What Were the Causes That Led to the Deepwater Horizon Blowout and Explosion? - and Open Thread

Because of the large number of comments, this post is being closed. Please comment on http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6623.

Author's Note: This is a guest post by William Semple. Mr. Semple is a drilling engineer and independent drilling consultant with 37 years of experience in the oil and gas industry. He worked for 16 years with a major oil company and has 24 years of experience as a drilling supervisor.

Mississippi Canyon 252 Macondo Well
24th April 2010 at approximately 21:49 hrs

I have summarized the information to try and keep it to the salient facts. The following information is from reliable sources. Most is public record and the remainder is from confidential reviews carried out by other major oil companies. I have interpreted the reports and made some conclusions with caveats where necessary. As such, these are only opinions and no inference of blame can be inferred as a result of these statements.

More detail will emerge when further investigations take place, especially with regard to the last few hours leading up to the explosion. However, I am confident the fundamentals are identified in this article and, most importantly, the crucial lessons learned so none of us repeat the same mistakes.

Much is being made of the water depth as a factor in this disaster. However, many of the mistakes made would have been equally serious in shallow-water drilling or even on land, and lessons learned apply to almost all drilling operations.

Well Status

Drilling of the Macondo well had reached total depth (TD) at 18,360 feet (ft). The previous casing shoe was at 17,168 ft. Open hole diameter was 8 ½ inches (in). Rotary Kelly Bushing (RKB) to Mud line was 5,067 ft. The open hole had been logged over a four-day period.

7 in by 9 7/8 in casing was run from TD all the way back to the wellhead--a single string.

The casing had been cemented using +/-100 bbls of slurry. There were no losses and the plug was bumped. No back flow was observed after displacement (although “U” tube effect was not significant.) Top of cement is estimated at 16,200 ft.

9 7/8 in casing hanger was landed with no lock ring (Reason not known).

No pack off or secondary seal was run (Reason not known).

11 hrs after cementing, the casing was tested to 2,650 pounds per square inch (psi) with the blind shear rams closed.

Drilling string was run to 8,367 ft.

Sequence of events

16.5 hrs after bumping the cement plug, the draw down or negative test was carried out to establish well integrity prior to displacing 14.3 pound per gallon (ppg) oil-based mud out of the well from a depth of 8,367 ft.

This test was carried out part-way through the displacement of the well to seawater including a complex spacer pill, with the well shut in and the kill line open & full of seawater. Kill line pressure was zero but there was 1400 psi on the drill pipe.

The inflow/draw down test was probably flawed. It would not equate to what the well would see after the riser was displaced to seawater. There is also witness statement information that the observation of return flow from the kill line to the cement unit was 15 bbls during the inflow test. As can been seen in the BP report, there was quite a lot going on during this process, and the data seems rather confusing. However, the test was deemed to be satisfactory.

The annular was opened up and the process of displacing the well to seawater continued at 25 to 31 barrels per minute. During this time, oil-based mud was being transferred to the supply boat, so total fluid in and out volumes could not be monitored. However, flow in and out was being monitored.

20:58-21:08 hrs there was an indication of increased flow from the riser returns. This coincided with a slowdown in pump rates and then stopping of pumps to carry out a sheen test in preparation to dump “clean” fluid returns to the sea (fluid spacer). During this period the drill pipe pressure increased (+/- 200 psi increase over five minutes).

21:15 hrs pumping restarted and returns were dumped overboard. The diverter was closed for this operation so there was no longer flow-out measurement.

21:31 pumps off. The pump pressure just prior to this had been increasing but then showed, a drop off which could have been a sign of the gas coming up to surface. Records show 4 telephone calls between the rig floor and the Toolpusher (drilling manager responsible for all operations) during this time.

21:31 – 21:47 erratic drill pipe pressure probably due to unloading of riser because of gas expansion.

21:49 Drill pipe pressure had risen rapidly to 5,800 psi. It is thought that the annular preventer may have been closed at this time. But since the drill pipe valve (Kelly cock/stab in valve) was not closed, the pressure would have reached the pumps where the relief valve pressure could have been exceeded and tripped gas would have flooded the pump room (this is speculation but quite likely).

21:49 All data transmission from the rig were lost presumably due to the explosions & fire.

21:56 hrs The EDS (emergency disconnect system which closes all valves & rams & blind shear rams on the BOP --blowout preventer--and disconnects the riser) was pressed from a remote location but it did not appear to work.

After loss of hydraulics and communication from the well the AMF (automatic mode failure system) on the BOP should have functioned. This would have closed all BOP rams but not the disconnect. This did not appear to work.

Post-explosion ROV (remotely operated vehicle) interventions were conducted to attempt to activate the blind shear rams, variable rams and other BOP functions.

Leaks were found in the system that were previously noted in the rig log.

Hydraulic system errors such that test rams (lower pipe rams) were activated instead of the lower variable rams.

Subsequent NDT (non-destructive testing) examination of the BOP indicated that the blind shear rams & variable rams did move and may be in the locked position, but final status will not be possible until the BOP is recovered.


Well Planning

  • The hanger was run without a lock ring. Pressures from gas leaking up from the producing formation could have provided sufficient pressure to move the hanger and affect seal integrity. There was no lock ring or secondary seal (pack off) to prevent this.
  • Hanger was only a single barrier—the cement was and could not be tested.
  • Gas from the annulus getting past the hanger seal was the most likely source of the kick and subsequent blowout.

Policy & Procedure

  • The method of conducting the inflow or draw-down test in conjunction with displacement of the well from weighted mud to seawater is suspect at best, and possibly fundamentally flawed.

Basic Rig Practices

  • The inflow/draw down test did not appear to offer satisfactory results, and also took place over a relatively short period of time.
  • During the displacement of the well to seawater, volume, flow show and pressure anomalies were evident but did not result in the well being shut in in a timely manner.
  • Even after there were some indications that all was not well, pumping operations continued. Returns were dumped and the return flow meter was bypassed,so the rig was effectively blind until things started to get quite serious.
  • When the well was shut in, the drill pipe safety valve or IBOP was not closed in time to stop rapid rise in pressure getting back to the pumps and probably blowing the pressure relief valves.

What lessons can we learn from this tragedy?

  1. The practice of running a long string instead of a liner to seal off a reservoir means any failure in the cement job cannot be monitored. It is well known that, in certain circumstances, some of the hydrostatic pressure of the cement column can be lost during the cement-curing process. Running a liner means the cement job can be monitored or tested, or that a liner-top packer can be used to act as an additional barrier.
  2. The industry should embrace existing techniques to prevent or compensate for potential loss of hydrostatic pressure during the cement-curing process.
  3. Hanger assemblies can and should offer dual barriers.
  4. Hangers should always include a locking mechanism. This should not be left out for the sake of convenience.
  5. Cement should not be considered as a barrier unless it can be properly tested in the direction of flow.
  6. Barrier policy should require dual barriers tested in the direction of flow.
  7. Inflow/draw down testing and displacing wells to lighter fluids is not part of the IWCF syllabus. It should be.
  8. Displacing wells to under-balance hydrostatics should require monitoring of volumes pumped and returned. The process should stop while volume is pumped to a boat.
  9. Flow checks during such displacements to lighter fluids should be mandatory and thorough.
  10. Basic well control training teaches us that, when there are indications of a kick, the well should be shut in.
  11. Basic well control training teaches us that before closing in a well, the drill pipe should be shut in first.
  12. Drillers must be empowered to have the confidence and authority to close the well in if they have any suspicions that a well might be flowing. Close the well in first – ask questions later.

A continued humble and sincere thank you to all who have donated thus far. It will help us pay for the fourth server we brought online to accommodate the increased traffic. (See point 3 below.)

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

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

Flame wars, polemic exchanges, and other content deleterious to the community will be removed, either by an editor or by the community through its moderation process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Also, if you're looking for live chat to talk about the ROV/LMRP video, etc., and are IRC capable, go to freenode, the channel is #theoildrum

(google MIRC and download it; Hit the lightening bolt and fill in your info; select the server as "freenode" (it is in the server list), hit connect; when connected type /join #theoildrum)

or you can get there just via a browser: http://webchat.freenode.net / Just enter a nickname and #theoildrum in the boxes; then when connected type /join #theoildrum)

6. Don't 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.

Very good post. My one question is, how did gas find its way into the Drill pipe?


This site among other things, postulates a 100k PSI. Due to methane concentration.

There are also some sites saying dispersion agent is toxic to crops when regurgitated as rainfall.

At this time, this is fantasy science fiction.

What is not science fiction is we know there is a large release of methane and other gases.

In the cold / deep the well is at, these gases are being converted to a super saturated solution of gases in water and then hydrates as quickly as they lose energy to the surrounding ocean.

What is real possible and probable IF there is a totally uncontrolled release from a total wellhead failure - with relief wells not working is that can go on for years, building methane levels in the GOM deep waters.

If it went on long enough, it is not inconceivable for a Lake Nyos like scenario.


We are far from this right now --- but the issue need to be studied and modeled just to have the basic metrics to understand it (if it happens) in place.

Edit: Lake Nyos is a eruption of CO2 mostly. The general case is solutions of supersaturated gases in water, some as hydrates, being suddenly released.

The area around the well is known to be loaded with hydrates and dissolved gases.

the 100k psi article sounds like creative writing.

the dispersant agent is troublesome. If they are increasing capacity topside, I hope they'll cut down dispersant use. Not sure people want to be swimming around in an ocean full of the same components found in laxatives. Sounds like a crappy situation.

Haw Haw nice pun. The dispersant being used contains kerosene (how this is a big deal in the middle of an oil spill) and some surfactants that are widely used as food additives and in household products. They are all biodegradable, and all are all flowing into the Gulf anyway from 100 million homes on the NA continent, and probably far greater quantities than are being added via Corexit.

The dispersant toxicity thing is totally blown out of proportion.

The thing about it that does deserve attention is the affect it has on the distribution of oil in the Gulf, and whether that that distribution change is a good or bad thing.

Corexit Rain...

Plenty to look forward to from BP's special gift that keeps on giving.

via The Examiner

When you pour more than a million gallons of toxic chemical dispersants on top of an oil spill, it doesn’t just disappear. In this case, it moves to the atmosphere, where it will travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles from the site of the BP oil spill, in the form of toxic rain.

BP’s oil spill-fighting dispersant of choice is Corexit 9500. It has been banned in Europe for good reason. Corexit 9500 is one of the most environmentally enduring, toxic chemical dispersants ever created to battle an oil spill. Add to that the millions of gallons of oil that have been burned, releasing even more toxins into the atmosphere, and you have a recipe for something much worse than acid rain.

Oil in the environment is toxic at 11 PPM (parts per million). Corexit 9500 is toxic at only 2.61 PPM. But Corexit 9500 has another precarious characteristic; it’s reaction to warm water.

As the water in the Gulf of Mexico heats up, Corexit 9500 goes through a molecular transition. It changes from a liquid to a gas, which is readily absorbed by clouds and released as toxic rain. The chemical-laden rain then falls on crops, reservoirs, animals and of course, people.

What makes ‘Corexit rain’ so frightening are the carcinogens it will leave behind on everything is touches. Acid rain will be considered genial after it is inevitably replaced by the far more virulent ‘Corexit rain.’

recklesslife, if this excerpt is correct then rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and other vessels that actually use the sea water in the Gulf of Mexico for drinking water can't truly get the Corexit 9500 out of the sea water by distillation alone.

The rig I work on uses the "water makers" to make our potable and drinking water fro the gulf. I wondered about this.

Corexit has a boiling point of 264*F, and a vapor pressure of 15.5mmHg @ 100*F. So if we get the sea water up to 264*F or 100*F and lower the atmospheric pressure by 14.42mmHg (about 50% of normal) then any of the stuff that is not bound to oil could vaporize and eventually precipitate. But, we wouldn't have to worry about it because we would already be dead due to the atmospheric conditions!

One of us doesn't understand vapor pressure.

I think what a vapor pressure of 15.5mmHG @ 100F means is that about 2% (15.5/760) of the atmosphere above the fluid surface will be Corexit. When the wind blows and that vapor is blown away more Corexit will vaporize from the surface until it is all gone.

Your lawn doesn't have to reach 212F for the water to evaporate from the grassy surface.

Yes, that would be true if the fluid you are talking about were 100% Corexit or the Corexit formed a dispersion in water. But the GOM is probably less than 1 part per quadrillion Corexit. A very dilute solution.

Raoult's law applies as a first order approximation.

The vapor pressure of Corexit above that would be really really small.


This article is so fantastic as to defy description. I am in awe of it. Corexit rain? Oh My.

Anyway there are no carcinogens in Corexit 7500. Look at the MSDS.

Corexit is not 'banned in Europe'. GB only, and because it interferes with limpet attachment to rocks. Not because of toxic rain.

The most volatile component in Corexit is kerosene. Hate to say it but I bet there is a lot more than 1 million gallons of the stuff in use all over the US on a daily basis. Not to mention other related hydrocarbon solvents and environmental stuff like uh oil spills. If kerosene was creating a toxic rain we would be well aware of it by now.

Oh yeah, it does go away. Biodegrades in a month or so. Again check the MSDS.

Corexit is not 'banned in Europe'. GB only, and because it interferes with limpet attachment to rocks.

And then banned only for use on rocky shores, not in the open ocean (although any use requires prior approval by the relevant agency).

I don't know about any of this, but this is a link a neighbour passed on to me about Corexit 7500:

propylene glycol (anti-freeze?) and
light petroleum distillates (this sounds like the kerosene?)

2-butoxy ethanol (carcinogen)
dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (detergent, component in laxatives)


2-butoxyl ethanol is not a component of Corexit 7500. Whoever is telling you this is giving you false information.


Propylene glycol is similar to ethylene glycol (antifreeze) however it is far less toxic.


Thanks, you're right. Whoever wrote that article must not have seen the asterisk next to 2-butoxyl ethanol.

Definitely concerned about the distribution aspect. On one hand, it doesn't sound like we currently have containment under control, so the dispersant is probably necessary, if we want to avoid blackened shores.

I have no organic chemistry background, and realize the gulf is a big body of water it's being diluted into. That doesn't mean I won't keep a watchful eye on what's being put in it.

I hadn't read of the kerosene-like quality, which would incline me to add the dispersant to the pollution fines, if true.

"The dispersant toxicity thing is totally blown out of proportion."

That is not clear.

Please see links, in threads here over the past few weeks, to a number of studies suggesting that *dispersed oil* (as distinguished from untreated WAF of crude or dispersant alone) may be more harmful to a number of studied organisms than either of the components alone.

"The thing about it that does deserve attention is the affect it has on the distribution of oil in the Gulf, and whether that that distribution change is a good or bad thing."

Yes. One thing we know: we are unlikely to be able to clean up the dispersed oil.

Dispersed oil is NOT dispersant - different things all together. My statement about the toxicity of the dispersant still stands.

The lab studies that I read (from links posted here) typically showed that the accumulation of oil related toxins in fish was more rapid than in cases where the oil was not dispersed. One would definitely expect that to be the case due to the vastly increased surface area of the droplets, Fick's law of diffusion and all that. That is not the same as saying that the dispersed oil itself is more toxic, rather it says that the transfer of toxins in a non-equilibrium situation will be faster.

However it is quite questionable in my mind what the relevance of this is to the Gulf biota. Over time I'd expect that some equilibrium would be reached in which case the amount of toxin accumulated would be the same.

In addition the accumulation studies that were mentioned here did not balance the accumulation with the more rapid biodegradation of dispersed oil vs. undispersed oil. With the removal of the oil from the environment from this action, the overall toxicity will decline with time because the amount of oil is declining. Clearly the more rapidly that happens the better.

Without a model of the multiple key kinetic processes that are in action here the presence of a articles of the nature you cited don't present anything like a complete case against the use of dispersants.

There is a lot of work to be done here in understanding the tradeoffs. In my opinion and given the time scales of days and weeks in question here I don't think that the articles describing more rapid uptake are particularly important. But that's a best guess based on my own personal experiences with dealing with diffusion controlled processes in chemical systems.

To me anyway the key issue is the location of the oil in the environment is the big issue. Surface or subsea?

Tampa Bay gets its drinking water from the Gulf. I don't know how deep dispersed oil stays, but sooner or later, some of that stuff could well end up in Florida drinking water. Not to mention through surface runoff if the Corexit rain scenario holds true.

Any way you slice it, I'm in favor of increased capture and reduced dispersal, especially given the uncertainties.

Two types of *dispersed oil*: dispersed in the sense of chemically breaking down into smaller bits, and dispersed in the spatial sense. Some people call this latter phenomenon dilution as well, but dispersion as defined is a very general term. Dispersion theory essentially says that various rates of material transfer, through either drift or diffusion will tend to spread out the concentration of the material in question. I have spent a bit of time blogging about dispersion (talking about a narrow topic!) the last few years and I recently coalesced it (really I anti-dispersed it :) into this post.

The point that I want to make is that spatial dispersion is probably a good thing as it will likely dissipate the worst effects of the problem, especially if the oil goes out to the greater ocean. Usually we are always fighting entropy, but in this case we want entropy to proceed. Oil is not radioactive material or anthrax spores after all.

lol, dispersion theory. When I was in school, I spent way too much time studying diffusion. Not that I remember much about it.

I get your point. I just have what I would consider a healthy distrust of the unknown. As others have mentioned elsewhere, a skimmer is a physical, mechanical process where you see the results. Chemical dispersion is much less intuitive. I can understand it, but not at the same gut level.

As I noted before in a response, that "OIL SEEPS THROUGH CRACKS IN SEA FLOOR!" video is quite unconvincing and seems to be the key piece of evidence cited that a millions dead catastrophe seems imminent. Plus no gas eruption is visible in that video. I checked out the author. His major interest is poetry. Nothing wrong with that but certainly not a credibility builder for this particular subject. He's also the author of an article about North Korea plotting to destroy the US with EMF weapons. Plausible I suppose, but there's a heavy breathing aura around it, too.

It is open to interpretation whether the oil seeps shown (taken by the ROV) is just oil that were being stirred up or something else.

It is not in dispute that the BOP is tilted.

It is BP's contention that the BOP was bent by the collapsing riser.

It is not inconceivable that with the bent, something cracked --- which would account for the minute amount of oil seepage.

It is not in dispute that BP placed the inclinometer on the BOP to monitor any changes in its orientation.

With the "cap" on it and additional work, it is not inconceivable that additional stresses can be placed on the BOP.

Whether it will lead to catastrophic failure --- we have no public information.

We do, however, know that sand is coming up with the oil and gas and gradually weakening the entire well structure.

On a balance of probabilities --- I would say, watch it closely, but there is not much that can be done to stop or slow the failure if it does happen.

The only thing I can think of is to be real careful putting additional stresses on the stack.

There's a LOT of science fiction going on out there, and it boggles the mind how much of it bubbles to the surface when disasters strike. Earthquakes? There's got to be an earthquake machine somewhere. Tornadoes? Oh, yes, someone's butterfly collection on the other side of the planet must have gotten loose. Crop circles? It's aliens, Martha! Aliens landed in my field and scared poor Bessy into not giving milk no more! The Hadron Super Collider is going to going to make a black hole!

You've got a lot of whack jobs out there, and when it comes to the media taking any of them seriously, it just cheeses me off. It's been weeks now, and we're still seeing projections of when this oil is going to cross the freaking Atlantic and hit European beaches. I just shake my head.

The video above starts talking about oil deposits but uses a junior high school level diagram of an igneous rock province to help him explain how there's so much oil in the ground. I'm sorry, but this is a bit like Weekly World News proclaiming that BatBoy (the one with the giant pointy ears and 2 inch long fanged teeth) was the love child of Bill Clinton and Madonna. Interesting to think about, but pretty easily dismissed as whacko.

You'll notice that what we're dealing with here is a massive oil spill. Yes, we're having to deal with the natural gas that was formerly dissolved in the oil. And the fraction of that gas that is methane does quickly combine with the cold and pressure forms a type of ice, and that is an issue. But we aren't dealing with methane here. We're dealing with oil. And unfortunately for BP, for as much oil that's on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, there's not that much of it in the reservoirs.

There's nothing special about this deposit other than it's in a slightly lower pressured zone than the rock that lies above it. That's the problem that doomed BP in this case. As far as the geology, it's nothing out of the ordinary for these deposits in the offshore, except that it's in deep water.

"As far as the geology, it's nothing out of the ordinary for these deposits in the offshore, except that it's in deep water."

The No.1 unknown that makes this not ordinary is the hydrates issue.

The hydrates don't form until the methane reaches a certain temperature and pressure in the presence of water. We've seen on the ROV videos how quickly the methane fraction of the natural gas can do this. The formation of them from the reservoir that's blowing out is occurring after they leave the BOP. Dealing with this is an engineering issue.

Methane hydrate can form in the muds in areas like where the blowout well is. They would form from natural gas seeps over time, and much of that methane hydrate stays in the mud layers at varying depths. Some deposits are large. It is conceivable that if the oil/gas was seeping up around the casing, a portion of that would form some methane hydrate in the mud and never make it to the surface. However, the oil and the gas that wasn't methane (it's not all methane) would still be bubbling up. We'd see that.

But the actual original reservoir the day before it was drilled into by Transocean rig is no different from other reservoirs safely under production nearby.

The area around the well (not just in the immediate vicinity) is loaded with Methane Hydrates.

Methane upon exiting the well - cools and in the pressure at that depth - becomes a super saturated solution of gas, and as it cools further, precipitate out as hydrates.

What do we know about these hydrates and super saturated solutions?

How stable are they?

Under what circumstance can a large sublimation event occur?

This is what happened in Lake Nyos.

We need some good science, good data, and expertise to watch this issue.

This is what happened in Lake Nyos.

According to Wiki, Lake Nyos was primarily a carbon dioxide (CO2) release, not a methane (CH4) release.

Both of them will release under either or both of two actions - lowered pressure or increased temperature. I'm not certain, but I've never seen any info on anyone drilling into liquid CO2 during gas or oil exploration.

The sea floor is loaded with hydrates.


"From Texas to Florida, the continental slope and the deep basins of the Gulf of Mexico are perforated with methane seeps and gas hydrates, where petroleum compounds and gases from the deep subsurface migrate upwards through sedimentary rock and deep-sea sediments until they finally reach the seafloor. "

I recognize these scenarios are unlikely - but I am asking questions:

- can the uncontrolled release of oil and gas eventually perhaps cause either undersea subsidence or somehow, destabilize the methane hydrates deposits known to be stored on the sea floor near the well?

A plume of relatively warm oil and gas shooting up, perhaps leaking under a large area of sediments, injecting heat and energy into a bed of relatively stable hydrate deposits.

The general case is stored / trapped gases in a super-saturated solution and solid / hydrate phase (whether it is CO2 or Methane or any gas), and whether a event can cause these gases to be suddenly released.

Where are you getting this? Methane Hydrate has been studied extensively, there is a huge amount of science available on the topic.

Lake Nyos has NOTHING to do with methane hydrate. That was due to carbon dioxide leaking into the lake from an underground volcano to the point of supersaturation. This is an unstable situation which will eventually result a large release of gas when some event triggers the release of the supersaturation. In the case of Lake Nyos it was believed to be a landslide.

The general case is a supersaturated solution of gas and hydrates being unleashed.

Methane hydrates are a water ice clathrate of methane. As such they would have to be melted to be released. For that to occur over an area the size of GOM would require a HELL of a lot of energy, say something on the order the eruption of multiple volcanoes.

The amount of heat from a oil leak the size of the BP spill is not significant in that scenario.

The only potential here is formation of a supersaturated solution of methane. This would depend on a stagnant situation - which we know is not the case in the GOM because the Loop Current gives rises to significant deep water circulation in the GOM.

PQ, I was going to answer this with a simple "that's a rather ridiculous proposition you are touting there", but after a small internet search I think the answer is still no but the proposition is interesting.

Volume of the Gulf of Mexico: 2,434,000 cubic kilometers, average depth over 1,000m. The amount of methane leaking from this well is rather tiny set against such a volume and can't be expected to have a significant effect. There were some concerns raised about the safety of the boats directly over the well area if a gas surge should abruptly change their buoyancy, but this would be a very local issue.

While the Lake Nyos problem has to do with CO2 accumulation methane has been proposed as a potential perpetrator of such events. The French installed a siphon to de-gas the deep water of the lake as pictured here:


Pretty cool, but not without some issues.

Methane eruptions from anoxic stagnant silled ocean basins has been suggested as a mechanism for mass extinctions and also possibly linked to the end of glacial cycles:


The geography of the Gulf might qualify it as such a setting although there is at least some deepwater circulation and maybe the oxygen content is too great. The timeframe to reach saturation is many thousands or perhaps 10s of thousands of years. I didn't see that this has been proposed for the GOM and there should be geologic evidence if it has ever occurred there. The Cariaco Basin off of Venezuela has been proposed as a potential locus of such events.

It is not the gas leaking from the well I am worried about.

It is the hydrates that are known to be already all over the sea floor in the area.

...and what exactly is your concern? They will be buried in new sediment and there they will sit.


See this link for pictures of hydrate deposits close to the well.

If there is a 'problem' from this process it will develop independent from the activity of this well. The conditions that cause the overturning/explosive release of (methane) gas require very low disolved oxygen and stagnant pooling of the water. The area of the well has a constant flow of water (you can see it in all the videos) and supports fish that can be seen swimming about - disolved O2 can't be very low.

Perhaps the people doing the study will get another round of funding to keep going as their current project ends in September.

"A very fast transition from this metastable state can be triggered
by disturbances that displace fluid a finite distance in the vertical di-
rection. Such disturbances may result from an earthquake, a seafloor
volcano, convection currents due to geothermal heating, or an internal
gravity wave. Consider a parcel of fluid that is displaced upward, and
is now subject to lower hydrostatic pressure, to which corresponds a
lower solubility value. As a result, the fluid in the parcel is now su-
persaturated with the dissolved gas, which must begin to exsolve, form-
ing tiny gas bubbles. (If the fluid in its original position was only
partially saturated, exsolution will begin after the parcel has risen
through some significant distance, so in this case the initial disturbance
must be sufficiently large.) The volume of the ascending parcel of fluid
increases due to the formation of bubbles, making it more buoyant and
accelerating its rise; this leads to further reduction in the ambient pres-
sure, further exsolution of gas, and further increase in the volume of
the parcel. This self-accelerating motion entrains the surrounding fluid;
exsolution of the gas in the latter reinforces the motion. The result is
a violent eruption (Kling et al., 1987; Zhang, 1996)."


But you need to read the part about the conditions required to saturate seawater with methane. CO2 is easier.

Jerome Milgram et. al. wrote a paper on the safety of floaters above a gas release. They say there is no problem:


I don't get why the news media, any of it, are not going to the petroleum engineering departments at the dozen or so US universities that have them to get people to explain what is going on here. Presumably, those departments have at least one or two people who can explain the realities and physics of oil production to a lay audience.

Rachel Maddow has done a reasonable job reaching out to marine biologists from places like A&M to explain the impact of the oil on the gulf. That seems like reasonable journalism to me.

How hard can it be to look up the department head at these universities and ask if someone wants to go on the TV to explain what is going on and why it might be difficult to fix or even what options should be considered?


If your research, or your chair, or any of your department's needs are funded by the energy industry, it might be foolish to explain what went wrong.

Money talks, tenure walks.

I remember taking one credit of intro/ethics in engineering when I went to school. It was essentially a freshman course that gave you an idea of what was in store. Looking at the catalog now, I see they have a 3-credit course called "Energy, Environment, and Society", which looks very impressive based on the course description. I doubt you would find this in a Petroleum Engineering department, which might as well be at a trade school or a votech. Good starting salaries though.

For a bachelor degree, the starting salaries are the best. Votech schools...good one! Let them get through diffy-q, I suppose the only other gang besides engineers forced through that one are the more mathematically inclined....and they are mostly jealous because their theoretical skills don't translate into income very well.

I mean seriously, who else would confuse curve fitting with knowledge? :>

Petroleum engineering departments only exist in universities near oil-producing areas (with rare exceptions). In their curriculum, they do not teach anything about oil depletion, only how to start looking elsewhere when one reservoir starts depleting. The professors would never explain anything about global oil depletion, otherwise the students would realize they were going into a profession that would eventually become obsolete.

My point is that petroleum engineering academics have no interest in broader implications when they teach, so why would you expect anything different when talking to the media?

In their curriculum, they do not teach anything about oil depletion, only how to start looking elsewhere when one reservoir starts depleting.

Completely incorrect. I was taught plenty about oil depletion. And the petroleum engineers aren't usually the ones doing the "looking elsewhere", they tend to do the drilling where geologists say is "elsewhere" and if it is successful drilling, we then develop it optimally. Generally speaking, but from personal experience of course.

Any other misconceptions I can help with, let me know.

Exploration geologists and geophysicists (G&G) seldom talk to petroleum engineers, except to hand off our structure maps and say drill here to that depth. We sometimes collaborate on reserves valuation, but the disciplines are distinct. G&G assesses areal extent, rock type, deposition, tectonic history, trap, source and seal. Engineers do everything else like drilling plan, economics, logging, completion, development, secondary and tertiary recovery, abandonment.

Exploration geologists and geophysicists (G&G) seldom talk to petroleum engineers, except to hand off our structure maps and say drill here to that depth.

Unfortunate. Myself, I've been "assimilated" (the borg! the borg! :> )by exploration geology types, along with a few other specialties (mathematicians, economists, statisticians) into integrated science teams.

Ok then, I would love to see the textbooks that contained the quantitative analysis of oil depletion, globally not of individual oil fields. I understand they talked plenty about exponential, hyperbolic, and harmonic declines of fields but they never placed this in a global context.

We have guys like Michael Lynch going on the radio, and Vaclav Smil advising Bill Gates that we have no problems with oil supply while apparently the entire Petroleum Engineering establishment was taught about oil depletion. I suppose it comes down to the topic that no one in the oil industry dares speak but everyone implicitly understands, as Rockman has said many a time on TOD.

Ok then, I would love to see the textbooks that contained the quantitative analysis of oil depletion, globally not of individual oil fields.

Only someone who doesn't understand what oil depletion is would confuse it with a global level curve fitting exercise. Please, stop before someone thinks it reflects on your mathematical understanding of RC circuits or some other unrelated topic. Certainly that battle has already been lost as it relates to the oilfield.

I understand they talked plenty about exponential, hyperbolic, and harmonic declines of fields but they never placed this in a global context.

We do talk plenty about these types of declines. Most of the time in relation to wells. Who would possibly be half baked enough to confuse individual, and pretty basic, well performance measures with field level aggregations? Oh yeah! Peakers!

I suppose it comes down to the topic that no one in the oil industry dares speak but everyone implicitly understands, as Rockman has said many a time on TOD.

We understand how our business works, certainly. Guys like us, (those IN THE KNOW) have been declaring the end of oil since at least 1886. In Pittsburgh to be specific. Can't say we didn't give the rest of you noobs plenty of warning.

No links to references for assertions and physically impossible theories without citation of sources.

Continued from previous thread:

wrb on June 19, 2010 - 6:38am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Just guessing but the lack of response might have something to do with the fact that these things have been posted:

- The six Dutch skimmers are at work

Really? I've been a pretty avid reader of this site and I've seen NO reference like that. What I have seen on here is a pretty credible report from "Roger", a principal in a Dutch firm that owns skimmer ships, that skimmer equipment was offered within days after the spill and that 3 skimmer ships had arrived in the Gulf 2 weeks ago (now) but were not alllowed to go to work.

over 6000 vessels are involved in the effort

6,000 vessels doing what? Only very few are skimming, if ANY at all. Most are likely spreading/maintaining booms

-Thad Allen announced that 2000 more vessels were being deployed for near-shore efforts

His captain in charge told the ABC reporter, skimmer equipment will be "available in July."

-He also announced that they were acquiring skimmers from a variety of countries and manufacturing new ones

Really? 60 days into this. Millions of gallons of oil being spilled every one of those 60 days. And only NOW are we "aquiring" and "manufacturing" skimmers. Color me not impressesd.

-Just today a letter was posted from a rep who reported seeiing lots of skimmers at work when he flew over

Really? Can you point to that post because I must have missed it.

What I don't seem to be getting across is the point there is NOTHING more effective for cleaning up oil in these massive quantities than skimmers. Nothing even close. Effective proven equipment is, and has been, available to do the job. It hasn't been utilized.

There must be reasons. What are they? If it's Jones Act, then why hasn't the Admiral or the President waived it? (Bush did within 5 days of Katrina.) If there have been institutional failures there, we should know about it.

If BP has been behind the blocking of the skimmers coming on scene, then that should be exposed.

There must be reasons. What are they?

without being to technical this wsj sheds some light on the subject
In recent years, oil giant BP PLC used a well design that has been called "risky" by Congressional investigators in more than one out of three of its deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico, significantly more often than most peers, a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data shows.

that's the first article I've read definitively declaring the bottom plug is blown out. Is this true?

I believe that that is a journalist mis-speaking. He's talking about the cement job failing - not really the bottom plug.

Thanks, that's what I think too, but most of this is new to me. I wanted to double check.

One of the Haliburton documents said that cement fragments were recovered from the deck of the Damon Bankston (mud boat). I am not sure if the fragments can be sourced - whether from the bottom plug or the annulus - but perhaps they can, maybe having different composition or other characteristics.

As others have said, those ships are now working in the GOM.

If you look at the Koseq web site, those booms seem a little Mickey Mouse. I don't think the Dutch ships will make a huge difference, although they will help, of course.

They do look a little wacky - but the big advantage of the Koseq booms is that they are solid, so the ship can actually push them along, and concentrate the oil. This can't easily be done with flexible booms, so conventional skimmers are limited to areas with very heavy oil contamination.

The rigid arms are capable of concentrating thin films of oil. A ship fitted with these arms, travelling through an area with a very thin film (0.1 mm - 4/1000 inch) barely visible as a coloured reflective layer on the water, is able to collect over 1000 gallons / hour (500 barrels per day). In more heavily contaminated areas, the collection rate goes up drastically - and the overall collection rate is likely to be limited by the ship's oil tank size, and the need to return to port to empty the tanks.

Continued from the previous thread

Bendal on June 19, 2010 - 8:32am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Skimmers aren't going to get all this oil; I suspect BP is burning oil near the well because there are already too many ships in the region, and having skimming ships there too would just create more hazards for everyone.

Utter nonsense. They can certainly get as close to the working rigs as those fires are

Skimmers are being used between the shore and the well;

Really? Please show me credible evidence of that. I've seen none. Other than the sad picture of two shrimp boats pulling a net between them funneling oil into some sort of catcher. It's certainly better than nothing, but nothing near the effectiveness of the proven technology that has been available for the last 60 days but not brought into widespread use.

the size of the spill means they aren't going to get all of it no matter what they do though.

And they for sure aren't gonna get it if they don't allow the very best equipment in the world go to work.

Direct your outrage somewhere else; I think it's misplaced on this issue.

I don't think it is. I apologize for offending you, but I'll repeat myself:

There must be reasons. What are they? If it's Jones Act, then why hasn't the Admiral or the President waived it? If there have been institutional failures there, we should know about it.

If BP has been behind the blocking of the skimmers coming on scene, then that should be exposed.

There must be reasons. What are they?

Think about how they work. They list a huge number as the maximum number for the amount they can skim but the oil is spread out over thousands of square miles. They must go to each patch of oil. So the important numbers are the width skimmed and the speed at which they travel. They simply can't cover a big part of the spill. Thousands of sad low-tech shrimp boats have a much better chance imo. These Dutch skimmers are unlikely to be nearly as significant as some make them out to be.

There must be reasons. What are they?

May be the workload exceed the capacity of the response team? The problem is growing geometrically and the organization can only grow linearly.. You can add people into the team that deal with logistics, sourcing, personnel, accounting etc., but there is a lag time for the new people to get onboard and be productive. Before you say fire all the bastard who is running the show, the next bastard is facing the same problem and there is no easy solution. The fault of this reponse is the initial response plan that the industry and coast guard depend on.. They way underestimated the potential scope of the problem and hence the pre-positioned resource are not enough.. And now we are playing catch up on each and every issue...

Nothing is more effective at cleaning up oil spills than evaporation and degradation of oil by the natural action of the sea, oceans, and microbes.

Worked since the beginning of time.

And how long does this process take? Please show me where — anywhere — there has been a significant oil spill in the 150 years we've been drilling for this poison, and the surrounding environment has rebounded. One cite (or site). Please show documentation — any documentation — where there has been a major geological event in the history of the planet that caused the sudden release of crude oil into the environment, which mother nature then healed.

I normally don't get involved in the argument that is sourced by the outrage of the spill, but someone asked a less outraged version of the same question at The Straight Dope. Perhaps you can take up the argument over on his forums.


Sometimes nature doesn't need much assistance. Following the 1978 wreck of the Amoco Cadiz off the coast of Brittany, oil was broken down quickly by local microbes, which had grown accustomed to the stuff thanks to shipping leakage. Same for the 1980 Tanio wreck in the same area — biodegradation was detectable within 24 hours. The blowout of the Ixtoc well in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979 was a different story. Warm water and friendly bacteria raised hopes for speedy degradation, but in this case the oil formed an emulsion, or mousse, on the surface that proved resistant to breakdown.

To your question: It's true that human efforts didn't clean up most of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. Some hydrocarbons degraded rapidly without assistance, possibly because bacteria in Prince William Sound had acclimated to resin emitted by pine trees on shore.

But bioremediation seemed to help. Local bacteria were found to be starving for nutrients, and once fertilizers were added to a test area they got busy. Within a couple weeks a “white window” of clean rocks appeared among the gunk-covered ones. Eventually more than 70 miles of beach were treated this way.

Later researchers questioned how much oil the process actually got rid of, though. It's been calculated that all told, bioremediation, skimming, spraying, and scrubbing were responsible for removing less than a sixth of the spilled oil. Who or whatever deserves the credit, most of the Exxon Valdez spillage did eventually disappear.

Well the spillage may have "disappeared," but the toxins are still there. Plenty o' data on that, if you use the Google.

The toxins coming out of the engines from jet planes are still coming out, but last time I looked, people are still lining up to ride on them.

That has nothing to to with the original comment.

I've been to the coast of Brittany a dozen of so times. It's nuttin' like the GOM. One would be hard pressed to find any comparison between France's North Atlantic coast and the GOM.
Search (especially near Porsguen where the Cadiz smashed up). Does anything remind you of the shores of the Gulf Of Mexico?

Bretagne, (AKA 'Cote du Sauvage') is known for extreme tides, fierce waves, a rocky coastline. Hurricane force winds are typical, they are common and make short work of anything that is unlucky enough to fall in the Atlantic.

The bad news is a spill won't stay out to sea.
The good news is the brutality of the ocean and the above factors accelerate any natural degradation.
This occurs at a rate (frequently) in Brittany and the cumulative effect of seasonal storms is worse than anything a single hurricane could match.
Further, the rocks, cliffs and tides present constant-vigorous agitation.

I don't know how long this spill would remain intact off the coast of
Brittany nor is it possible to gauge the persistence after landfall. But nature would be more efficient in bashing the slick and the footprint would not be static for more than a few days.
Comparing the coast of Brittany to anywhere on the shore of the GOM is like comparing the Missouri to the Amazon or the Colorado.

I recounted on a previous thread my own personal experience of the excellent recovery from one of the biggest oil spills in the UK in recent times:

There have been a few comments of previous threads bemoaning the end of the Gulf coast, as if total apocalypse was going to result from this spill.

I would like to offer a bit of hope. Oil is not as devastating as is made out: My personal experience is that pretty quick the coast recovers. For the past 25 years I have been a regular visitor to west Wales , holidaying there several weeks per year. Last year I took myself down to Milford Haven, and spent a pleasant day on a beach not a mile from the rocks that caused the 70,000 tonne Sea Empress oil spill in 1996. Not a trace of visible oil remains and the local wildlife is now in good health. I even saw a seal!
My recollection of the Welsh media at the time was of hysteria about the total devastation of the entire Pembrokeshire coast ecosystem, seals, seabirds and all. Turns out the ecosystem is pretty tough: by 1998 I couldn't tell the event had happened, swarms of healthy seabirds would nick your lunch when out fishing...

So all is not lost. Oil is not forever. Oil is not wildly toxic, it biodegrades pretty quick. Nature recovers, recolonises and moves on.

So Petey I hope this reassures you, oil is a pretty benign substance with only shortterm persistence in the environment. Compared to the effects of activities such as industrial scale overfishing the oil spill is a minor problem. Mother Nature is tough and resilient, and the Gulf ecosystem will recover well given a little time and a little less fishing.

The IXTOC I spill is an example of the environment naturally rebounding.

Here is a good article in the Miami Herald about the long term natural remediation of the Ixtoc spill quoting quite a few experts.


I heard that on the news yesterday, that Allen said they would now start manufacturing more skimmers. Made me shake my head in disbelief. Aren't they a bit late?

The GOM is so screwed.

Allen is in WAY over his head. He has been incompetent at best.

I don't have the link to bp's latest update, but the number of skimmers listed was in the hundreds.

As to the Dutch skimmers, here is a June 15th article that refers to them specifically and it has a photo. Believe it or don't.


also an article from the Christian Science Monitor from June 1st.


They started bringing skimmers in within days.

22 April 2010 -- Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sinks. Spill starts.

24 April 2010 -- 32 spill response vessels (skimmers, tugs, barges, recovery vessels).*

29 April 2010 -- 69 response vessels are being used including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels.*

*from BP press releases.


Approximately 31,000 personnel are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife and cleanup vital coastlines.
More than 6,200 vessels are currently responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
Approximately 2.42 million feet of containment boom and 3.77 million feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill—and approximately 492,000 feet of containment boom and 2.03 million feet of sorbent boom are available.
Approximately 22.3 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.

To date, the administration has leveraged assets and skills from numerous foreign countries and international organizations as part of this historic, all-hands-on-deck response, including Canada, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization and the European Union's Monitoring and Information Centre


Successful Controlled Burn
In recent days, favorable weather conditions have allowed responders to conduct successful controlled burn operations. As part of a coordinated response that combines tactics deployed above water, below water, offshore, and close to coastal areas, controlled burns efficiently remove oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife. In total, more than 225 burns have been conducted to remove more than five million gallons of oil from the water.

that's where I saw it, thanks.

more than 445 skimmers in service as of last Thursday:


that's great a week after it started leaking they had 69 response vessels (a fraction of which were skimmers)

The above post (Aardv) speaks to complacent response by BP and equally by the government. Go back to the headlines at the end of April, while a few were sounding the alarm the media and officials were downplaying and some suggest covering up the magnitude of the leak.

Yes, but according to some here, the Dutch skimmers are "special", or "magic", or whatever adjective you want to use. If only they could get put to use, they will be able to suck up all this oil alone and save the Gulf!

Said comments ignoring the fact that there's only six of them, they operate just like other skimmers do (collect oil, store it on board a ship), much of this oil remains below the surface and immune to being skimmed, and the oil that is on top is spread over an area larger than Kansas.

And yes, my comment that having skimmers running around in proximity of the well itself, where there are all sorts of vessels already present, makes a hazardous area even more dangerous.


There is nothing special about the skimmers. It's just proven technology.
Yes, 6 arms deployed on 3 ships is not enough for the entire spill.
What you need is a strategy. And skimming around in the proximity of the well itself is not what you need to do.
The complete strategy would be as follow:

1) Start building sand-dikes in front of specific areas you want to protect, such as marshes. It will take time, but this will give a superb defense.
2) Do not use dispersant at the well. Let the oil float to the surface.
3) Use planes to detect the oil that has surfaced. Focus on the coastlines.
4) Direct small oil tankers equipped with skimmers to the oil. Of course you need more as the spill grows.
5) As a last line of defense, use aerial dispersant nearer to the coast if you are to late to skim it up.

This will of course not magically save the Gulf. But it will minimize the impact on the sensitive areas.

Roger from the Netherlands

Hello Old Fisherman,

I've told this several times now on TOD; so one more last time now ;-)

Three days right after the blowout of the BP well, several companies (example: http://www.koseq.com/) in the Netherlands have offered to provide oil collecting devices (skimmers) witch can be attached to local tankers to collect the oil from the surface of the ocean.
This system has been proved to be effective in the past with other oil spills.
For about 30 days neither the US Gov. or BP has responded to our help we've been offering.
Help was offered also though parliament. But the reaction we got in the beginning was that they (BP?) wanted to do this alone. Maybe the underlying psychological reason is that it is embarrassing to accept help? Certainly BP downplaying this whole thing right from the start didn't help.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thing is, 6 devices are now deployed. And several countries can ship more of those today.

The Jones act does not prohibit the use of skimmers, because they can be attached to US vessels of opportunity. Only if there are no US vessels with oil storage capacity available (I can hardly believe this) Jones would be a problem.

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

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

So do not, I repeat, do not use use dispersants on the oil, but skim it of the surface! That is what the experience dictates us. The use of dispersants is really your last option, when you lost the battle.

Facts about the oil collectors/sweeping arms:

Sweeping Arm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe you could look into this example for an upfront response system: http://www.emsa.europa.eu/

Roger from the Netherlands


Thanks for reposting your informative comments. However, I want to point out that we don't know who rejected the initial offer nor why, owing to the murky command structure. The Dutch initially contacted the government and heard back through them. However, in the early stages, the government was taking the line that BP will do (not just pay for) the cleanup. The government does not do cleanups and had little equipment or expertise, BP didn't either, but they had existing contracts with companies to do the cleanup. Perhaps they assumed the companies were competent to to the job. They said so in their spill response plan.

Surely BP would have been informed of the offer. Did they inform the contractors? Did someone reject the offer because of the EPA rule or because they thought the Koseq arms were not needed? Who failed to notice that these skimmers were more effective than ours by orders of magnitude? Who failed to recognize or admit that the contractors had only a trivial capacity to skim? If the EPA rule was the cause, who failed to challenge the absurdity of applying it?

So the responsibility might lie with the contractors, with BP, with the USCG incident commander at the time, with EPA, etc. But I don't think we should be saying "the government turned it down because of the EPA rule" until we know more. One account had the State Dept. (?) responder saying to the Dutch, "We'll let BP decide what they need."


Actually the offer was initially refused by the Administration:

As you can see in the following news item we do not exactly know why the offer was initially refused:

The reason may be Environmental Protection Agency regulations that prevent discharging oil-affected water back into the source.

I personally think that the reason was two-fold:
1) BP downplayed the spill; with the low numbers of 1000-5000 bpd the use of the skimmers would be limited.
2) BP was responsible for the clean-up. So if they allowed for heavy skimming equipment that would be like confessing the situation was serious after all.

When the US Gov. took over, it had been obvious that the spill was massive.
And that every hand, US and foreign, was needed.

So it is probably not a matter of neglectfulness or foul-play on the side of the administration (BP is another matter). It is just that there is no effective response in place.

Like I said; When the dust is settled, it would be wise to install a body (overseen by the US government and funded by the oil companies that drill in the US) that is 24-7 ready to come into action when a spill occurs.

Roger from the Netherlands


The first article you cite is by an obscure opinion columnist whom I doubt knows any more about the subject than you or I. He says "Obama refused." I repeat my point that we do not know at what point on the web of "command" the Koseq skimming arms were refused. (Naturally the reply would be communicated govt. to govt., regardless of where the decision was taken.) Below I have a suggestion as to why they were refused.

A reporter for Business Week reveals who the cleanup contractors are.

They are Marine Spill Response of Herndon, VA, and National Response Corp. of Great River, NY. Both are large companies who maintain stockpiles of equipment around the Gulf. According to the BW article, "BP’s [spill response] plan says that those companies have enough oil-skimming vessels to remove about 492,000 barrels of oil a day from the water. The companies have the capacity to store 299,000 barrels a day, according to the plan." The website for Marine Spill Response indeed lists skimmers stationed in the Gulf with a claimed capacity of over 100,000 bbl/day.

So perhaps the reason for refusing was the contractors' assurance that they had it covered several times over the imaginable worst case. Who'd have thought that the actual collection rate would be around 1,000 bbl/d rather than 300,000? This discrepancy also leads me to wonder what will be the performance of the Koseq skimmers under actual conditions. Maybe we are exaggerating the lost opportunity. I'm looking forward to hearing a report.


It seems to me that we agree on the main point: BP was responsible for the cleanup.

I think this is central in the whole chain of events:
1) They had incentives to downplay this spill.
2) And they've been heavy on the dispersant to try to prevent the oil from rising to the surface. Thus limiting the effectiveness of any skimming (regardless of technology).
3) Letting in extra heavy skimming equipment besides the original contractors would be like confessing to the real size of the spill.

P.s. I'm not really interested in the blame game. It is more important to learn from this situation and to try to behave differently in the future.

Roger, I'm quite happy to believe some Jobsworth in some department somewhere prevented the sweeping arms coming in for some stupid reason. Shame on them.

But the arms are far from the miracle workers you claim they are.

The problem is most of the slick is in the silvery spread-out stage and is only about 1 micron thick (a human hair is about 100 microns wide).

Assuming a ship equipped with these arms sweeps a 25 m wide strip and travels at 15 km/hr (just guessing).

Area swept in one day = 25 x 15,000 x 24 = 9 million sq metres.

Amount of oil in that area = 9,000,000 x 1/1,000,000 = 9 cub metres.

That's about 57 barrels of oil collected in a day, assuming 100% efficiency.

Not very impressive. Plus you need to fit the skimmer arms on boats with large tanks that will store the oil/water mix long enough for the oil to separate out. How many boats with settling tanks are available? Not many, I guess.


If the oil on the water is indeed 1 micron thick, then what are we talking about?
Just let nature bio degrade that small amount of oil. Seems hardly worth mentioning .

Part of the issue in regards to spill cleanup is its abstractness. People commenting here like to discuss mechanical contraptions because it is tactile, viusalizable, and concrete, not some abstraction like a thin layer dispersed over a large area. How many people will understand diffusion and areal dispersion? I think maybe a few and would like to see more of this discussion.

I understand some of the futility in discussing the extent of the problem of the already spilled oil. I work on oil depletion models in my spare time, and if you want something that requires abstract probability-based arguments, there you have it.


Your comment is very interesting. What is your view on using dispersant at the well site and it's effect on the diffusion and areal dispersion of the spilled oil?

Notwithstanding the fact that huge areas are indeed covered with an oil sheen only, which is very hard to collect, there is ample footage of large areas covered in a thick layer of oil; perfect for skimming.

So the discussion cannot focus on either situation alone, and we cannot rebut each other arguments when we're actually talking about different situations of oil concentration on the surface of the Gulf.

Determining slick thickness by appearance is an inexact science. Here is a table from a publication on the EU oil pollution website http://www.bonnagreement.org/eng/html/welcome.html

The Bonn Agreement
Description Layer Thickness
microns (µm)
Sheen (silver/gray) 0.04 - 0.30
Rainbow 0.3 - 5.0
Metallic 5.0 - 50
Transitional Dark (or True) Color 50 - 200
Dark (or True) Color >200

Note that the original estimated leak rate of 25,000 bopd was made by assuming the slick (then about two weeks old) 2/3rds approx was 1 micron thick and 1/3rd approx was 5 microns thick.

I think the Dutch rigid skimmer arms were developed for confined waters like harbours and estuaries where the slick would stay thick.

a rather dated looking dispersant tech job aid from NOAA: http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/book_shelf/489_disperse.pdf

Having worked for all levels of government AND a bit in private industry,Bureaucratic inertia and incompetence would be my number one guess. Then at #2 would be BP's desire to minimize the event.

Old Fisherman,

Maybe you would like to follow this guy at the San Fran Chronicle:


He is trying to get to the bottom of this skimmer-thing.

Roger from the Netherlands

Thank you, Roger. I will look into the SF Chronicle. As much as others have tried to downplay the importance of industrial level skimming to cleanup efforts, it's a real scandal it's taken this long to get some on the scene. And it's a scandal even more of it isn't here. Apparently only 6 out of 19 I think were offered. (My error saying only 3 in previous posts.)

I, for one, am thankful you have posted here to point it out. And I'd bet if you hadn't posted here in the first place there wouldn't ANY on scene yet.

All those press releases mentioning "1,000's of vessels (including skimmers, ... yadayada)" are just that, press releases put out by vested interests to protect those interests. And we Americans should know better by now than to just accept them at face value.

Skimmergate (for lack of a more descriptive term) is a scandal of, I think, major proportions if the facts behind it ever really come out. It's a disgrace, and damaging, to our country that we cannot acknowledge our own failings.

I have to wonder if some of the denial is just because our national pride has been dinged by some other countries having vastly and clearly better technology than us.

If the Jones Act (or any other law or regulation) is keeping ANY cleanup potential out of US waters in this time of crisis, for ANY reason, then Shame on the President. Shame on Admiral Allen.

And shame on us.

Old Fisherman,

As heartedly I agree with you that it is a shame that the skimming response to this spill has been so bad (hopefully until now), I don't agree to blame Obama or Admiral Allen for this situation.

I think the main reason for the problem is the fact that in the US the drilling companies are responsible for dealing with the cleaning of a spill.
You know the story with corporations; cost externalization is a main strategy.
So if having a spill response on paper only will do, that's much cheaper than actually having equipment ready on site.

That's why I emphasize on this: it would be wise to install a body (acted out by the US government and funded by the oil companies that drill in the US) that is 24-7 ready to come into action when a spill occurs.

Maybe it sounds 'socialist' to some to have this task placed in the hands of the government, I think that when it comes to disasters you must have a party ready to take action that is not having an interest in denying the scale of the situation.

That's why I emphasize on this: it would be wise to install a body (acted out by the US government and funded by the oil companies that drill in the US) that is 24-7 ready to come into action when a spill occurs.

It is not the administrative body that is important. it is the equipments and manpower available on standby that is important. If we want quick response, all the equipments and personnel must be already in place (i.e. contract in place, personnel in place, willing to drop everything that they are working on now and start working on containing the spill).. it is not a small problem. Just think about fire department in every city. How expensive it is to keep the fire department around and fire department can ask neighboring fire department for help. In oil spill, who else can we go to in borrown personnel and equipment? It will be expensive to drill in GOM (and any other deepsea for that matter) if we size the response plan correctly..

Good evening, Mecca time, Mr Berman

1. Drilling of the Macondo well had reached total depth (TD) at 18,360 feet (ft). The previous casing shoe was at 17,168 ft.
3. The casing had been cemented using +/-100 bbls of slurry. There were no losses and the plug was bumped. No back flow was observed after displacement (although “U” tube effect was not significant.) Top of cement is estimated at 16,200 ft.

Is this right? I thought top of cement was closer to 17,200 to 17300'

Some of the "whacko" websites are calling the oil radioactive, showing a geiger counter blip when oil is passed nearby. Does deep well oil usually have a slight radioactivity (i.e. higher than surface background)?

The stone wall beside you have a trace amount of radioactivity.

So does many basements that trap radon gas.

Get over it.

Have a cigarette. It too, is a tad radioactive.

So is anything carbon, which contains a minute amount of radioactive isotopes...

Organic material is radiocarbon dead in ~40,000 years. Oil is older than that. Could be other mildly radioactive material in the rocks surrounding the reservoir or the sandstone matrix - if so level is probably quite low.

The radioactive oil comments are based on the totally debunked "abiotic oil" concept where oil is being constantly produced deep in the earth (endless supply BS).

do you have a link for the debunking of abiotic oil?

This is all you need to know about it. The big American proponent of the theory, Thomas Gold, was an astronmer that predicted that the Lunar Lander Module would sink into a fluffy pile of dust when it landed on the moon's surface --- 'would sink out of sight, together with all its gear'.

I have a feeling that this theory of abiotic oil was his attempt to redeem his reputation after that one and a few other blunders. He also had something called "steady state theory" discredited, and thought that solar sailing "breaks laws of physics".

No need to debunk, 3 strikes and you are out for scientific credentials.

I wouldn't use the phrase totally debunked as eeyore did in his comment above--abiotic oil can't be disproved any more than Russell's teapot--but Richard Heinberg wrote a piece on abiotic oil back in 2004 that is a very good debunking of the claims made by abiotic oil proponents: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/2423

Here's a comment from TheOilDrum that would suffice:


In short, you can take what we guess the source rock to be, and cook it. Lo, out comes oil. When that particular source rock is buried and there's oil deposits above it, the oil is similar.

There's such thing as an "oil window" whereby if you exceed the temperature and pressure for any length of time, an oil reservoir will cease containing oil. The stuff will cook right out. Essentially, as you drill deeper in an oil province, it's often gas oil gas. There are no oil deposits at 440degF. Yet we are told the abiotic oil comes from places that are hot and buried deep.

In places where there is a stable craton - there's little trace of significant hydrocarbons. With abiotic oil, places like Yellowstone park should be just drenched with oil. Granite mountain ranges would have oil seeps everywhere. There ARE cases in which oil is found in reservoirs made from fractured igneous rock. If this shocks anyone, it shouldn't. I can point to dozens of places where oil is found in fractured anhydrite on top of salt domes. We can surmise what happened in the case of cap rock accumulation on the top of salt domes. In the case of some deposits, the source rock is actually ABOVE the reservoir. In one notable case in the North Sea, the hydrocarbon migration went laterally for many miles.

You've heard about the "resource plays" where shale beds are loaded with reserves, and the drillers have to drill horizontally through the section, and then often have to pump liquids down to "fracture" the rock enough to get gas and condensate to come out. Essentially, these are source rocks, too. There's no mechanism anyone can think of for hydrocarbons to jump into otherwise impermeable shales in preference for the surrounding rock. The hydrocarbons had to be there when that rock was deposited.

I understand the abiotic theory. But it's a theory. I just don't know any bank that cashes theoretical paychecks.

The granite counter top in your kitchen has a fair chance to be emitting radiation.

I'm guessing that Carbon 14 has a half life far less than the time it takes to create oil/NG, so it's probably not that high. But if you have a source, you've got more info than I.

Rense. Agit-trash.

I agree that Rense should be taken with a grain of salt or more, but uranium and thorium can be present in petroleum. The API fact sheet linked by dumbassyokel explains it. But as much as Rense claims? Not likely.

Carbon 14 emits a beta particle that is too low of an energy to be detected with a geiger counter or most hand held radiation detectors. I would be surprised if the concentration of NORM (naturally occuring radioactive materials)in small amounts of oil is high enough to stand out from natural background variations. Usually the radionuclides have to be concentrated to be detectable as mentioned in the above fact sheet or this link
Effects of radiation exposure fall into two catagories, deterministic (immediate) and stochastic (long term). Levels of NORM in oil and gas are not high enough to give deterministic effects from radiation before the chemical concentrations cause illness.

A newbie question or two, as I don't have any offshore experience and haven't worked in the industry since '94. Why was the drill string in the hole? Sounds like they had run the last of the casing strings and were getting ready to do a production test. Wouldn't they use a production string for this, or a work string, with some sort of packer that they could set and unset as necessary?

M. Simmons talks about pipe getting blown out of the hole, but from the description at the start of the thread, it appears that the gas blew up the 'drill pipe'. To me, this doesn't mean there wasn't annular flow, but it seems like, at least initially, the BOP did at least a portion of its assigned tasks, grabbing the 'drill pipe'.

If the above is what happened, and the 'drill pipe' was hooked up to the Kelly, it sounds like gas went up the drill pipe and blasted right through the kelly. I would think that the kelly pipe would have some sort of emergency shut off valve somewhere between the swivel and the kelly bushing.

The sand/shale line is drawn by one of two primary methods of electric logging.
SP or Gamma Ray. You have a shale that has some moderate amounts of radioactivity in them, and sands don't show radioactivity. I live west of Houston, Texas. I know for a fact there's a radioactive sand 600 feet down. It's an easily trackable zone. Other than that, that's it. Shales are slightly radioactive, sands are not (unless they have shales mixed in), and limestones generally aren't radioactive.

Gamma Ray was used in logging this well, and is on the electric log we've now seen from the BP documents of the pay zone.

If the oil in the reservoir was radioactive, the gamma ray curve on the electric log would have illustrated this. It shows just the opposite. The two sands in question are rather clean sands with ordinary oil/gas in them.

You can have lead in unleaded gasoline so you could have uranium in deposits. The question is how much. Coal plants dump many curies of uranium in the air every year. Any trace amount in this oil is nothing to worry about. We live in a radioactive world. A world that was here long before we spit the atom.

I would not be opposed to adding depleted uranium to the mud if the need arises. Twice as dense as lead.

I once took a tour of both a Uranium mine near San Antonio, Texas, and the processing plant. The mine was interesting. Nearly 140 feet deep, with those big sloped wide roads for the giant mining trucks. It was the first time I'd seen one up close and personal. In Texas, the Uranium would concentrate in certain low grade coal deposits called lignite. Not really concentrated enough to make economical, but in this case both the lignite and the sand below it were mined. The sand was fairly radioactive, and would make a Geiger counter chatter. The lignite not as much. We then went to the processing plant, operated by Conoco, as I recall. Surprisingly low tech. The product from the mine was stored and processed there. Processed by using a substance that would strip and keep the radioactive uranium, leaving the rest relatively non-radioactive. Barrels and barrels of ... kerosene. I remember walking across them. The barrels were open. Bizarre. The end product is the yellowcake that is the beginning of the uranium processing chain.

So, yes, organic products can easily take up radioactive elements, or so I'm to understand. I am far from an expert in that. But I can read a gamma ray log and this stuff has no more radioactivity in it than any other oil from any other location.

As to the super heavy weight mud, I believe they still use galena as an additive. I don't think anyone in the industry would have a supply of depleted uranium to use as a mud additive -- I would imagine the mud properties haven't been established -- after all, you still have to keep that stuff in suspension. It still has to behave as mud, and you still have to pump it.

"A world that was here long before we spit the atom."

I think we've been "spitting" atoms for a very long time. Since the Cambrian.

Meh. If somebody needs something to worry about, worry about the potassium-40 in one's own body. Nothing practical to be done about it though. As usual, no absolute zero of risk.

dumassyokal, the radioactive potassium 40 in your wife or significant others' blood will also cause a properly scaled gieger counter to beep. Still you should not be too concerned about an occasional hug.


Water Depth had no impact on blowout, or little effect on time till Relief Wells plug it

This is a point (above) that I have been meaning to make for several days (as I have taken time off from TOD).

A blowout in 12' of water could have been controlled much better, but one in even 200' of water would be difficult (see Ixtoc), although somewhat easier than at 5,000'.


OTOH, on-shore a few hundred acres would be severely affected, but it could be contained to that.

The issue is BP's negligence, not the depth of water. NO ONE should be able to drill and complete an offshore well like this again.


Alan, I don't think anyone has time to read all these comment threads. I was wondering how bad the onshore pollution is. Is it everywhere along the Louisiana coast or just isolated pockets so far? And how intense? I really don't have a feel if we have hundreds of miles of beach under a foot of oil or is it a few miles here and there with light pollution?

Today's release:

"Approximately 61 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline is currently experiencing impacts from BP’s leaking oil—approximately 35 miles in Louisiana, four miles in Mississippi, nine miles in Alabama, and 13 miles in Florida."


Allen yesterday mentioned the challenge of how to appropriately quantify the areas of contamination ...6/18 press briefing

ADMIRAL ALLEN: There are a lot of ways to deal with the impacted coastline and I (inaudible) really describes it all. If you look at three miles of coastline in a marshy area and you have oil penetrated back three or four hundred yards, that's a much more significant impact than the linear length would tell you.

And what we're trying to do is drive the right metric associated with that. Ultimately, I think we—in my view, there needs to be a length and a depth (inaudible) to this and try to come up with the right way to describe this and communicate it and (we'll working on that continuously (inaudible).

So Ultra deepwater drilling is A-okay with you?

Did this 'expert' post bamboozle you that all is well technologically at great depths?

Nope, everything is fine. Just those rotten apples at BP corporate.

Remember how the 'experts' here poo-pooed the flow rate film professor who claimed that the flow rate was far greater than the 5000 bpd initially claimed by BP and it turns our the 'experts' were wrong yet again.

Louisiana has always been in bed with Big Oil and the US sure does need the revenue.

A moratorium on ultradeepwater drilling just wouldn't seem natural!

The previous thread was stopped. I would really appreciate comment on this post. It is not usual to get Russian input to this issue prior to MSM. Tks

Hi All.
This is my first an probably last post. I am a retired Electrical Engineer from a country a long way away. Long time follower of this website - love it!.

I have been intrigued by the Matt Simmons assertions. My Googleing had these results :


I am sure the TOD audience can take this forward.
A wonderful site. My background is AEROSPACE and IT, and it has been a wonderful experience for me to learn so much about OIL exploration and production, and to observe the similarities to my field.

Thank you.

The reports are fictional. I do like the bit in the one article that claims

Sagalevich said the Mirs would be the most effective since they are operated by people on board rather than remotely, allowing for a more thorough investigation.

because we've seen how long it takes an ROV to unbolt those big bolts... I could imagine James Cameron is much better at that. [/sarcasm]

I feel confident that we'll find out what imaginary device or creature accomplishes that when the film is in the can.

They actually made a 3rd practice run late one night at removing and replacing a riser bolt using two different and smaller wrenches, and they had gotten pretty good it at. This time they only needed a single ROV, and it took maybe 15 minutes to get one broken loose with one tool and and thenspun out with a big hydraulic impact wrench. Then they reversed the impact wrench and screwed it back in and tightened it down.

Not quite as fast as changing a tire, but close.

Well if you look at the open wheel guys it is dang near automated. Jacks in the cars, single nut. I imagine an automated tire changing system is possible, but maybe the human factor is needed for pit stop analysis and adjustment. Thing is, that can be done and is done real time via computers and actuators. Interesting, maybe we will have full size slot car racing one day.

No disrespect intended, R2, but how do you know that the first report, in particular, is "fictional"?

No disrespect intended, R2, but how do you know that the first report, in particular, is "fictional"?

Suggestion: Google the author, "Sorcha Faal."

Thank you. I see the light.

Too late for posting on previous thread:

The small diameter riser inlet on Top Hat is baffling. It was 2" dia by my estimate. I searched the BP site to find an e-mail address where I could ask BP directly about it, but no luck.

However, it seems that RITT was being prepared as an alternative even as Top Hat was being deployed, so maybe they never had much faith in it.

Here are the BP press releases for the period. They don't mention the fate of Top Hat.

Release date: 13 May 2010
Work to deploy a second system designed to contain the oil flow subsea has continued. A small dome or “top hat” has been taken out to the well site and placed on the seabed in preparation for deployment. Such a system has never been used in water depths of 5,000 feet and its successful operation is not certain. The deployment of this system is expected to be attempted within the next few days.

Release date: 17 May 2010
The riser insertion tube tool (RITT) containment system was put into place in the end of the leaking riser on May 16. Operations began during the day to allow oil and gas to flow through the tool up to the drillship Discoverer Enterprise on the surface 5,000 feet above. Produced oil is being stored on the drillship while produced gas is being flared.

From what I have been able to determine that was a different version of 'top hat' that had a restricting orifice in the riser to control flow to an amount the Enterprise could safely handle. That one lacks the 4 vents that can be opened or closed.

The one they installed has a somewhat different design if you look closely, and also has vents on the top to release oil in excess of what Enterprise can handle. I would presume these vents took the place of that restriction in the one that was actually installed.

In any case the current cap, pitiful thing that it is, is sending as much oil and gas up to Enterprise as they are capable of processing. So, whether it has a built in restriction or not is a moot point. Discoverer Enterprise does not want to become Deepwater Horizon II.

Correct, James. The first attempt was the concrete "cofferdam." Failed due to hydrate blockage.

The second attempt was "top hat." Failed due to hydrate blockage (I assume). That's the one photographed with the small-diameter riser opening, and the one under discussion.

The current attempt is "LMRP cap" with four vents and a full 6" riser opening.

The original 'tophat' was designed for the end of the leaking riser and was never tried. It had a cutout to fit over the end of the pipe and was designed for smaller flow rate that what we now have. The RIT device was installed in lieu of the 'tophat'.

This question was orphaned several threads ago (it will not be resurrected again)...

Putting on a tin foil hat for a moment…

So, here’s me and my silly questions. What if Simmons is both right and wrong? What would it look like if there were a structural collapse of a chunk the GOM that is hydraulically connected to the BP well? What if this collapse opened up a crack somewhere and while BP is trying to figure out what to do with their well (the part they’re liable for and which can be televised without panicking everyone) there are a host of other ships (they’re not telling us how much coastguard is in the area) looking at and studying a problem they’re not sure what to do with.

Would this help explain the “non-BP oil” claims we’ve been hearing about some of the slicks they’re finding? Would a sudden pressurization help to explain 40% methane composition oil?

1. Is this a realistic scenario?
2. Is there anything that would clue us into a situation like this?

Also, it is my understanding that since heavy oil has a density which is equal to or greater than water, it could pretty much stay down there indefinitely.

/Tin Foil Hat

The only cracks and conduit to be worried about is along and perhaps outside the casing of the well itself. Most of the earth around and below 500' below the sea floor is sufficient to stop the upward flow of any of the fluids, unless there's a conduit for those fluids and the associated pressure from depth. Away from the wellbore, the mudrock (shales) are plastic enough to seal leaks. Period.

Any wild scenario about massive leaks would involve somewhere around the wellbore. If the casing was breached in a significant fashion, and the oil/gas did not come up around the outside of the casing around the base of the BOP, then it would have to find a shallow sand to flow into. The nature of the shallow casing is that the oil/gas wouldn't have breached through the multiple strings of pipe only to flow sideways, unless there was a sand. Again, sands and mud shallower than 500 feet below the mudline aren't consolidated enough to do anything but act like a pile of gelatin. Any breach there would go right up and surround the BOP. You've seen the ROVs working the BOP stack. We would see some volume of something, and we aren't. So, no active leaks shallow. Active leaks deep? Possible. But even if possible and active, it means very little to the goings on of the well.

Lastly, every last bit of oil flowing out of this reservoir is lighter than water, considerably so.

Can one of the drillers provide more commentary on the inflow test?

Just a dumb-re-cycled geo here. Would like more explanation of why the test configuration would not have matched the well pressures after displacement.

not a driller, (hardly a geo, myself), but in water monitoring, isn't a drawdown test where you take a water level measurement, pump for a while, then measure the time it takes for the water level to recharge the well to the previous water level?

I'm not sure if that's relevant to oil wells, tho.

I still don't quite get the inflow/drawdown test, a text book explanation: http://is.gd/cVvMG


The dumb geologist explanation of the pressure test on the cmt: Take a plastic bottle and blow into it and then hold your breath (a positive test). If there's a small hole in the bottle you'll feel the slow pressure drop thru you lips (i.e the cmt isn't holding). Now suck hard and hold your breath (a negative pressure test). If there a small hole in the bottle you'll feel a slow loss of the vacuum thru your lips (i.e. the cmt isn't holding).

Of course the equipment on the rig is a tad more sophisticated but as I've pointed out before: this ain't rocket science.

Can you explain more about this comment from the article?

This test was carried out part-way through the displacement of the well to seawater including a complex spacer pill, with the well shut in and the kill line open & full of seawater. Kill line pressure was zero but there was 1400 psi on the drill pipe.

The inflow/draw down test was probably flawed. It would not equate to what the well would see after the riser was displaced to seawater. There is also witness statement information that the observation of return flow from the kill line to the cement unit was 15 bbls during the inflow test. As can been seen in the BP report, there was quite a lot going on during this process, and the data seems rather confusing. However, the test was deemed to be satisfactory.

E.g. the 'probably flawed' part.

I was just readin' the BP presentation. 'the complex spacer pill' was 16ppg LCM. (starts around page 18) http://energycommerce.house.gov/documents/20100527/BP.Presentation.pdf

I don't understand, but going diagram by diagram, from the time they filled the choke, booster, kill lines w/seawater I start to get a sense of difficulties encountered.

The 1400 psi on the drill pipe/645 psi on kill line; bled down to 273 psi on dp/0 psi on kill line, seems like it was a definite sign that things weren't going as planned, if I'm reading it right.

I don't know what overbalance/underbalance means, but that's the inflection point, according to the diagrams.

Overbalance = 'the stuff in the hole is heavy enough to keep any nasties from coming back up the hole at you'.

Underbalance = just the opposite.

I think this is a euphemism for "ignored unfavorable test results". A Halliburton employee who was on duty during the test said this pretty clearly to the congressional committee.

"this ain't rocket science."
... But it is, sort-of.

People make rockets out of those plastic bottles too. It's just a matter of scale -- a hand-pump puts a couple psi of pressure in the bottle, and it can blast off and fly ten or twenty feet.

Likewise, your dumb-iron-pipe pressure tests, when scaled up to the real thing, involve technical challenges similar to those of the rocket scientist. At high enough pressures/temperatures your list of materials gets shorter and your margin of error diminishes.

Either you've had the materials science courses and statics and dynamics etc, and can understand what's going on, or whatever you're trying to do isn't going to work out.

Thanks ROCK, that's a great explanation. I'm either too dumb to be a professional geo, or too smart to be one, I dunno which. Alls I know is they made me sit down and read 40 hours worth of regulations and SOPs before lettin' me set foot on a drill site. I might've learned more in that time as a driller's helper.

In any event, it ain't rocket science, but it's a far cry from simple. You've got specialized knowledge, and we're grateful to you for sharing it.

You're welcome mutt. The" ain't rocket science" part really refers to the guys that do these tests everyday. They don't even need to run it thru the computer. They can just glance at the plots and tell if they are getting usefull data. Like a lot of tech areas many can easily analyze good data. Takes a good pro to make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t.

I would like to re-post greenfloyd's idea of a three-day moritorium on private cars and planes. During this time, we could have some "teach-ins" at schools and universities about the true cost of our energy consumption, and present alternative ideas.

I would like to re-post greenfloyd's idea of a three-day moritorium on private cars and planes.

Like Al Gore, I would pay to have someone plant 2 tree's in my name so I can avoid this exercise. But feel free to convince others, the lack of traffic for 3 days would be wonderful.

Hahahahahahaha, ROFLMAO. How would anybody, even the presenters, even get to said teach-ins, except maybe in a few places like Manhattan??? How would the custodial (and security) staff get there to open the buildings or attend to the grounds???

Of course, one could do away with the transportation problem by holding the teach-ins at colleges and universities where students are often resident, some faculty often live nearby, and just enough custodial/security staff might be rustled up to open at least some humanities facility. So the humanities department(s) could hold events resembling church-services, in which the converted would preach to each other and to their students. Never mind that it's hard to see much point in that since it seems a bit redundant.

Meanwhile, the rest of the population could be signing up "tea parties" by telephone, in order to get rid of the politicians who ordered the moratorium, which after all would hardly be likely to have happened on its own. OK, enough of that. <eyes roll>

Hello PaulS:
I don't think greenfloyd was suggesting a MANDATORY moratorium. What I like about the idea is that people generally want to participate in things that seem meaningful to them-- and a three-day moratorium on personal driving has symbolic significance as the period of time we are told the Macondo well would have supported our American thirst for oil. Participating in such an event would connect us to our responsibility to react to the disaster in the GOM. It would give us a chance to grapple with the reality of our dependence on oil, if only for three days. I think the idea has the potential to bring people together in a positive way. BTW, with the internet, there is no reason why a "teach in" has to be at a physical location. (Actually, TOD is a kind of teach-in. I have learned a lot here, and have a new appreciation of how much more there is to learn.)

So you tell your boss "I'm staying home for 3 days as a protest against oil consumption".

Boss: "You have to come in or you're fired."

And please don't say "well, everyone will be home so there's no need for businesses to be open". I hope no one is that naive.

I'd have to disagree - greenfloyd said in part:

I [propose] a three day Moratorium on private automobile and commercial aviation use in the United States. In addition, I submit that on those 3 days all public transportation be free and subsidized by the oil industry.

I propose this kicking-the-habit Moratorium shall run from July 2nd through the 4th of July, Independence Day...

...I suggest additional days of sacrifice, although, for now that's best left up to individuals and their own private conscience.

The aviation and transportation actions couldn't conceivably happen without a Federal mandate, which would cause such an uproar it wouldn't stand the proverbial snowball's chance. Indeed, with July 4 involved, the fuel-guzzling tourist "industry" would head the line of those breathing hellfire. Oh, and the part about additional voluntary actions also suggests (even if it does not prove) that the basic action was conceived of as mandated.

And not to worry about anything non-mandatory - among many other things the law says the airlines and oil companies are not charities or political action committees, but have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to keep operating. Few transit agencies are rolling in money these days; many have been cutting service. And July 2 is not far off at all; it typically takes some months to organize such things on a large and voluntary scale. Ultimately
Bendal is right. The idea collapses to dust of its own weight for prosaic reasons.

Thank you, I think your analysis is right. The impact on the tourist trade, the involvement of the government-- that's not going to work. But i do like the idea of the moratorium, and perhaps there is a better way to do it.

I would like to state my thoughts on the idea. Government halting your life,for 3 days, so it can indoctrinate you in the presently popular political ideas... Is a version of brainwashing no free country can ever engage in and be a free country anymore. I refuse to live in tyranny, so take the idea and blow it up and stuff the fragments down the well to help plug it.

I would like to state my thoughts on the idea. Government halting your life,for 3 days, so it can indoctrinate you in the presently popular political ideas... Is a version of brainwashing no free country can ever engage in and be a free country anymore. I refuse to live in tyranny, so take the idea and blow it up and stuff the fragments down the well to help plug it.

Excellent comment on the topic. The people who have benefited by the oil industries expertise, industry and sacrifice spanning 3 centuries now (which encompasses at least every developed country on the globe) act as though these same people and companies should be the primary contributors to whatever eco-topia scenario they can dream up to assuage their guilt at being as much a part of the system as anyone else.

from the lead article:

•During the displacement of the well to seawater, volume, flow show and pressure anomalies were evident but did not result in the well being shut in in a timely manner.
•Even after there were some indications that all was not well, pumping operations continued. Returns were dumped and the return flow meter was bypassed,so the rig was effectively blind until things started to get quite serious.

You have got to be kidding. The rig was blind during one of the most sensitive of operations, after anomalies were evident? This is shocking beyond belief. In fact, this is like saying the pilot leaves the cockpit during landing. I find this highly unlikely.

Could this be true??

capt - Good analogy with the airline pilot. True? I've seen it done more than once. I've run off more than one hand for not taking the flow check seriously. I'm sure in your service you've seen a few cases of "blindness".

early in the conflict in afghanistan, Canadians were using live rounds in a known practice area. Along comes an american fighter jet and drops a 500lb bomb on them, thinking that they were firing on him,killing four and wounding many. Yes, blindess and stupidity happen.

I dunno RM. Somehow my internal truth-o-meter is not buying that nobody noticed a massive surge in the flow. I am around very complicated equipment all the time. It is hard to imagine letting ones guard down this much. I defer to you tho...if you think it passes the smell test, well then...

You seem to indicate that all the other items mentioned in this report you have seen and can understand. Yet I also sense that this is beyond the 'seen that before'metric. IMHO

capt - and always will be nearly impossible to accept IMHO. But your comment reminded me a film I saw years ago of a Swiss woman stepping in front of a speeding train. Thankfully they didn't show the actual impact. So how could someone step in front of huge speeding train? Very easy: she didn't look. How could a rig hand not see the well unloading all the mud? Wasn't looking. Can you explain why a look wasn't taken in either case? I can't. And I'll repeat what I've said before about a well unloading: every hand on the rig, including the cook, knows what a well flow is indicating -- you have a situation developing that may very well kill you. More than one man has pissed his pants when he saw a well begin to unload. Many, in fact. It's not a subltle indicator. But you have to see it coming...just like that train.

IYHO, is it possible that an explosion on the rig caused the blow out, rather than the other way around? That things were proceeding not to badly, with anomalies under control and supervision, until something on the rig went kaboom? Then the subsequent blowout made an emergency into a catastrophy.

That scenario raises other concerns, but it solves this mystery of mysteries.

Mud folks are not just rig hands. They would be trained and expected to keep watch, and an extra close one when the other monitoring equipment is down or offline, and a double extra close one as flow rates get outside of the norm for whatever is happening, as the lead article indicates was indeed the case.

capt - I have seen well control loss directly related to a secondary event as you offer. Sorry but I don't have a link on this puter but the mud system parameters just before the explosion clearly show the well was kicking and they were getting a pressure surge from the well. Perhaps someone can post those graphs. There certainly had to be an ignition source and thus a secondary event happening in a few seconds of the first explosion.

But within a few minutes of the explosion all the hands clearly knew the well was coming in and were initiating the "kill sheet". In every drilling operation there is a pre-determined outline for exactly what steps have to be taken when a well kicks. Unfortunately they were beyond the point where the kill sheet could stop the blow out.

here is the training required to prepare a kill sheet:


So are you saying that the problem was not that they were un-observant, but that they had no time to kill the well? From the first indicatation of a higher than normal flow rate/pressure surge they had no time to initiate the plan? Do things really develop that quickly?

More believable than nobody minding the store.

capt -- I suppose I would classify it as observing too late to make a difference. Don't know for a fact but it looked like the kelly hose/hydrill blew. Not my area but I think once they lost those there was no way to kill the well short of activating the BOP.

I think that at the magnitude of the kick that the annular preventer failed and the popoff at the mud pump blew simultaneously. I think the nail would have blown on the pop off valve before the kelly hose would have blew as Mr. Semple describe(as well as Toolpush sometime back). I think they were trying to record their shut in drill pipe pressure in order to formulate a kill plan.

3 pound kick?

RIG had specific well control procedures that hopefully at some point will be made public. It will be easier to understand the specific procedures that were attempted.

I agree that the crew was aware of the flow- these guys were not worms. It will be interesting to see what the mudlogger says. The only cased hole blowout that I have direct knowledge of came during a wireline packoff failure and the effect was exactly the timeframe of a cork popping out of a champagne bottle. That is the time frame that I think the crew had when the well blew.

Discussions of Kelly Cock and/or IBOP are probably referring to this type device:


Are these the images you're looking for? These were previously posted on TOD with the annotations added by the original poster. The source URL from house.gov is a single long chart without annotations.

captbob - the answer to your question is no. The sequence of events as described by all the survivors and the people in the fishing boat below the rig is: water flowing off the rig floor followed by drilling mud blowing everywhere followed by gas leaking and pooling on the rig. The pooled gas was ingested by the power generators which over-sped and then shut down (or failed catastrophically) followed by the first explosion followed by a second larger explosion and then sustained fire and more explosions. One of the people on the rig floor called the chief toolpusher and told him that the well was coming in and they needed his help. The first explosion occurred as he was preparing to run to their aid.

Rockman- if you get a chance to read "the logic of Failure" I think you will find it quite interesting. After all these years I still remember the money quote "catastrophic mistakes are only made by experts"- essentially you become(or are considered) an expert by how close you can come to the edge- it is the successful running of yellow lights that makes people experts- since stopping is for amateurs.

No surprise that this one blew up just as they were celebrating their string of success.

IIRC there's an old case fairly well known in medical-safety circles where an insulin pump or something of the sort was kept running for a fatal amount of time because the meter needle on the monitor was stuck. Procedure (of the day) followed, perhaps. Situational awareness zero - saline, insulin, cyanide, it's all the same, just watch the meter needle. Similarly, my favorite (not) phrase from the hospital X-ray room is "turn up the technique to oh-point-five". Again, procedure present, situational awareness zero. Or the ship that ran aground on the Nantucket shoals some years ago after the GPS antenna failed or fell over; the crew was apparently too busy watching the pretty map screen updated by the nav unit's dead-reckoning to notice the town streetlights dead ahead in the distance. Procedure probably not followed properly since the GPS was issuing alarms, but again situational awareness zero.

In the most literal sense possible, you now have people carrying out potentially dangerous procedures who have not the foggiest idea what they're actually about, even when they've been "trained" at considerable expense and have "certificates" and even "licenses" to show for it. So I wouldn't be least bit surprised if a physical consequence, even a conspicuous one, failed to be noticed in time:

If it's not lit up in red on the expected gauge or screen, it simply doesn't exist.

More broadly, think "As Seen On TV" - if it's not advertised on TV it doesn't exist either.

Obviously some old-fashioned folks don't buy into this mentality, see ROCKMAN's posts here for example. But this general sort of thing is one reason why I don't respond negatively to Don Sailorman's suggestions that authoritarianism is likely in our societal future. What we've got now is apotheosis of Politically Correct stupidity and ignorance (in the avowed interest of small-d democratic "fairness" to misborn morons), and that wouldn't really be sustainable - it would come to a bad end sooner or later - even with an infinite supply of oil.

not related to drilling in the least, but back in the 80s I was driving a car along Lake Erie, I had a radar detector. There was lake effect snow on the highway, but the radar detector indicated no cops. I wrecked my car. I was lost in my thoughts, and wasn't driving according to road conditions. I've never owned another radar detector.

Actually it may be more related than you think:

I'm thinking that this type of sensor was used to monitor the trip tank. Maybe not this manufacturer but this type.


I'm in Cleveland. And I can tell you that the "lake effect snow" on the highway usually has a lot of ice in it. Waves build up on Erie and the water hits the shore and forms sprays and the water freezes almost the instant it hits the road. Followed by more ice from the next wave-and-spray.

Glad you lived to tell about it. :-)

you think this happened because we are becoming a society of forest gumps? I think not. Would you accept the doctor who said the patient died because he told the nurse to turn off the EKG during heart surgery? I think not. A doctor would not do that- the EKG is his tool, and he would not neglect it.

A few days ago I was at one of our level one CF (Canadian Forces) training schools for pilots. There are three school one must attend to become either a rotary or jet pilot. Class one, school one is cockpit procedures. You cannot move on till that is mastered. You can fail a test once. Fail twice, you are out, no matter where you are in the training system, no matter how much money the CF has invested in you. NATO pilots come from all over to be trained in our system. We have the best trained fighter pilots in the world.

My point is that it is corporate entities that decide what the standard is, not society at large. I cannot believe that, as lax as BP might have been, that they would abandon the monitoring of flow returns at any time, and particulary not when things were so critical and the whole operation so vunerable. They would be triple watching, not going out for a smoke break.

capt -- And that's exactly how I run my rigs: a triple watch on mud flow. And not just at critical/dangerous junction. It's done even when we just stop pumps to add a new section of drill pipe to the string. And I've seen operators not do a single check. I earlier mentioned being on another rig years ago operated by a very large and experienced DW operator. They were deep and in very unchartered territory. Did they check for flow? No...they couldn't. They had no returns to check. They pumped mud down the drill string and nothing came back up. They lost 60,000 bbls of mud to the formation while drilling the last 2,500' of the hole. If a oil/NG reservoir had been penetrated it could have flowed directly to the surface. How would you rank that move compared to BP's sins?

Go find the "Darwin Awards". A yearly contest for the dumbest fatal accident. Yes...someone has to die to win first place. About 10 years ago the winner was a gas company hand checking a possible leak in a warehouse. The warehouse folks had trip the circuit breaker when they evac'd so it was dark inside. Witnesses outside said the gas company hand went to the meter inside and clicked his cigarette lighter to read it. You know the rest: he and his partner were killed instantly. You give me a reasonable explanation why an experienced pro would do such a thing and I'll match you with one for the blow out. Good luck. LOL.

If you say so, Rockman. One would think that by the time a few hundred bbls of mud went missing someone would notice. Maybe i'm just wanting to believe that something else must of happened...

cap - You mean the missing 60,000 bbls? It wasn't missing. They knew is was going down hole. They kept drilling ahead knowing this. It was very noticed by the folks on the rig: there were hands that were sleeping in the escape capsules when they were off tower. Managment decided it was worth risking the lives of the 125 souls on board to get this well down (a dry hole BTW). I'm sure at least half the oil patch folks I've told this tale to didn't believe it: no operator would take such a chance. But I was on the rig for 6 days logging it. Ran the MDT on a wet sand at the bottom of the hole: 19,000 psi BHP.

Drilling ahead in a geopressured area without returns. That was suicidal.

Drilled without returns underbalanced with a parasite string and rotating head but that was in very old formations. And still took an "air" kick when the well unloaded.

Gets back to my question last night regarding how they did their flow checks. Toolpush gave the answer relative to a floater.

Forrest Gumps? No, worse. Rule-driven robots akin to Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), incapable of responding to any situation not foreseen in great detail in the Sacred PLC Cookbook. Vide the chaotic incompetent response with respect to containing and skimming the oil spill.

No doctor (1)? Maybe, maybe not, there's always an outlier somewhere. In the strange case of the meter needle, the doctor was most likely elsewhere, likely after delegating the task to a Forrest Gump PLC who had no understanding, zero situational awareness, and could not - did not - cope with a situation not fully anticipated in the Sacred PLC Cookbook.

No doctor (2)? Maybe, maybe not. Like doctors and nurses, the captain and mates of that ship had extensive preparation. They even had the mariners' licenses required by the government (which I understand they finally lost.) And look what happened. So I might say highly unlikely - most ships get where they're going, most oil wells don't blow out, and most insulin pumps don't run amok - mainly because most of the time events do follow some scenario anticipated in the Sacred PLC Cookbook - but I'd never say never.

And no, I don't think the "everybody, no matter how feckless and stupid, is entitled to get an A" mentality of today's society is helpful. It provides tacit social license of all manner of corner-cutting. It provides tacit social license of the archetypal "I couldn't have known" excuse. It's certainly not the cause of the horrific blowout, which is complex and multicausational, but I'd say it's one of many contributing factors, and a wholly needless, gratuitous one.

Reminds me of a pschological experiment I once saw a film of (sorry, can't remember the reference). A (phony staged) timed written test was held. Halfway through the test smoke started poring in from under the door. Most of the "students" were actually part of the experiment design. They simply continued writing as if nothing unusual were happening. A few of the students (the actual subjects of the experiment) looked up and saw the smoke. They kept looking around but no one else seemed concerned, so they too continued writing, even as smoke continued to fill the room. The power of peer presure!

Also the power of rank, hierarchy, and status. I recall hearing about the cockpit voice recordings of a Korean airliner that flew into a mountain. The pilot was distracted and didn't notice. The co-pilot saw what was happening and tried (within the limits of his culture) to tell his boss the pilot what was happening, but couldn't bring himself to actually take control.

There is a major pecking order on every rig I've ever seen. If the driller and company man didn't take note of or seem to care about excess mud returns, it is entirely possible that the other rig hands would assume it must be OK. Or know it wasn't OK but still not quite bring themselves to push against rank.

geo -- Excellent story. And I've been to safety schools where they've spent much time lecturing against that very aspect. Even having role playing to try to make unsophisticated hands practice confronting a superior.

Along those lines someone wondered the other day if the BP brass on the rig might have distracted the hands. That the hands might have been smoozing with the brass. Just the opposite in that world. They typically sit at the opposite end of the galley from management. Rarely initiate even a casual conversation. When I get to a rig they'll typically lump me into management...even worse...a geologist manager. And I always do the same thing: sit at their table, tell the crudest jokes, p*ss on mangement, even be a little confrontational with them. Anything to break down that wall. Hopefully then when something isn't right they won't hesitate to find me and tell me. Just like I'm sure the captain has seen in the miltary: we are tribal and reject outsiders as a rule. What's the number rule when in doubt: stay with your unit. And sometimes the best way to get invited in is to p*ss off the head of the pack. Or at least get his attention. It's not about making them like or respect me. It's about communication. If you research most serious drilling accident it's not uncommon to find non-communication to be a factor as opposed to mis-communication

Alaska: Nice examples of the social environment messing with reasonable behavior. I'd add that many non-social issues can also mess with human information processing. In complex settings like this one we can ignore much that is in plain sight. This has been explained by the limited channel capacity of our cognitive system (e.g., 5 plus/minus 2 chunks is about all we can handle; increase mental fatigue or stress/fear and the fewer channels we can handle).

In Rockman's woman/train example, it might not be that the woman didn't look for the train, but that she couldn't see it (e.g., had too much on her mind?, too many distrtactions in the environment).

It also explains why Rockman's "triple watch on mud flow" makes sense (hopefully one of them has a few spare channels to process the information with). And why the FAA has a "sterile cockpit" rule (wouldn't want to be so entralled with your laptops that you forget to land the plane).

I'm reminded of a T-shirt bicyclists wear that says "See Bicycles." Apparently, car drivers can be looking right through a bike as they pull out in front of it - a case of perceiving-with-expectation.

Lots of good examples but one popular in my course on human-enviroment cognition is: http://viscog.beckman.illinois.edu/flashmovie/15.php

Other perceptual and cognitive examples: http://viscog.beckman.illinois.edu/djs_lab/demos.html

People sometimes dream that they're driving with their eyes closed. But that's called a nightmare!

BP looks totally confused and foundering:

AP story:


E L, AP has updated that story, and ya gotta see it. Were this anyone but Tony, "you won't believe your eyes" would fit. Sheesh.

Here's the AP lead:

As oil spews in Gulf, BP chief at UK yacht race

LONDON – A BP spokeswoman says BP chief executive Tony Hayward is attending a yacht race off the Isle of Wight in southern England.

Spokeswoman Sheila Williams says Hayward took time off his duties handling the oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico to see his boat "Bob" participate in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race on Saturday.


Edit Addendum: "I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering." —Some Englishman on May 13, 1940

Where's a vampire squid when you need one?

Cap'n Tony brought Bob in fourth. Not bad out of 45, I guess. Salut.

So the guy has a day off.

What's the big deal?

Will having a wrecked & stressed out CEO help the efforts to block the leak?

Oh dear, MetaMeme. As we say in the South, bless your heart.

MM: "What's the big deal?" The original AP article I posted in the thread was about high BP officials giving contradictory public statements, or at least inconsistent statements, about who was and is in charge of and running what at BP at this date in a seemingly confused response to a very big problem that has been around for a couple of months now. Such a response to a fundamental question of authority in a corporate structure is not a positive sign of corporate health. But that's only my opinion.

Well you know, he just had to do something to relieve the stress of being forced to talk to the "small people".


Hi EL,

I am not sure who wouldn't be confused at the tought of heading this project ha! I had that look on my face on a very small experiment friday ha! People brought me water so the look on my face must have been worse then I felt ha!
Projects like these are so mentally hard you have to break the problem into small fractions just to keep your mind.

William / Art, thanks for this account. Many of the mistakes made resonate with mistakes made and lessons learned from Piper Alpha. Though the root causes are different, human error and decision making driven by saving money lie at the heart.

My recollection of Piper is that some vital valve had been dismantled for servicing, and this information got lost on a crew change. Gas escape and first explosion took out all vital control systems on the platform. Oil production did shut down on Piper - but not on neighboring Tartan that continued to pump oil to Piper even though they could see it was on fire. The OIM was not authorised to shut down valuable production.

167 men died, but the environmental impact was much less than at Macondo.


Sadly, it seems we need a catastrophe every now and then to remind us of the dangers and risks posed by cutting corners.

Timely that you brought this up Euan, because I started a discussion on today's Drumbeat
I placed it in the context of how the Piper Alpha may have influenced UK production levels.

BTW Euan has an interesting article he wrote earlier this year on North Sea production in general:

I couldn't help noticing that pressure relief valves (or lack thereof) flooding flamable gas into the pump room figured prominently in both the Piper Alpha disaster timeline and Mr. Semple's proposed timeline for the loss of the Deepwater Horizon. However, it's my understanding that the gas vented from a relief valve can be piped off.

Is it standard practice to vent overpressure into the pump room? Or are the pressure relief valves on the pumps just a likely point of failure?

Has anyone heard how Kevin Kostner's centrifugal separator machines are working out? There was a lot of ballyhoo about it at first. I think the MSM misquided people into thinking the machines would remove 210k gallons of oil per day. It was my understanding they would process 210k gallons/day of oil/water, retaining the oil and returning the water. They were also handicapped by the denser oil residue and had to be modified to accept that.

king5.com [Louisiana]
says that a few of the Costner contraptions will probably be launched into the water this weekend. BP bought several of them. I don't know if they have been built yet.

If they actually work out, that would be great.

Cable news showed three of Costner's devices on the deck of a ship ready for transport to a designated site yesterday.

Costner suggested last night that the centrifuges ought to be used in partnership with the conventional skimmers. As things now work, the skimmers waste a great deal of time putt-putting around to offload a tank full of 90% water/10% oil. With a centrifuge on board, that would be 99% oil in the tanks.

Excellent article.

While many articles around here seem to have the feel of someone out of their depth on the given issue, knowing nothing about the topic and just trying to relay what they think they know second hand and trying to keep from being blatantly ignorant, (let alone understand the topic), I couldn't find a single incorrect statement, piece of jargon, misplaced statement, bad conclusion or assumption in the entire thing.

These are the kind of people who hopefully will sort out what was, or was not, best industry practice, and hopefully the vigilante's can wait until these experts have had their say on the matter before making up their own ridiculous conclusions.

If there is oil leaking up through the sea floor, regardless of the amount, wouldn't it make more sense to drill PRODUCTION wells, not relief wells? The more OPEN straws you stick into the reservoir, the more you REDUCE the reservoir pressure, especially if you produce with a big choke, or no choke at all.

Seems to me they need to resolve the 'leaking up through the sea floor' issue first. What if they successfully shut off the flow to the leaking well. If there is direct communication between that well and any sea floor vents, that is just that much more pressure diverted from a hole that is at least partially under control to a hole over which there is NO CONTROL. Thoughts?

If there is oil leaking up through the sea floor, regardless of the amount, wouldn't it make more sense to drill PRODUCTION wells, not relief wells?

For all intensive purposes, the blowout IS a production well. Leaking seafloors are called "seeps", humans happen to have just created this one themselves. My money is on the relief wells doing exactly what they are designed to do, minimize the differential pressure and apply cement.

What I am curious about is how certain is everyone that we know where the reservoir energy in question is actually coming from. With a single string, and the assumption that the cement is bad, anything might be suspect as an energy source at this point.

"seep" would seem to indicate a slow, gradual release. What we have here is a gusher.

"seep" would seem to indicate a slow, gradual release. What we have here is a gusher.

The definition of seep does not strike me as rate dependent, but I suppose it could be. Certainly in geologic time, when a reservoir was finally breached to the surface due to natural erosion, the rates at which it would "seep" would probably be far beyond what we've created in the GOM.


There are seeps within the subsurface. Sometimes, they're big enough to see. In some cases, they can affect the interpretation of seismic horizons.

Additionally, if there is a leak into a shallow sand, we'll eventually be able to see that by using seismic surveys - which you can bet your bottom dollar they will. For shallow seismic surveys, the cable off the end of the boat doesn't have to be too long, but I would imagine there's not much room to maneuver, and hasn't been run as yet. If there's anything significant, it'll be very very obvious.

so undershoot

The problem is stopping the uncontrolled flow from the reservoir to the surface. This won't happen for a few more weeks yet at the earliest. The only way to stop this flow safely is to do it from the bottom. You balance the pressure of the fluids with pressure of your own. The relief wells will deliver that pressure. That has to be done at depth, because the surrounding rock has to be capable of also taking that pressure. Shutting off the blowout well from the top is an option that has been shown to be too dangerous. The best that can be done is to create a better seal at the surface, and that "better seal" won't be perfect either, and it's running weeks late in my opinion.

The most likely "vent" would actually be up and around the casing to the base of the BOP stack. We'd be seeing a LOT of fluid come up and around where the ROVs are working if that was the case.

This non-technical person was able to comprehend your article. Both your writing and the way you laid out the events and then analyzed the problems, while listing lessons learned and necessary safety precautions were all understandable and followed from the events as listed.

Thank you for such a readable and useful article!

From being a History Channel Engineering Disasters junkie I notice something that large disasters usually have in common.
1. In most disasters there is typically more than one cause for an event. Like a bank vault lock, multiple conditions and combinations must be set in order to open the door. Everything must be in alignment for the disaster to occur.
2. A failure of imagination of the designer, manufacturer, installer, maintainer, and managers are almost always in the mix.
3. People often think they understand complex processes, only to find out they have been in the eye of a hurricane looking straight up.
4. Many times, events take a period of time to play out. Misguided reactions to unknown situations often exacerbate the problem.
5. Human beings are fairly good at avoiding problems about what they know, and they are fairly bad at reasonable actions with the unknown.
6. Human beings trust technology and their own capabilities far too much.
7. If you use good luck as an operational consideration, you will eventually fail.
8. The saving of a little money in the wrong place can cost unlimited amounts of money in all places.
9. People hate to admit they screwed up.
10. People hate to admit folks working for them screwed up.
11. Folks think if less people know about what happened, the disaster was not as bad.
12. The first response for most large disasters is woefully inadequate.

The pithy aviation version: we don't have simple air crashes any more, only complicated ones.

Not quite true but almost true for major crashes.

Yes, I tend to think that the aviation industry is light years ahead of the petroleum industry as far as safety is concerned, but then a wide body goes down with 175 souls aboard. From what I understand, the African and former Soviet bloc airlines are to be avoided. I think many here, including this thread are sort of saying the same thing. No more BP. The name should be dissolved and the company restructured. Keep as many folks on the job as possible and create a new emphasis on safety and alternatives.

"the African and former Soviet bloc airlines are to be avoided."

Yes, the problem is hardly ever a shortage of well-known rules and practices - quite the contrary. The question is whether or not people are paying attention, and in some cases whether they have the resources to pay attention. Factors ranging from poverty (ultra super-safety is costly), to the modern Western "everybody deserves an A even when they didn't earn it" culture, to aggressive cost-cutting, to the inappropriate substitution of "training" for "education", to simple boredom, can interfere.

I apologize for repeating myself, bit I'll go ahead and do so.

Early in the reporting of the current incident I read comments about systems that are too complicated for any one person to understand, sometimes meant to introduce an "accidents will happen" excuse, sometimes to say that such systems should be banned.

The engineering approach to handle such situations is to provide multiple layers of defense plus redundant resources in each layer, so no one failure can cause a disaster. This is why there has to be more than one cause for an event; the system is designed to not have a single point of failure.

Even if, or especially if, a system is designed to provide safety in depth, it is still necessary to be vigilant in maintaining all the safety-related components. Any piece that's neglected reduces the overall safety margin and becomes a potential contributor to a multi-cause disaster.

Along comes an expert who understands how one aspect of the system works and what its safety limits are when it operates in a situation where all the other control systems are operating properly. The expert runs this one part of the system right out to the hairy edge of its own limits, only to discover that the other systems that support his system's safe operation are not there to back it up.

The aphorism that "A chain is only as safe as its weakest link" does not apply here. Unless all the links are maintained and operated with safety in mind all the time the system is not safe. The significance of the questions asked by the House Oversight Committee the other day is that they probed an apparent pattern of taking shortcuts at every opportunity, under the assumption that the system as a whole would remain resilient. The lesson - which should not be news to anyone involved - is that when all parts of a safety system are allowed to erode the likelihood of a multi-cause incident increases.

This is not an accident. It's the predictable result of a continuing deliberate pattern of negligence by a company that has answered a decade of felony convictions for safety abuses with promises that they would improve their practices.

Whoever it was who posted yesterday asking for a diagram of Relief Well progress, here's the Coast Guard .pdf of progress as of yesterday:


QUESTION for drilling experts:

To my untrained eye, RW #1 looks a lot closer to intersection than "mid-August." Is that my fault for being untrained or BP's fault for lowballing the time it'll take to intersect?

I would also be interested in hearing about this. The last two thousand feet seemed to take 7 days. They are still working on this stretch of two thousand feet (9 days so far). They have about 1 more stretch of two thousand feet. Assuming things are slowing down, if you give them another 10-15 days to drill to the depth they are looking for and then 10-15 days to actually hit the well bore, you are only talking about mid-July.

Are we missing some very time consuming steps or are these mid-Augusts estimates taking substantial unanticipated delays into account? It looks like they have drilled this well at a torrid pace so far...

They slow WAY, WAY, WAAAAAYYYYY down as they get close. I believe that there was an estimate of 3 weeks just to mill thru casing....


I believe that there was an estimate of 3 weeks just to mill thru casing....

Thanks! So you're blaming my untrained eye, huh?


Having said that, once they start on that job milling the casing, the public is going to start getting antsy. The Response team should start the PR now. I'm smart but untrained. When millions of stupid and untrained folks see the well "finished," that'll be a problem.

About the single long string... I'm assuming this was a coiled tubing? I'm asking because I live a few miles from Subsea 7's spooling base in Port Isabel, Tx. http://www.subsea7.com/subsea_press.php?news_id=354 I watched their spooling vessel make about 3 round trips out of Port Isabel over last winter. So my question is, if it was indeed a coiled tubing, wouldn't that indicate the need for lots of centralizers to counter whatever curve remained in the string? As far as I know Subsea 7 did not supply tubing for DW Horizon but I could be wrong. I know they do have at least one ROV support vessel - Skandi Neptune - onsite.

The "long string" is not coiled tubing. It is joints of casing, in the case 9 7/8 and 7 inch. Coiled tubing is not normally used for production, but for remedial work because it can be quickly run in and out of the hole.

Centralizers are needed not because the casing in crooked, but the hole is.

Thanks. Trying to catch everything of importance on this event is like trying to drink from a firehose.

BP's worst nightmare:

"Federal law allows agencies to suspend or bar from government contracts companies that engage in fraudulent, reckless or criminal conduct. The sanctions can be applied to a single facility or an entire corporation. Government agencies have the power to forbid a company to collect any benefit from the federal government in the forms of contracts, land leases, drilling rights, or loans.

The most serious, sweeping kind of suspension is called "discretionary debarment" and it is applied to an entire company. If this were imposed on BP, it would cancel not only the company's contracts to sell fuel to the military but prohibit BP from leasing or renewing drilling leases on federal land. In the worst cast, it could also lead to the cancellation of BP's existing federal leases, worth billions of dollars."


I will try to find cite to laws and/or regulations so everyone can have an enjoyable read.

Edit: Google love: http://www.epa.gov/ogd/sdd/decision.htm

Further Edit: A company may be debarred for "(d) Any other cause of so serious or compelling a nature that it affects your present responsibility." That is the deadly catch-all of "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman" of the old UCMJ.

See: http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=160041e3ea2f23d...
In particular: § 180-800

Excellent discussion and analysis by meeting of marine groups on solutions:


Solution for what?

Since they're marine groups, solution of alcohol and sugar in water, AKA rum?

Strange that the report doesn't seem to list participants. Some are from Woods Hole, which provides some credibility.


Given the recent headlines re: Anadarko a quick primer on offshore drilling partnerships. Anadarko owns 25% of the well with a Japanese company owning 10%. BP owns the balance. BP’s partners may have been in the deal from the original lease sale or bought in later. Between the lease bonus and seismic/overhead costs the partnership could have been $50 -$100 million in the red before the first well was spudded.

Such drilling partnerships are governed by a very sophisticated and court tested contract: the joint operating agreement. These can be well over 100 pages long with enough detailed legalize to choke a football stadium full of attorneys. Covers virtually all possible scenarios of what might happen while drilling a well. Obligations, authorities, mandates, restrictions, etc. More later on one of THE critical aspects as to who pays for the accident.

When the operator (in this case BP) proposes to drill a well they prepare a rather detailed cost estimate for the project. This Authorization For Expenditure is another legal document like the JOA. The partners can sign the AFE or not. Don’t sign it and the JOA covers very specific penalties for not doing so. The AFE process follows hundreds of hours of joint meetings between the partners to work out the details. And there are always tech disagreement. And with very few exceptions the operator wins these debates. At most all the partners can do is not participate and be penalized as per the JOA.

Since I don’t have access to the history I can only speculate on the details. But to some degree these generalities are correct. BP has been criticized for making various tech decisions on the well design. Anadarko may have a long and well documented paper trail showing they had disagreed with every choice BP has made. Or to some lesser number of choices. But to whatever degree the documentation wasn’t casual. It’s done by every partners in every joint venture as a negotiation tool. By signing the AFE the partners agree to pay their share of the ultimate actual cost. But it often doesn’t go just like that. The operator (Company A)plans to do the X Procedure. Partner B strongly disagrees and says doing X is risky and could waste money/lose the well/cause a blow out. But the operator almost always wins these debates and drills the well and does X. And surprise…it was a mistake to do X and it runs the well costs up $16 million. When the well is finished the operator mails out the bill to the partners. Company’s B share (25%) is $4 million. But B sends a note back to A and says we need to chat. They get together and B hands them the documentation of how they strong disagreed with doing X so let’s just deduct our $4 million (or some lesser amount)share of that “mistake” from the final bill. This is a very common situation in all joint ventures. That’s why I’m certain Anadarko had a well documented list of potential “ammo” long before the blow out occurred. They might have had their own personnel onboard for short periods of time to document such potential screw ups. As a consultant I’ve been sent out tasked with that exact job. It is exactly as it sounds: a very serious “gotcha” game.

Anadarko’s press release:”…BP operated unsafely and failed to monitor…” and “BP’s behavior and actions likely represent gross negligence or willful misconduct”. These wordings are not casual. They are based upon very specific language in the JOA. They are the basis for a legal action that would not only assign the full cost of the blow out on BP but also require BP to cover the cost of the original well and perhaps all pre-spudding costs. It would also be cause to remove BP as operator of any future development of the field. There is very specific language in the JOA that specifically gives Anadarko a “get out of jail card” if they can prove the assertion. And it might not even take a lawsuit to prove it. Many JOA require binding independent arbitration to settle such disputes. Someone said the Anadarko statement was a “shot across the bow” of BP. I would disagree: it was a bayonet to the liver. Anadarko is now on the hook for about $10 billion of these disaster costs. They are big but not as big as BP. If they can’t shed this liability they probably cease to exist. I can promise that within days of the blow out they had a world class legal/tech team put together to mount the strongest possible attack on BP. Wouldn’t be surprised if Anadarko hasn’t put $50+ million on the budget just for the legal fees. Any gov’t investigation will pale compared to the story Anadarko is putting together. But will it be heard? Might wake up in a couple of months and Anadarko has gone silent. BP could make a side deal to take Anadarko out of the mess. But that won’t make Anadarko that much less of a danger to BP. Anadarko isn’t going to destroy their records. Nor would they shade their statements if they are forced to testify IMHO. But it would keep them from making anymore damning press releases. It could also save BP from a lawsuit costing them 3X or more of Anadarko’s liability.

How close is BP coming to the gallows? Keep an eye on Anadarko. They may represent the best “leading indicator” of BP’s future.

I suspect that more and more Oil Patch types are coming around to my point of view, to-wit, that BP has to be killed (in the sense that can't ever again serve as Operator in US waters) before BP kills the US oil & gas industry. Or to put it another way, it we don't hang BP by itself, we will all hang together.

There's a definite upside for the rest of the industry if BP can be painted as the outlier here. And that's looking pretty easy to do given their history and number of willful egregious acts compared to the next worst offenders. 700 and change compared to 8 and 1. That's about as stark as it gets. Several analysts were suggesting the only course for BP survival is to partner up and lose the brand.

I liked the suggestion to remove the management chain and replace them all w/ retired Exxon folks. Let the rest of the people keep their jobs, but really turn the safety culture around.

They need to be ran off all federal leases- offshore and land.


Great post. Thanks. Anadarko has made itself the chief government prosecution witness in any criminal action (also a handy informant for Search Warrants) against BP and other individuals by these statements. Anadarko now is, I'm sure, under "a keep and preserve all records" order. And at a criminal, or even civil trial, of US v. BP confidentiality agreements don't hold up when the judge says "Bailiff, take this witness to jail until he testifies." So most of this will out. May take a while.

In addition, I posted above some of the "discretionary debarment" considerations including the catchall that could come BP's way. I'm beginning to think BP's executive were so giddy after the meeting with Obama because he told them "discretionary debarment" would not come their way if they paid $20 billion and kept throwing everything they had at the blow out.

Just your typical "shakedown." Must have learned that from Capone in Chicago.

RM --

wow ...i kinda expected Anadarko to break silence at some point ...but i thought it would be after the BP incident report came to light publicly....and then hammer BP

Anadarko's come out quiet early and seems ready to take the bull by the horns...i suppose Rex Tillerman's statement backed up by the powers that be in Chevron and Shell at their testimony about the particular mechanical setup of this well setup a good foundation for this statement form Anadarko....

i'm sure Anadarko has a paper trail of disagreements as long as the Mississippi river itself ...kinda expected considering the cash flows of Anadarko cannot survive their share of the liability ...matter of survival from BP ..maybe not but this stinker will surely sink Anadarko .....

appreciate to hear your 2 cents (or any person with knowledge in these affairs ...cuz it be way over my pay scale) on the following if/when you get a few minutes...i reckon it be likely that Anadarko and BP settle this out of court and if they do is there a mechanism in place to keep Anadarko from releasing their dis-agreements with BP to the justice dept or is this not an option ....cuz i reckon the justice dept just found their best friend in Anadarko otherwise...

what wouldn't i give to be a lawyer in Houston for the next 2 yrs or so ....

ali: "or so"? OR SO.

A confidentiality agreement is between the two parties and not the government and any of the agreeing parties. The two parties can't leak info to a third party. But a court can compel the info under threat of jail. Judith Miler, then of the NY Times, had a confidentiality agreement with one of her sources. She also tried to claim some sort of reporter's privileged information. Judge said: "Go to jail. Don't call me till you're ready to snitch. Bye." She spent some 90 days in jail before she cracked. And gave the testimony barred by the confidentiality agreement.

I would be worried if I were BP that Anadarko was already chatting with the US Attorney General to plea deal any action, criminal or civil, against them, maybe even before Obama's meeting with the BP executives. "And, by the way, Tony, Anadarko told us that...."

Anadarko is also under the threat of "discretionary debarment." See my above comment earlier about "discretionary debarment."

Anadarko is one worried snitch.

They're in some financial trouble. Debt downgraded to junk by Moody's yesterday, with a threat that there'll be a further drop to less than dirt.

EL appreciate the info.....

i suppose ain't nothing like having a guy staring down the wrong end of a Winchester to make him co-operate

ali: It's mostly pure speculation on my part but I know the drill. Find the weak link and give them a bowl of hemlock and a choice. Most of the corporate types aren't Socrates. As Mr. Blue Bell would say: "It ain't rocket science."

BTW, sometimes it's convenient to have a president who understands the drill.


seems like you got the the handle on corporate law and what not ....how do you reckon Mitsui will fit into all this then ....they own 10% of the well.....and they are no light weight when it comes to influence and/or check book....hell they got their fingers dipped in all sorts of things all over the world....the owner here is Mitsui USA but then again parent company is Japanese ......are we looking at a tag team of sorts where anadarko will join mitsui and go native on BP ......

Fantastic post Rockman. As I consider the whole of your arguments, It's not much of a reach to imagine a case where the minority holders expected something like this would happen - not this level of severity - but a case where they knew that BP would violate the JOA by way of `gross negligence or willful misconduct' thereby ceding drilling rights to this field which is arguably a nice find. Remains to be seen whether the minority partners can surf the rest of this wave, but Anadarko as informant and witness stands to come out smelling like a rose, and possibly with minority partners gaining control of the field if they covered their butt, and from their stance here early on, it looks like they did. Abundance of Hubris and extreme high stakes.

sub -- yep...Anadarko's first prority is survival. After that is the opportunity to take advantage of BP's weakness. The oil patch is as opportunistic (if not more so) as other businesses. Anadarko was BP's partner in the well but they are still a competitor. They'll strip BP corpse naked and leave it lying in the gutter if the opportunity presents itself. We all would. We are those "dirty lying bastards" in the eyes of the public after. No point in pretending we're not, eh?


"The oil spill: Your solutions

We asked readers to submit their ideas on how the Gulf of Mexico oil spill should have been stopped.

A selection of the hundreds we received has been assessed by Prof Iraj Ershaghi, director of petroleum engineering at the University of Southern California.

BP's cap on the well is currently, according to the company's estimates, capturing more than half of the oil. But could there be a better way?"

Lots of innovative thinking here. Alas, all are unworkable. My favorite is The Epoxy Warhead.

In early/mid May I submitted a suggestion to pump sea water through the choke/kill lines to displace oil coming up the well. (Wouldn't significantly increase pressure on the wellhead but would cut down on the volume of oil escaping.)

2 (or) 3 weeks later I got what appeared to be an auto response that my suggestion was received and would be evaluated.

Just today I got a response:

Thank you for your submission to the Alternative Response Technology (ART) process for the Deepwater Horizon MC252 incident. Your submission has been reviewed for its technical merits. It has been determined that your idea falls into one of the following ART categories:

Already Considered/Planned, Not Feasible, or Not Possible, and therefore will not be advanced for further evaluation.

To date, we have received over 80,000 submissions with each submission receiving individual consideration and priority based on merit and need. BP and Horizon Deepwater Unified Command appreciate your contribution and interest in responding to this incident. Michael J. Cortez Technical Manager Alternative Response Technology Team Deepwater Horizon Call Center ­ Houston, TX

Oil spill containment efforts could be putting strain on damaged well
Published: Friday, June 18, 2010, 7:57 PM Updated: Friday, June 18, 2010, 8:12 PM

Rebecca Mowbray, The Times-Picayune Rebecca Mowbray, The Times-Picayune

".... their options have been limited by concerns about the potential for blowout in the underground portion of the well.

In a well of questionable design with a questionable cement job that's gone through a major explosion, too much pressure on the well, could trigger a rupture, sending oil pushing through fissures in the rock of the ocean floor and bubbling up through the seabed, where it can't be contained.

That's why BP abruptly stopped the "top kill" efforts to seal the well May 28 after the company previously had said the procedure would continue for a few more days. It's also why the company is continuing with efforts to contain the oil flowing out of the well rather than seal the well outright by adding another blowout preventer on top of the malfunctioning one. It's also one reason why the containment cap that's currently capturing oil has vents in the side that allow pressure to escape.

U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen acknowledged as much at a briefing Thursday.

"One thing that nobody knows is the condition of the well bore .. . We don't know if the well bore has been compromised or not. One of the reasons we did not continue with top kill at higher pressures, there was a concern that if we increased the pressure too hard it might do damage to the casings and the well bore. What we didn't want was open communication of any oil from the reservoir outside the well bore that might get into the formation and work its way to the sub sea floor and then result in uncontrolled discharge at that point. That has not happened, and that's the reason they're taking such precautions and did not proceed any further with the top kill," Allen said.

"We don't know exactly the condition of the well bore .. .That's the reason we didn't go . . . to excessive pressures on the top kill and decided that we'd deal with containment and then go for the final relief well."

"There is a very high level of concern for the integrity of the well," said Bob Bea, the University of California Berkeley engineering professor known to New Orleanians for investigating the levee failures after Katrina, who now has organized the Deepwater Horizon Study Group. Bea and other engineers say that BP hasn't released enough information publicly for people outside the company to evaluate the situation."


Thud is Ok when he gives an honest answer. He is just a terrible liar/PR man. Give me the former cabinet level, Jamaican/New York, four star. Better organizer of men too.

A suggestion for this site to help your experts stop the oil flow: Provide a section that deals ONLY with cooperation and ideas for "making it stop."

New questions:
What are the tax implications and/or benefits to such a spill?
And when the average cost of production rises as a result of this spill, won't the markup on a barrel of oil also increase, raising profits?

I may have received this email text today from the Deepwater Horizon Alternative Technology Team:

It would have been a repsonse to the balloon suggestion, before the folks here helped me advance to marine bladders.

"Thank you for your submission to the Alternative Response Technology (ART) process for the Deepwater Horizon MC252 incident. Your submission has been reviewed for its technical merits.

It has been determined that your idea falls into one of the following ART categories: Already Considered/Planned, Not Feasible, or Not Possible, and therefore will not be advanced for further evaluation. To date, we have received over 80,000 submissions with each submission receiving individual consideration and priority based on merit and need.

BP and Horizon Deepwater Unified Command appreciate your contribution and interest in responding to this incident."

Michael J. Cortez
Technical Manager
Alternative Response Technology Team
Deepwater Horizon Call Center – Houston, TX

[new] fritzie-borgwardt on June 19, 2010 - 1:12pm Permalink | Subthread | Comments top
A suggestion for this site to help your experts stop the oil flow: Provide a section that deals ONLY with cooperation and ideas for "making it stop."

New questions:
What are the tax implications and/or benefits to such a spill?
And when the average cost of production rises as a result of this spill, won't the markup on a barrel of oil also increase, raising profits?

I may have received this email text today from the Deepwater Horizon Alternative Technology Team:

It would have been a repsonse to the balloon suggestion, before the folks here helped me advance to marine bladders.

"Thank you for your submission to the Alternative Response Technology (ART) process for the Deepwater Horizon MC252 incident. Your submission has been reviewed for its technical merits.

It has been determined that your idea falls into one of the following ART categories: Already Considered/Planned, Not Feasible, or Not Possible, and therefore will not be advanced for further evaluation. To date, we have received over 80,000 submissions with each submission receiving individual consideration and priority based on merit and need.

BP and Horizon Deepwater Unified Command appreciate your contribution and interest in responding to this incident."

Michael J. Cortez
Technical Manager
Alternative Response Technology Team
Deepwater Horizon Call Center – Houston, TX

Jones Act: Maritime politics strain Gulf oil spill cleanup

Pressure is building for President Obama to lift a 1920 protectionist law so that high-tech foreign oil skimmers can help with the Gulf oil spill. Why are 1,500 available US oil skimmers not on the scene?


Question : Why are 1,500 available US oil skimmers not on the scene?
Answer : Most of this number are in Alaska and the West Coast.

Turns out that one of the men who died was the son of a trial lawyer! He intends to challenge this law for his daughter-in-law and grandchild


It is my understanding that is not the only act that has prevented a speedy response. Because of the 1990 law this disaster can't be declared a disaster under the Stafford act so FEMA is essentially sitting this thing out along with all the government resources that can be made available. FEMA at least has a command structure and the set up to bring all government agencies into a single place under the Federal Disaster Response plan. Stuff that appears to missing at the moment.

It is surprising to me that the President hasn't called on Congress to given him authority to override certain laws that are getting in the way of an appropriate response.

Actually the pertinent agencies began linking up beginning the day after the explosion, and the Unified Command structure was formally stood up in a timely fashion under the Incident Commander. In the command center at Robert, all the agencies have high-level representation along with BP and USCG. On 4/28 they declared a "spill of national significance" which empowers government to coerce the spiller. See the government's response timeline. It has a desperate tone of "look how hard we've been trying," but the facts are probably correct. They took it very seriously from the beginning.

Obviously there are going to be lots of screwups in a desperate scramble like this, but it seems to me that the national government per se has been pretty well organized. The disorganization results from the admixture of private and public agents, and from the federal structure where national, state, and local governments all want to do it their way. The biggest factor IMO is that BP was responsible for doing the cleanup, and BP delegated to private contractors who had promised to do things they couldn't deliver on. It took a while for that to become apparent. At first the government was just overseeing lightly and offering what help it could. If you look at early statements by Obama, Napolitano, etc., they talk about what BP is doing and going to do. In the early press briefings, Suttles of BP did more talking than Adm. Landry.

I'm not sure of the date, but maybe 3-4 weeks ago Obama declared himself the responsible party and Thad Allen started presenting himself in a more assertive manner and talking about everything being done by "us." I don't know to what extent this is political optics vs. an actual increase in federal control.

I'm not sure of the date, but maybe 3-4 weeks ago Obama declared himself the responsible party and Thad Allen started presenting himself in a more assertive manner and talking about everything being done by "us." I don't know to what extent this is political optics vs. an actual increase in federal control.

In the recent daily email progress summaries from the response team, virtually every report of what BP has been doing is preceded by the phrase, "At the direction of the federal government..." or some close variant thereof. It's clearly become inflexible policy to declare the federal government to be in control of all BP's operations. The repeated declarations are so unsubtle they sound almost desperate.

Loris, do you get those by signing up at "join mailing list" on the response page? There's no explanation of what it is.

But yes, there's an obvious effort to signal that the government is in control. Dropping Suttles from the press briefings is part of it. And it's a deliberate shift from the way they were presenting the relationship at the beginning.

I'm following the Oil_Spill_2010 Twitter feed and getting goodies like that.

Thanks Cheryl, and the Loris is right, there are 4 references to the government's direction of BP in the latest update alone. It's goofily obsessive.

Gob: "It's goofily obsessive." It's called "blame shifting." And like all good advertising campaigns they repeat it incessantly. "See the USA in you Chevrolet." I can still hear Dinah Shore signing that.

Loris, do you get those by signing up at "join mailing list" on the response page? There's no explanation of what it is.

Yup. Be prepared to get a lot of emails--at least half a dozen a day, often more like a dozen (they let up on weekends). Most of them are fairly useless, but they include transcripts of press briefings and the progress summaries.

Direct link to the email signup page:

Occasionally they'll stick in a link to a spectacular video of the spill site from the air:

Drillship flaring operations, 5/16:
Aerial view of Gulf operations, 5/17:
Offshore Offensive, 6/8:
Overflight of Deepwater Horizion drill site, 6/9:
Discoverer Enterprise two hours after lightning strike, 6/15:

Next best thing to being there...

Mr. Semple,

Thank you for your description on what happened at the rig. Although I am an engineer(Electrical) it is still very difficult to follow and understand everything you were saying. That being said, my question is why isn't there a requirement that each well be certified in it's ability to stop a leak on the line side of the emergency safety shut off valve. As I have said, I am uneducated with regard to the petroleum industry, but neither BP or any of the other oil companies have been able to stop the current leak. That being said, they are currently drilling two more relief wells at the same depth. Why? If another catistrophic accident occurs like the current leak, on the line side of the emergency shut off valve, it can't be stopped. Soon everything in the Gulf will be dead from the oil. There is an extremely simple solution to this whole mess...accountability. SHUT DOWN ALL UNITED STATES OFF SHORE WELLS UNTIL THE LEAK IS FIXED AND EACH EXISTING WELL IS CERTIFIED THAT THIS CATISTROPHIC DISASTER CAN NEVER REOCCUR AGAIN. I figure that in 48hr or less, the combined engineering staff of all the oil companies could create a solution. After all, the fact that no one can stop this leak proves just how reckless the oil industry has been operating, amd they all should be held accountable to design a solution. After 911, within approx. 1 hour, every plane in US air space was grounded until the threat was resolved. If a gross error in design caused a nuclear power plant to blow and endanger the whole US, no one would think twice of shutting every nuclear power plant down. It is for that very reason that the nuclear industry is regulated so highly. The oil industry needs to be held to the same level of environmental safety regulations.

With regard to the certifacation I refered to, why can't the ship that attempted to plug the well with mud, be staged at each well(over 30,000 in the gulf alone) to simulate a broken main on the line side of the emergency shuf off valve, whether it be an exposed pipe like the current well or a break below grade and force the oil companies to prove that at each well, they are capable of stopping this type a catistrophic disaster in 48hr or less. If they can't, they shouldn't be eligible for permits to drill and operate wells. Equally, thge US should hold any company that we import from to the same standards of regulation and certifacation.

I sympathize with your outrage, but as a practical matter I don't believe it's feasible to retrofit the BOPs on all the wells in the Gulf, although certainly the owners and operators of said rigs must now be taking a very close look at their situation, and will be doing so for some time to come (if not forever). That, and reminding themselves of the need to always remain vigilant.

As you're an electrical engineer, how about reflecting on the situation of the North American AC power grid. Remember the giant blackout of a few years ago in the Northeast? It started somewhere around Cleveland, on a hot summer day, when power lines sagged and started a brush fire, which led to a line failure, which led to an AC load shift to other lines, which tripped out more circuit breakers, which caused a further load shift to other circuits, until finally the entire region lost power.

Afterward, experts pointed out that the infrastructure for the national power grid is overtaxed and in dire need of upgrading and repair. Isn't it also a sad truth that not a lot has been done since to "fix" the national power grid?

One aspect of both these systems might be worth stressing (and you could throw commercial aviation into the mix here too): these are not inherently stable systems and probably never will be. Instead, they are actively managed systems that remain operational and relatively safe only so long as the operators remain vigilant in their duties. Absent vigilance, bad things become more and more likely to happen. And with a gross lack of vigilance (such as seems to have occurred both on shore and at sea with regard to the Deepwater Horizon), disaster becomes practically inevitable.

There just isn't any practical alternative in these scenarios to operator disciple and vigilance. In our complex and inter-dependent modern society, that's all that stands between us and disaster.

We'll never build a system that's inherently "idiot-proof". All we can do is try to prevent "idiotic behavior" that would plunge us into further catastrophes such as we see here.

Now, who's watching those "gene splicers" in bio-tech labs around the world?

You can plan for idiots but not bl##dy idiots. I recall a story from many tears ago. An aircraft fuel, non-return valve was designed with different sized threads at either end so it could only be mounted the correct way around. Some bright spark machined down the large end and made a collar for the small end to fit it as he thought was the best way around. Fortunately it was snagged.


“Men argue; nature acts.”
I really love that quote, sums up everything in 4 words.

Anybody know of a place for biologists that is akin to TOD ?

How about Pharyngula? Emphasis on evolutionary biology.
A single strong point of view with an active comment section. It is a good starting place if nothing else because it has been around for so long.

Thanks there Web.

Web -
I guess all the marine biologists are to busy scrambling for data or cleaning sea turtles, to be debating the unknowns of this event.

Maybe they are teaming up with the survivalists. Perhaps it is not that bad, but we really screwed this one up.

What would be the main theme of such a place? I doubt we're going to run out of biology anytime soon!

Roger -
just selected parts ........ Blue Fin Tuna comes to mind.


Biological sea fish might dispute that.



Bob, do you have the link for Dr. Samantha Joye's blog? She is a marine biologist who takes her students out on the GOM to do research. (There is not the same level of participation as on TOD.)


Interesting thing about the business, is the wonderment each discipline has when they learn what the other guys really do. I was a helicopter-portable-shot-driller on the Overthrust Belt, some 30 odd years ago. My drill steel was 5 foot long. The big steel boys were always amazed.

Is your drill steel statement intended as double entendre?


Thanks for correcting me on the Q4000 separation in the previous thread.


and this afternoon we have this article from Collier County, FL some 420 miles from the Deepwater site

POLLS Boom sought as oil sheen lingers 170 miles off Collier, Lee coast


That's the county I'm in. We're the absolute lowest priority, (on a scale of 1 to 3), as far as the planning goes for the St Pete Sector, last I checked. Oil was supposedly ~200 km offshore.

Is it possible the hydrocarbon gases (methane, ethane, propane, butane, hexane, whatever) plus nitrogen from cement did not come out of solution with great expansion till after it passed the riser slip joint and flow line surface just below diverter and rig floor . Assume diverter was closed, how was de-gasser lined up? What pressures and temperatures are required for those gases to come out of solution into gaseous state? Is the expansion at phase change around 500 times. Did the gases occur a short distance and quickly below the rig floor so the driller did not have time to close the well?

Assume that at least one of the pipe rams was partially closed since the drill pipe seems to be hung off there. When did the driller attempt to shut in the well? Need to have some BOP information put onto drilling parameter charts.

Have the engineers who know about rig operations, temperature vs. pressure phase diagrams, composition of oil & gas coming up, the time line of events, and other meaningful factors determined what caused the blowout? Are BP, Anadarko, TransOcean, Halliburton, Schlumberger, Mud subcontractor, MMS, government scientific Labs, etc working together and or separately to investigate what happened? When will the results be made public?

Tony Hayward sure did not come prepared to answer those five specific questions as requested by Waxman and Stupak. His goal was to protect BP from liability, not present meaningful information to explain what happened. Those asking the questions should have asked Tony’s expert witness when he stonewalled them. How much will the legal folks hold back information for liability reasons?

Finally it looks like a reasonable effort is being made to get the equipment to remove oil from the surface. The federal government should have insisted BP immediately (by April 21) start to roundup all world wide oil spill equipment and start removing oil before it came ashore. Most of the oil that has reached the water surface is still there, but it is only a matter of time till it makes landfall with terrible results. We ain’t seen nothing yet, standby. Over 200 thousand birds died at Prince William Sound from that oil spill. Much more oil can get to the surface if the caps or relief wells have problems.

The Unified Command folks have been doing a good job on containing flow at top of BOP and the relief wells. The floating oil collection/burning has been an inexcusable, inefficient failure. Many recovery resources from around the world should have been brought to the site more than a month ago. Obama did not take surface cleanup responsibility because he wanted BP to take the heat. BP did not get or use the resources available to remove the floating oil, so our federal government should have done so in order to protect our shoreline.

If the present containment cap is replaced with a new flange to flange sealing cap how will the AX type gasket ring be placed in lower flange circular recess considering the rapidly up flowing oil from BOP? Landing the new upper flange on the lower flange will be difficult due to the lose of visibility when the oil gushes out sideways. The upper flange can knock the ring out of place, and the bolt holes must be lined up. Those ROV operators have their work cut out for them. Connecting flanges with lots of oil flowing thru them will be a challenge.

Why is drilling in 5000’ water depth so much more difficult than 1000’ of water? The elements causing this BP blowout, containment, and well killing would be about the same ( it seems to me) in `1000’ or 5000’. The major problem is not water depth, but human decisions (for example not circulating bottoms up, not watching mud returns, not running casing hanger lock down device, proper well design, plus authority issues) and maybe equipment failure. Is human diver depth limitation the real difference between shallow and deep water? The US Navy has a one atmosphere diving suit which really gets down there. In shallower water and closer to the beach the oil would have just come ashore sooner. We have been lucky most of the oil has not washed ashore yet, but it shortly will if not removed ASAP.

Thanks for all of the information. Has there been any change in the risk potential of another blowout occurring in either of the relief wells, as opposed to the initial well? They are being drilled to the same depth, through the same formation, and possibly to an accelerated schedule, even greater than the time-is-money drilling of the first well. Have any of the proposed safety changes been applied to the relief wells, whether changes to techniques, testing of BOPs, or other? Have there been any indications of problems with either of the relief wells, i.e. have there been inconsistencies in the reported rates of depth over time from what was expected?

Just wondering if all of the safety talk is just talk.

They have a whole TRUCKLOAD more info than the first well did...and they aren't drilling on an accelerated schedule.

They have very experienced well control folk out there (boots and coots, wild well control, and a guy who is now part of boots and coots who is supposed to be 'da man).

NONE of these have any skin in the game other than getting the well killed. If they think anything going on is sub-standard, they ain't gonna stay there.

Another onlooker joins and as others I certainly appreciate the expertise showed on the site. I have several relatives working on or in very close proximity to the DWH event site and as you can imagine the pucker factor is quite high especially on the Enterprise. I've fished the GOM for 70 years and saw the oil companies kill it one time before, during the early seismic surveying efforts and now they are doing it gain.
Haven't actually worked on any rigs but did get too close to a poison gas well blowout in Piney Woods field in SE Miss. I was 1/2 mile from the well site going the wrong way on a dirt road when they lit the escaping gas with a flare gun. Still haven't figured out how I got turned around bu when I stopped I about twenty guys hanging on my pickup. I was on my way to help a friend who was hard banding the drill pipe collars to prevent wear.

One of the more interesting technologies being proposed to mitigate the oil. From the short description given on the news this system is proposed for the actual leak as well as remediation of the oil in the marshes. The byproduct water of this process supposedly be highly oxygenated a boon for BOD by created by the oil bugs.


Hey, unclesyd, I hope you don't mind that I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both: Bwahahahahhohohohoohoohoooo.

Piney Woods... that goes way back. You know that you are lucky to be alive if you were in the area before they ignited it. The H2S levels were extreme- they discussed evacuation of the city of Jackson.

I believe that it was the first relief well operation using magnetometers for location of the wild well bore. Hardbanding: I'm looking out the window at a hardbanding operation right now. Do you live in Mississippi?

O3 could be used for limited hydrocarbon applications. The scale of production in this application would be very difficult to produce. Large high voltage transformers with pure oxygen feeding through the corona to generate ozone and saturation tanks to feed to the oil spill. The combination of high voltage and pure oxygen would be a problem in the spill area.

Hello all,
Boa Deep C – ROV 2 is now on a "??? bladder installation" job. I can't make out the first word. Is this a storage bladder, as some of us have suggested here, or something to do with that huge "manifold" sitting on the sea-floor? Or???

Also, is anyone else detecting an increase in critters floating and swimming by? What are those long white filaments that seem to be everywhere?

The first word is 'glycol' .. might be something to do with the new manifold or the floating riser being readied for use with the Helix Producer.

Anybody know what the CDP prefix for the manifold means? Somehow, in this context, I don't think it means 'Continuous Data Protection'.

I've been wondering about the "stringy" substance. What happened to the members of the benthic community that were in the kill zone?

Some of that material resembles the substance in the water in the RSOE-EDIS report 06142010. http://tiny.cc/Fla06142010. I did CNS research for a while and some types of tissues get that look after being processed with fixatives. I don't know how the depth differences would factor in. Could be fixed is fixed.

Usually I track biological events of interest through ProMed, but the RSOE site is interesting. ProMed is showing an unusual number of fish kills, but not in the GoM region. RSOE is showing two bio hazard reports in the San Marco region.

http://tiny.cc/RSOE-EDIS_MAIN, use search function for folder options.

k3d59 on June 19, 2010 - 3:42pm
I've been wondering about the "stringy" substance. What happened to the members of the benthic community that were in the kill zone?

What "kill zone" are you referring to? Are you suggesting the stringy substance might be their remains?

(Benthic Community Benthos - Organisms inhabiting the bottom sediment of aquatic environments constitute the benthic community or benthos.)

I used "kill zone" to designate the immediate area impacted by the blow-out and associated chemical activity. Immediate meaning within a couple of miles and I borrowed the term from the chemical processing people.I know that the impact is much, much broader, but we have to start somewhere.

And yes, that's exactly what I'm suggesting. Remember the "snot in the water" news video a couple of weeks ago? Might be oil-dispersant mix, might also be algae/biological entity-oil-dispersant mix product. Ditto the RSOE 61410 biohazard subject. Ditto with that material I'm watching float by right now on 9782 reflector. I think I also mentioned very early on in discussions after the blowout that p.putida, shewanella and their little friends don't eat only oil. If whatever it is retains an observable fibrous or mucoid structure, however, my money is on some type of process induced by the original organism interacting with that soup out there.

Inquiring minds.....

I suspect that if, in the event of a hurricane shoo'ing away all top vessels where 100% of the oil would spill to the GOM, there would be some sort of storage for subsea dispersant. I think it says "glycol bladder" but you get my assumption that at some point there should be a supply of dispersant stored for auto injection in the case of a hurricane inducing bug out.

and that is a correct assumption .... see the "Autonomous Subsea Dispersant System" illustrated in slides 3&4 of the slide pack accompanying the 6/18 Kent Wells technical briefing. (transcript at Wells PDF ).

Wells said that if a hurricane approaches, they will detach the floating riser(s) and direct the subsequent flowing oil out via the CDP manifold on the seafloor, to which the dispersant system is attached.

Yes. Great question. So when we disconnect, so if you look at the slide that I currently have up, basically we’ll use an ROV to disconnect the hose that’s connected to the Helix Producer, bring it down and connect it to the free-standing riser. That would allow the Loch Rannoch and the Helix Producer to move away if a hurricane was coming. That would be shut in so that if the oil needed to be released during a hurricane, it would be released through the CDP manifold, where we’re going to have the dispersant, so it would be released back down at the sea floor where it could be dispersed and we get the most effective use of the dispersant. So hopefully that helps to understand how it would work.

This blog seems as good a place as any to post a heads up to TODers in re. the "long string" design for oil wells.

According to the Wall Street Journal today 6/19/2010 page A5, the earliest use of this design was in July 2003. They attribute this information to US Minerals Management Service (MMS). I notice that by this date the fiduciary integrity of MMS had been thoroughly compromised by the previous administration. Others have since used this design but given what we know about the regulatory posture of previous administration, we should not believe that there was adequate vetting of the design by the appropriate technical authorities. I had not realized that the design is so new. It is not a technique that many, if any, seasoned drilling hands learned about during their schooling.

Special call out to Rockman, others who are our drilling brain trust: What say you? Is it really so newly arrived on the oil well drilling scene? I don't blame anyone for not noticing. You are all busy making a living and worrying mostly about keeping you own work going quickly, but safely.

It's not used in the areas that I have worked. I haven't paid attention to Deepwater as that is not an area that I was interested in.

Not a driller....but think that for some types of wells (e.g. producing wells) it is now not all that uncommon. If I had to guess as to why it became "recently" available I'd guess that that was the point at which you could actually get the stuff in the grades needed.

Somebody had a link to another article up at one point re: BP has 30% of all their wells on this design (ouch!). Anandarko has a bunch - but only on producing wells, apparently. The other operators have many fewer. I think I saw mentions of Chevron and Shell - but none for Exxon or PDVSA.

My god we are f*&%ed. I've been watching Boa 1 & 2 fumble around about 45 min now trying to get a friekin bolt out of a shackle. Never have I seen such clumsiness and lack of mechancial understanding.

Inexcusable they don't have stereoscopic VR.

Just announced on the BBC cable news that oil collection was suspended for 10 hours Saturday due to a blocked vent and the threat of lightning topside

no statement not to be found on BP s site maybe I do not know where to look ?

the world is rating about BP s statement that Tony Hayward remains in charge


an bit more clarification


Collection on the DE was shut down last evening sometime after 8 pm and restarted this morning.

The following text appears to the right of the photo at Gulf of Mexico response on the BP site.

The Enterprise was shutdown between 20:23 on June 18th and approx. 06:30 on June 19th due to a blocked flame arrestor and lightning storm.

Several earlier updates about the shutdown were given at the same location beginning Friday evening.

I've read a lot of theories about what folk think happened and none of them have been quite right in my own opinion.

WRT the article above I absolutely believe the hanger seal was set, this is clearly mentioned in the BP May 24th presentation and Drill-Quip, whose SS-15 wellhead system it is have a single trip tool.

From http://www.dril-quip.com/ss15bb.htm
"All casing hangers and seal assemblies are run, set and tested on drill pipe in a single trip"

Ergo if the casing was run, so was the seal.

My own personal interpretation of events is as follows...

1). Drill pipe stuck in hole, cemented in place and sidetrack initiated.
2). Drilling/logging finished the final completion a 7" x 9-7/8" casing string was run. It had just 6/21 centralisers. Not good bearing in mind the well was sidetracked.
3). String was cemented in place.
4). String was pressure tested after just 18 hrs, cement takes 48 hrs to cure, after 24 hours it has zero compressive strength. (The result is that the casing deflect radially under pressure, pushing against the cement).
5). Cement bond was probably not helped by premature pressure test, cement job would be non-uniform due to lack of centralisers and off-vertical wellbore (following sidetrack).
6). Gas migrates from formation through channels in the cement on the thin side of the annulus.
7). Gas rises up the annulus unable to expand as the pack off is in place.
8). 7"-9-7/8" casing approaches collapse as tension is circa 700,000lbf at the wellhead and formation pressure is rising up the annulus towards the wellhead.
9). Casing survives collapse as unexpanded gas bubble nears SS-15 seal assembly, seal assembly lock ring fails under shear and seal is blown clean off the casing hanger and is launched up the wellbore directly at the BOP.
(hand calcs show that the 100lb seal could have accelerated at near 800G on shearing free)
10). Seal assembly enters the BOP like a giant artillery shell. Wrecking all kinds of havoc. Riser level is witnessed to drop, as annular is damaged.
11). BOP fails and gas migrates up into the riser.
12). Flow is totally masked as A) mud is being returned directly to the boat to save time, B) pumps are being run up/down as seawater is displaced.
12). Gas plume accelerates up the riser, before spilling out in huge quantities and finding an ignition contact within minutes if not seconds.

13). Rig engulfed in flames

14). EDS system activated
15). Rig abandoned.

16). Coast Guard turn up and deluge fire.
17). Deepwater Horizon sinks
18). Marine riser buckles and breaks

19). Massive oil spill ensues.

Now in my own opinion there were several KEY moments where the spill could have been prevented.

1). BP Engineering of the well, the well had a bad design, too few centralisers made the cement job vulnerable to gas migration. This problem was totally compounded when the well deviated from theoretical true vertical when they suffer with stuck pipe and were forced to sidetrack.

2). BP completion of well, the last few steps to complete the well included several key oversights.
i). Mud transferred directly to the boat. (making it impossible to measure volume in/out)
ii). Failure to log the cement job. The guys on the rig making decisions failed to grasp that the cement job was seriously undermined by a pathetic casing program (6/21 centralisers) and the sidetrack, but that wasn't their job. They made their own assumptions based on the assumption the BP Engineers had done their job correctly, they had not.
iii). Failure to install the lock down sleeve promptly. The guys on the rig had made a decision to delay running the lockdown sleeve as they assumed they had a good cement job. If they had a good cement job the lockdown sleeve was a back up component.

They had casing effectively hanging only, they had no way of knowing for sure about the cement job, and they were blind to any well control issues as they had limited ability to detect flow.

Then the inevitable happened.

3). The US Coast Guard turned up on site and deluged an abandoned Deepwater Horizon until it sunk 2 days later as the Coast Guard flooded the pontoons. the sinking of the rig resulted in the failure of the riser and the initiation of the worst spill in US history. Now I am NOT apportioning any blame to the US Coast Guard, but the decision to deluge the rig? Was it really wise? I mean if they had let the fire rage what would have happened?
i). The fire would have burned fiercely above the drill floor and would have eventually consumed everything from there up.
ii). Is it possible that the pontoons, the rig legs and the drill floor could have survived the fire for a week or two or maybe even more?
iii). Is it possible that the riser could have maintained intact for many days after the blowout? Simply feeding oil and gas to a giant inferno above the rig.

It is my opinion that, the best cause of action would have been for the Coast Guard to sit back and watch the rig burn. In fact there should have been a conscious effort to keep the rig dry, as the fire would have consumed all the oil that would otherwise be spilling into the gulf. Even if the rig burned for just two weeks that time would have been invaluable for planning the response.

The current set up over the Malongo well is actually identical in principle to the set up that was sunk by the Coast Guard two days into the response operation. In fact the original set up was better as we had a Marine Riser from sea floor to deck that was structurally intact and preloaded in place.

I wonder how much BP would pay to get that scenario back in place?

One item you don't take into account is the consequence of the rig using the riser/BOP/Wellhead as a anchor for 2 weeks. While it drifts without thrusters.

BP to divest all North Sea assets in bid to sustain costs of Gulf spill.

Oh my....

Edit: From the article cited above: "Moody's concern is shared by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who said he was concerned that the company faces 'annihilation'".

"Annihilation" is not a word of comfort.

I'm curious... has anyone heard of these rumors of a media blackout with helicopters and guards threatening to arrest people for bringing cameras into affected areas?:


Can anyone here confirm or refute these reports? Has anyone here who's down there or who's been down there seen anything like this?

I want to address the possibility of sabotage.

It is clear to me BP and the other oil companies want cap and trade to become the law of the land. Why? Ask yourself that.

BP America President and Chairman Lamar McKay: “BP supports an economy-wide price for carbon based on fair and equitable application across all sectors and believes that market based solutions, like a cap and trade or linked-fee, are the best solutions to manage GHG emissions.” (Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 6/15/10)

Shell President Marvin E. Odum: “That is why Shell supports legislating a solution to energy and climate issues as a means to create a secure U.S. energy future, reduce dependence on foreign oil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. This requires setting a price for carbon, and we recommend cap and trade.” (Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 6/15/10)

ConocoPhillips CEO James J. Mulva: “Another key element of a comprehensive energy policy should be federal action to address global climate change. As you are aware, ConocoPhillips supports passage of a comprehensive federal law establishing a clear and transparent price for carbon.” (Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 6/15/10)

They thought the BOP shut off the oil and gas on the sea floor. It did not.

(1) Could the BOP malfunctioned?
(2) Could the operator have make a mistake and not closed the BOP correctly or fast enough?
(3) Could a waco environmentalist have had his hands on the controls and faked the closing off of the blowout preventor???
(4) Could BP have done this on purpose to make billions through the CCX that obama and gore created?

Sabotage is a possibility and almost no one is talking about it, especially the 11 men that were killed.

Why was BP so lax in their safety standards?

Where were the government inspections or inspectors?

How could these safety standards be ignored?

Are the safety standards voluntary only?

This who thing smells.

Lucid post, but I cannot swallow any of it. You didn't cite (link) anything as outside resources.

Do not spend any time on a reply to that criticism. Instead, please concentrate on finding out why they did not circulate bottoms up when they got on bottom with the casing, before cementing. You never addressed that in your post. IMHO, that is a serious flaw, and an admission of guilt that they were in a swamp filled with alligators, and it was too late or too expensive to drain the swamp.

As a "too long" professional in the business with ALL of my experience gleaned on the rig floor or the mud pits, I can tell you that one fact is unforgivable. There is absolutely no way an operator can explain that away under any theme, guise, outgrowth of an engineering training session, etc.

Been there, tried that, and it didn't work. If anyone can explain their motive and make it look like they did the right thing, please weigh in.

Gonna be a tough sell....


Since we're in hurricane season, I regularly check the Tropical Weather Discussion at Crown Weather:

It's looking more likely that Invest 92-L will become Tropical Storm Alex in the SE Gulf sometime between Wednesday & Friday.

Courtesy of Weather Underground