Even More Ado About Oil

Spillcam continues the SAW horror show. Below you can see remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) sawing away at the pipe in the start of the next attempt to stop the leak, known as a LMRP, or Lower Marine Riser Package.



Imagine trying to operate a circular saw. Imagine trying to operate a circular saw in 40° water. Imagine trying to operate a circular saw underwater with 160 times greater water pressure than the surface. Imagine trying to operate a circular saw underwater in the dark except for a flashlight. Imagine trying to operate a circular saw with mechanical arms. Imagine trying to operate a circular saw with mechanical arms a mile under the sea with a flashlight and 1 billion viewers watching your every move.

Imagine trying to operate a mechanical arm at 2300 PSI with a flashlight over a 5 story Rube Goldberg structure and you drop your saw...

The government and now BP are admitting the oil leak might not be stopped until August. At that time the relief wells are scheduled to be completed. We've mentioned previously that the relief wells are the most promising solution. Meanwhile NOAA is predicting one of the most active hurricane seasons on record. They expect 8-14 hurricanes with 3-7 being category 3 or higher with a total of up to 23 named storms this summer.

Yobie Benjamin wrote a technical article of the procedure, this time with heavy emphasis on being a mile under the sea, where no human would withstand the water pressure.

There are a lot of calls to nuke the well. Once again folks, this is just not the same situation and one must grasp that dealing with water pressure is not the same thing as operating on land with different pressures.

The new cap will be pumping methanol, in an attempt to stop the crystallization of gas, or methyl hydrates, which formed, clogged and floated the previous attempt. Crystallized methyl hydrates are glorified frozen gas. Yet another example of what happens to organic materials a mile under the cold ocean, gas crystallizes and blocks the flow.

The closest thing to this disaster is the Ixtoc I oil spill, which happened in the gulf of Mexico in 1979. That was the 2nd world oil disaster in history but realize this. It was only 160 feet underwater. The drill depth was 11,800 feet and the spill was 140 million gallons. It took 10 months to cap that well and was solved with relief wells.

Realize what is going on with this slow dribble of facts and bad news. The government and BP are slowly preparing the public for the worse. BP and our government are not jerking the band-aid off but doing a slow peel away as if somehow the pain is less. The oil spill will flow unabated for months. That's not on purpose (beyond the idiocy that created this mess in the first place). That's just the fact there is no good solution when you have a massive oil gusher a mile under the sea.

This isn't to negate the current attempts, pray they work, or to cease demanding more engineers than lawyers, managers and politicians be architecting further solutions.

With the top estimates of the spill rate, the Deepwater Horizon disaster will assuredly be larger than the 1979 Ixtoc I Gulf of Mexico disaster. The drill depth for this disaster is 18,000 feet and the underwater depth is 5000 feet. The two relief wells are at 12,100 feet and 8,600 feet respectively, but realize after the drilling there is much more work required.

Think underwater engineering. Around the Internets I see over and over people not realizing a mile under the sea is an entirely different world. Think of doing open heart surgery on the moon or while a 10,000 lb. rock is on your head and you might get an idea.

Consider this post the oil open thread.

Update: To watch all of the spillcams complete with crappy Microsoft Media plug in, go to this link.



BP shares drop

Graph looks like a cliff when the NYSE opened this morning. Right now it's bouncing along the bottom. Things change, which is why this isn't an Instaopulist.

Google BP chart here.

Criminal probe into oil spill

There is now a criminal probe but there is some scary news about some engineer changing the design, on the fly. That is scary stuff, it takes months to model and test a design and the various interactions so if that's true, I believe a geek is going down frankly. You cannot change a design on the fly like that, but I don't know the details and if they did any further regression testing, but on surface, that sounds really bad.

n the other hand, executives love to blame the geeks, so don't be so quick to judge until we find out proof.

Also, call me nuts, while we have experts all over gravely concerned on how this attempt is going to increase the spill rate, which I suspect it will, really depends on how the pipes were working to hold back the spill rate but from the velocity, was it really that much?....

Anywho, I've just got a gut feeling this one is going to work. I don't know why I think that and I might eat my words but of all of the attempts this one has made the most sense to me. It's not ideal, I'm not so sure about the temperature issue plus the overall underwater weight/buoyancy and esp. the precision required at that depth, additional the force required to even seal any hose/pipe with a gushing well, but it sure makes more sense than throwing golf balls at a gushing stream running at a velocity of an airliner jet or just plopping down some little cap with a hose at the top.

I'm watching the mechanical arms and it appears they have more control that I originally believed they would, but it's weird, it seems the space station has better technology and those guys buy parts on ebay for outdated technology!

(that is just a comment, I don't know the details but it does seem overall the technology isn't as advanced in what I'm seeing that what is available in space. On land of course is a no brainer because that is where most technology is used).

in case you missed our "live TV" of the oil spill

BP cut the riser, has been working on it all day. Although I'm not sure if they are running this live at all times. If you want to geek out though it's kind of amazing they can do this 1 mile deep. Now can they place a cap on it is the real question but I didn't think they could control a saw as well as they have.

7 different versions of cap built

It looks like they are pulling out some engineers in this latest attempt. They have 7 different versions of the cap to try, which is wise, for there is no doubt the fitting, the pressure and "robot arms" and unpredictable flows, I don't think they have even taken a physical measurement....but frankly this is the first time I felt this is moving more towards engineering and taking in the variables into account. Previously I felt it was solutions being put together without thinking things through at all. Esp. that top kill.

oil drum video comment

I don't know if any more EPers are paying attention to what is going on and the technical details but it seems The Oil Drum has a professor posting and they are trying to watch it real time, although they made some errors already.

Right now you can see a wire saw going through the main pipe, which of course is gushing oil.

saw is stuck in the pipe

I don't know how long this has been but last night I thought it was stuck. This is really bad because a diamond saw is one of the strongest things in the world.

broken disk 1000 feet below sea floor

This is even more bad news. The reason top kill failed, or is reported anyway, is a ruptured disk in the pipe, uh, 1000 feet into the sea bed, i.e. below the sea floor in the pipe.

That's some seriously messed up stuff to have the pipe below the sea floor busted.

Forget the BP evilness, absurd criminal charges while expecting the ones being indicted are supposed to fix this ASAP instead of running for cover to avoid jail, and the rest, it seems continually the technical issues just keep piling up. Not good.

BP leak could last for years????

And Prof. Kaku is known as an "optomist."

Kaku is right unfortunately

It's questionable if the relief wells in the Ixtoc I actually worked or if the well just ran dry. I have a tendency to belief they worked but do not know the details of that particular oil field Ixtoc was in, I think it was an exploratory well.

I overviewed a tad on Ixtoc I in this post, but everyone believing it's "all over" once they hit 18,000 feet with a relief well is probably seriously wishful thinking..

which is why they need to keep the engineers on maximum and keep analyzing, working on solutions, even if this "buzz cut" works.

BTW: the saw is unstuck! Which is very good news. I guess they don't have a second top side. These things cost $100k a pop and to have to fly in plus ship out yet another one is more delay and obviously getting one permanently stuck where they are trying to do a clean cut is more bad news.

There are more "solutions" out there, one which was sinking a barge, but frankly that looks like more junk complicating analysis and due to the velocity of the gusher, I wonder if it would actually sink fully and be enough to counteract the force, plus buoyancy in the water.

So, I think one major point is to only quote strong experts who know about underwater engineering and oil engineering on top of it...

everybody and their brother thinks they can solve this out there. Some solutions are easily dismissed with simply thinking about it for 5 minutes, others, it's more difficult to analyze...

but I find MSNBC and CNN putting on some of these "solutions" on air that clearly will not work just adding more noise into the system.

So, hopefully this site, if we're talking about these technical details, we can screen them out.

I mean even the experts are adjusting, typical in engineering as they learn more, find out more facts and so on....

but hopefully we're not adding to the noise in the signal to noise ratio on the spill.

"Criminal charges"

I find this discussion bullshit. They should not be advertising criminal charges all the while demanding BP fund clean up plus fix the leak.

Seriously, it's political and I'm wondering why BP should even bother given that level of pressure. I'm not saying they are not criminal, of course they are....but expecting them to solve this beyond belief engineering challenge plus fund and hire workers and so on....while the news is breathing down their necks to put them in jail...

well, what kind of motivator is that? i.e. criminal charges means individuals, i.e. employees.....so if you're looking over your shoulder, running around trying to grab an attorney to not be the fall guy....that's not going to help someone focus in on engineering analysis and obtaining information that is accurate and fully disclosed.

I'm not impressed, they should seize BP if they are going to do criminal charges now.

Good Piece On IXTOC

Its difficult to find good info on it most of it seems like a rerun but this is from 1981. I'm sure there is more detailed info out there but this gives some detail.


it's the closest

so is Kuwait or the Gulf War, but in most things there is a limited amount of oil, say what is in the tanker, and so on. I've found very little info on underwater wells or wells in general and of course zero a mile under the sea. You would think we could find an Academic study at minimum on this scenario, which is scary and to me implies maybe someone didn't bother to do a study.

Not good.

bad news, abandoning clean cut across pipe

This isn't good, they are abandoning the clean cut across the pipe due to the destruction and stuckness of the diamond saw. That means they cannot get a tight fit and seal due to the rough cut, unless of course there is a better saw but I don't think that's the case.

added update with many new video feeds

Added links to even more spill cams in the update. These are around the gulf, a few on the ROVs, one permanently on the leak itself. I periodically check into spillcam to see what's going on. This has become addictive, with a "oh man, what a bitch" being uttered by me as I watch these manuevers.

It's about 2:50am PST and it's very difficult to be sure what's going on via the videos. The press half the time cannot get the difference between a top hat and a cap in their reports, so well, it looks like you need to watch the video itself for a blow by blow.

Right now it's cap #4, enterprise camera and it looks like they've got a few things hooked up midstream, but not over the main leak yet from what I can tell, like preprocessing for that. Looks like they had trouble with a locking pin and it's just unreal to watch a mechanical arm try to fit a dinky pin in a hole.

The thing that's disheartening is when one looks at the camera with the leak, there is still pipe hanging off of it and it looks like a lot of pipe.

Why they didn't resharpen the diamond saw and try that again I don't know, but the public pressure is almost as bad as the PSI of the spill.

I thought they were going to do a second cut with some "shears" which wouldn't give a smooth cut but it looks the same to me, the actual leak with the pipe, so I don't know what's going on there.

It also looks like white crystals are forming on the cap and these robot arms are almost putting ribbon around it. I'm hope that is the methanol line, which looks like it's tied into a knot around a handle at the moment, to reduce the hydrate formulation.

Anyone else obsessed with this have at it.

they cut off the hanging pipe, now onto cap

I'm looking at it, it doesn't appear to have increased the flow that much just eyeballing it but assuredly we'll see a new flow rate estimate from the team of experts put together.

two new solutions introduced

One sounds really good. they are reversing the technology which tried to pump oil drilling mud (the junk shot), to being a giant vaccuum cleaner or pump up the oil into a tanker. Finally.

Then, they have 3rd design in the works to make the entire thing more stable, so it looks like even if they manage to get the cap on, they will be continuing to modify the solution plus create that reserve pumping station.

I have no idea why they didn't do the reverse pumping 40 days ago, but at least they are talking about it now and it's due for deployment next week.

bringing up the broken blow out preventer

They are pulling it up for analysis. But I gotta say, the media is all around the place, including being on the top side engineering vessels. I just hope the pressure and stress from all of this public blow by blow doesn't "blow it". There is huge pressure for them to "move fast". My response is "take your time". All you need to do is watch for 10 minutes any of those mechanical arms and ROVs and you'll see my point.

It's an amazing bitch frankly, this is a major engineering fix going on a mile under the sea, all done with ROVs. Watch one of those mechanical arms tying little knots in cables and ribbons, all movements, including "fingers" and "grasping" needing to be done through remote controls and you'll get the idea.

why this post amplified this.

12-24 hour delay on cap

Due to the lack of a clean cut on the pipe, it's leaning about 10 degrees in the slice, they have to readjust with some rubber sealing rings and other stuff to try to match the "pipe cut they got" instead of what they wanted.

putting methanol/heating lines on the cap

FAUX news is reporting they are putting the cap on the pipe. I tuned into Spillcam x8 and it looks to me like they are running and testing the methanol and heating lines to keep the hydrates off of the cap. These are the glorified frozen gas things which clogged the original "top hat" so oil couldn't flow through it.

This goes on much longer I wanna take my exam and get my college credit.

anyone following this you might turn on your spillcam, 20;15 CDT

all feeds in one screen is here.

It's 18:15 PST, that's 20:15 CDT and it sure appears they are descending the cap now, so this might be the real attempt.

I don't know the PSI of the flow but assuredly that's going to be the big kahuna deal, to get that cap over it without it blowing off in the water or the flow simply escaping from the bottom and so on.

Plumbing 101

Most good plumbers would try to cut then custom fit a diameter of pipe measured against the pipe you fit into.

The new pipe would have a harder metal thread to cut the old pipe.
You cut a softer metal with the thread of a harder metal.

If necessary, the idiotic diamond saw could have been designed into the threads of the new pipe.

Burton Leed

various pressures might be the reason

I'm not sure what they did for new seals either. there was one red tubing that looked possible for a rubber seal, but I don't have any explanation on why they are not "finishing" the pipe cut. It might be it's 2600 PSI by sea depth alone.


The flow: 9000 PSI
the sea: 2600 PSI

yet the current total measurement is 3500 PSI due to the pressure of the sea interacting with the PSI of the flow.

Supposedly scuba tanks are 3000 PSI, so that would seem manageable to make a cut.

Earlier you wanted to give these robot arms some twist ties to get the cables organized...

A Plumber Would Get a Clean Cut

To start with which is what they tried and failed to do.

The idea was to get as tight a fit as possible to keep sea water out.

There is no way they were going to fit these together and seal tight.

If they had better robots they could make a compression fitting and tighten it onto the riser and seal it that way. Either that or remove the flange below the cut and attach another pipe with a flange to the riser pipe. They have to be sucking away any pressure the whole time etc. The robots are not that versatile though although a 30 foot tall 2,000 lb plumber could attach it.

Looking BAD

they have the cap on and almost immediately I saw a huge plume of oil come out at the bolt seals where that joint is below the sawed off pipe.

Man, that's so depressing. You watch them laboriously maneuver all of this stuff, taking days and they get it on and poof, you see oil leaking from below the cut.

Hopefully I'm wrong in what I just saw or there is more sealing to happen or positioning.

I saw it too.

Something went wrong the oil flow was disturbed when I looked back anarchy.

I hope they have not made things worse.

do you mean that sudden plume at the bolts/joint/seam?

It's completely obscured now with all of the oil going every which way but on the initial, just for a second, I saw an "explosion" of oil come out of the pipe at the bolts, at the seam, i.e. I'm thinking there is weakness in the pipe below the cut off.

I don't think that was a sudden downward redirection from the top of the pipe, it seemed a separate, brand new plume source.

I will put up another oil open thread but I was wanting for this stage results to come in.

I think....

its in place? Is that what you see Robert?

what I'm looking at

I'm looking here, see Enterprise II, I see them moving in the "cutter" saw or maybe that's set up with a "holder" around the pipe area. Hard to say if a saw is on it or not.

What I saw the "explosion" plume was on Ocean intervention III, #2 camera but I'm not running any video recording capture here so I cannot reproduce that clip.

It's in place but I don't know if they have more to do, like try to seal the underneath, add some suction on the actual tube at the top, bolt something down and so on.

I sure hope so, doesn't make that much sense to just "lay it on top" without nailing it down and then working on seals and so on, but I am not an underwater/oil even mechanical engineer here. I don't even do my own car repairs.

I think it is in place

I see a robot arm holding down some long tube thing which has oil coming out of it. I'm hoping that's the top, where they can add the "hose" or "tube" to have it go into a tanker topside.

My god this is a risky operation.

CNN said when they cut the riser the flow looked like it tripled. The last twelve hours was the worst for amount of oil flowing. Hopefully they can bolt that thing down and syphon off a significant amount of the oil.
The administration must have signed off on this before hand. Obama is getting dealt some really tough hands.

don't listen to CNN, seriously

Beyond the fact they repeatedly get economic and finance events dead wrong, seemingly reguritating press releases instead of reading bills or even talking to experts....

these guys have no idea what they are looking at.

Like right now they think they have "Hurricane" when they have increased velocity due to a reduction of surface area plus redirection. They don't understand flows, rates, velocity...they just see shit and make some "assessment" that isn't accurate.

I mean you're looking at cameras on ROVs in the water at 2600 PSI....you cannot just eye ball this and freak out.

I'm waiting for the spill flow rate team to estimate the new rates. I saw it too and frankly to me it just looked concentrated instead of popping out over different holes in the riser pipe. i.e. one huge plume instead of 3 identified.

This is what I see going on. The Obama administration had their heads up their ass for a good 30 days and now it seems they gathered some real engineers into a larger team and as a result we're seeing better architected solutions to stop this.

Obviously things go wrong upon deployment, but the are sure better than the insanity, which I didn't even write up, that went on for 30 days after the platform sunk.

I mean seriously, just putting a "cap" on it, or "putting a pipe in it" or "golf balls"...all of this is not very well architected utilizing all of the elements and knowledge available.

You are right on

They could use the link you supplied. Its frustrating to watch them asking what the blue lines are about when obviously they did not even go to BP's website.

Different Views

I am amazed there is not a single news feed of the multiple views with someone explaining what they are and what they are doing. They are showing these because they have been told to but they don't want to even offer some info?

I see a cap has been lowered over the cut pipe and another view that shows a smaller pipe with oil under a lot of pressure.

Looks like that have attached the cap and they have a fitted end they will attach to after they seal the cap as much as possible. I wonder if the robots can weld it shut at this depth? By having a relief opening they give themselves a way to seal the bad part as much as possible.

Well see.

can they weld at all?

seriously? underwater? with a 2600 PSI? I see them with lock pins, which is amazing of itself.

I also see "rocking" of the 5 story BOP! That's scary.

Silly Anderson Cooper finally got a clue and said they are going to have some engineers come on.

These people, I swear, they are railing on BP when they cannot get the technical story even close to right most of the time.

Hello, if you do not understand it, there are only a good 5000 people in the U.S. who do, you could like uh ask.

Maybe Not

Explosive underwater welding is experimental at some fairly low depths but the welds probably wouldn't be strong enough.

I'm betting there is some type of compression fitting in that cap structure and that they will turn the cap and drive that fitting tight then attach the riser.

It does look like the entire BOP is swinging a whole lot. The top of a 60 foot structure swaying several feet back and forth would mean the structure is in trouble imo 'IF' thats what we are seeing but it sure looks like that because I haven't seen that 'effect' before and I have been watching this for some time tonight.

swinging BOP

Well, I'd say take the entire thing off but it's 5 stories and after watching the hell they had making a cut across about an 18" in (??) diameter pipe I hope the ROV operator just has the shakes. I see that too I don't buy 9000 PSI after watching this for awhile.

BOP isn't swinging, it's the cap itself

The cap isn't quite into position yet and what we're seeing is the cap, which explains a lot.

animation on the procedure

You must watch this one.


So, we need to wait, they are NOT done at all, I see a robot arm moving to put a latch in place and ya know watching all of this has got me fascinated with these underwater devices. I cannot thread a needle easily and these robot arms that's what it looks like, esp. with these latch pegs!

Anywho, they have to get the flow up to the top going and much more so we're all reacting wrong.

Isn't watch spillcam addictive?

I plan on putting up a huge new thread, once I get a good picture on how this is working.

We got to get back to econ, although this technical issue is key to analyze the entire effect. Of course watching dead marshes and so on, I get we can diverge.

I also notice oil drum crashes continually and there are almost no sites actually tracking this and paying attention to the engineering details. Lots of opinions out there on all sorts of crap, ignoring in my opinion the most important thing, which is to cut off the spill.

We had spill path animations today but it's unclear at what spill rate that is or if is just what as spilled to date. That said, this secondary "vaccuum cleaner" or reverse pumping idea hopefully could be further deployed if they actually know where the large concentrations are. me thinks.

Great Link

Keeping the cap ice free looks like a nightmare on its own. This is riveting stuff. Anderson Cooper said BP could have helped its image more to narrate the spillcam instead of running a 50 million dollar commercial.

hire an expert

getting an engineer making audio commentary who isn't affiliated with BP as part of the stream ain't a bad idea.

But who isn't affiliated with CNN and so on either.

I'm very surprised to not see engineers in some real time forums or even twitter doing blow by blows.

I've actually hunted around and the group that seems to understand the most technically and they have also made mistakes is the oil drum.

picking up some sort of hose now

I thought maybe they were recalibrating, taking measurements and looking for damage and and maybe quitting for the night but now I see them grabbing some white looking hose or tubing (not the dispersant sprayer) and then looking up at a pipe descending.

I hope they have high end military GPS and with computers who can do automatic positioning....cause seeing though that oil looks "not happening" or maybe they have "touch" sensors or something on those robotic arms.

Spillcam is completely addictive!

Coffee and Donuts w/Spillcam

I'm on my 2nd coffee and the Dunkin opens at 5am right near me so I'm watching this straight through.

Someone will buy out BP soon and mitigate the BP name being bad news. Their stock is going to really nose dive when this fails. I hate to say it but at some point because they will be bought up the stock will be a good buy just need to know the bottom of the tank so to speak.

please move it to the new thread

moved it here since this one is filling up.