The BP Deepwater Oil Spill - Why Top Kill May Have Failed and Tonight's Open Thread

New Thread--redirect to

The Top Kill attempts have failed, and the Government has given its response.

He (President Obama) said US Energy Secretary Steven Chu was leading a team of "the world's top scientists, engineers and experts" in devising a contingency plan should the "top kill" attempt fail.

But while waiting for that, and for the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP), I thought I would spend a few paragraphs discussing why Top Kill may have failed as a substitute for my tech talk tonight; you can find that under the fold by clicking "there's more."

(The last post has a very technical discussion of LMRP, check that out there and in the comments.)

In a couple of earlier posts I wrote about how it was necessary to fill the gaps that ran through the Blow-Out Preventer (BOP) either with spheres and triangles or with wire (string would act similarly). To refresh your memory, in the initial simpler analysis, I had put up a simple sketch of the BOP and well, to show how the blocking particles were injected.

Simple approximation of the situation

Now, unfortunately that diagram left a significant part out, and that is that there are three sets of pipes leading down into the well. These are the well outer casing, which, surrounded by a layer of cement, holds the BOP in place. Then there is the production casing, which had just been set to the full depth of the well. And then there is the drill pipe that, at the time of the incident, extended down 8,367 ft from the platform, or roughly 3,367 ft below the BOP. That drill pipe (DP) had previously been used to locate the production casing at the bottom of the well, and itself now rode inside that production casing. In most normal operations it is closed at the bottom by a drill bit, but (and I’ll come back to this later), it had just finished the cementing of the production casing into position, and once it detached from that and was being pulled from the well, it was an open pipe all the way up to the rig floor. And in that condition, it could be used for other things. By pulling mud out of the DP and transferring it to the mud pits (or standoff vessel), the level in the riser would fall and be replaced by seawater flowing in at the top. Unfortunately this also lowered the weight of mud in the well, and that is what caused the oil and gas to flow into the well.

Outside of the DP is the casing and cement segments that make up the outer lining of the well. The diagram presented in Congressional testimony, shows these various pipes, except for the central drill pipe.

Casing and cement down the Deepwater well

BP do not know, but believe that the oil is getting into the well through the cement wall at the bottom of the well, and probably rising up the well through the empty space (annulus) between the production casing and the outer lining of the well. However the oil and gas may have broken through the bottom of the cement plug and be rising up within the production casing, in which it is also rising through the DP once the oil reaches its lower end. It could also reach the bottom of the DP by flowing up the annulus then go down the production casing to the bottom of the DP and then back up into the BOP.

Most normal blowouts occur when the well is being drilled, and mud is flowing down, through the drill bit, and then back up the space (the annulus) between the DP and the rock wall. Thus, when there is a blowout, the oil and gas that flow into the well normally flow up this outer passage to the rig, and give the spectacular fountain of oil. The BOP was invented (by Harry Cameron and Jim Abercrombie) to stop that flow and to protect the crew at the surface. Because the flow is normally up the outside of the drill pipe, the initial BOP designs were rams that pushed seals across the flow path through the BOP, and sealed against the side of the DP.

BOP open allowing flow through the annulus (ASME )

BOP closed against the pipe, sealing the annulus (ASME )

A BOP could have two of these mounted so that one sealed to the production casing in the well, and one to the drill pipe, but if underwater then the production casing is tied back to the Wellhead Collet Connector, and then the only tube running through the BOP will be the DP, to which they will seal.

BOP connection to casing at the seabed (PCCI report for MMS)

The problem that this leaves, in the current situation, is that the pipe that runs through these two seals is open at the bottom to the oil flow. So how can the flow through this be stopped?

The answer is to mount a top ram set that has a set of shear cutting blades on it, that will cut through the pipe and seal the full face of the well.

Shear blades to cut through the DP and seal the well (Varco )

The DP should shear, but would be held in place by the grip of the annular sealing rams below.

In this case it seems to be recognized that for some reason this shear event did not totally succeed. Thus the pipe was not totally severed and the two shear plates did not fully move over one another to complete the seal.

Now this is where the problem arises, because, in part, that pipe is still open at its lower end. If the leak is around the outside of the pipe, through a gap that has generated between the pipe and the annular seals, then the use of the junk shot to fill the cracks and gaps could conventionally have worked. But the configuration of the rams on the Deepwater Horizon had changed from the initial simpler configuration to add seals for occasions where the drill pipe was not in place.

Ram layout on the BOP (Times Picayune)

And the "junk" is being injected at the bottom of this stack.

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

If the leak is coming up through the remnants of the drill pipe then life is complicated. It can’t all be coming up through an undamaged pipe alone, since it was the far open end of that which was successfully closed at the beginning of the remedial steps, but if it is coming through the pipe and leaking out at the shear rams into the annulus that feeds into the riser, and out to the sea, then putting sealing particles into the bottom of the BOP to seal the cracks could have sealed some of the leakage around the DP trapped in the shears, but not that flowing through the shears in the remaining pipe section.

The reason that it can’t is that the access to that flow is occurring 3,367 ft below the riser, and there is no easy way to get the sealing particles down that far. If they are mixed with mud and pushed down the well to that level and then released they have a different problem. The hope when they were released into the well was that the flow of the current would be enough to carry them up to the cracks that they could seal. But if they have to be carried down to the zone where the oil remains, then their density may be sufficiently high that they get into the flow without enough speed to lift them up into the BOP, instead it will cause them to sink to the bottom of the well.

The materials that BP tried included materials that might float on the surface, and might not be dense enough.

Those materials, including fibrous pieces of rope and chunks of rubber, were supposed to force more of the mud down the wellbore, but ultimately it did not work.

Rubber has a specific gravity of 0.91 and rope varies from 0.9 to 1.4. But remember that at that depth any buoyancy from air entrainment would be lost.

In other circumstances it might have worked, If they could have dropped the DP out of the shears perhaps, but they couldn’t and it didn’t. So on to the LMRP.

UPDATE: Thinking about this a little more, I had two more thoughts. The first is that once the LMRP preparation cuts off the riser and the bent drill pipe, then the full weight of the pipe below the shears may come onto the section in the shear jaws at the moment, pulling them further out of alignment and increasing the flows. It could also cause the pipe to drop out of the jaws, pulled out by the underlying weight, and hopefully not distorting them too much so that in the best of worlds they could then be cranked shut.

One could also, once the bent riser and pipe had been cut, go in down the pipe bit that extends up, go down past the annular seals with an abrasive jet lance (most of the flow is around the DP as we have established above) and cut it off, right above the shears. Then partially open the shears, drop the pipe out, and close them again. If they move all the way closed, without the obstruction, then the well may be sealed.

To begin, a sincere thank you to all who have donated thus far. It will help with the increased costs (see point 3 below).

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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)

6. Do not be afraid to go back and read the last couple of threads today. They are really good--but when we get to 400 comments, it's really unmanageable. Lots of good stuff in there though.

Prof. Goose That is the best explanation I have seen anywhere. I hope POTUS asks you to come to DC and brief his staff on what is really going on in GOM

Thanks for working the W/E. Wish our POLs were doing the same.

Help please re MIRC. I cannot make it work. The app has only a 30 day trial period. Is there any free alternative?

with all due respect

You can get to IRC via a browser at

Just enter your nickname and #theoildrum in the boxes.

Or XChat.

Or XChat.

Chatzilla is a good free IRC plugin for FireFox


FireFox Browser

If you use Firefox you can install the ChatZilla extension. If I remember correctly from the other day, it will launch itself the first time upon restarting Firefox, but then after that you can launch it by going to Tools > ChatZilla in Firefox to use it.

I have no idea why I didn't see the comment above mine.

video - what are we seeing - this the top of the BOP that we were watching during topkill?

Live now are the clearest images I've seen yet of the top of the BOP and its connection to the riser. Could someone knowledgeable please take a look and render an opinion of the feasibility of fitting the LMRP to the top of the BOP after the riser's been cut off? It looks pretty twisted.

Thanks; amazing site.

Guys, check out the chat room--they're talking about this in real time. (see point 5 above)

Rainyday - thnaks for the question - re the cannibalised BOP and links / citations - it is all on the BP website. I am really quite surprised (or maybe not) that there are so many wild guesses and conspiracy accusations (not from you) when info is readily available in the most obvious places. Perhaps it is easier to type than read.

So looking at the second diagram in BP's Response in detail:Containment Contingency Option

the device above the LMRP cap looks similar to the top half of the BOP. I don't see any text in the detailed response suggesting that that has come from the RW BOP. Referring to header of the previous thread, I wonder what portion of the LMRP package has already been placed on the sea floor. I had thought that referred to the already assembled top hat device, which has been on the bottom for quite a while, just appearing under a more technical name.

I appreciate your highlighting the info on BP's site, and, while I agree that it seems to be easier for some to type than to read, I don't agree that it is "all on the BP website." If it were, we wouldn't all - newbies like me as well as grizzled TOD veterans - have so many questions.

The RW BOP was said to be sitting at ready close by the wellhead should the LMRP fail. By my understanding, it was not to be part of the LMRP attempt, which is why it is not in the rendering - I think. If LMRP fails, the 2nd BOP a Lula would be next up.

You know if you're juggler vain is cut, and you're just gushing blood all over the place, about to die; you don't ask folks to go around the room and clean up your bloody mess everywhere while you bleed to death. First of all you've got to stop the bleeding. Then focus on the mess. I don't understand why they can't just fly over, or send ferries and start dumping tons and tons of gravel over this thing until it's completely covered in a mountain of gravel on the bottom of the ocean. I don't know how long it will take for the rocks to fall all the way to the bottom, but that would stop the bleeding at least. Then we could focus on cleaning up the mess.

Building a mountain down there may be impossible as I believe the mud's pretty deep and soft. So much so that the Horizon-wreck simply sank into it (seen any pictures of it?).

But what the heck would I know.

Regards, Matt B
PS. I like your jugular vein analogy

It's ok, but carotid artery would be a better analogy.

If your base is wide enough, your slope gentle enough, there is no reason you could not build a "mountain" on soft soil. Remember, you are not concerned about how much that mud compresses over time. You're not building a nice structure that cannot tolerate large differential settlement on top of this thing, so as long as you don't have slope stability problems you're golden. And you avoid slope stability problems by having shallow slopes.

Technically, it's feasible. Financially, that's another story, and we are not event talking about the time frame involved. That thing would be HUGE. Artificial islands have been build in shallow waters for good reason. And even then they are among the most massive undertakings ever done. Don't forget that you would have to pile up a mountain taller than the depth of water available to match the pressure of the reservoir... which means that you are talking about a colossal undertaking.

Simply put, that solution might take (very, very very much) longer than building a relief well, it would be immensely costly and most like even if carried out it would prove fruitless. As I understand, there is something like 3 kilometers of rock (I may be wrong here) drilled through the bottom of the sea to reach the reservoir. The pressure of the reservoir is normally at least that much if there were no leaks. This is compatible with the 13000 psi pressure reported. Now, if you want your "montain" to resist that pressure, it must be of comparable height to offer the same pressure. If you cannot balance that pressure, than you cannot hope to stop the flow, right?

The goal of the top kill, is basically to refill the same height of rock removed by drilling with a material of similar density (the drilling fluid) so that by the time we reach the bottom, we are balancing the pressure in the reservoir. So it is the same 3 km (1.8 miles), but with a limited volume, (idealized as a cylinder to make it simple). In reality it is a truncated cone, varying from 46 cm (18 inches ) in diameter to 18 cm (7 inches) from the drawings higher up in the post. Assuming a mean diameter of 32 cm, and 3 km depth of "cylinder" you get a few hundred cubic meters of material (couple of thousands of barrels in volume).

Now, if you pile stuff on top of your gusher, to build a "mountain", you are using an unconfined volume. All materials you will use for this will have an internal angle of repose, equivalent to their friction angle. If you pile up sand, you cannot make it stand as a cylinder. It has an inherent friction, and will end up making a nice little hill. The side slopes may vary depending ont its surface properties (mineral composition, particle size distribution, density), but will be generally in the viccinity of 30 degrees. So to make a mountain of sand of 3 km it will need to be 5 km in radius, that is 10 km in diameter. I don't think we need to go through the details of the calculations to start seeing how big this needs to be. Even if we assume we are using rockfill with a higher friction angle (say 45 degrees, , so 1:1 slopes) we would need 6 km of diameter, and a lot more material. Also, if you notice, there is only 1.5 km of water above the seabed, so we need to start building our mountain up once it surfaces. It starts getting big. The volume of the cone is 1/3 π R2 H, and now you are talking something in the order of 30 KILOMETERS cubed of material. That material must be mined somewhere, transported, dumped, placed, etc. etc. etc. You're likely talking years of work. And what then?

Well you ahve the same problem they had with the leaky riser... you have pores within your material. To avoid leaks, what you need to do is to dump a good mix of soil (of all sizes, from clay to silt and sand) and not just rock to plug the holes (like they tried to do with the junk shot). But if you just dump it in the water all your fine material will get washed away, leaving you with mostly only the coarser stuff, full of leaks in between... so you are left with... exactly the same situation, after years of effort immense cost (both monetary and environmental if you have mined the rocks nearby... you've compounded your problems). And you've done exactly nothing.

What's more, because you need kilometers of space on the sides of your well, you now have essentially kissed goodbye to your relief wells (you can't start drilling them until you have completed your mountain, and then through the slopes of the mountain, or so far away that it would take forefer to reach your well, and you would risk problems due to the construction of the "mountain"). Those relief wells are ultimately the best bet of getting this thing under control, you can't just sacrifice them like that.

Finally let's not forget that we would have to place this rockfill and soil on top of a gusher, with a lot of pressure behind it. That may not be easy to do at all. When you drill a hole, you start putting the drilling mud as you go down so that by the time you get to any given depth, you have the full depth of the drill hole above you providing pressure. When they tried the top kill, they had to fight the pressure by attempting to pressurize the mud in the BOP. If you just dump your rock/soil into the sea, you may find a nich hollow place all around your gusher, as the material will settle around it rather than on top of it. Even the heavier bits.

This situation is one example where "doing anything" is just not good enough, and most likely harmful. It is very tempting, in a panic, to just do "anything" for the sake of feeling better, feeling like we are doing something. But more often than not, the gut reaction may turn out to make things worse. Given the potential harm that this thing can cause, I think we need to rush, but rush in a well thought out manner.

Simply put, that solution might take (very, very very much) longer than building a relief well, it would be immensely costly and most like even if carried out it would prove fruitless

wow. very long post and meaningless.. May be this show why we may need to split the newbie post with the more experience folks. Basically it is a ranting because of lack of understanding of the technology. All the industrial expert is saying that relieve well is the answer and it may take multiple time but ultimately it will shutdown the well. So what exactly is this ranting added into the discussion. Any proof that show why it is "fruitless"? Nothing and it just waste everyone time. But I read into about 1/3 of the post before I figure out that it is completely off topic. And if you multiple the time I wasted by the total number of readers in this site, we just manage to waste a lot of valuable time..

The seawater pressure at the well-head is about 2400lbs per square inch. The pressure of the oil leak is about 10,000 or 13,000 lbs per square inch. As one of the experts around here commented several days ago, even if you could drop a huge monolith over the site, the oil would just tunnel out though the mud to the edge of whatever you dumped. This is not a simple problem.

The experts are tired of responding to naive suggestions like yours, and the best reply you'll probably get is from a non-expert like me.

What part of 13,000 psi at the wellhead did you not understand? Pour rock on a volcano. Hum, gee pour rock on it, the smartest people in the oil industry and no one has ever poured rock on it? What about item 6. in my book a moutain of fast setting post cement? A giant moutain 5,000 ft. deep in the GOM? Would you put the battle ship on top or on the bottom? Before or after the nuclear weapon? Pour giant screws until one of them sticks in the hole? Oil uould never find it's way through rock would it? Labra tar pits? Maybe you could do a manvour called the reverse Jed Clampett? You could fire your shotgun until the well fills with lead, unlike the lead fishing weights item 7 in the book??

Have we explored harmonic vibrations from a giant crystal pyramid?

That preamble to this new thread was the most lucid explanation of all the various parts involved in this puzzle that I have ever seen.
Really really good. It took me a while to digest it, but it was worth every moment spent.
Excellent. Many many thanks.
I'm reaching for my wallet right this minute.

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?

Hundreds of miles? No. How far inland the oil moves in depends on the storm surge, which is in turn affected by shape of the shoreline, elevation, etc.

More here:

I wonder how much of this toxic brew can evaporate and then rain back down?

I have seen this happen when a shrimp boat dumped it's fuel after sinking halfway. The fuel went out on an outgoing tide (they avoided the Coast Guard fine) then I noticed all this fuel back in fresh water ponds that weren't connected to the ocean.

Either way, I think what is bad for this region is bad for everyone.

I've never heard of hydrocarbon rain on this planet. I seriously doubt that you are going to be able to saturate the Earth's atmosphere (even locally) with hydrocarbon vapor, and if you did it would make a god awful bang when the first spark came by.

With heavy rains maybe it just seeps right through the soil? A lot of people reported their well water tasted like fuel after that fuel dump. And what about the rest of the toxic brew? This stuff is probably going to end all over the place and in the drinking water.

In every place I can think of in South Louisiana (south of Lake Pontchartrain), drinking water is taken from rivers. Fresh supply daily.


It's nice to know the GOM is safe and sound. No need for additional testing of ground water after heavy use of dispersants in the region for the worst enviromental disaster in the history of the US.


Previously it was asked why the POTUS doesn't fill the GOM with supertankers and just suck up all that oil. I'm not too expert in such matters but here's a simple answer

It’s difficult for folks to envision what’s going on out in GOM. First, there are no pools or plumes of oil out there. They are dealing with an oil/water emulsion. The oil/water mixture won’t separate easily. This is not an uncommon problem with some producing wells. The emulsion has to be broken and that takes chemicals and, more importantly, time. If they pump the emulsion into a tanker much, if not the majority, of that volume will be water. If they don’t separate the water from the oil most of the storage space will be wasted.

Another big problem: the emulsion is not concentrated in big pools. That’s the purpose of the skimming ops. The goal in skimming is to concentrate the emulsion to limit the amount of water sucked up with it. If there’s a 6” layer of emulsion floating on the water and they drop a suction hose into it they’ll likely draw up 90% + water with it. So yes, such a process would recover some oil but it would be horribly inefficient and have a minimal effect IMHO.

I'll take a shot at this. In the Arabian sea case where they did this successfully they used booms/skimmers to corral the oil, then pumped the mixture into the tanker -- that's the purpose of booms to direct the oil. I've seen the claim of 85% cleaning was made--though obviously it couldn't have been that good, or anywhere near. Today, the big problem could be the dispersant use--but that's just hiding the problem anyway. Today, we also may have these centrifuges to separate the mix--I don't know how well they work, but now is the time to find out if there ever is.

I don't think it'll be all that successful, but the Gulf and loop current is pretty closed. I think it would definitely help, with zero downside to anybody but BP.

John Hofmeister president of Shell Oil from 2005/2008 is on tour promoting his book Why We Hate the Oil Companies. I heard a radio interview with him in which he described how they sucked the oil up into tankers in the Arabian Sea. He said Shell has been trying to persuade BP to try that in the Gulf with no success. He was extremely critical of BP saying their reasons for not doing it are bogus. I know nothing of the technology involved but it seems BP is either extremely negligent in not doing this or has a reason they haven't as yet shared.

Yes, I heard his book tour on Canadian public radio too, and it was quite repulsive.
He was willfully ignorant of the difference between a shallow "unreported" (now, who can argue with facts against some claim that is stated as "unreported 'spill' ") and the physics of a a deepwater and "dispersed" emulsion.

Fact I see is, there seems to be a gigantic PR machine at work, even reaching Canadian public broadcasting, even these hallowed forums at the TOD.

[my background is political - I helped establish the Green Party in my home town in '82 and got voted into city council, for I believed it was an idea whose time had come. I had read "Global 2000". But, I'm a Realpolitiker, not an Idealist. I try to see the forces at work, and strive for the realistically possible]

That said, bearing my soul, - we can in innuendo repeat the same arguments of reason to the great unwashed why gravel/concrete/uranium/mercury/airplane-carriers/Mr. Spock/hydrogen bombs drops onto the well won't do shiona. But, I am afraid, in somebodies grand plan, this is a wanted behaviour, to drain our combined energies.

What is needed, I think, is a simple and decisive technocratic argument that needs to be repeated and hammered home, over and over again, to cut through the noise machine.
I am poor, and have problems to donate 20 bucks to keep my beloved TOD online, but I would gladly give 100$ for a thinktank of Goose, Gail, Rockman, Shelburn, Alan NOLA (and whoever they'd like to add, no offence meant) to put out a strong, unified message that we can get behind to counteract this ridiculous PR empire that is "dissolving" public opinion.

I do hope, that this is an idea, that various people from different political backgrounds could rally behind.
(this is a cognitive response to a Rockman comment a while back, that he would not believe anybody would like to hear him speak in public - If you think you don't make good interviewees at single, insist on group interviews! Don't follow patterns, lead!!!)

He said Shell has been trying to persuade BP to try that in the Gulf with no success.

This is rather interesting that Shell doesn't seem to have more influence with BP since I think I read somewhere that both Shell and Exxon had been investment partners with BP in this project.

i agree its not the most efifcient process....

but these tankers can process 1-2 million gal/day .....and i doubt on the surface the 6" layer of emuslion is 90% water......te top surface has to be upwards of 25% oil ....yes maybe down the water column its 90% water not on the surface.......

throw 5 tankers skimming in there processing lets say 1.0 mil gal/day ....thats 5 mill a day

assuming you are correct and the emulsion layer at the surface is 90 cut water ....thats still 500,000 gal of oil recovered daily

assuming I am correct and its 75 cut water at the surface ...thats 1250000 gal of oil recovered a day

the oil collected can help offset the cost of running these tankers which i am sure will be enormous...

i know I am over-simplfying what will be a tough shop to run since there is no big oil spill here but lots of medium sized ones by now ....if it will work or not i dunno but the numbers sound like it would be time well spent for someone to sit down for an hour and work this over...and it has a better chance of success than top kill on a flowing well.....

ali - when yu say the tankers can process so much per day what do you mean process? Tankers are tankers...process ships are process ships. Also, I didn't say the emulsion was 90% water but that when you tried to suck up just that thin layer of emulsion you would also suck up much additional water with it. How much would depend on the suction rate. A low pressure draw down would decrease the water cut but also slow the recover up. Also, tankers can't skim oil...skimmers do that. You can have 100 tankers out there but you acn't fill them any faster than you can skim and process the emulsion.

Again, not a area I'm too familiar with. Was hoping some environmental type with recover experience would jump in with details. But I do have experience with seperating oil emulsions from water in onshore producing wells. It is no small effort to just seperate a few hundreds bbls PER DAY. The biggest problem is the retention time it takes to do the process. No matter how you scale the effort up you can't make the clock change as you would like. The problem seemed to be highlighted earlier today when I saw folks using paper napkins to pick up emulsion along the marsh.

I guess the short answer would be that if this approach could really make a difference than the POTUS and the Coast Guard must prefer to see the GOM filled with oil. Not a bet I would be willing to make.

Rockman i dunno myself if it can work or not ..although I do know for certain Shell had a technical group working on such things in netherlands when I was there early last year....but then i'm sure if they did get something going those ppl are already state side helping out

although a low pressure draw will help ....maybe have 10 straws sticking out a tanker so something at minimal del P..

by process i mean the ability to take in X volume of emulsion and seperate it ......

i'm just a drill and completions no experience with emulsion seperation ..all i'm saying is if the arabs can hire Americans ..give them a free hand with the cash and do something about it ....we oughta be able to do something to help ourselves ...maybe station the tanker near the bayous and do what you can ..

these dog and pony tricks with top kills and LMRP caps make me cringe... time relief well is sunk and bottom kill attempted it will be august (i personally think it will be around early sept before bottom kill can practically be attempted...and dog leg severity restrictions on the RW approach I am sure will cause a big mess in the ops, come time) and by that time the bayous are going to be a black cess pool....

one thing that's for sure....the poor ROV guys over at Oceaneering are earning their keep these days

ignorance is bliss...someone said it right....

Your time frame for when BP expects to complete a relief well may be accurate. On the news tonight someone from BP said "end of August" for when they expect that. I clearly hear him say "end of" and then August. (It was either CBS or ABC - not sure which.)

What's the latest word on the plausibility of the Kevin Costner centrifuge system working in this arena?

I think the Kevin Costner centrifuges will need just the right skimmers; skim to deep and you get too much water, which lowers efficiency. Skim to shallow, and you get too much oil. Too much oil and you get oil in the discharge water, which also lowers efficiency.

Maybe the centrifuges can discharge the oil or oil/water into to a tanker, and the water will sink which can then be pumped back into the gulf, leaving just oil behind.

It seems as though there are three "avatars" of the contents of the reservoir that are involved, each with its own behaviors and properties and each demanding unique identification/capture/control techniques. I'll provide the links on which I base this observation below, and one is Dr. JOYE'S blog. There was also information posted recently on the web that the oil [droplets] in the "plumes" behave like water. Sorry I can't find that link, but if there are any hydrologists on board, maybe they can provide it.

1. "Plumes" as a natural substance remaining underwater and detectable only with special instrumentation
"...CDOM signature and invisible – to the eye at least – oil"
"...plumes like these most likely form through natural processes. At the temperature and pressure of the reservoir, methane is dissolved in the oil. When the fluid is expelled at the seafloor, the methane comes out of solution in a fairly violent manner. This gas expulsion likely fractionates the oil and it is this fractionation that generates the diffuse oil in the plumes."

2. Crude from the reservoir + Corexit, synthesized substance: visible
"...When the COREXIT dispersants are deployed on the spilled oil, the oil is broken up into tiny bio-degradable droplets that immediately sink below the surface where they continue to disperse and bio-degrade."

3. Crude from the reservoir reaching surface intact, natural substance: visible and which offers a spreadsheet

Still can't find the Macondo assay so I lifted Thunderhorse. I hope that wasn't too far off base with that.
(Mods, server running slow, if this is dup post, please delete!)

Rockman the Reasonable. Thank-you. And thanks to Heading Out and Professor Goose who continue to demonstrate how well ad hoc can be done.

There will be two mitigation efforts. Make work and nature's efforts. I'm all in favour of make work, though not at the expense of people's health, for two reasons. Something has to be done to help people deal with their sense of powerlessness. Might as well put money into the region.

But my faith rests with nature's ability to recover.

I hope Obama has at least one more team focussed on the Gulf. An economic team, evaluating the possible ways to mitigate the economic hardship the BP Big Bop is causing and will cause until nature has done with the oil.


Is the oil emulsified as it leaves the broken riser and mixes with water or is it being emulsified by the dispersant? Once they cut off the riser and there's only one point source for the leaking oil, would it make any sense to stop dispersing, see if the oil rises up in more or less one sort of localized spot then burn, skim, supertanker that "spot" maybe use some solid boom with extra-deep skirt? I realize that might be problematic with the traffic jam over the well but if it was concentrated they could rearrange the fleet?

The info at the top is excellent and informative. Would a FAQ section help hold down the posts from new surfers regarding the Bruce Willis type options?

Moose – I suspect it emulsifies rater quickly when it hits the seawater. But I have no idea how the dispersant interacts with the emulsion. Just agues but I don’t think removing the riser will change what's happening in the water column.

As soon as the oil hits water it is going to start forming an oil/water interface. Energy minimization means that interface will be spherical. Since there is a lot more water than oil it means oil drops.

Basically what happens next is the droplet size is influenced by how much energy is available to form surface (surface tension x area = force x distance = energy). The dispersant adsorbs on the oil/water interface and lowers the surface tension which means you can make more surface for the same amount of energy, which means smaller drops. The dispersant also provides electrostatic charge and stearic hinderance on the droplet surface making it less likely that two colliding drops will coalesce.

Over long enough time and storage in a quiescent environment energy minimization will win out and the oil will coalesce.

As far as plumes and water column go that appears to be dissolved methane. If so these plumes have nothing to do with the use of dispersant.

One of the technical names for this is a surfactant.

FYI, I have another treatise posted, this time on dispersion.

Anyone who wants a technical workout is invited to read it.

Surfactant is not really a technical term. It's simply a portmanteau of "surface active agent" that was originally invented by a marketing guy.

Not really. I have published in surface science journals and we used the term surfactant 20 years ago to describe weird crap going on during single crystal growth with the introduction of impurities.

BTW, Weird Crap is also a technical term.

Per Wikipedia:
The term surfactant was coined by Antara products in 1950.

I think I first became aware of the term in the early '60s.

I have worked on making asphalt & coal tar emulsions. The concept of minimizing emulsification is pretty good, I think. What is needed is to slow down the velocity with which the oil impinges into the sea water, and eliminate the dispersant (which reduces surface tension, thus reducing particle size. Something as simple as a piece of pipe or hose big enough so that the energy of the pressure drop from the inside of the riser to local sea water pressure would be dissipated via turbulence within the oil/gas phase (prior to mixing with sea water) would reduce emulsification greatly. The less violent the mixing, the less the emulsification. The rising plume could be contained in a flexible tube (made of fabric-reinforced elastomer; one example: not the best reference, but I could not find that quickly)

Excellent idea Roger to reduce emulsification. Please recommend to BP/Deepwater Horizon Response.

One thing potus did right was having Mr. Chu in charge of the scientists. This makes me feel a little bit better about the overall health of the damaged BOP. Without him down at the hive expressing his concerns BP probably would have been dumping mud for an extra 24 hours.

Since we may be looking at August for a complete stoppage. I would like the experts/s opinions on using Tankers with the cleanup effort. What are the main issues on why these are not working in/around the gulf now> I already know BP's explanation around the broken well itself, far too much surface activity. I just think we need at least two-three of them circling the gulf so that the boom vessels can herd the surface oil towards them. The plumes are really another issue in itself, armed with centrifuges separating the oil from seawater a Tanker can literally park dead center over these and start vacuuming the oil up.

I don't really have much confidence in Chu. In a recent interview he didn't even know that oil was under his purview. And he has been Energy Sec for 16 months.

Oil comes under many depts -- MMS, for instance, is not in Chu's, but Interior. Transportation is also involved - so it would depend upon which link of the chain from source to final destination downstram you would be taking about. And Chu may quite correctly have stated that he was uncertain whether a particular link belonged under his purview.

Not sure who posted this last thread...but a good .ppt to scan for any geos/engineers. From BP's reconstruction of timeline...

PS - can somebody pls. explain what the casing hanger lock-down is for? Does it prevent casing from being being pushed up the hole in the scenario of a blowout? Or something else?

tt, thanks for posting that link. I had not seen that and it fills in a lot of the missing links. After studying that document, one can only guess what was going through the minds of the supervisors on board as the warning flags started flying.

Items from the latest BP email:

Government Scientists Estimate that BP’s Pending Riser Cut Could Result in a Temporary Oil Flow Increase of up to 20 Percent

In order to ensure the American public receive the most accurate information, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner provided an estimate, calculated by government scientists, that BP’s tactic involving cutting off a kinked portion of the riser and attempt to lower a device over the area—allowing them to try and capture a substantial amount of the oil leaking out—could result in a temporary increase in oil flow by as much as 20 percent until the containment device is applied over the leak. The Flow Rate Task Force will continue to evaluate a potential temporary increase as a result of this tactic and will provide any additional assessments as they become available.

Progress Continues in Drilling Relief Wells

The Development Driller III and Development Driller II continue to drill the first relief well to a depth of 12,000 feet, and second relief well to a depth of 8,500 feet, respectively.

The 20 percent number (10-20%) has been quoted by BP for at least 10 days.

So, if they collect all the oil do you reduce the value by 20%? And, how do you know, given the variations of current flow estimate? I can hear it now : "Total flow captured is now 12000 BOPD. Obviously the flow did not increase." Let's hear from all those who have claimed the flow will shoot up by a great amount and who claim it is already at least 50000 BOPD.

I'll chip in for any nominations for HO to get some kind of prize for reporting/analyzing/explaining this whole thing!!

Jeff Masters at Weather Underground has a post on how the Loop Current works. There's a link there to a (large gif) 1-year animation. Looks like blowing huge watery smoke rings...

Masters has some pretty pictures, but I like Roffer's overlays of oil extent on top of currents mo' better. Roffer's analysis also shows more experience in predicting current flows:

IMHO, the Loop Current/Loop Current Eddy has been holding the oil in the northern Gulf for weeks, confining it in smaller counter-rotating eddies along the northern bounds of the Big Eddy. As the Loop Eddy detaches and moves west there will be a breakdown of the oil-carrying eddies and an accelerated flow east and south along the Florida coast toward the new Loop Current path. As well, some southerly flow from the western spill area could run clockwise around the northeastern quadrant of the Loop Eddy and directly into the new Loop Current. If this seems like wild speculation, see this and related current charts from the July 2009 Loop Current Eddy separation:

For clarification, if the spill had been popping up in the middle of the Loop Current, the Eddy migration would be good news for Florida and points east. But the spill has been outside the Loop, basically walled off from the rest of the Gulf. That is now changing and the chance of greater spread of the oil has gone way up.


I am not technical, so have nothing to contribute on that score. I too appreciate this site; and have done so for several years now.

There is another thread on the FTW blog about BP and their behaviour. Summing up, it seems that this well could have been "killed" with explosives, maybe even nukes, several weeks ago, but that BP, for commercial reasons (because the well cost hundreds of millions and they may never be allowed back to the field again) is trying to save the well.

Could that be true? If so it stretches credulity beyond imagination and Obama has made a catastrophic error of judgement, or failed to take charge as he continuously promises.

yr reading inaccurate undocumented date, jus the facts m'am

Dog - you might dig thru some old post. The blow out well will never, ever produce. The GOM is being killed by the flow of oil into as a result of the well BLOWING UP. Blowing it up again won't reverse physical laws.

Blowing it up again won't reverse physical laws.

You would be surprised how many posts I have seen here and other websites that seem to be absolutely convinced that the government is just holding out, by not nuking this thing.

I guess I shouldn't be shocked by that, when I see people these days who don't even seem to know who the first president of the U.S. was. Having watched a few of those Jay Walking videos on TV and see comments on the internet. Makes one wonder just what are they teaching in school these days? Anything?


IMO, there is exactly Zero probability of the United States Government ever considering using a nuclear explosive device to close this, or any, well.

Absolutely Zero Point Zero Probability.

I personally have 100% confidence in my assertion.

Perhaps Professor Goose can add this statement to hi fine BP DWH Blowout thread Preamble posts.

I offer no citations to back this statement up, nor a CV.

Believe my assertion, or else continue to engage in harmless but useless speculation about the use of nuclear explosive devices for this situation.

The submission of brainstorming ideas to TOD, the USG, and BP is wonderful and by all means keep the efforts going, but focus your finite time to use your problem-solving skills by forgetting about this non-starter idea.

For reason's sake, the Russian's wouldn't even consider this as an option if they had a similar situation.

Inbound biosphere-killing asteroid detected with at least several years warning time....maybe, particularly as other actors would have the option to go that alone, so the World would likely pull together if that option was seen as the best or maybe only shot at deflection.

Not for this though.

I certainly hope you're right the the USG is not considering a nuclear detonation to deal with this...because the only consequence of such an action, would be that then we could all be horribly bent out of shape about the RADIOACTIVE oil that is spewing up from the (completely forever uncontrollable) hole that USED to have a casing that could be intercepted by a kill well, back before we blew it all to Hell and gone...

I'm sure that Bobby Jindal and the MSM would then switch back to excoriating Obama about how his fascist/socialist/communist Administration had overstepped the bounds of limited government with the nuclear bomb, and that all they want is to be left alone to solve the problem themselves...


You can sleep soundly, at least wrt this particular concern.

Using a nuclear device to seal this, or any, well is utterly off the table.

The idea was never on the table.

This idea was never let inside the room with that table.

There is a much greater chance of someone running a prototype commercial nuclear fusion reactor by the end of this year.

I am no fan of BP, but, no, they are not trying to save the well. The Well is already toast. They are trying to stop the leak. It is in their best interest to do so, quickly. Whether they are competent or whether they are being pushed hard enough may be another story. I will leave it to you to read through old threads like a responsible newbie to see why nukes or other explosives is a really bad idea.

I'm not in BP's fan club either, and enjoy a plausible conspiracy theory as much as anyone, but the notion that there is some agenda to let this well continue spilling so as to try saving money just beggars belief.
Sure, the upper echelons at BP are bigtime worriers about PR and the legal department has a lot of clout too, but the hardhats working on the problem are serious people, and they want to kill it.
I don't see that as even debatable.
It's true they are fenced in to working on low probability solutions right now, but that's sure as heck not their fault.

And what is it with some people that when they can't figure out a solution to a problem the first idea they turn to involves high explosives? I mean, really? I know they've worked to put out fires on land-based rigs and the like, but now all of a sudden we're suggesting nukes because the Russians say they did it ?
How does it go? "Just drop a nuke down the well and collapse the whole thing" ???

There is an old Army saying:

"There is no problem that cannot be solved with a sufficient quantity of high explosives."

However - I think that this leak is the exception to this rule.

When does this kind of nonsense stop?

There is another thread on the FTW blog about BP and their behaviour. Summing up, it seems that this well could have been "killed" with explosives, maybe even nukes, several weeks ago, but that BP, for commercial reasons (because the well cost hundreds of millions and they may never be allowed back to the field again) is trying to save the well.

1) No, BP will never, ever, ever, ever produce from this well, nor the relief well(s).

2) No amount of explosives nuclear or otherwise could or can seal this well. Presumably a well would have to be drilled in order to place the charge which is the same thing as a relief well. Only you blow the crap out of the ocean floor and make the leak 1000 times worse. Nuclear bombs only fix things in Bruce Willis movies, not in the real world.

Besides, you see, the Russians used low yield nuclear blasts in the 1960-70s to shut off blow outs and were successful 4 of 5 times. Therefore, it is technological nonsense for anyone to even SUGGEST that an American engineer might think about doing the same thing. Also, you see, the Soviets were COMMUNISTS!!! and therefore morally incapable of being real engineers.

After seeing the condition of Russian oil fields and development I saw in late 80's early 90's I can see why they would set off a nuke.

Given the sediments and the nearby wells I am sure the results here would be would the political ramifications.

The Russians did this because it is/(was?) WAY beyond their technical capability to drill a relief well that could intercept a blowout. So what they did instead is drill a relief well in parallel to the blowout and then pack it with a nuke.

Given that some kind of relief well is needed I'd go with the non-nuke kind first. It probably isn't going to be any faster to drill the nuke kind.


Your last sentence in your post is a serious understatement!

Sleep easy, the nuke idea ain't..gonna...happen...

If I was a betting man, I would take all bets from those who would bet on any non-zero probability of employing a nuclear explosive device to seal this, or any, well.

Depending how much money everyone wanted to stake, I could retire in style!

Honestly, it would be swell if everyone stopped posting this nuke idea, like as in yesterday. It is a complete waste of time, a distraction from ideas that have a non-zero probability of being tried, and these posts are likely diminishing the reputation of TOD.

There is no evidence that the Soviets used nuclear weapons to shut down oil wells that had gone out of control. The story appeared as an unsigned column in Komsomoloskaya Pravda which did not provide any source data for its claims, and this was picked up by an American blog. It wouldn’t surprise me if the editor of Komsomoloskaya Pravda had seen Borat and thought he too could make westerners look like idiots by peddling a daft story about the Soviet Union that would be swallowed whole.

Tim -

if you follow this thread:

You get to a Christian Science Monitor article:

searching around finds this:

This is behind a pay wall, but the abstract notes "...closure of runaway gas wells..."

continued searching finds...

The wiki mentions the Soviet "plowshare" program:

Ah, and therein is the link to the ("free") DOE pdf report:
The Soviet Program for Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Explosions:
starting on pg 34

3. Extinguishing Runaway Gas Well Fires
Shortly after the Soviet PNE Program was established, an urgent industrial problem was brought
to the leaders of the program - could an underground nuclear explosion be used to put out a gas
well fire that had been raging for some 3 years? (See Section B.2, Appendix B.)
Urtabrdak. On December 1, 1963, while drilling gas Well No. 11 in the Urtabulak gas field in
Southern Uzbekistan about 80 km southeast of Bukhara, control of the well was lost at a depth of
2450 m. This resulted in the loss of more than 12 million m3 of gas per day through an 8-inch
casing, enough gas to supply the needs of a large city, such as St. Petersburg. Formation
pressures were about 270-300 atmospheres. 87,88,89
Over the next three years, many attempts were made using a variety of techniques to cap the
well at the surface or to reduce the flow and extinguish the flames. However, because the bottom
1000 m of the casing had not yet been cemented, such attempts led to diversion of the gas into
nearby wells and to serious personnel safety problems because of the high H2S content of the
gas. Underground attempts were hampered by the fact that the location of the lower portion of
the hole had not been logged at the time control was lost.



It does depend on having the right clay/salt/etc. formation above the producing zone.

n.b. that should be section B.3 in appendix B.

n.b. you are technically correct, they never shut down an oil well, only gas wells. ;-)

I stand corrected, and yes I agree it is fascinating stuff. I had been unable to find the report on the DoE website so I dismissed it.

Although I think letting one of these things off in the GoM would be insane. That the Soviets did something is not usually a reliable indicator as to whether it was a good idea or not.

Or really make westerners look like idiots by seriously discussing it as an option. The idea of a nuclear option looks to me like agitprop by the successor to the KGB (whose name escapes me).

The World has changed wrt nuclear weapons and the original five club, since the 1960s and 1970s.

If the Russians did such things then, that ship has sailed since about 20 years ago.

That time is over.

We used such devices for peaceful experiments as well back in the day...

That time is over.

It IS nonsense to suggest that a nuclear device would be employed in a desperate attempt to seal this, or any, well.

By us, the Russians, the Chines, the Brits, or the French.

Everyone mooting this idea has absolutely NO idea of the moral, legal, and the many, many, many technical and safety considerations which would have to be dealt with or waived away.

I seldom use any ALL CAPS or repeated modifiers to make a point, but the point I am making is absolute and unequivocal, IMO.

One would think that someone called Heisenberg would throw a little uncertainty into their spiel, on principle alone.

Yes, the Ukrainians were successful running 4 out of 5 nuclear plants... do you feel lucky today?

The incomplete relief wells (only one will be completed) can be repurposed into production wells "later" and much of their cost retained as value.


The incomplete relief wells (only one will be completed) can be repurposed into production wells "later" and much of their cost retained as value.

After all is said and done and properly killed, one of the two relief wells will end up sidetracked out and drilled down to the reservoir for technical purposes, and then suspended for possible completion later on.

Alan -

I'm hoping that, as a knowledable local observer, you can explain for me an apparent contradiction in common assumptions. It is this:

the seabed at the site is described as being so soft that pouring concrete as a base for a containment option would be futile as it would sink into "thousands of feet of silt and mud" -

Yet -

not only is a 21" pipe supporting a 450 tonne BOP, plans are afoot to perch another one on top of it. In addition to which the 21" pipe gives way to smaller diameters relatively soon, and there are also significant side thrusts on the BOP from pipe loads and material flows.

Personally I'd not care to trust even a 200ft 21" diameter pipe to carry a 90 tonne load without solid side support, let alone 450 tonnes, let alone 900 tonnes.

So could you say whether I'm missing something, or whether the softness of the seabed has been greatly overstated ?



That pipe was pile driven into the muck and mud for several hundred feet. Much as piles are driven into the ground under tall buildings & bridges in New Orleans.

Friction on the sides of the pipe hold it in place and for the pipe to tilt, many cubic yards of muck will have to move too, and the only way to displace a cubic yard 150' down is to move muck above it.

One can build on muck, but the techniques used have to adapt.

Hopes that helps,


Alan -

many thanks. It does indeed help.

As far as I can count, making a solid base for a double-skinned containment dome -
with an outflow pipe and stopcock for very slow closure
(after filling between the skins with concrete, and its partial burial under more ballast) -
would use about 40 barge-loads of 5,000Ts of ballast to provide a foundation-mound of around 400ft x 100ft deep -

Feasible, but certainly beyond the competence of BP to arrange promptly. Thus I guess this would necessarily be a US navy operation.

My interest in this is the same as yours in urging at least 4 relief wells -
such are the stakes that all viable non-conflicting options should be prepared for reliable sole operation, with the earliest successful option closing the well.

I wonder if we may also share an objection to further BOP-connection options - that without knowing its internal condition, nor that of the 21" carrier pipe supporting it, it is deeply imprudent to assume that these will stand whatever additional pressures halting the outflow generates.



You cannot rock-dump in a mile of water.

If you did, you'd waste a large fraction as it spead out on its way down.
The efficient approach is to deliver ballast to the seabed via wide MMF chutes.



Here is a good description of the process:
An Introduction to Drilling Offshore Oil Wells

I'm sure we'll have wingnuts from both ends telling us things from their own personal reality for quite a long time now. Friday, one of my co-workers repeated the talk-radio notion that this was all the fault of "environmentalists" demanding that BP drill too far out in the Gulf.

Now we have the tinfoil brigade making up still more silly stuff...

I keep coming back to this site for the few remaining scraps of reality-based information to be found anywhere any more.

I keep coming back to this site for the few remaining scraps of reality-based information to be found anywhere any more.

You got that right, buddy!

Even some of the other science based sites I frequent seem to have been suddenly flooded with batshit craziness. I think that the very tenuous hold on reality that we as a collective society were barely holding on to, has finally been completely lost... OMG!

It seems that every insecticide soaked, mentally deficient cockroach, has jumped out from under the kitchen sink and is flipped over on its back racing its hairy little legs in the air, or just running around, in little death throe, circles of insanity!

Houston, we've got a lot of problems!

Part of what you are seeing is a crisis of faith in technological fixes.

People simply can't bring themselves to believe that you can't just plug the hole, you can't just drop something big and heavy on it, you can't just send in the military, you can't just nuke it. There must be some simple solution, or an iPad app, or lasers, or something that will just fix it.

It must be a conspiracy (quick! check for commies under the bed!) of evil people with evil intent, because there simply aren't any technological obstacles, anything in the real world can just be fixed. The real challenges are getting a dozen old white guys to agree to an obscure change in a 3000 page law, of course that takes a year and is a huge accomplishment. This? "Plug the damned hole!".

++++++++++ !!!!!!

What a great post. People can't wrap their mind around a problem that can't be solved quickly and easily and in real time video.

Great post GM. I am amazed (and disappointed) that so many people think what happens in movies/games can be replicated in real life.

Spot on. I would only add that this culture of technological silver bullets is fed by the film and TV industries, who are terribly fond of deus ex machina plot devices to wrap everything up in the last reel (and the enemy who keeps paying to watch that slop is us - well, some of us, anyway...)

People simply can't bring themselves to believe that you can't just plug the hole, you can't just drop something big and heavy on it, you can't just send in the military, you can't just nuke it.

Reality of the physical nature of things is harder for some to wrap their head around, if they have never seen it, experienced it first hand or worked around it.

Reality bites

As someone on here suggested earlier, it would be great if the press/media could go to well control school for a few days and then maybe they could ask questions that make sense. Then possibly they could write the reports for the uninformed public to read that would make sense. I am not going to hold my breath for that one.

Part of what you are seeing is a crisis of faith in technological fixes.

I only partly agree with that statement, I think many people are also suffering from the cognitive dissonance caused by being anti-science and technology while at the same time demanding that science and technology provide the fix to all our problems.

When science clashes with beliefs? Make science impotent
By John Timmer | Last updated 3 days ago

It's hardly a secret that large segments of the population choose not to accept scientific data because it conflicts with their predefined beliefs: economic, political, religious, or otherwise. But many studies have indicated that these same people aren't happy with viewing themselves as anti-science, which can create a state of cognitive dissonance. That has left psychologists pondering the methods that these people use to rationalize the conflict.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology takes a look at one of these methods, which the authors term "scientific impotence"—the decision that science can't actually address the issue at hand properly. It finds evidence that not only supports the scientific impotence model, but suggests that it could be contagious. Once a subject has decided that a given topic is off limits to science, they tend to start applying the same logic to other issues.

We as a society have some really tough nuts in urgent need of cracking...

An interesting insight into how Sarah Palin came to be. And why she is so attractive.


repeated the talk-radio notion that this was all the fault of "environmentalists" demanding that BP drill too far out in the Gulf.

...really?! Who, when, how...?

i was talking about this today with a friend, and we decided that the very, very, very, very thin silver lining to all of this is that America's getting a crash course on the real cost of oil drilling. It seems spills in Angola, Mexico, etc. haven't entered our consciousness the same way, when it's bad environmentally-speaking no matter where it's leaking/spilled.

Can anyone out there address what laws are in place in the Gulf states as to where drilling's allowed?

I really appreciate seeing informed ideas and infromation about what's going on. Thank you all.

Re: formation of icy hydrates. The current capping idea seems to be counterint this by trying to heat the gas as it escapes.

Seems to me this phenomenon could possibly be used to separate (dangerous & expansive) gas from less expansive oil at or around the well head. I see the same priciples at play as used in refrigeration.

Gas rather than oil seems to be the problem in diverting well output to the surface and controlling it.

I'm not clear on oil/gas temp from BOP, but it seems like it could be 180 degress or more flowing into 42 degree water.

It also seem there is a significant pressure drop (and phase change) that is also likely to lower temps and induce or increase freezing.

There might be a way to use these differentials to separate ond concentrate oil so it can be collected. There might also be a way to use them to create pressure to counter/reduce all flow up the casing.

I'd like to see someone who knew post some ideas.

The LMRP is outfit for ethanol lines for warming.

I've been thinking about that too. If there was a cross-flow of water where the gas/oil contacts the sea, the oil (which is less buoyant) should be carried further with this flow than the gas. A much simpler scenario might be to have a horizontal piece of pipe to accept the outflow, with valves along the top to vent the gas. a relatively pure oil stream would come out the far end of the pipe at the bottom. Perhaps something approaching this could be accomplished by drilling holes in the riser to vent gas between the kink and the end of the riser?

dang, watching the ROV's manouver brings home how difficult that's gotta be w/ no sense of human touch.

No sense of touch. The occasional passing underwater current, right when you think your ready to grab something. The problems with depth perception, when trying to grab something. The problem of not being able to move your eye's over your work for alignment etc(everything is at arms length). I'm a carpenter, watching the operator try and run the saw yesterday, was almost as painful for me, as it was the tech operating the ROV. The further you extend the arms, the more pronounced(exaggerated)the motions become.

That brings up something that's been bugging me for a while - the tool handling capabilities of these ROVs seem to be stuck in the 70s. If they routinely handle stuff like saws and screwdrivers, not to mention metal machining stuff - why haven't the designers taken advantage of the work done to allow CNC machining centers to change out tools?

I really don't think that I should be watching video, where I am breathlessly anticipating that a bloody screwdriver can be used successfully. That sort of thing was solved in the manufacturing world 10 years ago, and the solutions would be 100% transferable. Seriously.

I wonder if the RealD 3D technology could also be adapted to the ROVs to provide depth perception. I'd imagine by now they have some sort of force feedback - then again, they might need that too.

They look awkward and clumsy, but you know I'd just love to sit at the console and drive one of 'em for an afternoon..

Agreed. It was disappointing to see the ROV struggling to use an open-ended wrench 5,000 feet below the water. While the ROV grippers may be designed to mimic the human hand, there should be other arms or hand options with a common interface and a tool storage/changing component on the ROV.

That would save BP from going to the hardware store to buy more wrenches to send to the inky depths.

I am a CNC machinist for a living and I can tell you that an automatic tool changer is a good idea for the ROVs. I was wondering if they just carried a big bag of tools down with them and hoped they could manage to toss em all back in before surfacing.
As far as the 70s style movement...I think its just how it has to be...they could use software/hardware controls to offer movement acceleration and deceleration to smooth it out, but for every bit of smoothing you add to a system that determines the endpoint of motion dynamically you will lose accuracy. This is unlike a CNC where start/endpoints are clearly defined and the machine can predict the cut accel/decel by using fairly straightforward math. Perhaps attaching a longer stick to the control would be a quick way to allow more precision while operating the ROV arm by increasing the amount of motion in the control (experience from another of my past careers running heavy equipment.)

I am amazed by the patience the ROV ops are demonstrating. I could not deal with some of the challenges they have had.

Yeah, it looks like trying to pick your nose with gloves on.

Thanks to the editors for making sure to associate the BP name in article titles and references as in "Deep Water BP oil spill".

BP clearly would like the media to use an alternate descriptor e.g. Macondo spill, Gulf Spill, Deep Water Horizon etc. not for today but should they survive as a company they would not want their corporate identity associated with one of the greatest environmental disasters in a generation. Make no mistake this is something they are consciously trying to manage and avoid.

And exactly what good would it do anybody to name it the 'BP oil spill?'

The only thing you are going by this sort of thing is forcing BP into a position where they are on the defensive. If you want to increase the flow of information from BP - you are going to have to convince tham that you are not looking for additional ammunition to use against them.

Sometimes I get the impression that people like yourself think that 11 people decided to be irresponsible and get themselves incinerated.

BP may be the cause of the disaster - but they are also likely to become its biggest victim.

Activated05b asks:
"And exactly what good would it do anybody to name it the 'BP oil spill?"

Activated05b answers their own question with their comment:
"BP may be the cause of the disaster - but they are also likely to become its biggest victim."

I think this is bordering on behaviour that I've talked about in previous posts: there's certainly some justice in remembering it's something that may have happened due to BP/Transocean/anyone else? ignoring safety concerns that were raised, but by the same token you make focus much of the anger at the company BP rather than oil drilling safety issues, and the anger has only a finite time before dissipating. (Does anyone still feel ashamed of Union Carbide, or of Exxon, etc?) Unless you believe BP is systematically worse (rather than just the most recent company where "luck" hasn't counteracted ignoring safety concerns) than the rest of the oil industry, you really want to focus energies on things that will affect the oil industry as a whole.

Unless you believe BP is systematically worse (rather than just the most recent company where "luck" hasn't counteracted ignoring safety concerns) than the rest of the oil industry,

According to several CNN reports BP has nearly 100 times more "serious" safety violations as the next company on the list (894 to 12 for Citgo). "Serious" defined has "having potential for catastrophic consequences". Sounds like more than just "bad luck" to me. this includes refinery violations, not just or only drilling.

Trying to understand sequence of events.

Set bore hole, attach BOP, then riser. Where/when do they attach the risers, underwater?

BP’s live stream today showed riser is bent down to flange area of BOP. Not being concentric, I don’t see the possibility of getting a good seal after the cut.

Cut and unbolt what’s left of the riser and install new shutoff.

Great posts HO & thank you for all the massive amounts of work you are putting into this.

Could someone tell us what percentage of drilled wells blow out?

And what percentage of these blowouts are stopped by the BOP? (by default what percentage of blowouts are are a result of a BOP failure).

Like is this a 1 in a million accident or a fairly common 1 in a thousand event?

Thanks. I am sure this may have been discussed but there are so many threads now it is difficult to keep up with them all.

I believe the previous answer is that the risk is very low. How low should the risk be?

Some people are calling for the dismiasal of BP in favour a consortium of other companies taking over the operation. I think there is every reason to believe that BP is already tapped into the best people the industry can provide.

I'm more concerned that most of the effort that Exxon etc is making as a result of this disaster is directed to minimizing the regulatory costs that might result from legislative changes made in response to the systemic failures that led to this mess.

"I'm more concerned that most of the effort that Exxon etc is making as a result of this disaster is directed to minimizing the regulatory costs that might result from legislative changes made in response to the systemic failures that led to this mess."

and rightfully so. This catastrophe will affect everyone in the future and those that had their technical expertise, regulatory compliance, risk taking, Management of Change, and well control ducks in a row will suffer from it. Sad.

I'm unsure what you mean by "ducks in a row". If you mean "had all the forms appropriately signed, didn't have any dissenting opinions making it into the record, etc" then I'm having a hard time feeling sorry for them if new legislation aiming to make it less of a form filling exercise and more focused on making sure safety concerns get resolved by investigation costs them money. If you're asserting that other companies actually inherently care more about saftey concerns than BP, then assuming you're right then that may be a lamentable effect. But you'd have to convince me that was true, rather than just "luck" on their part so far.

97% of the "egregious willful" safety violations in the USA were at BP refineries.

The remaining 3% were spread over everyone else's refineries.

I see a difference in how safety is valued.


That's a reasonably compelling statistic :-)

I don't understand the oil business but do understand management and despite the all the skill, expertise and conscientiousness of crews "on the ground" these decisions come from the top down - How about the "BP - Tony Hayward Oil Spill"

Wot – I don’t think I ever seen anyone offer that stat. More importantly I doubt anyone has been trying to maintain such a database. I would guess the number would be a small fraction of 1% given the hundreds of thousands of wells drilled. But the number that would alarm most folks is the number of “near misses”. Have an unplanned flow of oil/NG (”taking a kick”) is not an uncommon event. Take the BP incident: had they noted the mud flowing back when they turned the mud pumps off they could have turned off all the return valves (“shut the well in”), went in to the bottom of the hole with drill pipe and pumped down heavy drill mud until they stopped the flow. They could have then pumped more cement down behind the csg and gotten a proper seal. Then they could have temporarily abandoned the hole, come back years later and produced a few $billions of oil.

And virtually no one in the public and even very few of us in the oil patch would have never known just how close we came to seeing what’s happening in the GOM today. And such incidents happen daily around the globe. It’s such a common possibility that there are schools that companies send their hands to for training in such “kill procedures”. BP took the backpressure off the well by displacing the riser/csg with salt water. And when the cmt failed that action allowed them to take a big kick. The kick those actions caused was not a Black Swan. It obeyed an undeniable physical law: HIGH PRESSURES FLOW TO LOW PRESSURES. If you were to ask any engineer what would happen if the cmt failed in this circumstance they would all, without exception, give the same answer: the well will kick. And every one of them would tell you the first sign that this was happening: the mud would rush out of the well even when the mud pumps were off. A well kick can very from a very minor incident where you just let the small amount of oil/NG vent out the well as use raise the mud weight. The other extreme is when the control valves can’t contain the flow and it’s sent to a flare line to burn off the oil/NG. About 30 years ago I had a well expel every bbl of mud in it and we had a 100’ flare shooting out over the cornfield roaring like a jet engine. We were able to pump a kill pill and get control back. What would we have done if we started to lose control of the flare? That’s when we would have hit the BOP…THE LAST LINE OF DEFENSE.

Rockman. Thanks.

The underwater blowout of the Montara well off the NW coast of West Australia occurred August 21 last year. It was not stopped until November 1 when relief wells intercepted the blowout well.

Two major underwater blowouts in 8 months. Both needing weeks of relief well drilling to cap.

As you noted this is definately NOT a Black Swan event.

With increases in Arctic and other offshore deep water drilling we are definately entering a very scary environmental future.

wot -- I'll also toss out a number I can't verify with regard to near misses. In the last 5 years there have been 50 (an educated guess but still a guess) well kicks in the GOM that required shuting in the well. These kicks were killed using standard procedures. Had they not been able to shut such a well in they would have had a blow out that would have necessitated activating the BOP. So does that scare you that we might have had that many near missies or do you take comfort that we are that good at handling well kicks? Like I said above: if BP had seen the well coming in they could have shut in and killed it. And no one on TOD, including me, would ever known how close it came to being a world class disaster.

Rockman & Dasher (below) Thank you.

Those numbers are scary, that's 10 wells a year that needed to be shut in because they are blowing back up at you. And that's just in the GOM. Nearly one a month.

Multiply that around the world. WOW

So yes you guys do a great job stopping the blowouts but sooner or later the numbers will win.

Wonder where and when the next one will be?

One more like this anywhere off the coast of the mainland or Alaska will be the end of offshore drilling stateside for a long long time.

Somehow that figure comes as no surprise.

To reprise the analogue that was made with the space programme a while back. Back in the Apollo era, the question arose about what was an acceptable risk. How many missions could you realistically and acceptable lose. One in ten? Clearly that was not going to be acceptable to anyone. One in a thousand? Probably not enough money on the planet to fund a program that safe. One in a hundred? Seemed about right. Fast forward to the shuttle era. In reality, the odds turned out to be about one in fifty. (Which is sobering, especially when you consider those astronauts that flew multiple missions - they had a 1 on 50 chance of dying each flight.)

And to reprise Richard Feymann's observations about perceived risk. Engineers at the workface were pretty clear that the risks of losing a mission were probably about the one in a hundred mark, and yet senior management, and assurances given to government, were more like one in a hundred thousand.

One gets the feeling this in exactly the same problem all over again. High level assurances were that an accident like this could never happen. There are huge numbers of safeguards and procedures, the odds are clearly astronomical. The reality? 50 wells were one slip from blowout. And the odds of that one further slip may turn out to be about one in 50.

Those old Apollo era managers realised that one in a hundred was just on the edge of risk acceptable to government and the US people. In reality it turned out that one in 50, with the loss of two shuttles and 14 crew was poor enough that the program has been cancelled.

For drilling in deep water, one in 50 has never been anything like acceptable. A blowout every hundred years is still unacceptable, maybe a blowout every thousand is reasonable (if possibly unaffordable). No matter what, there is always non-zero risk. It would be interesting to find someone in public office who is willing to put a number on it.
But one gets the feeling that the risk has been allowed to slip to the point that across the amount of drilling being conducted, the aggregate chance that someone would have an accident like this has come close to a certainty.

And so the wheel turns. It is certain, that at least for drilling in US waters, the oversight and management will be stepped up a level, with the hope that the odds are significantly lengthened. And, sadly, sometime in the future, when people forget, and become complacent again, it will all happen again. Whether the rest of the world benefits from this is something yet to be seen.

And, sadly, sometime in the future, when people forget, and become complacent again...

There will be no more "economic" deep water oil left.

There is a finite amount of oil down there. A subset of that amount is economic (it returns 3 or 4 BTUs for every BTU invested in producing it is the TOD conclusion for the absolute minimum required).

Modern seismic is good, oil has great trouble hiding. We will find and produce it. Perhaps 25 more years of drilling (after it restarts) till the very last GoM DW exploration well and another 15 years to the last P&A. We may be at peak oil production in the GoM now, since the deeper reservoirs deplete so fast.

So, drill safely for 25 more years (as the society on-shore becomes ever more desperate).


Sadly 25 years a bit longer than the usual period for forgetting about safety. 15 to 20 if you are lucky.

Modern seismic is good, oil has great trouble hiding.

Here I would have to disagree to some extent. I have worked in exploration, even worked on the GOM, and have a pretty good idea of the problems they have with it. Seismic does not do well through salt or basalt. Two of the more important seals. GOM is a huge excercise in salt tectonics. The seismic is pretty rough. The depths of both water and to the paying structures make it pretty evil too. At $100m per well they have huge incentives to be absolutely sure they will have a paying well. This means that they will not drill in locations that might have oil but are not as clear cut, and have a higher risk of being dry. This means that they underestimate the amount of oil. If the wells were cheaper they would drill more, and whilst a higher proportion would be unproductive, there would be a higher overall production. Future improvements in exploration are likely to significantly increase the known economic reserves simply by infilling.

That said, I don't think we have enough information to make especially useful predictions about the GOM's lifetime. 25 might still be reasonable, but I suspect the error range on that is pretty high. Of course economics has a huge impact too. At $200/bbl some companies would boil down their grandmothers for the oil.

I anticipate $300/barrel within ten years#. And this will lead to a fairly short term exhaustion of good prospects in the GoM.

# $300 is about where our economy "cracks". Severe reductions on economic activity will lower the price for a while, till depletion and Export Land Model catch up.


Bear in mind that life goes on as normal here in the UK, for instance, with retail price-at-the-pump for normal diesel and petrol roughly $8/gallon - roughly $300/barrel. (Of course there's markup, processing and distribution costs between wellhead and pump, but to a hand-waving first order approximation.) Transition won't be much fun and a lot of people will get very angry with the world for changing, but life will go on. (And yes I do realise oil's used for other purposes than transport and electricity generation.)

Francis: "At $200/bbl some companies would boil down their grandmothers for the oil." My first reaction was: And at what price would they boil down their children? Or me? That thought gives me interesting perspective on where we may be headed. "Soylent Green is People."

And, sadly, sometime in the future, when people forget, and become complacent again...

This brings to mind...Katrina. Alan, Just curious...whats the status of the canal surge barriers project, the federal federal government has been working on?

And virtually no one in the public and even very few of us in the oil patch would have never known just how close we came to seeing what’s happening in the GOM today.

I had said this very thing early on in a different forum to others. So few seem to realize it, however. All they know is what we are all seeing. Thousands of barrels of oil leaking into the GOM, the big blast, fire and the sinking of a very large 5th gen semisub. That definitely has grabbed everyone's attention even those who normally would have very little interest in the day to day goings on in the oilfield.
Or how the fuel that is going into their tank gets there.

May I suggest you start here:

and then use the 'search' feature on the MMS web site:

which your tax dollars fund; specifically using such subject matter terms as "deepwater blowout probability" or "dynamic kill" or "reliability of subsea blowout preventer". Download and review documents obtained. Check the document's bibliography for cited references. Use Google to search the internet for the reference titles and/or authors.

You will be amazed at the available information. Use the power of the internet to locate people and information of interest. Do not wait for someone else to filter knowledge; 'learn' without waiting for someone to 'teach'.

From what I have read on the subject that the BOP's are tested every two weeks make sure they work properly.

When drilling for oil, I think a blow out is the likely scenario when oil is found. The BOP activates preventing it. The land based BOP was invented around 1922, by Ambercombie and Cameron BOP Wiki Before that every oil find resulted in a blowout, which they left uncapped until the pressure lowered enough to cap it. The BOP eliminated oil spills and saved lives.

There are over 5000 oil rigs in the GOM and this is the only one that has had a blow out since 1979, and that one was bigger than this one. But it was not a US or a UK company.

Shill much?

"From what I have read on the subject that the BOP's are tested every two weeks make sure they work properly."

Not always ...

Thanks for posting this quote in top right box: "It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it."(Upton Sinclair) Think Tony Hayward and his posse.

Does that quote apply to Jeff Immelt too? Or only those in particular industries?

Does that quote apply to Jeff Immelt too?

certainly seems that it should, doesn't it

Apply liberally.

There is one thing that really bugs me since the beginning of this massive oil spill.

For weeks now there are several companies (example: in the Netherlands that have offered to provide huge oil collecting devices witch can be attached to tankers to collect the oil from the surface of the ocean.
This system has been proved to be effective in the past with other oil spills.
But neither the US Gov. or BP has responded to our help we've been offering for so many days now.

Instead, BP used dispersers to 'hide' the oil under the surface, where it hardly can be collected....

Finally, I think because the US Gov. has really stepped in, they accept our help to collect the oil from the surface:

Why is it so hard to accept help?

Roger from the Netherlands

Perhaps you don't understand Americans. You see, Americans are the absolute best at everything...everything. Especially the engineers. It would be UNAMERICAN!!!! to accept help from the SOCIALIST!!! COMMUNISTS!!! AND FASCISTS!!! in the Netherlands.

Help was offered also though parliament. But the reaction we got in the beginning was that they (BP?) wanted to do this alone.
Maybe because it is embarrassing to accept help. Or because BP downplayed this whole thing.

Thing is, 6 devices are now underway. And we still have at least 6 more in stock and we can ship those today.

olddog, I don't think there is anyone more infuriated over this oil gusher than myself. I live in the gulf area and can easily see my entire way of life changing. In my present frame of mind I feel like going to my work shop and start sharpening pitchforks to be used on BP.

But really, the best thing IMO is to read/research to understand what exactly is going on in this situation and understand possible solutions (which certainly are provided on this site).

Your rants are preposterous. They have no content, you show your stupidity. I am only a guest here, just looking for info and some hope.


Did you understand what olddog was writing ? Nothing preposterous or stupid about what he wrote.

evnow, I've worked in technology fields for 35 years. We (my company) uses and adapts products and processes from anyone anywhere. Its the industry standard these days. I haven't heard things olddog spouts re technology since college.

I do think that BP at first thought they could handle this problem themselves. Not now. But also, getting the military and a couple of other major corps involved would be good. Fresh set of eyes so to speak.

You sound quite reasonable. So, Obama asks drilling experts from Brazil and Norway (both countries drill in deep water) and dredging experts from the Netherlands. A week later, Glenn Beck begins to scream about how Obama is surrendering American technology to socialism. Of course, the American petroleum engineers will then rise up indignantly against their hero, Beck. Yes. The dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Do I rant? You're damn right I rant. Coating my beloved pelicans in gunk.

Who does most of Brazil's deepwater drilling? Transocean. They already have three major vessels on the scene, plus one lying on the bottom of the sea, and probably a couple of thousand of their finest working on the problem with BP. Going to the Brazilians isn't going to help any.

Going to the Brazilians isn't going to help any.

Tim, it's a little like trying to talk to a post with the haters, but the call of the day is "spare no expense, BP's buying." The torches and pitchforks are out....

Your rants are preposterous. They have no content, you show your stupidity. I am only a guest here, just looking for info and some hope.

you have noticed did you, it is interesting to watch the haters at work, thanks to BP they now have an open target to rant at

Don't feel alone....there are many sincere men working late into each night using their minds to conceive and engineer solutions, free because they care not about the almighty buck but for their precious planet.
None of the solutions have been implemented that we know of.
We have probably encountered "the not invented here syndrome" (at BP)

Yes, that is why it is important that the US gov takes over now. Of course not to to do deep water stuff it self, that is best done by the contractors and BP staff. But to respond effectively to the consequences of the spill. It seems strange that BP has to clean up the oil and has to come up with a solution for the source at the same time.
That is not wise in my opinion. It is to much for a company that is totally unequipped for dealing with a blow out and a massive oil spill. They know how to find the stuff, not how to clean it up ;-)

Roger -- amazing indeed. I've read a little about the skimmers y'all have that are much more efficient in heavy seas. That was one of the initial problems we had: 4' seas in the GOM made the booms almost worthless.

Hi,Sorry if this is not the forum for my question. I like many have found this website both useful and insightful.

My question is..

What are the chances of the LOOP (Louisana Offshore Oil Port) being shut down due the oil spill?
From what I have read if it is shut down for any period of time the cost of fuel will skyrocket.

This concerns me since I own a pool serviec company in AZ and I have 6 trucks on the road at any given time. With the economy the way its been and the cuts I have already made 4.00-5.00 per gallon fuel would kill me and the families of the men I employ.

Any insight to this would be greatly appreciated since it will keep me ahead of the curve so to say:)


If your fuel costs are too high you add a fuel surcharge to the costs of your services. Everyone else does. Feel fortunate, I got laid off from the 'threat' of this spill.

The layoff is what Im trying to stay ahead of.........

As a pool service guy during the last big Florida depression, I'd suggest you consider going into the pool decommissioning business soon, since pool care is discretionary income.

Sell your services to local, state, city governments, specifically vector control agencies.

I've seen lots of stories in the SFBAY area about mosquito problems in abandoned pools. Perhaps you could offer a cheap service to prevent that, by using a mosquito development-jamming biological agent, and using your advanced scheduling databases to further purposes.

First, in a couple of years $5/gallon will be considered very cheap due to Peak Oil.

Many sources, but let me pick the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Every year they publish a list of threats to the USA (part of their job description). 4 star Marine Corps general in charge of report. Issued last April, Google JOE2010. Page 23 or 24, in red and white:

Surplus oil production capacity may disappear in 2012 and as early as 2015, there may be a 10 million barrel/day shortfall in production to meet demand.

As for LOOP, there is a risk. However, the currents to not seem to be carrying thick concentrations of oil on the surface (what would be required to shut down LOOP) that far west.

If LOOP were shut down, the SPR would be opened immediately and the SPR could offset most of the loss from LOOP for many months. Confusion and logistical screw-ups would make it less than seamless (IMHO), but not that big a deal. The LOOP would likely phase between shut in and open as currents dictated.

Hurricanes shut down the LOOP for a several days to a week periodically. And due to Climate Change, 2010 may break the record hurricane year of 2005.


Alan, thanks for your comments. I too saw the predictions for this upcoming hurricane season:(
I pray somehow/someway that this will come to an end soon.

Has anyone found a letigimate site that will accept donations to the victims of this tragic event? You saw one on every web page when the earthquake hit Haiti some time back.....Wheres the help for our own when they need it the most??????

Gulf Aid was set up by local musicians to help. Catholic Charities has been active with the fishermen and coastal population. The musicians are donating their time and helping with administration. Local restaurants sold food at concert with proceeds going to Gulf Aid. Very grass roots.

Best Hopes,


Any of the food banks in the area where people are out of work is a good bet for donations.

Alan, I thought the SPR contains 3-4 months national supply? However that supply is very high sulfur content that very few refineries in this country would take?

The LOOP does not import 100% of oil into the USA (just less than 20% from vague memory).

SPR has two main types of oil, sweet light and sour heavy. They have been criticized for too much sour heavy in the mix in the past, but world supplies have shifted towards sour heavy and refineries have adjusted.

In any case, we have a surplus of refining capacity, and more than enough sweet light crude in the SPR.


Hi Joshuatc,

I'm sure you will hear it here first.

I highly suggest coming to grips with a fuel surcharge system before you need it. The more you hang around here the more aware you will be of the odds of extreme fuel price volatility in the coming years.


I finally found out what the problem was, that it took so long before the skimmers could be deployed.
The reason is as simple as it is disturbing: US safety and regulations laws at first prohibited the use of these skimmers, due to the fact that they collect an oil/water mixture and separate the oil from the water. The water is then pumped overboard, of course with some petroleum particles still in it. US laws demand that all the oil/water collected must stay aboard on the ship, because it is unlawful to pump water with oil residue in the Gulf.

While at the same time it is lawfully to use a toxic dispersant to disperse the oil and thus prohibiting the ultimate collection of a lot of oil?!

So it was neither an engineering problem, a technical issue, a resource issue of men and equipment that prevented a effective response to the surface consequences of this massive spill. But it turned out to be solely a political issue.

Now it seems that when the separated water is being pumped back in the the Gulf but in front of the skimmers, it is again within US regulations.

I think I'll make a lousy politician; I'm far to practical to understand this all ;-)

Roger from the Netherlands.

Because we are capitalists and we do not want our government liable to other governments if they get oiled from this incident. I am not saying that is the correct course of action, but you have to admit it is what a free marketer would do. An apology or getting help can be an admission of guilt in a court setting.

As for democracy, you have a very democratic government system IMHO.

Thanks Roger
How effective are these skimmers as a function of distance from the spill, with currents, and with wave height?
How close to the blowout site can they be used, considering the 50 some vessels in the area?

Hi David,

The skimmers are pretty effective in collecting oil from the surface of the ocean.
One ship with two skimmers can collect up to 250.000 liters of oil out of the water PER HOUR.
That is netto oil, so without the water. Their water cut is aprox. 30% in this system.

So, lets say 4 ships with skimmers, each collecting 250.000 liter of oil per hour, is 1 mil. liters times 24 equals 24.000.000 liters per day.
That is 150.000 barrels of oil per day.

Facts about the oil collectors/sweeping arms:

Sweeping Arm

The rigid sweeping arm consists of 2 pontoons, which give the arm its floating capacity, and a bridge piece, for guiding the oil.
The inside pontoon (the one directly next to the ship) contains a pump for discharging recovered oil.

The design and dimensions of the pontoons give the rigid sweeping arm stability, even in rough seas.

The rigid sweeping arms are deployed directly next to the ship. When the vessel is moving forward, the oil will be guided between the ships hull and the rigid sweeping arm, to the oil collection chamber in the sweeping arm. The height of this oil collection chamber is hydraulically adjustable depending on the thickness of the oil layer. This feature means the amount of water entering the oil collection tank can be minimised to 30%.

The oil/water mixture is then pumped on board through an oil tranfer pump. This special pump has an impeller combining the properties of a screw pump with those of a centrifugal pump. This makes the pump suited for high viscous oils and at the same time, less sensitive for debris.

On board the vessel, the oil/water mixture will be separated through the difference in specific weight, whereafter the water can be pumped overboard. The recovery off spilled oil can continue until the tanks on board the vessel are completely filled with oil.

Recently, we have developed an interchangeable oil collection chamber equipped with a brush conveyor skimmer cassette and a pump. The complete oil collection chamber with brush conveyor skimmer cassette and pump replaces, in minutes, the existing oil collection chamber with the MSP 150 pump mounted in our rigid sweeping arm. The brush conveyor skimmer cassette can also be height adjusted using the same features as our existing oil collecting chambers.

I know we're to use the chat room to discuss, but perhaps just this once.


The center frame appears to show some collection device over a leak. Any idea what or where this is?

Look very much like the bottom reentry of a LMRP, they must be flowing fluid in the 21" riser on which the LMRP is attached....

I think it's upside down. Turn your monitor bottom side up. My hunch is somebody at ROV central has a sense of humor.

First it appears that the image is inverted, the shadowy plume is rising from the device, not falling away as it is shown. Second, the video appears to be about a two minute loop (watch the particles flowing by, which are 'rising' in the image. They repeat.

So the image is not live and could be just about anything. Consider the source.

If I had to bet, it's the plume emanating out of the tears on the bent over riser. The flying saucer-like object is quite a ways away. It's positioned in such a way that it looks like the plume is coming out of it. Maybe it's the ROVs that have a sense of humor 'cause that is beyond the imagination of the source.

O.K. Thanks for telling me it's a loop. I have been staring at the feed for 10 minutes. No loop seen. Orientation appears correct. I have seen material float "up". I still have no clue where this is. the image is not upside down, it is the bottom of a BOP stach that enter the rentry funnel of the wellhead.
Most likely it the BOP stack of the DDII that stop drilling the second releif well to make its BOP stach available...

Lol. Okay, I agree, it looks like the bottom of a BOP. The news releases said the RW BOP has already been moved to wellhead site. How could it be leaking?

It is not leaking... I assume it is only some mud particle stuck to the wall inside the 21" riser which detach... I assume the riser is the DDII and was drilling the second relief well....

Good satellite photo from yesterday via Twitter. Pretty ominous.

Heading Out (or anyone else who understands the physics involved): I've been mulling over the rubber coated wire idea since you posted it yesterday, and aside from the wire diam. issue that you addressed, I was trying to think through the issue of the wire initially arriving at the crack in the riser oriented perpendicular to the crack - would the flow through the crack tend to reorient the wire to the orientation of the crack? I can picture that it might if there were only one crack, because all fluid flow vectors would point to the crack; but what's the answer if there are multiple cracks that 'confuse' the flow vectors?

This led me to think about the flexibility and length of the wire pieces: stiff wire longer than the diameter of the cracked pipe wouldn't be able to get into cracks that were perpendicular to the pipe's orientation; very flexible wire could be longer and allow local bends, letting it conform to shape of the crack.

Am I thinking about this right, and is this why you included "string" in this post? (I know it's academic now for this case, but I'm still curious.)

They actually used rope I believe. It is hard to say what they knew from the gamma ray pictures of the structure and how detailed they were. But I would anticipate that if they used relatively short pieces of wire they could hope that each would attach to part of a crack. Part of the problem is going too small to give flexibility and then having the rope/wire forced through the crack. They may have used rope so that it wouldn't damage the flow path but it might have deformed under the pressure and been squeezed through the crack.

Any idea what type of rope? Coated wire rope (aircraft cable) seems like the only material that would hold up to that kind of force.

Part of the problem is the forces involved. The stress on the crack is 40 MPa (6000 psi) which is greater than the yield stess of many materials. For SBR rubber I dug up a number of 4 MPa for the yield strength. And rubber isn't nearly stiff enough to work, even if it was strong enough. It will deform until it is forced through the crack. That principal was used for the fasteners in one of the case fans on my computer.

I really don't understand why anybody thought the rubber balls would work.

Under these loads you will need metals to seal the hole. I think an Al sphere might work, but there isn't enough flow to flush it upwards into the crack. Maybe if you give it an outer coat of epoxy, then the density will be low enough for the current to carry it along.

Fabric-reinforced rubber can be much stronger than 40 MPA. Unless they are stupid, which I doubt, they will have used fabric-reinforced rubber. It would have to be based on a strong, oil-resistant elastomer (Neoprene "CR"; polyurethane "PU"; NBR or HNBR).

Thanks all. An interesting area of research.

Thanks to Rockman, Alan, and Prof. Goose among others for their informative replies to my question on the last thread re: the probability of any single relief well effort failing.

My take-away from that discussion is this: we don't have any "reasonable degree of engineering certainty" basis to think that a single relief well has a better than 75% chance or working. That means that, even with two wells, there's at least a 5% chance that both relief wells fail (and possibly much higher). Alan suggested that a relief well costs roughly $100 million.

Therefore, it sounds like a third relief well will reduce the odds that the relief well operation fails (at least phase 1) from 5%+ to about 1.5%+. To make a pointed political question out of it: is it worth $100 million to reduce the chance that the oil continues to leak into the gulf for 2+ more months from 5% to 1.5%?

Alan suggested that TOD take an editorial position that this is worth the money, and that a third relief well should be started immediately. Personally, I agree, but I don't purport to speak for TOD on this issue in any way. At a minimum, I'd like to see both the Obama administration and BP asked in a very pointed manner how they're performing these risk management calculations... thoughts? Not to single out the Obama administration, I'm also curious to hear what the Republican party's position is on this--is it worth the money, and who should pay for it?

The talking heads for the gov't and BP like to pretend that this is alarmism and unnecessary, but in my opinion, especially considering the lag time if the current two relief wells fail, we have a responsibility to push this discussion now...

I still advocate a 4th relief well to reduce that putative 1.5% to a lower value.

Replace "75%" with another reasonable number, say, 55% or 60%, and multiply (1-55%) x (1-55%) x (1-55%) x (1-55%)

I see no good reason to give BP's bank account the benefit of the doubt when uncertain. I would give that uncertainty to the environment of the Gulf of Mexico instead.

Best Hopes for more Relief WellS


If handled right, (big "if" there) 2 more relief wells is achievable fairly quickly in this situation.

Feel free to email me and discuss it if you like, by clicking on my user name to find my email contact. A fairly small group of competent folks should be sufficient.

I'd just do it myself, but I have a poorly-timed family death to deal with.


Greenish, Alan,

Best wishes to you in these tough times.

My $.02...

step 1 - A bona fide org (gulf aid?, plaquemine parish?) completes organizational contact form @:
with strong request for more relief wells.
Step 2 - An all-call to readers of TOD, energy bulletin, (others?), particularly oil patch pros, to complete individual request @: with identical language. (copy -paste)
Step 3 - Find one of the politicians from POTUS press conference on the beach yesterday to support the effort with phone calls to POTUS. POTUS said he would take a call from any of those at the conference.
Step 4 - Repeat daily
Step 5 - Expand the list of bona fides making the request to get behind lead org and politico.
Step 6 - Tell the MSM what's going on.

Fury and despair as BP admits oil could leak for months

Obama administration warns that the most environmentally disastrous spill in US history may continue until August

Carol Browner, the administration's energy czar, said there may be no solution until two relief wells being drilled into the oilfield by BP are complete later in summer. "There could be oil coming up till August when the relief wells are done," she said. "This is probably the biggest environmental disaster we have ever faced in this country."

BP's new plan involves using underwater robots and a diamond wire-cutter to create a clean cut through the leaking pipe, then attach a "riser" allowing oil to be pumped to the ocean surface and collected by a ship. Experts say it will be difficult to create a watertight seal on a high-pressure gushing pipe at a depth of 1,500 meters (5,000ft).

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell joined calls for the military to take command of the operation from BP. Powell said the problem was beyond the capacity of BP to solve and the government should bring in "decisive force". He said: "The military brings organization, it brings control, it brings assets."

Not sure how much of this is just political posturing and "managing expectations", but that bit about it being "difficult" to create a watertight seal on a high-pressure gushing pipe at a depth of 1,500 meters has got to be the understatement of the century.


"The military brings organization, it brings control, it brings assets."

Maybe ... maybe not .

They do not have the expertise , or they would have suggested a viable procedure.


Gomer Pyle is in charge!

The same outfit that has taken 8 years to reach stalemate against some drug dealers in one area and 7 years to reach stalemate against taxi drivers and religious fakirs in another. When can the military close in this well?

10 years? Never? We did lose in Vietnam, remember?

They'll be in and out in six weeks. The oil revenue will pay for the ...

Oh wait, no that was an old script.

it also brings people like Gen Honore of Katrina fame. I see he's out of the Army now and showing up on CNN as an "expert". He wants to "attack" the problem with the military. He said they have ships and planes etc. He could bring in Geraldo and together they could whip this blowout in a few days. Woe to us if he gets any part of the command structure.


He won't but you can bet some guy just like him already has.

Love to see those in action the comming months:

Get The Oil!

Oh my, just what one would expect from the BP fix farce. Once again, if the LMRP was a viable option it would have been tried FIRST.

New poster here, and I want to say what a great website this is. I've read several of HO's Tech Talks over the years when I was looking for an explanation for some drilling topic, and I've been reading the site daily since this BP well blowout started last month. HO, ROCKMAN, Dr. G et all.... you are all doing great work on here and I'm sure I'm not alone in my appreciation for your efforts to bring clarity to some of the issues that pop up on the "news" in which the entertainment folks are giving us their inaccurate and misleading sound bites at 15 minute intervals.

I've also been watching quite a bit of the MMS/Coast Guard hearing coverage from New Orleans the last few days. Of course this only reinforces my opinion that one of the major things wrong with this country is the influence lawyers have in every facet of our daily lives. IMHO one of BP's failures in this mess has been that the lawyers have taken control of the effort, with the intention of limiting BP's exposure or liability for the blowout. What the country needs and wants to see is a maximum effort being made to stop the oil flow and stop it right now with a "damn the expense" attitude. We're not seeing that and it's making BP guilty as can be in the court of public opinion. Their management of the PR side of this has been absolutely terrible.

At the risk of repeating comments already made by others in earlier threads, I'd like to throw my two cents into the technical discussion around what needs to be, or can be, done at this point. Let me start out by saying that I'm finishing my 34th year in the offshore oil and gas business, but that my entire career has been spent building, commissioning and repairing pipelines. I've spent a lot of good will and used up a lot of favors with ops managers and dispatchers over the years trying to get out of going on drill rig jobs. Divers, on a drill rig, are like plumbers. You're only called out when something is already screwed up and in order to save a few dollars the homeowner (read driller) has already tried a couple of dumb ideas that made the problem worse. So by the time one arrives out on the rig things are screwed up, have been for at least 24 hours, and somehow it's all the plumbers fault. They get mad at you for wanting to park your truck in their driveway or move their junk out from under the kitchen sink to make room to work, and you should have been there yesterday. It's always been a lose/lose situation. This is as an explanation of why I know less than a lot of people about the way wells are drilled and constructed.

With that preface, it appears that the well design was a bad one to begin with. The 9-7/8 x 7 inch liner wasn't hung off in the wellhead at the mudline, apparently and the cement job was poorly planned and executed. Chances seem high, and this is supported by BP statements, that the well is flowing up through the annulus outside that 9-7/8. The 16 inch casing string has a burst pressure (I'm taking this from earlier threads) of around 9,700 psi with a reservoir pressure that's estimated to be as high as 13,000. If BP were successful in somehow pinching off the flow above the BOP there is every chance that 16 inch casing would blow out and we would have a mudline blowout with oil coming up uncontrollably around the well with zero remaining chance of controlling the well.

The top kill and junk shot plan was about their only viable option to get control of the well by getting enough weight into the hole to push the flow back downhole and give them a chance to set a plug.

At this point, until the relief wells can get to depth and seal the reservoir, I believe the only safe option is for them to try to capture as much oil as possible at the well site. They have solid connections made up to the 3 inch choke and kill lines now. I think they should reconfigure the top kill manifold to allow the Discoverer Enterprise to attach their RIT string to the choke line. With that small string shrouded with the marine riser they can keep up a constant flow of warm surface water down the riser to alleviate hydrating problems, and would still have the riser choke/kill lines or their control umbilical for MeOH injection via the kill line into the annulus as further hydrate insurance. I think they could get up to around 30,000 bpd (at a 40 foot/sec flowrate through the 3 inch choke valve) to the surface. Admittedly that's not going to get all the oil once the gas content is subtracted and flared. If there are no hydrating issues after 24 hours of so I guess it would be possible to start taking a suction on the kill line also, which could theoretically double the amount recovered.

The Enterprise is, I believe, the only MODU onsite that has the separation and flaring capability to deal with those volumes. The Q4000 isn't zoned for it, I don't think. The DD2 and DD3 don't have any storage onboard for the oil, I think they might have separators, but it would be risky to start flow to them if there was any chance of weather coming in and shutting down their ability to offload to tankers and anyway they need to be drilling ahead on the relief wells.

The LMRP option being planned now is an OK option, I suppose, but will not be as positive a connection as they already have established through the choke and kill lines. I agree with sawing off the riser above the LMRP, I think they should have done that the second day out there to at least have gotten the leak paths down to one single location. The top hat could have been in place three weeks ago, in my opinion. But, as mentioned earlier, the lawyers had their reasons why they didn't want to have the ops guys do anything to "make things worse".

I should also mention that I left BP 8 months ago after 7 years there working on pipeline infrastructure and I know how they think and work under pressure. It pains me to see the harsh words that are being thrown that direction, because I know a lot of the guys that are involved in this effort right now and I can tell you they're working their a$$es off doing the best job they know how to do under nearly impossible circumstances. Yes, BP mistakes were made, but the people who are trying to solve this are doing amazing things right now.

Sorry for the long winded dissertation here, but after reading all those threads for the past few weeks I had a lot to say. If you made it this far, thanks for reading this.

Thanks for your clear review of the situation... I have 35 years of experience with subsea Wellhead and subsea BOP stack and if now BP is ready to cut the 21" riser off, it looks to me it would be easier to remove the existing LMRP and instal another BOP on top of the existing one to first flow the oil to the surface and eventually close the blind rams to get the flow going through the choke and kill line if they don't want to getthe full head pressure on the weakened wellhead...
The only problem is that they will temporarly loose the connection with the existing BOP stack choke and kill line...

They've already cut the existing choke and kill lines to make up the top kill flex lines. So the C&K lines are no longer going up through the LMRP section. That's not an issue for them. As I see it, they're more concerned with the stresses that may be in the riser above the BOP. They probably don't trust the LMRP to unlatch cleanly with the bending moments that may be there right now, and even if it did the drill string is still running through it (and the kink above it) and would prevent the LMRP lifting off. In my opinion, they need to cut the riser 20 or 30 feet horizontally away from the BOP stack to relieve the stresses in the kinked over section and allow the horizontal riser section to drop to the seabed away from the stack. They could then make one clean cut below the kink and give themselves a pipe stub to seal the top hat grommet onto. Or, better yet, at that point they could unlatch the LMRP and lift it off the drill string stub sticking up and latch on a capture funnel to the 18-3/4 connector on top of the BOP. Then the Enterprise would be able to suck directly off the top of the stack and capture oil until the relief well(s) get to TD and seal the borehole. Again, I don't think they dare risk shutting off the well at the BOP without the danger of blowing out the 16 and/or the 18 inch casing strings and creating a worse mess.

From most recent photos the riser is fractured in many places at the flange.

I don't personally know any of the people working the issue, but I agree 100% that they are working their a$$es off under an incredible amount of pressure, and they are likely just as frustrated (if not moreso) as most of the public.

I'm guessing that there are also BP people who are very far removed from the problem (e.g. jobs don't have anything to do with exploration) who are being villified right now just because they happen to work for BP.

Thanks for the info. I used to know a lot of folks at AMOCO and Arco.Seems like they all left after the merger (many retired now). I have been hesitant about contacting people at their competitors to find out if any of the high powered guys from other companies I might know are in on the operation. I do not really know much of about their corporate culture but I can imagine what it might be like for the folks on the tech teams. Heard from a couple explorers who are working for other companies in the Deep GOM who know BP folks. The rank and file are pretty nervous.

Thanks Grumpy,

We should all be reminded each day that there are two BPs. First, the corporation that determines how much will be invested in operational safety versus corporate profits. Second, the thousands of BP employees who work just as hard and ethically as do their counterparts in other oil companies.

I cringe from time to time when I think about how this tragedy has affected the good workers of BP and their families and friends. How many hundreds of them must visit TOD each day to keep up to date?

I know we all mean Corporate BP (you do, don't you?) when using the word BP in a negative way, but that still does not always lessen the sting to those who don't deserve it. I know it is too much to ask to be more specific and start using Corporate BP in place of BP, so I'll just reassure those BP employees, families, and friends that many of at TOD do know the difference and feel your pain.

I have consistently tried to write "BP management" and my sincere apologies for when I failed to do so.


Hold the phone ... I find it both intellectually and ethically difficult to separate "BP staff" (good cops) from "BP management" (bad cops). If you sup with the devil and take the salary offered, then really ... why aren't you just as culpable? Assuming their is genuine culpability to be accounted for here. So - in summary - not convinced that anyone here should have to maintain a difference between the two, to protect the delicate sensitivities of good BP staff v evil corporate suits ...

You can't blame the worker bee for careless decisions made at the corporate level. They by necessity go where the jobs are. How about this analogy.... I am a filleter for a tuna canning company. CEO decides to burn a factory down and collect insurance cause tuna prices are too low and margin is decreasing. That's my fault, right?

Hi Grumpy--you seem like a person who is not easily amused...nevertheless, I comment.

You comments seem rational and, as you appear to have connections to those sincerely interested in mitigating the problem, I will make my suggestion here, which I have made earlier, but without having included defining details or diagram to view, which may have been the reason it elicited little enthusiasm--no matter I persist.

Since we can't be sure that anything BP does at the sea bottom will work, we need what I've called a "last line of defense" to recover as much of the oil as possible for whatever amount of time it will gush before the relief well is completed.

This is accomplished most easily if the oil can be made to appear at the surface at a single location, or at least various fountains (oil patches) can be made to coalesce into a single large one, from which "mostly oil" can be pumped without having to process a lot of associated water.

I know that there are more details yet to be worked out, and would appreciate either your, or anyone else's input. I am calling this surface oil compression corral the "Cea-Cyclone". Here it is...

The good news is that it can be tested on a small scale, and if it shows promise, simply be "added on to" (using more ships) so it becomes "as big as necessary". Too hard to predict what size that might eventually need to be and the rate at which it would need to consume fuel to keep it going.

As a lawyer, I doubt seriously lawyers are taking control. This is an engineering problem first and foremost. And since it is an engineering problem, that means spending big bucks to solve it. Spending the money is management's call, not legal's call.

The lawyers really can't do much at this point except try to keep their client from saying outrageous things. But this situation is so bad, there really is not much advice you can give. You can tell your client to take the fifth, but if your client does, then there are enormous problems with that.

Actually, Mr. Mills, "blaming the lawyers" is a positive sign that life is returning to normal after the shock of the blow out.

Having spent most of my life as a plumber, mostly on high tech commercial jobs, and then switching to my own business on domestic plumbing after moving to a rural area of the country, you did leave out the sheltie taking a bite out of my ass while I worked under a kitchen sink as I tried to remove several layers of ductape. I think that may add to the metaphorical comparison that you made so eloquently.

Newbie with a question.

If BP were successful in somehow pinching off the flow above the BOP there is every chance that 16 inch casing would blow out and we would have a mudline blowout with oil coming up uncontrollably around the well with zero remaining chance of controlling the well.

I understand that this statement is discussing one possibility. However, assuming this estimation of the 16-inch casing is correct, and/or if the cement work is compromised, it would seem to indicate that perhaps it was a good thing (relatively speaking) that the BOP did not completely seal the well.

No agenda, not trying to put lipstick on the pig here -- just wondering if it's possible things might have been worse had the BOP fully closed? Or just a newbie reading too much into it?

Reader sent this to me in an email--I think it's for Rock:

I see something in those diagrams I did not understand before. Oil is not just leaking up the casing but ALSO between the metal casing and the wall of the well. That is what a blowout is and what the BOP is designed to prevent. It is also why the junk shot/top kill operation did not work. I wonder if the blowout was all the way at the bottom? If it is how will a relief well even help? That oil will find a way to the surface even if the relief well is successful.

If the flow is outside the casing and between the rock & metal, then, when the relief well approaches there will be a sudden and large loss of mud. Hopefully they will be prepared with strong enough pumps and LOTS of mud. A "kill pill" of mud will be used to bring the well under control.

Best Hopes for Becoming an Asst. Junior Driller,


Prof. Goose..... the relief well(s) would cement directly at the reservoir level the MC252 well... closing the communication between the reservoir and the MC252 well.

Doc -- last time I saw a BP statement I think they had conlcuded the flow was coming up between the production csg and the other csg sring. But that doesn't explain why here was oil coming out of the broken end of the drill pipe. Blowing up the inside ofthe prod csg would explain that. That's also the easiest explanation how the well kicked so hard: if the csg shoe failed the production csg would have been a super highway leading dirctly to the drill floor. There also the possibility that the currently flow path is not the same as the initial kick.

But that doesn't explain why here was oil coming out of the broken end of the drill pipe. Blowing up the inside of the prod csg would explain that. That's also the easiest explanation how the well kicked so hard ... the csg shoe failed

Which is why the top kill and junk shots also failed because the flow is up the production casing to the end drill pipe and then to the BOP. The blind rams sealed the annulus between the casing and the drill pipe. The shear rams partially cut the drill pipe which is where the gas/oil is rocketing out.

Putting a new BOP onto the existing BOP and closing the annular at the top and using the existing BOP's kill and choke lines for pressure control (by manually operating the check valves) would be a variation on what is being done, now. The top kill could be reattempted when the new BOP is attached.

When the riser is cut at least there will be some clarity about where the flood of oil/gas is coming from; the riser, the production casing or the drill string.

With flow out of the drill pipe, the previous top kill was just sending mud down the production casing to the drill bit where it returned to the sea floor. The oil flow was temporarily halted as long as mud blocked the production casing.

With the drill string @ 3000 feet below the sea floor what this means is the drill casings and production pipe below that point can withstand the reservoir pressure without blowing out further since it was apparent that the mud flow out of the top of the well was identical to the oil/gas flow out of the top of the well. (There may have been some mud lost to the formation but nobody meters anything coming out of the riser :}) Theoretically, BP could have kept oil out of the GOM indefinitely ... with sufficient mud available.

now you see it
the RW does have a chance as long as the flow is through the wellbore in my opinion the dfact that they were not able to make anything with the Top Kill is exactly because the well is not flowing inside the wellbore but through the anulus between casings (don't know which ones) and go#e directly to the surface. it might be that going into the well does not provide you with too much connection with the actual flow path. even if it is is the oil is coming into the well at a certain point in it it might be that you will not have enought mud column in order to kill it.
So the RW might not work at all
this well is so fuc@@@ed up tan we DON#T have any ideea wherefrom the oil is coming.
there is a mitigation to this thing: bring down the both wells somewhere under present well and pupm the oil out so that only a little bit remains for the actual well.
sorry if i wasn't so clear but my native language is not english and is hard sometimes to explain things, further comets and questions will be welcomed to clarify things

Heading Out:
I just noticed you UPDATE to your description of BOP and how the LMRP might work. ( Thanks for the fine description and the pictures of internal parts of BOP. ) In the UPDATE you say:

"once the LMRP preparation cuts off the riser and the bent drill pipe, then the full weight of the pipe below the shears may come onto the section in the shear jaws at the moment, pulling them further out of alignment and increasing the flows"

I think that the drill pipe is made of tool steel which is quite brittle and more likely to fracture than to bend. The gashes in the riser that we have watched oil gushing from these past few days -- those gashes were perhaps caused by sharp edges of fractured drill pipe poking the riser as both settled onto the ocean floor. Consequence of this is that the full weight of the drill pipe that is inside the casing is already being supported by the shear jaws. My vision of how the drill pipe is broken is like how the glass tubing used in chemistry labs breaks if you forget to score it where you want it to break. The broken ends are really quite messy and there many detached pieces.

As I write this I wonder how clean the cut made by the shear jaws could be. Has anyone here, reading this now, ever seen the results of a test of shear jaws on cold tool steel pipe? I would think the 'shear' would be more accurately described as 'shattering'. Little pieces of shattered pipe get wedged between the jaws, stopping the jaws before they close fully. But ... I don't know.

I believe the cut at the top of the BOP is going to be made with some kind of a wire type hacksaw, not a shear.

Considering that 3 days ago, the leaks from the center and the edge coming out of the kinked riser where of different color, it is quite likely that the 7"x9-7/8" casing hanger and solid metal casing hanger runing tool is in the LMRP and not below the BOP !

If this is true, then the shear ram tried to shear the 9-7/8" casing or even possibly the casing hanger itself depending of the length of the Dril-Quip Casing hanger running tool...

Thanks for the comments, which are certainly thought provoking. However the manufacturers and buyers of the BOPs will have seem test runs on drill pipe over the years, and thus have been assured that the pipe fails in an acceptable way. But I think it will be very interesting to see what is revealed as the riser and contained pipe are taken apart. Since there was some oil coming from the end of the drill pipe, it may be in better shape than you suggest, but we'll have to see.

Drill pipe is extremely flexible. It will flex and bend a fair ways before it is permanently deformed. The smaller the diameter, greater the flex.

See Here:

more idle thoughts

1- LMRP Cap --- been told on TV 4-7 days....again this is very optimistic ....there is a lot of leg work that needs to go in simply cant cut the riser pipe at the BOP stack and hope it goes away....this riser will have to be cut about 50 ft form the BOP stack to begin with .....then a diamond wire cut short the whole process of getting ready for the LMRP cap is 4-7 days ready to hear BP say i think it will take 7-10 days any time now... what about the surface vessel and hurricanes......this is a grade A dog trick right here...

2- putting a BOP on top of the BOP -- now the wellhead is a DrillQuip which has a little recess in a corner only a few cm above where the seal even a few cm upwards mvmt screws the sealing capability of of the seal ....which has most likely happened and the annular pressure from the O&G has unseated the casing hangers and most likely BP didnot use lockdown rings since it isnt mandated by MMS...(funnily enuff MMS moved quickly to make it mandated now)because it makes well abandonment a pain unseated Casing hanger and no lockdown ring......moving on it is a good guess that the 9 5/8" casing is damaged even if the BOP stack is placed on the old BOP (big big assumption)when you go to close the well on the new BOP ....
1-there are serious doubts on the ability of the old BOP to handle the pressures that will buildup
2-and with the 95/8" gone or in bad shape the major brunt of the pressure will will be borne on the 22" casing which is not rated to handle this

just somethings that will have to be considered in the coming days

Kudos to HO and other experts - really appreciate the effort at objectivity and clarity - and the donation button was easy!

Perhaps you or someone can answer this question. Once they get the riser cut off the top of the BOP how do they maneuver the LMRP cap into the gushing steam coming out of the BOP to make the seal? Won't it just get pushed away as soon as it hits the flow?

the 9 5/8 was apparently set w/ out a 'casing hanger lockdown sleeve' said sleeve to hold the casing in place? or to provide additional seal? or both?

The lockdown sleeve or lock ring... only prevent the casing hanger to move upward... if the casing hanger moves upward, since the ID of the wellhead is 18-1/2", and goes into the BOP stack which has an ID of 18-3/4" the packoff seal does not seal the annulus anymore...
The shear ram failure could also be due to the attempt to shear the casing hanger and/or the running tool which are solid pieces of steel...

I think they have some means of confirming the integrity of the pressure boundary on the BOP, at least to some degree. Your number two, however, scares the hell out of me. I can see this thing blowing out all the way to the 22" casing....if that happens we will look at the month of May as "back when the leak was small".

There is way too much alarmist hogwash and technically illiterate nonsense out there right now, and I wouldn't want to add to it; however, this is a real possibility and I don't think it can be dismissed or eliminated.

A nuclear bomb won't fix it either.

Thanks for the idle thoughts, aliilaali. I just wish BP would stop raising people's hopes with each new plan to stop this gusher. When I hear words like "we are confident, but can not guarantee success" that tells me this thing is probably going to fail. You have to watch and listen to the way they say things. All of these words are carefully chosen. From my short time checking out this site, I see some wonderfully gifted people who are trying to figure out how to stop this. And I hate to see their hopes dashed with every failure. I just wish BP would come out and say, "the well is out of control, there is nothing we can do about it right now, and we just have to wait until the relief wells are completed to kill the well from the bottom" But you and I know that won't happen, and they will continue to raise everyone's hopes with each new idea they have to stop something that they know can't be stopped at this time. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone down in the Gulf.

Per your diagrams: I don’t understand why the shear ram, being the final ‘fail safe’ link are not designed to shear drill pipe joints PLUS additional safety margins added.

Makes no sense.

It appears that the shear rams had to shear a 9-7/8" casing since no lock ring was on the casing hanger which jumped off the wellhead in the BOP stack or above with the blow-out... no wonder it didn't work....

Depends on the shear ram itself. Some shear rams only cut tubing, others only cut pipe. However, Cameron makes at least three types of shear rams that are designed to cut joints and even collars. The practical problem with these shear rams is that they dont seal. I cant tell from the reporting if these shear rams were in place but I suspect they would have been, and they would have been toward the bottom of the stack.

I have an idea for controlling the well that I think may work. The idea is to dump dense metal spheres down the wellbore. I used to have a lead fishing weight that was about 1cm ( 0.4 inch) diameter, so I worked things out for 1cm lead spheres. If enough of these are dumped down the well, they will create a large packed bed which will provide resistance to the flow of oil.

The Carmen-Kozeny equation can be used to calculate the pressure drop across such a bed. A 4000m (13000 ft) high bed should cut the flow of oil by 80%, assuming it is open to the ocean at the top. Better results can be achieved by using smaller diameter spheres in the top of the bed.

For a bed made up entirely of 1/16 inch diameter spheres, a 95% flow reduction could be achieved, turning the leak into a seep. Up to 2500t of lead spheres would be required. Steel spheres (ball bearings) may also be suitable.

Will the spheres go down the well against the flow of oil? I tried to estimate the terminal velocity of a sphere using a drag coefficient of 0.44 . That gives me a terminal velocity of 1.9 m/s ( 6 ft/s) for a 1cm (.4 inch) lead sphere, and .76 m/s (2.5 ft/s) for a 1/16 inch lead sphere.

My estimate for fluid velocities in the wellbore go from 0.3 to 1.4 m/s, so 1 cm lead spheres will descend in all cases. Steel spheres will descend in most cases.

The previous author of that idea has allowed me to place the lead sinker idea in my new book, Wacky Ideas Spawned By BP Gulf Spill. Of course the sinking battle ship gets the cover art, close second the giant screw.

If it has already been suggested, perhaps you would like to give me an idea of why people here decided it wouldn't work? I've read a lot of the comments on these threads, and I haven't seen this idea mentioned before.

How about depleted uranium, which is 72% denser than lead? Smaller spheres could be used, which would reduce the quantity required to slow the flow -- but I'll have to leave it to you to solve the equations.

The problem, though, if I am not mistaken, is that the path of flow is uncertain and it may not be possible to insert the spheres into that path.

Yes, depleted uranium would work better than lead. I know that the enrichment industry has a stock of it sitting around, but I don't know if it is in a convenient form. It will sink 30% faster than lead.

If the flow is coming up the drill pipe then, as you say, it probably would not be possible to insert the spheres.

First - Non-prejudiced: no matter how good an outsiders suggestion is, the limitation is logistics. How long to get a battleship on site and aligned? How to get liquid nitrogen to the bottom? How long to drill the well to insert the nuclear bomb?

From the top kill/junk shot, it is apparent there is a path for objects at least 1" dia. Your balls would make it to the bottom, but may have to fill the well to the blown out casing seal before the have any effect. Large balls followed by successively smaller balls will result in a denser matrix. Combining this with the mercury idea, the balls could be made of Wood's metal or other fusible alloy that would melt at the bottom of the bore. Down side is most of these metals have some cadmium (toxic but not terribly so) or indium (would require a good chunk of the world supply - goodbye big screen LCD TVs).

Once again - logistics. Getting any of this going would take possible months regardless of the money or resources thrown at the problem. Going at maximum speed, it still will take BP a week to mount the LMRP cap even though it is on site and ready to go.

First find your spheres. The ammunition industry mass produces lead shot in the sizes required. It's used in shotgun shells. They may well be able to produce the required quantities.

An inferior alternative would be lead ore ground to the right size. That should be available by the trainload.

The next big problem is getting it from the surface of the ocean into the well bore. Obviously standard oilfield equipment would have to be used. You need to deliver about one cubic meter (or cubic yard) per hour for 10 days to fill the well bore. If the oil industry can deliver cement or rubber balls into the well, then maybe some of the same equipment could be modified to handle lead shot.

You don't have to fill the whole well bore to significantly reduce the flow rate.

Logisitics is certainly a problem, but I'm not convinced that it is undo-able.

I have a feeling you are trying to reproduce the "top kill", replacing the drilling mud with a denser material. The density of the "mud" cannot be too high. If the lateral pressure induced by the height of the column of mud is too high, it can cause fracturing of the rock formation around the well. At wich point you may have more than you bargained for.

It's different because lead shot (spheres) will behave like a granular material rather than a liquid. It won't get into the cracks in the rock the way a liquid will.

You do know you can and they have the ablity to change the density of the drill or kill mud on the fly right? They even have the ablilty to mix barium into the kill. So you would want to blow the BOP or Casing out of the hole?
I guess it would making a better landing pad for the battle ship or easier access for the nuclear weapons? Why not use the re-verse Jed Clampett and fire your shot gun into the well bore? I know there are millions weapons in the U.S.
You could all fire at the same time and create a vortex moving the oil in a column up 5000 ft. to the giant vacuum ships. It's only 3-4 billion barrels of oil your talking about experimenting with. What's 3 billion barrels amoung friends? What would 3 billion barrels look like in the GOM? Would that kill all of the 40% of our seafood we get from the GOM? Would the coal reefs survive the experiment? You do remember why they triggered the BOP to begin with right? Could it be they were affraid of blowing out the casing with the mud pressure? Maybe a re-verse Jethro instead?

Anyone watching the video? The rov is deploying "mud mats". What are these for?

Just a guess here, but I'd say mud mats are a place to set heavy steel equipment on the seabed and -not- have it disappear into the pudding-soft mud. The bottom of the GoM is hundreds of feet deep in soft clay silt.

I think you would lay those on the seafloor and then lay large equipment on top of that so that the equipment would not sink in the mud.

Those are to give the miniatures crew a safer footing while they're in the pool refilling the fake leaking pipe model.

Heck, they probably turned off the real well a month ago and they're using all this to keep everybody's attention away from something important. ;)

As awful as this spill is---especially given that BP flagrantly cut-corners in at least THREE distinct areas (cement, casing, pipe), dare someone suggest that the level of hysteria among some is just a WEE bit over the top IN CONTRAST to things that happen/did or could easily occur here or around the world that are leagues worse: you are in the middle of a nuclear accident (3-mile, Chernobl---indeed there was a leak in Vermont YESTERDAY!), the Swine flu virus is as bad as feared and 3-4 million are already dead (and no one knows what to do, three things have been tried and failed), you live in a country where your daughter has been buried alive, or stoned to death, because she was seen with a man not her husband (and you can't stop it), you are forced onto the trains heading for Auchwitz or other death camp (as my mother was), you are in Rwanda or the like---raped, family sliced up,...I could go on. Am I alone in thinking there's just something a bit TOO overboard in some of the reactions that suggest a life of creature comforts and ease, divorced from the horrific events that befall others and that could rather easily befall us.

hatshepsut: I thought you died in about the 15 century BC or so. I walked though your temple in Luxor. It has held up well.

I did...I am channeling my remarks from the underworld.

WOW! You are amazingly up-to-date on technology for one so old!

(and yeah, you're probably right...but if it's in your backyard it's probably a little easier to be heavily invested emotionally).

While you're down there, could you give that oil faucet about ¼ turn clockwise? I think somebody left it on..

hi all, first and hopefully only post.
I've been wondering about how to deal with oil and I thought about flaring it off. An underwater chamber with air pumped down, feasible? We can put it next to the big screw, just kind of wedge it under the cement-filled warship.
I'm afraid that's not going into your American Ingenuity compendium because I'm a brit. Sorry.
Slightly more seriously, I think we may have to assume this is the end of the beginning rather than the reverse, or at least take it so as a plausible worst-case, so, where now; what do we do with the oil? This is one for the marine biologists (because it's not a big bucket of wet, it's a huge ecosystem of immense value, and I don't mean financial), so lets suppose it's down to bacterial action, what can be done to speed up its decomposition.
I guess it's down to
1) the type of bacteria. This will sort itself out.
2) granularity of the oil fragments.
3) resources available to the bacteria.
For 2 I can't speak but there are dispersants being added (purely to hide the crud I know).
For 3 I suspect it's oxygen limitation although there might be other nutrients needed if oxygen is supplied.
So, can we materially affect the bacterial action by injecting nutrients/oxygen? Where does oxygen enter the water, I assume it's osmosis + surface perturbations + river runoff. Can we affect that? We can't aerate the gulf (660 quadrillion gallons - wiki) so can we aerate in and around the plume of oil in any meaningful way, and will the o2 stick around the plume? If the answer is no (and I'm sure it is) then what can be done to speed up decomposition using 'natural', less human-intensive processes.
Just as importantly, should we? Suppose we by some miracle could double the decomposition rate of the oil, what side effects might this have e.g. a major increase in bacteria followed by a major die-off to such yet more oxygen out + unnecessarily stressing macro organisms + a million other things, mostly nonlinear. It would be classic unintended consquences but whats the choice now?
I've no link with BP or the oil/energy industry.

My understanding from reading of smaller spills in the North Sea (colder water with higher dissolved oxygen content) is that there is nothing like a good storm to stir up the spill and hasten bioremediation and mechanical breakup. A storm runs counter to operations of the surface and shore efforts to staunch the flow and remediate the spill and so would be a very mixed blessing indeed.

ATM, only tidal flows (typically 1 to 2.5') will push oil into the marshes, which will limit the zone of destruction.

But a hurricane's storm surge will drive oil deep into marshes, doing untold damage.


Hi b_g,

With regards to the underwater dispersant use being thought as just a means to hide the oil, that is not true.

You are just one of many who have said this so I'm not implying you started the rumor ;-)

Here are the facts.

1. Using dispersants underwater is more effective than using them on the top, allowing for less dispersant to be used.

2. The use of dispersants is the lesser of two evils. Oil kept out at sea and out of the marshes is much less damaging to the ecosystems of the Gulf overall.

3. Dispersants are less toxic than the oil they are helping to breakup so the bacteria can eat it.

Are we sure that those are facts? It looks to me like we're conducting a large-scale uncontrolled experiment.

1. Dispersants weren't tested underwater until BP did it a couple of weeks ago.
2. Are there any unknown consequences from using dispersants? Any studies of long term effects?
3. The oil is already there. Now we're adding an additional toxin. I can't even find a toxicity study on Corexit, other than counting how many critters died after 48 and 96 hours.

Hi heyoka,

We are experimenting, but we have no choice. Not using dispersants is considered by the EPA and NOAA to be the lesser of two evils.

War is hell :-(

For an overview of their use go to this link:

The Use of Chemical Dispersants to Treat Oil Spills

Oil kept out at sea and out of the marshes is much less damaging to the ecosystems of the Gulf overall.

Could you please provide a link to peer reviewed science that backs up your assertion?

From: UNH Coastal Response Research Center, NOAA, EPA and Coast Guard Convene Science
Meeting to Study Dispersant Use and Ecosystem Impacts of Dispersed Oil in the Gulf of

“It is the consensus of the group that up to this point, use of dispersants and the effects of dispersing oil
into the water column has generally been less environmentally harmful than allowing the oil to migrate
on the surface into the sensitive wetlands and near shore coastal habitats,” said Nancy Kinner,
University of New Hampshire co‐director of the Coastal Response Research Center.

Sorry, don't have a link to studies the above agencies have based their conclusions on.

I would point out that as a result of that meeting, the EPA and Coast Guard directed BP to significantly reduce their use of dispersants. They also acknowledge that the long term effects of dispersants are unknown.

I'm not saying we shouldn't be using dispersants. I'm saying that we should be careful about presenting theory as if it is fact.

we should be careful about presenting theory as if it is fact.


from that EPA 'report' (which btw is only a brief summary of a meeting, with scant science included), let me make 2 quotes:

Although the crude oil is more toxic than the authorized dispersants, much is unknown about the long term environmental impacts of dispersants when used in these unprecedented volumes on the surface and in the subsea.

It is the consensus of the group that up to this point, use of dispersants and the effects of dispersing oil into the water column has generally been less environmentally harmful than allowing the oil to migrate on the surface into the sensitive wetlands and near shore coastal habitats,”


If the first part is correct, ie we know very little about the impact of dispersants used subsea and in such amounts, then the second statement cannot possibly follow. If you don't know the impact of A (dispersants) then you cannot legitimately conclude that A is better than B (oil).

There is also the question of how exactly do you compare A to B, when the impacts may fall on different parts of the ecosystem, and different communities.

But of course, you can always make such statements with a straight face if you carefully qualify them, eg with "up to this point", since UP TO THIS POINT, it is better to see less oil in the marshland, while the long or even short-term effects of these dispersants are almost totally invisible.

That is not true.

Dispersants are toxic to the very bacteria needed to eat the oil. Kinda kills your whole plan.

The only purpose in deep water is to hide the problem. In shallow water, there may be some use, but not for Corext ever.

The only purpose in deep water is to hide the problem.


Not that BP and would have any incentive to hide the magnitude of the spill...
They are just trying their best to fix this problem which nobody could possibly have ever predicted. And I'm still offering a really good deal on the Brooklyn bridge, I can email you the title as soon as you deposit the funds in my bank account...

One more time, oil is more dangerous than dispersants.

It does not matter what we may find out in the future about the long term risk of the type of dispersants we are currently using, it is a moot point.

The millions of people along the Gulf Coast don't have months to wait for studies. (Studies which should have been done years ago!) They need their marshes and beaches protected now.

Based on all the evidence to date, using dispersants is the lesser of two evils. We must work with what we have, not what we wish we had. If there turns out to be unexpected long term environmental damage from dispersants, so be it, life is not fair. But to imply that the only reason for using dispersants is to "hide" the oil is the worse kind of speculation. Perhaps you can provide a verifiable source to back up that accusation?

And no, I don't own stock in companies that make dispersants ;-)

One more time. Repeating a statement unsupported by science does not make it more true.

And no, I don't care whether you own stock in oil, dispersants, or moonrocks. It doesn't make an iota of difference to the strength (or lack thereof) of your argument.

> One more time, oil is more dangerous than dispersants.
That presupposes the answer.
> They need their marshes and beaches protected now.
You are presenting the human-visible sites as being 'the environment' (prior you said: "Oil kept out at sea and out of the marshes is much less damaging to the ecosystems of the Gulf overall.") My point was the gom is an ecosystem, not the cute+cuddly green bits round the edges, *the lot*. Just cos we can't see below it doesn't mean it's not there. But if we can't see it, it's easier to suggest it doesn't matter. Biologists here may have something to say on this out of sight out of mind picture you give.
> But to imply that the only reason for using dispersants is to "hide" the oil is the worse kind of speculation. Perhaps you can provide a verifiable source to back up that accusation?
If BP released its internal paperwork we might be able to. They haven't so we can't. But I don't see it as the 'worst kind' of speculation - if they have billions to lose by hiding damage, they will (even must?) do it (see your post kind of adds weight to this). This makes it a rather rational kind of speculation.

I think you earned a chapter for friends of U.S. I have your permission to include you?

Sir, that would be a profound honour! Of course you may!

b_g, Excellent questions my friend.

Unfortunately we have very little experience with the environmental effects of deep water oil spills. We do know from a few experiments with controlled spills in the past that quite a bit of the oil does not come to the surface. It seems that in the case of a deep spill the ocean seems to function as a sort of fractionation column separating the different hydrocarbons from the crude and that much of it remains in layers of emulsified hydrocarbons at various depths. As to how that affects the marine ecosystem and various food webs? That is truly entering uncharted waters...

“I think there is an enormous amount of oil below the surface that unfortunately we cannot see. And that’s where knowing how the Gulf of Mexico moves and carries water around is going to be enormously important.”

Muller-Karger was one of four scientists called to testify by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, who has been an outspoken critic of British Petroleum’s conduct in the aftermath of the April 20 spill. Joining Muller-Karger on the panel were: Steve Wereley, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University: Richard Camilli, Associate Scientist of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and Michael Freilich, Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division.

Markey has challenged the veracity of statements made by BP about the amount of oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon well and gathered the scientists on Capitol Hill to explore if independent scientists have accurate information on the flow rate of the oil and ways to mitigate the spill.

“The ocean in the gulf right now is very sick, and there are no emergency rooms for oceans,” Markey said. “We are going to have to deal with this the best we can and the more information we can get, the better off the gulf region will be in the years ahead. But it will be years.”

Markey called for a “widespread scientific effort to determine the impact of BP’s oil spill. ”

b_g -
about burning it down there - some previous posts about:

how much oxygen/air will take to burn 5000 bpd of oil:

Of course, now multiply all quantities by 2.4 to 3.8 to account for
12,000 to 19,000 bpd.

About the dissolved oxygen, aeration, etc:

I'll let the biologists deal with the bugs.

Density of the mud: would it have helped the top kill to have higher density mud available?

All normal drilling mud must be non-abrasive to the drill bit, I assume? When I read that the mud they were using has a density of about 14 lbs/gallon (1.68 g/cc), I took it to mean that they were using a standard mud (something like a saturated cesium bromide solution with colloidal clay particles to give it a yield stress), since I have tested rubber designed for downhole applications against standard drilling muds, and I've seen densities that high.

This was a special case though; this "top-kill" mud could have included solid particles to increase density, including particles that would not be appropriate for drilling mud. Among the fairly inexpensive particles that would be feasible, I would have picked the spherical iron particles that are commercially available for powdered metallurgy (isostatic pressing, etc.). I have samples in my lab, with median particle size ~5 microns, and a tight particle size distribution. Because these particles are spherical it is possible to push the volume fraction up to 50% and still have something that can be pumped. By combining such particles with a dense mud, it should be possible to get a composite mud with density as high as 4.7 g/cc. Would this have helped?

Hey, no worries mates, BP/Corporate BP "embattled CEO" Head Sociopath and Warlord-Against-Humanity Tony Hayward sez everything is okey-dokey, it's still only a tiny leak in a very big ocean (and no undersea plumes):

TheOilDumb Translation Service:

Peasants, STFU and Go Eat Dirt.

roger - the mud weight can be a difficult parameter for folks to get their heads around. Most realize the top kill failed because they had a leaky connection with most of the mud blowing out the BOP and not heading down the csg. The actual weight of the mud had no bearing on this issue. Would not have made any difference if it were 10 ppg or 20 ppg. If the pressure forcing the mud into the well didn't exceed the pressure of the oil/NG in the well it wasn’t going to go down the csg. The leaking nature of the BOP prevented a sufficient pressure to be developed. But the primary source of the injected mud pressure was from the mud pumps and not the weight of the mud.

What might have confused the issue is the need for a certain MW needed to kill the well. It was estimated that a 16.5 ppg MW would stop the flow. But not just a few hundred feet in the csg. An 18,000' column of 16.5 ppg would exert a pressure greater than the reservoir pressure. But even if they had gotten a 5,000' column of the 16.5 ppg into the csg the effective pressure at the bottom of the hole would still not have been sufficient to stop the flow. Simply: it’s the MW times the column height that determines the bottom hole pressure. Consider if this had been a more typical kill situation: the well came in but the were able to shut it in. Now they had that high reservoir pressure contained. To kill the well they would pump the same 16.5 ppg mud down. But it would have been pump pressures exceeding the shut in well pressures that forces the oil/NG with the mud behind it down the hole. Would have worked whether they used 16.5 ppg or 10 ppg mud. But once they got the mud to bottom they could shut the pumps off. Then the pressure of the 16.5 ppg mud column could keep the well from flowing again. The 10 ppg wouldn’t be able to do that..turn the pumps off then and the oil/NG would once again flow up the csg.

Keep in mind the dynamic nature of drilling fluids. I am a retired mud engineer and have these comments: even if you got the 16.5 ppg mud down hole to "bullhead" into the formation, it could fracture it more, then you have lost circulation and another kick, this time without a dynamic ciculation system for control. I am convinced more drilling should be done underbalanced or measured pressure. I remember doing workovers in Norway with both heavy brine in the well and a snubbing unit. When asked why both during design stages, the Statoil engineers said "in case" so I was convinced they were ready for worst. This was on the big Statfjord platforms with 50,000 b/d wells (1987) with 7" liners. The only thing to stop this well is the relief wells - all else is PR.

very nice thread. Thanks for that. been trying to sum up this thing and believe goat21 and rockman with this summary sentence. "THE ONLY THING TO STOP THIS WELL IS THE RELIEF- WELL, ALL ELSE IS PR."

1. The BOP stack wouldn't have four sets of blind rams. Some pipe rams must be mixed in there.

2. Elastomers (rubber) generally used in oilfield equipment has specific gravities in excess of one.

A March 10 e-mail to Frank Patton, the Minerals Management Service’s drilling engineer for the New Orleans district, from BP executive Scherie Douglas said the company planned to sever the pipe connecting the well to the rig and plug the hole.

“We are in the midst of a well control situation on MC 252 #001 and have stuck pipe,” Douglas wrote, referring to the subsea block, Mississippi Canyon 252, of the stricken well. “We are bringing out equipment to begin operations to sever the drillpipe, plugback the well and bypass.”

...The e-mails shows that as early as the second week of March, BP was enlisting help from J. Connor Consulting Inc., a Houston-based firm that advises some of the world’s biggest energy companies on how to respond to oil spills.

Federal regulators gave BP permission to cement the well at a shallower depth than normally would have been required after the hole caved in on drilling equipment, the e-mails showed.

" Federal regulators gave BP permission to cement the well at a shallower depth than normally would have been required after the hole caved in on drilling equipment, the e-mails showed."

What hole?!!! Does "hole" refer to the well shaft or an enlarged cavity? So they probably did poke into one of those naturally occurring fractures?

Link to the BP emails released today.

"We have a partial log over the area below 12,900' that has a 4' stringer that shows some resistivity which has bridged over. We are packed off and unable to circulate through the bit or under reamer, indicating we are packed off above the under reamer. There is no way for us to perforate to put cement across that stringer.
With the give and take of the well and hole behavior we would feel much more comfortable getting at least one of the two plugs set in order to fully secure the well prior to testing BOPs."

This would seem to be in direct conflict with the story that they had circulated out the drilling mud in preparation for the production rig to come in.

Because if they were having control problems and giving up on the well, they wouldn't have removed the mud, would they? It wouldn't make sense to remove the mud unless all the DWH folks were confident of the casing and cement jobs.

That was regarding the previous well, Mississippi Canyon 252 #001.

Can a ship be made to run on recovered oil, that is after processing it is able to run somewhat on fuel the ship has recovered? Like I USED to do when I went fishing in the Gulf and would sushi a fish right there.

A large diesel engine can run on crude oil, and overseas there are some that do. It's convenient for pumping an oil pipeline. However, it won't meet US air quality standards.

I think it would produce much less pollution than burning in an open pool.

Legal question here:

Who owns the oil floating around in the Gulf?

Surely if BP has let it spill then it is anyone's to go get..

So why doesn't Mr Obama invite all and sundry to go suck it up and own it.. Perhaps with an incentive that the Federal Government will buy it at market price.

So what is the legal position vis-a-vis who owns the oil once it has escaped?

I think you are right. I think it is finder's keepers.

You know, thats a GREAT idea. Stop with the dispersants. Let the oil flow to the top and GO FOR IT.

Why don't you shop this idea around? I'd put Gen Honore' on that list also as he'll probably be involved in the clean up efforts sooner than later.

Black gold on the water!

The story goes that the MMS has been known to assess how much oil/gas was released by the blowout and the operator is given a bill for the royalties.

Blog by a scientist on a ship in the Gulf tracking/measuring oil plumes under the surface.

Very interesting, actually.

Thanks ... that is interesting. So is the marine traffic site linked there.

I wonder if they have the necessary instrumentation and information on board to identify the source of the oil or if that will have await on-shore testing for confirmation.

She is among the original scientists who first reported these oil plumes - the scientists who were disbelieved at the time! They had gone to sea for different reasons but changed their focus after the oil rig blew up. The initial samples during that cruise were not taken with the "correct" sampling technique as they had to improvise based upon what they had on board.

I'm thrilled they've been able to go back for another cruise specifically to study the oil plumes under the gulf. I read back through her logs and it's clear that this time they have the proper means of gathering samples as well as ability to test their samples on board (at least that's what I believe I understood).

This is good news - in the sense that it's an interdisciplinary team, gathered from several universities, and I'm guessing, based upon the earlier reports I read, that they will continue to study these plumes, assuming the funds to do so. (At this point there have to be mega-bucks devoted to research! Which, perhaps, BP will also have to pay for.)

Strive for inner peace.

Hi TheraP,

Yes, the crew is great. Loved the enthusiasm shown in the blog!

Good news. I don't think they will have to worry about funding for a long time :-)

BP Pledges $500 Million for Independent Research into Impact of Spill on Marine Environment

I'm very happy to hear that. But look at this:

Headline: BP CEO disputes claims of underwater oil plumes

Makes me chuckle! They'll fund research. But they'll dispute it too! ;)

Ahhh, Tony. Methinks your days at BP are numbered.

Louisiana Fisherman to Tony Haward:
"Don't piss on my leg and tell me its raining"

For those who have memory of Exxon Valdez, Bush 44 took over the operation prior to the two week mark.

U.S. Taking Over Cleanup of Oil Spill
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post Ann Devroy
Date: Apr 8, 1989

after having sent in a team from the executive at day four

Bush Sends Team to Assess Cleanup

By GERALD M. BOYD, Special to the New York Times
Published: March 29, 1989

WASHINGTON, March 28— President Bush, facing criticism over how his Administration is responding to the worst oil spill in North American waters, sent a delegation of high-ranking officials to Prince William Sound off Alaska today to inspect the damage.

White House officials said the unusual move came after complaints from senior aides about a lack of precise information on which to come up with a response to the spill, which could include a Federal takeover of cleanup efforts

On April 7, 1989, President Bush said he had not federalized the operation, and that he would not be federalizing the operation, and said no reasonable person would want it to be federalized. The Coast Guard was essentially made the Incident Command, with Exxon a full participant.

Various parties in this thread have questioned how many relief wells might be needed or appropriate, given less than perfect chances of any one relief well "succeeding", but without any real definition of "success" (beyond the general notion of "stopping the leak"). But now that relief wells are emerging as our last, best hope in this area, it might be worth thinking more how success can be obtained.

Based on existing information, it appears that a relief well must *intersect* the original well, at some point thousands of feet below the seabed. So, the relief well must be drilled in an arc bending off the vertical so as to cross the path of the original well. My question, folks, is how is this process guided, such that a true intersection can be made? How do the relief well drillers "aim" the drill so as to make this intersection. To do so, they must know (in three dimensions) both where the original bored hole is located, and its relation to the current location of the new hole. What kind of "guidance system" is used here? The problem is sort of like an air-to-air missile hitting its target. But this requires that the missile can *see* its target (either by infrared or radar methods). How do they do that underground?

My best guess (knowing nothing about the process) is: acoustic triangulation. They must listen to the relief well drill from at least three different places (on the seabed). But that would only tell them where the relief well drill is going. How do they know where the original well bore is placed? I can only think this is "a priori" information: they must already know that, by having "listened" to the original drill while it was boring the first well. But were they?

Any info on this "interception" process would be greatly appreciated.

Rockman claims it is his prodigious mental powers.

But I have heard that lessor intellects use geopositioning to get within a few feet and magnetic sensing for the last yard(s).


Re the positioning of rigs for these relief wells, I am wondering if this one spot in the Gulf is currently so crowded with ships that even if they wanted 3 or 4 relief wells, it might be hard to actually position more ships at the moment? I'm asking because I've become convinced, as you are, that the more relief wells the higher likelihood of success in the least amount of time. But how likely is it that enough rigs could be placed in that "city" of ships already out there? From my perspective (and what do I know?) we at least need to be sure there's "room" for more such rigs before we start a huge campaign demanding them.


RW #1 and #2 were spudded 3,000' from the wild well at right angles to each other in respect to the wild well. Symmetry would have the next two in an even quadrant, but that is not required.

They could be moved slightly further away than 3,000', they could be spaced closer than 90 degrees apart in relationship to the wild well, there are lots of options.


In that case there needs to be a coordinated campaign for this. Perhaps someone who posts here usually could do a post on that, describing the reasons extra relief wells are needed - with permission to disseminate that in other places. I could do that at TPM Cafe for example - post a blog on that. But it would be better if I had something to quote from. And others who have blogs or posting permission in different places could do the same. Plus send the info out to our email lists.

Thanks for the info. Honestly, people are so upset about this. All over the world really. And they need something to do. Need to feel that somehow they can "help" - so if we access that desire to help, then we might just accomplish this.

Peace be with you.

TheraP, I love you! Alan has been the pounding the drum for more wells from day one:)

Ok, this begins to look like we're getting some consensus here. Especially if Rockman wants 3! He should get what he wants! ;)

At this point, it's obvious that nothing else is going to work. And the utter catastrophe here is not just ours... but the oil can go "anywhere" if it keeps spilling. So humanity everywhere is counting on us!

It would make any campaign that much more powerful if TOD stands behind it. That would give us the strongest case. And make it that much easier to disseminate posts and info. Being a political year makes it all the better!

I will await further developments. But I think I could muster some troops.... (many from TPM are already reading here)

The probability of success of a relief well is much higher than stated on here especially given the knowledge gained from the first well.Putting more relief wells in that area has logistical issues. Each well is designed to be able to make multiple tries for an intersection. No doubt the top crews and contractors are there. Asking for more would be more for political theater like the drilling moratorium, early congressional panels, and many other things going on now, but does little to improve chance of success in my opinion. Been around too long. Seen this before. It is an election year for many.

The issue is *NOT* the probability of success for each relief well, but the probability of success WITHOUT SIGNIFICANT DELAY !

If spending $200 million will shut down the wild well one day sooner, then it is BP's money VERY well spent.

Heck, they have spent more than that just on criminal penalties.


"Knowledge gained from the first well." As I understand it the latest info (from emails released by Waxman's committee - see link below) suggests that this well was having trouble 6 weeks before it blew - and at that point (March 10) they were planning to close down the well due to the trouble they were having. I'm not enough of an expert to understand the "trouble" - but it sounds like they had hit some kind of "pocket" that meant danger. (don't quote me!) So.... based on that "knowledge gained from the first well" - does it mean relief wells too could face this danger? I hate to ask that question.... given how bad things already are.... But your words prompted these thoughts.

Here's the link to the article someone else posted elsewhere on the thread:

bmaz (at emptywheel) has a "working thread" looking at that (related to criminal aspects of this) but their "work-group" would be providing lots of links and thinks:

Also, look at the post below the one I linked. As that has links to the documents from the committee - some of which must be highly technical.

As for the relief wells, apparently Rockman wants 3!

Rockman thinks three is optimal. See his post above. Do you think that Rockman is into political theater?

It has taken up to 4 relief wells to kill some blowouts. Rockman is absolutely correct, 2 wells may not be enough, and if not then they would have to start 2 more, and there goes another 3 months ... or more. Bare in mind, it took 9 months to kill the IXTOC similar blowout in the GOM back in 1979, and that was in 150 ft of water not 5000 ft.

I am somewhat surprised that they elected to go with the LMRP over a 2nd BOP. I bet there were some heated arguments over that one. That is why they shut down one of the relief wells, they needed it's BOP. As I recall sinking a 2nd BOP is how they stopped the IXTOC blowout. That would be somewhat SOP at this point.

Actually I think BP got very lucky on this well and blowout. This could be far worse. According to reports the pressure below the BOP is only 1400 psi. The leak is apparently outside the main casing between sections. They do not believe it is leaking from the main bore. They believe the rock/cement outside the casing is restricting the flow and is the primary resistance. Of course, that could change anytime... They could easily be facing pressures 10X what they are now dealing with. Seeing how much trouble they are having stopping this one, one can only imagine how they would handle a 15,000 psi wild well a mile underwater.

Yes, the pressure that caused this blowout is still down there. The relief wells will hit the same thing, and it is the same danger. That is why they have BOPs on their wells also, and I bet they sure tested them R-E-A-L good. And of course their mental energy is certainly well focused right now on what can happen if they make any mistakes and are not on their toes.

since this thread will probably be locked shortly for a more recent one, seems like there is a new one at least every day, I suggest this question become the subject of a new thread. If we spend much time addressing your question and the thread is locked I don't know how many will go back and note the last few posts of a thread. I may be wrong and if so, sorry. It's a very good question with many ifs, ands, and buts.

see these two companies' sites:

More info on the locating, etc. of relief wells in this thread:
read Rockman's and Frontier_Energy's comments

Also this post (and the following post):

Vector Magnetics has some interesting case histories on their site.

The orignal wellbore would have been surveyed during and at the end of the drilling process. There is a certain amount of error depending on what tools were used for these surveys...but they pretty much know where it is.

The relief wells are being surveyed as they are they know where they are at all times.

The process to "steer" the well is known as Directional Drilling. You are correct in saying it's like getting a missile to hit a target....but it's a little harder than that actually.

When they get close the "leaking" wellbore they will probably use a proces called Magnetic Ranging to locate the metal casing.

Google Directional Drilling to get a better handle on the steering process.

Thanks TOD for all the information and graphics explaining the situation.

I was wondering why there is not a second redundant shear ram? There are 4 blind rams for sealing the DP-I assume for incremental actuation to deal with the very high pressure of the O/G mix in the case of accident.

Over a week ago I heard that this shear ram could fail to shear the DP due to a pipe coupling at the SR location. I thought why have they not a second SR in a another location in the BOP matrix, as a back up certainty that would 100% guarantee a clean cut of the DP? This is an astonishing FAIL of a so called final failsafe design. I am certain it is not cheap to add the second SR, But the law of paymenow or paymelater dictates to spend now and save later.

Seems much room for improved designs and tooling for underwater BOT work etc. Deepwater drilling is not going away IMO, but the R&D for better industrial design is open for business. Good area for bright young engineers.

Just a Wyoming boy and crane operator. Oil and gas mining and agriculture are key to this state's economy. Never worked on an oil rig, but am familiar with the drilling process, in general terms. Causes my heart to weep knowing one of the lives lost was my brother crane operator. It's a hell of a thing. My heart goes out to all those who lost dear ones in this tragedy. The kill well, or kill wells, are the only solution to this calamity. The collection of oil from the sea bed will be the strategic thrust until the kill wells are viable. That's about the size of it. Appreciate all of the informed and factual information here. Made donation to website today. Like I say, it's a hell of a thing down there on the sea bed.

A sincere Thank You! for the wealth of information given by all the knowledgeable minded members and for the laughs provided by the not so knowledgeable minded members. Sometimes it doesn't hurt to laugh in the face of adversity.

The biggest problem here is that you have upper management trying to solve a problem. It's clear enough to anyone who has worked for a living that upper management can only create problems. The experts have nice degrees and can spew out statistics and fall back on their education for a moment in the spotlight at every failed attempt but haven't ever faced a real problem in their life.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who scrolls through the post to find Rockman's post.

I was really hoping this latest effort would succeed. I pray that the next cap will work.

Thanks for keeping us informed.

You obviously do not know the background of the tech staff or many of the execs in this case. Usually people who have never been there make assumptions that those there know nothing and never came up through the trenches. Not always the case.
Perhaps you are getting this business mixed up with public education.

I agree with you mostly about management. However, some will be out for the political points and publicity and may not be the most qualified to be out there. I just hope there are not too many chiefs and not enough warriors.

Most of all, the hacks like Chu man need to stay in Washington. Those folks are mostly academics that have no concept of how the oil field works nor its tooling. They write papers and books about how things should be done without a gnats ass worth of hands on working knowledge.

I personally saw in the early 70's a well respected oil field services company nearly ruined because of them hiring a bunch of NASA engineers after mass layoffs from the Apollo program down turn. They re-engineered antique oil field equipment to new modern NASA standards. The failures in the field cost lots and lots of money and lost clients. There is a difference between flying to the moon with a single use ultra lightweight vehicle and boring holes in the earth with equipment that should last years and survive the vigors of ruffnecks. Good ole ruffnecks, the only people I know that can destroy a ball bearing with a rubber hammer.

Right, which is why the military should be in charge of final decision making. Not because they know the answers, but because they generally live in a reality based universe, unlike the politicos and the corporate higher ups.

The pentagon has already come out and said they know NOTHING about deep water drilling. They have said it themselves.

What they could probably run with some competence is the surface operations concerning cleanup.

Leave the damn oil well stuff to the people that know what they are dealing with and do not strangle this operation "committees".

We are not disagreeing. A unified command structure enforced by the military command and control apparatus would clear the way for the "damn oil well stuff" to be left "to the people who know what they are dealing with." That's the best way for this to happen now, since this is such a disaster and every politician and news agency is involved. What is needed is a solid commander who knows how to operate with tough real life decisions within a politically charged environment. I am not saying that they would make the engineering decisions any more than they would aim the mortar, but this is a big crisis and it takes a certain kind of situational management to protect the engineering operational resources and make sure they get everything they need.


Nukes were designed and built by physicist and chemist hacks like the Chu man. Your point of view does not help.

Everyone who knows anything about the situation has stated from the very beginning of the problem that the only sure solution is a relief well. All other proposals are problematic and somewhat temporary. BP has not ever stated anything different. The operating people are trying different apporaches that could possibly work out, but if successful will not be permanent.

I've got a belly full of the jack jerks want to try to reprocess the entire volume of the GOM to remove every oil molecule with a justifacation of "at least they tried". Why not move every fan in the country down there to create an offshore breeze to keep the oil out or the marsh? The impracticale nonsense and conspiracy theories are running wild and seem to have been supplied with nuclear fuel.

Having been an aircraft technician most my life, I ask:

With mainline aircraft there is always a backup or two for airworthiness issues. With that in mind what would prevent a major catastrophe if a large ship sake and landed atop the BOP and snapped off the casing, creating an open, unobstructed wellhead?

With the sinking of the Horizon and the above extreme example, I had assumed these abstract instances would have been designed into the production setting for safety reasons.

Just wondering…

IIRC, in a completed well, there would be a downhole safety valve lower down that would either close with the loss of control pressure, or just be left closed while the well is inoperative.

Obviously, such a valve wouldn't be able to operate in a well that still has the DP in place.

I searched this post and the comments for "gaslift", no hits. Sorry I can't read it all.

Why wouldn't gaslift work to capture the oil? Send a pipe from a salvage vessel down to the leak. Start a flow of oil and gas - there is 40% natural gas by mass in the leak according to David Valentine of UC Santa Barbara - up the pipe. As the flow rises, the highly compressed natural gas in the mixture begins to expand because the pressure above it is decreasing. This continually reduces the density of the mixture as it rises.

At steady state flow, if the average density in the pipe is 4/5 that of the seawater outside, then there would be more than 400 psi of driving force at the bottom of the pipe over the leak. It is like a giant chimney. This would sweep the oil and gas and some seawater up the the pipe - got to minimize the seawater somehow - to the salvage vessel. It would exit at high velocity, perfect for separating the oil and water from the gas in a cyclone.

No outside power required, equipment simple and cheap compared to what they are using.

I suppose gas hydrates will form, but wouldn't 400 psi be enough to sweep them along into the pipe? If not, then use warm water injection, as they are planning for the LMRP attempt.

The oil and gas industry already uses gaslift for production in low pressure wells. It is a known and proven and useful technique. Why aren't they using it here?

I suspect this is not a low pressure well!

Not sure if this has been posted, but there was a major deepwater oil well blowout in Australia last year. Investigations into that spill have suggested that cementing may have been the fault. The same company responsible for cementing on the failed Australian well was also responsible for the cementing on this failed well.

Haliburton is a very reliable cemenet contractor. They RELIABLY pump the job as specified by the well owner. They are not responsible if the cement job does not accomplish the purpose becasuse of downhole conditions, the responsibilities of the well owners. They pump the blend and the quantities specified by the owner and the rig operators. Failed cement jobs are usually not because Haliburton did not perform correctly. They could have a problem is their cement pumps did not orperat properly or if their personel did not measure correctly. If they are ordered to put 10 bbls or 1000 bbls of cement with the XXX blend of composits down the hole, and they do that, the outcome of the job is not their problem. Run the CBL and find out if the owner had a borehole that was suitable for the mix and quantity.

BP live stream today showed in great detail the leaking bent riser and top of BOP. The riser is bent all the way down to the attachment flange.

Boy, I hope they have an exact scale model of this built in some warehouse somewhere and are looking at it very carefully!

It would be really- rich if one of the ROV operators was able to sneak down a life-size cutout of "Madonna" or ??, in a snorkel outfit,
& just kind of set it behind the plume where you could just 'vaguely kind of see 'her' from time to time.
It would be worth losing the job.. (in my mind.) sorry, been watching the
plume too long, .

>>I promise I will never waste space juvenile like, here again.<<

but "picture it" there, kind of wavering vaguely in the background.
-- get everyones mind out of the scary oil-disaster mode for a moment maybe..

Thanks all you actual knowledge-able folks here for the REAL Truly Valuable Information you have been kind enough to share with 'idiots' like myself!!


As long as its not GAGA!

I saw that, too. It wasn't obvious to me where they could make the cut such that there was enough riser available to attach the LMRP flange to. The whole upper BOP looked pretty twisted.

It may be my imagination, but it seems as though the oil is coming out with more gusto than it was a few moments ago

If anyone wants to critique this idea, please go for it:

The idea is to move the seal point from above the flange to below it, and it use the pressure of the escaping material to create the pressure... to use it to seal itself.

Fabrication of the enclosure is obviously the most difficult part, in that it must be split in half and then must create a good enough seal to encapsulate the flange (or maybe there is another way I haven't thought of?).

This all depends upon whether or not the flange could support the pressure on its own. If it can, this approach could allow for a seal (or better seal) due to the pressure without any outside force, or it could be an enclosure with a better seal so they could combined with the present concept and used for pumping of the oil.

They have a few months, maybe they could fabricate such a container. Thoughts?

I don't think they want to put any more pressures, lateral or otherwise, on the BOP. Stressing the flange is probably not a good idea. I hope they are making some sort of rig (maybe that's what the mud mats where for...) to create "hard points" to stabilize the LMRP as they position it above the cut riser.

Isn't this what they are doing anyway though? As I understood their diagram, they will be using those long parts of the MLRP head to clamp and get pressure, using the bottom of the flange for it.

I hope not. I hope they are finding some way to stabilize the LMRP above the cut riser without using the BOP as an anchor point. Four hard points on mud mats with cables to the LMRP to help position it would be a good idea.

You mean they are using weights to try to hold the MLRP down?

How do you think they are going to get the LMRP in position above the cut riser pipe? I don't know, but it seems to me that unless it is physically maneuvered into place by something like a cable system pulling from the bottom, or some other kind of rig, that it will just get blown away by the gusher from the top of the BOP cut riser.

I meant for the seal. For positioning I'm sure it will be a major challenge anyway.

One thing I haven't understood about the shear ram possibly not cutting a joint or similar.....

After cutting off the bent riser, why not open the shear ram? The drill pipe should either fall in, or if the upward flow is that strong shoot it out the top. With it gone the shear could be then closed with only oil in the way.

Is the issue simply fear it won't reclose, or do they not have enough control to open and close it now?

Did the BOP in this instance have pneumatic accumulators to close the rams incase of hydraulic failure or did it rely only on hydraulic power from the surface?

Both. With a loss of communication with the rig then the systems on the sea floor automatically activate. At least that is what was supposed to happen. What is so amazing to me is that nothing worked. No primaries and no backups.

there have been some questions on my mind that members might help answer:

1) Since cement ended up blowing out the well and was found on a nearby ship, can anyone speculate on the leak path into the well? Maybe the bottom casing cement failed?

2) They were displacing heavy mud with sea water when the blow out ocurred and this leads me to conclude a long drill sting was in the well with an open drill collar at the bottom end. Can anyone speculate on the leak path out of the well?
a) Outside the drill string and past pipe rams and both Annulars?
b) Up the drill string and out the swivel on the moving block?
c) Other?

3)If I have located the correct drilling permit, BP states in the worst case senario section 7.1 an uncontrolled well flow of 162,000 barrels per day. And since no amount of junk could seal up the BOP and no amount of mud pumping could force adequate mud down the well I would conclude this is a very open uncontrolled gusher. How can BP justify an estimate of 1000 revised to 5000 bpd against engineering estimates of 162,000bpd?

4)And some of their well permits estimate up to 250,000bpd. Where do they get these uncontrolled flow numbers, gestimate or open flow tests on related wells? See section IX-A-4 in :
Dr. Juan May, 30 2010

The matrix in section 7.1 from which you are getting the "162,000" figure does not say "barrels", it just says "per day." Could they be using some other unit than barrels? If it is barrels, could not the figure be contingent upon there being eventually multiple wells drilled, all of which could leak?

It seems to be true, what you say, no units are mentioned in the table in section 7.1. It seems sloppy, but that may be general practice. I hope someone who really knows can comment.

But a 5,000 bbl per day leak, following the blowout of this well, has been admitted to by BP. That's about 210,000 gallons per day of oil, if the units were instead gallons per day. And the government estimates on the order 12,000-19,000 bbls per day according to reports from news outlets.

It's hard for me to imagine that BP engineers would estimate the rate of discharge, in a case in which there was no obstruction at all to the flow from the reservoir but just an open hole (a worst case scenario) to be as low as 162,000 gallons per day.

As to the question of multiple wells, the first proposal you (edit: Dr. Juan) refers to asks for permission to drill two exploratory wells. They are not talking about tapping a reservoir (of unknown size) with multiple wells, all of which might be blown out at the same time. (Who could possibly know how fast the driving pressure would drop in a case like that? It would depend upon, among other things, how much oil+gas was actually there.)

The worst case scenario they imagined must surely be: what happens if they completely lose control of either one of the exploratory wells that they drill, and there is a large reservoir of oil+gas at somewhere near 13,000 psi, at the bottom.

They wanted to drill there. Thus they certainly wouldn't have wanted to make things seem more dangerous than they were. And the hypothetical situation of having many blown out wells over an enormous reservoir at great depth rather than one or two wells clearly makes things worse, not better.

The other permit in item four above clearly states 250,000 BARRELS per day - albeit for some other well. But I don't know how they arrive at engineering estimates.. I assume they are not making them up out of thin air to fill in a blank on a form. They must know something about formation porosity, size of casing, pressure in in the formation, open flow test results on other wells.

Another thing that is missing is pressure drop cross BOP - which I assume is very low but might interfere with flow and cut flow by a small percentage. BP has said cutting the riser off the BOP might raise flow by 20% - I think all flow restriction at this point is from a small amount of flow drag in smaller lower casing and formation resistance. IMHO (an engr, but not in petro field) the well is essentially in worst case run-away free flow.

The other permit in item four above clearly states 250,000 BARRELS per day - albeit for some other well. But I don't know how they arrive at engineering estimates.. I assume they are not making them up out of thin air to fill in a blank on a form. They must know something about formation porosity, size of casing, pressure in in the formation, open flow test results on other wells.

Another thing that is missing is pressure drop cross BOP - which I assume is very low but might interfere with flow and cut flow by a small percentage. BP has said cutting the riser off the BOP might raise flow by 20% - I think all flow restriction at this point is from a small amount of flow drag in smaller lower casing and formation resistance. IMHO (an engr, but not in petro field) the well is essentially in worst case run-away free flow.

Where would the leak that Matthew Simmons refers to, the one he claims is 6-7 miles away from the wellhead, come from? It doesn't seem like the riser needs to be that long to hit a seabed at 5000 or so feet below the surface.

I think the implication is that there has been a sub well head casing failure which has allowed oil to fracture an upper formation and that the oil is escaping via this path. This is possible but I do not have any data on this. During the top kill operation it appears that BP believed that they were loosing mud down the well bore (in addition to the mud being lost out of the riser).

Can anyone tell me what the pressure implications are inside the pipe when a BOP closes?

It seems to me that when the blowout happens a great gush of oil and gas comes up the pipe. This has a certain kinetic energy and if there is a lot of it in a very long pipe this can represent a large amount of stored energy in the 'inductance' of the pipe.

In a hydraulic ram water pumps this principle is used with a long flow pipe. If the flow is cut off quickly and repetitively it can produce very high pressure spikes which can he used to pump water to a considerable height.

Surely when the BOP activates it risks generating a large pressure spike. Could this be enough to fracture the pipe some way below the BOP and allow oil to leak out sideways as Matt Simmons is suggesting? It might only require a break of a few inches.

A bedtime thought: "That was worse than a crime; it was a mistake." —Talleyrand-Périgord on Napoleon's execution of the Duc D'Enghien

New US regulation: Exploration and relief wells to be drilled simultaneously

Bill Scott, manager of Chevron’s Arctic Center in Calgary, Alberta:
(Talking about a new type BOP: To eliminate need for a relief well in northern Canada-Beaufort Sea,
said to be finished testing this year late 2010)

“A single ram will do what two rams did — it will shear and seal simultaneously,” Scott said.”It will cut and seal on a wide variety of drilling tubulars and production casing.”

The stacking of two of the new rams in a single blowout preventer will provide 100 percent redundancy in both the shearing and sealing operations, while additional rams and other technology in the massive device will further increase the device’s overall effectiveness.

Sounds like technology was almost available to prevent this Gulf spill..
a matter of months..

Those who know, Is this 'real live safety-news' for the offshore oil patch? or is this new BOP just another oil company's (Chevron's) PR, BS?

Does ANYONE think BP would buy a new and better BOP when they had a "perfectly good one" in stock ?

Of course, they could not be bothered to properly maintain the one that they had.


Double post.

BOPs, like firewater pumps, are long lead items and are usually not found lying about in stock in a warehouse somewhere. They are almost certainly assembled (although not manufactured) to order. The QA/QC process alone would take at least a couple of weeks for a new BOP to roll out the door.

Besides, BP did not own the BOP, Transocean did, and it was Transocean who was responsible for maintaining it.

Per reports, BP paid to upgrade that particular BOP and to maintain it.

Such reports may have been in error, but that is what was reported. And it makes sense for a long term lease.


I was on the first horizontal well in Norway (1989) on W. Troll. We had a relief well program ready and a rig nearby. W. Troll has a large gas cap and even larger water drive. We did 500 m horizontal. Better to over engineer in cases of new technology like deep water, or horizontal (1989).

I have seen this already several time,

digging the deepest oil well in the world.

This journalist must be poor at researcher new topics.

It has already been mentioned that there were BOP problems however I find the sequence of events on THIS well rather interesting.

On at least three occasions, BP records indicate, the blowout preventer was leaking fluid, which the manufacturer of the device has said limits its ability to operate properly.

"The most important thing at a time like this is to stop everything and get the operation under control," said Greg McCormack, director of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas in Austin, offering his assessment about the documents.

He added that he was surprised that regulators and company officials did not commence a review of whether drilling should continue after the well was brought under control.

After informing regulators of their struggles, company officials asked for permission to delay their federally mandated test of the blowout preventer, which is supposed to occur every two weeks, until the problems were resolved, BP documents say.

At first, the minerals agency declined.

"Sorry, we cannot grant a departure on the BOP test further than when you get the well under control," wrote Frank Patton, a minerals agency official. But BP officials pressed harder, citing "major concerns" about doing the test the next day. And by 10:58 p.m., David Trocquet, another MMS official, acquiesced.

"After further consideration," Trocquet wrote, "an extension is approved to delay the BOP test until the lower cement plug is set."

When the blowout preventer was eventually tested again, it was tested at a lower pressure — 6,500 pounds per square inch — than the 10,000-pounds-per-square-inch tests used on the device before the delay. It tested at this lower pressure until the explosion.

This is the part that caught my eye.

At first, the minerals agency declined.

So it would seem that MMS was trying to do the RIGHT thing BUT changed its mind.

Surely they will be looking into how this happened, if they didn't already do it. Perhaps the fired top people at MMS were the ones leaning on the MMS supervisors of BP operation in this case.

At first, the minerals agency declined, but when the money transfer was confirmed ...

Reading about what happens there you get to wonder whether that's unfounded.

Ok- how's this for a left field idea: Pump compressed oxygen down that kill line instead of mud.Put an electric arc type ignition source at each leak. Burn the oil as it leaks out.Create one gigantic underwater oxy-acetylene torch to deal with the oil while the relief wells are being drilled.

Would it work?

No need for an igniter. As soon as the oxygen comes in contact with the oil / gas it will ignite - violently. It will not work because nobody can predict the outcome - other than it will probably not be good.

Would you allow me to include that in my new book?

Wacky American Ideas
To solve the BP Gulf Oil Spill

You certainly would be a big feature GOM torch of freedom? Freedom from oil, we just burn it all at the source? Like the underground coal fires in Pennsylvania or Iraq during the gulf war? The giant shrimp boil?

Technically those shrimp coated with oil would be fried, not boiled.

FYI from gCaptain websiteby pealoilerrrr:

U of Georgia research vessel interesting blog by Samantha Joye 5-31-10

seems to contradict Suttles' careless belittling remark re sub-surface plumes measured in parts-per-billion of oil.Joye reports visible oil and petro-smells from samples taken at particular depth-levels within plume, clearly more oil than parts-per-billion. Other depths within plume had no visible traces...thus perhaps in parts-per-billion.

If they can get the LMRP to work couldn't they depending on the condition of the BOP and drill pipe left in the hole rig a snubbing unit and run tubing to bottom and kill the well from there?

I have a question regarding the relief well(s):
First, I'm wondering how they can drill so precise that they will hit a target only a few inches wide. But that seems to be no major concern to anyone, so I assume it can be done.

Second, when they actually hit the old well this is a very different situation from normal drilling. I've been following the explanations of rockman et al. regarding the drilling process and it's clear that the column of drilling mud acts as a counterpressure to the pressure at the drilling bit. But if they hit the old well, according to the plan they will be well above the reservoir. So in an instant the pressure will rise a few thousand psi from the normal rock pressure at that (relatively shallow) depth to the full reservoir pressure (minus the negligible pressure drop at the old BOP).

To counteract that expected pressure rise they will have to use super-heavy drilling mud (about double the normal weight), because they only have half the height of the mud column versus the full pressure. If the mud is too light, the pressure will blow it out of the hole and they got themselves a second leak or at least a (hopefully) closed blowout-preventer on the second well. If the mud is heavy enough, some of it will flow into the old well until an equilibrium between the mud column in the new well and the pressure in the old well is reached. Some of it will continue to leak and will be replaced by the much lighter oil/gas mix in the well, so they need to continually replace some of the mud. That last scenario is probably the working plan.

But aren't there difficulties with such heavy drilling mud? *Can* it even be that heavy? I read that you normally don't use heavier mud than you need to because you may frack the rock you drill through. Essentially when they are nearing the old wellbore, they need to maintain about double the pressure of the surrounding rock at the drill bit.

That wouldn't be a problem if they didn't intercept the old well in the middle but kept drilling down and meet it right at or near the bottom. That would take much longer of course, so is BP again taking risks to speed things up?

And even if they hit the old well and they keep replacing mud from above, then what? Will they "produce" the new well to release pressure on the old wellhead and then seal it? Or will they try a "Topkill Mk II" from the relief well, just filling both holes with mud until the flow stops and then cementing everything?

BP originally planned to drill the RW to intercept a few hundred feet above the reservoir. But apparently changed their minds per some reports I read. Not confirmed the change.


It seems I have misinterpreted their plan. Judging from the following picture they plan to drill down to 18.000 ft and then flood the well with mud. That makes most of my questions (except the first) obsolete, because they won't hit much of a pressure differential.

According to BP the first well is down to 12.000 ft, as of yesterday, the second to 8.500 (no change in 5 days).

You've essentially got it right. A relief well hitting the "blowing" well halfway down would cause new problems.

The relief well currently being drilled will go very nearly all the way to the bottom of the blowing well.

what is causing the flame-like appearance in the effluent now? It looks as if it is burning but there can't be enough O2 down there to support a flame???

Methane gas reacting with sea water.

Apart from the kill lines entering it the existing BOP seems to be a pretty useless lump of iron with a leaking bent pipe sticking out the top. Messing with attempting a conventional flange to flange-type coupling looks too easy to get wrong; you need a fail-safe method of getting a new clean flange join to start again with.

How about:

Slice the top off the BOP so all oil is escaping from the top of the BOP and discard the old riser etc, leaving a clean top to the BOP with all oil exiting.

Drop a concrete formwork around the BOP that extends from its base up to 2m above the top of the BOP. Formwork about 5 metres by 5 metres in plan to give a good metre or more all round the BOP - this is going to be in tension so vertical and circumfrential rebar cage would be handy; a decent lump of concrete mass that can withstand forces from a new riser and drill string etc. Route existing operational plumbing from the BOP out, for monitoring etc.

On top of the now cleaned up BOP drop an over-sized very heavy duty pipe stub. Say a 28" diameter pipe stub about 4 metres long with a big solid flange at the top. Inside build a tapered guide down to near the 21" riser diameter to locate later working tools. Add some flanges and dangling rebars to the bottom of the stub to embed in the concrete and some rubber skirts to make a rough seal (low pressure - more to keep concrete out of the oil flow area than the oil out of the concrete) You then have the stub sitting in the formwork with the oil stream running freely through the stub - no local pressure differentials at all.

Fill the formwork up with quality concrete and rebars leaving the 28" stub sticking up above the concrete block by a couple of metres.

Once the concrete is set then you have achieved a decent seal and localised the outflow through a robust and conventional coupling point.

It would be prudent to leave a few small diameter pipes let into the side of the concrete block in strategic places, so the block could be broken up with small explosive charges or otherwise fracked later if required without having to drill holes.

You can now start again and mate to the new flange with a new riser and do what needs to be done in a controlled manner.

Give it a go, why not?

Gee wiz, I guess you forgot they did that with a 100 ton (200,000 pounds) funnel that didn't work. Maybe a billion ton funnel? Uranium funnel then you could have the nuclear billion ton funnel? Item 16 for the book? Would you let me publish that?

I think, but I'm not sure, that the sea floor around the BOP is soft mud which gradually gets denser and harder as you go down. If I am right, it might be difficult to get a good base on which your concrete case could sit.
I have sent in a similar suggestion (to about sealing a good collar to the cut pipe (using slow-setting epoxy putty) before lowering the LMRP onto the collar. (Seems to me it would be easier and more effective than trying to make the cut pipe nice and smooth using "buffing", which is what I think I heard Mr Suttles say.)
Probably be too late for this attempt, always supposing they hadn't already rejected it.

It's 6:00 am in Iowa. I'm watching the BP camera. Does anyone know why there's a small light spot that looks like a flame coming out of the pipe? What is that?

via Trailman: Methane gas reacting with sea water, earlier thread.

Been wondering myself. Looks for all the world like flame to me. It also looks like the oil is coming both out of the riser, as well as out of the seabed (or the mound of silt, in any case) beneath the riser now. Boggle.

If BP would just turn off the ROV lights we could see if it glows...

The thing that looks like a flame is the methane gas I believe.

Doesnt look like any methane gas we've seen to date, imho. Previously the gas was ejected at higher velocity, and produced a distinct white plume, which seems to be absent if this is gas.

The Fox Newz BP Oil Spill Camera is showing a live shot of the White House. Of course. Very funny, not.

Are there any other livestreams other than the bp-cam showing rovs in action?
all the links i had (abc, fox, cnn), dont work anymore.

Yes they work, but they all show the same leaking oil.
Last week there was this multifeed stream with pictures from the differend rovs.
That was far mor interesting. I hope they switch the view to one of the rov.

i don't think BP's primary mission at this point is to provide in depth news coverage for us. At least we have one camera down there....

but i think its cnn's primary mission...