The BP Deepwater Oil Spill - LMRP Attempt Continued and Sunday's Open Thread

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BP is now saying that its Top Kill approach has failed, and it is moving on to LMRP. A few comments from the press:

Top Kill Fails To Plug Oil Spill, BP Now To Try LMRP Cap

BP said preparations have been made for the possible deployment of the lower marine riser package (LMRP) cap containment system, which would be complex because of the depth of the oil leak.

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.

Mr Suttles said it should capture "most of the oil" and was expected to last at least four days but "we cannot guarantee success at this time."

Under the fold (click "there's more"), I talk a bit about the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) and what we know at this point. Please elaborate other facts in the comments.

(PG here, and following Gail's post below are HO's thoughts on the press conference...)

This is a diagram that Heading Out posted a few days ago, of the LMRP.

The Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) option

According to Upstream Online:

If the top kill does not work, the UK supermajor plans to cut off the riser from the lower marine riser package (LMRP) and attach another to collect the flow.

The device would be coupled to a flex joint above the LMRP with a sealing grommet to keep water out of the flow and control gas hydrate formation.

The cap also has valves to inject methanol or hot water into the production stream.

BP has already lowered the LMRP cap to the seafloor so it could be deployed immediately after a failed top kill.

Installing the cap would take about four days, Suttles said, and it could be in place early next week.

The LMRP cap would allow BP to capture as much of the flow from the well as possible while it works on other options to kill the well, he said.

He announced Wednesday that BP preferred option in that instance would be to add a second BOP on top of the first.

Heading Out's Thoughts on the Press Conference

BP and Admiral Landry just held a Press Conference in which they said that, based on a decision 90 minutes ago, by the “best and brightest minds” that it was time to move on the next option, the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP). BP was unable to block sufficient flow out of the well to make the injection of cement possible, and thus to kill the well. They had made, I believe he said, three attempts to inject material (the junk shots) without being able to get that material to block the passages through the Blow-Out Preventer (BOP). (Unfortunately I missed a large part of his opening remarks, and thus have only the question response to go on at present.) The volume of mud used did not appear to have changed from earlier reports at some 30,000 barrels.

Mr Suttles said that they had given the technique every chance, but could not get it to start to provide an effective seal. They had, however, determined that the majority of the pressure restrictions to the flow of oil was coming from some resistance within the well itself, and from the BOP. Since the riser above the BOP was not contributing much to the resistance, and thus to control of the oil flow, the next plan is to remove it, using a band saw device (of which pictures will be available) and then to lower the LMRP onto the existing BOP. They intend to cut the surface flat that the LMRP will sit on, so that it will give a good, but not perfect, seal. Thus there will be some leakage around the joint, and they will monitor that and use dispersant as appropriate.

The new change should take somewhere between 4 and 7 days to implement. The assembly, which has been constructed, is not the Top Hat assembly built earlier, to fit on the bottom of a riser. Flow of oil from the LMRP will rise up a 6 7/8 inch drill pipe within the riser (the same size as the one currently fitted to the RIT). The riser will also carry hot water down to the LMRP to protect against the formation of hydrates.

He noted that their inability to stop the well “scares everybody” but is reasonably confident (no success percentage estimates) that this will collect the majority of the oil and gas. Because they do not know the flow path of the oil below the seabed, it is difficult to estimate what is actually going on in terms of oil path below the BOP. Thus they are, again, trying something that has never been done before, but expect, based on the RIT, that it will work.

On being asked about the cleanup of the dispersed oil – he pointed out that the reason that the dispersant was used was to break the oil into small droplets. These are small enough to be consumed by the microbes in the sea, and thus there is no plan to do other than let nature take its course. For the oil on the surface, they are getting better at spotting oil pools and sending skimmers to deal with them.

The Admiral drew attention to the article on Hurricanes and the Oil Spill which is available at the Unified Command Web site.

The relief well is about half-way through the rock it must drill (about 6,000 ft below sea level) but progress will slow as the well deepens. A diagram of the LMRP is as shown above by Gail, from one of my previous posts.

Before the discussion gets going, I want to express appreciation for this site, both for myself and for a host of new readers I know personally. I found it post-DWH, and was ignorant of most things oil before I came here. For every "let's use duct tape/giant screws/nukes/JB weld" sort, there are plenty of us just reading and learning.

Thanks to you all. I intend to be quiet and send $$$.

The more spills change the more they stay the same

Apologizes if it has been posted already, haven't seen it yet.

Thanks for re-posting the video that everyone should see. As has been said - those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

But was anything learned about what came after the Ixtoc spill in terms of damage to sea-life, birds, etc.? Even if the oil industry ignored the lesson, did the remediation/scientific community learn anything that we can use now in terms of what dropped to the seafloor, how much remained suspended and for how long, recovery rates for wildlife, etc?

I take it you will not be reading my book of wacky BP fixes? No matter how silly and anti-physics some of these ideas were people care and i found that very interesting. Some of the ideas were attempts to lighten the heavy burden of the spill which isn't just a U.S. tragedy, it's a global tragedy! That is one thing you will find as a common thread on TOD most people realize we share this very small world.

The last 10% is worth far more than the first 90%

I'm looking forward to reading it. I certainly hope the book will include the coffer dam and straw with a cork(aka RIT) amongst its laughably ineffective and physics impaired entries.

So did they do an LMRP on Ixotoc, and if so did it fail? And is this a 50/50 chance also, better/worse odds?

Why was this tried after the topkill instead of before?

BP's credibility is in the toilet. Of course they want this to stop and they're working non stop, but it's clear to readers here who have been following this for weeks that they are as transparent as a inch of their oil on the surface of the Gulf. It didn't have to be this way, but it's the course they picked.

With this in mind, when BP says the Top Kill has a 60-70% chance of success, to get a better sense of the odds, drop the zeros. Actually, Top Kill turned out to be 0%. Likewise, when Suttles says the LMRP should capture "much of the oil" substitute "little" for "much." That way, if they manage to get "some" they can claim a big success. But expect "none." I hope I'm wrong.

As many knowledgeable people here have said, probably the only fix is the relief well, which is months away. If this turns out to be the case, what a mess and we ain't seen nothing yet.

I still say there should be serious jail time for the top people at BP, including Suttles, when this is over. Only the fear of God will get the heads of all the other oil drilling companies to make drilling for oil the safest industry in the nation. We put drunk drivers in jail for killing people. Why should these jokers not get the same treatment?

I know this has been brought up before... but what sticks with me is the perception that they drag feet long enough, keep our hopes up for several weeks so that when they announce "the only surefire fix is the relief well" it will only be "weeks" away as opposed to "months".

I don't trust them one iota. I had my hopes up Wednesday and was in awe of the top kill operation - only to find out later they weren't pumping mud for 16 hours! I know may others were hurt (yes I mean hurt) by this. This could have been lunar landing type of presentation where everyone is informed and a part of the operation. They let us down big time.

"They let us down big time."

You set your sights too high. This isn't a movie. Expect nothing to work except the relief well in 3 months, but hope something else does sooner.

I am 46 years old and understand "this isn't a movie". I had no hopes of success going into this. Failure is expected and acceptable - lies, deception and accountability are what I am talking about.

They let us down big time.

Surgeons often say, "This will take an hour." Sometimes, the operation takes 5 hours. There is no reason for BP to tell us every single move they make. They are only accountable for stopping the well, not dealing with your psyche. They didn't let me down, cuz I wasn't relying on this to work; I was just hoping. If the well is alive in a year, I'll feel let down.

I'd argue that BP does in fact owe us all the information they have. Their rights to keep their business proprietary ended when they lost control of that well. And they never had a right to lie. And no, I'm not talking legal rights, I'm talking ethics.

I'm very glad of the pros here reading between the lines of the information they do release, but it's not BP's ecosystem and economy that is being damaged, it's ours. It's not about our psyches, it's about our survival.

Warf Rat:

Anyone who watches the mainstream media is given those odds.

We don't feel that we have the facts.

That is one reason that newbies, nobodies, like me, are here.

I'm one of the nobodies. I hang at the Drum when I want to feel stupid.

"when BP says the Top Kill has a 60-70% chance of success, to get a better sense of the odds, drop the zeros. Actually, Top Kill turned out to be 0%."

The success/failure results of an experiment don't tell you anything about the a priori odds of its success/failure.

Wow, so harsh! A null result is in fact a benefit! The top kill again was the most logical choice considering 1. waiting for the LMRP, waiting for the relief well. This will not be the last deep well in the GOM that you can bet your life on. This null result will not set precedent for coming failed wells at this depth. Make no mistake we are not the driver of production needs any longer, China and India are! I laugh when the media talks of Cushing OK. storage ha! We have had the same annual needs for years. Price and production are driven by China and India along with growing needs of producer states KSA to be exact!

At the risk of being sharp-elbowed, I would like to add to the discussion some observations based on my post-oilfield dayjob in the money business.

Part of the BP transparency problem is how corporations operate. Corporations are authoritarian and hierarchical in decision making. They dont have a way to incorporate public (ie non-management) input on their activities. This is the nature of the beast as a corporation is an autonomous independent legal entity. Managers are trained to manage by withholding resources and by cutting costs-this is considered innovation. It gets worse when managers have an incentive (money in their pockets, more power, promotion) to undertake activities which are low probability of huge risks. I guarantee you that BP replaced mud with seawater dozens of times in deep GOM with no blowout. I guarantee that every deep GOM well drilled had kicks at or near TD. This time the risky move turned out to be the wrong one. And this is why we need to regulate.

Also, so-called "agency risk", ie when a manager takes risks that will benefit him if they pay off but if they fail, someone else will pay for is the central feature of why our present corporatist political and economic structure leads to events like this. This is why we need to have personal penalties, like jail time, for financial and environmental mal-feasors.

Another problem: the payoff for a well in deep GOM is enormous, but it has to be to attract capital from a giant corporation. A giant corporation can pay for the science to allow it to fund $600 million in cash drilling costs to get a $2 to $5 billion long term asset. This is why we need to reduce the size of these giant corporations.

Finally there was a lot of talk on another thread about how we are hard wired for more more more culture, and if not everyone well then westerners, and so therefore we cant possibly slow down or do less. I urge you to read Ruskin and look at some of the cooperative methods for capital allocation ownership and control, notably farmers Co-ops and credit unions. I wish that when I was studying economics 30 years ago somebody had added this st of ideas to the curriculum.

What does that have to do with peak oil? A lot actually. The way we are organized as a society drives a lot of policy decisions that have little to do with the most good for the most people, eg the pursuit of fossil fuels in more extreme conditons, privatizing the profit and socializing the risks.

Thank you for reading this.

Ixtoc, not Ixotoc.

They tried a lot of different things. They had divers down reactivating the BOP, but it threatened to blow from the force of the extreme pressure, and they had to open it again.

Did I miss it, but I thought that the next step was to install a secondary (and permanent) BOP on top of the cut riser to shut off the flow. The LMRP appears to just be a temporary measure and only good for a few days - seems an odd solution at this point in the process?

I don't think it would be a temporary measure, but I also don't think it will collect all of the oil/gas. I suspect the joint at the BOP will leak some and it probably should just to keep wellhead pressure from wanting to push LMRP off if well kicks. My concern, voiced earier, is that BOP and annular seal within has erroded from abrasion (sand in oil flow) and a large amount of oil will flow into the sea after cutting riser and until LMRP is correctly fit in place.

On being asked about the cleanup of the dispersed oil – he pointed out that the reason that the dispersant was used was to break the oil into small droplets. These are small enough to be consumed by the microbes in the sea, and thus there is no plan to do other than let nature take its course.

There are only so many billion microbes! That is all.

Microbes are wicked multipliers.

I would think that the decision to use this much dispersant is rooted in both rational and PR reasons. There would be a lot more oil on the surface without, and the marshes would be thick with it by now -- but it did let BP get away with claiming it wasn't much of a gusher for a long time.

On top or under the water the oil's here and it's in the marshes. Tourist on WKRG last nite swimming in the surf at Gulf Shores came out with sticky black stuff on his arms and chest where he scraped along the bottom. He had to wash it off with soap.

He acted credible and even said he didn't think anything of it because other people weren't complaining. WKRG said it was probably just an isolated spot.

Unbelievable the amount of people soaking that stuff up in their ears, nose, and eyes. The oil and deodorized kerosene suspended in the water column are moving in patches from deep to shallow waters and it's saturating the sand bars.

They're cleaning tankers covered in oil near Dauphin island with nothing but useless boom around the tanker for protection. Locals aren't happy. And they're setting up another ship cleaning station in La.

The Coast Guard and BP are shutting down media access because things are deteriorating quickly.

If they hadn't used dispersents and all of the oil came to the surface, what would the air quality on the Gulf Coast be like now and in the weeks/months to come? From the one day of heavy fumes I experienced, I have to believe this entire area would be uninhabitable. You'd see a Katrina Exodus times three.

They're using 75,000? gallons a day of deodorized kerosene on a million gallon blowout. The turbulence created by the exit point and the underwater currents/rotifer are what's keeping large slicks from the surface.

I'd imagine S.La is uninhabitable right now, but most people won't figure that out for 10-15 years when the doc can't figure out the reasons for so many kidney and liver ailments.

Dispersants are known human carcinogens, and are toxic to everything out there. They also kill the very microbes needed to consume the oil.

"I would think that the decision to use this much dispersant is rooted in both rational and PR reasons. There would be a lot more oil on the surface without, and the marshes would be thick with it by now -- but it did let BP get away with claiming it wasn't much of a gusher for a long time."

Pollution dilution is NOT pollution solution.

The whole use of toxic dispersants is based on the hope that "out of sight out of mind" will prevail decreasing the pressure on BhoPal. BP has no concern for the environment only public perception and cutting costs.

In their mind, the cost of dispersants is more than offset by decreased costs in future of lawsuits awards. Environmental damage is easy to see in marshes but in offshore environment it take much longer to manifest itself. They will probably get away with poisoning huge areas of the Gulf because it is harder to prove their responsibility.

There are multiple questions re pumping dispersants in the leak:
a) toxicity itself
b) moving the oil-droplet-patches deeper down the water column, where there is less oxygen, colder environment and it may affect more marine life
c) it may take longer for the oil to be broken up in this depth
d) depleting the water of oxygen creating "dead zones"
e) underwater plumes can't be skimmed, difficult to track down
f) in general, nobody has a clue what is really happening since it has never been done before

sadly media is mostly focusing on a) only.

There is a lot of controversy in the scientific community regarding these points. Unfortunately media outlets and environmental advocacy blogs present very limited views of these issues, and the science is immature.

One thing that I feel fairly certain of is that surfactant toxicity is going to be the least important aspect of this.

Also, be aware that these "plunes" are not oil droplet patches. They are regions of ocean water that have some low concentrations of oil dissolved in the water. Part per billion levels.

It is instructive to calculate how much oil would be necessary to form a plume that is say 10x10x1 mile in size at say a one percent concentration. Hint: 1 Trillion gallons. That is several orders of magnitude greater than the size of this spill.

Here is an interesting followup printed in the LA Times regarding this:

Asper later e-mailed Los Angeles Times staff writer Raja Abdulrahim, who had interviewed him Sunday in Cocodrie, La.:

1) We are not 100% sure that the plumes are oil. We have NOT analyzed the samples yet and won’t know what’s in them until we do. That will take at least a few days or even a week or more and we don’t want to rush these results. The sensor we used is not definitive for oil and other compounds do respond in a manner that is similar to oil and could be confusing us.

2) I NEVER said that these “plumes” could cause a dead zone! It’s really important that you correct that! Consider:

a. We don’t even know if there is any oil in the plumes so the oxygen signal we’re seeing could be due to something else that is going on near the well and, if so, it could disappear overnight (we just don’t know)

b. The oxygen levels we saw are lower than “normal” but are no where near the danger zone! For the most part, they are not even as low as the layer above them that we call the “oxygen minimum zone.” This is a totally natural layer caused by normal oceanographic process and it is found essentially everywhere in the world with very few exceptions. The oxygen levels in these “plumes” are not as low as they are in this natural layer that is found at this site, between about 150 and 400m.

c. Even if the levels were dangerously low (which they are not), this plume does not have the potential to create a dead zone because it cannot be brought to the surface. That water is cold and heavy; it would take far more energy than is available to bring it to the surface anywhere in the Gulf, any time soon.

3) Yes, we’re concerned about low oxygen and yes these numbers are lower than normal but we don’t see signs of anything suffocating for lack of oxygen down there. It’s something to consider but it is very far down on the list of concerns.]

Reports of the plumes were in Sunday's New York Times and in Associated Press stories.

Sunday's Los Angeles Times story about the growing concern about the effect the underwater oil may have on marine life said:

Last week, researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology reported on their website that they had found what they believe are large plumes of oil far beneath the surface.

Monday's story in the Los Angeles Times said:

Vernon Asper, an oceanographer and marine professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, was part of a group that landed at Cocodrie, La., on Sunday, after completing a two-week research trip in the gulf. Asper said they documented plumes of oil 2,000 to 6,000 feet below the water's surface, covering an area 4 miles wide and 15 miles long.

Bacteria in the water naturally break down oil, but that process sucks up large amounts of oxygen. Such a scenario could cause dead zones similar to a seasonal one caused by nitrogen-rich runoff down the Mississippi River.

So you can see what sorts of conclusion jumping is going on here.

"......They are regions of ocean water that have some low concentrations of oil dissolved in the water. Part per billion levels."

The hazard of the long term exposure to oil may be in parts ber billion, such as 5000 parts per billion or 0.0005 percent.

I do know that water with 0.02 percent dissolved oil or gasoline will kill fish in a minute or two. Take a 6 gallon aquarium tank with a goldfish in it and add one teaspoon of oil or gas. Start stirring it well to get oil dispersed. This concentration is 1:5000 or 0.02 percent and will kill the fish in a couple of minutes. Exact procedure was done in my high school science class to explain pollution hazards to aquatic life.

So the hazard to fish and other marine life is their periodic exposure to these plumes or small regions of oil dispersed in water. We don't know the exact concentration of the affected areas. That will only be determined by sampling. But to say that all areas of the GOM have minimal concentrations in "parts per billion" is wrong.

Tenths of a percent is a concentration 6 orders of magnitude higher than ppb. You would have to put that teaspoon in a 10 million gallon tank (think a volume of water equivalent to 500 rail cars) to get 2 ppb.

This concentration level is below drinking water standards for many quite toxic materials - i.e. benzene, mercury, etc.

In any case I've been following this issue and I'm rather wondering why there hasn't been any followup on the composition and concentration results made available on the internet. I would think that would be important to this story and for the researchers to get funding to continue these surveys.

I've been following this issue and I'm rather wondering why there hasn't been any followup on the composition and concentration results made available on the internet.

Last I heard, from a couple of days ago, a research ship had come back from a several day trip to do sampling. They wanted a couple of weeks to get the analysis done. That doesn't seem like an unreasonable amount of time to me.

I got one day turnaround for ppm analysis of BTEX in contaminated ground water. Bet if I paid $100 to the tech, I could have got it while I waited.


An LSU research team sent a sub into the water 75 miles northwest of DH and found thick droplets of oil all the way to the bottom below a clear-looking surface.

This isn't parts-per-billion. The sub emerged black with oil.

not so much the oil as the methane, which goes into solution. Professor Joyce is studying this on the NOAA staff and reported that the low levels of oxygen zones had the highest concentration of methane that she had yet seen.

she did report that the oxygen depletion at this time was not dangerous to sea life, though I would suspect that having high concentrations of methane and lower concentrations of oxygen (she said 25% less) would definately be a problem for sea life.

in any event she said that the process for breakdown of methane in the water can take up to 3 months. So the o2 levels will continue to go down.

there are also some questions arising sbout the negative impact of corexit on those same little microbes that we're all hoping will deal with at least some of this. apparently, they have their own system for dispersing the oil already and they may not prefer the nalco version.

Wouldn't the microbes consume a lot of oxygen in order to break up this oil? If so would that cause other nasty side effects? This is an imbalance in the system, it has to show up one way or the other.

Hello. Wanted to share some screen caps of the late Saturday/ early Sunday activity I was watching on the live feed. Shots of the damage at the top of the BOP and some super ugly images of the size of the gusher a few feet above the exit wound between #112-120.

Picture 116

I am completely obsessed with your site. I have a need to understand what is happening and you folks do not disappoint. As a non-techie, I deeply appreciate your analogies which I completely understand. I also appreciate all the work you are doing to educate about peak oil, something I have been aware of for several years now. To that end... now that it is summer... I just donated a weeks worth of commute funds to your site and will walk to work instead. Thank you.

"I just donated a weeks worth of commute funds to your site and will walk to work instead."

Now that is cool; somebody actually doing something to reduce dependency. Thanks.
My nane is Mike, and I am an oilcoholic.

And a sincere thanks to all who have donated thus far. It will help with the increased costs (see point 3 below).

As I said yesterday:

1. The Oil Drum is a pretty special place. We strive to maintain a high signal to noise ratio in our 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.)

We are trying to perform a service to the public here to coordinate smart people who know their stuff with other people who want to learn about what's going on. Promotion of that ideal will be the criteria by which we make our decisions about what stays and what goes.

2. If you see a problematic comment USE THE COMMENT MODERATION SYSTEM--see the "Flag as inappropriate" and (?) beside it? Learn more there. If you see comments that are questionable after you've done that (that aren't being removed), let us know at the eds email address.

It is up to this community to enforce the norms we have established here (a high signal to noise ratio), keep. it. up.

Our guide to commenting at TOD can be found here: . Please check it out if you are unfamiliar with it, but it is essentially 1) citations welcome, 2) be kind to others, and 3) be nice to the furniture.

3. We have gotten a lot of queries whether this bump in traffic is adding costs to keep the site functioning. Truth is, we are incurring added expenses from these events. It is also true that we try not to beg from you very often as we are not the types to bother you with constant queries.

That being said, if you are inclined to help out, your support is always welcome and very much appreciated. To those who have already given, thank you very much.

You can find the donate button in the top left hand corner of the main page.

4. If you have come here to vet your plan to kill the well, understand that you will be queried on whether or not you have read the other 10 previous comment threads and all the myriad plans that have already been run by the kind folks in this room; if you have actually read all 10 comment threads and still think your plan has legs, well, then maybe yours really is the one that will save the Gulf of Mexico.

This is not to say that well considered questions about current attempts and modifications to those attempts are not welcome; they are. But try to place them in context and in what's actually going on, as opposed to your MacGyver dream solution where you have a 10 megaton bomb, an ice pick, and Commander Spock at your side.

5. Also, if you're looking for live chat and are IRC capable, go to freenode, the channel is #theoildrum

(google MIRC and download it; Hit the lightening bolt and fill in your info; select the server as "freenode" (it is in the server list), hit connect; when connected type /join #theoildrum)

Could someone please confirm for me whether BP still has an interest in "bringing this well under control" for future production? I've seen this nowhere addressed by BP representatives, the government, or the press. I just listened to most of the testimony in the Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation. And it is clear the company went to great effort to put a "productive casing" hanging into the reservoir at the bottom of the well (with very little room to spare in the cementing job). BP, as I understand, spent about $10 billion drilling this well (this is one amount I have seen ... but can't confirm). It would be nice to know that they are exploring all possibilities for shutting in the well, including those that destroy the integrity of the well for future oil production?

BP said in a presser (don't know which one right now) they have no interest in producing from this well, ever, and that it went fubar. They were in the process of transforming this well from "exploration" to "production" when it blew up. Also note that the "relief well" is not to get oil out of it, but to plug it for good.

Covered many times in earlier threads. There is no possibility, and never has been any possibility, of recovering this well, or using the relief well (at the last the relief well that actually meets the blown well) for production. The notion does seem to arise with monotonous regularity that BP are somehow dragging the chain so that they can recover a commercially useful investment. They can't. For all sorts of reasons.

What is confusing the issue is that the well was originally drilled as an exploration well, and later converted for future production. But this has nothing to do with the post accident management of the well.

The $10 billion figure is seriously confused. The well cost about $100 million. Which is pretty much the standard cost for a well here. BP may well have invested $10 billion in the the GOM, but that includes all the exploratory work, construction of production facilities, and the drilling of many wells. This accident is basically going to mean they have invested $11 billion in the GOM. The fact that even an exploratory well costs $100 million allows you to see why investing $10 billion in a reserve is easy to do.

BP still own the concession, and will no doubt continue to work on recovering oil. But the blown well, and the relief well will be sealed for as close to eternity as reasonable. Eventually they will probably want to drill another $100 million well into the deposit, and couple it to an existing production facility, pretty much as they originally planned.

I appreciate that …. it would be really great to have a link confirming that the well is not being shut in for "permanent temporary abandonment" (as McKay put it in one of his appearances before Congress)? But that it is being permanently taken offline as a well for production. I'm always watching for statements to this effect, and the few I have found are vague and elusive to me (such as the term used by Lamar above).

It seems to me they are making rapid progress and are ahead of schedule on drilling the relief well. From a naive perspective … is there any reason why they can't drill down a few thousand feet below the mud line, stop near the blown out well, fit a small nuclear device down the 21" well bore (or even drill a bigger hole), cement it in and explode the device at some significant depth below the mudline. We test underground nuclear explosions all the time … I doubt there would be much residual environmental impact from such an explosion if it took place at sufficient depth below the sea floor. There are numerous nuclear devices in the 11" - 21" range. I'm almost embarrassed to ask this question, because it seems so simply to me. I'm sure others have asked the same on this site (perhaps looking at options to send it down the main hole). The main risk, I suppose, would be from a future production standpoint and potentially altering the fracture and pore pressure gradients near the production zone of the oil reservoir (or even contaminating the hydrocarbons with radiation)?

BP has allowed for 3 weeks to drill through the casing when the relief well meets the main well. Why so long at the junction of the two wells. Presumably, they want to fit in a diverter and seal it in properly if they are going to be displacing oil and gas from the main well. But this is three weeks of oil and gas continuing to spill into the gulf (if they are not able to make good on any of the containment options). Sorry to bring up explosion option, especially if it has been answered at some detail before.

Suttles said the company has no plans to ever produce from the Macondo well because it has been damaged beyond repair.

Re: nuclear explosion. I believe the problem is that no one can predict whether or not the explosion will seal the well, or create multiple fractures in the rock resulting in multiple ways for the oil to escape the reservoir.

Re: nuclear explosion. I believe the problem is that no one can predict whether or not the explosion will seal the well, or create multiple fractures in the rock resulting in multiple ways for the oil to escape the reservoir.

I'm almost embarrassed to ask this question, because it seems so simply to me.

I asked the same question yesterday, and my post was deleted shortly thereafter. Apparently, talk of alternative solutions is not considered "on topic"... as opposed to idle speculation and armchair quarterbacking on the minutia of the approach-du-jour. What any of this has to do with TOD's mission seems rather tenuous.

Suggesting an idea that has been consistently rejected for its several weak points literally dozens of times on this site alone, is an indicator that you havent been really paying attention. In short, explosions will not work because the bottom of the GOM is mud, for thousands of feet below the surface. any explosion at the surface will only make the problem worse. any explosion in the well shaft will only make the problem worse. Its been suggested to think of the bottom as a bowl of pudding, there is no way to use explosives to seal it up. it just doesnt work that way.

while its a common lust for most people to wanna blow up any problem they cant solve and seems to work pretty well for America in the past, it will not work here.

The largest "lost circulation" event took place in the early stages of drilling near the top of the well. Does this typically happen when drilling through mud? There appears to be various geological formations running through the well bore in which they experienced kicks, lost circulation, gas deposits, even more. There are two productive zones for hydrocarbons in the well, they drilled through one of them. All of this indicates to me there is far more structure down there than a pudding like and uniform mud. As long as it's deep enough, this shouldn't really matter (and would probably even help seal the well above the location of the blast).

Look at the geological description posted here:

There is a mud cap of some depth covering all - could easily be a few hundred feet or more. The exact details of the geological profile are secret (normal proprietary information).

Ok ... I get it (thanks). Here is some promotional literature from Halliburton talking about some of the geological complexities of deepwater drilling in GOM. I thought it might be interesting to some who have a technical background in this area:

Idly – Lost circulation is an event. It doesn’t necessarily imply a specific set of underground conditions. LC just means all the mud pumped down the drill pipe doesn’t return to the surface. Why it didn’t return is an interpretation. The mud might have squeezed out of a failed cement shoe at the bottom of the previous casing run. It might have been pumped into a porous sandstone reservoir because the pressure of the mud exceeded the pressure in that sandstone. The LC could have been in a fault plane that fractured a shale. In this case the pressure of the mud might not have been greater than the rock pressure: fractured shales take mud very easily.

As others have mentioned the difference in mud weight between LC and having a DW well kick can be very small…maybe just 0.2 or 0.3 lbs. What makes drilling with such a slim margin more difficult is the ECD…effective circulating density of the drilling mud. The mud weight might be 16.5 ppg. But when I have the mud pumps on it add pressure to the bottom of the as if I had 16.9 ppg in the hole. So the well might not kick when the pumps are on (formation pressure is 16.6 ppg compared to my ECD of 16.9 ppg). But when I turn my pumps off to add another section of drill pipe the ECD is now 16.5 ppg (less than the reservoir pressure) and the well begins to flow. That’s why you always check for flow when you turn your mud pumps off. This is exactly why it was so critical for BP to monitor mud returns when they began displacing the riser. As they replaced drill mud with seawater the ECD at the bottom of the well decreased greatly…far below the reservoir pressure. That means if the csg shoe failed there was a 100% certainty that the well would flow oil/NG. And when it began to flow it would have to push the mud out of the well to reach the surface. Had they seen the mud flowing back with the pumps off they could have shut the well in. That doesn’t mean activate the BOP…just shut of all the return valves. If those valves held they could have pumped a kill pill down and returned the ECD to a safe level and stopped the flow of oil/NG. But that doesn’t always work. If those valves had failed they still could have gone to the BOP. There were a minimum of two safety checks between preventing the blow out and what we see today in the GOM.

Discussion in media of nuclear option:

Matt Simmons (founder Simmons & Company, mergers and acquisitions in Energy industry):

Soviets used nuclear weapons on 4 or 5 occasions to seal off runaway oil and gas wells under water (documented by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory):

Christopher Brownfield (Nuclear Submarine officer USS Harford):

Russian Page ("Petroleum leak in the Gulf of Mexico can be eliminated nuclear explosion") … they give 20% success rate:

Once again I recommend this video as a primer on nuclear option:

Does it have to be a nuke? Don't we have some really huge conventional warheads? Wouldn't something buried near the well head squeeze the well closed?

FYI - the USA no longer has any small nuclear weapons. The only remaining warheads are those designed to go on top of an ICBM or into a bomber. Another issue is that all existing US nuclear warheads are designed so that they can only be armed under specific conditions (such as the deceleration of re-entry).

To make things even worse - since the US government refused to pay for the costs of maintaining the highly classified design data for the 'cold war' nuclear artellery shells - all of those records were destroyed.

Drilling the relief wells would probably be faster than trying to design and build a warhead for this use. And what happens if the warhead fails to detonate? (A 'diiry little secret' of our nuclear weapons stockpile is that nobody is 100% certain that they will go 'boom' if needed.)

Do you think they designed one or both relief wells to be able to save at least the top hole for sidetracking as producer(s) down the road? Seems like the logical thing to do unless a different design were to slow progress on drilling the relief wells.

Geo -- saving the upper section of a RW would make sense after they've killed the flow. They might leave it set up as a sidetrack from a shallower casing set. Given they'll have 5 or so csg sets it could save $50+ million on a future development well.

idyl -- They did not anywhere near $10 billion on this well. I think that number represents what they've spent in total in the GOM or all their Deep Water plays. I think I saw an early report that had spent $240 million on this well. If correct that about twice the avergae cost but I also understand they had a good bit of trouble. So that number could be correct.

As I remember Rockman, you are right again. I believe the asset value was over 10 billion which is about right since 70% of the oil most likely could be re-covered.

I wrote the comment below in yesterday's thread, but wanted to also put it in today's since we are in a bit of an activity lull with DH. It is meant mostly for new folks here at TOD, but we all need to soon think about the questions below.

TOD is a hugely mixed bag of folks that have learned to tolerate each other fairly well. There are leftists, centrists, and right-leaning folk that post here regularly, but from what I've seen TOD remains fairly apolitical. We've come to realize things are not black and white, grey swans find their roost here at TOD on occasion.

Right now, the engineers have the stage and that is OK because they are front and center right now in GOM. But, TOD has learned that we need the humor and the campfires and the ramblings of occasional whackos (myself included) and armchair psychologists to keep going. It's somehow evolved into an effective community model for coping with all this.

What I hope comes out of all the DH experience are discussions of the following:

1 - The idea that technology will always find an answer to our energy needs. What if it does not?

2 - What effect do politics play on #1. They can have a huge and unanticipated impact that cannot easily be modelled.

3 - Given what can happen in "risky" oil production, should the global 2P oil reserves be re-evaluated more realistically.

a small suggestion:

The nomenclature for this spill is all over the map, and there is little doubt that BP will be using its extensive PR resources to try and keep its name out of whatever name this spill ends up being called in the history books. (think Exxon Valdez)

My suggestion is that whatever you call this spill please include the name BP for example the title of the above article "Deepwater Oil Spill - The LMRP Attempt Continued and Sunday's Open Thread "

How about Deepwater BP Oil Spill or some variation of that, it seems the White House has adopted Deepwater BP Oil Spill on their site.

I just use "BP Gulf Oil Spill" but I agree, let us not allow BP to brand their man made disaster.


OK, you two...thanks much for the "branding" this fiasco what you will. But what about the questions above? It's time to look at a bigger picture here. What are we learning from the BP Gulf Oil Spill? Anything at all that will help us navigate the future?

As a general guideline: put more effort into making the post-fossil transformation than into sucking up the last remaining fossil fuels, supporting the status quo.

I don't want your questions discussed in this thread. You are raising important issues which will be extensively discussed overtime on the Drumbeat and in on-topic posts.

There is no lull in the slow awakening to the technical complexity of this crisis and to the magnitude of the risk inherent in any effort to cap the well. This awakening is, imo, the central precondition for a meaningful discussion of the issues you raise, and others.

So let's stay focused on the immediate problem.

I would like to see more discussion, perhaps a dedicated blogpost, of the health and safety issues facing those involved in the 'cleanup', those living in the region, and those oil industry folk working under great pressure to cap the well.

So, Prof Goose, HO, Gail, whichever of you wonderful folks is moderating, I know the temptation to prosletyze peak oil is great, but please delete this thread and all others which do not serve to provide an understanding of just how complex this problem is.

As for a name, was the day the Deepwater Horizon went down, 'the day the music died'. In which case, I'd call this event The Big Bop.

Who made you king of TOD. Please re-read TODs Mission Statement from the main TOD window, right below TOD-Europe.

Do kings ask?

What gives you the right to add noise.

Strictly speaking, it is gushing out of the BOP, and because they can't contain the effluent, it becomes a spill. I've been using gusher or blow-out, and don't doubt that BP would prefer us to use spill, it's a weaker word.

Might I suggest "The Tony Hayward Gulf Oil Spill"

How about "The Macondo Spill" named for the place where it is, the Macondo Prospect, over the Mississippi Canyon seabed. Macondo has sort of a semi-exotic ring, kind of fun to say. May not succeed as well in branding BP with the shame and stain of the disaster forevermore, which Exxon Valdez conveniently did for Exxon.

A spill is coffee in your lap or a drink on your keyboard.

This is the Mocando or BP Blowout!

And it is naturally occuring hydrocarbons not fossil fuel.

I don't think these questions can be effectively addressed until the US, Europe, and the rest of the world take a hard look at the structure of the for-profit corporation.

I have been a lawyer for 32 years, and I have been litigating against for-profit corporations for the last 28. (Ironically, my first two years as a lawyer were on the side of the for-profit corporations -- I spent my first two years with Exxon in its Houston litigation department before the Valdez incident. I still have Exxon stock and lat year purchased quite a bit of it for my retirement).

But many of us are now beginning to realize that the present for-profit global model of corporations is the root of the problem. On the other hand, I am not for nationalizing large for-profit corporations either.

But I think we need to start seriously considering changing to the non-profit corporation model for many of our big industries and at least allow non-profits to compete globally with the for-profits.

I suggest a new paradigm -- the global non-profit corporation, or something similar. Non-profits have worked well in the medical field where most hospitals are still non-profit. Maybe we need to scale up the concept of non-profits. (The term non-profit really is a misnomer as non-profit corporations do make a profit, but but they are required to "spend" their profits on the corporation itself and on the employees rather than distributing profits to shareholders).

We need a corporate model that puts more emphasis on the regular employees of the corporation, on R&D, on reducing the impact of externalities, and on the long term not the short term. We need a new model that has less emphasis on limited liability and less emphasis on the profit of shareholders, especially the profit of a very few shareholders.

As it stands now, the law requires mangers and directors to optimize profit at the expense of everything else. That concept just does not seem sustainable.

Until we change the global corporate for-profit model, I don't think there is much of a realistic chance of adequately addressing the questions you raise.

Wow, David, that is refreshing! I completely agree. The existing premise that the primary purpose of a corporation is to maximize value for its shareholders is ludicrous.

Perhaps we should start with General Motors while we still own it? I'm serious.

GM would be a great place to start because you do not need the start up money for capitalization.

I like Rockman's suggestion of independent third party monitoring on rigs.

Unless an independent third party is something like a special prosecutor, what good would third party oversight do? You need authority to punish, and that means the government.

What is needed is regulation from within not from regulatory agencies that can be captured. The internal regulation has to come from the corporate structure.

David -- the third party would be an MMS observer onboard. He would have the authority to shut down ops immediately if he felt the situation warrented it. That's the same authority every MMS inspector has had for decades. He just has to be there to see the reason.

MMS inspector. Right. You mean the inspector from the captive agency who is here to help.

First of all, do we have enough inspectors that they can monitor everything that should be monitored 24/7?

Secondly, as a component of a captive agency, do they really have the independence to shut operations down?

All of these captive agencies (an the MMS is just one of many) just never seem to really be able to protect us when we need them.

The un-fixable problem is that it takes insiders to have the expertise to really know what is going on. Then you have the lobbyists making sure that the people who are in the agency are friendly to the particular industry to be regulated.

So you end up with the fox guarding the hen house every time.

I could write a book on the ineffectiveness of governmental agencies. But the basic flaw of them is the necessity of insider expertise and lobbyist capture.

Bureaucratic organizations tend to employ obfuscated leadership models that create plausible deniability for those with organizational power. "Do it my way or you're fired now, do it my way and take the blame later when it fails because you should have known better. I'm always right!"

That kind of behavior may be rewarded in corporate suites but it's disastrous in operational situations where knowledgeable, accountable leadership is required in time-constrained situations. You can't use organizational power to pretend that a well blowout didn't occur on your watch, no matter how much politicians, MMS and BP execs try. It pathetic to watch them try.

Who was in charge on Horizon when the blowout ocurred? A BP company man? The rig captain? The Halliburton crew chief? It's not clear now and it wasn't then, which appears to be a factor that led to a string of questionable decisions.

BP can't afford to place itself in situations like this, and I suspect the lesson they've learned is that they'd better manage processes and subs themselves using knowledgeable resources---success requires leadership and teamwork, a bunch of "expert subs" with nobody in change leads to process gaps and failures.

So why would anyone put capital into such a company if they get no return on their investment?

Where does the capital come from in a start-up for-profit corporation? It generally comes from the owner who is an employee of the corporation. What an original owner has to be willing to do in a start-up non profit is to take his profit in the form of a reasonable (not outrageous) salary.

Believe it or not, some people are willing to do that. Your average MBA, probably not in their DNA.

Public utilities, of which there are few now, get initially started from taxes. Most of the public utilities have been captured by for-profit corporations. Thankfully a few are left. Memphis Light Gas and Water (I live in Memphis now) is one of the few. It is very well run and utilities in Memphis are very reasonable compared to elsewhere.

Another good example comes from our private schools, colleges and universities. We still have some of the best, some would say the best, universities in the world. They get most of their start up capital from donations and foundations.

But raising capital is the big issue in a non-profit. I do not doubt that.

Sorry to disagree so very strongly! Look at Mexico and Venezuela, total failures! They failed to do the very thing of returning wealth to the citizen and at the same time failed to address production failure at a rate of 8% y/y!
I rest my case.

I didn't say nationalize. Nationalization is supposed to return the profits to every citizen. Non-profits just return the profits to the individuals who are directly responsible for its success. If it is not successful, it goes out of business just as a for-profit corporation would do.

Look At Texas !

Same declines, now an oil IMPORTER !


Not for profits is a misnomer. Speaking from the "not for profit" medical hospital system I can assure you profit dominates their inner sanctum discussions. Instead of EBIDTA (earnings before depreciation, taxes and amortization) it becomes EBIDA, minus taxes.

Not for profits are under less scrutiny and accountability than a corporate model with shareholders. These operate essentially as large privately held businesses with very limited oversight.

Making a living suing the for profit world doesn't mean the for profit world is all the same Snidely Whiplash corporation you portray...just happens that the for profit world is where the money is. Funny you are so quick to bite the hand that feeds you! Anyway, lot's of lawyers litigate against the greed, incompetence, and other foibles inherent in the not for profit's as well...

Profit means accountability and incentive. Not for profit means limited accountability and the same incentive, but pretends otherwise.

Since I have handled many medical malpractice cases over the years, I have sued many non-profit hospitals. My wife, who is a nurse, works for one as a nursing informatics manager. And yes, there is much incompetence in the non-profit system and yes there is a lot of emphasis on making the non-profit a financial success.

And if there is less regulation of them (I doubt that though) it is probably because there are much fewer non-profits than for-profits.

But I still like them better. My wife works for a great hospital system. She is paid very well, she has great benefits, and very reasonable hours, although, being a workaholic, she works far more than she is required.

It just seems to me that non-profits take care of the people who make them a success from the lowest guy on the totem pole to the one at the very top. And I don't see that with for-profit corporations who are far more concerned about the shareholders than they are the people who have made the corporations a success.

David Mills, loved your comment above regarding the operational nature of for-profit corporations that are required by law to pursue maximum profitability for absentee owners (the shareholders). Indeed, executives failing to pursue maximum profit can be jailed for dereliction of duty, but, oddly enough, they're not required by law to be jailed for, say, making the bad decisions that kill all marine life over a wide swath of area, put vast numbers of people out of work, and put vast numbers of people at health risk from inhaled hydrocarbon vapors.

Please let me paraphrase a recent discussion from the HBB in which the participants touched on the differences between short-term profit, long-term profit, and overall corporate valuation. Had BP's charter been organized so that, say, the focus would be on maintaining the value of the corporation and growing it over the long term, instead of chasing the shortest-term profits, its managers might have been disinclined to try to drill so quickly through what they already knew to be a fracture-prone formation. Indeed, their focus would have been on minimizing risk more than anything else, for example the risk that an uncontrolled deepwater blowout could spew vast amounts of oil into the Gulf.

Another common negative to the shareholder-owned for-profit corporation is the way its “value” can change radically for reasons that have nothing to do with the firm's viability in rolling out products, its production methods, the relationships of its products to the market in general, and so on. The rumor “Blue Horseshoe loves Tesla Motors” can result in an “increase in value” of Tesla even if the company's products are unviable and its business plan is garbage. Similarly, many a fine corporation can go under not because it's not doing well but because its absentee owners (shareholders) found a shiny new thing elsewhere and just dumped it in order to get faster profits elsewhere.

David, you may safely ignore the poster “landrew” in this sub-thread, who appears to think that anything interfering with the most Gordon-Gekko-like business activities must be that dreaded “socialism” stuff. Just out of curiosity, I wonder if landrew has ever driven on roads that were maintained by public funds, or attended a school paid for by public funds, or had medical care paid for by public funds, or enjoyed clean healthy foods because the government has had to safety-regulate those businesses, or had his burning house saved by publicly-funded firefighters, or survived a car accident because the government requires vehicles sold here to be equipped with seat belts, crumple zones, proven accident survivability, etc, all because (wait for it) vehicle manufacturers would happily sell us unsafe vehicles unless forced to do otherwise by law.

“I rest my case” lol.


Another thing that is a legal farce is that shareholders supposedly get to elect the board of directors.

But who actually votes? For a publicly traded company, most shareholders are absolutely clueless about who would make the best directors.

Shareholder voting is therefore a farce for publicly traded companies, and once privately held companies get to a certain size, shareholder voting is farcical as well.

Great comment, David. This discussion is a must if we are to move away from the unfettered greed which has become the face of capitalism. I've reposted your comment to the blog where I hang out, Docudharma, under screen name 'dharmasyd.' The further we can foster this discussion, the better.

Sadly, the Board and the management of for-profit corporations will never, ever let this happen. And, as has become very clear over the last several elections years, huge corporations and Goldman Sachs OWN our politicians.

(I am also a lawyer who represented large corporations, in HUGE $100 million bankruptcies. I had to quit because, while we represented the corporations, we took our instruction from management. And, more often than not, there was a clear conflict of interest between what management wanted us to do and what was best for the corporation.)

re #3 Accurate pricing is more an issue to me than reevaluation. This crisis just emphasizes the hidden subsidies that hydro carbons get, giving them a false appearance of affordability and a damaging advantage over alternative. The liability cap is a huge subsidy. Wind farms don't fain in ways that produce billions of dollars in negative externalities yet currently pricing doesn't reflect this.

A commentator(s) in the last thread made an excellent point.

The mud and junk injections allowed BP to "talk to" the well and determine what was mentioned in the press conference, i.e. that most of the restrictions are in the well bore and in the BOP and not the kinks in the riser.

Restrictions in the well bore may be good news.

Based on mid-May #s leaked by Adm. Thad Allen, the pressure after the BOP is 2,650 psi (about 500 psi above ambient sea water pressure). Further erosion of the BOP since then has likely raised this #, but perhaps deterioration down hole has offset the BOP erosion (BP holds #s TOO close to itself).

BP later (around May 23rd ?) stated that they were "surprised that BOP pressures were lower than expected" without details. This implies downhole deterioration, either of the well bore (more likely) or reservoir pressure (less likely IMHO).

In any case, fitting a new valve onto a 500 psi jet of oil and gas is a daunting task, but not quite as impossible as doing it on an 8,000 psi jet.

Speculation: Hydrodynamics though a properly designed open valve may be able to use this jet to help center and stabilize it as it is lowered on. Less resistance if precisely centered and more resistance if off center may help in mounting the new valve. Just speculation on my part on this.

I am still QUITE DISTURBED that BP has halted drilling on the second relief well.


They could have "talked" to the well weeks ago. The LMRP is going to be another farce. The pinheaded arrogance of the BP management in pushing for and getting just one relief well clearly shows that they are immune to any real world input that would challenge their worldview.

Pardon? Really a farce? The LMRP is the most logical choice next step! If I was heading up this crew, that would be my choice at this moment in conjunction with the relief well(S) as Alan so aptly points out. The second and or third relief wells is the only point I would argue in the process.
Please, please don't tell me your advocating the giant screw or battle ship approach?

Any news about if they plan to bring in a replacement BOP for the second relief well? I waited for some journalists asking this question yesterday, didn't happen...

do you have a link to the comment you referenced?

you mention Thad Allen (is that the same Thad Allen that made this announcement Friday AM)

"May 28 (Reuters) - The flow of oil and gas from the broken well in the Gulf of Mexico has been stopped by pumping mud into it, however the challenge will be whether that can be sustained, the U.S. incident commander Admiral Thad Allen said on Friday."

Slipped and gave some real #s, but only to Mobile Press-Register reporter.


in reviewing that article I would be cautious about anything Admiral Allen has to say:

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. -- May 15, 2010 -- ..."There is no projected oil slick targeting Dauphin Island," Allen said.

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala., May 10 (Reuters) - Long before tar balls washed up on its sugar-white sandy beaches, the tiny barrier island at the mouth of Mobile Bay

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO Saturday, May. 08, 2010 — A Coast Guard official says tar balls that are believed to be from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are washing up on Dauphin Island.

The drilling of a second relief well must be for a very good reason. Of course we have been told that it was so that the BOP could be relocated to the blowout well. It is surely not for a reason of cost savings. The difference in costs to BP of having that rig on standby or drilling is not going to be very much. It is possible that there simply are not enough of the proper BOPs sitting in people's back yards to get one out there in a day or two.

If they could install arms like ones you see on a wheel puller, that would hold the the device against the thrust of the oil stream. The hook on the arm would catch the bottom of the lower flange. The pair of flanges on top of the BOP is stout and should hold the thrust.

A lot of thanks to BP for sharing information on their attempts and activities. That being said, I believe BP could benefit a lot more by opening on information in such way that independent experts could contribute to a solution. BP and Obama has put together top notch experts to come up with solutions to this disaster, but I'm afraid this alone will not deliver a solution fast enough.

This is an area where experts having the relevant strong theoretical background and topped with extensive field experience thrive. Creative and fast problem solving is here a product of quality and the number of relevant ideas, and BP and MMS ability to screen and analyze these.

My suggestion is then for BP to open up even more and publish the background engineering documents needed for the worldwide expertise to come up with relevant solutions to the problem. In detail, cross section drawings and models of the BOP, materials in different parts and as much of the theories and knowledge in regards to the tubing hanger / shutter status. By providing this information, BP will enjoy receiving ideas that may be used fully or in part. Quality of these suggestions will be highly dependent on the level of detail BP/Cameron is releasing.

I don't think we the only subsea professionals who feels strongly about this and would contribute if given the opportunity.

Eivind Gransaether

"A lot of thanks to BP for sharing information on their attempts and activities."


Maybe you should read the rest, fishoil.

"In detail, cross section drawings and models of the BOP, materials in different parts "

Mr. Gransaether: you will find some information in the following link:

There are some detail drawings, unfortunately no material specs. The latter will have to be looked up elsewhere.

It might be worthwhile repeating your request here:

The URL is to the "Suggestions" page on that site.

Sorry if this has been mentioned earlier.... I know they plan to cut it but have we seen a shot of the riser and BOP in the past 24 hours? Lot's of chaos yesterday and I just wonder why it is being "hidden"... at least that's my perception.

Yes, I was watching the ROV's work on the BOP and riser last night around 23:00 CDT. One was doing something near the leak while looking at the riser perpendicular to its length. They retrieved a hose that was hanging over the BOP. It was refreshing to see the different perspective of one ROV watching the activity of another.

12:15 CDT Currently Mil # 21 ROV is recovering buoyancy modules.

They could also thread the top of the arms and make them adjustable. Then they pull that ole fat grommet up against the pipe. I just might seal.


Although this was postulated a couple of weeks ago and I didn't believe it then, I am beginning to think that it is possible that BP won't survive as a corporate entity as a result of all this, when it's all said and done and the dust has settled.

Let us hope not, but I doubt it.


God, I hope their stock goes up at least one more time before they collapse totally. I need to sell high on them. I inherited some BP stock years ago from my grandfather and hoped to add to my retirement, but at this point I'm thinking I don't want to be associated with BP Plc any longer.

depending on how many shares you own I would wait off at least until the LMRP is placed because if this works the stock will go up by about 10-15%....I think BP is down -60 billion from last estimate.

Unfortunately, the "Rock's" early pessimistic prediction that a relief well would likely be the only way to shut down the oil flow is looking more and more prescient.

In any case, I wonder if BP may be the most unpopular corporation on the face of the earth--except of course that a lot of trial lawyers love them.

Consider that BP may have ultimately caused: (1) A massive decline in GOM tourism; (2) A massive decline in the GOM fishing & seafood sectors; (3) A complete shutdown of deepwater GOM drilling, with a suspension of offshore drilling permits. And regarding #1 and #2, the Loop Current could spread the collapse to the Florida Keys and the East Coast of Florida.

You missed some of the worst.

Turning hundreds of square miles of marshland into open sea. Oil kills grass > wave action (see hurricanes) erodes land into open sea > destroys fish, crab, oyster nurseries FOREVER & exposes New Orleans and more to hurricanes (removes speed bumps).

Driving blue fin tuna and other species into commercial extinction. This is Atlantic, not just Gulf fisheries.

Destroys a hundreds of years of culture and way of life.


That's 300 years of culture and life that will go extinct. And when the sub-sea plumes get into the Atlantic there are bound to be impact to fisheries there. Forget the damned beaches. You dig up sand and pump in clean sand. Coastal and estuarine marshes will be destroyed for ever, and it will take every last dine of BP billions to even attempt marshland reconstruction on the order required.

Toxins in the Food Chain + Fish Migrate = World Problem

One thing to consider is how Exxon fared after the Exxon Valdez incident and this question:

Is it a coincidence that the point person for the government that was key in the final settlement ($1.1b) for Exxon back in 1991 is the very same person who is Chairman of the just announced President's Commission to investigate the Deepwater BP Oil Spill?

I believe the amount Exxon has paid out on the Valdez is 4.3 billion, which includes the recently settled punitive damages award. Some of that was insurance proceeds. They were insured. Some people think that's relevant. I don't. From memory, it breaks down into payments on actual damages of around 400 million, reimbursement to the federal and state governments for their costs in the cleanup - 1.1 billion, Exxon's cleanup costs - 2.3 billion, and the punitive award - 500 million. I believe somewhere in that is the funding of an ongoing scientific institute to study the sound. So roughly 3.8 billion in early 1990s dollars and 500 million in recent dollars. In 1989 their annual profit was around 5 billion. That is from memory, so I hope it is close to right.

BP, will survive. what would thier lawers and lobbiest do.......
"Litigation is the cornor stone of every good economy"
They must not ever be left off the hook for thier incompatence if it means nationalising ALL thier assests so be it

The fact that BP is a UK company sort of limits what you can do. You might be able to get a court order confiscating their US territorial assets, but I think that would be counter-productive because what do you do then to pay off the damages? BP is then not operating in the US and is thus free to thumb their nose at you.

One thing BP could do is spin off their US operations (and liabilities) into a separate company which then declares bankruptcy. Then you are screwed.

It is the same thing when you talk about banning BP from future US government contracts. Who is going to pay the damages if you do that?

Really what you want is for BP to continue operations and making money so they can pay the bill. Anything else and the taxpayer ends up holding the bag.

I agree. It's counterintuitive, but right now anybody who really wants to see the Gulf of Mexico experience an exceptionally robust cleanup, should join a boycott of the boycott of BP. The more BP earns, the more the United States can demand they spend.

Throw this into bankruptcy with massive cross-border issues, and huge complications will ensue - most of them probably negative for the cleanup's robustness.

But Americans are obsessed with punishment. We're a necktie-party nation. Blind rage does not do much deep thinking.

Speaker and son: You are making perfect sense. I am no way an oil expert, but I have more than a passing knowledge of law. A BP spinoff dump of toxic US assets is possible, I think, although the IPO could be amusing. Followed by Chpt. 11 or 7 of the spin off. Followed by 20 years of litigation. I'm sure BP is in deep conversations with some huge bankruptcy specialists such as Jones Day.

Accenture---Arthur Anderson, Xe---BlackWater, Altria---Phillip Morris.

Does anyone know what the BOP is made of at the point where they are cutting it? If its an alloy or carbon steel, it might likely take days to cut with a diamond wire saw.

thought they cut it last night

naaa not yet, they were preparing (ripping away hoses and stuff)
after they cut it, there should be no plume coming out of the end of the riser anymore.

Like many of you, I have been following this ongoing disaster in the Gulf ever since it started, and have been an avid reader and sometime poster of The Oil Drum for some years. While I greatly miss Heading Out's previously scheduled Sunday Morning Tech Talks (for new folks to TOD I highly suggest checking out the archives and giving them a read), I am of course greatly appreciative of the work HO, Rockman, West Texas, Leanan, Gail, Prof Goose and all the rest have put into this site.
Although I have absolutely no oil or engineering background (EMS Paramedic/Critical Care Nurse), the fact of the matter is as a member of an industrialised society of the early 21st century, issues surrounding energy in general and access to crude oil in particular are really going to be the baseball bat to the kneecap (or bullet to the back of the head, take your pick) for our current way of life in the years ahead. Like I've said, I'm not an oil field hand, but when I think about the huge amounts of petrochemical resources that are used in my chosen field of health care (feedstock for medications, disposable plastics, teflon catheters) as well as the huge amounts of electrical energy consumed by the modern medical center (the average hospital uses twice the electricity of a modern office building) and how absolutely essential cheap energy, crude oil and natural gas is to how we provide care to our patients, I can't help but think the modern medical center is a form of Business As Usual that has not much in the way of a future (and that is not even addressing how it gets paid for).
Through my obsessive reading of TOD over the years ( I check it several times a day...WARNING: The Oil Drum is EXTREMELY adddictive), it would appear that I have become something of a resident oil expert amongst my colleauges at work, and on more than one occasion I've been queried as to what is happening on MC 252. But when I try to explain the implications of the need for deepwater operations (ie that the only oil that is left is going to be very expensive and difficult to extract), I am usually given a short lecture on how biofuels, hydrogen, used fry oil or perhaps some previously undiscovered substance (Manna from heaven, perhaps) will arrive just in time to keep the 'Happy Motoring' (JHK, here's to you) continuing indefinitely. Indeed, just the other day, I was talking with a colleague, describing the latest Rube Goldberg attempt by BP to stop the well and it's likelihood of not working, along with the ongoing environmental catastrophe still unfolding (and no one really knows just how bad it is going to be). He, of course, concurred at the awfulness of it, and then, without a trace of irony, proceeded to tell me about the great deal he got on a jet ski, and how he was looking forward to endless hours of consumer oriented recreational pleasure, zooming about on a local lake, downing brewskis and burning gas in a 98 octane orgy of high speed hijinks.
For what it's worth, I think BP's assets should be siezed, their corporate officers indicted, and their CEO, Tony Heyward tarred and feathered (preferably with the oil and plumage from the dead birds now scattering the shores of the Gulf of Mexico), to be set adrift on a raft in that benighted body of water well out to sea. But, BP, and the other oil companies are not drilling in the GOM, or the Caspian Sea, or the Niger Delta for fun and games: they are doing it because WE want and need the oil. And until, as a society, we start to connect the Macondo catastrophe (11 dead and counting) with us pulling up to the pump and filling up, that isn't going to change. That is, until he have no choice in the matter when the pumps run dry.
So, I shall finish this rather disjounted rant with the following advice: get a bicycle, start a garden, and get rid of damned jet ski. I think that would be a good start.

Pete Deer

Good to see you posting Subkommander. I've seen many names from years gone by come back recently. Now, if only Humbugga would post something, my world may actually make more sense.

SD: Tell us what you really think! As to your last suggestion I have done them all and more. (The year so far have driven 230 miles max). But no matter how much I do it does not seem to make everyone else follow my lead! My pushing for a European style gas tax starting back in about 1976 hasn't been received well by either party. Oh well. or is Oil well!

Well said. I'm strongly anti-corporation, but let's not forget why they're drilling there. I wish I believed we had the capability of an organized and rational response to PO & CC, but I don't. Your colleague will continue to run that jet ski until he cannot, and then he will want someone to blame.

Thanks. We needed that. "We have met the enemy and he is us." — Pogo


I agree with everything you say, but I'd like to raise a caveat about the statement

they are doing it because WE want and need the oil.

that I posted in an earlier thread.

It isn't that the statement isn't true, but that right at this moment, with this disaster unfolding, linking such sentiments to what is happening in the GOM risks letting BP off the hook. More at link - don't want to take up too much bandwidth here...

That said, I entirely agree with everything you say, tarring and feathering included!

I like to put up this thought:

If they resume with DW drilling, shouldn't regulations require a mandatory relief well drilled along with the primary well? This regulation is apparently required in Canada for a long time (although BP reportedly lobbies against it). This will sure be costly for the oil cooperations, but hey for sure they are not on the brink of going bankrupt over this, they make silly money. As I understand it, the current disaster could have long been fixed if there was a relief well in place 4 weeks ago.
Would be great if some organization/media picks up lobbying the gov with this angle.

Your comment I think goes without saying, Congress or congress (lower case loss of respect) would risk everything to go forward filling their pockets without relief well legislation! I received a letter from Senator Sanders (who I hold in high re-guard, upper case) sent a letter out already calling for this kind of regulation. Please join him @

Great landrew! Let's build up some pressure on this!

(as german citizen, that one probably isn't my call though)

To my new German friend, you have even more right to be angry of this! I would encourage you to Sen. Sanders site and let him know this is a global disrespect. Hope to you see you around here in the future:)

will do ;)

The Canadian Law is for drilling in a place with a short drilling season. It is to be able to drill in the same season rather than having to wait until the next season. It is an apples to oranges comparison as there is not a season in GOM.

We have hurricane season :-(


Ahh thanks for clearing that up (->arctic...), still wouldn't it be reasonable idea to make it mandatory having a relief well with the primary one regardless of season?

Hi all. I've been reading this site now for the last week or so, kudos to those who run it, and have 20+ years in the industry although not as an engineer so I do have some knowledge.

No it really wouldn't be wise to require a RW for every DW well. First off no matter how careful you are there is some miniscule chance of this type catastrophe with any well so by virtually doubling the number of wells you require you are doubling the chances of this happening again. What you want to do is reduce the number of wells drilled, not increase them.

Second these DW wells cost in the area of $100MM plus. It will take a lot more than $70/Bbl oil to support developing fields in the DW if you double the drilling costs. A ten well field will go from one billion to two billion dollars just to drill.

Only to those who want no more deep water drilling.

miss -- Could certainly be an option to start a relief well when you start a new drill. But how would the relief well be less risky than the primary? IOW, what if the relief well blows out? Also, how deep do you drill the relief well? The primary could blow out at 3,000' or 28,000'.

Another way to consider your idea: drilling a relief well with the primary means drilling twice as many wells as would be normally done. If regs and procedures are not changed then you've just doubled the possibility of another major blow out/spill.

THE critical question is how did the well blow out. If the story is correct it was due to displacing the heavy mud in the csg/riser with seawater before the cmt was properly tested. A judgment call. A very easy fix there: change the rules for testing cmt jobs before you displace. And how do make sure operators follow the new rule: independent third party observers on board. An insignificant cost compared to the price of a typical DW well. And even after the cmt failed and the oil/NG started flowing up BP could have still prevented the blow out had they known the well was kicking. And how hard is that to know that? Very easy and done dozens of times every day on all the other DW wells currently drilling in the GOM. You monitor the mud when you turn off the mud pumps. I know this sound stupidly simplistic but you just measure how much mud you have in the mud pits. If the oil/NG begins to flow it has to push the mud out of the hole. If you turn a faucet off tite and the water continues to flow out of the spigot do you think you might suspect a problem? We can debate till the cows come how the judgment of displacing the riser/csg given what was known at the time about the qualityof the cmt. And neither side of that argument will change their positions. That wasn’t the proven sin by BP. THE sin was not monitoring the mud returns. How much money did BP save by not insuring that the personnel responsible for watching the mud returns were doing their job? Not one damn penny. I’ve been on DW rigs when a well was in its last stage. A great rush to shut down, pack up and get on the boat. I’m sure those hands responsible for keeping an eye on the mud returns weren’t kicking back in the galley with a cup of coffee. They were busting their butts rigging down and not paying attention. And why pay attention? They were told the cmt was tested and all was safe. Another easy fix: mandatory monitoring the mud returns AT ALL TIMES. Cost? Completely insignificant. Last January I drilled an 18,000’ well in S. La. There was one hand responsible for watching mud returns. Did I trust him 100%? No…I had a second hand monitor him. Good enough, eh? No…when ever we turned the mud pumps off my company man made that 30 yard walk to double check the mud returns. Cost to my company for this redundancy = $0.

I’ve tried to keep my criticism of BP on the light side since we’re still many months away from confirming the stories we’ve pieced together. But when the BP hand invoked the 5th to avoid self incrimination my attitude changed significantly. No more Mr. Nice Guy. I’ve sat in those meetings in the company man’s office on a rig and watched these technical debates. I’ve heard the “we don’t want to piss the office folks off” argument more times then I can remember. I’ve been told not to report my analysis because it would only up set someone. I’ve had my written reports tossed in the trashcan while I stood there and watched. I’ve been run off more than one job because I wouldn’t “be a team player”.

BP wants to hide behind the 5th…OK. But as far as I’m concerned I free to offer my very personal and very prejudiced feelings on this matter.

Yes, it's pretty clear they were rushing things to finish. During testimony it was confirmed that they had an early-completion bonus coming to them.
There have also been reports that they didn't use plugs on the cement, and they (BP's rep) won the argument to pull the mud sooner than advised.

They were racing...

Above I'm reading that BP is threatening clean-up workers with dismissal if they were masks during work. We shouldn't really be giving BP the benefit of the doubt any longer. Lawyers have told them that if the clean-up workers use masks, the company will open itself to lawsuits from people on shore.

Great idea. Thanks. But who pays the third party observer and how do we prevent capture? Someday I'll tell you a long story about Tommy "The Cork" Corcoran who basically invented regulatory capture as a industry strategy in the early 30s. But maybe you know the story?

Great. Ruin it for everybody else. It sounds like sex, money, good food, alcohol, and football have to end for this to have a chance.

To change the subject. Was the BOP deformed when the riser folded over?
I may have missed this in discussion on here as the threads are very hard to follow with the static chatter. I searched today and found this video that gives a good pic of the top of the BOP (sorry about that :-) ). Not getting into what this video is purported to show but the BOP is clear. Is the body casting bent over a bit? I was wondering why they wouldn't just unbolt the top flange after they cut the riser short but if they don't have a horizontal top flange it would be almost impossible to bolt down a new BOP, hence the seal ring option.
Here is the video link:

No idea jog but some damage might be expected. But I would be more worried about damage caused when the rams failed to shear the drill pipe. I also wonder how much erosional damage was caused by the wild flow thru it all these weeks.

You are absolutely right that we (or at any rate the drilling industry) will determine in agonizing detail precisely what went wrong here, and how the accident happened...and once that's figured out, everyone will institute policies that will prevent that particular failure mode from ever happening again.

Additionally, there will be sudden increase in the seriousness with which everyone pays attention to safety and following all the regulations - which will last for a while although probably not forever.

However, the one absolute certainty is that eventually, no matter how many levels of redundancy are created, and how "fail-safe" the BOPs are made, another spill like this will happen eventually if drilling in deep water continues. We as a society need to confront that reality, decide whether we want to accept this again - whether in the GOM, or off Cape Hatteras, or wherever, and understand that the root cause of all this is our societal aversion to moving away from heavy oil consumption.

Finally, it's quite clear that we need to become much better at dealing with spills once they happen. Basic research in this area has not progressed particularly far in the last 30 years.

If you have time you might want to have a listen to testimony by Transocean's Subsea Supervisor Chris Pleasant and Transocean Senior Toolpusher Miles Ezell at (half way in). There's rush transcripts of both but it seems that lengthy answers get cut off in the transcript, often losing the most interesting information, so it's best to watch the video.

I'd be interested on your thoughts if you have a chance to listen to both fully as both were closely involved in the events of the day.


Does the fact that the mud was being pumped directly to the boat, not the mud pit on the rig, make a difference in how the mud return can be monitored?

See page 17 of the BP report to the House Energy Commerce Committee.

X -- I would bet it was a factor. There are a series of mud tanks. There are counters that measure the amount of mud that flows ino a tank over a period of time. But as the mud flow is swtiched back and forth during the down load to the ship those counters have to be reset. Additionally, if mud is flowing from the kick ino a tank that's simulatneously being pumped into the boat you just can't talley any gain. And even if they are directly observing the return line and see mud flowing back up they would assume it was a result of the displacement. The solution: stop the pumps for a few minutes and see if the mud flow stops. For all the high tech involved in DW drilling this is as basic as it gets: if there's mud coming out of the well when the pumps are off you're taking a kick that could blow out if not stopped. As I'll keep pointing out this isn't like launching the space shuttle where there are 3 million moving parts involved. It's a stream of brown mud flowing out the end of a pipe. It either is or isn't.

I just jumped to the live cam (6:47 AM my local time). It looks like we are back watching the horizontal broken end of the riser, and what is coming out is as thick and black as Tony Hayward's heart.

So it begs the question, given BP's lack of credulity and honesty, what are they doing at the BOP end we are not supposed to see?

If you check abc's feed, it looks like they have taken the day off.

I would think they are reviewing the process required to put a cap on the Lower Riser Assembly, and that the ROV teams and everyone else involved is going through the stages of that.
It's a critical procedure, with the gusher running, with visibility issues, with the task of maneuvering into position...
They spent last night readying the procedure, removing a lot of hoses and pipes.

yeah I wonder about the visibility... the moment they are cutting in that bop will go diarrhetic real bad

It would be helpful for all of us if some of the experts on this forum could provide some thoughts on what new initiatives will be needed in the future if drilling is to continue in deep water.

Clearly the current approach of "industry best practice plus regulatory oversight" has proven no match for corporate corner cutting and regulatory capture. After this disaster, there will be new rules, what should they be?
The divided responsibility on the rig, evidenced by the actions of the "company man" from BP who was able to override the better judgment of the drillers was clearly hugely damaging. This has to stop. By itself however that will do nothing to restore public confidence. It seems to me that if there is no effort by the industry to develop some clearly more credible new approaches, the political backlash will impose drastic measures that may not even help.

One extreme future fix that might be envisioned is to mandate a relief well for every exploratory well. While that would perhaps double costs, the relief well need not go as deep as the exploratory well, just deep enough to ensure a reliable backup kill capability. Is there another better alternative?

It would be helpful for all of us if some of the experts on this forum could provide some thoughts on what new initiatives will be needed in the future if drilling is to continue in deep water.

Clearly the current approach of "industry best practice plus regulatory oversight" has proven no match for corporate corner cutting and regulatory capture. After this disaster, there will be new rules, what should they be?
The divided responsibility on the rig, evidenced by the actions of the "company man" from BP who was able to override the better judgment of the drillers was clearly hugely damaging. This has to stop. By itself however that will do nothing to restore public confidence. It seems to me that if there is no effort by the industry to develop some clearly more credible new approaches, the political backlash will impose drastic measures that may not even help.

One extreme future fix that might be envisioned is to mandate a relief well for every exploratory well. While that would perhaps double costs, the relief well need not go as deep as the exploratory well, just deep enough to ensure a reliable backup kill capability. Is there another better alternative?

I still don't understand why there is much of a focus on BP and/or well personnel making bad decisions at all. The real question to me is why the Blowout Preventer did not. Is there or is there not a fail-safe mechanism that will cause it to seal WITHOUT the need for intact mile-long hydraulic and electrical connections, functioning control centers, AND people thinking and acting quickly and correctly amidst flaming disaster?

Because it seems to me like the device is already an ingenious and effective design, but relying on said connections to the surface and human decision-making in a crisis is asking for trouble. Put flow velocity detectors in the pipes, read a constant signal from the top saying "this is the velocity we wish to be pumping out at", and fire it it gets beyond a tolerance range above that. Period.

My first priority as an investigator would be to find out why this type of mechanism was not implemented or did not work, and implement or fix it. Before new well drilling resumes. Because this you can fix. Trying to get multinationals to fix their on-rig command structures or resist cost-savings temptations is much more difficult.

Such BOPs exist, but they are hugely unpopular because they can close down during normal operations, because of pressure fluctuations that are within parameters, causing delays. In the North Sea, you'll find that the Norwegians have insisted upon this inconvenient class of BOPs that the oil giants have managed to avoid in most other places.

Didn't I read on TOD that the BOP was nine years old? What kind of certification/re-certification does the GOVT require on BOPs?

I was also very disturbed by the description of all the various failure modes of the BOP in use here, its apparent poor state of repair and the fact that the shear rams were not capable of cutting through a drill pipe joint.

I am not a oil patch person, but I have worked on designs of critical systems in the chemical industry. This co-called BOP and its operational status seem like they should fit in the category "criminally negligent" to me given the accumulated history of industrial accidents worldwide.

ABR, good comments. I don't know what your background is but you seem to get the picture.

Here are a few of my thoughts on the question of what's next?

You can't regulate competence of Managers or Supervisors or Drilling Engineers. You CAN make dumb decisions so costly that they won't ever be made again. You can affect culture in an organization by having the right people at the top and in key jobs. I've always hated performance related goals. And, hated even more compensation based on meeting goals. Those are a couple areas for which the really smart guys who look into our heads might give us some input.

Ah, the BOP. You nailed it. When the SHTF the BOP(s), capable of being activated remotely, should shear, close, and riser disconnect, with enough hydraulic power/accumulators to do it reliably several times. This is where the regulators should concentrate their investigations and revised regulations.

I suspect there will be some extensive discussions between the regulators and industry about casing/cementing design as well there should be. I was surprised to see the casing/cementing plan for this well and confused why the centralizers were omitted and why the final hanger lockdown was omitted even though in the plan.

As far as mandating a relief well for every exploratory well...that is completely unnecessary. I heard that recommendation the other day from a Rice University Prof, a guy with a name with every letter of the alphabet in it, and wondered what planet he was from.

Also, there should be extensive discussion about relying on only one barrier while displacing the mud out of a well.


I read about the hearings and the MMS was hammering the guy who designed the casing program for having 7" casing in an 8" hole in a 'problem' well in the first place (he and Halliburton said that 5" would have been a lot safer), compouneded by not fully cementing to surface. Alwo read the NYT article that indicated that BP got an internal exception to use the grade of casing that they did....

However, I can't listen to the hearings - so didnt' hear the bit about the hangar lockdown. Can you elaborate, please?

PS - the guy who had the approval on the casing plans won't get interviewed till July when they can do it in person.

Edited to add link:

Apparently the BOP had been leaking fluid previously as well....

tt, go here:
It's an audio transcript of the testimony of Mark Hafle during the hearings in Kenner La. Near the end(you can scroll down) you will hear Howco lawyer ask about the centralizers and another lawyer ask about the lockdown not being run.

I got a real uneasy feeling early on when the discussion centered on the decision to displace the mud out of the well.

As the full dimensions of this disaster become more obvious, there is likely to be a tidal wave of outrage against the entire industry, not just BP.
If so, the industry needs to come up with some very convincing changes quickly that will satisfy the public, so that offshore drilling does not get prohibited entirely.
Mandatory relief wells, acoustically actuated BOPs as well as mandatory demonstrations of the BOP are all part of industry best practice somewhere outside the US. Compensation structures that emphasize work quality rather than simply schedule need to be as well. Maybe industry needs to step up now and do more than the necessary, to prevent draconian new rules.

Separately, the discussion here has highlighted that this well had a number of design and operating items that were perhaps acceptable but not best practice. Would it help to have a cumulative measure of deviations, so that the rig managers get a sense that they are gradually getting away from the green zone and that their safety margin is compromised? Clearly there was some awareness of this on the rig, evidenced by the reported comment by one of the drillers that indicated he was looking at the BOP as a salvation if the well misbehaved during the mud removal. The BP people on the rig may not have had enough insight or experience, nor any way to tell that the problems might be serious. Is there a way to make the situation evident to all or is the fix to prohibit oil company men from interfering during drilling operations?

I have worked as a regulatory engineer on a couple of offshore platforms. The laws are there. All that is needed is for someone to enforce the laws that are on the books now. By the time you get down through the screen of the USCG, the screen of the MMS, and the screen of the classification society, every square inch of the rig has been covered.

I have worked as a regulatory engineer on a couple of offshore platforms. The laws are there. All that is needed is for someone to enforce the laws that are on the books now. By the time you get down through the screen of the USCG, the screen of the MMS, and the screen of the classification society, every square inch of the rig has been covered.

Well, how about requiring a relief well, like they do in Canada?

Matt Simmons Tells Bloomberg Only Way To Contain Oil Leak Is With Small Nuclear Bombs, "Top Kill" Is Just A Distraction

Looks as if Matt Simmons believes this TOPKILL is a sideshow and a waste of time. The real leak may be some several miles away creating this huge plume down 4,000 feet 400 feet thick and miles long and wide. Simmons thinks the US GOVT should let the military take over the operation and get BP out of the picture all together. I am surprised none of the TOD editors are not looking into this at all.

To me this LMRP is just another waste of time.


Open note from Matt Simmons posted at

…“In my opinion, what most likely happened when one of the largest surges of oil as gas blew out the BOP and within seconds, began melting down one of the world’s most technically advanced deepwater rigs ever built is that just the BOP and wellhead got tossed far away from the well bore but the riser which was attached to the rig floor was separated from the wellhead/BOP.

“What all the black crap coming out to create these plumes are is the oil from the reservoir and it is staying so deep under the ocean surface that only the recent tests by NOAA research vessels finally saw these giant plumes rapidly spreading across the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico.

“BP is in total denial that this could be real.

“It is time for the government to ask BP to step aside and bring the military into to managing this colossal failure of judgment by BP.

“Spread this news as we all need to better understand what is really happening.

“Very tragic story.



If the BOP and wellhead got "tossed far away from the well bore" than what have all those ROVs been working on during the Top Kill? Sorry, Matt, but you are starting to sound like the crazies who say the moon landing was faked.

This is starting to make me wonder how sound his analyses of Gahwar actually are....

There are already multiple stories about additional plumes underwater, confirmed by scientists who are not in the employ of BP or the US government. So the additional huge plumes are already confirmed.

Gulf Oil Spill: Scientists Discover Massive New Sea Oil Plume

Gulf oil spill: Scientists find second oil plume | Greenspace | Los Angeles Times

USF researchers find new underwater plume from gulf oil spill - St. Petersburg Times

Gulf Oil Spill: 22-Mile Underwater Plume Approaches Rich Waters, Could Poison Food Chain

Despite what anyone else might think there are actually multiple additional plumes underwater. This is already proven, despite NOAA and the Obama administration deliberately downplaying this news. What is the source of these plumes? Could it be the main well? If so, doesn't that also argue for a flow rate far higher than admitted by BP thus far? Is it even remotely possible that something else is now occurring or do we just dismiss that idea out of hand because it seems too incredible to consider?

More than a week ago, I was told by persons within the industry who refused to have their name associated with the rumor, that Halliburton told BP there was a problem, that BP locked Halliburton out of the control room, and that BP then came out later and had determined that everything was ok so they proceeded with removing the driller's mud. That rumor was considered beyond incredible just 10 days ago yet under oath Thursday BP admitted there had been a "spat" on the rig a few hours before the explosion between BP and its subcontractors and that BP had then made a bad decision in removing the driller's mud. If that is not confirmation of exactly what had been a rumor just 10 days before, I don't know what is.

BP has a proven track record of throwing safety to the winds. Two oil refinery explosions in Texas City in the last decade, three separate Alaskan oil pipeline leaks, and numerous other problems over the last decade are proof of a culture of incompetence and corner-cutting at BP. Would BP have drilled without a permit? Most of us would think not, but things have become so bizarre here and BP has been so obtuse to the public throughout this event that I no longer know what to think. I no longer can trust anything BP says here, starting with the events of that day (BP's story has now changed multiple times), the flow rate (1000 BPD, 5000 BPD, most recently 14000 BPD), and now their stories about what they are doing to control this. Everything BP says ought to be questioned. If you don't question it, I'd have to question your own rationality at this point.

I don't know what to think of Simmons claim but given the verification of at least two more huge oil plumes, there are serious questions that need to be asked here, regardless of whether all this additional oil came from one fracture or two. And if it turns out to be two sources, especially if one was abandoned illegally by BP a few months ago (another rumor that has been floating around Houston), then it's time to impeach Obama (for either sheer incompetence or deliberate collusion with BP - take your pick), nationalize BP, seize all its US based holdings, tell Britain to turn over the rest (or we light a fire under them too), and then auction off the pieces for as much money as can be raised. Every BP stockholder and every BP bondholder should be wiped out at this point as the cost of this disaster cannot even be measured yet and will very likely be far, far, far beyond BP's total market cap. And the health impacts of all this will be felt for decades to come. Of course that is not what will happen. BP will be protected by the $75 million damage cap and Obama will stand behind BP, right before the November elections. Obama is going to go down in history as being a worse president than George Bush, something no one even thought was possible just a few years ago. Obama as the ultimate corporation protector - isn't that a laugh? Welcome to fascist America, the marriage of corporations and the state.

Fact - there are plumes in the deep GOM that appear to have HC's in them.

Assumption - said plumes are dense with oil

Conclusion - that much oil couldn't have come from the borehole.

It's the part in the middle that bothers me....Perfectly good fact combined with a faulty assumption = poor conclusion.

This makes NO sense at all - but it is just reported speech on a blog. No idea if it is accurately what he wrote.

If you listen to the TV interview he gave (linked above or below I think) with Matt speaking direct, then its not as crazy as this at all.

Need the man to post here himself. . . . could be a false flag, simple misunderstanding, chinese whispers . . .


I'd like to suggest that someone put up a page w/ actual facts along w/ citations for the sources! Searching in the website is hopeless.

Somewhere that I can't find now I noticed a claim that the reservoir is at 13,000 psi and 180 F accompanied by the statement that 180 F is unusually cold.

The statement about temperature is simply wrong. GOM average gradient is about 1.1 F/100 ft so assuming 40 F at sea floor, reservoir at 180 F at 13,000 ft BML (Below Mud Line) would be typical. Deepwater is cooler than some areas of the shelf, but this temperature is not unusual.

The assertion of a 13,000 psi reservoir pressure is troubling. If correct, it goes a long way towards explaining what went wrong. I'd like to know how accurate that number is. Where did it come from?

Ballpark estimate of overburden is 15,000 psi (1 lb/ft of sediment + .45 lb/ft of seawater). 13,000 psi is 85% of overburden. In the absence of better data, I use 85% of overburden as an estimate of the frac gradient.

For the layman the frac gradient is the mud pressure which will cause the wellbore to fail by bursting the well. The symptom of this is "return losses" which I've noticed mentioned as having occurred. If the 13,000 psi reservoir pressure is accurate, the Macondo prospect was right at the edge of blowing out all on it's own w/o any help from BP. This has happened in the past, but human beings weren't around at the time. We only know it happened because there's no oil in the trap when we drill into it..

I noticed some naive statements about the fluid coming out of the reservoir. If I get verification of the 13,000 psi I'll calculate (Batzle & Han equations) the ratio of oil and gas at various depths as gas comes out of solution on the assumption that GOR is saturation for a 35 API oil at reservoir conditions. This will be in the form of a graph, so I'll want some help posting it.

There is considerable fractionation of the oil as it changes temperature and pressure. This is important to the creation of the oil plume in the water column, but a much more complex problem than I have code to solve. Doubtless this will become a significant area of future research.


13,000 psi formation pressure estimated from leaked scout ticket (posted on another blog) that showed last section of well was drilled with 14.1# mud, but was weighted up to 14.4# at which point there was a lost circulation event. Like many wells in the GOM deepwater, Macondo faced narrow margins - just look at all the liners that had to be run.

Good enough for what I'm going to do.

That's less than 300 psi change in pressure!

Guess I should check my 3D GOM pressure model to see what it shows.

If the 13,000 psi reservoir pressure is accurate, the Macondo prospect was right at the edge of blowing out all on it's own w/o any help from BP.

Someone (apparently GeoNola) posted a note earlier to the effect that there was a very small difference in mud weight--between the weight that would cause the formation to break down and between the weight that would result in a blowout.

A pretty good analogue would be the "Coffin Corner," for jet aircraft. As they fly closer to their operational ceiling, the margin between stall speed and Mach Buffet (as the aircraft approaches the speed of sound) gets smaller and smaller. If memory serves, the difference between the two for the U2 at close to its operational ceiling was something like 5 knots or so.

pulaskite wrote:
Somewhere that I can't find now I noticed a claim that the reservoir is at 13,000 psi and 180 F accompanied by the statement that 180 F is unusually cold.

GeoNola estimates ~13,500 psi for original reservoir pressure perhaps reduced a bit currently as the well drains.

On May 21, 2010 Figure 2 in What caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster? indicates the reservoir pressure is 13,000 psi.

GeoNola estimates the reservoir temperature at 200 F.

The statement that the temperature is unusually low came from AlanfromBigEasy on May 24, 2010:

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

Reference to formation temperature being 180 F on May 24, 2010:

a. According to information given to the team that is tasked to estimate the flow, the pressure in the reservoir is about 12,000 psi, but only 180 Fahrenheit, which surprised both of us (TOD bloggers: is this credible?)

I recall specifically that I got the 180F figure through the team estimating flow. I think, but cannot recall specifically, that I got 13,000 psi reservoir pressure from the same source.


I think the issue of the solubility of gas in oil is one of the major things that was confusing people trying to estimate flowrates based on the video images. Could you work out how much the volume of oil will reduce, due to gas coming out of solution, as the pressure drops from the sea floor to sea surface? Seafloor pressure is 2100 psi (15 Mpa).

I'm also curious about what happens inside the blowout preventer. Assuming a 6000 psi pressure drop, from 8100 psi to 2100psi, how does the gas to oil ratio change?

AlanfromBigEasy tried to summarise some of the data on the blowout.

One thing he said that confused me was ' ...lots of natural gas (3,000 GOS, 10,000 GOS is considered a gas well). ' Does this mean a gas to oil ratio of 3000 scf / bbl?

Here is a picture from the Times-Picayune showing the different casing widths being used in the well.

I'm using it to try to estimate flow velocities in the well just below the wellhead. There appear to be three possible flowpaths.
1/ Annulus between the 16 inch and 9 5/8 inch casing.
2/ Between the 9 5/8 inch casing and the drillpipe. I don't know the diameter of the drillpipe so I'm guessing 4 inches.
3/ Within the drillpipe. I'm guessing an internal diameter of 3 inches.

I'd apreciate any corrections people might have.

A significant shortcoming with these schematics that BP produces is that they don't convey the true scale of the problem. I have rescaled the image to to make the depth of the water consistent with the length of the drillship Discovery Enterprise.

Cool graphic!

Very nice -- thanks. Now if the riser were properly scaled we probably couldn't even see it. Oh, and the BOP would be much smaller.

Yes - I scaled the distance between the two - the details would be lost if everything were to scale.

Now you need to add the well bore down to the formation.

I second that. Perhaps a separate one, same scale, so as not to make the pic too long. Great graphic!!

Thanks for illustrating one of my gripes. BP is horrible at messaging. Perhaps the worst ever seen. I remain convinced it is not intentional. Why I do not know. Implying challenges are gigantically more difficult because of being "5,000 FEET UNDER THE SURFACE" is basically screaming a confession to the public BP had no business being down there in the first place (perhaps true; perhaps not, but not the message the offshore industry wants to be screaming at the top of their lungs: "WE DON'T BELONG DOWN THERE! )

More questions concerning the Deepwater BP disaster:

1 - How much are the NOCs (National Oil Companies) loving this little hiccup from a major IOC (Independent Oil Company)?

2 - Does this change the ball game between IOCs and NOCs?

3 - NOCs already have the upper hand on global reserves over IOCs. Does this make their hand even stronger?

I don't know, but after Ixtoc, Pemex paid out exactly zero in damage claims, claiming sovereign immunity.

Excellent questions. And I'm wondering how it is going to increase the difficulty/cost of working w/ NOC's that have deepwater assets.

I just learned that the riser insertion tube has been removed, why?

They are preparing to cut the riser away at the BOP stack - so soon there will be no oil flowing there. It will all be coming from the top of the BOP. They may also need some of that apparatus for the LMRP capture operation.

they removed it before operation top kill. didn't want to suck up all the drilling mud shooting out of the riser I guess.

One thing I would like to incorporated into the CFR's is model testing of the BOP. This would similar to what architects and civil engineers do when they build a skyscraper. They build a model and shake it and blow on it to get the response of the system. Naval architects do this when they model test ships. A model would show what would happen if the shears didn't work. Also, if a blowout occurred where would the oil go and what could be done to prevent pollution of the shoreline.

The industry is relying too much on untested simulation for answers.

Can someone comment on the validity of this Matt Simmons claim?

"Last Sunday, National Underwater Labs sponsored by NOAA confirmed reports of a second fissure about 5-7 miles from the original. This new fissure appears to be releasing a plume the size of Delaware and Maryland combined! He went on to state that “the plume from the riser is minor thing… the best estimate is about 120,000 barrels of oil per day”."

NOAA confirmed these reports? I find it doubtful.

I don't know if Simmons is a total quack. Love the site, love the commentary here. I used to do control instrumentation work for refineries back in the 80's before moving into the IT world.

I don't know if Simmons is a total quack.

First off, Simmons was CEO of one of the largest Energy Investment Bank in the world....Simmons International. He has been around for decades and knows everyone in the business.

Secondly, Simmons was the first to write a White Paper about the largest oil fields in the world back in the early 2000's. He also wrote the book about Saudi Arabia titled, "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy", which can be found here:

Now, I am not saying Matt Simmons is correct, but it is silly that none of the TOD editors are looking into this knowing how much respect Simmons has gained over the past decade on peak oil and etc.

Again...I think this FOCUS on BP and this LMRP plan is a complete waste of time, and Simmons is probably more correct than BP about this large plume several miles away coming from a leak about 120,000 barrels a day.

Thanks SRS for the bio on Simmons. If NOAA knows about this second leak I would assume there would be a body of evidence of it in "the news" and there would be some speculation about its cause and the effects it is having in the Gulf. Interesting that there appears to be no news items related to it.

So what you are saying is that the team of experts who estimated the flow (including the guy who first said it was up to 100k BOPD) and who has come up with 12-19k range and who answer to every federal agency and up to the President are incompetent and that all the agencies who are in Houston and all other departments have ignored this big leak. So these same people are going to be asked to set off a nuclear explosive. That would really be scary. Maybe they will, but they won't tell us! They will say it was an unexpected earthquake. Of course ,even if we wait until the relief well is completed we will find out if he is correct as oil will keep on coming to the surface. How does his resume have anything to do with this issue? I'd put more faith in Howard Hughes if he was still around!

I agree with your assertion of a body of evidence coming forward if there were a monstrous leak elsewhere.

There are mechanisms that can cause leaks far from a wellbore as it has happened many time on land. The ones I am familiar with occurred before production casing was set though.

Since casing had already been set to TD in this BP well, I don't know what the mechanics would have been to produce a monster blowout some long distance from the actual wellbore. I suppose a bad cement job (did I see somewhere that no CBL had been run yet?) combined with the extreme pressure of this monster reservoir (the 13,000# referenced in posts on TOD) could allow channeling and fracing of overburden. But, since this well was essentially "open" -i.e. blowing out very shortly after cementing - I wonder if the releasing of pressure up the riser would have allowed time for a channeled blowout behind casing and through the overburden.

If indeed there is a huge seep/leak/blowout away from the wellbore there is a big problem. The idea of a small nuke sounds ludicrous though. That would probably just move the problem elsewhere or increase the size of the problem since it would have no effect on the reservoir pressure.

You make more sense than Simmons.

Since Top Kill reportedly interrupted the surface emergence of the plumes from the riser, couldn't images of the surface of the Gulf of Mexico put this to rest?

Hopefully someone somewhere is still producing surface images.

Someone IS doing stuff with images. have been doing an excellent job of analysis of remote sensing products from MODIS and other NASA earth observation satellites (all NASA data is released to the public domain.) Their most recent post is here:

...and the highest resolution version of the MODIS image they're using (3200x2000 px!) is here:

Given that the leak at the known site site shows up unambiguously on the surface, why wouldn't another leak or seep at another location show up as well?

Do you *really* think we're not looking into every lead right now? If not, you don't know us very well, eh?

Let's put it this way--if this whole show is really all an elaborate ruse, well, that is a world changing event. In my opinion, this is not something we should walk into lightly--instead we should get the facts that we know straight, investigate sources, and find out what we actually do and do not know before impugning anyone's motives, beliefs, and/or credibility. guys are taking the Blog Journalism award seriously. It really is amazing that little ole' TOD is doing a better job covering all this than ANY OTHER NEWS SOURCE IN THE WORLD!

I haven't seen this addressed with the primary focus circulating around the BOP/riser and Hearings.

60 Minutes (Blowout: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster - May 16, 2010) had an interview with survivor Mike Williams;housing

With the schedule slipping, Williams says a BP manager ordered a faster pace.
"And he requested to the driller, 'Hey, let's bump it up. Let's bump it up.' And what he was talking about there is he's bumping up the rate of penetration. How fast the drill bit is going down," Williams said.
Williams says going faster caused the bottom of the well to split open, swallowing tools and that drilling fluid called "mud."
"We actually got stuck. And we got stuck so bad we had to send tools down into the drill pipe and sever the pipe," Williams explained.
That well was abandoned and Deepwater Horizon had to drill a new route to the oil.


1) How deep were they when the drill became lodged in the rock?
2) Was that well capped, given the loss of mud?
3) How far away from the "current site" was that well, if it was abandoned?
4) Could that well be seeping?

I'd be surprised to find a natural fissure of this magnitude would suddenly appear. I can think of three possibilities:

1. It is natural and has been going on, undetected, for a long time.

2. This well's outflow has been a lot higher than 12-19K BOPD for a long time.

3. Some other nearby drilling activity (capped test well?) has failed.

I've come to believe that while we might be skilled at operating ROVs at 5000ft depth, there's a lot more to be learned about how crude (and dispersants) behave at that depth.

There must be a database of drilling activity by location. Verifying or refuting #3 should be easy.

"Last Sunday, National Underwater Labs sponsored by NOAA confirmed reports of a second fissure about 5-7 miles from the original...."

Not what Simmons said, actually. Very sloppy reporting by TheIntelHub. I just watched the Bloomberg interview this story is based on. Simmons said what NOAA has confirmed are reports of a new plume, not of a second fissure. The "second fissure" is Simmons's own "logical conclusion" from the discovery of the new plume, not anything NOAA has confirmed.

(And he means National Undersea Research Center, not "National Underwater Labs"; a Web search yields no hits on that name except the Bloomberg interview.)

Story and video of the interview here:

I don't hve the link now but the scientist on that inspection tour simply reported on a low oxygen zone that they had not known about before in the GOM. Low oxygen not abnormally low and not dead. The guy has now later denied that he mentioned it as having anything to do with the oil well or that it even had any oil in it.

Simmons seems as mad as a moon barking dog. He has for some time been predicting the collapse of the world economy as energy supplies become more expensive. It gets him a great deal of publicity to be the richest person predicting doom in the near future. In this case he simply needs to get a better handle on the facts. This is not much different from the battleship / brass screw advocates.

During the press conf, I noticed that several times Admiral Landry stepped in and completed comments by Mr. Suttles by using the term "we". In particular, there was one point where she was speaking and made a comment to him along the lines of "we've been working on this for, what, 40 days now?"

Well, Admiral Landry, when you use the term "we" it will only sit well with me if you use it to mean the "we" which includes you, the Coast Guard you lead, and the American people you serve.

Keep your position , group memberships, and priorities straight, Admiral Landry. What you say in press conferences tends to reflect what you think, and I don't like the way I think you are thinking.

This whole Matt Simmons thing is scary. Unless he has been snorting too much he knows that (especially with this administration,actually with any) that nobody here would violate the nuclear treaties or risk the consequences. At least BP is not in on this one: "Well Mr. Suttles, given what you know, what is the probability of success of the nuclear option stopping the flow and as a followup how is that NEDIT (Nuclear Explosive Device Insertion Tool) coming along? "
Perhaps Iran or North Korea could do it for us as they do not seem too worried about treaties. What about all those missing suitcase nukes? Could get Jason Bourne to figure out a way to get one down there. Simmons sure is getting a lot of mileage and press on this one. Says as much about the mind set and education of people who actually listen too anything he says as it does about him.
Ah yes,the down side of too many news outlets, not enough real news to go around, and people believing what they see in the movies. Simmons must have a business angle to this.

This whole Matt Simmons thing is scary.


Putting on my tinfoil for a moment. I've encountered in other debates eg vaccination safety, where the most outrageous anti-vaccine loons often seem to get the most press, which of course makes it easy to dismiss them. In the process, other, more sane and evidence-based questions get drowned out, to a point where I sometimes wonder whether it is to the benefit of TPTB to have loud and outrageous opponents with high visibility whose ideas can easily be demolished...

For a start, I think at least the following deserve more press attention than Simmons:

1. More relief wells, as advocated by Alan and others here.
2. 'Show me' rule from Brazil
3. independent third party monitoring as proposed by Rockman

I'm seriously worried about them cutting down to 1 RW. Any chance of TODers doing some active advocacy on the issue? Alan?

I am pounding all of this stuff on twitter...and it is getting an audience. Do what you can folks.

Another point to make...

I agree that some beefed up regs re: casing design, BOP function, etc. need to be made, and w/o the independent 3rd party observer, it's still just regs that can be gotten around.

So how much of the current 'problem' isn't just apparant collusion between MMS and some IOC's, but how much is also gummin't cost-cutting? E.g. having said third parties available and trained appropriately is gonna cost $$. I don't know that Interior has been high on the list for budget increases lately..and as a sort of 'out of sight out of mind' department, may have had budgets sliced to the point where attempting to maintain regs was getting to be a losing proposition.

Just looked. Yes, you are attracting a following on Twitter. Keep it up.

I second, or third, advocacy regarding the relief well issue

The hard question about advocacy to resume the second relief well:

Who in the heck do we contact?

Thank you

Your congressperson:

pound the White House

but mainly TALK TO PEOPLE. TOD is about learning and discursive democracy...take it to others.

I'd add contact various media.

This morning the "science reporter" on NPR was referring to the relief wells currently being drilled. In general he sounded fairly reasonable, but the suspension of activity on the second well had obviously not been caught by him.

Earlier this week, engineers removed a mile-long siphon tube after it sucked up a disappointing 900,000 gallons of oil from the gusher. That’s over 22K barrels of oil. BP's expenses seem to commanding their priorities and actions.

11:32 a.m. Eastern time.

So what now? The ROV is going topside for his lunch break?

Cleanup workers are getting sick, but they could easily buy their own respirator. What is the problem? I'll tell you. I've worked as a painter and wearing one is damn uncomfortable. You can't shoot the sh_t with your partners. Older workers tease you. In short, these workers are getting sick, because they don't understand the forces that are working against them. I came to the oil drum hoping to get the word out. These workers need to understand the danger that they are in and either buy and wear a respirator, or admit that they don't have the balls to do hazardous work. Please, spread the word.

The onshore cleanup workers I've talked to said they were threatened with dismissal if they wore a respirator. Offshore workers tell me when they try to wear one someone with BP will immediately tell them there's no need, tests show air quailty is fine (veiled threat).

Think about the repercussions of even one onshore worker photographed wearing a "gas mask" on the beach. Never going to happen.

I see your point. I've met workers with permanent, nervous system damage due to inhaling organic mental hospitals. Please, tell your friend that I will look for him there, soon enough.

Ask anyone in NOLA about wearing a respirator in this heat. There are going to be a lot of sick people from mold down the road because they just couldn't hack it in a respirator.

Yes, NOLA has been hotter than South Texas the last few days. (In other words, hotter than usual)

From McClatchy's:

David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health who wrote the memo, raised the concerns on Tuesday, the day before seven oil spill workers on boats off the coast of Louisiana were hospitalized after they experienced nausea, dizziness and headaches.

Late Friday, the disaster response team sent four more workers to the hospital by helicopter, including two with chest pains.

In his memo to Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, Michaels said his agency has witnessed numerous problems at several work sites and staging areas through the Gulf Coast region.

"The organizational systems that BP currently has in place, particularly those related to worker safety and health training, protective equipment, and site monitoring, are not adequate for the current situation or the projected increase in clean-up operations," Michaels said in the memo.

"I want to stress that these are not isolated problems," he continued. "They appear to be indicative of a general systemic failure on BP's part, to ensure the safety and health of those responding to this disaster."

Michaels added that BP "has also not been forthcoming with basic, but critical, safety and health information on injuries and exposures."

I posted earlier on the Health and Safety implications ( how easy it was to get around the laws. Apparently not as easy as I thought, if the feds and the national media are on top of you...and it's an unchangeable part of your corporate culture.

I suspect that there are synergistic effects at work here between the heat and the chemical exposure. If it were one or the other, not so bad (this from someone who would leave the shop floor when the temperature was above 85 degrees, which is nasty with Toronto humidity. And I didn't have to wear a respirator.) The exposures may indeed be within the legal limits; the problem is that people's reactions are not uniform (and the limits would be higher for most chemicals if European regs were used.)

As for the question of protective gear: people in protective gear cannot work as hard as people in normal dress, particularly in extreme environments.(My brother is on the Riot Squad, and has to wear a respirator for extended periods.) They have to move more slowly, and be aware of how much energy they are expending. They would need Health and Safety Training, and training specifically for the conditions they will encounter in the Gulf. (My suspicion is that a full 8 hour shift would be impossible for most people, or that they would have to work escalating hours (4 hours/day the first week, 5 hours the second, etc.) to train up to it. I would also screen for high fitness and require a pulmonary function test; but that's just me, not BP (or even the US gov't.) Breaks and cool down periods would be helpful as well. Perhaps a supervisor monitoring air quality and temperature, and regulating the workload during the hottest hours of the day.

The more I think about it, the more it reminds me of the problems in using NBC suits in Iraq. Hugely difficult, even with young men in peak condition.


Maybe it's just me, but id say cleaning up oil full of all manner of hazardous components in this manner is not conducive towards health and safety regulations, never mind basic common sense...

I've worked all day in a respirator in the heat and humidity. You just have to block out the feelings coming to you from your mouth and nose area. You don't get blisters, because there is plenty of lubrication going on. But, after a while you get used to it!

My point is that it is the initial discomfort that one feels that is enough for many to take the mask off! The news that we need to spread is: "put on the damn mask and keep it on. Others people do it. You can, too."

Fishermen in their boats have a choice and are exposed to the worst fumes. But, (1) there is prejudice in the work place by people (usually, the old-timers) who won't wear one against those who do; (2) respirators are damn uncomfortable; (3) if you don't wear one during the months ahead, you will end up a burden to your family; (4) if you won't wear one, you can expect expensive and painful physical and mental suffering for the rest of your life.

My experience is that the old-timers just tease the hell out of you, but let you wear one in the end. Spread the word.

(1) there is prejudice in the work place by people (usually, the old-timers) who won't wear one against those who do; (2) respirators are damn uncomfortable; (3) if you don't wear one during the months ahead, you will end up a burden to your family; (4) if you won't wear one, you can expect expensive and painful physical and mental suffering for the rest of your life.

Aren't the old-timers subject to (3) and (4)?

What worries me is the report that BP is setting up tent cities and "flotels" so workers can live close to the work area. Does that mean they may be exposed to fumes 24 hours a day?

What do you think? The worst exposed suffer the most and don't last long in the profession past age 50. You are probably right about the living quarters near the water.

Hi Elbowgrease.

My point is that it is the initial discomfort that one feels that is enough for many to take the mask off!

The question here is not whether they want to keep the mask on. If proper safety protocols were in place, they would not be allowed to take the mask off. This is a job for the supervisor: to make sure the conditions are safe, and/or that the employees are wearing any required safety equipment. He should be disciplined by the employer and prosecuted by the government if he does not. It is part of the employee's job not to take unnecessary risks, and to perform their tasks safely. Employees can be disciplined for safety infractions.(In the "real world", this rarely happens to either management or employees. Luckily enough, the eyes of the world and the Federal Gov't are on Louisiana, as I mentioned in my post above.)

The news that we need to spread is: "put on the damn mask and keep it on. Others people do it. You can, too."

There are people who cannot wear a respirator: people with cardio-vascular problems and emphysema come to mind. There is an OSHA-required health history questionnaire that has to be filled out and passed by a Doctor before you can use a mask. Some states require a Pulmonary Function test as well.

Further, it is dangerous to wear the wrong type of mask. Unless employees are specially trained, they should not be selecting their own safety equipment.

My experience is that the old-timers just tease the hell out of you, but let you wear one in the end.

I know that hazing happens, and that there is frequently a culture of toughness in manual work(I once had the corner of a skid put on my steel-toed boot. With a forklift. Seemed funny at the time...) This is a case, however, where the workers have to stick together. When required, masks must be worn. By everybody. And the work pace must be adjusted to accommodate.


Seems to me that if the pipe and casing were pulled out, the earth would heal itself just like when a syringe is removed from a vein in a human the blood clots. Without removing it the blood drains completely.

OK, now imagine you have a bionic heart and your blood pressure is 23920/100. Then your mission should you choose to accept it is to remove a main artery fully intact from the heart to the end of your leg. Then you expect the blood flow to stop gushing out of said body and massive internal bleeding not to occur?!?

LOL, I hope your next 1 day and 14 hours of membership here are more productive!!

If you want ME to do that, I'm going to make the incision with an ROV...because the first thing that will happen is the jet of blood will cut right through about three cinderblock walls.


But it would make an impressive video on YouTube.

You do realize the Gaea Hypothesis is just a metaphor, right?

Back to the LMRP...and my one stupid question of the day...what are the risks involved in doing something like this? And whats the visibility going to be like for these ROVs once they start cutting into the BOP riser? OKv that was 2 stupid questions...sorry

Like any heavy rigging, it would be very easy to due further damage to the BOP.
The LMRP will be open and lowered from the drill ship and placed above the flow with ROV's assisting. We have to hope the casing is in very good shape below the BOP and has no damage. Fingers crossed and Oilman's luck are due!

The question of the hour! Not at all stupid.

Supposing that it works, they will have a large volume of oil, water & gas coming up the pipe they will have to handle. The gas will have to be flared to avoid another explosion. It shouldn't be as big a torch as the original fire, but close. Definitely a dangerous job. Doubtless many people will complain about BP taking every precaution to avoid new casualties.

Maybe BP should call in Bruce Willis. After all he's fearless and always succeeds ;-)

After the initial setup it becomes a question of how long they have to collect fluids before they can kill the well.

Does anyone know of link(s) to dimensioned schematics of the hardware from say 20 feet below the ocean floor to 20 feet above the original BOP valve. Also working diagrams of the internals of the LMRP and BOP valves that show how they connect to the risers and each other and the flow paths of the various fluids oil, gas and hydraulic. Just point me in the right direction and I’ll do the digging on my own time.

Sorry for the interruption to the main topic. Have been a member for a week or so and sent in a donation to keep the site up which I hope all newcomers will do as well. One member in an earlier comment mentioned that it would be nice if the media followed these comments and asked better questions. I concur with that but doubt they will. Some of my friends are paying almost no attention to this because the oil is not in their living rooms yet coming out of their wide screens. So media ignores that which their viewers ignore. That is no excuse for the administration and congress with a small a&c (thanks to a previous commenter for the idea they are making me sick). If we had just been attacked by North Korea would they all have taken the long holiday W/E off? This is a catastrophe that may be like the asteroid theory that killed the dinosaurs and DC investigates, talks, spins, fund raises, points fingers, parties and goes on vacation but NO meaningful sustained action. They seem paralyzed by the notion of 5000 feet down. It is a challenge I don’t mean to minimize but most of those who comment here are far from paralyzed rather they are quite pragmatic, energized and confident. As far as the spill mitigation, this is happening on the surface but the same government paralysis or ignorance seems to be in play as well. According to the DWH web site over 7800 ideas have been submitted for leak or spill mitigation (2 are mine). To this day I have not heard of 1 that has been used or made public. Why not categorized and put in a public database. Who knows maybe some could be picked up and implemented by others to at least help with the spill side of things. This secrecy and arrogance on the part of bp and the government is unacceptable and despicable.

Thanks to all you folks. Your confidence in your work and ideas is stimulating and reassuring. Your patience with those of us who have “invaded” your thought/idea streams is admirable. God Bless and stay safe. Dave

Ancillary Leak: When Matt Simmons speaks, I listen. His theory of a subsurface blowout is plausible and explains the observable facts. If you know anything at all about the Macondo well history, then you know there is a “lost circulation” zone above the high-pressure reservoir formation. Oil could be migrating through that friable shallow section and then up a salt weld or fault to the seafloor. Simmons is correct about the geology, and likewise correct that shutting in the Macondo wellhead achieves nothing. You have to kill the well at the reservoir, which is the purpose of BP drilling relief wells to intersect Macondo. His suggestion of using supertankers echoes a similar operation in the Persian Gulf and will ultimately come into play in the current disaster until Federal orders sooner or later

I think you mean to say the BP Macondo well or perhaps the Deepwater BP well located at the Macondo prospect; as I peruse the blogs I am seeing an increased use of the name Macondo for this oil spill/leak, which I am sure BP is pleased about.

I listened to the interview with Matt noted above.

I agree. LISTEN to the interview. What he said wasn't nearly as crazy as people have reported.

He wasn't very clearly spoken - some people who are good with written words are terrible out loud -

and if you hadn't read every post on TOD for the last 2 weeks you wouldn't have a clue what he meant.

BUT, his scenario seemed to me to be:

- casing was/is fractured/leaking/badly sealed some shallow distance below seafloor

- then accident, BOP partially closed, BOP or debris restricts flow near wellhead, creates backpressure.

- backpressure forces gas/oil out leaky area into permeable layer a bit below seafloor

- this flows along subsurface and comes up about 5 miles away as a massive seep

- this seep is bigger than the loss at the BOP and no-one is paying it any attention & he's mad about that.

Now, this seems a reasonable scenario to discuss politely among ourselves.

No reason to dismiss him as a nutter yet, from what he actually said.


I'd think it was the nuke idea that seems the strangest, especially since-

IF you have a leak far from the wellhead, as he says.
THEN a small nuke would not help; because the problem by it's nature is spread over a large area.

OK, I've checked a bit more, and I take back partially what I posted above.

the first phone interview is at

and that's what my comment above was based on. It seems ok.

But then I found the other - in this interview, what he says seems really crazy:

this is where he seems to say that the BOP has moved and the wellhead is elsewhere.

Now I'm just as confused as all the rest of us. :-)


As I wrote in the previous thread, Simmons should let them close up the bar he's drinking in, and go home to sleep it off. He's embarrassing himself.

Matt Simmons on Gulf blowout

Ben and others, I’m confused too.
Let’s start at the beginning….

This week Matt made a couple of appearances on MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show.
I am puzzled by many of Matt’s key points, which I have not seen expressed elsewhere, nor have his striking comments been picked up on (not by mainstream media and until today, not even here at TOD).

First, Matt did a phone interview on “Day 33”, which I presume was Monday, May 24th. Matt joins the discussion at 6:15 and immediately makes the point that he is even more pessimistic than he was two weeks ago.
Matt wonders if they are monitoring “the wrong place” (ie. a larger leak is occurring elsewhere) and then mentions that the volume of the leak could be 120,000 barrels per day (7:50), which is ten times the recent upward revision.

He mentions that there may be no way to stop this thing, in which case we’d have to let the oilfield exhaust itself, and he cites 9,000 days as a timeline (8:10).
Matt seems to accept the premise that the well is unstoppable and suggests having the Navy drop a bomb down the well-hole (8:45).

Former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer then joins the conversation and supports Matt’s suggestion of involving the military (10:00). He acknowledges that Matt’s bomb suggestion “sounds a little bit crazy, but explain…” and makes the succinct point that (just as on Wall Street) “we have socialized the risk and privatized the gain” (10:40).

When Matt rejoins he says we must continue drilling for oil but “we just can’t do ultra-deep formations” (11:25).

Here is the link to this interview:

In the second show, Matt appeared alongside Nicholas Pozzi in a video interview on May 26.

Matt says, “I still believe that what happened is that the riser blew off the wellhead and is hooked onto the rig so you’ve got a mile of oil inside that’s fairly light concentrate and that’s what they’re actually trying to get out.”
He then says that BP “shouldn’t delude themselves” that that’s the hole, but rather they need to go exploring to see what’s caused the huge plume of oil several miles away, adding that he wonders if the casing blew out (1:55).

Matt says that what we’re all watching is “the tiny leak” and restates his figure of 120,000 barrels a day (2:25). Matt then refers to the giant plume of oil and a huge layer of goo lying on the ocean floor (about 6 miles away?) and wonders if “that’s where the wellhead is” (2:45).

Nick then enters the conversation, affirms Matt’s observations and points out that O-rings were not used in the concrete casing and therefore believes that the absence of O-rings allows for multiple leaks and limits the prospects for a successful top kill.
Pozzi further suggests inserting the 4” line and then ballooning it with a liquid (4:25).

Both Matt and Nick suggest using “smart pipe” to draw up the oil, then separate and store the oil on tankers, which should be at the center of the spill (6:00).

Matt rejoins the conversation and points out that they should have followed the riser to see if it’s hooked to the rig instead of to the wellhead.
Both Matt and Nick seem utterly convinced that the giant plume of oil “didn’t come from that little dinky hole.”
Matt then says that they’re basically chasing a mouse and behind them’s a tiger” (7:30) and restates his idea of getting the Navy to insert a bomb, citing Red Adair’s successes.
Both lament the delays & false starts and concur in seeing the need for this to become “a military operation.”

Here is the link to the video interview:

Third, Matt did a telephone interview for Bloomberg interview on May 28th (4 mins) during which he strongly recommends involving the military and suggests using a Russian-style nuclear explosion at the bottom of the wellbore.
He also points out the urgency of sucking up the deepwater oil plume onto tankers before the hurricane season sets in:

My confusion comes from Matt’s assertion of the volume (we’ve seen other high estimates, but not 120,000) and especially his assertion that riser might not even be attached to the wellhead. His claim that the underwater plume is “a larger area than Delaware and Maryland… sticky orange-brown stuff” (1:10) seems to be without substantiation.

This article indicates that NOAA later said that the Pelican’s observations “were premature” and says that the plume is 20 miles by 6 miles by 100 feet, nothing like the size claimed by Matt:

I wish Matt would slow down a bit and provide clear supporting evidence for his assertions.

Thanks for considering this.

-- Rick M in Canada

Not so much technical musings. Perhaps the failure of the top kill has taken wind from the sails of the putative innovators both on TOD and elsewhere.

Let's sit back and watch Dancing With The Stars while the oil gushes ... somewhere else.

Cutting off the riser (carefully) will reveal the drill string and much else about the BOP. Depending on how this cutting is done a certain forensic analysis of the BOP and downhole will be ascertainable.

In the meantime, I wonder why BP isn't pumping water downhole to cause the natural gas to form crystaline hydrate deposits inside the various risers/liners/etc. A blockage is a blockage, right?

The simple answer would be leakages in the BOP manifolds and would cause the water to largely bypass the flow of oil and gas. If the leak is through the drill sting and out where the shear rams cut it, the effect of hydrate crystals would certainly stem the flow over the months that the relief well will require.

If BP is clever they can remove the bent riser and leave a significant amount of drill string above the BOP so as to be able to manipulate it. It is indeed a highway to the center of the well and is an asset that should not be abandoned cavalierly in order to facilitate what is likely to be yet another BP publicity stunt.

BTW, I don't know what Simmons has been drinking but I want some!

This may have already been addressed (too many comments/threads to search them al): what is the probability that a single relief well effort fails?

The government is making a lot of noise lately about how they ordered a second relief well to be drilled for redundancy, but this raises many questions in my mind. Is the probability of failure of a single relief well 0.1% or 10%? What is the range/certainty on those failure estimates? How many prior relief wells have been drilled (and how many under roughly similar circumstances) and how many failed? If a relief well fails by missing the mark, to what extent can they simply back it up and try again like you would if you screw up parallel parking the first time (for lack of the knowledge required to phrase this questions correctly!)? What is the rough cost of one such relief well under these circumstances?

The reason for all these questions is that I'm trying to get a handle on the risk management picture here: either it's virtually certain that a single relief well works, in which case this is nothing more than political posturing (and I'd like to know that), or there's a real chance that BOTH relief wells fail and then we're waiting another two months while they try again. Why not drill a third relief well for added redundancy, or a fourth?

Basically, I want to peek behind the curtain and get some idea of the risk management decisions being made by the government: are they not drilling a third relief well simultaneously because they think the $20 million cost isn't worth a 5% chance that the oil continues to spill for a further two months, or is it $75 million for a 0.1% chance? We know that the government DID require a second relief well and did NOT require a third, so we can begin to interpolate the risk/cost threshold they're using for their decisions--that would be an interesting number to know!

No need to do probablity and statistics on this one, common sense will do. They've stopped the second relief well so that makes the thinking easier.

The chance that the lone relief well will get a drill bit stuck, shutdown for various maintenance issues/ unexpected problems, experience deadly kicks, get hit by a hurricane or erupt like a volcano from hell...100% based on previous drills in this formation.

We need some clarity on the second relief well or lack thereof.

Are they drilling it or what?

BP talking head on the Sunday shows said that they were drilling a second relief well.

Confirmation of second relief well stopped to get BOP (scroll down).

We need success rate of relief well drilling, pronto. :)

Last year, in Australia, it took five attempts (from two well bores as I understand it). Shallower water and shallower total depth. Few geologies more difficult than this one (see reservoir pressure and original well issues).

Per Rockman, week plus just to back up for second try on "last foot".

I would like to see an editorial stance by TOD calling for more relief wells. Perhaps raise the issue specifically for discussion before deciding, but I see pretty much unanimous agreement.

There was a post yesterday that the day before yesterday, BP brought a new DW rig into the GoM for a specific well (which it is not banned from drilling).

Best Hopes,


Yes, a concise editorial would definately help spread the word.

But if it's too technical the masses will doze off before they get the message. Also avoiding lengthy cost analysis would make cost a non-issue.

If my children were sick, I would spend every penny I had, then I would steal to try and save them.

I support the idea of a dedicated TOD editorial thread giving the reasons why we absolutely must have more.

Among other things, it will make it easier for us less informed mortals with no credentials, to just send the link to 'persons of influence'.

I don't think the issue is having more. It is just not letting world oil production drop too much.

Some of the major issues I see are

1. Our financial system depends on economic growth--without it debt defaults skyrocket. In the last four years, we have already seen a lot of debt defaults. If world oil production goes down, there will likely be even more debt defaults (not necessarily higher prices!!). It will push the world financial system further over the cliff. Of course, with Greece, Spain, Portugal, things are already headed this way.

2. Without our international financial system, international trade would be a real problem. International trade is needed for manufacturing every complex thing today--computers, cars, transformers for the electrical grid.

3. Oil is very much a necessary part of the "green revolution" that enabled our current population level. With very much of an oil reduction (or oil not going the right places), we could see major impacts in the food supply. Oil is used for everything from running tractors, to transporting food to market, to refrigerating food on way to market, to fertilizers, to herbicides, to pesticides, to irrigation, to seed production.

So, in my view, people deciding to use less wouldn't really fix our current problems. It is more an issue of our current system falling apart without sufficient oil. Our system really needs long term growth in oil supply. Oil supply has been flat since late 2004 or early 2005, and this is putting a strain on the financial system already. Any more decrease, and our recession will be a lot worse than what we have had to date.

Paul Kedrosky dropped my a note just now to say that he heard they were going to start with the 2nd RW beginning next week--still looking for a source on that though. Would love to know where they're getting the BOP--or if they're using one of the drills up rigs (post-moratorium)

Are BP's Last, Best Hope Relief Wells Sure Things?

I didn't know BP had stopped the second relief well--as of this morning, the US gov't was still talking about how they'd ordered a second well drilled. Either way, the probability of failure of a single relief well is still something I'd love to hear hard data on--Rockman or HO, any insight? If it is correct that BP has stopped the second well, then the probability of failure of a single relief well seems all the more significant (and would still give great insight into the risk/cost balancing going on behind the scenes in the government and at BP)...

From news reports they're talking about it being a "sure thing," but what does that equate to? What is the historical failure rate--and if that isn't known from hard data of past experiences under similar circumstances, then what are they basing the "sure thing" assumption on??

Good questions. It took Pemex 2 relief wells to do the job in 300 feet in 1979. This should be much harder, especially since we know there was what one (or more?) failed drill attempts on this field, right?


I have questions too. I don't have technical anything, however, I think it would make an excellent thread topic.

Eventually a relief well will work. (At least historically that is what has solved "out of control" blowouts)

However, it is the number of attempts needed that is the unknown.

Some blowouts have required 3 attempts.

I believe I read that another one required 5 attempts.

The reasons for these unsuccessful attempts are probably technical and worthy of trying to understand.

If we have drilled only 2 wells, and they don't work, then we will have to wait several months for another well to be drilled.

The August date, I believe, is when the first well will be completed and hence, is the 'earliest possible estimate'?

including the fact that the relief well is a directional well, I would say that the chance of encountering trouble that will delay its availability is high, along the lines that you suggested. I am astonished that the government has allowed the second well to be stopped. I can only hope that another rig with its own BOP stack is headed that way to resume drilling.

Jeff – I’ll offer you my very biased view of such stats. I make up probabilities of success almost daily. This well has a 30% chance of finding commercial oil. This well has a 90% chance of getting a good csg shoe test. That reservoir has a 60% chance of producing 1 million bbl of oil. And what formula do I utilize to calc these numbers? None…I pull those numbers out my butt just like others generate the vast majority of these stats. If I want to put a positive spin on some effort I’ll offer a 90% chance. I don’t like the idea I’ll say 15%. Same idea…just a different opinion on my part.

I’ll tend to look at reasonable possibilities…not probabilities. Is it possible for one RW to get the job done as quickly as two RW’s? YES. Is it possible that the one RW well could take a kick or lose circulation, stick drill pipe and have to be abandoned. YES. And if the RW is lost and we take an extra few months to kill the blowout will BP and the gov’t say they thought they PROBABLY made the correct decision.? Well I will give you a 100% probability of that happening.

Probability is used to study populations…not one time events. BP said the probability of the top kill working was 70%. That means if they did the top kill 100 times it would work 70 times. And that might well be a correct projection. But they weren’t doing 100 top kills …they were doing just one. So what odds would I have given the top kill? 50/50…it was either going to work or not. That was a joke, BTW. But seriously how would I have characterized the top kill: it probably wasn’t going to work. And if I were forced to put a number to it: 15% chance. That way when it failed, as I expected, I wouldn’t look too incompetent.

How many RW wells would I have chosen? I told Alan some time ago I would have gone with 3. A compromise between saving money and protecting the environment. I wouldn't argue my choice was right or wrong. But if it were my responsibility then I would have to live with the outcome. I get paid to make such decisions all the time. Doesn't mean I make the right decision all the time. I just try to.

The PIDOOMA method of approximation was taught to me by a professor years ago: Pulled It Directly Out Of My Ass. :)

Rockman: Your biases have turned out to be chillingly accurate. So I just sent my Senators emails demanding three relief wells. My House member can't count that high unless it involves campaign contributions... kinda a campaign contribution idiot savant.

Rough cost for an incomplete relief well (all but one will be incomplete) - $100 million.

However, $50 million or so can be salvaged by using upper liners, etc. for a later production well (*IF* BP can ever get a permit for this formation).

Risk is location specific. Wild well was 1.5 months over schedule. A single data point EXCEPT a superior rig (just drilled world's deepest well) had multiple failures on the way down.


It's hard to discuss the well chances without knowing the geology/engineering of the well. You'll notice that the proposed casing design of the relief well is different from that of the blowout well. It looks like there's a string that they won't have to set, due to knowledge learned on drilling the blowout well.

Being a geoscientist, I'm interested in the geologic maps and the pressures. There are often higher pressure zones over lower pressure zones in many areas of the Gulf. I've assumed that this is here as well. This is why you have to use so many strings of pipe. The deepwater exploration phase in the Gulf of Mexico started when it was discovered there was oil beneath the salt. Thirty years ago, if you would have proposed this in a meeting you would have been hung out to dry, btw. I don't work the deepwater GoM, so I'm only vaguely familiar with the specifics of the oil plays.

As Rockman has already mentioned about the relief wells, most of my thoughts here are redundant but here goes anyway. There are two methods of killing a flowing well with relief wells. One, go after the borehole, deep, but higher than the problem formation. Hard to find the borehole for obvious reasons, but once you get there, it's easier to control the pressures and the flow. This is the plan of the current relief well. The second relief well is to penetrate the actual problem formation near the out of control well. A "formation kill" if you will. The angles and depths would be different than the first relief design. With the "formation kill" it's a "get close enough and flood the formation with heavy mud". Both I would consider to be "bottom kill" wells. So, what's with the second relief well design, then? Was the second relief well by BP, the one that was suspended, that second relief well designed to go to the problem formation? Or was it designed to simply hit the same spot as the first relief well, near the 9 5/8" csg of the blowout well? I don't know.

Finding the well bore is tough, but that casing should be detectable at some distance away. This distance is a number I'd like to know. I would imagine it's probably on the order of 50 feet or so, but it could be double or half that.

I once sat on a relief well in the GOM. The rig that had the blowout didn't sink as it was a jackup unit, but it was burned beyond recognition. Looking at black hulk in the morning mist was spooky. No rig or remaining legs higher than the barge deck. Our blowout ended up "bridging over" (sealed itself) and the relief well never had to kill the formation.

Anytime you have a blowout and you shut in the well, you run the risk of having a subsurface blowout. Pressures within the well rise high enough to blow through the shallow casing outwards. The formation fluids (oil, gas, saltwater) will then choose a path of lease resistance, such as up along the outside of the casing to the surface (mudline here) or along a shallow sand. In the case of the blowout of gas the relief well I sat on, the gas did both. Before the well bridged over at depth (think of the sands being produced with the gas, and the overlying shale or mudrock collapsing from the weight, sealing off the hole) it was estimated that about 3 Bcfg of gas charged a shallow sand around 4000'. The shallow gas sand was a hazard for later wells drilled in the field.

In the case of this well, I think it's possible (some say probable) that the oil/gas is coming up around the 7" casing. The first relief well, as it approaches the actual 7" casing of the original blowout well far above the productive horizon, will discover either pipe or oil and pipe. If it's the oil, then this will indicate the cement failure we've heard about. It would imply that the inside of the 7" casing is still intact. The operations of the relief well at this point will be interesting, no doubt.

Nice description - thanks for sharing your experience.

Small correction:
Early Deepwater GOM exploration got going in the 1980's and was not focused on sub-salt until the late 90's.

Early non-subsalt deepwater fields include Joliet (first TLP), Auger, Mars, Ursa, Brutus, Hoover-Diana, etc.

Subsalt plays really started on the shelf in the early 90's (Exxon had an early sub-salt deepwater discovery just NE of Macondo). The subsalt plays in deepwater really got going big-time in the late 90's and represents a large portion of recently drilled prospects.

Macondo is not a sub-salt prospect by-the-way.

"Macondo is not a sub-salt prospect by-the-way."

I keep seeing that, but aren't they haven't to drill through the salt to get to the prospect? I understand what you said about the salt canopy not being continuous (or contiguous) but I'm not sure of how this applies here. Is there no salt for these wells to drill through, or there is, but the salt doesn't impact the trapping mechanism?

The currently active sub-salt plays in the deepwater GOM are underneath "allochthonous" salt, that is old salt that has flowed out near the seafloor like a submarine glacier overtop of younger sediments. There are windows between individual salt sheets where you don't need to drill through salt. Some structures are trapped against salt, some aren't. In many areas these salt glaciers actually get re-buried and deformed by even younger sediments.

All of this is quite different than "pre-salt" sub-salt plays like deepwater Santos basin, Brazil, where the reservoirs are older than the overlying salt which, although deformed, is "autochthonous," that is: in it's original stratigraphic position vertically.

Macondo is to the east of the main GOM allochthonous salt canopy where individual salt glaciers never coalesced over the whole area.

Hope that helps.

I don't have any special knowledge about Matt Simmons or his fissure, or his nuke. The story as reported by main stream media (MSM) is, IMHO, more revealing about MSM than about Matt, or fissures or using nukes on wells.

A speculation about Matt. He has been in the past an insider in the oil business. He knows/remembers what it was like to be on the inside, manipulating people on the outside (you and me and other people like himself on the inside). He knows he is not being treated by the insiders as another insider any more. Maybe there is a different set of insiders here, or maybe the same old insiders have cut him out of the loop. I don't know. You don't know. And most importantly, he doesn't know. So he gets himself interviewed by the media and makes wild statements that simply MUST be noticed by the insiders, and force them to get in touch with him. Then he is an insider again, all warm and fuzzy. His statements, as reported, simply make no sense as anything an intelligent person could actually believe. He is a conspiracy of one.

Matt Simmons makes a very logical and compelling argument as to why there is a huge plume (or plumes) of oil which are reported to be much larger then the observed riser leakage.This needs to be investigated fully.

A robot sub has been deployed

I have one question....and its the same question thats on the minds of many of us out here...

Why do they not have multiple tankers with multiple pumps sticking pipes into the Oil plumes NEAR (and I want to be clear on this--- not ON the leaks but NEAR the leak plumes. Maybe 30 feet from the riser etc) and pumping thousands of gallons of seawater and oil up into these waiting ships. Its seems they could collect maybe 70% of the free floating oil right out of the plume...if they were close enough to the source (not on the source! Due to clogging hydrates).

I don't think this requires any special technical knowledge. Get the tankers there...get the massive pumps going....lower the pump-hoses down there and start sucking up the plumes!?!? You wouldn't get all, but it would certainly keep most of the oil from just floating away.

Seems you could fill multiple ships this way. Get 20 pump lines down there all sucking at the same time.

Any thoughts why this isn't happening?

Hi BayWeather

This method only works well in very shallow water. Also, that would mean no further work could be done on trying to control the leak above the BOP. There would be no room for the support ships and their ROVs. This would leave the relief well as the only option and that will be a couple of months yet.

Frustrating, I know.

Commentary on the geology and some links to further info (potential for hyperbole warning; source Zerohedge):

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

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


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


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

See also this.

The BP oil spill leak is occurring in the "Macondo" Prospect, Block 252, in the Mississippi Canyon Area of the Gulf (much of the oil-rich areas under the Gulf are in the Mississippi Canyon and Fan areas: "In the central Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi Canyon and Fan system is the dominant morphologic feature").

If the geology at Block 252 of the Macondo Prospect is like that described by Anderson and Boulanger for most of the oil-rich portion of the Gulf, then it might be difficult to stop the oil gusher without completing relief wells (which will take a couple of months).

Specifically, if there are salt layers on the top of the seabed, with high porosity near the surface, and salt movement, then sealing the whole leak zone might not work. The oil pressure is coming up at such high pressures (more than 2,000 pounds per square inch), that sealing the leaking riser and blowout preventer might just mean the oil squirts out somewhere else nearby, if the salty, porous rock is not solid enough to contain it.

Unless the government releases details of the geology underlying the spill site, people will not have an accurate picture of the oil spill situation. And failure to release such information may prevent creative scientists from coming up with a workable solution.

The first draft of Anderson and Boulanger's paper, in 2001, stated:

No means currently exists to produce oil and gas to market from such water depths!"

Best to read the whole thing.

Horizontal velocities of salt movement to the south are in the several cm/year range, making this supposedly passive margin as tectonically active as most plate boundaries.


I wonder about the Mud Loggers records as compared to the casing diagram. Anyone have any info. If the cement failed in the 7" and thier choice of a tapered long string to 9 &5/8 insted of a 7" liner configuration with no cement up in the 9 5/8 then is an underwater blowout plausable in the 9 & 5/8 section?
Hibernia off Newfoundland while not Subsea used 9&5/8 cemented in place then after drilling the Hibernia Sands, set a 7" liner tied back to a packer in the 9& 5/8 after cementing the liner. Redundancy perhaps? These wells where then brought to production thru Rigless intervetions. Just by memory but well b16-1 the reserve was 4500meters deep TVD, <10K BHP and was at the time Canadas biggest producer ever at more than 65,000 BPD on a 3/4" choke up 7" Tbg.
Lots of Oil Sub Salt off brasil how do they do it.
Are these salt layers naturally factured or do they have a low fracture gradient?
Very curious if they either didnt know or just disregarded this step as to expedite the completion of thier drilling operation.
Also regarding the relief well requirement in Canada.
Apparently a producer must in thier Drilling Plan have the capability to drill "Same Season", relief well not actually have it drilled.Good piont on Hurricane season by the way. Dome Petroleum back in the 80's had more than one rig in the Beaufort for this purpose. Still, if ther where ice floes or a frozen Sea or what not I dont see this as a "Good" response to a disaster, rather see more stringent requirements and well planning to avoid a problem in the first place.
"We cant solve a problem with the knowledge that created it"
Exploration is going into the unknown after why dont we take the time to not get lost in the first place?? Or are we just poking a sleeping Giant with a stick regardless?

Thank You, Interested...!

Reading the link above was very helpful. I can start to see the logic in drilling the RW to a point on the casing just above the reservoir, in case there's a fracture somewhere. BP probably knows more a lot more. Is this why the NIUST Pelican was shut down?

Equally interesting was discussion about national security implications; with increased awareness of peak oil - from IEA's 2009 report and others - there must be new emphasis on developing strategic reserves. No matter who BP's customer is, anything in this part of the GOM would be strategic to the USA.

In general, most of these comments are correct, but specifically,

1) Macondo was not a sub-salt prospect, it's in between separate allochthonous salt bodies which merge into a more continuous canopy farther west.

2) Macondo reservoir is older Miocene in age, many millions of years old, not Plio-Pleistocene

3) There are thick Plio-Pleistocene sediments overlying the prospect, and often cause shallow flows (usually brine or biogenic gas) while drilling the upper sections of the wells in this area.

In general, most of these comments are correct, but specifically,

1) Macondo was not a sub-salt prospect, it's in between separate allochthonous salt bodies which merge into a more continuous canopy farther west.

2) Macondo reservoir is older Miocene in age, many millions of years old, not Plio-Pleistocene

3) There are thick Plio-Pleistocene sediments overlying the prospect, and often cause shallow flows (usually brine or biogenic gas) while drilling the upper sections of the wells in this area.

4) There is already production from a field right above Macondo and several large fields to the south in deeper water that have been producing for years.

I have one question....and its the same question thats on the minds of many of us out here...

Why do they not have multiple tankers with multiple pumps sticking pipes into the Oil plumes NEAR (and I want to be clear on this--- not ON the leaks but NEAR the leak plumes. Maybe 30 feet from the riser etc) and pumping thousands of gallons of seawater and oil up into these waiting ships. Its seems they could collect maybe 70% of the free floating oil right out of the plume...if they were close enough to the source (not on the source! Due to clogging hydrates).

I don't think this requires any special technical knowledge. Get the tankers there...get the massive pumps going....lower the pump-hoses down there and start sucking up the plumes!?!? You wouldn't get all, but it would certainly keep most of the oil from just floating away.

Seems you could fill multiple ships this way. Get 20 pump lines down there all sucking at the same time.

Any thoughts why this isn't happening?

It seems like a very reasonable question, since it has apparently partially worked in the past.

One question: how do you accurately hold the end of the 5000' long, 250T pipe/pump directly over the leak/plume?

Where was that proposed? That's not what was done in the Arabian Gulf, I don't see anyone proposing that here.

Oops, sorry. I see now that that was what the other poster suggested.

I think that this is a skimmer operation.

You would use ROVs to subtly direct the direction of the theory. But again, extreme accuracy wouldn't be necessary. The plumes are presumably growing larger as they rise of the seabed. Stick the pipe generally into the plumes and begin pumping.

Work performed by ROV involves physics, Newtons Law: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. The ROV has only thrusters to counter reaction. It aint gunna work.

I've been wondering the same thing.

The LMRP and its seal are to remain tight against the top of the BOP to prevent water/ methane hydrates in the recovery line, which are two pipes in one. A 21” riser pipe with a 6 ¾” drill pipe in the center for collection of the oil/gas. Warm seawater will be circulated between the two pipes to help prevent the formation of the hydrates.

A 6 ¾ pipe is too small and how to apply constant pressure against the seal when the other end is topside on unstable seas? Added stress also applied to BOP/Riser attach flange does not sound safe to me.

This will NOT work.

They will be on active heave.

BP brought only one vessel capable of separating gas from oil on station, something Explorer, capacity 15,000 b/day of liquids.

I advocated bringing at least one more on-station.

As water cut increases, so does the need for capacity topside.


Every gallon of oil recovered by some siphon/skim method is proof of how much oil actually gushed into the gulf, and therefore a financial liability for BP. Sure, they can say they recovered x gallons, but that just proves that x is a subset of a larger figure. By spraying (unproven, untested) dispersants on the plumes of oil instead, both underwater and on the surface they limit the ability of a judge to rule in a lawsuit about the existence of that gallon. A slick on the surface can be measured somewhat. An underwater plume six miles wide and who knows yet how long, part oil and part frankenstein mixture of seawater, crude and soap is oil that will never be tallied in a court case, since the legal precedent has not been established. It may be cancer to a fisherman or death to a turtle or dolphin but it's "magic disappearing fluid" to a lawyer or an accountant or a CEO.

So the answer to the question "why don't they recover oil through x, y ,or z method?" is that it will cost them twice to do it - once to employ x, y or z method and once again when the existence of that subset of floating or underwater oil is admitted as evidence in court. The alternative, which is to do nothing, is therefor cheaper. "Do the math," as they say. BP is not and never was motivated or in business to clean up oil. They are in the business of getting oil the cheapest way possible to your corner station, (meanwhile selling you a big gulp and taking $2.50 from your ATM account) and mitigating damages when they occur through whatever methods possible, ethics be damned.

Until the federal government fully takes charge of the oil industry, like it is in most other nations worldwide, BP is running the show by the usual corporate means. The purpose of a corporation is to limit liability of the owners while enjoying all the other rights of an individual while behaving like a sociopath. Or have you been in a cave somewhere? The solution is political, not scientific.

The science and practical answer is also tricky. Where do you propose these tankers unload this watery oil and who is going to refine it - if you owned a refinery would you want sea water in your pipes, tanks, earthen storage facilities? It's ALWAYS been easier and cheaper to simply degrade (ie, ruin forever) the ocean and the wildlife than it has been to mitigate the damage. The taxpayers will pay, not BP.

BP exec says end point for leak is relief well

BP managing director Robert Dudley says unmanned submarines working a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico will try to saw through a leaking pipe and then cap it with a funnel-like device built to capture the oil.;_yl...

I'm assuming BP is still in the process of trying to slice the riser tube off the top of the BOP wellhead assembly, but it's not clear to me (by watching the silent, non-annotated video stream) exactly where they are in this process. Have they made any attempt to saw into the fallen riser *at any point* along its length? It might be useful to try sawing through a portion of the riser that's just lying on the seabed, to get a better feel of things here.

And before you remark that would be a waste of time, etc, consider for a moment how difficult it would be to saw through a steel tube that is part of a massively large structure, at a location on the pipe that may be under mechanical load (i.e. its own weight plus bending stresses) and has a live stream of oil and gas running through it. That could get really ugly (kind of like standing by a large fallen tree limb while you chain-saw it off, only worse because it's going to spray you with high-pressure sap once you start cutting into it). Wouldn't you be concerned that the limb might twist and catch your saw blade, or fall on you when you finally cut through it? I would...

I realize BP is running this whole show pretty much like the Soviet space program, but maybe we can hammer on them for some more specific information about their progress in this matter.

No need to "hammer on them" - BP have long since had these details on their response web site -

As you suggest they are currently planning to first sever the riser as it meets the seabed (using a derrick lowered hydraulic shear), before proceeding with the ROV wire cut at the top of the BOP.

Excellent. Thanks for the pointer to the graphic. They're going to take the weight off the base of the riser and steady the pipe while doing the cut with the diamond saw. Looks like it could actually work.


Thanks. Those two simple graphics make it look so much simpler now. I encourage everyone to click on the link provided by PoolMan.

There are several reasons why BP may be limiting information:

1) They are in a 'dammed if you do and dammed if you do't' situation. Since they cannot themselves be certian about the information they are using - there is a high probability that any information they give out will turn out to be incorrect. Then people will accuse them of 'lying.'

2) They are in a rapidly changing situation. Information may simply become obsolete by the time it is ready to be released.

3) Perception of persecution. Maybe BP trusts us even less than we trust them? It would not be hard for a BP exec to feel that they did the best job they could in balancing conflicting priorities (economics/regulation/internal company politics/government politics/technical difficulties/routine practices/etc) and that something went wrong. How would you feel if you felt that you were doing the best job you could and now people want to throw you in jail?

4) Management overload. Is BP simply being asked to do more things than they can effectively manage at one time? (This is why I think that the oil spill cleanup should be transfered from BP to FEMA - management may simply be trying to juggle toom many balls at once right now.)

5) Another issue is that people are comparing the job NASA does with thier video with that of BP. NASA has the advantage that their narrators are reading off of a script for an operation that was planned and practiced months prior. BP is having to do a lot of 'seat of their pants' operations and there is litterally no time to prepare the narration.

Absolutely… The US Government should take over command of the cleanup while BP focuses on sealing the well.

Well done Obama.

Thanks to all the people contribuiting to make this site a"must read" in this tragic time..
First of all my apologies for my (maybe) stupid words and my poor english, I hope it will be enough to express my fear and fury for what's happening from a faraway perspective.
Faraway but how far?..not so far indeed for many reason:
1) The Sea is one sole Sea worldwide and it belongs to humanity. I'm a fisheman and I feel the sea is my life and my God as main part of Mother Heart
2) Our globalized world makes the distances much shorter than in the past and such a great disaster and its global economical consequences will be our problem too in the near future.
3) The abuse of toxic chemical dispersant in the Gulf of Mexico is an international crime that must be stopped either by the US Gov or by Intenational associations, since this abuse is contribuiting to spread the poison in the ocean and accelerating the GLOBAL tragey.

So.. our fear in the far Europe, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is the same as yours and I want to say how close to the hearts and souls of the fishermen of the GOM am I in these days.

One aspect that makes me very worried is that we 've been used to see a very powerful reaction coming up from the US population every time you had to deal with a big problem, a war or a catastrophe...probably because used to watch your hollywood movies we always expect a certain point, a very critical point...THE BRAVES ARE ARRIVING
...but this time...the BRAVES are'nt arriving...
Who and where are the BRAVES?...the braves can't do much in this matter, at this stage it's not necessary to be an oil-related GURU to understand that nobody is able to stop that flow, despite the desperate attempts well described on this site, and that we'll have to wait until the relief well will be completed and succesfully operating ( not an easy task from what I read around)

I'm not able to look forward 3-4 months in the future because it's well beyond my worse nightmares and my brain refuses it, but my brain is still able to make some considerations about the BRAVES:

The BRAVES cannot do much at Mississipi Canyon, but they should have done something before the rig exploded...simply they should have acted in the name of TRUTH. Everyone on the heart can be a BRAVE simply talking and acting in the name of TRUTH and not in the name of PROFIT and its evil lies..

Everyone is called to make choices, every day, in every situation and in every job, and everyone is able to distinguish the truth form the falsity and to choose if he wants to be a BRAVE or not...
The fascinating, terrible event we're all loooking at is just a part of the bill we've to pay for a too long period of lies, where the braves have no voice and who speak is only the MONSTER we've created with our the monster is pissing out his dirtyness just to show us how orripilant its real nature is...

But still seems not enough...

In fact, (and that's the main point of my comment and what truly pushed me to write it) what i really cannot understand from my perspective is the following:

BP was the responsible of the disaster ( because the braves were'nt doing their job along the command chain and the controls were soften by ..probably money)
OK reason found...
BP was and still is in charge of the emergency because nobody else got the adeguate tecnology and know-how to operate at suche a leading-edge level ( because the braves along the command chain were'nt doing their job having, all the nations , completely abandoned the control over the critical and risky activity of offshore drilling)
OK reason found...
but last:
BP is every day on CNN for the press conference...that's too much, absolutely too much...I'm sorry, I still have to burn some bytes of space and to let the ones who will read this comment waste some precious seconds but I feel the urge to describe my fury and hope to find in someone of you the same sensation...

Please turn on the brain and open your cannot accept this shame anymore and if there's still some brave person who's in a position to stop it, please do it and do it now.
I can't accept AND NOBODY MUST ACCEPT ANY LONGER Mr. Suttles coming on the scene every day, in front of a parterre of journalist (they seems to me more like disciplined soldiers in front of their General) making his comedy...supported by that grotesque lady...No, sorry that's TOO MUCH
Ok , we want information, but it's time to pretend to hear words of TRUTH, it's the only think that can give us a hope for the future...
The only swow I wanna see on CNN every day is Mr. Suttles coming on the scene, kneeling and say loud:"WE'VE BEEN AND WE STILL ARE FUCKING ASSHOLES SINCE WE DID NOT MAKE OUR JOB WELL AND WE'VE STILL NOT BEEN ABLE TO STOP THE FLOW, PLEASE FORGIVE US.." and that lady coming on the scene , kneeling and start praying ( I'm pretty sure she's a devote attendant of all the religious ceremonies of her town's church) and nothing else until the leak has stopped.
And the parterre of fishermen who lost their job forever... throwing them the tarballs they 've just picked up from the shores...and than the 2 actors go away, whash themsesves with their beautiful chemical dispersants and one hour later coming on the scene again well cleaned and ready for another rosary...24/7.
That's something you must pretend from your PRESIDENT: to stop this awful and shaming comedy. Please do something in this direction, I cannot believe this can go on every day until?..until the leak has stopped?...that's crazy folks, it's totally crazy. The people of all the world just staring at Mr. Suttles, one of the responsible of the disaster who lies and lies and lies again again again SHITTTTTTTTTTTTTTT I wanna see him crying blood.
I'd be glad to share this feeling with someone on this site, to use this native and passionate fury to let this shame stop...OPEN YOUR EYES, the media are burning our brains..

Andrea - Italy

Long time lurker.

Thank you Andrea from Italy,

For stating your anger and showing enough angst to ensure that another can understand what you are saying about the outrage you speak of.

Its weird that a native of another country can speak for us with such gusto!!!

What then has happened to deaden the sense of utter and total outrage in us the American citizens who sit by the computer watching it all unfold and hiding our anger???? What?

I like you Andrea am a fisherman as well. Not 'commercial' but I live near many inland bodies of water and own three fishing boats. I have fished these waters all my life. I find peace , calm and quiet for my soul out on those waters.

Now industrial greed and ego has brought this catastrophe down upon our country and we do not appear to be as outraged as a citizen from another country!

I cry for my country and feel huge anger at those who sit in seats of power and whose job it is to prevent such as what is happening.

Too busy to engage but instead flees to Chicago. Walks the gulf shore for three hours and makes idle promises.

I am disgusted. I am saddened. I am going out to work on my boat and try to find the energy to survive the terrible and massive doom that awaits a major portion of my country and those fisherman down on the coast who must be walking home with heads hanging down and tears running on their cheeks.

Who will not be able to return to their boats and bring in the catches. Some of who are people of my heritage.

Again thanks for your posting your thoughts.

Its good to know that some others in the world feel the same.

hi andrea - i am new to this site as well (an excellent and urgent one, i might add), and after reading it closely for the past few days, i was moved to register after reading your wrenching post.

i am a writer, often writing about the american west and the wars that are unfolding in it, one way or another, right here on our homefront. my work often involves heartbreaking stories, with the land itself as a besieged main character that also offers salvation. i often spend years living inside these stories because that's the only way i can tell them.

an editor asked me the other day if i wanted to write something about what is going on in the gulf. i declined. i just can't do it; for the first time in many years, i am truly speechless. words cannot begin to approach the scale of this disaster...or at least that's been my feeling until i read your note, which is filled with powerful images that speak to the apocalyptic thing that is occurring.

you are so right: this time, the cavalry (braves) is not coming. Repentance, cleansing, scourging, sacrifice - these are the elements of this drama and we are nowhere near the end.

let me also tell you that you have accurately pilloried the media (which goes to the importance of this site; people here have been way ahead of conventional venues, calling it like it was/is since day one).

and finally, as you so accurately point out, this event effects us all, wherever we live, and i want to say thank you, grazie grazie grazie, for reaching out across the seas and reminding us that the ocean belongs to no one, and everyone, and somehow we must all figure out a way to stop the bleeding.

Macondo oil flow estimates soar

A US government team upped its estimate for the oil flow from the Macondo well spewing into the US Gulf of Mexico to as much as 19,000 barrels per day.
Couple of days old, no doubt reported here already.

Question: why do they need to stop drilling the 2nd well, for it's BOP?

Surely the BOP is not needed for quite some time, no??

A BOP (or the top part of one) is needed for the LMRP cap attempt. It will be inserted at the bottom of the new riser just above the LMRP cap tool to protect the surface assets (not I assume to kill the well as the LMRP Cap/BOP interface seal won't be up to that sort of pressure). If BP get a good seal they hope to channel the "majority" of the HC to the surface i.e. any "kicks" etc won't have anywhere else to go - you wouldn't want to do that without some protection - hence they need a BOP.

Yeah, but the question is--- why do they need to stop drilling the relief well in the meantime?

Because they are trying to maximise every minute to get this sorted. Watching ROVS moving round slowly might give you the impression that nothing much is happening - however behind the scenes thousands of detailed project activities are happening every day to get the right resources in place and tasks completed.

From comments in earlier threads, it sounded as if the BOP from the second relief well was intended to be used as the BOP to be installed on top of the damaged BOP, not as part of the LMRP collection process. (although having some way to control the potentially problematic collection of oil and gas makes sense.) Do you have a link for the use of the RW BOP or cannibalized segments of it as part of the LMRP tactic?

From the top of this article ...

BP has already lowered the LMRP cap to the seafloor so it could be deployed immediately after a failed top kill.

Installing the cap would take about four days, Suttles said, and it could be in place early next week.

The LMRP cap would allow BP to capture as much of the flow from the well as possible while it works on other options to kill the well, he said.

He announced Wednesday that BP preferred option in that instance would be to add a second BOP on top of the first.

They have resumed drilling the second relief well.

cite please? you're wrong until I get confirmation other than "they have resumed the second RW."

(scroll to bottom, Reuters story)

If they borrowed the BOP, they could not start drilling again unless they either got a replacement BOP or returned the borrowed BOP.

They can't resume drilling without a BOP. Well, oh gawd.

is it known with certainty that riser was not blown off the wellhead?


thank you.

then the CH4 can not be permitted to reach saturation, because the original eruption was from a hydrate explosion. CH4 will fill the dome and again explode . therefore this situation demands something that can first trap the oil and let the gas diffuse.

Hydrate explosion?? A surge of methane reached the rig from a producing formation - not from hydrate formations near the surface - and exploded, followed by oil and gas that kept the rig burning for two days till it sank. They already had a working capture system (the RIT) that produced oil and flared the gas fraction. They are just going to modify it.

What I don't understand about the LMRP operation is how are they going to maneuver the thing over the gusher once they have cut off the riser above the BOP? It would seem like it would just get blown away.

This may be a just another noob idea, but instead of cutting it off, why not make some sort of self clogging mechanism that pierces the riser pipe and arrests the flow, then do the junk shot top kill.

For instance, why not build a jig that goes around the riser above the BOP that has multiple 2" very tough drill shafts next to each other 1/2" to 1" apart attached to the jig in a captive fashion (very captive, since once they pierce the riser pipe this is what is going to be taking pressure), both in the x and y facing directions? The x shafts right above or below the y shafts. Drill into the pipe with all the drill shafts and insert the drill shafts in to occlude the flow inside the pipe--which once all the drill shafts are in place will be a x and y lattice inside the pipe with 1/2" to 1" spacing. Then use the junk shot to clog it up and do the top kill. Think it would work?

Please reference the photos of the BOP and top of the riser. If you will notice the riser is crushed and fractured at the connection to the BOP.
Yes, the LMRP will be a problem hanging from cables 5000' from the drill ship.
Any time you put a valve on with flow of pressure it is very difficult. Consider this the most important hot tap in the world.

I see. You are right it is kinked right at the top of the BOP. But it looks like they could attach some sort of apparatus to the BOP before they cut away the riser with 4 long screw shafts that go up to a companion apparatus on the LMRP that would allow them to screw the LMRP into place once they have cut the riser off.

I just don't like the idea of maneuvering this thing in the gusher without a secure mechanical jig.

Oil spills that are NOT in the news.

Just a reminder that, whether deep water or not, the extraction of crude oil is a filthy business and that other people in other places pay a tremendous price for the gasoline that we so casually pump into our cars.

i don't get it ...this oil containment effort is a are a few things i think are obvious and someone ..maybe admiral thad allen needs to answer ...national disasters require a national effort to overcome...BP needs to be in control of the wellsite but the containment effort HAS to be a govt response 100%...

1- why are there not more boats out skimming oil ?? there are as many boats as cars in that part of LA....big, small , old , new hire these boats .....all hands on deck ....this containment effort is a joke....

2- immediate area around the wellsite needs to be constantly skimmed with oil supertankers ....there is no rocket science here....the friggin arabs cleaned up tens of millions of bbl using this approach....who ran that cleanup ...thats right ..americans ....but the difference here is ...the arabs didnot consider money an issue at that point......supertankers were hired....if tankers were contracted ...the arabs paid to breakup the contracts and then hire the tankers......i dont know why this has not been done .....supertankers can clean upwards of 2 millions gallons of oil/water mix a day ....throw 5 tankers in there...thats 10 million gallons cleaned every day ....

3- it looks to me like the good admiral has been hypnotized by BP and he is blindly agreeing to whatever BP is is in BP's interest not to deploy super tankers in the area (not because f the cost) but this will give volumetrics on the oil collected daily ....this can have legal implication for BP later.....

4- i have heard on TV everyday ...the boom's are not effective at containment........duh ...thats because booms are not containment agents....booms are diverting dont use boom to stop oil use boom to divert oil in a series of maneuvers to a predetermined spot.....and then you light it up ......that is what a boom deploy boom and expect it to stop oil coming in the bayous is ridiculous......waves action simply precludes it....but then again I wen to boom school in USA and Norway both...and in Norway boom school is a serious deal...out here boom school is a 3 or 4 day vacation for all involved....4 days to snooze in classtime and get drunk afternoons....

5- the guy running the operations at BP directing dispersant use has earned himself a hugeee bonus at BP......out of sight out ot mind.....someone at BP understands the American public ...there are no models that can predict behavior when you apply sub-sea dispersant at this depth .....huge plumes will form maybe and maybe not it breaking down the oil to the point where marine life is ingesting the oil one knows.....and when it comes to liability and court proceedings...the burden of proof is on the state and not BP.....what the hell will the state do to prove this....and what can they do ...EPA authorized it ..its legal at that point anyways.....all BP has to do it to point at the fact EPA agreed and that will be the end of that in courts...

6- airspace control --- there are BP contractors sitting in air traffic control in LA now....BP has complete control form sea level to 3000 ft ceiling in a huge section of the gulf dare the federal govt hand over our airspace to BP ....I'm no lawyer but it seems like a criminal thing to me ......
just some random thoughts I had on this containment effort....

"i don't get it ..."

Actually I think you do get it.


The recovery method of sucking up the oil and seawater is different in the Persian Gulf as it is only 150' - 200' deep. The oil dispersion in the water is entirely different when it is comming out with gas and at 5,000 feet down. There is very little real similarity.

no not really......5000 ft means some oil will stay entrenched in the water column.......but oil rises to the surface.....stop the damn dispersant and a good portion of oil will what you can type of deal .......but not having tanker skimming is beyond logic....

and really a tanker approach is akin to a open a big mouth ....gobble up tons of water .....whales keep the plankton and the krill we just keep the oil ......worse come to worse dont suck water at the surface......lower a pipe to 100ft depth or so and try to get the damn oil that way ...

atleast try

Totally agree. BP would have to stop the dispersants in deep water, which would be a good thing in and of itself.

The airspace control issue is because of US Disaster Response Doctrine. The big lesson learned from past disasters in the US is that you place one orginization in charge and give them total control. Just as in a major wildfire where the airspace is controlled by the fire department that has been designated as the 'incident commander' - BP is the incident commander for this disaster and as a result are the people best able to set priorities as to who/what/when gets to use the airspace.

well then the big lesson learned from this disaster is you cant let the fox watch over the chicken coop....

cuz the fox will try to get in thru the window to steal one ...but the US govt seems to have handed fox the keys to the chicken coop door....

and frankly i dont think what airspace has to do with BP operations....all logistics for a DW operation are run by ship ...seems to me it is to prevent ppl form flying low in choppers or airplanes to take photographs ....bu then i'm no lawyer maybe there r other factors in play here....

all i'm sayin is ....if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ...its probably a duck

i dont think what airspace has to do with BP operations....all logistics for a DW operation are run by ship ...seems to me it is to prevent ppl form flying low in choppers or airplanes to take photographs

FWIW, from BP today:

MEDIA ADVISORY: Flight availability over Louisiana coastline and the spill site

What: Media overflight on a fixed-wing HC-144 Coast Guard aircraft over South Pass and Pass a Loutre, La., and the spill site offshore. Media will be able to shoot video or photos out of the aircraft's windows and out the aircraft's rear door.

When: 9:30 a.m. CDT, Monday, May 31, 2010. The flight will be about an hour-and-a-half in duration. Media must arrive at the airport 30 minutes prior to the flight.

Where: Passengers should check in at the Top Gun Aviation building at the Hammond Northshore Regional Airport, 405 Industrial Park, Hammond, La. 70404.

Who: Space is limited. Media should call Coast Guard Petty Officer John D. Miller at 985/493-7821 or at 757/407-9541 to reserve a seat.

Will this aircraft be flying low enough for them to get good detailed photos? How many passenges can it take?

well i hope they come back with some good pictures....

Shouldn't you be asking if the reporters will know enough about oil spills to even know what photos will provide the most real information? Personally, I suspect that they will be looking for the most visually dramatic photos in order to get the most ratings.

The biggest issue we have here is that everybody has an agenda here - however for some reason people seem to be assuming that BP is the only orginization with an agenda.

Now we know why the media has been using Greenpeace photos--maybe only they are willing to go in w/o BP clearance.

And if somebody wants to take pictures - all they need to do is fly at 3001 feet and use a telephoto lens. And there is likely an incredible number of aircraft supporting the operation.

After having watched the airspace restrictions that were put in place for the Station Fire - a 3000 foot altitude restriction is nothing.

BTW - if my understanding from reading the sequence of events that led to the disaster is that the accident occured because of a series of technical errors and bad (in hinmdsight) judgement calls. Care to explain exactly how you would have prevented these?

man I am very fimiliar with DW operations.....there is no use for aircraft for anything...

the only thing used are choppers and that too to transport crews from land to rig and back and a few occasional other trips ....

oh with regards to the sequence of events the led to here.....there are design issues wit the wellbore but it can be argued either way on that...

what did not happen is they were not following best drilling practices and no question about it...this is human error ....

with regards to judgment calls....drilling is a reactive adapt as the well goes ....but thats how you dont have leaky hydraulic pipes on the piece of equipment that is your last line of defense....this well was in trouble in march when it was being drilled and MMS should have shut them down ...they gave them very surprising exclusions (im not talking about the environmental exclusions ...those everyone gets ) but exclusion with their BOP stack testing that i cannot understand....MMS has a big role in this disaster and no one seems to be pointing any fingers at the MMS....everything you do n a well has to be approved by the MMS ...even small changes

Numerous safety violations, a well design that barely met minimum standards (one that required exceptions to normal safe-practice) in an area with known problems and that had numerous problems during it's completion. All it took were a few simple mistakes to set off the bomb. Additionally, it has been speculated that if the well had been capped successfully that the crew who came later to open it for production might well have been killed trying to do so.

It was not just 'bad luck' or a 'few simple errors of judgment' that caused this disaster.

So, are they teaching you information management in your program?


I'm curious as to how the supertanker thing works? What do they scoop into, and what do they filter with?

oh simple ...this is the godzilla approach ...size matters

huge supetankers like Exxon Valdez have capacities of 10-15 million gallons .....and internally the structure of a super tanker is big cubes arranged all over the tanker skimming is suck in a million gallons of water/oil mix...(.inherently oil and water are immiscible and have different physical properties)....and filter it keeping the oil and moving the collected oil to one of the cubes inside the hull and letting the water back in the ocean and this way you work a grid of concentric circles moving outwards and back in and so on .....centrifugal force in a cyclonic setup is usually used for the separation itself although this isnt my area so i dont know if there are more better methods by now....but yes it is indisputable that a super tanker can process and oil/water emulsion at rate sof 1-2 million gal/day .....maybe more i would think it can be more with the new hugeeeee tankers ....

im sorry if i'm light on the engineering specs on this ...but i took a weeks worth of class on this, thats all .... and that too a few yrs ago so my knowledge is not only incomplete on this its probably outdated....but its mind boggling that this has not be used till yet....commandeer all tankers.....if the good admiral is heavy on naval law...send some marines to wrestle up the tankers form whoever...if a tanker is in a US port grab it ....if tankers are headed to america ....get their arrival dates and have a few marines wait for them when they arrive...

obama needs to put these drastic measures .... i dont think 95% of ppl understand what this is going to look like if this continues till august ....

Hi... can anyone tell me what is happening with "Recovering Buoyancy Model" I am now seeing on the live feed? Is that a part of the LMRP? or something else? As I mentioned earlier, I would very much like to understand what is happening and I didn't see this piece of equipment in HO's excellent model above.

There is a lot of kit, tools, umbilicals etc down there that we do not see with the usual suspect camera views i.e. the old riser end and the BOP top view. Since yesterday BP are preparing for the LMRP Cap attempt. You know what it is like when you finish a DIY job in your house - tools and stuff everywhere - better to tidy up before starting the next job (especially with loads of 5000ft power cables). BP are currently prepping the LMRP cap attempt - e.g. removing any obstructions (pipes etc) from the top of the BOP stack and using any spare ROV resource to tidy the workshop for the next job.

This link should show (when updated) the latest progress report on the Relief Wells.

Okay, I know this has been brought up before, but I've been thinking about hurricanes.

Now it appears that it's possible this well will flow unchecked maybe through August, when the relief well does its thing.

As has been noted, this takes us through hurricane season.

I have this question from a meteorological and physics perspective:

What happens when a hurricane that's heading toward land crosses a large oil spill?

Does it suck up oil into the atmosphere as droplets, to potentially let it rain down over land, after it hits land and begins to disperse?

I know that hurricanes absorb heat and water from the ocean surface--does this pertain to oil as well?

Because if so, we potentially have oil raining down on coastal regions sometime this summer.

Not trying to be an alarmist--just thinking of worst-case scenarios.

I found this the other day. I think it's fair to say that it would be a far worse situation. I wouldn't be surprised if the US government was working on an evacuation plan. It would also not surprise me if they weren't....

The leak from the site of the demolished Deepwater Horizon drilling platform has raised numerous environmental concerns throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coast regions.

With hurricane season looming, however, speculation is growing regarding the impact that a Gulf hurricane may have on the huge oil slick. Even the experts don't really know what would happen because there is no precedent.

A hurricane could move the slick toward the coast and a storm surge or hurricane force winds could carry the oil inland, producing an even greater disaster than either a hurricane or oil slick alone. A hurricane or tropical storm in the Gulf would also impede the efforts to contain the leak and the slick. Some have even speculated that the oil slick may inhibit the formation of hurricanes in the Gulf by forming a barrier between the air and the water.

Once a hurricane has formed, however, the slick would not affect its intensity or track. Another positive effect of a hurricane may be that the churning waves would hasten degradation of the oil by disbursing it.

Unfortunately, the chances that a hurricane will hit the oil spill are fairly good. Hurricanes in the early part of hurricane season historically develop in the Gulf region, whereas later hurricanes form in the Atlantic Ocean. Moreover, hurricane forecasters from the Colorado State University predict that the chances that a hurricane will enter the Gulf of Mexico this year are 44%, higher than the historic average of 30%.

Good info, here is some more:

Hurricanes and Oil Spills

Much of the rain water comes from evaporation. Fresh oil also "evaporates" and can be included (IMHO).

Salt does not evaporate, but I have tasted a light salt taste in tropical storm rain. Not enough to kill even salt sensitive plants, but not zero either. So some "spray" gets sucked up too.

And 2010 stands a decent chance of being the all time hurricane year, surpassing 2005 (and Climate Change is just a liberal hoax).


Well, if that's the case, then--peering ahead looking at possible worst-case scenarios without trying to be alarmist--it's possible that we here even in Pennsylvania might "taste" oil in the air this summer. We often get heavy rains that are the aftermath of Gulf hurricanes.

Actually to be cautious I suppose I should phrase that as a question, since I know very little about the mechanics involved: is it then possible that oil could reach other, interior parts of the U.S. via hurricane action this summer? I suppose the answer is, "no one really knows at this point."

I wonder:

1. if oil can be transported over land because of hurricanes moving over the spill; and, if so:

2. how far inland that oil might travel. Tens of miles? Hundreds?

Besides fumes blowing ashore, and hydrocarbon fallout in rain, is there any information on
what the highly toxic Corexit dispersant may do in terms of precipitation? Can it volatilize? And, if so, will it be likely that coastal residents may have rain with this included?
If memory serves, I believe I read last week that Corexit has a toxicity in ppm range.

Multiple active cams here Can anyone describe what they are showing?

Does anybody know if the new BOP is also being prepared at the same time as the LMRP? Seems to me that when the riser is cut away from the BOP, the well will flow at a much larger rate than now.

Now if BP cannot attach the LMRP (like trying to put screw an attachment on a running garden hose x 1000, not including reduced visibility from oil/mud in the water), what do they do? Leave it spewing until they can try to replace the BOP ?

Same thing applies to the BOP replacement (except for a "easier" attachement, since the oil/gas can flow through the open BOP replacement) ?
This is a one way shot, one they uncap it, there's now more flow restrictions.

Should it not be safer just to left it flow as is, and instead invest all resources in reliefs well (as bad as it is, it could be much worse)?

Thanks for the great site, very long time lurker, but I didn't see this question addressed.

Guys, anyone know of a case that it took 3 relief wells to get control?

Why two relief wells?

Because at >$25 million/day a few days delay killing the well costs more than an extra well you didn't need. In this environment lots of things can and do go wrong all the time. Just usually not this bad.

Why not 3 wells?

You think you just run down to the store for a drillship whenever you want one? Even w/o the suspension of deepwater work, lots of schedules got screwed up when the Horizon sank.

They won't build a new rig unless they have firm commitments for at least 5 years rental at >$400k/day. It takes several years to build and commission one.

This is NOT Hollywood! Everything is big, dangerous and VERY expensive. On a par w/ going to the moon, but not as glamorous.

Aside from $100 million per well, the systems for a subsea completion would run $2 billion. That's a lot of well paid people cutting, welding and machining pieces of metal for a long time.

Just in case anyone isn't clear why gasoline is not $1/gallon.

The Incident team can commandeer any vessel, including any drilling rig, in the GoM (outside Mexican waters) and elsewhere in the USA (such as one just repaired).

Post yesterday is that BP just towed a DW rig into the GoM. That and just one more make four.


PS: If you must put a number on the damage/day, use $400 million/day in marginal damage for one more day's pollution.

They certainly could commandeer another vessel. They already commandeered two. But it would not help things to pull a rig off an open hole and start a second spill. BP might well start a 3rd hole, but until they have a rig, they can't.

I just made a rough approximation from $1 billion spent over 40 days. You may make up all the imaginary numbers you like. I was simply pointing out that the value to BP of avoiding 3-4 days delay exceeded the cost of a well.


I was simply pointing out that the value to BP of avoiding 3-4 days delay exceeded the cost of a well.



Alan I think that is wrong. Obama allowed a 10 billion cap on damages two weeks ago. My bad, the bill hasn't been signed so damages are 75 million currently.

GOP senators are holding it up. I hope to send Charlie Melancon to the other side of the Capital in DC to replace our embarrassment.

Best Hopes for rational Senators that give a Damm,


Estimated size of Macondo Prospect : 50m barrels of oil.

Estimated number of barrels of oil used in USA per day (2007) : 20.7m barrels of oil.

Two things strike me.

1) That's an awful lot of environmental damage for just 2.5 days worth of oil use.
2) It's an awful lot of time, money and expense for 2.5 days worth of oil use. In fact as important as it might be, it's also quite tragically sad to see humanity acting (somewhat unavoidably) this way.

Yes, excellent observations. General public seldom appreciates the scale of this business and the difficulty we face in transition.

Given that that average oil production in the U.S. is less than 10 BOPD we should just shut in all of those because none actually adds much. I think it is ludicrous for me to get a hybrid because what I would save would not make say would not make a dent in the gasoline use of the country.

How many drillships are there in the gulf? Take a couple, doesn't matter who they belong to, just take them for this effort (let BP pay whatever the cost may be).

If this relief well they are currently drilling doesn't work then hopefully one of the next 2 or 3 would. In any event, I'd bet this won't be over in August. Nor in September. October? Who knows.

Look, this is a matter of survival for ourselves (I live in Mobile) and the entire east coast. The sooner the president realizes this the better. Else we sit around watching another bright shiny BP object of busy work accomplishing nothing.

And a question. Will the relief well work? Everyone seems to think so. But what if it doesn't. Then what?

I am not an oil person (obviously). But I am an old physics/math/engineering type and have worked on many technical projects. Failure is a part of my business, one shot hopes (like this single relief well) doesn't get it in my book. I've seen too many guaranteed successes go down in flames too many times.

You're in luck, BP paid $2.5 million for 6 acres, 57,000sqft building in downtown Mobile. They're planning on moving in this week.

BP just moved their multi-state boom cleaning operation to the protected waters of our inner bayou without telling anyone. And the water company rep warned the aquafier could be unsafe for wells 10-12 miles inland.

Once again, there is only 14.7 psi to drive the water into the eye of a centrifugal pump impeller or for that matter any pump. In other words if a centrifugal impeller could draw down to full vacuum-it can't, then there is only 14.7 psi to drive the water to the eye of the pump. Now there are problems with lifting the oil and water. First, since the inlet of the suction pipe is below the water, there a large power requirement to lift the oil and water-ft of head. Yes this can be very large. Put a pencil to it. The other problem is the foot of head loss due to the friction in the pipe. With only 14.7 psi this can be eaten up very rapidly depending on the velocity of flow, smoothness of the pipe, and the size of pipe. So, by the time the fluid reaches the eye of the pump there may be very little flow. On top of that there is also the issue that centrifugals are not particularly fond of pumping oil and there may be gas in this fluid which will vapor lock the casing. Reciprocating pumps don't vapor lock but they will not handle the volume necessary to vacuum the Gulf.

The suction pipe on a centrifugal must be short or have a positive head-the fluid is ABOVE the pump. Pulling a fluid from below the pump is NOT a positive head.

With this in mind you are limited on the depth of the suction. In the Persian Gulf-or Arabian Gulf-was not as deep. At 5000' it would become an impossibility.

but, um... aren't the mud pumps on the seafloor? I totally understand the "there's essentially no such thing as suction" issue, but I don't understand why they can't just run the seafloor mud pump that was set up for the top kill in reverse. ok, maybe they'd have to reverse the connections, but that seems FAR less complicated than this new LMRP plan.

Hi RandomDarb,

The mud pumps are actually mounted on surface ships. I can't envision any way they could be used to pump the volumes of oil and water being discussed up to surface ships.

Livestation has the BP video feed available. What makes it interesting is that there is a chatroom attached to the feed. This might be a good place for us to meet.

Livestation is a free application -- visit No I don't own stock :)
With the application installed and running, search for "oil spill". See you there.

On reflection I realized that calculations over the full range of depths were really pretty meaningless because of the complex phase behavior of the reservoir fluid. So here are approximate values for key locations. Real numbers are different, but normal practice is to assume saturation in the absence of fluid samples and PVT results. Much like my previous "frac is 85% of overburden" it's surprising how useful the rough estimates are.

At reservoir conditions (13,000 psi & 180 F w/ 35 API oil & 0.6 G gas ) saturation gas-oil ratio is 631 liters/liter

At seafloor conditions (2250 psi & 40 F) saturation GOR is 113 l/l

At surface conditions (15 psi & 90 F) saturation GOR is 0.2 l/l

What this means:

At the wellhead the volume of free gas is ~3.4x the volume of oil. Not hard to see why the non-industry types have much higher estimates than BP & MMS based on the camera images.

At the surface there will be 630 liters of gas to flare for every liter of oil collected. So the fun is just starting if they can attach the LMRP successfully. We're talking BIG flare!

NB: l/l is at STP (i.e. approximately sea level conditions)

Calculations are from work by Han & Batzle, CSM-Harc Fluids Project, an industry consortium working on the properties of oil field fluids (brine, oil, gas & mud)


I have been trying to find more information on hydrates. For a good understanding of the problem read:

In particular there is a very nice graphic on page 63.

In short, there is a lot of hydrocarbons seeping from very shallow sediments in very deep waters in the GOM. The rate of seepage is related to bottom water temperatures.

Here is a good instructional map from Halliburton showing all the deepwater discoveries in the last decade:

Read some of the warnings on Miocene (Cretaceous) targets...


Sorry that wasn't very clear was it...
the Miocene rocks have been the traditional targets from a technology/cost perspective in the Mississippi Canyon. I think this well my have been targeting much older and deeper cretaceous rocks. Nothing yet I can find to support this so I should qualify this as opinion only.

henny -- The much older Cretaceous play lies east of the Miss. River delta in the shallower waters. The play is an extension of the onshore play in southern Miss and Alb.

I am from outside of the box - neither engineer nor oil worker but I am together with everyone wanting to help out in this disaster. I am assuming that what I have read is correct - that fractionation of the oil column into separate streams is a result of the shear forces experienced by the riverlike oil column as it changes to massive turbulent flow upon touching the jagged surfaces at the exit points, the breakages in the riser pipe. It's reasonable then to suggest that if turbulence is part of the cause of the fractionation, then part of the solution lies in preventing turbulence. Let's take a real life technology and use it here. Jet engine intakes are actually laminar flow devices designed to prevent turbulent flow of high pressure gas (air) which routes the gas into the jet engine in the most efficient manner. This in no way is to imply that we could invert a jet engine intake and use it, but I think we could use the principles of this to design a manifold or laminar flow device to be fitted onto the top of the BOP which would prevent turbulent flow and thus the shearing and subsequent fractionation of the oil into separate streams. Assuming this is possible, then it is either possible to let the oil rise to the surface where it could be more easily dealt with using oil/water separators. If we insist on bring the oil up from the bottom then water mixing is part of the picture and we would need to heat the walls of the device to prevent methane hydrates from forming. I would therefore route the 180F oil from the kill lines (currently mud lines) at bottom of the BOP into the interior of the manifold/laminar flow device, which I would make double-walled with an interior spiral labyrinth oil channel allowing circulation of a portion of the hot oil itself to act as a continuous wall heater to prevent hydrates from forming. The overall device diameter would by necessity be ever expanding so that as the oil nears the exit/extraction pt its pressure and velocity are much reduced. I pray this may be a partial answer. If not, maybe it will stimulate some other thinking along these lines.

Also 2 Questions. I am reading lots about blowout preventers. Seems that a standard option is to have a flow meter installed. Is it credible that there is not one installed in this one? Does anyone know the make and model of the actual BOP installed at the well head? Doesn't seem really plausible to me that on such a tremendous potential money-maker that BP would have omitted a flow meter.

It's basic physical chemistry. Crude oil is a complex mixture whose composition changes w/ temperature and pressure. Like the CO2 in a can of soda but w/ many more ingredients. Both the initial gas and initial liquid phases change composition as temperature and pressure varies.

There have been ~3800 wells drilled in water deeper than 1000 ft and ~650 in water deeper than 5000 ft.

This is the first major accident. Now everyone is smarter than the people who accomplished this amazing feat.

FWIW Flow is metered at the surface. It's extremely difficult to service equipment on the bottom in 5000 ft of water. They only put the things they absolutely have to have down there. Furthermore, flow meters are of no interest until you start production and Macondo was years away from production.


"It's extremely difficult to service equipment on the bottom in 5000 ft of water. They only put the things they absolutely have to have down there. Furthermore, flow meters are of no interest until you start production and Macondo was years away from production."

This is a critical point - ok, so 650 were drilled in deep water without effective means to deal with an accident - a real smart operation at the roulette table. Now the gamblers have lost BIG TIME. Not just BP, but the whole deep water industry. What was the profit taken from the sale of oil and gas from those 4,500 wells? Yet the industry failed to develop any technology or effective plan to deal with the inevitable accident. An insurance company worth it's salt would have denied coverage for such behavior. In 1979 a well blew out in a few hundred feet of water - and the industry learned nothing from this apparently.

The reservior is a super critical oil-gas fluid. It is not one when it pollutes the ocean.

The Kerr McGee Rose process uses the super critical > normal transition to pull asphaltenes (C11+) out from the fluid i.e. fractionation.


Do you think you could take your idea forward and design, source and procure components, build, test, transport to location, lower to sea bed and install before the relief well reaches its target 8 weeks from now? Bear in mind that engineering equipment to operate at 1500m/5000ft (150barg/2175psi)water depth is rather challenging.

This is a most remarkable site, doing a fantastic job bringing together experts trying to sort out what is going on in the BP catastrophe. Through their joint efforts, novices like me can begin to piece together what is really going on. Thank you all.

Having said that, discovering what is transpiring at MC 252 should be an open discussion in the news media, and not the fascinating puzzle so well discussed and illuminated at TOD. Information on this global catastrophe should not be a journalistic scoop gleaned from anonymous sources.

BP never wanted Petrochernobyl , but once it happened, I suspect the company set their competent and knowledgeable technogeeks to solving the problem while management turned its attention to their lawyers and PR people who see information as a weapon to be used against them. That shouldn't be a surprise.

What should be a surprise is when Admiral Landry stands beside Mr. Suttles and uses the pronoun "we" since Admiral Landry is the public face of the federal agencies trying to find solutions to the problem . These agencies are headed by honest, highly reputable scientists. For example, the Secretary of Energy is a noble laureate in physics, the head of the USGS is a renowned marine biologist, and the head of NOAA is a highly regarded ecologist. All of these individuals have made their reputations on the publication of and ready access to reliable scientific information. The public needs to see these agencies as honest and forthcoming . Otherwise, science generally, and the government agencies in particular, risk being lumped with the BP spin meisters. Even if scientists and engineers are limited in their ability to immediately solve this crisis, it is important that science and technology emerge from it with enhanced and not diminished credibility. Considering how information is being controlled and released, the public may conflate BP's stonewalling and dissembling with honest scientific discussion, disagreement and discourse that the scientific community requires to achieve new knowledge and understanding.

I am unsure that the government should take control of managing the crisis at the wellhead, but they should compel BP to provide a steady stream of honest explanations about what BP are doing and their rationale for doing it.

In regards to the Matt Simmons comments interviews, a couple of thoughts:

a) he's an insider, in fact, an insider's insider. You don't get to be an investment bank(er) and a member of CFR if you're just a joe-schmoe.

b) as such, he's almost certainly privy to info that the rest of us mere mortals is not (or, at least, knows where to go and obtain info that others would not have access to).

c) "if the glove don't fit, you must acquit!". On the other hand, as skytruth and many others have pointed out, if there's a much greater amount of oil in the gulf than can be accounted for by the low estimates and the visible size of the what is being shown/admitted to by "officials", then it's pretty safe to assume that the glove fits perfectly and actually has the owner's name branded into the palm of it.....

d) Simmons may be part of a distractive mis-information campaign, or, he may be "dropping hints" about what is already very well known in some circles. This "dropping of hints" (bombshells? oilshells?) may be a tactic of black-mailing (oil-mailing?) other players into doing (or not doing) something that another party is trying to force (or allow, as the case may be) BP (or the government) to do...... See how it gets murky quickly?

e) As such, you may want to listen to and investigate what he says carefully.....there may be big truths embedded within some amount of noise. REMEMBER.....his intended "audience" with these statements may not (probably aren't) the general public. They may very well be a veiled threat ("we know the truth and will make it known unless........") or a shot-across-the-bow tactic.

f) From the 60 Minutes story, Mike Williams makes an assertion about what seems to be another well that was "abandoned" by BP (?) in the same lease block (?).....since lease blocks are only 2 square miles (?), then is it possible that it is that other, "abandoned well" that also blew out?

g) If so, then that might be what Simmons is alluding to about another giant leak somewhere, 6 to 7 miles away (perhaps the distance is off, but if he is, in fact, addressing an audience other than "us", then the actual distance is not important, it's the conveyance of the threat of "we know, and we'll tell" that is the important issue).

h) BP is putting a lot of effort, it seems, into "damage control", including the seeming co-opting ("calling in favors") of the Coast Guard and the White House. THAT'S A LOT OF CHIPS TO BE CASHING IN. Which might lead one to surmise that there's a lot to hide. Which means they are wide-open to being black-mailed. Which would in turn require a massive cover-up to COVER-UP AN EVEN BIGGER other words, they may be willing to "cop a plea" for this incident to cover-up......what?

[Mike Williams, the chief electronics technician on the Deepwater Horizon,
and one of the last workers to leave the doomed rig] said they were told it
would take 21 days; according to him, it actually took six weeks.

With the schedule slipping, Williams says a BP manager ordered a faster

"And he requested to the driller, 'Hey, let's bump it up. Let's bump it up.'
And what he was talking about there is he's bumping up the rate of
penetration. How fast the drill bit is going down," Williams said.

Williams says going faster caused the bottom of the well to split open,
swallowing tools and that drilling fluid called "mud."
"We actually got stuck. And we got stuck so bad we had to send tools down
into the drill pipe and sever the pipe (!)," Williams explained.

That well was abandoned and Deepwater Horizon had to drill a new route to
the oil (and this new drilling hole is the one that blew up a few weeks
later....). It cost BP more than two weeks and millions of dollars.

My observation is that TRUTH is like a happy face the upper left corner of the smile, truth comes out at first (before spin and damage control can occur), and then gets obscured quickly as massive mis-information and distraction gets ramped up (the downward slope of the smile), and then slowly works its way back up (the right upper corner of the smile).......however, that right upper corner can be a long, Long, LONG time in the future.

I believe they abandoned the original hole back to a point and drilled a bypass well that shares the same wellhead. OTOH there is production from shallower wells on the block (3x3 nautical miles). Operators do sometimes have to abandon surface locations and respud, but I haven't heard this here. Much more likely just a "mechanical bypass," which is done frequently in deep exploration wells. I hesitate responding, although I have read and admired Simmons in the past, I have to assume that he's way off base here unless there is some verifiable info that I haven't seen.

is there a link to the "oceaneering video portal" that some of the sites are showing screenshots of. or does any one know of another site with multiple feeds?

Site showing multiple live screenshots:

One pressing question and others have postulated it besides Matt Simmons is why doesn't the POTUS swipe a couple of Oil tankers from BP and start sucking up the surface oil and attacking the plumes drifting under the water?

I think we have to start thinking way outside of the box on this crisis if we have to wait until August for a complete fix the GOM is done. We have plumes 20 miles away from the Florida keys,and with the rate this well is leaking it's bound to head up the eastern seaboard.

For the people here who drill and are in the Oil business and depend on it for a livelihood. What i can say that if this leak isn't plugged soon say goodbye to re-starting the drilling of the 30 exploration wells placed on hold.

Clearly Potus can at least place the clean-up effort in the hands of the military and let BP focus on plugging the well.


Please remember that the POLLUTION DOES NOT STOP the day the relief wells finally kill it. Traces will remain for a century, and the devastating impacts for at least a year.

Several decades before some sort of natural balance is returned (if we are lucky).


I know that's why we need those Tankers in the gulf NOW so we can start mitigating the damages. These under sea plumes are a real 'jack in the box' and Hurricane season is now upon us. With Louisiana's track record i'm counting on one in the next few weeks... These plumes get whipped up and make landfall we'll be dealing with devastation that will make Katrina look like a walk in the park.