Lessons from the Gulf blowout

Learning (the right lessons, hopefully) from the Gulf of Mexico disaster. Also, a transcript of an radio call in of an eyewitness account (provided by geologist Jimmy Haigh) follows this article.

Guest post by Paul Driessen

click image for slideshow

Transocean’s semi-submersible drilling vessel Deepwater Horizon was finishing work on a wellbore that had found oil 18,000 feet beneath the seafloor, in mile-deep water fifty miles off the Louisiana coast. Supervisors in the control cabin overlooking the drilling operations area were directing routine procedures to cement, plug and seal the borehole, replace heavy drilling fluids with seawater and extract the drill stem and bit through the riser (outer containment pipe) that connected the vessel to the blowout preventer (BOP) on the seafloor.

Suddenly, a thump and hiss were followed by a towering eruption of seawater, drilling mud, cement, oil and natural gas. The BOP and backup systems had failed to work as designed, to control the massive amounts of unexpectedly high-pressure gas that were roaring up 23,000 feet of wellbore and riser.

Gas enveloped the area and ignited, engulfing the Horizon in a 500-foot high inferno that instantly killed eleven workers. Surviving crewmen abandoned ship in covered lifeboats or jumped 80 feet to the water.

The supply boat Tidewater Damon Bankston rushed to the scene and helped crewmen get their burned and injured colleagues aboard. Shore-based Coast Guard helicopters tore through the night sky to brave the flames and take critically injured men to hospitals.

Thirty-six hours later, the Deepwater Horizon capsized and sank, buckling the 21-inch diameter riser and breaking it off at the rig deck. Three leaks began spewing some 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of crude oil per day into the ocean. As the oil gathered on the surface and drifted toward shore, it threatened a major ecological disaster for estuaries, marine life and all who depend on them for their livelihoods.

Thankfully, after getting rough for a couple days, the seas calmed. Industry, Coast Guard, NOAA and Minerals Management Service (MMS) crews and volunteer from Louisiana to Alaska had some time to recalculate the spill’s trajectory, deploy oil skimmer boats and miles of containment booms, and burn some of the oil off the sea surface. They lowered ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) to cap the end of the riser and spray chemicals that break down and disperse the oil.

Aircraft sprayed more dispersants over floating oil, and technicians hurried to build and deploy heavy cofferdams specially designed to sit atop the broken riser and BOP stack, collect the leaking oil and pipe it up to tanker barges. Drill ships are heading to the scene, to drill relief wells, intersect the original hole, cement it shut and permanently stop the leak. ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips and many other companies have offered BP, Transocean and Halliburton assistance on all these fronts.

How bad will the disaster be? Much depends on how long the calm weather lasts, how quickly the cofferdams can be installed, and how successful the entire effort is. There is some cause for optimism – and much need for prayer, crossed fingers and hard work.

But it will take weeks to years of uncontrolled leakage, before this spill comes close to previous highs, such as the:

* Santa Barbara Channel oil platform blowout (1969): 90,000 barrels off the California coast;

* Mega Borg tanker (1990): 121,400 barrels in the Gulf of Mexico off Galveston, TX;

* Exxon Valdez tanker (1989): 250,000 barrels along 1,300 miles of untouched Alaska shoreline;

* Ixtoc 1 oil platform blowout (1979): 3,500,000 barrels in Mexico’s Campeche Bay;

* Saddam Hussein oil field sabotage (1991): 857,000,000 barrels in Kuwait;

* Natural seeps in US waters: 1,119,000 barrels every year from natural cracks in the seafloor.

Cold water and climate meant Alaska’s Prince William Sound recovery was slow; Campeche beaches and coastal waters largely rebounded much more rapidly. Mississippi River flows through the warm Delta region may help keep some oil from pushing too far into the estuaries and speed recovery of oyster, shrimp and fishing areas, as it did with spills during pre-1960 drilling. Prayers and crossed fingers again.

Should we stop drilling offshore? We can hardly afford to. We still need to drill, so that we can drive, fly, farm, heat our homes, operate factories and do everything else that requires reliable, affordable petroleum. Indeed, over 62% of all US energy still comes from oil and gas. And we certainly need the jobs and revenues that US offshore energy development generates.

We’ve already banned drilling in ANWR, off the Florida, Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and in many other areas. We’ve made it nearly impossible to mine coal or uranium, or build new coal-fired power plants or nuclear reactors. We’ve largely forced companies to drill in deep Gulf waters, where risks and costs are far higher, and the ability to respond quickly and effectively to accidents is lower.

We’ve also forced companies to take drilling risks to foreign nations – and then increased the risks of tanker accidents that cause far greater spillage when they bring that oil to America. Meanwhile, Russia, China and Cuba are preparing to drill near the same Gulf and Caribbean waters that we’ve made off limits – employing their training, technologies, regulations and ecological philosophies.

Even with this blowout and its 1969 Santa Barbara predecessor, America’s offshore record is excellent. Since 1969, we have drilled over 1,224,00 wells in state waters and on the Outer Continental Shelf. There have been 13 losses of well control involving more than 50 barrels: five were less than 100 barrels apiece; one was a little over 1,000 barrels; two (both in 1970) involved 30,000 barrels or more. Only in Santa Barbara (so far) did significant amounts of oil reach shore and cause serious environmental damage.

Globally, tankers have spilled four times more oil than drilling and production operations, often in much bigger mishaps, often in fragile areas – and chronic discharges from cars and boats dwarf tanker spills by a factor of eight. (All spill data are from the MMS and National Research Council.)

What should we do next? Recognize that life, technology and civilization involve risks. Humans make mistakes. Equipment fails. Nature presents us with extreme, unprecedented, unexpected power and fury.

Learn the right lessons from this tragic, catastrophic, probably preventable accident. Avoid grandstanding and kneejerk reactions. Replace people’s lost income. Insist on responsible, adult thinking – and a thorough, expert, non-politicized investigation. Find solutions instead of assigning blame.

Why did the BOP and backups fail? What went wrong with the cement, plugs and pressure detection devices, supervisor and crew monitoring and reactions, to set off the catastrophic chain of events? How can we improve the technology and training, to make sure such a disaster never happens again? Did the regulators fail, too? How can we improve oil spill cleanup technologies and rapid response?

Ask what realistic alternatives we have. Not “Sim USA” and virtual energy. Real energy.

Can we afford to shut down our domestic oil and gas industry – economically, ecologically and ethically – and import more, as we export risks to other countries, and shift risks from drilling accidents to tanker accidents? Can we afford to replace dozens of offshore rigs with thousands of towering offshore wind turbines, creating obstacle courses for ships laden with bunker fuel or crude oil?

Drilling in deep waters far from shore is a complex, difficult, dangerous business. Let us remember and pray for the eleven who died, those who were burned and injured, and their families and loved ones. Let us also pray for all who daily risk life and limb, to bring us the energy that makes our lives, jobs and living standards possible – and for all whose lives have been affected by the spill.

[To learn more about offshore drilling and production and this accident, visit the NOAA emergency response page, Open Choke Deepwater Horizon spill page, and Drilling Ahead oil professionals network.]

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.

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ADDENDUM: This is a radio transcript done by Jimmy Haigh, of a caller to the Mark Levin Radio Show, who was an eyewitness. Levin independently corroborated the identity of the caller (off-air) and thus this represents an eyewitness account.

Here is the URL of the radio interview:

http://www.marklevinshow.com/Article.asp?id=1790422&spid=32364

================================

TRANSCRIPT:

ML: James, Dallas, Texas. WBAP – go right ahead.

James: I just wanted to clear up a few things with the Petroleum Engineer. Everything he said was correct, I was actually on the rig when it exploded, I was at work, we just…

ML: Slow down, hold on a moment, so, you were working on this rig, when it exploded?

James: Yes Sir.

ML: Okay, go ahead.

James: We had set the bottom cement plug for the inner casing string which was a production liner for the well and had set what’s called a seal assembly in the top of the well. At that point the BOP stack you’ve been talking about, the Blow Out Preventor, was tested. Ah, don’t know the results of that tes, whatever, it must have passed because at that point they elected to displace the riser, the marine riser, from the vessel to the sea floor they displaced all the mud out of the riser preparing to unlatch from the well two days later so they displace it with sea water. Ah, when they concluded the tests to the BOP stack and the inner liner they concluded everything was good..

ML: Okay, let me slow you down, let me slow you down. So they do all these tests to makesure that the infrastructure can handle what’s about to happen?

James: Correct. We’re testing the negative pressure and positive pressure of the well, the casing and the actual marine riser.

ML: Okay. I’m with you. Go ahead.

James: So after the conclusion of the test they simply opened the BOP stack back up.…

ML: And the test, as best as you know, was sufficient?

James: It should have been, yes Sir, they would have never opened it back up.

ML: Okay. Next step? Go ahead.

James: Next step they opened the annular, ah, the upper part of the BOP stack…

ML: Which has as its purpose? Why do you do that?

James: So that you can gain access back to the wellbore. You close the stack, that’s basically a humungous hydraulic valve that is closing off everything from below and above. It’s like a gate valve on the sea floor. That’s a very simplistic way of explaining a BOP, it’s a very complicated piece of equipment.

ML: Basically it’s a plug. Go ahead.

James: Correct. Basically Once they opened that plug to go ahead and start cementing the top of the well, the well bore, they cement the top and then we would pull off, another rig would slot over and do the rest of the completion work. When they opened the well is when the gas, the well kicked and we took a humungous gas bubble kick up through the wellbore. It literally pushed the seawater all the way to the crown of the rig which is about 240 feet in the air.

ML: Okay. So gas got into it and blew the top off. Now, don’t hang up. I want to continue with you because I want to ask you some questions for later OK? Including, including, has this sort of thing ever happened before? And why you think it may have happened. OK?

I’m back with “James”. That’s not his real name, Dallas WBAP. I’m not going to give the working title of what you did there either but I wanted to finish. So, the gentleman was right about the point that, obviously, some gas got into the – I’ll call it the funnel, OK?

James: Correct. And that’s not uncommon, Mark. Any time you’re drilling an oil well there’s a constant battle between what the mud weight, the drilling fluid that we use to maintain pressure on the wellbore itself, there’s a balance of the well pushing gas the one way and you’re pushing mud the other way. There’s a delicate balance has to be maintained at all times for keeping the gas from coming back in, in these what we call ‘kicks’, ah, we always get gas back in the mud, ah, but the goal of the whole situation is to try to control the kick and not allow the pressure differential between the vessel and the wellbore.

ML: But in this case obviously too much gas got in.

James: Correct. This well had not a bad history of producing lots of gas, ah, it was touch and go, you know, a few times, but it’s not terribly uncommon. You’re almost always going to get gas back from a well. We have systems to deal with the gas.

ML: So what may have happened here?

James: Well the volume, the sheer volume and pressure of gas that hit all at once was more than the safety, the controls we had in place could handle.

ML: And that’s not, I mean, is that like a mistake on somebody’s part? Or maybe it’s just Mother Nature every now and then kicks up or what?

James: Mother Nature every now and then kicks up and the pressures that we’re dealing with out there within the .., drilling deeper and deeper, you know, in deeper water, deeper overall volume, of the hole depth itself , you you’re dealing with 30 to 40 thousand pounds per square inch range. They’re serious pressures.

ML: By the way, we just verified – not to offend you – we just verified that you are who you are, which I’m sure that you already knew. I would like to hold you over to the next hour because I want to ask a few more questions about this as well as what exactly happened just after the explosion. Can you wait with us?

James: Sure. I don’t know how much of that I can share but I’ll do my best.

ML: All right, I don’t want to get you in trouble, so to the extent you can – fine, to the extent you can’t, we understand.

ML: 877388 381. We’re talking to a caller who, under an assumed name, who was on the rig when it blew up. We were talking about how it happened And now, James, I want to take you to the point when it happened. What exactly happened? … You were standing where?

James: Ah, well, obviously the gas blew the seawater out of the riser. Once it displaced all the seawater out the gas began to spill out on the deck up through the centre of the rig floor . The rig, you have to imagine a rectangle about 400 feet by 300 feet, with the derrick, the rig floor, set directly in the centre. Ah, as this gas is now heavier than air it starts to settle into different places, ah, from that point something ignited the gas which would have caused the first major explosion.

ML: Now what might ignite the gas?

James: Any number of things, Mark, ah, all rig floor equipment is what they consider intrinsically safe meaning it can not create a spark, that these type of accidents can not occur. However with as much gas that came out as fast as it did it would have spilled over the entire rig fairly rapidly within a minute of, I would think the entire rig would be enveloped in gas, a lot of this stuff, you can’t smell it, you can’t taste it, ah it’s just there., and it’s heavier than oxygen. As it settled in, ah, it could have made it to a space that wasn’t intrinsically safe. Something as simple as static electricity could have ignited the first explosion which set off of course a series of explosions.

ML: Right, so, so, so what happened? You’re standing where? You’re sitting somewhere? What happened?

James: Well, I was in a location that was a pretty good way from the initial blast. Ah, wasn’t affected by the blast, I was able to make it out and get up forward where the lifeboats, the PA system was still working, ah, there was an announcement overhead to, ah, that this was not a drill. Obviously we have fire drills every single week to prepare for emergencies like this, fire and abandonment drills, and over the intercom came the order to report to the lifeboats 1 and 2, that this was not a drill, that there is a fire, and, ah, we proceeded that way.

ML: So, the 11 men who died. Were they friends of yours?

James: Yes Sir, they were.

ML: Did they die instantly?

James: Ah, I would have to assume so, yes Sir. I would think they were directly inside the bomb when it went off.

ML: How did you get off there?

James: The bomb – the gas being the bomb.

ML: OK, so the bomb being the gas explosion.

James: Correct. Correct. They would have been in the belly of the beast.

ML: Let me ask, and we have to be careful of what we say, people will run wild with ideas. I just want to make sure.

James: Sure…

ML: Let me ask you this. Why would the government send in a SWOT team? What’s that all about?

James: Believe it or not, that’s… funny you should mention that, Transocean maintains a SWOT team, ah, the drilling company, that, their sole purpose, they’re experts in their field, the BOP, the Blow Out Preventer, ah, they call that sub-sea equipment, they have their own SWOT team that they send out to the rigs to service and maintain that equipment …

ML: I’m talking about a … What are interior SWOT teams? What does that mean?

James: The interior? From the government? Now, I don’t have any idea. That’s beyond me. And the other gentleman also mentioned the USGS that comes out and does the surveys, I’ve been on that particular rig, ah, for 3 years, offshore for 5 years, and I’ve seen the USGS one time. What we do have, on a very regular basis, is the MMS, which is the Minerals Management Service…

ML: They’re all under the interior department..

James: OK. Ah, as a matter of fact, we were commended, for our inspection record from the MMS, we actually received an award from them for the highest level of safety and environmental awareness.

ML: Well, I thought you were going to receive that award. Did they put it on hold?

James: No, we have actually received that award, we received it last year, we may have been ready to receive it again this year.

ML: Let me ask you this. You say lifeboats. So how did you get on this lifeboat? Where are these lifeboats?

James: Ah, there’s actually 4 lifeboats, 2 forward and 2 aft, ah, depending on where the emergency actually takes place.

ML: I mean, did you actually end up jumping in the water to get on to the lifeboat? Sometimes you have to do that?

James: Ah, I’ll just say that there were 5 to 7 individuals that jumped and the rest went down in lifeboats.

ML: All right. I won’t ask because you don’t want to identify yourself that clearly, good point. How fast…were rescue efforts. How fast did they reach you?

James: Ah, well it was, ah, it’s common to have a very large workboat standing by, bringing tools out, bringing groceries, bringing supplies, it’s a constant turnaround, so we actually had a very large vessel real close by, he was actually alongside with a hose attached taking mud off of our vessel on to his own, and then had to disconnect – in the emergency he disconnected and pulled out about a mile to standby for rescue efforts. So it was, it was fairly quick.

ML: How quick until the coastguard arrived?

James: Mark, it’s hard to say. Between 45 minutes to maybe an hour, when I recall seeing the first helicopter.

ML: Which was actually pretty fast because you are 130 miles offshore, right?

James: Correct. We are.. if you look at the nearest bit of land, which would be Grand Isle, Loiusiana, somewhere in that area, we were only about maybe 50 miles as the crow flies, from civilization, such as New Orleans, it would be 200 miles. A flight by helicopter was more than likely 80 to 100 miles away.

ML: You’re going to be beset by lawyers, with the government, ah, others looking for an opportunity to make money, it’s going to get very very ugly, and ah, officials are going with no background and experience, ah, climate change and so forth, to what extent is that gonna help out?

James: Yeah, that’s, to me, this seems all knee jerk, ah, the number one focus right now is to be containment, I like the idea of the boom they’re going to try to lower into the water to capture the leak, ah…

ML: How long might that take? I’ve been reading about this boom, it could take 30 days.

James: It very well could, you got to remember the challenging environment they’re in there, it’s 5000 feet deep, there’s a tangled wreck of a rig with all that marine riser still connected and twisted up into a big wad down there and its going to take some time to get all that stuff in place. The engineering has to be there, you obviously don’t want to rush into it, you want to move expediently but, ah, you’re risking the lives of those men that are going to go out there and try to attempt this.

ML: I was just going to say that. That’s very dangerous. Extremely dangerous.

James: Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s gonna be oil. There’s gonna be natural gas, all the same things that caused us to explode are still present, they’re there. The pressure has been cut off dramatically from the simple fact of the folding of the riser, it has, basically, took a pretty good guard hose and kinked it over several times.

ML: How old is this rig? How long has it been..

James: It was put in service in 2001. It’s a fairly new rig.

ML: And, ah, what is the sense of shutting down every rig in the Gulf of Mexico in response to this?

James: Absolutely no sense whatsoever. It was a… literally could very well be a once in a lifetime freak accident, or it could be negligence, that’s for other people to figure out but… From my position, it just seems like, every now and then, you can’t win against Mother Nature. It’s her fault that you’re not prepared for.

ML: But to shut down every rig, I mean, in response to this? I’m not sure why that would be ..

James: These BOP tests are literally mandated from the Mineral Management Service and they’re conducted like clockwork. I mean, if one of those tests ever failed they would immediately stop the operation, seal the well up up, pull the BOP stack back on the deck, which is 48 hours minimum, and make the necessary repairs or replacement parts and then go back down, reconnect, retest, and keep testing until it passes or keep repairing it until it passes.

ML: So this was , ah, let me, this must have been incredibly harrowing for you to experience something like this.

James: Ah, that’s putting it mildly. Very mildly.

ML: Anything else you want to tell me?

James: No I just. I got in the truck to make a short trip and, ah, I heard the gentleman say something about possible terrorism, I just wanted to put all that to bed now, ah, I understand your audience, you have a large audience, I appreciate your point of view, I try to listen to you as much as I can, it’s just,.. terrorism and all that needs to leave everyone’s minds, and let’s focus on the 11 men that are dead and the survivors, that’s what needs…, that’s where the focus for this country needs to be right now.

ML: All right my friend, well, look, we wish you all the best, and I tell you, it’s really God’s blessing that you survived.

James: Yes Sir, I completely agree.

ML: All right James, well thank you very much for calling. We appreciate it.

James: Thank you Mark.

ML: God bless.

Lessons from the Gulf blowout

Learning (the right lessons, hopefully) from the Gulf of Mexico disaster

Paul Driessen

Transocean’s semi-submersible drilling vessel Deepwater Horizon was finishing work on a wellbore that had found oil 18,000 feet beneath the seafloor, in mile-deep water fifty miles off the Louisiana coast. Supervisors in the control cabin overlooking the drilling operations area were directing routine procedures to cement, plug and seal the borehole, replace heavy drilling fluids with seawater and extract the drill stem and bit through the riser (outer containment pipe) that connected the vessel to the blowout preventer (BOP) on the seafloor.

Suddenly, a thump and hiss were followed by a towering eruption of seawater, drilling mud, cement, oil and natural gas. The BOP and backup systems had failed to work as designed, to control the massive amounts of unexpectedly high-pressure gas that were roaring up 23,000 feet of wellbore and riser.

Gas enveloped the area and ignited, engulfing the Horizon in a 500-foot high inferno that instantly killed eleven workers. Surviving crewmen abandoned ship in covered lifeboats or jumped 80 feet to the water.

The supply boat Tidewater Damon Bankston rushed to the scene and helped crewmen get their burned and injured colleagues aboard. Shore-based Coast Guard helicopters tore through the night sky to brave the flames and take critically injured men to hospitals.

Thirty-six hours later, the Deepwater Horizon capsized and sank, buckling the 21-inch diameter riser and breaking it off at the rig deck. Three leaks began spewing some 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of crude oil per day into the ocean. As the oil gathered on the surface and drifted toward shore, it threatened a major ecological disaster for estuaries, marine life and all who depend on them for their livelihoods.

Thankfully, after getting rough for a couple days, the seas calmed. Industry, Coast Guard, NOAA and Minerals Management Service (MMS) crews and volunteer from Louisiana to Alaska had some time to recalculate the spill’s trajectory, deploy oil skimmer boats and miles of containment booms, and burn some of the oil off the sea surface. They lowered ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) to cap the end of the riser and spray chemicals that break down and disperse the oil.

Aircraft sprayed more dispersants over floating oil, and technicians hurried to build and deploy heavy cofferdams specially designed to sit atop the broken riser and BOP stack, collect the leaking oil and pipe it up to tanker barges. Drill ships are heading to the scene, to drill relief wells, intersect the original hole, cement it shut and permanently stop the leak. ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips and many other companies have offered BP, Transocean and Halliburton assistance on all these fronts.

How bad will the disaster be? Much depends on how long the calm weather lasts, how quickly the cofferdams can be installed, and how successful the entire effort is. There is some cause for optimism – and much need for prayer, crossed fingers and hard work.

But it will take weeks to years of uncontrolled leakage, before this spill comes close to previous highs, such as the:

* Santa Barbara Channel oil platform blowout (1969): 90,000 barrels off the California coast;

* Mega Borg tanker (1990): 121,400 barrels in the Gulf of Mexico off Galveston, TX;

* Exxon Valdez tanker (1989): 250,000 barrels along 1,300 miles of untouched Alaska shoreline;

* Ixtoc 1 oil platform blowout (1979): 3,500,000 barrels in Mexico’s Campeche Bay;

* Saddam Hussein oil field sabotage (1991): 857,000,000 barrels in Kuwait;

* Natural seeps in US waters: 1,119,000 barrels every year from natural cracks in the seafloor.

Cold water and climate meant Alaska’s Prince William Sound recovery was slow; Campeche beaches and coastal waters largely rebounded much more rapidly. Mississippi River flows through the warm Delta region may help keep some oil from pushing too far into the estuaries and speed recovery of oyster, shrimp and fishing areas, as it did with spills during pre-1960 drilling. Prayers and crossed fingers again.

Should we stop drilling offshore? We can hardly afford to. We still need to drill, so that we can drive, fly, farm, heat our homes, operate factories and do everything else that requires reliable, affordable petroleum. Indeed, over 62% of all US energy still comes from oil and gas. And we certainly need the jobs and revenues that US offshore energy development generates.

We’ve already banned drilling in ANWR, off the Florida, Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and in many other areas. We’ve made it nearly impossible to mine coal or uranium, or build new coal-fired power plants or nuclear reactors. We’ve largely forced companies to drill in deep Gulf waters, where risks and costs are far higher, and the ability to respond quickly and effectively to accidents is lower.

We’ve also forced companies to take drilling risks to foreign nations – and then increased the risks of tanker accidents that cause far greater spillage when they bring that oil to America. Meanwhile, Russia, China and Cuba are preparing to drill near the same Gulf and Caribbean waters that we’ve made off limits – employing their training, technologies, regulations and ecological philosophies.

Even with this blowout and its 1969 Santa Barbara predecessor, America’s offshore record is excellent. Since 1969, we have drilled over 50,000 wells in state waters and on the Outer Continental Shelf. There have been 13 losses of well control involving more than 50 barrels: five were less than 100 barrels apiece; one was a little over 1,000 barrels; two (both in 1970) involved 30,000 barrels or more. Only in Santa Barbara (so far) did significant amounts of oil reach shore and cause serious environmental damage.

Globally, tankers have spilled four times more oil than drilling and production operations, often in much bigger mishaps, often in fragile areas – and chronic discharges from cars and boats dwarf tanker spills by a factor of eight. (All spill data are from the MMS and National Research Council.)

What should we do next? Recognize that life, technology and civilization involve risks. Humans make mistakes. Equipment fails. Nature presents us with extreme, unprecedented, unexpected power and fury.

Learn the right lessons from this tragic, catastrophic, probably preventable accident. Avoid grandstanding and kneejerk reactions. Replace people’s lost income. Insist on responsible, adult thinking – and a thorough, expert, non-politicized investigation. Find solutions instead of assigning blame.

Why did the BOP and backups fail? What went wrong with the cement, plugs and pressure detection devices, supervisor and crew monitoring and reactions, to set off the catastrophic chain of events? How can we improve the technology and training, to make sure such a disaster never happens again? Did the regulators fail, too? How can we improve oil spill cleanup technologies and rapid response?

Ask what realistic alternatives we have. Not “Sim USA” and virtual energy. Real energy.

Can we afford to shut down our domestic oil and gas industry – economically, ecologically and ethically – and import more, as we export risks to other countries, and shift risks from drilling accidents to tanker accidents? Can we afford to replace dozens of offshore rigs with thousands of towering offshore wind turbines, creating obstacle courses for ships laden with bunker fuel or crude oil?

Drilling in deep waters far from shore is a complex, difficult, dangerous business. Let us remember and pray for the eleven who died, those who were burned and injured, and their families and loved ones. Let us also pray for all who daily risk life and limb, to bring us the energy that makes our lives, jobs and living standards possible – and for all whose lives have been affected by the spill.

[To learn more about offshore drilling and production and this accident, visit the NOAA emergency response page, Open Choke Deepwater Horizon spill page, and Drilling Ahead oil professionals network.]

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.

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143 thoughts on “Lessons from the Gulf blowout

  1. It all proved that big government regulation forces companies and individuals to take greater risks in unknown territories instead of working safely to high standards in known environments The muppets and useful idiots of course will demonise the oil companies.

  2. Usually accidents like this result from multiple system, human, and material failures. An independent root cause analysis if done correctly can reveal meaningful corrective actions to prevent future similar accidents. People with “agendas” should not be a part of the investigation.

  3. How much wildlife perishes in a large forest fire? A volcanic eruption? In every Hurricane which makes landfall? How many turtles and fish of every kind find themselves high and dry inland after a Hurricane or Tsunami? Hurricanes and forest fires occur nearly every year.

    The fixation on environmental “damage” from this natural substance only applies when man had a hand in the mishap. It seems to me that BP will pay dearly enough in the loss of their rig, employees, and legitimate monetary liability to southern states for tourism and fishing. But you can be sure there will be a call for a towering financial penalty for the environment. Who is to receive this money? Birds? And with BP already choking on the costs, what is the purpose? A deterrent? Or is it simply an expression of existing hatred?

  4. Paul Driesen: Good article.

    Can I get references, specifically for the following?

    Even with this blowout and its 1969 Santa Barbara predecessor, America’s offshore record is excellent. Since 1969, we have drilled over 50,000 wells in state waters and on the Outer Continental Shelf. There have been 13 losses of well control involving more than 50 barrels: five were less than 100 barrels apiece; one was a little over 1,000 barrels; two (both in 1970) involved 30,000 barrels or more. Only in Santa Barbara (so far) did significant amounts of oil reach shore and cause serious environmental damage

    Thanks,

  5. Mr. Driesen’s article and the eyewitness account pretty much coincides with what I’ve heard from our drilling engineer. There might have been a very serious mistake made when they were doing a positive and then a negative test before displacing the riser.

    On another note. The first attempt with the containment dome didn’t work Methane hydrates plugged the opening at the top. They will have to set up methanol injection. Which might not be possible until the larger domes are ready.

    BP is also preparing an effort to pump junk (cement, rubber and even pecan shells have been used for such purposes in the past) into the BOP to plug it up.

  6. @Les Johnson says:
    May 9, 2010 at 11:06 am

    The MMS vouched for some of this; but the article has been removed from their website since last week. The link no longer works and a quoted Google search won’t return any mms.gov hits.

    I know the article was there last week; but it’s gone now. It had been there for years.

  7. This post is LOL funny and reads like a Al gore post on Arctic sea ice – all spin and the few facts presented are spun to support the supposition that all is well.

    All is not well until this thing gets capped – and the 5K barrel claim is in great dispute. How about a post on all BP’s recent problems? Most problems, from Alaska’s north slope to the refinery explosion to this are all BP disasters.

  8. The real problem it appears is that extracting oil from such great depths is a “new frontier” and the technology for doing it is not yet mature.

    The unexpected problem at those depths appears to be the unexpected presence of significant quantities of methane hydrate. This is in the form of solid crystals which will not flow and are unstable and explosive if accidentally heated or de-pressurised.

    It is not yet clear where this material in such quantity came from and there is almost no experience on earth on how to deal with it safely in these conditions. It is important that the oil industry learns how to do this quickly. At this stage we can only pray that with so many top class scientists and engineers on tap solutions are found and that the learning process does not turn out to be prohibitively expensive

  9. So where was this ‘interview’ in the MSM?
    First I have read it.
    I get more news here that in a lot of places.
    One of these days, Anthony, one of these days. Pulitzer.

  10. Wow. The transcript was very interesting. I never really thought about the dangers of a job like that. In light of that, 50,000 wells with only 13 mishaps is damn good IMO. Unfortunately, in the current political atmosphere, this may end up to be off-shore’s death knell.

  11. @David Watt says:
    May 9, 2010 at 11:49 am

    We have plenty of experience dealing with methane hydrates. And there wasn’t a “presence of significant quantities of methane hydrate;” the hydrates formed when gas associated with the oil came into contact with very cold water under high pressure. Deepwater subsea oil completions are routinely equipped with methanol injection systems to prevent the formation of methane hydrates.

    They knew that the combination of pressure and low temp. at this water depth would form hydrates. They just didn’t think it would form so much that it plugged up the system. The dome can only work if the oil can be flowed to a tanker at the surface.

  12. @DAV says:
    May 9, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Only if the nitwits in Washington are ready to shut down 20% of our domestic oil and 25% of our domestic natural gas production… And a very significant source of Federal revenue from mineral lease royalties.

  13. Thanks for posting this article. I know I can depend on this site for intelligent analysis from the authors of the articles and the commenters.

  14. There is no scientific evidence that Oil Spills damage the environment or wildlife. Such fanciful ideas are more alarmist nonsense from the greenies. Now that thet have lost the AGW debate, they are shifting to Oil Spills. In fact, oil spills have a positive impact on wildlife diversity by aiding population shifts, reinvigourating the gene pool.

  15. “brad says:
    May 9, 2010 at 11:36 am
    This post is LOL funny and reads like a Al gore post on Arctic sea ice – all spin and the few facts presented are spun to support the supposition that all is well.”

    Let us know. What is really happening, Brad?

  16. Here is a crackpot idea..
    How about a heat exchanger in the box? Weld in big pipes around the inner circumference and pump (warm) surface water through it at a regulated flow to control chamber temps and break down the crystals at a controlled rate. An insulating jacket around the chamber and a regulated heat exchanger would give some control of the environment inside.

    It is a shame that we have to go so far out into the ocean when we have so much oil here on land in the USA. On land the spill would have been quickly addressed. A mile deep hole a day from shore brings a lot of tough logistics into it. Chalk another big win up for EnvironmentInc. Their way is much better.

  17. There is much dispute regarding the flow quantity from this blowout. Since there is, to my knowledge, no way to actually measure the quantity, it seems to me that all we are getting the statements of BP. All info released by BP, Transocean and Halliburton is being previewed and filtered by lawyers working on these parties and their insurers behalf. These parties are managing their reports with a view to minimize their liability.

    With that in mind, I have a big question. There are obviously much available video from the ROV’s that have been to the well site. Why has none of the video footage been released to the public?

    You can be sure if the news was good the video would be shown.

  18. Irony?

    http://news.mobile.msn.com/en-us/articles.aspx?afid=1&aid=37033430

    Four executives from BP were aboard
    the platform at the time–
    handing out gold safety achievement
    award plaques for the safety record of the rig workers
    (I believe the spill was unrelated to the workers’
    efforts–
    The spill was predestined by the
    crappy design and engineering and
    crappy predetermined timing and sequencing
    of the hardware and cementing operations
    at and around and under the well-head
    –but that is just my opinion)–

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/may2010/orig-m01.shtml
    http://uruknet.de/?colonna=m&p=65570
    http://www.uruknet.de/?p=m65808
    http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/bp-deepwater-horizon-well-permitted-18000
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704423504575212031417936798.html
    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/03/24
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/04/AR2010050404118.html?hpid=topnews
    http://www.naturalnews.com/028693_Gulf_of_Mexico_Halliburton.html
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2010/04/gulf-oil-spill-the-halliburton-connection.html
    http://uruknet.de/?colonna=m&p=65596
    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/bp-fought-safety-measures-deepwater-oil-rigs/story?id=10521078
    http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife/topics/deadzone/
    http://www.indiancoastguard.nic.in/indiancoastguard/NOSDCP/NOSDCP%202006/Bio_remed_Oil_spills.pdf

    If you have technical papers or
    even articles(pre-spill) to
    refute this material,
    please post your links,
    since without citations, claims of
    technical knowledge and experience
    are irrelevant opinions–
    e.g.
    climate scientists
    differ widely in their
    views of climate–
    but some climate scientists
    refuse to allow access to their
    “evidence” to back their claims.
    If the evidence cannot be presented,
    then the claim is immaterial.

    It is the evidence that counts–
    not your experience or credentials.

    At this moment, some “scientists”
    are loudly “experiencing” “rotten ice”.

  19. Missing from the list of spills is the 4.2 million barrels released by U-boat torpedos in 1942 along the US mid Atlantic coast. There were also tanker sinking bu U baoats in the Gulf.

  20. Excellent article. I was one of the people who heard “James” talking to Mark Levin that night, and I was fascinated by what he was saying. It’s nice to see it in a text form. It looks to me as if he completely called the cause of the accident, with the possible exception of HOW the gas got into the pipe, which he couldn’t know. What he said that night is pretty much what is being said now.

    And I will openly admit… I’m one of the people who was looking under every bed for an environmental terrorist, a la Crichton’s State of Fear.

  21. The transcript indicates that the risk of this kind of blowout is significant and that it really depends on the skill of the drilling crew to prevent it. Given that, the reliance on a single line of defense, one BOP (blow out preventer), seems to epitomize cheeseparing management, especially as this device is known to be much less than perfectly reliable.
    That the crew only learned that there was a problem when the rig was engulfed in a gas bubble is stunning, as presumably water and drilling fluid was gushing out of the pipe.
    A reverse flow indicator surely should be available, to give some warning that trouble is coming.
    Lastly, it remains incomprehensible to me that the rig fire was sprayed with firehoses long after it was clear that this was useless. The only result was to flood, capsize and sink the rig, which produced the mess we now have where we are trying to get the oil which was burning happily before to burn again.

  22. Anthony,

    Not even Fox News can nail the facts down on this case without losing everyone on a bunch of nonsense unrealted to the matter. Count yourself as one of the few who provide a conduit of good solid information to the public. I am proud of you and the honest work you do to shine light on places where otherwise it may never have been shown.

  23. E-mail just came in to me;
    DATE: May 09, 2010 16:48:51 CST
    Salazar Dispatches NPS and FWS Directors to Gulf Coast Command Centers to Support Fight to Protect Coastal Communities and Wildlife

    * Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information:
    (866)-448-5816
    * Submit alternative response technology, services or products:
    (281) 366-5511
    * Submit your vessel as a vessel of opportunity skimming system:
    (281) 366-5511
    * Submit a claim for damages:
    (800) 440-0858
    * Report oiled wildlife:
    (866) 557-1401

    Deepwater Horizon Incident
    Joint Information Center

    Phone: (985) 902-5231
    (985) 902-5240
    WASHINGTON, DC – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that Director of the National Park Service Jon Jarvis and Acting Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service Rowan Gould have been dispatched to command centers along the Gulf Coast to help lead efforts to protect coastal communities and natural resources from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

    Jarvis, who is stationed in the Mobile, Alabama Incident Command Center, and Gould, who is stationed in the Houma, Louisiana Incident Command Center, are among the more than 380 DOI personnel who have been deployed as part of the oil spill response. Additional DOI personnel already stationed in the region are among the more than 10,000 personnel currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife. Jarvis and Gould will work with federal and state natural resource managers to help protect state and federal natural resources.

    “We are continuing to put all hands on deck to support the coordinated response to this spill and to do everything we can to help BP stop its leaks and clean up its spill,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “The National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, under the leadership of Jon Jarvis and Rowan Gould, are on the front lines as we fight to protect the Gulf Coast from the dangers of the oil spill. Their leadership on the ground will ensure that we remain coordinated, prepared, and effective in protecting natural resources.”

    On Friday, Salazar dispatched Dr. Marcia McNutt, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey, to the BP Command Center in Houston to help coordinate the joint efforts of federal scientists who are working with BP engineers to address several technological challenges and approaches to securing the damaged well head, capturing the leak and controlling the spill.

    Acting Director Gould joins Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Jane Lyder at the Houma Incident Command Center. Secretary Salazar has also dispatched DOI Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Lori Faeth to support joint response efforts in the Unified Command Center in Robert, Louisiana.

    The Minerals Management Service (MMS) continues to work with BP to explore all options that could stop or mitigate oil leaks from the damaged well. Pursuant to MMS’s regulatory authority, all plans are being reviewed and approved by MMS before implementation. MMS has completed its inspections of all 30 deepwater drilling rigs and is now inspecting all deepwater production platforms.

    Yesterday, Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland, who is coordinating DOI’s onshore response efforts, and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis surveyed the impact of the oil spill on natural resources on the Gulf Coast, which is one of the most ecologically complex regions in the country and site of a number of National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks protected by Interior on behalf of the American people.

    The National Park Service, which manages Gulf Islands National Seashore, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Everglades National Park, Padre Island National Seashore, and other parks along the Gulf Coast, has activated two incident management teams in the Gulf. Many other park service employees across the country are supporting the response with technical information and assistance.

    The Fish and Wildlife Service manages 24 national wildlife refuges that could potentially be affected by the spill, including Breton National Wildlife Refuge, where oil has been confirmed on the Chandeleur Islands. Twenty wildlife teams have been deployed out of the Houma (LA.) Command Center for wildlife recovery and related activities, and the Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Team (SCAT) is continuing overflights and shoreline surveys on the Chandeleur Islands. Significant focus will be placed on Mississippi coast’s barrier islands over the next 48 hours out of the Mobile Command Center.

    For information about the response effort, visit http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com

  24. brad says:
    This post is LOL funny . . .

    Obviously a full paragraph typo.

    I was listening to brother Mark when that lucky-to-be-alive gentleman called in. Amazing that Obama’s first response was to send a team of lawyers from the Justice Department. Well, not really amazing. Not even surprising, given his ideology and level of experience.

    November can’t come soon enough.

  25. I wonder what the response will be and what the Environmental lobby will do when (not IF ) one of the Chinese, Venezuelan, Russian, etc. wells blows? Probably blame it on the USA, specifically Republicans no doubt.

  26. Fred from Canuckistan says:
    May 9, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks for that link Fred.

  27. I hope all in the government involved in dealing with the after math of this disaster are as level headed as the author of this article. We seem to be in very short supply of common sense in government these days. Punative measures, although they may make for good politics, very likely will ultimately have a net negative effect. We dont need that. The general population needs to be educated that everything in life has risk, whether they recognize it or not. Any amount of legislation will not change that fact. For everything we do, there is a price to be paid. There is no free lunch. And although this accident is tragic on many levels, the safety record of offshore drilling -especially considering the benefit it provides to our country – is exemplary.

  28. David Middleton: The “solution by the absurd” says, if something is filled up like this dome with hydrates then fill it before, on purpose, say with pumpable solid rubber balls?

  29. @Richard W
    ‘There is much dispute regarding the flow quantity from this blowout. Since there is, to my knowledge, no way to actually measure the quantity, it seems to me that all we are getting the statements of BP.’

    Apparently it is not much to it, just basic math. Knowing things like the size of the hole and how much comes out of it at a certain pressure then just translating that amount into what it would be at surface level pressure. But I’m sure the green muppets who see doom and gloom at every catastrophic event surely could squeeze out more from the same hole with all the pressure that they’re under. :p

  30. BP is liable for all costs under the Oil Pollution Law in the US, according to what I’m watching on a program. The law was passed after the Exxon Valdez spill. It matters not what information they release as to how much oil is leaking, they will pay anyway.

  31. Slightly OT.
    Even NASA sometimes confuses barrels and gallons, it seems. I was looking for satellite images of the oil spill but only found this:

    http://rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Sect16/Sect16_10a.html

    look for:
    “As an example of the environmental utility of Envisat, we look again at the oil spill in the eastern Atlantic of Galicia in northwest Spain, which occurred in November of 2002 when the tanker Prestige sank with most of its cargo of 25 million barrels of oil. About 1.5 million barrels did escape, some reaching coastal beaches, as seen here in this ASAR image.”

    I wouldn’t trust people who confuse barrels and gallons with detecting a temperature increase of 0.6 deg C in a century…

  32. A fellow at work linked to the below article on the company intranet blog. It talks about some Dutch skimming vessels that are standing by waiting to help us if we will let them. They skim the oil and return the water to the sea. Apparently the EPA doesn’t allow it since the water returned does contain some residual oil. Does anyone know if they have been allowed to help yet?

    http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/dutch-oil-spill-response-team-standby-us-oil-disaster

  33. Many have said this will be drillings death nell. I beg to differ. I am not willing to give up my mobility and my lifestyle. I am not alone. Those in power can toy with their schemes all they want. Their schemes brought down the world economy and they’ve held on to their power by borrowing to placate us while they work to implement their transformational change. They’re running out of money to borrow, though. Things are about to change for them.

  34. rbateman says:
    May 9, 2010 at 4:48 pm
    BP is liable for all costs under the Oil Pollution Law in the US, according to what I’m watching on a program. The law was passed after the Exxon Valdez spill. It matters not what information they release as to how much oil is leaking, they will pay anyway.

    Correction. We (all of us) will pay, just as we collectively pay for all other corporate liability and for all the big law firm’s skyscrapers.

  35. This article shares a distinction with the New York Times, in exaggerating the Kuwait oil spill by two orders of magnitude. I also note that the natural seepage, which we would be fortunate to estimate to one significant digit, has been determined to four. 1,119,000 barrels per year! Pretty accurate for an essentially unknowable fact.

    I’m a little less impressed with the facts of this article than most of the commentators so far.

  36. Obama’s Interior Dept, under Salazar, exempted BP’s project from a required environmental impact study in April of 2009. If the study had been done, as required, the project would not have been approved.

    Last Wednesday, on Keith Olbermann, environmentalists called for Int Dept Secy Salazar to step down:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/vp/36976376# 36976376

  37. Thanks for the post and links, Paul! Good information, and I think we (or most of us) agree with your sentiments on drilling and energy.

    This is the link to the official government response site, under unified command (which follows the National Incident Management System):

    http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/site/2931/

    They are doing a good job of disseminating information and coordinating response, it is a site well worth visiting.

  38. Dutch oil skimming ships are standing by to assist. But the EPA will not allow them to suck up the oil, because the excess water that is returned to the ocean has a small amount of oil still in it.

  39. How about a post on all BP’s recent problems? Most problems, from Alaska’s north slope to the refinery explosion to this are all BP disasters.

    Except, this wasn’t BP’s rig, it was a rig contracted to BP.

    “Given that, the reliance on a single line of defense, one BOP (blow out preventer)

    My understanding is that there are 3 BOP’s in a stack. The last one is designed to cut and crimp the pipe shut. The fact that they cannot, indicates that there is an obstruction in the pipe. If this was a production well, it would have additional BOP’s subsurface.

  40. What is your lifestyle, Mike G?

    Clearly, it involves extirpation of all other species on this planet.

    Is that the lifestyle you value?

    I’d prefer a planet where my children and grandchildren will be able to
    witness the myriad species living on this planet, and be good stewards of the planet and all its life.

  41. “Should we stop drilling offshore? We can hardly afford to. We still need to drill, so that we can drive, fly, farm, heat our homes, operate factories and do everything else that requires reliable, affordable petroleum. ”

    Yes we should stop drilling offshore! We don’t need the energy! Look at the amount of shale gas we have on land that can be recovered with existing technology. It is truly a staggering amount. Even if we converted all coal and nuclear plants and all autos we would still have 5 to 6 decades of fuel. It is simply astounding the amount of gas that can now be recovered.

    We don’t need to take the risk of off shore drilling. Well within 5 to 6 decades we will have LiFTR nukes online and / or renewables cost effective.

  42. Smokey says:
    May 9, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    I thought so, that was the subject of my post. We, including me, sometimes lament the shortcomings of socialist Europe. Socialism does however work somewhat better when the leaders have a modicum of common sense.

  43. This accident just points up the dangers of drilling in such deep waters where human activity can disturb creatures like Godzilla or that beast from Cloverfield.

  44. Whoever holds the power to override the EPA discharge regulations better step up and grant exemptions to let the Dutch vessels get to work immediately. Why didn’t this happen when the ships were in transit to the Gulf? This is a disaster, picking up 90-95% and dumping the rest is a net gain for the Gulf. Our government is unreal.

  45. Mike McMillan says:
    May 9, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    November can’t come soon enough.

    Neither can 2012.

    But it is off beam to just blame the politicians. The American people have been asleep at the wheel for a long time when it comes to choosing who they vote for.

    There was zero response to this disaster in the Gulf from Washington in terms of what was really needed. And even the NOAA plan of burning the oil in the vicinity of the disaster was nothing more than a good idea.

    But in the end it is the general population of America that is at fault. We haven’t been putting people in office that know how to run things in the real world. That has to end now. We need to get involved with making America strong again.

    “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

    ~Plato

    We can overcome this problem in the Gulf and any other problem. We have solved every problem in the past and now the potential for doing the same is no different. We just have to stop sitting on the sidelines and coasting on past accomplishments that had made us great.

  46. “DirkH says:
    May 9, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Slightly OT.
    Even NASA sometimes confuses barrels and gallons,…’

    Remember when NASA confused foot pounds and Newtons and lost one of their Mars probes?

  47. etudiant says:
    May 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm
    “Lastly, it remains incomprehensible to me that the rig fire was sprayed with fire-hoses long after it was clear that this was useless. The only result was to flood, capsize and sink the rig,”
    Careful etudiant.
    Have a look at the actual rig design. The fire is well above the two hulls that the drilling deck is mounted on. Spraying seawater (with “Fire Monitors” not hoses) is to try to control the heat that damages the hulls integrity.
    It maybe that watertight bulkheads to the hull were not closed, (with a vessel as new as this one, I would expect automatic operation) but that is guess work and one has no idea if the crew had time to operate the systems.
    I have worked offshore with pipe-laying barges for many years and have nothing but admiration for the Captains and crews of the Standby Tug/Crewboats. To get that close in to a well-head fire takes courage and skill and any vessel fire scares the hell out of anyone working in the industry offshore, hence the endless fire drills that one goes through.
    My thoughts are with the families of the poor guys on the drill deck. A truly horrible way to die.

  48. It seems that one of the major lessons from this tragedy is that the industry and government were not adequately prepared for an unexpected but catastrophic “black swan” event. An example is that apparently there was not a single water-cooled fire boom available in the entire gulf region to be put immediately gathering and burning the oil near the source, a technique pre-approved by the Region-VI Regional Response Team and blessed by the Coast Guard in 1994.

    Also, maybe one of you drilling rig engineers could fill us in on what automatic fire suppression systems are present on a rig like this. It seems like a short but huge bolus of (nature’s best friend) CO2 released from large on-board reservoir tanks and aimed at the stack might be effective in immediately snuffing a fire like this. I know space on the rig must be very limited, but has something similar been considered/attempted?

  49. Lastly, it remains incomprehensible to me that the rig fire was sprayed with firehoses long after it was clear that this was useless. The only result was to flood, capsize and sink the rig, which produced the mess we now have where we are trying to get the oil which was burning happily before to burn again.

    Tunnel vision, maybe. Firefighters focus on putting out fires. That’s how they sank the Normandie, during WW2.

  50. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
    May 9, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

    ~Plato

    So true! All my friends, and myself, has stayed out of politics. The problem is there are isolation layers between those who decide, and those with knowledge.

    And who wants to be on the other side of the isolation layer?

  51. My sympathy to all those working on the rig, their families and friends. It’s tough dirty work, and as we’ve seen, very dangerous too.

    Per the methane bubble. Reminds me of the model volcanoes I’ve seen. Where they put resin and light volatiles in a flask with a long neck, then depressurize the top and as the liquid starts to de-gas you literally get an explosive volcano.

    So I’m sitting here thinking these guys basically drill a low temperature oil volcano, dynamically balance mud against the gas, do complex mechanical construction under a mile of water, and somehow manage to pump out oil at the end of it all? And with very very few blowouts happening?

    All I can say is it makes Merlin look like a piker.

    I have nothing but admiration for the skill and courage it takes to do that.

    Sidebar on energy:

    We could make all the gasoline and diesel we need from either coal or natural gas using well proven technologies at prices not significantly different that we pay today. That we do not do so is a dramatic indictment of BOTH political parties for lacking the courage to tell OPEC to keep their oil and doing what South Africa has done for decades. Most major oil companies know quite well how to do this (Mobil did it in New Zealand some decades ago. Standard Oil has “Gas To Liquids” running as does Shell Oil. This is not new, hard, nor particularly expensive.)

    So every time I hear some politician bleating about the need for more R&D or the need for an alternative to fossil fuels, I know I’m listening to a clueless dolt or a person bought off by someone.

    We don’t need ANY new research to solve our ‘energy problem’. The needed technologies are all well proven and well understood. It’s production.

    All we need is the will to embrace a proven solution. Gas To Liquids. Coal To Liquids. Biomass To Liquids. Trash To Liquids.

    That we don’t do it speaks volumes … That we put men in harms way on oil rigs drilling in a mile+ of water instead also speaks volumes. We’ve chosen a much harder path than needed…

  52. A well thought through & argued piece that cannot logically be criticised.

    How much ecological damage would be done in the construction of wind farms with thundreds even thousands of turbines, achored into the sub-strata beneath the sea bed, presuming it is suitable in the first instance? As pointed out, how long before some Liberian tanker captain crashes into one of them & then has to do an oil & water check – the water should be on the outside & the oil should be on the inside!

  53. Another new e-mail from BP;

    DATE: May 09, 2010 19:48:20 CST
    MEDIA ADVISORY: BP to hold press briefing in Houston

    * Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information:
    (866)-448-5816
    * Submit alternative response technology, services or products:
    (281) 366-5511
    * Submit your vessel as a vessel of opportunity skimming system:
    (281) 366-5511
    * Submit a claim for damages:
    (800) 440-0858
    * Report oiled wildlife:
    (866) 557-1401

    Deepwater Horizon Incident
    Joint Information Center

    Phone: (985) 902-5231
    (985) 902-5240

    WHAT: BP to hold a technical briefing and update on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill response. This is a pen and paper briefing only. No video or still cameras allowed in the briefing.

    WHEN: Monday, May 10, 2010. 12:00 p.m. CDT Please be in main reception at 11.45am.

    WHERE: BP, 200 Westlake Park Blvd, Houston, TX 77079.

    WHO: BP senior executive vice-president Kent Wells

    Media interested in attending should call 281-366-6965.

    The call-in number for press unable to attend is (877) 341-5824. International callers use (706) 758-0885. The conference code is 74753304.

  54. RayB says:
    May 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Here is a crackpot idea..
    How about a heat exchanger in the box? Weld in big pipes around the inner circumference and pump (warm) surface water through it at a regulated flow to control chamber temps and break down the crystals at a controlled rate. An insulating jacket around the chamber and a regulated heat exchanger would give some control of the environment inside.

    Ray,

    Do everyone a favor and pass this notion onto BP with this email address:

    Horizonsupport@oegllc.com

    I’ve already sent my crackpot idea, but your’s is better, much better.

    They are actively looking for alternatives to fixing this problem.

    If you don’t want to do it directly, I would be happy to forward the idea, with or without your name. But I won’t do so without your permission.

  55. Questions?

    Will BP go bankrupt by this mess and re-open as a new company?

    Oil breaking despersants. What do they really do and what happens to the oil broken up in the future to wildlife? Are the dispersants safe?

  56. Mike Odin says:
    May 9, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    […]

    It appears that it currently covers about 30 percent
    of the total area of the Gulf surface.

    The range of uncertainty doesn’t even cover 10% of the surface of the Gulf of Mexcio…

    http://deepwaterhorizon.noaa.gov/bookshelf/1951_TMF24-2010-05-09-2100.pdf

    Also… I keep seeing links to Carelton University’s page on the Gulf “Dead Zone”… The seasonal anoxic zone… The one that is 90% natural and enhanced a bit by the runoff of chemical fertilizers into the Gulf. What does that have to do with the spill?

  57. Nature can be more reslient that previously thought.

    “Nature Fighting Back Against Gulf Oil Spill
    For starters, crude is like butter for oil-munching bacteria.”
    National Geographic
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/05/100507-science-environment-gulf-mexico-oil-spill-cleanup-bacteria/
    ————
    “…15 February 1996, the oil tanker Sea Empress grounded on the mid-channel rocks in the entrance to Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire – South Wales…”

    “….and the general observation is of a quite astonishing recovery given the catastrophic damage caused to the shoreline in the short term. ”
    BBC

  58. David Middleton says:
    May 9, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    @DAV says:
    May 9, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Only if the nitwits in Washington are ready to shut down 20% of our domestic oil and 25% of our domestic natural gas production… And a very significant source of Federal revenue from mineral lease royalties.
    _______________________________________________________________________
    The agenda of this administration is to bankrupt and completely wreck the USA so they really do not care.

    “I am amazed that the US government, in the midst of the worst financial crises ever, is content for short-selling to drive down the asset prices that the government is trying to support….The bald fact is that the combination of ignorance, negligence, and ideology that permitted the crisis to happen still prevails and is blocking any remedy. Either the people in power in Washington and the financial community are total dimwits or they are manipulating an opportunity to redistribute wealth from taxpayers, equity owners and pension funds to the financial sector.” Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury http://www.countercurrents.org/roberts250209.htm

    Stewart Dougherty, a specialist in inferential analysis, agrees. It is now “statistically impossible for the United States to pay its obligations”. http://www.silverbearcafe.com/private/08.09/metastasis.html

    “President George W. Bush still holds the record for the most debt run up on his watch: $4.9 trillion. But it took him over four years to rack up the first two trillion dollars in debt. It has taken Mr. Obama 421 days….” http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20000576-503544.html

    “….if you check the very last chart in the budget book, it shows the National Debt continuing to soar year after year after year….

    As of today, it’s $10.8-trillion. The administration projects it’ll climb to $14-trillion next year and in 2013 wind up at $17.1-trillion dollars – very close to matching the size of the entire economy as measured by the projected Gross Domestic Product. And taxpayers will be paying hundreds of billions in interest on the debt each year.

    The budget, which carries the title “A New Era of Responsibility,” shows that at the end of ten years, the National Debt will hit $23.1-trillion dollars – exactly matching the GDP that year…. Fratto charges the current White House is trying to “mask huge spending increases under the cloak of ‘fiscal responsibility.'” http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-4831719-503544.html

    So what happens when the nitwits in Washington finally succeed in bankrupting the USA? The World Bank/IMF steps in and runs the country. See http://www.whirledbank.org/development/sap.html

    Of course if Cap and Trade gets passed the debt will equal the GNP a whole heck of a lot faster.

  59. Hi 1DandyTroll,
    Simple math for calculating the flow you say? You indicate the downhole pressure is known. I believe the downhole pressures were last measured prior to the blowout and pressure is now an unknown. It also may not be static pressure. And, again, who is reporting pressure or any relevant “statistics”? BP, of course.

    To Rbateman – yes BP is liable and we may see both Halliburton and Transocean pulled into liability as this develops. Please note, however, there is Federal legislation capping liability at a meager $75,000,000. That is being quickly spent as I suspect it includes costs for the ongoing cleanup and containment costs.

    While Exxon paid much for the cleanup following the Valdez, they and their insurers used appeals and every other legal delay and ultimately largely skated on the liability to injured local parties. May lives were severely impacted and many injured folks were not still living at the time of the fairly recent “settlement”. BP, etal, will use the same tactics, no doubt. Big corporations with very deep pockets have the upper hand.

    I have been and continue to be a supporter of offshore drilling. However, It seems that we are beyond the safe levels of technical expertise at these depths and may not really understand what has been encountered in this uncharted territory.

    I’m still waiting for the ROV videos to be released…..

  60. E.M.Smith says:
    May 10, 2010 at 1:58 am

    My sympathy to all those working on the rig, their families and friends. It’s tough dirty work, and as we’ve seen, very dangerous too….

    All I can say is it makes Merlin look like a piker.

    I have nothing but admiration for the skill and courage it takes to do that.
    {I second that }

    Sidebar on energy:
    ….So every time I hear some politician bleating about the need for more R&D or the need for an alternative to fossil fuels, I know I’m listening to a clueless dolt or a person bought off by someone.

    We don’t need ANY new research to solve our ‘energy problem’. The needed technologies are all well proven and well understood. It’s production.

    All we need is the will to embrace a proven solution. Gas To Liquids. Coal To Liquids. Biomass To Liquids. Trash To Liquids.

    That we don’t do it speaks volumes … That we put men in harms way on oil rigs drilling in a mile+ of water instead also speaks volumes. We’ve chosen a much harder path than needed…
    _________________________________________________________________________
    And additional note on what you are saying. In May of 1933, Saudi Arabia gave Standard Oil of California (the Rockefellers) exclusive rights to explore for oil. (www.chevron.com )(SFC, 10/20/04, p.C6)

    In 1984 Socal purchased Gulf Oil and its extensive operations in Nigeria. It then changed its name to Chevron. (SFC, 11/19/98, p.A8)(SFC, 10/20/04, p.C6)

    For a history of Standard Oil, see this site http://www.oilcompanies.net/oil1.htm “The New U.S. – British Oil Imperialism Part 1” (Disregard the first couple of paranoid paragraphs and take the rest with a very large grain of salt. Cross check the information. I include it because it gives a decent time line.)

    There is definitely political maneuvering going on behind the scenes but it is difficult to separate fact from paranoid conspiracy theories. However the The Rockefellers are in it, what ever “it” is, up to their ears and have been for a hundred years or more.

  61. E.M.Smith wrote: “So I’m sitting here thinking these guys basically drill a low temperature oil volcano, dynamically balance mud against the gas, do complex mechanical construction under a mile of water, and somehow manage to pump out oil at the end of it all? And with very very few blowouts happening?”

    I’ve worked out there, and that’s very good description, one of the best I’ve seen yet.

    I saw one of the survivors quoted as saying that the rule all rig workers are trained in is “whoosh, bang, run!” Whoosh is the sound of gas blowing out of the wellbore – bang is the first explosion, which always happens whenever gas gets free – and when you hear that first “bang” you had better be running if you want to live!

    Will BP go bankrupt? Oh good grief, Joe, you have no idea of the scale the major internationals work on. Let’s say that this disaster ends up costing BP $1 Billion (US)

    That’s not a bad estimate, because don’t forget that all of the other companies involved are going to take a share. In their last reported quarter, BP is earning a *profit* of about $1 Billion *per* *Week*.

    So if we double the worst case scenario, this could end up costing BP 2 week’s profits.

    I don’t think that will drive them into bankruptcy.

    To jack simmons – re, the heat exchanger – somehow, the heat has to be generated downhole, pumping surface water won’t work. Reason? Don’t forget that anything pumped down has got to travel through 5,000 feet of ocean cooled tubing. BP would have to use coiled, flexible tubing off a support ship with such equipment, and I don’t believe it’s possible to insulate the flexible tubing. Therefore they’d be working against a thermal heat sink which consists of the entire ocean – impossible. It’s like pumping the fluid through a 5,000 ft long water cooled jacket and expecting it to still be warm at the end.

    Generating the heat downhole can be done, but it’s not easy.

  62. Life without a “white collar” is (and always has been) dangerous. Most of the population of the world know this first hand. How many people in government or civilian management, supervisory, administrative, and clerical jobs risk much more than a paper cut each day? Most of these experience their most dangerous moments going to and from work via public transport or in POVs. The top of the pyrimid boys and girls, the little people who make the ‘rules’ for the rest of us, have no idea what the word ‘danger’ means. The worst of them, the ‘bright idea’ folks who think they know better than anyone on the planet, no doubt will solve these minor glitches with more legislation and rules for us to live by –no doubt too, to our great expense.

  63. There is something wrong with blaming the 2010 Gulf of Mexico blowout entirely on the equipment. There have been thousands of wells drilled offshore and hundreds in deep water all to the benefit of…. well, us! If we think we can live without hydrocarbons, or even be willing to, we should have a sober second thought. Is this an environmental disaster? Absolutely! But we must be also willing to admit that this is “collateral damage” of a modern western lifestyle.

    Maybe all the safety equipment was not deployed on the Deepwater Horizon Rig. It is debateable whether an acoustic remote switch used to function the BOP stack would have saved the day and prevented this blowout. But since BP was in the process of abandoning this well, they must have a large amount of information about this reservoir, the type of pressures that they would encounter and there would have been safety factors built in.

    Even before the well was spudded, there would have been a thorough geological and geophysical investigation of the area. The BP drilling department would have done a through du diligence on the area. If they didn’t, well that’s part of the human error element in this incident.

    But there was no problem in this well when the reservoir was first encountered. They drilled through it to total depth, probably ran many tests design to measure pressure and fluid type in the reservoir. They would have had a full understanding of what they found: geology, fluids and pressures and they would have circled back to pre-drill models to determine what surprises they found, if any, because Mother Nature can surprise. But BP seemed to have been prepared right up until the abandonment phase began. All hell broke loose after they began displacing the riser to sea water and a gas bubble escaped.

    I think everything was going well with the abandonment operation until someone messed up. There should have been simple safeguards in place and everyone from roughnecks to the drilling superintendant would have had specific tasks to perform. But complacency may have set in. After all this operation was “successful” in many minds on that rig even though the abandonment phase wasn’t completed. There may have been a distraction at a critical moment or someone may have been distrascted by his thoughts. Maybe someone decided to “speed things up” and they crew was rushing to complete the job, or disengaged critical safety equipement at exactly the wrong moment. You can’t make any industrial operation completely 100% safe since the human element may be the biggest problem you cannot fix.

  64. wws says:
    May 10, 2010 at 6:35 am

    Thanks.
    Keeping the pressure up in that flexible tube from being crushed would be a factor as well.

  65. After the accident I started looking at the technology used, of which I knew little about. Now I am amazed at how complicated and technologically advanced these ventures into the ocean floor are. Best guess is that the technology needed and the associated risks are one order of magnitude less than going to space, meaning that the risks are high. It’s nothing short of incredible that these companies do it so well. For all of you that haven’s seen one here’s an image of a BOP being installed:

    An incredibly complex piece of equipment that has to perform flawlessly a mile below the ocean surface….

    Most environmentalist don’t have a clue…. or it would become readily obvious to them that it would be much easier and less risky to drill on land in places like ANWR, and yes, WE have to DRILL.

    Jose

  66. wws:

    “Generating the heat downhole can be done, but it’s not easy.”

    I’m wondering why resistance wire couldn’t be used. Heating with electricity would bypass the problem of pumping heat through a mile of cold ocean water.

    And Jose Suro, you hit the nail on the head. The blame for this disaster must be laid at the feet of the eco-bedwetters, who continue to insist that there can be no drilling in ANWR, where there are at least ten billion barrels of easily recoverable oil for the taking, under only three square miles of Arctic wasteland.

    So energy companies, which must produce oil to stay in business, have been forced to drill in extreme ocean depths instead. The blame for this disaster is largely the fault of Greenpeace, the WWF and similar organizations that caused this situation to occur.

  67. I believe that the steam cleaning of the beaches after the Exxon Valdez accident harmed more species than the actual oil spill.

  68. The argument for more offshore drilling:
    1. Dependence on foreign oil is bad because it makes supply vulnerable.
    2. Domestic production is declining as oil wells on land are depleted.
    3. Most U.S. reserves are under seas, so offshore drilling is the only way to stem the decline in domestic production.
    4. By adding to supply, additional offshore wells will limit future price increases and lessen our vulnerable to interruptions in the availability of foreign oil.

    The argument against more offshore drilling:
    1. Additional drilling at sea increases the risk of disasters from oil spills.
    2. More drilling would have little effect on oil prices, since U.S. offshore wells account for only a small percentage(3% ?) of world oil production.
    3. Augmenting domestic supply with more offshore production enables continued dependence on oil rather than encouraging the more efficient use of this depleting resource and the development of alternative energy sources.
    4. On balance, the benefit of more offshore drilling is not worth the risk to the environment and the economies of coastal areas.

  69. I wonder why they wouldn’t try a big electrical centrifugal pump powered from the barge on the surface to chop up the gas hydrates and lift the column of oil 5000 up to the barge/tanker?

  70. “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

    ~Plato
    …And those, being inferior, faithfully obey and follow secret orders from hidden patrons.

  71. Smokey says:
    May 9, 2010 at 7:45 pm
    Dutch oil skimming ships are standing by to assist. But the EPA will not allow them to suck up the oil, because the excess water that is returned to the ocean has a small amount of oil still in it.

    So if the solution or remedy is not 100% perfect, then do NOTHING?
    That is why they work for the government. It was the same when a tsunami hit India. They were scared to death the food, recovery efforts would be delivered by religious people so it was better to say no and let people die than risk a bible hidden in a supplies pallet.

  72. Jaye Bass says:
    May 10, 2010 at 7:50 am
    I believe that the steam cleaning of the beaches after the Exxon Valdez accident harmed more species than the actual oil spill.

    It did…

    Another lesson from the Valdez is that certain approaches do more harm than good. Steam cleaning rocks on beaches after the Valdez spill killed barnacles and mussels, says ecologist Dee Boersma of the University of Washington in Seattle. She adds that many of the birds people tried to save by washing with soap to remove the oil died anyway — with only the added stress of the washing and human handling to show for it.

    “Washing sand or rocks or birds doesn’t do a lot of good,” Boersma told Discovery News. “It just makes us feel better.”

    LINK

  73. This case is an argument for developing oil sands.
    The underground coal mining accident was an argument for mountain top removal,

  74. @Wren says:
    May 10, 2010 at 8:12 am

    That’s like arguing that you shouldn’t grow corn in Indiana because Indiana-grown corn makes up only 3% of the world’s corn supply and chemical fertilizers can be hazardous.

  75. From link furnished by Smokey
    Two Dutch companies are on stand-by to help the Americans tackle an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. The two companies use huge booms to sweep and suck the oil from the surface of the sea. The US authorities, however, have difficulties with the method they use.

    What do the Dutch have that the Americans don’t when it comes to tackling oil spills at sea? “Skimmers,” answers Wierd Koops, chairman of the Dutch organisation for combating oil spills, Spill Response Group Holland.

    Now the restaurants in NOLA use methods to skim fat/oil from the top of broth but the old fashioned lawyers are not into techology enough to wrap their heads around that method.

  76. @ Wren says:
    It’s been a while since I last checked, but don’t ever remember the “technically recoverable oil” decreasing. In other words, we’re not depleting our oil wells. For whatever reason,(pick one conspiracy or another) we’re simply not pumping or drilling. Billions of barrels of oil has been found Williston Basin Province of North Dakota, Montana, and South Dakota (http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2008/3092/). ANWR has more. The USGS is a great place to find information about availability of our various resources. Dependence on foreign oil is self inflicted. With the various technologies, we don’t have to be. Equating it to the gas pump prices, is a different matter. We don’t currently have the capacity to refine the oil. We haven’t built a new refinery since the 70s. But like electricity, our other forms of energy, if we chose to, could be as cheap and plentiful as we desire. As pointed out in the article, the earth would probably significantly cleaner if we chose to do it ourselves, however, short-sighted reactionary green thinkers have convinced many Americans its better this way.

  77. Another survivor story released this morning on NPR:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126650691

    It seems odd that 3 weeks after the event, only these two first person accounts have been released to the public (that I know of). The government, BP, insurance agents and lawyers must be giving survivors about the same counsel: “Don’t talk about it.”

    Most of the very reasonable questions that you post above, Mr. Driessen, will be answered in due course. But even the most pro-oil advocates may be uncomfortable with those answers if the stories of the crew aren’t released are withheld from the “findings”.

    I just wonder how factual the process of fact-finding will be. WUWT is a daily stopping point for many people who believe that people have a right to know. So, in the spirit of a free press: 127 men were on board. Eleven killed. Assuming some of the other survivors wish to be heard, what are some of the remaining 114 stories?

  78. Good article and some worthwhile comment especially about oil companies’ need to drill offshore when we have other resouces waiting on land. But I have to disagree with Smokey. The words Socialism and ‘common sense’ should not appear in the same sentence.

  79. As usual very good comments here. Rationality is the order of the day.
    Joe comment about NWS and NPS “Overhead” reminded me of my
    Firefight days, when the “fire triangle”-Heat, Oxygen,Fuel was turned into the
    “Fire Square” Heat, Oxygen, Fuel, and Overhead. Guaranteed for at least a
    couple of Weekends of extra work…

    Joe says:
    May 9, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    E-mail just came in to me;
    DATE: May 09, 2010 16:48:51 CST
    Salazar Dispatches NPS and FWS Directors to Gulf Coast Command Centers to Support Fight to Protect Coastal Communities and Wildlife

  80. http://www.mms.gov/DeepwaterHorizon.htm

    Our government doesn’t name or mention BP in the legal part of the incident. We can’t imagine that the contract between Transocean and BP didn’t require proof of insurance a coverage for liability in case of an accident.
    Wind turbine condor cuisanrt issues:
    “It’s hard to justify this kind of bird and bat slaughter for the amount of electricity we’re generating here,” council spokesman John Sheehan said. “Ultimately we think there are good places to put windmills and wind turbines, but we need to do some study before we start putting them up, and that wasn’t done here.”

    Now we have a different bird kill. Death by tar and feathering.

    In the scheme of the planet, which is worse? We know wind turbines will wipe out birds. We also know 30,000 offshore wells have not killed birds but this leak will.

    So we have problems with dirty birds
    One of the posts questioned why the media has nearly zero stories from survivors. The are not doing their work.
    Just like the below 100 pages of wind turbine accidents/incidents. They are death by a thousand paper cuts and many deaths are reported but never 11 deaths at one time. Turbines by Mitsibushi are famous for leaking oil and contaminating soil. Some are bird killers. Some blades fail in great numbers.

  81. Do I understand this correctly. BP use a well known US company now based in Switzerland possibly for tax or other reasons to do the drilling and there’s a blow-out. BP are immediately castigated for being a Foreign Firm and clearly the cause of the problem which is essentially what Ms Palin has suggested. Reading the accounts here, it seems that this comment reinforces many people’s opinion that she rather tends to speak first then think afterwards. Now I know there’s history between BP and Palins so perhaps a more cynical person would suggest that someone is being naughty.
    Of course I’m not an expert but common sense (yes that rare commondity) suggests that something has happened which transcends normal and extra normal occurences – it happens in all walks of life and that no-one can be personally responsible – which seems to be the thrust of this case. It seems to me that BP has reacted very quickly and positively in it statements and actions. Whatever they’ve tried hasn’t worked yet but we don’t hear too many comments from other experts about how they would achieve the goal.
    I feel sad for those who lost lives and for the problems that oil causes to wildlife habitat and livelihood and feel that this continual sniping from some with other agendas don’t exactly help

  82. “Grumpy Old Man says:
    May 10, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Good article and some worthwhile comment especially about oil companies’ need to drill offshore when we have other resou(r)ces waiting on land. But I have to disagree with Smokey. The words Socialism and ‘common sense’ should not appear in the same sentence.”

    A poor citation on my part. Those words were actually mine. I stand by them, incompetence knows no political affiliation.

  83. David Middleton says:
    May 10, 2010 at 8:41 am
    @Wren says:
    May 10, 2010 at 8:12 am

    That’s like arguing that you shouldn’t grow corn in Indiana because Indiana-grown corn makes up only 3% of the world’s corn supply and chemical fertilizers can be hazardous.
    ===
    The argument is 3% of supply has little effect on price. It doesn’t matter if it’s oil or corn.

  84. James Sexton says:
    May 10, 2010 at 8:41 am
    @ Wren says:
    It’s been a while since I last checked, but don’t ever remember the “technically recoverable oil” decreasing. In other words, we’re not depleting our oil wells. For whatever reason,(pick one conspiracy or another) we’re simply not pumping or drilling. Billions of barrels of oil has been found Williston Basin Province of North Dakota, Montana, and South Dakota (http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2008/3092/). ANWR has more. The USGS is a great place to find information about availability of our various resources. Dependence on foreign oil is self inflicted. With the various technologies, we don’t have to be. Equating it to the gas pump prices, is a different matter. We don’t currently have the capacity to refine the oil. We haven’t built a new refinery since the 70s. But like electricity, our other forms of energy, if we chose to, could be as cheap and plentiful as we desire. As pointed out in the article, the earth would probably significantly cleaner if we chose to do it ourselves, however, short-sighted reactionary green thinkers have convinced many Americans its better this way.
    ====
    Oil is a depletable resource. The wells eventually run dry. The domestic reserves we use now will not be available for future generations of Americans. Sure, new oil is being formed, but not as fast as existing reserves are being consumed. So conservation and alternative sources of energy are important if we place value on our dependents.

  85. Correction to my previous post:

    Make that descendants, not “dependents.” Not that I don’t place value on my dependents, but I hope all my descendants don’t become my dependents.

  86. Jack Simmons says:
    May 10, 2010 at 3:19 am

    RayB says:
    May 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Here is a crackpot idea..
    How about a heat exchanger in the box? Weld in big pipes around the inner circumference and pump (warm) surface water through it at a regulated flow to control chamber temps and break down the crystals at a controlled rate. An insulating jacket around the chamber and a regulated heat exchanger would give some control of the environment inside.

    Ray,

    Do everyone a favor and pass this notion onto BP with this email address:

    Horizonsupport@oegllc.com

    Hi Jack,

    Thanks for the e-mail address and positive response. I will send them my design idea.

    wws says:
    May 10, 2010 at 6:35 am

    To jack simmons – re, the heat exchanger – somehow, the heat has to be generated downhole, pumping surface water won’t work. Reason? Don’t forget that anything pumped down has got to travel through 5,000 feet of ocean cooled tubing. BP would have to use coiled, flexible tubing off a support ship with such equipment, and I don’t believe it’s possible to insulate the flexible tubing. Therefore they’d be working against a thermal heat sink which consists of the entire ocean – impossible. It’s like pumping the fluid through a 5,000 ft long water cooled jacket and expecting it to still be warm at the end.

    Generating the heat downhole can be done, but it’s not easy.

    ——————

    The two biggest challenges to my plan are the ocean cooling the water and the depth pressure. After considering it for a day or so, I still think that it can be overcome.

    WWS brings up a good point, but again I think that we can get past it. The entire 5,000 feet of the pipe would not need to be flexible, only the final length. Using semi-rigid or rigid pipe part way up would open up avenues for insulation through the majority of the thermocline and address the depth pressure issues at the same time. There are also options of increasing flow volume and initial temperature to get more heat to the vessel, and increasing pressure to equalize against the depth.

    Someone above mentioned using an electrical resistive heating unit. How about combining that with my idea and put a water heater/boiler at the the vessel to increase or decrease the amount of heat added by the exchanger, either as a booster for surface water or a stand alone undersea heat generation unit.

    Still under consideration..

    RJB

  87. Smokey says:
    May 9, 2010 at 7:45 pm
    Dutch oil skimming ships are standing by to assist. But the EPA will not allow them to suck up the oil, because the excess water that is returned to the ocean has a small amount of oil still in it.
    =========
    That’s odd considering the EPA says skimming is one of the recovery activities(see discussion of burning in link).

    http://www.epa.gov/bpspill/qanda.html

    I suspect there is something missing in the story from the Dutch ships.

  88. “Generating the heat downhole can be done, but it’s not easy.”

    “I’m wondering why resistance wire couldn’t be used. Heating with electricity would bypass the problem of pumping heat through a mile of cold ocean water.”

    Sometimes the biggest problems are the simplest. Anything electrical is going to require a 5,000 ft long extension cord coming down from the surface, but it has to be strong enough not to pull itself in two by it’s own weight. (okay, we’re talking wireline here) But it’s also got to be able to carry HUGE amounts of current without burning up, so it’s got to be pretty thick – remember heating that high a volume of water is going to take a LOT of continuous current. And then it’s got to be able to make a perfectly watertight and electrically insulated connection under the approx 2200 psi water pressure at that depth.

    One single drop of water gets into the electrical system *anywhere* along that line, and the whole system shorts out.

  89. Wren

    Read what we are doing v. what the Dutch want to do. Last report I saw we had skimmed about 2,000,000 gallons of which only about 10% is oil. The rest must be stored on the tanker. The dutch want to skim and return the bulk of the water to the sea. Naturally, it will contain some residual oil. The EPA will not allow this to happen – last I knew.

  90. It is the tremendous pressure the oil & gas are under and surprise pressure surges, analogous to a shaken can of soda pop, which present the greatest challenge to safe exploration & development of offshore oil resources.

    Controlling surprise pressure surges with redundant safety features is a top priority.

    In a broader view, the American National Interest requires stable, consistent, low cost energy supplies (it seems some want expensive and unreliable energy supplies as a national policy).

    Oil will be part of that mix for decades to come.

    Safety means being one step-ahead of potentially dangerous situations. It requires a series of “what if this happens” type questions and answers based in solid engineering know how.

    Nature can always overpower Man and his machines, but that can’t stop men from engineering machines to engage and take advantage of Nature’s bounty with increasing safety and productivity.

    It can be done, it just takes ‘will’ and engineering know how.

    I can only hope Man will never lose his nerve and retreat into a stance of timidity and passive acceptance of limitation.

  91. I wonder why they wouldn’t try a big electrical centrifugal pump powered from the barge on the surface to chop up the gas hydrates and lift the column of oil plus gas within the pipe 5000 up to the barge/tanker? If enough electrical power was available to run both the pump and an electrical heater for the bottom few feet of piping, could this suffice to prevent a jam of ice crystals within the pipe that might jam up and shut off the flow from the pump? Isn’t the stuff hot as it escapes from the broken riser, but not for long as it mixes with the cold water on the sea floor?

  92. WHY did the oil rig sink ??

    (– Because a small fleet of firefighting boats hosed many hundreds of tons of seawater on to the burning structure… causing it to capsize, break the drill-pipe open, and sink)

    If they had merely let the rig burn… there would be no major oil spill at all.

    The rig would still be afloat and the drill-pipe readily accessible for containment.

    Search and rescue aboard the oil rig was obviously a pointless task soon after the explosion– the dead were dead, and the survivors had escaped.

    Still it took 36 hours for zealous firefighters to capsize & sink the giant rig– directly causing the huge oil spill. Sinking the rig definitely put out the fire…they will probably all get medals.

    Win-the Battle-But Lose-the-War.

    Note that one of the first Federal ‘solutions’ attempted to quell the oil spill — was to ignite the oil and burn it off. That solution had already been easily available at no cost or effort — except for the “quick-thinking” firefighters.

  93. wws,

    Here’s what I was thinking: I didn’t mean using electric current to heat the water. You’re right, that would take a lot of amps, and it probably wouldn’t work anyway since cold sea water would be constantly flushing out the warmed water until the vessel was in place. Instead, I was thinking that the containment vessel walls could be lined with resistance wire to keep the methane ice from forming, similar to the defrosting setup in a car’s rear window.

    Also, the copper wires wouldn’t have to be that big a gauge if the voltage was high enough. A step-down transformer in the containment vessel could multiply the current.

    I was just speculating. There are plenty of much more knowledgeable engineers working on the problem than me.

  94. @David44 asked “It seems like a short but huge bolus of (nature’s best friend) CO2 released from large on-board reservoir tanks and aimed at the stack might be effective in immediately snuffing a fire like this. ”

    Putting out the fire doesn’t solve the problem. It would just re-ignite, for the same reason it ignited the first time. They weren’t trying to put it out, they were trying to salvage the hull.

  95. Smokey, those much more experienced engineers are all coming up snake eye’s at the moment, so your ideas are as good as theirs. They apparently have a way to pump some material into the BOP from the side, which is why they are going to try a “junk shot”. They must also think the BOP valves are at least partially closed for that to work.

    But I fear that is still a real low percentage play. It’s a desperation shot, which is why they are hesitant to try it.

    That resistance idea built into the cap isn’t bad, although you still have the problem of maintaining a deep electrical connection. (or maybe an ROV could plug in and provide power?) I think the reason the hydrate problem is so bad is that the decompression at that point is acting as a refrigerator unit. They are now going to try a differently designed box – you can just imagine the Engineer’s arguments going on back at the office.

    I’ll guarantee there’s *somebody* saying “I told you that first one would never work!!!”

  96. The specific gravity of the oil and hydrates is lower than that of sea water and that is why the stuff is rising to the surface, but probably very slowly. It would seem to be wishful thinking to expect this gelatinous goo to rise up into the peak of the “dome” and enter a pipe that would take it to the surface simply due to a lifting force from the “floatation” effect caused by a nominal difference in specific gravity. Are they reluctant to pump it upward because this could create a sludge-like mix of stuff and water that would take an eternity to separate into oil and water and methane that would send the methane-conscious AGW anti-carbon hysterians into orbit?

  97. OK, a giant centrifuge conld possibly be constructed, and eventually the sludge held for awhile in a gigantic storage pond could be seperated into ints component parts: oil, water and methane. Naturally, while being stored in an open pond, methane would be vented into the atmosphere, and according to the AGW credo, methane is much worse than CO2. So is such a concern possibly causing the oil pollution to continue unabated while the methane escapes anyway into the atmosphere?

  98. @DCC said: “They weren’t trying to put it out, they were trying to salvage the hull.”
    But they sank it which is why the riser lies leaking in the bottom, right? There must be a better way. I know nothing (obviously) about oil rigs or fire suppression, so maybe there isn’t. I suppose that even if they immediately killed all power so there wouldn’t be another spark, the hot stack would just reignite anyway – unless there was enough CO2 to cool it sufficiently. Not going to solve it here, but I hope “they” find something effective because it seems inevitable that somewhere, sometime there will be another blowout and fire on one of these offshore rigs. Offshore drilling could get banned now in U.S. waters, but it won’t everywhere.

  99. Bob, I think the plan (if the cofferdam idea is to work at all) is to hook up piping to it and then to suck up the oil with a high capacity pump, just like from a straw, while shooting it into a supply boat that can separate the sea water and oil. (that equipment exists already, it’s not a problem) Of course if the tubing is clogged with hydrates this doesn’t work, just like the milkshake that’s too thick. Too much suction would just collapse the tubing if it’s clogged.

  100. I went grocery shopping today and the price of frozen fish and ‘fish-sticks’ was up 20%-50% from six months ago. Coincidence?

  101. @Layne Blanchard
    Country common sense at work! Y’all can’t get no more organic than grass and hay.

  102. Maybe they could burn magnesium flares inside the box to warm up the slush? Flares get their oxygen from the seawater, so there would be no extra oxygen to explode the methane.

  103. wws, smokey, bob, et al

    I don’t think running power down 500o feet or insulating a tube is practical. Might it make more sense to put a radio controlled, battery operated dispensing unit that metered out a chemical like magnesium hydride inside the housing? Dispense the magnsesium hydride in small quantities as required and generate as much heat as needed. Of course if the dispensing unit sprouts a leak it could make things much… much… worse….

  104. Layne Blanchard says:
    May 10, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    “A couple of good ole boys outwit the experts…”

    Good idea and the oil can be recovered and used, but there goes my winter hay supply.

  105. Another e-mail just recieved from BP:

    Prepared by the Joint Information Center

    UPDATED May 10, 2010 7 PM

    * For a full timeline of the Administration-wide response, visit the White House Blog.

    PAST 24 HOURS

    The President Meets with Cabinet Members in the Situation Room

    President Obama met with a number of Cabinet members and senior staff in the White House Situation Room to review BPs efforts to stop the oil leak as well as to decide on next steps to ensure all is being done to contain the spread, mitigate the environmental impact and provide assistance to affected states, including individuals, businesses, and communities.

    The President asked Secretary Chu to lead a team of top administration officials and government scientists to Houston this week for an extensive dialogue with BP officials to continue to aggressively pursue potential solutions.

    In addition, to deal more generally with the harms created by oil spills, the President has requested that legislation be sent to Congress to toughen and update the law surrounding caps on damages.

    EPA Administrator Jackson Returns to the Gulf Coast

    Administrator Jackson made another visit to the Gulf region to oversee efforts to mitigate the environmental and human health impact of the ongoing BP oil spillvisiting Baton Rouge, La., to receive a briefing by Louisiana State University scientists; and Robert, La., to receive a briefing by federal agency scientists.

    Secretary Salazar Dispatches Top Land Management Official

    Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that Director of the Bureau of Land Management Robert Abbey has been dispatched to the Gulf Coast to support ongoing response efforts to the BP Deepwater oil spill.

    Navy Supports Skimming Operations

    The U.S. Navy is providing assistance in the areas of skimming and salvage operationsincluding 16 Modular Skimming Systems deployed to Gulfport, Miss. 1,400 total associated Department of Defense personnel have been deployed in support of spill cleanup and mitigation.

    New Staging Location Opens in Amelia, La.

    14 staging areas have been set up to protect vital shoreline in all potentially affected Gulf Coast states (Biloxi, Miss., Pascagoula, Miss., Pensacola, Fla., Panama City, Fla., Dauphin Island, Ala., Grand Isle, La., Shell Beach, La., Slidell, La., Venice, La., Orange Beach, Al., Theodore, Al., Pass Christian, Ms., Amelia, La., and Cocodrie, La.).

    Property Damage Claims Processed

    BP reports that 5,710 property damage claims have been opened, from which $2.4 million has been disbursed. No claims have been denied at this time. Approximately 60 operators are answering phones, and average wait time is currently less than a minute. To file a claim, or report spill-related damage, call BPs helpline at (800) 440-0858. For those who have already pursued the BP claims process and are not satisfied with BPs resolution, can call the Coast Guard at (800) 280-7118.

    NOAA Conducts Research and Evaluation

    NOAA Research is evaluating the information obtained from the NOAA P-3 (hurricane hunter) aircraft flight over the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current on May 8.

    Lessons Learned from Exxon Valdez Examined

    Alaska and Louisiana Sea Grant personnel are meeting regularly with Alaska Oil Spill Responders to explore lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez incident and possible applications to the Deepwater Horizon. NOAAs Sea Grant is a university-based network of more than 3,000 scientists, engineers and educators.

    Fish & Wildlife Field Crews Respond

    Eight field crews have been deployed from the Dennis Pass Wildlife Staging Area to observe the impact on wildlife due to the spill. Wildlife search and capture teams conducted boat operations from the Lake Borgne to the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River and west to Cameron, La. Four helicopters conducted aerial surveys to observe wildlife and determine if rescue operations are needed in potentially affected areas.

    Water and Sediment is Sampled

    The U.S. Geological Survey completed water and sediment sampling at 16 sites along coastal Alabama and Mississippi. USGS is preparing for sampling in Texas and Florida, and also for sea-grass bed surveys.

    Plans Begin for Bioremediation

    USDAs Natural Resources Conservation Service is assessing the capabilities of Plant Materials Centers and asking commercial growers to ramp up plant propagation efforts for potential future bioremediation efforts.

    Aerial Dispersant Spray Missions Flown

    Modular Aerial Spray System (MASS) aircraft flew multiple missionsdispensing the same dispersant chemical being used by BP and the federal responders. These systems are capable of covering up to 250 acres per flight.

    By the Numbers to Date:

    * Personnel were quickly deployed and approximately 10,000 are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife.

    * More than 290 vessels are responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup effortsin addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.

    * More than 1 million feet of boom (regular and sorbent) have been deployed to contain the spilland more than 1.3 million feet are available.

    * Nearly 3.5 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.

    * Approximately 325,000 gallons of dispersant have been deployed. More than 500,000 gallons are available.

    * 14 staging areas have been set up to protect vital shoreline in all potentially affected Gulf Coast states (Biloxi, Miss., Pascagoula, Miss., Pensacola, Fla., Panama City, Fla., Dauphin Island, Ala., Grand Isle, La., Shell Beach, La., Slidell, La., Venice, La., Orange Beach, Al., Theodore, Al., Pass Christian, Ms., Amelia, La., and Cocodrie, La.).

    Resources:

    * For information about the response effort, visit http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.

    * For specific information about the federal-wide response, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/deepwater-bp-oil-spill.

    * To contact the Deepwater Horizon Joint Information Center, call (985) 902-5231.

    * To volunteer, or to report oiled shoreline, call (866) 448-5816. Volunteer opportunities can also be found here.

    * To submit your vessel as a vessel of opportunity skimming system, or to submit alternative response technology, services, or products, call 281-366-5511.

    * To report oiled wildlife, call (866) 557-1401. Messages will be checked hourly.

    * For information about validated environmental air and water sampling results, visit http://www.epa.gov/bpspill.

    * For National Park Service updates about potential park closures, resources at risk, and NPS actions to protect vital park space and wildlife, visit http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/oil-spill-response.htm.

    * To file a claim, or report spill-related damage, call BPs helpline at (800) 440-0858. A BP fact sheet with additional information is available here. For those who have already pursued the BP claims process and are not satisfied with BPs resolution, can call the Coast Guard at (800) 280-7118. More information about what types of damages are eligible for compensation under the Oil Pollution Act as well as guidance on procedures to seek that compensation can be found here.

    AUDIO RELEASE: Unified Area Command press briefing May 10, 2010

    Download audio file by clicking HERE

    ROBERT, La. – U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry, the federal on-scene coordinator, Doug Suttles, BP Chief Operating Officer, and Lars Herbst, MMS Regional Director of the Gulf of Mexico Region, hold a briefing here May, 10, 2010 to update the media and the public and to answer questions. In the briefing, members of the unified area command discussed several topics, including the oil spill clean-up efforts currently underway. U.S. Coast Guard audio clip by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

  106. http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/05/gulf-spill-did-pesky-hydrates-tr.html
    “Methane-trapping ice of the kind that has frustrated the first attempt to contain oil gushing offshore of Louisiana may have been a root cause of the blowout that started the spill in the first place, according to University of California, Berkeley, professor Robert Bea, who has extensive access to BP p.l.c. documents on the incident. If methane hydrates are eventually implicated, the U.S. oil and gas industry would have to tread even more lightly as it pushes farther and farther offshore in search of energy.”

  107. One simple but totally politically incorrect method of keeping the containment dome warm would be to bolt some shielded uranium fuel rods to the casing and insulate the exterior. Nuclear fuels can provide a steady heat for years in sub critical quantities. This has been used to power Seabeck effect generators in many spacecraft including Voyager. 5000 ft power cords would not be needed, just more spine than the average politician possesses…

  108. …a sludge-like mix of stuff and water that would take an eternity to separate into oil and water…

    Bob, in oil fields with low production wells, separater tanks are used. The mixture of oil, brine, and crap is pumped into the tank and either allowed to naturally separate (a week or 2?), or the tank is heated (by propane). We designed, built, and tested a rugged
    “mobile” prototype solar heater for use in oil fields. The dumb-as-rocks free-ranging cattle ate the hi-tech insulation, but it worked well (just too expensive).

  109. How ’bout applying subsonic waves to break up the methane hydrates that are keeping the bottom from sealing? How much stronger than water ice are they at those depths?

  110. Leif Svalgaard says:
    May 10, 2010 at 8:26 pm
    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/05/gulf-spill-did-pesky-hydrates-tr.html
    “Methane-trapping ice of the kind that has frustrated the first attempt to contain oil gushing offshore of Louisiana may have been a root cause of the blowout that started the spill in the first place, according to University of California, Berkeley, professor Robert Bea, who has extensive access to BP p.l.c. documents on the incident. If methane hydrates are eventually implicated, the U.S. oil and gas industry would have to tread even more lightly as it pushes farther and farther offshore in search of energy.”
    ——
    REPLY: Thanks, Leif, that is a very credible explanation for how the sequence of events happened. Best technical explanation I’ve seen yet, but I’m sure we’ll see many more.

    Oh yeah, the sun is blank, no sunspots.

  111. Doug Badgero says:
    May 10, 2010 at 11:57 am
    Wren

    Read what we are doing v. what the Dutch want to do. Last report I saw we had skimmed about 2,000,000 gallons of which only about 10% is oil. The rest must be stored on the tanker. The dutch want to skim and return the bulk of the water to the sea. Naturally, it will contain some residual oil. The EPA will not allow this to happen – last I knew.
    ========
    The Dutch method is to skim oily water from the sea, separate the oil from the water with equipment onboard ship, retain the oil, and return the water to the sea. Because of onboard equipment limitations, the returned water still contains some oil. I could be wrong, but this sounds like a vessel of opportunity skimming method private boat owners may already be using under contract with BP (see link). If it is being used, I am puzzled by the Dutch claims about EPA not permitting it.

    http://www.brighthub.com/engineering/marine/articles/37290.aspx

    The other method is to carry the skimmed oily water by ship or barge to onshore facilities that do a more thorough job of separating the oil from the water before returning the water to the sea. I can understand why this is the preferred method.

  112. Wren;
    The other method is to carry the skimmed oily water by ship or barge to onshore facilities that do a more thorough job of separating the oil from the water before returning the water to the sea. I can understand why this is the preferred method>>

    Would the preference not be to do as much as you can with the “best” method and apply the “second best” method to anything that is over and above the capacity of the “best” method? Which makes more sense? Do a good job on some and a nearly as good job on more, or just do a good job on some?

  113. davidmhoffer says:
    May 11, 2010 at 6:37 am
    Wren;
    The other method is to carry the skimmed oily water by ship or barge to onshore facilities that do a more thorough job of separating the oil from the water before returning the water to the sea. I can understand why this is the preferred method>>

    Would the preference not be to do as much as you can with the “best” method and apply the “second best” method to anything that is over and above the capacity of the “best” method? Which makes more sense? Do a good job on some and a nearly as good job on more, or just do a good job on some?
    —————–
    I think they may already be using the second best method , the Vessel of Opportunity Skimming System(VOSS)described by the Dutch ship owners. Read the first link and look at the photo 7 in the second link.

    http://www.brighthub.com/engineering/marine/articles/37290.aspx

    http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/usa/features/article_1554119.php/In-Pictures-Gulf-Oil-Spill-Containment-Attempts-

    I am puzzled by the Dutch ship owner’s claim that EPA doesn’t permit a VOSS that may already be in use. Perhaps it’s a different method or there are issues with the Dutch that aren’t being explained.

  114. Layne Blanchard says:
    May 10, 2010 at 3:49 pm
    A couple of good ole boys outwit the experts

    The method looks promising. What are the officials saying?

  115. Rosalind,

    I have worked in Nuclear Power for 25 years and safety systems design is where my first thought went after hearing of this accident. In particular:

    A well head blowout should be considered an eventuality not a remote possibility.

    AND

    There should be AT LEAST two INDEPENDENT means of isolation capable of isolating under “accident” conditions.

    The key is determining what accident conditions look like and having two systems that are truly independent. I hope this is where we go from here.

  116. I have read somewhere that the latest concept involves a riser having a two-foot diameter to be flooded with seawater and attached to the top of the smaller dome, with a 6-inch drill pipe within it in an annular coaxial arrangement to bring up the slush from the biggest leak inside the drill pipe. As I understand it, instead of pumping slush up from the bottom, the concept involves pumping seawater into the riser at the surface, expecting the additional pressure at the bottom to force the slush up the drill pipe and into a recovery vessel.

    However, wouldn’t this concept require a rather good seal between the bottom edge of the dome and the sea floor to minimize leakage and maintain the extra pressure from the surface pump? This is a possible alternative to the big problems involved with a heavy, fairly high-voltage electrical cable and perhaps a voltage step-down transformer at the bottom that could be needed to power a big pump on the sea floor, but I hope they are looking at that and other backup concepts if the latest one doesn’t work out.

  117. re the “good old boys” and the hay absorbent.

    These guys are good. What they don’t say, though, is how cold the water is, and how thick the oil. Also, how fine is the mesh on the strainer the guy used. Try this without the hay, and you can scoop up the oil out of the water with that strainer! Cold oil has a very high viscosity (makes it thick), so it will not flow through the mesh on that strainer.

    Did anybody else catch that?

  118. I still find it an odd coincidence that this occured approx 20 days after Obama’s announcement of the 31st March, which lifted a 30 year moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration around the US coastline.

    At the moment, there are parts of the US establishment, the UK and western europe who probably don’t want the US to focus on oil/gas at home, a policy which would result in US disengagement overseas.

    At the moment Europe is looking at a future dependent on a Russian gas supplies (Nord Stream, Blue Stream, South Stream pipelines), the alternative EU/US Nabucco pipeline project remains stuck due to Putin’s clever tactics. Without US help to unblock this project Europe would fall under Russia’s sphere of influence. I doubt that the the UK establishment will tolerate any dependance on Russian gas for itself, or indeed the rest of Europe… and all that it would mean.

  119. Eye-witness claims that “Static Electricity” may have ignited some (methane?) gas causing several explosions, killing 11 people, initiating 3 underwater gushers and ultimately sinking the entire rig.

    Static Electricity? That’s weak.

    But it’s also a fantastic story! An environmentalist wet-dream that ultimately turns very profitable for the Obots and eliminates all oil-drilling in the future only if they can convince enough people this fairy-tale scenario is plausible. Which it isn’t.

  120. The good the bad and the ugly–
    http://oil-price.net/en/articles/use-nukes-to-contain-the-oil-spill.php
    million gallons a day
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/may/13/bp-oil-spill-ocean-footage

    A–How much value has been(will be)
    lost in Gulf waterfront property–
    especially high priced beach front
    and commercial–

    Will obama bail out the real estate companies
    and banks again(as people walk away from property
    or are newly foreclosured)?

    B–And the housing of the homeless has been
    solved -The abandoned waterfront houses of the wealthy
    will now be empty for at least the next 50 years
    and the govt cannot afford to demolish them
    or secure them–
    Therefore the homeless can
    move into these abandoned Gulf homes–
    and (bonus) the homeless will be
    exterminated by the oil fumes–
    the fumes will prevent decay so there
    will be no need for burials of the
    mummified homeless bodies.
    Some of the components of the Gulf
    milieu are very similar to the
    ones used in
    egyptian mummification
    (although I am certain our
    “technical” experts will disagree–
    but without presenting any documentation).
    http://www2.tbo.com/content/2010/may/09/na-bp-looks-to-charter-panhandle-boats/

    C– will the oil increase the surface water temperature
    sufficiently to increase evaporation or will
    the slick prevent evaporation of the underlying water?

    D–Wave height should be decreased by
    the surface oil(you know–“oil on troubled waters”)

    E–Poor can now return to live in
    newly abandoned New Orleans
    for at least the next 50 years
    (without concern for gentrification)
    Jazz revival without tourists can be expected.
    (also without FEMA
    backwater or any police–
    since law enforcement personnel
    will refuse to work or live in the
    health risky, deadly contaminated area)

    F–Damage to Gulf industries and
    shipping and mississippi shipping
    should generate govt grants and loans
    that should stimulate the economy.
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=19068
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/05/10/93859/us-agency-lets-oil-industry-write.html

    G–Illegal Immigration is solved by putting
    illegal immigrants to work
    in the Gulf industries because the native
    workers will abandon the Gulf.

    H–Cuban problem is solved as cuba is
    inundated by the oil –making it uninhabitable for
    both the revolutionaries and the cuban Miami Mafia.
    The oil slick appears to have already reached cuba.

    click on 500M on the left

    (not coincidentally–these gulf pictures
    appear to have been discontinued–
    although surrounding area pics continue)

    I–The poor living in the gulf area(those not mummified)
    will become genetically modified to survive
    (you know Darwin “evolution” “selection of the species”)
    in the oil enriched environment–
    and become the only humans(?) in the area.

    J–Most of the new gulf wells
    (maybe the past 10 thousand wells)
    are not yet producing–
    they are just capped and inventoried
    as a company asset and they
    can be made to produce with very little effort–
    so stopping drilling in the
    gulf now wont affect gulf production
    for the next 100 years.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/12/bp-whistleblower-claimed_n_573839.html
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/05/09/1620454/as-oil-wells-went-deeper-safety.html
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=19151
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=19134

    Just keep pretending this is just
    another lil ol spill.

    Nuke it or drown in oil.

  121. Plain and simple, we need to get off of toxic energy sources and move to more begnine sources like solar and wind power.
    “…Covering 4% of the world’s desert area with photovoltaics could supply the equivalent of all of the world’s electricity. The Gobi Desert alone could supply almost all of the world’s total electricity demand…”(*1)
    Then there’s solar concentrator towers that produce massive amounts of power by generating steam to turn turbines. The molten salts get so hot that the power plant also runs at night.(*2)
    We can then use high speed rail to distribute goods, services and paassengers cross country faster and far cheaper than cars and diesel trucks and do it with zero effluent.
    They are used all over the world but the US has fallen behind.
    Personal vehicles for commuting can be charged with solar/wind systems at home and plugged in at work where 4MW GE turbines (like the ones being installed in Lake Erie right now)will power the grid in combination with solar arrays on commercial roof tops.
    Coal and nuclear power will be a relegated to a dark time in our past.
    One lesson we don’t seem to have learned is that there is nothing that man has made that has not experienced catastrophic failure. No matter how hard we try no matter what ‘fail-safe’ devices we employ they still fail. Consequently in order to minimize damage to our natural life support system we need to expand the use of more begnine energy technologies.
    The computer I am writing this on is powered by a renewable solar/wind system that provides me with 95% of my energy consumption for our home. When we get a Nissan Leaf we will add to the system to be able to charge the vehicle easily whether it is cloudy or clear. This will eliminate the need for petroleum for commuting to work which is about 90% of our travels.
    If we as a nation minimize our need for petroleum then we won’t have to engage in wars and risky behavour to satisfy our addiction.
    We could begin to dismantle the island of roughly six million tons of plastic in the ocean that is twice the size of Texas(*3) and make plastic items out of corn and soy which are already in common use and are quickly biodegradable.
    Lets face it, burning oil and coal to produce energy is stone age technology. It is dirty, messy and toxic and is poisoning us and our planet.
    In 1990 the rate of autism was 1 in 10,000 today it is 1 in 150. Autism has been linked to mercury and other toxins and coal fired power plants are one of the highest polluters of mercury that there is.
    The EPA has recently changed their position on certain sea foods because of mercury contamination. They are now saying that any woman of child bearing age and any child under the age of 12 should totally avoid eating halibut that weigh over 100 pounds because of the high mercury levels.
    What happens to a society when your food makes you sick? What happens when 50% of a society is mentally handicapped? At the rate we are going it will not be long.
    Our ability to procreate is also dropping at an alarming rate.
    People are crisis oriented and often will not change until the 11th hour, meanwhile the red warning flags are accelerating.
    People don’t want to let go and are afraid of change because the new is not as familiar as the old. And it seems that we will go kicking and screaming, ‘I want my oil’.
    The same old archaic and toxic energy systems must go. We need to change as indications are that we will be facing unnecessarily dire consequences.

    (*1) http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=solar_home-basics
    (*2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PS10_solar_power_tower
    (*3)http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6206498.ece

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