Deepwater Horizon: EpiLLOG

Guest post by David Middleton

The movie Deepwater Horizon is probably the only movie ever made that actually tried to realistically depict oil drilling operations.  While it didn’t get every detail right, it was compellingly realistic (too realistic for me watching it on IMAX) and told the story of how ordinary people, just doing their jobs, can become heroes when everything goes wrong.  I won’t go into detail about everything that went wrong leading up to the terrible disaster on April 20, 2010.  BP’s Deepwater Horizon Accident Investigation Report is fairly comprehensive.  Ultimately it boiled down to the normalization of deviance.  The 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster has also been attributed to the normalization of deviance.  When dangerous jobs become routine, corners get cut, people become complacent and a sense of impunity sets in.  The safety director for my first employer, Enserch Exploration used to start almost every safety meeting with this question and answer:

What kills the most people in industrial accidents?  Impunity.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused the entire industry recommit itself to rigorous adherence to safety procedures… Because no one wants go to work and not come home.

Deepwater Horizon Myths

BP’s prospect was located in Mississippi Canyon Block 252 (MC 252).  It was called “Macondo.” At the time of the blowout and efforts to regain control of the well, a lot of myths were propagated.  People said things like, “The well encountered the highest pressures ever recorded”… “Macondo was the largest oil discovery in the world”… “BP was keeping the geological data secret – Not even revealing it to the government.”  In reality, there was nothing particularly anomalous about Macondo.

Figure 1. (Southeastern Geophysical Society) Left: Gamma ray log, sandstone deflects to the left of the shale baseline.  Right: Electrical resistivity log, oil/gas deflects to right of shale baseline, saltwater deflects to the left.  It’s a nice looking log; but not really very spectacular looking. The really interesting thing to me was the pore pressures. The main pay sands from 18,075′ to 18,155′ are not abnormally pressured. 12.5 to 12.6 pounds per gallon is actually kind of low for that depth range. It also appears that they may have encountered a pressure inversion. Geopressure generally increases with depth. The pressure at 17,730′ was 14.1 ppg and 13.0 ppg at 17,820′. They were drilling the well with 14.5 ppg mud and were having problems with losing mud into the formation.

Macondo was estimated by BP to be a 50 million barrel discovery.  Kind of small by major oil company standards… A “home run” by smaller independent oil company standards.

One blogger actually wrote this in June 2010:

“No one outside of BP knows the details of the geology under the well site because BP did the geological survey and refuses to release the information – classifying it as proprietary trade secrets.”

BP’s partners (Anadarko and Mitsui) knew exactly what BP did about the geology. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) had all of the data that BP had. Operators had to provide all data to the MMS (now BOEM) – even on “tite holes” and proprietary geophysical surveys.  All of the companies that bid against BP in OCS 206 on March 19, 2008 knew at least as much about the geology as BP did. BP’s high bid barely beat out smaller independent oil company LLOG Exploration…

  1. BP Exploration & Production Inc. $34,003,428.00
  2. LLOG Exploration Offshore, Inc. $33,625,000.00
  3. Noble Energy, Inc. $17,225,650.00
  4. Red Willow Offshore, LLC $14,075,000.00
  5. Eni Petroleum US LLC $4,577,115.00
  6. Anadarko E&P Company LP $2,145,950.00

Only one of BP’s competitors for the lease, Eni, was a major oil company. The rest were small, mid-sized and large independents. All of those companies knew enough about the geology to bid on the lease. I don’t work that particular area, but I knew enough about the geology to know the approximate size of the reservoir, thickness of the sands and that the sands are Middle Miocene age and trapped against a Cretaceous unconformity. Any company that is a member of the Offshore Oil Scouts Association (OOSA) also knew a great deal about the drilling procedures and hole conditions.

From April through July 2010, the blowout spilled an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  By mid-July, the well was capped.  By August, most of the oil was gone… Either recovered by clean up procedures, evaporated, burned and/or consumed by microbes.

Deepwater Horizon Perspective

Just prior to the Macondo blowout, this was on the MMS (now BOEM) website:

Since 1980, OCS operators have produced 4.7 billion barrels (bbl) of oil and spilled only 0.001 percent of this oil, or 1 bbl for every 81,000 bbl produced. In the last 15 years, there have been no spills greater than 1,000 bbl from an OCS platform or drilling rig. The spill risk related to a diesel spill from drilling operations is even less. During the 10-year period (1976-1985) in which data were collected, there were 80 reported diesel spills greater than one barrel associated with drilling activities, compared with 11,944 wells drilled, or a 0.7 percent probability of occurrence. For diesel spills greater than 50 bbls, only 15 spills have occurred, or a 0.1 percent probability.

Natural seepage of oil in the Gulf of Mexico (unrelated to natural gas and oil industry operations) is far more extensive. Researchers have estimated a natural seepage rate of about 120,000 bbl per year from one area (23,000 square kilometers) offshore of Louisiana.

U.S. Minerals Management Service ca April 2010

This passage disappeared from the website shortly after the blowout.

Of the nearly 53,000 wells drilled in the Federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico since 1947, there has been one Macondo.

Relative to the number of wells drilled and volume of hydrocarbons produced, the volume of oil spilled in the history of oil & gas drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico has been minuscule.

Figure 2. Gulf of Mexico Crude Oil Production 1981-2013 (US EIA), oil spills 1963-2013 (US BSEE), natural oil seeps (NAP).

Having trouble seeing the spills?  Here’s a plot of just the spills and natural seepage estimate:

Figure 3. Oil spills and natural seeps (note y-axis is logarithmic).

Putting Macondo into perspective is in no way meant to diminish this terrible tragedy.  Eleven men died in this disaster.  However, our government’s reaction to it was, in itself, a disaster.  Thirty three rigs that were drilling in deepwater were forced to shut down and temporarily abandon the wells they were drilling.  This created an even greater accident risk than allowing them to complete the wells they were drilling.  The Obama administration’s unlawful drilling moratorium and subsequent “permitorium,” led to the loss of over 200,000 bbl/day of oil production from 2010-2015:

Figure 4. Federal offshore Gulf of Mexico oil production. Hurricane damage vs. Obama damage.

Deepwater Horizon EpiLOGG

Did you ever wonder if anyone ever went back in and re-drilled Macondo?

10/12: LLOG Exploration is making waves in the Gulf



When the Obama administration announced a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, politicians and industry spokespeople howled. The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig at the Macondo well was tragic, some said, but there was no reason to shut down an entire industry sector that otherwise was following the rules and operating safely.

Conspiracy theories that President Barack Obama would try to kill the industry with onerous new regulations proliferated in some circles. Even if the moratorium eventually was lifted, the naysayers said, companies might take their rigs, jobs and tax money to new locales and not come back for many years.

But at LLOG Exploration, it was no time to panic.



LLOG was founded in 1977, primarily to develop prospects in south Louisiana. As the company grew, its focus expanded to include the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2004, LLOG purchased seismic data covering a portion of the Gulf known to the offshore industry as the Mississippi Canyon.


LLOG Exploration at a glance

  • Founded: 1977 in Metairie
  • President and CEO: Scott Gutterman, who joined the company in 1993 and became CEO in 2007
  • Headquartered in Covington, with offices in Scott and Houston
  • 170 employees
  • Ranked in 2014 as the top privately owned liquid producer in the United States
  • One of the top 20 exploration and production companies in the Gulf of Mexico, public or private
  • Has drilled more than 350 wells in the Gulf of Mexico and the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast since 2001
  • 2014 net production: 26,000 BOE (barrels of oil equivalent) per day

    Source: LLOG

This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of 10/12 Industry Report.

Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

LLOG Exploration was the second-highest bidder on MC 252.  In the wake of Macondo, LLOG was able to purchase the lease from BP and put together a strong lease position in the area.

Drilling To Start at Macondo Reservoir

by The Associated Press|Cain Burdeau|Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Deep-water drilling is set to resume near the site of the catastrophic BP PLC well blowout that killed 11 workers and caused the largest U.S. offshore oil spill five years ago off the coast of Louisiana.

A Louisiana-based oil company, LLOG Exploration Offshore LLC, plans to drill into the Macondo reservoir, according to federal records reviewed by The Associated Press.


Richard Charter, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation and a longtime industry watchdog, said drilling into that reservoir has proved very dangerous and highly technical, and it raises questions about whether a small company like LLOG has the financial means to respond to a blowout similar to BP’s.

Eric Smith, associate director of the Tulane University Energy Institute in New Orleans, dismissed those concerns. He called LLOG “an extremely well-financed and well-organized” company.

“If I were to pick anyone to go into that field after so many problems, I would pick LLOG,” Smith said. “They have demonstrated their ability to drill in the area.”

Since 2010, LLOG has drilled eight wells in the area in “analogous reservoirs at similar depths and pressures,” Fowler said. The company has drilled more than 50 wells in the Gulf since 2002, he said.

He said the company has studied the investigations into the Macondo disaster and “ensured the lessons from those reports are accounted for in our design and well procedures.”



LLOG Exploration renamed the prospect “Niedermeyer”… part of an Animal House theme (we named our deepwater prospects after Caddyshack characters).

Niedermeyer was a nice discovery.

  • Four wells on MC 208, 209, 252 and 253.  Feb. 2015 through July 2017.
  • 21.7 million barrels of oil (mmbo) and 57.5 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas.
  • MC 252 SS-1 Well:  6.1 mmbo & 15.6 bcf.  Oct. 2015 through July 2017.  Avg. 9,600 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) and 24 million cubic feet of natural gas per day (mmcf/d).

The Niedermeyer, Marmalard and Son of Bluto 2 fields were completed as subsea tiebacks to LLOG’s “Delta House” floating production system (FPS) on MC 254.

Figure 5. Delta House schematic diagram and map.

LLOG began drilling the Delta House prospects in 2011 and by 2015 had the Delta House FPS completed and commenced production.

LLOG eyes 2015 Delta House startup


Strategic partnership lets Louisiana operator ramp up deepwater E&P

Russell McCulley

Senior Technical Editor

Louisiana independent LLOG Exploration Co. is gearing up for an ambitious deepwater Gulf of Mexico drilling campaign at the Delta House project, scheduled for first oil in 2015. As of April 2013, the company had drilled two successful wells: one at the Son of Bluto 2 prospect, in Mississippi Canyon 387, and another at Marmalard, in MC 300, and had the Ensco 8502 semisubmersible drilling a third Delta House well at the Marmalard prospect. The three wells will supply initial production to the Delta House platform, to be moored in 4,500 ft (1,372 m) of water in MC 254.

Early this year, LLOG lined up two newbuild DP drilling rigs to carry out work at Delta House and the company’s other central Gulf prospects. A cylindrical Sevan Drilling rig under construction at Cosco Quidong shipyard in China, to be dubbed Sevan Louisiana, will start a three-year, $550-million charter with LLOG in January, 2014. In 3Q 2014, Seadrill’s West Neptune is scheduled to arrive at the Delta House complex to begin an initial three-year, $662-million term. The dual BOP drillship is under construction at Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea.


Offshore Magazine

Figure 6. Delta House FPS and subsea tiebacks.

In less than five years, the Delta House development went from spudding the first well to 80,000 bbl/d of oil production.


LLOG Exploration is just one of many, efficient and highly competent independent oil companies, that most people have never heard of, developing deepwater prospects in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world.

Oil’s well that end’s well!


I composed this post over the past few weeks.  Apparently while I was finalizing the article Delta House suffered a minor mishap…

The Delta House floating production facility about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana, released 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil from early Wednesday to Thursday morning, according to closely held operator LLOG Exploration Co. That would make it the largest spill in more than seven years, data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement show, even though it’s a fraction of the millions of barrels ejected in the 2010 incident.

“Way offshore, the oil had time to dissipate before it could cause lots of damage,” Edward Overton, emeritus professor of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Louisiana State University, said by telephone. “I’m sure there’s some impact associated with this spill out in the deep water, but I don’t think there was enough for the oil to sink.”

The fracture was immediately isolated and that particular field was shut in until the line is repaired and inspeccted. Little or no environmental damage, production drops to 57,000 bbl/d until repairs are completed. LLOG will probably be assessed a fine of about $1,000/bbl.

H/T to Cbone for bringing this to my attention.

A more detailed article about the spill, without speculative comments from an environmental science professor…

The offshore oil and gas operator reported to BSEE that production from the field that flows through the subsea infrastructure was shut-in. The release of oil has ceased. A sheen was observed and reported through the National Response Center. Monitoring of the residual sheen continues. No shoreline impacts have been reported and there are no reports of personnel injuries.

LLOG reported to BSEE that the volume of oil released was estimated to be in the range of 7,950 to 9,350 barrels. LLOG has communicated to BSEE that there was no recoverable oil on surface. Two skimming vessels sourced from Clean Gulf Associates and Marine Spill Response Corporation were on location and prepared to respond.

The location of the release has been identified. LLOG reported that through the use of a remotely-operated vehicle, a fracture was observed in a jumper pipe leading from Mississippi Canyon Block 209, Well No. 1 to a manifold located on the seafloor. As a result of shutting in the well, the flow through the fracture in the pipe has ceased.

A BSEE engineer was on-site at LLOG’s incident command on Thursday to verify the release location via the live feed from the ROV. Two BSEE inspectors traveled offshore on Friday to LLOG’s Delta House platform and have initiated BSEE’s investigation. BSEE is coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard on the response.

According to a report by the Coast Guard, four over flights were conducted on Saturday and have identified no additional visible oil. The previously reported sheens have dissipated.

LLOG discovered the leak.  LLOG reported the leak to BSEE.  One well was shut-in.  The spill has totally dissipated.


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michael hart
October 20, 2017 7:30 am

C’mon, dude. Figure 3 has a log-scale on the y-axis. That is the sort of trick global-warmers play with the data.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 1:43 pm

Exactly, David. That’s why it is so deceptive

Reply to  David Middleton
October 21, 2017 1:59 pm

I have a problem with bar charts using log scales. Why? Because the bar is an attempt to visually compare sizes like through integration. Would you use a area chart on a log scale? I hope not.

Scatter chart with Log axis, no problem.
Bar Chart with log axis, not the best choice.

Phil R
Reply to  michael hart
October 20, 2017 7:45 am

With respect, you figured it out and I figured it out, and I’m sure we’re not the smartest two people here. With a range of data from slightly over 100 bbl/yr to over 1,000,000 bbl.yr, I think it’s appropriate (i’d hate to see those bars on a linear scale).

michael hart
Reply to  Phil R
October 20, 2017 7:52 am

A log-scale is by far the best way to disguise a single exceptional result.

If the normally observed variation is rampantly all over the place, then, fair dinks. That is not the case here.

Smack on the wrist with a 12 inch metal ruler for any grad student that doesn’t get this.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Phil R
October 20, 2017 8:07 am

On that chart, where is the Pemex spill that was much larger than the Deepwater Horizon one?

michael hart
Reply to  Phil R
October 20, 2017 8:12 am

David, I’m not sure what what you mean. You now post something called “figure 2”, which is certainly not figure 2 on what I can read in the main article. Nevertheless, it appears to show a more honest depiction of the 2010 event.

Reply to  Phil R
October 20, 2017 10:03 am

So, Mr. Hart, your point is log scales are always inappropriate, always used to deceive?

Assuming you had any labs in college, did you ever try this logic on a professor? Or a TA? The former might have been gentle with you. The latter would have made an example of you in front of the class. Or maybe that’s what happened?

Can’t buy your argument, Mr. Hart.

Reply to  Phil R
October 20, 2017 5:18 pm

Given the target audience, it’s reasonable, but I would not put that graph on Facebook.

Reply to  michael hart
October 20, 2017 7:52 am

What trick? He NOTED it! There is no intention to hide anything. It’s how data is displayed when you need to show both very low and high numbers in the same graph and still have the ability to read it! Dang!

michael hart
Reply to  Wendy
October 20, 2017 8:04 am

Wendy, I think the author used the log scale to disguise the exceptional nature of one data point, not draw attention to it. That certainly appeared to be to be the intention.

michael hart
Reply to  Wendy
October 20, 2017 8:15 am

Well you failed, didn’t you, David? It came across as an attempt to disguise the scale.

Reply to  Wendy
October 20, 2017 8:25 am

Hart. You aren’t thinking. You are nit-picking.

Reply to  Wendy
October 20, 2017 8:28 am

So he attempted to disguise something by pointing it out, using a graph that nobody here (even you) misunderstood?


D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Wendy
October 20, 2017 8:32 am

That’s a knife that cuts both ways. Only a fool would normalize the unintended discharge by biasing it to the exceptional event.

michael hart
Reply to  Wendy
October 20, 2017 8:36 am

Yup, it’s the audience that is wrong.

Reply to  Wendy
October 20, 2017 8:39 am

michael hart, you seem obsessed. Take a deep breath…..

Hocus Locus
Reply to  Wendy
October 20, 2017 6:41 pm

the plot thickens
what fools these linear scale mortals be
drop a log on ’em
I like best ‘dueling’ plots
where variables extend from each edge of the four edges
and duke it out in the middle
and even a plot rising from the planar surface itself, poking the viewer in the eye
plots are clean. They exist in the supreme supernal
d’joo rather have the vocabulish mires of goo and effluvium
emitted by lawyers and philosophers?

Reply to  Wendy
October 21, 2017 11:07 am

Michael hart probably also wants all other graphs of data that is by design already logarithmic expressed in linear terms. e.g. Sound level – dB.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Wendy
October 22, 2017 1:07 pm

Michael Hart, the log scale is essential for such a huge spread in the data. Otherwise you would require a computer screen about 20feet high to contain a linear scale. Middleton ‘s graph doesn’t exaggerate the impact of the BP blowout; it actually under states it to get it on a manageable sized page.

You are obviously not a scientist, mathematician or engineer so you deserve an explanation that you can understand. Imagine for some reason you wanted to graph the size of living creatures on a page size graph. This would include microbes and blue whales.

The smallest bacterium is ~0.5 microns long (cigarette smoke particles are ~2 microns in diameter). The blue whale grows up to ~100feet long. So what units of length (or height) should we use. Well, there are 305,000 microns in a foot, so a bluey would be 30million microns long, or if we were to use feet, a small bacterium would be 0.0000017 ft long.

So we could use microns or feet, but to get the data on a one page graph, we can’t use a linear scale. Everyday practice is to employ a logarithmic scale in which each successive major division is ten times larger than its predecessor. Eg, the Richter scale for earthquakes: an earthquake of strength 2 is 10x that of strength 1 and strength 3 is 100x that of 1. A powerful earthquake strength 7 is therefore one million times that of strength 1.

I hope this will help you see the reason for using the very commonly employed logarithmic scale.

Reply to  Wendy
October 23, 2017 8:02 am

I actually think the use of a normal scale was actually quire instructive. It clearly shows that :
1) 2010 was a huge anomaly for leaks
2) leaks are tiny compared to natural seepage
3) even 2010 resulted in only 4-6 years worth of natural seepage.

Reply to  michael hart
October 20, 2017 8:46 am

A log scale is something you should have understood before leaving junior high. Just how much do you want Dave to dumb things down?

Reply to  michael hart
October 20, 2017 8:46 am

A log scale is something you should have understood before leaving junior high. Just how much do you want Dave to dumb things down?

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  michael hart
October 20, 2017 10:59 am

A logarithmic scale is a nonlinear scale used when there is a large range of quantities. Common uses include earthquake strength, sound loudness, light intensity, and pH of solutions.
So says Wikipedia.
As did my high school teacher.

Reply to  michael hart
October 20, 2017 1:47 pm

A log scale is a standard treatment of a plot where there are a few extreme outliers that would make the plot unreadable if a non-log scale was used. Looking at Figure 2 you can see just how screwed up that can be and why Dave asked the question “Having trouble seeing the spills?” The key to reading plots is to pay attention. No one who doesn’t pay attention has any business even looking at them – graphic novels, perhaps.

Kevin Schurig
October 20, 2017 7:31 am

No no no no no no no. We were told by “experts” that this was bad for us. Bad bad bad. That the oil from the spill was hanging around somewhere.(Maybe in the deep with the missing heat) Those “experts” wouldn’t lie to us to further their own cronyist agenda. Would they?

Mark from the Midwest
October 20, 2017 7:32 am

What kills the most people in industrial accidents? Impunity

Or a belief in impunity. it’s a good question and answer for most anything, like what kills the most people from cars accidents? I’m sure there are plenty more examples.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 8:02 am

In the oilfield, we encounter: highly explosive and flammable material; deadly gases; extremely hot fluids; extremely cold cryogenic fluids; pressures as high as 20,000 psi; highly radioactive sources; and much, much more.

What kills the vast majority of oil well workers? Driving to the well.

We had safety meetings at least once a month, with the majority devoted to driving. As David says, its because people normalize dangerous tasks. Like driving.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 10:54 am

Quarterly safety meetings for office employees? It’s crap like that which makes me happy to be with a small independent. As for the rig crews, safety meetings happen at the beginning of each shift. Hanging a few pictures in the doghouse would probably have a bigger impact than the meetings.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 11:10 am

I work on hiking trails as a volunteer. Each time before we start there is a safety discussion and explanation of tools and their use, and how you can hurt yourself or someone else. We change this a bit most days to keep it fresh and interesting. A few of the Washington Trails volunteers have been on more than 1,000 work trips. If N=no. of trips, then N = number of hearings of the safety issues. Well, plus a few in training sessions and first aid classes.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 2:05 pm


are you serious? Genuinely?

I’m an ex police driver in the UK. I also qualified as a government approved driving instructor. I could teach existing drivers to drive a car and reduce their chance of a crash by, I reckon, 70% or 80%. Irrespective of local, conditions, or vehicle.

And if any engineer cares to analyse the methods I was taught, they will find they are nothing more than the application of simple principles.

And I’ll take any jobs going because I love teaching people to drive properly, and quickly, which is the whole point of transportation. A to B as rapidly, and safely as possible.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 21, 2017 6:20 am

How about road position? It pretty well underpins everything.

Hocus Locus
Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 6:51 pm

Safety instructors are the bottom feeders of industry
they rise to the top on calamity, death and destruction
they dress the rest of us in bright gaudy colors
so we present better targets to fate
because fate has poor eyesight
and our ambitious souls and shattered lives
become grist for vignettes (with dressing)
re-told during safety meetings
did you hear the one about the crispy critters

Patrick MJD
Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 10:00 pm

“HotScot October 20, 2017 at 2:05 pm

And I’ll take any jobs going because I love teaching people to drive properly, and quickly, which is the whole point of transportation.”

I was taught in the UK by ex-Metropolitan Highway Patrol officers in the 90’s when I was driving a powerful car. I agree with you, one *CAN* drive quickly. I always make the distinction between driving quickly and speeding.

I did get pulled one day for driving at 101mph on the M4 heading east just outside Newbury. The officers could not believe the car was mine, they thought I had stolen it.

Doug in Calgary
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
October 20, 2017 8:16 pm

It wasn’t impunity that caused the Deepwater Horizon blowout, it was stupidity. It wascaused by a series of events that contravened standard oilffield practices.

– The BOP (blow out preventer) had a bad seal that did not pass the pressure test. Standard procedure would have been to pull the BOP, replace the seal and pressure test the BOP again on the wellhead… they did nothing about it. This allowed the gas to pass the wellhead to the rig through the riser column.

– They didn’t have enough stabilizers to keep an even distance between the casing and the well bore. Haliburton warned them but they ignored the warning. The subsequent cement job had pinch outs which prevented a good seal from the casing cement job.

– Gas sensors had not been maintained so they didn’t know they had gas from the well at rig deck level which then ignited.

If they had simply followed standard offshore drilling procedures there would not be 11 dead rig hands and the Deepwater Horizon would still be drilling today. Myself, and several of my deepwater drilling friends were agast and devastated at what had happened and what they didn’t do to prevent it.

Rich Van Slooten
Reply to  Doug in Calgary
October 20, 2017 9:31 pm

I would include another term called “complacency”. As an engineer w/ 30+ yrs working with safety shutoff systems both onshore and offshore, safe operations begins and ends with active testing of all safety and monitoring instrumentation/controls over the approximately 5 independent levels of protection, piping, valves, safety shutoff valves, BOPs, etc.

Now a lot of instrumentation and control systems are difficult to test on-line, in-service, so testing is simulated and control/shutoff responses are simulated so that actual operations are not inadvertently shutdown. The lack of testing of these safety systems leads to false confidence, complacency and false assurance that these systems are active and will work when an actual demand/incident occurs.

If you study various major industrial accidents, Piper-Alfa, Bopal, Three-Mile Island, etc. all of these accidents occurred thru negligence and complacency. Sure we can rewrite our safety standards, specifications and testing procedures but due-diligence is up to the individual in charge of safety systems. I learned early on that corporations have very short term memory of disasters. Corporations will repeat the same mistakes over time all in the name of profits, increased production, etc. Its only individuals who remember what really happened and why.

Reply to  Doug in Calgary
October 30, 2017 8:24 am

?? Which ‘bad seal’ in the BOP did not pass which did not pass pressure test? Also, doubtful that more stabilizers would have mattered. The 6 centralizers were place above and below the main zone groups, but the cement wasn’t cured yet at the time of the negative test. (See MDL expert report by Glen Benge). Thus centralizers were not a cause of the blowout; same result if 21 had been run. Also, the gas came on so strongly that even the gas detectors wouldn’t have given enough advance notice to change things much. However, there were several causes that one could call ‘stupid’ and learn from.

Jack Simmons
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
October 21, 2017 2:35 am

In military history, impunity is referred to as “victory disease.” Japanese fleet had it going into Midway. German army had it when invading Russia.

Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
October 21, 2017 12:27 pm
Thomas Homer
October 20, 2017 7:32 am

“consumed by microbes”

Carbon feeding life.

Reply to  Thomas Homer
October 20, 2017 8:30 am

After the spill I told all my S. La friends that once the cleanup was finished the fishing and shrimping in the area would explode. Most of the residual oil sat/sits on the bottom. It will continue to seep up into the Gulf ecosystem feeding microbes – plankton – crustaceans – cephalopods – fish – humans for years to come. You can put that much carbon into an ecosystem and to see a response.

Me, I just love some redfish and speckled trout ….or a good shrimp and okra gumbo.

Dan Davis
October 20, 2017 7:40 am

Great historical info and present site status report, David. Thank you. Go Petro! The base of modern civilization.

Bob Hoye
October 20, 2017 7:41 am

That all of the oil spill was consumed “by microbes” and other critters is a myth.
I have it on good authority that it ended up in the Bermuda Triangle.

Ronal B Morse
Reply to  Bob Hoye
October 20, 2017 8:36 am

There be some damned fat microbes living in the Bermuda Triangle. Shoot, I gained five pounds in three days the last time I went to Bermuda proper. Never even made it to Triangle.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Bob Hoye
October 20, 2017 2:24 pm

Hmmm….Maybe all those UFO’s use fossil fuel? The Bermuda Triangle is really an alien gas station?

NW sage
Reply to  Gunga Din
October 20, 2017 5:05 pm

You didn’t know? The UFOs are all electric – no gas!! ‘Some’ say they are Tesla’s next generation 3X removed!

October 20, 2017 7:41 am

Thanks for this “inside” insight. It’s incredibly sad that facts like these never see the light of day in the MSM

Gerry Parker
October 20, 2017 7:52 am

About halfway through the movie my wife asked me if it was an accurate depiction of working in the Gulf. Yeah, it was. In my experience, it was a very accurate depiction. You don’t realize it’s everyday people, Cajuns, college kids picking up extra money (the Company Men), etc. but it is a lot of down to earth good people working on something most people never imagine.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 8:05 am

Now I must see it. Thanks David for a great report!

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 8:46 am

I saw it. It was one of the few movies anymore not to have the subtle or not-subtle PC ind*ctrination in it. Refreshing just in that respect.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 10:11 am

I’ll be getting it, too. I assumed it was just it was just the usual Hollywood fantasy with leftist ideology thrown in. Thanks for the review.

October 20, 2017 7:56 am

The biggest obstacle in plugging the well? The Federal Government.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 8:29 am

I agree. Total and complete fu…mble by all government agencies. I worked in the onshore division when this happen. 🙁 You wouldn’t believe the vulture media and .gov officials around our offices.

Gunga Din
Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 2:32 pm

My wife and I drove from Dallas to Pensacola shortly after they capped the well. We drove back along the coast, through Mobile, Gulfport, Biloxi, etc. Never saw any oil…

According to what the MSM was saying at the time, you should still be able to see it today.

October 20, 2017 7:58 am

Having worked in the Gulf of Mexico on living marine resource issues I have always taken an interest in offshore exploration. My agency was part of the monitoring for the Ixtoc I blow out. I also was asked to review at least some of the imagery and data coming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Several heavy politicos were having problems with what was being reported. Comparing the data from both tragedies is difficult and often makes no sense. Ixtoc I went uncapped from June 1979 until March 1980, estimated flow rate of 30k per day for over 280 days yet supposedly spilled less that Deepwater which was uncapped from April to September or around 170 days. I have found estimated flow rates of 4.9k per day and as much as 68,000 per day for Deepwater. It seems that the federal government prefers the much larger number. As I understood it Ixtoc was much heavier petroleum than Deepwater which was primarily light crude. Makes a big difference in the environment. Critical in all this relative to the impacts on the marine and coastal environment are the microorganism in the Gulf. As I understand it because of natural seepage and comparatively warmer environment crude is fairly rapidly decomposed. Not so good if you are a bird but relative to the long term impact it is far different that say off the coast of Alaska or France. The coastal areas of Louisiana have seen their fare share of crude spilled in the past hundred years.

Reply to  Edwin
October 20, 2017 11:41 am

When I worked for a large electric utility generator our first chemical supplier was also the seller of the product Corexit, the dispersant used to break up the oil globules in the DH spill. As he explained, this product was intended to break the oil globules down to ever smaller droplets in the water column to allow the microorganisms to break it down at a higher rate. I’m aware there were criticisms of the Corexit product, but those were poorly supported IMO.

The Alaska spill, Exxon Valdez, when viewed in retrospect was made worse by the use of lighter oils to dissolve the crude. The lighter oils were far more toxic than the mechanical hazards of the heavy sticky crude.

A further note on the Ixtoc I spill: much of that crude ended up on the beaches of Texas as far north as Galveston. I remember seeing the “tar balls” all over the beach sometime around ’82 when I was a child. From what I’ve heard and also seen reported, the slick was exceptionally bad on South Padre Island, but essentially wiped away, buried in the sand during Hurricane Allen.

Reply to  PRDJ
October 20, 2017 4:10 pm

I lived on the Florida East Coast for a long time. If you walked on the beach barefoot you would spend a hour cleaning the “tar” off your feet. I was originally told by some environmentalists that it was from tankers pumping out their tanks. Then I spent time with older friend born near the turn of the 20th Century and have lived his whole life on the water. He said, “nope, almost all the “tar” on the beach was from World War II.” Few people appreciate how many tankers were torpedoed in the Gulf and Caribbean during the war. The Germans were sinking tankers before the US entered the war. He said off the east coast of Florida on any given day from the later 1930s through the 40s oil slicks, primarily heavy crude, and wreckage was everywhere. The oil had come ashore and been covered by sand because the beaches at the time were growing not eroding. By the 1970s the beaches were eroding exposing the remains of the crude, now basically tar.

Ed Stengel
October 20, 2017 8:02 am

A very well written article. I worked the deepwater GOM for many years and personally worked with LLOG on two discoveries, GC 157 and GC 448. To those of us in the industry, LLOG is no secret, it is a well run company with an exceptional track record. Thanks for getting the facts out to others.

October 20, 2017 8:09 am

It’s an interesting commentary on the difference in standards across various industries. In the nuclear industry, the “complacency” that apparently existed on Deepwater Horizon would not have been tolerated for even a moment. But…it’s generally accepted that a disaster at a reactor would have a much higher impact than in most other industries, so at least there’s a somewhat rational explanation.

Regardless, hopefully the lessons were absorbed and maybe helped foster a more robust safety culture in the oil industry.


Leo Smith
Reply to  ripshin
October 20, 2017 8:21 am

Deepwater horizon killed more people and caused more environmental damage than Fukushima did.

Reply to  Leo Smith
October 20, 2017 8:31 am

Yeah, as the say, more people have died on bridges in Chappaquiddick than in nuclear accidents in the U.S. But…I was trying to avoid the argument regarding radiological disaster vs industrial. I’ve learned that there’s no point in discussing radiation with people who are convinced of the LNT ( model.

Nevertheless, radiological and industrial safety standards a certainly a priority in the U.S. nuclear industry. Going home safe and protecting the general public are pretty good things to be concerned about.


Reply to  Leo Smith
October 20, 2017 11:49 am

Fukushima caused little to no environmental damage.

Daryl M
Reply to  Leo Smith
October 20, 2017 8:01 pm

Get serious! It will take decades to clean up the mess in Fukushima. There will be numerous cancer deaths from it. The oil spilled from Macondo has almost completely faded into the background.

Tom Halla
October 20, 2017 8:16 am

Good to read actual news on the subject, rather than something done by an English Lit major working for a NGO.

October 20, 2017 8:16 am

LLOG Exploration renamed the prospect “Niedermeyer”… part of an Animal House theme (we named our deepwater prospects after Caddyshack characters)

^¿^ Why can’t more companies be this cool?

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 8:32 am

We named all our land/TZ multi-client seismic programs after booze: Patron, Jack Daniels, Grey Goose, Jameson, …

Nigel S
Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 9:46 am

A hostage to fortune perhaps, a nice joke if all goes well. The French commander at Dien Bien Phu named the surrounding hills after his mistresses, that joke didn’t work out as well.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 10:46 am

I know a plant breeder who named potato varieties after barmaids…….

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 11:26 am

Hi David,
When I first came to Norgrey, fields had cool names from Norse mythology, so you find fields with ‘grrr’ names like Troll, Valhall and Åsgard. Enter the bureaucrats and now development fields (whose names are assigned by the government regulator) are named after oscure historical figures that few poeple know about and fewer still could give a scuttering f**k about. So now oilfields are named after feminists (Gina Krog and Aasta Hansteen), dead politicians (Johan Sverdrup and Johan Castberg) or the guy who thought it sensible to create a ‘new’ language out of old slang (Ivar Aasen).
By common consent, a pretty sad triumph of political correctness.

Reply to  schitzree
October 20, 2017 8:24 am

Hah. I was sitting here thinking about the insanely extreme culture shift that would be required for my company to do something similar. It’s like we have conflated boring with professional…as though anything fun and lighthearted is inherently bad. Gotta channel my inner-Trump here: So sad!


Nigel S
Reply to  ripshin
October 20, 2017 10:17 am

The UK Yellow Pages (remember them!) for years had an entry ‘Civil Engineering – see Boring’. The UK’s Institution of Civil Engineers (‘founded in 1818, the world’s first professional engineering body’) attempted to change that with predictable ‘Streisand Effect’ results. I’m looking forward to being able to give up my almost 40 year membership.

‘O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!’

Nigel S
Reply to  ripshin
October 20, 2017 10:34 am

Back to front (hoist on my own petard perhaps?). It was ‘Boring: see civil engineers’ of course.

Reply to  ripshin
October 20, 2017 11:45 am

Hi Ripshin, Nigel,
Since you mentioned professional being boring and jokes about engineers being boring, there’s a very cringe worthy team-building video that got out some years ago that appears from time to time on YouTube which makes a joke about drilling not being boring. Just now it’s here:

Reply to  schitzree
October 20, 2017 11:50 am

One company where I worked, all projects were named after major golf courses.

Reply to  MarkW
October 20, 2017 1:36 pm


Reply to  schitzree
October 20, 2017 1:57 pm

Geologists in the field usually are that cool, but the jokes are often limited to the field maps and notes. Then someone in a suit wants you to clean up the names and make them respectable. We used to joke that you could tell the time of day when a geologist slapped a temporary handle on a rock body by the name they used.

Another Ian
Reply to  Duster
October 20, 2017 2:42 pm

From a recent email

“Beyond a doubt, the greatest statement of all was made by Democrat House Speaker Sam Rayburn at the first Congressional session after Ted Kennedy was caught, on camera, having sex with one of his aides on the deck of his yacht .. “Ah see that the good Senatuh from the great state of Massutwoshits has changed his position on off-shore drillin’.” “

Gunga Din
Reply to  schitzree
October 20, 2017 2:38 pm

Maybe they’ll use Airplane next.
First well, “Surely”.
Second well, “Don’t call me Shirley”.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  schitzree
October 20, 2017 5:29 pm

There is the old story about Shell naming its North Sea fields. The first one was unimaginatively A-UK. Then came B-UK, and enough of an exploration pipeline to suggest they might get to F – which prompted a quick re-think. Fortunately by then only A-UK was in production, and a quick witted Scot with a taste for wildlife noted that face could be saved by re-naming it Auk, and suggesting that fields be given the names of (sea)birds in alphabetical order, leading to Brent, Cormorant, Dunlin, Eider… and the face-saving Fulmar.

October 20, 2017 8:17 am

Update to the update. Delta House suffered a spill this past weekend. The subsea structure suffered a failure in a flowline jumper. Spill is estimated at less than 10k barrels. Maybe this field is snakebit.

Leo Smith
October 20, 2017 8:19 am

It was a marvellous opportunity to buy a lease at fire sale prices from British company, by a US one.

And take them to the cleaners in terms of fines and compensation.

And rise a but of anti-British sentiment for political purposes.

An win all round for the USA and Obama.

Nigel S
Reply to  Leo Smith
October 20, 2017 9:39 am

BP of course had merged with Amoco. BP America was the former Standard Oil of Ohio Company, and Amoco was created from Standard Oil of Indiana. Obama’s shakedown of “British Petroleum” hurt many US shareholders as well as the intended targets.

October 20, 2017 8:30 am

Thanks for the comprehensive discussion and your insight in the BP deepwater-Horizon oil spill. Although I very rarely go to the movies, this might be an exception to watch. I really appreciate your in depth discussion on the technical side of well drilling.
Below is a link to an ironic side of BP safety since the Obama administration was considering a safety award for BP. I am more familiar with the downstream side of the oil business and BP seemed to have one of the worst safety records in the industry.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Catcracking
October 20, 2017 5:45 pm

I don’t think that was company wide. There is a deal of evidence to say that many former Amoco refineries retained the appalling safety record they had before the BP merger, and BP found it difficult to change the culture at those sites.

Reply to  It doesn't add up...
October 21, 2017 7:59 am

Being in the Industry it was clear that BP was the worst safety wise. Most of these occurred well after the merger circa 1998. Never heard that Amoco had an appalling safety record. BP had plenty of time fix any post merger problems.

Steve (Paris)
October 20, 2017 9:15 am

I think this site should be renamed: The University of What’s up With That

Or maybe not; I think you can learn more here everyday that at most of those hallowed institutions.

Rhoda R
Reply to  Steve (Paris)
October 20, 2017 3:47 pm

Now that’s the truth!

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
October 20, 2017 9:24 am

I haven’t watched the film as I assumed it would be a tirade against the oil industry and BP , but after reading this I will make a point of doing so. My impression of what happened after was that it was used to beat the fossil fuel industries in general – I will remember the point contributors made about more people (sadly) die driving to work in oilfields than in work accidents on site.
Incidentally, any views or updates of what many describe as the “shakedown ” of BP that followed?

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 2:29 pm

biggest shakedown was people claiming damage that didn’t even see oil…..

Clyde Spencer
October 20, 2017 9:27 am

David, from your article, “Researchers have estimated a natural seepage rate of about 120,000 bbl per year from one area (23,000 square kilometers) offshore of Louisiana.” I presume that after being consumed by bacteria, the hydrocarbons were converted to water and CO2. I wonder if the carbon-cycle estimates include the global natural seepages.

Jerry Henson
Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 6:40 pm


I believe the numbers are WAGS tainted by their agenda. The number that USEPA
has used in the past for their carbon budget shows a Tg. 30 deduct for methane
“absorbed” by upland topsoil.

Methane, when it hits the atmosphere, rises. The hydrocarbons that are found in
topsoil upwell from below, and it is natural gas, not just methane. When the microbes
in the topsoil consume it, it enriches the topsoil, just as Texas A&M describes, as
cited by H. D. Hoese below, hydrocarbons fertilize the oceans.

Hydrocarbons are the bottom of the food chain on land and in the oceans.

H. D. Hoese
October 20, 2017 9:39 am

Very interesting, the necessary competence of working in such a foreign environment is lost on many. Us older folks, including petroleum engineers, keep telling ourselves that the loss of history is nothing new. True enough, and history is an imperfect guide to the future. Nevertheless, the clean-up will someday also make an incredible movie, more politics, little competent science, except for that applied to things like the robotics capping the well.

There was an inshore study done on oil pollution shortly after WWII. My major mentor was its director. While technology is much more modern now, the fundamentals, like bacterial degradation, actually a transformation of energy and mass, were well known. Much of this study was published, much not. Studies coming out now showing the lack of “professionally” predicted crises are using words like unexpected, surprising, etc. One of the older unpublished studies showed the fertilizing capacities of hydrocarbons, now rediscovered. A summary of this study (Projects 9 and 23 of the Texas A & M Research Foundation) was published by the marine laboratory that recently had solar panels removed by Harvey.

Whoever was responsible needs to (try to, learn how to?) clean up an oil spill. Or maybe throw away their computer and just go to sea for awhile in a vessel like they had in 1836. The laboratory is going to sponsor a meeting on resiliency, about which they formerly had an exceptional history of in surviving hurricanes.

Texas wants to make a theme park out of the Alamo. I was born across the street from it. This was in a hospital, but once I met someone born there in a shack.

Jerry Henson
Reply to  H. D. Hoese
October 20, 2017 5:36 pm

H. D. Hoese

“One of the older unpublished studies showed the fertilizing capacities of
hydrocarbons, now rediscovered. A summary of this study (Projects 9 and
23 of the Texas A & M Research Foundation) was published by the marine
laboratory that recently had solar panels”

Thanks for the citation. Topsoil, in the presence of adequate moisture,
is fertilized by upwelling natural gas in the same manner.

Reply to  H. D. Hoese
October 22, 2017 4:34 am

Why can’t we just do it right. Impunity. The old spiritual song had it as “ever body talking bout heaven ain’t goin there”. Another variation on the capricious nature of humans. This post and the replies to it are no 1 on my hit list at WUWT.

Nigel S
October 20, 2017 10:05 am

An interesting article from Forbes about oil company safety comparing it to solar and wind.

‘Since the 1970s, 133 fatalities have occurred on turbines — that’s a high figure considering the relatively small size of the wind sector.

Records of wind and solar-related injuries are conveniently shoddy. It is hard to accurately compare their health and safety data to the government’s oil and gas statistics. But based on what we do know now, “alternative” energies are hardly cleaner, greener, and safer.’

Perhaps worth remembering too the 167 souls lost in the Piper Alpha disaster. Piper Alpha was operated by Occidental Petroleum.

John MacDonald
Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 7:13 pm

A classmate of mine was lost on Ocean Ranger. May he rest in peace.
David, many thanks for this update to Macondo story.
As for the movie, I too was surprised at the realistic depiction of offshore life and operations.
As a generality, the petroleum industry in the West is in the top few for safety compared to similar complexity industrial jobs. Many companies, including mine, give safety shutdown authority to the lowest of workers on most jobs.
Please continue your excellent depictions of how the O&G industry works and succeeds in providing energy to the modern world

Another Doug
October 20, 2017 10:19 am

“The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused the entire industry recommit itself to rigorous adherence to safety procedures… Because no one wants go to work and not come home.”

40 billion dollars is a pretty good motivator, too.

Loren Wilson
October 20, 2017 10:22 am

A question for the experts here: I read somewhere that a special fire chief trained in fire suppression on a drilling rig or floating production platform is supposed to be called out when this type of disaster happens but was not. Instead, in my opinion, they just flooded the rig with water until it sank, making it nearly impossible to cap off the well. If left floating, could they not have pinched off the well at the water-line much more quickly than what happened?

Joe Crawford
October 20, 2017 10:41 am

Thanks for the reference to Diane Vaughan and her theory of ‘Normalization of Deviance.’ While I’ve watched it develop and seen its results in organizations in industries as disparate as architecture, mechanical engineering and software development, I guess I had never realized that anyone had actually defined and studied it in depth. Often, just defining a dangerous characteristic and making people aware of it can become the first step in eliminating it from an organization.

It’s also refreshing to see something good occasionally come out of soft sciences such as sociology…

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 1:12 pm

As my older brother, once a trim carpenter, told me once, it’s not the newbie woodworkers who lose fingers. It’s the experienced ones who get caught up in routine and stop paying attention.

Reply to  Joe Crawford
October 21, 2017 2:27 am

Or as my old Dad always said (he worked in shipyards) – “familiarity breeds contempt”.

October 20, 2017 10:49 am

The same accolades could be said of the medium sized energy players that put the onshore oil shale plays on the world map of production. The majors had to buy their way in later.

October 20, 2017 11:03 am

You can’t see the log scale in figure 1, are those 10′ intervals on each horizontal line?

I still don’t know how the blowout happened in the first place. Wasn’t production casing already set? How do you continue to lose returns when casing is set? How does a formation — especially one that is as insignificant as you say — blowout through unperforated casing?

The whole story has always sounded fishy to me, a blowout after casing was set and no cement bond log? Is there no mandate to run bond logs on offshore wells like there is for onshore? Not to mention both BoPs failing and oil flowing to surface as if its formation pressure far exceeds what is claimed.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 12:27 pm

Seems incredible, like Murphy’s Law^10. I bet BP now follows the law of C.Y.A.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 30, 2017 9:13 am

The BOP actually DID SEAL AND STOP THE FLOW when surface flow first erupted, but only TEMPORARILY. The crew closed an annular, which leaked (likely high flow erosion on slow closing packer), then closed a PIPE RAM WHICH DID SEAL. Major surface flow continued due to the large amount of riser gas that the very late kick detection caused. A few minutes later, as described by CSB report, the automatic blind shear ram system likely then fired, closing the blind shear ram; but after severing the drill pipe, the ram failed to seal due to an off-center pipe, reopening a flow path across the BOP. The risk from an off-center drill pipe in a blind shear ram had not been previously recognized and is a new technology lesson to learn. Is not clear what is being done to reduce this risk while waiting for off-center capable shears to be developed and installed. Note that the CSB report concluded that if the crew had closed their upper pipe ram (in addition to the middle one), the blind shear WOULD HAVE PROBABLY SEALED. An operational lesson…

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 12:32 pm

Thanks. Sounds like that block will surpass the 50 million EOR after being halfway there in just two years. Good for LLOG.

dan no longer in CA
October 20, 2017 11:07 am

David: You said: “The 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster has also been attributed to the normalization of deviance. ” I’ve spent considerable time studying that incident. In detail, there were 3 causes.

First, the field joint seal was a bad design. It was an o-ring piston seal on a 10 foot diameter machined pair. Machining tolerances were far bigger than accepted practice for this type of seal. The o-ring had to jump out of the gap and into the gland. The Bernoulli effect was the driving force behind this, and the jump had to be made before the gasses got hot enough to burn the seal. An acceptable design would be either an o-ring face seal, or a spring energized lip seal. NASA got unsolicited letters from the o-ring manufacturer that this design would not work, but the manufacturer was ignored.

Second, when NASA recognized the problem several years later when solid rocket boosters were recovered and inspected, rather than fix the problem, they characterized it. A series of tests were done to determine the minimum ambient temperature at which the o-rings jumped fast enough to work. Below that temperature, the rubber was too stiff to jump fast enough.

Third, during the day of the launch, responsible engineers recognized the ambient temperature was too low. They advised NASA not to launch, but NASA managers ignored the engineers.

Fixing any one of these three would have prevented the incident. I suppose this is a tutorial on how to accomplish the “normalization of deviance”. Reference from the Rogers Commission report:

Apologies if I got off-topic.

October 20, 2017 11:10 am

Unfortunately, this sense of impunity goes on at railroad derailments with oil spills and other toxic materials and even among the safety consultants monitoring conditions and advising the spill crews. This includes willful deflection of concerns expressed by some workers and observing experts. That’s where management of the contractors is getting a free pass, until it fails.

Keith J
October 20, 2017 11:16 am

I’ve worked on deep water projects, subsea controls and ROV systems. Could not watch five seconds of MSM coverage without throwing the BS flag.
I felt MSM was purposely misleading and spreading chemophobia.

Of course I am old enough to remember Ixtoc blowout in Mexican waters. And how that fouled beaches in Texas. The GoM recovered.

John W. Garrett
Reply to  Keith J
October 20, 2017 2:05 pm

First of all, the MSM is a bunch of clueless idiots. Their collective understanding of the industry (especially the offshore) approaches zero.

Their sole purpose in life is to attract ears and eyeballs. It doesn’t matter how.

Facts don’t matter.

With respect to his newspapers, Rupert Murdoch (of News Corporation, parent of Fox) once said, “The articles are what we use to fill the space between the advertisements.”

John W. Garrett
October 20, 2017 11:32 am

First off, I am not a petroleum engineer.

If a total of 4.9 million barrels was released in the 87 days the well was uncontrolled, that (roughly) accords with a flow rate of roughly 57-61,000 BOPD.

Based on a flow rate of 60K BOPD, you get first year production of nearly 22 MMBO. I don’t pretend to know what sort of decline curve would apply, but even a very conservative 20% first year decline rate suggests that the Macondo reservoir held far more than 50 MMBO.

By the way, thank you for this very excellent piece. It nicely summarizes both the disaster and the wildly inaccurate claims and assertions of the professional haters of this essential industry.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 20, 2017 4:45 pm

I was reviewing the imagery, satellite and aerial during the spill. While I didn’t have the Ixtoc materials for comparison at the time, it just never looked like the flow rate was 60,000 bbl/d to me. I am convinced that the Obama Administration and the environmentalists wanted this to be the petroleum industry’s Three Mile Island.

Reply to  David Middleton
October 30, 2017 9:42 am

Simulation of the well coming in gave a reservoir flow rate of 50,000 BPD after the gas/oil passed the BOP. Using Macondo shrinkage to surface bbls (~50% liquid volume loss from gas evolution), that gives initial rate though fully open BOP of about 25,000 ST BPD. The subsequent on-going spill was through leaking and eroding BOP flowing out to seafloor (into a slightly slower hydro-static back pressure. Maybe the reservoirs cleaned up some plus downhole leak path eroded larger?

Reply to  David Middleton
October 30, 2017 9:49 am

Spill volume: shrinkage of reservoir to surface barrels was considered in the MDL trial that come up with the spill rate and volume. Looks like they used about 50% shrinkage. (pg 1216-1217 – MDL DAY 5, MORNING SESSION transcript).

Reply to  John W. Garrett
October 20, 2017 5:10 pm

Ditto. Retired petroleum geologist here (actually former BP, working for BP at the time). Prior to the blowout BP and Transocean made a lot of mistakes… BP had a culture of doing things on the cheap and the cost pressure were widely felt. But almost immediately afterwards BP handled the well kill ops and subsequent cleanup very very well.

October 20, 2017 12:24 pm

Well, now I’ve read the linked accident report, and I must say that the maintenance and modification practices described seem extremely sloppy and positively dangerous to somebody who has worked in the aerospace.sector. If Deepwater Horizon had been an aircraft it would definitely have been grounded by the FAA.

Ivor Ward
October 20, 2017 1:03 pm

Thank you for this article David, if I may call you by your first name.
As a Mate on the tankers that collected and delivered the crude we were well aware of the dangers and even the loss of one man was felt deeply. I don’t think I could watch a film which commercialized the death of 11 people so soon after the event. Their families must be acutely aware that Hollywood is cashing in on their misfortune. Hollywood may be short of scripts (and how!) but I think it is a little obscene. A documentary perhaps, but a dramatization, I think not.
I recall 17 people who died at sea in our small outfit that I knew personally, not all from accidents, in my 20 years at sea and I still feel for their families and friends. It was 30 years ago that I came ashore.

Not saying that it is “wrong” to make and watch such films, just saying that I don’t feel comfortable with it.

Paul Marko
October 20, 2017 1:19 pm

Great article, always wondered if anyone in the industry followed up on the Macondo discovery. Being a retired petroleum geologist from the Permian Basin, and knowing nothing of offshore work, I was hoping to learn something from the inserted video covering LLOG’s production facilities. Too bad the entire feature was focused on the speaker without visual aids. Oh well, I’m still catching up with long laterals in the desert.

Timo Soren
October 20, 2017 2:43 pm
H. D. Hoese
Reply to  Timo Soren
October 21, 2017 7:43 am

Another subject but the demise of shrimp has been predicted for along time due to things like wetland loss, too much nitrogen, etc. We have spent too much time chasing human effects, real or imagined, instead of problem solving. Solutions looking for problems.

From the link–“most shrimp die after they spawn” Actually most shrimp die (mostly eaten) before they spawn.

October 20, 2017 4:00 pm

Though not the scale of the spill that was experienced by BP at Macondo, there was a spill here in western Colorado that, I think, demonstrates the heavy and misguided hand of the EPA.

The spill was not significant, was self reported and was immediately moved onto to remediate the effects. The spill was located on a creek fed from the Bookcliffs. A creek feeding through oil shale rock.

The EPA was not satisfied with the progress and took over the cleanup. A function that they are, by law, entitled to do; though they are not that competent in understanding or assessing the true damage or proper solution.

The spill was monitored by the most sensitive equipment available. After spending a significant amount of the oil company’s money, they were satisfied that the spill was remediated. They must have had a hard time determining which hydrocarbons were from the release and which were naturally occuring due to the high exposure to oil shale rock prior to claiming success.

Not long after this event, the EPA accidentally released a significant amount of mine tailings water into the Animas River in southern Colorado. What did they do to clean up the spill? Nothing. Instead they stated that “dilution is the solution”. Absolutely correct but also an absolutely two faced approach to a spill when they are the issue as compared to how they handle private industry spills.

October 20, 2017 5:12 pm

Great post David.

Another Ian
October 20, 2017 6:09 pm

Reminds me of the bit in Spike Milligan’s war history where he asked a returned Dunkirk bloke “How was it?” Answer “A cock up; a highly successful cock up”

October 20, 2017 6:49 pm

David Middleton, as an employee of the oil/gas industry, it is plainly evident that you are nothing more than a shill for the fossil fuel industries. As such, your posts are biased, and devoid of objectivity. With said bias, your posting is not scientific, but rather a good example of proselytizing an industry point of view.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Robert Kernodle
October 20, 2017 6:58 pm

RK, and of course your comment is content free.

Reply to  Tom Halla
October 20, 2017 7:06 pm

Posting facts is “content-free?”…, who taught you that?

Tom Halla
Reply to  Robert Kernodle
October 20, 2017 7:09 pm

What, pray tell, did Middleton write that was untrue, or propaganda. Your comment was pure ad hominem.

Reply to  Tom Halla
October 20, 2017 7:16 pm

Middleton is a petroleum geologist. No ad-hominem in calling a spade a spade.

(You failed to answer Tom’s question,this now gets my attention) MOD

Tom Halla
Reply to  Robert Kernodle
October 20, 2017 7:35 pm

So commentary by someone who knows the field he is dealing with is somehow improper? Again, why is any of it “propaganda”?

Lars P.
Reply to  Tom Halla
October 22, 2017 1:41 pm

Robert Kernodle says (October 20, 2017 at 7:16 pm):
“Middleton is a petroleum geologist. No ad-hominem in calling a spade a spade.”

Robert Kernodle says (October 20, 2017 at 6:49 pm):
“David Middleton,” …. “As such, your posts are biased, and devoid of objectivity”.

1) it is clear you attack the character not the argument. What you do is ad hominem,
2) plus you do not understand what ad hominem is.

Ad hominem :
“short for argumentum ad hominem, is where an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.”

John Pickens
Reply to  Robert Kernodle
October 20, 2017 7:30 pm

RK, please include a rebuttal to his statements and figures, then. If Mr. Middleton is wrong, it should be a cinch for you to point out his errors.

Randy in Ridgecrest
Reply to  Robert Kernodle
October 20, 2017 8:20 pm

And what, exactly, are you Robert Kernodle?

Reply to  Robert Kernodle
October 24, 2017 6:40 pm

You and your ilk should be cut off from all fossil fuels, and all benefits that are derived from them.

October 20, 2017 8:49 pm

Robert, how much of an increase in traffic have you seen to your Art site? Interesting that you set up a link to your site by clicking on your name and then throw hand grenades at this article to get some attention. How are your Atoms feeling now?

It’s quit obvious you have no real interest in this article, only an interest in sending traffic to your sife.

Go away.

October 20, 2017 11:09 pm

The Deepwater-Horizon blowout looks like it might’f been a job for Stingray!

Paul Blase
Reply to  Canman
October 21, 2017 9:09 am

Or the Thunderbirds!

Gary Pearse
October 21, 2017 11:18 am

I enjoy your knowledgable articles on O&G immensely, your enthusiasm for sober analysis of the much maligned fossil fuel industry and its giant contribution to human wellbeing. With the greening of the planet, expansion of habitat, burgeoning harvests, public policy for sensible politicians is a no brainer.

I’m confident we will be surrendering more land to natural habitat, feeding a world population that will peak this mid century at 9-10B – we are over 80% there -, enjoying world prosperity and fending off the next ice age courtesy of the fossil fuel industry. Hopefully we will choose a Garden of Eden over establisment of a fiefdom of Clinton-Steyer-Soros-eurogrouchomarxism to ru(i)n our affairs for us. Imagine, it took Donald Trump to put this into our grasp!

Robert in Busan
October 21, 2017 1:36 pm

Kudos to Dave. Top notch article. The kind I keep returning to WUWT to read. Factual, concise, logical flow, interesting, informative. Discussion on log scale is juvenile. Graphic was completely appropriate and best way to present info. If you ignore the peanut gallery, Dave, it’s OK by me.

October 22, 2017 5:37 pm

Isn’t rule number 1 of fighting a fire on a boat or floating platform: Don’t sink it.

Reply to  Robert
October 30, 2017 9:58 am

Robert points out an interesting issue related to the question of whether the fireboats sank the Deepwater Horizon. As long as it was afloat with the riser connected, a lot of the oii was being burned (not going onto the sea); after the rig sank, the fire stopped, more spill rate, but the well flow rate reduced, as it now had to flow against the sea floor hydro-static of 2,200 psis instead of the surface 15 psia. Don’t know how long rig could have stayed afloat. Offers a Hobson’s choice for the responders… 9which arm do you want to cut off?)

Reply to  Driller43
October 30, 2017 10:33 am

P.S. my 15 psia back pressure needs to add something (500 psi?) for head and pressure drop of gassy oil through the large ID riser. Still a lot less than 2200 psi, plus some pressure drop through some riser with kink on sea floor.

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