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Oil FAIL: Major Bad Changes Deep Below...

Monkeyfister's picture

[Normally I wouldn't sticky a mere pointer post. However, it's MonkeyFister, and this is an important story, so... Go read! And just for grins, I added the BP live feed to the bottom of the page. --lambert]

Major changes happening at BP Disaster site:

There have been several major eruptions of the seabed under riser pipe. I've been watching and live-blogging all day. Some screengrabs. Whatever happened is very serious, and I am sure not good news for BP or even Republicans. Seabed dropped several feet, Spillcam covered in oil, Spew increased. New leaking hole in seabed. Possible casing failure.

NOTE Seabed dropped several feet???? --lambert

* * *

UPDATE Since Congressman Ed Markey’s the one who got BP to release its feed, he might be interested in getting to the bottom of this. Readers, RL calls, but if one of you wishes to make the call and report back, that would be great.

UPDATE Markey's office referred me to the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming at 202 225 4012; the very helpful staffer there said that they were aware of desire for archival footage, and believed that it existed. So, stay tuned.

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Also, there’s a BP feed, the CNN feed, and the livestream feed. It would be interesting to see if they differ. -- lambert

UPDATE See this important thread. I don't know the oil-rig blogosphere, but it looks like this thread has been following the story from the beginning. On the other hand, the guy who's asking for more confirmation -- as indeed am I -- is "company man 1," who joined on April 29, 2010. Just saying, since the Intertubes can be a hall of mirrors...

UPDATE Here are three additional sightings at the Oil Drum (#1) (and again (#2) -- "crap flying everywhere" ), and Gulf Captain (#3) . #1 and #3 are, unfortunately, very new accounts. Here at Corrente, people have been posting for years, so we know "who" the online personas are. Not so with this story. #2 is, however six weeks old and therefore pre-blowout. So!

UPDATE And then there's the whole "loop" issue -- as in "tape loop." That would be bad. Time stamps and feed archives would greatly reduce the trust issues -- and also help the science -- so I can't understand why they're not available. Or else I can...

UPDATE BP video on ROV work in preparation for the top kill. Interestingly, this video has time codes.

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DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

please, everyone click on that link and send it around. something really bad is happening.

Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

have to do to cross-post everything here.

Right now, as I type at 5:45pm CDT, there is ANOTHER eruption event happening.


Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

I think this may be a "Main Event" situation. When the water clears, if it looks like the riser flow is less... it means the BOP (which BP has been keeping the ROVs away from all day long) has probably totally blown out.

Bad. Bad. Bad deal.


Submitted by lambert on

... and I don't see a story on this (which doesn't mean much these days). That said, the amount of oil being siphoned off has dropped sharply, and the top kill has been postponed, according to NOLA. Investigators are also (now??) asking for people to be on the lookout for debris.

UPDATE This is interesting on the "top kill" timing:

"Our best estimate is probably Tuesday," [BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles] said, noting that the operation has never been tried in such deep water.

The timing for the "top kill" effort appears to be slipping: BP Managing Director Bo Dudley said Thursday night that the company would try the procedure this weekend.

Suttles offered no explanation for the discrepancy.

Well, the sea floor dropping three feet after a second hole opened up would be one explantion that springs to mind. Not that I'm paranoid.

UPDATE The liveblogging reminds me of the milblogging during the Iraq War, except not. The media control seems a lot greater now, than then. When you think about it, that only MonkeyFister is liveblogging the cam.... That's a real deterioration.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

If the riser has failed and oil and gas are short-circuiting around the annulus of the borehole, this already bad situation will get a thousand-fold worse in a very short period of time. What will happen is the rushing fluids will erode the borehole, transporting the soft sea-floor sediments away, creating a giant 300-foot deep crater down to the point of failure. This will further decrease the back-pressure (restriction on the pressure) and as that eases the flow-rate will increase, further eroding what is left of the borehole casing. It is a very vicious circle.

This isn't uneducated conjecture, it is based on my experience with flowing wells.

I think very few people have any idea how bad this will get. The damage that is imminent is actually worse than in your worst imaginings. It's quite possible that the entire eco-system of the Gulf of Mexico may collapse.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Mexico and other Gulf countries could sue for damages and possibly criminal prosecutions of the BP executives in question.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

These numbers look reasonable to me but the abbreviations make it difficult and I'm troubled by his "area" configuration. What is really controlling is the pressure at the reservoir, the pressure at the outflow, and the diameters/lengths of the pipe (borehole risers) those fluids are travelling through. I finally found some good construction information at The Oil Drum.

I've talked with other friends who are geologists. We aren't in the petroleum industry, but we are amazed that reasonable explanations/descriptions aren't getting put out. Maybe we shouldn't be amazed, it is a small industry, I'm betting that the word has gone out that you better go outside the family on this or your career is over.

Anyway, we all think the 5,000bbl/day number was a joke that BP, and anybody else with knowledge of the industry would know was hopelessly low. I would like to find out who the first source of it was. Likely somebody in the Coast Guard or press misread a number and once it got quoted, BP decided they could just non-confirm it and it would go viral. My best estimates are similar to the ones you quoted. Something like 40,000-75,000bbls/day. In fact, there are precedents for numbers like this from the very similar Ixtoc release, where they reported 10,000-30,000bbl/day. Ixtoc was drilled in much shallower water and to much shallower depth (hence much less pressure) than Deepwater. That release required 9 months to seal....

Bottom line, can BP's proposed fix work? Hard sayin' not knowin', but what has to be understood is that the pressures are what need to be overcome in order to stop the flow. To do that, every component needs to function properly, or the weakest link will fail, creating a new, maybe worse problem. It's like whack-a-mole. What might have caused a problem lower down in the borehole was their efforts to contain the pressure or cap the pressure in order to capture oil. The problem is once you have a new failure, you can't put the genii back in the bottle.

I may be wrong, but I think he is talking about injecting grout/mud/cement at very high pressure using a tremie (a pipe lowered down in the pipe) set as close to the base as possible. The problem is that the casing is so small down there it is tough to inject much volume with a pipe that size. A pump's flow decreases with the pressure it is pumping against. I don't know what ppg means, but I'm assuming it is the density of the mud. This increased density overcomes the pressure of the oil.

Submitted by hipparchia on

and is a commonly used measure of drilling mud density.

my sources tell me that bp was using 18ppg mud before things went wrong [and that things went wrong because they withdrew the drilling mud too soon], and that this is on the high end of usual mud weights used, with 9-12 ppg mud more usual, so this is a fairly high-pressure well.

water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon, if you want a reference point.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

right after writing. It's just been a while since I've seen that term and in the context of his writing it was confusing. In my sub-genre at least, most people just talk about bentonite concentrations rather than ppg. Low solids, high solids, neat cement, etc., and mix ratios. It has been nearly 15 years since I've been asked to use a grout scale (and that was by a regulator, go figure). Regardless, the basic concepts are actually nearly identical.*

Then, I'm not in the petroleum industry (well, not in the front end anyway, more like a manure hauler in the horse business), and don't claim to know their lingo.

That said, I can describe with good detail the time three years ago where I had to seal a flowing boring. Planning, and everything including the kitchen sink. Let's put it this way, I don't think they have a riser tall enough to hold the static pressure even with the increased density of the grout. That is also why they are talking about fast setting concrete, not only is its weight greater than high-solids bentonite grout but it will chemically set so that it doesn't blow back out the hole.

But using conversions, the math isn't that hard: the diagram above shows a reservoir pressure of 13,000psi at a depth of 18,360 feet. It works easiest to convert those psi into equivalent feet of sea water: 13,000psi equals 29,200 feet of sea water (FOSW). To visualize, if you had a riser going from the bottom of the boring and could extend it 10,841 feet ABOVE sea level, the pressure would not be great enough to spill over the top of the riser, and you could just pour cement into it and let it harden. I think Mt. Hood is about that height.... Obviously not a practical solution here, but theoretically (and in smaller instances, practically) it would work.

If they filled that column with something that was three times as dense as the oil (such as grout), they would only need one third that height of riser (still, 3300+ feet = not practical). So, now they need to use pumps to overcome that pressure. But since they don't have a seal at the seafloor, and the pressure is releasing at 5067 feet of depth, the pressure there is the difference 29,200-5067= 24333FOSW. They need a seal (at the sea floor) that can hold 24333FOSW (about 10,830psi).** With that, things become possible, without it, you need to be much more creative, such as somehow sealing off internally lower, overpumping grout at high pressures to maintain pressure at the seal, etc.. My understanding is that even that is not that big a problem, but the main difficulty may be whatever damage has occured to the structures of the wellhead itself, and their reticence to damage that while "fixing" it, and potentially causing worse problems.

My opinion is that this thing has gotten as bad as it can possibly get, and they need to quit pussy-footing around and just wade in there and get the thing sealed permanently.

*It's interesting that most are assuming this is a plumb well. I had thought many wells were directional these days.
**This is hoping to speak to laypeople, so does that make sense?

Submitted by hipparchia on

I think Mt. Hood is about that height....

ok, so first we need a giant helicopter....

Then, I'm not in the petroleum industry (well, not in the front end anyway, more like a manure hauler in the horse business),

you're ahead of me then, i'd be more like the gardener who buys the manure, or maybe the garden store that sells the manure to the gardeners.

and don't claim to know their lingo.

but i do know people in the business, so i can always get a translation of the lingo.

you're right, i haven't really seen anything about whether this is a directional bore or not, and i too have been assuming it was straight down into the bowels of hell.

My understanding is that even that is not that big a problem, but the main difficulty may be whatever damage has occured to the structures of the wellhead itself, and their reticence to damage that while "fixing" it, and potentially causing worse problems.

this is what i've been hearing too, at the latest report. they have repeatedly been trying to get the rov to manually activate the valve[s] inside the bop and it ain't happenin' [pretty cool live stream of it though, as these things go]. so yeah, safe to assume they don't yet know the extent of the damage.

**This is hoping to speak to laypeople, so does that make sense?

probably only to you and me. :)

Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

There were dozens of us hitting screengrabs and posting to the LATOC Forum all day-- since 1am this morning.

I'm pretty tired, but, the truth needed to be put out there.

Send it all viral, because we are truly being fucked on a scale that dwarfs anything that I've ever seen.


Bryan's picture
Submitted by Bryan on

The Well from Hell has a history of gas eruptions that had shut down drilling for days according to testimony at the Coast Guard inquiry on the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon.

The last few times I checked there was more gas [white "smoke"] that oil [black "smoke"] coming out. I would note that BP has also been reducing its estimates of how much oil they are recovering.

The eastern Gulf is more suited to natural gas than oil and this is on the edge. Before this is over they may have allowed almost all of the oil that was in that well to have gushed into the Gulf.

If the well kicked it would move the riser. If it does much kicking, it will loosen the riser in the bore hole, just like moving a fence post back and forth to pull it up.

This event is very similar to Ixtoc I that occurred in 1979 in the Bay of Campeche.

Submitted by lambert on

On another thread, Warren Mosler writes:

I now fear something far worse.

BP appears to have delayed measures to plug the well and stop the damage.

Instead it appears they have taken measures to salvage revenues.

Yves has said the same thing. "Why is the Deepwater Horizon an Information Dead Zone?"

They inserted a siphon tube that initially allowed them to load a portion of the escaping crude onto surface ships, presumably to be sold.

Instead of inserting a siphon tube, could BP have deposited aggregate (rocks) or other materials (steel rods, etc.) to start filling the hole with something 'heavy' that could obstruct the outward flow?

In fact, would not something as simple as an armada of barges filled with aggregate dumping their fill over the open pipe have built a mound over it that, when it got high enough, would completely stop the leaking crude?

Right from the beginning, could there not have been an emergency call to action for the US Navy and Coast Guard, as well as privately owned ships, to begin the parade of barges needed to continually dump aggregate over the site?

There has been no discussion that I have seen along these lines. Instead, public trust, as low as it may poll, remains high enough for it to be unthinkable that BP could have made the decision to attempt to siphon some crude rather than immediately take measures to plug the well based on narrow corporate cost/benefit analysis that showed the clean up costs of leakage that could have been stopped to be less than the present value of the well if it could be salvaged.

Warren Mosler

I'm moving that comment here, so more will see it.

Not sure on the aggregate solution, however. I'd need to see evidence that it had worked or at least been tried elsewhere. BP did, however, hire a smallish armada of fishing boats, and then left them idle.

Submitted by hipparchia on

In fact, would not something as simple as an armada of barges filled with aggregate dumping their fill over the open pipe have built a mound over it that, when it got high enough, would completely stop the leaking crude?

well, the end of the broken pipe may be open, but the hole into the ground basically is not 'open', so no, we can't just drop rocks down into the hole.

also, as i said above, this appears to be a comparatively high-pressure well, so even if it were just an open hole in the floor of the sea, i'm not sure that rocks small enough to fit inside the hole would be heavy enough to overcome the pressure coming out of the hole, and a pile of rocks lying on top of the hole would just be a pile of rocks leaking oil and gas from all over the pile, instead of from a 20" diameter hole.

clogging up the broken blowout preventer with golf balls or whatever, and then re-drilling into the hole and re-cementing it [keeping the drilling in mud in place longer so that the cement can properly cure] has a decent chance of working. bp's big mistake was cutting corners [surprise, surprise] and very probably was just as simple as not leaving all that heavy drilling mud sitting on top of the cement long enough for it to cure properly.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i've spent a few years working with engineers, engineering technicians, and people who do engineering drawings, and the people who do the drawings may or may not have a good enough understanding of what they're drawing to know when they've left something important out of a drawing. and yes, someone who knows what they're doing, a real engineer for instance, is supposed to sign off on such drawings, certifying that they actually checked the drawings and that those drawings are accurate, but that doesn't always happen.

given (1) bp's reputation for taking shortcuts and (2) my own experiences with engineering drawings, it seems to me about equally possible that the drawing could be an accurate representation of an unusual design or the drawing could be an inaccurate representation of a standard design.

we do seem to have reliable testimony that once the cementing job was completed, bp decided to replace the drilling mud [weighs a lot] with seawater [weighs much less] both without allowing the cement enough time to cure properly AND without conducting enough testing to see if the cement had formed a proper seal.

we also seem to have reliable testimony that the drilling mud operator[s] found chewed-up bits of o-ring in the drilling mud that was returning to the surface during otherwise normal operations, which suggests that all the appropriate o-rings could have been installed, including the one that was missing in the drawing, and you could still have had the same kind of blowout/cement failure as if the o-ring were never put into place. as further evidence of bp's perfidy here, the operator[s] was/were told not to worry about the bits of o-ring they found in the drilling mud, and that they were to keep on keepin' on. very bad.

bp appears to have taken shortcuts everywhere they could in the entire process, and then lied about it and/or covered up too. plus, they've got a years-long [and apparently well-deserved] reputation for doing so.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I suspect someone in the Russian news media might be telling the truth, they don't care about BP. Same with the Iranian media.