BP's Deepwater Oil Spill - The Saw is No Longer Stuck, Working on the Riser, and Wed. Open Thread 2

Please transfer discussion to http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6562.

This is a repeat of the earlier post, because of the large number of comments.

Note Wednesday afternoon updates at the bottom of the post!

There has been a lot of activity at the bottom of the Gulf today, not all of it immediately successful, but all working toward the current aim of being able to field the Lower Marine Riser package. That installation requires that the broken existing riser that connects to the Blowout Preventer (BOP) has to be removed. The bent riser has been exerting some lateral pressure on the BOP, and this might be relieved when it is cut off. To minimize the damage, the first cut is therefore going to be further down the riser, provided that they get the saw "unstuck," which it seems like they might have done, but no word yet on when cutting is to resume. (At 5 pm Wednesday I have added an UPDATE explaining how the diamond wire blunted, and how they might have fixed it, but now won't. They are going back to the Shear.)

(My post continues after the video. Please click, "There's more".)




The Lower Riser Assembly attached to the top of the BOP, the riser has folded over to the left.

I described the plan of attack in an earlier post, and what has happened, over the course of today has tried to follow that script. I say tried, because there have been a couple of glitches that developed over the course of the day. The large shearing machine (apparently owned by BTI) appeared on the scene, and in preparation for its use some of the pipes surrounding the main riser (the choke and kill lines) were first cut away using a diamond saw.

10:04 am just before the pipe was severed.

At the same time that this was going on, the wire saw that would make the final cut on the riser had been brought down to the site. The riser assembly has been cleaned of extraneous pipes already, and the wire saw would fit about the flange and below the bend.

The wire saw was then located ready to make the cut.

10:30 am Wire saw on riser

It was now time for the shearing machine (which I’m going to call a Shear from now on) to fit around the riser and to make the first cut through the pipe.

First shear location

Unfortunately the first cut did not appear successful, although there was a cloud of oil and gas released, indicating that the riser was at least breached. There was a pause, and the Shear moved to a new location closer to the riser. Again it tried to shear through the nest of pipes, that now included choke and kill lines. It was not successful, and returned to the surface where it was fixed, and returned to the site. UPDATE 1: Having written this post and not seeing much happening I went off for a couple of hours. On my return (and before Gail posted it), I did not check again and as the notes below show, the Shear worked at 7 pm. At 10:15 pm the wire saw was cutting through the riser. I apologize for the errors.

Wire sawing the riser.

END of UPDATE 1 UPDATE 2 below> In the meanwhile, a little calculation, based on reports that the White House has announced that the removal of the riser and drill pipe that are protruding from the Blowout Preventer (BOP) of the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf may increase the amount of the petroleum leak by 20% when the riser section is removed. There are two immediately obvious reasons why this might be the case.

The first of these is that there is a small amount of oil that was leaking up through the drill pipe that extended beyond the broken riser. That flow was one of the first things capped in the remedial effort. It did not have much impact on the overall flow volume, since the flow merely backed up and increased the flow through the main crack in the riser, but there may be a small increment of flow when this channel is re-opened with the cut below the fold in the riser.

The greater change in the flow, however, will likely come because the riser and DP, while not providing much increased resistance, did raise the pressure on the downstream side of the BOP by about 500 psi. We know that though the pressure down at the formation was at around 12,000 psi, up on the upstream side of the BOP it fluctuates in the 8,000 to 9,000 psi range. The higher resistance on the downstream side, reduces the pressure drop across the BOP by that 500 psi, and the flow rate will be reduced accordingly (the gap size through the BOP is assumed not to change).

However, if the pressure drop across the nozzle was at 6,000 psi in the current condition, (which with an orifice size of 0.6 inches, would give a flow rate of 512 gpm), then raising the pressure drop by 500 psi would only increase the flow rate to 532 gpm, or a difference of 4%--which might suggest that there is something about the drill-pipe flow that was initially capped which we don’t know yet. Alternately it may be that they think that removing the bend in the riser might ease the forces on the BOP, relaxing the metal a little and increasing the orifice size. After all it has only to open up by another 0.05 inches to give the increase in flow that the White House are predicting.

UPDATE 2: Sometime about midnight it appears that the cutting wire stopped moving and may be jammed in the cut, roughly half-way through.
Possibly jammed wire at 12:30 am
UPDATE 3 I went to bed and have just checked the comments and it does not appear, at 8:00 am that the saw restarted, and finished cutting the riser. At present the ROV is looking at the end of the riser, and the Shear. Oil and gas from the cut seems to be coming up around the end making it indistinct. Does anyone have a better version of what went on overnight?

UPDATE 4: On other feeds they are showing that a second cut is now being made by the wire saw, but the camera is further away. BP is predicting that the cut will be completed today and the LMRP installed. But it doesn't look good that they are still working with the Shear, because they can't use that for a final cut, and it implies that they may be having problems with the second cut also.

UPDATE 5: Part of the problem was apparently according to a BP spokesman that the cut through the first half had dulled the blade, so that when they got it restarted it would not cut. (What we do in those circumstances, which are not uncommon with diamond blades, is to run the blade through firebrick, and this erodes the material into which the diamonds have been pushed, and sharpen it. Then we drop the cutting pressure a little.) However, BP's current answer is going to be
The technician said that rather than trying again with the saw, the plan now was to use a large shear to cut the riser. The shear, which is about 20 feet long and nearly 10 feet high, was used to make an earlier cut in the riser about 50 feet from the wellhead. Because the shear will not make as clean a cut as the wire saw, modifications would have to be made to the containment cap that is to be lowered over the cut pipe. But the technician said that even with the switch to the shear and the modifications, he expected the containment cap could be in place by Thursday.

Oh, and I mentioned earlier that an ASJ system had cut through casing and pipes at the bottom of the North Sea. I had the orientation of that cut wrong (at least for the picture below) since in this case it was from the outside in, but I am aware of it being successful the other way. And so here is the picture of casing and cement cut by an ASJ. Sadly it was so long ago - around 23 years, that I can no longer remember exactly the pressure it was cut at, but I believe it was 5,000 psi. And to answer a comment because the nozzle is non-contact, the surfaces it is cutting don't have to be cylindrical.

ASJ cuts of casing from the bottom of the North Sea

Wed. UPDATE: The wire motionless in the slot at 12:30 am

Wed. UPDATE: The wire was apparently stuck for a number of hours and they may have changed the wire, and then restarted with a second cut. BP is still predicting that the cut will be completed today and the LMRP installed.

Wed. UPDATE 2 (5 pm Wednesday): Part of the problem was apparently according to a BP spokesman that the cut through the first half had dulled the blade, so that when they got it restarted it would not cut. (What we do in those circumstances, which are not uncommon with diamond blades, is to run the blade through firebrick, and this erodes the material into which the diamonds have been pushed, and sharpens it. Then we drop the cutting pressure a little.) However, BP's current answer is going to be:

The technician said that rather than trying again with the saw, the plan now was to use a large shear to cut the riser. The shear, which is about 20 feet long and nearly 10 feet high, was used to make an earlier cut in the riser about 50 feet from the wellhead. Because the shear will not make as clean a cut as the wire saw, modifications would have to be made to the containment cap that is to be lowered over the cut pipe. But the technician said that even with the switch to the shear and the modifications, he expected the containment cap could be in place by Thursday.

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OK, given BP's falling stock price, here is the sixty four billion dollar question. It could be twice that by the end of next month.

Piping 101 always acknowledges that piping will fail and that the best piping designs with failure in mind and engineers for failure at the best spot rather than the worst.

When I look at the riser I see that it was bent in the worst possible place, within a couple of feet of the BOP.

Piping 101 says you never want a leak near a valve or a joint if you can do anything to prevent it. Those are by far the hardest to repair. If you can design it, you always want to engineer the most vulnerable part of the pipe to have a good long straight section of pipe on both sides of the vulnerable point.

BP would not be having near the nightmare it is if it had twenty good feet of straight pipe coming out of the BOP. With twenty good feet of straight pipe, this leak would have been much more manageable.

So the megabucks question is:

Why wasn't the first twenty feet of riser a 36 inch piece of pipe with a 21 inch reducer? If it had been, the riser would have bent above where it was reduced to 21 inches. Then there would have remained a twenty foot piece of straight 36 inch pipe that could actually be used to effect repairs. Slipping a larger pipe over the 36 inch straight pipe with a an open valve would have possibly allowed for a very good seal by clamping and then the valve could have been slowly closed.

I can find nowhere on this forum where someone has addressed what I believe to be a very poorly designed riser. The few extra bucks it would have cost to make a twenty foot section of larger diameter pipe would have been minuscule compared to the overall cost.

Why am I wrong, if I am?

You're not wrong but you are missing the situation.

Your idea is based on the an incident where they had a blowout (due to human error), AND the BOP didn't function, AND the Emergency Disconnect didn't function, AND the rig sank, AND it sank in such a way that the riser kinked over. For starters this is the first complete BOP failure that resulted in an uncontrolled blow out in the gulf of Mexico in about 30,000 wells. I'll let you calculate the odds required for all the other ANDs.

Its a bit like deciding that since there is a chance in a million that a house will get hit by a tornado that the plumbing should all be designed to withstand a tornado, even if the rest of the house is gone - by god - the plumbing will be intact.

You know, that is d@mn good question and a question for Transocean and all other deepwater marine drilling companies and the manufacuturers they procure the marine riser from. Transocean is responsible for the marine riser design and installation. The marine riser on 5th generation MODU's is far more sophisticated then it's earlier brethern. The choke and kill lines have been increased from 4-1/2" to 6-5/8" OD, likewise, wall thickness has increased but the bottomline is modern risers c/k lines have a minimum 4-1/2" ID to minimize friction pressure during a kill procedure. The larger line of course add weight to the system. These deeper marine risers also incorporate multiple auxillary lines for the multiplex, power fluid systems and typically a booster line. These additional lines also add weight to the marine riser system. The syntatic foam bouyancy modules attached to marine riser helps to alleviate tension requirements at the surface but most rigs have in excess of 2.5MM lbs tension capacity on their riser tensioners.

If the saw blade has seized due to interference with an internal structure (such as the DP), would it not make sense to leave the blade in place as a stabilizing force, and proceed with a new cut nearby? There are several ways for the DP to move here, but if it is jammed by the blade, that movement might be better restricted. I'm a bit skeptical of the theory of the kerf narrowing and pinching the blade based on the depth of cut, which appears to be < 50%.

And thanks to all who make this the only site worth reading on the topic of this exceedingly difficult problem.

I would think the DP is not necessarily centered inside the riser. Lots of random pressures on it during the collapse. It could have bowed to one side or the other and been frozen in place when the riser kink crushed it.

If the shear around the tube would be closed -just before it would cut it- then the flow resistance would increase significantly. In my former post I claimed accidently the opposite, sorry. Does someone of the experts here know why they don`t do so ?

The mechanical stress - that is, the force exerted by the weight of the bent over pipe, is far higher and more important, than the pressure inside the pipe, as compared to the outside of the pipe (psig). They simply need to lift the pipe by 10 to 20 feet, to re-bend the kinked over section, and then lower it, to provide force on the area around blade to open the kerf, instead of closing it.

If the blade is stuck due to a bit of DP rattling around inside, then about all that needs to be done is to reverse the wire direction a few times and pull it backward. If that pipe moves that easy, it will shift around and release the wire.

I suspect that they may end up lowering the shears and lopping off even the pinched over parts, and then sawing the last little bit.

For those wishing to cut down on the "noise", and if you are using Firefox, add-on Greasemonkey. Then download todban.

A little history. An Oil Drum contributor wrote this script 3 or so years ago to cut down the noise from obnoxious trolls -- one of them was BUI (blogging under the influence). Obviously, trolling is almost non-existent now, but there is still too much noise for me.

Hope this of help for some of you.

thank you.

Yes. Thanks, very much.

I have two words:


i was wondering about that as well. it would seem the bolts would provide as good a potential for connection as you are gonna get at this point. Of course you still have the DP to deal with.

Dimitry. I worked four years as a roughneck. Those bolts were put on with tremendous force, there's nothing you can do 5000' underwater that will "UN BOLT" them, other than cutting them off. Once they are cut, we have another issue, the inside AND outside the annulus oil / gas flow. I think everyone (yourself included) underestimated the psi forces we are dealing with here, and BP themselves seemed concerned enough that they sat and stared at the slit for some time.

[real time] I see they've removed the CUT machine either they are bringing to surface for repair or intend to reposition. My guess is it is headed for surface. Meantime we suspect the shears didn't cut the pipe as they were supposed to because of the DP inside. Where the collars and threads are in the drill pipe it is exceptionally strong. I have a book around here with the relevant numbers for DP meant for surface drilling, I'm guessing underwater at these depths they are at least twice as strong. If by bad luck where they chose to cut the riser pipe they came across ANOTHER set of threads? Ouch.

If they can't unbolt them, they should cut them.

If they ever want to actually seal against this flow, they will need a flat sufrace to seal against, not an oval deformed pipe.

The weighted riser would make a very poor seal, ESPECIALLY if the BOP interior pressure really IS higher than we thought.

If they are concerned about DP interior pressure, lifting the riser slightly would have given them some access to the DP. They could have drilled a small hole and taken a pressure reading.

Why would the drill pipe have significantly more pressure than the riser pipe? They would seem to be exposed to the same pressure below.

If the casing structure is compromised below the BOP they don't want to obtain a hard seal and stop it.

Imagine the same problem, but under 20m of nice seabottom mud.

Three words: "Drill Pipe Inside".

There's a pipe *inside* the riser, and both pipes are folded over together at the kink. Unbolt the outside pipe, and the inside one still holds the whole shebang together.

Hmm... Use the CLAW to shear both pipes below the kink. If not enough torque can be put on the flange bolts with an extension pipe, then just cut them, above the flange, or at the mating surface - either way, don't try to cut the riser and the drill pipe at the same time. Then pull off the riser stub. If the drill pipe is not rock stable wrt the riser, then any saw will bind, as another post has mentioned.

Sorry for my very manyfold post. This side is the last time nearly inaccessible for me and I didn`t know that each reload caused a new posting. Please -one of the admins- remove these posts (excepted one). Thank You !

No worries, Plasma. When the server hangs, it happens. We'll get 'em.

Hopefully we'll have the new server in place soon and things will get back to normal. *sigh*

Prof. Goose, I'm sure I'm not just speaking for myself when I offer my humble THANKS! to you and all the others who keep TOD going.

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.

- Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar


Outside of the depth of the water, there is nothing 'rocket science' about this. It's basic repair that any plumber or mechanic can deal with.

I seems the well- meaning and highly experienced rig personnel are taking orders from some idjut in Washington or London.

There is a flange with a bunch of large bolts holding the riser to the TOP of the BOP. Doesn't anyone have a couple of spud wrenches and an impact tool?

If that won't do, cut the bolts with the saw and be done with it!

The saw wire is probably bound up with the drill pipe; if the drill pipe cut angle is different from the riser cut angle the two cuts will fall out of alignment and the saw wire will bind.

Wanna duplicate this problem at home? Take three 2x4s and stack them on top of each other. Try to cut all three at one time with a saw. The 2x4s will shift around pinching the cut. Cut one thing at a time. This is basic 'Construction 101'.

Remove the bolts, remove the riser then deal with the drill pipe.

I also thaught about cutting the bolts than the riser. Why don`t they try just to screw the bolds or at least to cut them ? As a result there would be a proper flange where another valve etc. could be mounted.

Yeah, what's with that idjut in London or Washington. I just tried your 2 by 4 experiment. Put one foot on the wood and you're fine. So somebody talk to the idjut and tell him to get one of robots to step out of the sub and stick his foot on the wood. Simple.

This is obviously about a bunch of inner idjuts who made a secret short bet on BP.

You must be right. It has to be Washington messing with these people. Oil drillers can't be this dumb. I would want it well documented "who' gave this order. This looks ridiculous.

Several folks have explained why the drill pipe makes unbolting or unlatching the LMRP/BOP rather difficult, but it doesn't seem to be getting across to everyone. Maybe this experiment will help:

Go out in the yard and stick your arm out. Have someone stack 4 or 3 car tires from your shoulder right to your wrist. Grab the top of the chain link fence.

Now think of your arm as the drill pipe, the tires as the BOP, LMRP, and flex joint. Imagine a crumpled riser pipe sealing your hand to the fence. Now try to unbolt, unlatch, and remove the tires WITHOUT taking your hand off the fence.

Hope that helps visualize the problem and make it clearer why the wire saw cut is being done now --right about at your wrist.

Thanks, we get it.

They will need a flat surface to seal against if they ever hope to collect this oil and bring it to the surface. They will likely never seal to whatever is left of the bent riser after all the hacking is done.

I have been arguing for a couple of days that they should separate at the flange. That's the surface they will have at least some hope of sealing against, and they can bolt to it, creating the required interface sealing pressure. The "weighted" cap will never seal - especially if the interior BOP pressure is underestimated. It maybe higher than a few hundred psi but I still contend it is not greater than 1 ksi. They will need a good gasket (the kind that won't fall to pieces as they try to seal against high speed flow), but it is doable.

If they separate at the flange, they can hopefully lift the riser a bit, so they can cut the DP directly. If they get really lucky, they may pull a good deal of DP out, maybe all of it - they may get pressure assist.

What they are doing now gives them all the risk, but only part of the benefits. I think it is the wrong choice.

Once they get the cut finished with the wire saw (I am assuming they will) and remove the riser and drill pipe they can still decide to cut the bolts and separate the riser base from the LMRP. I personally thing that cutting off the hardened bolts may well be a more difficult task than most imagine - may require some kind of cutting torch - and would rate the attempt with the wire saw as the better first step in any case. They may be afraid to use the shear right up at the kink because of the stress it could put on the BOP stack and there may be clearance issues too. There may also be clearance issues that restricted where they could mount the wire saw for its cutting operation.

Having the drill pipe in the center is a headache I am sure. It is possible that it is bent over between the kink and the annulars down in the LMRP and may be stiff enough that it is preventing the gimbal cap from straightening like they wanted.

All these operations take time and they have to coordinate with the surface 5,000' above. Think about positioning that shear suspended from a ship on the surface. Everything is a bit like slow motion and having the live feed gives the illusion that "they can just do something - take some action" - quickly, but they can't.

Dimitry -

For safety reasons they can't have a a solid seal until they have control of the well. If they have a problem on the Discoverer Enterprise they have to be able to shut off the flow and it has to be able to escape at the bottom. A vent at the surface with the expanding gas would essentially be a blowout.

They will need some leakage to be sure they are not bringing in seawater which could plug the pipe with hydrates.

With the oil and gas going up the pipe the buoyancy and gas lift should lift way more than the leakage so the problem will be throttling it back so they don't pull in seawater.

A soft wide elastimer, even reaching over the side of the riser should be a sufficient seal. Unfortunately they just show us general sketches with no details.

The picture of the "ASJ cut from the bottom of the north sea" has pipe inside a pipe with concrete between, it also looks unbent. Unless I'm mistaken this is not the same situation as we have here.
unless I am wrong - (possibly very likely) this is a pipe with in a pipe no cement between the two.

This looks ridiculous to me. Aren't we talking two damaged pipes bent on the topside and pinched inside the BOP?
Why would you even attempt to cut both pipes simultaneously? Who can predict the forces on the inside pipe. Imho you are asking to have your saw pinched trying this the way they are doing it. I would not attempt this with a hacksaw and standard water pipe in my home shop the way they are doing it.

they should take out a ring of the otter pipe or cut wedges out of the outer pipe to relieve the (most likely) different stress angles between these two pipes.

This would take a long, long time but having your saw stuck is doing nothing at all.

At 1:40 PM EDT and watching the spill cam, it looks like there is a ROV hooked to the saw with a cable. Then, they gave the saw a good tug to the side and the saw is now disconnected from the riser and hanging below.

E. Swanson

The FOX cam was from the ROV on the other side. You could see the ice caked aroung the DSAW frame. Maybe it was not stuck but just frozen and needs to thaw out.

The entire rope saw assemble was just yanked, rather violently, by a ROV away from the the riser. Once it let go the whole ROV tipped downward making for some pretty dramatic footage.

Now the feed is showing the business end of the rope saw and the cutting rope is no longer visible between the pulleys. All cutting has now been stopped in prep for the LMRC

Before proceeding again, what would be the problem with using ROV with saw attachment to make 3 or 4 parallel "relief" kerf cuts in the riser above the diamond saw kerf. Maybe at 1 to 1 1/2 inch spacings. The cuts do not need to go all the way around...maybe 1/3 or less...but with several small cuts, you could create an emergency flex joint, so to speak, which might prevent binding.
Great Site.BTW. As a suggestion, is it possible to list at the top of the current thread a list of the most frequently watched video feeds, as a reference for the new and uninitiated to the site specifics?

Do ROV operators have 3-D / stereoscopic view?


There has been a lot of R&D that direction for many years but as a general rule - no

I'll echo the sentiments of others: TOD is the only site worth visiting for accurate, timely information on the spill response. It's become my new favorite site, because the ratio of meat to fat appeals to the tech writer in me. I'll gladly contribute via PayPal.

I've been wondering about the upper LRA flange, where it mates with the riser. Is there a reason why the riser pipe has to be cut instead of just removing it altogether? I see a rotary servo on the LRA just below the flange, attached to a gearbox that appears to drive some mechanism just below the flange. Is that mechanism the reason why the flange can't be unbolted? Or does the flange itself play a role in retaining the DP? I can certainly understand the desire not to send the DP rocketing skyward. But if there is no technical reason not to unbolt the flange, I'd think it would be a perfect surface to receive the new LMRP.

Great question. Given that they seem intent on cutting the riser, I'm wondering if the LMRP has been fabricated to fit over the riser and the riser only.

I have been arguing that for a couple of days and even sent out a plug for that approach to the EPA/DOE/USCG.

Oil engineers have postd on previous days the links to the schematics of the top portion of the BOP, which is apparently an industry standard collet connector, hydraulically activated. It is not clear if BP has or has not attempted to use it. In may or may not be damaged. The canting of the BOP collet connector is due to the use of the flexible joint at the lower junction.

The bolts we have been told are exceedintly difficult to remove at depth. They can be cut, though.

The DP, which is suspected to be inside the riser pipe and bent with it above, may or may not be pinched by the semi-closed jaws inside the BOP.

If it is, than removing the bolts, MAY produce significant pressure forces on the DP from the flow restrictions afforded by the bent riser. To mitigate against that, BP can drill holes above the flange to allow for lower restriction.

I don't think that DP forces are a significant concern. The body of the BOP has seen this and more and held. The intenals don't work anyway.

Hard to believe BP does not have another diamond wire saw on hand at depth and ready to sub for the broken one. Small investment.

didn't someone say yesterday that those blades are 100k?

Heading Out was talking about the large circular blades used in rock quarries yesterday, in the context of sticking saw blades in a cut:

From having used smaller diamond wire saws, there's no way to change the blade by ROV. It would be interesting to watch a video of people changing the blade.

tech manual link someone posted yesterday:

edit to specify ...diamond "wire" saws...

It looks like the wire has to be threaded through and around various moving parts. Hard to believe they can do that at depth amd by remote control.

Yea, bad planning any way you look at it. Even if the tool had to be made, they could have and should have made 2, and had the second staged on bottom. The wire has been toast for 12 hours now, and it's just now coming to the surface for repairs or replacement.. if the intention is to try again. Thad Allen seemed to think there will be another attempt.

I think the saw, and what looks like its power unit, is being hauled to the surface, tracked by the ROV.

Here comes the circular saw again...

I'm trying to visualize (fingers to temple ... hmmm).

Three madhouses: 'Mission Control' in London. President Obama's 'War Room' (is there any other kind). Operations/communications in Discoverer Enterprise (who named that ship, anyway? George Soros? A pension fund manager?).

In each case there are hundreds of people all yelling at once, running around with sheafs of paper(s) in their hands. Inscrutible noises come out of 'squawkboxes' mounted on the walls. A balding. middle- aged dude with a telephone in one hand and a 2way handset in the other stands bored and annoyed in the middle of the maelstrom.

Absolutely nothing is getting done. Most of the noise is from salesment pitching 'guaranteed' products. "Here's Mr. So- And- So which Acme Company and he has a contract to provide a hydraulic deepwater dewatering comistofizer, he spoke with you yssterday, remember?"

"No! Get him out of here!"

The wire saw salesman has sold the wire saw to a BP manager in Turkey and now saw company operators are running it from a satellite link that they have hooked up to a PC. They are using an X- box controller to run the saw. Nobody told them about the bolts which they can see on the computer screen. They both look about 20 and have never worked a day in their lives between them.

"Saw's stuck," sez a secretary to the bald guy while walking by with sandwiches.

Bald Spot turns slowly and looks calmly at the two. He then issues a long string of unprintable - and unrepeated - curses at the them and their mothers.

Meanwhile, on the Discoverer Enterprise, people are milling around trying to look busy while relaxing at the same time. The same inscrutible noises blare out of squawkboxes mounted on the bulkheads. An important looking dude with a military haircut responds to the unintelligible noises when there is a break. His plastic hat is on the table along with hundreds of plastic coffee cups, spoons, wrappers, pieces of paper with sketches on them, flyers, girlie calendars, a hammer and a box of Oreos half- eaten. Down one bulkhead and up the opposite are dozens of computer monitors. Half of them have the same feed that is up top here and the rest are tuned to Bloomberg.com. (One or two have porn but who cares?) Up on deck the three or four hands actually required to be doing something desultorily wind and unwind long choker cables around and about on the drill floor. Until there is something to lift or lower, there is nothing to do but count dead fish floating on the water.

Meanwhile, back at in Washington, the President sits with his hands behind his head in the Oval Office pondering his political future. A door opens and a ferret- like creature scurries in and over to the President and whispers something in his ear: Treasury Secretary Geithner ... "Saw is stuck, sir!"

The Defense Secretary and chief of staff turn toward Geithner with ill- disguised contempt on their faces. "It's Geithner's fault the saw isn't working," says William Gates to Rahm Emmanuel. "If Barry would only fire that goddamned little weasel," replies Emmanuel.

"We ought to just nuke the problem and get it over with!"

"Not yet, let's see if we can pin the blame on people we don't like. Problem is, we need BP, so far all the blame is on them!"

"Forget it, Emmanuel, the military has the final solution to this oil problem and that is to use overwhelming force. We can fix blame, later."

"Whom do you have in mind?"

"Look you're too hard on Geithner, let's let in all fall on Ben Bernanke! Everyone hates him even more than they do BP!"

They look over and see Obama has nodded off. There is a large photograph of Marion Barry on the President's desk.

Okay, this is ridiculous. Somebody posted here a few days ago saying that the ROVs should have proper tool-to-robot interfaces of the kind commonly used on CNC mills.

I just watched an ROV drop a tool for the sixth time in 24 hours, and I have to say HELL YES. They're bobbling tools, clumsily shifting them from hand to hand, trying to align screwdrivers with the axis of wrist rotation, it's nuts.

The paradigm for ROV tool use seems to be "human construction worker". You have your tools hanging on straps from your tool belt, and when you need one you grab it in your hand.

The paradigm should be "Evil Dead II". At the end of the ROV's wrist should be a socket with a locking connector and hydraulic power supply. The ROV has a caddy full of tools mounted below its camera. When it wants to use a saw, it takes its gripping hand off, puts it in the tray, and plugs in the saw hand.

Following up on your comment, it seems to me that we have robot operators who know how to make a robot do certain movements. But they may perhaps not be skilled as mechanics. And therefore they have no means or no experience base with which to cope, other than wait for new tools or whatever.

Since they have these mud mats (or whatever they're called), from the loss of that first saw, I had assumed they would put down mats for the robots... so any dropped tools would (ideally) fall on a mat and be retrievable. You mention other ways to make sure tools don't get lost.

I'm fascinated in some ways by the fact that there seem to be people with a great deal of skill devising the methods and the machines, as well as doing the operating. But somehow.... real-world mechanics, whose experience is crucial, it would now seem, to the ultimate success of this mission, were never consulted. As a result, it's one improvisation after another - based upon small, inadvertent errors, that might have been foreseen and either prevented or would have had pre-positioned solutions already down there - easily at hand.

"real-world mechanics, whose experience is crucial, it would now seem, to the ultimate success of this mission, were never consulted"

Also, the particular sawing job at hand is much like tree falling with a chain saw. Tree fallers have many good strategies for avoiding getting their saw stuck in the tree trunk. Notching, etc. I'm not a tree faller, but my daughter works for Forest Service and has friends with whom I've talked.

IMHO, they should have started their cut from the far side in relation to the bent over riser. Then slight adjustments in the support for the remaining bent over riser would torque the area where they are cutting. If the bottom of the cut is under tension, cutting will progress much faster, and pinching the say is very unlikely to happen. Now, with a cut started to the right of where I think they should have started, I think they should resume work opposite their original cut. That original cut will relieve compressive stress on the metal where I recommend the follow-on cut.

I suspect they need some kind of consultant to literally help the teams work together. Because things seem to be falling through the cracks. It reminds me of how they realized - many decades ago now - that some crashes of airplanes were due to cockpit crews not working together - specifically to pilots not understanding the need to listen and work together, rather than simply issue orders. They found that the pilots had personalities which were not conducive to "cooperation" but to issuing orders. I'm wondering if something similar is going on here. If the BP corporate structure is very top-down, if those "giving orders" fail to heed the experience of those carrying out the orders - if there's a lack of teamwork in some areas.

I'm sure many people involved in trying to solve the problems are experts. I have do no doubt about it. But WHO is coordinating communication? To me that's a crucial role that may be missing here.

I have sympathy for the problems being encountered. But they may be missing "communication" while focusing on engineering and so on.

Just a guess... I hope they learn the right lessons here! It's not only about engineering. Human relations play a huge role!

TheraP, Do you think most structures like these where there is a need for command and control with so many different skill sets? The national lab I work at operates in many of the same ways. Is this the only way this kind of group can operate? Oh no I think I am like that come to think of it ha!

I think the idea was to start from the near side (the 'pinched' side) with a constant upward pull on the free riser end from the surface. It's a lot easier to maintain a constant upward force than to try to transmit *downward* force from the surface to the riser. Plus, they had to attach chains to the free side anyway to ensure that it can be pulled out of the way, so it's killing two birds with one stone.

Now that they've moved to the other side, I'd expect that they would need to weight down the free end of the riser somehow to ensure a good anti-pinch force, and then "catch" it if/when it starts to fall free.

All of this is complicated by the pipe-within-a-pipe deal, of course. It seems there's not a good solid mechanical connection between the pipes, and pulling or pushing on the free riser end doesn't necessarily result in a matching force on the inner drill pipe. So the drill pipe caught the saw blade.

(Also, it seems like the drill pipe must have been crimped over pretty well by the bend, because cutting into it released the present big jet of crude. I'm guessing the limited leaks in the riser we saw before we coming from the outside of the riser pipe, not from the inside. The inside of the drill pipe isn't *completely* closed by the crimp, since they were collecting from it w/ the RITT. But it sure seems like there are two separate pressure environments to deal with here.)

Yes, I've been wondering about this, too. If I were going to make a precision cut just a few inches down from an acute-angle bend in a pipe (double-walled, I now know from reading TOD-- thanks, you guys!), I sure wouldn't try to do it with 200 (2,000?) feet of pipe hanging off the bend!

Wouldn't most people (mechanics?) at least lop off the excess pipe so you don't have to deal with its dangling weight as you attempt to thread a wire saw around and through various obstructions, all the while juggling tools from robot hand to robot hand? Is there a technical reason that's not possible, or not a good idea?

Having worked in the ICS in Houma for about a week, one thing that I can say with accuracy is that those command rooms tend to have a lot of people in there who have been working 12-15 hour days for 4-6 weeks now, fueled by good southern cookin' and way too much Mountain Dew. They are a bunch of really smart people, and I don't think (and didn't see any evidence of) that there is a lot of ego clashing or other dysfunctions, but I do think that their cognitive and decision-making abilities can and should be legitimately questioned. They all WANT to do a good job, but the question may be whether or not they are capable of it. I'm not pointing fingers or making accusations, but I do think it's a real concern.

I'm also not sure why the seem to have limited themselves to two hands...in principle you could have some to immobilize the ROV and still have a few free to do work with.

But I think that what we're seeing these people do right now with ROVs is pushing the envelope and inventing new techniques on a daily basis - and you WILL see a huge amount of work put towards developing new solutions to working at depth over the next 6 months, if only because I don't think that the recent ban on drilling will be lifted until the techniques and equipment are developed and demonstrated.

Would those be R8 or MT5 in the carousel? You know, it worked with Ash's hand in Evil Dead II for one reason: IT'S A MOVIE. Issues like dirty mating surfaces, water introduced into the make/break hydraulic fittings, corrosion of electrical contacts, etc. aren't normally covered in the 1:42 of theatrical wizardry.

Schilling.com makes some awesome stuff - very likely with machining centers much as you suggest - so I doubt they just "missed" this idea.

Geez everyone, can't you just accept that a) it's a hard problem, b) things don't always work out like you expect and c) there's no time to trace down EVERY possible problem path and make sure there's a contingency. If you did that before working on your car, you'd never get anything fixed, much less started.


I accept this is a hard problem, too hard to be solved by two dweebs and an X-Box controller.

I accept that things don't work out like they were planned. Hmmm, who planned this stuff, anyway?

I DON'T accept that there is no time. What happened to all the time that occurred while this well was being drilled? Obviously, nobody thought to have a contingency plan in case something went wrong.

Adm. Hyman Rickover was faced with similar challenges of running (primitive) nuclear reactors onboard submarines. What to do when something goes wrong? Improvise with chewing gum and coat hanger wire?

Rickover sat down with teams are calculated in advance any conceivable problem that might befall his reactors and crafted step- by- step protocols and tools to deal with them. The protocols became manuals that all reactor operators had to learn completely and follow religiously. Shortcomings in the protocols were addressed as they appeared. The process of dealing with reactor issues was to follow the book. The book had all the answers because of the time taken in advance of operation to prepare for problems and deal with them in abstract. Like oil wells, reactors are physical things than have characteristics that can be mapped.

The outcome has been an almost flawless operating history of reactors on US Navy ships.

Contrast this with BP's systems approach. Almost everything attempted on Deepwater Horizon was done in an ad- hoc manner outside of safe and sane procedure. Unlike the Navy approach to hazardous environments, the management structure on the drill platform was factured- probably to give BP veto power over all phases of the operation. When the process failed and the well blew out, the BP systems approach was to lie to the press and pray the problem would fix itself.

With the obvious failure of that approach the 'Plan B' has been to drill a desultory relief well (with a second only after public insistence!) while entertaining the media with a clown- show of inept diversions including cutting a pipe two inches above a fuc&&ng flange! Like the 'Top Hat', the 'Kill Shot', the 'Junk Shot' and the rest the idea BP promotes is that they are 'doing something'; looking busy while praying the relief well works.

What is 'Plan C'?

What has happened over the past MONTH has been nothing but publicity stunts: one obvious fiasco after another. There is no mitigation procedure or advance preparation, even though well blow outs have taken place since the dawn of oil exploration. With most of the new oil production slated to come from deep water or other hostile work zones, it would simply be common sense for BP to prepare equipment, procedures and control strategies that work properly in the intended environment. It's worked for the Navy and would work for BP if they had taken the time to study and prepare.

The people who work for BP have a responsibility, too.

Man, I need to stop trying to be funny on this forum. I guess it's because I'm joining the conversation along with a ton of other newbies, every time I try to be witty people think I'm an idiot.

The "Evil Dead" thing was a joke. I'm well aware that making powered tool interfaces work outside a clean room is a huge technical challenge: in fact I posted something pretty much identical to your comment a couple days ago.

I'm not saying that this is easy, or that nobody in the business has ever had this idea, or that we shouldn't do what we can with the tools we have. I'm saying that this is a great problem for some bright young engineers to work on.

(Pssst: first thing to do is put ROV interfaces and tool sets on the BOPs and LMRPs not just the ROVs themselves. Some self- assembly capability needs to be built into these wellhead items. Explosive bolts on critical parts is another item that would be useful. Sockets also need to be installed onto the BOPs so the ROVs can mount themselves on the BOPs torgue various parts and not be subject to reaction forces.

ROVs also need an 'eye probe'; a vid camera + pressure/temperature/flow telemetry that is at the end of a long rod or fish tape with an LED lamp so that inspections can be made inside piping without having to wait for disassembly.

If a telemetry probe was available on one of the ROVs, a crewman could insert the probe into the crack in the riser and determine where the oil/gas is gushing from.

I can buy a similar item to examine inaccessible spaces for about $100 @ Home Depot.)

Hello everyone,

I asked the other day and have been closely following TOD i'm UNEMPLOYED! Since this is a close knit industry can one of you guys ask some people over at BP how I can land a job on one of the clean-up crews? I have no problem taking whatever hazmat certs where I live so BP doesn't even have to train me!!! Thanks pay rate, tax, IE W2 1099 any info would be super!

About the riser pipe I have done plenty of tree work, and we use a little device called a WEDGE! What you do is slam it into the crack so the saw doesn't get stuck!!! DID ANYONE THINK OF THAT??? Now they have a real problem I suppose they can shake (wiggle) the riser with the cables they have supporting it.

Newbie. Test post.

Newbie here. Sorry if I'm busting any etiquette rules here but I have a few questions for someone knowledgeable about relief wells and their use to plug out of control wells. I don't intend to take away from the current conversation about the riser/DP sawing work. I'm a civil engineer and do not have a good understanding of deep sea drilling. It's my understanding the RW is being drilled vertically for x number of feet and then diagonally to it's final position.

1. How is the RW drill monitored and accurately guided to it's intended destination
2. Is the RW intended to actually intercept the well casing or is it intended to enter the reservoir just below the inlet to the out of control well
3. What if the RW misses it's mark; can it be re-directed
4. Explain the process of pumping mud/concrete, whatever material is used, to stop the flow of the well? How can the plugging material be simultaneously placed down the RW and in to the out of control well while resisting the flow of gas/oil up the relief well?
5. Is the use of RW's at this depth and apparent reservoir pressure a routine thing, i.e., what are the realistic chances of success with the RW?

I have a great deal of respect for the rig hands, technicians, scientists, engineers, ROV operators, etc that are working their hearts out trying to solve this complex problem. TOD is a great site; very informative.


I asked question #1 the other day and someone replied "google for directional drilling" and that got me started. It seems that it's now possible to put an electric motor down-hole to drive the drill bit directly, through a kind of flex joint, so that establishes the ability to drill along a curving path. Okay, so how do we know where the drill pit is pointing? It's also now possible to put some instrumentation down-hole along with the drill motor, and that may consist of both gyroscopes and magnetic field sensors, which allow the operators to know (in 3D) where the drill is pointing. Okay, now they just need to find out where the original bored hole is located. Presumably it was "surveyed" while it was being drilled, plus it has steel walls so where the relief well gets real close maybe they can detect a magnetic anomaly.

It seems that it's now possible to put an electric motor down-hole to drive the drill bit directly

It's a mud driven motor, powered by the drilling mud pumped down the drill pipe.
An electric motor would have a hard time with the temperatures downhole (this well is "cool" at 180 deg.F).
Also, it has to generate several thousand ft-lbs of torque in a 4-6" diameter body, while resisting the applied pressure on the bit. And remain reliable in a hot/salty-wet/oily/gassy generally nasty environment. The electric logging tools have a hard enough time down there.
Then there's the issue of running large power cables down hole.
If those were individual segments, the connections would be a source of unreliability. If it was a long cord, one would have to deal with it AND the mud conduit going thru a snubber to block well kicks.

There's been some work done with electric motors in conjunction with coil tubing units, but nothing commercial I've heard of. Also some work with signal conductors on each joint of drill pipe, but that's still futuristic.

Right now people mainly just use pressure pulses to/from the Bottom Hole Assembly to control things.

There's a cut-away drawing here:

Some discussion from a while back - one of Heading Out's tech talks:
search in there for mud motor

A good place to start is from May 30:

not just my comment, but those above/below, especially the link to Rockman's comments

some limited info on guiding:

n.b. Bottom Hole Assembly is the drill bit, a mud motor, the directional stuff, the LWD/MWD stuff, and any drill collars to weight/guide the BHA

good technical glossary from SLB (pronounced schlum-ber-jay)

good illustrated glossary:

2) they'll intercept the casing.

3) yes, they'll have to back up a few hundred feet and go again per Rockman.

4) the mud pumps
can develop many thousands of psi, they used 10,000 psi during the top kill. When the pump pressure, plus weight of the column of mud inside the pipes, plus its velocity is greater than the downhole pressure, mud/cement flows in.

5) AFAIK, relief wells have always eventually worked, modulo some mud volcano things. While drilling to these depths in deepwater is not completely routine, I have no doubt that the well will be killed. How long the wait is, who knows, it won't be over until it's over.
They may do it in 3 months total, it might take 6 or more.


There are various techniques associated with directional drilling. These include the use of "Steerable Downhole motors" or rotary steerable drive systems near the bit. The Drilling motors are hydraulic motors powered by the drilling fluid being pumped through it. The motor has a bent housing so that just pumping will turn the bit. The remainder of the drill string can be oriented with the inside of the motor bend oriented in the direction you wish to steer. This cuts the hole preferentially in that direction. When you calculate that you are on track, and wish to go straight, the entire string can be rotated for straight drilling. With the Rotary steerable devices, a pad is oriented and pushes on the string just behind the bit to cause the well to deviate in that direction.

Measurement while drilling systems are used to take surveys for positioning. These include a set of orthogonal magentometers and orthogonal accelerometers to deteremine the well's inclination and azimuth will drilling. The survey information is passed back to the surface via a mud pulse telemetry system.

By using the survey of the existing well, and computing a path to intersect it, the well can be planned and then from the know surface position, steered into a collision with the existing wellbore. You know the measured depth (path along the well bore) based on measuring each joint of pipe as it goes in to be drilled.

The systems as a whole can get you within several feet of the objective. On a relief well, I am not 100% expert, but think you drill, try to hit the target, get as close as you can, if you miss(measured depth is past where you should have hit it, then plug back with cement, side track just a little, and try again. eventually you will hit it. One of the reasons it could take so long.

The thing is that when they intercept the well, they have to have their drilling fluid weighted so that it will balance, or be slightly greater than the flowing well. They can then use heavy fluid to balance the live well to formation pressure, thereby reducing the flow to 0. The live well would then be balanced at the correct pressure and under control. They would most likely trip out of the hole, drop off the motor and mwd, run in with drill pipe, then pump cement to cover a substantial section of the well above the high pressure zone, effectively sealing it.

It will be a very difficult process but eventually they will get it. Question is, how many problems will they encounter in the process.

My biggest concern is that they come in to shallow, have a section of open hole at a balanced weight for that depth, hit the live well which would increase the pressure causing a kick on the relief well. Weighting up to fight the kick, could potentially frac the formation and introduce lost circulation. That would make things tough to control.

Hope this helps,


1) Rockman claims to just use his immense mental powers. Less talented drillers use as above, with magnetic sensing for the last few yards. This area is known for high iron concentrations in the rock, which reduces accuracy.

2) the RW will intercept. Issue is flow between rock and steel or inside steel.

If inside steel, one to three weeks milling through the steel, odds of success/try <50%, Fail, back-up, lose a week to ten days (if lucky) and try again a few feet up or down.

3) Yes, week plus lost to backtrack and restart. To mill requires 50% of steel diameter to be exposed to drillbit.

4) BIG mud pumps and LOTS of mud ! "Loss of circulation event". Just keep pumping and pumping and pumping till you fill it up and get "mud returns" back topside.

5) First try by first RW, maybe 20%. By April 20, 2011 99% by April 20, 2012 100%

BIG reason I have been pushing for four RWs going at once ! (Rockman says 3 if BP was paying his salary).


PS: Check out some other articles here. Good one ending with "the end is nigh" 4,000 word article, I think I put up one of my better responses.

Best Hopes,


I believe the answers are:

1. GPS then magnetometer for the final bit. Also see Drilling deviated wells and Turning an Oil Well and Down-Hole Motors
2. Intercept the well casing.
3. Yes.
4. See Casing a Well.
5. Yes. Almost 100%. Eventually.

But I am not an industry specialist, just someone who has done a lot of reading.

The problem is how the hell do you insert the wedge into the drill pipe INSIDE the riser?

Two things:

1) It occurs to me that BP is now in charge of dismantling its own crime scene. "Interesting, that."

2) I submitted right down near the bottom of the previous thread to this my bid to make the cover of the Bad Ideas Submitted by Laymen Americans book, although I think for a number of reasons it's not that insane. And we got bumped to this thread before anyone could say how off the mark I am.

Instead of lowering a heavy milk carton-shaped "top hat" for containment, I was thinking a geodesic dome frame "surround hat" (with a skin that inhibits crystal formation, if possible?). The dome would be open at the bottom, the icosahedron panel with a small footprint just a bit larger than the riser.

The top panel would have a riser equivalent attached to move the flow to the surface. The general idea would be a dome about twice the height of the riser to try and get the flow near the center of the dome. I have no expert knoweldge of fluid dynamics but it seems that letting the riser spurt into the center of a spherical structure has to disperse some pressure. It might in this case have been better to leave the riser longer in order to support injection into the center of a dome with a larger capacity.

I believe this shape is the best for handling internal and external pressures - certainly better than a rectangular prism. Maybe instead of simply relying on the weight of a top hat itself to keep it from flying away, there could be some active force brought to bear on the top and sides of the dome to try and keep it centered, or maybe it could be anchored with weights that could sink into the mud at other locations. Inn general these structures are pretty light for their volume.

If all we're looking to do is contain/syphon the spillage until the well can be killed, this seems like a better solution than the top hat.

Presumably the tapering in the bottom half of the dome would keep a lot more oil from escaping than a flat bottomed rectangular prism.

If you're guessing I'm a little too familiar with the works of Bucky Fuller, you're correct.

Feel free to tweak or ridicule, I just can't imagine this working less well than that heavy Top Hat box.

What they're trying to do now isn't a top hat, or even the tall containment structure that they first tried a few weeks ago. Those have the problem that cold sea water gets into them and aids in the creation of the crystal hydrates.

The LMRP "cap" they're preparing for is more akin to the female end of a garden hose, except without screw threads. The gasket inside will hopefully make a fairly tight seal with the cut end of the riser, and since not too much water will get in, hydrates are less likely to form.

Thanks for the explanation. I suppose what I'm saying is that I don't see taking the risk of the backpressure of trying to seal this thing if the only goal right now is containing the oil and not killing the well (other than through relief well(s)).

Let the thing spurt into a larger vessel that (I'm assuning?) disperses the well's pressure(s) and pump out of that. I'm thinking this should A) contain the vast majority of oil/gas being spewed and B) basically doesn't seem to risk putting pressure downpipe and potentially causing any worse damage. In fact they may have been able to do this without making cuts that are theorized to be increasing the amount of oil being spewed temporarily.

A geodesic dome just seems like the best structure for holding a volume of liquid in place, and they take (my understanding) much greater pressures than something with right angles.

They probably should've been working on a big source point container that spreads the pressure over volume instead of trying to cap the well at great pressure at a small point starting weeks ago. I mean, if it's true that this well is never going into production and we just want to suck up the spillage...

It will fill up with methane clathrate just like the milk carton. Formation of clathrate is dependent on pressure, temperature and the presence of water and methane. A coating isn't going to help because clathrate formation will occur in the bulk phase.

While a dome of this nature is elegant, cost to construct it are high because of the complexity of the shape. Low weight isn't an advantage here.

I was once on an icefield research project. It being the 70s the outhouse was a geodesic dome. It was perched over a 5000' cliff and an icefall.

The wind kicked up and it rose, spinning high in the air until it disappeared forever.

Your dome's departure might be even more spectacular.

BP better start shaking those support cables and if need be lower the broken riser back to the sea floor. Leave about 100-200 feet of broken pipe left for-re-attaching the support cables (I understand the riser pipe is thick as hell) but this may be the only way to free-up the saw! Once you do that the existing riser that is left will be light enough so you can shake the riser and free up the saw!!

Obviously none of these guys worked construction when attending college.

As I read the comments here, I'm reminded that much of what we're seeing done is being done by engineers. Not people who turn wrenches and get dirty and beat stuff into submission, but engineers. Not to defame engineers, mind you, we'd be in a heck of a mess without them. But, please, people, don't forget that what we're looking at, is ROV operators following directions from engineers. Having issues with a stuck saw is not really an engineering problem. But it's not an ROV operator problem, either. So, how do you combine the best ROV operator with the skills of a plumber, mechanic, fabricator, oilfield roustabout, and a technician? Sad to say, I don't think you ever do.

In the course of developing the Atomic Bomb, during WWII, the need to refine uranium presented a problem, in that every material except nickel was dissolved by the caustic gases created during the processing. What was needed was a refinery, and one that would withstand the corrosive effects. Engineers decided that it should be made from pure nickel. Problem, they could never create pure nickel, and the entire world's production could not be harnessed to supply the massive amount to build the project. Chrysler was asked to assist in the project, and within 3 weeks, a solution for the problems that been utterly unsolveable by the engineers and scientists was devised and implemented. It took only a few days to figure out the approach. What was it? They simply nickel plated a plain steel condenser on the inside. It produced pure nickel surface and was completely coated. Required very little nickel, too. Point being? Practical experience in problem solving is essential.

Are there lessons to learn? Yes. Will anyone be in a place to learn them and change things? Those of you in the industry, ... You tell us.

I think this trade already exists, and it is called rigging where I came from. Crane operators have most of the same skill set as an ROV operator.

The Chrysler story is nice but it should be noted that the nickel plating observation came from K T Keller, head of Chrysler at the time, who was most definitely an engineer.

Your comic book description of engineers is a silly stereotype Most likely it was an engineer who figured out the nickle plating solution - the problem was too many research scientists.

After the jeans I wear at work get too ratty, then they go into the pile used for projects at home - right now my "good" jeans pile is getting pretty small. Mechanical work, metal work, plumbing, carpentry, masonry, wiring - I may not be a pro in every area, but there's not much I can't fix, and I know many other engineers with similar practical skills.

Scientists think up stuff but can't make it work.

Mechanics hit things with hammers.

Plumbers....well, nevermind.

Engineers solve problems and get things done.


Also said tongue in cheek

Dad had a saying:
"Last week I couldn't spell engineer, now I are one"

Vanity license plate seen in NJ:


Engineers from the 30's and 40's were not the engineers of today. They all started as mechanics and machinists, and then got further education and apprenticeship. Notice, I made no slur of engineers, I pointed out that people who had real world experience at problem solving in a practical way, were able to use the knowlege of the theoretical, to accomplish things those without that experiential knowledge could not. One of my friends over the years, was an engineer for Oldsmobile. One of his projects in the barn was a car he designed and built from scratch. He literally designed EVERYTHING and hand built a performance car from the ground up. Knowledge, combined with experience, is a potent enabler.

However, the skill required to be a good ROV operator is going to be the primary concern above that of being a good experienced "handyman". I'm sure these guys get very good at everything they do over time. Frankly, they look pretty darn skilled to me. Imagine, sitting at the controls, with the entire world watching you work, knowing the disaster unfolding in front of your eyes, and some boss, with tired eyes and a rather shortened fuse from being constantly berated by irate management above him looking over at you and you knowing instantly... "I realize the world is watching what you do, you have now become the face of BP world wide, though your face has never been seen. YOu now represent the company to the world, who is tuned in to watch you with critical eyes. So, now that you're going to save the company, save the world, save the environment, and save a billion or two dollars... Could you hurry up and get the damn job done right...the first time?"

I would NOT want to be in that chair, even if I were good, and experienced. For a whole universe of reasons.

I am no expert on oil drilling, but I have cut a pipe within a pipe before (on land, with a hack saw), and the solution seems rather obvious to me.

This should work with the rope saw or a wheel saw. The secret is, don't cut both at once.

Cut through the riser and perhaps 1" further inside. Reposition the drill 30-60 degrees around the riser, on the rope saw just enough so one end hangs in the previous grove, with the circular saw perhaps by just walking it around the pipe. The intention is to cut the riser and NOT the drill pipe.

Ideally this would start 90 degrees off from the kinked over pipe, go around the back side using the weight of the pipe to keep the cut open, then when they get under the kinked pipe (75% cut) lift with a crane to keep it open.

When done, you have a cut riser pipe with the drill pipe intact inside. At this point, there are a number of options:

1) Drill pipe is broken at kink. Lift the riser off, so you have a cut riser with another 10' or so of drill pipe extending up. This is the easy way. A short tug after the cut will tell you if this is the case or not.

2) Bring down Mr Claw. Claw through the riser and drill pipe 2-3 feet ABOVE the cut. Since the riser is cut the riser below the drill pipe should be safe, the claw can cut through the riser that will be lifted off and mangle it all it wants and on through the drill pipe. Lift off the rigged bit, then you would have to slide off the short crused segment of casing with the ROV's. That may be tricky, but shouldn't be too bad.

3) Once it is cut all the way around lift at the kink enough to keep the kerf open, then go back with the wire saw now having to just cut the drill pipe. Ideally they could get it open a half inch or so, which would prevent binding.

I suspect #2 is the easiest. #1 and #2 leave the drill pipe extending past the casing cut, but I think that is likely to make the next step easier. They are going to slide down a new casing with a seal, once past the end of the drill pipe most of the oil will be directed up, allowing them to lower it the last 1-2 feet in a much more controlled way to attach the seal.

Trying to cut through both, particularly with a wire saw, will not work. The drill pipe is going to move vertically inside the casing if only a little bit, most likely from being forced to one side from the kink and having the pressure relieved as it is cut.

All of this has me wondering, would not a plasma cutter rotated around the pipe (in the method I describe) have been faster? They work underwater, but I don't know what the depth does to them...

That approach is one I've been tempted by but haven't been able to come up with a way of doing it so you get a completely clean cut with the tools we've seen, due to having to reposition the saw.

However if you came up with a rig that would allow the saw to smoothly orbit the pipe during your final cut it might work.

Cutting a pipe and a pipe within it at one go is bloody near impossible unless they are held together with absolute rigidity (and even then if there is stress that will cause then to shift as they are cut) or you are using a torch or a water cutter.

What I'd do is cut completely through the riser twice horizontally with several inches between the kerfs. Then make two vertical cuts on opposite sides of the rise that connect the kerfs. The band between your horizontal cuts will then fall away and you'll have plenty of room in which to cut the DP.

Once it is cut you move lower and make a the final smooth cut. (The lower cut you made previously was messed up by the intersecting vertical cuts.)

1. Remove or cut bolts from the flange.
2. Use shear to cut riser and DP below kink.
3. Lift remaining stub of riser away from flange.
4. DP stub should not be a problem but if it is cut it with circular saw.
5. Attach new riser package to flange.

This is starting to feel like one of my weekend home improvement projects:

1. Cut off the riser and drill pipe as rough as you want between the kink and the riser flange. Use any crude method, but NOT EXPLOSIVES. A clean cut is not needed.
2. Unbolt the riser stub from the flange and remove. Take to the surface to put into the Museum of Engineering blunders.
3. This should leave a stub of drill pipe sticking somewhat straight up through the flange. It will be somewhere in the middle of that huge plume of oil.
4. Drop a new annular BOP down onto the flange. Use an extension below the BOP if you need to. Also, you might want to try a Hydril this time.
5. Bolt that sucker down good and hook up the hydraulics.
6. Run some 5" tubing down into the throat of the open annular BOP. The tubing goes to the drill ship.
7. Close the new annular and start metering all that oil and gas that comes up to the drill ship. NO SMOKING PLEASE!

I think that everyone who has done plumbing work wants to do it that way.

The BIG BENNY will be a real flat surface at the flange with a big bolt hole pattern around it to actually SEAL against, so you can bring ALL the oil to the surface.

The BIG RISK would be to take this oil stream safely at the surface into processing rigs, which you may need two large ones of, in order to process the amount of unconstrained oil/gas coming out.

For folks who know - if a pressure tight seal with a large riser pipe can be made to the BOP, can a production rig or two safely swing into production mode, starting with a live flow at time zero?

Now that does sound risky...

And you would have to let it spill during the hurricanes...

I don't think BP is dismantling it's own crime scene, everyone already grasps the magnitude of the crimes committed here, whether Holder can make anything stick is the real question. Let's make sure the bureaucrats at MMS are also targeted, and also all consultants that bribed them with gifts.....This thing is like a giant spiderweb and we should want every fly trapped in it cooked.

The LMRP should have a specially made heating coil built into the inside of the dome instead of pumping methanol into it.

I don't think BP set the riser cut properly as theY were cutting the pipe needed to be dragged in < > direction and this is why most of the riser pipe had to be eliminated before the cut was made. Great that BP has all these engineers, they also need contractors familiar with tree work......shakes head.....I think the Army should take over the hive now so a clear chain of command exists. Obviously Tony Hayward is cracking under the pressure. We need a general in charge of the HIVE just as the USA did with the Manhattan project.



It Lives! Rotors on the right side of the cutter appear to work. Left side not so good.

HO or anyone else: Can we confirm that there was anything/nothing inside of the riser pipe that was sheared?

Again, Johhny Appleseed would have cut the riser from directly behind the bend, not on it's side...

There suddenly seem to be a lot of 'why aren't they doing *this*,' comments, with an implied or explicit 'the idiots' included in the post. I'd like to suggest, especially to new people here -I'm one of them- that there is a more productive way to think about it.

I've noticed many of the same things others have commented on - that they aren't doing a lot of things that seem obvious to me. Why don't they wedge the cut open? Why didn't they just unbolt the riser? Etc. Some of them, at first thought, make the guys seem like they are... well... not that bright.

BUT. These guys making the decisions, these guys doing the work we're watching, every one of them know a hell of a lot more than I do about what the situation is, they have a hell of a lot more experience than I do, they are spending a hell of a lot more time than I am thinking there way through the problem, and they have hell of a lot more on the line than I do. They are not, none of them, idiots - they can't be, or they would not be there, now, doing this.

So, when we see them doing something that surprises us, rather than jump to the conclusion that they don't know what they're doing, perhaps we might entertain the possibility that WE don't know what we're talking about. If they decide not to unbolt the riser, perhaps stop and think why they might have made the decision not to do that. If they don't try to wedge the cut open, stop and try to figure out why they might not do that.

For most of us - for nearly all the newbies at this site - this is unfamiliar territory and technology. That's a foreign world at the wellhead. The pressures under a mile of water make things behave differently. The scale is out of our experience.

So, if something doesn't make sense, spend some time trying to make sense of it. If that doesn't work, search the site - a lot of this has been asked and answered several times over. And then, if you still cant figure it out, then ask - as in, "I can't figure out why they are doing it this way - anyone have some ideas?" rather than "gah, the idiots should do it this way."

There are people here, I've seen in just the few days I've been watching, who really do know what they are talking about, and who are splendidly generous with their time in sharing that knowledge with us. From what I've seen, they'll for the most part be glad to answer. By taking the time to look first, and then asking rather than prescribing, it keeps the noise low and gives them-what-know-something room to contribute, and allows me to hear what they have to say and learn from them. Which is why I'm here. How about you?

Last night I was thinking about why they chose not to saw through the bolts in the flange, and decided that it would be a bad idea to have pieces of gasket sailing through the work area (propelled by the internal pressure releasing), since they're rather more solid than the mud.

Well said fascinated......

I couldn't agree more with your comments. I am dismayed as to how negative (and uninformative) so many of the more recent comments on TOD have become. I originally began using the site for the wealth of useful technical information that many of the commenters were bringing to bear on the BP blow-out. Unfortunately the discussion seems to have deteriorated to a "peanut gallery" of antiBP slurs and "look how stupid they are" types of comments. As you so logically pointed out, not only do they have all the information but they all have "skin" in the game. I for one prefer the reasoned discussion.

As they say on the Interwebz, +1.

Well said.

I've been watching this and comparing it to watching astronauts working on the Hubble Telescope or the International Space Station: Humans using technology to do things in an alien environment.

Who am I do try to suggest a different way? I have no real grasp of the problems the people actually doing the work have to face.

They are not, none of them, idiots - they can't be, or they would not be there

Sorry, that's unreal. We see upstream managers and engineers on every consulting project, nine out of ten deaf to science, too busy brownnosing the top dog in their department or upper management. Everything done by committee. Don't attribute anything more than the visible evidence. Don't make excuses or give the benefit of doubt. BP cut corners on Deepwater Horizon, killed 11 and sank the damn rig, tried to cut corners on this salvage job (remember the shears denting the riser?)

BP needs to be fired, get a contractor in. Same thing with relief wells. No starting and stopping, talking about pulling a BOP to piggyback. They still don't have a flow rate, no idea how to seat an LMR. The only item on BP's corporate agenda is to harvest the oil and limit the spill to reduce $4000 barrel civil penalty for gross negligence. BP engineering consists of marching orders to subcontractors, always idiotic because management is screaming hurry up, get that oil!

This is a job for Schlumberger, Boots & Coots, McDermott

Excellent post...as is the one by ExArcoMgr.

Does anyone know what they are doing now with the wire saw? Looks like they are working on it, is that a power supply package? Expertise please.

BP/Coast Guard now saying that the saw blade has been freed up. Presumably they're going to take another crack at sawing off the riser. Wonder how they'll change their approach this time?

I was on the drill a relief well next to the gushing one bandwagon and blow that sucker shut with a nuke 40 days ago! This could have been simulated in a lab or if not grab 2 rigs and test in shallow waters with conventional explosives. Now it's a day late and a dollar short since the gulf is a toxic soup.

As I sit here typing on my puter collecting unemployment BP has failed to send me even ONE email reply about working on the clean-up. No way am i volunteering free of charge especially since you need hazmat training and i'll probably have to buy my own gear 1/2 mask respirator and so forth. I don't think it's alot to ask $15 dollars an hour for this sort of work. This is good for everyone, i'm in great shape, bored out of my mind, and don't like handouts.

Why can't I have a job helping on the clean-up?

Sorry about my wedge idea I forgot about how much pressure is blowing out (slaps forehead) SEE this is why I need a job from BP on a clean-up crew! My brain is starting to atrophy hanging around not doing much of anything day after day.

I'll give you a dirty little secret about nuclear weapons. We destroyed the last of our 'small' nuclear warheads 10 years ago - and also destroyed were the blueprints and design data. We would literally have to re-invent a warhead from scratch - and then hope it works. (The last time we developed small nuclear warheads, we didn't get one to go 'boom' until the third try.)

Think about how long it has been since we devloped (or even constructed) a nuclear warhead (early 1980s). Are the people who have expierence with this still around?

Do you think that computer simulations can make up for the lack of expierence involved in manufacturing them? (How many people do you know who have expierence in machining high explosives with optical-grade precision?)

There are a lot of posts that essentially start with the words “Why don’t they just…”. While some of these are clearly simplistic, others are originated by intelligent people who are competent in other fields.

I’d like to present some background facts which affect one of these why-don’t-they questions: just unbolting the flange instead of sawing it. (I apologize in advance if this was covered in a prior thread…I can’t keep up!) This is a very logical question, since it would offer a better mating surface for the LRMP or whatever capture device is being considered. There are two issues with this approach. First, the drill pipe has to be removed before the flange can be lifted. I’ll leave this discussion to others. Second, disconnecting the flange under the current conditions may not be straightforward.

Caveat: I am not a petroleum person.

I don’t have accurate measurements of the bolts holding the flange together, so I am using the Woodco web page as a guide:


This would suggest 24 bolts of 1.75 inches for a 21-inch flange, with a 1635 foot-pound tightening torque. (I will leave the metric conversions to millimeters and newton-meters to someone else.)

The Wright Tool company estimates that loosening torque for a corroded fastener can reach 300 percent of the original tightening torque. There may be better estimates, and the strain caused by the riser collapse may have otherwise increased this. The condition of the original thread lubricant at this point is a good question. Bare bolt torque for plain bolts above water is about 3500 foot pounds if I interpolate the Portland Bolt Company chart correctly for A193 standard bolts.

Fasteners of this size are often fitted by hydraulic torque wrenches rather than the conventional manual wrench familiar for automotive uses. Here are a couple of sources for subsea hydraulic torque wrenches::

http://www.bmftorquewrench.com/si_r_wrench.htm (don’t know if this is specifically for deep subsea usage - the gauge looks problematic)


These appear to have a peak of 7000 foot pounds of torque.

So…if the thread lubricant and other preservatives have not degraded over time, and there is no internal corrosion, it would be feasible to unfasten the flange. However, if the lubricant and preservatives have admitted any corrosion, and it has corroded internally enough to reach the Wright estimate of 300 percent of fastening torque, the chances degrade. It seems possible that the torque required might be closer to the plain bolt value of 3500 pounds or so, and 300 percent of that appears to be outside the range of subsea torque wrenches.

And if the strain of the riser collapse rotated the flange more than 1/16 inches, the friction could really exacerbate the torque requirements. I don’t think the ROV video is accurate enough to show evidence of a displacement that small.

Bottom line: Sawing seems like a better bet to me at 5000 feet depth.

Sawing off the riser is the necessary first step if the flange is to be unbolted. Removing the riser removes rotational stress/strain on the flange, and it unloads the flange by roughly 500 PSI * PI() * (21 inches/2)^2 = 173,000 lbf = 86 tons. That force when applied to 24 bolts of 1.75 inch diameter gives a stress on each bolt (assumed uniform) of 3000 PSI. It's not easy to loosen a bolt with that kind of stress on it.

And removing bolts is better done with an impact wrench than with a torque wrench.

Its great to see some of the posters doing some research. But sometimes research for these depths and pressures isn't just that easy.

I don't know what the bolt size and torque specs are for the riser but consider this:

An ANSI B16.5 600 class flange similar to the one you looked up uses 1.625" bolts torqued to 2,044 ft-lb and is rated for about 740 psi working pressure under normal conditions. It weighs 590 pounds. It can be rated to 1,480 psi if secured where there is no axial load or bending moment.

A 1500 class flange this size is rated for 1,850 psi working pressure and uses 3 inch bolts torqued to 13,320 ft-lb. It weighs 2,050 pounds, the bolts weight over 60 pounds each.

Now ramp this up for the riser which is 10,000 psi working pressure plus has to take various axial and bending loads never seen by a standard flange. The BOP alone weighs 450 tons and this flange has to lift it.

You are WAY outside spud wrench and cheater pipe territory.

Pretty much the only people who routinely work with this kind of force and pressure are people working with deep oil and gas wells (on land as well as deep water). It is difficult to try to convince people who have never seen this kind of equipment what we are actually dealing with.

I'm not sure why they don't remove the flange but it is possible the bolts might be of material they don't think they can cut, or not as quickly as the riser and drill pipe.

Keep up the good work - research is king and that and a genuine interest in learning will get you respect on this board while flippant statements by people who don't have any interest in checking their facts only invite derision.

Does anyone know if a shaped charge would work at these pressures? I am imagining a doughnut shape which would cut the steel within and leave the rest.....

Instantaneous fuse would work on land. Wrap around and ignite. Cut cleanly too. At those depths? Don't know.

I wondered this too; I see two big problems:

1) The explosion could wreck the BOP completely. The energy of the driving explosive is going to couple with the high pressure water very easily, and transmit that energy to the BOP. It is severely weakened and eroded from 6 weeks of high pressure oil, gas and grit flowing through it. Fracturing the BOP would make any of these water-free containment strategies almost impossible. The BOP itself could even be knocked free of its mounts. The outer pipe may also get deformed or damaged by the process, and not be able to be fitted to their LMRP.

2) The metal jet would have to cut two seperate pipes separated by fast moving gas and fluid. Jets fall apart pretty easily, so it would be very difficult for a single explosion to cut both at once unless it was very large. Which would amplify the risk of 1).

Work? Probably yes- the forces created by shaped charges make those at the riser connector look like nothing.

But it's still not a good idea- water carries pressure waves very well, and a good portion of the energy of the shaped charge goes off in all directions. Given the uncertain stability of a lot of the BOP I suspect setting off a large chunk of explosives on top of it would be a mistake.


Will shaped charges work at this depth? Yes! Shaped charges are used as standard practice for the perforation of wells at depths much deeper and greater pressure than the work on the BOPs/Riser. The challenge would be to have shaped charges of the correct configuration, and then properly positioned to obtain a clean cut. I would think there is a reasonable chance that shaped charges or several wraps of zip cord could be wrapped around the riser. There is still the issue of the DP inside the riser.

At this point I would have little concern about damage to the BOPs. They are already non functional. If positioned correctly, the shaped charges would focus the blast toward the center and less impact would be felt laterally.

Some posters have stated concerns about introducing pyrotechnics to the stream of combustible fluids, but again, jets of shaped charges have been used for years on oil and gas wells, and except for surface accidents, or off depth perforation, never caused a problem.


just a heads up if you are using the CNN video feed, be aware that if you accept their add on called OctoShape - it will inject a P2P application on to your computer. Here is a screen shot of what it asks you to accept - http://i50.tinypic.com/16m2fli.jpg

here are a couple of articles on OctoShape

and here is a snippet from the Octo site

"By installing the Octoshape software you are granting permission for Octoshape, the website and other end users of the software to utilize and share the processor and bandwidth of your personal computer system for the limited purpose of facilitating the communication between you and other end users of the software, including Octoshape and the website, and improving bandwidth efficiency in order to provide you the content."


Got it. Thanks, Onlooker,

Thanks for the 411!

Could the ROV operators use the circular saws (which seem pretty maneuverable) to cut out a square of riser near the top of the riser pipe the way a surgeon would remove a portion of skull to do brain surgery? Presumably if they could blow in enough sea water to get a look at what's inside they could at least see what they're up against in terms of drill pipe.

that business of trying to hang a strap loop on a hook is...well... One heck of a fight.

Piece of cake with stereoscopic VR, almost impossible in 2D

I think you underestimate the pressure, and perhaps more importantly the volume of oil. As soon as the ROV cuts a small hole in the riser, oil will flow out and reduce working visibility to zero (within the area of the cut). This is the advantage of the wire cutter, once its on, it should in theory just be able to sit there cutting without needing the cut to be seen, the ROV's on the other hand need continuous alignment and correction when cutting.

The riser is made of much thicker steel than the choke, kill, hydraulic, and control pipes that were cut with those saws - it's really a different beast. As noted elsewhere, the oil plume that would come out when the wall is penetrated would completely obscure the work as well.

I've never understood this Internet dynamic whereby casual observers tend to think that folks who have specialized in a field for a good part of their careers are "stupid". It's always been my experience that, when something that's done in some industrial operation that "seems" dumb to an outsider, it's nearly always because the observer is lacking a bunch of information and context.

Please refrain from assuming that BP, Transocean, Oceaneering, Halliburton folks are stupid, inexperienced, incompetent fools. Generally, I would stake serious $$ that the absolute cream of the crop in their respective fields are onsite and onshore working this problem. If you were privy to all that was going on, things would take on a whole new light. Rememeber, their job is not to clarify to the public every aspect of what they are doing. I think just having the live ROV feed is awesome and something I never would have expected to see published to the Internet.

Howerver, I am not saying that BP did not make mistakes. The onsite supervisor (ie, company man) disregarded several standard safety precautions, and the well design was flawed in several aspects. However, until you've been in the shoes of a person that is responsible for seeing that the $1,000,000 BP and partners are spending daily for an operation is minimized, you don't know the meaning of how much pressure you're under to be as efficient as possible. This is private industry money, not government $$$.

On these deepwater operations, it was my priveledge to work with some of the best hands in the business.

Well that will never happen again. We will see new rules where someone is watching everyone. Anything that look controversial will stop the well in its tracks. We will have watchers watching watchers. No one will work on a well without a liscense or ticket. Just as you cannot drive a crew boat without a ticket you will not work any job title without one.

April 2010 started a whole new world in drilling. The question is who pays to get the shore education and testing. for boats and planes we pay for our own tickets

"Anything that look controversial will stop the well in its tracks. "

Not yet, but soon I devoutly hope.

2fer below

APNewsBreak: Feds approve new Gulf oil well off Louisiana coast as shallow-water ban lifts


"Shipping vessels are currently facing increasing time delays and other challenges as they attempt to avoid the oil slicks caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill..."

The casual comments are because certain things LOOK easier than they are. We all tend to underestimate the difficulty and overestimate our understanding. But, hey, that's human.

There is always room for more creativity. Things still get overlooked sometimes by the best and brightest.

Is it possible that the gas from this well could supersaturate the water at this depth to the point that the water "turns over" or rises up? Are the currents enough to prevent something like this from occurring? Could this be a danger to the ships working above the well?

I've never understood this Internet dynamic whereby casual observers tend to think that folks who have specialized in a field for a good part of their careers are "stupid".

It's known as the Dunning-Kruger effect:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which "people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it."[1] The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is...

You see it all the time when people discuss climate science, when know-nothings claim that "CO2 isn't a greenhouse gas" and "the high surface temperature of Venus is caused by pressure."

Scott Adams (Dilbert) defines a management trait whereby "everything that I don't understand must be easy".

And there is an intense anti-intellectualism in this country to begin with.

Then BP itself is make people question its competence by A) taking shortcuts that caused the spill; B) not having any practical contingency in place in spite of its assurances that it could handle this very scenario; C) being incorrect about the extent of the spill; D) denying the existence of the plumes; E) being very cagey and secretive about the state of operations.

I personally don't think BP was incompetent in any of those things, I think they made a deliberate cost-value calculation and decided that it probably wouldn't happen to them, and once it did they figured they might as well lie about it and hope they could repair it quick before public outrage built up because if they couldn't then their dishonesty wouldn't matter at all.

Exactly, just like the Financial meltdown that NEARLY took out all the major banks(Except of course Goldman Sacks)People would say 'look how stupid these Wall Street Bank Management is' No, they weren't stupid, just 'incentived' wrong, you allow upper management, to run a Ponzi scheme, and STILL allow them to reap great cash, that's what you are going to get, the management just needs to keep the balls in the air till they cash out, after which who cares?

Around here we're simple. We call it "armchair quarterbacking".

There is another aspect of cognitive bias that superimposes clarity and conviction after the fact, despite a plethora of options and deep uncertainty looking forward. Or just say "hindsight is 20/20".

Those who have worked in large organizations know how hard it is to tap all the right experts at the right time even with an urgent need, and there must be some side-effect of complexity of scale that worsens this.

"some side-effect of complexity of scale that worsens this"

Fingers of instability reaching further and further, ....... ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

BP is spending alot more than 1,000,000 that's a drop in the bucket my estimate is about $100,000,000 a day when you take into consideration the pounding the stock is taking. I think at this point the USA should just seize BP because after this sideshow BP will never be allowed drilling rights in the USA again. This accounts for 40% of Bp's operations/revenue.

Tony Hayward needs to either resign or be fired it's clear even to the casual observer the man is cracking.

Wait until August???? Do you guys really think after a Hurricane stirs up all those plumes and destroys 50 miles inland States in the gulf with toxic goo. BP will be allowed gulf drilling??? NOT IN THIS LIFETIME

also wait until you see the yuppies reaction when this junk starts making landfall in Florida!

I mean that they were spending roughly $1,000,000/day BEFORE the blowout (when the bad decisions were made).

1) Storms would do a lot of good to aid the dispersal and breakdown of the damaging high concentration plumes and slicks

2) In this lifetime you will also not see state governments turn away from the nipple of offshore revenue. Especially when they are cash strapped. I'll ignore the lobbying issue. In this lifetime you will not see dependence on oil for many products, and likely not see it ceased to be used as a fuel. How then could you imagine offshore drilling would be cancelled? Even believing the planned expansion will be dead for more than a few years is difficult.

3)"I think at this point the USA should just seize BP because after this sideshow BP will never be allowed drilling rights in the USA again." Great solution, nationalize oil companies. Look around the world and see how well that's worked out. On the bright side it would be a fantastic way to eliminate a massive sector of the US economy, jobs, government revenue, and US owned production. I don't like to be snarky, but this plan is genius.

Public v. private, it all depends.

It is very easy to point out the worst of publicly owned oil, and seldom is it noted how bad some private operations are (see my earlier post about Nigeria).

Fact is, Norway and Brasil operate two of the best in the world. Both require more & better safety than does USA, this blow out would NOT have occurred in either because of those regulations, which are actually enforced.

They actually require that BOPs actually function, and they actually inspect them to make sure, imagine that!

Given BP's track record, I am increasing coming around to the position that BP should be banned from ever again drilling in US waters. To paraphrase Churchill, never before in history have so many been damaged by so few.

I think that BP is to the US oil & gas industry as a malignant cancer is to a human body, and I think that we need to kill the cancer before it kill us.

Houston Chronicle blog poll on whether BP should be banned from drilling in the US (closes at midnight tonight):


ExArco - that's telling em'

but then most ppl really don't understand the costs associated with DW drilling....

DW ops range in 35,000 to 45,000 S/hr....DW Horizon has averaged 42,000 $/hr drill costs the past 3 yrs.......and its all private enterprise and not subsidized by the govt like nuclear or wind or solar.

I agree its wired hearing every schmuck trash what is essentially operations in complexity the same as NASA.....

talking o0f costs .....i cant imagine what the current setup is costing ....i'd reckon upwards of 8 million/day

ali..here's my stupid question of the day. Now that BP is past the point of trying to kill this well from above, and we are now in the containment phase. And seeing that the previous tries of trying to capture the oil have failed, (the 4 story containment dome, the top hat, and the insertion tube) does it make sense for them to try a riskier way of containing the gush by sawing into the riser pipe? I would think that they would try to take the easier path, which is go back to their original containment dome, figure out why it failed and try to improve on that. Test it over one of the leaks, and see if they can get it operating properly. Instead they are going forward with this latest attempt, which has increased the flow and they still haven't seen if the cap which they will eventually be putting over the BOP will even work. It all doesn't seem logical to me. Any thoughts?

Here is the problem - the dynamics of the leak have been changing. Initially the kink at the BOP was barely leaking, but because of the higher pressure there caused by the constriction those leak points have been steadily eroding and more and more of the oil was leaking there. Left to itself most of the oil would be leaking there anyway - just a matter of time. Injecting the mud for the top kill/bullhead operation eroded that area even more. You can't use the type of solutions that had been developed for capture at the kink 20m off the bottom sitting above the BOP stack. The solution they have devised should be much more effective if they can get the pipes cut away. They may be able to get ~90% of the leak. There are some risks involved, but there wasn't a choice to sit by and watch the thing leak.

mainer....frankly I think at this point nothing will work here till the RW are sunk

the day i posted a comment on wellbore surveys ...gyroscopes and accelerometers and off set axis and all...i think two days ago.....that was when I heard from someone first hand that Sec Wu stepped in to call off the top kill and it wasn't BP's decision......that just confirmed to me what i'd been saying in my posts about the DrillQuip wellhead, the csh hangers, the 9 5/8" csg and all that stuff i've been been posting in my comments....

there is no BOP on BOP option here now...anybody would be crazy to even contemplate that...

LMRP cap can't be done ....if you been watching the feed you've gotten a feel for how incredibly complex working in deep waters is ....small things we take for granted are pains in the ass down there.....eveyrone's been so taken in by the diamond wire cut and the cool video....the fact is this is just prep work for the LMRP cap....the actual process is days to even start....the probability you can place the LMRP cap on the spot and give it a minute to seal .........an analogy here would be trying to put a a big soda cap on a fire hydrant leaking out at full force with one hand tied behind your back and standing on one foot.......it can happen but then you can find a lottery ticket on the road and go home to find out you've won the mega million...

this is stupidity ....the axis of action is so off here its not even funny....leave the two drill rigs out there
to drill and spend the rest of money on cleanup and containment.................all available resources need to be on containment and cleanup....

and i'm waiting for BP to come out and announce "early august for the RW to kill this well is very optimistic...we have revised it to around early sept"....

and lets say BP gets the LMRP cap on .....just assume they did somehow....hurricane season is here.....hurricanes, rough seas, pounding rain (the worst rain you have ever experienced on land in your life is not common even in thunderstorms that foreshadow hurricanes in the GULF that out in the seas......a sniff of a hurricane and the surface vessel has to scram .....no surface vessel means LMRP might as well not even be there ....no one seems ot understand this on the media....

BP needs to show activity ...frantic activity on the wellsite and they are doing a good job of this....trust me every deep-water engineer at BP has the same thoughts on all this as and i've spoken to a few past few days .....each one says the same which is the axis of action is off here and media/BP/politics all combined are to blame here for this screwed up cleanup and containment effort...

not an alarmist but engineering isnt about TV or politics...its about the situation on hand and how to best deal with it ....we are not dealing with the situation but running a circus here ....

Reality sucks. I am reminded of what Galbraith said about the Great Depression, "The worst continued to get worse."

you say:

"I heard from someone first hand that Sec Wu stepped in to call off the top kill and it wasn't BP's decision.."

I don't doubt that YOU "heard from someone first hand"

BUT I do NOT believe the story

I do NOT believe that "Sec Wu stepped in to call off the top kill and it wasn't BP's decision".

There is a good reason why hearsay is not allowed in court: it is not reliable.
Please provide some reliable evidence.

Alii, I have appreciated many of your past posts, esp based on your technical expertise, but this one is GOSSIP, and (even less reliable) it is POLITICAL GOSSIP. Sounds like something that Rush person might say, the implication being that wonderful capitalist citizen BP would have fixed this but commie/pinko/socialist/nazi Obama government did not allow it to be fized.

I think BP called off the top kill because it did not work, just like ROCKMAN said it would not work, and for exactly the reasons which ROCKMAN gave. There was nothing more to be done in any further to kill attempt, all the mud went into the GOM.

If anything, BP learned that the well lacked integrity BELOW (as well as the leaks above), and this was/is an excellent reason NOT to bullhead as it might make a bad situation worse.

the implication NOT being

"the implication being that wonderful capitalist citizen BP would have fixed this but commie/pinko/socialist/nazi Obama government did not allow it to be fized"

Instead it being

the integrity of certain critical components is under enough doubt in the minds of Sec Wu and his team that the potential benefits of giving it a full on no hold barred approach towards top kill against the down side of those components failing

and far the mud in the GOM goes (of course it all eventually leaked back into the GOM) but don't shoot from the hip ....top kill got mud downhole ...the problem was BP didn't get ENOUGH mud downhole....there's a difference.....and that difference in both statements is what is allowing BP to cut of the riser pipe...

far as me not hearing it firsthand. to me it makes not a lick of a difference what you think. but for future reference ....drilling is a close knit community and the DW community is even smaller and even closer knit.

but yea ...when the investigation starts and it becomes clear to you the top kill was called off at WU's orders...maybe you can just admit to yourself silently that i shot form the hip on Jun 02, 2010 in reply to ali's post....that'll do it for me.

Your political gossip, from a source you are not even willing to name, is far less trustworthy than this analysis just posted:

To those who wonder why it might not be prudent to try to shut in the well (like by crimping the riser pipe), it's not an issue with the BOP integrity or wellhead, but because of the likelihood that isolation between the 9-5/8' x 13-5/8" casing annulus has been compromised, either because of a wellhead seal failure or because of a collapse. The problem is that the 13-3/8" casing (and of course all of the larger strings) were not designed for the same burst pressure as the 9-5/8" x 7" production string.

If you could shut-in the well now at the BOP, there would be a mixed oil/gas column from the reservoir up to the seabed. I'm guessing that BP is esimating that the resulting shut-in pressure is greater than the burst pressure of the 13-5/8". If you look at http://www.ussteel.com/corp/tubular/documents/USS%202010%20Casing%20Prod... you can see that the burst pressure of 13-5/8 casing having a drift larger than the 12-1/4" bit needed for the next hole section is in the 5,000 - 8,000 psi range (w/o any safety factor).

Because of drill pipe wear when you drill the next hole section below the 13-3/8" shoe, it's likely to have thin spots up near the seafloor, so I'd guess that nobody feels good about subjecting it to differential shut-in pressures that could exceed 8,000 psi.

I think that BP expects that the delta p at the seabed would be dangerous to the integrity of the 13-5/8' casing. If that rupured, then all of the remaining outer stings would then rupture, which means that it's game over until a relief well could be drilled. Containment would no longer be an option.


the analysis you are pointing out is what would happen if you were trying to crimp the riser pipe....compare apples to oranges and it just makes you look stupid......no one is crimping the riser pipe and its was never even considered .....so the analysis is redundant and used by the author to illustrate why crimping is not being considered to the people who are coming up with weird ideas of huge pliers of crimpers or what have you .....

and please dont reply ...you dont like what I post then don't read it ....same as I will be doing to your posts ......

Who is Sec Wu????
Somebody from a Bruce Lee movie?
If you mean Energy Secretary Steven Chu then at least get his name right before making any claims about what he may or may not have made.

i just did the spelling by ear ....Sec. Chu ...my mistake

Hey ali...

So if the casing actually got blown into the BOP, would that make the bottom of the hole harder to target? Or is the top of casing close enuf to the BOP to not matter all that much in any case.

In general, unless you've put an LMRP on a bent BOP at 5000ft below sea level, you really can't give spot on technical suggestions from your computer.

The engineers on this job aren't stupid, but specialization doesn't mean you're smart either. Knowledge is a broad range. You might find a solution from mother nature you saw backpacking New Zealand in '76.

I'm fairly sure the people involved know the success rate of each procedure. That doesn't stop any of them from going through the motions.


I sympathize with your sentiment to some extent - lots of silly suggestions by people that clearly have no clue. I've not made any suggestions as it's not my field and I recognize that I don't have the required experience.

However, keep in mind that it's been over a month and for all the effort they have not accomplished stopping the flow. Regardless of how skilled and dedicated some individuals may be, as a whole the industry is unprepared and so far unable to respond effectively to what should have been an anticipated event. My general impression is one of people struggling with inadequate tools and methods, and at least a few things that I think showed poor judgment - but my opinion don't mean jack, what counts is results, and those are scarce right now.

I don't like the attitude that this should be easy and therefore the people involved are stupid, but I also reject the idea that whatever they are doing must be the best way to do it.

I understand what you're saying. Everyone who works in a specialized technical field has the same feeling when a clueless newbie stumbles into an established forum with "a great idea that no one has considered before."

There are generally two sorts of newbies in a forum like this. Some folks make an earnest effort to educate themselves, and post well-reasoned questions that at least are respectful, and at best can offer original insights that can help reframe a problem. Other folks come barging in acting like instant experts ("My cousin Billy Bob is a carpenter, and he once tried sawing two 2 x 4s at one time, blah blah blah.").

The first sort can actually be a benefit, even if they ask questions that have already been answered time and again. Chances are they've searched through the FAQs and not found the information they're seeking (FAQ lists are generally less helpful and easy to search than the "natives" realize). By asking intelligent questions, those sorts of newbies shake up conventional wisdom and keep the regulars from becoming complacent in their knowledge.

The other sort? Well, they deserve all the scorn they receive.

You do have to realize that people are just plain scared by what's happening in the Gulf. They see a blur of what seems like useless busy work, and they're frustrated at the slow pace and the continued string of failures. Because of the cadre of experienced professionals who reside here, this forum has quickly become one of the few places people feel they can turn for straight answers. I appeal to the regulars to try to be understanding, even with the clueless newbs. The service you're providing is invaluable.

Can somebody provide some kind of 'layman-friendly' analysis as to what the probable errors were that lead up to this accident? For example - I keep hearing that the well was poorly-designed - but no details as to what the mistakes were.

I have been holding of on calling BPs actons criminal or even reckless because I do not feel that I understand enough about what happened to make such a judgement. In addition I typicaly defualt to the concept that 99% of people involved in this sort of work are actually trying to do a competent job (I suspect that the lazy, careless an incompetent do not last long on a drill rig). So my bias on this whole issue is that decent people made a series of errors and that if any one of those errors had not been made - everybody here would be commenting on the latest baseball game instead of a major disaster.

Making the first X' stronger (but not larger diameter) was addressed several weeks ago. Basically, good idea (but extra $, so a no no for BP unless required).

Like BP did not install the lock rings on the bottom of the BOP (complicates a number of issues). Not required by MMS until 3 weeks ago.


I used to wire saw concrete as a lad for my fathers firm.

1st rule of wire sawing: if it can move, it will, and it will break the wire when it does.

I still can't believe some of the stuff I'm seeing on the feed. As an engineer specializing in piping design, I'm slightly Embarresed for the fooling around I'm seeing underwater.

Clearly, no dry runs are being practised on dry land.


This is just the type of comment I was talking about.

X-Arc - last night my recommended adjustment after the joint command stuck the saw blade was:

2 less PhDs; 2 more farm boys.

Gallows humor. We're watching DW offshore off the United States on the ropes.

What they don't understand is how many of the PhDs and engineers were farm boys, or sons of NASCAR mechanics, or daughters of carpenters, or worked their way through college as roughnecks, etc.

No way can you simulate this on dry land 11/2 miles under the ocean? The pressure is enormous plus you have those rov's doing all the work. This is a nightmare job if I ever saw one and if they actually pull it off props to the ROV people!

To the poster 1,000,000 comment sorry I misunderstood, anyway if were Shell and this LMRP fails it would be a good time for a hostile take over of BP. I predict BP will lose another 1-3 billion stock market value tomorrow.

NASA regularly simulates being in a vacuum and weightless by sticking people in a pool.

No reason that you can't test being in the water by, you know, being in the water.

That said, and somewhat addressing the peanut gallery commentary, there are things which clearly are more complicated than they first seem and proper training seems is required.

But I think we have caught a number of common sense errors too--like stabilizing the ROV on the part of the kill or chock line that you are cutting off and then having the ROV dive, uncontrollably, for the bottom when the ROV has to suddenly take the weight.

Drilling a pipe in a pipe seems to be one of those things--unless the engineers were hoping that the kink at one end and the plug at the other (? reaching here for what would stabilize the DP on the downward end) would keep the cuts from breaking alignment.

reaching here for what would stabilize the DP on the downward end

The shear ram, which cut almost, but not all the way, through the DP.

NASA also has the advantage of being able to plan thier operations years in advance.

They're working under extreme time pressure and there isn't time to make sure everything will go right. Give them some slack.

What kind of shape do we think the BOP and well head are in?

I was watching last nights Keith Olbermann and his expert pointed out that the riser is supposed to detach/break off rather than having 5000' of 21" pipe, which I am sure weights a goodly amount, torquing on the BOP, wellhead, and other bits of pipe (the 36" outer casing?) stuck into the 1000' of "pudding" at the bottom of the Gulf.

How much of a threat was the load of the pipe, post detachment from the drilling platform, to the BOP and lower bits?

How about the torque as the pipe came down? What about the relief of that tension on BOP, wellhead, etc?

I believe parts of the riser had positive buoyancy (i.e. the upper part), while the middle section was neutral and only the bottom portion of the riser was negative. That would explain why it seems that part of the riser tube still may not have settled to the seabed. The idea was that the riser would be mostly self-supporting and would not put an excessive weight load on the well-head.

Some one has to say it. How many ROV operators does it take to hang up a coat. Been pecking at that awhile. Seriously though thinking through the double shifts and sleep and just knowing the whole shebang going on I would pass on appreciate the efforts of these guys. Keep on shoveling...

Some one has to say it. How many ROV operators does it take to hang up a coat. Been pecking at that awhile. Seriously though thinking through the double shifts and sleep and just knowing the whole shebang going on I would pass on appreciate the efforts of these guys. Keep on shoveling...

If anyone is interested, the Oceaneering International, Inc. "Gulf of Mexico Vessels Rate Schedule" dated August 2007 is posted at:


So you can get an idea what industry rates are for the hi-tech video show everyone is watching.

Stock PriceOII 43.85 +3.48

6/02/2010 16:02 ET

Down from mid-upper 60s in late April. They suffered about a 40% drop from this accident - thanks BP

intresting numbers, amusing that one of the biggest figures is 'offshore video streaming' at $6K a day! Enjoy the show I guess.

There's a ton of activity going on but for the life of me I can't figure out what it is they are currently up to. Anyone have any ideas?

they've gotta be cleaning up and sending unused stuff topside

Housecleaning while the wire saw is up top being re-threaded I guess?

Does anyone know why all the DP didn't shoot out of the well during the blowout? Does anyone know what that box/cage looking thing is that the cutter is hanging from?

Once they cut the riser, if there is DP still inside, what's to keep it from shooting out?

Superpiper and ziggyonebillion - I flagged your duplicate posts as inappropriate. Nothing personal, but please don’t hit refresh when posting…or post again if your comment does not appear immediately…TOD is under a much higher load than normal.

Prof. Goose and/or Gail: Is there a better way for dealing with duplicate posts than this?


More bandwidth!

Shop for a better plan (oildrum)was never set-up for the huge amount of traffic it's now enjoying! This can be a good thing! Banner adds (help deffer cost) This increased spike of traffic will only get worse since new people will refer friends and associates towards TOD since it's the best site on the web for keeping up with the disaster.

Don't be afraid of banner adds it would be great if you could also make a profit and split it between the contributors, since the people here put in some great work and deserve payment for it!

I don't think it's a network bandwidth problem: in my non-expert opinion, what I'm seeing is a backend database logjam. TOD admins, are you working to find a better hosting service? If not, is it for lack of money?

*double posts!-ooops....*

what has pressure got to do with dry runs?

Nothing much tbh.

Mechanical problems wouldn't be that fussed about a few psi.
And, it doesn't have to be an exact replica, but stood next to, and getting hands on feel of a mock up would be invaluble.

My 2c tbh

Is anyone watching live?
Does anyone know what is going on?
It is NOT mere "housekeeping".
The ROVs were working on the power supply for the wire saw, underwater.
They did NOT take it to surface.
Now it appears they are taking it back DOWN.
Expertise please (again he said)

no. but just heard on NPR, obama, working under the theory of no bad thing should be wasted, made a statement today really emphasizing the need for alternative energy sources. Wonder if his folks are telling him there is an opportunity here to push a certain agenda. Wish I knew what that agenda was. Would like to think those folks about him, who we were told knew about Peak Oil, have finally got his attention. Damn first positive thing I have heard in weeks. Just wish they could stop that damn hemorrhage. You guys go back to your project now and may the gods be with you.

Walked on a mud flat on the edge of the GOM yesterday just south of the Cody Scarp. Someday I would like my grand children to show their children the myriad of life that lives there. How's that for optimism. Bout the best I can muster up.

Several posts in previous threads suggested using the Shear to crimp instead of cut. Perhaps, they are onto something. If BP is concerned that the open riser flow might be much worse than previously estimated and/or that the LMRP cap might not be be able to withstand the flow and pressure without pushing off and sealing, then also if:
1) BP are sure the riser kink can handle the static-flow pressure (reservoir pressure minus oil head?) without rupturing, and 2) they believe there is much higher probability that a lower escape flow condition (compared to previously) would allow top kill to work (and a failed seal/disc/whatever down well doesn’t preclude it), then (lots of ifs there) would it make sense, at this juncture, to pause, before cutting the riser further and:

Crimp the riser using the Shear (without blade) or equal and get the flow down and leakage via small openings only
Redo the junk shot (this time without the open ended riser) to block the small openings
Retry top kill?

If you crimp the pipe and effectively seal it it will pressurize to wellhead pressure, the leaks will go crazy and most likely blow it open - if something worse doesn't happen first down the well. Point 1) is mistaken - the area below the kink does not experience well pressure as long as the well is leaking, but if you seal it it will - that is why a second BOP is no longer in the picture - they don't trust the system to tolerate full well pressure.

I think a lot of the "why don't they" comments are people brining experience from other areas, and that's valuable. Here's why:

BP is an expert in wells. They hire folks, like the ROV company, who are experts in ROV operation. That said, put all those folks together and you have /experts in building wells with ROV's/.

What I mean by that is I'm sure when building a well these guys are skilled as skilled can be. They have it down to a science. There is no ROV guy messing with a hand wrench, it's all planned, the right tools are there, and off they go.

That's not what they are doing now. They are into improvisation mode. This is Apollo 13 territory, working with what you have on the problem that presented itself. The ROV's may be clumsy at using some tools because they have avoided needing to use them underwater before! Assemblies that were made up on land/on the boat and lowered into place are now being worked on in a way never intended.

I also suspect many of these guys are working incredible hours, seven days a week, doing anything they can to fix the problem. That can lead to a burnout of sorts, and create tunnel vision as you work towards one solution.

I don't think anyone on the Internet is going to solve this, but I do hope that as various experts watch this who are not on scene and ask themselves many of the same questions that the good questions are somehow, if slowly making it back to the team. There is no "expert" in cutting through a broken casing and drill pipe at 5000 feet as far as I can tell, no one has ever done that before anywhere. So you need not just a well expert, and a ROV expert, but a pipe expert, someone who may have cut a pipe within a pipe somewhere else and know some of the issues.

I know TOD has been overrun by newbs, and too many people ask the same question over and over, but just asking questions doesn't mean they think BP is full of idiots or not doing a good job.

One more thing to keep in mind: for technical-minded amateurs, this is FUN! Many of us *know* we're in way over our heads here, with engineering challenges that dwarf our expertise, and an application of brainpower that makes your average space mission look like a walk in the park (and I say that as a space enthusiast). But when we see an ROV trying to fit the damn screwdriver into the damn hex socket, when we see the saw blade bind up in the cut, we see problems we recognize from working in our basements, and, being tech nerds, we can't help but give our advice.

This is Apollo 13 territory

Exactly. Something I've been meaning to point out: the resources, technical expertise, and scale of this operation are pretty similar to a big unmanned mission to Mars, and BP has thrown it together in weeks instead of years. Say all you like about corporate management, poor risk assessment, lack of governmental oversight... from an engineering standpoint this is an event for the history books.

The horde of basement plumbers turned oil-well experts here is nothing new: when NASA's mars rover bogged down in sand, every off-roader in the country sent them a letter, and I'm sure the same happened with Apollo 13. But this is a *good* thing. It means the public is relating their personal experience to the challenges of petroleum engineering, and are thinking about the process, technology, and brainpower that goes into their weekly gas fillup -- and as I understand it, that's what The Oil Drum is all about.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I really do have to go do some plumbing in my basement. I fully expect to come back with bruised knuckles and burnt fingers, but with luck I'll have a new garden spigot and I won't burn the house down with the propane torch. And that, in a nutshell, is the measure of fix-it success, both in my basement and in the Gulf of Mexico.

From watching some of the video feed, that certainly does not look like a nice working environment. There also appears to be some feedback signal delay which makes quick accurate manipulations nigh on impossible. Add the swaying motion due to currents...

It's interesting reading all the obvious solutions from us arm chair quarter backs with our lack of knowledge of what's actually going on down there. Three or four weeks ago, my dad, a retired marine inspector, was ranting about why they didn't just get a barge, cut some suitable holes in it and drop that over the existing structures to collect the leaking oil. What would he know about hydrate formation?

For my own useless idea, I suggest just whacking the entire BOP off and ramming a giant spike into the resulting hole. That's always worked fine for me when I've had to deal with an air or water line leak. Should work great there too!

The idea of forming a giant vortex around the well site to try to contain the spill plume is interesting but seems impossible to me. But it got me thinking. Some of the shale developers are trying to use freeze walls to protect the surroundings while they cook the kerogen. Hmmm. I haven't crunched any numbers but how much energy would be needed to create a mile high freeze wall around the leaking well? Would it be even remotely possible to keep the resulting ice tube in place against the water currents? How large a diameter would be required? What wall thickness? Some simple numbers suggest that 20 million cubic feet of sea water would need to be frozen...

Does anyone know what the elaborate steel cage which the saw was hung onto is? It seems to have all sorts of fittings and mechanical devices inside, and a strange shaped spear on one side. If anyone knows what this is your knowledge would be appreciated :-)

Believe it is the hydraulic power supply for the saw. Similar to an ROV cage, high voltage electric (up to 36,000 volts) down to the cage, transformed to 440 volt 3 phase to run a large (50 hp? 100 hp?) hydraulic power pack to power the saw. May incorporate data communications, lights, camera, etc. Depends on how fancy it is.

Earlier, I thought they were bringing the saw to the surface for repairs, as you could see flecks of stuff moving from top of the screen to bottom, and I'd seen that before at other times when the ROVs were surfacing.

But then we saw the ROV performing some repairs on the saw, and what I think is its power supply. I wondered if perhaps they had moved the saw to a lesser depth for the work.

The video now shows depth and position info, and it appears they've been working on the thing at 500 ft for the past few hours.

what video are you watching? link?
i am watching cnn version of bp, but they have the depth info BLOCKED by a logo

Sorry for the delay in responding, but I went to the gym.

I'm using the BP link:


The NPR link is in the proper 4:3 format:


Question (somebody has probably asked this before. My bad.): Why didn't they just try pinching more of the pipe to slow the flow? Though I suppose it takes something like the force of a sinking oil drilling platform to bend and kink well tubing. But it seems to me those shears or something like it could have been used to pinch the pipe - simply to reduce the flow.

Longer term thoughts - I suppose these techniques they are trying will help them develop strategies for similar deep water accidents. But can we afford their learning curve environmentally? Maybe the one good thing to come out of this will be decisions to do such things as deep water drilling or not based on actual facts and experience, rather than some executive's politician-greased dream and denial of worst case scenarios.

One thing for certain. Nobody will be able to say that 1) this can't happen, 2) "we have the capability to handle a spill of 250,000 barrels a day", 3) we have the capability to quickly fix such accidents etc.

I just watched the second news conference from Thad Allen (Incident Commander), and there is an outstanding issue from yesterday's press briefing that was not addressed. Both Thad Allen and Robert Gibbs expressed identical concerns yesterday (here and here) with the condition of the well bore (and increasing pressures to stop the flow of oil from the well). What do we know about the condition of the well bore, and was it damaged in the accident or subsequent efforts to stop the flow (particularly with a "Top Kill")? I read today about various descriptions of a worse case scenario, and this includes damage to the well bore that would impede efforts to "fill it up with mud and set a concrete plug." How serious is this risk, and what alternatives are being considered for capping the well if there is damage to the well bore? Geological formations in the Gulf of Mexico are often described as young, unsettled and fragile. Intersecting the well bore with a relief well is one concern, and setting a cap inside a damaged well is another. Most of the investigations to date have focused on possible faults in the cementing job in the final casing string in the productive zone of the well. What if there was a fault further up the well, perhaps near the wellhead during the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon (as the riser was pulled and deformed ... obstructing flow and increasing pressures), further down the well during the initial accident, or in recent "Top Kill" efforts (which increased pressures down the well bore)?

A fractured/disturbed formation around the reservoir could be highly consequential. I've found smatterings of info around the web but nothing detailed and substantive. If there's a geologist lurking who has some familiarity with that part of the Gulf and something to say, I'm sure several of us would appreciate some educating.

One disappointing thing about the live feed is we are missing the audio commentry. Each ROV crew has one person keeping a written and audio record of what each rov is doing.

I was part of the team that assessed the remaining oil and recovery of the same from the Prestige tanker that sunk off Spain 8 years ago.

That was much deeper (about 3600m i remember), but the oil was easier since it was heavy (and viscous at sea bed temperature), the volume was large but finite.

I think the rov crews are doing a fine job especially with the many 1000s of us back seat drivers.


Patronizing, navel gazing, and pc bullshit to one side, I refuse to believe that I (as a real mechanical engineer) am in a minority when I watch some if the underwater antics and think WTF!

Proper engineering is an art of problem solving, and to some extent is something, no matter how many masters or degrees you have coming out of your butt, you cannot teach. Your either a good engineer or not.

If my response time on a problem is in days, and I have 20000 bbls leaking every day, you bet your ass I'm gonna try it on dry land first. You better believe that all data, including flow rate, is of utmost importance.

And if I have 6000000000 people watching what I'm doing, I'm going to offer blog points to keep people informed.

I can see why this clusterfuck happened in the first place given the evidence so far, I belive, it's paper engineers, pushing buttons and making decisions which they have no clue as to the proper ramifications of same. I've seen "engineers" come and go. Very few deserve the title tbh.

How do you dry run hanging equipment from a 5000 foot cable into 2500 psi, 2 degree C, lightless environment and gain any usefull information. The dry run becomes a science project that just wastes time instead of rolling up ones sleeves and getting after the real world problem. Would you have constructed a mockup of the LMRP with a toppled over riser bundle in a huge refrigerated tank and pressurized it from an enormous supply of crude oil properly mixed with natural gas to replicate the calthrate problem and then had ROV operators attempted to place the band saw to see what happens? How long would that take? We have the perfect laboratory for your experiment at the damaged well. GIT ER DONE

This is the problem with engineers that don't work in this business. They don't have a feel for the scale. We have to depend on our analytical skills more, because we can never test at full scale.

I remember once I designed a turbine bypass system for a 500 MW power plant. After final assembly a young engineer sent to observe and accept the equipment became indignant when he realized we were not going to do a full scale pressure/temperature/ flow test on this equipment before shipping. He was convinced we were trying to "pull a fast one". After some extreme diplomacy and a call back to his home office he came to realize that the only way we could produce the flow and temperature was to build a 500 MW boiler ourselves....which would miss the point. The same thing happened on a special wellhead choke I designed for North Sea service. They quickly realized their request would encompass us finding suitable geology and drilling our own HP/HT gas well....which would cost substantially more than the choke.

Patronizing, navel gazing, and pc bullshit to one side, I refuse to believe that I (as a real mechanical engineer) am in a minority when I watch some if the underwater antics and think WTF!

Proper engineering is an art of problem solving, and to some extent is something, no matter how many masters or degrees you have coming out of your butt, you cannot teach. Your either a good engineer or not.

If my response time on a problem is in days, and I have 20000 bbls leaking every day, you bet your ass I'm gonna try it on dry land first. You better believe that all data, including flow rate, is of utmost importance.

And if I have 6000000000 people watching what I'm doing, I'm going to offer blog points to keep people informed.

I can see why this clusterfuck happened in the first place given the evidence so far, I belive, it's paper engineers, pushing buttons and making decisions which they have no clue as to the proper ramifications of same. I've seen "engineers" come and go. Very few deserve the title tbh.

Are they switching out panels? Now they're down at the BOP. Has the ROV gone rogue? Is the "rogue" ROV going to flip the switch to off?

I'm nowhere near an engineer by training, but even I can see the delusions, lies, half baked ideas, ineptitude, mistakes, corporate b.s., dog and pony shows...

And also their brilliant, persistent, impossibly difficult work when that is happening.

When the wire saw was finally freed, officials discovered it no longer cut effectively and were working on either replacing the saw or using another instrument entirely—a set of 20-foot long shears, according to Andrew Gowers, a spokesman for BP.


How about some giant nail clippers? When all else fails, that is what I use.


Quick post on pressures and flow rates :

Early data in circulation appeared to suggest reservoir pressure ~13000 psi, pressure below BOP ~8000-9000 psi, pressure above BOP in riser ~2600 psi, ambient pressure at seabed at riser exit ~2200 psi.

We now know that pressure in the main reservoir package is around 11900 psi. Note then :

- A pressure below the BOP of 8000-9000 psi is very close to being large enough to balance reservoir pressure at the sandface.

- The drawdown in this scenario would be very small, and reservoir quality would have to be very high (and flow path to the surface essentially unrestricted) to realise the flow rates of, say, 20 kb/d being widely quoted

- in this scenario there is a huge pressure drop across restrictions in the wellhead/BOP (around 5500 - 6500 psi)

- I calculate that a potential additional reduction in FTHP of around 400 psi from removing the riser would increase flow rate from around 20 kb/d (assuming this is correct) to around 25 kb/d

BP are however now suggesting that the majority of the flow restriction occurs deep in the well, that pressure below the BOP is lower than expected, and I have now seen numbers like 1400 psi being quoted on this site for the pressure below the BOP.

Note then :

- the pressure below the BOP must be equal to or greater than the ambient pressure at the sea bed (~2200 psi) otherwise water would flow INTO the well. It might however conceivably be much lower than 8-9000 psi if the flow path through the supposed failed cement and/or up the annulus is very tortuous such that there is a large pressure drop.

- example well models that I have created suggest that rates of 20 kb/d could be sustained at well head pressures of around 4000 psi with a large skin factor creating the additional pressure drop at the sand face (there are of course many other permutations of this largely assumed data set)

- I calculate that in this scenario, the additional flow rate caused by riser removal would be significantly less, perhaps as low as 1-2000 b/d, since the well is effectively inflow constrained, and additional drawdown has a more limited effect

If anyone is remotely interested I can post some output plots from these models (if someone can tell me how to do it… :-) )

Try posting a GoogleDoc and post the link?


BP know that, once this lmrp is working, they will have a flow rate which is incontrovertible.
So, BP tell everyone that cutting the top of the BOP off will increase flow by 20%.


the true increase may really be only 1-2% but BP can argue that the primary flow rate (pre lmrp) was 20% less than actuall. Given that every barrel spilled is going to cost BP in fines, it's worth trying to get the spill figure as low as possible.

20% is a lot of oil and money!!

* takes off tinfoilhat...*

Seems all activity on camera has stopped.......15:04 PST.
Anyone have any info?

yup, me and the rest of the troglodytes and non technies are worn out. Nice break. Wonder if anyone with any expertise and influence is following this site? My recommendation is that all you talented folks begin to study solar, wind, geothermal technologies. but not till you stop this mess. most out here i talk too are resigned to that fact that it's going to take a bottom kill and we got a 2 months or more to stop this mess. We are now praying for that and are going to be damn difficult to convince that DW in the GOM makes sense. Just too costly when externalities are factored in.


I realize this is totally off the wall (though I would prefer the description of it being outside the box!) and possibly off topic, but I didn't know where else it might go to get as great a critical comment as it would from the folks here at TOD. If someone wants to flame me for being retarded I will certainly understand. If someone has more technical knowledge of why this couldn't work I'd appreciate that as well (even more so) since then I might end up learning more than just to keep my mouth shut when talking about things I know nothing about!

Large-end hot air balloons have an inflated volume of nearly 17k cubic meters. I woke up at 2:00 am this morning with a vision of anchoring such a balloon above the oil gusher and letting Archimedes' principle do its job. Doing some back of the envelope calcs (below) it looks like a small number of these balloons could be used to capture much of the oil flow (and methane without worries about the hydrate problem) at depth. The filled balloon would have to be moved from over the pipe and a new balloon put into place. That means not all of the oil would be captured. Then, perhaps, a tube could be inserted into the orifice and the oil pumped to the surface. In the event of a hurricane disrupting surface operations, perhaps a larger number of balloons could be deployed at depth to act as reservoirs until the storm passes. How many submersibles can be deployed???

The balloons could be cycled until the oil corroded the material (nylon) to a point that it couldn't be used any more. But then you would replace balloons as needed. I'm sure there are hundreds of tactical and logistical problems with this idea, but in principle is seems (to this simple mind) workable.

Balloons range from 16,990 m3 down to 2,832 m3 (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_air_balloon )

2832 cubic meters is equal to 17,812.74 barrels (US, Petroleum: source: http://www.sciencemadesimple.net/volume.php )

Thus one giant balloon might be able to capture a significant amount of daily leakage from the pipe, given the latest low end estimates for flow rates. At the higher end (100,000 bpd) this would be problematic.

This isn't a solution in the sense of stopping the flow now, but it would be a better stop-gap than anything tried so far (if feasible) while waiting for the relief wells to be finished. If the current procedure works, as I understand it, that will only slow the leak rate, not stop it. Then the residule could be captured perhaps.

Let the flames begin!

I believe this could sort of work, but it would be last-resort desperation. What BP is now attempting to do is channel something like 90% of the flow to tankers on the surface.

yup, but George has an out of the box idea! Wonder if there is anyone following this thread that could make a accurate evaluation of his proposal? Or is this what i have often thought, an exercise in illusion or delusion. Four relief well is what we need. I agree with Alanfrom new orleans. That approach has worked before. Four is better than two. Introduce a little competition between them. Offer a bonus to the first succeed. Then fire them all and tell them they will get positive references for all applications for work in renewables or related work. We need you guys designing mass transit, solar, wind, etc. You are our best. Think about how you can use your skills in the future. Forgive.

armchair roughneck: "What BP is now attempting to do is channel something like 90% of the flow to tankers on the surface."

This, along with Allen's use of the word, "product" today has led some commentators to speculate that current tactics reveal BP's primary objective; more interested in tapping than capping. Be that as it may, anything would have to be better than what's going on right now. What's the current rate of flow? Noticed they are no longer showing the gusher...

You are correct in that these balloons could hold a large fraction of the output of the well, even if much of the gas converts to hydrates (which are enormously more space-consuming than the gas at these pressures.

Unfortunately, there is another rather significant problem, and that is the bouyancy of one of these balloons once it is filled with some combination of gas, oil, and hydrates. This bouyancy would cause a HANDFUL of problems including, but not limited to, the following:

1. Each balloon would need a HUGE anchor to hold it in place.
2. Before the balloon is filled, there'd be problems with the anchor sinking into the mud.
3. Because of the shape of the balloon, it'd be TOUGH to get a hook on the anchor to move it around.
4. Unless the balloon was made of some fabric SUBSTANTIALLY tougher than the whisper-thin nylon used for hot-air navigation, it'd be reduced to shreds in no time flat.

Aside from THAT, it's a GREAT idea!!

I don't think flames would begin until a full balloon reached the surface ;-)

Assume 3000 cubic meters, what's the lift force with it full of oil/gas/hydrate?

Hydrate has a density of .9, so each cubic meter of hydrate has 100 kg force upwards.
x 3000 = 300,000 kgf or 300 tonnes-force.

IIRC, the oil is API 35, so it will have a specific gravity of .85 (even more buoyant).

When the gas gets near enough to the surface to come out of solution/unfreeze from the hydrate, there will be a further rush of buoyancy.

So, even just dealing with 300 tonnes buoyancy:
(1) your balloons need to resist that kind of force, from looking at hot air balloons - uh, I don't think so.
(2) you need an anchor system to hold the balloon over the wellhead leaks sufficient to maintain position while resisting that kind of upward force.
(3) you need to either: (a) gently winch out a line to allow the balloons to reach the surface under control (nb the gas issue), or (b) have a quick release mechanism and let 'er rip while hoping that one doesn't surface underneath one of the drill rigs nearby.

uhhh - what do you think now?

I'm curious, you could quantify volume, and you have a notion of buoyancy,
were you at a loss about how to quantify that?

This is the kind of feedback I was looking for! I said this is probably crazy. I am less interested in whether my idea would work than can we think of alternatives that might.

FWIW: I never considered letting the balloons loose to rise. I'm a scuba diver. Understand the consequences of that approach.

But the upward forces you project are worth noting. Now, is there some other capture method (besides a puny concrete bunker) that might work? Hot air balloons can be manufactured rapidly. The characteristics of their use in the atmosphere are understood. Might they be a model for something that would work? "Think not what your country can do for you. Think what you can do for your country." JFK. Or, think not what will defeat us. think about how we can solve the problem. And, think analogically.


There are two issues in the blowout:
(1) killing the well
(2) containing the oil

#1 we're just going to have to wait for the relief wells since top-kill failed.

So how to deal with #2?
once the oil is widely dispersed, skimming is nearly useless.

It would be better if the oil was corralled at the surface near the blowout, and burned.

Given balloon like material, and zippers, something along the lines of whitf's suggestion.

prepare beforehand:
* a metal frame that can rest on the bottom (wide pads, etc.) with a 10-20 foot (3 - 6 meter) diameter closed polygon/circle at top.
* Two or more rolls of fabric, with zippers along the edges.
* the fabric rolls on a frame whose buoyancy can be adjusted, or that can be attached to some buoyancy control devices.
* a surface corral that can stand burning oil.

When a deep blowout happens:
* use the shears, ROVs to reduce the leak points to one.
* place the lower metal frame over that.
* attach the rolls of fabric and their zippers, then ascend until say 50 - 100 feet under the surface. One might need a workboat pulling on the under-surface frame to stabilize it against the current.
* have a couple of workboats positioning the surface corral with long cables.
* light off the oil/gas.

The key is the large path avoids hydrate clogging.
One might use ROVs with sonic devices to bust loose any hydrates as needed.

The difficulty is anchoring the device against the current.
Even a .5 mph current will product a lot of force, so one might have to have tie points in the fabric to anchor this column as it ascends. And a fast enough current would be too much for such a flimsy structure.

Would have been better to also have prepared ahead of time to do what I suggested in:
and done that while the rig was still afloat and the riser intact. With the fuel disconnected from the drillship, they might have been able to save it, as well as kept most of the oil burning to avoid pollution.

I think their long term containment device is decent, but it's taking 2 months to get that in place.
And meanwhile oil is fouling the environment.

So, even just dealing with 300 tonnes buoyancy:
(1) your balloons need to resist that kind of force, from looking at hot air balloons - uh, I don't think so.

You think right. The lift from hot air is ~0.3 kg/m^3 and that‘s what they are designed for.


I've had similar "off the wall" thoughts myself. If I were Obama I'd have all of them in process in case the pro's can't get it stopped. Nothing against pro's, really. But sometimes you have to think outside the box.

My thought was a wide diameter (40-50") rubber hose all the way from the surface which would feed an artificial pond floating on the surface where the oil is pumped out on to ships. The balloons are an interesting twist though.

This one is CLOSER to workable, but it still has a significant big problem. There are something like 15 million cubic feet of gas per day coming out of the well (assuming 5000 bpd oil and a Gas-Oil Ratio of 3000 - some numbers that were floating around last week)

Assuming that it expands to near SPT in a 48" rubber hose, you'd have gas-oil mixture traveling something like 10 miles/hour near the surface. It'd make for a rather treacherous boiling cauldron of flammable gas on/close above your artificial pond.

With the LMRP cap, they'll have a few hundred psi backpressure at the surface before they start blowing past the grommet/seal at the connection to the old riser. This'll give them enough control to get the gas out to a boom where it can be flared off relatively safely.

Hello! I am a brand-newbie commenter to the Oil Drum, so I hope I'm starting out by following the proper protocols for introducing a new topic. And if my "new" topic has been discussed and laid to bed already, my deep apologies. I did some searching through the threads and haven't been able to find what I think I'm asking.

My question(s)
1) How many locations are leaking oil down there? Various schematic drawings from the Incident Command, and BP videos of various interventions over the last couple of weeks, show oil apparently escaping from the BOP (seen during the top-kill attempt), oil leaking from a crack in the riser pipe just above the flange at the top of the BOP (seen currently in the footage now on the web), oil leaking from another point in the riser point, oil leaking from the end of the riser pipe, and in some images that I recall seeing during the top-kill attempt, what looks like oil leaking from the sea-floor near the BOP. Is there any source or citation that sums up the number of leak locations, how much oil (approximately, either by % or volume), and what has been done to stop any of the leaks (and if they've been stopped). In short: "How big is the Problem down there?" "How MANY problems are there down there?"

I understand implicitly that BP has the best access to technology to attempt to stop the leak-- I have no illusions that the US, or any other entity, could do a better job at it. I also believe (and believe that I am backed up by direct observation and experience) that the US Government is doing a good, and increasingly better job of overseeing BP in their efforts, particularly as evidence keeps emerging that BP continues to view "public image damage control" as their real "job 1." However, HOW HARD WOULD IT BE for the US to obtain some deep-sea submersible robot cameras of their own to provide independent footage? This is the only real way that the US can "inspect" BP's job in this.

Despite my use of caps, I don't consider myself to be a raving anything, and if there's anyone who can answer these questions, and/or weigh in on the need for an independent view of what's going on down there, I would GREATLY, DEEPLY appreciate it.

Chris in SLC

1) leaks at the end of the riser and the top of the riser where it's bent and where the partial wire saw cut is.
Best estimate from the federal leak panel is 12,000 to 19,000 bpd.
Reference somewhere at

2) because they have a crazy number of ROVs down there already,
having another one just for video would be a mess.
They all have tethers to the surface,
and some of the ships also lower things with their cranes,
so underwater real-estate is at a premium.

See especially the large version of the 1st graphic on BP's "SIMOPS" page:

The other thing to keep in mind is that every one of those surface vessels is either dynamically positioned or moored to one that is. I'm amazed how steady the stuff being lowered is.

Back in my day we didn't have all these fancy-shmancy "GPS" thingys to hold station - had to use subsea transponders. With computers that were'nt even 286s.

They are still using transponders but both the transponders and the computers have advanced slightly from even a 386.

Follow ROV mode is really fun, like leading a really big dog around on a leash - but not applicable for this situation.

Thanks for the reply and the links. Yes, there is a lot of traffic on the surface, and yes, right in the working field of the BOP would not be the place for another camera.

However, I'm not talking idle camera footage to be viewed by the likes of us (which I'm glad we're getting), but footage for the sake of OVERSIGHT-- aka, being able to form an independent assessment of what the heck is going on down there. BP's got the only equipment to DO the job, but the US gov't can't commandeer another ROV for oversight? It escapes me why the US is allowing BP to completely control what they (the federal response community) are seeing with respect to what is going on with this spill. Everyone (now) knows that compliance oversight before the spill was poor, but it's inexcusable to allow it to continue now.

So what was the leak in the BOP that appeared to be blowing mud and oil out as they tried the Top-Kill? Is that included in your list? Still not seeing the big picture clearly...

given that the ROVs are doing the work, all one has to do is commandeer the video feed to see what is being done, unless one believes that BP has a team of psychokinetic psychics at work (don't they wish!).

n.b. BP had (until it was sheared) an ROV monitoring the riser end leak and dispensing dispersant.

Leak paths:
The flow is coming up from the well bore inside the casings (thankfully), through the inside of the BOP, the BOP is sealed. Then the flow continues up through the LMRP part of the BOP, up until the flange on top of the flex coupling.

for a good picture of the BOP, see:
n.b. there is a page way at the back that describes each BOP component.

1st leak: (very tiny) appears at the joint between the riser pipe and upper flange, just a few gas bubbles from time to time.

2nd leak: now big, is 4-6" (10-15 cm) above the upper flange, where the wire saw cut into the riser last night.

3rd leak: (actually a series of leaks) is at the kink in the riser a few feet (~ a meter) above the flange. This occurred when the riser got bent by the sinking rig.
These cracks are a substantial leak, where we all watched the mud come out during the top kill attempt.

4th leak: haven't seen it, but the open end of the riser and drill pipe will be leaking after the giant shears had its way with the riser pipe. This volume would I presume replace the old main leak at the torn end of the riser, so I'd guess it is rather large.

There - clear as drilling mud?

To those who wonder why it might not be prudent to try to shut in the well (like by crimping the riser pipe), it's not an issue with the BOP integrity or wellhead, but because of the likelihood that isolation between the 9-5/8' x 13-5/8" casing annulus has been compromised, either because of a wellhead seal failure or because of a collapse. The problem is that the 13-3/8" casing (and of course all of the larger strings) were not designed for the same burst pressure as the 9-5/8" x 7" production string.

If you could shut-in the well now at the BOP, there would be a mixed oil/gas column from the reservoir up to the seabed. I'm guessing that BP is esimating that the resulting shut-in pressure is greater than the burst pressure of the 13-5/8". If you look at http://www.ussteel.com/corp/tubular/documents/USS%202010%20Casing%20Prod... you can see that the burst pressure of 13-5/8 casing having a drift larger than the 12-1/4" bit needed for the next hole section is in the 5,000 - 8,000 psi range (w/o any safety factor).

Because of drill pipe wear when you drill the next hole section below the 13-3/8" shoe, it's likely to have thin spots up near the seafloor, so I'd guess that nobody feels good about subjecting it to differential shut-in pressures that could exceed 8,000 psi.

I think that BP expects that the delta p at the seabed would be dangerous to the integrity of the 13-5/8' casing. If that rupured, then all of the remaining outer stings would then rupture, which means that it's game over until a relief well could be drilled. Containment would no longer be an option.

Then again, I could be wrong :-)

Thank you very much.
This make sense to me, good reasons why BP chose to quit any further attempts at bullheading or containment.
As noted above, I do NOT believe the government had anything to do with BP's decision.

I am another nugatory (newguy) who made a few comments a couple of days ago. I was soundly ridiculed, of course. Now suggestions are being made to lower balloons to catch the gas/oil. I don't think that has much chance, but at least it is not being treated as if someone had suggested NASA fly to Mars and asked the Martians if we could borrow one of their drilling engineers.

I still think my suggestion would work: Dump a couple hundred thousand tons of cement on the wellhead. The seabed doesn't look all that mucky with all the equipment laying on it. The pressure on the subfloor pipe could be a problem, but you could leave room for some oil to escape and you could spread the cement over a large area, a couple of square miles, to lessen the pressure.

Simple, quick and effective. So, far only two other methods have been tried successfully in the past: nuclear explosions (by the Russians) and relief wells. Nukes are not going to be used and relief wells mean a couple hundred million (and still counting) gallons of crude into the Gulf.

You can't cement anything that isn't solid.

As soon as you put liquid cement over liquids and gases of lower density, those fluids flow upward and just create channels through the cement slurry. It's impossible even with accelerated cement. Also, there's that small problem of there being no form on the seabed to pour it into.


Lower some rebar, wooden forms, rocks, whatever onto the seabed. Then start pouring high density cement away from the wellhead slowly building up as you go.

I saw a science channel guy (I think Japanese, the physicist) the other night saying it was like a water hydrant breaking in front of your house. He said BP wants to cut the top off of the water hydrant and set a new top onto the broken hydrant. That sounds about right. However, if the water hydrant was spewing oil and gas at 200 barrels a day I bet nobody in the neighborhood would complain if four giant cement trucks showed up and all started dumping cement at the same time. It wouldn't fix the problem of where the leak was coming from but it sure would buy some time.

Besides, you could test the idea. Set up a cement barge a couple of km away, lower a tank with oil/gas in it underpressure, turn the oil on, lower a cementing pipe and see what happens. What do you lose? A few hundred tons of cement?

My baseline assumption (and let's never forget that the one thing that happens when you assume something is, you make an ass out of you and me) - is that there is a high enough likelihood of that happening that it completely drove the top kill methodology...I think that whoever was running the technical end of that was highly reluctant to stop the flow completely (whether by increasing the mud addition rate sufficiently or by adding blocking material) out of a worry of that precise outcome.

there is another video feed here http://edition.cnn.com/video/flashLive/live.html?stream=3

it looks as though they are lowering the hot air balloons that someone suggested above !

It looks like things have quieted down considerably. Must be the 3rd shift that someone said wasn't "A-Team" quality. Maybe activity will pick up again at 2am EDT when the next shift comes on.

3rd shift is non-existent. Its two 12 hour shifts offshore.

I chuckle at Obama's green energy. My son who is a Phd mechanical engineer, and works a GE, calculated that it would take hundreds of (2.5 MW) wind turbines to put out enough electricity to be equivalent to the energy in the oil from this single leak. (Assuming 5000 bbl/day.).

I did the same calc and came up with 1800 1.5 MW wind turbines. My son likely took into account efficiency of the oil based turbines too.

This of course does not count the amount of methanol being lost either.

and people chuckled (or worse) at Jimmy Carter's views on energy and conservation. What would the world be like if that vision took hold 30 years ago?

Gotta start somewhere.


btw...welcome to TOD

Well, if you chuckle at green energy you must be rolling on the floor laughing your a off while looking at the gusher.

"greens" are brain dead Luddites.........

btw..the cement casing(s) are fractured from the stress of the platform sinking while connected......think "Sink Hole"

No, many of the "Greens" have it VERY much on the ball.

Just read the article on the front page of TOD - "Deepwater Horizon and the Technology, Economics and Environmental Impacts of Resource Depletion - The End is Nigh".

I think I made one of my better comments there.

The "Greens" here have been having a high level debate for a half decade here on TOD. We have diverted some attention and IQ horsepower to the BP disaster, but that is not our core mission.

You have stumbled into a "Tech Central" for the Greens :-)

The "brain dead Luddites" are the "Drill, Baby, Drill" crowd supporting a recent VP candidate.


PS: Texas has had no restrictions on drilling, yet they cannot produce enough oil to feed the demands of Texas. Texas is an oil importer.

Alan: I am sitting here watching a small town business and political culture based almost exclusively on the internal combustion engine collide, and I mean collide, with an "invading" (buying up a lot of local assets) BIG privately held, international business based explicitly upon Green and "environmental sustainability". Big Business even has a written and enforced business policy called GreenPath and GreenPath Procedures for employees and the community. So far I've heard from the native establishment "junk science," "Eco-Nazis," "tree-huggers," and "bunny-lovers" directed at Big Business' employees. YeeHah! And it's just beginning.

So what would be bad about 1800, or 18,000 or 1.8 million wind turbines? I'm no "Greenie" but it is clear that a combination of appliance efficiency and passive generation would free up billions of dollars within our own economy, every year. Don't the Saudi's have enough Rolls Royce's yet?

We will always need oil, but ain't it a tad too valuable to pump out of the ground, push it through an expensive refining process, truck and pipeline it all over the country just to burn it to generate electricity, when so much of what we need is beating down on us from the free sun or literally blowing in the wind? Phew, that was a long sentence, but you get my point.

I think people need to understand the difference between "need" & "want".

Humanity was around long before the use of petroleum. We need, food, water, air and shelter.

We need to find a way to make those things available to all without petroleum.

The lyrics of Zachary Richard's "Sunset on Louisianne" keep coming to mind...

My papa was a trapper livin hand to mouth
When I made shop foreman I had it all figured out
I thanked God each and every day
When the Industry come to town

Living hand to mouth is harsh, but you can't even do that once the bounty of nature is spoiled.

To be successful, wind needs major energy storage. Wind doesn't work when you need heating during the coldest days of the year.
GGT Electric makes urban electric cars.

Thus my call for pumped storage and HV DC to efficiently shift production long distances to meet demand.

And wind does winter peak in production (in most areas in USA).

Solar summer peaks.


We need build only 450,000 or so wind turbines (1.5 MW size, fewer with larger) to produce half of our electricity. They last @ 25 years each (and the towers can likely handle 2 generations of WTs or 50 years). So 450,000/25 = 18,000/year once we get built out. Take down 9,000 towers/yr, melt them and build and install new ones.

Compare that to the number of cars we build each year.

Associated HV DC lines (life 50 to 70 years) and pumped storage (centuries life) will be needed for wind to get much above 20% of US electrical demand.

We can run 80% of our intercity freight on electrified railroads (we did 90% in WW II) for a bit less than 2% of our total electrical demand.

Today, our Urban Rail (PLUS Northeast Corridor Amtrak) take 0.19% of our electrical demand. We should build a minimum of ten times as much Urban Rail (ten NYC, DC, Chicago etc. subway equivalents, etc. or 1.9% of electrical demand) to help get us past post-Peak Oil.

Best Hopes for Obama GREATLY increasing his plans !


Best post of the day, Alan. What do you figure are the odds?


Look at the rotating quotes in upper right corner of TOD.

One by our first Energy Secretary, James S, said "US energy policy has only two modes, complacency and panic".

If the US Joint Chiefs of Staff are right#, panic should hit sometime between 2012 and 2015.

In panic mode, "we" will do something. I am hoping top preposition my ideas so we do something useful and problem solving.

Best Hopes for Panic !


# see JOE2010, page 23 or 24, in red and white

People can laugh at the wind turbines, and the solar systems(PV or CFS alike) or the biogas or for that matter algae possibilities...but in the end, when there IS no oil left to drill or mine, and when EVERYONE sees the climate change reality staring them in the face (unfortunately probably about 15 years too late) - we are all, one way or another, going to have to live within our means.

Reality WILL win on this one...the only question left, is whether we can manage a relatively smooth transition or whether we get smashed in the face by it.

IF Obama and Congress can get that through their heads on the basis of this awful gusher, I would (unfortunately) be a bit surprised.

You obviously have not followed the heath care /medicare reform solution if you think we can come up with anything that is strategic and thought out well--from either party.......
I bet "smashed in the face" but after we get hit by the debt bomb first.

You go, Alan!

I have a suggestion...

It's been said that this spill is to offshore oil what Three Mile Island was to nuclear in the US. That's not exactly right. It was the movie about Three Mile Island (loosely-based) with Jane Fonda that sunk the nuclear industry.

So my suggestion is that we need a movie about this whole thing. I'm seeing Angelina Jolie as the evil BP rep. on the rig. Jessica Simpson as a good old boy mud hand (in cut-off Levi's) on the mud ship. Maybe Meryl Streep as Commander Landry. How about Brad Pitt as a roughneck on the drill platform?

Who plays Tony Hayward?

Hayward bears a striking resemblance to Tim Geithner


Colin Firth!

Of course, if you wanted an Hollywood stereotype evil character that didn't resemble him, then Alan Rickman.

The film you seem to be thinking of (The China Syndrome) is not even 'loosely based' on the the 3-Mile Island incident, in that it was made and released before the incident actually occurred...

I guess the conjunction of the two events was as good for Hollywood as it was bad for the power industry.

Vince Shlomi.

While we're waiting for the diamond saw to resume operation (or for BP to do something else instead), I'd like to inquire about an incident that would have occurred on the day of the Deepwater Horizon blow-out. I remember reading about it somewhere (way back then) but now cannot recall quite where I saw it.

It involves the role of the measurement/instrumentation engineers from Schlumberger who supposedly were called to the rig on the final day of operation to do a series of pressure and cement log tests, which are needed to certify the condition of the well prior to its scheduled disconnection from the rig.

What I recall reading was the following:

1. The Schlumberger team was flown by BP helicopter to the Deepwater Horizon rig, at some time during the morning of the final day.

2. After they arrived, they reviewed the drilling log and noted the number of "kicks" that had been recorded in the preceding days and weeks, including at least one on this final day.

3. They told the BP (and/or Transocean) rig boss that the rig was unsafe to work on, and they (the Schlumberger engineers) would not perform their tests and measurements on this day, as originally scheduled.

4. They then requested a helicopter so they could leave the platform. Note: The original helicopter had already departed. The BP/TO rig boss supposedly told them there wouldn't be another helicopter until the late afternoon, so they (the Schlumberger guys) might as well get with the program.

5. Apparently Schumberger empowers it employees to **decide for themselves** whether conditions are sufficiently safe and suitable for the performance of their duties (and if not, to leave forthwith).

6. The Schlumberger lead called their local office and requested a helicopter for immediate use.

7. When it arrived a short while later, they flew off.

8. The blow-out occurred about 12 hours later.

Rumor, truth, or fiction? If true, why doesn't this incident ever get reported in the press or discussed at all those hearings that have been going on for the last week or two? Too embarrassing? Reflects poorly on BP, Transocean, or our corporate "do what you're told" mindset?

I haven't seen the "kicks" or "unsafe" info verified anywhere. A good source is http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/05/costly_time-co...
"A spokesman for the testing firm, Schlumberger, said BP had a Schlumberger team and equipment for sending acoustic testing lines down the well "on standby" from April 18 to April 20. But BP never asked the Schlumberger crew to perform the acoustic test and sent its members back to Louisiana on a regularly scheduled helicopter flight at 11 a.m., Schlumberger spokesman Stephen T. Harris said."

To Just Wondering.

I searched Google News for "schlumberger deepwater helicopter" (no quotes) and found this (among many others):


It's interesting that the "official" version is (oddly) careful to state the crew returned on a regularly scheduled helicopter flight. You could interpret that as:

-- an attempt at cover-up
-- a desire to quash the (false) rumor they were aware of
-- more

We'll see.

This will be a movie some day. Not to mention a book, a PR campaign, the new meaning of "catastrophe", the making or breaking of hundreds of people, a political football, 1000 "Blow Out Preventer" jokes, a very long summer...

I choose #2, quash false rumors. With investigations lining up and the prospect of prosecutions ahead, why would Schlumberger get involved in a criminal conspiracy?

snakehead: "why would Schlumberger get involved in a criminal conspiracy?"

Actually, it seems to me, they did involve themselves, albeit passively, in conspiracy if they did not report the unsafe conditions to the rig workers and proper authorities ASAP... If it was an emergency for Schlumberger emps, then why wasn't it also an emergency for all the other workers as well?

What, other than user posts (some of which are clearly identified as "rumor") being repeated by people who weren't there causes you to believe that Schlumberger high-tailed it out because they thought it was going to blow? Any reliable sources other than smoke from unmoderated internet forums? There's nothing in anything that Schlumberger or anyone else on the scene has released that indicates that they perceived emergency conditions. If they had, it would have been a perfect CYA to report it and split. Apparently they don't need a CYA. Schlumberger personnel were there to run tests but were never asked to commence and the personnel were told they could leave, so they did. BP deciding to skip the tests seems highly plausible given what we know about their reported m.o.

Question answered by post above thx :)

I have an idea There is a halfway decent mating surface for the collector device that we have been staring at for hours. The OD of the flanges just below the saw cut. A coupling could be made uop that slightly exceeds this OD and be attached to the fitted to the base of the riser they were going to use. Then use the "claw" to cut the riser off just below the crinp.

If you made this couple device with six or eight square windows cut around its base, then have the rovers hammer in large square tapered pegs to catch the bottom edge of the flange to keep it halway secure. A lip on the inside with a big squishy gasket would help make a halfway decent seal with the top flange

If they overpumped this riser from the drillship and monitored the pressure inside the couple they could try to find the pumping rate that more or less exactly neutralizes the pressure differential until they get these square tapered pegs hammered in place. Then when they stopped pumpimg the higher pressure inside the riser, plus the bouyancey of the new riser, would keep it pretty secure.

It will leak some, but you can control the differential pressure (and hence the leakage) by pumping the riser at the surface.

Just as I was starting to tire from all the 'ideas' along comes what seems to be a briliant one. Not sure I followed it all but sliping something like the followup 'cap' they have in mind that slides OVER the riser pipe, they could simply slide over the riser pipe and flanges.


It does appear that they plan to go over the flange & riser stub with the cap. See above link.

That is how the kill mud was supposed to work. When you have that kind of flow the muc will not set, just as in moving water takes a much lower temp. to freeze.

Recognizing that the experts here are getting tired of amateur ideas. Still I would like to offer this one for consideration:

Attach several "hole cut" couplings like the ones show here around the riser above the BOP and below the kink:

Image and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPic

(I know they probably will need to be custom fabricated due to the size and pressure requirements, but there must be a way to get it done quickly given the magnitude of this emergency. Also, one will need to serve the dual purpose of sealing the current diamond saw cut.)

One at a time drill out the holes in the riser and attach piping to carry the the oil and gas up to a concentrator attached to a relief riser (...sorry if the terminology is all wrong). Each one will relieve a certain amount of pressure, and reduce the overall pressure up the riser.

Once enough pressure is relieved use the claw to crush the end of the riser near the current claw sheer cut to seal that as well as possible, or find some other means of capping the riser at the cut.

Then all you have to deal with is the holes in the kink, but they should be at much less pressure, with most of the oil and gas going up the multi-coupling assembly.

I think there is still about 5-10 meters of damaged riser leaning off the top of the BOP.

They are called hot taps in the industry and are used commonly on pipelines. A 24 inch hot tap for a 2,000 psi line does have a different appearance and has to be lifted by a crane but the principal is the same.

A hot tap was on BPs list of possibles for using on the riser leak but was discarded in favor of other solutions.

Seems at this point no reasonable solution should be discarded.

Thank you. Is there equipment for underwater hot tapping? It just seems that drilling a few holes is easier than cutting the riser at this point.

What about lifting and lowering that remaining overhanging riser/DP section gently up and down,up and down until it breaks off where the bend is now? If successful they would then have easier access to get the saw in. Or the spanner.

Unfortunately, any force applied to the overhanging riser "stub" will be largely transmitted to the BOP (at least until the riser is about ready to break at the kink).

Given the uncertainty about the condition of the BOP and/or its connection to the wellhead, they DO NOT want to try anything that might weaken either.

Hi I'm a newbie. This blog at The Oil Drum is by far the most informative source I’ve found about the current BP Gulf blow out. It is filled with concerned people with a wide range of different expertise. There really isn’t any noise to speak of. I’ve learned a lot about deep well drilling, far more than I knew before starting. The post on Mud Drills was mind boggling. I wish that some of you could feed your wealth of information to the general media which has very little sophistication on this highly specialized topic. The Media often repeats the same simple information over and over.

Presently the live feed from BP.com shows virtually nothing and has been this way for at least the last 45 minutes (now 4PM west coast). Why BP doesn’t show something more informative from one of the half a dozen ROVs that must be down there is annoying. When BP originally was pressured to make a video feed available to the public it showed a bank of screens with maybe 8-12 screens and even had audio into the control room. Now they only show one screen with no audio, and almost never switch ROVs. They could do more.

As a long time carpenter who has dealt with saw blades usually cutting wood but often cutting pipe I was dismayed to see them set up their clever diamond wire band saw to start the cut on the side of the bend. Many here have already pointed out that to minimize or even avoid jamming a blade you always cut so the force of the drop piece you are cutting is away from the blade, in this instance at the back of the bend of the riser. I fail to see any reason for starting on the side but I’m open to an explanation if someone could come up with one. I would have also cut the over hang of the bent riser much closer to the BOP to have less shifting weight to deal with as the riser was cut, although the weight of the remaining bent section of the riser would naturally help open the kerf as the diamond wire gets closer to cutting through the riser. But from where they started this cut is was inevitable that the diamond wire would bind. The internal DP is a whole other ball of wax that can not be easily sussed out. A lot of excellent ideas on this board about possible ways of dealing with that.

I thought that Dimitry’s post suggesting cutting the bolts rather than the riser was well thought out but there have been excellent posts that make that seemingly obvious suggestion less attractive. These huge pneumatically set bolts now corroded and torqued because of the bent riser would be exceedingly difficult to remove. All it takes is one stubborn bolt and you could have to mangle the phalange to get that last bolt out. And you wouldn’t be able to see what you were doing. A lot of this work is unknown territory. (The excellent post on Rickover’s work to develop a nuclear manual before starting that Naval program commenced excepted; its too late now.) Cutting may be the better choice but it certainly isn’t proving to be a picnic either.

Watching this operation I’ve been struck by how similar it is to watching Astronauts from the Shuttle work on the Space Station, but all of this has not been carefully rehearsed dozens of times. It would be nice to hear that BP has a world class experimental facility (like NASA does) where they have set up a BOP underwater and practiced with ROVs on various potential difficulties but I would doubt that, big as they are, they would “waste” stockholders money on something that preventive. If they had such a facility, we would have heard about by now.

Besides the bad starting point for the diamond wire band saw, I’ve been trying to figure out a more basic problem with however BP deals with this cutting of the riser and DP close to the phalange. How to see what they are doing. As more oil and gas leak from the cut, it becomes impossible to see what you are doing, aligning tools to do the task properly as the escaping oil obscures the work. I’ve actually been surprised at now long it has taken the oil escaping from the band saw cut to obscure the work site. The 5000’ water column pressure on the oil as it comes out forces it to remain relatively contained in the shape and dispersal of the plume.

Is there any kind of way of visioning through the oil? Is there an infrared, or x-ray machine, or perhaps some form of magnetic imaging system that can see through the oil as the expanding plume more and more obscures the work? Do any of the former O&G workers here know of such a system that has been installed in a ROV??

There are awesome 3-D sonar systems for working in murky water, but these depend on the fluid density being fairly constant. Would be useless in a turbulent mess of oil/water/gas.

Too bad.. Working in the dark, or rather an obscuring cloud ain't any fun at all; I doubt the ROVs give any real sense of feel and it's clear they don't have depth perception from the difficulty the operators have of grasping things.

I haven't got a complete feel for it, but the oil plume seems surprising stationary, other than moving up. Occasionally I see fish that move around freely or debris that seems to get moved about by currents, but the oil and gas plume doesn't move with them. I don't think BP could simply aim a blower on the BOP head and just clear away the plume so they could see the cutting. They certainly haven't used such a device yet. Any thoughts on that??

(deleted & re-posted as reply to Just Wondering above by author)

Wouldn't it be ironic if the diamond saw jammed/dulled because of the specialty "junk" BP injected into the well? Perhaps the national labs designed some case hardened, special locking shape junk that ate the diamond, or jammed between the diamond studded nuggets on the saw...

Anyone have more info on the rupture disks?

How many, what depths would they be at, what kind of pressure would trigger them, and what would likely happen to oil leaking from them??


Never heard of them for casing, only for surface pressure vessels.

However, I left the industry in 1988, so they could have come into practice later.

Oh, there are, however, internal tools that use pressure to activate something and then use a rupture disk to allow pressureor fluids to pass through afterwards.

They said this in the NYT:

Officials suspect that the mud could have been escaping from the well far below the ocean floor, possibly through a rupture disk, a built-in weak point in the steel pipe that lines the well.

Seems like, if true, that has some implications.

What ever happened to bio remediation agents? Seems I recall billions being spent on oil eating microbes.........
Anyone remember that?

Yes, I was wondering that too. The GoM is full of them naturally though.

(or it was until we starting killing 'em with Corexit)

Ixtoc 1 was helped significantly by them in the bay of Campeche, and because few dispersants were used

It's all here. All that went wrong so far can be found in this document:


Regards to all of you. Terriffic website

Unless you know for certain that Corexit is that toxic to oil-eating critters, it would be best to not start unfounded rumours.

These dispersants are essentially "soaps", and many microbes can tolerate soaps very nicely (ie, in your septic system).

Not saying that there may not be undesireable effects, but it's all about the net effect to the entire Gulf ecosystem, not simply one aspect.

There's all sorts of research on Corexit that corraborates that. There are less toxic dispersants but this is certainly not an 'unfounded rumour'

Corexit is a known human carcinogen.

It's toxic to animal life, and transfers (actually it intensifies) up the food chain, so that if a large fish eats 100x small fish in it's lifetime, and we eat the large fish...

Basically, dispersants break oil up into small droplets, which can then be more easly absorbed by animal life. They don't make oil 'go away'.

Researchers on the effects of Ixtoc 1 found that because they did not use many dispersants that the bay healed itself more rapidly than expected - because the natural oil eating bacteria multiplied rapidly and helped break down the oil. See here:


Use the microbs all the time. Most were capture in the deep oceans (and grown in labs)where they occur naturally and re-mediate natural oil seeps. When the oil turns to tar, bacteria are already in action.

I think the "ruptured disk"they are referring to is a conflation of the missing liner hanger and a rupture of the well casing much farther up the well. They left out a liner hanger at 17,168 feet.

During Top Kill, at around 1,000 feet down the well from the wellhead, BP apparently thinks they might have been losing heavy mud through a rupture in the well casings. At that level, if I understand this graphic:


of the well, there is a 16" casing, a void, a 22" casing, concrete, a 28' casing, more concrete, and then the oil-gas effluent would be outside the well.

Add it together, the MSM came up with a "ruptured disk".

Rupture disks are plates of metal or sheets of metal for lower pressures. They usually have die marks to weaken the steel (usually stainless steel) and allow the vessel to rupture at a known pressure reducing the chance of catastrophic failure. The companies I purchase these from have an eng. calibration stamp.
I would rather have a controlled failure than a catastrophic vessel failure with many times the force. You calculate that in pounds of TNT ha!

Are they right in saying they're used in this well?

Has anyone considered the "waterjet cutting effect" from the fluid being ejected out of the slit cut in the riser assembly by the saw?

I suspect that the ejecta has a fair amount of granular sand mixed in with it. If the pressures are anywhere near people are stating, then that kerf should probably be enlarging every minute. Most waterjet cutting is done at 20,000 to 55,000 psi.....I wonder what 5,000 psi can do over a period of a couple of days.