BP's Deepwater Oil Spill - Flushing and Fishing - and Open Thread

This thread is being closed. Please comment on http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6876.

BP has now responded to Admiral Allen’s request for more information, and has obtained permission to replace the BOP and stack on the top of the Deepwater well, before completing the drilling of the relief well. They are also preparing to recover (fish for) the drill pipe that was left in the original well.

The permission letter from the Admiral reads, in the relevant section:

As a result, BP have flushed the subsea equipment which included the following steps:

The work began Wednesday afternoon and the flushing procedure will involve the following steps:

• The Discoverer Enterprise will attach a drill string to the top of the existing sealing cap.

• The middle blind shears of the sealing cap will be opened.

• The Q-4000 will pump an ‘anti-freeze’ mixture down through the existing manifold and into the BOP’s choke and kill lines. The liquid used in the flushing will be completely contained and carried to the surface through the Enterprise drill string.

• Following the flushing, the sealing cap’s blind shear ram will be closed.

Following successful flushing of the subsea equipment, BP will conduct an ambient pressure test to reassure that the well is secure. The test will be conducted over a 48-hour period, which mimics twice the time estimated to remove the original BOP and replace it with the Transocean Development Driller II (DDII) BOP.

At the present time it appears that the well is in the 48-hour period where the well is being held at the same pressure as that of the surrounding seawater, to see if there is any gain or loss in fluid or pressure under that condition. If there is no change, then the hardware will be removed, and the replacement BOP installed. It should be evident that there will be some care needed to deal with the 3,000 ft of drill pipe that may be still attached to the lower end of the initial BOP.

This was addressed in his press conference on Thursday by Admiral Allen, who introduced a new step in the process. After the current pressure test is completed, BP have now been tasked with seeing if they can recover the drill string from the well, before the BOP is changed out.

Bear in mind that the actual condition of the drill string is in some question. As the Admiral noted:

If you will remember when we cut through the riser pipe before we moved the stub of the pipe and unbolted the flange, we were concerned there might be pipe or even two pieces of pipe there.

And one of our procedures we were prepared to do was actually put a metal band around both pieces of the pipe, pull them together so that the spooling tool could fit over the top (inaudible) that connection between the blow out preventer and the capping stack.

When we actually cut the pipe and got in, we found out there was only a single pipe there. That leads us to believe that the pipe is suspended by the shears that closed but did not cut the pipe and the deep water horizon blow out preventer. 
And so we're working under the assumption that there is pipe suspended, held in place by the blow out preventer. We don’t know how far down it goes and we don’t know whether or not it is connected to the 5,000 feet of cement that was put in during the top kill.

So after the ambient pressure test is done, it would inform us as to whether or not the BOP could be removed without hydrocarbons being emitted. 
The next thing will be to see if we can remove that pipe. That doesn't preclude us from removing the blow out preventer and putting another one on. It will just make it a little more complicated and BP will have to provide us a procedure on how they will do that.

This fishing expedition (which was also addressed in Kent Wells discussion, though that has not been released yet) is expected to occur immediately after the pressure test, i.e. sometime on Saturday.

The fishing recovery (so-called because you have to “fish around” to find the bit and engage it) will involve attaching a specifically designed fishing tool to the end of a length of drill pipe and seeing if this can get sufficient hold of the drill pipe so that it can be recovered, if the shear ram holding it in place is released. The Admiral suggested that this would be a drill bit.

We are going to actually put a drill bit down in the blow out preventer and attempt to extract the drill pipe. The reason we want to try and extract the drill pipe that reduces the risk that when we remove the blow out preventer and put the new one on, there won't be an (off score) or some kind of a bar to having a seal with the new blow out preventer.

I anticipate that the tool used will be quite different from the conventional bit – some options that I found to illustrate the range:

Fishing tools (Logan Oil Tools )

Bear in mind that the tool has to grip the drill pipe and hold the weight of the string under the BOP after the shear is released. The tool will have to penetrate into the deformed metal of the pipe (remember the picture of the pipe and riser other side of the shear) and get a good enough grip that it will hold up to 3,000 ft of DP. So the grip has to be a strong one. It will be interesting to see what sort of tool BP suggests using.

Screen capture of the sheared section of the drill pipe and riser.

There are also ongoing tests to see if the contents of the annulus can be established, since it is still not clear whether this is oil (which would indicate that at one time there was communication through the bottom of the annulus with the reservoir, and thus a failure of the annular cement around the casing) or it could be mud (from the well contents before the initial cement was injected). That may not be known, with confidence, however, until after the BOP is exchanged, and the relief well intersects the bottom of the borehole, which is now not expected to occur until after Labor Day.

Latest pressure reading from inside the BOP. The BOP held the ambient pressure for the last 24 hours. This seems to confirm that no more hydrocarbons are coming up from the wild well.

I underestimated BP ingenuity. They pumped 17ppg to balance the well on Wednesday.

Yeah, I know, -10 again.


Speculation and cynicism. Looking at the pressure chart gave me the idea. Every time they were overbalanced with 13.3ppg there was a decline. Rockman talked about heavy mud. Presto change-o, suddenly no more losses. We're good to go. Who cares about cement if the well is balanced?

Kent Wells stated rather clearly that they flushed with seawater. First antifreeze then seawater was pumped. Any mud/oil/gas that came out the top of the capping stack was replaced with sea water.

I think the higher pressure was while they were circulating the 'anti-freeze' through the choke/kill lines and up the drill string to Discoverer Enterprise. Once the circulation stopped, the pressure was released and the BOP pressure is now about the same as the sea water. With no differential across the BOP, the leaking has stopped.

They really can't effectively change the mud weight below the BOP until they change out the BOP and go into the hole with a new DP. So they will have to rely on the cement job to keep it sealed while the fishing & BOP swap take place.


some comments are all noise and no signal.

Transcript (pdf) of Kent Wells' briefing August 19, 2010
3:00 p.m. CT

thanks, moon!

I am not sure no hydrocarbons are coming from the well. Dr. Robert Bea was just interviewed by Washington's blog and he indicatest that the geology of the well is fractured.

Additionally, there is lots of ROV footage showing what looks like oil and gasses erupting from the ocean floor near the well.

Dr. Bea reports that BP did in fact drill 2 wells and that he does not know if the first one is leaking or not.

He also observes that there are unsubstantiated reports of 2 more significant leaks to the west of the well.

Dr. Bea's interview calls into question the well integrity and it raises questions about whether the well can be plugged AT ALL.

I'm interested in your reading of his comments.

This data set is looking better, I really wish them success.

→ Washington’s Blog

Few people in the world know more about oil drilling disasters than Dr. Robert Bea.

Bea teaches engineering at the University of California Berkeley, and has 55 years of experience in engineering and management of design, construction, maintenance, operation, and decommissioning of engineered systems including offshore platforms, pipelines and floating facilities. Bea has worked for many years in governmental and quasi-governmental roles, and has been a high-level governmental adviser concerning disasters. He worked for 16 years as a top mechanical engineer and manager for Shell Oil, and has worked with Bechtel and the Army Corps of Engineers. One of the world's top experts in offshore drilling problems, Bea is a member of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group, and has been interviewed by news media around the world concerning the BP oil disaster.

Washington's Blog spoke with Dr. Bea yesterday.

WB: Is BP sharing information with the government?

Bea: No. BP is using a "cloak of silence". BP is not voluntarily sharing information or documents with the government.

In May, for example, Senator Boxer subpoenaed information from BP regarding footage of the seafloor taken before the blowout by BP's remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). We still have not received a response 12 weeks later.

[Bea subsequently clarified that he's not sure whether BP has failed to release the information, or Senator Boxer's committee has sat on the information. My bet is on BP. Indeed, BP has refused to answer some very basic written questions from Congressman Markey, chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. See this and this. Indeed, it is unclear whether BP is sharing vital details even with Thad Allen, Secretary of energy Chu, or the Unified Command].

WB: Might there be problems with the relief wells? I know that it took a couple of relief wells to finally stop the Ixtoc leak, and it has taken as many as 5 relief wells to stop some blowouts.

Bea: Yes, it could take repeated attempts.

WB: Are there any conditions at BP's well which might make killing the leak with relief wells more difficult than with the average deepwater oil spill?

Bea: That's an interesting question. You have to ask why did this location blow out when nearby wells drilled in even deeper water didn't blow out.

You have to look at the geology of the Macondo well. It is in a subsalt location, in a Sigsbee salt formation. [For background, see this and this]

The geology is fractured.

Usually, the deeper you drill, the more pressure it takes to fracture rock. This is called the "fracture gradient".

But when BP was drilling this well, the fracture gradient reversed. Indeed, BP lost all pressure as it drilled into the formation.

WB: Is it possible that this fractured, subsea salt geology will make it difficult to permanently kill the oil leak using relief wells?

Bea: Yes, it could. The Santa Barbara channel seeps are still leaking, decades after the oil well was supposedly capped. This well could keep leaking for years.

Scripps mapped out seafloor seeps in the area of the well prior to the blowout. Some of the natural seeps penetrate 10,000 to 15,000 feet beneath the seafloor. The oil will follow lines of weakness in the geology. The leak can travel several horizontal miles from the location of the leak.

[In other words, the geology beneath the seafloor is so fractured, with soft and unstable salt formations, that we may never be able to fully kill the well even with relief wells. Instead, the loss of containment of the oil reservoir caused by the drilling accident could cause oil to leak out through seeps for years to come. See this and this for further background].

WB: I know that you've previously said that you're concerned that there might be damage to the well bore, which could make it more difficult for the relief wells to succeed.



Know nothing about Dr. Bea expertise but some statements make me wonder:

"But when BP was drilling this well, the fracture gradient reversed. Indeed, BP lost all pressure as it drilled into the formation." This is a physical impossibility. For the moment I'll assume the doctor was misquoted. And I have no idea what he means by "loosing all pressure" other than I think he might be referring to the lost circulation which agains seems to highlight a profound lack of knowledge about drilling.

When asked if the BP well could continue to leak after it is plugged and abandoned: "Bea: Yes, it could. The Santa Barbara channel seeps are still leaking, decades after the oil well was supposedly capped. This well could keep leaking for years." The Santa Barabara well hasn't been leaking. It was plugged and abandoned decades ago. But the CA state geologist reports that around 175,000 bbls of oil leak every year from natural seeps on the bottom of the Santa Barbara Channel. This oil was leaking before the first well was ever drilled out there (which is why they drilled the first well out there) and will continue to leak for many centuries.

"Is it possible that this fractured, subsea salt geology will make it difficult to permanently kill the oil leak using relief wells? Bea: Yes, it could". Obviously the good doctor knows nothing about the geology of the BP well. It isn't a subsalt well nor is it anywhere close to the subsalt plays going on in the GOM.

Dr. Bea: " the geology beneath the seafloor is so fractured, with soft and unstable salt formations, that we may never be able to fully kill the well even with relief wells. Instead, the loss of containment of the oil reservoir caused by the drilling accident could cause oil to leak out through seeps for years to come. "

Again, a profound ignorance of GOM geology. The salt is not unstable. In fact salt is probably the most stable formation in the GOM in terms of a human time scale. I think he's confused over the instability of salt on a geologic time scale. In that case it's true...salt is unstable. Why in just a few million years some renewed salt movement could lead to more natural seeps. And a minor terminology goof: the sea floor in the GOM is not fractured. Another physical impossibility given the unconsolidated nature of the sediment. Try an experiment: go out and find a puddle of mud and hit it with a hammer. See any fractures? I assume he's trying to say there are faults the reach up to the sea floor. Fractures vs. faults: a misspeak I would forgive any of our TOD family for. But Dr. Bea is offered as an "expert". And some of these faults are the source of natural seeps. But no force on earth, manmade or otherwise, can produce fractures that could leak oil from 13,000' below the sea floor into the GOM. The reservoir is trapped as it is because it contained by a natural seal that couldn't be broken by a nuclear blast let alone a 12' hole. Again another physical impossibility that can't be debated. The only way to leak that oil into the GOM is just how BP did it: stick a long piece of pipe in it and let it get away from you.

There are a lot of experts out there who'll have no trouble nailing BP's and TO's hide to the barn door. Dr. Bea, IMHO, isn't one of them. Best to leave him basking in the CA sunshine and not let him offer opinions that BP could easily refute and use to destroy accusation against them. Dr. Bea appears to be a better witness for the defense than the prosecution IMHO.

Amen Rock. I find myself somewhat embarrassed on behalf Dr Bea... something that happens far too often when academic types stray off the reserve.

" Try an experiment: go out and find a puddle of mud and hit it with a hammer. "

....squeaky clown hammer ~ check
....safety goggles ~ check
....water wings ~ check

....I shall return with empirical data shortly

Dr. Bea appears to be a better witness for the defense than the prosecution IMHO.

He's also heavily into the "two wells" notion (in the part of the interview not posted here).

He's also heavily into the "two wells" notion (in the part of the interview not posted here).

... Bea: The abandoned well is very close to the current well location. BP had to file reports showing the location of the abandoned well and the new well [with the Minerals Management Service], so the location of the abandoned well is known.

We don't know if the abandoned well is leaking.

WB: Matthew Simmons talked about a second leaking well. There are rumors on the Internet that the original well is still leaking. Do you have any information that can either disprove or confirm that allegation?

Bea: There are two uncorroborated reports. One is that there is a leak 400 feet West of the present well's surface location. There is another report that there is a leak several miles to the West.

[Bea does not know whether either report is true at this time, because BP is not sharing information with the government, let alone the public.] ...

Sounds as if his disgust with BP might be running away with him a bit.

All of this subsurface nonsense could be put ot rest for a measly million or so:


US Navy's 'Alvin' submersible. Put a couple of oceanographers and test gear down there and make a survey! Why rely on BP's contractors?

I've been asking this for over three months.

Seems like somebody doesn't want real answers published, not just yet at least.

Also, who is to say that Alvin or some other Navy subs are not already collecting data, it's just classified information; matter of National (financial) Security.

Remember USG is in this business to MITIGATE--no facts, no damage.

You sound like you think Jimmy Hoffa is down there or something. I can't believe the paranoia in some of these postings.

Scared to find out?

I'd like to see a complete and independent Gulf floor survey by Cousteau, Alvin, something National Geographic, paid by your industry.
I bet you wouldn't enjoy published what they find.

I'm beginning to suspect what is really down there at most if not all 2000+ sites in the GOM.
How many generations will your fine work last?

My dad was a dentist.
He used to love working in the mouth of the Beast.
I've got his drill work in most of my teeth.
He's dead now, and his art is starting to loose integrity.
Looks like I'll be needing a few crowns soon.

I'm thinking yours will too, it's only a matter of time.
What World will be left for the children?

yeah, and let's remember that Matt Simmons (RIP, Matt) was THE go-to "oil industry expert" during the early part of this crisis.

Pity that the MSM might have to do some actual work to make the news actually make some sense, instead of just sound "simple".

Dr. Bea was part of the UC Berkeley's Deepwater Horizon Study Group Report



The testimony of Dr. Robert Bea regarding BP's conduct when drilling is available in a strongly worded pdf report. Here are a few of his conclusions:

"I believe the Deepwater Horizon failure developed due to:• improper cement design (segmented discontinuous cement sheath)

• flawed Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA / QC) – no cement bond logs, ineffective oversight of operations

• bad decision making – removing the pressure barrier – displacing the drilling mud with sea water 8,000 feet below the drill deck
• loss of situational awareness – early warning signs not properly detected, analyzed or corrected (repeated major gas kicks, lost drilling tools, including evidence of damaged parts of the Blow Out Preventer [BOP] during drilling and/or cementing, lost circulation, changes in mud volume and drill string weight)

• improper operating procedures – premature off-loading of the drilling mud (weight material not available at critical time)

• flawed design and maintenance of the final line of defense – including the shear rams of the Blow Out Preventer (BOP).

• improper well design (configuration of well tubulars etc...

Furthermore, Dr. Bea believes the response effort has been lacking, to say the least. Here are his comments:

"My analysis of the facts developed to date show that BP PLC and the DOI MMS did not develop or implement effective measures for:

• well control after loss of containment – blowout

• capturing the loss of control materials (gases, oil, water)

• clean-up of the loss of control materials in the open ocean (booms, skimmers, burning, dispersants)"

ALSO: The LA Times-Picayune reports that Dr. Robert Bea, the expert from UC Berkeley who is on the study group for this disaster, claims there were no underwater seeps before the blowout in this vicinity.

maj -- I have to go along with all of Dr Bea's points. Can't see a single flaw in his statement. But, then again, those were pretty much the positions of most of the folks on TOD within a couple of weeks after the accident. And none of us had access to "PRIVLEGED INFORMATION". Check out the TOD archives from way back when if you would like to confirm. One of the great aspects about TOD: you don't have to believe anyone's memory of the past: it's all there in black and white.

"And some of these faults are the source of natural seeps."

Rockman - could you please explain to me what you mean by "faults" in this context ?

Rockman knows best. Let's see what he says.

There are three kinds of faults in the area. Normal growth faults happen when sediment loading exerts enough force to break big sections of strata, sliding everything at an angle downdip on the glide plane, in this case a sheet of salt. The second type of fault is small stress fractures. Nothing is ever perfectly flat or rectagular subsurface. Salt squishes, changes shape over geological time, and sand/shale sequences crack slightly (become compartmentalized). Lastly, there is a lot of plasticity in mud, but the drier deeper stuff will fracture with stress.

Lady - Sure but don’t take my answer as patronizing…just the way I can do it without graphics. You know what a layer cake looks like. Take a knife and slice it in half. Stick a spatula under one half and lift. You just faulted the cake. The slice is called the fault plane. The side you lifted is called the “up thrown fault block”. The other side would be the “down thrown fault block” of course. This configuration is very common in the Gulf Coast. Two common sources of such faults: the deposition of thick sediment wedges cause instability. The other less common is the movement of salt causing the same kind of “extensional’ faulting. Out in CA faults like the San Andreas are tension faults. Movements of large sections of the earth, often related to mountain building, will push fault blocks horizontally over 100’s of miles.

Back to your layer cake. Now imagine some of the faults extend all the way up to the sea floor. You can often map the fault line on the sea floor with sonar. Now imagine one of the layers in the cake is a reservoir with oil trapped in it. Sometimes the fault planes have enough permeability for the oil to leak up along them and seep out on the ocean floor where the faults hits it. Of course, the vast majority of the faults in the GOM don’t extend all the way to the sea floor.

The faulted layer cake model is exactly how I taught my students when I was in grad school. And I’m sure most of them remember the lesson every time they cut their birthday cake. LOL.

AAHHH - Rockman - now I understand !
In my poor english I was thinking about "fault" in the sense of "mistake". (noiseless giggle)
In TOD I get schooled not only in drilling but in expanding my english vocabulary too...LOL

Rockman - Your visual imaging of faults using a real-world object (cake layers) is quite apropos and makes it much easier to understand. I don't think you are being condescending in the least to offer this image and explanation, especially as one who has made many a cake that exhibited faults, fractures, and seeps. I have just attended a wedding where the icing between the wedding cake layers began to melt and seep at various rates of flow, because one side was exposed to intense sunlight, causing the whole stack to lean at a precarious angle. Another few minutes, and we would have definitely had slippage of the fault planes (cake layer interstices), fractures of some of the layers, and seepage all over the place. Luckily, the cake was rescued,
propped up, and eaten with glee after repairs were made!

I keep wanting to bust out into "MacArthur Park".

A few words in defense of Dr Bea, who is a well-respected and experienced "student of disaster".

but first a comment about Washington's blog, the source of the interview. The posts on that site reflect a not unusual skepticism about gov't versions of events, but the author skews the other direction, not infrequently exaggerating for effect. Titles of recent articles there include "The government lies about the safety of Gulf seafood" and "The well integrity test is a sham." He adds enough "may's" and "they say's" as he skirts the sensational is his conclusions to avoid later having to say "oops, my mistake." My guess is he cherry picked some of Bea's comments, taking them out of context. Compare the amount of direct quotes from Bea to the author's spin on them.

Back to Bea, who spent a number of years in the oil industry before landing at UC Berkeley, first at Shell and then as an industry consultant. As chair of the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, he and his colleagues study disasters from psychological as well as engineering perspectives. (His earlier analysis of BP refineries after their merger with Amoco identified the Texas refinery that later blew up as a potentially problematic one.)

Subsequent to the 4/20 blowout, Bea established an independent Deepwater Horizon study group, which includes members with a variety of technical and academic backgrounds. Bea's statements about the likely causes of the blowout made in May in the group's first progress report match the comments made here.

Seven Steps Leading to Containment Failure (Blowout, Pf)
Based on the information available to me thus far, I believe the Deepwater Horizon failure developed due to:
• improper cement design (segmented discontinuous cement sheath)
• flawed Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA / QC) – no cement bond logs, ineffective oversight of operations
• bad decision making – removing the pressure barrier – displacing the drilling mud with sea water 8,000 feet below the drill deck
• loss of situational awareness – early warning signs not properly detected, analyzed or corrected (repeated major gas kicks, lost drilling tools, including evidence of damaged parts of the Blow Out Preventer [BOP] during drilling and/or cementing, lost circulation, changes in mud volume and drill string weight)
• improper operating procedures – premature off-loading of the drilling mud (weight material not available at critical time)
• flawed design and maintenance of the final line of defense – including the shear rams of the Blow Out Preventer (BOP).

Subsequent DHSG reports include recommendations to improve well safety as well as more exploration of the conditions that existed on DW before the "event." Unless Bea has suddenly begun showing his 73 yrs in recent weeks, I doubt if his full interview with the blog author was as off-track as it appears in the snippets provided.

rainy -- No doubt Dr. Bea undestands drilling. What I pointed out was his apparent lack understanding of the geology involved in the accident. Like every competant engineer he's only as good as the geologist backing him up. Dr. Bea needs to find a better geologist to bounce his thoughts off of IMHO. I also wouldn't be surprised if the MSM has misrepresented/misreported some of his statements. We've seen way too many times these days.

But when someone posts statements on TOD that are categorically untrue they need to be pointed out. We've become a source that's often repeated across cyberspace. You might call it tough love but when someone posts the statements of a third party they should be prepared to back it up. Had Dr. Bea posted those statement directly we could have had a nice polite discussion with him. That would have been a great benefit to all of us here. But he didn't. Too bad. He would be a great asset to us especially as the investigation expands.

Yes, Bea definitely wandered out of his area of expertise when he responded to questions related to the geology of the region.

I just didn't want folks here to think he was some kind of nutcase. (or that Washington's blog was a completely reliable source.)

In what ways is his knowledge of the gulf geology flawed?

I find it rather interesting that Rockman and rainyday use the same rhetorical tactics as those they attack are claimed to use. Plese demonstrate that your claims to understanding the Gulf geology are correct while Bea's are flawed. Personal attacks against source credibility--first Bea's and then Washington's blog--do nothing to enhance your arguments by assertion.

"Miocene deep water sands were the target for the Macondo well in Mississippi Canyon Block 252, and it is probably from one of these sands that the blowout originates... A distinctive sea-floor signature of bathymetric highs has resulted (see bathymetric map), corresponding to individual shallow salt bodies that have not coalesced to form large salt sheets or canopies as has occurred farther to the west."


Now apologize to Rockman and rainyday, majia.

Thank You snakehead. When I saw that I went balistic,yet didn't know how to respond.

BPS - Some posters would love to push all our buttons with glee. Patience can be difficult. But, we knew there would be a calm reasoned response with facts. That is something that makes this place so worthwhile. I'm still learning more here every day by reading and wish that some of the newer arrivals would do the same, if learning is their actual intent.

) Northern Gulf of Mexico
The northern Gulf of Mexico extends from Alabama to the U.S.-Mexico border. North to south, the province extends from 200 miles inland of the present day shoreline to the Sigsbee escarpment. Sediments in the region are generally thick with the greatest sediment load provided by the Mississippi River. Widespread salt deposits are present throughout the region (Murray, 1961; Halbouty, 1967) and these structures act to create subsurface and emergent topographic features on the continental slope such as the Flower Garden Banks off the Texas/Louisiana coast, and the pinnacles region offshore of the Mississippi/Alabama coast.

That's like saying that Kansas is flat when the question is about the geology of a small neighborhood in Topeka.

what he said!

Check out Bea's bio - he does not have a background in geology. I'll leave the dissection of the mis-statements in the article to Rockman - or you could search TOD for previous posts on the geology pertaining to the Macondo well and other discussions about the presence/absence of salt formations related to it.

As to the reliability of Washington's blog - I'm sorry we don't have a complete transcript of his interview with Bea to see what Bea's actual words were. We do, however, have complete transcripts of Allen's briefings and can see how the blog author edits.

For example, Allen's words ...
Thad Allen: Well there's some that would tell you that the lack of communication between the annulus and the reservoir might not be cement, it could be just a collapse of the formation around it. We really don't know, all we know is there's no communication.


Update: Admiral Thad Allen just confirmed in a press briefing some of what I wrote above:

At 1:30 in: Collapse of formation surrounding wellbore may be blocking bottom of annulus, not cement. …
BP and the government are underplaying the difficulty of stopping the oil leak.

No background in Geology? Surely you jest:) I wonder about personal blogs and FB's with a donate button (very different from established forums). I have seen everyone and their dog around here pop up with one asking more money to spew BS while they scam gullible people and laugh all the way to the bar!

majia, you seem very new to this place, especially since you don't know that Rockman has been an active petroleum geologist for 35 years. Nor do you apparently realize how many times over the past months posts from Washington's blog have been laughed out of here by the oilpatch veterans who make up most of TOD. Better to read here a bit before spraying accusations at commenters who've long since earned credibility in this community.

majia, you seem very new to this place

yeah, apparently just joined today. Seems to be a bit early on the learning curve of what's been posted here since 20 April.

I'm not new. I've been reading this site regularly for over a year. I've also read comments by Rockman and Snakehead (or whatever)at other sites.

What I've read convinces me that many people make unfounded assertions and there exists a tendency to use strawman type arguments to dismiss others' claims.

I've listened to Shell's analysis of the drilling mistakes made by BP available at the New York Times

and I read reports available at Cal Berkeley by the deepwater crisis response teams. I've also read NOAA reports.

I am not convinced that Rockman is more experienced than Dr. Bea or has better access to info than Dr. Bea.

There continues to exist considerable uncertainty about what is going on with the Gulf disaster.

I believe that more whistleblowers and scientists are now going to come out with their research and observations, as illustrated recently by Univ of Florida and Georgia researchers. These accounts will no doubt lead to more retractions by government officials caught making half truths and omissions...

E.G. the Guardian:
BP oil spill: US scientist retracts assurances over success of cleanupNOAA's Bill Lehr says three-quarters of the oil that gushed from the Deepwater Horizon rig is still in sea while scientists identify 22-mile plume in ocean depths ....

Bill Lehr, a senior scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) departed from an official report from two weeks ago which suggested the majority of the oil had been captured or broken down.

"I would say most of that is still in the environment," Lehr, the lead author of the report, told the house energy and commerce committee....

I've been reading this site regularly for over a year.

No argument with your other general statements in this comment, but unless you have a reading-comprehension problem (or some unreasoning beef with Rockman?), the one I've italicized is very hard to believe.

I meant to respond to this when it was posted in an earlier TOD article.

E.G. the Guardian:
BP oil spill: US scientist retracts assurances over success of cleanupNOAA's Bill Lehr says three-quarters of the oil that gushed from the Deepwater Horizon rig is still in sea while scientists identify 22-mile plume in ocean depths ....

Bill Lehr, a senior scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) departed from an official report from two weeks ago which suggested the majority of the oil had been captured or broken down.

"I would say most of that is still in the environment," Lehr, the lead author of the report, told the house energy and commerce committee....

Lehr said the above as part of his response to a sequence of questions about how to interpret the oil budget... part of the confusion that began with Carol Browner's unfortunate and incorrect comment that 3/4 of the oil is gone. There is no available transcript of Markey's hearing, so I recommend watching five minutes of the proceedings, beginning around 27 minutes in, for the full context of Markey's questions and Lehr's responses.
House Energy & Commerce Subcmte. Hearing on Seafood Safety.

One of the minor points that Lehr made was that the oil budget was developed as a means to inform the response to the spill, identifying what oil remains that might still be recoverable. (As an aside, I continue to think it would have been wiser for Allen and Lubchenco to delay releasing the budget until they were ready to also release the supporting data and algorithms.)

There have been a lot of people on TOD who have also questioned the early NOAA oil budget. I am sure if you have been reading here you will realize that the conclusions that senior NOAA officials have released to the press were done so quite prematurely, poorly stated, likely with political motivation and without any sort of reasonable scientific review process. It should not be surprising that we are now seeing retractions.

The Florida and Georgia researchers are also getting their comeuppance for releasing results without peer review. In particular the oxygen depletion data they ballyhooed now looks very questionable.

You don't get good science in a MSM news bulletin. As a famous N.O. restaurant had printed at the top of their menu,

"Faire de la bonne cuisine demande un certain temps. Si on vous fait attendre, c'est pour mieux vous servir, et vous plaire.”

That goes double for science.

And the problem was exacerbated by Browner's "happy" interpretation of the report. Lubchenco has been much more careful in her comments about the budget. She was asked about it again yesterday during a press appearance with Salazar, Jackson et al during their tour of some LA wetlands, and went to some lengths to emphasis that the oil remaining in the environment was not benign. (I hadn't realized that they have recovered the remains of over 500 endangered Kemp Ridleys.)

Then there is the issue of difference between the precision of scientific terminology and more colloquial speech. Part of yesterday's exchange between Lehr and Markey revolved around the definition of "what is left in the environment in the Gulf." It got a bit amusing when Lehr was including the percentage that had likely evaporated but couldn't comment on whether or not it was still in the Gulf without consulting air current charts. (Marley appeared to mean the environment = in the water or on land.)

It would, indeed, be interesting to know the backstory on what led to the premature release of the report.

NOAA Claims Scientists Reviewed Controversial Report; The Scientists Say Otherwise

In responding to the growing furor over the public release of a scientifically dubious and overly rosy federal report about the fate of the oil that BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA director Jane Lubchenco has repeatedly fallen back on one particular line of defense -- that independent scientists had given it their stamp of approval.

Back at the report's unveiling on August 4, Lubchenco spoke of a "peer review of the calculations that went into this by both other federal and non-federal scientists." On Thursday afternoon, she told reporters on a conference call: "The report and the calculations that went into it were reviewed by independent scientists." The scientists, she said, were listed at the end of the report.


DR. LUBCHENCO: Thanks, Robert. Hello, everyone. Today, the federal government is releasing a new scientific analysis that addresses the question: Where did the oil go? This analysis uses the recently released calculation of 4.9 million barrels, plus or minus 10 percent, and includes both direct measurements as well as the best estimates where direct measurements were not possible.

The report was produced by scientific experts from a number of different agencies, federal agencies, with peer review of the calculations that went into this by both other federal and non-federal scientists.

The conclusions -- key conclusions of the report is that the vast majority of the oil has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed and recovered from the wellhead, or dispersed. And much of the dispersed oil is in the process of relatively rapid degradation.

A significant amount of this is a direct result of the very robust federal response efforts. What I’d like to do is just walk you through the pie chart that you see behind us and illustrate what’s in each of these different categories.


Babel Fish mangled the translation
"To make good kitchen takes a certain time. If one makes you wait, c' is for better being useful to you, and liking themselves"

Babel Fish mangled the translation

According to Pompous Quotations for Every Occasion, the phrase translates:

Good cooking takes time. If you are made to wait, it is only to serve you better, and to please you more.

Google Translate did better:

"Making good food takes time. If you wait, it is to serve you and please you."

Maj -- Dr. Bea should be able to run engineering circles around me all day. Even though I occasionally play an engineer on TOD I am just a geologist. I didn’t criticize his engineering. Just pointed out the same erroneous geologic info other folks have also been tossing around. And BTW: I have zero access to anything other than my own experience and common sense. I wasn’t kidding earlier: I agree with all of his engineering analysis. But as I also said, it’s nothing new. These exact points were made on TOD over 3 months ago…it’s all in the archives. And those conclusions were made without any super duper top secret insider poop you seem to imply that Dr. Bea has access to. And our data base was open to the public. We luv whistle blowers at TOD…we really do. But if you’re going to offer up such a person be sure he brings his whistle along with him. Otherwise you’ll be tossed into the pile with the other conspiracy kooks with no data to back up their rants. That’s how it works around here.

But hang around. Don’t let these snitty TODsters (including me) bother you. We really do play nice with others. Unless, of course, they roll in looking to pick a fight. Cause that’s exactly what they’ll get. Good debates abound on TOD. But you gotta have the data behind you or it won’t be much fun.

maj -- Have you researched the geology in the area of the BP well? If so then you already understand that Dr. Bea claims about the geology are complely incorrect. I made no personal attack. I simply stated what most here already know: his depiction of the geologic conditions around the BP are incorrect. You hang around here long enough you'll find I that I don't do anything "rhetorical". Someone makes a claim that blatantly false my response will be anything but rhetorical.

Now you can stop your personal attack and answerr the points I raised with facts. So far you've done nothing to future this discussion. Put your facts on the table and we can discuss them. Otheriwse you're just wasting time.

Sorry Rock but I'm out of time to play. Gotta get back to work...

My point was this: Dr. Robert Bea has stated that the well will be difficult to kill. He is on the crisis response team. He has more information than the general public. The exact geology of that location is not public knowledge, although Congress demanded that BP hand over drilling records.

If those records were turned over, Dr. Bea had access to them.

It may be that the records were not turned over. BP has been reluctant to release information, even to its partners.

It may be that you are correct that there does not exist a salt dome there. However, as being currently played out at the blog at zerohedge, no one know posting here or there knows for sure.

You attacked Dr. Bea's comments without knowledge about who he was, his sources of information, or his expertise.

Then, I was attacked for daring to ask for empirical evidence to support assertions.

This type of argument is not rational. It does not further understanding. It obscures knowledge formation.

For your information, rhetoric is the art of persuasion. You are not very persuasive so far...

You attacked Dr. Bea's comments without knowledge about who he was, his sources of information, or his expertise.

If you had been reading here for as long as you claim, you'd know that who Bea is, his sources, and his expertise have been discussed many times. He's actually quite a familiar name.

Somebody's cognition is quite dissonant here, SL, and I don't think it's yours and mine.

There's something to be said for being able to recognize when one is out of one's depth.


majia is practicing that old adage, 'when you find yourself at the bottom of a deep hole, get a bigger shovel.'

Then, I was attacked for daring to ask for empirical evidence to support assertions

Setting up a straw man argument about Rockman's style of response is a cheap trick.

You were provided with a URL from a neutral, independent, science-based source that clearly argues against the salt dome assertion and which provides a bathymetric map but you have as yet neglected to address it. You've given no indication that you've researched the question yourself except by hitting blogs and MSM.

I'm blowing you off until you come back with something substantive.

He is on the crisis response team. He has more information than the general public.

He is a member of a study group that he formed, under the umbrella of Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management. He is not on any formal government response team. Due to his background, connections and reputation, Bea certainly has access to more info' than we do here, but it is up to the government agencies/senators/etc involved as to whether or not to share all the event related data and records that have been made available to them. (heck, WA blog even admitted that Boxer might have received BP's records and not subsequently handed them over to Bea.)

Others, more knowledgeable than I, have responded here and elsewhere on TOD as to the geology of the area.

maj - we've seen the BP data, including the 3d seismic data, describing the geology of the area around the BP well. Was put out on TOD long ago. As for as support for my statements I'll just refer you to the thousands of publicly available reports on the geology of the Gulf of Mexico Basin. See Am Assoc. of Petroleum Geologists, Society of Petroleum Engineers and the Gulf Coast Assoc of Geologic Societies. In a couple of months of concentrated effort you’ll discover that your mouth just wrote a check your butt can’t cover. There is a whole world of stuff I don’t know much about. But after studying Gulf Coast geology for 40 years even an idiot is bound to understand a thing or two.

Northern Gulf of Mexico
The northern Gulf of Mexico extends from Alabama to the U.S.-Mexico border. North to south, the province extends from 200 miles inland of the present day shoreline to the Sigsbee escarpment. Sediments in the region are generally thick with the greatest sediment load provided by the Mississippi River. Widespread salt deposits are present throughout the region (Murray, 1961; Halbouty, 1967) and these structures act to create subsurface and emergent topographic features on the continental slope such as the Flower Garden Banks off the Texas/Louisiana coast, and the pinnacles region offshore of the Mississippi/Alabama coast.

That's all very true. It's also Geology 101.

Majia, when I first started reading this site it didn't take me long to see who was worth listening to, and Rockman stands at the top of my list. I'm also a geologist, but Rockman and I represent polar opposites in specialties. Nevertheless, the strat&sed of the Northern GOM is one of my pet studies, and FWIW, I stand behind everything Rockman has said on the subject. The Gulf geology is what it is, and we know what it is. I don't care if a guy has the Nobel Prize, I won't endorse mushroom food.

First, Dr Bea implicitly claims (or at least so the MSM readers will take it) knowledge of Macondo geology.

"Bea: That's an interesting question. You have to ask why did this location blow out when nearby wells drilled in even deeper water didn't blow out.

You have to look at the geology of the Macondo well. It is in a subsalt location, in a Sigsbee salt formation. [For background, see this and this]"

As ROCKMAN has effectively pointed out it is 100% wrong (OK not entirely, Macondo is actually in the Gulf).

So in a Wikipedia sense, he's not wrong about Gulf geology - the thing he mentions (apart from stuff like the sloppy muds fracturing) are more-or-less correct about some parts of the Gulf.

But for him to say they occur at Macondo and imply that they contributed to the blowout is like me saying that to understand Katrina we have to understand US geography and climate - and then list the arid deserts of Nevada, the tree-covered hills of the Appalachians and the midnight sun in northern Alaska.

As Rock and others have pointed out, some of Bea's understanding of the local Geology is off base and he seems to be straying a bit out of the area of his engineering expertise.

Once again, the Macondo prospect is NOT sub-salt, but it is near a couple of sub-salt fields (Mica and Pompano). Some of these sub-salt fields have been producing through the salt for years. Mica was discovered back in '91 if I remember correctly, and it's probably been producing for over 10 years. I guess industry has probably drilled well over a hundred sub-salt wells in the GOM since the mid-90's.

Yeah, in many places salt is moving pretty fast on the geologic time-scale, but slowly enough for production casing to last for years. Also, in many ways, drilling impermeable salt is much less difficult than drilling overpressured sands and shales. The difficulty with sub-salt wells is typically at the boundaries, particularly wildcats where the sub-salt fluid pressures are not well known in advance. It IS possible BTW to fracture salt - take a hammer and whack a hunk of rock salt or take a big sub-salt kick with the last casing shoe up in salt - you'll frac it. Or collect a column of oil or gas in a trap at the base of salt, if the fluid pressure reaches the overburden pressure, it'll frac the salt and leak.

The other challenge with the sub-salt is the lower overburden pressure resulting from the lower density of deeply-buried salt relative to sediments leading to narrower drilling margins (everything else being equal).

Bea's interesting comment about why this well would blow vs. other deeper nearby wells is actually somewhat true, but misleading. He seems to be talking about the pressure regression found in the main reservoir which was actually at a lower fluid pressure than overlying shales and thin sands. This situation is uncommon, but certainly not unique. it does cause difficulty drilling, generally requiring multiple casing strings seal off the high pressures from the "under-pressured" sands. This is hard enough to manage when you know the pressures in advance, but is a big problem in a wildcat situation. OTOH, it's been done safely many many times and is not the "cause" of the blowout - only a contributing factor to the difficulties encountered and the increased risk of a well control situation.

As for the "abandoned borehole," Bea is again being a bit unclear, but I think he is referring to the original hole that was bypassed from the same top hole - only one surface location.

If the area was greatly "fractured" as opposed to faulted (not generally a problem) we'd be seeing flow from the seabed around the well head - we're not.

Way back in late July, bignerd posted seismic from BP showing the Macondo well. See http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6791#comment-690263 I've taken the liberty of reposting that image.

I don't see anything resembling a salt dome in this image. Nor do I see anything suggesting the well was drilled subsalt (through a salt overhang for example). There isn't anything suggesting the area is heavily fractued. There is one fault apparent off towards the right side of the image, and perhaps a few other rather small features that could be faults here and there.

Somewhere I've heard, but can't seem to find the link, that Macondo is in a low area between a couple of major salt features, which sounds like what GeoNola is describing.

All in all it doesn't really seem to resemble what Bea was suggesting.

"My guess is he cherry picked some of Bea's comments, taking them out of context. Compare the amount of direct quotes from Bea to the author's spin on them."
With all the lawyers on place, I´m sure, that no journalist would dare to do this.
And if this would be true anyway, Bea would ask for a counter statement.
My impression is more, that Bea was careful in telling not too much (lawyers again).
Therefore he was caused to say more or less yes or no.
----Or is Bea the true reincarnation of Simmons ?-----LOL

Going to repost this link from the closed thread:


According to story:
Notes of Vidrine interview by BP in the days following the blowout but not made available to public.
Toolpusher was on the phone to Vidrine when the well was kicking mud and seawater.
Vidrine also consulted with Hafle about the odd pressure readings.
Transocean folks were amused at Vidrine's persistence in asking about the pressures.

Somebody needs to duck and cover.
No wonder BP put Vidrine in the ice box.

I don't really see anything in the article that would suggest BP wouldn't want Vidrine to testify. In any case Vidrine has not testified so far for medical reasons and the Hearing has accepted a medical report from his own doctor confirming this. He may still testify in future. Bob Kaluza however declined to testify but on the advice of his own personal lawyer - not BP's.

The Hearing has the BP documents referred to in the article in any case as they are referenced when needed.

The one new thing I don't recall having seen before was that the phone call from Anderson to Vidrine first saying they had a problem must have been just before 9:50pm (the same time the driller called Miles Ezell). Neither Vidrine nor Ezell had time to make it to the rig floor before the explosion. OIM Harrel was in the shower at the time.

So it seems that although the rig floor first noticed a problem at 9:30pm, no contact with any more senior Transocean or BP personnel was made for almost 20 minutes when things were, by that point, completely out of control.

Some very biased observations of those statements from the link on the very last post:

"Hafle said that if there had been a kick in the well we would have seen it according to Vidrine's statement to investigators."

IF THERE HAD BEEN A KICK! There was a kick and it led to the blow out. No debate there. Don't know what he was trying to say but obviously not what he said.

"Vidrine was watching out for any signs of kicks, surges of gas from below the seafloor...Vidrine told the BP investigators he had been doing paperwork in his office aboard the rig for 10 or 15 minutes when Jason Anderson, a Transocean tool pusher, called to say that drilling mud had begun flowing up the pipe, an indication that gas or crude had entered the well. Vidrine grabbed his hard hat and was walking toward the drilling floor when a shower of drilling mud and seawater engulfed the rig deck, according to the notes. He turned to go in another direction when there was an explosion."

In the company man's office there is a monitor that shows all the mud hydraulics in real time. We've seen that data that survived on the onshore server it was sent to in real time. It clearly shows the well coming in. If Vidrine was "watching for signs" they were right there in front of him. Unless he had the monitor turned off. Or if he had his back to it in which case he wasn't watching out for anything. And if a tool pusher calls the company man with a report of a well flowing back no competent hand would take the time to walk out there and check it himself. He would immediately order a shut it and kill procedure. But remember the tool pusher isn't required to get approval from the company man to shut a well in. He has the full authority AND responsibility to do it. In very simple layman's terms it like someone calling to tell you that your house is on fire. But instead of telling them to call the fire department you decide to jump in your car and drive over just to see how on fire it really is. Also bear in mind that he say's mud and saltwater blew across the rigs within minutes of the phone call. It takes a good bit longer than a few minutes for a well to unload from 18,000'. Obviously the well had been flowing for sometime before it hit the drill floor. Which takes us back to the most critical question IMHO: why didn't the tool pusher see the well flowing long before the kick reached the floor?

These boys have had a lot of time to work on their stories. If this is the best they've come up with they are truly in a world of hurt IMHO.

ROCK. Can you make a guess at where things were wrong on this Halliburton chart recording?

Acorn -- Someone like Tool Pusher could do better than me but I'll point out a few things to focus on. The first column to the right of the time track find the "SSP" curve. This is the stand pipe pressure. See it jump at the bottom; that's the blow out. The curves that will be studied intently by the investigators will be the far right track: the pit and trip tank volume changes. These can be very difficult to understand because the counters have to be reset when changes, such as switching from one tank to another or offloading mud, are not taken into account. I've been frustrated as hell sitting on a rig and trying to figure out what's happening because they often don't reset the counters or tell us when they are changing tanks.

I think you understand this but for those who don't: The PRIME indicator that a well is kicking and might blow out is the mud returns. It can be impossible to tell a well is kicking (pushing mud back to the drill floor) if the mud pimps are running. As a standard safety precaution you stop the mud pumps and see if the flow stops. If it doesn't then it means something (oil/NG/water) is pushing the mud out. It really is that simple. But you have to shut the pumps off and then watch for a volume change in the pits. But if you're transferring mud from pit to pit, offloading mud to a boat below and aren't resetting your volume counters it can impossible to see the kick coming until it's too late. Also, though I know it sounds simplistically stupid: if you're not looking at the returns you won't see it happening even if the data is clear.


The first time I heard this was what they were doing (pumping mud to the boat) while circulating the well, it sounded dangerous to me. I know it saves some time, but it is a practice that ought to be stopped IMO! If they don't have the room, the operations should be done separately so they can keep accurate volume of returns.

lab - Yep...easy to imagine there will be some new regs dealing with monitoring mud returns and what/how different mud transfer ops will be conducted.

I don't know if any of this will turn out to be relevant but just before the explosion there was some routine maintenance work. Mud Pump 2 was down for work and electrical power was isolated from some equipment. However the chief electrician Chad Murray (who had just left the area prior to the explosion) testified this was just routine work. All the other people involved in the work are dead.

We still haven't had a proper explanation of why flow meters only recorded intermittently. The fact returns were being diverted overboard (which had been speculated as a reason) seems not to be a factor as testimony has been consistent that this procedure did not and physically could not bypass the flow meter. So we are left with another mystery.

The first column to the right of the time track find the "SSP" curve

Actually you'll have better luck looking for the "SPP" curve. ;')

Everything else is right on. I think my first posts here I talked about how stupid it was to offload mud off the DH onto the service boat. When they DID figure out it was kicking they didn't have enough mud on hand (or time) to pump back down and maybe regain control. IMHO.

you have to shut the pumps off and then watch for a volume change in the pits. But if you're transferring mud from pit to pit, offloading mud to a boat below and aren't resetting your volume counters it can impossible to see the kick coming until it's too late.

RM, whose call would it have been to off-load the mud the way they did (which I presume they did to expedite tear-down) instead of waiting until after the top plug had been set? Did BP direct that since they are the ones motivated to pull off-site asap?

I know BP directed leaving the lock down sleeve off and displacing the riser with seawater in the manner they did.

The new regs purportedly prohibit off-loading mud prior to sealing of the well.

syn - Material transfers on/off the rig is in the sole authority of the operator/company man. But it's not uncommon for such a general order be given and the let the drill crew handle the details. The coman may have issued a general order to get the rig readly to shut down. Shipping off materials would have been SOP at that point. But botton line: the operator is responsible for having any materials on board that might be needed in an emergency...such as sufficient mud to build a kill pill.

Mercy, that particular "duck and cover" didn't work so good, did it? Wouldn't we love to know who ratted them out.

Either a duck or a rat, I'd say.
(Another BP leak? Color me unsurprised.)

Duck. For sure.

"Hafle said that if there had been a kick in the well we would have seen it according to Vidrine's statement to investigators."

IF THERE HAD BEEN A KICK! There was a kick and it led to the blow out. No debate there. Don't know what he was trying to say but obviously not what he said.

Minor point, but it looks to me as though Vidrine was quoting what Hafle told him at the time, not after the fact.

I understand Swifty. And that statement would have been just as correct had it been made 30 years ago. So what was the point he was trying to make? Kinda like "The day before I ran over tha kid when I was drunk on my ass I was perfectly sober." So he's saying before the well kicked there were signs of a kick? Hell....I'll back him up 100% on that statement. I'll even go as far to say that there were no signs the rig was on fire before the well blew out.

That was my point: the statement, in and of itself, was utterly meaningless.

the statement, in and of itself, was utterly meaningless

Are you saying there is no such thing as signs of a kick before the actual kick? Otherwise I'm (still) confused!

switfy - Didn't mean to be obtuse. A sign of a kick is the sign of a kick. A kick begins when the reservoir starts flowing into the well bore. There's nothing to tell you a kick is about to happen. If there were you would stop drilling and make ajustments to prevent a kick. A safe drilling technique is to assume there's a kick ready to come at you when you drill that next foot. Think of it as defensive driving on the drill floor. I mentioned sometime ago what I require on my rigs even when we're just adding a section of drill pipe to the string: stop the mud pumps and check for flow before making the new connection. My tool pusher will check for flow. I have the mud engineer double check the pusher. And then I have my company man triple check the to of them. And if I'm not busy wolfing down a bowl of Blue Bell I might walk out to the floor with the company man. And they do this when there is no reason to expect a kick. There are some indicators, like an increasing background of NG in the mud, that a kick might be more likely down the hole. But again, if there was an indication a kick was coming you would make adjustments to prevent it. So basicly you get kicked because there was no precurser.

There may be some confusion between kick and blowout here. The kick happens downhole in the reservoir, and is detected at surface by pressure and flow indicators. It gives prior warning of a potential blowout. The blowout happens if nothing (or the wrong thing) is done in the tens of minutes it takes the inflow from the reservoir to get to surface. Or shallow enough that gas breaks out from the oil and expands rapidly as it rises, pushing the remaining mud ahead of it.

The question is not what prior signs there were of a kick coming. There were and generally would be none (while drilling, perhaps an increase in gas returns suggesting the mud was just on balance; or after plugging, gas in the system where there should be none suggesting a leaking barrier which might get worse).

The question is whether the kick was recognised when it came and what actions were taken thereafter.

If it helps any -> The discussion between Hafle and Vidrine was when Vidrine phoned Hafle several hours before the blow out to ask him about the results of the negative test.

So the tense probably changed when Vidrine recollected. Is it not more likely Haffle said. "If there is a kick we will see it.", which Vidrine recalled to investigators as "Haffle said if there was a kick we would have seen it." Which of course they should have as Rockman says. But they didn't until too late.

Exactly what was going on between the shutting off of the mud pumps and closure of the BOP at 9:30pm and the phone calls almost 20 minutes later we still don't know - although Dr Smith testimony was that BOP components and valves were opened and closed during this time.


So the story goes, the drill crew close in the annular at 21:30, monitor pressure, open annular with 2250psi under it without bleeding off through the choke or standpipe, while the Co-man is doing a little light paper work, he knows what is going as he is "watching" the monitor. After 20mins of this and the drill crew don't seem to have a handle of what is going on with the well. Fluids scream out of the well and then the co-man is informed?

What is wrong with this picture?

I feel there would have been a lot more communication going on at the time, and I feel the high power bodies from town would have been the main distraction, but I am sure there will be a lot of pressure for that type of story not to come out.

Company man too distracted by the bigwigs on board to think clearly?
He didn't see the kick coming?
Had to be phoned up?
Sounds odd.

Another thought:
Just who was at the party that evening and for how long?
"Alcohol" wouldn't be "allowed" at such a party, would it?
(I'm sure no execs would carry flasks or the like, would they.)

I'm not saying it's so, or even implying such a thing of any specific person, but are we in the realm of looking for a Captain Hazelwood nominee here?
The question bears asking.

"Alcohol" wouldn't be "allowed" at such a party, would it?

A French or Italian rig, an outside chance, an American rig, not a hope, American rigs are firmly anchored in the 1920's.

It is not a bad thing, at least you know the drillers, crane ops and the like are sober. Even if it can take a day or two for some to dry out when they get to the rig!

What happened to the days of work hard, Play hard.

American rigs are firmly anchored in the 1920's.

No alcohol, and no other recreational substances either, I assume?

swifty - plenty if simulants...mostly tobaki chew. Nothing like starting the day off with a big cup of brown spit sitting on the desk next to you.

The BP policy is no alcohol or other substances offshore. In my experience travelling to BP GoM assets, the random drug test is done on about 10% of the flights out. (There is a double-wide trailer office at the BP heliport in Houma that is just for drug testing.)

People caught going to work under the influence lose their jobs. But they still catch people willing to gamble their job away.

I don't know if flights to DWH would have been through BP or TransOcean, so their protocol may have been different.

If they are catching people with the 10% checks then 9 times that number arrive for work on the rigs.


the random drug test is done on about 10% of the flights out.

But probably not on the Houston suits flying out for an end-of-project celebration, nor any searches of their pockets or briefcases, I would imagine.

Don't mean to slander anybody. It's just that what happened strikes so many here as inexplicable, it's awfully tempting to wonder if there was a wild card involved.


Pusher -- things will slow up a good bit in a a few days and then maybe we can amuse our TOD family with stories about those "first day back" incidents. I've been in the waiting room at the chopper base and seen guys in such shape I was concerned about just sitting next to one in the bird.

Pusher -- You undertsnad this far better them me. You're on the floor sweating your ass off while I''m down in a a nice comfy LWD shack. But that's been the most unbelievable part of the story: how many times have you had a well flow on you and you needed a company man to tell you what to do? Maybe when you were just breaking out but I doubt you did that more than once...if ever. Unfortunately the only ones who could probably explain it are dead.


Here a post I put up yesterday, I believe answers your question.

Question, why was the night toolpusher chatting on the phone and not hitting buttons on the BOP panel?

When the well is flowing, you act, then inform. Not the other way round!

Petrobras in Brasil, once told us to let them know before if we had to shut in a well. After a short conversation we convinced them it would not happen that way. Fortunately we never had to put it to a test.

Toolpush, It's difficult for non technical people to visualize what happens when a relatively small gas bubble at pressure is allowed to expand uncontrolled as it moves uphole.

Back in the day, as part of our drilling supervisor training program, we developed a demonstration of a shallow gas kick. We did the exercise at surface casing depth(anywhere from 1500-3000ft) before drilling out. We took the demo to every rig(about 35 at the time). Every rig crew, every tour, every person employed was mandated to attend the demo. We took names.

Demo consisted of rigging up Nowsco to the standpipe and starting to circ up from bottom. Crews were instructed that sometime in the process a bubble(5 bbl) of N2 would be introduced on bottom and they were to detect the kick, shut in the well and circ out the kick. We would not get in a hurry to inject the bubble.

The first demo on the first rig, the crew missed the initial signs of a kick, mud hit the crown and they got to clean up the rig. We thought the contract pusher was going to kill his driller. Then, they got to redo the drill. They got the message that day. In the same field, we had another rig operating within eyesight. They shut down and the crews came over to the first rig in disbelief of what they had just witnessed. It's amazing how the word spreads in the oil patch. We never had another incident where a crew missed the kick.

You have correctly assessed the importance of ensuring the area below the annular preventers is clear of a bubble before opening them up. Good eye for the detail.

ExDM, I saw a demonstration of how entrained gases in magma in a volcano expand.
What's the worst that could happen...?


I feel there would have been a lot more communication going on at the time,

You would think so but remember by 9:50pm Senior Toolpusher Ezell has just gone to bed and OIM Harrel is in the shower about to go to bed. Tends to make me think there really was no communication. Especially as Ezell had just spoken to Anderson at 9:20pm. Of course they could all be lying and actually were informed at 9:30pm but they are all consistent (Ezell, Harrel, Vidrine) about not being informed prior to just before the explosion.

As Ezell said if he had been informed earlier he would have been on the rig floor by the time of the explosion and "wouldn't be sitting talking to you here now."

Subsea Supervisor Chris Pleasant also testified that the first he was aware of a problem was just before the explosion when he saw first water and then mud on the monitor in his office.


I do not see any mention of a night co-man? Was there one? I agree with the day shifters heading to bed, but there is bound to be a night man as well?

I do not see any mention of a night co-man?

Was that Vidrine, the guy reportedly doing paperwork and watching on his monitor? (He's the company guy who recently turned down his third chance to testify before the MBI. He apparently has sent a note from his doctor excusing him from appearing.)

The other top BP guy was Robert Kaluza, who has also refused to appear before the board, pleading the fifth.

Like some other posters here, I wonder what effect the presence of the celebratory group of higher ups on board that night had on the mindset of those on duty.


If Vidrine is the night man, who was on day shift?


One of BP's company men on the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded, Robert Kaluza, has declined to testify ...

Oil spill hearings ...

Thank you so much for this comment. I hope there will be physical evidence in the BOP that tells the story. The witnesses, I don't know. I imagine they will lawyer up and who knows what will be told.
I may have missed it, but did you have a comment on the Exxon plan post blowout?
Just want to also thank you for all that i have leaned from you. I'm a girl, you can buy your own ice cream.

Maude -- All the BOP analysis will show, maybe, is what went wrong with the BOP. No info about the BOP will explain what caused the blow out. Up a above is posted a link to a chart showing various hydraulic parameters just before the blow out. Fortunately this data was sent to an onshore server in real time. Otherwise all the info would have been destroyed in the rig fire. This data and the eye witness testimonies will be the only evidence presented during the investigation of what caused the blow out. The BOP failure as well as inadequate spill response are separate issues.

And if a tool pusher calls the company man with a report of a well flowing back no competent hand would take the time to walk out there and check it himself. He would immediately order a shut it and kill procedure. But remember the tool pusher isn't required to get approval from the company man to shut a well in. He has the full authority AND responsibility to do it.

Rock, it does seem as if the well was being shut-in by Toolpusher Anderson in the moments leading up to the explosion. Shortly before the explosion Senior Toolpusher Ezell described the following phone call from Assistant Driller Steve Curtis. According to his account, Anderson was attempting to shut-in the well at the time of the explosion. Ezell had just gone to bed but was not yet asleep. He had spoken to Anderson about half an hour previously at approximately 9:20pm and was told all was going well.


9-20pm call from Ezell to Anderson

1 times pieces, but it was 9:20 by my watch. I

2 called the rig floor and I talked to Jason

3 Anderson. And I said "Well, how did your

4 negative test go?" And he said "It went

5 good." He said "We bled it off. We watched

6 it for 30 minutes and we had no flow." And I

7 said "What about your displacement? How's it

8 going?" He said "It's going fine." He said

9 "It won't be much longer and we ought to have

10 our spacer back." I said "Okay." I said "Do

11 you need any help from me?" And he told me

12 "No, man." Just like he told me before he

13 said "I've got this." He said "Go to bed.

14 I've got it." He was that confident that

15 everything was fine. I said "Okay." So, I

16 went to my cabin, which is a short distance,

17 probably five feet, away from the

18 toolpusher's office. I went in there and

19 closed the door and prepared for bed and I

Approx 9:50pm call from Rig Floor to Ezell

1 little alarm clock light and, according to

2 that alarm clock, it was ten minutes till

3 10:00. And the person at the other end of the

4 line there was the assistant driller, Steve

5 Curtis. Steve opened up by saying "We have a

6 situation." He said "The well is blown out."

7 He said "We have mud going to the crown." And

8 I said "Well --" I was just horrified. I said

9 "Do y'all have it shut in?" He said "Jason is

10 shutting it in now." And he said "Randy, we

11 need your help." And I'll never forget that.

12 And I said "Steve, I'll be -- I'll be right

13 there."


tow - regardless of everything else the hands might have done wrong we still have to give them credit for hanging in there till the end. They knew in those last few minutes they had little chance of shutting the well. You don't have to work on the floor very long before you learn how quickly death comes. From the body count it sems no one broke and ran when they still had a chance. No one expects a hand to hang in there too long. But they did.

Well said ROCKMAN, whatever may have been missed earlier they hung in there. Like a pilot who tries to make the best crash landing, regardless of whether the initial problem was an engine failure or human error. We can all make mistakes, sometimes the test is what you do afterwards.

As to why the well was not shut in sooner, I suspect that it was only in the last few minutes they realised how serious it was. Makes more sense than hanging around for the senior guys to answer the phone, rather than acting and telling them about it afterwards. Also, if they knew they were facing a rig-threatening situation, why not sound a general alarm and have the crew at muster stations? Would have stopped the party in a flash and resulted in fewer burns and broken bones, if perhaps not fewer deaths. Best explanation for me is that they didn't have 20 minutes to think about it, wake people up, alert the rest of the rig. For whatever reasons what went on between 9:30 and 9:47 was seen as puzzling or non-threatening, and when the end came there were at most a few minutes between realization and the blowout.

There was a clear indication, that something went wrong, because pumping was halted abruptly at 9:30 PM :

"Seawater pumping resumed at 9:20 PM to discharge the spacer overboard and to continue flushing the riser with seawater. Meanwhile, the drillpipe pressure began increasing and the riser flapper valve meter reflected a higher level of outflow than would be expected by the pumping rate.
Those readings, or something else, must have been noticed, because pumping was halted abruptly at 9:30 PM, nineteen minutes before the blowout.
The rest of what happened is not clear at this point.
There is indication that the crew may have spent several minutes evaluating the situation and they may have directed flow back to the trip tank briefly to observe the rate of flow.
It appears they tried to shut in the well around 9:47 PM because a shut-in well would send pressure up the drillstring and the recorded drillstring pressure began increasing sharply at that time and quickly exceeded 5,000 psi.
Shutting in the well at that point would have no impact on any hydrocarbons that were already in the riser.
As mentioned previously, liquefied gas above the blowout preventer would migrate slowly up the riser until the pressure dropped enough for it to begin expanding into a gas. At that point, its volume would increase rapidly and it would begin launching forward the liquid above it. It would not take much liquefied gas to result in a violent outburst at the rig."
And this is an indication, that the cement job may be failed :

"An interesting occurrence during the blowout was that the Damon Bankston was showered first with mud and then with what appeared to be small chunks of cement. BP collected some of the chunks for analysis and they will certainly be able to tell if they were chunks of foamed cement. The findings have not been disclosed."


Here is a link to the type of overshot tool they will need to use to attempt to recover the pipe in the BOP. A mill can be inserted in the bottom of the tool to make the pipe round.


BP knows how to fish two drill pipes out of a BOP. They did it in 2006. By the way Brett Cocales of the famous email,"Who cares, it's done, end of story, will probably be fine and we'll get a good cement job," helped write this article.



Within 18 hours of disconnect, the rig was ready to resume productive work. The LMRP was re-attached to the BOP. An overshot (designed to latch onto the cut drill pipe) was run to where the pipe was cut. However, the pipe was encountered 4 1/2-ft deeper than expected in the subsea BOP. It was known that the Lower shear rams had functioned (as intended) because of the length of cut drill pipe recovered. The only reason a deeper pipe "top" was encountered would be because of a second, unplanned, shear-ram function.

It was determined that the Casing shear rams (third cavity, Fig. 2) functioned when the emergency disconnect sequence was made. Thus, a 4 1/2-ft piece of drill pipe was cut off the top of 10 ft of drill pipe above the middle pipe rams, where the drill pipe was hung off. This "floating fish," i.e., unsecured, fell down next to the primary drill string, which was hung off (Fig. 2, red fish).

Fishing operations are routine to grab pipe hung off in the BOP. Unfortunately, grabbing the second, "floating" fish would be more difficult. The floating fish was too heavy to be picked up by a magnet. The two fish side by side were too wide to be covered by a conventional overshot, and still expect the grab to be strong enough to pull the pipe out of the well.

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.

Admiral Allen to speak before National Press Club today.

Admiral Allen: c-span.org at 11am ET

From Kent Wells Briefing yesterday!

Rock on TRIP!!

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of (Trip Hannah), The Oil Drum IRC.

(Trip Hannah): Hi, Kent. We’ve sorely missed you. My question had to do with the ROV feeds. And, I’m just curious about the BOA subsea ROVs and just wanted to point out that those feeds have never been released, and I was just curious if there’s a way we could get those released to the American public.

Kent Wells: Yes. I’m certainly not aware that we have not been making all our ROV feeds available; at least certainly any that are doing any sort of work. But, let me – I’m not looking at the ROV feeds right now, so, once again, let me take a look at that, and we’ll make sure that there’s full transparency on any ROV work that’s going on. But, appreciate there’s not a lot going on right now with the ROVs.


NYT wants in on the blockbuster news today:

BP Oil Spill Settlements Likely to Shield Top Defendants

WASHINGTON — People and businesses seeking a lump-sum settlement from BP’s $20 billion oil spill compensation fund will most likely have to waive their right to sue not only BP, but also all the other major defendants involved with the spill, according to internal documents from the lawyers handling the fund.

The documents — which include e-mails, draft and final versions of the protocols, claims forms and legal notes about the administration of the fund — provide the first definitive picture of who will be paid by the $20 billion fund, and how and when.

They also shed new light on the components of the payment plan that are likely to stir controversy, including the fund’s emphasis on geographic proximity as a determining factor for eligibility. ...

Feinberg "declined to be interviewed about the documents but verified their authenticity."

Trading legal freedom for money, what a noble arrangement.
Everyone has a price, right?

THANKS, lawyers!

I'm not sure what your issue is. Feinberg's process appears to be non-binding arbitration: you submit a claim, his team determines a settlement amount, then you can either take the settlement amount in lieu of suing, or go ahead and go to court. The only aspect that wasn't widely reported before is that the settlement is for your claims of loss for the entire oil spill, not just for BP's actions, so the settlement is in lieu of suing all parties. You can't take the settlement for your loss claim and turn around and sue the other defendants for the same loss.

I don't understand what legal freedom you've lost. If you had to waive the right to sue to submit a claim or to learn what the settlement offer would be, I would have objections, because then it would be a crapshoot. But this appears to be a transparent process: you get a settlement offer for your loss from the arbitrator and can either take it or refuse it and proceed to sue.

Until it's know what the time frame is in regards to the final settlement, ie.. 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, etc., it is a crap shoot. I've heard "rumors" of 1 year time frame for the final settlement. Hopefully will find out more tomorrow when he comes to town.

If the options of an offer (take it or leave it) or to proceed to a lawsuit are choices, they are unfair to small people who probably have neither the financial resources nor political clout to have a good chance of winning a fair award in court.

Tell me if this sounds fair to you:

Here's $50,000 (taxable as income, of course) so you can make your house, car and food-for-your-family payments OR you can hire your own lawyers and initiate litigation that BP can drag out for years and/or likely decades.

Sound fair, small person?
Do you feel MADE WHOLE, small person?

I think people should be suing the h*ll out of everyone with any money at all.
But these "settlements" are nothing more than hush money.
And what about medical claims down the road from the persistent poison to which all these folks have been exposed? They signed agreement NOT TO SUE, remember?

Sounds awesome.

Lots of lawyers will handle such suits on a contingency basis. And the payments are not likely to be taxable since they are compensation for a casualty loss.

Of course the game to play is to make the payments attractive enough so people won't sue. It costs BP a lot on money to defend against these things too.

Handled correctly it will keep legal costs down which should be a win for both BP and the claimants.

A lawyer, Mike Papantonio, who says he is representing claimants is a class action suit regarding the GOM spill was interviewed today on the Ed show on MSNBC see


I think his main points were:

1) That the Administration wants to get this off the front pages ASAP by saying among other this that the majority of the oil is gone

2) Feinberg will settle the crystal clear claims first and easily with the $20B but that the real fight will be over the other $80B that will be denied at first and will drag out for years.

My understanding is that no-one *has* to accept the offer and sign; they can take a route through the courts, gamble on a bigger win and make the lawyers richer if they prefer.

Isn't plea bargaining similar?

Trading legal freedom for money, what a noble arrangement.
Everyone has a price, right?

THANKS, lawyers!

In any settlement, you are indeed trading the right to sue for money. That's the point of a settlement and why you as a plaintiff want a settlement. You don't have to go to trial to get paid. And yes, normally clients thank the lawyer after the settlement, unless it's a crappy settlement (which it often can be because there is often a problem with the claim/liability/evidence/etc. that lowers the value of a case).

Also, it is not sinister at all of BP to want to have the settlement to also include any claims against certain other defendants.

Look at it this way first. If your damages are 100x and BP pays you 100x, or a settlement you are happy with for all damages, why are you being cheated if you also give up the right to sue other defendants for these same damages?

Now you could conceivably get 50x from BP to settle your claim for 100x and then go out and sue Haliburton or TO for the rest. Fair enough.

However, then BP's whole incentive for putting up this fund gets flushed. As soon as you sue Haliburton or TO, they will turn around and sue BP and bring BP into your lawsuit. So BP not only put up the fund and paid in good-faith, they also still have to defend the lawsuit and pay their share of any judgment.

The only way to prevent this and preserve the logic of the fund is to ensure that those who accept settlements are entering into a global settlement of all claims arising out of the spill for those damages so that there will be no future litigation of those claims that BP could be dragged into by the other defendants.

I would have to see the language to really evaluate, but it sounds like this is the logic behind it, and it is routine and not scary or dirty at all. Without the global settlement aspect of it, BP is still wide open to being sued for those claims as a third-party cross-defendant in future litigation against other parties.

Now there are bad things that can be done, too. But I have not heard anything yet in terms of the procedures or the settlement agreements and releases that cause concern. I do know a group of trial lawyers has been able to get some provisions changed and dropped, so it is getting scrutiny.

Where they are cutting it thin is by excluding a lot of claims from the fund based on arbitrary criteria like geographic location and distance from the coast. So there will be a good hefty chunk of claims that will be denied as not qualifying for the fund and those people/businesses will have to sue BP for any compensation. This is the result of pressures by BP, according to the NYT, as normal practice would not be to impose some of the limits they are imposing on disaster-relief related claims.


I think we all agree that if the settlement offers are $50K on $100K losses, the Feinberg process is worthless, and folks are getting screwed the same as they would without the process. The goal of taking determination of the claim settlement amounts out of the hands of BP (or the government) and giving Feinberg's group of arbitrators that power is to get $100K offers on $100K losses, not $50K on $100K losses, and not $200K on $100K losses. How well it works is an empirical question; we'll know more fter the first big wave of offers go out.

[There's a whole lot of math (Bayesian estimation in the face of asymmetric loss functions) in the literature about just how far BP should lowball each different claimant based on their likelyhood to both sue and win in order to minimize the expected total payout (or, for a property tax appraiser, how to optimally slightly undervalue the expensive home with a homeowner who will fight the assessment, and overvalue the inexpensive home where the owner won't appeal the appraisal unless it's way out of line. I know that math for other, less nefarious applications.]

Based on what I've heard Feinberg say, he's going to offer people what he thinks they would win in court. That's usually less than what they think their claim is worth. I am not clear on whether that includes a factor for litigation expenses saved. It might.

Using this approach, expect on average maybe 70-85 on a 100x claim. I have no idea how accurate that is, but that would be my guess of where he is headed.

Feinberg seems to have a good rep for his handling of the 9/11 claims, which had many of the same issues as have been discussed here. Long-term damage from pollutants, collateral damage (shops, airlines, restaurants which suffered from the fall in tourism), distant damage (that tourist who would have gone to NYC might also have spent a few days in Buffalo) etc, and it's had the best part of a decade to work out.

I expect him to do the decent thing but stomp down hard on frivolous claims submitted by no-win-no-fee lawyers on a 50% take.

Admiral Allen recited a list of "vital signs" in the well - pressure, temperature, vibration sensors. All stable, he said. This can't be literally true with changes in pump/pressure/fluid over the past few days.

Kent Wells briefing was interesting. They're going to reconnect the Enterprise riser, put DP down through it, and go fishing through the capping stack and BOP. If the old drill pipe is held dangling by closed (inoperable) BOP shears or pipe ram, curious how they propose to free it?

On the Allen comment, I suspect he meant stable except where there were active interventions from the surface.

As a people, we always make the best decisions when technology is involved.

Wow... at least pilots probably didn't need to take any stimulants to stay awake for that landing.

TOB, re the first tape (as far as I've gotten yet): nifty that you chose a soundtrack from the heights (a little bit Andean, a little bit Himalayan) to accompany images from the depths. Lotta texture there.

Tell me. Is every oil company that ever tries to drill a hole in the Gulf from now on going to be monitored every step of the way by government officials as per BP? Inquiring minds would like to know....

Donald - Every well ever drilled in the GOM was monitored by the govt. But now they might just do a tad better job of it. The MMS had full authority to be on the BP rig and monitor (and object to/stop) any phase of the operation.

Donald, BP may not have to answer to anything. In the Treaty of Paris, 1783, that ended the American Revolution, take a look at Article 8.


I'd have thought that definition stops at the Chandeleur Islands.

Thanks, Lotus -- posting and distributing.

Cap, I just saw that the P-R has the protocol right in its story -- no need to go to a pdf.


This is going to get (more) interesting as the general economic issues start to percolate. For instance:

"...More than just physical damage, social stigma--defined as the belief that an area has been negatively affected because of its proximity to the Gulf--is having a dramatic impact on housing markets. These impacts are capable of reaching inland or beyond the physical presence of oil...."

Social stigma. Welcome to the Gulf/Barrio/Ghetto: Third World USA.

There's a question for the chemically literate at the bottom of this comment.

Regarding the amount of oil in the 22-mile plume, discussed yesterday: NOAA has published an analysis of water samples at

It says TPH (Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons) averaged 0.2 ppm in the samples, as opposed to 0.75 ppm we were using yesterday. NOAM corrected my estimate of yesterday to 53K. But with a better estimate of THC it would be equivalent to 14,000 bbl in the plume studied by the Woods Hole people and reported in Science.

TPH concentrations were within the range .08 to .5 ppm. PAH concentrations ranged from undetectable to 80 ppt (trillion). To me these numbers are fairly reassuring, since they were collected within 25 miles of the wellhead. These plumes will have spread over a vast area of the deep Gulf by now, and surely there will be some diffusion and further dilution, even if the bacteria are not making much headway toward degrading the oil down in the cold depths.

Now my question. This link has photos and figures related to the Woods Hole study:

Figure S5 shows concentrations of benzene at various water depths. It shows a bulge from 600m depth (which is above the plumes) and continuing down to plume depth. The horizontal axis is scaled 0 to 4 and annotated as (m/z 78:17)* 10 to the minus third. The quantities in this case are 2-3 somethings of benzene. What does the annotation mean and can it be translated into ppm?

Since the bulges of benzene and napthalene reach above the plume, I speculate that these soluble and toxic fractions were stripped out of rising oil droplets and dissolved into a layer that has more biological interaction with surface layers than the plumes do.

m/z = mass-to-charge ratio


Thanks, then, I take it to define what the spectroscope classified as benzene. So what does a reading of 3 on a scale of 4 mean? Three whats?

You are getting into some pretty high maths that basically model nuclear decay.

"three what's?" would just depend on what particular SI unit they are using, given it's a analysis looking for chemicals, I am going to guess and say "micromoles", but I could be wrong.

from the Figure S5 caption -

mass spectrometric measurements are ratioed with water (m/z 17) to correct for variability in instrumental response; concentration values are unitless (expressed on a relative scale).

Thanks for the links Gobbet.

concentration values are unitless (expressed on a relative scale)

Those are relative concentrations based on MS signal intensity i.e. probably current at the detector corrected for M/Z.

Look at table S2 at the end of the document for the GC results which are quantitative to get an idea what this means in absolute terms.

Thanks to all for these explanations and tips.

From table S2 and elsewhere in the document, the max concentration of benzene sampled was 13.6 ppb and of total BTEX 53.6 ppb. Extrapolation from a model suggested a possible max concentration of total BTEX could be 90 ppb at the very center of the plume's cross-section (it grades off from the center because of diffusion). BTEX is benzene and related volatiles that are water-soluble and relatively toxic.

I've always been a fan of New Scientist.

A good summary and analysisi of the plume story:



About your question - the legend (on the next page) says that the numbers are "ratioed with water" and therefore unitless. Don't know what that means, exactly, but in the article itself they say that BTEX concentrations were sometimes > 50 mu g/L (I posted this on TOD in a summary of the article yesterday).

50 mu g/L can be converted to ppm. Here's a wild stab at doing so: Density of benzene in air is ~ 0.88/cc (http://www.astm.org/Standards/D1555M.htm). Make the gross approximations that toluene, etc. have the same density, and that dissolving in water does not affect this. Then 50 x 10-6 g / (0.88 g/cc) ~ 57 x 10-6 cc. 57 x 10-6 cc./1000 cc = 57 x 10-9 = 57 ppb of BTEX.

I'm sure many people can tell me where I've gone wrong with this... Last chemistry course was a long time ago.

I'm not sure the data in Fig. S5 shows more benzene above the 'plume' than below it. Quotes around plume because I've read elsewhere that it's trapped at a natural density stratification in the water thermocline/halocline I presume), so sheet or layer would be better. Plus of coarse it's not a plume of oil, if anything it's a plume of slightly oily water, less oily than your dishwater would be after cleaning the barbecue cutlery. See figure S7. If it wasn't salty I'd drink it (I was at school when we used benzene to clean glassware, so the damage is probably already done...).

Within each water layer the oil and other stuff can move around by circulation; between layers it can only move by buoyancy (or in the case of benzene, diffusion in solution). The smallest oil particles are trapped; the benzene can slip through. But the spikiness below 1000m suggests you are right at the detection limit of the equipment. The presence of CDOM and aromatics may raise the signal:noise threshold relative to shallower depths. If that is truly a log relative scale the amount they're measuring really is tiny. But if it's 'indicator ions' it's presumably only that (small) proportion of the benzene which ionizes and they're using that as a proxy for the total benzene. I think it's just as likely that the benzene concentration is just as high or higher in the main 'plume' but also extends for about 500m above it.

P.S. relative to water just means that they measure a water signal as well as the target chemical, and use water as a standard to reference against. E.g. maybe the water signal increases by a factor of ten when you go deep to shallow or hot to cold, but you know the sea is always near 100% water. So you scale everything so that the water signal is always 1.


I agree with your speculation that the BTEX fraction has been stripped (dissolved) out of the rising oil droplets, a phenomenon akin to countercurrent extraction. This raises the question whether the BTEX content of the plume is a reliable proxy for the fate of the bulk HC in the spill.

The principal scientist for the Wood's Hole study in press interviews, expressed his surprise that "oil hadn't floated to the surface." This would imply, and some on TOD have agreed, that BTEX can in fact be used as a proxy and multiplied upward by its proportion in crude (some say 1 %) to infer how much of the crude (mostly insoluble alkanes) are in the plume.

I think this assumption is unwarranted, if the oil as it rose was simply stripped of its BTEX and continued on its way to the surface. Since alkane biodegradation is conducted by a universe of microorganisms different from those metabolizing aromatics (BTEX), I would further question the study's pessimism over the slowness of biotransformation as it applies to the bulk of HC released.

Fred, I agree. Have been thinking about this since this morning WSJ article on the same subject. The BTEX seems to be in a colloidal suspension in the deep water specifically because of its small size and the high pressure. Compared to the relatively massive oil molecules they originated from, they are indeed tiny, and because of the strong bonds would stay together a long time, resisting ion migration. They still would be buoyant and might gradually make their way to the surface, but can't aggregate easily. I noted they had a turbidity chart as well in the .pdf file that might be useful if compared to a study done previously in "normal" water.


I don't think you have to invoke a "colloidal suspension"; the BTEX is in conventional aqueous solution. The magical stratification of BTEX can be explained by the principal of "multi-plate" extraction (a concept which the oil-refinery folk at TOD know well.)

In plainer English, the droplets encounter successive layers of "fresh" seawater as they rise. They are "fresh" in the sense that they have a zero level of BTEX, and are ready to extract the droplet to the low but finite solubility of BTEX in water. At some additional height above the sea floor, the droplets are completely depleted of BTEX. Hence the appearance of a BTEX stratum; no need to invoke magic buoyancy issues.

Note added in proof:
The solubility of BTEX components is substantial: 135 - 1800 ppm
see: http://www.eugris.info/FurtherDescription.asp?e=6&Ca=2&Cy=0&T=Benzene,%2...

Yes--the dispersed oil in the plumes is in suspension; the BTEX above the plumes is in solution with few (if any) oil droplets at that level; within the plumes the BTEX has separated from the oil droplets unless there are patches where the BTEX in the water is at saturation levels.

Gobbet & widelyred

FYI the following article in the New Scientist ( http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19345-gulf-spill-is-the-oil-lurkin... ) highlights the discrepancy between BTEX studies ("horrors! it's still there") and bulk alkane studies ("the plume is gone"). It all depends on what you measure. But seriously, I'm just as concerned as the Wood's Hole people about persistent BTEX, which is much more toxic than alkanes.

From the New Scientist article, certainly a wide range of views.

In another study published this week, Robert Hallberg . . .used models to estimate how long it would take the Gulf's prevailing currents and oil-eating microbes to disperse and degrade the oil. He found that oil near the surface can abate within weeks, whereas oil trapped in the colder waters below about 1100 metres can take up to two months to disappear (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2010gl044689, in press)

[snip] Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, says that he has studied the same plume as the Woods Hole group. His results, which have yet to be published, show that microbes are rapidly eating up the plumes – so much so, he says, that the oil should already have vanished. Hazen is adamant: "The plume is no longer there. It's gone."

[snip] For starters, different groups are measuring different things. . . The Woods Hole group is looking at the degradation of monochromatic hydrocarbons known as BTEX, which stands for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes. Hazen, on the other hand, is studying long-chain hydrocarbons such as alkanes.

But the discrepancy still puzzles Steven Lohrenz, an oceanographer at the University of Southern Mississippi, Stennis Space Center campus. He is surprised by the Woods Hole group's findings. "I wouldn't expect [the BTEX] to persist for a very long time in seawater," he says.
[snip] Other microbial biologists, including Gary King of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and Jay Grimes of the University of Southern Mississippi in Ocean Springs agree with [Hazen’s] numbers.

Whichever way you look at it, the oil is actually gone. People just can't let go. Maximum level of benzene in drinking water is set at 5ppb by EPA and Health Canada. In real life benzene rarely exceeds 1ppb in open waters. Max reading of 13.6ppb is more than that, but the plume is exceeding North American drinking water standards in a few places. In most places of this plume water is drinking quality if not for the salt.

Oxygen depletion. there is 60ppm of oxygen at 1100 meters and 1ppm of oil. Yes, we see some variation at 1100m but no depletion.

As far as 75% oil left? Let's say the plume is 50km long, 20km wide and 100m deep. That is 100km^3 of water. At 1ppm uniform concentration it is 1000 tonnes HC per billion tonnes water (1km^3), times 100 km^3 = 100,000 tonnes = 700,000 barrels give or take. If 5,000,000 million barrels were spilled..

The problem is that there are too many groups with vested interests. Whom to believe? TOD of course. Government and BP want no HC in the gulf, to be done with whole affair. Scientists want high - they want to measure something and they need money for their grad students and post-docs. Environmentalists want (paradoxically) high - they have ammunition. Other groups - be my guest.

As far as depths where to find HC - most stuff will be found at depths that are equivalent to Macondo's oil bubble point (where natural gas separates from oil) and not go very far up or down. From the graphs this bubble point looks 110 atm = 1600 psi.

While I agree with you that the oil "is actually gone", or better, "is effectively gone" .. I do not share your scorn for those who remain concerned and seek lessons from the disaster that might be used to mitigate future ones. Why "effectively gone", because the HC and BTEX is likely to endure as an ugly blot, but at depths below those churned by storms or convection.

Your simple explanation that the NG fizzes out from the rising geyser at some critical depth thus leaving the HC to pool doesn't explain the fraction (25 - 50%) that got to the surface and was burnt, skimmed, weathered or fouled the shores. I would also wonder what fraction of the methane was extracted into solution by the water column at depths below the bubble point depth. That's why I prefer the hypothesis of Camassa (see thread below at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6873#comment-705521 ) which produces a stratum of HC as a result of turbulent dispersion.

Sounds like we need more science! Us scientists work on the cheap .. maybe 1% of what Bobby's extorting to build his berm. And hasn't BP pledged $500M to external research on dispersants and spill impact?

I take comfort from the EPA's master stroke in denying future DW permits, until OILCO's bring their impact statements forward from the pre-Ixtoc era that they had foisted on prior administrations .. the best kind of job security for Marine Science!

Fred, I'm guessing Bobby only got 5% of what he wanted for the berm. The rest will never materialize since the oil slicks are gone. I'm still mystified why the hydrocarbon chains would stay together. Your own link above talks about how unlikely it is for BTEX to stay together long enough for a toxicity test. It might go into solution but what keeps those carbon and hydrogen's from migrating off to greener pastures, or getting gobbled up by organisms?

As for future remediation efforts, looking to the consortium with Exxon et al, an enterprising scientist could volunteer (for a slight "fee") to analyze the efficacy of oxygenators in the vicinity of deep sea spills to catalyze the breakup of the hazardous molecules. Retrofitted mud pumps could do the job, or there might be a membrane solution I haven't thought of.

I'm guessing Bobby only got 5% of what he wanted for the berm. The rest will never materialize since the oil slicks are gone.

BP has already paid 50% ($180 million of the $360 million Jindal wants from BP for the berms). Jindal wants an additional $9 Billion from BP for other stuff.

Louisiana received its third $60 million check from BP on Tuesday to pay a share of the cost of building berms along barrier islands, and the state's coastal czar again defended the controversial use of sand as an effective tool in capturing oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Tuesday's check means the state has received half of the $360 million that BP committed
...state officials were to meet Wednesday night and today with senior Obama administration officials about their plans for the natural resource damage assessment for the spill. Jindal has recommended that BP advance as much as $9 billion to immediately begin projects that would mitigate damages to state resources.


From the New Scientist article:

Richard Camilli and colleagues at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts show in a study out this week that at one point the plume was 2 kilometres wide and 200 metres high. But their measurements were made from 19 to 22 June, before the leak was plugged early this month

Was the main rising plume from which this plume derives ever 2 km wide? I'm assuming this plume was spread out horizontally by shear currents. (Droplets would spread an equal amount vertically and horizontally by diffusion alone.)

In other words, the cross section was originally a rectangle, but is now a parallelogram. To estimate its cross-sectional area, you would need to know the original width before shearing, which would be the width of the main rising plume at the depth of origin. Were any surveys done of the width of the plume at various depths? Would be interesting info. [Edited]

Hey is ROVman in here? If so, would you please explain to me what the turbulence is in this ROV video?


If ROVman isn't available, is there someone else here who can answer my question?


Silt/sediment stuck to the tether cable, as the spool in the cradle reels it in the silt is knocked off into the water. ROV thruster(s) are running at a pretty good clip, especially the one left of the camera, you can at times see the silt being pulled into the flow and shooting out...

But when the first thing you see is the title of "major activity on the ocean floor" you're already prejudiced to think it's something other than what it is, and vivid imagination takes over from there.

I believe Joey Chitwood is driving that ROV.

And he's late to "Fast Eddie" Feigner's "King and His Court" show.

Thanks for the explanation!

Took them hours to get this shot of the level at the wellhead.



Seems like it is actually leaning quite a bit.

Good job. Thanks.

And assuming this is the most common version of that Bullseye, that puts the lean at just over 2 degrees (each ring 0.5 degrees) which is nothing to worry about, in line with the official story and about where it's been all along since the blowout. However as they do make differing scales you can't be certain.

IIRC the party line was 2-3 degrees at flex joint, zero at wellhead.

Why do you say the most common version is .05 degrees each ring? These come in lots of different scales.


* Background colour eliminates glare for improved visibility from ROV
* ±3°, ±5°, ±7°, ±10° or ±15° measurement range
* 250 or 300mm diameter options (others on request)
* Simple mounting arrangement with 3 holes in flange
* Custom sizes, ranges and graduations can be made to order
* Pressure tested to 6,000m (20,000ft)
* Precision radius gives accurate and repeatable ball movement
* Scale printed on ball surface to eliminate parallax error
* Custom built handles and bases to suit customers application. Please click here to see an example.

Why do you say the most common version is .05 degrees each ring? These come in lots of different scales.

Because it's the model the page lists by default. But I did say they come in different versions.

The level on the opposite side seems to confirm the lean.
I don't want to spam up the board with photos, so I'll just post the link.

Howdy folks (back from vacation)

throw my 2 cents here -- the lean as measured on a BOP is meaningless ...there is no true vertical DW BOP stack in the world ...the BOP is jetted and a reference (datum) is established. all subsequent tilt measurements are relative to that datum ....no one knows what the datum was ......hence shots of the bulleye say little about the current state of the BOP without knowing the datum ....(normally very few ppl have details of that level on a well ...normally 3/4 ppl with the operator and 3/4 with the drill contractor....and the BOP has withstood enough abuse to kill any suggestion of tilt concerns if there were ever any).

sidenote: before leaving for a vacation we had a BOP jetted off the coast of newfoundland ......7000' waters.....it leans 0.5 deg, 0.75 deg or 1.75 deg depending on which bullseye you are looking at and its distance from the mudline line the day it was installed ....no one batted an eyelid cuz you can't deliver a five story structure that deep on soft squishy mud and expect a true vertical axis

Welcome back. You're needed. Pic was of wellhead, not BOP.


yea was out in west indies hopping islands for a little R&R...

structurally speaking the BOP itself has no lean due to hard connection at the wellhead ....all tilt results from the area a little south of the wellhead .....the depth around 10' to 200' below the mud (BML) line is where the true vertical is lost ... above that what the bulls eye shows is simply a function of its distance from the particular spot where true vertical is lost ...sin of the angle and all the good stuff....that the reason why there are bullseye on the WH and the BOP ....cuz by using a little trigonometry and two list angles at diff heights we can actually work out approx the depth where true vertical axis is lost BML...but once the thing in there ...a degree here or there doesn't make any difference operationally....and ot be fair a bulls eye is is about as accurate a method of measuring small angular displacements as trying to eye ball the distance to a close by deer ....cuz be 20 yds cud be 23 ...long as you hold the bow steady that bucks going down at 20 or 23 ....same for a well...long as it holds steady ...0.5 deg titl is the same as a 1 deg tilt long as it holds steady

Note to Dr Bea Comparison of Santa Barbara seeps to seeps near BP well

Some of the seeps off Santa Barbara coast are coming from oil bearing formations less than 1000 ft deep. Some in the original Los Angeles field less than 100 ft deep. See LaBrea Tar pits.

Many of the Gulf Coast oilfields were formed by massive salt intrusions through porous oil bearing formation. The non porous "salt domes" formed a dam through the formations. The early day Gulf Coast oil pioneers looked for surface evidence of such a dome. Spindletop aft Beaumont was such a dome many other old fields were located the samewasy


Time to play Stump The Board. Spraying Corexit downdip?

My guess is methanol, corexit looked much whiter. Next?

Why spray methanol?

Another guess, flushing the line of seawater and gunk.

Garbage disposal? Long black tube, white rings every foot (30cm), haven't seen it before.

Well it definitely appears to be a plume, not a mysterious aura.

Rats. We're gonna need som 'o that methanol over here, too.

I was wondering where my vicodin's went.

And when color is embarrassing, just send monochrome.

Comedy? Easier than geology.

Try making a living at it...

Oh well, it is Caturday today.


(helpless with laughter)

You've gotta give BP credit for its PR:

It went from public enemy number one to some AP story on A18.

Meanwhile, the well is only becoming more complicated. After the premature celebration of industry shills on this board, it's clear that the top kill has introduced massive difficulties and new questions into the well.

The planned removal of the blowout preventer was totally unexpected, and under present conditions risks restarting the gusher.

But the public is moving right along.

I'm not so sure about ^this.
And I'm on 'your' side, just an educated and concerned citizen with some public service guilt to work off. ;o)
Looking at the data set above, the pressure is holding now at ambient, for some hours now, great news.
They took a gamble with the static kill operation, which may turn out to have been successful. I really hope it was.
I am convinced that they will redesign the bottom kill operation to fit this new condition.
Probably soon after new BOP, they will perf the case below with RW1, and test down there first.
Then they may have to perf the case higher up if they find fluid not cement in the annulus to allow flow first of flushing solution, mud, and then final cement squeezed in from the bottom up.

Watching some of the live feeds early this morning, there is still major anomalies in the seafloor South of the wellhead at 5222ft.
Whether seafloor anomalies existed before incident, is yet to be shown.
I don't want this to blow up in anyone's faces, especially American citizens.
We're all in this one together. Only one Ocean.

They took a gamble with the static kill

Killed flow measurement anyway.

The best and finest minds know how much oil flowed from that pipe.

I dislike quarrelling. It was never measured, became debatable.

You mean nobody ever metered the flow of the gusher to measure it so it hasn't been measured?
By that standard, the Moon has never been measured, either.

1) BP deserves zero credit for manipulating a public with an attention span shorter than that of a gnat.
2) The well is as complex as it ever was. It is no longer flowing oil into the Gulf.
3) The top kill eliminated certain variables and confirmed other present conditions.
4) Your comment about industry shills amuses me. Please elaborate and tell me their names.
5) Removal of the BOP was not anticipated by people who were not paying attention to the process, but was always one of several possible future courses of action. (The industry shills here would have told you this, had you thought to ask, fwiw.)
6) See item 1 above.

The manipulation has been very carefully applied. The relevant "company men" have been pulled from hearings -- either because of ostensible health problems or because one pleaded the fifth. So Congress has not been able to ask BP real, relevant questions, in public, about its likely -- I'd say blindingly obvious -- criminal negligence.

The "oil budget," which is truly no more than a bunch of guesstimates, has zapped the spill from people's consciousness. The real dispersant was in fact the NOAA report. Sold as gospel and as a clean bill of health for the Gulf, yet nothing more than an enormous speculation held up by a framework of conjecture.

Precisely what variables did the top kill eliminate that the bottom kill wouldn't have eliminated just the same, and with more certainty? Why have BP and the government gone back and forth about whether the relief wells are the final solution, with Allen finally having to invoke with much huffing and puffing his final word as the No. 1? There was likely a struggle behind the scenes about the relief well, indicating to me that the government and BP are not of one mind, further indicating that the response is more chaotic, more divisive, more uncertain than the public face lets on. You can see this in the way Admiral Allen said there was an internal "controversy" over whether the pressure readings on the cap pointed to an undersea rupture or depletion -- he quickly retracted the word "controversy," replaced it with "discussion."

I'd say that the well is now more complex than it was while capped and waiting for the relief well. BP is proposing to remove the blow-out preventer, hoping that its pressure tests give it 100% certainty that there's no communication with the reservoir. And if there is communication? And the blow-out preventer comes off.

The industry shills are a general group on here that bemoans the insignificant drilling moratorium and defends BP. This group also likes to grab hold of any information that indicates the BP spill was *not very bad*, even though it was, going by the estimates, the worst spill in history -- an utterly preventable disaster caused by an oil industry that behaves like a supranational pirate power.

A word of advice. Identify yourself. Rockman and HO are known to NPR, for instance. I'm obviously me. Trip Hannah talked to Kent Wells. Step forward. Man up, sweetie.

BP is ... hoping that its pressure tests give it 100% certainty that there's no communication with the reservoir. And if there is communication?

Surely, if the BOP is in communication with the reservoir, either the heavy mud injected in the static kill has filled the paths to the reservoir or the BOP pressure is around 7000psi. The BOP pressure is not around 7000psi.

Precisely what variables did the top kill eliminate that the bottom kill wouldn't have eliminated just the same, and with more certainty?

Time. If they didn't top kill there was a possibility they might have to leave the well venting to the open sea if a hurricane came and they had to move the ships to safety before the RW was completed.

"[BP} went from public enemy number one to some AP story on A18."
The press gets bored easily when not much seems to be happening.

premature celebration
I haven't read any here - references?

The planned removal of the blowout preventer was totally unexpected
Unexpected by whom? Obviously not by the planners. For many days prior to this, T.O.D. has been discussing the retrieval of the DWH BOP.
Timing and sequence in relation to RW are new to me, but retrieval of BOP is not unexpected at all and certainly not totally unexpected.

and under present conditions risks restarting the gusher.
The cement job has been tested, the production casing is full of heavy mud, "ambient testing" is starting (i.e. with BOP interior at same pressure as exterior). Risks should be low. No?

Yet the big question is whether the lack of communication between the reservoir and the annulus is creating dangers. BP/The Coast Guard doesn't even know if the blockage is due to cement or a "collapse in the formation" -- Allen said in a press briefing that some people ascribe it to the latter.

FT reporter: "Did the top kill... complicate things?"

Allen: "There are some that would tell you that the lack of communication between the annulus and the reservoir might not be cement -- it could be just a collapse of the formation around it. We really don't know. All we know is there's no communication."

"Yet the big question is whether the lack of communication between the reservoir and the annulus is creating dangers."

That's not the big question, it's not even a question that makes any sense.

"Yet the big question is whether the lack of communication between the reservoir and the annulus is creating dangers."

i hvn't been keeping up so i'm not sure at what point loss of pressure communication was discovered .....but this is certianly a big issue moving forward...loosing annular communication is a major issue even in the most routine of drilling operations..this can only mean either of two things
1- formation is collapsing (caving in)
2- chunks of annular cement have dislodged and moved uphole blocking the annulus somewhere
other out of way causes ....they pumped in either too heavy or delivery rate was excessive ...either way they fractured the formation and are loosing significant fluid (not likely but could be a contributing factor )

this really puts a damper on the end game with the RW....and really is one event any engg would have been hoping would not occur after they were able to shutin the well and till RW intersection......and no amount of modeling or data will answer until the BOP exchange occurs.....


3 - the casing hanger and seal were never breached, the production casing hasn't ruptured, the new cement plug is good, the reservoir (may be) isolated from the annulus by cement. How is that more complicated? That was the original intention when the well was suspended!

They could probably back off the DDII and DDIII now and finish from the top, which is the way most blowouts are sorted. Stop the fire, cap the well, kill it with mud, cement off the reservoir, fit a new BOP, fish any debris and work back up the well with abandonment plugs, perforating casing if necessary to bleed off excess annular pressure or do a remedial cement squeeze. Or, in less politically fraught circumstances, repair/replace any damaged casing and suspend the well for production.

If it was always done by relief wells, Red Adair would never have had a movie made about him.

Heh, what a bunch of nonsense. You are taking the media version of things and running with it.

They were always going to have to swap out the BOP and do a proper plug and abandon. The unexpected success of the top kill was a huge step forward and gives them options and choices that were unavailable when the relief well was the only hope.

Capping a flowing wild well at depth and top killing it are both unprecedented success stories. Some people are so disappointed that the disaster is not as large as their fevered imaginations that they just can't accept the obvious progress that has been made.

reaction at The Drillers Club:

Here we go again. If they pull off this (completely illegal) move, it will purely be due to the benevolence of Saint Barbara, the French Patron Saint of miners and oilfield workers.

I wonder what the crew turnover is like on those rigs out there at the moment. Or maybe they're getting a massive 'danger money' bonus.



except you have it wrong...once the flowing well was shut in ....running a top kill IOW pumping in heavy to make the well static is something that happens everyday ....so it was shutting the well in thats unprecedented and remarkable.....after that pumping heavy ...thats very routine.....

I don't think i need to follow media reports to understand whats what here bud.....i've been a DW drilling eng for more 13 odd years....loosing annular pressure comm is significant to the extent that if I have to explain the consequences to you then i already know you have never been near a drilling rig let alone a DW rig...and are just regurgitating what you read elsewhere

Ah, aiilaali, now you had to go and ruin BP's "unprecedented success stories."

It takes some talent to spin the biggest FUBAR in DW drilling history into "unprecedented success stories."

Also, TOB, BP's top kill plan seems to have turned into a complicated mess. Had they stuck with the original bottom kill plan, it'd be over already.

Had they stuck with the original bottom kill plan, it'd be over already.


You don't have any way to know if that statement is true. In the case of the Ixtoc wild well, the RW reached the WW in November but the flow wasn't stopped until March after a second relief well also joined in the fight. In that case the reason it was so difficult to stop is because the collapse of the drilling platform caused damage to the wells liner casing string. We still don't now if the liner casing string of the Macondo well is intact.

They seem to be confident that the annulus is at this point in time is not in communication with the producing reservoir.

I can't figure out how they can be so sure that the annulus is now sealed off from the reservoir.

The only thing I can think of is that the relief well's acoustic sensors could hear flow up the annulus before the cement was pumped and after the cementing the WW has gone silent. That to me is the only scenario that would make the RW intersection more dangerous than the BOP removal.

hi ali

easy there tiger, I think TOB was talking to pseudo not you.

TOB is I believe one of a number of guys doing a sterling job tracking the ROV movements over on the IRC channel. I think the thrust of his comment was reasonable, which is that the present situation is apparently stable and could have been a lot worse.

What you say is of course correct - loss of drillpipe/hole annular circulation while drilling can be a big deal - but the issue here that BP et al appear to be wrestling with is that they fear RW operations after casing/hole annulus intersection may cause failure of the production casing hanger in the WW with implications for the BOP/capping stack above. The sequence of events that would lead to this is quite tenuous and has been debated here extensively over the last few days, but nevertheless appears to be a scenario that BP are uncomfortable with and are trying to mitigate.

the issue here that BP et al appear to be wrestling with is that they fear RW operations after casing/hole annulus intersection may cause failure of the production casing hanger in the WW with implications for the BOP/capping stack above.


Is this really the case or is it just the Reader's Digest version being fed to the MSM?

The main concern seems to be that there are weak links in the current capability of the hardware at the wellhead to contain pressure. Switching out the BOP will upgrade the pressure rating at the wellhead.

It does appear that for some reason not very clearly explained by either Allen or Wells having higher pressure capability at the wellhead when the RW intersect occurs is desirable thing. That appears to be all we know for sure. If you think about it Bullheading the production casing really has nothing to do with that present concern about pressure capabilities. Killing the production casing didn't cause the weaknesses in the wellhead that they are now concerned about.

In other words, to my mind, BP is removing the blow out preventer because it's worried that a pocket of mud or oil in the annulus could pop the whole thing during the bottom kill. So they're screwing a new BOP on top to block another explosion.

Good thing blow out preventers work 100 percent of the time. Or is it 75 percent? Or 50?

I can't remember what the secret oil industry tests on BOPs showed...

ps - So I assume you feel it's better to go in hole with no new BOP. Could be done I suppose except for two minor problems. First, it is illegal to go in hole with dril pipe unless you have a certified BOP in place. Second, even if for some insane reason the MMS allowed it no drilling contractor would do it since since it would void their insurance coverage.

Curious: instead of replacing the BOP with a new one what is your suggestion?


hope you and the family keeps up with health

just got back after a lil work over yonder on Newfoundland and a vacation down by barbados and the islands ....

hvn't been keeping up but seems a lil weird to me ...been reading up a little on the good admiral and his updates....going in with a bit to run a fishing job seems odd to me ....i would have thought they would run in with a grappling spiral and a milling overshot tool ....unless the good adm got the terms wrong this don't make a lick of sense ....BP has gotten lucky with more than a few things but this sounds like BP be calling a hail mary play with 2:50 left in the 4th quarter....y not go with a 2 minute drill and wait for the RW ? appreciate your 2 cents if there is any geological issue in play here....cuz I can't think of any drilling case here...

truth be told can't think of any geological issue to make a case here either for what BP is planning or maybe its just a case of the good Adm being a few feet out of his depth...but i've been embarrassed more than once in times past by geologists to run my mouth before getting the go from a geologist..can ya make case here for this hurry up offense by BP ???

Still four days to go until full moon, and just look at this place already.


I think TOD is doing great. MoonofA, Rockman, lots of new points to ponder.

Sounds like the FBI's going to be there for the raising of the BOP!

lotus, I'll CLINK to that!

You got it, bebby -- ¡Salud!

Is that some kind of modified fishing tool in the picture of Enterprise – ROV 1?

Oil industry expert von Altendorf says it's a massive Corexit nozzle to cover up all the leaks from the seafloor.

Don't tell fibs. I asked for an explanation. Got any?


The reason I asked is because the end of it,when you get a close-up, looks like it is flanged so it would fit into the two sheared off stuck pipes.

Shallow Water Moratorium news...

A 3rd new shallow water well permit requiring new NTL-06 has been approved this week. The number of approved has been stuck at 2 for quite awhile.

I read the initial 2 wells were easier to get approved because they were gas and not oil.

Does anyone know if the well approved this week was gas or oil?

I'll need to see more than 3 permit approvals before I believe silent moratorium is lifted...

brit- Amazing news. I had expected the feds to take months to establish the new rules. If I have the count right this is the 5th shallow water drilling permit granted in the 3 months after the blow out. There were 57 permitted in the 3 months prior to the blow out.

Hydrocarbon Plumes without Dispersants .. rediscovered

I remembered seeing somewhere in the past, maybe not on TOD, a link to a video on how a subsurface plume could be generated through turbulent flow, without the need to have dispersants or magic balanced buoyancy. I've now retrieved it by a plodding Google video search (the secret, as always, is the search term "oil turbulence demonstration" worked for me.) Here's the video:

"The experiments were conducted by Richard McLaughlin, Ph.D., and Roberto Camassa, Ph.D., fluid dynamics experts in the mathematics department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill"

This of course raises the question of whether the sea-floor use by BP of dispersants had any effect at all on the disposition of the spill.

Hydrocarbon Plumes without Dispersants

Maybe, but the green stuff in the demonstration is alcohol.

Camassa provides an "I told you so" in this interview in yesterday's Science News article on the Wood's Hole findings.


Empirically it seems so. Early on during the spill BP wasn't applying dispersant; they had to ask and receive (EPA?) permission to run tests on applying it at the leaks. The tests seemed to show the application reduced oil reaching the surface. These results seemed to be enough to get continued permission to apply the dispersant.

The EPA website has a few documents provided by BP claiming that dispersant applied at depth had a postive effect.

Of course, reports can be presented in a way that hides key data. Other reports I've read focused on applying dispersant on surface of water rather than at depth.

Here's a report I enjoyed reading that explains what happens to oil in sea-water:

Brit0310 & Speaker,

My problem with believing that source-applied dispersants played a significant role in plume generation (and its disappearance) came from just looking at those dispersant wands placed next to the venting oil and wondering, "do they really expect effective mixture of those two streams ??". I just didn't believe it then and await some proof that a "good college try" .. however well argued to the EPA and well supported by equally well-mixed demonstration studies .. played a crucial role. The jet dispersal studies of Camassa provide a mechanism that doesn't require, but is benefited from, dispersant. It has the additional virtue of predicting the deep sea stratification observed with HC by the UGA survey and for BTEX by Woods Hole.

I don't understand what you mean by plume generation (and its disappearance).

Dispersant does not remove oil. It only lowers its concentration in the sea water. The effect of lowering the concentration is to increase the rate at which normal biodegration will occur. One of my questions is what is the population of microbes at that depth that are able to biodegrade oil. If there are no microbes, the oil will remain as plumes. The reports I've read cannot directly measure microbe population. Instead, they measure oxygen reduction. And the reports show little oxygen reduction and that indicates little microbial biodegration of oil. Therefore, there should be plumes.

I also question that dispersant has had much of an effect but my reason hasn't been written anywhere. And I will probably get trolled big-time for saying this reason. The amount of dispersant applied relative to amount of oil released is too small for much of an impact by dispersant. Think about it. BP says they released 4.1 million barrels of oil into Gulf. Also, they say they dispersed 18,363 barrels of dispersant (771,272 gallons * 1 barrel/42 gallons). Well, 18,383/4,100,000 = .44%

Another question I've been unable to answer is how much oil attaches to how much dispersent. My formula above assumes 1:1 but elsewhere I've read its 1:5.

Anyway, like the plume, I'm floating in a sea of uncertainty...

Maybe I'm missing the point, but the whole idea of dispersents, is to add a product to the target material that causes the surface tension of the target material to break down. Thus the ratio of dispersent to target material determines the resultant target particle size. No loss of original material only smaller gloms. So the "dispersed" material is still available to form a plume. If there were 1 part dispersent to 1 part target i.e. 1:1, then the resultant product is going to be very fine, nearly microscopic. If Brit's numbers are correct i.e. 4.1 million barrels of oil to 18,363 barrels of dispersent then the ratio is 1:223 and the resultant particles of oil should be relatively large. I suspect the ratio is much lower though.


My misgivings about dispersant efficacy had less to do with its ratio to HC, than with the improbability that it could be mixed throughout the oil gusher in the feeble way they were applying it. The intended effect of dispersant is to reduce not the concentration of the oil but to reduce the size of individual particles. This increases geometrically the surface area of a given mass of oil that becomes available for biodegradation. Since detergent is aligned as a monomolecular film on the surface of oil droplets, it shouldn't take that much to do the trick.
But soap isn't the only way to create fine particles of oil. The math guys at UNC say that the turbulence of the gusher entering water should achieve the same effect .. and a bit of soap makes it even merrier.

Sorry for going off-topic on you with the ratio thang.

Yes, effect of dispersant is to reduce size of individual particles. I guess that means a large drop of oil would turn into many smaller drops of oil. The report I read says sea water energy moves a small oil drop faster than it moves a big oil drop. So, disbursent increases the affect of turbulence. I may have used wrong word when I said concentration. The report showed dispersant sprayed on an oil slick and the oil visibly dropped into sea water. The amount of oil didn't change. The total volume with oil particles dramatically changed. And that is the reason I used the word concentration.

And yes, turbulance is a great way to break up oil. Your thoughts make me think of pressure washing my driveway. This could be done with water alone. But cleaning will be quicker if a soap is added to water.

BP says they released 4.1 million barrels of oil into Gulf. Also, they say they dispersed 18,363 barrels of dispersant (771,272 gallons * 1 barrel/42 gallons). Well, 18,383/4,100,000 = .44%

BP doesn't say how much oil was released. The govt. says 4.1 million barrels.

My understanding is the dispersant forms a thin skin on the outside surface of an oil droplet, so not much is needed.

IIRC, dispersant was initially sprayed from aircraft and ships directly onto the slick. But because this is A) expensive and B) lots of dispersant missed the slick (which was in skeins) and went straight into the water, BP proposed that they spray dispersant into the plume at depth.

This had never been done before, and the question was, how much to spray. Initially, a govt. panel recommended a 1:50 ratio, later amended to a 1:100 ratio.

So if BP sprayed 18.3k bbl, that means they estimated that 1.8 million barrels of oil spilled from the time of commencing deep-water dispersant ops.

I've received great feedback, so let my modify formula.

USG says 4.1 million barrels of oil was released into Gulf. Also, it is said 18,363 barrels of dispersant (771,272 gallons * 1 barrel/42 gallons) was dispersed subsea. Nalco's website suggests a dispersant application ratio of 1:50 and I've read this should be modified to 1:100.

So, total oil attaching to dispersant is 18,363 * 100 = 1,836,300 barrels. Percent of oil impacted is 1,836,300/4,100,000 = 44%.

I also read that Corexit is 56% effective but I don't know what that exactly means. It may change impacted oil to 25%.

...they dispersed 18,363 barrels of dispersant (771,272 gallons * 1 barrel/42 gallons).

Let's be clear: BP applied 771,272 gallons of dispersant subsea.

Surface application amounted to an additional 1,072,514 gallons, for a grand total of 1,843,786 gallons of dispersant (43,900 barrels).


Acornus, thanks for the link to the Halliburton log.

The log makes it obvious.

20:00 Log begins.

20:02 Begin displacing riser with seawater. (Could be resumption of riser displacement begun prior to 20:00.)

20:16 Sudden rise is gas units. (This may or may not be significant.)

20:24 Riser flow up commences 22 minutes after displacement pumping starts. (Speculation: Down-flow for 22 minutes with no up-flow. It had to go somewhere. This is when they blew out shoe track cement.)

20:50 Riser flow up decreases.

20:51 SPP reduced. Drillpipe flow down decreases.

20:59 Riser flow up decreases. SPP reduced further. Drillpipe flow down decreases. (In that order.)

21:08 SPP reduced further. Drillpipe flow down stops. Riser flow up stops. (Sheen test?) (Note slow rise in SPP.)

21:14 (Things start getting out of sync.) Drillpipe flow down commences. SPP climbs.

21:16 Riser flow up commences. Increases way beyond drillpipe flow down.

21:18 SPP reduced. Drillpipe flow down stops. Riser flow up continues.

21:20 SPP increased. Drillpipe flow down commences. Riser flow up increases way beyond drillpipe flow down, with volume spikes.

21:24 SPP slowly reduced. Drillpipe flow down continues unchanged. Riser flow up continues unchanged.

21:30 SPP reduced further (pumps shut off?). Drillpipe flow down stops. Riser flow up stops. (They know something is wrong.)

21:31 (Assuming pumps are off. No drillpipe flow down. No riser flow up.) SPP slowly rises.

21:34 SPP reaches 1750 and stabilizes.

21:36 SPP drops to 700 fluctuating.

21:38 SPP climbs to 1475, holds momentarily, and starts dropping.

21:42 SPP bottoms out at 450 and starts climbing.

21:47 SPP spikes off the chart.

Note: These are personal observations put forth as opinion, not fact. Facts will be determined by formal investigation.

Appears the well was signaling its intentions: gurgling, bubbling. I'm reminded of Yellowstone geysers getting ready to erupt.

You know I thought about that too. In the Yellowstone geysers I have imagined the phase changes between supper heated water trying to establish the boiling process sending up a few bubbles or spurts then some impurity or wild card setting the whole thing shooting skyward and never boiling. Just like super heating a cup of water in a microwave or oven.

I have no oil industry experience, but I can study this Halliburton log and see what was happening. Based on my reading of log, at 21:14 - 21:18 when things got out of sync they should have assumed well was flowing.

If Vidrine was watching his monitor as he claims, and was seeing the same readings, in my opinion he should have decided well was flowing and initiated action to shut it in.

In my opinion riser displacement was a critical time and everyone should have been alert for any sign of a kick. Based on my reading of this log, there were plenty of signs.

Again, these are my personal observations and opinions, not intended to be taken as fact.

ROCKMAN /RF73B and others on this sub-thread.
I have been working through RF's notations and 21:14 to 21:18 period does appear to be significant. As ROCK said previously, this chart went before your Commerce Committee, it could be THE crucial document. I have not found any Q&A transcripts anywhere, that says that committee put it under a microscope; I will keep looking.
In my business, large steam turbo-generator performance; If we had an incident this big, we would be downloading all the computer logs; taking all the printing recorder charts and all the control transaction logs (which button/knob was pressed/turned and when)and locking them away.

What does surprise me in this case, is the apparent lack of "running interlocks". On power plant, conventional and nuclear, there are extensive primary and secondary running interlocks to stop operators doing silly things. In the power case; if there is a situation where for some reason A plus B does not add up to C, then the running interlocks would do D. No questions asked; no phone calls.

There are also some very big questions about maintenance safe working procedures on these rigs. Nobody seams to physically lock (electrically and mechanically) equipment in safe positions and put all the keys in a "lockout box"; before they issue a permit for working, which would have a master key attached to it. In most cases the guy responsible for the work, would lock the permit with his own safety lock. (The lack of this power plant safety procedure blew up Piper Alpha).

I've been looking at that chart trying to puzzle out what was going on that that initial spike at 20:16 went un noticed followed by the prosaic things 'out of synch' which should have had alarm bells going off all over the place.

something just doesn't add up.

and 11 men are dead. essentially at their stations.

did they expect to ride out the kick?

with mud in the crown?

or was this no one directly in charge saying "shut her down now!" (apologies ladies that's the way it would have been said, more likely shut that b#$%& down, now!)

Quite a large shit storm tonight.

May be OT but I hope someone can forward this to Tony Hayward to help him get started on his Russian adventure...


Nobody should be made to suffer in such a way as that.

LOL! - Wasn't Latka Armenian?

Yeah, like Perry Como on bad acid...

Yeah, like Perry Como on bad acid...

Eduard Khil. Don't sell him short; he was a pretty darn good singer in his day:


Yes he was! He was a master of melody, most of which is lost in todays music.

And what presence. (I suppose it's just as well we can't understand the lyrics, though.)

Y'all, who's the Russian singer with the five-octave range? Can't get his name to come back, but what pipes!

I watched this old movie the other night and Maureen O'Hara's stooge part in it reminded me of Dougr, Matt Simmons and avonaltendorf.

BP is played by Lucille Ball.

avonaltendorf is the last dancer we have now.


Burlesque is your notion of dance. Very revealing.

This is dance, crumb.

"This video has been removed due to terms of use violation."

New link. Cyd Charrisse "Sombrero" (solo)

That was great.

I like this one too.


Excellent A Von. That's about the best dance number I've seen in a while!

Cyd Charrisse "Sombrero" (solo)

Good God.

Cyd in a bit more sophisticated mode (with something for the ladies as well):


There has apparently been a blowout event.

I do wish you wouldn't do that. All I see are three completely blurred pictures that might as well be a paint chart. I can't see how they support your title. I can't see how you think they might support any idea at all - about what is going on.

So far as I can tell, these triptychs just weigh down TOD and make it slower to load.

Any chance you could, in future, park the images elsewhere, explain yourself concisely in words and provide links to any images that you feel support your conjecture.

Just a thought.

Just a thought.

An excellent one, too, for both TOD's bandwidth and AvonA's reputation. Thank you, RGB.

BLITZER: As we speak, no oil now for more than a month has flown into the Gulf of Mexico?

ALLEN: I think it needs to be pointed out, since the 15th of July, there have been no hydrocarbons released in the Gulf. That's correct.


Well done, Admiral. "Released" versus "flown".

fly, flew, (have, has, had) flown

flow, flowed, (have, has, had) flowed

Which is why Allen used "released"--he didn't want to appear to be correcting Blitzer.

"Flown"? So that's what Blitzer really saided?

Thad understands with whom he is dealing.
When you're in the Shitzu Ration Room, you best be on your toes.
(Go at the king, you best not miss...)

*** The only other possibility is a once in 5000-year shelf collapse ***

Edit: to explain what that means. Sediment and silt piles up on the shelf break and once in a great while collapses like a big underwater landslide. Mud, silt, sand and shaly crap slides down with great turbidity, a cloud of crap. Could be that's what happened. Very rare event.

Zero visibility at the well.

Feeds are blinking out. Skandi gone.

It's over. Feeds blanked out, ROVs being withdrawn.

feeds look decent, having somw of teh usual intermittent connection problems , but nice BOP closeups from Ocean Intervention ROV 1

Derp. (Medications required.)

Independent confirmation requested. Comfy? Undertow? anybody?

Six undersea live feeds, one on the surface and one saying returning to surface not recording.

Doesn't appear too much going on at the minute..what did you see..?


Is duct tape and plastic sheeting effective protection from a mantle plume eruption? Just hope I have enough. Guess it's time to put the cats down, limited emergency rations in the fallout shelter and all.

Damn BP, damn them to hell. Since we know for a fact the wellhead blew out of the seafloor and there's no way to stop it, they must be running old footage since some of them show clear water and routine work going on at the stack. I bet all the surface vessels are at least on fire by now, maybe a few of them have already gone under. Poor bastards. All the pressure data was faked, too. That well was never at ambient, no way. Must have really been at 100,000psi like Simmons said. I feel like such a fool, but at least we won't live long enough for it to matter.

Just for a few minutes, please, cut out the sarcasm and just report what you see. I know you have great video capture software on your computer.

It's oh-kay, don't fret.
You can draft and publish a public apology if you're wrong.
That will make everyone forget any lunatic ravings you may have posted.

I think they're trying to manually kill the BOP. The only way I can capture brief glimpses of this operation is to relaunch relaunch relaunch...

Could be I have a bad ISP (Verizon). What do you see?

Connections keep dropping, yes, but when it works nothing looks notably different than earlier tonight. Olympic Challenger feed is the only one that doesn't drop out, and that ROV just made another trip up to get another transponder buoy - just like it did at least once earlier before the 'trouble' started.

OI3 and Sub C ROVs have been working with Craftsman combination wrenches all day, Sub C idle right now but when OI3 feed is up, it's doing the same stuff it was doing earlier. I imagine there's stuff to be done before the cap/BOP can be pulled, nothing I've seen says they're doing anything other than that.

My ISP likes to do 'maintenance' around midnight on Fridays when all the squares are supposed to be asleep, I'd guess something like every 3rd Friday my connection is totally down for 1-3 hours. (Sad thing is, internet here goes out less often than the damn electricity.)

Well this is a switch from the earlier speculation that BP engineers planned all along to use the capping stack to close in the well, and not - as it had been billed - primarily as part of a better containment solution. This version attributes the switch in thinking to Chu. Was it his idea? or, like clever teenagers, did the engineers let "dad" think it was his inspiration? The organizational dynamics in Houston alone the past 100+ days must have been fascinating.

The new cap changed everything. Although it was designed to siphon oil to the surface, the new system created another possibility: Engineers could simply shut in the well.

Chu said the BP engineers had assumed, after the "top kill" failed, that the well had a loss of "integrity" somewhere down below the wellhead, with breaches that let the mud from the operation surge into the rock formation instead of straight down the well.

"I said, 'No, I don't think so, there's another scenario,' " Chu said. The well, he said, might have integrity after all. That opened the possibility, he said, for the "integrity test." They could close the well and see what happened.


Geologists consulted by Chu gave him some reassurance. They said that the kind of formations below the well could potentially heal after a lateral blowout. But the timing was critical. A lateral blowout would have to be detected quickly, via pressure readings, seismic surveys or visual inspection of new leaks. The well would have to be reopened at the top before the situation got out of control.

And so the integrity test went forward. A robotic submersible closed the final valve on the evening of July 15. The horrid black plume of oil, the gusher that haunted the nation, quickly vanished.


Incidentally, many of the quotes in the article related to the concept of "responsible party" apparently came from Allen's appearance today at the National Press Club, where he discussed that at some length.

This story does not really resolve anything on that issue.

From the WaPo article:

BP engineers and the government scientists come from different cultures. In general, the engineers want to plunge ahead, and the scientists want to go slower.

"We helped them see that there are dangers lurking here, and there and everywhere," Energy Secretary Steven Chu told The Washington Post. "The Department of Energy is in charge of the nuclear arsenal. . . . This is no messing around. In our culture, you want to make sure that nothing can go wrong."

The response to the disaster would have been different, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said after the well had been plugged with cement, had the administration not "pushed at every step of the way" for BP to "do things more comprehensively and faster."

(My bold.) The Gibbs quote in the third paragraph seems to contradict the first two. What am I missing?

This version attributes the switch in thinking to Chu. Was it his idea? or, like clever teenagers, did the engineers let "dad" think it was his inspiration?

Perhaps we'll never know. A successful idea has a dozen parents, an unsuccessful idea is an orphan.

How does one fish out a drill pipe that is encased in a few thousand vertical feet of cement? I realize that no one knows whether or not the DP is actually encased, but assume for the moment it is, how does one remove it? "Fishing" seems to weak a word.


One doesn't. One would drill it out, I believe, if they needed it out.

However, there is a different set of facts in this situation:
1) 13,000' of well below the wellhead.
2) Drill string was in the TOP 3000' of the well at the time of the incident.
3) Cement has been placed in the BOTTOM 5000' of the well recently.

If any portion, or all, of the string had fallen to the bottom of the well prior to the cement being placed, or prior to the cement curing, nobody cares because there is still at least 2000' of solid cement left.

If any or all fell subsequent to the cement curing, then it might be in a heck of a mess, and difficult to fish. But would anybody care? There would still be a minimum of 5000' unobstructed at the top of the well for setting abandonment plugs and accessing the annulus.

If any or all is still hanging from the top, none of that portion is encased in cement, there is at least 5000' between the end of the pipe and any cement.

(NON-oilfield EE)

This is labelled 'Hydrate Inspection'

I have to go to bed. Maybe everything will be just ducky tomorrow. That would be nice.

Won't that "once in 5000-year shelf collapse" be causing a tsunami? Shouldn't you be fleeing to high ground instead of sleeping?

A false alarm, also called a nuisance alarm, is the phony report of an emergency, causing unnecessary panic and/or bringing resources (such as emergency services) to a place where they are not needed. Over time, repeated false alarms in a certain area may cause occupants to start to ignore all alarms, knowing that each time it will probably be a fake. The concept of this can be traced at least as far back as Aesop's story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, where many episodes of a boy falsely yelling "wolf" caused the townspeople to ignore his cries when a real wolf came. In addition, false alarms have the potential of diverting emergency responders away from legitimate emergencies, which could ultimately lead to loss of life. The term "false alarm" is actually a misnomer, and is regularly replaced by the term "nuisance alarm."

Just sayin'.

A duck also floats in water, like oil.

Or something. Whatever. I like it.

Transcript from Thad Allen interview on Charlie Rose:
http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11179# (click on "transcript")

Not available on Hulu even though most other Charlie Rose shows are available there.

A couple of interesting excerpts.

CHARLIE ROSE: So the people who want accountability, in your judgment, will have their day?

THAD ALLEN: They will. They will.

CHARLIE ROSE: What questions to this day do you want answers and you don’t know the answers?

THAD ALLEN: Well, I think what we need to know and what will come out of the investigation itself is what happened in the well that night. I don’t want to presuppose the outcome of these investigations. They’re under way and need to run their course.

But we really need to know the performance of the systems, the safety systems. We had a failsafe system that was supposed to work but didn’t.

CHARLIE ROSE: It didn’t. Why do you think it didn’t work?

THAD ALLEN: Well, I think we’re not going to know until these investigations are done. But it’s going to be critically important. That’s the reason as we move to take out the blowout preventer, that’s almost a metaphorical black box at this point. The forensics will need to be done on that in addition to the statements taken and the other forensic
evidence that has been gathered, and the joint investigation team will be looking at that in consultation of the Department of Justice.

CHARLIE ROSE: You have said that the Gulf crisis, a, is unprecedented. We all know that. But you have also said it’s closer to Apollo 13 than the Exxon Valdez.

THAD ALLEN: That’s true.

CHARLIE ROSE: Explain that.

THAD ALLEN: Well, first of all, the source of the oil has no human access. We’re dealing with technologies that have never been used at 5,000 feet.

CHARLIE ROSE: Below the ocean surface.

THAD ALLEN: All we know that’s going on down there is what we see through remotely operated vehicles and remote sensing. So everything is a model of what’s going on down there, but what we’ve been able to capture in terms of data and video, nothing represents absolute reality you can touch.

That’s the reason the current discussion about the condition of that an us will and how pressure may build up it in, there’s things we don’t do know, things we won’t know until the well is killed. And we’re going to have to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty with incomplete information. And that’s never easy.

Anyways, interesting interview in that it shows some of the Adm.'s perspectives and some of the dynamics involved with the science/gov/BP/engineers merry-go-round.

(edited for link clarity)

Not available on Hulu

FS, clicking on Allen's photo there starts the video (a good preview of his National Press Club talk and Q&A yesterday, wasn't it?). I appreciated the whole conversation but especially noted how deftly he segued from Rose's question (paraphrased), "What is it about you, that in a crisis, people immediately say, 'Get me Thad Allen,'" to a discussion of lessons learned.

My overall impression from this and Achenbach's story: We -- and BP -- lucked out that Obama knew where to find Steve Chu and Thad Allen when he needed them. (Actually, that's been my impression for a long time now.)

Yup! although I challenge the word "luck." I call it a win for the people with brains larger than paranoid peas. :) Can we "clank" early morning coffee mugs on that?

We sho' can, if you don't mind that mine's got tea in it. (Twining's Irish Breakfast, strong, no milk.)

Nut passage from the Times-Pic's lede story today:

... Richard Campanella, a geographer at Tulane University, said that in very important ways, the two events are polar opposites. Katrina destroyed coastal infrastructure, but not the fisheries and energy resources, he said. By contrast, the oil spill took out the fish and the oil exploration work, but hasn't coated a single house, road, boat or store.

In metro New Orleans, the picture is slightly different, but the end result could be the same, Campanella said. Katrina ravaged everything, both the infrastructure and the resources. This time, only a segment of the city's resources -- tourism, seafood and oil and gas businesses, along with the community's offshore and seaside recreation options -- seem to be affected, but there's an underlying sense that those are critical to New Orleans' health and survival. ...

And this from a shrimper:

... Robin had yet another setback when he was using his trawler for BP spill cleanup work and cut off his finger in an accident. He said that was the final blow. He's going to a therapist for the first time in his life, and the doctor was bowled over to learn about all the traumas he'd endured in silence over the past five years. The fury had built up inside him by the time former BP chief executive Tony Hayward made his infamous gaffe, telling a news reporter that he wanted his life back.

"If that sumbitch Hayward came to me, I'd probably kill him and throw him overboard and feed him to the crabs," Robin said. "It just burns me up." ...

Sun Herald headlines:

Mississippi Sound north of barrier islands open for crabbing

Locals pin hopes on Feinberg’s claims process

Go check out the Press-Register's oil-spill menu yourself -- too much to list here.

Anybody have a guess as to the water temps at the depths the plumes were reported to be in?


found in low abundances in unpolluted environments in the upper layers of the ocean, but quickly becomes the predominant microbe in oil-contaminated open oceans and coastal waters when nitrogen and phosphorus are not limiting... The optimial conditions described for A.borkumensis growth include temperatures in the range of 20-30 degrees celsius, and a NaCl concentration of 3-10%...

40°F, wasn't it?

(Every time I see "A.borkumensis," I visualize a little varmint with fuzzy red hair and beard and extreme rightwing notions of the law. You too?)

Two too funny in a row. Huffing benzene, IQ and the law - TOD, a little for everyone ;-) Well seen - g

Glad you enjoyed that, gus. We owe it all to Twinings.

Was when measured but I'm wondering if temps at depth warm up a tad as the surface continues to warm. 40F isn't hospitable.

I key on the Alcanivorax part. Much more impressive.

"Alcanivorax" has a ring, awright. Sort of "early Schwartzenegger" er sumpin'.

I swear, does BP intentionally seek out management types with low social IQs? Now I'm reading in the Chronicle about the manager of the Texas City plant's Hayward-worthy email to employees and contractors re his "emotional center" and his "instinctive center" and his "intellectual center."

Seems they'd be more favorably impressed if he'd bothered to mention the benzene and whatnot they were breathing unawares in April and May . . .

Technocrats are awesome, aren't they?
Borderline Asperger's with narcissistic tendencies, perhaps.

You've got to be a special duck to keep costs (people) in line yet understand the technical production processes. A genius duck, with emotional, instinctive and intellectual centers!

Thanks, SL. When Salazar's spokesman says, "The reality on the ground suggests that the impacts are less than we initially projected as a potential worst-case scenario," it makes me wonder what those were. Do you recall hearing anything like that, back when?