The Gulf Deepwater Oil Spill - the Top Kill Attempt

The next attempt to shut off the flow from the leaking BP well in the Gulf is still aimed to occur early Wednesday. The attempt will use the “top kill” method to try and kill the well. While I have described this in earlier posts, the Unified Command have put out a video animation of the process, and there was an earlier diagram. So I am going to use these, which are simplified explanations, with some additional comments and tie it in to more facts that came out of briefings today, to try and give a more detailed explanation. Here is the animation:

(scroll up for animation)
Before the process could begin, however, it was necessary to significantly modify the blow-out preventer (BOP) that sits on the top of the well. For those interested (its a bit like watching one of the operations on the space station) BP has assembled a short (5 minute) selection of the video footage of the various steps. When watching it, you should bear in mind that the ROV’s carrying out the different steps have to operate in a relatively crowded environment.

The well neighborhood

The tasks to be done included removing, modifying and replacing the control box (or pod) that operates the valves that open and close the flow lines into the choke and kill lines on the well. Other than this, the flow lines to the flow and choke lines themselves had to be replaced with the feed lines (shown in the animation) that will carry the mud into the well. Even tightening a fitting that had worked loose takes time, when it has to be done using an ROV (with the operator at the surface needing to see what he is doing while getting the ROV to hold the necessary wrench and turn the fitting). The old feed lines then had to be cut from the BOP, and replaced.

ROV image showing the control pod fitting being tightened

This involved
* cutting off the choke and kill line connectors
* Cutting the bolts on a flange
* Removing the clamp
* Removing the pipe flange end
* Buffing and cleaning the pipe end
* Preparing to attach the new jumper lines. (This had to be done for each feed line)
* A special hydraulic connector attached to the 150-ft jumper cables was used to latch onto the old inlets. This is slow work (as the video shows) and as a result this part of the work has taken seven days. (The jumper shown in the video was attached on the 16th and chained down into position on the 17th.)

When the connections and fittings have all been made and checked, and the control pod operation validated, and the necessary permits from MMS and others obtained, then the process can begin.

The process will be controlled from the Q4000, which is designed to have the capabilities needed. Two lines feed from the vessel to the BOP. The first carries the control feeds through an umbilical, while the second is a riser that carries the mud down to the flexible hoses and jumper lines into the BOP itself. This mud, at about twice the density of water, will be delivered from the two high-pressure Schlumberger MD 1000 mud pumps made by Schlumberger and will flow through the two feed lines that were the choke and kill circuits, into the well itself, below the main rams of the BOP.

Top Kill Circuit

The pumps will deliver the mud into the lines at a pressure of 6,800 psi, but as Kinuachdrach has correctly noted, it will then acquire the pressure from the full 5,000 ft column of mud as it flows down to the BOP, and enters the flow channel carrying the oil. Now we know that the BOP rams are at least partially closed. If they are planning on using golf balls for the “junk shot”, it is feasible to surmise that the maximum width of the flow channel is no more than a third of a golf ball diameter. Not arguing the merits of American vs British ball sizes, let us assume that this is roughly half-an-inch (though it may have a greater length).

However, as flow volumes go up it requires more and more pressure for the fluid to get through a small gap. And at a given delivery pressure, only a certain flow volume will thus be able to escape that way. As long as this pressure exceeds that in the well, the net result will then be that the mud begins to push the oil and gas back down the well, and the well fills up with mud. The weight of that mud should then be enough to exert a pressure on the bottom of the well that is enough to exceed the fluid pressure in the rock and therefore stabilize the well and stop the flow of fluid out. Cement can then be pumped into the well to seal the top end. (Or with the flow stopped, another BOP can be put on the well to seal it). The main worry is that the hole in the top of the BOP is small enough to contain the additional flow volumes, and not allow the entire flow to escape upwards rather than being forced down the well. The higher flows might, in addition, if they do exit the riser, further erode the openings. This could increase the oil flow, as it lowers the resistance. (If this happened then the LMRP will be deployed).

There are, however, a number of caveats to this operation. If the pressure in the well gets too high it can cause fractures in the rock at the bottom of the well, and this can cause the mud in the well to flow into the rock, rather than sitting in the well holding the pressure against the oil pressure.

There are also concerns with the condition of the bottom of the well, and whether this will have any impact on the flow of mud back down to the well and in sealing it.
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.

If the top kill fails, then the next step will be to cut off the riser, and use the top hat that is sitting on the sea bed near the well, to capture the flow in the LMRP option.

The Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) option

Were it me, I might contact Atlas Tocco and have them look into connecting up an induction heating coil around the outside of the bottom of the riser section. It might give them the occasional additional bit of heat on the inside surface that might be needed to dislodge any inconvenient crystals that might form, without interfering with the internal flow channels.

As a point of scale for the video from the riser leak, the amount of dispersant that is being ejected into the water is about 14,000 gallons a day or about 10 gallons a minute (quarter of a barrel roughly). A 5,000 bd flow is around 150 gals/minute.

This came from Doug Suttles teleconference in which he noted that BP have now spent around $800 million. He noted that oil levels in the water near the well are being measured at 10 ppm (parts per million), against an EPA limit for oil discharge which is 15 ppm. However it is early in the monitoring cycle, and with a fleet of government sampling vessels now starting to work, the plumes and oil dispersant paths will be mapped in more detail in the weeks ahead.

Golf balls??? HAHAHAHAHAhahaha

This is a compleat shitshow. Good luck, men.

BTW nice grafics. Based on the cartoons - it should work. Where is Wile E.?

Seriously, the 3-D graphics could convince almost anyone. Very slick, very convincing...

What shape is the manifold in (pretzle?) I guess they'll find out soon.

An analysis of the plans provided by British Petroleum has demonstrated a weakness in the well site. But the approach will not be easy. You are required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point. The target area is only two meters wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the well head. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should cap the well. Only a precise hit will set off a chain reaction. The shaft is ray-shielded, so you'll have to use proton torpedoes.

That's impossible! Even for a computer.

Luke It's not impossible. I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, they're not much bigger than two meters.

Then man your ships. And may the Force be with you.

Where is Wile E.?

Oh, he's been busy studying the consequences of infinite growth... Actually I just don't have time right now to create a new graphic specifically for this issue but I'll think about it.



Seriously, I wish them all the luck in the world. When it's over, throw the BP CEO into jail.

Boot on neck!

Injecting balls of a particular specific gravity as a diverting agent is a standard oil field practice that's been used for years. I ran my first ball injector on a well 35 years ago. Simply because you are ignorant of the procedure does not mean it isn't valid. I doubt these are literal golf balls, rather they would be rubber balls specifically manufacture for this purpose.

I finally understand why golf balls are reasonable...they restrict flow, but not suddenly (no "liquid hammer" possibility, though the supercritical nature of the oil would reduce such liquid hammer effects). Balls don't clog up the piping that takes them into the hole. Perhaps they help transport the fibrous stuff into the hole without letting it tangle. And the modest temperature of the oil (reportedly < 180F) means they will be strong enough to hold the flow back.

I was only looking at one part of the puzzle when I noted that golf balls implied that the orifice they were being put in to block would likely be smaller than half-an-inch. However since the feed lines are 3-inch diameter you wouldn't want to use balls much bigger than an inch to an inch and a quarter, since otherwise these might bridge and block the flow before it gets to the BOP and the oil/gas flow channel.

Essentially the balls are put in to reduce the area that the fluid flowing out of the well can pass through. At a given pressure and hole size, only a certain volume of fluid can pass through. The rest backs up (think a house drain for example) and in this case carries the mud back down the pipe, filling it and killing the well. They don't have to hold that long, just enough to get the mud down the well.

I think we need to call Tiger Woods. He has a proven track record or wedging & cramming his balls into virtually anything / everything.

I think we need to call Tiger Woods. He has a proven track record or wedging & cramming his balls into virtually anything / everything.

I think some combination of Tigers "junk" and the previously suggested severed head of Dick Cheney (other sort of "junk") pumped in through a hose at 5,000 psi should be able to plug up just about any gushing orifice.

And it would make a great lead story for Fox News....

Hey! Thanks for putting all of this in one place for us!

Question: It looks from the animation that the mud goes down the borehole and then up the annulus. During pumping, will O&G continue to escape via the annulus, or are things connected up in such a way that the mud stops flow up the annulus at the same time it stops flow up the borehole?

There's your $64,000 question toll. What are the open conduits in the well? Is it just the csg string (and the drill pipe inside of it) running from the bottom of the hole up to the well head? Is there oil/NG leaking up any of the annular areas of the other csgs strings? Very critical questions given that the top kill pill will go to the area of least resistance. Such a pumping technique is called "bull heading". Essentially you pump in and have no control over where the pill goes. If the kill pill is pumped into a shallow csg annulus it could easily rupture that csg and produce an underground blow out . That could super charge a shallow reservoir and potentially blow out a relief well or "crater" the well head: the mud around the well head is washed away with the potential for the entire well head system to collapse into the crater.

The big IF: if they can pump the kill pill down most of the way inside the producing csg and the drill pipe they could stop then flow. But you don't need golf balls to do this. In fact plain old heavy drilling mud would do just fine. But the fact they're talking about golf balls, etc tells me they don't think they can bullhead all the way down to the bottom of the well. In fact, rupturing potential of the shallow csg might be THE big factor for this decision.

In other words, if I correctly understand what you are saying, there's a potential here for things to get worse beyond imagination. Is this what you mean?

Riden -- Not worse beyond my imagination but I've seen the nightmare caused by rupturing shallow csg. Obviously we don't know the details BP has before them. They may know exactly what they are getting into. They may only think they know. In the oil patch we have a simple response to such situations when there are too many uncertainties: let the well "talk to you". Once they start the ops they begin getting feedback. At that point they'll either follow the plan or alter it if the well is telling them something different.

My understanding is there are a lot of experienced people working on this (not just BP). Of course, that doesn't prevent bad things from happening, but I think a lot of reason this has taken so long is they've been trying to measure things so they know things won't get worse if it fails. (fingers crossed)

I thot that the golf balls were only if they decided to try the junk shot...not something pumped with the kill mud.

The junk shot is to slow the flow of mud into the ocean. It is not possible or safe to close this port completely, but if it is 80% slower, that means a lot more mud going down into the well and less spurting out the BOP leak. You have to pump fast to overcome the well pressure; the only way to do it means that during pumping of the mud, mud is spurting out where oil has been spurting.

snip duplicate

the mud around the well head is washed away with the potential for the entire well head system to collapse into the crater.

This statement did not give me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

This is a little off topic, so please forgive me: but back when I was mudlogging, would you have been one of the guys reading the morning report and logs I faxed in? I knew SOMEBODY looked at that stuff, but I never really heard back from anybody. Over the last few eeks I've come away with the impression that a LOT of people read my work and I just didn't know it! I'd like to think it would be because my stuff was clear and accurate enough to speak for itself, but hey, you never know, eh?

I did once spend a bit of time on the horn with a Shell geologist after we took a mighty kick INSIDE a salt dome, we were a few thousand feet into it, and had more than a thousand to feet before we expected to get out of it--he was (justifiably) mystified by that. I've always suspected that somebody would get a Master's explaining what happened to that well!

paddle -- sometimes inside the salt you find "inclusions": large blocks of rock that have been ripped up and incorporated in the salt movement. The inclusion could contain permeable sand with abnormally high pressure in it. That coud kicked the hell out of you though the volume might be small and easily handles. In the DW GOM when they are drilling thru salt they try to avoid such inclusions for that very reason if they can spot them on the seismic data. As a DW pore pressure analyst inclusions were one of my biggest fears: you can't see them coming - drill it and you get kicked before you know it.

I need some help understanding casing and liner. I think you've used these words to mean two different things, drawing contrasts between different situations where one is needed and not the other. But if not you, then some other oil industry insider who posts here.
I've googled casing and liner in various combinations, and I find many hits where they are used interchangeably to mean, I think, the same thing. Getting hits where the author doesn't know anything about the topic he is writing about is not surprising, but I think there must be a distinction between the two in the minds of the people who actually know something about drilling oil wells. If you've already explained the difference elsewhere, please give a link, or if not, please give an explanation here.

Casing seems to be cemented in place. I'm not sure about liner and cement. Is that a difference?
The word liner seems to imply the existence of something else outside the liner.
The word casing seems to imply the existence of something else inside the casing.
Both seem never muddled together with drill pipe or drill string.
But both are pipes. I imagine that they are both manufactured in standard dimensions. Are the standard dimension tables of casing and liner the same, or different? When placing and order for some piping that you intend to use as casing is it necessary to tell the supplier that it will be used for casing? Why?


geek -- it's not a hard and fast rule but this is the distinction between a liner and casing. First, a liner is a string of csg. And csg is made of csg. If I'm drilling out of csg set at 6,000' and I need to set another string of csg in order to drill deeper I can do it two different ways. I can run the csg from the bottom of the well all the way back to the well head. In this case I've "cased" the hole. Or I can run the csg from the bottom of the hole to 5,500' and hang it from the bottom of the previous csg. In this case I've "lined" the open hole with a liner. If you find the schematic of the BP well bore you'll see most of the casing runs were liners. The last csg run, the 9 7/8" is a "production casing": it was run from the bottom of the hole all the way back up into the well head.

In both situations you pump cmt to set the csg in the hole. Csg specs are set by the drilling engieer based upon the pressures (from the drill mud) the engineer anticipates encountering. Low mud weights = normal strength csg. Heavy mud weights = high strength csg.

Very helpful. Just to make sure I'm understanding, let me ask another question.

"... If I'm drilling out of csg set at 6,000' and I need to set another string of csg in order to drill deeper I can do it two different ways. ... "

In the two different ways, the OD of the pipe being used is such as to fit inside the first casing. One way uses more length of pipe than the other way, but same size pipe.


Exactly geek....don't run any more csg than need be. Sometimes if the well is modeled correctly you run out of csg sizwes to run. The smallest diameter typically run is 5 1/2". There are smaller tubing sizes under 5 1/2" to run but this is usally a desparation act.

To make it simple, casing is to the surface, a liner is not.

So you have your casing set at 6,000', I presume you have open hole drilled below that, with drilling mud normally flowing back up between the drill pipe and casing, and nothing should flow up the outside of the casing.

What's the bottom edge of that deepest casing look like? Just a cut end of pipe? Prepared in some way for attaching a hanger?

If you intend to line the open hole what's the basic process? Do you pull the drill leaving an empty hole to work in? Then lower the new casing down the hole (is the hanger attached to the new casing, or does it go down first? Or is it an integrated part of the casing?).

When cementing the liner, is the cement put in at the bottom of the hole and pushed back up the outside of the casing for the full length? Or is it pushed through the hanger and just seals the area around the joint?

Thanks for your many informative posts, it's a fascinating topic.

Got your work cut out for you Rock ;-)

code -- Correct...if you got your cmt right you've blocked off the open hole annulus. The bottom end of the csg has a "csg shoe" on it as well as plugs/valves that assist in pumping the cmt up behind the csg. When running a liner they actually use a "csg hanger" to lock the top end of the liner into the upper string of csg. Running a liner is essentially the same as running csg all the way back up except for the liner hanger step. You circulate the open hole clean and then run the liner in on the end of drill pipe and set it in the hanger. Then cmt that end of the liner. When you cmt up from the bottom of the liner/csg you pump cmt as needed: just up X feet or all the way up to the top. Depends on the particulars of the situation.

Rockman, do you have a Web link to the schematic of the BP well bore? I read elsewhere they were using a 6 5/8" bit and had not yet set production casing.

Geo -- Got it on my puter at the office. Heading to a well very early tomorrow but I can post it before I go. But they definately ran production csg to TD. It was a tapered string I think started with 7 5/8" on the bottom and changing to 9 5/8" up hole. If that's correct they may have TD'd with a 6 5/8" bit but then they would have had to under ream to run the 7 5/8" csg.

Here's a diagram that appeared in the May 21 TOD story What caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster?

Thnaks rainy. Interesting: I haven't seen a report that they set a bridge plug at 8,400'. That could be a very critical issue when the detialed investigation begins. If they did set the BP and it didn't fail then the well didn't blow out up the production csg as as thought early. If true this makes the decision to displace the riser/csg before setting the top plug not the "smoking gun" it first appeared. it does support the latest news that BP believes the well is flowing from the production csg annulus.

The original document has a note to the side explaining that the plug hadn't been set yet. (

Thanks h...a very critical point IMHO.

HES personnel here at IOC XYZ tell me that BP asked for and received waiver from MMS to forego the bridge plug. I speculate that it may have had something to do with the N2 foam cement used for the casing operation and the cost of converting to a blend suitable for the plug.

Maybe you could expound and elaborate on the meaning of the bridge plug? It seems that piece of information is important, but I don't fully understand its significance.

x -- Plugs are pretty much as they sound: stoppers put into the well bore or csg. Different types of plugs (cast iron, cement, etc) but they all essentially do the same job: isolate the below from the above.

That is a nice write-up HO.

When I heard Salazar on the radio Sunday pressuring BP to deliver on their proposed solutions, Kip Chalmers was identified.

Now I'm sure BP is looking for an assistant dispatcher.

Best Hopes for an Assistant Dispatcher


Betcha that AD will not be in Houston Headquarters, and his boss will be in that last chopper off the platform before they turn on the pumps.

Though I really hope this works.

I think this procedure needs the endorsement of Energy Secretary Chu and other government officials in the know up to and including our President (who has been purported to be our most scientifically minded president ever) prior to its attempt. What are they in the war room for if not to keep us informed and make sure our interests are represented for the public good?

It is that serious a move.


If the pressure in the well gets too high it can cause fractures in the rock at the bottom of the well, and this can cause the mud in the well to flow into the rock, rather than sitting in the well holding the pressure against the oil pressure.

i'm thinking this is the least of their worries.

and they are getting a permit for this ? no eis, i presume.

Does anybody have any info on the LMRP cap and/or its installation mechanics?

I'm a little confused by the reference to using it in conjunction with the "tophat" dome. Seems to me that any seal between the LMRP cap and the cut-off riser would be a waste of effort if the flow is just going to be released into the dome.

For that matter, if the only intention is to stick a dome over it, cutting off the kink (and any associated pressure retention) seems highly undesireable.

Just this from Rigzone:

LMRP Option

Being progressed in parallel with plans for the top kill is development of a lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap containment option. This would first involve removing the damaged riser from the top of the BOP, leaving a cleanly-cut pipe at the top of the BOP's LMRP. The LMRP cap, an engineered containment device with a sealing grommet, would be connected to a riser from the Discoverer Enterprise drillship and then placed over the LMRP with the intention of capturing most of the oil and gas flowing from the well and transporting it to the drillship on the surface. The LMRP cap is already on site and it is anticipated that this option will be available for deployment by the end of May.

Details outlined on BP technical review video review from yesterday on their site.

My understanding - don't remember from where - is that the riser and whatever is inside it, does not sit nicely perpendicular coming out of the BOP. If that is true, wouldn't that complicate matters? I don't know how the riser connects to the BOP, but it seems like that juncture could be compromised to the point where you can't just shear it and clean it up for a new fitting.

From my observation of the video to say it "does not sit nicely" would be a very polite way to say the riser and all of its contents take a 90+ degree bend a few inches from the top of the BOP

The plan is to cut the old riser off with a diamond wire saw so that a new riser could be attached. (A wire saw is better for this as it will have minimal cross section to the liquids flow)

After that, some kind of riser will be attached, with a water-tight but not particularly high pressure capable connection so that the oil and gas can be lifted to the surface.

The LMRP cap is not going to feed into the dome but will feed into a new riser pipe directly to the surface ship.
The damaged riser will be cut off to provide a flat surface so that a "reasonable" seal may be formed that will not allow much water to enter the riser pipe and thus to prevent hydrates clogging it up. Oil may still leak out to minimise the pressure on the damaged well/casing.


A simple (possibly naïve) question, but if the ROV has to cut off the riser at the top of the BOP, how does the ROV gain sufficient traction to sit still in space (water) while it does it? Does it just use its thruster motors - are they that powerful - or does it hook onto the BOP to gain a firm stationary hold? And as it cuts the riser, wouldn't there be a lot of pressure from the oil-gas mix as it progressed with the cut - and wouldn't that be sufficient to make the ROV rock'n'roll?

I've been watching some of the ROV live video, and just like a human would, they make heavy use of their "other hand" to hang on to stationary objects to steady themselves.

wouldn't that be sufficient to make the ROV rock'n'roll?

Keep in mind these ROVs are about the size and weight of a mini-van. I was watching an ROV last night doing some work removing the riser insertion tube, and based on what I've seen the key issue isn't so much the force exerted by the oil stream, as that it badly impairs visibility. Once that wire saw is halfway through the riser, there's going to be clouds of emulsified oil everywhere.

Not naive at all, if the ROV tried to free cut anything with a sizable saw blade it would move around and the saw would bind up and probably break. Then a 3 hour trip to replace the blade.

For making a cut like that the ROV will attach a diamond wire saw (in this case) or a chop saw. The saw clamps firmly onto the piece being cut and is controlled, powered and monitored by the ROV. So basically the ROV just hovers there while the cut is made.

A diamond wire cutter feeds an endless wire encrusted with diamond dust that is pulled tight across the piece being cut. One of the reasons for using the diamond wire is that it offers a very small cross section to the flow. A chop saw with a solid blade would try to stop the flow as it cut further into the riser and eventually everything would bind up or break.

The BP design team has indicated that flow may be coming up on the outside of the 9-7/8" x 7" production casing as a result of failure of the 9-7/8" casing hanger seal assembly.

That means that the 16" casing could now be exposed to the following pressures -

A. Full shut in pressure with hydrocarbon column from reservoir to the wellhead, perhaps 9,000 psi orso, if the flow through the BOP is successfully arrested with plugging material.

B. Injection (bullhead pressure) of similar magnitude, when heavy kill fluid is injected into the well.

Will the 16" casing be able to withstand this pressure? What is the weight / grade of the 16" casing? What type of connections were used?

What is the anticipated weak point in the B Annulus between the 9-7/8" and 16" casing strings?

Kanga -- if the blow out is coming up the 9 7/8" csg annulus then all the csg shoes from the 22" (at 7,937') and below is exposed and subject to failure. That would be a total of six csg seats open to the pressure. The 16" is hung off the 22" and not tied back to the surface. The 22" csg is run back up into the well head so it might represent the lowest burst pressure they could have exposed. I've seen no grade for the 22" csg. But I would guess that it's not high pressure stuff given it was set at only 7,937'.

Not sure of the 22" burst pressure. The 16" csg is the shallowest casing that is not cemented back up and will be exposed to the pressures. It will likely be the first csg to fail.

From another source: the 16" casg in the well is 84lb/ft Q-125 which has an API burst rating of 6,770psi, but regardless the highest burst rating for 16" pipe seems to be 7,860 psi.

I listened to the informative conference call yesterday, the BP technical review, and the call this morning.

I came away with the junk shot being off the table. They seem convinced the flow is coming from around a casing string, the main blockages are down hole,and the riser kink is not contributing much to a reduction (5-15%)of flow and pressure.

Shelburn and others, correct me if I am wrong but the comments relating to some of BOP rams being partially shot shut may indicate that the junk shot materials would not seal and instead shoot up to the riser kink.

Everybody talks about the golf balls but I have never heard them specifically related to this well. It was picked up early on but in reference to an example of material used in other areas. They have said they built a mock-up onshore a while back and tested all kind of materials to use in this size of pipe with the bends and such. They designed the manifold to be able to insert "junk" and switch to it if they wanted to but now it is not even in the first 4 alternatives that have been presented.

Assuming no big change when they do the pressure measurements and tests today they sound much more bullish on going ahead with the cutting of the riser if the top shot does not work (if the leak upside is only another 10% or so )then it is only the time to cut and prepare the flange for the new collection tool that will have full flow. They appear to have learned a great deal from the tools used so far. I noticed that a "hot tap" in the horizontal riser was shown as option "4" on the BP chart but was not discussed in yesterday's tech review.

Interesting observation is that yesterday was the first time I heard Suttles final say something other than there is uncertainty around the 5000 BOPD. When challenged in a followup by a reporter he said the numbers floating around were nowhere near those being floated around in press reports. He has been really on point and this was the first time I heard him show a bit of frustration on the flow issue.

Despite all the detailed briefings and information the last couple days CNN this morning was talking about using "cement" to kill the well followed by a junk shot. These reporters are embarrassing enough when they talk about earth quakes and tsunamis. They need to spend more time on doing National Enquirer/People stories, which seems to be more appropriate.

The $800 million does not include the new $500 million for the long term environmental studies grant announced yesterday.I wonder if the first thing to go from their long term budget to save cash might be the alternative energy investment?

Note from Gail: Please leave blank lines between paragraphs. It makes comments easier to read. I fixed this comment--it has a lot of worthwhile information in it that we don't want people to overlook!

I think I've heard them talking about frac balls - which got translated into golf balls by press.

I saw something this am re: they are giving the top kill a 60 - 70% chance.

I saw something this am re: they are giving the top kill a 60 - 70% chance.

Is that a reasonable estimate?

Velo -- In such situations I always offer a 50/50 chance of success - either it will work or it won't. Seriously: that's what I typically offer when there are so many unknowns.

Yes, they're actually talking about the balls typically used as diverting agents. My understanding is that they've got some 15K ball injectors that are capable of handling balls up to 3 inch OD and they have a couple of thousand balls of that size with a 1.3 specific gravity. They probably have some smaller balls as well. Apparently the lines they will pump through can handle the 3 inch dimension. If the rams are indeed partially close I would think that a bunch of rubber balls that size would do a pretty good job of plugging the thing off. But they evidently believe that there will be enough restriction to flow without mechanical obstruction to get the mud going south. If it ever does turn the corner it will be over pretty shortly.

Can you comment on how long it would take to do the "junk shot" if the top kill were to fail? That is, can they re-use the tubing and lines from the top-kill, just injecting "junk" instead of mud - or is there a lot of extra modification in doing that?

Yes, they can use the same lines, etc. All of this stuff; pumps, blenders, injectors, etc. is already loaded on vessels and rigged up. Switching from mud to cement to 'junk' in whatever order they choose should be just a matter of opening and closing a few valves.

Years ago there used to be a household product on the market - instant sponges. These where small compressed rectangles that would expand to several times their initial size into household sponges when they became wet. I wonder if that or similar would help clog up the BOP/riser to assist with the top kill?

"Sponges? Sponges are multicolored creatures that live under the sink." - Mr Science

The problem is that the pressure of the flow would pop them right out. That's why they're talking about things closer to the consistency of golf balls or shredded tires. You need something with just enough give to wedge in place, but solid enough to take thousands of PSI. I'm thinking diced hockey pucks, myself.

Critically, the 'junk' must not get in the way of getting heavy mud down the well. That's the only real control possible. (And that's what the relief wells will do.) This is why they will try to inject mud without junk first.

They are being very cautious to "do no harm", and I hope that the crew gets a good night's sleep before the top kill starts in earnest. I also hope BP is smart enough to 'keep the suits out of the cockpit' tomorrow. The schedule must be take its cues from the well data - anyone who even suggests an action based on PR should be set adrift in a lifeboat with a compass and an oar.

The schedule must be take its cues from the well data - anyone who even suggests an action based on PR should be set adrift in a lifeboat with without a compass and an oar.

There, fixed that for you ;^)

Thanks for the summary of the various calls.
Suttles made another comment, I thought - to the effect they used a range around that 5000 bopd to model the pressures necessary for the top kill. Did you hear something like that?
They seem to be waiting on some data through today before starting. Were those pressure measurements? Do you know if the pressure has been decreasing over time? [and does that imply the well is depleting?]

I thought Shelburn or maybe BP had one time indicated pressures might have been falling. I thought I heard him say they were designing, not only around the 5000 BOPD, but also making sure they looked at making sure things worked at higher flows but he did not give a number.

Did you hear the question about using explosives (not nukes per se)? Emphatic that all government and industry experts agreed it could make it worse.
I di have a nice chat with a seismoloigst friend on the effect on other production facilities of placing a nuke in delta mud. Interesting waves would propagate.Of course a news outlet mentioned this Russian idea today. Project Gasbuggy in 5000 feet of water!!!

Did you hear the question about using explosives (not nukes per se)? Emphatic that all government and industry experts agreed it could make it worse. >>

I'm not an expert, but when things built for "blowing things up" are used to "fix a leak," I get very nervous. It makes about as much sense to me as fixing a leaky faucet by dropping a grenade on it. I guess your faucet would stop leaking because your entire plumbing is now spewing water instead.

He said most of those explosives were used to put out fires and not to stop the flow. That makes sense to me.

By the way, do keep up the news flow from those technical conferences. I try to listen to them, but I don't always understand what I am hearing so it's good to be able to converse about them.

I'm fairly sure the U.S. doesn't even have a nuke that'll work 5000 feet down.

I think we might have a nuke that would blow away the 5000' of water so that the well head would be exposed to noxious gases, and not seawater for several minutes. This is not enough time to take constructive follow-on action, IMHO.

The Soviet idea about using a nuke consists of drilling a well at some suitable distance beside the leaking one and thousands of feet below the sea floor. The nuke would be detonated in the newly drilled well. The blast would compress and shift rock around the cavern created by the explosion pinching the leaking well shut. Implementation would probably take as much time as drilling the relief wells. The Soviets claimed the method was successful in stopping the blowout 4 out of 5 times where they used it. However, they did not mention whether they tried relief wells and why they did not work. Also there was no mention of using oxygen consuming explosives at the wellhead to extinguish the fire. Sometimes brute force is used to compensate for a lack of creativity.

Naturally, the west has a monopoly on human intelligence. Anybody with an actual interest in the subject would know that the nukes were not used to stop wellhead fires.

According to the video released by Russia Today in the Mother Jones report, VIDEO: Nuke the Oil Spill?, the natural gas fire in Uzbekistan burned for 3 years in the 1960s. Albert Vasiliev said during the interview, "... nothing worked. The flames were unstoppable." I got the impression the Soviets could not extinguish the fire until they nuked the well. Since I do not think directional drilling, which is needed to create a relief well, was possible anywhere on the planet back in the 1960's, my comment referred to limited human creativity. I still do not understand why they could not extinguish the fire using an explosive at the wellhead that depletes oxygen and then cap the well. That should have been possible using 1960's technology.

Of course the Mother Jones' article also states:

That one was snuffed using a 30-megaton blast six kilometers deep—about one and a half times the size of the Hiroshima bomb.

To be 1.5 times the energy of the nuke dropped on Hiroshima, the unit needs to be kilotons. Has any reporter ever been able to get his facts straight?

people...people! Get...a...grip!

Using a nuclear device to close this well is a complete and utter non-starter.

I will not elaborate further...take my word on this, or go on speculating about a case which has exactly a zero-point-zero probability of happening. zero. Did I mention 0.0% probability of occurrence?

Please...future not waste you time and others' time by asking/speculating about using a nuclear device again.

I was explaining the concept, not advocating the use of a nuke.

Accuracy needed in directional drilling may be a skill with the US

If you can drill to intercept, a bomb is not needed.

Why is it that so many good worldwide directional drillers and football quarterbacks are from Mississippi /Louisiana ?

Your analogy of a leaky faucet is a little off - when it works as intended, it's more like using a grenade to flatten a section of the copper pipe that is feeding the leaky faucet.

Nukes are used instead of conventional explosives because the package has to have a high yield but still be small enough to fit down a borehole. In practice the downhole nuke thing is used to kick a large vertical section containing the bad well out to one side, which blocks the path to the surface. But the geology has to be right for it to work, which it isn't in this case.

Re: CNN....About a week ago they had Reynolds Wolf on giving a detailed explanation of the junk shot/top kill. He said that they were going to pour sea mud on top of the well and then pour tons of concrete on top of that, "kind of like putting a poultice on a bleeding wound" was how he explained it......

I was so amazed at his shear stupidity that I sent CNN an e-mail telling them to get this embarassment off the air. I don't think I've seen him since.

Politicians on the safety of deep sea drilling. Per Olberman and John Stewart

Whatever you think of Olberman and Stewart at least they capture the statements politicians made in the past that they would rather forget they said.

Hope, they are capturing comments from the last fours weeks too.

Anybody listen or watch Thad Allen yesterday when he sounded pretty frustrated when speaking of the realities of trying to implement a regional plan when dealing with individual states each clamoring to give all the resources to them first. A lot of interests to satisfy and various political realities to sift through. I would not want his job.
The whole barrier island dredging and building fight is interesting. Will one of you from the area fill us in on the history as I thought this had been talked about way before this spill? Thanks.

The GOP claims of "acts of God." Whadda buncha maroons!

Earth to GOP: Presuming a belief in God, the act of God was to sequester the oil beneath 1 mile of water and nearly 3 miles of rock. It was purely acts of humans, flouting the act of the putative God, which caused this disaster. But hey, fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

The cartoon makes it look like the BOP is sitting on firm rock floor but from what I read its sitting on several hundred feet of mud.

A bit misleading and maybe an issue.

P.S. I played an engineer in a school play once.

enigma - there are no rocks on the bottom of the GOM. First "rocks" are a few thousand feet deep. And calling those layers rocks is something of a push. When you drill a well out there the first casing you put down is the "drive pipe". The bottom is so soft you literally just push the csg into the sea floor several hundred feet.

Thanks Rock - So what is the BOP "sitting on"?

This screen shot shows a crater where the mud has been blown away;

Both oil and separate gas leak flowing out of the crater.

You are looking at the end of the riser which is about 600 feet away from the BOP. The hole under the riser is cloudy because either the ROV, or another ROV, or a gas surge has stirred up some mud. The dark portion is the excess oil flowing out the end of the riser.

Note the depth is 4958.1 feet and the altitude is 5.6 feet so the total depth is 4,964 feet. The BOP is at 5,081 feet

You could also note down the Eastings and Northings for future references against the positions shown when the ROV are close to the wellhead.

ee -- the BOP is latched on to the top of the well head.

So swaying around at the top of a pole, so to speak?

I don't know much about it, but, I would think that even though it is mud, it is a few thousand feet deep and under the pressure of the seawater, so you can push through it with a pipe and lots of force, but I don't think there is a lot of lateral movement going on.

I should have added that the hole below the riser was made by the ROVs. The riser was partially buried so the ROV evacuated the area so they would have working room to install the RITT.

There are probably a number of holes like that scattered around as they were trying to identify various pieces of debris. If this was a hard bottom the area would be covered with drill pipe, fitting, machinery etc that fell off the drill rig when it sank. Most of the heavy stuff probably disappeared in the mud.

Delete dulicate

As a new follower of TOD, I just want to add my thanks. This is *the* place to follow the real engineering truth about what is going on.

A question - Thad Allen yesterday explained that the least risky remedies are being tried first. From the discussion of potential calamities that it seems top-kill could cause (wellhead collapse, fracturing the BOP, etc.) doesn't the top hat collection device seem considerably less risky? If so, why is it not being tried first? Is it that there are several leaks, so top-kill will (if successful) shut them all off at once?

Boy they really hammed up the PR spin for this one. The graphics budget must have increased.

Can't wait for the "top hat" CG effects extravaganza, then the Conan Obrien TBS "junk shot" variety hour. Maybe by the start of nest season Ryan Seacrest will host the FOX American Idol Save the World Show and we can all text message the next remedy. ALL subterfuge and delay tactics.

Zero percent chance this works as intended.

99% chance valves, riser, BOP, casing, wellbore, etc., get torn to hades.

1% chance they push it till the entire BOP jettisons through the milky depths.

Hi glowming,

They are balancing two concerns. Time and risk. Partial solutions like the current Riser Insertion Tube or the proposed Top Hat do not prevent some oil to continue to leak. On the other hand, the Top Kill is a full solution, it will stop all oil flow.

There is also a concern over what is happening within the well and the BOP over time. Those processes are not fully understood. Waiting too long to try the Top Kill might actually increase the risk.

If I'm off on my explanation I hope others will chime in.

Has anyone listening in on the BP conference calls heard about any reference to reprogramming the BOP "brain" (media speak) to measure internal pressures in the BOP ? I suspect they might have been talking about the control pod. I saw this as a short item on and was wondering if this had been done or scrapped. It seemed like a smart idea to gather information about the internal pressure in the BOP.

BP tech review said it had been done and now back in place.

As best I know one of the control pods was removed early on by an ROV. It was taken to the surface and "modified" and was able to obtain pressure and temperature readings. Before that they did not have any pressure readings at the wellhead.

I believe it was removed again and further modified to enable the top kill and junk shot operations.

The BP video cited in the main post showed it being reinstalled on the well after being modified. From comments made a week ago, this was only done in the last few days.

I'm reasonable certain that was its second trip to the surface and the recent information the second time it was installed on the BOP.

Louisiana to "Go It Alone" on (re)building Barrier Islands

The state has been waiting for permission from Corpse of Engineers (pun intended) to start dredging and creating sand barriers where barriers islands existed in historical times.

[The State of Louisiana Attorney General] Caldwell advised Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, commanding general of the Corps, that under the U.S. constitution the federal government does not have the legal authority to deny a state the right to conduct such emergency operations to protect its citizens and territory.

This is a DIRECT challenge that is likely to go directly to the Supreme Court. If the State of Louisiana starts dredging, will the feds use armed force to stop them (pending a court decision) ?

There is overwhelming local support for this.

Best Hopes for Barrier Islands,


P.S. Not what Obama's political advisers want to see.

Generally the judicial system does not work well for speedy resolutions of constitutional issues.

Alan: Thanks. It appears since Katrina and before the Corp and La. are not the best of friends. As I asked above though has there not been a lot of talk for a long time around this dredging and barrier island issue(I mean before spill)?

The State of Louisiana has pledged (via a law passed) that all funds we receive from federal offshore royalties (starting 2017 from new wells) will be exclusively used for coastal restoration. Rebuilding barrier islands is one of the means to do this.

Pre-BP the most likely means were strategic rocks/barriers that would naturally catch sand and help rebuild them that way. But brute force dredging gets it done quicker. local environmentalists favor the slow approach, but that was before BP.

Best Hopes,


So, you dredge to build artificial barriers to block the oil. Then what? Will Bobby monitor how this impacts an ecosystem that needs saltwater influx? What happens to the oily berms later on? Will these artificial barriers withstand tropical storms? To my eyes, Bobby is throwing mud to politicize this event. Republicans are for ACTION, he seems to say, regardless of consequence. Just do something! Here's an idea: use booms to steer to the oil to collection points. Not as sexy as building artificial islands.

Boom is not meant to contain or catch oil. Boom is meant to divert oil.

We have excellent maps of where the barrier islands were.

Rebuild those first. And they will slow down hurricanes.

And then extend them further till the oil dissipates, and remove the "unnatural sections" when the oil disappears.

ANY damage from "unnatural" water circulation pales in comparison to oil.

Quite a few (almost all) species are adapted to wide variations of salinity. It happens naturally.

I particularly like oysters on the half shell during cool weather and after a prolonged dry spell. Saltier and cool water makes them taste better. Heavy rains can leave a faint taste of mud.


sounds like a good plan when you say it fast. Problem is that the dredging is done on an emergency basis, with funds that are diverted from somewhere else. After the crisis, funds won't be available to "undo" what was done during the emergency. That means passes will remain closed. Sloughs, trenthouses, drains, etc won't be opened up. The entire water and marsh environment shoreward of the plugs never get the same nourishment they got prior to the emergency. You say how do I know this? Take a look at the mouth of Cedar Bayou and Vinson Slough in the Rockport, Tx area. Both were closed as a precautionary measure during Iptoch and are still closed. Can't get a permit or the funds to undo what was done. Mesquite Bay and surrounding marshes are toast as a result of no flushing action. Food source of the whooping cranes have diminished to nothing and there has been a dieoff of cranes due to starvation. Check it out.

I'm all for closing the drains etc during the emergency if, and only if, funds are guaranteed to undo it afterwards. Even if the drains are not closed, Mother Nature will take care of the marsh and the estuary in time. She always does.In the meantime, BP's pockets can be picked to keep the fishermen and all the other affected parties whole.

I'm puzzled by dredging proposal. Won't the dredged material (sand?) just move back to where it came from by wave and tidal action? And if not that, in response to hurricanes? Maybe global warming will stop the hurricanes.

Perhaps the sand can be glued into large blocks by mixing in some really thick oil ???

Sounds like an idea that only the Corps of Engineers could love. But they don't. Or maybe their objection is that they want to be in charge and they won't be.

I've got to admit the dredging is a complex decision. Even finding enough sand seems to be an issue. Protection of the marsh and beaches is a war, with the enemy being oil.

The problem with all wars is they have collateral damage and friendly fire. (There must be a better name than friendly fire for such a tragic occurrence!)

There are so many agencies and political entities fighting this war that we see the same type of infighting that happens between the branches of the military in actual wars.

It may be to late now, but in future crises like this, and there will eventually be another, I suggest one person be given the ultimate authority. Period, no debate, decision is final. Now for the wing nuts that think this is President Obama's job, get real. The President might make the appointment, but his job description includes far too much for him to dedicate all his time in the Gulf.

I'm curious as to what others think. Is there a need for an single, experienced decision maker who has dealt with crisis situations before who can take input from all parties involved and, when there are stalemates, make the call?

"Is there a need for an single, experienced decision maker who ... "

I think We, the American People, have absolutely no right to ask anyone to be a single decision maker here. It would be a total rejection of our moral responsibility on our part. There is no way We, the American People, can guaranty that none of use will decide to punish the guy* if things turn out badly.

I think if anyone were to volunteer for the job, I would question their sanity.

This will not turn out well. It makes no sense to ask any single person to accept all the blame.

*Also there is no way We could select a woman.

I think it's a great idea. You could call them "consul", perhaps. Or if things get really bad maybe "dictator".

P.S. Not what Obama's political advisers want to see.

Eh? Why do they have a dog in this fight?

If I didn't read TOD, I would think, from the general press reports that no one was doing much of anything. That no one knew what they were doing anyway.
That BP is trying to save the oil rather than kill the well.
That Obama is, well, doing not enough and he should have done everything on 2009.

My only concern is the safety of the crews working on this well.
I read the pdf of the Q4000 yesterday and to a novice like me, it is almost scary to see the technology and design of this. Comeplete with helio pad.

When they begin this process of pushing mud, can they tell if the BOP is about to break in some manner? And then stop before damage is done?

HO thanks a million times for all your work on giving this information.

eyepaddle, where can I learn about what you do?

I don't do it anymore--I've been out of the oil biz for about a decade. In a nutshell I was a flunky-level wellsite geologist. I looked at the cuttings as they came up out of the hole, and measured and recorded stuff like weight on bit, rate of penetration, mud pit volume, mud line flow volume, and a few other things. Sort of like "minutes taker" of the well drilling process, but I was supposed to keep my eyes open and keep people posted if things started acting improperly. I also spent some time as a Measurement While Drilling field engineer (MWD). That is doing geophysiocal logging with a tool that is right behind the bit/mud motor assembly-rathe than having to pull out of the hole and drop a tool down on a wire and then reel it back in.

I'm not sure, but I'd say check wikipedia for mudlogger and MWD--that should work.

Maude -- if you do decide to become a mud logger be warned: it might require a partial lobotomy if your IQ is too high.

Just teasing paddle...just one of the reason I put mud loggers on most of my to tease and they usually don't talk back. But paddle knows I respect mud loggers greatly. At least the good ones. I like MWD hands even better, though.


When I was mudlogging, we all talked about moving up in the world and getting gigs as MWD hands. Once I did that however, I wished I'd have stayed a mud logger. I never got used to sitting there all night watching for each pulse to come up from the tool, dreading a tool failure. As a mud logger all your gear is where you can get to it and fix it should the need arise.

Plus, I sort of revised my opinion that mudlogging might have a bit more art to it--as an MWD guy, all you do is print out what the tool tells you. As a mud logger you get to actually see the rocks and make some assessments. Of course, then a lot depends on the quality of the guy making the assessments!

Well, I am off to go paddle (hence the name!) Here's to hoping they manage to kill the well and not screw the pooch!


When you get back, I've got a question for you.

The head electrician on the Deepwater Horizon during the 60 Minutes interview stated that during an test of the annulus seal of the BOP the drill string was accidently moved about 15 feet. Later, someone (a mudlogger?) found a double handful of rubber like particles coming up with the mud. The rubber was shown to a supervisor who dismissed it as not important.

In a earlier discussion about this it was mentioned there could be multiple sources of this rubber like material in the well casing.

What is your take on this? What would be your reaction given the same circumstances? Anyone else feel free to chime in also.

Think of the annular as a big, tought, thick walled, rubber bag in the shape of a donut that can close on pipe of various sizes and hold a limited amount of pressure, say 5,000 psi or less. You can also strip pipe through the annular, that means you can move it, though drillers are somewhat reluctant to do that because of potential wear or damage. When pipe moves through the annular it is not uncommon that you take some rubber off but that does not mean that it is no longer capable of doing its job. I'm making the assumption that it continued to pass the required tests and there was not an actual rupture.

The reality is that the annular is not what you depend on to stop a blow out. For stopping a blow out you use the pipe rams or shear rams which have much higher pressure ratings such as the 15,000 psi in this particular case. Pipe rams are sized to specific drill pipe size.

To be honest, the guy on 60 Minutes sounded like an electrician talking about drilling. In my mind he doesn't have a whole lot of credibility as to actual causation in this event.

Hmmm, I'm not so convinced that he's insignificant / doesn't have sufficient understanding:

1) The electrician reported that the mudlogger had a "double handful" of rubber chunks, presumably from the BOP annular component, in his hands. Not really an insignificant amount for an orifice of that size - and kinda consistent with the subsquent evidence (as far as we know) - a substantial leak but not an unrestricted one.

2) Why should he say all that stuff? Whilst watching the video I thought (1) "who's going to employ this guy on any rig after this interview?, he may be decent and honest - but he's going to regret it....".

I think he was telling the truth, but possibly wishes he hadn't now. I'm guessing that the failure to protect (and re-test after significant events) the BOP integrity will be one of the findings of the commission-of-enquiry as a contributory factor, and recommendations will be made..... and followed for a while......

There's no doubt that (1) This incident has cost BP a huge amount, daily increasing by $tens of millions, and (2) The management of BP, and contemporaries, will mandate super-stringent adherence to enhanced safety procedures to prevent a recurrence of a similar event...... that's one of the jobs of management (reiteration of the bleedin' obvious)

....until the DWH blowout drifts into the distant past. Then the rule-bending will start all over again, then..... uh, I don't want to think about that.

Regards Chris

(BTW I watched the "60 mins" video for a familiar reason - westtexas repeatedly encouraged us to do it. A long time ago I used to think WT was like a broken record, repeating the same things all the time...... but I eventually I realised that he has a good reason for doing that - namely that he's right, and they deserve our consideration)

Regards Chris

Forget the marshes. They're all dead. Ecological planning studies and permits are worthless.

We have to antcipate at least two more months of oil buildup in the wetlands (likely much longer as relief drill after relief drill fails or hurricanes destroy them.)

If we don't stop accumulation in the grasses and lagoons we'lll have a full time fire hazard in New Orleans and the parishes. As well as freshwater reservoirs, lakes and ponds contaminated farther inland.

Repeat it's all DEAD. Time to save what we can farther inland.

This will probably get lost in a fading thread, but to be honest when plastic or rubber came up out of the hole, I was always a little hazy on where it might have come from. I was under the impression that at least part of the shoe was sort of sacrificil and was drilled out, along with the cement at the end of the newst set of casing/liner.

During casing and cementing operations mud loggers and MWD hands are pretty much expected to stay out of the way, so I never really got a good look at the shoe, or a hanger before it went down the hole. Even in light of my previous comments, we stayed out of the way not just because folks like to bust balls, but mainly because rig floor work is pretty hazardous with a lot going on and people running around fast and (seemingly) at random. It just isn't safe or wise to have people standing around watching with no real business. Both mud logging and MWD are there to evaluate newly drilled hole, and which isn't happening during casing or cementing, so we were sort of idled during those operations.

Once that was done and they started to circulate prior to going "on bottom" and drilling ahead was when we started paying close attention looking for "trip gas" and watching for chunks of the shoe, and cement to come out. WHen I saw that stuff, and call in and tell the driller what we had found, sometimes they would want a look, other times I'd just describe it, they'd know what it was, and generally take note of it, and continue drilling.

Thanks, eyepaddle.

Looks like we have a case of 60 Minutes giving us inflammatory conjecture. Great for ratings, sucks for increasing our understanding of what happened.

Yes, we mud loggers not only had the world's sexiest job title, we got all the respect, money, and the girls too.

That BP is trying to save the oil rather than kill the well.

Haven't seen this so much in the MSM, but it pervades the comments sections of the blogs I read, and is found even in some of the blog posts. An awful lot of people are convinced it's the case, and it leads to any number of other wild suppositions about BP's purportedly nefarious agenda. I can't figure out why BP hasn't had its PR people repeatedly make the point that the well is already DEAD DEAD DEAD, and that any money it could make by selling the oil it collects is just a drop in the bucket, so to speak, compared to what it's spending trying to shut the bloody thing down.

It's infuriating, because it distracts from all the legitimate reasons to criticize BP. But if I hadn't found TOD, I'd have been inclined to have the same suspicion. I've left over a dozen comments myself knocking it down and referring folks here for the True Word on what's going on.

The primary reason for "collecting the oil" is that it is a lot more cost effective to "collect" it in the ocean than try to clean it off the beaches.

See Table 3 of Worldwide Analysis of Marine Oil Spill Cleanup Cost Factors, Dagmar Schmidt Etkin Arctic and Marine Oilspill Program Technical Sem, June 2000

Table 3 Per-Unit Marine Oil Spill Cleanup Costs By Location Type (1999 US $)
Offshore $6,873/tonne
Nearshore $25,077/tonne
In Port $34,089/tonne

Compare crude oil at $80/bbl costs $525/tonne (assuming 6.57 bbl/tonne for dense crude oil.)

The value of the oil collected ($525/tonne) gets lost in accounting (1.5%) compared to the high cost of cleaning up the shore.

Here's the reddit, slashdot, SU, and digg links, if you're in the mood to spread this around--or just email it to your friends, talk about it elsewhere. It really helps.

(on reddit, if you don't have account, it takes seconds to make a username/pwd, and then hit the up arrows on these links) (just thumb this up)

You could also submit it to fark, metafilter, and many other link farms, if you are so inclined. Cheers!

*laugh* ok, ok...fair enough. :)

Thank you eyepaddle.
I don't call that flunky. You had to be accurate. A big deal and keep your eyes open and your wits about you.
I shall look it up.

Key West, Here We Come !

And North Carolina too !

Perhaps I missed "the news", but my eyeball clearly shows the oil slick entrained with the Loop Current.

See upper left corner.


Actually most of the oil (at the surface) seems to be entrained (from satellite images) into the counter-clockwise eddy above the Loop Current. The Florida east coast is pinning its hopes on the Loop Current pinching off a larger eddy (the entire "loop" portion in the GOM). You can see where it looks pinched from east to west closer to Florida. The average summer winds are out of the southeast, which is bad for LA, so that should keep much of the oil away from the Loop Current. Question is whether or not the loop will close off and form an eddy. It doesn't always complete the "pinch". What we don't know is what the currents below about 200 meters (600+ft) are doing. They could be streaming sub-surface oil directly into the Loop Current area. No one really knows. I know that research ships are out there now (finally), so now we wait to see what they find.

Hey Alan, I've been watching this as well. NOAA's trajectory map (the latest is from yesterday) seems to confirm that a small amount of oil is poised to enter the Loop Current.

Satellite imagery analysis continues to indicate a narrow band of oil to the SE of the main slick. Yesterday’s overflight to this region observed streamers of emulsified oil no further south than approximately 28° 9’ N, with sheens continuing to 27° 32’ N – in a narrow band as seen in the satellite imagery.

Trajectories for remaining observed oil within this region suggest some of these scattered sheens will continue to be entrained in the counter-clockwise eddy, while a smaller portion may move in to the Loop Current and persist as very widely scattered tarballs not visible from imagery.

Of course there is very little information about what is happening below the surface :-(
Let alone what, if any, impact this might have on the Keys ecosystems.

A link to a video clip of a ABC reporter diving into some oil plumes (not for people with weak stomachs):

From ABC News:

For the first time since the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy over a month ago, "Good Morning America" Weather Anchor Sam Champion, along with Philippe Cousteau and a team of specially-trained divers, reported from under the water in the Gulf of Mexico to see first-hand what is happening beneath the surface. Wearing special hazmat dive suits, the team is the first to dive in - and document - the oil-laden waters off of the Louisiana coastline.

A link to a video clip of a ABC reporter diving into some oil plumes (not for people with weak stomachs):

Crap! I was just reminded, because of a flurry of emails from friends and family, that today happens to be my 57th birthday. It also means that I have been diving for about 40 years, in all kinds of environments all over the world. Including a stint as a saturation diver on oil rigs off the coast of Brazil working on BOPs (only 500 ftsw) back in the late 70s.

I have even done dives in plumes of raw sewage, that video footage is about as nasty a soup as I have ever seen especially knowing what it is composed of. BTW a depth of 25ft tells me this is really the underside of a surface plume. What I want to know is what is happening a different depths say 300 to 600ft and deeper. We have indication that such plumes are out there in those depths.

What happens if those deep sea plumes are brought into the currents and then they upsurge, say, into the coral reefs of the Keys?

Thanks for the wonderful birthday present, BP!

Can I send you a bill for emotional trauma?!

This latest map from Roffs shows a large eddy may be forming.

It wasn't predicted by Navy forecasts to do that for a month and could keep most of the spill in the GOM.

Jeff Masters has more info on this from a few days ago and plans to do a post on what effect a hurricane would have later today.

Watch this space:

That does look like a ring forming at the surface. It's worth remembering that the forecasts for the date of warm ring formation haven't been that accurate in the past. If/when the ring does pinch off, the apex of the Loop should end up near the ring's southern boundary, a benefit to those in Florida but not necessarily in Texas.

I have been reading TOD for a week and just signed in.

I have a dumb question. The kill mud is going to be pumped into the BOP. What is to keep it from joining the flow of oil and gas out of the well?

As far as I can tell, the mud has to be pumped in there at high enough PSI to push everything down to beat the pressure of what's coming up. Then, if that holds, cement will be put on top.

Good luck with that, boys.

Guy -- The plan is to pump the kill pill at a pressure higher than the oil/NG flow.

Hey Rockman, it seems to me the viscosity of the kill mud needs to be a lot higher than the oil viscosity to slow the outflow at the BOP enough to let the mud go down the bore instead of just being blown out. I've found figures of around 10 cSt for oil viscosity. Got figures for the kill mud?

Rider -- haven't see the details of the mud yet. Vis is going to be nearly as important as MW though.

Just trying to get numbers in my head here. Let me know if you see mistakes:

Water has a density ρ = 1 gm/cm^3, a kinematic viscosity ν = 1 centiStokes, a dynamic viscosity μ = ν/ρ = 1 centiPoise, and a marsh funnel time MFT = 26 seconds. (

Petroleum has a density ρ ~ 0.8 gm/cm^3, ν = 10 cSt, μ = 8 cP, MFT = 35 seconds.

Drilling mud is a non_Newtonian fluid (viscosity increases at high shear force as in a cornstarch/water slurry). But at low shear force as in a marsh funnel, I see one example ( of MFT = 65 seconds. Assuming a density of 2.2 gm/cm^3, that gives ν = 40 cSt, μ = 88 cP.

Sea water at the surface has a density between 1.02 and 1.03 g/cm3. I am not sure about its density at 5,000 feet below sea level and 2,250 psi. I am not sure how those other values are altered for sea water under pressure.

Sea water at the surface has a density between 1.02 and 1.03 g/cm3. I am not sure about its density at 5,000 feet below sea level and 2,250 psi. I am not sure how those other values are altered for sea water under pressure.

Negligibly, for the purposes of this calculation. The nice thing about incompressible fluids is that they don't care if you squeeze them.

I cannot speak about salt water, but "standard" fresh water at 4 degrees Celsius and 151 bar pressure (roughly 1500 meter depth; 5000 ft = 1524 meter) has density 1007.27 kg/cubic meter. Compare with 999.97 kg/cubic meter at pressure 1 bar (roughly sea level).

Source: my python script based on a 1995 recommendation with thermodynamic formulas for water behavior approximated as polynomials of degree up to 40. I wrote it some years ago and back then I did not bother to note the name of the recommendation in the comments of the script. Now I wish I had. I can dig it out if required, though.

Yes, the variation is less than one percent, so it's insignificant for the current purpose.

I was a mud logger, but I worked in wireline too. We used to have a neat high-visc fluid called Alta Visc (which Google is useless for searching BTW) which allowed wirelining into high pressure. Seems to me an initial mix of junk shot and high-visc fluid would do a lot for allowing the mud to go down rather than up.

Found a couple of entries for Alta-Visc in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese...not sure if any of them are what you are referring to.

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I dunno... I'm going on the assumption that 1979 high-tech non-Newtonian fluids have advanced quite a bit since then anyhow.

The big thing I am wondering about is the DP joint obstructions inside the casing. My interpretation is that BP believes the mud will be pumped at such a high rate as to force it downhole overcoming the ~8000 psi below the wellhead and overcoming the mud's ability to escape from the small opening in the BOP towards the ~2500 psi above.

However if what I have read is correct, then there may be as many as 90 tool joints inside the casing before getting to the bottom of the DP. These tool joints are 8-1/4" OD, leaving just a 3/8" annulus between the casing ID (9-7/8") for the kill mud to flow down. Won't these obstructions impede flow just like the small size of the opening in the BOP, leading to a buildup of pressure in the wellhead?

As I understand there are basically 4 things that could happen:

(i) mud flows in and overcomes the ~8000 psi of pressure below the wellhead, then flows down the rather small 90 separate csg ID/dp joint annuli to the bottom of the well filling casing filling it up and killing well. SUCCESS***

(ii) mud flows in, but cannot overcome the ~8000 psi of pressure (plus hammer effect) and the joint/csg restrictions, mud then flows out the small opening in the BOP towards the ~2500 psi above the wellhead and into the riser making the opening in the BOP larger as it erodes the rams/annulars - FAIL.

(iii) mud flows in, overcomes the ~8000 psi of pressure below wellhead and makes it past csg ID/DP joints, but not enough flow past last DP joint and so mud follows the oil when it reaches bottom of DP produces up DP and into riser - FAIL.

(iv) mud flows in, tries to flow both through small opening in BOP and small csgID/DP joint annulus, but bridges in csg ID/joint annulus cutting off flow of oil to seafloor, small opening of BOP prevents it from escaping that way, pressure builds up causing damaged wellhead/BOP to fail or more likely causing shallower casing or liners to fail (subsurface blowout). - FAIL

*** It would seem that success only occurs if the 16.4 ppg mud column from water surface to bottom of DP (~8300') exerts enough pressure to stop flow of O&G up the outside of the production casing past the seal assembly and down the wellbore to end of the drill pipe.

Am I missing anything or does BP know something that we do not which would suggest that there is a 60-70% chance that result (i) will occur and that the mud column will be sufficient to kill the well stopping the annular flow of O&G???? 60-70% chance of success seems like BP is overestimating to the same extent they are underestimating the 5,000 bbd flowrate.

If my thoughts are erroneous, will someone please clear it up for me?

You bring up some really good points and possibilities, especially about the tool joint restrictions.



Just a couple comments, someone else can answer the hard stuff.

The annulus between the 8.25 inch tool joints and the 9.875 inch casing would be about 23.2 sqin. The 3 inch pipe into the BOP is about 7 sqin. So there is about 21 times the area, although 90 joints is a lot of constriction. Remember they were circulating mud pass those joints before.

I think BP said they believe the flow is up the annular spaces, not the drill pipe.

I think the ID of that 9.875 would probably be close to or less than 9.00 which would cut A at least in half.

Didn't we learn something about equivalent diameter or wetted perimeter which would come into play?


I didn't double check the ID, just took the post as gospel. The increase area in an annulus would definitely increase the friction loss. But I'd still go back to the fact that they circulated mud through it before.

Now if the casing has happened to collapse in that area --------

Wouldn't a production casing collapse actually be a good thing if the flow is up the annulus? Then mud could flow through the hole in the production casing into the annulus and exert pressure on the formation from which the O&G is leaking and hopefully kill the well?

I'm not sure what the collapse mode would look like under those conditions but we removed some imploded members from one of the first really deep platforms and the cross sections in the buckled area looked like an I-beam, but no breaks or leaks.

That's what happens when an aircraft company with no offshore experience designs their first, and as far as I know, only, platform using 1/8" wall EXTERNAL stiffeners. But they were cheap, and oil companies like cheap.

There are two 3" inlets - my bad - so that doubles the cross section area. It looks like when the you add the extra friction (viscosity might play an important part here) the tool joint will add as much or more resistance as the choke and kill lines. Won't it be picking up about 1 psi of relative pressure during the vertical flow to the bottom? Or maybe that would be a half psi/ft as it displaces the oil?

Also I don't know the distance that the mud is restricted by the 3" pipes but it might actually be more total friction than the total length of the tool joints.

But - wouldn't there be even more energy loss at each tool joint due to the constriction and expansion of the flow (accelerating and decelerating the mud) than from the friction loss? Kind of like the head loss through a fitting.

Nothing easy here folks.

Exactly. I am not a flow expert, but it seems there would be significant loss of energy from constriction and expansion of flow in addition to loss of energy from increased friction (though I do not know the distance of the 3" lines, I would expect more friction in the 90 tool joints).

If they are able to keep the mud from simply flowing out the BOP, then I just do not see any scenario where this operation does not result in:

(i) loss of wellhead/BOPE; OR
(ii) burst casing and undergound blowout (MOST LIKELY)

Also if there is an underground blowout, do you think there is any chance BP or the feds let us know??? Or do they stream ROV footage showng the leaks are no longer flowing and continue along with the relief wells like everything is fine and dandy?

An underground blow out might actually be preferable to the current situation, especially to BP. I assume they would at least hint to the RW rigs that maybe they should anticipate a problem,

I am sorry I wrote too quickly and was not paying enough attention...the csg ID is 8-5/8" (OD is 9-7/8") and the joint OD is 8-1/4" leaving a 3/8" annulus through which to flow.

So even assuming there is no build up on the pipes there will be ~19.9 sqin of flow area for the mud to pass through the csg ID/Tool joint annulus with that mud being exposed to ~4.418sqin of surface area along the way.

There are going to be multiple 3" flow lines (not sure if they are actually 3-1/16" or how many there will be, I assumed 2 like in the diagram and 3" like you did), so there will be at least 14 sqin of flow area for the mud to pass through the lines to the BOP and that flow will be exposed to 1.571 sqin of surface area.

It would seem the smaller openings of the annulus with 280%+ more friction from the surface area could be problematic.

They were circulating through this annulus as you stated, but they were not trying to bullhead mud past them at high rates.

Flow is up the annular spaces, but ends up in the drill pipe. O&G flows up the annulus (outside the production casing) towards the wellhead, then past the seal assembly, down the production casing and into the drillpipe where it travels past the crimp in the BOP caused by the partially activated rams and out to sea.

Nothing can stop Bernoulli equation high pressure flows to low pressure.

If you could pump at 10,000 barrels per minute and 15,000 psi, assume that 9,000 barrels per minute goes out the existing leaks and into the ocean. That leaves 1,000 barrels per minute going into the well and it fills up in about 50 seconds assuming an 8" hole 13,600'. Scale that back and that is the procedure as I comprehend it.


The idea is to overwhelm the leaks.


Letterman does "Will it float?". How many here will guess will it kill?
Just to be an optimist I say "yes". Okay Rockman et al will you make a guess? Heads(yes) or tails?

What worries me is the force on the bends. I know a guy that was unscrewing a 2" elbow connection off an 800 psi gas storage well and he didn't bleed it off. It whipped on him and took his arm off at the shoulder in one turn.

They are relying on what looks like a lot of bends/kinks in large diameter pipes. Tons of force and potential for straightening the kinks.

I don't think it will work, I'm really sorry to say. I hate to see political pressure influence their decision. They are delaying for a reason. The reason is probably the progress of that relief well.


dan -- If they don't burst the csg and if they can keep a good enough seal long enough to pump in enough mud then there's a good chance to work. But too many IFS for my comfort level.

Damn, Rockman.

You're scaring the straits, okay?

(Here's hoping that quote will bring someone a smile. Me, I'm fighting back tears.)

I think they tried it with Ixtoc:

Countermeasures/ Mitigation
Bahia de Campeche, Mexico
Subject Countermeasures/ Mitigation
Posting Date 1979-Jun-03

In the initial stages of the spill, an estimated 30,000 barrels of oil per day were flowing from the well.

In July 1979 the pumping of mud into the well reduced the flow to 20,000 barrels per day, and early in August the pumping of nearly 100,000 steel, iron, and lead balls into the well reduced the flow to 10,000 barrels per day.


As you say the path will be that of least resistance and once the BOP path creates enough back pressure the rest will go down hole, whether that is down the inside or the out side of the casing it does not matter. Unfortunately i do not believe it will go to the producing formation, as we have already been told there a loss zone in the open hole section. Depending on its characteristics it may take all the flow and we will end up with a floating mud cap and an under ground blow out. Which will solve the short problems, but will be headache for the relief wells and further control of the well.

Though at this this stage of events BP will settle for the underground blow out. If the formation is too strong and it can not be bullheaded Rockmans worst dreams could come true.


Thanks for the feedback, can you elaborate?

When you say "underground blowout", I assume you mean some sort of breach of the casing into the surrounding formation.

Does this mean that the oil will seep into the seabed and likely, ultimately, make it's way into the GOM?

Further, does anyone here know the homogeneity of the rock surrounding the ~13,000 feet between the seabed and the reservoir?

Lastly, Rockman had some serious concerns about potential pitfalls of the top kill operation. It appeared to be a very dicey issue and earlier reports said the attempt may be abandoned.

Does anyone have any hard info on the integrity of; the casing, the BOP or the cementing job?

Although this is my "go to" site and has been for many years, the speculation is driving me nuts. It's part of the territory, I know, but any "solid" info would be much appreciated.



I am on the road athe moment, weell on trains, planes and hotels to be exact, so a little out of it.

An under ground blow out is when formation fliud travels from one formation to a weaker formation instead of traveling to the surface. As there were reports of a loss zone or a weak fomation when they were drilling them the oil producing formation will likey over power the weaker one. With the heavy mud pushing down hole, instead of the fluid being bullheaded back into the production zone, they are likely to be pushed into the loss zone. This can set up a pattern of the heavy mud sitting on top with the produced oil continuing flow but instead of coming to the surface, going to the loss zone. This is called an underground blow out. Not good but I think BP will call it an improvement on their current situation.


If the flow up the borehole stops, is there anyway to know WHY it stopped? E.g. is there any way to distinguish between killing the well and an underground blowout?

toll -- if they get the well under control and can get back to the bottom of the production csg they can actually run a sound log down the hole and listen for oil/NG flowing as an underground blow out.

Thanks Goose and Rockman. Okay, I understand higher pressure. But you are introducing a flow of mud at a higher pressure into an existing flow (of oil and gas) at a relative lower pressure. I am thinking least resistance here.

Wouldn't you have to lose some mud out of the BOP begore you could completely overcome the oil and gas flow? To my thinking there has to be a critical pressure differential involved.

Yes at the very start of the flow into the well there will be some small amount of mud that continues to flow, with the oil above the injection point, through the BOP. But the flow being injected is more than can be pushed through the orifice in the BOP. This assumes that the pressures that they are going to run this at will not re-open any passages through the BOP, and one thing you can be sure of is that they will be monitoring all their instrumentation as they run this, to make sure, before anything catastrophic happens, that, if possible, it is avoided.

This is why, even though everything is just about ready to go, they haven't actually done it yet. They are going through stages to check that the things they have control over are all going to do what they are supposed to.

For anyone who has done plumbing work, this whole drama has a familiar ring. Say I've discovered a leak in an underground water main for the community (wet spot in ground + large discrepancy in metered water = bad leak). First I assemble supplied I think I'll need. Then hire some labor to dig a hole at the probable location of leak. Miss leak by a few feet. Dig more hole. Find leak. Discover that dimensions of pipe not what I thought. Discover also that close by house connection complicates things. Go back to hardware store for more fittings. Return to leak site (labor has by this time consumed all the beer I've been paying them with). Discover that hole must be dug much bigger in order to get enough flex in pipe to install new fitting. And so on. Of course the big advantage is that the water can be shut off further up the line at the well head, maybe... unless the 15 year old valve is corroded so it can't be moved, or if using a bigger wrench on it breaks it off. Then it's cut the power to the well pump. More trips to hardware store.

Murphy's law seems to reign supreme in these situations. Sure glad I'm not down there trying to deal with this leak.

They are doing some PFM with cast in place polymer pipe. For fixing water mains that is.

Hi all, first time poster although I've been reading the site for a few months, and have been reading most of what's on here since the BP spill started to happen. I'm a chemical engineer by training, although I have nothing whatsoever to do with drilling, and happily make products with a very low chance of blowing up and/or killing an entire ecosystem. Many thanks to all of you for your detailed contributions to this story, I have found this site to be well ahead of the MSM despite the influence of an occasional BP troll and/or environmental wackos. So you get this in context - I'm a registered independent, a fiscal conservative, and am generally VERY pro-business, and anti-environmental regulation. I also grew up on the coast of South Carolina - so I know a little about both beaches and the marsh. But I'm horrified about what's happening here.

Couple comments:
1. I can appreciate the complexity of what BP's trying to do at a mile under the water. The system is enormously complex--just moving the ROV's around without getting them tangled is a challenge. That being said, that doesn't excuse the negligence on the surface. Why is our booming response done wrong? Why not use spotter planes or UAV's (as others have suggested) to help improve the collection? Why not have 3 relief wells drilled? Or even 4? Why not have adequate supplies of booms on hand? Pretrained personnel? Our disaster relief planning here has been dreadful.
2. Where are we at on the BOP front? Has the 60 minutes article been adequately responded to by BP?
3. I like some of the efforts to quantify the spill reaction better, the iphone/android app is a nice start. Let's get more data out there.
4. Any word on the Costner device? Is it a smoke signal or is there something real? As one poster noted so eloquently - it is time to do epic sh*t.
5. Looking back at various root cause analyses - if this ends up being a judgement call for the Sr BP man on the rig - I kinda feel for the guy. I might have to eat a gun if I was responsible for something like that....11 men dead and billions in damage.

Crossing my fingers, but not having a lot of hope, for the Top Kill

Hi Horrified,

You raise some valid questions. The booming response question is a tough one because all we get to see are the failures via the MSM (main stream media). Is the booming 80%, 90%, 99% effective, we just don't know. Might have to wait for one of the dozen or so books about this tragedy to come out before we know for sure. I can't quote a source but I believe spotter planes are in use.

Number of relief wells? AlanfromBigEasy and others also feel three or four would be appropriate. This is one of those hindsight deals where someone will be proven right and someone proven wrong.

Thanks for bringing up the Costner device. I did a Google search the other day and found no reference on the results of its testing. Maybe someone else has info.

A question about relief wells for the industry experts:
As a relief well is getting close to the blown out well there needs to be some spectial instrumentation sent down to pick up indications about where the blown out hole is in relation to the relief hole.

Who makes such instrumentation? Who sub-contracts using it? I think I have heard that it uses magnetic field measurements. True / not true? What is this special instrument called (a name that I can google)?

Is there a theory of opeation for it somewhere on the web? Wikipedia? Other?

My understanding of magnetic field leads me to fear that a second relief well in the vacinity of the blowout could result in misleading magnetic signals that would make finding the blowout hole very difficult, but I know only theory, not what they actually do.

geek -- All the big log while drilling (LWD) contractors (Halliburton, Anadrill aka Schlumberger, Baker Hughes) run these tools. Essentially a magnitometer that can oriented to give a bearing on the casing in the blow out. The other RW will be too far away to affect the magnetic field adversely for this effort.

Thanks Fractional_Flow. I understand.

I will go back to reading until I have another dumb question.

That was actually a very good question which a number of attorneys, geos, and other educated people have asked me. It never has been really well explained.

When I watched the cartoon, the first thing I looked for was mud (the red sh**) going into the ocean... it didn't and that's wrong.


Wonder how much will go up, how long it will take to get to the end riser leak point, and how much will be noticeable with mixing and gas?

Diver Dan, if I understand it correctly, once the mud is introduced there will be no oil and gas escaping. It will be all mud going out the BOP. With the excess mud filling the 18,000 ft. hole.

Of course, if I understand correctly, the "mud" could in fact be "Oil-Based Mud", which isn't really much better to be dumping into the ocean. But presumably the viscosity will be higher, so not as much "stuff" will come out, and any minor damage from the OBM would be more than compensated by the fact that the wel was actually being Closed For Good.

As I understand it, the *weight* of the mud in the well column will supply enough counter pressure initially to stop the flow of oil, even before cementing and such is done. So at some point they can stop pumping mud (and spilling it out the top of the BOP) and just let it sit there pressing on the oil.

Oilfield experts: Wikipedia just told me that there is "Water Based Mud" and "Synthetic-based Fluid" among other sorts of "mud". What's the chance that an OBM needs to be used?

cs -- I haven't seen the plan but OBM is used primarily to increasing drill rates and to help prevent drill pipe from sticking while drilling. Since neither would be a problem with pumping the kill pipe I'll guess they'll be going with water base mud.


Perhaps a new use for water base mud is to enhance the formation of hydrates, which ought to help plug the leaks. But I cannot imagine that tests have been done to validate this new use.

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

Here's my basic understanding:

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Any insights would be much appreciated...

Macondo is not a sub-salt prospect. It's in between allochthonous salt bodies that have not formed a continuous canopy as exists further west. Also, obviously, it's a great reservoir, but it's middle or possibly lower Miocene in age, not Plio-Pleistocene. In any case, the relief wells will eventually work to kill the well; let's hope that the top kill works tomorrow.

GeoNola: Thanks. Am I right in assuming that - even though Macondo isn't in the region of the continuous canopy - the geology means that the strata immediately below the leak isn't solid enough to simply place a bunch of heavy metal plates on top?

(I am hoping top kill works!)

Not sure I understand your question, but yeah, the near-surface sediment is young and unconsolidated muck. Shallow water-flow is a big issue here (that is overpressured unconsolidated sands, sometimes with biogenic gas or just overpressured brine -- a very unstable near-surface section.

From the WaPo today:

The most critical moment in the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is at hand, as BP engineers armed with 50,000 pounds of dense mud and a fleet of robotic submarines are poised to attempt a "top kill" maneuver to plug the leaking well a mile below the surface.

50,000 pounds ≈ 22 tonnes ≈ 11 cubic meters? That's all?

BP said 50,000 barrels on three vessels. Can't believe the nimrods that write these articles. Next thing you know they will report the ocean as 5000 cubic feet deep.

If I remember correctly, they have two support mud ships with something like 70,000 bbls and 64,000 bbls respectively if more is needed.

Let's see if I have this right. Assuming a sufficient pumping pressure and volumn of mud, and assuing that the top of the BOP stays intact, then, at the end of the pumping we will have the well bore and voids filled with the fluid known as mud, which I understand is twice the weight of water.

At that point we will have the BOP, the top of the well bore, at static pressure, about 2250 psi. The bottom of the well bore, 18,000 below sea level, will then be at a pressure of approximately 13,800 psi.

If I got it right then we need for the oil and gas deposit to he at a static pressure lower than that.

If it works, this will be a dynamic kill situation so you'll have something like the hydrostatic pressure exerted by the whole heavy weight fluid column all the way back to surface plus pump pressure. I'm thinking that it won't be exactly that because you will have some losses going up through the leaking BOP and the riser. If the mud actually goes south then at some point they will switch over to cement and just keep pumping until they get some kind of "squeeze" on the cement. I believe they would adjust the anticipated pumping time on the cement to conform with the rate that they are able to pump mud into the formation. Ideally you want to get the cement into place then have the pumping pressure begin to increase fairly rapidly as the cement begins to set. It could be that the cement blend will be thixotropic which means that as soon as you stop pumping the gel strength will increase very rapidly and it should be difficult if not impossible for it to move.

that's what i was thinking. my bet is on a kill.

Here is a 13 minute technical update from Kent Wells from BP about the top kill operation as well as other mitigation efforts and plans.

Big day tomorrow. If the top kill fails things will turn real ugly soon. Hopefully Mr. Murphy is on holiday...

Rockman’s comment in a previous thread that the top kill could be dangerous to personnel got me thinking about what dangers would be involved and what contingency plans would be needed.

The following speculation is completely my own, no one else helped me screw it up.

I’m going to skip over the normal risks associated with high pressure pumps, valve, hoses, working at sea, etc and go directly problems that might result if things go really, really wrong.

From the stand point of personnel safety it seem the worst case would be failure at the BOP with a resulting unconstrained release of oil and gas. This might not be the worst case for the well.

The normal dangers associated with a blow out, like high pressure mud and oil, escaping gas, fire, etc don’t really apply as the nearest person is a mile away.

What could be a major danger is also different from a blowout on land or at the drill floor on an offshore rig. A large bubble of gas that expands by many times before it reaches sea level can surface directly under a ship. This huge gas bubble will literally make a hole in the water that the ship will fall into and when the water crashes back into the hole the only vessel that has a chance of survival would be a submarine.

There are a lot of unknowns here as I don’t think there is any experience with huge expanding gas bubbles from 5,000 feet. It could be that rising a full mile would allow the bubble to disperse so it reached the surface over a large area in a broken up series of smaller and less dangerous bubbles.

But if I was BP I don’t think I’d assume that would happen. I would plan for a worst case, that there could be a gigantic eruption of gas on the surface fully capable of sinking a ship or drilling rig.

The saving grace here is that there is some lead time. They will have many indicators that a catastrophic event has occurred and the ROV should give them an visual that there are large amounts of gas escaping.

Even with a huge bubble traveling at a high rate of speed should take about 20 minutes to reach the surface, say at least 15 minutes warning.

With proper preparations in place and a prepared plan they should all be able to get to a safe distance.

I expect they will pull out the RITT anyway before they try the top kill as the drilling mud could mess up the RITT recovery. So the Discoverer Enterprise could pull the RITT up a couple hundred feet and move off slowly to a safe distance prior to the top kill.

Any ROV boats that are not necessary for the top kill could also move out to a safe area. The remaining one or two RSVs (ROV Support Vessels) would have the cage already about 100 feet off the bottom and as soon as the ROV is back in the cage (or even before) they can take off on a preplanned path that avoids the sunken rig and move to a staging area.

The pumping and standby boats would have a procedure for disconnecting their hoses and then follow a designated path to their staging area.

The Q4000 has more problems because it is physically connected to the manifold and BOP through the hoses. There may be a quick disconnect on the hoses or in a worst case they could pull off until the hoses break, not a very good option or drop their drill pipe and umbilical over the side, also a poor option.

All that probably works if there is a properly prepared plan. Also from what we have seen so far it seems unlikely this well will gush out that size of gas bubble.

Without a prepared plan I think it would be problematic that every vessel could get safely away in less than 15 minutes without any entanglements or collisions.

That leaves the two rigs drilling the relief wells. There was a schematic today that showed both are as close as they can get without being inside the 500 meter safety zone from the safety zone of another vessel (the Discoverer Enterprise at the wellhead). So they are each about 1,000 meters from the well head, about 3,280 feet.

I’m not aware of any regulation stating how far away from an underwater bubble a ship should be but to me a 45 degree angle from the wellhead should certainly be a safe distance, or about a mile. The drilling rigs are about 2,000 feet closer than that. I assumed someone has determined that either my scenario is not a problem or they have determined that 1,000 meters is a safe distance.

Best of luck to BP and all the rig hand with this top kill.

If the BP drilling engineers thought like you do about "worst case scenarios" (which is an engineer's highest calling in my estimation) then we wouldn't be here.

You must have been one of the best in the world in your field.


Success breeds familiarity and familiarity breeds complacency.

Now, I won't speculate what the steps were that led to the disaster, but I guara-fucking-tee you that during the top kill, all eyes are going to be on the mud pumps and raw data feed like laser beams, something that may not have occurred when the DWH was getting ready to pull up and leave. Everyone involved knows they have an out of control well and I'll bet you that part of the reason things are taking so long is they're coming up with every scenario they can think of now of what can go wrong and how they stop it. I'd probably be safer sitting in the mud room of the Q4000 that in my own living room because of how paranoid and concientious everyone is going to be.


I agree with your statement. Rumor has it that the drilling engineer on this rig was a Sophomore at my undergrad petro engineering school 25 years ago when I graduated. It is hard to accept that he ran pipe below collapse rating of reservoir pressure, that is casing design in 1960 Gatlin book.

At the major oil company I once worked for, there were 6 approval lines on the completion procedures on 4,000' dead (no gas) oil wells, which cost less than half a million to the tanks. Almost everyone of those 6 supervisors made a change to every procedure. I can't believe this was a fundamental engineering design error.

Given your vision for the top kill procedure, what are the odds of success with that many hands on the kill switch??


Success probably won't be because someone through the kill switch too early in this case IMO. They have anough mud probably to fill the well and riser several times over. If they lose it, they've got enough in reserve to time the lightening (Rockman can beat me up over that terminology) of it to regain balance. No, I think they'll see success or failure if the mud starts coming out with the leak or not.

Nope - but I had the best in the world working for me and that covers a multitude of sins. Several are sitting in BP war rooms or offshore.

I have a general BOP question. If a BOP fires its shear rams and cuts the drilling pipe, does that mean that the well can never again be used? Also, if you have a technical reference that says this, I would appreciate it.

I'm guessing you can still recover the well (assuming you actually prevented a complete blowout), but now you have to fish out the drill pipe you sheared off. I don't know if its economically worth it or not though.

So when they reference a BOP being tested - they don't actually shear through anything? It doesn't seem like you can have real-world test of the device. Does anybody know what is meant by BOP testing - maybe just checking for electrical circuit continuity and available hydraulic pressure?

From my understanding, Brazil has a "show me" test which actually completes the motion for the regulators. I assume they just sacrifice a short section of pipe to demonstrate. I really don't know. WestTexas has talked about it. I can't remember whether he provided a link.

Otherwise, I think you're correct in checking for circuit continuity, hydraulic pressure and actuation of the other valves for the US. I expect that to change subsequently.


I believe he got it from me. I don't know whether he has found supporting comformation as yet, but it was always part of the contract with Petrobras that before a new rig could start work they had to shear pipe at depth on the first well after running the BOP, then recover the fish. If sucessful you are still on the payroll. Second attempt was down time. BTW, it had to be new pipe not old, just to rub it in. Great if you needed a new mule shoe!

It's pretty much required that you not leave it in that condition. After shearing, at some point the well will have to be killed, the drill pipe fished, and at least plug to abandon the well.

I wasn't sure if that meant a well was required to be abandoned or not. Makes sense depending on how the MMS determined whether you lost control or not (as the blind and shear rams are supposed to be the last resort).

tofu: are you really asking for proof that BP can never again use *this* well? That's not related to the BOP, per se, but to the general instability of the formation (as demonstrated by the many gas kicks before the final destructive one) and the strong likelihood that this "little accident" has completely fractured the underground geologic formation, making it too unstable to drill around or use.

I think another poster has commented that BP is very likely to attempt to tap *this formation* again -- after all, look at all that oil and gas -- but they will not be able to use either the Deepwater Horizon well (wellbore too damaged) or either of the two relief wells for this purpose (the kill wells are not being drilled in the same way as a production well; one of the experts will have to weigh in w/ the exact difference). They presumably would have to back off a significant distance and start over from scratch.

tofu -- If you're asking about the BP well it will never be a producer no matter how they eventually kill it. If you're asking a general question about salvaging a well which has cut drill pipe at the BOP it's certainly possible. Just kill the well and fish the drill pipe out. Isn't easy and doesn't always work but you can try.

As I recall, bottom of drill pipe is far above bottom of well, meaning mud might make a U-turn when it's pumped down to that level. Not good.

I am new to this website, and I am impressed with the quality of posts and the specific data provided by people who are obviously very knowledgeable on this subject.
Having said that, I would like to ask a question about the bore hole.

How difficult would it be to insert say, 1000 or more feet of 2" lance into the borehole? An idea of mine is to use concentric tubing to pipe down liquid nitrogen in an inner tube and vent the boil off using the outer tube. If the oil in the column could be cooled sufficiently its viscosity should increase, slowing the rate of flow. If the oil could be cooled enough along a sufficient length of the downhole drill pipe, could a tar plug be formed? Or insert lances in concentric rings around the borehole and freeze all of the sediments in place including the oil.

Even if it only slowed the rate of oil escape, it could buy us some time.

Anyways, I am open for comments or suggestions.

There are coiled tubing rigs that could uncoil a spool of continuous tube that would go down that deep. However it would be uncoiled as it extended and adding liquid nitrogen down the bore would likely cause it to embrittle and perhaps fail. There are also the heat transfer issues with the flow as it transitions the mile from the platform to the BOP. And there is the lack of skill with the technology in the folks on the platform that would make them concerned about not knowing all the things that could go wrong if the idea was fielded.

The idea that I imagined would actually be two concentric rigid pipes. Injecting LN2 down the middle one, and then extracting the gaseous N2 along the outer one. No N2 would actually be injected into the well, the return pipe would bring that nitrogen all the way back up to the surface. If a sufficient length of lance were inserted into the borehole, say 1000 ft or more, and if oil could be solidified along its entire length a plug of sufficient length could be created to stop the 12,000 psi pressure head of oil coming from below. A barge with 1200 tons of LN2 ought to be sufficient at least initially. Then an ammonia loop could be substituted for continuous refrigeration of the plug. Once the relief wells were drilled then the initial bore hole could be sealed hopefully.

Agreed that supercooling the steel would be bad, but I would imagine that with thermocouples placed along the casing these conditions may be avoided.

Independent of any special facts about oil wells, two concentric pipes form the basis for the design of a very efficient counter flow heat exchanger. In this application, the heat of the oil traveling upward in the gaseous N2 is transfer to the downward flowing LN2 and carried back down toward to warm oil. IMO, it would be better to use two parallel pipes held together as a single unit by many spacers between them.

I don't think anyone in charge would find the time needed to research this idea agreable.

Why not pump seawater down the pipe? Wouldn't the hydrate formation help plug things up? Isn't the goal plugging thing up?

LN2 with or without seawater might indeed be very effective to stop the leak. There are of course huge logistical problems to deliver it to where it needs to go. Upside: stops leak. Downside: what next?

This guy thinks there was an eruption at the leak on Sunday and proffers some screen shots as evidence.

Then these guys say the oil plume has become darker indicating heavy oil is now being emitted. Plus BP's delay in undertaking the top kill operation.

Anything in it? Has something changed drastically?

Addressing the first point, it appears that once the eruption cleared, there appeared to be nothing changed about the pipe, so it probably was nothing. Some speculation put it down to the RIT being blown clear of debris so it wouldn't clog up or the ROV readjusting position and blowing up alot of muddy sea floor. Don't know, but nothing appeared to change the pipe.

On the second pipe, the oil/gas coming out of the end of the riser appears to change color quite alot, so I wouldn't say it getting darker is unusual. Its just flowing erratically. The delay in the top kill probably reflects the need to address all the possible scenarios of success and failure and giving ample time to answer all questions before going ahead.

You have to be very careful judging color on an ROV video, there are a lot of factors that can effect it.

Drilling mud is a manufactered mud. So, what is the chemical composition of that mud? CNN is reporting that it is a mix of bentonite clay. 2002 regs say a compliance engineer must be on standby to watch over. Anyone knoe typically what the sediment toxicity of that mud that will be BP will pump to the ocean floor during the 'Top Kill." Tx.

Euan sez:

Water based and oil based.

In oil based mud, diesel will be the primary liquid matrix though it will contain some water in emulsion. Bentonite clay is present to make it sticky, thixotropic in fact, and barytes is added to make it heavy. There may then be a range of other chemical additives to stabilise the mud or to modify its properties.

In recent years, synthetic oil has been favored for environmental reasons - but I suspect this is pretty much like "fair trade coffee" - just a label.

Water based mud may be made form fresh or salt water. The most commonly used variety is called KCl polymer. It also contains clay, barytes (barium sulphate) and other chemicals.

Bit late with this one, but for what its worth I had a quick stab at modelling some well flow rates given some of the speculative data that is out there. The reported pressures below the BOP seemed pretty high to me, and I wanted a quick check on what sort of pressures might be imposed at the bottom of the well.

Based on the following (reported elsewhere on this site)

Reservoir pressure 12000 psi
Reservoir température 180 F
Gas Oil Ratio 3000 scf/stb
Back pressure at BOP 8500 psi

And assuming a range of reservoir properties (from 100 ft net thickness at 50mD in the poorest case to 300ft net thickness at 500mD in the best case), and...

assuming the flow would be entirely unobstructed up the centre of the wells production casing...

then it seems very unlikely that the flow rate exceeds around 30,000 barrels per day.

The rate depends very much on the quality of the reservoir BP have encountered. At the poorer end of the reservoir quality range that I used, the well would struggle to make 2000 barrels per day.

The key thing is that the flowing casing head pressure is very high, and if the 8500psi figure quoted is correct then the BOP is providing a very substantial choking effect to the flow rate. And it is also very likely that whatever route the flow is taking to surface, it is actually tortuous and obstructed in some way, more than I have modelled.

Following the news that the flow may be actually up one of the casing annular spaces rather than the production casing itself I did a couple more very rapid models which suggest rates would be lower still than my original cases.

Here's the bad news though; should the obstruction at the BOP be removed so that the well is delivering against the ambient sea bed pressure of around 2200 psi rather than the choked 8500 psi, the well rates would increase to between 15,000 b/d (poorest reservoir case) and 130,000 b/d (best reservoir case), both rates based on flow up the production casing.

I have no idea what quality of reservoir BP have encountered at Macondo, but the potential to make things dramatically worse is clear.

Rough models and uncertain data, but directionally interesting; tomorrow will be a big day and I'm glad its not my call.

Here's the bad news though; should the obstruction at the BOP be removed so that the well is delivering against the ambient sea bed pressure of around 2200 psi rather than the choked 8500 psi, the well rates would increase to between 15,000 b/d (poorest reservoir case) and 130,000 b/d (best reservoir case), both rates based on flow up the production casing.

First of all, I need to join in thanking the stalward TOD members who have made so many contributions to these posts. There is no where else that comes close to this quality of coverage.

After reading through projections, statistics and trying to put it all together, it seems that the top kill has a reasonable chance to succeed. It also appears that it has a chance to make things worse, and the reason BP is taking such a long time in putting it together and getting on with the show is that they are very concerned that this does not happen.

I join in the earlier hope that Mr. Murphy is keeping Leanan company, and is out of pocket for the duration! We need some good news.


Thanks Bignerd

Oil leak measurements skewed by natural gas in the mix, BP says

From midnight Wednesday to midnight Thursday, the tube collected just less than 2,200 barrels of oil and 15 million cubic feet of natural gas, Suttles said, although at points during that period it was on pace to capture as much as 5,000 barrels per day. The tube has not captured 5,000 barrels in a 24-hour period, Suttles said.

15,000,000/2,200 = 6819.
Earlier I saw BP indicating a 5000 gas/oil ratio.
They also say it varies.

Tonight, Bob Dudley of BP, on NPR indicated that the engineers have begun 12 hours of diagnostic tests. Then it would take 0.5 days to 2 days to do the Top Kill. IF that does not work, they will try place the containment cap over well.

BP has established $500 million for grants to study dispersant impacts.

Dudley indicated that by 2030 the world will need 45% more oil. Demand from China and India are projected to double.

Note also: BP To Continue Video Feed During 'Top Kill' Try

We seem to be getting an increasing GOR, started at 3,000, then 5,000, now almost 7,000.

Any speculation as to why?

I had a really wild and scary thought - if the well has gotten outside the casing and is into a lower pressure formation could there be enough room in the annulus to act as a separator and an increasing amount of oil going into the other formation and a higher percentage of gas going to the BOP? Is this even possible?

Suttles said the placement within the riser (of the RIT) really changes the amount of gas.They have been moving it around. So the overall totals may not be representative of the GOR.
Also as you had pointed out slugs of gas may be getting trapped and then shot out so it may be quite irregular.

I think this view is basically correct.

If the reported pressure just upstream of the BOP is correct then the well is operating at a relatively low draw down (ie the pressure drop entering the well at the sand face is quite low) and there is reportedly no gas cap, so the fluids are probably entering the well in quite a stable fashion.

Gas will probably be evolved from the oil as it rises up the wellbore, even at the relatively high pressures that seem to be prevailing, but flow is probably relatively slug free even in 9 5/8 casing. The presence of drill pipe in the casing, or a situation in which the flow is up a casing annulus will probably not change this.

The story will be different as the oil exits the wellhead/BOP into the riser and drops in pressure from around 8500 psi to around 2600 psi (again figures unverified but quoted elsewhere on this site). Large quantities of gas will be evolved and the flow regime in the 21 inch riser is likely to be complex (especially given its looping geometry) with gas over-running oil and the oil arriving in slugs. These can carry quite a lot of energy and I’m quite surprised how well they are keeping the RIT in place.

You used to be able to see these effects quite clearly on the live feed, with the gas emerging from the riser above the oil, and the percentages of each phase varying with time. Clearly placement of the RIT towards the upper or lower walls of the riser will change the proportion of each phase collected, and this will also vary with time. As shelburn suggests in a later post, you’d need to look at the average GOR over a lengthy period to get an idea of the real phase behaviour of the oil.

Thank you all you experienced guys (and girls) for telling this story. One piece that hasn't been mentioned wrt the LMRP effort is positioning it above the cut off riser pipe with the full leakage of the BOP impacting the water filled new riser pipe. Would they pump the seawater from the riser or can the ROVs hold and move the LMRP with sufficient precision? And would the ROV operator be able to see what was happening in the oil/gas cloud?
Thanks, Bill

Positioning it is easy, the drill ship can move it within inches and the ROV can push it with very little effort. If you have a heavy weight hanging from a string 6 inches long it is hard to push, if the pendulum is 10 feet long it is much easier. This pendulum is 5,000 feet long.

The visibility may be more of a problem but if there is any current the cloud will tend to one direction and the ROV will come in from the clear side.

A bigger problem may be due to the flow which may try to push the stab to one side or the other. Note in the photo the bottom portion is a stabbing guide and all the ROV has to do is get that over the cut off riser.

Wonder how out of round the riser is and how much allowance they made in the seal. The ROV should have been able to measure that.

I can think of two reasons to stop the feed

1 - they are pulling the ROV vessels out of the area for safety reasons - a very reasonable precaution

2 - They don't want to have a tape of the BOP failing.

That's about what I was thinking. (I suspect they'd like to keep the ROVs from getting dinged up, since they'll be needing them right after.)

I don't think they are worried about the ROVs but a massive gas leak could sink a vessel. I had an earlier post about that.

If I find out they decided to keep a boat and the people in harms way just to appease some politician then I will come unglued. And I will find out, but probably not until a couple months after this is over.

A multiscreen view of the leaks, from Rep. Markey:

Suppose we should get 24 hour live feed of Markey? On second thought I'd prefer the BP leak.

Changed its mind, according to the MSNBC story JessicainPensacola links to below. It'll keep the live feed up throughout the top kill procedure.

Since BP seem to believe that the amount leaking is well below most estimates, here is an attempt to calculate the volume from first principles. This is based on video taken before the 4" RITT was inserted.


Using the equation Q = VA

Velocity has been estimated by TODers viewing the video as 1 m/s

To estimate A, draw the pipe outlet to scale and make a WAG as to the fluid cross-section, based on images of the leak.

Note 21" OD pipe is 19.5" ID i.e. 495 mm say 500 mm

I think the oil/gas is pouring out of a truncated secant which can be approximated by a 400 x 150 mm rectangle.

So A = 0.4 x 0.15 = 0.06 sq m

Therefore Q = 1 x 0.06 = 0.06 cu m/s

Per day = 0.06 x 3,600 s/hr x 24 hr/day = 5,184 cu m/day

In barrels = 5,184 / 0.159 = 32,600 bopd of oil/gas

How much is gas, and how much is oil?

We are told the oil is quite gassy. One bbl of oil contain 3,000 cu ft of gas at STP

Standard temp S = 20 deg C = 293 deg K
Standard pressure P = 32' water (1 atm)

At 5018' depth
temp = 5 deg C (say) = 278 deg K
SG of sea water = 1.026 at surface, 1.032 at 5000', ave 1.029
so pressure = 5018 x 1.029 + 32 = 5,195' water

Using P1V1/T1 = P2V2/T2

Gas volume = 3,000 x 32/5,195 x 278/293 = 17.5 cu ft per bbl.

1 bbl of oil (assume incompressible) = 5.6 cu ft.

Therefore, oil content of oil/gas = 5.6/(5.6 + 17.5) = 0.24

Given 32,600 bopd of oil/gas leaking from the riser,

Volume of pure oil leaking = 32,600 x 0.24 = 7,800 bopd

Given BP's estimate that the riser leak is is 85% of the total,

Total leakage = 7,800/0.85 = 9,200 bopd.

Note: The above figure assumes 24% of the oil/gas is oil, the rest is gas.

BP have said the oil content of the oil/gas could be as high as 50%.

If so, total leakage = 9,200 x 0.5/0.24 = 19,200 bopd

(cf Shelburn's "most likely" range of 10 - 20,000 bopd)

Obviously a incredibly superior calculation on your part - bravo.

Here's HOPING it is "only" 9,200

I meant to add: There are so many assumptions in this calculation that there is a huge uncertainty factor attached to the answer.

Hi 'vark,

Hopefully I can help with that, and provide something of use in return for many years of silently soaking up all the data the contributors to this site have provided.

Instead of using point estimates for assumptions, we can model them as probability distributions, then integrate over them to give us a range of final results that implicitly includes our measurement error. For example, using Q=VA, both V and A are estimated. But instead of using a point estimate of 1m/s for V, I used a normal distribution with a mean of 1 m/s and a std. deviation of 0.2.

Why 0.2? Why not? It gives us a coefficient of variance (std dev / mean) of 20%, which I'm going to call good until someone else calls it bad. I also use that assumption the rest of the way through.

Likewise, I took your estimate of A and gave it a normal distribution with a mean at your value of 0.06 sq m and a std dev of 20% of that value. Now integrate over those -- not literally; computers do the hard work now -- and scale to bpd instead of m3/s (your calcs), and we get this:


So your result of 32,600 bpd is now a range from ~20k to ~45k. The Y axis is number of samples out of 1000, so 200 = 20% probability of falling in this bin.

Apply the same technique to the gas/oil ratio (mean 3000 cu ft/bbl, std dev 600) and we get this range of estimates of oil fraction at the leak:


Finally, multiply these together and we get a probabilistic assessment of oil flow:


...which, perhaps not surprisingly, puts us most likely (~75%) between 5000 and 15000 bpd. (Although honesty compels me to point out that this model gives us a 20% chance of being <5kbpd, and a 2% chance of being <1kbpd, which is clearly bogus.)

If anyone has any better range of estimates that I should be using, feel free to make suggestions. FF's comment (below) re: oil shrinkage went right over my head so I didn't inlcude that.

The only problem with your accounting that I see is the formation volume factor of the oil at 2250 psi sea floor versus volume in the tank (oil shrinkage). My correlation gives 1.32 for this factor, will reduce the stock tank barrels of your estimate by that amount.


Lot's of uncertainty. My rough approximation is between 7834.456 and 7838.253 BOPD or there about!!

There are a helluva lot of unknowns in the oil business. This makes it critical that you are accurate, not precise in your calcs. Confusing accuracy and precision makes Jack a Poor Boy.


Actually I feel with a high degree of confidence that the flow is between 1 and 150000 BOPD.

If we start to nitpick Professor Wereley said his particle velocity was 25.8 in/sec (0.655 m/s), and I don't have any reason to dispute that portion of his work - it was just everything else that he got wrong.

It is possible that it is slower by 10% to 15% due to the distortion of the ROV camera lens which he wouldn't have known about unless he checked with someone. His measurement would reduce your flow rate by about 30% to 35%.

At the same time I think your flow area cross section is probably understated.

The real learning experience here is that this is a difficult problem with many unknowns, assumptions and just plain guesses. I expect the task force is finding that out.

I can just see the conversation:

Task Force: We just need this dimension and this pressure reading to finalize our flow rate calculations with in 10%.

Mr BP: We don't have that information.

Task Force: But without them we can't calculate the flow rate!

Mr. BP: Yep

One of the reasons I set the calcs out in such detail was to expose the many places where significant assumptions have been made. Also, it's easy to make your own assumptions, plug them into the formulas and calculate your own figures.

Assuming 2/3 velocity and double area, 9,200 to 19,200 x 2/3 x 2 becomes 12,300 to 25,600 bopd.

Question for you all who have a clue as to what the configuration inside the hole might be (barring collapse, junk, etc...).

a) Is the DP likely to be at TD? I had thot that it would be higher in the pipe since they were displacing to 3000'. Do they leave it at TD while they do that?

b) Do the choke/kill lines have access to pump to anything inside the wellhead? E.g. anything inside the 18" casing - or whichever the BOP latches to? Or do they only have access to the production string at this point? I had been thinking the latter (only the prod. string) but from reading the other posts am thinking that it might really be 'anything inside of the latching mechanism'.



COVINGTON, La. - BP warned on Tuesday that a planned attempt to plug its gushing Gulf of Mexico oil well may be delayed or abandoned, as the energy giant faced mounting pressure from the Obama administration to contain the catastrophic spill.

Equipped with underwater robots, BP engineers plan on Wednesday to inject heavy drilling fluids in the mile-deep well, a tricky maneuver and its latest bid to halt the flowing oil that has shut down fisheries and soiled coastline.

BP executives have repeatedly stressed the so-called "top kill" procedure is a complex process that has never been attempted before at such depths, but the Obama administration, under public pressure, is impatient for swift results

Thanks Jessica, you seem to be often quick with the latest info;)

Couple of thoughts about MSNBC's report.

First, of course the top kill may be delayed or abandoned. This is science, not a negotiation.

Second, pressure from the administration is not relevant when it comes to how quickly the spill is contained. While their may be errors in spill control, there is no room for error in well control. Let the engineers do their job. Look over their shoulders if you like, but keep quiet!

Kip wants the Comet on the West Side of the Tunnel.

The shuttle launch cannot be delayed again.

Wake up and smell the coffee.

Living the Dream,


In hindsight, I hope we will not be saying "oh craptz, we should have waited for the diesel engine" before heading into that tunnel.

The correlations to the fictional world of Galt to todays realities are just spooky in so many ways. Sadly, you can't buy a hidden valley in Colorado any longer — the government owns them all.

Obama to engineers: Think faster damnit!!!

Engineers and Integrity- I bookmarked for times like these


Upstreamonline reporting that they are planning on going ahead...

What is happening on the live video? I don't understand what is happening. Does anyone have a handle on this?

I have no idea what happened. It went from a very calm ( if you can call it that) view of the oil spilling something much worse in just a matter of seconds.

It went from a very calm ( if you can call it that) view of the oil spilling something much worse in just a matter of seconds.

MSNBC story you linked to says:

"Engineers were doing at least 12 hours of diagnostic tests Tuesday. They planned to check five spots on the well's crippled five-story blowout preventer to make sure it could withstand the heavy force of the mud. A weak spot in the device could blow under the pressure, causing a brand new leak."

Could the change you saw be the result of a diagnostic test?

Kind of looked like they might have tried a dry run (well, not so dry) of the top kill. Sure looked like mud coming out of the riser before visibility dropped. Also appeared to be a significant current from the side - perhaps they were using another ROV in an effort to sweep the area clear? Don't know what it was, but sure was exciting for there for a few minutes.

I have been saying this in the threads since the "eruptions" began Sunday night: BP is injecting mud into the c/k lines for diagnostics and allowing it to flow out the BOPE resulting in a temporary increase of flow rate and muddying of the waters. This is why everything goes back to normal after several minutes and there is no change in flow rate...etc.

I missed your previous comments on the topic, but thanks for the information. I hadn't realized there were small quantities of mud already sent through the BOP. It makes me feel more comfortable they're trying out all the systems before they do the big push tomorrow.

BP staff will begin testing to see if they can actually inject mud at each of the five entry points that could be used in the top kill.

They will also take a reading of the static pressure and a reading of the pumping pressure at each of the valves./

Wow...amazing shot of one ROV taking vid of another ROV doing work on what appears to be a mud line with some leakage (mud spewing out). The ROVs are cute little yellow fellows with very bright headlights.

If the kill shot works, the ROVs will be the heroes and little action figures will be available within weeks at your local Wally World.

Yep cute little fellows, paying for my retirement. About 4 tons each, size of a small car, over 200 hp, zero to 60 in ......

How are they paying for your retirement?

They seem to be working on a leak in the connections without much luck...leak actually looks worse since they started turning the knobs.

Hehe, they don't come cheap for the majors to operate.

OK, someone on the live BP feed is definitely reading TOD. They just added this...

Throughout the extended top kill procedure – which may take up to two days to complete - very significant changes in the appearance of the flows at the seabed may be expected. These will not provide a reliable indicator of the overall progress, or success or failure, of the top kill operation as a whole. BP will report on the progress of the operation as appropriate and on its outcome when complete.

The thought comes to mind that one could measure the amount of time required for the mud to travel from the BOP to the broken end of the riser, and get a pretty good feel for what the actual flow rate might actually be.

The way it keeps moving around, it looks like a Japanese 1st grader is in charge of the camera. I am sure it is related to the work being done, but it does make you dizzy.

Yeah, they should have used a German 1st grader, very steady hands, those Germans...

Another excerpt from the MSNBC story:

Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Bart Stupak, chairmen of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, sent a memo to committee members summarizing the information presented by BP. Congressional aides said the information identifies several new warning signs of problems.

According to BP there were three flow indicators from the well before the explosion:

51 minutes before the explosion when more fluid began flowing out of the well than was being pumped in.

41 minutes before the explosion when the pump was shut down for a "sheen" test, yet the well continued to flow instead of stopping and drill pipe pressure also unexpectedly increased.

18 minutes before the explosion, abnormal pressures and mud returns were observed and the pump was abruptly shut down.

The data suggests that the crew may have attempted mechanical interventions at that point to control the pressure, but soon after, the flow out and pressure increased dramatically and the explosion took place.

The Guardian, 5/26: "BP faces extra $60bn in legal costs as US loses patience with Gulf clean-up" by Tim Webb and Ed Pilkington. (FWIW $60 billion is about ten times the profits BP earned in the first three months of 2010.)

From the story, "...BP is liable for $1,100 in civil penalties for each spilt barrel of oil and gas, to be paid to the US federal and affected state governments. If BP is found to have acted with gross negligence – and there is no evidence so far that it has – this fine would rise to $4,300 for each barrel."

This is the first time I've heard BP's potential liabilities could be directly related to the volume of oil released.

Hmmm....would also explain why they want to keep the estimates as low a possible.

Could also relate to sequestering the survivors incommunicado for 40 hours after the first explosion, and to whether data from the last hours of operations can be secured. Seems there are some very large incentives here.
"...BP estimated that in the worst case, a blowout at the well would spew out 162,000 barrels of oil every day, a massive figure that far exceeds any estimate of what's coming out now.

But in its exploration plan in March 2009, BP assured the federal Minerals Management Service that a well blowout was so unlikely that "a blowout scenario ... is not required for the operations proposed."

MMS then granted BP a "categorical exclusion" from a public review of the potential environmental impact of the drilling..."


That 162,000 was in the MMS application. There were absolutely no units attached to the number.

All other numbers in the application were in gallons....

I don't have any reason to think that this was in bbl.

This does not accurately represent what exclusion means or why it was given. The response that is taking place now is part of a long existing plan that are adapted to subareas and used in the lease acquisition process. (I believe the response plan was updated in 2009)
That the Unified Command response is not perfect does not mean one did not exist. The statement about a low probability is not wrong just because it happened(First one in U.S. gulf). Also, if it really was zero we would not need the Gulf Wide plan.
If any company thought this was high chance of happening they would not be drilling. $10 plus billion for a cleanup could not happen too often or even once for most companies if they want to stay in business.

Just read something re: BOP's and redundancy...that seemed to indicate that the hydraulic line that controlls the BOP was did not have redundancy (I believe that this was referring to the line w/ the loose fitting).

Does anybody know if that is a correct statement?

This is a link to youtube video of what happened recently at the leak site under the gulf of mexico. About 3 minutes or so into it...just went crazy.

WOW! That was impressive!!!

Glad there's guys on here who can explain things like that.

There's some doomsday group watching the feed, they aren't feeling so good if they saw this!

"Throughout the extended top kill procedure – which may take up to two days to complete - very significant changes in the appearance of the flows at the seabed may be expected. These will not provide a reliable indicator of the overall progress, or success or failure, of the top kill operation as a whole. BP will report on the progress of the operation as appropriate and on its outcome when "complete."--BP site

A couple possibilities

It could be the result of BP testing the BOP but there is a different explanation that would explain why there have been surges all of the time.

Back to the garden hose analogy.

When your garden hose has been hanging up and you first turn on the water it will buck and spit until it has forced all the air out.

You have a similar situation here except this garden hose is 20" in diameter, a mile long and the air (gas) is continuously replenished. It has high spots that allow the gas to collect and when the oil backs up it increases the gas pressure until it suddenly shoots out a surge of gas and then start to collect again.

I expect if someone took the time to record these surges, assuming the video feed was constant, that over a period of time, probably a day or so, the timing and volume surges would start to form a pattern. As there are probably several high spots that interact its doubtful the pattern will be steady like a surge every 12 minutes, no Old Faithful here.

Hopefully there won't be enough time left before they kill the well to prove this theory.

Note - the color changes were almost certainly due to the plume moving close to the ROV lights and then into the shadows. Just like watching smoke with a flashlight.

Only problem with this explanation is that the leak was not doing this until Sunday. Last week we did not see the eruption phenomena.

I've staked my bet on that it has something to do with the RIT.

Also a good possibility. If they have to stop the flow suddenly it would set up quite a bump down the line.

Have there been any quick reductions in the flow?

I can't watch for long periods of time because if I download over 400 mb in 24 hours my satellite internet shuts me down for a day. Then I get nothing except MSM.

There have been small but definite surges since the first time they released 5 minute video clips. But this was certainly an impressive one. Maybe GregTX is right.

Has anyone ever thought of filling hummers with cement and dropping them on top of the riser. Might kill two birds with one stone.

CNN live feed yikes I know the last time I saw this shot, there was 3 leaks there seems to be 4.

Keeping fingers crossed this topkill works.

Difficult to tell exactly what's going on because of the video quality, but looks like they are tearing down the equipment at the riser.

Got to hand it to those ROV operators. They're good.

No doubt, AV. Gotta appreciate the skills. Talk about turbidity.

All the crap on TV now this should be on with a few good DW Engineers or some of our fine TOD contributors. Reality TV indeed!


I wonder if my video-playing kids would make good ROV operators some day?

Good is an understatement.

I would imagine there is a lag between the control action and actuation at the site, and another lag before you see it on video. In addition, you have no 3d view and no tactile feedback or touch.

There goes the siphon.

[Edit] Maybe not.
[Edit] Does look like they removed it. But it also looks like it might be damaged.

They do have a second siphon tube on the sea floor in case they need to replace the first one.

amazing ... watching them unscrew a bolt ...

then one robot arm hands the wrench to the other robot arm...

don't drop it ...

Maybe they should have used wing bolts.

It's amazing the kind of precision and control they that the bolts are out though....just like you or me with our bare hands.....just shaking and banging on the two sections to get them to seperate.

I'm wondering whether, after their shifts are over, these guys have to be mopped down, put to bed, and given massages because they're so exhausted, like Balinese dancers.

Dont know, but I think they would like how you think.

OK, I admit I've felt impatience towards BP to "hurry up and get things done" like everyone else. But actually, the fact that the operation has delayed so long due to testing and diagnostics tells me that the company is being disciplined and letting engineers call the shots. I can easily see a scenario in which political/financial pressure rushed into risky activities that could have made the situation worse.

I feel like there's this concept that BP isn't giving its all, but I think if they watched some of the ROVs at work they'd see these things are manned 24 hrs/day and quite skillfully at that.

Reminds me of scenes in the movies where the hero is defusing a bomb or doing some other highly intricate and dangerous maneuver with his hands in closeup, accompanied by suspenseful music, only there's no music, no switch to a shot of the guy's tense face dripping with sweat, and we (or I) haven't the foggiest idea what's actually happening. Boy, it'll make a good movie eventually, though.

Just imagine what the operator would have said if they dropped it.

Hey TOD, how about a post on the "live cams" so commenters would have a specific place to build threads on what we're seeing from down there? BTW Cheers y'all f'ing rawk!

That's a great idea. Most of ya'll are probably too young to remember those first steps on the moon with Walter Cronkite describing what we were seeing. Watching this live feed reminds me of that and leaves me wishing for a commentator to hear while I watch.

Shale, that's exactly what I was thinking just now! BP should invite NPR to do on-site commentary, if there is a physical location from which the bots are being instructed.

NPR has the resources to get hold of loads of expert voices and policy commentary from every direction.

and the ROVs remind me of the robots in "Silent Running" and the pods in "2001 A Space Odyssey".

Ahh "Silent Running" back when you could kill one of your friends by wacking him with a shovel, and get a "G" rating in the USA......but I digress.


which links would you all want? leave 'em here and we'll see what we can do.

Here's one.

Maybe start with one stream and encourage folks to comment & add others? Renew every four hours?

Everyone please note, there is a new thread with the embedded video under the fold on the front page--as of 1am PDT.

Thank you Prof. Goose! Personally, I am saying a prayer that this is going to work. CNN is giving good coverage this AM.

I really appreciate all of the expertise here and the complete lack of panic/absurdity found around other boards.

Sen. Markey's page:

Embedding the video as you did may make the load worse on their servers without showing many TOD users a viable picture.

Just put links to whats working and update them.

That's why I put it under the fold. It's not loading unless folks open it that way--and it would be the same burden on the servers as it would be going to the site--is it not?

The BP one was defaulting to Quicktime plugin autoplay which does not show a picture in Firefox because Apple refused to make it secure and Mozilla told them to take a hike. All this depends on versions and settings but . . . .

It's good now.

John Hoffmeister, former president of Shell, was interviewed on NBC Nightly News tonight. He had an idea:

There was an unpublicized spill in the early '90s in the Arabian Gulf, where there was so much oil, far larger than anything we've seen in this country, where a fleet of supertankers was put to work, with their powerful pumps inside these supertankers, to just pull in oil and push it out, depending on the need.

You could take these supertankers in formation. Take water and oil together off the surface, a million barrels per copy [sic]. Go unload it in tanks, separate the oil and the water, discharge the water back into the sea.

I think we should be seriously considering some kind of a tank formation with three, four, five supertankers. Get this oil off the surface so it doesn't wash up into the wetlands.

What did he mean by "a million barrels per copy"? Is that a jargon term, or did he misspeak and mean per day?

I have not seen the interview in question, but I expect that the reference was to "Suezmax" or larger supertankers. These typically have a capacity of one million barrels or more. Wikipedia has more.

Swifty, don't know the answer to your question, but Tony Hayward is just now on NBC and was asked about John Hoffmeister's suggestion. Hayward stated that he had talked to Hoffmeister about using the supertankers, but no decision has been made. All options are on the table....blah, blah, blah (no direct answer).

I wonder if Hoffmeister is referring to the Iraqi intentional oil spill, which laid a 5" thick layer of crude on top of the water in the persian gulf? I think sucking up that, atleast initially would make alot of sense vs. sucking up 99.9% water with a small sheen of oil.

Hoffmeister Meisthoffer came out of human resources.

Dont know sh** from apple butter which is about the difference of any surface spill and a spill that percs up from 5,000' near as a body can tell.


I'll ask this question, then hide under my desk to avoid hardball replies.

Why, while awaiting the new relief wells to be completed, don't they position an old tanker over the well head, scuttle it, then fill it with concrete. Just plug the old well head?

Okay, I'm under the desk now :)

Because at a mile deep, there's no telling where the scuttled ship would end up.

And, it probably wouldn't do anything except more damage, if it struck the wellhead directly.

They could use the SS Murphy's Law.

Surface ships don't have a long history of doing a hell of a lot of good on the bottom.

Matt Simmons gave an interview today on the Dylan Ratigan show (at about 6 min in).

Simmons was not very optimistic. He said the flow could be 120,000 bpd, there is a whole lot more oil under the water. He mentioned it could end up flowing for 9,000 days (24 years). "Might be no way to put this out." That was surprising. I thought the ultimate solution to this kind of situation was the relief wells, and that would sooner or later work. What is he thinking about? Could the relief wells fail to stop this also? It sounded like even Matt was saying explosives might be the only solution. He said "drop a bomb down the well bore might be the only way to cave it in".

Apparently it is not 9,000 days but a slurring of 900-1000 days.

There are a bunch of plausibility arguments being thrown around about the size of gusher. Supposedly it can't be more than 50,000 bpd since there aren't any other wells like this in the gulf (which is not true). But this well is not a regular oil well is it. It is, as one poster termed it, a gas-oil (not gas and oil but a high pressure supercritical solution) well so the flow rate can be much higher than a shallow oil well. Of course the total amount of oil coming out is not 120,000 bpd.

Even if what is coming out is 75% natural gas, it is still going to be harmful for marine wildlife. Not all of the methane will form hydrates. At these depths it will not be able to bubble directly to the surface but will dissolve in the water and form slowly rising plumes. Methane reacts with oxygen in the water and depletes it. Methane consuming bacteria do the same.

I am really amazed at Matt Simmons saying things like that. I first met Matt in the early 1980s, in fact he is the one who introduced me to peak oil about 6 years ago. For years, decades, his annual projections always turned out much more accurate that the oil companies forecasts and he always had a real solid command of the facts, a true data maven.

To hear him spin media style hyperbole is truly sad.

That's what I was thinking, is it as crazy as it seems?

I think what Matt said was overblown. The phone connection quality was very bad, and I think some of what he said was not heard accurately. I don't think what he said was quite as wild or crazy as some people have reported. He spoke in very short spurts and did not really explain what he was saying, or what he meant. I think some people may have made more out of it than what he meant.

I think this whole mess comes down on the shoulders of the BP man on the rig vs. the Transocean supervisor. They had a meeting at 11AM and told everyone else to leave the room. They had the failed Neg pressure tests in hand. They were yelling at each other. That is the testimony.

It sounds like the Transocean supervisor wanted to leave the mud in the pipe, but the BP man wanted the sea water put in. We of course now know who won, unfortunately.

BP has refused to give the name of their man who made that decision. Of course he may well have been ordered by BP onshore to make that decision. We don't know. All of this top chain-of-command is being hidden right now and kept under wraps. BP is not saying how the decision was made, or exactly who made it, but there seems no doubt BP has full liability for this disaster. They knew that from the start.

BP flags crucial mistake during the last couple hours of DWH....from Upstreamonline

Representatives Waxman and Stupak were briefed by BP about the progress of its internal investigation.

The fundamental error the BP official referred to concerned the results of a negative pressure test.

The BP investigator said that two hours before the explosion, as preparations were being made on the Transocean semi-submersible Deepwater Horizon to start negative pressure testing of the wellbore, the system gained 15 barrels of liquid rather than the five that were expected, indicating there may have been influx from the well.

A cementer witness was quoted as saying. "The well continued to flow and spurted."

The investigator said the pressure test was then moved to the kill line, where a volume of fluid came out when the line was opened. It was then closed.

At this time, pressure began to build in the system to 1400 pounds per square inch. The line was opened and pressure on the kill line was bled to 0 psi, while pressure on the drill pipe remained at 1400 psi.

The BP investigator said this indicated a "fundamental mistake" may have been made here as this was an "indicator of a very large abnormality".


However, once the pressure was bled off, work continued as normal - the line was monitored and by 7.55pm the rig team were apparently satisfied the test had been successful and started displacing the remaining downhole fluids with seawater.

The memo, released late yesterday, did not indicate who made decisions after the problem was found. BP and rig owner Transocean both had supervisors on the rig when it exploded.

BP would not comment on the memo. It had earlier stressed the report is preliminary and further work was needed.


No mention of a cement bond log, or the lack thereof.


No...comments further down in the article point to a cement failure again, but no mention of a CBL. Only place that that's come up so far has been in reports of the congressional hearings.

Wow. That is it. Fifteen versus 5 barrels.

Consider the Equation:

Q= V ct Delta P


Q equals cumulative output

V is the total volume in bbls

ct is total system compressibility in psi-1

and Delta P is the pressure change in psi.

One of the most important equations in petroleum engineering

Now if the total system compressibility is on the order of 5e-06 (fluid system).... and gas compressibility is like 1/p (1E-04), then a little gas in the fluid system has a dramatic influence on this equation. That gas could be air or methane, but I would think it unusual if there was not some gas contamination in every wellbore.

Not a smoking or fuming gun in my opinion.


So it IS BP saying this.

It sort of sounds like a lot of (maybe) smallish things that on their own coulda been OK....but in hindsight were not OK.

Another point down further in the article is that they had a sudden loss of riser volume (?)..which could point to the annular not working properly. Possibly related to the rubber mentioned in 60mins? or

The question is who knew what and were they linking the various pieces together?

Incident investigations often lead to revelations of "The drillpipe did what in the BOP!?! Dear lord why didn't anyone tell me? The mud tech just said he saw some rubber, not those huge chunks!?" Oil crews aren't stupid, but uninformed decisions happen when communication lines aren't clear.

Thank you to all the experts for sharing their knowledge with the rest of us. I have been following the story here since the first week of the disaster and have found the information far superior to anything in the MSM.

I know there has been debate on the amount of oil being ejected from the the Oilcano. Turns out, it looks like the amount may be of extreme significance.

Other companies involved at the Horizon platform and the oilfield could share liability with BP, experts said. They include rig-owner Transocean Ltd, cementing contractor Halliburton Co., blowout preventer manufacturer Cameron, and Anadarko and Mitsui, which also hold stakes in the oilfield.


The basic fine, according to the act, is $1,100 per barrel spilled. But the penalty can rise to $4,300 a barrel if a federal court rules the spill resulted from gross negligence. The fines were originally set at $1,000 to $3,000 but that was raised in 2004 to keep up with inflation, according to Tracy Hester, head of the Environmental Law and Policy program at the University of Houston.

(To see an EPA memo on 2004 revisions to penalties outlined in the Clean Water Act, click here: )

It is unclear, however, that the EPA would try to apply the fines, or seek maximum penalty levels. EPA officials did not respond to several calls and e-mails requesting comment.

If the agency does act, the per-barrel fines could push oil companies' liability well beyond the cost of cleaning up the spill and paying legitimate claims for economic damages it causes, experts told Reuters.

Very interesting do...didn't know they had a formal fine calculation. Also, only BP and its partners, like Anadarko, are responsible from the start. BP et al can sue Halliburton or any other contractor in civil court. Then the court can decide who, if any one else, has to cough up some cash. The operator is always responsible and it's up to them to prove blame in any other quarter.

Any update on the attempt? I'm searching for it and haven't seen anything as of yet.

A story in the LA Times is contradictory. It implies that it has succeeded, but it says that one ship ran out of mud and a second ship is on the way. It also said they were shooting debris.
That the ship ran out of mud doesn't sound like a success to me.