The BP Deepwater Oil Spill - Why Top Kill May Have Failed and Monday Open Thread 2

Please transfer discussion to

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

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

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

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

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

Simple approximation of the situation

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

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

Casing and cement down the Deepwater well

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

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

BOP open allowing flow through the annulus (ASME )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ram layout on the BOP (Times Picayune)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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yup, about time i donated something to this site. been here a couple of years. haven't donated yet, cause i promised my children that i would not donate something to folks i never seen, or that come to my door. When you get my age you will get that lecture too. just talked to my daughter and told her i was going to send your folks a few pennies. She knows, cause i tell her about all the marvelous things i learn here and that it is like PBS, which she approves. going to come in the mail though. So be patient. We will be writing checks in the next couple of days. They don't trust me on the computer. You know credit card and that sort of stuff. Thanks for a very valuable service. Many of my old friends are gone. like to think of ya'll as sort of....

Rube: Ain't this Internet thing great? It keeps our old minds alive and active. I gladly have and will pay money for that. Once in a while, I think about what life would be like now for me without it. And, just like the great New Yorker cartoon: "Om the internet, no one knows your a dog." I don't even have to wear my teeth. I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend. Keep safe. And keep posting. We have something to say. E L

E L, I was thinking this exact thing! That places like this keep our minds agile as we grow older! "Energy and our Future" - it's also about "mental energy" - and nothing like good conversation to keep those neurons happy on both sides of the brain.

Kudos again to this wonderful community! To its moderators and its contributors. I think you've done wonders coping with all the new people and trying to sort out the wheat from the weeds among us newbies.

TheraP: I've had to drop the "er" from "older." But that doesn't make any difference at All I can say for sure to one and all: DONATE, DONATE, DONATE what you can. We're all going to need the five steps of grief counseling as we move through Peak Oil. We're still in denial as a nation, er... make that planet. Next, dealing with planetary anger. Stay safe and keep commenting TheraP. This Peak Oil/grief thing is not gonna be easy. E L

Again, Thank you...

The top kill failed because you have an open pipe below exerting a large pressure upward. You have several smaller orifices through which the mud is (was) being pumped at a lower pressure, lower flow. At the top, you have a bent over pipe with several leaks in it, there is another leak in the riser pipe and the originaly broadcast footage was of the open end of the riser pipe.

Essentially - for those of you famliar with plumbing, you had a small hose running into one side of T, a well with nearly four miles of dirt/rock and a mile of ocean above pushing down on it running into the bottome side, and then a hole on the top side of the T of unquantified size.

I've heard several estimates of the flow rates, from a total of 5,000 barrels a day to an estimate by a Purdue fluids PhD of 70,000 barrels a day (+/- 16,000 barrels) running out the open end of pipe. They didn't show much footage of the bent riser pipe or the other break until they (BP) stated they were getting 5,000 barrels a day into a ship. We need three live feed cameras, not one to properly estimate flow.

I would not be one bit surprised if we find out that there was 125,000 barrels a day rushing into the GOM at the peak. Once they remove the kink in order to lower the LMRP on top, I wouldn't be surprisedd if the flow increases to 150,000 barrels per day.

I do agree with others that it will be very difficult to accurately lower the LMRP onto the cut pipe, and when that is actually done, I wouldn't be surprised that the thing pop's straight off.

When CNN had the fluids PhD on giving his estimate, it came to light that the riser pipe is 22" around - with a 1" pipe thickness, 20 inches of flow. It is easy to see that the flow was easily over a barrel a second. What is not easy to tell is how much of the flow was oil with methane entraped in the fluid.

What was the mud pumping capacity? If the mud pumping capacity was not equal to the leakage rate, "Top Kill" would fail straight away.

"Top Kill with Junk Shot" failed because the holes in the riser pipes were too big and the junk just went right through. The valves through which the mud flowed were smaller than the holes in the riser pipe making it impossible to send junk down big enough to plug these holes.

This is good and bad news. It seems the only hole though which the oil is flowing is right up the drill pipe, not through the annular between the well pipe and the drill pipe. We still do not know if the footing of the wellhead/BOP is strong enough to hold the well down under full pressure. The whole BOP could pop right off if shut, or shut too quickly.

Even worse, depending on what layer of rod/clay/sediment the leak is actually occuring at, the changes in flow when trying to stop or slow the flow may result in fracturing, quickened errosion, and larger and less controlable leaks.

This does not mean that the Gulf can sit around and wait for the releif wells to be completed.

It does mean that - should blowing up the hole, nuclear or conventional - be tried, it should be tried sooner rather than later so as not to effect the drilling of the two or three relief wells that will eventually inject mud and concrete into the base of the well to completely kill it.

Dumping Redimix is an issue. How long does it take for the concrete to begin to really set-up? If it is still in the downpies or in the only valves they have access to on the BOP when it sets-up, then the problems will be compounded. Also 3,000 PSI Redimix will not hold back 7,500 PSI oil.

If the LMRC can be placed properly, the "Top Kill" mud could be shot down the hole and recirculated again with (hopefully) much lower leakage rates. We may find that one we put a couple miles of mud and a mile of concrete on top of the oil, it will stay put.

The best case would be to drop the drill pipe and find that the sheer actually closes and the top kill culd be done without leakage out the top, other than perhaps the methane gas sneaking by. Depending on the types of plugs available, perhaps even the methane could be held down.

One does not have to be an expert in the oil field to understand the basics of what is going on down there once explained. It is simple if one has a scientific education and has worked on many different kinds of systems in one's life.

One thing for sure, this hasn't happened to Chevron, Petrobras or others carrying out deep water/deep strata drilling and Transocean had a perfect safety record on the Horizon until now. The only actor that seems to have a lot of accidents is BP - not to say that Tranocean should have told the greenhorn at BP to shut up and listen to the experts on the rig.

Safety procedures certainly have to be written into law and enforced by inspection. Accident still may happen.

Maybe a dollar per gallon tax will cover the costs of experts to sit on their hands until the next accident. Maybe an additional dollar per gallon tax will get Americans to invest in more efficient and less environmetally damaging forms of transportation and energy production. (Good luck with that - right?)

We must remember that the "relief wells" may not do the trick, either. Months away-- they(2 drillings so far)need to hit the exact drill point that opened these hell gates. That is, the drills have to slant drill some 19000 ft. or more below the floor bed itself and interface with a 7-9 inch bore at unbelievable psi!!
The relief wells themselves could interface with a zone which, by August, has been blasted into a much wider hole, which will include ancient geological debris, etc. In theory, at least, this roaring wound may be unstoppable by us mere mortals.
A question arises: As per Albert Camus, are we facing the void in a silent, unaswering universe?

I wonder how much control they will have at the BOP connection. I understand they don't expect a perfect seal with the "grommet" so I expect they will try to keep some positive pressure inside the "hat" relative to the ocean pressure. If they can control the pressure in the "hat" closely, they can minimize the leakage, however if they get a negative pressure, they will suck in seawater and may block the whole thing with hydrates.

I expect the entire thing to be filled with methanol before they try a connection.

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.

If the main issue is partially sheared pipe, then I think once the riser is cut away and the shear rams (and any VPRs that are partially closed) opened, the DP could be poked downhole from the top of the LMRP without needing to get inside to cut it away at the shears.

I would think that once the marine riser and the drill pipe stub is exposed, the drill pipe could be dropped downhole by releasing the pipe ram and/or the shear ram. Next, it would be possible to remove the riser stub from the riser adapter and stab in with a new riser with a valve above the adapter.

I am not conversant in sub-surface BOP's but I would imagine that it would be necessary to add weight to the riser adapter and turn right to ultimately release it when the drilling operations have been completed and prior to the retrieval of the BOP stack.

Is this correct?

given that the DP has no tool tip on it, i wouldnt think turning would be necessary.

for that matter assuming we can reasonably manipulate the DP, it would probably be easier to lift it several feet, cut the top foot or two then drop it back down. though considering the pressures at the well head i'm not sure that would be possible, further more as i understand it the Shear rams are believed to be damaged.

If peeps are going to be mucking about with the drill string, why not connect drill pipe from the surface to it and push the bit of pipe to the bottom of the well and kill it with mud?

If the oil/gas is gushing out of the drill pipe, the check valves on the kill and choke lines can be opened enough to reduce prssure/flow out of the drill string so more pipe can be added to it. Once the drill pipe is connected ordinary mudding practices will stauch flow up the casing. More drilling mud or concrete can be pumped into the well through the choke and kill lines.

The more I read the more likely it is the flow is mainly coming up the drill pipe through the BOP. That means the casing below the drill string @ 3,000 feet below the ocean floor can withstand reservoir pressure safely. This conclusion can be made if the drill string is the leak as the top kill temporarily sealed both the drill string and the upper casing(s) above 3,000 feet.

Now, get to work!

Wow steve, you wanna kill another 11 people trying to do that? If so than Get to work!

Please read: Open the check valves on the kill and choke lines on the BOP to relieve pressure on the well.

Read this, too:

WELL CONTROL Ultra-deepwater blowouts - how could one happen

Published: Jan 1, 1997

Options are limited, so prevention and fast action are critical

Larry H. Flak
Boots & Coots


The flow path up the parted drill string has been common to many sustained blowouts. Bridging is less likely as flowing pressure is high and limited formation exposure to the flow path. Drill string restrictions and fracture pressure at the flow exit depth control flowing pressure. Similar blowouts have occurred in the past onshore and offshore, but not as of yet in ultra-deepwater. The key is always plugging the bottomhole assembly prior to a drill string back-off. Blowouts are possible when cement is over-displaced out the bit in an attempt to plug only a limited portion of the drill string. The operator mistakenly treats well as if drill string is plugged. One solution is to inject materials that would plug the bit with cement or place a wiper plug behind the cement that sets up on some restricted ID to control cement over-displacement.

I think the risk is manageable if there is enough drill pipe in the hole and mud flows to the bottom and back up the production casing to the BOP. Then a concrete plug can be set prior to having the entire casing plugged with concrete.

While we are on the subject of top kill I wonder why BP just didn't pump ordinary redi- mix concrete into the hole? Slump one or two @ 6" concrete lines from the surface and the well would be filled with gravel up to the point where the drill string ended and solid concrete above. A gallon of 5,000 psi concrete weighs about 20 lbs.

I expressed concern on the earlier thread about cutting the DP loose and letting it drop (several thousand feet) to the bottom. It's a heavy sucker. What damage could it do? Would it interfere with drilling-in the relief well?

the question Mr G is; 'Drop or Pop'? Nobody knows! The blind rams might be holding the DP in place with all the oil and gas blowing through it.

Some people think it might pop out of the well and rocket out of the water, like Moby Dick.

Some other people think it might skedaddle to the bottom and have to be fished out. Nobody knows becuase nobody can guess what is up with the BOP.

Are the shear rams on top or on the bottom? Did the SR's cut the riser, production casing and drill string? Can the SR's be fiddled with manually?

Did the annular work? Did the blind rams work? Is the drill string hard tool steel or softer mild steel? Without knowing exactly what the various components are and what worked and what didn't the exercise is just that?

Doesn't matter much anyway as the real solution is the relief wells and us just talkin' you know what I mean?

My call would be to leave the DP where it is. Too many unknowns (as you made clear) and it may be reinforcing the BOP. These new pictures (of how contorted the BOP is) tell me they need to go easy. For all we (they) know, the DP is all that's holding things down.

The BOP on the sea bed right now is highly compromised, was questionable to begin with (and they knew it) and attached to a set of casing that has had a non-functioning (burning, sinking, floundering) very large drill ship torquing on it for two days via the riser, and has sustained a blowout, whatever erosion is still taking place, and had junk blown into it repeatedly, plus the strain of this wild well. It's probably not a good idea to do anything with it other than pray it doesn't shoot off like a pop gun, or just fall off like one of those tall wax candles that Zorro is always slicing thru in the movies.

Cutting the drill pipe any any point adds to the risk of that pipe falling to the bottom of the well and fracturing whatever is there - a concrete seal, supposedly but who knows for sure. Any of these actions could lead to a greater pressure wild well spewing into the gulf. I'd hate to see that entire drill pipe string shooting up the riser and into the bright blue sky like Spindletop.

It's fine to speculate about what might work, but shutting in the well via THIS BOP sounds extremely risky to me. If there were a way link a riser to it, and i know they are saying they will try - they ought to also think about later encasing the whole original BOP in cement somehow as a next step. The damn thing is broken, and could fail at any point.

As you gents build you BOP/DP scenarios, one perhaps worth considering is that there is a section or two of production liner up in the BOP. Brainstorming that might be interesting.

A 20" + riser squished like that? Wow that footage is amazing today.

Look at the rate that Oil is coming out of them holes. Wow thats a huge volume. 20 000 bbls seems about right IMO.

Im going to hate to see the flow rate once they cut the riser below that huge restriction. Its going to be ripping into the ocean at 100 000 bbls a day. Anyone have a clue how they are going to land this LMRP? As soon as they get it close to that amount they arent going to be able to see anything? I think its going to be impossible to land that over that little piece of pipe.

No kidding! Now that we're getting a 360 deg view of the riser just look at how much oil is coming out the "backside," i.e. the side of the riser we didn't see during the top kill. It's spectacular, in a gruesome sort of way. My god, and to think, even more oil is coming out of the busted pipe end.

So there's been a ~1 hr long dance with the this rope the ROV is holding... anyone know what's going on?

What would that do to the DP? Still whole, or busted?

when cutting with a saw the item to be cut should not vibrate unduly. Therefore the wrap/tie. Notice when the cutting is getting done, the other arm is pulling on the line to keep it taut. Blades can shatter, being its no doubt a diamond tipped blade its pricy

Has anyone ever worked with a well under pressure before ie Snub?

One will learn really fast that a BOP means Blow out Preventer. The key word is Preventer. You start opening and then trying to close them rams or bag with out being equalized you might as well just be doing your work without BOP's on. The rubbers on them rams blocks would be so far gone it would be trying to close a block that isnt going to seal anything. Come on now people think just a little tiny bit?

Just heard on CNN that they won't be attempting it until sometime between Wednesday and Saturday. They have one on standby that is a little different design should the first one not work out.

I have been following the Deepwater Horizon story from a bit of a distance. I am not an oil man or oil industry expert by any means. But seeing the multiple failed efforts to plug the leak, along with the continued low-balling of estimates of the magnitude of the leak on the part of BP and the U.S. Federal government, I can't help but be a bit skeptical about a few things. To me it seems that BP's efforts are constrained by its desire to protect its profits from damage at all costs. I think they're just dinking around. I wonder - not that I think this would ever happen in our country at present - but what if money was no object; how quickly could this leak be stopped?

By "stopped" I mean stopped - without any regard for whether BP could use this well afterward. How could it be that "money was no object" in stopping the leak? One of two ways - either assume that BP has unlimited resources, or assume that a government (such as the U.S. government) had the guts and the strong moral sense to seize BP's assets and liquidate the company entirely in order to pay for the quickest and most effective means of stopping the leak. In other words, someone with a backbone and means of enforcement would have to make BP an "offer they couldn't refuse." What sort of engineering solutions would be available then? And how quickly could they be implemented?

It's an academic question to be sure, since it's not going to happen. But considering such a question would at least provide us with a "delta" between what could happen if those in charge really wanted to stop this mess versus what's happening now.

Americans have long had an unswerving belief that technology will save us — it is the cavalry coming over the hill, just as we are about to lose the battle. And yet, as Americans watched scientists struggle to plug the undersea well over the past month, it became apparent that our great belief in technology was perhaps misplaced.

What people forget is that even when technology works it doesn't work like in the movies.

In real life things just take days, weeks, months, even years to actually do. Those pesky laws of physics and causality keep getting in the way of having your problem fixed Right Now. In real life Scotty can't change the laws of physics no matter how much he might wish to.

The kill wells will fix the problem within a matter of a few months, which is pretty darned quick given the history of past blowouts and the technical difficulties involved in working at these depths.

If anything at all works between now and then we are talking technological miracle territory, and as has been said before: "If you rush a miracle worker, you get lousy miracles".

Hi TH,

Due to damage in the well, this well can never be used to produce oil again.

TH, I know you said your not a oil man or a expert and you really should of stopped there.

You think that BP just loves this well ripping into the ocean that they have to eventually clean up? You dont think they have the best professionals in the world working on this thing right now?

Every thing they have tried, they have a very small chance of really working is the honest to god truth. They know 1 thing. The relieve wells will work. They have minimum 2 months to try as many things in the meantime to hold out hope that they are going to get this thing limited and then they can progress with the clean up efforts. Really sad story, but to think someone else could do a quicker and easier job without know the oil and gas industry is just being silly IMO.

"Really sad story, but to think someone else could do a quicker and easier job without know the oil and gas industry is just being silly IMO."

And yet, often we typically are pleased when knowledgeable people with fresh eyes but little domain experience come in.

Think Steven Chu.
Think Feynman and the Challenger.
Think Emperor's new clothes

Yes, I understand that us noobs have overrun The Oil Drum. But just telling people that asking questions is silly, is well, not the way to raise signal to noise ratio.

"Yes, I understand that us noobs have overrun The Oil Drum. But just telling people that asking questions is silly, is well, not the way to raise signal to noise ratio."

Yes, Im a noob on TOD, even though a long time lurker. I just thought I could pass on a little help having killed 1000's of wells and working on (drilling and service) rigs for many many years.

I just couldnt help myself when someone says they know no nothing about the industry than make big assumptions. Ill refrain myself and stick to the just commenting on the expertise that I know.

I have been involved in some offshore crisis in the drilling business. Fortunately all ended up OK and much was learned by our company. My feeling is that this crisis has likely been very poorly managed by BP due to the intense management, government, and public pressure. There are far too many experts involved to make sensible, timely decisions. I cannot blame BP. i have seen this in action, albeit on a smaller scale. In all cases, once management see what was happenning and assigned the right focussed group to solve and carry out the solution, it got solved. All the others are put away somewhere else where they can do less damage. Don't get me wrong. There are no doubt some world class experts but they need to assmeble a small team with the right skills and then give them the authority to get the job done and problem solved. I think BP should have been where they are 3-4 weeks ago.

And don't forget - relief wells can take several attempts. Luck has a lot to do with it. Yes, a relief well may eventually work but it can take a very long time and many attempts. We need to get 100% of this oil diverted to a tanker now and not wait for a releif well to get there.

By "stopped" I mean stopped - without any regard for whether BP could use this well afterward. How could it be that "money was no object" in stopping the leak? One of two ways - either assume that BP has unlimited resources, or assume that a government (such as the U.S. government) had the guts and the strong moral sense to seize BP's assets and liquidate the company entirely in order to pay for the quickest and most effective means of stopping the leak.

Going over extremely well-covered ground can be tiresome indeed - we could discuss whether it is "silly" as well. Firstly, it has been well enunciated on here (repeatedly) by many experienced posters, that the well will be closed permanently, and that BP's strategies are not (cannot be) based on a desire to re-use the well for production. I suggest new posters read some history on here first.

Secondly, the US Government cannot just seize the entire assets of BP (or any number of its subsidiaries), and it makes it a lot harder when BP is not even a US-registered company. The President (and other layers) are subject to the rule of law, and if they wish to sue BP in the future, then there are procedures for doing that, and buckets of lawyers to assist. This has also been discussed here at length.

The idea that BP is withholding some efforts on the basis of costs is pure nonsense. Your analysis is just not credible. I hope it is better applied when you are on whatever the day job is. This well will never be used for producing oil. And neither will the relief wells.

The answer would be the length of time to drill the relief well. Sorry for the answer .. have been on exactly one Project prior to working Offshore and Subsea Projects with unlimited budget and a lot of government "opening of doors" .. rebuild of Angus Nitroparafin Plant .. producer of 90% of nitro for jet fuels (and more mundane racing car fuel) in the world. Plant blew .. we did total tear out/analysis of remaining plant/design/procurement/rebuild in 6-1/2 months .. normal time for this type project 18-24 months. They would of been out of jet fuel way before then which is why we got "open doors", the air force without fuel if you get my drift.

Money can only do so much .. can't drill faster. You have shops, engineers, riggers basically on 24 hours shifts now, have the top people from every country/company on loan/24hr call.

Used to use the pregnancy problem .. making 9 women pregnant will not get you a baby in one month to explain this .. more people, more money does not always work.

What determined how many relief wells to dig?

I do believe that BP would gladly write a $1B check to stop the leak, and that they have they have the best technical talent working on it. But there are still some cost issues.

The costs to sort this out are currently estimated to be more than the total annual GDP of the majority of countries in the world.

I'm not sure if that is "money was no object", but it certainly is not "dinking about".

Right from the start BP volunteered to pay for everything although they could have hidden behind a $75m cap for the clean-up. Also contrast the actions of most of the other companies involved (and for that matter US gov agencies) - nothing to do with us and/or filing for limited liability protection in court.

I am certainly not saying BP are great, but uninformed witch-hunts without a trial are just not helpful.

Nope, TH. I'm not an oil person either but I am in an industry that includes much technology. The folks working on this issue are putting forward a first-class effort. I've done a lot of technical projects myself and it takes one to know one I guess but I surely don't have any complaints re their work.

TH, as others have said you ARE seeing an all-out, best minds on the task, no expense spared effort to stop the oil from flowing into the Gulf.

Here is the tragedy - a very bad accident has happened (killed 11 good, hard working people right off the bat) and the best technology and information that can be brought to bear is just WAY short of being more than minimally effective. The proven route to fix the mess is drilling relief wells down to the bottom of this one and filling it full of cement. Too bad that to do this safely will take a couple of months. We (our collective oil consuming society) have been drilling oil and gas wells in water so deep that there is no technological fix when an accident happens. The technology to drill the wells and recover gas and oil has been developed to the point that we can drill 5,000 deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico mostly without incident BUT when the 5,000 and 1st blows out it becomes crystal clear that there has been no similar improvement in the technology to mitigate an accident. When the Ixtoc well blew out in 1979 basically the same set of tools was used trying to bring it under control - with similar results - and that well was in only 160' of water.

Undoubtedly that will now change - and the changes will benefit the industry and public world-wide, but it took this highly visible catastrophe right off the American coast for people here in the States to understand the risks that were being taken with our common resources in order to keep our oil-driven economy afloat. Tragic isn't it?

Now we can all watch a bunch of cute robots and their operators struggle to deal with a very very difficult problem, and any thing they try may end up allowing that oil to leak out faster. The current operation will certainly increase the rate of flow, but it may allow them to be able to capture most of the oil and gas - if it works. If they just sit back and wait for the relief wells to be drilled the oil will continue to leak faster and faster anyway. So we should all wish them luck, and after all, they really are working for the collective 'us'.

TH, as others have said you ARE seeing an all-out, best minds on the task, no expense spared effort to stop the oil from flowing into the Gulf.

Perhaps we need to be a little more temperate here ... for weeks now we have heard that the "best minds" and the brightest professionals are on the task. Well, I think it should be qualified to (perhaps) "the best technical expertise in the off-shore oil industry", or something similar.

When I went to university (back in the dark ages), the brightest and best certainly did not go anywhere near the mining and energy sectors (despite the 70s boom) - they became surgeons, lawyers, dentists, history professors, stockbrokers, architects, whatever ... so perhaps BP has access to the best geologists, engineers, and well-drilling technicians ... let's hope so. Would have to be more useful than having a lot more lawyers.

A lot of really bright people went into economic geology, chemistry, and related fields back in the '70s anyway, and people with a technical bent don't become lawyers/brokers/bankers and the like - aerospace maybe.

Nice to see your more temperate post.

My post was more than temperate ... I'm certainly not insulting those working on this issue - I'm sure they have great expertise indeed in their field. But the oil industry is but one area where some of the best and the brightest might go, and I think it's a bit of a stretch to over-state their brilliance, compared to the rest of the world's bright people. No-one doubts their intellectual and technical best endeavours, of course.

"My post was more than temperate" I was agreeing.

Your qualification noted and entirely appropriate.

The technical fixes being attempted - mitigation of the flow of oil, relief wells - are something the industry is good at. That said, the problem is that this stuff should have been worked out 30 years ago, but it takes a highly visible catastrophe near American shores that is directly damaging to people in the States for both the industry and the public here to figure out that this has been an accident waiting to happen - and that it has been happening elsewhere all along but nothing was done about it.

The spill response is abysmal though - nothing sexy about cleaning up an oil slick and the technology is antiquated and the effort poorly coordinated.


OMG why hasn't anyone thought of this yet?

Just recruit some dentists and history professors and several dozen whatevers, then we really will have the best minds working on this! I'm gonna email this to BP right away.

LOL - yes, dentists could apply some serious Novocaine to the BOP and solve everything painlessly! Would work - and then you pay the bill. Might need some orthodontics as well, just to beef up the profit margin.

No - my LITTLE point was, I was getting a little tired of the "best minds" meme in post after post, I'm afraid. Sure - I assume some bright people work in the oil patch, no doubt - but seriously, it isn't rocket science, and never has been - so all these allusions to the B&B, let alone NASA and Apollo 13 - just a tad over the top - wouldn't you agree? There are lots of very excellent B&B people not in the oil patch ... all I'm saying.

And frankly, given the giant cluster-f on this gig - you'd wonder about the people on the job - I would anyway ... but carry on.

I don't agree with what you are saying. When I came out of college some years ago with a freshly minted PhD looking for a job in industrial R&D there were very few organizations that had a reputation as good as Exxon's central research. Bell Labs maybe was the only one that you could point to as clearly being superior. Exxon had plenty of money to support anything you could come up with and this attracted a lot of the best engineering minds in the world.

Over my career I've gone to a number of symposia where oil industry funding paid for cutting edge research - fluid mechanics in porous media, separation processes, you name it. The fact is that the economic stakes are so high in this industry that getting the best is an investment well worth while for them.

So yeah while drilling a well is an exercise in applied mechanics and geology that doesn't mean that is the only thing going on in these companies.

Bill Gates (yes, that one)once said that Microsoft's fiercest competitor was Goldman Sachs. Why? Because both companies were after the best minds. And that's what business is all about. And look what happened.

End of August. The only way to do it for sure is a relief well, which is drilled down and intercepts the blown out well, and you then plug the blow out. In theory, that would take two months, then again, this well was supposed to take about that long, and ended up taking tfour months, so the probably should drill several relief wells, and hope that one of them is done on schedule. That's all money can buy you, not faster, just a better chance of sticking to your schedule.

And there is some hope that one of their kludges will work, and get things under control more quickly, but who knows?

I'm watching the video feed. People should realize that the skill of the engineers and technicians is breathtaking. We are seeing stuff akin to what NASA does. Cutting pipes by robot at 5000 ft. bsl in a controlled manner is bleeding edge technology. The sad part is that nobody will get an award, a Nobel Prize or a research grant. If anything, BP will be reviled and hated in the mainstream media. Things are to the point that BP can almost do nothing to fix its reputation and this is terribly unfair.

We are witnessing the destruction of wealth and assets and reputation and we may never be certain if anyone really screwed up. If it was a problem with the cement job and with the design of the drill pipes in the well, perhaps the same stuff worked elsewhere and this particular well kicked too hard with methane and natural gas and it was unlikely that the impact could have been assessed and the design compensated. I guess something was under-engineered in the well but should someone be blamed? I dunno.

The good thing is that the public will have a new appreciation about what is involved to get them their gasoline. I've learned a ton the last few weeks. Next time gas goes up in price, I will not be too upset, assuming it is not OPEC sourced.

KUDOS to the people int he petroleum industry. You all rock!

Yesterday the BP American guy said it was like performing open heart surgery on television -- apt analogy.

YES, what he said.
I'm amazed at the video of the ROVs working on this problem. The technology and effort, both physical and technical and scientific, is akin to going to the moon, except (as someone wrote in an earlier thread) not as glamorous. The stakes are high and these guys deserve credit for their efforts on our behalf.

To go a mile under the ocean and tackle these problems with remotely controlled devices is breathtaking to watch and I can't help but understand that the oil industry has brought us to this point and made all this technology possible. Every little link in the chain that connects my consciousness with these events, from the plastic keys of my computer (petroleum based) that I sit in front of here in my air-conditioned living room in Appalachia, through the air via a wireless router to the internet to those ships in the Gulf to the video feeds coming from the cameras of the ROVs, has been made possible by OIL and by the oil companies that take it from the Earth. I know there are people out there giving their absolute best efforts to this problem because all of our interests are entwined. Be cynical and say what you will about oil companies drinking our milkshakes and/or greed and/or negligence and chances are you'd be right on many points, but it is undeniable that being alive at this time, at the peak of the Age of Oil is awesome. At least for most of us reading these posts.

Godspeed and best of luck to all the folks in the Gulf trying to shut down this blowout. This is an amazing forum, too.

The financial implications of this spill on downstream projects cannot be understated. Risk takes on new meaning when Congress lifts caps on liability which the public will demand but its clear that this type of incident can occur again given the demand side for oil and gas but only Nation states will have the financial backstop to cover the scope of this type of spill since the costs are well beyond any driller including BP. The idea that insurance could be arranged while possible but sooner or later an incident will test the financial ability of they parties that signed on and my guess is that taxpayers would be required to provide the bulk of the clean up costs.

"but only Nation states will have the financial backstop to cover the scope of this type of spill" I agree. By nation sates, I think you mean mean taxpaying voters. I have not thought through the implications of this statement, but: 1) soaring government debt 2) bond vigilantes 3) voters that want it all but scream "Tax Cuts" and 4) peak oil. Talk about a witches' brew for a political and financial blow out.

well, more or less controlled - you missed little ROV wiggling a bracket back & forth this am cause couldn't get it cut all the way .... but still ... pretty amazing

Winter -- I’ll use your question to give a brief summary, with the permission of the editors, for the benefit of the newbies who seem to be showing up hourly.

Above all else this tales goes with a very BIG IF: if we have a accurate picture of how the incident began then here goes: they had run production casing from total depth back up to the well head/BOP. Cement was pumped down the drill pipe to the bottom of this casing and forced back up between the csg and the rock. The reason for this cmt job is to isolate the oil reservoir. This cement seal would be the only barrier preventing the well from “coming in “ (flowing oil/NG up the csg). Prior to pumping the cmt the weight of the drilling mud kept the reservoir from flowing up. The backpressure stopping the flow was a result of an 18,000’ column of heavy drilling mud.

Before temporarily abandoning the well BP was required for safety reasons to set a series of cement plugs in the production csg to ensure the reservoir would not leak to the surface until they were ready to produce the well. To make the eventual re-entry of the well easier BP “displaced” the riser (that 20” tube that connected the well head/BOP to the drilling rig on the surface of the GOM) with seawater and thus removing the heavy drill mud from the well. But they did this before setting the top cmt plug which would have kept any oil/NG from flowing up should the csg cmt fail. This is why testing the validity of the cmt job was extremely critical: the column of seawater could not produce a sufficient backpressure to prevent the oil/NG from rushing to the surface. If the cmt didn’t hold there was a 100% certainty of the well flowing oil/NG. There has been much discussion about the interpretation of the tests conducted on the cmt, the nature of the cmt, who has ultimate responsibility for certifying the cmt job. Likewise the reason for waiting to set the top cmt plug until after displacement has been speculated by others. I’ll leave those debates to others. But a good cmt job wasn’t the last safeguard.

There is a standard procedure for determining if a well is flowing. The same protocol for a cased hole as when drilling. I don’t know for a fact but I wouldn’t be surprised if this procedure had been done more than 100 times as this well was being drilled. The mud pumps on the rig push drilling mud down the drill pipe, which then returns to the surface between the drill pipe and the csg or open hole. Though this will sound simplistic this is the primary method to tell if a well is kicking (flowing): you shut the mud pumps off. For oil/NG to flow to the surface it has to push the mud out of the hole ahead of it. If you turn the pumps off and the mud stops flowing out you have a static well. If the mud continues flowing out the return line the well is coming in and a blow out is on the way unless you stop this flow. In addition to visually seeing the mud flowing out, there are various mud tanks that have the mud flow volume measured automatically.

Again, IF we have the correct story, the mud returns were not being monitored. I’ll leave the details of why they weren’t monitoring the mud returns to others. Why the cmt failed is a separate issue from not monitoring the mud returns. Had they seen the mud flowing they could have shut the well in (closed all the return valves on the rig). The oil/NG might have still flowed all the way up but it would have not escaped to the drill floor and exploded. Killing a shut in well is a standard procedure and practiced often. Once the well was shut in they could have replaced the light seawater with heavy drilling mud via the drill pipe and stopped the flow of oil/NG from the reservoir. But they did not become aware of the well coming in until it as too late.

The failure of the BOP to stop the blow out is a completely separate issue I’ll let others expand upon. Likewise with the various efforts to stop the blow out and collect the oil spill.

As usual the rest of the TODers are free to add, modify and adjust this summary. My hope was to reduce some of the redundency required to bring our new memebers up to speed.

Thankyou sir.

The sub question you responded to earlier was more of a generality, but I appreciate your input on that also.

Ex post facto, it is a clear fact that the cement job was faulty.

There are a number of procedures in the oil industry to confirm that a good cement job was done. It appears that BP did not do all that it could to confirm that they had a good cement job before replacing heavy drilling "mud" with seawater (this was the proximate trigger of the kick, blowout, explosion, fire, sinking and polluting the Gulf).

Positive pressure tests, negative pressure tests and cement bond logs (tools on wire dropped into the well, I think they use radiation) are the tools to confirm good cement jobs.

The cement used was quite unusual for this depth well, nitrogen filled cement (like shaving cream consistency).

Normal wait after pouring cement is 24 to 48 hours to let it set. Reports are that BP pressure tested the cement 10 hours after pour (blowout was 20 hours after pour). Pressure testing can involve 2,500 psi pressure and some SPECULATION is that early testing may have affected the cement.

Does nitrogen cement set faster ? No confirmation on TOD either way except "doubt it".

Some pressure tests failed, but altering the test and repeat gave a pass.

The people to do a CBL (cement bond log) were on the rig, but were not asked to do one (or some other dispute arose). In any case, a CBL was not run.

It should be noted that drilling rigs like this cost about $500/minute (rental + people) and running tests takes time.

Hope that helps,


What strikes me about all those issues is apparently no one raised an issue with the cure time or the lack of a CBL or number of centering devices, etc. They all trusted that they had the well under control. Disagreement apparently was around the negative test, but it was done. I agree that all of these decisions may have been tragic errors. I'm still not convinced there was anything criminal or negligent about them.

Greg -- I agree with your sentiment in general. But IMHO opinion not checking for mud flow is always negligent. And I would deem it so even if it weren't a critical stage. When I'm drilling I make sure flow is checked even when we stop pumps to connect a new joint of drill pipe. Even if there's nothing to be concerned about. I'm not the only one. But attitudes vary. The most important take away about checking for flow is that it costs nothing to do. CBL's, pressure tests, BOP tests, etc all cost rig time and thus cost money. Checking for flow while displacing would have taken one hand watching the mud pits. You know I like simplistic examples: checking for flow is no different then clicking your seat belt when you get into your car. Might seldom need it but when you do there is no substitute.

I'm still unclear if they noticed mud returns and were initially unconcerned, failed to watch excessive mud returns or were watching mud returns, saw what was happening and tried to reverse the seawater displacement and then something happened (why did the mud pumps stop?) and then they were hosed?

In any case, assuming they were not watching mud returns, I guess you have to distinguish between best practice (before the accident) and ordinary practice (before the accident) and base their judgement not on what the most conservative practices were, but what the most reasonable liberal practices were to determine negligence (I could be persuaded to believe simple negligence in not following best practice, but would be very skeptical about going after them for gross negligence let alone criminal gross negligence if industry failed in general to see the critical importance of watching mud returns during the plugging stage).

I would expect that this is a wake up call to industry to change their minimal practices (if that is what BP was doing), but nailing the first one caught with an excessive penalty and letting the rest slip by would do no one any favors. Find and fix the root cause rather than just fight the symptom.

I wish I was able to watch all of the interviews and understand what happened. Has the site posted a link to archived videos of the MMS Invetigation? I've missed about half unfortunately (damn job getting in the way).

Greg -- the story line is that they were distracted with shuting down ops and offloading mud. To be honest that has been total supposition as far as I can tell. But I know what it’s like on a rig at that point and it is plausible. I think we’ll have to wait for the formal investigation to get confirmation. But I would readily bet you lunch that checking flow is being beaten into every drill crew in the USA on every rig every day. But it’s SOP for some of us. I mentioned the other day about an 18,000’ well in the La. bayous last January. I had flow checked on every connection. And double-checked b a second hand. And then had it triple checked personally by the company man. I’ll confess I’m not perfect. But I try to be.

Hi Greg,

Try the main C-Span website.

Use the search box in the upper right and enter "Deepwater Horizon"

I think you will get a list of the hearing videos that you are looking for, but I"m not sure they have all the various hearing.

Greg, not sure if you have this already, if you do, I'm sure many others will find it interesting.

BP provided the Energy & Commerce Committee with a preliminary report of all events leading up to the blow out on the day of the accident. It is a great way to keep oriented as to what happened when and to learn more about what aspects of the procedure are troublesome.

Note, this is a 48 page PDF file

Thanks PriorityX, that's very helpful.


Traditional Cement Bond Logs are acoustic tools.

Thanks !



My understanding (third hand from inside BP) is that the plan was to run the CBL with the completion rig. If true, this would not be unusual as there is normally a specialist switch from open hole logging to cased hole logging and for better or worse (much worse in this case) this is normal in many cases. I wasn't there but if there were any doubts as to the cement job, pressure tests, etc. it would be a no brainer to fix the problem before T&A. I noted in a previous post my suspicions concerning why they ran a tapered string and not simply a 7" liner and tieback. (I suspect it was perceived to be a more cost efficient method.) The small volume of cement and long trip down the hole plus a less than ideal cement plug arrangement that had to wipe both casing sizes is more apt to allow mud to bypass and contaminate this small volume in the 9 7/8" casing. The ECD would have all been reduce thereby reducing losses, etc. etc. In addition you could have run a liner top packer for an extra barrier to flow. The engineering just cascades.

Thanks Rockman. You always cut through the confusion. After searching around the web I am still unclear regarding the difference between casing and liner. (Sorry it's so basic.) If you have time and the inclination, would you help me with where I've got this wrong. Casing is hung from the wellhead. When the casing diameter is reduced they hang a smaller casing and typically put in a temporary packer, then cement the area above and below this "joint" between the two casings and the borehole. Also if they encounter porous/fractured strata they do a "squeeze" job with the same process to inject cement between the borehole and the casing for some distance above and below the porous strata. Another question I have is how do they determine just how far above and below? When they did this final cement job was there a continuous "liner" of cement from TD to the wellhead, or just up some hundreds or thousands of feet from the bottom? If you get to this, many thanks for your time. Hell, many thanks - regardless.

RP – Simpler than most would think. Csg is run from the bottom of the current hole all the way up to the wellhead. A liner is run from the bottom of the current hole only up to the bottom of the previous csg run. You may have seen reference to a csg hanger. That’s the device used to connect the liner to the previous csg run. You understand squeeze jobs also. You also squeeze bad cmt jobs to fix them. As to how high to run the cmt you have to understand the primary purpose. You don’t really need to cmt the csg to hold it in place…it ain’t going nowhere. The purpose is to isolate zones, such as the reservoir leaking oil/NG in the blow out. You run enough cmt to prevent it from flowing up or down.

Thanks again Rockman. Sounds like liner is a bit more lightweight than is casing and is temporary, until the more sturdy casing is placed and cemented. A protective measure to keep the DP free and clear while work continues. 'Nother dumb question - so liner is pulled and stacked/reused (like DP)?

RP -- rarely is liner/csg salvaged offshore. The rig time usualy is greater than the value of the csg. Onshore it can happen but you can seldom get it all out.

DUH (not thinking oil patch $$$$$$$$$$$$$...) :-)

If anyone wants to take a course in Oil 101 get Morgan Downey's book of that name. Comprehensive, to say the least; Morgan was blogging and contributing here for a while as well but he's been MIA for a few months now - hope all's well with him.

I understand that continual mud monitoring is required. It seems to me that it's the most important test. I don't understand the pressure testing. Am I incorrect in believing that the pressure tests are carried out with mud in the casing and DP? If pressure testing is done with mud in the well, how can one tell if the cement work can withstand the formation pressure? Seems to me that the real pressure test only occurs as the well bore is unloaded.

If the well kicked via the casing annulus, and assuming the cement plug inside the foot of the casing held, mud in the casing must have served to weigh it down to seal the top of the production casing at the wellhead. I'm guessing that the production case annulus would have been full of mud at some point. If that mud was not circulating could oil/gas percolate up through it to the top seal? Once it started to leak wouldn't it have put gas directly into the riser. In which case the mud returning would have been the mud in the riser, not the well. Seems to me that would have been near impossible to stop.

And just 1 more thing that looks anomalous. Why have 4 sets of blind rams which seems like excessive redundancy. Isn't it more likely that some kind of tool is down hole when the need to close the BOP arises?
In which case blind rams are useless aren't they?

Multiple shear rams seems like a safer way to go and I don't think that's just hindsight given that 10% of the DP is joints

The testimony I listened to over the weekend suggested the kick came up through the annulus - first water, then mud, then gas (boom!), more gas(BOOM!!), then oil and gas.

The issue of the mud returns came up repeatedly and everyone I heard testify said 1) the returns were going to the pits and were being monitored; 2) there was no way to send the returns directly to the boat - that had to be a separate operation. Either some funny business was going on and those who testified were ignorant of what had been going on or lying (both possible I suppose), or we didn't get the full story. Those with the most pertinent information are dead.

I was surprised also that the cement curing time was not a point of discussion.

IP -- the witnesses are going to have to pick there poison: either they weren’t monitoring the mud returns or they saw the well coming in and just sat back and watched it blow out. IMHO they can characterize themselves as either incompetent or insane…their choice. The well could not have blown out unless it unloaded most of the mud out of the well…many hundreds of bbls. They either measured the mud gain and didn’t shut the well in (SOP) or they didn’t measure it. There’s no in between.

Wait, I thought they were replacing the mud with seawater?

DBNS -- They were pushing the mud out of he well by pumping salt water into the bottom of the well. That's why they took the kick: taking the back pressure off the reservoir with a bad cmt job allowed the oil/NG to flow to the surface.

RM, the story circulating here was that the returns were being sent directly to the boat (not the pits of the rig) and not being monitored. The OIM and a couple of workers testified, when asked about this, that it was impossible to set up the returns in that fashion - it had to go to the pits first. I would think the boat captain might know something about this. So either the mud was going to the pits or the OIM was lying - a rather high-risk lie IMO. That said, just because it was going to the pits (if it was) doesn't mean they were keeping proper track of it. Perhaps it was being pumped to the boat from the pits and not being monitored...

How quickly could the well start to flow? Is it possible for something to fail catastrophically - be ok and then minutes later start geysering water and mud all over the rig?

IP -- As soon as the bottom hole pressure from the mud/salt water column was less than the resevoir pressure the flow potential was established. The unknow is how quickly the cmt failed as a result: 2 minutes....40 minutes. Will probably never know if the didn't get an accurate record of the pit volume changes. But it's real simple: if 100 bbls of oil flows up the well then they gain an extra hundred bbls of mud. They either see the gain or they don't. this isn't rocket science.

And yes, eventually someone will either recant their testimony or be charged with perjury IMHO.


A gas influx is different from oil as I'm sure you know. A very small, high pressure gas influx can migrate up the annulus through the cement and mud with very little gain at surface as the pressure/volume relationship is exponential. Over the last few hundred feet the expansion is tremendous as a few barrels becomes thousands. I'm not saying they didn't make big mistakes in monitoring flow back, I'm simply saying that a migrating gas kick in the annulus can "explode" in volume at the very top of the hole if left unchecked. I think on top of everything else this very likely occured.

I would agree with you Dog. I try to keep it simple and didn't want to address gas slippage up the mud column to the general TOD audience until we start seeing some detailed testimonies. I've been kicked in the butt by more than one gas bubble in my career. Sounds like you have too.


Closer study of the BP preliminary report is still confusing.

From the report:

Data: Mud transfer to boat begins at 13:28.

Interpretation: The approach to transferring mud may have impaired pit monitoring over next 4 hours.

Data: Mud offload to Bankston ends at 17:17

Interpretation: Mudloggers not informed that offloading had ceased.

There is no further mention of mud or Mudloggers after this.

Hard to know exactly the meaning of this. Were they simultaneously displacing the well mud into the mud pits and pumping from the mud pits into the Bankston? Not sure if that is possible, but they say monitoring may have been impaired at this time. Might make sense if you have mud coming in and mud going out. I do think that my original reading that they were pumping directly to the boat, bypassing the mud pits, was incorrect.

Also not sure how the Mudloggers would not know the offloading had ceased. Do Mudloggers only work the mud coming into the mud pits? The fact that it is noted in the report seems to indicate it is significant.

This has been posted elsewhere. Released by Waxman and co at the House Energy hearings

In addition, the method of displacing the drilling mud with seawater may have interfered with the monitoring of the flow levels from the well because the mud was transferred to another boat instead of measured in the mud pits. Moreover, mudloggers were not informed when the offloading of drilling mud to the other boat was stopped.

So they got it coming and going. I don't see how they could have been monitoring mud flows accurately, but then what do I know?

Rockman: Third option: Take the 5th.

EL: One all ready took the 5th. That's when I decided to not be so fair and balanced. Now I let my personal prejudice on how to drill safely guide my comments. You might have noticed that I'm not too inclined to cut anyone involved much slack now.

X -- watching mud return volumes is not typically the duty of the mud logger. They monitor the mud for signs of hydrocarbons as well as other parameters. There's a fair possibility that the mud logging unit was already shut down at the time and they were packing up to head home. Those details will become clear in the formnal investigation.

Nit – Not required but is “best practice” IMHO. And it’s THE definitive cmt test as far as I’m concerned. Yes…drilling mud used when testing. Let’s say I want the cmt to hold the equivalent of 17 ppg mud weight. I have 16 ppg mud I the hole. I increase the mud pump pressure so that the ECD (effective circulating density) at the bottom of the hole is 17 ppg. I hold it there for some predetermined period and record the pressure. If it holds I’m good. If the cmt leaks and I can’t get the ECD to the required level I know I have an unsatisfactory cmt job. A negative test is just the opposite: I lower the ECD to a value less then the reservoir pressure. I chart the pressure and if I see it increasing then I know the cmt is leaking.

The objective of the cmt is to isolate the reservoir from the rest of the well…both above and below the zone. I’ll let the BIOP pros handle the rest of your questions.


Small point on ECD. It's not a direct function of pump pressure. It's a function of annular pressure losses. The easiest way to increase ECD is to take returns through the choke and "pinch" the returns. This will of course increase pump pressure but that is the result of increased pressure losses on the annulus. Once the plug "bumps" holding pump pressure has no effect on ECD. At that point you need to hold pressure on the annulus through the choke line if want to keep the BHP at an increased level.

Good point Dog. I'll let you offer details for the more tech minded folks at TOD...there are inquiring minds that want to know. But I'll stick with simple stories however incomplete they are. I especially like working with all the newbies showing up these days...makes me feel all the smarter. Hey...Rockman has ego too. Rockman go back cave for more coffee now.

Negative Pressure Test

Typically, you would run a packer on drill pipe to a predetermined depth above the point you want to test. You then pump a volume of seawater down the drill pipe sufficient to displace the mud out of the drill pipe down to the packer and set the packer. At that point you the negative pressure is equal to the difference between the mud weight displaced out of the drill pipe and the seawater down to the depth of the packer. You then observe the drill pipe for flow. If there is no flow back, a succesful test. As you say, it's not rocket science. For example at 5,000', displacing 14.4 ppg mud with 8.6 ppg seawater: PSI = (14.4 - 8.6)(0.052)(5,000) = 1508 psi. This is the reduction in pressure observed at the packer. If you want to put a more severe negative test you need to displace the drill pipe with a lighter fluid, say nitrogen but that's the general idea. The only confusion could be questions as to if the packer is sealing or leaking as the u tube pressue is 1508 psi. If the packer leaks then you will observe a flow at the surface due to the unbalanced u tube and not an influx.

the guys at BP handle the decision making, not the actual doing. BP isnt doing this work you see via camera. as far as im concerned the skill of these operators has absolutely nothing to do with BP

The good thing is that the public will have a new appreciation about what is involved to get them their gasoline.

I'm not seeing much of that around here. Just some complaining about BP while everyone keeps driving as much as they always have. The assumption is that other oil companies are drilling safely (so far), and that's so much more comforting than having to adjust your lifestyle.

actually its certainly made me more mindful on the impact of using oil, even on an individual level. it really makes me glad i have a fuel efficient car, not just because it saves me money, but because it uses less gas. i know thats a small step, but its a start.

Everyone probably figured out, but I should clarify. By "around here" I don't mean on TOD, but between family, friends, neighbors, etc.

One can admire the skill of the engineers and technicians and still look for BP to face appropriate consequences for this incredibly destructive blowout.

Evnow speaks the truth regarding time of membership ... at least in this threadlet.

No, you do not ROCK. Sorry, I am sure they work hard and master a lot of skills but people who deserve our admiration work for change and the future, in my opinion and RISK things like their livelihood and reputation when they stand up to power and demand that corners not get cut. I think when we learn more it may be possible that there were some, like possibly men from Schulumberger who tried to make a stand but in the end it was "the BP way or the highway" and they wisely choppered off the DWH after objecting to the lack of testing that was going on as BP rushed to complete the well.

Jimmy Harrell of transocean objected in a meeting to the bad drilling practice but ultimately bowed to pressure. Had he not, I am sure he felt he would have been replaced anyway. This is the current culture at which the oil and gas industry works, and it is a bad culture. It led directly to this disaster, and the supposed live cam you are impressed with is showing to me proof that things are rotten down there and topsides, too. We know already from sworn testimony that plenty of people screwed up bigtime. I won't get into it here, but you need to realize that MAJOR mistakes were made and they were human error and BAD drilling practice. It's been written about elsewhere.

Yes, the ROV people have skills. Too bad they are not applying them for science, instead of mitigating man made disasters of biblical proportions caused by greed and stupidity.

As for reputations, one BP company man has already pled the fifth and the other called in sick when asked to testify by the coast guard. If I had to characterize thier reputation I would have to use words you can't print in a newspaper, and end with the words incompetent and cowardly. I could list their names, they are a matter of public record but it is their bosses that are ultimately culpable. Criminal charges can and should be filed here and these people and their bosses (especially their bosses) deserve a day in court to defend themselves but also deserve justice in the form of lengthy prison terms if it is proven that they did the things they are already admitting to, more or less.

Don't get me started on the culture of the regulatory side of the industry either, it is almost suppertime and I might get sick.

Please explain further what is unfair about BP's reputation being ruined. I don't see it. A fish rots from the head.

wilis_newton I went through the aggravation of registering to tell you you hit the nail on the head. BP SUX nuff said.

Man, I read your post twice, and can't find anything I disagree with.

Well said.

My haven't we entered the shill zone. They have't accomplished anything yet, other than keeping everyone occupied - and what they are trying to accomplish is to fix their own major mistake.

People should realize that the skill of the engineers and technicians is breathtaking. We are seeing stuff akin to what NASA does.

Please ... perhaps resist going over the top - we are seeing what people who are good at arcade games can do. No need to over-sell the event. Sure it's fairly clever - but if they were really clever ... um ... we wouldn't be in the mess we are in.

Let's be honest, two shuttles blew up/disintegrated and one caught fire and burned to the ground on NASA's watch and an unmannedprobe crashed into MARS all under NASA's watch.

I don't care how dumb or smart someone is, all it takes is one bad decision. The people working on this are capable and know their jobs just like the NASA engineers are capable and knew their jobs. Mistakes don't necessarily mean the who organization/industry is incompetent.

NASA's mistakes did not impact a large ecosystem, only the people directly involved. I think the whole NASA comparison is a silly red herring, just another way to say "really cool high tech".

However, that is not how I see this. What I see is an industry that tried to re-purpose equipment and techniques for use in DW, and that is now demonstrating that these are woefully inadequate. They had no plan do deal with a fairly obvious eventuality, did not even do basic research into what they might encounter - which is why they're making it up as they go along, getting surprised by everything, and so far have failed.

The BOP is a good example - the operation and control systems are way complicated and vulnerable, and the main devices are not assured of shearing materials that are likely to be inside. What conscientious engineer would accept such a thing as a fail-safe emergency cut-off? It might have worked, but there were way too many failure modes to be relied on.

The ROVs strike me as extremely limited in capability for the tasks required of them.

So what I see is desperate people working hard to overcome inadequate tools and techniques, and a lack of planning and preparation. It's not one bad decision or one bad apple, it's systemic incompetence and a long way from impressive.

They had no plan do deal with a fairly obvious eventuality, did not even do basic research into what they might encounter - which is why they're making it up as they go along, getting surprised by everything, and so far have failed.

Exactly ... they're not dumb, but they're certainly not rocket scientists either - they are just oil-patch jockeys and tech-heads, working against the odds. Nothing wrong with that, but keeping it in perspective would be nice.

I wonder why they wanted that coupon? Whatever the reason, I have to marvel at the skill of the ROV folks...that has to be max stress situation.

I think I get it. To guarantee minimal dead load on the saw blade when they make the cuts just above the flange. They know what they're doing.

Hi guys:

Are there any live feed sites that are showing multiple views (from different angles) today?

Check in the live chat. If you don't have an IRC client, there's web interfaces with IRC that you could try...You can get to IRC via a browser at / Just enter your nickname and #theoildrum in the boxes.

Thats the closest we now have to a running commentary. Wish there was something "official" from CNN ...

Thank you for the diagrams.
Looks like the big mistake was putting the shears on the top of the BOP. Looks like any shock (surge) would hit these with the greatest strength. Say one of the rams malfunctioned and one of the pipes from below shot-up, the shears would be the last line of defense. The sinking of the Horizon and the bending of the riser at the tip of the BOP - it seems - would damage the alignment of the sheers.

I understand Brazil and Norway have more stringent requirements that our briliant legislators got bought-off on. Sometime it would be nice to see a diagram of the various configurations to better understand which is safest.

The idea of cutting off the pipe, opening the rams and letting the DP drop sounds interesting. Sounds like this should work. Is it 100% certain the DP will drop or is there enough of a pressure/flow rate to maybe make it lift instead?

Is there a way to realign the sheers - even with the resistance of the huge flow? If so, it sounds like the end to hemmoraging of oil could be very close.

I guess it begs to ask, why weren't there multiple sheers?

The news is reporting that, once the riser is cut away, the flow can increase. I'm pretty sure they are right being that the flow is restricted and won't be after the cut-away.

Why not guide a very strong, large needle (long taperred rod) down the center of the bent-over riser, poking thrugh the riser to reduce this risk of increasing the flow rate? Such may also help re-align the sheers in their tracks - asuming the ram-bolt is not bent.

After this problem is solved, sounds like each component in the BOP will need some legislated factors of safety in order to prevent such events in the future.

If we had any brains, we should also require that deep water/deep strata drilling rigs be equipped with an Iron Sombrerro big enough and heavy enough to kill these things in a day or so.

Perhaps there should be a flotilla of ships ready to begin skimming the surface too in future events. (We don't seem to pay for the luxury of having these folks sitting in wait.)

I've heard for years that this is the biggest known oil field on the planet, but we hadn't tapped it due to technological constraints. Chevron's Tahiti was supposedly the groundbreaker of this technolgy.

Perhaps, down at the bottom of the hole, there should be a ring of explosives set in the right kind of rock to let the government kill it immediately?

We certainly can't let things like this happen again, but we also can't let the capital invested in offshore drilling sit still too long while we figure it out.

A question for the oil experts

I don't know this has been asked or answered
If a ship goes through the oil, will it "stick"?
Where would you do the inspection?
Where would you do the cleaning?

Can we expect oil in every sea port?

When we had a couple of barges full of diesel crash into a bridge, it fouled several ships coming up river. They were washed off and some of the wash off was collected (not 100%).

I understand that they are doing the same thing in Mobile now and are prepared in New Orleans (I think a few ships have been oiled here, but unsure).


There was an interesting post or two in the morning thread, regarding some skimmer help that had been denied because the skimming process was returning less then pure water, after the separation process on the skimmer ship. This type of vessel apparently skims and seperates the oil and water, instead of collecting the whole mess and hauling it off somewhere. Seems the answer was simply to discharge the outflow water in front of the collection booms, instead of behind it. This solved the issue for the EPA(?) etc., of having slightly contaminated water on the wrong side of the boom(even if it was a huge improvement over what it collected). According to the post this morning, there is more help on the way.
Bad regulation and over redundancy are all felt by the end and you.

It'll be good, if they can reach a determination regarding just what happened leading up to the tragedy on April 20th. Without that its all just guess work.

It's a fiasco, it's also educational.

The oil biz is going to look at procedures, BOP's, drill pipe and couplings, safety features and crisis management with a view to overhauling its deep water operations. Obviously, there is a crisis management problem right now with layers of different agencies and whatnot all getting in each other's ways while the 'platform people' are grimly trying to get out of the line of fire while putting the relief wells in place to stop the flow.

One problem goes back to Exxon Valdez when BP was in charge of spill recovery:

BP owned a controlling interest in the Alaska oil industry consortium that was required to write a cleanup plan and respond to the spill two decades ago. It also supplied the top executive of the consortium, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. Lawsuits and investigations that followed the Valdez disaster blamed both Exxon and Alyeska for a response that was bungled on many levels.

People who had a front row seat to the Alaska spill tell The Associated Press that BP's actions in the Gulf suggest it hasn't changed much at all.

In fact, considering the risks and difficulties, it isn't too much to suggest that BP has gone backward since Exxon Valdez. Technology is all well and good, but the Leibig's Law of the minimum is at work in the Gulf as well. It's the taken- for- granted 'old school' materials and processes that failed stranding the high tech.

As for BP, what is a BP? It's a shell, a container that by itself represents nothing. Smart administration would close the neck of the BP bottle to make sure none of the liquid assets - the company cash hoard, the insider's stock, the options on leases and other derivatives are spirited away. Since there is no effective administration - yet endless meddling in the oilfield procedure itself - the smart money is on its way out BP's door. The taxpayers - and the poor creatures and people who are now immersed in BP's mess - will be left holding the bag.

The oil biz is going to look at procedures, BOP's, drill pipe and couplings, safety features and crisis management with a view to overhauling its deep water operations.

Maybe ... but I expect they're not going to do any of that stuff until government regulations force them to - and I don't mean MMS (which is just an industry front).

Thank you, most excellent and informative article. Sadly, it also corresponds to some of the things I'm hearing.

More importantly, are there any TIME CLOCKS and compass points visible on any current ROV video streaming sites? A casual look by yours truly notes that this vital tool is now hidden from view on the sites I could find/see. WIthout the clock, it's not possible to call any of this "live cam." We could be seeing a delay, or looped footage from earlier in the day, or yesterday for that matter. WIthout the compass display, it's not possible to piece together a 3D view of what we are looking at except by guesswork.

A live cam tells us, the citizens of the blue planet two important things - if oil and gas is still gushing into the sea and if the BOP is still attached to the casing below, more or less. EVERYTHING else one can glean from seeing the ROV video feed stream is open to interpretation, but those two things are important for all of us to know.

The previous answers were off base, and referred to live IRC channel chats.... i believe the question was, are there any urls that lead to a screen where one can see the full array of ROV camera views?

I hope Matt Simmons is incorrect in his prediction that BP may never stop this - but I have a bad feeling he may be on to something.

This got me thinking about the neverending "mud volcano" in Indonesia that was caused by a gas drilling company (owned by BP I think). The thing has "erupted" mud going on 4 years now and there is no way to stop it. And they expect this thing to keep erupting mud for another 20-30 years.


Wiki says the driller was "PT Lapindo Brantas".


I hope Matt Simmons is wrong also and I think he is. I listened to two interviews, one with Dylan Ratigan and the other on Bloomberg. He is saying that during the initial blowout the BOP and wellhead were separated from the well bore (hole) and ended up where they are now. He thinks they are 5 - 6 miles away from the original hole and BP is drilling the relief well at the wrong location. The flow we have been viewing via the video is simply oil/gas escapting from the detached riser. The "real" flow is 5 - 6 miles away and we are not being told any of this. It's nuts.

Quick question. Are blowout preventers designed to be stackable? Can one be bolted or attached on top of another, such that there is a good, tight seal between them?

Armchair yes they are although I couldnt imagine how hard of a job that would be in 5000 ft of water with Robots and a 50000 +/- bbl/day well flowing at you. Though we might see it yet?

Should the experimental solution being worked on right now fail, the next experimental solution up, I think, is adding a 2nd BOP, which is already at the site.

Right, the second BOP.
It came from the second relief well as I understand it, yet now I read in the MSM and also on BP's site that we're back to two relief wells online? The woman from the government whose name I forget for the minute said yesterday that the second well was online "at government insistence"
True? (hope so)
If true, what is the second relief well using for a BOP? Did they ship in another?
I have not found solid answers to this, only conflicting reports.

and today's Deepwater Response ongoing timeline is a bit ambiguous on the current second RW activity

Progress Continues in Drilling Relief Wells

The Development Driller III continues to drill the first relief well to a depth of more than 12,000 feet—10 days ahead of schedule—and is beginning to angle the well at 35 degrees. The Development Driller II has drilled the second relief well to a depth of 8,650 feet.

The first RW activity is "continues to drill" - the second is "has drilled."

I'm going to ask again. The "kink" in the bent over riser section was fully visible as the ROV worked on it. I believe I read the riser wall thickness is 1 1/8 inches, which means 2 1/4 inches of the kink's profile is pipe wall. Inside of that is drill pipe. We've had two opinions on drill pipe, both from experienced people. One said he had seen a drill pipe bent over past 45 degrees without failing. The other I think expects the DP is broken.

So looking at the kink profile, what do people think. Are you sure there is a DP in that kinked area? Could it have torn into two pieces at that point?

Two datapoints:

(1) the riser is bent approx. 90 degrees without completely failing, though cracked and leaking.

(2) the drill pipe coming out the open end of the riser is bent 90 degrees,
and apparently held pressure when capped by a valve on it's end.
It's probably kinked, but not cracked.

sunnnv - do you agree that the flow will increase by only 20% once the kinked section is out of the stream?


You would have to think whatever BP flow tested this well at is what is going to be coming at them. Weather that is 20% more than their current estimate is to be determined. They were 4 times out on their initial leakage, one would have to suspect they will be that much out on the next estimate?

Hi Iron,

I might be way off on this one, but I don't think an exploratory well is flow tested. When they converted it to a production well they would get the flow rate. Can someone in the oil biz confirm this?

X -- No flow tests for sure. But before they cased the hole they collected various data via wireline logging. That effort may have included a tool that measures the formation pressure rather accurately. Along with actual rock samples they could calculate an estimate of flow capabilities.

But I doubt any of that inf could be used to estimate any of the flow potential we're seeing now. Just too many unknown variables IMHO.

Is it possible that the pressure plus rock samples could establish a maximum possible flow rate?

Yep Greenie -- called an AOF calculation...absolute open flow. It's more of a theoretical value then a practical limit though.


No your not way off, and more likely to be correct. ;)

Four times?

Sorry, that should have been he saw a drill pipe bend past 90 degrees.

i'm thinking it was likely crushed flat, you've got- essentially- a lever on that thing thats a mile long i think the DP under otehr conditions may have "ovaled" and/or cracked, but with the outside force of the casing from both sides, i cant imagine there is any access into the center of that DP, its got to be flat.

of course this is all conjecture and i have no math to back it up.


The big yellow thing being lowered down?

It has lots of cables/hoses hooked to it --> must be an active device.

Is an odd shape --> not a BOP "control pod".

They need to cut the riser pipe, having cleaned up (just recently) the pipes
around the riser bend and some cables/hoses further down the riser.

So - I'm thinking the shears they'll use on the riser to isolate a section.
* it will be BEFORE the wire saw at the riser/top of BOP
* it looks more like the shears in the graphic below.

BP's lower marine riser page:

On that page is a bigger image of this graphic:

I am a long-time lurker since this accident and have learned many new things about the oil/gas industry since this disaster... I have a question in hindsight of course..... Why don't they make BOP's that allow manual closing of the shear rams if they do indeed fail? seems like this whole disaster would have never happened if they were designed that way.. Of course, we do not know what prevented the shear rams from closing all the way and sealing off the well but just curious for those of you in the field, is this something that can be incorporated into the design or no? Think of it as a backup to the backup....

they do have manually operated valves, the live feed even showed a ROV trying to do just that but it was seized.

In other industries, they require "normally closed" in oher terms "spring closed" valves that act automatically in the event of a loss of signal. My understanding is that Brazil and Norway require such devices.

That would require a huge spring or some sort of pneumatic device, or both. To make something that can slice through an 1-1/8 thick riser pipe and a drill pipe too, and anything else in there, and form a hydrostatic seal, that would also require a large lever.

But upon a power failure up top, that would shut production and require some gymnastics to ready the well for continued drilling, mudding or cementing. I think some science, engineering and legislation based on the results is in order...

It is my understanding that these backups exist. They all failed to work. In any subsea drilling method there are active [ie, need to be switched by a human] and deadman switches that should disconnect the riser from the bottom assembly. However, this requires a decouple AND a shear ram to cut the drill pipe, so that the ship/platform can float away clearly - although with 5000'of riser coming out from the bottom. Hardly the easiest to steer, but better than sinking. There has been some discussion of this in previous TOD threads. This will no doubt be part of the investigation, because on some of the publically released data, it appears that the decision to decouple came at the same time as the gas explosion - ie, too late. I think it is still a very open question as to why the deadman didn't work.

BP has a slide show that discusses much of this with critical timepoints, etc.


Thank you. I have been a member for less than a minute, but I am not writing with a giant screw technique. And yes, it has taken 2 full days, but I think that I have read through all previous strings (which is why I am not writing in with my own giant screw). I also have nothing political or apologetic to add. Just horribly saddened by the event and the aftermath. Also terribly interested (though not educated) in the engineering/ops aspects of the event. The knowlege of the "old hands" on this board has been an invaluable resource. So thank you again.

My question. I just noticed that Kent Wells has posted a new tech update in which he describes 2 additional containment techniques (aside from the "alternate" LMRP's). One is a "direct connect" to the Q4000, and the other involves a floating riser that is apparently intended to survive in case of a hurricane.

Rock -- he also gives the "top" pressure used during the top kill, though nothing on mud weight.

I am not sure when this update went up, but so far I have not seen any discussions regarding these latest "backup" plans (though maybe you all have discussed on the live chat). Can some of you with expertise check out the latest technical briefing and let the rest of us know what you think?

Thanks and I will take my answer off the air. :)

The Wells video from today is very informative ,especially the pictures of the tools and things they are building. Those who wondered about producing through the lines used for the top kill will be pleased as will those worried about hurricane season. Given what they are constructing from scratch, the engineering/tech side is pretty amazing and especially cool for those who played with K'nex, Legos or Erector sets!
I wonder if there will be a lot of kids wanting to become ROV operators.

It's very informative. Unless I missed it, the BOP on BOP is no longer in their plans.

Could you provide a link to that video? I can't seem to find it on the main bp response site.

I don't think that I can link yet (too new), but here is the address:

Very informative, thank you.

It's on the front BP page under Latest Video Updates. Ken Wells May 31.

Was wondering where this new tech briefing was.
Turns out it's in "response in video", but not the "latest technical briefing" on BP's main page.

So - this briefing from May 31th:

top kill - "30,000 bbls of mud, up to 80 bpm, surface pressures > 10,000 psi."
"unable to overcome the flow."
was not assured, that's for sure - time to move on.

LMRP caps
nice that they're thinking of two versions, since the sealing out of water was the issue with the original top hat.

Some date points:
* the old top hat was open, and hydrated up in short order
* the Riser Insertion Tool, even with simple flaps, avoided the hydrate problem.
I think they're getting better at this, so I think the LMRP stuff has a pretty good chance of working reasonably well to collect the oil while waiting for the relief wells.
Issues are getting the thing settled on the BOP and keeping it there, even with active suspension of the riser pipe.

Nice pics of the shears, diamond saw at 7:35.

other ideas:
using the top-kill lines to suck oil/gas up to the Q4000.
I'm wondering why it takes "a couple more weeks" to do this construction, unless it takes that long to get the longer hoses made up. The connection is there, why not use it right now for a few days? Just let the gas and oil burn off via the Q4000's flare.

long term containment option
"by end of June" - with floating riser that goes from the sea-floor to about 300 feet beneath the surface, so they can bail during a hurricane and reconnect quickly when it passes. (saves having to pull the whole 5000 feet of riser in order to flee, then lower it after - and more tricky - put a cap directly on the BOP again).
Not so nice to leave the flow dumping during a storm, but the wind/waves will disperse the oil - perhaps the plume will be so confined (since it would effectively a shallow water blowout) that it can be set alight as they run away.

This is a good idea, given the hurricane forecast.
Looks like even more thought and construction will go into the cap for this one.

Can't find the updated relief well diagram on BP's site, but it's at:
Nice to know they're at 12,090 feet - "several days ahead of plan" - see 11:32.

n.b. they hooked up something I think for the shears right now, and cleared the riser section of cables/hoses and the smaller pipes right at the top of the BOP.

Why were this morning's comments on this thread removed? Try to get a discussion going and then it disappears. It takes some work and thought to make a decent comment. I am beginning to doubt the sensiblity of those who operate this site.

They go about 400 comments, and it gets so cluttered they start over.....I think I read this somewhere here.

The entire morning thread has just disappeared - that is what he is saying. I was just looking for it myself.

I spent ages looking for it. If it's still there, anyone got a link? Thanks.

Close Gordon ;-)

Actually they are still available, although new comments can't be added.

They are in this Post: The BP Deepwater Oil Spill - Why Top Kill May Have Failed and Tonight's Open Thread

It is just below the May 31st Drumbeat.

I was pretty sure they didn't throw em out with the coffee grounds. Thanks for the info.

Not only cluttered but they become very very sluggish...try using firefox to search for a word in one of the 300+ comment threads (hit ctrl+f and type in what you want.) It will freeze up and crash as soon as you put in a single letter...found this out the hard way.

The size of the pages just gets astronomically large (each character is 1 byte in most page encoding schemes, including the one used on this page (UTF-8: 8 bits for each character = 1 byte) which means the pages can be megabytes in total size and larger than the average page)

Go to the main page of TOD and look down the articles listed and you will find those comments in that article (closed with 404 comments).

Direct link is

For better or worse, these discussions are cycled about every 400 comments.


not yesterdays - this mornings - I think it had only 300+ If that is it then very many comments were deleted.

IP -- man i know ....i wrote that piece on wellbore surveys and was going to build on that from the side of the RW ....

Prof are the comments that got lost....are they gone period ??

send me a few terms from it, I'll try to find it when I get a moment--see if it's in there. (send to theoildrum@gmail)

shot you an emial with some terms.

Appreciate it

That'll happen. I think I read that on here somewhere also. They like to stay on track around here.

Some threads were lost on a couple of database/cache faults, and others went through comment moderation and/or were deleted because they were adjudged to be OT or too polemic by either the community or an editor.

Not sure which is which here--sorry. :(

Edited to add: The way our moderation system works, if a comment gets moderated by the community or by an editor, the whole set of children under it also goes away. It's an artifact of the system...

Sorry to hear that - a whole lot of information got flushed with the garbage. I know you folks have been working overtime - especially the past week... Guess a strategy is to be more careful where a reply is placed in the hierarchy.

Prof, I appreciate all you guys hard work. I really really do. Can't emphasize it enough. I've moderated forums with high traffic, and encountered similar problems, eg when you delete a comment, the whole set of 'children' comments disappears as well.

While I can understand it from a mod's POV, I find it also a bit disappointing as a poster. From an entirely selfish POV, I did spend a fair amount of time looking up and posting the relevant info regarding the sick fishermen, including BP's track record, and links that others have found useful (and said so). They have now disappeared. I was looking for them so that I can email them to folks, without having to re-write them over again.

So, I see a bit of dilemma here. While I understand the mods have to assert some judgement as to what is on topic and what is not, the issue of safety to response personnel cannot possibly be unrelated to the concerns here at TOD. At least that is my view. So, my question as a newbie is, what is your policy for starting new threads? If there's a topic that is not covered by existing threads for whatever reason, but is relevant to this site (like oil spill cleanup and worker safety) can someone just start a new thread?

Again, I appreciate all your work, you're performing a great public service. I just want to make sure if I make any contributions, that they will both be useful as well remain visible to readers. Thank you!!

Calm down - it was restored yesterday after a brief absence:

yes, but the big chunks (downstream of deleted comments) are gone.

Normally that handling comments is not a problem, but when we get 400 comments every 6 hours or so it gets a bit hard to manage.

Oh, and while I'm here, yes it looks as though the big shearer has arrived, and I'm glad I'm not operating the ROV that is trying to put that plug into the ROV.

I feel sorry for the operator! Not a ROV-friendly design. Trying to make that connection in currents without a guide in (think tanker fueling a jet) has to be the toughest trick in the ROV operator's book. Yell at the designer.

They must have been sweating - they took the feed off!

I understand the comment overload.

As for your lead discussion of the BOP - some details are in error. Priority X posted a link to a BP pdf that gives the correct configuration:

A through review of this document might make a good lead, as it details what is currently know about the tests that were run the last day and many technical details about the well itself and the accident.

Additionally, while it has been widely discussed that the shear ram might have been partially activated but ineffective, the testimony of the subsea engineer, Chris Pleasant, and others suggests that by the time they tried to EDS that all hydraulic pressure to the BOP stack had been lost and there was no mechanical response to the EDS command from the rig.


The BP document linked above states that "there are indications that the blind shear and variable rams have moved and may be in the locked position..." (from gamma ray and ultrasonic inspection) p37.

Given the description of why the top kill failed, and how the drill pipe seems to be trapped in the shear ram with a joint or debris preventing the full cutting action of the shear ram, here's a strategy which may be worth discussion:

1) Saw off the bent-over portion of the riser. Flow increases somewhat.
2) Using strong bracework attached to the BOP, position s section of open drill pipe over the flow. This section should have strong open grillwork across its bottom opening and centering vanes around its perimeter. We'll call this section the "ramrod". The flow goes upward through the ramrod and around the ramrod.
2) Force the ramrod downward until it encounters the closed shear ram.
3) Open the shear ram. Flow increases greatly. The upward motion of the partly-sheared drill string is stopped by the ramrod.
4) Force the ramrod down through the shear ram. This forces the drill string and whatever debris is in it downward and leaves the ramrod positioned in the shear ram.
5) Close the shear ram, cutting the ramrod.

Flow stops. Finish the relief well(s) and kill the well.

The above assumes the shear ram is in working condition.

Update: The present side view of the BOP and riser ( at 11:36PM CDT makes it obvious that the top of the BOP is bent. I doubt that there's a straight enough shot down to the shear ram for the ramrod idea to work.

So weird seeing them scan the riser with the ROV. One thing you notice is that the riser from the BOP stack to the first Riser connection is Collapsed? How would that happen and the rest is round?

How? Ummm - maybe having a large sinking drill-ship pulling on the riser?

For those of you into experimentation, try and bend a piece of (thin) electrical conduit (EMT) or rigid copper pipe without any kind of mandrel/tube bender.
Odds are it will kink, just like the riser pipe did, leaving a kinked section instead of a smooth bend, with the rest of the pipe still round.
For those without some EMT or rigid copper hanging around, try a plastic straw.

Same distribution of forces, even though the riser pipe is much stronger, so it takes more force to bend it.

I've seen this in the aforementioned tubes, along with galvanized steel water pipe and various thin tubes, even soft copper tubing.
That's why they make various tubing benders - without then, kinking is likely or assured in some cases.

For those of you into experimentation, try and bend a piece of (thin) electrical conduit (EMT) or rigid copper pipe without any kind of mandrel/tube bender.
Odds are it will kink, just like the riser pipe did, leaving a kinked section instead of a smooth bend, with the rest of the pipe still round.

Also happens to glass tubing, for those of us who got to bend it in chem or biology.

That explanation (original post) should be in every newspaper and on every TV news broadcast. Thanks for the continued work in that area. It must take quite some time and effort.

Most people could follow most of that, or some relatively simplified version if presented patiently in between the weather, sports and American Idol updates, and considering what's at stake the general public should be getting a decent explanation. I continue to encourage my friends to visit this site, and now will encourage donation as well. (I think we're seeing here that the public not only wants this info but is willing to pay for it - are you listening, MSM?)

Might I suggest - not sure how feasible this is - a designation of technical posts for longer term members you know to be petro industry pros at which only they could post (but we all could/should read), some posts for engineers and the like who don't fit that category but know their materials, geology etc etc and might have some outsider insight, and separate posts on the social/economic and/or biological impact side of things that more of the general public could participate in. I think that in the third category - no disrepect intended to anyone here - a lot of the quality 'signal' wouldn't require any particular petrochemical industry experience. In fact many of us are already shellshocked by the feeling that people in that industry are already making way too many decisions for all of us, and unfortunately you folks, having put yourselves out there with the best intentions, are also making yourselves available to the receiving end of that sentiment.

PS: The AP stories on the Yahoo news site, as one example, have been carrying the same comments thread for a month, and now bear over 82,000 comments last I saw, most barely literate. "Nuke the well" comments and all, this is an oasis. A lot of us have been drawn here like moths to light not only because of the info, but because discussion forums pertaining to the disaster with intelligent, thoughtful people have been few and far between. I'm afraid - and I'm guilty as anyone - that this has led to mixing a fair amount of politics/economics and environmental responses in threads that have been in the main more technical. I don't envy having to sort all that out on your end, but do understand what has led some newbies here. Almost none of us can diagram a BOP, but we have some real world experience in some of the areas discussions have waded into.

I have followed some of the reporting and commentary here and I think the emphasis on technical details, while interesting, actually obscures the important issue: the people responsible, including BP corporate executives, should be going to prison. You just should not be allowed to spoil natural resources on this scale and then treat it like a tactical mistake that needs fixing. It is criminal negligence. I realize that if the stakes were raised in this way, companies would be much more cautious, progress would be slower and costs would be much greater. But of course that is exactly what we need to bring the prices of petroleum products in line with their value. There is no entitlement to cheap oil. Just like with the recent financial crisis, there appears to be no consequence for gross incopetence and abject failure. The perpetrators are still in charge and go on TV to give learned commentaries about what should be done to address their failures. The government's role here is to protect our natural resources punish those who despoil them.

Emotionalism aside, the physical problem still needs fixing.

I just signed up today as a new member although I have been a visitor lurking here for a couple of weeks. I do not have specific expertise in the oil industry but I am a electronics technician with over 30 years experience in both analog and digital disciplines. I greatly appreciate the atmosphere of professional courtesy, technical quality, and mature civility of this forum, from it's members as well as the administrators and moderators. Being an Admin of my own discussion forum, I know the quality of this forum is the result of relentless sustained effort and attention.

I am here to learn from the professional members of this forum - oil men and women experienced in the field, both active and retired, who possess first hand knowledge and skills to thoughtfully discuss, analyze, and propose solutions to the challenges that face our nation during this crisis. I have found nowhere else, anywhere, that has as much breadth or depth of technical intelligence in this field.

Thank you for being such a wonderful technical resource, think tank, laboratory, and classroom to the the lay visitor and professional alike. Carry On!

I feel the same as you about this forum, wundermaus. I'm no oil expert, just a guy who tries to understand the physics, the engineering, and the numbers. This site leaves the rest a day or two behind and exposes the woeful shortage of expertise elsewhere.

The investigation will show if it rises to criminal negligence.( Financial crisis was building for years and "the gross incompetence" as you call it ran throughout all of society--including consumers and government). The goal is to stop the oil flowing , clean up the mess, and take care of folks who have been hurt. In that sense it is no different from a hurricane or other natural disaster.
There will be plenty of time to deal with cause and blame. They aren't going anywhere soon.

I've been reading for several days, and want to thank all those experts who have shared their knowledge here. I didn't sign up until just now because I didn't intend to say anything (just an interested observer with no technical/engineering/petro knowledge). But I finally signed up because I've been away, and don't understand what I'm seeing right now. Have they already cut the pipe from the BOP and are moving it? There seems to be a huge increase in volume of material coming from the top of the riser.

I apologize in advance if this kind of time-sensitive question isn't appropriate here...

ack. Nevermind. They finally showed a view that shows the pipe still attached. I swear, I watched for an hour trying to see that.

Latest nyt story confirms what Rockman has been saying:

engineers cannot be sure how much more oil might escape if the operation fails.

“We’re all concerned about it,” said the technician, who spoke on condition of remaining unnamed because he is not authorized to speak publicly for the company. “We simply do not have the data about the internal geometry of the blowout preventer” to determine what volume of oil is being contained by the damaged blowout preventer and any damaged equipment or debris inside it.

Thank you Rockman and the others for the facts. I've been out of the business for 30 years and sure have a lot of catching up to do.

Yup, we have are own ROCK STAR here, and he likes Blue Bell Ice Cream. LOL

EVERYBODY likes Blue Bell ice cream.

It is the #1 thing I miss about Texas (now on the west coast).

I think I gonna send Rockman a gift certificate for a hogshead of Blue Bell when this is all over.

Thanks EL but I might have to pass on BBIC for a while. My owner is on my butt about losing weight. He doesn't want me kicking off before I help him make the $2 billion in our biz plan. And he's an honestly caring guy also.

Does any body knows if the Diamond wire cutter is ready... and how long it will take to install it and cut the 21" riser at the flange weld level ?

I think they have yet to shear the riser, and that cut would come first.

Sure, but this should take less time and they could start the diamondwire cutting while shearing off the riser since the leak will increase as soon as the shear off is accomplished..... looks like the Oil States Flex joint is slightly flexed by the bending moment in the kink....

The big increase in flow will come when the riser is cut between the kink and the BOP removing that restriction. A larger increase will come if they remove the LMRP and try to install a second BOP.

Why that ? are any of the bag preventers in the LMRP closed ?

In theory the lower one. But the blowout supposedly came up the annulus rather than the drill pipe... There was some earlier information that there was a large pressure drop between the well and the top of the BOP below the kink, and another smaller one (few hundred psi) between there and the rest of the riser.


I believe both annulars are in the closed state. The lower 5000psi annular was closed before the blowout. We saw 6000psi on the SPP before the explosion when the gas came up the riser (Haliburton last 2 hours of recordings). I would say this annular is in shreads.

BP said they had closed one annular with the ROV, this would have to be the upper. Why wasn't the crew using this annular. This was a standard 10000psi unit, whereas the lower annular was a stripping element, which you would want to keep in reserve. Another reason why it was usual to use the lower annular is, the lower is much harder to change out. If the Subsea engineer knew they were using for no good reason he would be pissed.

I suspect the upper annular was not in good condition. Remember the comment about picking up a handful of rubber from the shakers.

This also brings up another point, why did the crew shut in on the annular. Standard practice on a DP rig is to space out, close a ram and land off on the ram. Otherwise as pressure builds under the pipe, them the pipe rises. This can be seen once again on the last 2hr report with the lower hook load, this is not good for the drill pipe or the top drive. With the info that the test pressures were dropped from 10,000 to 7100psi, it sounds as thouugh pipe rams were not in all that good a condition as well.

Oil States Flex joint?

Dinoil, is there a possibility the flex joint will straighten up a bit after they shear the riser? It looks like it will.

phm1c, yes it will straight up, they are quite stiff (laminated rubber element)... The Logo on the video shows that it seems to be a Oil States Flex joint....

For me the BP video

is a little better quality than CNN which also seems a little delayed

pipe still connected

Bring up Windows Media Player, hit "File | Open URL" and put into the address block. Now you have better control over the window size. I keep it small on background, then if something good appears click the window and F11 for full screen. (F11 drops it back again too.)

Told my daughter it's my new aquarium! :^0

Is that a good link for video?

Takes me to the Deepwater Horizon specs page.

Sorry, sunnnv and all - should have been:

Too many open windows! :^(

I saw it on/near the bottom a while ago, though not as far as I can tell, near the BOP.

surprised, expected them to go at it with the shear.

Ahhh - they're just showing the wire saw again right now, still looks like it's suspended.

No word on speed at

But having used a smaller version for cutting hard materials,
it should be fairly fast. Maybe 30 minutes to a couple of hours is my WAG.

Nice new pictures of the riser and lower flange showing on live leakTV.

I am an aerospace engineer by education, so not an expert, but it seems they would do better if they unbolted the flange, instead of cutting the damaged riser.

The riser is BADLY damaged and you can see that now. The plastic deformation starts right above the flange, so it would be next to impossible for them to fashion a well fitting collector flange/cup thingy on top of that mis-shapen piece. That leaves a good gap to aid in hydrate formation, which killed their first attempt at collecting the oil.

If they unbolt the flange, they have a chance of getting a real, honest to God, pressure-tight connection to this damn thing. However, the pressure differentials will work against them - I think there is a good deal of pressure being held back by that bent riser pipe, which will come calling once they remove it.

Can they start pumping ahead of time, creating a net downward force on the new pipe/flange as they lower it on the BOP top flange, once the riser is removed? If they can pump really hard and stabilize the new pipe/flange long enough for the robots to bolt it down, they are DONE.

If it is something like 1 ksi above local water pressure at the BOP top flange, can they pump fast enough to create 1+ ksi above local water pressure at the new pipe/flange inlet? If they can pump at 3.5 ksi at the surface ship, that should be enough...

I guess it goes without saying that's never been done before.

I think the consensus is that unbolting things with the ROVs is impossible - too bad as it complicates things as you say. Cutting, sawing, and clamping - yes, unbolting - no.

I haven't seen anyone describe the unlatching mechanism for the LMRP and lower BOP - must be an interesting trick.

Why the hell not?

They bolted the thing on in the first place and they did it at depth before!

Why can't they undo a damn bolt with all that fancy robotic craft they have down there - a man could do it...well if a man could live down there.

Are you sure they can't unbolt?

I mean the BOP is not leaking - it's seals are holding. They just need to put on a new pipe and seal it. The well will do the rest, or, to lower the pressure on the BOP they can suck as hard as they can. That should hold until the relief wells are done.

Hi Dimitry,

My memory is sketchy, but I think the BOP connects to the wellhead with a hydraulic activated connection seal and the LMRP attaches to the BOP the same way. So it could be the first section of the riser is bolted to the top of the LMRP at the surface and then lowered down to connect to the BOP. Can't find a picture yet to back that up though and I'm not in the oil biz.

Which brings up the question of how to you put together a 5,000 ft long riser???

That's what they say below. The question remains can they disconnect a broken riser and connect a new unbroken one that goes up to the surface.

A while back it was mentioned.

starting from the transocean site for the Deepwater Horizon:

You can find the specs on the BOP and LMRP:
BOP 2 x Cameron Type TL 18¾in 15K double preventers; 1 x Cameron Type TL 18¾in 15K single preventer; 1 x Cameron DWHC 18¾in 15K wellhead connector
LMRP 2 x Cameron DL 18¾in 10K annular; 1 x Cameron HC 18¾in 10K connector

Then you go to Cameron's site and find those model doodads.

The collet connector:

"hydraulically actuated"

Sunnnv, are you sure the wellhead has a cameron profile ?

haven't been down to the bottom of the GOM to check personally,
just going by the specs on Transocean's site.

Have you caught something different on the video feed?

Well is the thing broken?

The flange and below looks clean to me, with no visible deformation. The ROV was casing it for a long time. It does look bent as a whole, though, but it seemed that the plastic flange was occurring below the collet.

The body of the connector looks really solid and there is a good chance it will function again. Can it be locally actuated by the ROV? I wonder if BP had the manufacturer run some plastic tests to see if it is likely to work in the current slightly deformed state.

I_P, the wellhead is a Dril-Quip wellhead with most likely an H4 pin locking profile. At the top of the BOP stack, there is another pin locking profile. Both the BOP and the LMRP are attached to the pin profil via a wellhead connector (most likely a H4 connector)....

Below is a link to the catalog of this equipment...

Well, it even says the seal is ROV replaceable/renewable in the catalog...

So why wouldn't you want to bring another one of these down and lock it on?

I assume there is a way to activate the hydraulics with the ROV.

Unbolting at that interface would not be effective as there is a drill string, likely unbroken but bent, inside the riser.

If BP can successfully unbolt the old riser, why can they drop another riser on the existing top BOP flange?

The pumping trick above can be used, or you can simply use long bolts to draw it together, or a custom fixture to bring the two flanges together and seal it.

The more I think about the more it seems it can be done. The pressure at the BOP outlet is there but it is not VERY high and it CAN be overcome. It is certainly much lower than the well native pressure they tried to drive back with "top kill".

Can't they treat it like a freaky production well, while we wait for them to kill it with the relief wells?

How do they do the standard riser/BOP installation?

Folks who know - help out here.


The riser joints are simply bolted together by 6 or 8 bolts, around 3" dia from memory, each torqued up to several thousand ft/lb. The heads could easily be cut off to remove the riser, but it wold make it difficult reconnect a new riser.

Check the Vetco web page, as it is Vetco riser.

I do not know what tools the ROV teams have available, but possibly given a clear path and the ROV have a deep water hytorc machine, the bolt might be able to undone

If it were me, I'd cut the riser first, allowing flow to increase, but unloading most of the pressure-force from the flange, then unbolt the flange.

Can they unbolt?

Whatever the answer is, BP has the best engineers making these recommendations, so they have the full information, right?

idle thoughts on problems in hitting the target with RW ....had said my 2 cents on wellbore surveys and now form the RW standpoint there are some things to consider with regards to RW target

1- like i'd said ....current technology's theoretical limits can hit a 10ft radius ball with a confidence interval of 90%...this limit applies on RW with with a grain of salt since expected interception is 18000 rkb ....but really depth can be +- 50 ft on depth ...the problem here is azimuth of RW (think 3d geographical grid) essentially the target for the RW is not a circle but a rectangle (in cross sectional view of leaking well when looked at from right or left) of approx 75' (length) x 2' (width)

2- now there are two options to establish pressure communication b/w RW and LW (leaking well)...(1) mill into the LK csg or run a hot tap (pull along LK and run a perf gun)....high pressures will likely preclude a hot tap and most likely it will be the milling option

3- for milling we have to hit the LK with our milling bit and hit in a way so that atleast 25-30% of the cross-sectional on the LK makes a connection with the milling bit be able to mill and expose sufficient portion of the LK to pump the kill pill..this means the target is really a rectangle (cross-sectional view) of approx 75' X 1.5'

4- the Mississippi delta is a known have a high iron content in the formation...this will screw up the gyroscopes and the accelerometers a bit....small errors on the instantaneous will add up over 18000'....

5- accuracy will be increased in the last 3/4 joints of the DP using wellspot RGR (radial gradient ranging) in combination with PMR (passive magnetic ranging) ....this will get a good lock on the target zone and time drilling will be used ....(the driller will need sufficient supplies of Gatorade, Copenhagen/skoal/husky or whatever dip he prefers but fine cut and complete concentration here)

git er' dun

Did you have to re-type it? Nice to see it re-posted :)

IP - no this section deals with RW target issues when doing the intersection from the point of RW.......the wellbore survey comment is gone...this comment builds upon the wellbore survey comments

Just a short note of appreciation from another new (since BP disaster) reader. I did read your wellbore explanation from this morning and it was most helpful, thank you! (Sorry it was deleted...just letting you some people DID read & learn from it!)

-I sent a contribution this morning and I encourage others who find this site far more informative than anything on the MSM sites to do the same. (I was originally directed here by a comment on the NYTimes site).
-That's all, just thank you and you won't see any more posts from me, but I'll continue to send monetary contributions as I can manage them.


Stick around and learn more about the problems of oil aupply, and how we are going to have to get by with less soon.


The psychology is interesting. I was showing a friend the live feed last night and we watched some sawing operation being conducted by robots a mile under the sea. We both were caught up in the amazing feat of tech and engineering all this was (I, being an engineer and she being a medical doctor). When I turned it around, it was like a light bulb went off in her head.

We had been talking - "it's almost like we can do anything with human ingenuity",

but turning it around it became -

"we are required to do everything we are capable and push those limits to the extreme just in order to keep this whole project (modern civilization) going".

thx.. now I can see that link to the plume study that had mysteriously disappeared.

This is in reply to above and to post

A couple of decades ago I was researching a problem with directional surveys. These were for a BP heavy oil directional project, shallow wells but high accuracy required. We had one well in the pilot program that was way off and after multiple gyroscopic surveys to determine a best guess actual location concluded that the error while drilling was caused by a faulty nonmagnetic DC. I had lots of data to work with and became obsessed with survey accuracy over the next few months and dug into everything I could and did all the math and error calculations on all the gimbals and this and that etc. Long time ago and I forget the details. The end conclusion was that whether magnetic single shot, or gyroscope, or MWD the accuracy was not near what the service companies were saying. I'd have to see the numbers cranked again to believe the 10' radius accuracy. Plus, you don't really know where the original hole was because that had survey errors as well. I am assuming that a directional survey would be required even on a vertical well if only for the reason of intersection by a relief well. Maybe there is new technology like GPS that will penetrate formations, or directional metal detectors that can identify relative distance/direction to well casings, and if so I would be interested in seeing what is new. But unless there has been some radical new technology development the chances of intersecting the casing are more a matter of luck than anything and 3 or 5 or more attempts would not be unusual.

So following up on the comments to the TOD post linked, there is much higher probability of success of hitting the formation close to the original well bore. Perhaps close enough to kill the formation, and pretty good chance of being close enough to draw down pressure so that work can proceed at the original well head. This would be a necessary step when the shut in pressure would exceed fracture pressure at the shoe. (general rule of thumb is when the gas comes up the outside of the casing the problems increase by multiple orders of magnitude). In these situations the RW reduces pressure to the point that it can be killed through the original well bore.

I'm thinking that since the well was drilled to TD that pressures were known and the intermediate casing strings were sufficient to shut the well in if required. After all this is the assumption behind any argument that depends on the shear rams. So if the RW in this case is merely to reduce pressure to enable a second BOP, or snubbing unit, to be installed then the kill still comes from the top but with drill pipe in the hole that would enable circulation.

I suspect that the flow restriction is at the annulus between production string and shoe of last casing string. If the BOP was opened wide there would negligible pressure drop at the well head with most occurring down hole. I would want to do tests, not sure what kind, maybe the top kill junk drop might provide data, maybe draw down tests at choke. I don't know the setup but if the restriction is downhole the relief well to relieve pressure won't make much difference. Which leaves the relief well for the purpose of intercepting the original casing and I wouldn't count on that happening first or second time unless you got really lucky.

When I first heard about the BP fiasco unprecedented (FU) it sounded like they hit a migrated gas bubble from way deeper and this was beyond anything anybody every seen. Then it sounded like the BP FU has blown out the shallow casing and the well head was lost. None of these are true. They still have a well head and the pressures aren't Godzillian. So from the start the whole thing was like driving on black ice, then when they did premature mopup and displaced the mud with salt water it was like going into a skid on black ice; but to blow up the wellhead would be like doing a Thelma and Louise off the deep end.

I think that whatever the flowrate if it can be done the best course is through the top of the original well and then kill in conventional manner. Depending on a relief well to intersect may have lower flow rates but the indeterminate length of time to intersect, probably long, would result in more total spill.

Caveat, if I could look at the BP data I might change my mind. Not that I'm interested in seeing the data. Just thought I'd drop my two cents on directional accuracy, and how everybody else seems much more optimistic than I am on that point. Be interesting to see some more discussions on this.

OV -- you could look here ...this explains it better

there is no optimism on hitting the target on the first try fact my prediction has always been in multiple posts that early September and not early august is a practical time frame to kill this well...

if you read the comment again ...i dont say 10' radius is what you get...i say theoretical accuracy is to 10' radius with a confidence interval of 90%.....

there is more information in the above link there and I discuss why this theoretical accuracy will not apply in drilling ops and why....

but things have defiantly improved since you last cranked the numbers you say decades have a new generation of drillers drilling with a new generation of hardware :)

Thanks for the replies alliilaali and flanker.

Al I read that comment you posted and I don't disagree with it, I'm simply stating that with the accuracy of each measurement and how each data point is chained to the previous one that these incremental errors add up fast. I don't doubt that there have been some improvements in the hardware in the last couple of decades but unless they have come up with some totally new technology I think they are still basically stabbing in the dark.

Timely comment by bloomberg Flanker.

As for multiple relief wells I'm thinking that they would be sequential attempts starting from a common intermediate casing. Each attempt would gather data, maybe by sensing the original well casing and doing some triangulation. Drill some hole, collect some data, cement back, adjust and retry, repeat as necessary. Having multiple wells all converge on the same spot at the same time to improve the odds could cause all sorts of new problems.

Time will tell. I wouldn't be surprised if this took a year to resolve. I have pity for the poor drilling engineers that have to balance reality with the public expectations. Sure glad it's not me.

from Bloomberg,

June 1 (Bloomberg) -- BP Plc would need the equivalent of a
lottery win to succeed with its first attempt to end the Gulf of
Mexico oil spill in August using a so-called relief well, the
president-elect of the American Association of Petroleum
Geologists said.
A relief well intercepts the damaged well at an angle
thousands of feet below the seabed and permanently closes it
with heavy mud and cement. The method is the surest way for BP
to end the largest oil spill in U.S. history, yet initial
failure is “almost a certainty,” the association’s David
Rensink said by phone from Houston. “It would be like winning
the lottery to get it on the first shot.”
BP faces some of the same challenges PTT Exploration &
Production Pcl encountered last year in trying to stop a leak
2,600 meters (8,500 feet) below the seabed off northwest
The Thai oil and gas explorer finally plugged the well in
the Timor Sea after 10 weeks when a relief well enabled the
company to pump 3,400 barrels of heavy mud to stanch the flow of oil. During one of the failed attempts to halt the leak on Nov.
1, a fire erupted while the Bangkok-based company was injecting
the mud, engulfing and destroying the West Atlas drilling rig.

Mon May 31 22:49:11 MDT 2010

ROV on the move again. Picture of giant, yellow shears
on the live video feed.

yep - looks like they just closed the blade a bit to test it.

I caught a screenshot of a ROV with a wide angle view of the top of the BOP stack and the kink in the riser.

It looks to me that each section from the BOP to the flange to the riser is progressively more bent. This would be from the forces of the sinking rig, and I can see why they are concerned about supporting the riser after they make the super-shear cut.

To paraphrase Archimedes: Give me a lever long enough and I can bend anything.

The joint between the upper and lower assembly you see in the picture, that has the most bend, is actually a swivel joint that self aligns to compensate for flexing from water currents and slight movement of the rig. It is speculated that when they cut the riser it will or can be straightened with no ill effect.

I suspect the horizontal cylinder pointing to the right is the actuator for the emergency disconnect that did not work for some reason.

Same question as above - can they either unbolt or hydraulically disconnect the bent/broken riser and put on a new/unbroken up to the surface?

Doesn't seem to be a clear answer whether this is doable from the folks who may know.

This seems like a far better way to collect the oil.

There must be a reason they are NOT doing it...what is it?

i think perspective is an issue here.....the bolts in question are about the size of your fist each....and to be fair the cute looking ROV's are about the size of a car.......bolts cannot be unscrewed here....the torque rating on those bolts is very high ...a high temp/high pressure locker is put on the threads kinda like loctite ....the idea on most bolts on the BOP is once screwed they must not ever come loose and....the only option here is what BP is doing as with everything attempted here the structural integrity of the BOP has to be taken into account....

Can the hydraulic collet be disconnected then? It looks to be in good shape from the outside and the link to the cross-section showed a solid amount of metal inside.

They will never get the new cap to seal against the cut pipe which is very deformed all the way to the flange. That will invite sea water in for hydrate formation.

Are you saying this is like a once connect, never disconnect system?

And by the way, a little heat and that Loctite will give just fine. Boiling water should do it for most of them.

i said it was like loctite NOT loctite....this wont give easily...

no the bolts can be unbolted ....but the torque rating is very high and the initial force required to break is very very high....

you unbolt it ...fine ...the flow will increase exponentially....even cutting away at the riser pipe i don't know where the 20% flow increase number comes from....i can say 30% and i would be correct ...i can say 10% and still be equally correct ....the only assumption that has been made is the main flow restriction is downhole....and the kink in the riser is not the major flow restriction.....but exactly what percentage of flow is restricted by the kink is hard to tell.....

unscrewing will increase the flow even more.......the only time unscrewing will even be considered is if a BOP on BOP scenario is considered as the new BOP will be a an exact fit bolt for bolt at the spot you are talking about...

and you CANNOT put a new riser for a million reasons

this is risk-reward scenario....every action has to take this into account.....

If they can unbolt, or hydraulically uncouple, it is definitely the way to go.

You know the main pressure restriction is what you call downhole. The riser restriction is small in comparison. Whether they cut the pipe right above the flange or unbolt at the flange the flow increase is the same and it is not catastrophic - 20-30% at most. Calculatable as well - they should have enough information to do this now, even if they didn't before.

Don't you people decouple at the BOP when you switch from exploratory to production, anyway?

So you should be able to bring in a production platform, drop a new riser and (very carefully) couple to the semi-open BOP and start taking oil out.

There must be a way to change the production steps to safely couple to a flowing BOP with a production platform. Unlike the DH, it would be meant to accept the flow.

This makes sense as I have seen the ROV using a wrench, a t-handle, socket-type tool, and swivel socket, but it was all fairly small stuff.

But, they said they took the BOP off the 2nd relief well.

The hydraulic latch should be functional, and the eventual intent is to bring the entire BOP to the surface for forensic examination when the well is killed.

There clearly has been some discussion about unlatching the LMRP portion and adding another BOP to the connection - I think that presents a whole variety of other problems though. Its going to be a long summer for these folks, and perhaps they will attempt that at some point. What they are trying now is essentially clamping on a new riser, but with a connection that can leak by design so they don't have to deal with all the flow if their separation equipment can't handle it.

Come on, they don't even have that much flow. This well is fully within production range of their equipment. They got to be able to handle oil/gas at 20-40 kbd, right? What does it matter how it comes up to the wellhead - at the end of the day all they got is oil/gas coming out from a non-leaking BOP, just like they would if everything was good.

Why are they fooling with all these caps and domes. Remove the old pipe, put on the new pipe and "produce".

Is the deep water well development equipment incapable of swapping out a riser pipe? If that is so - it is one serious flaw.

Remember that there is a mangled drill pipe running inside the BOP, LMRP, and riser. It's one of the things that makes just "swapping out a riser pipe" nontrivial.

True. But if they come in with a flat flange, it wouldn't matter. May not be able to work the hydraulics, though.

AFAIK the Discoverer Enterprise has 15,000 bpd of processing capability. That's what BP says:

But this
says 20,000 bpd.

The new 12,000 - 19,000 bpd flow rate could be more than that, especially without a riser kink - we'll see.

FYI, a video about the DE

How do they restrict it under normal circumstances to the lower flow rates?

If it isn't too much restriction, the BOP internal pressure won't be MUCH higher and it should hold.

They already "tested" it at much higher pressures during "top kill", ostensibly.

Under normal circumstances when testing a new hole,
with a tight and working BOP,
one can use a choke valve array (on the choke line) to throttle the flow.

When one tightens down the choke, the pressure behind it builds, ultimately up to static well pressure when stopped.

When your BOP won't close up, then you end up letting things flow.
You're right, the lower portion of the BOP has been pressure tested to 10,000 psi. But with a leaking flange and no way to seal something down on it, they cannot create much backpressure in the upper part of the BOP to do any choking. So the excess will just flow into the sea.

This may be one reason they're going to also use the choke and kill lines to divert flow to the Q4000 in a couple of weeks, once they extend the hoses.

I'm wondering why, given that it has a dual rig, the Discover Enterprise doesn't just attach to the choke/kill likes ASAP and start sucking up as much oil/gas as it can (from beneath the flow restriction in the BOP).

Just dump the surplus oil over the side.

A month ago I advocated bringing another Explorer type on-site.

BTW, PR release understated flow. *NO MAXIMUM WAS GIVEN* !

Three different estimates put flows at a MINIMUM of 12,000, 15,000 and 19,000 b/day.


I would like to say this is one info filled place.I heard of this page on facebook.

I build houses everyday. I never thought about oil before like I do now. I can't stop reading on how crazy it is. The live video is the best one I have seen yet.
This page has me thinking in different ways as I look at the equipment I use.
Thank You!

Now I know you all hate questions from people who know nothin but...

There cutting this thing at some point. The top kill that failed(I even knew it would with the broken pipe in the middle). Can they use topkill now on top of this piece?

ok back to my corner of reading and watching....

I bet you never knew that we could ever possibly be facing a situation where there is a steadily depleting supply of oil left for everyone to share, did you?

The top kill is probably done for good. The LMRP attachment (they have two different kinds and more on the way) will not hold much, if any pressure. It certainly won't be more restrictive than the crimp in the riser that will be removed. They also intend to produce from the choke and kill lines used from the top kill. Hopefully, the two systems together can collect the most, if not nearly all of the oil.

I am slightly more hopeful that before, but they are having trouble deploying the saw, so we'll see.

Edit to add that they have now put the saw in place. Way to go, guys!

Looks like the diamond wire cutting tool is at depth (aluminum tubing contraption w/ 4 yellow rectangular boxes set at the back. I have to believe if they could unbolt the riser package, they would.

It would be SO much better if they could unbolt it.

I really can't understand why the damn thing can't be removed one way or another.

I would even try cutting a the flange junction, through the bolts and all, cleaning up the surface and engineering a custom seal, which will actually hold good pressure and allow for "production" from this thing, until can be killed for good with relief wells.

If they have a reasonably flat surface and holes for big bolts, they can create terrific pressure at the interface, allowing the right gasket to seal against a few ksi of internal pressure (at most) they need to withstand.

I think they are making another mistake.

Why couldn't they use some sort of huge pneumatic socket wrench thingie, like the air ratchets they use to put wheels on cars and take them off? The torque would be generated by the tool, and the ROV would only have to position it on the flange nuts.

The impact wrenches they use on your car's lug nuts work because the person holding it gives the tool leverage. Without that leverage to push against, imagine pulling the trigger on an electric drill without holding onto the handle. The entire drill would just spin around its target, instead of spinning the target itself.

Yeah, I guess I was thinking there was something they could leverage it against, but maybe not. The tool would have to be huge.

I reckon the ROV has a bit more mass than us. Might shake it a bit, though...

Dimitry, they are not making a mistake...
The wellhead is in bad shape... Nobody knows the integrity of any of the well casing and cement job... the last thing you want is to have an open blow-out (oil/gas leaking outside of the wellhead)... as a consequence of overpressurizing the wellhead... managing to get a better seal on the shear ram could blow the weakened wellhead...
In consequence they are trying to isolate the flow at the pressure it is leaking... if they impose a lower pressure... like gas lifting or pumping they are going to suck water and the hydrate snow will plug the riser... fine line to be followed... outstanding performance being done presently...

Jeez, they're trying to put the diamond wire cutting tool into place and just rammed it into the riser package. Easy boyz!!

The diamond wire cutter is in place.

Dang thing is built like a Mack truck! Just hope that the saw-blade doesn't break on the drill pipe remnant inside, if any.

So cut already - i have to go to bed soon.

After they make the cut, there's not going to be any ferrule. Nothing to grab onto.

As I understand it, they are going to grab onto the flange,not the stub. Both top connects cover the flange and the stub, only thing they aren't sure about is the quality of the seal and resultant leakage.

I don't see how it will be possible to connect a second BOP if they cut for the LMRP at the point they're currently holding the cutter at. By the same token, those operators don't have much room to work with based upon the location of the kink in the riser.

Man, oh man, good luck on this. Let's hope everything works for the best. Looks like it represents the last, best shot before those relief wells are drilled (assuming the second one is back on-line now).

The LMRP disconnect point is a couple of meters below where they are working.

In 1980 I was an oilfield cementer. We were called out to a blowout rig in northern BC Canada. There was a huge Loffland rig over a gas well. The flow was directed to a flare pit. Previous attempts to kill the well with Barrite weight material in the mud had failed. We tried something new.

Using 2 parabolic mixing tanks and 2 twin cement pumpers we mixed a slurry of powderized Galena, circulating this in a swirling vortex like way through the tanks and back to the pumps. The galena was added bit by bit. after hours of circulation we pumped this very heavy slurry downhole. The resulting hydrostatic cloumb was enough to kill the well right away.

This was on land and a gas well. I have submitted a more detailed description of the treatment to BP at their suggestion submition web site and followed up with a phone call. They will get back to me on that I was told. Still waiting.

To my knowledge this had not been done since, but I wouldnt know. It was a tight hole and we did not tell anyone. I was wondering why nobody tried that until I remembered that nobody knew of that anyway.
I hope that something works for them soon.

Thanks "onfreq" for Thinking.

If BP would put more info out people might come up with better analysis of the data they have. I suspect they don't want to due to court issues that surely will follow this when it is done.

Either way, it IS nice to see people looking for a solution.

I suggested using powdered lead in an earlier thread and was surprisd at the ridicule I attracted. I know this forum is very highly respected and is full of genuine experts in the field but I thought calling me one of the "world's nutters" a bit harsh.

(I'm a techie in safety engineering with 20 years experience; I worked for a while on an onshore oilfield and learned as much as I could about the operations.)

Experts are good because they know all the details and have the experience. Experts are bad because those details and that experience often prevent them from thinking of something new in their field, which appears to be what we need here.

Or, if they think of something new, they are afraid to pursue the idea for fear of ridicule and damage to their reputation. Most people just want to play it safe and protect their career. As Samuel Johnson said, "Most of us are cowards and we get along very well that way." But sometimes not so well.

No one seems to like my gaslift idea. To the experts: if you don't think it would work, and do not consider it beneath your notice, it would be good if you would explain why you don't think it would work. Maybe the effort would lead you to think that it might work after all.

I am an ME with forty years of experience in power generation and fields other than O&G, and have spent many years studying the hydraulic air compressor, which gave me the gaslift idea. Then I found that the O&G industry has been using gaslift for many years to produce low pressure wells. So the technique is not new, just the application. Why wouldn't it work to capture the leaking oil and gas until the flow can be stopped?

Apparently the Dutch have an interesting idea of what to do ;)

Elegant and simple

and it won't work.

The mud is too soft to hold the well pressure, so it's just going to blow out around the edges of this thing.

By the time one got a layer of concrete and let it set, and then 50-60 meters of sand over the top of the sunken barge, the relief wells will be done. Their "cut the hose and seal it" is rich too - one needs a seal good for about 10,000 psi.
No provisions for dealing with hydrates either.

And now the BOP is covered, so it can't be retrieved for analysis,
and one cannot properly cement the well from the top.

By the time such a thing could be deployed the relief wells will be completed would be my guess - a true permanent fix.

Hydrates made the giant containment box that was purpose built for this idea fail...sinking a big "pontoon" and covering it with bricks and cement will do the same...fill with hydrates and start to float/get plugged before it starts to work.

The last "box" was small compared to the cold Gulf waters, thus could not hold the heat from the flowing reservoir fluid. Perhaps, and this is where a Chemical Engineer would come in, the much bigger vessel would minimize this heat loss problem.

The sunken vessel could have several BOP fitted to its bottom allowing better control of the ALREADY escapping oil. Once the fill was in place weighing down the vessel/container you could close up and try all kinds of ways to heat up the inside. Much better control situation than what they have right now.

I would even go further. FOR THE FUTURE they should build something like this to be in standby so that Control over a potential blow-out would be as fast as possible.

If they cut the top off of the pontoon, as well as the bottom I could see it making it down over the plume. As far as heat retention: It's a much much larger space to heat in the first place, giving more and more time for hydrates to form. You are right, some chemist type would have to provide some more input on this thought...I really don't know if it would have positive or negative effect.

I am not following the theory of attaching multiple BOPs to the bottom of the pontoon. As far as my understanding goes, the BOP is designed to seal around pipes unless an absolute last resort cutoff is needed, then the shear rams are activated and cut through all of the pipes and form a permanent seal.

If you could get the thing down over the mess successfully it could work although I'd imagine if you plugged all the holes the oil is just going to seep out of the bottom through the mud regardless of the amount of weight added to the top of it (read all of the posts about sinking a 1 billion ton battleship filled with depleted uranium or the ideas to pump concrete til we are blue in the face over the blowout.)

I don't know if this LMRP is the best idea, however it seems they are cutting the riser now so we are definitely headed that step diamond saw.

am not following the theory of attaching multiple BOPs

My thinking was that the total flow from the well would go out through several BOP thus smaller rates going through each BOP. Hence making things easier to install tubing to surface to take control of the whole flow.

This simplifies the problem in my mind. You have a Huge Tank plus several openings instead of lots of holes and no way to divert them to one point.

In engineering we are always told to "Simplify the problem and the solution will be easier".

For the author who is writing the history of nutty ideas to fix the leak, I am the first person to think of sinking a large ship. I submitted it as gallows humor - a joke.

The vessel I recommended was the USS Ronald Reagan. If it missed the wellhead, I recommended repeating the attempt with the USS George H.W. Bush.

Jellyfish (Man-of-war maybe?) swimming by large pipe shears looked rather upset with this whole situation...I actually think he was carrying a sign that said "BP did this!" and his tail had a pull behind banner (think airplane) that said "Go ROV Ops, save meeeee!"

Are they sawing..... Where is the cutter ?

apparently not - there's no plume from the diamond saw, though it is in place on the riser.

The shear is dangling in the darkness to the right of the view on BP's live feed at the moment.

tag, you're it, to watch for something more meaningful than the half-hourly tour de BOP of the ROV - I'm finally headed to bed.

Thanks for the update... have a good sleep.. maybe most of the leak will be chanelled through the DDII riser when you awake....

Where are you guys getting the live feed from? Every source I have has failed, and am getting weird video garble from the BP site.

BP website is working ok now, but does at times degenerate into near random squarish dancing blobs. Probably the video data compression is off kilter. See the same thing in satellite TY when signal is bad.
Try googling for additional feeds, there are several.
From someone upthread is working in VLC for me.
Or this seems to be working as well

Here's the best compilation of live feed sites I've found, and even those aren't working, at least for me. Wondering if it's because I'm overseas...

Wow. That site has the greatest collection of links to nutter theories yet. Did you know it is raining oil in Florida?

Good video feed into Windows Media Player:

in replyh, good live feed link at in the middle of the page, although it is smaller, it is better defined.

I am looking for some information and/or knowledgeable speculation about the current status of the BOP (since little is available from BP). I apologize in advance if these have been substantially answered elsewhere already (links appreciated).

1. BP expects to remove the damaged BOP eventually for an autopsy (24 may 2010 Washington Briefing) and I expect it would be detached at the wellhead connector (see figure at the top of the thread). Are any details of the wellhead connector available (manufacturer, type)? Is it possible to detach the BOP and lift it straight up along with the trapped drill pipe? The speculation here is to replace the BOP with an undamaged valve on the same wellhead connector. It may be an advantage to allow the well to flow freely for a short time and then seal it instead of flowing more slowly over the next 2-3 months.

2. If one could seal the well either with a new valve assembly or somehow fix the existing BOP, the pressure under the seal would reach equilibrium with the reservoir pressure minus the pressure due to 13 000 feet seawater in the well (assuming that the entire well is full of a mixture of seawater and oil). Given reports that oil and/or gas pressure exists over the entire surfae area of the wellhead (entire diameter of the well casing), does anyone know if the wellhead structure could support this (probably 10 000 psi or more). I understand that normally this pressure would only need to be supported over the diameter of the production casing.

3. If the wellhead could not support the pressure, then it is better to have a slow leak and try to collect the oil as BP has done partially and will attempt to do better with the LMRP. Is this a stable situation for at least the next 2-3 months that it will take to get the relief wells in place? AFAIK, no one knows the true status of the BOP internally. Given a partially crushed drill pipe, a variety of 'jumk' occluding the flow in various places, probably some entrained sand in the flow, cavitation etc., any speculation on the probability that the BOP will survive this long?

4. If all the various valves could be fully opened in the existing BOP, what is the maximum diameter that could be inserted into the well?

Thanks to all the helpful people here who share their experience and knowledge.

What news agency are you associated with?

Or consulting firm?

No news organization or consulting association ... just an interested private person who desires to understand the problem

May I go off on a wee tangent for a moment please.

The NAOO website informs us that an “active to extremely active” hurricane season is in prospect for the Atlantic basin which I'm guessing includes the GOM. I've mentioned previously that the insurance industry is braced for a perfect storm and that hurricanes may add a significant multiplier to the damage caused by the spill through blowing oil or oil droplets inland with the risk of contamination of sanitation and water supplies, health through breathing difficulties etc.

I wondered if any reader might know of a historic precedent for this, if any, and if there is any civic preparedness in the Southern States for this kind of thing. Moreover, is the threat to health and water supplies real or scaremongering ie is water supplied to the population from resevoirs or underground acquifiers?

Finally, are rigs evacuated during hurricanes and what impact would this have on the relief well operations ie can they simply suspend drilling and pick up where they left off or do they have to "go back two spaces," before restarting where they finished?

Thank you.

. . . hurricanes may add a significant multiplier to the damage caused by the spill through blowing oil or oil droplets inland with the risk of contamination of sanitation and water supplies, health through breathing difficulties etc.

I've thought that what will be "interesting" would be the size of the evacuation from coastal areas, as millions of people try to get away from an oil contaminated storm.

If I evacuate, how will I rinse the salt water off my Geraniums?

The EPA will tell everyone not to worry and that oil contaminated hurricanes are no danger to our health. Just like the air at ground zero after 9/11. Nothing to see here citizen; pay your taxes and be quiet.

....and the alternative is what? Hysterical screaming at the top of your lungs while you race willy nilly down the street in a panic.
Life is sure great, when its always somebody else's fault, and the rest of us are just marking time waiting for our lottery numbers to hit(I guess that'd be an ambulance chasing class action attorney in this case).

I"m just saying, trust the EPA. They have your best interests at heart. Nobody dissed NASA when the shuttle blew up and burned up; why should anyone diss BP for this or the resulting contamination. It's all part of living in themodern world, right?

Why does anybody believe, that a government entity can do anything as well as collecting taxes? I mention Times Beach in post yesterday. By the time the dust settled with that, all of the hysterical ranters had moved onto other spots of lime light, and nowaday's, something that was going to be a death zone for a thousand years, is a park.
After Ivan, I had more then a sheen of oil(and other crude) in my yard. If the EPA had showed up, they'd of told me I had to move, because they didn't think it'd be safe to live here.

Re Ground Zero, I know someone who is a clergy person. He spent the week after 9/11 there ministering to first responders - as that was his first profession. Within a couple years he had a life-threatening lung condition, which can be "treated" but will ultimately kill him.

There is an "experiment" on humans going on right now down in the Gulf. One which may have tragic consequences for many.

I'm sorry? I missed the alternative. What was that exactly?

I should have said "oil and chemically contaminated storm."

All hurricanes that hit population areas are oil and chemical contaminated. Some just more then others.

I have previously pointed out that BP could financially support a new line of "Self-frying seafood," i.e., no need to add cooking oil.

If we see inland oil contamination across a vast agricultural area, perhaps BP could expand the program to include a new line of "Self-frying vegetables," i.e., no need to add cooking oil.

Couldn't smell any worse then a west Texas evening on the edge of Post.

Perhaps BP could even start a new line of "Self-frying" cafes, using BP oil saturated Gulf Coast food. And perhaps Tony Hayward could set an example by eating there daily.

And if we do see an oil and chemically contaminated hurricane or hurricanes, perhaps Tony Hayward and other executives could set an example by staying put in the path of the oil and chemically contaminated storm.

the next just a "little bit" more than the others

I reckon, if you believe everything you read.

flanker -- the general policy is to evac the rigs when a hurricane enters the GOM. They can't wait too long because evac means moving around 25,000+ hands by chopper and there are only so many birds. They typically put a storm choke in the top of the well bore, delatch the riser (or pull it up completely if there's time.) After that it's up to the gods as to whether the rig survives or not. The rigs move to slow to out run the storm.

SOP to pull up from a rig when a hurricane comes kind of close. Figure ten days to two weeks lost each time.

On the BP RWs. I figure last in, first out. There are not enough helos to bring everyone in all at once, so the oil companies start early "just in case".


Relief well 2 - what gives?

Numerous people have reported on this site that relief well #2 drilling has been stopped, presumably so we can use the BOP if needed.

What can we, as a concerned community, do to get this restarted? How do we draw attention to the fact that the only proven solution to this problem, the relief well, is down to 1 solution, a delay in which will result in 12-19k MINIMUM barrels/day being spilled in the GOM? Wasn't this the big thing Obama touted last week - we made them drill a 2nd well?

It occurs to me that there must be some BOP's on the shelf somewhere - after all, we did just declare a 6 month moratorium on offshore drilling. Surely there was one, if not completely ready, pretty close to ready somewhere which could be sped up and finished.

Given what Rockman and others have posted about the potential errors involved in trying to hit the DP exactly on the first shot, taking out our redundant backup could be costing us weeks more of pollution into the GOM.

Anybody got any good media contacts in MSM? Seems to me like a good question to bring up at a press conference....

Yeah sure!! Call the Press! Why didn't somebody already think about that? That'll sure fix this mess.
The Press can fix it! They kept Bush from winning a third term, and made sure that we could have somebody at the top of the chain of command who was savy enough to do just the right thing when SHTF.

That story is about a month away in my opinion (aas a sometime member of the press.)

Just a month? You give them more credit then I do. Of course, if they want to see it, they'll notice it right away.

I'm hoping that some of us who have long time blogs at prominent places (that includes me at TPM Cafe) can, once this "theater" of slo-mo cutting and pasting is over (hopefully safely) initiate a huge campaign to make sure we have at least 3 relief wells. I see this site as the point place for that campaign, with posts written from which others can quote and make use of to encourage this story to move up to the press and news media. But the bloggers can make a huge dent and insist that the story be covered.

I too believe it's not time for that yet - from a strategic point of getting attention (even though from a catastrophe point of view, it should have been started weeks ago!) - and I'm biding my time till after the "theater" of underwater video of robots and so on.

Though I am a nobody and a newbie, I strongly urge those in charge of this site to have ready to go some dynamite posts (with permission to quote extensively) and a thought-through message for others of us to disseminate.

I personally have already put out the word that I'm going to be calling for "all hands on deck" with regard to such a campaign. And I have received assurances that others will help out.

Editors and Contributors here: Just say the word!

Why stop at three? This is dire! This is perilous! This is the "Day After Tomorrow" being visited upon our heads. Let's go for broke and drill seven RW's. Seven's a lucky number. Think of how that'll increase our chances!

All that I have heard the last day or so is that 2nd RW is still proceeding. In Ken's technical briefing yesterday he specifically mentioned the progress on the 2nd well. While I've not heard specifically mentioned, it looks like the 2nd BOP on top of the failed BOP idea has been shelved and the 2nd RW continues.

I am still seeing stories of the second RW proceeding as planned. Just check google news and search "second relief well"

"FOXNews (blog) - 12 hours ago
The Development Driller II has drilled the second relief well to a depth of 8650 feet...."

Big honking shears maneuvering into position to part the riser now. Looks like one of these:

Those "BIG Honking Shears" look like a set of tongs from a rig floor which are used to tighten and loosen drill pipe, collars and downhole tools. Must be a hydralic one. I only pushed around manual ones.

To everyone talking about "Sealing" the hydrocarbon flow:

The engineers are not even attempting to shut in the well at this point; the analysis of the cause of the original failure suggests a comprimised casing, casing to casing anular interface, or casing/hole interface. Totally blocking the production presents an unacceptable risk of diverting the flow to outside the casing system into the geologic strata, removing all possibility of containing the produced hydrocarbons until the a relief well and the bottom kill operations are completed. If not for this, attaching an apparatus to the top of the LMRP with functining valves to "shut it off" would be of little more difficulty than what they are doing now. Without a way to circulate heavy mud down hole, to create a static head of pressure near the production zone, and the other complications associated with the huge pressure gradients, the formation of hydrates, and the limitations of working at -5000 feet; the next best hope is to attach a device that will maintain flow and facilitae collection of the produced hydrocarblns.

I want to follow up on a post made a few days ago about cementing and root cause.

We're spending a lot of effort and focus on solving the blowout. Obviously correct.

But how much focus is being spent on lessons learned, understanding the root cause, so that the drilling of these relief wells do not create a similar situation.

Previous post a few days back was a link providing a powerpoint presentaation by Halliburton in Nov 2009. IT SCARES THE HECK OUT OF ME!

The actual Halliburton ppt can be found on a link at, center of page, next to red siren, dated May 1, 2010.

Extract from :

"AADE Chapter Meeting, Nov 2009, Halliburton presentation

Challenges • Shallow water flow may occur during or after cement job • Under water blow out has happened • Gas flow may occur after a cement job in deepwater environments that contain major hydrate zones. • Destabilization of hydrates after the cement job is confirmed by downhole cameras. • The gas flow could slow down in hours to days if the de- stabilization is not severe. • However, the consequences could be more severe in worse cases.

Note that page 13 lists the design objectives but then concedes they can’t all be met at once: (click on image to enlarge page 13) Deepwater Well Objectives • Cement slurry should be placed in the entire annulus with no losses • Temperature increase during slurry hydration should not destabilize hydrates • There should be no influx of shallow water or gas into the annulus • The cement slurry should develop strength in the shortest time after placement. Conditions in deepwater wells are not conducive to achieving all of these objectives simultaneously.

The presentation goes on to explain various options for dealing with the risks and assesses the relative merits and costs. What’s interesting is that Halliburton appears to have been working at the edge of technology and from this perspective apparently wasn't certain what would happen. Most experience was in shallower waters and no one was certain what would happen in deep waters. It conducted tests, but it’s not clear how complete or realistic those tests were or how costs factored into the choice of techniques. Halliburton's summary from page 23 - 3rd bullet: Destabilization of hydrates during cementing and production in deepwater environments is a challenge to the safety and economics.

Looks like we’re about to learn a lot more about how cement cures and interacts with gas-locked crystaline formations in deep water drilling.... "

So with all that said, how are we going to be sure that this may not happen again at these frigid depths???

bawden -- I deal with the Halliburton cmt hands all the time. Folks might despise that name for a variety of reasons. But they are one of the leaders in developing cementing technology. But everyone needs to understand that cmt fails all the time. You drill a well with specific expectations that any one of your cmt jobs will fail. Every time a csg is set the cmt is pressure tested. And if it can't hold the required pressure (as has happened on two of my wells in the last month) you do a "squeeze job"...pump more cmt in. And then you test again. And if that test fails you squeeze again and test again. We have a special tool that attaches to the drill pipe that is specifically designed to do this job. One is always on the rig at all times "just in case". Anyone who believes he's always going to get a good cmt job is an idiot and has no business on a drilling rig. And that isn't just's a fact.

I mentioned it before: the fact that the cmt might have failed isn't a big smoking gun...cmt can fail anytime despite best efforts. The absolute negligent error was not thoroughly testing the cmt to make sure it was good. Given there was some debate onboard as to how good the cmt job was made it all the more critical to keep track of mud returns as they displaced the drilling mud. There is no legitimate excuse that can offered for not doing so..none.


Good post. I have reviewed the attached Halliburton presentation. They are addressing a different cementing problem associated with deep water drilling. The problem is related to shallow sands containing gas (hydrates) and/or water zones that can flow. These types of zones happen in many offshore areas but are a particularly troublesome problem in the deep water as highlighted in the presentation. I don't think this is the fundamental problem with our current situation. I have posted before on what I can see looking from the outside of BP (with some inside contacts). Here are some of the issues as I see them:

1. Very narrow margin between pore pressure in the zone and frac gradient within the open hole. This is why they used nitrogen type cement in an effort to get the maximum cement strength at the lowest cement density.
2. Gas flow after cementing is a common problem, especially if the cement does not set up quickly (right angle set) as cement loses it's ability to transmit hydraustatic pressure while in transition from a liquid to solid.
3. Minimization of ECD during the running, circulating and cementing pipe in the hole. Running a 7" x 9 7/8" full string was not ideal in this regard. Running a 7" liner on drill pipe and hanging it off just inside the previous casing would have minimized ECD and losses to assist in cement placement. It would have also afforded the use of a liner top packer as another barrier.
4. Cement contamination in my view was an issue for several reasons. First off, a small volume of cement was pumped (51 bbls) and due to the large volume required to pump it in place, contamination is likely. Also, the use of a less than ideal set of bottom and top plugs which would need to wipe in both sizes of casing makes them less efficient (in the larger casing) in isolating the cement slurry from the mud.
5. The whole issue of analyzing the results of the cement job have been discussed at length so I won't go into them.

Anyway, lot's of room for learning lesssons as you rightly point out.

Since augers and big concrete pumps capable of pumping stiff concrete, far up skyscrapers under construction, already exist, not to mention mud pumps themselves, and BP has had sufficient time to adapt such for underwater use, the lame refusal to re-attempt a forceful in-situ recovery and pumping operation from a "dome" container, and neglecting to place further recovery tubes prior to the current operation, still has me steamed up.

How can the ROVs even find where they are right now? It's almost black...

These days I'm thinking about Apollo 13 and the events which led up to the explosion, the frantic attempts to stabilize the craft and provide breathable air, and SWAG after SWAG in terms of power control, firing engines and maintaining a landable approach vector.

We went to the moon and back successfully with little more than tin cans and computers less sophisticated than that in your car's engine. Although tech was state-of-the-art on the lunar projects, we humans had a pitiful understanding of how things work outside our blue shell, and we frankly got very lucky.

The first issue with Apollo 13 was the complete failure of imagination that the events could even unfold in that way; the engineers involved (best math/science minds available, remember) simply couldn't foresee these things and consequently had no real plan for those circumstances.

Now add in the concept that each piece of the craft was designed and built by different vendors, leading to the famous "square carbon scrubber that needs to feed into a round port" problem in order to deliver CO2-scrubbed oxygen back to the astronauts (forget heat -- the only solution for computer issues was a complete shutdown for 3 days. In SPACE.). They had no idea what would happen if they tried to light the engine to get back to earth-course, and when they did it was extremely difficult to control without computer support.

In short, we put a bunch of guys in space thinking that we pretty well had it down. Then something happened that no one could have predicted, they had few options available and the Really Smart Guys put it together enough to give the astronauts a few days' time, and then frankly we all got VERY LUCKY that things worked out with getting them home alive.

Technology and the belief in our superiority over nature have clashed again here. I know that other Deep-Ocean drilling is handled well and as safely as possible, but the frantic attempts I've seen (Top Hat, Top Kill, Junk Shot, now LMRP) strike me as an attempt to show that attempts are being made. All the reading I've done here on TOD from the Smart Drilling Guys has really given me a profound respect for what BP et al are up against here.

Top Hat just seemed weird from the beginning, but it was relatively cheap and could be done quickly; if things went well, BP would look good and buy a few days/weeks. In the meantime, look down the list of possible fixes, each more expensive/ambitious/risky than the last.
Top Kill seemed ridiculous to this layman -- stopping a fire hydrant by pressing a garden hose against it? Please.....again, if it went well, good for BP and more days/weeks.
Junk Shot kind of morphed in with Top Kill, but it's the same ridiculous idea that you're going to plug this massive high-pressure gusher with some bits of plastic that are small enough to go through valves but not big enough to fill up real holes.
LMRP -- IMHO a variation of Top Kill. Once they cut that riser, all the pressure is going to flow for real; now you're going to lower a huge piece of equipment over a live volcano with zero visibility and with that sort of backpressure?

I don't have answers, but I can see, and it looks like desperate attempt after desperate attempt to try to fix something that NO ONE ever saw as a possible problem. They (and we by extension) have unleashed a dragon. This is a true Manmade Natural Disaster, and we don't have the tech to deal with it; hopefully some Apollo 13-type thinking will come up with something, but in the meantime I believe the relief wells and PATIENCE are the key to dealing with this whole thing.

It's not a movie, Man has definitely not completely conquered Nature, and sometimes we get events like this to remind us. The debate over whether we should drill deep (or HAVE to drill deep because of politics etc) is completely sidebar. We did drill. It broke. We can't fix it with what we have. It's going to be a big mess for awhile and hopefully we can piece together a solution and learn to have more imagination in the future.

Thanks as always to the regulars and Smart Drill Guys for having the patience with the rest of us.

Contest: What sound track would you put to this video?

There are several truths that need to come out.
[1] BP could have pumped concrete down into the riser package on day one plugging this well once and for all.
[2] The “Cap” is just a tool to let BP pump as much oil $$$ as it can while the cap sits on top of the blowout preventer. The cap is not fixed to the riser and must rely on the ship above to keep it in place. Should a hurricane arrive in this area the ship will have to disconnect from the riser opening up the gusher until the hurricane leaves and the ship is able to return and reconnect. THIS IS A MAJOR ECOLOGICAL DISASTER.

If they really cared about the environment and sea life they would have done step #1 above on DAY ONE !!!

After reading about the failed dome and the crystals I began wondering, instead of junk shotting mud and golf balls into the BOP, what if cooled water was pumped in to create the very same methane hydrate crystals that clogged the first dome effort? Using the dome as an example (they used sea water, tap water and DI water) and by controlling the temperature of the water one could probably guess how far along the riser and how fast the crystals would form. Once the crystals form and slows the flow, the plan of then pumping cement into the well can be tried again.

If the water didn't work maybe it could be cooled at the injection site with a liquid gas or maybe something to cool the liquid the way the flanges of the dome acted like heat sinks. Or some other material could be used with a vary low freezing point that would also cause clatherate crystal formation of the methane (liquid amonia? sulfure dioxide?) I've looked all over the internet and asked alot of smart people but I can't seem to find the answer. All i ever hear s that someone smarter would have already thought of it if it was possible but I am curious to know why it wouldn't work