« ‘The Surge of Ideas’ Michael Flynn | Main | A Dialogue with Helmut Schmidt and Fritz Stern - Scott Horton »

18 June 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

N M Salamon

your Q to David was discussed at the OilDrum. the instability of the borehole is the reason they did not try to install another BLOWOUTPREVENTER valve system when they stopped the second relief hole [with the governments agreement].
The sand in the oil coming up constantly damages the casing.. Only hope is relief well kill - they hope in 2-3 tries to intersect the old well, use milling bit to get through casing parts [if still there] and pump very heavy mud, might need the second relief well also - this happened before.

The Nuclear bomb issue was also discussed at the OilDrum, and discarded as too dangerous.

The hypocricity of USA government is indicative that there was no up-roar for Nigerian oil spills when they yearly match Valdez leak for numerous years by USA, UK, Netherland companies' criminal negligence.

Due to GOM Oildrum had to install two more servers last week. The whole site has excellent search capabilities to look for any discussion area in all energy fields.

I read it daily among many other blogs.

John Minnerath

It's really hard to tell just what is going on in the video provided by david.
I tried to find some pictures of the BOP stack,casing, and riser set ups used offshore, but modern deep water equipment is too complex to show with a few pictures for those unfamiliar with the equipment.
Offshore Magazine, a trade journal has recent articles on the current operations in the Gulf.It might be worth the time for those interested to read some.Keep in mind this is an industry publication.

Cloned Poster

A tax on petrol/gas, like Europe has, would have been a nuke on US Politics 20/19/18/17 etc years ago.

Expect the North Atlantic Drift bring the BP disaster to European Shores.

Trying a nuke might be a long shot.


The thing that stands out most in my mind about the nuclear option is that it's not just simply "drop a nuke on the well head and set it off." It's more like "drill a hole down to the depth of the well, put the customized nuke down in it, and set it off so that the resulting explosion pinches off the well."

The problems with that scenario are manifold, the most glaring of which is that we really don't know *what* the effect would be. And the thing is, by the time you could customize a nuke would work at that depth and, more importantly, by the time you could drill a hole to put it in, the tried and true method, the relief wells should be finished.

I really don't understand why so many people seem to think the nuclear option is a good idea.


"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."
Kennyboy Lay didn't know what was going on at Enron either. Congress should be subpoenaing the compensation committee to ask them why the breached their fiduciary duties by paying millions for someone NOT to make informed management decisions.

Here's a nice layman's summary from the CSM:

Clifford, fish can swim faster than plankton, but once the plankton are gone the fish will starve. It's the bottom of the food chain that's being destroyed. One of my former employers did some environmental mitigation due to the impact of using seawater for power plant cooling water (the temperature rise in the seawater used killed both the plankton and the free-floating eggs of a number of aquatic species.) The remediation was useful for some coastal species including redfish and trout, but It's miniscule compared to this disaster.

I guess there's one good thing about the recent Supreme Court decision on corporate spending for lobbying. Since it confirms corporations like BP to be 'persons' under the constitution we can just do the legal jujitsu necessary to arrest BP and put it in jail and seize all their assets. The non-executives can keep right on working, the head honchos can take a hike. As to the assets, well let the EU side of BP get tied up in court trying to get them back. (Maybe John Yoo can rehab his soul by figuring out a legal rationale for doing it).

BTW where's that great energy expert, Dick Cheney?

N M Salamon

John Minnerath:

Please peruse the ile below for info etc on BOP., casing diagram of well, etc




Maybe the team of mostly nuclear physicists, appointed by the Obama Administration last month, will recommend that we put a stop to BP’s gushing oil well in the Gulf by killing it with nukes — something the Russians recommended that we do. But since this would cause BP’s entire investment in their lease to extract oil from the Macondo Prospect to go down the drain, so to speak, BP will do everything in its power to keep us from blowing it up. But if we do decide to kill the well by blowing it up, I think we oughta blow it up by using a few of the depleted uranium-tipped bunker busters that we have stored on the British island of Diego Garcia. These are the bombs which we plan to use on Iran’s underground nuclear facilities. BTW, Diego Garcia is the only island which makes up the Chagos Archipelago that’s not subject to the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty, giving the UK and the US the freedom to base their nuclear weapons there.

But now that it has come to light that we know very little about how to drill for oil in water over a mile deep without making a huge mess, we probably know even less about how to blow a gushing oil well up in such deep water and under such enormous pressure without making it gush even more. So we are probably working with too many unknowns to be trying to stop the gusher by blowing it up!


John Minnerath

N M Salamon,

Thanks much, that's the sort of thing I was trying to find.
Maybe Pat can link it into the heading some how so those readers not familiar with the equipment involved can get an idea of what's being dealt with on the sea floor.

I spent a lot of time crawling around on those when the well heads were still accessible to a diver.
As a side note, we always liked the so called "diverless" rigs where everything was controlled from the surface because they never worked!
They were good paying jobs for us divers back in the old days.


Walrus has hit the nail on the head: this is and was a manageable engineering problem, but BP has insisted that bean counters make the decisions, and they've made the wrong ones at virtually every stage. You couldn't ask for a better example of "penny wise and pound foolish" than this disaster.

The only silver lining I see in this mess is that it ought to put to rest once and for all the insane cultural notion that all technical problems have technological solutions. The bottom line here is that there aren't any good solutions, and that the only feasible way to handle the risk was ignored by BP, namely "good old engineering conservatism", better known as always erring on the side of caution instead of on the side of trying to cut corners.

When I heard Hayward tell Congress that the likelihood of failure of the BOP was one in a million, I realized that the man is either a liar or a moron. With that kind of misapprehension of risk (has anyone operated a BOP at a mile's depth one million times yet to calibrate that assertion?), he should be a hedge-fund manager ruining Wall Street instead of a BP executive ruining the Gulf.

The simple truth is that this spill is unprecedented, so we really don't know how it'll turn out. BP is behaving like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, but unfortunately, there is no wizened Sorcerer waiting in the wings to clean up the mess.

(and by the way, my back-of-the-envelope calculations yield a reservoir pressure of 10 to 15 thousand psi. I have no idea how the physics of this reservoir could produce the kinds of pressures that Simmons is asserting -- that would correspond to an average unit weight of a water/rock column of about 480 lb/ft^3, which is about 3 or 4 times the density of concrete, so I don't believe his numbers)


Speaking of 'methane gas' coming out of the British Petrol disaster in the gulf, here's a 3 page article - How the ultimate BP Gulf disaster could kill millions

".....Location of Deepwater Horizon oil rig was criticized

More than 12 months ago some geologists rang the warning bell that the Deepwater Horizon exploratory rig might have been erected directly over a huge underground reservoir of methane.

Documents from several years ago indicate that the subterranean geologic formation may contain the presence of a huge methane deposit.

None other than the engineer who helped lead the team to snuff the Gulf oil fires set by Saddam Hussein to slow the advance of American troops has stated that a huge underground lake of methane gas—compressed by a pressure of 100,000 pounds per square inch (psi)—could be released by BP's drilling effort to obtain the oil deposit. ......According to worried geologists, the first signs that the methane may burst its way through the bottom of the ocean would be fissures or cracks appearing on the ocean floor near the damaged well head.

Evidence of fissures opening up on the seabed have been captured by the robotic submersibles working to repair and contain the ruptured well. Smaller, independent plumes have also appeared outside the nearby radius of the bore hole itself.

According to some geological experts, BP's operations set into motion a series of events that may be irreversible. ..... With the emerging evidence of fissures, the quiet fear now is the methane bubble rupturing the seabed and exploding into the Gulf waters. If the bubble escapes, every ship, drilling rig and structure within the region of the bubble will instantaneously sink. All the workers, engineers, Coast Guard personnel and marine biologists measuring the oil plumes' advance will instantly perish..."


Since all of the privately-owned oil companies, from Exxon to Shell to Chevron, don’t have any incentive, much less any desire, to help BP put a stop to the gusher in the Gulf, that leaves the publicly-owned companies, mostly ones from the BRIC countries, to step in and fill their shoes. And because Brazil’s Petrobras is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to drilling for oil in ultra-deep water, this giant oil company from Brazil most likely knows the most about how to stop oil from gushing out of a wellhead that’s 5,000 ft underwater. But now that Obama has snubbed Brazil’s trilateral agreement with Turkey and Iran that would allow Iran to hand over a large part of its low-enriched uranium stockpile in exchange for a much smaller quantity of slightly higher enriched uranium so that Iran can produce medical isotopes, don’t be too surprised if Brazilian President, Lula da Silva, snubs Obama back by refusing to help us out in the Gulf.

different clue

First, I must apologize for saying "Cameron" in my upthread comment. Of course
I meant to mean "Hayward". The Chairman of BP. I have many reasons but no excuse for that mistake.

Another idea occurred to me. However silly it seems, maybe it will spur better thinking somewhere. If a way could be found to deliver vast amounts of high pressure oxygen into the erupting oil as it erupts, it might support oxidation of some of it to less toxic oxidation products. Perhaps high pressure ozone, forcefully micro-bubbled into the erupting oil and mix in as it turbulates, following the new oil as it moves, might oxidise it even faster. If that much ozone can be found or made and pumped down at one extended time and place.

N. Salamon, the government which is supposed to be ours tried to muffle any uproar here as well at first. It colluded with BP to wildly misunderestimate the amount of oil erupting. It continues letting BP manage the newsflow and images release by excluding reporters from many places on transparently flimsy safety excuses. That said, on the charge of unconcern with oil pollution in Nigeria; certainly our government is no more concerned than Nigeria's own government is. One could make the case that Nigeria's own government should be even more concerned; because Nigeria is in theory the Nigerian government's own country. And I have to admit that our government is not outraged about the tar sands activity in Alberta, either. Maybe the Canadian government will have to get outraged about that itself.
Because while Alberta may be
"the Texas of Canada" now; once the oil companies are done with it, it will be "the Appalachia of the North". You may end up renaming the province Albertappalachia, in honor of the Dark Side of the Moon
scape the oil companies will leave there.

J, did those geologists try contacting anyone within
government regulatory agencies with their concerns? If so, it would be nice to know how the brushoff they got was worded. If BP has really hit that big a methane volcano, it could release enough methane to kill hundreds of millions of people with fast-forward greenhouse gassing Global Heating.


lets shove congress into the hole


The comments about the shots being called by lawyers and accountants in Hayward's testimony is spot on. As a former corporate lawyer, I could smell that a mile away. And yes, it stank to high heaven.

Of course, from a legal perspective, Hayward had no choice but to plead universal ignorance about everything associated with this disaster. But he looked for all the world like the Alberto Gonzales of Oil.

As for limiting BP's liability, I think we're way beyond the niceties of Chapter 11. How about Chapter 7? And if things were as screwed up safety-wise going into this as reports indicate (and as Hayward pretends not to know) there really do need to be criminal prosecutions of individuals and the Company.

I am afraid about the environmental impact of this on America, and the planet, in a way I haven't been since Three Mile Island. If the Doomsday scenarios play out, this calamity could eclipse Chernobyl.

FWIW, I have to comment on Joe Barton's apology to BP, and his non-apology retraction under severe duress. In 50 years or so of watching politicians in this country, I don't think I've ever seen or heard a more craven and grotesque comment, on any subject. It was so bad I think even Hayward couldn't believe his ears, judging from his body language.

It will be interesting to see if the Good People of Texas return this Oil Industry Whore to Congress in the next election. My guess is "Yes."


History will record that British Petroleum has caused an event that eclipses Chernobyl.

Richard Armstrong

A description of the thermal and geological effects of underground nuclear explosions can be found at...


Basically at the point of the explosion a cavity is created. Later the cavity collapses because it cannot support the material above it.

Farther out the rock is crushed and has lost it's integrity

Father out the rock is cracked with radial and concentric fissures.

Father out still the rock is deformed by the pressure.

The size of the zones described above is dependent on the yield of the nuclear device.

The estimated pressure of the well is 13,000 psi.

It's easy to imagine the oil filling the cavity, moving through the crushed zone, into the cracked zone and ultimately flowing to the surface.

I don't think anyone can be certain what would occur if the nuclear option was used.

Note: I am not an expert on nuclear device, a geologist or have any experience with oil wells.

I was a roustabout on some rigs in Oklahoma in the '80s however that made me an "expert" in the operation of the drilling equipment but not an expert in either oil deposits or drilling into them.


A nuclear bomb below the seabed surface near the edges of the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates?

First, BP has to own up to how deep they drilled below the seabed...for real. Some BP workers are saying 30,000 ft. below the 5,000 ft. Is it true?

Secondly, this put a crimp in the old Peak Oil theory, doesn't it. Peak Oil relies on fossil fuel. Tell me about the trees and dinosaurs that lived five miles below the surface of the earth in the middle of the ocean. Run that one by me again. That ranks right up there with jet fuel fire brought down the towers, and Ptolemy's view that 'the sun revolves around the earth' was right. At least they're not putting people to death for believing that oil is abiotic, but who knows with what passes for average intelligence in this country

And if oil IS abiotic, then what will a nuclear hole create? The British Royal Society announced last week that anyone who thinks the science of climate change is "settled" is a buffoon. What do we know about oil science? Maybe we ought to ask the Russians who discovered oil at 42,000 feet in 1954 in the some Baltic Shield (rock), capped it, and changed their entire idea of what produces oil.

FYI-here is an EXTRAORDINARILY SLOW-LOADING Jpg of the relative sizes of the world's greatest oil spills from Newsweek.



different clue, You know zip about Alberta.

"Because while Alberta may be "the Texas of Canada" now; once the oil companies are done with it, it will be "the Appalachia of the North". You may end up renaming theprovince Albertappalachia, in honor of the Dark Side of the Moonscape the oil companies will leave there."

You are not allowed to drill for anything in Alberta: gold, copper, uranium, water, or oil, without returning the land to the "same condition or better" than you found it in, or you are out of business in a week with fines that will make you and your sharholders paupers.

It has been a law since 1949, and the Tar Sands have massive reclamation projects going on in the Boreal Forest. Ever seen a tree that grows in the Boreal Forest? They are these stunted weird things thatbelong on Mars because oil has seeped into the ground there since time immemorial, and the rivers, like the Athabasca River, pristine, beautiful ice-blue rivers have carried oil in them since they were first created eons ago. Put your boat into the Athabasca and pull it ashore four hours later. The bottom is covered with oil.

clifford kiracofe

1. "If it went on uncontrolled, it could certainly leak for two years and certainly longer than that," said Philip Johnson, a professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Alabama.

2. Again, to begin to make an rough preliminary damage assessment, we need data from the marine biologists.

This event is way beyond the mineral world of hydrocarbons and some avaricious stockholders and their well paid lawyers.

It is the marine ecosystems in our sea space which are the target of the volcano of oil.

3. Another question is just how the Mexicans taking this? What about other neighbors around the Gulf? What about the Caribbean Islands? What about Florida/Gulf Stream? If it moves into the Gulf Stream what about our Euro friends? It is not as if this toxic hydrocarbon flow will disappear anytime soon...


The Oil Drum provides a fascinating explanation of what's going on.


Jake says:

"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."

Ixtoc was a shallow water well -- seafloor was 160 feet deep.


William R. Cumming

Today's NY Times has an interesting story on BP's history of safety breeches and investment.


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

Gosh! Look this spill is bad yes but lets no lose reality here either. The bulk of the spill has stayed out in open water. This is because of the Gulf "Loop" currents. Mother Nature is being kind...so far.

However while we are all beating up BP. Transocean is getting a pass. Fact is that BP submitted a faulty well plan. MMS screwed up and approved a faulty well plan and Transocean (being the driller) drilled a faulty well plan.

Then there are the idiots in Congress who could not investigate the Lincoln assassination if they were all witnesses. By the way, Congress took the teeth out of MMS a very long time ago. Thanks you Republicans...That beer is on you.

As far as the clean up is concerned.That my friends is another boondoggle. That I blame on Obama for not federalizing that part of the event. In the meantime spill contractors are making a killing and not doing a good job at containment.

There is very little oversight by the USCG near shore and coastal and to my understanding BP has veto power over the USCG.

So here is my question.... WTF Over?


On a guess, adding oxygen in any form to the escaping oil would be harzardous. But adding oxygen to avoid the dead zones and let the bacteria consume the oil is desirable. It would take a lot of energy to bubble air through widely dispersed oil. But this might be available. Could the methane currently being burned off be power generatorsr to pump air where needed?

William R. Cumming

Just noting for the record BP tossed out of the JIC {Joint Information Center] being operated by WH and closely supervised as called for by NCP {national contingency plan] published at 40 CFR part 300 (september 1993)!

BP is running the most expensive and extensive PUBLIC AFFAIRS effort ever in Washington and elsewhere. In fact what is needed is Emergency Public Information from the JIC including PARs [Protective Action Recommendations} and PADs [Protective Action Decisions} to protect lives and property. OSHA/CDC have now made public guidelines to protect responders from the oil spill.

Note 2001 WTC attack litigation still continues on whether or not responders were protected and trained properly as required by OSHA regs. Penalty up to felony for violating these rules. Response personnel need training and protection and this is not a simple thing to do properly.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad