BP's Deepwater Oil Spill - White House Press Secretary Gibbs Confirms "Ruptured Oil Well Leaking from Top" and a Seep Two Miles Away (and Open Thread 3)

This thread is being closed. Please comment on http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6754.

Because of the number of comments, this is a third copy of this post. The previous post can be found at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6752.

The White House says the well is leaking at the top and a seep is 2 miles away. Here is the link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38304846/.

At the end of last week, BP began the testing of the Deepwater well cap, closing all the valves and stopping the flow of oil and natural gas into the Gulf waters. With this cut-off in flow, the volumes to be collected at the surface are rapidly diminishing around the well, and the use, albeit controversial, of the dispersant at the same time as more of the oil was collected, means that the amount making it to the shore has also already diminished. So now the question becomes, does BP restart the collection process by re-opening valves to the surface vessels? It also opens the questions as to how much of the preventative work now being brought up to speed, is actually going to be needed.

The debate as to whether or not to re-open the well is illustrated by the comments by two of the main characters.

In his Sunday brief, Doug Suttles noted the success of the new cap, and the fact that there is no evidence of leakage from it. He had noted that the oil in the reservoir is hot, but by monitoring the temperature at the new cap, they had seen, over time, internal temperatures fall to those of the surrounding sea. This would indicate that hot oil is not still reaching the cap, and that fluid flow in the upper sections of the well has ceased.

At the same time the slow but steady increase in pressure within the well indicates that it has integrity, and is able to withstand the build-up in pressure as fluid accumulates around the well down at the level of the initial reservoir. Nevertheless, BP are continuing to monitor and run seismic surveys to make sure that there are no surprises.

On the other hand Admiral Allen sent a letter to BP on Sunday, that raises some new issues.

My letter to you on July 16, 2010 extended the Well Integrity Test period contingent upon the completion of seismic surveys, robust monitoring for indications of leakage, and acoustic testing by the NOAA vessel PISCES in the immediate vicinity of the well head. Given the current observations from the test, including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance during the test period. As a continued condition of the test, you are required to provide as a top priority access and coordination for the monitoring systems, which include seismic and sonar surface ships and subsea ROV and acoustic systems.

When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours. I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed.

It seems that those who argue that there are possible leaks from the well into the surrounding sediment have found at least one politically powerful ally.

The phrasing of the letter is, however, a little odd – the “the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head” section raise questions as to – what seep, at what distance? And what about “undetermined anomalies” if they aren’t determined are these the “unknown unknowns” we have been warned about in the past? And as comments have noted, there is the question of the legality of re-opening a well, and deliberately restarting to pollute the Gulf.

The press release that the Admiral also issued today expresses concern over the possibility of a sub-surface leak.

Work must continue to better understand the lower than expected pressure readings. This work centers on two plausible scenarios, depletion of oil from the reservoir and potential leakage caused by damage to the well bore or casing.

While we are pleased that no oil is currently being released into the Gulf of Mexico and want to take all appropriate action to keep it that way, it is important that all decisions are driven by the science. Ultimately, we must ensure no irreversible damage is done which could cause uncontrolled leakage from numerous points on the sea floor.

Do I detect the hidden hand of Dr Chu in that penultimate sentence? I notice that the option of cross-flow is not specifically mentioned as one of the alternatives, particularly near the reservoir, and I get the impression that it is only in the near surface that there is concern about leaks.

There is a second concern with the decision to re-open the well which makes this issue a bit of a hot potato. Whoever makes that decision, and BP seem to have made sure that it is the Admiral who must visibly make it, will be the individual that starts the oil flow back into the Gulf – and that won’t be popular.

Admiral Allen recognized that the flow would be restarted in his press release on Saturday

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.

Kent Wells, in his brief the same day noted 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.

While I am not totally sure of the reason for the longer term period of oil release, there have been rumors of a three-day period, there is a relatively simple explanation as to why the pressure in the well has to be released before flow can start back up the riser lines to the vessels on the surface. If the valves between the well and the risers are opened with the well at pressure, then that pressure is immediately transferred to the fluid in the line, and a hydraulic shock, similar to that known as “water hammer,” will propagate down the fluid line. Although water hammer is usually seen when a valve suddenly shuts in a pressure line, the same sort of effect can occur when a sudden pressure pulse is applied to the fluid in a line of pipe.

The most dramatic example of that which I have personally encountered was when we were first removing explosive from a casing using a high-pressure waterjet lance, and the flow channel blocked. The resulting bang initially caused us to think that the explosive had reacted. But the round was still there and it was only when we looked at the hose, which had split in several places, and had both end fittings fail, that we realized what had happened. Having a similar failure in a hose carrying oil from the seabed to the surface would create a much greater problem and one much more difficult to fix than ours, which was working in the same sort of pressure range as the fluid contained in the well.

But the pressure can be lowered relatively rapidly over the course of time (a matter of minutes not days, in the same way that the flow was cut-off to the Gulf) so there may be some other issues that are not yet being made public. After all, with the cap holding some intermediate pressure, it is not necessary to vent fluid into the Gulf, as flow is allowed to the surface collection vessels, in a condition that would lower the well pressure from the current levels without putting oil into the water.

Prof. Goose's comment:

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

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

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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.

From last thread thought this was important bp may not be 100 % to blame in this disaster.

Months before the April 20 blowout on the Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 men, the sophisticated drilling vessel experienced power blackouts, computer glitches and a balky propulsion system, and carried a list of more than three hundred deferred maintenance projects.

Under withering questioning during Monday's resumption of the joint Coast Guard-Department of the Interior inquiry into the BP Gulf of Mexico well blowout,, the rig's chief engineer revealed the possibility that alarms and other critical systems were bypassed or not functioning at the time of the explosion.

The engineer said the rig had been experiencing mechanical failures for months before the explosion. Bertone, an employee of Transocean, said the vessel's thruster, or propeller system, had been "having problems" for the previous eight months. In addition, the computer station where the rig's driller sits had temporarily lost electrical power some days prior to the blowout, he said.

Bertone said on the night of the explosion, he heard no general alarm, there were no internal communications and no power to the engines, and none of the Deepwater Horizon's backup or emergency generators were working.

"We were a dead ship," he said.

Because there was no power, the crew was unable to engage the emergency disconnect system that would have halted the flow of oil from the wellhead.

In his questioning of Bertone, Ronnie Penton, the attorney for the Deepwater Horizon's chief electronics technician, implied that some of the vessel's safety monitoring systems were regularly bypassed, including a general alarm and a device that purged trapped gas from the drilling shack. Another attorney implied that the gas-purging device, which is designed to expel any unanticipated buildup of natural gas, had not been operating for five years.

In May, Douglas Brown, the rig's chief mechanic, testified that he believed a sudden influx of gas onto the rig's deck caused an engine to rev uncontrollably and touch off an explosion. A system to stop that scenario was not functional at the time, he said.

"If I would have shut down those engines, it could have stopped [them] as an ignition source," he told the panel in May.

Later in Monday's hearing, an attorney for Halliburton asked Leo Linder, a drilling fluid specialist, if gauges monitoring the drilling mud had been bypassed. Linder said he did not know.


Also ...

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig’s chief engineer was unaware that there was any problem until he heard the first explosion while in his bedroom, according to testimony Monday at a federal fact-finding hearing.

Stephen Bertone, the chief engineer on the Deepwater Horizon and an employee of Transocean, the rig’s owner, said at a joint hearing of the U.S. Coast Guard and a division of the U.S. Department of Interior outside New Orleans that he had spent the afternoon of April 20 giving a tour of the rig to BP employees and, afterward, went to his stateroom, got into bed and opened a book. Bertone said he heard two explosions with seconds.

“With each thump, I actually felt the rig shake,” Bertone said.

He said the emergency lights immediately went out — indicating that none of the power backup systems that could have been used to fight the fire were working. Bertone said the communications system also was out. At one point, he said, he ran to the standby generator — a critical piece of equipment designed to automatically bring power to the rig in case the regular engines, as well as the emergency generators, failed. But he was unable to get that generator working.

In later testimony, Bertone said, to his knowledge, the oil rig had never shut down the regular engines and emergency generators to see if the standby generator would turn on by itself following a complete power outage. Bertone said that, at one point, hours before the explosion, he noticed that there were double the number of people in a room overseeing the drilling, which he said indicated that there was something wrong.

Bertone, however, was asked to continue giving BP employees a tour. He said he did not check in later to see what the discussion was about.

“There was no hint or sign there was any other issue. I never asked, ‘Hey, what was going on?’ By the time I got back from the walk-around, everything was relaxed. I figured it was just some minor issue,” Bertone said.


Typical keyhole alignment of minor but critical events leading to catastrophe. The model for a large scale failure.

"keyhole alignment", yes, exactly.

I see this kind of "it'll probably be fine", "that's why we have those shears" type attitudes on a daily basis in my day job (information security in a large, well-known IT company.) Management are conditioned to ignore us jumping up and down saying "OMFG, this _really_ needs fixing, ASAP", because we've never had a company-killer attack in our 15 year history. It could happen any day, though. Still, it won't kill anyone, except possibly people relying on investment income or stock speculation to fund medical care and suchlike...

KGC...The links to both your LATimes articles/blogs don't work. They are broken or deleted. Could you provide any other references? Please.


Methinks I must refudiate thee, and such as. The links thou searchest for are these:



/Shakespalin off

Alarms not working? Critical systems bypassed? Safety systems inoperable for months on end? Failure of backup systems?

This is unacceptable. This safety culture is unacceptable.

In a former life, I was a nuclear safety engineer. There are a lot of similarities between a nuke plant and an offshore drilling rig:

  • The consequences of a worst case accident are catastrophic.
  • They are complex systems amenable to probabilistic risk assessments.
  • In a nuke plant, it is a requirement that systems important to safety be tested periodically to assure they will function if needed. Standby diesel generators are started at regular intervals, for example, and an operator can flip a switch to see that all alarms and indicators are functioning correctly, and this is done on a daily basis. If something ain't working right, you put the plant in a safe shutdown state and fix it.

    The offshore O&G drilling industry needs a makeover.

    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has employees at each power plant in the country. I gotta hunch there will be a 'Government Man' on every deepwater rig before the dust settles on this.

    Reply to Snake's last post on the previous thread...

    EXCELLENT!!! Time for me to buy a surfboard and a bag of ganja... ;-)

    On a different note, I have an odd question that may be considered off topic (because it doesn't imply any conspiracy theories)

    What do you do with 13,000 feet of drill tailings? Dump it over the side or send it back to shore for processing?

    It depends on the regulatory environment. In Nigeria you dump them wherever you please. In the gulf it depends on the oil content. If the tailings contain significant amounts of oil then they have to be treated before dumping or shipped to shore. This is expensive but it usually only applies to the tailings from the bottom of the well close to the pay zone.

    So then the first 7,000 - 8,000 feet can be dumped overboard and the rest processed?

    The tailings come up with the drill mud, so they have a separation process and recycle the mud...or dump it also....?

    oug, In my decidedly ancient experience (30 yrs ago) the tailings went through a screen and settled in the tailings pond (on shore). My understanding is they have an equivalent tailings tank on ship. Clean mud on top, tailings on bottom (the small stuff the screen didn't capture).

    It seems like a lot of tailings, but on the other hand the hole really isn't that big even when it is miles deep, much less than when the big earth moving equipment starts shoving dirt around. I have the hole schematic here, and after I sleep off the wonderful margarita's I drank tonight I could run the numbers for you on the total amount of tailings they could have generated.

    My favorite part was that the Pacific would see an "Asian sized" tsunami.

    Heading Out:

    This "static kill" they are now talking about trying.

    Can you explain it a bit? If the pressure inside the well is 6800 psi, what pressure would be needed to force the column of oil down and the mud on top? Seems to me like 6801, but it would take a long time. But too much pressure could cause additional problems? What pressure is a good balance?

    How far down the well do they push the mud to ensure the well is killed? I assume they then put cement on top? Why not just use cement?

    Again. Thanks for your patience.

    BP most likely thinks they have a maximum limit of around 9000psi. Subtract out what they have now, around 6800, and they have a measure of around 1500-2000psi to push back at the well. What pressures would be actually used on the bullheading I don't know. I'm curious if a normal kill mud would be used or a slug of heavy mud for starters.

    Generally though, I personally think bullheading is a bad idea in this case. On a wellbore with casing integrity, it's done all the time, as Rockman mentioned. As soon as the casing is called into question, bullheading has to be done with care.

    I'm unclear as to the reasons why a bottom kill still isn't the 1st recommendation here, seeing as we have the relief well so close. But if the relief well is a 2nd choice and the bullheading is the first choice, I can only think of one reason. Others, please chime in with your thoughts.

    I think BP still believes in the possibility that at least a significant portion of the oil was produced outside the casing, and in the process of the flow for the last three months, created a very large washout around the casing. Drilling into this with the relief well could post a large control problem. Killing the well from above, albeit slowly, will negate any issues with the possible large void (created by sloughing[collapsing] shales)around the blowout well casing.

    I'm still hoping for a bottom cement job here, accomplished by the relief well. So, it wasn't drilled for nothing. I won't be satisfied until there's several nice piles of cement in several different sections of that blowout well.

    And yes, I think they'll pull as much casing as they can as so they can analyze the pipe for stress.

    throw my 0.02 in here

    bull heading is a very bad idea right now....and i don't think nay sane engg within BP will advise it .....the pressure wave generated during a top kill is significant...not worth it by any measure

    BP just needs to grow a pair ....declare the int tst is over and they are moving back to producing at the surface ......and use whatever int they have in the mechanical setup of this well during top kill.....this is the right option here......not a shut in well ...no top kill ....nothing

    open the well to flow .......produce topside like they were doing .....and wait until the RW comes in ......and then shut in the well and run the kill or partially close the well and run the kill pill ...

    they are just making things harder to the RW job by continuing this way .....open the damn well .....and deal with the flow ....this is ridiculous .....there are enough variables in this well for a bottom kill and BP should not be adding to the uncertainty at this point....

    I don't have the experience or knowledge to be able to form an intelligent opinion either way on the bull heading. It would seem the RW is the more sure thing, but still a lot of risky variables. This is why I am here reading and hopefully learning.

    The dynamics between the feds, BP, John Wright and gathered consultants must be nerve wracking.

    edit - clarity

    Pressure increases as you go down the well from the well head since you have a column of oil. But the pressure differential decreases as you go down. At the well head the pressure differential is that between 7000 psi and the ambient p in 5000 ft of water. At reservoir depth, pressure is much higher but everything is sitting at pretty much same pressure.

    Inside the relief well, pressure will be higher than outside since they are using a heavy drilling mud - the weight of the column of mud exerts higher pressure than the surroundings - and so when they make connection mud will flow from relief well (rw) into wild well (ww). So long as well casing is intact, a column of heavy mud will build in ww until the pressure it exerts eventually exceeds the reservoir and kills the flow. Then they can start to fill the well with cement to plug it.(in fact if the well has stopped flowing I'm guessing they can just fill it with cement?)

    I'm guessing this bottom kill is made much easier with the flow stopped. If you've watched the flow at BOP that is through circa 36 inch pipe, at reservoir depth the flow is through 9 inch pipe - I've always wanted to know what the flow velocity has been at depth - 50,000 bbls / day through 9 inch pipe - anyone?

    If the well has indeed stopped flowing then it is clearly easier to fill the well with mud. If there is a subsurfce blow out then the well is still flowing at depth. This means the well casing is fractured at some point or oil from the reservoir is leaking up the well between the rock and the casing - this will be much more difficult to bring under control. Accoustic sounding will tell them if the well is flowing at depth or not.

    If small amounts of gas have been seen leaking from sediment around the BOP one possibility might be the whole well contracting a little as it cools down releasing small amounts of background gas - methane is everywhere in the sub-surface.

    50,000 bbls / day through 9 inch pipe - anyone?

    I get 2.24 meters per second.

    Why not stick a microphone on the riser w/ an amplifier ... to the surface? They would know in a minute if the well was leaking through the casing?


    Rick, on July 19, 2010 at about 4:09 pm asked:

    "Does anyone have information on the first attempt at Macondo 252?"

    In the document: http://www.gomr.mms.gov/PI/PDFImages/PLANS/29/29977.pdf
    page 11, the locations of Well MC252-A and Well MC252-B are available.
    (Be patient, this document loads very slowly.)

    Well MC252-A, I recollect reading on the internet, was capped in late summer
    or fall of 2009, before they moved on to MC252-B which is the current wild well.

    My question still is, what is the health of MC252-A ?

    The document you link is a PLAN. Location A has not been drilled. Location B is the blowout. The blowout well operations were suspended in October due to hurricane damage to the drilling rig, and restarted in February with a different rig. The blowout well got stuck at one point and the bottom part of the hole was plugged and abandoned, and they redrilled that part of the well in a slightly different location. After reaching their objective, and running logs and tests on it, they set and cemented casing in it. The 'hard part' was done. Then they unloaded some of their heavy drilling fluid and replaced it with sea water and had the blowout when the cement failed somewhere.

    Bringing up previous subject on pervasiveness of this spill on the Gulf.

    Natural background level of hydrocarbon, (minus kerosene-like containing dispersant, roughly 12 gallons per minute at last EPA waiver request), in the Gulf ~40 million gallons/year.

    Current estimate, (ahh, like anyone has any idea), ~92,000,000 gallons.

    We should have hard and fast numbers on how much dispersant has been used. Does anyone have the numbers? They were shooting for

    The subsurface dispersant dosage should be optimized to achieve a Dispersant
    to Oil Ratio (DOR) of 1:50.

    I'm not good at math, but that's about 1,840,000 gallons of dispersant?

    Surface dispersant used: more than 1.07 million gallons
    Subsea dispersant used: more than 771,000 gallons
    Total dispersant used: more than 1.84 million gallons


    Thanks, M, so I'm only off by a factor of "more than". Dunno if anyone's seen the dispersant in a lab demonstration, but it was a pretty rapid reaction. So how many times the normal background dosage was rapidly put ashore, or wherever it went/is going?

    40Mga/yr = BG
    90Mga/3mos + 40Mga/yr = dose

    Someone else previously reported the Corexit/Diesel 1:10 mix is more toxic than Corexit alone, the mix has LC/50 about 10x lower than Corexit alone. Therefore the EPA dispersant tests reported June 30 without the mix are limited.

    The link below reports Carys Mitchelmore has testified in Congress on the dispersant issue.



    Thanks, tbtf. I've seen the epa docs, but not Mitchelmore's testimony.

    "If you're going to tie our hands, then we don't own this spill," BP Vice President David Rainey had warned at a May 12...

    This guy doesn't sound like someone I want drilling for oil in the Gulf ever again.

    So, Dispersit SPC 1000 was the least toxic dispersant cited in the EPA study, and the manufacturer, (U.S. Polychemical Corp), was ready to ramp up production, but were not seriously considered?

    The relationship between Nalco & BP reminds me of a job I was on, where I watched pallets of a Baroid product go down a groundwater monitoring well. I'm not saying it wasn't the right thing to do, just that it gave me a sense of how much money was being spent on the wells.

    Back to the current situation, if there was another less toxic formula available, as Dispersit's manufacturer claims, the EPA should have insisted it be used. It starts to give credence to those who say that the corporate interests have too much control over our representatives in the government.

    News on CNN at 1:15 a.m. 7/20/2010

    Now they are saying the well can be closed in next few days with a "static" kill. Please someone in the industry, explain! Is it miracle time or not?

    It's another BP roll of the dice, same thinking that got us to this point in the first place.

    Static kill, or "bullheading" is pumping mud from the top of a shut-in well at even higher pressures, forcing the oil back into formation.

    It is likely the highest risk approach. BP's specialite de meson.

    I say, let roll the dice with BP - they have a great relationship with Lady Luck. It will either work or breach the well forever. It's like a coin flip - heads they win, tails we die.

    By Alan Levin, USA TODAY

    Engineers battling the Gulf of Mexico oil spill are confident that the cap over the rogue well is strong enough that they may be able to plug it by pumping mud inside, bringing the three-month disaster closer to an end, BP and the Coast Guard said Monday.


    Julius Langlinais, a retired Louisiana State University petroleum engineering professor, said the slightly increasing pressure is evidence that the well cap is working. The small oil and gas seeps discovered near the well do not appear to be a sign of an impending blowout, he said.

    There is still no guarantee, however, that the flawed well can't explode again. "If something gave way close to the mud line, we could have a very serious breaching," he said. "It's not going to be a bubble forming. It's going to be 'Katy, bar the door.' "


    Sunglint can indeed betray the presence of large areas - actual lakes, even - of hydrocarbons:



    There is no Lake of oil.

    It is important that words have a definate meaning or they loose their value as explanatory devices. A Lake is terrestrial. The link provided shows nothing more than a Sheen.

    Honest and thoughtfull discourse can not be had if definitions are a variable.

    Nor is there a pool of liquid oil sitting on the sea floor. That is as impossible as dropping an ice cube into a glass of water and watching it sink to the bottom.

    Sunglint involves reflection of light off the surface of the water.

    Sunglint can detect a sheen of oil, which, as anyone old enough to remember Mr. Wizard ought to know, is typically one molecule thick. Does not need to be a very deep lake.

    Actually, it's a lake of methane. No, really, it is. (Care to put some money on it?)

    I think maybe you should read the link before commenting, next time... ;)

    Wouldn't it be against the law for BP to open up the well now and start to release oil into the Gulf?

    Even though BP has already spilled a godawful amount of oil in the three months since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, intentionally opening the well now and allowing another 30-60,000 bbl/day of oil to start spilling into the Gulf while they hook up the recovery system again could be seen as causing a second oil spill. Creating a second oil spill now could result in legal liability for the people working on the well now.

    Given the potential legal risks associated with starting to spill oil again after the well has been sealed, I don't think BP should open up the well again unless they receive a direct order from Admiral Allen to do so.

    This has had extensive discussion on the last couple of threads. Please search under 'rockman' who first put up the concept.



    On July 20, 2010 - 2:26pm, Zboson wrote:-
    " Let me try to clarify my thoughts regarding phase changes: 4 phases = solid, liquid, gas, plasma. Is this the correct description of phases? "

    There are others ( eg Bose-Einstein condensate ), but let's just play with the three we normally encounter ( gas, liquid, solid ). It's also worth remembering that when two immiscible liquids, eg oil and water are mixed, and then allowed to separate, we also call the individual layers "phases" ( eg oil = upper phase, water = lower phase ). The well temperature and pressure can be obtained from the well logs and analyses, along with properties of the fluids that could be travelling up the well. That helps define/constrain the phases that may have been present.

    "...maybe transform or change from one phase to another(what I called synthesize) very rapidly (catalyst - I was looking for a cause and effect mechanism, either organic or mechanical), possibly causing a different mixture of substances (what I called re-assort). "

    As noted, the alkane hydrocarbons are the final destination of reactions over millions of years, thus they are chemically-inert under most circumstances. Some of the larger molecules, eg aromatics, can react, but they need conditions either more severe ( high temperatures ) or different ( add water or oxygen ) than reported.

    " It seemed logical to assume there may have been another factor(s) which contributed to the accident, other than human error or due to only the well pressure itself. "

    Obviously, we can all speculate, but the KISS principle applies. When drilling, a mis-match of downhole pressure may causes problems, eg low pressure may result in "kicks" up the well, and high pressure can cause loss of drilling fluids.

    In this case, replacement of drilling mud with much lower-density water resulted in increased pressure from the reservoir across the steel casing and concrete seals towards the well interior. That driving force breached structure integrity, and the oil/gas mixture flowed up the well, increasing in velocityas it further displaced the fluids.

    These are all simple, well understood, processes. There is no need to introduce any chemical reactions or processes. Why specific choices were made, and why warning signals were not heeded will be investigated, but there may not be an unambiguous answer on the root cause - as some participants are dead.

    " What do either of you or anyone else for that matter think the reason is for the delay in tapping the WW with the RW’s? I understand an abundance of caution and the readings that are less than desirable but when does s*** or get off the pot come in to play?"

    History shows that relief wells take time. No conspiracy or incompetence. When the expert has John Wright's track record on relief wells, you let him get on with it. He's there - with all the hazards that clearly involves, we aren't. He doesn't need reminding about urgency.

    OK. I really don't get this, and I'd like some help from RM, Ali, et al (I know what Dimitry thinks and his analysis makes sense to me).

    How can bullheading this well (or attempting to do so) be a better or safer bet than proceeding with the bottom kill (even if they think they kinda-sorta have casing/wellbore integrity)?

    Perhaps because they believe that there is a substantial risk that a bottom kill would be unsuccessful

    Sure, maybe the first attempt or two might fail. But isn't bullheading much more likely to cause or exacerbate damage that could make it harder to kill the well by any method?

    Once you wander off the safe path to ultimate success via RW, all sorts of possibilities begin to open up. Bullheading is the next logical step. Why not. If it's safe enough to stay shut in, it's probably safe enough to bullhead. And so easy.

    But even if the downside of bullheading is less probable than the upside, the risk is nothing to sneeze at. The downside is, the casing ruptures, we get oil coming out of the seabed that cannot be captured. Meanwhile, the RW runs into problems. Like Ixtoc, it takes multiple attempts and months of drilling. 7 months later, we get it stopped. 7 months of oil pouring out of cracks in the mud from the ruptured casing and there's nothing we can do about it.

    Is it worth it if the RW is so close and would not risk the ability to capture the flow. Even if the RW fails, we could still capture the flow for 7 months and it would not be pouring into the gulf.

    Bullheading can be done tomorrow (ok, may take a few days to set up but the concept is they can just get on with it). The relief well will take a couple more weeks before they are ready. Not even down to the right depth and still have to run casing. Kill now or in a few weeks, now choose.


    That's not responsive to the question, NAOM.

    ... OR, spill for three days, then produce until the RW intersects, OR "static" kill now.

    Perhaps the least desirable option is leaving things the way they are for a month.

    "Perhaps the least desirable option is leaving things the way they are for a month."

    Wouldn't it be even less desirable to pump heavy mud, at high pressure, into the top of a possibly-compromised well and cause damage (or exacerbate existing damage) that might make killing the well much harder and take much longer?

    I am going the more STATESMEN APPROACH. I have been reading the OILDRUM for years. I have learned a great deal from the engineers and posters. My hats off for that. Presently, I am a bit puzzled as to why there is no discussion of Matt Simmons allegations. This is from a Man who has given this website a great deal of information over the years on Peak Oil. I also am puzzled as to why his link in the Blogroll has been deleted.

    I know Matt Simmons has retired from Simmons International, but all of his speeches and probably new ones are at his new companies website, The OCEAN ENERGY INSTITUTE. Any reason why he has been deleted?

    Lastly, I would like to include a link to his King World News interview from this weekend. According to Simmons, Ken Silverstein, Senior writer at the LA Times wrote that he met with Sec Chu and Salazar and they showed him the Sonar images of the BOP that was blown off. We will see if Simmons is right after all.



    Hi SRSrocco2,
    I'm glad you brought this up. Simmons was trashed by a bunch of newbies to OilDrum (BP employee?) and I'm not sure he got a fair hearing.

    Kunstler is also raising the same issue.

    I agree that nuking the oil spill may have been a wild idea with political problems, but his plan of bringing in the US Navy to suck up the spill could have saved thousands of square miles of fishing zones.

    If you've really been reading us for years, I'm puzzled that you're puzzled.


    I read that post. Heading Out is saying that no one agrees with Simmons. That alone doesn't seem to be a strong argument, given that BP has confirmed a leak 2 miles from the well head, I think we need to reevaluate the "experts". Simmons did a better job of predicting BP performance than any other "expert".

    Read it again. Maybe start here.

    PriorityX on June 7, 2010 - 10:39pm
    It may not take an expert to debunk Matt's lunacy.

    1. He states the reservoir pressure is 40,000 to 50,000 psi. Is this pressure range even possible? He has no access to this information other than what we have.

    2. He states the BOP was blown off like a cork. Problem is we know with 100% certainty that is not true. BOP is still attached to the wellhead.

    3. He states BP is capturing GAS from the drilling riser which is connected to the bottom of the drilling rig. Where is the 10,000 barrels of oil a day BP is now capturing coming from then?

    4. He states the flow is 100,000 to 150,000 barrels a day and bases this on the severity of the rig fire. Stupid and impossible analysis.

    5. He states there is an open hole with no casing as the casing was blown out. He is referring to the original well, not a second leak a distance away from the original well. This is impossible as the BOP is still attached to the wellhead. That's where he claims the big leak is.

    6. He states there is a 100 mile oil lake on the bottom of the GOM that is 400" to 500' deep. He then goes on to indicate that is different than the plumes. Oil floats, it is not possible for it to accumulate in a "lake" at the bottom of the GOM.

    I could go on, but why bother?
    Not to mention little details like GPS positioning.

    Dylan da Rat pushing Simmons' crap was just about the final straw that made me give up MSNBC for the duration. I told that youngster to quit using coke about a million times, but he never did listen to Uncle Wharife.

    6. He states there is a 100 mile oil lake on the bottom of the GOM that is 400" to 500' deep. He then goes on to indicate that is different than the plumes. Oil floats, it is not possible for it to accumulate in a "lake" at the bottom of the GOM.

    Whether it stays there, could depend on the density of the mixture.

    A much better litmus test for this claim, is IF it were true, THEN the place would be crawling with oil companies in a massive gold-rush!!

    Why waste all that money drilling, when Lake Simmons is just sitting there ?

    That test underlines just how decoupled he is.

    Not to kick a formerly respected man when he is down, or anybody else for that matter,BUT

    A LAKE THAT SIZE WOULD CONTAIN MANY CUBIC MILES OF OIL, even if it were only a fairly narrow lake located in a ravine or gully.

    Considering that the entire annual production of all other wells in the world combined amounts to something not much over ONE cubic mile.......

    I think even the open and free are allowed to show editorial discretion if the comments could cause real unnecessary fear and possible mental well being issues. Though such events as a methane tsunami are certainly possible, mental illness triggered by his reports are probably more likely. This is based upon reported mental and physical state of health reports for the area and the unlikelyhood of the methane explosion or lake of oil. There is visual and other evidence that the lake of oil does not exist. The main body of well published scientists on the subject also think such events are highly unlikely. If I screamed asteroid, I would expect some editorial discretion coming my way even if I were a regular major contributor. There does need to be supervision, especially of me.

    Though such events as a methane tsunami are certainly possible, mental illness triggered by his reports are probably more likely.

    Highly understated, but +1000

    I am going the more STATESMEN APPROACH. I have been reading the OILDRUM for years. I have learned a great deal from the engineers and posters. My hats off for that. Presently, I am a bit puzzled as to why there is no discussion of Matt Simmons allegations.

    Likewise, I will try the statesman type response. Anyone reading TOD for the last two months would find it difficult to miss the Simmons discussions that have taken place nearly ad infinitum. If you did miss them, please try the search tool in the upper left hand corner of the page. Type: simmons, leak into the search field and you will find numerous search hits.

    Hope this helps.

    Do you have a link to the LA Times article? I looked and couldn't find such an article online.

    I asked the same question above. Try this from Solace...

    Kev. I guess I haven't learned the HTMls here yet. My comment and links are 3rd and a couple below the top of this thread.

    I was referring to the LA Times article alleged by Matt Simmons that states Chu and Salazar were shown sonar images of the location of the supposedly blown off BOP.

    If there is some sort of document that BP filed with the federal government that shows the global position coordinates of the well bore, then it should be a simple matter to compare that to the location of the "leak" that the BP has been broadcasting to the public for weeks on end.

    After all, Matt Simmons says that the BOP is at one place on the ocean floor having been ejected in the blowout, the well bore at another place, and the riser that BP shows us as the "leak" is yet at a third place. Does what BP shows on the ROV shots look like a three story high BOP structure to you oil pros?

    Would BP file some documents with the federal government in the normal course of business that would show the exact location of the well bore?

    Sounds like a good plan: bullhead away with a top kill, cautiously.

    If the well blows, go ahead with the Relief Well (RW).

    The well integrity test says pressure is 7000-

    They were willing to go 9000. So go 8000 with mud.

    The advantages for BP of bullheading this well:

    - they can kill it before the quarterly results are announced on the 27th;

    - they can kill it with out releasing any more oil into the GOM (no need to flow the mud up, as per the relief well approach).

    Whether these two factors make it a good idea when the RW is near to intersection and they risk potential casing issues remains to be seen. Personally I think that it is feasible as long as the pressure differential that they use over current shut in wellhead pressure is a low as possible, i.e. force the mud down slowly!

    Is continued high rate production really a low-risk option, bottom-side?

    I wonder if someone with experience from the industry could answer a question which seems to have been missed -

    Tthere is now a lot of discussion about the risks inherent in bullheading the well, however carefully this is done.

    The alternative is seen as producing the well until the bottom kill can take place.

    This is discussed as if producing the well (without release) had no significant risk, other than that topside.

    However, earlier in the history of this blow-out, there was extensive discussion of the risks of the high flow rate in terms of erosion and other damage to the underground structures. These risks seem to have been forgotten in the current discussion.

    I would much appreciate ROCKMAN's view of the relative risks previously discussed of ongoing high rate production, versus an attempt at slow bullheading.

    My 'ignorant conviction' is that all giving weight to the previously identified risks of high volume production, and the top-side and bottom side risks of producing during the hurricane season, the various unknowns of the bottom kill, a careful attempt at a slow bullheading looks like a serious option.

    Just pump the mud in slowly. Let us consider the ramifications of starting a new 24 well integrity test with the shut-in pressure rising at a rate of 1 psi per hour. So to stay within the agreed boundaries, they would end the 24 hr period with the pressure 24 psi higher than when they started. So pump in the mud at 20 psi above the starting pressure (4 psi below the agreed pressure limit) for 24 hours.

    Given that the diameter of the kill line is about 2", the pressure differential is 20 psi, the weight of the mud is 16 ppg (SG = 1.9) we go to our handy-dandy calculator http://www.pumpcalcs.com/calculators/view/103/ and presto-changeo we can flow 197 gallons per min, or about 5 barrels per minute or 300 barrels per hour or 3000 barrels in 10 hours. I believe the well bore is about 3000 barrels max. So you could kill the well and drop the pressure at the BOP to 2250 psi, the same as the sea water at the mud line in less than half a day.

    Anybody think killing the well and relieving the pressure on the BOP before the next technical briefing might be a good thing (excluding Matt Simmons of course, as he'd lose his ass on his BP stock short position and the media who would be left looking totally clueless once again)?

    I think at 1 psi differential, we could be waiting for the mud to reach the formation for a very long time.

    Practical pressures they will use are considerably higher.

    We already have interesting and increasing leaks (luckily, mostly in parts we can change out) at 6.8 ksi. At higher pressures they can easily get worse.

    As the pressures go up at the wellhead, the risk if catastrophic casing failure increase.

    If serious casing failure occurs, the BOP/capping stack can't provide required backpressure to the RW, making them continuously dynamic. This makes the final stages of completing the RW and cementing very difficult.

    - they can kill it before the quarterly results are announced on the 27th;

    Sounds a lot like what I believe was the root cause of the blowout in the first place. Let's hurry up so we can save some money. At this point they need to proceed in the manner which has the least risk, no matter how long it takes. IMHO that is a bottom kill.

    BTW, does anyone have any idea what SKANDI ROV 2 is looking at. It's an area that looks noticeably different than the surrounding seabed, although I think the color difference might be an artifact of the lighting. Anyway, I need to go to bed soon, but if what looks like a gash in the lower left corner is suddenly going to spew oil into the Gulf, well, gee, that would be worth staying up a little while longer for. I have no idea what I'm looking at down there, so all this stuff looks peculiar to me.

    Link to May 26 - 28 MMS/USCG hearings in Kenner.

    MUCH more interesting than watching Tony BP say, "I don't know, I won't know, until we complete the investigation," 500 times.


    Perhaps we should factor this tidbit into our consideration of motivation (or motive) for keeping the WW closed in or bullheading it.

    From CNN:

    That lull in oil flow has jump-started the federal claims process. Kenneth Feinberg, the man in charge of disbursing the $20 billion in funds BP is setting aside to resolve Gulf oil spill-related claims, said Monday that now that the oil leak has apparently been stopped, it will be a lot easier and quicker to get a handle on the universal claims.

    At a question-and-answer discussion in Washington, Feinberg said it has been difficult to come up with a budget because officials did not know how pervasive the spill would become.

    "Now that the oil has stopped, with my fingers crossed, we will quickly come up with an overall budget," he said.


    To the poster who said that Simmons stated the leak was 100,000-150,000 barrels a day....we must remember the Coast Guard first came out with an estimate of 100,000 only a week after the Horizon Rig Sinking.

    Secondly, Simmons states its several senior people on the Thomas Jefferson who figured it to be that high according to their readings of the spread of the oil on the sea bottom. I am not here to defend Simmons....in time it will be proven right or wrong.

    But, if he says that he spoke with Ken Silverstein about meeting Chu and Salazar pointing out the BOP, I believe him. If Simmons says several scientists on these research vessels are asking him to help them get this information out....I believe him. I see no reason why on earth Simmons would lie about all of this....but I can see plenty of reason why BP would as well as why the US GOVT might try to keep a lid on it for as long as they can.

    Time will prove SIMMONS right or wrong. If he is wrong.....my instincts are totally screwed up.

    I believe him. I see no reason why on earth Simmons would lie about all of this....but I can see plenty of reason why BP would as well as why the US GOVT might try to keep a lid on it for as long as they can.

    Time will prove SIMMONS right or wrong. If he is wrong.....my instincts are totally screwed up.

    You seem to be implying there are only two choices, trusting Simmons, or trusting BP. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    Coast Guard stated that in case of loss of the wellhead, then there could be 100bbl/day.

    It doesn't take time to tell, we don't have to wait and see. Simmons hasn't provided location info for his alleged lake of oil or for the place where the BOP landed and created a second hole before it magically reappeared at the Macondo drill site on the stack.

    There is nothing in the TJ's reports about the spread of the oil on the sea bottom. The term used to describe the oil is "dispersed" and the concentrations mentioned are in parts per million.

    Implication possibilities:

    1) Simmons is lying for his own benefit and possibly for the benefit of unknown parties.
    2) Simmons' mental faculties have declined.
    3) NOAA is lying to the public via omission of critical information, a situation that opens them to charges of malfeasance and collusion with BP.

    I'll go with #1 and/or #2, and I acknowledge that #3 could be picked up and spread like wildfire by the people who refute #1 and #2 based on nothing more than they want to.

    Florida takes on the Methane Tsunami. With charts. Good and basic.


    The article gave the impression all subterrian water near those formations is salty. Is this correct or can fresh water also be under the strata. I am tying to get an idea how long this water has been below the seafloor and how far away from the mudline are we talking about?

    TFHG: The production sands in the Mississippi Canyon complex are generally of Miocene age. That means they are much younger than the Middle Jurassic Louann Salt that formed as the GOM was opening. But the salt deposits refuse to stay put - they are nature's answer to Silly Putty. Domes and diapirs rise up through the sediments, deform everything, fractures form, etc. In addition, the GOM has been a saline environment from the very beginning. So the answer to your question is that fresh water inclusions should be very rare if they occur at all. I would expect pretty much all water there to be at least salty if not outright brine.

    As for the distance from the mudline, I don't know. But you need impermeable boundaries to keep geopressured fluids in any reservoir, and I wouldn't expect anything close to the mudline would be consolidated enough to act as a barrier. Since loosely confined fluids can migrate, any high-up reservoir probably contains water not much different in age or salinity from the GOM itself.

    Edit to go on a bit while I have the floor: The convoluted geology of the MC complex is why I find it very hard to believe any seep miles away from the well could have anything to do with the blowout. If you glance at a seafloor map, it looks like the well is sited on a nice flat, gently sloping plain. But under the surface, that formation is anything but flat. Not only did the salt movements deform the sediments, the sediments themselves also did. The whole region is a depositional feature fed by the Mississippi River. Energy levels changed over time and so did the river course. So you have everything from the finest clay to probably fair-sized cobbles in there. That tends to form unstable slopes, which then fail in a submarine mudslide. The stuff gets partially resorted (because the finer particles hang longest in the disturbed water), but the formation as a whole ends up a tangled mess. We call that a turbidite. I suspect that any direction you go from the well, you would find tangled and discontinuous strata. Thus, oil trying to migrate and taking the path of least resistance just couldn't, IMO, travel very far before either getting stopped or finding a way out.

    That is some serious crustage that's been forming on the outside of the stack (see HOS Maxx 1 feed), could it affect/is it affecting the integrity of the apparatus?

    Make up your mind BP/government. What is a good shut-in pressure? (9000 to 8000) or 6800psia? Seems BP erred in saying a high shut in pressure was good because it meant no leaks. BUT now that we have a low shut in pressure that is good because it means a low formation pressure due to decline/drawdown /depletion what ever they call it. Their estimates of formation pressure, oil/gas density, condition of casing & cement, permeability and obstructions in well bore & BOP were not valid due to the many unknowns. They did not, do not and will not know what’s up down there. This forced their spokesmen to do some fancy talking.

    A specific result can be caused by many different scenarios, some good, some bad. A specific mathematical model can describe many different situations.

    Hopefully the seismic work will be productive. Is the warm oil/gas reaching up outside the casing/cement to the methane hydrate at bottom of unconsolidated sediments, and thermodynamically breaking it down to fresh water and methane? Better quit fooling around here, and produce well so warm stuff goes up well bore to ships and not to methane hydrate.

    Another first time poster. Thanks all so far for the intelligent input.
    I'll try to add a bit to one or two of the points raised.

    The confusion regarding the shut in pressure is not surprising to me. This pressure is being measured at the BOP's. What they really need for a better understanding of the wellbore, is the bottom hole pressure at the reservoir. This can only be determined by guessing what the the fluid column between the reservoir and the BOP's consists of. (% of oil, water & gas, and associated specific gravities and temperatures) This changes over time, especially in the initial period after shut in.
    BP has gained some production data from the collected fluids at surface to aid in these estimations, but the accuracy is questionable because an unknown percentage of oil/gas/water production was lost to leakage.

    Regarding the whole well kill procedure - one point others may not consider (but BP certainly is) would be avoiding damage to the reservoir deliverability. I doubt whether BP sees this field as a writeoff.
    My guess is that one, or both of these relief wells will soon become a production well; probably under the guise of a never ending "test". One well produces over $2 billion worth of oil/year. BP could certainly use this cash flow over the times ahead.

    Long time reader, first time poster. I have a few questions that I hope someone with expertise may be able to address.

    1. WastedEnergy refereed to the crystals forming on the HOS Maxx 1 Feed and Adm. Allen as well referred to the growing Crystals. I know that this was one of the issues surrounding the original "containment cap" in May. What affect could the formation of these crystals have on the cap and its structural integrity?

    2. The general consensus on this board is that the "static kill" is an extremely risky procedure. I believe one poster (dmitry) compared it to a coin flip. From what I gather, it is only possible due to the cap being in place. Is there any chance that this is deliberate posturing by BP in order to extend keeping the cap in place despite original objections from the government?

    3. If there are cracks in the cementing, is this something that could be hidden if the RW intersects the WW successfully and the cement is sent down. IOW, could BP avoid the entire discussion regarding the casing's stability if it marches quickly enough?

    4. What are the possibilities the low pressure is caused due to the leaks from the containment cap?

    1. No affect on structural integrity of the cap (unless they could build up to weigh many tons!)

    2. No-one wants to remove the cap, rather the issue is whether BP should flow the well through the cap to relieve the pressure on the well containment structure. So no, the static kill option is not just posturing to keep the cap in place. It is a real technical option that has the advantage of potentially killing the well without needing to outflow further oil to the environment.

    Yes there are associated risks, but in my opinion a very slow static kill with a limited pressure differential is a viable proposition.

    3. Not sure that I understand the question but the RW can kill the WW even if there are cracks in the original cementing. The casing stability is less of an issue if the kill is via the RW (compared to static kill) as the flow is upwards along the flow paths - a question of appropriate mud weight selection.

    4. None. Given the well's clearly demonstrated flow capability over the past couple of months, it would take a BIG leak from the cap to prevent the pressure inside it from rising to a final shut in pressure. I.e. with the ROV monitoring we would clearly see any leak that was big enough to bleed off the theoretical 1k psi more that BP were looking for.

    Check out what recently surfaced on the internets...

    Initial Exploration Plan

    Mississippi Canyon Block 252

    USG Report


    According to this report, BP wasn't even required to have a blowout or spill response plan.

    Can somebody from the industry take a look at this.

    I'm not from the industry, but I can tell you that's not true.

    MMS requires that every OCS owner or operator prepare and submit for approval an Oil-Spill Response Plan for each of their offshore facilities which describes in detail what actions their spill management team will take should an oil spill occur. Included in the response plan is a “worst case” discharge response scenario. This scenario must include the identification of any onshore areas that could be affected by an accidental spill from an operator’s facility. The lessee is also required to identify their contracted spill response equipment and materials, the necessary trained personnel, and the time needed to deploy those resources in the event of a “worstcase” spill. The plan must also outline responses to less severe spills or emergencies. As part of the MMS review of this document, MMS verifies whether the operator has a contract with an approved Oil-Spill Removal Organization (OSRO) that is capable of providing qualified personnel and sufficient equipment to respond to their worst case discharge spill volume.


    OTOH, BP's plan for MC252 was a shoddy cut 'n paste job (which seems to have been the industry standard), that included explaining how they would protect walruses, and identified a dead guy as a consultant they would call in in an emergency:


    Everyone was asleep at the wheel with the spill plans. For $5.95 your grandmother could have gotten a spill plan. An "approved plan"! Remember these plan must also be reviewed and approved by either MMS or the USCG.

    As far as the “worst case” everyone was focused on tankers not Offshore platforms. OPA 90 was created because of the Exxon Valdez a VLCC the facilities were secondary. The other problem with offshore platforms is the fact that they are offshore and most of the time the spills that do occur are out of sight out of mind. While the industry track record was until now, a good one. So over the years people went to sleep on not just the spill plans but also on the actual response. Deep asleep...

    So because we went to Mr. Sandmanville the response near shore and coastal is a cluster as well. Equipment sitting because of lack of experience in its operations, poor booming techniques, contractors that only care about the money they make, local politics, lousy command and control in many many local sectors, almost no operational oversight over the contractors (might as well let them rob banks as a progress award). Way too many cooks in the kitchens, meaning there are more chiefs than Indians and everyone is a oil spill response specialist now, including grandma and the pet parrot....

    As least the offshore response is going ok.... That's about all the good news as far as the response is concerned. Approximately 150 million gallons impacted the shoreline and with boom just thrown around and not really deployed properly what we have is a real mess for years to come. I clean up contractors dream...

    I'm not in oil, but this looks pretty much like the boilerplate we use to get mining permits. Thing is, paperwork like this isn't the whole package. It's just the basics in a standardized format. We also have to provide maps and drawings of our reclamation plan, detailed analysis of the environmental impacts, show what we'll do about any water encountered, etc. etc. etc.

    If the oil industry requirements are similar, this document amounts to a cover letter. The rest of the stuff would be interesting to see. Or maybe not - depends on how well it was done :)

    This reply from Kent Wells, to a briefing question, which pretty much is along the lines I was thinking : ie slow Mud feed until gravity/density lowers the pressure at the top, then more.

    ["Now, the difference here is because the wells not continuing to flow, we don’t need to pump at high rates and pressures. In fact we could go at very low rates and just marginally above the pressure. We could at least initially go quite slow and then eventually as we’ve got more mud into the well, it will start pushing back on the well and actually killing the well and then someone will just have to continue to follow in with more mud. So I think there’s – it’s just a very different procedure but we need to make sure that we go take the
    time, properly plan it out, think through all the risks and then we’ll make a decision in the – probably in the next couple days."]

    That sounds wrong to me. In the bottom kill, don't they want to have the mud carried up in the WW to fill the upper section of WW? To do that, don't they leave the WW open? This would not increase the pressure on the wellhead at all beyond the "running" pressure of 4.4 ksia.

    I think they close the capping stack when the entire WW and RW volumes are filled with mud and they have pure mud coming up from the WW. They will need WW closed and providing a little back pressure to balance out the uneven lengths of WW and RW, but this back pressure is reasonably low - a bit over 3 ksia for a "perfect" RW mix.

    Kent Wells was talking about the TopKill, (the subject du jour....)
    and was answering a question about the pressure that involved. iirc
    He did not give a number.

    Thanks to LAT for photographing a whole rig (and its ride!). I've often wondered what the undercarriage of a floating rig looks like, and now finally I know. (Next questions: how'll they skooch this one into the water? Will Black Marlin's captain fill her ballast tanks until the rig floats free? Will some ROVs show up to push, or will just the current handle that? Dang, talk about something to see.)

    Impressive, isn't it?

    You were right first guess, the Black Marlin will flood her ballast tanks, sink down, and the rig floats free.

    Wowzers, rovman, I can't even imagine how big Black Marlin must look in port.

    Good thing I'm only 5'2" and on carpet, or my jaw would be in bad shape right now.

    He didn't know the thalf of it....

    Wonder what the tolerance for getting the center of gravity of the rig right is? inches? ..and I presume even then you'd only be able to go out in extremely calm water. What's the length of the Black Marlin?

    Length 712 feet


    *Edit* That's her sister ship, but I'm guessing they're twins ;)

    Skandi 2 located a rather vigorous flow of bubbles on one of the flex hoses (choke or kill?). It then began to mess about with a nearby valve when the image froze for a few seconds only to reappear in a different location...

    Can't tell where the bubbles are coming from but yeah, that's the coupling that connects the choke line to the BOP, I think. The feed freezes for me too. S2 is examining the choke line assembly pretty carefully, so it must be at least a minor concern.

    Skandi 2 now locating several growing accumulations of dark sooty material, and what appears to be ice attached to the side of the BOP...

    That's methane hydrate, I think, and the oil bubbles are sticking to it. Hey guys, you might be missing something while you're admiring that transporter. We need oilman expertise to interpret Skandi 2. What's up?

    Further from the LAT story: We've already heard one bad story about this Kuchta fellow, but now a topper.

    Under withering questioning during Monday's resumption of the Coast Guard-Interior Department investigation into the well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the rig's chief engineer revealed the possibility that alarms and other crucial systems were bypassed or not functioning at the time of the explosion.

    His testimony also introduced a sensational detail: As crew members scrambled onto life rafts to abandon the crippled rig, the vessel's captain ordered an injured man to be left behind. The injured worker was eventually loaded onto a life raft and evacuated. ...

    Bertone testified to two incidents that called into question the conduct of Capt. Curt Kuchta immediately after the explosion. Bertone said Kuchta admonished a crew member for activating a distress signal. Then, as rig workers were climbing aboard a life raft, the captain gestured toward a stricken man lying on a gurney and said, "Leave him!"

    The captain's remarks were contained in a statement Bertone made to the Coast Guard in the hours after the incident, a document that has not been made public. The introduction of his statement prompted a lengthy and sometimes heated exchange among attorneys.

    If other witnesses corroborate that "Leave him!," Kuchta better find another line of work. No one sane will ever sail with him again.


    Obama launches policy to protect nation's oceans

    ... The policy itself contains no immediate recommendations for new regulations or restrictions on ocean uses and activities, but it's clear the new council is expected to recommend such changes.

    For instance, the task force's 96-page report recommends establishment of what would amount to a national zoning system for water and coastal areas, called "coastal and marine spatial planning."

    Regional coastal spatial plans would be developed over a five-year period, in coordination with state, local and tribal authorities. If those governments chose not to participate in writing the plans, the plans would be written without them.

    The new council would reach out to state, local and tribal authorities through the creation of a committee to address issues of interest.

    Among the issues that would be addressed by the council would be the ability of ocean and coastal ecosystems to remain resilient or to adapt to the effects of climate change and to the expected acidification of the ocean. ...

    He won't have a license to sail on after this.

    He won't have a license to sail on after this.

    We weren't there. Maybe the Captain felt that it was wiser to save N people rather than risking N+1 ?

    Until we find out whether the whole area was a sea of flames and explosions, we can't really say one way or the other.

    (The fact that the ill guy was finally rescued doesn't really affect any analysis of the Captain's initial decision)

    (The fact that the ill guy was finally rescued doesn't really affect any analysis of the Captain's initial decision)

    Actually it does. The fact that the injured guy could be saved argues that there was enough time to do it. OTOH, I really have no business commenting on that because I don't have any idea what was going on.

    Okay all you armchair engineers, Pop Quiz time!!

    It's open book of course.


    I urge folks to read the above article . . . it concludes:

    That's right Dear Readers. If Dr Chu had kept his mouth shut, BP's top kill probably would have succeeded and the damn hole would have been plugged by Memorial Day. More oil may have fouled the Gulf of Mexico because of Steven Chu than because of BP!

    And it is very interesting how the NYT has edited their article to take out the quotation that said:

    His role gradually deepened as he assembled a team of scientists from the Department of Energy laboratories, universities and other government agencies. By late May, his confidence had grown and he was giving orders to BP officials, including his demand to stop the top kill effort even though some BP engineers believed it could still succeed.

    "A lot of us said ‘don't start it,' and he was the one who said ‘stop,' " said a BP technician who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the company. "But having done all we had already done, I thought we should have completed the final two operations. He was not keen to listen. BP people said, ‘Let's try these last two steps,' but he said, ‘No, stop.' "

    From today's Times-Picayune:
    "Bubbles have been spotted on the seabed about three kilometers away from the well, a few hundred meters from the well, at the base of the original blowout preventer on the well, and coming out of a gasket in the flange on the capping stack that was installed last week."

    "Thad Allen, the National Incident Commander, said he doesn't believe that the faraway bubbles are related to the Macondo well, and the capping stack bubbles simply indicate that the new device doesn't have a good seal in one spot, so that leaves the nearby spot on the seabed and the base of the blowout preventer as areas of concern."

    Bubbles at the base of the original BOP??? That ought to be a major area of concern!

    All of the bubbles are a major concern. The low pressure is a major concern.
    But, BP and the Gov't are trying to down play it all.
    Best hopes for no more blow outs!

    This has been addressed by Wells for the last few days. Go to the BP site and read/or listen to his briefing from Saturday onward.

    Check out Skandi 2... there are several leaks now appearing on the BOP and they are growing...

    Can anyone give the principal chemical and physical properties of oil field cement that is used downhole. Is it ordinary building cement or does it have polymer additives for quick setting? What is the 24 hour compressive strength, porosity etc.


    my - Once theY kill the well by bull heading mud down the csg they'll be in a fairly standard mode. Really no different than an normal plug and abandon. They'll go to bottom with drill pipe and circulate the mud to remove any remaining oil/NG. They had not set any other plugs before the well blew. They'll probably sqz cmt into the bottom of the csg first and then set a number of other plugs as they come back up the hole. They might do some pressure test on the csg as they come up to see if there are any other potential problems they need to cmt. The cmt doesn't kill the well per se. The mud did that. The cmt just makes sure the well stays kilt.

    jg -- I'm not sure Wright has a good handle on the injection pressure required. They can run the hydraulic models but a big factor will be how well the reservoir takes the injection. The reservoir could have been damaged by the high flow rates and that could require a higher pressure than they would normally estimate. That's a good reason to pump slow: the reservoir will take fluid only so fast. But even at a slow rate of 10 bbls per minute there's only around 1,200 bbls of csg volume to displace. if I recall correctly the original top kill effort got up to 60 bbls/minute.

    kall -- I just don't trust the data we've been fed to make a call on static vs. bottom kill. I'll just watch for Wright's recommendation (if they'll really tell us) and go from here.

    Henry -- There's a stack of reports about 3" thick done by various independent companies that show the MMS exactly where the BP well is. There is no mystery as to where the well is located.

    nerd -- I hate to give such a simplistic answer but these decisions almost always boil down to judgment call more than black and white numbers on the monitor. Make a good call and all is well. A bad call and you might harm the environment. make a really bad call and you might kill someone. Just the nature of the job.

    Morning, Rockman.

    I'll just watch for Wright's recommendation

    Betcha Chu, Allen, and POTUS are with you on that.

    Oly ROV1... gushing