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18 June 2010


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One idea I heard, it sounds good and reasonable to me but I know nothing:

you bring in supertankers with centrifuges, run the mix, capture the oil, release the water back into the Gulf.

At any rate, BP should be relieved of duty, they have done nothing right. I don't understand why Obama coddles them.

RAISER William

I not any kind of expert on this, but using a low-yield nuclear device seems VERY risky to me. What if you just create a very big hole for the oil to escape? How do you plug a nuclear crater?

I'm glad to see that many thoughts are coming onto the table. We need a full range options, including those that may seem crazy at first glance.


Col., Navy Seals have deep water recovery teams that might be able to provide us with a better intelligence of what is really going on, are they an option?

About the nuclear option, maybe the Iranians or North Koreans will lend us one of their prototypes in exchange for removing the sanctions. lol

P.S. We were robbed by that stupid call neglecting our third goal.

Todd B.

If you have the time and patience with technical discussions, check out The Oil Drum entries on the leak. Between the writers on the blogs and the numerous well-versed commenters, you can get a good idea of the engineering, the technology, and their limitations and capabilities in this mess. You'll know more about strata formations in the Gulf of Mexico and deep water oil drilling than you ever thought you would want to know.

Matthew Simmons was stating a few weeks ago that leaks are appearing on the seabed in the neighborhood of the wellhead, which could mean utter catastrophe if the seabed gives way.

One of the Oil Drum's regular commenters, dougr, has a doomsday scenario comment going viral this week, essentially it's a race between the relief wells and well bore failure. The oil coming up is relentlessly grinding down the well bore (that may be what Simmon's comment is about). It may be a close run thing. However, read first the entries leading up to the doomsday scenarios. It won't make you feel any better, but at least you'll understand what they are talking about.

As for the psi, 5000 feet of water, 5000 feet of silt and mud, and another 8000 feet of rock strata makes for an awful lot of pressure.

One of the drilling engineers stated this morning on NPR it looks like first week of August for the first relief well to hit its mark. Let's hope it's faster.

Todd B.

Oh, here's the link to doomsday:


The Kraken would be well and truly released if it were to occur.

Also, the nuclear option was dismissed on The Oil Drum early on. The Russians used five of them on separate wells, but the geology of the GOM does not support its use. Plus, I think it's illegal. And of course, there is Godzilla to worry about.


A chapter 11 proceeding would be beneficial and nothing to fear. Any transfer of assets now would quite definitely be unwound in a BK proceeding.

I don't know anything about the technical aspects of the hole, but I have heard 32,000psi. Question to ask is how large is the reservoir?

John Minnerath

A Nuke? Way to risky. The Soviets tried them a few times with some limited success, but really nothing is known of the side effects they created. They did this on surface wells in well known geology and at shallow depths.
This well head is a mile under water in unknown geologic structure.
There's bound to be some data because every oil company has conducted geologic surveys of the Gulf for years, but that's all very closely guarded information and I wonder if it's possible to even get it.

BP, as the oil company doing the drilling has created a nightmare. Their use of questionable dispersants has kept the true volume of the leak hidden and dispersed widely across the sea floor.

60,000PSI? Possible. When I worked in the GOM in the '60s I recall wells running in the ~30,000PSI range. Back then we were involved in some very experimental drilling at 500 feet.
What the industry is doing now is far beyond the wildest dreams any of us had back then.
The technology and equipment available today has allowed drilling in such extreme conditions, the technology and equipment to control blow-outs and what to do if the gear fails, mainly the down hole chokes and the BOPs, is decades behind and cosy relationships with MMS have allowed this work to proceed without strict and enforced safety concerns.
The oil business like any other mineral exploitation business is not going to spend a penny they aren't forced to that subtracts from the overall profit.


According to Barrons Simmons is short a lot of BP stocks That is one reason not to trust him.

According to the very knowledgeable folks at the Oil Drum what Simmons says does not make sense. According to all available data it is impossible that there is such pressure at that depth. Simmons said a lot of other baloney stuff lately. That the casing has blown out of the hole, that there is a big leak elsewhere, that the BOP has moved off its original position - all nonsense.

The geology of the hole in the GoM is not good at all for using a nuclear device. The first 1500 feet at the bottom of the sea are simply sand. Blow it away and you will have more oil come out without any control over it. Than come several thousand feet of quite unstable and porous shale and sandstone like stuff. Same problem. There is little hard deep rock. One would have to make a new quite deep hole for that nuke which would take much longer than the relief wells will take.
Still even deep down the geology of the place makes it quite possible that a nuke would open a new uncontrolled flow from the oil source into the GoM.

As for BP - it has a yearly cashflow of tens of billions and will not go bankrupt on this. Also the corporate structure they have is not optimized for being litigation proofed. It will be very difficult to slap off a part and then declare only that part guilty and to let it go bankrupt keeping the mothership untouched. No, the big corp will have to pay and it has the money to do so.

Additionally: Mr. Cameron would certainly get a serious call from one Mr. Obama should BP try slip out of its responsibility. The "special relationship" would become very problematic. Where would Britain get the new missiles for their nukes?

William R. Cumming

There is some evidence of Russian interest in taking over BP!

Note BP investment in Russia!

Note open discussion of BP stock value even by Putin.


FDL has ROV video of oil coming up from the sea bed:


This seems to support the thesis that the well has been compromised beneath the BOP.

Patrick Lang


Does this mean that the Gulf floor may break up releasing a greaer volume? pl


Of course I am no expert on oil -- or anything else, for that matter -- but it seems to me that possible cleanup costs combined with loss of business and wages could easily exceed $100 billion for the spill. Frankly I expect the government will end up paying far more than BP and its insurers. I'd be thrilled to be wrong about this, of course.

A possible aggravating factor -- both to the spill and our financial problems -- is the upcoming hurricane season. It is predicted to be very active, with almost no chance of being a below average year.

Some of our so-called leaders are already running out of steam taking care of the problems we already have. Congress won't give the COBRA health plan subsidy to those laid off after May 31. The Senate has voted down at least 3 bills to extend unemployment benefits.

What will these cheapskates do if they have to help more people over the summer and fall and beyond to due the spill and hurricane damage?

We'll see how long deficit reduction stays the #1 priority after the election.

I am still waiting for those who voted in favor of major tax cuts during wartime in the Bush years to say how wrong they were and to apologize for their contribution to the deficit.


"A chapter 11 proceeding would be beneficial and nothing to fear."

Easy for Wall Street to say. BP gets relieved of all future liability. Who will pay for future cleanup costs, economic impact of a lost eco-system? Americans need only look in a mirror.
Navy seals? This is 5,000 feet down. The last navy submarine with deep diving capability was the NR1, its been decommissioned. There is no US government capability to stop this leak; there is apparently little commercial capability either. Who's going to spend millions on submersibles, crews and training unless foreced to do so by regulatory oversight? I would catagorize this as an inherent defect in the 'free market', at least as it releates to society's needs.

William R. Cumming

Understand that Tony Heyward has been relieved of all duties for BP!


At least in terms of what is known publicly it seems there is less known than known. What is the flow rate from the well? How much has already spilled into the GoM? Where is all that crude now? What are the estimates of the size of the oil field? How does the well get plugged?

On the question of liability - it seems that there is a law on the books that limits liability to $75 million. Does this apply to BP? How long will our judicial system take to adjudicate all the claims? How much will the personal injury lawyers make from this disaster? If the history of Exxon Valdez is any indication BP will be unlikely to pay any claims for at least a decade.

From a political perspective is this Obama's Katrina moment?


Don't forget all the 'methane' that's contained in the BP oil spill coming out of the sea floor. Oil, methane, Corexit, we're tattooed. Arghhh.


Simmons? Guys like Simmons should stay to their specialty rather than try being someone they are not.

This is not the first deep well blowout in the Gulf. That honor belongs to ITOX I in 1979 that dumped some 140 million gallons into the Gulf. We did not need a nuke then and we do not need one now.

John Wright of Boots and Coots is leading the relief well efforts and HE IS THE BLOWOUT SPECIALIST.

I will wait for Wright before I take anything that Simmons has to say about capping this well seriously.

In the meantime maybe NNSA or DOE or even DoD should tell Mr. Simmons that we ain't not got one of them those thingamajigger, whatchamacallit doodad thingies..... Low Yield Nukes.

Sorry Simmons all we got left are city killers and setting one of those off ain't my idea of capping no well. Lets not talk about the long term marine and environmental damage a nuke will do.

But Mr. Simmons can always go ask the Russians. They are still suffering from there own stupidity.

Gosh what people will do for TV Fame!


BP knew of the problems as far back as February of this year, two months before the disaster.

different clue

Commenters above have already said and linked better than I could on what I have read about an atom bomb being very inadvisable for this well.

About Cameron, I heard a little of his testimony yesterday. He appeared to demonstrate exactly Walrus's prior-thread statement about how the high executives of oil companies pass no-memo no-proof instructions down the chain that established safety procedures are to be disregarded as much as possible. No-memo no-proof assures that the dispensible mid-level operatives may be blamed and sacrificed. And Cameron said exactly that he
did not/could not know who made what decisions at any particular well-site, let alone this one.

I have long thought that the Obama Administration has been running interference for BP. The 20 billion escrow fund is designed as an expensive gesture to keep the natives from getting too restless. That is probably how President Obama views it and how he sold it to Cameron.

I found an interesting muckraking article on Obama's non-removal of the Bush embeds from the relevant regulatory agencies; and his assiduous preservation up to this point of Bush era corruption
regarding Federal oversight of oil company activities. It becomes relevant to this thread because it turns out that BP is currently still drilling an even deeper well
called Atlantis into an even bigger field. Matt Taibbi mentions this very loudly and very loudly wonders why the Obama Administration sees fit to let BP keep drilling this well given BP's proven record of cavalier indifference to basic safety and protocol. (Alaska, Texas City, Deep Horizon, and probably other examples).

Finally, just how restless are the natives getting? Here is a Courthouse News Service story called: 'The plan is to let us die,' Coastal Parish President Says.
He and some other Parish Presidents evidently feel the FedGov and BP are colluding to exterminate the marsh habitat and turn it all into new open water. That way, BP can more easily access the mineral rights and drill all over the removed marshlands for new oil. Is this Parish President wrong to think so?
Could enough fresh waves of outrage and publicity embarrass and humiliate the BP/FedGov consortiun into backing off of this "let us die" plan...if that is indeed the plan? Here is the link.


"Does this mean that the Gulf floor may break up releasing a greater volume? pl "

Answering for David, unfortunately yes.

I made a prediction that BP will not accept responsibility for this mess and according to the field notes on Haywards testimony I was not disappointed. They are following the Exxon playbook.

Hayward is following a script drafted by BP's lawyers. Some of Haywards gems:

"we will pay all necessary cleanup costs."

"we will pay all legitimate claims for losses and damages caused by the spill."

"Fourth, we need to know what went wrong so that we as a company and we as an industry can do better. That is why, less than 24 hours after the accident, I commissioned a non-privileged investigation . I did it because I want to know what happened, and I want to share the results. Right now, it is simply too early to say what caused the incident. There is still extensive work to do. A full answer must await the outcome of multiple investigations, including by the Marine Board."

Hayward denies all knowledge of any decision making regarding oil wells at all and refuses to accept that BP has any responsibility for the accident.


SubKommander Dred

Matt Simmons has gone insane. Perhaps he just just likes to be on TeeVee and has fallen in love with the sound of his own voice. "Twilight in the Desert" (Simmons book about the immiment decline in Saudi oil production) was a very good primer on the fate of an oil constrained world, but on this issue he has gone completely around the bend. And a nukular bomb going off under the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt shut down this well is a really, really bad idea.

Pete Deer

clifford kiracofe

The volcano of oil spreading death throughout the Gulf...

Very interesting insights on the geology and so on.

But what about the biology?

This is the factor that interests me in particular as this relates to the destruction of and biological threat to our sea space. Damage can be permanent and quite catastrophic.

Anyone have data or suggest where to find with respect to the marine organisms situation? Fish, coral, and the like. What is the assessment of marine biologists on the biological impact? Also, the toxicity issues?

As I posted on another thread, marine biologists are noting massive movement of fish as in a forest fire situation with animals, moving away from the threat.

This is a major national security issue with respect to the sea space and marine resources. The Administration's appalling failure at any sort of leadership or disaster management amazes.

The is not a matter for "the private sector", this is a matter of full scale mobilization of our national and state resources to deal with an emergency of incalculable proportions.

The San Fran earthquake, the Chicago Fire, 911 pale in comparison to the level of destruction and damage we may find....


@at david - "FDL has ROV video of oil coming up from the sea bed:"

Yeah, a video from quite exactly the place where the exploded rig sank into the sands of the GoM. (the video has been around and discussed at The Oil Drum for a week or so.) A few gallons from there doesn't make a new well breach. It may well shows that some sunken rig tanks are leaking.

@pl - "Does this mean that the Gulf floor may break up releasing a greater volume?"

If one nukes it? Who knows? Currently it is possible but quite unlikely. The well casing may well be damaged somewhere down. This would explain a visible leak. Could be a 1000 feet down (less likely because of multiple casings at that depth) or 10,000 feet down (possible), even deeper (much more likely as single casing there). But the size of such a breach matters as well as the local pressure differences. The reservoir has some measured 12,500 psi, the stones directly around it have of course a bit more, the formations up the way to the top likely have less. Currently the path of least resistance (i.e. the biggest pressure difference)for any oil in that well is to come out of the BOP for mostly (hopefully) being siphoned off by the cap and other means. The sea down at the BOP has some 7,000+ psi. If one would close the BOP and well by a bomb or however, the pressure differences would change and a leak into the rather unknown, likely soft, underground structures and maybe to the top could be inevitable.

No one serious wants to risk that.


from wikipedia


"Matthew Simmons, founder and chairman emeritus of Simmons & Company International, is a prominent oil-industry insider and one of the world's leading experts on the topic of peak oil. Simmons was motivated by the 1973 energy crisis to create an investment banking firm catering to oil companies. In his previous capacity, he served as energy adviser to U.S. President George W. Bush"

"In his book, Simmons argues that production from Saudi Arabia, and especially from Ghawar, the world's largest oil field, will peak in the near future, if it has not done so already. Simmons bases his case on hundreds of internal documents from Saudi Aramco, professional journals, and other authoritative sources.

"Twilight in the Desert" has been criticized for "turning benign technical matters into crisis-level evidence" and making "numerous technical gaffes", such as misinterpreting fuzzy logic as meaning "fuzzy numbers" (his use of the computer science term was proper but it did not really advance his argument), "dew point" as meaning the pressure that a well stops producing, citing obsolete data on water cuts, and assuming that a pressure drop in a vertical wells has the same implications as in a multilateral well. He is also accused of ghost references and misrepresenting sources.[1]"


Legal comment from a retired lawyer on the oil drum.

"First time poster; I've been reading Oil Drum for years. Some of this I posted to the other thread right before it closed, so please excuse the repeat.

I hate to tell you, but the people calling the shots on this are lawyers and accountants. BP took off its "engineering hat" and put on its "managing hat" a long time ago; that's why the spill happened in the first place.

Anything proposed by technicians, engineers, etc. is going to be vetted by lawyers and accountants first... including the scripted "Oops!" moment of the BP spokesperson talking about "the little people" (a classic provocative statement by a flakcatcher.) They will use a twofold criteria: Does this increase liability? Does this protect the company's assets?

I am a retired lawyer from La., whose family has been involved with oil cases since Standard Oil was actually called Standard Oil. It seems to me that a great deal of both the effort to seal the well and to protect the coastline has been dictated by laws, not by physics or chemistry.

For instance, every petrochemical state has a long line of cases about ownership of oil and gas which is "spilled" or "lost" by the driller. At least some of BP's cleanup behavior seems to be an effort to maintain a claim of ownership on the spilled crude. After all, there's billions of dollars of it floating around, available to the first person on the site with good cleanup equipment.

Similarly, it's my impression that a great deal of the undersea efforts have been directed, not at capping the well, but at proving that BP is not abandoning the well.

To me, the tragedy of BP's continued oversight of the whole thing lies in their basic aims; retain ownership of the well, retain ownership of the spilled oil, limit legal liability. They honestly could care less about anything else at this point.

Regarding the cleanup, procurement policies, labor and safety laws (such as the Jones Act), and intergovernmental squabbles over authority are a real damper on any serious effort at cleanup and collection. These are what are determining speed of response, not the will to prevent damage or clean up what has already happened.

BP will not stop the flow of oil from the well until it has a relief well up and running; it will not step up on cleanup (why spend more on what's already broke?); it will use litigation, and, if necessary, bankruptcy to avoid liability; and, twenty or thirty years from now, it will pay the locals who are still alive a symbolic payment, which will not begin to address their loss.

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