The BP Deepwater Oil Spill - Why Top Kill May Have Failed and Monday Open Thread

Please transfer discussion to

Note: this is the same prose from last night's post of 6p or so, just with a new comment thread this morning. Enjoy.

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.

A *very* sincere thank you to all who have donated thus far. It will help with the increased costs we face (see point 3 below).

1. The Oil Drum is a pretty special place. We strive to maintain a high signal to noise ratio in our comment threads. Short, unengaging comments, or comments that are off topic, are likely to be deleted without notice. (to be clear--engaging, on point humor and levity, more than welcome.)

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

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

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

Our guide to commenting at TOD can be found here: . Please check it out if you are unfamiliar with it, but it is essentially 1) citations welcome (if not necessary), 2) be kind to others, and 3) be nice to the furniture.

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

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

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

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

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

5. Also, if you're looking for live chat to talk about the ROV video, etc., 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 yesterday and today before you start on this thread. They were really good, and will likely catch you up if you have been out of the loop for a while. We shut down threads when we get to 400 comments, as it's really unmanageable. Lots of good stuff in there though.

For those new to TOD who would like a little variety in their reading instead of just following the Gulf spill posts, there is a wonderful section called Tech Talk. There you will find an enormous amount of info on energy topics written by experts. Rather than say more about them, I'll just point you in their direction and let you explore.

At the top of the Home page, in the five by three grid in the center of the page, the link for Tech Talk is the one on the lower right.

I've learned a lot there, hope you do too.

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.

Several questions, Goose:

How damaged/distorted is the DP where the shears made contact. Is there enough clearance to allow it to drop free?

If the DP drops free into the well, how much velocity will it have achieved when it reaches the bottom? What damage could it do to the cement plug I undestand is in place? Assuming the seal at the bottom is intact and that the current flow is around the casing, could this punch through and open up a more direct path between the formation and the wellhead.

Also, how would having the DP sitting in the bottom of the well affect the relief well attempt. It seems to me that the relief wells need to be below the DP for best chance at success.

Many questions...........

Ah, the ol' drill pipe and the shear rams. How tempting they are, like naked gurls on the other side of the bullet proof glass.

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.

This topic has been a pet for your's truly going back a couple of days. One idea floated during the conversation was that res pressure would blow the drill string out of the well. I personally don't think so but what are the odds?

If the drill pipe won't drop, why not pull it up by 'fishing' for it?

My idea was to affix new drill pipe to what is in the casing already (about 3,000') and push it to the bottom and kill the well this way with a 'kill pill'. The 3,000 feet of drill pipe and cutter head partway down the casing are the superhighway (Thx ROCKMAN) to the center of the problem. Why not use it?

Why not attach a mud line to the drill pipe with a Dresser coupling and start pushing mud into the hole while the LMRP or backup BOP is readied for installation? Mud can also be pushed throught old kill and choke lines as was attemped during the top kill. The drill pipe would put mud into the well @ 3,000 feet as well along with mud entering at the top.

The first top kill was sending mud down the casing and having it return to the surface via the drill string. Obviously a waste of time.

Gushie's still having his wonderful show!

Even better, his friends along the seafloor are coming to party too! Seabed's collapsed and volcanic vents of oil are spewing joyous plumes miles from the well.

There's no stopping them now, the fantastic four shall pour forever more!

I've been thinking a lot out this leak. When the leak first began, I dismissed claims of how game-changing an event it might be.

However, up to now, the pessimists have been proven right.

And now with the prospect that the thing will keep leaking at least into August, I see it differently. I keep thinking about the satellite pictures I've been looking at, which show the spill stretching out over a substantial area of sea. It pains me to imagine what that slick is going to look like from space three months from now. Will the whole damn Gulf be a sheen of oil?

Who's gonna want off-shore drilling in their "back yard" going forward? Nobody.

So much for new drilling in Alaska; so much for drilling in the Gulf. Not saying it won't happen, but it will be a ferocious battle.

So, this event is a game-changer not unlike Three Mile Island was, which cast nuclear power in the public's eye as, well, dangerous. TMI effectively killed new nuclear energy production in this country, if I remember my history right, when the public developed a negative attitude toward nuclear energy as a result.

On the other side of the coin, there will still be a terrific demand for oil--that doesn't go away overnight--with concomitant pressures to extract more. But with our enhanced NIMBY mentality, where will it come from? Other parts of the world? Will we become more imperialistic, our relationships with oil-producing countries more, well, hegemonic and exploitive in order to garner cheap-ish oil?

Well, I could go on hypothesizing in this manner, but. Something's gotta give and I'm not sure what.

My not-very-expert guess is that there will be new initiatives to build new nuclear energy plants. TMI is more than a generation past, and people forget. Well, that's not so much a prediction as it is a musing.

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?

An earlier diagram I saw on Rigzone depicted the 9 5/8 / 7 inch as a liner from 15,000 to 18,000 but the diagram in this thead show it as production casing covering top to bottom, so if the leak is in fact coming up that annulus you would have to perforate or cut a window in the 7 inch near the bottom for my idea to work.

The current video shows the plume from the end of the broken riser...they must be staging equipment...what was the reason for deploying the mud mats yesterday? What are they going to set on the mats?

Could they be there to catch things that the robots drop?

No, mud mats are a glorified road fabric that support weight on muddy surfaces.

That would include dropped things too... No one wants to see another saw disappear into the mud. But yes, of course, it could include things they "intend" to set there as well. ;)

Rio - That would be the standard aproach to killing the well. BTW for those that haven't heard of snubbing units they are like a BOP in that you can run drill pipe thru it while keeping the well from flowing by using an annular packer wrapped around the drill string. But the first problem would be the drill pipe stuck in the BOP. I haven't seen any report indicating it wasn't still there. But if they could attach a snubbing unit or BOP and IF the seal between the old BOP and the new unit is sufficient they can inject ("bullheading") mud thru the new choke line at a pressure greater than the well's flowing pressure. Bull heading isn't the best approach (it could break down csg or other cmt shoes and pump mud somewhere else other than to the bottom of the hole) but it seems like the only option at this point. But as I understand the current plan they will not try to pump in but instead pipe the oil/NG to the surface. I'll guess this is an acknowledgement that they don't think the seal could handle the high pump pressures required to kill the well.


I have been having a closer look at the BOP. They did not have much. Warning 18 mb

Lower Rams = Test rams work from top not bottom. Non well control

Middle Rams- OK tested 7100psi

Upper pipe rams - OK tested 7100psi

Casing rams, yes they were there, but going by the Transocean BOP test they had an exemtion not to function test= not operating. This would have been written by Transoceans, but BP would have known.

Shear blind- OK but not tested during normal BOP test. Though it was used during the casing test to 2500psi

Lower Annular- stripping element installed max 5000psi, tested 3950psi

Upper annular- Tested 5200psi Max 10000psi

BOP test pressures as I understood it, are suppose to be a min of expected BHP. Maybe the pressures got higher than expected but I would have expected they would have bumped up the test pressures. In effect they only have two pipe rams tested to 7100psi, 1 annular tested to 5200psi and one tested to 4000psi.

In the last minutes before the explosion one annular was closed and the SPP had reached 6000psi before the records stop. If the annular that was closed was the lower one, with the stripping element, this could explain its failure.


Go read this article - you will probably understand it better than I do...

It mentions previous BOP issues w/ hydraulic leaks, and testing at a lower pressure after the well control incident in March. (e.g. 6500 instead of 10000)


Thanks for the link. So they started testing correctly and then dropped back just as they entering the higher pressure zones. Makes you wonder if they were having trouble getting a 10000psi test, and nobody wanted to that the hit of a weeks down time.

Makes you wonder what they were nursing

pusher -- great summary...hang in there...much appreciated. I know enough about the details of BOP functioning to be dangerous.


Just remember when the sh** hits the fan, press the enable button, then the rams.

So true pusher. The two company men I knew who died in blow outs hung in there and did just that. Good hands to say the least. Unfortunately the families didn't even have a body to bury. Just a memorial at water's edge. Coincidently a good day to dredge up such memories.

Chris Pleasant, subsea engineer, stated that when he came to the BOP panel at the bridge it showed the lower annular closed and all other ram elements open. He activated EDS and the panel acknowledged but there was no hydraulic pressure to complete the operation. He concluded that the well could not be shut in and they needed to abandon the rig.

There has been a persistent rumor since the sinking that the shear ram did partially operate, but the testimony suggests otherwise - the explosions severed the hydraulic lines to the BOP stack and the accumulators on the stack had bled off or were non functional.

The drill pipe, by testimony, was not the source of the seawater and mud during the blowout, but the annular space.

I have the impression that the BOP stack had multiple problems, but was functional enough for normal drilling operations and they hoped to nurse it along until they could pull it at the end of the job and effect repairs.

In the testimony one gets the impression that the OIM was not aware of the details of the operation - just the general work-flow, but depended on the various crews to do their jobs effectively. He apparently made a statement the day before to the effect that if there was any trouble with the well, "well, that's what the BOP is for" (to shear the pipe and close in the well). The people actually doing the work give pretty clear testimony with straightforward answers to questions.

I am leaning toward a conclusion that the well design was insufficient for the task - it was a minimal solution that could be expected to work if all the components performed exactly as expected, but had very little safety factor. It also seems that the tests that were done the last day were equivocal and did not provide clear information on the status of the well - they were a little off, not red flashing lights, but not completely satisfying. Perhaps the production casing masked some potential problems and the tests were inadequate to identify the problem. The VIPs were on board, they were behind schedule, but were over the hump and just needed to complete the last cement plug - so the indicators of potential trouble were easier to pass off as just normal variation - not perfect, but not damning either.

My background is in oil refining, not oil exploration/production. As I read descriptions of the BOP, it's not clear to me if any of the various BOP components are "fail closed" by design. In oil refining, safety critical valves are often designed to fail closed or fail open, depending on which fail state is required for a safe shutdown of the process. We premise emergency scenarios where the valve's external energy source (electrical, hydraulic, or pneumatic) is lost, in which case the valve's mechanical design causes it to go to its fail position (open or closed). What is the fail position of the BOP's components?

There is a 'deadman' condition (loss of all communication, power, and hydraulics) from the rig that is supposed to trigger the shear ram and annulars to close the well. Two problems - there is a battery backup system that provides power to the BOP stack and its controls and this was functioning because the rig control panel at the bridge had control lights and status indicators after the rig power went down. However, the loss of power and/or the explosions led to complete loss of hydraulics. The accumulators on the stack that were supposed to provide hydraulic pressure in case of loss of pressure from the pumps on the rig failed - perhaps because that system had long-standing leak issues. The deadman condition was not met but the rig could no longer supply pressure to the rams, so attempts to close the rams from the rig controls failed also.

The crew on the rig floor communicated that they were attempting to close the well, but the gas explosion killed them before they could successfully complete this operation.

There was an attempt to start backup generators on the rig to provide power but they would not start. Speculation: the gas alarm system prevented the manual start of the backup power - even though it had live batteries. The workers that tried to start it said it would not turn over even though the batteries were charged and ready.

Lines of questioning during MMS investigation suggest to me that the air intakes for the power generators were inboard - and therefore subject to gas ingestion from the rig floor area. I got the sense that if they had been to the outboard side this liability might have been minimized.

BP is going to try and claim that their well design was not at fault and that the Transocean crew was negligent and ignored warnings. Likewise Haliburton will claim that their crew just provided what was specified by the well plan and that it was up to Transocean and BP to check that the cement was doing its job.

The OIM said that use of nitrogen cement that low in the well was unusual - he might have had to do this "a couple of times"...

I don't believe Transocean will just roll over and take the hit - though the problems with the BOP and the testing of the well condition will surely be cited as contributing factors.

There was a lot of questioning about the mud returns - reports that the returns were going directly to the boat and not being monitored were flatly denied by the OIM - he said it was impossible to do this, that the mud had to be first stored on the rig and off-loaded in a separate operation. A couple of other witnesses said the same thing.

Thanks. Unless I am not understanding, the deadman system is not describing a fail closed design. A fail closed valve requires that the energy source that normally activates the valve (hydraulic, electrical, or pneumatic) must be present in order for the valve to stay open. If the energy is lost, the valve's mechanical design causes it to close. For example, a valve may be spring-loaded to close, energy is required to keep it open. If the BOP annulars were designed that way, when the hydraulics to the BOP were cut the annulars would have automatically closed.

I'm surprised to learn that the last line of defense to prevent a well blowout was premised to require fast human intervention to shut down the well. Human factors science, as well as experience from industry near misses and accidents, tells us that humans cannot achieve sufficient reliability in that kind of scenario. In oil refining we have augmented operators with fail safe valve designs as well as more complex automated shutdown systems that are independent of the main control system.

"Unless I am not understanding, the deadman system is not describing a fail closed design"

Yes, my understanding is that it is not "fail closed". I am not sure if it is possible to generate the force necessary to operate the shear without hydraulic pressure.

The design seems to incorporate some redundancy and a "fail safe" mode, but also to guard against accidental activation. I don't think solution here achieved the right balance - tragically.

It may not be practical for the shear rams to fail closed with a simple mechanical design, given the force required to cut through the high pressure piping. I don't know. But could the other devices on the BOP that shut well flow be fail closed by design? Does anybody design BOPs that way?

If the system had been in good repair - the accumulators charged and no hydraulic leaks - the subsea engineer should have been able to shear the pipe and unlatch the rig - despite what had just occurred (gas explosion, well coming in, power loss, etc). Even if he had not the deadman system should have operated when the rig sank. I think BP had ROVs down there ASAP and they were unable to operate it either.

It was designed to function even under the circumstances that were encountered - but it didn't.

There is the unanswered question of whether the shear ram installed was powerful enough to cut the pipe/casing in the well at the time, but whatever the answer to that specific question there are rams available that can.

Pneumatic brakes on trains for instance, fail closed (or used to) - the air pressure holds the brake shoes AWAY from the wheel, and in the case of a broken line, the brake is activated. You could imagine BOP designs with a similar approach.

I think that a bigger problem with BOPs (and similar safety measures) is likely to be the psychological barrier to activating one wants to be known as the idiot who triggered the bloody thing by mistake and caused everyone another two weeks' of work (or whatever).

I don't know for sure, but I believe I read that the drill pipe was open ended and the top of it should be a clean cut. They should be able to run tubing of a smaller diameter thu the drillpipe depending on what damage the rams have done. Of course the seal might be a problem. I just aways think in terms of how can we get to the bottom of the hole where you can more effectively kill the well. And there will be so many more options once they have access from a rig though the top of the BOP.

I have personally been involved in killing wells in the deep Anadarko Basin with higher pressures than this one, but being 5000 ft below sea level introduces a whole new set of problems.


On the other side of the coin, there will still be a terrific demand for oil--that doesn't go away overnight--with concomitant pressures to extract more. But with our enhanced NIMBY mentality, where will it come from? Other parts of the world? Will we become more imperialistic, our relationships with oil-producing countries more, well, hegemonic and exploitive in order to garner cheap-ish oil?

Well, I could go on hypothesizing in this manner, but. Something's gotta give and I'm not sure what.

My particular focus for quite some time has been on global net oil exports, and "Net Export Math." Most people don't realize it, but the US became a net oil importer in 1948, 22 years before our domestic production peaked, and our net imports increased at a double digit rate per year from 1948 to 1977:

In any case, given a production decline in an oil exporting country, a simple model (the "Export Land Model" or ELM)--and numerous case histories--show that the resulting net export decline tends to exceed the production decline rate and that the net export decline rate tends to accelerate with time.

Here is a link to a paper that Sam Foucher an I worked on, which attempts to model a range of future net oil exports from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran and the UAE:
A quantitative assessment of future net oil exports by the top five net oil exporters

One interesting aspect of the net export situation that surprised me is the extent to which developing countries (especially China & India, "Chindia") have been increasing their oil consumption, as oil prices rose at 20%/year from 1998 to 2008, while developed countries were basically forced to reduce their consumption, especially after 2005.

I suspect that we will continue to see developing regions like Chindia outbidding developed countries for access to declining global net oil exports, and I therefore anticipate that the US is well on its way to becoming largely free of our reliance on foreign sources of oil--but not in the way that most people anticipated.

I agree with you that it's likely to be a game changer. And personally I think a lot of things may "give". There are chances that people will wake up and consider conservation of energy. Or they may seek to switch energy sources. Plus, many people may realize that this terrible catastrophe in the Gulf is set to SPREAD - and that we need to wake up and consider how what happens on our shores affects the whole world - and that those effects can endanger the whole world. And that we need to wake up to our sense of responsibility and examine how our behavior led to this crisis. That's a painful pill for many people to swallow, but they just might "get" that we all need to work together for the good of the world, not just in terms of this oil gushing but also in terms of our wider behavior, which can affect the whole planet for good or for ill.

So I'd like to see the game change in a whole lotta ways. And I think this current crisis - which has people on the edge of their seats watching oil gush under the gulf as robots work - can become a huge teaching moment. And much of that teaching may happen right in people's living rooms or around the dinner table.

I, of course, feel terrible for all those directly affected by the leaking oil - people, fish, birds, microorganisms, the beaches, the marshes, the reeds and seaweed, the water itself, the air - but I am sincerely hoping that this crisis can also become a springboard for rethinking and for change, individually, nationally, and in terms of our common humanity and common inheritance on this fragile planet.

Welcome to the Drum :>)

Uranium Depletion and Nuclear Power: Are We at Peak Uranium?
Posted by Prof. Goose on March 21, 2007

The whole NIMBY boogieman is nonsense. All around the world people live next to industrial environmental disasters right in their back yard. They blow the tops off of mountains that people lived on and loved just to keep the air conditioners running. If you look at the places where things like that happen it just means that the people who object are powerless. As times become more and more difficult due to peak oil, climate change, and economic and political crisis, wealth and power will continue to concentrate in the hands of a smaller and smaller group - which means that unless the masses are organized in some way (unlikely), most people simply have no say. And the media can convince them anyway. Beyond which, as our access to oil becomes more limited and we're stuck with the oil-based society and infrastructure we have, people will become much more focused on immediate needs.

It was not public outcry that killed nuclear power, but rather the incredible costs that made it a poor investment.

In the end what will give is protecting the environment in favor of keeping BAU going a little longer.

where will it [oil] come from?

It (oil) is not going to come.

At least not in the quantities that we need to survive and function at anything close to BAU.

That is the raison d'être for The Oil Drum.

Our "culture" here is based on a diverse group of intelligent people grappling with the myriad implications and mitigations of this simple fact.

Many have noted how we seem to stand alone in a fact and logic based search for facts regarding the BP Deepwater spill, with some quite experienced oil industry types on board.

This is a simple re-purposing or change in focus of what we do, week after week, struggling with a much larger intractable problem.

There are solutions#, but they are not easy ones and getting the body politic and the public at large to seek those solutions is an intractable problem (see Nate's latest post).

Best Hopes for Our Future,


# After long and bloody debates, most (not all) commentators on TOD will agree that there are, in theory, solutions, but many doubt the likelihood of their implementation.

TOD debates rarely focus on the primary subject for long. Peak Oil has far reaching effects on all of the systems that modern civilization depends upon, as these systems also affect oil availability (think credit, climate change, environment, politics). One article posted here:

Was discussed recently on this Drumbeat:

The author descibes this "convergence" as "a perfect storm", possibly leading to decline/collapse. Many of us believe that it is this convergence of factors that will limit our ability to respond in any effective way.

Hold on to your butts folks. It's gonna be a wild ride!

After long and bloody debates, most (not all) commentators on TOD will agree that there are, in theory, solutions, but many doubt the likelihood of their implementation.

Alan, I do agree there are many things we could do, thought I would not call them solutions - more like mitigation strategies. And we could even fund it: cut the military budget by 10x, bring home all troops and close all foreign bases and start building out electric light rail, insulating homes, building renewables where that makes sense, etc. But I don't believe we will do that.

Excellent analysis, I just want to point out that the world of electricity is almost completely separated from the world of oil. You can't decrease dependence on oil by increasing production of electricity; transportation in this country (and most of the world) is 99% dependent on oil. The only way to decrease dependence on oil is to construct electric trains and an urban structure that can take advantage of those trains.

An exception is Switzerland.

The railroad, SBB (which does not include the city tram systems) uses 3% of the transportation energy (all renewable electricity) to move 1/3rd of the freight tonne-km and 1/6th of the passenger-km. And they could increase these % if need be (and they are investing 31 billion Swiss francs# over twenty years to move freight to electrified rail and improve passenger service).

# Adjust for population and currency and 31 billion CHf is >$1trillion for the USA.

Best Hopes for Those that prepare,


Alan, I'm a big fan of your freight studies, and I quoted you in my forthcoming book. Also, Gar Lipow, a fellow (somewhat ex) blogger at Grist has been referring to your freight studies as well (maybe you could try sending something to Grist?).

At any rate, I also wanted to point out that Switzerland may have the highest concentration of geothermal heat pumps, that is, heat pumps that are drilled into the ground and provide much of the heating and cooling needs of a building (with an electrical assist). For countries/regions that use oil for heating, cooling, or generating electricity, this is another good way to move from oil, and if the electricity is renewable, from fossil fuels as well.

You don't have any data on Swiss geothermal heat pump use, do you? The latest study I can google is from 2004.

Thanks for your work,

Jon Rynn

Geothermal should be a crash program everywhere, and it's not. I wonder myself what sideways drilling could do for geothermal. I suspect a lot.

I wish I had data on Swiss geothermal/ground loop heat pumps, but I do not.

The Swiss are aware that their primary source of domestic energy is hydroelectric (plus nukes) and there is a limited amount of it (and they are reluctant to build more nukes).

So they are trying to use the limited renewable resource they have (plus nukes) as efficiently as they can. Make their homes efficient and then use a source that turns each kWh of electricity into as many kWh of heat as possible.

Minimize imports (except French nuke electricity late at night when it is dirt cheap) and maximize efficiency.

The Swiss are also moving towards CHP (central heat and power plants, some fueled with garbage).

CHPs burn something, generate electricity first with it, then use the rest (waste heat elsewhere) for heat and hot water. VERY efficient. They are behind the Danes in that area.

Best Hopes for the Prepared,


OK, I admit that I got here because of the BP spill, but as a Dane living in Switzerland (at least for now) and very interested in environment/climate change/energy issues I thought I would comment on this one:

Here are some Swiss stats for 2008 (unfortunately in German):

That still seems to show 45% dependence on oil. 24% nuclear and 11.5% hydro (page 7).
So even here there is a long way to go and I personally keep wondering what happens when all those nice alpine glaciers have melted later this century.

Also, I thought that CHP actually led to loss of efficiency in power generation and that we are better of with our heat pumps.
As to geothermal, the Swiss are still mulling that one over after having triggered small earthquakes under Basel during a test drill a couple of years ago.

Finally, many many thanks for all the thoughts on the BP spill. I was pretty sure the press and general public had no clue what conditions they are operating under down there, but your comments really bring that one home. Will just ignore the news from now on! ;-) Sadly, it seems to mean no respite for the Gulf.

Swiss solutions for Switzerland, maybe, but I don't think it can be very generally applied.
Let's compare Switzerland with the smallest country in South America,
41,284 km2 - 15,940 sq mi - Switzerland - 7,8 million people, very rich
176,215 km2 - 68,037 sq mi - Uruguay - 3,5 million people, poor

Switzerland is a very small, densely populated, very rich country with a high technological level, surrounded by the most advanced societies in the world, its trading partners.
I don't think that solutions for a country like this (where does it fit in size, if it were in the USA?) are appropriate even for the USA.

I don't know the specifics of Uruguay, but the Swiss are still pretty densely populated, I believe. In other words, an electric train network works in Switzerland, and much of Europe, because the towns/cities were not underfunded, as in the U.S., and sprawl was not encouraged, either by cheap oil (since the taxes in Europe are so high) or by government policy (the U.S. government created the mortgage industry, etc.).

I have a feeling that much of the structure of Uruguay, and much of Latin America, is pre-1920, that is, before the full effects of cheap oil could be felt. I could be wrong about that - witness the sprawl of Mexico City. But it might not be too hard for even a poor country like Uruguay to concentrate on its older, denser cities and towns. You don't need high-speed rail; "regular" rail will do as well, and by using electricity even a poor country has many more options than being dependent on oil.

As for ground source heat pumps, they seem to be expensive, because you have to drill. I don't know whether there are some economies of scale there; a dense city with big buildings would probably be cheaper to provide with ground source heat pumps than a mass of single family homes.

As for ground source heat pumps, they seem to be expensive, because you have to drill.

I think you may be confusing geothermal energy (hot rocks, thousands of feet down) with ground effect heat pumps, which are very shallow systems. A new house was built using this technology in western UK village where I live - the hole was dug with a standard JCB, uh, "backhoe". See for e.g. -- there's tons more on your friendly local search engine.

imipak, thanks for the info, but actually I know that there is a huge difference between ground source heat pumps (gshp) -- with 200,000 units in the US already alone -- and geothermal power plants, which for some inexplicable reason (well, probably a bunch of reasons) have not been extensively researched and built. The problem with gshp, from a research point of view (at least someone who basically has to rely on the internet) is that it's hard to come up with a lot of figures on cost. I've found quotes of $20,000 for a 2500 sq ft dwelling, which sounds like a good ballpark sort of figure, and which is still fairly expensive, and I figure it must be mostly the cost of digging; I don't think the heating/cooling equipment is that expensive, and the pipes aren't least, I don't think so.

Re: ground source heat pumps, costs, savings

Check out the new New Hampshire Institute of Art building in Manchester, 7 stories tall, includes student dorms. Source for heat pumps is 2 wells, deeper is 1800 ft deep. Of course
they have a boiler too. The building opened last fall, and the boiler was NOT fired for the entire winter.


some green energy goals for the building were a high-performance envelope (including blue jean insulation) including maximizing daylighting and managing solar heat gain; minimizing fossil fuel use with two geothermal wells with heat pumps for heating and cooling, plus photovoltaic panels on the sunshades; and conserving water and reducing runoff by using roof rainwater collection for toilet flushing.

The Right Design
It started with desire. “The Institute was committed to doing the right thing, They wanted to reduce their carbon footprint, and as a non-profit, reduce their operating costs over time.” . . .

“From the get-go, energy efficiency was central to the design,” . . the estimated energy savings for the project are 56,255 kWh annually, with an associated annual savings of $8,440.

State of the Art

As most homeowners now know, energy efficiency starts with an energy envelope. Constructing the new building’s envelope was “a pretty intensive process,” according to NHIA President Roger Williams, but one can now literally feel the difference. “Normally when it's cold out, and you feel the interior wall, it’s cold,” said Williams. “That's because the dew point is at the interior wall. The way these walls are constructed, the dew point is on the outside. It's using less energy, because it's able to hold the set temperature longer.”

Lighting was also an important consideration for the Institute, which sought energy-efficient options that would not compromise the lighting quality needed for artistic creation and exhibition. “The improvements in lighting fixtures are incredible,” said Williams, noting that, as an art college, NHIA uses a lot of track lighting and chose special LED bulbs to showcase students’ artwork. “Their color correction is pretty close to daylight,” he said.

Power from Above, and Below

While the building’s roof was designed to reflect sunlight (mitigating the “heat island effect” that plagues urban buildings), each row of its window awnings incorporates solar panels that collectively are capable of generating up to 14.2 kilowatts of renewable power. Williams estimates the payback for the renewable generation to be about seven years. “The energy created by our solar photovoltaic system runs the other energy efficiency features in the building.”

In addition to solar power, the building has two 1,500 foot geothermal wells. The system takes advantage of the relatively stable ground or water temperatures near the earth’s surface (roughly 50 – 55 degrees F year-round) to heat or cool buildings above-ground. Instead of creating heat, geothermal pumps “move” heat in the desired direction. “From what I understand, ours is the first urban application of geothermal technology in New Hampshire,” said Williams. “We were pretty lucky in that the lot is just large enough to accommodate the two geothermal wells.”

Finally, using a vegetative roof and 4,500-gallon water tank, the building employs a sophisticated rainwater collection system to flush toilets. In addition to conserving water, the system conserves the energy that would be needed to pump and deliver the water to the building.

The geothermal ground source system was built by Skillings & Sons

Construction video here (fun to watch):

Awesome! Notice that these things usually pay back within 10 years -- yet it's very difficult to finance them. Before the government stepped in in a big way during the Depression, most mortgages were for about 5 years. I think we're going to need a really big commitment from the federal government to show the "market" that there is a market, by providing (or better yet, simply guaranteeing) low-cost financing for things like heat pumps, good building design, and solar panels.

HereInHaliax is noteworthy for his promotion of ductless air-air heatpumps on TOD. SEER 25 & 26 for the best ones. Much lower capital cost for almost the same performance.

Not that ground source HPs are not good, they are ! but there is an "almost as good" much cheaper alternative that can fit a broader range of applications.

Best Hopes for Efficiency,


Switzerland is roughly 1/3 the size of Ohio, with about as many people. The Swiss living experience is nearly completely that of living in "small" cities and villages - Zuerich is the largest city in the country, and it has 380,000 people in it. You are right that the Swiss infrastructure is perfectly suited to mass transit (although many people now own cars); however, my take on that would be, so what?

If we (the US) are interested in retaining a functioning society after liquid transportation fuels are no longer cheaply available, we are going to have to rebuild pretty much everything that has been built here since 1950 or so...

The caveat is, that the US in 1900 had a MUCH lower population density, and a perfectly functional network of interurban trains and trolley-based mass transit, all of which were private for-profit companies (and therefore presumably profitable). The difference was, the more 'convenient' option of a personal car wasn't available (as it soon won't be once again), and therefore people HAD to take the trains and trolleys.

The only question that remains is how soon we as a society wake up to the inevitability of this, and start doing the build-out (hint: the sooner we get going, the less disruptive to whole thing will be).

I know of a developing nation, population about 100 million (about half rural), with just 3% to 4% of USA GDP, and limited access to advanced technology that, in just twenty years, built subways in all of it's largest cities, trams (or streetcars) in 500 cities, towns and villages and built electric interurban networks through it's richest farmlands.

Just 20 years !

I will give you details later, when I finish with a little energy conservation chore.


PS: NO FAIR for any regulars answering this !

...hmmm....if it's a trick question, these United States? Otherwise I'm stumped, who is it? who is it?

At the ASPO conference I first outlined current French efforts and then my "developing nation".

I put up a slide with a 44 star US flag with 1897 - 1916 underneath it, with the statement "We did it before, with coal, mules and sweat, we CAN do it again !

Best Hopes,


Not to mention building the Interstate Highway System, which according to Wikipedia cost $425 billion over 35 years, close to the US High-Speed Rail Association's estimate of $600 billion for 17,000 miles of high-speed rail. It may be the biggest infrastructure project in history. Eisenhower championed it, and was inspired partly by Germany's Autobahn's. So how about if Obama was to champion a high-speed passenger and freight rail system, partially modeled after Europe's? (and how about that other developing country, China, spending 300 billion dollars equivalent over less than 10 years for high-speed rail?)

Without naming names, it's one thing to do that when (1) filthy, slowly creeping horse-and-buggy is your prime current "technology", and the new mode is actually quicker and visibly cleaner; (2) you're learning about the mechanisms by which transmissible disease is cutting life expectancy by decades, and you'll be even gladder than before to mitigate the inches-deep manure deposits and vast thrumming swarms of disease-bearing flies infesting all the larger towns; (3) you have yet to develop a vast impenetrable thicket of rules and regulations that (whether justifiably or not) makes it utterly impossible to build subways and trams cheaply.

In other words, it's easier when it looks and feels like a substantial improvement in health and utility, and it doesn't seem to cost the earth.

It's quite another thing when (1) your current technology often, or essentially always, depending on where you live, gets you where you need to go, at any hour you need to go, without waiting forever on the implicit permission of whatever schedule some lackadaisical quango or government agency feels like failing to adhere to, and without being confined solely to those places it feels like taking you to; (2) there's nothing comparable to the disease problem in the decades around the end of the 19th century to mitigate, as evidenced by today's vastly longer lifespans; and (3) you're so self-saddled with rules, regs and specs that it takes the entire product of several lifetimes to pay for just one subway car, and hundreds of lifetimes to pay for just one mile of line.

In other words, it's hard when it looks and feels like a gigantic step backwards in terms of utility, and it costs the earth - plus the sun, the moon, and the stars.

I am not from Switzerland either, but from southern Germany.

Unfortunately, the quake activity after geothermal test drills in Basel was not the only setback. Another project in the German city of Staufen has taken a quite unfortunate turn lately, too. The boreholes for the project were drilled through an anhydrous gypsum (a keuper marl) stratum directly under the city. The bore hit ground water, which is now seeping into the marl, hydrating it, thereby increasing the volume massively. The ground under the city has been rising by several centimeters per year lately, doing severe structural damage to many buildings.

Worst case scenarios expect a rise of up to 3 meters with subsequent cave-ins which could lead to a complete loss of the city.

While this is mostly a result of bad exploration and no intrinsical problem of geothermal, the reputation of the technique has been severely damaged by that.

Since you are writing a book, perhaps you should note that the use of the term "geothermal" and "heat pump" together is a misnomer. There's very little energy available near the surface of the Earth from geothermal heating. These systems take advantage of he large thermal mass of the ground, heating the dirt during Summer, then cooling it during the Winter. Thus, the more precise engineering term to use is "ground source heat pump". These systems work well in climates where the heating and cooling demand are somewhat equal. In very cold climates, where the heating demand dominates, or in warm climates, with no cooling demand, the resulting energy savings are not so great.

E. Swanson

Black_dog, point well taken, thanks. And thanks for the Swiss info. I didn't touch geothermal drilling because I keep hearing about earthquakes, but hopefully some good research can be done on this very important topic.

GlobalMakeover, the topic has been studied, and geothermal production is definitively the cause of induced seismicity. You can pretty much start a stopwatch after starting deepwater injections until the time M3 earthquakes will start, as has been done many times over the past couple of decades. There are a few article references here (and a good primer on what's known, too):

Maybe someone can answer the question: if you can drill for oil all over the planet and not cause earthquakes, why does geothermal drilling keep doing it? Or if they don't drill for oil in some places because of the earthquake risk, why can't they use the same techniques to avoid geothermal drilling earthquakes? Of course, I don't want to break theoildrum etiquette if this question should be in a different post.

Yeah, we're getting off-topic, but the short answer is that it's not the drilling itself, but the injection of liquid into a dry, hot formation that causes fracturing and seismic events.

The Swiss still use quite a bit of oil. A good chunk would be for moving people and goods the last few km or sometimes tens of km. The electrified intercity rail hardly reaches everywhere, it's way too capital intensive for that. After all, nowhere are you allowed any more to build track by just dumping some gravel, running a grader over it, eyeballing it, and casually throwing some crossties and two rails on top. It's nothing like as easy and cheap as letting lightly used access roads towards the edge of town or out in the country revert to gravel, should it come to that. So it will always serve densely populated cities, plus places that just so happen to lie along routes between such cities, plus possibly a smattering of places where the expense can't possibly be justified but political corruption causes them to be served anyhow. (Pretty much like European motorways or US Interstates in those respects, really.) So the question is how far can they really scale it before any further increment collapses of its own weight. Some for sure - but enough to make a real difference, or only just enough to justify a supercilious academic paper or three?

Another issue that's easy to overlook glibly is distance. With ca. 10-20km between towns in the USA, instead of ca. 1km, you simply have to spend far more on intercity rail in the US, to provide track and train cars connecting up the same number of people making the same number of trips. So we need to adjust for distance, which might put as at, say, >$5 trillion (if it's sub-linear) or >$10 trillion, or even more.

And instead of the issue with the last few km, we'll often have an issue with the last few dozen km, or even hundreds of km. If we can solve that - gas/diesel cars have been the solution for a long time - we don't need nearly as many trains: no use waiting four hours for the next train - and then shelling out an astronomical cab fare for those last km - if you can drive the trip in two - or even in five. But if we can't solve it, or if we can't afford the astronomical cab fare, then we won't need quite so many trains either. IOW most of the time, and as with so many other things, 90% of a trip will be 100% useless, one needs a (very nearly) 100% solution.

No use kidding around by lowballing it. In the end the costs and impracticalities can't possibly be concealed. With people already skeptical - and observing the hopelessly corrupt and incompetent leadership and massively featherbedded, overpaid, woefully underdisciplined operating staffs at so many existing systems - it will die a very fast political death indeed when it comes to be seen seeing it as a hairball of huge cost overruns offering little practical utility.

first, the US High-speed Rail Association has estimated that a 17,000 mile system would cost about $600 billion -- at 50 million per mile, even duplicating the Interstate Highway System would "only" cost 2 trillion, which over twenty years is "only" 100 billion per year. So even in the U.S., a good system shouldn't be prohibitive. And Alan Drake here has done similar, reasonably priced estimates, IMHO.
Second, the argument of Kunstler, etc., is simply that places that are off the main line too far won't survive. That's not because of the problems with a particular mode of transportation -- that's because of the problems with particular mode of urban structure. Which leads to
third, urban structure leads to transportation system leads to energy system; or the other way around. With oil, you can have cars and trucks, and with cars and trucks you can have sprawl. With dense cities and towns holding most of the population, you can have trains, and with trains you can have electricity. and..
finally, I think there is a role for electric cars and trucks exactly for those final kilometers you wrote about, only if people stop waiting-for-electric-car-Godot of long-distance, fast, big electric cars. Actually-existing electric cars (and trucks, too, I believe) have ranges of 50 miles, which should be more than enough for those last kilometers.

And there was no WWW back in the 70s. There were no forums like this to share info with the public and connect concerned people quickly. And from what I've read there was actually - and it took decades for this story to congeal - more radiation released and damage done than was reported at the time.

Maybe because of the 'net public response can be greater.


Who's gonna want off-shore drilling in their "back yard" going forward? Nobody.

Governor McDonnell from Virginia has been a persistent, vocal advocate for offshore drilling in his state's waters.

Seems as of yesterday, at least, he has softened his rhetoric a little, but not his position.

There are several politicians in Alaska who want full steam ahead on offshore drilling as well.

As you opine, people forget...most people don't have much of a memory of the Exxon Valdez...this spill is already portrayed by some as a very rare (once in a generation) accident which was caused by pressure from environmentalists...

...and the allure of mythical 'energy independence' and being able to stand up to the 'enviro-nazis, tree-huggers', etc. will make for great political theater for some politicians.

So, this event is a game-changer not unlike Three Mile Island was, which cast nuclear power in the public's eye as, well, dangerous. TMI effectively killed new nuclear energy production in this country, if I remember my history right, when the public developed a negative attitude toward nuclear energy as a result.

The key difference is, the containment field (analogous to the BOP) worked like it was supposed to at TMI - because the company that built it didn't cut corners. I have never set foot on an oil rig, but I have built a house. I know this maxim to be true from first-hand experience: Your choices are fast, cheap and right. You get to pick two, at the express exclusion of the third.

"Pick Two" is a direct consequence of the three laws of Thermodynamics and should be taught as such in all engineering schools.

One of my favorite professors, who singlehandedly pounded 25 hours of chemistry into my brain and gave me my first lab job, summed up the three laws as "You can't win, you can't break even and you can't choose not to play."

He gave me a graduation card and enclosed a couple of bumper said "Everyone has Avogadro's Number" and the other one said "Honk if you passed P Chem." No one ever honked. Until I drove to Houston for a conference instead of flying. At least one person beeped and gave a thumbs up every single day I was there.

25 years later, I still have nightmares about P Chem.

IMO, the "pick two" concept is also a really good shortcut to deciding if a boss is going to be a success...the ones who come in and start talking about revolutionary new developments in -whatever- that will let them do all three, are the ones that should cause you to go screaming out into the night.

It seems to me that the oil industry has largely wasted its opportunity to demonstrate that it can drill safely and responsibly. The cowboy culture of exploratory and development drilling has always put that at risk.

That was driven home to me when I read some of the technical reports and presentations on the MMS website. The risks of kicks and BOPs were well understood - and very little was done about it.

I summarized my takeaway yesterday in a diary on dKos.

I would be interested in getting a reaction to it from TOD experts. In my day job, I understand engineering and safety and quality management, but I am absolutely not an expert in oil drilling.

Grapes – I wish I could offer a strong argument against your point. But you are correct to a degree. But I wouldn’t characterize it so much as a “cowboy culture” as just accepting the difficult nature of getting the job done. When you get up on the drill floor you know the risks your taking: risk to your safety, risk to the other hands, the rig, the environment. No different than the occupations where other professionals accept such high risk. The “industry” didn’t waste an opportunity to make such a demonstration. In fact, if we have the details correct, just the opposite was shown: if the hands onboard had followed standard protocols (like monitoring mud returns) it’s very unlikely the blow out would have occurred. The process didn’t fail; the individuals responsible for conducting safe ops failed and 11 hands died and the GOM suffered a wound that could take decades to heal. Those hands died because they stayed with it instead of running. They did their jobs. Someone else didn’t. Those parties know they are responsible for the death and destruction. They’ll have to live with that.

I do agree that many near misses happen more often than the public realizes. And there will never be a zero risk. But if standard procedures are followed such events will be rare. I’ve been in the same position that the BP personnel were in many times. I know how to keep the hands, the rig and the environment safe. I don’t let money concerns override safety protocols. If my policies are rejected by management I walk. But some won’t. An easy fix IMHO: third party observers that have authority to shut down ops if they don’t think it’s safe. MMS inspectors have always had such power but they have to be there at critical junctions to exercise such control. The BP blow out wasn’t a Black Swan. It was a set of conditions seen thousands of times on other wells. Again, the BIG IF: if the reports are correct the rig personnel didn’t do their basic jobs. The same safe protocols that hundreds of hands are following as you read this message.

Rockman, I have been lurking and I immensely appreciate your contributions, so I take your comments very seriously. So let me try to rephrase my question.

The cowboy culture makes perfect sense given the business risks associated with offshore drilling. Where it starts to go wrong is when the industry begins to push the envelope into much deeper water.

In the early days of flight, pilots flew by the seat of their pants. Then it was stick and rudder. By the time NASA started trying to go to the moon, they looked for the Right Stuff. When NASA tried to commercialize space (Shuttle), they had to change their approach. It became test, model, test, model, test, fly. Every time NASA slipped in its discipline (Challenger), bad stuff happened.

My sense is that the oil industry could have seen the Apollo/Shuttle transition coming and didn't adjust its style or its culture. The deepwater environment is at least as alien as space. Oil industry rhetoric talks about 'space-age technology', but I see no indication that it realizes it needs to adopt the appropriate safety first/last/always culture.

Does that make more sense?

Just my $0.002

Does make sense grapes. DW drilling does have a host of challenges never before seen by the oil patch. But you really won't like to hear what I'm about to repeat from a few days ago. The same circumstances that BP ran into with the APPARENT cmt failure were seen by a barge rig drilling an 18,000' hole in S La in 1958. But as the cmt shoe failed on that well they were monitoring the mud returns and saw the kick coming. They shut the well in (didn’t even need to go to the BOP) and pumped a kill pill down and got it back under control. Another rig just down the bayou had a similar incident. Except they weren’t monitoring the mud returns. The well blew out, 11 hands were killed, the barge burned to the water line and the swamp was fouled for many months.

Yes…I made those details up. But if you searched the scout tickets from the 1950’s you would find such reports…I promise you. The BP well didn’t blow out because they ran into some one-of-a-kind situation never been seen before. Stopping the blow out at 5,000' water depth is a whole new game, of course. As I mentioned earlier: the situation BP had to deal with had been successfully managed thousands of times before. Very simply: how many times have you gone to your brakes when you see the stoplight turn red? Not too difficult, eh. BP’s stoplight turned red but they weren’t looking. Sometimes you run a red light and no harm. Sometimes you hit a bus and kill 11 people. Just the luck of the draw. They weren’t being “cowboys”. They were just being very dangerously unobservant.

"The BP well didn’t blow out because they ran into some one-of-a-kind situation never been seen before."

Absolutely true. I totally agree.

But one-of-a-kind situations seldom cause major catastrophes. More often it is exactly they type of "system accident" that you are describing as having occurred on the Deepwater Horizon. Those are much harder to defend. 499 rigs can be on their toes, yet it only takes one rig to be a little dozy and boom!

The oil industry seems to have passed a watershed where it is much harder to fix a system accident if it occurs. Aviation had to rethink when they discovered that parachutes didn't work in space. The only thing that works is a pervasive 'culture' that viscerally understands and bears the costs of those new risks.

The other factor is that, as the risks are increasing, many of the consequences will be visited on society, rather than on the industry actors. On the hypothetical rig that killed 11 men, the victims were there willingly. Presumably their pay motivated them to accept the risks. With Deepwater Horizon, most of the costs will be borne by people other than BP. BP can never pay the full bill. They can't, for example, fully compensate Exxon or Chevron for the spillover loss of public confidence. They can't restore the quality of life that Louisiana fishermen enjoy.

Deepwater is new territory.

New rules.

The thing about these deep water wells is that people are operating at the limits of the available technology. If something goes wrong, dealing with it is like rescuing climbers from the top of Mount Everest. You really can't rescue climbers from the top of Mount Everest, you just hope they can get themselves down to an altitude where someone can effect a rescue.

I tend to think in those terms because I know a number of people who have climbed Mount Everest, and a number of people who do mountain rescues, and a number of people who have been killed in mountain accidents.

The thing about Deepwater is that there is no scope for accidents. If you have a blowout, it is going to be all over the ocean. By contrast, even a big on-shore blowout is controllable. You get in a lot of bulldozers, you build a dike, a huge lake of oil forms, and you truck it off to the nearest refinery. In the mean time you drill a relief well, get the blowout well under control, and cap it. At the end of it all, you have contaminated maybe a square mile of countryside. Throw some oil eating bacteria into the soil, turn it over with a cultivator, truck in topsoil, fertilize it and plant alfalfa. Then hand each of the affected farmers a thick wad of $100 bills for their inconvenience and everybody is happy - except maybe the environmental activists who the farmers don't like anyway.

Rockman: "BP’s stoplight turned red but they weren’t looking." Why? is the question. Perhaps, they had run the red light many times before and nothing had happened. So why look; I'm bulletproof.

EL -- Not defending them but at the phase they were in it was assumed safe. The folks responsible for monitoring mud returns were likely very busy shuting down. They also assumed (wrongly, of course) that the drilling supervisiors wouldn't be displacing the mud if they were completely satisfied with the cmt job.

To carry on with red light example: when you get a green light do you immediately hit the gas? I don't. I usually look for someone running their red light. Why? Because about 20 years ago a neighbor didn't look and his wife and child were killed by a red light runner. Later he unsuccesfully tried to commit suicide over guilt.

It's very hard to forget such an event. You might call me overly careful but it costs me nothing to look. I don't really think about's become an almost automatic reaction. It would have cost BP nothing to make sure mud returns were being monitored properly. Nothing. It's not difficult to imagine how much closer ever drill crew out there is watching mud returns these days.

Ummm...oh, man, yeah, the red light thing. Years ago, I was giving some acquaintances a ride. The light turned green and I sat there. A split second later some yokel creeping in from the right floored it and came within inches of hitting somebody else. We were all real shook up. "How'd you know he was gonna do that?". Honest, damned if I know, but somehow I was kind of expecting it - it was not long after student days, and riding a bicycle probably had something to do with it. Now, tomorrow morning, who knows what could happen... as I keep insisting, life's not zero-risk...

Rockman: More "red lights." [I think I'm gonna make you regret you used that metaphor.] If you need to get from A to B as quickly as possible, you might run a few red lights. Does BP's blow out relate to fast, cheap, and right? Somewhere on theoildrum I saw that operations were behind schedule. Was the crew under time pressure? Furthermore, it might be informative to look at the experience of the members of the crew at the time of the blow out. Was the crew inexperienced? Had any key member of the crew ever been around a near disaster? As the cliche goes, experience is a great teacher. Maybe survivors of the blow out should teach safety procedures. But I'm old and I stray off topic. Thanks for all your time and effort devoted to educating us all. You are truly an expert.

I suggest you listen to the testimony of the people involved:

These two days provide a pretty good overview.

The Transocean crew was very experienced, but they were at the end of a difficult job and thought they were home-free - might have let down their guard. I think they were implementing a marginal well design under difficult circumstances and when the crisis came whatever warning signs there were had been down-played and they were caught unprepared for a situation that went down in just a few minutes. On top of that critical systems failed immediately and left the survivors defenseless.

In Iraq we regarded the most dangerous part of a mission was driving the final couple of miles back to the FOB. Everybody is tired and starting to think about that shower, clean uniforms and an air-conditioned hooch - instead of whether or not that trash by the side of the road is an IED.

Even in industry - most accidents occur right before quitting time when people are rushing to 'beat the clock.'

The bissgest problem with safety is that the people supervising things are constantly having to fight human nature.

You're right - and as I get older (I'm now 46 for God's sake), I find that I keep adding subroutines like that. But the one certainty that we all need to accept is, if we continue to drill in deep water, we will eventually have another blowout like this. No matter WHAT set of safety procedures we decide to institute, and no matter how careful or professional the people implementing them are (and they clearly are by-and-large VERY good at what they do), it WILL happen. And when it does, two new things need to have happened - first, we ALL need to understand that drilling on the OCS is demand driven (which is to say that ALL OF US cause it because we use oil); and second, we need to have gotten much better at dealing with this sort of oil release than we are now.

Rockman: as usual, thanks for your incredibly insightful and leveheaded posts.

your Traffic light analogy really impressed something on me that i think we are quick to gloss over: Societies perception (and tolerance) of risk. This goes beyond the Oil&Gas Industry but i believe the DWH is a direct result of its impact. these days, people assume right of way, are generally 10-20mph over the posted speed limit, roll through stop signs, change lanes with no signal etc etc. Traffic is just one obvious example but you see these examples EVERYWHERE. People have minimized risk so much that they are willing to disregard precautions that were put in place to protect them so that they may get to their destination a minute or two earlier, or get something done faster. Perhaps the man responsible for the cmt was on the edge of failing the operation and not singing off on it, but didnt want the headache of the additional paperwork , or was in a hurry to get home to the wife and kids... or whatever. but regardless, along the way, people disregarded red flags in many areas because people do not have an accurate demonstartion of the risks they face.

i know you've said before about having spill disaster courses you're required to maintain, i had similar working in an ER and as an EMT. Personally i'm coming to be of the mindset that these sort of preparedness drills need to be far more intense and actually have an associated risk. as you alluded to above, when people see the accident they nearly miss, it changes their actions in the future. When firefighters train to be firefighters, shit is on fire. any hazardous job needs to have training that really demonstrates the risks. IMO thats the only way to effectively mitigate them.

Risk aspects of system engineering are fascinating. Check out the Risks Digest: .

Why? is the question. Perhaps, they had run the red light many times before and nothing had happened.

I think we need someone of the stature of a Richard Feynman to tell us the obvious to our faces. Just substitute Deepwater Horizon, Bp Engineers and BP management in the following excerpt from the Challenger Shuttle disaster. All the lessons we need to learn have been taught over and over again. We just keep flunking out...

Personal observations on
the reliability of the Shuttle,
by R.P. Feynman
It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask "What is the cause of management's fantastic faith in the machinery?"

We have also found that certification criteria used in Flight Readiness Reviews often develop a gradually decreasing strictness. The argument that the same risk was flown before without failure is often accepted as an argument for the safety of accepting it again. Because of this, obvious weaknesses are accepted again and again, sometimes without a sufficiently serious attempt to remedy them, or to delay a flight because of their continued presence

Fmagyar, we'll always flunk out in the long run, as this is result of cognitive biases, "the human tendency to draw incorrect conclusions in certain circumstances based on cognitive factors rather than evidence". Our human brains are naturally wired to make irrational and incorrect conclusions in situations. and attempting to reprogram ourselves is unnatural (and carries the risk of being called a geek or nerd :) ).

Specifically, I think this is reflective of optimism bias ( and overconfidence bias (

How to mitigate the effects of cognitive biases? In a word, awareness. I think everyone that deals with high-risk, low-probability events should get training in common cognitive biases. If nothing else, meetings will be more fun as participants laugh when stereotypical biases are presented.

The thing about running red lights is that 99% of the time you get away with it, and 1% of the time you get killed. Human nature, however, is to think, "Hey, I've run 99 red lights and never gotten a scratch. It can't be nearly as dangerous as they say."

Then the 100th time they run a red light, a cement truck running the intersecting yellow at well over the speed limit hits them broadside. Both drivers were thinking, "It can't be that dangerous..."

The same thing applies to drilling wells. People start to say, "Nothing happened the last 99 times ..." Then, the 100th time they cut a few more corners and take a few more chances - just everything goes wrong at the same time, the well blows out, the platform goes up in flames, people die and there is oil all over the Gulf.

This is really a failure of risk management, and not the first BP has had. Their Texas City refinery explosion is written up in a book I have on risk management as a classic example of how things go wrong.

rockman, yes, this goes to the heart of the matter.
Rules, and good ones, can be set and have been set, but people are, well, people, and rules often go out the window for a variety of reasons.

I remember years ago reading the report on the Chaplinesque events leading up to the Brown's Ferry nuclear accident - not a meltdown but pretty darn close.
Electricians with candles (for light) setting fire to insulation in a cable chase - confusion that it was thus an electrical fire when it was not - fire hoses incompletely deployed thus inadequately turning on the water feeds then diagnosed as having blocked nozzles - replacement nozzles from the local FD (waiting at the gates) found to have different thread rates- on and on and on. Smoke filling the control room, and fire disabling the controls by burning up the cable spreading room......Absolutely unbelievable.

I agree that if best practice is followed accidents will be rare, and they will truly *be* accidents, but we all know that is not what happens far too often. I'm a timber faller, wrecks happen, but almost always when they are really bad it's because someone got careless and cut a corner or two. Time is money is a dangerous formula that we all are living with.

I don't know the medicine for this problem.

My summary of the rules, as gleaned from reading TOD

A kick can happen at any time. You expect it and plan for it. That is why:

1) You line the well with steel liners of adequate strength

2) You pump cement between the liner and the formation to seal and strengthen it

3) You test the liner with positive and negative pressure tests, and downhole instrumentation, and repair where necessary

4) You ensure there is sufficient well pressure to counter formation pressure by using drilling mud; and manage the mud weight, mud height, and pump pressure to get the pressure exactly right

5) You ensure mud pressure does not exceed formation pressure because this will fracture the formation leading to mud loss

6) You continuously monitor the volume of mud going in and coming out of the well. If you are losing mud, it's leaking into a fracture -- reduce mud pressure. If you are gaining mud, the formation pressure is pushing it out i.e. the well is on the verge of kicking and blowout -- increase mud pressure.

7) You run a kill procedure if the well kicks: increase the mud weight, rev the pumps, whatever. (This kill procedure is written down and you rehearse it in simulators.)

8) You install a Blow Out Preventer (BOP) robust enough for the circumstances as a last line of defense in case the kill procedure does not work

9) You frequently inspect the BOP and repair when necessary, and ensure you can at all times communicate from the rig to the BOP

10) You have a clear and unambiguous line of command, with those in charge having all the information they need

I think BP violated 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Great summary, thanks!!

Superb Analysis !


Well done aardy. I now promote you from AD (assistant driller) to driller. Keep this up an you'll make tool pusher in no time.


I haven't heard anything on starting the RTT to capture the oil at the open end of the riser until the LMRP is ready. Should be easy to do unless the boat traffic is problem.

Also I am amused by the debate between hands that worked their way up and those with degrees. Seems that all the pessimists say the degrees(read management) caused this accident with their mistakes. But then they put the faith in those with degrees from the universities making unsubstantiated claims.

I am now in the engineering industry and this is true for most acedemics - teaching and research are easy to the struggle in industry and the pay proves it. Many of those who can't make it in industry end up teaching. There are always a few outliers to this but I have seen it over and over again. Ask an academic most won't even refute it.

The oil patch paid most of my way through college and I am forever grateful. Hardest work I ever did in my life bar Afghanistan and Iraq. I seen how hard everyone worked and they are certainly working even harder now to resolve this. To think that the government could come in and do any better is only a dream - unless they limit it to the military and to the cleanup. How soon we forget disasters like the government's (at all levels) Katrina response.

Happy Memorial Day!

I am now in the engineering industry and this is true for most acedemics - teaching and research are easy to the struggle in industry and the pay proves it.

Just wanted to make sure what you are saying: "teaching and research are easy (((compared))) to the struggle in industry and the pay proves it"

Pay often has nothing to do with the difficulty of a job.

And holiday greetings to you, and everyone.

I would submit that the federal government being unprepared/unwilling to do anything for Katrina is far from proof that government is incapable of functioning well. Whatever one thinks of the Cuban government on the whole, to cite one example, they do a pretty good job of moving their own population when confronted with hurricane hits. And without our extent of resources.

For decades now in a variety of areas we've had underfunded (or misappropriated) government departments staffed with people chosen specifically because they have a hostility to government regulation and/or a hostility to the concept of public sector solutions to problems. Then we announce based in their often predicatably awful performances that "government doesn't work!"

I would think the individuals who worked their way up and have vast experience in hands on problem solving would be the most qualified. Education and degrees are also just as important but too often we see inexperienced people who think there is a silver bullet for every problem.

By your definition the hardest working people are the Banksters on Wall Street.
Nothing knew -we all know they make more money than most.

Actually many of them are .They get brilliant college grads and work them ridiculous hours. Many burn out. I know young guys who go 18 hour days. They do get bonuses but are the first to go during a downturn.

Ha!, I guess it depends on how you define "work".

having known some floor traders i can personally tell you that their institutions extract every penny from those guys. 18 hour days are typical. The benefits are high, (I knew one guy who brought home 42k per month) but fery few can hack the work load. even those that can rarely stay on the floor for long. next time you get a chance to see an active floor, look around, you dont see many (if any) grey heads on it.

of course i'll be the first to admit, the banking industry is every bit as slimy as the drug cartels IMO. but remembering that everything is made up of individuals, i bear no ill will to the vast majority of any industry. its the few bad eggs at the middle and top that deserve to be crucified.

"... of course i'll be the first to admit, the banking industry is every bit as slimy as the drug cartels..."

According to the UN banking commission and other august bodies and individuals, drug cartel money is the only source of liquid capital left that is holding up the entire banking/investment house of cards.

And who do the oil companies turn to for financing?

Opinions and facts in the academic, scientific, and BP community would seem to be brewing a bit of controversy on the topic of underwater plumes. The TOD community has discussed at various points oil emulsification, impact of dispersants, etc on the spill. While I cannot shed any technical "light" on the subject I do tend to believe the academics-scientists - rumors of frozen blobs of underwater oil heading to devour Key West not withstanding.

What say the TOD experts and "experts"?

Underwater Oil Plumes Disputed By BP CEO Tony Hayward

VENICE, La. — Disputing scientists' claims of large oil plumes suspended underwater in the Gulf of Mexico, BP PLC's chief executive on Sunday said the company has largely narrowed the focus of its cleanup to surface slicks rolling into Louisiana's coastal marshes.

During a tour of a BP PLC staging area for cleanup workers, CEO Tony Hayward said the company's sampling showed "no evidence" that oil was suspended in large masses beneath the surface. He didn't elaborate on how the testing was done.

Hayward said that oil's natural tendency is to rise to the surface, and any oil found underwater was in the process of working its way up.

"The oil is on the surface," Hayward said. "There aren't any plumes."

Pete - donation just made.

Two aspects to dispersion. There is the breaking down of the material via dispersants, and then there is the dilution by dispersion, drift, and diffusion.

I wrote up a long analysis of the latter here:

This is actually quite a significant work because I had recently come up with a way to unify the 3 D's by solving the Fokker-Planck equation (aka the diffusion convection equation or Darcy's Law for the geologists out there) under the maximum entropy principle. As far as I know, no one has tried this before and as Seinfeld would say, the results are real and spectacular.

Thank you. Actually quite readable even though much of it is over my head.

We need to really take up the charge on this as our future depends on understanding the role of entropy in nature. For too long, we have not shown the intellectual curiosity to model how much oil we have underground, what size distribution the reservoirs take, and how fast that they can epmty, even though some perfectly acceptable models can describe this statistically, using dispersion no less!

Now that the Macondo oil has discovered an escape hatch and has gone disordered on us and will go who-knows-where, it seems we can really make some headway in our common understanding. Nothing like having your feet in the fire.

Best Hopes that those who really need to read this and take action do so.


"There aren't any plumes."

Oil Patch types must have been hallucinating all these years when they were confronted with oil/water emulsions.

Yup, and the UGA Dept of Marine Sciences are hallucinating so badly, they can actually smell petroleum in samples they took yesterday (from 1100 metres down).

These people clearly need professional help, Tony.

Let's say that filter they show has filtered 10L of water and shows oil. Zoom in and by looking at the water drops to the side, guess that the filter is 1.5 inches across. Now guess at the oil volume on that filter. Is it a 1.0mL worth, or perhaps 0.1mL? I can't guess, but I would tend to favor the low side in this case. If these were scientists, I would hope they would be doing some work quantifying that discovery, and perhaps they will. From their instrument profile, they show perhaps 150ft of interest. The drop in oxygen is notable, but not near as low as the near surface levels.

A couple of points then. If you were purposefully trying to disperse the oil so that it would be broken up by natural forces, you would look on these number and say that you've succeeded. I say this even though that this oil, if it came from the disaster, probably did this without the help of surface dispersant. Also, I would love to see the chromatograph of this oil to see how it changed/degraded from the original source. Aside from the "fingerprinting" of the oil, it would be valuable to note for projections of the nature of the plume, say, three months from now. The processes that formed this are obviously still going on, so projections are good here.

Next, does the small drop in oxygen sensed by the tool mean the oil is already being acted on by microbes? Does that really happen in 3300ft of water?

Oil Patch types must have been hallucinating all these years when they were confronted with oil/water emulsions.

Either that or Mr. Hayward is pulling another one of his attempts to cover his ass!

The Verification of Subsurface Oil Spill Models
study by Henrik Rye and Per Johan Brandvik of IKU Petroleum Research.

Another result that came as a surprise to the research team was the
thickness of the slick at the sea surface. According to calculations, the
thickness was expected to be close to 100 to 160 µm, assuming that all
oil in the slick was in a nonemulgated state. Because the size of the slick
is somewhat overestimated by the model, one should expect that the
the thickness was found to be about 10 to 30 µm, accounting for only
15% to 20% of the total amount of oil released. The rest of the oil was
not traced during the experiment. The present explanation is focusing
on the release arrangement, which created a release velocity close to 15
to 16 m/s. This velocity may be large enough to create small droplets
with a small rise velocity. Thus the oil droplets may have been trapped
within the subsurface plume instead of rising to the sea surface. This
explanation should be investigated further.

Here's to hoping Mr. Hayward and Co. do hard time breaking rocks for the rest of their miserable lives...

Message to Mr. Hayward and Co: Don't piss on my feet and tell me its raining.

Hey guys...this site is pretty amazing...congratulations. I've only been registered a few days, so will keep it short and on point. I have no experience w/oil or drilling, but my wife grew up around Bakersfield in the '50s (developed serious allergies to some petroleum products as a result). Her father was an oil engineer (did his stints around the world...Iran, Sumatra, North Sea, etc.) so I heard a lot of shop talk throughout the decades. I wish he were still around to get his views on the spill (plan to donate to the site in his name, Elmer "Bill" Friske). Now there was a man who would not tolerate shortcuts that compromised safety.

Just wanted to comment on the fast-buck management/excrement that seems to be tearing down what many responsible people have built up over generations using sweat and brains. Not just oil, but health care, banking, finance, insurance, politics, military...the list goes on. As far as Mr. Hayward is concerned, I figure the only dirt he ever got under his fingernails came out of his nose.

Rant over...I'll go get out the wallet now.

Just thought it would be important to have this vital news and analysis before you people:

An example of penetrating insight and explanatory analysis...

"There aren't any plumes."

Oh yes. That old trick ..
(waves hand)
These aren't the druids you're looking for.

Must have been induced by breathing the VOCs... ... ...

Good Day...

Its not about the numbers of equipment deployed. Its about experience and tactics...

This is my major concern. Recovery and containment. After 30 years in the environmental emergency response business and now retired. I am appalled by the lack of standards and procedures as well as tactics that are not being either utilized or monitored as oversight and especially with containment.

Moreover, I am very concerned with the lack of oversight on the Oil Spill Response Organizations (OSRO's) and the lack of tactics being deployed to protect sensitive areas and the shorelines.

Its not about how much boom or how many skimmer one deploys. Its about tactics and maintenance, You just don't lay boom and walk away from it. Tides change booms floats and moves. The OSRO's know that they must have boom tenders to ensure that the boom is on station doing its job.

Many of the overflight photos I have seen show a total lack of regard for these procedures and to be direct and honest. I would not put it past "some" OSROs to make a show and let oil wash ashore where they can double the money they make.

There are many tactics we use to divert oil away from sensitive areas to limit exposure. I have seen approximately 100 overflight photos and have only seen two examples where a OSRO were deploying sound standards and practices. I also chalk this up to the lack of experience on the near-shore oil spill side.

As far as surface recovery is concerned. I have recommended to both the USCG NSF and the USCG GST that ridged seep arms/Vessel of Opportunity Skimming System (VOSS) be deployed since they are not currently.

The sweep arm technology is proven under fire during the Persian Gulf Oil Spill.

"Three skimming vessels under contract to Saudi ARAMCO were deployed in the offshore skimming operations in an attempt to remove as much oil as possible prior to its washing up on a shoreline. The largest skimming vessel, the Norwegian Al Wassit, recovered more than 100,000 barrels of an oil/water mixture during its first 30 days of operation. (The vessel's captain reported encountering oil slicks as thick as six inches that emitted strong vapors for up to three weeks after the discharge.) Two smaller skimming vessels were also effectively deployed offshore. Skimming operations were very slow due to the constant threat of striking a mine "Report To Congress United States Gulf Environmental Technical Assistance From January 27 - July 31 1991"

Note the recovery of surface contaminates of 100,000bbls in 30 days. KOSEQ ( ) is the firm that currently has the sweep arm technology.

Hopefully it will be deployed. But in the meantime I believe that BP needs to get some fast oversight over its near-shore and coastline contaminate.

Dude - sadly I think you've captured the problem perfectly. I've attended more spill training classes, offshore survival schools and desktop MMS spill exercises than I can remember. For the most part everyone takes these exercises seriously, especially the ones that could save your life. But there’s also a degree of “going through the motions”. Having the equipment and trained personnel is required by gov’t regs. But I doubt anyone has developed strategies for dealing with such a massive problem. Most envision spill recovery efforts spanning days or perhaps just a couple of weeks. And I wonder if anyone thought about dealing with such a deep leak. Every spill exercise I’ve ever participated in involved a topside spill and typically a one-time event and not a continuous flow as we have today. As you point out the greatest condemnation of the effort so far maybe not accessing other technologies/equipment/personnel from other regions especially the N Sea.

OK, if a major strategy would be to use skimmers (the ones from The Netherlands or whatever), then would using dispersants to keep it from surfacing be a suitable tactic? Don't you often have to choose a strategy before choosing tactics? OTOH if you have a bazillion conflicting rules generated by conflicting interests directing your choice of a strategy, or if everyone is in charge - which means no one is in charge - do you ever choose a strategy or do you really just flail and muddle along no matter how brilliant the participants might be?


Your right on a couple of points... Spill drills are just acting. While they are yes taken seriously they never ever come anywhere near reality and the hooks that are thrown to add adventure really does not set off the hot spark in neurons that in many cases is exactly what is needed when reality hits the oscillator.

From the OSRO's perspective spill table top drills were nothing more than a marketing tool. A show off tool. Where one could do almost anything with nothing and come out smelling like a rose. I hated table tops...I rather spill golf balls or add dye into a waterway and go prove you could do something at least make sure your crews knew how to run the gear. But then there was always who was going to foot that bill and get the necessary regulatory approvals. It was all about who has the time and money.....

Like I said I go back to the OPA 90 Working Groups. Politics? Gosh! Politics of ships and facilities. USG Politics, OSRO Politics, Environmentalist Politics. Equipment Manufacturer Politics, other special interests whether they had an interest or not.. Then to add to all of that........... USG Bureaucracy!

So you think the Somalis have the market are being Pirates? Think again. They are also known as OSRO's. I should know. I flew that flag once.

Oh yes I forgot to mention the other down fall. The politics of asking others for help.

As far as I am concerned. We were really never prepared for the ultimate worse case scenario. I don't not care who said what when. I don't care who it was either. No matter the drills. To top that what major oil spills have we had really since Valdez? By the way even Valdez never made it to the top ten list.

Lets not start the conversation of DHS taking over FEMA and the worry of UBL popping up out of a submarine in New York Harbor.

Its just simple... we let our guard down and now we are paying the piper....

But no matter we will overcome this event, make improvements and wake up. We always do.


I got some good news for you. 6 sweep arms are under way. They will be deployed to local ships and operations will start somewhere between Wednesday and Friday. We got even more in stock (18 more).

For weeks now there are several companies (example: in the Netherlands that have offered to provide the sweeping arms oil from the surface of the ocean.
This system has indeed been proved all over the world to be effective in the past with other oil spills.
At first neither the US Gov. or BP had responded to our help we've been offering for so many days now.

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

It took me some time to figure out why BP or the US coast guard where not screamingly demanding the arms.

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 ;-)

For anyone interested in the sweeping arms, some info:

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. Of course the floating oil layer has to be thick in order to get this kind of numbers. So easy on the dispersers pleaze!

Other 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.

Roger from The Netherlands

So it was because the stuff dumped back in the water would have 'some' petroleum in it...altho much less than the original concentration.

(bangs head on desk repeatedly).

Terrific update Roger. Mucho thanks. Hope you can hang in there and keep us updated. I'm sure the gov't will come up with a list of good reasons why they didn't suspend the pollution rules immediately. After all, it's not like the POTUS has the ability to issue executive orders as he deems necessary. I actually heard but couldn't confirm that your folks were sending messages/offers to BP and our gov't within 24 hrs of the blow out. Given how inflammatory such a report would be I dare not pass it on without confirmation. But I would have expected no less from folks who’ve done battle with the N Sea for decades.


First of all, I really regret the dire straights the Gulf is in right now. Al tough being a very small country, the people of the Netherlands always have had a close relationship with the US (we never forget how you saved us in WW2 ;-) and our hearts and minds go out you all.
After Katrina we stepped in with supplying refined gasoline from our huge storage facilities in Rotterdam. And after that we provided our techniques on shore management. This we developed in the duration of several hundreds of years of flooding and sea fighting because, believe it or not, most of our land is beneath sea level;-).
Also we have a lot of private service companies that do a lot with water and soil; dredging, dike building, soil washing and indeed oil spill cleanups. We even have an automated-oil-stained-birds cleaning machine (no joke, survival rate is 85%, survival ratewith hand cleaned birds is 35%, confirmed by ringing the birds)

The current BP management oil spill has been front-line news here since the start of it. And also the news that we have equipment and men ready to fly to the Gulf. I have a Dutch link here, including the bit about the US environmental regulation that prohibited the us of the skimmers; dated 4 of may (use google translate):

In this Dutch link:

the firm Koseq confirms that they have made an integrated plan how to work on the cleanup of the oil on the surface, before it reaches the shores. This plan was delivered to Admiral Thad Allen at least before the 6th of may (I don't know how much earlier).

Although it is important to learn the lessons of this spill and take actions to hold those responsible accountable, I personally think it is to early for that now.

We need every hand aboard to contain this f@cked up situation, including those who made mistakes.

When the dust is settled, it would be wise to install a body (overseen by the US government and funded by the oil companies that drill in the US) that is 24hrs a day ready to come into action when a spill occurs.

Maybe you could look into this example for an upfront response system:
It will of course need an addition on how to handle deep see blowouts ;-)

Roger from The Netherlands

Ah, the good and the bad of government regulations.

Now go drink some genever and celebrate.


Hi Diverdan,

Not everything coming out of The Netherlands is good and I would definitely consider genever being one of them ;-)
I prefer a good glass of whiskey instead. Like Lagavulin 16 years old, or laphroaig 18.

Roger from The Netherlands

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.

See, this is a classic. Bureaucratic jackasses making absolute pronouncements with no exceptions no matter the circumstances, not caring a whit if they make matters worse - so long as they get their boxes ticked and their plush bottoms out the door by 4:30 sharp every day.


That is good news! Finally! The law you are speaking of was put in place to knock out competition by some of the equipment manfactures. There has never been a safety issue here. Everybody has special interests and unfortunately the ones who suffer are those economically effected and of course the client company who is footing the bill.

We started pushing the sweeps during the OPA90 Working Groups. Yes it was all politics...

But I have seen what the sweeps can do. I am a happy camper to see that the USG finally woke up. Now after the USCG and USG sees these critters in action I am sure they will take a revisit to that law.....

Now to get the near-shore and coastal surface containment worked out......

Best... I will be watching!


Yes, that is good news. But a glance at the current satellite imagery: suggests that 3 vessels boarded with sweeps will not be enough to skim the most of it up before it reaches the shores. There are a lot more skimmers in stock, I hope that the USG will fly these in too. Maybe when they see the first result it will lead them to action.

Because I'm afraid that I have some less good news on your last point: the coastal surface containment.
This is very hard to do. When it reaches shore; you're basically doomed. Booms don't go well together with tides and waves.
Once the oil is on the estuaries and in the marshes, the only option really is to dig it out and wash the soil. But then you destroy the environment in the process.
History tells us that in that case it takes about 10 to 15 years before nature it self cleans it up.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Roger from The Netherlands.


Containment is extremely hard to do and its a matter of several lawyers of redundancy. But the way we are attempting to protect sensitive areas now make no sense at all. You just do not lay boom and walk away from it.

I have reviewed over 100 overflight photos and can only see two creditable sectors where boom has been properly deployed and maintained. While there are many gaps in the coverage areas as well.

To top that boom diversion techniques are not deployed enough. Additionally when oil overwhelms a sensitive area you must overwhelm the oil with manpower and equipment. One of the keys here to containment is understand the subsea environment and currents.

Moreover I do receive the daily USGS Remote Sensing Data on the spill. While I tend to believe that we can at the moment and currently limit (Not Stop) some of the oil from impacting many sensitive areas or at least put up a very strong attempt to limit impact. At least do a better job than at present.

I always wondered if the sweep arms could be used stationary in shallow waters with a combination of a tiered cascade boom diversion technique into a coral?

I also believe that the coastlines must be broken up into sectors and each sector must have an experienced response manager assigned to oversee recovery and containment operations.

I also believe that a Tactical Team must be assembled to overview all recovery and containment tactics being deployed in each sector and act as the Mike Force or troubleshooters if necessary...

Like I said throwing equipment at the spill is one thing... But proper deployment and continued oversight is the KEY!

By the way I sent you a email... Thanks :-)

Note that the spread-out slick such as we have here is very thin -- much thinner than a human hair which is about 100 microns (µm) thick.

In the confined waters of the Persian Gulf I believe that the slick was an order of magnitude thicker, which means the skimmer boats would be much more effective.

With effect from 1st January 2004 the BONN Agreement has announced that the new BONN Agreement Oil Appearance Code (BAOAC) shall be adopted for the quantification of oil on the sea surface.

Appearance__________________Layer Thickness Interval (µm)
Sheen (silvery/grey)              0.04 to 0.30
Rainbow                           0.30 to 5.0
Metallic                          5.0 to 50
Discontinuous true oil colour    50 to 200
Continuous true oil colour      200 to More than 200


From the USGS spill models I get and my discussions with USGS. The surface contaminate or spill has various levels of density or thickness. There is a very large volume of which that is a mirror of the Persian Gulf Spill in density which the sweep arms will do wonders.

Pete -- An interesting debate in the sense that no debate is needed. The possibility of large oil masses floating at depth in the GOM has been offered for weeks. An easy way to end the debate: go look and see it it's there. In addition to ROV's that can put cameras on suspected plumes there are manned deep diving subs, Like ALVIN, that can put eyeballs on the situation real time. They had no problem diving to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and showing us pictures clear enough to read the White Star lines logo on dishware from the HMS Titanic. Getting a snap shot (let alone samples) of a giant mass of emulsified oil in the clear waters of the GOM should be just as easy. The fact that the gov't hasn't tasked the Navy to do this seems intentional. If an old oil patch geologist cruising TOD in his underware on a Monday morning understands this I would think Dr. Chu might think of it also. The existance of such a hidden oil mass would be huge in planning for future clean up efforts.

Are they (BP and US gov) perhaps hoping that all the undersea plumes will get caught in the loop current and instead of hugging the US eastern seaboard, get carried out to the open Atlantic and be eventually be "harmlessly" dispersed?

And thanks for the vivid imagery of Rockman in his natural habitat this holiday morning.

Thanks Rock. I cannot find the link that stated - I think - that either USF or LSU sent a submersible into a "dark plume" and it cam up - well - covered in oil (supposedly another plume is clear).

Edit: wtxgeoligist has the quote below - thanks.

Tony Hayward is a PLUMING IDIOT.

Just ran across this, though.

Oil-hunting robots being turned loose in Gulf

SARASOTA: MOTE Marine Lab is sending robot probes out into the Gulf of Mexico to help determine if or when oil will reach the shoreline of Southwest Florida.

"We know where the surface slicks are, because we can see them from space and from airplanes. But we don't know where the oil is that's below the surface, that's moving around under the surface," said Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick, senior scientist for MOTE Marine.
"It swims along, every couple of seconds it makes a measurement, and keeps looking for the telltale signs of oil and oil products," Kirkpatrick said.

The first AUV was launched about 20 miles of the coast of Venice. Scientists say it will travel 80 to 100 miles west-southwest, patrolling the continental shelf perpendicular to the coastline.

The robots can gather information as deep as 600 feet. They surface every four hours to send the data back to researchers via satellite.

Now put some pants on (or not) - Grill Baby Grill (after due and much earned reflection on those in uniform who have sacrificed their lives.)


Excellent update Pete. I don't watch MSM...any coverage of the sub investigation?

Got my pants on now...getting ready to head to our local vet cemetary. Then it's Texas BBQ time!!!

hi ptoemmes,

I cannot find the link that stated - I think - that either USF or LSU sent a submersible into a "dark plume" and it cam up - well - covered in oil (supposedly another plume is clear).

Perhaps you were thinking of this blog?

Here's a website of an ongoing scientific study right now - finding evidence:

The very researcher who first reported the plumes, who was disbelieved by BP at the time, now has financing from the National Science Foundation for this ongoing study.

Apparently BP also wants to fund independent research:

Is that "independent" research? Or really independent research? Time will tell...

(Check is in the mail)

Your first link opens:

May 30th, 18:00. One of the strangest things about these deepwater plumes we’ve been tracking is that we see a strong CDOM signal but there’s been no visible oil in the deepwater. That changed today: we saw oil in the deepwater.

[emphasis mine]

I guess that strong dissolved oxygen signal was just bogus then? Yeah, can't trust those scientists can we. Their market value will go up if they lie about the plume.

Of course the truly independent scientists are not lying... but wait till BP-funded "independent research" gets published (or shelved!). ;)

TheraP: Why do I smell cigarette smoke suddenly? [Please keep following and commenting.]

You must be smelling Freud's pipe! (I've never smoked!) I must admit I am hooked on this site though. ;)

No, I think it is R J Reynolds's "reasearch" smoke.

Ah, yes... You caught my drift.... Well, could also belong to some drug companies as well. But yes! Better living through chemistry, as they used to say....

I hope you read my ** WARNING ** earlier.

TOD is clearly addictive. I have occasionally thought of the choice between red and blue pills in "Matrix".


Yes, I caught the warning, Alan. Too late.... ;)

By the way if we do need to push for 3 relief wells, I suggest that the opportune moment is actually ahead of us... at the point when the current "publicized reality show" may or may not work and likely will increase the gusher. But I have already acted to alert the "troops" and I trust we can muster some support. (And we will definitely need "something" on an elementary level to explain a relief well and reasons why we need more. I think of it like trying to thread a needle.... except there is no "hole" in the needle and the needle is in the dark and the "thread" is an open pipe between two wells and... Who knows? Maybe I can come up with something... but I'd sure love it if someone spares me the technical stuff. The probabilities, I get! Had to take a few stat courses...)

Meanwhile... yes, I must have my TOD fix!

"The oil is on the surface," Hayward said. "There aren't any plumes."

Well, reports are out of an $850,000 research mission from USF that documented and sampled oil from large subsea plumes. I think I would tend to disagree with BP's spin at this time....

"ST. PETERSBURG - The discovery in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico was so unsettling University of South Florida marine scientists ran two tests this week just to make sure.

Data from an array of instruments was conclusive: a team on board the USF research vessel Weatherbird II had discovered a vast new plume of oil about 3,300 feet beneath the waves.

The blob, more than 6 miles wide, is stretching inland toward the shallower waters off Alabama, where many fish and other species reproduce, said David Hollander, associate professor of chemical oceanography at USF.

"The first ecological impact of this spill is the effect on coastal habitats, including marshes, beaches and estuaries," Hollander said. "The second threat to nature would be the impact on the food webs. That is what's at risk."

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday that computer models showed oil from the spill was about 75 miles southwest of Pensacola and 305 miles from Clearwater."

"The oil is on the surface"... reminds me of long ago practicing of French sentences like: "La plume est sur la table." This time the "plume" is not a pen and it is certainly not "on" the surface. ;)

I do not like BP, and haven't for a long time. I just cannot get over how horrible the Oxford boys are at communicating information. He says he wants his life back. Now, I'm sure he does, but he's a multimillionaire. He's talking to a lot of people who scrimp to get to the next check.

I think he meant he thinks there are no plumes from the Macondo well; as in, he doesn't think underwater plumes from the Macondo well have had time to develop. I suspect he's wrong, but I don't know.

So those who know Louisiana crude of this type. If you release 42 gallons of Macondo oil at 5,000 feet, how many of those gallons pop up on the surface?

I believe Mr. Hayward was not quoted in full. The distinction is whether there are plumes suspended far sub-surface, hanging there; or whether they are all rising to the surface, and eventually will reach it.

He stresses the word suspended. In the AP story, they quote one of the LSU scientists stating that Hayward is basically correct, in that they expect these plumes to also rise.

However, it's a question as to whether the dispersants have significantly reduced the natural buoyancy of the oil, and the plumes will therefore remain sub-surface.
And as BP have had a tendency to obfuscate (mildly put), we don't really know what to think of Hayward's statement. We can, however, assume that BP has wanted to keep the impact as out of sight as possible (something they have demonstrated through the press-blockade on land).

They must have known that the initial gusher was delivering far in excess of the 1000bbl/day they started out with, and the 5000bbl/day figure was also a wild underestimation, unless they were counting on being able to keep the oil "out of sight."

We'll know soon enough. If they were hoping to claim that this oil comes from other activities in the Gulf, it's fairly straighforward to analyze it and compare it to that from DWH.

"I believe Mr. Hayward was not quoted in full. The distinction is whether there are plumes suspended far sub-surface, hanging there; or whether they are all rising to the surface, and eventually will reach it. He stresses the word suspended. In the AP story, they quote one of the LSU scientists stating that Hayward is basically correct, in that they expect these plumes to also rise."

It all depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

the company's sampling showed "no evidence" that oil was suspended in large masses beneath the surface.

BP managed to avoid collecting "unwanted information".

No surprise really.


They were sampling the Gulf of Cortez. You know, just to be thorough.

AlanfromBigEasy wrote:
BP managed to avoid collecting "unwanted information".

That's one of the reasons why the main suspect should not be in charge of the crime scene which is spreading out through the GOM.

AlanfromBigEasy wrote:
BP managed to avoid collecting "unwanted information".

That's one of the reasons why the main suspect should not be in charge of the crime scene which is spreading out through the GOM.

Er. BP are not "in charge of" the GOM. Are you suggesting they should abandon the wellhead and move over to let the US military's extensive arsenal of deep water oil drilling engineers and kit take over?

In Re Mr. Hayward and oil plumes: Posted in upper right corner of yesterday: “It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it.” —Upton Sinclair

Define "large masses".

Just from the geometry published regarding the size of these plumes it is obvious the concentration of oil, if any, in them must be low. If they were large masses of continuous oil phase like a lot of the press reports seem to suggest the amount of oil would exceed the known reserves of the entire planet, i.e. 1 Trillion barrels just based on the physical size reported for the plumes. Such oil would of course rise to the surface. So if this is "large masses" it can be ruled out.

So the question becomes exactly what is the concentration? A lot of the results seem to show that the plumes contain dissolved hydrocarbon, which is probably mostly methane.

If it is methane then all the reports of dispersants being the root cause of the plumes is malarkey. Such plumes would be formed via liquid-liquid extraction of soluble hydrocarbon by the water in contact with the oil. Dispersion might influence the kinetics of the extraction process by increasing surface area, but that is all. My guess would be that these plumes would form during all deep water spills. If they turn out to be very destructive to sea life that might be a real problem for the continuation of deep water drilling in areas like the GOM.

In any case this is an interesting area of research made possible by the rapid advances in analytical instrumentation over the past few decades. Betcha this will be a hot topic for PhD students for the next decade.

Otherwise I don't think we have enough data yet to say what is going on.

Looks like BP has a presence here.

Interesting (at least to me).

I'm not the only one who thinks these oil plume reports are greatly distorted by the media reporting.

Oh and by the way ad hominem attacks are NOT appreciated.

Ah.... these Ph.D. students and their professors are at work as we speak....
Funded by the National Science Foundation.

but what do I know? ;)

We can just let the data speak for themselves, I guess.... In no time the media will lap this up and report it. Meanwhile... some can dream...

"oil's natural tendency is to rise to the surface"

Strange. This diagram from a 2003 MMS study (p10-12) on deepwater oil spills, sure looks a lot like the phenomenon we are seeing now:


The study described the assumptions behind a computer deepwater oil-spill model that MMS had commissioned. It concluded that oil/gas mixtures from deep sources (more than 1500ft) will behave differently than oil from shallower spills. [Sorry, the pdf is security locked and I can't copy and paste the key passage on page 10.]

It specifically models that some oil can become trapped at mid-levels. The gas hydrates and other factors work with the oil to put them closer to neutral buoyancy under those conditions and they may not be able to rise to the surface.

The computer model and report specifically focused on deepwater pipeline leaks - but isn't that just about what we are seeing with the riser leaks?

In other words, this phenomenon is actually what MMS models predicted would happen.

Tony is bullshitting.

Big surprise.

Thanks, that's really useful to know.

Brilliant bit of quick-response refutation to the BP guy's claim about plumes. Hope some of the MSM are lurking here to pick this up and update stories like this one:

The measurements of oil in the plumes talked about in the MMS study linked to seem to measure oil in parts per million. If the oil is dispersed in the water at these fractions... well, I must have missed something.

One more thing to be concerned about these trapped plumes is the low temperature in deep waters. The lower the temperature the slower the break-down of oil will become. Some of the oil will stay in deep waters naturally but using dispersants adds to that. It might still be better to use dispersants than let more oil get to the surface and shoreline. The effects of these deepwater plumes are just much harder to estimate (and they stay out of the sight).

Don't worry friends, this changes nothing with respect to deep offshore drilling! We have no choice, algae cars? Electric cars, we can't even turn all the air conditioners on at the same time (400 amp service to each home ha), Giant talk of building nuclear reactors for two years now and nothing. Wind farms with a 20 year payback that last 20 years. There is nothing on earth like 125,000 btu a gallon gasoline on earth! We love it it's cheap at 5$ a gallon. We will drill and we will sink even deeper wells in Brazil and the salt domes off Texas. Why because we have no choice! You can not feed 7 billion people without cheap oil period. Do you think people would eat algae over taking your oil by force? When you have to mine your crude oil using one of the largest sources of fresh water in Canada that time has come like it or not. Drill baby drill, I love this country and we won't change until the oil is gone all of it. So, drive on my friends change is coming:)

Upon hearing the tragic news of Elvis' death, Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, said, “This changes nothing!"

Those are false arguments. The choice is not between no oil vs unsafe drilling. The choice is between accepting the (false) argument that it isn't possible to drill and not spill to such a catastrophic degree, vs holding companies and governments accountable. All they need to do was to keep to EXISTING industry best practice, and this wouldn't have happened.

btw, BP did not cut corners to keep the price of oil lower at the pump, they did it so they can keep making obscene profits. Let's not help them change the conversation.

Obscene? Compared to what? And defined by who? And relative to what? I hope you are boycotting sports events and movies theaters.

Compared to if they took care to drill safely. See aardvark's list up thread

And, seeing as they ranked 4th on the Global Fortune 500 how about relative to the 496 others on that list?

And that's not even comparing to us mere mortals, small businesses all the way down to the fishermen in LA...

For most of the age of oil, pump prices have been obscenely cheap.

For most of the age of oil, pump prices have been obscenely cheap.

It is not a "(false) argument" because spills and leaks have happened historically. You are advancing idealistic arguments that humans can attain perfection and technology can overcome any physical barrier. You seem to want to believe that the BP Macondo blowout was caused by a failure of management and oversight rather than humans approaching technological limitations as they desperately seek to extract oil from ever more difficult and extreme environments. Think about how a rising cost of production would interact with the capitalistic drive for profit in a volatile crude oil market. Will government tell the oil industry what to do, or will the oil industry tell government what to do (such as less regulation)? Will consumers tell the oil industry what to do, or conversely? It is happening right before our eyes as BP pulls Obama's puppet strings.

For those of you who think that the BP Macondo blowout will be a turning point for the oil industry similar to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl for the nuclear power industry, I submit there were easy alternatives to producing electricity at the time, but there are no easy alternatives for the use of crude oil. For example, there are fishermen whose lively hood is wrecked or severely reduced by dead and contaminated fish for years. Some fish species may even become extinct in a worse case scenario. Government then orders these fishermen to convert or scrap all of their diesel powered fishing boats in favor of ones powered by sails, photovoltaic panels and batteries. There would be an outcry from these fishermen about how they should receive subsidies, government loan guarantees, compensation and exemptions from the new fuel standard. Near term survival trumps longterm planning in humans. To think otherwise is to answer Bob Shaw's question (Are humans smarter than yeast?) in the affirmative.

landrew wrote:
... we won't change until the oil is gone all of it.

We will be forced to change from an insufficient supply of crude oil long before we get to the last drop, one way or the other.

For easy searching of these threads, don't forget that you can simply hit Ctrl-F and then enter the phrase .....

I'm a journalist covering this story. Thanks to all of the posters here who clearly have a great understanding of the issues at hand. Your information and shared diagrams have been most helpful. Thank you also to those who are trying to keep the hair-brained and half-baked posts to a minimum.

BP's Thunder Horse complex in the deepwater GOM is the poster child for deepwater exploration & production. Here is a link to a very good paper that Glenn Morton did on the catastrophic decline in production from the main producing structure:

IMO, BP's (largely successful) plan has been if they do not publicly disclose the production data (other than the mandatory and rather difficult to access MMS data) then the MSM and trade journals will ignore, or simply not be aware of, the collapse in production from the main Thunder Horse structure. So far, with the notable exception of an article by Loren Steffy in the Houston Chronicle, this has been the case, basically "Deafening Silence."

Houston Chronicle article:

IMO, many of these deepwater field are going to turn out to be much smaller than initially anticipated.

Indeed. The mantra of the US oil industry has been to "hide the decline".

The US government agencies have been of no help in getting easily accessible numbers, in comparison to the UK and Norway, in particular. I know that this pains some regular TOD commenters to hear, who claim that you can get the data if you just ask.

Indeed. The mantra of the US oil industry has been to "hide the decline".

The US government agencies have been of no help in getting easily accessible numbers, in comparison to the UK and Norway, in particular. I know that this pains some regular TOD commenters to hear, who claim that you can get the data if you just ask.

Maybe they want people to be assured that when they go to the pump to get some it will still be there. Whatever the price is.

Thank you also to those who are trying to keep the hair-brained and half-baked posts to a minimum.

Are you refering to the statement made by Matt Simmons of Simmons International on Bloomberg that he believes there is a huge plume 5-7 miles from the BOP? It is interesting to me that some alternative journalists have reported a coverup by BP and we don't hear much about that here.

I have to is interesting to me that Matt Simmons would go on TV and tell a different story knowing his credibility. There are a lot of questions I don't understand, but if there is a larger leak going on and there is a coverup....the American Public is going to take down this government along with everything else the FED, US TREASURY and Congress is doing.

This is no longer funny...

I believe you overstate his credibility.If people here can come up with great cover up and conspiracies theories regarding by the Obama administration they could easily create a reason why a person like Mr. Simmons would benefit from his statements. The Obama administration may be many things, but I do not think intentionally suicidal is one of them.

amlikethewind, and thank you for being among the few (at least in my experience) journalists who are actually willing to go beyond a superficial analysis of what is happening.

Someone else here recently gave this warning and I think it bears repeating...

"TOD is like the Hotel California, you can check out but you can never leave!"

Welcome aboard, you might find you will be around for a while!

If you want a good story please try dispelling some misinformation that the MSM spews out, start by providing clear explanations as to why "blowing it up" wont work. just a thought.

If you want a good story please try dispelling some misinformation that the MSM spews out

Oh, amen. Or that the MSM doesn't bother to address.

A "10 [20, 30...?] Myths About the Oil Spill" article would be very much to the point. Check the comments sections of the big political blogs (left and right) for the most common misperceptions. One I've seen more times than I can count--including on TOD, although not so often--is that BP is dragging its feet on a leak solution because it wants to "save the well."

Speaking as a noob hooked three days ago & 36h since then: YES, a FAQ would be an excellent idea, especially if pinned at the top of the front page. Also, how about a "Your crazy idea to stop the spill won't work, because:" checklist, along the lines of this legendary one from my professional area?

journalist to journalist: agree - great site.
also "hair-brained" is "hare-brained."

A very good description of what may be occurring.

As an expansion of your idea above, how about, if indeed the shear rams are partially about cutting the riser pipe, as is the current plan, opening the shear rams, assuming they are operable, and attempting to stab down through the remaining riser to force whatever DP may be hung there, and then re-closing shear rams. One might need to fashion a "cone" of sorts to place over the remaining riser to be able to stab into the well, but that seems like it could be fairly easily accomplished.

Or, if the above operation could be accomplished, i.e. getting pipe in as far as the shear rams and forcing remaining DP down the wellbore, the most simple thing could be to attempt to run in as far as you could and cement.

Prof. Goose - If, as you stated in your intro, the shear rams are holding the drill pipe in position why after the riser and drill pipe are cut off above the BOP couldn't the shear rams be opened allowing the drill pipe to fall into the hole then close the blind rams? Corkscrewing should allow the DP to drop several feet clear of the BOP. Probably a dumb question but then I am a frac hand not a driller. Shouldn't something like this be in BP's plan? Thanks for a great thread.

WTXG, I posted the question above:

"how would having the DP sitting in the bottom of the well affect the relief well attempt. It seems to me that the relief wells need to be below the DP for best chance at success."

Any idea if having the drill pipe at the bottom will cause problems killing this well when the relief wells get there?


I doubt that the DP would drop if the shears are opened, as there are three sets of pipe rams which are all closed and as long as there is a tool joint above any of them, the pipe will not fall, as they are designed to hold the weight of the drill string.

To ensure the pipe would fall all the rams would have to be opened and that would take some time, and I am not sure if BP would be willing take the risk.

ghung, someone else will have far more expertise on your question than I, but my thought is simple yes, the more junk in the hole the more problems are likely to be encountered. As reported above, the roughly 3367' of DP remaining in the hole below the BOP would then be somewhere. If you assume it falls to bottom corkscrewing somewhat, do you attempt to intercept at a point above 3000' above TD, or deeper and take you chances? Many questions and issues to deal with whichever way you go.

If I understand you correctly, you're suggesting closing off the shear rams in order to shut down the well?

My understanding is that the weakened well may not be able to stand the pressure.

Others have commented on a similar vein...

Is anyone watching the video? i.e.

The ROV now (6:50AM PST) is focused on the end of the riser. The flow looks smaller than before, though this may be camera tricks. If it is smaller, can we intuit they are cutting the end near the BOP? Are there any updates as to how far along they are, as well as a more updated when they expect to finish? Is it the "cutting" part or placing the LMRP that takes most of the time?

I believe it's just a different camera angle from the ROV. I'm just guessing, but the installation and placing the LMRP will take the longest time.
Each of the two cuts are for the most part(there's nothing simple here), a single step(5000 ft deep). The LMRP has to be positioned and connected to a vessel on the surface with an umbilical or pipe to draw off the oil and gas. There looks to be about four or five steps in that, as well as relocating surface vessels that perform different functions.

Since sea water is used to “make” water for offshore platforms, I’m wondering how the rigs in the vicinity of this blowout are “making” potable water. Most of the water makers are either reverse osmosis, vacuum type, or distillers using exhaust from diesels. The vacuum units or distillers don’t get anywhere close to the temperature needed to purify the water for ingestion. Many of the rigs in this area are old and probably are using old water makers. I guess the RO units can remove the hydrocarbons.

Also if a fire breaks out on a platform immersed in the spill, the fire pumps may well be drawing hydrocarbons into their suctions and spraying them on a fire.

Animated Spill Graphic over time

I post this every few days for the newbies.


picture worth 1000 ....


Here's a version from NASA. Hopefully they will keep updating it.

I have written this short post, showing shallow and deep water oil production profiles using data from the MMS

GOM oil after the US peak

But we have to keep our eyes open for other worrying events:

At Least 10 Are Killed as Israel Halts Flotilla With Gaza Aid

This problem will in all likelihood merge with these hidden timebombs:

“Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower”

OPEC reserves revisited

Half the OPEC members aren't in the Middle East, and more than half of the Middle East is not OPEC members. No OPEC member borders Israel or the PA. One major OPEC exporter is Iraq, which is occupied by the US, propping up something akin to a government.

Conclusion on my end: Israel thing not going to affect what OPEC member nations do much.

Apparently you have not read this article in the New York Times from March, 28, 2010

And as for OPEC oil production profiles, look here:

Oil production from ME countries who are not members of OPEC, for example Egypt. They are net oil importers now:

I generally ignore anything in the NYT about the Middle East, having lived there for work. In fact I ignore the NYT on the whole, except for monitoring what the editorials are filling people's heads with. Every year the NYT is caught with its pants down even on things that aren't pure future speculation like that article. (Whatever Tom Friedman says in fact I assume the precise opposite is more likely true, in the same way that certain movie critics hating a film is a good indicator I'm going to like it.)

If the '08/'09 Israeli attack on Gaza elicited no particular coordinated action from OPEC, one wonders what would. The fact of the matter is that the Arab world doesn't get on the same page for much of anything. Iran isn't even the Arab world. Iraq is occupied by the US. Nigeria has different interests than everyone else, as do Ecuador and Venezuela.

I should expect that Israel could nuke Teheran if it wanted to, and the Arab League (or UN for that matter) response would be a sharply worded condemnation, a few (un-resupplied) Hamas rockets would fly out of Gaza and OPEC would invite Gabon back to occupy the hotel and buffet space reserved for Iran at the next conference.

IMO, OPEC's power as a coordination mechanism is overstated. For the most part although there's a pretty much universal hatred/fear of Israel in most of the world, response since the '70s has largely been blowhardism.

Excellent video of the old, bent LMRP as it's prepped for ... whatever:

In this video (the best photos of the riser base yet) it I think show the drill was not in the riser at the time or was ejected when the BOP shear was activated? That really does beg the question of how much drill pipe is in the BOP if any? Wow, this is the first view I have seen that lowers my hope of the drill pipe slowing the flow when re-activating the BOP shear dropping the drill into the well? Am I wrong about this? This for me was an oh no moment.

Sobering view of the stack on the wellhead, thanks.

Seeing the severe bend/crimp of the riser assy - how well will the LMRP/BOP stand up to the excessive strain, and what will be the result of releasing that strain once the riser et al is cut away? I can envision that assy pranging like a spring - with transfer of the stress to the opposite direction all the way down the connections to the casing. Could it tear loose leaving a wide-open hole?

I suspect that the only way to shut this down will be the relief wells, unless the down-hole piping collapses in on itself (unlikely).

My thanks to all giving of their knowledge and expertise, and to Gail and Goose for the opportunity to see what is mostly hidden from view.

[...]that the only way to shut this down will be [...] [if] the down-hole piping collapses in on itself (unlikely).

considering everything from pre-event to present... this would be a good thing... and might likely be a higher probability event as well...

Heyla. Thanks for the video.

Now, I'm not an engineer, but to my eye the whole BOP looks... well, bent.

How is that going to play in the whole LMRP deployment/attachment? Wouldn't an off center BOP prevent a best case seal from being achieved?

I have two probably quite stupid questions:
1) How much redundancy is built into the blowout preventer? Is there more than one pair of shear rams? Are there separate hydraulic systems to activate the different rams?
2) How can the drilling engineers intersect the original well with their relief wells? That seems like a very-high-precision job, thousands of meters below ground - how do they do that?

I suppose these have been answered before, but I've been looking around here for a while and couldn't find answers - can anyone help out?


This BOP is suppose to have two sets of shears, one to shear and seal drill pipe. The other for cutting casing or other large items, but these do not seal. The idea is to cut with the casing shears and them close the sealing shears.

For some reason these casing shears were not working or available at the time. don't know why but BP or Transocean do not seem to talking about it

Toolpush, thx for the answer. I would have thought that there would be some kind of redundance built into the system, i.e. two sets of each type of shear/ram. Is this the case or not? Wouldn't that be a normal engineering safety procedure? And also to have each independent set run on its own hydraulic system?

There are redundant control pods and I believe some redundancy in the hydraulic circuits and accumulators but I don't know the specifics. The problem appears to have been not failure of the rams, but complete loss of hydraulic pressure to activate them.

I would like to learn more about the RW from ROCKMAN and several others, but from what I have read the relief well needs to be at the ideal angle. If it has too much angle, say 45 degrees, it could be too difficult to pump in the mud. At 20 degrees might be right. When they get close enough to the matal casing the sensor on the drill bit picks up a magnetic signal of the casing.

I'm not convinced that relief well is a defenitive solution with the forces of nature involved. There could continue to be problems and set backs every day.

I'm pragmatic and here to learn more from those with more experience.

John -- the hole angle won't have an affect on pumping the kill pill. Perhaps the concerns over hole angle are related to actually hitting the target. But you are corrct about the risk: the RW is going to drill into a live well flow. Nothing riskier than that. They'll probably evac all the non-essentials off the rig before they make the intersect. A RW is risky but the only certain way to kill the blow out.

Fierz – Re: #2 As the original hole was drilled continous surveys were taken that can spot the well bores location within 10’s of feet. The short answer is that directional drilling can hit such a distant target miles away within 10’s of feet. You can search “directional drilling” and find lots of details on this technology. Once the RW gets close there are electronic sensors in the drilling assembly that can detect the csg in the well. It will be a slow process compared to current drill rates. But it will work. Maybe not the first time or two but eventually

rockman or others, to your knowledge has there been any sort of public statement made as to the plan for the relief in, how deep and where do they plan to intercept the blowout well?

From looking at the schematic, it would make sense to shoot for below 15,103' and the 11 7/8ths" liner. They would still have to cut through the 9 7/8ths" and 7" but would have a little working room. Or, would it make more sense to aim for below the 9 7/8ths and only have to cut through the 7" below 17,168' - leaving about 1000' of wellbore above TD? (and where are the cement plugs supposed to be?)

I haven't wtx. But it seems to be THE tech question WRT to RW. Depending on where they think the flow is comming up. Not sure how certain they can be of such an interpretation.

wtx, here's a two week old BP diagram indicating they were planning to intercept around 18,000 ft.

(click to enlarge)

There have been later versions of this diagram that continued to show that depth - haven't seen any updates since they suspended work on the second relief well to use its BOP elsewhere in the effort.

rainyday, thanks for the link and diagram.

That 18,000' number is measured depth. It looks like they are planning on intercept just below the 9 5/8" liner or at around 17250' or so, only having to cut through the 7". That makes sense.

To me, the relief well will probably bring the solution. I am just hoping they get it down with minimal troubles and maybe figure a way with all they are dong to slow the flow rate down in the meantime.

Rockman, thx!

I tried to post this yesterday but the discussion was closed. I thought some things needed to be said.

I've met Matt Simmons and listened to his talk on Peak Oil at Duke University several years ago. He did not make any idle or half baked comments during his talk. He's a man that does his homework. I've gone through his slides on his company's web site and found them to be very learned and yet easy enough for a layman to understand. Here's his site's URL for starters:

He mentioned the Russians have purportedly used nuclear weapons to successfully shut down 5 out of 6 run away oil wells. I'm skeptical yet intrigued. Can any of the TOD experts answer some of these questions:

1) Did the Russian use nuclear weapons to shut down run away oil/gas wells? Can it be confirmed?
(e.g. eye witnesses? seismic data?,Society of Petroleum Engineer papers?, etc. )

2) What were the circumstances under which the nukes were employed?

3) How were they deployed?

4) What caused the failure in that 1 out of 6 wells?

5) What was eventually used to kill that 1 well?

6) Were the detonations far enough under ground to prevent radiation leaks such as the methods employed in testing underground nuclear devises in the Nevada Desert?



Can't comment about the overall Russian experience shutting off wells with nukes, but there's an interesting vid on YouTube at
that shows film supposedly taken at one of the nuke well kill operations. The relevant footage starts a minute or two into the news story. The surface shock waves appear consistent with detonation of a large explosive device underground.

Re our using a nuke to close off the current GOM spill:

- Our nukes are all (ASFAIK) in the form of weapons. This means none of them is built for subsurface use in the (approximate) 2400 psi pressure environment at the well. They're built to withstand multi-G launch/drop acceleration and shock loads, as well as the vacuum of space and transient re-entry heating, but not high external pressure. Goes for nuclear torpedos as well, which are intended for targets no deeper than submarines, which in the case of the Russian titanium-hulled subs was 1,000 - 1,300 meters. A potential exception might be ground-penetrating nuclear weapons, which are designed for extreme deceleration transients, although I don't know if this implies they have long-term resistance to penetration by high-pressure seawater. Summary is, we don't have nuclear explosives ready to use in a deep marine application.

- Our ability to predict the behavior of subterranean nuclear explosions with respect to unanticipated breakout of radioactive debris isn't perfect, with both us and the Russians having had breakouts at underground tests which were expected to be completely contained. Applied to the GOM oil spill, this suggests that a nuke detonation could blow a very large quantity of vaporized radioactive marine mud into the ocean/atmosphere.

- Finally, given our relative lack of experience in deep water operations in the GOM, it is a non-trivial possibility that a nuke would open up additional leak passages to the formation.

If explosives are under consideration for closing the well, I hope they are conventional. We understand them much better than nuclear explosives, they can be deployed repeatedly if need be, they provide finely controllable energy release, and if they go wrong, they at least do not add radioactivity to the ongoing disaster mix. The last is important. Our nuke test program in the South Pacific showed quite clearly that radioactive materials bioaccumulate up the food chain. This would multiply the economic hit to the Gulf fisheries industry enormously.

Overall, it seems to me that the most effective way to make this situation dramatically worse would be to use nuclear explosives.

Hi Peter,

Matt's nuclear solution has become a considerable irritant daily on TOD. Don't be surprised if you get some less that thoughtful responses.

I suggest every time it is brought up on TOD we refer the questioner back to Matt Simmons. Let's have Matt back up his idiot idea and explain the Russian use of nuclear bombs. He created the problem, let it remain his.

You can email him at:

I'm sure he would love to answer all questions ;-)

TOD will be putting up something soon on the nuclear proposal.

Hello Ridge, X, and Joules,

I appreciate your responses and noticed Big Gav has posted something on the Nuclear option. Will take a peak.



overview of the Russion "plowshare" program:

direct link to an llnl report on Soviet "peacefull nukes":

BP representative Hugh Depland said that while the company wasn’t sure exactly when more workers would be hired, the $239 billion company was spending “a lot of money, time and effort to bring this event to a close.” And to those worried restaurateurs facing rising prices for shrimp and oysters? In the words of fellow BP rep Randy Prescott: “Louisiana isn’t the only place that has shrimp.”

This is going over real well in La.

I nominate Tony Hayward and Randy Prescott both to be included in the next Upper Class Twit of the Year Contest .... I went to skool with people like that, AND Nigel Molesworth.

As long as the fisherman/oyster men are making legitimate claims, BP is settling with them. According to the BP site, and second person reports.
Now, I haven't submitted a claim, so "I" don't personally know how well its working. I'd imagine some folks are both happy and unhappy with the results. That'd be typical. There are probably alot of claims being made that are merit less as well. It's pretty typical.
I'd wager a guess, that if the folks in Miss and louisianna had to forfeit the monies and revenues their states bring in because of the oil industry, they'd prefer to keep it. I doubt there's enough oysters in the local waters to make up the shortfall that oil not being in the economy would have on the region.
BP has promised 500 million dollars to independent research and study of the fallout of this mess, and have given a boat load of monies to the gulf states for advertising and tourism.

Meanwhile, the oysters over to my east at Apalachicola are fine. When this mess is stopped, and sampling can began off Louisiana, the biggest problem will be all of the hysterical reporting about how the seafood will be contaminated in the gulf forever.............I'd wager the folks in Louisiana, hate that even more.

BP checks are limited to $5,000. Certainly not a settlement for many claims.

More PR fluff than reality.


And if BP manages the $500 million for "research", it will be managed to avoid collecting "unwanted information". See "BP sampling" above.

Is there a different definition of independent research? I believe the whole purpose of their proposal, was to avoid just this kind of "their all a pack of liars" diatribes.
Are the $5000.00 checks a one time only deal, or is it a cap per claim, with the number of claims per person being up to the determination of circumstance?

I find it interesting that you added the .00 to the amount.

It certainly makes $5000 look bigger when you add the zero pennies but it does not pay one cent more for the utility bill.

And per local news (note last Friday was last time I watched, so difficult to deal with personally), all ANYONE has gotten, regardless of claim size or validity is just $5,000.

Now, if Google announced that they were giving $X million for independent research, I would take that at face value and think good thoughts about them.

If General Electric said it, I would give them the benefit of the doubt, but keep an eye out.

With BP, I will examine carefully each molar of that gift horse.

Just as I view the word of a nun that I know has devoted her life to charity quite differently from the word of a twice convicted felon.

See the recent claims about "no under water plumes" by the BP CEO for further justification for my skepticism.

Really, what does once expect from a twice convicted felon ?


I've read several of the comments in this thread about the lack of context in some of what Hayward has said.
I'm also smart enough to realize, that if a Shrimper or Oyster man has been deprived an opportunity to practice their trade(and have a legitimate claim), lawyers all across the country would line up to take the case(s). The history of insurance companies settling to avoid lawsuits should be example enough for the doubters. Why waste $250,000.00 to defend against a 50 or 60k claim, that'd you'd loose?

When it comes to Nun's and molars, the press in our fair country, is getting about as long in the tooth(when it comes to misrepresentations and out and out distortions) as you can get and not have their tongue turn black.

We had quite a few valid claims refused/counter offered dime or quarter on the dollar by insurance companies after Katrina.

They know that distressed people will settle for less when they are desperate.


The $75m liability cap is a good reason.

BP knows that lawyer will be helpless once the cap has been reached (which it probably has been already.

So willingly offering small settlements is a practical approach- it makes you look good and makes a repeal of the cap a little less likely.

As of last week if you worked for BP doing cleanup, the $5,000 you intially received was taken out of your check, ie you don't get paid until you've repaid the $5,000. That's not reimbursement for lost wages to date. May have changed since then.

OK, Alan. But here's the real test: Do you trust them more than R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company?

OHHAWH ! THAT is a tough one !

RJ Reynolds has had much of their arrogance beaten out of them (they just announced plans to close two cigarette plants) whilst BP is still overstuffed with arrogance, so I would say R J Reynolds is more trustworthy today.


....and GE is completely without arrogance because the messiah chooses to have their CEO sit at his right hand?

BP stated and coast guard/gov confirmed they are not one time claims but rather initial immediate dollars. Larger initial claims have a different filing process. CG is determining if claim is legitimate. With 400 claims adjusters working I assume some folks are getting helped. It took BP only a day or two after concerns arose to give tens of millions to tourist agencies for advertising. They also gave big grants to states for response at the onset of the spill. Still wonder what the payment process would be like (including reimbursement to liability fund) if this had been anyone other than the three or four largest companies operating in the Gulf. I also wonder what companies like Maersk or YPF/Repsol would have done had they been the responsible party.

Thank's for that Dan.

It probably took BP about 30 seconds to figure out that the only way to salvage anything out of this mess was going to be with an open checkbook. However, throwing money at every grifter and scam that presents itself as a claim, wouldn't do anything to help those who have really been hurt.
The point about the size of the company is well made. Insurance premiums are going to go through the roof.
Thankfu;;t the probem belongs to a large company with deep pockets.........otherwise "we'd" be cleaning this up, the way the tax payers are cleaning up GM's pension problems.

Second hand I hear BP requires tax returns to prove lost wages. Some fisherman, servers, bartenders, and businesses in general deal somewhat in cash. Now some people say they deserve what they get, but I contend this is between BP and the affected party.

Also many business owners invest heavily during the winter. If you made $20,,000 last year and bought a bigger boat this year hoping to make $40,000 you're screwed. Same with painting, oyster bed seeding, engine overhauls, etc. Practically there's no easy way to deal with this and BP should do a buyout on a sliding scale based on assets/future earnings.

Sick workers asking for a restraining order against BP. BP confiscates their clothes after they're flown to the emergency room. Workers being housed in floating hotels on the oil. Unbeleivable.

Sick workers asking for a restraining order against BP.

Oh, gag me with a spoon. From the CNN story at the link:

Tony Hayward, the chief executive officer of BP, offered another explanation for the fishermen's illness: spoiled food.

"Food poisoning is clearly a big issue," Hayward said Sunday. "It's something we've got to be very mindful of. It's one of the big issues of keeping the Army operating. You know, the Army marches on their stomachs."

An expert on foodborne illness cast doubt on Hayward's theory.

"Headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds -- there's nothing there that suggests foodborne illness," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. "I don't know what these people have, but it sounds more like a respiratory illness."

This is like Exxon Valdez all over again. Doctors at Exxon diagnosed thousands of sick cleanup workers as suffering from 'upper respiratory infections' or URI and thus was able to both deny compensation and to keep the apparent 'outbreak' from being investigated.

In 1989, according to Exxon's records, 6,722 cleanup workers reported respiratory problems representing more than half of the beach workers. In his deposition, Dr. Teitelbaum called this an epidemic, exactly what a properly functioning worker safety program should recognize and prevent. Curiously, Exxon never reported the 6,722 cases of respiratory illnesses to OSHA officials. Lacking this critical information, health officials never required long-term health monitoring of cleanup workers and concluded that Exxon's worker safety program and the OSHA safety standards protected workers.

Riki Ott is a marine toxicologist who lived in Prudhoe Bay and was there before, during, and after the Exxon cleanup. Her book Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill is a great source of information about oil cleanup. Disturbingly, many of the issues experienced in 1989 look to be repeated again, like ascribing sicknesses among cleanup workers to other 'coincidental' conditions.

There are/were many painful lessons and unresolved issues from the Exxon spill applicable today. We ignore those lessons to our peril...

Do we know how heavy/light this leaking crude is? That should have environmental relevance.

IIRC, it is called Louisiana Light Sweet. This has been a big plus regarding the evaporation etc......or so I'd

In the April 2010 release, initial testing has shown the spill to be a roofing tar spill, not a South Louisiana crude spill, which will affect cleanup strategies and procedures. More testing is being conducted.

Was watching the live feed earlier, and it appears that the plumes coming from the riser pipe on the seafloor have become larger. Is there any chance that "top kill" or "junk shot" may have made matters worse down there? And as far as Mr. Hayward's claims that no underwater plumes exist, well thats just baffling to me. Does he understand how easily that claim can be refuted? I'm sure there's a camera crew on its way out with one of these research vessels very soon who will show Mr Hayward that they do exist. I don't understand why he would say such a thing to the media.

camera angle/ elevation - higher, you can see more, tf looks larger

My understanding of this is that oil is going into the GOM because there was a human factors failure when the people on the rig neglacted to react to the increase of flow while removing the mud and a technical failure when the shear ram in the BOP failed to completely sever the drill-pipe and seal off the well.

As an engineer my experience is that when people don't pay attention accidents happen. You design as many technical solutions as you want but if people are not watching then events can go from managable to unmanagable in unpredictable ways. So the human side can only really be addressed by better management enforced through regulatory beat-downs.

That being said, I'm very curious how this disaster will change the way future BOPs are designed. Will the size and strength of the shearing rams be increased to reduce the risk of incomplete seals? Will instrumentation be added at various places to increase the amount of data the engineers have? Are these BOPs considered a mature technology with little innovation? Are there many competing suppliers with different features or is a BOP like an airplane seatbelt where they all have to be exactly the same?

I'd love to see the DFMEAs for the next BOP that gets designed...

Failure mode: Oil goes into Ocean
Failure effect: Everybody loses (and looks stupid doing it)
Severity: 12

Pinkoir noted:
Will the size and strength of the shearing rams be increased to reduce the risk of incomplete seals?

One thing that amazed me was pointed out by someone else - there is only a single set of shear rams in the BOP stack. As others have noted and not disputed, if the SRs close on a drill pipe joint they won't shear and close. Why aren't two shears used - one at the top and the second nearer to the bottom, to ensure that one of them will sever pipe and missing a joint? Seems as if redundancy is an afterthought here.

Or two adjacent pairs spaced greater than the length of the longest pipe joint.

In this video (the best photos of the riser base yet) it I think show the drill was not in the riser at the time or was ejected when the BOP shear was activated? That really does beg the question of how much drill pipe is in the BOP if any? Wow, this is the first view I have seen that lowers my hope of the drill pipe slowing the flow when re-activating the BOP shear dropping the drill into the well? Am I wrong about this? This for me was an oh no moment.

In the May 30 post on this topic (
I suggested using gaslift to capture the leaking oil and gas. Caribchild dismissed the idea: “I suspect this is not a low pressure well!”

Caribchild does not understand what I am suggesting. We know it is a very high pressure well, no gaslift needed to make it produce.

The idea is to use a gaslift pump on the oil and gas after it has left the well and is in the water at the 5000 foot depth. The natural gas is still highly compressed at that point. When it expands in the gaslift pipe, which runs down to the leak from the salvage vessel, it will reduce the pressure in that pipe relative to the seawater pressure at the entrance to the pipe at the 5000 foot depth. In other words, it is a giant chimney with a very large driving force, hundreds of psi. This will cause the flow as I described.

If this is a forum for experts, I hope some of them will comment on this idea.

I does not look like they are having success cutting away the ancillary equipment around the riser. They need a generally round section to work with their LMRP.

I wonder if cutting the bolts on the flange might make more sense. One can really see how bent the connection is between the BOP and the riser.

They will once they remove the riser, first they need an opening to allow more flow for visibility in the area.

I was wondering about that as well. I'm sure the stress on the up/high side is terrific, but if the low side bolts were cut off first, and the few bolts of the high side cut after the Riser had been chopped further down(with the shear, it seems like it'd give them a much flatter surface to mount to.

I'm not sure if the LMRP, needs the stub of the riser sticking up to help with the sealing of the grommet(support the inside) or not.

You don't need gas lift to get the oil moving to the surface.

Figure roughly 5000 ft depth * (1-.8)*62lb/ft^3 /144 in^2/ft^2 = 400 psi pressure difference across the grommet that will be installed between the LMRP cap and the BOP (to 1 significant figure). Lower pressure inside. This assumes oil with specific gravity of 0.8 with no entrained gas. You can plug in better numbers for sea water, oil specific gravity, depth. Gas in the mix will increase the pressure difference. They will have a valve at the surface ship to control the flow; they don't need to pump it.

Gearhead, I agree that if they can get the LMRP working then the problem is solved. What if they can't? The oil leak continues until August and maybe longer if the relief wells don't work. A gaslift pump could have been sucking up this leak from the beginning at vastly less expense in equipment and environmental damage.

The oil and gas industry already uses gaslift on low pressure wells. Why isn't it tried here?

Just curious...whats the status of the canal surge barriers project, the federal government has been working on in New Orleans?

For the 2011 hurricane season, we will get the protection that we were promised in 1968 by the US Army Corpse of Engineers.

Miss mash of impressive structures and holes at the moment. Every month fewer holes though.

Best Hopes for Hurricanes to the right and way to the left this year,


Oh thanks alot. I had my fill with Ivan and then Dennis. Even Katrina filled my yard full of crap from the bay.

I like that "way to the left" idea best.

You choose to live in a vulnerable city,dependent on the a government agency for efficiency and effectiveness. Had my fill of hurricanes a long time ago

Tropical depression will be enough to drown the wetlands and most of Plaquemines and St Bernard with oil......all the low lying roads will need remediation, as well as large parts of Hopedale, and Shell Beach, large parts of Terrebonne as well.

A hurricane hitting Texas such as Ike would swamp much of Terrebonne, especially the Chavin area. These areas would be red-lined as toxic spill sites and condemned for years.

Do a little research on Times Beach, Missouri. It's a park nowaday's.

I'm just guessing, but I'd say the good ole boys of the region have poured far more oil out on the ground in those areas(from servicing their cars and pickups), in the last 50 years, then will wash up and even be noticeable thanks to a hurricane.
Think about all of the vehicles that were submerged in the last 10 years all along the Mississippi watershed(or coastal hurricanes). Where do you think all of the oil that perks out of a motor(or gas from the gas tank)when it's underwater, goes?

Forest and farmland were now covered in a sheen of greasy oil. Drinking wells were polluted and people were distraught. No one knew how much oil had leaked. "We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots," said Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe and our guide. "This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months."

Puhleeeeeease! Nothing like a little journalistic licentiousness.

How do you tell when a well in Nigeria is polluted, and when it isn't. Where Nigerians distraught before this ....whatever .....happened, or just after. Heck! Whats more dangerous to a Nigerian, a polluted well or a Muslim with a machete.
Lets try and maintain some perspective.

Yes, the BP (and Shell) perspective !

After all, BP might end up hurt more than ANYONE else becasue of this little spill.

The ROVs appear to have more humanity than you do,



"We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months."

Was just reading this. Here's the worst part:

With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations. Locals blame the oil that pollutes their land and can scarcely believe the contrast with the steps taken by BP and the US government to try to stop the Gulf oil leak and to protect the Louisiana shoreline from pollution.

We're gobbling up the oil that's ruining these people's lives, squawking in outrage about our oil spill problems without giving a toss--or even knowing about--theirs.

I guess that's what's called American exceptionalism, huh?

A search would provide hundreds of similar examples.

Or modern journalism.

If you have ever used a saw to cut steel with a PLUNGE cut you can appreciate how hard this would be to do hanging in mid air. When you plunge (no starting edge) with the blade, (this case diamond blade) the blade will stick on penetration so the cut is very slow. If was directing this task, I would plunge cut at the very top an opening to relieve some of the flow for visibility. Then take the entire section off beyond the bend in order to create room to remove the riser flange. Makes sense to me. .


Please don't go into the light little guy, please!

I think the small leak at the flange near the flange bolts is a broken tube to flange weld, small of course.

Could someone please answer this question for me? I'm watching testimony of Onshore Installation Manager (OIM) to Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation. The OIM reports they did not do a "bottoms up" on 9th casing string (the final production casing, 7" x 9 7/8") prior to cementing with foam (nitrogen enriched) cement. Can someone tell me what this means, interpret this statement, why would you want to do a "bottom's up," and what does it say that they did not do one? Thanks.

Idyl - Bottoms up is the process of circulating the mud / drilling fluid from the bottom of the well back to the surface hence the term. It conditions the wellbore prior to further operations and also lets you monitor mud for possible hydrocarbon content.

idyl -- They would have circ BU before running the csg. Not a critical step before running csg. Probably would have taken 5+ hours to get BU. Would have cost about $200,000 worth of rig time. Would I have ordered BU? Can't answer that without having details of how the well had been acting. In the drilling well we have a saying: "Let the well talk to you". Is there NG leaking into the mud? Is the mud weight being cut? Is there any flow back when the mud pumps are shut off? Like many situations when drilling it's a judgment call. I wouldn't judge the decision to not circ BU without knowing those details.

we are watching little guy try and remove a piece of the kill rope that is caught in the saw arm.

Let's keep it simple. Simple fixes are always the best. Here's my idea to fix the oil gusher in 140 character format so it can be Tweeted and Retweeted.

"Oil spill: Attach a manifold with multiple hoses attached which lead to tankers. Clamp to gushing pipe. Valves in man. can close, cap leak."

I will be starting a blog for people to post their ideas for capping the leak. It will be called "Your ideas to fix the oil spill (leak) blog". Let's all pull together to find solutions to the problem and not play the blame game while the environment suffers. There will be time for that after we find the solution. After all, we are Americans and there is nothing we cannot do when we work together for good.

“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”

This isn't going to work is it?

So all you ROV watchers - when the camera is pointing upward,
there's some little thing hanging down by a cord (on the ROV).
cylindrical top part that transitions into a squarish lower section.

When up near the riser plumes it was flopping around in the induced current.

Any ideas on what it is? extra light?

11:56 CST - the feed at
After cutting off a bracket and tossing it on the sea floor, it
showed the ROV hanging the saw off a little beam projecting from its front.
Now wandering around in the dark...

I thought I saw a massive amount of oil leaking from the riser kink.....

sunny asked:
Any ideas on what it is? extra light?

Just got a better look - yep, has a bulb in it. Good call. :^)

I'm amazed at the fly-by-wire construction/deconstruction these little guys can do. Kudos to the ROV teams.

Yes, I think it's a lamp.

ROV keeps driving around at 100 ft, then going down to 12 ft and looking around. Pops back up to 100 ft. Repeat.

With everything that has or hasn't happened so far with "Top Kill" etc....I find it curious that there have been no pictures, live video feeds, something besides the "word" of BP that would confirm, without any doubt, that relief wells are actually being drilled, as reported on May 3, and "Well 2" sometime in the mid teens of may...........with BP's track record with reporting the "fact's" or any form of reality over the past month, I would think that concrete proof of the actual site(s) and relief well drilling should be made public, preferably through live feeds, details, depths, coordinates, anything to verify that they are actually being drilled.....because at this point, the public has no reason to believe they are real,and have been since early May. Food for thought....

You think maybe the Coasties and "big Gubment" are in cahoots with these pirates?

When is somebody also going to realize that none of the video shots are real? They are actually being done on a movie set. The government and BP have enlisted James Cameron to help with this cover up from which he hopes makes billion from the film that is to follow. Matt Simmons is funding the venture.

Respectfully, I wish your scenario were true, but unfortunately this situation is all to real to me, and many people I am very close to, and with what I know from first hand accounts.....I certainly hope they are and have been, independent confirmation would give our people(Louisianian's) one less thing to worry about, in addition to how so many lives are being destroyed regardless of the outcome...

If you need "concrete" prooof you can ask the Minerals Management Service for sight of the permits and engineering plans that BP submitted in late April for the 2 relief wells (under the Freedom of Information Act).

I have sympathy for your concern, but I suspect that the two relief rigs are actually real. Obama has mentioned them and I think BP would be taking a big risk hoping nobody would notice if they didn't have rigs at the incident site. They are pretty big vessels and with all of the air and sea traffic over the incident site, I am sure someone would notice that they were missing.

Also it would take a long time to build a dummy "film-set" version of the rigs on site as some posters have mentioned and BP would be running a huge risk that the "stage-prop" rigs would get damaged / soggy in the hurricane season - so I think BP have actually brought in real drill rigs for the Relief Wells despite the expense.

Since MMS should be inspecting the relief wells on a daily basis, would that also come under the freedom of information act?

that was a joke, son

Here's an idea: Instead of cutting the riser and fitting a connector to it to siphon off the oil, which BP admits won't be a perfect fit and some oil will still be leaking, how about the doing this:

Use a 20-30 foot wide tube and attach it to the ocean floor, centered over the leak. As the tube goes up its diameter can be reduced to a smaller diameter, then as it nears the surface increase its diameter to 20 feet. Then place suction tubes in the top opening and draw out the sea water to draw the oil upwards to establish a flow.

Of course, finding material to make a tube that shape may be difficult.

I've seen several variants of this (big pipe, windsock, chimney, 5000' tall boom) idea and it is the one of the unconventional ideas that I haven't been able to dismiss. Is there something I'm missing, anyone?

All of the variants include a passage all the way to the surface big enough that hydrate formation shouldn't be a problem.


1) A pipe big enough to slip over the whole BOP. No seal, instead it would rely on the lack of restriction and the heat of the oil to ensure that the oil goes up. where it is pumped from the top of the tube at the surface.

2) A porous fabric tube made out of a geotextile that confines most of the oil and guides it to the surface.

It would need a heavy base (perhaps the lower 2/3rds- the unconstricted part- of the 100 ton dome) & flotation at the top

3) Similar, but non-porous. A chimney with vents cut in the base for cooler water to escape from as the hot oil rose and displaced it.

Something obvious I'm missing?

(big pipe, windsock, chimney, 5000' tall boom) idea

Currents are the only thing I can think of, but I haven't seen anyone shoot this one down.

That has been the one thing I've wondered about.

However, it seems like something probably addressable with engineering- if the anchoring, size, permeability, cross-section shape and strength were right...

It really isn't that hard to understand really. When crude oil comes out of the ground there are petroleum liquids in the crude. Natural gas in solution, propane hydrate crystals form when the hot oil hits the cold pipe done. that is why deep drilling is the wild frontier. This blow out happened because of expanding gas. If it were easy it would have been done in 1859 when Col. Drake punched his first productive well. That is why a refined barrel of crude equals more than the total raw.

I've been wondering the same.

E.g. why don't they use several individual pipes with a large diameter (e.g. similar to the diameter of a wind turbine tower) keep them levitating/floating with petroleum filled tanks/balloons (e.g. bathyscaphe below) and align them with cables, ROVs etc. and even if they don't seal properly they should still be able to guide most of the crude flow. And if it doesn't work - it wouldn't do any harm either (e.g. as opposed to a massive detonation).

And I've also been wondering why the haven't simply tried to improve and repeat some of the concepts they've already tried.

Hardly anyone working in an R&D environment ever expects for something to work after the first try - why do they expect exactly that?

Do you remember that big white box that they placed over the end of the broken riser a few weeks back? That's pretty much the same type of thing that you are describing here. And that device failed because it got clogged with methane hydrates.

Any device you use to bring the oil/gas to the surface needs to do it in a way that prevents seawater from getting in there and mixing with the natural gas. And that's not easy to do.

No it isn't. That box narrowed at the top, creating a place for hydrates to accumulate and plug the small pipe that continued upward. These ideas all feature no narrowing. Just an open passage- wide enough and open enough to the sea that there is no back pressure- to guide the oil to a collection point at the surface.

Really more of a boom than a pipe.

The LMRP is supposed to have the means of injecting methanol to stop the formation of the hydrate crystals(ice)

and heated water

The experts posting here are saying that oil shale extraction will never become economically viable. However, it seems the reservations expressed here are not holding up Morocco from going forward with a project to extract oil from oil shale over there see, Morocco Oil Shale Deposits, an Alternative Oil Source Following Oil Spill in US Golf Thursday, May 20 2010 11:43

"the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) says that “the Moroccan authorities have decided to elaborate a new legal and attractive fiscal framework for the oil shale projects” to encourage large oil companies to invest. In 2008 ONHYM employed Brazilian state oil company Petrobras to evaluate the Timahdit deposit in the hope of confirming the studies done in the 1980s and to assess the feasibility of developing the deposit. Total has since joined this project by signing a cooperation agreement with Petrobras, stating: “Petrobras owns an oil shale extraction process [….] Total, meanwhile, has state-of-the-art oil upgrading technology and deep knowledge of the region”.
In July 2009, Irish oil company San Leon Energy announced it had signed a three-year agreement with ONHYM to use “In-Situ Vapor Extraction (IVE) technology” on the Tarfaya deposit."

Another interesting report about Shell Oil is that they have just invested $5B to purchase oil shale land in Texas, see Houston Business Journal Friday, May 28, 2010 Shell heightens shale interest in $5B deal Read more: Shell heightens shale interest in $5B deal - Houston Business Journal

My point is, that there are vast untapped reserves of oil in shale in the US, that would make the risky and dangerous drilling for oil at 5000' depths completely unnecessary plus the US would no longer be dependent on getting oil from Saudi Arabia. Seems worthwhile pursuing to me if an oil spill (like the one in the Gulf) could have been prevented if this type of technology had been more aggressively pursued in the first place like they are doing in Morocco.

The Shell story has to do with the Marcellus shale formations, and not "oil shale". The plan/desire with Marcellus is to produce natural gas. But producing natural gas from Marcellus isn't exactly easy, and lots of people are concerned about groundwater contamination.

Oil shale still has the problem that nobody knows how to produce the oil economically. Yeah, there are lots of people interested, but there are some hard problems that would need to be solved before it would ever be possible.

There have been many stories here over the years about oil shale that will explain these issues in a lot more detail. The search feature will help you find them.

Check out this series on Oil Shale by Heading Out in February-March 2010. All you ever wanted to know.

There is some confusion in terms.

Oil shale can mean rock saturated with thick hydrocarbon that must be mined to extract the oil. This is very expensive, and not very economic at today's prices. Colorado has a lot of this rock.

Oil shale can also mean rocks like the Eagle Ford in Texas. This formation has been called a "shale" traditionally, but is geologically speaking may or may not be strictly a shale. More importantly, it has highly flowable oil and gas that can be extracted with hydraulically frac'd wells, usually horizontal.

The Eagle Ford play has taken off like wild fire because companies are drilling conventional wells and many of them produce at very high rates, e.g. many millions of cubic feet of gas per day and 100's of barrels of condensate or oil per day.

The great thing about this oil leak is that it will pollute and/or destroy the ecosystem and all kinds of wildlife, etc., and the means of survival and way-of-life will yet be taken up more by corporations, privately-owned-and-operated-cum-so-called-democratic-governments and things like factory/fish farms and so forth. And the best fertile land will be all grabbed by private and/or national interests too... and protected by police and military forces-- perhaps essentially "kids with guns" who know very little or care about the history or ramifications of what they're defending.

Food security and disaster capitalism come to mind.

Ya sure, nuke the hole closed. While you're at it, nuke a few cities-- peak population and all that.

"Once upon a time, there was a species that called itself human and thought it was intelligent."

Are Pangaeans, ten feet tall, all blue with a tail?

Anyway care to reiterate the pressure differential between the cap, LMRP or whatever they are calling it, and the flow? I saw some calculations a few days ago that looked pretty unfavorable for this to workt. The engineers in Houston can come up will all the schematics they want, but those poor workers running the subs can't even get a saw to work down there.

Bottom line, I think we are maybe a week from BP and the US just throwing in the towel and dealing with the inevitable cleanup of months of flow. And by the time we finishing hacking around down there with the subs. we can expect a substantially higher flow rate as well.

I wonder if a giant balloon has been suggested. You could just attach it to the outlet as though it was a helium canister, and let the oil fill it up, and have a party.

One day, perhaps very soon, they may include you.

Interesting thought from the world's health point of view. I have had this discussion with friends, WHAT IS THE MAX POPULATION FOR THE SUSTAINABLE WORLD?
Many think we are beyond that now and a few believe only 1 billion, while some think unlimited.

Define sustainable. :)

Does sustainable mean class wars over water and food? Mutations in the genetic pool resulting in humans resembling Martians.....Darwinian selection of those able to tolerate pollution?

If that is sustainable then we have a few generations left. :)

There is a book entitled "How Many People Can the Earth Support?". The author starts out commenting that this seems like a straightforward question, like "how old are you?", but it's not. It utterly depends on your assumptions. For example, it would support more people if they were vegetarians than if they only ate the eyeballs of Siberian tigers.

What technology level? Are you assuming commercial fusion power? Are you assuming indoor plumbing? Flying cars? Shoes? Modern medicine? Las Vegas strip style lighting powered by burning firewood?

Once the Polynesian expansion was complete and humans inhabited pretty much every niche on Earth, the population was fairly stable at probably around a half-billion (give or take). It started ramping up with coal power, sanitation, and medical advances (probably a billion and a quarter or so by the turn of the last century). The half-billion was with an intact ecosystem, which we no longer have. So subtract some for degraded ecosystem, subtract some more for increased resource use per capita, add some for sustainable technology (do we actually have any of that?).

There is a book entitled "How Many People Can the Earth Support?". The author starts out commenting that this seems like a straightforward question, like "how old are you?", but it's not.

How many animals can a factory farm process or how many people can a prison support?
Maybe 'support' or 'sustainable' are not necessarily the best or only words for what matter.

idle thoughts on wellbore surveys and how to work out where the original well is and how to guide the RW to the original well

a wellbore survey is the location of the wellbore in reference to its geographic grid (essentially a Cartesian 3D space where the exact location of the hole is determined with relation to the wellhead using certain sensors).....there are two parts to this ....first is the inclination (which refers to its inclination form a true vertical) and the second is the azimuth (direction with respect to the grid) ....these measurements at taken repeatedly at the instantaneous to collect information of where the bit is at anytime.....this can be used to generate a 3D plot of the wellbore....most common sensors used here are multi-axis gyroscopes where the where the primary axis of reference is the spin-axis aligned with the BHA axis...two further axis are aligned in an orthogonal setup in relation to the spin-axis and to to each this gyroscope can be rotated physically in the BHA and knowing the original spin-axis alignment multiple offset axis can be created essential to accuracy when the dog-leg severity of the wellbore is any higher than 4 degrees/100ft.
the other important sensor here is the accelerometer (each BHA has 2 of thse) and each has two axis ...the primary aligned to the BHA-axis while the other is orthogonal....each of these sensors again has the capability to be physically rotated in high dog-legs and off-set axis generated as that you know where the well is in relation to the wellhead at any point you can attempt a relief well using directional drilling...

now all this has to be corrected for depth as the earth's magnetic field interferes with all instruments and the deeper you go the more it interferes.....while it is relatively easy to correct ....very small errors at the instantaneous add up when you are talking 20000 odd feet of present accuracy is such that a 10ft radius ball can theoretically be hit with a confidence interval of 90%.....but in pratice its another story...and the accuracy is a function of multiple parameters.....amount of trace iron or other magnetizable elements in the wellbore like cobalt , nickel...the compaction of the formation and many actual accuracy is a little less than the the Mississippi delta has above average iron in the formation...something that doesn't help

Care to comment of the stuck drill problem that this well had. I think it was stated they had to "abandon and deviate". Did they just cement in the stuck pipe and go off to the side from higher up the well? I assume this occurs before casing is set and the drill gets a good ways down into un-cased hole that collapses, trapping the bit.

Does this cause any trouble running casing down into the deviation?

Is this a common problem?

stuck pipe happens in drilling ops and the only thing to do is what was done in this instance.. ...the cause is known as differential sticking ...again a function of delta P ...

i can't comment without reading the daily drill reports and looking at the logs ...and i don't think any engineer will without knowing more...

drilling is a reactive process listen to what the well is telling you and you go accordingly...

IP -- When they stick DP they'll "back off" (unscrew) at the highest "free point" they can find. Then set a cmt retainer on top of the end of the DP and dump cmt on it. When the cmt hardens they'll "sidetrack" to a new hole. Sometimes they set a "whip stock": an angled metal wedge that will push the bit away from the original hole. They'll "walk the bit" away slowly so they don't develop a severe "dog leg" (too big an angle). A severe dog leg could make running the next string of csg difficult.

Thanks RM. Is one more likely to stick a DP when in a hurry to complete? Or is it just that unanticipated changes in pressure and strata sometimes bite you no matter what you do?

the technical reason for stuck pipe is buckling of the DP string....more specifically helical buckling....its hard to visualize DP buckling but that's why a long length of DP is called a DP String because essentially a 20000ft of DP will behave like a piece of stretched string under DP buckles.....comes in contact with the formation and differential sticking takes care of the rest

but yes increasing ROP increases buckling which leads to stuck pipe.....

sometimes stuck pipe happens and the only explanation is shit happens

IP -- I don't ever recall DP being stuck during a comletion phase. Usually it's a result of not balancing the mud weight against formation pressures. But there also some rock intervals in the GOM that are noted for their stickyness and instability. We actually have an official name for such shales: gumbo. When you say you're having problems with gumbo everyone knows exactly what you're talking about.

Good summary ali. Stay handy...folks will need your input when the RW's get close.

Thar she be. The LMRP

And she seems to have a twin sister!

Seriously, live feed at 15.19 seemed to show TWO very similar but not identical objects on mud mats next to each other.

The closest one is labelled TH5-LMRP

Couldn't see the label on the other.

twin is the spare BOP from the 2nd relief well?

no, not a BOP

OK for those that missed it, the device labelled 'TH5-LMRP' , which is the one that has been lifted away (presumably off towards the wellhead)

looked just like the nifty BP graphics we have seen.

Its sister, which was left behind, was very similar, except it didn't have the opening that you could see the seal through.

e.g. the lower cylinder was complete, not in two parts with a gap between.

I guess, two different models depending on how the top of the BOP connector looks when they get that *****ing band cut off?

And, unless I imagined it, both of them seemed to have opposing longitudinal slits in their riser-pipe sections. I could swear you could see right through it. But, hey I guess we'll see what they're for pretty soon. (my money is firmly on an 'oil-release-into-the GOM' function, given evidence to date....)

I see the ROV playing with a dead mouse on a string. And some intestines, and magneto's hat is floating around too. The ROV is cute and should star in a disney movie.

Are they about to place the thing? Is the riser already cut off? Anyone have a better description than dead mouse on a string?

she looks more like she's in a cart on the way to guillotine ... she looks lonely and more than a little distraught

You would look forlorn too, if success meant 15,000 barrels of oil flowing through your various holes, and failure meant a lifetime of solitude on the bottom of the gulf (next to "Mr. Hat" and "Mr. Dome.")


those might have been oarfish - passing through 1500-1000'

Technically, that is NOT the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP). The LMRP is a huge thing that is clamped to the top of the BOP stack and has a flex joint that connects it to the first section of riser. At least when I was doing deep water work, the LMRP had an annular BOP as well.

What you are seeing is the Top Hat fitting that they will try to slip over the cut-off riser.

What we see when the riser is cut off will be interesting: Will ALL of the flow be coming out through the drill pipe stub, the annulus, or both?

Back to activity at the wellhead - can someone confirm that what we were looking at here is the new marine riser, resting on mud blankets(?), ready to be deployed over the spewing gusher once the bottom end of the marine riser has been cut away from the top of the BOP?

A couple of other questions about what we might see in the next day or two.
Do we actually know whereabouts they intend to cut the riser?

As others have commented it would seem intuitively that as soon as the cut gets to the oil flow, the ROVs are going to be engulfed in crude and unable to see anything (not to mention violently forced away from their stations.) I'm also interested to see how they work around the risk of the residual bending moment causing the steel to fracture before the cut's complete, and the risk of damage to the ROVs.

According to the BP site, they plan to cut the Riser with a shear about 50 or so feet from the BOP, and then use the wire hacksaw thingie just above the flange where the Riser bolts to the BOP.

Thanks, kicking myself for not looking there first.

..includes nice (BIG) graphics showing the plan. Cutting the riser free: (700 Kb)

Installing LMRP Cap: (1.6 Mb)

CNN feed: Lowering the new jack top hat thingee down in a rectangular basket. The ROV with the bad mofo saw is keeping tabs on it as it descends.


What. Is that the old one going up? Or the new one going back up?

There is no old one. This part was made to solve this problem. They may have made an alternate. Don't know.

Hope they remembered the grommet.


It's going back up for something.

Maybe they forgot the BP logo.

There is a quite a bit of wrong / mixed-up terminology in a lot of the posts in this thread re LMRP, Top-Hats etc, which will make it even harder for readers to follow.

I hope that you don't mind me clarifying the names a little:

LMRP - the top bit of the BOP stack that connects the riser and usually also contains an annular(s). It looks like BP intends to insert a second one of these suspended at the bottom of the new riser, with the "LMRP Cap" latched on to the bottom of it.

Top Hat - the open containment dome. There is a big TH - failed, and a little TH - not tried - still down there.

LMRP CAP - the tool that will be placed on top of the old LMRP once the damaged riser is cut off. The new LMRP should then latch on to the top of the LMRP Cap to make a connection to the new riser. LMRP Cap is not the same as the containment domes (Top Hats) as the cap will attempt to make a seal with the LMRP / Riser stub. BP have placed two (and possibly more) slightly differently engineered LMRP Caps on the seabed to cover different outcomes once the old riser is removed.

I guess one of the positive notes on this is, that Deep Water Horizon didn't come down and heap on top of the well head. If it had, all of this top kill and LMRP would be academic.

just saw the ROV hook up lines to a basket containing the cap.

Would there be any forensic value in trying to recover parts of the Deepwater Horizon? Or do we already know enough relevant informationn that it would not be worth the expense?

first time I see the rov out of water..

Choke & Kill lines now being cut away from the outside of the riser by the ROV disk cutter. Should leave access for the band saw to cleanly clamp on the riser.

Did you see them tightening the nut on the blade?

Choke & Kill lines now being cut away from the outside of the riser by the ROV disk cutter. Should leave access for the band saw to cleanly clamp on the riser.

I think that saw is an OSHA violation.

Probably voids the insurance, too.

More blade lubricant Scotty! I'm given ya all I got Cap'n!!

i can hear the operator swearing

Having seen the nature of the damage to the riser at the first bend I think that my primary approach would have been to use the video imagery to make a CNC machined 2 part reinforcing form with reliefe valve to clamp around the damaged riser pipe. This would have have reinforced the pipe while covering the cracks in the pipe in a way that would have allowed the flow from that part of the damaged pipe to be progressively clamped off. The second part would have been to use hydraulic jaws to crimp off the the trailing end of the riser laying on the sea floor. I don't know how tough the drill pipe is from a squeezing point of view. This would have then made it possible to progressively reduce the oil flow and collect the oil from the valve in the reinforcing clamp body. The increased backpressure would then have made the top kill a better proposition.

That is my inexpert non oil guy thinking. Computer modelling of the shape of the bent riser pipe above the well head gizmo would be fairly accurate using the video to take measurements from, allowing the CNC machining from solid steel blocks a good close fit to the damaged pipe.

1645 hrs. Tuesday EST US

I wonder if the big shears failed to cut through the riser pipe. Seemed like all day the shears were chomping away only making a dent. A mile of hydraulic line probably doesn't make for much power at the end.

The little bots are down there right now cutting away with their skill saws. Those ROV operators are quite amazing.

I am wondering why , instead of cutting the riser off the flange, they do not remove the flange completely by un-bolting it.
This would give a nice clean surface to work with, and a new sliding gate can be installed using the bottom face of the remaining flange for a bracket system, holding a sliding gate, to be slid on.
All of the dimensions on the flange must be known, so a reasonably tight seal could result?

I reallise that this assumes that they can cut the drill pipe off (if it is still there?) flush with the flange, but mechanically those guys seem pretty competent!!

I am wondering why , instead of cutting the riser off the flange, they do not remove the flange completely by un-bolting it.
This would give a nice clean surface to work with, and a new sliding gate can be installed using the bottom face of the remaining flange for a bracket system, holding a sliding gate, to be slid on.
All of the dimensions on the flange must be known, so a reasonably tight seal could result?

I reallise that this assumes that they can cut the drill pipe off (if it is still there?) flush with the flange, but mechanically those guys seem pretty competent!!

I doubt the ROV would have the leverage or the strength to unbolt the flange bolts/nuts. Those bolts are hammered on. ie. a wrench with a blunt end where someone holds the wrench, and another guy pounds on the blunt end with a sledge hammer to tighten the nut.

..Good points. But they could clamp the flange and cut the bolts?
Anyway, most interesting to see the current operation. Really hope they can control it.