Deep Water Spill - Waiting for Top Kill

This is the day when the top kill of the leaking BP well in the Gulf of Mexico will likely be attempted. Kent Wells, Senior Executive VP for Exploration and Production, has given a technical brief on what is likely to happen. Having tried a number of other ways of describing the underlying idea, a more mundane example came to mind. If you have roots growing into the drain that runs out of your house, and you turn the tap on in a bathroom, the water will still be able to get down past the roots, and there is no problem. However if you flush a toilet or equivalent higher flow, this can’t easily get past the roots, and thus the water backs up and flows back out into your basement.

Essentially that is what is being tried. The well has a certain ability to get oil through the Blowout Preventer (BOP) at a given (though debated) flow rate. If the volume is increased, by pumping mud into the well below the BOP, then the well will “back up” and the oil will flow back down the well. As it does more mud enters the well. This is dense enough that, as the column grows longer it pushes down on the oil, and applies enough pressure, due to this weight, to overcome the pressure in the rock. Without that positive difference, there is nothing to drive the oil out, and thus the well is “killed.”

Note: Live discussion has moved to

Update 5/26 by Gail, 2:36 EDT: Top kill has been started.

Update 5/26, by PG, 10:50 EDT; "Later this morning I will review that with the team, and I will take a final decision as to whether or not we should proceed," BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward told the NBC "Today" show on Wednesday. BP readies another attempt at stopping oil spill (Yahoo News).

One thing that should be noted, however, is that most illustrations show a section of the BOP such as the one just below (which I modified from one in the WP). Life is actually more complex since there are large rams sitting in the side ports that appear as notches on the main flow line. The actual position of the rams and the condition of the pipe that runs through the assembly are somewhat in question (through BP used gamma rays to check it out), and this flow channel complexity may play a little part in the response to the Top Kill injection. Hopefully it will tend to act as "roots" and make it more difficult for the flow to reach the riser, and then leak onto the seabed, and more likely for the flow to be directed down the well.

Section through the BOP, showing the anticipated mud flow path (initially from BP)

In his presentation Kent Wells noted that there is not just flow from the Q4000 available, but that additional vessels, including the HOS Centerline are connected into the Q4000 and available to add additional flows and volumes of mud if needed.

HOS Centerline

This can carry up to 30,000 barrels of mud, and deliver this to the Q4000 at a flow rate of 50 bbl/min. It is supported by a second vessel, the M/V Blue Dolphin, which carries 11,800 bbl of mud, that can deliver it at a rate of 80 bpm, using 9 pumps. If needed this has more than enough capacity and flow for the job required.

It is equipped with eight skid-mounted 3,000 brake horsepower Gorilla
 fracturing units can store 2.75 million lb of proppant. The vessel can provide up to 23,000 hydraulic horsepower and 80 bbl/min blending rates to meet high-rate fracturing and stimulation requirements of ultra-deepwater projects. At more than 300 ft (91 m) in length, the multipurpose vessel includes additional storage for up to 11,800 bbl of fluids or completion brines, 12,600 gal of raw acid and 6,300 gal of solvent. The Blue Dolphin has a maximum on-the-fly acid blending capacity of 50 bbl/min.

“The advanced capabilities of the Blue Dolphin vessel have made it the flagship of BJ Services’ stimulation fleet,” said Ronney Coleman, vice president for North America pressure pumping services, BJ Services. It is the first 20,000-psi pressure-rated stimulation vessel specially designed for Lower Tertiary conditions, which include long, multiple-pay zones and intense pressure and temperature variations.

With such capabilities there is more than enough pressure and volume to overcome what pressures and flow rates are found in the well.

However it should be remembered that the mud has to get to the well through delivery lines from the surface, and the riser and supply lines will themselves exert a resistance to the flow at higher rates. So the amount likely to be used will, at least at the beginning, likely be restricted to the 50 barrels per minute (2,000 gallons per minute (gpm)) flow which has been reported. (The oil flow at 5,000 barrels a day, is equivalent to 150 gpm.)

At the moment the rig is undergoing final diagnostic tests to ensure that the valves, fittings, hoses pumps etc are all operational and that there are no leaks. (At these pressures – perhaps 10,000 psi or so – the drilling mud can cut into metals, so that a leak can very rapidly grow to unacceptable size).

“What we learn during the diagnostic phase will be absolutely crucial to us,” Wells said. The top kill procedure, which may begin as early as tomorrow, might take as little as 12 hours or as much as a “couple of days” to carry out, Wells said.

The operation may, if seen to be needed, include a variation of the “junk shot” since there are rubber strips on hand, that could be added to the mud flow and which would, if caught in the BOP, restrict further the flow path out of the riser, and make it easier to get the mud down the well. (Like adding additional roots to your drain to make it back up faster).

Over the next few hours, engineers will test the pressure at each opening, aiming to design a pumping procedure that will “outrun” the flow of oil and gas, forcing it back down into the petroleum reservoir.

Should pressure from the well outrun the drilling fluids, engineers may inject heavy fluid mixed with rubber scraps through valves above the mud flow to hold it in the well, Wells said.

Even if the mud starts down the well as planned, there may be complexities in the flow, based on where the oil appears to be coming from.

Doug Suttles commented on Tuesday

Flow from the Macondo well is not travelling up the main well bore, BP operations boss Doug Suttles said Tuesday, a revelation that would support theories that a cement failure played a part in the blowout.

“We actually believe the flow path is between two strings of the casing and not up the main wellbore,” Suttles said.

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

As the complexity of the job becomes evident there are also reports that the Government are stepping back from taking over the problem, should this try fail.

After days of lambasting the company's handling of the spill, the Obama administration appeared to step back from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's threat on Sunday to "push out" BP if it did not do enough to plug the leak.

The U.S. government needs BP's deepwater technology to try to shut off the oil well, said Carol Browner, President Barack Obama's adviser on energy and climate change.

"Obviously, we need the BP technology, but we are not relying on them ... we have our own minds in there," she told CNN, referring to the team of government scientists working with BP to battle the disaster.

Some longer term punishment is, however, apparently now being considered.

ProPublica is reporting that that the Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to bar BP from receiving U.S. government contracts, a move it said would cost the company billions of dollars in revenues and could end its drilling in federally controlled oil fields.

But hopefully the leak will be stopped before the President visits on Friday. And then we won’t need to consider those nukes. (After all only 3 out of 4 worked in the Soviet Union, and one site may still be burning, all those years later.)

BP has also released a statement about the incident. As they note:

"I understand people want a simple answer about why this happened and who is to blame. The honest truth is that this is a complex accident, caused by an unprecedented combination of failures," said Chief Executive Tony Hayward. "A number of companies are involved, including BP, and it is simply too early – and not up to us – to say who is at fault."

Among the possible mechanisms, BOP is considering:

1. The cement that seals the reservoir from the well;
2. The casing system, which seals the well bore;
3. The pressure tests to confirm the well is sealed;
4. The execution of procedures to detect and control hydrocarbons in the well, including the use of the BOP;
5. The BOP Emergency Disconnect System, which can be activated by pushing a button at multiple locations on the rig;
6. The automatic closure of the BOP after its connection is lost with the rig; and
7. Features in the BOP to allow Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) to close the BOP and thereby seal the well at the seabed after a blow out.

The House Committee has also released a memo about this investigation:

A memo released by Democrats on the House energy committee said that BP has found three “flow indicators” from the well before the explosion, one of which occurred 51 minutes before the blast, a time when more fluid began to flow out of the well than was being pumped in. When the pump was shut down, 41 minutes before the explosion, the well continued to flow instead of stopping, and drill pipe pressure “unexpectedly increased”. Then, just 18 minutes before the explosion, abnormal pressures were observed by the rig crew. Eleven men died as a result of the explosion.

It should be noted, since there were comments on both PBS and ABC News tonight about the change in the oil color coming out of the riser in the last two days, that the clear difference in the photos they showed was the lack of the injected dispersant in the later pictures, and BP have stated that they have cut back on the volume of this, under EPA orders. Since it was mixing with the oil and changing its color, this may be part of the change that folk have been noticing.

And, after some debate today, BP has announced that they will continue the live feed from the seabed during the time that the top kill is initiated.

The whole world's hopes hinge on this top kill. Eight year olds want the top kill action figure. "I want to be able to lie like Don Suttles and Thad Allen mommy."

Does anyone think they're going to successfully shoot heavy mud a mile down into a disentigrating BOP. That's if the BOP is still there.

But hey they wasted another two weeks. And they'll waste another two on the next diversion and people will tear apart erroneous technical details supplied by liars and careerists.

The relief wells are the only chance and people need to realize that. I can only imagine they aren't drilling five relief wells because incompetent fools run the government.

If you live on the Gulf Coast you need to plan for the well to spew until at least August, most likely into 2011. I'm sorry but for most of us living here it means our lives are over.

I'd think they would abandon this procedure if it doesn't have a good chance. They (BP and their partner, the US govt) already look really bad, and for this to fail after the build up would make them look even worse. Better they either not do anything or try this only with major public caveats that it probably won't work.

So I'm thinking if they actually go ahead with it, it probably has a reasonable chance of success, though it does sound far fetched.

I'm very sorry for you all down there. I have never been to southern LA but always wanted to go, to see the marshes and bayous and delta country.

Well, given that this is the best shot that anybody's going to have UNTIL the relief wells find target, I'll be crossing my fingers and toes - Hell, I'll be crossing (what's left of) my HAIR - and HOPING that such pessimism is unwarranted!

The BOP is a rather large object consisting of tons of metal, it is neither disentigrating nor has it disappeared. The fact that some valves have not fully operated in no way removes the actual physical presence of the device. BP and the Service Companies involved all think this has a pretty good chance of working and I agree with them so obviously quite a few "anyones" think that this can be a successful operation. They didn't mobilize all that horsepower for a photo op. The idea of five relief wells is just silliness. I've been involved in blowouts before and two relief wells has been pretty standard practice.

I've been involved in blowouts before and two relief wells has been pretty standard practice.

Your "standard practice" did not involve:

- A situation where there is a high probability of month long (or longer) delays for each relief well. Per my understanding the original well went a month and a half over schedule (and the original well did not have to make risky "last foot" mill though high grade steel, so a two month delay for any given relief well is entirely possible).

- such dramatically high costs for each and every day the well was polluting.

Take your "standard practice" and calculate in the marginal cost of one more MINUTE of pollution at, say $250,000 (per MINUTE) and I suspect that you will adjust the cost-benefit ratio and come up with a revised standard practice.


If you regard the cost of the pollution as, say, the same as the total earnings from the Gulf fisheries, which is about $700 million a year = $1500 a minute, you probably come with a different policy again.

There was always the possibility of losing the Gulf fisheries as soon as people started drilling for oil in bulk there; but since the Gulf of Mexico produces about 1.5 million barrels a day, so a week of oil production is the same as the whole fishing earnings for a year, it's worth risking. Stick a cent-a-litre tax on gasoline and you can pay fishermen as much as they were getting from the fishing for the duration of the period when fishing is discouraged.

That is just the value of the raw fish. And your per minute calculation is just plain wrong.

Discussion is that different fisheries will be damaged from 4 to 15 years. From just 32 days of spill so far.

The is value added all along the chain to the plate in, say, Commander's Palace. What will reduced business there for the next dozen years cost ? How about the landlord that rents to the waiter at Commander's Palace who gets laid off and moves out of town ? His or her lost rental values.

A minor point is that tar balls on the beach will reduce beach front rentals (and real estate values) on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. Plus the law suit from Cuba for damaging their tourism and fisheries.

But this is just discussing the smaller cost, the economic costs.

What "value" does wiping out Atlantic blue fin tuna have ? Or some deep sea species that only has a Latin name ?

$400 million/day is a low ball estimate.


You can argue that the fisheries will be damaged for a long time, but you can't do the costing as if the fisheries will be damaged longer if the spill goes on proportionately; this year's sprats are already dead, this year's mussels are already dead, if the spill goes on for another six months they'll get no deader. The fifteen-year figure is presumably the time that fish from the rest of the sea would take to recolonise an absolutely dead Gulf of Mexico.

The fifteen-year figure is presumably the time that fish from the rest of the sea would take to recolonise an absolutely dead Gulf of Mexico.


You do not understand the cycle of life.

First, the marshes must recover enough to serve as proper nurseries. This is not just the grass and visible signs, but all the balance of nutrients and microbial life on up the food chain.

Then, AFTER the marshes have recovered, the surviving mature adults (if any) must breed and wait for those spawn to reach full breeding potential (example, a 6 year old redfish female will breed, but she will breed many times more fry at age 15).

And a vast complex web of predator/prey relationships must come into balance.

I think 15 years is too short a time for a full recovery.

There is a very good chance that all mature western Atlantic blue fin tuna (you know, the fish that can sell for $100,000 in Tokyo) will die. The western population breeds in the Gulf of Mexico, the eastern in the Mediterranean.

In 2012, some juveniles of today (they take 8 years to mature), perhaps safely swimming off Nova Scotia, will make their first breeding migration. The Gulf will hopefully be clean enough for them to breed (if they can find a mate ! Today they breed in mass orgies).

So perhaps, with luck, enough matured juveniles will show up for a small scale orgy in 2015 and spawn will grow up. Older fish will create far more spawn. In 8 years, 2023, the first will show up to breed. But more than a decade after that to reach even the depleted #s of today.


Good points, all, Alan. This what I mean when I say the amount of the limit on damages is immaterial. I can see no case where the landlord (of the waiter) in your example will ever collect a cent. This will impact the whole region in the same way. The multipliers which economists refer to when talking about economic growth also work in the opposite direction - contraction. Once you lose 1,000 jobs in any area, the infrastructure needed to house, clothe and feed those people and their families are no longer needed in the amounts required before the loss. Even the need for law enforcement decreases.

No way to compensate for these kinds of losses, IMHO. "priceless" in MasterCard terms.

I understand your anger but that number is pure speculation and IMHO rubbish.

Yes, also you can't eat oil. Well, you can, but it doesn't taste very good.

We all have likely been eating oil in small amounts for many years now and have not known it. Add to that the Mercury and other contaminants. These kind of disasters up the total long-term pollution load for us and all life.

The folks who say that pollution is no big deal just don't get it...

Tom, you know you found a possible silver lining. Maybe this event will be considered the 'Silent Spring' of the fishing industry and there will be protection from overfishing on the fish of tomorrow when they return. Personally, I am packing my bags and moving. My family has owned this land since 1820 and BP has accomplished in a few weeks what war, disease, famine, flood, hurricane, poverty, civil war, and eminent domain could not in 200 years. I filed a claim with BP a week ago. That night a company representative called and said someone would call me within 72 hours. I have not heard crap since then. I know what BP stands for, Bone in the Prostate.

There was always the possibility of losing the Gulf fisheries as soon as people started drilling for oil in bulk there; but since the Gulf of Mexico produces about 1.5 million barrels a day, so a week of oil production is the same as the whole fishing earnings for a year, it's worth risking.

If perchance you really think that, then, you sir, are a moron of the highest order!

Anyone who makes such a statement should be locked up in a padded room for their own protection and never allowed out unsupervised again for as long as they live.

*EARNINGS*?! A week of oil production is the same as the whole fishing earnings for a year, it's worth risking.

*IT"S WORTH RISKING* You can't be possibly be for real!

Some people know the price of "everything", but know the value of nothing in life.

They are doomed to pass through life without having lived.

Best Hopes for Life,


Well, OK, moralize stridently in capital letters to your heart's content, but there's going to be a degree of risk for as long as oil is extracted, especially with the easy shallow land-based stuff largely gone. And naturally, everyone wants it extracted somewhere else. No news there.

So maybe the Gulf fish "deserve" the absolute zero of risk, after all fish are people, only more so. But then "fairness" will surely demand the same absolute zero of risk to other fish elsewhere... and soon enough, one helluva shortage of the great gouts of fuel swilled by, among many other things... the propulsion and refrigeration systems on the... taa-daa... fishing boats.

After the moralizing and shouting, the sound and fury signifying nothing, have died down from sheer exhaustion, it remains that no one involved or affected seems to be as pure and innocent as the wind-driven snow... life isn't always a bowl of cherries, nor is it always risk-free - deal with it...

I used to be able to get my points across with words, I think I have to be a little more graphic...


I argue that fish and bees and all 'lesser' forms of life (I project that would be your characterization) are more important than humans, since we need all these life forms which comprise the ecosystem to survive. If we pull too many blocks out of the Jenga(tm) tower, then at some point it all collapses.

Your arguments about how everything carries risk and the concomitant arguments that the Earth has suffered many mind-boggling disasters in the past are poor justification that events such as this are no big deal.

You start from the built-in assumptions that we must continue to use the amount of oil (and other resources) that we now use. Your quip about the fishing boats needing oil to operate is cute, but also evidences your BAU mentality. We do not have to continue to consume the amount of seafood we currently consume. In fact, regardless of this or any oil spill, we have needed to greatly reduce our fish/sea creature catches for decades...we are pushing the oceans past their limits for maintaining regeneration of many species.

If I couldn't eat seafood any more (I'm in NM), I would miss it, but if it meant that the seas may recover at least some portion of their formerly glorious diversity and density of life, then I would adjust and be happy with my contribution. But we cannot affect the magnitude of change required by individual choices here and there...society needs to grow up and follow adult leadership and collectively change its course.

Of course folks can opine that the environment will eventually recover from each individual affront, but I have sever concerns about the ability of the Earth's environment to recover from the sum total over time of all the various onslaughts.

I am reminded of certain fundamentalists who opine that mankind is full of hubris for thinking that we can affect the ginormous way puny humans can do that! Their alternate/parallel argument is that everything is per Dog's plan and that the Earth is scheduled for judgment day etc. and that all of this stuff is transient. Impossible to argue with that kind of mindset.

I learned about Externalities in Econ 101; the fact that we do not conduct a more complete cost accounting for our actions is a fundamental flaw. But hey, Ayn Rand and her think-alikes told us about the miracles of getting government off people's backs and about the power of free and unfettered markets.

Rejoice! The chickens are continue to come home to roost! Enjoy the whirlwind...

Thank you Heisenberg, good to know there are a few sane people left in the world who can actually connect the dots and see the big picture.


We do not have to continue to consume the amount of seafood we currently consume.

Perhaps. And yet the great bulk of the moaning in the public media and even to some extent on TOD has been about the effect on seafood, oysters, tourism, and suchlike. That seems to be the real trap. Two choices:

(1) take some risk to keep oil available until a transition is completed. Maybe people can continue to afford seafood and tourism. Maybe stay in business.

(2) insist on absolutely zero risk; let depletion do its thing unmanaged and tank the economy (apparently it takes rather little to tank the economy, no Mad Max scenario implied or required.) Go out of business soon, when fuel-guzzling seafood and tourism become unaffordable on anything like the current scale.

Oh, and it makes not a whit of difference whether I or anyone else on TOD has or has not a "BAU mentality". This will play out on a scale that consigns us to the level of dust motes. Nevertheless, after years of batting it around, the presumed experts on such things still have yet to propose a credible, decent, humane alternative to pursuing BAU - or at least BAU-lite - for the time being. So, independently of anyone's attitude here - high technocopian, high doomer, doesn't matter - no prize for guessing what will be pursued in the real-world political arena.

Show me a cost benefit analysis that proves that five relief wells will be more effective that two. Throwing more at it for the sake of throwing more at it is just nonsense.

A couple of weeks I did a hypothetical, but let me try to do it again. Much simplified from reality.


80% chance of a 1 week delay (for any given RW)
50% chance of a 1 month delay
20% chance of a 2 month delay
5% chance of a 3 month delay

New RWs can be spudded every 7 to 10 days (assume cost no object mentality).

Each incomplete RW costs $100 million. Completed relief well more.

These are not outlandishly unrealistic range of #s.

25% chance RW 1 & 2 delayed one month. If RW #3 is lucky, 50% chance it has zero or 1 week delay. RW started say, 15 days after RW #1, so it completes kill 15 or 8 days before RW #1.

Value of 8 days = 8 x $400 million/day = $3.2 billion , 15 days = $6 billion.

Probability of RW #3 saving $6 billion = 0.2 (no delay for #3) x 0.25 (both 1 7 2 delayed 1 month) = 5%; 5% of $6 billion = $300 million, cost $100 million

Probability of RW #3 saving $3.2 billion = 0.3 (1 week delay for #3) x 0.25 (both 1 7 2 delayed 1 month) = 7.5%; 7.5% of $3.2 billion = $240 million

Benefit $300 million + $240 million, cost $100 million

Lots of other scenarios where additional RWs have favorable cost benefit ratios (1 month delay #3, 2 month delay #1 & #2. no delay #4) is quite possible for example.

Now add treble damages for gross negligence.


Need to get over that cost benefit analysis bull snot and start looking at past performance and preparing for worst case scenario. Ixtoc took five relief wells in 200 ft of water. Every drill at MS 252 has had massive problems.

The cost is a quarter or more of our home land's natural resources being destroyed. Monetarily that's hundreds or thousands of trillions of dollars. Ecologically the nation is damaged and a region of our country is quickly becoming uninhabitable.

Ixtoc was 20+ years ago in Mexico. Not the same thing.

Montara Aug 2009, five relief drills, less than 200ft water.

I've provided two examples.

If anyone has proof of a relief drill 5000ft above the ocean floor please present it now. Until then I'll call these two relief drills experiments.

As long as further drilling is halted in the GOM, the rigs are idle. So You make a mistake in Your calculation, if You take the capital costs into Your account.

And besides, its their damn duty to do everything they can to limit the damage, they have done to the world.

Who said drilling is halted??

Only granting additional permits is halted.

Don't worry, there are years worth of approved permits left to drill out.


"Only granting additional permits is halted."

Even that has not halted, according to an article in the Oil Drum today 17 have been OK'ed since the declaration that no more permits would be granted.

There is one factor you forgot that is a game changing X factor. BP has to fix its image fast. With a Robert Blake level of urgency. Whatever actions BP takes now and have taken since the incident occurred have as much to with determining BP's ultimate survival as actions prior to the incident. Thus far, I see no compelling reason why BP should not be sued and prosecuted out of existence. Even if such efforts are not harmful enough to BP to take it down, the soon to be launched total boycott of that company will eventually cause the shareholders to reorganize and rename the company assets and subsidiary companies. The current upper management will also receive a public full court press. I could be wrong, but Valdez did change Exxon too. Maybe not in a punitive way, but certainly in a brand name way.

All BP has to do is spend a few million more dollars buying off politicians.

I agree with you completely about what should happen to BP, but unfortunately one compelling reason it will not is that our ever-helpful Congress passed that $75M limit on oil company liability after the Exxon Valdez.

I'm also perfectly amenable to a "total boycott" of BP but I doubt that would do all that much to them. It would mainly hurt the station/convenience store operators, for what that's worth. Oil is fungible and BP would just sell wholesale to whomever.

They are already spinning furiously until they will eventually be claiming that this was basically an act of God -- they are close to that now -- and some people will buy it. My guess is that this thing will cost them about 2 months' profit -- a couple billion $ -- tops. And that would be without additional government bailout, which they are probably already lobbying for.

I'm still boycotting Exxon. I wonder if I'll run out of oilcos to boycott before we run out of oil?

Yes, but Exxon is now ExxonMobil and they are pulling out of the retail business. Valdez got Exxon out of the tanker business and soon the Exxon name will not be seen as much. It will take a quarter of a century, but the Exxon brand is done as we know it.

Don't the oilco's still trade retail fuel among each other fairly freely? Sure, one can boycott the retail clerk at a local gas station, but is it even logistically feasible to boycott the oilco itself without boycotting them all?

The minute you pump oil into a non-company pipeline or use a non-company tanker service, the oil you put in is not necessarily the oil you get out. It is a commodity. IMHO, Valdez made the Exxon name too toxic in the long run. I see that Firestone is still struggling, but Bridgestone is doing good.
Believe it or not the electricity business is like that. Drift velocity I believe is what the measurement is called. It might take years for an electron you put in one end to come out the other side. Even at near the speed of light. It bounces all around and pushes an electron down the line. Sort of like a tube full of marbles. Put a marble in one end and a marble comes out the other side. It was not the marble you put in. I understand the pipeline business is often setup like that. Of course, unlike electricity, oil flows much slower and can be stored.

Long time lurker, first time poster.

I was born and raised near the waters of South Louisiana and I just had to share this with you. If you want to know what Louisianians are thinking right now, then listen to this Garland Robinette clip.

Let'em Freeze in the Dark

Ah yes, "quit using our oil if you don't like it". I'm from Pennsylvania where oil was first developed - our coal and oil and steel built the infrastructure of this nation, now it's used up. Quit using it if you can't man up and produce your part without whining about the environmental and human costs. You got a free ride then, now it's our turn to use your energy while you deal with the environmental damage and human casualties - tough.

Sarcasm aside, here is the reality - there are too many people using too many resources to be sustainable. We have spent centuries building a society and its infrastructure based on fossil fuels, including the last 60-70 years where we ripped up the previous more efficient transportation system. It is not possible for most of the population to stop using oil, or to commute by electric rail, etc. The infrastructure does not exist, and at this point in the decline we won't be able to afford to fix it even if we did have time. That's what the implications of peak oil are all about, and what was described in the Hirsch report. This really is what rising costs look like.

Further, the results of that many people turning that many resources into waste are creating an environmental disaster of the entire planet, including flowing down the Mississippi to the gulf. Maybe living downstream has some disadvantages, just like living a desert.

We don't even have time now to convince enough people that change is needed, so while we can and will cut back our usage, for the most part it will not happen until we are forced to. In the short term the choice is to continue using our FF based infrastructure and producing waste, or for a big portion of the society to stop existing.

Watch what happens as resources become scarce and the costs become too high - when the regions with water don't want to give it to the regions without, when we cannot afford to rebuild storm damaged areas or protect cities that are sinking (not to mention coastal cities as the waters rise), when food producing states cannot cover non producers, etc. This kind of sentiment is exactly what will happen - the idea of national unity will go right out the window.

What national unity? La is asking for the same deal that the other states that allow drilling get. La gets no royalties from the deep water drilling, but all of that oil has to come ashore through pipelines through the swamp, salt gets into the swamp and kills the vegetation, the swamp recedes, New Orleans floods. BP and US govt, get billions for the oil off the La coast, but don't want to put up 600M to rebuild the swamp. Don't much blame them for thinking they are getting a raw deal.

They are getting a raw deal. Of course they have lot of company. Take look at our history - getting a raw deal is what happens to most citizens, so that a few can do very well. And in turn, the average Joe getting a raw deal here is living like a king compared to the really raw deal the rest of the world gets. I realize that's not the myth we were taught.

Thank you; that was very informative and interesting, (Let em Freeze in the Dark).

Why didn't BP try this sooner?

because they didn't have the data to think it would work, they had to figure out where they would connect in and then they had to had to build the plan and assemble the equipment. Projects of this scale take months to put together normally and they've done it in days.

Per BP at least one malfunctioning control pod had to be brought topside rebuilt/reconfigured?/reinstalled/tested in addition to the above.

The federal government IS coming off looking awfully weak in this. I can understand the reasoning behind wanting a weak government, but if government isn't there to respond to national emergencies, what is it there for?

I remember the arguments in Katrina were that it was the responsibility of the state governments and not the feds to respond to the disaster (though that was a subject of great debate and finger-pointing). It would seem that perhaps that concept is continuing.

Maybe I'm old school and thinking of government responsibilities in terms of, say, world wars, in protecting our soil. Maybe multinational economies have changed the landscape.

I know that the government doesn't have the technology to fix this; but what seems to be missing is the authority to make things happen, or even the illusion that it has the authority to make things happen. The feds are just looking weak.

but what seems to be missing is the authority to make things happen, or even the illusion that it has the authority to make things happen.

Because none of the government offically know the technolgoy and how to deal with the problem. How can someone make any decison if they don't know much about deepsea drilling in the first place? Just look at some of the comments and proposed remedis in this site. God save us if we need to pus a government offical there to make decision that they don't know anything about. MMS folk may know deepsea drilling better. But they don't do the the day to day work and never make those life and death decision before, so how can we expect them to step in.

The mistake is our Fed government offical (and this is form our President all the way down, including the EPA folks) thinks this problem as a normal governing isse. They all want to look tough but not prepare to back up their tough talk with solution. They think they can edict solution, speed up timeline. Just look at the EPA issue. They sent a letter to BP to ask them to stop using the dipersant and if not possible, explain the rational.. Guess what EPA wanted to spin it as they order BP to stop using the dispersant, corexit.. BP follow the order and come back with a reason for not choosing other dispersant. And EPA is not ready for their own choice (i.e. do they even know which one is more toxic to the environment than the order.. After all they are all on the approved list.. Why are they on the approved list if they are not suitable) or even reason why they think corexit is not appropriate.. It is a case that EPA did not do their homework before they issue the order.. Wonder why they look weak and unprepared...

Yeah, I hear what you're saying, and maybe I'm totally screwed in the head, and I apologize for wondering all this out loud; but as someone who has read a lot about, say, World War II, I can't help but compare the reaction to the government now to what would have been done by, say, an Ike Eisenhower, or a Harry Truman.

I guess that kind of can-do, get-it-down leadership mentality is forged through catastrophic events like WWII, where the balance of one's civilization hangs in the balance. Maybe a different time and place, now.

Consider rather someone like Chamberlain, desperate to avoid going to war with an army that just wasn't there, desperate to get the time to arm before the armies of the richest power in Europe, which had been increasingly openly rearming for a decade, could strike decisively.

The only way the Government could have meaningful influence on the situation is if they'd been keeping up to date with equipment for deep-water mining - and I can't imagine that that wouldn't have been killed off in the eighties and nineties because it was getting more and more expensive, because the State Oil Production Company just isn't terribly American, and because private industry were doing so good a job of drilling holes in the bottom of the sea.

If you want holes drilled and ROVs operated, there are about six big primary-contractors that you could ring, and on the whole having BP ring them, share information, and write a check is easier than having the USCG ring them, extract information from a grudging BP, and write a check on the taxpayers' account.

The problem is that in the past we believed in American exceptionalism. The current administration utterly rejects the concept so it's hard for them to call on it when it is needed.

So what should the government have done?

I don't care what any administration thinks about "American exceptionalism". The only thing that might possibly have been done would have been to really regulate these drilling activities. But a series of administrations who did believe in "American exceptionalism" didn't believe in regulation so BP got to do whatever they wanted and we get to deal with the mess.

It's easy to make these kind of charges, but it's hard to come up with a practical plan of action.

"So what should the government have done?"

While several things went wrong here, the fundamental problem I see is the decision of the BP company man to cut corners, such as eliminating the final test of the cement plug. So I would criminalize such behavior--so if this situation were to happen again, he personally would be subject to criminal sanction (a few years in prison) for criminally negligent environmental destruction (comparable to criminally negligent manslaughter).

Manslaughter charges cannot yet be ruled out.


But remember, kids, they hate us for our freedom, NOT because we're hypocrites and never face any consequences when we screw up.

I suspect other dispersant suppliers are applying heavy political pressure because they are missing out on both the cleanup money and the chance to prove their products in a highly visible spill.

The federal government is only looking weak to people with poor vision. Poor vision comes from too much television and high fructose corn syrup on the daily menu. Too much television and high fructose corn syrup cause brain pain which is only relieved by super-hero complex. Super-hero complex leaves no space for complicated thoughts.

The vision impaired know that the super-heroes are known to the people in the know, the ptb.

The vision impaired are pissed off that Obama has refused all offers of help from Aquaman. He is too weak to call in Aquaman, they conclude, he doesn't want to get shown up by a green guy. The Republican Party brain trust puts out a message that he is racist. They remind people that Reagan didn't have an inferiority complex, that He would not have been afraid of asking Aquaman, the Fantastic Four, even Superman, for help to save America.

The vision impaired know that sometime or other they get to vote and this time they're going to make it clear that they're not gonna take it anymore.

"what seems to be missing is the authority to make things happen,"
Only God has that; the rest of us are relying on technology. A country called the Vatican does have the illusion it has that authority. I'm not sure if Obama has been in touch with the Pope about this.
Waiting for Top Kill reminds me of waiting for Alan Shepherd and our first space flight.

"The feds are looking weak"

I disagree and think this may be one of the few times the feds are being thoughtfully prudent. First do no harm, an old caveat very much germane here. There is little role they can take here other than what is being done. Feds lack the knowledge and capacity to take over.

"To push BP out of the way would raise a question, to replace them with what?" Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, who is heading the federal response to the spill, said at a White House briefing....."

But everyone, not just current and former governors, is out to make political hay out of this, that gets old.

"White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the criticism ill-informed and suggested Palin needed a blowout preventer, the technical term for the device intended to prevent an oil spill from becoming a full-scale catastrophe. The phrase has entered the political vernacular since the one on the Gulf well failed.

"You've got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but regrettably you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything," Gibbs said.";_ylt=A...

Stopping the well may be outside the feds expertise, but dumdum Allen didn't address the cleanup.

We have inadequate federal resources down here cleaning up the millions of gallons pooling in the marshes.

They're should be 50,000 troops sleeping on the beaches with Bounty paper towels or whatever it takes to at least look like we are doing something.

There should skimming ships from all over the world scooping up what oil they can. But then other countries would see how bad this disaster is.

The U.S. government does not want to get involved in any capacity because they know this is a lost cause. I envision BP abandoning U.S. operations, heading to England for safety. By August the U.S. will be ready for war.

No troops to spare. Maybe we could put all the freeloaders in prison to good use, in one way or another...

The troops? They are busy elsewhere, acting on the American exceptionalism some commenter above said we no longer believe in.

I envision BP abandoning U.S. operations, heading to England for safety.

The obscenity 'Going Galt' comes to mind. Hell, BP should just go on strike and start their own country. I bet it'd work out GREAT.

Remember, there is also a live comment thread that goes along with the ROV video that can be found here (or the first post on the front page)--if they will let us watch the whole top kill process I will be (pleasantly) surprised though.

Thanks again, Professor Goose! And everyone on this discussion. Hoping the multiple ROVs' imaging will remain viewable? -bleuz00m

If "Top Kill" fails

but succeeds in injecting mud into the well bore, this raises another possibility.

Inject small, very high density (lead, depleted uranium, tungsten, gold) solid balls (or other shapes) into the well bore (carried by mud) and let them float down to the bottom (or obstruction mid-way).

Per old memory, super-critical fluids have low coefficients of friction, so small solids should be able to make it down against the flow.

Balls pack so there is always space around, but other shapes do "pack" solid.

Idle speculation would be hexagonal cross-section with a cone on the bottom and an indent on top (for another to fit in). Say 8 mm across the flats and 16 mm long so they can flow through the tubes/injection ports.

Gold would have the least environmental impact and is easy and safe to fabricate.

Inject enough to pack the well bore 50' to 100' high at the bottom.

Best Hopes,


Inject small, very high density (lead, depleted uranium, tungsten, gold)

Could we just inject dollar bills in bulk into the well? Would that clog up the BOP? It seems cheaper to just use dollars to do that directly rather than pay the mark up buying gold to do the job.

Yes, I'm joking. Though I like the symbolism.

But they're saying the leak is up off the bottom, between two casing runs.

Tungsten balls are available in various sizes and in great quantity. Proper selection of sizes can allow tight packing and the larger balls would have to be smaller than the tool joint/casing annulus (3/8"?) in the flow path. The net dynamic force from the flow sets the lower limit on ball size, though the smaller balls could be added as the flow decreases.

As with the vast array of suggested solutions, the killer is engineering the actual implementation and the logistics to set up the attempt. There is a point of diminishing returns on throwing resources at a problem and I suspect BP is at that point.

There is a point of diminishing returns on throwing resources at a problem and I suspect BP is at that point.

DAMM NO !!!!

If one sets, so BP can understand it, the marginal cost of damage from the ADDITIONAL oil pollution from just ONE MORE DAY at an extra $400 million on their tab, then BP may see that pouring 24K gold down that well to slow it down a bit is cheap in comparison.

And it was penny wise and billions of pounds foolish to only drill two relief wells.


It still takes 9 months to make a baby, no matter how many extra people you put on the job.

There is a point where throwing more resources at a problem does not help even at very high marginal costs. It then becomes an irrational burning money for the sake of appearances or in the case of BP, a punitive measure.

As political pressure mounts, resources will be allocated on public visibility rather than effectiveness - it happens all of the time. There are only a certain number of ROVs that can operated safely around the well, yet there is a continuous call for more camera views of the leaks. Shifting ROVs to other tasks raises a storm of squawks from the peanut gallery.

The industry can support drilling four relief wells, each 1/2 mile from the original well, with ease.

Supporting four clustered together would likely be easier than four spread out over the GoM. Supply boats could make calls on several rigs on each run, for example, etc.


A quesion about the number of relief wells. How many vessles are available to even do this kind of work in the Gulf? As far as I can tell at the moment 2 are onsite, there is an exploratory ship not sure if could be boring the type of hole necessary for a relief well on site as well, and another at the bottom of th GOM. Since this is not even typical depths for the GOM how many more deep drillers are available to drill more relief wells?

There has been more than adequate time to bring them in from Brazil, but there are a couple more in the GoM.


I am missing something, one drill started some time ago with a second more recently so how would additional drills make it any faster?
I heard that BP has had something like 15,000 suggestions on how to fix this problem (including sinking ships on top!!!!) and there are only a certain number of people who can clearly evaluate what is actually practical 5,000 feet down. Now i don't know whether additional rigs and people are even available and would have thought that to pull a rig from another job is not as simple as taking the tram to find another pizza.

tony - to answer for Alan: No...more relief wells wouldn't get the first RW down faster. But what if the first two RW run into trouble and they lose those holes as they near the targe? Not a high probability but it can happen. That's why they have 2 RW's drilling now: only one will be allowed to cut the blow out...which ever one gets there first. As a decision maker in my company I would have recommended 2 RW. But if I were BP I would have gone with 3: even though it's not likely to need that 3rd well if the first two RW fail to do the job I wouldn't want to put out a press release telling folks: "Opps...give us another 3 or 4 months".

Research shows blowouts of this type need multiple rleief wells.

Ixtoc took five, nine months, and it was in less than 200 ft of water. I don't think a relief well has never been drilled at these depths.

In fact a well has never been succesfully drilled on MS 252 from what I can find.

The first attempt had to be abandoned. The second attempt (this well) was stopped due to problems and Horizon brought in to finish the job. They almost completed the job but then it blew up and destroyed my home.

Question, Rock. If the top kill is successful and cement is run the RW activity ceases, right? If it does not work what are the chances of BP spudding another RW even now?

No they still have to finish the relief well and plug the well at the bottom.


I thought that the final kill/cement/abandon work would be done from the top of this well once they re-establish the mud column and replace the bad BOP.

My mental picture of the abandonment work includes a "squeeze job" or two to repair the bad cement work that is apparently letting oil/gas up the annulus between casing and the rock (or between two of the casings?). I can't envision doing anything like that from a relief well at the bottom of the hole.

Is this just another case of my lack of knowledge in the subject?

new - Even if they stop the oil flow to the surface it's still a blow out. There are very specific fed regs on how they must abandon a well if there is a hydrocarbon reservoir that is open to th well bore even if it isn't flowing. This This is just a guess from what I know about the regs and how I would handle the job: pump the mud kill pill and hopefully stop the flow. Continue the RW's -- the kill pill could fail at any moment. Once the flow is killed remove the BOP and dril pipe. Then reinstall another BOP. This might not be possible if the well head is badly damaged, The well head would have to be replaced..that might not be physically possible. Lots of IFS but if it's done then go back to bottom with drill pipe and plug and abandon the hole properly.

It does make me wonder if BP and the feds have "quietly" agreed to a non-regulation P&A so the can give the appearence of a stable non-leaking oil well.

new - Even if they stop the oil flow to the surface it's still a blow out. There are very specific fed regs on how they must abandon a well if there is a hydrocarbon reservoir that is open to th well bore even if it isn't flowing. This This is just a guess from what I know about the regs and how I would handle the job: pump the mud kill pill and hopefully stop the flow. Continue the RW's -- the kill pill could fail at any moment. Once the flow is killed remove the BOP and dril pipe. Then reinstall another BOP. This might not be possible if the well head is badly damaged, The well head would have to be replaced..that might not be physically possible. Lots of IFS but if it's done then go back to bottom with drill pipe and plug and abandon the hole properly.

It does make me wonder if BP and the feds have "quietly" agreed to a non-regulation P&A so the can give the appearence of a stable non-leaking oil well.

Thanks Rock.
Sorry if this has been answered elsewhere but why do the relief wells have to go down to 18,000 feet, i.e. 18,000 - 5,000 = 13,000 feet drilling (i know it's more due to bending round) whereas if they rilled to say 10,000 then 10,000 - 5,000 = 5,00o feet drilling.

A gold plug! It's quite an image, Alan, and I too like the symbolism.

A few numbers, just for fun: say we're filling 6" ID pipe, packed solid with gold to a height of 50'. At 0.7 lb/in3 and $1200/oz, this works out to just under a ton of gold, a cool $38 million or so.

If only it were so easy.

I thought a pound of gold is twelve troy ounces.

It would be nice to have some leaders with tungsten balls. Instead we have a bunch of turkeys with gold plugs up their collective annulus.

The odds are that this thing is flowing up the casing annulus through the casing seals at the top so putting anything into the well bore will have no effect.

It my understanding that a couple of the 5 well injection ports on the BOP go to the annulus.


AlanfromBigEasy -

The same thought occurred to me. I could envision perhaps 1.5-inch dia. lead balls. If they indeed stay down there somewhere in the flow path upstream of the outlet to the BOP, I would think they would sink rather nicely, as the velocity in that region is not all that great. If that is found to be the case, then several subsequent injections of progressively smaller lead balls should fill the interstices quite nicely, though probably not totally. Then perhaps some mud on top of that.

The other idea, which I'm sure would be absolutely anathema to environmentalists as well as regulatory agencies would be to pump several thousand gallons of mercury into the well. Given its very high density, it should sink quite nicely, and could then be followed by mud. As the mercury would be way down in the formation, one would think that its environmental mobility should be just about nil. This idea of course is a non-starter, but I am trying to think outside the box (which seems to be getting smaller all the time).

Area of frustration: There used to be three gas stations within less than a mile from where I live. Within the last year or so, two of them have closed. The single remaining gas station is a BP station. So, I am still buying BP gasoline while all this is going on. I'm not crazy about the idea, but to personally boycott the BP station would largely hurt the owner of the station who is just a franchisee rather than affect BP, and in doing so I would be consuming even more fossil fuel by going out of my way to the nearest other station. It creates sort of a helpless feeling and is a reminder that whether we like it or not, most of us are part of the whole fossil fuel chain and share some very indirect responsibility for what happened.

I'm a little confused.

Since oil is leaking out of the riser, there has to be a path from the casing into the top of the BOP. It looks like the choke and kill lines lead to a lower chamber of the BOP. What's going to stop the mud from just flowing upward (path of least pressure) into the riser?

That picture doesnt show the 8,367' drillstring inside the riser/casing which may or may not be sealed by the annular preventer.

Don't know if that answers your question or not.

But the real answer is that you have to use rate to overwhelm the path of least resistance to force the mud to the path of secondary resistance, whatever that least resistant path may be.


I really, really, hope that the Top Kill works ..

But, if it doesn't, and the primary leak/spill is at the BOP, then I'd think the next effort would be to capture the flow as best as possible while the RWs are
being drilled ..

The idea that I've been noodling around is as follows:

Lower a large diameter concrete or steel tube with open ends of sufficient diameter to encircle the entire BOP .. I'm thinking something 16-20' diameter and 40-60' long or long enough that once it has settled into the seabed that the top of the "tube" is higher than the BOP .. A sort of chimney if you will .. Then lower something like the "top hat" device or inverted funnel with a riser of sufficient diameter to avoid hydrate formation; onto the top of the previously placed large
diameter tube .. I'm not sure that the two pieces would have to even make a complete seal with one another .. The idea is to capture the bulk of the flow from the BOP until the RWs can be completed ..

ROCKMAN .. Is this at all feasible ??

Triff ..

(Triff, PG here--remember, allow your comments to "wrap" please. Thanks!)

I don't understand the point of these containment ideas. If BP has access to the c/k lines, then why don't they simply produce through as many of the 5 ports as they can??? This would greatly reduce flow of oil to the Gulf and then they can wait for the relief wells.

This is a really interesting idea... is it because their mindset is so much that these are "input" ports they never thought of using them as "output" ports?

I'm not Rockman, but what you are describing is fairly close to what they said they'd do in the next few days if the top kill fails. They will cut off the riser entirely, and put a close-sealing cap on top of the BOP. This is a pretty good video for looking at their current operations, they talk about this option in the second half. I think that option is fairly likely to help substantially if the top-kill fails.

triff -- Sure. In fact that's essentially how you begin a GOM offshore well. The bottom is so soft you can't actually drill a hole in it....the mud would just flow every where. So the first thing they do is drive conductor pipe. I'm not sure if the largest standard conductors are wide enough to go around the BOP (assuming they have the riser and other debres cleared). Thin I've seen it as large as 60". But the conductor is essentially hammered into the botttom. The down side: once you have such a conductor around the BOP you can access the BOP. OTOH, if this method could allow the capture of much of the oil then waiting for the relief well wouldn't be so painful.

What's going to stop the mud from just flowing upward (path of least pressure) into the riser? >>

The same thing that prevents you (or mud) from floating upward if you stand on top of a fan. The mud is heavy, and it wants to go down. The oil is pressurized, and it wants to go up. If they proceed, the two will arm-wrestle and hopefully the mud will win.

If you inject enough fluid at one time, then the resistance to that flow through the relatively small passage in the BOP increases, and the path back down the well (which has a larger diameter) becomes the path of least resistance and the majority of the mud flows down the well. But until they get the column full of mud and stabilized and a cap put on the flow, there will still be fluid coming out of the riser. However if the mud column stabilizes then they can shut the main mud pumps off.

Thanks. I think I get it. Kind of like Fix-a-flat for a tire. Blow mud like crazy with enough capacity to spew it out all open holes, until enough goes down the hole to seal it off.

I can see why having pumps capable of 20,000 PSI might be useful.

Well I guess it's wait and see time...

David Rovics - Age of Oil
Lyrics Listen at

It was as if there was a contest
To see how many holes could be dug
To see how much of it could be sucked from the ground
To kill off every beetle and bug
To kill off every woman and child
To kill off every man
And they put it all in barrels
Then they put the barrels into cans
That's how it was at the end of the age of oil

It was like a competition
To see how big everything could get
From the highways to the strip malls
To the giant TV sets
From the MOABs to the draglines
Monster trucks and SUVs
And the massive roaring chainsaws
That cut down all the trees
That's how it was at the end of the age of oil

It was like they were trying to see
How many garbage dumps they could fill
How many flagpoles they could squeeze
Onto a single windowsill
How many countries could be bombed
How much black gold they could drill
How much coal could they extract
If they just blew up the hills

It was as if there was some kind of test
And the only way to pass
Was to turn the planet's atmosphere
Into a cloud of poison gas
It was like the only thing that mattered
Was the death of life on Earth
That seemed to be the proof
That you had made your money's worth
That's how it was at the end of the age of oil

And now here we are
Rotting in this bubble
And I'm looking at my grandchildren
framed in by the rubble
Wondering what I coulda done
To avert this fate
But I was too busy playing concerts
Saying f*** isn't life great
That's how it was at the end of the age of oil

Anyone have anything on the toxicity of the oil? NOAA scientist said in Chalmette that it oil was 100 times more toxic than Corexit........what does that say to you? Is there something that we don't know here.....?

It's not like adding Corexit is reducing the quantity of oil. If the Corexit is toxic then adding 600,000 gallons of poison is adding 600,000 gallons of poison.

Making the oil invisible to TV cameras is not making it go away.

Diffusing the oil so that there's a million times the surface area for the bacteria to start eating really does make it go away, and there's no indication that Corexit is particularly toxic to oil-eating bacteria.

Diffusing the oil also makes it more likely to accumulate in seafloor sediment and be more easily taken into the lungs and tissue of marine life increasing the risk of bio-accumulation in the seafood we eat.

Accumulating in seafloor sediment is great; a mile down, it's not well-connected to the food chain, unless you make a particular habit of dredging up hagfish, and there's very little which humans eat which dives right down to the abyssal plain to feed.

The phytoplankton live above 300m depth, where there's light; the zooplankton live where there's phytoplankton to eat; squid live deep during the day and come up to feed at night, seals and the like dive deep during the day to get the squid.

Oh really?

Where did you get your PhD in Marine Biology? Off the back of a Crakerjack box?


The combination of Corexit and oil is more toxic than the oil by itself. There are additive toxic effects.

Anyone else watching the Deepwater Horizon hearing that is going on right now? It's being confirmed that BP overrode Transocean on removing the mud.

It's streaming live on CNN.

I am watching. Chief Mechanic testifying now. Details of what we have been wondering about.....

Gah, stupid CNN isn't working for me!

They dropped the feed for the shuttle landing.

WTF? Are we that much of a society of "oh, pretty butterfly"!?

Was there any discussion of Schlumberger at the hearing, and if/how they were involved in the decision?

That's the House hearing. There was a feed of a hearing in LA with the crew of the Deepwater Horizon.

Thanks, Greg! I can't believe CNN dropped it just as another I witness was testifying about the argument between BP and TO that AM.

Time for a poll!
How many think TOP KILL will work?
Saw Tony-Baby with Lauer this morning.
He wasn't sure if he was even going to do TOP KILL.
Said that it will take days to figure out if it worked--talk about lowering expectations.

Next comes the golfballs

My question is, why exactly is a firing squad
for Tony-Baby off the table?

Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging.--Dr. Samuel Johnson

No chance it works without the wellhead/bop failing or more likely the 16" casing bursting resulting in an underground blowout.

LUCKILY, the topkill efforts will not significantly increase the pressure in the BOP/wellhead zone unless and until there is some significant bridging of the DP tool joint/casing annuli to start interfering with the flow down-hole.

I've read some of your other posts - enough that I have respect for what you have to say, but I think - and I certainly HOPE - you're overly pessimistic about the possibilities here.

High pressure at the mud pumps DOES NOT necessarily mean the same pressure will be introduced into the BOP/wellhead. I don't have nearly enough information for the fluid mechanics calculations to determine where/how much pressure drop there will be, but the fact that the mud is (will be - hopefully SOON) flowing means that there will be pressure drops all along the way from the pump to the down-hole oil column.

20,000psi fraccing pumps wont have a problem introducing ~7,000psi of pressure downhole, reasonable obstructions or no reasonable obstructions. They're monstrously powerful. The issue is not getting the pressure there, but not blowing something to shit in the process.

Whatever pressure the well would exert if the BOP were totally closed, is what is needed to get mud started down the hole. At the stagnation point, just enough pressure to stop the upward flow, but not enough to push mud down, from the BOP down you don't have fluid flow, just simple hydrostatics. Anything less and the oil keeps flowing (at reduced rate). One you get some mud down hole, the needed pressure drops because the density of the mud times density difference of mud versus oil works in your favor. But this initial pressure to get mud going downhole is clearly greater than the current pressure on the BOP.

I believe it will fail, if they go through with it. I think there is a very good chance they decide to not do the top-kill at all.

My question is, why exactly is a firing squad for Tony-Baby off the table?

Mine is, is he an oil man or a money man? (Did he come up through the accounting and finance side?)

[My question] is, is he an oil man or a money man? (Did he come up through the accounting and finance side?)

Looks like "oil man"

Executive Director and Group Chief Executive
BP Plc
Sector: BASIC MATERIALS / Major Integrated Oil & Gas
Officer since January 2000

52 Years Old
Tony Hayward (52) joined BP in 1982. He held a series of roles in exploration and production, becoming a director of exploration and production in 1997. In 2000, he was made group treasurer, and an executive vice president in 2002. He was chief executive officer of exploration and production between 2002 and 2007. He became an executive director of BP in 2003 and was appointed as group chief executive in 2007.

Oh, I don't think Tony is going to escape this. I suspect that if BP survives this (although I'm not sure that they can), Tony is history. As well as the current board of directors. And any person at BP even remotely connected that caused (directly or indirectly) this fiasco.

Not forgetting the criminal charges to follow.


not lookin' good for BP...but it's kind of what everything else had been point to.

FF, Shelburn, and Rockman have posted some of the most insightful things, and some of the posts here should return to the strings, to understand better what is going on.

A few words about "why didn't they do this sooner" and "why didn' the government do mre" to implement the top kill. There is a good video [albeit only a few mins long, and that compresses what probably took hours] of the remachining of the control pod, valves, and connectors to the BOP to get the top kill devices to be connected properly. For various reasons, these original connectors - the choke and kill lines, that were originally on the BOP were either damaged, or do not match the connectors that come from the manifold that swings the mud into the two lines. There was some pretty amazing work done with ROVs that had to cut, machine, and polish connector sites so that the new system can connect and hold pressure. When you look at the video, remember that there are people at the surface who are controlling robots at 5000' underwater, basically cutting metal, turning nuts, etc. THe people doing this are working their asses off, and wheter they get paid by BP or whoever, we need to realize that they are doing some amazing things.

As to why not sooner, etc. If I may step off the techno talk for a minute. I think this is a symptom of TV culture, where Jack Bauer or CSI or whoever, has infinite cool technotoys to do things in 41 mins... For those of us in industry, the reality is that drilling to depth is ALWAYS dangerous, and takes time, brute force, and at the same time, requires machines and people that have to integrate and work well. People somehow think we have insta ROV's that can zip to the ocean bottom and magically cap leaks that have never occurred before. It ain't like that. The laws of thermodynamics, newtonian mechanics, etc. still rule. Sorry kids. Life is still governed by fundamental rules

Forget Jack Bauer. Where is Chuck Norris when you need him? Or Mr Seagal?

I just can't understand why president Obama just doesn't wave his magic wand and make everything OK.

Why won't he DO IT? Why does he hate corporations so much that he just waits while they meke themselves look like incompetent fools? OOPS, I'm sorry that's the idiots who are on TV.

I mean, after all, Obama's been President well over a year and he hasn't fixed EVERYTHING yet. Why doesn't he fix the economy and make gas a dollar a gallon again so we can go back to watching American Idol (could you please turn off that stupid Discovery Channel I'm trying to watch NASCAR here!). All this crisis talk is scaring the children.

It appears to me that the vast majority of the population has a pretty flimsy grasp of reality.

I'm fairly certain that the political types who inject this sort of crap into the discussion ("Why hasn't Obama done anything?!") have a very firm grasp of reality. They know that their constituents won't take the time to understand the issues at hand and that's reality. They can then inject politically motivated talking points into the mouths of people who will then Sharpie' up crappy protest signs and get on CNN.

Thought I would throw out a little local news from here in Pensacola...

PENSACOLA - Last night the Pensacola City Council stopped a British Petroleum executive short on a presentation about their plan to clean booms on our shores

During this meeting, the BP spokesperson couldn't seem to answer ANY of the questions the city council had. She has been relieved of her duties as BP spokesperson now apparently. Just gives you an idea of how BP is answering very important questions people along the gulfcoast have. Audio link for those interested.

Why haven't they dumped molten iron down the hole already?

Hmmmm. Well, molten iron = hot. Deep sea = cold. Nah, I can't figure it out either.

Good grief. Any pubescent boy who has played with thermite can solve that "problem".

I remember reading an account that mentioned an operator accidentally whacked a joystick controlling the top drive and ripped 15-20ft of drill pipe up through the closed annular ram, including pipe joints, which ripped some large chunks out of the rubber. If this leak is into the casing annulus then it's possible that the point of failure here as far as the BOP goes is gas/oil leaking into a compromised casing, up through the annular space, and past a damaged doughnut.

If that's the case, and that's where my betting money is going, then it would seem like good news as far as getting mud downhole, since it's possible that the drill pipe may have in fact been partially sheared. However it seems like it may be bad news on actually getting mud weight onto the leak since I'd think that the vast majority of mud will be dumping down the drill pipe - but then again shear volume of mud may overcome this.

Anyone have thoughts?

The well is 18000 feet deep and the casing is no more than a foot in diameter, so that's not much more than three thousand barrels of volume; you're dealing with a volume of mud enough to fill the well ten times over, so you don't need to get it down terribly efficiently.

Unfortunately, the path(s) into the drill pipe bore will be, at best, convoluted. As far as I can tell, any mud going down-hole will be travelling down the annulus between the drill pipe and the casing.

Because of this, the likely damage to the annular seal in the top of the BOP will be working AGAINST the kill efforts because it will allow some of the mud, which will be injected into the lower parts of the BOP, to escape up the riser.

How much mud are those soft, shattered salt and sand walls going to eat up? Horizon had major problems losing mud throughout the drill.

CW -- If they anticipate "lost circulation" (your eating up) they'll add LCM (lost ciculation material) into the mud mixture. Essentially tiny fibers meant to plug the pores of the rock and stop/decrease mud loss to the formations.

Put a big weighted umbrella with a evacation tube in it to drain oil over the whole project.

Gosh why haven't they thought of that yet? Well, hop to it! I'd recommend London fog as the best starting point, they have very well constructed umbrellas. Of course they don't come with methane hydrate mitigation systems pre-installed, but I'm sure you have one of those lying around as well! Back to the armchair m8!

I have photos of the methane hydrate fog on the Thames, taken from the London Eye. If they have methane hydrate mitigation systems, they are clearly not effective.

Whilst England is cold and clammy at times, I'm really quite sure that the conditions of the Thames haven't been amenable to the formation of methane hydrates since the sediments of the London Clay were deposited about 150 million years ago.

What location is at the exact opposite side of the earth? If not too populated, it might be a good idea to start a relief well there, too, coming in at the exact opposite direction.

Local news reporter just said Tony Hayward has called for a news conference, he doesn't know the timetable yet. I would assume he's made a decision concerning the "top kill"

Well I hope they have some supports on that piping, tubing, or hose because when that high pressure hits the inside of that pipe, tubing, or hose, it's going to try to straighten things out. Like a bourdon tube in a pressure gage. It's called the bourdon effect. Then add the change in momentun from all that serpentine pipe and I thing BP may be in for another flop.

You think this is the first time in the history of this equipment that it's ever been used? Or do you think maybe that machinery designed to pump 20,000psi through flexible tubing is designed to pump 20,000psi through flexible tubing? *palm to forehead*

Answer: They didn't whip these pipes up at home depot, they've been in use for decades, NASA level engineers at BP are not going to be caught of guard by the bourdon effect, or Jason Bourne for that matter.

The fundamental problem is to have proceeded in drilling the well WITHOUT having planned for and having had available a "last line of defense" (LLOD) which could have been deployed in the event of ANY failure to contain flow coming up through the well bore into the ocean above, NO MATTER HOW DEEP THE WELL.

ANY government with the potential for being impacted should REQUIRE THAT A TESTED LLOD plan exist and equipment be available.

Equipment for such a defense, should be on site and available up to a week before the anticipated entry into the reservoir.


I assure you that, by spending far less than a billion dollars, such an LLOD COULD HAVE BEEN DEVELOPED and tested and enough of the necessary equipment stored on a VESSEL ESPECIALLY DESIGNED TO RESPOND, like a fire-truck is designed to respond to a fire.

If, in the final analysis, naval vessels might also be required to assist in the operation--these should be put on alert.

"Act in haste--repent at leisure". Proverb

The last line of defence that you want *is* the blow-out protector; it's specified to cope with the pressure of the well and to close steel-on-steel in the event of the pressure rising substantially.

It's just that, in any incident where there's a major blow-out, the blow-out protector has failed.

If there is no defense beyond BOPs, and these are subject to failure, you get what we have (BP has) now. IOW, this LLOD is INSUFFICIENT to prevent environmental disasters.

By definition a LLOD is one that could be deployed IN EVERY CASE which RECOVERS the oil, only allowing minimal amounts (< ~ 1% of heavier fractions) of it to be released into the environment during the period of time necessary to drill relief wells.


1. The cement that seals the reservoir from the well; FAIL!
2. The casing system, which seals the well bore; FAIL!
3. The pressure tests to confirm the well is sealed; FAIL!
4. The execution of procedures to detect and control hydrocarbons in the well, including the use of the BOP; FAIL!
5. The BOP Emergency Disconnect System, which can be activated by pushing a button at multiple locations on the rig; FAIL!
6. The automatic closure of the BOP after its connection is lost with the rig; FAIL!
7. Features in the BOP to allow Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) to close the BOP and thereby seal the well at the seabed after a blow out. FAIL!

Jeez man, calm down! It was just a simple equipment failure, it could have happened to anybody. In fact I bet the whole thing was caused by too much government regulation. We should be more like Somalia, just abolish all traces of civilized society and everything will be perfect.

Cue youtube clip of Condi Rice and the 'no one could have predicted' line...

- The Cement Bond Log - Forgot to do one !

What were those SBL guys supposed to be doing anyway ?



Wow, just got a scathing call from mgmt, requesting I tone down my twitter info... 13 minutes ago via web

@americanpapist Everyone is getting pressured on this, a decision will have to be made within a few hours. #oilspill #topkill about 1 hour ago via web

Executive Mgmt had a few concerns on risk due to the high flowrates. Additional data being collected and sent to them in real time. about 1 hour ago via web

Just got the call. Top Kill delayed for the time being. Additional tests requested. #oilspill #topkill about 3 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

You will note that he also got a call from his mgt that he characterizes as 'scathing' and a 'tone it down' "request".

Yes--I just added that. Sucks. :(

So is it on hold?

As of now, CNN reporting that it's "started."

With frustration mounting over the inability to stop the oil spilling into the Gulf, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) on Wednesday became the first senator to explicitly call for the Obama White House to take over operations should immediate response efforts fail.

"If this thing is not fixed today, I think the president doesn't have any choice, and he better go in, completely take over," Nelson said on CNN this morning. "Perhaps with the military in charge, not because the military can do this, but the military has the apparatus, the organization by which it can bring together the civilian agencies of government and to get this thing done."


Implement Directive 10-289

Funny. I had to google that, not being a Rand type, and most of the top hits were about Obama implementing Directive 10-289, in various sundry bizarre contexts. I don't think Obama is (that) stupid, but Nelson is another story

That would be great. It would be very entertaining to watch the clowns in this regime like Salazar and Napolitano start calling the shots on this. We can expect dramatic repeats of the phrase "The system worked."

Hey guys, we're in luck - CuriousGeorge had a backup account!

Hahhahahahhahahahhh :-)

I want the feds to take this over. As I have stated before, this is a clear threat to our National Security and our way of life. In reporting to DOD it is called "Pinnacle" and is usually used reserved for WMD reporting. If you look at the definition, you cannot but help and think this incident just might qualify.

* Generates a higher level of military action.
* Causes a national reaction.
* Affects international relationships.
* Causes immediate widespread coverage in news media.
* Is clearly against the national interest.
* Affects current national policy.

Granted, warships are not necessarily on alert, but if I were Cuba I would at least protest and run my navy in front of all the cameras. This is how international incidents start.

As a clueless member of the public I'm reading that the mud input will take a turn upward in the Blowout Preventer and the viscosity of the fluid will slow the flow down enough to cause the path of least resistance to turn downward into the well pipe. My question is wouldn't it make sense to first introduce a substance or objects that will be carried upward into the 1/2 inch opening in the partially closed shear ram to clog it and then introduce the mud when you have a better differential on resistance? Is there a cement or some type of objects that will lend themselves to being quickly swept up with the flow but then get stuck in the shear ram opening without being blown by it? The process would have to gauge the up-pipe clog before it backed up and blocked the down-pipe access. It's too bad they couldn't use liquid nitrogen to temporarily freeze the up-pipe component while isolating a clear opening down-pipe. That way the mud would just go in the direction you wanted it to right away.

A computer animation of the well pipe and casing and other features would help some of the duller heads like me understand some of these technical descriptions.

What you are describing is the "junk shot" they've been talking about. Evidently they've decided that they don't need it given the restrictions that already exist. The calculation is that the pump rate they will apply is going to overwhelm the restriction so the flow will have to go south.

Think about it like this. You have a tube with a small hole on one end and a big hole on the other. Fluid is currently entering the big end and squirting out the small hole. If you drill a hole in the side of the pipe and blast in fluid at higher pressure than the inside of the tube and in high volume, sure some will come out the small hole, but lots will go back down the big end as well.

Think of the small hole as the top of the BOP and the big end as the well bore and that's the basic concept. The idea is the mud is heavy, get enough of it to go back down the hole using the principal above and at a certain point the weight of a 13,000' column of mud exerts enough pressure to snuff the leak.

And don't forget the down-pipe mud has gravity working for it.

Still though, it seems if you manipulated the formula by restricting the up-pipe flow even more by clogging it you could save overall pressure that might damage the down-pipe. And you could also possibly save damage to the riser as well.

The initial idea is to put enough flow in through the choke and kill lines that the resistance generated in the BOP becomes higher than the pressure forcing oil into the well. The flow then reverses, and while some mud will continue to come out of the BOP the rest will flow down the well, filling it, and stopping oil coming out.

They don't want to inject rubber strips (which they have available) or other material if they don't have to because this can cause more damage to the well.

One of the problems, however, is that the damage to the BOP is getting worse, and there may now be a significant penalty in delay, since abrasive flow will widen the leaks in the BOP and weaken it so that it might not be able to resist the increase in pressure that will happen when the kill attempt starts.

The oil pros here have been awesome, don't know a think about the technical stuff till I stumbled upon this site. Great work.

How big is the BOP, are we talking 20 ft high or three stories?
Guess I am unclear on where the leak is. Its coming out of the BOP (and the riser), but further down the well hole, there is pipe and casing and concrete and rock. Is the mud intended to stop up the BOP, or go deep down the hole?

Wow, I know its a tragedy, but this is really interesting stuff. The complexity is enormous, that is why I don't think you can kick BP offsite if this fails. Does the Mil or Coast Guard have the equip to work at 5000 ft? Maybe a submarine could help:D

DATE: May 26, 2010 11:25:54 CST
Rear Admiral Landry Approves “Top Kill” Procedure

Key contact numbers

* Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information: (866) 448-5816
* Submit alternative response technology, services or products: (281) 366-5511
* Submit your vessel for the Vessel of Opportunity Program: (281) 366-5511
* Submit a claim for damages: (800) 440-0858
* Report oiled wildlife: (866) 557-1401

Deepwater Horizon Incident
Joint Information Center

Phone: (985) 902-5231
(985) 902-5240

Federal On-Scene Coordinator Rear Admiral Mary Landry, acting on the validation of government scientists and in consultation with the National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen, has granted approval for BP to begin proceeding with their attempt to cap the well using the technique known as the “top kill.”

This expedited step provides the final authorization necessary to begin the procedure.

For information about the response effort, visit

Assistant Dispatcher-- check.

"The last line of defence that you want *is* the blow-out protector; it's specified to cope with the pressure of the well and to close steel-on-steel in the event of the pressure rising substantially.The last line of defence that you want *is* the blow-out protector; it's specified to cope with the pressure of the well and to close steel-on-steel in the event of the pressure rising substantially."

I'm not in the industry, but from the outside it seems clear that there nothing close to redundancy and zero-failure engineering that we expect from the nuclear industry, for example. Why are BOPs used that are not powerful enough to seal the pipe in all circumstances? Why are redundant BOPs not installed. Why are there not redundant ways of activating them from a lifeboat?

Basically, because until now deepwater drilling hasn't been under anything like the same level of public scrutiny as nuclear engineering; so there's been pressure to cost-optimise without a countervailing pressure from a vigorous inspectorate, and a general feeling ('drill, baby, drill') that what was important was to get oil out rather than to get things as safe as possible. I can easily imagine the first-Bush-administration discussion: 'so, these things cost twenty million dollars. And each well uses one at the moment. And three times in the last thirty years one has gone wrong, the last one was seven years ago and in Mexico. You're proposing that each well uses two; that'll cost three billion dollars, which is three months of our royalty revenue from oil, to avoid a problem that the engineers outside Mexico probably fixed twenty years ago. Well, thanks for your input'.

Also, actual cocaine-and-hookers corruption at the organisation responsible for doing the regulating; but when you're pulling in three hundred dollars in tax revenue a second, there hasn't been a major incident in twenty years, and the biggest lobby with a position in oil drilling is against it in generality rather than interested in the nuts and bolts of how it's done, so not particularly keen on watching - and when there's a deep and well-lawyered veil of corporate confidentiality over the whole thing - such corruption isn't entirely unanticipated.

Yep, you are imagining things.

You nailed it.

Actually wrb I think you're describing the next generation of DW well control. And a few mandatory and monitored procedures thrown in also.

May I make a few random comments as a non oil industry observer from the UK.

Those individuals who seem to think that bashing BP and "Big Oil," is good for America, or the people of the Gulf, are missing the target. BP has made a string of grevious errors, the full extent of which we will know when investigations are complete. We will also know what other corporations are culpable.

However, this incident is not good for the oil industry, the long term economic prosperity of the Gulf or the energy security of the United States. Clearly, when the politicians, of every hue, eventually get bored and get off the Outrage Bus; there is going to be a long term clean up and rebuild to do. The only winners out there though will be Canada and Brazil; one for it's oil sands and the other for it's offshore reserves. The US, with typical historical overkill, is likely to throw the baby out with the bathwater and severely impact an industry that it badly needs to be successful for it's own energy security..

This is not to underestimate the seriousness of the current situation, or the impact on the people of the Gulf by any means but here we can highlight one of BP's biggest errors which has polarised opinion and aggravated an already bad situation. Their appalling and second rate PR.

It seems to me that BP's PR has improved over the last two days but, has been vague and opaque from the beginning which has bred mistrust. No doubt, the attack dogs of the legal profession are greatly responsible for that but if you take the view that BP are going to be locked in the courts for the next 20 years anyway, then there is probably mitigation in ignoring the lawyers and going for an open and transparent approach.

Personally, I take the view that most Americans are open minded and fair people and if you give them the facts they'll respond positively. BP though needs to get out of it's lawyer / geek / corporate speak and talk like human beings and enfranchise the residents of the Gulf as participants, not just victims and if they're not capable of speaking their language then hire a guy who can - eg get Schwarzkopf out of retirement to give a daily "war," brief with engineers and specialists on hand where required. BP engineers are doubtless working around the clock and I'm certain there are people working on this problem who have brains the size of Scotland, yet the public have no perception of that............ by the sounds of it, nor does any one else.

Overall, this is a weapons grade screw up and many things will be changed for a very long time to come, including BP, but I fear that after they've stemmed the flow and cleaned up, decisions will be made in haste which will impact the oil business and US economy for some time to come and that is not good for any of us.


Thanks for putting this well, Flanker.

Hush flanker. If the gov't/public puts a crimp in offshore oil production it will benefit the other 95%+ of the oil companies (like me) who don't drill in the DW GOM. Even if it provides just a marginal increase in the value of our reserves it would still be good news for the OVERALL oil industry. As I said some time ago the energy security of the USA is not the responsibility of the oil industry. That's the job of the gov't and citizens. Our job is to follow the regs and make a profit.

Damn, you're good, Rockman.

toil -- I'm not realy a butt head but I do play one on TOD occasionally when it's called for.

I think on shore and shallow water reserves will command more than a marginal increase in value after this. Good luck with your company.

I don't suppose all the other companies are rushing to lend BP all their equipment at a low price in the greater interest are they??

tony -- BP doesn't need anyone to loan them equipment. Fed law allows BP to commandeer any gear/vessel they need.

Oh come on,

but I fear know that after they've stemmed the flow and cleaned up, decisions will be made in haste which will impact the oil business and US economy for some time to come and that is not good for any of us.

Remember the Iraq war?

Sharks politicians & media have scented blood and will strike the weak target.

(U.S. Citizen)

Iraq; now that was a weapons grade screw up I agree

I hope that the polarization that's now occurring will ignite a national debate on just how expensive oil is. A price we haven't paid. To close the gulf or make US offshore prohibitively more expensive will simply shift the mess to other areas of the world, outa sight, outa mind. If we burn it, we should pay the full price. And we will burn it.

Exxon, Haywood and Valdez didn't make the debate, too easy to blame alcohol. This time, no obvious drugs, and it could have been any oil company. I hope we won't try to scapegoat BP or anything else, but realize that oil production and use is fraught with dangers, that with increasingly hard to get oil, the obstacles multiply.

BP has gotten the go ahead to attempt top kill from the Govt. (Coast Guard).

Question: If this attempt fails and makes things worse, will BP claim that they are no longer liable on a per barrel basis since they had the Govt's "blessing" to attempt this kill.

I doubt it Ghung. After all, BP had written gov't permission to drill the well in the first place.

That was before they screwed the pooch, Rock. I'll bet that papers were signed that limit their liability after attempting this, if it goes very wrong. Like in the Navy; one awshit is always worth ten atta boys, unless you had the Captain's go ahead (especially if you told him it may not work).

The Top Kill is a challenging operation. I hope it will work.

The pressure inside the BOP will have to be increased in order to arrest the flow and overcome the formation pressure in the reservoir. The ambient (hydrostatic) pressure at the seabed is roughly 2300 psi. Currently the pressure inside the BOP is perhaps 4000 psi orso, leaking at 5000 bpm (3.5 bpm). The pressure inside the BOP will have to be raised to perhaps 8000 or 9000 psi in order to arrest and then reverse the flow. If no plugging materials have been injected into the BOP, the kill fluid could leak out of the BOP at between 10 or 30 bpm. How abrasive will the kill fluid be at these pressures and flow rates? In order to reduce this leaking flow, BP may elect to inject plugging materials into the BOP.

Then, with a bullheading pressure of perhaps 9000 psi, the kill fluid will have to be forced down the casing annulus. This will exert extreme pressure on the components of the outer protective casing strings. Of particular concern are the 22" casing and 16" casing. Has BP hydro tested these components (to failure) with similar stock materials to ensure that they can hold the required kill pressure?

The mud may be traveling down the hole at only 1 or 2 barrels per minute. The total annular kill volume is approx 1000 bbls. therefore the kill can take up to a day. Injection pressure should decline gradually during the kill. However, excess kill fluid is needed to cover the leak at the BOP.

Very Good

What will be the effect of the 5,000 psi increase in pressure you predict on every bend loop and kink in the riser/drillpipe lying poorly supported downstream of the BOP. Has it experienced this type of stress yet?

Stress will cause strain... force will cause deformation... how much ??


There shouldn't be TOO much to worry about in terms of the pressure downstream in the riser - not much in the way of restrictions to hold the pressure (beyond the kink at the top of the BOP).

Yep, and I bet they have computer modeled it a gazillion times and gotten input of the best well kill experts out there. Lots of uncertainties. I'll bet it is a really close call. No guts, no glory. If it does not work, we may get to watch the ROV's saw the riser off ....and some more days of anxiety.

I think you are right. It would be great to be in on the calculations/discussions.

What determines if you stop or keep on pumping?? If you fill the hole 1/4 way and something breaks loose and you lose some pressure and shut down then it comes out of the hole and you have to start over again.

Not for sissies.


Let's all hope the BOP don't POP! How much wellhead (pipe) is between the BOP and seafloor? Would it be possible to saw the BOP off (if it fails), and then attempt to place a valve of some sort? Is this a last shot until relief wells are completed?

As per CNN....the topkill has been started.

Pumping started 18 minutes ago. (2pm EDT) from BP statement on CNN.


I'm going to make some assumptions here and you can tell me if I'm correct or not. When they start pumping mud into the BOP they will start off with a lower pressure then the well is flowing and let the mud be carried out with the flow and gradually increase pump pressure until the oil flow stops?

After seeing how the BOP reacts to that, then gradually increase volume/pressure until they have flow down the well until they reach TD?

After they have completely filled the bore hole with mud, they should not have any backwards pressure or flow from the well or will they have to maintain pumping pressure on the mud?

Cog -- I would bet it goes just as you describe. Even slower than most would expect. Just guess theyll have some pressure monitors involved and will look for leaks in the system that might foretell potential component failures. The mud weight should be sifficient to put enough hyrostatic head on the bottom hole to stop the flow. But there's a big catch: the upward flowing oil/NG will mix with the heavy mud and diminish the head. It time it should over come this problem as long as nothing else in the system fails. Just a wild ass concern but the biggest potential failure could be bursting some portion of one of the csg liners/csg shoes with the high mud weight.

I'm not ROCKMAN and don't even play him on TV, but I can provide at least a partial answer to your questions.

Fluid will always flow from a zone of higher pressure to a zone of lower pressure as long as it can find a path.

I'm not sure what pressure they'll use to start the introduction of the mud, but in order to get anything to flow INTO the BOP, the pressure of the mud just before that last port will HAVE to be at least slightly higher than the pressure inside the BOP.

As the pressure differential across that last dividing orifice increases, the flow rate will also increase. I suspect that you're correct in that they'll slowly increase that flow rate/pressure differential until one of the following happens:

1. They reach a flow rate that they're comfortable with. This would have to be high enough that they're CERTAIN that mud is going downhole, not just out the riser.

2. They reach their maximum pumping capacity. Given the pump horsepower arrayed for this project, I DON'T suspect this will be the limiting factor!

3. The pressure inside the BOP is raised to some point beyond which they dare not tread. This seems unlikely as a limiting factor because it would require some blockage/bridging of the flow downhole to produce much pressure here without SUBSTANTIAL flow going downhole.

4. Something in the BOP/wellhead goes pffft. I'm an atheist, but I'll be PRAYING that this doesn't happen! I suspect that the BOP has been severly sand eroded over the last month and is no longer good for its original 15,000 psi internal pressure, but HOPEFULLY, they'll be getting pressure readings from inside the BOP and will shut things down before they reach pressures anywhere CLOSE to sufficient to pop it.

Once the bore of the well is filled with mud, the oil flow SHOULD be fully stopped, although there is the possibility that the oil flow is taking a short-circuit path up around the bore through one or more of the concentric annuli between the rock and the bore.

As I understand things, if the oil flow stops completely, they can unlatch the defective BOP and stab a new one onto the wellhead. This will allow work to completely and permanently kill/cement/abandon the well.

If, somehow, the gas/oil is still flowing up past/around the kill mud, it will hopefully at least be reduced by the backpressure wherever it makes its way into the well bore. In any case, they'll proceed with the LMRP cap.

Looks like Top Kill officially started...

BP Starts 'Top Kill' Operations On Gulf Of Mexico Well >BP 05/26 11:07 AM

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires (212-416-2400)
Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Get more news on:SYMBOLS: BPNEWS TYPE: SECTORS: Oil, Gas and Consumable Fuels, Energy

live feed is suddenly erratic it appears...

probably a million folks trying to access the feed


It looks like from the vid fedthey shut the rams.

The feed is pretty solid.

Now CNN has the prof from Purdue as their expert to talk about top kill. He clearly knows little about BOP's and many of the basic industry ops. (Not that he is not really good at what the does). How difficult would it have been to get an Engineer from industry or someone from, UT,TAM or Oklahoma to talk about it. They have people who know a lot about dynamic kills.

Based on the past month, I'd add that the deepwater oil industry doesn't seem to be very good at what they do, excepting the bullshit and those luscious gifts to MMS.

They are good at what they do. The MMS stuff is not related to that.

ABC feed via Yahoo! News here: is real interesting. Shows several ROV monitoring feeds + the reflection of the people in the room - and the body language is an illuminating addition to the live feeds.

Kudos for the best interpretation....

Regards Chris

Risk management 101:

1. Catastrophic failure costs extra 80 billion until relief well shutdown.
2. Do nothing, waiting for relief wells and BOP limits the damages at least somewhat: Extra 50 billion.
The result with estimated 50 percent of success rate: -0.50 * 80 billion = Extra 40 billion losses expected. So you save 10 billion on average if you do the top kill in this case.

It all depends on how big is the difference and how reliable that 50-50 estimate is.

FTA: "BJ Services’ stimulation fleet"

Wow. Just wow. It's like it was named by a bunch of oilmen.

MMS employee motto.

It's pretty neat seeing that Oceaneering logo in the top left. They're a really great group of people, out there in Morgan City. I had a Lego Robotic team at my middle school, and they offered to give a field trip. Crazy that these people I met at the Louisiana Children's Museum last August would be the ones who would have the chance to stop this thing.

This whole story has had me obsessively hooked since it started.

Last Sunday I was visiting some friends, whose 3-year-old daughter likes me to play Lego with her..... I can usually come up with some ideas she likes.

....but all I wanted to do was make a Lego ROV and BOP to play with.

She wasn't impressed.

Regards Chris

The video feed from from the ROV monitoring the riser leak seems to have switched from "live" to a loop - the time stamp currently shows 10:11 (CDT) when it had been progressing in synch with "real" time a few minutes ago. I noticed it with the reappearance of an eel that had been particularly curious about the plume earlier today.

eta ... oops, seems like Quicktime started looping on its own when BP disconnected and switched their feed to monitoring the BOP.

Interesting seeing the plume descending instead of ascending for a change. Mud's heavy. I should be working... oh well... riveted.

That ABCNews feed does not look good at all:

Top of the BOP at the upper left corner?

Methinks that this is one of the leaks they were expecting the mud to come pouring out of. Hopefully they're still getting enough pressure to push the mud downhole.

About 20.28 GMT (7.28 your time?) the video of Enterprise1 feed showed it transferring a T-handled tool from left claw to right . . . and dropping it in the process.

It just kind of sank out of sight . . hey, can I file a patent for neutrally-buoyant ROV tools? :-)

Seriously, that must be a real DAMN moment. Their job makes air-traffic control look relaxing.

The ROV went back to its cage but looked like all the tool holders were empty. Wonder how many there are on the seafloor?


Note the date of the video - 5/25. That is what the leaks at riser atop the BOP looked like yesterday.

No, should be live video.

Another question. What's going on? They said they began pumping mud at 2:00pm EDT. Almost an hour and a half ago. The live cam showed no change in flow of oil and gas out of the riser for 10 or 15 minutes afterwards, then the cam went to where it is now.

Seems to me that if they did pump mud they didn't pump very much, like for a few seconds, before they shut the pumping down.

No, they are pumping like hell. The ROV at the BOP just panned up to the top a few mins ago. Big plume. Difference being it's failing towards the seabed instead of going up. Gotta be the mud.

If it is the mud that you saw then it isn't enough. The oil and gas is overcoming the mud. There should be no oil and gas going out of the BOP.

There should be no oil and gas going out of the BOP.

There should be a mix of mud and oil/gas until the flowrate/pressure is great enough to reverse the flow. I bet they are ramping up the pressure/flow slowly, and monitoring the effects as they go. Probably slowly increase the flow for hours before they obtain reversal.

Whoa man - I know this is going to take 12 hours (if we're LUCKY!!) but the suspense is going to be HARD to take!

Does anybody have any guesses about where to look for real-time information on the mud flow rate and/or the pressure inside the BOP? I know there are at least a couple of people on-site and at a couple of headquarters who are watching this information VERY INTENTLY, but I wonder if/when it'll be available to the rest of the world.

The cam is showing the top of the BOP. It's nothing but oil and gas escaping.

Expert Oil Drummers --

Please detail your opinions on the top 3 most likely reasons for failure of the Top Kill Procedure. And then, assuming BP doesn't cut the link -- please speculate on what we might see on the ROV video feed in each failure option? What should I be looking for?

The statements show workers talked just minutes before the blowout about pressure problems in the well. At first, nobody seemed too worried: The chief mate for Transocean left two crew members to deal with the issue on their own.

What began as a routine pressure problem, however, suddenly turned to panic. The workers called bosses to report a situation, with assistant driller Stephen Curtis telling one senior operator that the well was "coming in." Someone told well site leader Donald Vidrine that they were "getting mud back." The toolpusher, Jason Anderson, tried to shut down the well.

It didn't work. Both Curtis and Anderson died in the explosion.

At a hearing in New Orleans on Wednesday, Douglas Brown, the Deepwater Horizon's chief mechanic, testified about what he described as a "skirmish" between someone he called the "company man" — a BP official — and three other employees during a meeting the day of the explosion.

Brown said he didn't pay particular attention to what they were discussing because it did not involve his engine room duties. He later said he did not know the BP official's name.

"The driller outlined what would be taking place, but the company man stood up and said 'We'll be having some changes to that,'" Brown testified. He said the three other workers initially disagreed but "the company man said 'This is how it's going to be.'";_ylt=A...

Whatever access Yahoo/ABC had to that 6-angle setup is now gone. All of a sudden this voice came on and said "Enleedaleedalep" and it cut out. Now it's the same camera shot as BP.

@Rockman and newdood

Thanks for the response.

One other question. I understand that if they pump in mud at a higher pressure/volume than the well is flowing, the mud will go down the hole but won't it also flow out from the BOP exit riser in great volumes until the mud gets down to whatever formation is flowing the oil and gas? This would explain why they need as much mud on those support vessels as they have.

Yes, they will need to supply however much mud is required downhole PLUS however much escapes through the leaks while they're in the process.

FWIW, IF things go well and they start getting enough mud downhole to start adding weight to the oil column in the well bore, we MAY see some reduction in the flow rates out the top of the BOP and the end of the riser. As the pressure coming up the well is reduced by the mud weight, the operators will have the option of reducing the pressure at the BOP while still maintaining the down-hole flow.

OTOH, they also have the option of just holding the BOP pressure more or less constant and just let the flow rate increase in response to the reduced pressure. In this case, we won't see much of a drop in the leak flow rates. In fact, we could expect the rates to increase over time (hopefully SLOWLY!!) as the passages from the BOP out to the open ocean are eroded out by the increased abrasiveness of the mud (over that of the oil with whatever sand is entrained)

I saw some kind of strange vibration about 20 mins ago, on the choke line arm view of the rover.

It lasted about 10 to 20 seconds, you could see the cables and plates swinging and jumping a bit.
I gues that is what they want to avoid.

I've noticed that on and off too on both sides. Not really a whole lot of movement when you think of the pressures involved.

14:28 Mountain, the camera panned to the top of the BOP and showed brownish/gray fluid exiting, that's the backflow of mud, right (E.G. it's a good thing)?

Looks like the moment of truth is at hand. I'd guess that's mostly mud coming back out of the top of BOP, as they force much more of it into the BOP kill and choke lines (below this point). It's inevitable that *some* of the mud will come out this way, but we have no way of knowing at this point what fraction of the total mud flow this represents. Hopefully, that's only a very small percent of it. But as I'm looking at the video right now, it seems to be worsening...or maybe it's my imagination.

The purpose of the "junk shot" would have been to foul the pipe in this area to reduce the amount of mud leakage. I suppose, if these leaks actually to represent a larger fraction of the total mud flow, they might stop for a while and give that "junk shot" a try.

BP comments under their ROV cam:
"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."

If true, it will take a day or 2 to complete the kill.

Also: changes in flows right now doesn't seem to give us much info...

Just caught the end of an interview on MSNBC with Matt Simmons and another guy named Matt also.

Too say they were both arrogant about knowing more about how to stop the flow than the engineering group would be the understatement of the year.

Did anyone catch the entire interview and, if you did, can you comment on some of the bizarre ideas they threw out?

I just watched the same interview here:

They just look to me like 2 guys trying to grab their share of public exposure.

Despite the tooth-gritting that was required, I watched this interview. I wish I HADN'T! To be bluntly honest, I could've learned more in the same amount of time from reading TOD discussions - even if I just picked one at random.

My mistake in the first post about the interview. The second guest was Nicholas Pozzi from WOW Energy

Just watched the entire interview and discovered that Matt Simmons feels the best solution other than using a super tanker set above the well to suck up all the oil is to use a bomb.

Then Matt goes on to say he saw a white fish swim through the riser leak and come out white on the other side. That lead to some convoluted theory about a major second leak because the fish was not covered in oil. (Perhaps because of a high concentration of gas, Matt?)

And finally Nicholas says BP should have used o-rings in the casing joints. First I've heard of that.

Why do I subject myself to this insanity :-(

I watched a few minutes of the MSNBC interview. The BPOil blog headline is, "BREAKING: Scientists believe there is a second outlet." Here's an excerpt:

Nicholas Pozzi, chairman of WOW Energy Solutions, on the "second outlet": What the scientists are saying watching this stain spread--that's now bigger, I gather, than Maryland and Delaware and several hundred feet thick, and there's gooey stuff--that's not coming out of there [the leaks shown in the videos]. They think it's flowing at 120,000 barrels a day. It would almost have to be that big to flow that wide.

Interviewer: And where do you believe the second outlet is?

Pozzi: What the research vessel found a week ago Sunday was this giant plume about 6 mils away, and then this huge layer of goo on the ocean floor. That's almost certain-- maybe it's a natural fracture. I think that's where the wellhead is.

Simmons agreed. I stopped watching.

And what exactly is the problem with the Simmons-Pozzi conclusion that there is a bigger leak 5-6 miles away?

I watched the video clip too, and it sounded good, but I'm not an oil guy.

(But I did read Twilight in the Desert, the whole entire thing, so I sure respect Matt Simmons.)

I am curious to hear any good reasons to refute his statement. Who are you, Loris Swift?

And what exactly is the problem with the Simmons-Pozzi conclusion that there is a bigger leak 5-6 miles away?

Pozzi said (see my comment):

What the research vessel found a week ago Sunday was this giant plume about 6 mils away, and then this huge layer of goo on the ocean floor. That's almost certain-- maybe it's a natural fracture. I think that's where the wellhead is.

It's my understanding that the wellhead is right under the BOP, at the top, you know, of the well, not five or six miles away.

Remember, there is also a live comment thread that goes along with the ROV video that can be found here (or the first post on the front page).

i know someone who talked to the people at San-dee-uh labs (this person works indirectly with the group doing the flow calculations), and they calculate that the flow is about 21,000 bpd of oil and another 35,000 of methane gas. so does that help anyone's calculations?

AP Exclusive: Workers Describe Failures on Oil Rig

Filed at 7:29 p.m. ET

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- As the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig burned around him, Chris Pleasant hesitated, waiting for approval from his superiors before activating the emergency disconnect system that was supposed to slam the oil well shut at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

The delay may have cost critical seconds. When Pleasant and his co-workers at rig owner Transocean finally got the go-ahead to throw the so-called deadman's switch, they realized there was no hydraulic power to operate the machinery.

Five weeks after the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers, the blown-out well continues to gush oil, pouring at least 7 million gallons of crude into the Gulf.

Dozens of witness statements obtained by The Associated Press show a combination of equipment failure and a deference to the chain of command impeded the system that should have stopped the gusher before it became an environmental disaster.

On Wednesday, BP launched its latest bid to plug the well, force-feeding it heavy drilling mud in a technique known as a top kill. Officials said it would take until at least Thursday to know if it worked, and President Barack Obama cautioned there are ''no guarantees.''

At a Coast Guard hearing that started earlier this month and continued in New Orleans on Wednesday, Doug Brown, chief rig mechanic aboard the platform, testified that the trouble began at a meeting hours before the blowout, with a ''skirmish'' between a BP official and rig workers who did not want to replace heavy drilling fluid in the well with saltwater.

The switch presumably would have allowed the company to remove the fluid and use it for another project, but the seawater would have provided less weight to counteract the surging pressure from the ocean depths.

Brown said the BP official, whom he identified only as the ''company man,'' overruled the drillers, declaring, ''This is how it's going to be.'' Brown said the top Transocean official on the rig grumbled, ''Well, I guess that's what we have those pinchers for,'' which he took to be a reference to devices on the blowout preventer, the five-story piece of equipment that can slam a well shut in an emergency.

In a handwritten statement to the Coast Guard obtained by the AP, Transocean rig worker Truitt Crawford said: ''I overheard upper management talking saying that BP was taking shortcuts by displacing the well with saltwater instead of mud without sealing the well with cement plugs, this is why it blew out.''

BP declined to comment on his statement.

A congressional memo about a BP internal investigation said that tests less than an hour before the well blew out found a buildup of pressure that was an ''indicator of a very large abnormality.'' Still, the rig team was satisfied that another test was successful and resumed adding the seawater, said the memo by Reps. Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak to members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is investigating.

Investigators for BP told reporters at a briefing in Washington that rig workers misconstrued the test they had thought was successful. Investigators said they don't understand why the mistake was made and added that there had been debate among the workers on the rig about how to proceed.

Dave Nagel, executive vice president of BP America, stressed repeatedly that the company was in the early stages of its investigation.

The investigators also said that a ''loss of integrity'' of the wellhead's casing created a path for hydrocarbons to enter the well.

In addition, Mark Bly, the company's group head of safety and operations, said that there was a gas plume before the explosion.

''This was a pretty large plume of gas ... I think it was a large enough where there was a high likelihood it would have ignited,'' he said.

There were other signs of problems, including an unexpected loss of fluid from a pipe known as a riser five hours before the explosion that could have indicated a leak in the blowout preventer.

The witness statements show that rig workers talked just minutes before the blowout about pressure problems in the well. At first, nobody seemed too worried, with Transocean chief mate David Young leaving two workers to handle the difficulty on their own and telling them to call when he was needed. The well site leader worked in his office. Then panic set in.

Workers called their bosses to report that the well was ''coming in'' and that they were ''getting mud back.'' The drilling supervisor, Jason Anderson, tried to shut down the well.

It didn't work.

At least two explosions turned the rig into an inferno. Crew members were hurled through walls, doors flew through the air and the living quarters blew apart. Workers stumbled across a bloody, dark deck, trying to pull debris off the injured.

Brown said that as he waited beside a lifeboat for the order to abandon ship, he witnessed ''complete chaos, mayhem. People were screaming, people were crying.'' Rig leaders struggled to comprehend the magnitude of what was happening. An emergency generator wouldn't start.

Steve Bertone, the chief engineer for Transocean, wrote in his witness statement that he ran up the bridge and heard the captain screaming at a worker for pressing the distress button. Bertone turned to Pleasant, who was manning the emergency disconnect system, and asked whether it had been engaged.

Pleasant told Bertone that he needed approval first, according to Bertone's sworn statement. Another manager tried to give the go-ahead, but someone else said the order needed to come from the rig's offshore installation manager.

Ultimately who gave the order is a matter of dispute. Donald Vidrine, well site leader for BP, said he did it. But Bertone said it was Jimmy Harrell of Transocean.

By the time the workers obtained the approval and got started, Pleasant said he ''got all the electronic signals but no flow on meters,'' meaning hydraulic fluid wasn't flowing to close the valves on the blowout preventer. Darryl Bourgoyne, a petroleum engineer at Louisiana State University, said a valve could have been broken or hydraulic fluid could have leaked earlier.

It is not clear whether the delay could have contributed to the system's failure to close off the well and snuff out the fire. The rig burned for two days before finally collapsing in the Gulf.

Gene Beck, a petroleum engineer at Texas A&M at College Station, said companies typically have criteria that allow any worker to engage the system if problems get bad enough.

''It's hard for me to imagine the situation where there's been a fire and an explosion and someone can't make that decision to hit the disconnect on their own,'' he said.

Workers elsewhere on the rig were having problems of their own. Some were ''told the situation was under control,'' even though it was ''absolutely not,'' said Yancy Keplinger, a senior crew member.

Benjamin LaCroix, a tank cleaner, said walls and ceilings were caving in and workers were running for their lives, and yet rig officials wanted to do a roll call.

A couple of workers described a debate about whether they should be in lifeboats. Once workers finally started getting into the boats, it took several minutes to persuade officials to start lowering them. Once they did, the operator didn't know how to detach a boat from the rig.

''It was only by the GRACE OF GOD that we didn't burn to death,'' LaCroix told investigators.

What a difference being Tony and Steven make!! And not just plain workers in the middle of the GOM who cannot push the button to save their lives because they have to ask command lines all over the world before!! Maybe the people at the platform were not really working hard.


In BP command center, CEO and Dr Chu plot course (Reuters)

BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward, a geologist, and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, scrutinized data gathered by remotely operated robots before deciding to proceed with BP's "top kill" attempt to choke off the leaking oil well.

At 1 p.m. CDT (1800 GMT), BP began a risky plan to inject heavy mud into BP's blown-out well in what is the company's best short-term hope for arresting the five-week-old spill.

People at the command center are in for the long haul, wearing comfortable clothing like t-shirts and cotton trousers and red vests that spell out their duties in white letters.

To help with the stress, BP has laid on massage therapists in an alcove in the command center, with two massage chairs.

"When you're working people as hard as we are, you have to provide some stress relief," Kent Wells, BP senior vice president, told Reuters on Monday.


Do you get a happy ending with those massages? Sorry, that was uncalled for. Those people really are working hard. The happy endings are only for bribing federal regulators, anyway.


Below is a link to a photo slide show that illustrates how I think this thing should be plugged. I would appreciate any comments or suggestions. Everyone needs to try and help in this tragic event. If anyone can get new ideas or improvements from the slides below please add them