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Oil FAIL: Too bad we can't have a "top kill" for our elite, eh?

[UPDATE USCG's Thad Allen quoted in the LA Times saying the "top kill" has been successful. Within the hour, the "unified command," which includes BP, walks it back. Guess BP's public relations need to dampen expectations collides with the administration's needs to have a photo op for Obama tomorrow in which he can claim success. Oh well. --lambert]

[The Oil Drum, however, is expressing reasoned optimism. Rockman, a long time commenter, says this:

I won't try to guess what the videos are indicating. No idea if their pressure sensors can tell much about the kill process. But I would think there will be an obvious answer when they stop pumping mud: if the've put enough head on the bottom hole to stop the flow then we should little or no return coming out of the leaks. Since they aren't circulating through mud tanks as in a normal kill op then there's no info there. The big question remains for me (and probably BP also): the mud is pumping in but where exactly is it going? Down the drill pipe, the producing csg, the prod csg annullus, out another failed cement shoe? Or any combination there of.


Patience IP et al. If they have killed the well there is still a long and uncertain way to go. They'll have to pull the drill pipe out of the hole before they can begin thinking about P&A [Plug & Abandon]. And it may locked up in the BOP. And if the[y] can fish the DP out it will have to be done carefully: even if they killed the well they can "swab" the well in (make it start flowing again) by the action of pulling the DP out.

Sobering. Reality-based! --lambert]

[UPDATE More measured optimism from TOD. Looks like they're starting to cement the well shuta. --lambert]

I'd love to see them a mile underwater and covered with mud!

Anyhow, to the literal, as opposed to the metaphorical "top kill": It's looking at least like we don't have immediate fail. Thank gawd for The Oil Drum!

Online WSJ:

The operation is being scrutinized by the White House and Congress—as well as by uncounted viewers of a live video feed of the well the company is streaming from the seabed.

While cameras show clouds of liquid continuing to surge upward, BP said it appeared to be nontoxic drilling liquid, known as mud, not oil.

The plume of mud is "a good sign," suggesting that the fluid is exerting enough pressure to stem the flow of crude and natural gas, said Don Van Nieuwenhuise, a professor of petroleum geosciences at the University of Houston. "If the pressure wasn't great enough it would be mud and oil."

BP says the same:

Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said on Wednesday it appears* drilling mud, not oil, was gushing from a ruptured undersea well six hours into an effort to halt a growing oil spill.

"What you've been observing coming out of the top of that riser is most likely mud," Suttles said at a news conference broadcast from a Louisiana command center. "We can't fully confirm that because we can't sample it. And the way we know we've been successful is it stops flowing."

However, Oil Drum (link above) expresses the following concern:

There have to be concerns about the increasing number of leaks at the riser near the blowout preventer (BOP), which is lowering the flow out of the end of the riser (and which were visible on a CNN feed earlier this morning). Leaks of a fluid that is carrying abrasive particles can get larger very quickly, and can threaten the integrity of the BOP. This now, therefore, becomes a driver to accelerate the process, given that if the flow is allowed to continue, the BOP may be further eroded and weakened and may collapse. And even if it were not to collapse, there is concern that the resistance to the pressure of the top kill process will decline as it erodes.

And here's an interesting live blog on it. Monkey Fister has a near-real time series of posts as well.

[UPDATE Please tell me they got the right leak, mkay? --lambert]

I'll be gone most of the day for RL issues, and so do check the Oil Drum for the latest.

NOTE * Of course, this is assuming the feed hasn't been tampered with on the transmittal side.

NOTE Let me caution against one possible form of triumphalism if the top kill -- whose videos are also tremendously successful technopr0n -- succeeds in sealing the well. Just because "we" succeeded in solving a technical problem says nothing about solving the systems problems that caused the disaster in the first place (and I mean systems all the way up to the global system, Gaia). Dragging the cart out of the ditch says nothing about the cart, the ditch, the driver of the cart, or the FAIL that put the cart in the ditch in the first place.

UPDATE Read this at Yves place on the marginalized people in Louisiana.

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Submitted by gob on

Re-emphasizing Lambert's point:

Just because "we" succeeded in solving a technical problem says nothing about solving the systems problems that caused the disaster in the first place (and I mean systems all the way up to the global system, Gaia). Dragging the cart out of the ditch says nothing about the cart, the ditch, the driver of the cart, or the FAIL that put the cart in the ditch in the first place.

Attempts to assign "causes" and "blame" for the spill will mostly divert attention from the fact that complex systems fail, period. Quite apart from the usual political issues is a pressing one that the public "debate" (such as it is) seems hell-bent on ignoring: it is self-evident that, if you are building a system (any system, right up to the whole shebang that is Gaia plus "civilization"), and it has significant complexity, you have an ethical duty to provide for dealing with the results of its inevitable failures.

Submitted by Anne on

preference not to advocate or condone violence of any kind on this blog, I think you should seriously reconsider both the title of this post, and the musings regarding sending “the elite” a mile underwater and covering them with mud; all that was missing was a Mafia reference to cement shoes.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I don't think the violent imagery is a path to glory. De gustibus....

scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

Darn. I do kinda miss being able to fling poo and enjoy it.
I catch myself now just dissin' to diss and shut it down quickly.
Don't you long for the days when we could just straight up hate and
rage about how evil W was and feel soooo righteous.
We were on the GOOD team!

Submitted by lambert on

Like, 7 years of reflexes -- because I came up as a blogger in the Bush years. Is there such a thing as NV invective? What would it look like?

In other words, I'm definitely in RL mode, and seeking suggestions on a better headline, and metaphor, that isn't the equivalent of "Unworthy BP initiative" (reference, with saddening subject matter) of some such.

Bryan's picture
Submitted by Bryan on

There is nothing "non-toxic" about drilling mud. They weren't pumping back into the Damon B Bankston because they are neat freaks, but to avoid EPA pollution fines. The stuff blowing out of the cracks is nasty, but it will at least settle on the bottom around the well to be sucked up.

The oil has been carrying sand and rocks with it for weeks, so the inside of the riser system has been eroded. The mud going in is less abrasive than what was coming out, but they don't know how much erosion has already taken place, which is why they should have been doing this weeks ago, and not playing around with their "containment" strategy.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that if BP hadn't ordered the drilling mud removed on April 20, there is no reason to think the blowout would have happened. The fact that the mud is apparently holding the oil at bay makes it rather obvious.