BP's Deepwater Horizon - Static Top Kill vs. Bottom Kill: Weighing the Risks - and Open Thread

This thread is now being closed. Please comment on http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6795.

Author's Note: Art Berman (aeberman) is an Oil Drum staff member and geological consultant whose specialties are subsurface petroleum geology, seismic interpretation, and database design and management. He has been interviewed on CNN and BNN about the Deepwater Horizon disaster. William Semple collaborated on this post. Mr. Semple is a drilling engineer and independent drilling consultant with 37 years of experience in the oil and gas industry. He worked for 16 years with a major oil company and has 24 years of experience as a drilling supervisor. He has been a guest contributor on The Oil Drum writing about the Deepwater Horizon (June 19, 2010).

A permanent solution to the BP Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico may be achieved soon but there are risks. Admiral Thad Allen announced on Monday, July 26 that a static top kill would be attempted on August 2. The schedule may be accelerated to July 31 or August 1 according to an announcement today (July 29). The sealing cap has successfully stopped the flow of oil and gas from the well and the pressure continues to build slowly. Temperature at the wellhead has not increased, and seeps near the well are mostly nitrogen and biogenic methane unrelated to leakage. BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells’ technical update on July 21 explained these findings and showed how the well will be killed.

There are risks involved in both the top and bottom kill procedures. The purpose of this post is to describe those risks. There are two risks associated with the static top kill. First, it may not work at all and second, it may rupture the casing by pumping heavy mud under pressure (“bull heading”).

Kent Wells described the static top kill as a process of continuously pumping mud into the well until the oil is pushed into the reservoir. This is clearly erroneous and must be a simplification designed for the general public. What will more probably take place is a practice called “bleed and lubricate”. Heavy mud is pumped into the well through the choke and kill lines on the blowout preventer (BOP) and allowed to sink to the bottom of the well. Hopefully, the mud will retard the flow so that some of the pressure can be bled off by producing oil to the surface for a short period. Then, more heavy mud will be pumped into the well, and the process repeated as necessary until the well contains enough mud to kill the well.

The first problem with stopping the flow from the top is that it has to be an annular kill: the flow was coming up the annulus outside the production casing. This is a very narrow space so mud will have to pumped at high pressure to achieve entry. It will initially be working against a full column of gas and oil and the shut-in pressure at the well head. On the positive side, if produced sand has accumulated in the annulus, the operation may not have to contend with the full force of the reservoir pressure in addition to these obstacles. On the negative side, the well head seals might prevent or restrict downward flow, or the pumping pressure could rupture the 22-inch casing, or reach a pressure high enough to call off the operation.

Figure 1a (based on a government document) shows that the upper part of the well bore is protected by three strings of casing (36-, 28-, and 22-inch) and cement down to 7,937 feet (measured depth below sea level). A fourth string of 16-inch casing extends nearly from the well head to where it is cemented at 11,585 feet, but it is apparently hung inside the 22-inch casing at 5,227 feet, leaving a gap of 160 feet. The 16-inch pipe has a burst rating approximately equal to the current shut-in pressure of 6,900 psi (80% of rating), but the 22-inch pipe does not meet this standard.

BP has said that the relief well DD3 plan will continue regardless of the success of the top kill operation. The main risk with a bottom kill is that it may take considerable time to accomplish. Because of the recent tropical storm, crews are just removing the storm packer today, and it will take time to re-enter and condition the hole before drilling resumes. BP estimate that the DD3 will intersect the Macondo well around August 10. Most efforts to intersect a blown-out wells require several attempts. The recent 2009 Montara blowout in the Timor Sea required four attempts that took a month after the relief well was near the blow out and cased. The bottom of the first Macondo relief well is currently located a few feet from the target at approximately 17,220 feet measured depth (based on Wells’ update and shown in Figure 1b).

The good news is that, in this case, the relief well does not, apparently, need to intersect the well exactly--it just needs to be close. Once the relief well penetrates the reservoir, enough mud can be pumped to hopefully overcome flowing pressure and kill the well. The bottom-kill option has the same annular flow path liabilities as the top kill, but it has the capacity to deliver higher flow rates directly to the reservoir. This approach will not cause significant pressuring near the well head and should not, therefore, pose a risk of rupturing the 22-inch casing.

The bottom kill option involves considerably less mechanical risk than the top kill, but time is the enemy, so the top kill makes sense. Maintaining the objectivity to abandon the operation rather than risk casing rupture will be critical.

Prof. Goose's comment:

Welcome--modified 21 JUL 2010

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RM - Damn - Missed the cut off point.
From last thread about Artificial Lift Pumps.

Your reply is about what I was thinking, I realize you wouldn't button it up at that stage, I understand the Lift pumps to recover Oil/Condensate, But Gas has me thinking, you would need a reasonable volume in cubic ft to make it economical. A lift pump used to lift out worthless water I imagine would cut Gas Flow down to a very low volume.

sticks - Yep...NG gets less economical when you have to go to AL. The really big expense with NG is compression. Even with no loading the production pressure reaches a point when it can no longer buck the transmission line pressure. Then you have to pressure up the NG to sell it. NG compressors are neither cheap to purchase nor to maintain. Their only saving grace is that most use a portion of the production stream to fuel the compressors. On small wells you might burn more NG than you sell. Lifting water-cut oil production has its own big expense factor: salt water disposal. It can costs half you cash flow to get rid of your produced water.

Sometime ago I pointed out how the US is THE world leader in recovering oil/NG from very late stage fields. And it's due almost entirely to small mom & pop independents. For the most part Big Oil and the NOC's aren't ging to fight these battles to keep little wells on. These enhanced recovery methods can be very labor intensive and not hugely profitable. ExxonMobil isn't going to nurse a well along that only netting $2000/month. But some independent who sees that money going into his checking account will. If it weren't for Little Oil I doubt we would have half our daily oil/NG production.

And it's due almost entirely to small mom & pop independents

That would be me. :)

seems the oil slick, sheen and water discoloration are back up to 60 thousand square klms. thats about as big as its ever been.

is this just the stubborn nature of emulsified oil and how much it damages the integrity of the water, or does it bring back to the table the possibility of another leak?

Where do you get this info?

it seemed only 4 days ago satelite images suggested the surface slick was nearly gone. then yesterday we got this.

ofcourse the emulsified oil can sit for a very long time under the surface and any storm or upwelling could make the oil resurface. but why all in the same area again.


Perhaps the energy from Bonnie was keeping the oil emulsified. As the seas calm the oil coalesces.


This article many answer your questions. It's from the NOAA.



I doubt it. It's not from NOAA although it includes some cut-and-paste pictures. Its credibility started low, sank when they said the Biloxi Dome (a salt-tectonic feature that's been known about for years and published on) was volcanic, and bottomed out when they talked about hitting the ancient volcanic floor of the GOM (40-50,000ft down - that would be some well).

Oh and by the way salt structures focus migration of natural seeps from deeper in the sediment pile. Nothing to see here, move along...

Please be very careful in how you use the above link. It is not from NOAA. It is a Blogger that is using / misusing data from this NOAA report.

The NOAA data is being inappropriately relabeled. For example, the chart on page 25 of the NOAA report is labeled:

Figure 20. Natural seeps (red and yellow columns) mapped by Thomas Jefferson, and by Gordon Gunter (purple cylinders) along with CTD stations showing high fluorescence (brown, green and white spheres). Deepwater Horizon well site is in background (red cylinder) and distribution of Bottom Following Reflectors is represented by orange lines.

The Blogger above relabeled this same chart as follows:

Oil leaks (red and yellow columns) mapped by Thomas Jefferson, and by Gordon Gunter (purple cylinders) along with CTD stations showing high fluorescence (brown, green and white spheres). Deepwater Horizon well site is in background (red cylinder) and distribution of Bottom Following Reflectors is represented by orange lines.

Note that NOAA's characterization of "Natural seeps" has been altered to "Oil leaks".

EDIT: Hats off to QUAKING for smelling the BS first.

There is currently a cluster of over 20 anti-pollution ships 10 miles west of the wild Macando well.

I just took this screenshot of the marinetraffic site

The red ship is the tanker Loch Rannoch, part of one of the BP plans for the Macando well. The cluster right to the Loch Rannoch are the ships over the Macando well. The cluster to the left (west) of Loch Rannoch arrived in the last 12 hours and consists of anti-pollution ships like the Texas responder, Maine Responder, Virginia Responder etc.

What the hell are they doing there?

Moon - I noticed them sailing into the area last night. I assumed they were a precaution against something going wrong during the static kill that resulted in a loss of containment. But if you look at their tracks now it looks like they are skimming.

Edit - grammar.


Using Marinetraffic.com I count 7 oil-skimmers there which started to arrive 21 hours ago (20:00 GMT yesterday).

The skimmer ships are Texas Responder, New Jersey R, Pacific R, Southern R, Maine R, California R, Gulf Coast R ... plus a bunch of barges to offload skimmed oil.

These "Responder" ships are oil-skimmers as described here: http://hamptonroads.com/2010/05/beachbased-ship-goes-action-gulf-oil-spill

What the hell are they skimmers doing today 10 miles west of the wild well when that well has been closed down for a week?

Is there a pipeline broken or another wild well?

That area appears to have been used as a staging area for ships to stand by in and not overcrowd the 'ship city'.


I agree, ships there seem to be station-keeping, only moving at about 1-1.5kts. They are not shown as anchored.

Because the water depth precludes the use or reg'lar anchors, I invented an anchoring system for these vessels, but it takes 2 weeks and $36 million to deploy. My guess is they're just moving around at low speed so the crews won't get seasick.

Some of the ships recent tracks

No wells or pipelines in that area.

Station keeping while making 3-4 knots in uncoordinated patterns?

No way - wasting too much gas - the other ships station keeping near the well do much less 0.5-1 knot.

All the bigger vessels involved with the DWH site have dynamic positioning. Turn mode to "station keeping" and sit back and monitor. Should hold you on location give or take 5' or so even using differential GPS with no subsea beacons.

Why everyone is wandering around is a mystery and seemingly a safety hazard compared to staying put.

Anyone know why?


If all those ships are so close together, how large would a Methane bubble need to be, to sink a few?




It seems logical that a large underwater gas eruption could decrease the density of the water enough to sink a ship. But Jerome Milgram et. al. say that this wouldn’t happen:

“Common wisdom in the oil industry suggests that floating drilling vessels will sink suddenly if a subsea blowout occurs beneath them. Well-control schools and texts on floating drilling often describe how the gas bubbles ‘aerate’ the water and rob the vessel of buoyant support…This belief is completely false. Recent technical studies clearly demonstrate that the actual loss of buoyancy in a blowout is quite small for all believable well rates and reasonable water depths…”

They state that “hull damage due to explosion and downflooding of open compartments…” are often the causes of the sinking:


The C.P. Baker apparently was lost in the way described by the study:


However, your articles discuss an eruption of methane from seabed hydrates, which could be much larger than an undersea well blowout. Even then, the articles do not say that the danger is from a loss of buoyancy. It is from a downward water jet from the bursting bubble that could drag the ship down with it. Or the ship could be swamped. It depends on the location of the ship relative to the bubble. If it is on the edge, there should be no danger. (But if the methane explodes first, sinking is not the main problem.)

They also state that no one knows enough yet to say exactly what might happen. However, I don’t believe that anyone is predicting that the methane hydrates in the GOM are close to erupting. Unless Matt Simmons is on the case.

From Admiral Thad Allen's briefing these vessels are on standby. I doubt if many of those ships have DP and it is easier to poodle around than to try and fight wind and water to stay in 1 place. There would be a lot of risk just drifting as different vessels would be affected differently.


Surprising that DP is not more nearly universal when you consider how widely available it is even at the recreational level now.


Skyhook has raised eyebrows for what it does. Initially developed for boats powered by Zeus pod drives by Cummins MerCruiser Diesel, Skyhook obtains a vessel's position from the GPS and uses an electronic compass to determine the craft's heading. Steering angle and propeller thrust are automatically applied to hold a boat on station. Now, here's how that works in the real world: An angler wants his fishing boat to hover over the top of a wreck with the bow pointed into the waves for a more comfortable ride. He pushes a button to activate Skyhook, and it's done. The angler no longer has to split his time between tending baits and working the wheel and throttles to stay in position. When the wind veers, a quick adjustment enables him to point the bow back into the weather.

There are many other practical applications for Skyhook. With this system, it's easier for the helmsman to stand off while waiting for a bridge to rise or for a canal lock to open. Skyhook can make docking easier, too — it allows a skipper to keep his boat hovering just a few yards from the slip while lines and fenders are made ready.

Most recently, Skyhook technology for Zeus has been adapted for MerCruiser Axius gas stern-drives and Cummins MerCruiser Diesel stern-drives.


Stationkeeping in open water is a rare requirement for general-purpose ships. The Loch Rannoch is unusual enough in having stationkeeping gear that it was brought all the way from the North Sea to work as an offloading tanker for the Enterprise drillship which of course has stationkeeping too. A regular tanker working with the Enterprise would need to anchor to a buoy, not very practical in 5000 feet of water, or be continually nudged around by tugs while the fuel transfer lines were rerigged every few hours.

Adding stationkeeping functionality cuts into fuel economy given that the ship has to have thrusters mounted at the bow as well as the stern. It also cuts into performance -- the Rannoch took a couple of weeks to get to the Gulf as its top speed is only 12 knots or so. This means that stationkeeping is unlikely to become a standard feature on most ships.

Fair enough for something like a tanker, although DP with its attendant improvements in maneuverability is a huge improvement for a shuttle tanker at least. I remember all too well the Zaria and Zafra trying to hook up the Auk-ELSBM in bad weather. Using the Loch Rannoch in hurricane season in the Gulf makes perfect sense to me.

My point was that for anything working in deep water or even near a rig in shallow water, DP is a pretty nice to have option, and it isn't a very expensive add on considering the advantages. I haven't looked at whether there is general availability in marine GPS nav systems and/or autopilots, but it seems like a feature that's on its way.

Small vessels with twin screws don't necessarily need thrusters, and anything big that works around a rig/platform or over a fixed point already has lots of thruster capacity. Just add electronics then you can push the 'stop' button.


Allen was asked about them in his just completed briefing and said they were being kept there as a precaution - they aren't doing anything atm.

We've had a couple of days of north and northwest wind, so oil should be moving offshore. A lot of the oil showing on maps yesterday was off Fourchon/Grand Isle, so maybe it came from there.


This may explain what you are seeing.
Please read it and tell me your thoughts.


Biloxi Dome is too far south. Wind and current from NW today.

I dunno, the HOS Super H and the Adriatic have spent quite a bit of time over the Biloxi Dome today...

The following is excerpted from Levi's post 7/29/10. Perhaps his coordinates are relative to these ships...

This morning about 2am, an event was seen on the Ocean Intervention III, ROV-2 sonar camera of a large bloom:


The OI's position was reported an hour earlier to be at a location approximately two (2) miles due west of the well, along with the HOS Iron Horse. Yesterday, this location was apparently scanned by the Pisces and also visited by the OI3.


Coordinates of this location were reported to be: 28.73775˚ / -88.4087

A ROV mission there was briefly on video, but was terminated with a still picture. As far as we know, BP is not obliged to provide feeds for ROV missions not actually at the Macondo well.

The good General committed to a good number of skimmers being available "by the end of July" a few weeks ago, in response to to valid accusations of the lack of them, not counting on the capping of the well. These ships were scheduled weeks ago and are now arriving on station. Today, they are likely not needed, but you don't move fleets like that on a few days notice, they were ordered before the capping and likely during concerns of the uncapping and free flow of the well in preparation for the successful ( possibly unexpectedly successful) cap.

Sometimes the simplest explanation IS the correct one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam's_razor

Notice that the Chinese government is perhaps understating and controlling information about its own enormous oil spill in much the way BP and the U.S. are. That puts us in sorry company.


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Boston dot com -- Cleaning Dalian harbor

A worker cleans up oil at the oil spill site in the port near Dalian, China on July 23, 2010. Fuel exports remain temporarily halted, industry officials said amid continuing efforts to clean up an oil spill at the country's major port of Dalian. (REUTERS/Stringer)

July 28, 2010The oil spill resulting from a pipeline explosion in the port city of Dalian on July 16th [see previous entry] is being cleaned up by a small army of fisherman, locals, and government workers manning over 250 oil-sk
path: Public ~> Energy
originally posted: 2010-07-30 17:30:03

It's A Serf.

Not meant as a joke at all. Those photos are horrific, and the Chinese government should be very ashamed.

The government is a reflection of society. No longer can a large group of people be held hostage by their government. They are just more socialist and more centrally authoritarian, but they are not so different from us. Why does half my stuff say made in China? Seems like I got crap that said made in CCCP back in the cold war days. Makes we wonder if China really is an adversary.

That tin foil hat must keep the mind control rays in.

Yes! And not a respirator in sight... with over a billion people, most poor and uneducated, I guess life isn't worth as much to them...

He is thankful that they glued enough big inter-tubes together to give him some protection at all. I suspect that many that weren't part of the photo-op are collecting oil in swimsuits

Check out the other 37 pics here

Go to the boston dot com link and scroll through the whole horrible slideshow. The people are bathed in oil. Some are probably ingesting it.

Check out some of the comments at the bottom:

Why can't we see the truth in China? Why only fishermen clean the sea stained by oil after the leakage? It's really a shame of China! But except being angry and angxious, what can we do? It's government and the wrecker's fault, but all the people in China suffer from it. As Chinese, we have no way but responsibility, no matter what foreigners speak, what they feel and do, we should stand and work shoulder by shoulder to overcome this disaster. And also, no matter why the fishermen clean the stained sea, please believe that it's a proud, because there is no work without no pay. ffighting, China!
Posted by Patricia J July 30, 2010 12:39 A

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US Oil Cleanup Product -- Opflex -- Headed to China for Use in Dalian Oil Spill Disaster

OSTERVILLE, Mass., July 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Cellect Plastics LLC, a client of Novak Druce Quigg LLP attorney William Ramey III, is pleased to announce that West Bay Energy, LLC (WBE) and Cellect Plastics, LLC have entered into an exclusive representation agreement wherein WBE will bring Cellect Plastics' advanced Opflex oil-spill cleanup products (www.opflex.com) to the People's Republic of China for use at Dalian - China's worst known oil spill. Based on proven performance as the l
path: Public ~> Energy
originally posted: 2010-07-30 17:37:06

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China Daily -- Workers struggle to retrieve barrels from river (Xinhua) Updated: 2010-07-30 11:44

CHANGCHUN/HARBIN - Soldiers and emergency workers Friday were struggling to retrieve the thousands of chemical-filled barrels that have entered a major river in Northeast China, amid concern some of the barrels may have sunk to the bottom of the river.
path: Public ~> China
originally posted: 2010-07-30 17:47:47

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China Daily -- BP has declined Sinopec's offer to buy its assets (Agencies) Updated: 2010-07-30 14:54

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec), Asia's biggest refiner, said BP Plc has declined an offer by the Chinese company to buy some of its assets.

"We've talked to BP on some good assets, but they won't sell," Zhang Jianhua, senior vice president of the company known as Sinopec, said in an interview in Shanghai today, without naming the ventures. "We aren't in any talks with BP right now."

Related readings:
Sinopec reports 16.74% rise in refining i
path: Public ~> Energy
originally posted: 2010-07-30 18:05:18

Much news coverage is, as Berman and Semple note about Kent Wells recent statement, "clearly erroneous and must be a simplification designed for the general public." I thank Berman and Semple for providing a concise and informative explanation -- something in which the general media seem completely uninterested.

Frequently, I find amusing the poor TV news lady standing on the steps of some closed government building in a snow storm at 11PM so that she can report "live" what happened in that building earlier in the afternoon. TV wants the visual. So if there are not huge surface slicks, oil-covered pelicans, billowing plumes, etc., there is nothing worthy of reporting.

Since the passing of tropical storm Bonnie, I've noticed the coverage of the DWH just about drop out of the news entirely. Yes, there's been coverage of Tony Hayward's departure from BP and the various problems of processing damage claims, but as far as the problems of killing the well and dealing with the environmental damage of dispersed oil deep below the surface, you might as well move along folks -- nothing to see here.

Were it not for TOD, I'd swear I'd fallen into some Orwellian world where yesterday's headline news story disappears, incinerated in the "memory hole" as if it never happened.

Old Bear,

Special thanks for bringing the comments back to what the post is actually about!

Kent Wells does a good job of providing the Cliff's Notes version of what is going on and what is planned. I was, frankly, astounded to see his animation of the mud pushing the oil back into the reservoir. I also understand his and BP's desire not to confuse the public with details that they may not be able to understand.

This next step--the kill--is really the climax of everything that has happened since the blowout, so it seems fairly important to clarify what exactly is being attempted and what are the risks. I wish BP all the luck in the world with the top kill, but William and I think that it has a lot of potential obstacles and risks.


As do I.
But I trust they know what they're doing and what the risks are.

Just curious; how much mud do y'all think it will take for the static kill effort (assuming no leaks, which I think is optimistic)?

Also, I've been following the tracking of the Geco Topaz seismic testing ship and it's been on the same exact track since it got back out there. What concerns me is that MC 118 is a known area of methane issues and Topaz's track is right there on top of it. Thoughts?

Always appreciate the high level of discussion in here, thanks.

that's one of the major questions on my mind raised by this update. I'm also wondering if there are estimates for the "considerable time" necessary for the bottom-kill approach? Would it be possible for a combination of the two approaches to be used?

Cap - For the top kill in theory about 1,200 bbls if there no losses to other zones/csg ruptures. I seem to recall that's the csg capacity. I wouldn't be surprised if they pump twice that much. Once they have the csg filled with the kill pill the flow should stop. With the bottom kill it's difficult to guess. They'll still need to fill the same csg volume but the oil/NG and mud will all be flowing up the hole at the same time. That will reduce the effective bottom hole pressure of the mud. I've never seen the details of a bottom kill before. Also, I'm sure each event is rather unique. Just a WAG but it could take 30,000 bbls or more.

if they pump mud, they aren't about to pump in more than the casing volume without fracturing the formation. This is why they should be using clear heavy brine if they can afford it before they follow it up with mud.


According to the July 21 update, Kent Wells said that they were going to use 13 ppg mud for the top kill. That surprised me because my engineer friends (I'm a geologist) were assuming they would use heavier mud.

Anyway, I asked one of them your question, and he said that it would probably be necessary to fill the entire well bore with 13 ppg mud, including the weight of the mud in flow lines to the surface to kill the well. This was, of course, an educated back-of-the-envelope calculation, and there are lots of unknowns about the details of the well configuration. He said maybe BP plans to pump in some 18 ppg cement after the well is killed.

This is a tentative answer to your question and is only meant as a rough approximation.


Thank you very much, Art and Rockman, for your responses.

Louisiana reopens waters east of the river to commercial shrimp and finfish
"First, an area proposed for reopening must be designated as free of oil. Once all parties agree, samples are taken from the waters and submitted to FDA and NOAA labs for smell testing and chemical testing for hydrocarbons."


TGalliano company pleads guilty to dumping oil in 2005
The government says the vessel was serving on a contractual basis as an icebreaking research vessel for the National Science Foundation on research voyages to and from Antarctica.

Just a little insight into seafood safety. It's good to see that FDA is on the case and running a program of systematic chemical testing. That's worth maintaining. What's not generally appreciated is that the human nose is more sensitive in detecting petroleum contamination in seafood than is chemical testing; it's also possible to smell-check a very large number of samples in a short time. Thus the seafood safety people use both methods; the chemical testing is quantitative and sets a solid threshold for agency oversight and approvals, while the smell testing enables a more extensive survey program. In early May the Seafood Safety Lab at my institution ramped up its routine training program for seafood smell testers so more trained testers would be available to respond to the Gulf spill.

I saw something on CNN about this a few weeks ago and I thought it was interesting, but the more I think about it, I'm not so sure it is definitive. Granted, I'm going to smell my seafood from now on! But will this address metabolic processes? I'm probably not stating this correctly but as I understand it, most fish and crustaceans aren't going to eat oil directly; its going to bioaccumulate up the food chain. During that process won't the organics undergo change as each critter digests whatever it ate? Should we be worried about the metabolic byproducts of the crude oil constituents? I'm assuming the smell test isn't just trying to catch surface contamination. I'm willing to look like a dummy for asking this, so lay it on if I deserve it.

Doc, how come they use dogs to check for bombs, but not to check food? If they miss a bomb, it is bad too. Is it too hard to tame the hunger response? Actually, I know man has been smelling food for product quality since we became aware of such things. Caveman days if not earlier. Did I ever tell you about the time Wild Bill Roberts drank 3 ounces of unleaded gas in 1983 for $85? I saw him earlier this year and he was fine.

Our flags are gone, the advisory has been lifted.

Dunno. My dog eats anything - acorns, earthworms, persimmons - so I have him on a diet of half dog food & half green beans. He'd like contaminated seafood jes' fine.

Too bad. Imagine the dog making $15 an hour when you are not there.

Nah, dogs wouldn't work. But if you get some cats and feed them the highest quality fresh seafood for a week or so, they'll then refuse to eat anything else.

Doc you getting this. Feline testers. Ethically, if it were human food and for safety. If you paid the owners, sure why not. I say 'jobs for cats' if it works.

I see an experiment here. It would pass the 'smell' test with the review boards and the legislators wouldn't it?

Trouble with cats is that they would soon sort out which is the very best sea food and reject everything else no matter if it was good.


After watching the soccer squid go 9-0 in the World Cups I am not so sure.

Tinfoil, Mike the Headless chicken lived 18 months without a head.
However every chicken I have axed has not lived more than say 3 mins after decapitation - if you call thrashing around "mindlessly" living.

Still no testing the seafood for dispersants?

I decapitated a turtle and he walked 100 feet back toward the river before I discovered him. Made me regret killing him. One bad turtle. The whole family had stew that night, yummy.

I'm a bit confused. Can someone explain to me why the RW doesn't need to penetrate the WW, after all that's what I've been (or thought I'd been) reading/hearing nearly a hundred days? According to the aeberman, the RW now gets to penetrate a reservoir and somehow mud pumped into it will wind up in the pipe - though it's not flowing anymore. I'm trying to visualize it like a McDonald's milkshake - if I dump Vanilla into Chocolate when it's not being sucked up, the straw's presence makes no difference.

I've always thought the RW had to penetrate the WW and recall distinctly commentary discussing how the RW has to penetrate the formation, fill the gap (that may or not have oil or seawater) with cement, then the casing, etc., so that the well can be killed.

Help me understand, please.

I've always thought the RW had to penetrate the WW and recall distinctly commentary discussing how the RW has to penetrate the formation, fill the gap (that may or not have oil or seawater) with cement, then the casing, etc., so that the well can be killed.

I think the assumption is that the failure in the well (the leak path) is outside the bottom of the pipe going into the Production Zone.

In other words, the oil is coming up in the Annulus, the space between the production pipe and the hole made by the drill. If you refer to the two diagrams in this article, you can see a clear path, uninterrupted by cement, through the Annulus all the way to the top of the well. This space is plugged at the very bottom by cement, but just above the cement "shoe" at the bottom, there is a clear space, bordered on the inside by a green line, which represents the drill pipe.

You can follow the clear space all the way to the top of the wellhead. Oil/gas which sneaks around the shoe at the bottom to get to the uncemented Annulus has a clear shot to the top of the well. Any single failure of the pipe sealing mechanisms or pipe integrity along that open Annulus, combined with the assumed flaw above the shoe, allows hydrocarbons to enter the production pipe and exit at the surface.

Since the entry point for the hydrocarbons is assumed to be along the Annulus, outside the pipe for much of the distance, a good layer of cement in the Annulus should seal the well and stop the leak. Then it would not be necessary to mill into the pipe and fill it with cement as well.

Hope that helped. Check the helpful diagrams posted in this story carefully, and you'll see the path all the way to the top of the well.

Sorry,KB but I for one am still having a tough time with this. If the well is capped, how is anything flowing up the annulus, and so how would mud or cement pumped into the zone around that hiatus beneath the 9 7/8 casing and above the bottom shoe make its way up the annulus to seal it? Would they open some line at the top to let fluid move up the annulus somehow?


Nothing is flowing now because the sealing cap is stopping it. We are assuming that the flow was coming up the annulus before the cap was put in place. The goal, therefore, is to pump mud into the well, hope that it settles to the bottom by gravity and partly balances the pressure in the reservoir. It would be then be necessary to open a flow line to flow some oil and gas and bleed off pressure, and pump mud again, let it settle again, and repeat until, ideally, the entire well is full of mud.

Part of the problem (a large part!) is that we're all guessing about what is actually planned. That is why we made the comment about Kent Well's erroneous explanation and silly video showing mud continuously pumped forcing the oil in the pipe back into the reservoir. En suenos!


Art, do you have concerns about a high frac gradient in the un-cemented annulus of the ww? I'm trying to understand why you believe a straightforward bullhead is a bad choice for the top kill.

Please elucidate. :)


Jones the fish,

I'm not concerned so much about the frac gradient in the un-annulus as I am about the 160 ft of gap between the well head and the top of the 16" liner. The 16" liner is burst-rated to something approaching the shut-in pressure of the well at present. The 22" casing above it is not. That is the concern. On the other hand, I remember (somewhere) that prior to the blowout, the well was pressured up to 10,000 psi with the existing configuration and it held. The unknowns about casing and seal erosion are many, but I know that BP has a lot more information than we do. That is not necessarily a reason for hope, but it is all that we have.


Thanks for the reply Art, much appreciated,

I get confused regularly between PSIA and PSIG in this well killing exercise. I tend to think that the reported pressures are the differential that the wellhead/BOP are actually experiencing, but I now expect that is wrong. If it is wrong, then the casings are seeing a "supporting" pressure on their backside as well.

I'm thinking that we are at give or take 4500 differential at the wellhead now.

So anything we are looking at on the surface and intermediate casings is going to be something like 2400 psi below our reported absolute pressures due to the hydrostatic propping it up, so to speak.

In that case, our differential against the surface and intermediate casings may not be quite so bad.

Or not.


I see the path - the path I now understand is clear from the bottom to the top - that wasn't clear to me before - I'd been under the assumption that the gap (path to top) itself is filled with cement, etc., but that's apparently not the case. The construction of a well bore is much more complicated than I'd been allowing myself to believe what with all those seals, O-rings, and the sorts of things one expects to be integral to the Space Shuttle much less an oil well.

Correct me if I'm wrong: By pouring in mud into the reservoir near the bottom of the "straw", the mud (because of specific gravities allowing it to defy oil, etc.) will be drawn into the supposed gap that is open to the surface - and it's because the top is sealed that the mud won't be otherwise drawn into the well itself allowing this trick.

Seems like a lot to base one's faith in ... Nonetheless, this site, TOD, has certainly opened my eyes to what it requires to acquire what is required to keep us from returning to the age of cobblestones! Wow.

Thanks for your assistance.

Matt, My understanding is the RW would have needed to do all you said IF there were no other containment method available. But since they have a fully functional cap with lots of nice valves and input/output devices on it, they can do a two-fer and inject mud into the original well from top while also injecting mud into the RW from the bottom.

widelyred, matt and rockman,

I have heard nothing about simultaneously working from the top and the bottom. I'm not even sure that you meant that, but that is what I thought someone might take from the thread.

To be clear: the relief well is at least 2 weeks away from being ready to do anything in or near the Macondo well bore!

The plan, as I understand it, is to attempt to kill the well this weekend or early next week with the static top kill--from above. No mas.

There are at least 3 outcomes:

1. mechanical problems prevent mud from being effectively pumped into the well, so we are back where we are now,
2. it works and kills the well...for now, as long as mud is in the hole, i.e. a temporary kill; and
3. it ruptures the casing and there is a bigger problem than we have now.

In all three cases, the relief well is needed to either solve the same problem we now have, finish the job that the top kill began, or solve the new problem that the top kill created.


Art - that's my understanding also

Art, I was in a hurry when I typed my response. The word "also" in that context was not meant to imply concurrence. Bullhead comes first and regardless of its success or failure, RW comes second. However RW is EASIER now that the top cap is in place because it allows options not previously available on any number of parameters; e.g. not enough pressure, add more from the top cap, too much pressure, relieve from the top cap, you see the point.

matt -- That statement caught me by surprise too. But I'll take a guess. Most importantly, the RW is only feet away from the well bore annulus: the area between the rock and the csg. They'll drill the last few feet and cut into the WB annulus and not the csg itself. If there's communication with the reservoir thru this annulus they can start pumping the kill pill in right now. The big question is where will the kill pill go? Up the annulus, down the annulus and into the reservoir or down the annulus and u-tube back up the csg. Or any combination thereof. It may also imply that they might just try to fracture the few feet of remaining rock and break into the annulus without actually drilling it.

Once again we're given generalities that lead to a variety of interpretations/expectations.

Rockman, if you care to say, isn't this top & bottom a little nuts?

avon -- you mean simultaneously? Not the way I would go. There's enough variables now which aren't too well tied down. Just understanding the feedback from one of the approaches will be difficult enough IMHO.

Up the annulus, down the annulus and into the reservoir or down the annulus and u-tube back up the csg.

How is mud going to move up anything when there is no flow and u-tube anywhere when everything above it in the casing is lighter than it is?

Thad Allen briefing about to start on CNN Live:


Hope someone asks him why we are longer privy to the video feeds of the Skandi Neptune as well as the BOA SUB C(Mill36 & Mill37)


Somebody did .. he said he'd check with BP.

Cute that interesting work gets done at 3 a.m., feeds switched off.

The Skandi feeds are now back up. The BOA Deep C feeds have been up all day in my time zone (PDT)

Skandi feeds are finally back up after several days.

I asked about the "BOA Sub C", not "BOA Deep C". The BOA Sub C is using the Millennium #36 and #37 ROV's and the video is not publicly released. The dive number on those ROV's is in the 500's for this particular event, most of the ROV's we've seen have dive numbers under 50.

BP to try "static kill" on Gulf well Tuesday
"BILOXI, Mississippi (Reuters) – BP Plc will attempt on Tuesday a planned "static kill" operation to seal its ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well, and hopes to have a relief well finished by the end of August, incoming company CEO Bob Dudley said on Friday."
Incoming BP CEO: Time for 'scaleback' in cleanup

Per Allen's just concluded briefing - The delay is due to the discovery of debris in the bottom of the well. A 40' uncased section fell in on itself during the storm break and is being cleaned out today, with plans to run the 2000' of casing starting tomorrow. (Their original time-line was to begin casing sometime on Wed/Thurs, so they've slipped a few days this week.)

Briefing replay at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/294846-1
A side note - Allen looked tired today.

Wells is due to give a briefing this afternoon 3pm CDT. Here's hoping some reporters ask more detailed questions about the static kill.

A 40' uncased section fell in on itself

I bet that is the area Allen was talking about in the beginning that they were worried about and the reason they wanted the casing cemented before attempting the static kill.

Kind of spooky since they are just a few feet from the well.

Yes, I noticed the newswire story...

NPR Wire Services
July 30, 2010

New BP CEO: Some Gulf Efforts To Be Scaled Back

The time has come to scale back parts of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup, incoming BP CEO Bob Dudley said Friday.

"You will see the evidence of a pullback," Dudley told reporters in Biloxi, Miss.

"Where there is no oil on the beaches you probably don't need people walking up and down in hazmat suits. So you'll probably see that kind of a pullback," he said, adding that when it came to the company's commitment, there would be "absolutely no pullback." . . .

Probably a very logical decision technically and reducing the company's visibility can't hurt either.

SF- It's good to see BP has regained their integrity BAU/SOP. The first thing I see this a.m. when I turn the computer on is; New BP chief states it's time for clean-up efforts to be scaled back. Oh, but they plan to make everything right. These folks are so far out of touch with reality it's indescribable. Didn't Dudley learn anything from the mistakes of Tony? I can agree there are areas where hazmat suits are not required but to be insensitive enough to even mention scale back on anything at this time clearly states where his heart is.

The first person I though of was TFHG. We need more eyes **and noses** to make sure thinks are right.

They dropped the red flags, and I will do a big story today. I dropped my pipeline story. The experts say that the project is now dead. If nothing else, luck and timing now have me at 2-0. I now am monitoring the physical, mental, and economic problems around here and study for the GRE. Does anyone have recent GRE test experience? Any good links? There are so many to choose from.

I have a project that is blowing the minds of the town leaders around here. It involves better traffic management and pedestrian/bike pathing. For the first time EVER, they are actually listening. We shall see. I much prefer working on the local problems. Isn't that an unspoken theme here? More local action to solve our global problems such as peak oil? The 'think globally, act locally' slogan is old but still right on.

My approach was to avoid the GRE altogether, I don't remember whether that was my senior status, even though I was only (groan) 45, or because of my work experience or what. Maybe it's because they don't administer them to psycho's. I can tutor you on the latter if you need help.

Do you require a psych exam before they accept you as a student in the the puzzle factory?

Are you kidding? Why do you think they call us "psycho"-therapists?

You are kidding me, at least they make the priest candidates confess. That is too real life.

No kidding. Although in the course on testing you usually do a self test.

But since you bring up one of my other "incarnations," I wasn't required to "confess" in seminary either, while studying for the ministry, although I was required to undergo psychological testing there. I had to work pretty hard to flunk out of there, but I managed, out of desperation. So, I've always attributed my failure at becoming a minister on my failure of the course on "kneeling."

I could be mistaken but I thought confession was a ceremonial type thing before receiving the Holy Orders. I only saw it happen once in Korea and it was 30 years ago. The Cardinal flew in.

He seems to be speaking of becoming a minister, not a priest.

No confessions for the protestants, they are left to deal with God directly to say they are sorry - no easy fix & clean slate every Saturday. :)

lol, I had a professor at UNO who said that growing up in New Orleans he always felt sorry for the Protestant kids because they were supposed to deal directly with their "sins" with out the luxury of confession, penance...good to go!

Therapists in therapy...lol...I once knew a therapist who was treating people for alcoholism and at the same time seeing a therapist for his drinking problem. He showed drunk for his appointment one day. He told me this story while treating my daughter. Priceless.

You're right, it was harder on us Protestants, but I'm much better now.

As for therapists, ouch.

Like doctors, and any other profession, there are good ones and bad ones. I looked for the best when I decided I needed both personal and professional oversight. I've never regretted the experience, and I have little doubt, that resource, and the accountability she provides to my practice has benefited my clients enormously.

It gets better than that. When you are at the end you get confession AND last rites. Supposed to let you slide on much, especially if you paid enough to the parish.

I didn't study for the GRE but I did go to the library and get the Princeton Review book about the GRE. It is far more important to understand how the test works than to actually know the answers. I took a practice test before and after reading how the tests work and my scored improved by almost 100pts. Not bad for a few hours "work".

To get a clear picture;


Why hasn't BP placed a gag order on Tony? I know BP is trying to appease the financial markets and their shareholders but a few months of silence from TH would do them good.

I was sure I had it straight and now I’m confused by the facts. :<)

My impression was that, as Kent Wells said, the top kill was a process where a kill pill (not mentioned by him, but mentioned by several contributors), would be inserted, consisting of a spacer, followed by relatively heavy kill mud, followed by another spacer, with the spacers designed to prevent intermingling of the mixture of gas and oil below the kill pill, and/or lighter mud above the kill pill, with the heavier kill mud, thus rendering it ineffective in its ability to do its job of reducing pressure in the well by pushing down on the oil/gas mixture and “persuading “ it to re-enter the reservoir.

I had inferred that the spacers were likely to be a very viscous semi-fluid (apparently not a solid), which, because of its inherent immiscibility, derived from surface tension or some other quality, would resist intermingling with dissimilar fluids.

Your description of the process of inserting the mud and allowing it to pass through the oil/gas mixture begs the question as to what would prevent it from continuing further and essentially becoming lost in the labyrinthine depths of the oil bearing formation. If it did that it would be hard for me to conclude that it would have any impact on reducing the pressure in the well, because the pressurized fluids would just pass right through it. If anything, I would expect that it might effect a relatively insignificant increase in pressure, with that impact becoming greater as more and more of it penetrated the formation.

Obviously there is something that I’m missing here.

As for the relief well, my impression (which I could check if I weren’t so lazy, so if everyone ignores it I will get the point and reinvestigate it more), was that it would intersect the target about 3000 feet above the bottom of the first well, first sealing off the annular (and thereby avoiding having any cement in the annulus at the bottom of the well interfere with the process), then pumping a kill pill inside the casing to reduce pressure in the well by pushing the oil/gas mixture below that point back into the reservoir, then cementing both the annular and the rest of the well.

Again, I apparently missed something because I can’t understand how this scenario would enable the two attempts to complement each other.

I’ll shut up now, for an opportunity to catch my breath and ease the pressure on my brain.

You can attempt these kills anywhere from dead subtle to dead brutal.

It is easier now that we have pressure containment on the blowout.

I think too much subtlety on a top kill like this is dumb, personally, as we have no idea where the fluid path really is, just guesses.

So if you're only guessing about fluid paths, then you have no real idea of the volumes involved, just guesses.

I suspect this may just be a traditional bullhead at the end of the day. And I would think REALLY hard about what kind of spacer to use, if any. Last thing you want is a viscous spacer that you may end up HAVING to push back into the reservoir. Once its in the well, you would have to flow the well to get it back out.

You can argue that pumping water might be a better approach until we see what is happening to pressures and so forth and whether the kill profile follows their forecast closely. Then graduate to heavier mud once the well is full, and then finally cement (probably with lots of LCM in it) with a mud chaser.

From a bottom kill perspective into an uncontrolled wild well, it is common to establish communication with water, then move to kill mud, then move to cement once the well is dead and stable. One of the huge advantages of a bottom kill from a relief well is that you know pretty much exactly what vertical depth you are going to establish communication into the wild well.

In the top kill scenario we are talking about, it is next to impossible to establish where your kill fluids are going to enter the formation, as depleted zones/lost circulation zones are a big part of the picture.

Rockman put forward some really good examples of that last night or early today when talking about pressures above and below a depleted formation.

This is going to be fun. Basically gently frac the blowout to kill it, then heal the fractures to make the well stable afterwards. Interesting times. Tricky stuff.


No need to frac it during the kill operation's first phase if they use a clear filtered brine. I can't understand why they would be going with mud when they can try brine and get all the way to the reservoir without fracturing. All they have to do is pump slow.


There is much that we are all missing because we don't have all of the information--that is not a criticism, just a statement of fact.

I cannot comment on statements made by other commenters about mud pills, etc. because our post was not about that. It was meant to be a description of the next steps calibrated to a well configuration diagram that we believed to be close to reality.

I can comment on the point of intersection of the relief well with the Macondo well. It is clearly marked on Figure 1b @ 17,200 ft, below the 9 7/8-inch liner. If someone said it was supposed to intersect 3,000 ft above TD, I don't know anything about that and the source of that view did not come from this post.

I appreciate your question, and hope that this helps.


Thanks Art for your response. I have no doubt that clarity will improve over time. Meanwhile, I can handle the headache, after all it's my own doing.

Thanks again, you folks are providing a valuable service and I admire your ethic.


Ok back to other news.

Hearing set on using surplus nuclear-weapon plutonium at Browns Ferry nuclear plant

TVA entered into an agreement with DOE to evaluate the use of this fuel in its nuclear plants after Charlotte-based Duke Power withdrew from the program, following the failure of a MOX fuel test at the Catawba plant in South Carolina.

This public hearing will help determine the issues that DOE will need to consider in its environmental review of the proposed use of MOX fuel at Browns Ferry and Sequoyah, as well as other aspects of DOE's surplus plutonium disposition program.

The use MOX fuel can increase the risk to the public from a nuclear accident or terrorist attack, says a group concerned about the plan.

The use MOX fuel can increase the risk to the public from a nuclear accident or terrorist attack, says a group concerned about the plan.

After the reactor has been running for any time it will contain Plutonium and all sorts of other radioactive material anyway.


I thought unless you use a breeder reactor design, the amounts produced would not be enough to make a fission device. Maybe a dirty bomb, but not a chain reaction bomb.

It's just exaggerated scaremongering, like what we have been seeing with methane clouds and oil lakes. There is very little actual fuel in a reactor anyway, maybe 2%-5% of the 'fuel' mass, they try and generate the heat over a large volume to make the steam generation easier. Mention Plutonium and people go into hysterics about how a tiny amount will wipe out the earth. To remove the Plutonium from used reactor fuel requires major handling ability, stealing fuel from a reactor would likely end in the death of the person stealing it in very short time. To make a weapon you would need a LOT of fuel and it can be radiologically poisoned to make recovering fissile material harder. A terrorist attack is going to cause more PR scare than actual damage. If you want to create a dirty bomb then stealing a Cobalt-60 source would be far easier. Even easier would be to create a dirty bomb scare, just say that you have planted a dirty bomb and the chaos would be incredible.


Anthrax bomb scares more.

Remember the good old days when all we had to worry about was nerve gas?

A while back I was in an Email discussion with a conservative friend, and he expressed the opinion that terrorism was a threat to civilization. Maybe so, but I'd been to Japan, where two nuclear bombs destroyed two cities, and to Germany, which was heavily damaged by WWII bombings, it didn't seem that 50 years on civilization was particularly destroyed in either location. (Although some may point at recent seasons of moé drenched anime from Japan as said evidence.)

You know what scares me more than an anthrax bomb?

Peak Oil.
Global Warming.

Each of those threats has a much greater throw weight than anything dreamed in the caves of the Taliban. I place them (in no particular order) as the top three threats to civilization. There are other events in geologic history that would have similar effects like giant asteroid strikes and mega volcanoes that belong in the same threat category, but my top three are anthropogenic, resistant to BAU solutions, and are already having effects, and are likely to get far worse in my actuarially supportable lifetime.

Perhaps in honor of Asimov I should propose my zeroth threat - humanities reticence to deal with threats one, two and three.

Solve your 2nd and you'll have a good start on 1 & 3 and in doing so resolve 0. There are effective ways to deal with 2 and T but it would be difficult to get around 0 to do this.


Maybe you and I, maybe not my aunt. It is all subjective.

Re your first point. The of terrorism is what does the damage, not the body count. Look at the stupidity that passes for airport security and you'll see what I mean. How many $billions in lost productivity and meaningless measures are spent to accomplish what? As the British showed during the blitz, one bomb is terrifying, daily bombs is just BAU.

To accomplish people making $millions in profits with security contracts.

Tech bubble bursting? Start a boom in the security industries.

Contrast the costs of our airport security measures with the value of the aircraft that were destroyed on 9/11. Then add in the costs of the grounding of all aircraft in the US and then the expense involved in restarting normal operations. Now lets add in the costs of the buildings destroyed and the disruption of a large part of New York city. How many years will it take for the added airport security cost to equal the damage produced on 9/11? A century?

Then remember the melenium bomber, shoe bomber, the transatlantic bombing plot and the underwear bomber. All of which demonstrate that there is a continuing threat against US commercial avation.

And if you divide the costs of airport security by the number of aircraft departures - if we were to use the same level of security that is currently used by Israel - the total cost would be less than 3 dollars a flight.

What scares me is the idea of somebody getting their hands on some smallpox (or pneumonic plague) and then spreading the disease using 'suicide infectors.' Once they are infected they do nothing but fly around the world on airliners until they are so sick that nobody allows them on a plane. The nasty part about this is the fact that nobody tracks people who fly on international flights but never leave the transit areas of international airports. As long as you do pass through a customs area and depart via another international flight - nobody in that country will even know you were there.

Anthrax is a self-limiting disease as it does not spread from person to person very easily. This is why it was a preferred biological weapon back in the days of BW - you did not have to worry about the disease spreading back to your own people.

And if you want to get really scared - ask yourself how many companies that make vaccines are still in the US. Most vaccines are imported because of our liability laws that allow anybody to sue for just about anything. the danger this creates is that during a serious pandemic - governments will ban exports of vaccines until their own populations are protected.

I have already talked to the pediatrician about getting the twins vaccinated against both smallpox and plague as soon as they are old enough.

(One of the big drawbacks to getting a Master's in Homeland Security is that some of the stuff you learn is very frightening.)

(One of the big drawbacks to getting a Master's in Homeland Security is that some of the stuff you learn is very frightening.)

I can't think of much that is scarier than the fact that there is a Mater's in Homeland Security.

You realize that HS is an 'all hazards' disclipline? And that there are many different areas of focus? I am simply focusing on terrorism and counter-terrorism. I could focus on emergency response, intelligence, natural hazard evaluation, disaster economics, evacuation and quarantine theory, and many others.

All a Degree in Homeland Security does is formalize and professionalize a set of skills and specalties.

A plutonium nuclear bomb needs to be made from pretty pure Pu-239 to work properly. Uranium fuel rods from a breeder reactor or even a regular power reactor have a mixture of Pu-239 and Pu-240 in them and it's very very difficult tending towards impossible to separate the two isotopes. Too much Pu-240 in a weapon "pit" causes it to go off prematurely preventing the extended containment which produces the Big Bang so desired by weapons builders. It is thought, for example that the first North Korean nuke test squibbed because it was made from fuel-rod plutonium with too much Pu-240 in the mix.

Pretty much all nuclear weapons Pu-239 in the world was made in specially designed reactors by exposing U-238 elements for short periods of time to a dense neutron flux. This created Pu-239 (via Neptunium-239) by the uranium nucleus capturing a single neutron but the short exposure times did not permit the capture of a second neutron to make much of the less-stable Pu-240. Since all the Big Boys have more Pu-239 than they can use in their current fleet of weapons they've stopped making fresh Pu-239 and they're now working on reducing the stockpiles by burning it as MOX fuel in reactors. This is why the US and other countries have been buying Pu-239 from the Russians to use as reactor fuel.

Even if somebody gets thier hands o weapons-quality U-239 - they have an enormous engineering challenge in designing and making a bomb. For example - in order to get a proper implosion both your plutonium sphere and the explosives have to be machined to optical grade precision. And jut to make things worse you have to figure out how to combine explosives with different burn rates so that your explosion front impacts the entire surface of the sphere within a time frame measured in a few nanoseconds.

The thing that was most interesting about the 'Trinity' nuclear test was that we got a plutonium warhead to detonate properly on our first try.

U235 would be the terrorist's choice because there are very few close tolerances required.

HEU is the terrorists choice. Pu-239 is the rouge state's choice. Pu-239 + rouge state 3 stage rocket = ICBM
Another positive that PU-239 brings to the table is less chance on not being able to trace it. Yes, it is harder to work with and the implosion is critical, but it was done before. It can be done again. The main reason I always thought is we liked it was because you need less to make a weapon and you need HEU, Pu, AND tritium to make a thermonuke.

U-235 is easier to make go boom! than Pu-239, in part because it's more stable hence the very first uranium nukes were cannon-bombs where two lumps of fissile material were shot at each other in a bored-out artillery barrel. This doesn't work for Pu-239 as it's more reactive hence the Fat-Man implosion bomb design necessary to get it to work. Cannon-type bombs are big and clumsy and can't be fitted into misisle warheads.

The problem in building a uranium bomb is getting hold of highly enriched U-235. Raw uranium metal is 99% non-fissile U-238 and separating out the fissile U-235 takes industrial-scale equipment that only a government can build. It's not just the equipment, it's also the power requirements, cooling water etc. The Oak Ridge uranium processing facility built during WWII was for a time the single largest building on the planet and it was built in Tennessee because of Roosevelt's WPA and the TVA hydroelectric power schemes which could supply the enormous amounts of power and water needed to manufacture a few kilos of U-235. It's not something a bunch of terrorist wannabees can whip up in a rented storage locker somewhere.

Power reactor fuel rods vary depending on the reactor design but they are typically 3% to 6% U-235, enriched from a base of about 0.6% in the raw metal. There are some new designs which require 20%-enriched uranium as fuel but they are yet to be built -- India has some thorium-cycle reactors on the drawing board that use 20% medium-enriched uranium (MEU) to provide enough neutron flux to keep the reactors running.

To get a bomb to go off with a yield greater than a squib of a few tonnes the U-235 has to be enriched well beyond 50%; a real bomb will use U-235 with a lot higher enrichment than that to build, say a compact missile warhead using an implosion lens initiator. It's not easy to get to those sorts of levels of purity as the gains per purification stage get less and less quite rapidly.

An extremely interesting post. Thank you!!


Cannon-type bombs are big and clumsy and can't be fitted into misisle warheads.

Depends upon the yield you want. A gun assembly weapon is the design used for artillery shells. But these were weapons in the low kiloton range and intended for battlefield use - essentially to neutralise Soviet tanks as they rolled across Germany. If you want weapons that will level cities, indeed this isn't a suitable design. But as has been pointed out, if you are a terrorist, any weapon is good enough. The point is fear not military supremacy.

Small gun-type devices require very pure U-235 pits and they lack assorted enhancements such as neutron reflectors etc. that will enhance the yield. Even a thick casing of the sort used in Little Boy helped by keeping the assembly critical for a few more nanoseconds before it vapourised, thus further enhancing the yield.

Nukes can't be built by amateurs in limited facilities, basically. The two types of bombs have different requirements but they both need lots of power, chemicals, water, land, equipment and trained personnel that limits the ability to acquire nuclear weapons to nation-states.

There are other nasty things that can be done with radioactive materials, some of which are depressingly easy to implement but they don't actually impinge on the nuclear power generation cycle.

In the run-up to the Clinton era, the experimental IFR (Integral Fast Reactor) had tested successfully demonstrating its ability to utilize plutonium as fuel, resulting in mildly radioactive ash. After Clinton was sworn-in as President, the Anti-Nuke crowd was able to produce enough sway to cause the Clinton Administration to mothball the IFR which may have, but I can't say for sure, been the only reactor built and made operational in the US since Three-Mile Island! Nuclear reactor technology has come a long way since then (3 mile), and is inherently safe. If the US would reprocess fuel as do the French, for example, the amount of nuclear waste would be reduced to a trickle relative to the amount produced today. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be have determined that reprocessing introduces intolerable risk to their position. Let it be stated, though, it is indeed possible to burn Plutonium and other nuclear byproducts deriving energy from what is a great poison if left alone.

Here's a link to info on the IFR. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_Fast_Reactor

I'll agree with what NAOM is saying, and add that it seems to me to be an awfully good idea to get rid of weapons plutonium by making it into electricity.

We're already doing this with enriched uranium from Soviet bombs: about half the nuclear energy in the US now comes from bomb uranium. But the utilities don't want to publicize it because they're afraid of enhancing the connection between civilian nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

Can someone clarify what appear to me to be inconsistencies between the DOE Well Configuation diagrams:

1. In Figure 1a, the 9-7/8" pipe is described as a "production casing" and is colored in green. In Figure 1b, the 9-7/8" pipe is described as a "liner" and is colored in red. Is it correct that these are actually the same physical pipe?
2. If they are the same pipe, then what is the green pipe inside the bore in Figure 1b. and the "shoulder" in it?
3. What is the meaning of "14.0 SOMB"?
4. The diagram shows the drill bore of each size to end precisely at the end of the casing. If this is accurate, how does the cement rise up the annulus? Is it correct to assume that there is actually some gap, like the drill bore actually being cut below the end of the casing?

I am very grateful to the those posters who have provided wonderful technical information during this event and those of you who have resisted the temptation to inject political issues, off-topics, and unfounded rumors.


I think I can help with 1 & 2... the green pipe in both figures is the final piping that was run in the well - the top part was 9 7/8" and the shoulder indicates where it changed to 7" diameter for the lower sections.

The red 9 7/8" liner indicated in Fig 1b is a separate liner that was put in place earlier in the drilling process - so moving from the outside in at that point there is both a 9 7/8" liner and then inside it the 7" casing that is part of the casing that is 9 7/8" higher up.

I find this simplified well diagram helpful.


First of all, thank you for asking a question about the post vs. bioterrorism, anthrax, smallpox and plutonium devices!

A point of drilling jargon: it's all casing but, if it's hung inside another string of casing, then it's liner. Don't ask me why--I'm just a geologist.

Next, there is a string of 9 7/8-inch liner down to 17, 168 ft (red). Then, the production casing (it is set inside the well head so it's casing) is tapered (green). It is 9 7/8-inches down to somewhere above 13,145 ft and then it tapers to 7-inches just above the 11 7/8-inch liner (red) and the succeeding 9 7/8-inch liner (also red).

It's not simple but that's the way it is.

Thanks for your question. I hope this helps!


Excellent article. Why can't the Admiral get someone with this kind of expertise on his team?

I had no idea the casing was so week. If I understand correctly, our only line of defense right now is the 16-inch casing, with a rating of 8625 psi (6900 / 80%). If that fails, we can't count on the 22-inch casing, or its cement job, which may have huge gaps.

It seems to me, based on the unexpected low pressure at the wellhead, that the casing is already ruptured, and oil must be flowing into the strata where the 22-inch casing has no backup (6200 to 7900 ft). Furthermore, the flow must be a substantial fraction of the estimated 50,000 bpd that was flowing when the wellhead was held at 4400 psi. After capping the well, that pressure rose to 6900 psi (60% of the expected rise). Does that mean that 40% of the original flow (20,000 bpd) is now flowing into rocks 1500 feet below the seabed?

There needs to be some public discussion of these risks. We should not be relying on BP to make the decision in their short-term best interest. There are alternatives that could be implemented quickly, including flaring the excess at the surface. I know that some here have stated that this could not be done safely, but we have a design that meets their objections, and can be built with readily available parts. See http://groups.google.com/group/stop_blowout for our proposal.

Well, if any significant flow is entering the formation 1500 feet below seabed, it isn't going into anything I would call rock. That's pretty much just unconsolidated mud. Anyone who has stepped into Oklahoma's red gumbo knows mud can be pretty strong, but I don't think it would withstand pressure. You should be seeing either obvious leaks, or else the seabed should be doming up like a blister. Because we don't see these things happening, I think the idea of a large shallow leak is pretty well ruled out.

Now, farther down may be another story. The gassy sand at about 8000 feet could be taking some. If so, the turbidite zones above it could well be strong enough to keep things in place, and there's now enough pressure to make doming less likely.


My experience with the press and the government is that they have theoretical physicists, oceanography professors, and directors of centers for biodiversity (who are all very good, intelligent guys) that they think are qualified to advise on technical issues about petroleum engineering and geoscience. Go figure.

The "unexpected low pressure" is only unexpected if their experts say that it is. The truth is that several millions of barrels of oil have been probably been produced and pressure depletion has occurred. This alone may explain the "low" pressures. We know that sand was produced into the containment vessels. Once the well was capped, produced sand may have settled into the oil column partially blocking the flow of oil and, therefore, reducing pressure.

The bottom line is that pressure continues to build and that suggests well integrity. Unexpectedly low is only with respect to expectation which may have been incorrect. I don't think that there is any evidence yet of ruptured casing.

I also don't believe that anyone knows what the flow rates were. Lots of opinions, but no means to measure. So we're comparing something relative to an unknown that so many people have stated opinions about, that we start to accept a range that sounds reasonable--illusion. I don't doubt that the well may have flowed 50,000 bopd or greater...for awhile... but wells have a habit of declining over time. What I'm saying is let's not get too quantitative with what are really only educated guesses.

I'm hardly an industry apologist but let's give credit where it is due. BP has capped the well and stopped the flow of oil in water depths never experienced before.

Let's wish them the best of luck--for us!--in the coming days.


Art, many thanks for the excellent article, and I don't see you as an industry apologist. Regardless of your ties to the oil industry, and regardless of any disagreements we might have, you are addressing the issues rationally, as I would expect from any good scientist. I don't have a problem with physicists and other non-experts getting involved, if they do as Richard Feynman did in the space shuttle disaster. He asked questions, he listened carefully, he knew the limits of his expertise, but would not accept bullshit, even from an expert. That was the role I was hoping Steven Chu would play.

What is your take on the big question? Did they have to release all that oil into the ocean, or should they have figured out how to collect and dispose of it from the beginning, without 20/20 hindsight? I know there are a lot of bad ideas getting most of the media attention (nuclear bombs, etc.), but what about the simple, practical ideas that have been suggested in this and other forums? If I try to push these ideas, they are either stonewalled, or get a response of ridicule and personal attacks. If I were Chu, I would keep asking questions until I got an acceptable answer.

Just a dumb question perhaps, but why don't they just go directly with the relief well. I mean, they went to the trouble to drill the relief well, why not use it?

One guess could be that some BP staff are still smarting from being told to stop the last top kill attempt, and want to prove it would have worked. I still wonder about any possibility that the descending mud will lubricate and dismantle any internal debris that may have been restricting the flow. The hydraulic pressure on any such material will be reversed.

It may be that they now have experimental evidence on the actual burst pressure ratings of the batch of pipes, perhaps even the assemblies, and are comfortable that they can build the necessary pressure.

Me, when the nozzle fitting comes off a garden watering hose, or compressed air line, I turn off at the source. Early experience taught me that is far less messy, and always works.


That is a great question!

I suspect it is because they don't think that an early attempt to kill the well is a great risk. As we said in the post, time is the enemy because we don't know what will happen if we wait.

The inverse, however, is often true. The law of unintended consequences is not our friend. Let's hope that, because BP and the Coast Guard have more information that we do, that they are making a good decision.


Yesterday, NBC reports that reporter Lisa Myers locates significant amount of oil on and below surface and headed toward land, with no BP or coast guard vessels in sight. Here:


Maybe that's what that cluster of ships is all about that was mentioned at the beginning of the thread. Maybe they are skimming.

Incidentally, the last thread closed before I could respond to any of my detractors accusing me of having a political agenda, just for worrying about the long term effects of Corexit. I have no idea what sort of political agenda they think I have, and for the record I voted for neither party in the last election since I had no confidence in either candidate, so I would love to know what my purported political agenda is, since i think both parties have shown over the years that they are not working for the interests of the American people. Also for the record, I am not a man, I am a woman in her upper 50's who never went to college, so yes, you were right in your allegations that I am not educated like the rest of you. That being said, I have tried to come here for knowledge because as a Gulf coast resident I have been very worried, and have been trying to get a handle on the truth. I wish some of the people here would be a little less rude and supercilious to those of us who don't have the knowledge and education of others here.

Go to http://gomex.erma.noaa.gov/erma.html#x=-90.42000&y=28.03000&z=6&layers=7961

Then uncheck July 29 and check any earlier date.

It looks like there was more "anomaly" there yesterday (July 29) when compared to the previous few days.

The more I look into it, the more I wonder if Corexit is the problem, or if our mistrust of the MMS, EPA, and BP has biased our analysis. My anecdotal eyes tell me it worked well, but then folks could be hurt and I do not even know it. I know the feds lied and sprayed us directly, but from a risk management point of view, the government has tried MUCH harder in the past to kill me and dang near succeeded. We have to wait and see now, but with the flags down our problems have returned to what they were just much worse now. Our economy is dead and it will not come alive for a couple of years IMHO.

you should be worried.

the nature of water is to not clean, but to become whatever enters it. every known element exists in sea water for this reason.

the more crap you put through it, the more the water becomes the crap. the H2O molecule is not really a structured molecule, it is continuously changing hydrogen and oxygen partnerships where the hydrogen atom never really remains attached to the ogygen for more than an instant. so in reality, it acts like a plasma gas and can seemingly be altered by just the presence of a magnetic field from another material that sits in it or near it.

will the corexit poison the water? how the hell can it not.

Matter can not be created or destroyed, it only changes form. It can change form to the harmless or leave the current environment. It happens all the time. Oil is being added all the time to the GOM. According to your theory, it would be all petroleum by now.

Edit: Oh yeah and here is my atomic theory.

A neutron walked into a bar and
asked how much for a drink.
The bartender replied,
"for you, no charge."

-Jaime - Internet Chemistry Jokes

hydrogen doesnt form a solid molecular bond with oxygen, such as a hydrocarbon does. it creates a high frequency partnership where the atoms are bound only by the field that is created by their close proximity with eachother-- and the hydrogens desire to absorb the negative charge of the oxygen.

so, you cant turn water into oil. but what you can do is suspend any material in it, and by doing so, alter the partnership the hydrogen and oxygen have with eachother by changing the electrical symposium between the two. in doing so, you appear to have water, but what you have is water with new qualities. this is why water suspends materials, or emulsifies in the presence of others.

yes, the "water" remains, but its chemistry seems to be alterable by whatever it touches or whatever sits in it.

this is why even plant matter can pollute water to the point of being highly poisonous.

youd see instantly what i mean if the gulf was a closed body of water without the ability to be diluted by a continuous flow of new water. but all that new water is being polluted daily as long as that oil sits ontop of it. we are changing the nature of the oceans and whatever can live in it.

I am not discussing atomic structure with you today. We always go from Bohr to Hawking in five comments. These substances break down. They go into the atmosphere. Microbes eat them. They leave the water. The end up on the land. It goes on all the time. The new hydrocarbons represents a few years of natural seepage. Not a positive situation, but not the end of mankind either. Google 'risk management' It might make you feel better. It might make you feel worse. It made me feel better.
Bless you,

The hydrogen-oxygen bonds in water are pretty much the same as any other chemical bonds. Please ignore the mumbo-jumbo in these posts.

Water becomes contaminated when contaminants are dissolved or suspended in it. The contaminants don't change the water any more than tea or carbonation or lemon juice in lemonade.

Aye and FWIW in liquid water, the H2O molecule disassociates into the hydrogen (H) and hydroxide (OH) ions, the balance of which determines the pH.

There is an underlying psuedo-science here. What it is is Benveniste's notion that somehow water "remembers", and this has formed the basis of a modern justification of homeopathy. There is absolutely zero accepted science here. All chemistry, including that of water is definable in terms of applied quantum electro dynamics. Linus Pauling got the Nobel Prize for this insight. Wittering on about resonances and other such stuff is essentially a poor mistranslation and misunderstanding of the underlying physics. Modern chemists routinely use very accurate numerical models of the QED of interacting atoms to study in great detail exactly what happens. The accuracy possible is astounding. And no, there is no evidence that water remembers. Simple information theory can be applied as well. There simply isn't enough state in the atoms to hold the information. Sir John Pople received the Noble Prize for chemistry in 1998 for his work on these computational models. Interestingly his PhD was on the statistical mechanics of water.

Homeopathy is psuedo-science, and is most certainly not a valid way of talking about the effects of oil pollution.

Herewith one of the more cogent critiques of both homeopathy and the wider problem we see with the MSM and coverage of technical issues, such as the GOM leak. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIaV8swc-fo

Paintdancer--I agree 100% with your last statement about rudeness.

Let me offer some reassurance about Corexit 9500, subject to correction by the chemists and toxicologists here.

1. A number of scientists have objected to the massive use of Corexit and its deep-sea injection on the grounds that the environmental consequences are unknown. This is a reasonable objection. On the other hand, a panel of qualified experts concluded that it was probably better to use it than not to use it--obviously a judgement call that could go either way.

2. I haven't seen any qualified scientist say that the use of Corexit 9500 is a hazard to people living on the Gulf. There has been some concern about an ingredient in the other Corexit (9527) that was used briefly at the beginning, traces of which showed up in some workers who were probably directly exposed to spray.

3. Corexit 9500 is not very toxic, said to be less so than crude oil, which itself is not very toxic (rat LD50 of >5000 ppm). C9500 consists mostly of familiar substances such as kerosene and propylene glycol (antifreeze). None of the components is thought to be carcinogenic. All are biodegradable, and therefore much of the material applied is already gone.

4. Alarm about C9500 seems to leverage the finding that dispersants generally make oil more toxic than oil alone. This increase in toxicity seems to be mechanical. Microscopic oil droplets would tend to be more bioactive, and the surfactant (soaplike) property of dispersant could make the oil more readily absorbed through membranes such as fish gills, fish intestines, or egg membranes.

5. So it's possible or even likely that the use of Corexit will lead to more damage to plankton, spawn, and fish. But less oil on the surface means less damage to marshes, the birds, and possibly to the turtles, tarpon, and dolphins that must break the surface to breathe. That's the tradeoff. I don't know any reason to believe human health is at issue at all.

What about the Corexit 9527A that was used until they ran out? Everyone keeps talking about the 9500A that was used with little mention of the more toxic one that was used. No one has the numbers of how much of each was used that I can find. They just provide total dispersant used.

The numbers are out there, I will find them. As I recall, BP claimed it was all that was left. They had already used all the 9500 and 9500A. They had to wait for a new batch. Nalco banked for sure, but I am interested to see how much stock was on hand, how much from other places, which one, etc... We need a table of Dispersant used, on what dates, and what locations. I think it is all out there except for the suspected illegal aerial spraying.

I think it would be more helpful to discuss and determine a correlation, between the low level toxic exposure in wildlife of Prince William Sound (PWS) and wildlife of the GoM. This low level exposure will be the unseen daemon in GoM. To this day the wildlife in PWS has not recovered, compared to surrounding areas of Alaska. The low level exposure in PWS is from areas unable to be flushed out naturally. Speculation about out of sight and out of mind is suicide. I'm jus sayin'


With all respect, IMO a fair comparison can't be made re Prince William Sound & GoM - too much variance with respect to ambient temps, both air & water.

Bioremediation, both natural & enhanced are greatly affected by temperature. Here in the GoM, we deal with water temps above 70F for most of the year, an d above 85F for at least 4 months or longer.

I don't know the temp range in PWS, but I'm sure it is much lower.

Would love to hear from anyone with real expertise in this field - let me know if I am off base and/or off by much.

TIA tommegee

Thanks for your reply tommegee. I do appreciate the dialog, because I'm trying to learn. This is a subject, which I have an interest, but not a vocation or training.

You may be correct about the comparison between the two, but from where I sit, under-educated technically, toxic is toxic. Oil properties may behave differently in warmer and cooler waters, but I think it's a safe bet it's still poison to life in either setting. If I'm being too simplistic please feel free to say so.

"If I'm being too simplistic...."

Not at all - you are 100% correct "toxic is toxic."

I feel that remediation (metabolic) rates being higher in GoM due to greater temps will lessen the amount/effects of poison to marine life by virtue of less exposure time. I live in Mobile, AL & fish the bay/Gulf regularly - or did, anyway - & feel a lot of pain over this disaster. Perhaps I'm looking for some light at the end of the tunnel.

Still have about 50lbs of pre-oil shrimp in the freezer - hope to conduct a totally un-scientific taste test soon. If you live near Mobile, come join me - another opinion is welcome!!!

I hope someone out there will real knowledge in this area will enlighten me (& us)

Best regards, tommegee

Love shrimp, but I'm not close enough to accept your generous offer.

"Toxic is Toxic" will also be relevant to the volume and flows of water in each location. The PWS opened to the Gulf Of Alaska, but I read where the freshwater flows from on shore helped to diminish the toxicity over time. The areas with low or no flow still contribute to the low level toxicity of the area. We know the major freshwater flow is the Mississippi, with all of it's improvements. What's needed is other tributaries and rain to help cleans the GoM. But I'm afraid like PWS, the GoM be low level toxic for years.

Hate you can't make it - I'm known all up-n-down the street for my jean-e-yous-ness with shrimp.

We have the Mobile river system - google it for a surprise, the drainage area is quite large- not on Mississippi scale, but...

We also have the Chattahochee system, as well as the Trinity, Brazos, Colorado & other systems in Texas.

You're probably right about a low-level, persistent toxicity in the GoM - a nice, really wet winter would help.

P.S. - google Mobile river delta - one of the largest undeveloped estuary/delta in the U.S. In case you didn't notice, I love where I live!!!

A better comparison would be Ixtoc 1. Corexit was used there too.

The only thing I have found through The Google is that the first year after there were shrimp with mutations, but not the second. I don't think the Mexican gov spent a lot on testing, and the few things I found were in Spanish and many cost $ to view. I don't know enough of the science to pay to read a report.

I do know enough to know that comparisons between Macondo and PWS seem to have little validity. Different oil, different climate.

Thanks, gmf.

I forgot about differing compositions of crude oil. In my limited oilfield experience, I have seen crude so light & sweet we used it to get grease off of our hands after a nasty job. I also saw some (Austin Chalk) that was so bad, I made sure I didn't get near it.

With all due respect, Gobbet, on one of the species tested, Corexit 9500 had an LC50 of 2.61. In fact, of all the listings on the EPA's own National Contingency Plan Product Schedule, Corexit 9500 was pretty much the MOST toxic and the LEAST effective (on Louisiana sweet crude) of all the products tested. See: http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/ncp/tox_tables.htm

Also, according to EPA whistle-blower Hugh Kaufman, there is anecdotal evidence from autopsies that Corexit has caused hemorrhaging of dolphins and sea turtles. I've seen the photos -- NOT pretty.

Not being argumentative, just concerned, and certainly agreeing with you about the unknown results of the massive subsea application.

Scientists have found signs of an oil-and-dispersant mix under the shells of tiny blue crab larvae in the Gulf of Mexico, the first clear indication that the unprecedented use of dispersants in the BP oil spill has broken up the oil into toxic droplets so tiny that they can easily enter the foodchain.

Marine biologists started finding orange blobs under the translucent shells of crab larvae in May, and have continued to find them "in almost all" of the larvae they collect, all the way from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Pensacola, Fla. -- more than 300 miles of coastline -- said Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

And now, a team of researchers from Tulane University using infrared spectrometry to determine the chemical makeup of the blobs has detected the signature for Corexit, the dispersant BP used so widely in the Deepwater Horizon

"It does appear that there is a Corexit sort of fingerprint in the blob samples that we ran," Erin Gray, a Tulane biologist, told the Huffington Post Thursday. Two independent tests are being run to confirm those findings, "so don't say that we're 100 percent sure yet," Gray said.


Capt, small technical point. People are autopsied, animals are necropsied.

Edit: Erin Gray? I remember that hottie on Buck Rodgers. Saw her at a convention recently, she gained a few everything but looked ok. LOL.

Thanks, Cap. I was thinking in terms of mammalian acute toxicity because I was responding to concerns about human health. We are in agreement that Corexit has almost certainly harmed sea life. I don't know what the per-acre application rate is, but with LC50s in the low single digits, it seems plausible that Corexit alone sprayed on the sea surface could form lethal concentrations at least for a short time, regardless of the synergy with oil. However, such concentrations wouldn't persist for long.

[Edit to clarify] Note that the figure of >5000 in my previous post was for LD (lethal dose) of crude oil, whereas the EPA figure of 2.6 is an LC (lethal concentration) of Corexit in seawater to which the fish were exposed for 4 days.

I accidently tripped over a couple of papers that might be of slight interest. It seems there has been research on Corexit 9500 toxicity to marine life, and also some work on Marsh remediation of oil spills. Not sure of the composition differences of 9500 to 9500A, or whether there are significant concentrations of PAHs present in the crude. I would note that the more toxic volatile components of the oil ( eg Benzene ) are more water soluble, so are more likely to stay in the water layer until biodegraded.

From the following paper, it seems the use of dispersants to form subsea plumes from surface slicks is expected to adversely affect different marine life, making comparisons about possible options difficult.

Oil dispersant increases PAH uptake by fish exposed to crude oil
Shahunthala D. Ramachandran, Peter V. Hodson, Colin W. Khan and Ken Lee
Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 59 (2004) 300–308

A review paper discusses the various Marsh remediation options, and also discusses the need for strategies to match specific plants and pollution. there is no simple "one-size-fits-all" solution.

The e€ffects of oil spill and clean-up on dominant US Gulf coast marsh macrophytes: a review.
S.R. Pezeshki, M.W. Hester, Q. Lin, J.A. Nyman
Environmental Pollution 108 (2000) 129-139

Does anyone else find this disturbing?

For dispersants, another major concern for consumers, the FDA and NOAA are conducting professional smell tests to detect dispersant chemicals in fish tissue, but not chemical tests. The FDA has determined that the chemical compounds in the dispersants are water-soluble, and are highly unlikely to accumulate into fatty tissue of fish or shrimp.

"In order for that compound to get into the flesh of the fish, which is what's relevant for food safety, it has to pass through a membrane, whether it's the gill or gut membrane," Kraemer said. "Those membranes are lipids, they're oil-based. So the water-soluble compounds are not going to move through that membrane and they don't move through it."


Morning, tiny.

Does anyone else find this disturbing?

At least among this sunrise congregation, apparently not. What part of the quote disturbs you?

The fact that they are smelling for it and not testing for it. "It's okay, we didn't smell it" does not make for conclusive results for me especially when there are scientists out there testing it and saying something different. I'll take the actual science over a smelling test any day. JMO.

tiny, I've read a number of stories, not just this one and not just lately, reporting that pros with unusually-acute and well-trained senses of smell are a big part of the "science" in food-and-drink testing.

So, no, I'm not surprised or uncomfortable to read that again here.

My question to you remains, as ever, what would make you believe anything a "government" (local/state/national) has to say? I gather you have a very strong aversion to all three, or at least to believing them.

Best I can tell, the only idea you're really open to is that Gulf seafood is poisoned and anyone saying otherwise is a lying conspirator. Since you've also told us that your fiance's career is seafood-harvesting, you're in a bad way, no? What way out of it would you accept?

My problem is that the government agencies are not testing for it period. If they want to alleviate the problem of public perception, test it, and let independent scientists with no ties to the government or BP confirm their results. This issue is not going to go away otherwise IMO. It seems to me they would have a lot more to gain than lose by testing.

Okay, this may be a reading-comprehension problem. Can't help ya there, so I'll just fold my tent and leave ya with it.

This was commented on earlier. And the answer is well, interesting. Smell beats the lab for some things still. If you think about it for a moment it may not be all that surprising. A living (or in this case just dead) animal contains thousands of chemical compounds. All naturally there. The oil contains at least hundreds itself too. And most of both sets are organics. Lots of carbon and hydrogen, and even though we worry about the aromatics and spikey chains, animals are full of them too. Creating a lab test may not gain you the level of differentiation between "smells like fish" and "smells a bit petrochemically" that the human nose can achieve. Funny in a way, it wasn't that long ago that people would distain the lab tests as vastly too insensitive and prone to miss whole classes of chemicals. Now we are conditioned to think that labs tests can find everything trivially. Analytic chemistry workers I know paint a vastly different picture. I blame CSI.

Obligatory cartoon: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1156

I just want to take a moment to thank the people who responded to my comment thoughtfully and respectfully. I am sure that I speak for other uneducated newbies out there, in saying that we look to the experts here for their experience, wisdom, and education in these matters. Your kindness is appreciated.

And it looks like we'll never find out about that very long length of (casing) they pulled from the seabed the other night...

This, like certain other subjects, is why so many Conspiracy Theories exist, because they always appear to be holding back information tighter than a card shark holding an extra Ace up his sleeve...

If you take a look around you it will become apparent that there are always questions, so I would suggest that unanswered questions in and of themselves aren't sufficient grounds to infer a conspiracy. I would guess that our tendency towards suspicion is usually more a product of our past experiences than present circumstances. Which is not to say that there aren't conspiracies around, it's just that they are profoundly complicated to initiate, let alone maintain, and usually aren't worth the effort.

It is true that many people are a bit loose with the truth, but it doesn't surprise me that anyone would be reluctant to tell the whole truth about problems when they are virtually certain, based upon past experience, that they are going to be the target of a significantly overaggressive response. If my wife asks me if she looks fat in that outfit, I'm never going to tell her yes.

You can'r beat a safe environment if you really want the truth to emerge.

as a feller once said, "what we don't know we suspect"

Reporters haven't asked. They don't stay up all night watching ROV feed.

Good investigative journalists (that we at least used to have...), DO. The shadiest dealings usually occur in the dark hours after midnight... The second best way to do them is to do them right in broad daylight(figurative I know at 5000') knowing full well that most people wouldn't have a clue what they are looking at, even if they were looking...

From day one (or shortly thereafter), BP has had only one overriding priority. No matter what size "Oilzilla" turned out to be, there would be legions devoted to keeping their feet on its figurative head to keep it out of sight and out of mind. Not too difficult given the mental state of the population by and large...

A footnote to the above.

If you've been watching this discussion for very long you will have noticed that responses often do not fully, or sometimes accurately, respond to the questions asked or the issues raised. It would be profoundly arrogant for me to presume that simply because someone doesn't answer my question in full complete with detail they are trying to mislead me. Often it will be because I've phrased my question less skillfully than i might to avoid such issues as ambiguity, or have been assumed to have a certain body of knowledge that may be missing, etc.

And that's regarding questions that we know have been asked. Many of the questions that people have cited as being grounds for concern are questions that either haven't been asked, or for which we have not heard the answers. To assume that a conspiracy is the reason that information is "being withheld" reflects a certain deficit in understanding of how discussions like this operate.

Another day, another oil spill.

The source of the spilled oil was found to be an above-ground storage facility owned by Energy 21, a Houston-based energy company. The company said the facility backed up, causing overflow into a secondary containment tank. About 2,400 gallons of light crude oil backed up onto the platform of the tank, Wike said. Of that, 500 gallons of oil was released into Locust Bayou near Point Au Fer.


I was told by our county commissioners that oil dumping is still a problem in the county. I told him when the county buries oil related waste in the landfill, folks think 'the do not dump oil' and 'oil is hazardous' campaigns are dog and pony shows.

Tin Foil, here’s an article for you:

Published on Friday, July 30, 2010 by the McClatchy Newspapers
Oil-Soaked Waste Worries Gulf Coast Landfills' Neighbors
by Lesley Clark and Fred Tasker

Here’s another one:

Published on Friday, July 30, 2010 by The Guardian/UK
Oil Industry Safety Record Blown Open
National Wildlife Federation says catalogue of oil industry accidents proves BP disaster in Gulf of Mexico is not a one-off
by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent

”.. In one particularly gruesome incident from August 2000, three families with young children on a camping trip in New Mexico were consumed by a 500ft fireball from a ruptured pipeline. All 12 people were killed, and an official investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board later blamed the pipeline company for failing to detect or repair severely corroded pipes.

“...Among the causes for the poor safety record was the industry's relentless costcutting, despite record profits, said the report's authors, describing equipment failures, tank corrosion, and other signs of poor maintenance. The poor safety and environmental records were not restricted to the so-called Big Oil companies.

“Enbridge Energy has had 400 separate spills between 2003 and 2008, spewing 1.3m gallons of crude into the environment, according to official records.”


I know, my movement to stop the BP partnership with Enbridge on Alberta Oil Sands project lasted all of six hours. The area exploded without me. All the citizens and local governments want it given to ExxonMobil and now that looks likely. BP will get some cash out of the deal and split the pipeline up or at least fix some or shutdown some of the less sound and old pipelines. ExxonMobil will do fine. BP, I am not so sure about.

New Len Bahr blog entry, describing a tour of lower Barataria Bay on July 22. Says things look pretty good in the worst-hit area of the Gulf Coast..


That is concurrent with the Michael Grunwald tour described in his recent Time Mag. article. James Wathen promised a video of an overflight there at about the same time, but he hasn't published it yet.

Since my TOD article on efficacy of dispersant at
we've moved on to the larger question of the decomposition and fate of the dispersed subsurface oil plumes, including a good series of comments on 28-Jul starting here
Cessation of the spill has prompted some confusing MSM coverage of this question, for example the NYT article earlier this week on the oil “dissolving.”

So I want to call additional attention to the 27-Jul Unified Command briefing’s extensive comments by Jane Lubchenco on research on the status and impact of spilled oil. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/07/27/1749224/transcript-of-adm-thad-all...
--NOAA assessing where oil is, where it’s gone, and what damage will result.
--This effort is integrated with other gov’t agency and academic scientific activities.
--Much of the oil has biodegraded.
--600 miles of shoreline oiled, amount of oil remaining on surface is diminishing, now mostly light sheen that’s not recoverable.
--Now developing a monitoring strategy for tarballs and nearshore submerged oil.
--Extremely concerned about short- and long-term impacts to the Gulf ecosystem, will take ongoing monitoring and research to evaluate.
--Indentifies a range of ongoing monitoring and research missions to accomplish this.
--Intends to have a strong scientific basis to plan ecosystem restoration.
Responses to Questions:
--WRT to oil subsea or on the sea floor: we think currently the oil that has not decomposed is still largely in the water column, not on the bottom, and we expect to be able to accurately describe this.
--WRT to the general magnitude of the environmental damage: 3 to 5.2 million barrels in the Gulf is a grave situation, will result in significant impacts, subsea impacts are harder to know than surface and coastal impacts, and it’s going to take a long time to fully evaluate them.
WRT subsea oil concentrations: the oil is degrading rapidly, is in minute droplets, is in very, very dilute concentrations falling off very steeply as one goes away from the well site, but dilute does not mean benign.

To get my head around the available info, I compiled a timeline of Research Vessel water-column sampling at 1000-1300 m depth, from the 23-Jul-10 NOAA report
plus the Samantha Joye blog
The NOAA data are actual sample dates. The UGA data represents the start and end of the R/V voyage, which includes at least a day-and-a-half period with no sampling. If this proves useful, I can add more voyages and republish.

Here are some things to watch for:
This excellent NOAA website is where the purpose of each Research Vessel mission is posted. Also posted are their preliminary Mission Reports and final Mission Summaries.
Also note the seafood and fisheries monitoring data posted here. I’m very interested in results from several of the NOAA missions looking at tuna, fish eggs and larvae, sperm whales and other marine mammals, deep-water corals, and bottom habitats.

The US Geological Survey has received less attention than NOAA but this research arm of the Department of the Interior has much relevant information on its website
One item of interest is their reference sites for baseline conditions. Others include extensive information on wildlife impacts and oil impacts on birds.

We’re expecting that any day now EPA will report on its testing of toxicity of Louisiana sweet crude oil combined with dispersant.

We’ll need to follow the information for years to fully understand what has happened.

They aren't monitoring the walruses mentioned in BO's permit process? :<)

They are, but what they are finding is so frightening that they have to keep it secret.


JTF ---
What if you frac the BOP’s , or casing/cement? How does one heal a destructive test? The compressibility factors, casing/cement integrity and formation unknowns make the top kill method unpredictable.
The bottom kill with accessible choke/kill valves allows better control and safety considering the many unknowns. Just displace oil/NG out at seabed with kill mud till stable, then cement.

todfan, I'd be way happier to just leave this puppy alone until the relief well is done.

I can see all kinds of downside to the top kill, and not just so much upside.

I'm a bit concerned that by the time we pressure up the reservoir or some other adjacent zone during the kill process, its going to make the cementing operation from the relief well even more complicated than it already is because the zone pressures are going to be all over the place. I'm not a reservoir guy of any shape or form, the the top kill is having a hard time passing the sniff test here...


Well what can work in this situation? Would you reccommend something esle and if so what?
Though I wonder what the psi is now, it should be around 7,000 as it was nearing that number last night. I don't know that means exactly, is the pressure making it's way through obstucles under the well?

Allen said 6,951 at his briefing today. The pressure is increasing slowly now - less than .5psi/hr.

So the finally result will fall short of the expected 7,000psi? What could this mean exactly. I want to believe it's depeltion in the oil well but I'm not too sure...though I'm still wondering about the risk of these proposed kill efforts. Would you say this has a good chance of being successful (the static kill) or will it result an unrepairable mess or some where in between?

Correction - Allen said pressure is 6,969 today - 6,951 was the number given yesterday. (Numbers given seem to vary from midnight readings to whatever Wells was told as he walked in to his briefing.)

I have no idea what the chances for success are - I'm a newbie here. I have noticed that both Allen and Wells have switched from the awkward "There have been no negative anomalies observed" wording when speaking about well integrity to more direct assertions of well integrity.

Allen yesterday -

It continues to exhibit all of the characteristics of a well with integrity.

our science team has come to the conclusion that we do have well integrity.

The pressure has steadily risen and its risen in a pattern that’s consistent with the well with integrity and I believe the general consensus between the science team and BP right now is we're probably had depletion of the reservoir due to the oil that was released to date that resulted in a lower starting pressure when we put the cap on.

Wells on 7.27 -

We've also been able – due to extensive monitoring – gain more and more confidence that this well has integrity.

Well that must mean they're confident with the results, which is good. The chances of this succeeding are more likely. But I want to know what some of our more knoweldgable members have to say about this. Hopefully they're all optimistic too.

Way more optimistic after today's briefing. They are taking an extremely reasonable approach to the problem with lots of opportunity to quit if things don't progress the way they expect.


Can't see any reason at this point why a conventional bottom kill from the relief well would not work. Establish communication between the two wells, then bleed off the top of the ww while you pump kill mud into the bottom of the relief well. An oversimplification, but that's the basic idea.

edit: As far as interpreting the wellhead pressure vs where fluids are flowing dowhole, if they are flowing at all, really have no idea. Just not enough information to work with. But I bet the guys working on the kill effort have some fascinating models they are working...

Would love to be a fly on the wall during this process.


Oke , so whats BOA doing ?

Lots of clouds of silt and dark stuff and a pipe ?

Is he blowing something clean ? Or am I watching a seepage ?

And why ?

Experts ?


Sitting on the bottom,spinning his wheels :) Rule 1 for ROV videos of silt storms, check the numbers. Look at the northings, eastings and bearing. If those are changing he is using thrusters. Check altitude and if near the bottom then that is what the storm is. In this case bearing was changing so he is turning and the thrusters are kicking up mud.


Are they entertaining themselves in this ?
Because why go on with blowing up the mud for minutes after minutes without any goal and view ?

It also seems that a lot of the flow is directed towards and into the camera with much force , how does that come about ?
Are they doeing zigzags or circles ?

Sorry for the open questions but it looks so casual , while I can imagine that all must have a purpose in these circumstances

>Are they entertaining themselves in this ?
I suspect they enjoy confusing people but I doubt if that is a goal.

>Because why go on with blowing up the mud for minutes after minutes without any goal and view ?
Takes a while for things to settle out underwater especially with silt.

>It also seems that a lot of the flow is directed towards and into the camera with much force , how does that come about ?
Turbulence. They are likely to be using multiple thrusters that will make that worse plus flow interacting with the ROV.

>Are they doeing zigzags or circles ?
What I saw looked like turning on the spot. Screen display says 'sonar scans' so probably turning around to look in a different direction.


If the relief well is being drilled with heavy enough mud to hold the BHP of the WW and becomes in communication with the WW Bore why won't the WW be killed at that point? Then close the BOPs on the RW and Bradenhead the fluid down to the formation and up the original well bore thru chokelines at top.

I understand the RW will tiein right above the producing formation. Correct?

Will the wellhead pressure be released in real time to the public as the static top kill pumping begins? Doubt it, but hope so. Too many secrets here. Makes it hard to trust BP. Would be nice to have MSM ask Wells, Dudley and Allen about this information.

From David E. Brown's comment in the previous open thread:

Take our "relationship" with BP for example. If I wait for BP to prove that I can trust them, I'm very likely to be disappointed and find that nothing they do is likely to reassure me. But my attitude towards this problem is the key. If I approach BP with the attitude that I will give them the benefit of the doubt, but neither commit myself to a long-term relationship with them, nor give them any passes if they violate the trust of anyone again, then their fate is in their hands. If they choose to go on with business as usual, then I will sever any reliance upon them, commitment to them, or, indeed, any relationship with them, and I will be the sole determiner of whether they've violated those boundaries. Since I have no expectations of them nor commitment to them, if they stumble, while I'm not going to happy about it, I'm not going to be disappointed either.

Trust can be regained though it is not a trivial undertaking, but equally true is that we don't have to live in the constant shadow of a lack of trust in another, we just have to set reasonable boundaries on their behavior, with appropriate consequences for failure to adhere to those boundaries and a sincere commitment to enforce those boundaries.

The entire comment is cogent and written well, but I have difficulty applying it to BP. My main question is, how much is enough? Does the reconciliation timeline begin now? We don't have the case that BP was trusted in March 2010, and now it isn't. If the reconciliation timeline begins 10 years ago, we have an unbroken and presently continuing record of bad behavior. We are confronted with the spectacle of Tony Hayward telling shareholders and the TV machine about the importance of safety while simultaneously telling BP North America employees they are too cautious, they need to take more risks. The company punishes managers for spending money on maintenance and rewards managers for underspending safety budgets. The company wilfully ignores consent decrees, which clearly spell out its obligations. The company continues to rack up industry-record numbers of violations.

Someone recently commented (at TOD) that BP has a good plan addressing process safety that was being rolled out to different parts of the organization, but it hadn't reached BP North America. Maybe so. Maybe there is some hope to be had that someday BP culture might change, although we haven't seen it yet. I ask again, though, how much is enough (or too much)?

David Brown writes about a two-sided trust-building process, but the mere thought of BP continuing to operate pipelines, refineries, production platforms, and other facilities in the U.S. makes me queasy, and I can't see that Bob Dudley is a solution. Perhaps our part in the process should be to require that BP demonstrate its culture change in Indonesia or Brazil.

HR3534 bans BP from GoM permanently. Zero trust.

Grandstanding. I doubt the ban will make it to the final version. BP is TBTF and can't afford that hit.

I swear if I have to start a save BP campaign, I am committing Seppuku.

It'll be very quiet and masquerade as something else.

I am OK, I am just warming up to the idea that we need to save BP.

What else would we do? Trying to really axe BP or anybody else for that matter is like a junkie asking his pusher to take up another line of work....

Much worse than that.

Just for a moment, suppose you could afford the several million dollars it would take to pay a top-notch research company to document the tangled web that comprises the relationships between BP and everyone else.

Consider for a moment just the basics. BP is not BP. BP is BP, Amoco and Arco, just for starters. The new CEO of BP is not BP provenance, he is from the Amoco acquisition.

Then we have partnerships, like the obvious ones with Anadarko, Mitsui and Enbridge. Multiply by a factor we can hardly conceive of.

Then tell me how you can ban BP. I don't have any answers, but I hope I can help to frame the questions and the daunting scope of the argument at least...


All it means is no more new leases or drilling permits. If it were up to me I would have seized and sold off their assets. But forget BP, that's not the scariest part of the story. HR3534 will kill all the deepwater minnows like ATP, Mariner, Callon, Cobalt stone dead.

UPDATE - H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act of 2010, introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV), passed the House by a vote of 209 to 193.

That really sucks.

If trust was a requirement for being in the GoM,
There are at least 535 people in Washington DC who would be on the No Visit list.
The part that is typical is that they would pass a law without any hearings, testimony, or understanding of the situation.
It has not been established that the BP well plan was more risky than the methods of others with deepwater wells.
I understand that a bad cement job led to the blowout.
Has anyone suggested that it was BP corporate practice to accept bad cement jobs?

Don't bet it was a bad cement job.

Nobody knows right now, except that the well kicked and the guys entrusted with the final responsibility to safeguard the rig didn't.

It was not anybody's normal practice to accept bad anything, but a whole series of seemingly minor miscalculations set the scene to the point where the margins of error to prevent a disaster were tiny.


Do you think there any significance in the fact that the well kick happened just around the time of a shift change in the rig's control room?

I was surprised to find out that normal operating procedure of deepwater rigs is for the management crews to work 12-hour shifts. Shutting in a well takes a lot of concentrated effort, managing the various operations of displacing and offloading mud, monitoring returns, pouring and checking cement plugs etc. The crew that was on duty on the Deepwater Horizon when some bad decisions were made presumably spent some time handing off to the new crew replacing them, informing them of what they had done and how they expected the next work-shift to proceed before they left for their showers and bunks.

Is it possible that the 12-hour stretch of on-time caused some loss of concentration and ability to make the right decisions before and during the hand-off?

I agree that it’s hard to imagine this approach being terribly effective with multinational corporations like BP, especially when they have as many irons in the fire as they do.

But I’m not willing to just abandon the attempt either. I suppose I was trying to posit a beginning point and see whether it was possible to develop an approach to corporate affairs based upon a model which can work with individual or pairs of humans.

The guidelines that I outlined articulate what it is necessary that we pursue in order to have a chance at reestablishing trust, once broken.

I think that the fundamental issue revolves around the issue of corporate culture. Every corporation or other group has a culture, but most of these cultures have evolved rather than being designed. In the cases where there has been an attempt to design a culture and implement it, my impression is that there has been mixed success, but I’m not very knowledgeable in that area.

I have no desire to advocate for some pie in the sky utopian vision, but it seems to me that if a corporation looks at its objectives, structure, and culture, in many cases it will not take long to discover that a lot of corporate energy and other resources are expended (for which read “wasted”) on efforts to resolve counterproductive corporate behavior (such as the example at hand) that are easily avoidable with a relatively small amount of effort and relatively nominal expenditure of resources.

One of the first principles that I suspect we would establish is that when our corporate efforts benefit mankind as a whole, even if directed at a relatively small portion of it, they will be able to make money for us, and usually provide a very steady and reliable revenue stream, with an appropriate profit margin. When our efforts work to the detriment of mankind as a whole, or to segments of it, with which mankind as a whole share enough of a common interest to regard harm to that segment as harm to the whole, those efforts will backfire and generate expenses and lost productivity way out of proportion to what ever benefit the corporation hoped to derive from the effort.

When we begin to examine what we do through the lens of its impact over the whole of its life, I believe that we will find that it is far more profitable, in the long run, to be worthy of the trust of our fellow inhabitants of this planet then to risk harming them, especially for the promise of a short-term profit. The alternative is to hope we get away with what we’re doing that only benefits us. The record of success of that approach vs cost, suggests that it likely does not promise a good ROI (return on investment).

Certainly this vision has been a spur of the moment product, so I’m sure that it has significant and perhaps even fatal flaws, but do we want, as a civilization to continue following the path that has brought us to this moment? Is it not time to try to find a better way?

Many people see the world as an infinite collection of dangers, against which we need to be on guard all of the time.

I find the world to be full of opportunities, interspersed with many challenges which we have not yet overcome.

Hi Count,
The whole business model of Big Oil is under question. Read this opinion from FT.


Cheers Juan

If someone is convicted of murder they are executed or given a life sentence. If some corporation kills it's only a civil offense, punishable with fines. Most individuals can only make a small donation to support their candidates in elections. Now, corporations can create whole campaigns out of their vast PR resources and spend as much as they want to support their candidates.

The only thing standing between us and a corporate-dominated new world order, i.e. corporate culture, is the people jealously, resolutely exercising their rights and inherit power over all man-made institutions.

“The first problem with stopping the flow from the top is that it has to be an annular kill: the flow was coming up the annulus outside the production casing.”

Sorry guys but I have to make some waves…with all due respect to aeberman, he is making the above statement as if it is a *fact*…where is the proof? Hey, for that matter, where is the evidence? Presuming it is true, would it be correct to say the seals at the top of the well have been blown out & the production casing is just dangling within the 16” casing with no lateral support? Has the production casing been making noise banging around within the 16” casing with all the turbulent flow of oil flowing around it?

Also, since he is making the claim of the oil flowing around the production casing & not through it, does that mean the seals/plugs within the production casing are still intact? In his editing of the well diagram, he left out the three plugs within the production casing at 6047’, 8304’ & 9560’ which were labeled as ‘ 16” ruptured/burst disk’. Does he disagree with the Gov. position about the internal state of the well…why?

Just a few question.


You have to be really brave to hang your a** out over the edge on a major forum and make a headline post to state how you believe things are.

Hats off to aeberman for that.

Saying that, I do agree with you that we have no hard evidence one way or the other about flow paths.

I think the cute and elegant rupture disks in the 16" casing are a different thing altogether, but am wrong regularly.


I wondered about those "rupture disks" also, since there seems to be a pipe running through the middle of them in the drawing at http://www.energy.gov/open/oilspilldata.htm. My guess is that they were added quickly to the drawing before it was sent to DOE, but they are not really there. Would have been nice if DOE had checked the drawing and asked questions before posting it on their website.


There are no proofs or evidence. We are all making interpretations based on what we are given. I did not intend to make any statements as if they were fact. I am, however, stating my best guess based on my experience and the many drilling engineers that I have consulted. We may all be wrong.

I tried to simplify the very confusing diagram so people--many of whom have no technical background in drilling or petroleum-- could understand the basic elements. I didn't intend to cover anything up like rupture disks. It is, after all, public information for all who care to go online.

I don't disagree with any position by the government or anyone else. I am simply stating the risks as I see them. The purpose of this post, as stated, is to describe facts and the potential risks.

I hope this helps.


Hey Art,

Thanks for the reply. I have a thing about opinions, presumptions and best guesses being presented as facts. If someone has an opinion or point of view, that is fine with me...just make sure everyone knows that is all that it is - just an opinion or point of view. Your statements about the origin of the oil flow & what is required to stop it was not presented in that way.

I appreciate all that you & everyone else associated with TOD do. All I'm saying is, those who are subitting articles, and even followup comments, should be careful about the choice of words they use when presenting their point of view.

And that's all I have to say about that...



Re your Matagorda well,


Could just about be damage I suppose, with some sort of steadily increasing formation impairment (eg fines) causing the FBHP to drop away and the well to die. But then you'd probably still expect the SIBHP to come steadily back up; hard to imagine a skin phenomenon holding a pressure differential of 7000 psi+. Similar story for strong transient behaviour due to very low permeability.

If it looks like depletion and smells like depletion….. I guess I'd be pretty concerned about that. Possible reasons (given that the reservoir looks areally extensive)?

- faulting? You'd need an 80ft throw to offset the reservoir completely and that would be about a seismic loop thickness on seismic, should be visible.

- mineralisation / cementation / clay smear along sub-seismic faults?

- matrix like tombstone and production from a limited fracture network?

- a layered system with production only from a limited higher perm streak and very tight sands elsewhere?

- a channelised fluvial system with limited channel sand connectivity?

- limited sand lens, pinch out not visible on seismic?

- pervasive cementation or salt plugging away from a sweet spot around the well....errr...

- failed perf charges resulting in penetration of only one of many stratified reservoir units? Getting desperate here...

Sounds like a good deal though. The prize is 50% of a project potentially worth $15 mln, the cost is only an additional abandonment liability of $30kplus whatever it takes to access the gas. Even if there is only a 50% chance you can make it work, and it takes another well, its still a fair bet.

big -- Good timing for your comment. I just found out this afternoon over the last couple of months the SITP has risen from 700 psi to 1,800 psi. We just closed the acquisition Wednesday and didn't have access to the well before then. Faulting: we reprocessed the 3d and worked it hard again. Just can't put a fault with enough throw to isolate the sand.

Yep...the risk to reward was just too good. We doubled our working interest to 97%. Even if it's a total bust we might be out $600,000. Plus a bonus: there's another undrilled amplitude anomaly on the acreage. Might hit it with the gas gun by next Friday.

I have a physics/bicycle question. I had to replace the front tire on my bicycle with 3.5K miles because the old one caught on fire (long story). That was in January, and it has since worn to match the rear tire. It has no front brake and is a conventional rear drive. The old one seemed to be worn even with the rear before I had to replace it. It does not seem logical. All I can come up with is the tread on the front one was not as deep as the old model to start with or is has a softer compound. It is a different model. Do street bike tires really vary that much by model? My bike rolls on two 24x3 inch tires.

New tire was probably cheap Chinese product.

Caught on fire? Like to hear the long story.

I will find out if the tire came from China. I think you may be right and the original was an American made one.

The bike was on my hitch mount rack on the back of my CRV. One day I was driving at 80 MPH on the Texas Interstate and I noticed in the rear view mirror that I was on fire. You would think someone would honk or something. I pull over to investigate and the fire goes out but the tire is still smoking. It seems the Honda upgraded exhaust tip funneled the exhaust directly on the tire. It is probably four feet behind and three feet up. Under normal conditions no problem, but when the speed combined with the tip it created a blowtorch effect on the tire. I had the tire replaced and replaced the tip with a turndown type. No more problems with burning bike tires.

That is a odd thing to happen.


Hi, I'm atty Gob Boldwater. Have you, your bicycle or any of your loved ones been victims of Upswept Exhaust Tips? If so, you may be entitled to a large cash award.

(cue serious sounding music) THIS IS SERIOUS!!! Call now, you may be entitled to a LARGE CASH AWARD!!!

Some of the occupations at risk to UETs: Blogger, beach bum, Gulf Coast resident, interstate 10 travellers, blah-blah-blah.....

Note: the quality of humourless relief in this posting is not purported to equal or better to other humourless relief


Not all tires are equal and most tire formulations are based on a tradeoff between lifespan and traction. Tires that give better grip will have shorter lifespans.

I learned about this in the days I did off-roading and discoverd that my (expensive) top of the line off-road tires wore down in just 20,000 miles of highway driving.

True, but a 3" tire on a bicycle allows for a harder compound. The flip side is there is usually little suspension supporting the 3" wide tires and a softer tires gives a better ride. Think of it as a motorcycle tire on a bike.

I now think of a tire as junk shot material.

Last formula for a modern tire I saw still had natural rubber as the number one ingredient. Carbon black (acetylene soot?) was second. Then came the synthetic rubber and synthetic plastic compounds.

Then there is the whole load of additive chemicals in there including one VERY nasty one that stains anything it touches yellow. Sorry, can't remember what was what but there were some un-nice ones there, used to do lab tests on them years ago.


Many aspects to tire design, activated, including rubber hardness. Offroad tires are often softer than street tires.

The lug design is obviously important, and different treads are based on different design principles. Rain tires (the common road design) have channels around the circumference, so that the tire guides the water into the channels and dries the pavement off, so to speak, as much as possible for the rubber of the lug surface to press down on asphalt and not water. Snow tires are designed to hold snow in the spaces between lugs, so that the crystals trapped in the tire itself will interlock with the crystals on the road, and provide traction that way. (For this reason, thinner tires work better in snow: you want maximum pressure on the snow.) Mud and sand tires are very similar in principle: they're designed to float on a liquid surface (in this case, treating sand grains as liquid particles), and toss material out behind like paddlewheels. The lugs are big, deep, and spaced far apart. They also get the crap beaten out of them by asphalt, and they're absolutely horrible for rain and snow. (Combination mud-snow tires are a contradiction in terms.)

So I'm not surprised that your top-of-the-line offroad tires couldn't stand the highway. They're not supposed to. The better they are for offroading, the worse they are for paved roads.

Wells talked a bit more about the static kill process today during his afternoon briefing - and said that he would be giving more detail as the time to begin the kill approaches. (He currently estimates Monday night or Tuesday for the start.)

(audio here, transcript here.)

bold added

Now, let's talk about this static kill. The static kill, in terms of equipment, boats, (muds), and everything, we're ready to go. What we're waiting on now is for the casing on the relief well to be run and cemented.

Now, just a little more detail – and I'll continue to, as we get closer, give more and more detail on the specifics of the static kill, but the first thing we're going to do is we're going to do what we call an injectivity test. So that'll be – I'll call it the first step in the static kill.

And what that means is we're actually going to pump at really low rates just to make sure that we can pump the oil that's sitting in the well today back into the reservoir. How much pressure does that take? How does it go – and it also will pump it a couple of different rates, like a barrel a minute, two barrels a minute, and we'll start to establish what we call a (friction pressure) we have in our system.

So this just helps us to better design the actual static kill procedure when we start to pump mud. And that's what I could sort of see us maybe being in a position to do on Monday evening, but that could very well be on Tuesday, as well.

And then from there, once we've done that injectivity test, we've taken that information we've learned, we've optimized the static kill, then we'll go into the very controlled procedure of pumping mud into the well through the – remember, if you go to the video that we put on our Web page, it'll show you all the different vessels, but basically it'll be coming down from the surface from the Q4000, through the choke and kill manifold, into the choke line, and down the well. We're pumping at low rates, one, two, maybe three barrels a minute of mud, not a lot of pressure – you know, when we compare this versus what we did in the top kill, it's just dramatically different. This is much lower rates, much lower pressures.

And then it will take some period of time to actually kill, because we'll be pumping. We may take times to check pressures, et cetera.

Just another piece of data. If you add up the volume that's in the casing, that's in the annulus of the Macondo well, it's approaching 2,000 barrels. And just to put it in perspective, we will have 12,000 barrels of the 13.2-pound-per-gallon mud available to us on the surface, so you can see it's kind of like six times more, and then we also have another 37,000 barrels of heavier mud that we actually had for the kill that we would do from the relief well, but we have all that available. So, once again, we just have a lot of backup material and equipment to make sure that everything goes as planned with the static kill.

And my intent is – like I say – is to keep providing more information as we go out there, as we've continued to refine our procedures, which we've continued to do all week long. We keep doing what we call tabletop exercises and just keep getting to the point that we better understand exactly how we want to do this procedure.

I may be a small minority, but I like this procedure. Everything else I've heard including the comments on here is mostly WAY to complicated. Reality is not going to look favorably on complex. KISS.

Still have concerns over the fracture gradient i.e how much pressure do you have to apply above static to get flow into the reservoir. Fragile flex joints and all that. And other concerns about the amount of open hole in the annulus, so the injection may take place into something other than the reservoir. But really, as long as we get mud into the hole and pressures drop in line with projections, who cares? Kill the well and move on to cement, which is not discussed in this briefing at all.

The nice thing about the procedure is that they are going to obtain a reasonable range of injection pressures before they start pumping mud. Makes it easy to shut the job down if reality does not match expectations.

I would like to hear about four stages ahead past the kill, but that's not going to happen. We get bite sized parts of the program and I guess we should be thankful for that much...


and a couple of the Q&A's from today.

Richard Harris(NPR): Hi, Richard Harris here. I have a quick question about, during either the static kill or the bottom kill, will oil flow into the water or will it be produced to the surface? Or does oil all stay underground?

Kent Wells: Yes, so the – the situation – what we'd like to do is to actually pump the mud in and it will actually pump all the oil back into the formation. That's what we'd like to do.

And that, of course, is dependent upon the wellhead's integrity, which we think (inaudible) so that's our plan. That's what we'd like to see. But as we go along each of the steps, if we get something that gives us a different answer, then we'd have to look and see what we'd need to do from that point forward.

But as I described earlier, that's the intent, is to actually – we've used the term before – bullhead all the oil that's sitting in the well today and put it back into the reservoir and follow that actually with some mud.

Jaquetta White: Hi, Kent. Jaquetta White with the Times-Picayune. Thanks for taking questions. Mine is, what would be the response if you were to find during the static kill that the well does not have integrity? Admiral Allen had mentioned a couple times that, you know, one bad sign would be if the pressure starts to drop. Would you stop the static kill and proceed with the relief well? Or is there some plan in place to respond to a situation like that?

Kent Wells: Yes, so let me say a couple of things here. As we're doing the static kill, we're actually going to be looking to actually reduce the pressure, so we will see the pressure go down, and we expect to see it go down in a planned fashion. And we have that all modeled out, and that's what we'll be looking for, and get it down to a significantly lower pressure than it is today, get it to what we call a static condition, and that's what we'll be looking to do.
Because I wanted to stress the point on the pressure, because Admiral Allen is right. What we don't want to have is a dramatic change in the pressure. That might indicate there was a lack of integrity. But I wanted everyone to know, we do want to consistently bring that pressure down.

In terms of – if we were to discover through this, if the pressure what we call flat-lined and indicated that we no longer had integrity, we would be in the position that we had always planned to be in with the relief wells, so nothing would change. Remember, we had never counted on the well having integrity until we completed the well integrity test. We always had a plan with the relief well, in terms of how we would kill the well.

So if we, for whatever reason, were – at this point, I guess I'd say we'd be surprised if the well didn't have integrity – we'd continue on with the relief well as planned. We'd intersect the annulus, kill and cement it, and then drill into the casing, and kill and cement it, as per the plan.

Hi! I'm back. Did I miss anything?

A man's has to do what he has to do, so I've been running my sailing class for the girls (and boys). Also learned about "bean equivalent" from my guy at Taylor Valve. And then met with Randy Pennington, a name that will mean nothing to any of you, but might sound familiar to people involved with pressure relief devices (that Rollodex of mine again!).

There is a lot of misinformation above. So let's try to bring order from the chaos.

1) Be very careful about pressure readings. Right now, you are used to having them fed to you from the pressure transmitters in the BOP at the mud line. So pressure under the capping stack is about 6,961 psi. Outside the stack the hydrostatic pressure at the mudline is about 2,250 psi, so the pressure differential is 4,721 psi. This is what the capping stack is resisting to shut in the well. The higher density mud injected into the well during the "lubricate and bleed" operation will increase the specific gravity of fluid in the WW thereby increasing the differential between the remaining formation pressure (say 11,000 psi) and the BOP. Currently, that differential will be 11,000 - 6,961 = 4,039 psi. The goal is to drive that difference up. It seems they will be changing their reference point from the BOP to the Q4000 at the surface. This will lead to lots of confusion so pay attention.

2) Since they are planning on using 13.2 ppg mud, they are aiming at creating an 18,000+ foot column of mud all the way to the surface. This is why Adm Allen said they expected the pressure to drop to "zero". The pressure at Q4000 will be zero, but at the BOP it will not be zero. Given that the sea water has a specific gravity of about 1.03 and the water pressure at the mud line is 2,250 psi, when they fill the choke line with 13.2 ppg mud (SG = 1.58) and have the well killed, the pressure transmitter at the BOP will read about 3,451 psi (down from the current 6,961). [This is 2,250 x 1.58 / 1.03 = 3,451.]

3) I have a question on whether they are using the proper technique of "Lubricate and Bleed" or a bullhead. The difference is that a lubricate and bleed would use both the kill and choke lines on the BOP, one to inject the mud and the other to bleed the oil in the well. A bullhead would not bleed off the oil, so it would necessarily require them to force (BULL) the oil in the well back DOWN into the pores of the formation. DUMB!!!! BRUTE FORCE RATHER THAN FINESSE!

Lubricate and bleed would allow two way flow in the well in a manner familiar to anyone old enough to have watched a LavaLamp. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lava_lamps The heavy mud descends while the lighter oil ascends and is bled off. Properly done, they could do it by merely exchanging mud for oil and use a minimal amount of mud to effect the kill.

That's enough for now. There is also a lot of misinformation about the RW, but that can wait.

Part of the Wells quote above -

But as I described earlier, that's the intent, is to actually – we've used the term before – bullhead all the oil that's sitting in the well today and put it back into the reservoir and follow that actually with some mud.

"It seems they will be changing their reference point from the BOP to the Q4000 at the surface. This will lead to lots of confusion so pay attention."

I have a hard time with this. Maybe I don't know what kill means. To me the well is killed when they can open the BOP to the surrounding sea pressure. That would require the BOP internal pressure to be at 2250 psi. Considering it's hurricane season, I would think they'd want to unhook the riser from Q4000. Maybe they have a sea level or slightly below but underwater hookup point on the riser. I think it would be better if the kill is to the BOP and not have an additional 5000 feet of mud filled riser standing on top of the BOP.

You're right. Killed in this case means completely static at the mud line with nothing else connected. You have to be able to disconnect in a hurricane, and even more importantly, be able to cement the wretched thing shut and change out the BOP so you can clean the well out and plug and abandon from the bottom up.

We have a problem with engineers and elegant engineering. That started this mess and continues to complicate what is really a pretty simple operation.


This is also a point that confuses me. I just can't see the logic of using the 5000 of riser to calculate the kill weights. As JTF states "Killed in this case means completely static at the mud line with nothing else connected'.
That 5,000 ft is not always going to be there, so why use it in the calculations.
I admit there may be reasons that I don't understand, but to me it seems logical that the weight required should be calculated for the 13,000 ft of wellbore.

Perhaps they are working on a two-step process.

Get it killed while connected to the ship, then perhaps cement the well in, then worry about what is going to happen when you disconnect the kill line from the ship.

Comes all the way back to the negative (or inflow) tests that started this mess.



Get the well filled with mud from bottom to top at a low enough weight so as not to frac the formation.

Move the drill ship over the stack and run a riser down. It will be initially filled with sea water. Displace it to mud so that the pressure above equals the pressure below due to the head from the mud between Q4000 & the BOP. Open the capping stack & fish the drill pipe out of the original BOP (and maybe recover the junk from the junk shot). Open the original BOP and run drill pipe to the bottom of the well and inject cement. Start working your way up, inserting cement plugs as you go to permanently abandon the well.

Recover the BOP & capping stack.

Permanently abandon the relief well.

Tell the government to pound sand!!!

It depends on the fracture gradients. If they fill the well with very heavy mud all the way to the surface, they're likely to fracture the formation and lose circulation, so they'll have to keep on pumping mud for a while. If they fill it with the mud weight they think they need to keep the well controlled it may help keep it from fracturing, and it may help connecting the relief well to the annulus. What's the mud weight the relief well is using?

I would think the quantity of mud that goes downhole would be a function of pressure in excess of well pressure. ie, exceed the well pressure slightly and get a slight flow of mud downhole. The more you exceed the well pressure the more that goes down. As for "sinking" against the well psi ... you might want to think on that for a minute or two.

"Seep", now "Weep"... What's next? Don't cry little bop

You going all Barney on me?


The original post makes for interesting reading but there are a few things that dont sit quite right with me.

1). If the "wellhead seal" was so even remotely where it should be we wouldn't have seen the flow rates we have seen. SO I dont buy that complication.

2). Do they really need to pump the mud at such a high pressure that it would increase the pressure at the wellhead? Are we not assuming a static kill? i.e. the choke / kill line pressure through which the mud is injected need only marginally exceed the 6,900 psi required to overcome the head at the sea floor. The mud can then be allowed to sink.

3). I always assumed the rising pressure at the wellhead is a gas cap accumulating in the hole. Once this is bledd off the pressure will drop quite a bit which will make the well easier to kill.

4). I believe the 9-7/8 casing has collapsed at the first or second joint and that the upper open end of the lower section of 9-7/8 will be off centre and significantly collapsed, aiding the static kill process.

1. Good point. If we are running the suspected volumes through that seal assembly then things are seriously messed up. Obviously they are anyways, but you know what I mean.

2. No such thing as a static kill. Closest is lubricate then bleed, which I personally think is BS in the current situation. But that is IMO. You are going to see significantly higher pressure on the injection test as described, for values of significant.

3. Don't think so, the gas should still be in solution according to those that know, but this is NOT my field.

4. Entirely possible, or the drill pipe landed in the 9 7/8" x 7" crossover and parted the pipe there on impact. Or something wild(er).

Just when you think you've seen it all, you get to see something more.



I'm pretty sure the pressure creeping up at 2psi an hour or whatever it is, is due to gas perculating out of the fluid and displacing fluid with agas cap thus reducing the weight of the column bearing on the formation. Left unchecked you would eventually get the reservoir pressure at the wellhead, but of course you could bleed it long before there were any danger and this well should be killed long before then anyhow.

I'm expecting the BOP to be recovered with a packoff pressed into the annular seal and a 9-7/8 casing hanger and the first 9-7/8 joint trapped in the rams. The casing will have been nipped by the rams such that it has a kind of figure of 8 cross section and gave the survey guys the impression of 2 drill pipes, the silly buggers.

In your scenario I'm not sure why the drill pipe is falling if the casing is intact? Are you assuming the packoff was blown off?

Stu255, I don't have a firm opinion on any of this, just a regular opinion.

I believe the phase diagrams show that all gas is still in solution at the wellhead, but this is not my field. One of those guys whose field it is will hopefully jump in.

I thought originally that the casing had parted and the seal assembly was up inside the shear rams, but now I'm not so convinced. Could be or maybe not.

If you recall how the riser eroded at the kink above the flex joint, it is entirely possible that the drill pipe caught in the shear rams also eroded to the point of failure and fell down the well, landing on the 7" crossover and parting it.

I suspect whatever is found in reality will be even stranger.

It often was when I was fishing for a living.


If the wellhead temperature is 40 degrees F, then there's a chance most of the gas is in solution if the pressure is close to 7000 psi. But I've seen very few PVT studies for light volatile oils run at 40 F. Let's just say most of the gas is in solution.

I guess the Community of Coastal Scientists have their answer from Thad Allen:

Brian Walsh: Yes, sorry I was wondering what’s happening with the sand berm - Governor Jindal's plan - given that the oil now has stopped flowing and for the most part is much thinner. Is that simply going to be stopped? I mean what actually is happening with this?

Thad Allen: Well the process for building out the sand berms was actually passed to a relationship between BP and the state, subject to the dredging permits that were provided to the state. And they’ve been pretty much doing that bilaterally. It doesn’t involve national incident command and I’d almost refer you to go to Governor Jindal and BP for the status on that.

Great article


I don't think people living outside the region understand what is happening. One so-called environmentalist suggested Gulf fishermen and oil workers should just get educated in green technology and work in solar panel factories. What are they supposed to do for 20 years until the technology is perfected and the factories built? Fishermen want to work as fishermen; the Gulf is 1,000 miles wide and they are independent members of a huge culture, not employees...........................

Without oil workers there can be no solar panel factories.

My grandad was a poor farmer. His dad wad a poor farmer. So it goes back to 1820. My dad was a professional soldier. My brothers are physicians and you have me. Point being, what do you think benefits the community more. Yes, harvesting food in the community is now an honorable profession, but being a productive member of the community is more important. People change. Jobs change. Why do you think my dad preferred being a hired killer to being a farmer. Yes, that is the one thing BP could give us to make us love BP as a saint. If after this event, the South had more college graduates per capita than the rest of the country instead of the least, there is not a citizen alive that would not give Dudley the Medal of Freedom.

Who is more valuable depends entirely on who is shooting at you at the time. My family is 6th generation military, but not to the exclusion of other activities. The expression "citizen soldier" comes to mind.

Or not.


Actually, we should have a Naval Militia program for fisherpersons that want to volunteer. It is now obvious we need citizen sailors too. As for the guard or reserve, most of the best around here end up activated anyhow. It is just preferable and more honorable than farming, and we are a farming proud community. I guess it is a tradition like the guard and reserve is with some other families and communities. Like yours perhaps. There are no reserves or guard in theatre. There is friendly, enemy, and non-combatants. The guard and reserves get full respect these days. Look at the KIA numbers.

Edit: I saw a two gold star bumper sticker the other day on a Florida vehicle. Was I seeing things?

How is producing food to keep people alive less honorable then any other profession?

I know farmers around here are very proud of what they do.

Absolutely, farming is just as honorable. It just a tradition in this farming community that the menfolk put down plows for a gun. The women, young, unfit, and old took over the farming. When the men got back, the folks that stayed got their praises too. In WWII weren't some farmers exempt from service if their crop was deemed a national necessity? I will have to do some research. Does anyone know?

Hee Hee. I admit to being a squid myself, but only for one hitch rather than career. My wife was AF for many of the same reasons. It was a family thing, but mostly Army or federal police service rather than my Navy excursion.

I am a major science fiction fan. RAH is a hero despite his right-of-libertarian politics. If you won't defend your country and your fellow citizens, then you don't get to vote for who governs you.

We could get into all kinds of cool stuff here, like how the 'Earthweb' futures forecasts has eerie parallels to the DWH disaster, except we aren't implementing the good stuff that makes the futures markets really work, and how the 'Freehold' series from Michael Z. Williamson could get us out of some of this mess going forward. Unfortunately, the issues of end of phase for resource depletion are never discussed.

But I digress. Please forgive me on a Friday night leading into a holiday weekend here...


TFHG -- Yep...more gold stars floating around Texas than I care to see someyimes. A couple of years ago read about a house outside ofDdallas that had 3 GS in the window: dad and two sons.

Damn, I would probably have to pull over. I would not get out, but I would have to take 5.

". . . my dad preferred being a hired killer . . ."

By the time I retired from the Army I was questioning whether or not the American people were worth protecting. Comments like this were part of the reason.

I did not have much respect for the Iraqi people until the day I watched them defy death threats in order to vote in the first elections. At that time I realized exactly what a precious gift we were giving them and just how much they were willing to risk in order to get that gift.

It is a shame I cannot have the same level of respect for my own people.

Thank you, Activated05b

...for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to quote Cindy McCain:

I have, and always will be, proud of my country."

My father had a very high regard for the Iraqi people he met while fighting another war. What goes on there now would cause him much pain.


My son also ~he is coming home next month!!!!!!

Sorry if I offended your sensibilities, dad was just hardcore. One time he raised money on his own to help a local needy village. He was just gung ho. Sorry again, when I served I was more tame. Dad never directed anything but love and respect for the non-combatants. He was a hired killer when it came to enemy. The hired part means he was a professional, subject to the rules of war, God, and country.

Edit: Hell, he married one, where do you think I came from?

Edit again: He also could not get along with Marines. It was a different Army.

The solar panel facgtories are in China.
Little education is required of the workers.
So much for the Guardian on econmics.

The solar panel facgtories are in China.

USA, Germany, Mexico, Wales etc etc Oh, one of the plants in Wales is in the process of doubling its capacity by the end of the year.


Does anyone have thoughts about what caused engine number #3 to rev at the time of the initial explosion?

I think that is a result of natural gas flow into the intake and engine. I once had a crewman cut into a gas main with a Cat D5. It started over revving and was going to blow, and the operator bailed. It was up to me as foreman. I drove the Cat 5 off narrowly averting disaster. Then I shut off the gas at the nearest shutoff. Banks sells a propane charger for diesels that is used like nitrous is used in gas engines.


I believe there was testimony from a rig technician saying all the light bulbs "popped" in his office and his computer screen exploded in front of him. Sounds electrical.

Do you know if there are typically air intakes near the engines?

This I know from building & selling offshore gensets:

Air intakes are always near the engines on gensets. Just as with exhaust systems, a longer air induction run will constrict & lower the efficiency of an engine - in a high ambient air temp/high humidity environment like offshore GoM you want all the ponies that engine can deliver...

Billy Nungesser just hammered Thad Allen on AC360. Stated that after Allen's briefing yesterday stating the oil was getting harder to find, equipment started getting pulled out of his parish. The sheriff stopped 12 semis leaving town with the boom that had recently been pulled out of the water due to Bonnie. Drivers said they were under orders from Houma. Nungesser didn't know how many more trucks made it out before the 12 were stopped. Barges and skimmers were also leaving, telling Nungesser they were told by Houma to stand down.

Nungesser laid this all at Allen's feet (all the local leaders were supposed to have a say prior to any major decisions, and their next meeting isn't until next Tuesday).

He really took Thad Allen to task for being a BP puppet.

BP is not in charge, and has not been for months.
Secretary Chu is responsible for the actions of Thad Allen.
Nothing gets done without the approval of Secretary Chu.

This was not BP's call. Blame Allen and Chu.

BTW, AC360 will be re-telecast at the top of the hour, and this was the lead story.

There are some new headlines over at Florida oil spill law that are rather disturbing. Can some of the experts here take a look over there and give their opinion as to whether or not there's anything to worry about? Pleeeese?


I'm no expert, but I know a DougR meme when I see one. Run away, run away!

No expert either, but definitely looks like a Chicken Little, mumbo jumbo website. C'mon, Rosie the Riveter?

It has some pretty good stories and you have to admit, they are sure sampling those bubbles at the base of the wellhead a lot now, in fact the ROV took a sample up today, they took the bottle off and put a new one on and sent him right back down with it. I don't think they are worried now about it falling over but I think those bubbles are causing them worry for some reason.

Sea floor bubbles are not at all unusual, I see them whenever I go diving. The story headlines cover subjects that have been thoroughly debunked on TOD. This would appear to be yet another site that is trying to scare people so that they pay over money. Please look at the drawings at the top of this page, you will see that there are very big steel pipes with a lot of cement between them going thousands of feet into sea floor and rock. That sort of structure is not going to fall over. Go back through the open threads some weeks back and there is a nice pick of a section of this piping, several layers of steel and cement. Best to ignore that site.


EDIT: check some of the comments by Beachmommy on the Matt Simmons story and you will see how much damage these needless scares are doing to people's lives and how much these scaremongers are raking in. They are doing it to rip people off and I hope someone nails them for fraud or extortion.

Impeccable timing as always NAOM~ I just found out one of those spreading the Matt Simmons theory and even more ludicrous stories has already been assigned a case number at the MS AG's office. I'm unsure of what statute they are investigating him on, but he's had about ~$5,000.00 given to him personally in a few weeks from his FB followers to walk the beach and take photos and spread more BS to already frightened people.

Please keep an eye on that one, there may be questions asked about tax on income, social security payments, unemployment claims, BP claims. It may be worth following. Remember that it was tax evasion that did for Al Capone.


I will, taking money may not be a crime but it's certainly shows the motive of a morally bankrupt fearmonger. He was the one who stated he was fired for uploading youtubes of the horror he had to endure every day watching the beach and water turn black.......I almost fell over, the water has NEVER been black, and we had one bet wave hit us and the cast majority was cleaned up within 2 days, but it could be he "threatens those who call him out" and his followers are promising to fly down here and kick some ass, not that he would follow thru on them, but it is still a threat.

It appears FloridiaOilSpillLaw dot com is one person posting to a blog. It does run google ads, but I could not find a donate button or even a pitch for money...

That site may not.........the site I am referring to does, well I should say ONE of his 3 FB pages has a donate button, the other site is where he's crying pitiful me-I got fired for telling the truth, all while I stay awake all night, never resting only so I can report to you, my followers blah, blah, blah..And his youtube has the ads also.

And as strange as it sounds, there are people who want to be scared out of their minds. There are at least a couple of on-line communities I know of who have a small subset of folks gathered around the glow of their monitors, trading these stories and assuring each other that they have the truth, while the rest of the civilized world is blind to the coming Armageddon.

Sometimes it appears they're hooked on their own adrenalin.

That site also posted that several people had died after swimming in waters of the GOM after the oil spill.........I peeked and learned they died due to drowning, one was at first reported to be a 4yr old child (which pissed me off since the rip currents were so strong Red flags were out) but later the news article on WEAR reported she was only 2yrs old. Haveing lived here on the coast the last 3 summers, it's a story we see every week sadly. P-Cola Beach where I am was known as the drowning capital of the US until just a few yrs ago, so I found the headline they used very misleading.

Just an FYI from other stories on that site.

If they use my photos of folks fishing in the middle of a direct hit, I am suing. If anyone asks, I will repost them.

Are you talking about the extremely rough surf day with red flags out??

Well, a while back we did have a couple of grow ill from swimming in Florida waters.

But it was freshwater... and it was Amoebic Encephalitis.

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FloridaOilSpillLaw Dot Com

(image: Jeff Parker, Florida Today via cagle.com)About FOSL: I am not even sure when I first realized what was going on in the Gulf of Mexico. But since that moment, not much has been the same for me.I was born and raised in Florida. I am living in South Florida right by the water. All of my family lives here, and most of my friends.After spending many nights looking into the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo well blowout, I decided to start Florida Oil Spill Law and share the most relev...
path: Public ~> Gulf Oil Disaster
originally posted: 2010-07-30 21:24:28

Ummm... nah, I'll stick around here. Less rhetoric.

Hello Art,

I read your post about using lubricate and bleed for the static top kill. I am sure you are far more of an expert on everything you discussed than me, but there are two issues that I would like to submit for your consideration. Hopefully these will be a positive addition to the discourse here at TOD.

First, from your description of the lubricate and bleed procedure you seemed to say that you would pump a certain volume of mud into the wellbore and let it fall to the bottom. In this closed system that we hope is not damaged in some weird way, the displaced bottom hole oil could only go back into the formation. Assuming that this volume of mud would actually fall around 13,000 ft due to its increased density over the oil and get there sometime before the end of the year :), you would have a wellbore column of mud some x feet high on the bottom and the remainder filled with oil. Next you seemed to say that you would bleed off a certain volume of the oil column. Then you would repeat the mud injection process. It doesn’t seem to me that this could work as you apparently described. When you try to repeat the process you no longer have oil on the bottom. You have drilling mud. I would think that as soon as you tried to inject more mud into the system the mud on the bottom would do what mud does best, i.e. form a filter cake across the production zone and stop any more flow. In other words after the first iteration you would not be able to get much if any more mud in the well. You would have created a one-way valve at the bottom. You could bleed off oil but you could never get enough mud in to kill the well. The only way around that in my opinion is to pump in so much mud during the first iteration that you kill the well and don’t need a second iteration. In other words: bullhead procedure.

After struggling with this I decided to do some research on this lubricate and bleed procedure. It turns out that this procedure is only used if you have at the minimum a gas column at the wellhead. Some might even say that lubricate and bleed should mostly be reserved for killing producing gas wells. Before I go on I should point out that there is some controversy regarding the phase state of the HC column. I have been convinced by bignerd’s phase diagrams from the other day that the entire column is liquid. I am sure plenty of others will disagree. Even if there is stratification and a gas column up top, it is likely to be very small relative to the length of the wellbore. So you could end up repeating the lubricate and bleed process many times and in small increments at least to start. Granted, at some point you would begin making significant progress, but that could take awhile. Also, it might not be a good idea to pressure-cycle that casing string any more than necessary. BTW, I was just kidding about taking until the end of the year.

Here are some links about the lubricate and bleed procedure:

Again, I am no expert on this stuff. I’m just drawing on knowledge that I have pulled together from reading a lot of TOD posts, my prior oil patch experience from many years ago and a bit of my version of common sense. If I got this all wrong please let me know and I will sit down and shut up.



I am no expert either. I rely on drilling engineers for most of what I write on this topic somewhat outside my comfort zone.

We are clearly skeptical of the top kill but support the effort as long as the pressure tolerances are respected and no damage is done. We wish them all the luck in the world.

You make many good points that I agree with. Again, the point of the post is not to take a position but to try to explain the well configuration, what is being planned and the relative risks.

As long as pressures are monitored so that the casing is not jeopardized, I have no problem with trying the top kill. If it is even partly successful, it will make the relief effort easier. For us, the bottom kill is the best solution, and I think that BP would agree. The top kill is being undertaken because time is the enemy, in my opinion.

Many thanks for your thoughtful comments.


Skandi 1 is headed back to the ship with it's second bottle of bubbles today.

It is great having pros like Berman, Semple and others explaining things that BP hids, and MSM does not understand.

With the static top kill how will the kill mud mix with the oil/NG in the wellbore? Will the mud just go to the bottom of the hole, at what rate, or will it get pushed into sandstone formations? Will the mud plug up formation? The pressure reading at the wellhead BOP will still be the most important information accurately known. What flow routes exist? Will the formation flow H.C.s into hole during venting to surface? What oil/gas phase changes will take place, where and when? Will the oil/NG stay on top of the mud? Will the pills separate the oil/gas/mud/cement? How are the liquid volumes calculated not knowing well integrity or phase changes? A specific top kill pumping action can cause many different unpredictable downhole reactions. How many cycles and total time of pump on & pump off will it take to kill it?

Will oil/NG be released to 2,200 psi seawater, or go to surface vessels? Can the ships/semis handle the top wellbore gas raising and doubling in volume many times?

A RW bottom kill gets tools to bottom where precise information on pressure, formations, hydrocarbons, temperature and other valuable parameters can be measured. In the simpler faster bottom kill method the complexities are fewer. Just shove wellbore oil/NG up and out C/K ports at stack into GOM with kill mud. Fewer unknowns to worry about, and you have accurate information on pertinent variables


The mud is heavier than the oil and gas mixture in the well. It should sink to the bottom given enough time. No one knows how long this will take but it should take many hours or even a day. Gravity must do its work.

The flow routes are also not known. In the post, we make an assumption that flow from the reservoir came from the annulus outside the production casing. This seems like a reasonable assumption since, otherwise, there would not have been a blowout, i.e., the cement between the production casing and the next string of pipe was the problem. Some commenters have questioned this assumption, and fair enough, but why else would they have lost control of the well when things were OK before? It is an assumption based on evidence.

We assume and hope that mud pumped into the well will fall through any and all pathways available including the annulus outside the production casing. The big question is how much pumping pressure will be necessary and will it be effective. As I've said in another reply to comments, there are at least three outcomes:

1. The top kill works,
2. Mud cannot be pumped into the well because of casing seals or some other reason, and the situation remains the same as it is now.
3. The casing ruptures as a result of the top kill and a new problem emerges.

I don't know how my times and cycles of bleed and lubricate will be necessary. My engineer friends' back-of-the-envelope guestimates suggest that, assuming 13.2 ppg mud as Kent Wells mentioned in his 21 July update, it may take replacing the full well bore volume of oil with mud plus the flow line hydrostatic pressure to kill the well. There is talk of also pumping cement.

You are also right that the bottom kill has many mechanical advantages over the top kill, but it will be at least 2 weeks, according to BP, before the relief well is ready to attempt a kill. This approach also has risks.


I was just watching 'How It's Made' on the Science Channel. Bubble gum is made from oil, not the tree sap? I missed the memo on that one.

Goodyear Rubber people make chewing gum basics in their near-Houston location. I know this because once in a while, they have to whip up a batch of "kosher chewing gum" that has to be made specially, separate from the rest. So I think the basic gum is made from the tree sap, but maybe bubble gum has oil added to make it more bubblicious?
On another topic, I am feeling anxious about 40 ft of the relief well collapsing. Well integrity for the RW is an absolute MUST!

CSPAN -- RELIEF WELL COLLAPSE: 40 feet of "side walls kind of feel in on itself" say Feds

OilFlorida | July 30, 2010

Press briefing and teleconference to provide operational update on ongoing Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill response efforts, Adm. Thad Allen, National Incident Commander, Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. EDT
path: Public ~> Gulf Oil Disaster
originally posted: 2010-07-31 02:43:38

Sounds pretty much like the same physics that operate whenever I've dug a hole, and theirs is in water.

The geology matters and I have yet to see a meaningful discussion of it here on the Oil Drum.

There should be a "tech talk" or some such, eh?

Many Gulf of Mexico oil rig relocation decisions have yet to be made

This Times-Pic story names only two (Diamond) rigs that have left the Gulf so far. After discussing all the factors, halfway-steps, workarounds, etc., it concludes that Labor Day-ish will be fish-or-cut-bait time.