BP's Deepwater Oil Spill - The Two Options - and Open Thread

This thread is being closed. Please comment on http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6866.

So who makes the decision? BP are now faced with a couple of problems that may have arisen because of a false assumption early in the process, about the condition of the well. They have now been led to two different choices, as to how to proceed with the final steps. Let me explain what I mean and how, I believe, these came about.

At the beginning of the disaster, when the plans were being made to bring in a relief well to seal the bottom of the flowing well, it was necessary to make a number of decisions. One of these had to be where the relief well should intersect the well that was flowing.

If you go back to those times there was an increasingly dominant viewpoint that developed in the early weeks that the failure had been in the cement surrounding the production casing, and that, as a result, the oil and gas was flowing up the outside of the production casing, through the gap between it and the liner segments higher in the well, and then through a failed seal in the BOP, down into the main flow channel and up through the center of the BOP.

Accordingly when the relief well was planned, it was assumed that there was a flow channel that had developed down through the cement in the annulus to the reservoir. The path of the relief well was therefore aimed so that it would intersect the annulus at the top of the gap below the last lined segment of the well. Once there it would allow a check that there was flowing oil, and could then be used to force mud and then cement into the annulus to displace the oil. The cement would push the existing fluids down the well, back into the reservoir, and thus create an 800-ft long plug in the annulus. If there were indications that there was still some flow up through the production casing, then the relief well would have re-drilled through the injected cement, and then, using a milling bit, cut an access slot through the casing.

In the same way, as before, the relief well would then have injected mud, firstly to kill any driving pressure in the well, by filling the well with mud, and then killed the flow by driving the oil back into the reservoir, and then injecting cement to kill the well. At this point the bottom of the well would be sealed with a known amount of cement in both the annulus and the bottom of the production casing. For this method to work, however, there had to be a pathway that would allow the mud injected either into the annulus, or the casing, to displace the oil in the well back into the reservoir.

In the initial arrival at the annulus injected mud would push the oil both up along the anticipated existing annulus flow path to the BOP, and then fill the casing as the mud displaced the oil downwards in the production casing. The injected mud would also push down, through the flow path through the cement around the production casing, pushing that oil more directly into the reservoir.

This scenario should have worked if the leak had been through the annular cement and up through the outside of the production casing. However some snags have now arisen. The first is that the leak was not apparently mainly up the annulus, but rather up through the production casing. That poses the first problem with the trajectory for the relief well. Because if the flow did not go up the annulus, then cement could not be sent down the annulus to stop it. Thus, I suspect, the decision to send the cement down the production casing. At least this way the reservoir and flow path could be sealed off, and should there be a need to temporarily abandon the well due to a hurricane, then there would be no significant chance of a leak. So that was done.

But now it has left BP and the oversight panel with the problems that I have mentioned in my last two posts on the subject (here and here). Because with the bottom end of the production casing sealed, and it having been determined that the annular seal under the BOP is still intact, there is no good and easy way to get the oil (if there is any) from the annulus and replace it, first with mud, and then with a cement plug of suitable, and known, size. Injecting additional fluid into what is a sealed space doesn't work well.

One thing that could be done is to sensibly shrug the shoulders, say to heck with the bottom – we know it is currently sealed, and just do a conventional plug and abandon at the top of the well. This would require removing the existing stack, and the original BOP and the 3,000 ft of drill pipe (DP) suspended below it in the well (but now surrounded by drilling mud). Then putting a new BOP in place that would allow a new DP to be run down the well. This could be fitted with the necessary tools to put a cement plug in both the production casing, and in the annulus beyond it. It would also allow any remaining superstructure above the plug to be removed, according to regulation. That operation would, however, come under a different jurisdiction.

This would, I gather, now be a route that BP might prefer to move along. But Admiral Allen has been fairly adamant about having the bottom plugged with the relief well. But his latest directive to BP is beginning to work to give them wiggle room in changing this option. He sets out four directions:

Provide me a plan for a pressure relief system to prevent excessive pressurization of the Macondo well stack (capping stack, LMRP, and BOP), including any necessary containment option, Contingent upon the approval of the plan, this system will be installed before the intercept of the DDIII relief well.

Because the seal is still in place at the top of the annulus, and the cement is sealing the bottom of it, when the relief well drills into the annulus, any imbalance of pressure could cause flow into the original well. This would increase the pressure in that well, and cause the top seal that is currently intact to likely open. This in turn could increase the contained pressure within the stack assembly.

Because we have seen the very small leaks on some of the joints in the stack, any increase in pressure could possibly cause a greater failure, and a fluid leak into the Gulf of significant size. To ensure that doesn’t happen, the Admiral wants to be sure there is another form of pressure relief in place, or a way of capturing fluids, so that they don’t get into the water.

The next direction is to be ready to have the DDIII able to continue the completion of the relief well, when directed.

The third directive, however, addresses the change in the stack to a more regular BOP to allow a top plug to be inserted into the well.

Provide me a plan for an ambient pressure test and analysis to assess the stability of the well during the period of time after the removal of the current Macondo well stack and its replacement with a new BOP package.

In other words tell me how you can be sure that the well won’t flow after you take the stack and BOP off. The question of the fluid in the production casing has been answered by the pressure tests on the cement plug, and I believe that the negative pressure test, has shown that there would be no flow up through the annulus. It just needs BP to couch the results in the form that the Admiral requests.

And the final direction is

Before the current BOP stack is removed, prove to my satisfaction that the Macondo annulus does not represent a potential pathway for hydrocarbon flow; or, if the potential for flow can’t be proven, identify the conditions under which flow could occur and the risks of those events occurring.

This is where the judgment call is required. Can BP provide a logical answer to satisfy the Admiral and the science panel?

There are offsetting risks in the two approaches being considered. Drilling into the annulus will identify whether there is any communication (flow path) from the reservoir up through the annulus to the BOP. But it runs the risk of overpressuring the seals in the BOP and higher elements of the stack that could rupture and dump up to 1,000 bbl of oil into the Gulf. On the other hand accepting that the annulus is currently sealed, so that the BOP can be removed to inject the top plug, runs the risk that, if the seal at the top of the annulus were to fail during the operation, then seawater could flow down the annulus, displacing the lighter oil and causing it to flow up out of the well and again dump it into the waters of the Gulf.

It appears that the Admiral is asking for the arguments on both sides. But these focus on whether or not to allow the relief well to intersect the original well or not. The need for the top plug is still an abandonment requirement.

This is one of the most convoluted things I've ever read, furthering that growing feeling that BP has created a(nother) clusterf***.

It might be easier to understand if you go back and look at the illustrations of the last two posts.

Would they really have gone forward with cementing from the top if they were aware of the sealed annulus pressure problem, and also that they would still have to do the RW?

There does not seem to be a sufficient independent reason to cement from the top if this problem was going to be the result and they knew they were still going to have to go in with the RW.

When BP made the request to skip the RW, what basis did Allen provide for turning it down? I missed that, except for trapped oil/gas. (Was that anticipated as a reason for requiring/needing the RW before cementing?)

If they put a new BOP on and ran DP in, wouldn't they be able to do essentially everything from the top that a relief well could do, assuming there was no flow path up the annulus?

syn - No...they could do much more by re-entering with DP than going the RW route. They could have run many types of logs that would tell them about cmt and csg conditions. They could have perforated the csg and pumped in cmt where they thought is was needed. They could have set multiple plugs tho ughout the entire well as required by MMS regs. None of this could be done with a RW. This is exactly what I could never understand. When they bull headed the heavy mud down they killed the well. Whether the flow was up the csg or up the annulus the mud weight balanced the reservoir pressure and they had killed the flow route. Now they had two barriers to flow: the kill mud and the cap. Remove the cap to install a new BOP and you're left with just one barrier: the mud column. Would this be risky? No riskier than the way every well ever produced has been completed. People need to remember this is the exact scenario BP encountered when the drilled the well initially. The only barrier to flow was the drill mud and it worked just fine. When they ran csg the only barrier was the drill mud and it worked just fine. And when they pumped cmt into the bottom of the csg this was the only barrier and it worked just fine. And then when they began the temp plug and abandon procedure this was the only barrier and it worked just fine. And when they began removing this barrier by displacing with sea water....that didn't turn out so fine to say the least.

There seemed to be some concern that the bull headed mud wouldn't keep the flow from starting again. Again, it's difficult to understand this logic. We're not talking about some mechanical valve that could malfunction. It's just a column of mud. It can't change into something else. The mud weight can't change unless oil/NG dilutes it. But there was no oil/NG flowing into the well so there's no way for the back pressure to change. And again to emphasize the earlier point: this is how all wells are brought on production: the heavy fluid, usually a clear brine, that keeps the oil/NG from rushing up the well bore after it is perforated is displaced and the well flows. Until the fluid is displaced the well is dead. Every well that has ever been produced has had the flow open to the surface with nothing holding it back other than the kill fluid. And in such situations these wells are re-entered with drill pipe and wire line tools with no difficulty. To beat this dead horse some more: every DW well in the GOM has been re-enetered drill pipe a time or two under these exact same conditions.

And the idea that bull heading cmt was needed in case they had to detach for a storm is equally odd. Once the well was dead they could have pumped in a kill mud that would have easily prevented flow with the riser volume gone. A 17.5 ppg mud column filling just the 13,000' csg would have prevented the well from flowing...ever. In theory they could have walked from the well indefinitely and it would not have leaked oil to the GOM. Not that anyone would do so but it could be done. There was only one risk and it's a rather standard concern: when they would be pulling the BOP off along with the stuck drill pipe they would have had to do so slowly in order to not "swab the well in". If you pull anything up the csg too fast you reduce the back pressure and could cause flow. And the flow would cut the mud weigh and that would induce more flow. But this affect is well known and the process is rather standard. And, as I mentioned above, been done so on literally 10's of thousands of wells in the GOM and will be continued to do so on every well drilled in the GOM in the future.

There seemed to be some concern that the bull headed mud wouldn't keep the flow from starting again. Again, it's difficult to understand this logic.

The logic was that with a cement plug at the bottom plus the mud above it they would have 2 barriers. Which is where they are now. It sounds like BP is the one pushing to change out the BOP at this time. If they can enter the well at this point they ca perforate the casing and fill at least the top 8000' of the annulus with cement if they wanted to.

You are forgetting the annulus.

The concern after the kill pill was that there was no mud in the annulus and possible oil-flow from the reservoir through the annulus to some damaged part further up in the well or maybe through the hanger were there still is no lock-down sleeve.

With possible flow through the annulus removing the BOP would have been quite risky.

Only after pushing the cement in they were sure that the well was killed and likely no more flow would come through the annulus. That has now given them a bid a headache and this will be solved too.

They will put on another bop and then kill the well for good. The relief well will likely only "take a look" into the annulus and then shut down too.

Moon -- Didn't forget the annulus. It isn't some time bomb sitting there ready to exploded. At worst it's connected to the reservoir and thus presured the same as the reservoir. With 17.5+ ppg mud in the csg it wouldn't matter if the openned the annulus up. It would be subjected to the same backpressure that killed the flow up the csg. No...the well was killed when they finished bull heading the mud. It was killed because it wasn't flowing. That's the definition of "killed". There is no such thing as "killed for good". A well is killed as long as there is sufficient fluid in the hole to prevent flow. Remove that fluid and the "killed" well will flow quit nicely. A well has to be plugged and abandoned for it to be "killed for good".

I think folks are beginning to make this too complicated. It doesn't matter if the annulus is in communication with the reservoir or if the annulus is suddenly put into communication with the cap/BOP. A sufficient mud weight will stop any flow from the reservoir even if there are a dozen annuli open to the the well head. The pressure in the annulus cannot be higher than the reservoir pressure. And the bull headed mud killed that flow. Some folks may be tired of hearing but: it doesn't matter if there were no csg in the hole, no cap/BOP, no cmt in the hole or nothing preventing the reservoir from flowing to the surface: IOW wide open it would not flow if there were 17.5 ppg mud in it. You can't argue with the laws of physics.

What you say is true as long as you keep the cap on the well. If there should develop a flow path thru the annulus then the mud would go down the annulus. If a flow path at this moment in time developed from reservoir to the well head then the pressure in the capping stack would climb back to the near 7000 psi (assuming annulus contains only oil). That would only require a few gallons of oil to come thru the seal to pressure up the cap. Then when the pressure equalized the oil flow would stop and a little mud would start to sink into the annulus thru the leak. If mud was pumped under additional pressure, the annulus would be bull-headed also.

However with the cap off the well head, mud sitting in the production casing isn't going to stop a flow through the casing hangar if a leak happens to develop there at that point in time when the cap is not there.

I beg to differ with you, Rock. Assuming the well is full of 17.5+ mud inside the production casing but the annulus has oil in it the pressure at the top of the annulus will be at substantial pressure somewhere between the reservoir pressure and the pressure exerted by whatever the density of the fluid in the annulus is. If the top seal is broken the annulus would under these circumstances start flowing.

His point is if the seal is not leaking now why would you expect it to start leaking when the cap is removed? That is the question.

Shit happens. In the case of BP, it should be expected.

Seriously, others have mentioned the things that could cause the seal to start leaking..e.g. removing weight from the casing, jarring of the BOP in the removal process etc.

Why is the static pressure continuing to decline?

The sad part of this is that all of these roadblocks, risks, possible safety problems etc could have been avoided with a more effective kill plan.IMHO.

The sad part of this is that all of these roadblocks, risks, possible safety problems etc could have been avoided with a more effective kill plan.IMHO.


Reading between the lines it sounds to me that where we are now is BP is saying that they had a very effective kill plan. It was so effective we can dispense with the RW and move ahead to removing the legacy BOP. And Allen's private reaction to this news was understandably: "WTF???"

It appears to be that BP is telling the NIC that the RW intersection is more dangerous than removing the cap at this point. Allen isn't buying any of this but what can he do but ask BP to propose steps that would mitigate the dangers of both options and then pick the one that sounds like it is the least half-baked.

So BP is now proposing to remove and replace the BOP as the next step. Allen may go along with that plan, but he is going to make them come up with some public statements that are assurances that it will work.

jinn -- I think you have the situation pretty well summed up. It's an old worn out saying but they really are beginning to look like deer caught in a headlight. Of course, you never want to move forward until you're sure what you're doing. But delaying a tough choice you'll have to make eventually isn't going to improve your odds.


I think Thad just wants BP to put it in writing that is their recommendation (replace BOP) and that it is "safe". Possibly the decision is already made to do so assuming BP willing to put themselves on that potential hook.

I read things a little differently. I think Allen has made it clear to all parties there will be no finger pointing or playing the blame game. We may never know who initiated the idea of scrapping the RW. But if you think about it would be pretty damn weird that Allen would be entertaining the plan to cancel The RW at this point in the game if it came from anybody but BP and/or JWCO

Yes but in the unlikely event something goes very badly wrong with whatever they do next there will be plenty of finger pointing though!

And it was Thad who put in writing that it was a BP request to forgo the RW.

If Allen is neutral and BP is for ceasing the drilling of the RW, who is for continuing to drill it? The answer is Chu.

Someone thinks there is 1,000 barrels of oil in the annulus. If so, where did the 14 ppg mud that was filling it go?

If the well was killed by a simple static kill (a form of top kill), why didn't the top kill in May succeed? (Answer - Chu stopped it too early, as reported in the NY Times).

If an 18 and one-half minute gap in Rose Mary Wood's tape was crucial to understanding Watergate, why isn't a 19 hour gap also crucial to understanding ChuGate?

Did Stephen Chu rape your mom and then pour sugar in your gas tank or something?*

*settle down, it's a Kevin Smith reference - nevertheless, given Mr Thompson's completely over the top crusade against Chu I think it's a legitimate question.

comfy, I must own that I've also wondered whether Marcia McNutt broke up with Bruce back in high school or something.

But delaying a tough choice you'll have to make eventually isn't going to improve your odds.


If the question that is being pondered is how do we know the well will remain static while the cap is off then delaying does shed light on the answer to that question. So delaying may improve the odds a tad and no one has proposed a mechanism by which delaying makes the odds worse.

It sounds to me that the idea of not completing the relief well is coming from BP and the Wild Well folks. Allen knows these guys are the experts but he is the one who has to make the call. And it is going to be real tough for him to order them to complete the relief well if the people drilling it are saying it's no longer the safest option.

Speculative and entirely unjustified to attribute this to Wild Well.

Although Wright was quoted as saying recently that he would not be unhappy if a decision was made not to proceed with RW. I would guess BP would have only put the option formally if Wright went along with it. But that's a guess.

By the way are you now arguing that "speculative and entirely unjustified" posts should be banned from TOD? Hmmmm ;-) ;-)

(grin) Okay, fair enough.

Seems consistent with Admiral Allen's "abundance of caution" approach'

Good read, IMNSHO, and kind of cuts through the chaff.


PS: Not a response to you, but to other posters.

Admiral Allen strikes me as one who doesn't make decisions in ways that means that he might lose face by changing his mind. But I also think that he's not concerned about losing face.

I get what your saying EX. The oil in the annulus might well exceed the head of the mud at that point. Didn't mean to imply they wouldn't take a kick. But that would be a rather small volume and as soon as it began the flow the pressure would drop quickly IMHO. At that point the annulus wouldn't be flowing up...the reservoir at 18,000' or so would be. And that reservoir would be trying to flow against a 17.5+ ppg mud column plus what ever pump pressure they would be applying. They would then have to bull head mud down the annulus to kill it. But that's how they killed the csg flow so it should work just as well. Not a job for the timid but also a rather standard kill sheet at that point IMHO.

As you so rightly say: Sh*t happens. The RW annular cmt effort might cut that risk...just hard to know for sure. But I know I could go in hole, shoot the annulus and then pump in to kill it. But eventually the cap/BOp will have to be replaced to properly p&a the well.

Rockman, is there any document or public statement on 17.5 in the well?

avon -- The 17.5 ppg is just my theoretical thoughts. I don't recall seeing anything since they said they used 13.2 ppg for the initial top kill. I can't guess what they have in the hole/riser after the cmt job.


Assume for a minute that the annulus is in communication with the reservoir, that the annular space is full of oil/gas, that the casing seals are holding, and that the casing/riser is full to the surface with 17.5 mud. The pressure in the annulus at the seals would then be 7000+ psi and the hydrostatic at the seals would be 4550. A sudden and unexpected rupture of the seals would not be all that much fun.

Edit... please ignore RM. Caught in crosspost with ExDrllgMgr.

You got it right Fred...they would take a kick from the annulus if the seals broke as you described. But consider the differential pressure between the mud head (+ pump pressure) and the 7,000 psi pressure you estimate. With a high enough pump pressure the diffeential would be rather low IMHO.


What are the chances of the casing lifting out of the seal at this point. Lot of weight hanging on that sealig collar plus it is suposedly cemented in solid at the bottom now???

lab - that I have no feel for. Just too far from the Rockman's world.

Fred, Rockman
I assume the pressure increase would be from intercepting the annulus at about 17100'.. RW column full of mud. Annulus full of oil/gas with a column of mud in the WW above the seal up to the surface with pumps.
I guess there major concern was the flex joint's ability to handle this pressure change.

But if there is no problem and the seal stays intact,which is your and also my opinion, they still have to create a flow up the annulus to be able to cement the annulus properly.

How do you suggest they do this? Removing the BOP would require them to remove this column of mud above the seal which could cause the seals to unseat.

CBL -- Not sure if I follow. I think folks have been more focused on pressure increase up shallow with re: to seals. If the RW cuts the annulus it wouldn't necessarially raise pressure anywhere in the system significantly. They would certainly have the RW mud weight above the reservoir pressure. But they won't get to much higher for a variety of reason. In fact, they might even cut the MW back to get the annulus to flow up the RW. Not as scary as that might sound. We call it "circulating out a kick". Done it myself a hundred times. If the well continues to kick them then they'll know that section of the annulus is still in communication with the reservoir. If the pressure bleds off then they know the annular cmt job was good. That would prove the annulus isn't pressured all the way back up to the BOP. If so that should dismiss any concerns about replacing the BOP. Currently there seems to be little abnormal at the BOP right now so that implies no annular communication with the reservoir. The concern by some that pumping cmt down the RW into the annulus could increase the pressure up shallow and break down the seals that are currently isolating the reservoir from the BOP via the annulus. It would seem the biggest value of the RW right now would be to test the annular pressure first. Then decide the next best step.

Seems to me the real threat is an uncemented shallow pay sand, fractured shale, or the fault (coal measure?) where DWH stuck the drill and had to sidetrack. Pity we never got a strat column. More data withheld.

I have never read at what depth the hole was side tracked. If it was shallower than the deepest liner I wouldn't think it could be causing any problem.

The energy.gov well diagram says "Sidetrack 11,700' MD/TVD".

There are three separate liner cement jobs of over a thousand feet each between there and the bottom of the final liner, and it's behind the uncemented section of the 13-5/8" 88.2 ppf liner, which translates to 0.625" wall thickness if I'm not mistaken.

The diagram doesn't say anything about how much abandoned bore is between there and the bad place, nor how much additional cement is in there.


"They would certainly have the RW mud weight above the reservoir pressure."
Assuming mud is in the annulus all the way from rw intercept to upper seal.

"In fact, they might even cut the MW back to get the annulus to flow up the RW."
Cutting the MW down has already been done at this point. At this point they are at ambient pressure at the BOP (all seawater above the BOP I believe) and the annulus is not flowing at this point. Could be the seals are holding or there is no connection to the reservoir.

Intersecting the annulus changes the condition.

"It would seem the biggest value of the RW right now would be to test the annular pressure first."
.. but I refer to another comment on the point of intersection in another thread on this topic. Based on Thad's comments, we are intercepting at ~18000'(cement) not at ~17000' (uncemented).

Cutting the MW down has already been done at this point. At this point they are at ambient pressure at the BOP (all seawater above the BOP I believe)

Why do you believe this? Data? Documents?

I couldn't begin to put together a specific scenario, but is it conceivable all these various oddities have been a function of the gummint maneuvering to get the DH BOP out of BP's clutches ASAP for whatever evidence of malfeasance it may contain?

Perhaps, but the penalties for tampering with the BOP would be pretty stiff. It's hard to imagine anyone would take that risk.

Swifty - I understand that concern but for all practical puprposes the BOP has been under govt control from the beginning and will remain so. It will be eventually recovered if physically possible and the govt will take possession as soon as it hits the deck.

It would make no sense for BP to desire to meddle with the BOP after it is recovered. Remember that the BOP was neither owned nor maintained by BP. If the BOP failed because of poor design or poor maintenance - then BP gets a PR boost and Transocean gets the blame.

bb & oilfield brat,

I just lost my reply to your kind words in the last thread as it closed so here's the condensed version. Thank you both for taking the time to explain the difficulties (or stubbornness!) related to visual observations. I understand what both of you are saying. I'm afraid I remain in the stubborn camp since the methane (or mud or whatever it is) chimneys I saw repeatedly didn't appear to me to be explainable as anything else nor have I read another believeable explanation on TOD. The usual response is that the spewing chimneys are really the result of thruster action OR they simply don't exist. That's OK. I don't have a lot riding on being correct other than the natural human desire of wanting to be right in any debate (grin)! bb, you thought you saw one discharge. Multiply that by 100 or 1000 smaller ones and you get an idea of what I've seen or "think I've seen." But let me stop here. Both of you have wonderful vocations! My best to you both. I'll be lurking.

Hope you post occasionally.

BTW, in case you missed it on Sunday, see my post at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6849#comment-701922

In fact, this is an excellent example of my premise about critical thinking and always keeping an open mind. Even an experienced observer (me) can misinterpret video. Upon getting later better data with more contexts, I changed my mind about the origin of the vortices.

Validation of the issue should come quickly. Any discharge of HC, either oil or methane, of any significance will manifest itself on the surface and in water samples very quickly. If you want to know which way it goes, look there. Methane discharges of the size you indicate will leave footprints.


Yes, I did see your comment in the previous thread and took a look at the videos. And again tonight, or this morning? (I can't sleep.) I would have never called those vortices 'vents' in the first place. I exclude all possible vent images that close to the ROV from consideration as a rule of thumb. Secondly, it doesn't look anything like what I call a vent. The vents I see stay in the same place forever until they quit venting (for days). They also vent rather quietly compared to the vortex image, the discharge going straight up, usually from a discernable chimney. (Wish I could draw here!) I had never seen this vortex until the thread the other night, although I note that it's in the same view as the vent you saw the other day, which was eventually covered by a lens flare. That lens flare vent was the real thing, although larger than most. The seafloor has really calmed down tonight. I can still see a few vents but nothing like a few days ago. The water column above the seabed has cleared. No more swarms of amphipods. The lights in the background are brighter and clearer. Fish are happily swimming in front of the camera. Whatever was happening is over, hopefully for good.

Your last point. I think I read that the methane concentration in the water column after the disaster was 10,000 times normal. If what was being vented at the seafloor was methane, I'm not sure that venting would add enough methane to be noticeable, although I'm sure the methane level has gone down a lot since the disaster. We'll see.

BB said: "Validation of the issue should come quickly. Any discharge of HC, either oil or methane, of any significance will manifest itself on the surface and in water samples very quickly. If you want to know which way it goes, look there. Methane discharges of the size you indicate will leave footprints."

Nepeta, this may be the article that you were referring to, regarding methane rates being 100,000 times higher than normal. The article came out three weeks ago; I certainly would love to know what the readings are today and how they compare to earlier readings as well as pre DWH water and air sample readings.

From the article:
"Higher levels of methane can cause problems both in the gulf and around the globe.

Seeps in the ocean floor put small amounts of methane into the water, where it's consumed by naturally occurring microbes. Higher concentrations of methane can cause the microbe population to boom, gobbling up oxygen needed by other marine life and producing dead zones in the gulf.

The other problem, said Langebrake: "Methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide."

In fact, it's 20 times worse than carbon dioxide, trapping lots more heat close to the earth, contributing to climate change. And it can hang around in the atmosphere for up to 15 years."

This summer we have seen soaring temperatures around the globe-Russia in particular has suffered. In addition, there have been fish kills all along the Atlantic coast, attributed to higher ocean temperatures. The dead zone in the Gulf is also huge this year.

So if these problems can be linked directly to BP, and that remains to be seen, the DWH disaster may have created irreversible harm to our planet. How do you measure harm of that magnitude and if in fact it is related to the DWH disaster, how can anyone put even a shred of confidence in this company and its ROVS? IMHO, the majority of what we have been told and shown by BP is bogus. Sorry to be a cynic, but after reading the reports that came out today by the scientists at the USF and the Univ of Georgia, I cannot help but feel that we've been lied to throughout this fiasco.


The elevated levels of methane found so far are mainly dissolved in the very deep layers from 1000 meters down to wellhead depth; although the group in the linked article found some at 650 meters, that's still very deep. The methane (natural gas) is mixed with the deep dispersed oil plumes in the same water. The methane has been measured by research cruises led by John Kessler and Samantha Joye. They did not find unusual levels of methane in surface layers, and there's no indication that it is escaping into the atmosphere to affect global warming. It is being consumed by bacteria, but this will take a while owing to the cold temperatures. There is concern that biodegradation of gas and oil could deplete oxygen in the deep water. We'll have more info about that in coming months.

This part of the article is BS added by the writer:

Worse, the freed gas may explode. One theory on the cause of the Deepwater Horizon disaster blames a methane gas bubble for causing the explosion and fire that sank the rig. There have been rumors that a similar methane explosion could cause a tsunami, a concern that government officials say is unfounded.

The methane is dissolved in water and cannot explode. The tsunami stuff is obviously a crackpot disaster scenario.


Thanks for your correction on the methane concentration. (I knew the concentration was huge but had forgotten how huge!). It certainly is difficult not to be skeptical about BP's openness. Hmm, I had never thought about the disaster in connection to the hot summer. Sure enough, methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but I wonder how 100,000 times normal in a portion of the GOM compares to a volcanic eruption in the grand scheme of things. I just read yesterday of a huge underwater methane seep coming from underwater tundra (never heard of that combination before) that has just been discovered off the Alaskan coast. I haven't read the recent reports from USF and U of Georgia. I'll google them. Thanks.

I wonder how 100,000 times normal in a portion of the GOM compares to a volcanic eruption in the grand scheme of things.

It is estimated the Macondo blowout released 4.9 million bbl of oil. Lets take a wild guess and say it released an equal volume of methane (at sea level pressure and temperature), I guess most of that was actually dissolved in seawater or perhaps formed hydrates? but even if not, a barrel is 42 gallons, 159 litres. If my arithmetic is correct that's under 30,000 metric tons.

Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. According to Wikipedia, 72x for a 20-year horizon (less for longer) so maybe equivalent to 2 million metric tons of CO2?

Worldwide, people and their activities pump 26 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere, he said. The total from volcanoes is about 200 million tons a year — or less than 1 percent of the man-made emissions.


As I understand it, the 4-million barrel figure cited is total HC fluids released including the methane cut.

The methane disolves into the seawater as a plume of higher concentrations (but still measured in PPM/PPB scales). For example, see the discussion of the from a cruise of the WEATHERBIRD II at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6771#comment-686430

What portion of the disolved methane would rearch the surface as a solution and what portion of that would enter the atmosphere hasn't been speculated upon by any credible source that I have read. Could be some, but the methane in the atmoshpere at the city of ships (floating directly above the source) hasn't been very great.

Bio-degradation will digest a large portion of the disolved methane.

Now that's a very good point, BB. If there was any significant amount of methane going into the atmosphere, the ships would be very aware of it. That obvious fact hadn't occurred to me.


So the max greenhouse pollution from DH methane is a percent of annual volcanic contribution? Nice calcs, thanks.

Running the numbers the other way, 100,000 times a normal gulf methane level of 20 nanomoles/liter works out to around 0.03 grams of methane per liter. If you extracted the methane and burned it you'd get about 2 BTU, almost enough to raise the temperature of that liter of seawater by one degree Fahrenheit.

I think folks who are worrying about methane assume it's a lot more concentrated, but 100,000 times almost nothing is still not much in regional or global terms. If you are a fish gasping for oxygen it's much more significant, but even the team reporting these high levels said the maximum oxygen depletion they saw was 30%, which is far from a dead zone.

5 million barrels of oil is 600,000 tonnes give or take, out of which 200,000 tonnes was methane. Most of it is underwater or we shall say was underwater, because it's been eaten. 200,000 tonnes of methane, counting on top, is like 14 Mt of CO2, so irrelevant from global warming perspective.

Solubility of methane in cold water water is roughly 40ppm = 4x10^-2 g per litre But in normal seawater there is practically NO methane. So when you take nothing and grow it 100,000 times, you can get max 40mg per liter of water. 40 mg is roughly 70mL of gas methane in 1L of water, under atmospheric pressure, so a tiny bit of fizz :-)

Open sea (arguably surface) concentration of methane is 0.002 micromole per litre. This is 3.2x10^-8 gram per litre. This increased 100,000 times gives 3.2x10^-3g, which is not exactly saturated solution.

High pressure solubility of oxygen in water is also 40ppm, which means that if both gases are saturated there is not enough oxygen for complete metabolism of methane (molar masses and stoichiometry come to play), hence serious concern about dead zones. In oceans zone between 500 and 2000 meters in depth has relatively less oxygen than other depths. But the plume concentrations of hydrocarbons were 1ppm or less, so majority opinion was that there is enough oxygen, if barely.

It does not take much to figure this out, so I am completely sure BP knew all this and that's why they were so aggressive with Corexit.

I am positive that if there were no lawyers and no deep pockets on the other end, most people would say it's over and let's get going with life. e.g. shrimpers have little reason to half salvage the season. $20B kitty gives better chances, and next year fishing will not be bad. IMHO partly thanks to Corexit.

I am positive that if there were no lawyers and no deep pockets on the other end, most people would say it's over and let's get going with life.

So people are afraid of seafood contamination because of attorneys, and not because nearly 20 Exxon Valdezes full of crude oil and methane were dumped into the waters of the fishing grounds?


Even though people counter-intuitively view attorneys as the enemy, it is not attorneys who have let them down or allowed them to be poisoned in the past. It's the govt. and the corporations they don't trust. And why should they.

We all know now that 911 workers were lied to by the EPA and many are now ill and have shortened live expectancy. Some died already. And we know that corporations have no problem selling us stuff that will kill us, even if we don't know it and they do. (The fishermen know better.)

Attorneys put the kaboosh on that kind of behavior. And they are the last resort when govt. is the one lying.

But to get back to the point of why people are skeptical, it's because they've been lied to in the past, many times. It's the same reason the fishermen are skeptical. I doubt they are blaming the lawyers, unless it's BP's lawyers.

Yes, there will be some lingering effects, but GOM which is perhaps the best environment for natural decomposition and coming back to normal. Light crude, circulation keeping oil away, warm waters, no storms bringing oil on shore, bacteria...etc.

What I am talking about is the attitude of not learning the lesson and then letting go, but of clinging to the past. People do not see attorneys (except BP's) as enemies, contrary, they seem them as allies, and have a self-interest of cooperation and getting best compensation they can, but without the fund, focus would be different. It would be good to know something about socio-economic impact and outcomes after major spills is Europe, with significantly less adversarial system.

People were lied to many times, I know, I come from behind the iron curtain, but this case is I think a lucky one. The (real oil spill) problem is pretty much over.

Depends what happens when they unlatch the BOP.

I would respectfully disagree seeing as this well which was declared under "control" is really not.

Thad Allen reassures me of this every time he gives a briefing.

Either there are some real problems with the well not being divulged in the name of PR or the DWHIC is just plain incompetent.

It would be good to know something about socio-economic impact and outcomes after major spills is Europe, with significantly less adversarial system.

It isn't the system that is adversarial, it is the event. One party did something that hurt a lot of others. They are now adversaries whether that is in europe or the US.

There are basically 2 choices on what to do. Allow a mechanism for those harmed to recover from the one who harmed them, or not. If not, the choice is to let the harmed party bear the loss and often to let the wrong-doer profit from a wrongful act. Most societies reject that route.

So how do you compensate the innocent victims? Basically, it comes down to allowing a private right of action through the courts, or instituting some sort of government adjudicatory body, like a regulatory agency.

By twisting BP's arm into putting up the $20 billion, Obama created a hybrid institution. It was a good move for everyone. Is it really realistic to require the victims to prove BP's laibility beore having a right to damages in a catastrophe like this where it is obvious BP caused the spill? Not really. But there is rarely the sort of incentive in the US that obama provided in this case. Corps. do better playing the courts and dragging things out for decades, and they would fight tooth and nail against any law that would allow people to recover more easily without having to hire an attorney and go to court.

Congress could enact an oil spill law that would provide for damages without the need for attorneys or proving liability (the gov could assign it), etc. It will never happen with the current corp-dominated gov. we have now though.

Is anyone seriously afraid of more than 1000 bbl spill from the annulus right now? From what you can read it seems that you do not want to just remove BOP or drill into the well, but they are not really afraid of blowing it open again. Or are they?

As far as compensation..Perhaps I misunderstood how the 20B fund is supposed to work. If this is a "trust fund" to cover just plain claims for damage and loss, than it is pretty much an administrative affair and not much money will be paid from that.

But, will legal actions be allowed against BP a) when claims are settled b) will 20B be put aside for these lawsuits.

Here is the difference. I do not think that in Europe BP would have to expect 15 years of litigation.

An abnormally hot summer, fires in Russia, fish kills in the Atlantic - you're saying it's possible all that is somehow related to the MC252 blowout? Do you also freak out when it gets dark at night because there's a possibility the darkness is a result of the sun being destroyed?

Have you seen or heard any reports from anyone anywhere that any gas bubbles surfaced anywhere at all in relation to this blowout? I haven't. One, I don't think they could have hidden that if it happened, and two, there would have been a mad rush to evacuate all the surface vessels from the area, as boats and floating rigs have a rather scary tendency to stop floating when you put them in water made all frothy with gas bubbles. There simply wasn't enough gas to do any of the things you mentioned, not even enough gas for it to avoid completely dissolving into the water before it could reach the surface. When they were collecting the flow via choke/kill lines or from the top cap thing the gas only made it up to the surface where it was flared off because it was inside the plumbing and isolated from the water.

"Welp, the days of me not takin' you serious are certainly coming to a middle."

Don't forget all those Bolivian alligators that died.

I loved this sentence from the article:

The findings from SRI are not the first to suggest that Deepwater Horizon is gushing methane as well as oil.

I mean, you know (overlooking the fact that nothing at all has been gushing from Deepwater Horizon since April 22), quel surprise--could there really have been methane gushing from the well along with the oil? Maybe (speculating wildly here) that's what they were flaring off there for a while. Boy, I bet they'd be really happy to know for sure what that stuff was. Good thing somebody is finally looking into those suggestions.

Yeah, but you can't fault them on the accuracy of their statement ;-)

News flash!! --- just in --- the Sun will very likely rise tomorrow! -- But we're not the first to report this -- film at 11!

Should I submit to the Pulitzer committee now? Or, the Nobel folks?

Should I submit to the Pulitzer committee now? Or, the Nobel folks?

Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves, now. The prize committees aren't going to be impressed by mere suggestions; we'll need to get some hard data before we write it up. Remember Pons and Fleischmann!

Sounds like we need a grant for such a study!

My favorite quote at the time of the cold fussion fiasco was from Nathan Lewis of Cal Tech:

This experiment hasn’t been reproduced by any national laboratory or any university yet without a good football team.

The sun will rise tomorrow? Says who - the scientists?? Government scientists? HA! Since they have lied to us about EVERYTHING, that must mean the sun will NOT rise tomorrow! Quick, somebody submit this to beforeitsnews and godlikeproductions, STAT!

fake edit: Oh, and alexanderhiggins, too. Just add in something about a crooked bullseye indicator and he'll run it, no questions asked.

Well, I guess there is a possibility that Corexit, like it does with oil, might keep the sun from rising too.

Guess we better wait to see.


Well, I guess there is a possibility that Corexit, like it does with oil, might keep the sun from rising too.

We could always burn the methane for light and heat, if that's what's really coming out of the well.

I simply don't know what you saw as a venting event or a chimney. I'm spent a fair time looking at the real time (not glued to it but I do check in about once an hour when I not otherwise busy) and simply haven't seen these things. Not to imply that you didn't, just that I missed them. Other than the vortices, I don't know what you're seeing. A captured sample of video would be nice. If you cite a YouTube video, also please provide a time reference in the duration of the video (when you try to look at a specific event, when you don't know what you're looking for, it's hard to pick it put in a 10 minute video).

As to methane levels in the water, be very, very careful about figures reported in the MSM and the alternative press; they are more often wrong that right. This part of the story has been very badly reported. Media like to use "x times normal" but the figures they cite depends on some nebulous baseline for determining the factor and are usually worthless. Depending on the ethics and the understanding of science of the reporter, one can pretty much manipulate the figures and report anything using as justification a low enough baseline. I saw one report in the alternative press that, if you did the math, the water around the well was composed of six parts methane and one part water (that report pegged my BS meter ;-)

Instead look at the PPM (parts per million) on any resulting plume (as reported from an original and reliable source). Yes, methane levels were much higher around the well during the release as one would expect. However, as the plume drifts away in the current, it becomes more dilute and bio-degrades (progressively lowering the PPM) with distance from the well. Since the well was sealed, the area immediately around the well would have flushed of high PPM levels of all HC rather quickly as the current swept in fresh seawater and the plume moved away.

Total speculation on my part but by now, with the well sealed for some weeks, methane levels (and other HCs) are likely at near normal levels (as the plume moved eastward). I further speculate that any venting now would show up rather nicely. In other words, the best evidence of venting wouldn't necessarily be a visual indicator of an event or series of events but the physical evidence of any resulting discharge that can be easily measured in water samples.

Some basic science around the well would be nice. Better video, too.

bb, I know you don't know what I saw. I guess if I were to have given it my best shot I would have learned how to take screen shots (ugh) and instead of commenting would have simply posted those screen shots at polite intervals. The only thing I can say about your once-an-hour regimen is that I'm surprised you didn't see anything. They were pretty much constant on seabed feeds for...sheesh, I'm guessing here, not good at judging time intervals...a couple weeks, basically since the static kill. I tend to watch each feed for at least a half hour, unless I have a strong hunch that they're not going to change camera angle or focus. Sometimes a black screen turns out to be a video, so I check those too. But in many of the feeds the vents were simply there for the viewing, no waiting, no searching, hard to miss.

Those methane concentrations were given by Joye's team, I believe, in the first few weeks after the accident. I agree with everything you say from there on. A higher concentration than normal around the well site would be good evidence of methane leaks. But remember, I'm not 100% convinced that they are (were) methane leaks. I just can't think of anything else that could be leaking!


In particular the final report of Project “Deep Spill” found:

1. Only 2% of the oil released in a deepwater blowout may actually make it to the surface. That’s as little as 2% naturally without the use of dispersants. Add dispersants into the equation and it could be less then one percent of oil that makes it to the surface.
2. None of the methane released from the deepwater blowout made it to the surface. The study found that released natural gas may dissolve completely within the water column if it is released from a deep enough depth relative to the gas flow rate.


"There are two main goals when it comes to sub-surface testing. One is to get a better sense of how much oil has spilled; another is to get a better sense of what it's doing to sea life.
When it comes to the latter, the key indicator involves oxygen levels, and the fear is that the oil will turn regions of the Gulf hypoxic, when means the water would have insufficient dissolved oxygen levels to sustain living aquatic organisms.

And Asper, the marine scientist from Southern Mississippi, warns that, at the depths where the plumes are mostly being found, even a slight reduction in oxygen could have serious and very long-lasting consequences.

"The water at great depths hasn't been on the surface in a long time," he said. "It's old water" that rose to the surface in Antarctica, perhaps hundreds of years ago, got chilled, and spread out along the ocean floor. Just as it hasn't seen the surface in a long time, Asper said, "this water that's down there won't get back to the surface of the ocean for probably hundreds of years longer."

So to the extent that oxygen levels there are depleted, he said, "it's quite likely that oxygen will stay low for a long time."

bb said :
"However, as the plume drifts away in the current, it becomes more dilute and bio-degrades (progressively lowering the PPM) with distance from the well."

bb - the loop current drifts not much at the time.
It´s going in a relativ narrow circle and has no connection to the atlantic ocean.
That hopefully may change soon.
Therefore I assume, that the plumes didn´t make a long way.

University of South Florida chemical oceanographer David Hollander discusses the WEATHERBIRD III results in the report that can be found at http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/PDFs/noaa_weatherbird_analysis_...
Good summary of the citation in the Tampa Trib on July 23rd I think.

BTW, this was reporting on samples taken the last week in May as I recall.

Two massive plumes, or subsurface clouds, have been linked to BP oil through a kind of molecular fingerprinting comparison.

One plume, suspended a quarter-mile beneath the surface, is 22 miles long, 6 miles wide and 100 feet thick, Hollander said. It was observed 45 miles northeast of the Deepwater Horizon well.

The other is deeper, hovering two-thirds to three-quarters of a mile beneath the surface. It is 20 miles long and is roughly 650 feet thick, Hollander said. This cloud was 24 miles east of the Deepwater Horizon site.
Of the two plumes – which are invisible to the naked eye -- the one that is deeper has oil at a concentration of 750 parts per billion. At a concentration of 1,000 parts per billion, oil is thought to be toxic to marine life.

The plume that is closer to the surface has a concentration ranging from 300 to 550 parts per billion, Hollander said.

The boldface is my addition. Note that concentrations are cited in parts per "billion" with a "B".

My speculation is that later work (more recent samples) are very likely to show (1) increased dilution; (2) the plumes becoming larger but more dilute and (3) more bio-digestion reducing the concentration levels.

By late May, the plumes were 45-150 miles from the wellhead.

The loop current isn’t required for this action. Any way, not too concerned by this staying the GOM becuase (1) it's a pretty big place - 615,000 square miles; (2) has lots of volume - 660 quadrillion gallons of sea water; (3) is warm; and (4) a well-adapted micro-fauna ecosystem for digesting oil.

Sorry, I'm not a fan of the reporting of the Alexander Higgins Blog on this issue. BTW, not much of a fan of many of the blogs or even most of MSM reporting for that matter. Since I can read and understand the original scientific papers, I perfer to read the original, NOT the filtered reporting by a someone who may or may not have a science background. Why? Because most of the reporters, even when trying to provide straight reporting, get the science very wrong. Others slant or cherry-pick the facts they report to fit their agenda or the slant of their reporting. Much of the second- and third-party report is just plain wrong or fails to tell the whole story. Sad, but true, fact of the post-modern world.

Alexanderhiggins and Huffpo in the same post, yee-haw! bb, I'm afraid you're outgunned on this one. lulz

@Heading Out - Thanks - seems pretty clear to me - I wonder why they bother about 1000 barrels oil (max) leaking into the GOM - probably looks bad in politics but otherwise it is just a drip into the ocean and not important.

There is also a simple way to "cap" anything coming out when they overpressure the annulus - let it go into the choke and kill lines up to the Q-4000 or Helix producer. I don't get what's the problem there unless they want to overpressure with 10,000 psi or above.

Any ideas why my thinking might be wrong?

I wonder why they bother about 1000 barrels oil (max) leaking into the GOM -

One possible explanation is that what Allen et al are worried about is that the 1,000 barrels might not be the max amount in light of the low-probability but very negative outcome of damaging both the seal at the top of the casing and the unknown quantity of cement currently blocking the reservoir below the open annulus. Simultaneously opening up the top and the bottom of the annulus could lead to lots more than 1,000 bbls of oil flowing into the gulf.

From his 8/14 briefing ...
What we're trying to figure out right now is, what is the – what are the implications of whatever is between the annulus and the reservoir in regards to the volume and the pressure that we created by putting the mud and the cement into the annulus. But right now, what would appear to be at risk right now is the thousand barrels.

What we don't know and never want to even get close to would be a worst case scenario where we think there'd be some kind of possibility in the process of doing this that we would create some kind of a communication that we had not expected.

I wonder why they bother about 1000 barrels oil (max) leaking into the GOM - probably looks bad in politics but otherwise it is just a drip into the ocean and not important.


Allen stated at one point when asked about the 1000 bbl that damage to the environment was not what they were concerned about. He didn't spit it out but losing well control is what he is concerned about.

Allen has also stated pretty clearly that they believe that the annulus is closed at both ends and filled with oil in the middle.

No one has asked nor has he volunteered exactly how those conclusions were arrived at (or if he even knows how they came to their conclusions about the annulus). I have seen no explanation giving an explanation how they know the annulus has oil in it and how they know it is closed at the bottom and sealed at the top. But Allen seems to be operating as if those are known facts.

One can only guess that the pressure tests have somehow led to these conclusions, but lets for a moment assume these conclusions are correct.

Obviously then at some point in time there was flow in the annulus and that is how the oil got there. Currently there is no flow. So how did that happen? The theory is the recent cement job plugged the flow at the bottom. But even that makes little sense because there was no evidence of flow in the annulus before the cement job. In other words, I can't see how they would have any real evidence that the current state of the annulus is any different now than it was before the cement job. The only thing that has really changed is the cement job gave them some new diagnostic tools.

It seems at the moment everything is on hold because of these unknowns about the state of the annulus. What is clear is the equation has changed. Intersecting with the relief well has always been a dangerous and unknowable prospect. Previously the WW was even more dangerous and less knowable. Things have changed the WW is now less dangerous and quite a bit is known about its state. The RW OTOH has still the same level of danger and lack of knowledge about what it will encounter as it always has.

The RW can drill into annulus and remove the trapped oil by circulating it up to the DDIII, IF they knew where it was located, & if it really existed.
No need to push it up casings or down to the reservoir.

If 3000 barrels of LCM disappeared in April they do not know well volumes, or flow routes.

Was the high standpipe pressure before the blowout felt 18,000' down and damage the well?

Thus, I suspect, the decision to send the cement down the production casing. At least this way the reservoir and flow path could be sealed off, and should there be a need to temporarily abandon the well due to a hurricane, then there would be no significant chance of a leak. So that was done.

Are you suggesting that the cementing from the top was just in case of a hurricane and not to try to kill/seal the flow at the bottom of the well?

Is it just an accident, then, that the cementing ended up killing the well, as has been reported?

Couldn't they have plugged it higher up above the intersect point if it was just a storm plug and they weren't trying to seal/kill at the bottom, and left mud in below the cement? They would then not be facing the same problems with the RW.

It seems the objective had to be to obviate the need for the RW, unless they simply overlooked the pressure problem, or miscalculated what the cement would do. Or what Allen/Chu would do.

Are you suggesting that the cementing from the top was just in case of a hurricane and not to try to kill/seal the flow at the bottom of the well?

Allen today would seem to answer "Yes"

Kristen Hays: Yes, hello Admiral. The static kills seems to go pretty quickly and smoothly but now we're holding off because of concerns of where the cement settled and hardened and if it blocked off from the reservoir the annulus as well. Should BP have just controlled the well with drilling mud and saved the cement for the relief well?

Thad Allen: No, I don’t think so. You got to remember one of our concerns is being able to leave that well during a hurricane. And first the answer is – we got the capping stack on there, basically shut the well in so that allowed us to leave it unattended when tropical storm Bonnie came through. So I think that’s significant.

But to rely on the capping stack that’s connected to a spooling tool and the deepwater horizon blow our preventer, all which collectively are not that stable if you will through a category five hurricane, I don’t think would have been in the best interest of anybody. So the quicker we could get this well in a stable situation that would mitigate or reduce as much to zero the chance of hydrocarbons going into the Gulf was probably the best course of action.

Is it just an accident, then, that the cementing ended up killing the well, as has been reported?

If not an accident, at least unexpected.

Kristen Hays: OK, so did you and BP expect this kind of – where we're standing now to continue doing these pressures test to figure out how much oil might be in the annulus and if you have to vent some pressure off, did you expect that step to be part of this?

Thad Allen: I think we had better communication, when I say communication that’s a path of liquid being forced down than we did in the injectivity test, I think the results of the static kill were much more positive than they believed and we had much better communication to allow the mud and the cement to go down and one of the implications of that was some of the stuff that went into the reservoir actually ended up going back up into the annulus.

I don’t think – I'm not sure they expected that we would have been that successful and that there would have been that open to communication done the well bore. I think it's nothing more than that and we took a step to minimize risk in relation to a discharge and during hurricane season and we're just dealing with the implications of that.

I don’t think it's good or bad, it's just where we at. We just need to make sure we understand the condition of the annulus as we move forward.

Thanks for finding/postin those, Rainyday!

How do you accidentally kill the well and also end up with the mess we have now?

Some of his answers are off the cuff generalizations/rationalizations, i think.

Edit: Forgot 1st sent.

How do you accidentally kill the well and also end up with the mess we have now?

Good question. And lots of others floating around out there...

Did BP (and Allen) act impulsively once they saw the opportunity to seal off the flow?
- did BP foresee possible problems with continuing on to the RW and think it didn't matter since they could persuade Allen to drop his requirement that the RW be completed?

Is Allen's concern about the remote possibility of inadvertently establishing a connection from the reservoir up the annulus through a damaged seal to the BOP and beyond realistic?
- has he become so wedded to the idea of a RW that he can't back off?

He seems to indicate that the hydrostatic balance static kill achieved did not sufficiently reduce pressure on the stack such that there were still concerns it might not hold over time, such as if there was a hurricane. Thus, they cemented it.

I was off in the mountains when this was happening, but assuming this to be true, you would think that adding mud and achieving 'static kill' would have reduced pressure far below what might pose a risk to the stack, unless it was particularly vulnerable and weak, or unless i am missing something else.

But I can see pumping cement asap if you're afraid the system could possibly fail before the RW can cement it. Is that really what happened, though?

syn -- More for the benedfit of others than you I'll flog that dead hoerse one more time: after they successfully bull headed the kill mud down the could have filled the csg with 17.5 ppg mud and the well wouldn't flow if a storm ripped off the cap, the BOP and the entire well head. A 13,000' column of 17.5 ppg mud would have exerted a greater pressure than the original reservoir pressure. I know it, syn knows it, most of TOD knows it, BP knows it, Dr. Chu knows it and Wright knows it. And don't ask me to explain why it wasn't done.

It's a guess, but my guess is that they didn't trust the substructure would hold it without sustaining unpredictable damage. They beat the hell out of GECO TOPAZ trying to get a 3D model which seems to have resulted in an okay to bullhead but not enough confidence to pack more pressure.

snake - if you're referring to the pressure of the heavier mud by my calc a 5,000' column of 17.5 ppg mud would have exerted a 4,500 psi on the structure. Even not backing off the 2,200 psi ambient water pressure it's difficult for me to beleive that was a concern.

Just speculating, Rockman. Out of boredom and running on nothing but mushroom food. If it's not due to management by committee, then there's a problem they think they have with applying too much pressure and/or they're not all that confident that bullheading's going to hold. What could it be besides worrying that high pressure will blow up all their good work? If that happens, seeing how these guys work, it'd be back to more down hole pressure testing, but not before another survey possibly. And I'm not at all sure how deep their trust in reservoir containment is. I suspect overeating of data followed by cranial indigestion.

snake -- You're not alone. This waiting is starting to run on everyone's nerves and unfortunately we have only each other to chew on.

I don't think they could maintain 17.5 ppg to surface in any case. They believe the frac gradient to be 13.5 ppg. 

That was at the bottom of the hole in lost circulation zone before they pumped cement, IIRC. For me the interesting question is whether the mud pumps are running? I know that sounds absurd. Just want a straight answer from BP.

Ooops, I forgot. No more technical briefings. Rats.

avon -Exactly. That's why I brought the point up yesterday: I have no doubt that all the pump pressure data, pit volume data, etc, is being feed real time to a commercial onshore server and there are many dozens of folks with the pass word. This is how we got the bulk of the info about the blow out we've been working with from the beginning. Someone was going to make a request for the server to be made available to the MSM/public. Don't know if the request was made or not. But I think we can guess what the answer would be.

How can anyone be sure of the cement job now when there is no drill string down the well - other than the fish left from DWH ...?

BP killed the well with mud then added cement. Maybe the cement flowed to the bottom of the production casing and maybe it is near the wellhead floating on the mud column. Without a drill string downhole there is no way to place the cement where it belongs. That cement is at the bottom of the well is an assumption that cannot be verified until a drill pipe is either sent down the wild well or the relief well is completed.

If the cement is at the top then BP created a problem for themselves. Let me put in another way: since there are problems with the well it appears that all the cement is at the top of the well and mostly in the production casing. The mudweight/cement is controlling the oil flow in the casing and the existing BOP/3- valve stack is controlling the annulus with what mud is in the annulus. The annulus may be uncemented and removing the BOP may confront them with a kick they cannot control along with a production casing with a fish sticking out that confounds any chance of quickly installing a replacement BOP. The wild well would be 'Gusher 2.0' and the country would be waiting on the relief well (again).

I am not in the oil business but I have worked with concrete my entire adult life and you cannot just dump some cement into a hole and expect it to do what you want it to do by itself. It has to be placed carefully.

Cement at the top of the casing/liner assembly makes a bottom kill difficult because of overpressure on the wild- well liners. None of tis would be an issue if BP had simply killed the well then replaced the BOP and removed the fish, then put a drill string down the well and cemented from the bottom.

I am not just another Monday Morning Quarterback flapping my lips since I have been suggesting from the beginning for BP to use the fish as a way to get down the well and kill it from the bottom.

Yes? Can I do something for you?

High quality discussion today, the whole page. Nice.

"That was at the bottom of the hole in lost circulation zone before they pumped cement, IIRC."

Yes exactly. And in the hypothetical case under discussion no kill cement is pumped.

the kill mud down the could have filled the csg with 17.5 ppg mud and the well wouldn't flow if a storm ripped off the cap, the BOP and the entire well head. A 13,000' column of 17.5 ppg mud would have exerted a greater pressure than the original reservoir pressure.


That doesn't kill the well. It could still flow thru the annulus. And with just mud in the production casing there is no way to evaluate the danger from a flow in the annulus. What is keeping the oil from entering the annulus at the bottom? How can you tell if the hangar seal at the top is going to hold if oil finds a way to the annulus at the bottom? How do you know there wasn't damage done to the outer casing so that a flow into the annulus would just blowout somewhere else even if the hangar seal held?

jinn -- How could the well flow thru the annulus if the annulus isn't open to the BOP? And if the annulus is open to the BOP then the bull headed mud went down the annulus because the well is killed. A 17.5+ ppg is going to kill the well regardless of what flow paths are open. Have I missed something? If you have 17.5+ ppg mud filling the csg you can perf the well anywhere you like: annulus, any liner: or you can blow out any csg shoe or hanger seal. You would still have a mud weight that will keep the well from flowing. Tell me what I missing; how can they flow a reservoir with 11,900 psi in against a higher pressure regardless of the pathway? I must be missing something big in my logic.

you have to have kill weight in each flow path.

What you are missing is that even though now there is no flow path, that fact doesn't guarantee there never will be a flow path.

Allen has asked BP to give him an assessment on what are the chances that a leak would develop while the cap is off and what that scenario would look like. If the annulus is communicating with the reservoir the concern would be a leak developing at the hangar seal. If the annulus is sealed at the bottom then the concern is a leak developing at the bottom of the annulus.

I don't know what they need to do to unlatch the legacy BOP - nothing has been said about that. Presumably it involves manually operating the release that is normally hydraulically activated. Doing this may put some stress on the production casing. How strong the seal at the top or the bottom of the annulus is not known. It is possible that removing a couple hundred tons of weight off the production case could disturb things enough that a flow could develop in the annulus. This danger has nothing to do with whether mud or cement is stopping the flow in the production casing.

I'm with jinn and exdm.

If the casing hanger presently seals, bullheading the mud forced it into the reservoir. In the worst case (oil in annulus, perhaps unlikely) the bottom hole pressure is res pressure, there is zero pressure at the top of the open casing (using 17.5 ppg mud say) and 7000 psi under the hanger.

Rupture the hanger for whatever reason when you take off the bop (again unlikely) and the wellbore contents utube out the annulus. You no longer have a kill head. Wild well again. 

But the cement would have to fail as well before the well could flow again. They have said they know there is a seal between the annulus and the reservoir. I have read that they are able to measure the small volume change of the production casing (expands/contracts) due to pressure change and can then estimate the pressure on the other side in the annulus and thus whether any annular flow is induced from (or into) reservoir by changing pressure inside the production casing. But that's what I've read - not a fact :)

This was a comment on RM's view that they need not have pumped the kill cement at all, and lived instead with a wellbore full of kill weight mud alonewhen removing the BOP. And I personally tend to agree that it might have been a risk worth taking, but a few of us were pointing out some of the risks.

I would be amazed if they could infer the annular pressure as suggested above - I would have thought any tiny pressure changes would be dwarfed by the slow pressure decline which is perhaps due to slow fluid bleed from the BOP (I gather the leaks don't look so bad at the moment but they are probably still occuring). But I live and learn!

On a couple of occasions recently we had ROV pix of closeup inspections. I disbelieve pressure loss from flex joint, spool or capping stack "leaks."

I'm astonished by some of the ideas in your article.

(1) a failed seal in the BOP

(2) the relief well would then have injected mud ... filling the well with mud, and then killed the flow by driving the oil back into the reservoir ...

(3) For this method to work, however, there had to be a pathway that would allow the mud injected either into the annulus, or the casing, to displace the oil in the well back into the reservoir.

(4) I believe that the negative pressure test, has shown that there would be no flow up through the annulus.

The capped well has never been tested underbalanced AFAIK.

Thanks heading out for your post. This is exactly how I saw it also but I am unable to explain why the Relief Well is trying to intersect the annulus at 18000' which according to the well schematic should have cement. The Well schematic shows TOC should haven been 17300' for the 9-7/8" production casing.
Did they really did such a bad cement job? (Missing 700' for cement) Why didn't they plan to intersect the well at 17168' just below the 9-7/8" liner?

Yes very good questions. And somebody from BP needs to explain these discrepancies.

According to Kent wells The depth of 17900 is where the 9-7/8 liner shoe is and the relief well is now sitting at that elevation. According to Wells the intersect point is open hole just below the bottom of the outer casing string. Listening to Wells makes it sound like everything at the bottom of the well is about 700' lower than information about well depths supplied earlier by BP and halliburton.

I'm not understanding your reply.

Is it possible that the transcription of Well's comments is the source of the discrepancy. Is the relief well at 17090' not 17900'?

Sorry if I confuse. But I think the situation is what you say. 17090 feet not 17900 feet. The last report I saw said the RW, was stopped 50 feet short of the intended intercept depth.

The transcription is correct. I listened to the audio version and he said 17909'. http://bp.concerts.com/gom/audio/techAudio_10082010_3pm.htm

However, acronus pointed to a document that clearly indicated the intercept target to be around 17000' not 18000'.

But then I'm finding Thad's transcript on both July 7 and July 13 indicating dept of 17,840'

So I am confused! Which one is it. They both are wrong or what ...

Isn't the confusion because the RW depth has typically been given as measured depth and the interception point in the WW as the true vertical depth?

Here's one of the old BP RW diagrams - haven't seen a more recent update, but this shows the RW coming in around 18,000' MD, intercepting just below the 9 7/8' casing.

ETA - later version of diagram here. (pdf)

OK so the 17,900 Wells was referring to is the measured length of the relief well. That doesn't seem like a very useful way to describe the intersection point with respect to the WW.

I am surprise that the RW which I believe is located 3000' away is only 700-800 feet longer drill string to reach the intersection point as the (more or less) vertical WW.
If the RW had been drilled in straight line (at a slant) it would be only 400 feet longer.

As rainyday noted, most reports on relief well depths are careless in not specifing whether they are talking measured depth or total vertical depth.

17,909' is RW MD. Back on Aug. 9 I read something (I don't remember exactly where, but made a note of the numbers) that equated 17,909' MD to 17,152' TVD. The liner ends at 17,157' TVD, nominal top of cement is 17,289' TVD.


Thanks all for clearing up this up.
Did not realize the difference between MD and TVD
From wikipedia:

Because wells are not always drilled vertically, there may be two "depths" for every given point in a wellbore: the measured depth (MD) measured along the path of the borehole, and the true vertical depth (TVD), the absolute vertical distance between the datum and the point in the wellbore. In perfectly vertical wells, the TVD equals the MD; otherwise, the TVD is less than the MD measured from the same datum"

delete duplicate

Latest pressure reading from inside the BOP:

How do you assess the declining pressure? What happened on August 14?

The seabed seems to be quieting down. Still a little venting but nothing like a few days ago. Does that tell you anything meaningful about the well and lower pressures?

I'm not trying to be a smart ass,but there does seem to be quite a bit less ROV action.

Watch closely, and you will see video filters making hydrate blobs disappear in mid-trajectory. Sinister IMO.

Latest pressure reading. The link notes:

"There is a near-ambient pressure test being conducted on the well to continually measure the pressure in the blowout preventer and the capping stack as responders prepare for the final stages of the relief well. Sensors measure the pressure in the well bore above the cement plug, as monitored at the capping stack. The differential drop in pressure on the morning of Aug. 14 was planned and expected – necessary for a scientific testing subset as part of the ongoing pressure tests.

BP plans and expects an increase in the ambient pressure of the well head to climb to approximately ~ 2500 psi this afternoon (Aug 17)."

Two new datapoints added. See text above.

What happened on August 14?

Check the URL provided in the graphic's title.

Here it is and the link.

Ambient Pressure Test Results from PT_3K_2 Transmitter

There is a near-ambient pressure test being conducted on the well to continually measure the pressure in the blowout preventer and the capping stack as responders prepare for the final stages of the relief well. Sensors measure the pressure in the well bore above the cement plug, as monitored at the capping stack. The differential drop in pressure on the morning of Aug. 14 was planned and expected – necessary for a scientific testing subset as part of the ongoing pressure tests.

If you have questions, please contact the BP representative at the UAC Joint Information Center: (713) 323-1670.


16-Aug-10 19:00:00 2446.8

16-Aug-10 17:00:00 2451.6

16-Aug-10 15:00:00 2451.7

16-Aug-10 13:00:00 2456.2

16-Aug-10 11:00:00 2456.2

16-Aug-10 09:00:00 2461.1

16-Aug-10 07:00:00 2461.1

16-Aug-10 05:00:00 2465.6

16-Aug-10 03:00:00 2465.6

16-Aug-10 01:00:00 2470.1

15-Aug-10 23:00:00 2470.1

15-Aug-10 21:00:00 2470.1

15-Aug-10 19:00:00 2475.0

15-Aug-10 17:00:00 2479.5

15-Aug-10 15:00:00 2479.5

15-Aug-10 13:00:00 2484.3

15-Aug-10 11:00:00 2484.3

15-Aug-10 09:00:00 2488.8

15-Aug-10 07:00:00 2488.8

15-Aug-10 05:00:00 2493.7

15-Aug-10 03:00:00 2498.6

15-Aug-10 01:00:00 2498.6

14-Aug-10 23:00:00 2503.1

14-Aug-10 21:00:00 2508.0

14-Aug-10 19:18:00 2512.5

14-Aug-10 15:00:00 2521.9

14-Aug-10 13:00:00 2526.7

14-Aug-10 11:00:00 2526.8

14-Aug-10 09:00:00 2728.1

14-Aug-10 07:00:00 2733.0

14-Aug-10 05:00:00 2737.5

14-Aug-10 03:00:00 2737.5

14-Aug-10 01:00:00 2737.5

13-Aug-10 23:00:00 2742.4

13-Aug-10 21:00:00 2742.4

13-Aug-10 19:00:00 2742.4

13-Aug-10 17:00:00 2746.9

13-Aug-10 15:00:00 2746.9

13-Aug-10 13:00:00 2751.8

13-Aug-10 11:00:00 2746.9

13-Aug-10 09:00:00 2746.9

13-Aug-10 07:00:00 2746.9

13-Aug-10 05:00:00 2742.4

13-Aug-10 03:00:00 2746.8

13-Aug-10 01:00:00 2742.4

12-Aug-10 23:00:00 2742.4

12-Aug-10 21:00:00 2737.5

Everything they do is a "test."

Yes, they let the pressure down a planned amount, then closed it in. The remaining pressure is now declining because the stack still leaks. So far the rate of decline is remarkably constant, but it won't stay that way. The graph will become asymptotic as the internal pressure approaches the sea pressure. It should stop leaking somewhere just short of equal pressure because there is resistance in the leaks.

Toolpush from previous thread.

They may have avoided down time by not repairing the annular by I would be more interested in why nobody wanted to fix the Casing shears, these had not been working since February at least as per the BOP test tabled during the first hearing, signed off by BP and Transocean with an exemption. In other words everybody knew about them not working and now nobody want to talk about it, and they still don't.

If you mean the "Do not function as per exemption" this was said to not mean that the shears didn't function. It meant that the test was not to be performed (ie the shears were not "functioned") at that time as per MMS exemption. At least that's what I recall the answer was when that question was put at an earlier hearing. I could be wrong though.


Thanks for suppling me with the offical answers as I cetainly do not have time to cover all the information available.

Exemptions in regard to BOP functions or tests in my experience are issued when something does not work or people do not want to take the time to comply with the written procedures,eg delaying a BOP until the next casing point etc. This is a CYA for the rig to show the upper management approve of the variation.

The exemption in this case was for a "not function testing the casing shears" when they function tested the blind/shears. The only time you want to function test any shear rams is when there is no pipe in the hole, though there are many stories around the patch when they have been function with pipe, but they are stories for another day. As the blind/shears were function tested the BOP was clear of pipe, therefore to function the casing shears at this point would have saved the operation less than 5 mins, which rules out time as a reason for not operating them, and to me only leaves the fact that there was an opertionial problem with the casing shears. As both BP and Transocean management would have needed to sign the exemption than neither party would be keen to advertise the fact.

We need to wait until we find out why the blind/shears and the disconnect did not work before we know if this is a realvant point.

As the blind/shears were function tested the BOP was clear of pipe, therefore to function the casing shears at this point would have saved the operation less than 5 mins

On page 3 of the BOP report I see that the blind shear open/close entries are also greyed out and no values recorded. However I'm not an expert on interpreting these tests.

I'll have to go back and double-check testimony but I could have sworn this was said to be simply applying the MMS general exemption on this test. Seems incredibly strange that this would not have come up as a major issue later on if the shears were actually known to be non-functional.

Most BP oil still in the Gulf, say Georgia scientists

WASHINGTON -- Georgia scientists say their analysis shows that most of that BP oil the government said was gone from the Gulf of Mexico is still there.

The scientists say as much as 80 percent of the oil still lurks under the surface. The Georgia team said it is a misinterpretation of data to claim that oil that is dissolved is actually gone.

The report from University of Georgia and other scientists came from an analysis of federal estimates.

Earlier this month federal scientists said that only about a quarter of the oil remained and the rest was either removed, dissolved or dispersed.


Here is the report:

Outcome/Guidance from Georgia Sea Grant
Program: Current Status of BP Oil Spill
By Chuck Hopkinson, Director, Georgia Sea Grant
August 17, 2010

Gulf oil traces spread east on sea floor, researchers say

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill may have settled to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico further east than previously suspected and at levels toxic to marine life, researchers reported Monday.
Initial findings from a new survey of the Gulf conclude that dispersants may have sent the oil to the ocean floor, where it has turned up at the bottom of an undersea canyon within 40 miles of the Florida Panhandle. Plankton and other organisms showed a "strong toxic response" to the crude, according to researchers from the University of South Florida.

"The dispersant is moving the oil down out of the surface and into the deeper waters, where it can affect phytoplankton and other marine life," said John Paul, a marine microbiologist at USF.


Looks like the MSM gets a FAIL on their science report card on this story.

I hope that's a misquote. Marine biologists should know better.

Phytoplankton don't live in deep waters or undersea canyons. They live near the surface where the sunlight is available.

And as far as oil sinking, I have to question the idea that this is the result of using dispersants. Dispersants DON'T change the specific gravity of oil, only the surface area in an oil-water mixture. As the light ends evaporate/dissolve/metabolize the remaining heavier fractions that may have a specific gravity higher than water will sink. In other words it is part of the spill ageing process.

The only thing dispersants do to affect distribution by changing the surface area is reduce the rate of rise or settling. Lower it enough and motion in the ocean will cause it to mix the same way the water column mixes.

The report isn't out yet. It wouldn't be the first time CNN has cobbled up nonsense.

Corexit has an emulsifier in it. I think it could take oil to the bottom.

I think that is what the white stringy stuff was we saw for weeks at the blowout.

"Marine snow" falls to the bottom in oceans all over the world, and most densely in rich waters like the upper Gulf. It is feces and small bits of organic matter that stick together when they collide. There might be some dispersed oil in the snow falling through the spill area; also plankton feces may contain oil.

But emulsifier doesn't sink oil; it causes it to be suspended in the water column, droplets too small to be able to push through the water and rise as larger droplets do.

This was not marine snow. This is the long stringing white stuff that was present when they first started using corexit under water. People suggested that is what it was but it disappeared after a few weeks, suggesting it might have been from the first type of croexit they used or they fine tuned the application of it.

If it was marine snow you would still be seeing like we did.

If you suspend oil in the water column some would be at the bottom and some would be at the top with some in the middle so emulsifiers do sink oil.

Hi Q,

It sounds like you saw an episode of "sea snot." Sea snot is a slang term for "marine mucilage" well known to most open ocean divers. BTW, some diver slang terms for marine mucilage are not as genteel as sea snot.

Sea snot is very apt description of what it looks like in the water. NatGeo has a video of big globs of it at http://news.nationalgeographic.co.uk/news/2009/10/091008-giant-sea-mucus.... In the video, don't look at just look at the really big blob of the stuff (I've never seen one that big myself) but see the smaller bit floating around it or how the big blob dis-associates when the diver runs a hand through it. The big blog is just a very large accumulation of a lot of it on one place. Even the smaller bits are not a single organism but flocculation’s of many types of organic material in the mucilage.

I have seen a lot of sea snot from time to time in the ROV. Where was a storm of it for several hours around the time they started sawing off the bent riser. Sometimes it is heavy, sometimes light and days/weeks go by where I never see it. I’ve never seen a big accumulation like in the NatGeo video (focused on the Mediterranean where it is heavy) but have always assumed that the smaller piece of it I think you saw are big contributors to the "pudding" on the GOM bottom.

I have seen sea snot myself diving in many locations in the Atlantic, Pacific and Caribbean (to some degree in most any warm water environment) and in areas totally unrelated to oil production or the use of Corexit.

It does fall into the general category of marine snow in as much as it is organic material of natural origin composed of many types of living and dead marine "stuff" that aggregates into a mucilage as it settles out of the water column above. It is also episodic depending on what happens in the upper water column and conditions.

I'm not saying what you saw was or wasn't related to Corexit (because I don't know what you saw) but it sounds like you saw "sea snot" which is a very common and natural.

I agree, a poorly done story lends credence to the false meme "BP sank the oil to the bottom." It omits a crucial datum: at what depth? Is this at the 1000-1300 meter depth reported for the plumes that have been studied? The dispersed oil and gas spread out horizontally at this level because of a density boundary. Also it is unclear in the article whether we are talking about oil in the water column or oil on the bottom.

DeSoto Canyon is an erosional valley that cuts through the broad continental shelf in the northern part of the gulf. An upwelling of deep nutrient-rich water occurs here, resulting in relatively high primary productivity. This means that more food is available through the food web. The end result is a greater abundance of animals in this region. The bottom depths here range from 800-1000 m.


Here is the report on the USF WeatherBird cruise from the USF website.


One bit of confusion cleared up: the point about oil (actually specks of probable oil) on the bottom in deep water and the point about hazard to phytoplankton were garbled together by journalists, not by the scientists. The phytoplankton and bacterial samples were taken from surface and subsurface layers, 35-200 meters. Oil in the sediment was a separate issue.

Nice video in the comments on the Press-Register thread, from "benderr":


I took this video on 8/7/2010, about 9 miles SW of Pensacola. Most significant to me is the fact that the reef critters (tunicates, anemones, bivalves, sponges) are still alive. This suggests that oxygen levels haven't dropped to fatal levels, which would have happened in the presence of significant hydrocarbons (because the critters that eat oil use tons of oxygen). I did another dive further out and found less reef life, but ACRES of red snapper. I did two dives the next day at Ft. Pickens, and found life in all forms, including shoals of baitfish.

I'm not ready to eat from the Gulf though (even lobster). I'll need months of clean tests before I'll eat from the Gulf again.

(I enjoyed it more without audio.)

Conflicting info, yes? The UGA report seems somewhat weak but somewhat plausible. The USF report indicates a localized problem but there could be a lot more of those that are undiscovered. I'm perplexed by reports that Corexit's still being sprayed. That doesn't make sense to me unless there are collections of surface oil off the coast, and I'm unaware of recent reports from private pilots about what they're seeing if anything. There's an article about two guys who claim to have sprayed Corexit but they didn't provide samples of the stuff. We're still in the fog-of-war, it seems.

We're still in the fog-of-war, it seems.

Ay-yup, nice summary. The Corexit rumors will probably be the hardest to pin down, even though they make the least sense.

the reef critters (tunicates, anemones, bivalves, sponges) are still alive

What's the manmade structure the critters have colonized?

Dunno, SL, but maybe if you go to that thread and ask benderr, he'll say. Looks like a shipwreck to me, or maybe something else sunk as an artificial reef.

Looks like a shipwreck to me, or maybe something else sunk as an artificial reef.

I should have been clearer--I meant to express bepuzzlement that he didn't say what it was. I guess there must be so many of those sunken structures-turned-reefs that divers don't even consider them worth mentioning when describing what their videos have captured. I knew there were such reefs, but not that they were so common.

Yeah, I think they're pretty common (at least they are all around Florida, where we don't have jackup rigs that serve the purpose farther west in the Gulf).

You know I always thought when I put sugar in my coffee and took a drink the sugar was still in my coffee, I figured that's why it tasted sweet.

These darn scientist must have not signed the agreements.

If you put sugar in your grape juice and wait for it to ferment long enough you'll find there's a lot less sugar in your wine.

Thanks for posting the UGA report. I was unable to find it when I searched last night.

The following from report sounds suspicious, "We asked our scientific experts to estimate, as best they could, the percentage of subsurface oil that has degraded. They suggested a range of between 5% (see Figure 3) and 10% (see Figure 2)."

These "suggested" rates of 5% and 10% are critical to results of report. Rather than debate whether the percentage is right or wrong, I would debate the "suggestion" is wrong because it lacks a time variable. I would expect degradation to continue over time up to a maximum percentage and I find it tough to believe 5% or 10% is a maximum.

Anyway, the report is valuable and I hope it guides other reports to answer questions that remain concerning impact of dispersed oil in water column.

Yes, apparently they meant up to a certain date, and they should have said what date. That bothered me too.

brit: I also think the "suggested range" is troubling. Suggested on what basis? Data on degradation rates? Extrapolation from prior spills/experiments under similar conditions? Wild guesses?

I concluded from the 28-Jun-10 NOAA/USGS oil budget estimate that no good purpose was served by making unsubstantiated estimates until decomposition rates and composition of residual oil fractions are reported.

Now we have another, strikingly different, oil budget estimate. The only "benefit" IMO is to throw both reports into doubt.

"Georgia scientists say their analysis shows that most of that BP oil the government said was gone from the Gulf of Mexico is still there."

The scientists' report points out several times that it was the media, not the government, that said the oil was "gone from the Gulf"--e.g., "The news media’s tendency to interpret 'dispersed' and 'dissolved' as 'gone' is wrong." But you sure wouldn't learn that from this AP story, would you?

Jeez, that kind of misdirection is irritating. God forbid the media take the blame for messing up, especially if it would spoil a lovely eyeball-grabbing tale about how the government can't be trusted.

God forbid who takes the blame?

White House energy adviser Carol Browner said on morning news shows earlier this month: "More than three-quarters of the oil is gone. The vast majority of the oil is gone."

That sure sounds like less then 25 percent is left.


The head of NOAA said 50 percent of the oil released is gone. I could never figure out on that pie chart how she came up with that either.

Browner misinterpreted the botched report and should have retracted her statements.

The head of NOAA, Lubchenko, was including the 20% or so that was processed topside in the original amount of oil. With that, skimming/burning, evaporation, and degradation, you could support her claim that 50% of the oil that flowed is gone.

I find the concept of "dispersed" and/or "dissolved" to be something like cleaning house with a feather duster. It sure gets all that ugly dust off the table tops, window sills and bric-a-brack -- until it precipitates back onto every horizontal surface and/or is inhaled by the occupants. In Victorian times, one would regularly take the carpets out into the back yard, hang them on the fence, and finish the process with a rug beater.

It seems that the concept of dispersant is to break down oil into very small particles that will either flow to the surface and oxidize or evaporate, or be metabolized into more benign substances by microorganisms in the water. Unless one can demonstrate that these processes have occurred on a sufficiently large scale, all that's been done is analogous to using a big feather duster to make the dust less obvious.

The UGA oil budget is most welcome. It is much clearer and more useful than the federal one, a botched presentation. However, it is inexcusable that the AP writer repeats a misinterpretation of the NICt document-- “federal claims that 75% of the oil has vanished”--when Jane Lubchenko has clearly stated that the report did not claim that and did not mean that.

The UGA budget accepts the federal estimate that 4.1 million barrels spilled. To me it is quite implausible that 60,000 bbl/day were spilling from April 22 forward. Perhaps that was the peak amount that was spilling just after the riser was cut in early June.

I wish the UGA group had published their estimate of how much oil made it to the surface without being dispersed. I infer from the evaporation estimate that the breakdown may be 60%-70% mixed in the water column vs 30% surfaced and undispersed/uncollected + 10% skimmed/burned. They speak not very clearly of an "evaporation range" up to 40%--is this the fraction of surfaced oil capable of evaporating? Then they estimate actual evaporation as up to 12%. So, if I interpret correctly, 40%x=12%, x=30%, the spilled oil that surfaced and wasn't dispersed from the surface. Skimmed/burned is another 10% that surfaced, or maybe 13% if you use a smaller spill total. So skimming and burning may have removed roughly 1/4 of the oil that wasn't dispersed or dissolved. That had a greater impact than I thought.

Then, if 60% remained in the water column, the feds estimated 24% dispersed; this would be 33% of the spilled oil (excluding what was piped topside). So UGA may be estimating 27% dissolved in the water column? This of course represents light fractions, not crude oil per se.

One source of error in these calculations is that evaporation happens so fast, much of it would have happened before skimming/burning occurred. So UGA may think that 70% stayed in the water column as opposed to the surface.

The Louisiana health department has reopened oyster-harvesting east of the Mississippi in St. Bernard Parish. No oil intrusion, but after all that freshwater, is anyone home?

Deleted: duplicate info

HeadingOut_ thanks again for the hard work and informative post.

Another few questions..

All of the graphics for releif wells I have seen, show the wellbores as being in a vertical axis, and the releif well comes in at a sharp angle.

I was under the impression that the wellbore they are going to intersect is on a horizontal plane. Doesn't this complicate things in terms of the fluid dynamics ? Just thinking of how a leg of mud would normally be in a vertical bore, and how it would settle...gravity works, but wouldn't this be a little different in a vertical column ? ( that's assuming they have to pump more mud )
but also, if there is cement in the annulus between the production casing and drill pipe ( do I have that right? ) but fluid trapped in that annular space, if they pump a denser fluid into the casing above the cement( in the effort to displace it and replace it ), wouldn't that exert pressure on the plug first ? I remember you saying that it only take a little fluid to significantly raise pressure ..would that action not be in danger of blowing the cement plug out ?

Also, the other questions I had from a previous thread about produced sand ..how do they know the sand is from the reservoir and not an area further up the wellbore.....did I not read that there were several areas of sand/HC's that the well was drilled through ?

When originally drilling the wellbore, it is my understanding that they got the drill stuck and had to sever it , cement it, back up and drill in another direction. Then, when they stopped for a storm a few weeks ago, there was a problem with sloughing in the relief well bore. From everything I have read, I am assuming that they are drilling in shale.

So is this shale over sandstone ?

I guess ultimately, I would like to know if it's possible that IF there is a void/cavern/plenum/etc, created by removing a massive amount of sand underneath layers of shale, is there danger of a ceiling or wall collapse near the end of the bore that could create problems ? If there were any type of collapse " downhole ", wouldn't that blowout both wells at the same time ? Or is that physically impossible ?

One more thing so I have this right..is this the configuration of layers in a typical wellbore..?

surrounding geology>cement>casing>cement>casing>interior

Thanks again for allowing me to spray questions like a blind man with an Uzi

Isaac: Looks like enough questions for several people to answer.

Shale over sandstone, yes. Given the Miocene climate and shorelines, I would expect the general geology to consist of lenses of sand enclosed in shale. Shale makes a good cap rock to hold hydrocarbons in the sand.

IF they kept a cuttings log while drilling, the sand from one lens can probably be distinguished from another by microscopic examination. Deeper = older, so the sands are of different ages and are likely to have different mineral compositions and mechanical properties.

A well flowing wild can indeed form a cavity. However, the cavity doesn't want to stand. It will fill in both by subsidence from above and grain transport from farther into the sand layer. I would be surprised if any cavity was more than a couple of feet across. Yes, a collapse is possible, but it wouldn't be that much of an event. I don't think it could blow into the other well. (But it would make it problematic to try drilling a production well nearby. The reservoir is damaged and unpredictable now).

PinkFud-Thank you

I too, was wondering if they kept a cuttings log, or even better, physical samples from certain points in the bore, and if these logs were examined offshore/on platform, or sent to Houston(I'm assuming) for records keeping. I had speculated that IF they kept logs and IF they were only kept on platform, then they may have been lost when DH sank. Isn't most feedback from LWD drilling sent real-time to onshore servers ? I would be very interested to know if they kept physical records too, it's another subject I have not seen approached in the media.

As far as subsidence events, the reason I was asking about it ,I read here, IIRC, that a length of the original bore was left "uncased" ? My eyes may have been playing tricks on me after watching the live feeds for 3 months, or it may have been the different spectrums from various types of lighting, but the oil appeared to change color more than a few times...idk if that would have any significance or not.

Is it possible that that the original wellbore was damaged when the riser pipe was suddenly crimped on a high velocity flow ? If I imagine the platform sinking with the riser attached, pulling hard enough to bend the well riser, even with the flex joint protecting the structure against torquing . I did read here that they had to jack the BOP stack straight before adding more weight on top.

Not that I have a great understanding of fluid dynamics, but I know how a hose can jump when you restrict the flow, especially if it's a high pressure line, kind of similar to your washing machine cutting the water off real quick. I watched how when they originally shut the well in, how it was a slow gradual shut-in, I'm assuming this was to not stress any weak points in the original BOP, but also to not take chances further damaging the wellbore from a rapid restriction of flow, IF there were any weakened points downhole.

Thanks again, I'll try to limit my questions next time :)

I can contribute a minor clarification:

The BOP wasn't jacked, the flex joint was. The BOP was relatively straight but the flex joint was canted from the collapsing riser. They jacked it vertical and installed pillow block to help keep it that way.

issy - Ignore the angles on the graphics. They are not anywhere close to scale. The RW is essentially vertical at the bottom for all practical purposes. And yes, pumping into any sealed system will bust something if you run the pressure up high enough. Don't run the pressure up and you inject nothing. Simple physics as you might imagine. Shale vs. sand: most of the section is shale. The well bore didn't really slough in. The amount of fill they had on bottom of the RW was rather normal.

A considerable amount of sand may have been washed out with the high flow rates of the BO well. The well bore might collapse but that would cause no problem as long as the mud weight is sufficient to hold the reservoir back. The worst case scenario would be to stick the drill pipe and not be able to pull it free. They would have to back off, set a cmt plug and drill a sidetrack hole. Time and money but no blow out danger.

Layers: depends at what depth you're referring to. This schematic will answer your question. http://www.energy.gov/open/documents/3.1_Item_2_Macondo_Well_07_Jun_1900...

Thanks again for flogging that horse. Is there a FAQ section of questions anywhere on this site for techies and the curious ? If not, it might be a nice addition. I have thought of putting one together, based on a question/answer format with hyper links, similar to Wikipedia.


Here's a page a found with a couple of diagrams you might find useful:

Thanks, I was wondering about underbalanced drilling. I will go read for a little while, thanks again.

Yes that page does not agree with what I read that K Wells said in the last couple of statements. Unless I just read wrong, he has been saying the RW is at 17900.

I found the material at https://www.energytrainingresources.com very helpful. Click the big red "free information" button.

Thank you Energy Training Resources LLC.


Other P-R headlines:

Louisiana shrimpers reporting clean 1st day catch
(First day's catch: "plentiful and free of oil.")

New BP official says company's oil spill cleanup commitment won't end soon
(Utsler seems to be getting farther with Tony Kennon than Suttles did.)

Shrimping season opens in Louisiana, but few nets go in the water

...Just four boats from the 1,400-boat fleet that offloads catches at the nation's largest shrimping operation in Grand Isle, La.,ventured in search of shrimp today. Some of those crews reported having to toss back oil-tainted shrimp--confirming some of the fears that have kept many more crews out of Gulf waters...."The key is, we need a sustained, ongoing protocol from [the government]," [Ewen] Smith [director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board] told us. "We know they're testing, but they need to have their records show, in somewhat plain English that people can understand, what the results of those tests mean. They need to report that weekly for us....We need to really to really be able to blow the consumer away with good news. And then upon that, that's the foundation, and then we can go out and build the marketing and the PR around that."


Well, shoot, instead of pitching 'em back into the Gulf, why not take any oil-tainted shrimp they find (logging where/when caught) back to NOAA?

How could you tell by looking if there are PPM levels of contamination?

I suspect they captured tar in the nets along with the shrimp, which wouldn't necessarily mean that the meat is contaminated.

How could you tell by looking if there are PPM levels of contamination?

You can't. But the testing process goes something like this: first the shrimpers look over their catch on the boat and if it looks good, then the buyers examine the catch and boil some up to make sure it taste good --if it does, then local and state inspectors examine the catch and give it a smell test, and then samples that pass that level go to the NOAA lab in Seattle for the ppm/ppb level tests to see if any oil/PAH's slipped through.

The first two levels rely on folks whose livelihoods and health are on the line, the second level of folks are ensuring the reputation of an important regional industry as well as the health of local and far-flung consumers, and the final inspections rely on folks with no financial interest, and the integrity of NOAA on the line. Compared to the minimal testing of seafood from other places, I'm quite happy to eat the results.

lotus - from your link about Lousiana shrimpers :

"Laboratory tests on seafood from the Gulf have shown little hazard from oil, and a test is being developed for the chemicals used to disperse the crude, though there is no evidence they build up in seafood. Still, shrimpers are worried that the public won't want what they catch."
As I have heard, this test will be developed not until the next two months.
May be in the interim the shrimps are a good cat food...but I´m against animal testing. LOL

Some random thoughts to pass the time:

1) Seems like a BOP removal, replacement and setting cement plugs is in order, since the role of the RW seems to be borderline irrelevant now, as they don't want to overpressure the annulus and appear to be afraid of what they will find when they mill the outer casing (maybe just cement?). It sounds like neither RW will be of any use now.

2) Now that they have the viper by the neck, they are afraid to let go because they don't know if it's dead or just asleep.

3) The velocity of the technocrats approaches zero as abundance of caution (and number of lawyers) approaches infinity.

4) It appears on its face that they may have inadvertently killed the well, but I sense a subplot wherein they knew the cement down the production casing would kill it but they couldn't say that or appear to expect that result. Could it have been so simple?

5) It would take the government AND BP to screw something up this thoroughly.
And they have, but in doing so they may have solved the problem. What a flustercluck.

Edit: Just read ROCKMAN's post above @ 8:13 and he hits the bull's eye, as usual.
Thanks, Rock.

5) It would take the government AND BP to screw something up this thoroughly.
And they have, but in doing so they may have solved the problem. What a flustercluck.

In glorious 3D. They won't really be sure that's it's solved. Neither will I.

While we are passing the time.
I am with ROCK's 17.5 ppg mud theory which assumes the production casing was clear all the way to the formation at the bottom. That mud would give a balance of around 13000 X 17.5 X 0.052 say 12000 psia; the reported reservoir pressure. Pressure on the bottom hole cement balanced; and, assuming the well head and associated BOP/LMRP/Cap-stack are isolated from the seawater pressure head of around 2200 psia. Just like throwing a bottle of Bud off the rig. When the bottle hits the seabed the pressure in the bottle is still the same as it was at the surface. (neglecting the compression on the glass bottle and the glass being strong; unlike the American beer in it ;-)

Now; what happens if we unlatched the DWH BOP from the well head. (a) nothing happens the 17.5 mud just sits there, level with the top of the well head connector. (b) we find we can't get the BOP to detach because of the differential pressure; out side the BOP (2200 psia), to the inside (??? psia); BUT, currently reported as around 2500 psi (absolute or gauge or "ambient"). (c) the additional seawater head now on the open well bore adds to the 17.5 mud's 12000 psia; busts the bottom of the well; and, you tell me?

Also, ROCK; do we know enough about the contents of the production casing to calculate the pressure the pressure inside the shut in BOP at the moment? Can we assume that the cement in that casing is set and bonded. Such that the pressure below that cement has no influence on the pressure above the cement? The cap is still firmly affixed to the bottle of Bud?

PS. If the cap came off the bottle of Bud at the seabed, would the beer taste better or worse. If the bottle was upright; would the beer come out of the bottle? This is serious theory if you a well mud and cement designer.

Why would you need 17.5 ppg mud? Unless you are worried that the 5000' of water above the well head is going to suddenly disappear, you only need 14.4 ppg mud to hydro-statically balance 12000 psi at the bottom.

Stopping flow in the production casing with mud doesn't mean it can't start flowing up the annulus after the BOP is removed.

jinn -- I like a nice margin when dealing with a well capable of flowing 50,000 bopd into the GOM when I pop the BOP off. Just call me cautious. LOL. I used 17.5 ppg because that's typically the highest MW you can get without going to the more exotic/expensive weighting material.

You put a 17.5 ppg head by 13,000' column on top of any flow channel from the reservoir it won't flow. Assume the annulus is wide open from the BOP to the reservoir. You're still putting the same backpressure on the flow as you did with the top kill down the csg. The reservoir could care less if the flow is up the annulus or up the csg: 11,900 psi won't flow against a higher pressure from the mud column.


Is there any chance that they are concerned that there is a potential for free flow up the annulus outside all of the casings, including the 36" casing at the top?

Seems unlikely to me because it would mean the failure of 9 or 10 cement seals on the way up, but such a leak, if it were to develop would be outside the influence of the mud column, if I understand correctly, assuming there is no communication between the inside of the casings and the annulus.

David -- I've had those concerns from the beginning. I also don't think it's likely. But that would be one of the advantages of swapping out BOP and going in hole with drill pipe. This would allow many options to run various logging tools as well as do pressure tests along the liners and their shoes to confirm if such leaks exist. Once they know such leaks exists fixing them shouldn't be a big problem. But you have to know they are there and were exactly they are. As we've been debating there would be some risk to replaing the BOP. But it would greatly ramp up our capabilities to deal with the situation. Even if we all agree an underground blow out isn't likely to exist right now, BP also thought it was safe to displace the drill mud. Sometimes the worse things happen when you're sure they can't happen.

Thanks much.

I see the advantages of replacing the BOP, and the options that presents.

I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.

I don't remember where I got this, very possibly here, but it's worth being cited again while there's time to reflect on the more esoteric features of life, besides the one that getting older ain't for the faint-hearted.


God grant me the senility

To forget the people I never liked anyway,

The good fortune to run into the ones I do,

And the eyesight to tell the difference.

Perhaps the best some of us can hope for?

Thanks again for all of your contributions, especially the solid, warm, and calm demeanor that underlies, and is implicit in, every piece of wisdom, and insight, you bring to the conversation.

I have to believe that you often feel pulled in several directions at once, and that must be hard sometimes.

But I suspect it has its positive aspects also, so I try not to feel sorry for you. If nothing else you've generated a significant fan base, as well as a couple of friends.

I derive a lot of satisfaction from my work, but the most important element is how much I learn from my clients everyday. I suspect that you've experienced much the same thing, in your work with the equipment, procedures, mistakes, successes, etc., as well as the many kinds of people you've encountered on your journey. You appear to have done very well with what you've been dealt, and can we ask anything more from our vocations?

I congratulate you, and thank you again.


Edit: Sorry Lotus that was over 250 even before this edit.


God grant me the senility

To forget the people I never liked anyway,

The good fortune to run into the ones I do,

And the eyesight to tell the difference.

LOL. That's awesome!

"The reservoir could care less if the flow is up the annulus or up the csg: 11,900 psi won't flow against a higher pressure from the mud column."

Even or if the pressure from the mud column comes in at an acute angle from a RW. If that reservior has pressure from 1000 ft higher across say 2000' laterally and then vertically to reservoir depth it is still the BHP of the entire column.

pass -- that's the great thing about Mother Nature...she doesn't care what the angle is...it's the difference in vertical elevation that determines head. You can have a high angled hole (say 70 degree off vertical) that 20,000' long (measured depth) but if the vertical difference between the top and the bottom is only 3,000' then you'll only have 3,000' of head...not 20,000'. Some othe little factors like friction slip in but those are relatively minor. Think of this way: you have a bulb with a gallon of water at the top of a 10' tube. The pressure at the bottom of that tube is X psi. Not run another 5' tube off the bottom of it at right angles. The pressure at the end of the tube will still be X psi.

acorn -- My biggest concern at the moment is something not mentioned yet: can they detach the BOP? Given all that has happened down there I'm going to assume it won't happen normally. I have no idea of the mechanics of the attachment gear but it's difficult to believe it has been damaged to some degree. I don't think a bottom hole pressure of 14,200 psi (12,000 psi + 2,200 psi) has the potential to bust anything down hole except for damaged csg. But if that pressure rips a joint from end to end...so what? The mud weight still prevents any flow. Same thing if they fractured the cmt...no flow. As far as pressure inside the BOP right now I assume that pressure is due solely to the fluid column in the riser. If the well is dead as reported then there is no pressure in the csg other than the head of the column above it. I've seen no reports recently but originally they said they pumped 13.2 ppg mud in the top kill. If that's what still in the riser than the pressure in the BOP would be 3,400 psi. Externally it would be subjected to 2,200 psi from the water column. Thus the pressure differential the BOP is being subjected to may be as low as 1,000 psi or so.

If the well contains 13.2, what is the under-pressure with the BOP removed?

When pulling off the BOP/DP, the DP is like a straw pinched off at the top and will pull out it's entire volume. This will be displaced by seawater entering from the top. Assuming this is done slow enough that swabbing is insignificant, how much does this volume displacement lower the pressure?

Since the well is under-pressured, a single barrier failure during BOP replacement can cause the well to flow. This could be the new cement job or other casing/liner seals if they are open to the reservoir.

es -- For future reference here's the calc: pressure (psi) = mud weight (#/gallon) * 0.052 * mud column height (feet). So a 13,000' column of 13.2 ppg mud would give a bottom hole pressure of around 8,900 psi...far less than the original reservoir pressure of 11,900'. That's why you need at least a 17.5 ppg mud left in the csg with the BOP removed to be safe.

Your straw analogy is what we call "swabbing a well in" and is a well recognized problem you take pains to avoid. As you describe the rate at which you pull theDP out is more critical than the volumn displced. Don't have my little Red Book handy to give you an exact number. But remember you also get a little margin boost from thee 2,200 psi from the water column.

ROCK; good thinking, I am going back to the drawing board. JINN; Are we assuming that the production casing hanger seal is damaged or has broken out of its locking assembly; lifted up to some degree and venting the annulus?

Anyway guys, have a look at these two links. This well used Dril-Quip casing system as far as I know; BP may have bought the budget version. http://www.dril-quip.com/ss15bb.htm . There is a "Annulus Shut Off System" option. I think we will buy one of those next time we drill a well.

We know it used a Cameron 18 3/4 inch BOP, as this was part of the contracted DWH rig kit. This well has yet to get to the point where it will be fitted with a Christmas Tree; replacing the BOP/LMRP/Cap-Stack/, plus whatever will be fitted next to the top of that lot. So this Dril-Quip video' shows a hydraulic latching BOP to well head. http://www.dril-quip.com/anim/singleboreanim7.html . There appear to be two connections made inside the well head; one could be the annulus???

Rockman, you make a good point that I had overlooked. They pumped 13.2 ppg mud in the static kill itself but has anyone reported what went in behind the cement? All I recall is it being reported that the cement was followed by a spacer and more mud. I don't recall the actual mud weight that was used after the cement.

I'll have to go back and check the transcripts.

Interesting word choice by AFP, no?

A long-standing deadline for sealing the ruptured Gulf of Mexico well deep below the seabed will be missed as US officials and BP tackle concerns about debris lodged in the well.

BP and US government representatives had hoped to complete a "bottom kill" procedure and officially pronounce the well dead by mid-August, but the US pointman on the oil spill response said Monday the bid was on hold.

Admiral Thad Allen said that an earlier successful process sealing the well from above may have wedged cement between two layers of casing, trapping leaked crude inside the void. ...

So now cement is "debris"? (I prefer the kind on roast-beef po'boys, but then, I'm not a French journo.)

It's worth pointing out that the headline is Final Gulf oil well 'kill' plan on hold amid pressure fears.

So a question crossed my mind...If this cementing and pressure testing was not having to be approved by Allen and Chu etc. and all of us were not watching, would BP or any other oil company at this stage simply conclude that the well had now been been cemented and pressure tested and therefore the job was done?

steve - No. There are very clear rules as to how any well in the GOM with any amount of hydrocarbons in it has to be properly plugged and abandoned. The job won't be done until shallow cmt plugs are set and tested properly in the cased hole and the BOP/well head are removed from the sea floor. Some folks still seem to confuse killing a well with plugging a well. Two different animals entirely. The well is killed at the moment. It still has a long way to go before it's plugged.

Thanks that is reassuring.

In a report to be released today by an independent survey, it appears that the 1.5 Million Gallons of "Wehidesit" has deposited a large portion of "Lake Simmons" at the bottom of the DeSoto Canyon...

1.5 million gal? That would not even make a small pond, much less a lake.

Right, Hank, that's about three city swimming pools, or about 9 inches on the floor of the Superdome.

Allen said the bottom kill would absolutely, positively be done, and now it looks like the relief wells have been made reedoondant by the cement plug in the central casing, which killed the well.

If the annulus has trapped oil, that's no danger, is it?
It's not a flow path.
It's encased.

They could always perforate the casing and see what happens...
Perf the casing low, perf the casing high, let the mud displace the HCs in the annulus, pump cement, it's Blue Bell time.

Everything can now be done through a new BOP, if I'm reading these leaves correctly.

If they use the RW and grind through the outer casing and find solid cement in the annulus, that's a done deal, but then they've still got HCs trapped in the annulus higher up. How high up that cement goes is a good question because of unknown loss to the reservoir.

Maybe some humble pie being eaten if they close out the relief wells without using them.

I'll bet they replace the old BOP with a new BOP, perf the casing and free the trapped HCs, cement it.

[Edited for pointless conjecture and needless snark]

Why talk of the 17.5 ppg mud? They already used the lighter brine and plugged the whole thing up with cement, to boot. They can't take the pockets of brine and long cement plugs out and replace it with something else...

Is this discussion academic, or there is some plan to "re-mud" the well?

Quite. Does anyone have a document on mud weight or brine in the well?

Anyone, please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about any of this. I’m not an expert just a passer-by.

My understanding is there is a casing string in the well bore and there is an annulus between the casing string and the well bore (the well bore wall is rock, sediment, formation, could be some seawater, etc., etc.). Some of the diagrams and discussions have noted a production string and a LDC but I don’t believe they got that far along in their operations. At the bottom of the casing string, I believe cement was used instead of running a liner TD. The bottom hole cement and the seal at the well head appear to have been the only decent barriers between the reservoir and the top of the casing. I think the assumption is the cement at the bottom of the string did not set (cure) properly and probably fell out into the reservoir, not to mention they used too few centralizers and no CBL to verify the tiebacks were good.

If I understand what I’ve read correctly, I believe the outer casing was in place and drill pipe was down hole at the time of the incident. There has been much discussion about erosion, wormholes on TOD and it appears transcripts of Thad Allen’s briefings confirm they are looking at the area outside of the casing and not an annulus between a production casing and outer casing.

Thad Allen transcripts from Aug 08/11/10

“Following the cementing of the casing itself in the well last week and successful pressure test, we had discussion between the government science team and BP engineers, we believe there may be a chance that the cement that was forced down through the casing of the well entering the reservoir might have actually moved over and come back into the annulus which is the area outside the casing but inside the well bore.”

“Yes not to get too Webster’s Dictionary on you here but the annulus is defined as the difference between two concentric circles. Once circle, a larger circle the difference them, that ring if you will. That is what an annulus is and so we’re talking about the distance between the casing pipe and the well bore. That may vary at different places in the well but we are talking about inches.”

“Sure, there’s a very low probability that we might have actually sealed the annulus with the cement that came down the pipe casing and came back up around it. What we want to do is understand whether or not there’s what we call free communication.”

“In other words whether there, the hydrocarbons in the reservoir can actually come up through the annulus outside the casing, if that’s the case when we go in and we drill in we put the mud and cement we’re just going to drive that down and seal the well.”

What is most curious to me is IF I’ve understood the current casing and well bore set-up properly, how can they possibly get a seal at the wellhead if there is communication (even partial) from the reservoir to mud line if there is a gap between the outer casing and the well bore? Wasn’t the BOP leaning at one point and how did they fix it? Could it have been leaning from erosion outside of the casing?

I suspect they are worried about drilling the rock wall where the RW plans to intercept; maybe they would encounter compressed (trapped) gas and have the same situation as before.

I suspect they are worried about drilling the rock wall where the RW plans to intercept; maybe they would encounter compressed (trapped) gas and have the same situation as before.

The entire normal purpose of drilling a well is to reach "compressed (trapped) gas" and/or oil. That's not a problem I can see as such :)

The BOP was never really leaning over to any significant degree - some people just made that up - so they never had to fix that.

The annulus being talked about now with regards to a pressure spike is not the space between the outer casing and the well bore. It's the space inside the outer telescopic casing (but outside the production casing). Also recall well pressure continued to build up until top-kill so the reservoir local to the target formation was recharging rather than discharging. Plus they have the RW very near the well bore and have instruments down there to give them an idea of what's happening a few feet away.

The concern they have is with over-pressurising this space during bottom-kill. This is not the big problem the media makes it out to be and there are multiple options available. The delay is just while they pick one. As the well is not flowing they can take their time.

The fact that there are multiple spaces referred to as "annulus" doesn't help as you note.

Good point about the normal purpose of drilling a well but this well was far from "normal" with all the assumed mistakes, the well configuration and depth. When the RW is drilled, will they be milling it horizontally and wouldn't that create it's own set of issues?

If there were a partial erosion path, outside of the outer casing, what sort-of problems could they encounter?

ZB; best you have a look at this link from ETR, it will get you up to speed on this and previous threads:- https://www.energytrainingresources.com/data/default/content/Macondo.pdf

Thanks Acornus. Lots of good information there. Thad's description of the annulus is confusing.

Z -- Currently the bottom of the RW is almost vertical. The graphics grossly misrepresent the reality as a rule. Nothing will be milled/drilled with it horizontally or anywhere close to that.

Thanks, Rockman. I couldn't visualize how the RW drill bit would intercept vertically (like the drawings depict) but I guess they would intercept it at a slight angle.

Partly cloudy with a chance of meatballs?

As we know (or at least have been told :-)), they filled the well with 13.2 ppg mud. That wouldn't have been quite enough to prevent flow with ambient pressure at the BOP. So they shoot in cement and reach the kill conditions that way. The well is now dead. Furthermore, to state the obvious, you can't kill something that's already dead (despite what Thad and the press are continually saying). However, many people (we're back to Thad again :-)) have always insisted that the RW is the only ultimate solution, so don't want to lose face by suddenly admitting that it isn't. So they come up with (potentially valid) arguments in favor of continuing with the RW such as questioning the quality of the cement plug from the static kill and, in particular, whether it will stand the test of time.

It strikes me that, without some sort of proof, Thad is going to be reluctant to back down from the RW option. So why doesn't BP provide it? IOW, instead of pussyfooting around with "near ambient" pressures at the BOP, why not go significantly below ambient sea floor pressure by hooking up the riser again (if it's not attached already) and filling it with a fluid that is less dense than water? If they do that, and show that the well remains static, then we would know that the mud and the cement plug are not simply barely adequate (which could potentially be the case with the evidence we have now), but that they are substantially more than adequate. With this information, many people who are currently still worrying should be able to sleep much more easily and start seriously questioning whether a RW intercept is still worthwhile.

This would be a negative pressure test, correct?

Don't put up with big corporations brother!!!!!

However, many people (we're back to Thad again :-)) have always insisted that the RW is the only ultimate solution, so don't want to lose face by suddenly admitting that it isn't. So they come up with (potentially valid) arguments in favor of continuing with the RW such as questioning the quality of the cement plug from the static kill and, in particular, whether it will stand the test of time.

I think Thad has shown that he (and whoever else is in the mix) has been quite willing to follow wherever BP wants to go so long as he is given adequate risk assessment and analysis to justify the move. That's how we got here. Had we stuck with the original plan, we'd be done already. BP wanted to go a different route and shut in the well despite the concerns about well integrity (we can leave the reason why for another day). Thad went along. BP then wanted to do static kill, Thad went along. BP then wanted to cement, Thad went along. BP then wanted to do away with RW, Thad said let's do some testing first. After the testing, he said no. RW still needed. I'm not sure the reasoning behind that conclusion has gotten the full scrutiny and analysis it deserves. Or I'm not sure the reasoning has been succinctly and accurately stated.

syn -- we've been beating this around all day. For a change I'll pretend I know exactly what should be done now: let the RW finish the annulus intersect. And then do nothing other than check for pressure. Simple enough to do: drill in slightly over balanced for the original reservoir pressure. Still might take a little kick but they can handle that. Then back off the pump pressure some and let the BO well flow up the RW. As I mentioned early this isn't as scary as it sounds. We call it " circulating out a kick" and it's done safely all the time. It's really only potentionally dangerous if you don't know it's coming at you. So the well kicks and then circulate it out. Different scenarios: 1) there no flow in the annulus = good cmt between the RW and the reservoir. This proves there is no current potential for the reservoir to flow up the annulus to the cap/BOP. So replace the BOP and plug and abandon the well as regs call for it. 2) flowing pressure equal to the reservoir pressure = insufficient cmt between the RW and the reservoir. Doesn't prove one way or the other if the annulus is live to the cap/BOP. But they should be able to pump cmt into the annulus at this point and plug it off. This would set up the risky proposition of breaking down any shallow seals uphole from the annulus. But here's what you do if that happens: start pumping a kill pill up the annulus. If it pushes a few hundred bbls of oil out so be it. But once the annulus is filled with the pill the flow will stop. Easy to prove: let the cmt cure and then do a LOT (leak off test) = pressure up ALMOST to the frac gradient. Get a good LOT and then they could even do a negative test. If all goes well they again have proof there is no flow potential up the annulus to the cap/BOP and they can replace the BOP etc etc etc.

Maybe I'm missing some other risk...be glad to hear about it. But bottom line: the BOP HAS TO BE REPLACED eventually to properly P&A the well. Whatever risk to be taken should be minimized. But it has to be done regardless of what the risk is. The only alternative would be to leave the cap/BOP and the whole rig support system in place for ever. I doubt that will be an acceptable plan. When you run thru all the options there really are very few choices to be made at this time IMHO.

Rock, if your proposal reflects Thad's reasoning for wanting to go that last 50' with the RW, to at least take a peek, then I think it makes a lot of sense, all things considered.

He is still willing to entertain any BP alternatives that will address the unknowns adequately, but until they do, what you sketch out does not seem unreasonable or illogical at all.

It's understandable that they would insist on a standard higher than what might by okay on a routine cementing job, all things considered.

syn -- I finally began looking at it thusly: whether my plan is reasonable or not - what's the alternative? What can they do from the top side other than replace the BOP and go in with drill pipe? They can't pump anything in...they appear to have sealed the bottom of the well. What are the options with the RW? Only two: cut the annulus or just let it sit there for ever.

They can keep testing this that or the other. But the options won't change: either replace the BOP and GIH with drill pipe or do the intersect with the RW. Is there a third possibility other than sit and wait for divine intervention?

We can debate till the cows come home as to what the physical conditions are down hole from the BOP. But that doesn't change the two options, does it? The annulus is hot...it's not hot. The bottom cmt is good...it's not good. There reservoir is sealed with cmt....it's not sealed with cmt. Regardless of what scenario one wishes to paint the options don't change. Have Dr. Chu meet with 100 different experts and get 200 different opinions. He still has only those two choices as far as I can figure. I would be really glad to hear a third option.

Rock, no, the options don't change. But in terms of the debate on whether or not to go forward with the RW first, I think the way you laid it out justified it for me, much better than Allen. They are so close it seems kind of crazy not to take advantage of it given there are some lingering issues down there that pose some potential risk. Then they can remove the BOP with full confidence.

But unless I misread, they are still giving BP the opportunity to come up with a plan to go straight to BOP removal if they can meet Allen's stated concerns. There's a bit of circular reasoning involved there, i see. But Allen's entitled to do that as Incident Commander! Let BP put its cards on the table for the public to see if it wants to remove the BOP. That's not bad policy IMO.

syn - Actually I really think they have only one option: make the RW cut. I see nothing to lose and the potential to gain much. Once cut they need not do anything other than find out what the status of the annulus is immediately above the reservoir. We don't need to even speculate what they might find when they make the cut. At that point they still have just two options: pump cmt/kill mud into the annulus or replace the BOP etc. But at least then they would have one more bit of info: is the annulus capable of flowing oil/NG or not.

No wonder your justification was so convincing, Rock!

Maybe BP will just fold now and say ok, RW, here we come.

At least they got to do everything else they wanted to do and were given the opportunity on this, too, even if we do end up back with the RW anyway. I'm hoping we do, partly for selfish reasons. The anticipation has been building for months. I'd like to see how it goes and what they find.

syn - Actually I really think they have only one option: make the RW cut. I see nothing to lose and the potential to gain much. Once cut they need not do anything other than find out what the status of the annulus is immediately above the reservoir. We don't need to even speculate what they might find when they make the cut. At that point they still have just two options: pump cmt/kill mud into the annulus or replace the BOP etc. But at least then they would have one more bit of info: is the annulus capable of flowing oil/NG or not.


Yes all of that seemed completely obvious to every body a day or two ago. But then the people drilling the well come to Allen and tell him it is more risky to proceed with RW cut than just changing the BOP at this point.

Now Allen has never drilled a well in his life, so what is he supposed to make of this new proposal for a course change?

I'm not as smart as a room full of BP lawyers, but I think I could draft something sufficiently vague to answer Thud's concerns and make him responsible.

Part of this is the problem with oilpatch jargon. "Killed" doesn't mean "dead." Killed only means that the well in in a condition where is doesn't flow due to the weight of the head above the HC.

The hits keep right on coming.

Gulf oil spill still a threat to seafood, JAMA study indicates
By Fred Tasker | The Miami Herald

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill still poses threats to human health and seafood safety, according to a study published Monday by the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association.

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/08/17/99261/gulf-oil-spill-still-a-threa...

Lets not let big corporations cover this up!! We must tell our brothers and sisters of the earth!!!!!! Wake up people!

I'm pretty sure I detect the aroma of an agenda.

... study co-author Gina Solomon [snip] Solomon is an MD and public health expert in the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. She also is a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which calls itself "the nation's most effective environmental action group." Solomon's co-author is Sarah Janssen, MD, a staff scientist with the NRDC.

snake -- interesting in that the report cites no particular proven danger from GOM sea food other than high levels of mercury which existed before the spill. Otherwise the report simply says that eating or inhailing benzene is bad for folks. I think we aleady had some well documented research 40 or 50 years ago proving that fact. BTW: the report said it hasn't seen any dangerous levels of benzene or other nasties in GOM sea food.

Yeah, Snake, Solomon's work seems to be just her opinion of other people's reports. I'd call it wild a** speculation with a fragrant side order of agenda.

I wonder how many million Americans have stuffed themselves in the last few weeks on a barely inspected, chemically contaminated and bacteria dosed meal of East Asian shrimp, while thanking the waiter for assuring them it didn't come from the gulf.

I have to laugh at the people in Connecticut who won't ever eat anything out of the Gulf again. Lobsters and fish from the Sound running on plastic, etc.

I hope somebody rips JAMA a large new one. That's the best they can do?

JAMA...you are so right, if that's all they can do...

I would eat a big plate of boiled Gulf shrimp right now. All this talk about shrimp is making me hungry. Gulf shrimp tastes better than imported shrimp anyway.

I'll join you, but I want mine battered and deep-fried. I'll take some hush-puppies too, please.

Middendorf's on Lake Maurepas at Pass Manchac

THE best....


Fried shrimp and oysters? Aw, man! Now I'm HUNGRY!

Yep. Just rounded up the family Krewe for a dinner date tomorrow night over there. Looking forward to it.

Oh, but Doug, every time I've been to Middendorf's, despite inclinations to shrimp or oysters, I've succumbed to the thin catfish filets. Just couldn't he'p m'se'f.



Thinks; I wonder what the hell they are talking about. Anyway, not a patch on good old British "fish and chips"!!! Fish = North Sea Cod; chips = French fries, not crisps.

CAn anyone tell me what Skandi Rov 1 is looking at right nowa

Never mind. It moved up and now it's different.

Sun Herald:

BP not denying claims, but not paying majority, either

JACKSON — BP says the company has not denied claims made for lost income from the Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe, but the company’s records show 63 percent of claims are still pending without payment, [MS] Attorney General Jim Hood said Tuesday.

“It is unfortunate that, despite all its promises about taking care of our residents on the Coast, BP is still holding 6,050 actionable claims,” Hood said. ...

A total of $28.6 million had been paid, mostly for property damage and wage losses.

However, BP had paid only 363 of the 1,062 claims pending from rental property owners, Hood said. Only 53 of 213 claims from restaurant owners had been paid. Of 695 boat claims, he said, only 30 payments have been made. “BP is claiming they haven’t yet denied a claim, when the truth is they’ve only closed a couple of dozen cases,” Hood said. ...

Add in the Press-Register headlines:

Hurt by oil spill, threatened by foreclosure, captain waits for BP claim

BP to stop accepting oil claims as government-appointed administrator moves in

Feinberg needs a flying start, but his constituents, more so.

lotus -- Not that BP isn't dragging its feet intentionally but let's not forget some of those claims yet paid came from folks in Hawaii, Oregon and North Dakota. But I know the pain of waiting at the mail box for a paycheck to show up so I can pay a bill or two...many of us do. Easy to be empathetic with most of the folks down in the bayous.

Looks like something happened on the test.

DATE: August 17, 2010 3:23:55 PM CDT
Ambient Pressure Test Results from PT_3K_2 Transmitter

There is a near-ambient pressure test being conducted on the well to continually measure the pressure in the blowout preventer and the capping stack as responders prepare for the final stages of the relief well. Sensors measure the pressure in the well bore above the cement plug, as monitored at the capping stack. The differential drop in pressure on the morning of Aug. 14 was planned and expected – necessary for a scientific testing subset as part of the ongoing pressure tests.

BP plans and expects an increase in the ambient pressure of the well head to climb to approximately ~ 2500 psi this afternoon (Aug 17).

If you have questions, please contact the BP representative at the UAC Joint Information Center: (713) 323-1670.

17-Aug-10 15:00:00 2465.6

17-Aug-10 13:00:00 2386.1

17-Aug-10 11:00:00 2395.1

17-Aug-10 09:00:00 2409.3

17-Aug-10 07:00:00 2423.6

17-Aug-10 05:00:00 2428.1

17-Aug-10 03:00:00 2432.6

17-Aug-10 01:00:00 2437.5

16-Aug-10 23:00:00 2441.9

16-Aug-10 21:00:00 2442.0

16-Aug-10 19:00:00 2446.8

16-Aug-10 17:00:00 2451.6

Do you work for BP quantum?

Perhaps, but quantum observes enough protocol and ethical practices in his/her contributions as to be 'good as' any source here. Just vet ALL data that you have a chance to and report back. Besides, it is the song, not the singer, correct? At least it is such when it comes to science and the truth. The Rolling Stones might disagree.


Although when it comes to this pressure test, Quuantum keeps wanting to read things that aren't there and not read things that are there :)

Well Tow, you have to do something to earn YOUR check around here. LOL.

Closed Chamber Testing

No I do not and why in the world would you think that?

Are you related to the http://www.quantum-us.com/about.aspx?ln=en-US website?? At all then?

No, not at all.

That's kind'a wierd shot, Closed Chamber. QuantumUS was only posting the release at RestoreTheGulf.gov - http://app.restorethegulf.gov/go/doc/2931/861755/

Ambient Pressure Test Results from PT_3K_2 Transmitter

There is a near-ambient pressure test being conducted on the well to continually measure the pressure in the blowout preventer and the capping stack as responders prepare for the final stages of the relief well. Sensors measure the pressure in the well bore above the cement plug, as monitored at the capping stack. The differential drop in pressure on the morning of Aug. 14 was planned and expected – necessary for a scientific testing subset as part of the ongoing pressure tests.

BP plans and expects an increase in the ambient pressure of the well head to climb to approximately ~ 2500 psi this afternoon (Aug 17).


Pressure increase because why? Pumping heavier mud?

Those numbers look like they bled some pressure off, then pumped it up again. I have no idea what they're doing, but it looks purposeful.

Looks like something happened on the test.

Did you actually read what you posted?

BP plans and expects an increase in the ambient pressure of the well head to climb to approximately ~ 2500 psi this afternoon (Aug 17).

So it doesn't look like anything happened on the test they didn't do themselves.

Them thar tricky people, it has read the same thing for the last 3 days. I should have suspected they changed it today.

Here is what it read this morning when I posted the results upthread.

Ambient Pressure Test Results from PT_3K_2 Transmitter

There is a near-ambient pressure test being conducted on the well to continually measure the pressure in the blowout preventer and the capping stack as responders prepare for the final stages of the relief well. Sensors measure the pressure in the well bore above the cement plug, as monitored at the capping stack. The differential drop in pressure on the morning of Aug. 14 was planned and expected – necessary for a scientific testing subset as part of the ongoing pressure tests.

If you have questions, please contact the BP representative at the UAC Joint Information Center: (713) 323-1670.

To be fair I didn't see it at first but thought I wonder if they've changed the text and turns out they had.

quant -- I truly appreciate your effort. But the situation has just reminded of the story of the 5 blind men trying to ID an elephant by feeling different parts. Who knows...maybe this time they tell us what the transient means.

Yeppers, I always wonder what the 'trunk guy' really grabbed;)

Wonder if anyone else was watching Rov 1 Skandi around 3:35 this afternoon? It looked crazy. Stuff flying everywhere directly above that black horizontal thing lying on the sea floor. Looked like a sand storm with black chunks in the mix. Anyhow, the camera went straight up around 3:42 and then everything was calm.

The average citizens will call out BP and the "Unified Command Center" for their lies! Go for the light!!

I've never seen this movie haha...Terrible music however!

Be very careful how you speak of my child's middle school orchestra!

Be very, very careful how you speak of the Portsmouth Sinfonia.

Brian Eno was in that orchestra.


The Art of Mass Deception – Part 1 Ballistic Analysis of DWH & Riser wreck.


A good piece of investigative work....

I agree, mass deception. Count the author of this particular flavor of the same damn thing among those so afflicted.

I think we differ on the definition of "good."

A good piece of pounding square facts into round holes. I gave this guy the benefit of the doubt on that diagram that bore no relationship to the actual conditions, but I think I just reclassified him among the cuckoo factor.


Man, that link is like stepping through the looking glass. Try to get your head around this, for example:

Even if the burning DWH had sunk with the riser string broken at the lower section, the swing momentum of any inclined rigid steel string would have propelled DWH towards its anchor point.

The "swing momentum" of around 600 tons of riser "propelled" the 52,587 ton Deepwater Horizon? That's like saying I could push a UPS van where it doesn't want to go.

Of course my comment is meaningless, because I'm obviously one of those bloggers the author warns of, "employed to disseminate distorted facts and to confuse the general public, under the guise of technical discussions.

Not snarking at you, SRS, just at the author of this weird article.

@ paintdancer

Skandi ROV 1 has been there many times. The "black horizontal thing" is a dark patch where his lights don't converge, looking down at the seafloor close-up. The "sand storm" is silt blown by his thrusters to reposition, which he does a lot. It calms down within 20-30 seconds as silt settles back down. There are some interesting features about this, however. Silt is normally brown or dark gray. The white stuff may be calcium because the item of interest is those little holes in the white "hills" that are home to various mud-dwelling crustaceans (amphipods). They dig, excrete, breed, and have been doing a lot of it recently, creating silt storms when they go out for a snack. Just my opinion. I'm not an expert biologist. Would you like some crackers with that Silt Soup?


Thanks for trying to help me understand what I saw, EXCEPT that I know that I saw a black pipe type contraction sitting on the sea floor. I didn't see it for more than a couple seconds but it definitely was not a shadow but a solid object. Have no idea what it was, however. The photos that you show above, I have seen before, but this was different. The "silt" if you will was blowing like a vortex in a circular formation- very violently. There was also black blobs like maybe tar coming up. I've seen the amphipods before, but they weren't what I was seeing this time. It was very abnormal from what we've been seeing recently, that's the only reason why I mentioned it. The camera moved upwards away from the black tube and withing a couple seconds the scene cleared.

Anyhow, I was hoping someone else had seen it because it definitely seemed unusual.

Thanks again, though.


Usually the black chunks mean thruster activity throwing up sediment. After a long period of watching the video feeds I now just ignore anything with black chunks. Earlier today I thought the seabed had quieted down, and I still think it has to some degree, but just before I came online at around 6 PM (or was it 5PM?) I checked the feeds and things are looking worse in general. I can't see much venting in the clear foreground to middle distance, but the blackness beyond the visible image appears to have amphipod swarms, not a good sign. The lights also appear hazier.

Guess this explosive activity is associated with the static pressure test scheduled for today.

Do you think there is a correlation between pressure changes in the well and sea floor activity?

Watch Skandi 1 (used to be Skandi 2's position) for about an hour. You will see violent 'seeps' in what looks like asphalt voilcano topography.

Just sayin'... I've watched the live feeds for months. IMHO this situation keeps getting worse, and Biloxi Dome is FUBAR. But what do I know? I'm lurking here for reassurance.

" I'm lurking here for reassurance. "

Me too, but vids like this aren't helping much.


Issac - chilling video. These episodes keep us watching. This one is particularly good. Looked like cavitation, oil vent, etc. The Rov operator seemed to be having difficulty.

Be on the lookout for latest ROV trick - manipulating the "depth of field". I've watched them come across many an active gas field & instantly switch to a serene scene with the vents just beyond sight, all by shortening the DOF.

The Rov operator seemed to be having difficulty.

No wonder as it appeared to be the ROV leaking in that video.

By the way is BP holding the wife and kids of the ROV operators hostage in order for them to keep quiet and actively take part in some massive cover-up?

The pipe was in the immediate foreground. Think black cast iron, like you'd maybe see in a public waterworks or sewer plant. Part of it stuck up like the thingie on a wrench. Sorry, trying to be helpful, but I probably sound ridiculous. The pipe only showed briefly before the silt encompassed the whole image.


You mean something of the order of a several hundred foot casing (?) that was hoisted out of the seabed a couple of weeks ago or so?

If somebody knew...they weren't tellin'.

Always something new and different. Time to play Stump The Board.

Is it:

(a) a Dyson
(b) a Kirby
(c) the pressure relief tool
(d) an amphipod haircurler
(e) a bolt museum

It is a BOP/Stack cap recovery tool. About 1/4 mile from the well.

Uh-huh. What's all the plumbing for?

Locking the seal I imagine and keeping it locked on the way up.

Yep (see pic below). They're going to detach.

I hope this is true and we're finally going somewhere. I gather Rockman thinks replacing the BOP is the right thing to do, and it seems good to me as well. Let's do it. Time's a-wastin.

Right thing to do with 17ppg mud in the well.

Yes, well, I'm willing to assume they'll do it right. My concern is that the weather won't hold out forever. Eventually we'll get into a period of bad conditions, and I'd like to see some real progress first.

I have a question about Corexit.

Where would we be if it had not been used?

Would it have been better for the oil to be on the surface as opposed to being suspended in the water column?

Seeing how inefficient the boom and skimmers were, I'm not sure if I like the idea of that much more oil on the surface.

I realize that Corexit is toxic and that we don't really know the long term effects of it on seafood and wildlife. I wonder if using it may have been the lesser of two evils.

The photos from Dalian would suggest that you're right.


Doug in LA

That is a great question and I think it is going to take years of testing to figure that one out.

One reason the skimmers were inefficient is the oil was so broken up under the water by the corexit instead of going to the top.

There was also a shortage of skimmers in the area.

Corexit is composed of stuff that is present in everyday household stuff. and some are even used in cosmetics. You'll find ingredients on Nalco's website



This is the only relatively nasty one here, I think it is an ingredient of some paint strippers
When handling in the lab, I'd put gloves on and not stick nose into it.
But, if someone spilled a shitload of it 50km away in the ocean, I'd take a swim :-)

PS.But it is not in the Corexit they were using...

As the oil was coming up through water, it crossed bubble point and A LOT of methane fizzed out of it, changing it into quite a foam underwater. Methane promptly dissolved in water, and small bubbles of oil stayed down to make plumes. Corexit helped disperse it even better. Then bacteria are going at it - nobody knows for sure how much is left, but most likely a lot has been eaten.

Skimming 1mm layer of oil from 3ft chop is not very efficient, particularly when it is nicely emulsified.

IMHO Corexit was a good idea and BP knew well why they were using it so aggressively.

Edit: I asked myself a question why they do not use anionic surfactants (dishwashing liquid) the answer is..because they "emulsify" bacteria that are supposed to eat oil...

Thanks, CC. I wondered about using Blue Dawn myelf...

Or look at it the other way around. Suppose we had this oil burbling up and both BP and the Coast Guard refused to use dispersant on it? Can you imagine the outcry? Dispersants have been SOP (ha ha) for years and years, no? If it hadn't been used, can't you hear the howls demanding it? People want to see action, regardless. At the time Corexit looked like the very best product available, did it not?

While it's become an article of faith that Corexit is "toxic," I don't know what that means. More toxic than oil? Some say not. More toxic than Drano? More toxic than dish-washing liquid? Sure, it was used in heroic quantities and maybe that will turn out to have been a huge mistake. Or not. People don't appreciate how huge the Gulf is (643 quadrillion gallons, acc to Wiki)and how small these volumes of pollution are.

And yes, I've heard the case the Correxit makes the oil sink (which keeps it off the beach) and so it doesn't weather and break down as it normally would have. I have not heard a convincing case, though maybe there is one, that the oil/Correxit mix creates a permanent poisonous blanket on the sea bottom.

As for "we don't know the long term affects," that's pretty true of anything you can think of. There are IIRC very damn few toxins whose long-term affects are known, and qualified experts still argue over even those. This not to minimize potential damage but to try to keep perspective. A barrel of chlorine is pretty toxic too: don't fall into one. But we swim in dilute chlorinated water all the time, willingly.

So it is just conceivable to me that Correxit is not even in the top ten of our biggest worries. However, if someone has actual facts to the contrary, I'd appreciate the education.

I agree. The alternative would have been huge swathes of oil on the beaches, similar to the ones were seeing from the spill in China. As bad as the use of dispersant may or may not be, the outcry in such a scenario would have dwarfed the one we're experiencing now.

Furthermore, people have been ingesting trace amounts of detergents for years (films of washing up liquid left on dinner plates, for example), and I'm not aware of many deaths or other serious illnesses arising as a result.

Like you, I don't think the issue should be ignored, but we shouldn't fall into the trap of prematurely over-exaggerating it, either.

I have gotten to the bottom of a glass of tea only to discover the dishwashing powder in the bottom. I use the liquid now, and have less problem that I can SEE. My Corexit.

Is the Enterprise still on station? ROV2 is monitoring some device being lowered. It's at about 1100 feet right now. What is it? Is it being lowered on drillpipe or a riser? Anyone know? It is dropping in 60' increments, every few minutes.

It is a BOP/Stack cap recovery tool. About 1/4 mile from the well.

At the moment it is about 3/4 mile above the well.

ROV 2 is now "looking" at its cage and the depth and other info has disappeared from the screen.

ROVMAN (or anyone else who knows): This might have been discussed before and I missed it. Is there a camera on the back of some/all ROVs? I suspect the feed from Enterprise ROV 2 has been switched to the back camera,monitoring the cage, while the other camera is monitoring progress on lowering the recovery tool or whatever it is. They must have been reading TOD and realized vonaltendorf was watching.

It's a funny old world, Mrs Thatcher used to say.
Nice dark foggy night for a sneak attack. Unthinkable, right?

Update: Three ROVs are escorting the lift tool.

I couldn't find Discoverer Enterprise on the marine traffic map. Five million shares of BP sold off today (insiders? hedge funds?) All other energy issues gained, oil price steady.

Discovery Enterprise is about 900yds NE of the well moving at 0.3kts on a bearing of 257deg. as of 11:36pm CDT 17/08/10. Tool is at 3kft depth.

Sneak attack? Here he comes ...

Video by TOB: http://bit.ly/Boppy-the-JellyFish


LOL. I imagine there is. I'd like to be able to see what's behind if I was operating one of those.

Okay guys, would you please switch the Enterprise ROV 2 to the other camera? We're getting bored out here.

Hey, thanks! I went to the shower and came back to some nice closups.

I know there are lights on the back of some of the ROV's. I was watching one go around inspecting the BOP and skandi was watching it and a light from the back of it shined in skandi's eyes.

Maybe the test went good and it is about showtime for the removal of the BOP's.

It will really be something to see.

Or not see. We need a couple Kiwis to stand watch 2-6 am Houston.

Now you see it... I later realized your four screen pics above were the same thing I saw. I just saw the bottom part though.

Here comes the apocalypse. JK

Here comes the apocalypse. JK

There seems to be a lot of turbulence in the 4.5k deep DWH site tonight.

Catch this? Looks like oil. Earlier to later. Skandi's still parked on it.

It's part of that ROV's deck furniture. I've seen it before. Skandi's mission is showmanship for no practical purpose except to keep us entertained and bewildered as much as possible.

@avonaltendorf!!! I think it's growing. Skandi Neptune wants to add it to Stump the Board.

Are they still spraying dispersant?

If they are they aren't telling.

Strange thing OI2 just took down to the bottom that he got from up top.


Why would they not tell us!!!!!!!!!!!

Shadows = black. Oil = black. Therefore, shadows = oil!!! NAILED IT

And AFAIK, regular grade Corexit doesn't work on shadows. Shadow dispersal requires a super extra toxic custom blend. I heard they are sending out a special batch in a stealth-modified C-130 tanker after everybody goes to sleep.

p.s. OI3 #2 currently inspecting the stack, excellent quality picture - which means it has to be fake since it isn't showing anything spouting fire and brimstone.

Hey, they're even managing to fake one of those rose colored jelly fish floating past the BOP.

and a fake control panel with a release setting just above the bottom of the BOP.


Is this the device for detaching the BOP? It looks like some sort of BOP itself.

It's the Macondo BOP itself, complete with propped up flex-joint, transition spool and capping stack - or a remarkably convincing mock-up of same.

The detaching tool was being escorted by an Enterprise ROV and is off-camera atm.

Oh. Thanks, Rainy. Everything I "know" about oil wells I've picked up right here. :-)

Everything I "know" about oil wells I've picked up right here. :-)

Same here.

Some good teachers hang out at TOD.

Glad you're on deck, comfy. Tonight we get to see something.


Shadows = black. Oil = black. Therefore, shadows = oil!!!

"This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere."

Sir Bedevere: There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.
Peasant 1: Are there? Oh well, tell us.
Sir Bedevere: Tell me. What do you do with witches?
Peasant 1: Burn them.
Sir Bedevere: And what do you burn, apart from witches?
Peasant 1: More witches.
Peasant 2: Wood.
Sir Bedevere: Good. Now, why do witches burn?
Peasant 3: ...because they're made of... wood?
Sir Bedevere: Good. So how do you tell whether she is made of wood?
Peasant 1: Build a bridge out of her.
Sir Bedevere: But can you not also build bridges out of stone?
Peasant 1: Oh yeah.
Sir Bedevere: Does wood sink in water?
Peasant 1: No, no, it floats!... It floats! Throw her into the pond!
Sir Bedevere: No, no. What else floats in water?
Peasant 1: Bread.
Peasant 2: Apples.
Peasant 3: Very small rocks.
Peasant 1: Cider.
Peasant 2: Gravy.
Peasant 3: Cherries.
Peasant 1: Mud.
Peasant 2: Churches.
Peasant 3: Lead! Lead!
King Arthur: A Duck.
Sir Bedevere: ...Exactly. So, logically...
Peasant 1: If she weighed the same as a duck... she's made of wood.
Sir Bedevere: And therefore...
Peasant 2: ...A witch!

"Explain again how sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes"


Glad you posted this. That's what I saw yesterday. Dumb me. I was looking at a ROV. Though the maelstrom of silt and flying tarballs was definitely as exciting as watching "A Perfect Storm".

I hate to rain on everybody's parade, but there is a much BIGGER issue here. What if there was not an ad on tri-ass's comment? What will the software do in five years? Three? I see those anti-bot little graphic letters or something like it in our future, lest anyone drive places like this with 1 keystroke. I thought it was an odd but well thought out attempt at humor or handwritten spam. This is interesting. Soon we will not be/already at peak oil, we will be at peak MATRIX.

Yes, TF. When it was done to me, I first thought someone was making fun of me. The day will come when these bots won't be easy to spot. I've been online since command-line telnet, and I'm constantly amazed at the new twists the spam/scam artists come up with.

BP Oil crisis - Complexity

Why does something as simple as an oil leak turn into a full blown out crisis? Part of the reason is that British Petroleum (BP) denied world wide help until BP realized that the oil leak was much greater than they had anticipated. Rebecca Costa discusses in her book “The Watchman’s Rattle”, how difficult it is to get people, businesses and governments to work together to solve problems. Even though we have access to the technology to prevent global epidemics like famine and starvation, they still occur despite our best efforts. What might start off as a simple problem can quickly escalate into a natural disaster if the appropriate response doesn’t happen immediately.



Yeah, but OoO has been a member for over an hour, so cut'em some slack for seniority ";-^)

I'd really like to know what they are planning to do here. Are they removing the capping stack first, and then the dead BOP? Or both together? And most importantly, what happens when they hook to the top, unlatch from the wellhead, and then find out the top of the drillstring is still stuck in the shear rams, and the bottom of the drillstring is stuck in an assload of downhole cement?

And probably most important of all, how are they doing this without saying a word about it to anybody? Not a peep on CNN, MSNBC, NOLA.com, etc...

p.s.: avonaltendorf, what are you going to do when they remove the stack and nothing explodes? Just kick the can down the road and find something else to claim will be the real disaster?

Now, now; play nicely boys, we are getting to the exciting bit. Definitely looks like a H4 hydraulic latching lifting tool. Do you think they have secretly got the DWH BOP valves working and have got a close button working on one of them. Have they managed to drop the drill pipe into the well?
If the pressure in the Stack increases a bit, assume something has reduced the volume inside; like a valve ram moving into the bore of the BOP.

Time to put money down guys. Stack separates from LMRP new spool/connector. Stack and LMRP separate from BOP. Stack, LMRP and BOP separate from Wellhead.
Side bet on drill pipe still hanging in a BOP ram?

Pressure readings DID increase today (see upthread) but I didn't see if they gave an explanation for what caused it.

I don't want to misrepresent what von Altendorf's position is (honestly), but best I could figure out, until today his theory was that the well can't be killed with any weight mud because of casing rupture and everything is being lost downhole somewhere, either just into another formation, or out and up to the seabed, and to hide that they are running the mud pumps 24/7. But now, he's changed it to say that 17ppg mud will kill it, but they only used 13.2ppg so the well isn't balanced and all hell is going to break loose when/if they uncap it. I wonder what the theory will be tomorrow?

This has probably been posted before but it is an article about 2 pieces of drilling pipe ending up in a BOP and how they fished it out.

The operator was BP.

The BOP and riser were circulated to seawater to enable use of a 1 11/16-in. TV camera (Fig. 4), which was lowered on electric cable to send back a picture of the problem inside the subsea BOP. This was the first confirmation that two fish were side by side, Fig. 5.


bookmark image

CNN -- BP to stop handling most Gulf claims

By the CNN Wire Staff
August 18, 2010 3:41 a.m. EDT STORY HIGHLIGHTS BP says it won't accept any new claims after Wednesday A government-appointed group will take control over most claims starting August 23 BP says it has paid $368 million in claims so f

path: Public ~> Gulf Oil Disaster
originally posted: 2010-08-18 03:39:09

bookmark image

AP/YouTube -- Researchers: 80 Percent of Oil Remains in Gulf

Photo: undated, Dr. Samantha Joye --AssociatedPress | August 17, 2010

Researchers say as much as 80 percent of the oil from the spill remains in the Gulf. They warn that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a bigger mess than the government claims and that a lot of crude is lurking deep below the surface. (Aug. 17)
path: Public ~> Gulf Oil Disaster
originally posted: 2010-08-18 03:56:52

Don't recall whether anybody posted this at the time, but a friend sent me an interesting link from The Economist -- their Aug. 12 story (with graphic) on the Exxon/Chevron/Conoco/Shell consortium's plans for hardware to contain spills. Conclusion:

... If this equipment had all been available in April, its proponents say it might have capped Macondo in weeks. The companies also say the system should never be needed if wells are properly designed and operated, and that they hope their billion-dollar backstop will never have to be used. The various reports into the Deepwater Horizon disaster will doubtless say the same, while endorsing the newly planned capabilities, or some variant thereof, and making some further drilling conditional on having them in place.

Perhaps it is not too much to hope, though, that some of those reports might shed light on two deeper questions: why did such a technologically astute industry not see fit to develop such useful equipment before it was needed, rather than after? And how might that underlying and disastrous lack of foresight be corrected?


lotus -- Luv to start the day off with easy questions. "Why did such a technologically astute industry not see fit to develop such useful equipment before it was needed" Because the oil patch, like all other commercial enteprises, doesn't like spending money on something they don't think they'll need. Would all cars have seat belts in them if it wasn't a law? "How might that underlying and disastrous lack of foresight be corrected"? It won't unless there is motivation to do so or direct govt intervention. Now the companies are motivated. Also be aware that the new DW drilling protocols will likely be a big boost the Big Oil. It should do a pretty good job of killing much of the competition: who but the ExxonMobils' of the world will be able to afford the increased costs/liabilities? The large independents like Devon really cut into the action the majors would have normally had to themselves. So not only is Big Oil doing what they know they'll be forced to do anyway, they may just be setting up the DW GOM as their own private playground.