Day 92 In The Gulf: Feds – Oil Seepage Insignificant

Oil from BP’s blown out well is again seeping into the Gulf of Mexico, but this time, more slowly and scientists aren’t convinced the cap that stopped the flow last week is making things worse.

The government said Monday that oil was seeping into the Gulf after days of warning that the experimental cap on the oil well could cause more leaks.

Despite what at first seemed a setback, though, the federal government declared the development insignificant and forged ahead with BP’s plan for finally sealing the hole in the ocean floor.

Ever since the cap was used to bottle up the oil last week, engineers have been watching underwater cameras and monitoring pressure and seismic readings to see whether the well would hold or spring a new leak, perhaps one that could rupture the sea floor and make the disaster even worse.

Small amounts of oil and gas started coming from the cap late Sunday, but “we do not believe it is consequential at this time,” retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.

Also, seepage from the sea floor was detected over the weekend less than two miles away, but Allen said it probably has nothing to do with the well. Oil and gas are known to ooze naturally from fissures in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

At a Monday afternoon briefing in Washington, Allen said BP could keep the cap closed at least another 24 hours, as long as the company remained alert for leaks.

Allen initially said his preference was to pipe oil through the cap to tankers on the surface to reduce the slight chance that the buildup of pressure inside the well would cause a new blowout. That plan would require releasing millions more gallons of oil into the ocean for a few days during the transition – a spectacle BP apparently wants to avoid.

On Monday, Allen budged a bit, saying unless larger problems develop, he’s not inclined to open the cap.

Somewhere between 94 million and 184 million gallons have gushed into the Gulf over the past three months in one of America’s worst environmental crises.

Day 91 In Gulf: Tensions Rise Between Obama Administration & BP / Bronner – “They Work At Our Direction”


Browner on Tensions With BP: ‘They Work at Our Direction’

JUDY WOODRUFF: We take a closer look now at the concerns surrounding the well and the choices facing both the government and BP.

I spoke with Carol Browner at the White House a short time ago. She is the assistant to the president for energy and climate change.

For the record, we invited BP to participate, but company officials declined.

Carol Browner, thank you for talking with us.

CAROL BROWNER, assistant to the president for energy and climate change: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We have been hearing a variety of reports over the weekend and today about leaks, about seepage in and around the well. Bring us up to date on the status of this well.

CAROL BROWNER: Well, the well is capped. It has been shut in. And we have our scientists reviewing this on a regular basis.

There have been some bubbles. There has been some seeping. At this point, they’re not concerned. But we have directed BP to provide ongoing monitoring, seismic, other analytics that our scientists review. And, if there isn’t a problem, we will continue. If there is, then obviously we will have to move to containment, which means bringing the vessels that can capture the oil back on to the site.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, for example, the leak that was — or seepage that was identified over the weekend a few miles from the site, no concern about that?

CAROL BROWNER: Not at this point in time. But all of this is being watched very, very carefully.

And we will continue to watch it until we’re certain that there is no problem, again, 24-hour approvals for the cap to stay on to make sure that we’re getting the kind of analysis, the kind of monitoring that our scientists need to make these determinations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And same question about the bubbles around the site of the wellhead. Any other small leaks around there?

CAROL BROWNER: There are some bubbles. There are some bubbles down low. There are some bubbles up higher. All of those are being carefully monitored right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, at this point, the administration’s on the same page as BP?

CAROL BROWNER: Well, we’re monitoring, and we’re watching the situation. And if things change, we will direct BP to take alternative acts.

It is very important to us, and we made that very clear this weekend, that BP provide us monitoring and seismic information on a regular basis, so that we can continue to do the kind of analysis that will give us the assurances that leaving the well closed in on a 24-hour basis is acceptable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m asking because, over the last few days, over the weekend, there seemed to be different — there were different statements coming from BP at one point, the administration at another point, about whether there was a leak, whether there wasn’t, whether the cap should stay on or it shouldn’t.

Was there a disagreement?

CAROL BROWNER: There are — I think it’s fair to say there were some tensions over the weekend. Obviously, everybody wants to see the oil contained.

The cap is working right now, but we’re not willing to simply say, OK, it’s working; we’re not going to worry. We want it monitored. We have directed BP to monitor it and to provide information to us on a regular basis, so we can make the appropriate analysis. And then we will go forward in 24-hour increments.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it fair to say that the administration leans toward taking this temporary cap off if necessary to get the oil to the surface, and that BP leans toward keeping that cap on until the relief wells are finished?

CAROL BROWNER: We lean towards getting this over, and getting it over in the safest possible manner.

Our scientists have warned us that there could be some unintended consequences from the cap. You could have oil leaking out in other parts of the Gulf where you couldn’t control it. So long as that is not an issue, we will move forward with the cap in 24-hour installments. If it becomes an issue, obviously, we’re going to direct BP to bring those vessels in and to start collecting the oil at the surface.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, help us understand how you are monitoring this. Is BP doing — how much of the monitoring is being done by BP and how much by the administration?

CAROL BROWNER: So, BP works at our direction. We provide them with what we want, what our scientists want in terms of how many seismic runs are made, the type of seismic run.

We have also brought our own vessel in. NOAA, part of the Department of Commerce, their Pisces vessel is now in, doing sonar monitoring, which has been very valuable. So, it is at our direction and then under our analysis that we make this decision about whether or not to continue the cap.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the actual monitoring is being done by the company, and the administration’s overseeing that?

CAROL BROWNER: It is at our direction. And then — that’s correct — we take the information and we analyze it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And then, so the statements we were hearing over the weekend, is this just a result of people talking out of turn?

CAROL BROWNER: I think there might have been a little bit of that. Again, this is obviously a very difficult situation. And tensions can arise.

Everybody wants the same goal. We want what’s right for the people of the Gulf. We want this to end. But we need to do so in a way that is absolutely safe, so that we don’t create any sort of other accident or unintended consequences.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you to help us understand something else. And that is the trade-offs involved. If the decision is made to keep this temporary cap on — it wasn’t intended to be permanent — is that correct?

CAROL BROWNER: That is correct. It wasn’t intended to be permanent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Then what are the trade-offs that you are looking at, if it stays on and you find out later what?

CAROL BROWNER: Well, if it can stay on, and we have no problems, then there’s no oil leaking. If we begin to have a problem, then we have to bring the vessels back in.

And, unfortunately, that will entail a couple of days of leaking while those vessels are hooked back up. But obviously we need to avoid any sort of catastrophic situation. Right now, it’s working. That’s the good news. And we’re going to be monitoring very carefully to avoid any unintended consequence.

And perhaps we can leave it on. If we can’t, we will go to containment, where we will be able to capture up to 80,000 barrels per day of oil.

JUDY WOODRUFF: When you say catastrophic situation, you’re talking about a leak, a new leak that is not known about right now; is that what you are saying?

CAROL BROWNER: We’re talking about the possibility of many — maybe more than one leak. It would be coming up through the bedrock in maybe more than one place, and we wouldn’t be able to control it. And, obviously, that is not something anyone wants to tolerate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And how worried are administration scientists that that may be the case?

CAROL BROWNER: Well, they’re not worried right now because we’re getting the monitoring and most importantly the sonar and the seismic that are giving us the answers.

And we’re going to remain vigilant throughout this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as you — let me just explore this for just a second. As you look at, again, the trade-off here of letting the oil — if you were to lift the cap for whatever reason, and you have the oil spewing into the Gulf for several days, that in itself is a negative consequence of all this.

CAROL BROWNER: Obviously, that would be a very unfortunate turn of events. But we would only do that because we thought something worse was going to occur, that the trade-off would be go to this vessel containment because the alternative is that you are going to have uncontrolled leaks in more than one place across the ocean floor.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Carol Browner, to what extent — if the cap were to come off, the oil were to continue spewing into the Gulf, to what extent is BP responsible at that point?

CAROL BROWNER: They’re absolutely responsible. There’s no doubt in our minds that they are absolutely responsible.

They caused this accident. Obviously, they have a responsibility to get this thing capped. They’re working at our direction. They will continue to work at our direction. But they are the — they are responsible. Make no doubt about it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the status of penalties that would be levied on BP in those circumstances?

CAROL BROWNER: BP will, under the law, pay a very, very significant penalty. That — the specific amount will be determined, but it will be a significant penalty. That is what the law requires.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we’re going to leave it there.

Carol Browner at the White House, thanks very much.

Day 91 In The Gulf: Feds let BP keep oil cap closed for another day

Feds let BP keep oil cap closed for another day

NEW ORLEANS – The federal government’s point man for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill says he’s authorized BP to keep the cap on its busted well for another 24 hours after the company pledged to closely monitor the seafloor for signs of a new leak.

In a statement issued Monday, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen says a federal science team held a conference call with BP representatives Sunday night. He says the scientists got answers they wanted about how BP is monitoring the seabed in case any new leaks erupt from the capped well.

Allen had written BP the day before to say a seep had been detected a distance from the well and demanded BP step up monitoring of the seabed.

Allen says in his Monday statement he’ll only allow the cap to stay on if BP continues meeting its obligations to watch for signs that it could possibly worsen the situation.

Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 3 of 3

Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 3 of 3

Part 1 Here: Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 1 of 3

Part 2 Here: Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 2 of 3

The Plumber and The Sketch

If you’ve heard the recent press reports concerning the “mystery plumber” and “the mystery professor” you’ve heard the President’s various spokesman repeat some variation of the following, 

“an anonymous plumber … and he sent in a sketch …”.

The Administration has specifically implied that the “plumber” used his “knowledge” and “sketched” the design used to “build a better shut off device” to complete the July 12 repair? While not specifically stated by the President’s spokespersons, several news commentators have implied that a significant part of the 80 plus day delay in stopping this oil flow was due to the complicated process of “fabricating” the new and unique “shutoff device” “sketched” by our mystery plumber” .

 If nothing else, this Administration is brazen. Incompetent, but boldly brazen!

As I mentioned earlier in this post, the replacement BOP was obtained from Cameron International, the company that designed and built the original BOP. It was apparently, “on site” as early as May 2, if not earlier. One could check to confirm when the Discoverer Enterprise arrived on scene.

The Cameron Company invented BOPs in the 1920’s and has been fabricating “3 stack” 20,000 psi rated BOPs” for over a decade. The photo below was taken from Cameron’s on line catalog. It is a photo of the 3 stack BOP used to repair the well.

Cameron Double Ram BOP

Unless our “mystery plumber” and the “mystery professor” were founding members of the “Psychic Friends Network”

Cameron Triple Ram BOP

and had their phone call and exchanged the sketch 10 years before the Macondo Well Blowout took place, the “mystery plumber” had nothing to do with “sketching”the BOP used to “repair and seal” the well on 07/12/2010.

May 4th, 2010 Containment Dome

BP puts containment dome on gushing oil geyser. The well has been capped, more or less. BP engineers Thursday night guided a containment dome onto the hydrocarbon geyser shooting from the Gulf of Mexico oil well — a desperate and iffy attempt to capture the leaking oil and funnel it to a ship on the surface.

May 8, 2010

The effort to place a massive containment dome over a gushing underwater wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico was dealt a setback when a large volume of hydrates — ice like crystals formed when gas combines with water — accumulated inside the vessel, a BP official said Saturday.

The dome was moved off to the side of the wellhead and is resting on the seabed while crews work to overcome the challenge, a process expected to take at least two days, BP’s chief operation officer Doug Suttles said.

Suttles said the gas hydrates are lighter than water and, as a result, made the dome buoyant. The crystals also blocked the top of the dome, which would prevent oil from being funneled up to a drill ship.

“We did anticipate hydrates being a problem, but not this significant,” he said.

Two options officials are weighing to resolve the containment dome problem are heating the dome or adding methanol to dissolve the hydrates, Suttles said, adding that they are continuing to assess other methods to capturing the oil. Suttles said that another possible solution would be to “take ground up material of various types and try to inject it into the blowout preventer at the bottom of it and it will flow up and plug it up,” an operation he compared to stopping up a toilet.

The maneuver is called a “junk shot,” Suttles said.

What happened to replacing the BOP?

May 9th, 2010 – Top Hat 1

Top Hat 1 being lowered into Gulf

Chief operating officer Doug Suttles said Sunday that BP is thinking about putting a smaller containment dome over the massive leak after a four-story, 100-ton box became clogged with ice like crystals a day earlier. BP believes a smaller dome would be less vulnerable because it would contain less water. A day after ice like crystals clogged a four-story box that workers had lowered atop the main leak, crews using remote-controlled submarines hauled the specially-built structure more than a quarter-mile away and prepared other long-shot methods of stopping the flow.

May 12th 2010

New ‘Top Hat’ dome at Gulf of Mexico oil spill site – BP. A new steel dome has been placed beside the damaged oil well that has been polluting the Gulf of Mexico since last month’s drilling rig disaster, BP says. Dubbed the “top hat”, it is smaller than a first container dome which had to be set aside after becoming blocked by crystallized gas hydrates.

A second, smaller oil containment box was lowered into the sea near the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico. The box was being slowly submerged to the seabed Tuesday. But it won’t be placed over the spewing well right away. BP spokesman Bill Salvin says engineers want to make sure everything is configured correctly and avoid the same buildup of ice crystals that stymied their first attempt at using a larger box that was about 100 tons. This box will be connected to a ship on the surface by a pipe-within-a-pipe when it’s lowered. Crews plan to pump in heated water and methanol so ice won’t build up. Salvin said undersea robots will position the box over the gusher by Thursday. More than 4 million gallons of oil have spewed from the well since a drilling rig exploded April 20.     


Top Hat 1

May 14th 2010 Insertion Tube – The Siphon

BP PLC will attempt to stop oil from continuing to leak into the Gulf of Mexico by inserting a tube into the leaking pipe, officials said this afternoon, a process that could start overnight. Officials with the company and the federal government chose that method over an attempt to cap the spill with a so-called “top hat,” which would have involved lowering a structure around the leak site. Still, the top hat option could still be used as a backup, according to Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for BP.  [Installing this “Top Hat” would require “cutting the riser pipe” – the Top Hat won’t fit over the “kinked riser” – Is that why the Feds have moved on to a “different repair”? So the Feds, the Obama Administration, is calling the “repair shots” and making the repair decisions.]  

A siphon pipe? What happened to the “Top Hat”? What happened to the 2nd BOP? I can’t get my head around their decision making process, frankly, it appears to be a flawed process that lacks proper prioritization…

Researchers who have analysed underwater video from the leak site estimate as many as 70,000 barrels of oil are leaking into the Gulf per day, with a margin of error of plus or minus 20%, significantly higher than earlier estimates. BP tries to thread a tube into the broken wellhead in an effort to collect some of the leaking oil in surface ships.

May 17th  

An undersea straw inserted into the end of the Deepwater Horizon’s broken oil pipe has given BP its first success in the nearly month long battle to lessen the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The siphon is collecting 1,000 barrels of oil a day – roughly one-fifth of the oil leaking from the wellhead, by BP’s estimates, though some scientists suggest the amount of oil leaking in the Gulf oil spill could be much greater.[1 barrel out of 5? No, 1 out of 70]

Is this how you measure success, siphoning 1,000 barrels out of a possible 70,000 barrels of oil leaking into the Gulf. I find this amazing. It must be easy to amaze me lately. If they knew the diameter of the siphon pipe, a pipe they have selected and inserted, they can calculate, in advance, the maximum siphon rate. I found it … siphon pipe is 4” in diameter inserted into the 21 inch riser …. Hmm … why did they bother to report the outside riser diameter … oil doesn’t flow through the whole riser, just the 9 7/8 production pipe, so at best,  we have a 4”siphon inserted into a an approximate 10” pipe… won’t be long till this is abandoned I hope …. The siphon is better than nothing, but just barely.  What happened to the “Top Hat” and the “2nd  BOP”?

May 21st 

Officials with BP say they’re nearly ready to try another method to try to stop the flow of crude oil that has been spewing into the Gulf of Mexico for over a month. The “kill shot,” which could be attempted as soon as this Sunday, involves first injecting massive amounts of heavy mud into the well head on the Gulf floor, followed by cement. Suttles said that BP is now trying the “kill shot” approach after more than four weeks, due to both the complex nature of the operation, and the desire to keep from making a bad situation much worse.  “The philosophy since the beginning as been to not take any action which could make the situation worse,” he said. Other attempts so far to stem the flow of oil have met with zero, or limited, success.

BP says a tube inserted into the gushing, broken pipe is now extracting about 5,000 barrels of oil a day, siphoning it to the surface for offloading onto waiting ships. However, as BP now admits that the amount of oil actually spilling out is unknown, that means no one knows what percentage of the overall spill that the tube method is actually capturing. [5,000 out of 70,000 barrels or 7% of the total]

Let me see now, 2nd BOP is trumped by “Top Hat”, which is trumped by “Pipe Siphon”, which is trumped by “Kill Shot”, which is really called the “Top Kill”. (The writer confused “Kill Shot” with “Junk Shot”), and “Junk Shot” trumps a 2nd BOP too.  A “Top Kill” shares some similarities with a 2nd BOP. A successful “Top Kill” has the potential to “shut in” or “shut off” the well. The “Top Kill” however, is a one way street, once “Killed”, the well remains “dead” or closed. If the 2nd BOP operates as designed, you can open and close the well, close the well off or produce oil as you like… 

May 26th Top Kill Starts

The top kill is underway, success uncertain. BP engineers are pumping mud at a furious rate into the damaged blowout preventer that sits on the uncapped well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The hazardous-but-high-reward maneuver comes five weeks into the oil spill crisis amid an intensifying atmosphere of political recrimination that has spread from the Gulf Coast to the White House and Congress.  [There is a tremendous amount of misinformation, the BOP may have failed, but to describe it as “damaged” may not be accurate. The BOP “failed” because “valves” failed to shut, which means that you may have a completely “undamaged” BOP with the valves stuck in the “open position”. Fluids will pass through the BOP “unchecked”. The BOP will not function as designed, but it may have no “internal damage”. Five weeks since the Obama Administration received and discussed my idea publicly … I wonder what is going on … emailed the Unified Command Center again. One additional thought about the BOP: The BOP is a safety device and is designed to close the well off – the BOP’s primary safety function – close the well in an emergency, but not its only function. The secondary function is to allow oil to pass through the BOP – the majority of the BOP’s” life” is spent doing exactly what is doing today – sitting with valves open, letting oil pass through it… not understanding this point leads to many misperceptions by the general public. ]

…but this will only be a prelude to a permanent seal using cement.

May 30th – Top Kill Fails

Gloom grows as BP’s ‘top kill’ effort fails. BP acknowledged the failure Saturday of its latest “Top Kill” operation to tamp down oil gushing from its blown-out well, and launched a new interim effort to contain the flow. “After three full days, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well, so we now believe it is time to move on to another option,” said BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles at a news conference with federal officials in Robert, La. In a surprisingly somber statement from the company that has sought to reassure the public over the last 40 days, Suttles acknowledged: “This scares everybody — the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing or the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far.”

Ok, we have “Junk Shot” and “2nd BOP” on the bench … I wonder who goes in next?,0,1846585.story

June 1st 2010 – Junk Shot Fails

BP will “move on to the next option” after several attempts to stuff solid material and pump mud into a breached Gulf of Mexico oil well failed to stop the flow, according to a BP spokesman. …
Top BP executives said Saturday that engineers and scientists had decided to try a new technique of stopping the flow after three attempts to pump mud and 16 tries to stuff solid material into the well failed. That option: placing a custom-built cap to fit over the “lower marine riser package,” BP chief operation officer Doug Suttles said. BP crews were already at work Saturday to ready the materials for that method, he said.

There goes “Junk Shot”.

A new flow of oil emerged from BP’s damaged undersea well in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday evening after a remote-controlled submarine successfully cut into the well’s riser pipe. (Actually, it was a remote controlled submersable vehicle, ok, you could call it a submarine). 4th – LMRP “Top Hat 2”i June

BP CEO Touts ‘Milestone’ Maneuver in Efforts to Cap Gulf Oil Spill: BP CEO Tony Hayward said the company should know within 12 or 24 hours whether their latest attempt to cap the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is working, touting a “milestone” maneuver that he admitted was risky. Hayward hailed the company’s work Thursday after underwater robots successfully sheared off a busted oil pipe spewing millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf, telling reporters that the company would have a “fully sealed” containment system in place by the end of June. Government officials have warned that cutting away the pipe could, at least temporarily, increase the flow of oil by 20 percent. 

The riser has been cut, so step one in my suggested repair has been completed. I would have cut the “riser” above the “kink in the riser” above the BOP, to restrict the flow of oil, until I was ready to add the 2nd BOP. I can’t believe all the oil escaping from around this “Top Hat 2”. Is this considered acceptable until the relief wells are completed – what happens if the “cement plugs” placed by the “relief wells” doesn’t take?

June 17th Congressional Hearings


June 23 Robots Bump “Top Hat” 2

Oil spewed uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico again Wednesday after an undersea robot bumped the cap being used to contain it, forcing BP engineers to remove the device and then scramble to reattach it.

The latest setback left nothing to stem the flow of oil at its source. A camera recording the well showed huge clouds of black fluid coming

06/23/2010 Robot Strikes "Top Hat 2" - Hat removed

out of the seafloor. BP hoped to quickly replace the cap, which since June 4 had been carrying some of the oil gushing from the blown-out well to a surface ship.

When you put a man on the moon or in space, you make absolutely sure you have a well developed backup plan of what to do in case of a failure.  Out on the deep sea the same rules apply — you try to make sure there are no failures in the first place, and when one does occur, you need a clear plan to take control of the situation. Such a plan has been glaringly absent by BP in the wake of the explosion of its Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Now the company has experience yet another embarrassing setback.  On Wednesday morning operators using the containment dome to siphon off some of the spilling oil witnessed a “burp in the line”.  That “burp” turned out to be a serious problem with the containment dome, which forced BP to remove the dome.

July 1st – Hurricane Alex

July 10th – Flange Removed – 2nd BOP added

The final repair starts.

Following approval from the National Incident Commander (Admiral Allen), BP began replacing the existing lower marine riser package (LMRP) containment cap [Top Hat 2] over the Deepwater Horizon’s failed blow-out preventer with a new sealing cap assembly.

Installation of the sealing cap is proceeding as planned. The Discoverer Enterprise removed the LMRP cap [Top Hat 2] at approximately 12:40 PM CDT on Saturday, July 10. The Discoverer Enterprise then moved off station. Following the removal of the cap [Top Hat 2], a subsea dispersant wand was inserted into the riser. Two plugs and all six flange bolts were then removed. The Discoverer Inspiration is now moving on station.

We are progressing on plan to install the sealing cap,” Wells said, adding that the company earlier Saturday removed the Lower Marine Riser Package cap [Top Hat 2] that had been used to collect oil …
With the LMRP cap detached, BP is using remotely operated vehicles to remove the flange atop the blowout preventer altogether, including the stub of the riser pipe the ROVs clipped with hydraulic shears in June to prepare the well.

Remove two plugs and six flange bolts, attach a new seal and bolt down a BOP. 11 weeks late and  175,000,000 million gallons of oil later.   

July 13, 2010

The three ram capping stack was installed on the Deep Water Horizon LMRP at 7 p.m. CDT. The stack completes the repair. Following installation of the capping stack and in line with the procedure approved by the National Incident Commander and Unified Area Command, the well integrity test will begin July 13 on the MC252 well. new sealing cap.

Cameron 3 Ram BOP

 installation process.

Post July 14th, 2010 – Oil Flow  

Part 1 Here: Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 1 of 3

Part 2 Here: Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 2 of 3



The Government states that BP has been working at “our direction” …

 “CAROL BROWNER: So, BP works at our direction. We provide them with what we want, what our scientists want …

Well I want to know who made the decisions to try what and when …. who decided to delay the second BOP from May 2, 2010 until July 14, 2010 – a total of 73 days and and 180 million gallons (180,000,000) of oil …. You can’t have it both ways.

It isn’t BP’s fault if BP is working at the direction of the Obama Administration …. and if BP is working at the direction of the Obama Administration, that would go a long way to explain what has happened in the Gulf since April 22, 2010 …

Update 07/20/2010:

I’ve found it difficult to quantify the amount of oil that may have entered the Gulf waters unnecessarily, oil that would have been contained within the well had the proper repair been completed when it was first considered in early May 2010.

The difficulty in quantifying the volume of oil is directly related to the fact that there are such divergent estimates concerning the total amount of oil to have entered the Gulf: The range of estimates runs from 92,000,000 gallons (PBS/NPR) to 184,000,000 gallons …

I’ve decided, somewhat arbitrarily, to use the lower limit estimate until an accurate figure has been determined and verified. I’ve decided to adopt this method to avoid any implication that I am attempting to inflate the damage done to the Gulf by the Obama Administration’s unnecessary delay in capping the well.

Adopting this methodology results in the following estimates:

Estimated volume of oil to have entered the Gulf: 92,000,000 gallons

Total number of days oil leaked into Gulf:  86 (from April 22nd until July 14th)

Average amount of oil leaked per day: 1,070,000 gallons.

Number of days oil flowed into Gulf unnecessarily: 71  

The BOP used to repair the well was “on site” on May 2, 2010, Day 11 of the spill. It took 3 days to complete the repair once was it started. The well repair should have been completed by Day 15.  86 days minus 15 days = 71 days                                                              

Amount of oil that leaked into the Gulf between Day 15 and Day 86: 75,970,000 gallons

(71 days x 1,070,000 gallons per day = 75,970,000 gallons)

75 million, 970 thousand gallons of oil – and this represents the minimum estimate.

Whatever amount of oil is ultimately determined to have entered the Gulf, over 80% of the oil entered the Gulf after Day 15. 

Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 2 of 3

Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 2 of 3

The True Story of the Deepwater Horizon Tragedy

See part 1 here: Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 1 of 3

What Do We Know?:

Some combination of failures took place. 

That some quantity of methane gas, in a compressed liquid state, gained entry into the “drilling system”. That at depths below 3000 feet, methane gas will remain in a  liquid form and does not expand rapidly.

As the liquid gas rises up the well and the psi reduces, the gas will expand and transition from a liquid into a gaseous state, expanding in volume as it does so.

One “expert” claimed that as the gas moves up a well pipe, from 3000 feet below the surface to 600 feet below the surface, the gas expands at least 300%. Between 600 feet and the surface the gas expands again, by 1000%. 

Other “experts” report that “methane” will remain in liquid form at any pressure above 2362 psi.

Another “expert” stated that 1 cubic foot of gas at a 5000 foot depth will expand to 700 feet of gas at the surface. This would mean that the amount of gas you would fit into an empty gallon container of milk would expand to fill the average two car garage at the surface.

Another drilling expert described the “gas expansion” this way; 6 barrels of gas entering the pipe at  12,500 psi will expand to 5200 hundred barrels at the surface. Every 1 barrel at 12,500 psi equals 866 barrels at the surface. 1 gallon at 12,500 psi equals 20 barrels at the surface.

Common “theories” or Common “speculation”

There are “experts” who believe the liquid gas gained entry to the “drilling system” through a displaced “bottom plug” or through channels in the cement between the well casing and the well pipe (which would require that the “channels” match up on the 9 separate “cementing jobs”) , others believe the liquid gas gained entry through a “defect” in the casing or well pipes and still others who think the liquid gas was absorbed in the drilling mud and later, after the mud became saturated with the liquid gas, that the liquid gas percolated out of the mud and up the well pipe.

The gas, in whatever quantity, and from whatever source, once it gained entry to the drilling system, began an upward migration in the well pipe.

You can note that the BOP was located on the floor of the Gulf, nearly 5000 feet below the surface. The gas would, at that depth, be in liquid form.

The most common speculation, a speculation so common and so sensible, that I’m ready to accept it as fact,  is that the drill crew’s action of  “displacing the drilling fluid” or “mud” with sea water acted to “imbalance” the well flow and speed a “gas bubble” on its way to the surface. As the bubble moved closer to the surface it expanded at an ever increasing rate, forcing the mud, oil and other fluids above it in the pipe out onto the drilling platform. Once the gas bubble breached the top of the well it ignited and caused the fire if not the explosion.

As the fluid flowed out of the top quarter of the well, the hydrostatic pressure at the wellhead dropped from about 2300psi to approximately 500psi in an instant, creating a siphon like suction, drawing additional oil and gas up through the well pipe.

The rig was equipped with all manner of warning and alarm systems to alert the crew of the impending disaster. At least some of these alarms or warnings were triggered. Of the 126 individuals on board, 115 were saved.

This is not speculation: these 11 crewman lost their life’s in the disaster:

Jason Anderson – Tourpusher
Dewey Reveete – Driller
Roy Wyatt Kemp – Derrickman
Donald Clark – Asst Driller
Karl Kleppinger- Shakerhand
Shane Roshoto – Floorhand
Adam Weise – Floorhand
Stephen Curtis – Deck Foreman
Aaron Dale Burkeen – Crane Operator
Gordon Jones – MI Service Hand
Blair Manuel – MI Service Hand

Myth # 6 – BP used substandard “drilling fluid” or “drilling mud” to cut costs and it was BP’s “cheap” approach that resulted in this accident. That this is another example of BP’s shoddy business practices.

In fact, BP is an industry leader in research and “computer modeling” for “drilling fluids” or “drilling mud“. BP has participated in industry leading research in “kicks” generated by the use of water and oil based muds. BP International, in partnership with Schlumberger Cambridge (SCR), developed a computerized modeling program for the UK Department of Energy.

“This paper describes the philosophy behind the code structure, the solution techniques and modes of operation. The capabilities of the simulator are summarized; the coding considerations discussed and comparisons between kicks in oil- and water-based muds are illustrated. Some details of the validation of the code against field and experimental data are given. The code structure is designed for maximum portability and is highly modular, allowing ease of maintenance and upgrade. The full mass and momentum equations are solved in a core algorithm using an implicit finite difference scheme. An equation of state developed by BP is used to describe the density of gas-cut drilling mud at conditions of up to 15,000 psi and 350 deg F. The temperature dependence of the drilling mud and the rise velocity of gas bubbles in non-Newtonian fluids are described by new experimental work from SCR.”

It is possible that the rig hands working with the “drill mud” missed the gas buildup in the mud. It is possible that the Transocean crew member responsible for overseeing the “drilling mud” missed the gas buildup. It is also possible that the BP “company man” assigned to “clear” this work failed to run the computer model or simulator that BP invented, however, given this rigs reputation for excellence, I find that unlikely.

It is possible that an improper level of gas built up in the “drilling mud” and in combination with other “human errors” led to this tragedy. All things considered, absent some specific evidence in support of such a claim, I am not willing to accept that BP declined any request to “switch out the mud” or for that matter that any such request was actually presented and then declined.

Myth #7  – The well pipe and casing was substandard – the well was doomed to fail by design.   

The Large Bore 2M (LB-2M) Wellhead System is an extension of the LB wellhead. The LB-2M features casing hangers and running tools designed to carry additional casing loads at the systems working pressure. The 16″ sub-mud-line casing hanger, with a 2M lbs. high capacity hanger system has a 10,000 psi working pressure rating. The 2M lbs. high capacity 13-5/8″ casing hanger lands inside the high pressure housing and is rated for 15,000 psi working pressure.

The system used to drill the Macundo well is one of the “Cadillac” systems available for “deepwater” well drilling. The system has been used to successfully produce wells at depths greater than the Macundo’s. This unsubstantiated slander, repeated by two Congress people during the Congressional Hearings, is simply unsupported by any facts whatsoever.….5Wellhead.a spx  – see the description under “large bore” on this page. This system was designed and approved over a deceade ago … what woould motivate someone to imply that this “system” was unique and uniquely dangerous …

The well pipe and well casing did not fail until after the Deepwater Horizon capsized and sank.  The force exerted on the pipe while the rig sank, twisting and bending the well pipe and casing as the rig settled to the floor of the gulf, resulted in the structural disruption and failure. The well blowout did not destroy structural integrity of the well pipe.

Myth #8 – The explosion

This event involved a huge underwater explosion that occurred; A). at the bottom of the well when the drill bit entered the oil reservoir and ignited an oil and gas pocket. This is complete speculation and has no basis in scientific fact. B). a giant gas bubble developed beneath the BOP and above the oil reservoir, that the BOP was “shut” and refused to open. That the gas bubble expanded until it finally exploded. The explosion blew out the top and bottom of the well, destroying the well’s integrity and creating a large crack in the crust of the earth.  Again this is wild speculation. As we know the methane gas would remain in a liquid form at that depth and would not expand or grow. (It is possible, however, for the density of the liquid gas in the mud to increase). There is no evidence of an explosion in the well casing, above or below the sea floor. C). that an explosion occurred in the lower marine riser package and the BOP. That the explosion damaged or destroyed the BOP and LMRP. This is a matter of unsupported speculation. None of the video broadcast to date support that type of damage being done to either the LMRP or BOP. D). That an explosion took place in the well pipe between the LMRP and the Deepwater Horizon Rig.  Again there has been no evidence of such an event. After the “event” and prior to the rig capsizing and sinking the rig remained tethered by the well pipe to the LMRP below.

The only explosion that took place, took place above the Deepwater Horizon Rig and on its drilling deck. The explosion and subsequent fire were related to the ignition of the escaping gas and oil from the well.

The explosion on and above the rig was not of sufficient force, 5000 feet above the ocean floor, to create a massive enough shock wave to substantially disturb the LMRP and well head below. It is true that a substantial “kick” was felt on the rig as the well “blew out”, the rig and the LMRP below are engineered to withstand such pressure. There has been no sign of oil leaking from the seals of the LMRP or BOP or from any area around the bottom of the LMRP. While there may have been some type of damage sustained in these areas, that damage, if it did occur, has not been manifested to date.

An explosion on the sea floor at the LMRP (one did not take place) would have had no effect on the geologic structure of the oil reservoir some 13,000 feet below. The actual explosion above the Deepwater Horizon would have had no effect on the geologic structure of the oil reservoir below.  A nuclear explosion at the site of the LMRP would not disturb the geologic structure 13,000 feet below. An explosion above sea level, with an additional 5,000 feet of ocean water acting as a buffer, would have no impact on the oil reservoir 18,000 feet below.  NORADS Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center is only 2000 feet underground but considered “nuke proof”. A “well blowout explosion” separated from the geological structure of an oil reservoir by 13,000 feet of earth and an additional 5,000 feet of water, will have no impact, what so ever, on the underlying geology. 

Yes, a shock wave could travel down the well pipe to the LMRP, however, LMRP’s are designed to withstand that type of vibration. You could fire a high velocity projectile down the center of the well pipe into the upward rushing fluid and that projectile would never reach the bottom of the well.

The Spill Response  

The Deepwater Horizon capsized and sank at 1030 AM local time on April 22, 2010, 36 hours after the initial fire and explosion.

Within 72 hours the fact that the oil was leaking into the Gulf of Mexico was well known.

The three leaks;  the first at the top end of the riser where it had separated from the drilling platform, the second in mid riser, somewhere between the top end and the LMRP on the Gulf floor and the third leak just above the location where the “riser” was “kinked” above the LMRP at an almost 90 degree angle.

By the morning of April 26th, 2010 the “Unified Command Center” announced that “BP” was considering three different ‘repairs” to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf. 

The three repairs announced April 26, 2010:

1)      A containment dome or “coffer dam”. The domes were a multi story fabrication to be dropped over the top of the leaks and were intended to funnel the oil to a surface ship where it would collected.

2)      The “Top Kill”. Pumping heavy mud into the top of the well to “plug” and seal the LMRP and BOP.

3)      The “Junk Shot”, pumping shredded tires and tennis balls or some such thing into the top of the well to “plug” and “seal” it.

As I’ve said in other posts, I am not a deep sea oil expert; however, my initial reaction was this, “That is it? That’s the plan? Are they kidding? What’s the back-up plan”.

That evening I searched the web a bit and discovered the following.

The Containment Dome

The “containment dome” was not greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm in the “professional oil industry” blogs. There were many posts noting that the same approach had been tried unsuccessfully after the well blow out at the Itox I well in June 1979.   

We now know that the two containment domes tried at the Macondo well failed due to the formation of ice like crystals under the “collection hoods”. This is the same reason the “domes” failed at Itox I.

While I am not an “oil expert”, I do wonder about the volume of methane gas being produced by this reservoir.

While there was little enthusiasm for the Containment Dome in the “Professional Blogs”, it was, by far, the best received of the three suggestions.    

The: “Top Kill” and “Junk Shot”

I’d like to take a minute to review one of the technical differences between the “Top Kill” and the “Junk Shot” on one hand and the “Containment Dome” on the other. The “Containment Dome”, had it succeeded, would not have “shut the well in” or “stopped the flow of oil”. It would have placed a “cap” over the oil leaks and funneled the oil to the surface and the waiting surface vessels. The well would not have been “shut off” or “shut in”.

The “Top Kill” and “Junk Shots” were directed at a different type of resolution. A successful “Top Kill” or “Junk Shot” would have “sealed” the well, would have “shut the well in”, or “shut the well off”. Successful “Top Kill” or “Junk Shots” would have stopped the flow of oil into the Gulf.

With a successful “Junk Shot” or “Top Kill”, pressure would build within the well. Strangely, this  possibility, that “pressure might build” in the well after the well was successfully shut in, was never mentioned before either the “Top Kill” or “Junk Shot”, however, this “possibility” has been mentioned, as a cause of “dire concern” when other “repair solutions” are suggested … my reason for mentioning this is to alert the reader, when they visit other blogs, to be alert to this issue … noting the differences is a reliable way to identify those rooting for a procedure versus an outcome… 

By the evening of April 26th speculation concerning these proposals was running rampant.

As I previously noted, a significant number of bloggers at the “Professional” oil workers sites expressed their skepticism at the proposed “containment dome” noting the failures of similar devices at the Itox I well blow out in 1979.

A rather vocal group of “bloggers” who supported the “containment dome” solution expressed their concern that trying either the “junk shot” or the “Top Kill” could prove catastrophic. This group for some reason believed that the floor around the LMRP had been damaged by the blow out and that there may have been some type of well pipe collapse. There was no visual evidence to suggest that had happened nor was there any supporting scientific proof. The “live videos” from the site did not show any “oil” leaking from the LMRP nor was there oil seeping up out of the ground at the base of the LMRP.

The persistent opinions from this group were politely tolerated but not necessarily accepted in the “professional blogs”.

The “professional bloggers were less kind to the “Junk Shot” and “Top Kill” solutions. While there were very few of the “Professional Bloggers” who thought the “containment dome” would succeed, there were a few. There were no champions for the “top kill” or “junk shot” solutions among the “professional oil field workers”.

If you visit the sites I’ve linked to this article you’ll note very little time was spent discussing “solutions” to the ongoing leak during the final week of April, the first week after the event. Those discussions would heat up a month later.

During the last week of April, most of the Professional Oil Workers were intent on finding an explanation for how this terrible event had come about. Most had no interest in assigning blame, only a desire to identify the questions, find some answers and develop some solutions. As a group they appeared to be deeply intent on improving the survivability of their chosen professions.

April 26th, 2010

On the evening of April 26th, 2010 this writer decided he would chip in his 2 cents worth.

I emailed my suggestion for a “well repair” to the “Unified Command”.

I sent the same “suggestion” twice more before posting it on my Blog in June 2010. As you read on, you’ll understand why I waited to post the suggestion… 

As you’ll note later, my suggestion was, in fact, utilized as the recent and successful well repair.

I don’t mention this because I crave attention or admiration. I mention it because it provides us an opportunity to learn a lesson about the Obama Administration.

A lesson about truthfulness, deception and trustworthiness. A lesson about competence.

My repair suggestion was, from my perspective, straight forward.

I noticed that there was a flange assembly, a coupling joining the top of the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) to the bottom section of the “riser” that had previously extended upward to the oil rig. The coupling was just below the 90 degree kink in the riser.

I noted that despite the fact that the 90 degree kink in the riser was just feet above the top of the LMRP and BOP, there was no sign that oil was leaking out of either of these “parts”. Nor was there any sign of oil leaking up from the gulf floor around the LMRP. The “90 degree” plus kink in the riser would obvious act to restrict oil flow and cause pressure to “backup” into the well, in much the same way a kinked garden hose forces water back away from the open end of the hose towards the house. While far from a “true” pressure test, no one had to that time, or to the present time, presented any scientific evidence to confirm that the well bore, well pipe or well casing was damaged by the blow out. A substantial number of the professional bloggers shared my opinion that the well bore, well hole, well pipe and well casing (there appears to be quite a bit of overlap in the use of these terms) retained structural integrity until after the blowout, explosion and fire and only “lost” structural integrity when the rig sank, twisting and kinking the riser on the way down.

It is from this standpoint that I suggested, “why not consider cutting the riser off above the last 90 degree kink, to preserve the restricted flow of oil coming out of the riser from the well, then obtain and position a new “shutoff valve” on the sea floor, uncouple or take apart the flange connection, dispose of the flange attached to the cut riser pipe and attach the new “flanged shutoff valve” to the top of the assembly. I noted that a “combination” shut off valve and production valve could obviously be considered, as I have nothing against continued oil production, but for simplicity sake, I was just trying to target a solution to stop the flow of oil into the gulf. I didn’t want to have my idea discarded because I was so “politically incorrect” to suggest continued oil production from the well.

Fast Forward July 12, 2010.

The riser pipe was, in fact, finally cut. The cut took place almost 12 weeks after I first submitted my suggestion. The pipe was not cut “above” the 90 degree kink, but was, cut below that kink. Immediately after the riser pipe was cut, the flow of oil from the well increased substantially. This fact provides support to the theory that the well pipe and casing were not damaged and that oil flowed freely through the well, the BOP and the LMRP.  After the riser cut was completed a “Top Hat”, a modification of the “Containment Dome” solution, was lowered into the gulf and “loosely attached” to the LMRP. America watched for weeks as oil flowed steadily around the “Top Hat” and into the gulf. Flowing at the rate of over a million gallons a day into the Gulf.

This situation continued for weeks, hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil, millions of gallons of oil, flowing into the Gulf, until July 12, 2010, when the Unified Command and BP removed the “Top Hat”, took the last flange assembly apart and connected a new “combination shutoff and production valve” to the top of the well. What was the specific type of “shutoff and production valve” that was attached?  They attached a new BOP to the top of the well”.

Today is July 18th, 2010 and the flow of oil into the Gulf has been stopped.

I acknowledged weeks ago that while I submitted this idea to the Unified Command, that is was probable that similar ideas must have been submitted by others.

That however, does not excuse the outright falsehoods currently being told by the Obama Administration.

In response to various questions concerning this repair several members of the Obama Administration have made the following false statements;

1). That the suggestion to attempt this repair was received anonymously, from a plumber, through  some unidentified staff member at the University of California, and

2) That the “mystery plumber” had submitted his “sketch” of a “device” which was designed to “repair” or “shut in” the well” on 07/12/2010.

Again, the purpose of my making this observation is not an attempt to “correct” some perceived injustice to myself, to seek credit for coming up with the solution first. My purpose is this: At the time I made the original suggestion my intent was very simple, a good faith offer of assistance in a time of great national emergency. I don’t support this Administration or it’s policies, but I love my Country and have a great sympathy for the people of the Gulf.

“Containment Dome”, “Top Kill”, “Junk Shot” and “Top Hat”, are they kidding me, this is the best they can come up with?

By the time I posted my “repair suggestion” on my blog, I was astonished, almost 8 weeks had passed since I had submitted my suggested to the Command Center … but more on that later. An additional 159 million gallons of oil had passed through the LMRP/BOP and into the Gulf between the day I emailed my suggestion and my posting it on my blog. 

Was the Administration really content to sit on the results of the incredibly dishonest “Congressional Hearings” and wait for the relief wells to be completed in late August? No back-up plan? What would they do if they could not obtain a solid seal from the “relief wells”, what next?

Remember these things, an anonymous “plumber” and a “sketch of a “sealing device”.

May 2010

You can imagine my surprise on May 02, 2010 when I came across the following, just 6 days after my email:

May  1st 2010 Conference Call  (Day 10 of The Spill)

ADMIRAL ALLEN:  One of the real problems we’re having working in that area is what I would call the tyranny of distance and the tyranny of depth…

Trying to use some of these technologies at that depth with remotely operated vehicles is proving to be somewhat of a challenge.  The riser is already crimped about two feet above what they call the stack … There was already a crimp in that pipe.  What we don’t know is whether or not that is what’s reducing the flow to what we have right now, or a much larger flow would be expected if there was a total wellhead failure[By well head failure, I believe the Admiral means a loss of all “containment ability” – a free and unchecked flow of oil, not a “collapsed or destroyed well pipe” as some in the press have assumed – obstructions from displaced casing and the like would impede the flow of oil, just like a “kink”] There are some plans in place that are being evaluated where the pipe could be crimped or potentially just cut it off another blowout preventer just placed above it.  The real problem is the engineering associated with that and how to mechanically accomplish that 5,000 feet down.

The next question in the interview came from an Attorney representing some company with a variation on the “Containment Dome” or “Coffer Dam”.

You can imagine my excitement: “Wow, that is great. Sounds like they have someone on the ball now. Cut the riser, replace the BOP with another one above it. I think they are on their way now, if the Gulf can just hold this may be over in a week “Remember the date, May 1st, 2010. The spill was in its 10th day. The Governors of the Gulf States were calling for assistance and asking the Bureaucrats to get out of the way ….

May 2, 2010

One week since I had first submitted my suggestion… Then this bit of confusion … from the New York Times of all places, “The company intends to address the leak by lowering a containment dome [coffer dam] over it and then pumping the oil to the surface. [Referring to the mid riser kink & rupture]That effort is still at least six days away, Mr. Fryar said. Another containment dome, for the third leak, which is on the riser near the wellhead, would follow two to four days after the first”. [That would mean a 10 day delay before the “two” containment domes were in place and this is already Day 11 … seems like we lack some urgency here… and what happened to my idea …]

My first reaction upon reading these proposals was this: They are not thinking things through, these are political not scientific decisions … First, if you cut the riser just above the kink at the LMRP, you know the kink about 5 feet above the LMRP or “stack”, if you cut the riser there, you’ll only have 1 leak to deal with not three … the other two leaks are upstream from there and will be eliminated. you won’t need 2 “containment domes”. Is there any possible reason you want to “keep” the two extra leaks …. “frequent leaker miles” or something? How much does a containment dome cost anyway?

This is day 11 and you are talking about another 6 to 10 day delay … why not do what you can do now and if doesn’t work … try something else later …

Then, later that day, in a  New York Times update, I read, “The root of the problem appears to be a towering stack of heavy equipment 5,000 feet below the surface of the gulf known as a blowout preventer.” … “Mr. Fryar and Charlie Holt, BP’s drilling operations manager for the gulf, described an audacious plan to confront the blowout preventer problem. In this approach, they would seal the well by 1). cutting the riser at the wellhead, 2). sliding a huge piece of equipment called the riser package out of the way and 3). bolting a second blowout preventer atop the first one”…. “Mr. Fryar said a pressure gauge would be installed soon to determine if it was safe to attempt the operation.”

My thought, “YES!, Not quite my idea, I didn’t call for sliding the LMRP out of the way, just cutting away the riser and “bolting” a new “shutoff valve/BOP” to the top of the well. This would not be the first time I would have thought of an audacious plan nor would it be the first time one of my “plans” would succeeded. I wondered, will they attempt this while they wait for the Containment Domes – the second containment dome is 10 days away… they should be able to get a BOP to the well pronto… helicopter one in if need be…

The NYT article ended by noting the President’s comments that day, “The oil that is still leaking from the well could seriously damage the economy and the environment of our gulf states and it could extend for a long time,” … “It could jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who call this place home.”

So, doesn’t that mean we should try the BOP now and not wait 10 days for the Containment Domes?

May 03, 2010

Imagine my surprise on May 03, 2010, Day 12 of the spill when I came across this:

“BP said it spud the first of two planned relief wells to intervene in the Macondo exploration well” … “The company said yesterday it is expanding efforts to cap the Macondo well, including a plan to stack an additional blowout preventer (BOP) on the bore… The company is also investigating installing a valve on the end of the ruptured drill pipe to shut off oil leaking from there….”  [the top end of the pipe that had been attached to the drilling rig. While this should be the easiest repair to make, if the riser was cut just above the 90 degree kink, one wouldn’t need to even consider this end of the pipe, you’d only have 1 leak, not three. The second reason this seems to be a strange repair is this; What, exactly does this “capping” accomplish? It eliminates the “oil leaking” from the “open end” of the pipe, but it does not stop the flow of oil, it simply builds pressure in the riser and forces oil back towards the other two “leaks”, it will just change the location where the oil exits the riser, it won’t stop the oil from exiting the riser. What is the “net gain”? Again, why not “cut the riser” and eliminate the “top end leak” and the “mid-riser leak” all together? One last observation: What do you do with a “Containment Dome” in bad weather? You can close the BOP and move off … Are they going to attach the “Containment Dome to a “new production rig”?];.upstream.dinar

Then to my amazement, I read this, “BP is looking at installing a new BOP on top of the existing well, which could then be used to shut the well, BP executive Bob Fryar said” , “.If pressures are not too high, Fryar said crews could 1). shear off the broken riser and LMRP unit and 2). then “stab” or stack a second BOP unit on top of the original BOP.” I nearly fell of my chair when I read this,

The new BOP is already on board the Transocean drillship Discoverer Enterprise, which is believed to be on location.”;.upstream.dinar

What, the BOP is already on site? Why wait for three days to get a “pressure gage” installed, why not do it today … have someone helicopter in a pressure gage you’ve already got the BOP, get a submersible on it immediately and get it attached … pressure test 12 hours and get that new BOP installed tomorrow … Why wait 10 days to try the “Containment Dome”, the professionals on the Industry Blogs doubt it will work and they point to the Itox I well in 1979. Come on guys … get with it … lets go. If the BOP doesn’t work, you’ll have the ‘Containment Domes” in 10 days as back ups. Not proceeding with the BOP sounds like a “political” rather than “scientific” decision.

If the concern is that the new BOP isn’t going to work [pressure is to high] the “containment dome” will be a waste of time because if the pressure is too high for a BOP the pressure will just push the “Containment Dome off the leak …. With a “Containment Dome” you can expect “ice like crystals” like the Professionals say, but not necessarily the reverse …. The BOP will work when the “Containment Dome” will not… if the BOP won’t work, the “Dome” has little to no chance…

Part 1 Here: Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 1 of 3

Part 3 Here: Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 3 of 3

Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 1 of 3

Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 1 of 3

The True Story of the Deepwater Horizon Tragedy 

The intent of this “post” is to provide as accurate an account of the facts leading up to the April 20th 2010 catastrophe in the Gulf as is possible at this time and to recount, accurately, the repair or recovery  activities between April 22, 2010 and today.

I’ve tried to identify and differentiate “speculation” from “rumor” and fact…

I hope this post refutes some widely accepted “myths” about the catastrophe and will direct a bright light on the frequently repeated, “politically” convenient, misrepresentations presented by the Obama Administration and our politicians in Washington.


The oil well in question is located in the Gulf of Mexico in what is referred to as the Mississippi Cannon Block 252. The well was referred to as the Macondo Prospect.

The well is located 40 plus miles off the coast of Louisiana under 4,993 feet of water.

A regional shallow hazards survey and study was carried out at the Macondo Reserve area by KC Offshore in 1998. High resolution, 2D seismic data along with 3D exploration seismic data of the MC 252 was collected by Fugro Geoservices in 2003. BP purchased the mineral rights to drill for oil in the Macondo Prospect at the Minerals Management Service‘s lease sale in March 2008. Mapping of the block was carried out by BP America in 2008 and 2009.

BP secured approval to drill the Macondo Prospect from MMS in March 2009. An exploration well was scheduled to be drilled in 2009.

The Macondo Prospect is estimated to hold 100,000,000 (100 million) barrels of oil. 

As there are 42 U.S. gallons to a barrel of oil, the preliminary estimates would indicate that the Macondo Prospect is expected to hold 4,400,000,000 (4.4 billion) gallons of oil.

The Macondo well has been projected to have “leaked” 92,000,000 (92 million) gallons of oil. This represents an average leak of nearly 1.5 million gallons of oil a day.

Based on the “average daily leak rate” it would take roughly 2900 days or 8 years, for all of the oil to move out of the Macondo Reserve and into the Gulf of Mexico. The well leak could go on for 8 years.      

Drilling Begins On The “Nightmare Well”

Sometime between October 7 and October 21, 2009 the Transocean Marianas semi-submersible rig commenced drilling the well. On November 29, 2009 operations were halted when the rig was damaged by Hurricane Ida. Transocean‘s Deepwater Horizon rig resumed the drilling operation in February 2010.

You’ve probably heard many of our politicians quote a BP memo that referred to the Macondo well as a “nightmare”. Yes, that term, “nightmare”, has been used to describe the well. The use of the term started after hurricane Ida damaged the first drilling rig. Strange, isn’t it, when you are given the information necessary to put things into an honest perspective? “That Macondo well has been a real nightmare, Hurricane Ida damaged the first rig…”  

Myth #1: The Macondo well is the deepest well ever drilled. The Macondo well represents an unusually deep drilling operation… this is a “Star Trek” well … “going where no man has gone before”.

This widely believed myth is false. For some inexplicable reason the Macondo well is frequently mistaken for the Tiber Reservoir, a 3 billion barrel oil reserve located and drilled in 2009. The reason people may get confused is because the Transocean Deepwater Horizon, the oil rig destroyed in this  catastrophe, successfully drilled the Tiber well.

The Tiber Reservoir is located in the Keathley Canyon block 102, approximately 250 miles south east of Houston, not 40 plus miles off the coast of Louisiana. The well is located in approximately 4,132 feet of water. The Tiber well was drilled to a total depth of approximately 35,000 feet.

The Macondo well, while certainly a “deepwater” exploration, is a “shallow well” in terms of “deepwater” exploration with a total depth of just over 18.000 feet. The Macondo well is roughly half the depth of the Tiber well. 

Myth # 2: The Deepwater Horizon was “recklessly” drilling in water deeper than it was designed for.

This widely believed myth is false. The successful drilling of the Tiber Well would provide proof of that, however, you can note the following:

The DEEPWATER HORIZON is a Reading & Bates Falcon RBS8D design semi-submersible drilling unit capable of operating in harsh environments and water depths up to 8,000 ft (upgradeable to 10,000 ft) using 18¾in 15,000 psi BOP and 21in OD marine riser. The rig measures 396 feet by 256 feet, 100 feet longer than a football field and almost twice as wide.

Deepwater Horizon BOP Control Panel

Rig Type: 5th Generation Deepwater / Design Reading & Bates Falcon RBS-8D
Builder Hyundai Heavy Industries Shipyard, Ulsan, South Korea / Year Built 2001

The Macondo well, as previously noted, was in 4,993 of water, slightly less than half of the Deepwater Horizon’s maximum working depth.

America’s Main Stream Media and many of our elected officials continue to mistake the Macondo well for the Tiber Reserve. How and why this continues to happen is beyond me. How can we, the American People, trust a Media or Government that can’t bother to get the basic facts correct?

This single error permits or leads to all sorts of additional “misstatements” or “falsehoods” being presented about this catastrophe.

The Final Days

In February 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon resumed work on the well, BP was the “operator” of the well and had a 65% ownership interest. BP’s partners in “ownership” include Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (25%) and Japan’s Mitsui & Co. Inc. (10%).

Four primary contractors—Transocean – the owner operator of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, Halliburton – the cement contractor , Cameron International Corp., one of the premiere  equipment manufacturers in the industry and Smith International Inc., the 60% partner in the M-I SWACO joint venture—provided personnel or equipment for drilling the Macondo well.

The Catastrophic Event

The following report required only a few corrections;

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

Suddenly, a thump, shudder and hiss were followed by a towering eruption of seawater, drilling mud, cement, oil and natural gas. The BOP and backup systems had failed to work as designed, to control the massive amounts of unexpectedly high-pressure gas that were roaring up 18,000 feet of wellbore and riser. [The gas may not have been travelling all of 18,000 feet, it may have travelled a 1000 feet or less. The gas originated from 18,000 feet below, but it may have taken its time migrating up the well]

Gas enveloped the area and ignited, engulfing the Horizon in a 200-foot high inferno that instantly killed eleven workers. Surviving crewmen abandoned ship in covered lifeboats or jumped 80 feet to the water.

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

Thirty-six hours later, the Deepwater Horizon capsized and sank at 1030 AM local time (April 22) with the unburned portion of an estimated 700,000 gallons of #2 diesel fuel onboard. The 21-inch diameter riser twisted and buckled as the rig sank. The riser finally broke away from the rig deck as it sank and the two continued, independently, to the floor of the gulf.”

The BOP or “blow out protector” was only the “last line” of rig’s defense to fail in this catastrophe. The BOP is a significant part of the “safety process” intended to safeguard a rig from this type of catastrophe, however, at least one other “safety precaution” must have failed before the BOP failed to function or this incident would not have happened.

As the massive rig sank, the “riser” or “pipe” connecting the rig to the Gulf Floor was stressed and twisted like a pretzel, kinking as it twisted back and forth as the rig came to rest 1500 feet from the well and Lower Marine Riser Package on the Gulf Floor.

Myth # 3: The Deepwater Horizon Rig did not sink and land on top of the well and Lower Marine Riser Package at the bottom of the Gulf. The rig did not land on and collapse the LMRP, the rig did not drive the LMRP into the floor of the Gulf and the rig’s landing on the Gulf floor did not cause a massive fracture of the seabed in the Gulf.

Where did the Oil Leaks Come From?

At some point during the rigs descent to the Gulf floor, the “riser” or “pipes” separated or broke off from the bottom of the rig and proceeded to the Gulf floor separately. The “riser”, while “kinked” severely, still remained attached to the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP)and stretched across the floor of the Gulf and up into the Gulf waters for over 1500 feet , where the riser kinked again and then returned back down to the Gulf floor.

Oil leaked from the “top end” of the “riser” or “pipe”, the end originally attached to the drilling rig. Oil leaked from a second “ruptured kink” in the “riser” some distance between the “top end” of the riser and the “lower marine riser package”.  I’ll refer to this second “leak” as the “mid riser leak”. A third and final oil leak was found at a “ruptured kink” in the riser just feet above the LMRP.

What caused the disaster?

When Congress and President Obama ask this question they are really asking, “who can I blame this “catastrophe” on”, because I won’t accept any of the responsibility. I’m willing to accept any credit I can claim, but as to blame, who can I point my finger at.

How productive.

It will be sometime yet before we can determine how and why this incident occurred.

My purpose in posting this material is not to allocate blame between the various companies or to put any of the companies or corporations in a favorable light. I’m simply trying to present the facts.

I’m also trying to dispel the myths and to blame the politicians, blame the politicians for their shameless actions of demonizing industries and individuals to score political points, points that are not based on the truth or fact.

Last Known Activities On Deepwater Horizon

Multiple sources confirm that the “blow out” occurred while the rig workers were,” in the process of displacing the “drilling fluid” or “drilling mud” in the riser or “well bore” with seawater. Reports indicate that the rig crew were preparing to set a “surface plug” when the rig fell victim to a blowout.

Several accounts indicate that the Deepwater Horizon crew were finishing their work on the site and would have “moved off” the well site within 24 hours. This account is confirmed by the fact that the necessary paper work to “quit the well” had already been filed with the Mineral Management Service (MMS).

The Deepwater Horizon was a “drilling rig” and was preparing to leave the well site so that a “production rig” could replace it and begin the lengthy task of “oil production” on the site.

Cementing the Well

There are many commentators who speculate that this incident is due to a failure of the “cementing job” completed on this project.

To date that speculation has not been confirmed.

Halliburton, the cement contractor on this job, completed the final part of a 9 part cement job just 20 hours prior to the well “blowout”.  The last of the 9 “jobs” involved cementing the “final production casing string”, located between 17,168 feet and 18,330 feet below the surface of the gulf. A cement plug was placed at the foot of the wellbore, tests demonstrating the integrity of the production casing string were completed successfully prior to the well blow out.

Both Transocean and BP “signed off” on the cement job, indicating acceptance of the quality of the work.

Transocean and BP have agreed with Halliburton’s statement that, “At the time of the incident, well operations had not yet reached the point requiring the placement of the final cement plug which would enable the planned temporary abandonment of the well, consistent with normal oilfield practice.”

Myth # 4 – Cheap and substandard cement was used along with “grossly negligent” cementing practices.

I enjoy reading the professional blogs, whether they be “professional drilling” blogs or blogs for other industries. The “professionals” quickly identify the “trolls” in their midst’s. The attorney looking to structure their pleading, the journalist looking to formulate their nightly spin and the Congressional Staffers and Washington Researches, looking for that snappy sound bite that will allow their Congressperson, Senator or Washington bureaucrat to demonize and blame just about anyone else in their self serving attempt to avoid criticism.

The “cement” used in this project was a special light weight cement, infused with nitrogen. The cementing on the Macondo Well involved the use of a “Zone Seal Isolation Process”, an award winning process specially designed for “deep sea well” work. The engineered process is noted to, “help optimize the annular seal not only for a good bond log, but also for years of withstanding temperature and pressure changes in the wellbore.”  Added benefits claimed by the manufacturer include, “The field process is achieved by full automation of the blending, pumping and injection actions for greater control.  Additionally, the equipment (cement pumping unit, nitrogen unit and injection unit) is integrated, providing precision in shearing the slurry to create stable foam. “The nitrogen foamed cement is said to provide lower thermal conductivity with enhanced mechanical properties. A low thermal conductivity cement sheath allows for less or slower heat transfer/heat loss in the wellbore.

The use of specialized cement, produced and applied by an automated system, does not eliminate the possibility that an error occurred. What this type of process should do, however, is eliminate unsupported claims that the “cement process” was substandard, cheap or could be even remotely referred to as “corner cutting”.

There has been additional speculation that the “assembly seal” was not set or not properly set inside of the well.  At least three different accounts confirm that the “seal assembly” was installed without issue and “tested”.  This seal may have, in fact, failed or been improperly installed, however, by all accounts it was installed and properly tested.

The production liner seal assembly and locking ring are qualified to 15k. Provided it was set and tested displacing to sea water is not problematic. Subsea Multiplex (MUX) Electro-Hydraulic BOP Control System The Cameron MUX control system combines the reliability of the Cameron subsea hydraulic control …

 “Approximately 20 hours prior to the catastrophic loss of well control, Halliburton had completed the cementing of the ninth and final production casing string in accordance with the well program.
 Following the placement of 51 barrels of cement slurry, the casing seal assembly was set in the casing hanger. In accordance with accepted industry practice, as required by MMS and as directed by the well owner, a positive pressure test was then conducted to demonstrate the integrity of the production casing string. The results of the positive test were reviewed by the well owner and the decision was made to proceed with the well program.”

It was after the completion of this test that the “drilling contractor”, Transocean, moved on to “displace” the “drilling fluid” (mud) with seawater.

Some portion of the cementing process may have failed and contributed to this incident, however, the “cement logs” do not support any claim that “corners were cut’, that the “process” was implemented to “save money or time” or that “cheap or substandard cement” was  used. Those who have implied as much are simply wrong.

Transocean and BP both signed off on each and every of the 9 step cementing process completed by Halliburton. All documents indicate that the appropriate industry tests were performed and passed.

Myth # 5  BP recklessly cut corners by using only 8 “rings” within this well rather than using the “normal” 24 “rings”. This “recklessness” is just another example of BP’s horrendous safety record!

Where do I begin? These accusations, repeated over and over at the Congressional Hearings, are simply not truthful.

The well being constructed at the Macondo site was “specially designed” and the “design” was approved in advance by the MMS.

The well plan, as reflected in diagram above, was segmented into 9 sections, requiring 8 rings. This well was not designed for 24 rings, other wells maybe designed that way, but that does not make the other well designs superior to, or safer than, this one, as has been so wrongfully claimed.

Listening to the dishonest Congressional chatter at the hearings could make one wonder. Question: Why did you only use 8 rings and not 24 in this well”? Answer: You’d need to ask the well engineers, the professional who designed the well.  Allegation: You are evading, you are not answering our questions. Answer: No I’ m answering truthfully. I didn’t participate in the well design, but I can tell you this, it won a well design award. (At that point they hold you in contempt of Congress and bring on the next witness).

Had questioning been about an automobile rather than a deepwater rig, it may have sounded something like this; Question: This vehicle only has 4 spark plugs, not 8. Why did you cut corners, you cheap bastards, and not use 8 spark plugs? Answer: Well, you’ll need to ask the engineers that designed this auto why they made it a 4 cylinder auto not an 8 cylinder auto, I didn’t work on that design team. But I’d like to point out that the engine only has 4 “spark plug ports” and that is how the engine was designed you twit, and there is nothing inherently safer about 8 cylinder engines rather than 4 cylinder engines and it was this Congress that passed the CAFÉ standards mandating fuel efficiency levels. Where do you suggest we put the extra 4 spark plus, in the glove compartment? At which point you’d be found in contempt of Congress again, a condition I find myself in frequently. These days I have a great deal of contempt for Congress.

As to BP’s “horrendous” safety record, I just don’t know what to say. I find this particular part of the “demonization” of BP and all involved on the Horizon Rig to be the most scurrilous attack on the industry. BP was, after all, a “finalist” in the MMS Award program for Safety and Innovation, Deepwater Drilling, in 2009. Strangely, the MMS “revised” its Web site on 07/08/2010 to remove any mention of BP in this section, however, the site did not remove the sections noting BP’s awards for “Off Shore Leadership”  advancements in Medical Care on Deepwater Rigs, won by Harlan King and Virgil Russell or the award presented to Darryl Luoma, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., for outstanding leadership in the innovative and visionary approach to developing the use of extended-reach drilling technology for the Liberty Development Project.   

It is true that BP owns or operates a number of “refineries” with less than stellar safety records, however, this disaster did not occur at a refinery, it occurred on a deep sea rig. A deep sea rig with an exemplary safety record, a rig which was recognized by OSHA two years in a row for its outstanding safety record. A rig that had a total of 7 BP employees on board, 7 BP employees out of a total of 126 rig workers.

Exactly what was gained by demonizing the workers on this rig, the majority of whom were not BP employees. What was gained by demonizing the 7 BP employees on this rig, when the rig was one of the safest in the Gulf of Mexico? Did the demonization of this issue do anything to make future of oil exploration safer for the crews, their families or the public?

There have been unconfirmed reports, reports actually denied by BP, that there were 7 additional BP employees on the rig when the “bow out” occurred. The report indicates that the purpose of the visit was a ceremony to acknowledge the new “safety award”. This writer wonders if this rumor was started by surviving crew members, who were not BP employees, who resent the fact that their outstanding safety record has been so badly mischaracterized.….EMPLATE=DEFAULT

The demonization of BP’s safety record should have been expected from this Administration.  The Obama Administration has spent it entire time in the White House demonizing one group after another. The shouts condemning BP’s safety record were still echoing in the halls of Washington when the Administration turned to demonizing an entire drilling industry over this one event… demanding a “moratorium” that the Federal Courts have now rejected twice… not that this Administration has heeded the instructions of the Federal Courts on the issue …


The BOP (blow out protector) and the LMRP (lower marine riser package) were supplied by Cameron International Corporation.

BOP: 2 x Cameron Type TL 18¾in 15K double preventers; 1 x Cameron Type TL 18¾in 15K single preventer; 1 x Cameron DWHC 18¾in 15K wellhead connector
LMRP: 2 x Cameron DL 18¾in 10K annular; 1 x Cameron HC 18¾in 10K connector
Diverter Hydril 60 with 21¼in max bore size, 500 psi WP and 18in flowline and two outlets
Control System: Cameron Multiplex Control System [MUX]

Cameron International 2 Stack BOP / 15,000 PSI

Cameron enjoys such an extraordinary reputation in the industry that a Cameron BOP is being used as the “replacement” BOP on site at this very moment. Yes, the failed Cameron BOP was replaced with a new Cameron BOP. The two have now been “bolted together”.  The “well repair” which was completed on 07/14/2010, appears to be “holding”, oil is not flowing into the Gulf at present.

The Cameron Company is the Godfather of BOPs, having invented the BOP in the 1920’s, 90 years ago.

At this time we know that despite having redundant safety systems the BOP failed to close off the well. It has not been established that the failure was due a mechanical defect in the BOP. The BOP may have been overwhelmed by pressure significantly higher than it was engineered to withstand. This is a matter of pure speculation as none of the other equipment on the rig noted such a “surge” in well pressure. The BOP may have been “blocked” by material that ”migrated” into the BOP from other locations in the well pipe, be it well casing, parts of the assembly seal … or a host of other speculations. We may not know, definitively, what happened to the BOP until it is examined, either through direct visual examination or though imaging or ultrasound.

It is reported that the BOP worked properly just minutes before the blowout. There are three confirmed reports that the BOP was “opened” just before the blowout occurred.  That it, the BOP, was opened as part of a sequence of events to “displace” the drilling fluid (mud) with seawater.

The BOP had passed a complete “system check” and “evaluation” just 10 days before the incident.

Part 2 Here: Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 2 of 3

Part 3 Here: Gulf Oil Crisis – Facts from Fiction, Part 3 of 3

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