Day 64 Gulf Oil Crisis: Mr. President What Is the Back up Plan? Is there a back-up plan?

It is day 64 in the Gulf Oil Disaster and the oil continues to flow into the gulf and the cleanup effort is floundering.

BP is drilling two relief wells it hopes will “stop” or contain the oil flow into the Gulf.

While it has been reported that the “relief well plan” involves “capping” the existing well with concrete, there are also reports that the “relief wells” will simply be used to divert the oil to the surface where oil production will continue. 

The question remains, “If the relief wells fail, what is our “backup plan””.

Mr. President, do you have a back-up plan?

Mr. President, I’m not an oil expert. I am just an American deeply concerned about his Country.

Oil Recovery Ship Discoverer Enterprise & Relief Wells

With all due respect, here are my suggestions.  

The Crisis at hand – how we got here.

I’ll begin with Newton’s first law. (

That law states that oil or gas will only move from one place to another if something is pushing it.

The oil and gas flowing into the Gulf today, is doing so becaause the “pressure” in the rock surrounding the oil is higher than the pressure in  the well pipe. The “pressure” in the rock is pushing the oil out of the rock or reservoir and through the well pipe and into the Gulf.

Oil Spill Recovery - Proximity of Relief Wells - Click to Enlarge

The pressure of the oil in the rock is 12,000 pounds per square inch or 12,000 psi.

When BP first started to drill the well, BP pumped mud into the wellhole or pipe. The mud being pumped into the well hole created a pressure of 13,000 psi and as the pressure of the mud in the well was higher than the pressure of the oil in the rock, the oil and gas stayed in the rock or reservoir and did not move into the well.

Sometime before the disaster occurred, the mud being pumped into the well was replaved with seawater. Seawater has a lower pressure than the mud, so as the seawater replaces the mud, the pressure in the well pipe or hole drops. As the pressure in the well or pipe falls below the pressure in the rock, the gas and oil flow out of the rock or reservoir and into the well. The oil and gas then travel up the well pipe and “riser” to the oil rig on the surface.

BP was not negligent simply because the “mud” was replaced with “seawater”. As oil or gas wells are completed, the pressure in the wells must be “reversed” before a flow of oil or gas will begin.  This “flow” allows the well to “produce oil”. The act of replacing the mud with seawater is an acceptable way to “reverse the flow” in a well and start the well’s production of oil and gas.

The physical makeup of gas allows it to flow more easily than oil and the gas did just that. The gas moved from the rock or reservoir through the well and into the riser or pipe and continued to the surface where the Deepwater Horizon was waiting. It is suspected that the gas ignited or exploded.  

It should be noted that the rig, Deepwater Horizon, was a semi-submersible oil rig that was not “anchored” to the Gulf floor.

The rig represented the cutting edge of drilling technology. It was a floating rig, capable of working in up to 10,000 foot water depth. The rig was not moored; It did not use anchors because it would be too costly and too heavy to suspend its mooring load from the floating structure. A triply-redundant computer system used satellite positioning to control powerful thrusters that kept the rig on station within a few feet of its intended location, at all times. This stabilization system is called Dynamic Positioning.

The rig was loaded with 900,000 gallons of diesel fuel to operate the thrusters. This writer has not been able to determine whether the diesel fuel contributed to the rig fire.

While the final events that led to the rig fire and a possible explosion have not been determined, it is known that the rig burned for two days prior to sinking to the gulf floor.

As the rig sank, so did the “riser” or “pipe” that connected the rig to the “wellhead” or “LMRP” (Lower Marine Riser Package) on the floor of the gulf.


BP is drilling two relief wells. It is unclear whether BP plans on using the “relief wells” in an attempt to cap the damaged well or whether the relief wells will be used in an attempt to divert oil from the damaged well, into the relief wells and ultimately to the surface of the gulf where the oil will be processed.

As the rig sank the riser “bent” and ruptured in at least 2 places, the ruptures allowed oil to flow out of the “riser” or “pipe” and into the gulf. The pipe disconnected from the oil rig as it sank and oil also flowed out of the “top end” of the riser as it came to rest on the floor of the gulf. BP successfully capped the “top end” of the riser pipe in the video below. Note the bolting process at the end of the video. 

 The “BOP” or “blow out protector” on the Gulf floor may have malfunctioned, but it did not explode. The “wellhead” remains intact on the floor of the gulf. The “leak” of oil into the gulf was directly related to the “rupture” of the ”riser” as it sank, not to an explosion.

After several unsuccessful attempts to address the flow of oil into the gulf, BP decided to cut the riser from the well head and attach a new collector assembly. Today you can watch the live BP video feed as millions of gallons of oil flow into the Gulf from the well head. The current etsimate is that between 2 and 4 million gallons of oil are leaking into the Gulf each day. 

BACK UP PLAN 1: Repair and Cap the Riser/Well head

If you view the video of BP cutting the riser from the well head, you will not that there is a flange assembly, approximately 2 feet below the “cutline”. Flanges are fabricated or designed to connect pieces of pipe together or to connect pipe to other assemblies.

It appears that there has been no damage done to the structure of the well head or the BOP (blow out protector)

Generic Pipe Flanges

on top of the well head. The BOP may or may not have suffered a mechanical failure; however, the BOP it does not appear to be leaking oil at this time. The oil is flowing through the well head and out of the cut end of the riser pipe.

If the well head can be capped, the flow of oil into the gulf will end.

Step 1:

Separate the last section of cut and damaged “riser” along with the flange to which it is attached, from the flange attached to the top of the wellhead. It was the coupling of these two flanges that created the connected between the “riser/pipe” to the “wellhead” on the gulf floor.

VIDEO BELOW: Close up of riser kink & BOP: Note that there is no oil leaking from BOP or coming from wellhead below.

Deep sea flanges are attached to piping using a “shrink fit process”. Flanges are joined to one another using “connectors” or bolts.

High Pressure Deep Sea Flange & Pipe Assembly

Repairing The Wellhead

Step One:

Separate the two flanges that were used to join or “couple” the “pipe/riser” to the “Wellhead/BOP”.

If this were a surface well, the process of separating the flanges would be straight forward. As this is a “deep sea” well, remotely operated vehicles will need to be used.

To affect a separation of the two flanges the connectors (bolts) used to join the flanges will need to be removed. Jack screws are a common “joiner” used to connect flanges.

The connector bolts may need to be cut, as demonstrated in the video below. Cutting the heads off one end of the bolts may facilitate disassembly.

Step 2 

Fabricate a new flange assembly with a “shut off valve”.

Lower and attach the new flange and shutoff value to the well head. When the assembly is being attached the shutoff value is left in the “open” position and the “valve” is not closed until the assembly is completed. With the “valve” in the open position, the oil is unrestricted and allowed to flow freely through the assembly until the assembly is securely attached, then the valve is closed and the oil flow into the Gulf ends.

Impediments to Repair of the Wellhead

The well head is located at least 10,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf. The well must be approached and repairs completed with remote submersible vehicles. There will be difficulties encountered with taking the flange assembly apart. There will be difficulties encountered while centering and attaching the new flange and shut off valve assembly. This writer finds it very difficult to believe that those difficulties cannot be overcome as the technology needed to complete the suggested repairs has existed for over 50 years. That technology must now be modified and adapted to allow for a successful application of our existing technology on the Gulf floor.

Mr. President a leader does not proclaim “IT CAN’T BE DONE”. A leader assembles the best and brightest specialists in the world and  tells those specialists, “This is what must be done. How do you propose that we get it done”.


Approximately 6 weeks ago I posted suggestions that the Government consider “imploding the well” to seal the well and stop the flow of oil into the Gulf.

Contrary to what detractors of that suggestion have implied, I am not suggesting that the President use a nuclear weapon on the well.

Yes, it is true that a “nuclear weapon” detonation sequence begins with an “implosion”, however, that is where my suggestion and a “nuclear weapon” part company.

A nuclear weapon contains a “core’ of nuclear material. That core material is surrounded by a layer of conventional high explosives “shaped” in a fashion to compress the nuclear material together. As the nuclear materials “compress” a critical “nuclear concentration” is achieved and that concentration triggers a “spontaneous nuclear reaction” that we call a “nuclear explosion”.

In the diagram below, the purple material on the outside of the devise is the bomb’s casing, the yellow materials in the “second layer” of the device is the “conventional high explosives”. The center purple section of the diagram represents the nuclear or fissionable core of the bomb. The “nuclear explosion” starts when small “triggers” ignite, the triggers explode the “conventional high explosives”, and the “high explosives” compress the “core” initiating the “nuclear reaction”.


The suggestion I’m presenting involves the use of conventional high explosives, molded into specific “shaped charges”, which, when they are exploded, “compress” and close the “well pipe” below the floor of the gulf.

Imagine water running through your garden hose. If you can “kink” the hose with your hand or “compress” the hose with your foot, without breaking the hose, you can stop the flow of water.

Step 1 – Imploding the well

A series of holes are drilled into the gulf floor around the existing well. The number and depth of the holes are determined by the geological structure of the gulf floor at the well site and the tensile strength of the well casing or pipe. The holes are then filled with “shaped charges” of high explosives.

Step 2 – Remote detonation of the explosion

The final act is the remote detonation of the explosives. The explosion can take the form of a “timed”, “sequenced” or a “simultaneous explosion”.

Original Video above “disabled”, select from the choice of videos displayed along “tray” at bottom insert.

Mr. President:  If it is needed, will you be ready with a “back-up” plan?

Video below: The two cuts already completed on the riser/pipe and casing 

UPDATE: How BP wants to start over in bid to contain Gulf oil spill

Finally, printed confirmation in the form of an article in the Christian Science Monitor. An article which states,

“On Wednesday, BP and the Coast Guard are expected to decide whether to greenlight a project that would remove the containment cap and replace it with a larger cap connected to two flexible riser pipes. The replacement cap, called an overshot tool, would not sit atop the stump of the original riser pipe, but would bolt directly to the blowout preventer, perhaps creating a better seal.”

As I have previously noted, the current activity involves an attempt to “capture” & “maintain” oil production. The plan under discussion Wednesday involves the use of “flexible riser pipes” rather than a “shutoff valve”.

Lets keep our fingers crossed Wednesday ……

Update 2: 07/10/2010

The process begun Saturday (07/10/2010) has two major phases: removing equipment currently on top of the leak and installing new gear designed to fully contain the flow of oil.

BP began trying Saturday afternoon to remove the bolted top flange that only partially completed the seal with the old cap. Video images showed robotic arms working to unscrew its bolts. BP spokeperson said that could last into Monday depending on whether the flange can be pulled off from above, as BP hopes. If not, a specially designed tool will be used to pry apart the top and bottom flanges.

Once the top flange is removed, BP has to bind together two sections of drill pipe that are in the gushing well head. Then a 12-foot-long piece of equipment called a flange transition spool will be lowered and bolted over it.

View the video here:

Read my update here:  

One Response

  1. I every time spent my half an hour to read this blog’s articles every day along with
    a cup of coffee.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: