOP after they use a diamond wire to cut off the Riser. This will leave a flat surface that will mate with a seal on the bottom of the LMRP. The seal will be water tight, but not pressure tight. Its purpose is to keep sea water from entering and causing hydrates to form.

Leave BP in charge of the well; take them off every other aspect of the response.

Great details Jet. And as i've mentioned before when any operator applies for a drilling permit the agree upfron't to allow the Feds to take over any spill emergency. All the Feds need to is deliver notice: no lawsuit or court orders: ipso facto. But does anyone think the gov't was looking forward to taking BP place at the daily news conferences?

Hi Heading Out,

1) You said that "the use of the dispersant at depth means that there is not that much oil coming to the surface to be dealt with."

2) SkyTruth pegged the leak around 25k bbl/day based entirely on the amount of surface oil without taking the dispersant into account.

1 and 2 seem to contradict your statement that "it is hard to see how the flow could get near 50,000 barrels per day."

If the amount of oil reaching the surface is consistent with a 25k bbl/day 'typical' leak that isn't being treated with dispersant (and probably isn't a mile deep), and if the big majority of oil is staying sub-surface due to the use of dispersant, then doesn't it necessarily follow that the leak is several times larger than 25k bbl/day?

How do you reconcile this? Do you think that SkyTruth is way off?

All we can do is make corrollations and visual estimates unless they figure out some reliable way of measuring at the source. As shelburn has pointed out, its a sliding scale of probability, probably centered around 15-20k/day when Werely looked at it a week ago. Chances of it being greater than 5k/day, probably 95%, chances of it being greater than 70k/day, probably 5%. And then do you take the average flow (which could be changing daily, either increasing or having increased and decreasing now) and what does that come out to? I (and shelburn and others) keeping reiterating that it is not simple to calculate flow and all rates come with ranges of probability.

Your reply sidestepped the direct question that I posed.

Also, regarding probability, if you have 25 widgets in plain sight at time t, and if it happens that you hide 3 widgets for every widget that you place in plain sight (for a total of 100), then it seems absurd to claim that the sliding scale of probability with regard to how many total widgets you had at time t is centered on 15-20.

I guess I would debate Skytruth's statment that they can see 25 widgets in plain sight as I don't have their calculations to support that claim.

Actually I would rate the flow being more than 5,000 bpd at over 99% and the chances it is over 70,000 bpd at less than 1%.

I understand that Professor Wereley cut his estimate substantially (maybe over 50%) after he saw the BP rebuttal but the media hasn't bothered to pick that up, just a couple mentions buried deep in obscure news releases.

He seems to be maintaining the position that he was only reporting the particle velocity and it was from his particle velocity that I believe you can make an engineering justification of a low flow of 8,000 bpd and a high flow of 25,000 bpd at the riser end. And is probably in the lower portion of that range.

But that does not count the kink which seems to get worse with each passing day.

Estimates based on oil of the surface are very imprecise. You can probably download the USCG manual on oil spill estimation which talks about that quite a bit.

If someone says there is 25,000 bpd based on satellite photos I would interpret that to mean between 10,000 and 50,000 bpd. Then you take all the other factors that you can to modify that number.

We know from the underwater work and videos that the flow is over 5,000 bpd and most likely at least 10,000 bpd as a minimum. We know from the geology that the maximum well flow is probably about 50,000 to 60,000 bpd and that will be going down at some unknown rate. We know that there is a restriction or series of restrictions that is reducing the flow.

From all that it is probably pretty safe to say the leakage is over 10,000 and under 40,000 bpd. Anyone who tries to tell you that they can get an estimate that is better than about 40% plus or minus is either fooling themselves or trying to fool us. Unfortunately the media just grabs the highest number and reports it as if it was a fact.

Stupid question...

If the Feds "take over" control of the spill how does this change BP's responsibility for the spill?

From what can tell by googling under the OPA the government would have to sue BP for costs.

just -- Not stupid at all. Doesn't change BP's repsonsibility at all. No different if you accidentally set your house on fire: the fire dept is responsible for saving the house. You are still responsible. And the lawsuits against BP will go on for decades. IMHO. Especially if the oil starts hitting other Cuba.

It does give their lawyers the opportunity to argue that some portion of the subsequent damage is the Feds' fault. They would argue that BP would have prevented much of the damage and the incompetent Feds screwed up- so BP shouldn't have to pay for everything.

That's my take on it. It goes from "we have to pay for it" to "we could have done better/cheaper/faster, prove we should pay for it."

Don't get me wrong, I don't think the idea has merit; I think what can be done is being done, but "government takeover" seems to be the idiot media meme of the day.

What I would like to see the media cover is BP preventing media coverage of the damage, and local law enforcement complicity.

wrb -- lawyers can make that argument today: the gov't failed to monitor/regulate BP (as well as all other operators) in a proper manner. And it's starting to look like there could be some merit to that point. But good luck with a lawsuit against the feds.

You can use that argument if you want to sue the fed for some compensation - but BP can't use that argument to escape culpability now.

It is not a stupid question and is likely an important reason why the Federal Government has not stepped in it to take over. The other reason, of course, is because there are no easy solutions to the leak.


Since it's crazy idea Monday...

How about we stick a sock over it? I'm thinking of a HUGE wind sock sort of thing.

The goal is to let the gas lift the oil to the surface where it could be skimmed or burned.

- Tube 10 to 20 feet in diameter (large enough so it won't hydrate block)
- 8000 feet long (from the leak to the surface, with allowance for currents)
- Made of the same kind of fabric as circus tents
- Reinforced with steel cables
- Flotation / ballast bladders every 300 feet or so for neutral buoyancy
- Floating unmanned platform 'hoop' at the surface.
- Surrounded by a lagoon of booms - say 2 acres in area for backup

Ideally, the liquids could be pumped out from just below the water line through fixtures in the platform, to a ship moored a safe distance away. For safety, the 'oil hose' would be hung underwater on buoys, and the gas would be flared at the platform.

The biggest issues I see with this are:
- Expanding gas may overpressure the tube
- Fountaining of oil and water driven by the gas?
- Currents would tend to pull it over.
- Very dangerous conditions near the platform
- We'd need two for this spill. (Three initially)
- Access to the BOP might be limited by the sock
- Risk of fire in the 'lagoon'
- It's too late to build it for this spill

BP spokesman sounded very wary about "top-kill" it really feels like BP is just going through the motions on this.......

where would all the methane hydrates go that are currently floating away at near neutral buoyancy? That seems to be a large volumetric part of this leak.

Maybe they would be slowly pushed up to a depth where they would melt?

Not crazy...I just posted something above about this...not that far from the cold water intake pipe of a large OTC plant. One could capture the oil at the surface in a large "balloon" that vaguely resembles a dirigible filled with oil. The technology could be the same as tensioned membrane buildings.

Please re-post this in new threads when possible. Playing devil's advocate with it I can't think of anything that can't be fixed easily and cheaply to make it work. It got posted to this thread late, I'd like to see what others think.

p.s. Somebody needs to go to jail for allowing dispersant to be used on this.

I am a newbie and I wonder why they did not fill the well with heavy mud after the cementing. Can they not leave the well full of mud? Is the mud expensive? Would the mud have damaged the well in any way? Is it hard for the production rig that would replace the Deepwater Ocean rig to circulate the mud up again? Is it hard to place the last cement bridge if there is mud below it?


Ok caught me in a good mood so I won't verbally slap you around. This subject was covered in detail early on. In fact, for a newbie your intuition is pretty good. The casing was filled with heavy mud before they cemented it. In fact, that's how they controlled the reservoir when they drilled it originally. So the cost of the mud doesn't was there in the first place. It was after they ran and cemented the last string of casing in the well that they started pumping the oil based mud (OBM) out of the casing and riser with sea water. It appears that removing this back pressure off of the cement caused the cement to fail and allow the reservoir to flow up. But I think you might have hit the nail right on the head. As the unconfirmed story goes the BP company man didn't want o displace the mud before setting the top most cement plug but was overridden by another BP engineer. Why not leave the OBM below the top cement plug? Just a guess but back in January I re-entered a well that had OBM left in it. Instead of flushing it out in a few hours it took me the better part of 2 weeks and $500,000 to get it and all the debris it had glued to the casing wall out of the well. I don't know if that was the engineers motivation or not. But I can promise you I'll never leave OBM inside casing I plan to re-enter at a later date. But I would also make damn sure my bottom cement was holding before I took the back pressure off.

Thanks a lot for your helpful answer. I am sorry for the repetition, but I did in fact spend the better part of yesterday reading TOD, just discovered it after several days looking around for better information about BOPs and other data about this blowout. Still it seems that I only got to skim the surface of all the text here. So, thanks again for your patience. This appear to be a wonderfully informative blog!


TOD can be addictive !

Read with care and watch for warning signs.


Cacadril, Alan's right... TOD can be very, very addictive!!!

Just think of it as the Hotel California,'We are all just prisoners here, of our own device'

And once you're hooked,
"You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!"

Seriously, your comments strike me as thoughtful. Welcome aboard.


I don't know what you guys are talking about. I can stop any time I want..

Hi! My name is Zadok and I'm an alcoh.... whoops, sorry... wrong meeting!

TODaholic? Heck no...I can't control fingers...ahhhh!!! Need more drum...need more drum...what time is the first post tomorrow morning?

Ok caught me in a good mood

And wonders never cease...

Musta struck oil. ; )

Either that or someone had to admit he was right about something...

Good concise response. I learn more every day - thanks!

Alright, I'm wondering when was the last time anyone here saw some live video from the area of the BOP. The only live video feed I've seen for the past several days has been of the leak in the riser tube, and that hardly ever changes (i.e., it's still a pretty bad leak). But what about those leak coming right off the top of the BOP stack? They were bad way back when, and as they undoubtedly have quite a bit more pressure behind them (than the leak at the far-off RIT), there's good reason to suppose that erosion of the pipe near the BOP will worsen the leak, day by day. So, could that be the reason we're not seeing it now? Have we (the public) been "bought off" by the RIT video stream? I can certainly image BP hoping that is so, the way a magician keeps your attention focused on one hand while the other is pulling a neat trick. Could be some PR magic going on there.

Oh, and how about the lack of data on screen -- the first videos had date, time, and location info on screen (partially obscured by the poor video quality but still readable). Now, nothing -- no annotation at all -- no real way to tell if the video they are showing (of the RIT leak) isn't just a one-minute tape loop. What's up with that?

Its not high priority.....but you are absolutely right-- I don't think BP wants us to see the "kink" leak.

In the interest of might be because all of the ROV's over in that area are focusing cameras at the bottom of the BOP and trying to reconnect the choke/kill lines.

Somebody upthread posted a video of snippets taken over the last week or so showing what the ROV's have been up to.

Okay, I realize that not every camera operator for BP has been to "Famous Hollywood Directors School", but as I overheard one graduate of that esteemed academy remark this morning: "For better perspective, they ought to set up a more distant, overall view of the scene, showing the BOP, the ROVs hovering in the area, and the leak, and hey, maybe even insert a scale figure (like an oil drum) for better visual comprehension".

Example: The scene in "2001" where astronauts cautiously approach the monolith in the crater on the Moon. The shot is taken above and behind them, with spotlights ringing the area. In this case, we could leave out the swelling musical theme. Can't we do something like that? Haven't we got just one ROV to spare for a once-in-a-decade (we hope) documentary operation? If you say we don't, then I have to believe you work for BP.

The farther they get away from the riser, the dimmer the overall picture becomes. Its pitch black down there if not for the ROV light and that only has so much penetrating power.

EDIT: I should be clearer. If you had one ROV shining light at close range and another ROV filming from the distance, you'd still have a relatively poor picture, just with a small light spot in the middle.

You also need to remember that the ocean in general doesn't have the same kind of visibility that we have in air. Even in the absence of drilling, there is stuff in the water, and having 1-200 foot visibility would be considered superb. With everything going on down there, the visibility is likely to be not all that great.

Edit: My experience is as a recreational diver so visibilities at depths of 5000 feet would be different. Still, there will be stuff in the water column that is stirred up by everything going on down there.

JW, I think you need to bear in mind the complexity, and the hazardous and error-susceptible nature of ROV ops at those depths.

Every one of thos units has 5000 feet of umbilical cords connecting it to its mothership, and all the ROV ops need to be co-ordinated to avoid any possibility of tangling. If you watch the vids it's obvious that even tightening a nut takes hours - prep and planning, plus the intervention of super highly-skilled ROV pilot at 120% concentration, to achieve the right outcome.

Putting down another ROV for the gratification of spectators would detract from the big and serious engineering effort to get stuff done down there - they really need to concentrate on the imperatives for dealing with the crisis. ROVs aren't available at will, even with a virtually unlimited budget, for giving an overview.

Disclaimer - all just my guess, from what I've learned here over the past few weeks, but I'm thinking it's probably somewhere near the mark.

Regards Chris

I think you pretty much got the situation, except the ROVs work out of cages (think a garage for a small car) and it is the cage that hangs from the ship, the ROV goes out on a light tether.

In 5,000 feet with currents at different levels and the boats as close together as they are it must be an absolute nightmare for whoever is actually the air traffic control guy. I don't remember ever having more than two vessels with ROVs working in the same area (and that was very unusual) and here it appears there are at least 5 or 6. As I said a nightmare.

I would also expect with the amount of activity and the mud at this location that visibility is probably limited to a couple hundred feet at the most so a space style IMAX shot is probably out of the question as neat as that would be. Believe me the ROV companies would sell their mothers for that kind of video.

The ROVs will keep an eye on their location in relation to the other ROVs and cages with sonar.

Nope..don't work for BP. Sometimes don't even much like BP...

But I live on the Gulf Coast. If there are extra ROV's anywhere, damned if I wouldn't prefer that they were doing something constructive to stop the damned well. If they can grab some good video, all the better.

And having said that, I'm guessing that Creosote is correct in the difficulties of filming anything very far away in that murk. Kinda like the vids of the Titanic, deep sea vents, can NEVER see anything very far away from the very front of the sub/ROV/whatever. Everything else is just black.

oops - that woulda been greg's post.

I am guessing the ROV that is doing the video feed is the one with the task of monitorint the RIT operation. I have seen it adjust a valve package a couple of times ans the rest of the time it just hangs back and watches the flow (generally back far enough that it doesn't get burped on when one of those surges happens). It is doing an appointed task and posting the feed is no hardship on the work. Keeping one tied up watching the BOP leak would probably keep it off task and be a burden to the work team. BUT I think it would be reasonable to post a daily clip from the other leak - you would think they have their eyes on it.

What they could do without much trouble, and would be pretty fascinating, would be to stream the video for every ROV that is down there.

Wouldn't help me as I'm on a satellite internet system that shuts me down at 400 mb.

There is no light that deep. None, except what the ROVs provide. I can not imagine that any one ROV has a significant amount of lighting power on its own. People truly have a hard time wrapping their minds around the difficulties in working in ocean depths at 5000+ft. If you have ever been camping in a wilderness area and tried to find your way around your camp area with the only source of light as a flashlight, you might begin to understand how hard this is.


when i get things right i saw the kink of the riser at the top of the BOP two times on CNN live view: 1. was about roughly a week ago when i started to follow this informative forum threads here.
The second i think was yesterday after several days only showing the end of the broken riser tube.

In the view roughly one week ago the angle was from behind the BOP in direction of the riser was kinked, with a somebit bad view on what was getting out. It was at the very top of the video, black and cloudy. But one could see in detail how the riser was bend with ist supporting tubes, and how the tube at the top of the BOP just where the riser looks connected was also bend a bit in the same direction. I just read in another post that this part of the BOP, the exiting tube with the connection part is somewhat flexible attached, so that might not be as dramatic as it looked first.

Now on to the 2nd view a day ago one could see the plumes getting out of the kink on three different locations, near to each other, when i remeber right which looked more like spraying out of the small i will not say holes, it looked more like narrow slits where the gas/oil ejected. Compared to the end of the riser where the oil/gas is emitting in a more slowly manner, those plumes at the kink were ejecting small amounts but very fast out of their slits, with the tubulence beginning much more later. The angle was from near along the riser over the kink with the BOP below, with good sight of the plumes.

At the moment, 1:30 am 25th of May here in europe one can see some kind of dashboard with a robot arm attached, like it is manipulating a valve or such. Sometimes a view to the sides, with at least two other ROV's around, according to the other light sources visible, scene at the end of riser. Maybe its the manifold for the dispersant regulation on it.

For me i am another concerned civilian about the health and future of our planet, and was real shocked about what happened out there in the gulf, half way around the globe. Nevertheless i hope it gets fixed at the end, as soon as possible. Let the fuel cost the double at least this oil spill stops. What brings cheap fuel when the eco-system wents down and we only have a living nature in our memories? We have to take care of our mother earth.

To this forum i want to say thank you to all you who are so kind to share your knowledge, insight and true words, especially ROCKMAN and shelburn. Todays media coverage is almost useless when someone wants to know what really is going on on our planet, as sad as that is.

A civilization able to spill video frames of an desatrous event from below sea at 1.5 km deep and 150 bars of pressure all around the world should even be possible to deal with such an event, i am sure.

It may take some time but they will fix it. Lets pray for it ..

Emptywheel has a very interesting post up on how much BP is paying for the oil they are extracting. the comments include a good discussion of deals made back in the 80's on leasing agreements. Remember James Watt, Sec of Interior, reagan administration?

"In an earlier post, BP had noted that the pressures that they were recording at the top of the well, and across the BOP were lower than they had anticipated, and that they were falling..."

I understand that pressure changes as the oil/oil mixture flows through the well components, but could the pressure drop reflect a new opening far below the floor? What if there is another leak way down the pipe and the mud goes through it rather than down to the bottom?

Is there a tool analogous to ground radar that can go as deep as the well for diagnostics?

You always bring in more MUD than you need in case you lose circulation to the wellbore like you're suggesting. If they do, they just have to lighten the MUD weight until balance is achieved again. Its a delicate balance, but atleast in the case of the Top Kill, they're not worried about destroying the formation, so they'll be aggressive with the heavy weights, only backing off if they lose too much MUD.

If "top of the well" means just below the BOP, then it seems like the restriction in the BOP is eroding allowing more oil and natural gas through.

Farther down in the thread tollertwins posted a link in which Doug Suttles, BP operations boss, believes the most likely flow path for the oil is between two casing strings. The article also indicates that the well contains obstructions that are restricting the flow. "Suttles said the obstructions in the well itself are the most significant restrictions to the flow rate, but that BP also believed that some rams on the BOP have closed but they are obviously not shutting off the flow." However, the article does not mention the actual pressure at the base of the BOP preventing anyone from verifying if obstruction in the well are bearing significant pressure.

k3 -- There is such a possibility but it would be difficult to prove at this point. It's called an "underground blow out". The reservoir is flowing oil/NG up the casing/drill pipe. But if the flow is coming up the csg annulus the pressure might have broken down the cmt shoe at the bottom of one of the shallower csg liners. Some of the oil/NG could be taking that route and flowing into a shallow reservoir. This could charge that reservoir which once contained only water with abnormally pressured oil/NG. If it pressures it up enough one of the relief wells could take a hard kick and even blow out when it hits that shallower zone on the way to its deeper target. A similar event occur many decades ago when I first started in the oil patch. Mobil Oil had been producing from deeper reservoirs at Point au Fer Field in S La for decades. They decided to drill a deeper well in the field. Since they had drilled dozens of wells in the field they knew there was no danger of a shallow drilling hazard. But over time at least one well had a casing leak and charged a shallow reservoir at 800'. When the new well drilled to that depth it took a hard kick no one was expecting. I had just left the rig about 12 hours early. The well blew out and killed 7 hands.

And yes, the hands on the relief wells know of such stories and should be looking over their shoulders for a similar problem.

Quick Request for Information (will feed into team estimating flow)

To save time, what is the producing formation called ?

What other wells nearby are producing from the same trend ? Any data on their temperatures ?

The quoted formation temperature given to one team member appears to be unrealistically low and posting a query on TOD is one quick short cut to getting info.

Best Hopes,


GeoNola estimated the bht (I assume "bottom hole temperature") using:

Thermal gradients vary areally and with depth, but 1.2 degF/100' is probably close. Temperature at seafloor in deepwater about 40 degF.

(13000/100)*1.2 + 40 = 196 degF.

So, roughly 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

The depth of the reservoir should be 13,293 feet below the sea floor (he used 13,000 feet), but it does not change the estimation of 200 F. I do not know the actual temperature.

Thoughts on Measuring flow

The insertion tool is removing variable amounts of oil and gas over time.

This allows some calibration of what is left that emits directly to the ocean.

Visual analysis of plume is one way, but likely not very satisfactory.

Passive acoustic is another. I would assume that expanding gas emits one frequency and oil another as it emerges into the open ocean.

Analysis of the frequencies and db/frequency over time and comparing that to capture on board could be useful if the gas/oil mixture coming out of the formation stays stable over time.

Active acoustic (per my limited understanding) is carried onboard ROVs. Again different readings tracked against different captures by the insertion tool could be useful.

Any thoughts ?


The acoustic onboard the ROVs is strictly used for positioning with acoustic transponders and I doubt it would be any use for this application.

The idea is an intriguing one, but above my pay grade. After all I was the guy on deck saying "it can't be working, I don't hear a thing".

Active acoustic is commonly used to measure wind velocity, it ought to be able to measure water velocity. (But with all the schmutz in the flow, velocity can be seen and could be measured in the videos.) The trick is that to measure the total flow you'd have to integrate the velocity (which varies from place to place in the flow) over the area of the flow. You'd also be wanting to estimate how much of the flow is oil, methane, or hydrate flakes. I think you'd need to build a sort of acoustic Simplified Computerized Tomography device with Doppler thrown in. Maybe some sort of split-ring thingy a few meters in diameter and a few meters long studded with hundreds of emitters and sensors, that can be closed around the flow region in the manner of one of those clamp-on ammeters. I dunno if that's ever been done, maybe Rockman or Shelburn knows. If it hasn't, it might be an interesting "science project" that could keep a professor or small consulting company or three supplied with grants and grad students or interns more or less indefinitely. You could build it small and dunk it in a convenient tank for testing and development; and scale it up once you understood the math. The overall cost of a few minutes of this debacle might cover it.

My guess is that passive acoustic would be exceedingly difficult to calibrate transferably. I'd expect it to be sensitive to geometry and to details of the orifice shape (maybe if you set it far enough from the main noise-generating orifice there would be enough spatial correlation to allow things to be sorted out?) With enough computing power you could probably calibrate it for one flow, but whether that same calibration would be of much use for the next flow ... who knows. (That's unlike a voltmeter, which I expect to work on the next voltage source, and the one after that, once I calibrate it.) Sort of a chicken-and-egg problem if you want to apply it to a new problem such as the one at hand.

EDIT: another thing you'd have to sort out when measuring a flow out in the open is how much of the flow is actually coming from the source (e.g. the leak in the riser) and how much is simply entrained seawater dragged along for the ride. This could contribute considerable uncertainty to a video-based or 'acoustic tomography' measurement.

My concept on passive acoustic is to compare Time 1 when insert tube capture is 1,000 b/day (and so much gas) vs. Time 2 when capture is 2,000 b/day vs. Time 3 when capture is 3,000 b/day, etc.

One can compare the delta in noise between the different capture levels (and determine if it is straight line reduction in noise with increased volume of capture) and then infer the total volume from at least the riser leak.

Information on the riser leak can, with reduced accuracy, be applied to the BOP leak.

I suspect that escaping NG makes a very different frequency noise than escaping oil and the two can be separated that way.


I know there are some lawyers who read here regularly; some questions intended for them.

I had the "pleasure" of watching negligence and bankruptcy proceedings from the inside of another industry with complex corporate structures. As a general rule, the further up the corporate chain one progresses, the harder it is to attach blame and/or grab assets. As a minimum, in this case, there's BP PLC the British holding company and BP Exploration Inc, a US subsidiary that does exploration and development in the US. There appear to be multiple levels of companies in between those, as well.

There seems to be a growing likelihood that BP Exploration was negligent. Also that the cost of cleaning up the mess could bankrupt that particular subsidiary. What are the chances of pinning negligence on the holding companies further up the chain, and of forcing those holding companies to pay for the cost of cleanup? Certainly BP PLC could voluntarily choose to spend revenue from any of its subsidiaries around the globe on the cleanup, but can it be forced to do so?

I'd say no. Everybody doing business with Americans knows USA is a big lawyer minefield, to put it frankly. Before doing anything, hire a lawyer or better, a team of lawyers and make sure, your "homeland" funds are protected.

The part of the problem is exactly this over-lawyering of American society. More lawyers graduating than engineers, actually a world record on that. BP is doing this by the American law playbook because there is no other way. Telling the truth...yeah, sure.

The EPA has now released a statement on BP's use of dispersants's available via pdf at
(May 24: Statement by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson from Press Conference on Dispersant Use in the Gulf of Mexico with U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Landry (PDF))
The earlier EPA directive and BP's response are also available via links on that page.

Three main points, copied from the pdf. Each point is fleshed out in the press release.

1. First, the federal government, led by the Coast Guard, is today
instructing BP to take immediate steps to significantly scale back
the overall use of dispersants.

2. Second, we have made it clear to BP, including in a meeting
Admiral Landry and I held with company officials last night,
that we are not satisfied that BP done an extensive enough
analysis of other dispersant options. We expect BP to keep
evaluating other alternative dispersants.

BP’s response to our directive was insufficient, and we are
concerned that BP seemed, in their response, more interested in
defending their initial decisions than analyzing possible better

3. Third, as a result of being dissatisfied with the response, and to
ensure that we know everything we can know about the current
environmental impact, EPA will be performing our own
scientific verification of the data BP presented. We will conduct
our own tests to determine the least toxic, most effective
dispersant available in the volumes necessary for a crisis of this
magnitude. Our toxicity tests will address the claims and
conclusions put forth by BP in their response to us late last
week. And EPA scientists have been tasked with conducting
parallel, independent tests to determine if BP’s argument that
Corexit remains the best alternative is accurate and supported by
the science.

Why in heck didn't EPA begin tests a month ago, if not before?

Add this to the link posted earlier to the quote from the CG captain saying he'd been "dumb and slow" not to deploy booms earlier ( my already not high confidence in the federal gov't is sinking even lower.

eta: here's a brief CNN clip with Lisa Jackson, head of EPA

I fully support the use of the most effective and safe dispersant. What troubles me a bit is what was not said in the EPA briefing. The EPA a few days ago gave BP just 24 hours to research and submit a report on alternative dispersants.

From the EPA website "The directive requires BP to identify a less toxic alternative – to be used both on the surface and under the water at the source of the oil leak – within 24 hours"

Now they are asking for another report. I've got no problem with that, and I hope BP does a better job this time around. But does anyone believe that the EPA can do their own testing in 24 hours? I'm looking forward to the results, and the TIMING, of the EPA report. My bull crap meter is pegging high on the EPA's spin on this.

EPA does not act like they are negotiating from a position of strength.

I have a specific recommendation for a safer dispersant: ethoxylated castor oil. I once worked for a condom company and became very concerned because Nonoxynol-9 (which is the only approved spermicide) is a potent estrogenic compound. I spent some time looking into alternative surfactants that are not estrogenic, and I recall that ethoxylated castor bean oil is quite safe & pretty cheap.It is used a lot by farmers in ag spraying.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason why BP is using dispersants even against the wishes of the government is to avoid having to clean up the oil by actually sucking up the contaminated water and separating the oil from it. This cleanup technique, while proven, and probably ultimately the only thing that will work, would be extremely expensive. If the oil is widely dispersed through a large volume of water, BP will be able to argue that cleanup by this method is impossible.

BP sez flow coming up between casing strings:

BP operations boss Doug Suttles said that BP believes “the most likely” flow path is between two casing strings.

Suttles said BP could not be certain but diagnostic tests on the well seem to indicate the flow is not coming up the main bore.

The well also contains obstructions that are restricting the flow rate.

It is impossible to know for certain what those obstructions are, Suttles said, but cured cement and rocks from the formations that crews drilled through could be partially clogging the well.

BP has been able to measure the pressure on the lower portion of the well’s blowout preventer (BOP) and found that it was “considerably lower” than would be expected if the flow was rushing unimpeded to the surface, he said.

Suttles said the obstructions in the well itself are the “most significant” restrictions to the flow rate, but that BP also believed that “some” rams on the BOP have closed but they are obviously not shutting off the flow.

The obstructions in the BOP and the well itself will not prevent BP from being able to try to bring the well under control with a top kill later this week, Suttles said.

sigh...eventually i will figure out how to italicize the whole thing....

sigh...eventually i will figure out how to italicize the whole thing....

Don't italicize it if it's longer than a line or two; italics are harder to read. Use the "blockquote" tag instead (see list of tags under the message window). To close any tag at the end of the material you're tagging, use the same tag, but put a slash after the open angle bracket. If you don't properly close a tag, the software here will do it for you after the first tagged paragraph. I think you just repeated the italic tag at the end of your material without the slash; that's why only the first paragraph came out italic. But do use the blockquote tag for anything more than a few lines. (Nontecchie here; someone correct me if I'm wrong, please.)

Hello All
First time poster. Have been following for 4 years or so but had nothing really to add so. However this blowout has me thinking. I'd like to float (pun intended) a idea here and have send it along to BP suggestion box as well but maybe one of the shells here might have conections. If you guys have time Please pic it apart. This is what I send to BP.
This is a capsure at the leak source solution.Using sounding balloon technolgy.These balloon are built very large. over 100 meters in dia. This could contain over 3 million barrels of oil fully inflated. Of course you not achieve that but 1 millon may be possable. Put simply you sink the balloon with a proper size concrete weight with a radio beacon atached. A small amount of air in it to keep it in order. Once on the bottom collect with ROV and inflate added ring on opening and place over leak area. Once it has achived boyancey with the oil and gas it will float to surface for collection at your convenince. This system would not have any problems with icing althought gas expansion would have to be releaved or allowed for. Simple sonar should track them.
And thank you all for the great deal of info over the years. Lee

A few days ago I was having a discussion with a couple of offshore engineers and was trying to communicate the difference between engineering and reality and how you must incorporate both in a good design. The example I used was using hot air balloons in the same manner you are suggesting.

On paper, as an engineering exercise this could be made to work, at least if you have a large enough vent so the balloon doesn't blow up from the expanding gases. There would have to be a very large, probably 3 foot diameter vent near the top to release the gas - that's for a hot air balloon, not a 100 m dia balloon. Having a separator on the bottom would help eliminate this problem (but reintroduce the gas hydrate problem) but there is still a large amount of gas in solution which will expand 150 times on the way to the surface. The critical part is the last 100 feet where the gas expands 4 time in less than a minute and you have to be able to vent that expansion.

But assuming you could overcome the gas expansion problem then reality kicks in.

First you have to position the concrete weight (ours was circular) over the leak area using ROV, in reality a very difficult task, maybe impossible.

Then you may have problems with the lines between the weight and the balloon getting tangled, and an ROV can not untangle them and would most likely get tangled itself.

Assuming you could get the hot air balloon filled (we used 20% full, about 2,000 barrels) then in theory it should start gently floating up off the leak but again reality. There are some currents and a lot of debris from the sinking rig and all the pipe, machinery and everything that fell off. As the balloon will start very slowly the current could drift it into some of this stuff and tangle it up, spill the oil, etc.

On the way up if it get started it will run into a number of cross currents so there is no real way of predicting where it will go. It is not difficult to put on an acoustic beacon to track it but it could come up under one of the relief well rigs, another boat, etc.

As it nears the surface it will accelerate and if there is more gas than the gas vent can handle it will rip apart, dumping the oil and sinking. It could also hit a boat or something on the surface cutting the balloon.

If the oil left after the gas is vented doesn't have enough buoyancy to overcome the weight of the concrete it will sink.

If it sinks for any of these reasons then you have an out of control 50 ton concrete weight that with BP's luck will land right on the BOP stack.

There are a whole lot of other safety problems that would cause BP or the MMS to nix the idea.

By the way the buoyancy of 1 million barrels of oil is somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 tons, without any gas - that's a pretty big concrete weight.

If you build a house with wood, you know that no two pieces of wood have the same strength. They also have different strength along and across the fibers, and the strength varies with humidity. Nevertheless it is possible to build good houses of wood.

Organizations are built of humans. Humans have some (more or less) surprising weaknesses. I suppose you have heard about the Milgram experiment, where subjects were ordered to administer electrical torture and most of them complied all the way to lethal intensity. You have probably heard about the Stanford prison experiment as well.

In this disaster we are seeing a different kind of recurring human weakness. We call it "greed" or similar; that blocks our ability to think deeper about the systematic aspects of the phenomenon. We should remain curious about it and imagine that we could one day find ourselves committing the unspeakable. Then we might be able to create a system where human failure is not allowed to bring the system down. Or systems where the individuals do not find themselves in the kind of situations where, according to experience, humans tend to fail. Some organizations implement this for their lower echelons. We need to find ways of doing the same for the top echelons as well. Regard it as an engineering task, to take into account the real properties of the stuff, "the humans". Or the "alphas".

Sentinels staring into the dark cannot possibly remain alert hour after hour. Give them something to see. Arrange for some lights to appear unpredictably and briefly in various parts of the field, and reward them when they are able to report them correctly.

In many buildings nobody is supposed to enter unless they have a key card. But just wait a few steps from the door and approach as somebody is leaving. Almost nobody wants to make fuss and ask you to show that you have your card when you try to enter through the door they have opened. Tell all employees that specially hired people will test this regularly, so next time you leave and someone unknown tries to enter, just smile and assume it is a test; ask about the card as you are supposed to.

Now, how do we apply similar lessons to the top managers?

Regard it as an engineering task, to take into account the real properties of the stuff, "the humans". Or the "alphas".

Sentinels staring into the dark cannot possibly remain alert hour after hour.

errrr.... Guantanamo Bay? Or a memo from Dick Cheney's office?

Halliburton, anybody?

I do not know if this has been thought about and commented upon...
There is unconfirmed reports of gas bubbles rising up from the Gulf Floor. If this is true, then do not expect the Well Head and Riser to remain in place after the Top Cap. The well pressure will blow it off and open a flume of the Oil and Gas out of the cracks in the Gulf Floor Bed.

The apparent disturbances in the seabed have been discussed earlier in this thread and in others...

see for an informed explanation of what was likely observed.

With regards to the Prestige that split off of the coast of Spain, they captured the oil seeping from the tanker in bags. When the bags were sufficiently filled, they floated to the top of the water and recovered. This is different because of the volume of gas but maybe with some ingenuity the gas might be separated and the oil recovered at the surface.

There is a somewhat testy exchange over the amount of flow. The reporter asks whether their underestimating the flow caused problems with the container before, and might cause problems with the top kill.

They think the "kink" and the riser is only restricting the flow by around 15%, a lot less than they had assumed before. They think most of the flow restriction is from the well itself (chunks of something in there), and then another bit from the BOP. Say it's not a wild well. So this makes them more comfortable with operations that involve cutting the riser and putting a new BOP or valve on top.

Looking at the math a bit more the buoyancy Is huge. Way more than any Plastic balloon could handle. Gald to hear somebody had thought it thru. I'm just hoping this topkill shot doesn't make it worse.

Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Multiple Plumes
By Roger Faulkner
Re-posted with edits May 24, 2010
(originally posted

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.

I wonder if I could trouble one of the knowledgeable people following this thread to enlighten me on this. Is the "well casing" actually what fits snugly inside the ID of the hole bored through the geological formation, then there is another pipe the "main bore" that is inside the well casing, with the annular space between the well casing and the main bore being sealed by cement? Is this an accurate picture?

What is the BOP attached to? The well casing?
I saw a report allegedly from BP that the leak was coming from outside the main bore. Since the BOP and attached riser pipe will be supplying the opposing force (along with the weight of the mud) that would allow the mud to overcome the pressure of the oil and force its way into the hole, is it a possibility that the BOP itself could be blown off the top of the well head by the top kill procedure, if there is any weakness in the well casing or its attachment to the BOP? Is it possible that the pressure of the top kill could actually lift the casing out of the well?

gavacho, here's a brief summary of the construction of a typical well. First drill a 36" hole into the sea bed for some 100s of ft. Then run a 30" conductor to within a few ft of the bottom of this hole. Then cement is pumped down this to fill the annulus between the outside of the conductor and the 36" hole. When this has set typically a 26" hole is drilled into which a 20" string of casing is run and cemented. Then a 17 1/2" hole is drilled and cased with 13 3/8" casing. The 36" and 26" hole are normally drilled using seawater and high visc polymer sweeps to clean out/remove the drill cuttings to the seabed.

Once the 13 3/8" casing is run and cemented, the BOP will be run on 22" riser and landed on the well head/guide base. From now on "mud" will be used to clean the hole. Drilling "mud" is a fluid mixed from many ingredients. Often the fluid phase consists of an 80:20 emulsion of oil and water. This is to prevent the fluid reacting with the clay minerals being drilled. The main purposes of this "mud" is to remove cuttings from the bottom of the hole and carry them back to the surface. Also it's density is such that it will prevent any formation fluids from entering the borehole.

The next hole section will be 12 1/4" in diameter. This is cased with 9 5/8" casing. Finally an 8 1/2" hole will be drilled into which 7" liner is run and cemented. The depths to which these different casing strings are run depends on the pressure regime/profile in the area being drilled. The idea is that the casing strings isolate zones of different pressures.

So if a casing string is not cemented well, it is possible for fluid to travel from the casing shoe to the surface via the annulus. Normally after a casing job this is tested by pressuring up the fluid in the well.

I hope that gives you some basic idea of what is involved in constructing an oil well.

Thanks for the explanation. You (and Rockman and Shelburn and others) are making it possible for me to get an idea of the complexity of deepwater drilling and to begin to understand some of the issues and trade-offs involved in the various attempts to stop the flow.

Another newbie question - what is the difference between casing and liner? From various references, they seem to be used in a similar fashion. Is one lighter weight? shorter length? than the other? Is a liner ever run inside a casing?


eta - Rockman explained the difference in the Top Kill Attempt article, beginning here

gav -- You got it pretty much right except the csg doesn't fit the bore hole snuggly. We actually try to avoid that by drilling the hole at least several inches in diameter greater than the csg you plan to run. That allows a better chance for the cement to adequately fill and seal the annular space between csg and rock. In the case of the BP blow out once they had reached total depth they ran a continuous string of csg from TD all the way back up to the well head.

All the csg strings end in the well head. The BOP sits on top of the well head and thus should control flow that might come up the final csg string or any of the annular spaces. IF it works properly. In the top kill process they do have to be careful about bursting any of the other casing strings that end in the well head. Csg has various rating grades and the shallow csg string would not have a rating sufficient to handle high pressures. If there is an annular leak to one of these weaker csgs BP could rupture that liner and create a flow much greater than what we see now. The top kill method is risky at several levels.

Adsorbents versus absorbents: polymers, charcoal, plant material.
(re-posted at Alan's suggestion; I keep posting to old threads...I'll get the hang of this eventually)

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 find of charcoal. The ideal type of charcoal must have high porosity and be very hydrophobic. Also, bigger chunks could be used. 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 (such as in US patents 7048878, to AbTech Industies), or aerogel based system; 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.

Regarding the use of activated carbon to adsorb the oil. That would work. It could be applied as either granular or as a slurry depending on the circumstances. If the oil-soaked carbon can be recovered, it can be regenerated in a kiln and reused.

Horizontal drilling blog observes:

Halliburton Presentation May Explain Oil Rig Explosion and Fire

A publicly available Halliburton PowerPoint presentation from last November might tell us a lot about what could have caused the oil blowout, fire and massive oil gushing at the Horizon rig.

Suppose you’re that division of Halliburton that has the dangerous job of "cementing" the drilling hole and the gaps between the hole and pipe. You’ve done this lots of times in shallow water wells, but you’ve learned through previous experience in deep water there’s a particularly difficult problem having to do with the presence of gas that has seeped to the ocean floor and been captured in essentially "frozen" crystallized formations.

The problem is that when you drill into these formations, and then try to inject cement into the hole/gaps to prevent leakage, the curing process for that creates heat. That heat can, if not controlled, cause the gas to escape the frozen crystals. If a lot of gas is released all at once, as could happen during the cement/curing process, it can cause a blowout where the cementing is occurring, or force gas and/or oil up the pipeline to the drilling rig on the surface. And the heat created by the process may be just enough to ignite the gas, causing the explosion and fire.

Did this happen at the Horizon rig? And if Halliburton already knew about this problem months (years) ago, and knew the risks it might create, why are we just now learning about this?

From Halliburton’s presentation (large pdf) page 10, last November :

Deepwater Cementing Consideration to Prevent Hydrates Destabilization


• Shallow water flow may occur during or after cement job
Under water blow out has happened
• Gas flow may occur after a cement job in deepwater environments that contain major hydrate zones.
• Destabilization of hydrates after the cement job is confirmed by downhole cameras.
• The gas flow could slow down in hours to days if the de- stabilization is not severe.
• However, the consequences could be more severe in worse cases.

Page 13 lists the design objectives but then concedes they can’t all be met at once:

Deepwater Well Objectives
• Cement slurry should be placed in the entire annulus with no losses
• Temperature increase during slurry hydration should not destabilize hydrates
• There should be no influx of shallow water or gas into the annulus
• The cement slurry should develop strength in the shortest time after placement
Conditions in deepwater wells are not
conducive to achieving all of these
objectives simultaneously

Gives a glimpse into the challenges of deep water drilling in the presence of hydrates.

It sounds like they are talking about the region near the sea floor. Down near the pay zone (Where presumably this problem started) it's far too warm for hydrates to form.

I took time out tonight to scan the MSM and other sources. Just taking stock of things, mostly regarding the oil f'up in the Gulf.

Regarding the responses from "The Greatest Nation on Earth" to this incident, my conclusion is that I have developed a new respect for Kunstler (whom, in the past I have read with a grain of salt).

JHK's descriptions of US are quite apropos. We have truly become a Clusterfuck Nation.

Personally I keep having flashbacks of scenes from Idiocracy. Specifically the shot of a broken, leaning building lashed to its neighbor with rope to stop it falling over. Hooray, today is the future!