Patterico's Pontifications


Top Kill Failed? (Updated: Apparently So)

Filed under: Environment — DRJ @ 11:51 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

BP hasn’t made an official announcement but the New York Times reports a technician confirms BP has stopped pumping mud and is trying to plug the hole with junk:

“BP engineers failed again to plug the gushing oil well on Saturday, a technician working on the project said, representing yet another setback in a series of unsuccessful procedures the company has tried a mile under the sea to stem the flow spreading into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP made a third attempt at what is termed the “junk shot” Friday night, a procedure that involves pumping odds and ends like plastic cubes, knotted rope, and golf balls into the blowout preventer, the five-story safety device atop the well. The maneuver is complementary to the heavily scrutinized effort known as a “top kill,”which began four days ago and involves pumping heavy mud into the well to counteract the push of the escaping oil. If the well is sealed, the company plans to then fill it with cement.

The technician working on the project said Saturday pumping has again been halted and a review of the data so far is under way. “Right now, I would not be optimistic,” the technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the effort. But he added, that if another attempt at the junk shot were to succeed, “that would turn things around.”

It looks like a lot of oil gushing out on the live feed. My guess is BP is pinning its hopes on the relief well.


UPDATE: The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports BP will announce today that the top kill measure failed:

“A source told The Times-Picayune that officials would announce the failure of the top kill option at a 4 p.m. Saturday briefing in Robert .

BP is expected to announce that it will move on to its next option, known as LMRP. The procedure involves cutting off the failed, leaking riser at the top of the Lower Marine Riser Package on the blowout preventer to get a clean-cut surface on the pipe.

Then the company will install a cap with a sealing grommet that would be connected to a new riser from the Discoverer Enterprise drillship, with the hopes of capturing most of the oil and gas flowing from the well.”

28 Responses to “Top Kill Failed? (Updated: Apparently So)”

  1. someone call the White House: we need another speech!

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  2. better yet, get some of the First Klingon’s warerobe: anything big enough to fit her is bound to clog up the holes.

    besides, nost of her stuff is so ugly it’ll scare the oil back into the ground. 😀

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  3. well maybe now they’ll let the poor little r.o.v. come up for a little air

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  4. Likely The Messiah (PBUH) is out golfing, but no doubt he will give this latest news some serious attention just as soon as he’s back in the clubhouse.

    Old Coot (f722a6)

  5. DRJ I still think there’s a big misimpression of what the relief well is to do


    it says there are 3 steps

    • Relief well intersects leaking
    well bore above oil reservoir

    • Heavy fluid pumped into well to stop the
    flow of oil from reservoir

    • Cement pumped down to permanently seal the well

    hey isn’t it funny that that one spokesman guy’s last name is Wells in that video we saw the other day?

    but anyway BP’s page about relief wells suggest that it could salvage the well

    so I don’t know what to think

    nobody tells me anything

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  6. happyfeet,

    After the drilling portion is completed, they seal the hole with a cement plug so they can bring in the producing platform and get it ready to produce. The cement plug is drilled out when they are ready to complete the well and start production.

    They plan to seal the blown-out hole but they will produce from the relief wellsite.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  7. but it’s the same hole I thought

    I’m really confuzzled

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  8. the next step might could be for BP to play with different lenses for its live feed camera to where maybe it won’t look so bad

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  9. Here’s a graphic of the existing and relief wells. This link suggests they will seal the existing and relief wells, so if that’s true they will drill other wells to produce the reservoir.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  10. we’ll just have to trust they know what’s best I guess

    my researchings reveal that a huge part of the problem is that the oils are lighter than the waters. The little president man should immediately form a committee to fick that. I don’t know why he’s dawdling.

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  11. I updated the post with a New Orleans report that BP will announce shortly that the top kill measure failed.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  12. if they need more than 12 hours to move from topkillings to putting this new b into motion I will be very disappointed in them

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  13. oh. that should have been *plan* b but there was no plan

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  14. At least comments are working today.

    I will predict the oil leak will stop the day after the election, just like the Iranians releasing the hostages the day after Reagan’s inauguration. No, I don’t suspect a plot. It just seems appropriate.

    Mike K (67e8ce)

  15. Is this going to plugged anytime soon? Is there any hope of getting it under control?

    JEA (e12133)

  16. Hmmmm.

    I’ll admit I’m a layman in every way on this but wouldn’t / shouldn’t the very first step be to station supertankers nearby with hoses to suck up the oil/water mixture into their tanks to prevent as much damage as possible?

    A supertanker can easily hold 250,000+ barrels and has the high capacity pumps to move an enormous volume of fluid whether it’s water or oil or some combination of the two. And once the oil/water is in the holding tanks you can use whatever process you like to destroy the oil or to separate out the oil from the water. Or transport it to a facility that can do that treatment or separation.

    Even if you needed another supertanker per week it would cost less than the damage BP is already going to have to pay for.

    Frankly I think the overall issue is one of direction. It seems pretty clear that BP has tried all along to preserve their investment in this site in the hopes of renewed exploitation rather than in sealing the spill ASAP regardless of whether or not it makes it impossible to exploit in the future.

    And that is where the leadership of a President should come in.

    memomachine (24fbc0)

  17. Frankly I think the overall issue is one of direction. It seems pretty clear that BP has tried all along to preserve their investment in this site in the hopes of renewed exploitation rather than in sealing the spill ASAP regardless of whether or not it makes it impossible to exploit in the future.
    And that is where the leadership of a President should come in.

    Comment by memomachine

    That sounds right to me.

    Since they have monkeyed around for more than a month and haven’t done much of a job on sealing it (and maintaining the accomplished work) or containing the spill to bide time, now it is time to “Plug the hole” as the one has said (for once I agree).

    Surround the leaking hole with 3 or more explosive charges buried under the sea floor at “the appropriate depth” and “far enough away” that when the charges go off they collapse the well from the outside. (Maybe stick a solid something in the whole to mark the site first.) The well may not be able to produce, but tough for BP if they haven’t figured out another way by now.

    Essentially drawing a “purse string” around the hole to seal it.

    Now I need someone in intellectual property law to represent my interests.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  18. Would that work? Wouldn’t it just open the hole more? What about the pressure @ 5K ft?

    JEA (e12133)

  19. 18.Would that work? Wouldn’t it just open the hole more? What about the pressure @ 5K ft?
    Comment by JEA

    Picture it this way. On the ocean floor, 5,000 feet under water, there is a hole (about a foot or so in diameter?) with crude oil flowing from it. That hole goes another few thousand feet I think through mud and rock before it hits the pocket of oil.

    You plant charges (at least 3) equally spaced from each other, some number of feet from the hole (say 15 feet), at some distance under the ocean floor (say 10 feet).

    When the charges go off (at the same time) they will force mud and rock laterally (as well as up), and that 1 foot hole will be crushed from the outside. So now we have say 10 feet wide of mud and rock pushed in from at least 3 sides from about 12 feet and up under the ocean floor. This should do what the final “stop gap” safety device should have done, crimped the pipe from the side and sealed it.

    Another option is to get a medical supply company to build a very long and very wide angioplasty ballon and get a skilled cardiologist to thread it in and occlude it.

    Of course, the mathematician’s way of solving this problem is to build a giant Klein Bottle and place it over the leaking well. Since the outside and the inside of the Klein bottle are the same, it should not be too much of a problem to collect all of the oil that is outside of the bottle and transfer it to the inside of the bottle. You can then bring it up to empty and rotate using several, or have a collecting tube draining the inside of the Klein bottle so it can be pumped up and into a super tanker for storage, waiting for Kevin Kostner’s oil/water seperating device to take care of the backlogged sludge.

    Of course, keeping in mind the readership of this blog, we could have an “Every Attorney File a Motion Day” and use the tremendous cube of paperwork to plug the thing up.

    (The last three suggestions had tongue firmly planted in cheek).

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  20. The photo – op took less than 4 hours, so our leader could be back in Chicago to play a basketball game. But unlike Bush, he really cares.

    Dmac (3d61d9)

  21. The equipment, known as a “lower-marine riser package,” will take at least four days to install, he said, and could capture “a great majority” of the oil spewing from the well. *

    So that means a week in BP time…

    these losers are just dicking around until their relief well is done I think. Not gonna work. Obama’s gonna step in and fix it by Tuesday I bet.

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  22. happyfeet, and just how is Obama going to “fix” it?

    SPQR (26be8b)

  23. The gold standard for runaway oil wells is to drill a relief well into the out of control well bore, flood the offending well bore with heavy mud and cement. That fix has been used for 40 or more years.

    TWO relief wells were started earlier this month. Unfortunately, drilling in 5000 feet of water and at a tangent to intersect an 18,000 foot well bore at the right place takes some time. The pressures in the formation are very high, and lots of care has to be taken during the drilling process. Three months to bring in the relief wells is the present estimate–one was started on May 3, and the other a week or so later.

    Top kill was what they could do the fastest. Hasn’t worked–it hadn’t even been tried in deep water before, much less at the pressures they are working with. The back-up plan is for a capping connection to mitigate most of the flow after cutting off the twisted riser and hooking up to a clean pipe with something like a giant compression fitting. The hardware for that is already on the ocean floor. If they can capture most of the oil and gas after cutting the twisted riser loose, then most of the pollution may be stopped while the relief wells are completed. Keep in mind that all this is done via remote control “robots” a mile deep in the ocean.

    To characterize the engineers and scientists that have been working on identifying the problems, and coming up with solutions that don’t make the problem even worse in the midst of catastrophic conditions as “just dicking around” is ill informed and less than responsible. It would not be unfair to compare the engineering and operational challenges of deep water/high pressure oil exploration and production with those associated with getting to the moon and back. Wells like the one that blew out have been safely drilled and produced because the operators KNOW what they are doing. Unforseen stuff happens. It will be very interesting to see what the final reports say about why redundant well safety protocols and equipment failed in a cascade fashion. The drill ship that sank was among the very best, along with its very experience crew, some of the core of which lost their lives in the explosion.

    That said, the only gummint folks that had a clue about what to do now have just been discredited by the administration in a vain attempt to deflect responsibility from a bunch of leaders that have never operated a single enterprise of their own, EVER.

    Gabby (7f03bd)

  24. duh SPQR Obama has mad skillz is how

    you’ll see

    He’s in charge now and he took responsibility and boy I wouldn’t wanna be that oil spill when Barack Obama gets back from vacation.

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  25. we’ll see Gabby but I strongly suspect that they’re mostly just dicking around until their relief wells are done… BP said they could handle a situation like this. BP lied and then they tried to blame Transocean when it was their own stupid loser blow uppy well design that killed those people.

    BP is even less inclined to take responsibility for this than the little president man has been my feel.

    BP needs to come right out and say this was our fault and we’ll fick it. Otherwise it seems to me these incompetent Brit cowards are disrespecting America and they’re disrespecting their industry.

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  26. I think it’s very… I look askance at cowardly incompetent Brits blaming our stalwart Transocean Americans for their own malfeasance and unpreparedness when it was BP what made a lethal botch of a process what everyone else in their industry – day in and day out – handles competently and with professionalism and seriousness.

    BP is stupidheads and they should say hey you know what? We screwed up but we resolve to do better.

    Man up, BP is what I think.

    happyfeet (c8caab)

  27. The Oil Drum

    Play as you wish.

    RRR (0b9ca4)

  28. this is a neat proposed solution from the comments at the RRR person’s site

    happyfeet (c8caab)

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