Deepwater Oil Spill - A Comparison of Flows, A Little Optimism, and a Live Comment Thread

New thread, please redirect to

Below the fold are two pictures to show why I believe that the injection pressure of mud into the well has dropped, indicating that BP have filled the well, and are now holding pressure to see if there are any problems. I would assume, if none develop, that they will inject cement to seal the top of the well, sometime today.

Flow at 3:45 pm yesterday

Flow at 6:35 am today

Notice how the flow was longer and straighter in the first image, indicating that it was at higher pressure (velocity) and that now it blows out at much closer distance, meaning it doesn't have the same pressure (velocity). There is a small caveat, and that is that I am assuming that there hasn't been any significant erosion of the surface of the cracks between the two shots, and that may be a possible change, though not enough to cause the reduced throw distance of the central jet.

UPDATE: Here is a picture showing the ROV and the leaks - note the pipe on top of the riser that is also flowing mud.

Showing the ROV and plume (6:35 am)

HO: Question.I know lighting is an issue but are you sure the early shot does not include the fluid having more gas that could have an affect on the flow velocity relative to the later mud shot??? Or was the fist shot at a point when mud was escaping?

I'm sure the lighting is the reason but if you asked 1,000 rig hands which one of those muds is more oil cut the answer would be unanimous.


By the time of the first shot they had been pumping mud for almost 2 hours, and so I am presuming that both flows are almost all mud.

The top one looks like the drilling mud on the well I'm drilling. Not to the pay zone yet so no oil in it.


TOD is a great service. Thanks to all making this discussion possible. I just discovered TOD two days ago while searching for DWH news.

I think it's better to just give links to the videos rather than embed them. Then people can watch in a separate window and refresh the TOD window to see new comments without having to load the video.

There is currently no oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from the well that had been spewing crude into the sea for more than a month. "They've stopped the hydrocarbons from coming up," National Incident Commander Thad Allen says. "They've been able to stabilize the well head, they are pumping mud down it."

Attention NEW THREAD: Redirect to Video also found at that location.


Nice picture but Rockman should comment--- the only 2 ways I know to determine if you are taking a kick are to 1) monitor the level of a reservoir that you take fluid out of and return it to or 2) shut down pumping and see if the flow stops.

The third option here is to sample fluid but they are not going to do that.

There are no substitutes.

Opinions are always welcome.


I won't try to guess what the videos are indicating. No idea if their pressure sensors can tell much about the kill process. But I would think there will be an obvious answer when they stop pumping mud: if the've put enough head on the bottom hole to stop the flow then we should little or no return coming out of the leaks. Since they aren't circulating through mud tanks as in a normal kill op then there's no info there. The big question remains for me (and probably BP also): the mud is pumping in but where exactly is it going? Down the drill pipe, the producing csg, the prod csg annullus, out another failed cement shoe? Or any combination there of.

Did you see the 6 month ban on deepwater this morning by BO.

How many good jobs will that take?


File a claim with BP for lost wages due to their gross negligence. They promised to pay all people damaged by this spill.


PS: Stop by a local bar on the way home for a sarcanol mixed drink.

Someone financially oriented like Gail the Actuary ought to right a key post about what it would actually mean for BP to go under. It is too complex for me to envision.

Would somebody (XOM, shell, COP, or CVX or Petrochina) buy their income producing assets with the sale proceeds used to pay off claims (some government moratorium or limit set here) , and the buyer would probably need quality experienced people, and the shareholders (union pension funds and iras) would get nothing but in the end would anybody really care??

Are you beating a strawman to death and exactly who is it that you want to see hanged in the public square, Tony Hayward?? The good people engineers and geologists who I worked with there could just as easily cash an XOM paycheck as a BP.... if it comes right down to it they are working for a group of anonymous shareholders for a 4.5%-5.5% outstanding rating merit raise every year.


BP would never be allowed to go out of business, unless the assets were acquired by another NATO country extremely friendly to the UK and United States. National security and oil are completely intertwined and inseparable.

Someone financially oriented like Gail the Actuary ought to right a key post about what it would actually mean for BP to go under

It will take a lot more than this oil spill to force BP to go under.. BP 1Q earning pre-tax is about 9B. Most of the damage will be pay out over the year.. Government will impose a big penalty but the flow rate will be debate to the death in court.. So all the payment will stretch out to 10-15 years..And they will have ability to borrow money or raise money through right offering if it come to that. Right now the all in estimate is centering around 15-25B (not sure if the government penalty is include..just clean up and payment for economic loss).

But if it come to BK. US government will try to seize the asset. BP in USA will go to bk court.. Cramp down all creditor and stock holder. Government claim come first and then senior secured holder, seniunsecured, junior, wages, suppliers etc. all line up and battle it out in bk court. It is unclear if BP in UK will be affected and they have a different bk law than us... i.e. US will have to go to UK court system to force BP to pay up.. And it is going to a long struggle while BP keep their asset and retain their earning..

The producer that's really at risk of going out of business is Anadarko. If Anadarko or BP go out of business as their liabilities (financial and other) overwhelm their assets and/or cashflow, the ownership of the assets will pass to other producers. If there is economic value in drilling deep offshore, some other companies will raise the money needed and do it. If however, the USG bans deep offshore drilling and/or production (possible but unlikely) the deep offshore assets of all producers will become nearly worthless which will hurt hundreds of companies but which will likely help the thousands of companies with assets elsewhere as prices go up.

Not that any of this matters in a disaster where 11 good hands were killed, possibly because the company man didnt listen to Schlumberger.

Probably many fewer than the number of jobs/livelihoods that have been destroyed by this disaster.

Just so you know cycling: many off the extended families losing income from the environmental nightmare also get paychecks from the oil patch. The economy of S La. is taking a hit on multiple levels.

Just estimating that for my wife this morning: job wise I would guess about 100+ per idle rig. Lost income for the drilling contractors: $90,000,000 per rig for the six months. There will also be other losses for other contractors. Won't be the best of times but the oil patch is cyclical and taking such hits is anticipated. At least this one can be projected to be relatively short compared to a normal economic down turn for that part of the oil patch. But as I pointed out the other day 95%+ of the oil companies don't drill in Deep Water. The big hit income and job wise will be for the service industry. That could total thousands of job cuts.

This might not be so bad as Exxon Valdez. The evaporation rate much be many times higher and strong storms will dilute it even more. The real supergusher, Ixtoc I spilled in 1979 about 3 MILLION barrels and a couple of years later it was all gone. Nothing like in Alaska.

You are right, Tim. I would much rather have a terrible disaster than a horrible disaster.

That was probably inevitable. Especially when the BP exec took the fifth.

I see a change in the oil/gas/mud mix with an increased density of the mix accounting for the lower plumes.

And the plume in the lower picture, left most, has a different, lighter color. If this is not an artifact of light, this implies gas is still escaping.

Still a day or more for things to work out.


We would also need to confirm that BP itself did not back off on the flow rate, perhaps to minimize observed erosion at the leak sources.

Having watched this flow for over three hours this morning and for several hours yesterday I think the two pictures are representative of conditions over a time period. I will see if I can add a picture showing the ROV next to the leak, so that you can see the geometry.

Dr. McNutt to give flow rate study group update teleconference at 10 AM Eastern time.

Good Morning
It looks to me like the flow is lower in the second pic. But what is worrying me is the color change. The first shot has a very even shade which I would think shows all Kill mud. I,m I right that the second pic show a darker shade meaning oil is present. If so would this not mean they Have not been able to back the oil down the hole. Or maybe just down the liner And the casing still leAking up. The holes in the raiser pipe don't look to have eroded much more over night and thats good but what's with the color? And why would the flow be lower if That is oil in the leak?

Do not try to read anything into the change of color or brightness. Both change with respect to the ROV, the lens, distance and turbidity. Look at the manipulator to the right. It changed color and brightness as much as the plume. You can only make a comparison by color correcting both images in Photoshop or somesuch.

HO: You have a great site. It's a real service. You should get an award. Much thanks.

I've been thinking the same thing and am looking into it.

Compared to the usual media fodder, TOD and it's commenters are doing a real public service. I wish I had virginal sisters that I could introduce to shelburn, ROCKMAN and FF.

Thanks CS but my wife might not appreciate the offer. But, like most guys, I have comtemplated the male fantasy of being with two women at once. But upon reflection I rejected the idea. Dealing with one disappointed woman is bad enough. Why compound it with a second.

I don't know, having two wives might be a good idea. Maybe they would bitch at each other instead of bitching at you. Of course that could backfire and they'll both bitch at you.

C'mon guys, I know oil drilling is a macho game, but TOD is too valuable a site to make it painful for half the human race to read.

I know quite a few women who work in shipyards as pipe fitters, welders, etc. Believe me they can smack talk with the best of them. My friend Dianna who works at Northrop Grumman was working on a navy vessel there. The chief engineering office was doing some inspections and said to her as her was passing her work area, "how you doing, honey?" As he walked off she slapped him on the butt and said, "doing just fine, sweetcheeks." She got some big laughs at the bar later with that one. lol!

edit: They make damn good money, too. I do tech and felt I made good money... until she told me what she pulls in. Guess I should have been a master pipe welder. Oh well. hehe

bird -- Rockman sorry. Rockman go back cave now. But Rockman take shot at men...not women.

Of course you're right. I apologize and slink back to my newly-revised price elasticity models.

Hit that Donate button on the main page.

Jets look pretty much the same as they did last evening. Openings definitely are bigger, though.

While this is a very tricky thing to eyeball, I think it useful to take a piece of paper and cover up most of the plume and just leave enough space to show the portion of the jet shortly after it exits the openings. When I do that, I don't think I see much difference in the two images. What might being throwing things off is that the plume in the second image appears to be blown to the left a bit. Whether this is due to currents or because the fluid has a higher mud to oil/gas ratio and therefore a higher density and thus causing to not to rise as readily, I cannot say. But it might be a possibility.

Just have to wait and see.

Thad Allen just said top kill working.

By the end of the day, the company had pumped about 7,000 barrels of mud into the well at up to 65 barrels per minute, Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer said

'Top kill' operation to plug Gulf oil spill is going as planned, BP says, By Jaquetta White, The Times-Picayune, May 26, 2010, 9:03PM
65 is a higher peak rate than the 20 bpm used initially.

Monitoring another Flow

Last map shows more evidence (see upper left corner) that the oil pollution is being picked up by the Loop Current. Some chance of this loop being cut off, but ...

Hopefully, with flow stopped and the reduction during the last several days, the spill going toward the loop will continue to be sheen and scattered tar balls as shown on the 72 NOAA forecast map.Also with that eddy,the oil that is moving may have a lot of time to deteriorate before going too far. Perhaps they have time to clean up all those old tar balls in the Keys before and new one's arrive!
I just wish they could get the La. logistic/effort straightened out.Need to stop any more from getting there. Here's to hoping you can still get your fill of oysters.

But where is Hero 14? I kinda liked that little lonely fella, monitoring the plume... :)

He ran off with this sexy little German bot with big thrusters and hasn't been seen since.

Herc, not Hero. Short for Hercules.

Thad Allen, who is coordinating the government response, says the well still has low pressure, but cement will be used to cap the well permanently as soon as the pressure hits zero.

Reporting from Houma, La. Engineers have succeeded in stopping the flow of oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico from a gushing BP well, the federal government's top oil spill commander, U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said Thursday morning.

The "top kill" effort, launched Wednesday afternoon by industry and government engineers, has pumped enough drilling fluid to block all oil and gas from the well, Allen said. The pressure from the well is very low, but persists, he said.

Once engineers have reduced the well pressure to zero, they will begin to pump cement into the hole to entomb the well. To help that effort, he said, engineers are also pumping some debris into the blowout preventer at the top of the well.

Fantastic News!!!

Good work Heading Out you nailed it and

thanks to all the Great Engineers and Other Technicians in the War Room..

Keeping fingers crossed.

Thanks, but I am trying to work out why they still have some pressure in the well - it may be that the blockages down the well are slowing the mud drive down to TD (the bottom of the well). The partial blockage would have to be significantly above TD if they are unable to get it to balance out yet. Though maybe it is just a case of holding the pressure until the mud works past the block and all the way down to the bottom. Of course it is also assuming that the problem is located down at the bottom, and not in a higher layer than we are assuming.

The fact that they are trying a junk shot makes it seem that the problem is a partial blockage downpipe, as you say, and they're trying to get a little more pressure downhole without increasing the pressure at the BOP too much. (Blocking the leak at the top end means that, for a given pressure, more of that pressure is directed down.)

"I am trying to work out why ... "

A theory:
Enough mud has gone down hole to stop upward flow from the reservoir, but there remains a large bubble of gas above that downhole mud and the BOP. Enough mud is being pumped into the kill/choke lines to keep that gas bubble from venting from the cracks above the BOP.

If this is correct, they will have to back off on the pump rate VERY CAREFULLY in order to allow the gas to vent. This might allow more oil to escape with the gas, leading to a further decline in their credibility. But gas holds pressure pretty much indefinately, e.g. pnumatic tires on autos. So reality will trump PR. IF this is correct.

That is pretty close to a claim of success. Lets hope they can finish it off without incident.

Patience IP et al. If they have killed the well there is still a long and uncertain way to go. They'll have to pull the drill pipe out of the hole before they can begin thinking about P7A. And it may locked up in the BOP. And if the cab fish the DP out it will have to be done carefully: even if they killed the well they can "swab" the well in (make it start flowing again) by the action of pulling the DP out.

Damn ROCK, just when I thought there were no more surprises and learning curves, you come up with P7A and having to pull the DP out. Oh well, can you please elaborate? What is P7A and why does the DP have to be removed?

I think P7A is a missed shift key typo. P&A means plug and abandon, it is permanently sealing the well.

I'd go into more detail if I knew it. I was always long gone by the time they did that.

For me P&A always just meant "get ready to party, you get to go home!"

Actually P7A is a new proprietary technique I just developed that will solve the Peak Oil problem.
Actually it was a typo you smart a** ex-mud logger LOL Yes...P&A

P7A should read P & A - Plug and Abandon.

he meant P&A (damn shift key)

Plug and Abandon

Understood of course RM. So will they have to pull the DP before they can introduce cement? That would seem to be a rather difficult maneuver. Cut away the riser, pull the BOP and then fish the drill pipe?

I'm betting they don't attempt to pull the drill pipe. I've seen pipe cemented in place before.

Rock, is there no way to let that drill pipe just fall in? Why the need to Pull it?

RG -- that's a possibility. But the feds have very specific procedures for the P&A of any well with a hydrocarbon bearing zone in it let alone one that blew out. I'll skip the details but it guarantees those hydrocarbons will never leak out to the surface or even to another reservoir (underground blow out). But given the conditions out there the Feds may allow BP to not follow those regs. But to do it by the book they need to get all the way to the bottom of the hole and set a number of plugs and squeezes through the different csg strings. This could be very difficult or even physically impossible.


Wouldn't it make more sense, from a public relations point of view anyway, to maintain the topkill activity in a no-oil-leaking condition through continued mud pumping at low volume and wait for a diverter well to complete the P&A?

geek -- I'm generally a cautious guy and willing to spend a little more money to keep things safer. If the top kill stopped the flow I would be very tempted to release one of the relief well rigs and finish the first RW before trying to get into the blow out hole to permanently plug it. And if I were BP imagine the PR if they lose the well a second time and get oil flowing back into the GOM.


First off, I'd like to say thanks to you, Shelburn, and a few of the other posters on TOD that help keep the voice of reality from getting drowned out.

Having said that, I'd REALLY appreciate it if you could give us a little more detail on what's required to Plug & Abandon this well. I'm getting some confused readings on this question, but what I've read from you makes sense to me.

On the one hand, it seems to me that it will be necessary to go back into the failed well, perforate the casing(s) in a few spots and squeeze concrete out through the array of concentric annuli to be sure there isn't some leak path back into the main well bore.

OTOH, there is talk of pumping cement on top of the top-kill mud. It seems to me that this cement will make it impossible to remove the drill pipe currently in place and difficult - if not impossible - to get back down into the main well bore.

Hell don't need me to tell you nuthin. You've got a good handle on the situation especially with the concern over perfing the csg and making sure there's good isolation throughout the well. It's really that simple. Spot a siffcient number of cmt plugs at every point in the well that could fail: inside the production csg; in the prod csg annulus; in the other csg annuli. In effect seal AND TEST every possible route oil/NG could leak to the surface or other shallower reservoirs behind the different csg strings. And doing all this isn't that difficult nor expensive. But that's when you have a static well with no junk in the hole.

Way more than just talk. I can assure you that the equipment and material necessary to pump cement into this well are setting rigged up on the same vessels that are pumping mud and at some point they are going to switch over to cement, that's the plan.

But the issue remains, when they start pumping cement, where does the mud go?

Controlling the leak is a Big F*****g Deal, but this is far from over. If this were Apollo 13, we're at the point where they shut down the power.

I am new in this discussion. Some comments / questions. When we speak of sealing this well "permanently" with concrete, what does "permanent" actually mean in geologic time? Will the integrity of the concrete seal last for 1000 years? What about 10 or 20,000 years? Considering the huge 10,000 PSI pressure down in the well, I would think that once you've drilled a borehole that this gash in the earth structurally becomes the weakest pt in the pressure system. And the oil reservoir (has anyone done force calculations on this oil reservoir of supercritical fluids at stated PSI? ) will continue exerting pressure on it forever. In addition the borehole casing is single wall, has screw fittings and the original concrete work was not done correctly - and that was why gas seeped up and the well exploded. So we are dealing with a 21-inch hole that cannot be, in any stretch of the imagination be called "engineering compliant" It will always have have concrete faults - and pumping more concrete into it will only get you so far. Seems to me that the only logical way to know this cobra won't eventually spring back to life is to use the relief wells to empty the thing of pressure - in other words, suck all the oil out of it. Comments?

Well, it might be just me, but the feed appears to show plumes of the same magnitude as the originals now. Clearly we're nowhere near "very low" pressure, yet.

I believe they were injecting the mud at very high pressure/high flow rate in the upper pic but have since backed off - for what ever reason.

I don't want to rain on anyone's parade. But the bottom image needs to be scaled up about 15% to match the scale of the top image.

When I do that and place them side-by-side (see I see little difference in the initial jet length coming out of each crack before the transition to a wider turbulent plume.

when's the last time anyone has seen the view of the end of the riser? It would be neat for them to show us that occasionally. I'm talking about the shot where the dispersant was being injected.

I agree and wish I could find reliable views from each place.

I have to say, this disaster has totally changed my perception of the oil industry. No more muddied manual "roughneck" Moby-Dicks and "The Well" gigantic battles :) Really amazing set of technologies you guys are using!

I told my wife this morning I was amazed regarding the internet interest and the surprise people had regarding the technology deployed in the business.

The future of the oil business may be terrible due to peak oil and other factors but if you have an interest in mathematics and science combined with financial risk taking and like to be outside there was never a better industry to work. I wish I could tell my 10 year old boy it had a future.


I grew up around the marine industry. My father owned Marine Chemist company and was a chemist himself. I know a hell of a lot about vessel construction and such, but little about the offshore oil industry. I've found reading this site and learning about how all this stuff works fascinating. The way I imagined it working and the way it really works are total polar opposites. I just with I could have learned this stuff under better circumstances.

There has been some discussion that a lack of experienced deepwater personnel was one of many factors contributing to the blowout. Another eye opening quote in today's WSJ:
BP Decisions Set Stage for Disaster

Finally, a BP manager overseeing final well tests apparently had scant experience in deep-water drilling. He told investigators he was on the rig to "learn about deep water," according to notes of an interview with him seen by the Journal.

Finally, a BP manager overseeing final well tests apparently had scant experience in deep-water drilling.

I worked for Big Blue and some majors. Petroleum Engineering has been a constant roller coaster. If you joined a company at the wrong point in the oil price cycle you would have learned very quickly what being out of work is.

Hence, in the Layoff Cycles there would be gaps in hiring on top of firings which then created discontinuities in experience levels of the employees. Then when retirement age came for the Boomer Crowd those gaps in experience levels of those left behind would be substantial and noticeable in the Oil Company offices.

Finally, a BP manager overseeing final well tests apparently had scant experience in deep-water drilling.

FWIW, according to the WSJ story, this is the same guy who just took the Fifth.

swifty et al -- As the story continues to develop it becomes clear how the mix of ego, inexperience and pressure to perform for the upper end of the management chain can cascade into what we're witnessing in the GOM today. I know that sounds simplistically stupid but I've seen this same story from time to time though out my career. I took particular note of the rig manager who made the comment, after being over ruled by BP, that this must be why they have BOP's. That wasn't a casual ad lib. It was made in front of witnesses and it will be highlighted by them when they are put under oath. It was a very deliberate statement. I'm made similar comments's essentially a declaration that an undue risk is being taken. About 30 years ago I had a similar argument with an engineer about setting another string of csg to reduce the risk of a blow out. He didn't want to spend the extra money. I was able to argue him down on every point until his last argument: "Well..that's why we have a BOP". Yes...those were his actual words. When I had everyone in the daily drill meeting I repeated his comment in front of all the managers. They knew why I did it. But no one changed the orders. And on a Friday night the well came in, blew all the mud out of the hole and we had a 100' NG flare diverted out over the field (it was an onshore well). We didn't hurt anyone or burn the rig down. They were able to kill the well and P&A it. And how did the engineer take it? He later threatened me with bodily harm exactly because I put his comment on the record. Really. I'll skip the details but my reaction to his threat probably taught him to not ever do that again to someone young/foolish from Louisiana with a bad temper. I know that all sounds like some bad Italian spaghetti western and wouldn't inspire confidence in the oil industry. But sometimes that's just the way it goes down.

And yes...I did eventually learn to control my temper even when dealing with idiots.

The Oil Patch is a Western, and it does need a Good Sheriff otherwise these smart ass "going up the ladder" types will do stupid things for the sake of reducing COSTS (hence trying to raise their bonuses).

Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward, under fire after being awarded a 41 percent pay increase in 2009 when BP’s earnings fell, had his remuneration approved in preliminary voting.

“BP is well aware of the extreme sensitivity of environmental issues for any investment in oil sands, and seems to have built conservative assumptions into the financial framework to allow for these extra costs,” said Ivor Pether, who helps manage $9.2 billion in assets at Royal London Asset Management. “There has been a notable upward shift in general in the trend for the awards of performance-related pay with little justification.”

I took particular note of the rig manager who made the comment, after being over ruled by BP, that this must be why they have BOP's.

This is not clear that he was talking about being overruled by BP when he said this comment. He indicated this comment was made the day before possibly in regards to the cementing job (he was concerned with cementing with nitrogen foam). The mechanic had a different story, but the OIM did not corroborate.

I took particular note of the rig manager who made the comment, after being over ruled by BP, that this must be why they have BOP's.

If he actually said that Rock these days I think it is likely to be used against him and Transocean. Up to now Transocean official testimony is that the procedure they were carrying out for BP was, in their opinion, considered safe. If senior personnel are on record as arguing with BP and making black humour jokes about the BOP which turned into fact) then it will be argued that they knowingly performed an unsafe procedure.

That's if it was actually ever said.


Transocean president and CEO Steve Newman said his company - which owned the oil rig - gives all its employees "stop work authority" to call a "time out for safety." He said the company even takes pictures of employees and distributes them across the entire organization, to recognize those who have called so-called time-outs.

But why then, did no one say "stop?"

...Lawmakers questioned both McKay (BP) and Newman about an alleged argument that took place between BP's site manager and the Transocean team over a procedure hours before the blast.

But both McKay and Newman said they didn't know anything about the argument, other than what was reported in the press Wednesday.

tow -- if he did make the comment as described in front of the other hands at the morning meeting 11 hours before the blow out then that will all come out in the official testimonies. No one knowingly performs an "unsafe" procedure. But procedures carrying some risk are performed almost daily on a rig. And the decision to go forward with such a procedure is a judgment call. Rig manager had an OPINION about the safety of the procedure that BP wanted to follow. He didn't know the well would blow out. But he did feel there was a risk greater than he liked. The BP engineer had another OPINION. At the hearing expert witnesses will testify for days as to how good each OPINION was based upon the information at the time. Today, it easy to tell whose opinion was correct. I didn't hear the rig manager's comment so I don't know. But I doubt it was said in a joking manner. When there is a difference of opinion on a serious matter you typically make it known to witnesses what your opinion is. Basic CYA. If the rig manager been certain they would blow out he could have shut BP down on the spot. He had that authority from the Feds. But the fact that he didn't tells us he had a certain level of uncertainty over his concerns. Again, a judgment call. Back to the BIG IFS: if the story is more or less correct BP's big sin, IMHO, wasn't the decision to displace the riser...that was a judgment call. But given the concerns offered by others BP should have closely monitored the mud returns. Had they seen the well coming in it could have been shut in, killed and a repair cmt job done. I consider that "judgment call" no different then deciding to let your 3 yo kid cross a busy highway by himself. If there were serious indications that the well wasn't stable I would consider not monitoring the mud returns closely a matter of criminal negligence.

More simply: I might be very certain I'm not going to run into anything with my car today. Maybe 99.9999999% certain. And my risk assessment may be correct. Does that mean I don't put my seat belt on? Not watching for a well flowing back costs zero $'s. You just make sure someone is doing it. Back in January I was on a barge rig in S La for 3 weeks. During that time I had my company man personally check for mud returns at least a hundred times. And that's when I also had a mud engineer and driller checking. Didn't cost me one cent more to have the company man make that 30 yard walk every now and then. Maybe BP saved some $'s by displacing the riser so quickly. But they saved nothing by not watching for the key indicator that the rig manager's concern were valid. Not one damn penny.

"No one knowingly performs an "unsafe" procedure"

Would you say that safety has markedly increased in the last 25 - 30 yrs?

I do know that back in the 50s, 60s & much of the '70s that safety often took a back seat to cost because my Dad was a diver. (he was one of the few that had his line wound on the propeller shaft and ditched his mask in time to avoid being ground meat, and this was after live-boating was outlawed.)Laws were often ignored and those who complained didn't work.

...that smart-ass engineer might have been my uncle, lol

gmf -- can't offer numbers but much safer today. Killing a hand or cuttung off a finger/foot was just the cost of doing business in the bad old days. Hiring a replacement was cheaper than buying safer equipment. OTOH, we are doing much more complicated/dangerous wells these days. Despite what's going on in the GOM right now most companies are very safety conscious. I've mentioned it before: one of the safest operators I've dealt with in recent years is ExxonMobil. And that may perhaps be a direct result of the Valdez accident.

And if your uncle was killed by a drunk driver than maybe it was him. Ironic, eh? the guy who was so blase about saftey gets killed by a drunk driver on a Saturday afternoon.

I hear what you are saying but both Transocean and BP have testified under oath that they know nothing of an argument. Secretary Salazar was asked about the 60 minutes version of the argument and seemed to dismiss it anf said he hadn't even watched it.

The truth will come out in the end but I still note all knowledge of such an argument has been denied directly under oath by the senior BP and Transocean officials.

Why nobody seemed to be monitoring the mud, as you say, and other data that showed a problem building is a question we still need to know the answer to.

That story reminds me a lot of my dad who happens to be a contract consultant/company man. He has had the same conflict many times with engineers as well. He even told one engineer, when they wanted to cut the mud weight back on one job that he would do that, but the engineer better get someone else coming to the location because he was leaving. Sure enough he cut it back and the well started to kick just like he said it would. The story gets real long about that engineers personal problems, because his wife had just died and he was drunk for most of the job because he was so grief stricken. Very unfortunate situation for that fellow. Dad said he sobered up real fast after that well started kicking.

As far as the few willing to threaten him he was more than glad to meet them anywhere they wanted to meet, if he could restrain himself long enough to get there, if they were in his face. Just the way it was, very few ever challenged him on that front. He is mostly retired now, but he still takes a land job every now and then.

Hi Westexas,

Elements of this are beginning to remind me of Chernobyl, where inexperienced operators (trained on coal power plants and told that nuclear were no different) created the disaster while practicing safety procedures. A number of procedures were violated, but the decisions by an inexperienced manager may have been the final straw. It also brings to mind Normal Accident Theory, where a series of seemingly random events become the trigger to a cascade that leads to a large failure. In this case, the failure will be the worst ecological disaster in U.S. history.

For those who are new to failures in complex systems, the Wiki reading on Piper Alpha and Chernobyl are quite interesting. One element of the Piper disaster not in the Wiki article was how temporary rubber mats left by the divers on some open metal mesh stairs to make dressing easier allowed flaming oil to collect rather than fall through to the sea and set the rest of the platform on fire. Its such interactions in complex systems that make predicting and controlling complex failures very difficult, especially when incompetence is a major portion of the mix.

From the Normal Accident link:

As William Langewiesche wrote regarding the ValuJet crash in the Everglades in May 1996, “In this case the organization includes not only ValuJet [now AirTran], the archetype of new-style airlines, but also the contractors that serve it and the government entities that, despite economic deregulation, are expected to oversee it. Taken as a whole, the airline system is complex indeed. . . . Beyond the questions of blame, it requires us to consider that our solutions, by adding to the complexity and obscurity of the airline business, may actually increase the risk of accidents.”

I think the oil business has a very good future. What peak oil means is that the big reservoirs have mostly been found and now the industry will be working on smaller and smaller ones. It will take as many or more people to do this.

It's a great industry and career (40 years for me) but it is not for the faint at heart.

A ROV was picking up the mud pushing hose off the seabed floor and it looked like debris coming down then the live feed cutoff.

EDIT1: The feed is back and everything looks the same. I don't know what I saw...

I saw that, but I didn't know what to make of it, since I don't know what's going on.

Heavy, thick drilling mud should not look anything like the gas flow we have seen all along. Changing the color/tint/lighting on the live feed is the likely explaination for what we see. Sorry folks, but it looks to me like BP is just buying time until the relief wells intercept.

Thanks for all the informed comments and thoughtful questions.

Regarding the CNN multi-image feed: Deep 2 was on station just above and to the side of the BOP watching the leak from the bent riser and showing the right side of Deep 1(the ROV providing the closeup of this leak), but then dropped down and under Deep 1. Deep 2 then did a survey of the BOP and hardware attached to it. To my untrained eye, there do not appear to be any leaks from lower on the BOP. BP has certainly attached a lot of hardware to the BOP. I can only imagine the skill, care and patience this work required. Deep 2 then resumed its original station to the right of Deep 1.

The flow does seem less compared to last night, but again this from an untrained eye.

Enterprise 1 and 2 have been working on some vertical pipe that appeared to be attached to a large rectangular object on the seafloor. Enterprise 2 just showed a pipe being pulled out of a yellow fitting. Once the pipe was out, Enterprise 2 dropped the yellow fitting and it fell away.

Best wishes for stopping this spill.

'Top kill' plugs gulf oil leak, official says

Drilling fluid has blocked oil and gas, U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen says. Engineers plan to begin pumping in cement and then will seal the well.


Oil spill command cannot confirm "top kill" success

whatta country

Prelim flow 12-19K BOPD

That was as per news conference. Sounds like the range many were saying. Will we hear from the professor who jumped the gun to get his 15 minutes of fame in front of congress?

On a lighter note this whole episode confirms what many Sub Sea Engineers think about the BOPs they have to work on

Big 'Orrible Problem

His 'jumping the gun' probably helped in the long run. If people like him hadn't spoken, everyone (the sheep) would still be saying '5k bopd'.

I am with you on this. The guy was approached by NPR and asked to provide an estimate. The point raised was that there should be no reason to allow BP to be subject only to guesses of the leak size based on satellite surveys of the slick when there are methods that can be applied to measure/estimate the flow directly. This is important because this is the first really deep water blowout and the release rate from the well needs to be compared with its surface expression. The very large number (in line with BP's own estimate of a 'worst-case' flow) shook the tree and got peoples attention and will lead to a better understanding of the consequences of a deep water leak. Both the industry and the public (and the science community) need better numbers/better data to have a chance to understand the consequences of their choices.

OOOOoooooohhh, they better not let these BP weasels continue to use that 5,000 bbl/d flow rate. OK I do not have a better estimate but from formation pressures given on TD and some other calculation presented, a number in the 10's thousands needs to appear in print.

I fear that this will be "worked out" by Obama who got financial support in his election campaign from BP. US and UK are nearly inseparable on the world stage, so I fear the worst. Remember the "too big to fail" argument. :-)

it is even better here Obama who got financial support in his election campaign from BP.

and did sara palin, the princess of ignorance, the crowned queen of drill baby drill and her running mate of the team maverick and maverick get any financial support from bp ?

NPR probably asked 20 people for an estimate and published the one with the biggest answer.

Got any information to back up this conjecture?

Nothing specific, just a hunch. But this comment below seems to indicate a similar attitude in the media:

Yes, I'm new to TOD. Just found it while searching for DWH info a few days ago.
But I do work on Subsea control systems in DW GOM and I'm occasionally offshore on drilling vessels.

This debate has been going on for a week here - you are just seeing the main points on each side reiterated.

Media: addicted to sensationalism, inconsequential salacious trivia, lazy reporting, and generally afraid to speak truth to power.

Industry: addicted to profits and market performance and opposed to regulation that might appear to interfere with either of the former.

Public: consumed with their own affairs and generally not paying attention to the important stuff.

No angels to be found.

Member for 1 day 3 hours.

What you wrote is an obvious BS ...

just for clarification, is that the amount of crude oil that was leaking, or does that still include some fraction of gas?


edit: nevermind...found the story

Actually, the Purdue professor is likely to have made a very good estimate in terms of the amount of liquid being released at the end of the riser. His estimate was that about 70,000 bbl/day was leaking at that site. He did not know what fraction of that leak is oil or gas, so he probably assumed that as much as all of it could be oil.

It was not until BP started to capture some of the oil with their 4 inch pipe inserted into the riser did we learn that about 3/4ths of the material leaking from the riser is natural gas. Thus, if you multiply 1/4ths times 70,000 it results in an estimate of 18,000 bbl/day of crude oil and 52,000 bbl/day of natural gas.

I am not a fan of BP, but not knowing how much of the leak was natural gas vs crude oil is surely a reason why BP could claim uncertaintly in estimating the size of the leak.


Except he didn't say any of that. If he had said "18,000 bbls/day of oil, 52,000 bbls/day of gas" that would have been clear. I find it unacceptable that he didn't make that qualification. Even 70,000 bbls/day of fluid is erroneous because laymen have no idea about oil field terminology (my guess is he had no idea either, which makes it even worse)

there is no way to tell if a top kill is successful or not until the procedure is complete and you have a day or so of WOC for the plug ...

the color of fluids is no indicator for anything ...all it tells us is that BP was able to make a dynamic seal with the mud ....this is step one in a long steps of risky maneuvers.....they are not even doing the top kill right now .....what they are doing right now is getting the well under control ...the mud column they are pumping will has to neutralize the oil pressure before they can proceed onto next seems encouraging and shows what should be happening at this point but there are too many variables to predict anything at this point....can the casing seats hold ??? this was and still is the biggest question mark here ---

does anyone know if BP has reported any fluid loss down hole since yesterday when they started pumping the mud ?

Pretty difficult to quantify losses when part of the mud is going into the sea through the BOP/Riser leaks.

no ....not that hard at this point ....the well has been communicating for almost 20 hrs by now ....BP has to know where the mud/oil front is in the wellbore ....the interface pressure ...they know thier pumping rate ....they know the volumetric of the wellbore ......

trust me an engineer with plenty of wild offshore stories ......they have a person sitting there just working models with how much mud is going where....this is the single most important variable here .....

the whole dang thing started cuz the bloody mud engg and the company man were not watching the return tanks and monitoring mud pit returns ...if you look at logs ...someone posted the logs on this website somewhere .....its a shock they didn't catch it ...mind you they were in the process of flushing with seawater and returns would have been excessively high but stand-pipe pressure spiked twice within 12 minutes and all they did was stop pumping twice .....they should have used a kill pill long long ago ....SLB techs advised a kill pill soon as they got on site in the morning ....they had been fighting the gas for over a day by that time the company man doesnot push a kill pill down the wellbore given the well history is gross negligence..... mind you even if this rig had been able to TA the well by setting the concrete plug ......the completion rig (they were planning on producing from the well a a later stage) .....the next crew would have been dead duck the moment they drilled out the plug .....the problems with the well are many ....DW GOM forgives at most 1 mistakes over the course of drilling a well and 1 mistake during completion operations ....not more....and they had already had three strike outs before reaching TD

.SLB techs advised a kill pill soon as they got on site in the morning

Source for that other than prior discussion here?

I have read the SLB techs had been onboard for several days and have heard from other commentary they were an "open-hole" team and another team was required to run the type of CBL needed. They left earlier in the day according to SLB statement when the well status was listed as "static" by Transocean. Indications of trouble supposedly came much later but were not interpreted correctly.

If you have a source for a different version of events or more info on SLB personnel then please post.

we will never know for part of service agreements....none of the SLB techs will talk on this but what we do know is the SLB techs ran off in a hurry and the tool pusher wasnt real happy with DW work isnt like onshore work...the company man is right after god and jesus and above mary, or so the saying goes..... is what i can tell you based on experience ...the well was not static ( the crew fought the formation all the way from 8000 ft to TD...multiple caveins....fluid loss..sweep pills) and people were going to get hurt on this the drill crew or if they had placed the plug then the completion crew crew was going to see fireworks....

when they knew they had used nitrified cement ....they should have pumped in 40% excess...thats just good work sense.....WOC times should have been extended to compensate the nitrification.......and the damn mud logger needs to be put on the plank and made to walk ....this was an exploratory well in a high pressure reservoir.....I don't know why BP would cut corners on an exploratory go above and beyond normal engineering safety factors on exploratory wells and not below is what i think happened....they knew the well was going to produce.....the moment they were sure of that ....the mental switch flipped from exploratory well to production well at BP ....and all routine exploratory well precautions went out the window....this will explain the transference of pressure to rigup quickly and move since management has more sway over production scenarios than wild cats.....i can bet my 5 bucks this is what happened...

we will never know for part of service agreements....none of the SLB techs will talk on this but what we do know is the SLB techs ran off in a hurry and the tool pusher wasnt real happy with DW work isnt like onshore work...the company man is right after god and jesus and above mary, or so the saying goes.....

BS! Service agreements do not overrule subpoenas. If there were concerns that the conditions on the rig scared SLB off, they'd be hauling every one of those technicians into the investigation.

And maybe your statement about "the company man" is true, but if that is the case, then you're suggesting that the entire industry is beholden to the company man only to ensure safety, which is in direct conflict with what the industry promotes (anyone can stop the job). I would never work on a rig where the company man's word is that certain. Safety above all else.

Well that's not the official policy but you have to understand ....DW operations are not like small 750 HP rigs in west texas (lets say Alice or midland)... this is top notch stuff and operations are so specialized that each person really knows only about what his job his (he know his job damn well enuff though) few people have the complete picture.... its not like a 8 man crew running a rig ...these rigs have crews of 110 - 120 specialized ppl they say "cut all corners, just never downhole" used is always state of the art so most rig hands are not up-to-date since the shit has changed in the past 5 months when this guy ran a similar job so most of the crew dont know what exactly going on explain most crew would know they are running a cement job ....but how exactly nitrified cement works or whats its limitations are few would know few have the big picture with all the specs.....and that guy is always the company man most people have to take the company mans word for certain the fact that if the thing goes boom , all share the fate helps with the "taking the company mans word" :)..

and trust me company men on billion dollar DW rigs are the absolute best in the world ......i think the mental switch from exploratory to production well flipped somewhere at BP in Houston and this happened .....gross negligence all the same make no mistake

"best in the world" until he isn't. Sounds like offshore platforms need some serious changes in mentality.

I am happy with a metastable "dynamic" seal that dramatically reduces the oil polluting the GoM.

Can this be maintained for a couple of months till the first relief well is completed ?

Basically, I just want the oil stopped. Creating a more elegantly engineered solution has little appeal if it risks a new eruption of oil.


Dude. It's pretty good odds that the mud they're using is just as toxic as the crude. Maybe more so. I do know there are disposal issues for used mud.

Most of the mud should settle on the bottom don't you think? Better than the oil flowing up toward the surface.

Interesting question. I read it's an oil-based mud; I'd guess the diesel oil fraction would eventually separate out and rise to the surface. Having a lot of barite sit around on the ocean bottom might be problematic, even though it's low solubility.

Suttles said at yesterday's briefing that they are using non-toxic water based mud.


fella....if there is one thing you don't want in the ocean more than you don't want the oil in the ocean is that drilling mud ......

This is super heavy mud with Barite in it ....Barite is radioactive (not harmful) but enough to stink and warm up the containers is absolutely nasty ....I am a offshore engineer and I can tell ya once you've been around Barite ..its enough to last a lifetime .

and no they cannot hold the dynamic seal infinitely...cuz they have to bring in the mud from land on barges ..... and really the BOP is damaged ....they cannot afford to keep the BOP under continuous stress for a long time.....and rmbr during this process the BOP is slowly being eroded internally ...its a risk-reward balancing act at this point ...

Barite is radioactive?!? Barite is radioactive?!? This is a revelatory statement. The questions is, "what does it reveal?"

Well...check out for a little more on drilling mud. They are but one of many producers. Theirs is a cesium product. Now I don't know that this is the mud BP is using, but heavy drilling mud contains some pretty "interesting" ingredients. I have not seen any literature on a mud that contains depleted uranium, but if you want heavy, you kinda need to go in that direction.

Sorry, I was trying to be funny. Barite is not radioactive. You can get radioactive scale in production systems that is caused by naturally-occurring radionuclides in the produced formation.

Natural barium isn't radioactive, and neither is natural cesium. (The cesium isotopes created by nuclear fission are another matter, but they're not using that.) Technically that's not absolutely true because you get minute traces of radioactive nuclides in almost anything, created by cosmic rays and whatnot. But if you're such a "safety" worrywart that you feel obliged to worry about that, worry more about the radioactive potassium isotope in your body, which you can't feasibly get rid of.

the numbers calculated by the purdue prof are quiet off because the purdue prof really ought to have know better about ROV lens before he did his pixel analysis to come up with 70,000 bopd number..the lens on ultra wide deep ocean ROV camera's r crafted to focus on what is in the center of the camera while maximizing the peripheral coverage this makes pixel analysis wrong because things tend to move quickly away form the center than what is actually happening) ....this is just the optics of a ultra wide angle lens ......but all similar well histories support what any petroleum engineer can say about deep water GOM which is .....if you put any BP engg under oath to testify about the well flow rate ...the conversation will go something like this (the answer a BP engg will give will be the same as any engg familiar with DW GOM operations will give) ...which will go something like

Congress: do you think the flow is more than 5000 bopd
BPEngg: Yes, its highly likely
COngress: do you think the flow is more than 10,000 bopd
BPEngg: Yes, I think it can be more than 10,000
Congress: do you think its more than 15,000 bopd
BPEngg: thats a tough one, but it can be a little over
Congress: do you think its more than 20,000 bopd
BPEngg: yes, it can possibly reach that high
COngress: is the flow more than 35000 bopd
BPENgg: possibly, if theoretical limits are being considered
COngress: is the flow more than 50000 bopd
BPENgg: due respect to congress but I have a bridge to sell you fine congressmen
COngress: What is the worst case scenario:
BE ENGG: BOP is knocked ....upwards of 80,000 bopd but come on ...seriously who knows .....80,000 is at that point as good an estimate as 100,000 or 110,000 bopd”

aliiiaali -

I'm not sure I'm convinced that the images we see here that were taken with a wide-angle less would include so much distortion as to invalidate the flow rate estimates based on pixel analysis.

First, the subject of interest in these image (i.e., the openings spewing fluid) is rights smack in the middle of the frame, where distortion is the least, rather than at the periphery.

Second, to some degree the distortion created by a wide-angle less is largely an illusion caused by the shortened distance between camera and subject. There's a common exercise in photography school in which three pictures are taken of a subject from a fixed distance: one with a telephoto lens, one with a normal lens, and one with a wide-angle lens. At first glance, they will look markedly different: the one with the telephoto will look up-close, the one with the normal less about right, and the one with the wide-angle lens smaller and farther away. However, if you use an enlarger to make all the subjects the exact same size within the print, the images will look nearly identical. The lesson: it is the distance from camera to subject that determines perspective, rather than the focal length of the lens.

One would hope that a professor specializing in image analysis would have corrected for the wide-angle lens and performed an inverse projection before doing the pixel analysis, or some equivalent method of accounting for the lens. This sounds like an undergraduate HW exercise to me.

I haven't seen his detailed calculations so I am not sure precisely what method was used but if he neglected the lens correction that would be a big embarrassment.

there is nothing freshman or sophomore year about this analysis ....

here is why i think my point still stands....

1- pixel analysis will be off because the lens is crafted ot exxagerate peripheral movement the net effect is things seem ot move quickly from the lets do a pixel analysis here..i need velocity of fluid exiting from the pipe and the area....area is easy lets say we tag a couple of pixels and follow them out of the leak ...soon as it moves away form the cneter of the lens ...the oil in the camera is moving away faster than it actually is you would get a higher exit velocity ..i mean you do wan tot trac it out a few inches to get the avg exit the purdue guy is off here

2- now the fluid exiting the leak is not an constant velocity ....say you get a slug of oil getting up the wellbore....when that slug exits its going to have a wave of gas behind it and so instantaneously the point where the slug exits you have low exit velocity while behind the sluf you have high exit vel....can be different on the orders of magnitude ......the only reliable measure of oil flow is BOPD ....but you cant use instatenous mass flow and multiply by hours and sec etc to get BOPD .....oil does not flow at a constant rate all day

3- when the purdue guy calculated using his video ...there was no scale on the did he calculate distances for his pixel analysis ....there still is no scale on any video BP is showing .....

i can go on and on .....the purdue guy needs to get his tenure cancelled ....

If "the lens is crafted to exaggerate peripheral movement" it sure isn't evident from watching the live video. When the camera is panning, objects seem to move at a uniform speed across the screen.

You are not responding to my point. In my opinion, failure to account for the lens would be an "undergraduate mistake". I agree that whatever method used needed to be much more complex to attempt to get an accurate estimate within reliable error bounds.

I do not know precisely what this guy did, so I cannot comment on his methods. Show me the equations and the initial assumptions.

Accounting for the lens could have been as simple as assuming a reasonable range of the possible lens parameters and including the effects in the error estimate, or it could have involved estimating the lens parameters and making further calculations based on an orthographic projection. Other approaches are possible.

BTW, "undergraduate" means the you have not yet obtained your Bachelors degree, which takes four full-time years at most universities.

this is what I am saying....there are too many factors ..small ones that he could not have possibly taken into account .....errors that add up ....

I am no expert in optics..i am an offshore engineer.....all I am doing are pointing out inefficines that he could not have possibly taken into account given the video fed he based his estimates on ...

the purdue prof had his numbers out soon as the first couple of videos were compensate for an utla wide lens or lets just says optical properties he would have to have known what the focal length of the lens was and how far the camera was from the leak i correct ??? where did he get those numbers ?? flow up the bore is under high pressure prone to slugs ......i mean a 2 ft column of oil entrapped on either side by 4 ft columns of gas will have changing exit velocities so mass flow relations are not representative unless the reference time frame is a long period of time ...say a day and thats why the oil industry have a specific unit of measurement because this is the only reliable way to measure flow rates form a well ...its called BOPD ....there are many variables here and little base parameters available unless you're a BP Engg or maybe some other govt expert who is monitoring this...

Those are all good points, aliiiaali. As far as the lens, if there are objects of known dimension in the field of view, one can back out the approximate lens transform function from there. The professor had the riser at least, I don't recall much else.

Posted on internet May 19

See page 9 in particular

So on page 9 his volume flow rate apparently includes escaping gas. He does not account for plume temperature, ambient temperature, ambient pressure, or possible phase change. Just simple particle flow analysis as he freely admitted.

His biggest mistake was to use his estimated volume flow rate to directly calculate bbl/day. He does mention this later in his presentation, but the public would have been better served if he had at least used a ballpark estimate of the GOR, with some reasonable upper and lower bounds.

His biggest contribution was to call into question the lowball BP numbers when they had much more data to analyze and obtain a more accurate estimate.

Breaking news on Msnbc website: U.S. MMS chief Elizabeth Birnbaum fired, sources tell AP.

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has fired the head of the U.S. Minerals Management Service in response to blistering criticism over the federal government's lax oversight of BP and the rest of the offshore oil industry, Democratic sources told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The decision about Elizabeth "Liz" Birnbaum, who has run the service in the Interior Department since July 2009, was among the announcements being made Thursday by President Barack Obama.

The president's response to the five-week-old spill has prompted growing criticism about leadership from the White House, even as BP's efforts to stanch the leak are finally showing some promise.

Reading her bio in , I'm guessing Birnbaun wasn't particularly bad, but probably in way over her head trying to clean up the cesspool at MMS. Maybe we could start a grass-roots campaign for Rockman or Shelburn.

As MMS Director, Birnbaum administers programs that ensure the effective management of renewable energy, such as wind, wave, and ocean current energy; and traditional energy and mineral resources on the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf, including the environmentally safe exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas, as well as the collection and distribution of revenues for minerals developed on federal and American Indian lands.

Her bio doesn't look good to me to take care of this

"environmentally safe exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas,"

OK, gov. pay scales would not get me to join but heck for something as critical as this they should be able to take some $$$ from the big tax money hogs and pay for real in-house experts. The hands off industry approach must be responsible for this.

The problem is that this is a job that nobody who is sane would want.

Some have speculated that the entire MMS needs to be replaced from the ground up. Which won't be easy - you need to find people who know the oil business, aren't cokeheads, and aren't ready to hand out favors. The problem is that people who know the oil business generally came from the oil business, so they know tons of people there.

After this experience I would think that they will need to do some FUNDAMENTAL changes in how they run this part of supervisory work.

IMHO they will need to either hire people with the right experience or hire consultants. Lets put it in a tong and cheek way, hire the equivalent of Blackwater for the Oil Patch. Without the guns though :-)

There was actually a semi-big article about Birnbaum in the NYT a day or two ago, . I don't know if it was a proximate cause or nail in the coffin for her, but it wasn't very flattering.

Maybe the Oil Drum should put in a bid to have the whole thing just contracted out to us. There is some pretty good expertise around here, you guys are doing one heck of a job - and could probably do better than the MMS staff. It would make for a very different and interesting model of how to do industry regulation.

Here are the images corrected for some scaling and translation:

and a color composite (Green= yesterday and R,B= today):

The jet on the bottom left corner seems larger at the base.

Ah, the problems of screen capture - what I was mainly looking at was flow structure and collapse length, and I am quite comfortable with sticking with my analysis. What I did was to put the first picture by the continuous feed and compare the two over time. Then I just grabbed a picture from the latter. But looking at them both, and the two jet structures they illustrate, I remain content that they show what I intended. (And the scaling problem might have been mine in putting the pix into the web.)

HO, I think your analysis is right, there is clearly a lowering of the pressure based on the shape of the jets.

Are there any current pressure measurements being taken from the Wellhead or anywhere significant and can those measurements be compared in any reasonable form to the logs of the rig prior to blowout or at any relevant point in time?

I guess since the ROV views are mostly arbitrary I'd rather like to see pressure samples that can give an indication.

If the top kill is successful and the well is cemented (or whatever the terminology is), will they consider still drilling one or more relief wells "just in case," or is that supreme overkill?

That's a good question, I was never on a well that got anywhere near this out of hand, but it sounds like anything they do in relation to the the top kill is considered temporoary until the relief well intercepts the original.

Rock, or one of you other drilling engineer types, do you know what the plan is for the relief wells?

In my opinion, the relief wells are the only permanent solution, and since they have already begun the process, there is no way that they will stop drilling now. In addition, there is still crude that the company wants to extract.

My understanding (from HO) is that the oil in this well will never be harvested--and that really hasn't been a concern all along--they just wanted to get the hole plugged.

Not to sound like an apologist for the industry (because I'm not), but the reason this took so long is because it was an unprecedented one-shot game.

New Oil Flow Estimate: Gulf Nation's Worst Spill

Filed at 10:46 a.m. ET

ROBERT, La. (AP) -- New oil flow estimates by scientists studying the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico would make leak the worst in the nation's history, far bigger than 11 million gallons that spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster. U.S. Geological Survey Director Dr. Marcia McNutt says the results are preliminary, but two teams using different methods determined the well that exploded April 20 and sank two days later has spilled between 17 and 39 million gallons.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

ROBERT, La. (AP) -- Scientists studying the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico now say it's leaking at least twice as much oil and possibly five times as much as original estimates.

U.S. Geological Survey Director Dr. Marcia McNutt is the leader of a team put together to try to figure out how much oil is coming from the well.

She says results are preliminary but two teams using different methods determined the well is leaking at least 504,000 gallons a day. One team said it might be leaking as much as 798,000 gallons and another said that number might be closer to a million gallons.

The well blew out when the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20.

BP and the Coast Guard had said since then that about 210,000 gallons a day was flowing.

Are these guys playing games with us? Oil rate even in US Today show up a bbls/d, and here all over the places they are playing with gallons !!!!

Jokers :-(

210,000 5,000 bbl/d
504,000 12,000 bbl/d
798,000 19,000 bbl/d

I've gotten two unconfirmed email reports that cementing will begin within two hours. Can anyone else confirm?

I thought they had to make sure the well was stable first? Has this been done yet? Where are the measurements to effectively prove this point? Wouldn't they just be pushing cement into nothing without that information?

That may be the amount of time that it is going to take to connect up the cement lines, and they may have already made the decision to do so. If this is the case they are going to cement with the drill pipe (DP) still in place. Since I conjectured that they had the well roughly balanced out at 9 pm last night, then if this was correct then they have had about 12 hours of stability, which sounds a good number to have under your belt before moving to the cement job.

Wonder if they want this done before the next press conference?

Gotcha thanks I couldn't find anything about how long we've had steady pressure or if even we'd hit that point yet. Appreciate all the great information from ya'll as always.

I was going to say that I had thought they wouldn't cement until Thursday, and then I realized that it is already Thursday :-)..

from another emailer (anon):

We're still losing a lot more mud than we would like, so there is something we're missing, but we're still very optimistic. The transitions and handoffs have gone flawlessly topside, which is very surprising.

Cement operation is standing by until the mud engineers give them the go ahead. Still planning on making it happen in the next few hours but, like everything else about this operation, it's running late.

AP News release

U.S. Geological Survey Director Dr. Marcia McNutt said Thursday that a government task force estimates that anywhere from 500,000 gallons to a million gallons a day has been leaking.

The new government estimate means at least 19 million gallons and maybe as much as 39 million gallons have leaked in the five weeks since an oil rig exploded and sank.

That would be about 12,000 to 24,000 bpd, way under the previous "scientific" estimates. And it is a range, not a flat number. Looks like the task force may be getting it right. No mention in the press release of the snapshot of time when the estimate was made.

Media of course grabs the number and multiplies by number of days starting 3 or 4 days before the blow out without any adjustment or mention of the flow starting out slow and steadily increasing.

That would make the Purdue number which was supposed to be accurate by +/- 20% off by 75% even using the task force's high number, 87% using their low number. And he was on the task force. Be interesting if there is any follow up from the media about the overstatements.

It is still a terrible spill, almost certainly surpassing the Exxon Valdez (which may have actually be close to twice as much as Exxon reported) in quantity even if the top kill is successful.

...and right in line with the estimates posted here on TOD. Too bad the press didn't come here for a little education - they would have been able to ask better questions and provide much better service to the public. I sent NPR a nasty note early on (before the flow-rate controversy) criticizing their superficial coverage, lack of informed analysis, etc. and pointed to the discussions here - not that it did any good...

The gas fraction wasn't addressed in the press release was it?

One can hope that the report from the task force, when it is finalized, will include estimates of the rate over time from the beginning.

Overall the incident is a hard lesson for all sides. The industry needs to have effective procedures and techniques at the ready to handle repairs and disaster mitigation at depth if deep water drilling is to continue. Spill response needs to be improved. We need to understand what happens to oil released at depth and how it affects the ocean ecosystem. Is use of dispersants really the best of the bad alternatives?

I saw two teams, one got 10-25 and other 12-19k so they took second one. Given what has been skimmed, burned, collected, evaporated, and still floating all over the place, those many plumes of up to 10 by 20 miles by 300 feet may have to be checked for their PPM's otherwise they have more than was leaked. Let's ask Mr. Simmons.(I believe two such plumes at 1 PPM would take up total spill).

Still, it is a terrible spill. However, the dear professor gets an F on his engineering lab for ignoring basic rules of inquiry and data gathering.
Press will only pick up on Valdez comparison (No more Ixtoc) and focus on sending boats to areas where they can dip hands into sludge. (Very effective I might add). As with all other misinformnation it will be ignored once proven to be BS.

Proper science leading to better understanding requires better numbers that a WAG based on the surface expression estimated from satellite data. I maintain that there would have been no effort to measure the flow without the large number being published - that is just how things work. The bigger sin would be to not try and understand how much oil was leaking at the source and ignore to potential that large quantities of oil were not making it to the surface.

Please understand: His science was and remains proper and well within the boundaries of the scientific method.

He put forward a hypothesis based on readily available data, he presented his calculations and his results, and opened the floor for people to come forward and challenge/test his hypothesis. That is absolutely pure and correct science at its best.

Now that others have come forward with more data, better data, updated analyses, and a longer time frame of observation, his initial hypothesis can be (and should be) discarded in favor of one that more appropriately meets the conditions set by the available data.

The problem is not his science, the problem is the way that science and mass media interact.

The overall fact remains that the volume of oil coming from that well was always far in excess of 1000 or even 5000 barrels per day - just look at the volume, density, and flow-rate/pressure required to fill the well with mud.... that alone will tell you something about how much oil was coming out, and how fast.

Just look at the fact that one little siphon at one of the leaks was pulling in between 3 and 5 K barrels a day...

His particle velocity estimates were probably close to correct for the total volume of fluid, as was discussed here at length. Once you correct for the fact that this "fluid" is certainly not all oil... that it contains gas, some hydrates, entrained water and sediment, as well as the dispersant itself... I would bet that his original calcs work out pretty well for guesstimating the flow of oil alone.

Absolutely incorrect.

He did not even come close to using the scientific method.

He ignored most readily available data.

This is absolutely improper science and engineering at its worse.

He did not put open the floor to people to challenge/test his hypothesis.

He announced it to the media, went on talk shows for a couple days and then testified to Congress without ever responding to comments or presenting his calculations until they were made public by the Congressional committee.

Once made public it is clear his data is completely filled with factual errors.

His particle velocity might well be correct - it is his area of expertise. But his basic mistakes were actually much worse than not realizing he needed to correct for the lens distortion.

Just because BP lied by omission - they never made a flow estimate, all that came from the government - and BP conveniently hid behind that erroneous information, that does not justify a Professor of Engineering to violate at least 3 canons of the Engineering Code of Ethics.

I posted this several days ago:


Professor Wereley of Purdue University has made numerous claims on National Public Radio, various television talk and news shows and in front of a Congressional Committee. His statements have had a substantial impact on the general public and have been put forward as representing the most expert of opinions. His calculations were shown to the Congressional Committee and then posted on the internet.

There have been a number of industry experts who have said that they doubt the accuracy of his claims primarily as his flow rates are greater than the maximum expected flow rate of the well even if completely open when in fact there are restrictions to the flow and additionally the measured point is only a portion of the total flow.

Now that we can review his calculations it appears that there is a great deal to question about the accuracy of his work.

For someone who "wrote the book" about flow measurement; when presented with a real life problem he made a number of very basic factual mistakes. I don’t dispute his ability to measure particle velocity but when many of his other assumptions are wrong then the results are also wrong.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt I will assume that at the time he made his calculation he did not have access to materials other than what was being presented by the media or easily available on the internet. I will also give him some slack in not being aware of things that are peculiar to the underwater or offshore industry.

This also a good demonstration as to why obtaining an accurate flow rate is not as easy as it looks on TV and why I think this new task force is going to run into a lot of problems.


1 - He calculated the cross section of a 20 inch ID pipe, the riser is 19.5 inch ID - this error overstates the flow by 5.2%

2 - A video with wide internet exposure filmed May 1 from the other side of the riser clearly shows the drill pipe coming out of the riser and bent to what appears to be almost a 90 deg angle. Assuming the drill pipe has an OD of 6-5/8" (it may be larger) then just the area of the drill pipe entering the riser would result in an error overstating the flow by 12.3%. The error could easily be twice that due to the restriction by the bent piece of the drill string.

3 – He assumed the entire cross section of the riser was flowing oil when it clearly shows that a substantial portion of the flow is gas, not oil. At the time he did his calculation the information was that the GOR was 3,000. With complete oil/gas separation and the compression from the external pressure at 5,000 feet that would mean there would be 20 cubic feet of gas per barrel of oil. As a barrel of oil is 5.6 cubic feet that would make the ratio of gas to oil about 4 to 1. But some of the gas must still be in solution as from the video it appears that the ratio is more like 1 to 1. This probably means he overstated the amount of oil by at least 50% and maybe as much as 75%.

I will assume that as his expertise is flow measurement that his particle velocity of 25.8 inch/sec is correct (see below for some reasons why that may be off as much as 10% or more). Using that as a basis and recalculating the flow using his numbers but correcting only for the above mistakes we get the following:

Cross sectional area is 264.1 sqin based on 19.5 inch ID riser less the 6.625 in drill pipe.

Volume of the total flow at 25.8 in/sec is 6,814 cuin/sec which is 60,679 bbls/day. Just to this point he has overstated the flow by 19%.

Assuming that 50% of the flow is gas reduces the oil flow to 30,340 bpd. This is 58% less than his published estimate that caused all the media hype.

The errors above are not some special knowledge limited to the oilfield. They are errors that any freshman engineering student should be able to catch. I have a hard time believing a professional would make such mistakes, announce his finding on NPR and then go on to talk shows and testify before Congress. I wonder if he will apologize to the American people for deceiving them.

If you are think about getting a good engineering education Purdue might not be the best choice.


The following errors are more understandable as the professor has stated that he has no involvement with the petroleum business and presumably no experience in underwater engineering. At the same time it seems incredible that a degreed and presumably registered engineer would blithely assume that he could do an analysis like this without doing even minimal research into the fundamentals of the subject he is expounding on.

4 - The videos from the opposite side of the riser leak show a piece of drill pipe impeding the flow. Not only does this reduce the flow area as mentioned above but it is also positioned so it appears that it diverts the flow up and towards the side that he used to measure particle velocity. That diversion could accelerate the velocity which is the basis of his calculation.

5 – ROV video lenses are very wide angle. As objects move out from the center of the picture they elongate, or if in motion from the center out seem to accelerate. If you are doing a pixel based measurement you would need to know the lens distortion and adjust for it. In some cases the visual distortion can be as much as 25% to 30% by the time you reach the outer edge of the field of vision. As shown on his slide the area where he calculated his particle velocity is about halfway between the center of the screen and the right hand edge. This would indicate that it is possible that the particle velocity is actually slower than shown on his computer by as much as 10% or more.

6 – The riser section was broken and deformed at the end. This will have resulted in some degree of out of round. It is difficult to tell from the video because of the distortion of the lens but from the other side it does appear the riser is flattened to some degree. Without knowing the exact ovality it is difficult to say what the reduction is but it is probably at least 15% to 20%.

I don’t know if the following items will make any appreciable difference but they are certainly questions that should be addressed before making definitive statements about the flow rate.

7 – This is mixed phase flow which any process engineer will tell you will add considerable confusion to flow measurements.

8 – The flow is at an ambient pressure of about 2,250 psi. I know that gases can have a substantial change in properties when under pressure and some liquids also.

9 - A portion of the gas is probably going into phase change as it combines with seawater which might change its real or apparent volume and velocity.

10 – The optical qualities of water are different than air and may compound the visual distortion discussed above.

11 - It is difficult to tell from the video but the flow appears to be laminar changing to turbulent on exiting the riser.

If you take all these facts, and assuming the particle velocity he measured is representative of the entire flow, above I think it is possible to argue a valid case for oil flow rates anywhere from a low of 8,000 bpd to a high of 25,000 bpd emanating from the end of the riser.

But, there is no way to take Professor Wereley's velocity observations and get even 30,000 bpd, much less in excess of 70,000 barrels per day.

The professor also states that the hole in the kink of the riser is 1.2 inches diameter. I'm not disputing that measurement but I would greatly like to know where he got it. I have spent almost 4 decades working underwater or viewing underwater videos and I certainly could not get that dimension from any of the videos or photos I have seen. Even ignoring the distortion of the wide angle lens the riser is so severely deformed it cannot act as a baseline and the piping off to the side appear to be some distance behind the leak so even if you know the pipe OD you cannot use it as an accurate scale.

He announced it to the media, went on talk shows for a couple days and then testified to Congress without ever responding to comments or presenting his calculations until they were made public by the Congressional committee.

Yup. Once upon a time we used to call that "publishing in the newspaper", in a tone of voice dripping with scorn and contempt. But over the years people found, especially in medicine - consider the quasi-infinite set of "coffee bad for you", "no, coffee good for you" so-called "studies" - that one could garner fame and fortune, or at least notoriety, by tossing statistical significance, design-of-experiment, methodology, peer review, and a variety of other inconveniences out the window.

Behavior of that general sort has often been well-rewarded, so while it's not the norm, it's now widespread. So it's no wonder that public trust isn't what it used to be. Not that other factors, such as media sensationalism and Queen-for-a-Day tearjerking, don't help to engender distrust.

As I stated previously in this post and previously in earlier posts, I believe that the Purdue professor is likely to have made a very good estimate in terms of the amount of liquid being released at the end of the riser. Sure there was uncertaintly in his estimate and he provided a +/- estimate of 20%. His estimate was that about 70,000 bbl/day was leaking at that site. He did not know what fraction of that leak is oil or gas, so he probably assumed that as much as all of it could be oil.

Who estimated a 3000 to 1 GOR back when he did his calculation and was he aware of that? I thought that it was not until BP started to capture some of the oil with their 4 inch pipe inserted into the riser did we learn that the GOR was under 1000 (13 MM ft3 of gas per day and 3000 bbl/day of crude oil).

Working through the relative volumes at depth, about 3/4ths of the material leaking from the riser is natural gas (based on the calculation that natural gas is 273 times denser at depth than at the surface). Thus, if you multiply 1/4ths times 70,000 it results in an estimate of 18,000 bbl/day of crude oil and 52,000 bbl/day of natural gas. I do not think that we should expect a professor from the Midwest to know that there would be a substantial amount of natural gas in the leak from an oil well. Do you think that he intentionally knew that there was a lot of gas and chose to intentionally mislead the public?

You seem to be ignoring the fact that natural gas is not a "gas" at that depth. Natural gas goes supercritical at 673 psi, and since the pressure is higher than 2000 psi, then natural gas is really a liquid and not a gas (assume it is a low density liquid). Therefore, there is NO mixed phase flow. The leak that you are seeing was liquid crude oil and natural "liquids" (not LNG and not natural gas liquids, but it is supercritical natural gas) flowing into seawater.

At a time when BP was continuing to thumb their noses at the world about the amount which was leaking, I applaud the efforts of this professor to use his expertise to change our perspective on the leak size. I hope that he is applauded for his efforts!


I agree with your comments.

Further if you read the NYTimes article
I read it that the Q value based on particle velocity was not so much in question but the component of the flow. What helped them was after the RIT was used a better estimate of what the components of the Q could be made, "That technique revealed that about 75 percent of what appeared to be coming out of the riser was in fact gas".

There is another article on finding another plume

So now that the leak has been stopped, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment NRDA begins.

This one will prove interesting as it will be almost impossible to absolutely quantify the true impact on the environment over baseline conditions as there doesn't appear to be that much baseline information at these depths. Most of the environmental work done in the GOM seems to be in the 0 to 200 meter depth range. One needs an expensive blue-water ship to do work in the deeper depths.

The law does state that BP is on the hook for the studies to make the environmental impact assessment. I would hope that a lot of this work is farmed out to the local universities so that a local base of expertise and knowledge is created. These studies are going to take decades to complete and are going to be expensive.

The money BP will pay to cover the environmental damages under NRDA is why I believe BP had no corporate interest in determining and announcing the true leak spill rate.

Good for the professor, for without him, we would still be at 1 - 5,000 bpd. And good for BP and all those who worked on stopping the leak. Very impressive.

As an engineer with some fluid dynamics experience, here's a really dumb but easy way to measure the flow rate...

pump in some dyed or colored material into the choke flange, measure the time it takes before your ROV sees it coming out the end of the riser (plume). Considering that they know that the most significant leakage is coming out the end of the riser, and you know the ID of it, this means that you can get a pretty good calculation of the volume flow rate!

But I'm sure that the smart people involved have countless other ways to accurately measure the leakage.

First post, so please forgive my ignorance and delete if inappropriate to this thread. Can anyone tell me why they waited over a month to attempt this top kill?

Mostly Amrita, it's because the engineering to do this took a very long time to get right. The pressures and other difficulties under the water made this a logistic nightmare--it was unprecedented. Worse, it was a one-shot game--they screwed it up, this thing gushed until the pressure eased.

Thank you, Professor. I appreciate the level heads and technical knowledge on this site. Praying this works...

Unfortunately the media has done a poor job of explaining the timeframe, why, what, and how. It is juicier to report about how the experts don't know what they are doing, the administration is sitting on their hands and talk about doomsday scenarios. This reporting is flat out wrong in many cases. It would have been much better if real experts and highly knowledgeable individuals like those on this site were the ones covering this.

I also SUSPECT that BP was waiting for reservoir pressures to decline (as they typically do for uncontrolled wild wells; one question is if this well was uncontrolled or choked ?)..

Dropping a couple of thousand psi from, say, April 25th or May 1st, would significantly increase their chances of success.


I'm not an expert on the matter, but I believe they've been planning the top kill since they realized that it was leaking. Thing is, getting all the equipment together to do something of this magnitude usually takes a few months, the fact that the got it all together in one month is pretty impressive.

Yeah, to think that people may not appreciate the logistics, engineering and organization required is a shame. The media shares much of the blame since they prefer to follow their own political and ratings grabbing narratives instead of what really happened.

It took them time to determine that pumping in 10-12,000 psi mud into the BOP wouldn't fail it and make a terrible situation even worse.

They also had to design and fabricate specialized fittings that would latch onto the various ports on the BOP, that would hold up to 10-12000 psi.

They probably did in 4-5 weeks what any sane engineer would have quoted 6-12 months to do under normal circumstances.

You really ought to check out some of the prep that went into this by the ROV's. Simply amazing what they can do.


I read a statement somewhere that top kill and a junk shot weren't real contenders until Wu's gamma ray imaging showed that the BOP was both sufficiently intact and sufficiently constricted to make success likely.

If so they put it all together in even less time.

In this case, the top kill is a measure of "last resort" (the BOP was the measure of first and only resort) where they need to jury rig the well to inject the mud. We don't know yet if it will hold, although they may end up injecting mud until the other wells are drilled (better injecting mud into the sea water than oil leaking out).

An (BP?) engineer stated yesterday that he was concerned that the pressure drop across the BOP was too low and thus, they may be loosing too much mud through the BOP and, because of the lack of backpressure from the BOP, there may not be a sufficient backpressure by the BOP to force the needed amount of mud to penetrate deep into the well and stop the crude oil leak. If this would have been set up in advance as a stop gap measure in case the well blew, then they could have injected the mud within the first week BEFORE the BOP was severely eroded.

It is because of the lack of backup measures used by the oil industry and required by MMS, that this sort of intervention was not ready to go in case of a catestrophic problem such as this.


Where'd CNN's multi-screen view go? Anyone have a link?

Attention NEW THREAD: Redirect to Video also found at that location.

Some key items:
'Top kill' stops gulf oil leak for now, official says

Officials are cautionary but say drilling fluid has blocked oil and gas temporarily. Engineers plan to begin pumping in cement and then will seal the well. . . .

Once engineers had reduced the well pressure to zero, they were to begin pumping cement into the hole to entomb the well. To help in that effort, he said, engineers also were pumping some debris into the blowout preventer at the top of the well. . . .

Allen said one ship that was pumping fluid into the well had run out of the fluid, or "mud," and that a second ship was on the way. He said he was encouraged by the progress.

May 27, 2010
10:52 CDT Mil # 21 ROV Jumper Lay Down Route Inspection
The ROV is examining the manifold and mud lines. No apparent leaks.

a few thoughts and questions:

viewed that 60 minutes story again (before overwriting it) and came away with a thought. If the annular was severely damaged (producing handfuls of rubber removed) by transocean and not communicated to bp. If the resultant pressure measurements were then not reliable. what if bp made the decision (admittedly in haste and behind schedule) to replace mud with water thinking the plugs would hold because the erroneous pressure values gave them confidence that it would be reasonable to do so? maybe transocean argued against it but did not reveal what they had known they had compromised the annular and therefore pressure readings. maybe this has already been answered or maybe we'll find out later.

re the mud/junk shot:
is the mud in any way abrasive? can the mud attempt before junk shot exacerbate the orifice by cutting a bigger outlet much like abrasive water jets operate?
wouldn't it be more effective to include some "junk" in the first attempt to block some of the leakage rather than relying solely on "rate overpowering" to progress? maybe their xrays showed smaller sized junk would not be effective as the orifice was much larger, so that may be the answer to my question.

they had to wait for the top kill until Seceratry WU's gamma imaging idea was put into practice and a internal image of BOP was constructed see if it would stand the procedure...

you are right ....BP has an carte blance from all oil companies ...small and big to redeploy their resources at minutes notice.......and what BP has been able to put together in 30 odd days nothing short of the absolute best DW response ever achieved by anyone .....I cant believe the dispatcher and logistics ppl at BP have had more than 2 hr of sleep in days ......

1- there are more than 10 ROVs operating in SYNC here....this is unheard of .....Oceaneering (the ROV guys) are proving they are the best ....they have had to essentially make air space (water space i guess) and run ROV traffic through sonar .....for comparison ....even complex DW jobs have at most 3 ROV's.

2- custom fittings were designed,fabricated and installed on the BOP stack.....(this in itself is a 4 week job under normal work loads)

3- the engineering expertise being employed is second to none here.......

normal works loads == this is a 6-9 month project .... the ring master at BP has been cracking whips 24/7 for a month .....

the logistical people at BP have really manned up .....i guess a carte blance form all GOM producers helps but wow ...what logistical operations ....incredible to put this together under such timelines...

but yes....the sub sea response is easily the most comprehensive ever deployed....this response will be standard reading literature for sub-sea responses for decades to come...

I apologize for interrupting the process of composing hymns for future generations glorifying the great and benefecent BP...

There is a teeny-tiny problem:

They did all these things AFTER what now appears to be pretty severe mistakes and fair bit of incompetence, driven by greed, leading to a massive spill that has affected great number of people.

It is easy to do the right thing when the world is looking at you.

Far harder to do it every day when no one watches.

So forgive me for not joining the breathless chorus of praise to BP.

I agree Dima :-) We need to ride their asses in London to Hell, BUT .... It Won't Happen. They are too Big to Fail.

It's an object lesson in the dichotomy between management as it should be (coordinate and organize the appropriate resources required to accomplish a complex task under time, environmental, and technological constraints) and management as it all too often is (make as much money as fast as you can, and who cares about cutting corners??).

The technical and engineering level of the operation is amazing.

The management level of the operation is less so, by a lot.

The decision making that led up to the situation in the first place is probably criminal negligence at best... and is probably all too common in the industry. They did it this time because they'd done it before and gotten away with it (i.e. they had no blow out).

I would bet that they followed procedures on the Deepwater Horizon in very similar order and with very similar constraints as they had done tens or hundreds of times before on a bunch of different wells.

And forgive me joining the breathless chorus of praise of those CHARGE IN CHERNOBYL!


i'm not defending BP .....this blowout is clearly human error ......but i can't help but marvel at the scale of sub-sea operations.....

And don't give me this hogwash ....Exxon Valdez was a disaster but it is standard reading in any engineering undergrad courses all over in one way or will this be ....and don't try to tell me a big plunger..umbrella or some other wacky idea of a hillbilly farmer in Ohio is going to get this all for nationalization of BP ...BP tends to give other O&G producers a bad name with their routine "mistakes" ....there are countless other producers who put in an honest days work and hold the safety of their crews above all ....ive personally known company-men and tool pushers who would not board a sub under critical close calls just because one of their crew was was injured and had to be dragged from the rig floor all thew way to the sub in the middle of blowouts....

They did all these things AFTER what now appears to be pretty severe mistakes and fair bit of incompetence, driven by greed, leading to a massive spill that has affected great number of people.

I think that's a given for almost everyone here. Cussing out BP roundly for its catastrophic mistakes doesn't preclude praising it for its remarkable feats of engineering in trying to remedy those mistakes. Credit and discredit where credit and discedit are due, both in large measure.

That's with regard to getting the leak plugged, at any rate. BP's efforts at containment and cleanup of what has already leaked have left a great deal to be desired so far, IMHO.

I am a frequent lurker but rare poster. I agree, humans are much better at being reactive than proactive and as both SL and Ali say credit due where it is due, there are some brilliant people doing brilliant things to try and stop the flow and I for one am grateful and impressed. The mistake/s that were made in the run-up are a separate matter. BTW Australia had an oil blow out offshore a year back in 2009 (Montara) and it was finally stopped on the fourth or fifth attempt via drilling into and killing the existing well. Difference was we didn’t have 24 hour coverage. I feel like I am stating the bleeding obvious here but the oil industry is a risk game and no matter what precautions are taken accidents will happen. Planes crash, space shuttles crash, cars crash but we keep on flying and driving. I am a firm believer in independent regulation though and hope this is one of the good things that can come out of this tragedy.


It should be obvious that BP consists of two groups of people. Those at the very top who by their actions force their employees, who will allow it, to work for BP in a manner inconsistent with safety and ethics. This top management and incredibly small fraction of lower level employees can be seen as the "bad BP."

Then there is the 99% plus of BP employees who are hardworking, decent, ethical people who do in fact deserve not to be tarred with the same brush. The "good BP".

I'd ask everyone to stop and think for a minute what it is like for those 99% plus of BP employees who consistently hear they are being judged as a company, not individuals.

...and it took an overwhelming crisis with tragic loss of life and tremendous environmental damage to spark this effort. Why didn't the industry come together before this incident to work out how they would respond to a deep water crisis? Human nature, but given the record profits the industry has shown over the past decade or so it is rather irresponsible. (not to take anything away from the hard work and technical prowess on display that was required to clean up after arrogance and stupidity led to a world-class mess)

The live video feeds have proved a huge PR success I would say - yet they had to be pried out into the open with threats.

I wonder how likely it is that Carville and the like will acknowledge that the guys Obama sent down there actually were key to the solution.

Were they key? iirc, they were the ones that recommended the use of the gamma ray imaging to inspect the interior of the BOP. Anything else?

Could they be assisting more on the cleanup and containment side?

I think at this point Carville and all want Obama to take charge of the clean up. They know it's beyond his expertise to "Plug the damn leak".

The clean up effort is a mess.

Obama was asked at today's news conference why the gov't didn't take over the cleanup and containment effort. He went on about how BP already had contracts in place and the gov't was going to continue in a monitoring role - not a very satisfactory reply imo. I wonder if by "contracts" he was referring to the existing industry wide pre-existing crisis response teams that have been referred to earlier on TOD.

11:23 Mil # 23 ROV Inspect Hoses from Distribution Panel
Video freezes frequently and the field of view often wanders aimlessly looking at water. I am not sure what is being inspected.

11:32 Mil # 23 ROV shows the BOP

11:33 Mil # 23 ROV shows the kinked pipe at the top of the BOP from a distance. There is still stuff coming out of the leaks in the riser.

Does anyone have video of the leaks from the riser at the top of the BOP when the top kill stopped the flow?

They have completed the inspection. Just saw the top of the BOP and still fluid is coming out, as it should if they are still pumping mud. They have to keep pumping mud to keep the pressure down before the cement job.

11:40 CDT Mil # 21 ROV The camera has been looking at what appears to be the base of the yellow cylindrical connector for the mud line on the kill side of the BOP for several minutes. No leaks. The ROV is facing West, ~260 degrees azimuth (difficult to read).

The time displayed by the ROV is still 2 minutes before the time on my computer which is synchronized to WWV time signals within a few seconds.

What link are you using where you see a time ahead of the current time? Everyone I've noticed is a few seconds to a minute or two behind because of buffering delay. And my PC clock is NTP synched to better than 1/10th second and there's a radio time signal synched clock right next to me.

Advanced military technology that allows one to react to problems a couple of minutes before they occur. Six months will be required to retrofit this technology to all off-shore drilling rigs.


I have been viewing the BP link, Live feeds from remotely operated vehicles. The feed from Mil # 21 ROV is about 2 minutes in the past. The one from Mil # 22 or 23 (it is difficult to read the letters and numbers), the ROV giving the close-up of the kinked riser, is more like a minute in the past.

Ah, ok I thought you were saying they had the clock at the wrong time on one of the ROVs and it was ahead of actual time. I'm sure they're all synched it's just the feed delays that are variable.

Hi all, have read and I hoped understood the main threads on this.

But I am missing one thing. If top kill has worked so far, how does the cement now get down the well? My understanding is that you have a balance with the weight of the mud (maybe plus a small bit of pump pressure?) pushing down on the oil and as pressure A=B it all stays in place. Fine.

How do you replace the mud with cement? I see how it works (I think) with a normal well, one liquid inside the drill pipe, one outside it, so the mud can come back up. But here the pipe and annulus are all mangled together & we don't know how they are joined (maybe BP does?)

Do you have to pump harder so that the mud gets displaced (by the concrete) down into the formation? I can see a lot of concrete could just come out the top of the BOP, depending on exactly how it is all flowing in the BOP.

BOP still leaking . . .so now time for a small junk shot to block just the top of the BOP? then cement?


No, they have to stop pumping the mud and have nothing come out the top.

Then they can put in the cement plug.

The cement will probably be just as heavy as the mud if not heavier and yes some of it will come out of the BOP just like the mud does. It's likely that the cement is being or has been batch blended and they are just going to throw a couple of valves and switch over from mud to cement. I would be surprised if they stop pumping at any point until they think they have the cement in place unless it begins to "squeeze off" as they say in the industry, which would not be a bad thing. A dynamic squeeze is almost always better than a hesitation squeeze.


Now time for a massive clean-up.

Perhaps some ships should be deployed to inject oxygen at depth.


Kudos to all the wonderful people who have been working so hard on this!

And a special recognition to Secretary Wu and his gamma ray whatsis [way over my head] for figuring out that this could work.

Again, Hooray!

Do you have any references/links for Secretary Wu and his gamma ray?

12:02 CDT Mil # 21 ROV looking at the upper curved part of the mud line and the yellow cylindrical connector on the kill side of the BOP. Facing West, ~260 degrees azimuth. No leaks.

12:06 CDT Mil # 21 ROV doing close-up inspections of parts that I do not recognize on, I think, the BOP. Facing northwest. No leaks.

When they get the intended relief wells finished, will they be used essentially as production wells?

My understanding is that relief wells are unsuitable for production use.

BP wanted JUST ONE relief well !!

Overruled by Thad Allen, per President Obama.

I am ....


What is your source?

The lips of Barack Obama (mentioned at least twice) in his still ongoing press conference.


President Obama's press conference...his words.

And he pretty much addressed Peak Oil directly "We can't drill our way out of this problem." and that we need to see what's on the horizon and get off oil.

Anyone else hear Secretary Salazar say (or let slip) something that sounded to me like "Resource War Era" during questioning a day or so ago. Can't find these words in any report or transcript but could have sworn I heard it.

President Obama .. during his still continuing news conference at the WH .. said that BP originally was planning to drill only one relief well. The requirement to drill a second well was given as an example of an occasion when the feds over-ruled BP.

Interesting, though if he's wrong in his interpretation of how it went down, then well...lots of egg...

Well, BP was apparently right- it looks like they didn't even need one.

Will they continue drilling both, or one, if/when this well is concrete-sealed shut?

During last night's briefing, BP's Suttles said that a relief well will be drilled regardless of the success of the topkill. One is needed to fulfill the regulations for P&A (or P7A in Rockman's parlance.)

Man ....i can't help but feel for the people of LA

towns like golden meadow, leeville, galliano, port fourchon ....basically everything below houma and venice ....those folks are in a pickle for sure...

Most people have close family working as fishermen and other members of the family working rotations on rigs or associated industry (barges, tug boats, marine mechanics bla bla) ....can't bite either hand that feeds but like they say oil and water don't mix ....every family is going ot hurt in this one way or other....

I for one pray for you

News Alert: Obama orders halt to operations at all 33 deep-water rigs in the Gulf
01:19 PM EDT Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obama announces a halt to drilling operations at all 33 deep-water rigs in the Gulf of Mexico for 6 months or until a presidential commission completes its work. Some of the rigs are already drilling and will have to stop. Others were preparing to drill and will have to stop those preparations until the commission finishes.

For more information, visit

I don't agree with this. This will just further hurt Louisiana. Now we won't just have the fisherman and their supporting businesses out of work, but lots of oil field workers will join them in unemployment. Dumb move.

This is a necessary consequence of the disaster. Drilling and production will not stop because of the national security aspects of oil production - Obama said as much in the news conference. In the end I expect there will be more jobs created in various aspects of the industry. Drilling in the arctic, however, may take longer to be approved - or may not be for the time being at least. In the near term the world economy is addicted to oil and there is no magic fix to change this fact. The only way a sudden stop could happen IMO would be for the world financial system to collapse - a possibility but one not directly linked to oil in the near term.

And until those jobs are created these men will pay their mortgages, loans, take care of their families how? Unemployment compensation? Please. Here's a better idea. Give them all jobs in the clean up effort. No, not that $10 bucks an hour BS. They should get their full wages or salaries paid for by the feds, BP, I don't really give a sh*t This is BS.

I don't mean to sound flippant, but that is why they call events such as this a disaster. This goes orders of magnitude beyond a run-of-the-mill screw-up.

That horrible sense of doom Louisiana has felt since 4/20 is just being fully revealed.

It seems to me that Obama stated that we would take care of our fellow citizens, I'd lay money on the notion that there will be a special economic relief bill coming down the pike ASAP. I hope it is big enough, and smart enough to accomplish that goal.

Not a bad idea (I think BP should pay). Cleanup, environmental monitoring, safety systems development and deployment, oil spill science, work in a re-constituted MMS, etc.

I reluctantly agree with the decision (except for rigs at an "awkward point" of completion).

First, we need to be SURE BOPs work ! I shudder at the thought of another blowout.

Second, lessons need to be learned and implemented. Not a two week deal.

There is *NO* reserve capacity to deal with a new spill, even a small one. 6 months before we can clean up Lake Palin enough to have ANY spare capacity.


I think you should stop grumbling for a minute and take some pride in the fact that your country actually has an adult as leader of the executive branch and head of state.

Obama asked people to consider the implications of the fact that the oil industry is forced to find product just this side of the moons of Jupiter.

Take pride, Americans.

I think it was inevitable, esp after discussing why BP had it's enviro review for the well waived-means all are like that. Rehash, Obama said the permits were waived because a law mandated 30 day completion, and there was no way to do them in that interval, so the permit was waived

Yes this is too bad for the oil workers of Lousianna, but lets be crystal clear about who is at fault. Blame BP and the MMS for their lax oversight of deepwater drilling operations, not Obama.


Now we get to see leftist stupidity in action.

That should be a cash flow loss for the drilling contractors of about $3.6 billion for the 6 months. I would guess about another $1.5 billion loss of cash flow for the subcontractors. And a very rough guess of 3,000 laid off workers. That would also be a loss of around $10 - 15 million in lost tax revenue just from the workers alone.

But if it must be done then so be it. Just adds a good bit more financial pain for S La. Guess what British based company will be dropped from everyone's Christmas card list this year.

Wonder who's gonna pick the bones once all the lawsuits are finished? Bet the Exxon-Mobil brass are kicking that around right now.

Oil is up $3, wonder if there is a connection. Up to now most actions or proposed actions have only a long term effect - several years out. Shutting down development wells (if that is what they are doing) could have an impact within a year.

What do they mean when they mention "intersecting" in regards to relief wells? It seems to me that if they are relieving the pressure in the formation, they will be removing oil/gas. So why not just produce and devote the capital that could be derived from this particular well to pay for the cleanup and damages incurred?

I have no doubt that the field will be developed - once(if) it is clear new regulations and safety procedures can be complied with. But the task now is to clean up the current mess - and that includes drilling the relief well(s) and successfully plugging this one so it cannot ever present a problem for anyone.

The relief wells are supposed to intersect the blown-out well just above the reservoir. They would have pumped mud into the blown-out well to stop the flow of oil and natural gas and then cement to seal it. I am not sure about their fate if the top kill successfully results in sealing the well with concrete.

I'm hoping some detailed discussion about the relief well(s), and their fate given a successful top-kill, might be part of the next thread.

12:36 CDT # 22 ROV showing a close-up of the kinked riser at the top of the BOP. Facing northwest. There is brown material coming out of the two leaks in the center, lighter brown material from the one on the right and yellow-gray material from the two on the left.

Thoughts? What's going on?

Just monitoring... looking at the old claw. That's about it.

Anybody see the claw whacking the side of the riser/BOP joint with the big old wrench? Sort of odd.

It looked as though they were trying to knock accumulated material off of the wrench. Why?

good question. looks to me as though the claw has a probe in the outflow perhaps? monitoring flow? temp?


Caveat lector: I have a technical background, but I now breed courgettes (that's zucchini to you guys) for a living ;-)

Prof. Goose,

I'd like to request a new post and comment string for what comes NEXT. It's obviously too early to say that the top kill is done, but I've started wondering about the details of what will be required to finally and safely abandon this God-forsaken hole.

It seems to me that the cement plug that they're planning to install once the top kill has been declared successful will make any downhole work to safely plug it up virtually impossible.

It's coming. Let's get this thing cemented first--we cannot assume this thing is done until it is done.

We'll probably do at least one more post like this, once this one gets too comment heavy.

Ideas about what you'd like to see are welcome, either here or in the TOD mailbox.

I see a great hand, reaching down from the stars...

I want to thank everyone at the Oil Drum for their interpretation and their technical expertise.

I'm glad that BP kept the live feeds in Top Kill.

My gut feeling is that this not going to be a Plug and Abandon......

Top Kill may have accomplished something (like the siphon did), but I don't think they've killed it.

I don't know if Allen was BP's sounding piece or he was just too presumptious.

However, BP has not held a press conference today.

If Top Kill was a success, we would have heard from them.

The current video through the BOP pretty looks the same as last night....

Maybe I'm wrong, I hope I am.

Allen is scheduled to give an update at 3:30 CDT...

WHO: Adm. Thad Allen, National Incident Commander

WHAT: Media availability to provide an update on operations regarding Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill response efforts

WHEN: May 27, 2010 at 3:30 p.m. CDT

WHERE: Venice Staging Area, 3039 Coast Guard Road, Venice, La.

A live webcast will be available at
(see link in column on the right)

the claw is holding a wrench into the plume. the wrench has twine wrapped around it, I guess so that they can see what is the stuff coming out. Shortly after this picture it pulled it out and held it up to the camera. There was a little bit of brown scale on it, then it beat it on the BOP to get rid of the scale. From my untrained eye, it did not look like crude on the wrench when it pulled it out.

Gosh, my first impression was I am looking at a image of a robot from a SF movie :-)

I understand there will be a cement plug pumped downhole once it is established that the top kill has worked.

Does anybody have any comments on what this plug is supposed to look like?

From my understanding of the plumbing for the top kill, this cement will be pumped into the main body cavity of the BOP. If we're lucky (meaning that the cement actually goes downhole and not out the leaks) the cement will travel down the annulus between the drill pipe and the innermost casing string. I can see this cement job as a very effective way to be certain that the drill pipe never moves again, but I DO NOT see this as an effective way to ensure that the well can be safely abandoned. If absolutely nothing else, it seems that it'd leave a whopping big leak path for a few thousand feet up the bore of the drill pipe.

I'd very much appreciate it if somebody could help me make sense out of this.

In theory the mud has been going down the leak path and the cement is just going to follow it. A cement "plug" is circulated into place but that's not what is going on here. Ideally the whole of the leak path will be filled with cement when they stop.

Hate to say it, but it doesn't exactly look as if the flow has stopped.

In fact, I've followed the BOP leak for a while, and it looks more violent than ever. The mixture is brownish, though, which is probably indicative of the drilling mud, but the pressure differential is still substantial - surely more than it should be if the top kill had been an outright success?

Yes, I'm certain that you and I are among many who dont understand either the color or the magnitude of the riser leaks at this point, when we're being told that the well pressure has been reduced significantly enough to consider pouring cement. There were several comments, and indeed complete threads, throughout the night which seemed to allude to the eventual reductions in both plume-magnitude and plume-darkness as the mud made its way in - neither of these has happened, and, like you, I'd argue that both have gotten worse.

So, after boggling over this for several hours, the only (positive thinking) conclusion I can come up with is that the downhole side of the BOP manifold is indeed balanced now, while the riser continues to flow unabated. This makes sense if the pressure can be measured on both sides of the input valves, as must surely be the case.

Thus the leaks on the riser wont begin to dissipate before the cement has hardened, and the input has been shut off.

It seems to me that once the cement hardens the entire flow of the mud pumps would be expressed as leakage. It will only be when the pumps are turned off that the leakage will stop.

Yes, I believe that's correct.

Trying to interpret the plume is not going to tell you much. They are not going to stop pumping until the cement is in place. As long as they are pumping you are going to see the plume.

I appreciate your comment, and I appreciate I don't work in the industry, but a simple question of logic asks how mud or cement can be made to stick to anything - which is required in order to block the well - considering the pressure differential which clearly still exists.

Given what they are reporting, what you are seeing is a result of the difference between the hydrostatic pressure of the mud column to surface plus applied pump pressure and the hydrostatic of sea water at the depth of the BOP. In the well, at the producing zone, the differential pressure should be either very low or in all probability the pressure exerted by the total mud column plus pump pressure is greater than the formation pressure so they are pumping into it at some rate. When the cement hits the formation taking fluid it should begin to dehydrate and set, at least that's the way a squeeze usually works. The cement may have thixotropic qualities which means that once it's in place if they stop moving it the gel strength will increase very rapidly and it should prevent any ingress of formation fluids. It's difficult to explain this stuff to people that don't have the background so I hope that's somewhat clear.

There is still the pressure of the mud in the column from the BOP up to the ship on the surface. The mud is heavier than water, so some of it will leak out of the riser connected to the top of the BOP, even if no more oil and gas is coming up out of the well. I guess at some point, they will stop pumping mud and start pumping cement. At that point, I would expect to see some cement flowing out at the top of the BOP. I also guess that when they believe enough cement has been pumped in, they will stop pumping and let the cement set. The flow of cement out the top of the BOP should diminish as the cement sets.

Someone made a comment that the media ought to review posts on TOD

I wanted to respond directly to that comment but as I have an internet system that shuts me off after 400 mb of download a day, and everybody seem to have embedded live feeds in their pages I am almost at my limit so I can’t lurk or post on pages with live downloads.

So I’ll just post this and then jump off.

The situation is actually worse than the media just ignoring TOD. There are some reporters following the discussion and one reporter contacted me via TOD staff. As X agreed that my comments will be off the record I will afford X the same courtesy and only say that it is a reporter who has done a number of stories on the spill for a major news source.

I initially agreed to communicate with X because of X’s claims that X’s organization was “trying to get it right”.

One of our discussions involved the inflated flow rates coming out of the academic community.

X commented essentially that the high-end estimates always appeared to be extreme and that there was
almost a bidding war among academics to come up with higher numbers.

We also mentioned Ian MacDonald of FSU’s numbers which seemed reasonable at 25,000 bpd. But McDonald has gotten only minimal coverage compared to all the extremes.

I then sent X an engineering analysis, with backup, refuting the Purdue numbers. I also submitted my credentials which are probably just as impressive as most of the “experts” appearing on various talk shows, maybe more because I actually have real life experience.

I sent that data, along with a number of other factual corrections May 22 after being assured that they wanted to tell the correct story.

To date there has not been any indication they was any interest in correcting any of the information.

To X: If you happen to read this it is now your last chance to live up to your statements and show that you and your organization still retain any iota of journalistic responsibility.

Shelburn, I apologize for the live running feed. It's been the most dependable one today, but I haven't able to disable to autoplay. Sorry about that.

On the other matter, good on you for sticking to your guns. If it's any consolation, there's a lot of this going with this story...

Click the Pause or Stop buttons, and the traffic ceases.

I just clicky the little adblock tab and say goodbye. ;)

thats right ...the prude guy is way off ....I've been arguing the same maybe 30 posts above your post and some kooks on this website keep coming up with invalid arguments.....any BP Engg if put under oath to testify in congress will essentially say

Congress: do you think the flow is more than 5000 bopd
BPEngg: Yes, its highly likely
COngress: do you think the flow is more than 10,000 bopd
BPEngg: Yes, I think it can be more than 10,000
Congress: do you think its more than 15,000 bopd
BPEngg: thats a tough one, but it can be a little over
Congress: do you think its more than 20,000 bopd
BPEngg: yes, it can possibly reach that high
COngress: is the flow more than 35000 bopd
BPENgg: possibly, if theoretical limits are being considered
COngress: is the flow more than 50000 bopd
BPENgg: due respect to congress but I have a bridge to sell you fine congressmen
COngress: What is the worst case scenario:
BE ENGG: BOP is knocked ....upwards of 80,000 bopd but come on ...seriously who knows .....80,000 is at that point as good an estimate as 100,000 or 110,000 bopd”

Quick aside Shelburn: there's a way (well more than one way) to block flash so you don't get streaming video by default, or to disable it completely if you want. I think I used something called "flashblock" addon for firefox when I had a whimpy laptop that was always getting bogged down; it would still run flash videos but you had to click on them to start.

There's also a way to just disable completely in firefox and ie,

Or just google "disable flash"

Your contributions are much appreciated.

FANTASTIC not only does it solve my bandwidth limitation problem it greatly speeds up Firefox as it isn't having to load all those pesky video ads.

Thank You

get Adblock, while you're at it, assuming you don't already have it. Makes the web not look like a giant bill board.


Sorry you may have found out the hard way what so many others who have dealt with the press before have. Everyone should know this fact: THE PRESS IS NOT YOUR FRIEND!!!!

Their job is to produce ad revenues. The only way they keep their jobs is by producing stories that generate eyeball counts. This is foreign to most of us at TOD because our focus is on education and information sharing. We assume a friendly reporter "will do the right thing" just as we try to do.

The reality is reporters use human nature to their advantage. They get information by assuming personas that best fit what they feel will generate the most cooperation from people they interview.

This is not always bad. Sometimes important information is published that would not have been otherwise if reporters were more transparent.

In some cases, perhaps yours, the information is not considered suitable for a story because it won't generate a riveting viewing or reading experience. The reporter did not know in advance what you would tell them, they were hoping for something huge and controversial but found just logic. Reporters know logic is often viewed as boring.

Then there is the worst case, where a reporter will take what you say out of context, or misunderstand what you say, and create a story that is factually incorrect. Unfortunately this last scenario happens far too often. So here's hoping you don't end up seeing scenario number three in your case.

I'd love to see your contribution reach the MSM and do some good. I'm not saying it won't, just trying to explain what I've personally observed in the past.

By the way, did the reporter tell you the story would be given to you in advance of publication for your review and critique in order to make sure it did not misinform the public? I think I already know the answer to that, unfortunately.

Why are they banging it with a wrench?

R2D2 stuck the wrench into the plume for a while and then pulled it out to see what was on it. High Tech stuff.

They had the wrench stuck into the center hole for a while. They "banged" it to reomve residual material, probably to prepare it for re-use.
The end appeared to have some residue on it. Not sure what it was. Maybe they are looking to see if there is any oil still comming up.

Just a thought but the mud should be "heavier" than water so back away from the spewing substance and see if it sinks.

Round #2 for the wrench. More twine?

All this time I thought that was Robbie's arm!

This doesn't instill confidence in me.

Yup, there's shouldn't be any oil in the plumes now, if the hole has truly been filled.

I'm a media type - trying to understand what experts here can tell from looking at the live feed showing the light brown plumes. From reading earlier comments, it sounded like a majority believe these images don't really tell us anything -- other than the fact that everything didn't explode under the pressures from the top kill operation. A good thing, presumably.

But, is there really anything else one can reasonably say based on this?

Thanks for your help.

The brown plumes appear to be mud, not oil and gas. This is a good sign. Mud is still being pumped from the rig at the surface, so it will continue to spew out until cement is pumped in and sets.

Depends on how dumbed down you want to get. Read the thread above. The plume has changed color. They have successfully proven they can inject mud into the BOP at pressure and volume to push the hydrocarbon column "down" to some degree. It's like blowing into a soda straw in a big gulp, with the mud being the breath you are pushing in. The further you can push the column of air deeper into the big gulp, the less pressure there will be at your lips. In the well case...oops the twine just came out agian..looks like cement or something stuck to it?... they are trying to push the mud slowly down the casing and achieve near zero pressure at the wellhead before puting the cement in.

I'm not really qualified to speak here. Clearly though, the mud being expelled above the input valve should be pure mud - and not contain any oil or gas - if the downhole mud has equalized the pressure from the reservoir. That appears to be why they're sampling it with the wrench. If we're right the ROV will soon head to the surface with that wrench.

Or perhaps visual inspection will be sufficient... :-) With the barge 70% empty for mud perhaps they'd better start the pour.

Like Heading Out indicated in the original post of this thread, if you compare an image of the leaks from yesterday before they started pumping the mud to the ones from today, the plumes are spreading out more today than yesterday suggesting the pressure has decreased. Check the video feed from Mil # 22 (23, 32 or 33, I can't read the number) ROV at about 14:13 CDT when the ROV withdrew the wrench from the plume and visually examined it. It looked like the wrench was coated with mud and not black oil.

Does it make sense to mix in the cement plug and deliver it at similar rates they are pumping the mud?

If the cement plug doesn't work, they still would have filled up most of the BOP with it, making any further "top kill" attempts problematic, it would seem.

If they stop pumping the mud, they will have a clean opportunity to see if they really stopped the well or not. If they didn't, they can re-start the mud pumps and think some more. If they did, they can then introduce cement.

Which way are they going to go?

Still is a lot of flow there for being successful. Question, If thier was a leak in the outer casing string at seal joint far up the well and the bottom pressure could come in the bore at the higher pressure farther up the column. The pressure of the mud at that altitude would not allow them to back off flow.Having to mantain a higher pressure at the BOP to stop the casing leak? Could we know from the casing plan at what altitude's this could happen at. Thanks again for the great site. Lee

hello, i am new here and no technical knowledge whatsoever, just trying to learn what is the current status of this "top kill" operation. is it working?
several hours ago admiral thad allen from coast guard issued a statement in los angeles times that the operation had stopped the flow of oil, and that bp would soon fill with cement (
it is now some hours later (2:15pm eastern time) and just silence. on the live feed, obviously some substance is still gushing out. can someone please tell me what is happening at this time?
i greatly appreciate your kind assistance and enlightment.

Does anyone know if BP is still pumping at the probe that was inserted in the riser last week. If they are one would guess they would know if oil/gas or mud or both is coming out of the leaks.

The RIT was removed from the riser before the top kill effort began... so no pumping has been done since then.

comes on riggers....the well is starting to look like its getting under control .....i say dip hard into that skoal or husky or copenhagen one last time ......and push on ......tame this wild buckaroo till it don't buck no more and get some sleep then

I would think the ROV pilots are more partial to redbull.

Mathew Simmons seems very concerned that BP is killing the wrong leak. I saw him interviewed twice yesterday where he stated that the large oil plume 7 miles away may be caused bu a much larger leak that BP won't acknowledge. Has there been any corroborating data uncovered to support that belief?

If there is another leak some distance away (would we not have heard of this, though?), perhaps BP can claim it as a "natural phenomena" and not related to the blow out at the well head.

Perhaps a better explanation is Mr. Simmons feel out of the coo coo tree and hit every branch on the way down. What he proposes is preposterous. You know what a seep is? You know that seeps can be detected by satellite? I don't think they miss one that big. Think about it.

You are probably right, but...

I guess the claim is that the aggregate amount of oil on the surface and the massive underwater plumes add up to more oil than is being visibly dumped into the gulf at the wellhead and end of riser pipe.

This spill seems to be filling the gulf at a pretty good clip, easily observable from space and is now the biggest man-made feature on the surface of our planet.

The oil, at least when we see it on the surface doesn't look particularly thin...

Even at the increased rates, the flows at the riser do not seem adequate for this giant of a spill...

So he thinks there is more coming out somewhere nearby.

For arguments sake lets lets say the well was leaking 20,000 bpd. I don't believe BPs estimate and I definitely don't believe the academics vying for who can come up with the highest number and get on Tv. So lets say 20,000. That's almost 29,000,000 gallons of oil in 34 days. That's a lot of oil. I don't think you need a second source to explain it.

13:51 CDT Mil # 22 (or 23 or 33) ROV is showing the leaks in the kink in the riser at the top of the BOP. The ROV's hand appears to be holding something, perhaps a probe, into the ejecta from the leaks in the middle. It does not look like the wand used to inject dispersant.

It's a wrench wrapped in twine.

Is the ROV collecting a sample by embedding some of the ejecta in the twine?


My hunch is they probes/sensors ....

No. It's a socket wrench with twine wrapped around the handle with some electricians tape tying off the loose end. Pretty obvious what it is. Just look at it. Pretty high tech, eh? ;)

That looks to be what they are doing. They we just looking at what was collected. Didn't look like anything sticking to the twine. The stuff on the handle just looked like the mud. I don't really know what I'm looking at, thou.


Just got an update from someone not directly involved but knows some who are. So far BP has pumped 30,000 bbls of kill mud. The volume needed to fill the production csg up for its entire 13,000' length is around 1,400 bbls. Needless to say most of the mud is not going down hole. Supposedly BP has ordered more mud. I believe they had 50,000 bbls on board initially. Hopefully they'l have more mud ready soon. If they have to turn the mud pumps off they could easily flow back and lose every bbl they've managed to get down hole so far.

Is it possible for an obstruction to act similar to a one-way valve?

They would be able to stop the oil/gas flow while pumping mud, but never get significant amount of mud down into the main pipe.

Maybe the explanation is as simple as the mud not being heavy enough to balance the pressure from the reservoir. Maybe they used mud with a density that is too low.

Blue -- it's not the mud weight per se that is critical. It's the height of the mud column in the casing that matters. A 25 ppg mud that only fills 300' of the csg will do nothing to stop the oil/NG flow. OTOH, a 13,000' column of 16.5 ppg mud would. The bottom hole pressure is supposed to be equivalent to 14.5 ppg. But that would be a 13,000' column of 14.5 ppg. Most folks are used to seeing pressure as psi. But we don't tend to have pressure gauges on the bottom of holes so we used the equivalent of so many feet in a column of mud with a specific weight.

that would be 18000' of 14.5, 14.5-8.6(SW)=5.9 converted to psi 5000'column=1534 psi short of necessary hydrostatic psi

Could it be going into fractures in the formation or do you think it's all being lost from the leaks?

Is it possible a lot of that mud has been pushed into the formation at the bottom of the well? It's hard to believe that 30,000 minus 1400 barrels of mud have all leaked out the top of the BOP.

armchair -- If the 16.5 ppg mud column were reaching all the way to the bottom of the well it could be going into the rock. But that wouldn't be a problem because that full column of heavy mud should stop the flow. As far as leaking out the BOP remember that it's being pumpmed into the BOP through a loose seal. They are pumping at 60 bbls/minute...maybe more. That's 3,600 bbl/hr. If all the mud were going down the csg it would have filled it in the first 20 minutes and the well would have been killed at that point. And it's good for all to rmember that the weight of the mud isn't going to make it go down the hole. It's the pump pressure pushing against the well pressure. If those two pressure were the same no mud at all would have gone down the hole. they might be able to increase the pump pressure but remember that would push the mud out the leaks even faster. What we have no idea at this point is how far down the hole has the pumped mud reached? Just a WAG but I would say very little at this point.

What if the drill pipe is leaking? It's capped on the end but may be broken within the crumpled riser and simply folded at the BOP.

Can mud make it down the hole and up through the bit? If any volume of oil is getting out that way seems like it should be able to.

so they have be fighting fluid loss...this was always the danger here....casing seats are esp vulnerable here....they cant be too happy to open the pumps more .....

seems like this is soon going to be a thin line between managing flow (gotta have enough flow going in and pore pressure at the wellbore ....this is going to be a thin line to walk here) and how long can they keep exposing the BOP stack to this stress .....i hope the gamma imaging technique of Sec Chu`s showed good things inside the BOP and they can push the BOP to give themselves a good chance......still volumetrics of 30,000 with borehole volumetrics to 13'000 at 1400 bbls doesnt look promising....

I don't think availability of mud is even a concern here....BP has mud or should have enough...there is absolutely no question of stopping the mud pumps until either top kill is called off or formation pressure is equalized


Thanks for the "real" update.

The different colors of the plumes concerns me.

Supposedly BP has ordered more mud.

FWIW, according to Kent Wells's May 24 tech update video explaining the top kill procedure, there are four mud-containing/pumping vessels:

HOS Centerline, primary pumping vessel, with 30,000 bbl

Blue Dolphin, secondary pumping vessel, with 11,800 bbl

2 additional vessels with 8,870 bbl and 31,170 bbl, respectively

That's a total of 81,840 bbl, if I understood his rundown.

Yes, I don't have the numbers but I watched that and he implied that they had plenty of backup mud.

My understanind (however flawed) that the mud, if able to fill the entire upward cavity (main pipe and whatever other paths are available for the oil/gas mixture), is going to exert enough pressure to overcome any formation pressure at the bottom of the main pipe.

Now, if the weight of the mud at the entry point into the formation (13,000 feet below) is heavier than the force excerted by the formation pressure the whole mud "stack" will sink into the formation reservoir. If, for some reason this weight is not adequate, the mud will be expelled in another blow out.

I don't understand how they can equalize the system so it doesn't move long enough for the cement to set.

Hey ROCK, what's your thoughts on already having gone through a tanker of mud in 8 hours? That's a lot of loss right?

It seems to me this thing may be far from over... :(

Goose -- I KNOW nothing but I suspect it might not be working. I thought of a way folks could look at the effort in a manner they can more easily visualize. Here goes: there is a fire hydrant open full force. Putting out 7 ppg water at 80 psi at a RATE OF 500 GALLONS PER MINUTE.. Now I want to stop that water from coming up the main by pointing another fire hose at it. Unfortanately I can't connect the hose directly to the hydrant because the threads are messed up (i.e. bad BOP). So all I can do is hold the end of the hose close to the opening of the hydrant. My hose is putting out 500 gallons of 16.5 ppg mud at a pressure of 80 psi. So can I stop the water flowing from the hydrant? Nope...the pressures are the same. At best the two streams hit each other and the total flows out of the gap.

This is the problem I've had with the top kill from the start. I've been on rigs where we've pumped a successful kill pill. But the well was shut in. All we had to do was pump in at a pressure greater that the shut in pressure of the well. The pressured mud would push whatever was in the well downwards. But the BP well isn't shut's flowing. How much force do you need to apply to a river to make it flow upstream? I know folks were holding out for the top kill to work so I didn't want to be too negative. But if they couldn't get a very tight seal on the BOP I couldn't envision how they could get the flow to stop let alone flow backwards down the csg. But as I'v said before I'm not an engineer...just pretend to be sometimes on TOD.

Years ago when I was performing barium enemas and other xray studies with barium I was intrigued to learn that barium was commonly used in drilling mud, largely because of its weight and availability. At that time there was a plentiful supply. Much of the barium was mined in Missouri. What is the composition of today's drilling mud?

"What is the composition of today's drilling mud?"

Chiefly press releases intended to obfuscate matters.

and if an 18000 ft column of 16 ppg mud balanced formation pressure it seems reasonable to assume that it would take 19.3 ppg 13000'column to balance.
Just sayin..hydrostatically and the ECD is not 3.3 ppg
I think the accountants have figured out it is cheaper to pump 16ppg/bbl mud than to pay the 4300/bbl fine for oil spilled, even with the support vessels costs factored in pumping until August when relief wells may intersect.
Not to say they won't also get several weeks behind the curve and lose circulation on their way to the blowout zone.

Unless they could not get properly weighted mud in sufficient volumes, I cannot understand why they would not have mud at the right weight to balance expected reservoir pressure. Perhaps with some exhaustion the working pressure dropped, so they used lighter mud?

If there is a gas bubble in the well (which I assume is likely, it would seem that they would need to pump a much higher pressure to drive that gas back into solution with the mud and back into the formation, else the column weight will never equalize. If the gas entrains along the column, can that ever really be successful?

Is there any chance of inserting and hardening a successful concrete plug by holding a matching pressure? Seems like that is asking an awful lot of the mud slingers. Why not try a junk-shot before cementing, to lessen the mud flow and amount of cement needed?

At the very least a partially filled mud column will greatly reduce the working pressure. If they have enough mud to allow them to cut the riser off and clamp on a valve now would be the time. Then they can drop the mud pressure and close the valve, and it only needs to hold the remaining differential rather than the original pressure.

Baryte (BaSO4), a highly insoluble compound, in the form of extremely fine man-made particles is still an important and common weighting additive for drilling mud. Two major categories for drilling mud, water-based and oil-based. At these depths and pressures usually it is oil based mud as it is difficult to create water-based mud that will withstand the heat. The oil-based mud is actually an emulsion of water droplets in an oil, thus it's common name of "invert" from being an inverted emulsion. Anything invert you'll find used offshore, for environmental reasons as well as performance reasons, will be a synthetic oil that is akin to baby oil/mineral oil.

There are other things added, surfactants to maintain the emulsion, to protect against bacterial growing in and degrading the mud, to control viscosity other rheology properties, caking agents (to coat and plug up the pores in the rock being drilled to avoid fluid loss, protect from damaging the formation drilling through things like reactive shale, and reduce the amount of material that sluffs in off the side of the hole), detergents to avoid clumping and what are called "mud rings", and so on.

I am known as W squared in some circles. Weird, Wrong and... check out Cabot specialty fluids for one recipe. Very interesting stuff, that drilling mud.

Some of the coolest folks I ever had the pleasure to watch do their jobs let me sit in on a well being drilled for three days as an observer. They are amongst my finest memories of observing, Americans in this case, doing their jobs. Learned some new words in the process not repeatable here. Drilling mud is facinating.

Robert -- "bar" is still the popular weight additive in mud.

Is it possible the two lighter-colored plumes on either side of the darker plume are mud mixing with seawater backflow off the Riser and the true mud color is that of the middle plume?

New user here, appreciate the intelligent commentary. First a question, do ROV operators see stereo, seems like would be useful. site showing possible rovs in operation but site does not mention stereo vision.

Looking at small leaks, riser at top of BOP, those look relatively easy to have sealed if BP wanted to, perhaps with some kinds of strapping. Even if they didnt want to (having those small leaks are useful for monitoring and perhaps reduce pressure downstream), if crack/hole expansion was a concern they could have reinforced the pipe area surrounding the crack/hole. With regards to measurement, I would have expected various devices to have been installed in all the leak locations that measure flow speed and flow composition. Assists in makeing more reliable estimate of what and how much coming out. If they are not equipped at present with devices to do the foregoing, I predict this event will spur their developement.


There has been some discussion and previous threads regarding this.

I don't have the technical knowledge to explain it, but it seems as if the leaks have different colors because they are possibly originating from different locations within the column.

Hopefully someone can provide a link or explaination

14:13 CDT Mil # 22 (?) ROV removes the wrench from the ejects and looks at a close-up view of the accumulated material on the wrench. The sample is gray-brown and looks like mud to me.

14:16 CDT The video feed goes black.

14:17 CDT BP's video feed switches to Mil # 21 ROV apparently examining the BOP with close-up views.

14:22 CDT BP's video feed switches back to Mil # 22 (23, 32 or 33) ROV monitoring the leaks in the kink at the top of the BOP. The wrench is no longer visible. No apparent change in the flow. Facing 334 degrees azimuth.


Question from a dummy who knows nothing:
AP: A (new) massive oil plume was discovered by a University of South Florida research vessel called "Weatherbird II." They were testing the water in sites around 22 miles east and northeast of BP's leaking wellhead. The university said they detected traces of dissolved oil as deep as 1,300 feet below the surface.

If BP plugs the leak in the BOP, will it plug the newly discovered oil plume? (Or is the oil really coming from a different spot altogether?)

they are tracking the underwater oil plume, not a new source

How do you plug a plume?

Did you actually read the article? Here:

"Hollander said the team detected the thickest amount of hydrocarbons, likely from the oil spewing from the blown out well, at about 1,300 feet in the same spot on two separate days this week."

"The researchers say they are worried these undersea plumes may are the result of the unprecedented use of chemical dispersants to break up the oil a mile undersea at the site of the leak."

Hey, Smartypants:

Did you ACTUALLY read my question?

I asked:
If BP plugs the leak in the BOP, will it plug the newly discovered oil plume? (Or is the oil really coming from a different spot altogether?)

Query who is more ignorant? A smartypants, or someone who asks a simple question for which they do not have an answer.

The plume is not a new leak. It is a batch of oil floating under the water from the leaks we already know about.

The thick plume was detected just beneath the surface down to about 3,300 feet, and is more than 6 miles wide....

just rough estimates....

someone reported 30,000 bbl of kill mud has been used.
so taking around 26 hrs procedure time so far ...avg rate has been around 1.6 bbl per min or around 67 gal per min.....

bore hole volumetric to 13,000 SS = 1400 bbl

fluid lost to formation + leak = 28,600 bbls

i don`t know how far they can crank up the pumps ....67 gal per min is quiet high already long can BP expose the BOP stack to flow some point someone is going to have to make a very difficult decision to increase the mud flow and continue pumping or not...and tipping points coming in the next 3 hrs or so

alii.... I have appreciated your posts on this event and I am chagrined to some extent to say that I think your math may be faulty. Using your parameters, 30000 bbl and 26 hours, I came up with a flow rate of just a shade over 19.2 bbl/min. I think Kent Wells' technical brief a few days ago mentioned that the mud pumps were capable of moving 50 bbl/min, so the pumps aren't being taxed if that is the case. Your point about the stack, though, remains in play. Please let me know if I made a mistake. Thanks!

you`re right

the flow rate is a touch over 19.2bbl per min ...or 805 gal per min

i was doing some other calculations for work and mixed the two number sets .....(guess better correct the other papers too) .....

the availability of mud or the ability to pump is not even a concern ....the concern is fluid loss and BOP stack conditions 19.2 flow rate is high but but the problem is this is putting the wellbore under stress as well right now ....the csg seats have got to be suspect form the work go .....the problem is pumping too hard will open whatever communication there is between the wellbore and formation and that will make top kill redundant at that point ...but if you dont pump the mud hard enough with continuous losses from the leak and to the formation you just might not be pumping in enough mud to get the well under yeah someone is about to earn their paycheck for the next year making the decision to pump at higher rates or cal it off and if to the decision is made to pump at higher rates when do you call it quits...further problems are compounded because there is realistically only one chance for a top kill on this well.....BP cannot shut the pumps off and try again ....down hole and the BOP stack both cannot be realistically put through this again...



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I hate to be somewhat cynical here, but it is possible that as an above poster alluded to, BP is stalling with this top kill effort and it is nothing more than PR. If you inject lots of mud in the well, it can also do the other thing mud does eally the picture. Instead of seeing dark colored oil come out, you see what looks like harmless mud. For all we know they simply backed off on the mud after pumping copious amounts in and the decrease in pressure is a direct result of that. They have admitted they require much more mud, so maybe they are customizing the flow rate to minimilize the appearance of oil. The current darker colored mud could also contain oil and gas but due to being thoroughly mixed with mud it is far less visible and thus from a PR standpoint...less problematic.

That's just silly. The oil would just separate from the mud and rise to the surface. It would be immediately obvious the leak is continuing.

Attention NEW THREAD: Redirect to Video also found at that location.