Live Video of BP "Top Kill" Procedure

BP MC252 well gushing oil – environmental disaster video courtesy of British Petroleum

Later today, BP is expected to try to reduce the flow of oil from their MC252 well by pumping heavy drilling fluids into the pipe.

Throughout the extended top kill procedure – which may take up to two days to complete – very significant changes in the appearance of the flows at the seabed may be expected. These will not provide a reliable indicator of the overall progress, or success or failure, of the top kill operation as a whole. BP will report on the progress of the operation as appropriate and on its outcome when complete.

You can watch the procedure live on the BP web site:

click here for live video. This is what it looked like earlier this morning:

WUWT has some very smart readers. How would you close the pipe? Hopefully you can do better than this :

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201 thoughts on “Live Video of BP "Top Kill" Procedure

  1. Surely something like a giant rawl bolt would block it off just fine ! Stick it in fully opened allowing the oil to gush through it and then use the oil pressure to force the expander into the RAWL and voila … blocked (sh).
    🙂 Simples … it will work honest !

  2. I know you can get a submersible to that depth, so I would expect some type of repair operation would be possible.

  3. I don’t know why they haven’t tried to replace the BOP. Of couse, that would mean a totally uncontrolled well flow if they can’t get the new one to seal. Maybe they figure that a (relatively) small leak through the existing BOP into a pipe that they may have some hope of eventually sealing is better than the risk of an uncontrolled hole in the bottom of the sea. (reminds me of a song: there’s a plug in a pipe on a valve in a hole in the bottom of the sea. everyone sing along…)
    mud will work, assuming 1) the overpressure doesn’t damage the BOP, worsening the leak and 2) water pressure on the seafloor (and oil bearing rock layer) isn’t so high that they can’t force back the oil.

  4. I would think it would be useful to have on a submersible a self-contained, remote controlled high pressure hydraulic unit which you could attach different tools (think ‘jaws-of-life’) which you could use to cut or crimp piping. I would think you could use a tool like that to crimp off the pipe to stop the flow…which is what the BOP (Blow-Out Preventer) is supposed to do in the first place.

  5. Actually what BP is doing is the best option. The riser (part of the pipe above the BOP) contains drilling pipe plus the pipe that is visible. The drilling pipe was involved in the well cementing procedures underway when the well blew-out. Drilling pipe (drill string) is significantly thicker and harder than the riser which presents a number of compounding problems for stopping the blow-out. Although there is some confusion regarding the pipe shear rams on the BOP and whether they partially deployed during the accident, removal of the riser above the BOP could result in expelling some or all of the drilling pipe (potentially several thousands of feet) with the real danger that that pipe string could result in significant damage to the remaining surface equipment and well bore. No type of “giant rawl bolt” would work. Blowing-up of the wellhead would accomplish nothing except removing any possibility that any surface control of the blow-out could be accomplished (where do people come up with these ideas!). And BTW – all operations at the wellhead is being accomplished via submersibles (unmanned).

  6. The problem with plugging the pipe in any way (and the reason BP went for a syphon tube instead of a plug) is that the riser pipe laying on the seabed, which the oil is coming out since it is still connected to the top of the bop stack, is cracked and fractured in numerous areas along it’s length. (1800′ if memory serves)
    Any attempt to set a plug at the mouth and the confined pressure will certainly burst the riser pipe at some other spot, making an even bigger mess than exists right now.

  7. Drill those relief wells boys, drill, drill, drill. The new leaks are causing me worry. Even if this is successful it may cause more pressure and leaks elsewhere getting worse. The casing won’t last forever and I’m getting nervous. The Purdue University professor went over the calcs for flow and +/- 20% he was saying 70,000 BPD. It could get much worse.
    I am hoping they get the thing plugged permanently before the ocean floor becomes unstable. They started drilling the relief wells the first week I believe so we are 2 months away from the solution.
    All this when we have centuries of natural gas on land in shale deposits that we can extract and use. We have no “energy” policy. We have an oil policy.

  8. How about a bladder, like a basketball, only tougher. Insert it with a high pressure airline already attached. Have the robot hold it in place inside the pipe. Pump in air until the bladder is wedged against the side of the pipe. Put the bladder 3 or 4 feet into the opening. Once the flow stops, pump concrete in behind the bladder. You could probably carry the high pressure air on the robot so that you didn’t have to pump it down there.

  9. Demonstrating my ignorance, but do oil leaks EVER occur naturally? Perhaps some seismic shock opening up a crack in the ground?

  10. They aren’t being allowed to use standard procedures on this blowout, and anything can happen with this gambit, including the reason why they aren’t being allowed to use standard procedures. The debris field and bop should have been cleared and the riser removed. But that might cause more oil spill. So they think that pumping mud down the riser will reduce the flow, but that might cause increased flow. The problem is that even if the flow is reduced it doesn’t guarantee it will remain so for any given time, may cause an increased flow, and will not help standard procedures (may actually compromise) for capping the well – debris field cleared, the riser removed, a bop or valve installed on top, the well capped below the old bop, and go from there.
    We need John Wayne. Is Boots still around?

  11. Please do not refer to them as “British Petroleum”. They changed their name to “BP” to distance themselves from their British origins, and that works fine for us Brits, especially right now.

  12. Mandobob:
    “Actually what BP is doing is the best option. ”
    Sorry, I don’t understand that operation. Maybe you can explain. As I understand it, they are going to pump heavy drilling fluids into the pipe. But if they can pump it through a pipe and into a pipe, then why won’t the pressure and flow in the pipe pump it out as they are pumping it in?

  13. Tilo Reber says
    “How about a bladder, like a basketball, only tougher…”
    That is what BP did with the “siphon”. A pipe with a packer(s) was inserted into the end of the broken riser on the sea floor. The packers were inflated (I think the actually used cement) which sealed off the riser (kinda like an inflatable stopper) allowing recovery of fluids and gas at the surface (I believe estimated to be around 70 % of the ealier flow) . Unfortunately the other sections of the riser have leaks that were not affected by the siphon. The same idea could be used at the top of the BOP but as Mark Wagner noted earlier, better smaller leaks vs complete loss of control and what to do with the drill string still in the hole?

  14. For this procedure you would need enough good pipe to work with, presumably this would be above the BOP’s (the blow-out preventers in the “christmas tree” stack) , and ROV’s (the undersea remote-operated vehicles) that could do the work.
    Drill (or perhaps burn) cross-holes (secant, not just through-center) through the pipe. Insert rods of tough steel, high wear resistance with shock resistance and sufficient thickness for strength, fasten at both ends to the outside of the pipe in a manner that seals the holes. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
    You’ll end up with a “nest” that restricts flow, just a little bit with each rod which makes the job possible, too much force from the flow could prevent the rods from being inserted straight. This will basically create a “mesh” capable of catching stuff from below.
    I doubt the well is blowing chunks large enough for the nest to catch leading to the well eventually getting clogged up. So before the placing of the nest restricts flow greatly, further down you make a hole in the side of the pipe and attach an access port. While the well is blowing oil and gas under high pressure relative to the water pressure, normal fluid dynamics effects will keep the flow going straight up the pipe thus placing the access port can be done. After the nest is in place, start tossing junk into the access port. Whatever is large enough for the nest to catch that won’t be eroded by the flow, be it rubber balls, chunks of old tires, even hollow steel spheres.
    The flow will get restricted as the nest gets clogged up. At some point the pressure seen at the access port will be great enough that high forces may be needed to push in more junk. About then though the available passages through the nest will be somewhat small. Heavy mud can then be pumped in at the access port, further clogging the nest, or perhaps cement can be used.
    And along the way, with building the nest and the rest, the flow may drop enough enough that more “normal” methods can be used further up the pipe to reduce or stop the flow. But they better be dang sure those methods will work if tried before the nest is complete with the access port set, to avoid having too much flow outward from the pipe where the nest work is taking place.
    That should do it.
    No replies when I started, haven’t refreshed. Now I’ll just post and see if anyone else already thought this up. 🙂

  15. Tilo Riber – you have pinpointed the exact reason that this procedure may fail. The answer to your question is “yep, that could happen.” The hope is that there is enough of a restriction above that at least some of the heavy mud will go down the hole, not up, and this will build up and kill the flow.
    But yeah, it’s like trying to kill a spewing fire hydrant by pumping more stuff into it – odds are you’ll just make it spew faster.
    to Dermot o’logical – yep, oil seeps into the bottom of the ocean all the time. But generally not in a single huge, high volume geyser like this one. That’s because the high pressure regions are usually well insulated from the surface, until you stick a 10,000 foot straw into them.

  16. A three stage control valve would reduce the fear of pipe collapse. The suction of the pumps has the power to collapse or fracture the weakened riser, which is why a direct umbilical has not been established. However a three stage approach could work. A pipe with 2 outlets, one direct outlet for outflow and a second for suction. The rig would have a shape like a PVC (y) fitting. The outlet (free flow) pipe could be slowly reduced by the remotes with a valve so the flow could be slowly cut off allowing the suction to take over the flow. The umbilical connection to the pipe could have a set of relief flaps installed to allow excess pressure release as the pumps increase their flow rate. The spring operated relief flaps would be used as a visual indicator (when the outflow and suction is equalized the flaps will close). This would reduce the risk of riser collapse or fracture. There are devices available that could be used to secure the umbilical to the interior of the pipe. It is vital that the equalization procedure be maintained; otherwise one could make the spill much worse by fracturing the riser in multiple locations.

  17. Glenn-
    Do you have real data showing they are “not being allowed to use standard procedures”? From everything I can find the standard procedures are more likely to fail than even the weak attempt we will see later today.
    Blow up the damn thing, and have the CEO of BP sitting on the bomb, Dr. Strangelove style.

  18. They could easily stop the leak by blowing up the area around the pipe. They don’t want to do that, however, because it would mean they would have to start drilling again rather than use the current bore to extract oil in the future. Do the sums.
    Cost of clean up << Cost of drilling new bore

  19. 2200 psi makes most any direct stopper difficult.
    I wonder what is more damaging to the fish, the spill or a shockwave from a small nuke?

  20. By the way, I don’t blame BP for not just blowing the pipe up to close it. They are a company which answers to shareholders, there is no insentive for them to close the hole NO MATTER WHAT.
    And let’s face it, we are so fickle that Brad Pit only has to fart and the oil spill will no longer be the most important news item.

  21. For Tilo Reber
    See – http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/05/graphic_shows_how_leaking_oil.html
    Good graphic. Obviously there has to be some sort of “back pressure” created to allow for the kill fluid to gain pressure. Most likely BP will use some sort of fluid loss control material (there are so many types including plastics, paper, polymers, to name a few) initially to help control the leak and allow for the kill fluid to be directed downhole. I would guess it might take several attempts.

  22. Dermot O’Logical says:
    May 26, 2010 at 9:41 am
    Demonstrating my ignorance, but do oil leaks EVER occur naturally? Perhaps some seismic shock opening up a crack in the ground?

    Yes, they do. Off Catalina Island there’s been about a 6000 gallon a day ‘seep’. And it’s been going for centuries.
    http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=57272

  23. The relief wells will be the best and surest way of stopping this.
    If it’s leaking 70,000 barrels a day that is a very impressive flow rate and there must be one heck of a reservoir down there. It will start to produce formation water eventually…

  24. Why stop it? Just lower the biggest concrete or steel dome that can be practically handled over the whole area and siphon oil from the top of the dome. Since oil is less dense than seawater, I’d expect seawater to be forced out of the bottom, creating a giant, undersea oil tank. Then it becomes a question of whether oil can be pumped out of the dome fast enough to prevent it from spilling out around the base.

  25. Dermot O’Logical says:
    May 26, 2010 at 9:41 am
    “Demonstrating my ignorance, but do oil leaks EVER occur naturally? Perhaps some seismic shock opening up a crack in the ground?”
    There are many natural oil seeps all over the world. I’ve seen a few in Venezuela and Trinidad. One of the biggest is called ‘Mene Grande’ which is Spanish for ‘big oil seep’.

  26. Xi Chin said on May 26, 2010 at 10:30 am

    They could easily stop the leak by blowing up the area around the pipe. They don’t want to do that, however, because it would mean they would have to start drilling again rather than use the current bore to extract oil in the future. Do the sums.
    Cost of clean up << Cost of drilling new bore

    But they are drilling. Read this. They started drilling a relief well, and have also started a second “if needed” relief well. So you are saying they are avoiding having to drill again, for financial reasons, as they are drilling two wells simultaneously to permanently seal the leaking one.
    Does that make sense to you?

  27. ” Xi Chin says:
    May 26, 2010 at 10:30 am
    They could easily stop the leak by blowing up the area around the pipe. They don’t want to do that, however, because it would mean they would have to start drilling again rather than use the current bore to extract oil in the future. Do the sums.
    Cost of clean up << Cost of drilling new bore"
    I did. Cleanup costs 3-5 billion USD, analysts said, i would think probably even higher as the spill goes on. Cost of a deep sea bore according to Jimbo Wales' cohorts:
    "With deepwater drilling rig rates in 2010 of around $420,000/day[9], and similar additional spread costs, a deep water well of duration of 100 days can cost around US$100 million."
    So it looks to me like you should better exchange the "<>”.

  28. Mandobob:
    “Obviously there has to be some sort of “back pressure” created to allow for the kill fluid to gain pressure. ”
    It seems to me that creating back pressure is the problem to begin with. If you can do that, you don’t need the rest of the solution. Also, if there is an accuracy to the scale of your drawing, it looks like they could plug the smaller choke line and the kill line before they plug the main line. This “mud” is going to have to be pretty thick to plug the main line – considering that the main line has flow that will try to clear the mud. So it may well plug the two smaller lines before it gets a chance to plug the main line.
    For those people that are advocating a big explosion – I don’t understand. Looks like that will simply leave an opening further away from the current opening. The only way that an explosion would do any good is if it dumped enough junk on the leak point to seal it. But why would it do that? First of all, the explosion is in the water, so the settling of any junk would be gradual. Second of all, the pressure of escaping oil from wherever the explosion tore the pipe off would continue to clear any settling debris around it.

  29. step 1: slowly saw off florida but not all the way through
    step 2: when the end starts to sink push the tip over the hole with boats
    step 3: when the tip of floriday is right over the hole, saw the rest so it falls in the hole
    success! no more oil leak. bonus. no more florida!! everybody wins.

  30. ” Xi Chin says:
    May 26, 2010 at 10:33 am
    By the way, I don’t blame BP for not just blowing the pipe up to close it. They are a company which answers to shareholders, there is no insentive for them to close the hole NO MATTER WHAT. […]”
    The incentive for BP to close the hole is to be able to stay in business in US waters and to limit the compensation they will have to pay; a company that shows obvious disregard for the environmental regulations of a host nation would be prohibited from doing business there. Your assumption that BP doesn’t do its best to stop the spill rests on flimsy reasoning.

  31. On a side note – if a collector dome could work, then why haven’t we been using them over “natural” oil leaks in the oceans?

  32. The problems w/ using a nuke are:
    1) might not work, then what do we do with a bigger leak from the crater?
    2) would require political approval and no one in Wash DC has the b***s to do that.
    Also re: closing it off permanently … I’ve read that this was just an exploratory well; never intended for production, which is not surprising.
    Good news that this is apparently a very large discovery … just need to control it.

  33. Having looked as some of the detailed descriptions at some of the sites for the “Top Kill”, one more question comes to mind. Let’s imagine a long test tube. First pour in a light liquid, then pour a very heavy liquid in at the top. Why wouldn’t the heavy liquid simply sink around the light liquid and go to the bottom of the tube. But in the case of the oil well, the “bottom” has a capacity of millions of gallons. Assuming all of their other assumptions are correct, I don’t see why the oil and the “mud” wouldn’t simply flow around each other as opposed to having the “mud” sit on top of the oil. And if you add in the pressure, flow, and turbulence that already exists in the pipe, the idea of having the “mud” sit nicely on top of the oil just doesn’t seem realistic.

  34. … or better yet, hire Jack Bauer. He’s good at killing things and is currently unemployed.

  35. When I look at the live feed, I get the same feeling I did when I was 3 years old watching the Apollo 11 moon landing.
    The live feed is amazing for so many things.
    First, that well is 5000 feet down a hundred miles out to sea and yet we watch it live.
    Second, that BP is open enough to us to show us the feed.
    Each of us feels we have a stake in this!!

  36. While you people are “putting” this here, and putting that there; and blowing up balloons (tough ones) did you happen to miss that little footnote somewhere; you know the one that said this well goes 18,000 feet below the seafloor, and the oil pressure is around 40,000 PSI
    Y’alls be very careful now when you are “putting” anything near that place.

  37. Tilo Reber said May 26, 2010 at 11:30 am:

    On a side note – if a collector dome could work, then why haven’t we been using them over “natural” oil leaks in the oceans?

    It would require a shift in a bureaucratic paradigm. You want offshore oil, then you will be drilling for it. You will need a permit to do so. You would have to complete extensive paperwork indefinitely, comply with numerous environmental and safety regulations, and guard against any oil leaking from the site. Etc etc etc. Plus it would have to be far offshore in deep water, they don’t allow shallow water drilling near the shore.
    Basic logical arguments such as you will not be drilling and there will be less oil in the water regardless, thus less ecological damage, are too logical for government. Thus “cover and recover” for natural oil seeps is bureaucratically impossible.

  38. From The Resident Of the United States:
    Dear Anthony,
    I’d love to help but I’ll be enjoying some of the $1,000,000 dollars BP donated to me, while I’m golfing and vacationing in Chicago over the next week. That will of course force me to blow off the traditional President’s Memorial Day honors to our Veterans and fallen defenders of freedom in Arlington National Park, but I will be returning in time to attend a more important Paul McCartney concert. Michelle just loves the Beatles, dontcha know!!!

    Yours in Hope and Change!
    Barackward Oilbama

  39. Soon oil drilling will be banned and cars will be powered by the hot air generated in Washington DC

  40. For Jimmy Haigh……. you say
    “If it’s leaking 70,000 barrels a day that is a very impressive flow rate and there must be one heck of a reservoir down there. It will start to produce formation water eventually”
    I know you are a geologist. I am a reservoir engineer and I agree with you that 70,000 bopd is an impressive rate but I don’t think you can assume it will go to water eventually. This reservoir may not have an aquifer. It could be a depletion drive reservoir with little or no movable water. It could have a gas cap and maybe go to gas. That would be good, no more oil pollution. Who knows what the combination of oil, gas and water might exist. Only BP and its partners may know since they have the seismic and have an idea of how the faulting is laid out and whether this well is in a closed block or not. I was hoping that if the well was producing at a very high rate that the flow velocity between the pipe and the well bore would eventually cause it to bridge off and plug itself up. Lord knows that this happens all the time when you don’t want it to happen. This well was not perforated so it is flowing from the back side of the bottom liner and is coming out in the annular space where the riser is seated at the end of the casing so there is all kind of backside flow going on. We don’t even know if it is one or multiple producing horizons flowing behind the liner. We all in this business know if there is no cement behind pipe anything that can flow will flow.
    For the well to water out it would have to be located close to a water contact that wants to move, as in an active aquifer, and the withdrawal would have to be sufficient to cause enough pressure drop in the reservoir to make things move (is all about fluid expansion and compressibility). Lets say this is a 1 billion bbl oil reservoir. If this well has produced 50,000 bopd for say the last 30 days that makes 1.5 million bbls produced. That is 0.15% of the oil in place so far after a month. Depending on the oil type and many other things maybe this reservoir could produce 30% of the oil in place so that is 300 million bbls to produce with a normal development plan. So with no decline in rate (usually not the case but assumed here), producing a flat 50,000 bopd that gives 6,000 days of producing life (that’s 16.4 years). We’ll have a relief well long before that. Lets hope the top kill works or it bridges off on its own.

  41. Brad says:
    May 26, 2010 at 10:27 am
    Glenn-
    “Do you have real data showing they are “not being allowed to use standard procedures”? From everything I can find the standard procedures are more likely to fail than even the weak attempt we will see later today.”
    Procedures for recovery of a blowout are well known and have been established throughout the many experiences of the past. There is nothing new here, except that the bop is in deep water and everyone is screaming to stop the oil immediately. But these tried and tested procedures have not prioritized stopping the flow, although that has always been the ultimate goal. Drill pipe has been known to completely blow out of wells, and that could still happen. I don’t believe this attempt to pump mud thru the damaged riser (and possibly a damaged bop and surface casing/cement) to temporarily stop the flow at best, is BP’s idea. I think the people that believe BP would act irresponsibly out of a desire to have the well in production at some time in the future is like cutting off their head to spite their face. Let them, since that is the only way they know how to stop the flow.

  42. From BP’s website:
    “Being progressed in parallel with plans for the top kill is development of a lower marine riser package (or LMRP) cap containment option. This would first involve removing the damaged riser from the top of the BOP, leaving a cleanly-cut pipe at the top of the BOP’s LMRP. The LMRP cap, an engineered containment device with a sealing grommet, would be connected to a riser from the Discoverer Enterprise drillship and then placed over the LMRP with the intention of capturing most of the oil and gas flowing from the well and transporting it to the drillship on the surface. The LMRP cap is already on site and it is anticipated that this option will be available for deployment by the end of May.”
    Hopefully they are better engineers than they are writers (Being progressed in parallel with plans for the top kill…!!!), but any kind of operation will be a lot easier when they have pipe which is oriented vertically. If they can cut the existing riser and stab into it or grab the drill pipe if it’s there, they can get control of the well again. Top killing may be impossible while there is so much pipe lying flat, and kinks in it preclude getting any tubing very deep into the well.

  43. BP in a stunning revelation yesterday:
    Doug Suttles commented on Tuesday-
    Flow from the Macondo well is not travelling up the main well bore, BP operations boss Doug Suttles said Tuesday, a revelation that would support theories that a cement failure played a part in the blowout.
    “We actually believe the flow path is between two strings of the casing and not up the main wellbore,” Suttles said.
    Suttles said BP could not be certain of the flow path but diagnostic tests on the well seem to indicate the flow is not coming up main bore.
    This means that the primary cement isolation system catastrophically failed!
    This is real bad because BP had been using a very good, but very expensive Latex based cement system on the Horizon platform that was specificlly designed to prevent gas entry. Then a couple of years ago BP stopped using this system and started using a foamed cement because it was cheaper!
    Very bad

  44. Sure would be nice if they’d post a video feed of the actual wellhead leak rather than this secondary pipe leak that’s bent over.I’m sure they don’t want to scare us with video of the main leak.I suspect watching the provided feed won’t reveal anything from the top kill procedure since it isn’t happening there.

  45. BP tried to recover the leaking oil with a structure that looks like an inverted funnel, but as I understand it, ice crystals blocked the pipe through which they were going to recover the oil. Why not instead force pressured cement through that same pipe but downward into the inverted funnel until that structure fills up? The weight of the cement would probably overcome the pressure of the leaking oil and the pressure of the cement flowing down the pipe would probably keep the ice crystals from blocking the flow.

  46. An explosion would be detonated under the ocean floor a few hundred feet down and away from the well pipe. The idea would be that the sideways shock wave would crimp and perhaps seal the well pipe. I don’t see how the result could be worse than what is there already, since the pipe can only get smaller or interrupted below the ocean floor, fill with mud, etc.

  47. Why wouldn’t a load of ball bearings work? They’re heavy enough and (unlike those domes they are fiddling with) easy to manipulate. Just bury the leaks and then add gunk to complete the seal at leisure.

  48. M.A.DeLuca II: “Why stop it? Just lower the biggest concrete or steel dome that can be practically handled over the whole area…”
    That was the first thing they tried. It failed because as soon as the gas hit the water in the dome, it caused hydrates to form. They, in turn, plugged up the exit pipe.

  49. Dermot O’Logical, yes, there are natural petroleum leaks (seeps) in all oceans (and dry land too). I am old enough to remember tar balls from seeps on Galveston Island beaches in the mid 1940’s, before there were any offshore wells. FYI drilling “mud” isn’t mud in the same sense as you find in your back yard after a rain. It just looks somewhat like natural mud. It is a compound whose weight per volume can be adjusted. It is used to bring rock chips back to the surface while drilling where it is screened (filtered) and reused. It is also used to keep the drill bit cool and lubricated, and finally its columnar weight is adjusted to balance the pressure expected in the producung formation. Too heavy a mud weight and the mud will flow down the hole into the producing formation. Too little weight and the mud will not hold in the pressure and you will get a “blow out” as the pressure rushes to the surface. BOP’s (blow out preventers) are supposed to automatically sense when this is about to happen and activate rams on the outside of the pipe and crimp it shut. Obviously this didn’t happen as it is supposed to in the current situation (perhaps it did but even that measure wasn’t enough). There is the possibility that what happened in the gulf exceeded all the oil industry’s previous experience and knowledge, when previous experience told them they way they did things was perfectly safe. In that case it would be hard to say that BP (or anyone else) did anything wrong. It is a certainty that if any of the companies involved had even the remotest thought that this could happen they would have done things differently. BTW, the governments first response, after over a week of doing nothing, included sending lawyers to the Gulf Coast so that tells you where their interests lie.

  50. Why not get a larger diameter pipe with an open funnel at the end and fit it over the pipe spewing the oil. Then, start pumping from the surface and capture the oil flow.

  51. An expert on MSNBC explained that he saw a fish happily swim through the ‘plume’ that is on the television – confirming the notion that the TV pictures are not exactly the complete story.
    This same expert indicated that the ‘kill shot’ was likely to make matters worse – and much more aggressive (explosive) action would likely be required. Coupled with serious vacuuming of the ocean to remove the large volume of already released oil.

  52. I didn’t read all the way to the bottom, so pardons if this has been covered already.
    The objective isn’t to “pressurize” the hole with drilling mud to stop the oil. The way it works is that the mud is (significantly) heavier than oil. Even as the oil is flowing out, the mud will flow to the bottom of the hole, some 15,000 feet down. Eventually the hole fills up, although the pressurized oil will still flow out of the bearing rock and up the pipe. As the hole fills, the weight of 15,000 feet of mud will become sufficient to apply enough pressure to the surface of the oil bearing rock to hold the oil in the rock. Then you flood the hole with cement, which is even more dense than the mud. It, too sinks to the bottom and permanently seals the bearing rock face.
    This is the same process that is used to control the well while drilling. It WILL work IF you can get enough mud in the hole (all the while the outflowing oil is trying to push some back out). This is the big IF. Can the BOP withstand the pressure as they attempt to push in the mud?

  53. to continue:
    you can’t just “stop up” the hole with “junk.” Think about it. The oil flows to the hole through tiny pores in the bearing rock that are measured in microns. The oil will continue to seep through whatever you put in the hole. Likewise, plugging the hole some hundreds of feet down may only force the oil, now under pressure from below, up through the seabed. It’ll find whatever natural fractures exist in the seabed – a path of least resistance kind of thing.
    You’ve got to seal the oil in the rock at the rock face. This means cement down hole. You can’t cement until the well is under control. This means mud down hole.

  54. “Burial at sea” for the remains of countless prehistoric organisms.
    Personally I prefer to cremate ’em in my Corolla’s engine.

  55. A lot of people here are missing some basics on the issues involved. If it were a “normal” situation, they could place a second BOP on top of the first and then shut it off. But in addition to the fact that the drill pipe is still threaded through the BOP, the existing BOP is attached to the surface casing and the leak is also coming out around the surface casing. This also means that a junk shot to further close the BOP could make things worse. The last thing they need is to damage the surface casing.
    Pumping mud into the side of the BOP will result in some of it coming out through the riser. They are hoping that there is enough constriction already that they can still get enough mud down-hole to counter-balance the pressure of the escaping fluids. If not, they can introduce small amounts of junk (high-temperature-resistant rubber balls, for example) to improve the situation. This can be accomplished using the same flow lines with the turn of a few valves.
    @Tilo Reber: You are correct that the mud should sink around the escaping fluids. That is exactly what they want to happen. The whole purpose of the effort is to get enough mud into the well that the static head of the mud is greater than the pressure in the well. If that means filling the entire well bore with mud, so be it. That was exactly the situation while they were drilling. This mud is a little heavier and should provide room at the top for a solid plug.
    The key to all of this is to avoid damage to the surface casing and equipment. It may not be doing a perfect job now, but things could be a lot worse. You can imagine the catastrophe that an intentional explosion could cause.
    The deepest of the two relief wells is already below 10,000 feet. They haven’t told us the target depth, but they should be close. From here on out, drilling slows because they have to constantly adjust the direction of the drilling bit to perfect their aim at the well.
    I recommend the references already offered, especially http://bp.concerts.com/gom/kentwells_update24052010.htm

  56. I previously posted ‘This mud is a little heavier and should provide room at the top for a solid plug.”
    I guess I left the impression that the plug would be at the top of the mud column. Concrete is heavier than the mud. If they do plug it, the plug will be at depth. More likely they will do that work from the relief well where they have much more control of the situation.

  57. If the dome was getting clogged by ice crystals, how about using one of those screws like they use to drill holes for telephone poles to force the ice up into the pipe at the top of the dome.

  58. oboy. finally read to the bottom.
    if the oil is flowing through a casing break or casing cement failure, they may not be able to kill it. If the break is high (shallow) enough in the wellbore, the mud and/or cement may not have enough hydrostatic pressure (weight) to overcome the oil pressure. And it would be almost impossible to get, and hold, cement through whatever fracture exists in the casing. Very bad.
    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  59. Been watching the live feed. Anyone familiar with this bop, is that a ram actuator valve leaking, looks like it has been bent?

  60. I think BP should contact the producers of LOST and get one of those stone corks like what saved the island the other day in the series finale. And I have a theory that the smoke monster survived and is living in the Gulf of Mexico right now causing mischief. 8^)

  61. Tom in Co. writes:

    This is real bad because BP had been using a very good, but very expensive Latex based cement system on the Horizon platform that was specificlly designed to prevent gas entry. Then a couple of years ago BP stopped using this system and started using a foamed cement because it was cheaper!…Very Bad

    Reminds me of when NASA changed the asbestos-bearing joint putty on the SRBs to something more “environmentally friendly”. The Result: The Challenger disaster.

  62. White Shepherd Oil Stop-leak
    Lessee… at $19.95 for an 8 ounce bottle (I figure about 50,000 gallons for this job) that would be $16 million. Gotta be a good volume discount on an order that size. It’s not like you’d be buying 800,000 bottles of it off the shelf at Pep Boys. Call it $10 million. A mere bag of shells.

  63. This is a fine weather control experiment. What effect, if any, will changing the albedo of the Gulf of Mexico have? Please show your work. 🙂

  64. since the beginning of May, the Iranians have been offering to help, but politics overrides all:
    6 May: Foreign Policy Mag: Josh Rogin: U.S. not accepting foreign help on oil spill
    When State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley refused to tell reporters which countries have offered assistance to help respond to the BP oil spill, the State Department press corps was flabbergasted. ..
    Reporters pointed out that the Bush administration identified assistance offers after the Katrina disaster, so what is this, a new policy? They pressed Crowley, but he refused to budge.
    Then they mentioned Iran’s offer of assistance, through its National Iranian Drilling Company. Crowley said there was no Iranian offer of assistance, at least in any official capacity…
    Late Wednesday evening, the State Department emailed reporters identifying the 13 entities that had offered the U.S. oil spill assistance. They were the governments of Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations…
    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/05/06/us_not_accepting_foreign_help_on_oil_spill
    4 May: UPI: Iran offers to help with U.S. oil spill
    Heidar Bahmani, the managing director of the National Iranian Drill Co., said his company was ready to help contain the spill, Iran’s state-funded broadcaster Press TV reports
    “Our oil industry experts in the field of drilling can contain the rig leakage in the Gulf of Mexico and prevent an ecological disaster in that part of the world,” he said…
    http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Resource-Wars/2010/05/04/Iran-offers-to-help-with-US-oil-spill/UPI-31871272993408/
    23 May: PressTV Iran: Iran renews offer to help on US oil spill
    Mehran Alinejad, the head of special drilling operations at NIDC, pointed to the experience gained by Iranian experts in containing huge oil leaks during the eight-year Iraqi-imposed war in the 1980s, and said, “Iranian technical teams have had major achievements in oil well capping and the Gulf of Mexico oil rig is not a great feat in comparison.” ….
    http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=127487&sectionid=351020101

  65. “The Purdue University professor went over the calcs for flow and +/- 20% he was saying 70,000 BPD.”
    Frankly, I am embarrassed for Purdue. The professor supposedly calculated this from observing the live feed. That’s preposterous. To calculate the flow one needs to pressure below the minimum orifice in the flow line and the area of that orifice.
    The surface casing is 22″. The riser is 21″ ID. We don’t know the size of the BOP opening but we do know that it is obstructed by the drill pipe (6 5/8″?) and the BOP is partially closed. It can’t be too big or they never would have considered a “junk shot.”
    Frankly, I’ve never heard of an oil well with an open-flow potential of 70,000 bbls/day. This well may be the exception, but this is not an open-flow situation. All we can know is that it is (or was) something greater than 5,000 bbls per day because they were capturing that much for a brief time. I seriously doubt it’s more than 10,000 bbls. They have captured an average of 2,000 bbls/day since inserting the RIT (riser insertion tool.)

  66. @Pat. The Iranian Oil Company wants to help? What an incredible joke! They have no experience in waters this deep. BP has 20,000 people working on this blowout, including the best minds from all major US oil companies and service contractors. No mention of Schlumberger, but I suspect they are involved, too. If anything, the biggest problem now is coordinating all the help and avoiding conflicts in such a small space. Watch Kent Wells’ video.
    http://bp.concerts.com/gom/kentwells_update24052010.htm
    Iranian propagandists have a lot to learn.

  67. Well I have to say that even we non-oil folks are getting an education here at WUWT that gives us some insight into how complex this off shore oil business really is; for that matter even the on-shore drilling.
    Somehow, I still haven’t figured out how the hell you can drill a hole in the ground; line it with some pipe and keep on drilling through that pipe, and then somehow pull all that miles of drill out; and then somehow magically put a faucet on top of the whole thing and then turn that off. Presumably there is some topological arrangement there that makes all that possible. I presume it is something like donning a three piece suit all buttoned up, and the somehow removing the waistcoat without unbuttoning the topcoat.
    Anyway; you chaps that are experts on this; you know who you are; all those bad big oil jokers; thanks for giving us some insight into the complexity of getting at the renewable stored chemical energy that Gaia put down there for us to find, and make good use of. Sorry that you get so much flak from some of the primary beneficiaries of your trade.
    And when you read some of the “solutions” to this accident that are being offered here; and you reflect on the fact that this site tends to select some of the better thinkers out there; aren’t you glad that it isn’t the Government and their Tenured workers who are running that business; well not yet anyway; but they are working on taking it all off your hands. As Rahm Emanuel says; never let a good catastrophe go to waste.

  68. @Mark Wagner. The surface problems with the casing have no relation to the top kill except that they must hold while the mud is being pumped in. It doesn’t matter where the oil is escaping because they intend to fill the entire well with mud, from the bottom up, until the flow stops. Later they can plug the well at depth.

  69. If you want my opinion, you probably don’t, but here it is anyway. I would cut off the riser pipe above the BOP and clamp another BOP onto the existing one, then run a new riser pipe to the surface. In essence rebuild what was there before, on top of the existing BOP. With that installed the well should be able to shut down normally.
    I do think that standard BOPs are made to be easily stacked.

  70. OMG! With all that oil pouring in, has anyone calculated the expected sea level rise????
    (yes, it was humor)

  71. tommy says:
    May 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm
    Looks to me at 4:00 pm that the leak to the far left is getting plugged off.
    Keep pumping that stuff in there.

  72. Anthony,
    Your title is offensive.
    “environmental disaster courtesy of British Petroleum”
    It appears to suggest that BP intended this.
    Nobody in any industry intends a disaster. This is obviously a terrible event for a highly professional company working in incredibly extreme environments. The complexity of these operations are of similar order to the moon landing. All the contractors involved are highly professional. This is absolutely awful event but please remember that to err is human. By all means criticize BP but please do not suggest that any of this disaster was provided “courtesy” provided by BP.
    I think you mean that the “Video link” is provided courtesy.

  73. DCC: your quoting:
    “The Purdue University professor went over the calcs for flow and +/- 20% he was saying 70,000 BPD.”
    Yeah, I would be embarrassed for Purdue too.
    70,000 bbls/day is a nonsense figure. In a 3 phase fluid flow, it would be impossible to estimate oil flow unless you have the oil/gas/water ratio, and the pre and post choke pressures. Which the guy from Perdue would not have had at the time he made his calculation.
    According to BP’s web site, the gas flow has been as high as 6000 standard cubic(SCF) of gas per barrel of oil.
    Gas at this depth will occupy about 1 bbl of space, with 800 scf of gas. 1 bbl of oil would then equal 8.5 bbls of oil, gas and possibly water. 70k /8.5 = 8200 bbl/day of oil.
    Water content would only have to be 40% to get to 5000 bbl/day of oil. Water could be native to the produced oil, or venturied in through the bottom of the riser.
    The largest accurately measured well was Draugen, in the North Sea, at 76,000 bbls/day.
    BP would love it, if this pool was as prolific.
    So would Obama, as only 150 such wells would cut US imports of oil to zero.

  74. A long large diameter pipe lowered over the casing and covering a significantly larger area than the possible leakage could have a smaller pipe suspended within it, through a cap. and as much of the “leaked crude oil” along with whatever seawater got mixed in pumped to one of those huge tankers. I know that such pipe exists. There would still be some crude which escaped, but even a 95% capture would help tremendously.
    Of course, it would take a platform about the size of an aircraft carrier to assemble the “rig” on, and high capacity cranes to lower the rig about a mile deep.
    So why not call our US Navy into action? Our navy has competent engineers, welders etc., equipment needed and the like, and the troops are well trained for emergency work on a quick-quick basis.
    Frittering away time and having a certain real disaster is beyond stupid. This is already a national disaster, and should be treated as such.
    What BP is attempting is fraught with uncertainty. Obviously, their “Plan B” failed (and that is even if there was any plan B to start with, which I sincerely doubt). Time to get the “innovative engineers” involved, and there is no time to waste. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
    Call in the US Navy, at flank speed.

  75. @Leonard Tachner. Check the Kent Wells video at 9:40. The problem is sea water. When the gas and sea water mix at that depth, hydrates form. Nothing will capture all the oil and gas unless sea water can be kept out of the stream.
    The LMRP cap (lower marine riser package) could solve that. It’s the next option should the top kill fail. It’s not easy; it requires sawing off the riser and drill stem at the top of the BOP. None of this is urgent if they can complete a relief well quickly.
    The relief well(s) present totally different challenges. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6428 is the best reference for understanding them, especially the discussion at http://tinyurl.com/33fmm25 containing the casing diagram at http://tinyurl.com/2wku866
    Before the incident, they appear to have completed the production casing from TD to the surface. Best info I have seen is that started with 7 5/8″ on the bottom and changing to 9 5/8″ up hole.
    When they near the desired depth, the new well must be almost vertical, aligned with the old. Then, alternating the directional drilling shoe and bit with a directional magnetometer, they zero in on the existing well. When they hit it, they switch to a milling device to penetrate the casing. Once they have entered the old well, they can set casing to seal the intersection.
    A recent post at The Oil Drum said they intend to drill the relief well to near the producing zone at 13, 293′.

  76. tarpon says:
    May 26, 2010 at 4:00 pm
    “If you want my opinion, you probably don’t, but here it is anyway. I would cut off the riser pipe above the BOP and clamp another BOP onto the existing one, then run a new riser pipe to the surface. In essence rebuild what was there before, on top of the existing BOP. With that installed the well should be able to shut down normally.
    I do think that standard BOPs are made to be easily stacked.”
    Bolted, last I looked. No riser necessary. Holding in place and welding would be impossible under those conditions, perhaps under any conditions another valve needed to be placed over the bop.
    It has to be done, unless they can get the drill pipe out and/or get the original bop operating. Till then they have at best an open hole filled with stuff they can not depend on and could lose at any moment. If the old bop or surface casing/cement is seriously compromised all bets are off.

  77. LarryOldtimer says:
    May 26, 2010 at 4:42 pm
    “Call in the US Navy, at flank speed.”
    They know nothing about oil wells. I see part of the problem being too many new young guys in charge that haven’t the first hand experience or the experience of learning from first hand experience of what needs to get done and when. Too much politics, too many rules and restrictions, not enough people left to agree who to put in charge. And there needs to be just one guy in charge. We’ve relied on and been carried by technology, but the practical experience that comes with fixing what is broke has not kept up. But we are stuck with BP. I’d want someone like T Boone to take charge, although I’m not sure of his experience. But here’s what he just said:
    “If the legendary oilman were President Barack Obama , he’d fly to the gulf, meet with the top executives of BP and offer his complete support.
    “I’d get my boot off their throats and out of their way. I’d tell them we’d assess blame after the problem was fixed. I’d tell them it’s OK to take risks to get this cleaned up – now.”
    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/DN-Hallside_26bus.State.Edition1.5c22ada.html

  78. “oboy. finally read to the bottom.
    if the oil is flowing through a casing break or casing cement failure, they may not be able to kill it. If the break is high (shallow) enough in the wellbore, the mud and/or cement may not have enough hydrostatic pressure (weight) to overcome the oil pressure. And it would be almost impossible to get, and hold, cement through whatever fracture exists in the casing. Very bad.
    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
    BP’s 70% success probability for the top kill seems quite optomistic considering the situation. I’m not so sure the CEO didn’t actually say 17%. He was mumbling a bit.
    The relief well will pump mud into the formation near the existing bore. The formation pressure will carry the mud up the hole until equilibrium is established and the flow ceases. Then they will likely remove the damaged BOP, and cement the well.
    For Xi Chin, who thinks that BP is trying to salvage this hole, you will likely be pleased to learn that that the hole is full of ferrous spaghetti and will not be salvagable by any greedy oil company. You may now toss your car keys, turn off your lights, computer, refrigerator and other electrical appliances in order to assuage the guilt you bear for purchasing energy from such an unscrupulous industry. Oh, and good luck growing your own food year round as well.

  79. Okay, I am really bad at this large machine brainstorming thing so laugh it up silly boy. Here is my idea: Remote maneuver a re-designed sub with a clever hatch built into the bottom of the sub with a pipe inside the sub leading to the hatch at the top of the sub. Have the hatch on top of the sub already connected to a tough flexible tube to a surface ship. Set it down over da hole. Open hatch. Open top hatch. Start pumping through the flexible tube. Tankers can just line up like wheat trucks.

  80. Here is BP’s procedure description.
    http://www.bp.com/genericarticle.do?categoryId=9033657&contentId=7062095
    Brego’s video is better than BP’s diagram, but it misses the fact that the BOP is not fully closed and mud will also come out through the BOP and well pipe.
    Apparently they have to pump mud in below the BOP valves fast enough to create a high pressure drop through the partially closed BOP valves as part of the mud tries to flow up and out. This will be hard because the oil leak could be as fast as half to one barrel a second.
    IF they create enough pressure in the part-closed valves, that will slow or stop the oil flow so that the heavy mud can either be pumped down or sink down due to its higher density. Once they get enough mud in, the weight of the 13,000 vertical feet of mud below the BOP should seal the pressure of the oil long enough for them to cap the BOP. (If they don’t slow down the oil flow, then I don’t think the mud can sink down because the mud could be entrained up and out with the oil by turbulence and drag forces. Three phase flow, oil/ mud/ gas, is very complex, so it’s hard to know without trying it.)
    If they are not able to pump fast enough or the valve passages are too large to generate that “pressure-seal”, then BP will do what they call a “junk shot”, which is to put golf balls and other big solid crap into the BOP so that it tries to flow out of the partially-closed valves. If the “junk” is big enough to jam up the openings, then that should help the top-kill to work.
    If not, Plan G? L? N? Which plan are we on?
    MA Deluca II – they already tried to cap it with a dome. Methane ices formed and blocked the pipe going up. It would be nearly impossible to balance the flow so that only oil and gas, not water, goes up into the pipe.
    Tilo Reber – Like you said, it might not work.
    Mesa – crimping pipes makes them weaker. It makes cracks. It stretches and thins the pipe wall in spots. The pressure wants to push the wall of the pipe into a perfect circle and so very high pressure will try to undo the crimp and straighten it out. If it does, the crimp will likely blow out from the new weaknesses. If it doesn’t straighten, it will still leak through the crimp and may blow out the cracks and thin spots anyway.
    Evan M Jones – ball bearings. Good thinking. Probably denser than mud. Might work if they could drop them straight down into the well and they were big and heavy enough that drag forces would not push them up instead of down. (Depleted uranium would help. Seriously!) However they have to pump them around through some twisty passages in the BOP and the BBs could settle out and get stuck in the BOP instead of down in the well. It would be a gamble. Also maybe their pump can’t pump ball bearing/ mud slurry. Ball bearings would wreck a lot of high pressure pump designs.
    George B- I heard somewhere that the drill string was in the BOP when it tried to close and prevented a complete seal.

  81. “Dermot O’Logical says:
    May 26, 2010 at 9:41 am
    Demonstrating my ignorance, but do oil leaks EVER occur naturally? Perhaps some seismic shock opening up a crack in the ground?”
    I can’t find the link but I saw somewhere that about 5,000 barrels a day leak out of the seabed in the Gulf of Mexico naturally, I figured that was why BP said their blow-out was leaking that amount. Wikipedia has articles on both petroleum seeps where oil oozes out of the ground on land, and asphalt volcanos that form from underwater seeps.

  82. For oil experts perspective See: TheOilDrum:

    [-] Heading Out on May 26, 2010 – 8:30pm Permalink | Subthread | Comments top
    Ah, in the Press Conference Doug Suttles said that they are only injecting mud at the rate of 20 barrels a minute. (7,000 barrels over 6 hours). This is less than half the anticipated flow (50 barrels) and they may have dropped the injection flow rate to keep pressures in the BOP at an acceptable level. That does increase the time it will take to fill the well significantly (by several hours, depending on the leak rate). Though it also shows that those estimates that the well was leaking at 100,000 barrels a day were fantasy.
    It would take 87.5% of the mud injected being lost to leaks, for it to take 22 hours to fill the well, and that would indicate that the leakage rate was 25,000 bd.

  83. Good press conference at DOD tonight at 6pm Eastern. Speakers were RAdm. Landry of the USCG and Doug Suttles, COO of BP. The stuff I found new included:
    Yesterday they skimmed 3700 bbls of oil from the surface. They had removed the riser insertion tool in anticipation of the top kill. They expected, and we have seen, significant amounts of mud exiting the riser since top kill began. So far they have pumped 7000 bbls of mud into the well in the few hours they have been operating. There is some evidence that the flow rate through the riser is decreasing. He didn’t comment on it, but it sounds like “so far, so good.”
    There are at least six other countries involved in helping. Equipment from as far as Australia is being brought to the well site.
    They recently acquired some pressure data from the repaired BOP control unit and we might expect some flow rate calculations soon.
    Asked what would happen if nothing were done, another Admiral on CSPAN said that it would flow until the well pressure dropped to that of the hydrostatic pressure at 5,000 feet. At the moment that’s 9000 psi versus 3000 psi, so it would take “hundreds of days” for the flow to stop. Initial estimates were bottom hole pressure was 13,000 psi.
    My take on the estimate that relief wells would take three months is that BP was being intentionally conservative. They are much better off predicting a late date and beating it than predicting a near-term date and missing it.

  84. George E. Smith says:
    May 26, 2010 at 11:46 am
    While you people are “putting” this here, and putting that there; and blowing up balloons (tough ones) did you happen to miss that little footnote somewhere; you know the one that said this well goes 18,000 feet below the seafloor, and the oil pressure is around 40,000 PSI
    George, not sure where you are getting your data, but it’s wrong. The is 18,000 ft from the ocean surface, or 13,000 ft below the seafloor. As far as pressures, it is rare to see an oil reservoir over 0.7 psi/ft, which means the reservoir pressures are probably not greater than 12,600 psi. From a rock physics standpoint, it is nearly impossible to see pressure gradients much greater than 1.0 psi/ft – which puts an absolute upper limit on pressures of about 18,000 psi. No matter how you slice it, 40,000 psi is out of the question

  85. Frankly, I’d call in the big guns George W. Bush.
    If he can’t suck the oil out, then it’s impossible.

  86. I’d like to thank the industry engineers & experts who are providing some very solid technical information for WUWT readers!
    My experience is in natural gas production on the Jonah field of the Pinedale Anticline, so working 5,000 feet below the surface of the ocean is a whole new paradigm! It’s hard to even imagine the challenges these folks are facing, with all the ROVs, surface ships, personnel and materials being deployed…..
    Hat’s off to the folks working on this, I know just a bit of how challenging these blowouts are, and I’m impressed that BP is putting their entire effort into this! I agree with the poster who said that the Obama administration should “take their boot off the neck of BP” and work with them to stop this sucker.

  87. It might help if the government would ask the people with the expertise, the oil industry professionals, what help they needed from the government, provide what was requested, and then keep their damn mouths shut. Sheeesh! What goobers!

  88. @Mark Wagner. The surface problems with the casing have no relation to the top kill except that they must hold while the mud is being pumped in. It doesn’t matter where the oil is escaping because they intend to fill the entire well with mud, from the bottom up, until the flow stops. Later they can plug the well at depth.
    Where I was going, DCC, is that it appears that there is oil in the annulus. Assuming casing was set to TD and cemented, then its possible that the casing/cement failed somewhere uphole (either as a result of whatever caused the initial pressure surge or as a result of actions or breakage during shutdown attempts). As such, there may not be enough hydrostatic pressure that shallow to seal the breach. However, it sounds like you think the casing problems are only at the wellhead? I’ve missed that report. That would be good news.
    I also hear “good news” if they have slowed mud injection rates. It means well pressures are lower making it more likely that mud is getting to the bottom of the well.
    If top kill doesn’t work, the next step will be to remove the riser and attempt to connect a new one. I’m quite sure that this wasn’t their first choice because the damaged riser is probably holding “some” pressure, slowing the leak. Cutting off the riser creates an immediate worse problem with the full well pressure being released (more oil) and staying that way until either they reconnect or the relief wells manage to seal the bore. Since there’s a significant chance that they won’t be able to reconnect, they want to use other methods first that at least won’t result in a worse problem.
    And since the damaged riser is blowing off some distance away, releasing oil directly over the work area could hamper visibility. Yeah, I like BP’s approach in spite of what our president thinks. (and that’s all I’ll say about that.)
    Hopefully mud kill will stabilize things enough to wait on the relief wells to do the job right.

  89. >Second, that BP is open enough to us to show us the feed.
    This is what strikes me about the whole thing.
    I can’t foresee a time when a government has a self-inflicted disaster of this size and gives us a live feed. The people posting like these oil industry people don’t care about the environment or fixing the problem need to pull their head in and stop dealing in caricatures. They might not be hemp wearing greenies, but I doubt anyone is pleased about the problem.

  90. I had to stop watching Fox news.The hysteria over the oil spill was too over the top.Tar balls wash up,oh the horror,decades of destruction,oh the horror.Turns out the tar balls had nothing to do with the spill,they never did tell us where those tar balls came from.The subliminal message is don’t go near the place,it’s ruined for decades.It’s economic suicide,tell the people how bad it is,watch them stay away in droves.If they had told the people to come and show their support to the people affected in the area,most would have come.It’s bad,it happened.deal with it,clean the place up.and get on with life.If I was seiing pics of hundreds of oil covered birds I could understand the hysteria,but it seems to me that the area is not as affected as the media is saying.I know the fishermen are the hardest hit,maybe the oil spill will turn out to be good for fish stocks in the area,especially if they hysterically keep them from fishing for years.

  91. @CRS, Dr.P.H. said “I agree with the poster who said that the Obama administration should “take their boot off the neck of BP” and work with them to stop this sucker.”
    Heh, heh. I’m reminded of a post (elsewhere?) saying that’s like keeping their boot on the neck of NASA during Apollo 13 because that would have helped get the astronauts back faster!
    Let’s face it, neither the feds nor the MSM have a clue. So where is the extra help cleaning up the mess? It’s been a month, folks. It’s time to stop watching and start working.

  92. DCC –
    isn’t the BP leak at 5,000 feet?
    some of Iran’s offshore fields are at 7,000, 8,000, 9,000 and even 11,000 feet.

  93. Take semi hardened lava from the volcano and blast it in there or melt metal from the surface and have it syphoned into the hole to see if either one hardens effectively.

  94. Mark Wagner says:
    May 26, 2010 at 9:23 am
    I don’t know why they haven’t tried to replace the BOP. Of couse, that would mean a totally uncontrolled well flow if they can’t get the new one to seal. Maybe they figure that a (relatively) small leak through the existing BOP into a pipe that they may have some hope of eventually sealing is better than the risk of an uncontrolled hole in the bottom of the sea. (reminds me of a song: there’s a plug in a pipe on a valve in a hole in the bottom of the sea. everyone sing along…)

    Hope the song you’re thinking of is not “There’s a Whole in the Bucket”… that song ends very badly with the hole still in a deliberate state of disrepair.
    Perhaps you’ve seen the video by this senior VP on the BP web site. He gives a pretty good overview of what “top kill” method is, although he is no doubt addressing shareholders when he explains how much oil various methods will allow the company to “capture” – a strange “slip” if he intends to disabuse enviornmentalists of their notion that BP is actually just trying to reactivate this well head heedless of the environmental disaster unfolding.
    http://bp.concerts.com/gom/kentwells_update24052010.htm (See around 6:30)
    In context of your comments about pressure from the fracturing process, it is still a bit hard to imagine how such a method works against the enormous pressures of the emerging gas and oil. Evident in the live video is the large volume of mud spewing back up out of the riser and gathering at the base of the well head. Hard to believe that they expect any of this stuff to sink against the resistance of the oil (George Smith notes 40,000 psi, though I don’t know if that’s the interior pressure of the pipe).

  95. Oops. WRT:

    Hope the song you’re thinking of is not “There’s a Whole in the Bucket”…

    I meant, of course, “hole”. I remember hearing Pete Seeger singing that song. It’s call-and-response, with the deliberately foot-dragging Henry telling his pestering wife Liza why he can’t get a simple hole in the water bucket plugged.
    http://www.songsforteaching.com/folk/theresaholeinthebucket.htm

  96. pat says:
    May 26, 2010 at 8:51 pm
    DCC –
    isn’t the BP leak at 5,000 feet?
    some of Iran’s offshore fields are at 7,000, 8,000, 9,000 and even 11,000 feet>>
    Oh come on. Everyone knows that those are nuclear research stations in disguise.
    I’ve been watching the video a few times a day, reading all the suggestions, and I’m thinking it looks kinda like a volcano. Have they tried throwing virgins in it?

  97. Miamivic says:
    May 26, 2010 at 8:56 pm
    “Take semi hardened lava from the volcano and blast it in there or melt metal from the surface and have it syphoned into the hole to see if either one hardens effectively.”
    Even if possible, that would seriously compromise any chance of a permanent solution.
    There’s already enough hard stuff being blown out of the hole that is damaging everything, sandblasting the casing and bop. They need to get the riser off and put another bop or valve on top starting now, and accept any temporary increase in spill.

  98. @pat who said: “isn’t the BP leak at 5,000 feet? some of Iran’s offshore fields are at 7,000, 8,000, 9,000 and even 11,000 feet.”
    Really? Where? The maximum depth of the Persian Gulf is 90 meters. 5,000 feet is considered frontier even in this country.

  99. Clamp a valve on the pipe… There is plenty of pipe to clamp to…. Once the valve is clamped on, turn the valves off and Voila…. They use clamps for mains water pipes… Should be able to do it with this.

  100. well guys i worked for bp on nabors 146 in northern alberta it is the best company to work for ,i feel bad it happen to bp,but for the us i do not feel nothing ,our oil in canada was dirty oil to the us ,they painted us with that name,look at them now,the reason US said dirty oil because they found 1 dead duck in fort mac in alberta ,now with the mess they have they will have more than 1 dead duck, i hope US learns this ,everything bad you say about anybody,will come and bite in the as@s

  101. Looks like maybe they did get some mud down the hole, and control may be at hand.
    Over at the oil drum, someone posted a snippet of wsjonline that seemed to indicate heated words between the drilling boss and the ‘company man’ from BP, a few hours prior to disaster.
    OK, here it is;
    At a Coast Guard hearing in New Orleans, Doug Brown, chief rig mechanic aboard the platform, testified that the trouble began at a meeting hours before the blowout, with a “skirmish” between a BP official and rig workers who did not want to replace heavy drilling fluid in the well with saltwater.
    The switch presumably would have allowed the company to remove the fluid and use it for another project, but the seawater would have provided less weight to counteract the surging pressure from the ocean depths.
    Brown said the BP official, whom he identified only as the “company man,” overruled the drillers, declaring, “This is how it’s going to be.” Brown said the top Transocean official on the rig grumbled, “Well, I guess that’s what we have those pinchers for,” which he took to be a reference to devices on the blowout preventer, the five-story piece of equipment that can slam a well shut in an emergency.
    From
    http://blog.al.com/live/2010/05/bp_says_top_kill_procedure_on.html
    RR

  102. What would happen if they couple to it and pump at a higher PSI than what is coming out? For example: if it is blowing out at 2200 PSI, what would happen if they couple up to it and suck out the oil with 6000 PSI (not sure if that’s possible)?
    Would it be like when you have a super-thick milkshake and a wimpy straw and you suck so hard the straw collapses (let your mind run wild with that analogy if you so choose – we need the levity)? Surely, if nothing else, it would cause seawater to come in the other cracks rather than oil coming out?

  103. Natural Oil Seeps
    20 to 25 tons per day off Santa Barbara
    http://www.livescience.com/environment/090520-natural-oil-seeps.html
    Here’s the same info from MMS. I guess they took some time off from dating oil industry execs and accepting gifts to write this:
    http://www.mms.gov/omm/pacific/enviro/seeps1.htm
    Here’s another attempt at determining rate of natural seepage:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090513130944.htm
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090513130944.htm

  104. Stick a tent on it. Make a plastic/canvas tube 20 metres across and 200 metres long with a balloon at the top. Add oil removal lines on the sides of the balloon at its widest point. At 200 metres above the sea floor the methane hydrates should not be a problem and they will accumulate above the pump-out lines. Just in case add a small electric UAV tethered to a power supply on the side of the tent/giant pipe. The UAV is inside the balloon. Why there wasn’t a UAV inside the hat structure they put on it beats me. Idiots I guess. Because its in the oil it will need the same sonar sensors as a PIG, a cleaning robot used in oil pipe lines. This cleaning robot would have a high pressure hot water hose to blast any goop clear of the pump-out lines. The pump-out lines pump down and out. Hydrates and tars float. Provision is added for a solvent input line.
    The tent would be anchored to the sea bed with big concrete blocks. This giant pipe wont plug the hole but buys time. It also raises the option of adding a water exclusion collar to the bottom so this tent/ Giant pipe is eventually full of ‘clean’ oil eliminating the dewatering process with the oil. Also if your smart such a collar has an ‘airlock’ waterlock to allow UAV’s to go in and out.
    Once this is all over make one tent/ giant pipe with a zipper down the side and store it and the USV’s for any new accident.
    Eventually someone will discover that its cheaper to drill in the sea bed in a hydrogen filled dome with telepresence robots replacing the crew. Fully automated sea bed drilling rigs.

  105. Note the fish that hanging around the gusher. Its in many of the footage. See CNN. Something likes oil and I bet this fish is getting fat eating whatever it is. Will someone get samples of the organisms that appear to have shown up for lunch. Clearly the oil isn’t immediately lethal to them.

  106. Tim says:

    Thanks Tim can you give us a reference on the oil shale extraction technique? I must be a little out of date. We have some here in Australia I believe.

  107. BP is stating that the top kill procedure has a 70% chance of success. It’s that 30% that has me worried, the end result could be oil and methane gushing from several areas of the ocean floor instead of just one. There is speculation by a couple of independent engineers that the liner casing may be cracked or even disintegrated at some point below the seabed.

  108. Incidentally, I note from some of the comments below that there is an assumption that they measured 25,000 bd of leakage. That wasn’t what I said, which was that if it took 22 hours to fill the well at 20 barrels a minute, then one could assume, knowing the volume of the well, that the rest was leakage. It looks as though it took about 7 hours to fill the well, which would mean (at that assumed pumping rate) that about 60% of the fluid injected was going out through the leaks, and this comes out at about 12 barrels/min or 17,000 bd. (5 am)

    Heading Out, The Oil Drum

  109. It seems to be coming under control. http://tinyurl.com/2ue2ycr
    But the quote from Adm Allen is confusing: “Allen said one ship that was pumping fluid into the well has run out of the fluid, or “mud,” and that a second ship is on the way.”
    They had three ships full of mud out there totaling about 100,000 bbls.

  110. Everyone is missing the big takeaway here: the oil spill is NOT the enormous catastrophe everyone thought it would be.
    This is the silver lining in the entire affair. People are learning that oil spills do indeed happen naturally, and are absorbed naturally. And unlike with the Exxon Valdez (where all coverage was via an agenda-driven media), people are seeing first hand that after a full month of this large oil flow, the actual measurable damage to people and our economy is FAR FAR SMALLER than had been predicted (and still is) by the media.
    The other silver lining is that people realize that the government cannot do anything except nag and pester and punish. The government cannot fix this problem – it lacks the knowhow. The message is getting out that government does not have solutions for all problems. This problem (and most offshore oil that feeds our economy) may have been caused by the free market – but that is where the solution is coming from as well.

  111. You know, watching the live ROV feed gives me the feeling that this procedure is like building a ship in a bottle, one-handed, using chopsticks and watching your progress with a pair of binoculars held backwards!
    Amazing how they can do this! Hope it works, early signs are encouraging.

  112. The oil that has washed up on shore is so limited that I began wondering if the dispersant has been under estimated. It seems obvious that the first oil ashore is from the earliest spill and is unlikely to have been immediately treated with dispersant. Nor has the amount of oil onshore increased significantly, if the press reports are representative. East of the delta, that early spill is still on the move, but it must be getting thinner as it spreads over a larger area and, for whatever reason, we have not heard any reports of oil ashore in Mississippi or Alabama.
    This story is far from over. Probably the most important thing the feds can do now, other than help Louisiana clean the Delta, is conduct a thorough post-mortem on damage patterns and mitigation techniques. Marshes are the most decried damage, but frankly, they seem so impenetrable that failing strong southerly winds it doesn’t appear that the oil can penetrate very far. Someone should be in there now trying to understand the net effect of tides and currents.
    The so-called plumes of underwater oil and dispersant will be a critical part of the investigation. Unfortunately, they will likely be the least understood and therefore the most politicized.

  113. Ruhroh says:
    May 27, 2010 at 12:12 am
    “Looks like maybe they did get some mud down the hole, and control may be at hand.
    Over at the oil drum, someone posted a snippet of wsjonline that seemed to indicate heated words between the drilling boss and the ‘company man’ from BP, a few hours prior to disaster. ..”
    I worked in the oil field in the 70s, took a few drilling jobs but mostly liked working in the derrick on day shifts (tours). This doesn’t surprise me, there was often conflict between the drilling co and oil co, and if true the BP guy and BP should be held criminally liable as well as taking the cost of the cleanup and damage. It would have been insane to insist on salt water to replace mud before final plug, especially if they got missing fluid and pressure kicks just before. If true though it’s a mystery why the pusher (drilling boss) or driller on duty would not have at least woke everyone up and been on alert. But perhaps it happened too fast to have it occur to them, with so much going on at the time on the floor.
    I see nothing in the news to indicate that they have or can even determine whether they have pushed mud down the hole. It’s been 24 hours, and it may be that the mud is simply holding down hole pressure at the bop and the mud going in is also what is going out. That would be equivalent to “temporarily stopping the leak”. The real test will be after pumping some cement, they shut off the pumps. I can just see all the college boys penciling figures around, but till the bop is closed or another put on top it will not be a permanent solution. What I just don’t understand is why they haven’t already done just that.

  114. DCC –
    sorry i didn’t include any links. i’d found them when i first saw the offer of assistance and was also surprised. don’t think i’m misunderstanding the following. btw there’s lots more info online:
    Bahregansar was Iran’s first offshore oilfield and went on stream in 1961, with a depth of 9,000 ft…
    Nowruz, discovered in 1966 at a depth of 8,200 ft, went on stream in 1976 with reserves estimated at about 900m barrels of 21 deg….
    Hendijan, discovered in 1968 at a depth of 11,000 ft, went on stream in the 1970s with reserves reported at 300m barrels of 23[degree sign] oil…..
    http://www.allbusiness.com/mining/oil-gas-extraction-crude-petroleum-natural/167953-1.html

  115. I doubt that they could install a secondary BOP. They can’t get a good flange connection that would hold the pressure required. Difficult to attach such a large, heavy structure. The existing BOP may have top damage. Lots of unknowns = lots of risk.
    If they cut off that riser with nothing downhole to hold back the oil, they are faced with smoothing flanges and attaching a LMRP under pressure. If they can’t securely attach, they could have a worse problem with a completely uncontrolled oil flow. As it is, the bending of the riser is at least holding back some >0% of the oil from escaping.
    If they truly have 100% mud flowing out now, the math has changed. They can safely cutoff the riser with no risk of oil release and attach the LMRP to capture 100% of whatever comes out. If they can’t successfully attach, they pump mud for 60 days to keep the oil underground until the relief wells arrive to properly kill the well. It’ll be an expensive, brute force method, but at least it keeps the oil out of the ocean.
    Just heard that they are “pausing” to “evaluate” progress. Probably going to pressure down and see what happens. If they got enough mud in the hole, pressure will drop to zero (or whatever’s ambient down there) and the well is considered ‘under control.’ If mud comes out, downhole pressure is still to high and more mud is needed. If oil comes out, there is no mud downhole and we’re exactly where we were 48 hours ago, except we have more information.

  116. @ pat said: “don’t think i’m misunderstanding the following. … Bahregansar was Iran’s first offshore oilfield and went on stream in 1961, with a depth of 9,000 ft…”
    Those are Persian Gulf wells. Yes, you are misunderstanding it. Those are total depths of the wells as measured from the surface of the ground or bottom of the water. We were discussing drilling wells in 5,000′ of water, not their total depths. Iran has zero experience in deep water because the Persian Gulf is everywhere less than 300 feet deep, well within the limits of a properly-equipped professional diver.

  117. Glenn:
    “I see nothing in the news to indicate that they have or can even determine whether they have pushed mud down the hole. It’s been 24 hours, and it may be that the mud is simply holding down hole pressure at the bop and the mud going in is also what is going out. ”
    I’m having the same problem. It looks like the leaks are now spewing mud instead of oil. That tells me that the pressure being applied inside the BOP by the incoming mud is as great or greater that the well pressure. They are claiming that the pressure has dropped. That would seem to indicate that some of the mud is also going down the well hole. And that the weight of the mud on top of the oil is what is responsible for the pressure drop. But as long as the leaks are spewing mud, the well pressure is still winning. Unless they continue to pump in mud indefinitely, or unless the weight of the mud on the oil reduces the pressure to zero, this isn’t going to work. The part that I don’t understand is the junction point where mud meets oil. Why don’t they just flow around each other at that point.

  118. @Glenn. I think they didn’t go for the second BOP immediately because of the risks involved. They would have to cut off the riser and drill stem that’s in the BOP in preparation for making a proper seat for the new BOP. That frees up the drill stem to do what it wants to do and risks loosing total control of the well. I think they took the safest approach which was to attack the flow with least risk of compromising the BOP and the surface casing.
    So why did it take so long to get started on top kill? Well, the BOP was faulty and had to be repaired by ROVs. The BOP control unit had to be brought to the surface for repair and reconfiguration before it could control the choke and kill valves. There were logistical details, like ordering up 100,000 bbls of mud. And I hope they spent a lot of time looking at and planning for problem scenarios. The top kill was not guaranteed to work. In addition, there was a lot of emphasis on mitigation, so they first tried to put a catchment dome over the leak. We still aren’t privy to everything they were doing in the lead up to top kill.
    Suttles of BP was still very guarded in his assessment of progress this morning. It’s not under control until the cement dries. BP learned early on that optimism has no traction with the media. Remember their first estimate of 1000 bbls/day? They they upped it to NOAA’s estimate of 5000 bd. They were beaten unmercifully for that number despite the fact that it wasn’t their number. No wonder they took the tack of “it doesn’t matter.” It really didn’t matter; they had to assume the worst in their planning. It wasn’t until a few days ago that they got any reliable readings of pressure from the BOP sensors. Current estimates are 20,000 bd or less.
    While I am grumbling about the media, I have one more complaint. They are continuously saying it was the worst spill (disaster) in US history. But I have yet to see an analysis of what that means on a global scale. There was one far worse in the GoM (Ixtoc I) and the top two tanker spills (together) exceeded even that number. So much for the media keeping us informed.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_spill#Largest_oil_spills

  119. DCC says:
    May 27, 2010 at 4:07 pm
    “@Glenn. I think they didn’t go for the second BOP immediately because of the risks involved. They would have to cut off the riser and drill stem that’s in the BOP in preparation for making a proper seat for the new BOP. That frees up the drill stem to do what it wants to do and risks loosing total control of the well. ”
    I’d let the string blow out if it would. But the rams do have some purchase on the pipe.
    There are risks with pumping mud and junk thru the bop as well. And as far as cementing, remember that there is still a string of some length in the hole, and apparently not being accessed. If it were (or even not) it could rupture at any time, at any place.
    I don’t see the wait. The manifold was likely damaged, but a line could have been brought down within days to manually try the rams, and put a valve on top. Flanges are built to withstand the force, the seabed appears a fairly stable environment, and even were it unsuccessful there may be no difference, still a hole on top of the bop instead of at the end of the riser, which has holes in it and could bust at any time.
    I could be wrong of course, have little experience and none under the ocean. But they had 24 hours, the first attempt has failed and the flow continues. It looks like they are monitoring leaks and probably hoping and watching to see if the rams will budge. I just don’t see this as positive steps to a permanent solution. Drilling and what’s happening downhole is likely still an art as much as science, and I can’t help but think that the old timers would agree with me. Cut it off and cap it quick. Had they done this three weeks ago the spill might have totaled much less than it is today, and tomorrow, and….

  120. Top Kill is on again, and the leakage at the riser is turning to all grey drilling mud.
    Looking good.

  121. thoughts after following this thread – just questions/ideas for the experts –
    1. In the subsea response – Riser Insertion Tube Tool on BP’s web site they discuss how they need ‘to minimize the formation of gas hydrates’ in order to recover the leaking hydrocarbons. Couldn’t they instead try to maximize the formation of gas hydrates in the kink where it is leaking?
    2. Also read somewhere about the necessity use heat to keep the flow up – what about making (a) cooling collar(s) somewhere below the leak and choking off the flow that way?

  122. In light of the BP oil calamity it’s quite obvious that something must be done, and fast, if we are to save our world from corporations that would prefer to place huge profits above that of our environmental and financial welfare.
    As large corporations gobble up smaller corporations in an attempt to seize an even bigger piece of the global economic pie, it seems that businesses have been allowed to grow, unfettered, into unwieldy corporate behemoths (a.k.a., British Petroleum) with little, if any, regulations regarding their obligations to national sovereignties or allegiances.
    Maybe it’s just me, but I believe that if a corporation begins its “life” in a particular country, than it has an obligation to that country and its people: due in part to the patronage of its citizens throughout the years in helping that corporation to grow. When I hear about American businesses pulling up stakes and moving to other countries in lieu of cheaper labor and supplies elsewhere, I feel both embarrassed and betrayed. (They would be nothing if it weren’t for people like you and me. After all, we purchased their services, time and time again, fostering them constantly by giving them the opportunity to flourish. Our final reward for all our efforts? Millions of fellow Americans out of work, all desperately hoping that their unemployment benefits never run out.)
    I agree that the bad news is not just happening here in America, but around the globe. I blame that on the evolution of the business model: over the years, it has been compressed into a precise science in an effort to squeeze every last drop of profit out of the proverbial “bottom-line.” I began to notice the change in the late 1970’s when I was in my teens. Back then, it was a different world for me and I didn’t seem to care too much. Today however, it is a different story.
    What can we collectively do as Americans?
    Contact your representatives in the House and Senate. Let them know that
    big business should be regulated and ask them to enact laws to:
    1.Ensure that all corporations “born” within the United States deter from any and all actions that would adversely affect our country;
    2.Place high tariffs on imports from American businesses that move their bases of operations (not to mention our jobs) to other regions of the world;
    3.Work to limit their corporate power and influence in Washington D.C. by passing laws whereby politicians, found to have ties with said corporations or corporate lobbyists resign.
    4.Endeavor to ban all corporate favors and corporate lobbyists from Washington D.C.
    Essentially, it’s up to us to fashion our own future. If we don’t, rest assured that someone, or some corporation will.
    •(I know that BP was not born and reared here in the United States. I was merely using it as a reference as to what corporations are capable of doing if left to their own devices.)

  123. 1. define it.
    3. impossible when you have gov’t agencies who’s job it is to both regulate AND encourage (the MMS brings billions into the US Treasury in royalties every year). FAA has the same issue: regulation AND support of the industry. Agriculture: same. FDA: same.
    I think we need less regulation, not more. BP lobbied years ago to have spill liability limited so that they would not face bankruptcy in the face of a tragedy just like this one. With the risk of losing everything, perhaps they would have taken more steps to ensure the safety of their operation.
    We, as humans, have chosen to reap the benefits of powering our economies with oil. Getting oil has risks. If you legislate away ALL risk, there will be nothing left. You’ll be back to horses and buggies. Of course, then you’ll have to legislate how to deal with millions pounds of manure and hundreds of thousands of dead horse carcasses in the streets. So I guess we’ll be back to walking. Oh, wait….

  124. Well, I have some business experience selling brownies door-to-door when I was a kid. But from what little business acumen I garnered there, it seems to me the fatal problem with this business model was embodied in the congressional hearings with CEO’s from each of the three business players playing the blame game. It would have been a perfect three-ring circle of blame, each pointing the finger at the guy next to him, except that would have omitted the guiltiest party of all. (The salacious carryings-on at the local levels of the MMM have been news here in Denver for several years).
    If buck-passing in the aftermath of the crisis is this bad, one can only imagine what it was like in the early planning and drilling stages of the operation. Only now, a month after the event, are some real people being identified who were in authority. See “There Was Nobody in Charge”, Friday’s Wall Street Journal
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704113504575264721101985024.html
    A CEO (I believe from Transocean) commented that drilling was like building a house. There are owners, then there are the operators and contractors on the job. Ultimately, he said, it’s the owner who needs to make the decisions. He meant BP, but I think the U.S. Government was the real absentee landlord.
    Counting Salazar (Interior) and working your way down through the various levels including MMS, all the way down to the lowest deck hand, it would be interesting to know how many layers of managers, contractors, sub-contractors, and sub-sub-contractors were actually paying somebody else to do something to get oil out of that field.
    It’s little wonder that the young woman from the rig who placed the “Mayday” call felt there was nobody in charge.

  125. I hope I’m not posting my questions and suggestions too late for this topic…
    Can someone smart and knowledgeable answer me a couple of questions?
    Cheifly, I’m wondering about the pressure of all the ocean water vs that coming out of the leak. Since pressure flows from highest to lowest until it is equal, is it too unrealistic to think that in good time this leak will solve itself?
    I’ve been wondering about this pretty much since day one. Thing is, what BP is doing has a lot of uncertainties. They could very well cause the hole to blow open more widely. So why not just take the risk of letting pressure equalize in it’s own time, and focus instead on getting that relief well drilled, while dealing with ongoing pollution concerns? At the very least, BP wouldn’t be risking throwing good money after bad while quite possibly making the leak worse.
    That’s what I think. Is there any good reason(s) why this would be a bad idea????

  126. Interesting what kadaka said above. Just read this in a news story:
    Hayward said that late Thursday afternoon and into the night BP pumped a “junk shot” — more solid materials like shredded rubber and golf balls — into the blowout preventer to add heft.
    “We have some indications of partial bridging which is good news,” Hayward told CNN on Friday.

  127. Bill Parsons May 28, 2010 at 11:27 am: “A CEO (I believe from Transocean) commented that drilling was like building a house. There are owners, then there are the operators and contractors on the job. Ultimately, he said, it’s the owner who needs to make the decisions. He meant BP, but I think the U.S. Government was the real absentee landlord.”
    Actually, it’s the land owners, as in those who would be most immediately affected in the event of an accident. ie, All the people along the coastline. Our rights as property owners used to confer upon all of us the power to ask questions, raise objections, and make demands for compensation well ahead of time in order to decide if a venture like this would be done at all, or at least done at this scope. We have a right, indeed an obligation to have a say what goes on in our backyards.
    So yes, the U.S. Government was absent from the decision-making process. It was left to agencies, politicians, and a corporation (that will always convince itself that something is a good idea, with the politicians and agencies taking their word for it), not land owners of limited means who will be affected by this for years to come.
    For all the finger-pointing going on, no one mentions this at all and that’s what gets me the most. For all that people say that we as free people would only do things far worse than possibily imaginable, our own government failed to protect us by making decisions that we ourselves would not have made if we knew what was going on.

  128. I find it difficult to understand how the mud, no matter how much heavier (specific gravity) it is than the crude oil, can be forced to flow down the hole while there is such a large volumetric flow upward and in the opposite direction. Won’t most of the mud be swept upward through the BOP and out the broken riser pipe? Why didn’t they try the “junk shot” first in an attempt to restrict the crude flowing upward through the BOP?
    In any case there is one aspect of this disaster for which we should be thankful. The sunken drill ship derelict did not settle on the bottom atop the BOP, but apparently drifted away when its station-keeping thrusters failed soon after the initial gas explosion. The wreckage is reported to rest on the bottom more than a half-mile away, allowing clear unencumbered access to the BOP.

  129. @bob paglee: The pressure of the mud being pumped into the well is greater than the pressure of the oil and gas flowing out of the well. The net effect is to drive the oil in the well bore back into the producing formation. It’s not quite that simple, some of the oil can escape past the heavier mud, and some of the mud goes up and out of the riser. But ultimately, with enough mud in the well bore, the oil and gas flow stops completely and the mud pump can be turned off.
    Another way to think of it is that lithostatic pressure, on average, increases by 0.7 psi for every foot of well depth. If you have a hole with a cross-section of one square inch, you only need mud that weighs more than 0.7 pounds per foot of column. If you can fill the entire well bore, things will be in equilibrium. This is also the case during drilling, barring unforeseen changes in formation pressure.
    They considered a junk shot prior to starting top kill, but obviously decided against it. We don’t know why. They did a junk shot today, instead. My guess is that they are being super cautious because they do not want to cause damage to the casing. If it springs a leak, they are in even more serious trouble. That could also explain the 16-hour gap in pumping mud. They have to know as much as possible about the conditions in the well so they can proceed safely. I found it encouraging that during the lull, the leak continued to be light brown. That means that mud, not oil, was coming up and confirms that the top kill was working. The alternative was that the mud was going into a formation high above the producing zone, probably through a crack in the casing.

  130. Benjamin says:
    May 28, 2010 at 11:47 am
    I hope I’m not posting my questions and suggestions too late for this topic…
    Can someone smart and knowledgeable answer me a couple of questions?
    Cheifly, I’m wondering about the pressure of all the ocean water vs that coming out of the leak. Since pressure flows from highest to lowest until it is equal, is it too unrealistic to think that in good time this leak will solve itself?
    Once again, I can speak from great experience. I switched out a toiled flush valve without any great mishaps, but it was touch-and-go. Nevertheless…

    Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, estimated the Macondo well contained about 50 million to 100 million barrels of oil in an interview with the Houston Chronicle on May 6. This would make it a relatively modest discovery.

    How much of this would end up in the gulf I don’t know, but Les Johnson’s comment above suggests it isn’t very good news. Under compression, it’s smaller. The well pipe is allowing it to expand, like air from a deflating balloon. My guess anyway.

  131. I doubt much can be determined by watching the plume from the riser, of volume, pressure or makeup.
    “Data on the hydrocarbons recovered to date suggests that the proportion of gas in the plume exiting the riser is, on average, approximately 50 percent.”
    http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=93617
    Video of the flare (although from May 19th):

  132. To attempt to answer the pressure question:
    Oil down in the ground is under pressure from all the rock weight above it. (and/or water forcing it up from below, or maybe a nautural gas cap applying pressure from above. whatever. it’s under pressure.) Poke a hole in it and the oil comes out. This is what we have today.
    As the fluid leaves, the pressure drops. Over time the pressure will drop to zero and you then have to pump out the oil. (managing this pressure drop is critical, which is why the Sauds are suffering the end of the era of “easy” oil. I encourage you to read “Twilight in the Desert.” It’s a horror story, but it’s not fiction). How long it takes for the pressure to drop is mostly a function of how much oil is in the resevoir and how fast you are taking it out.
    So, yes the leak will eventually resolve itself when bottom pressure falls below ocean water pressure at that depth. That’ll take about 30 years, give or take.
    It’s unlikely that they’ll make the problem worse unless they damage the BOP or surface casing leaving no alternative but to wait for the relief wells. This is why they are being cautious. Given the magnitude of the environmental disaster, they probably won’t stop trying until the relief wells get there. Even if they have to pump mud for 90 days.

  133. @Benjamin who ask: “I’m wondering about the pressure of all the ocean water vs that coming out of the leak. … is it too unrealistic to think that in good time this leak will solve itself?”
    Probably not “in good time.” All oil wells lose pressure as they are produced, but it can take decades for this well to drop to hydrostatic. If we assume it’s leaking at 20,000 bbls/day, that’s $1.5 million lost per day, half a billion a year. Couple that with the environmental damage and it is unacceptable to let it continue to leak.

  134. Mark,
    Also this is an exploratory well, a “wildcat”. Not much practical knowledge available as to what is down there.

  135. Mark Wagner says:
    May 28, 2010 at 3:12 pm
    “Even if they have to pump mud for 90 days.”
    Remember the two relief wells also need mud (plus all others), and pumping escaping mud takes loads more than drilling. I seem to recall someone a couple days ago reporting they had to shut pumping down to wait on another supply ship. There may easily not be enough to supply continuous pumping. And this gambit comes with risks as well. They can install another bop, it’s their third backup if others fail. I don’t understand why the relief wells are being touted as the only sure-fire solution. What if they blow?

  136. The casing history of this well has never been fully explained, as far as I know. The original casing schematic showed 22″ surface casing and something like 10″ at depth. That was during drilling. That casing is not necessarily continuous; it’s only necessary where drilling mud could leak into a formation or vice versa. Then they set production casing, apparently 9 5/8″. Production casing is continuous from the producing formation to the surface. They thought they had cemented it in place.
    What happened next is fuzzy. They were “displacing the drilling mud with water” in preparation to capping the well and moving the rig to another site. It is not at all clear that they plugged the well first; initial reports said they had not. Nor is it clear if they removed the mud from both the production casing and the annulus around it. All we know is that the cement job failed, the mud could no longer counter the pressure, and the well began producing oil and gas “outside the casing.” I am assuming that means outside the production casing because the surface seal with the BOP was apparently not compromised.
    Lots of unanswered questions here. Can anyone fill in some gaps?

  137. Instead of constantly focusing everyone’s attention
    just looking at that lil ol hol-
    which kinda makes us forget what is happening to that oil–
    let’s look at the great big picture–
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?T101481625
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010148/crefl1_143.A2010148162500-2010148163000.500m.jpg
    The entire gulf is now covered by the glinty sheen of oil
    + dispersant oil mix–
    yes that is oil -not some rogue optical effect —
    it is caused by oil and also dispersant mixed with oil particles
    and very very smooth calm water(oil on troubled waters)–
    how can we be sure?–
    simple–just look at these 50 other modis pictures–
    the sheen appears nowhere else in the world–
    and you will notice that the florida coast shallows and
    florida keys and yucatan and cuba have lost that
    beautiful blue green
    color they once had(bahamas shallows
    are still blue green as IS THE REMAINDER OF THE TROPICAL WORLD)
    The sheen is from the oil –
    Also there are numerous irregular black areas
    of deep oil visible in the closeups (if it was surface oil it would glint and not appear black)–
    fla yucatan cuba may 28
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?T101481625
    close up is not always available–
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010148/crefl1_143.A2010148162500-2010148163000.500m.jpg
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010148/crefl1_143.A2010148162500-2010148163000.1km.jpg
    pics prior to spill–
    fla -march- day 58
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010068/crefl1_143.A2010068162500-2010068163000.500m.jpg
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010068/crefl1_143.A2010068162500-2010068163000.2km.jpg
    yucatan march day 77-
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010077/crefl1_143.A2010077162000-2010077162500.2km.jpg
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010077/crefl1_143.A2010077162000-2010077162500.500m.jpg
    florida feb day 42
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010042/crefl1_143.A2010042154500-2010042155000.2km.jpg
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010042/crefl1_143.A2010042154500-2010042155000.500m.jpg
    reamainder of the oceans–
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/?calendar
    Every country has satellite pics available–
    The world is fully aware of the vast extent of this
    catastroophe in contrast to usa media propaganda.
    only in usa are these pics deflected
    from the public–
    http://sfawbn.com/news/?p=1923
    http://iraqwar.mirror-world.ru/article/225633
    http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128113
    “There’s Another Leak, Much Bigger, 5 to 6 Miles Away”
    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2010/05/prominent-oil-industry-insider-theres.html
    http://monkeyfister.blogspot.com/2010/05/major-change-down-below.html
    ooops
    http://www.cnn.com/video/flashLive/live.html?stream=stream4

    [snip]

  138. “There’s Another Leak, Much Bigger, 5 to 6 Miles Away”
    It’s not credible that something that far away is related to the BP spill. The story is likely false.

  139. It may be exploratory, but if it’s blowing 15,000 bbls per day wide open, it’s got enough oil it ain’t gonna blow itself out in a few weeks. That’s a “purty guud” well.
    My concern earlier was that if cement failed (or if the string corkscrewd in, or the casing rattled around during the pressure spike or name your catastrophe here), they may be pumping mud into rock rather than into the wellbore. Having gotten nothing but mud while they pressured down is a good sign – mud outside the casing wouldn’t come back; they would have gotten oil. So I would think that the outer casing is intact.
    Therefore, it would seem that if they pump long enough they will eventually get enough mud in to get it under control.
    DCC, those details have been notably absent. I’m sure somewhere in some office is a computer with all those details, but I haven’t seen ’em. It would certainly shed light on the exact magnitude of the problem. I imagine that those details are being intentionally withheld pending the future litigation.
    Nice diagram. I’ve never seen that many tapered joints on casing. Is that typical of deep water rigs? Or are they trying something new? I would imagine it makes seating/centering/sealing …uhm…”problematic.” O-rings? Oboy.

  140. Well, (cough), something seems to have happened. The sub that had been providing the live video has surfaced after some curious goings on. No other subs have as yet substituted their video feed. Yet Allen wanted continuous coverage. The bop may have sprang a leak, or the well might have kicked and opened up and blew stuff everywhere. There were risks associated with pressuring the hole at the bop. As I watched the video earlier, after things cleared somewhat it appeared the sub had disengaged and was hovering around for a while till it began to surface. Chunks of what appeared to be bits of mud floated up along with what looked like pieces of rope and other debris, for some thousand feet. The sub is now at the surface. It could have been returned as a result of damage. Hopefully we won’t wake up to news that the flow is increased significantly with no hope of being contained.

  141. @Bill Parsons May 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm:
    Thanks. Not sure I understood what Les was saying though, in terms of pressure and resevoir size etc.
    @Mark Wagner May 28, 2010 at 3:12 pm:
    “So, yes the leak will eventually resolve itself when bottom pressure falls below ocean water pressure at that depth. That’ll take about 30 years, give or take.”
    Okay, but they don’t really need that long, just enough time until the relief well is complete. I didn’t make that clear enough in my first post, but that is more what I was wondering about, whether there was any chance equilibrium could be acheived during that time.
    On the likelihood of worsening the leak, I thought so as well until recently. I didn’t realize that the plumbing down there was so mangled, though, which is what I’ve been reading about the past couple of days.
    Also, I understand that their liabilities were capped at some ridiculously low level (nothing comes close to even a billion, that I’ve seen). imo, that gives them quite a bit incentive to take risks, and more to save their oil than to spare people and the environment the damages. Worrisome, to say the least!

  142. @DCC: Thanks for the explanation, DCC. I understand that there are two forces at work to counter the natural force from the formation. There is the extra weight of the heavy mud (barium?) plus the force of the pumping pressure being applied to the mud. Still, it would seem like trying to run a big track team faster down an up-escalator while trying to beat the velocity of the escalator. Hopefully, the junk shot they finally did may have slowed down the up-escalator to the point where they will finally get a large enough number of track team members loaded onto it and far enough down it to disable or stall the motor driving that escalator. Let’s hope there is a big number of track runners in reserve at the top waiting their turns to hop on and start running down that three-mile long up-escalator, and that none of them fall off on the way down.

  143. Benjamin said: “I understand that their liabilities were capped at some ridiculously low level. imo, that gives them quite a bit incentive to take risks, and more to save their oil than to spare people and the environment the damages. Worrisome, to say the least!”
    There is a legal cap of $75 million but the Chairman of the Board of BP has publicly stated that they will not hide behind that law.

  144. The $75 mil cap is on personal damages. BP is responsible for cleanup costs, no matter what the cost. I can see sense in capping personal claims…how many billions have been lost in the stock market already by this spill? The claims could be endless. 75 might be too low, but what price would we all pay if oil companies could potentially be sued into bankruptcy? There’s damage there as well.

  145. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:
    May 28, 2010 at 8:17 pm
    The volume/velocity of the leak on the ROV camera today looks subdued.
    I agree: The BOP looks fractured like it got hit with an intense shock wave.
    Maybe they could pump some cement mixed with mud (or iron filings) to increase the weight/density of the top kill material.

  146. Suttles reports that they haven’t given up on top kill yet, but he doesn’t look too optimistic. Said they would keep trying until they succeed or conclude it’s a failure and then go on to the next plan. The LMRP is ready nearby.

  147. DCC says:
    May 29, 2010 at 2:32 pm
    Suttles reports that they haven’t given up on top kill yet, but he doesn’t look too optimistic. Said they would keep trying until they succeed or conclude it’s a failure and then go on to the next plan. The LMRP is ready nearby.
    ——
    REPLY:
    Sorry, man, looks like Top Kill has failed.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2919914320100530
    It’s LMRP or bust at this point. Damn shame, I thought the top kill would work! They threw the book at this one…..mud, junk, etc.

  148. All agree that top kill wasn’t working. But it does not appear to have been because they could not develop enough pressure. They were able to stop the oil flow as long as the pumps were on. That leaves the suspicion that the mud was not heavy enough to counter the pressure at the bottom of the hole. More precisely, the pressure at the point where fluids were entering the casing was not high enough.
    I’ve seen calculations on The Oil Drum that clearly showed it was possible to stop the flow if they could get a 13,000 foot column of mud into the well, provided the fluids were entering at the bottom. But if they couldn’t get that much mud in the well (couldn’t completely drive the fluids back into the formation) or if the fluids were going outside of casing nine and entering where it joins casing eight, they would fail. They needed that extra 1,200′ of mud column.
    See http://tinyurl.com/365oay7 for a casing diagram showing that no cement is shown in that casing joint.
    So we are left to conclude that something was going on down hole that made all the calculations useless.

  149. The press conference with Suttles and Adm Landry raised more questions in my mind than they answered.
    1) VP Suttles said they had pumped “more than 30,000 bbls” of mud into the well. Huh? They began the top kill with three barges on hand totaling over 90,000 bbls of mud. (COO Wells said that in his taped review earlier in the week.) A few days into pumping, a second load was “on the way” (Adm Allen.) That made no sense at the time. Now were are told they used one and a partial barge of mud. It doesn’t sound like much considering the amount being lost out the riser.
    2) Adm Landry said that so far the on-shore damage was minimal (my term, not hers.) 30 acres of marsh and about 110 miles of Louisiana coastline were affected. The marshes are virtually unharmed at this point. No mention of how much oil was on the beaches, but the videos provided by CNN of sludge in the water have no credibility. They are showing thick goo with the consistency of a fresh gallon of acrylic paint. Same goo and same shot every time. No evidence of dispersant. To be charitable we can assume this was an early part of the spill because it does not contain any dispersant. But CNN has pulled this stunt before and I don’t trust them Remember the Persian Gulf spill when offshore platforms were sabotaged by Saddam’s military? Remember the CNN photos of a thick dark sludge lapping up on the Saudi Arabian shore and one lonely oil-slicked heron in view? They ran that same clip for ten days, then suddenly stopped it the day they announced that the slick had come ashore!
    Trivial calculations by Mike Halbouty (1909-2004) at the time showed that the oil slick couldn’t be more than a few microns thick. So where was the video made? I researched it at the time and discovered that early in the war the Iraqis made their only incursion into Saudi Arabia. They stormed a town on the coast called Kafji. There was a small oil refinery on a seaside spit of land south of the city. US Marines and Saudi troops drove them back into Kuwait, but one or more of the oil storage tanks was damaged in the fight. CNN never identified the location or the cause of the spill.
    Take it with lots of grains of salt. Without more details about what they are showing you, the video is next to worthless.
    Let’s hope that the combination of dispersants and collection continue to keep this stuff away from shore.

  150. DCC, I’m curious about the BOP assembly on the ocean floor, do you have a link to the details? I know it is Cameron International, but I haven’t found a very good site to review the engineering aspects.
    Something’s wrong with that thing, as evidenced by:
    a) Some have said that the Cameron BOP was modified for some reason by Transocean:
    http://itsaboutenergy.blogspot.com/2010/05/subcontractor-transocean-reportedly.html
    b) I was surprised from the outset that the ROVs couldn’t actuate the BOP valve mechanisms on-hand (or on-waldo!), since these were supposed to be routinely tested
    My guess is that, in the the trauma of the original blowout and subsequent reactions, something broke in this thing, and I’m guessing that the drastic surgery of remove and replace with new BOP assembly will be needed.
    I’m an ex-John Zink guy, where did you get your training? You know your stuff!

  151. @CRS, Dr.P.H. who said: “DCC, I’m curious about the BOP assembly on the ocean floor, do you have a link to the details? I know it is Cameron International, but I haven’t found a very good site to review the engineering aspects. Something’s wrong with that thing …”
    No, I’ve not paid attention to the BOP because it seemed clear it didn’t work when activated. Hydraulic leak for sure. Communications link? Drill stem coupling that wouldn’t shear? One of the two control units had a dead battery. And it did not appear to have been properly tested.
    “I’m an ex-John Zink guy, where did you get your training? You know your stuff!”
    Thanks, but I am just a geologist (Rice, AAPG, SEG) who has been around the oil patch about 55 years because my father was an independent in Houston. I cut my wisdom teeth on Christmas trees in Falfurrias, first learned analog geophysics as a “computer” on a land crew in Bay City and grew up loving the business.
    BP, et al, are clearly culpable. I hope it doesn’t damage our nation’s determination to improve the energy situation.

  152. I am concerned about relief well #1. Suttles reported today that is was at 12,000′ and nearing the casing. Hmm. Looks like they are assuming that the flow comes from TD. If the flow is at 11,848, the potential casing opening, they are in trouble.
    Seems to me the prudent approach would be to enter the well at the highest possible problem point.
    Any comments? What am I missing? OK, they can retreat and enter the well higher. That takes a lot of time. I’m not a PE. What’s the danger of entering higher the first time?

  153. DCC says:
    May 29, 2010 at 8:07 pm
    Any comments? What am I missing? OK, they can retreat and enter the well higher. That takes a lot of time. I’m not a PE. What’s the danger of entering higher the first time?
    —–
    REPLY:
    “Iraj Ershaghi, a petroleum engineering professor at USC, warned that continuing to inject mud into the well at extreme pressure could have broken pipes, or casings, deep in the well, causing it to collapse. Such a scenario could leave a ragged crater that could be difficult, if not impossible, to plug by any means, he said.”
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-oil-spill-20100530,0,841698.story
    DCC, I’m not a professional engineer, but my guess is that a collapse scenario is what they are trying to avoid with their drilling strategy. Collapse of the casings would be awful to the max!!
    They are dealing with broken eggshells under one mile of seawater….I can’t believe how difficult this must be. However, best approach is to be prudent & “do no harm,” and they seem to be following the logical path.

  154. Glenn May 29, 2010 at 11:46 am:
    “The $75 mil cap is on personal damages. ”
    And suppose 10,000 people will be affected by this over the years. That amounts to a pidly $7,500 apeice. If we’re only talking about the destruction of some trailer parks, fine, but more people will probably suffer more individual damages than that.
    “BP is responsible for cleanup costs, no matter what the cost… but what price would we all pay if oil companies could potentially be sued into bankruptcy?”
    Don’t you find it funny that one side is capped so ridiculously low (people), while the other side (environment) is immeasurable? What I’m getting at is, they can slip through the immeasurable side quite easily, given that it is immeasurable, whilst getting off the hook pretty much for free on the measurable damages.
    Again I say (and yes, this is just my warped and cynical imagination at work here!), they’ve every incentive to take risks. I’d even go so far as to say encouraged to be wreckless, and out of purely selfish motives at that. Lord knows, that’s a real problem in this economic day and age.

  155. I plugged an artesian waterwell in Manitoba 40yrs ago that was drilled by an amateur. The 4″ hole had eroded to about 3′ at the top and a sizable lake had grown in the middle of a farm field. I was sent to plug it. We bought a hydro pole from Manitoba Hydro, rented a bulldozer to chain to a waterwell rig to which we had rigged the hydraulics of the mast to the pole. We ordered a truckload of ready mix concrete. We backed the rig into the lake on a tight chain, rammed the pole down the hole,and with a trough, fed in a truck-load of concrete and it turned off like a tap. Now this prety puny top kill, but I received a commendation from my bosses at the Water Control Branch, Manitoba Dep Agric. I think a pointed steel pipe filled with lead rammed through the crumpled well collar and into the well followed by ready mix loaded with lead shot might do the trick. Pass it on- reward? A round of beer for all WUWT posters and readers.

  156. @CRS, Dr.P.H. May 29, 2010 at 9:11 pm.
    I’m still trying to understand how it’s even possible to do it. The relief well has enough mud in it that it won’t blow out, but once they enter the flowing well, how do they set a packer in the middle of a hurricane? On top of that, they are dealing with two concentric casings, either or both of which could be producing. Seems like, at a minimum, the relief well would lose circulation between the first cut into the casing and finally setting a packer. It can’t be easy.

  157. DCC says:
    May 30, 2010 at 8:16 am
    “I’m still trying to understand how it’s even possible to do it. The relief well has enough mud in it that it won’t blow out, but once they enter the flowing well, how do they set a packer in the middle of a hurricane? On top of that, they are dealing with two concentric casings, either or both of which could be producing. Seems like, at a minimum, the relief well would lose circulation between the first cut into the casing and finally setting a packer. ”
    Why would the relief well lose circulation? If anything, the blowout hole would provide less pressure for the relief well to have to deal with, and also easier to continue to pressure heavy fluid into and around the bad well from the bottom up. If they set a packer I would imagine it would be for the relief final well casing, not between old well and new well casing. The intent is to flood everything with cement, surrounding formation and casings.

  158. It’s true that if they intersect below the producing zone, that mud will stay put. I assumed they would then keep pumping to make mud rise up in the cased hole until it covered the production zone(s) and killed the blowout. At that point the oil-pressure warning light comes on and the high-pressure mud in the casing has nothing above it but a column of oil mixed with gas. That’s when the mud starts moving up the cased well. They have to have a way to stop the relief-well mud when the pressure drops. I suppose they do, I just don’t know the solution. The transition from reaming a hole in the casing to plugging/cementing the producing zone(s) must be very tricky one.

  159. Well, after thinking about it some more, it probably doesn’t matter if they lose circulation. They are close to finished, if not finished reaming. The mud will stop moving when it is the same height in both wells. Then it’s time to pump cement into the cased well. By knowing the amount of mud that was pumped into the cased well before circulation was lost, they also know how much cement they will need.
    Fascinating stuff!

  160. DCC, I agree, this is fascinating AND hair-raising!!
    I’m an environmental guy, not drilling/production engineer, and I sure don’t have any experience in deep water….the challenges these guys are facing boggle the mind!
    The sense of frustration down there is palpable….from the administration and local folks, to the industry reps themselves. No matter how this resolves, it will change the face of hydrocarbon production for good.

  161. The irony is that any reduction in drilling in the Gulf hits the people of southern Louisiana in their pocketbook. Fishing is important, but so it the oil industry. The loss of fishing income will be compensated, but the loss of oil income will not be. They are aware of this and have already begun complaining. The federal government must tread lightly.

  162. DCC, I think I learned about the Oil Drum from one of your comments, here’s the technical ins & outs of the BOP stack I’ve been looking for:
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6533
    Amazing kit! I hope the latest fix (lower marine riser) stops this damn thing…

  163. DCC May 30, 2010 at 9:42 pm : “The irony is that any reduction in drilling in the Gulf hits the people of southern Louisiana in their pocketbook. ”
    A given argument, and a sound one to make, but the the oil prices, both the WTI and Brent, do not support it. Closing price have been trending down since late April, even before the BP incident occurred.
    On top of that, there’s been two other oil disasters that I’ve caught wind of. One is in Alaska (the pipeline, iirc) and another being an oil tanker that had a spill somewhere in Asian waters (Philipines, iirc). And if my accquaintances in Canada are of any use, oil exploitation in Alberta has been on the decline the past year or so.
    Where is the rise in oil prices?
    Granted, BP prices are higher, but that is easily avoided by not buying theirs. And having trucked to and through the deep south many a time in my life, I know that BP isn’t the dominant the retailer down there.
    Besides, who says there aren’t other places they can drill? Why did it have to be there? If the quantity there is as modest as it is, I have to wonder why they would even bother with the risks.

  164. @Benjamin
    The Gulf is one of the most important frontiers in the world. It’s prolific and it’s domestic. We do not expect anything close this amount of oil in, for example, the mid-Atlantic or mid-Pacific. There simply is no oil out there as far as the best geologists in the world know. Depth in not important. Provenience is critical.

  165. why cant bp stab a tapered funnel type piece of pipe or smallerpipe in if it has been cut off at the vertical position. there is a company in florida that makes air float bags could they also make a ring then pump mud or concrete to expand the bagafter the vertical pipe would be in place dont know complete circumstances

  166. DCC May 30, 2010 at 9:42 pm : “The irony is that any reduction in drilling in the Gulf hits the people of southern Louisiana in their pocketbook. ”
    Benjamin responded”
    “A given argument, and a sound one to make, but the the oil prices, both the WTI and Brent, do not support it. Closing price have been trending down since late April, even before the BP incident occurred.”
    The price of oil is irrelevant to folks who cannot pay their mortgages or business loans. Fishermen, offshore workers, their suppliers and the businesses they all patronize are hurting. Tax revenues suffer, too. $20 billion doesn’t begin to cover the losses. Much of this suffering is caused by the federal government’s response, not by the oil in the Gulf.

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