BP's Deepwater Oil Spill - the Problem of Cleaning Up Marshes - and Open Thread 2

This thread is being closed. Please put comments on today's open thread, found at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6595.

I have listened to some of the press conferences held by the Deepwater Horizon External Affairs folks. One thing they talk about is how different clean-up operations are for beaches compared to marshes. For beaches, workers are sent in with shovels and rakes to remove the portion with oil. For marshes, techniques vary by area, but there are few good options. This is a section from a press conference a few days ago describing the marsh situation.

Q Good morning, Admiral.

ADMIRAL ALLEN: Good morning.

Q I spoke -- I was down in Venice yesterday and I spoke with the Sierra Club and its president, who had just come in from touring the Barataria Bay . . . Michael Brune, the president, said he was struck by the futility of the cleanup effort and he said there really is no effective way to clean up an oil spill; that the boom, even when it’s in place, is not very effective when you have wave action that pushes the oil inland into marshes or over pelican rookeries. . . So I’m wondering if you could comment -- I mean, you’re talking about the battle line being drawn on the coast. I mean, what should people along the coast realistically expect of protective booms, cleanups, and the realistic of -- cleaning up in this disaster?

ADMIRAL ALLEN: Well, I think you’ve done a very good job at describing the vexing situation that exists out there, especially in the lower area in Barataria Bay and Plaquemines Parish where there is a lot of marshland. There is no good solution when oil enters a marshland. And as we know, boom can be defeated by seascape -- it has to go over or under the top of it, depending on environmental conditions.

And skimming is very, very difficult. And if you use mechanical means back in the marshes, you do as much harm to the marshes as the oil might do. And, in some cases, you’re faced with the prospect of either an in-situ burn or just to let it biodegrade.

And the real issue is to stop this thing at the source, do maximum skimming, in-situ burning -- deal with it as far off shore as possible, and do everything you can to keep it from getting to shore, because once it’s into the marshes, quite frankly, I think we would all agree there’s no good solution at that point.

That’s the reason I think it’s incumbent on us to really attack this containment at the source. And I think definitely, as you heard me mention earlier, as this spill proliferates into smaller spills from south-central Louisiana and clear into Pensacola, Florida, it’s going to significantly stress not only boom production capability of the country, but the ability of skimmers. And we are working very, very hard to do that.

A few scenarios involved in oil spill planning contemplated, that brought an area of defense of a spill and it’s emblematic of the anomalous nature of this spill and why it’s difficult for everybody. But we’re working as hard as we can.

A 1998 MMS report called Effects and Management of Oil Spills in Marsh Ecosystems, relating to the Gulf of Mexico area says:

The effects of oil spills on marshes are complex and should be considered at various scales of spatial and temporal resolution and modes of impact. In general, lighter weight oils are more immediately toxic to plants than heavier oils. However, many of the modes of impact to marsh macrophytes involve effects related to smothering of the gas exchange surfaces of the plant, or of limiting gas exchange into an oil-coated sediment. Oil in the sediment can lead to increased oxygen stress in belowground tissues due to reduced gas exchange, disrupt root membranes and ion selectivity, and may adversely affect vegetative regrowth as newly-emerging shoots contact the oil. Oil may have considerable effects on marsh soil biogeochemical processes, however, the effects warrant further research

Oil has been found in marsh soil 7 years after a spill, which indicates the potential for long term effects. Crude oil greatly but temporarily stimulated soil respiration, affects Eh, and possibly remineralization rates, and may stimulate nitrogen fixation. A research program designed to better understand the long-term effects of petroleum hydrocarbons on nutrient cycling in coastal marshes is needed.

An aolnews.com article describes the techniques for cleaning up gulf marshes in as follows, each with a drawback. (These are techniques in general, not necessarily ones that would work with the particular type of oil that is a problem in this particular spill.)

  • Burning oil-coated plants, which removes oil quickly and minimizes trampling.
  • Low-pressure flushing, which helps push oil into areas where it can be vacuumed up or absorbed.
  • Cutting back vegetation to leave plants intact and prevent oiling of birds.
  • Adding nutrients to speed natural degradation of the oil.
  • Doing nothing. Oil that degrades over time hardens into a crust similar to asphalt, and letting Mother Nature take her course has the advantage of causing no collateral damage.

These are a few limitations of the above techniques:

Cutting plants back, for example, only works in small areas -- and there may not be many of those with a spill that has pumped more than 4 million gallons of oil into the Gulf since April 20.

Introducing nutrients to accelerate the activity of natural microbes in the marsh that "eat" oil has limited potential, since oxygen levels in wetland soils are often so low that microbe activity is limited whether nourishment is added or not.

Likewise, low-pressure flushing only works when oil is floating on the surface.

The boom system for keeping the oil away from the marshes is not working very well. Regarding the effort to keep the oil away from the shore line, it says:

Its chief weapon is “boom,” floating rolls of plastic and fabric laid on the water to contain and absorb oil. More than 1.2 million metres has been deployed to date.

But Unified Command faces a crisis of confidence as it becomes clear that the boom system has major flaws of its own. There is not enough boom, for one, to line the entire coast; Alabama Gov. Bob Riley became enraged last week that the Coast Guard removed a large quantity from his state and sent it to Louisiana. And rough waters have both washed oil over boom lines and broken those lines up, sending boom adrift into the ocean and onto land.

“It’s a joke,” Billy Nungesser, the outspoken president of Plaquemines Parish, told Congress this week. “It washes up on the shore with the oil, and then we have oil in the marsh, and we have an oily boom. So we have two problems.”

Another approach to keeping the sand away from the marshes is building sand berms. Louisiana received approval from the EPA to build 40 miles of berm (sand piles six feet above the water level and 25 feet wide) to keep the oil away from some of Louisiana's marshes, despite concerns about the high cost, and the ability to work as planned. Some of these concerns are as follows:

. . .that the emergency berms would take several months to build, by which time a lot of oil would have hit the coast; that dredging up the sand to build the berms could intensify coastal erosion and rip apart undersea oil-and-gas pipelines; and that the berms, by changing the flow of water, could alter the water's salinity, potentially hurting fish. . .

In written comments May 26 to the Corps of Engineers, the EPA said the berms would be "unlikely to stop the majority of the oil from migrating inland," because they would leave many large water passes open.

Furthermore, the EPA said in its comments, the construction of the oil-blocking berms "could exacerbate the emergency situation in the Gulf," in part because it could move around sand on the sea floor that already had been contaminated with oil, newly endangering aquatic life.

So there are no easy answers.

Furthermore, residents are concerned about the possibility of losing jobs because of the six- month moratorium on drilling according to the Guardian:

The crisis is as much about money as it is about the environment. In Plaquemines, where rigs and refineries line the roads, there is as much anger at Obama for putting a moratorium on offshore drilling as there is at BP for provoking the six-month timeout in the first place.

Almost everybody has someone who has worked in the industry and there is as much talk about fears that the offshore industry might migrate elsewhere as a result of the crisis as there is about the black tide washing into the marshes.

BP is still catching far less than the total amount of oil escaping. To try to solve the problem of catching oil, BP is being given 48 hours (to the end of the weekend) to come up with a plan to increase oil collection. Clearly, the best way to stop problems with oil getting into marshes (and other places) is to stop the flow at the leak.

Prof. Goose's comment:

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By the looks of it, we must commit ourselves to mid-July as the (BP advertised) implementation time for (merely) the improved capture method... accompanied by the possible hope that one of the relief wells might come in early...

As Mr. Vonnegut was wont to say:

"So it goes."

On and on...

Peter B.


Sic transit gloria mundi.

Yeah. Dontcha wish you could anticipate transit to the Kingdom of Heaven, apres le deluge!

Edit for typo. (Can't think in three languages at once and chew gum at the same time.)

Even the not so glorious:) You are a great asset to this site EL.

Call for an Emergency Summit

An Extraordinary Crisis requires an Extraordinary Response.

Saturday June 19, 2010 10:00 am

Unitarian Universalist 5212 South Claiborne Avenue Church New Orleans LA

Details at Gulf Emergency Summit

Call below or write gulfemergencysummit@gmail.com



The Emergency Summit will bring together scientists, people from fishing communities, environmental activists, progressives, radicals and revolutionaries, artists, intellectuals and all who want to halt this horror. There will be testimony on the true scope and impact of the disaster and on what can be done to protect ecosystems, wildlife, and people. We’ll thrash out ways for people to act now – on different fronts and in different ways – and to galvanize many, many more, across the Gulf and beyond.

The world is watching. We must not allow the Gulf and oceans to be devastated. Our mission is nothing less than stopping this catastrophe.

Provisional Demands (to be discussed):

1. Stop oil drilling in the Gulf.

2. The government and entire oil industry must allocate all necessary resources to stop the spill and clean up the devastation. Full support, including by compensation, must be given to efforts by people to save the Gulf.

3. No punishment to those taking independent initiative; no gag orders on people hired, contracted, or who volunteer.

4. Full mobilization of scientists and engineers. Release scientific and technical data to the public; no more lying and covering up. Full and open scientific evaluation of emergency measures like the use of dispersants. Fund all necessary scientific and medical research.

5. Full compensation for all losing livelihood and income from the disaster.

6. Provide necessary medical services to those suffering health effects of the spill. Protect the health of and provide necessary equipment for everyone involved in clean up operations. Full disclosure of medical and scientific studies about the effects of the oil disaster.

"we must commit ourselves to mid-July as the (BP advertised) implementation time for (merely) the improved capture method"

No, before then.

The additional capture through the "top-kill" Q4000 direct connection should happen within the next 2 days i.e. mid-June and this should capture an additional 5,000 - 10,000 barrels/day.

At the beginning of July the Toisa Picses FPSO with Loch Rannoch tanker should come into play and this can capture 20-25,000 barrles/day.

Thanks for the reminder to donate.

I guess I would say that the spill has made me appreciate this site even more.

Too bad the appreciation comes in the context of such bad news, on top of all the others.

Does anyone see any change in use of gasoline in their neck of the woods? Are flights down?

Over the years, as I've talked to people of impending ecological crises, I've often heard people say that something really, really bad is going to have to happen before people wake up.

So far, I think the evidence suggests strongly that people don't wake up, even when lots of really, really bad things happen.

I would love to hear more people's reaction's to dougr's analysis from the other day, that the gusher will likely never be staunched and one to two billion barrels will likely eventually spew into the Gulf.


dougr paints a very bleak outlook, but seems, day by day, to be more plausible.

One thing I have been wondering for ages is why the riser flange has not been removed from the LRA?

This should allow a direct mechanical connection that could be sealed, resulting in 100% capture.

IMVHO this is an obvious step which should have been done already, so it begs some questions that dougr theorizes.

- There is some concern about the integrity of the BOP or the well pipe supporting it.

- There seems to be strong aversion to anything which could raise the pressure of the well and surrounding casing.

This could be precautionary, (and wise) or there is a genuine concern that the whole thing could let go.

For the number crunchers: If a sealed riser were attached, how would the pressure at the LRA change?

I was sick the day the class covered fluid dynamics ;-)

I won't try to crunch the numbers, because I wouldn't even get as far as having the right number of variables, but...

A sealed riser wouldn't, necessarily, change pressures in the BOP, or the bore below the wellhead—as long as it provided for unrestricted flow.

The people working topside don't want to be on the other end of unrestricted flow, because they don't want to live through (or die in) a sequel to the DWH story. So, they need to be able to reduce or stop the flow, at any time.

Right now, when they reduce the flow (as they are, because they can't handle more than about 15K bbls 30M cf per day, at the moment), more O/G just boils out of the dunce cap, and into the Gulf.

If they create a sealed system, there has to be a way to divert the flow away from the Discoverer Enterprise and the other vessels topside. As Dimitry says, that shouldn't be too difficult.

I think the integrity worries might be over trying to free rusty 3" diameter nuts with a 4 foot spanner etc. Maybe the BOP is hanging by its last bit of gristle.

Right now if something goes wrong with the unsealed cap (a methane clathrate buildup, for example) and blockages occur the cap will just pop off and no harm done. Bolt a cap hard to the riser then if a blockage occurs or a valve jams shut somewhere then the wellhead assembly will take the entire pressure load of the well. That could cause failures in the casings lower down the well and maybe even pop the wellhead off its riser if the lower joint has been sufficiently weakened.

The disaster recovery effort's first aim is "Don't kill anyone". The second is "Don't make anything worse". A hard cap has ways of going wrong that make it a risk that is not worth taking at the moment -- they don't have enough processing capability for what the existing loose cap system collects.

I believe NoJay has nailed the situation down admirably in just a few words.

If a tight cap is to be installed,a pressure relief system is a necessity.

I'm not an engineer but I am familiar with many kinds of machinery and a reliable pressure relief can be as simple as the spring loaded cap on an automobile radiator, or the wiggly wieght on the stem of an ordinary household pressure cooker.

Unfortunately there is very little likelihood that one or more such relief caps can be constructed and installed quickly, under the circumstances,unless the engineers in charge anticipated the need and designed the vents currently being used to dump the excess flow so that the caps could be attached to them.

If a suitable pressure relief system is installed, then the oil/gas flow up the riser will increase until the entire flow takes that path, or until the relief system trips or opens partially, and reduces the flow up the riser.

(The question then becomes one of what might fail next-such jury rigged systems almost always are subject to some one or another part becoming overloaded or overstressed and failing.Old gearheads such as yours truly built our hotrods by simply going to a stronger component as eah one failed due to it's failure on the drag strip.A savvy street racer could simply look under a car without hearing or seeing it run and know its approximate capabilities;if I looked under a car and it had a modified "Dana sixty"rear axle assembly salvaged fron a heavy duty delivery truck, I knew it was considerablyy faster than mine, which only needed a "nine inch Ford" to reliably deliver the power of my engine.)

My first guess would be the gasket or seal material between the cap and the BOP, which if I remember correctly is apparently leaking already either due to damage during installation or a lack of sufficient clamping force, or a failure to conform tightly to the irregular surfaces of the cut off pipes.

The riser itself might become unstable and begin doing wierd things , such as vibrating or snaking.I have seen a fire hose do this snaking thing, it looked just like a sine wave on a scope. Or somepart of the original BOP or pipes just about eroded through or damaged by the original accident might fail.

If a new leak develops BELOW OR UNDERNEATH the BOP this could be extremely bad news, and the people in charge might have good reason (unknown to us) for thinking this might happen, and thus be AFRAID to do anything to cause the pressures to rise in the old pipes/bop.Any additional restriction of the flow would create such a rise in pressures.

I know what salt water dies to ordinary pipes under ordinary circumstances but I am under the impression that steel oxidizes very slowly under deep water conditions due to the low temperatures, and it is hard for me to imagine that the steel used doesn't have some added alloy ingredients to help it resist corrosion, or a thick rust resistant plating, or very good marine paint, etc, or all three.The additional cost would be absolutely trivial, considering the application.

Speaking as a mechanic with dirt and grease permanently embedded in his calluses, the fact that it was possible to turn the bolts or nuts with a wrench , regardless of the length of the wrench,is a very reliable indication that the flange bolts are in no danger of failing.

High strength large diameter bolts and nuts that are badly rusted simply cannot be seperated with wrenches,unless they are soaked for an extended period with penetrating oil, or unless they are heated to something approaching visible red.

The torque necessary to free such rusted fasteners is so high that either the rusty facets of the hex heads(typically, but there are splined bolts, square head bolts,etc) round off even with the proper wrench, or the bolt simply shears off before the nut turns;something breaks.

Of course it is good sop even on farm machinery to use new bolts in the place of the originals if highly torqued and stressed bolts are ever once removed for maintainence or repair;this is stated as mandatory in the maintainence manuals for equipment such as dump trucks for suspension and frame bolts.

Getting new bolts down to the BOP SHOULD no problem at all.

If the need for a pressure relief system, and the means for accomodating it, were not taken into account by the people who designed the cap, thier professional credentials should be revoked for obvious incompetence.

Now to change the subject a bit when I worked in nukes the engineers occasionally used a "source" to deliberately expose all the pipes in a room to radiation, the source simply being a snmall chunk of a very "hot " isotope kept in a lead box and removed by remote control.I personally hung camera film all over the place under the engineers direct instructions.The exposed film was used to evaluate the condition of the pipes, specifically to look for cracks or corrrosion and possibly also erosion.

I expect that while we may not know about it, such tests could have been run;the film could easily be enclosed in small presssure resistant but xray transparent containers, and the source is metal and everything is necessarily done remotely anyway.

Water absorption of the xrays might be a problem , but the distances involved would be pretty short;and if results were ambigious a mockup would be easy to build for comparision and evaluation.

Somehow I believe I could have brainstormed this thing IN ADVANCE with a bunch of good mechanics, not an engineer in the lot, and worked up a MUCH better plan than what has been done so far too little too late. I could get four or five more good old boys together easily.The whole lot of us would be willing to drink coffee fetched by secretaries for Rockmans daily rate split six ways, and we should be done in a few months, especially if we were given subpeona powers to obtain such information as we might want,and an engineer or two to keep us from specifying the impossible as opposed to the simply expensive.;-)

Like many others here I know nothing about oil drilling and extraction beyond what I've read here and Wikipedia, but the consensus from the knowledgeable posters on earlier threads seemed to be(?) that this was highly unlikely. (Corrections welcome from persons with clue.)

Yes the casing's compromised somewhere below the wellhead - we know that, BP themselves said so didn't they? - but there's no sign yet of flow migrating up outside the well bore. Therefore there's no fundamental reason why the relief wells won't work. Also, the >100kbpd estimate seems to be based on the 80 bps mud injection rates during the top kill attempts, which surely doesn't follow -- most of the injected mud went straight out the riser.

Paging dougr -- do you actually have any qualifications or experience to back up your assertions in that post? As I say, always happy to receive corrections, and I'm emphatically NOT an expert on this stuff.

The blowout was inevitable due to BP's failure to follow standard operating procedures. The problem is BP's corporate culture. By way of contrast, I'd say that such a blowout is highly unlikely for a well run oil company, such as Exxon, where there is a contrasting corporate culture--one that pays much more attention to safety and risk and standard operating procedures than does Exxon.

such as Exxon, where there is a contrasting corporate culture--one that pays much more attention to safety and risk and standard operating procedures than does Exxon.

People in the Niger Delta would disagree as the latest spill on the first of May shows.


My opinion is that most accidents are caused by a thoroughly uncoordinated series of small decisions and actions that turn out to be screwups, some happening simultaneously. And usually low-tech, user error. The right set in the wrong circumstances = massive clusterf*ck. But I do agree that the culture was a contributor in a general sense and that it may have made it possible for the effects to be dire.

If 80 kbps mud was escaping during top kill, this gives a good estimate of oil flow....not one to one, of course: I assume the viscosity of the mud is higher, for example, plus the pressures changed during pumping...still, the raw data from the top kill should give a good estimate of a lower bound on the flow, after crunching the numbers.

As far as the reminder to donate, I hope some of the readers bought put options on BP stock when BP's pathological deception started? (Pathological... corporations are legally 'people' according to our courts...) Has everyone seen the movie The Corporation?


The puts are very rich. I think the calls are a much better chance to making money on any good news.

Several things in the ultimate doomsday scenario are difficult for me to buy into. I have no expertise other than I spent some time on TOD last night (and a few other nights)

The well casing esp. on the top end is made up of several layers of heavy casing. That would be the structure that will hold it up in 1000 ft of mud, the same that held it up before. Even if all casings we're breached I fail to see how they will all structurally fail as long as the main spill route is through the top. Seems that is why they are not eager to create real back pressure on the tophat.

Here's why I think that situation will predominate until a RW intersect. We have been seeing seabed monitoring. That's certainly prudent. So far the solid evidence for a big seabed rupture just doesn't seem evident. There is AFAIK significant buoyancy drive available to the operators once capacity is there. The worry has always been hydrate formation by having too much drive. This would seem to favor the top spill rather than the casing breach. Also it seems GOR has been falling. So hopefully the recovery rate will get ramped up here soon.

When the bottom kill is begun whether from a window or into the adjacent formation they expect to have a pretty significant pressure void from the escaping fluids going upbore. That should give them the ability to throttle the top side enough to monitor how much is coming out any casing leaks. The advantage is if such a breach were to be high in the bore the weight of mud filled in to that point would already be retaining pressure from below.

I get that the riser coming over must have torqued the BOP pretty good but it looks to have withstood it and the riser/DP did take the kink.

It's agonizing to see what happens to the Gulf, it's businesses and it's wildlife in the meantime. Despite a host of alternative schemes nothing seems to have the respectability of RW. Has a seabed blowout ever resulted in a full structural failure of the wellhead? Has there ever been an undersea blowout which could not be contained eventually by RW?

My 2c. Nothing more.

I would too.

dougr's analysis would go a long way towards explaining Bp's secrecy and lax attitude about shore protection. What would be the point of them bothering to do much but put on a show if things are this bad?

Is there someone here who can explain just what is going on in this video?


"dougr's analysis would go a long way towards explaining Bp's secrecy and lax attitude about shore protection. What would be the point of them bothering to do much but put on a show if things are this bad?"

dougr's predictions are quite a bit more dramatic than those of the best-informed and most-experienced oilpatch people here. The construction of the well makes the "falling-over BOP" rather improbable, for instance. And it seems quite likely that a relief well will, indeed, eventually be successful in killing this beast.

That said, I don't think anyone who is even marginally well-informed on the issue is confident that any fix is coming soon, or that the first relief well will necessarily be successful on the first attempt or without delay. And I don't think anyone would bet that things couldn't get worse before getting better.

A huge part of the Gulf is badly damaged, gravely injured. It's not going to be all better for a very long time. That's plenty of doomsday for me.

"Is there someone here who can explain just what is going on in this video?"

Oh, sure. Dozens of us. How many explanations would you like? ;^)

Here's mine: Viking Poseidon ROV 1 is doing a sea floor survey, perhaps of the area where the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon landed. Early in the clip, a puff (or puffs) of substances that look like methane and, perhaps, oil, are emitted from a crack in (a) the seabed, or (b) a piece of the wreckage. Following that, much larger clouds of material can be seen. Those are almost certainly clouds of silt stirred up by the ROV's thrusters.

I'm sure you'll be getting more detailed answers soon.

The doomsday scenario was very persuasive and well presented, but it has some serious flaws.

There is no evidence that oil from a breach in the casing has made its way to the surface. Nor is there any evidence that oil from a breach in the casing will make it to the surface. That kills the entire theory.

And even if it does, it does not necessarily follow that the bop will topple and the wellhead will collapse, or that RW kill is impossible.

Some of the description of the casing is wrong, too. And so are the claimed consequences of a breach. As is the estimate on where a breach would be in the casing, and how that would impact blow out to the surface.

That's my understanding anyway. I could be wrong, i'm not an expert by any means. But these criticisms don't necessarily requite you to be to see their validity.

Re: the "seafloor leak" video

You can find detailed attempts to explain what is going on in the prior thread starting here:


But Kalliergo pretty much covered it.

Viking Poseidon ROVs have been surveying debris from the sunken rig. I don't know if this is stuff that broke away and sank near the wellsite while the rig was still floating and on fire, or if they are at the main site where the rig landed after sinking. I'd imagine with the intensity of the fire, and the explosions, a large amount of debris went to the bottom before the rig went down.

Dougr's long post seemed very confused and full of inaccuracies. Here are a few examples that I don't believe have been addressed:

In discussing the effect of the mud pumping during the Top Kill he wrote, "we saw a greatly increased flow" and later wrote, "did we seen an increase over and above what was already leaking out of 115k bpd?....we did not.". Doh?

Discussing the current state of the flow through the BOP he described a "now pinched off riser head", but we all saw the video of an open riser after the cut, didn't we? Mangled a little, but open.

He seems concerned about "side loads [on the BOP] caused by the ocean currents" bending the BOP and well casing over. But currents are weak to non-existent at this depth, and are absolutely nothing compared to the stress the BOP already withstood with the Deepwater Horizon tugging on it after the blowout. Could something knock it over, like the 75 ton cap replacement ramming it? Maybe, but not ocean currents.

"The BOP is not supposed to be tilting...and after the riser clip off operation it has begun to...". Yeah, he wrote that too, even though it was much discussed on TOD that it was tilted BEFORE the riser cut.

My takeaway is there is too much confusion, error, and wild speculation in his post to make his prediction plausible. More importantly, folks (folks who know a lot more than I) have already picked apart good chunks of it.


What you say is quite valid. Unfortunately, we do not know what BP knows. Worse, we do not know what BP does not know. Stop me if I start to sound like Donald Rumsfeld ;-)

The damage to the well casing seems to be a real wild card with possible erosion around the outside, so, with all these unknowns, reasoned conjecture is the best we have.

Assuming the BP engineers are not totally incompetent, and I don't believe they are, there are inferences to be made about their progress or lack thereof.

First, they have been slow in providing additional oil/gas processing capability.

Although they have demonstrated that the riser flange could be removed, allowing for a direct connection, they have not done so.

100% capture would take a lot heat off them, hurricanes notwithstanding. The endless videos of the billowing oil get people fired up.

This begs the question; Why is BP reluctant to make a direct connection?

I suspect that the mantra is: "Whatever you do, don't make it worse."

The $64,000 question is, what is the risk in capturing 100% of the flow, providing that more precessing capacity is brought on line?

I have been troubleshooting projects and managing projects my whole life. Their approach doesn't make sense to me, which makes me ask "Why?".

What has been related to me is that the ability of the relief well(s) to kill it isn't significantly affected by the condition of the casing. Put in enough mud of the correct weight, and none of the rest really matters. However top kill, by whatever method, does rely heavily on casing integrity. Only way RWs won't kill it is if there's a completely independent path from the formation to the seafloor that's not connected to the original well (meaning the RW won't be able to pump into it) - that's not a plausible scenario.

While what you say is likely true, it does little to address my questions.

I think that until the RW is successful, this will be purely an oil recovery operation. Considering that the RW is likely several months away, this process should be made as efficient as possible, as soon as possible.

Bad PR aside, if we assume a 15,000 BPD spill, every day is costing BP between 15 mill and 60 mill just in fines alone, depending on whether negligence is found. This does not include the costs for removal and remediation.

So, I say again, there is something that doesn't make sense, unless there is something significant that we don't know about.

I think it addresses your questions perfectly well, because once you accept/assume the casing's no good, the only option left is the bottom kill via a relief well. Any form of top kill has been ruled out due to unknowns to do with the casing. As long as the relief wells are on target and don't suffer blowouts themselves, the leak will be stopped. A direct connection, replacing the BOP, stacking a second BOP on top of the first, bolting on a big valve with a handwheel like in that dumb movie - any of those, they don't want to do because of the damaged casing. There seems to be good confidence in the people doing the relief wells, and that they know how much of what to inject at the right time in the procedure to overcome any problems with damaged casing.

Pragma, I agree about the unknowns and don't mean to diminish them in any way. I just thought Dougr had gone a bit beyond reasoned conjecture.

As for the risk in a direct connection, we really are pretty much in the dark about the reasoning. But in trying to figure out why we are where we are, remember that BP is only part of the decision-making team. The government (Energy, Interior, Coast Guard, et al) are the top dogs now, and the engineering team has subcontractors and other oil companies' employees contributing ideas and analyses. I imagine there is still room in this for BP to screw up with logistics, like processing ships, and they are really screwing up the cleanup, but that is a different operation.

As for the big question, "Why?", folks like Rockman, Shelburn, Alan, and many others have helped me understand that much of what is being done may be strange, but it is not illogical. Hard to find those words of wisdom in TOD among all the drama reruns and instant experts, though, isn't it?

gas prices down 5 to 7 cents/gal around here (s e AZ, US)

From the linked NYT article:

"Admiral Watson did not say in his letter what the consequences would be for missing the deadline."

So BP has 48 hours to form a plan... Or what???

Their stock is going to fall again. That's what. Thank about it.

And if they keep missing deadlines and failing to plan and position assets accordingly, as specifically requested by the govt., they're going to force obama to do more, and their stock will crash more, and they will increase their own liability ultimately.

and failing to plan and position assets accordingly

I'd argue BP is quite busy planning and positioning assets accordingly.
Indeed too busy to bother with little things like requests from the President of the United States.

Of course. I think obama clearly sees that, too. That's why he spoke up about their $10 billion dividend and is insisting they set up a fund about twice as big as that dividend.

And while BP may be too busy to bother with obama, they are not too busy to bother about their stock price. And he has quite a week laid out for them that could send their stock into a tailspin again if BP comes out of it badly.

There's the 48 hour deadline on Mon. The presidential address to the nation on tues. The presidential meeting with the COB of BP and the congressional hearing including BP witnesses on Thurs. Boehner has also come out in favor of lifting the $75 million cap to unlimited damages. That xould pass this week too.

BP is going to be the focus of the world for the next week. I don't think they're going to want to be found unable to meet govt. deadlines for clean-up ioperation on top of it. The market will lose more confidence in their ability to effectively deal with the mess.

"quite busy planning and positioning assets"

Yes indeedy there Mr Speedy.....This will not end well, and you can quote me on that.

BP is positioning the corporate assets to allow for the transition to Government take over quite soon. When the well goes ballistic and can Never be shut off by human hands, the big boys in the military will take over, for better or worse. But it will make no difference...

This is, and will continue to grow, to be the worst disaster of modern Humanity. BP has let the Genie out of the bottle on this one. The collapse of the casing, as was pointed out by others recently, will happen, has begun already to happen. The possibility of a collapse of the Gulf floor around the well is very real, so how will they deal with a belch of a few Billion, yep BILLION, barrels all at once?

They won't, they can't. Hold yer A$$ folks, this Black Swan is a giant and is gonna crap in your Wheaties....

History will begin to be written, before the spill, or after....we will feel the Earth shift.


your doomsday scenario is based on what? Not doubting necessarily, but it would be great to know how you have gained this insight.

People are concerned about the casing being shot and it does indeed to be so, based upon BP's sudden actions when pushing mud, however...

Is there any plausible scenario that shows the entire (or even a portion) of the oil deposit collapsing?

How far out is that? Alan? Fellas? It is a big deposit, but collapse?

Also what About the HAY? You must have seen the youtube videos of hay soaking up oil. Why not use something abundantly available? The boom crisis seems idiotic at best.

Also.. just can't help myself... I said a while back that BP was interested to recoup some of their costs with the oil that their well head is producing.

Couldn't they have stopped the gusher using catastrophic means some time ago?

Scary but false.

The tap is in a region that might hold at most 100 million barrels, stated by several knowledgable people weeks ago in the other open threads, Alan Drake or Rockman might have a clue where to find the information.

If the sea floor were to collapse, the downward pressure would block in most of the oil in the rocks, basically like a cave collapse covering you in rocks so you can't get out.

The end of the world as we know it, will be when no one can get their cell phones to work, and the internet goes down.

Hugs to the fiction writers.
BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

"The end of the world as we know it, will be when no one can get their cell phones to work, and the internet goes down."

Guilty, as I am, of helping to inflict both technologies on the world, I'm not sure I'll miss 'em, much.

But, let's get rid of automobiles and television, first. There's no sane case for retaining those damned things.

"So BP has 48 hours to form a plan... Or what???"

It was actually 72 hours from receipt of the letter. You can see the response on bp.com website, look for the video of Kent Wells on 10 June.

Here is the link for videos.


They'll get another much stronger letter written with the red pen!

Hi, just wanted to provide a little context around alxehiggins732's previous photos clearly showing the ruptured seabed. It's a shame alex didn't have screencaps from right before the leaking rock incident, luckily I did have them. Guys, the seafloor in this area is absolutely COVERED in rocks. Now some of you may look and see debris from the burned, exploded, mangled, and sunken drill rig, but if you just squint a little and apply the right mental filters, you'll begin to see the TRUTH BP DOESN'T WANT US TO SEE!!

alexhiggins732's pic of the leaking rock: (link instead of embed to respect host's bandwidth)
Please note the timestamps and UTM coords.

My screencaps of the time leading up to the Leaking Rock Incident (LRI):
3:51 - rock in the shape of crumpled sheetmetal

4:12 - rock in the shape of a pipe, stuck vertical in the mud

4:15 - closeup of pipe-shaped rock

4:18 - rock in the shape of mangled bracing/sheetmetal

4:23 - detail of previous rock showing what looks like rust from exposure to fire (obviously volcanic activity, not related to DWH fire/sinking)

4:24 - more crumpled rock

5:02 - rock in the shape of a bent pipe

5:35 - barrel-shaped rock has rolled into position leaving impression in mud

5:36 - closeup showing orange paint on barrel-shaped rock

6:14 - another rock in the shape of crumpled sheetmetal

6:39 - rock in the shape of a ruptured storage tank

cOmfYchar: tanhk you broother, I have seem the light!

(Hard to type while I'm ROTFL)

The whole world will see BP's lies soon. There's no way they can stop it now, we have the damning proof they are spending billions to keep hidden.

That's why they won't give us high resolution, then we would actually be able to actually see the bottom. So you know that those blobby incomprehensible shapes must be something real, real bad. The bastards.

Yea, 'cuz if we notice that everything natural in the Gulf has been destroyed by this "unprecedented" disaster, we might figure out that those "jellyfish" in the ROV feeds have to be snot-demons released from their hole into hell.

Or something like that.

BP's latest farce: now they are dumping millions of tampons overboard in a futile attempt to absorb the oil. I have proof.

My grandfather used Kotex to cure lost circulation in a well back in the 30's. He bought all of the Kotex in some little town and the women were really upset.

Yea, 'cuz if we notice that everything natural in the Gulf has been destroyed by this "unprecedented" disaster, we might figure out that those "jellyfish" in the ROV feeds have to be snot-demons released from this well which was actually drilled all the way to hell.

Or something like that.

Oh, right. They'll show us lots of shots of junk but that's only to confuse, to trick us into thinking that there aren't any rocks with holes when we know there are. Who do you work for?

Besides that, Rocks With Holes is a fairly decent band name.

You have revealed the hidden truth, BP has drilled into the remnants of the lost civilisation of Atlantis. Even now Silurian Warriors (Homo Reptilia) are coming out of cryogenic suspension and will shortly rise up and re-take the earth from their distant monkey cousins. No wonder we're doomed.

Oh hang on that was last week's episode of Dr Who.

Here lately, some folks have shown up who apparently think Dr. Who is a documentary . . .

Comfychair - Not quite as sure of your findings as you are.

When I watch live screen at the BOP I get coordinates of:
N.10431579-628 (The last 3 integers vary from time to time)

When I looked at alexhiggins732's screen snaps of leaking oil from the bottom, I get coordinates of:

These are very close to the same location.

I don't understand why the numbers vary a bit in real time. I've left of the .** numbers as the three numbers in front of those vary constantly so the .** numbers would seem to be not very consequential

Ignorance wins here: I don't understand these coordinates (or even if they are coordinates!)and I would love to have someone explain to me what these numbers are.

BUT, assuming they are the coordinates of where the ROVs are on the bottom they are very close to the same spot.

The coordinates of your screen pic do not come close to matching either of the two above:

I am assuming that your location is over by the downed Deepwater Horizon platform.

The leakage around the BOP cap (Skandi ROVs 1&2) has seemed to be especially violent and unstable since about 1 AM PST (3 AM on the ROV screen clock). It seems to be oscillating between almost OK-looking seepage to huge bursts which engulf the entire ROV.

And that's because Ocean Intervention III ROV 1 is clearing away the billowing oil with a claw-mounted thruster for visibility while Ocean Intervention III ROV 2 works on the methanol lines plugged into the top of the cap. When the fan is on it blows the oil onto the ROVs on the opposite side of the cap.

Chevron has the means to prevent an oil blowout-WSJ


but not the means to prevent a run of the mill pipeline leak:

Chevron's Utah oil line shut after spill-official


Another interesting perspective: http://www.opednews.com/articles/B-P-Halliburton-and-Trans-by-Chris-Land...

A wee bit doomsday, but then.. the experts haven't always been right.

So what's with the mangled riser? Why not trim that and get some clean connection happening? Seems ridiculous not to be ok with 'making it worse' for a day to clean it up totally.

Also, like the 100,000 pipeline spill. Nice one B(ho)P(al)

comfy: Way to go! am now gonna have to wipe coffee off key board and table! Heh! Heh!

BP Outlines Plan To Capture All Leaking Oil By End June

UPDATE: BP Outlines Plan To Capture All Leaking Oil By End June

Last Update: 6/14/2010 8:24:59 AM

{{About Damn Time!!! I don't think BP believed how much oil was coming out of the well to begin with . . . why didn't they do this a month ago?}}

LONDON (Dow Jones)--BP PLC (BP) Sunday outlined new plans to the U.S. Coast Guard
that will allow it to capture the estimated 40,000 barrels of oil a day leaking
from its Gulf of Mexico well by the end of June, according to a letter from the
company seen by Dow Jones Newswires Monday.

However, the company acknowledged numerous challenges to its plan and offered no
guarantee of success. In the even of a hurricane, containment operations would
have to be completely suspended, BP wrote in a letter addressed to Coast Guard
Rear Admiral James Watson.

BP is already capturing around 15,000 barrels a day of oil from the leaking well
through a pipe connected to the Discoverer Enterprise. A second vessel, the
Q4000, will connect to the well Monday and could increase that rate to 20,000 to
28,000 barrels a day, BP said. "The Q4000 should be ramping up to full rate on
Tuesday," BP said.

A third vessel, either the Helix Producer or the Toisa Pisces, will connect to
the kill line on the blowout preventer atop the well head, raising the capacity
of the system to between 40,000 barrels a day and 53,000 barrels a day by the end
of June. A fourth vessel is planned to connect to the well head by mid-July,
building additional redundancy into the system, BP said.

These measures would also allow faster resumption of the containment operations
following a hurricane interruption, BP said.

The large number of vessels operating on the water above the leaking well raises
the danger of an accident, BP said. "Several hundred people are working in
confined space with live hydrocarbons on up to four vessels. This is
significantly beyond both BP and industry practice," it said. The drive to
capture more oil from the well must not be allowed to compromise safety, BP said.

BP also warned that implementation of some of the above measures may temporarily
decrease the amount of oil captured.

The U.S. Coastguard gave the company 48 hours on Friday to come up with a better
plan that will capture more oil.

Company website: http://www.bp.com

-By James Herron, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)20 7842 9317;

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 14, 2010 08:24 ET (12:24 GMT)

I wonder the media/public response when they find out that the production from the Q4000 out of the kill/choke lines will be flared off and not captured.

Not just the gas. I've never seen what 10,000 BOPD looks like when it's flared off.

Better flared than dumped in the Gulf.

BP talking about industry practice and safety..
Hopefully that is permanent rather than temporary learning though it still comes at a terrible cost.

Other than that, are those different vessels named (sound familiar, but I have been reading too much here lately, brain full) or how have they made them get there faster (i.e. is this a real, deliverable solution)?

What do people think of the idea of placing a tax on all oil and gas sold in the United States or exported from the US- use those proceeds to fund the drilling of a potential relief well with every well that is being drilled say with a gap of two weeks. So if we had another event like this we would be able to shut it off with a relief well within two weeks rather than the four months that it will take with this well.

It seems to me that with an across the board tax to subsidize the safety costs of "frontier drilling" we actually end up with lower oil prices than the alternative of not drilling at all in the frontier areas because the price of oil doesn't cover the enhanced safety risks.

crazy - I'll take advantage of your post to point out the complication of drilling a potential relief well with every new drill. First, folks need to understand that almost all blow outs occur while drilling. The BP blow out from a cased hole is very unique. Thus drilling two wells for the same target essentially doubles the chances of a blow out. Mother Earth doesn't care if you call the second hole a relief well or not. It's as likely to blow out as the primary. IMHO what obviously needs to be addressed in a new generation of BOP's focused on the Deep Water depths we see today as well as some sort of preinstalled capture system. Though not an engineer it's easy to see how a few relatively simple modification to the BOP stack might have made the current capture effort much easier. Better to have a BOP that stops the flow completely but a backup capture system would hurt either.

RM, what about obtaining a permit and filing a drilling plan for a relief well as a condition obtaining permission to drill. This would save some time if one is eventually needed.

An idea IP but you can walk an emergency drill permit thru faster than you could get that second rig on location. Likewise you can't develop a well plan until you know your target but again something easily done before the rig gets there. It's easy in retrospect to see how the entire Deep Water BOP wasn't sufficient. Many leaking BOP's have been dealt with in the past. But not in 5,000' of water. I have no doubt that the BOP makers have been working on the next generation BOP within a few weeks of the blow out. It's difficult to imagine the feds issuing a drill permit in the DW GOM for any well using the same BOP system regardless of how adequately its been tested. Hell...I don't think I would. Combining a new BOP system with seriously enforced safe drilling practices should make such efforts as safe as they could ever be.

Dumb question perhaps, but do blow outs that leak oil occur before the well reaches the oil bearing layer?

If not, one would think one could get a relief well started and fairly close to where it would need to intersect relatively safely.

wrb -- that's the risky part of drilling: you don't know where there's an oil/NG bearing zone that might blow out on you. Kinda like knowing where a car is going to run a red light...you would avoid that situation. But since you don't know all you can do is be careful at every light. Same thing with drilling. Many blow out have occured in the shallow sections of wells exactly because the operator didn't expect them there. The operator will pull the drill pipe out of the hole too fast and "swab" the well in. Shallow blow outs are very dangeous since it takes very little time to reach the surface.

Amen, RM in reference to the simultaneous relief well.

I have really bit my lip when I've seen the media and everyone else jump on the bandwagon about having a simultaneous relief well. All you've done is double your risk of having a blowout. Maybe not an oil spill event the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon, but easily a gas kick that could result in loss of lives like the Horizon.

Worthy of a discussion but not the slam dunk decision as portrayed in the media.

A possible mitigation could possibly be a mutual aid type arrangement in the industry whereby critical materials to get a relief well started could be permanently staged somewhere, like Houma or Venice, that would be available quickly. Although, these materials are quickly available anyways most of the time. I'm talking about getting down through surface casing. After that, each well has it's own uniqueness. The biggie would be the rig capable of drilling the relief well. You would NOT want it to be standing by idly waiting on the possible blowout that happens once a decade. Those crews would be so out of practice that you've almost assured yourself of an accident.

If you are just talking a risk to the crew, it wouldn't seem to be a problem since plenty of people are willing to choose to take that risk, thinking the pay and maybe the life justify it.

10 years on stand-by is definitely a no-no.
Thanks for the good points by both "Rs" - I had almost jumped on the "mandatory RW" wagon.

RM, your proposed modifications would undoubtedly win a lot of public support. How dicey and/or expensive would it be to retro-fit existing wells with them?

No thanks. My tax dollars funded MMS. With regard to this particular situation at least, it's like being coerced to give to a charity that uses 100%+ of donations for "administrative costs". And there'd be no believable guarantee that any of it would ever be used for the intended purpose.

It would make more sense to just require it be constructed by the party constructing the main well. If the cost was too high that deposit wouldn't get tapped until prices were higher.

Ultimately it would add a lot of drilling jobs.

Agreed. A much more efficient way to go.

I am hoping SOMEONE with authority down there is willing to see how almost ANYTHING, from hay to pumice to kotex might be useful or not in the marshlands. at least we would know what wont work.

I've seen a lot of people trying to figure out exactly what the ROV's are doing at any given time.

Does anyone know if there is audio that goes with the ROV livestreams? That is, do the ROV operators have headsets on and are they communicating with someone?

If there is audio, why BP isn't streaming that as well?

It'd be like listening to the King's sausage makers trying to make suitable sausage with a lot of unknown ingredients, knowing that one big screwup would put them into the grinder. I imagine that "WTF?" and "Oh, sh*t" is something that would be heard a lot. Added pressure from being on stage wouldn't help.

Please pass that message along to all the people along the Gulf Coast who are watching their entire livelihoods disappear before their eyes. I know they are very concerned about the pressure BP is under and want to minimize it as much as possible.

Nobody wants the oil gush to stop more than I do. You apparently assume the ROV operators have their feet up, drinking beer and telling fart jokes. I don't care who manages to get it done, BP or otherwise, and neither do the folks whose culture and livelihoods are on the line. If you think that putting more pressure on these ROV operators is a solution, I'd encourage you to go down to N.O., get on a street corner with a bullhorn, and preach it. Or maybe put yourself in a continuously precarious circumstance at work where consequences of a misstep are potentially dire, where the bosses have everything on the line, and see how much better you'd be at it knowing it's streaming to pitchfork carriers via the internet.

I, for one, want to let those ROV guys do their job with as little interference as is possible. clear and uncluttered communications are essential. I dont have a need to hear that, not when we have comfychair on board!

I think if NASA can broadcast and stream their audio of space missions for about the last 40 years without "interference" (how would someone listening be able to interfere exactly?), BP ought to be able to livestream their ROV operators without similar concerns.

What is the status on the Dutch North Sea skimmers. Last I heard was they have been in ttte Gulf since Wednesday but are unable to go to work because of US regulations/law.

If that's the case why doesn't the President issue an Executive Order relieving them of liability in this National Emergency? Where is the President's sense of urgency?

And if Dougr is right, we're gonna need all 18 North Sea skimmers. Plus put the LA shipyards to work building more.

Why isn't the President ordering haytrucks from Kentucky/Indiana/Kansas on the road so hay/corn husks/... can be dumped along the beaches and estuary inlets to soak up at least some oil before it reaches the marshes?

Again, Where is the President's sense of urgency? And Leadership

He's urgently going to talk to the nation in prime time, to grandstand his forcing BP to do something it's already doing. Community organizers don't lead. They tell other people how to organize. And put lawyers in charge.