BP's Deepwater Oil Spill - Test to Continue Another 24 Hours - and Open Thread

This thread is being closed. Please comment on http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6745.

Admiral Allen had an update this afternoon. The plan is to continue the test for another 24 hours. Other information reported:

The government has ordered additional monitoring of the area while the test continues which includes doubling the seismic mapping runs over the well site. A NOAA sonar ship has also been brought to the site to assist in monitoring the entire sea floor area around the well. The ship will make regular passes around the well looking for any hydrocarbon release subsea, and both acoustic and visual monitoring of the area with ROV's will continue. The pressure in the capping stack continues to increase very slowly and we want to continue to monitor this progress.

When this test is eventually stopped, we will immediately return to containment, using the new, tighter sealing cap with both the Helix Producer and the Q4000. Additional collection capacity of up to 80,000 barrels per day is also being added in the coming days.

Progress also continues on the two relief wells the federal government has required BP to drill. The relief well remains the ultimate step in stopping the BP oil leak for good.

The transcript of this morning's press call with Kent Wells is also available now.

Prof. Goose's Comment:

New stuff in this introductory comment, 1 JUL 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. If you have come here to vet your plan to kill the well, understand that you will be queried on whether or not you have read all the other 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 the comment threads and still think your plan has legs, well, then maybe yours really is the one that will save the Gulf of Mexico.

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

5. If you would like to catch up with what's been going on in the last few days, our IRC channel has been maintaining a FAQ, which is an open source log full of information, links, and such. Check it out: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dff7zmqz_7c6rdwsc9

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

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

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

7. 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.

8. Yes, HO and others have put up many counterarguments to the "DougR" comment. There are many many links, but the first one was here: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6609. If you ask in the thread nicely, they will also point you to others.

At least the pressure is still rising - sure looks like a lot of attention(ROV-wise) is focused on the seafloor

As it should be. Nothing of particular concern noted as of latest reports.

If they are going to resume production, then I assume they will not allow oil release to the environment. Which means they have figured out a way to shut in the well very fast down at the sea floor?

fd - let's hope so - we dodged two bullets (storms), but we are getting into the mean time of hurricane season. Depending on the final pressure, do you think they will produce with Q4000 & Helix and not dump any oil, or is total containment contingent upon Toisa & the new riser?

tommegee, I'm not sure if they have an emergency shut down system set up at the well itself, so they can shut in if they have an emergency in the production equipment at the surface. Standard procedure is to have such a device, and I don't think they have it - or they may be trying to hook one up right now. If they don't have it, then they have to produce the oil while venting crude to the ocean. This would allow them to shut in at the surface, and the oil would then escape via the vent while they try to close the well again. It could spill quite a bit of oil meanwhile.

What do you think is in play right now?

fd - so venting at the new BOP stack is necessary to allow surface shut-in of the production vessels?

If they lack an emergency shut down they can control from the surface vessel, that's right, they have to vent. At least I would.

Thanks, fd. Sorry to hear your eavesdropping attempt went to the dogs.

So we go back to destroying an ocean again in order to protect a trashed out well from potential damage if that happens. I like the shut in well better as long as it is stable. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

So you're willing to remove one of the normal safety mechanisms because they have an other option. What if that option isn't available for whatever reason and the flow continues to the surface unwanted?

To start collecting again, it appears that there will be a period where oil/ng gets vented to the sea.

From this morning's brief:


Kent Wells speaking:

Yes because so what you have heard both myself and Admiral Allen said is that if we do decide at any point either during the remainder of the test or following the test, that we want to open the well back up initially we will have to blow it back into the Gulf for some period of time, relevantly short period of time to bring the pressure down on the well so that we can then go in to our collection systems namely the (Q port) valves and the Helix Producer.

And then we will look to bring up those vessels up to maximum collection capacity bring in the Enterprise and we’ll be looking to collect essentially all the oil. And then we’ve got the longer term option with the free standing (Elijah) coming. So there could be a period, if we choose to open up, if we make the decision to open up the well there will be a period where oil will go back into the Gulf.

Earlier in the brief, Wells stated that work on the second free-standing riser was almost completed:

We've pretty much got the second free standing riser build and in place. What we need to do is do the connections. The (tocious pisces) will be in the field in just a couple days.

It appears from from what I've read, plus the NTY article discussed in the previous thread, that the shut-in/collect question will be the government's call, not BP's.

Although not clear that collecting again is decided, it seems that they are pretty well indicating that they intend to collect the oil unless bad weather comes in.

My read is that the test provided data about the situation down-hole and also gave them an option to shut-in the well again if anything disruptive happens on the surface (weather, accident or the unknown/unanticipated situation).

And then we’ve got the longer term option with the free standing (Elijah) coming.

And he will herald to us good tidings, succor, and consolation...!

an ark, too, apparently...

We're bringing in, I mentioned yesterday, a (Noah) vessel


Elijah raised the dead, brought fire down from the sky, and ascended into heaven in a whirlwind (either accompanied by a chariot and horses of flame or riding in it).

IMHO, beats the heck out of the imagery of James Carville on a flaming gator (as previously mentioned ;-)

Seems they said that two days ago when they got the leak stopped.After the leak was stopped( 2 days ago ) they were going to monitor it for leaks so they could determine if they did resume production and a hurricane appeared they could safely shut it down again.

Do they know what kind of reservoir this is?

Is the saturation pressure at the reservoir temperature lower than or high than the critical pressure of the reservoir fluid? What is the cricondenbar pressure value? What is the cricondentherm temperature value? Is the reservoir a near critical oil or a near critical condensate or gas?


the reservoir most likely contains an undersaturated oil.
i dont know the bubble point pressure.

Thad Allen's latest words "When the test is eventually stopped (return to containment)". Note it doesn't say "When the test is stopped". Nothing can be assumed from that statement because "eventually" suggests possible further extensions of the test time (event dependent) allowing for changes to what happens next depending on what they see.

I point this out because some people have taken it as meaning they have decided definitely to end the complete closure at some point and produce the well. To me it has just left that as a default option if they don't have absolute confidence after further tests.

Wouldn't you consider that is the safest way?

If you mean safest to re-open the well for the time being then I remind you that the ad-hoc surface production under the current circumstances is way outside of industry norm and I can't calculate the risk/benefit myself.

I do know I wouldn't like to see another surface catastrophe and/or failure of the new stack down the line should there be a closure problem if needed in an emergency later.

Bingo! From what I can see at this point their COLLECTION APPARATUS is far more risky than the shut in well. I think that risk is being ignored in the risk analysis.

I believe I read here on TOD that bleeding oil from the top will be a useful or even necessary part of a bottom kill strategy. "Like bleeding your car's brake lines." If it needs to bleed, it makes no sense to release that product to the environment when capture / burn is on hand. A side benefit, I suppose, is the notion of putting this wild beast in the petting zoo once it has been tamed. This (slightly) offsets the building public resistance to all deep water drilling. BP can show that the shortcuts they allegedly took in well design did not result in a compromised bore ... and the major liability is in equipment and procedures above the mudline.

I believe I read here on TOD that bleeding oil from the top will be a useful or even necessary part of a bottom kill strategy.

Yes, but to me it's one thing to produce a perhaps needed controlled bleed and another to try to produce 30-80k (max potential)/day at the surface if they don't have to.

Politically it is an impossibility to do anything to this wild beast but put a bullet in it's head. It gets the death penalty.

But you make a good point. I suspect despite all the speculation about ruptured casings an catastrophic failure there may well be nothing wrong with it but a blown out bottom plug. They didn't find casing in the old riser, and the pressure tests are indicating things are basically structural intact except for a cement failure or two.

In THEORY it might be possible to kill it from the top with mud, open up the rams in the old BOP, fish out the old drill pipe, and put it back into working order. I say in theory, because that will not happen.

I am hopeful that they will be able to make a determination of just what failed at some point in the process of deep sixing it.

Run the choke line off the BOP to a backpressure relief valve set at a high enough pressure that it just barely flows with a very light fluid (e.g. a methane "bubble") in the well and then series connect that with a choke valve.

At initial conditions assume well head pressure of 6800 psi less about 5000 feet of methane with an assumed SG of 0.3 (say 700 psi head between the BOP & the ship), that yields an initial set point of 6100 psi. See if anything flows. If it does, you have the choke velve to throttle it. As the methane bubble passes and the SG of the fluid increases, you can adjust the set point of the backpressure regulator downward to allow flow and control the amount of flow with the choke valve.

If you start to produce more flow than you want, simply close the choke valve, which puts backpressure on the BPR, which works on a differential pressure so its effective set pressure rises stopping the flow.

Hoping for a response from an industry member here,
with your indulgence I am reposting this query.
The thread closed before much chance of reply:

"We find no evidence of lack of integrity..."
- Kent Wells @ 7:30am briefing 7/17/10

I find this conclusion by Kent Wells bizarre. Logic seems to be stood on it's head here. Are we being spun a flimsy certainty on well integrity?

Rewind back to the Top Kill attempt now shrouded in the mists of memory. Am I correct in saying that the Top Kill was abandoned precisely because the top well pressure was found to be in between 6,000 to 7,000psi? And this development was a sufficiently worrying indication of the likelihood of a down hole breach to cause the abandonment of Top Kill.

Fast forward a couple of months to the last few days. Now with a sealed cap in place the pressure is again found to be in the same range of 6,000 to 7,000psi.

But this time the finding is readily and conveniently dismissed on the basis of well depletion (perhaps due to compartmentalization). Obviously the earlier low pressure could not be dismissed by well depletion.

There seems to be a viable alternative explanation.

There is a breach down hole which is either a crossflow leak or a leak into formation. That leak was there at Top Kill and caused the low pressure reading. That leak still is there and confirms the earlier Top Kill pressure reading. There is a 75 million bbl reservoir with no compartmentalization and there is no significant well depletion.

Instead we have a down hole breach which is in stable equilibrium and feeding steadily (not explosively) into formation. (It could even in theory be feeding natural seepage lines all this time, with the sea floor exit of this seepage many miles away.)

There is no evidence of compartmentalization or well depletion. There is instead an assumption that this depletion explains the low pressure.

Kent Wells is formally correct. There is no evidence of lost well integrity. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And there is a viable alternative explanation of the low pressure which is consistent with our earlier Top Kill pressure reading.

Can you help show the error in my logic? Thanks.

That sure is a long post.

Don't forget the top kill atempt took place a while back, and the well wasn't depleted as much as it is now.

It's also important to note the top kill involved pumping a lot of mud into the blow out preventer, and most of the mud PLUS the oil were coming out of the top - in other words, it was senseless to keep pumping.

On the other hand, today the well is sealed shut, and the lower pressure is likely due to depletion, although it's possible some cross flow is present, and yes, it COULD be it's leaking into a zone above the reservoir seal (although I understand they are listening and hear nothing).

I don't know what is your background, but Kent Wells says the well is tracking very well on a Horner plot - and this would tell us the well is sealed. If the well is breached, then I don't see a reason for the seepage to take place many miles away - now I would like for you to address this specifically - if the oil has seeped into a shallow zone, what keeps it from coming out say 1 mile away, rather than many miles away?

Now,now. Don't try and take away from his theory.

I'm trying to encourage the Matt Simmons crowd to develop a reasonably coherent theory. This can be useful. But I'm afraid they are not prepared to discuss the topic in detail. You know what we need? A geomechanics expert and a geologist to work out together the scenarios for an underground blow out to be the likely answer, and to have the blow out hit the surface several miles away, like Simmons says. But then, Simmons also predicted oil would hit $200 a barrel last year, didn't he?

OK, here's a try.

OIl outside of casing frac's up to a shallower low pressure sand, oil flows updip away from borehole in shallow sand to a higher structural apex which can't hold the pressure (BTW: I don't know if the dips reverse at depth this way, so don't know if this is possible), oil then frac's vertically to seafloor some distance from the well bore. I shouldn't give these guys any ammunition, but I can't help myself. Much more likely bad scenario is simply that the oil outside the casing connected to high pressures in reservoir just frac's up to the seafloor right at the well head - that's much more likely than the first scenario and clearly hasn't happened. Why lateral scenario is less likely - requires failure of the 9-7/8 shoe and I seem to remember that they got a LOT much higher than the reservoir pressure near TD (OTOH, I guess the 9-7/8 or higher liners and 16" could be damaged and leaking.

In some areas underground blowouts have opened up intersecting fault planes and blown out the seafloor away from the blowout well, but this is not likely in poorly consolidated GOM Tertiary sediments - more likely to get vertical fractures sending oil straight up.


Right, but to get the oil to flow away in this hypothetical sand you have to have a sand which extends several miles. So now, looking at the local geology, do you think they would have such a sand, which covers such a wide area? And if it is so extensive, then how long would you have to pump oil into it, and displace water, so that oil shows up several miles away and then heads up? Say you have a blanket sand that's 6000 acres, 10 ft thick - when you start pumping oil into it, what do you think gives first, the seal close to the well, or the seal 5-6 miles away?


Agree with your first point: I don't know how much time it would take - maybe a lot. On the second point (and this is purely hypothetical since I seem to remember that the seismic structure looks pretty flat in the shallow section), the seal at the wellbore could be very good (high LOT on the 9 7/8, but if oil leaks into a laterally extensive sand and goes to a structurally higher crest away from the borehole, it could exceed the frac gradient at that point. This is one way that oil migrates in geologic time. But I would have to consult a reservoir engineer to get any idea how long that would take.

I am definitely grasping at straws here - and don't think this is very likely.


Won't work. You need a very extensive sand, which has the continuity to take the oil from the well to the leak point. Check the volumes and pressures, and you'll see you need a very strange an unusual geometry to make it work.

Well, there are some pretty extensive sands in the GOM (I know of some elsewhere in the GOM that are in hydrostatic connection over distances of 10 miles) - some huge aquifers - maybe not here, though there are also amalgamated channels in the area that are extensive in one direction. Agreed this might take a long time depending on the quality of the aquifer and leak rate and the frac gradient at the higher trap. I'll give up after this, since I'm really not saying this is likely, just remotely possible in some time frame since I know it has happened in geologic time in many areas and is probably the source of some GOM mud volcanos and documented lateral hc charge.


>Won't work.

Which makes your point that there is no coherent theory to refute here.

What I think I going on is what my (petroleum geologist) father used to call "doodlebugging." There is a whole class of people who confuse magic and science, and some of them think that they can look at a map and know stuff that isn't comprehensible to trained professionals. That's what I think is going on here. The story of the real Macondo well wasn't quite alarming enough, so he started looking for something beyond the known facts, and made up an entire new world where pressure is something we can't understand, and where lack of information only confirms his BS.

I remember a long letter from such a crackpot who wrote to the Kansas State Geologists office, which didn't exist, so it came to another office (mine) in the Department of Health and Environment. She claimed she could predict earthquakes, and offered to do so, if only we would pay her (not because she wanted the money--it was strictly an ethical issue), and provide her with maps. Others have claimed to do dowsing using maps rather than actually walking around on the ground at issue with sticks and bent welding rods.

Bottom line, crackpots are crackpots, and arguing with them is an utter waste of time.

I have been lurking for a year or two, and this my first post, but I wanna say that this forum and DailyKos are by far the best sources of objective news and valid review of the news I have found. Appreciate everything I have learned here.

As you might deduce from my screen name, I was a worm in the Kansas oilfields decades ago, and left it in the mid-70's. I have a couple of engineering degrees including chem engineering and civil engineering/water resources, and a fairly low tolerance for certain types of bullshit. Thanks to you all for following this stuff with a critical eye.

You lost me the minute you said you believed the Daily Kos.

OK, well I'll assume you're not calling me a crackpot after I spent 25 years in the GOM E&P industry. Lateral hydrocarbon migration to an apical structural with a lower frac gradient is something that is documented and standard part of petroleum systems modeling in the big oilcos -- so is seafloor leak caused by well blowout - we've done it before. These are real risks, that's why they're shooting and reshooting seismic every few days to check and why they're modelling the pressure transients. Clearly, none of this has happened so far and it's unlikely to happen, but following fd's gracious gesture to try and provide the Simmon's nutcase crowd with at least a plausible scenario for lateral offset seafloor leakage, I raised this remote possibility. Trust me I am not in that camp. More likely risk is blowing out around the wellhead, but it is possible in some situations to have lateral migration and offset vertical blowout - it's actually happening now at several well-studied mud volcanos.

GN, not a crackpot.


Nobody thinks you're a crackpot - you just presented a scenario and it's difficulties underscore the low probability of the simmons hypothesis. Like you intended.

Let me take a stab at the same thing:

suppose that the rock at the level of the leak, say 4k below the seafloor, were not soft mud but instead were brittle shale. Then the leak could initiate a fracture which would be a horizontal fracture due to the low vertical stress because it's shallow. It propagates out six miles, sees an abandoned well from previous activities and...

Naaaah. Screw it.

I've actually been wondering about the same thing, but not in the context of theory. What would it take to launch that stuff six miles away? Would 40k-60k psi be even close to enough? My guess is that psi would have had to be in the 100k area, in which case his methane volcano would have already blown.

I don't think so. If you put 40 thousand psi, at 13,000 feet, at the well, the stuff will cut right up next to the well, and it would make the mother of all mud volcanoes. I mean, it would heave the ground right out like Godzilla coming out of his sleep.

To push oil six miles away, you need some pressure, but it could be very little, say 100 psi over the local gradient. But if you are injecting oil into a sand with 100 psi delta p, then it's going to take quite a few years for the oil to show up several miles away. Or you can put say 5000 psi delta P, in which case we're back to square one, it would start breaching right there at the well. So you can't have it both ways. If you put a lot of pressure, it breaches near the well. If you put less pressure, then you get less oil in, and it takes forever to get so far from the well. Which means the 5-6 mile distance people talk about it just about impossible.

The only way this can happen is if you're working with naturally fractured rocks. In such a case, the oil goes down the natural fracture system. But that's not what we have here.

How about launching the wellhead itself 6 miles?

As in

SIMMONS: What the research vessel found a week ago Sunday [referring to news reports of May 16, 2010] was this giant plume about six miles away, and then this huge layer of goo on the ocean floor... that's almost certain- I mean, maybe it's a natural fracture -- I think that's where the wellhead is.


“In my opinion, what most likely happened when one of the largest surges of oil as gas blew out the BOP and within seconds, began melting down one of the world’s most technically advanced deepwater rigs ever built is that just the BOP and wellhead got tossed far away from the well bore but the riser which was attached to the rig floor was separated from the wellhead/BOP."

I've been trying to stay away from Simmons' arguments (since it seems he lost his mind a few years ago ...)

“In my opinion, what most likely happened when one of the largest surges of oil as gas blew out the BOP and within seconds, began melting down one of the world’s most technically advanced deepwater rigs ever built is that just the BOP and wellhead got tossed far away from the well bore but the riser which was attached to the rig floor was separated from the wellhead/BOP."

So ... the BOP was violently disconnected from the well in seconds and tossed far away from the well itself ... so ... where did the gas come from that melted down one of the world's most technically advanced deepwater rigs?

Wouldn't the gas have been venting into the bottom of the Gulf?

I hope you're not asking me, because in that universe, I haven't been able to discover any predictable rules of behavior for matter or energy.

I'm still looking for a geologist to describe a process by which 1000ft+ of mud/unconsolidated silt can be 'fractured'. LOL

Is he claiming that the BOP was tossed away from the well and landed right-side-up?

The oil we have seen spewing out has been coming from where in this story?

I don't know anything but what I have learned here, but even before I started reading here that sounds just ridiculous, or did I miss something?

gmf - I'm with you on the confusion... as I posted previously I met Mr. Simmons a few years back and he is a really smart "data" man -- so I start with giving him some credibility. Now - if he said that that the explosion caused casing damage that resulted in flow to the formation -- and somehow it found it's way several miles away where it finally breached the surface -- ok - far-fetched (impossible?) - but parts can be true (casing damage, leak to the formation)..

But - like you - he states the Well/BOP and casing blew out several miles away and there is an open hold where the original well was leaking 120k boed and the oil leak being shown is coming from the riser??? I wish someone with knowledge from TOD could interview Matt Simmons..

gmf: Yes, it is my interpretation of Matt Simmons' remarks that he believes the BOP was ejected from its original location, then it 'planted itself' in a perpendicular orientation some 6 miles distant.

He then stated that the flow of oil and gas visible at the end of the riser was coming from the downed wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon MODU.

I don't know if he later revised his statements.

I just tuned him out after hearing him make those initial statements.

I do not know if this is real but there may be some seepage. Link
I hope not.

Not sure what's seen rising through the shot in the beginning of the clip, but everything else looks like silt and miscellaneous junk (maybe including some heavier fractions of crude—there's a lot of that around) being kicked up by ROV thrusters. No seafloor explosion.

Don't worry, Kalliergo, GodLikeProductions is on it:


That's why they are doing additional seismic, temperature, acoustic and mathematical analysis to determine the true situation. So far everything from additional monitoring and modelling remains completely in-line with the well "safe" scenario, That's what I take from the briefings.

So I surmise they will hook up an ESD system at the sea floor, and they will test without spilling oil. And this will give the engineers the data to figure out how much the oil was producing when it was shut in. It won't give them the rate when it first blew out. I think the analysis of the flames when the rig started to burn will be pretty important.

Where are you coming up with some of these questions?

I don't know S**t from shinola about deepwater offshore - my very limited experience comes from plugging Austin Chalk wells in Central/South Texas many years ago, BUT if the pressure trends are favorable - as they presently seem to be - I hope they can produce without having to dump more oil - we here in L.A. (Lower Alabama) need some good news

If there is seepage, wouldn't it most likely push up right in front of us rather than miles away?

Thanks in advance.

Yes, BarnettLover, the most likely place where oil could push up is along the well casing. We have NOT seen evidence of that.

There are several here who ridicule any suggestion that oil may be escaping somewhere else through the strata, perhaps miles away. They attempt to ridicule that notion by alluding to the Matt Simmons scenario.

Personally, I belong to the camp I call the "Bill Nelson" scenario, meaning that it is possible that there MAY be a pathway to the surface. Senator Nelson's source(s) for reports of sea floor venting have not been (to my knowledge) revealed. Perhaps from the Simmons nexus, or from someone more reliable, I don't know. But it remains a possibility and the current indecision on whether the well is intact or not is an indication that the possibility is being taken seriously.

What I do KNOW is that ROV equipped boats were making excursion to an area 2-4 miles SSW of the well as early as June 5. And that on June 23, we witnessed a ROV mission from the sea floor in this area (1.8 miles from the well), at a depth of 5770 feet.


A very late thank you!

Senator Nelson's source(s) for reports of sea floor venting have not been (to my knowledge) revealed.

Can we have a full stop here? If Senator Nelson has a source that there is leaking in the sea floor and did not let anyone know that, what does it make him? and his source? Senator Nelson is a Senator representing the citizen, doesn't he has responsibility to the citizen and let the unified command know where is the leak so that they can deal with the leak immediately???? He is either a hyprocrate (for not revealing the information) or a fool being played (someone fed him bogus information and he bit).. I voted that he is just a fool ...

If you live in FLA, your vote MAY count. But may I remind you that Sen. Nelson is a Republican and your vote may just become a (virtual) hanging chad...


Bill Nelson is a Democrat.

Yeah, I guess that's what the repeat seismic is all about -- looking for changes in formations near the well bore (e.g. bright spots, etc.)

I guess they'd see it on a single vintage. Effects would likely be big.

Can you incontrovertibly prove that you have stopped beating your dog? (Even though there is no evidence that your dog has ever been beaten.) What is the case for lost well integrity?

Here, talk to my dog ... oh wait, he can't type.

Everybody involved in decisions about this well are pretty risk averse right now. The whole country is looking over their shoulders, especially the politicians who are in between them and the rest of the country. Proof of no leaks would be good, but the best that's available is lack of evidence that there are leaks.

Now that the well has been closed the political situation has changed. Regardless of what Admiral Allen is saying the burden of proof is now on him to show that it's dangerous to keep it closed rather than resume producing and resume leaks into the Gulf.

My understanding of the production readiness situation is

- The choke and kill lines on the BOP are connected to underwater production buoys, one of which is ready to go and one of which is almost ready. The Q4000 and the Helix Producer will handle the petroleum from these lines.

- The choke and kill lines on the three-ram stack could be made available to feed other collection vessels. The vessels are available but there are no lines ready to feed them.

- There's a new, tighter-fitting cap and riser ready to be fitted to the main bore of the three-ram stack. The Discoverer Enterprise will receive petroleum from this. Admiral Allen wants this to be run with vents open so there's no chance of back pressure that will damage the well.

- When production starts back up at least three vessels have to be on line in order to capture all the oil and not spill any.

- If a hurricane comes through the Gulf the vessels will have to disconnect and either the well will resume dumping oil into the Gulf or it will be closed down again.

Please correct what's wrong in this.

The tie between top kill and now is a who knows. But the idea that there is cross-formational flow is probably right. Kent Wells has to say what he does because he's a BP spokesman. But it looks like the Feds are calling the shots right now and all indications are - given their actions - that they think there is a leak.

"Their actions" are to continue with complete shut-in. How do you conclude from that that "they think there is a leak"?

I think that it is more precise to believe that USGS, et al, are trying very hard to PROVE that a leak does NOT exist. The mid-range pressure readings make it very hard.

What is interesting to me is that the shut-in process was almost killed at the last minute due to concerns - it was delayed 24 hours - only to be resumed after agreement of proceeding very cautiously. The idea to due a 48 hour test and 6 hour seismic and other test, then stop the test - and take a hard look at all the data was what sold Chu and his folks on proceeding.

Now - If you read the headlines and listen to the general public -- there is a strong belief that the it is finally over - the well is dead. As much as they try to communicate that this is only a test - and there is no assurances and there may need to spill again then contain -- is totally lost. Therefore, I agree that it has become a very political issue and I agree that they are now erring on the side that there is not a leak -- versus the previous premise of "unless you can prove there is absolutely not a lead (8000psi?) - then we will assume a leak"

That's an interesting viewpoint. I would say that the mid-range pressure readings make it hard to believe that a leak does not exist. But I'm not working at this site and the information we get is sketchy. I do understand the nature of public relations statements that are made in times like these and can, rightly or wrongly, infer from what I know about the people involved and Admiral Allen's statements, where the disagreements are.

If after 48 hours of testing, they were confident in the integrity of the well, but wanted to do more tests, the language used would be quite different from both BP and Allen. I'm not trying to scare people and say that the oil is still seeping or about to seep at the sea floor. It may well be that any cross-formational flow, if it exists, is at depth in a formation well isolated from the surface. But given what we know and what is being said publicly, there is likely a leak. The question is where.

After testing, they say they'll go back to collection. All the extensive listed work for the next 24 hours is consistent with checking for cross-formational flow and seeping. I haven't heard one word from Admiral Allen saying the well has no leaks. The pressure readings of the past and present, the recovery rates, the size of the reservoir, the language used by Admiral Allen - who has to get along with all sides - the future actions all point to experts on site believing that there is a likely leak and cross-formational flow. Where that leak is, who knows. It may be at great depth. It may be shallow. But what is being done suggests that there is some common view that a leak is probably there.

After testing, they say they'll go back to collection.

As I said upthread

Thad Allen's latest words "When the test is eventually stopped (return to containment)". Note it doesn't say "When the test is stopped". Nothing can be assumed from that statement because "eventually" suggests possible further extensions of the test time (event dependent) allowing for changes to what happens next depending on what they see.

I point this out because some people have taken it as meaning they have decided definitely to end the complete closure at some point and produce the well. To me it has just left that as a default option if they don't have absolute confidence after further tests.

Given Animal Fat's propensity to mix up his words at random I don't think anybody should draw anything specific from what he says.

There is no evidence of lost well integrity. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

How much more clearly can ignorance about logical argument be stated? Incredible, just incredible.

Thanks for the coherent replies to my question about why ~6,500psi was evidence of a breach at the time of Top Kill, but is now apparently instead evidence of depletion.

"I'm trying to encourage the Matt Simmons crowd
to develop a reasonably coherent theory"

I'm not Matt Simmons, and I share your objective. Personally I think Simmons is either a kook or gaming this issue. And just because Simmons has donned a tinfoil hat on the issue of a "gigantic" leak remote from the site I'm not going to therefore avoid rational discussion of accentuation of natural seepage lines at some remove from the well bore.

the well wasn't depleted as much as it is now -fdoleza

The idea the well is depleted is an assumption to explain low pressure. Other than indirect evidence of claimed Horner plot adherence there is no proof of depletion - just conjecture.

"most of the mud PLUS the oil were coming out of the top
- in other words, it was senseless to keep pumping."

I thought Top Kill was abandoned not because of failure to deepen the mud column, but because of success at only ~6,500psi, which was a red flag.

"If the oil has seeped into a shallow zone,
what keeps it from coming out say 1 mile away,
rather than many miles away?"

Why: the depth of the seepage; impermeability of geological strata; stratum folding where the remote exit is on a laterally adjacent slope; and most of all what GeoNola said here: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6742#comment-679697

(Except the bit where GeoNola said "I shouldn't give these guys any ammunition." I am not 'these guys'; I decry Simmons and I am posing simple rational questions.)

Thanks for the responses, which seem to indicate it's possible -if unlikely. I'm not talking about considerable leakage at a remove - just enough to cause say ~half the missing pressure. I simply found the embrace of the "Oh it's depleted" explanation to be too convenient and lacking foundation.

Fdoleza ~

On July 15th you replied to my July 14, 2010 - 8:54pm questions, which were the following….

1# If there are combinations of fluids, they can still be supercritical if the phases exceed critical point, they just become a uniform K, Mpa(atm), weight, density.

#2 If one were to examine a single chemical, at a single point (space) in time (ms), that single chemical at that specific point-in-time (space/time) would also be supercritical, if it has exceeded it's critical point for some reason.

Fdoleza, here was your reply….

[-] fdoleza on July 15, 2010 - 7:25am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

I think Bruce answered very lucidly how this works. Let me add that, if nature allowed molecules to break up and reform the way you surmised, then we would have a real problem staying alive, because hydrocarbons and salty water is what we are...it's just re-jiggered by nature into goo so we can pump it easier.

What I didn’t suggest and what I think you misunderstood or misread is that molecules change without a cause. However, what I did say is that an elemental particle or compounds have a critical point (boiling point) and when their K,MPa(atm),weight,density EXCEEDS the critical point for the particular molecule(s), they synthesize and achieve a supercritical form (steady state/ambient molecules transform from solid to liquid or liquid to gas).

I can’t speak for you, but I don’t have any trouble staying alive because I don’t have the necessary K,MPa(atm),weight,density AND a catalyst applied to my organic makeup which would cause my molecules to become critical or supercritical.

My personal opinion is still that a weak-point exists in the well, the molecular contents of the well bore re-assorted and there was something that caused those molecules to re-assort. Once the re-assortment process began and continued to occur there was molecular re-assortment chain reaction occurring, with various temperature changes to the molecules and the casing(s)(different molecular combinations with different tolerances). I believe this reaction occurred very quickly along every square inch of the well bore, from the bottom of the casing(s) all the way up to the top, the reaction occurring maybe a millisecond per vertical inch. And similarly, now that the pressures are equalizing, there is an inverse effect, which has its own set of challenges. Maybe they are now operating the well like a dimming light switch. Instead of a dimming dial they are “fine tuning” the well with pumps and vents to keep an optimal pressure before they resume the bottom kill operations.

Like many folks here, I don't think all the pieces add up. We are not privy to all the nitty-gritty details, so it is hard to deduce and rule out any scenario without all the facts. I made some exotic guesses on the off chance some of them might be relevant.

Well, I'm going to see a movie with my daughter. Hope you have a good evening and thanks for sharing all of your expertise.

Sounds pretty funky to me. I wouldn't know any of this stuff you're talking about. Never saw it happen, never read about it, never heard anybody tell me about it. The pieces don't add up yet, that's right.

But it's not as exotic as you think. Part of the problem is my lack of data. The microphones I glued to Kent Wells' dog didn't work when he put the dog in the kennel because he's spending all the time at the office. So all I get is dogs barking.

Now that was a creative plan. I don't think the dog is in the kennel, perhaps your glue wasn't strong enough. :(

Gas and oil can coexist as separate gas and liquid phases or as gas dissolved in oil. I don't think the properties of the gas/oil solution change much at the critical point for the gas given the composition of the petroleum in this well, which is roughly 60% oil, 40% gas. The story might be different if it were 95% gas. The critical point is not the boiling point. It's the temperature and pressure above which boiling has no meaning; a supercritical fluid is neither a gas nor a liquid.

What you describe reads like the abrupt boiling of a superheated liquid. I don't think there's any effect like that at the critical point.

ZBoson -

First: Phase properties are collective properties. So there's no such thing as an "elemental particle" exceeding the critical point, which is different from the boiling point.

You have used a couple of terms that don't fit chemistry at all.

...they synthesize and achieve a supercritical form (steady state/ambient molecules transform from solid to liquid or liquid to gas).

"Synthesize" means that the molecules react with each other to form different molecules, usually different ones. It has nothing to do with phase behavior, except that the new compound will have different phase behavior. The rest of the sentence simply doesn't make sense. I recommend the Wikipedia article on supercritical fluids, which leaves something to be desired, but it would help you some.

My personal opinion is still that a weak-point exists in the well, the molecular contents of the well bore re-assorted and there was something that caused those molecules to re-assort.

"Re-assort" is not a chemical term. You seem to be talking about a chemical reaction. But chemical reactions need a reason to occur. That reason may be a change in pressure or temperature, or the introduction of another chemical that reacts with the first. Thermodynamics will tell you if the reaction will take place at those conditions.

I don't believe that a well, even a runaway well, has ever been observed to have a reaction like what you are describing. The most common reaction is combustion, but you need air for that to happen. That was what took the platform down.

However, fdoleza has described in other threads the physical changes (gases going back into solution, concomitant changes in heating) that are likely to occur as the well bore is pressurized.

As is the case for other wild theories, you will have to present some reasons why you believe that this well is totally unlike any other.

I suspect you are attributing a chemical reactivity to the components of the reservoir fluid that doesn't exist. I'm not worried about the terms you use, just trying to catch the concepts - so I can help address them.

Crude oil represents a 100 million year journey of biological material ( mainly plant and marine organisms - not many dead dinosaurs ) that has been heated, squashed, steam distilled, and possibly catalytically-modified by some reactive species in the co-mingled structures.

The reservoir may have been sealed off from oxygen and other reactive gases, but may have reacted with sulphur and nitrogen present in the original biomass. All very vague because there are a wide range of fossil oils, gases, solids etc. arising from different environmental histories. The chemical journey has been understood for many decades, and the detailed composition of the oil can be used to trace the history.

As a general rule, the reactive chemical species have continued to react until they reach thermodynamically-favored chemical structure - which usually happens to be simple, fairly-inert hydrocarbons, however there often remains some structural vestiges of the biochemical origin - eg pristane and phytane ( hydrocarbons ) derived from the original sterols. If there is a shortage of hydrogen, then aromatics and olefins can also be formed.

So, along comes BP, drills into this ancient warm, high pressure reservoir. Due to a tragic misadventure, the contents, possibly including a Balrog, escaped up the well. Whilst iron can be a chemical catalyst in some circumstances, it usually involves much higher temperatures for conversion, or highly reactive compounds - which would have disappeared. Also there may be chemical species ( eg sulphides ) present than can react with the iron and make it unavailable to passing hydrocarbons. Reaction rates typically double every 10C increase, but it's likely the crude oil/gas is cooling as it travels up the well.

As discussed previously, alkane hydrocarbons ( the predominant form of hydrocarbons that will be travelling up the well ) are relatively inert chemically ( except rapid oxidation via combustion processes - but no oxygen down the well ). Consider the complexity of oil refineries and the catalysts, pressures, and temperatures they use to modify the crude oil hydrocarbons into finished products, such as gasoline.

There is nothing in crude oils that would trigger the aggressive reactions that you suspect, otherwise many historical wells would have ruptured previously - and oil well structures would have changed to different materials. Pipelines and refinery structures would regularly fail. They don't. If you want to postulate some new reaction or cause, you have to identify a unique factor, eg prove that there was a Balrog present.

I think it's fair to assume that the chemical composition of the Macondo oil is typical for the reservoir, region and depth. The well structure may have failed for mechanical reasons, but there are no grounds for believing any form of chemical action on the well contributed to the tragedy.

I am downloading my Photobucket, but there is something you need to see. The metal boom system at Perdido Pass in Orange Beach Alabama is causing the pass to fill up. Notice the sand piling up to boom system. It took too long to make the system, and the original design was modified many times. Promised separation equipment never materialized and this white elephant needs to go.

TFHG - AMEN! 3 years ago I dug open the Little Lagoon Pass to allow water exchange. We would have it open & flowing, then return the next morning & start all over again. A tremendous amount of sand moves along that area & anything to slow down the current & allow the sand to drop out, filling up the pass(es)

I know you. Foley in the '80's?

you talkin' to me???

edit - deleted.

TFHG - if you are talking me, no I'm a Mobile boy (a little old for boy, but what the hey). Dug open Little Lagoon Pass on an emergency contract from ALDOT - this after fish kills in LL. When the road became a state road, ALDOT became responsible for the bridge AND the pass.

Ok thanks, I went to school with a similar named person. My bad, thought you were an old friend.

No prob, TFHG. I have enjoyed your postings since I joined up - I guess now I'm a new friend via TOD. Keep up with the photos.

Sign up at http://gcn01.com . You can post if you wish or just comment/lurk. I have a new post I just wrote about LOCAL issues. Check it out. Even if you do not, thanks and good luck.

I need a little bit of help here.

I am currently working on a master's program (in Homeland Security) and my curent class is in crisis management. One of the books discussed the concept that there are things called 'prenomes' that occur prior to a crisis that - at least in hindsight - could have been used to warn that an orginization is at risk for a crisis. An example used in the book was a Union Carbide pesticide plant having a 'near miss' of an accident that could have released tons of methyl isocynate (a deadly poison gas). The plant made immedeate mechanical and procuderal changes to ensure that this event could not happen again. However - this information failed to make its way up the Union Carbide management bureaucracy and be provided to an identical plant in Bhopl, India. The result of this simple failure to share information killed thousands of people.

One of the requirements of this course is that I turn in an APA-formatted research paper.

Now - this is where TOD comes in. Around a month or so ago somebody postes a list of 'near accidents' where the BOP prevented disaster. Additionally, I get the impression that drilling for oil is considered to be a dangerous osccupation by those who do the work.

I am considering writing my paper using the basis that the prenomes for this disaster were the BOP activations on other wells and the culture among drillers that they are in a dangerous line of work and that 'risk' is something to be accepted as part of the job.

My constrast with this will be the FAA's regulation of air safety. In air travel, near accidents' are managed with a similar amount seriousness as actual accidents.

My thesis will be that: 1) The BOP activations werre prenomes to an oil spill disaster due to the fact that it was inevitable that a BOP would eventually fail. 2) The oil drilling industry should change their corporate culture so that each employee on an oil righ should regard his job as 'safe' and that anything that creates risk is an abnormal situation requiring immedeate corrective action.

What I need from all of yuou is 1) comments (I have a thick skin so be honest)* 2) A link to the origional post discussing the BOP activations as well as how to get at the source documents. 3) Information that will either prove or disprove my thesis that an acceptance that wotking in the 'oil patch' carries risks allows people to tolerate and accept risks to a greater extent than professions (such as air travel) that regards themselves as 'safe.'

* I may regret saying this :-)

Cheney knew it was a (further) gamble but decided it was worth the risk because of Peak Oil and regulations were relaxed accordingly. There's my non-technical analysis :-)

Your thesis is a little dangerous - you would probably be better off if your thesis were: Are there indicators in the oil industry which serve as precursors to a major incident? The key will be for you to get the information, or key indicators.

For example, in the oil industry we keep a record for things such as injuries, lost time accidents, spills (including the volume spilled), work place deaths, what some call "near miss incidents", and of course major incidents. The statistics show they stack in a pyramid fashion, the more lost time accidents you have, the more likely you will eventually end up with a major incident. But the Deep Water Horizon rig had just received an award for safety - I believe they had the party just a day before the thing blew up.

The thesis that we consider danger acceptable may be true - but I haven't run into it. In general people tend to think their jobs are safe, and it gets drilled into them over and over. Besides, if you are caught doing something unsafe, you can be fired. So it isn't like in the Bruce Willis movie at all.

This incident in particular happened because there was an alignment of bad decisions and possibly bad equipment all at the same time. The key is to put in place a system which makes bad decisions and bad equipment impossible to align - this means the people making the decisions have to be trained, the equipment maintained, and so on.

By the way, I think you'll find many of us are very familiar with Bophal, it's a classic case. If you want something more recent, read the Baker commission report about the Texas City explosion. Or you can read the Shuttle explosion reports, or the one written by the 911 investigation commission, although that one was politically tainted.

Your example of the safety award for the Deepwater Horizon is why I want to focus on BOP activations as a prenome. My understanding is that a BOP is the 'last ditch' safety device that _has_ to work when needed because if it fails there is nothing else that can be done but try to save as many of your people as you can.

Apparently my perception that the people working on oil rigs accept that there is a certian level of risk that goes with the job (similar to the way soldiers accept the fact that there risks to the job that simply must be accepted) was incorrect. can you point me in the direction of information on safety attitudes among workers in the oil industry?

And I suspect that there may have been another issue involved inn the Deepwater Horizon accident than the ones you mentioned - simple overconfidence by the people doing the work and making the decisions.

Any Comments?

The way I see the BOP, after following things here, is that it is like the ejector seat for a pilot. When he uses it there is nothing left to do and if it fails, goodnight. Trouble is that if the BOP fails the results are a lot worse.

Two other disasters you may like to take a look at, from the UK, are Flixborough and the Buncfield Depot. The first a chemical works explosion the second an oil depot explosion.


From the comments I am seeing so far - I may have to start looking for a thesis all over again. The hardest part about a graduate level thesis is finding one that can be researched without having to quit your full time job.

Activated I am not in the oil drilling field but I am in an equally dangerous field, power generation. Neither of these is or ever will be "safe" . There will always be a danger in fluids, flammable or not at high pressures. There will always be hazards due to overhead lifting. There will always be a danger that that some one or some thing above you will drop or fall. There will be the danger or airborne particles, loud noise, hot, cold or sharp objects. So we are taught to wear hard hats, gloves, eye protection, ear protection, foot protection and maybe flame retardant clothing. These things are reminders that our jobs are NOT safe. They tell us that we must consider every move, every action before it occurs and consider what the consequences may be. This is how people work safely in dangerous situations.
In the case of the DWH, from what I have learned, the BOP consisted of not one unit that failed but 6 units, 2 annular, 3 pipe, and one shear that failed, possibly through an unforeseen circumstance.If I am informed correctly any of the 6 could have prevented this tragedy if used properly at the proper time. The shear was the last resort. Blaming it is like a pilot committing a series of errors and blaming a failed ejection seat for the accident.
The safety award that was presented the day of the incident is suspicious in it self. How could this be? Were accidents minimized or not reported? The safety award does not reward safety, it rewards a record that can be manipulated or contrived. Therefore there was pressure not to report, not to record the kind of minor incidents that show a pattern leading to more serious shortcomings. You may think this laughable but I worked for a company where we went 3 weeks without even a first aid required. They assumed we were "self medicating" and decreed that all first aid materials would be confiscated. So this phenominal "safety record" may have been one of the indicators you are looking for. After all in such a dangerous field do you really believe that in all those years no one got a few sutures, needed a day off to recover? I hope that the inquiry will question individuals who can dispel this veil of false security. Maybe they were led to believe that they were safer than was the case. Safety is a lot like paranoia, you should be looking over your shoulder all the time. Another part is a culture of safety is that you do not assume risk for others. To say "that's what we got those pinchers for" or "so what we'll get a good cement job and everything will be fine" is assuming risk for the entire crew. No one can have that authority.

The Baker Panel reported that BP inappropriately relied on personal safety statistics to measure process safety. The Baker panel appear to be saying that just because there are no incidents of personal injury (irrespective of worker's expectation) you can not conclude anything about process risk.

If no-one had died or been injured on Transocean's Deepwater Horizon we would all nevertheless regard this incident as a major disaster.

It looks like you too may be muddling personal safety and process safety.

Lemme guess, Activated: Embry Riddle?

I'll let others weigh in on your substantive questions, but here's my suggestion: some proofreading assistance will be worth the money.

All of my stuff gets proofread by at least a couple of people before I turn it in. Part of the writing standards for any paper in this degree program is an automatic deduction of 5% of the grade for _every_ spelling or grammar error. (The intent is that we are being trained to write at the level required for publication in professional journals.)

However for informal forums I use 'close enough' in terms of spelling.

BTW - This is a distance-learning program through American public University (rated as the best post-graduate emergency management and homeland security program in the country).

Activated -- An interesting study. I think I follow your request so I’ll volunteer a little background on drilling risk that might guide your work…you tell us. I’ll use shorthand to save space. 1) normal drilling ops: drill the oil/NG reservoir with proper well control (mud weight and cmt/csg integrity. 2) drill O/NG reservoir and some flows into mud column. Not a “dangerous” situation but can lead to one. Stop drilling and circulate mud to reduce O/NG from system. Drill ahead. This happens all the time. In fact often taken as a positive sign of something good down hole. Can happen a number of times on the same hole. 3) #2 happens but O/NG won’t circ out of the system and keeps cutting the mud. Not “dangerous” but needs a greater response: raise mud weight and try to circ O/NG out of the system. Again, not an uncommon event. MW often have to be adjusted on the fly in an exploratory well. 4) #3 happens but before MW can be raised and hole stabilized and major flow of O/NG reaches the surface. Well is shut in with all mud returns lines closed. A heavy mud pill is pumped down (top kill) to stop the O/NG flow. FYI: the drillers will typically have a “kill sheet” prepared for times like this. It describes specific steps to take in this circumstance. Not all that common but the fact that there’s been a kill sheet prepared indicates it‘s considered a reasonable possibility. 5) #4 happens but well isn’t shut in fast enough so the O/NG is diverted to an emergency flare line. The kill sheet as again used to regain control of the well. Not common to reach this stage but there is an emergency flare line so that tells you something. 6) #5 happens but the O/NG flow is too great to be handled by the flare line. At this point the BOP is functioned. A rare event. That’s very fortunate given the historical record of a 40% failure rate for BOP’s at this point. 7) The BOP either does or doesn’t the job or not.

The above describes the transitional nature from BAU to total failure. At some point one could define one phase as a near miss. But such a classification will be somewhat subjective. Not sure if this can help your thesis but this is the real world on a drilling rig. But as you probably know the BP blow out didn’t even follow this chain. It blew out at a stage where it would be very unexpected. In fact, such a disbelief may have contributed to the accident.

So if I understand what you wrote correctly - a historical look at BOP activations in emergency conditions throughout the drilling industry would not be a reasonable (even in hindsight) warning that a disaster on the Deepwater Horizon scale was likely to happen sometime, somewhere?

Do you think that there is any particular type of situation or event that indicates a greater risk of disaster during oil well drilling and offshore production operations? (And can I be able to lcoate 'source documents' or articles in the professional literature to use as evidence to either prove or disprove this thesis?)

BTW - if my theis that BOP activations are prenomes for a large scale disaster is incorrect - and I can prove that it is incorrect - I can still do the paper. A paper disproving a thesis gets the same grade as one that proves the thesis.

Activated - Not a warning that a disaster would happen on the DWH or any other rig in particular. But a 40% failure rate says that eventually the potential for the BP accident is certain. The combination of events on the BP well might only happen 1 in 100,000 times. But what happens when the circumstances occur several hundred thousands times? Early on I made a point how hands on the rig view BOP activation: it is not your last resort…it is your worst resort. We all know that if you have to bet your life on the BOP working properly you’ve made a bad gamble. The history is what it is.

There are riskier situations when drilling. But we’re trained to deal with those situations. This may sound simplistic but it’s not the circumstances that kill you but inappropriate or lack of actions. In fact, I didn’t make this point earlier but the progression of circumstances I outlined can progress by such lack of action. The BP accident could be the poster child for this phenomenon. In my 35 years I’ve never seen a well blow out at the phase the BP blow out occurred. Again, that fact may be the major contributing factor.

Your thesis: perhaps I didn’t catch it earlier. But if you’re strictly talking about “large scale disasters” as a result of a BOP failure on a drilling well then yes…that’s how it happens. Oil isn’t going to make it out of the well bore into the water without going through a malfunctioned BOP. The only other possibility, though I’ve never seen it, is for oil to blow out up the outside of the surface csg. So if I now understand your thesis…yes. But I get the feeling I’ve misunderstood something.

In my 35 years I’ve never seen a well blow out at the phase the BP blow out occurred.

What they were doing at that phase that was significant, too, though, right? Displacing the riser mud without a second barrier in place, just in case the cement was bad. Without compensating for the loss of mud-weight, that is.

Could someone displace a riser that way and with bad cement and not have the well start flowing?

Or did you mean it took a long time for it to kick?

syn -- taking the heavy column off the reservoir is exactly how you put a well on production. You have the reservoir cased (just as BP did) and then you perforate the casing to open the reservoir up (just as the cmt failure did). You begin to slowly displace your heavy completion fluid to initiate reservoir flow...you don't want to bring it on to fast...can damage the reservoir.

The BP well did exactly what it was suppose to do given the circumstances. The well did exactly what the laws of physics demand.

Thank you professor Rockman. Just wanted to make sure i did not miss anything. But seriously, you can see why the decision to displace the riser with seawater generated some "controversey" when it was announced that morning despite the phase they were in. What they were about to do presented a clear risk and they saw that at the time.

The mystery of why no monitoring of returns remains though.

Speaking of lost returns, i listened to the testimony of Mark Hafle, the BP senior drilling engineer, again while doing some paperwork.

He was asked point blank if he thought they had a good cement job. He said yes, all indicators were that it was. What indicatiors? 1) Full Returns, 2) cement lift pressure and 3) bumped plug. Who told him that? Junior drilling engineer, Brian Muriel told him over the phone.

I assume "full returns" refers to the negative pressure test? That would contradict BP's info that there were lost returns after the two tests, no?

What are the other two?

He also said they have a "Risk Management Document" for each well. Have they turned that over already?

That's just it syn...there will never be a satisfactory answer IMHO. If they had gotten 1o gold plated cmt tests indicating the had a good seal you would still monitor your returns closely when displacing. As discussed some time ago going with a questionable cmt tests could have been influenced by cost. But it costs exactly $0 to monitor mud returns. They could be offloading every bbl of mud they had on board and that wouldn't stop them from checking returns. For the newbies: you stop pumping down your drill pipe for a minute. If the well is static the mud stops coming out of the hole. If it doesn't stop then something in the well is pushing it out. And that would be oil/NG. BP could have had the worse csg design, cmt job and displacement procedure in the history of the oil patch and they still could have prevented the blow out by shutting the well in if they had detected the flow soon enough. All we can do now is wait for the official investigation to ID exactly who was responsible for checking flow and learn exactly why they weren't doing so. If we have the facts right it's impossible IMHO for the final analysis to not be infuriating.

I've seen reports of 'ballooning' and 'u-tubing', I can figure out what they mean, but how do you separate those from true flow into the well? After this current shut in the pressure has been rising and fdoleza has been explaining about how the pressure can rise on a shut in well, again how do you separate these out?


Yes, monitor returns. You have taught me that if you've tautht me anything.

But what about this. If BP had followed best practices, they would have had some sort of second barrier in place before displacing the riser mud. They would have set the top plug first or would have balanced the well mud. They might not have died had they done that. No?

Also, here's the e-mail from the junior drilling engineer that morning:

From: Morel, Brian P
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 10:43 AM
To: Morel, Brian P; Vidrine, Don J; Kaluza, Robert; Lambert, Lee; Lee, Earl P COper Svcs Dril)
Cc: Guide, John; Hafle, Mark E; Cocales, Brett W; Walz, Gregory S
Subject: Ops Note

Quick ops note for the next few days:

1. Test casing per APD to 250 I 2500 psi
2. RIH to 8367'
3. Displace to seawater from there to above the wellhead
4. With seawater in the kill close annular and do a negative test -2350 psi differential
5. Open annular and continue displacement
6. Set a 300' balanced cement plug wi 5 bbls in DP
7. POOH -100-200' above top of cement and drop neft ball I circulate DS volume
8. Spot corrosion inhibitor in the open hole
Page 1 of 1
9. POOH to just below the wellhead or above with the 3-1/2" stinger (if desired wash with the 3-1/2" I do not rotate I a
separate run will not be made to wash as the displacement will clean up the wellhead)
10. POOH and make LIT I LDS runs
11. Test casing to 1000 psi with seawater (non MMS test I BP DWOP) - surface plug
a. Confirm bbls to pressure up on original casing test vs bbls to test surface plug (should be less due to volume
differences and fluid compressibility -seawater vs sobm)
b. Plot on chart I send to Houston for confirmation

This e-mail was sent right at the time of the argument on the rig over displacing the riser mud. And it was sent to the BP company man who gave that order.

syn -- Yep...top plug could have saved them. But back to that list of IFS: if the cmt job was better, if they had gotten a good test, if the had re-cmtd after accpeting a bad test, if they had displaced with a heavy brine instead of salt water. But I'll never let go of the last big IF: if they had been paying attention to returns.

Have you noticed I'm fanatical about watching returns? If you think some folks on TOD might be tired of hearing it talk to my hands: they hear it all day. Was just on the daily conferenece call with one of my company man. Guess what the last thing I mentioned?

So in effect what you are saying that there is no real layman-level set of indicators that can be used by a non-specialist as a warning that some industry-wide practices raise the risk of a major accident to the point where it no longer becomes a matter of if - but instead when.

In effect I was hoping to use BOP activations as a 'warning sign' where MMS sould step in and require an industry-wide enginnering or procedural change. Apparently, there is nothing that can do this.

BTW - do you think that there were any indications on the Deepwater Horizon that should have alerted managers at either BP or Transocean that there was an increased risk of an accident on the rig? Or is this a case where senior management has to trust the training, expirernce and judgement of the people on the rig?

Activated -- I don’t think an layman analysis would work. But maybe I’m still missing something. Is there any complex system where a layman’s analysis could foretell problems? It seems by definition the answer has to be no.

As far as potential warnings: yes…there seems to have been an indication of a potential problem but it was ignored. At least that what’s the unconfirmed evidence seems to indicate IMHO. We spent quit a few weeks beating this subject to death. You might want to did thru the archives a bit.

Rockman, a lot of people were missing you. Badly!

I have a question about the nice map you drew up above. On the DWH, let's say they got to #4, but had no mud in the tanks because they had off-loaded it. Are they in worse shape in terms of being able to respond than they would have been if they had mud in the tanks on the rig?

Syn - Oh yes..the exciting life of an ops geologist. Spent all Friday night napping in the front seat of my car while we logged the well. Could have been worse…I wasn’ t operating this well so I didn’t have to spend the night in the logging truck sitting on an ice chest.

But yes…can take hours to build a sufficient mud volume. When you need a kill pill you typically need it right now right fast. OTOH had the BP hands seen the kick coming they still would have had to shut the well in. They could have survived with no mud on board had they been able to shut the well in. Besides needing hours to build a kill pill it would have taken several hours for it to just reach the bottom of the well. And then several more hours to replace the displaced mud. But shut in they would have had the time.

You call them "BP hands" but isn't monitoring the returns the job of the mud engineers? The mud engineers were MI - Swaco employees. Both are dead. And there apparently was offloading of mud from the rig to another vessel proceeding simultaneously with the operation. And there was a shift change somewhere along the line. So there were distractions and a changeover seemingly resulting in a loss of monitoring of the returns. So human error leads to the loss of the primary pressure control and incomplete activation of the BOP leads to loss of secondary pressure control. BOOM!

Who hires the mud engineers, BP or Transocean? There actually were very few BP direct employees on the rig as I recall, mostly Transocean & other contractors.

I second syn's sentiments! Your presence has been missed, Rockman. I am a noob and not in the oil patch but appreciate ALL the comments and the education I am gaining here. Thank you to everyone!


I'm not an oil industry professional, but I am an oceanographer and I've been working in the Gulf for a few years. I don't have anything resembling the technical knowledge of the longtime pros who post here (and educate the rest of us : ), but I have been able to find several very useful resources on the history and present-day practices of offshore drilling.

It might be good for you to look at some case histories of offshore blowouts. Nothing resembling this, of course (particularly since Ixtoc took place in Mexico's jurisdiction), but the MMS has an online library:
The whole page is a series of links to downloadable reports, but you can click on subheadings to flash to a particular category. Two categories you might find very interesting:
"Accident Investigation Reports"--official MMS inquiries into accidents. Peruse the offshore blowouts.
"History, Oil & Gas Industry"--the links are a little confusing, but the Volume I PDF is the general history of offshore oil work in the Gulf, in several fascinating chapters.

Together, reading those documents as well as working and talking to professionals down here, I would agree with your statement: the perception of a high degree of danger, needing quite a bit of derring-do, is very much the norm in this industry. (Also, it matters that only a very tiny minority of Americans will ever set foot on an oil platform--not the case with airplanes. That factors into the risk analysis.)

A good general reference, especially for the accident reports, because the MMS folks writing them, usually weren't skilled writers aiming at a general audience:
A superb dictionary of terms both technical and slang-y.

Happy writing!


Re-posted the same link twice. Here's the glossary:

Thanks. Hopefully the accident reports will provide me with the information I need.

People tolerate risk in the oil field because they have to in order to get paid. They would prefer less risk. Just like pilots prefer safer planes. The FAA ensures safer planes. MMS does little to ensure safer drilling.

MMS, the regulatory agency might even be worh considering as a prenome. It was dysfunctional and everyone knew it. No one fixed it.

Also, there was a similar under-water blow out from a failed BOP in the GOM in 1979 (Ixtoc). It took 10 months to cap. That might be a prenome, too. Everyone knew about it and the risk of another. Many also knew BOPs fail a lot. Even the regulatory agency that did nothing about it.

Try "Lessons From Longford" about the study of an explosion at an Esso facility in Australia, the corporate culture which allowed it to happen and the lessons which should have been learned... but haven't been.

The fat tail event happened to someone else and now it's out of the way for a while. It's a perversion of the nonexistent law of averages.

Yesterday, it was duct tape on the 'hazardous' materials. Today it is rope and plastic wire ties on my favorite rusty fence. Redneck engineering at its best.

Ok TFHG~I'm heading out to Land Shark at Jimmy B's new hotel, soooooooo can you tell me now what NCL stands for (and I don't have virgin ears, I grew up on a trading floor and have heard a shit load of words-ohrases that would offend others but not me......in fact I use them myself daily).


LCN - La Cosa Nostra or 'our thing' in Italian. Have you ever read the history of Waste Management?

Edit: Good reads.

Very interesting links. Let me think about it and I will email you. Very seriously, watch your back.


So, how long ago did they fire you?

Is that a sick joke?


My website crashed the other night after the dumpster video and I thought it was under attack. I killed my lights, went to FPCON Delta and called my big ISP. Found out it was a very rare hardware failure. No need to caution me. I have been paranoid for years. Thanks for the concern though.


The level of plant NOAM would have to be is not justified by the level of risk that exists here. Hell, the cover life and the training alone would be in the six to seven figures. BP or even WM are companies for profit. Why risk whacking me? Better to hire some hooker to set me up. Of course, I would never fall for such. Ok, maybe the Russian redheaded spy, but that is much more money.

My internet connection is on the blink so this is a retry to post something said earlier however, some of the later discussion brings it more into focus since I am proposing a reintroduction of 'top kill' as an interim measure.

Upstream fdoleza talked about the need for equalizing pressures as the RW breaks through to reduce the risk of cracking and crumpling.

After the flow was shut off I asked why drilling mud could not then be introduced at the new cap and allowed to flow down the well in order to reduce the pressure under the cap, and thereby immediately ie before the bottom kill, protect well integrity at the point where some weakness is suspected and leaks to the surrounding formation may - I say 'may' - be occurring - and to facilitate equalization of pressures, on both sides, as the RW breaks through.

Would this be a useful thing to now do? What are the drawbacks?

I think they should consider it. They could pump brine, very very slow using the kill line, bleed a bit at the top, and see if the brine falls in. But this introduces water in the system, which makes hydrates more of a concern.

What are the properties of brine that make it preferable to drilling mud? Is it the same density range as drilling mud?

I was thinking the higher density mud would lower the pressure at the well head once it starts going down (as would have happened with the top kill once they got past the flow reversal pressure).

Agreed that at first it should be introduced very gradually from a cracked open valve to not produce a pressure spike, but as the pressure drops the flow rate (valve area for flow and pump speed) can be increased.

Eventually, depending on the degree of mixing with oil/gas as it drops down the well, a new stabilised situation might be reached where, with a small amount of continuous flow in, the pressure under the wellhead could be maintained much closer to the sea bed pressure (and later adjusted for equalised pressure at RW breakthrough).

What potential is there for the shale to absorb rises in pressure due to compressibility? (at least along the upper part of the well shaft)

Some. But the well is cased with several casing strings. All of them concentric. So the steel should take most of the load.

Sorry for my directness. I'd be satisfied with a quick surmise of why not.

HUGE KUDOS to "Another Kevin" for his map of the Macondo site...(and I'm glad he showed up here on the `Drum):


Regarding the position of the DWH rig wreck, I inferred it's direction from the well head by the inclination of the BOP and headings from HUDs on the ROV feeds during inclination readings. I assumed that the lean of the BOP was primarily due to the forces generated by the sinking rig while the riser was still connected to it. I also assumed that since the riser was about a mile long that the wreck would be "close" to a mile away -- depending on when/if the riser separated.

I have no idea how Kevin "located" it on his map, but I consider it "independent confirmation".

BTW, that was NORTHEAST of the well site.

And we should remember that that wreck site likely holds the remains of heroes who went down with the ship trying to save the Gulf Of Mexico.

Hi. Spent all day searching for definitive info on the wreck location. All press reports, Bloomberg etc, quoting Unified Command, said it's 1500 ft NorthWest of the well.

Come on Levi. They didn't die trying to save the Gulf of Mexico. They didn't even have time to try to save themselves. I don't think anyone dies "instantly" except maybe in a nuclear blast but hopefully it was quick.
Their "remains"? Come on, 36 hours in a fire that made a crematorium look like a campfire? There are no "remains" except memories. Get a grip.

That's the biggest rock i've seen down there. is it leaking?

Interesting. Thank you.

I also assumed that since the riser was about a mile long that the wreck would be "close" to a mile away

I wouldn't make that assumption. I doubt the riser could act like a rigid girder capable of pushing thousands of tons of wreckage a mile laterally (or having the tensile strength to restrain that tonnage from travelling further).

Citing NOAA, Wikipedia says "The remains of the rig were located resting on the seafloor approximately 5,000 ft (1,500 m) deep at that location, and about 1,300 ft (400 m) (quarter of a mile) northwest of the well"

depending on when/if the riser separated.

It separated, remember the riser insertion tool (RIT)?

The smoke break tent for the workers. Notice the fire extinguisher. Yet the bridge has a rope and plastic wire tied fence. Tsk, tsk.

Edit: Enlarged to enable reading of sign. Taken from bridge,

[Special to Swift Loris/other TOD lit-geeks] DON'T THE REST OF Y'ALL LOOK.

Woohoo, here -- one for us sentence engineers! Shhhh.

P.S. In the fifth paragraph, WTF?

What, a, bunch, of, horse, hockey,.

Hey, I warned you.

Lotus - yes you did, but I had to check it out. How New Age touchy-feely!

Old Age higher standards, rather.


Let's play analogies. How about, "Matt Simmons is to rational oil'n'gas discourse as Time Magazine is to well-crafted prose"?

1. That's not an analogy.

2. If you question Pico Iyer's competency as a prose craftsman, you will find yourself very much at odds with most denizens of the modern English literary world. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion.

If you question Pico Iyer's competency as a prose craftsman, you will find yourself very much at odds with most denizens of the modern English literary world. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion.

Thank goodness!

Thank goodness you're at odds with them there literary snobs? Wouldn't be caught dead at one of their prissy cocktail parties? Or...?

Thanks lotus.

As one, who, whether they are, or aren't, needed, both over, and under, uses them, he knows not why, except, perhaps, that, through dint of frequent effort, he might get it right, at least once, or twice, in 1,000,000 times, I appreciate, very much, this, poetic prose . but know not what to make of this, a new addition . to his repertoire.

lotus, I can't begin to convey how fervently I wish I had never read that.

I think the WTF in the fifth paragraph was the copyeditor having a stroke.

God, save the editor!

I think the WTF in the fifth paragraph was the copyeditor having a stroke.

Heh, SL, I wouldn't doubt it. Because I couldn't stick around last night, by way of amends: Gene Weingarten column mentions Lady Gaga.

There now. Friends?

Speaker To Animals on July 17, 2010 - 6:31pm

$100 a gallon? Whom ever you heard this from is clearly a very poor source of information. I have some practical knowledge of the pricing of dispersants in commercial applications from work in paper recycling I did about 10 years ago. Even the more exotic materials containing silicone oils rarely are above $1 a pound. The ingredients in Corexit suggest pricing circa 50 cents or less per pound.

Your source is off by a factor of 25.

Corexit may be worth 50 cents a pound by they are charging way more than that for it. The following article suggests $40-$60 per gallon. http://www.smartplanet.com/business/blog/smart-takes/bp-oil-spill-puts-n...

What I had heard was that Nalco is getting $99 per gallon for the stuff. I know it sounds outrageous, but I suspect it is true.

The article you referenced said this:

Corexit was priced at roughly $17/gal in 2002, which might equate to $40-$60/gal now depending on the correlation with oil prices; and the spill is currently characterized at generating 200,000 gal/day.

In other words they are completely guessing with no actual information or even rational context.

Personally I don't believe that Corexit 7500 sold for $17/gal in 2002 unless it was list pricing for small (drum or so) quantities. Perhaps some other Corexit types that are based on 2-butoxyethanol, but 9500 is a cheap kerosene based material. And given the price indexes in the chemical industry there is NO WAY it would be $40-$60 today. Even oil prices aren't up more than a factor of 2 in that period. Economic data show an average 2% or so inflator for chemical prices in the past decade. Over 8 years that isn't a tripling in prices like the article speculated, it's a 15% increase in prices.

BP given they are a long term customer of Nalco's (and Nalco wants to be nice to their best customers) are buying million gallon quantities are not paying more than $10/gallon and more likely half that.

Anyone telling you $100/gal is BS'ing you.

TOD people blasted Matt Simmons for his 50,000psi bottom hole pressure on the Macondo well. Rightly so. It would have been impossible to make a drill pipe connection.

Lets see some insightful analysis on BP/government’s expected 8000-9000psi absolute pressure at bottom of closed blind ram upon shutting in the Macondo well. The knowledgeable folks on TOD have been silent on this subject. There is a large difference between the 6720psi result and what was expected. The high value was good before, but now the low value is good.

What principles and numbers were used to calculate this static BOP shut-in pressure (9000-8000psi) for the Macondo well?

"Progress also continues on the two relief wells the federal government has required BP to drill."

Comment seems a bit disingenuous.... Does he really mean that BP didn't want to drill the relief wells, but, thanks to our President and his A#@ kicking threats, BP knuckled under and reluctantly drilled the two relief wells? Is this a prelude to: "They didn't want plug the hole, but I made them do it."?

BP reportedly only intended to drill one RW - the gov't required they drill a second one as well. The noise around the second well, including discussion of it on a Sunday talk show iirc, was one of the signs the gov't was taking a more active and more visible role.

LSU - "They didn't want to plug the hole, but I made them do it."

I think you're right about that - one of Rahm-bo's brilliant ideas.

He came down here & tied up traffic & gave sound bites, but liile else.

I was just going to ask someone to take a look at the Q4000 Rov 2 video but when I checked to make sure the seabed shot was the same, the preview window shot was still of the seabed but when clicked it took you to a photo of the orange sonar. I was surprised at the current in the seabed video, with lots of stuff, including what looked like oil and methane cathrate pieces shooting around. Anyone seen anything similar to that today? It sure wasn't the Rov's thrusters.

I saw "snow", white blobs coming floating down.
(I saw similar thing when the well was gushing.)
So there must be a leak somewhere. Where is the leak?

BTW, a couple weeks ago I asked if anyone had checked
on well MC252-A, which I think is about 600 feet from
MC252-B (the current wild well, which has been capped).

Well MC252-A was shut in last fall. But is it in
good condition?

There was no response at that time. So, I ask again.

It shows up in the map (URL was posted just a little
while ago, above). http://www.flickr.com/photos/ke9tv/4741841599/sizes/o/

Those white blobs are fish semen

I have seen worse than that, because besides something like oil and gas, there was plenty of tiny craters opening and closing in the sand. I have been repeating for three days that at least five TOD contributors have seen similar things.

Something really strange is going on. Now the video won't load, but all the others do. Did I see something they would prefer no one saw??? Sorry for the melodrama, but what I saw didn't look good. Lots of oil and lots of methane.

Gents, we think you saw a botched website update, particularly if you were observing a "plan9" multiview.

Other outlets for the feeds were recorded with nothing unusual on them.

Anybody know what this piece of gear is and its function? From the Enterprise ROV feed about 8:40pm CDT. First time I've seen this.

Looks like a collection cap of some sort - any other guesses, anyone??

I believe it is Top Hat # 7 ... the cap that will go on the well when the integrity testing is done.

That is very probably Top Hat 7. I saw an earlier view of it that had a number with "TH 7" as part of it.

Whatever it is , it don't look like it collects much oil.
Too bad they were not honest with us.
We still dont know as much as we are should.
I lived through Katrina and I'm still here in New Orleans.
Thought I would never leave.
Many people in N.O. feel screwed and powerless.
Absolutely no idea how this is going to play out.
This has been a nightmare.

Category 5 Corexit Injector

Plume Splitter

Plan P,Q or R , I lost count

Looks like the next cap and I DON'T LIKE IT


Yup. Looks like a detail view of this baby.

Here is a thought...since the new cap is doing it's job, why not just re-do the Top-Kill operation like before? The mud would have no place to go except down the hole like it was supposed to the first time. The injection would be through the origional BOP & once the hole was full & the pressure was at zero, inject plenty of cement to plug the top so the well would be sealed & they could remove the BOP for inspection so they could determine if it's failure was a design flaw, mechanical failure or operator failure. I would think this would be iMportant info for further deep ocean wells.


After a long time lurking, my first post is is to render a second to jkrobs most excellent question.
If they got the flow stopped, pump it full of mud followed by concrete.

Jeff -- Wondering the same thing my self. But it will take pressure higher than the current shut in pressure to force the oil/NG back down the hole into the reservoir. That's the only way to fill the csg with a sufficient mud column. Could be that lingering concern over damaging the cap/csg.

"...But it will take pressure higher than the current shut in pressure to force the oil/NG back down the hole into the reservoir. That's the only way to fill the csg with a sufficient mud column."

OK...so...? When they go with the RW & start injecting mud at some point mid-way down, *that* will increase the pressure along the casing as well as *increase* the pressure at the top even more because won't the oil between the injection point & the top get squeezed upward by the mud beneath it? That seems even more risky unless they vent the top oil out as they are injecting mud from below but the resulting pressures at the top would wind up being the same from the mud once the oil is displaced...correct?

IMO, they really need to stop treating the casing with 'kid gloves'. They can see it is holding now, they will be dealing with higher pressures whichever mud techique they use & breaking the casing with mud is a non-issue. If the casing would break, mud would flow out to the surrounding strata, it might frak a bit then the mud would seal it. Isn't that part of the danger of using too much mud pressure toward the bottom of a well - it would "seal" the strata not allowing oil to flow into the hole to go to the surface?

A few questions, though -

1: how much drill string is there still left below the BOP? That was what prevented the rams from working properly in the first place, right?
2: Is it proper technique/precedure to flush the mud from the riser with the drill string still through the BOP? I would think they would want the string above the BOP & the BOP closed before removing the mud from the riser (loss of top pressure & all).

GREAT discussion & thanks in advance,

Looks like k3d59's thread beat me to the ticker (with more info) by 3 minutes, regarding chemist Bob Naman's water samples, (which answered the question I had about methodology, headspace gas chromatography)...

This was in regards to water and soil samples in the NE Gulf area. I'm quite a bit south of there, but since I just jumped in the same body of water, I'd like to keep updated on what it is I'm swimmin' in.

the thread I started a few minutes later

(Speculation alert)Read my post from today. Somethings is up. I keep getting the run around from the state and city. I know the Mayor had a meeting with top officials and Lisa Jackson then came out of the meeting looking concerned. Now all of the sudden the locals are interpreting scientific data. These guys are developers and real estate. The one true scientist/medical pro MD/MBA on the council has been noticeably silent.(End Speculation) The red flags are up and no word why.

TFHG, where does your drinking water come from?

BTW, I heard a Fox News reporter from Gulf Shores today. Described the beaches and the hard work it takes to keep them pretty good. He didn't mention the red flags.

Water comes from inland well 8 miles from shore. Deemed likely safe even in the worst inundation and constantly tested. It is a lower order concern now.

Also bringing this thread up from the buried depths, 'cuz it spoke to me in a totally not-anything to do with anything you might care about kind of way. I still read it and nodded my head in agreement all the way through. Well put, David.

David E. Brown's post on what I would call "frames of reference".

I've listened to the briefings and read everything I can on here. Can someone help me understand why they'd want to go back to the collection process again if the well integrity tests are giving positive results? I haven't seen anything yet that explains why they wouldn't allow it to stay shut-in.

The cynical side of me wants to say it's because the collected oil could be worth as much as $5 million per day. But, I must wonder if even BP would attempt any alternative that involved more risk given all the scrutiny at this point.

On the other hand, wouldn't flowing the well give definite proof of the rates at which oil has been escaping -- thus exposing BP to more fines and leading to more accusations of earlier lies about the flow rate. early?

No flowing the well would not give proof of the rate at which oil had been escaping. BP would not throw open the valves to let the well flow all out - letting a well flow unrestricted is not good for maximum reservoir production. BP would only open the valves enough for production at rates to keep the lines clear. So the production rate should be substantially less that what was coming coming out of the WW. Now, if they start producing say 20,000 BPD, you can be certain that the WW was flowing at least that much. Of course, the engineers should be able to take all of the factors, including the daily production rate (whenever that starts), and make some reasonably accurate estimates of how much oil escaped. The bottom line is that whether it was 20, 30, 40, or 50 thousand barrels per day escaping into the GOM, it is a catastrophe. If BP's best estimate was that 20,000 BPD were escaping and it turns out that 40,000 BPD were escaping, so what? A best estimate is just that - a best estimate. The fact that an estimate is incorrect does not make that estimate "a lie".

Okay Rockman, TFHG, et al - did I get anything right?

I'm guessing they're not too concerned about overall maximum reservoir anymore for this well.

An incorrect estimate is one thing. Claiming, for weeks, that it was 5,000 BPD (after claiming only 1,000) I'd say is a lie. At best, it's intentionally underestimating it. Let's not forget they also said that how much was flowing wasn't important. They haven't mentioned that now that they're gearing up to collect whatever might flow.

for weeks, that it was 5,000 BPD (after claiming only 1,000) I'd say is a lie. At best, it's intentionally underestimating it. Let's not forget they also said that how much was flowing wasn't important.

Except all the estimate came from the Coast Guard/Flow technical group per Adm Allen.. So what is your beef again?

Where's the beef? Here it is:

BP says oil leak in gulf could be 5,000 b/d

Apr 29, 2010

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Apr. 29 -- A BP PLC executive told NBC’s "Today" show on Apr. 29 that the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico could be five times larger than earlier believed. ...

U.S. doubles upper estimate for BP oil leak

By Chris Baltimore

HOUSTON | Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:16pm EDT

Estimates have steadily climbed from the 5,000 bpd level initially cited by U.S. and BP officials, though BP had said that such estimates were unreliable.

By the way, the Coast Guards original statement from Rear Adm. Mary Landry was that there was no leak. Did you think no one was asking BP how much they thought was leaking or what they thought about the NOAA & CG estimates?


BP denies covering up extent of oil spill


LONDON, May 21 (Reuters)

... BP has been estimating that the leak was flowing at a rate of 5,000 barrels a day, but some scientists and the U.S. government have questioned that figure.

"It was only ever meant to be a rough estimate," a spokesman for the British company said on Friday after U.S. lawmakers accused it of concealing the extent of the spill and as TV images showed oil sloshing into Louisiana's marshes.


BP Oil Spill Day 25: How Much Is Really Leaking?

May 14, 2010

Following the rig explosion on April 20 BP said about 1,000 barrels of oil a day were leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, an estimate the Coast Guard later raised to 5,000 barrels a day. Now, on day 25, there's speculation that the gusher could be as much as five times as big. ...

... Oceanographer Ian MacDonald, from Florida State University, told the New York Times that he his analysis showed that the daily spillage could "easily be four or five times" the government's estimate -- or 25,000 barrels.

BP's chief operating officer Doug Suttles, pushed back against that claim on "GMA" today, saying it is "almost impossible to get a precise number."

"Ourselves and people from NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) and others believe that something around 5,000 [barrels]…is the best estimate.

So BP originally said it was 1,000 then they went with the Coast Guard / NOAA estimate that upped it to 5,000. I'd say they knew it was much higher from the start when they had the audacity to call it 1,000. That's just a bit bigger lie than agreeing with the 5,000.

Where's the beef? Here it is:

Need to read beyond the headlines and first sentence. From the story at your first link (Oil and Gas Journal):

Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP Exploration & Production Inc., confirmed what US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry first said at a hastily called news conference in a Louisiana command center late Apr. 28 in which she announced a third leak.

Landry estimated 5,000 b/d rather than the 1,000 b/d could be spilling into the gulf. For days, officials have estimated 1,000 b/d was leaking from the Macondo well Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilled on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in 4,992 ft of water near Rigel gas field. Deepwater Horizon was working for BP....

On Apr. 29, Suttles said the leak could be as high as the USCG's latest estimate. Previously, he had told reporters that it’s difficult and imprecise to measure spilled oil.

From the story at your second link (Reuters):

The new estimates were made by the so-called Flow Rate Technical Group and announced by U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt. BP had no input into the team's findings.

The well's average daily rate was 25,000-30,000 barrels, according to the group's findings.

The new figures are considerably higher than the prior "best estimate" of 12,000-19,000 bpd issued by the flow rate group on May 27.

The story at the earlier Reuters link in your following comment was just poorly worded. It should have said something like, "BP has been concurring with U.S. government estimates that the leak was flowing at a rate of 5,000 barrels a day, but some scientists and now even the government itself have questioned that figure."

Sorry to be a PITA on this point, but the "BP lied about the flow" meme keeps being cited as proof positive that nothing BP says can be trusted and then used as justification for nutty conspiracy theories.

By the way, the Coast Guards original statement from Rear Adm. Mary Landry was that there was no leak.

And there may not have been at that point.

Did you think no one was asking BP how much they thought was leaking or what they thought about the NOAA & CG estimates?

You could certainly suggest that BP suspected the government estimates were wrong (BP's own high estimate given to Congress at the May 4 hearing was 60,000 bpd) and was being disingenuous in going along with them, but that's a lot iffier than "BP lied about the flow."

bp has wisely (legal advice?) never estimated or stated what the flow rates are. Urban myth.

25 April: US coast guard remote underwater cameras report the well is leaking 1,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd). It approves a plan for remote underwater vehicles to activate a blowout preventer and stop the leak.

28 April: The coast guard says the flow of oil is 5,000bpd, five times greater than first estimated, after a third leak is discovered.


What do you think prompted the Coast Guard to say that there was NO LEAK after they inspected the well head and riser with ROVs & sonar?:


Octs: Regarding the potential $5 million per day from a return to collecting the oil, the cynical side of you will be relieved to know that BP has pledged all the revenue from collected oil to charity.

OK. Thanks. Hadn't heard that before, but that's good to know.

I've listened to the briefings and read everything I can on here. Can someone help me understand why they'd want to go back to the collection process again if the well integrity tests are giving positive results? I haven't seen anything yet that explains why they wouldn't allow it to stay shut-in.

A couple of thoughts:

1. If there is ANY doubt as to if they have a leak, they maybe allowing some flow through would back off the pressure enough to make the engineers feel more comfortable.

2. We might be say 100 PSI from a joint or pipe failing. Reducing the pressure even a small amount could GREATLY reduce the risk of anything going 'ping' in the depths.

3. Perhaps reducing the pressure would help with the Relief Well work.

4. Having everything connected up to allow oil to come to the surface is insurance should the RW work go horribly wrong.

5. RW is going to pump mud in bottom, oil must come out at the top.

5. RW is going to pump mud in bottom, oil must come out at the top.

... blush ... err ... shuffles feet ... stop bothering us with hard facts!

Wouldn't that only make it necessary to open the well up when they planned to pump mud down the relief wells? That's not going to be for a while, isn't it?

OK. I can understand letting some oil flow to reduce the stress on the well. Though it's a little disturbing to hear them talk about preparing to collect up to 80,000 BPD. That makes it sound like they're planning to let it rip.

Whatever the logic, I hope Adm. Allen & BP clearly explain the reasoning for letting it flow again -- especially since they said it will first involve letting it flow into the Gulf again for a short while. It's one thing for us tech types to be able to infer that what they're doing might make sense. It's quite another thing for the general public to be comfortable hearing that BP is opening the well again.

I'm sorry, I am a total TOD newbie and was hoping to lurk on this forum for a long time, but I'm finding it very difficult to parse the useful information out of this thread concerning the integrity test.

It seems that since these integrity test TOD reports have begun, all the very smart people here have shied away from the one crucial discussion point, namely:
WTF does this pressure reading mean?!

Let's review some key, basic points:
1. The gooberment and BP said "above 8000: good. Below 6000: bad." Why did they leave 2000 PSI available for media and public confusion? Now they have been forced to do major levels of media spin to make this whole thing work. Why didn't they say "above 6000 good, below 6000, bad"????

2. Media spin seems pretty dominant in Allen's public statements. "The well is at 6700 PSI" hours later "the well is at 6700 PSI and *rising*"…. what does THAT mean?? Those two number are the same. You're left to wonder-- was it static in the beginning and then finally started rising just as Allen released that statement? Over 24 hours later: "The well is at 6745 PSI and rising"… wtf? You mean in 24 hours it only went up 45 PSI? What is it rising 2 PSI an hour or something?

3. The Simmons "theory": the real leak is far away. A number of you have offered pretty good information backing up the idea that this scenario is either impossible or very unlikely. However, if the pressure is only moderately low, not critically low, BUT barely rising, does that not imply that MAYBE the increase in well pressure from closing it in is in fact pushing the oil out somewhere else-- but that it's perhaps really far away? They are now continuing pressure tests-- perhaps maybe because they're waiting for the slight DROPS in pressure to start occurring once the oil and gas finally reaches the "real" leak site.

4. Does it not seem that the amount of oil that has drained compared to the amount that is "supposed" to be in there is somewhat minuscule and therefore not enough to prompt a lower "minimum pressure needed for all to be well and dandy" PSI number, due to depletion? And if there really has been depletion and THAT explains the low pressure, then it brings me back to point 1, which is why didn't USG and BP give themselves a break and target a lower PSI? If you estimate 60,000 barrels a day for 90 days, compared to the amount that's supposed to be in the well, seems you could get a more accurate pressure prediction for the close-in attempt.

5. And this has been brought up-- why are they planning on re-opening?? Okay i know no one has officially said they ARE going to re-open, yay media-spin once again, but it seems that that's the popular idea amongst those in charge. It seems re-opening only has 2 advantages: a) make money off oil (durrrrr priorities right now maybe?!) or b) there's a leak somewhere else, it's spewing a lot, fast, and we better start racing that f'ing leak w/ more serious collection efforts.

Dunno. I would love to see real information that would give me enough confidence to say "we've plugged the leak" but it just doesn't add up. The above observations are based on pure logic and attempts at educating myself ONLY, i am by no means an expert in this field.

If the oil were pushing out somewhere, why would the pressure rise? It would fall dramatically as soon as it broke through.

Why would it rise 2 psi per hour? It's been discussed on here, but it's to be expected if there is no leak.

Are they waiting for it to bust through? No, I don't think they're "waiting for it", like they know it will happen. If they did they'd cancel the test now.

There could be local depletion, ie depleted in one area of the sand which is not the entire deposit. That would cause pressure to be lower there and to slowly build if there is communication between that and another layer of sand.

Why didn't they bring that into their estimate? Because they weren't all knowing at the time they made the estimate.

Actually, they are trying to resolve a possibility they have a slow leak that is being masked by the pressure rise.

If the pressure rises and holds for extended period, it is unlikely they have a leak. If the pressure rises, plateaus and begins to fall, they do have a leak, albeit probably a small one.

I'm not an authority. My take on what is happening is that the people who have access to the real data (government and BP, both) can't come up with an explanation that fits the data to their satisfaction. Some of them (mainly government) think the test needs to be extended until they have solid evidence for some explanation. Others (mainly BP) seem to say that the data doesn't disprove their favored explanation (note double negative doesn't disprove). All seem to agree that candor with public (you and me) is not useful in reaching a conclusion. Actually, I, a member of the public, tend to agree that telling us, straight out, how confusing the data is, is not a good idea. I think I can handle it. I won't freak out, and start a riot at my local medical pot dispensary. But I don't know about YOU.

Concerning Matt Simmons, the experts seem to be unable to understand what he is actually saying, or, at least, unable to accept that he actually said it, because what they think they hear just makes no sense to them. And the people with access to real data can not figure out what data Simmons is using. Certainly not a true copy of their data (how did he gain access to it? among other questions).

If anyone gives you a more satisfactory answer now, I think it is wishful thinking. But maybe by the time you actually read this there will be new developments. HTH

Concerning Matt Simmons, the experts seem to be unable to understand what he is actually saying, or, at least, unable to accept that he actually said it, because what they think they hear just makes no sense to them

Heh heh, I will say the same thing about Matt Simmons as I said about Senator Ben Nelson. It is unconscionable to be a citizen or a government representative if they have proof that there is leak miles away from the site and the unified command and BP does not tackle the leak. It will certainly prolong the suffering of the people of the gulf states and damage the environment even more. If they don't have proof, all they are doing is just trying to stir up fear among the people so that they can benefit from it. So they are either a hyprocrate or a crook.. Take your pick..

The term is hypocrite. Implies someone claims to do A and does not-A.

I'd still like to see a drilling report that says DWH re-entered a hole started by Marianas, the lat long or UTM coords of the Marianas wellhead and TD.

1) 6k - 8k is the 'maybe' range where they have to wait and see while monitoring. This is not a binary good/bad but fuzzy logic.
2) 4) fdoleza has posted some good information on how they are doing it with plots of pressure and what that means.
3) Please, you do not wish to hear me scream at the repeat of that.
5) No plans withstand contact with the enemy.


In a nutshell, if the reported cap pressure is 6742 psiG, the bottom-hole pressure is (plausibly) 11868 psia which is just shy of the P_init of around 11900 psia. If it is 6472 psiA, the bhp is around 9588 psia, 2300 psi below P_init.

With so many wild numbers floating around, I don't know what to assume, but ...

#assumptions based on common info I can find
T = 240. #degrees F
rho_oil_api = 38.0 #degrees API
gamma_g = .78 #gas gravity, MW_gas/MW_air
p_bubble = 5500.00 #bubble point pressure of oil, psi
convert_scf_lbmole = 379. #approx conversion for scf to lbmole at 14.7 psi and 60F reference
depth_of_hole = 18360. #feet below sea level
depth_to_seabed = 5067. #feet below sea level
reported_initial_pressure = 11900. #psia
current_cap_pressure = 6742. #psiG? or psia? - A REALLY CRITICAL DETAIL!!

# calculated results,using some standard correlations for
# fluid properties based on the above assumptions
pressure at the seabed = 2280 psia (.45 psi/ft average salt water gradient)
gas-oil ratio at bubble point = 2364 scf/stb
Formation volume factor at bubble point = 2.475 bbl/stb
oil compressibility at bubble point = 2.6e-005 /psi
oil compressibility at 11900 psi = 1.18e-005 /psi
Bo at 11900 is no less than 2.10 bbl/stb
density of oil in well is 173 lbm/bbl
pressure gradient in well is about 0.214 psi/ft

Approx bottom hole pressure = 11868 psia if CAP pressure given in psiG

Approx bottom hole pressure = 9588 psia if CAP pressure given in psiA

I have been asking psia/psig question for quite some time now.

The answers I received from the oil folks seem to imply psia, though it was not clear they understood that there is 2250 psi difference at stake here.

I tried to see what kind of deep water gauges are being made and the electronic ones seem to be psia, while the analog ones (the ones BP builds into their underwater consoles) are almost certainly psig.

When the government writes reports on BOP pressures, they use psia convention.

The other difference from standard calculations that was pointed out that this column of oil/gas is very gassy, with a significantly lower overall density then normal oil, leading to a much lower fluid column weight, but you seem to be taking that into account.

The calcs included both gas and oil and assumed a single phase, since whether cap pressure is psig or psia, the 6472 psi is above my assumed bubble point of 5500 psi, which was estimated to give something close to GOR of 2300 scf/stb (a number thrown around on TOD).

The correlations give good ball park fluid properties if the inputs are close, but I don't know how reliable are any of my input numbers ...

When I did the simpler version of the calculation two days ago I came up with 8500 psi (after adding 2250 for "G") and was happy when BP/Government said 8-9 ksi - I thought my numbers checked out.

When 8500 psi started being used as an absolute pressure number, I became confused and dismayed.

I hope the "A/G" confusion is only on our part, not the folks running this operation. This is not a repeat of the Mars mission that went really bad because NASA works in metric and Lockheed was an English system shop, right?

The only plausible answer I got was that this oil/gas mixture is really light and is roughly 45% less dense than typical oil-only properties.

it is true that the oil takes up about 2.5 times its volume at stock tank conditions, but most of this swelling is due to dissolution of stuff that is gas at stock tank conditions. You also need to add the weight of the gas into the density calcs. The combined density is around 4.14 pounds per gallon, or liquid sg of about .5 gm/cc.

Well, then the numbers they are getting are really too low.

If they are due to a leak down below, they should be able to hear it, we have been told. I think the words coming from BP imply that they don't hear anything that indicates a leak.

Is it possible that his oil/gas is heavier than they expect? Again, we have been told that BP has likely analyzed the oil/gas mixture extensively and really know its properties by now.

Is it possible that in the process of shutting-in the well they "degassed" the mixture (it was running at 4400 at the upper wellhead/BOP inlet before), leaving a larger than calculated oil fraction in the column and, therefore, higher pressure gradient?


Perhaps I can help to clarify this question. Pressure gauges, both mechanical and electrical are of 3 types for 'normal atmospheric' use:

1) 'Gauge' Pressure .. it reads '0' at ambient pressure. It is designed so that one side of the sensing diaphram is connected to the pressure port. The back side is open to the atmosphere via a small port so the hour to hour barometric pressure changes are negated. Thus, the 14.7 PSI nominal atmosphere is never seen..
Used to measure the pressure in your auto tires, etc.

2) 'Differential' Pressure is a device with dual ports to measure the difference between two pressure levels. It can be used to measure small delta pressures in a very high pressure environment - as for flow pressure drops across a restriction.

3) 'Absolute' Pressure devices have the back of their sensing diaphrams sealed and are electrically or mechanically adjusted to read '14.7' PSI at standard atmospheric pressure. It can measure atmospheric pressures, altitude changes, etc. IE : its readings are referenced to a perfect vacuum.

You can use a 'Gauge' pressure transducer only in air. Under water, the pressure equalizing port would fill with salt water ( not a great idea ) and read Zero at 100 ft, 10000 ft.
I've not seen the phrase 6700 PSID (differential) used.

Thus, I surmise that all Pressure values are really Absolute Pressure measurements : PSIA.

Thats not to infer they do not subtract the ambient water pressure from their numbers, just that the transducers are Absolute.... This value would better be shown as PSID .. and would then clarify the value of the measurements.

You're not clarifying ... you're confusing.

You're confusing units of pressure with the types of gauges used to measure pressure.

PSIA = absolute pressure
PSIG = absolute - 14.7 psi

A differential gauge measures the pressure difference between two ports or sides. You can say PSI, PSIG or PSIA ... they're all the same because it's a differential pressure

if current cap pressure were 8000 psi, as they hoped, what would the two downhole pressure calculations equal using both psiG or psiA?
were they aiming for higher than the P_init of 11900 psi? that would seem unlikely so perhaps we can assume its psiA???

If the original bhp was around 11900 psia, in the case where the pressure did not decline significantly, the cap pressure should be around 9000 psiA max, and the 8000-9000 range makes much sense if we are talking about psiA.

Cruncher, most of your numbers are OK, but to get the BHP, you need to start at the 6745 psi shut-in at the BOP and go 13000' to bottom with your .214 psi/ft. that gets you an increment of about 2800 psi for a BHP of 9545 psi. That is about 2350 psi below the previously measured 11900 psi, but still well above the bubble point.

Take your compressibility of 26 ppm per psi and multiply it by 2350 psi and you would have a zone that is 6% depleted after producing somewhere between 3 and 6 MMBO. That gets a reservoir of roughly 50 - 100 MMBO, if the pressure drop is due to depletion. That is about the size estimate that I have heard attributed by BP before the blowout. Maybe all we are seeing is a shut in pressure that is a little low due to depletion.

(18360.-5067.)*.215+6572. = 9430.

The difference is psiG or psiA. If the numbers are psig, the appropriate pressure to make it psia is the pressure at the bottom of the ocean (2280 psi).

If cap pressure is 6572 psiA, then bhp is approx 9430 psia.
If cap pressure is 6572 psiG, then bhp is approx 11870 psia

It is just too suspicious...

I hope they are interpreting the results correctly.


Honestly, I don't know the answer with any authority, but ...
I doubt very much that electronic pressure sensors have any internal bellows as in pressure gauges that have dials and pointing needles. It is all done with solid state materials that have well know electrical responses to changes in lattice spacing, which, in turn, is sensitive to absolute pressure, not to pressure difference between two different fluid filled regions. BP man said the pressure measurements of interest are being recorded electronically in Houston, and NOT on the dials being observed by the ROVs. Sensor data is probably recorded in Pascals not psi, even in oil patch science tends to be done using science units. Temperature correction is surely done in the software. If some programs display pressure as gauge pressure, it is surely, with reference to standard atmospheric pressure, not some ambient pressure at an ROV floating in neutral buoyancy at some variable depth in the ocean.

Also the kinds of model calculations that are being offered here fall way short of what Chu would accept as serious work. The people who are doing the work have precise values for the numbers, or at least they have good estimates of the errors in each of the measured numbers that go into a calculation like are being done here. What is being done here is not good enough for government work. If you can't get agreement of model with measurements to within measurement errors you don't have an explanation. This is a problem that caused Isaac Newton a problem for a number of years. When he first came up with his gravity idea, numbers about Moon and its orbit were such that his theory didn't agree with data. He got a break when errors in the data were found and the data corrected, and he published his theory to great acclaim.

But I could be wrong. Maybe they did the anaylsis on a computer that wasn't Y2K compliant. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

The most common pressure gauge approach is a thin membrane with a strain guage on one side. It is calibrated to relate membrane strain to pressure load.

What is on the other side of the membrane varies. If it vacuum, the gauge is measuring PSIA, if the cavity is vented to the ambient environment it is PSIG.

It is often easier and cheaper to build PSIG gauges, because the case can be made more easily and the internal cavity doesn't have to be evacuated and sealed and because the outer structure doesn't have to withstand the potentially high ambient pressurs (2250 psi, in this case).

I don't think we are competing with BP/Government engineers to resolve the pressure prediction to 1 psi. However, the standard calculations do get you in the ball park and they point to the ~6700 psia number being really too low for comfort. However, if the numbers being reported are psig, it is just right.

Having done lots of testing where things go stupidly wrong, it is worthwhile to ask, if the numbers are, in fact, being interpreted and measured in a consistent manner.

What is becoming disturbing is that this question has been asked for several days and beyond swagger and supposition, I don't get a feeling this is a well known question that gets a well known, "automatic" answer in the oil community.

It is either gets laughed off as a "geeky" thing, or you get answers like "it's only 14.7 psi" so who cares...

Ok, took a skulk around a few on-line catalogues (including industrial parts btw), not exactly a scientific survey though. Electronic pressure sensors for the sort of pressure ranges they were looking for seem to be in PSIG. Lower pressures mixed, but when you get up to the 10k PSI range they seem to be PSIG. Again I emphasise this is just a rough and ready check. Oh, 10k seems to be a top end but I am sure more specialised units can run high, if anyone knows who makes them I'll go look.


This makes some sense, as it is actually a difficult thing to build reliable 10+ ksi pressure vessels.

So, if this is the case, their data is more likely to be in psig.

Government reports on the BOP pressures use psia.

I hope someone in the BP/Government is VERY cognizant of the differences and all the numbers are corrected appropriately.

If some connected folks read this, it would be prudent to drop a line to the task engineers to make sure it isn't a stupid thing that is screwing up the test data reduction.

And I don't even like this test. Still, it is best if it is done right.

Remember this is the pressure sensor not the instrument. Still it would make sense to just measure PSIG then apply an adjustment to get the PSIA rather than constantly trying to adjust to ambient. Just to add a different spin, if the sensor is mounted in a 1 atm sealed electronics module then it would be measuring PSIA + 1 atm, ho hum :) Oh what fun. Anyone come up with a manufacturer of the gauges rather than the sensors?


I think the sensor is the "instrument" in this case. It does get connected to an electronics box or a computer, there is probably software that you can put your ambient pressure to get absolute values. But one has to be aware of the differences, to dial in the right correction and report the right number up the line.

They do have 1 atm reference sensors (probably other values, too), but in this case for high pressure readings in a high ambient pressure environment, psig is more practical.

I guess the only way we will know the answer is if you drop them an email and ask :)


Heh, I tend to drop space on my laptop keyboard as my thumbs hit on the side of the nail. My spell check wondered if 'theman' meant 'the man' or 'then an' and I really was not sure :)

I must have run hundreds of gauges deep in wells over the years. They generally use quartz transducers and have the very high resolution needed to   Pick up very subtle pressure changes that can be diagnostic of reservoir character. Strain gauges are run as backups for coarser pressure measurements (especially in wireline tools) but typically don't have the resolution needed for reservoir engineering purposes. 

I'm on vac on iPhone so not easy to post links but google schlumberger or metrol for specs.

When talking reservoir or wellbore pressure I've NEVER seen a gauge pressure referenced to an ambient other than atmospheric. Psig and psia are 1 atm apart. The gauges are not ported to give a zero point at any seafloor reference. This is a slightly unusual situation with a jury rigged sensing kit in the cap, but I'll bet that's still the case. 

Exciting time, lots to comment on, but for my money crossflow (ie flow between the units in the reservoir section) is a red herring. A dynamic leak process to shallower horizons might have been possible, but appears to have been made less likely by the character of the pressure build up (though note conventional analysis of the subtle pressure changes in the reservoir will be greatly hindered by the distance between gauge and reservoir). As i noted at the outset i suspect we are seeing real reservoir depletion. 

Many thanks Big,this seems like a candidate:-


I just wonder about the accuracy and reproducibility of these gages. Folks seem to be drawing conclusions from very small pressure changes that are reading large numbers. For instance, the 2 psi/hr change in a gage reading ~6700 psi - a change of 0.03%.

It has been my experience from other measurements that calibration drift, temperature changes, and other similar things can give you those kind of changes.

The Schlumberger pressure gages mentioned earlier are stated to have an accuracy of +/- 3.2 psi . . . Reference

Consider the fact that the tidal swing will give you a pressure swing at the bottom of the sea - along with seawater temperature swings between daylight hours and night, I just wonder if they are looking at wiggles on a pressure graph that have nothing of significance to say about the state of the well. It would be very interesting to look at the actual data they are recording. I don't know why the government is being so tight-fisted with the data.

Don't confuse accuracy with resolution or repeatability.

The gauges maybe accurate to 3.2 psi but have resolution down to 0.001 psi.

Guys: The difference between PSIA and PSIG is 14.7 psi.

Period !

Has anyone heard of the results from the A-Whale skimmer testing? It seems that everything has gone quite since the original up roar and its arrival in the gulf.

The A Whale was a bust and has been denied clearance to work after a test period. It was designed for thick, contained pools of oil. The conditions in the Gulf aren't conducive to its' design.

The results are in. They were very bad, and the decision was made not to use it further.

There was a press release yesterday. It said:

The report concluded that after significant effort, the amount of oil recovered was negligible, and limited oil beyond a sheen was found in the cargo tanks. Over the same 24 hour testing period, the Unified Area Command mobilized more than 590 smaller, more agile skimmers to remove more than 25,551 barrels of oil water, conducted 26 controlled burns, and recovered 12,800 barrels at the source to continue to fight the oil as far offshore as possible.

“While its stature is impressive, ‘A Whale’ is not ideally suited to the needs of this response,” said Admiral Zukunft. “We appreciate the ingenuity of the TNT team to try to make this innovative system work under these unique conditions. This is the largest oil spill response in our nation’s history and we will continue to attack the oil as far offshore as possible with our fleet of hundreds of skimmers, controlled burns, and effective use of dispersant.”

Because the oil consists of relatively smaller patches and numerous ribbons spread very thinly across a great distance, the mission has required the deployment of smaller skimmers with the agility needed to maneuver and pursue oil in both crowded and open waters.


Would these results have been different without widespread Corexit use?


We are wondering now if Anderson Cooper and others will be as enthusiastic in their reporting of the failure as they were in their reporting of how this would save the Gulf.

Can't tell you how many folks thought this was a scam from the beginning. Could have gone out with a row boat and soup ladle and been more effective

The press is reporting that the decision to go to containment using surface vessels is now a definite. The "when" part is unclear and the CBS/AP story below finesses the issue of the release of oil into the Gulf as part of the transition to containment:

(CBS/AP) Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

BP to Open Cap, Resume Oil Collection Sunday

Decision from Feds Comes After BP Says it Felt "More Comfortable" About Cap on Wellhead

The federal government announced Saturday that BP will open up its capped wellhead on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and pipe oil into ships on the surface. The collection will begin after a testing period for the cap ends, which was extended to Sunday.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man on the crisis, decided Saturday that after the testing was complete, the cap will be hooked up through pipes to ships on the surface that will collect the oil. Allen said BP will continue to monitor the cap.

The decision to collect the oil likely means releasing crude back into the water temporarily to relieve pressure. It still would not be gushing at the rate it had been before BP's latest fix.

The oil giant was initially given 48 hours to see whether its latest effort to stop the leak was working. Allen made the call to extend the trial run less than two hours after the period ended.

Scientists and engineers were optimistic that the well showed no obvious signs of leaks, but were still struggling to understand puzzling pressure readings emerging from the bottom of the sea.

It will take months, or possibly years for the Gulf to recover. But if the coast was on edge about the impending decision, it wasn't apparent. . . .

BP began Saturday saying they were feeling "more comfortable," though Kent Wells, a BP PLC vice president, cautioned the evaluation was not over. BP and the government want to make sure the well can stay bottled in case of a hurricane, when ships would have to leave the area.

Wells said engineers glued to an array of pressure, temperature, sonar and other sensors were seeing no evidence of oil escaping into the water or the sea floor. Undersea robots were also patrolling the well site for signs of trouble.

The cameras showed some activity midday Saturday. The robots passed a wand-like object back and forth, and appeared to be digging dirt-like debris out of a pipe. Meanwhile, a glowing globe appeared on the sea floor as bubbles swirled around. BP didn't explain what they were doing, and to a viewer, it was like watching a foreign film without subtitles.

BP shut valves in the cap Thursday, stopping the flow of oil into the Gulf for the first time since the April 20 explosion on the leased oil rig Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers and unleashed the spill 5,000 feet below the sea.

Concern that the cap could cause oil to break out of the well at the seafloor lessened.

Pressure readings Saturday morning were 6,745 pounds per square inch and rising slowly, Wells said. The figure was below the 7,500 psi that would have reassured scientists the well was not leaking, but still high enough that it could be all right. . . .

The most likely reason the pressure is low is more oil has bled out than estimated, experts say. Last week, when an old cap was removed allowing oil to flow unimpeded into the water, the spew wasn't as violent as it had been.

"Depletion is actually pretty normal," said Don Van Nieuwenhuise, Director of Professional Geoscience Programs at the University of Houston. "At first it flowed very powerfully, and when you're producing too much too fast for too long, it takes longer to pull the oil."

My apologies if this is old news.

This is the latest from the NYTimes, but there's no timestamp:

...A technician involved in the effort said that with the encouraging news from the test, there had been discussions Saturday about leaving the well shut and changing the method of permanently sealing it. The current plan calls for the gusher to be plugged by pumping mud, and then cement, into it through a relief well that is nearing completion.

The technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the work, said that engineers had discussed stopping work on the relief well in favor of a “bullhead kill.” In that operation, heavy mud would be pumped in through existing pipes and the oil and gas would be forced back into the oil reservoir at the bottom of the well.

The procedure is somewhat similar to the “top kill” method that failed in early June, but would be much more likely to succeed because with the well sealed, no oil or gas would be moving inside.

A BP spokesman said Saturday that the relief well was still considered the ultimate solution to the leak.

With the relief well strategy, the blown-out well would have to be reopened when the mud pumping began. The well would not have to be reopened to try a bullhead kill, the technician said.

If the well is not reopened, the exact flow rate of oil may never be known....


If the well is not reopened, the exact flow rate of oil may never be known....

The ambiguity will potentially save them billions in fines. And being able to claim they fixed the leak is also worth a lot, in stock value and otherwise.

I am sure BP is going to pull out all the stops to keep things buttoned up. Will Chu bend under the pressure? The suspense. The drama.

I am sure BP is going to pull out all the stops to keep things buttoned up. Will Chu bend under the pressure? The suspense. The drama.

Button up what? Once they can produce all the oil up in the ship, they will have a count of the flow rate each day. What more data do you need? The amount of fine will be contested and no court can really fix on a real number (so they either has to estimated it and/or the two parties negotiated and settle on a number). The flow rate today is not the same as the flow rate on the first or 2nd day of the spill..

However, if the flow rate today is on the high side, it would be a very bad precedent, as the flow rate would have been decreasing over time, with corrections for different exit configurations.

Keep the well shut in is what i meant.

I was assuming the statement in the times was accurate, a dangerous assumption, I know. But if keeping the well shut it does in fact mean that all we will be left are the high and low estimates of 35,000 to 60,000, then most likely the figure for fines will be the 35k. Whereas if they base it on actual flow, it's more likely to be 50k+ probably.

I'm trying to come up with a conspiracy theory.

estimates of 35,000 to 60,000, then most likely the figure for fines will be the 35k.

But the qeustion is how to prove that the 35000 to 60000 is accurate in court? And how do we account for the various mix of ng/oil at different instant? There is no way to prove anything. Hence teh battle of experts.. And BP is betting (or hoping) that their expert is better than government expert.

But once the government took charge of the recovery, BP might could successfully argue that any increases in the flow that happened were the result of government actions. For example, what would the total flow been if they hadn't cut the riser? Or called a halt to the top kill operation? Or stopped the drilling on the RW while they did their science fair project with the current cap? How much more oil will get spilled if they open up the current cap and start collecting oil again?

Seems to me that if the government is calling the shots, they need to take responsibility for the consequences.

My guess is that the fine will be some sort of a negotiated number . . . or it will be in court for 20 years like the Exxon Valdez case.

Swift Loris:

I can't believe what I just read....

I would have fainted if they had stopped the RW's....

I can't believe what I just read....I would have fainted if they had stopped the RW's....

Made my jaw drop too. Nobody else here seems to have noticed that little tidbit from the Times's technician. Either that, or they think it's so ridiculously unlikely it's not worthy of discussion. Probably the latter.

"Depletion is actually pretty normal," said Don Van Nieuwenhuise, Director of Professional Geoscience Programs at the University of Houston. "At first it flowed very powerfully, and when you're producing too much too fast for too long, it takes longer to pull the oil."

Hmmmm ... do all oil wells do that ?

jmy -- I'm not sure he isn't confusing depletion with decline. If you're producing oil from a reservoir you are depleting it. How the rate changes is the decline profile. A strong water drive will produce oil at a fairly constant rate until the water hits the perforation. In a pure pressure depletion reservoir the rate slows down proportional to the amount of oil produced. And then there are hybrid reservoir that fall between these two extremes. Until one has sufficient data to tell what the reservoir drive is it seems pointless to make any speculations IMHO.

I understand that a water-driven reservoir does not decline in pressure as it's being depleted. However, don't such reservoirs require communication with an acquifer that replaces the pay with water? And aren't pretty much all acquifers at hydrostatic pressure? Since the Macondo reservior was above hydrostatic pressure, wouldn't that imply that it's not water-driven and that pressure would have to decline in proportion to depletion? I'm not a geologist, so I'm probably mis-understanding something.

And aren't pretty much all acquifers at hydrostatic pressure?

No, actually, once you're below top geopressures aquifers are also geopressured above hydrostatic as calculated from the surface (occasional exceptions for vastly underpressured sands). The terminology can be a bit confusing and is used sloppily. A water-drive reservoir and it's aquifer can be said to be in "hydrostatic communication," but still all be at a higher gradient than if connected to the surface. Within the pressure-communicating section, static pressures are purely a function of depth and fluid densities."

It depends on the permeability of the reservoir rock. If their permeability is low oil can flow out of the well faster than oil from other parts of the reservoir seeps through the pores in the rock to replace it.

So, it looks like there will be several days or weeks of flow data for the broken well. This is, I think, something that BP would have dearly liked to avoid having. Now they will likely have to explain this number, whatever it is, at trial.

BP management's insistence on the shut-in tests, apparently over objections by engineering, so close to RW completion and coincident with their full collection capability coming online, now starts to make a little more sense. Had they been fully successful (and they did try to spin mightily that they were), they would never had to collect 100% of the oil and report full recovered amount.

This was pointed up earlier by astute readers, but it seemed just a bit TOO cynical. Not so much today.

Info and informed speculation on the COMPATT deployment appreciated.

Bloomberg reporting that BP was ordered to reopen well, restart collection.

From the Bloomberg article:

<<< Macondo well manager, Donald Vidrine, is scheduled to testify next week at government hearings in Louisiana that are investigating the cause of the disaster. Hours before the explosion, Vidrine overruled objections from representatives of rig owner Transocean about how to finish the well, Douglas Brown, the chief mechanic on the vessel, told the joint investigation panel in May. He’s scheduled to appear July 20. >>>

If in fact he actually shows this time, I see nothing more than another BP / govt. dog and pony show and constant replies of taking the 5th. I'm sure the BP attorneys have a very tight muzzle on Vidrine's mouth right now :-)

You're confusing these hearings with the congressional committee hearings. These hearings are different and do not ahve senators or congress members doing the questioning.

The hearings they have already held have produced some important testimony. The BP senior drilling engineer gave testimony that contradicted the documentary evidence regarding the cement job. In an editorial the next day, The Times-Picayune ran an editorial calling for a criminal investigation.


This hearing will be critical since Vidrine is the one who ordered the riser displaced with seawater over the objections of the TP. He very well may take the fifth.

This hearing will be critical since Vidrine is the one who ordered the riser displaced with seawater over the objections of the TP. He very well may take the fifth.

This claim keeps being repeated but it was directly contradicted in sworn testimony from Transoceans's OIM and Senior Toolpusher who both said there was never an argument about displacing with sea-water. What they actually were discussing was the sequence prior to displacing. Transocean's OIM asked for and got an addition of a negative pressure test. Transocean's OIM also testified that he still believed they had good results on the pressure testing despite the subsequent blowout.

Portion of Miles Ezell testimony below.



1 A. I was engaged in a portion of that.
2 Q. Okay.

3 A. Jimmy was adamant about conducting this

4 negative test.

5 Q. Yes, sir.

6 A. And, just to give you a little

7 background on that --

8 Q. Please.

9 A. -- in our Transocean manual I don't

10 believe you can find a negative test.

11 Q. Okay.

12 A. This was something that Jimmy Harrell,

13 as OIM, always insisted on.

14 Q. That's what he said.

15 A. That's the way it was. He was that

16 adamant about doing it and we knew that he was

17 not going to deviate from that. And he had

18 some bad experiences on another rig, another

19 time years back. I'm not a hundred percent

20 sure, but it taught him a lesson he said -- he

21 said that day that he would always do a

22 negative test. So, maybe in some people's

23 mind that could have been overkill, but it was

24 standard procedure for us to do that. It was

25 something that we felt more comfortable with,

"I'm sure the BP attorneys have a very tight muzzle on Vidrine's mouth right now :-)"

Unless he's a real moron, Vidrine has his own attorneys and BP's counsel (and BP's management) aren't being allowed within a mile of him.

"Unless he's a real moron, Vidrine has his own attorneys and BP's counsel (and BP's management) aren't being allowed within a mile of him."

Yes, you're probably right.

I imagine syncro is correct that he'll likely take the fifth at these hearings. In the long run, his best hope is that the Feds want BP/someone else more than they want him, so they'll offer a "deal he can't refuse" to make him one of their star witnesses.

Anyway you slice it, though, it's gotta suck being Donald Vidrine, these days.

We don't know, though. It looks like Vidrine may have been doing what Brian Morel, the junior drilling engineer wanted him to. And Morel may have been doing what Mike Hafle, the senior engineer wanted him to do. And there are people above them who may have told them what to do. We don't know yet.

best hope is that the Feds want BP/someone else more than they want him,

I guess we forget that there is 11 folks died in this incident.. A big part of the investigation will be who is responsibile not which company is responsible..and he will be the number one suspect..

No, xof, we don't forget that. It may or may not end up being the most serious (in terms of peril for the defendants) element of the coming litigation, but we definitely won't forget it.

Both corporate entities and natural persons are likely to be defendants, quite possibly in civil and criminal proceedings. As syncro, points out, we don't know whom the prosecutors may target, or what charges they may bring. And we don't know who is actually responsible for particular decisions and actions.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty comfortable with my assertion that Vidrine's "best hope is that the Feds want BP/someone else more than they want him."

I've had the very unpleasant experience of watching eager AUSA's, in a big white-collar criminal case, apply thumbscrews, bamboo under the fingernails, threats against loved ones and creative plea-bargaining to coerce the "cooperation" they desired from reluctant witnesses. You'd be amazed how convincing they can be, if they want you to "help them with their inquiries"—and how utterly ruthless, if you're the guy they really want to make an example.

From the article:

“Thad Allen wants to do containment because they want to find out what the real flow rate was,” Don Van Nieuwenhuise, director of Petroleum Geoscience Programs at the University of Houston, said in an interview yesterday. “Unless they do something like that, they’ll almost never be able to prove what the true flow rate was.”


Allowing oil to flow from the well will make the final kill procedure easier and safer, as it will lower the pressure in the reservoir and make any potential hidden leaks less risky, Van Nieuwenhuise said.

“They’re moving in a very careful and deliberate direction,” he said.


Macondo well manager, Donald Vidrine, is scheduled to testify next week at government hearings in Louisiana that are investigating the cause of the disaster. Hours before the explosion, Vidrine overruled objections from representatives of rig owner Transocean about how to finish the well, Douglas Brown, the chief mechanic on the vessel, told the joint investigation panel in May. He’s scheduled to appear July 20.

Apparently, the the USCG is forcing BP's hand here, for the reasons stated above. The down-side of this move is that it will inevitably incur an additional (hopefully small) release of oil into the Gulf, and it will increase the risk of an accident topside. I hope it was the right decision.

I agree that the USGS/Feds are calling the shots. But I don't believe they care about measuring the flow. They are just trying to be careful and deliberate. They want bottom kill to be successful. Their goal is to plug this well as quickly as possible without being cowboys about it. BP has two goals: minimize estimates of lost oil for future legal payouts and plug this well as quickly as possible. There's overlap and conflict between the desires of the two groups, obviously.

Anyone else think this Macondo thing might be a near-critical condensate reservoir?

Clete -- I don't. It appears to be an oil reservoir with a NG/oil ratio of 2,000 - 3,000 cu ft of NG per bbl of oil and at a pressure around 11,900 psi. There are retrograde condensate reservoirs where the NG is in a liquid phase at reservoir conditions. But the gas/oil ratio would very very different. In fact such reservoirs are notcharcterized by a GOR but rather a condensate yield: so many bbls per million cu ft of NG.

Is the saturation pressure at the reservoir temperature greater than or less than the critical pressure of the reservoir fluid? What data is known for this fluid?

If BP has known the BOP inlet pressure and the formation pressure, as well as detailed fluid properties and exact well configuration, why would they not be able to perform a quite good calculation on the system flow rate?

Dimitry, xorosho!

I share your concern. Didn't they take reservoir fluid samples and have the test lab analysis results? With test lab results, BP ought to have been able to do some sophisticated modeling of the reservoir flow, the flow in the well tubulars, and the flow through the wellhead and BOP and damaged riser, etc.

Where are the lab data?

Wouldn't 2 pieces of broken drill pipe kinda mess up flow calculations?

Nah, it'll end up negotiated at the end of the day,one way or another, there's just no absolute measure over time to do it any other way.


Well outside my areas of expertise, but it seems to me that they should have been able to get very, very close. As could the Feds, who have all of those data, also.

An interesting report, any comments anyone? The Grauniad usually takes a little care with its articles.



But industry lawyers said BP could be made liable for any mistakes that a Chinese subcontractor made carrying out the work. It would be almost impossible to secure damages in China, where international law is barely recognised.

not -- That issue came up surprising early in the event..within days if I recall correctly. In fact one of the apparent big "aw sh*ts" was that the function of certain control knobs were changed but weren't relabled on the BOP. SO when they tried to function one control they were actually functioning another. Seems to me that unless Cameron inspected the Chinese modifications and blessed them they would be off the hook: it wasn't a Cameron BOP..it was a BP BOP rebuilt by the Chinese.

Why does everybody get the Chinese to do everything? Costs less to begin with, but... It is not like they cut corners on the boardroom conference table. How much Chinese stuff has to kill us before we just say no, I'll stick with Taiwan and Mexico?

"..it was a BP BOP rebuilt by the Chinese."

Gee, I don't know about anyone else, but with all of the manufactoring quality issues coming out of China these days, I wouldn trust them as far as I could throw a BOP! Quality Control is not known to be a high priority for communist countries and...aren't they working with the Cubans & Russia to start drilling in the Gulf around Cuba?
I would anticipate seeing more situations (spills, blowouts, etc.) like this from their operations.

The Gulf & East Coast are sooo screwed!


Ok TOD gods. It is time for a dispersant and open thread. The Blogoshpere is now switched to primarily discussing the use of Corexit, its level of toxicity, the choice of brand and how it was deployed. I plan to either refer to that post or use with permission, or write my own. Since I think this is a top three issue now, I would prefer the broad, vetted, format here. I look forward to the commenters here discussing this in detail. There is so much misinformation around. My favorite is how Lisa Jackson was put into the EPA just for this one issue. It is really getting like the nuke or 100,000 PSI crowd.

Have you read through this one, TFHG?


Good one thanks. I remembered something. I was actually thinking about current data and actions since capping, but I appreciate the link.

Serendipitous Shutin?

If this was talked about earlier, I missed it and apologize.

"A key turning point -- one that set the strategy that led to the integrity test -- came when government scientists in early June came up with a new, staggering estimate for the flow rate of 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day. That spurred the government to demand that BP come up with a more robust set of containment measures. Allen said Thursday that, while developing this plan, it occurred to engineers that they might be able to use the new set-up to shut in the well."

Hi all,
This post is simply a request to Prof. Goose and HO to attempt to resolve the Psia/Psig indeterminacy by use of FOI request or more likely simple email request to the right persons. Our TOD experts try to inform us, but they are ‘snookered’ by a lack of simple information that surely is in the public domain.

The difference between PSIG and PSIa is 14.7 psi.

irrelevant for the size of numbers we are discussing here

I believe the shut-in pressure should be 7,100 psi.

Pressure measurements taken of the BOP and published mid-June show 4,400 psi at the well head and 2,250 psi at the outlet to Top Hat. Given a formation pressure of 11,900 psi, the oil is losing 11,900 - 4,400 = 7,500 psi due to weight of the oil column and head loss due to friction of the flowing oil.

I believe the biggest uncertainty is the specific gravity of the oil/gas fluid, so I attempted to calculate the head loss, which is less sensitive to uncertainties in assumptions.

After hours wresting with Moody Friction Factors and the Darcy-Weisbach formula, I calculate that the loss due to friction if the oil was flowing up the 9 7/8" production tube was 150 psi. Triple that to account for the greater friction if the oil is flowing up the annulus, and you get a head loss due to friction of 450 psi.

Therefore, the head loss due to weight of the column of oil/gas is 7,500 - 450 = 7,050 psi.

So the shut-in pressure becomes 11,900 - 7,050 + 2,250 (sea pressure) = 7,100 psi.

Given that the formation may have lost drive pressure and the uncertainties in the calculations, anything close to 7,000 psi should be considered satisfactory.

DETAILS: I assumed oil flowed at 35,000 bopd. Add in 2200 cu ft gas at 9,300 psi (average pressure in oil column) and flow becomes 60,300 bpd of fluid, i.e. 0.11 m^3/sec. Assume viscosity of 1.0 ctS (it's probably much less) through 3,988 m of 218 mm ID steel pipe gives 407' head loss i.e. 187 psi probably nearer 150 psi given low viscosity.

Those measurements were taken 25th May and released 07 June. I wonder why daily pressure readings are not released along with the daily capture figures? Note they are psia


Tricky one this. 

You are right, in an oil well with a decent sized bore, especially at lower rates, the pressure drop up the tubing is dominated by the head and errors in the fluid density are therefore important. 

In this case however there are a couple of problems with your approach; 

1) under flowing conditions with say 4400 psi or less at the wellhead the fluid will probably be 2 phase for some distance up the well. Under shut in conditions with close to 7000 psi at the well head more of the gas will go back into solution. So the head in each case will differ

2) frictional pressure drops might be more important in this well. We don't know the flow path; while pressure drops are likely low in the tubulars or annular spaces themselves, there could be larger drops across debris in those spaces, or through cement channels (be it into the annulus or the base of the production casing shoe or both) or from annulus through a blown casing hanger or ruptured casing joint etc etc

TOD readers from BP Houston won't want to click on this, but from another, longer article in today's Observer:

The well is capped. But what else lurks below the surface for BP?
Success in sealing the gulf spill does not mark the end of BP's problems. Even amid the 'cowboy culture' of offshore drilling, its operational record raises concerns, and allegations are flying about its disregard for safety procedures and propensity to pass the buck

... BP is not the only company to benefit from an almost lawless operating environment in the Gulf. But an Observer investigation has uncovered evidence of how BP has benefited from this lack of regulation and failed to use standard procedures in its US operations, particularly offshore.

The company has a reputation with insurers in the gulf for pushing its offshore subcontractors especially hard: according to one well-placed industry source, it was unofficial policy about two years ago for the Houston offices of at least one major insurance company to refuse to process applications for companies working with the oil firm. BP subcontractors seeking well-control insurance, for example, were seen as too high a risk and their applications were not passed on to head office. BP was the only company unofficially blacklisted in this way in the gulf by this insurer, says the source. The evidence given to congressional hearings so far about the events leading up to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon explosion on 20 April seem to have confirmed the insurers' worst fears. ...

A later passage:

... BP insists that the allegations [about Atlantis' missing documentation] are unsubstantiated, and that it has complied with regulations regarding compiling and retaining as-built documents. A spokeswoman referred to a previous company statement on the issue that says: "The engineering documents for Atlantis have the appropriate approvals and platform personnel have access to the information they need for the safe operation of the facility." Nevertheless, it has emerged that the drawings on the Deepwater Horizon's failed BOP do not appear to be up to date, according to evidence given to Congress.

In the hours after the explosion on the rig, BP officials asked Transocean for drawings of the device. But as the BOP had been modified in China and the drawings Transocean supplied had not been updated, they did not match what was on the sea floor. BP says engineers wasted crucial hours trying to work out how to remotely activate the device, which represented the last chance of shutting down the well. They knew the gushing oil and debris would be shredding the blades of the BOP's blind shear ram, which had to cut through the pipe to close off the well. More than a day after the explosion, they finally tried to reactivate it, but the ram did not budge. ...

Brief summary/highlights from Tech Briefing this morning

Suttles just now pressure currently at 6778 psi, no issues with the shut in and he says they will continue to leave the well shut in. Trying to get samples of the bubbles to determine their origin. Relief wells 17864 at the casing point next operation an additional ranging run. Ready to drill out not this week but the week after. Left to drill 100' vertical 4' lateral earliest intercept end of July. Seismic runs slowing the building out of containment systems.

Government is requiring BP to continue monitoring programs without a pressure target, instead an analysis of all of the data.

There is no target to return the well to flow.

Need to be careful about how long the integrity test will go, if we see a problem we may have to re-initiate flow so on a day by day basis it could go to mid August.

To re-initiate containment the flow would have to be opened back up, there is a possibility we may have to do that, Q4000 standing by as is Helix and Loch Renoch. If re-initiation flow of up to 3 days.

No bubbles have been captured as yet.

No body wants to see more oil but no one wants to see the situation worse so data is being monitored and things being taken a day at a time.

Matt Gutman from ABC asks this doesn't seem like a test.

Suttles it is a test at some point we may call the test complete. No one wants to see more oil get into the Gulf. Way too early to say the test is complete.

The Seismic and Sonar tests are looking for any indication that flow has escaped the wellbore and we have seen no signs that is the case. NOAA Pisces looking for flow at the seabed along with the ROVs also monitoring temperature at the BOP currently 40 degrees.

To add to bubbles... Because no hydrates are forming they suspect bubbles are not

Here's SJFriedl real time transcript grabbed from IRC


Kent Wells Technical Briefing, 7:30AM CDT, 2010/07/18

Transcribed by Steve Friedl [SJFriedl] - steve atsign unixwiz.net

Note: These are on-the-fly paraphrases, not direct quotes!

* Mr. Salvan beginning conference from Houston
* "Turning over to Doug Suttles" [no Kent today]
* "Well remains shutin, between 1-2 psi, now at 6778psi"
* "Trend continues as forecast consistent with reservior being depleted"
* "Extensive monitoring: seismic runs, monitoring with ROVs, as well as looking at noise & temp from BOP"
* "All of that data continues to show encouraging signs, not showing any issues w/ shutin. Reviewing data w/ govt teams"
* "Based on these results, we're leaving well shut in"
* "If you've been watching video feeds, you'll see bubbles. Not uncommon"
* "Done some simple tests to see if hydrocarbons, We don't think they are, but collecting samples"
* "Summary: encouraging 2.5 days into integrity test, continuing to monitor & work w/ experts"
* "DD3, relief well #1, at 17864', at the casing point, running last string"
* "Next operation is a ranging run, figure out direction and where pointing, casing operation takes about a week, ready to drill out in the early part of the following week"
* "We have another 100 feet vertically, 4' laterally to drill, but lots of measurement runs. Looking like last few days of July to intercept"
* "Second RW (DD2) is at 15874' and holding in place depending on RW1 info"
* "Containment systems: continuing to build them out to add capacity and to minimize the time they would be unavailable in the event of a storm"
* "Construction slowing down a bit to accomodate the monitoring"
* "Addl capacity around the end of the month"
* "Cleanup: concentrating the skimming/burning operations near the source.
* "Continuing to be less and less oil near shore"
[missed numbers of bbls collected]
* "Around the shorline, no new shoreline impacts in last 24h"
* "Last few days are encouraging, but these are all *early* steps, critical we'll be here for the longterm"
* taking questions
* Q from NBC News: "Has govt given you a deadline to reach 6800psi target?"
* A "Govt has given us requirement to complete a number of monitoring tasks, not just one target number. "
* "The buildup is encouraging, plus no negative events. If we saw a problem, we'd determine next steps"
* Q from AP: "Everybody wants to know when the well is going to be reopened, at least partially. Will we see oil flow into gulf later today? How much? When?"
* A "Nobody wants to see more oil flow into GoM, there is no target to open the well to flow, but that remains a possibility if we see signs. But no target"
* Q Upstream: "SO you are saying this integrity test could continue to mid-August when the RWs are done? Any danger to wellbore if this were to continue?"
* "We're just taking this day by day, might be day-by-day until the RW is done"
* Q from CNN: "When this test is concluded, Adm. Allen said you would return to production. WOuld this open cappy to sea, or can you go to production w/o that?"
* A "To re-initiate containment, would have to open flow to GoM for a time while producers ramp up. Q4000 standing by, can ramp up in few hours. Helix producer standing by too, but not connected to tanker."
* "If we have to re-initiate containment activities for up to 3 days, clearly nobody wants to see that. We're just monitoring"
* Q from NPR: "When you said you are attempting to assess bubbles: has sample been taken? WHat's the holdup?"
* "We've done a number of things besides monitoring: tested for hydrates - no hydrates"
* "It's a complex operation to capture these bubbles, we're sending equipment to seabed. Attempting but have not captured samples"
* Q from Bloomberg: "Does this mean that BP's plan is to keep the well shut until RW is drilled? If not, how much would be leaked? Chance to produce?"
* A "Nobody wants to see more oil go into the GoM, but we have to make sure we don't make situation worse - that's why we're so cautious re: test"
* "Data monitored constantly, taking it day by day. Don't want to re-initate flow, but we will if needed to not make it worse"
* Q from ABC News: "Does this no longer become a test? This is longer than a 48h period. What are the exact conditions that would get you to end the test and open the valves?"
* "This *is* a test - multiple seismic runs/day, sonar activity, remote subs flying complex patterns, both visual and sonar"
* "Measurements at wellhead. At some point we may call the test complete, but we're not there yet"
* "Days with no new shoreline impacts, less oil into the gulf, lots of monitoring." [blah blah blah]
* one more Q
* Q Times Picayune: "Can you give us idea what you're looking for w/
these seismic/sonar tests?"
* "Looking for ANY indication that flow has escaped the wellbore: watching pressure build on predictable rate is one key variable."
* "Seismic data allows us to look for any oil/gas escaping wellbore into subsea strata"
* "NOAA Pisces looking for any indication of flow at seabed - uses precise instrument"
* "ROVs looking for visual and sonar evidence"
* "Also monitoring temp at BOP - right now it's cold, 40F, which is what we want. Precise expectations of tests"
* [transcribing BP tech call]
* "Basically looking for any indication of escaping, not seen anything yet. Very encouraged"
good work Fried1

Good summary!

My detailed call notes

how do you do that so fast - voice to text or just fast typing (my method)

Lawsuit - Fire suppression directed at Deepwater Horizon caused the MODU to sink.

Bloomberg article

"As many as eight fireboats each shot “10,000 to 50,000 gallons of seawater on the rig per minute,” according to the complaint. They flooded the rig’s upper compartments and destabilized it, causing it to tip over and sink, the plaintiffs said.

The fireboats should have used their “dynamic positioning systems” to hold the Deepwater Horizon in place while fighting the fire with industry-approved methods, the complaint alleged. That would have kept the rig connected to the well with an intact riser, “greatly enhancing the ability to manage and control the discharge of oil,” the complaint said."

I am interested to see what comments TOD denizens have regarding this lawsuit and the industry practices it will address. More specifically, I am interested to know more about SOP regarding fire suppression aboard a MODU from outboard locations (i.e. stand-by and/or support vessels in immediate vicinity.) Also, would the "fireboats" (I know they are really just service vessels equipped with fire-suppression cannons, etc.) really be used to hold the DWH MODU on station? That seems a bit far-fetched to me. That would be a further endangerment to the crews of those vessels providing fire suppression.

Here's an interesting perspective:


BP and the Coast Guard are watching the pressure at the wellhead very, very closely because of what it will mean for the future prospects of this well. Pressure readings under a critical threshold usually mean that there may be leaking elsewhere in the system. If there is a single leak, it will be more easily diagnosed and remedied depending on where it is. If there is more than one leak present, a whole set of different challenges emerges. Most importantly, keeping the system under pressure, when leaks exist anywhere, will inevitably increase the potential for those leaks to worsen.

“One mysterious development was that the pressure readings were not rising as high as expected, said retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the crisis.” (Per AP Article of 7/17/10: “BP, scientists try to make sense of well puzzle”)

At this juncture of monitoring, everything points to the distinct possibility of leakage further down in the well system. BP will, therefore, be forced to open the valves to release oil in order to relieve some of the pressure. If the system is kept under pressure for any length of time, the likelihood of exacerbating any leaks increases rapidly, which will then create serious problems, as if BP doesn’t already have them.

“Admiral Allen added that the possibility remained that the well had been breached and that oil and gas were escaping into the surrounding rock and perhaps even into the Gulf.”(Per NYT on 7/17/10)
How did we get here? To a place where leaks have quite possibly opened up deeper in the well system. As follows:

In a high compression well such as this one, the effluent is moving up the pipe at a very high speed due to the extraordinary pressures pushing up from below. The methane gas component of the upsurging hydrocarbon brew changes its state at this speed and affects the characteristics of the entire effluent coming up the pipe in the following way. As methane ascends, the bubbles expand causing a discernible acceleration in velocity. The interaction between effluent speed, geological debris and any additional bump from acceleration can give rise to catastrophic ejections, explosive potential, stretch and inline cavitations. All one has to do is examine an oil pipe which has sustained a similar flow rate to find evidence of this phenomena.

The critical result of this “methane gas effect” is that a more intensified kind of friction begins to occur within the pipe between the rising effluent and the inside metal surface. The longer this situation is allowed to persist, the more the piping will become eroded from the inside out. As the surface becomes increasingly attenuated, cavitations begin to develop on this inside surface of the pipe thereby creating weak points. Given the relentless pressure in the system, and depending on the grade of the pipe steel, the weak points at the joints and seams can become compromised, as the subtle bends and leanings will receive a greater amount of frictional activity and impact. There is also the possibility of breaches deeper in the system, which could be practically impossible to remedy in any meaningful way.

“Benton F. Baugh, president of Radoil Inc. in Houston and a National Academy of Engineering member who specializes in underwater oil operations, warned that the pressure readings could mean that an underground blowout could occur. He said the oil coming up the well may be leaking out underground and entering a geological pocket that might not be able to hold it.” (Per AP Article of 7/17/10: “BP, scientists try to make sense of well puzzle”)

Another phenomenon occurs with methane that must also be considered in the sinking of the $350,000,000 Deepwater Horizon.

Per Wikipedia:
“When drilling in oil- and gas-bearing formations submerged in deep water, the reservoir gas may flow into the well bore and form gas hydrates due to the low temperatures and high pressures found during deep water drilling. The gas hydrates may then flow upward with drilling mud or other discharged fluids. As they rise, the pressure in the drill string decreases and the hydrates dissociate into gas and water. The rapid gas expansion ejects fluid from the well, reducing the pressure further, which leads to more hydrate dissociation and further fluid ejection. The resulting violent expulsion of fluid from the drill string is one potential cause or contributor to what is referred to as a ‘kick’.”

Then there is the matter of how BP’s cementing plan may have provided another very weak link in this whole chain of events. A careful study of the diagram below will reveal some serious issues that have come into play, both before the blowout and after. Clearly, if there are significant breaches in the system, the points of deficiency outlined in this chart should serve as a guide as to where the trouble-shooters ought to look. The real challenge here will be how to solve any of these potential problems given an active well status under tremendous pressure. Please click on the following link to view diagram.


The confluence of circumstances which are of greatest concern are delineated by the following points of information:

(1) This gusher flowed with great velocity for 86 days and therefore produced a lot of wear and tear in the system.

(2) The gravel, mud, stones, sand, oil and gas mix rushing through the pipe at excessive speed has undermined the integrity of the well system to a degree not known.

(3) Over the course of the aforementioned period different quick fixes were attempted, which were not always in the best interest of maintaining the integrity of the entire well system.

(4) BP has drilled in an area that was known to be a very high risk prospect for a variety of reasons, the most significant being pressure.

(5) Because this is a high compression well, the pressures involved exceed the capability of much of the technology and equipment that has been utilized. (i.e. BP is in over their head both literally and figuratively.)

(6) BP made many missteps over a three-month period that have unequivocally caused unintended consequences to the system, as well as collateral damage to the area, the repercussions of which may not manifest until a later date.

(7) We know the formation structure around the wellhead has changed. The relationship of the wellbore to the casing, in the wake of a subsea explosion that occurred during the events that sunk the Deepwater Horizon, has most probably been impacted. The BOP and riser were substantially affected by this trauma, and therefore the pipe and wellhead may very likely have shifted a few degrees. Furthermore, the cement that holds the well casing in place is undoubtedly under assault by oil, gas and debris under high pressure. As the cement holds the casing and production line in place, a breaching of this architecture is quite possible if it has been sufficiently compromised.

(8) The convergence of these various factors may have caused breaches in the system that are below the relief wells, and therefore will be extremely difficult to address with any degree of finality.

As of this date, we do not know with certainty if there are leaks in the system. However, in light of BP’s track record for grossly misrepresenting the truth, as well as the US Federal Government’s passivity and lack of response in the face of this extraordinary pattern of misrepresentation, we can only conclude that it is extremely unlikely that we will receive an accurate status regarding the integrity of the current capping application. From this point forward, now that the gusher has been capped, it is likely that the true state of affairs will be concealed by BP and its agents spread across the media and Oil & Gas Industry. In an effort to spin it positive – at all costs – and perform the damage control necessary to return things back to where they were, this company and industry will proceed with a well organized and focused program of information control. It’s what the Oil & Gas Industry has done quite well for over hundred years.

After all, BP’s very existence is at stake, and therefore it will assume the posture of a cornered raccoon! The flow of accurate information regarding the actual condition of the capping system, the changes in the seafloor, and the emergence of additional leaks will be determined by BP spinmeisters. Therefore our sleuthing becomes proportionately more penetrating and prosecutorial in both tack and tone. Simply put, we won’t believe a word they say, even with doctored video backing them up!


Houston is the current location of BP’s US National Headquarters. Per Wikipedia, “BP America’s headquarters is in the One Westlake Park in the Houston Energy Corridor, Texas.” Houston is also home to many other oil and gas companies, as well as their affiliates that operate throughout the 48 contiguous states. Perhaps we should begin to look there to find a deeper source of the problems that have ceaselessly appeared throughout this catastrophe. We speak of the standard operating procedures that have evolved throughout the entire industry, as well as a status quo which has produced the most conducive environment for this kind of disaster to take place around the world.

Without any doubt, these calamitous events will continue to take place in the future with even greater consequence. Due to the organic changes that the planet is experiencing, and especially the quite profound and fundamental nature of these geological, oceanic and atmospheric transformations, the most dangerous practices of our civilization will produce quicker and more dramatic feedback from Mother Earth. The Gulf Oil Spill is but a foretaste of things to come, if we do not change our ways both individually and collectively.

Step # 1 is to begin transitioning the world away from the hydrocarbon fuel paradigm. She – Mother Earth – can no longer maintain a clean enough environment for nearly 7 billion humans to live a quality life while utilizing oil and gas resources. It now represents an energy platform that is as obsolete, as it is destructive, to almost every living thing (There are certain types of bacteria and other microbes that just love the stuff!).

Dr. Tom Termotto
National Coordinator
Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference (International Citizens’ Initiative)
Tallahassee, FL



Another waste of space article.