BP's Deepwater oil spill - the Department of Energy papers - and Open Thread 2

This thread is being closed. Please move comments to http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6631.

The revised estimates for the flow of oil from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) well have continued to increase. The volume that is being captured daily has apparently stabilized, at close to the capacity available.

But the doubling of the flow estimates and further increases have caught everyone’s attention. Certainly looking at the amount captured on video seemed to show a significant reduction in the amount that was leaking out of the bottom of the cap, but if the vents remain open (and I have seen one that still was earlier) then the amount that is not being captured could still be a significant percentage of the flow.

The Department of Energy now has a website that shows a number of documents relating to the DWH site. They include this graphic that illustrates the relatively tight fit of the cap around the riser. Below the fold I’ll talk about the BOP pressure measurements and Top Kill. Oh, and a little bit about money.

DOE illustration of the cap on the riser

The most recent reports of flow from the well are:

On June 19th, total oil recovered was approx. 21,040 barrels:
• approx. 11,050 barrels of oil were collected,
• approx. 9,990 barrels of oil were flared,
and approx. 43.4 million cubic feet of natural gas were flared.

Total oil recovered from both the LMRP Cap and Q4000 systems since they were implemented is approx. 249,500 barrels.

As previously reported, volumes were slightly lower on the 19th due to the Enterprise shutdown to clean a flame arrestor and passing of a lightning storm.

I had hoped that would give more of an illustration of the flow path through the BOP but it doesn’t show anything that hasn’t been posted here on that issue, at least as far as I can see. What it does have, however, is a table that shows the measured pressures at different heights within the BOP, as of 25th of May.

Pressures along the BOP on May 25th (DOE )

There are also more details of the steps in the Top Kill Operation.

Test 1 – Pumped 13,100 bbls of 16.4 ppg at 53 bpm. (May 26)

Test 2 – Pumped 6,800 bbls of 16.4 ppg, 25 bpm with 15 shots of bridging materials. (May 27)

Test 3 – Pumped 9,800 bbls of 16.4 ppg mud at greater than 70 bpm, with 2 shots of bridging materials. (May 28)

Which actually raises a couple of questions. A flow of 17,000 bbl/day is 12 bbl/minute. If I remember there were at least a couple of statements that implied that they had stopped the well flowing oil, and brought it into some sort of balance. One wonders if that were true, and for which, if any of these tests that was accurate.

The reason for the question, going back to the post I wrote on why Top Kill might have failed, is that the bottom of the drill pipe is 3,367 ft below the BOP. While injecting “junk” to seal the well might have had some impact on the annulus around the DP, unless they could first carry the sealing particles down to the bottom of the DP, and then have them be carried back up the pipe, they couldn’t seal the leak in the crimped BP. (And that depends in part on the specific gravities they got in the admixture going down the well). The effectiveness also depends on the size consist of the bridging materials.

The higher numbers now being quoted have led the Coastguard to demand a better plan for dealing with the spill.

The Coast Guard has told BP that its proposed plan for containing the runaway Deepwater Horizon well does not take into account new higher estimates of how much oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The Coast Guard demanded that the company provide a more aggressive plan within 48 hours.

And that time is about up.

(Should I wonder whatever happened to the team of experts who were coming up with an alternative?)

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

The Administration plan, at the moment, seems to be to get as much cash out of BP as possible, as soon as possible.

In an effort to seize greater control of the gulf oil catastrophe, President Obama is prepared to compel BP executives to set up a multibillion-dollar escrow account to pay damage claims in the region, a senior White House official said Sunday. . . . . . . In a letter to BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward on Sunday, 54 senators, nearly the entire Democratic caucus, called on the company to set aside $20 billion for cleanup and damages, to be administered by an independent trustee.

But as far as BP coming up with a new plan . . .

Jon Pack, a BP spokesman, said Sunday that the company would respond in a "very timely manner" to the Coast Guard's demand to come up with a better plan to contain the oil, but he added that the company would not make the plan public.

BP's board of directors was scheduled to meet Monday, according to Pack, who would not divulge the agenda.

Given that BP has about $7 billion in available cash, with a number of other obligations (the fine for the spill for starters) there comes a point where even with the best will in the world, BP is going to run out of the cash that more and more folk are demanding. For example the Administration is now demanding that BP carry all the folk that have been put out of work by the drilling moratorium.

A ban on deep-water drilling is set to continue for six months. Salazar has said companies will be able to drill in water depths less than 500 feet once they comply with newly issued safeguards and other yet-to-be-unveiled rules for exploration plans and environmental studies. But it could take weeks — or months — for companies to make the changes and federal regulators to approve them.

You can’t comply with “yet-to-be-unveiled rules” until they are unveiled. The impact of this is going to extend well beyond just the drilling companies themselves, BP has drawn a line over paying that at the moment, but we’ll see what pressure the President can bring to bear this week, when he meets with them.

But I will close by re-iterating the concern that I expressed when I wrote about the Hurricane season approaching. The way that this is developing doesn’t bode well for the ability of the industry to be able to bounce back from any serious damage to Gulf rigs following a Hurricane, of the sort we saw in 2005. If the Gulf supply is compromised, and unable to recover because of regulation, this could be a very interesting election season.

And one last thing, for those who wondered what a suction pile is, since one has just been fielded. Here is a graphic, showing you how it is used.

It would also appear that the Loch Rannoch has made it to the site. This is one of the transfer tankers that will be used to collect oil from the more permanent risers as they get installed this week. (H/t LogPile)

Prof. Goose's comment:

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.


FYI: your post has been picked up by the MSM.



So did "Dougr" write that? Posters at LATOC said he took it from Godslightproduction ( sp?) and it was written by another person there.

Just curious. If the poster turns out to be right, nice to give credit where due.

Godlike Productions, with the author listed there as SHR. However, SHR could be Dougr and either could be James Carville after a heavy absinthe session. They're just nicknames. The latest piece to start going viral is a document that shows that BP's worst case estimate if everything goes bad, as in BOP and wellhead being removed, is 100k bbl. Being breathlessly reported widely as could be leaking 100k bbl now.

2 billion barrels. Undersea lakes of oil. Exploding methane bubbles, the size of a small moon. But somehow still there even though the sea floor has collapsed. Cracks in the sea floor 5 miles from the well. Drilled with no casing to save money. Rocks with holes. Seeping cracks in the sea floor under an ROV's feet. 40000 psi. Weird periscope sighted off a Florida beach. It's no wonder people want to nuke it.

Tomorrow's a new day. Maybe the list will get longer.

Well, the highly incredible statements by the authorities early in the game (no leak > 1k > 5 k) have opened the door to all sorts of wild speculation. Ian McDonald at Skytruth.org came up with 26.5k on 1 May based on satellite imagery, only to be derided by authorities. Now BP admits to recovering 25k, and the ROV images show copious amounts of oil and gas still billowing out from under the cap. Is it any wonder that people still think the authorities are lying?

Hell, no. And it could be 70k/day, 80k/day, how are we supposed to tell? Who knows how wacky those early figures were, since the flow has apparently increased? But the BOP is still in place and people are simply gunning for figures without reading carefully and then posting. I saw one web joint where the 100k/day worst case sans BOP/sans wellhead figure was being used to substantiate Matt Simmons (no casing, 40000 psi, lakes of oil, let's nuke it). 2M=2B, the MSM conversion, is just a bonehead mistake. Being reported, nonetheless.

Why are you so intent on knocking down other people's posts?

What axe do you have to grind?

Who is paying for your work?

You have now been active on here for 3 weeks and 3 days!

Godzilla's gonna come suck up all the oil, how else do you think he breathes flame?. Unfortunately then Mothra will get jealous and they'll fight in Carville's backyard, where James will save the day riding a flaming alligator.

Yes. This is obviously going to cause the composition of the atmosphere to change. It will first start taking on a greenish hue. Then you will start to notice hair thin lines in a totally different color. THEN IT IS GOING TO CRACK APART AND FALL DOWN!!!!

This actually made me laugh out loud - a first for me, in reading TOD! Time to re-read that little book to my grandson!

I do web development as one of my hats, and I can tell you with almost complete certainty that the same original file was used to create the godlike/SHR and dougr posting. This was based on noting a few things that would be obvious only if you work with this type of software and do postings based on text files pasted into text boxes.

I happened to notice it because I was looking for the original (in order to check the source and quality, and to try to find who actually was saying this, ie, was it an actual insider, or was it simply a decently well crafted internet story) of the dougr and found it as SHR, but it was clear that dougr had not in fact simply copied the original article, either using the browser output or the original html output. Also how the article was introduced here.

Since only one person would have this file, it follows logically that dougr and SHR are the same person. Also, you'll notice someone also probably created a few alter-egos when the story failed to gain the appropriate traction, each of which posted a short comment about the dougr posting, trying to bring it to light.

I don't normally post here, I prefer to just read the experts on this subject and follow them as they unravel the various messes we are creating for ourselves here on this planet, but this wasn't hard to discover if you know what to look for, especially if you use a similar method to generate long postings, which I do on my own sites.

By the way, I considered the discussion here to more or less close the question of the posting itself, and found dougr's points to have very little merit, just another internet scare thing done with poorly researched methods, going for the old viral link spread, which is how you really boost a website's rankings.

It is, however, interesting to note which things over this spill have turned out to be correct, and which haven't. It would be interesting to carefully track which posters consistently try to side-track actual real information, such as the larger spill rates that were pointed to fairly early on.

ROCKMAN, alii, Heading Out, shelburn, and all the other really solid people, thanks so much for your tireless efforts. I do have one question though, to ROCK.. I can barely read these threads every day, if you're actively working drilling/geologing(?) how on earth do you find the time to read these and post coherent replies? Can you give me a tip on how to read them faster? I'm finding I don't have the time to do it but can't resist anyway.

h2 -- Even when I'm on a well site I'm usually sitting in front of the computer monitor about 14 hours a day. That's how I get much of my real time well feeds. Thus TOD serves as a welcomed distraction. Always time for a quick post when I'm taking one of my decaf Earl Grey breaks.

What DougR seems to be hinting at here- but wasn't able to say outright of course- is that the well may be in communication with the vast seas of abiotic oil that rest in chambers down around 50,000' and in which swim giant and horrible creatures only known from the geologic record. (So many people have missed the obvious- the bones of these monsters are found in oily deposits because they lived and live in oil) The reason that the lower world is kept so secret by governments and the UN is fear that if it is known someone will try to tap them and that will lead to another war with the creatures who live in the mushroom forests along their shores. Here is a report from a 19th century explorer:

We had long lost sight of the sea shore behind the hills of bones.The rash Professor, careless of losing his way, hurried me forward.We advanced in silence, bathed in luminous electric fluid. By somephenomenon which I am unable to explain, it lighted up all sides ofevery object equally. Such was its diffusiveness, there being nocentral point from which the light emanated, that shadows no longerexisted. You might have thought yourself under the rays of a verticalsun in a tropical region at noonday and the height of summer. No vapour was visible. The rocks, the distant mountains, a few isolatedclumps of forest trees in the distance, presented a weird andwonderful aspect under these totally new conditions of a universaldiffusion of light. We were like Hoffmann's shadowless man.

"No human creature?" replied my uncle in a lower voice. "You arewrong, Axel. Look, look down there! I fancy I see a living creaturesimilar to ourselves: it is a man!"

I looked, shaking my head incredulously. But though at first I wasunbelieving I had to yield to the evidence of my senses.

In fact, at a distance of a quarter of a mile, leaning against the trunk of a gigantic kauri, stood a human being, the Proteus of those subterranean regions, a new son of Neptune, watching this countlessherd of mastodons.

Immanis pecoris custos, immanior ipse.

"The shepherd of gigantic herds, and huger still himself."

Yes, truly, huger still himself. It was no longer a fossil being likehim whose dried remains we had easily lifted up in the field ofbones; it was a giant, able to control those monsters. In stature hewas at least twelve feet high. His head, huge and unshapely as abuffalo's, was half hidden in the thick and tangled growth of hisunkempt hair. It most resembled the mane of the primitive elephant.In his hand he wielded with ease an enormous bough, a staff worthy ofthis shepherd of the geologic period.

In modern times they have only rarely ascended the lava tubes of the Pacific NW and the Himalaya- but steal their oil and all that will change. The Bigfeet can strike back in many ways. They might interrupt the springs that feed water to the upper world or stoke the volcanos and lubricate the earthquake faults. Or they will open the taps but perhaps not tell us to build an ark this time. Our hubris will once again bring the end of surface civilization and a great die-off as it has so many times in the past.

Past contacts gave birth to the Hells and Hades that exist in so many mythologies. Pray that the well is sealed and such nightmarish tribal memories are not freshened in our time.

Did Verne say anything about the sea snot?

No, he was too focused on the marine dinosaurs' battles and the giant squids.

But it is most likely shampoo and conditioner. Can you imagine how many times a day the mermaids are having to wash their hair?

IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka says IEA will release a report next week estimating a loss of about 900K per day in global oil production over the next 5 years, much higher than previous estimates.

http://news.yahoo.com/video/business-15749628/20400547 (5 min video)

Wonder what this means for Australia's "independence"?

"...estimating a loss of about 900K per day in global oil production over the next 5 years, much higher than previous estimates."

Clarification: Much greater reduction than previous *IEA* estimates.

enormous new article at nyt online

"They wondered if the blades had by chance closed uselessly on one of the nearly indestructible joints that connect drilling pipe — a significant bit of misfortune, given a decision years before to outfit the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer with just one blind shear ram when other rigs were already beginning to use two of them to guard against just this possibility."

Failure of Rig’s Last Line of Defense Tied to Myriad Factors


WoW, what a write up, the press have been doing some homework.

I don't understand after so many words they did not mention the use of casing rams / super shears. The DWH had a set but had an exemption not to use them. This would have been signed by both Transocean and BP. BP have been very quiet on the super shears, when they blamed the big Tee for their BOP not working. Casing shears only cut and do not seal, but this would allow the blind / shears to cut on a empty hole, making sealing very eazy.

If all subsea rigs need to install 2 x blind shears, then a few things are going to need to happen,
1/ Cameron and co will need to speed up their casting foundries very quickly.
2/ Nearly all the rigs involved will need fairly major mods to allow for the extra height of the BOPs to fit under the rig floors and to fit the handling equipment.
3/ All the BOP control units will need redesign and modified.

None of these a quick jobs.

The result will most likely be that any rig that does not have 2 x shears will head south to Brasil or Africa. As Transocean has by far the most modern deep sea fleet they could end up being the main benefactor of the changes.

On another point, the West calculations for shearing pipe are based on a worst case situation, and they do show that a lot of BOPs, not just subsea, with not guarantee shearing the modern drillpipe currently used. From my experience, when management of two of the world major oil companies have been presented with the numbers, they do not want to believe them. It will be interesting to see where we get to when the dust is settled on this.

TP: "From my experience, when management of two of the world major oil companies have been presented with the numbers, they do not want to believe them. " Or, as is frequently in the upper right of TOD: “It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair

Given the stats below from the article on rate of BOP failure on deepwater rigs, and the MMS study from 2000 on the clear and present danger of an undersea blowout, and don't forget Ixtoc, too, it is a bit stunning that they failed to do more to minimize the risk. Like build a better BOP.

Using the world’s most authoritative database of oil rig accidents, a Norwegian company, Det Norske Veritas, focused on some 15,000 wells drilled off North America and in the North Sea from 1980 to 2006.

It found 11 cases where crews on deepwater rigs had lost control of their wells and then activated blowout preventers to prevent a spill. In only six of those cases were the wells brought under control, leading the researchers to conclude that in actual practice, blowout preventers used by deepwater rigs had a “failure” rate of 45 percent.

For all their confident pronouncements about blowout preventers (the “ultimate failsafe device,” some called it), oil industry executives had long known they could be vulnerable and temperamental.

... and of course it would have to be even more stunning that the government did not require that more be done.

Days after the spill, the WSJ already made that exact same hypothesis on why the rams didn't close, specifically that they might have hit the drill pipe joint, and furthermore that the testing might not have been done for the heavier casing and drillpipe used in the deepwater environment, so it might not have had a chance anyway.

Tonight's WSJ is even more interesting, on what BP did NOT have to pay for:

(by picking print mode, those of you who don't subscribe might still be able to see it, let me know).

if you can't read it, here's the salient points:
The fund is a big financial hit to BP. But behind the scenes, according to people on both sides of the negotiations, the company achieved victories that appear to have softened the blow.

BP successfully argued it shouldn't be liable for most of the broader economic distress caused by the president's six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And it fended off demands to pay for restoration of the Gulf coast beyond its prespill conditions...
Not only did BP earmark the $20 billion fund but it promised an additional $100 million for Gulf workers idled by the drilling moratorium.

But BP didn't offer a blank check. The $100 million—0.5% of the total—won't come close to covering collateral damage from the White House's moratorium.

The drilling industry estimates the moratorium will cost rig workers as much as $330 million a month in direct wages, not counting businesses servicing those rigs like machine-shop workers.

Shear rams issue was probable handled by someone with a spreadsheet and Monte Carlo simulation, which told them that the risk/cost was tolerable. They just didn't figure that the Black Swan would eventually land.

Yep, they probably had a figure of, say, 500 million in the spreadsheet for a cleanup, when the correct figure is 'potentially unlimited'.

Whereas BP has a clear responsibility for the unemployment in the fishing and tourist industries, it is not clear why they should be held responsible for the cost of the moratorium on deep water drilling. The moratorium was called because it was feared that such drilling might lead to further spills. If such a danger exists, it would be due to some combination of the government not mandating sufficiently strict safety standards, the regulatory authorities not enforcing these standards rigorously or the operators evading such enforcement. None of these factors are down to BP. Their culpable actions served to bring such dangers to wider public attention; they did not cause them.

Viewing content for free:

Using print mode can sometimes let you see content as can switching off java script, although there is no one size fits all. Some of the simplest are as follows:

With the Wall Street Journal, I can generally can read the content by not allowing cross site request between WSJ.com and WSJ.net, [there is a Firefox add-on for this.]

If it's older content then try viewing what Google has cached, this technique can also frequently circumvent content filters.

Try entering the site from a particular portal, eg to read the NYT without an account, use the IHT portal, (International Herald Tribune.) This particular technique is likely to become more useful since there is a new trend for content providers to negotiate special deals with portals like the MSN or Yahoo networks.

Some sites will let you read one or two articles for free, so if you clean out both cookies and Flash cookies you can sometimes continue to read; if they are noting your IP address, then proxies are easy to set up that give you the appearance of a constantly changing IP address. (3G telephone networks will do this because of a limited number of channels.)

I know am completely off topic, but I think this information is worth sharing.

Also a much shorter "color" piece on the relief wells. Reporters were invited aboard DPII:

It was hard work on the slick steel of the drilling floor below the rig’s 220-foot-high derrick, surrounded by soaring lengths of drill pipe stacked vertically like drinking straws on a lunch counter. Pipe and tools were maneuvered into position by heavy-duty lifting equipment, operated from inside a small cabin on one side of the floor. Inside the air-conditioned cabin, working joysticks and seated in an overstuffed chair, the operator was the only one of the crew who could possibly be comfortable.

And amid the finest drilling equipment that a half-million-dollar-a-day rig can buy, the workers resorted to wrapping the tool in duct tape and rags to protect it until it was lowered into the well.


For interest...

BBC reporting DWH insider saying a control pod leak was known "weeks" before the explosion, and the "faulty" control pod was shut down. For balance, it's important to note that the insider "...said he did not know whether the leaking pod was turned back on before the disaster or not." which imo makes the BBC look as though it may have jumped the gun. I'd thought they'd have checked that out before releasing the news.



The reason you have two control pods on a subsea BOP is for redundancy. They are always named Yellow or Blue and painted as such. Eazy to pick the differance on a B/W TV screen. Only one of these pods are charged at any one time. Therefore if one leaks then you swap to the other. Depending on where you are up to in the well will depend on whether the BOP is pulled and repaired.

The basic land BOP can have as little as two rams, ie one pipe ram and one blind as well as one annular, as it is possible to make repairs with the well shut in and one set of control lines. The reason subsea BOP have so may rams, annulars and control systems is that you can not put your hands on the equipment to repair. On the 11 Feb 2010 the BOP was tested on both the Yellow and the Blue. I realize that is long way from 20 April and there may be a reason a later BOP test was not released by Transocean. If the BOP test failed, either pressure or function test, then someone on the rig is going to have to make up there mind to pull it and repair or continue drilling. If the test failed and they continued drilling then both Transocean and BP on the beach would sign an exemption, just like the one for the casing shears.

There will be a paper trail.

As for the "insider", he must have been a ROV hand as it is only by ROV that you can see the pods, or someone hiding out in the shack.

First of all, apologies for a probably naive question and/or if I bring up something that has already been covered in previous threads. I know nothing about oil and work in a completely different industry, but I'm posting this just to still my curiosity...

I'm a bit surprised over how difficult it seems to be to estimate the volume of oil spilt. As this article line out, the estimates vary wildly:

For a layman like me, that seems strange. There are non-invasive methods to measure the flow of liquid through a pipe. If the BOP doesn't have a flow meter, wouldn't it make sense to attach one to the (still intact?) pipe below it? Or is there something else (depth, oil/gas mix, ...?) that makes this impossible or that would account for the large spread in estimated volumes...? Or could it be that - as some people suggest - there are more leaks than the one at the top of the well?

"There are non-invasive methods.."

Yes, however all methods require an initial calibration with known volumes.

I sympathize with your curiosity about the "true" oil leak statistics. As an engineer, I'd really like to know (to a reasonable degree of accuracy, say +/-10%) the rate at which oil is currently flowing out of the BOP, and how that has changed with time, and how much oil has leaked since the beginning. Not because I want to blame anyone, or sue anyone, or go nuts about it, but simply "to know". It would be helpful to know the true rate so as to better understand the current physical environment at the wellhead, and that's the end of it.

As for the technology of flow rate measurement, we're talking about 19th century engineering here: these are the kinds of issues that preoccupied scientists and engineers during the Age of Steam. Nowadays we may have more nifty tools, but the principles and techniques of measurement are way old.

So I'm sure some engineer somewhere knows the "real numbers", and has known them since very soon after the incident began. The real impediment here is other people -- various parties with agendas that require the masking or concealment of the true numbers from the public, to better serve their own parochial interests.

There seem to be people who prefer to believe the numbers are "unknown" or "unknowable" (in fact or even in principle), because, say, we've got a gas/oil mixture here under high pressure, undergoing a phase change which resists all attempts at analysis.

Others want to create a very wide "uncertainty" band (the better to fudge the issue, cover all bets, or mask their ignorance) -- government figures certainly come to mind here.

And there are plenty of people (both those involved in the crisis and mere bystanders) who chronically over- or underestimate the values (perhaps drastically) for greater emotional "impact" or political effect.

And finally there are some who don't want to know the leak rate or spend any time thinking about it, because to them it is irrelevant: they want us to roll up our sleeves and *stop that f#ing leak*, and then we can all go home and get some sleep.

These forces all mitigate against us ever knowing the "true numbers". But hopefully the truth will out eventually, either in court or when the big NY Times best-seller comes out a few years from now.

This video of NOAA officials discussing the Macondo Prospect oil gusher was posted to al.com on May 1, 2010. At 6:41, a person on the other end of a conference call states an estimate that the blowout was flowing at 65,000 to 100,000 barrels per day (bpd). This estimated flow rate is also depicted on a white board in the video at 6:44 and again at 9:17. I don't hear or see in the video that this estimate was qualified as a worst case scenario. The video "was filmed in Seattle, at NOAA's Western Regional Center, as scientists and federal officials in Seattle, Houston and New Orleans engaged in telephone conferences, according to a companion document on the Web site."

May 1 was shortly after the Coast Guard estimate was revised from 1,000 bpd to 5,000 bdp.
C'mon, how big is the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, really?

Or could it be that - as some people suggest - there are more leaks than the one at the top of the well?

Absolutely; if we could just fix that big leak at the bottom that keeps letting oil in, the top one letting it out would be a non-issue.

Ah. Can someone call the dinosaurs at the other end and ask them to turn off the pump?

Reply to Lf from the last post: Lf: Anandarko, Mitsui and BP were and are in a joint venture operating agreement ("JOA") on Deep Water Horizon. BP owned 65%, Anadarko 25% and Mitsui 10%. Any court ordered payment for damages or, probably, the $20 billion BP just agreed to pay to set up a Damage Fund would be shared on an ownership percentage UNLESS, EXCEPT IF one party committed a grossly negligent act or acts which resulted in the damages or caused the damages through its willful misconduct.

To quote the press release by Anadarko: 'BP's behavior and actions likely represent gross negligence or willful misconduct and thus affect the obligations of the parties under the operating agreement." http://www.anadarko.com/Investor/Pages/NewsReleases/NewsReleases.aspx?re...

So what Anadarko is really saying? "Suck it up. It's all yours BP, baby. Every last cent of damages which could amount to, oh, let's pick a round number, $100 billion. We ain't paying the $25 billion of our share because of the EXCEPTION."

It's kinda like slapping your spouse in the face with a dead mackerel.

And to add to EL's excellent point, if Anadarko wins the JOA argument they probably won't have to pay any part of the original well cost. There would also be a good chance that Anadarko could take operatorship away from BP on the future development of the field.

How come I have seen NO discussion of [OEMs]? Uh, I don't have a clue why you haven't seen it, there have been a lot of posts on it. Try entering "Joye" in the search box for a start.

Thanks, Brat, you made me go look it up. And then the thread closed while I was knee-deep in coliforms. The noise to signal here is deafening. I searched for "oil eating microbes anaerobic marine" in Google Scholar with limits since 2002 to find the second and third article from 2007 and 2010.

This first is from MicrobeWiki, so still not the big picture. Nitrogen and phosphorus are not limiters; it's already a dead zone from fertilizer. But the oxygen definitely would be. The predominant aerobic OEM like upper layers.


Alcanivorax, first described in 1998, is a Gram-negative, halophilic, aerobic, rod-shaped, oil-degrading marine bacterium that is found in low abundances in unpolluted environments in the upper layers of the ocean, but quickly becomes the predominant microbe in oil-contaminated open oceans and coastal waters when nitrogen and phosphorus are not limiting [2]. When conditions in these moderately halophilic environments are right, Alcanivorax may make up 80-90% of the oil-degrading microbes present in the area [4]. It is described as a non-motile bactertium which is true for species such as Alcanivorax borkumensis, but other species such as Alcanivorax venustensis were described to be motile by polar flagella [1]. The optimial conditions described for A.borkumensis growth include temperatures in the range of 20-30 degrees celsius, and a NaCl concentration of 3-10%.

As a result of their profound ability to degrade and live predominately on alkanes, as well as to become the dominant microbes in oil-contaminated areas, Alcanivorax plays a huge role in the biological cleanup of oil-contaminated environments. These oil-contaminated environments in the ocean are largely due to anthropogenic sources such as oil spills caused by tankers accidents (Figure 2), and cause serious ecological damage to plants and animals on the coast as well as other inhabitants of the ocean. Microbes such as Alcanivorax provide a major route for the breakdown of these pollutants, and demonstrate how marine bacteria keep the environment in check. Of all the Alcanivorax species and other oil-degrading microbes, Alcanivorax borkumensis is one of the most important worldwide due to the fact it produces a wide variety of very efficient oil-degrading enzymes. With this knowledge, A. borkumensis could provide a useful tool for bioremediation of oil spills.


Over the past few years, a new and ecophysiologically unusual group of marine hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria – the obligate hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria (OHCB) – has been recognized and shown to play a significant role in the biological removal of petroleum hydrocarbons from polluted marine waters. The introduction of oil or oil constituents into seawater leads to successive blooms of a relatively limited number of indigenous marine bacterial genera — Alcanivorax, Marinobacter, Thallassolituus, Cycloclasticus, Oleispira and a few others (the OHCB) — which are present at low or undetectable levels before the polluting event. The types of OHCB that bloom depend on the latitude/temperature, salinity, redox and other prevailing physical-chemical factors. These blooms result in the rapid degradation of many oil constituents, a process that can be accelerated further by supplementation with limiting nutrients. Genome sequencing and functional genomic analysis of Alcanivorax borkumensis, the paradigm of OHCB, has provided significant insights into the genomic basis of the efficiency and versatility of its hydrocarbon utilization, the metabolic routes underlying its special hydrocarbon diet, and its ecological success. These and other studies have revealed the potential of OHCB for multiple biotechnological applications that include not only oil pollution mitigation, but also biopolymer production and biocatalysis.

And below from 2010. The Italians appear to be the experts on this topic; they wax lyrical.

Crude oil is toxic for most life forms, and environmental pollution by petroleum hydrocarbons causes major ecological problems, especially in marine environments. Fortunately, a considerable amount of petroleum entering the sea is eliminated by the activities of naturally occurring microbial communities. Bacteria such as Alcanivorax spp. provide a major route for the breakdown of these pollutants, and demonstrate how marine bacteria keep the environment in check. Of all the Alcanivorax species and other oil-degrading microbes, Alcanivorax borkumensis is one of the most important worldwide. This obligate hydrocarbonoclastic bacterium (petroleum hydrocarbons serve almost exclusively as its source of carbon and energy) is cosmopolitan and found in various marine environments. The whole-genome sequencing followed by annotation and functional analyses revealed astonishing adaptive capacities of A. borkumensis. Characteristics that enable A. borkumensis to obtain an ecologically competitive advantage to both adapt rapidly to the presence of oil and thrive in most oceans of the world include: its oligotrophic lifestyle and high affinity for hydrocarbon substrates, biofilm formation at the oil-water interface, niche-specific stress responses, and its ability to overcome carbon/nutrient imbalances typical of oil spills by specific systems for scavenging of nutrients, particularly organic and inorganic nitrogen. It degrades a range of petroleum hydrocarbons and typically dominates oil-degrading microbial communities by virtue of a combination of streamlined and efficient central metabolic functions and diverse hydrocarbon degradation and emulsification abilities.

which led to the brave old world of whale falls, and the strange things that can happen in the depths.

While I was in there, I looked up marine mucilage to see what's in that stuff. Vibrio, coliforms, etc. Nice! I guess that's the kind of facultative anaerobes we can expect to be happy down there now from a combination of anoxia and source pollution?


Viruses and prokaryotes associated with marine mucilage
The microscopic analyses we conducted on samples of marine mucilage revealed the presence of huge prokaryotic and viral abundances (on average 3.7662.53 106 cells and 1.1160.26 109 viruses mL21). Prokaryotic and viral abundances in mucilage were significantly higher (ANOVA P,0.001) than in surrounding seawater (Figure 2A). Molecular analyses demonstrated the presence of a huge bacterial diversity within the mucilage, with a number of ribotypes significantly higher (approximately double; ANOVA P,0.01) than in surrounding seawater (Figure 2B and 2C). The number of bacterial taxa encountered in the mucilage matrix contributed for ca 68% to the total number of bacterial taxa identified. We found that more than 90% of the bacterial taxa encountered in the mucilage were not found in the surrounding seawater.

Molecular analyses based on fluorescent in situ hybridization revealed that mucilage contained a large number of pathogenic bacteria (Figure 2D). The abundance of coliforms per unit of volume in marine mucilage per unit of volume was four orders of magnitude higher than in surrounding seawater, and Vibrio spp. were significantly more abundant than in the water column (ANOVA, p,0.01). The use of molecular fingerprinting tech- niques (ARISA) carried out both on mucilage and on the surrounding seawater provided evidence that mucilage aggregates not only entrap prokaryotes present in the water column, but also contain bacterial species (Escherichia coli and Vibrio harveyi), which were absent in surrounding seawater.

Where's an ecologist when you need one?

Today I listened to a fascinating discussion of marine microbiology, nothing about OEMs specifically but lots on how little we know of a vast biota crucial to maintaining the planet in a state more or less favorable to humans.


Bedtime thought on the Joint Venture between BP, Anandarko, and Mitsui:

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
— Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, first line

Some have mentioned a well log showing 60' of pay. I'd like to look at it - does anyone have a link? I tried to look in the archives but was unsuccessful.

Go here:


And look thru any of the documents labeled "Production Casing and TA Options"

Thanks for response to my question in previous thread re recovery of the DWH structure. Obviously stopping the spill is more critical to current events. Hoping for families of all souls lost, the physical act of raising her will give them some sense of closure, if that would ever be possible.

With respect to the rig (hull?) itself, what types of components had any chance of being salvaged which could provide information for root cause informtion? Logs, instrument settings molten in time, gauges, etc.? What could be gleaned fom the structure for future investigation? Just my humble opinion it would be necessary for creating and communicating findings.

Thanks to all from your grateful new poster from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Earned my BSBA and MBA from University of Tulsa during the late 80's/early 90's.
Any here who graduated through Petroleum Engineering School? Quite a national and international school during my days, but not so vibrant lately.
Also I am blind in one eye, so hope you will forgive typos.

Blue Bell Cookies n Cream :-)

The wild speculation, something that was absent the from the oildrum up the last couple of days, is growing increasingly shrill.

Sadly, when a discussion forum, such as this, gains notoriety from the MSM because of its sanity, it attracts the opposite en-mass. Some of that ilk is quoted, based on the past logical thought of the previous discussions, essentially becoming media "facts". What a conundrum faces theoildrum.

I would think that a leakage into a formation at 1,000 feet below the surface would find it easier to migrate along the outside of casing to the base of the BOP, rather that five miles laterally and then upwards through a thousand feet of mud, yet I have seen no visible leakage at the base of the BOP

I suppose that BP has more information than they are releasing about the results of the top-kill, which may answer many questions and is resulting in the doomsday speculation. However, considering that they are under threat of, no reality of, criminal prosecution, the lack of full disclosure is understandable. For any information released now becomes evidence in a criminal trial.
Another conundrum.

Absolutely, perks. An important reason to patiently (well, relatively patiently) correct the wild speculation.

Except for the one anonymous claim, cited in the last thread, that flow was "escaping into the formation" at 1,000 feet, all of the references to problems at that depth seem more likely to refer to a failure (whatever that means in this context) of a rupture disk that was apparently set at that level.

Just something to keep in mind, perhaps, when responding to the "blowout into the silt" claims.

And certain new members, ones who have never been active prior to the BP-GOM spill, are having fun passing judgment on members.

Judging by some of the new members, it looks like professional bloggers have showed up to push the agenda of their paid sponsors.

Think it is time for the Forum to receive a dose of moderation.

Tony may come to look back fondly on the friendly faces that confronted him in Congress. I imagine Dudley might have some tips for him.

BP chief plans trip to Russia to offer reassurance

LONDON — BP chief executive Tony Hayward is planning a trip to Russia to reassure President Dmitry Medvedev the oil giant is not on the verge of collapse, the Financial Times reported Monday.

Hayward will meet with Medvedev and tell him that BP can meet the cost of the liabilities from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, said the paper, without citing a source. The timing of the trip has not been finalised, it added.
BP is present in Russia through TNK-BP, the third largest oil producer in the country, accounting for roughly a quarter of BP's global production.

Hayward's decision to visit Russia came after Medvedev expressed concern last week over the future of the company, in a newspaper interview.

BP Chief plans trip to Russia

Tips indeed.

Dudley knows what to do when a portion of your employer's assets are about to be nationalized by a foreign power. I doubt that anyone thought that such a power would be the US. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_32/b4095050383376.htm

Interesting side note. BP sends Dudley, who grew up in Mississippi, to be head up the BP spill efforts, while President Obama appoints the former Governor of Mississippi to head up the US side of the spill efforts.

Smart. If they can keep Haley Barbour, the most powerful Governor in the south, happy too, everyone will come out of this mess just fine. Politically, at least. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haley_Barbour

Petey Wheatstraw on June 20, 2010 - 8:49am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
I guess you want him standing on the shore directing operations through a megaphone, making the right call every time, and personally steering the ROVs.

Comments can no longer be added to this story.

No Petey, what I wanted him to do from the moment he recognized this as a National Emergency (which I don't think he has done) and to appoint someone with authority (Admiral Allen) to take over cleanup efforts (which he eventually did). And give that person the authority to commandeer any resources he deems necessary to help the cleanup. (which I don't think he has done).

I want him (actually the Admiral) to press into service ANY vessel/barge (including supertankers) capable of skimming oil, fitting them with skimming arms (such as Roger describes). Some will say the logistics are impossible to ramp up overnight. And I say we went to war overnight after Pearl Harbor and were producing war effort materiel within days. This BP spill cleanup needs the same kind of urgency.

I want him to have Secretary Salazar accelerate the cleanup of MMS (which apparently is underway) and impose a strict code of ethics on the agency (all of Interior actually).

I want him to suspend, by Executive order, ANY law or regulation that impedes cleanup efforts and order that every federal agency to NOT enforce ANY regulation (including environmental or safety) that might impede the cleanup (which he did not do), such as the Jones Act, or the CG inspection that required life jackets on the cleanup barges before they could go to work (delaying them by hours or days while paperwork was caught up - Sorry I don't have the link to that, was on either CNN or ABC).

lotus on June 20, 2010 - 8:24am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Old Fisherman, would you do your co-readers here a favor, please, and leave the "new" markers off your cut-and-pastes of comments? Searching the page for news via that marker (with brackets), we have to keep revisiting you -- which, instead of winning support, wastes our time and patience. Thanks.

Sure Lotus. My apologies. I should have thought of that myself. Too old and too dumb for this internet stuff I guess.

aardvark on June 20, 2010 - 9:13am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
(quote)And I think you should have read previous posts here from people with actual experience with skimmers that work in the North Sea before posting. (/quote)

I go to the web site of Koseq the manufacturers and look at the pictures and read the explanations of how the booms work and draw my own conclusions.

The best those booms can do in the GOM oil slick is in the low 100s of barrels per day, unless they operate very close to the leak origin.

Your "conclusions" are at WIDE variance with what Roger has been telling us (100,000's gpd potential), and my sense is that Roger's info is credible.

Besides if they only collect low 1's of barrels per day, I want them working, and so should you. I want ANYTHING that cleans/soaks up even a gallon of that oil to go to work. If I were living along the LA coast, I would be collecting grass clippings (if I couldn't find any straw) taking them out on my pirogue to dump on any slicks that neared my shoreline or came in my bayous. They might not work very well but they would easier to scoop up with a crab net, if nothing else, than the oil going into the marshes. At least that would be doing something.

Old Fisherman,

You know what I find odd in the discussions on any proposed solution to to clean the spill? It is the analogy with solutions for peak-oil; there is probably not a silver bullet! We're going to need a myriad of different solutions.

There is nothing special about the skimmers. It's just proven technology which works very efficient, especially with thick layers of oil. Some might say that it will not collect so much on areas with oil-sheen only. True, but what other technique would? Yes, 6 arms deployed on 3 ships is not enough for the entire spill. What you need is a strategy with all available techniques:

A complete strategy could 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.
6) Use the small boats who are pulling booms, or with small skimmers, in the estuaries and canals when you are to late to stop it before it enters.
7) In less sensitive areas (beaches) you can either scoop up the oil, or even use soil-washing.
8) In sensitive areas, such as marches, preventing oil from coming in is paramount. Because you cannot clean marshes without destroying them. If the oil does come in, one should let nature bio degrade it. Experience shows that will take between 10 and 15 years.

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

Roger from the Netherlands

After reading about Anadarko (25%) launching a lifeboat to escape a sinking BP, I was wondering about the other minority partner, MOEX (MitEnergy (Mitsui))(10%) to see if they were also planning a get-home free strategy.

Well, I may be late with this news; MOEX divested itself of GOM assets last year. http://www.moeco.co.jp/english/topics/091124.html to Energy XXI (21)
http://www.energyxxi.com/history.asp The acquisition closed on December 22, 2009 (See timeline.)

If I am reading this correctly, the analyst at Energy XXI who recommended the buy might be fish bait by now!

After reading about Anadarko (25%) launching a lifeboat to escape a sinking BP, I was wondering about the other minority partner, MOEX (MitEnergy (Mitsui))(10%) to see if they were also planning a get-home free strategy.

Well, I may be late with this news; MOEX divested itself of GOM assets last year. http://www.moeco.co.jp/english/topics/091124.html to Energy XXI (21)
http://www.energyxxi.com/history.asp The acquisition closed on December 22, 2009 (See timeline.)

If I am reading this correctly, the analyst at Energy XXI who recommended the buy might be fish bait by now!

Energy XXI operates in the shelf region of the GOM which is not deepwater. The assets they bought from Mitsui were previously producing areas shut in after hurricane damage. Not the same field as the Deepwater Horizon.

From the relevant 8-K statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

"The properties include 22 core fields currently producing approximately 8,000 net barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) per day, about 77 percent of which is oil. Upon restoration of volumes pending repair of third party pipelines damaged by hurricanes in 2008, net production from the acquired interests is expected to reach 10,000 BOE per day, taking total company production to an expected 30,000 BOE per day."


From a state of ignorant curiosity, I cannot resist asking the knowledgable what the flow of this well would be if it was connected directly to a production platform on the surface under these conditions:

Flow through a crimped drill pipe and riser of 60,000 bbls per day at 5,000ft below mean sea level. It appears to me that the oil production of this formation would be a record in the gulf. What does removing ~ 2,000 psi resistance mean at the surface?

perks -- A week or so agao there was a report that BP had estimated an initial flow rate for this well at 15,000 to 20,000 bopd.

Re: gearhead:

"Questions: What datum (NAD83, NAD27, etc.) did you use? " in ref to my image at


The Skandi Neptune data was from a marinetraffic.com AIS plugin for Google Earth, which reportedly is WGS-84.

The reason for choosing feet is from the observation that the Skandi Neptune and Viking Posiden ROV's typically have an "N:" coordinate in the 10431607.00 range, and the Equator is 10419438.19 feet (per Mk-1 Eyeball and Google Earth). That's relatively close. The depth typically shown seems to be in feet, and matches the depth contours for the area. The "E:" coordinate seems to be geo-referenced to about 92°W, but there was more ambiguity in trying to figure that one out. All of this was just a useless mental exercise without being able to confirm a lat/lon reference point, then I happened on two occurrences of the ROV in the handling deck of Skandi Neptune at the same time I had an AIS hit via the MarineTraffic plugin. The two sets... and using an earth radius of 20855487.84 feet, yielded a miss of about 169 feet from ROV coord translation to the Skandi Neptune posits. That's well within the distance that the ROV handling area could be from the GPS antenna(s), especially when you account for the possibly of Skandi Neptune being on a different heading.

From what I've read, ROV positioning is typically accomplished with a transponder array that is then geo-referenced by a master unit. Evidently Skandi Neptune and Viking Posiden ROV's are on the same coordinate system.

Caveat: I could be wrong, very wrong, but that's what the data points at.

I wonder about the error, certainly a GPS fix can only be obtained on the surface, GPS reception through even a foot of water is probably nil. So the position has to be extrapolated somehow from the ships GPS system above.

Short Baseline Acoustic Positioning System


There are medium and long baseline versions. If you have a work area, establishing a common coord system allows units from different companies to better coordinate nav data. 92°W just happens to cut down though the middle of most of the active oil fields in the West and Central GOM. The Eastern Gulf has long been out of play due to Florida valuing tourist dollars more than MMS royalties.

So I am guessing the transponder array has an error rate depending on depth? With two or more arrays accuracy can be improved, but incidence angle? Ok, known depth and transponder angle to rov, if possible, would give you undersea position? This 3D geomatics, subsurface is all new to me, I am trying to learn more.

Well, many systems work by measuring the time of arrival of certain signals... be they pulses from widely separated antennas like the old Omega system, or timing signals from a satellite passing overhead. That, plus a good model of the shape of the Earth (datum) and some math give you your position on the surface of that datum... or under the water if using acoustic devices.

I'm not an expert, but that is the gist of how they work. I was just happy to be able to get a visualization of where the stuff on the ROV displays were at... though it still could be off.

Such a system could be based on time of arrival or on signal phase. In either case you need a minimum of three transponders to calculate the position on the surface of the geoid and four transponders to get both position and altitude above the center of the geoid unambiguously.
Accuracy is going to depend on how precisely you can measure time or phase, depending on your solution.

I'd just about bet thermoclines and turbidity play heck with the accuracy of these systems as well.

Thanks for your input. I would think that time delay would only measure distance. However, with sensors and varying depths, this would require three, as you mentioned, deep water sensors and then you could accurately triangulate the position of the ROV and extrapolate its position with the GPS data from the surface. The error rate of the sensor distance becomes the unknown or the variance?

Delete duplicate

I never thought, after weeks of respectful attempts just to understand TOD posts, that my first one would involve asking about a solution I've heard you already blew away. But I just read 7 pages of emotional negative comments on a NYT article on why the U.S. rejected, for IMHO irrelevant political and legalistic reasons, a small nuclear blast deep underground. I can't find the TOD posts where that was discussed, so I'm asking for a repeat explanation.

My understanding: Below 500-1000 ft (?) of mud is shale rock, more fractureable than other rock substrates, all the way down to the well, I assume, though sounding details are proprietary to BP (!). Still, it's fairly easy for me to imagine a detonation large enough to displace the wellbore and pipe with a sideways blast, yet small enough not to disturb the 3 MILES of geologic substrate between the wellhead and the oil reservoir. I imagine a shale mountain around 5,000 meters high - something 33% higher than Mt. Fuji (I live near it). You have oil beneath it and a BOP on top. You place a charge maybe halfway down to bust apart a pipe only about two feet across. Will this disturb the basic structure of Mt. Fuji, which up to April, 2010 has had no trouble holding down the pressure of the oil beneath it? Hardly likely, I feel.

The result would be a (relatively) small area of fractured and oil-permeable shale. Best case, a mini-nuclear blast (I read of devices that are under 0.1 kilotons) would liquify and then seal the cavity. If not, in the worst case, and also assuming the unlikely event that if the pipe on top remained open to further flow, oil might seep up through fractured shale and re-enter the pipe. It would NOT seep upward through the miles of unfractured shale to the top of Fuji (the seafloor) to create a further disaster. In the described case, there would be at LEAST a temporary pressure drop and a chance to try again to staunch the well from the seafloor with mud or perhaps the deflated balloon option others have proposed at depths below where we think the casing may have fractured. But hopefully, the oil could no longer access the seafloor. In ANY case, you would not be causing any of the nightmare scenarios NYT commenters were shouting about.

Whether the Russian blasts were under land or sea seems irrelevant. What seems relevant to me are the depths and geological structures involved.

IF, you were to actually go through with this, how would you deploy the device to the desired level beneath the sea floor?

edit for bad tag


Here is a link to one article and discussion at TOD on the subject:


Let's see, some of the more pragmatic objections were:

Why we can't nuke it --we don't have a nuclear bomb that will fit down a drill hole.

Why it wouldn't help to nuke it --drilling the hole to place the non-existent bomb next to the well wouldn't be any faster than just pumping in cement and plugging the well.

Why it's not a good idea to nuke it --nuking a blowout is an experimental technique that has only been used to stop wells 4 or 5 times, with mixed results, but pumping cement down relief wells is a well established technology.

I'll take a stab at answering this for you.

The russians used small (<46 KT) fission nuclear devices to crush the five runaway gas wells. They succeeded on four occasions. The ultimate fate of the 5th well is unknown.

The idea is not to glassify the well, but to crush it, thus shutting it off.

There are a number of problems with this approach...

1) IMHO the risk of radiation escaping is extremely low, but not completely absent.

2) should the attempt fail it would likely leave the well destroyed, and still leaking , with no hope of shutting it down.

3) It would be necessary to drill a well close to the runaway well and to install the nuke at the correct proximity to the runaway well. During drilling, the borehole would have to be filled with heavy weight mud in order to avoid a blowout. This means the nuke would have to withstand not only the mud, but the high pressures exerted on it by the weight of the vertical column of mud. The trouble is that an engineering grade nuke able to fit in a well casing and withstand the pressures at those depths does not exist.

4) It is just a bad idea. It has serious long term risks and it closes out all your options with no hope for recovery should things go badly.

You place a charge maybe halfway down

By the time you get halfway down, you're halfway to having a functioning relief well. If you bomb that and it doesn't work, you have to start over from scratch.

We know relief wells work every time, so why get halfway to fixing the problem and risk screwing it up worse?

It would not surprise me if the "nuke" issue, a controlled detonation aimed at closing off the reservoir, is still and will remain a valid contingency. Although I'm sure no one in govt will talk about it. Hopefully it will not be needed and at least one relief well will succeed before we get to that level of desperation. But if we get into Fall without killing this monster, and assuming the geologist and all the other experts are confident that the blast will NOT precipitate any of those calamities, like a sea-floor collapse or radiation escape, then it's go time. It's either that, or wait 3 more months for another hole to be drilled that may, or may not, succeed.

While the ocean is a big place with lots and lots of water, there will come, sans capping, a political, economic and/or physical tipping-point in this epic drama. It seems to me ecologically speaking, we're already dying the death of a thousands cuts. Now we've gone an hit an artery, or so it seems. We must stop this at some point, we simply must!

Thanks for all the great coverage, led me to learn very much about oil drilling, physics, Earth itself, or in a broad view, all the energy industry of our days.

I'd like to ask a question about a matter that won't really fit in the current flow of discussion - excuse me, that's probably not the first time I do that.

Did any engineer thinked about the steel casing integrity of abandoned/killed underwater wells in a manner of some hundreds or thousands of years? You may say, who cares, our evolving technology will provide solutions for these. Or who cares what will happen to our mother Earth in a millenia..?

Steel disintegrates, oxidizes in the presence of water. Saltwater boosts that process, turning even thick steel items, such as well casing strings, into rust, fractured, non-sealing antique pieces of industrial equipment. And for sure, as time passes water will find it's way deep down around or in the hole.

If the whole peak oil energy crisis carries out good enough for mankind to survive at all, IF we get away with another chance, our children should be aware of those historical monuments of human greed, as these forgotten holes will eventually evolve into oil gushers like the one we now call Macondo prospect #252. Unless we deplete these reservoirs, AND unless the abiotic oil theory proves to be wrong, that is a great threat to our future as a species, and the very existence of life on planet Earth.. And while we love the idea of interplanetary or interstellar space travel, terraforming planets and spreading life and civilization, it seems to me that we're more likely setting up a trap for our children and their children and so on, we're happy polluting not our own future, as it is beyond our lives, so who gives a f'k.

Having the gift of consciousness, got also the responsibility.

Forgive me for being totally off topic :)

Just FYI, In most places it is standard procedure to pull the casing and fill the hole with cement when abandoning a well. I'm not sure what procedure the deep water people use, but I bet it is similar.


Do you have more info on 'pulling the casing'?


Ty 4 your answer, if they pull the casing out it sounds way more safe in the long term (altough not sure whether the concrete can be tested for long term wear, it seems impossible - the rock seal above the formation passed the test since it held the pressure for millions of years, but how does our portland cement qualify in the long term? who knows?).
BTW how do you remove a casing designed to anchor itself to the concrete bonding it to the wellbore?

From previous thread: What is a manifold?

From the replies I'm guessing a manifold is the hydraulic equivalent of an electrical distribution board -- a central point where pipe connections can be made and broken, valves turned on and off, and flow routed and re-routed. All optimised for use underwater by ROVs.

The "CDP Manifold" shown in the 06/18 Technical Briefing joins the "Autonomous Subsea Dispersant System" and another manifold leading to the choke and kill lines on the BOP. So I guess "CDP" stands for "Combined Dispersant and Product" and it mixes dispersant with the leaking oil passing through the choke and kill lines before sending it up to the Helix Producer which is arriving end June.

My guess is, if the Helix Producer and Discoverer Enterprise can handle the total flow, they'll stop flaring operations on the Q4000 and switch the flare flow to the Helix Producer. I can see how having manifolds makes it a simple operation.

In this radio broadcast story from the BBC it sounds like Transocean and BP are pointing fingers at each other. One of the pods on the BOP was apparently seen leaking. The worker says he emailed both BP and Transocean (maintenance) about it. The leaker was shut off but obviously it was not fixed. He does not know if they tried to turn the leaky one back on before the explosion.

Would have had to haul the whole BOP up in order to fix it?


This actually raises a lot of questions. But not directly related to the accident.

First, one assumes the pods are dual redundant. So the BOP would be perfectly operational with only one functioning pod.

Two, they actually retreived the pod, and have even modified it and reinstalled it since the accident. So clearly, no, it could have been fixed without retriving the BOP. One would assume this would be a clear design requirement anyway. What if something fails when you are in a situation were you can't simply stop work and retrieve basically the entire well head?

But the two issues that really bother me.

Email? The worker emailed about the leak? What the heck happened to proper process? No safety critical operation ever relies upon simple email for something like this. Workers complain about paperwork (or process) all the time, but there are reasons why it is so critical. A proper safety critical operation must have proper processes for reporting and tracking issues. One of the more important aspects of almost any such process is that the reporter is part of the chain, and the issue is never closed without the reporter knowing. A random email is not, and should never be, how such issues are handled. (Sure emails are usually generated - often automatically - as part of the tracking - but email as a prime reporting mechanism sounds just broken.)

So, either this worker was not part of the process, and totally messed up reporting the problem, or there is an utterly off scale bad safety process at here. Now Transocean are not exactly new to this, and I find it hard to believe that they would not have such processes in place. But I'm prepared to be proven wrong. (I work in software engineering, and even taught safety critical stuff, so I have a particualr take on this. Knowing what the drilling indistry does would be interesting no matter what.)

Secondly. I would assume that the cost of repair would be born by Transocean, since it was their rig, and their BOP. But I would like to understand the actual details of this. Up until now I have been happy to give a lot of BP's operations the benefit of the doubt, simply because I suspect they are no worse than many others. However recent reports of Hayward's reduction of maintenance budget, and bonuses for managers that used less of that budget, makes me significantly revise this view.


Here is part of an answer I just put up above, I believe answers your questions:-

On the 11 Feb 2010 the BOP was tested on both the Yellow and the Blue. I realize that is long way from 20 April and there may be a reason a later BOP test was not released by Transocean. If the BOP test failed, either pressure or function test, then someone on the rig is going to have to make up there mind to pull it and repair or continue drilling. If the test failed and they continued drilling then both Transocean and BP on the beach would sign an exemption, just like the one for the casing shears.

There will be a paper trail.

As for the "insider", he must have been a ROV hand as it is only by ROV that you can see the pods, or someone hiding out in the shack.

The BOP test is signed by Subsea, Toolpusher, Operator and OIM. If there was any problems testing they all knew about it, and there next action was probably, Call town!

Could our experts please comment on this factoid from nyt today. Tks.

This from the NYT

"Last year, Transocean commissioned a “strictly confidential” study of the reliability of blowout preventers used by deepwater rigs.

Using the world’s most authoritative database of oil rig accidents, a Norwegian company, Det Norske Veritas, focused on some 15,000 wells drilled off North America and in the North Sea from 1980 to 2006.

It found 11 cases where crews on deepwater rigs had lost control of their wells and then activated blowout preventers to prevent a spill. In only six of those cases were the wells brought under control, leading the researchers to conclude that in actual practice, blowout preventers used by deepwater rigs had a “failure” rate of 45 percent."

Rockman said the BOP was the option of 'worst resort' rather than one of 'last resort'. He seemed familiar with a high failure rate.

Also, the successful activation of the BOP may have ended up in a way worse situation according to reports about the well casing failure and any other aspects of why we might now righteously blame BP.

A failure on demand rate of 45% isn't exactly a great performance for an ultimate safety device is it? Having said that, given the working environment that we're talking about on deepwater, high pressure wells the lack of reliability is hardly surprising. Just reinforces that well control is about controlling the kicks and not letting them develop to the point that you need the BOP to save your ass.

This blowout will probably lead to pressure on the manufacturers to develop higher integrity equipment, but as some one noted above, larger and heavier BOPs with more redundancy will cause additional handling and structural problems offshore.

With regard to these stats from the DnV study, note that the figures indicate 5 blowouts for 15,000 wells, i.e. 1 blowout per 3000 wells drilled. It would be nice to see the breakdown on how many of the wells were exploration wildcats, and how many were producers or injectors.

I am sorry if I am not an engineer, geologist, physicist, biologist, or oil rig expert. But I am still pondering the question. Why can the flow not be stopped or contained in containers? If there is concern about the level of gas expanding on the way up in the oil, fill the expandable half way. (or with a calculated emptiness) That would help determine the actual makeup of the gas/oil mixture. Why are ideas not flowing here like the well? Are there no possibilities that will keep more oil and dispersants out of the Gulf? Is capturing it physically impossible? Really? I am a journalist. I think the public has a right to know.

The ripple effect of this continued flow to the world ecosystem and economy is likely to be staggering.

- at this late stage the flow can not be stopped until one of the two relief well is completed and can be used to kill and plug the original well.
- BP are collecting what oil they can with the top cap, and further separation and storage capacity is on the way. If we assume 50 kbbl/day, that is around 8,000 cubic metres of oil. Even without considering the complications caused by the associated gas, capture of this volume of oil spurting out of a pipe 1.5 kms under the surface of the sea is not a simple affair. The situation is further aggravated because they are concerned about causing too much back pressure on the remaining well infrastructure.
- there have been plenty of ideas, but short of alien intervention or help from Superman all we can do really now is wait for the relief wells and "encourage" BP to catch as much of the leaking oil as is physically possible.
- re. effects of this blowout, I agree they will extend further than we currently foresee.


If there is concern about the level of gas expanding on the way up in the oil, fill the expandable half way.

You would have to fill the container less than 1% full, because the gas is going to expand to more than 100 times its wellhead-depth volume by the time it gets to the surface.


This is a link to a wonderful moving graphic of the well, BOP, its moving parts, and what has been done to date, for those who have not seen it. It also shows the manifold later in the sequence.

Wouldn't it have been great if they could have wrapped up the top of the BOP and the broken pipe before any cutting with the deep-sea equivalent of duct tape?

It is my belief that the NYT (MSM suspect) have done their bit to put out a meaningful piece in regard to the Maconda GOM blow out. I suggest that we do our bit and read/comment. Tks.


BBC (link above) appears to have beaten NYT on one interview. That would be employee who spotted the leaking pod on the BOP.

Thanks to FormerSafety and others who helped me review the nuclear issues. Over on that thread, and in this one, I learned a great deal about the severe technical difficulties implementing that choice, as well as the risks. There was one post that simply quoted, plus URLs, some arcane technical geologic literature on the GOM I could barely comprehend, but the references to widespread presence of unstable salt deposits got the point across. And that the Russians were in a clay environment, which is I assume far more stable. I guess I was motivated by things I'd read about the unreliability of relief wells, but my feeling from reading through that thread is that there's a pretty good chance of success, eventually.

Here's a follow-up question. BP's website shows them already at past 15,000 feet in Relief Well #1. What else needs to be done that will take us into August to get the well tapped?

And that the Russians were in a clay environment, which is I assume far more stable.

Drill a hole in a block of clay, and smack the side of it hard with a hammer; the hole closes. Do the same with a brick, and the brick shatters. That's the difference between blasting clay and blasting rock.

Drop a balloon filled with water and another filled with air from shoulder height. (If you want to be really accurate, use oil in one and natural gas in the other.) That's the difference between a shock to a liquid reservoir and a shock to a gas reservoir.

This is the worst of both situations, from the standpoint of trying to blast it shut. Drop a brick on an oil-filled balloon from shoulder height, then smack it with a hammer, and you'll have a tiny model of what it would do.

Hmmm. Looks like TO has been having a rash of BOP issues. There were 2 that came up shortly after the DWH incident (reported by Upstream Online).

The hearing info from when Hayward was in front of Congress contains 2 docs that show that the TO Marianas was having BOP problems as well.

There is also a copy of the letter outlining the contract for the BOP mods that BP requested and said that they didn't know about right after the incident.

Like many, I have a solution which seems just too obvious, and I can't see any reason for it not to be tried.
However, getting it noticed and reviewed has proved really difficult.
Deepwater Horizon's response was an encouraging, but standard "thanks but we're already considering similar", but I don't have much confidence that it was seriously considered or understood.

The first approach used a dome which became blocked with clathrates, I presume because the riser pipe was too small. Why not make a chimney instead, relying on the lesser density of the oil and wide enough (1 to 2m), to take everything to the surface, clathrates and all?

The new riser/chimney could be as simple as a welded together mile long section of off-the-shelf oil pipeline, assembled on shore, capped and towed out to the site.
Once lowered near enough to the top of the BOP, any exudate flowing into it would be contained, rise to the surface and begin to create an ever larger suction effect as the relative density and pressure of the pipeline contents decreased. The pressure of the deep ocean would in turn push more liquid into the open end of the pipeline, and it would behave like a giant vacuum cleaner, hoovering up everything around the leak. Just like a chimney dealing with hot flue gases.

The clathrates would dissociate near the surface, and the contents could be cyclonically separated and collected or disposed of safely.

I made an illustration here: http://1hr.com/lc/

I'm a systems analyst programmer and have a degree related to physics, electronics and computing and avidly read about science all my life, however I don't have in-depth knowledge of the oil industry.

So, I would be grateful if someone here could give an appraisal and peer discussion on the practicality of my suggestion.


And once that huge volume of oil and gas get to the surface, then what? A line of tankers waiting to collect it? What do you do with the huge volume of expanding NG?

Send everyone on hot air balloon rides, of course. I think Andy has a good idea. Creativity AND scientific knowledge will be needed for dreaming up new ideas on something as mind-blowing as this, don't you think?.

Yes. Creativity and scientific knowledge. Like free balloon rides.

The NG can be burnt off as done currently (even though a real pity to waste all that energy - why not try to capture and compress it too?).

If the volume of captured oil is too great to be piped to a 'line of tankers', then it could be directed to a pen surrounded by deep booms where it could be skimmed and recovered at greater leisure.

The aim is just to keep the oil out of the wider environment while the relief wells are in progress, and have a chance at recovering it too.

If someone could construct a manifold "hat" for the top of the pipe Andy has so nicely diagrammed, an octopus of fire hoses could be attached to carry the mixture to huge, expandable marine tanks. The bladders could be anchored and vented as was suggested in an earlier post. Circle them, and replace.

Andy if you want to keep seawater out you need a pressure of around 450 psi at the bop, so you need a pressure vessel for a fair amount of a one mile pipe.



What you need to consider is that the current cap and your method both rely on the principal of a manometer that has oil on one side and water the other. So the oil side rises and the water enters that side. So if you want to keep the water out you need the oil coming from the bop to prefer to travel on the oil side which means where the oil comes out of the bop the oil has to see the full pressure difference between the oil and water so that water does not also go up the oil pipe. The method does not work via suction. It relies on the water pressure being about 450psi or so higher than the lower pressure oil side. So rather than sucking the oil, the water pressure wants to push the oil up the pipe. If the water was not outside trying to get in at 450psi the cap would have to contain a column of oil one mile high holding back 1600 psi trying to get out to the surrounding air.

Well spotted, but I used "suction effect" as that it how it appears to non-physicists, but then I did explain why!
My illustration assumes conservatively a density of 0.9 for the oil/water/gas mix.
A pressure differential of 450psi would be a maximum, assuming that the chimney contained 100% oil with a density of (2167-450)/2167 = 0.8

This would probably only be attainable if the chimney was blocked at the top and allowed to fill up and displace all the water. An equilibrium would be found long before then and could be controlled with a valve at the top to maintain a pressure if desired, eg, why recompress NG for storage?

Thanks, I didn't imagine keeping out the seawater as creating a seal wasn't possible with the mess made at the top of this BOP. The seawater would be separated at the surface.
It would work like a vacuum cleaner and suck up all the surrounding debris, probably even ROVs if they strayed too close!
(A potential 200psi pressure differential across a 1m cross-section would be quite scary!)

There have been by my count around 5 low pressure or no pressure systems proposed that don't seem utterly unworkable. This is one. All present major challenges though, mostly related to dealing with gas,

Seems that the choices come down to

-Keep the confinement loose enough that the gas continues to to dissolve in water while oil floats to the surface.
- separate the gas above or below water
-burn the mother of all torches with people kept well away

Research to get one that works seems very important- to me at least- as these are the only methods that could be deployed instantly regardless of the nature of the damage as they don't require you to join to the damaged or non existent piping (they could be used if oil really did start coming up outside the casing, for example.

It would be nice to have a break-the-glass solution on hand that could keep things clean until the relief wells came on line.

You betcha. The appearance of sincerity is important.

A problem with the loose confinement methods is that all the oil does mix with the water so the per barrel fine gives an oil company incentive to pursue a method that captures less but avoids the mixing with respect to the captured portion. Some sort of waiver would probably be needed before such a method would be pursued seriously.

Maybe there should be a bigger fine for mixing the oil in with the Gulf of Mexico.

there comes a point that if humans want oil then they cant expect to destroy the companies that go get it - assuming they take reasonable precautions. take away oil and you dont have 5 billion people on the planet and instead you go back to less than one billion and horses and who knows what else. In london for example the streets were awash with horse shit........and the WestEnd was up town because it was upwind.

Yes, but when a plumber is not careful and breaks the plumbing, and you can show this to be true, you can go after him, can't you? Especially if he lets the water run all over the floor because it's not cost effective for him to stop it?

Actually, I'm having difficulty in imagining that this would be a Bad Thing! I like horses, and horse shit is healthy stuff, and could power our Net machines...


"break-the-glass solution" I like that!

Yes, this is one of those, and could be deployed fairly quickly.
Maybe some kind of processing could be done at depth to recover and store the gas practically for free.

Although the mother of all torches is wasteful and environmentally unfriendly, it is surely an 1000x better option than the present state, and much prettier...

You might end up needing a bigger pipe. I propose a similar chimney some weeks ago.

Someone mentioned experience with clathrates clogging a 2' pipe.

I have no idea how big would be sufficient.

If really big was needed a no pressure (leaky) system might start to make more sense because of the expense of the pipe.

Just for the sake of whatever works, and its really more important to keep the water out of the oil than the oil out of the water, what about a giant sewer culvert covering the BOP down to the seabed, covered by a rubber diaphragm? Then the whatever-sized chimney could extrude from that? Don't know the relative sizes of these things, but feasible?

I find it difficult to imagine that a smooth 1-2m pipe would clog with clathrates, especially with a large pressure differencial and near vertical flow rate.
If clogging was likely, then surely coating the inner surface of the lower section of the pipe with PTFE would solve it?

Anyone care to refute the following, from nakedcapitalism this morning:

A two-inch layer of submerged oil is coating portions of the Gulf seafloor off the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge: a week after a smothering layer of floating crude washed ashore there. This scenario is being played out all along the Gulf shoreline.

Collecting in pockets and troughs in waist-deep water, the underwater oil is looser and stickier than the tarballs that cover the beach. The consistency is more like a thick liquid, albeit one made up of thousands of small globs. Unlike tarballs, which can often be picked up out of the water without staining the fingers, the submerged oil stains everything that it touches. If you passed your hand through the material it would emerge covered in oily smears.

There are a number of patches of submerged oil 40 to 100 feet off the beach, apparently collecting along rip currents and sandbars. The carcasses of sand fleas, speckled crabs, ghost crabs, and leopard crabs are spread throughout the oil, a thick layer of the material caking the bodies of the larger crabs – their claws looking as if they been turned into clubs made of oil.

Huge schools of bait fish are hugging the shore, attracting large numbers of birds. King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, mullet, ladyfish, speckled trout, and other fish are congregating in massive numbers amid the sharks.

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab measured large areas of low oxygen water just off the beach at Fort Morgan last week, beginning in water around 20 feet deep. Monty Graham, a University of South Alabama scientist, theorized that the population of oil-consuming microbes had swelled. Sea life begins to die if oxygen levels drop below 2 parts per million. “We saw some very low oxygen levels, some below 1,” said Graham, of testing he conducted aboard a Dauphin Island Sea Lab research vessel. He said that the layer of low-oxygen water closest to shore off Fort Morgan began at the bottom and rose up 30 feet.

Graham said he believed that the low oxygen levels were responsible for reports of strange behavior among fish: “The low oxygen explains things we’ve been hearing, like reports of flounder swimming on the surface.”

The low-oxygen levels offshore may also explain the dense aggregations of fish seen in the surf zone. The turbulent area near shore is naturally high in oxygen due to the influence of the breaking waves.

There are numerous reports that suggest that oil is moving beneath the surface in Alabama waters. State officials conducting shrimp trawls in the Mississippi Sound two weeks ago found oil on their nets when they pulled them. More recently, BP contractors working around Dauphin Island reported oil coming up on their anchors.

Professor Graham, according to at least three web links, appears to be a real person who studies marine biology in the Gulf.

Wow. Even Brit Hume can see the oil now. The world's oceans were in bad shape before this blowout and now this. Let's hope the kill wells work ASAP.

The original post from which the above is drawn from is here:


The information pretty much confirms Matt Simmon's case that there is much more oil there than meets the eye.

The question is, why is the NOAA ships not picking it up (or why is it so elusive)?

Do sonar have a problem seeing it if it is on the ocean bottom in a layer?

There's more to this debacle than we know. While the tech savvy — regarding the drilling process — of many commenting here is admirable, the ecological impact analysis seems to be automatically and foolishly lumped in with the doomsday scenario for the well itself.

I believe we will see a gradually worsening of conditions resulting in the ultimate realization of an ecological disaster of immense proportions. Until now, our expectations have been based on what we have been allowed to see (“out of sight, out of mind” is not a well known phrase for nothing). As long as the volume of oil and dispersants is suspended in the water column or kept from rising into the water column (again, we can't see it, but there have been reports, if I remember correctly, of oil pooling on the sea floor), we have no way to determine the extent, location, or chemical make up of the oil/dispersant stew.

We are going to have to mobilize nationally in order to keep this from becoming a long term, unimaginably large, toxic cesspool. While there's been quite a bit of creative thinking regarding how to stop the flow of oil demonstrated at TOD over the short time I've been reading comments, what we face in the clean-up is even more daunting and the challenges unprecedented — we had better start figuring out what to do to save our Gulf. It's a national food source and a global generator of marine life.

Mr. Obama, I'm speaking to you.

Whatever the programs aimed at remediating the damage, they will most certainly require manpower, and lots of it. Will the currently unemployed find work in the clean-up? If so, will the social benefits of a clean-up be recognized at their full value and provide a living wage to those involved? Will the powers that be allow and enable the great transfer of wealth that will be necessary to protect this resource?

The answer is no, they will not.

The most simplistic reason that will be put forth will be that we “need the oil.” Oil production is and will remain our first priority in the Gulf. Economic strain will be a supporting argument (please note that in our current Corporatist system, the beneficiaries of deregulation, tax cuts, and lax enforcement haven't had any noticeable economic strain). Tony Hayward and his ilk will never lose a dime of their fortunes to the benefit of the “little” people.

The larger reason we won't make the rational investment in clean-up is that we are already eyeball deep in two wars for resources. We can't make war without oil, and we will make war to get it (Eisenhower warned us about this self-propagating, bloodthirsty monster).

The Gulf is toast, because we have lost our Constitutional Republic to a Corporatist cabal, and the interests of that cabal are not the interests of We, the People.

Hard times been a long time coming, harder times ahead.


According to Reuters, Oil at $79 today, on forecast of Chinese use.