Much Ado About Oil


EP is deviating just a tad from economics and delving into the wild world of underwater engineering and environment disaster. This is what people want to talk about, this is what is on their minds.

We're in horror. We're helpless, dependent upon continual press releases and attempts while real solutions to stop the leak are dismissed.

The next attempt is a top kill, which is to push drilling mud and cement into the leak hole. This latest attempt is high risk and could make the leaks worse. Realize this is 5,000 feet deep in the water, with corresponding water pressure in addition to a massive gushing oil plume. The damaged blowout preventer is 5 stories high. Blasting fluids with high pressure, twice as dense as the surrounding water, has the potential to create another hole if the blowout preventer has weakness in the metal or other interactions. Ugh, my sympathies to the engineers. This has never been tried in water.

They're giving it a 60% to 70% chance of workin, but folks, there is a lot that can go wrong so frankly, I suggest you pray.

BP actually has a lot of technical information on their website. BP is consulting with government officials on each stage of this attempt. AP:


If all goes as planned, engineers will pump fluid twice as dense as water from two barges into two 3-inch-wide lines that will feed it into the blowout preventer. Crews plan to pump it in at a rate of 1,680 to 2,100 gallons per minute in hopes of counteracting the upward pressure of the oil gushing to the surface. They stockpiled some 50,000 barrels of the heavy mud, a manufactured substance that resembles clay.

Below is a BP graphic on the long term strategy to stop the leak and you get an idea of just how nasty this problem is....5,000 feet underwater with the oil reserves being 18,000 feet.




Note, their relief wells are fairly far along, one is already at 10,000 feet, 8,000 to go in so many words and another is at 8,000 feet. Relief wells are a known solution, of course the time line means millions of gallons of oil will have already escaped before these are finished.

Here is the spillcam, which will continue to feed during the top kill plug the damn leak attempt.

Below is a Dylan Ratigan segment on other feasible solutions that are not being tried!



If this idea of oil tankers as giant vacuum cleaners, oil separators works, who thinks the U.S. government should step in, seize the tankers, pay market value for the oil contained within, empty them into the strategic reserves and put all of the tankers to work as glorified oil collectors?

My view on the oil leak, at the moment, this is an engineering problem and the politics, the blame, fines, threats and lawsuits should come after the spill is stopped. With that, one needs to listen to the engineers and their plans to stop the leak, think critically and ask questions. Not just BP engineers, but various experts in underwater engineering, mechanical engineering and deep sea oil drilling.

With that, I suggest watching this BP video of the technical solutions they plan on trying. You'll have to skip through the apologies but it is the overall engineering architecture plan. The next plan, after the top kill, actually sounds promising, which is to do some mechanical sheering, and recap the damaged blowout preventer. How one goes down to 5,000 feet away and saws a straight line, well, maybe some other engineer will drop by and discuss if that is pipe dream. Duct tape anyone?

Frankly, turning this over immediately to the Engineers and Scientists was required. You're not going to plug up a hole 5,000 feet underwater by yelling at it or holding a hearing.

Consider this post the Oil Open Thread.



Didn't they learn anything by Katrina?

While EP is an economics blog, this is economically disastrous I am sure of it. That said, I cannot believe all of the crap I'm seeing, with no action, when this is a disaster emergency and the answer is a technical/engineering one. If someone isn't doing something due to politics and the like, we can do a call out on them and frankly, by not letting Louisiana take immediate action to protect their wetlands, that's politics! There is no time for feasibility study or impact study or whatever. While they sit there and argue instead of taking immediate action, more and more permanent damage is done. Much of this is too late, but a lot, is not but if and only if they start moving right this minute and quit with the red tape brigade.

This verifies what the Forbes

This verifies what the Forbes article said early on. Partial human error. Its possible this could have been prevented.

According to BP, there were also three warming signs of problems with unwanted flow in the well starting 51 minutes before the explosion. About 18 minutes before the explosion abnormal pressure leaks of the fluids known as mud meant to keep oil and gas capped were observed and the pump was shut down.

"The data suggests that the crew may have attempted mechanical interventions at that point to control the pressure, but soon after, the flow out and pressure increased dramatically and the explosion took place," the memo said.

BP had warning signs before Gulf blast: panel

Something else to consider: it's been said that the workers were in the final stages of casing and cementing the hole and that within a couple days the Deepwater Horizon was to leave that spot to go drill a new prospect. My deepwater engineer source explains that the closer a rig gets to the end of a job like this, the more pressure there would be (from supervisors, etc) to not take a drastic step like engaging the BOP's shear ram. If they had suddenly disconnected the rig from the well at that point in the cementing process, "they might have lost the whole thing." On a well that cost BP and its partners $100 million to drill, none of the nine ill-fated Transocean and two Smith International employees on the rig floor would want to make that call.

What Happened and Why

don't forget the promote/demote system folks

those arrows next to the post will put a post onto the front page if you hit the "up" button.

On the "big bathroom shower curtain" idea, now I image that could "corral" some, but I cannot imagine the water currents, the force of the water all the way to the ocean floor actually working. I'd have to see a computer model with the materials and pressures and so on, but intuitively, the power of the sea currents against a shower curtain? I don't think so, even with the milder currents of the Gulf.

shower curtain idea

I had the same idea but with periodic steel hoops to solidify the structure so it does not collapse when a current pushes against one side. Further, the circular curtain/sleeve does not have to be completely straight, go from the ocean floor straight up to the surface. Let the current push it somewhat. Make it 8,000 feet long even though the shortest distance from surface to ocean floor is 5,000 feet. The important thing is that it reach from surface to floor, not that it be completely straight. Don't fight the current completely. Let the current angle it somewhat.

manufacturing that large of a surface area

Considering we shipped almost all of our manufacturing overseas, (is there even the facility to make that large plastic sheeting with the right density in the U.S. these days?), how long would it take to manufacture that large of a surface area, plus ship it (how, it's huge, they would have to reassemble on site and we're talking 8k feet of material, 10k....a mile is 5280 feet! then the area of the spill one could reduce it to just around the spill, but still you're looking at 6.28*radius*5000ft and that isn't the surface area with currents and pressures involved, then you have to deploy it.

They have ships in the area which could of course but they would have to coordinate. I'd personally have to see a computer model with your typical currents this type of year in the gulf. Then, do scientists even know the max/min/median currents in the Gulf? I mean wasn't it just recently they admitted huge rogue waves out of nowhere actually exist?

glorified oil fishing nets

I'm thinking out loud and wondering about combo of oil fishing nets plus centrifuges separators with mile long hoses (the pumps on these things is another issue). But oil has a different density, velocity than water. So, can one build these types of fishing nets to let the water pass through and collect the oil. Then put a centrifuge, machine near the area to kind of corral a lot of the oil into the centrifuge plus assist in pumping it up below the sea surface?

Another thing is does oil has any magnetic properties, different from water to make it "adhere" or "stick" to a large surface oil whereas water passes through?

I'm thinking out loud.

top kill animated

It seems the issue is pressure. I read in one site BP is using delaying tactics because the gusher pressure is too high and would cause too much friction (i.e. another blow up).

Pressure, above all, pressure

"It seems the issue is pressure."

You got that right! The pressure of the gusher is simply too great to be stopped presently, and certainly by BP's present and future plans (which is why I predict this topkill will fail miserably).

Given the amount of sea pressure at 5,000 feet, imagine the tremendous pressure exerted on that gusher from below the surface of the reservoir.

This problem (another prediction) will probably be found to be illegal fracking on the sea floor.

The media keeps repeating that legend that Pemex (the Mexican state-owned oil corporation) took 9 months to stop a similar underwater gusher.

Wrong! It took 9 months until the pressure abated.

I suspect this gusher will spew for some time to come....

What was it Pascal said...."When pressure is exerted on a confined liquid, it's power is transmitted undiminished."

current pressures

"pressure abated" means what? The well ran dry? That oil field is massive, that thing is going to run for decades unabated.

Do you have any specifics, i.e. the volume of that oil field, the current PSI in the gush, the required PSI for the BOP to not blow out, the time decay of "oil gush from hell" PSI of that particular well (the PSI reduction rate, the slope, the delta, the rate of reduction of PSI), etc.?

Anything super technical, I can translate to English. I have zero background in any of these related technologies for deep sea oil drilling, so on, but a lot of the stuff I can translate to English when it's basic techno-jibe.

IXTOC Pressure Relief

Thats right the relief wells at IXTOC were used to relieve pressure but it was capped after 9-10 months total.

If you had to change the valves on a full container of fluid one way to remove the valve without losing much if any of the fluid is to create more points of least resistance/vacuums elsewhere so that the valve can be removed and replaced. I've seen this done on large storage tanks successfully.

IXTOC was in much more shallow water since divers went right down to the BOP to inspect it.

When they tried what BP is doing the wellhead started to leak and 'go' so they stopped and waited till the relief wells could lower the pressure.

Thats not the way they sealed a blowout in Australia - Macondo -though fairly recently. They intersected with the existing well pipe and sealed it there.

The Well Head is Going to Blow

The oil and sand and water are coming out under tremendous pressure already. Greater pressure than was intended for the long term most likely.

The sand has been blasting away at the metal of the pipe and well head now for just over a month.

The mud must be forced in at a much greater pressure to force it in.

Hence the pipe will collapse and blow up. It happened the only other time this has been done.

you mean theoretically right?

well that's if the pipe is weakened right, which who knows at that depth? Also, since the thing has been gushing oil all over hell for over a month, is it possible the pressure has dropped?

I think BP has a public relations team from hell. I'm still thinking about all of those commercials talking about "green" and "renewables" and so on, all the while they were cutting corners on safety.

Which leads to a burning question and I hope someone researches this out and writes a blog post on it. What is the total expenditures on marketing, public relations, "messaging control" and lobbying vs. the total costs in simply doing safety measures and things "right". We could pick anything from pharmaceuticals to the energy industry to cheap cheeseburgers.

That's the entire "production line" costs of manipulating the public and doing "image control" plus lobbying to remove regulations and safety requirements.

I'll bet money those costs greatly exceed the additional costs to simply design and deploy safety correctly.

No Doubt the Pipe is Weakened

That was brought out in a confidential NOAA report early on that they fear the wellhead blowing just from the sandblasting effects going on.

Add the high pressure mud and kaboom.

Has the pressure lessened? Maybe in the last few days from the sip straw inserted but that has slowed down intake considerably since inserted meaning the plug caused back pressure which blew the pipe out somewhere else.

The mud is being inserted right into the well head so the pressure there has been constant or growing.

We'll know by tonight whether this worked at all.

another thing on the BOP/reason for original blow/explosion

the surface area of the BOP (blow out preventer), I mean do they even know what exactly went wrong to cause the explosion in the first place? I mean specifically, where in the BOP it failed, surface area pin point, why it failed and is it that one of these "improbable" (black swan part III), points where the pipe is too thick to cut happened?

May be Too Big Everywhere

These aren't even tested on the deep sea pipe that are used. They from what I have read may be uniformly too big for the BOP to cut and seal.

Its like installing fire alarms with no power source. It satisfies the requirement on paper.

BP Is 100% Responsible

BP management made the decision to not engage the BOP before it was damaged (well thats if it would have worked anyway).

Conversation Overheard

He heard Transocean offshore manager Jimmy Harrell question the decision of a BP manager whose name Brown could not remember.

“Well, this is how it’s going to be,” Brown said the BP manager told Harrell.

Harrell, who is scheduled to testify Thursday, was displeased by the decision, Brown recalled.

“(Harrell) pretty much grumbled … ‘I guess that’s what we have those pincers for,’” Brown told the panel. “I assumed he was talking about the shear rams on the BOP.”

no doubt about it

but myself, to me there will be plenty of time to go do forensic blaming, although granting licenses under the same terms is insane (I think Michael Collins pointing out some of those stats). Right now I am interested in promoting solutions to stop the damage and clean up the mess, regardless of cost because I personally believe not only is this immoral, the damage environmentally as well as economically has the potential to throw the U.S. not into a double dip, which I believe is more and more probable to happen, but into an economic depression.

This is kind of amazing to me for I am aware there are all sorts of technologies out there and additionally there are all sorts of scientists and engineers out there who can probably dream up even more do environmentally sound clean up and even containment.

Right now the whole thing seems to have been bullshitting until they can get the relief wells drilled. On that score I am really wondering about secondary motivations on BP's part. Relief wells are oil they get new wells under the guise of stopping the leak?

On the other hand, I see this being the real solution due to the pressures.

But on the containment side, I mean this is where it seems the government is really dragging their ass and the politics abound.

What happened to all of those non-toxic technologies? Aren't there oil eating organisms, what about the solution already used, which is to use the tankers as oil suckers plus filters...where's that? What about building up outlying barriers...
it seems they simply are not pulling out all of the stops on containment and clean up here.

I suspect it's too late, a lot of these technologies should have been deployed a month ago for clean up, but that said, I'm interested in what solutions will work, right this minute on both the well cap as well as the clean up.

I'm so glad you mentioned them

Here's Goldman's little problem. 

Did Goldman Goose Oil? 3/25/09

"But now some of the people involved in cleaning up the financial mess are suggesting that Semgroup's collapse was more than just bad judgment and worse timing. There is evidence of a malevolent hand at work: oil price manipulation by traders orchestrating a short squeeze to push up the price of West Texas Intermediate crude to the point that it would generate fatal losses in Semgroup's accounts.

"What's the evidence of this? Much is circumstantial. Proving oil-trading manipulation is difficult. But numerous people familiar with the events insist that Citibank, Merrill Lynch and especially Goldman Sachs had knowledge about Semgroup's trading positions from their vetting of an ill-fated $1.5 billion private placement deal last spring. "Nothing's been proven, but if somebody has your book and knows every trade, it would not be difficult to bet against that book and put the company into a tremendous liquidity squeeze," says John Tucker, who is representing Kivisto."

If this is what JPMorgan did just recently.  I suspect is it standard operating procedure?

Judge Rakoff Nails JP Morgan 02/23/10

"Why was Morgan negotiating with (its client's) Cablevisión's arch competitor to do a deal that would actually harm the holder of it's loan, Cablevisión?"

Wall Street and Big Oil, a match made in the 9th Circle.





this deserves a post of it's own

There is nothing better that the blogosphere realm where this site lives is more exposure on yet another global destruction activity by Goldman Sachs. Right now, I think we're pretty much guaranteed to not get any effective and probably worse, financial reform due to the choice of conferees.

Thanks for that GS link, Mr. Collins

Of course, as a GAO study and numerous other exposes demonstrated, it was relatively easy for Goldman to manipulate the oil/energy (and others) prices since they, along with Morgan Stanley and the oil cartel, financed and owned ICE Futures and Goldman and Morgan were the two principal traders there.

All they had to do, and most likely did from examination of external data, was write a simple FpML script, which traded a particular block of oil futures a zillion times back and forth, raising the price slighly each time, while taking a long position in it.

They profit and manipulate the price, then do the opposite after taking a short position on it.

Helps when the bank-oil cartel owns all the exchanges, and clearinghouses, right?

Two excellent sites on this oil spill, Dr. Ott's, and the Professional Mariner site.

BP is doing "Top Kill" right now

and (finally) the media is starting to get some underwater drilling/oil experts on TV explaining what's happening. They say the top of the riser will turn gray if it's working, but no "spillcam" on it that I've seen.

We have politicians getting their 15 minutes wondering why this wasn't done earlier. I think that answer is technical probably, the pressure was too great is what I'll bet.

Anywho, folks, you find technical answers please show the video so we can see how this is going.

The non-media is once again non-explanatory

"They say the top of the riser will turn gray if it's working, but no "spillcam" on it that I've seen."

True, but it will also turn a gray or lighter color based upon the soap-like substance at the front of this "mud" which is being pumped in.

Ergo, the coloration signifies nothing....

There are more leaks!

Oh man, while they are focused in on a 6 inch rip, scientists are saying there has to be a much larger leak somewhere to create a slick the size of Delaware. In other words, this is a dinky leak and somewhere there is a massive one, with no "spill cam" or anything identifying it!


That feed is meant to support the 5,000 barrels a day lie.

this is just unreal

Can you believe the U.S. government isn't simply seizing BP and putting them under the military as well as seizing tankers?

They have war powers and this is a war, an environmental disaster, emergency and they are continuing to defer to BP. It's one thing to let the engineers lead the show but it's another to let spin and inaction continue.

What Happened

The conversation that I blockquoted from the Rig with the BP manager was apparently concerning a testing procedure that should have been performed after someone accidentally bumped a joystick in the control room (an MMS rep?) that caused an accident down below.

Oil Rig Workers Discuss the Incident

This post from 'Oldsalt' was taken from another discussion forum and seems to be an indictment against BP.

I have gone to the oildrum website & confirmed this story myself. When it first broke a couple of days ago their was a lot of drama attached which led me to believe it was not true. The confirmation of this news now removes any doubt that could have been left in my mind that BP was absolutely, undeniably beyond any shadow of a doubt guilty of gross neglegance leading to the disaster which occured on the eveing of 4/20/10. They had a substandard cement design which had to have been made or at least approved by their engineers. They had a wireline crew ON BOARD that they chose not to use to determine the strength of the cement bond & the undermining of it by nitrogen gas bubbles at extremely high temperatures. They had evidently approved or excused the jerryrigging of BOP tests that could not have occured without their knowledge as they had represintatives on baord the rig during this time. They disregarded the warning signs of failed negative hydrostatic tests against the casing hanger seals & cement job. They had to have lied to the MMS about those test results & sought approval for premature removal of the 14.3 PPG mud which they displaced with 8.7 PPG seawater causing the well to become underbalanced & allow for the migration of gas bubbles to destroy whatever strength the cement held & allowing oil to destroy the ability of the cement to cling to the casing & shale walls. They evidently continued to order the continued pumping of displacement fluid even though gauge pressures indicated they were already recieving a kick & had removed some if not all of the killweight mud from the rig which is required by indusrty standards & to be self enforced by MMS regulation.

Thread for Above Post


I still have not found out if there are other leaks. Here is the Dylan Ratigan segment, which talks about that.


Then, so far nothing has blown up but....they did have to lower the pressure fill rate considerably, which is why it's now projected to take 48 hours to see anything. That makes sense.

I don't know anything about "O rings", sans it was a real problem with the Challenger! But notice this guy is claiming they skipped some components on the gear.

Then, now the idea of the U.S. seizing super tankers is picking up. Saw that on CNN and elsewhere, yet in terms of the actual clean up, towards land, it's nowhere and people are just screaming bloody murder on that one, rightly so.

Criminal Liability

Robert Kaluza, a top BP worker who was aboard the Deepwater Horizon in the hours leading up to the explosion, declined to testify in front of the panel, telling the U.S. Coast Guard he was invoking his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.

The move raises the possibility of criminal liability in the explosion. Wednesday's hearing in Louisiana, however, failed to determine why — despite unusual pressure and fluid readings on the rig — a BP official decided on the day of the explosion to proceed with removing heavy drilling fluid from the well and replacing it with lighter-weight seawater that was unable to prevent gas from surging to the surface and exploding.

Investigators asked Brown whether he knew the name of the BP official who made the decision, but he couldn't recall it and didn't know whether it was Kaluza.

Criminal Liability?

Top Kill Worked is being reported

This is great news if true. It's being reported it worked.

If so, there a second leak somewhere? Anyone with PSI, gash dimensions, time, pressure, overall surface estimates, it should be easy to figure out if that's the only leak or there must be a second. The pressure on that leak was enormous, but could it by itself create an oil spill the size of Delaware?

Setbacks Delay Top Kill Effort

I tend to believe what this anonymous tech said and that any feed right now showing activity is a video feed from earlier not live.

This has been verified to be releasing about 30,000 barrels a day minimum and its going to continue from the looks of it.

Comments on the Oil Drum from engineers and oil workers tend to now agree with what I have been saying - difficult to fix a pipe with while there is pressure in it. The wells they have seen plugged this way were with undamaged BOP's.

Go to your basement and cut the water feed pipe so there is 60 psi running into the room and see if you can plug it without turning the street water source off. Want to keep your pipes from freezing (without draining them) when the house loses heat? Run the water.

They are going to try the 'junk shot' tonight and see if they can stem the leaks till the mud can work etc etc. This might have a chance.

A technician at the BP command center said that pumping of the fluid had to be stopped temporarily while engineers were revising their plans, and that the company hoped to resume pumping by midnight, if federal officials approved.

Setback Delays ‘Top Kill’ Effort to Seal Leaking Oil Well in Gulf

oil drum

has a lot of bloggers who watch only this topic exclusively, so I wouldn't be surprised.

Supposedly now they are "getting more mud", but I'm wondering about a second leak. I'm going to try to dig up some technical details that I can locate, which are feasible, real and write up a new open oil thread. So, if you want to post more comments on technical details, i.e. from scientists, engineers talking about this where we can validate what they are saying (I read PSI, sounds like u do 2), please post them and I'll gather it all up into a new blog post.

Second Leak

I just watched the video posted on Zero Hedge about a possible second leak from 5-6 miles away.

Interesting though in the ZH story they mention that there was another well dug and abandoned close by.

Is it possible the rig landed on the sealed wellhead of the other well and opened it up? Stranger things have happened.

Second Leak Theories

Dylan Ratigan show

That's where I saw this too and good to say ZH mentioning they cannot verify this claim of the second leak. That's what I'm after, proof it exists. While nothing would surprise me, I've seen on cable news and even on EP, as much as I try not to get duped, I have on "news" that is in fact, rumor. I got duped on the claim GS was going to settle their SEC case..oops, wrong, never happened.

So, surfing the engineering and science blogs, sites and info should be able to do it. There are a lot of geeks now getting online over the spill. I just haven't found it yet.

I cannot find out "2nd leak" info but plume info instead

It's clear there is a new massive plume and additionally the ones who make algae which eats oil are literally pulling out because state/feds won't let them help....

but in terms of the source, or whether that one leak, which is the "spill cam" can output that much oil or if there is actually a second separate leak, I've yet to find that out.

3300 ft down

was the location here, which implies it could be coming from a 2nd leak, but still if the currently released volume estimates are from the first leak, then it has to be this "6 in gash" isn't....i.e. it has to be bigger to be releasing that volume of oil I would assume.

Another Technical Solution - Iran's 1979 Embargo

The Gulf of Mexico Oil field is not thousands of little pockets of unconnected oil reserves but one complex interconnected set of geological pools of oil.

That is why a 'relief well' works. The surrounding production wells are are working network of relief wells. That's also how drillers steal from each other using horizontal drilling

At any time, well production is monitored and regulated
by the pressure valves. The rate of release is variable, estimated and not an exact science. If you open the release valves of surrounding wells, the combined osmotic pressure on all of wells in an area drops.

If you open (increase) the flow of surrounding wells, the flow on the spill well drops. You cannot overdo this or the rock substrata of the field collapses, like Iraq today.

Iran closed all its oil well valves in the 1979 Embargo
and production from Saudi Arabia, to Iraq, to Russia increased due to the change in osmotic pressure of the
giant oil field in the Arabian Gulf.

When the 1979 Embargo ended, osmotic pressure on wells
throughout the region decreased dramatically as Iranian
wellhead pressure was released.

Burton Leed

which is why they are drilling additional wells

That drilling is now projected to be August for completion. So, odds are it's a minimum of 60 days if not at least 90. If you are implying that other companies, including BP don't have their other wells in the field on maximum output to help with pressure, give a reference on that one, because I already assumed they had done that one immediately.

Relief Well - How it Works

These most commonly are set up to drill into the side of the out of control well casing or sit just under the bottom of the pipe in the reservoir and shoot the mud/cement into the pipe flooding the casing/pipe with the mud. They call this 'bottom kill' and apparently this will always work eventually.

I've seen conflicting info on how they did this at IXTOC but overall and for todays purposes what I described is how its done.

Relief Well Images

I believe what I at one point described and what is being described in the 'pool of oil' talk on EP would be a 'pressure relief well' which may indeed be what they end up needing anyway. Some call what they will be doing as a 'kill well'.

Bear in mind that blowing the well head is not a concern with this method and therefore the mud/cement can be pumped in at a much greater pressure with no harm apparently.

Some oil people describing 'relief wells'.

I've managed the drilling of 4 of them in my career, all successful as planned. I might add that none of them attempted to mill into casing but were targeted to be 50 ft from the bottom of the blowing well. When one gets that close or sooner sometimes, the bottom falls out of the relief well and its katy bar the door to pump mud to keep up with the lost returns into the blowing well. You have to be set up for that occurrence as we were and all went as planned with the kill happening on the first encounter. Keep in mind there will be a pressure sink in the formation around the blowing well which will aid in sucking the mud from the relief well. If you can flood the blowing well from the source of the BO, i.e. the formation that is producing or blowing, it won't make much difference whether the flow is up a cased well or around the casing(annular flow). It takes mucho planning to have the pumps on hand and the mud volumes required to
kill a blowout from a relief well.


Locating the casing of the wild well is not a major issue (@ 90% or so success of getting minimum of 50% cross section to mill).

The original wild well took a month and half longer to drill than scheduled. Just a difficult well. That same delay (or longer) could happen to any one relief well.

And then there is the last foot. Miss center by 18 inches, back up and spend @ one week and do it again. Perhaps only 10% chance, but oil pollutes the Gulf every minute of delay.

The milling of that last foot may take one week, or three weeks. Odds of success <50% (five tries last year in Australia). One week or so delay if milling attempt fails before another try as drillhead is repositioned.


Alan, I'm willing to bet you a beer there won't be any milling required. As they get close to the producing reservoir they will hit a pressure sink in that reservoir that will suck the mud out of the relief well like crazy so they better be prepared for it.


(Maybe I should mention that it's not really a "relief well", it's a "kill well", and the purpose of the kill well is to get down below the bottom of the drill pipe and inject enough cement to plug the formation up but good.)


(The relief well intersects the wild well a few hundred feet above the oil & gas reservoir. It spends 1 to 3 weeks (I have read various times) TRYING to mill through the steel (<50% chance each attempt) on the last foot. Once it succeeds it pumps in kill mud into the bottom of the well and kills flow. Then cemented in.

If relief well attempt to mill through fails, week plus to back up and start over a few feet up or down.

THEN wild well is reentered and a series of concrete plugs are poured in the original well bore.


OK - was lurking for days and decided to jump in. See my bio for my industry background.

In this case, it's almost certain that the flow is coming up the outside of the production casing string, so you don't want to mill a window in it. Instead, the relief well has to get very close to the old wellbore and establish communication with it.

Once that's done, you can pump like craazy down the relief well and begin mixing heavy mud with the produced fluids at the source. Remember, that the velocities are much lower downhole because the gas is unlikely to be coming out of solution until the pressure is relieved up the wellbore. (I always thought the topkill would fail, because it's like pissing into the wind -- there are so many leaks above the stack that they can't establish enough backpressure to halt the well flow and start the mud going south. If they can get enough bridging with the junk shot, it might have a chance, IMHO)

Anyway, back to the relief well -- As the mud adds hydrostatic pressure, it slows the rate into the wellbore (as per Darcy's law), which means that the ratio of mud to oil increases, which further increases the mud/oil ratio, which further increases the hydrostatic head. This cycle continues until no more oil flows and it's only mud circulating up the old casing annulus.

Once the flow stops, then BP can remove the old LMRP, connect a 2nd BOP stack on to of the old one, open the old rams, and begin permanent P@A operations (assuming its not a casing collapse below the hangar, in which case I think the only option would be to bullhead cement from the top and pump enough of it that if plugs off the annulus between the production casing and intermediate string).

Under-Utilized Capacity in Gulf

The Gulf operating rig count is way down, so they have an inclination and ability to drill more wells. That is the slow way to relieve pressure on the offending well. But guess what? You get more wells drilled and more production.

Capacity of in place wells is measurable - somewhat. Actual oil production utilization is way tricky because it is so variable and proprietary. See MMS reports.

"The U.S. Gulf of Mexico was the only major rig market to experience a decline in utilization..." according to ODS-PetroData. If you look at BPs reports to MMS, much of the well-head capacity is not active.

From MMS reports and rig count, I infer there
is slack production capacity at many of the over 30,000 well heads in the Gulf. It's not a long shot.

Just open the circular valves a little and you improve
the Top Kill chances. But don't do this if you want to drill more wells.

Burton Leed

wondering the same thing

It looks like the government is grossly underestimating the spill amount. They are claiming 39 million gallons.

see this WSJ article?

here. Describes some sort of major fight between the rig crew and a "BP company man" who was, it implies, telling them to cut corners.

i.e. "Company guy" barks orders that are wrong and because he's "company guy" things are done wrong type of deal, like something straight out of a 1940's bad script.