Breaking: Top Kill fails to stop BP oil disaster

Three attempts to pump mud and 16 tries to stuff solid material into a breached Gulf of Mexico oil well failed to stop the flow, top BP executives said Saturday, and engineers and executives with the oil giant have decided to “move on to the next option.”

Here’s what next, via CNN:

That option: Place a custom-built cap known as the “lower marine riser package” over the leak, BP chief operation officer Doug Suttles said. BP crews were already at work Saturday to ready the materials for that option, he said.

Suttles said three separate pumping efforts and 30,000 barrels of mud — along with what chief executive officer Tony Hayward described as “16 different bridging material shots” — just didn’t do the trick.

“We have not been able to stop the flow,” a somber Suttles told reporters. ” … Repeated pumping, we don’t believe, will achieve success, so we will move on to the next option.”

Suttles and other officials said that the “top kill” attempt to stop the flow did so — but only as long as they were pumping. When the pumping stopped, the oil resumed its escape. And Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said that BP would resume using undersea dispersants for the new attempt to trap the oil.

Suttles said the lower marine riser package “should be able to capture most of the oil” that has fed what is now the largest oil spill in U.S. history, but he cautioned that the new cap will not provide a “tight mechanical seal.”

We’re confident the job will work, but obviously we cannot guarantee success at this time,” he said.

Where have we heard that before?

Engineers should be ready in about four to seven days to make the fresh attempt, he said. Landry said officials were “disappointed in today’s announcement,” but noted that the immediate efforts to stop the flow were never intended to be permanent.

“The real solution, the end state, is a relief well,” she said. BP currently is working on two relief wells, but they are not expected to be ready until August, Suttles said.

Earlier, Suttles said that BP engineers would try to place a second blowout preventer — the piece of equipment that failed when the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20 — should the lower marine riser package fail. The failed blowout preventer is a 48-foot-tall, 450-ton apparatus that sits atop the well 5,000 feet underwater.

Suttles and Landry praised the clean-up efforts, however, in light of the failure of the “top kill” attempt to stop the flow.

Sad for all concerned.

67 Responses to Breaking: Top Kill fails to stop BP oil disaster

  1. Doug Bostrom says:

    Suttles the BP Morlock told the today’s Eloi, “Put your hands over your eyes and I won’t be able to see you.”

    What he told yesterday’s Eloi.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    Facts Please

    Can we get some basic facts from BP (or the government!) PLEEAAASSSSEEEE!!

    What are the dimensions of this new “cap” thing that they are going to attach to, or place over, the opening? Specifics, please. Would BP, or the government, put a to-scale diagram on the web so we can see and contemplate this thing??

    And, what are the internal and external diameter of the pipe (or hose) that BP plans to use from the cap to the surface? Dimensions please!

    And, what is the plan for liquids to be injected into the cap and/or upcoming pipe in order to prevent the crystal junk from forming and, perhaps, in order to manage temperature and viscosity? Can we get a description please?

    I am deeply frustrated by the lack of specifics. I’m starting to think that our media are full of idiots — with a few exceptions, who (I hope) know who they are. I read a NY Times article and it offers a catchy name for the next phase, without telling us any meaningful specifics. I watch CNN, and I get the same. I go to the BP website, and I get more of the same. Give me a break!

    Nearly everything in modern life is developed and constructed based on detailed specifics — our TVs, our cell phones, our computers, our pharmaceuticals, our cars, our pacemakers, our swimming pools, our microwave overs, and so forth, and yet the media behave as though we can’t “deal with” a relevant number or two. Again, give me a break.

    Joe or CP, can you get BP, or someone!, to start providing dimensions and drawings and descriptions of this stuff?



  3. Leif says:

    Signs of problems months ago. NY Times, electronic edition.

    And these people GET Government subsidies. For shame…

  4. prokaryote says:

    La. scientist locates another vast oil plume in the gulf

    That would be troubling because it could mean the oil would slip past coastal defenses such as “containment booms” designed to stop it on the surface. Already, scientists and officials in Louisiana have reported finding thick oil washing ashore despite the presence of floating booms.

    It would also be a problem for hidden ecosystems deep under the gulf. There, scientists say, the oil could be absorbed by tiny animals and enter a food chain that builds to large, beloved sport-fish like red snapper. It might also glom on to deep-water coral formations, and cover the small animals that make up each piece of coral.

    “You’re almost like a deer in the headlights when you’re watching this. You don’t know what to say,” Cowan said. He said the oil’s threat to undersea ecosystems “is really starting to scare us.”

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Beyond Prudence.

  6. catman306 says:

    Here’s the next plan: (to capture the gusher instead of spilling it)

  7. ecostew says:

    The BP distraction agenda continues – how sick.

  8. Doug Bostrom says:


    If (as according to BP) it will take 4-7 days to put the top cap in place, why were the remains of the riser and BOP removed so quickly, thereby relieving any remaining back pressure on the well?

    I suppose I ought to ask that question at the Oil Drum site, but folks there were still talking about junk shots and top kills long after the riser had been cut off, obviating any need for further discussion on that account.

    Joe, is there any possibility Chu could give us an honest assessment of what’s going on? Listening to BP is entirely pointless, I think we can all agree, and leaving them to do the talking is taking the administration’s credibility down.

  9. catman306 says:

    Why were the remains of the riser cut so quickly? Maybe because it was the easiest part of the job (and gets the unnecessary scrap metal out of the way where it won’t cause problems) and obviously BP doesn’t care much about the increased volume of the oil flow because it’s not their Gulf.

  10. mike roddy says:

    What a surprise. Mud and golf balls were unable to contain a volcano.

  11. Brewster says:

    It seems quite apparent to me that BP hasn’t got a clue how to stop the oil.

    It looks like they’re just throwing ideas out to give everyone the impression something’s being done, hoping that sooner or later it’ll stop on its own.

  12. dhogaza says:

    If (as according to BP) it will take 4-7 days to put the top cap in place, why were the remains of the riser and BOP removed so quickly, thereby relieving any remaining back pressure on the well?

    obviously BP doesn’t care much about the increased volume of the oil flow because it’s not their Gulf.

    They believe that the flow is being limited by stuff stuck in the well and/or BOP and also the partially closed shear ram in the BOP, based on their pressure measurements while pumping mud through it. As has been pointed out at The Oil Drum, the end of the riser is already open. They probably want to cut off the riser first to make sure they’re able to get a clean cut (remember, it’s kinked and bent over 90 degrees), and also it’s something they can do now while finishing fabrication of the device. Just a guess, there. This leads to another guess that one reason they left it there was the forlorn hope that the kink in the pipe would catch some of the junk from the junk shots, forming a clog there, if they didn’t manage to form a clog in the BOP itself.

    Jeff Huggins, The OIl Drum has some of the specifics you’re looking for, don’t know why the media isn’t putting out diagrams, etc. On holiday? Don’t want to miss that memorial day picnic?

  13. Lamont says:

    @Jeff Huggins:

    “Can we get some basic facts from BP (or the government!) PLEEAAASSSSEEEE!!”

    Why do you want all those silly details?

    The one obvious fact is that drilling this deep isn’t safe and nobody has the technology to plug an oil volcano like this, short of drilling a relief well. I don’t need to the know the dimensions of anything to know that. None of the other facts that you want to gather are useful for making a decision or coming to a conclusion about anything.

    We were all screwed the minute the rig blew up. The only way to have addressed this was before the rig blew up — ideally by not drilling at all and just leaving the carbon in the ground — failing that by focusing on government safety regulations and mandating the drilling of relief wells in advance of any blowout — and screw their profit margin, and if that makes some wells uneconomical to drill, that’s a solution — so don’t drill them.

    The external diameter of the pipe, or the risks and justifications for cutting off the remains of the riser (@catman306, @Doug Bostrom) are just arguments about the irrelevant details of the engineering theater that BP is putting on right now.

    You are like passengers on the Titanic demanding to know from the Captain the dimensions and schematics of the on board pumps after it already hit the iceberg.

  14. mike roddy says:

    You’re right, Brewster.

    Top Hat. Top Kill. Junk Shot. Is this a joke or what? Sounds like a bunch of greed crazed suits coming up with slogans.

    They know they can’t stop it, and it’s for the same reason they lied about the volume escaping. That is a hell of a big oilfield down there, with a lot of pressure forcing upward.

    As bad as it is for us, the BP team is getting goofy, because they not only don’t get to sell it, they’ll have to pay royalties on the oil that escapes. They don’t give a shit about the shrimp and fish. If they did, they wouldn’t have kept chiseling on the safety features and inspections.

  15. sod says:

    sad, so sad.

    but isn t this a sign that it is time to stop all wells that are currently getting oil of similar depths?

  16. Peter Bellin says:

    This should be a sign to change the convesation to how we can reduce the dependence on oil. We should push for vastly improved energy efficiency; some target quota of personal energy consumption; promotion of alternative energy; mandate solar water heating on new construction to supplement high efficiency water heaters; and so on.

    President Obama made some mention of this, but I don’t think the media picked up on that. If we focus on the disaster in hand we lose sight of the real discussion we should be having. The question should not be if this is “Obama’s Katrina” or “how evil is BP” or similar questions.

    This thing will likely drag on for months, the oil spill is terrible, a calamity to the environment. However, we should compare the environmental damage from the oil spill to the environmental damage from climate change. In the long run, the latter will overwhelm the former.

  17. sod says:

    well, while most of us are worried about the gushing oil, oil lobbyists are worried about other stuff:

    The ban, Gerard said, will hurt growth “by undercutting our nation’s access to affordable, reliable, domestic sources of oil and natural gas.”

    perhaps Mr Gerard should be allowed some access to the spilling point, as he seems to know a lot about how reliable the thing is?

    and i am pretty sure that those beaches are getting a little bit too much “affordable” oil these days.

  18. Raul says:

    Uhh, Yep

  19. Jeff Huggins says:

    Told ‘Em So


    On May 9 — three weeks ago — I wrote that, based on a quick calculation that the practicing engineers could do better, BP should use a pipe and that “the diameter necessary might be in the range of 5 inches”. I wrote, “For now, let’s say somewhere between 4 inches and a foot.”

    (Ref. my comment number 39, on May 9, in the thread headlined “Breaking: BP dealt setback …”, May 8.)

    According to the Oil Drum piece today, the riser they’re planning to use is a 6 and 7/8 inch drill pipe.

    I also suggested that they should run a line or lines from the top in order to inject water or other fluid(s) into the oil as it enters the collection chamber, in order to control temperature and/or composition and/or viscosity in order to prevent the formation of that crystalline stuff and optimize viscosity and temperature for the trip up. And that’s what they’re gonna do, it seems.

    (That said, I also suggested that they should provide for injection points at intervals along the route up the pipe, allowing them to inject fluids to manage viscosity and temperature as the oil flows up. I don’t know whether they’re gonna do that. Maybe it’s not necessary or doesn’t make sense for other reasons.)

    This was all three weeks ago.

    It will be interesting to hear, after the fact, who came up with the various sequencing of their various tactics and approaches, and why. What they are going to do now, or in a few days, should have been obvious three weeks ago, or even longer ago. I wrote about it, and others did too. Three weeks ago.



  20. Doomsman says:

    It is far worse than you guys can imagine. Seabed at 5000ft and they need to drill a couple of miles down to INTERSECT the well (and how wide is that) just above the oil bed? No, no, no, this is just a ploy to buy time.

    The reason nobody is saying anything is because it is VERY, VERY BAD. BP is throwing these harebrained ideas to distract us because they have no idea how to plug the hole. The entire reservoir will empty itself into the gulf and then to the Atlantic and more. Millions (or tens of millions) of square miles of ocean will be covered by oil, in the process destroying entire oceanic ecosystems. Light reflected by the oil sheen will lower global temperature (hurray for anti-global warming fans) but will bring about more and wilder swings in climate resulting in massive famine. That is not to mention the bite-size tarballs that will be consumed by the fishes that will eventually end up at our dinner plate.

    We are talking about a GLOBAL catastrophe here and no one is questioning of reporting it? I don’t imagine myself to be particularly clever, but as many of you guys have wondered, why aren’t the simplest questions ever asked by the reporters? 2012 ring a bell?

  21. thefordprefect says:

    A question

    What stops the relief wells blowing? Is it a one off failed BOP or is the pressure just too great?

  22. Wit's End says:

    i am overwhelmed with guilt, and pity for the children. So much lost, after such promise. My youngest graduates this week from Princeton, with an A on her senior thesis. She has been accepted to UC Santa Cruz for a masters in environmental biology with a focus on sea lions.

    What is left for her but to record a dying, acidifying ocean, with a collapsing food chain

    Which leads all the way to us who breath the oxygen that is provide by life in the sea?

  23. jyyh says:

    #20 thedfordprefect (where’s my towel?) at least one graph depicting the relief well showed it curving up at the intersection so the natural gas wouldn’t enter it, or so i gathered, don’t know what’ll actually happen, currently glad to be not employed by the brittish environmental agency.

  24. Chris Dudley says:

    Now that they have that huge pump down there, I wish they’d start pumping hydrogen peroxide into the oil and flaring it while they are fiddling with the other stuff. Since it is denser than water, just pouring it down a tube to the oil could work.

  25. Chris Dudley says:


    Congratulations on your daughter’s excellent achievement.

  26. prokaryote says:

    Dead dolphin covered with oil, sponsored by BP

  27. Doug Bostrom says:

    Point is, dghoza, the presence of the remains of the BOP and riser was a significant impediment to flow. They cut the entire assembly off, eliminating the 90 elbow and any other friction helping to impede flow. They did this days before they had the top cap ready to install.

    “Cut and try” is not a plan.

  28. prokaryote says:

    Rachel Maddow- The more spills change_ the more they stay the same!

  29. hapa says:

    silver lining, seems like this fourth preventable american calamity of the century (after reckless war, katrina, and ponzi banking) is a counterargument to the skunks’ beloved interventionist geoengineering: don’t play games with planetary forces.

  30. BP wants us to believe their oil volcano flow is 3.5 barrels/minute (5000/day), government panel says 8-12 barrels/minute (12000-19000/day), but now 80 barrels/minute of heavy mud are not enough to stop it:
    Maybe the two government panel scientists are right, the 12000-19000 is just the lower limit:

  31. sod says:

    BP didn t know what animals live in the Gulf, and did copy paste the section in their report:

    why not make some arrests?

  32. Jackie says:

    I can’t believe BP thinks us such fool that we will believe their lies over and over again. their oil volcano flow is 3.5 barrels/minute (5000/day), government panel says 8-12 barrels/minute (12000-19000/day), but now 80 barrels/minute of heavy mud are not enough to stop it and they didn t know what animals live in the Gulf. How funny!

  33. Raul says:

    If the American people don’t believe that things are going
    well, doesn’t that make foe a large group of influentialists
    that are in danger of being marginalized.

  34. Raul says:

    Possibly, over time, when the large group of influencalists grow past the oncoming depression they will see that there is still life after
    Do we now though have to change what the children are thought
    about the natural forces of the GOM.

  35. Chris Dudley says:

    Another use for that huge pump might be to stop the flow with it using water while they get the next thing ready. The mud did push back the oil into the well, it just didn’t hold once the pump pressure was off. You could do the same with water and just leave the pump on. Not too hard to find water where they are working.

  36. Julien says:

    Slightly OT but I think this is very enlightening to see that spills of this magnitude and much larger are common routine for oil companies in the Niger delta.
    Obviously recklessness and absolutely no feeling for what environment means to life are requirements to be in the oil business. Sick world. What is the real price of oil?

  37. Robbert says:

    NMISFI > ‘ne-mis-fe’ > Not My Idea, So Forget It: This ‘tell-it-all’ acronym defines BP’s openness to new ideas that come from ‘out of the box’! This endemic disease called ‘NMISFI’ is rampant among the ‘Heads in the Clouds’ [ie. cloudy thinkers] of corporate [Oil Soaked] America! CNN has interviewed a number of these ‘promoters’ and demonstrated their workable [proven] ideas that relate to oil spell control systems. All these ideas need to be openly tested [on spell-sites] but are actually openly rejected by BP [Big Polluter]. Duhhhh!
    The one outstanding idea that just kicks me is the use of Sphagnum Moss to capture oil on water. In truth, my words can’t do justice to this ‘non-patentable’ idea [method] in its affordability and simplicity to ‘instantly’ absorb the oil and still remain floating on water for recovery. In another method, fine beach sand is used to capture heavy oil by making it sink as fine oil droplets. These nontoxic, chemical free methods could be developed for oil spell control systems. But instead, BP’s favored method is to let the marshes capture and sequester the oil sludge!
    Real Smart! [Please excuse my personal biased remarks cause i just like it the way it was!]

    Three cheers go to James Carville and Billy Nungesser for their take charge screams from their oily pulpits to get action. The thought that BP is in charge must die QUICKLY. They just pay the cleanup bills. When your house is on fire the arson isn’t suppose to be in charge of the fireman. This is an ‘All Hands On Deck’ EMERGENCY! What don’t we get? I just can’t believe the nonsense! Disband FEMA! And in closing i’ll ask one question, “Just what does the words COAST Guard actually mean?”

  38. Wit's End says:

    Chris Dudley, #24, thanks! Cooking like mad for large gathering tonight. ..but thinking about about the Gulf and all that is being wasted. OF COURSE the “Top Kill” failed. Those clowns have no idea what they are doing!

  39. homunq says:

    Can’t someone stop them from using dispersants for even one day? They increase the toxicity and damage; they are only serving BP’s interest in hiding the problem.

  40. Leif says:

    BP’s logo of a sun fading to green needs an up grade. A big spot of oil over all. A small “water balloon” with crankcase oil would do nicely. Not that I am recommending civil disobedience, It does pale in comparison to suggestions from Beck and crowd that I have heard over the years.

  41. mike roddy says:

    Doomsman, #19:

    On this blog, you can’t just throw out a statement about a huge oil slick increasing albedo, thus producing cooling. You will need to provide evidence.

    It’s far more likely that massive underwater mortality from this spill will both release CO2 and reduce ocean sequestration capabilities. Even if there is an albedo effect, this consequence will be much worse, since ocean plant life breathes in massive amounts of CO2 every year, and decaying fish from shattered food chains release much more CO2. I hope somebody from NOAA makes a comment here on this.

  42. mike roddy says:

    Chris and Jeff,

    I hope you can communicate your ideas to the right people. Clearly, the BP engineers are incompetent, since the problem requires a lot more brains and imagination than they possess- not to mention technical ability. Obama needs to start looking for engineers like you who do not work for the oil companies, and putting together a team to make detailed evaluations of every idea put forward by qualified people such as yourselves.

    You are both experienced and smart. If your ideas haven’t been addressed, there is something wrong.

  43. Leland Palmer says:

    The junk shot and top kill didn’t work.

    Why didn’t the junk shot work?

    It should have worked, IMO, unless there is something going on that they don’t understand. Perhaps the BOP is actually broken or clogged with concrete.

    Yes, we ought to just stop deep water drilling, and move to electric cars run by carbon negative or carbon neutral production of electricity from biomass, and by carbon neutral production of electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar.

    Any corporations that get in the way should be hit with massive civil suits for more damages from global warming than they can ever pay and simply taken over by the government and forcibly transformed. The civil suits would also allow going after the past profits from enterprises that have benefited from destabilizing the climate, and recovering past profits from private investors, perhaps.

    Deep sea drilling for more oil at this point is just crazy. If gasoline prices rise, so be it – this will just promote efficiency and hasten the transition to renewable energy sources.

  44. Leif says:

    Mike, my understanding is that they have now cut the BOP contraption off which negates pumping water in as a replacement, (good thought Chris), because that was the source of their fittings.

    It would be nice to know the pressure difference between the blowout pressure and the sea bottom pressure. As I think about I cannot believe it is as high as I have been led to believe. If it was the volume of oil escaping would be orders of magnitude higher than estimated. If we are talking a few hundred psi difference then the HEAVY “needle valve” concept that Doug and I were talking about last night, on a related post, might have some merit. Given a clean pipe edge and unobstructed interior.

    Why are facts so hard to get?

  45. Leif says:

    Leland, why the junk shot did not work IMO is because we have a couple of mile long column of fluid moving at some miles per hour. (I wish we knew the flow rate, pressure difference, anything!) Bringing that column of fluid to a “sudden stop” is hopeless as the battering ram effect will bump and difference in pressure to astronomical numbers. As I mentioned last night to Doug. Gulf balls would turn to confetti in a heart beat. To control the beast one needs to slow the inertia very slow…

  46. mike roddy says:

    I agree, Leif. Technical information about the gusher should be available on the Web. We cannot trust BP’s motivations or their engineers’ competence.

  47. Chris Dudley says:

    Mike (#39),

    I did call the Unified Command this morning before church on the idea of switching water in for the mud. They agreed to pass it on to the engineers without having to fill in one of their ridiculous pdf forms that can’t even save as a pdf.

    I sent in written proposals some time back on burning the oil as it comes out of the ground though using a liquid oxidizer is new. I expect that if they decide to burn the oil underwater at the BP end it will still take quite a bit of EPA consideration. Switching up with water in the pump rather than mud could probably be done without much extra approval so I called that one in. Still need to firm up and write up the airbag idea. I was already worrying about Leif’s battering ram issue. Need a slide maybe.

  48. Ron Gremban says:

    “Suttles and other officials said that the ‘top kill’ attempt to stop the flow did so — but only as long as they were pumping.” It sounds like its too late now (pieces already cut off the BOP), but if they believe the relief well will eventually work, why couldn’t they have just kept pumping in mud until then, instead of allowing the gusher to resume while trying another unlikely and at-best-partial fix? “Too expensive” to keep making and/or bringing more mud fast enough? Then try water, as suggested above. Or was it the fear that something would eventually fail from the pressure? Even if it did, the flow would have been stopped until then, and in the interim there would have actually been non-disaster-worsening time to cook up and prepare a better next option.

  49. J Bowers says:

    Booming School 101:

    Made my jaw drop, especially when a booming expert wades in with some home truths and straightforward facts on what is NOT being done to stop the oil and why.

  50. Leif says:

    Chris Dudley, #44 says: “Need as slide maybe.”

    That is the function of a “needle valve.” With a long led in spike on the point, turbulence from the eruption would be minimized assisting initial incursion and from there on gravity works every day all day. If we knew the flow rate even I could figure out the weight of “needle” required. The “needle” would also serve as an automatic “pop off valve” if it was required to prevent over pressure which seems unlikely. Hell, perhaps a fitting could be factored in that would allow a sucker hose to be attached!

  51. prokaryote says:

    Greenpeace, crews try to clean up oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill along the Mississippi Delta, just east of the mouth of the Mississippi River, Sunday.

  52. Doug Bostrom says:

    Interviewed on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Ms. Browner acknowledged that the new strategy, called a containment cap, came with signficiant risks. It could actually increase the flow of oil by as much as 20 percent because a key pipe — a riser — needed to be cut to allow for the cap to have a spot over which it could fit cleanly.

    “What our experts are saying is that when you cut the riser, the kink may be holding some of the oil in, and so we could see an increase,” she said. And even it the cap works, it might not fit snugly enough to capture all the leaking oil. “The worst is that we have oil leaking until August, until these relief wells are dug,” she said, “And we will be prepared for the worst.”

    Why oh why was the riser cut yesterday when the top cap was not ready? What about a more reasonable schedule? Why in the world were we being told that the riser “was going to be cut”, yesterday, when it was already chopped off?

    A plain, honest real-time flow of information would be so helpful here. There’s nothing to hide, nothing that -can- be hidden. There’s probably a rationale to the seemingly premature removal of the riser, why not tell us what it is??

    Aside from being a technological failure of the first order, this is going to be recorded in history also as an abject public communications failure.

  53. Leif says:

    Doug: The advantage of a needle stopper is that it is quick to insert and if the cut pipe is not quite round a bump or two can do wonders.

    Oh for some facts! I suspect that the lack of information is to protect BP from litigation down the pike. They are toast anyway so they might as well be fourth coming.

  54. Doug Bostrom says:

    Leif, I wish somebody were listening. From my (probably Dunning-Kruger affected) perspective your idea sounds quite attractive.

    Meanwhile, the press continue their role of Eloi as against the BP Morlock:

    “As anger and despair grew in the coastal communities of Louisiana, BP began preparations to cut a leaking drill pipe on the ocean floor and attach a containment cap intended to capture at least some of the 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of crude spewing from its Macondo well every day.”

    That would be the riser that was cut at least as early as 10:00AM PST, yesterday.

    What, do you have to wear a blindfold to work in the press these days? Too stubbornly stupid; they blindly listen to BP’s pressers– conducted by people amply documented as liars– without actually bothering to click the link to BP’s own camera view of the bottom.

    Useless, really.

  55. Leif says:

    Doug, #50: One nice thing about Climate Progress is the quality of commentators on a regular bases. If an idea has merit chances are that it will work thru the pipeline. It is frustrating however not having real time data. I still do not know if the drill core is an obstruction. In fact thinking about it, there should be a web address to get real time information, court ordered. Things like flow rate, pressures in and out, temperature, engineer working drawings. The facts. Them perhaps our efforts could be focused at the real problem… Not shooting down straw men.

  56. prokaryote says:

    BP’s OTHER Spill this Week

    With the Gulf Coast dying of oil poisoning, there’s no space in the press for British Petroleum’s latest spill, just this week: over 100,000 gallons, at its Alaska pipeline operation. A hundred thousand used to be a lot. Still is.

    On Tuesday, Pump Station 9, at Delta Junction on the 800-mile pipeline, busted. Thousands of barrels began spewing an explosive cocktail of hydrocarbons after “procedures weren’t properly implemented” by BP operators, say state inspectors. “Procedures weren’t properly implemented” is, it seems, BP’s company motto.

  57. Chris Dudley says:

    Leif (#49),

    I think the blow out preventer (BOP) is partially deployed. If I understand your needle idea, that you want to put a pointy plug in the top, I think the point would be obstructed by the partial obstruction in the BOP. However, if there is a straight path down the well in some position, one might drop long lengths of dense material (rebar for example) through that straight path even if off center and you are correct that they would sink even against the rising oil. Drop enough in and the flow might be substantially restricted and the mud might be tried again. However, if there is a kink, and not a straight path, one would have to find material that is flexible enough to navigate the kink but stiff enough that the whole weight of the pole in conveyed to the leading point. Springy metal tape perhaps such as sometimes wraps shipping pallets or is used for measuring tapes might do. That would be tricky to insert I think. Once if got going though it might make a continuous feed off a roll from gravity, crumpling once it reached the bottom of the well.

    There are also the valves where the mud was pumped in I think below the BOP obstruction. I was thinking that the air bag might be navigated through those. In that case, I was thinking of a plumber’s snake as the sort of thing that would force the object down past the oil. However, a falling metal tape might just pull it in….

  58. Leif says:

    Damn fine idea with the “rebar” there Chris that would work even with a drill shaft in the line. Could run a feed line from the surface to ficilate thousands and thousans of heavy needles. It ain’t going to stop it but sure as hell slow it down.

    Another thought. How about heavy ball barrings. Depleated urainum comes to mind, gold is another.

  59. Leif says:

    Well Chris we know the flow rate will allow steel with air pockets to sink otherwise the drill core would have blown out when the top came off. No drill core on the ground so we are good to go. Shafts first and as the flow slows down ball bearings what ever will fall against the flow. Death from a million cuts.

  60. Leif says:

    We got miles to work with and not high tech. Might just work. Even with a crumpled drill bit in there.

  61. catman306 says:

    Surface oil gushers from blowouts can reach 200 feet high at a fresh oil field. The gas and oil pressure that can cause a 200 ft geyser in the air is probably close to the pressure of this undersea oil volcano. The water pressure at 5000 ft is close to 150 atmospheres. (5000/35=143) The pressure that can create a 200 foot geyser is counterbalanced by 143 atmospheres.

    IMO Whatever the pressure that will squirt oil 200 feet in the air is pretty close to the Gulf spill pressure on 21 April.
    If they hadn’t sunk the oil rig, oil would still be gushing many feet in the air at the surface.

    (from wikipedia)
    “Notable gushers
    The Lucas Gusher at Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas in 1901 flowed at 100,000 barrels (16 000 m³) per day at its peak, but soon slowed and was capped within nine days. The well tripled U.S. oil production overnight and marked the start of the Texas oil industry.[6] Masjed Soleiman, Iran in 1908 marked the first major oil strike recorded in the Middle East.[7] The Lakeview Gusher on the Midway-Sunset Oil Field in Kern County, California of 1910 is believed to be the largest-ever U.S. gusher.

    At its peak, more than 100,000 barrels (16 000 m³) of oil per day flowed out, reaching as high as 200 feet (60 m) in the air. It remained uncapped for 18 months, spilling over nine million barrels (378 million gallons/1.4 million m³) of oil, less than half of which was recovered.[2] A short-lived gusher at Alamitos #1 in Signal Hill, California in 1921 marked the discovery of the Long Beach Oil Field, one of the most productive oil fields in the world.[8] The Barroso 2 well in Cabimas, Venezuela in December 1922 flowed at around 100,000 barrels (16 000 m³) per day for nine days, plus a large amount of natural gas.[9]”

  62. Leif says:

    Yes but… catman360. That is on the surface how about a mile under water. Without the drill core blowing out the flow rate has to be below what solid round bar will fall thru. After a thousand feet of that I am sure cannon balls of stuff would make it thru. Lead cannon balls if the depleted uranium is not your thing. A thousand feet of decreasing size lead balls followed by a few hundred feet of tamping with re-bar and we still have a mile and a half to go. I can sure visualize nothing more than a oze at most close to the top and then controllable with a cement cap like all the rest.

  63. Scott says:

    Doug, 48. — pretty sure I saw the riser intact late last night. I haven’t seen that view today but have not been watching. The seafloor plume is the same as it has been also indicating the riser kink is still in place.

  64. Doug Bostrom says:

    Scott says: May 31, 2010 at 3:19 am

    …pretty sure I saw the riser intact late last night.

    Begging the question, what part of the well emerges at the bottom of a crater extending several feet below the seafloor with its terminus at the bottom of that crater, is perpendicular to the seafloor, is not connected to anything, and has an enormous plume of oil emerging from it?

  65. Doug Bostrom says:

    Climbdown: My raving about the riser being removed was clearly wrong; I see a saw apparently being applied even now…

    My Emily Litella moment. :-) “Never mind!”

  66. As these comments are written, all Americans are getting their SUV’s gassed up for vacation time. Every automobile ad on television is some variant of “Zoom Zoom” or they describe or imply 0-60 mph times that are useful on the racecourse but nowhere else. Some of these ads are from GM and Ford, companies that Obama should be able to influence!

    Obama has an opportunity to steer our country in the right direction with respect to global warming and clean energy and energy conservation. He has done a lot already through the EPA. However, his gasoline mileage requirements are too tame and his message on the BP leak does not go far enough. It is past time to talk tough. The public wants superman to fix the leak? Give them FDR and JFK and make us pay taxes, jack-up carbon prices, conserve energy, and get serious about our destruction of our planet.