Deepwater Oil Spill - Why Top Kill Starts and Stops, Watching the Flows, and a Live Comment Thread

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Caution is needed in interpreting results. I find in reviewing my analyses that I was at times misled by appearances of transparency, when it really wasn't there. And of course it isn't now, So, I have tried to explain why, for example, we shouldn't be too discouraged after the second injection stopped (which I suspect was earlier than BP have said, thanks to the eagle eyes that have been watching and commenting on these posts). Those thoughts on the junkshot attempts and the starts and stops are under the fold (click "there's more" below.)

Latest: NYT says the "BP’s Effort to Plug Oil Leak Suspended a Second Time". 29/05/2010 1:18 am There are small indications of some success in the plume shots, can you tell what they are?

Out in the Gulf BP are going through the preparations for the next stage in the attempt to top kill the deep water well that has been leaking oil and gas for more than a month. The kill attempt has now been underway for a couple of days, and so this is initially a recap on what I believe has happened to date, and what they are currently planning on doing. I will include in this explanation the two attempts that BP have made so far, and what I expect that they will do next.

To help with the explanation I am going to use some very simple models, which oversimplify the situation, but hopefully will help explain it. To start with I am going to break the overall system down into a very simple diagram.

Simple approximation of the situation

Basically BP are sending mud through a series of feed lines, which I have simplified for the explanation into one feed pipe that I have called the choke line (grey). It has an internal diameter of, at most, of 3 inches. (I say "at most" because most fittings on these lines have smaller diameters). It feeds into the top of the well, which I have colored brass, and which is the pipe (casing) that feeds from the seabed down to where the oil is emerging from the rock, some 13,000 ft further down.

The casing and choke line sit underneath the Blowout preventer (which is the large assembly at the top of the rig). I have colored this bronze, and simplified the shape, for this explanation, to represent a pipe that has been partially closed by the action of the BOP.

Now, here is the problem. BP want to feed mud through the choke line at such a pressure and flow that it will push the oil and gas flowing up out of the well back down the well. To do that they have to create enough resistance to the flow that the combination of the mud flow and the oil can’t all escape out through the hole in the BOP.

They can do this since, as you increase the flow through a hole (or nozzle), it has to move faster to get through the space in a given time. It takes a driving pressure to get the fluid moving at that speed, and for a given driving pressure the fluid will only move at a certain speed, and so only a fixed volume of fluid can go through the hole.

Thus if BP pump more fluid into the well than this volume, for that given pressure (which is higher than the pressure that the oil was flowing at) then all the flow out of the well will change to mud, and the excess mud that is not flowing out of the hole will be at enough pressure over the oil (and gas) in the well that it pushes it back down the well and back into the rock.

Now that was the first step. The idea was that once the column of mud filled the well, down to where the rock reservoir lies, that the weight of the mud would exert a pressure on the oil in the rock, that was higher than the fluid pressure, and the flow would stop.

The first time they did this, the density of the mud (weight of a cubic foot) was not high enough for the full column to balance the pressure in the rock, and the leakage of mud out of the hole in the top of the BOP was higher than BP had thought, so they were losing too much mud to the Gulf.

So they moved to step two. The first part of this is to try to reduce the size of the hole in the BOP. And for this they used a variety of what everyone is calling a junk shot. It actually isn’t. Given the problem that I am about to outline, they have an ally that folks normally don’t have. As Secretary Chu has pointed out there is the full intellectual strength of the Federal Labs behind this attempt, so where one would normally just chop up tires and similar materials, there is a fascinating mathematical problem in designing plug pieces of the right shape that will fit the constraints, and which will accelerate the blocking of the flow path. So I suspect that some of the shapes that will appear in the flow will have been specificially designed for the problem.

Not being familiar with their answer I’m going to stick with the spheres and triangles of the more traditional, shall we say old fashioned, way of addressing the problem.

It is one of these problems where the bounding conditions can make life rather difficult. Let me redraw the problem with a different orientation. What we have to do is to block (the term that is being used is bridge) the passage through the BOP. This will stabilize the flow, and will allow the cement plug time to set up. (We’ll talk about cements another time).

So here is the slit: through the BOP – it is going to be a more complex shape, but this allows some explanation of the problems.

Simplified picture of the slot to be sealed

Now to block the slot we have to have some pieces of material (although they are quite large for simplicity I am going to call them all particles) that are big enough to wedge in the slot, but small enough to get through the feed lines to that point.

Now here’s the first catch, we don’t want them to be hard enough that we will damage the passages, nor soft enough that they will bend distort and compress and squeeze through the hole. Rubber turns out to fit the bill, and though there are other materials that could be better, in this initial explanation that’s what I am going to use.

The easy thing to do is to use some spheres, not easy to get, though golf balls are an example. Unfortunately they are a bit too big. The reason is that the feed line through the choke has a maximum inner tube size of probably 2.75 inches. A golf ball is about 1.6 inches, which is more than half this, so that two balls together could block the feed line – a definite no-no. (And don’t say it can’t happen, I’ve seen it with smaller particle ratios than this).

The maximum size that you can get through the line should be about a third of the minimum diameter – say 0.9 inches, stretch a point and make it a maximum ball size of an inch. So we fill the mud with miniature golf balls, pump enough of them down that they end up going through the BOP and wait for the effect. Let me show you, using pearl spheres, how the problem evolves:

Spheres in slot

See all the open space around the spheres, and how much of the slot remains open. We really haven’t made much of a blockage in the slot area of contact, and we have made it hard to push other materials into the slot area itself. However the smallest open area now may be at the maximum diameter of the spheres, which is further back, where the feed pipe is larger. Putting more spheres of the same size down won’t improve the situation much, because they still leave room, around the spheres, for fluid to flow.

There are two ways to go, once the initial building blocks for the bridge have been established. The first might be to use triangular pieces of rubber (as we saw protruding from the crack in the riser). These can fit closer together and fill more of the slot and flow passage.

Ideal case of three rubber strips blocking flow

Here the strips have aligned in the right way and have been driven into the slot, reducing the flow path. But note, as with the spheres that the gaps that are left are now too small for more strips of that size to feed into the slot and do more blocking.

So in either case what has to happen is that there should be a second pass, where smaller particles are used. These couldn’t be used before, because they would push through the slot, but now the slot size is smaller, and so these can start to fill in the gaps. Let me illustrate with the spheres:

Filling the gaps with a smaller second set of spheres.

So now the gaps that remain are even smaller, and so in a third shot, with even smaller gaps the feed particles have to be even smaller.

It can take a number of different slugs of material going through the choke line (and being pushed into the BOP instead of falling down the well, before the slot is sufficiently “bridged” that there isn’t much flow out of the BOP.

So expect that there will be a number of these shots, after each of which mud will be pumped in to see how much progress in filling the holes they have made. Bear again in mind that there is this restriction on how big a piece they can feed in, and just hope that all the gaps in the BOP are small enough that big enough particles can be fed into the lines to block it.

Now, as I said, they are probably using more sophisticated shapes from the National Labs, that will allow the number of shots to be reduced, but the relative sequence still has to be followed, as they build the bridge. Let's see how it goes, and be patient, each shot takes time to set up.

And at the same time, given that they have to balance the weight of the column of mud against the rock pressure, they are using the interval to change the mud weight increasing it each time, to seek that balance. (They don't want it higher than it has to be or it could hydraulically fracture the rock and lose the mud into the crack).

(Oh and if some of you remember the class in school where the teacher filled a jar with big pebbles and asked you if it was full, you said yes, then he/she poured in smaller pebbles, now is it full? Then came sand - now is it full? And then the jar was filled with water - its the same basic idea).

The Oil Drum strives for a high signal to noise ratio in its comment threads. Short, unengaging comments, or comments that are off topic, are likely to be deleted without notice. (to be clear--on point humor and levity, more than welcome.)

Otherwise, if you see a problematic comment:

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I would suggest to the newcomers that they take the time to read some of the other stories here that don't have to do with Deepwater Horizon. There is a wide range of stuff that we normally discuss when the oil isn't hitting the fan that many of you might find rather eye opening (to put it mildly).

I would like to address a comment to new users and, secondarily, to the moderators.

For new users, if TOD is to continue to be such an invaluable source of information, it is imperative that new users and amateurs limit themselves to reading what knowledgeable, long-time contributors are discussing. Clogging TOD with hypotheses and speculation doesn't add anything and just makes more noise for everyone else to filter through. I also encourage new users to pay their own way and make a PayPal contribution to cover their bandwidth.

For moderators, you may have watched Professional Pilots Rumour Network get clogged with speculation by newbies when the Air France Airbus went down in mid-Atlantic with much fanfare. If the signal-to-noise ration becomes too poor, I would support an admin rule which limits new members from posting for xx days after the join.

Incidentally, I am not a petro-industry person, my background is in another field altogether, which I why I support TOD so I can learn from experts in the field, and why I don't post my opinions.

Thanks to TOD and the moderators for doing a massive public service!!!!

Research Scientist (biology) and TOD newbie votes 'Aye' to "If the signal-to-noise ratio becomes too poor, I would support an admin rule which limits new members from posting for xx days after the join."

If I want uninformed wild speculation and political diatribes (and sometimes I do ;-) there are a million other websites to choose from. This place is one in a million. Please do what's needed to keep it that way, even if it means I lose my ability to comment here.

Thanks for the great info, and a PayPal donation will soon be on its way.

Hello Rockman, et. al. (folks that have worked with MMS):

I've been digging through the online data, specifically well permits, plans and the weekly WARs for MC block 252. Does any company fill out the weekly WAR completely? I noticed that BP has never filled in anything more that the identifying information at the very top. They have never filled in any detail; typically not even a few words in the narrative section at the bottom of the form. This is also true for when BP had the Marianas drilling in MC 252 in 2009. Dominion Exp. at least filled in some info on their wells. I can't believe that the MMS software allows submission of empty 133 forms.

I also note that the well plans for BP's Marianas and Dominion's Ocean Star work are downloadable. There is NO PLAN to download for Deep Horizon's work. The plan for the BP RW C and D is downloadable.

It would appear that there is a problem with MMS and the government not just BP.

This is probably the wrong thread in which to post this, but I didn't know where else to start. Would the site moderators please correct me - email instructions. I know everyone is very, very, very concerned about the spill as am I. However, we need to start correcting these oversights if they are also occurring with the thousands of other leases in the GOM. As F. Zappa said while sitting in the loo - the job's not finished until the paperwork's done.

Now that everyone's tuned out for the Memorial Day Weekend, it's time to dump the bad news: Perfect timing BP...well played

Reposted from near end of last thread (see also associated comments)

Thoughts on Pressures, Flows and Junk Shot/Top Kill

This is collected from the last 39 days on TOD and earlier, the data is of varying quality (but best available to the public) and this analysis is handwave quality (largely non-numeric).

Reservior quality oil is API 35 (right on edge between light & medium quality crude, few asphaltenes, which make the "best", longest lasting tar balls) with lots of natural gas (3,000 GOS, 10,000 GOS is considered a gas well). The oil emulsifies with water easily, much better than most crude oils.

The reservoir pressure is 13,000 psi. (Temperature only 180 F from one report, unusually cold). 4 weeks ago the pressure was reported as 8,000 to 9,000 psi entering the BOP and just seawater pressure (@ 2,200 psi) + 400 psi exiting the BOP. This implies much more than just a frictional drop up 13,000' of drill string, but some obstruction as well.

Since then sand entrained with the gas and oil has eroded the BOP and BP has stated that new observations of BOP pressures were "surprisingly lower" but gave no numerical data. OTOH, downhole, it is normal for wild wells to pull rocks as well as sand into the bore and clog things up.

However, this specific well has cased for production (later), which is designed to prevent being clogged up by produced rock and sand.

My GUESS is that the pressure drop downhole in the well bore is greater and drop across the BOP lower since Thad Allen leaked the pressure #s.

This also implies that the clogging the holes spewing that we can see does nothing, since they represent just a 400 psi drop. Raise that to 1,000 psi by reducing the size and that will feed back SLIGHTLY to the other, larger pressure drops.

One interesting observation is that the natural gas is dissolved in a super-critical fluid in the reservoir and begins to comes out of solution as it transits the BOP. Expanding gas is quite a force.

A major issue is inertia. Roughly 2 ft2 column coming up 13,000' and a few feet/sec is quite a battering ram. Beyond that is a good sized reservoir. It has been sitting still for the last few million years, and now it begins to flow towards this new hole. Given the size (perhaps 100 million barrels) it will take months for all the oil to start flowing evenly towards the well. But that is another source of inertia which will continue to grow over time.

I am confused (me too) as to whether the Top Kill/Junk Shot is injecting mud & debris where the pressure once was seawater (@ 2,200 psi) + 400 psi or 8,000 to 9,000 psi.

I hope this helps a bit. I personally have very little hope for anything except the relief wells.


PS: Long time TOD member, engineer (not oil) and I am best known for my mitigation efforts to get us past Peak Oil with viable society more or less intact.

OK, I'll repost my question - Am I missing something basic?

Alan, don't you have to calculate the pressure below the BOP by subtracting the hydrostatic pressure with an oil gradient from the reservoir pressure?

13,500 psi at 18,000' minus 0.3 psi/ft * 13,000' dbml


13500-(13000*.3) = 9600 psi

That would get you close to the stated 8,000 - 9,000 psi rumored BOP pressures.

I'm used to doing the static shut-in pressures, but not the dynamic choking and frictional effects.

Sorry, dumb geologist, not engineer.

Very good point.

Given the lack of technical clarity by Adm. Thad Allen when he leaked the #s in the first week, (8,000 and 9,000 psi are NOT the same to us technical folk), it is possible that there was little down hole obstruction then and the pressure drop was due, as you said, to just hydrostatic forces.

However, BP later said that they were "surprised" at the drop in pressure entering the BOP, which means something changes. Either reservoir pressure or an obstruction developed.

You live a half black away from me. After catching up on lawn mowing (guess what has been distracting me#), perhaps we can share a beer and talk this over some this weekend.

Best Hopes for cold Abita Amber,


# Think I can file a BP claim ?

Assuming that the top kill doesn't work well enough to cap the well with cement, does it still make any sense for BP to just continue flowing mud until the relief wells are drilled to at least minimize the amount of oil that is getting out of the well. Granted, it's unclear (to me at least) whether the flow of oil (out of the well) was reduced by the top kill process. Also, I'm making the assumption that the 'mud' is less toxic than the oil from the well and that it's possible to deliver enough mud to the well - and not completely destroy the plumbing in the process - until the relief wells are drilled.

I am sure the BP accountants have put a sharp pencil to the cost of a bbl of mud vs the 4300/bbl fine for the oil spill

With the six-month moratorium, there just might be some extra mud available.

Maybe we'll get a real stab at an energy policy out of this, to.

Can they hold the oil flow back for an extended period by switching from pumping mud to pumping seawater?

If the well can't be stabilized by pumping more mud, and continuous pumping holds back the oil/gas flow when the hole is full of mud,
what is it that mandates that it's mud that you keep pumping once the column of liquid in the hole is as dense as it's going to get?

Over the long term the whole thing might well fall apart, but I'd guess this would take longer to happen pumping water than mud, since it's not so erosive on the components of the BOP/riser?

If the well can't be stabilized by pumping more mud, and continuous pumping holds back the oil/gas flow when the hole is full of mud,
what is it that mandates that it's mud that you keep pumping once the column of liquid in the hole is as dense as it's going to get?

The hole has never been full of mud - most of it has been going up and out the riser.

Granted. However my question still stands; once the column in the hole is as dense as it is going to get, does pumping large volumes of water into the system (and mostly lost up and out of the riser) suppress the oil flow in the same way that pumping mud does?

i.e. can the component of the pressure exerted on the top of the hole by the weight of mud in the line coming down from the surface be replaced with additional pump pressure acting on seawater instead, thereby holding the column down with the same force as it would be with mud going through the system?

Since seawater is lighter than the mud, I'd guess not.

If you remember, the blowout happened while the mud in the riser was being replaced by seawater.

I would disagree, on the basis of the Admiral's remarks on balance. the first time they could not achieve one - indicating that the mud weight was too low, and the second time they had, for a while, stability - they could achieve a judgement on neither without having the well full of mud.

HO, I wouldn't argue with the Admiral unless I had access to some of the facts and data at his disposal. That said, I challenge anyone to show me a video of leakage during pumping, and then diminished leakage after pumping until the plume goes to no leakage. In my book, no leakage is defined as stable. I doubt they have seen that yet.

On another note, I sure hope they have a better feel for where the reservoir fluid is coming from than us. Is it from a leaking float collar and straight up the hole, or is it from annular flow all the way to the wellhead? Are there any casing seats along the way that have broken down and the well is flowing underground at any point? If that is the case, you can top kill or bullhead forever and not kill the well with underground flow occurring. That requires a bottom kill, which would occur from a relief well.

Lot's of unknowns. The staff in the war room has probably considered all of this. I hope so.

Thanks Alan! I assumed the video change was natural gas coming out of solution when I saw the new flares. Tricky stuff this high pressure chemistry. By the way thanks for making great contributions in amongst the anti-gravity, liquid nitrogen, nuclear clap trap.


One correction. Natural gas goes crital at 673 psi, and at depth the pressure is over 2000 psi. So natural "gas" is really a liquid at that point and is completely miscible with the crude oil. Hence it will not come out of solution from the crude oil when it passes through the BOP. It does expand somewhat (more than what a liquid would). It will, however, react with the seawater to form methane hydrates thus converting to a form of a "flake."


There is some separation into components as the fluid goes from super-critical below BOP. Kerr McGee or ROSE process.

Actual accidental "design" would likely get a "F" in ChemE design class, but I would expect something like that.


So there is not a large change in volume where we see the plumes. Taking the 1 part oil to 3 parts natural gas ratio from previous posts, combining with the 15,000 bpd of oil leaking that seems to be "accepted" here gives 60,000 bpd of the petrogas fluid gushing into the Gulf. If the oil amount is 25,000 bpd then the total is 100,000 bpd of petrogas fluid. Those silly professors were not so wrong after all. The fact that the natural gas is a fluid at this depth may explain the large and deep (2 miles below sea level) plume that was recently found. It may be composed of very small hydrate particles instead of oil droplets.

You sure you know what you are talking about? Bubble point is the pressure at whether or not gas is dissolved in oil. Not pseudocritical pressure, which you are mistaking anyways for the critical pressure where there is no distinguishable difference between liquid and gas.

The critical pressure for CH4 is 45.4 atm. At the leak depth the pressure is over 150 atm and the temperature is around 5 C. The methane is a supercritical fluid that reacts with H2O to form hydrates.

Thanks for the thoughts, Alan. I'm thinking, like many others here, that there is a desire to show that they're "doing something" while everyone waits for the RW's.

Clearly, it's exactly as the old hands have repeatedly explained: random tinkering with this wild flow is risky, up to blowing the entire casing out of the well. And the only 100% certain way to shut it in will be the relief well(s), which will take months to drill. (and please let's ignore the ones who just want to blow stuff up)

Until the flow is completely shut in, anything else that's done is risky.

This is a bit more of what I was thinking about last night, based on what the situation underwater is like;

(right click to expand pictures--too big, Steve.)

Sorry about the crappy sketches, but the BOP sits on top of the well casing with the collapsed riser emerging from the top of the blow- out- preventer. The riser is kinked over at the top and trails out across the ocean floor. Within the well casing is the drill string which is also inside the riser.

At some point the drill string was capped where it was accessible through a hole in the riser. Since oil and gas was leaking through the drill string, the likelihood is that the drill string is largely intact down the well to the point where the drill bit was when the blowout occurred.

The well itelf is a collection of concentric casings nested inside each other, either casings are broken or unsealed somwhere along the length of the 18,000 foot deep well. This is the source of the leak.

Within the BOP are a number of closures that are supposed to shut the well's flow off in case of a blowout. Apparently the devices failed or did not actuate, including the shear rams, which are supposed to cut the riser and the drill pipe failed to do so. Again, since oil and gas were leaking through the drill string, the shear rams have only partially cut and crimped the riser and drill string.

My idea is to have a live drill string go to the bottom of the well and pump mud etc. from the bottom rather than trying to force it in from the top. The key is the amount of drill pipe still in the well.

- Since the accident occured when seawater was being pumped from the platform to the bottom of the well (to displace drilling mud) the drill string is probably all the way to the bottom of the well; 18,000 feet of pipe in the well.

- The issue is whether the shear rams can be manually retracted to allow the drill pipe to move.

---- The riser and drill pipe would be cut with a wire saw at the top of the BOP.

---- A drilling platform with deep- water very heavy lift capacity would be positioned over the well and a new string with a tool retrieval coupling installed at the bit end.

---- The string within the well would be connected to the platform tool string.

---- The shear rams would be actuated by ROV and the drill string moved if possible.

---- When free, the drill pipe is pulled to the surface. The drill pipe section damaged by the shear rams could be removed and new pipe connected in the usual practice. This damage would be within a few dozen feet of the cut end, there would be no damage to the drill pipe still in the well, downhole.

The idea is to use the drill string as is normally the case without the riser. During the work the oil and gas will continue to flow into the Gulf. If the drill string downhole can be lifted 5,000 feet and new drill pipe connected, the well could be flooded with heavy mud in the conventional manner in a few hours.

There are two things that would cause this not to work: a) The shear rams cannot be retracted and b) there is less than 5000 feet of drill string in the hole. If the shear rams can only be partially retracted then the drill pipe must be either pulled up by main force or the BOP disassembled partially to remove the shear rams and allow the drill pipe to be moved.

If the drill string is too short for the broken section to be removed at the surface by conventional tools, the string would be retracted to the point where the drill pipe sections unscrewed from each other underwater. This would require lowering the large pipe wrenches used to connect drill sections together to the BOP and using the ROV's as floating plumbers. Unknown is the amount of torque required to remove drill pipe section but separating sections could be improvised with jacks, for instance. Difficult, but it theoretically could be done.

- When the drill pipe connection is made, the drill string sent downhole until it bottoms and then well charged with drilling mud from both the bottom and from the BOP choke/kill lines. The idea is to add a usefol length of new drill pipe to the section that is already in the hole so as to put mud at the bottom of the hole where it will do some good.

Additionally, the drilling mud could be charged with fiberglass fireproofing material, the kind that is mixed with cement and sprayed on steel framing in high rise buildings. This would allow the mud to bridge cracks or gaps in the casing that gas and oil would flow through.

Based on what I have heard/read … there is some speculation about material from well bore, cement job, or other material being lodged in the BOP preventing the rams from closing. If this were the case (and there is no way to test for this … it was said at the time), this would also prevent a live drill string from passing down through the BOP (or even moving the riser within the BOP).

As the Senior Drilling Engineer for BP described in testimony to the Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation, there are loss return zones throughout the well (the largest being at the top of the well and also in the productive zone at the bottom). Some 3,000 barrels of drilling mud was lost in the productive zone in one of these areas. This could also be the source of debris, intrusion, or other kinds of obstruction (from a faulty cement job) that are permitting hydrocarbons to enter the well and reach the surface. Given these multiple uncertainties, it may be unwise to pursue your strategy of cutting way the riser and perhaps making the spill much worse (and not knowing if your solution is even feasible in the first place).

Wasn't there a comment or item regarding drill in the hole. I seem to recall 2,000 or 3,000 feet remained, and that they were in process of removing when things went south. Maybe I am imagining that, though. This has gone on for so long, and so many facts have been posted that it all runs together.


- Debris in the well casing itself: There probably is debris, there certainly is grit. As the grit works on the innards of the BOP any obstructions within that device will be eroded and the flow of gas and oil will increase. If nothing works to close the well prior to that point and the well is running 'wide open' then running a drill string into the well would not add any more oil into the GOM.

A drill with a metal cutting bit at the end could cut through any steel obstructions in the BOP such as the damaged riser or the rams. This would be a re- drilling the same hole a second time. Once past the BOP the drill string within the bore can be removed with a tool retrieval and the new string sent downhole.

- How much drill pipe is in the well? There is drill pipe in the well and somebody from Horizon knows how much. There was 28,000 feet total at one time; the five- thousand feet remaining within the fallen riser and and unknown amount in the well, itself.

The crew was flooding the well with seawater from the bottom to push the mud up and out of the well. At some point the kick pushed the remaining mud, then seawater out of the well. I don't know whether the drill crew would be pulling pipe while handling mud at the same time. That seems like too many tasks at one time in a confined area. Doing one job, then the other would leave the bulk of the drill string in the well.

NOTE: the drilling cutter may be the obstruction downhole that is preventing the top kill mud from reaching the bottom of the hole.

Another possibility would be to simply cut off the drill pipe over the BOP and connect to the surface with a Dresser coupling. The drill pipe was leaking oil and is presumeably open. Adding mud through the drill string to the drilling cutter downhole along with mud down the kill and choke lines would help with pressure drop issues, even if the flow of mud down the drill pipe is relatively small.

I have no experience or education in oil & gas or engineering; nonetheless, I've linked this site on my blog because wire reports are simply too superficial... so please correct me at any juncture.

First, thank you for the sketches (which I didn't think were too big, but opening a smaller one in a new tab is fine too). I don't recall seeing a schematic of the BOP.

I think you're saying that the "drill string" is a tube contained within the drill pipe which could be used to pump drilling mud, etc. deeply within the well to stop the (my words) "liquid locomotive" which is coming from the hole.

The trick is to recover/repair the drilling string.

I believe some have suggested in other threads that there's a significant potential for pipes, the BOP, etc. to split, or erode etc. Why would you think that the drill string would remain intact? I'm not being critical. I'm just wondering.

Is a drill capable of drilling through the drill shears or other piping so that a new pipe could be inserted that way?

I think you're saying that the "drill string" is a tube contained within the drill pipe

the drill string is the drill pipe. the drill string is a continuous sequence of drill pipe sections (joints), in other words, a string. owing to the ratio of length to diameter (1000's) the dimensions of the drill pipe(string) resembles string. the flexibility of the drill pipe(string) is also analogous to that of string, highly floppy.

I'd like to start with the disclaimer that I'm an engineer, but with NO experience in subsea mechanics OR oil drilling. With that said, I think I can provide some answers to your questions.

The drill pipe, below where it was partially severed by the BOP rams, should be in pretty good shape because it is sticking down into the bore of the well. This location is PROBABLY protecting it from the exceedingly high velocity sand-blasting that we get in areas of extreme pressure drops. In addition, the bottom of the drill string is more or less open, so the inside of the pipe is at the same pressure as the outside.

Drilling through the shear rams in the BOP would be hard (impossible?) to do in this situation. I don't know the details of how they're built, but I DO know that, since they're designed to cut through the steel of the drill pipe, they have to be HARD and TOUGH.

Perhaps more relevantly, even if you COULD drill through the rams, I really don't think you'd WANT to right now. Remember that there's a charge of oil and gas at something like 8,000 or 9,000 psi below these rams just waiting for a way to get out.

At some point the drill string was capped where it was accessible through a hole in the riser. Since oil and gas was leaking through the drill string, the likelihood is that the drill string is largely intact down the well to the point where the drill bit was when the blowout occurred.

If the drill string is at least somewhat intact, would it be possible to simply remove the cap, connect a hose, and pump mud into the well through the existing drill string?

Except that the drill string (which might have some concrete injection equipment attached) is currently supported by the not-quite-closed rams in the BOP.

So, you remove the "cap", and sh*t, where did that drill string go?

Shortly followed by uh-oh, here it comes! (along with 150,000 barrels of ultrahigh pressure oil/gas)

They will eventually fish the broken drill string out, as Rockman has patiently explained, AFTER the well is completely shut in and under control. The only way to accomplish that will be the relief wells.

Here's hoping they don't make too much of a mess of things before the relief wells are completed.

Except that the drill string (which might have some concrete injection equipment attached) is currently supported by the not-quite-closed rams in the BOP.

So, you remove the "cap", and sh*t, where did that drill string go?

I was referring to the cap which was installed on the leaking end of the drill string several weeks ago. Removing the cap would not cause the drill string to do anything dramatic.

Your idea isn't bad, but the drill string is encased in the riser where it bends over at the top of the BOP. It's unclear whether it's intact through there (it's possible that the flow coming out of it before it was capped was getting into it through a break somewhere along the riser after the kink) but it certainly is smashed pretty flat. Not sure if it'd hold pressure, but it sure wouldn't have much flow capacity.

Ah, that cap.

What are the chances the drill string still goes all the way through the BOP and down the borehole? And that it isn't squashed flat in the BOP?

Oh,, say, 80-90%?

Hmm. Interesting idea, then. Probably worth at least as much attention as the "junk shot"... at least to test the plumbing and see if it can be done.

A few corrections to your schematic of the BOP - reports are that it had a pair of annular preventers - I think in the LMRP portion. At least one was supposed to be closed around the drill pipe at the time of the accident. It had a shear ram - to cut the drill pipe - that was also reported to have been activated but if so it did not shear the pipe, perhaps only crimping it. Likely it also had blind rams to close the empty hole and pipe rams to close around the drill pipe - perhaps two sizes for different pipe. I am not aware of any release of information about the current state of the BOP although BP has done extensive diagnostics on it and modified the control package to allow control of valves to route fluid from the choke and kill lines for the 'top kill' bullhead operation.

It was reported that well pressure was read from a sensor that started sending data sometime after the accident - either in the lower portion of the BOP stack or down the well. I believe that is the source of the well pressure readings that were reported.

As the operation in progress at the time of the accident was displacing mud with seawater this operation was taking place above a plug that had been set. Somewhere back in the older discussions there was a summary of operations from information that had been released. I recall that 8,000' was mentioned so that would mean 3,000' of DP was in the well. Other discussions elsewhere stated that there was 3 1/2" DP at the end of the string down the well. I think these details are public and could be checked.

The cap on the DP is at the end where it extends out beyond the end of the riser. There was discussion that it could have been in motion at the time of the accident, being forced up the well by the gas and oil surge - just speculation. If so this could have damaged closed annulars and made shearing more difficult.

I have thought that the DP could be broken at the kink in the riser (the reason for the low pressure flow at its end that was capped), but I have seen no clear statement of how the oil is leaking through the BOP - through the DP with annular closed? or through the annulus - either damaged or open - or both. It is clear to me that there is high pressure flow at the top of the BOP before the riser kink with all leaking oil flowing within the riser from that point. There has never been any confirmation of more than three leak points - BOP, end of riser, end of DP(capped).


You've clearly put a lot of thought and work into this suggestion. You're RIGHT about the need to get the kill mud down to the bottom of the well bore - that's the whole idea behind the relief wells. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with your proposal.

Most glaringly, there is a BIG problem with opening the shear rams that have partially sheared the drill pipe. Even if there is a way to retract these rams hydraulically (a question I'll have to leave to somebody who has at least a little bit of experience in the matter) right now these rams and the pipe jammed in them are holding back a whole reservoirful of oil and gas at something like 8,000 or 9,000 psi.

To be honest, I'm not sure you'd need a heavy crane to lift the drill string out. Once you cut off the riser kink and retracted the rams, the string MAY well come shooting out of the hole at you.

Wow, thanks for the input, educational if nothing else.

The issue of the pipe and the shear rams is the key. I don't know how much control the engineers have over the BOP. I'm thinking that the shear rams did what many here have suggested; closed over a joint in the drill pipe which was dented. The rams failed to cut the drill pipe. That being the case it might be possible to retract the drill pipe sections within the BOP without having to open the shear rams but instead reduce the closing force of the rams on the drill pipe. That's why the heavy lift capacity would be needed, to pull up the drill string with the various rams closed against it.

Being in a gusher helps, the drill pipe would be lubricated by the oil as well as by the drilling mud.

It looks from the vid that the riser is in the process if falling apart from the stress. Cutting it might be academic in a day or so. There will be little left to cut.

The upward pressure on the drill string would be that which is unbalanced by pressure from other directions which means the cutting end of the drill itself would be subject to upward force of 9,000 psi. That would be about 30 sq, inches of drill at the bottom of the hole, the rest is balanced by pressure inside the casing and the drill pipe itself.

The issue of where the real leak is coming from ia interesting. It may indeed be coming straight up the drill string and blowing out where the string is kinked/cut inside the BOP. In that case, 'fishing' the string, pulling it while it is gushing, removing the kink/cut then running the blowout through a diverter and making connections to the mud pumps on the surface would not be a problem since the 'pressure contest' between the mud pumps and the reservoir would be taking place inside the very strong drill pipe.

It's possible the BOP worked properly in all respects except for the drill pipe that wasn't cut all the way through.

If the blowout is through the drill string, pumping mud through the kill and choke lines is sure to fail; mud would flow easily through the casing to where the drill bit (?) is downhole. Below that point in a 'mud bubble' the reservoir pressure would divert mud back up the partially open drill pipe temporarily halting the flow of oil and gas. BP would be pumping mud down the casing and back up the drill string into the Gulf. This appears to be what has been happening ...

In that case it would be necessary to put mud into the drill pipe as well as the kill and choke lines.

Steve wrote:

If the blowout is through the drill string, pumping mud through the kill and choke lines is sure to fail; mud would flow easily through the casing to where the drill bit (?) is downhole. Below that point in a 'mud bubble' the reservoir pressure would divert mud back up the partially open drill pipe temporarily halting the flow of oil and gas. BP would be pumping mud down the casing and back up the drill string into the Gulf. This appears to be what has been happening ...

This is exactly what I have been wondering on since the top kill idea was launched.
If the drill pipe is at least partially sheared/open inside the BOP letting whatever in the vell flowing up inside the drillpipe and the lower end of the drill pipe is a considerable distance from the bottom of the well I cant see how the top kill can work.

Layman here. If any part of the oil is flowing through the drill pipe, I cannot see how a junk shot can get to where the oil is flowing.

If the drill pipe is carrying oil past the shear rams, it should be possible to access the upper end of it, and cap it. If the drill pipe is leaking into the riser at some point between the kink over the bop and the end of the riser, it should be possible to open a window on the side of the riser at that point, and insert tools to cut the drill string at that point and cap it.

On the other hand, if the drill pipe is leaking into the bop just where the shear rams should have cut it, that is likely the exact point where the pressure drop from 8000psi to ~(2200+400)psi is occurring, that is, the narrowest point of the whole path from the formation to the sea. At this point it would be extremely difficult to do anything at all.

But in all these cases, any mud injected into bop below the shear rams should have all the less flow of oil to fight with. Mud pumped in would be sinking outside the drill pipe while the oil continued to flow inside the drill pipe. The fountains in the videos would show mostly oil, not mud, but eventually the mud would fill the production casing all the way down and kill the well.

Another comment above said that the mud would only sink to the end of the drill string, and then it would be sucked into it and thrown out up through the drill pipe. But this contradicts the basic idea behind the top kill, that pumping in mud faster than fluids are flowing out must necessarily increase the pressure in the path until the oil stops flowing from the formation. The mud would gradually supplant the oil in the well and achieve the kill: zero pressure differential below the bop.

I think this is not what we are seeing (but I don't think I can actually judge this, I probably just feel convinced about this because of the commentary here).

The diagrams I have seen posted here are at most principle sketches, and reveal next to nothing about the actual geometry down there. I guess that even for an expert, it must be impossible to reason much about what is going on without any knowledge about the actual geometry.

Some comments have stated that it is impossible to inject mud at sufficient pressure to arrest the flow out of the formation without cracking shallower formations and/or casings, causing a larger mess.

Suppose that the bop had worked as it should have. Then no oil or gas would have leaked past the bop. The pressure just below the bop would have been the formation pressure minus the weight-per-square-inch of the fluids in the well. The pressure required to stop the flow of oil out of the formation equals this pressure. The pressure required to force mud down the well is only marginally higher than this. Are you telling us that this pressure is enough to break the well head casing or the casing anywhere along the well? If so, you are also saying the well has been designed to break the moment the bop closes. That is a quite strong statement. What do you base this statement on?

At any rate, it would be interesting to know the average density of the oil/gas fluid as it comes out of the formation. If the methane contents is high, the denisty may approach that of liquid methane, 460kg/m^3. The pressure data referenced here at TOD, formation pressure 13000psi, pressure below bop 8000psi, bop at 5000' depth and formation at 18360' gives a density of 863kg/m^3 assuming no resistance to flow. The density could be less and resistance to flow could be non-zero. If pressure below bop is 9000psi as is sometimes said, density would have to be 690 kg/m^3.

How can we deduce anything with so much uncertainty in even the most basic parameters?

I have raised this point before, but as you note some critical information is missing to do more than make educated, logical guesses based on what can be observed, the available public information (some of which may be incorrect), and the action plan being followed by BP and their team (given that some of this has to be deduced by guesswork as well).

I listened to some of the testimony at the MMS hearings yesterday by the BOP operator - Chris - who stated that when he tried to activate the emergency release to get the rig away from the well that it showed (lower) annular closed and all rams open (normal for the operation underway). The activation sequence (that should have operated the shear rams to cut the drill pipe) registered on his status board, but the instrument registering hydraulic pressure (needed to operate the sequence at the BOP) indicated no pressure - none. His assumption was that the entire sequence had failed, the ram had not operated and the rig was locked on to the blowing well: time to abandon ship.

While the shear rams could also be operated from the rig floor it seems that the explosion severed the hydraulics, but not the electronics, to the BOP and that the accumulators on the BOP did not/could not provide the required pressure to complete any of the operation. It isn't known, of course, if any of those people tried to shear the pipe before the explosion, but my guess is no and they died in the explosion.

This would leave the BOP with one annular closed and all rams open - only oil path through the drill pipe - yet this does not seem to jive with what we see with the leak: all flow within the riser at the top of the BOP. That indicates either leaking annular and/or busted drill pipe at the top of the BOP.

It has also been suggested that casing and/or other junk from the well could be stuffed up inside the BOP.

BP did a gamma ray scan of the BOP stack to get a look inside, but no images have been released so we don't know what they found.

I think the shock of the blow out could damage the wellhead, particularly if there was a partially successful attempt to stop the flow during the blowout, but the wellhead was designed to take the stress of the formation pressure.

Good Point. It comes out like spaghetti.

I have seen this happen and I am sure BP knows this.

Did you see Rachel Maddow's video?

I think BP's top kill is just a publicity stunt.

Just a simple question. Is there a way they can tell (marks on the DP, telemetry right before everything went dead, etc.) how much of the Drill Pipe/String is still in the hole below the BOP?

This is my first post. I registered to ask about the drill string.

Some of the posts talk about the drill string, about it blocking the BOP, about it needing to be removed for some idea (eg. stint).

Is there any validity to this? The well was being closed when it blew. The drilling was done and concrete seals had been added (that may not have worked). The drill string should have all been removed, should it not?

Just looking for clarification on this one point that's confusing me.


The remainder of the drill string is still sticking out of the end of the sea riser ,at a right angle, and lying on the seabed It was cut and capped in the earlier going. The shear rams in the BOP were unable to shear the string and seal the well.

The concrete plug at the bottom of the well was set through the drill string and while it was curing and for a subsequent test it would remain there. After the riser was displaced and the the well was static then the DS would finally be removed. I believe they were very close to that point when the well blew.

I have never worked in the oilpatch, but if any of the above information is incorrect I assure you someone here will tell us. Welcome to TOD.

The drill bit was at 8367' below the drill platform as seen on the left side of figure 4 in post 6393 entitled "What caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster?"

For those of you who haven't read it, it's probably the best post available on the technical details of this well and how it failed.

Joining in the reposts from end of last thread...

Hello Heading Out, Perthshier Scotland calling on a pirate wifi signal:-) What an amazing job you are doing.

Terrestrial news over here interviwed Hayward who said the liquid comming out of the BOP was mud - at the time he was commenting at least.

As you may have picked up from email correspondence I am a bit skeptical that this top kill can work - though I could be wrong.

My mental image is a hose pipe, held vertical, with the tap full on and water spraying like a fountain out of the hose. The challenge is to try and stop the flow by pumping a heavier "liquid" into the top of the hose that will eventually push the water back down into the tap and eventually overcome the pressure in the reservoir (which in the case of an oil reservoir is bouyancy pressure - unless the reservoir is over pressured in which case its somewhere between bouyancy and lithostatic pressure). Oh and by the way, the end of the hose has lots of holes in it. You need to be able to pump that heavy liquid (drilling mud) into the hose faster than the water is comming out. The minute you stop pumping, all your liquid gets expelled and you're back to square one.

So this comes down to the volume of the well, and how much of that volume needs to be filled with drilling mud to pressure stabilise the well? Do BP have theses volumes available and pumping capacity to hand to fill the well to required point + surface losses?

Katla not gone up yet, but its very cold here.

Grin (or should that be grimace:(

And comment from BOPE man:


Your mental image described is pretty accurate. Overlay tis on the well and it fits for the 'point of entry' scenario where the well fluids are entering the well bore (7"liner) at or near the bottom of the well.
The other point of entry scenario is where the well fluids are entering the well bore at the very top of the 9-7/8" casing, and just inches from the bottom of the BOP. So continuing with your hose, think of another hose inside the first one with no connection to the water tap. that means the water has to flow through the annulus between the two hoses, and due to the reduction in cross sectional area means the velocity of the fluids exiting the annulus would be substantially greater than for the single hose.

Assuming the point of entry is at the top of the casing, then the velocity of well fluid flow will make the top kill very difficult indeed, near impossible.

Having said that, where there is even a remote chance to stop the flow BP should pursue it. The biggest risk in the top kill is if the exisiting riser plugs successfully and the well begins to charge to a pressure beyond the burst pressure of the riser (see earlier post)

Thank you.

The biggest risk in the top kill is if the exisiting riser plugs successfully and the well begins to charge to a pressure beyond the burst pressure of the riser (see earlier post)

The way this thing has gone, I have been worried about that since day one. If there is a way for Murphy's law to impact, this seems to be it. What would the consequence be from failure of the riser below the BOP? Could it actually blow the top off, and allow unrestricted flow?

Strange, I just had a mental image of the drill string going up under pressure like a spear! Just as bad, no restriction on that flow. What impact on the RW effort?

This gets worse and worse!


My mental image is of the BOP popping off like a champagne (oops "sparkling wine") cork, but with shredded pipe below. Shredded pipe will not allow anything else to be attached and extends to seabed floor so it cannot even be sawn off.

We then do an extended reservoir pressure and production test.

Worst hopes,


In my dark vision, the junk shot or similar plugs the riser, and we find that, between bad cement jobs and annular flow, the 13k psi of reservoir pressure is sufficient to blow the entire casing out of the hole.

We would then simply have a wild fissure in the seabed, until such time as reservoir pressure is depleted.

worst case scenatio, all future work may have to be done in a total oil environment. Will it be possible to see, even with lights?

I would expect the design of the BOP attachment to the sea bed to take into account the full pressure of the well, say 10000psi, after subtracting the head from the reservoir pressure, and stopping the full flow expected (water hammer effect)within say 0.5 secs with a partially compressible mixture of gas and oil with the assumption on the low end regarding the gas ratio. If this is not done then the BOP is again vulnerable ie the whole lot blows off when the rams are actuated so it again fails to do the job. Now if that is the type of design criteria for the mounting system it should not have any problem on being taken up very gradually to the 10000 psi odd required to reverse the flow.

Can anyone explained how the BOP is secured and has their been any mention of whether BP might have cut corners such that they are particularly nervous now. Also is their any information on whether the mounting were damaged when the rig sank and the riser and drill collapsed.

Just asking.

I posted this earlier as a reply. Then I released I might have a better chance of someone who knows replying if it is at the end of the thread. So here goes again.

By the way I think this issue of the BOV mountings effects everything they may now attempt up to the relief well.

I would expect the design of the BOP attachment to the sea bed to take into account the full pressure of the well, say 10000psi, after subtracting the head from the reservoir pressure, and stopping the full flow expected (water hammer effect)within say 0.5 secs with a partially compressible mixture of gas and oil with the assumption on the low end regarding the gas ratio. If this is not done then the BOP is again vulnerable ie the whole lot blows off when the rams are actuated so it again fails to do the job. Now if that is the type of design criteria for the mounting system it should not have any problem on being taken up very gradually to the 10000 psi odd required to reverse the flow.

Can anyone explained how the BOP is secured and has their been any mention of whether BP might have cut corners such that they are particularly nervous now. Also is their any information on whether the mounting were damaged when the rig sank and the riser and drill collapsed.

Just asking.

Early days after blow-out, there was BOP discussion about

1) use of computer simulations and not enough real world "show me"(see Brazil that requires this) and

2) 2004 MMS study that showed BOPs could not handle new and improved drill pipe steels (half failed).


Suttles just said they've quit drilling the second relief well. He said it was getting the new BOP ready.

Help us all, no one's taking the relief wells seriously.

Long standing issue with me. Why ONLY two ? (BP wanted JUST one !!)

If one values the GoM and our marshlands, it makes sense to drill four or five relief wells.

Each RW is high risk of long delays at each of several stages to final milling through the steel of the wild well. Let's increase the # of throws of the dice !


I thought as you did Alan until I read about some very interesting new tech from advanced magnetics. Charge the casing and the drill head current sensor can come within ten feet of the pipe. Back out two hundred feet and re-drill. I still think finding center for the mill is a very big challenge?

Locating the casing of the wild well is not a major issue (@ 90% or so success of getting minimum of 50% cross section to mill).

The original wild well took a month and half longer to drill than scheduled. Just a difficult well. That same delay (or longer) could happen to any one relief well.

And then there is the last foot. Miss center by 18 inches, back up and spend @ one week and do it again. Perhaps only 10% chance, but oil pollutes the Gulf every minute of delay.

The milling of that last foot may take one week, or three weeks. Odds of success <50% (five tries last year in Australia). One week or so delay if milling attempt fails before another try as drillhead is repositioned.

THAT is why I want more throws of the dice !


Thanks Alan, that cleared up some of the milling problems for me. Now I am even more worried about the casing blowing out since the cement failed.

The decision to use only two relief wells (BP even wanted to do only one) will come back to haunt everyone involved in this sad story.

This is bothering me: Informed speculation is that the flow is between the production casing and the liner. That sounds like the fluids are traveling up outside the production casing to where it meets the liner, then rising up between the casing and liner. (You can stop me here if I'm all wet.)

But if that's the case, then wouldn't the correct sequence be do a cement squeeze between the pay zone and the bottom of the liner, before drilling and filling the production casing?

From my confused understanding (and schematics of planned production casing), it is possible that the RW gets close to the wild well, intercepts production coming up outside and does a cement job right there. And the flow from the wild well stops !

Much more will need to be done to proper P&A the well, but further damage to the environment will have stopped.


Sorry Alan. We're screwed here. BP doesn't give a good rats a.. about La, or the GOM. They are making decisions based on this quarter's P&L.

Don't know what to say here. I am so sad for you and for my many friends along the La coast.



BP doesn't give a good rats a.. about La, or the GOM. They are making decisions based on this quarter's P&L.

BP probably don't give a rats a.. about La or GOM as you said, but the P/L is telling them that they should shutdown the well asap.. Everyday they let the oil flow uncontrollably can/will add hundred of mullions to their final bill.. Why wouldn't they want to do their best? I think what we are seeing is a combination of lack of experience in crisis management and initial under estimating the scope of the problem.. They also get the wrong guys to communicate the progress.. CEO/COO/managing director doesn't have the right technical know how and minute to minute up-to-date knowledge of the progress to do the press conference and interview.. they need their project manager (whoever is in charge of the war room that know every piece of info) to stay infront of the camera and answer every qeustion with honest answers..

Make it a contest rather than the typical USA monopoly nonsense!

Ixtoc required ten months to kill. Hurricane season is early, Even if one isn't in the drilling area, a storm in the Gulf shuts down drilling operations.

They should do ten relief wells. As many platforms as can be had to perform deep water drilling. A half- billion dollar bonus to whichever crew kills the well!

re "BP doesn't give . . ."
Please lay of the unsubstantiated ad hominem attacks. Its a harmful waste of our collective emotional capital and attention.

Sorry but I'm a little tired today .. been glued to 10 tabs of info sites so I'm cutting and pasting from emails with old frineds : you know as a scheduler I know how long it takes to design/build any type of equip and I know that the only thing that has been capping the number of wells being drilled for the past 5 years is the limited number of drill rigs in the world .. and that rigs are scheduled almost a year in advance .. for BP to have two drillers out there within week .. any idea who gave up their projects for this?? I know every company in the business are making this a cooperative effort .. the only way you could have that much equip and expert engineers working on this .. the state department must be on overtime as well .. talk about rubber stamp paperwork and shove it out the door ..

So not including the fact that two relief wells, as far as I can find is the most ever needed to kill a well, you have the fact of the 640ish drill rigs in the world they are virtually all on projects all ready .. besides the ones that were already in the gulf to drill (therefore are proably in operation) the closest you could possibly pull from is Mexico water .... takes at least 9-14 days to be brought to the gulf, or Brazil which would take about 2 weeks .. if there were any there avail to grab. Too long to tow from Pacific Rim, North Sea, Australia.

8 years scheduling offshore projects .. 20 years scheduling total including Pulp & Paper, Petro-Chem, and Co-gen Power.

With a six month moratorium there are going to be plenty of rigs available.

BP got one specialized vessel from PetroBras.


In a normal commercial world, yes.

In this emergency, no.

If a company is reluctant/slow, just revoke all of their drilling permits ON EVERY WELL.

BTW, The production permits for Thunderhorse and Atlantis should be revoked immediately.

It might change the economic incentives for them. For they are clearly cutting corners where they can in this emergency.


Alan, I doubt seriously if any "incentives" were required to get rigs to the site immediately. The oil patch comes together in an extreme emergency and voluntarily offers up anything in their possession or control to attack a severe problem. It's always been that way in my experience. That's not to say they don't expect to be reimbursed or made whole for any losses they incur but coughing up equipment is not a big issue.

I generally agree.

I actually respect the corporate culture of most oil companies. But even 40 days ago, BP was not on that list.

Best Hopes,


Enterprise was at Thunder Horse.

Alan, I'm willing to bet you a beer there won't be any milling required. As they get close to the producing reservoir they will hit a pressure sink in that reservoir that will suck the mud out of the relief well like crazy so they better be prepared for it.

Honestly, this would be a perfect issue for TOD to be activist in, should any of the staff wish to take that step. "Two more rigs!" is a simple, sellable concept.

Drill baby drill.

Halting the drilling of the second relief well sounds like BP is snubbing President Obama's statement yesterday that it was begun by government command.

BP is being cheap.

BP readies second BOP at Macondo

That story said they're going to use the BOP from the rig drilling the relief well. I know last week they said there was a BOP on the sea bed ready for use.

Somebody tell Thad Allen we're back to one relief well. I bet BP leaves the Gulf soon.

How thick was the material of the riser directly above the BOP? What was the composition of the metal? What is/was the oil pressure below the "bend/fold" in the riser? What velocity was measured at the cracks/holes in the riser at the "bend"? Has the metal at the "bend" been ultrasonically tested, at any point in the past 39 days, for wear? Are we prepared for catastrophic failure of the riser at the "bend" in the riser (flow might go to 3x-5x faster than previous flow) Is any of info available??? Hydrohoning is not a new science...when is the "bend" expected to fail?

OD - 21 inches; ID - 18 3/4.


1.125"???? The Gulf is indeed doomed.

How do you attach an 800k pound piece of 40 foot tall machinery to a piece of pipe with 21" OD x 1.125" wall??? New BOP??? I doubt it.

Don't forget the thrust from the oil & gas jetting up the pipe.


If the pipe were cut off 30" or so above the existing BOP...I can see using an "explosion formed band" to attach to and seal the pipe with a valve in the least possible time, I can see no other way to do this without exposing the Gulf to another 100% of the oil it has seen in 39 days. Explosion forming and explosion welding are tryed and true methods of joining clean metals under water, but clearances are critical...can the existing pipe be tracable to manufatctuer, and the dimesion of the OD be verified??? If so, surely a simple device, employing high explosives, could be dropped over a sawn-off pipe, without the time taken to square an dress it for a seal or flange, and exploded to join with the pipe, permanently. I don't have recources for drawing diagrams, but the pipe would only have to be compressed slightly to achieve a seal...and equal cylindical compression will NOT rip or crack the pipe, just deform it inwardly. A ring of explosively formed material at and below the valve, joining the valve to the pipe would be most expiditious in solving the problem, at a cost less than 20,000 barrells of mud. Explosion forming IS an exact science, used in the defense, aerospace and rocket industries for many years now.

Unfortunately, they don't have anywhere close to 30" above the BOP. I've never seen a tape measure held against it, but I'd be surprised if there were 2" of un-deformed riser pipe between the top flange of the BOP and the kink.

In addition, this area has been eroded enough by sandblasting to develop the holes we all see. This is NOT a good location for ANY joining methods that call for tight fits OR clean mating surfaces!

I believe they have a different attachment point in mind - the base that the riser is attached to - maybe below the gimbal fitting that allows the riser to move about with the rig.

Yes, I am aware, it just seems too slow for the enviroment.

I'm sure if Richard Feynman were around today, he'd have something wonderful and insightful to say about the engineering shortcomings revealed by the Deepwater Horizon blowout, but sadly we're going to have to make do nowadays with lesser lights, so let me (for want of better) propose an impromptu "junk shot design conference", with the aim of coming up with better options than "golf balls, old steel radial tire chunks, and knots of manila rope". Let's think high tech here, after all, this is America, the country that put a man on the moon. Yeah, that was a long time ago, but still.

Fantasy solution: nanotech. Finely engineered little specs of intelligent machinery, smaller than a bacterium, that combine, in their billions, to build a bridge across any gap -- in this case, the leak in the BOP where the shear rams failed to sever the drill pipe after the blowout. The little critters know how to do just one thing: extract carbon from the oil stream to build "bucky balls" of carbon, which intertwine and progressively slow the leak to the point where it eventually stops. Nearest biological equivalent: blood clotting. Other macroscopic equivalent: army ants bridging a stream with their bodies. Problem: can't deliver this solution in the necessary timeframe. Reason: a billion dollars a day for two wars, in perpetuity, among many others -- please add your own.

Short-term solution: a effective strategy of "junk injection" not based on golf balls, etc. Instead, I propose something along these lines. First, a series of interlocking hard metal "obstructors", star-shaped radially-symmetric objects rather like children's jacks -- remember when kids played with those? -- but with more "arms" to interlock with one another. These are the poor man's nanobots, but we can die-cast them now in various sizes and get them on-site in a hurry. First, inject the larger sizes (as large as possible in the "kill" and "choke" feed lines). Then smaller ones, to fit between the bridge hopefully created by the larger ones. Now you have a rigid mechanical substrate for the pliable kind of "junk" BP has supposedly been injecting up to now. Then, go with the hard rubber, wire, and rope until the principal orifice in the BOP is slowly but surely closed. As needed, add more layers of "jacks" to reinforce the bridge across the orifice, then more "junk".

Dudes, this will work, and even an emerging third-world country like the USA has the technology to do it.

Listen up people do you know what 13,000 psi is like? Why do you think the kinked riser is being blown away? Why do you think most of us are worried about the entire casing being blown out of the well? Bp expected 170,000 to 200,000 barrels a day of production! That should scare you! With a 3-4 billion barrel resivior that should terrify you! So please nanotech, liquid nitrogen, sinking battle ship people read instead of dreaming the impossible dream and you will learn a great deal from a great number of the old timers here. They really are the best and the brightest in the field. Physics still applies!

FOr reference:

Waterjets-"The water pressure is typically between 20,000 and 55,000 pounds per square inch (PSI). The water is forced through a 0.010" to 0.015" in diameter orifice (hole) in a jewel. "

So we're dealing with pressures only slightly less then the pressures used by water cutting machines designed to cut through metal.

Grin, George, I wrote that book . You only need those pressures when you are adding the abrasive after the initial nozzle. This is an abrasive slurry jet and you only need a tenth of those pressures to cut as deeply as a conventional AWJ.

(And P.S. of that $420 I still only get $5 - those writing books need good agents)

LOL. I actually got that off a webpage somewhere, who probably got it off your book. Goddam I love the inrawebnets. So, theoretically, how long under the 14000 PSI till the steel erodes?
cant pay royalties, but i owe you a beer.

Standard cut for an author is 21% in a printed book - half that if it is rendered into electronic format, with the other half going to the person doing that. I worked with a software company which paid the 21% - half to author, half to programmer. 5% for the author? You were had, my friend.

Publishers still make a ton. Paper and ink is cheap; plastics are cheaper.


O.K., now I'm REALLY impressed. I sent TOD (via Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future) $30 through PayPal about 45 minutes ago, thinking "well, I frequently pay ~$30 to download journal articles online; I suppose if I sift through the TOD archives long enough, I might unearth 30 bucks worth of info..."

Next thing, an apparently very knowledgeable commenter cites technical data from a $420 industry text, and Heading Out is all "Yeah, I know. I WROTE THAT BOOK."

I am not worthy. You guys rock.

A joint solution to our long term economic, energy and environmental problems at

The Millennium Institute is a non-profit international econometric modeling firm that models policy alternatives. Currently knee deep in the United Nations Environmental Program "Green Economy Initiative",

In summary, implementing renewable energy plus efficient Non-Oil Transportation at "Maximum Commercial Investment" rates results in twenty years (vs. BAU)

GDP +13%
CO2 -38%
Oil Use -22%
Employment +4%

A word about two of the co-authors. Ed Tennyson is an emeritus member of a division of the Nat'l Academy of Engineering and the most colorful part of his career was that he is the last living member of the team that prosecuted GM for buying streetcar lines in order to shut them down. They won and GM paid a $5,000 fine. the only living person I know with a unit of measurement named after him.

Hans Herren almost single handedly saved 10 to 20 million lives. An invited foreign member of the US Nat'l Academy of Science by age 40.

Best Hopes,


Another person with a unit of measurement named after him: Oliver Smoot. See
Started as an MIT prank, interesting story.

Ironically, Smoot himself ended up as president of ISO -- so in some odd sense, the "Smoot" ended up as a "standard" unit....


PS: First post, been lurking a while. Thanks to all you the experts out there, clearly the best source for sane info on the GOM events.

Aaargh! 'Pressure' is not 'a force' in itself - its a force for a given area. The hole in the water cutting jewel is about 4.4E-5 sq inches in area. That's between 0.88 - 2.4 pounds worth of force. Hardly impressive.

The leak at the bottom of the ocean on the other hand is a twenty inch pipe. At 13000 psi that would have about 1,8 MILLION pounds of force behind it - enough to lets say lift up four fully loaded jumbo jets of the ground.

I usually demonstrate this to visitors at our pressure chamber thus: I seal the door but don't clamp it shut. I pump less than 0.1 PSI negative pressure in the pressure chamber, worth about 100-200 feet in altitude ... and invite them to try to open the chamber door. Guess how much force you need to pull it open?

PS: I'm always late reading and replying to these thread that already have hundreds of comments of them so nobody reads these...

You are wrong about that. [LOL - I just mean that people do read the posts}


I just click "next" in the search for "[new]". When I reach the end of the page I reload to get the next batch of comments. This site automatically adds "[new]" to comments that are new since the last reload. This way I find all new comments wherever they appear on the page.

For info I heard that internal assessments at BP were quite conservative on reservoir size, i.e. around 100 million bbls.

Macondo oil well:
~100 million barrels of oil in place.
~50 million barrels of oil recoverable.
BP would have been lucky to extract 50,000 barrels/day of oil.
I am not sure if these estimates are classifying natural gas as oil which is a common practice.

Please take a deep breath and please use Q numbers.

The thing that I keep noticing as I watch, read and listen is that the actual operations are conceptually pretty simple. Makes me think of lawn hose nozzles, pea shooters, web cams, and those arcade games where you guide the little crane hook to pick up a teddy bear. The "job" is not all that complicated. The complications are the location, pressures and material limitations, including human.

I very much hope BP's erector set * 10^6 experiments a mile under the GOM are successful sooner than later.

If Suttles has commented thus, then they must be going to use the BOP from relief well rig 2 to stab onto the top of the existing LMRP. It probably is already down there at 5000ft, ready to be moved over a few hundred feet to the wild well. Doubt they will be cutting/sawing the riser away at the kink, they will probably undo the flange bolts at the bottom of the kinked riser section. Thereafter the driller who attempts to land the new BOP will be carrying out the biggest pressure job in the history of offshore drilling. Good luck to that man!

Good luck indeed. Is BP in total panic mode?

If by panic you mean wanting to stop the flow since day one and clean up the mess ASAP...I would say yes.

You are probably correct.

So, here's what we might see:
1. Kinked riser is unbolted
2. As riser releases, sudden surge of pressure hits BOP
3a. BOP pops off like Alan's sparkling wine cork! Happy new year (which is when they will finally get it under control)
3b. BOP stays on, with high pressure opening(s) unrestrained by the kink in the riser
4a. They have an absolute wizzard on the ROV and actually mount the new BOP... success
4b, ROV guy is human... can't mount new BOP on top of the old one... old BOP erodes to unrestricted flow. On with the RW (with half the chance of success in a reasonable time that 2 would have)

Figure the chances for each of these possibilities. We will be doing these posts for a long long time. Welcome to the end of the Age of Oil, part 1.


Two things... analyzing the chess game before us.

Could there be an optimum time to shed the damaged LMRP and attempt the addition of the Development Driller II BOP to the DWH BOP stack? By this I mean to do the mate right after you pumped all your mud giving the best shot to stop or slow the blowout?

Second, and it would be great if a real oilman would comment. Can they adapt the hydraulic lower LMRP clamp that grabs the top of the BOP to be added to the DDII BOP lower? That way there might be a "quick" BOP to BOP attachment.

All the best to the crews in the Gulf.

Here's how John Wayne woulda dunnit:

[0) Blow out the fire with dynamite]
1) Cut through the riser and trapped drill pipe at the kink with a wire saw. Pressure drop at the sawed-off cross section decreases.
2) THEN undo the flange bolts.
3) Short high-pressure valve in "open" condition gets attached by one bolt, sitting in a position off to the side of the flow stream.
4) Using that bolt as a hinge, swing the valve around into the flow stream so the other bolt holes on the valve line up with bolt holes on the flange.
5) Bolt the valve in place
6) Close the valve.

Good luck indeed! Several decades back I was in a dive observation bell at 240 feet trying to direct a casing stab in. Almost succeeded. With the inertia lag time, currents, swell, as well as other factors, it will be an amazing feat when the stack is mounted on the other BOP. The skill of these good men in these trying conditions amazes me. Godspeed.

Assuming from the apparent MMS disinformation "top kill going to plan but needs anothr 24-48hrs to determine success" kinda stuff, that it's on to the next stage.....

I'm thinking about what happens when they undo the flange bolts, and the riser pipe starts to separate from the BOP (I guess that's the LMRP portion of the BOP)

As soon as a gap opens, there will be an ABSOLUTE BLIZZARD of oil coming out, right into the camera of the ROV that's trying to finish the bolt-removal job. How are they going to continue the operation when they get to that point? Does the ROV have the ability to clamp itself onto the bolt head and use some ratchet mechanism so it never has to let go? I'd hope so, but have seen posts reporting dropped wrenches. Or do the ROVs have some sort of groovy x-ray camera that can see through a cloud of oil and mud?

.... but maybe best to just get out the diamond saw, 'cause you don't need to see that clearly to operate it.

Respect to the expert posters, and the ROV pilot guys - I'm guessing that profession will be getting a a burst of new applicants at the moment.

Regards Chris

This wound up at the bottom of the last thread and got no comments. Maybe because it was not a good idea, but I'd like to know why, I can't see why it would not work:

The Top Dome

Get a big oil or natural gas tank. The kind you see by the side of the highway and at refineries. Install ballast cavities inside at the top by welding in plates to create air cavities, one or more for each quarter pie slice. Install valves from the top that go into each ballast cavity and also valves that go into the main tank. The main tank valves need to be big enough to vent all the gusher. Float this thing out to sea using the ballast tanks and other floating stabilizers attached around the outside of the tank to keep it from turtling. Get it over the leak site and sink it by flooding the ballast tanks. Leave some of the the main cavity vales open--enough to vent the gusher--but not all. Attach other main cavity inlets to a hose(s) to the surface and pump hot water or anti-icing chemical (anti-freeze). Submerge the tank down over the leak and allow the oil and gas gusher to escape out the main cavity valves. Secure the thing to the seafloor--or maybe its weight is enough. Attach a riser(s) to the closed main cavity valve(s). Open them and start pumping up seawater and oil/gas/anti-freeze. Monitor the thing and close the vent valves as it looks like it is going to hold together. If you can get them all closed then you have the gusher trapped and the oil coming to the surface where it can be hauled off in tankers to be separated.

I know this is like the cofferdam, but is it possible that the icing problem can be addressed if the chamber is large enough to hold temperature and/or enough anti-freeze.

The smaller you make the fitting around the pipes the less interference with the flow and the lower the risk of hydrate formation. If this has to sit there for 2 months then these have to be concerns, and it is why the "top hat" or a version thereof is sitting there being prepared for the next step.

I get that. I was thinking that instead of trying to prevent hydrate formation by keeping it small, that it would be better to address hydrate formation by making the environment unsuitable for hydrate formation, by making it big and of sufficient temperature or chemical composition. Big also has the advantage that it would give the operation a longer control loop period.

What you want is a big riser pipe (chance of it icing up) -- but it's really really hard to make a 5000' pipe much bigger -- but as small a 'dome' as possible, because you've got to keep pumping methanol through the whole dome to keep it from freezing up. You also want the whole thing warm; if it's huge it's going to be at ambient temperature, not oil temperature.

The "top hat" is the right solution for this, but it's hard to make it work. And it's going to be leaky, in the long run. And despite your best antifreeze technique, it might end up icing over anyway. Not an easy solution -- but it's still the idea behind the "top hat" and the "LMRP" solutions, we might have to just admit defeat on plugging the well and start trying to catch what we can.

Seem like the best minds in the world need to be thinking about how to prevent hydrate formation within a containment dome of some size attached to as big a riser as is possible.

Uh, why is it they don't have subs down there? Could it be the sea floor pressure is 2500 psi? What part of the physics did you miss? This isn't your local lake or bath tub. Why do you think the top hat was 100 tons? could it be the pressure of 13,000 psi of crude ejecting from the BOP? Hum, gee wiz if would could only invent a new type of physics that you suggest maybe this would be easy? Maybe we enter the anti-physics world you live in and do the opposite? Maybe we manage the liquid nitrogen crowd with anti-physics and the sinking battle ship people too? Oh, yes, the giant screw crowd my personal fav!
I think I am writing a book of all the anti-physics solutions, great coffee table book right? Didn't Saturday Evening Post do the Rub Goldberg sketches?
Mississippi 252 book of anti-physics solutions? I can see it now jacket, the big giant screw, maybe a loctite coating? Oh my, the giant screw driver to install? Do you think Craftsman would sponsor the giant screw? Maybe a Nascar like painted screwdriver? Wow, now we could just keep this going we could come up with a whole new standard model of physics. THE GIANT SCREW MEETS THE ANTI-BLACK HOLE?

Landrew, I didn't see the giant screw solution so I don't know what was originally suggested, but a giant screw does bring to mind certain configurations and certain materials tend to attract fluid flow to them (having a brain fart at the moment about what these are) but has anyone suggested the idea of not necessarily containing the oil but "steering" it more or less intact to collection points in less unforgiving conditions? Sorry if this is one of those off the wall suggestions which will be scoffed at, but I vaguely remember something from one of my undergraduate engineering classes about this.

Three questions:

1) If yesterday the top kill was having some effect and reducing the pressure within the BOP (as reported,) wouldn't it have made sense to perform the junk shot sometime yesterday afternoon, since it appears two days of drilling mud flow has honed the holes larger?

2) Before the possible replacement of the BOP, what is the possibility of success of the lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap containment system, as described in this paragraph BP's press release from earlier today?

"Deployment would first involve removing the damaged riser from the top of the failed BOP to leave a cleanly-cut pipe at the top of the BOP's LMRP. The cap, a containment device with a sealing grommet, will be connected to a riser from the Discoverer Enterprise drillship, 5,000 feet above on the surface, and placed over the LMRP with the intention of capturing most of the oil and gas flowing from the well."

This "cap containment system" sounds like it would prevent the intrusion of seawater, and prevent the formation of hydrates, but could it capture and redirect all of the oil and gas to the surface?

My take is it would be very much like the siphon that was used previously.

"(which I suspect was earlier than BP have said, thanks to the eagle eyes ..."
Really, there is no excuse for BP not to be monitored and told sternly by someone in Government there is a price to pay for dissimulation. If team USA really in charge, then step one is to demand accurate monitoring and no tricks. BP just seems to be shooting baskets and watching them bounce, and pretending it's going according to plan simply because they are trying. OTOH I guess it's possible they can reassess how to improve what they're doing, and make better efforts?

Is there any information on who is manufacturing the plug pieces with more sophisticated shapes designed by the National Labs?

No idea, you should probably ask them, but since they are using rubber it is something that any decent waterjet fabrication shop should be able to turn out in less than a couple of hours.

Probably a dumb question...but..

If they put a containment dome over the well while pumping mud, wouldn't the mud carry the seawater out of the dome by the time the oil and gas punch through, thereby avoiding the hydrates problem?

I wondered about this too. The mud they are currently pumping is water based. So I think that as the oil/methane reaches the line hydrates will still form.

Loop Current

The drifting BP oil has been entrained with the Loop Current (which feeds the Gulf Stream) BUT the Loop Current is in the process of being "pinched off" into a separate eddy.

So Florida (East & West coast) will just have to wait for their fair share of the oil.


Note: Amateur at this.

Eddies are great concentrators of nutrients, larvae and fish attracted to the previous two. A marine biologist colleague of mine once remarked that if you took all of the nutrients and microscopic food for marine life (plankton and zooplankton) and spread it equally over the 70% of our planet that is covered in oceans, then marine life in any one spot would starve. Simplistically, ocean currents and eddies are important components in the sustainability of fisheries by concentrating nutrients in the same place as larvae and adults.

GOM eddies can also concentrate the oil that is pulled into them, either at the surface or at depth or both. Then there is a toxic concentration of oil, dispersants and weathered oil which will move along wherever the eddy goes. Fortunately, the oil weathers at the surface and microbes chomp on it below, but I am not aware of any method to predict how long this toxic brew might remain toxic.

The eddy that may have been pinched of from the big "loop" portion of the Loop Current, will probably move generally westward towards Texas. Smaller eddies (they can be many sizes) along the edge of the Loop Current will reshape as they move along the edge of the current during their lifetimes.

Eddies are like spinning tops in that eventually they will spin down or dissipate. This frequently happens upon the interaction of the eddy with decreasing water depth, where the friction of the bottom slows the circular currents in the eddy down. Here is the part I worry about. When the eddies concentrate the oil (just like they do for fish larvae or nutrients), they keep it within a narrow area. Once the eddy spins down whatever concentrated within it is released into a relatively small area all in one or more closely timed events. In the case of oil this could be very bad for say a coral reef in shallow water.

In the case of oil this could be very bad for say a coral reef in shallow water.

Like these south of Texas ?



Folks to the east may not have to wait too long. Hard to say how much oil is actually within the potential Loop Eddy, looks to me like it's mostly around the edges. I'm guessing the proto-Eddy is acting as a barrier right now, holding the spill in place in peripheral eddies. If the big eddy moves towards Texas, it could let the spill flow down to the new shortcut Loop Current. Eddies are odd beasts.

Roffer's discussion is similar (and wiser, no doubt):


Jeff Masters at Weather Underground has a current and quite helpful entry on the loop current, its eddy formations and possible consequences for oil movement. For those interested in such things, the page contains links to other forecasting tools.

I was asked today to comment on a "Government Report" supposedly posted here on TOD that stated something on the order of the Exxon Valdez spill seeps into the GOM naturally every year. I can't find any post along those lines and find the statement to be completely incredible to a fabrication (at the worst) or a misunderstanding (at the best). Does this ring a bell with anyone else ?

Thanks in advance,

don f.

There was a whole discussion on natural oil seeps both in the GOM and off California. The natural seeps support mini ecosystems that are based on bacteria that digest the oil. people posted various references to documentation. I don't recall the title of the thread that has those posts though.

natural seeps are a much more dilute dose, spread over a wide arc of the Gulf (from Mexico to Florida) and spread over a full year. And seeps tend to be heavier oil that do not emulisfy as readily as what we have now.

I am concerned about bacteria metabolizing this new food source so quickly that they consume much of the dissolved oxygen in various parts of the GoM. Combine this with our annual dead zone (gift mainly from the corn farmers, higher now because of corn ethanol) and create MASSIVE dead zones.

Child's version here (good graphics)

Another pathway for environmental destruction.


I guess it was the quantity that struck me. I find it incredible that that amount of hydrocarbons wouldn't have an effect on the marshes. I would have expected some cumulative damage.

I'm a Mechanical Engineer, not a Biologist. As a former resident of St. Charles Parish, I'm well aware of the effects of the refining operations along the river. They are "real" and possibly immeasureable.

best regards,

don f.

I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I know of that work, and the volumes are pretty small. In the SB channel in CA they lowered tents over some of the seeps to determine Q. Nature doesn't produce this amount of oil via seeps, especially in this short time frame.

Don't have the thread, but the numbers varied over several days, fairly early on in this mess. It was shortly after BP first said 5,000 BPD was the spill amount. Someone researched and found actual number, over entire GOM is more like 3,000 BPY.

Small leaks like that are food for bacteria that make their living eating crude oil. No dispersants are used. I believe they are heavier oils, but I'm no expert on that. Just have good recall on what has been posted.


I don't know what posted here, but if you search for papers/articles written by the scientists mentioned in this article you should find some things:

A lot of oil does seep into the GOM--mostly to the west of where this spill occurred if I recall. If you go to it's marked on their maps of the slick.

Here also is a rundown on the issue--with a political bent but the information is well-sourced from what I can tell.

Just saw a HUGE rain of either junk shot foam or methane hydrates raining down, then everything became very dark.

I HOPE this is implementing hot tap or LMRP, or some kind of modified junk shot - and not a blowout.

Anyone know what's going on?

I saw the same thing, but I can't find a live feed that has any content about what is going on.

Looks like most ROVs are obscured by something. Mud?
One is still watching some structure though.. hope it's the BOP and it's still there.

I looked at the live feed at 8:33p CST which matched what was on the monitor. The shot was at the surface and you could see boats and lights about 200 yards away. It was pitch dark in the sky. How can that be when it is not even dark here in KC yet?

Did anyone catch the hearings today that can give a summary (or a link to video or text)?

The NYTs reported that a couple of people were ill or had 'health issues' and couldn't testify. The little bit I saw was combative in tone and the companies had reps acting as 'minders' for the witnesses, or so it seemed.

Go to Cspan website. All should be there. Some very informative. Important to listen to who is asking questions.

Interesting indeed! Have you watched them all? I'm sorry I don't have the time to do so.

A few questions - centralizers? to keep the casing centered in the hole?

Lock-down sleeve? locking sleeve to join the casing sections?

'U tubed'? as in the drilling mud u tubed instead of leaking through the annular?

Also Mark Hafle, drilling engineer for BP, said several times when questioned about the CBL that is was not required at that stage (results might be equivocal) but one WILL be run before they bring the well into production. He said this not just once but several times - one WILL be run. Maybe he mis-spoke, but somehow I didn't feel it was a mistake. He always took his time and answered carefully.

I caught this interview on TV (though the volumn on CSPAN was terrible) and I was really curious about this point as well. He seemed to indicate that confidence in the cement job was very high and that a CBL wasn't mandated at that stage of the process. I wanted the interviewer to ask about this specifically. What leads to such confidence in a cement job without a CBL? What tells the people who plug the well that the cement job was a good one sans the CBL? The interview made this particular point seem rather baffling. Mark Hafle claims that a good cement seal is needed between the producing formation and the production liner so a CBL must be run in the future before production. This seems to completely ignore the apparent need for a good cement seal in general. Very confusing.

Basically he said that even though they had lost mud to the formation at the bottom that the cement job could be designed to account for that and seal properly and there was the suggestion that if it hadn't completely set up that that could interfere with getting a clear reading. He also did say that the CBL could be expected to detect the height of the cement flow in any case - even if the rest of the result wasn't clear.

He seemed to view the CBL as only required to test the well to see if it would properly support production when the casing was perforated - nothing to do with the safety of the well as it was being closed off.

The question about the centralizers seemed to be about the overall robustness of the job - Haliburton wanted 21 but only 6 were installed.

The point I was making was that his testimony suggested this well would be put into production... "a CBL WILL be run" hard to believe... Maybe just a mindset that made him choose those words, but they were repeated three times I believe.

Trust me...this well will never be produced. But when the relief well kills the flow they'll try to get back to the bottom with drill pipe. They might run a CBL at that point to determine if they need to squeeze (shoot holes in the csg and pump cmt in) as part of the permanent plug and abandonment plan.

About CBL's: they are one of the more difficult logs to interpret and are often wrong. Good looking CBL and a bad cmt job.... bad looking CBL and a perfect cmt job. I've seldom run a CBL after cementing a casing string. Running a CBL long after drilling ops have ended is not uncommon. Before you perf and begin production you want to make sure you’ve isolated the producing zone form other zones behind the csg. THE definitive test is the LOT (leak off test): the mud pumps are kicked in and held for a number of minutes. The pressure is charted. The pressure increases until the csg shoe begins to leak mud. You can readily see the change in the slope on the chart. This LOT pressure is stated in #’s per gallon and is used to indicate the highest mud weight that can used to drill ahead with. This is called a positive test. You can also do a negative when you reduce the effective mud weight at the bottom of the hole and determine if you can get the formation pressure to leak into the well bore. There are unconfirmed reports that there was a disagreement in the interpretation of the negative test. We’ll have to wait to see if this test data survived the fire. And what do you do when there is an insufficient LOT? Every rig keeps the tools at hand to do a squeeze job...pump more cmt into the shoe. Attached to the drill pipe and run in hole. Would have taken an extra day or so. Then do another LOT. Would have cost around $1 million for the entire op.

Hi RM, got an opinion on my questions just upthread? Had to do with the negative test. One of the witnesses described the disagreement about this in the hearing.


Newbie here. Thanks for your great informative posts.

About the negative tests. You've probably this memo released by the House Energy Committee based on BP's internal investigation. Here are the relevant parts:

Two hours before the explosion, during efforts to begin negative pressure testing, the system gained 15 barrels of liquid instead of the 5 barrels that were expected, leading to the possibility that there was an “influx from the well.” A cementer witness stated that the “well continued to flow and spurted.” Having received an unacceptable result from conducting the negative pressure test through the drill pipe, the pressure test was then moved to the kill line where a volume of fluid came out when the line was opened. The kill line was then closed and the procedure was discussed; during this time, pressure began to build in the system to 1400 psi. At this point, the line was opened and pressure on the kill line was bled to 0 psi, while pressure on the drill pipe remained at 1400 psi. BP’s investigator indicated that a “fundamental mistake” may have been made here because this was an “indicator of a very large abnormality.” The kill line then was monitored and by 7:55 p.m. the rig team was “satisfied that [the] test [was] successful.” At that time, the rig started displacing the remaining fluids with seawater, leading to the three flow indicators described above.

In addition, key questions exist about whether proper procedures were followed for critical activities throughout the day. Negative pressure testing was initially done on the drill pipe rather than the kill line, even though the drill plan specified that it would be done on the kill line. After anomalous results, the negative pressure testing was conducted on the kill line and ultimately accepted. Evidence suggests that spacer fluid used during the displacement of drilling fluid with seawater did not rise above the BOP to the level required by the drilling plan; this increased pressure in the drill pipe and may have interfered with later pressure testing. In addition, the method of displacing the drilling mud with seawater may have interfered with the monitoring of the flow levels from the well because the mud was transferred to another boat instead of measured in the mud pits. Moreover, mudloggers were not informed when the offloading of drilling mud to the other boat was stopped.

Can you share your thoughts on those issues? Again, thanks much for sharing your expertise and insights!!

Reposted lower in the thread for Rockman, et. al. (folks that have worked with MMS):

I've been digging through the online data, specifically well permits, plans and the weekly WARs for MC block 252. Does any company fill out the weekly WAR completely? I noticed that BP has never filled in anything more that the identifying information at the very top. They have never filled in any detail; typically not even a few words in the narrative section at the bottom of the form. This is also true for when BP had the Marianas drilling in MC 252 in 2009. Dominion Exp. at least filled in some info on their wells. I can't believe that the MMS software allows submission of empty 133 forms.

I also note that the well plans for BP's Marianas and Dominion's Ocean Star work are downloadable. There is NO PLAN to download for Deep Horizon's work. The plan for the BP RW C and D is downloadable.

It would appear that there is a problem with MMS and the government not just BP.

This is probably the wrong thread in which to post this, but I didn't know where else to start. Would the site moderators please correct me - email instructions. I know everyone is very, very, very concerned about the spill as am I. However, we need to start correcting these oversights if they are also occurring with the thousands of other leases in the GOM. As F. Zappa said while sitting in the loo - the job's not finished until the paperwork's done.

Excuse me, what is a "centralizer"?

I tried to get Rockman or someone else to answer this. I believe they are spacers designed to keep the casing off the walls and centered in the hole - probably ensures a better cement job - just a guess.

The videos are on C-SPAN

Morning session

Afternoon session

You can find good summaries of the hearings here

Either the BP Oil Gusher Has Just Blown Out, or BP is Implementing LMRP RIGHT NOW

I've been watching BP's live feed via CNN off and on for at least 15 minutes. It's become very strange: debris and turbulence. Does anyone have any idea based on their experience about what what we are looking at on the live feed? I have no idea.

POP went the BOP ?

Lots of mud (drilling and seabottom) and sand appears to be falling.

Lets start dredging expanded barrier islands; it is going to be a LONG hard summer :-((((


That is really scary. Peace be with you and yours.


Now what the hell is this on the BP live feed? Next they'll probably tap into the SciFi channel.

This is the third time in two days the BOP has exploded! Seriously, unless you see metal parts flying around, the BOP is still there. Wanna a bet?

I've been trying to follow this thread but I just can't keep up with my FTE. My sincere apologies for adding noise if this has already been discussed.

Just wondering if anybody has thought of plugging at least some of this leak with some sort of device similar to an anchor bolt?

Stick the device in deep and turn the screw to expand and plug the hole as you would do for an anchor bolt in concrete/drywall. Even if it doesn't totally seal it perhaps something like this could at least temporarily restrict the flow to a significant degree while we think of other permanent options...?

I know this might sound over-simplistic but sometimes the best solutions are the simplest.

My only hope is for this nightmare to be dealt with. It has been taking up so much of my head-space that I can barely function in my daily life.

!4000 pounds of pressure out of the leak, using ROVS, plus the sudden pressure spike would probably burst holes farther down that could never be repaired, to sum up.

I would just like to thank all the Mods here and the Rock man, TOD is one of the best web sights on the web, + the cast of characters on this make it absolutely addicting I care a lot about this sight and its refreshing to come here and feed on all the great content. So here's to

Heading out
The Rock man not a Mod but a great guy.
Stoneleigh wait did I mess up.

and all the rest of my friends here, God bless you all.

From Po, way in the Mountains in Colorado.

YES!!! I just provided some $$$.

Not to presume to tell the moderators how to do their job, for I would never do that, I would like to suggest something to increase the signal to noise ratio. In the favor of signal, I mean. Not noise.

Creative energy is wonderful, and should be encouraged. But maybe not here. That is, I believe those posts beginning with "I am not an expert but here is how I think they should stop the leak" should be deleted. Summarily and without appeal. I don't mean to offend these posters. I normally would not dream of telling others to refrain from creative problem solving. I really wouldn't. It is just that there is so much good information here that helps us laypeople interpret what is going on and that is why we come here. Or at least, that is why I come here. I don't presume to speak for anyone else.

Plus, if I may be brutally honest here, though in a spirit of compassion and caring, of course, the ideas posted by such people are typically rather silly. Not to mention the fact that there is zero chance that some BP exec is going to stop by here trolling for some new approach. That is just not going to happen. It's really not.

I am sorry if it is not my place to make such a suggestion. And yet I have one more. Suggestion, I mean. And that is that anyone linking to that Matt Simmons video asking the same "but what if this is true" question should simply be banned. Likely as not, it is just Simmons posting under different names trying to take his idea viral.

Thanks for listening and I hope you take these suggestions in the good spirit in which they were intended.

I would agree with the caveat if they start out "I am not an expert but I have read the last 7 days of posts, and still wonder if x would work.."

Thanks Argus.

Before this spill situation, this site was a quiet, brilliant little corner of the world where a few of us came daily for a dose of sane exchange of ideas. This unexpected notoriety is obviously a bit overwhelming.

It is a brilliant little corner of the world. I've read all of these two threads (and browsed otehrs), and I have learned so much here about the processes that have been taking place, the importance of drilling 5-6 relief wells (sigh :( ), and what's been happening on the camera. I just want to say thanks, it is a brilliant little corner.

Oh, and I especially love the big screw idea lol. Screw it up! Hey, maybe they can make a giant penis to shove in there. haha (ok sorry, I digress).

Back to lurking...

TOD has a history of energy related articles. We are "Tech Central" for the Peak Oil Movement.

Typically, the comments have more value than the original article (although the articles are often quite good). There is very little pablum and the "rules" allow sharp comments, backed by rational analysis and facts.

The best series of analysis I have EVER seen, on any subject was the series by Stuart Staniford on North Ghawar, the largest (BY FAR) liquid oil field in the world.

It takes about a full day to read it all.

Bottom line, North Ghawar is starting to water out.

My best article was technical (I was told that it closely paralleled an internal 6 month study by BNSF railroad).

Warning: 4,000 word article, 5,000 words in appendixes.

Best Hopes,


Read the sayings in the upper right corner too, and they rotate.

It is frustrating that we still seem to be very dependent on BP for information. The live feed doesn't provide much info without context. It would seem that even the experts (here and elsewhere) are somewhat limited in the conclusions that can be drawn from moment to moment because BP only ever tells us what they were doing 12-24 after they do it. I wish the government would do more to force the release information, but I feel like they are doing damage control (and partially in the dark), too.


19:38 CDT Mil # 22 ROV rising perhaps heading toward the surface. Depth ~1,200 m. There is lots of debris in the water.

19:42 CDT Mil # 22 ROV is still rising. Depth ~1,070 m. Water is still murky, but there is less debris.

19:44 CDT Mil # 22 ROV is rising. Depth ~1,010 m. ROV enters a region with lots of debris that look like white flakes.

19:50:05 CDT Mil # 22 ROV is rising. Depth ~850 m. Water is still murky with white flakes.

19:55 CDT Mil # 22 ROV is rising and facing south. Depth ~755 m. Water is murky with fewer white specks.

20:00 CDT Mil # 22 ROV is rising and facing ~southeast. Depth ~657 m. It keep entering and exiting areas with different debris densities.

20:07 CDT Mil # 22 ROV is rising and facing northeast. depth: ~458 m. It has been slowly rotating counterclockwaise but has not made a full revolution yet. The water is murky with white flakes. Debris has been present in the entire water column so far with varying densities. If the white flakes are methane hydrates, then they are present in most of the water column.

20:10 CDT Mil # 22 ROV is rising and facing northeast. Depth: 165 m? (not sure about the hundreds digit. The depth is probably 365 m). Water is murky with white flakes.

20:12 CDT Mil # 22 ROV is rising. It is difficult to read the heading and depth because there is much debris.

20:14:40 CDT thick clouds of debris. Can not read depth.

20:16 CDT Mil # 22 ROV. Depth 197 m. Cloudy debris.

20:20 CDT Mil # 22 ROV is rising. Depth: ~115 m. The water is murky with lots of white flakes.

20:22 CDT Mil # 22 ROV has stopped rising at a depth of ~97 m facing between south and southwest. The water is murky with white flakes floating in random directions.

20:25 CDT Mil # 22 ROV resumes assent.

20:30:00 CDT Mil # 22 ROV surfaces in the dark facing ~200 degrees azimuth. There are three surface vessels visible with lights blaring.

Why was it so dark at the surface at 8:30pm CST? They are further west than me in Kansas City and it does not get pitch dark until 9 to 9:15pm these days.

There are several possibilities:

Since the lights from the surface vessels were the dominate light source, it could have been twilight.

I do not know for certain that the time displayed by the ROV's is CDT. My time zone is MST and the time the ROV's display is two hours ahead of my time.

9:15 pm CST = 10:15 pm CDT.

Sunset in higher northerly latitudes is later than in lower northerly latitudes this time of year.

screen capture from BP's video feed as Mil # 22 ROV surfaces on May 28, 2010 20:30:01 CDT


Shelburn, you have contributed many great posts here on TOD and know much more about oil well operations than I, but in this case you are wrong. For nearly an hour I watch the ROV rise to the surface watching the depth meter. Look at the depth meter in the upper left hand corner of the photo reading "-0.1" meters below sea level. I also have screen captures several seconds earlier showing the camera under water and one, partly underwater.

Sorry, mistook it for a different picture

Sorry wrong picture, I had deleted but didn't take very slow response.

They're further south. It would be dark there before it would get dark for you even if you're in the same time zone.

That's about right. But only by a little bit--it should have been dark for around 10 minutes maybe, although I do not know their exact L/L

sorry, this is totally o/t but I think this thread may be closed soon anyway. Wouldn't there also be some effect because of the different types of locations? Kansas City (where everything is up to date!) would have some light because it's a city, which might extend the effect of sunset, but when it gets dark in the middle of the GOM, it's going to be really, really dark.

NOAA Sunrise/Sunset Calculator indicates for Kansas City, MO:

Latitude: 39° 04' 59" N
Longitude: 94° 34' 01" W
sunset: 8:35 pm CDT

Incident News: Deepwater Horizon gives the location as:

Latitude (approximate): 28° 44.20' North
Longitude (approximate): 88° 23.23' West

and sunset is at 7:45 pm CDT.

Very good, thank you.

There is considerable time between sunset and pitch dark (30-45 mins?) so in KC, it is not pitch dark until 9-9:15pm. This would make sense then for DH to be pitch black by 8:30pm. Thanks for digging that up.

Was the debris I saw "falling" just the ROV rising instead through debris fields ?

Or was their an element of seafloor cascading down at one time ?



Yea, the apparent general downward motion of the clouds and white flakes was caused by the continual upward motion of the ROV. While I was watching it, the only time the assent paused was for about 3 minutes at a depth of 97 m beginning at 20:22 CDT. The operators were probably timing the surfacing exactly on schedule at 20:30:00, accurate to a second.

When the ROV is at the top of the BOP, its depth is 1,502 meters. I began watching the assent when it was around 1,200 m, so I can not comment on the debris near the sea floor during the assent. Since the BOP is fairly tall, I am skeptical its motors would kick up stuff from the sea floor when leaving that location. When an ROV is inspecting the BOP, it is closer to the sea floor, moves around and does not kick up a cloud of debris. I think stuff (methane hydrate, mud, whatever) is raining down from the leak.

About 4:30 PM CDT I saw an interesting bit of video on the CNN screen -- the point of view was from an ROV that had backed off, with its camera still pointed back at the top of the BOP.

The field of view neatly included another ROV, which had glomped onto a riser tube with one of its little claws. You could see its lights glaring at the leaks on the riser kink, and could also make out one of its maneuvering fans with the light behind it. This was clearly the ROV that was sending the video of the riser kink plumes, and it was blowing clear water into the area with its maneuvering fan.

Most of the video has been really hard to interpret, as there isn't any expert commentary as to what's going on, and of course when you see video from inside one of the plumes, or it's in a just bunch of flying clathrate chunks, it looks quite violent, but you really can't tell.

We've been watching an ascent to the surface the last half hour or so.

/shakes head and walks away

THe booms are clearly stopping the oil.

Yes - they are stopping it from drifting away the marshes.( low tide phenomenon?)

With the live feed in black out, now it should get interesting. I posted on Wednesday that Friday sometime after 6pm EDT BP would do a "news dump" to be able to use the long weekend to let things cool off. I suspect the live feed going dead is related to Friday after 6pm EDT. It's classic information management. I think they're up to doing something they don't want "hot" news coverage or live video on. We may be information free for a couple of days. The plot thickens. Let's see.

Question: We all know the topkill wont work, most likely. Why are they doing it and stalling? I would love to see what personnel and cash bp is frantically moving out of the country.

Maybe you should watch one of the dozens of Unified Command briefings?

Why are they doing it and stalling?

Because the technical folk thought that it has a shot of working... I know we all don't trust BP. But they have every incentive in the world to stop the oil spill the well as fast as they can. Every day that they delay it, they would add another hundred of million to the overall clean up bill, penalty etc. What exactly is the reason they want to stall? Remember the RIT work somewhat.. So some of the engineers behind the scene may actually know something that people in this thread don't..

What does the process of putting a BOP on top of the BOP involve? Would it be built over the current BOP? or would it just be connected somehow to the top of it, which would seem really hard, somehow tapping the broken riser? Also, how many feet high is the current BOP? Anyone have a graphic with specs?

"We all know" is false - speak for yourself and don't waste bandwidth.

And now...we are back to the end of the riser tube. What is that smaller split pipe in the background and how did that happen?

And the riser seems to be spilling much less oil than before. Is it all escaping upstream somewhere after the leak got much worse?

It'd be nice to believe that they're up to something besides being thankful that they rescued their ROV. The alternative is to take what I was watching via the feed starting around 7:30EDT as a sign of catastrophe: white stuff getting jerked around by violent currents in increasingly murky water.

Anderson Cooper on CNN just claimed BP raised the ROV to "clean" it, but they're trying to "confirm that."

Okay. After all that complaining about signal-to-noise, I'm not going to give my ignorant idea for capping the well. I'm going to talk about what I DO know: politics.

I want the Secretary of the Interior in court NOW to SEIZE control. All those BP "experts" can keep their jobs doing what they're doing. As federal employees.

Politics maybe. Law and common sense ..well. Hey, as federal employees they can get the pensions to make sure we become the sister to Greece. At least as federal employees we would not have to worry about them saving money or being efficient.
Ah, yes fold them into the Corp of Engineers.


Yeah, well at least then we can vote out their bosses.

As for law? There's oodles of precedent, right down to 1789. Tell you what. Let's rule BP officially "felons on the high seas" under Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 10 of the Constitution of the United States, then issue a Letter of Marque under Cl. 11. Whoever caps the well, keeps the oil revenue and whoever captures the BP CEO for later trial and lawful hanging gets a reward.

First post here...

THANKS to all of you knowledgeable folks who are trying your best to share good info...It cannot be easy with all the 'OMG NUKE IT!!' posts.

I came here from, a news and humor site. We have been puzzling out this whole thing in a series of very large threads. Some of us were referred here, and your knowledge and friendly nature have been most welcome.

I mostly wanted to use this post to say the most frustrating thing for a lay person is watching this video with no NASA CAPCOM style communication. If I had any access to those that make decisions about what the American people NEED and WANT right now, I would tell them transparency. The pictures are amazing, but they can be panic inducing without some sort or orientation.

Anyway, thanks to all who make these threads so informative...The Oil Drum has made at least ONE new fan.

Also, what if we took a giant screw....

j/k, I would use a wingnut.

Somewhere on the international media today I read that watching the bp webcam has become an world-wide fascination. Thus it's not just the American public that needs this transparency you speak of.

In my view bp's failure to provide transparency and it's willingness to aid and abet misinformation and disinformation is a contemptuous mistake - which will come back to bite them as millions, perhaps billions, of web users are first disillusioned and then enraged by this callous disregard of people's time and attention, not to speak of their own long term reputation.

I hesitate to stretch this analysis further, but it makes one wonder about their overall competence in other areas. After all it seems to have been short-sightedness that led to this catastrophe. And it's short-sightedness on their part to alienate people across the globe who are taking time out from their lives to monitor an unfolding crisis. People around the world can see this is not just a problem in the Gulf - it's something that may affect the ocean near them too!

Somewhere on the international media today I read that watching the bp webcam has become an world-wide fascination.

It's the new Truman Show! Unfortunately, it will probably have the same ending when the well is secure and the cameras are turned off most people will go back to their own little world and forget about the rest of those impacted by the incident.

The Straight Dope is here too. Thanks to TOD for helping us understand so much.

My guess is that most of the engineers would quit on the spot if BP were nationalized.

My relationship with my employer is strictly two way employment at will.


Easy answer: Conscription.

9:30 CDT. Live feed is back. Little ROV was apparently on recharge break.

A view I've not seen lately from end of riser.(10:18 p.m.) Looks greatly improved from days past.

I see very little gas flow now. Maybe more oil thought. My feeling

only problem is that it appears to be floating straight up. So its got to be oil and gas. Maybe the haze is mud precipitating out.

Hi, all. Thanks for this info site. It is surprisingly difficult to get proper updates anywhere else on the BP Spew-trina.

My idea has been mentioned by others and I'm not in the industry but...

why not take the path of least resistance?

Instead of trying to seal it, why not turn this mess into a production well? I have not knowledge of how it would be done but
couldn't a new well be drilled at an angle to the existing failed well with the intent of diverting the flow through a new, healthy BOP and riser? My hunch is that the pros here will say it cannot be done. But if it could, BP could give the oil to the US government in exchange for dropping some huge fines.

That is pretty much exactly what the relief well is.

Ghung said: Ghung on May 28, 2010 - 9:50pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top Thanks Argus.

Before this spill situation, this site was a quiet, brilliant little corner of the world where a few of us came daily for a dose of sane exchange of ideas. This unexpected notoriety is obviously a bit overwhelming.

It is a brilliant little corner of the world. I've read all of these two threads (and browsed otehrs), and I have learned so much here about the processes that have been taking place, the importance of drilling 5-6 relief wells (sigh :( ), and what's been happening on the camera. I just want to say thanks, it is a brilliant little corner.

Oh, and I especially love the big screw idea lol. Screw it up! Hey, maybe they can make a giant penis to shove in there. haha (ok sorry, I digress).

Back to lurking...

With the thought of 3 billion barrels of crude oil in the GOM, I needed that laugh! Thanks Cool Chick ha! The site always had a bit of humor before this.

Oil Spill: Top Kill Continues, Obama Promises Gulf 'Justice Will Be Done'

BP's "top kill" attempt to shut down the leaking Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico is proceeding as planned and, contrary to media reports, has not been stalled or suspended, a company representative told ENS today.

"We need to carry on for the next 24 to 48 hours, could be less - could be more," said spokesman John Pack from the BP office in Houston, Texas. "It's not accurate to say we're suspending top kill."

"It's all part of the process," said Pack. "You pump fluid down, you stop. You look at the pressure, you review what you've been doing with your mud - the flow rate, the density of the mud. You put bridging material in, you pump and then you review," he explained.

"We can't put an actual time when we're going to complete this process," said Pack

Response by the numbers:

  • Some 20,000 people are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife.

  • Approximately 1,300 vessels are responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts, in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.

  • More than 1.88 million feet of containment boom and 1.25 million feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill, and approximately 280,000 feet of containment boom and one million feet of sorbent boom are available.

  • Approximately 11.5 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.

  • About 850,000 gallons of total dispersant have been deployed - 700,000 on the surface and 150,000 subsea. More than 400,000 gallons are available.

  • 17 staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines, including: Dauphin Island, Orange Beach, and Theodore, Alabama; Panama City, Pensacola, Port St. Joe, and St. Marks, Florida; Amelia, Cocodrie, Grand Isle, Shell Beach, Slidell, St. Mary, and Venice, Louisiana; and Biloxi, Pascagoula, and Pass Christian, Mississippi.


    BP's "top kill" attempt to shut down the leaking Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico is proceeding as planned and, contrary to media reports, has not been stalled or suspended, a company representative told ENS today.

    Well, that's a relief.

    Hi all, I have a pair of questions to try to understand exactly what the options are:

    1.Is the leak contained to the busted BOP, meaning that it isn't leaking around the pipe through the sea floor.

    2. Is there concern that the bop, the pipes and all, could be propelled out of the seabed by the force of the pressure? What is the actual tolerance for this, as in how much weight is there of the bop/pipe and how counter pressure is there from the oil/gas/etc, or is this beyond what could actually happen?

    I have followup questions once this info is known.

    Thanks to anyone who can help, and thanks to the many people who do have info who post here and help others out. Cheers.

    1. The leak is through the BOP and out the riser with drill pipe inside the riser.

    2. The wellbore schematic was provided by Halliburton during congressional testimony. It shows the number of liners cemented in place and the production casing extending from surface to the bottom. The oil and gas is believed to be flowing outside the 7" production casing.

    In short, the BOP and pipes will not be propelled out of the seabed. The oil and gas will simply flow up the pipe until the pressure at the bottom can be balanced and the pipe is sealed with cement.

    1. From the discussions here, most attention is at the BOP. It may still be leaking in the riser farther along, but it is really only at the BOP that there is a point of attack - sites where they can connect high pressure lines, etc.

    2. A number of us have speculated that there were/are large stresses on the BOP, and I bet there are a lot of people that at some point something will force the BOP to fail. Pray that it doesn't. Remember it is built to withstand high fluid pressures, and mostly vertical loads. The stress history of the BOP has been probably far from any design window - the drill platform connected to the riser connected to the BOP certainly resulted in a lot of torque. The experts here explained that there were a number of pressure tests done in the run up to injecting the kill mud, to see if there were leaks. I think it is pretty amazing that the BOP isn't more damaged.

    Long time reader commenting for the first time.

    I will say right up front I have no knowledge or experience in either engineering or oil production.

    But it seems to me the flow is not restricted at all, and it appears the camera/ROV has backed off to a further/safer distance.

    Does this mean that the 'top kill' has blown out and we are back to a run away situation?

    If so, I guess we are in for a long tense summer waiting for the two or three relief wells to be drills, all during a NOAA predicted 'active' hurricane season.

    No the BOP is still intact. There appears to be at least one additional darker leak coming up from underneath the kink and flowing up from behind the right side. This has been a steady erosion process so far, but since there was no leak at all at this riser kink immediately following the blowout the rate has always been increasing IMO.

    There was a fleeting picture awhile back of what I bet was the riser end. Pretty cloudy but some of the pipes and surrounding washout looked right. There was still a decent heavy dark plume emitting straight up from the crater and I thought. They are not gonna get this with C/K and junk.

    Suspend a relief well? While there is no end in sight? Like AFBE says better make it 4. One for the creatures, one for the marshes, one for the businesses, and one for the people of the Gulf coast.

    I got a fair look at the riser leak and a pan shot at the BOP from a ways off - I would say they are now at about 50/50 percentage of leak flow.

    That's probably as good as any seems like over time it would favor the closer route. Yes caught some of that pulled back look too. The riser leak looked pretty dark and it rose steadily the kink is better lit but the plumes are not clouding up much.

    We don't know much but sometimes I trust my own lyin' eyes.

    The side view they have up now shows better contrast to view the flow.

    Yep better look, it appeared like they might be eying that aux. pipe for how to cut it out of the way? The riser plume ,which hasn't been seen for days, looks particularly big and ominous again. Area is clear of mud clouds and column rising steady. Damn.

    I understand most of you guys are knowledgeable in the field of oil drilling, but was wondering if anyone had any information on whether or not BP is pumping Corexit 9500 directly into the leak of this wellhead?

    I told you guys the NYT article was bogus. I would bet there is a hunt on for the technician with loose lips. It is not breaking news on Friday afternoon that the Junk Shot was suspended at 2:30 AM when the BP CEO comes on Good Morning America first thing on Friday morning and tells the entire world that the Junk Shot ended early on Friday morning.

    That's the epitome of old news.

    Every comment made in that article was obviously about the activity on Top Kill and Junk Shot from Thursday afternoon/evening and early Friday morning. I suspected the second I read it that none of it had anything to do with what happened after the GMA appearance by the BP CEO.

    Hi mainer212,

    I have a wicked head cold so my answer may be off a bit.

    EPA and BP got into a tiff last week about Corexit. As a result the EPA sharply reduced the surface use of dispersants and stopped the undersea use of dispersant at the location of the riser insertion tube used at a leak in the riser. I don't believe any dispersant has ever been used at the wellhead itself due to the incredible amount of activity going on there.


    I don't know, but I hope they are not. The reason being that the only way I see to clean up this mess, short of letting nature take its course, is to "vacuum" up the oil. I'm thinking that the use of dispersants may make that a lot harder or impossible.

    How about a non-eroding mud that mitigates the leak.

    Sensor the hell out of the weak spots-- it'll give the ROV operators something to do. They've gotta be going out of their mind watching the same thing for days on end.

    The leaks are in a bent-over 21" OD riser pipe that is open ended on the far end.

    IMO, there are probably no "new" holes - in the sense of abrading through the entire wall thickness. The "new" holes were probably areas damaged by the initial collapse of the riser, and some sort of additional pressure - probably caused by the mud pumps and flow characteristics of heavy mud - in the riser tube forced the previously damaged spots to open enough to become vents.

    As a nuclear engineer for 35 years, 30 of them in thermal hydraulic analysis, this subject has been fascinating. My sincere thanks to all the experienced drilling engineers and techs for their input and comments, I have learned quite a bit about your industry.

    However, I have to express my concern about the lack of understanding of some (quite a few to my surprise) of fluid flow, two-phase flow, and choked flow fundamentals including some so called experts from Universities. What the hell is happening with our technical education in this country! If I took time to correct the errors and misinterpretation of two-phase fluid flow theory/calculations often quoted here I would never get my work done. Anyway, keep it up guys, just remember to check your technical facts before you write and consult your old dusty books if you still have them. We should all remember that this is not a run of the mill problem and the right answers are not as easy as they seem; just like that trick multiple choice question in college in which 2-3 answers jumped at you as seemingly right but were all wrong. To the moderator of this thread I would like to indicate that he is giving way too much credit to the government task force (specific design of the junk pieces beyond current practice...I sincerely doubt it). Not after their weak response (took them like 10 days) of the fluid flow rate calculations mostly still based on videos (we now very well know they don't meant squat until they show nothing coming out) and surface accumulation models.

    Good luck to all of those who are ACTUALLY getting the job done; remember, your engineer in chief ordered to "plug the damn hole."

    Good post, nuke-engineer...good advice. But what is troubling to me is that BP is still in full control of all the information. And they seem to be very hesitant to share it with any scientist or engineer. I'm not sure we even know how deep this well goes down. So all I am saying is that as long as BP is in control, any kind of solution from any outsider seems impossible.

    Do you think the flow inside the BOP is analyzable with FE fluid dynamics analysis? It would be complex, but should be doable.

    Does it seem like BP is doing it?

    It could be analysed if we new the configuration
    as it is now. With the rams forward an unknown
    distance and cut into the drill string an unknown
    amount and the drill string bent an unknown amount
    when the riser through which the string passes kinked
    just above the BOP and with unknown amounts of junk
    lodged in unknown places and with two phase flow of
    an unknown mix of oil gas and mud we have no chance
    of analysing the flow.

    Consolidated Fish and Wildlife Collection Report- Gulf Coast Disaster

    As of noon today in the Gulf of Mexico, the Deepwater response team has recorded the following recorded deaths among marine life:

    Birds: 444 (They have only found 63 alive)
    Sea Turtles: 222 (They have only found 16 alive)
    Mammals, including dolphins: 24 (None found alive)
    Those are the ones emergency responders know about. How many are the Deepwater team not telling us about? Breaks my heart....

    What does the process of putting a BOP on top of the BOP involve? Would it be built over the current BOP? or would it just be connected somehow to the top of it, which would seem really hard, somehow tapping the broken riser? Also, how many feet high is the current BOP? Anyone have a graphic with specs?

    Also, what was used to bring the last 100 ton device to the ocean floor? How long did it take?

    Also, what was used to bring the last 100 ton device to the ocean floor? How long did it take?

    1. Gravity
    2. Not long

    Seriously, I want to thank the moderators and regular contributors at this site, it has been one of the very few sources of real information in an absolute OCEAN of ignorance.


    Also, how many feet high is the current BOP?

    In search of a few facts.

    1) What is the configuration of the well as it exits the ocean floor? My understanding is that it is an outer well casing? What is the diameter of this outer casing and how thick is the pipe and what is the material?

    2) Inside of the outer casing is another pipe that is the actual drill/well pipe? What is the diameter of the inner pipe, wall thickness and material?

    3) Is the drill shaft still inside of this inner pipe?

    4) Is the oil and gas coming up inside of both outer and inner pipes?

    5) What is the probable pressure of the oil and gas right at the sea floor?

    6) Does the BOP valve close both the inner and outer pipes?

    7) Is there any place on the web where you could look at an actual dimensioned schematic drawing of the valve structure attached to the top of the well?

    Thanks in advance for filling me in on this info.

    I make stickers for a living but am just trying to figure out what is going on and can’t find this info anywhere.

    This is the only website I have been able to find that has any practical information on what is happening. Thanks to all you folks for taking the time to educate us all.

    God Bless and stay safe! Dave

    Most of these questions have been answered in posts during the last few days.

    For those who are as annoyed as I am about the embedded video sucking up all of their bandwidth, here is a little trick I invented for crunching bloated web pages down to the bare minimum.

    The idea in a nutshell is to create a bookmark that runs a nifty little javascript snippet. The script "walks" through the page and terminates anything that isn't plain vanilla HTML.

    This has been tested on recent versions of both Firefox and IE in Windows, here are detailed instructions for Firefox:

    • Create a new bookmark on your "bookmark toolbar". The simplest way to do this in Firefox is to right click on the toolbar and select "New Bookmark"

    • Name the new bookmark "clear page" and in the "Location" field copy and paste the following script:


    • You should now have a "clear page" button on your toolbar that you can click while on any page, even while it is still loading (!), that will instantly terminate all of the most annoying crap that people are bloating their web pages with these days, leaving behind only the text. Enjoy!


    Those who use Firefox can just use the add-on "Adblock Plus" to remove the video.

    From the website:

    What is Adblock Plus? What can it do?

    Adblock Plus is an extension for Firefox, Thunderbird, and several other applications with the primary goal of removing advertisements. For that, it will look at all requests made by web pages and block the request if the address the request should go to matches a filter in Adblock Plus. Out of the box, Adblock Plus comes without any filters whatsoever but will offer to add a filter subscription on first start — that is a list of filters maintained by other Adblock Plus users and will be updated automatically regularly. A filter subscription can be added later as well (see Choosing a filter subscription), but you can also create your own filters regardless of whether you use a filter subscription.

    Blocking requests is limited to removing advertisements that are technically not part of the web page but downloaded separately. Because of that limitation, there is also an additional mechanism called “element hiding” which allows hiding parts of web pages based on some unique properties. The disadvantage here is that even hidden elements are still downloaded and require processing time in the browser. Also, creating element hiding rules is more complicated because you have to select the right set of properties — only the elements that need to be hidden should have those, not the required page content. Element Hiding Helper extension makes this task easier, yet creating good element hiding rules still requires much experimenting.

    Oh, gosh no, nothing the least bit complicated about that! Now, if only I could invent a bit of javascript that blocks idiots ...


    Top kill having trouble because well is not closed and mud is being lost.

    Attempting to plug BOP with various solids is a guesswork operation because the internals of the BOP are inaccessible.

    Better to work within a more accessible environment.

    Leak is at riser kink. Clamp it.

    Use two shoes and operate similarly to a disc brake. The riser being the brake disc.

    The riser has collapsed as a result of the kink. The collapse is likely to be almost a straight line. Form the face of the top shoe to approximate the concave surface of the riser at the kink. Form the face of the bottom shoe to match the top. Line the centre line of both shoes with a thin layer of rubber to help seal the riser holes. Radius the shoe edges so that they don't cut into the riser.

    The riser is 22" diameter. After collapse along the kink line it may be about 30" wide. The kink can not be 22" thick, more like 12" or less.

    Use 4 ( every 8" or so along the kink ) 12" stroke large bore ( lots of force ) hydraulic rams.

    Tie the front and back sides of the clamp together with threaded rod. The bottom shoe could be integral with the back side.

    Assemble on-site by placing back side/shoe over threaded rods from front side. Hold in place with nuts, tightening until shoes are pressing against riser pipe.

    Have brass collars in the front shoe holes so that the threads on the rods are not damaged as the shoes squeeze the riser pipe.

    Apply hydraulic pressure. As the shoes clamp the riser, tighten nuts on the threaded rods behind the front shoe. The clamp will then stay in place even if the hydraulic pressure is lost.

    As the shoes make contact with the riser the highest point will make contact first. The small surface area of the contact will ensure very high pressures. The high points will, therefore, be the easiest to squeeze in.

    Keep increasing the pressure and tightening the front shoe nuts until no more tightening is possible.

    Depending on the geometry of the kink the shoes could be about 8" wide. They should cover the breaks in the riser easily.

    Assuming that the drill pipe is still in this portion of the riser, it must be bent exactly the same as the riser and must, therefore, be kinked at the same point.

    Both riser and drill pipe will be structurally weak at the kink so the squeezing should be successful in further collapsing them. The shoes will provide extra support and will strengthen the kink.

    The covering of the holes and any further collapse of the piping will increase the flow restriction at the kink and reduce the loss of top kill mud.

    Do top kill.

    The clamp is not hard to engineer. Hydraulic rams off the shelf. Given the resources available, 24 hours should see it done. The ROVs only have to mate two parts and put on some ( quite large) nuts.

    The toughest part will be the back side/shoe. It will have to resist bending over about a 36" span and may be restricted spatially by the bent riser.

    Well, you better send this in immediately. It is pure genius in its simplicity. I will bet 24 hours is even too much - they will get it there in 2 or less - we'll see the whole damn thing clamped up nicely by breakfast.

    Hello Dimitry,

    If the idea seems to be worth something and you know of someplace useful to send it... please, send away!!


    I would not worry, I am sure BP has their top people scouring this website 24/7 for great ideas. In fact they are probably working on it already.

    Perhaps it could be sent to

    ROFL!!!! Man, it is great to have a LITTLE levity amidst this tragedy. TNX

    What off-the-shelf hydraulic ram is designed to operate in sea water with a pressure of 2,150 psi?

    Just about any one, providing it is double acting (controlled fluid on both sides of the piston) or single acting with the non-hydraulic fluid side vented to ambient pressure (seawater), because it's all about differential pressure.

    In simpler terms, as long as the cylinder has 100% fluid in it that is either ambient or controlled. it would be OK because the contained fluid is incompressible. Accumulators and check valves could reduce any delta P risk.

    Ram cylinders are designed for the maximum operating differential pressure of the hydraulic fluid, so putting them in an ambient environment of 2,150 psi actually increases their pressure (and force) capacity, providing the hydraulic pump can supply the pressure.

    Any given ram may not be designed for the environment, (saltwater, contamination, etc) but it only has to work once, suggesting single acting.

    That said, BP should, and probably would use the best available, compared to the overall cost of this "unfortunate situation".

    The issue with the BP BOP was not design (although that may be an issue too#) but maintenance. Early reports were:

    1) Dead battery (apparently they had a back-up down there, but still ..)
    2) One ram was replaced with a non-functional test version
    3) The hydraulics appeared to fail when activated.
    4) One of two control modules (redundant duplicates) was brought to the surface and reworked and reinstalled after the blow-out

    # is a 2004 MMS study that showed that 50% of the BOPs could not function with the new, higher quality steels being used.

    Since this information came out past the BP smoke screen, it may not be 100% accurate. But best available.


    I take it you have never crushed a 1/2 inch wall 21 inch pipe? There is nothing left of the riser coming out of the BOP now! Look at the fractures that have eroded from three a month ago to dozens now. I am more worried about the 13,000 psi blowing the BOP and casing right out of the well! Remmeber why this happened, natural gas expanded back up the casing before they filled the gap between the rock and outer casing!

    Encourage you to submit ideas to Deepwater Horizon Response - Suggestions - at the Suggestions form.

    Hello David,

    Suggestion sent, thanks.



    It might work. Do you know if the section of damaged riser between the BOP and the clamp position can withstand 13,000 psi when the pressure equalizes through the BOP? No cracks or stresses from DH tearing away and the riser falling over? Hate to throw cold water on an idea but it seems that the structural integrity of this entire system is questionable. That's one reason why they're going so slowly.

    Would bentonite clay be of any use in such a situation as this? Or would it expand before reaching the critical area? Or be ejected before it had a chance, like everything else at these astronomical pressures?

    By the way, on the issue of the feed time. I was able to get a clear read earlier-most of the time (like now) it's too fuzzy.

    There was a 1 minute 10 second time delay more or less, from the time stamp at that point. I'd say 10 seconds for the satellite up link, and an extra minute.

    I posted this previously but the thread was closed before it received any responses (maybe it doesn't deserve any).


    If the Top Kill is a failure and it appears it is, we will have to wait 30-60--?? more days (at 500,000 gallons or more per day) for the kill well(s) to come into play.

    We have X gallons per minute at Y pressure coming through the BOP. And we have inlets into the pipe below the BOP (where the mud has been inserted).

    The mud is not working, is expensive, is as toxic as the oil is, is finite. Certainly not 30-60 days worth on hand.

    My thought is, if the mud is not working, why not start pumping sea water in instead through the mud lines. X-1 gals of seawater at Y+1 pressure has to displace/replace at least SOME of the oil coming up from the reservoir.

    So instead of 500,000 gallons or more per day of oil escaping for the next 30-60 days, it might be brought down to 250,000 gpd, or even if only 499,999 gpd, it would be worth it (not to BP maybe, but really, who cares about them at this point).

    Regards and respect to Rockman, HO, Goose, ... et al for a great job. (And I hit the PayPal button too.)

    Interesting idea

    Note: I'm not an expert at all

    Do we have somekind of figures about the percentage of oil/gas still leaking when the mud pumping is in full force ?

    How is the mud toxic ?

    How is the mud toxic ?

    A bentonite / barite slurry is not really toxic. Barite has a heavy metal content for sure, but it's not like you're pumping straight mercury down there. I've had a chunk of barite on my desk for the last 15 years. I don't glow in the dark, haven't sprouted an extra arm, no strange diseases, etc.

    Is it remotely possible that the blowout was severe enough to have lifted the casing into the BOP and some distance into the riser? Maybe there is a way to inspect from the exterior of the bop how far the shear rams have been extended?
    If so, the top kill can't get mud into the casing, and junk shots can't get to all the leaks. might it be possible to penetrate the casing by disconnecting the choke and or kill lines and using something similar to a hot tap to at least get some of the mud inside it?

    Also, whether or not the casing is stuck in the bop or just the drill pipe, It is being held by the shear ram in compression when the well is flowing. But while they are pumping mud below the BOP, even if 99% of the mud is lost above, that which is held by the shear ram is under tension correct? (ie uphole flow is stopped during that time). What if they opened the shear ram slightly as they continue to pump mud? Any chance the drillstring (or the casing if you think the idea above is plausible) might drop thru the bop?


    OOps, after a search, I see that bentonite is already used in drilling mud.

    Dang, I thought I'd come up with a brilliant new idea.

    Yep, bentonite (commonly referred to as "gel") is extensively used in water base muds. Its primary job is to serve as a viscosifier. In this particular situation it is what holds the barite (heavy stuff) in suspension while pumping.


    Drilling mud chemistry is facinating. Just look down the periodic table and see for yourself. Indeed bentonite is an important ingredient. The recipes go from there. There are some heavy elements to choose from. Heavy=cost for the most part. See for what I consider the most interesting that I know of. I have always been a fan of cesium but folks think I'm weird.

    Your task is to fined something people have not stuck in drilling mud at one time or another.

    I bet horsehair has been used for example.

    It will be difficult to find anything that has never been put in drilling fluid before. I've personally put chopped up pieces of wooden lawn furniture in it. You have lost circulation you literally put everything including the kitchen sink down that hole trying to plug it.

    That is why I think of drilling mud as being so interesting. Put a bit in the earth and...the geology of the past that comes out, shouts at me the story of time.

    I certainly missed my calling. Life is full of paths. Sorry to comment being a newbee and all. It is a reflection of grief I suppose. I have a love for LA marshes and the folks that depend on them.

    LOL :)

    Personally if I had the job of stopping this leak I'd be trying urethane or even good old packing peanuts and a lot of rubber bands. And a crap load of fishing line. I'd inject if I could with a plunger like arrangement. Probably some sort of loop injector.

    I'd also consider jello.

    Basically a goop/hairball plug approach.

    The nice thing about hairy goop is it just deforms under pressure.

    Given the depths another interesting one would even be methane hydrates aka a LNG line and sea water the one thing that seems to work down there is a plug is methane hydrate why not give it a shot ?

    The last idea is really intriguing. Bring up a LNG ship and let her rip with a bit of sea water to get the hydrate to form. Plug the sucker up in no time.


    Jeeze what am I thinking plenty of methane they don't need more all they need to do is go with a really dilute mud primarly water the water will form a hydrate create a temporary plug and allow the mud to concentrate and fall down towards the bottom of the well. The mud mixture is all wrong for this sort of situation it needs to be dilute and allow hydrates to form.

    At the risk of adding to the fotsam, I just learned that bentonite is still used as drilling mud. From reading the forum, I thought that mud, now, was some kind of semi-synthetic.

    It seems like they stopped pumping again about an hour ago - the center plumes are getting darker again.

    First time Oil Drum commenter....but I've read thousands of posts here over a few days before commenting.

    Most of the discussion seems to be about closing the well, and that makes sense. Long term we need to plug this thing so no more damage occurs.

    However, in the short term, it seems like preventing the oil from polluting is as much an issue as closing the well. To that end, I have two questions.

    #1 My initial reaction would be to cut the riser pipe cleanly above the BOP, and then lower down on it a new riser with a flared bottom right over the pipe. The seal would not be perfect, but with a few tons of downward force on the riser would probably capture at least 75%, perhaps 90% of the oil up the pipe. It could be directed into a tanker, and thus not into the sea.

    I think this was the idea behind the "top hat", but as I understand it the top hat was really too big, designed to go over the entire BOP, and thus had too much seawater in it. What I am thinking about is a pipe narrow enough to just slip over the riser (modulo the size needed to do this with ROV's, etc), and with a taper so by "shoving it down" you can get a better seal.

    Would this not direct most of the oil to the surface for collection?

    #2 Why not vacuum up the oil? Both to keep it out of the gulf and out of the way of the ROV's, why not lower down large suction pipes very close to the leaks and have pumps on the surface suck as fast as they can into tankers. Even capturing 25% of the oil would prevent a huge environmental tole. It wouldn't fix anything, per se, but it would make less of a mess.

    The Inanity Factor - a person's ability to form correctly written sentences does not necessarily correlate with knowledge of science or technology.

    What is that small white plume coming up at the bottom?

    It's always been whiter, but it is pretty darn white now. Upthreads, folks theorized it is gas. There is also a clear color differential in the jets, the center ones being darker that the sides, especially when they stop pumping mud. Again, theories of flow separation and/or differential structures or collapse zones in the riser.

    What disturbs me is that I don't think we are seeing a maximum effort to clean up this mess, or anywhere close. A maximum effort might be to comandeer fifty oil tankers and put them to work sucking up the contaminated sea water, and meanwhile put all the resources available from any and all construction companies to work building a treatment plant to separate the oil from the water the tankers suck up. A war, even on foreign shores would receive such an effort. Why not this, which is much more important to the country than any foreign war? So long as BP is in charge, all decision will be made with an eye toward saving money and there will not be the maximum effort that this situation merits.

    Nothing personal here, but I have been wanting to say a few things about this giant vacuuming idea.

    As an oceanographer I am constantly amazed that the marine life beneath the surface of the ocean is discounted so often in these discussions. It is almost like folks view the ocean as one giant bathtub. This idea of tankers "sucking up" contaminated water gives no thought to what else high volume pumps might suck up.

    Oh say like spawning blue fin tuna, turtles, eels, and shrimp not to mention all the larvae and microscopic food that makes the Gulf of Mexico so productive. Vacuuming up the surface of the water with 20" hoses seems like a swell idea, but it is not equivalent to taking out an over-sized shop vac to clean up a large lifeless spill in a warehouse. There are many difficulties, such as the surface oil is patchy, and if you manage to gather it all up in a boomed area, then it would be easily skimmed which is a method already on scene. In addition, there are subsurface oil plumes that could not be cleaned up with this method.

    There is merit to the idea, but folks should know that executing something like this on a massive 600 sq mile scale (or more) is complex. It needs to be done without harming the sea life that hasn't already been harmed and in an efficient enough manner that would allow you to finish before 2012. I have spent over 20 years on research vessels of various types and deploying anything over the side of a moving boat with no brakes and not much in the way of speed is really more difficult than you might imagine. The tanker's size alone would be a logistical nightmare. Have a look at the number of boats near the spill site on and you will see what I mean.

    Good point, but which is the lesser of the two evils, leaving the oil, or vacuuming it up. The inlets to the the suction hoses could have screens to exclude larger fish.

    The suction required to get the oil on board would slam a soft bodied animal like a fish against a screen. You might keep the fish out, but you would also probably kill it.

    By the way, make that way too late for me.

    The problem with vacumming at the depth of the riser is methane hydrate formation clogging the vacumm hose/pipe. You can vacumm as shallow depths, since hydrate formation is dependant of the sea pressure and tempature. The presure decreases and temp increases as the water depth decreses, at lower pressure and higher temperature hydrates are not stable, so they don't clogg the tubing.

    Tankers can adjust flow rates, and regulate the suction. In addition we can screen off a large perimeter around the vessel, to block out larger animals, such as sea turtles, whales, ect.....
    leaving all that oil in the Gulf will render the habitat useless as a breeding ground. Endocrine disrubtion from long term exposure to toxic hydrocarbonds is a real concern. Leaving this mess in the breeding ground will have an exteremly long term effect on the population. Prince William sound is my best example. As an environmental science major I want the oil removed with any technology available. So as to the spawing, this won't happen once the animals are exposed to the endocrine disrupting hydrocarbons. The ones that might spawn, and that is a long shot, will probably not live long due to the toxic and oxygen depleting hydocarbons. SO........Recover that Oil.

    Locals are most concerned about preserving the marshes. We have written off the GoM (bye bye blue fin tuna which breed only there and the Mediterranean). Rebuilding the barrier islands is seen as the best chance for that. They might just work even with a modest hurricane.

    The Mississippi and Atchafalaya deltas get flushed annually with the spring run-off.


    As an oceanographer, do you have any estimate on the consequences this will have for the blue fin? The population is in no good state to begin with, and now one of the main spawning grounds is getting contaminated. While I am a biochemist myself, I actually have no idea about oil toxicity, but I would wager that the spawn is particularly sensitive to mutagenic, carcinogenic and teratogenic effects of polycyclic aromates for example. If that is indeed the case, we should perhaps think about a moratorium on blue fin fishing just right now.

    Very interesting posts and very alarming.

    It strikes this layperson the conversation is focused on the (E.) BOP device. In my mind, the existing BOP is a write-off.

    Oil and gas mix is being forced from the well head at extremely high pressure - gas expands at a greater velocity than oil, so our focus should be on seperating the gas from the oil.

    One method to do this might be to build a large vault structure that may look like a wine bottle with the bottom cut off and placed over the whole (E.) BOP assembly. At the neck of this bottle would be a large manifold left in the open position while the "bottle" is being placed and sunk into the ocean floor.

    My thought being, once this "bottle" is placed over the entire existing BOP structure, compressed air be pmped in to force the liquid level down to create a gas void between a valve at the neck of the structure and the fluid level where the gas would accumulate and be syphoned off probably under it's own pressure.

    With the gas pressure reduced or "controlled" from the overall leak point, could the oil then be drawn from a secondary valve at a point submersed in the lower portion of the "bottle"?

    Obviously this structure would be of significant size to completely encase the (E.) BOP device.

    Thank you - appreciate your input.

    Diving through an oil plume.

    Sigh.... Please stop posting to this site if you are non oilfield associate. Continue to lurk, because you are defeating the purpose of this website and insulting it with your ignorance. Why is is that everyone suddenly thinks they know all of the answers?

    Because people in other fields can have technical knowledge not listed on their current letterhead. And as Prof Goose said, some humor and levity helps our sadness at this mess going on right before our eyes.

    I usually read a lot and only comment when I have something to add to the discussion, or feel the need to point something out to others.

    I am a long time poster, Been peak Oil aware for over a decade. Have a long history of knowledge around sustainability issues and landscape and building design, as well as knowledge of GeoSpatial Mapping.

    People hope they can help, even when they might not be able to fill the vast gap in the complex issue at hand. If there is anyone that knows all the answers, the oil spill would have been history weeks ago, and not an on going hash of a mess.

    Call it a junk shot of information toward trying to stop the disaster.

    Be calm and peaceful in your postings.

    BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

    Ps, Edit, My father worked in the oil fields of southern Ill, as a kid, and Titan II missiles as an adult, So understanding things might not be hard for non-oil people, they might have relations in the biz.

    Rolls eyes
    You just proved my point.

    Rolls eyes
    You just proved my point."

    Lost you been here for only 8 hour and already you are disappointed that someone posts a video which shows what is "really" going on under the water. I find it interesting that there seems to be a focus on the BOP to the exclusion of everything else going on. I am a retired biologist very interested in the environmental impacts of this hemorrhage. I do not own a TV and this was my first opportunity to view this very disturbing material and i appreciate it being posted. Stick around awhile and you will find a diversity of professions represented. While i admit to sometimes posting inane comments this site offers an opportunity for some very bright folks to present their ideas. This predicament in the gulf has many ramifications and I enjoy and am disturbed following them from various points of view. One of the problems we have today is that the oil patch has operated without effective over site for years and it is refreshing to have a site where all dimensions of the mess is discussed. Cheers

    that's alot of condescending exasperation for someone who's been registered for a whole 8 hours. oops, in lostwithdrawal speak, that's 28800 seconds. my mistake. granted, i'm one of those people you'd roll your eyes at -- no engineering background whatsoever, but i enjoy hearing ideas from those in other professions (as do most other open-minded scientists). if you've never heard the phrase "think outside the box," that's exactly the point of this forum. for example, a research scientist by trade, we once had a months-long issue with a microarray scanner -- i won't bore you with the gory details, but it eventually was solved by none less than a computer scientist. and it had absolutely nothing to do with his trade, but with his ability to see something we scientists weren't seeing. every problem in the world -- including this spill -- could be solved so much more quickly if there was less arrogance and more open-mindedness. so please do yourself a favor and allow others to speak freely, no matter how asinine you deem their ideas. now, if i may quote Robert Sapolsky, "Get it wrong, and we call it a cult. Get it right, and maybe, for the next few millennia, people won't have to go to work on your birthday."

    Okay everyone, heres my apology.....I'm sorry if I offended anyone. Guess it was late and should have chosen my words more carefully. I was just frustrated with browsing thru posts that are redundant. I browse this site to read the posts from the experts who are postings their comments as to what is happening as we watch the live cam.

    I have read the site for a while now, and find it becoming cluttered with more and more posts from posters who think they have the answer. I finally registered, when I posted my "bitch session." I don't have an answer nor do will I even begin to come up with an idea. Leaving that to the BP or Gov (?) from the 20,0000+ responses they have received. ...or their original game plan. So please don't get defensive and think I am attacking your point of views, I was only referring to the totally redundent posts. Okay? We all know which one's those are? :) Again, I am sorry. To be fair, I won't be posting anymore, because some posters may even find my view redundent and a big time waste.

    I'm so sorry. We old-time lurkers and first time posters missed your brilliant article that solved the current problem. Would you care to re-post?

    Other commenters gave some good answers, but also: it isn't just about "technicals" here. We have a political issue too, and some of us (like me) have some experience in that area and regarding media spin, etc. That's something we need to hear about too. And these issues are intertwined, since doubts over BP's candor affects our ability to assess what we're seeing, etc. They've already been caught misleading viewers about what they've been doing and w.r.t. the video feed, etc. This is an interdisciplinary disaster. The good complaint specialists might have is against intuitive correction plans that are naive. But not wanting other kinds of input is a mistake.

    After listening a few of those hearings, one might conclude this is just another industrial accident with no actual criminal activities. One guy said for example, the negative pressure test on BOP is not even required but is standard industry practice. Federal law does not even require secondary cement barrier but again it is standard industry practice.

    They probably made a few gray area judgment calls that turned out to be bad in that situation. Just like in the Concorde crash in France. One engine was on fire and the pilots shutdown immediately during crucial part of takeoff the other engine next to it. With two engines only working, the lift was not enough with heavy plane (tanks full) and the plane eventually crashed. With three they probably have made it back to airport. On the other hand, the fire might have spread even more rapidly.

    My apologies, I may be being stupid but...

    Given that they know the size of the deformed pipe and with video images we know the current form of the pipe (i.e. shape, profile, curvature etc) why not build a 2 part carbon fiber form to be clamped around the pipe in the short term, line the inside of it with rubber to help seal the leaks, and then clamp the carbon forms together.

    A bit of formula 1 sponsorship money would be paid back and it might work??

    Do you understand the pressures involved? Likely over 10,000 PSI. That is 5 Tons of pressure per sq inch. If you had 10 sq inches of surface area, that is 50 Tons of pressure on it. The BOP is rated to 15,000 PSI and that is an iron casting. These kinds of pressures will split heavy thick iron castings like they were toothpicks. The temp of the flow may also be around 400F. This is very hot stuff at extremely high pressure. In fact, it still remains to be seen if and when they actually get the flow stopped, if the BOP will hold full well bore static pressure. It could rupture the BOP.

    If the top kill fails the next likely step is to cut off the bent riser pipe above the BOP, lower down another BOP, and try to attach it to the top of the existing BOP. Then close the values on the second BOP. That has been done many times with success. But this is a mile under water. About a million things that can still go wrong.

    lostwithdrawal on May 29, 2010 - 3:58am Permalink | Subthread | Comments top

    Sigh.... Please stop posting to this site if you are non oilfield associate. Continue to lurk, because you are defeating the purpose of this website and insulting it with your ignorance. Why is is that everyone suddenly thinks they know all of the answers?

    I know

    anyway i sent an email weeks ago to BP about stacking a new BOP on the existing one or even design a job specific BOP mini for this wellhead...

    great explanation on the junkshot and national labs designing the specific shape structures.

    I've been wondering why BOPs are only rated for about 15,000 psi. Isn't that a pretty low margin of safety given typical oil well pressures?

    Don't know. But I would guess "limits of known physics" perhaps? Do you have an idea what 15,000 psi even means? 15,000 pounds of FORCE per square inch...

    Imagine you have a pipe with 15,000 psi pressure inside. The diameter of the pipe 20 inches. You want to plug the end with a cork. The end of the pipe has an area of 314 square inches - each of which will need to hold back 15,000 pounds of force. Guess how much your cork needs to weight? Well 4,7 MILLION pounds of course!

    With grain of salt, since I am not an engineer: Typical stainless steel has a yield strength of 500 MPa, or 72500 psi. That is, a capped pipe with internal cross section 300 square inches would need to have a load carrying cross section (external minus internal) of 60 square inches just to hold back the cap from flying off, assuming the cap could be attached securely. A one inch length of such pipe would need a lengthwise cross section of 4 square inches to prevent, say, the left and right halves from flying apart. In other words, the pipe needs to be two inches thick. That is with zero error margin. Since you need to handle all kinds of (mis)handling (like the riser falling and bending), the dimensions must be much larger. Do not forget to add margins for point defects, remembering how point defects can rip through a piece. But you may use specially hardened metalwork that is several times stronger, but at a price.

    In an earlier life when I was a "real" engineer, I worked on a research project which required simulating the pressure deep undersea. To contain the pressure required a vessel made of tool-grade steel inches thick. The pressure of that well is greater than the undersea pressure. That's why it's flowing. Any ideas need to take the enormous pressures into account.

    Good summary of current status, what happened, what's next and cost.

    Top Kill hasnt delivered the most optimistic result, but it will have undoubtedly provided the response team with some good information. Work on what else might be done to make the Top Kill procedure more effective (additional materials etc in the kill fluid) will continue but Top Kill will move to second priority now.

    The best heads have turned now to the installation of new BOP. This will take time, days not hours.
    Once the decision has been made where the new BOP will attach (to a vertical riser stub, or on top of the old BOP after the old LMRP has been removed) then the new BOP will be run, in open position and with no connecting riser path to surface to eliminate the chance of hazardous build up of Gas and Oil under the vessel deploying the BOP.

    The new BOP, whilst having the same pressure rating as the old BOP, can be a simple arrangement of one or two ram type preventers, as its primary job will be to effect a good connection with the old BOP, to close and shut in the well, to provide two flow paths below the shut in point of the BOP, one to allow controlled flow of well fluids to surface, and one to allow kill pump flow from surface.

    This very simple arrangement may be duplicated ( 2 of everything described above) to provide more operational contingency.

    To the people working tirelessly on all fronts to stop the leak I thank you.

    Obviously we don't want to tax the old BOP but i think sending mini pregnant triangles if you will in 1 more junkshot is worth a try....

    These BOP's are complex devices so my mini-bop would take at least 7-10 days @ best for design testing and implementation

    sigh we'll have to stack it imho

    Also no reason why 30 wells are shut-down because of green freaks. The most productive exploration wells should go ahead provided a relief well is drilled.

    Americans are like junkies on heroin when it comes to oil, and until all SUV's are banned or death taxed we need it. Women are generally the worst offenders imho I see them all the time at grocery stores driving Armadas and Range rovers so.....

    Keep this scientific all hate mail can be directed at

    sciiworks on youtube and yes science works!

    Can any one tell me what the pressure at this depth does to the molecular structure of this particular oil ? If one could put a barrel of this oil in a clear container at this depth, what would one see - different layers of different molecules ?

    The pressure has no effect on the chemical structure of the molecules, and since there is no phase change (i.e. from vapor to liquid, or liquid to solid) there is no change in the molecular arrangement. So, no the pressure has no effect whatsoever on the oil. (I'm not in the petroleum industry but I do have a degree in chemical engineering).

    It is a super critical gas-oil fluid mixture in the reservoir.

    Some component separation occurs (a la Kerr McGee Rose process) as it clears BOP and enters ocean.


    The molecular structure of the oil for the most part doesn't change, but the fluid dynamics change. You need to think electron speed and bond vibration. Remember that oil is not homogenous, so you need to evaluate each component diffrently. The gas that sits on top of the oil formation is mainly methane. When the methane gas hits the seawater it forms methane hydrate, due to the pressure. The methane molecule now has a water molecule attached, which allows the hydrate to form. Crude oil contains parafins, napthenes, aromatics, and asphaltenes. Parafins are waxes, as the parafins leave the well and hit the cooler sea water it forms a gel like substance, due to decreased viscocity, think electron speed and bond vibration here, friction. Napthenes are the cycoalkanes, alkanes with a ring structure. The smaller cycloalkanes have an increased ring strain and deviate from the tetrahedral bond angle of 104.5 degrees, which makes them unstable. So... under this pressure the unstable molecules can combine with other unstble alkanes and make larger ringed alkanes, conforming to the more stable bond angle of 104.5 degrees. In general molecules like to be stable and will conbine to reach a stable form. Asphaltenes unstable form can form large aggregates, and stick together, during oil production. the stability of the asphaltenes depends on how well the other components of the oil act as a solvent for the asphaltenes. The aromatics hydocarbons contain at least one benzene ring. The benzene ring is exceptionally stable. Beneze undergoes substitution reactions rather than addition reactions, which confirms that the 6 carbon benzene core is unusually stable to chemical modification.

    There is no gas cap, the methane etc. are all dissolved in a supercritical fluid in the reservoir.

    Otherwise good AFAIK.


    The formation pressure at the depth of the oil reservoir has been reported to be on the order of 13,000 psi, equal, if I have it correct, to 89635020 Pa, and so equivalent to 89635020 J/m^3 if that pressure is instead considered as an energy density.

    Assuming that this particular oil is a relatively light crude and also not a highly compressible fluid at such relatively low pressures, one might guess that the mass density of the oil at such a pressure is on the order of ~ 0.9 g/cm^3 or 900 kg/m^3.

    Crude oil varies greatly in detailed molecular composition, but based on mass spectrometry studies, the molecules composing typical US light crude oils tend to have molecular weight less than 1000 Daltons.

    So take 500 Daltons = 8.5 x 10^-25 kg as an average molecular weight for the oil. Then in 1m^3 of such crude oil there will be found 1.059 x 10^27 oil molecules, and so an energy due to pressure of 8.464^-20 J per molecule. Translating this figure into electron volts per molecule, the energy density due to pressure is then about 0.53 eV / molecule.

    Now typical chemical bonds involve binding energies on the order of 1 eV per atom, and in this estimate it's assumed that there are about 500/14=35 (guessing there are about 2 hydrogens per carbon) atoms per molecule. So it seems that such pressures would not have the capability to very quickly make changes in the molecular structure of the oil, for most molecules in the oil. The pressure seems to be too small. (Temperature is another question entirely, of course.)

    I expect that the pressure alone won't convert such a hydrocarbon mixture quickly to pure methane plus graphite, for example.

    As to whether molecules of various densities would separate by gravity into layers containing molecules of different molecular weight at the depth of the reservoir, under pressure and gravity alone, that's a more complicated question, I think, depending on the dynamics of the fluid within the reservoir.

    "Women are generally the worst offenders" - oh my, you are presuming a lot here as to transportation choices available. I hope you walk/ride public transportation for all your shopping. Take the kids along, too, just to keep it realistic for future generations.

    ...So it looks like there's too many holes in the riser to kill this well from the top, and increasingly, like the relief well is the only realistic option. This is hardly breaking news to many of the industry regulars here, so would, presumably, be of no surprise to the technicians sweating it out on-site either. So in that case, does anybody feel that just the two rigs may perhaps be underkill? Correct me if I am wrong, but don't more holes give you a better chance of stopping the well faster? Why haven't they been up-front from the start so more attention could be placed on the relief drilling? i.e more rigs.

    Additionaly, why has a more accurate and reliable figure as to discharge not been released? If they know how much mud they're pumping, at what pressure over a given time, then surely they can give us a figure, right?  

    Thanks for that, Gavacho. So in effect, a barrel of oil at that depth will still be a barrel of complete oil, with all of its inherent properties, correct ?

    They are faceing a fine of $4300/bbl released.

    It would be remarkable if their legal people hadn't told the engineers to keep the estimates modest and to be unhelpful with releasing information that might be used to establish a higher number. It could mean billions. They are still resisting, apparently:

    he 12,000-to-19,000-barrel estimate was based on individual estimates from three different methods: one that used satellite images to study the amount of oil on the surface of the water, one that analyzed video of the underwater oil "plume," and one that analyzed the amount of oil collected by the Riser Insertion Tube Tool (RITT) that BP installed last week to capture some of the escaping oil.

    But it was impossible for members of the team that analyzed the oil plume video to estimate the upper boundary of the oil spilled, according to the Ira Leifer, a researcher at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Steven Wereley, a researcher at Purdue University.Wereley and Leifer were both members of that team, and Leifer participated in the satellite image analysis as well. Both researchers say that the seven minutes of video that BP provided to the plume team was not sufficient to estimate the upper boundary of the amount of oil -- only to give a lower-end estimate.

    "What everyone on the panel agreed was that due to the low-quality data BP provided to us, it would be irresponsible and unscientific to estimate an upper bound to the emission," said Leifer. "So what we presented in the [plume team] report is a range of expert opinions on what the lower bound is."

    Wereley said he was surprised to see estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels and was "disappointed" with the way that the press release was phrased.

    "I was really confused when I read the press release yesterday," he said. "I had to read it several times."

    An official from Department of the Interior acknowledged that the plume analysis did not set an upper limit on the amount of oil spilled, but said that the estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day was based on the area of overlap between the three different methods of estimating the flow.

    Reading the newspaper headlines (in this case the UK Telegraph) it gives the (disingenuous) impression that the leak is history or nearly so:

    Gulf of Mexico oil leak 'halted' amid fears BP could face hefty fines

    BP has moved closer to plugging its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, but its shares still dropped 5pc on fears that alleged safety failings will leave it open to hefty liabilities.

    Looking at the plume on the live feed it gives the impression that "Top Kill" has failed so far. So what is the definitive answer at this point in time? Failed or succeeding?

    the coverage over here is remarkable for its overall absence from the top news stories. It's not missing from headlines, but considering it's up there with the worst environmental disasters of all time, there is something decidedly odd about the way it has been covered.

    Flow is worse than it was previously.....BP lies about everything. Everything.

    What background insights and knowledge do you have that account for your "has failed so far."

    Just curious. Maybe you don't know what Top Kill is?

    I recommend you read the quite detailed post at the top of this page.

    [Well, trying to remember what I just looked at best I can since this silly comment system opens a new window and I can only see the one comment I'm replying to! Time to change this, TOD webmaster?] -
    That commenter is just saying, it doesn't look like it has worked and is simply challenging over the claim, not insisting. Why don't you give a substantive reply if you have one instead of just complaining about another commmenter's mere skeptical challenge?

    Failed.....its obvious.

    Thursday Governor Jindal says it will take 2 hours to know if TK succeeds. Settles says 24 hours.
    Friday Stettles now says 72 hours to know the results after Thad Allan says its a success, the reality is TK had been shut down since 11pm. (Sources on boat say TK was halted after 5 minutes due to failed valve.)
    Saturday AM TK now halted twice. Thick black plume coming from leak in the riser.

    Friday BP hires 400 workers from surrounding parishes to put on containment suits and STRAW HATS and walk along Grand Isle Beach, they were bused in and leave after Obama departs, like a campaign rally. Media is told to ask no questions. They were hired the day before to work for a week. Many did not know what the pay would be. There was no training course as stipulated for remediation work.

    BP lies, Gulf dies.

    [Friday BP hires 400 workers from surrounding parishes to put on containment suits and STRAW HATS and walk along Grand Isle Beach, they were bused in and leave after Obama departs, like a campaign rally. Media is told to ask no questions. They were hired the day before to work for a week. Many did not know what the pay would be. There was no training course as stipulated for remediation work.]

    Passing along what I read somewhere, could be a rumor though. the media has been making so many mistakes...I read that they were prison workers. Wonder what they were seen wearing before those shirts were passed out? It would explain why they were picked up all together by a bus.

    I'm seeing a lot of bits of "junk" coming out, so maybe they're trying another "junk shot", but it doesn't appear to have had much effect on the flow rate from the pipe.

    Thanks for the information about what pressure can do to oil, and in particular this oil. If I am reading right, at the seabed relatively little would happen to its componentry.

    If this is the case, would it not be possible to overcome the hydrate problem in the Macondome by utilizing oil as a barrier, effectively keeping saltwater and methane out of the dome until such time as the riser valve is opened ? Hang the dome sub-surface, fill it with seawater, and then close the riser valve. Divers then introduce a supply pipe of oil from underneath, and then pump the dome full of oil, thus displacing the saltwater. When the dome is full of oil lower it to the seabed.

    It might also be practical to install an additional valve at the first story of the dome for pressure relief as the top riser valve is opened.

    I am a bear of little brain, so fully expect to be shouted at.............

    ... as an entirely novice pair of eyes, the PBS 'live cam' appears to me to display a plume black as only oil might be... perhaps it's the video resolution.

    I wonder if it's possible to have light of a certain colour to illuminate the plume that would clearly distinguish between oil and mud. Something tuned to the refractive index of oil.

    Anyone know the composition of the so-called golf balls that they're shooting? My company was approached recently by a petrochemical company in the UK (not BP) with regards to supplying a large number of modified structure EPDM 'balls' that greatly expand in water up to five times their original size over a few hours. We weren't able to meet the numbers, but if this isn't the compound they're using, perhaps it's a consideration? I don't think the salt would inhibit the reaction.


    (This is a first comment, although I've been reading awhile.)

    I *really* appreciate the people who have taken a lot of time to explain things so clearly here!

    Here's an idea.

    It sounds like the length of the drilling pipe left in the hole may be critical, and if it's not critical, it's still something that would be good to know.

    Would a "Time Domain Reflectometer" help? A TDR is a diagnostic tool for wire runs. They put a "ping" of electricity onto a wire. When it reaches the point where the wire is broken, the "ping" bounces back, and the TDR then measures the time taken en-route.

    TDR's are quite accurate, down to a foot or two. They're commonly used by telco and cable techs to find the point of failure, so that just one spot can be dug up and fixed, not a whole trench. (By the way, Wikipedia has a nice writeup on TDR's, and also just told me things I didn't know -- TDR's are now used in geo-technical applications, such as measuring soil's moisture content.)

    So could BP use a TDR to measure the length of drillpipe in the hole?

    I don't know the electrical characteristics of drilling pipe and in particular the threaded joints. I *do* know that sufficient voltage and very fast "ping" times (sub-nanosecond) can sidestep many such problems.

    If there's *some* electricity getting through the joints, there will be multiple returned pings. That's fine! Then the TDR will report each electrically flawed joint and how much resistance it's giving, which is rather useful information. If the drilling pipe is damaged/broken, now's the time to find out.

    Probably the group here knows all about TDR's. I'm posting this on the off chance that TDR's haven't made it to the drilling diagnostic field. And I've deliberately not used Electrical Engineering terms like "impedance", okay?, in the interests of making this understandable. And I assume getting a TDR down to the well head isn't a huge problem -- put it either in a ROV, or on the back of one, in something that will withstand the water pressure, with a fitting which will allow the TDR wire out, clip the wire onto the blow-out-preventer, and turn it on. The TVs down there should be able to read it.

    I'll be interested in your response(s),

    David Small

    (Some Computer Science Type Guy in Colorado)

    It's official, Wall Street Journal says, TOP KILL IS DEAD, BP is moving on to LMRP.
    Since WSJ is subscription only, I am copying two key paragraphs:

    "We have been unable to overcome the flow from the well," said BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, in a press briefing. "We now believe it is time to move on to the next of our options," he said, adding it wasn't clear exactly why the so-called top-kill procedure started on Wednesday failed to stem the flow of oil.

    Engineers will now attempt to contain the flow of oil from the leak with a so called lower marine riser package, or LMRP, cap. This operation would involve removing a broken drilling pipe that lies atop the failed blowout preventer and cap the valve with a siphon that will take the oil to the surface. Mr. Suttles said the LMRP cap procedure would take four to seven days. The LMRP cap is a newly made version of a device formerly referred to as a "top hat."

    Here's the Reuters article, Sunlight:

    Bigtime work happening right now (10:07 PM Mountain Time Saturday night). Catch the BP feed. Several ROV's and what looks like a crane lowering a large box-like structure. Another BOP?

    I'm taping it.

    -- Dave Small