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Oil FAIL: I'll be surprised if the "top kill" works

[I could be quite wrong on the technology here, since I'm not an oil wonk. So, readers please correct. Or read The Oil Drum. But as far as BP's incentives? For sure they're evaluating every solution against the oil they can ultimately capture, and that isn't the same thing at all as saving the Gulf. --lambert]


LONDON—BP PLC on Tuesday outlined its backup plan if the so-called "top kill" process the company plans to use to cap a leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico fails to work.

How do we know the "backup plan" is not the plan? We don't, of course, because the process is opaque. (All ROV video should be archived and public, and not just the un-timestamped video the public is being shown. It may be BP's oil, but it's our planet!)

If pumping heavy fluids and cement into the top of the well fails, a process called a top kill, BP said it may cut through the leaking pipeline attached to the blowout preventer at the well head and attach a lower marine riser package that would divert the leaking oil to a ship at the surface.

So, given the choice between a "plan" where success means BP has oil to sell (the riser package) and "plan" where they don't (the top kill), which do you think BP wants to succeed?

"The [lower marine riser package] cap is already on site and it is anticipated that this option will be available for deployment by the end of May," BP said in a statement.

The U.K. oil giant will carry out the top kill in the next few days, possibly combining it with a blast of debris into the well in order to temporarily halt the flow of oil, a technique known as a junk shot.

After more than a month, oil from the leaking well is contaminating coastal marshes of Louisiana despite a huge containment operation. Previous BP efforts to contain the leak at the sea bed have failed or had limited effectiveness.

There is no official estimate of how much oil is flowing from the damaged well head. The initial estimate of around 5,000 barrels a day proved to be too low. Scientists who have observed videos of the oil plume escaping from the well have estimated the spill size at anywhere between 50,000 and 95,000 barrels of oil a day.

But we still don't know what the flow rate and the volume is, do we? And yet we're reading hagiography in Izvestia [and I can't find the link!] about computer modeling at BP's command center. Well, aren't flow rate and volume parameters for those models? And heck, why can't we see the models? It may be BP's oil, but it's our planet!

Bottom line for me is that BP won't do anything to lose the well, no matter what. The "top kill" then, is most likely to fail, although it will be useful as a public relations exercise. From BO's perspective, the relief wells coming through a couple of months from now are the solution, and so what about the Gulf?

Because how does BP see the problem? Oil they own that they can't sell. Anything else is a side issue. And guaranteed that Obama sees the problem in exactly the same way; that's his job.

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