BP's Deepwater Oil Spill - Capping the Riser - Part 1 (Cap on, but leaks) - and Open Thread

Please transfer discussion to http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6572.

This post describes what leads up to Heading Out's statement at 10:06 PM that they have the cap on but it has not gone down far enough to generate the seal, and so there is a lot of oil still coming out from under the cap.

The vertical section of the riser was cut, using a Shear, at 9 am Thursday morning.

Lower Riser Assembly (LRA) atop the Blowout Preventer (BOP) at the Deepwater Horizon well, with the bent riser removed, waiting for the arrival of the Lower Marine Riser package (LMRP)

The oil and gas are rising vertically, from the top of the riser, the drill pipe (DP) and the saw cut in the side of the riser (just down from the top of the shear)

At 8:30 pm, the ROVs maneuvered the latest version of the “top hat”, variation 7, of the LMRP over the top of the LRA. As the new cap was lowered into place, it was surrounded by clouds of oil and gas, making the actual progress of the event somewhat difficult to follow. The new variation had been finished yesterday, to accommodate the changing upper surface of the remnants of the well.

Building LMRP 7 on June 2nd at Port Fourchon (BP)

The Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) was first connected to the riser, and to a methanol feed that would help, between them, to inhibit the formation of methane hydrides when the gas came into contact with the surrounding cold seawater. It was then slowly lowered to the site, and across into the fountain of oil and gas, and down over the top of the riser.

Lowering the LMRP into the cloud of oil from the riser.

The initial attempt halted after a while, and by 9 pm the situation was, for while static. The cap was sitting apparently on the rubber seal that had been designed to fit between the LMRP and the flange, but the amount of oil that was leaking out of the bottom of the LMRP was still a considerable amount, even though some of the flow was also being bypassed through ports on the LMRP that could later be closed.

Flow through a relief port on side off the LMRP to relieve the pressure within it.

Leakage around the seal between LMRP 7 (yellow), the seal (greenish black) and the LRA. (white)

The question now arises as to whether the LMRP could be lowered sufficiently that it could seal to the flange surface, since it was no longer possible to get the seal needed on the upper surface of the riser, given that it had been distorted by the Shear which had cut the bent riser away.

There was a pause, while the engineers had a bit think for over an hour. Looking at the cloud of oil coming out, it does contain small white specs that could be either methane hydrates or drops of the dispersant. And now, at 10:30 pm, there is a little more action.

Oil and gas coming out from under the LMRP

Leaks under the LMRP at 10:30 pm

For those who may not remember, this was the initial plan as it was proposed.

The Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) option

So far it is not quite as simple as the sketch would suggest. But I will put this up, and then update, as changes appear.

At 11:12 PM Central Time, we received an e-mailed press release with a statement from National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen that the cap was in place.

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

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

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6. Do not be afraid to go back and read the last couple of open threads yesterday and today before you start on this thread. They are really good, and will likely catch you up if you have been out of the loop for a while. We shut down threads when we get to 300-400 comments, as it's really unmanageable. Lots of good stuff in there though.

New regs going up...

Found this on drillersproboards:


"Auto's" summary of the doc:

The Secretary recommends a series of steps immediately to improve the safety of offshore oil and gas drilling operations in Federal waters and a moratorium on certain permitting and drilling activities until the safety measures can be implemented and further analyses completed.


Recommendations and Key Components (with implementation plan

Blowout Preventer - (BOP) Equipment and Emergency Systems
Order re-certification of subsea BOP stacks (immediately)
Order BOP equipment compatibility verification (immediately)
Establish formal equipment certification requirements (rulemaking)

New Safety Equipment Requirements and Operating Procedures
Develop new BOP and remote operated vehicle (ROV) testing requirements (immediately)
Develop new inspection procedures and reporting requirements (immediately)
Develop secondary control system requirements (emergency rulemaking)
Establish new blind shear ram redundancy requirements (emergency rulemaking)
Develop new ROV operating capabilities (rulemaking)

Well-Control Guidelines and Fluid Displacement Procedures
Establish new fluid displacement procedures (immediately)
Establish new deepwater well-control procedure requirements (emergency rulemaking)
Well Design and Construction - Casing and Cementing Establish new casing and cementing design requirements - two independent tested barriers (immediately)
Establish new casing installation procedures (immediately)
Develop formal personnel training requirements for casing and cementing operations (rulemaking)
Develop additional requirements for casing installation (rulemaking)
Enforce tighter primary cementing practices (rulemaking)
Develop additional requirements for evaluation of cement integrity (immediately)
Study Wild-Well intervention techniques and capabilities (immediately)

Increased Enforcement of Existing Safety Regulations and Procedures
Order compliance verification for existing regulations and April 30, 2010, National Safety Alert (immediately)
Adopt safety case requirements for floating drilling operations on the Outer Continental Shelf (emergency rulemaking)
Adopt final rule to require operators to adopt a robust safety and environmental management system for offshore drilling operations (rulemaking)
Study additional safety training and certification requirements (rulemaking) "

"Study Wild-Well intervention techniques and capabilities (immediately)"

I guess this is as close to Figure out what else we're missing which might cause the next disaster as we're likely to get...

DAMN! Just read a part of an article that said that there was a simulation run by CG and oils (?) in 2002. They knew THEN that we didn't have the tech to clean something like this up! I'll see if I can find it and post a link.

Found it...buried in this ABC news article:


As early as 2002, the practice runs also indicated that oil companies lacked updated equipment to mount an effective response to a spill, and would need to be forced by the government to invest in better technology.

"Without requirements in place to require use of new response technologies they will not be developed and deployed adequately," said an after-action report from the summer 2002 drill that simulated an oil leak from a sunken rig in the Gulf of Mexico that was eerily similar to the current disaster. "There is little incentive for [oil companies] to invest in them and therefore, little incentive for technology companies to develop or refine these technologies further."

This is just like New Orleans, where the simulated Hurricane “Pam” foretold what would happen with Katrina several years later. One could conclude from our mistakes that we never learn from our mistakes.

As a previous manager said "There are lesson available to be learnt, but never lessons learned"

You know... this is such an indictment! And it goes far, far beyond just the oil industry or any one issue that we are confronting as a society and as citizens of the whole world. To think that people KNOW that more needs to be done. And that they COULD do more - but that we must "wait" for LAWS to mandate that? That is just so, so sad. That is, as I have already said, an indictment.

Honestly, this is one thing that worries me about our future on this planet. That many good people, people reading and posting right here on this blog, are doing things to try and conserve resources, to live more simply, while others are grabbing everything they can - law or no law!

I realized the gravity of this the other day on a thread related to "peak oil" and how to cope with that. And I suddenly thought that even if thousands and millions of us "conserve" resources and find ways to live simply, unless we find ways to forestall and end war, we are simply "saving resources" for the wealthy, the greedy, the powerful - to wrest from our heritage!

It's like the $$$ surplus we had in the year 2000. But then came years of war and of plundering the treasury. And now we're in financial pinch. Well, it's the same thing in trying to "care" for the earth. Some will care. Many will care. Those of us who care will tighten our belts, so to speak. Will use less to no oil, etc. But then what? Then some greedy and powerful people will either grab those same resources or go to war for them.

Seems to me that unless we ultimately decide we are one planet and we are all citizens of this one earth, this one universe, and unless we determine that resources MUST be preserved and shared for the good of all - and that may mean deciding to put them into some sort of "whole earth" receivership - and unless we decide to give up wars, how can we truly conserve these resources? For wars seem to be about "controlling resources" - and wars, above all, are "resource-hungry" machines that destroy what they seek!

One final thought: We all must die. As such, we know we must give up everything. On the way to facing that fact, we might as well learn that "giving up things" is part of being human, it's nothing more than what we face at death anyway. And in the process of living life - in spite of the death we all know is coming - the best we can do is care about our fellow humans and do all we can to foster a better society and a better planet for those who come after us.

Sorry for this long comment. But I've been thinking about this for several days. And it seemed appropriate here.

Oh I think it's a lot worse than that!

Not only do we "wait for laws to mandate", but in fact we spend large amounts of lobbying dollars to keep the mandates from being passed and/or enforced.

That's another type of "war" - isn't it? The lobbying war - to enable the greedy and the wealthy to control (and waste) what we seek to save.

Thank you for that important point! :-)

Wait till you see the Water Wars coming soon to the West. Where I live, we're gonna have Peak Oil waltzing around with Water Wars. Gonna need a whole lot of TheraP.

I am well aware we are talking "resources" of all types. Yes, water is huge! More important than oil - since we cannot live without it. Food sources and what we eat, that's important too - vegetarians we will have to become! We should have no more than one home each - of a size that's sufficient, but not wasteful. We have to give up oil-wasting "toys" etc. Give up oil-and-water-wasting lawns! Lots to think about here. But also - end wars.

Thanks for pointing out that crucial "resource"! :-)

Secretary Salazar used the term "The Resource War" (like the Cold War I guess but probably destined to get much hotter - briefly anyway) during a congressional hearing. Seemingly to describe the current era. I think it just slipped out.

Since the beginning of the Vietnam war (around 1963 or so) firts the US then other (copycat) nations fell into the habit of applying easy expedients rather than cultivating measured approaches that might not yield immediate results but would be consistent with good management practices and yield good long- term results. Around this application grew up a 'cowboy culture' of macho indifference to the long- term problems recognizeable in the beginning with the expedients. Drill baby drill equals, the Gulf “is a very big ocean” and “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest.”. Some of the 'instant solution approach' was learned during previous wars - for instance, the 'Mulberry Harbors' that created a faux anchorage for Allied shipping on Normandy Beach post- the June 6, 1944 invasion. These were cheap and easy ... and blown to bits in a gale a couple of weeks after the landing (doing much more damage to Allied efforts than did the German resistance up to that point).

After 1963 came a whole series of 'quick fixes' such as forceably removing the government of our Vietnam client, using B52 heavy bombers as tactical gound support, using Agent Orange, using cluster bombs, having the government print more money ('Guns and Butter') ... of course more and more highways plus crappy subdivisions to provide links between the roads.

In 1970 US oil production peaked then started the decline. Among the easy solutions was to import via US energy companies with concessions overseas (which resulted in nationalization of US oil interests and OPEC), closing the gold window and floating currencies worldwide (and the resulting oil embargo), proposing a Europe- wide currency, capitulating to the advance of mercantilism in Japan and Germany (rendered somewhat mercantilist by US policy post- WWII) and defending foreign exchange (FX) advantages versus the dollar so as to create hedges against high energy prices in dollars).

The ongoing and accelerating inflation from commercial expansion (including wars plus new government programs) was subdued the old- fashioned way, by the bond market (with support by Paul Volcker) going on a lenders' strike, but the temporary reduction of high inflation to more manageable levels sparked a new round of expedients. In place of energy conservation came credit product expansion along with that of finance to manage that expansion, the blowing of asset price bubbles (beginning in Japan), industry deregulation and the introduction of the euro (as a hedge as well as a dollar- alternative for the buying of fuel). The fortunate end of the USSR (only one major WWII combatant is left intact, the US) allowed for the open- ended looting of Eastern Europe then Russia itself, then the looting of S. America and then Southeast Asia in a series of well- executed currency/FX runs on reserve capital, alongside more auto infrastructure expansion - the idea being to spread cash flow 'benefits' to all areas in the process co- opting any agency that would question the growth imperative.

What J.M. Greer calls the thirty- year absence from reality; the all- out assault on the resource base with more and more 'high tech' that is, more efficiently removing resources without having any better tech to use with the found resources ...

The opening of China, then India and their creation as mercantile entities, then manufacturing powerhouses, the export of high- wage US workers (and the customers for US goods at the same time), the import of millions of unskilled Latins, the preference given to US industry over resource concerns, regulatory lapses (and conquest of regulators by the industries to be regulated), the expansion of automation driving out more high- wage jobs (and more customers) the vast increase in credit (as a substitute for wage/labor purchasing power).

All of the preceding expedients had the goal of kicking the political, economic and resource cans down the highway. We live the culture of expedience. The 'top hat' is an expedient. So is the BOP, the top kill, the junk shot, the magic wand. They are quick and dirty. Drill, baby drill. Another expedient.

The simplest ezpedient of all, of course, is less.

Nobody dare use the word less, it is politically unpalatable.

According to Pollan, it was not until the late 1970s that food began to take a back seat to nutrients. In 1977, Senator George McGovern headed the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition. The committee determined that eating too much meat and dairy led to higher incidents of cardiovascular disease. The recommendation: Americans should eat less meat and dairy. Well, the meat and dairy industries leaned on the committee so hard that the committee soon came up with a slightly different wording than the original. What they officially recommended was to "choose meats, poultry and fish that will reduce saturated fat intake."

There are two points of interest here. The first is that a recommendation to eat less of something (meat and dairy) had become a recommendation to eat more of something, foods with less saturated fat. The second point is that specific foods, which happen to have strong industry lobbies, were not the target anymore.

Politics had reached the science and culture of food. Molecules, which don't have lobbyists in Congress, are now the points of contention. Since we can't know what nutrients are in foods with our own senses, it is now left up to the experts to let us know what nutrients are necessary to eat, and in what amounts. No wonder diets have become so controversial. By the way, McGovern, a three-term senator, was defeated in his re-election bid in the next election. A lesson was learned: Don't provoke powerful food lobbies.

Don't provoke the energy lobbies, the car lobbies, the defense lobbies, the banking and insurance lobbies, the doctors' lobbies. Don't feed the bears.

Now, the lobbies have gotten what they wanted for a long time. The expedients have run out of gas and don't work any more. There is less bang for the expedient buck. Just like $12 in debt produces only a couple billion in GDP growth (and that is a fraud), the application of expedients - and the macho culture that has grown up around the application of these same expedients - is counterproductive.

What is the outcome? Whatever we as a nation gained by the application of expedients, we have to pay back. This will then leave us at the place - economically and from the resource standpoint - where we started, in the 1960's. There is one glaring exception; we don't have the energy reserve we had in 1963.

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Whole civilizations have died out due to what you term the "culture of expedience". But this time it would seem the whole planet could be involved. I love your term! And it distresses me no end that people are rushing headlong toward an abyss. Unless we pull back. All together!

Steve, I agree with most of what you say but only the American mulberry harbour was damaged. The British one
landed over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tonnes of supplies. It lasted 8 months although only designed for 3.

It is not just that fresh water will become scarce but also that it will be harder to get in many areas. Pumping deeper into depleting aquifers takes - you got it energy. Cleaning water that has been polluted takes - yep energy again. And as we keep burning FF well we melt the glaciers that feed so many streams and rivers. No water in summer.

For America, no pools, poor babies. For India no irrigation for crops, dead babies.

It is not just that fresh water will become scarce but also that it will be harder to get in many areas. Pumping deeper into depleting aquifers takes - you got it energy. Cleaning water that has been polluted takes - yep energy again. And as we keep burning FF well we melt the glaciers that feed so many streams and rivers. No water in summer.

It doesn't have to be this way, as has already been reported on this website the Saudis have contracted the Chinese to build solar farms in the desert to power their desalination plants to get fresh water from the sea.

Their oil is too valuable a resource to waste on electricity for that purpose. They use the money for a better purpose, that will also have a more long lasting impact, once their oil has been depleted. At least they do seem to have an eye to the future.

Tell the 2.5+ million people who live in Las Vegas about easing off on fuel and water consumption? Air conditioning, water, transportation for tourists, all in the middle of the Mojave Desert.... And so it goes.

Eloquently said... Your conclusion that we must learn our in living lives that we face in death anyway is a platform that we should all learn to stand on... Thanks for the great insight!

What TOTALLY scares me is that it is predicted that the "Party of NO (regulations)" will be a majority in Congress, come the November midterm elections.

I am terrified at that prospect because nothing will be done to regulate "the wealthy, the greedy, the powerful" companies - and the lobbyists who exert control over members of Congress.

As a further extension of my own comment, I'd like to link to a post by Chris Durang, which contains a long commentary from Rachel Madow. It is so eloquent and I highly recommend that everyone take time to read it. Scroll down to the quote box at the end of the post:


I'm glad someone with enough media savvy and air time is thinking like this! And I thank her for it!

Nice list BUT they forgot the main one ....

Develop a CONTAINMENT strategy that's ready to
deploy the moment there is a BOP failure resulting
in a sub-sea blowout !!!

First priority following a sub-sea blowout will be
CONTAINMENT rather than wasting time on sure to
fail "kill" procedures ..

Triff ..

Given all the problems in attaching the riser pipe to the BOP perhaps a standard connector on the top is needed that can "easily" be unbolted and provides a good surface to attach whatever is required, e.g. another BOP, mud/top-kill, riser pipe...

Fingers crossed the latest containment cap works as expected/hoped for and the spill is significantly reduced. Should also be better in 2-3 weeks when the "top-kill" valves can also be used.

I'm also guessing that this will lead to more research/solutions to improve the clean-up.

Best hopes for making good use of this catastrophe and not just "going shopping".

Well Design and Construction?
Where is the requirement to drill a relief well at the same time as the new one?

Two observations:

1) They should not even be thinking about new BOP regulations until they examine the failed BOP. I can see them coming up with a whole bunch of new design requirements - then discovering that none of them address what went wrong with this BOP.

2) Notice that there is no comment whatsoever on establishing research programs for mitigation of deepwater oil leaks?

3) I would establish an FAA-style reporting and formal investigation process for 'near-accidents.' I suspect that there have been several occasions where accidents like things like this accident 'almost happened' - but the lessons learned remained inside the heads of the people involved.

Yea - I know. Do not attempt math before coffee. ;-)

Did you read the article posted today?


On this well if the BOP had worked properly all the flow could have been bubbling up around the outside of the BOP, or a few hundred meters away. The big problem now is the well can't be shut in due to lack of casing integrity.

This BP animation demonstrates what a successful containment cap installation process would look like.


I wish we could get some top-side information on what if anything is coming to surface. If you look at the subsurface ROV video feeds (here is a good site; http://bp.isevil.org/ ) the escaping flow looks really dramatic and seems to indicate that very little is going up the pipe.

You scan the news and you see nothing. Tight-holing information is making this a painful process for TODers but conversely this site is thee most informative and usually 12-24 hours ahead in knowing what is going on.

I wish we could get some top-side information on what if anything is coming to surface.

Not to worry, most of it is being dispersed in deep sea hydrocarbon plumes that will only slowly kill off marine plankton at the bottom of the food chain. The large pelagic fish, dolphins and turtles will die off slowly over the next few years and will hardly be noticed. Very little of it will wash up on those nice snow white beaches where the plump little tourists drink their margaritas and the local sea food restaurants will import oysters and shrimp from New Zealand...

Oh, never mind, Tony Hayward said on TV that there were no plumes so it must be true!

Don't worry be happy!

BTW He deserves every penny of his compensation:

Salary £1,045,000.00
Bonus £2,090,000.00
Restricted stock awards £0.00
All other compensation £23,000.00
Option awards $ £0.00
Non-equity incentive plan compensation £0.00
Change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings £0.00
Total Compensation £3,158,000.00

Underwater plumes would seem reasonable, given that there are thermoplanes in the water (the things submarines hide under), with accompanying step-changes in density - after loss of enough light ends the remaining oil might have high enough density to 'float' on these density change surfaces. How do the dispersants work - do they strip off the light ends?
Oh, and maybe "crude oil plumes" do not exist - maybe they are "hydrocarbon product plumes", resulting from the interaction of the oil and the dispersant. I guess it depends on "what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

The plumes will surface once they reach the Atlantic; Sorry if this has already been posted but it's a must watch.

"Ocean currents likely to carry oil to Atlantic"


I've been wondering about his compensation - do you have a URL for this?

Yep, that's his 2009 compensation as listed on Forbes.


Excellent comment by Yves Smith today on the Naked Capitalism blog:


The remarks about the quality of "reporting" by the NY Times is totally on the mark.

I think the point this article misses is that Heyward was hired in large part to clean up BP after the Texas refinery and Alaska spill incidents.

Just on that basis it seems that he has failed and the people in charge of sacking CEOs should get busy.

Video seems to have gone a bit dark. Are they trying to save energy by turning out the lights when nothing's happening. Or is it a cover up?

The top hat is jiggling around wildly. I trust this is a deliberate attempt to get it to sit down over the flange. I does not seem to be doing much good. Another design of top hat has been lowered to the sea bed

The ROV's sway in the current. It is much more likely you're watching a camera on the ROV that is undulating in the current and you're thinking it's the BOP infrastructure swaying because of the relative perspective. (I've seen this comment many, many times on the IRC channel).

Feed from Enterprise 2 looks as though the cap is clearly moving relative to the rest of the riser which is stationary. Has been going on for a while.

That's right, I saw Enterprise 2 lock itself to some mesh shelves on the BOP before it starting taking the shot. I can't make out any other ROV doing the jiggling from any other view. If the movement is deliberate, they must be doing it from above which must be difficult to say the least and if it is not deliberate it means the top hat has been pushed of the small grip it had on the flange and is being buffeted by the oil and gas flow. Constantly bouncing the grommet up and down on the rough flange cant be doing it any good and reduces the chances of low leakage even if they do get it to sit down.

What keeps that mile-long pipe to the surface from acting like an incredibly tall vertical separator and basically just letting gas out the top, with the oil accumulating in the bottom and being expelled around the base?

Glenmore -

Both the oil and gas are less dense than sea water and thus will tend to rise due to their natural buoyancy. The problem though is that there is a pressure differential between the fluid inside the device and the surrounding water. So if the seal is insufficiently tight, oil will still escape, and that appears to be what we are currently seeing.

If the seal were totally secure, then there should be a rather high velocity of oil/gas going up that riser, so much so that it probably have to be throttled back to prevent a violent eruption out the top.

Even without a seal the gas is going to accelerate up that riser, and do so faster than the oil (with the water finishing third.) As the gas rises and expands, it should occupy more and more of the available riser volume, to the exclusion of the liquids. As you said, you have to choke the flow back at the surface (+/or elsewhere) to prevent a vicious 'whipping fire hose' effect at the surface, not to mention overwhelming flare capacity and exploding, but how would that choking affect the oil flow, what with the bad base seal? (And I gather they don't want a good seal even if they could get it, due to resulting back pressure and well integrity concerns.) I guess the oil recovery would be limited by the ability to produce and handle the gas?
If this is a near-saturated oil, of ~35 gravity, and ? reservoir pressure (13,000 psi?), what GOR might be expected? 3000? Then if the well is blowing 25,000 BOPD they'd have to be able to handle something like 75 MMCFG/D?

People advocating a pressurized seal don't seem to realize how fricken DANGEROUS that would be. Any surge from the well or mistake in controlling the flow will result in a big pressure surge in the highly compromised BOP, potentially breaking the whole thing wide open.

Then we are talking a much much bigger problem.

So if I understand what you're saying, unless there's a good seal, the gas will rise - because it's got more "power" and the oil (with less power than the gas) will be pushed out into the gulf. In that case, they need to do everything to find a way to seal this as well as possible. Or it becomes mere "window dressing" - giving the appearance of a solution, gas flowing up and oil continuing to pollute.

Suttles is saying they should capture 90% of the oil if this works and he says 'it should work'


Thats pretty optimistic based on what I have seen so far. Sounds more like damage control for the stock than well control.

just for the record for those who have faith in the top hat, a weight of about 650 tons is needed just to get the top hat to hover on the escaping oil if the seal is good and oil is not flowing up the pipe. The top hat might weigh a couple of tons. The other weight comes from a flexible pipe one mile long moving around in a current suspended from a ship. Meanwhile you have a turbulent large flow of gaseous oil that becomes more gaseous and wants to expand all the way to the surface that has to travel up a narrow pipe one mile to the ships low pressure pumps to have a hope that the weight required on the top hat can be reduced. Has anything like this been done before?

I heard a BP person say they were going to put a stack of heavy drill collars on it to help hold it down.

Judderbar -

The purpose of the top hat is not to seal the leak, but to provide a secure pathway for the oil/gas to get to the surface where it can be collected in a controlled manner. The interior of the top hat is open to the water column in the pipe to which it is attached. Thus, the top hat does not 'see' the full pressure at the top of the BOP as long as the pipe to the surface is kept open. Should that be closed or block, then it would see a much higher pressure.

I will jump in here and make a fool of myself probably but I think the general non engineering/non technical audience is totally confused in respect to the various pressures involved, so I will thrown in my nickels worth.

There are two basic ways to measure pressure as a practical matter, which are psia (pressure absolute) and psig , usually just referred to as psi.( pressure gauge).

Air pressure at seal level is around 14.7 psi.A tire GAUGE shows zero if you check a totally "flat" tire,but the air pressure inside the tire is still 14.7 absolute-at sealevel of course.

I'm not an engineer, or even a professional plumber , but the pressure numbers being thrown around in respect to the well head or bop mean next to nothing so long as the flow is unrestricted into the surrounding water, except that the high absolute pressure due to the wieght of the mile high water column keeps the gas in solution at the sea bottom.

If I hook up a two hundred foot long half inch hose to a faucet with pleny of pressure and available volume, and leave the end open , and attach pressure gauges to it at intervals, the the first one close to the faucet wuill read about the same as the water system pressure;each one farther away will read less and less as the distance increases, until the last one will read approximately zero if it is a foot or two from the UNRESTRICTED open end of the hose.

When my domestic well pressure gauge is showing sixty psi, I can fill a five gallon bucket about thirty seconds thru a six foot stub of old half inch hose.

At the end of two hundred feet of half inch hose,filling the bucket takes several minutes everything else the same.

If you pinch the hose shut at the end, the pressure on EVERY gauge will read the system pressure, unless your hose is running downhill, in which case the ones farthest down the hill will read higher;or if the hose is going uphill , the farther up the hill the hose goes, the lower the pressure will read.

As a matter of fact many domestic water well pumps are not capable of producing enough pressure to raise water more than a couple of hundred feet against the counter pressure created by the wieght of the water in the pipe. A deeper well requires a more expensive pump.

Now something is limiting the VOLUME of the oil emerging at the end of the pipe where it exits into the water-probably a restriction somewhere in the well or the BOP, or maybe (less likely) the nature of the formation, maybe even the size of the pipe from the bottom of the well to the BOP is contributing significantly to slowing down the oil.

If I could stick a gauge in the side of the riser pipe a few inches below where it is cut off, the GAUGE pressure would read very close to zero,as the flow would be unrestricted to any serious extent by the last few inches of pipe.

All the pressure considerations begin to come into play WHEN the new top hat or whatever is being put into place;as soon as it is close enough to start restricting the flow, the pressure will start building up.Apparently the well can genetate pressures closte to ten thousand pounds per square inch at the sea floor if the flow is restricted.This could turn into a wrestling match worthy of superman himself if there were not tricks to make it easier.

Getting the cap into place and fastened down against this constantly increasing pressure is analogous to trying to screw another piece of garden hose onto one connected to and flowing unrestricted from a water system with good pressure.If the second hose is open at the far end it is much easier but still hard for someone without very strong hands and good coordination.If the second or extension hose is closed at the other end, even a very strong and well coordinated man has a tough time screwing the hoses together.

The new cap has apparently vents to hopefully keep the pressure from getting so high that the connection can't be made.The vents are opened so as to to bleed off the oil while the connection process is in progress.

If the connection can be made really secure, the entire flow of oil could be captured and carried to the surface by the new riser-IF IT is strong enough to withstand the pressure.Apparently nobody knows just how high the pressure will be, because the flow of oil has not been measured but only roughly estimated.But the friction of the oil traveling up through the riser to the surface will restrict the flow considerably, and the pressure in the riser will get pretty high, especially near the sea floor.

I presume instrumentation is included enabling the operators to watch the pressures as the vents are slowly closed, forcing more and more of the oil up the riser;if necessary, some oil can continue to be vented into the water to protect the riser from failing due to excessive pressure.

One thing seems certain to me; that is that once the cap is in place and secured, the pressures developed inside will be more than ample to cause oil and gas to flow OUT thru any cracks or crevices , rather than water flowing IN.The absolute pressure WITHIN the pipes carrying the oil and gas will be HIGHER than the absolute pressure of the SURROUNDING sea water, even though it is a mile deep.

The energy need to deliver the oil and gas up the pipe will be supplied by the well itself, and there need not be any so called suction involved as a result of water being allowed into the system, or deliberately introduced into the system , as was the case with the first dome or cap, which froze up.

If this one works the antifreeze lines will apparently only be needed to clear any hydrate ices formed during the installation process.

It occurs to me that if the riser is unable to carry the entire flow that an additional riser might be employed and the oil fed into it thru one of the existing fittings or pipes atteched to the BOP which were originally used for other purposes.

Or maybe if the engineers were on the ball the aforementioned vents are so constructed that a hose can be easily attached to them and run a short distance across the sea bottom (to get working room ) and another riser added to carry the excess flow, or at least a large part of it.

Of course I'm only a farmer who necessarily does his own plumbing and mechanicing.But there's a lot of it and some of it is fairly high pressure, up to about 2000 psi.

If somebody who knows better sets me straight in some respects , my feelings won't be hurt.

I just hope this comment will help those without ANY technical background understand the situation a little more clearly.

"unless your hose is running downhill, in which case the ones farthest down the hill will read higher"
For practical purposes, wouldn't your hose be running 'downhill' TO the surface, due to the continuing exsolution and acceleration of the gas as it moves through the riser?

nice explanation but you missed a bit about how the oil rises up the pipe.

once the pipe is in place and the oil starts flowing up it,

the gas in the oil comes out of solution - and it expands a lot too as it gets to a higher position (=lower position)

This makes it less dense, so it rises, so it is at less pressure, so it expands, so it rises etc

So the oil is the pipe rushes up at an ever accelerating rate , powered by the gas expansion.

This could mean that there is even _suction_ at the base of the LMRP.


You and Glenmore are right about the gas coming out of solution as the gas and oil mixture rises toward the surface.In effect the pressure will fall even though the pipe is rising more or less vertically,as the flow approaches the nd of the pipe and therefore the end of the friction slowing it down. The only way to keep the pressure from falling off too much as the flow nears the surface (so far as I can see) is to choke off the flow with a valve.Otherwise the gas will probably shoot out at very high speed and carry the oil with it and blow the oil all over the place, including all over the work boats/barges/ ships and right back into the water.

This partially colosed valve would of course have the undesirable effect of raising the pressure farther down the pipe all the way back to the BOP and down into the well itself, possibly leading to a pipe failure anywhere along the way-we don't know what sort of shape the pipes are in and there might be places thqat are cracked , kinked, or eroded by sand in the oil.

I don't really have any idea just how the people on the work boats at the surface will go about seperating the oil from the expanded gas, but my personal wag is that the oil will be carried along by the gas like water is carried by a hurricance force wind.In principle it is easy to direct the oil into a barge or tanker,ONCE it is seperated, and to direct the gas into another pipe which is long enough to get the gas safely away from the boats and people and simply burn it off.

I know how small water and air seperators work;some use filters that selectively trap water, and some simply run water saturated air into one side of a large tank or pipe at the top, and out the other side again ,again at the top. If there is actual liquid water carried along by the air, it will fall out like rain because the air speed thru the tank is not high enough to carry it along like wind driven spray.

Water vapor on the other hand must be removed by lowering the temperature of the air so that the water cannot remain in vapor form;if the tank is chilled, the water will collect on the interior surfaces and run to the bottom;this can be quite effective, capturing nearly all the water vapor, as for instance when you need dry air for spray painting a car.

(It is also possible to seperate water from air by compressing it until the water returns to a liquid form, and this water can be drained off from the COMPRESSED air but his does not seem relevant to the current problem, as the oil is already in liquid form).

My seldom used homemade rig uses a coiled copper line in an old beer keg full of ice to chill the air, with compressed air coming in at the top, and exiting at he bottom, where there is a water trap.This works like a charm and cost almost nothing to build or operate and lots of painters use something along these lines, even including some professional shops.

A lawman once expressed considerable interest in this little piece of equipment but gave up when he could not immediately visully locate "the rest" of my supposed still.He never did come back with a warrant so I guess he must have found it necessary to accept my explaination as to the use of this appartus. ;)

(If I did happen to own a still I would certainly not store it in plain sight in a shop where anybody in the community is welcome to walk in anytime I'm home.)

I hope somebody who knows something about the way the work crews handle seperating the oil and gas will post a comment telling us how it is done in some detail..

Another question : there is supposed to be or may be an erosion problem due to sand in the oil.

Surely this question could have been answered at least in rough form almost immediately by taking samples of the oil with a rov and measuring the amount of abravise material in it. Why haven't we heard anything about such testing for abrasives?

Darn fine comment from a "non-engineer". Seems like you've got a bit of good old common sense. The old rule: "engage brain before putting mouth in gear" would seem to apply to many of the comments I've seen over the last week or so.

You could me my engineering assistant anytime. Better yet, my technical supervisor.

The old rule: "engage brain before putting mouth in gear" would seem to apply to many of the comments I've seen over the last week or so.

One can only hope


How did you make this calculation? Do we know the pressure at the top of the BOP? Also, there are valves at the top of the LMRP that will be open when the cap is positioned allowing gas/oil to escape from the top of the cap. If and when (hopefully) the flow in the pipe starts, additional pressure relief will come.

Then again, I am looking at the Enterprise ROV1 feed and it seems that the cap is "dancing" around. I put a piece of tape on my screen to monitor the position of a cap tab relatively to a flange connection at the top of the BOP.

Looks like the Reynold's number should come in at about 1000, which is still laminar in the pipe.

You only need 650 tons if you're capping the riser -- but obviously all the pressure is squirting out the bottom right now. As the pipe flow increases the differential will drop, eventually to about zero, and weights would just provide a wider sweet spot around zero differential without too much leakage in or out.

No pump will be needed at the surface, and you can only pull a vacuum at most anyway, an 15psi is nothing compared to the pressures down below you have already.

The 6" pipe is narrow, relatively, but run the math and only a dozen or two psi will be lost in transit, depending on the actual viscosity, pipe characteristics, etc.

The exact same process was used with the RITT, only with a poorer (and horizontal) seal. It mostly worked then, and it'll work better now. Or at least I hope so!

This is my first and last post, but this idea is driving me crazy and would appreciate any critical comments on it:

--if, for instance, the casing rising from the sea floor (that is supporting the BOP) is 22" outside dia., why not just cut off the BOP and slip over a riser with a 22" inside dia. and gently pound it down the few hundred feed to the bedrock. Problem solved--no? I mean, I can't believe much, if any oil, would escape.

Again, thanks for any critical comments.

On Friday morning, the success of the effort remained unclear, but BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said he was optimistic.

The oil that is still surging into the gulf from around the new cap is coming from vents that will be successively closed during the course of the day Friday, Suttles said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"I'm actually pretty confident this is going to work. It probably won't capture all the flow, but it should capture the vast majority," Suttles said.

This from a WAshington Post story this morning - Hope springs eternal

Isn't the operative question 90% of what. If some of the recent estimates of 12,000-19,000 bd are right that would mean that there is still 1,200-1,900 bd - greater than the initial estimate of the leak.

The PR misworded it (deliberately IMO).

The lower bound of three independent estimates (using 3 different types of observations) ranged from 12,000 to 19,000 b/day. All 3 groups refused to put an upper bound on the rate of BP pollution.



I thought only 1 group refused (Plume modeling team) to estimate because they couldn't get enough data. Was there another press release or more info released? Where did you get the info "All 3 groups refused to put an upper bound ..."

Here is the info from the first press release:
"Given the amount of oil observed and the adjusted calculations for the amount of oil that has been burned, skimmed, dispersed, or evaporated the initial estimate from the Mass Balance Team is in the range of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil per day.

This methodology carried several challenges, including the fact that the AVIRIS plane can only fly over a portion of the spill in a day, meaning that an assumption must be made that the area imaged is representative of the entire spill region.

Plume Modeling Team

The second approach led by the Plume Modeling Team used video observations of the oil/gas mixture escaping from the kinks in the riser and at the end of the riser pipe alongside advanced image analysis to estimate fluid velocity and flow volume. Based on advanced image analysis and video observations the Plume Modeling Team has provided an initial lower bound estimate of 12,000 to 25,000 barrels of oil per day. They continue to work to provide an upper bound.

This team faced several methodological challenges, including having a limited window of data in time to choose from, getting good lighting and unobstructed views of the end of the riser, and estimating how much of that flow is oil, gas, hydrates, and water."

Did they ever put up the promised website with their data and approach calculations?

...the Plume Modeling Team has provided an initial lower bound estimate of 12,000 to 25,000 barrels of oil per day. They continue to work to provide an upper bound.

the RITTI Team calculated that the lower bound estimate of the total oil flow is at least 11,000 barrels of oil per day...




same release I read. Only one team - not three - did not provide an upper bound - it was the "Plume Modeling team".

If they ever put up the website we could look at the calculations and understand better what they were doing with their approaches.

The Riser Insertion Team also put only a lower bound on their estimate for the total oil polluting the Gulf of Mexico. Read carefully.

Since the "Mass Balance" team did only an "oil on the surface" analysis with no estimate of how much oil was entrained in the water column (we know a LOT), it also implicitly has no upper bound.

So no reliable upper bound on the BP oil polluting the Gulf of Mexico.


I have an estimate for the upper bound....A big stinking sh*tload...how's that?

I've read this, many times, as carefully as I can. I think Alan's interpretation is correct: No upper bound estimate has emerged from that work.

Weren't all of these estimates made before the riser was cut off?

12,000 - 25,000 barrels per day on the lower end? seems like the plume team is giving themselves a very wide margin of error. 100+%, to be exact. Why bother with an upper end number if You can't 'guess' any closer.

Unfortunately, it's ingrained in petroleum management.
see http://www.cwsx.org/21darts.pdf

(I apologize for saying nice things about BP in that document. They hosed all of us with Monte Carlo blue sky flow characteristics at Thunder Horse.)

While watching the Kill line installation Video, I was impressed by the ease of installation of the HSF connectors (http://www.oceaneering.com/oceandocuments/brochures/subseaproducts/PRS%20-%20Hydraulic%20Smart%20Flange%20(HSF)%20Connector.pdf) . No bolts, no fuss. I'm sure the guys at Oceaneering could have Prototyped one of these to fit the BOP flex joint flange! (in 40days)

A number of posts have suggested removal of the existing LMRP flange and attachment of a new package by the same method. The response to these posts often takes issue with the amount of pressure caused by the rapid expansion of the oil stream at this point. Perhaps an adapter plate could be bolted on to accomodate a larger LMRP diameter.

Surely removing those flange bolts (cut or wrench) and letting the flange fly away would reveal a much more attractive surface for BP to mate their top hat adapter to?

This may not be much different than the suggestion for upsidedown installation of an annular preventer.

Just some thoughts from a mechanically inclined outsider.

You don't need to go to the bother of removing those bolts. All they need to is create a hinged collar that fits around the lower riser mount, using the flange to lock on to.
The collar could be shaped to fit around the stub of the riser pipe, and engineered to provide a properly locking mount for the containment cap.

Would probably take a day do construct, and would do wonders for the process. I have a bet going that we'll be seeing one soon.

You don't need to go to the bother of removing those bolts. All they need to is create a hinged collar that fits around the lower riser mount, using the flange to lock on to.
The collar could be shaped to fit around the stub of the riser pipe, and engineered to provide a properly locking mount for the containment cap.

Would probably take a day do construct, and would do wonders for the process. I have a bet going that we'll be seeing one soon.

I thought about this too watching the videos. Bolting something to the top of the existing LMRP flange (of whatever we are looking at below the cut) seems like a better option than hovering something on top of it. Alternatively, it seems possible to create a device that closes around/below the bolt connectors or wide spot just below the cut. Then again, it doesn't seem like capturing the flow is the main problem ... hydrates are. I'm not sure what this adds to the equation?

BP is claiming they do have flow arriving in the drillship. Not saying how much though. This morning they were talking about closing the cap valves. Could be that the increased flow from under the cap indicates that the closure resulted in more oil being diverted down and unseating the cap. Seems like the lower seal is the weak link here (unsurprisingly).

you would expect some flow. The question though is how much flow can you reasonablý expect over a distance of one mile if the pipe is not able to transport oil by its own mechanism? if the cap forms a reasonable seal there is no transport mechanism to take the lighter oil to the surface since the water and oil are now independant. So you need a pressure of one miles worth of oil at the seal plus a large posative pumping pressure to move that large flow rate along a narrow one mile long pipe. The seal has to be more or less perfect. Can a rubber seal even survive that 3500 pressure before the seal is made good?

You can expect a LOT of flow with 2250psi of pressure, which is what you have at equilibrium at the bottom! If you have a tight seal, the well will pressurize the column. With a weak seal, the water will flow in or out on either side of the equilibrium pressure, but you still have the 2250psi.

With an oil column, that 2250 psi equates to about 450psi of differential pressure. Only a small fraction of that will be lost due to a mile of friction in the pipe, and some more will be offset by the drill platform height above water, but there will still be plenty of pressure.

The real issue is limiting water intrusion and clathrate issues. They'll close the cap at the top of the LMRP when it starts sucking in water, IMHO.

Some quick calculations. If the mile long column of oil/gas weighs 1800 Lbs/in sq.
And the diameter of the flange is about 32 inches, or 800 sq inches. That means there is 1,447,200 pounds of upward thrust to the LMRP assuming no restrictions in the riser and oil is reaching the surface.

Sealing to the 21 inch riser (110 square inches) would have only produced 200,000 pounds lift.

Edit: There has been mention of the oil/gas sucking itself up once it gets going. I don't see how that can happen. The water pressure will have no effect on the contents of the pipe to the surface. The only place where the water pressure comes into play is restricting the leaks somewhat.


1,447,200 pounds of upward thrust to the LMRP

You're neglecting the water pressure outside, which is pushing the opposite way. The actual hydrostatic pressure force on the BOP is the *difference* between the weight of the column of oil/gas and the weight of the water it displaces... since oil is less dense than water, it'll pull the LMRP *downward* against the BOP flange.

Edit: There has been mention of the oil/gas sucking itself up once it gets going. I don't see how that can happen.

I've been arguing the "suction" thing for a few days now, and that's not quite what I said. I was talking about the pressure difference between inside and outside the LMRP cap, as above.

(PS: it's clear that the oil is still being pushed *outward*, so where's my suction effect? At the moment, BP is holding valves at the surface closed to keep the pressure in the LMRP deliberately high to avoid water intrusion.)

Two omissions in this calculation:

1. Gas to oil ratio is estimated at 350:1 from this well at sea level. As the gas expands from well head pressure to 2250 (unrestriced flow at seabed) it takes more volume in the riser. As oil /gasflow reaches the surface to zero pressure the gas takes up 99.7% of the pipe's volume, so your density calculation/weight calculation is way off, thus making force calculation way off. This bouyant effect will be offset by the weight of the new LMRP or about 600,000 lbs IMO.

2. The well head is at about 7000 to 8000 psi static estimate (with no flow). Since cutting riser and DP the only restriction is inside the BOP, so the pressure is much less, but still creating a "jet" of large volume coming out of sheared end. But this jet is now restricted by the first cap or tophat or whatever you want to call it, and attachment of LRMP will add more restriction (due to smaller pipe) creating more (edit-was "less") pressure drop across the seal. Unless the seal has very good fit a lot of oil will exit the seal even it it only sees 100 psi or a few 100 psi pressure drop. And sealing 500 psi around 21 inches is still 175,000 lbs.

Bottom line is that a huge amount of oil/gas is likely to exit the seal. I think less than half of the unrestricted oil/gas flow will be captured with this arrangement. If the seal integrity could be assured most of the flow could be captured, but then the control of flow at sea level in the tank ship is the issue.

Increase sea-level pressure by 10x (say, 150 psi) and the gas volume cuts by 10. At 80/20 gas/oil you'd have 2000psi available, and you'd need 90x the pressure, or about 1300psi. The remainder would still drive plenty of flow for that blend.

Where is the edge? With a total pressure of 2250 you'd have a multiplier of 150 times ambient sea-level. If you had 95% gas at that pressure that adds another ratio of 20. So a ratio of 3000 is about worst case that would self-drive in a fixed-diameter pipe, or so it seems. Much beyond that you'd need a bigger pipe and a low-floor surface rig, or maybe just a giant flare-ring.

You could imagine a top-hat separator that could bleed of some gas at the bottom, too, which could help even in such a case.

RITT experience should have calibrated the GOR pretty well, I would think. The engineers should know about what they're dealing with by now.

"flow" - but flow of what? If it's mostly flow of gas, with the oil being pushed out around the poor seal, then what does that accomplish?

Am I just misinterpreting what I'm seeing or is oil now coming out of the open valves on the top hat / cap whatever you call it and not out of the bottom?
(Looking at pics from Skandi ROVs.)

That's what I thought at first, but the view actually shows the leak enveloping the whole cap as it flows out the bottom. You can see the "fins" of the cap protruding from the billowing oil. You can see the level on the top of the BOP in Skandi ROV 1. In Enterprise ROV 2 you can see a view that is level with the bottom of the cap. It's hard for me to believe that any significant capture is occurring from these shots.

Yes, thanks, I see that now. I was confused by the yellow level thing. I had thought that was situated on the cap. Maybe they moved it.

Scandi is looking from above. The feed from Enterprise ROV1 shows gas/oil leaks from below the cap.

Why the tiny 6 inch riser?
With expanding gas, sounds like a sure loser.

With a 6" pipe, a flow of .5m/s would carry 200,000gpd. The more gas you have, the greater the differential pressure drive, and the higher the flow.

For each 1% of the column volume that is displace by expanding gas, the resulting differential pressure will increase about 5%. For each 10ft of water you have about 5psi (actually about 2250psi at 5000ft, IIRC).

Replace that water with oil at density of .8 of water and you get about 4psi per 10ft, for a differential of about 500psi at 500ft.

Replace 50ft of water (1%) with gas (really low fraction of water weight) and you pick up about 40psi of differential.

With no choke on the top you get a screaming gas flume (like on the rig). Add a choke and dial down the flow until you reach a gas/oil flow equilibrium roughly equal to the leak, and you're set. Unchoke a bit and you get too much flow and suck in water from the bottom. Choke too much and you leak oil out the bottom.

Since the base 500psi is plenty of drive to get the requisite .5m/s of flow, there should be a wide "sweet spot" of gas/oil ratios that will capture the full leak flow in a 6" pipe.

It's not intuitive, but math doesn't lie.......

Good series of posts explaining the math on the pressure differentials and the possible flow rates.

You will never get that turbulent, multiphase flow to GO into that 6" pipe over the tiny manifold of the mini cap. Especially without a real seal. With a good seal, you will get a terrific pressure spike inside the BOP and a large choke effect.

If BP has only done what you are doing, that's really bad.

This is a very complex CFD problem. One that doesn't have a nice static pressure solution.

The ONLY way to deliver that mess of a flow to the surface is through a tightly sealed 21" riser pipe.

2000psi can make a lot of anything go through a 6" pipe. Look for the video of a 6" crab fitting nicely through a 1/8" pipe slit.

I will readily admit that a real-world mix of oil and gas isn't fully modeled by simple flow calcs, but there is a large margin for error. A few hundred pounds of pressure will keep a lot of the gas in suspension, and drastically decrease the volume of the rest. I'm sure they are doing detailed simulations, enhanced by experience with the RITT. At least when the basic engineering calcs say it should work, there is some chance it will. If the rough hand-work was questionable, I'd be very skeptical, but since the rough numbers seem robust I assume the finer calcs have a decent chance of working out.

Barring clathrates, I would think that by tomorrow the volume of emitted oil should be very visibly reduced, maybe to 1/4 of what we see now. We'll know in a day or two if this is working. If not, I'll humbly eat my hat, as I had to after the first dome failed. At least the rough numbers on that indicated it would float when full of gas, so there were obvious risks, but the clathrates are what killed that. The RITT didn't suffer much from clathrates, and I assume they'll have solved the issue for the top-hats as well.

We'll just have to be patient and see.

Full size crab sucked into 3mm cut http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I30pcTBzbkI

I am neither a mathematician nor an engineer but your comment rings completely true to me! Thanks for not cluttering it up with all sorts of formulas.

It's important to get such elementary ideas out to the general public - for they can easily be bamboozled by overly complicated sounding concepts and formulas, which obscure the important points.

It's not intuitive, but math doesn't lie.......

How does the back pressure provided by the seal at the bottom figure out in the equation?

Intuitively, if the oil and gas is screaming out of the BOP at x psi, and the seal provide y psi back pressure and the pressure of the oil/gas/water in the pipe provide Z psi, I would imagine that at long as Y > Z (i.e. the back pressure provide by the seal is bigger than the weight of oil/gas/water in the pipe), oil/gas will come up to the surface. I think that is where we are now. But should the leakage around the seal determined by x-z (i.e. the different between the pressure of oil/gas coming out of the bop - back pressure provide by the seal)? How would BP reduce the leak from the seal?

The key point is that Y starts at 2250psi relative to the surface. Depending on where your column pressure Z (weight plus any topside restriction) falls relative to Y, your pressure at the seal could be positive or negative. Positive, and you spill oil. Negative, and you suck in water.

I don't think it's reasonable to design a clamp-on 2250psi seal, let alone a 5000psi seal, of that size. So, we're left with a balancing act for Z, with the only control being a valve at the top.

The key point is that Y starts at 2250psi relative to the surface. Depending on where your column pressure Z (weight plus any topside restriction) falls relative to Y, your pressure at the seal could be positive or negative. Positive, and you spill oil. Negative, and you suck in water

So if I understand what you said correctly. The size of the leak really is determine by the difference between (pressure from the BOP + natural pressure at sea - friction in the pipe - surface pressure) and (pressure of oil/gas from BOP - seal back pressure).. So if the leak is too much, I can acutally rav up the pump in the drillship and help to suck up more oil/gas faster to increas the flow upward (and hence reduce the pressure between the seal and the water outside).. So they do have control in the flow rate as they continue to experiement with the set up..

With RITT, I assume the same math work..but they did not control the leak very well.. Is it becuase the back pressure provide by RITT seal is too weak that even if they pump it at max, the pressure at the seal is still too much so oil/gas just leak?

I a not an expert but the cap currently being used (tried) does not appear to be the same one described in the post above (described as LMRP #7 - Yellow). On the BP site #7 looks like:

It matches the the illustration at the bottom of the post above. Note that it is white, not yellow (seems ready to deploy in image above, doesn't seem like more painting planned).

But the cap they actually used -- yesterday referred to on TOD as #2 but painted with a big 4 -- looks different. I can't find a good image of it now, but the current one seems to lack the open section in the graphic below, where you can see the yellow riser through it. #7 also seems to have 2 tall dark pipes, one of them shown here on the left side:

It seems to me like they didn't deploy #7. As mentioned, I an not an expert, so I could very well be missing something. Thoughts?

According to Thad Allen, they have about 5 possible caps they can use in storage on the sea floor. We may yet see the one used in your graphic.

I agree with you. The top hat BP installed yesterday was yellow on the sides, white on the top, had fins that projected outward and had "4" written on it. Thus, I named it Top Hat 4. Here are some images within a few minutes of it being put in place:

Local News about the Oil Spill

We are blessed with one of the better local papers


Animated Graphic


The best tracking of the spill (it was about to show first limited entrainment into the Loop Current) was stopped (too much effort, their revenues are down 40% (they sell data to fishermen))

Their last map


Best Hopes for Good Information,


Geez that June 4 projection looks like the spill is anthropomorphically recognizing state boundaries and has it in for Alabama.

Okay looking at the dispersant cam feeds now and this isn't working as planned it's obvious that the tophat cannot make an effective seal and most of the oil is billowing out from underneath. BP may be capturing 20-30% of the oil but I doubt it.

Amateur question again:

If this cap can't get a sufficient seal to allow oil capture, can more work be done to the sheared pipe? In other words, can the saw(s) get back in there to finish the edges better before attempting another cap off?
Was the flat, circular plate visible in earlier camera angles supposed to be a mating surface?
note: no oil experience but participated in many repairs and procedures in my industry, although none come remotely close in magnitude to what's going on here.

And since cutting what they did enabled perhaps 20% more oil to flow... then they may not be much better off than they were before!

Just eyeballing what I say a week ago flowing out vs. what's flowing today...I would say they increased it over 100% what it was.

This is the first opportunity to see all the oil leaking at one spot. Before it was split between the end of the riser and the kink. This makes the change in volume hard to judge.

Even so, it does not negate my point!

The kink was leaking progressively more oil every day due to erosion that was accelerated when they pumped the mud. It was only a matter of time before most of the oil was leaking there relatively unrestricted - and that leak point with the riser attached was a very hard place to design a capture system. There are no 'good' options in this mess, unfortunately.

For years I thought the bird on the Road Runner cartoon was saying "Beep Beep", now I realize it was "B P"....


Shelburne et al -- On a previous thread there was mention of a CNN "theory" that the rig sank due to being flooded by the fire boats shooting water on to the rig. I checked the rig specs to make sure there wasn't something unique about the design of this rig. From the pics I've seen it was constructed just as other semi's I've been on. The entire upper structure of the rig, including all the drilling equipment and crew quarters, sits upon two giant pontoons. These pontoons are empty for the most part when the rig is in transport. On location they are partially flooded to add stability.

As best as I can tell if one were to cut the drilling rig section free from the pontoons and set it in the water it would sink like a lead weight. There are water tight doors on the structure but these are for crew survival in case the rig were to sink. But the volume of the water tight area could not keep the rig from sinking if the pontoons were completely flooded. The analogy I used back in the beginning was to imagine two submarines (the pontoons) with a very big building (the drill rig) sitting on top of the two subs. The building can't float without the support of the two subs. Thus the CNN "theory" (couldn't find the story) is that these two subs were sunk as a result of the fire boats spraying water on them. Maybe if you left the windows open on the subs.

Another flaw in this "theory" comes when viewing the early pics of the incident when it was reported that the rig was listing at 70 degrees. I'm not a mariner but I don't think any vessel can list at 70 degrees. It would appear that one of the pontoons was breached and flooded. The rig wasn't listing...it was floating on its side supported by the remaining pontoon. I can't find the time line but the rig was half submerged for some time. If laying on its side didn't sink it immediately then spraying it with water doesn't seem like it would cause it to sink. It appears the rig finally sunk when the second pontoon flooded.

As I'm not a marine engineer I'll readily consider any explanation other than mine as to how spraying water on the rig made it sink. But I would like to see the details of such a "theory".

Going forward, it would be worth considering a new req to have some "survival" buoyancy as part of the basic design. Two big air bladders with plumbing is not very robust, compared to maybe 20 sealed tanks. Of course you still need bladders for controllable buoyancy, but surely there is a middle ground where the rig would at least float low in the water but maintain the feed?

It also seems like multiple break-aways in the riser string with hydraulic collets should be added. You'd think it would be possible to re-stab a collet to collect oil in such an emergency.

Is most of the oil leaking from the drill string? Or around it? If the drill pipe maintained integrity (questionable in the BOP, I'm sure), could that be "reacquired" to cap or to pump mud back down?

ROCKMAN - we'd have to look at the vessel drawings to know for sure, but it's quite likely that pathways existed from the deck box down into the columns. Unless all of the watertight doors and hatches are closed water on the decks of the rig COULD run down through the columns and into the pontoons. If you remember, on the BP Thunder Horse inclining test a few years ago there was communication from the deck box down into the low pontoon. I think something similar could have happened to the DWH. It's quite as likely though that some piece of gear falling off the drill floor hit the pontoon on the way down and put a crack in it which over a day and a half admitted enough water to sink the rig. But I guess my point is, that I doubt very much that after the explosions, abandonment and fire that there was watertigth integrity between the deck box and the columns and that would have allowed a path for water to run down into the pontoons. Not sure how much "water" would have survuved being sprayed into that fire. Seems like most of it would have turned into steam before it ahd a chance to collect and run downhill.

Something else I was going to ask about.... what's the well design review process like at MMS? Do they have enough skilled people there who can actually look at a well plan on the permit application and say whether it's a sound design or not? How would industry set up some sort of peer review process to make sure well designs going forward are based on best practices before a permit gets issued? Because unless you have the right people looking at things like that you end up with a bureaucracy that slows down legitimate work and doesn't add any safety or integrity to the process, a la OSHA or MSHA.

grump -- Certainly merit to you thoughts. I recall that when the RANGER sunk off Canada decades ago there was speculation that a open hatch allowed sea water to get to a control panel. This inflow didn't sink the rig but the loss of control over the system allowed the stucture to be flooded. It would be great to see if there were pathways for the water to reach the columns/pontoons. You would think standards ops would be to have those hatches secured at all times. But back to that human error factor again.

But the big clue for me is that the rig floated on it's side with just one pontoon. At that point the sprayed water couldn't fill that pontoon as the pathways were then horizontal.

The pontoons should have been designed like a ship, with bilge pumps to remove unwanted water, IMO. Ships do get small leaks in the hull from corrosion of welds, bad seals around prop shafts, doors/hatches above waterline not sealing during high waves. I know this from a friend that used to work at shipyard for river going and sea going barges.

Since bilge pumps did not work after power failure, then water may have been entering one of the pontoons and caused it to loose bouyancy. Maybe open hatch or door caused more water to enter pontoon as water was put on rig fire.

Kind of like the sinking of the Edmond Fitzgerald in Lake Superior (1972?) - its hard to find cause when its at the bottom.

While the additonal volume of water played a role in the sinking of the vessel it was the change in the metacenter (center of gravity) and resulting change in the metacentric height which ultimately led to the the rig turning turtle and sinking. Semi's have a comparitively high CG while under tow but once ballasted down to drilling drift they are by far the most stable of floating vessels. As I recall a typical semi (catamaran hull) will turn turtle at a list of approximately 23 degrees whereupon the leading deck edge is at or near the water line. That places the opposite pontoon near surface.

All that melted iron and equipment didn't simply vaporize, it changed levels and moved.

I am not a marine engineer by degree or profession but I d@mn sure went to stability school when I started working floaters.

but it's quite likely that pathways existed from the deck box down into the columns.

I've never been a sailor or marine engineer, but isn't it pretty common to have some amount of leaking on a large ship? I can imagine the pontoons may never have been totally watertight, but would ontain pumps to eliminate the water from any smallish sized leaks. Once the rig fire destroys the ability to run the pumps, then they are gone, and it ought to start filling up.

I can imagine water being sprayed onto heated parts of the rigs causing all sorts of thermal stresses, as some parts of the structure heat and cool rapidly depending upon how much spray they were getting versus how exposed they were to the fire.

I've been thinking about that too; last night I watched the Nat Geo special on the disaster and it had some pretty good footage of the rig fire. At the time of the sinking I kind of thought the fire fighting efforts might have flooded the DWH--after seeing the footage I don't think that would be the case.

The fire was intense enough to soften the steel the semi was made of and there was clearly some distortion of the ship's structure; also there are many reports (and you could hear some in the video footage) of internal explosions prior to sinking. I think the deformation of the structure changed the water line, and probably pulled open some conduits for flooding down into the pontoons, and who knows what trauma those internal explosions might have inflicted on the vessel's integrity.

Of course, all the fire and smoke made clear observations very difficult.

A report from the CBC and oil industry fire fighter Mike Miller takes this perspective:


The rig looks pretty burned up at the time of sinking and the water beneath the rig is completely covered in fire. I believe it was just a matter of time before fire consumed the rig. It's also possible the volume of hydrocarbons spilling on the rig floor and spreading throughout the ship exceeded the volume of water reaching the rig from coast guard boats. And the stuff is flammable. Still, it's worth looking at.

A question for Mr. Miller: what would have been the eventual consequence of having the rig, with is positioning capability gone, tethered to the wellhead by the riser? How long before the wellhead failed and unconstrained flow from an open well occurred? Or if the riser parted above the well the situation is identical to what we now have.


Everything you say is factual.

As I remember we agreed to disagree about the possible cause of sinking - water streams from fire boats vs holes in the pontoons due to equipment falling from the deck during the explosions.

The ONLY way a semi sinks is by flooding the pontoons, even if it capsizes it will still float. If water tight doors are left open to the pontoons then fire water can sink the vessel and has sunk a few semis and innumerable ships. If the water tight doors to the pontoons were closed then only structural damage will sink it.

Each of these fire monitors is pumping (sorry - "spraying") several tons of water a minute. Just a small percent of that water finding its way to the legs or pontoons from several streams over number of hours will have an effect. And remember that since the semi was in submerged operating mode it is only necessary to overcome the buoyancy in a couple legs to capsize it to where the sea can reach the open doors. The amount of water necessary to capsize a semi in submerged condition is surprisingly small as they have a very small cut water plane - exactly the reason they are so stable.

Once the rig capsizes water will enter the pontoon through any fitting or open door and then its just a matter of time.

There are vessels like ice breakers and rescue boats that can take a 70 degrees or even greater roll and survive (and all submarines) but there is no semi in existence that can come close to 70 degrees roll without capsizing.

I think both theories have legs and the sinking could easily have even been a combination of flooding from damage and fire boats.

Bad as this disaster has been, it certainly would have been worse if the Deepwater Horizon rig had sunk straight down and either covered or obliterated the wellhead and the BOP. And yet it seems the rig came to rest on the sea bottom at some 1400 feet from the well. I guess you have to call that a "lucky break".

This site has been an enormous resource for the public; thank you.

As a side note, people keep insisting here the last few days that the wellhead is not longer suitable for production, that British Petroleum has no plans to produce from the well.

While obviously true in the somewhat narrow, technical sense, it may be worth noting that if all goes according to this plan, #42 (*deliberate pause*), Discoverer Enterprise may soon be capturing enough oil to make BP 1.4 million in revenue/day, or more.


Be curious to hear anybody else's take on this article.

It seems to me, in other words, that BP had a clear incentive to make this thing much worse, before it gets better. Meanwhile they are paying out 10bn to reassure shareholders, and their total liabilities are estimated at 20-60bn. This being a company that *nets* 6bn every quarter, as we all know...

Pas30 - read previous posts and you will see that there is no incentive for BP to keep this nightmare going. It is all conspiracy BS.

They are spending a $1B a month on this and the faster it is contained and cleanup the faster we all forget about BP. That is BP's goal and all of ours.

They may be losing $1B a month in value, but are they actually spending $1.4M per hour?

Over $1 million per hour just for boats, fuel, equipment and people on hire - not counting their liability for economic losses and future cleanup of oil currently spilling. So a total of $1.4 million per hour is probably way low.

The equipment just for the oil recovery is probably about $1.5 million, maybe $2 million, per day and they have to pay a royalty to the US government on any oil they sell so their best case is still below break even for the oil recovery.

shelburn -- can you confirm: heard that BP will have to pay royalty on the oil estimated to have spilled...not just recovered. Assuming they settle on 10,000 bopd @ $70/bbl and 1/6th royalty they would be looking at around $120,000/day or $3.6 million/mth to the Feds. Seems cheap compared to the rest of the bills. Even if they recovered 90% (9,000 bopd) and sold at full posted price BP would be netting around $16 million/mth. Not much of a silver lining to that big ugly black cloud.

Whether they pay royalties or not, they're pretty likely to pay some part of the EPA-imposed fines for the spill. At $1,100—$4,200 per barrel, that's a pretty serious incentive to limit this catastrophe as much as possible, all by itself.

At $1,100—$4,200 per barrel, that's a pretty serious incentive to limit this catastrophe as much as possible, all by itself.

Strictly speaking, this is a motivation to limit the DOCUMENTED extent of this catastrophe. Hence BP's "inability" to specify the flow rate.

They've been preparing for court since "day one".

BP will have to pay royalty on the oil estimated to have spilled...not just recovered

True? Haven't got a clue, sounds like an urban legend. But one can always hope

IANAL, but royalties are listed as a covered damage in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990...

§ 1002(b)(2)(D). REVENUES- Damages equal to the net loss of taxes, royalties, rents, fees, or net profit shares due to the injury, destruction, or loss of real property, personal property, or natural resources, which shall be recoverable by the Government of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof.

BP is on the hook for $4300 in fines per barrel of oil spilled.

15,000 bpd = 64,000,000 per day.

If they can capture 80% of that it goes down to 12 million per day.

And that doesn't include the 30,000 people they are paying for cleanup.

The idea that BP could get anything out of this is so ludicrous as to make one question the sanity of anyone proposing the idea.

In other words it's nuts.

I'm sure any smart executive would also be buying back company stock at this point (companies do this on a regular basis to maintain ownership positions, issue bonuses, and for other reasons). BP company stock lost $58 billion (or 34%) since the start of the accident. They stand to make a lot of money on the upside if their stock recovers … perhaps far more than the cost of clean-up so far. And as Bloomberg indicates , they may also be bolstering their positions to protect against potential take-over attempts.

Some of the recent posts regarding the "riser stub" flange and options for installing an appropriate valve mated to this flange (yes, after removing the bolts & stub), made me think of the John Wayne movie Hellfighters.

Hellfighters (1968)




Man he made it look easy! Blow out the fire with nitro, lower the valve into place, bolt the valve down, close the valve, and collect the paycheck. All while dealing with "poison gas," "rebel guerrillas," and a spoiled daughter. Then again, that was Hollywood.

If you haven't seen it, you should. For those that have, I thought mentioning it might put a smile on your face just thinking about it.

Hopefully, a little on target humor, to provide a reprieve from the all engrossing posts here on TOD. A truly outstanding source of information, please keep up the great work!

Completely UNREALISTIC depiction.

Where was the cost cutting, incompetent upper management blaming the dead workers, the subcontractors and complaining that they "wanted their life back" ?


Would have been knocked out by "Chance Buckman" (John Wayne). Although, now that I think about it, "Tish Buckman" (Katharine Ross) aka the spoiled daughter, probably could have handled that job just as easily.

That would be worth a Pay-for-View !

How many would pay for video and audio feed of Tony Hayward and some of the survivors of Deepwater Horizon in a locked room after he maligned their dead co-workers ?


If Tony the Twit had a name like "Chance Buckman", he might not be a dog's breakfast now.

Tony does continue to look at the bright side through all of this. From this morning's call with shareholders and analysts ...

Hayward acknowledged Friday that he's become a lightning rod for criticism. He says that allows his lieutenants to go about their work.

"I'm so far unscathed," he told analysts in a conference call. "No one has actually physically harmed me. They've thrown some words at me. But I'm a Brit, so sticks and stones can hurt your bones but words never break them, or whatever the expression is."

BP chief's gaffes make him a lightning rod

He's like a guy in a John Lithgow skit.

Perhaps you forgot Alan,
It WAS the decisions made by the people on the rig that lead to the blowout.
I'm sure there were disagreements about what was done and the actions that caused the disaster.
However there was no involvement of Upper Management in whatever decision was made in the final hours or minutes before the blowout. You seem to be incompetent in your memory of the sequence of events.

It was the decisions on the rig that allowed the blowout itself, but is the combination of sloppy mgmt, poor oversight, and outdated and poorly applied regulations coupled with a hairy well that created an environment ripe for catastrophe.

Upper management should not be held blameless for errors by underlings -- it is their duty to make sure that procedures are adequate and are followed. Therefore, the mgmt is to blame for failing to prevent egregious errors by underlings. And you can be sure that the pressure to finish the well and move off, including hurrying the procedures, did indeed involve people on shore.

A catastrophe like this always requires a series of faults, and it is a mistake to attempt to assign blame in one location. There is plenty to go around.

The good old Abu Ghraib argument. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

I was just watching next week's news broadcasts on Fox. It turns out that Obama the Muslim Socialist was directing the Deepwater Horizon operations.

Sounds fair and balanced.

You seem to be incompetent in your memory of the sequence of events.

He is

I watched the CNN news story this morning where they were interviewing one of the Transocean rig personnel drilling the relief well, and what he says, the hands working on the rig can't even watch the TV anymore. He says, he realizes everyone wants to get the well plugged "right now," they do too. But he says they are going just as fast has they possibly can and still do the job "SAFELY." And he reminded that this well has already taken 11 lives and one rig, they don't want to sacrifice more lives and another rig to that effort. He said we will go as fast as we possibly can and still get the job done, "safely." He was very emphatic about that. But he says it has been hard on the folks working on the rig to see all the ugly comments that are being aired at the present time, to the point they have stopped watching TV. They probably feel that a lot of that stuff is aimed at them, even though they are not the ones responsible for the situation, but they are the ones trying to fix it, just as fast as it can be humanly done without hurting anyone else in the process.

It is sad that there has to be so much ignorance about the drilling process, and human nature being what it is, I suppose people just can't help themselves, about something they know so little about.

I am left wondering how much dues Alan has paid working on one of these things, unless that is the reason why, he seems to be such a bitter individual about all of this. It seems he really hates the oil industry and the drilling industry, no matter how fascinating the technology and the developments may be. I keep asking myself why, if he has ever derived any of his income from the oil industry or maybe still is, why, he seems so eager for its demise. Keeps turning the knife in the back so to speak.

"I am left wondering how much dues Alan has paid working on one of these things...."

I don't think one has to have "paid dues" in order to have an informed and logical opinion. I have found many of Alan's comments to be level headed and explanatory about the process. I won't speak for Alan, but people like myself - pragmatic, logical, educated, engaged - love the technology and the human effort involved in drilling for oil - or in any human endeavor. But, what is at stake here is the destruction of an ecosystem and the humans that rely on it for their very existence. In my humble opinion, people need to be angry and engaged. This isn't an act of god. This is a failure of regulation, a failure of forethought and planning and a failure due to greed. You can drill for oil safely - and with a plan. That is not what was happening at this well.

I feel for the workers - I really do. But, the workers need to be part of the cure in this industry. They need to force management to take safety seriously. If you think BP takes safety seriously, you have not been paying attention or you are fooling yourself.

Best hopes that people like Alan continue to remind us of the real costs here.

I don't think one has to have "paid dues" in order to have an informed and logical opinion.

That may be true, but it is hard to beat hands on experience, to have a better perspective of how the working end of it all works. If some of the comments I have seen in this forum are any clue at all. A lot less of the arm chair quarterbacking from those who have never seen or felt the working end of a set of back up tongs on a rig floor or experienced what it is like when someone gets killed working there using them. Times have changed and I am going to say for the better. Those iron roughnecks are nice.

We have an old saying in the oil field, hindsight is always 20:20.

In the old days, THE Superior Oil Company made all of their new engineers roughneck for awhile on a rig, working with old experienced drillers running the rig. I feel that was good policy and still should be, but it isn't a policy with anyone anymore, near as I can tell.

Industry workers can complain but it is a lot like the military you are told to follow orders.
I have had it told to me before when I refused to do something, and that was "to do whatever you feel comfortable with." The implication of that was if I didn't do it I was fixing to be looking for a new job. Most of us like to keep our families fed and a roof over their heads.
Our wives tend to like seeing a steady paycheck as well.

That makes them "comfortable."

Right now thanks to BP, mine is not going to be very steady at all.

Alan has been making positive contributions here, to the world in general, and in his personal life for a number of years. Alan may sometimes react harshly to threats to his home, but I'll cut him that slack. And once you've been here a year or two and offered a lot of value, I'll gladly do the same for you.

3D -- Know the movie well. There was one scene that better depicts the BP blow out IMHO. While Big John was recuperating his young hand was called out to a burning blow out. The hand turned the job down because the well had "cratered". IOW the wellhead was destroyed including any flanges that might have been used to attach control valves to shut off the flow even if they could snuff the fire out. Told the operator to get a relief well going because that was their only option. Big John said he was proud of the boy for walking from a no-win situation.

That one scene appears more appropriate to what's going on out in the GOM right now compared to other parts of the movie.

Could be wrong but it looks like the BOP is rocking back and forth a little bit. Two separate ROV cameras showed some oscillation that abated, now it's back.

One does wonder what the vibrations of this loose fitting system are going to do to that BOP...

It's the ROV that is moving. Watch the lat/long positioning numbers move in synchronization with the movement.

They've got a regular hat shop.

It is going to take a porkpie hat.

Knowing BP they'll mess around with baseball caps, bowlers, and cowboy cowboy hats before springing for the obvious solution.

Attempts after the top hat will be with the Scottish terrier, race car, and iron, in that order.

You seem to be suggesting that BP has some kind of Monopoly.

I think they'll just keep rolling the dice until they a get a "Get out of jail free card".


Wonder who'll get the card saying "Go Directly To Jail; Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Salary"...

Central Scrutinizer

"Tony H has just worked himself into an imaginary frenzy during the fadeout of his imaginary lack of culpability..." with apologies to FZ

They have a few LMRP variation caps fabricated already. My guess is that they'll try to weight this cap down in hopes of keeping it in place. When it fails they'll try again with another cap fabricated to solve the problems that came up this time (cap not heavy enough, no seal formed with the riser, larger diameter outflow pipe).

My thought is they'll open the valve at the top a little more and it'll suck down nicely. Unless it gets blocked by clathrates.

The bouncing is probably due to gas in the hat plus oil pushing out.

Weights will help some, but getting full flow is the key, IMHO.

BP's plan I believe, is really quite plain

They've got thing one and thing two

Who'll pop out and just clean up that stain...


Is this you?

LOL! Howdya guess?

Bravo! FMagyar!

Looking at the oil leaking from the containment dome, I can't help but thinking that they should install a powerful pump just above the dome. You cannot "pull" a tall column of fluid from above (because you cannot generate a pressure lower than the vapor pressure of the fluid), but you can "push" from below. In the theoretical case that the pump is powerful enough to lower the pressure on its intake to a few atmospheres, then you have a pressure gradient of several hundreds atmospheres sucking oil into the containment dome. Of course, in practice, the pumping power is limited by the pressure tolerance of the riser pipe. Still, I think it would make a difference.

Probably this is either a trivial suggestion, and they do have a pump in the cluster of equipment that hangs above the dome, or there are reasons it wouldn't work that I didn't think of. It's just that I couldn't find any discussion on the subject in the press nor on this site.

Top hat definitely dancing.

There is enough "push from below" comming from the formation.

What good would a pump do if you're taking a 20" diameter of oil/gas and forcing it into only 6" of pipe going up - with the gas expanding as it moves higher?

(presuming I have understood what's happening here)

The actual production string is actually 7 inch on bottom and that 7 inch has an inside diameter of something like 6.18 inches if it weighs 29 pounds per foot. That 21 inch diameter is just something you see at the surface so the restriction to flow is actually the smaller pipe diamter on bottom or perhaps a similarly restricted area in the casing annulus if it's leaking through the casing seals at the top. The 6 inch riser is more than adequate to handle that flow. I've seen 15,000 bbls a day and more coming up through 3 1/2 inch tubing many times.

Thanks for the clarification! I am so glad I hedged my comment above.

Once more, this is such a great site! So many polite and knowledgeable (and patient) contributors - especially in view of us idjut newbies...

(I have to get that second check off soon!)

BP beginning to waffle on dividend, shifting from "dividend won't be cut" on Weds to "we have made no decision on the dividend " this morning.

BP will be merged with Shell or someone else by the end of the year. They are not going to recover from this except by the name disappearing.

Pretty unlikely. Might amputate BP America, cauterize the risk.

BP and Shell were in merger talks 3 years ago after the last big incident they had in Texas.

The longer this plays out the more it will cost them (clean up, uncapped fines through the Clean Water Act at $4,300 a barrel and lawsuits etc) and the lower their stock will go - its already been hammered.

BP is toast unless this cap is extremely effective.

Hello, I'm a first time poster long time reader of TOD. I'm curious if anyone else has noticed that the multiple illustrations of the well schematic from BP over the last 45 days have differed on whether this well had a tapered production liner, or if this was a tapered long string brought back to the mud line.

I had also seen illustrations early on, that showed cement brought back to the mud line or back to the over lap on every casing/liner string. Now the illustrations show much less cement.

Were these the actual "Congressional Illustrations " that are posted on TOD, because they even contradict themselves as you scroll down?

I don't think congress has picked up on this, but from someone that works(or used to work)in the deepwater GOM this discrepancy is a big deal. These idiots don't even know what they ran in the hole!

What I saw listed was a tapered production string, with 9 7/8 from the wellhead to above the 9 7/8 liner top crossing over to 7" below. Don't know what they meant their cement job to cover nor what it actually covered.

The illustrations on TOD right now show a tapered string 9 7/8 to 7 inch. One of the illustrations show what possible flow paths the flow could be taking, one via the float shoe and float collar and the other possible path past seals (packer) on the annulus of the 7 inch, but mone of the other well schematics in the thread show seals(packer)on the 7 inch. I have rarely seen a long string that had seals that would act the same as a liner packer. From what I have seen online and heard in the field is that this well had seals at the well head like a conventional subsea long string casing job not a liner packer.

I know it's hard for me to explain, but I have seen multiple well schematics of this well and they all differ.

The cement coverage (top of cement) on these well schematics differed too.

wildbourgman - as you scroll down what?

I have not seen a drawing that shows the tapered pipe - 9 7/8th" to 7" - getting even remotely close to the mud line.

Sonofsamphm1c, check the pictures again most of the illustrations on this thread.

Deepwater Oil Spill - the Congressional Illustrations - and Friday Early AM

They now show 9 7/8 X 7 in with the 9 7/8 to around the mudline or the wellhead. I'm really curious about the picture that shows seals leaking at the 7 inch. That was the first time I ever read or seen anything about seals in that area. I understood that the seals were at the well head, where they normally are on a subsea longstring casing.

I found the BP investigation, 48 pages. I see what you are saying.

This schematic of the cement plan was submitted by Halliburton:


So sonofsamphm1c you see what I am saying? I just wonder why no one else has seemed to jump on this yet. This may not provide proof of negligence, but I'm sure it would start to prove incompetence.

Why can't they get they're stories straight?
I used to think real highly of BP and I was always impressed with anyone that remembers Vastar, but these guys are looking worse and worse, even to industry people that would like to support them.

Thanks for the help. From my connection to ARCO, almost everybody is gone. They started popping in baby Brits almost immediately. I don't know if that was true on the rig end.

I guess my conclusion now, based upon all the various things people have said, is the 9 7/8 was hung off the wellhead, but not locked down, leading to speculation it may be jammed up into the BOP. I assume, since ROCKMAN says there was a cmt failure and would know, that the Halliburton schematic is fuzzy to the wrong side.

There was testimony that a liner hanger was left out, and talk of rupture disks. When used, are they part of the liner hangers?

Anyway, punish BP; set ARCO free.

I will tell you this. What’s going on above the surface makes this underwater fix look like a kid’s video game. Some of the most brilliant, money and blood thirsty financial minds, the same piranhas that brought you CDO’s and CDS’s and synthetic CDSs and mezzanine tranches and the Gaussian cupola are circling BP like a sick guppy. They can smell multi-million $$$ bonuses. BP’s protectors are the British government and the poison pill of untold damages. And every BP suit smells the stink of his own fear right now.

Maybe what Hayward should do is publish BP's high level confidential true picture of world energy supplies and reserves rather than the "agreed" nonsense they actually do put out each year. Up for it Tony? Just like in the BBC drama "Burn Up" when your fictional counterpart became a convert and did just that.

That would throw the cat among the pigeons.

Not that I'm defending Hayward. He's only risen up through the company by demonstrating his lack of empathy and compassion and regularly makes such idiotic statements every time he has a mic in front of him that he seems in need of psychiatric help. Given his state of mind who knows what he might blurt out next?

He really does manage to say the most incredible things - almost like a criminal who simply wants to confess. I believe Tony won the Young Tony Blair look-alike contest as qualification for the job; his performance doesn't seem to indicate anything less vacuous underlying him being picked.

It's strange though. He has a PhD in Geology and started with BP as a rig geologist in the North Sea.

The Peter Principle is the principle that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."

Exactly. And remember PhD stands for Piled High and Deep. Very deep.

Yes, what Tony needs right now is a big diversion, so big it will knock the socks off wall street.

Tony should put out a press release on Peak Oil, claiming that very likely it was reached in 2007 and the EIA projections for future world production increases are nothing but government bullsh!t. He could say its all down hill from here for the world economy and multinational companies which rely on an expanding flow of oil. Also he could tell the truth about OPEC reserves being less than half of published amounts.

Likely he will resign and go live his retirement somewhere in obscurity and isolated from the effects of peak oil, IMO.

You know, if he did that, I want not want to strangle him on live television, as a warning to other criminally-negligent morons and vacuous upper-class twits—quite as much.

But, you're right; he won't. He'll go breed roses on his country estate, as soon as the board decides the time is right for his head to roll.

BP should cease it's pay-out. And its CEO should give over his entire salary and bonus! And that's just for starters...

BP's dividend amounts to 8% of all the income for pension funds in Great Britain. Given the lack of any sort of interest in cash deposits plus the poor performance of the stock market and shaky European economy these funds is very important the GB pension system, and there will be immense political repercussions in GB if BP cancels it's dividend, especially if its perceived to be due to pressure from American politicians.

Externalities will jump out and bite you.

Executive Summary
An accident that resulted in one fatality and a brief loss of well control occurred on Forest Oil
Corporation’s (FOC) Platform B, High Island Block A-466, Well B-11, Lease OCS-G 03242 in the Gulf
of Mexico, offshore the State of Texas, on February 20, 2006, at approximately 0820 hours. Forest Oil
Corporation had hired the contractor, Twachtman, Snyder & Byrd, Incorporated (TSB), to conduct plug
and abandonment operations on Well B-11.
From February 14, 2006, to February 19, 2006, plug and abandonment operations were being conducted
on the subject well. The tubing was being stripped out of the hole by using a hydraulic rig (casing jacks)
when the tubing became stuck on February 19, 2006. On the morning of February 20, 2006, an attempt
was made by FOC’s “company man” to pull the tubing, when the tubing parted. The parted tubing was
forced upward, causing the top slips to be ejected from the top bowl of the casing jacks. The ejected slips
fatally struck FOC’s “company man” as he attempted to evacuate the immediate area.
This investigative panel has concluded, based on information in the report findings, that the deceased
exceeded the yield strength of the tubing when he pulled approximately 135,000 pounds on the tubing,
causing it to part. This resulted in the tubing and slips being ejected from the wellbore, the slips fatally
striking the deceased as he attempted to evacuate the area, and a brief loss of well control. It is also the
conclusion of this panel that the deceased did not calculate enough of a safety factor when he determined
maximum amount pull for the grade of pipe. Furthermore, this panel concludes that the lack of
appropriate equipment (snubbing unit) and appropriately trained personnel are contributing causes to this
incident. Additionally, poor judgment and decisionmaking by the deceased and TSB’s field supervisors
on the platform are also considered contributing causes to this incident. This investigative panel has also
concluded that ineffective management and supervision of the operation by both FOC and TSB (at all
levels) is a possible contributing cause of this incident. Upper management at FOC and TSB were
detached from the field operation and failed to provide direct oversight and control. At TSB, no effective
chain of command structure was in place and no one in the office was overseeing the operation. FOC
relied entirely on consultants to supervise the operation onsite and offsite. The deceased exceeded his
authority and made operational decisions on behalf of FOC and TSB without input from management.

Investigation and Report
On July 5, 2005, at approximately 1200 hours, an unplanned riser disconnect occurred on the Ensco
(hereinafter referred to as “Contractor” or “Ensco”) semi-submersible drilling unit 7500 (hereinafter
referred to as the “Rig”), resulting in the release of 710 barrels of synthetic-based mud. The incident
occurred on Anadarko Petroleum’s (hereinafter referred to as “Operator” or “Anadarko”) Lease OCS-G
21810, Green Canyon Block 652, in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), offshore the State of Louisiana.
Pursuant to Section 208, Subsection 22 (d), (e), and (f), of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act,
as amended in 1978, and Department of the Interior Regulations 30 CFR 250, Minerals Management
Service (MMS) has investigated and prepared a public report of this accident. By memorandum dated
July 12, 2005, the following personnel were named to the investigative panel:
Frank Pausina, Chairman – Office of Safety Management, GOM OCS Region
Glenn Woltman – Technical Assessment and Operations Support Section, GOM OCS Region
Charles Smith – Accident Investigation Board, Office of Offshore Regulatory Programs, MMS HQ
Because of an ongoing injury and his inability to participate in the investigative process, a memorandum
dated June 29, 2006, released Frank Pausina from the panel.
During the afternoon of July 5, 2005, District personnel from the Department of the Interior, Minerals
Management Service (MMS) office in Houma, Louisiana, received preliminary statements on the incident
from the Operator, along with the current status of recovery efforts. At that time, the rig was in a
controlled drift at maximum thruster power with an easterly heading. The result of the incident was the
loss of an estimated 710 barrels of synthetic mud when the riser was disconnected subsea. The well was
secured with the blowout preventers closed, and all personnel on board were taken into account.

junk shot -- what the heck are you trying to do? Scare folks more than they already are? Actually it's unfortunate that reports like you've posted haven't been in the public eye to a much greater degree. Beyond what you've offered, well kicks that don't cause loss control happen all the time. If the public had been more aware perhaps the fed regulators and operators would have been more focused on prevention. How many of us cruise down the highway over the speed limit and slow down after we see someone getting a ticket? And not just because we may think there's another cop just down the road. Sometimes we slow down just because we realize there wasn't a good reason to speed and thus reason to speed. If the MMS saw the public being repeated alarmed about near catastophies they might have tightened up some just for the sake of public perception about their job performance.

Sorry I meant to post these MMS reports in the Lessons Unlearned article, bandwidth problems and such....I have many more reports, fatalities, broken piping, numerous isn't even the word and that's just for the GOM region.

The insoluble problem here is that we speed in the first place (and the second place and ad infinitum). Two hours or two days later we return to our risky behavior. And in a highly risky environment it only takes one speeder and one moment. I don't know how to "solve" the problem but I think more cops would reduce the risks. And that's all good. Thanks for putting the issue in simple, every-day terms. The mark of an expert. [Bye the bye, this discussion leads one into some very tricky, "boot-on-the-throat" political ideology.]

EL -- To carry on the speeding analogy I've seen reports that those automatic radar units that snap pics of speeding cars as they go have been very effective. But only when folks know they are there and that they'll be mailed a ticket. If operators knew there would be a MMS inspector on every rig during a critical phase and that the inspector could write them a $100,000 ticket every time he saw them violating standard safe well practices I think we would see the number of near misses (let alone actual blow outs) go down dramaticly. The cost of this additional oversight would be minimal...easily less than 1% of the typical total well cost. In fact, operators might save money in the long run by having fewer accidents. And a track record of a lower accident rate might also reduce insurance costs too.

All my drillers and subcontarcts know my rules: have a near miss by not playing it safe and they'll never work for me again. Given we're one the few companies with lots of capital to spend right now that threat works quit well.

You are absolutely, completely, totally, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt correct. But I'm in a spoil sport mood. Try shoving more government regs and fines down Alaska Senator Linda Murkowski or Senator-to-be Rand Paul's throat. Hmmm... I do like the thought of "Open wide, Senators. Dr. Rockman is here to cure you."

I believe an inflatable seal could be designed to wrap around the leaking interface. It would work vaguely like a blood-pressure cuff, except inflated by water. Several such seals could be deployed, in fact.

I may be missing something, but it seems obvious that without some sort of clamping mechanism the "hat" is just going to bounce around like the safety weight on my wife's pressure cooker. How about an hydraulically actuated toggles or some sort of wire rope & turnbuckle rig to hold the damned thing tight?

Could off-casing snubbing work? Is the sub-structure too flaky?


AlMansoori-Rodgers JV Deploy Versa-Rig in Middle East
March 17, 2010

"The flexible unit can work on multi-well pads with mobile capacity, be utilized onshore or offshore and is capable of working at depths up to 25,000ft... Unlike traditional snubbing units, it can be rigged-up and operated in close proximity to a drilling rig, while its total weight rests off the casing and on the sub-structure. This significantly reduces the likelihood of casing failure...."

Any BP lurkers reading this? Could this work? And if it could, why the hell isn't it being used?

Engineering excellence by committee.

Back of the envelope "we gotta do something" engineering.

When I saw that old-style Westinghouse upright washing machine with the stovepipe mounted, suspended on its way to touchdown, I had to accept that this is an exceptional indictment of an industry which has been thinking no farther than to the "tip of its nose."
BP has delivered contingency planning documents to regulators describing its ability and readiness to tackle what's happening at Block 252 - those statements have no bearing on actuality, and will serve as self-indictment. They're totally at the mercy of the government and those hit by this.

Must be bleak days in the corporate corridors.

News flash: U.S. government is on BP's side demonstrated by BP still being in charge after boondoggling every response. Those hit by this, the American people, are powerless. During the next presidential election, they will still choose between Obama and a dunce.

Uploaded with ImageShack.us

Upward view of currently installed cap

The notion that the containment cap will simply collect the oil and pass it upward seems questionable. It would seem that the seal needs to be tightened down with clamps, split flanges, or whatever so that the pressure is contained and used to push the oil up the riser (against the resistance of 1 mile of flow up the riser) as opposed to down and out based on a loose seal held down by just the weight of the cap. The diverter valve at the top of the cap could then control the pressure in the cap, allowing controlled leakage there rather than uncontrolled leakage past the cap-to-LMRP seal.

WoodME had a respectable design:

Did it make it into the response team and does anybody know if there is any traction on this type of cap design?

My guess is that the oil polluting the Gulf is >> than the ability of the ship to process, so if they grab a decent % of the total (say 1/3rd) good ! Well worth the effort and expense.

Now where are RWs #3 and #4 ?


The ship can handle 20,000 barrels a day I understand. Not sure if that is oil only or total. The important point, as you say, is to get at least some of the oil up the mile of pipe and into the tanks, away from the Gulf. Supposedly they were getting a couple of thousand a day from the Riser tube a couple of weeks back. I would think that they should be able to do a lot more than that via the top hat - even with the horrorshow leak we are still seeing.


My offer to assist is on the table. I will act when a campaign for this is organized and announced. I'm sure my offer was seen, so I'm in a wait and see mode. Perhaps the Obama administration itself will announce something. I hope so! They need to get out ahead of events - not wait for them!

Seems there's a fundamental failure of engineering leadership. Anyone who's ever sawed a 2X4 knows they should have sheared off the hanging bent riser BEFORE they deployed the diamond saw. I've been on jobs where panic was the mode, and f-you was the attitude of the hands. Whoever's in charge of this mess should be tied to a drill collar and told to take a deep breath.

Tony ?


Carol Browner has full decision making responsibility now? She has full decision making authority.

President Obama is supposed to have full decision making responsibility but has deferred it to BP. Back at Tony.

The more this containment attempt drags on the more incompetent BP looks.

Trying to contain a flowing high-pressure well with lame low-pressure and no-pressure apparatus is like trying to seal a garden hose leak with duct tape.

Fabricate a mating high-pressure flange containment apparatus, cut the old riser flange bolts off with the DSAW (since they can't be unbolted with ROVs), remove the old riser and flange, bolt the new mating high-pressure flange containment device in place, and send the flow to a surface ship equipped to deal with it effectively. Sheesh.

It's high-pressure piping folks. They need high-pressure piping capability down there. Ability to remove high-pressure piping segments at flanges and install new ones with ROVs should have been worked out before they even started this friekin well.

And yes I stepped up to support TOD. I bought two "CRAW" T-shirts at CafePress.com. CRAW seems to be the only thing working right in friekin fiasco.

... "in this friekin fiasco".

Totally agree. The incompetence of these folks is astounding.

Criminally negligent incompetence in my opinion.

The Dunning–Kruger effect rears it's head once more.

Heh, it's sure all over the internet all the time!

It seems obvious that they need a high pressure seal and a large diameter pipe to deliver this devil of a turbulent flow to the surface.

Their approaches so far seem to lack fundamental understanding of turbulent fluid dynamics. They do not appear to support any of their approaches with rigorous CFD analysis, or any analysis beyond back of the envelope pressure differential calculations.

Expect them to announce "partial success" today and "failure" of this approach over the weekend.

"... beyond back of the envelope pressure differential calculations."

Forget freikin pressure differential crap. Fabricate a friekin high-pressure riser to bolt in place of the screwed up high-pressure riser. Unbolt the screwed up riser at the flange, remove it, bolt the new one on. Simple. A child could figure it out.

An even faster solution, achieving the same thing. Create a hinged collar which when lowered to the riser mount can be closed around it, using the flanges to lock around, the inner casing closing around the stub of the cut riser, and with the required locking mechanisms, vents, etc - in place to secure precisely the lock to the LMRP CAP they need.

I agree that the engineering here is stunningly poor, and totally lacking in imagination. They have been working to the assumption that the foundation can't be changed, and wasted a long time trying to secure a good dsaw cut - when that was completely unnecessary (and even failed).

They could have used the shears, moved a collar into position, landed a CAP engineered to tackle the actual flow rate, and been in business.

A child could figure it out.

1. Bolts can't be removed by ROV. Can't be cut by ROV either.
2. If you "forget the freikin pressure differential crap", you stand a good chance of blowing up the BOP, or blowing up the well underground.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

Extremely appropriate. Where's old HLM when we really need him?

BP is now following the orders of the Engineer In Chief at the Whitehouse. Obama explained that a few days ago. Carol Browner confirmed it in an interview. They have assigned a genius Nobel Prize winner as the top decision maker. BP is now just executing the plan of the US govt.

... and waiting for the CAT 5 hurricane that's in Obama's cleanup plan.

Those razor sharp community organizer skills are going to be a real asset in dealing with this problem.

Admit it: Obama could swim down there, seal the BOP with laser beams from his eyes, then personally harvest all the spilled oil in the Gulf and you'd still bag on him for damaging BP equipment.

[edited for grammar]

This is not a forum for partisan politics. I don't care who or what fixes it. Just fix it. I commented because that's what Obama pretty much said last night and I doubt that Gulf Coast residents would choose a strong hurricane as a clean up method since it would further wreck their lives.

Actually that's not correct. If he did all that I'd stand up and cheer. If he did anything remotely positive I'd still stand up and cheer. But as long as his solution is to sic on the lawyers, call on Hollywood, and demonize BP and the rest of the industry then he gets no kudos from me.

Actually I saw several ROV tools at OTC that could unbolt those bolts. It's not impossible. http://www.fastorq.com/
The lack of imagination from their engineers is starting to become a bit staggering.

Actually I saw several ROV tools at OTC that could unbolt those bolts. It's not impossible. http://www.fastorq.com/
The lack of imagination from their engineers is starting to become a bit staggering.

I haven't been to an OTC conference show since the early 90's but you make it suddenly sound very interesting. I always love seeing the new technology that the industry is coming out with. After watching all of these ROV's in action that is something I want to give a closer inspection to, when I get the opportunity.

I wanted to go to the Lagcoe show in Lafayette, but only got to do a quick walk through, partly cause I was sick at the time and had to go and start putting a job together in a hurry, since I had received the call not long after I got there. Duty comes first and I didn't even try to go back, since I wasn't feeling much up to snuff anyway. Ate some bad gumbo the weekend before and paid a heavy price for it.

The flange spreader and hydraulic nut splitter look very useful right about now. If they worked at this depth, you could buy some height margin in the current seal. Risk vs. x thousand more bbls of oil in the GOM before Old No. 7 is deployed? Sure seems worth trying.

Well in Texas, people sure love their '10 Gallon Hat's' maybe BP could do a variation the '10 MILLION gallon hat'?

More like 100 to 200 million gallon hat.

To lay out some basics plain and clear:

Once the riser is filled with oil and gas there will likely be no pumping needed to get the flow going up the riser so long as it does not clog with clathrates. The density of the material in the riser will be much less than the density of the surrounding seawater which all by itself will provide a strong suction at the lower end of the riser (static pressure outside pipe much higher than static pressure inside pipe).

The challenge will be to control this suction by regulating the flow so that it draws in as much oil as possible without also sucking in seawater.

They want a somewhat leaky seal. The reason for this is so that they can be sure it is not sucking in seawater. They will have to allow some leakage of oil out the bottom as an indicator that they have accomplished this. An almost-but-not-quite watertight seal, such as would likely be the result of efforts to make a truly watertight seal under those conditions, would be the worst option. It would be very easy to allow the pressure at the junction to drop too low so that it sucked water in through the small leaks. This water would rapidly form clathrates with the methane and clog the riser. The clathrates would be stable under ambient conditions at that depth, so they would have to be cleaned out before pumping could be resumed. Meanwhile static pressures in the well below the clog would increase dramatically, possibly leading to an even worse blowout.

Believe it or not, they really have thought this plan through. No guarantee of success, but they are not just slapping things together mindlessly on the fly as some seem to think.

From a man that knew wild wells:

If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.

- Red Adair

Red Adair was the professional who blew the BOP off of the top of the Ixtoc (sp?) well for the Mexicans. Was it expensive or not?

Pemex didn't pay a peso in liabilities, citing national interests, so I guess it depends.

Augustus - amazing factoid.

Red Adair was the professional who blew the BOP off of the top of the Ixtoc (sp?) well for the Mexicans. Was it expensive or not?

http://www.incidentnews.gov/incident/6250 IXTOC I
Bahia de Campeche, Mexico 1979-Jun-03
On June 3, 1979, the 2 mile deep exploratory well, IXTOC I, blew out in the Bahia de Campeche, 600 miles south of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. The IXTOC I was being drilled by the SEDCO 135, a semi-submersible platform on lease to Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). A loss of drilling mud circulation caused the blowout to occur. The oil and gas blowing out of the well ignited, causing the platform to catch fire. The burning platform collapsed into the wellhead area hindering any immediate attempts to control the blowout. PEMEX hired blowout control experts and other spill control experts including Red Adair, Martech International of Houston, and the Mexican diving company, Daivaz. The Martech response included 50 personnel on site, the remotely operated vehicle TREC, and the submersible Pioneer I. The TREC attempted to find a safe approach to the Blowout Preventer (BOP). The approach was complicated by poor visibility and debris on the seafloor including derrick wreckage and 3000 meters of drilling pipe. Divers were eventually able to reach and activate the BOP, but the pressure of the oil and gas caused the valves to begin rupturing. The BOP was reopened to prevent destroying it. Two relief wells were drilled to relieve pressure from the well to allow response personnel to cap it. Norwegian experts were contracted to bring in skimming equipment and containment booms, and to begin cleanup of the spilled oil. The IXTOC I well continued to spill oil at a rate of 10,000 - 30,000 barrels per day until it was finally capped on March 23, 1980. Keyword: Boom, Corexit 9527, skimmer, manual removal, volunteers, blowout, fire, evaporation, blowout preventer, relief well, submersible..

As far as the quote goes about hiring a pro vs. an amateur, if memory serves, this was in response to a complaint from a company rep about the rate per hour he was charging for his services, when he finally got the call to go out on a blowout. After that the company rep shut up about it and just bit the bullet, he wanted his problem fixed.

Try this thought experiment:

Put a high running pressure hose into an open funnel with a much smaller exit hole. Is there a pressure differential? - Yes. Is there a seal between the hose and the funnel? - No. It is the same condition as currently at the wellhead.

How much flow will you get out of the funnel? - Not a lot. Why? - No seal.

Error in your thought experiment:

In your case, the surrounding environment is the atmosphere, which is at a lower pressure than the water at any point in your system. In the actual case, the surrounding environment is seawater at a pressure higher than the upper end of your funnel.

A better thought experiment: Instead of a garden hose, put an air hose at the bottom of a swimming pool. Then attach your funnel to another long hose and hold it over the end of the air hose, with the upper end of the second hose above the surface of the pool. How much air will go up the hose? It depends. Under the right conditions you will capture all the air. It will also entrain a lot of water which will spray out the top of the hose, too; in fact this is exactly how air-driven external aquarium filter pumps operate. If you put your thumb over the top end of the capture hose and gradually throttle it down, more air will be lost and bubble out into the pool, but less water will be caught. Somewhere is a balance point where nothing but air is coming out the top of the hose, and the minimum of air is bubbling loose in to the pool. THAT is a much closer analogy to the current attempt.

I wish this forum had a moderation points system so I could promote bb551's post so it got more attention.

PS: please don't *actually* try this experiment by diving to the bottom of a pool and using your mouth as the air supply. Even at a depth of a few meters, the pressure differential will suck the funnel to your lips and give you the mother of all hickies. Might even draw blood.

And that's the point: if oil is leaking out from around BP's cap, it's not because they need to clamp it down harder to hold in the pressure. It's *either* because the pipe is clogged with clathrates, or more likely, because the drill ship has "put its thumb over the top end of the capture hose".

Put a suction pump on the funnel and you'll do a lot better. The non-intuitive part is that at the working depth you can have an effective "suction" of several hundred PSI (versus the tame vacuum you can have at the surface in your experiment). The riser is only high-pressure if you provide back-pressure -- right now it's more a billowy cloud of gas with some oil in it.

The fractured analogy I used before was cartoon vacuum cleaners that suck up couches and elephants -- that's the kind of differential you have available.

How much flow will you get into the tunnel? Most of it, I'd say. Think more "hot air balloon" -- the burner spews high pressure gasses that immediately disperse into an uncontrolled opening, yet almost all goes into the balloon, even though the density gradient is small. Sure, this tube is much smaller, but the density gradient is larger too.

Sorry but I am having trouble believing that this better than a completely air-tight/water-tight seal.

It's not better, just easier.

Given the conditions and the fact that this all has to be accomplished while a massive high pressure flow is coming from the (mangled and damaged) pipe, a completely tight seal is likely a theoretical abstraction. In the real world, if your seal is going to leak, you want it to leak in a way you can see and monitor.

A plan that requires perfection and zero tolerance at a critical step very likely to fail.

Great posts, bb551. Rises way above "the White House is controlling everything" nonsense.

Suppose I have a completely tight seal, and then close the valve.

What happens to the the BOP?

Maybe BOOM.

Then we will have to estimate flow rates all over again.

Moderators or somebody, these astute comments should be made into a post like the one about not "nuking" as a solution.

Very helpful to us amateurs!

I'm not sure I believe that the oil will rise to the surface on its own, at least not because of the "density of the oil being less than the density of the seawater". Here's a simple experiment anyone with a straw and a cup of water can do. Blow air through the straw into the water, and while there is air in the straw, pinch the top. Now, as you release the pinch, the air flows up because the water is pushing it; you can see this because the water column in the straw rises. So the only way that "seawater" is going to help "push" the oil up the pipe is if you allow the seawater to follow the oil up the column, which isn't going to work due to clathrates and because the oil is constantly being renewed. So, the only real way to do this is to place a pump as close to the tophat as possible, and have that pump push oil up the column as hard as it can. Once the oil passes the pump, the pressure in the pipe won't cause it to push back on new oil coming out, causing massive leaks at the bottom. However, they probably DO want a little leakage at the bottom, because of the clathrates problem you mentioned.

The well is already it's own "pump", IMHO. You get the first 450psi for free, and could have more if you have a good seal. Ideally they'd have a closed-loop control system that would maintain the top hat at some positive pressure differential without leaking, but that may be too much to hope for.

It's a little bit subtle here. It's not the seawater pushing the oil up the pipe, it is the oil escaping from the stub of the existing riser. This emerges from the riser at a pressure higher than the seawater; once it escapes into free water its pressure will drop to be near that of the seawater. Basically you are collecting a puddle of oil in the containment cap at a pressure close to that of the ambient water, and that is the pressure that will push the contents up the riser. The trick is to regulate the flow so that the pressure of this puddle in the cap is just a bit higher than the seawater so that no water leaks in and only a little oil leaks out. So, in an odd way, the sea water is functioning kind of as an envelope surrounding this puddle of oil and regulating its pressure.

Ok, I can kind "see" that, the seawater is acting as a "seal" of sorts, but you agree that it is not going to push the oil up unless there is seawater in the pipe to push it with?

Ie, if the pipe is half full of seawater and oil, then the oil will rise to displace the seawater, but once the seawater is displaced, there will be no more lifting force unless additional seawater is entering at the bottom. Again, think of the soda straw in a cup, the only way to get the air level to rise is to allow more water through from the bottom.

It really makes the most sense to put a high-speed impeller pump at the bottom, right above the tophat, perhaps with chopper blades to disintegrate any clathrates. That way you can push from the bottom faster than the well can produce.

No, there does not ever have to be any seawater in the pipe. My understanding was that it was filled with Nitrogen when first installed, yes? Put it in place, gradually bleed the N2 out of the top, and the oil/gas mixture will be drawn in to fill it. You now have an effective suction at the bottom that will draw in anything at a pressure less than that due to the static weight of the material in the pipe, which is less than seawater. You allow it to continue to suck in the oil that is spilling from the riser stub and filling the cap (the funnel in the above analogies) at a pressure close to that of the ambient seawater. You increase the flow just so that most of the oil is being captured and only enough is still leaking to keep the "funnel" full of oil, not sucking in seawater also. Notice how all of these steps have to be done gradually and carefully.

If you start with a pipe full cold, high-pressure seawater, the first thing that happens is all the methane that tries to enter the pipe precipitates in a methane hydrate slushy, clogging the pipe. Nothing ever comes out of the top.

I just tried an experiment that bears out what you're saying, except on a much smaller scale.

I took a clear plastic tube from a spray bottle, filled it with olive oil, stuck my finger over the end of the tube, then immersed it in a 4" tall glass filled with cold tap water. The oil in the tube slowly fell, leaking out the bottom of the tube, until it stabilized at a height about 1/2 inch above the water level.

Theoretically then, if I had a 11 foot long tube, filled it with olive oil, then plunged it into the deep end of an ten foot deep swimming pool, the oil would exit the tube, because to offset 10 feet of water with olive oil, I would need a tube about 11 1/2 feet long.

Am I correct in thinking that in 5000 feet of water, I would need a column of olive oil nearly 5500 feet long, and wouldn't that give me a pressure head of about 500 feet?

If my tube is only 5100 feet long, then as long as I make new oil available near the bottom at a rate that keeps the tube "full" (IOW, a little oil dribbling out the bottom), wouldn't the oil gush out of the end on the surface at the rate I put it into the tube?

Now, instead of olive oil and fresh water, let's change to crude and sea water, plus gases that decrease in density as they rise to the surface, and I can see a pretty good flow up the riser.

Then regulate the flow at the top to maintain a slight overflow at the bottom and you have the situation we have here.

Exactly! Empiricism wins again!

Fantastic! Post pics!

Ok, I understand now. Thanks for the clear explanation.

Yup! Refine this, add sketch, make it required reading here.

Note: Still not confident BP cap won't leave *way* too much O/G flowing free into the Gulf. Gonna stay a very ugly mess for a very long time.


I agree some of my comments were wrong. However to keep the sea water out if there is only 80% bouyancy in the tube and not more due to oil and gas will require about 500psi since that is the static pressure difference? The cap has a diameter of about 30 inches or area of 700 so that gives a required weight of the cap of 170 tons. The more gas in the pipe then the more weight to keep the water out?

It's not static pressure in a flowing pipe, though. Lots of other effects come in to play. If the flow at the top is throttled you can increase the pressure at the bottom even if the column is full of almost entirely gas. Conversely, if the flow is unrestricted at the top, because of venturi effects the pressure at the bottom will be less than the static pressure.

The volume of the top-hat cap is pretty small, so the contribution of that to flotation should be small, though of course if pressurized at the seal the full 30" will contribute. Otherwise, only the gas volume of the tube will contribute fully, and since it was supposedly nitrogen-filled at the outset it should already be fully compensated.

Added weight would help to maintain a positive pressure in the cap. No way are they going to shot for 100psi...heck, 10 would be superb, and that's just a few tons.

Yes, if the chimney idea works I calculate (very rough using chimney effect) 350 gallon/s capacity based on a difference in density of .2 between the stuff in the chimney and the water and a 3" pipe.

Anyone watching CNN? Kyra Phillips has been on one of the drillships.

She was given a copy of Beacon, I believe Transocean's journal?

Current issue has memorials to the rigworkers.

She also interviewed one of Transocean's employees on the drillship, I believe he's a toolpusher.

First comment, non-technical, and I apologize for that.

Been reading this site for weeks; just amazing the knowledge, expertise & experience. I've been trying to get personal friends and some online folks to read the info here, but most just won't do the work or take the time, they prefer what they "hear"- whatever that means.

Some thoughts: As a former teacher I've had this feeling before, many times, but once again I'm simply appalled and exasperated with the level of basic scientific knowledge possessed by the average American. It's shameful. Over and over again on numerous websites I keep reading the same type of drivel: why don't they blow it up with a nuclear bomb, dump a bunch of rocks on it, stick a balloon in it (I kid you not!) Not even a 5th grade understanding of most of the scientific laws that are universal and invariable facts of the physical world. Not to mention no knowledge or appreciation of logic, the traditional scientific method, the time and effort required to acquire and learn real facts (the name of the contestants on "American Idol" doesn't count), or basic geography and earth science ("Where is the Gulf of Mexico anyway?" and "I thought it was only a hundred feet deep?")

Add to this a frightening and rapidly growing movement of people who equate education and intelligence with power and government; if one distrusts the latter then one must distrust the former.

I'm near the end of my time, but I have children and grandchildren. I worry and weep for them. What a world.

Just wait for post-Peak Oil and their response and ability to adapt to that !


"I'm simply appalled and exasperated with the level of basic scientific knowledge possessed by the average American. It's shameful."

Amen! And it applies to other areas of knowledge too.

Sad, isn't it. In my previous career as a technical writer, I had to grapple daily with the general public's ignorance of how things work. That's the secret to being a good tech writer: you have to assess the intended audience's basic knowledge, and tailor the presentation to give them just enough information without overwhelming them. Not enough detail will piss off tech-savvy readers. Too much detail will make tech-challenged readers' eyes glaze over.

I enjoy reading the comments sections in stories about the spill on various blogs and websites. The technically challenged hand-wringers tend to repeat things like, "Those idiots couldn't plug a garden hose. Why doesn't someone just fix the damned thing?" Almost as amusing are the political ideologues and conspiracy theorists. No matter on which end of the political continuum they sit--they see everything as a giant plot. And then there are the tech heads who can't grasp that this spill has cultural undertones and sociopolitical implications. To them, it's just another problem to solve. They're probably the greatest challenge, because if they can't see how the spill is part of a larger global issue, they'll never make the permanent changes to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

The challenge is to provide information to all three sorts of readers in a way that expands their understanding without turning them away. IMO, The Oil Drum has done the best job of that difficult task of any site on the web.

Yes, this site seems to draw people who are willing and interested to take the time and energy to comprehend the facts and see the implications and apparently possess a desire to "give" of themselves - in view of our common humanity and our one fragile earth - for ends which will benefit future generations.

I am in awe of the beauty of this community! And so grateful!

BRUTUS MAXIMUS: Couldn't agree more, especially about the political ideologues & conspiracy theorists. Again, just a reflection of the lack of training in logical thinking. It needs to be taught and practiced, beginning at a very early age. Ranting nonsense about "muslim socialists" at a time like this!

Which brings me to the only part of your message that I disagree with. Of course this spill has far-reaching cultural and sociopolitical undertones that will be played out in the decades to follow. But for now, right now, I DON"T want the tech-heads to think about that! It IS another problem to solve, and I want all their energy focused on solving it. Concern about the larger global issues and permanent changes must come later.

Point taken. I just hope that they don't return to complacency once the spill is finally stanched.

oldb: Please define "later."

Addendum: "O Lord, grant me chastity-but not quite yet." Augistine

They're probably the greatest challenge, because if they can't see how the spill is part of a larger global issue, they'll never make the permanent changes to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

What we are seeing in the shear number of deep technical discussions is an anomaly on TOD. I am known for doing deeper-than-average technical analyses here and usually get hammered for going some weedy area. Yet, the analyses I do are deep because I am trying to understand fundamental problems or looking at things globally or statistically. It will be interesting if some of the engineers or scientists stay around after this "problem" works its way out, because TOD is the best place to talk energy implications. I get nailed 9 times out of 10 for generating MEGO but then 10% of the time someone gives some brilliant insight that I can work with.

As one of the techno-nerds I can explain that I retreat into technical problem solving as it is something I enjoy and can exercise some level of control over.

When I start to contemplate the global issues and the current impossibility of politically or socially seeing any change being implemented until the situation is so dire that there will be little or no hope of mitigation I get thoroughly depressed and have to revert of mass quantities of mind numbing beverages.

Now back to technical problem solving.

I'm with you on this one shelburn. When I was younger I felt differently, but since, I've traveled too much and studied a bit more history. Cheers!

Hi oldberkeley - I guess it's what you get when science becomes the butt of jokes and disrespect.

My favorite was the "why don't they use liquid nitrogen and freeze the oil to stop it flowing." As to all the "blow them up" suggestions, that must be due to Hollywood.

At work I was presented with the "sink a battleship filled with gravel" idea, and suggested that it should be taken one step further, since battleships are very narrow and have difficult to reach compartments. You will spend a lot of time filling it with gravel. Maybe you should consider using a large tanker, much easier to fill up with gravel?
The person lit up with joy. "A tanker, of course!"

This is not good.

Don't worry. When the oil starts ruining Florida retirement beaches, then it will become an all stops pulled effort to fix this.

Hello, oldberkeley. Nukes are a non-starter, *but* for TOD discussions to be fully reality based, it's necessary to understand where the nuke talk started. There were repeated Soviet successes (4 of 5?) in putting out gas well fires by using a nuke to collapse the pipe feeding the blaze. (A deep explosion near the well, not on top of it or inside.)

Here's archival Soviet footage of the fire, explosion and result. Diagrams and the surface effects of the blast shown starting soon after the 2:30 mark:


Using a nuke would be a bad idea here and now (treaties, precedents, geological risk) and most of the advocates have a brain-mounting screw loose, but the idea behind the noise isn't entirely crazy. Give the Devil his due, and all that. Otherwise, we're the ones who will look misinformed about technology.

Was there a missed opportunity to measure the flow? Seems like after the riser pipe was cut and before the cap was installed would have been a great time to check/measure the flow.

Are there "gushometers" or flow-meters that could have been used?

Or does the gummit and BP want to remain blissfully ignorant?

Given the insane estimates of flow that bounce around the public arena, BP would probably save billions if they actually measured the flow.

A simple solution could be holding a pitot probe into the stream directly above the cut riser. I think this could lead to some kind of reliable estimation. But this was also possible in earlier states. From there I doubt if BP is interested at all to know and publish such (relatively accurate) estimations. On the other hand, what would be the consequence for the running activities if they knew the actual flowrate ?

This would not work because you don't know (and can't know) the gas/oil/water ratio at the spots that the measurements are taken. Furthermore, the flow is multiphase turbulent, not laminar, and so the instantenous pressures would be everywhere.

Granted, we've got a complex flow of gas and oil and the mix changes over time. And, the flow is turbulent and the rate may be changing over time. A precise answer probably doesn't exist because of all of the variables and unknowns.

But, could we have picked up a couple useful datapoints from the source? Seems like we currently have only conjecture...and blissful ignorance.

Seems to me that there is far more precision gained from taking some (imperfect) measurements directly from the orifice than guessing what percent of the flow is trapped in plumes, dispersants, methane hydrates sinking to the ocean floor, etc.

I think BP doesn't want anyone to know the real flow. They will take their chances in court on the unknown, etc. Besides, if you can get a meter on there, you should have been able to get it stopped by now!

BP's odds of winning the courtroom spat over flow are are around one drop an hour.

I'm not sure I agree with your assessment.

My logic is as follows:
First, BP has 3D seismic on this structure or they never would have invested the money to drill the well. Granted that is an assumption but arguably a logical one. Second, they have electric logs over the production interval which will define the interval thickness and porosity for sure and they probably have a sonic log to tie to their seismic. Who knows what other tools they ran, they may even have side wall cores which could help tie down permeability. The also have a pretty good handle on reservoir pressure based upon mud densities while drilling and they may have run FT's for pressure and fluid samples.

From what I have read here they also have a previous penetration on the structure. That would be a second point of reference.

I never believed the well was flowing a mere 5,000 BOPD because in this environment I believe that rate would be uneconomic to produce given the current pricing strip. My back of the envelope Darcy's Law calculation indicated rates 4x their estimate but is SWAG in its entirety because of the multi-phase flow. I had to dig out my old copy of Craft & Hawkins to find the equations.

I think the BP reservoir engineers have a pretty could handle on flow within a range of outcomes.

What I don't understand is this: After all the talk about how important it was to get a clean level cut on the riser with the diamond saw, why didn't they level it off after shearing the riser?

The shear is well above the saw cut, could that uneven edge be responsible for some of the violent rocking of the cap? Why didn't they continue the saw cut before placing the cap? Surely this cut would have been easy (if time-consuming) now that the riser is gone?

Also, what kind of damage is that rough riser edge doing to the sealing grommet as the cap rocks? I just don't see how this seal can ever be effective, seems it will only get worse if they close the vents.

I also wondered about the actual procedure. Originally it was even planned to grind the cut after sawing. The saw formerly failed, probably because of the heavy riser. Now the riser is nearly away and the saw should be able to work.

The diamond saw failed because it was sawing into compression on the riser. BP's initial statements were something like, this saw is so powerful it can cut its way out of a bind. Anybody that has gotten a chainsaw stuck probably knows what happened. Since then the Dsaw is a source of embarrassment for BP.

We actually don't know why it failed - hung on drill pipe? caught in bind? wire damaged by contents of flowing oil? No details have been released - correct me if I'm wrong. They had straps and the claw on the riser and could have eased any bind - in theory at least.

Viking ROV1 is checking out another "Hat" on the ocean floor, maybe they are going to try another one?

I can pretty much guarantee BP has another tophat already being built from spec with regard to the performance or lack of the one in use right now. The one in use now wasn't built with regard of the riser being cut with the claw sheer.

I share the puzzlement of those who are questioning why a new riser cannot be bolted to the existing flange. There is also an obvious design issue for future deep-sea wellheads: their design should include high-pressure connection mating surfaces that can be decoupled in an emergency (e.g., via explosive bolts) and reattached to new riser fittings. This is nothing more than high-pressure piping design, and it is baffling that the BOP designers did not anticipate the need to reattach to existing piping in an emergency.

The design of all of this gear reflects no consideration of worst-case outcomes. We now have received a good lesson in the worst case, and new INTERNATIONAL regulations for deep-sea oil well hardware should be developed and universally enforced. Nobody should be putting a well head on the seabed without the confirmed ability to stop a blowout in a worst-case equipment failure scenario.

It doesn't need to be that complicated, just make the flange with two rows of bolt holes. The inner ones are for normal use, the outer ones are for affixing an emergency fix. KISS principle.

Does anyone know the status of Atlantis, the other big drilling rig drilling in 7000' of water? Have operations been stopped? Or are they proceeding and its yet another huge disaster waiting to happen? Am hoping that that name selection wasn't prophetic....

Yeah Casey, you would think whomever named that rig would be a little more superstitous!

Atlantis is in production although not at capacity. Its currently producing wells will continue to do so but no new wells will be drilled. Same for Thunder Horse and same for all other deepwater GoM platforms regardless of operator.

PS If you think Atlantis is prophetically named I am still stunned at Chevron actually naming a deepwater GoM field "Blind Faith" (Mississippi Canyon block 650).

Re: Blind Faith

Perhaps they are Clapton fans. Or Stevie Winwood.

Some genetic researchers named a gene they isolated "Sonic Hedgehog"

As Chevron put it at the time


"Blind Faith proves how determined Chevron is in pursuing the development of deep water projects," said Stephen Thurston, vice president of Deepwater Exploration and Projects for Chevron North America Exploration and Production.

Bet they'll pick the names more carefully in future (whenever that is).

Also for clarification the location I gave above (MC650) is the platform location. Wells are at MC695 and 696

Atlantis is NOT a drilling rig, never has been, never will be. Atlantis is strictly a production platform fed via subsea pipelines from remote subsea wells, many of them ten miles or more away. The drill rig for Atlantis is currently spudded in MC252 drilling the second Macondo relief well. It's name is the Development Driller II. There will be no drilling in the Atlantis field at least until the DD2 returns from it's work at Macondo.

As the deepwater drilling ban is for at least 6 months there will be no new drilling in the Atlantis field even when the DD2 is freed from MC252. Unless it's still trying to stop the leak in 6 months time that is...

Another geochemical fact I don't have handy: What is the critical depth below which methane hydrates are stable? I would guess that the riser pipe needs to be heated for its entire length below this depth so that the gas in it won't form clathrates with the formation waters also in the flow?


i suspect that inside that cap there is massive mixing of the oil and water rather than simply pure oil with water all forced out - something we cannot know for sure unless we are bp taking the oil out the other end but almost certainly the oil flow is drawing water with it up the pipe rather than their being an ideal water and oil separation. Then there is the turbulent flow along the pipe creating resistance. These problems get reduced if the seal can be improved. even with a good seal creating high pressure oil is still going to be forced out of the cap but water is less likely to go in.

It is said that methanhydrates need at a temperature of 2-4 °C a pressure of around 300 Psi (a depth of 600 feet). But here a mixture with warm methanole will be transported so i think this could spare some additional heating.

One would think that they could have designed some sort or rubber and steel gasket that could be placed over the flange and the bolts that secure it. This would make a very secure surface to mount the top hat to.

Absolutely! I've been thinking the same thing for two days. Why mess with that irregular and dubious cut at the top of the pipe at all? A two stage operation is needed, fit a beveled collar around the flange which just clears the bolts, fully gasketed and clamped to the BOP, then fit the cap to it. I doubt they could get those existing flange bolts loose at that depth, as was discussed in much earlier posts.

The slit made by the diamond saw alone is going to leak badly, the lower portion of the shear cut is likely to do the same with the thing rockin' and rollin' back and forth in the currents.

The version of the cap they're actually using *does* seal against the side of the flange, rather than to the riser pipe itself.

An extra set of holes and a larger flange sounds good, how about NASA type explosive bolts? If they were on the flange, we would have avoided much of the connectivity issues.

that is something i have thought a lot about. why didn't the system utilize more technology like the type you suggested? i was thinking something along the lines of a remotely triggered system (remote on shore or other vessel) that uses explosive charges to trigger a shear ram or other closure device. one that could cut through the DP if necessary. it seems like relying on the hydraulics to power it is a problem if the rig is lost. i guess what i am getting at is it would be nice to see some redundant safety on these things that do NOT rely on the rig. if the rig burns, the systems can still function rapidly. (i do realize that the BOP could have been activated with the ROVs, but that does not seem fast enough for the doomsday scenarios we can encounter).

(p.s. i don't know that any remote system would even work at this depth?...)

okay, now tell me why these ideas are stupid and amateur...i am ready for it.

The BOP has it's own hydraulic pressure system independent of the rig - the accumulator bottles filling the cage all around it. It has a 'deadman' trigger that is supposed to operate the shears and close the well if power, hydraulics, and communication with the rig are all lost... but this system failed to operate. It is possible/probable that leaks in the hydraulics compromised the accumulator system and there was no pressure available when it was needed.

Options like you suggest would seem to be in order given the consequences of failure.

Imagine putting explosive bolts on a BOP, and then someone (disgruntled employee, saboteur, terrorist) blowing them off and instantly creating a massive spill- not sure you'll see explosive bolts soon.

A damaged, untested BOP, on the other hand, is a major foul-up, and BP and Transocean will surely pay for this snafu.

How is this different than an ROV hot stab capability? Its a question of risk management and the specific technology chosen must be able to do the job without being subject to undue risk of accidental deployment. What was in place failed, and the potential failure of such systems has a probability of much greater than zero.

As for 'creating a massive spill' - how would severing the drill/casing and closing off the well accidentally cause a massive spill?

@BB551: phase diagram info for methane hydrates.


Thanks. Looks like the biggest risks might actually be in the middle of the riser where it has cooled but the pressure is still high, not at the bottom where the flow from the BOP is still quite hot.


Agreed that pressure in the cap must be maintained higher than seawater pressure to avoid inward leakage of seawater. But, rather than trying to control and monitor that with a partially leaking seal (and rocking cap), a simple control valve arrangement at the top of the cap can do it in a much more controllable way. One valve controls the upward flow to the riser and can throttle down to keep cap pressure > seawater pressure. The other valve is like a relief valve and allows leakage to the ocean to keep cap pressure from being too high. I think these valves might be in place, but they are probably ROV-controlled and not actually pressure control valves.

So, it seems to me that the seal should be as tight as possible, and doesn’t need to leak outward so long as the cap pressure is maintained above ambient seawater pressure. What that delta needs to be is the subject of the other debate re the need to push the oil up vs. it getting sucked up by the differential between 1 mile of seawater head vs. oil head.

I can only defer to the expertise of the engineers that have hugely more knowledge and experience with these things than me, and guess that they decided a visible leak provides a more immediate empirical feedback for regulating everything. The composition of the flow up the pipe is unknown and subject to continuous change; If this works I'd guess they are going to have to watch the bottom leak like a hawk and make continuous adjustments to the flow rate for many months to come until the relief well is completed and the flow plugged.

I also wonder (just guessing) if they are now terrified of sending a pressure spike down the BOP and into the well for fear of triggering something catastrophic. With a floppy cap this is essentially impossible. With a tight cap, some sudden malfunction or clog could easily send a spike of thousands of PSI down the well and bust something out. My household water supply is pressurized by a ram pump, in with a teeny brass flap valve slamming shut in a 1" PVC pipe with only a few gallons per minute of flow through it creates a pressure spike of about 100 PSI that reverberates through the system (and pumps water to my storage tank). Try to imagine the pressure spikes that could result from sudden unexpected interruptions of flow in this much more massive system, that could be caused by (for instance) a chunk of clathrates becoming dislodged from the walls and suddenly clogging the pipe. Kind of like a vascular embolism, with potential for equally catastrophic results.

I frankly could not believe that they so quickly abandoned going for a careful, clean and square cut. It seems the hasty decision to shear the pipe has made management of a controllable 'leakage' seal more difficult. As originally proposed, one was led to believe that the plan was to cut and then "dress" the cut.

More fundamental: Given that the riser pipe diameter is so much smaller than the leak pipe diameter, why would one expect it to handle but a fraction of the mass flow exiting the well without creating tremendous uncontrollable back pressure i.e. leakage at the so called seal? Suppose that the top-hat was lowered onto the well with only the 15 ft or so of the riser stub and the oil was free to enter the ocean. In this case all the density driven hydraulics would not apply, but a mass balance would simply indicate all the mass would have to go through the smaller riser diameter or 'leak' out the bottom.

It seems obvious that the performance expectation of this design is to recover but a fraction of the oil. I hope the amount at least makes up for the increase in flow created by cutting the riser off.

I am a noob here but I'm an old farmer with 20 years experience in fiberglass plant maintenance. Been reading everything on this site since I found it. Check me out on some thoughts?

Seems to me the pump is already down there, producing roughly 571 atmospheres of pressure on a 70/30 stream of gas/oil, at the sea floor.

With a ??" stand pipe firmly attached and sealed on the Bop top, what would the pressure be at the surface?

Wouldn't the diameter of the stand pipe affect the flow?

Would the velocity be greater top vs bottom?

Would the mile column of the mix produce so much head that the well would blow out?

Wouldn't the weight of that column act as a throttle on the total flow?

I think I've found the mother-lode of reasonable, rational, experienced, troubleshooters here and I feel right at home.

Thanks in advance for any answers

So does anyone know if this rig is "working"? Is it actually opened up yet, is it open and this is just as good as it can do, or has it failed?

Here's my stupid question for the day....What kind of success rate do these relief wells have in hitting their target on the first try? I ask this because I saw something on bloomberg in which they say this thing could be gushing until December. So if the relief wells miss their mark on the first try, do they have to start all over again?

No it is not a start over. They back off a bit and stab again. It's a week or two per try.

There were some good posts on this topic over the past week or so. While a 'hit' on the first try is not likely, they don't have to 'start over'. They just back up the hole a bit and try again after adjusting their calculations. In practice it can take several tries to get the type of connection to the blowing well that they need. Each case is different, so estimating the time needed is just guessing - although the time required to reach the vicinity of the target can be estimated based on the previous experience. That is why the 'August' date has been circulating. Could be sooner, could take longer. The reason to drill more than one well is to offset the chance that any given well will run into problems that will cause delays.

aliilaali (sp?) has made a couple of excellent posts on this. From memory, the technology claims it can hit a 10'-radius ball on the first try 90% of the time. My read on him is he's a bit skeptical about that.

They do not start over. They do sensor readings and arrive at a new targeting solution, reset the drill, which takes a few days (concrete plug and a host of other drilling niceties we don't want to know about), and take another shot at the target.

The relief well in the East Timor Sea took five tries. As understand it, the retry process took a little less than one month, which would mean the retries took about one week each.

Thanks guys, appreciate the answers.

From what I have seen the technology to find the target and kill the well is much better in recent years. In multiple wells that I have been involved with the success rate on the first try is 100 percent.

This well should actually be easier than the ones I have worked on, because this well has recent MWD and gyro surveys using the same technology that they are using on the relief wells. This is not like finding a needle in a haystack when you use the most modern and the best technology.

With all of BP's failures I would be suprised to see the first relief well fail to find the target due to poor directional work.

When I first read about the technology and the anecdotal stories of its successes, I thought the same, but people keep saying otherwise. It will be what it will be. Hope you are right about its capabilities.

And for those who might not be aware BP (nor any other company) directionally drills wells. This job is done by very specialized contractors. Any BP hands on the floor will just be standing there with their hands in their pockets and watching. If they are smart they'll keep their mouths shut and let the pros do their job. That's what I do and the subcontractor usually makes me look very smart. The trick is to keep quiet and not ruin the illusion.

As the saying goes:

"Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought stupid, than to open it and prove it" My question to repairmen/contractors is, "What can I do to help beside getting out of your way"?

RM, your comments and observations are most excellent. I've recently donated to TOD and will do so again in the near future. If I ever pass through your part of the country I'd love to buy you a few "cold ones".

Heading Out (or a moderator), would you consider adding this URL to the lead article? It explains in graphical form exactly how this operation is supposed to work. Before I saw it, I was convinced that the top cap operation was FUBAR, but it demonstrated that what's happening now (leakage at the cap is *exactly* what they expected, and part of the plan.



Your bp graphic shows what a total failure todays operation is compared to that graphic. In your graphic the oil vents always from the vent valves till they are closed and then there is a tiny leak. whereas in reality oil is venting massively from the bottom of the cap from the moment the cap was placed till this time 12 hours later.

while everyone should watch that animation, I am not sure the current leakage is "exactly" what they expected. To the untrained eye, it seem like an awful lot of oil leaking from under the cap. Unless I have missed something, they haven't attempted to close the oil valves on the cap yet (designed vent oil/gas to lower pressure) -- why haven't they done this? The obvious speculation is that if they did so the pressure would be too great and the cap would not stay on.

Based on ROV footage, it doesn't look good, IMO. We have 2 cams doing disperant ops, two more labeled "dispersant hose relocation", one monitoring the cap from a bit of a distance (not gripping it), and then there is Viking Poseidon : ROV 1 that is current manipulating a hook to presumably move another version of the cap. In summary, none of the cams show any efforts to improve the seal or close the valves on the existing cap (of course, I don't even know if such effort may be possible for the ROVs at this juncture). I think they have given up on the first cap and are leaving it there because it is better than leaving it wide open, as they prep another cap to try next....

Deleted by self, after I read all of bb551's comments, and goodmanj's link.

How about this?

The simple reason for the "bad seal" maybe to fact that they haven't opened the up the flow topside yet.

According to them they are now receiving flow in the drillship. As far as whether they're still able to increase the flow any further is an open question.

In former plans BP meant to set another BOP (I think one stage of it would be sufficient) on the old one, alternatively to the "loose cap" as applied now. It was often discussed why not to unbolt and mount a valve or a BOP-stage on it. But the answers to that question given here were not really uniformly.

Based upon observation and experience, the efforts will fail until a relief well is complete. In fact, I think they keep making it worse. You know what killed President Garfield? Not the assassin's bullet, but all the attempts to remove the bullet with the substandard healthcare of the day.

On the live video … I see them shooting a white liquid into the oil and gas column. Is this methanol to prevent the formation of hydrates? Could this be a sign they already have a hydrate problem?

It seems like public pressure was sufficient to get BP to release these videos in the first place. Couldn't we also get an audio link from a BP technical expert describing what is happening in real time?

If you're talking about the liquid from the thin white tube held by one of the ROVs, that's dispersant being injected into the oil/gas/seawater plume.

Yes ... that's it. Thank you!

Hitting a 7" tube (casing) isnt going to be easy, Are the DD's gonna draw straws for this one??? It will be quite an accomplishment to hit this target the first time hence the redundancy of the second well. Now my querie regarding the releif well, when they mill into the casing of the original wellbore, how is the relief wells casing cemented to insure when they pump the kill fluid, do they drill thru the cement originaly intended to seal the 7" in place and if so how do they know TOC without CBL data?
++ ROV pilots Rock ++
Does Play Station count as Training???
Best Regards to All at the Oil Drum and lets never forget the 11 lost souls.

Now that they have a riser back in place, how about this: 1) Run a seamless production casing with cement shoe and centralizers at each joint (to prevent flexing and kinking under the continued turbulent flow). 2) At the BOP stack, slowly thread the casing into the 9 7/8 that's there now, then run casing to TD. The production casing will increase the flow velocity of the oil for a while, but the centralizers will take care of the casing. 3) Duplex or triplex the Halliburton pumps, run a mix of sand and thixotropic cement into the casing at high enough volume to kill the flow. The seamless casing will stand the pressure of the triplexed pumps, and the volume can displace the production flow by the added density of the sand in the cement. 4) Pump cement until you see the pressure differential go well past the pressure nesessary to halt flow of oil, then pump some more. 5) Run the plug till it bumps. You can't simply fill the casing as well as the annulus, because you're going to need the open casing. 6) Wait for the cement to set, then run in and perforate several hundred feet above the producing horizon. 7) Run cement again, without sand, to seal the annulus and cut off flow around the bad cement job that will still be leaking.


Can they thread anything through the BOP stack at this point? Somehow I doubt there is a free passage down into the well.

Don't they still have drill pipe in the BOP's and possibly further in the well? Obstruction!

I also don't think the pressure and flow would allow the casing to be run in the well it would be forced out.

Can anyone confirm the integrity of the well t this point? Is there pipe still in the casing?

Forgive me if this is redundant, but why not go through the BOP with some 3 or 4 inch Drill Pipe and pump the kill mud out at the bottom of the well?
Open up the rams as needed. grab the existing drill string and pull it out if needed.

It seems obvious we have a patent lumen through which a skinny drill string could pass.

I could guess reasons, but am curious why not do this?


The relief well is not the slam dunk deal the media seem to be proposing. Given the problems on the wild well I think you can rest assured that the integrity of the relief well willbe +100A1. That is routine, killing a well flowing at possibly 18,000 b/d is not going to be an over in a day. My limited experience of blowouts (5) was that we invariably put a new BOP on top of the old one or in the case of a production well a new valve (after putting the fire out). On the one bottom kill it took weeks, on the initial attempt we were not even sure we were getting fluid to the right place.

Cutting off the riser is an incredible achievement and I look longingly at that flange on top of the BOP. I appreciate that BP may have concerns about the integrity of the casing if the well is shut in but making a secure seal to the top flange offers the opportunity to kill the well.

The ROV footage shows oil venting above the LMRP and not at the seal, indicating that the flow is being deliberately vented for reasons unknown. The drill collar ID will certainly restrict the flow if we are looking at 18,000 b/d. I can't quantify the rate but having tested wells in 4 continents it looks like a barnburner. I just hope the surface facilities on the vessel can handle 20,000 b/d

I think they are venting in order to prevent hydrate formation and also to funnel pressure otherwise the tophat would blow off since it's not latched down.

I think you're right though since we have direct access into the well why not try to kill it.

I'm glad they're working on stopping this disaster. But why isn't Tony Hayward in jail? Look at what he's done.

Maybe because this isn't Venezuela..... on second thought, not yet.

And Hayward was President of BP Venezuela from 1995 to 1997. The following year they elected Hugo Chávez...

And as some Europeans who worked there around the time of the nationalization related me, the U.S. administration's actions since coming to power are eerily similar. They are shocked that Americans can't see it... or maybe they do. Too late now,we are going to be in the economic toilet. In a few years PO and this spill will be the least of our problems.

DD, when Hugo nationalizes a company, he actually pays off the shareholders (not vouching for the value calculation, but I believe he writes them a check.) Americans just want to take it.

More accurately Hugo promises to pay some amount to them someday sometimes.

Same as we did for GM.

I've said this before: Tony the Twit has the greatest job security of any BP employee for the moment. If the Board of Directors at BP were to fire him now, they would be admitting they hired an incompetent Twit... which would make them look like incompetent Twits. And who would want to replace him in the middle of this dog's breakfast? Only another incompetent Twit. Carry on bravely, Tony. A knighthood awaits you.

Yes, I know it's a compromised product (so please, no straw man - ? - about how BP can't just suck up that oil and sell it, blah.) We still have a right to know what BP is doing with that siphoned oil/mix. Even if they can't just sell it per se, they have transparency problems. How do we know if they'll process/dispose (in whatever sense) of it properly, safely, honestly report income/loss from dealing with it, etc?

Also, please don't follow calls to boycott BP oil stations. The poor schmucks who run the franchises didn't know the score, don't take it out on them. That's like punishing the poor in a nation subject to an embargo because we don't like their rulers (who often avoid harm by just sucking up more relative value for themselves.) Some fellows at a BP station I filled up at yesterday were so grateful to us customers, they were outside asking if anyone needed help, doing favors etc. And it's better for BP to have income, less excuse they can't pay fines etc. (Keeping the bill from going to the taxpayers, as usual, is a major political effort we must involve in.)

It's a crude oil/seawater mix. I'm sure the water can be separated out, then the crude can be refined, then sold as refined products.

As of 9:33AM PDT I can confirm the cap is not secured on the flange. It is bouncing up and down with the variation in the flow. I just watyched a huge billow emrge which pushed the cap up a good 4 inches. The ROV appears to be perfectly static. With all that oil blowing past the seal it is probably degraded to uselessness by now.

Back to the cut - what is stopping them from cutting the riser base again with the diamond wire? It would not bind sine the rise is gone. Seems there is enough material left to shave off an inch or so.

I am also very worried about the state of those rams. They were never designed to handle this. Clearly since the drill pipe is seen in the cut riser the rams are holding it back from sinking into the well which shows at least some of them worked. Add to that the tremednous flow and I wonder is a complete ram failure could be likely.

As the riser was being lifted after the second cut the ROVs looked in the ends. I thought I saw a second pipe in the end nearest the BOP, but not in the other end. Did anyone else see this, or was I just imagining things. What would 2 pipes mean?

read the previous threads - it was a folded over bit resulting from the shearing

Someone needs to ask officials what they know about the condition of the well bore, and whether it was damaged in the initial accident, the sinking of the ship (deforming riser and increasing pressures in the well), or during the failed "top kill" procedure. They have 46 days of data they are sitting on, and nobody is saying a thing. I've written every journalist who has "clues" about this issue, and even received two replies saying they have concerns about the same but have been unable to get a response. Even if they can get mud and concrete up the well bore through a relief well, this may not fix the problem if there is fracturing or deformation in the formation and oil and gas starts rising up through the sea floor. If the well pipe is not falling down the well, and the rams are not holding it in place (per your description), it seems reasonable to suggest there is an obstruction somewhere in the BOP or further down the well.

It is quite normal to have oil mixed with wather in regular production. Some wells are even paying with an amount of wather of 90 %. So oil industry is quite familiar in separating oil from wather.

BP needs to get serious. If it bought a few miles of those builders rubbish chutes that connect together it could raise the oil to a height where there was no formation of these clathrate nasties and collect it from that point onwards. How about 500 metres of one metre plastic pipe?? Come on guys! you can do it! If we all chip in we could even provide the stuff for them.

I wonder why they haven't tried this, it seems like an obvious solution to me- keep the stuff in a localized area and suck it up. You wouldn't even need the dispersants.

Maybe the oil would eat the plastic? Gasoline doesn't eat milk jugs...

BP has been on my "no buy" list for ages, because the current event is just par for the course with them.

Corporate culture has a way of running much deeper and wider than people expect it to, and doing business with a company when you dislike the way they do business is just stupid.

"We still have a right to know what BP is doing with that siphoned oil/mix."

I would expect them to take it to coastal refining facilities like Texas City for processing.

Well, it's time to shut off the video and stop reading incessantly - it's pretty clear to me that cannot do much and a major oil leak will remain until perhaps the relief well intercept later this summer or fall. Also, I've grown weary of the corporate apologists and shills, and those who are just excited by all the cool technology and the thrill of watching a train wreck. Enjoy the show.

I'll keep an eye on the results at Desdemona Despair, along with our other accomplishments. In addition to the ecological catastrophe, I believe the economic and political consequences will be greater than people realize yet.

Hey i like that website/blog!

The fact is since BP also distributes petrol boycotting BP franchised station isn't going to work. The only thing we can hope for now is BP coming up with a better designed tophat and containing more of the spill. Not positive but i think GOM is ruined and frankly I wouldn't trust any seafood coming from that region. Since you don't really know where most seafood is EXACTLY coming from the safest thing is avoiding it indefinitely unless you know and trust the source.

"BP Plc.'s containment cap over its stricken Gulf of Mexico well is collecting about 1,000 barrels per day, the top U.S. official overseeing the cleanup effort said on Friday" [Reuters]

so if 20% more flow was created by cutting the pipe and only 1000 barrels are collected out of 20,000 originally flowing, didnt cutting the pipe make things worse?

Which is less than they were capturing with their contraption from a couple weeks ago, which attached to the bent pipe end.

I'm watching the Video Wall, hopefully when things get running they will capture the percentages they are forecasting but at this point it looks worse than ever. It is nice to see they put up a picture of a dead dolphin on the wall and I see that other media are finally starting to focus on the toll this is taking on aquatic/bird life. Why it has taken so long I do not know, meanwhile there are reports that BP has been strong arming reporters by keeping them away from certain coastal areas.

Well they 'could' always 'Nuke it from Orbit', that seems to solve most problems.

One more time.

The current approach being tried has simply not seen any calculations and is driven by non-technical considerations. This is largely another "siphoning" time waster they tried before. Sure they will bring a trickle to the surface (like 10% of the flow) and will get headlines that say "all on track". 90% of the stuff is going into the Gulf.

Do the math. Draw a control volume around the cap. Look at the inlet and outlet pressures.

The inlet pressure will vary between the stagnation pressure inside the BOP (~3 ksi) and if you temporarily assume a good seal to the top flange, stagnation pressure of the reservoir (~13 ksi). The oulet pressure is about 2 ksi, if the entire upper tube volume is filled with oil. On the other side of the seal is 2.2 ksi water pressure.

Now look at the seal. Can it stand up to 3-11 ksi pressure differential? N.O. It's going to leak like a sieve, with an alternative outlet area larger than the area of the tiny pipe they cleverly fitted on this engineering marvel. So where is majority of the flow going to go? Right out into the water. "The chimney effect"? Sure, consider the tiny pipe evacuated entirely - pure vacuum, 0 psi. The seal will still leak like a sieve, it can't hold any significant pressure differential.

This is just a dumb static calculation. If you add the complexity of viscous, multi-phase flow that is really coming out of the BOP, very little of it will be channeled into the tiny pipe over the terribly inefficient blob of the manifold. They didn't even try to reduce the diameter over a large length! Remember, flow has momentum, viscosity and turbulence, it takes a lot of work to take it from one geometric form factor and "fit" it into a smaller space - you have to do work and in order to do that you must be able to contain manifold pressure. This is so basic, any engineer who really works with this stuff should be able to do this in his or her sleep.

I am now conviced that BP is not running this with engineering first, but rather as a PR excercise with managers in charge who really do not know the core business of their company.

The only way they can deliver this devil of a flow to the surface is in a 21" riser pipe - exactly as they do in production.

Right On!

Their biggest size is a little shy of the requirement, but I am sure someone will QUICKLY make a custom one for BP,


Do they have fluid dynamicists with big computers working on this problem?

Do they have traditional engineers with a calculator working on this problem?

Also I have not heard that they tried to activate the hydraulics on the H-4 head to pop it off.




Two more to add to your shopping list, being mindful of risk mitigation:



Or maybe even better: http://www.fastorq.com/hydraulic_nut_splitters.aspx

But would they have problems at that depth?

It really appears to be driven by considerations other than physics and engineering at this point.


I see your point and I agree that the original top hat was doomed at the outset, not because of hydrates but because of fluid dynamics. There was a simple solution - but that's history for now.

The current situation is more promising IF the well head pressure at the vessel can be kept close to zero, the column and friction losses need to be less (or very slightly greater) than the hydrostatic head of sea water. To this end the string to surface needs to have minimum friction loss and the mention of drill collars in the string with a 2.75 inch id does not sound encouraging. IF the well is producing 5,000 b/d we might be OK if it looks to be 18,000 b/d there will still be signifcant oil going into the ocean.

Personally I would get the flange off/gate valve with matching flange/single bolt/swing the valve through the flow/put the rest of the bolts in. Close in well and bullhead via the kill line.


Kenengineer [quote]: "Personally I would get the flange off/gate valve with matching flange/single bolt/swing the valve through the flow/put the rest of the bolts in. Close in well and bullhead via the kill line."


This sounds really great to me (if I understand it) … but aren't they haven't trouble sending fluid and pressure down the well. If there is a borehole collapse or a weak spot in the formation, don't they risk opening it up and having oil and gas spill out through the sea floor? Isn't there a risk of cratering the well head?

Go back and read bb551's posts again - he has explained this very very clearly

He is wrong.

If you are worried about ice at this point, you are missing the point. Though the ice will certainly add an element of deadly fun to this experiment and maybe can be blamed, instead of general engineering incompetence.

Turbulent multi-phase flow will not go where you would like it to go like a pot of still water.

Especially from a 21" pipe into a 6" pipe over a two foot, sharp draft angle long manifold with an open end. Especially with even narrower flow restrictions up the line.

It's like a bad joke that keeps repeating itself.

I would expect that the people actually working on this have a vast amount of real-world experience at dealing with multiphase flow, turbulent and laminar, over hill and dale and under the sea, as well as plenty of expertise on the capacities of pipes and other devices to handle this kind of material. I also would expect that they know far more than we do about the condition of the BOP and whether they think it can withstand any more overpressuring without risking catastrophic failure.

Some folks here talk like these are a bunch of shade tree mechanics just making crap up as they go along based on nothing but hunches and wild guesses.

It may be that there is no good solution. A tight fitting riser might carry to much risk of a bigger blowout, a loose fitting capture device might not be capable of containing a substantial portion of the leak no matter how it is constructed and deployed. Sometimes it turns out that yer just screwed, and you have to do the best ypu can.

I am pretty sure BP has good analysts who are capable of very quickly modeling proposed solutions and giving reasonable engineering answers as to their adequacy to the task at hand.

I am also pretty sure they are not using them. The tell-tale signs are all over the place that these fixes were put together by someone who is in fact not familiar with the technical complexities of the problem.

Your trust that the processes inside the BP organizatin has yielded a high-efficiency, high-competence group that is driving the technical side of the proposed solutions with adequate real-time analytic support is misplaced. Often, it will be a hastily put together group of those the top managers know personally, with everyting that it entails. Design processes during panic situations can also be hijacked by group-think, fear of losing one's job and overbearing pressure by the management to do something stupid today, instead of something smart in a week.

If BP technical analysis has concluded that the risk of actually bringing this oil to the surface using standard production methods is too risky for BP to try (and I conceed considerable risk exists), they should say so and step aside. A smaller organization (Wild Well Controls?), without the giant liability hanging over their heads (like BP has) should step in and take the high risk option.

I know some of the people working on this thing over on the third floor at BP's office and they are bringing every bit of engineering and technical expertise available in the industry to bear on fixing this thing. You simply don't know what you're talking about and it's quite unfortunate that you continue in this vein.

Then prove it.

Show us that you can take a developed, multi-phase, turbulent flow in a 21" pipe and force it into the 6" pipe in a stubby short manifold with no back seal. And publish the CFD analysis, by the way - love to see those pressure line countour plots.

Make that 20k bpd appear at the surface through that narrow piping you put together, instead of backleaking into the Gulf through an ill-fitting piece of rubber

Talk is cheap, I agree. If the BP engineers can make this work in more than a comsetic way, I will gladly admit I was wrong.

You could helpfully put some analysis out here too. You're here. They're not.

BB551 is right. A 6" pipe will work for up to roughly 15,000 bpd. Others have done calcs here at TOD going back weeks. If they have a good idea of the total flow (including gas), they should be able to pick the right riser size. There has to be a certain amount of leakage allowed out of the bottom of the cap so that pressure inside the cap does not exceed the static water pressure by very much otherwise it will be difficult to hold the cap down. Even without a good seal now it looks like the small mass of the cap and no lower anchoring is allowing the cap to bounce during methane burps. Maybe they need to have a way to clamp restraints for the cap under the flange to keep the cap from bouncing around.

This is actually a good point and it is just an unfortunate behavior of large organization. Building a super highly skilled technical team can be quite difficult for a large number of reasons. In a situation like this, one of the most significant is that the people with the responsibility for creating the team and signing off will not know enough about the technical staff to do it reliably. If it was easy for top management to identify good engineers business would function a whole lot differently.

Not saying whether BP's team is any good or not, but just because BP really wants them to be doesn't necessarily make it so.

I had no idea until a few hours ago they were going from 21" to 6" pipe. What the heck are they thinking? Save some more money? Whoever is concocting these plans is a fool, I don't care how many degrees they may have somehow acquired.

Thank you, bb551, for injecting some intelligence into this in spite of efforts by others!

At midnight last night ... Thad Allen indicated they were receiving 1,000 bbl/day on the surface. But it included the caveat: "I think we need to caution against overoptimism here."


OK, you got me. I've been an engineer for about 30 years but the last fluids class I took was then maybe 32 years ago. If you're a fluid-flow engineer, I'd love to see a rough calculation of a turbulent mix entering a pipe which should otherwise have laminar flow. I really like seeing at least some math to back up a mental diagram. Where is the error in my rough calcs?

It's not really a pipe problem. It is a manifold problem. If you want it to be a pipe problem you have to keep the 21" pipe. Once you untroduce the change from 21" to 6" over a 2' length, the problem becomes a different animal, which is mostly controlled by viscosity, momentum and multi-phase interactions.

You can create a static model, much like you did and it looks great. That high water pressure just seals up the lower rubber lip, all the flow nicely fits itself into the 6 inch pipe and the lower density of oil just lifts up the flow to the surface. The gas coming out of solution helps out to - you have most of that 20 kbd delivered to the ships above.

But what really happens is that the flow shoots out of the BOP and hits the upper roof of the cap. It deflects downward, mixing with the new flow, creating vortices and complex interactions, looking for a path out of this situation. It has a 6" hole above with a lower pressure than the stagnation pressure of the flow and a big exit down below (where the "seal" is), also with a lower pressure than the stagnation pressure of the flow (though the differential is a bit higher on the top exit). Some of the flow finds the upper exit, most of it goes out the bottom. Since static equilibrium is NEVER established in the manifold this small and flow this turbulent, the bottom seal NEVER seals ane the chimney effect is NEVER established.

It's like they did the static calculations but completely forgoteen they are not dealing with a bucket of still water, but a highly unstable, turbuleht flow that isn't even coming out too straight. They made their dynamic problem considerably worse by choosing a very small pipe on top and a very stubby, inefficient manifold shape. In doing it they insured that the bottom seal will never seal and most of the flow will come out the bottom. And by the way, the seal is degraded quickly by the escaping oil, so its sealing efficiency is compromised almost immediately.

Also wish they could use ethanol instead of methanol.

They don't need to use either. The well will be running hotter than hell at these flow rates. There is no chance of hydrates at the well head. I will be very interested after the event to find out what direct evidence they have of hydrates.

I've done a bit of cogitating on that too....The oil should be hot as hell as it comes out of the BOP--I remember drilling mud being scalding hot in the possum belly of a jackup in 300 feet of water.

The place where we know they had trouble with hydrate formation was at the end od the riser--which had a fair ways to travel and cool off.

I'm not sure how far up the current pipe the gas/oil/water mix will travel before it cools off enough to form hydrates, and if perhaps the mnixture would then be a pressure where the hydrates are not stable.

The gas will expand rapidly as it rises; surface pressure is about 1/150th of pressure at the sea floor. This contributes a substantial amount of cooling, doesn't it?

Yes it should contribute to cooling, but isn't pressure also a component of the hydrate crystal's stability? IOW don't they need to be both cold AND under high pressure to stick around? My borderline engineering experience is with gases (local exhaust ventillation) and not liquids, but if the gas is expanding wouldn't you have something of a pressure drop to go with it? Taken to the next step, I haven't seen the hydrate phase diagrams, but I was wondering if it would be hot for them to be stable--until the pressure was too low.

And don't get wrong, I'm glad they have pre-engineered some anti "icing" capability into this top hat--I'm just hoping that the situation comes to where THAT is the critical factor.

From all the latest pictures I've seen thus far, it appears that there is still one helluva lot of oil still escaping from under the poorly sealed LMRP.

To get some idea of what the flow really is, that picture of the oil coming out of the relief port of the LMRP prior to it being closed could be quite revealing, as that appears to be a jet of fluid moving at a moderately high velocity. To me, that thing looks like a big fire hose turned up full blast! Does anyone here know what the diameter of the relief port is and if there is more than one of them? If so, then an eyeball estimate of the flow could be made and compared with some of the estimates being bandied about.

Being that the riser with the drill pipe inside had to be severed with that huge shear instead of being smoothly cut with the unsuccessful wire saw, we evidently now have a very uneven edge to the pipe onto which the seal grommet of the LMRP is supposed to fit. What I don't understand is why it would not be possible to grind down the rough pipe edge with some sort of power rotary grinding tool (which are quite common in industry and come in all shapes, sizes, and types) to make the edge of the pipe more or less even, or at least a lot more even than it is now. They seem to have all sorts of tools being used by the ROVs, so are we to believe that there are no power grinders that can be used at depth by a robotic arm?

There are two of the visible in the photos from fabrication (if I'm remembering the right device) and it looked like the diameter is in the range 2"-4".

Amazing all the fields I am learning about..waiting for an astronomer to pipe in. Would stagnation be reduced by creating a production reservoir halfway up or beyond icing zone that offered several taps. Thinking 15’ to 20’ diameter 30’ height with top fill (buoyancy balanced of course), production feeds off bottom and run off to 2-3 ship stations away from platform running pumps. Create the ole drain elbow effect to keep riser pressure where you want it and absorb kicks and maximize the amount of oil you could pump….now If I just had 6 months and 100 million dollars to make one so you could see what I was thinking.

Check out nola.com. A post over there was hashing over the phrase "unknown unknowns". Stellar evolution was used as an example; "mass" fell into the category of unknown unknowns until Einstein published. Sheesh. Ya get all types.

Stupid question of the day. Everyone keeps saying they can't free up the BOP's flange due to not being able to 1: they don't have equipment with enough torque to unscrew the nuts, and 2: the way the flange is designed they don't have access to be able to cut the bolts.

Personally I have no idea what type of equipment is or isn't available that will work under water at that kind of depth and by ROV's.

So I'll just ask, Do they have drills that could drill the bolts from the nutted end to a depth of the nut that won't damage the flange and would allow punching the bolts out? Or does any kind of nutcracker device exist.

Just curious,


GreyGhost; http://www.fastorq.com/hydraulic_nut_splitters.aspx

We also used to have purely mechanical versions of this, I am sure they still exist.

I am by no means an engineer, but a drunken chimpanzee could have seen the current fix would never work. I had hoped those sharp gussets protruding out were some sort of clamping or mating device....but nooooooooooooooooo. This is sort of like putting your hand over the broken valve a beer keg. Looks like you are doing something but still losing all the beer.

Whitf: Exactly, it LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING!! All PR from both BP and USG perspective for the majority of the dumb smucks watching CNN, et.al. The only thing that will likely work is the relief well(s) if they can hit their target. But to just sit back and do "nothing" during the time required to drill would be politically UNACCEPTABLE, so we watch a dance of the robotic underwater vechicles and wait.

Even if you crack the nuts you still have to remove the stem of the bolt. The answer is simply drill them out the question is can those little ROV's apply enough downward pressure and what happens drilling over the top( the oil would kill the visibility) So now you drill on the nut head itself.....I can't see how they would be able generate enough torque.

Man, who engineered this device?

About 40 years ago I spent several summers while in High school and college working for a small city (Galveston) water department. These guys had eighth grade educations but they would have never come up something this dumb. They knew how to pipe and to fix leaks on huge water mains while under pressure.

Here's what I think they would have done after the riser was cut to form a seal if the flange bolts could not be cut.

Get a piece of pipe about an inch in inside diameter larger than the flange. It needs to be about twenty feet long. At one end put a valve and a nipple and open the valve all the way.

At the other end you are going to connect this piece of pipe to the flange and the stub of remaining riser. Cut four slits in the pipe parallel to the length of the pipe about six inches long and this will be the basis for a clamp around the flange and riser. Essentially make a clamp that operates like an automotive hose clamp and put it around the slitted end of the pipe. Flare the four sections created by the slitted pipe. Weld a ninety degree lip on the four sections to grab the bottom side of the riser flange. Make holes in the lip corresponding to where the nuts on the flange are and use the nuts to help secure the lip if at all possible.

Design a soft lead collar about six inches wide to fit around the stubbed up riser pipe. It should be thick enough to extend about 1/2 inch past the diameter of the riser flange, but narrow enough to fit inside the twenty foot piece of pipe. If the lead collar has to be cut because it can't be put on under pressure, cut it once, expand it as little as possible to get it around the riser stub and use the robots to pound it back into shape around the riser stub.

Now slip your the slitted end of the twenty foot pipe with valve and nipple over the riser and flange. Use the clamp to squeeze the slitted pipe around the flange and squeeze the lead till it comes out the slits. It the robots can do it, pound the lead coming out of the slits for a tighter seal. The right angled lip should secure around the bottom of the flange.

Maybe this would seal. Then tie production pipe on to the nipple and begin to produce the oil. Then slowly shut the valve to increase pressure forcing the lip around the bottom of the flange to seal even tighter. This should seal even more. If it really seals well, do another kill shot if you don't want to produce.

I know one thing, this would work a whole lot better than that contraption with the fancy name BP came up with.

Maybe BP needs to start talking to some city water department people who fix leaks for a livelihood.

Great idea except:

1. Too simple
2. Makes sense.

I have a feeling James Cameron is somewhat right stating that BP doesn't have the right equipment for the job. With his contacts, experience in deep water filming and exploration could help not only with equipment but ROV operators also. The problem from what I can see is BP trying to keep this in-house. I find it hard to believe those bolts can't be taken off or at the very least drilled out and re-threaded.

also whatever happened with the Kevin Costner machines?

just get them to fix it all up in post production with a bit of CGI...

Hollywood to the rescue

Good question. Have you seen this one too?


The connect-the-dots question is why haven't we heard anything about getting fish finders on trawlers tweaked for oil plumes and catching oil. If we can't get the big tankers, why not divide and conquer? You can't tell me the appropriate agency doesn't know how it wants seawater remediated. Even if the separation is 97 to 99%, what level of post filtering do we need add to get it to pass muster? It seems like if the EPA, NOAA, USCG and the fishermen teamed up on this, it would serve the nation's interest better. Deferring to BP on this seems like a false choice easily corrected by executive order. Collect evidence for the DOJ, reduce the environmental damage, fulfill Constitutional oaths and show what good governance really means. How can that be bad?

BTW, what kind of respirators does anyone doing recovery need to filter out that they are breathing in?

I think Cameron was talking about "morons". So maybe not an equipment problem as much as something else.

Well this does not seem to be working at all. Even with a good sit it seems likely - from what I"m seeing and reading here - the components below are probably compromised and would fail big time if the top seal actually held?

As I understand it the basic problem is overcoming the pressure. Is that correct?

Actually what they should be doing is taking this flow to the surface WITHOUT increasing the pressure in the BOP and below.

First, they need a big pipe. 21" sounds like a good number to me. Small pipes can't be used because they will restrict the flow and increase BOP pressure.

Second, they need a good seal. Turbulent, high pressure, muli-phase flow doesn't like being told what to do. A decent seal, not a very high pressure seal, but something that can reliably hold ~3 ksi or so.

Third, they can't turn this flow off or restrict it significantly (see preamble). So they need a lot of production capacity topside to take all the flow in without throttling it down.

Fourth, they need a flow diverter for emergencies to dump back into the ocean if they have to. And they need a quick disconnect for hurricanes.

They can't accomplish any of the above with the crazy, cartoon system they dragged down to the wellhead. It's been designed by a manager or someone who failed out of engineering school. Perhaps those two go together, in this case.

Carol Browner and Dr. Chu have approved this design so it must be the best.

Maybe they will try what BP wants if this govt. approved contraption does not accomplish its objective.

A lawyer and an alternative energy guy, put in charge by a politician. I do miss Vonnegut. And Hunter Thompson.

Last I heard Costners machines were being evaluated to see amount of oil it left in the water...they don't want to risk being fined on the output of the device if the output does not meet clean water standards...got to love lawyers. Like letting the house burn cause you might overwater the flowers....

Those machines could really come in handy in the wetland marshes.

anyway this LMRP l@@KS like a huge FAIL if anything it increased the flow rate by 10% calculating on BP statement that flowrate could increase by 20%

What they need to do is figure out a way of either extracting those bolts, use the stub of the riser pipe still attached, by inserting another bigger pipe over the top with an inflatable gasket and zip bolts, also with an angle valve to direct the flow of oil away from the top where a permanent riser pipe would be hooked up.

If this fails why not use the claw cutter dull the blades so it acts like a crimping tool and simply close it off?

It seems you missed the discussion a few days ago about not wanting to apply full pressure to the BOP or wellhead. They are concerned about damage from the blowout and subsequent erosion. If they overstress the system then oil would leak uncontrollably until the relief wells are completed. This is the reason they are not concerned about getting a full seal. They want to leave the system "open".

Based on video review - BP is not completely satisfied with LMRP as currently attached (poor seating/seal? and disappointing volume of fluid/gas recovery). 2nd LMRP (recent construction) at site with base that appears to have been modified to compensate for poor condition of top of BOP/original riser. Viking Poseidon, earlier observed working on 2nd LMRP, on way to surface perhaps to be reconfigured for removal of LMRP 1 and ops to replace with LMR 2. I would guess ops to attach methanol and hot water lines with redeployment of ROV sometime this afternoon. Would guess press release later today with more details.

This is INSANE! The Top hat must be pitched over by 30 deg's! Ent 2 images.

Won't amount to a fart in a wind storm....

The video is pretty ugly, but when the fin on the left occasionally peeks out through the cloud, it looks relatively even with the fin on the right. Middle one is up a little but I think that's viewing angle. I think the side away from the Enterprise ROV 2 view has more flow, or at least it seemed that way last night; now they don't seem to be showing both sides.

That said, my estimation of the plume is that it's somewhat worse than when they first got the top hat on last night. Hope they can crank up the flow soon, because it's clearly not anywhere near good enough the way it is.

I see this thing got totally out of control, they're unable to even restrict the flow, all efforts to date ended up in a bigger problem then it was before.. Would it be impossible to drill some relief wells only for containment, not to kill the gusher? At much less depth, just to make other paths for the crude to escape in a controlled way to rigs and then to tankers. It won't take as much time as the 'real' relief wells that are supposed to be the final solution, but would help to reduce the effects, the effects which already look like a global disaster rather than being "only" the problem of the Gulf.. Of course no one will be accountable for that.
So, are the needed additional rigs cost too much to deploy? Is it cheaper to wait and watch the show? I simply can't imagine any other reasons. So sad, so sad.
- a guy from the other side of the globe

s0nik- This is so embarrassing I can't quite believe it. If BP thinks the clean up will be expensive for the US mainland imagine the bill Barak Obama will get if this damage goes global! This could turn into our Chernobyl.

As far as the additional wells, getting the rigs into position and actually drilling that deep is very time consuming and let's not forget hurricane season is now upon us. If you are going to drill, you might as well commit to the full process. I, for one, am not so confident these relief wells will do what they are claiming. First, you have to hit the exact layer now producing the leak. There is much debate as to that. Second, estimates of the deposit size vary greatly. You could drill quite close to where the current leak is coming from and still not be "in the same deposit". I have learned this from posts by others who seem to know of what they speak, oil exploration is not the exact science one might hope it to be.


Dimitry has concerns re using a 6" riser to harvest the flow from a 21" pipe. I thought the working model proposed an annular space (not an open circular hole) as the source of the leak. And isn't the leak originating far downhole where the maximum diameter is much less than 21"?


It's like toothpase. The flow originated from a small opening in the tube, nice and tidy.

Once it is out, it is very hard work to squeeze it back into a small opening again. The flow coming out of the BOP is established turbuelent flow with specific characteristics. To change is you must contain it, which means VERY good seals. Your best bet is NOT to change it, which is possible with plain decent seals. But you do need a big pipe.

Viscosity, turbulence, momentum.

Yes, it is originally flowing in a smaller diameter but at a higher pressure. As it exits out to the lower pressure regime, the gas expands furiously. The genie is then out of the bottle...

The bottom diameter is less, and the pressure down there is far much more than they can handle. Indeed, even the pressure in the 21" riser is more than they can handle (even that the failed BOP acts as a bottleneck), as we can see. Maybe a pipe of the diameter of the flange would do the job, but that must be over their budget.. Or what else could have forced them to use that small pipe?

How about calculating the pressure drop?

Hint: 6" is plenty big.

What do you guys think about a 2-piece cap? A new flange gets bolted "around" the existing one, then a new cap is fitted over it. A tapered seal is formed between the new vertical flange and the new cap.



(Long time lurker - even before the spill, first time poster)

I don't think that any form of rigid connection to the structure of the leaking mechanics would be advisable. The delivery of oil/gas to surface must be able to be safely disconnected without causing damage to the ship, the new riser or the already damaged wellhead.

All the momentum of the flow appears to be dissipated soon after exit into the sea. The soft containment from the inventor in Houston might be an attractive contingency to refine for the next spill. Say a mile long tube of parachute nylon, of diameter sufficient to absorb the flow energy. Therefore, designed to work within the buoyant range of forces. Bring it to a floating containment dome where the gas could be separated in close to atmospheric pressure and the oil/water pumped at low pressures near the surface.

If your team consists of piping engineers, you are only going to get piping solutions.

A sealed split case, clamshell design with multiple ports for extraction, called the ‘Octopus’.

I hate to sound naive, but it seems to me that this is a planned process that will take some time to develop.

Supposedly, when they are comfortable with the mix in the flow from the LMRP suspended over the cap to the Enterprise, they will begin to slowly close the valves on the top of the cap as they open the "throttles" (the valves) onboard the Enterprise.

At that time, we should see a reduction in the billowing oil, though it might take another day to reduce it significantly.

Maybe they will replace the existing cap with one that is designed to better handle the cut end of the riser, but since they'll be able to leave the oil/gas in the riser column above the suspended LMRP, it won't take as long to restart the flow as it did to get the original flow going.

IMO, many here are expecting instantaneous results, and that's not going to happen.

It seems BP wants to make sure that water stays out of the capture pipe by allowing some oil and gas to vent out of the bottom of the cap. If they had a tight seal, this wouldn’t be a problem but the riser pipe was squeezed and compressed into an oval, and not cut parallel to the phalange when they cut it with the Big Shear so they can not get a tighter fit. (At one point they had a ROV inspect the cut riser section end to end and you could see the oval shape that was left after the cut on the pipe. Although the shape of the stub of the riser on the BOP was/is obscured with oil and gas it has got to be the same as that on the pipe end.)

Unfortunately this response to a catastrophe is being driving by a lot of forces other than careful planning. EVERYONE, the Federal and Gulf States governments, the local Gulf communities; BP shareholders, the entire world, as Andrea’s post so eloquently pointed out, everyone wants this resolved fast more than they want it resolved right.

Patience is in short supply.

If, before they added the new cap (or before they change it to another cap), they brought the diamond wire band saw back down it would easily clamp on the phalange and could cut a clean line. The wire kerf would hardly create any back pressure to obscure the cut now that the riser is blowing free. Or they could rig a clamping system on the edge of the phalange for the carbide tipped skil saw to ride on a track around the phalange (not hand held by a ROV) and cut just deep enough to remove the outer shell or the riser, avoiding trying to re-cut the DP which would be very difficult. This would really minimize binding as the saw would only be cutting at one point on the riser rather than on the front and the back side which would happen if they try to cut through the tube with the band saw.

Then BP has a clean surface to work with. This might take ½ a day to do, but then the results which have to last at least 2 months if not longer will be better. That seems to me worth blowing off a bit more oil and gas upfront, to lessen what comes out for the remaining 2 months plus..

The current cap is not locked on to the phalange. It is just held there by the weight of the cap and the column of steel above it. I agree with the poster who keeps saying the cap move around. How could it not? It’s not locked in place and as the pressure changes it responds by moving. If you watch carefully and choose reference points that are on the riser itself, you will see movement besides the continual little shifting of the ROV.

The only way to get a tight seal is, after cutting a clean surface on the riser, some way of locking the cap to the phalange. Many ideas have been suggested here.

I don’t pretend to understand all the complications of equalizing the pressure in the pipe up to the drilling ship. Using a 6” pipe will certainly put back pressure on the volume of oil and gas coming out of the 21” riser. Why not use a 21” riser? But at least if it is a tight seal, no sea water could get in and no methane hydrates could form to clog up the pipe.

Could someone explain why we don’t see methane clathrates falling out of solution as the hot gas hits the cold sea water??

Can someone explain what sometimes looks like a blizzard of white confetti coming out of the plume??

Thanks. This is a great forum..


Keep them coming please. Eventually somebody will be listening.

Why don't Dimitry and the rest of y'all just go back to HuffPo and Daily Kos? The noise level here is starting to match MSNBC and NPR.

@Jbrinker - thanks for the input and your post above you may however want to load your picture using tinypic.com and remove your picasa link - that way your personal info is not visible like your google account ... gotta love the folks at google

The Pittsburgh Channel reports that an explosion at a gas well in the Marcellus Shale, has forced a mile-wide evacuation in Clearfield County, PA.

When it rains, it pours?

Dimitri is correct. Bigger riser + tight clamped/flanged down seal + control / relief valves to maintain pressure within bounds (high enough to keep seawater out, low enough to prevent rupture down-well, et al).

Natural gas and drilling fluids are spewing from an out-of-control well in Clearfield County.

Emergency officials said a mile-wide area has been evacuated after an operation drilling into the Marcellus Shale ruptured on Friday.The FAA has issued a flight restriction in the immediate area.

According to a news release from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, a well which was in the frack process ruptured in Clearfield, spilling frack water and unignited wet gas.

Frack water is water mixed with other substances used during drilling.According to PEMA, the well is six miles from State Route 153 in the area of Interstate 80 exit 111.


I have all sorts of PDF's from MMS going back 10 years documenting problems with the drilling, I think rockman confused my hatred for MMS for the people who work in the industry. MMS is the real reason we're in this mess, sure let's have a big huge investigation and throw the right people in jail starting with MMS first.


Two questions. This TopHat - First I understand that the pipe going to the surface is smaller than the pipe coming out of the BOP. Which, leads me to think that this will create backpressure.

1. Basically, the pipe that goes into the BOP leakes into the outside 21 inch pipe. I believe this because the heavy MUD did not work - the more they pumped in - the more it leaked out. So if any backpressure is placed on the oil flow won't it just leak out into the 21 inch pipe?

2. If we lived next to each other and I saw you over the fence and asked: How screwed are we? What would you say?

Thanks for posting on this site.


Dimitry, I think you're visualizing the problem bass-ackwards. As I understand it, they aren't trying to push the flow of oil into that riser. They are going to use the riser to suck the oil up out of the cap chamber.

It's going to be a chimney. Flow starts upward, gas come out of solution and density drops - the flow will be trying to accelerate up that pipe. Trick is going to be to try to balance the flow so that it takes as much oil as possible, while still leaving just enough leak to keep water pushed out.

Cap/chamber design, I suspect, is trying to optimize that effect. But, I know next to nothing of fluid dynamics, or of dealing with flows at these pressures - I'm just a dumb molecular neurogeneticist. It's really obvious that these guys know more than I do - more than nearly everyone here does, acually.

Chimney doesn't work by magic, sir. It works by a pressure differential. The problem is that the flow is grossly restricted by the piping choice they made (which includes apparently even smaller flow restrictors above the cap). The flow inside the cap has to make a choice - go inside the small pipe, which may have smaller pressure that the ambient water due to presence of oil in the column and some motion, or go to the wide open end of the cap into the water. Some will go up the tiny riser, maybe 10%, maybe 20%. The rest will spill right back into the ocean.

If they did the CFD analysis of this flow they may actually find out that a torroidal vortex forms inside the cap, and a near dead zone occurs at the outlet pipe, with most of the flow preferring to leak out the bottom from the momentum/viscosity considerations. Or maybe the flow is so unstable within this small volume that no long term prediction can be made.

I know it works by pressure differential.

You seem to be stating without any evidence that the pipe is too small to support the necessary flows. But that depends on velocity in the pipe. Get the velocity high enough - with 'gas lift' as the methane comes out of solution as it rises between the inherent pressure differential at the two ends of the pipe, to drive high velocity - and yo get adequate flow.
Now, I don't know if the riser they're using is adequately sized for this - but I haven't seen you produce any evidence that it isn't.

This is a grossly inadequate model, but it is what I know. I can build a fire in my fireplace, with a 4 ft2 inflow area and a 6" chimney pipe outlet. The flow in the firebox is highly turbulent, with combustion gasses adding to the input volume. And yet, I can watch - in the smoke and flame paths - that turbulent flow organize itself into laminar flow as it 'wooshes' (that's a technical term - smile) around the hard corner at the top of the firebox, and into the chimney.

Chimney doesn't work by magic, sir. It works by a pressure differential.

Correct, but I don't see the basis for your 10% - 20% estimate. There is a lot of differential pressure for driving the fluid mix up the pipe. What are your assumptions for Reynolds number and the results of your friction loss calculation in the riser pipe?

Sure there are definitely some dynamics going on with the gas burps and gas expansion, but even if you assume as much as 30,000 barrels per day mixed fluid, you have about 10 feet per second velocity in the riser - not in the range where you should be getting weird vortices, etc.

I believe we're at the "proof is in the pudding" stage here. Let's wait 24 hours and see what happens. If tomorrow the oil plume still looks like the devil's own barbecue and BP removes the cap and announces its next hare-brained plan, we'll all nod and say "Yep, Dimitry had it right."

But at the moment, from an ROV view, success and failure look pretty much the same until we know that BP has opened the valve on their drillship all the way and nothing much has come out.

Yes… Top hat good concept but needs tweaking. Turbulence is drag and lose of lift. Could be key here.

I once lived in a house that had fireplace we could not use. The damn chimney produced a downdraft for reasons unknown and filled the house with smoke. In theorey, chimney looked normal.

A couple of weeks ago, they had inserted a riser siphon pipe into the riser some distance from the BOP.

The first day, they were sucking 1000 BPD through a 4 inch (IIRC) pipe, by day two, they had increased the flow to 2K BPD, and eventually they claimed over 4K BPD. Though the plume was visibly reduced, it didn't go away, and there was still flow from the holes in the bent section of the riser immediately above the BOP.

If they could get 4K+ BPD from a 4" insertion tool and riser, how much oil can they siphon from a 6" pipe connected to a 21" riser from the suspended LMRP to the Enterprise?

I think Dimitry has the right idea. How about a heated vacuum inside the 21" riser?

Even with a "good seal" it seems to me there's a very good chance the rams and values below would blow... although we do know they held for several weeks at a much lower pressure than normal. right? If so, might it be better to concentrate on an area below the components, just above the base they sit upon...

Just call me Wiley Coyote...

If they can seal to the BOP with a big pipe and take all the flow to the surface withuot throttling it back, the pressure on the BOP/wellhead will not increase significantly or at all.

Big pipe, low pressure, decent seal. Clean, low friction, hopefully low turbulence path to the surface.

Flow splitter higher up, to dump back into the ocean with a large exit diameter - again don't want to bother the sick BOP, but they need to get rid of excess oil without endangering the topside operation, if production side hiccups.

Quick disconnect a little above the the BOP - when hurricanes come.

Big processing operation topside - they need to take 20 kbd oil/gas mixture and process it without throttling back the flow.

Can't they slip a flexible bladder type of design over the broken riser pipe and clamp it down with huge hose clamps and have a quick connect going into the surface riser>

We have a broken riser stub that we can access now. My issue is with all these top engineers not thinking outside the box on this problem.

At this point we should let all deep water drilling go forward since nothing at all has changed over at MMS (still corrupt as ever) and let's face it the GOM is ruined it's only a matter of time before those huge oil plumes that Hayward claims don't exist surface and make landfall. With that said BP should give every American a royalty check as the casino Indians do with their people.

If BP cuts me a check for $500 every year i can stomach the disaster a wee bit better!

I am a flow assurance engineer and I often simulate subsea pipelines and risers using 3-phase software. Unfortunately my company doesnt have a licence right now so I cant run some scenarios.
Anyhow, I can see how the 21" pipe going to a 6" riser with sudden orifice contraction can cause some unwanted pressure drop at the cap location. However it shouldnt be a show stopper provided the cap has a good seal. The density in the pipe at the point of the cap is much lower (~1500 psi) than the surrounding outsisde water (~2200 psi) so the oil entering the new riser should have a nice 'path of least resistance'. I know the fluid is 2-phase and will probably slug and casue pressure fluctuations, but all should be managable if we have a good seal.

They attempted a 'top kill' last week which involved pumping mud down the well via a connection somewhere on the BOP. My question is - why cant they connect this same hose and use this hose to bring oil to the surface? is there a check valve in place or something?
Anyhow if they can connect the hose to the 'kill' port there will be much less flow out of the main top exit on the BOP, then the top flange can be unbolted and then a new flange with connected riser bolted up?

People keep saying the ROVs can provide the torue to un-bolt these flanges - but then how did they bolt the BOP to the riser in the first place?! I dont get it.

They do anticipate getting oil flowing through those lines but I assume they are still working on the plumbing.

As for the bolt question - the underwater connections are hydraulically activated - no bolting required. Bolting seems largely to be done on the surface and bolted components lowered already assembled.

I think BP needs to go back to the original concept and build a large tank to lower over the whole mess. This time it needs side vents so they can dump excess pressure to the ocean. It would give them a clean falt top surface to mount multiple BOP type assemblies and be able to safely draw the oil/gas to the surface. The same heating mechanism's could be used to prevent icing. Just a concept but couldn't they drive an open ended cylinder into the bottom to create some sort of seal around the edges? Like a pile driver would?
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It would freeze up... to big - the tophat is small in hopes that it will not freeze up.

You know, I think the big dome only froze up because they didn't keep the top closed until they could attach the riser. That would have kept seawater from being drawn up through the opening. The real problem with the big dome was that it was going to float any time the flow was stopped for whatever reason. Somebody missed their physics calcs on that one. I agree that something larger than the latest top hat would allow the methane burps to get smoothed out better and would not bounce around as much. I think if they just can do a better job anchoring the bottom of the current top hat things will improve quite a bit.


By the time they build this thing the relief wells should be close

Stupid question of the day:

This might sound really stupid, but are they pumping any oil onto the ship?

Were they pumping any?

I was watching live feeds on Poseidon earlier this AM - it appeared that they were dangling the containment hat above the leak on a sled. Then, it appeared they were switching it out. (That specific feed not available at this time)

In simple language from the feeds, I have not seen indications that LRMP (containment cap with tube) was attached to the BOP.

BP's press release says differently:

LMRP Containment Operation Deployed. BP announced today that oil and gas is being received onboard the Discoverer Enterprise following the successful placement of a containment cap on top of the Deepwater Horizon's failed blow-out preventer (BOP). This follows the cutting and removal of the riser pipe from the top of the BOP's lower marine riser package (LMRP

It is obvious that most people do not understand the basics of how the top hat is supposed to operate. And BP, per usual, has not thought it necessary to explain anything.

The Top Hat Seal

For a number of reasons the top hat seal is NOT a pressure seal. It is designed to try to keep seawater out, not to keep oil in.

Let me repeat - The top hat seal is NOT a pressure seal. It is designed to try to keep seawater out, not to keep oil in.

Any water that can get in at the bottom of the top hat will form methane hydrates and probably block up the pipe. If that happens as they are beginning to start a slow flow it just means another setback.

But it is much more likely to happen when there is substantial flow going up the line and they are starting to “pull suction”. At that point there is a high flow rate and the “water hammer” effect of suddenly stopping a mile long slug of oil and gas could easily start tearing the equipment apart, probably at the top hat or onboard the ship so it becomes a safety issue not just another failure.

The top hat is not designed to take any significant pressure, certainly not the pressure that could result from sealing to the BOP so that pressure must be able to escape - through the seal area. Even 1,000 psi would blow the top hat apart and there is potentially about 9,000 to 13,000 psi at the BOP

And at this point I think they are scared enough of the integrity of the well head and BOP connection that they don’t want to have any pressure build up which would happen if you sealed the top hat to the flange.

There are other safety issues that are solved by not having a solid seal.

1. The rig must be able to shut off the flow on deck at any time and the resultant flow has to go somewhere - which is out the top hat seal

2. The rig must be able to pull away from the well at any time in an emergency and just raising the top hat off the BOP solves this problem.

Flow to the Surface

The flow to the surface is through a drill pipe from the top of the top hat. The drill pipe should be able to flow between 20,000 to 30,000 bpd or more if it was 100% oil – NO PUMPS NEEDED. With gas in the flow the amount of potential flow is even greater. In any case the processing system on the ship cannot handle as much as the pipe can transport.

The oil is about 0.85 specific gravity. If the drill pipe was filled just with oil the buoyancy of the oil will raise the pressure at the surface to close to 400 psi. If filled with gas the pressure would be about 2,000 psi.

The problem won’t be to get the oil to flow but to keep it from flowing too fast. They will throttle (choke) the flow back to get the volume they are comfortable with and then pipe the oil and gas, still under some pressure, into a separator vessel where the pressure will be reduced and the gas will go to the flare to be burned and the oil will go into a storage tank.

The product flowing from the bottom will be a mixture of oil (with dissolved gas), NGLs and super-critical methane gas. Hopefully there will be no water as that can really mess things up. During its journey to the surface, and through the processing system there will be a number of changes as gas dissolves out of the oil, the methane goes from super-critical to gas, some of the NGL will turn to gas and all the gas will eventually expands about 150 times before it hits the flare.

The optimum flow at any time will have to be determined by trial and error on the rig. If they were to open it up quickly they might get lucky and obtain a stable flow quickly. The downside of trying to do it quickly is that you could suck in water setting back the whole process for hours or days or worst case end up with an uncontrolled flow on the ship resulting explosion and fire with fatalities and another disaster.

So the fact that it could take a period of days to reach maximum flow is no surprise.

The oil gas ratio in the flow from the well will probably keep varying all the time and coupled with the phase changes and gas expansion will be a continuing problem for the processing crew on the rig. I expect that is the reason we saw daily changes in the amount of oil recovered by the RITT.

flaring that much gas in the current well site environment will just be another peachy proposition...last thing any1 needs is an over eager management type guy pressuring for higher rates quickly on the top side..

Can't we use a specially designed heating coil built into the next tophat design? I can't figure out why this isn't being thought of instead of methanol??

Just to clarify, would one of the real experts confirm my understanding about the dynamics here.

I believe that the flow of oil & gas up the riser will reduce pressure below. As gas rises, it expands and creates greater speed upward of the column of oil. That would reduce pressure at the BOP, and eventually there would be negative pressure as the vents are closed. Just like, if you take a straw and suck on it, it will stick to your hand, the pressure created by the rising fluids would cause the seal to tighten at the BOP level.

The danger has to be that the flow gets going too fast before the vents are closed, drawing water into the top hat, creating hydrates and plugging the riser. At that point, the pressure from below would blow the top hat off the BOP, and they are back to zero.

Any comments from you mathy types, or PhDs?


You have it right. That's why they have to throttle the flow at the top and they have to allow some leakage.

No, you don't ever want the pressure at the top hat to be negative relative to the ambient pressure at that depth. If it gets that low, it will pull in cold seawater long before it creates a nice tight seal. That results in methane hydrate (clathrate) formation, which clogs the pipe. In case it hasn't been covered lately, methane clathrate is an ice-like substance formed when methane (the main component of natural gas) reacts with water under high pressure. At the surface of the earth it is only stable at very low temperatures, but in the high pressures of the deep ocean it is stable at temperatures well above the normal freezing point of water. So essentially if you mix cold deep ocean water with natural gas your lines freeze up like a garden hose in winter.


Thanks for your excellent detailed description of the hydraulics. Any thoughts on how they would best deal with varying gas/oil mixtures in real time?

2. The rig must be able to pull away from the well at any time in an emergency and just raising the top hat off the BOP solves this problem.

Good point. I had thought that maybe they could clamp down the bottom part of the top hat so it wouldn't bounce around so much, but then they couldn't disattach cleanly in an emergency.

this is ridiculous
judderbear and dirk have it right (up thread)
There's no reason to connect to the riser
stop over thinking this.

wait a sec you don't actually think something of that material would crush at extreme depth, or are you talking about an elevation gravity bleed?

I still think in lieu of all the oil that's been dumped we should be drilling full bore in the GOM and on the deepwater wells just drill a relief well. Once a relief is close enough start drilling again!


unless everyone wants to start walking or ride a bike (and you need oil for the tires anyway)

It makes sense to me, make the "chute" wide and line it with a heating coil to keep the stuff from freezing up. It's a condom on steroids.

Have it dump into an artificial pond at the surface, pump it into tankers from there. 'Til there's a storm of course.....

Meanwhile, in other news, today a private space flight company launched a brand-new human-compatible(*) rocket into orbit, perfectly on the very first try, with no screwups. Their total investment comes to about a week's worth of BP profits.


(*) sized and designed with passengers in mind, but not yet man-rated.