BP's Deepwater Oil Spill - Bill Clinton's Views - and Open Thread 2

This thread is being closed. Please comment on http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6690 .

Bill Clinton talked for a few minutes this week about his views about the oil spill.

Let me give you my impression of what Bill says. Listen to the 7 minute tape to get the exact words.

Clinton says that with respect to the leak, the most important issues are, in order:
  1. Fix the leak
  2. Keep oil away from the shore
  3. Minimize the damage from the oil
  4. Determine who is at fault, and hold them accountable

Clinton mentions the possibility of blowing up the well--but not with nuclear bombs, and not as our first option. His view is that about all the military could do would be to blow up the well--not that this would be the best choice. There would likely be ecosystem damages and other unknown effects. Since this is the military's only option, he thinks the best option would be to calm down and work with the engineers and others at BP who are doing their best to fix the situation. Even if some people in charge may have done some things wrong, that doesn't mean the people working there now aren't good people.

He feels the question of President Obama's empathy (or lack thereof) has received too great attention. Each president has to be whoever they really are. President Obama's style is different, but it doesn't mean he is not empathetic.

Prof. Goose's comment:

New stuff in this introductory comment, 1 JUL 10.

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Would someone please explain why a slurry of 50% tungsten (specific gravity of 19.62) cannot be used as a drill mud to bottom kill the well? This mud could conceivably be as heavy as 70 pounds per gallon (ppg) and achieve 5 times the hydraulic force of 14 ppg mud. It seems this would allow a relief well only a few thousand feet deep to affect a bottom kill. Thank You

Because it will fracture the rock the well it is drilled in to and flow off to the wrong places, wasting a lot of kill fluid and potentially making the problem much much worse.

And to add to pix's comment the frac pressure is about 16.3 ppg. And when they are circulating the mud the pumps will add about 0.3 ppg to the ECD (effective circulating density).

Sorry, I don't get your answer. I do not see a net difference in pressure at the injection point between a column of 75 ppb mud and a column of 15 ppg mud that is 5 times as high. They both have the same weight and therefore exert the same downward force.

sorry for the typo. I meant 75 ppg not 75 ppb. But if there is an error in this reasoning, would someone care to point it out?

Unfortunately the column of mud is fixed as the height from the bottom of the hole to the ship on the surface. It cannot be shortened. Therefore your mud weight is limited to avoid causing damage to the rock at the bottom. You simply cannot make the column 1/5th as high.


Note, you can use the 'Edit' link in the lower left of your comment to, well, edit your comment, as I have done here.

Thanks, NAOM
But suppose you drilled a shallow relief well using regular mud. When you get to within a foot of the old well you then inject ultra heavy mud. When your column of ultra heavy mud has the correct weight, you then inject lighter mud behind it. Therefore the column of mud between seafloor and bottom of ship is light mud and its weight is included in the force calculation. You are poised to penetrate the old well shaft and you do, at this point forcing the heavy mud into the old well and killing it. As soon as you have penetrated the old shaft, the old shaft becomes the return path so that both outer and inner column of relief well mud can be pumped into the kill. I know there are problems with this but there could be advantages too. For example the drill column has a larger diameter so you have a larger target to hit. The directional explosive strategy might also be employed to increase the probability of intersection.

If this is impractical or has been explored to death and is a useless idea, please let me know or if you or anyone would care to consider this idea and comment on it, I would appreciate your feedback.

f - the primary reason for the deep intersect is that the fracture gradient are much lower in the shallower rocks. This is why you see so many csg sets in the WW and the RW: you can't raise the MW high enough for the deeper rocks without fracturing the shallow rocks. We do actually vary MW's in the drill pipe for a variety of reasons. But remember the pressure at the base of the mud column will be a composite of the different MW's in the drill pipe. IOW the pressure of a mud coumn with 8,000' of 18 ppg mud with 8,000' of 8 ppg mud on top of it won't be 18 ppg. It will be 13 ppg (18 + 8 / 2).

From earlier comments I gather that the stong flow in the WW will mean that they will be expecting to pump a significant excess of mud down the relief well - since they will lose a large amount of mud up the wild well before they build enough head of mud. One would assume that this would mean that any mixed set of mud weights isn't viable. At least not until they pretty much had the well under control.

Here is a couple of links you might find useful or interesting:


Check out chapter 4 "Pressure Control"



This is case history of examples from John Wright CO.

In a sense having fluids of different density is what created the situation that we are in now. FYI "Galena" mud has been used certain kill situations. I think the lower bottom kill target has evolved due to it's success ratio as well as having formations of higher integrity. You have a bigger target possibly at shallower depths but you also have potential for other problems within the existing wild wellbore.


f -- As pointed out below the mud column will be the same whether the MW is 15 ppg or 75 ppg. So the heavier MW will exert 5X the pressure on the formation. For reference the reservoir pressure is equivalent to 12.6 ppg (11,900 psi) and the fracture pressure of the surrounding rocks is about 16.3 ppg. FYI: there's an easy calc to translate MW to pressure: pressure (psi) = 0.052 * MW (ppg) * column height (feet). There's another complication to the kill effort. The mud column in the RW will be about 17,000'. But the max mud column height they can attain in the blow out well is 13,000'...remember its csg does extend to the surface. On the plus side the sea water column will add around 2,300 psi additional pressure working against the reservoir pressure. Thus the effective bottom hole pressure of the mud column in the blow out csg needs to be only 9,600 psi (11,900 psi - 2,300 psi).

Red - Actually my flat tire analogy was crappy but supper was waiting and I was hurried. Top kill vs. bottom kill: I didn't have much hope for the top kill. The only top kills I've ever seen work was on non-flowing wells. Ignore the flowing pressure but think about 20,000+ bbls of oil flowing up a pipe less than 10" in diameter. Now try to pumping mud against that flow. And don't forget there was an opening in the BOP allowing both the oil and mud leak out. With the bottom kill they'll still have to exceed the flowing pressure but there's no leak down there. Hopefully...they could have lost circulation if they fracture the rocks. But this time the mud flow will be going in the same direction as the oil flow. But there's a downside to that: the oil will dilute the mud weight. I suspect all they can do is pump enough mud fast enough to at least cut the oil rate back some and use this feedback loop to fill the entire csg with the kill pill.

Man, oh man. This is not sounding like a guaranteed kill at all (as I already alluded in an earlier thread.) When/if this fails, are we really staring at the nuclear option as the only thing left??

In a word - No. Anyone who seriously contemplated using a nuclear device either knows far too little to make a reasoned decision, or is insane. The whole idea seems to have taken some sort of wired viral life of its own. Not helped by Simmons, and now Clinton, but initiated by Russian comments.

Just stand back and look at the issues. There are no wild wells that have not been calmed eventually. This well is not particularly special from a technical point of view - it is special because it is causing significant environmental damage, and it is causing that damage in the US, rather some 3rd world nation that the average member of the US public has not heard of and doesn't care about.

There is no reason to believe that the nuclear device exploded down the well would help. None. The Russian experience tells us nothing comforting, and a lot discomforting about the idea. Their wells only sealed because there was a layer of clay, of enough thickness, above the producing horizon that could be used to seal it. There is no such layer in the GOM. Further, they had a 25% failure rate.

Finally, the penalty for getting it wrong is beyond imagination. We might deride the idiotic doomsday merchants and their predictions, but use of a nuclear device could easily bring us closer to such a scenario than you may care to think. It simply isn't a credible risk. Even if the well spews for another year, the collection systems are being brought up to the point where they will collect pretty much all the oil. We are unlikely to see more than about another month of leaking into the gulf - even if the relief wells encounter failure after failure. But try the nuclear solution? You are balancing an untried solution that could destroy all life in the gulf, and pretty much all around it for a generation, against simply letting the professionals get on with what they do, with a reasonably solid assurance the the damage will be contained and the well will successfully be killed.

There in only one person who can authorise a nuclear device be used anyway. POTUS. There is no chance at all that he is that stupid or so poorly advised.

Maybe this has been suggested before now, although I haven't seen it.

If the problem with the first cap was the formation of Hydrates clogging the system, then could not something similar be a workable solution to the problem?
We need something that is the reverse of the erosion problem - find a way to create a accretion process.
If water was injected into the relief well/bottom kill, then would not the oil/gas/water mix flowing up the leaking well build up a slurry (or glue) that could plug the drill string/casing.
Or at least slow the flow to the point where a Mud kill pill has a chance of actually going down the hole.

If the dynamics/temps/chemistry in the gas/oil flow would prevent the formation of the hydrates inside the well, then maybe another substance could be found that would be sticky enough to gum up the works.
There are substances that increase their sheer resistance under increasing mechanical force/loading. I don't know the limits of that though...


like this site from SaveRGulf, last post on the closed thread.

'specially like the local updates from different cities.

Thanks for this link. I had been trying to find the video of the blowout filmed by the fishermen on the boat near the DW Horizon, as it was happening, which the video at the linked site has some parts of it. I had found the original video some weeks ago, shortly after it had been published on youtube, but in a recent search for it last week, it had been pulled, perhaps by the filmers for copyright reasons. So thanks.

""but in a recent search for it last week, it had been pulled, ""

Children, Children, are you all so blind? Do you not think a massive amount of information is being censored, even on this site?

Jindal, of LA fame, just a few days ago, locked up all the info related to his office and the spill. Others are doing the same. Why?

""But elected officials in Louisiana and members of the public seeking details on how Mr. Jindal and his administration fared in their own response to the disaster are out of luck: late last week the governor vetoed an amendment to a state bill that would have made public all records from his office related to the oil spill""

Why is there a "no fly" zone in the gulf? Why are sooooo many areas now "off limits" to camera or video? The list grows every day of info held back, kept away or out right censored by BP and their bought and paid for government employees.

Wake up.

Still viewable here http://vodpod.com/watch/3814910-deep-water-horizon-explosion-live-footag... and can be downloaded here http://vid163.photobucket.com/albums/t285/aandryiii/Deep%20Water%20Horiz... use VLC or similar to play it. I'm surprised there are no exclusion zones around offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thanks to all the contributors!!!

If/ I am a newbie (fell into TOD in mid MAY).
Then/ I might want to resist posting due to extra noise policy.
But/ I thought some might enjoy this link to info on the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo.


ITB -- True....noise is not appreciated on TOD. But a greater sin is not sharing/asking questions. If you get "noisy" someone will point it out. Hopefully nicely. Jump in...everyone here is nice. Except Westexas, of course.

Hmm, Bill's comments are interesting, perhaps as much in that they reveal a lot about Bill. He is remarkably poorly informed about the matter, but he doesn't shrink from giving us his opinion. However I also suspect he was thinking on his feet to some extent, and delivering thoughts that were not well formed. He identifed the 11 killed on DWH as BP people, something that even those with the most cursory familiarity with the incident would know wasn't correct. His knowledge of the well geology was also woeful. He sounds as if he has gained his entrire knowledge from reading a couple of articles in the MSM. We tend to imagine that an ex-president might have some residual private channels to better information and advice, but this interview rather puts the lie to that.

The "blow it up and pile rubble on top" ideas have been comprehensively bebunked. But later he makes it is bit clearer. He personally thinks these options would work, but he talks about them particularly because these are the only things that the US government has at its disposal. He is quite clear that the US government has neither the equipment nor the expertese to kill a well. Which is clearly true. But he only voices this point after he is reminded of the relief wells. Which makes me suspect that he realised he had already overstepped his knowledge, and was backpedalling. Being the seasoned politician he is, he is able to do that so smoothly that you would never be able to pick this thought processes.

Sadly, I rate this a a B- performance. He didn't do well at all.

Exactly, Francis. Having read or watched a little coverage (no more than his neighbors have), he adds still-acute political and always-exceptional social skills to fuzzy understanding -- ay wah-lah.

One other thing I noticed, maybe because this is the first longish tape of him I've seen in a while: the longer he talks, the mushier and shaggier his enunciation becomes. Replay the first few seconds, then part of the last minute or so (just for sound, not sense) -- hear that? Maybe I'm imagining it, but I think he runs out of steam as he goes on; as acute and skilled as ever but a bit rusty and less informed than he was, he's coasting on reserves rather than putting fresh energy into this.

He's still a wizard of talk, but by days-of-yore standards, I might even slap a C+ on this showing. (Mind you, Bill Clinton's phoning-it-in still beats 99.999% of the best efforts of all politicians in the history of the world. Day-am, such a gift.)

Well anyhow, Happy Fo'th, all-a y'all -- Americans, friends of "A republic, madam, if you can keep it" everywhere, and all the ships and critters at sea! Bless you and keep you.

Mr. Clinton's opinions in this matter are of no import to me. His judgement and critical reasoning ability I find questionable. I found the cheap laugh about the oil trying to find its way to distribution annoyingly stupid. I voted for him, twice. Just sick of having our gov't bought and sold. My mom told me about an Ellery Queen mag story years ago about a U.S. gov't w/ the senator from Coca-Cola etc. and I think it has gone beyond this: the corporate influence has obviated the concept of a sovereign state. That said, sincerely wishing all on TOD a relatively happy, healthy and safe Independence Day. TEB

I was taking a quick look at the ROV cams before finally going to bed. Anyone know why the Skandi ROV 2 is now labeled "Junk Shot Ops"? I have not kept up with operations the last few days - too much other stuff going on - so I won't ask for an explanation of the other changes I see.

Are they going to try another junk shot? I did not think from what I have read here that it would be a good idea.

Night, all! I'll check in tomorrow - actually, later today.

A political uncorrect comparision between petrochemical- and nuclear accidents:

Because I work in a kind of nuclear facility and know quite much about accident prevention there - I always asked myself why our principles of accident prevention cannot be transferred to oil businnes.

I think the comparision is justified - let me explain:

The danger in the release of radioactive contamination into the environment is caused by the risk of producing cancer in the human body. As a rule of thumb you say an exposition of 200mSv (miliesievert, unit of radiactive exposure) gives you a 5%-risk of coming down with leukemia.

Petrochemical products show an similar risk: Inhaling 400µg of benzene creates a leukemia risk of 1:5500. Assuming a linear correlation between radiation dose and cancer risk (as all radiation protection laws do) 400µg of benzene equals about 1mSv.

Now we have to calculate the abstract unit of mSv into the amount of a material. The typical factor (taken from Cs137, one of the worst isotopes released at reactor accidents) is 3*10^-10 Sv per Bequerel of radioactive material, 1mSv equals 3MBq.

In Chernobyl an amount of 10^18 Bq of Cs137 was released. According to the extremely simplified but for a first approximation appropriate calculation above this equals 1333 tons of benzene. If there are 5% of benzene in crude oil, you only need to release 25 000 tons of crude to equal the cancer risks of the chernobyl accident. Im just a little shocked of this calculation, perhaps I made a mistake somewhere but at least it tells you that releasing crude oil is a major health risk.

So what is done in nuclear industry to prevent the release of dangerous material? The most important principle is that there are always at least two independently effective barriers from radioactive material to the environment. And everything what only destroys one of these barriers has strictly to be reportet as an accident even if no radioactivity is released.

For these accidents, there is an event scale called INES. It defines several levels of an accident, starting at 0 for events without any risk for the environment, and ends at 7 for a catastrophy with large-area contamination (chernobyl).

Transfered to oil business, you could setup a similar scale:
0 - No direct security issue, but interesting for other drillers (e.g. pump motor failed)
1 - irregularity in drilling process, e.g. a "kick" which was controllable
2 - failure of a single barrier, e.g. a failed cement test
3 - failure of a safety-relevant barrier, e.g. of a gasket on the bop
4 - release of hydrocarbons on a in-facility scale
5 - release of hydrocarbons on a outside-facility scale
6 - release of hydrocarbons so that containment measures are necessary
7 - release of hydrocarbons with significant impact on environment and human life

Equivalent to nuclear facilities, the law should make it obligatory to publically report ALL events from degree 1 upwards, to report countermeasures and to stop further drilling activity till the issue is solved. In no case it should be allowed to operate the facility without 2 independent security barriers like in the macondo case without positive tested cement AND a flawlessly working BOP. If one security barrier is removed (like the heavy mud was replaced by water) the operaters should have to prove that there are TWO other barriers each capable of retaining the hydrocarbons. It must absolutely be prohibited that a "one-point-failure" is able to cause a blowout.

I post this here because I´m not in oil business. Please think of this only as a stimulation for thinking of better security measures.

apologies if this has already been posted:

NEW ORLEANS - The Captains of the Port for Morgan City, La., New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala. , under the authority of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act, has established a 20- meter safety zone surrounding all Deepwater Horizon booming operations and oil response efforts taking place in Southeast Louisiana.

Vessels must not come within 20 meters of booming operations, boom, or oil spill response operations under penalty of law. ...


CNN Anderson Cooper on the "safety zone"

Huffington on the "safety zone"

My comment is that there appears to have been a pattern to restrict media access eg. this report from mid June:


and this report in Forbes Magazine at the end of May(original no longer available this is Google's Cache:

Media claim access to spill site has been limited
May 30


A few words to remind us what we are really worshiping on this special day...

What the Free Market undermines is not national sovereignty, but democracy. As the disparity between the rich and poor grows, the hidden fist has its work cut out for it. Multinational corporations on the prowl for "sweetheart deals" that yield enormous profits cannot push through those deals and administer those projects in developing countries without the active connivance of State machinery - the police, the courts, sometimes even the army. Today Corporate Globalization needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, preferably authoritarian governments in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies. It needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend to dispense justice. It needs nuclear bombs, standing armies, sterner immigration laws, and watchful coastal patrols to make sure that it's only money, goods, patents, and services that are being globalized - not the free movement of people, not a respect for human rights, not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons, or greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, or god forbid, justice. It's as though even a gesture towards international accountability would wreck the whole enterprise.