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BP's Final "Top Kill" Procedure For Gulf Oil Spill 593

Posted by Soulskill
from the aww-i-wanted-a-nuke dept.
eldavojohn writes "So far every attempted fix has resulted in failure to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill with the exception of the riser insertion method that appears to be little more than a mile-long tube sucking up oil. After attempting many options to allow the continued collection of crude oil, BP is finally considering a 'top kill' option that will kill the well. A vessel at the surface will use 30,000 horsepower pumps to slam kill mud and clay into the well's bent riser, allowing them to cap the well off with two relief wells (which won't be ready for several months). If that fails, the vessel will move on to a 'junk shot' that involves spewing larger debris like shredded rubber and golf balls into the lines to gum up the flow and stop it. Government officials acknowledge that while this may provide a solution, it may also worsen the situation if the resulting pressure causes the lines to blow or fail at other points. While this is likely one of the worst environmental disasters to hit the gulf, BP's debacle has caused Shell to pre-build cofferdams into seven wells that it is currently drilling in the gulf. These would drop into place in the event of such a catastrophic failure of a riser under the well."
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BP's Final "Top Kill" Procedure For Gulf Oil Spill

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  • This is horse shit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:41PM (#32296630) Homepage

    Why didn't they just do this in the first place? Why muck about with wholly unproven methods? They should have sealed this thing up weeks ago. They greed and attempts to keep the well usable are a fucking disgrace.

    • by Daetrin (576516) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:44PM (#32296696)
      From the sounds of it, this method is _also_ wholly unproven, with the added bonus that there's a chance it could actually make things worse.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:57PM (#32296928)

        While you can come up with all kinds of theoretical methods for dealing with something like this, it isn't the sort of thing you can test. I mean it is unfeasible (not to mention irresponsible) to build an oil rig and then break it just to test and see how fixes might work. So pretty much everything is unproven, untested and you just have to try shit and see what works.

        Now this isn't to say BP is blameless here, there are remediation measures they should have taken, but didn't. The biggest would be having enough booms ready to contain a well disaster (it would take a lot, but really not cost all that much) and training their people in proper booming. That is a proven method for reducing the spread.

        However it is just to help deal with the spread, it doesn't actually fix the problem. The problem fixes, well you just don't know since it cannot be tested until an actual disaster happens.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Volante3192 (953645)

      And, pray tell, what proven method is there of stopping an oil leak a mile underwater?

    • by dave562 (969951) on Friday May 21, 2010 @03:27PM (#32297396) Journal

      There isn't a proven method. Everything that they are trying is something that they are trying for the first time. The well is so deep that it is beyond crush depth for many subs. There aren't any manned subs that can even go down that far, and less than half a dozen robotic / remote ones that can. Nobody has ever dealt with a catastrophe of this magnitude before. There were supposed to be safety precautions taken to prevent this kind of thing. Those safety precautions were there to insure that nobody would ever have to go through what is currently being gone through. Those precautions were ignored and diluted by "regulators" who were subserviant to the interests they were supposed to be regulating.

      The obviously solution is to plug the well with the pulped bodies of everyone who was responsible for allowing the problem to occur in the first place. As others have stated, there are safety mechanisms being used RIGHT NOW in places like Brazil that are SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED to prevent the kind of cluster fuck that took place. The problem is that greed won out, and Congressional representatives are cheap. It's easier to donate money to a re-election campaign than it is to spend money on fail safe devices.

  • 2 things (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 2obvious4u (871996) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:48PM (#32296768)
    1) Why are they poring dispersants on the oil spill instead of coagulants [treehugger.com]?
    2) Good on Shell for being proactive, to bad it took a major disaster to get a more comprehensive disaster plan.
  • Wrong summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by MouseR (3264) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:49PM (#32296790) Homepage

    The mud or junk will not be inserted through the riser pipe.

    There are access pipes on the BOP itself for this kind of stuff.

    The mud or junk will therefore be inserted BEFORE the riser pipe.

    Blocking the riser would be useless given it's bent, cracked at the BOP and could potentially rip off due to the blockage.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:49PM (#32296792)

    Privatized profits. Socialize losses!

    BP wont ever end up paying much of the real cost involved in this. Any fines they do face will be a tiny percent of their yearly profit.

    And they will go on to do this again in the future.. Saving a buck or two on safety to make some money. Just like they did 20 years ago for their last major disaster.

    Yeah know, we really need the oil.. But i'd say we need someplace to live way way more.

    Someday we're really going to have to hold corporations accountable in a REAL way for the lives and things they destroy.

    Major oil spill cuz you skiped on some safety that we have invented already? Shoot the CEO in the head.

    Sooner or later companys will stop doing things that endanger the environment or peoples lives... Or we'll run out of CEO's. either way... it would be an improvement.

  • top kill (Score:5, Funny)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:53PM (#32296850)

    $ man top |grep -A5 -B5 -w kill

    * <k> :Kill_a_task
    You will be prompted for a PID and then the signal to send.
    The default signal, as reflected in the prompt, is SIGTERM.
    However, you can send any signal, via number or name.

    If you wish to abort the kill process, do one of the fol-
    lowing depending on your progress:
    1) at the pid prompt, just press <Enter>
    2) at the signal prompt, type 0

    Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
    Filter error: Please use fewer 'junk' characters.
    Lameness Filter is stupid. I have to add a bunch of regular characters to add "code characters" to a technical page? LAME.

  • by grahamsaa (1287732) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:56PM (#32296914)
    The top kill is what happens when the oil gets to the surface. These desperate (and failing) attempts to contain the spill should have inspired the government to take control of the situation earlier. It's clear that BP doesn't know what the hell they're doing.

    I hope everyone who chanted "drill baby drill!" during the last election cycle is willing to go down to the gulf coast and help with the cleanup. What a mess!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vellmont (569020)


      I hope everyone who chanted "drill baby drill!" during the last election cycle is willing to go down to the gulf coast and help with the cleanup.

      That would mean they'd have to admit they were wrong.

      No, what they're now doing is trying to already downplay the spill and its effects. See, it's just those hippie liberals that think spilling 10s of millions of gallons of oil a couple hundred miles from shore is bad for the environment. I mean, there's already millions of gallons of oil released over the entire

  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:57PM (#32296944)
    Heck the SIPHONING 5,000 a day from the line they put into the one breach! And that isn't even getting everything coming out of that breach, and there is ANOTHER breach on the line which is gushing oil. The 5,000 a day value is an out and out LIE, and needs to be published as such. The estimates of 20,000-50,000 seem a lot more realistic, which would mean that this would already be the worst spill in history (620,000 - 1,550,000 barrels). And even those seem small considering the rig itself was producing 300,000 - 500,000 barrels a day.
  • by DarthVain (724186) on Friday May 21, 2010 @03:02PM (#32297006)

    We will solve this horrible situation by dumping shredded tires and golf balls into the ocean until the problem is solved!

    "But perhaps...

    I said until it was solved!

  • Not a simple problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Friday May 21, 2010 @03:51PM (#32297752) Homepage

    With the pressures and temperatures involved this is actually a very difficult problem to solve.

    You can't just put a cork in the damaged pipes - the pressures are on the scale of being unbelivable. I believe it is around 150,000 PSI. Virtually nothing is going to withstand that sort of pressure without a lot of help.

    Similarly, I keep seeing posts about how TransOcean should have "fixed" the blowout preventer when it was apparent that some seals were breaking down. Or when one of the redundant controllers failed. The problem is, it was a mile underwater. I do not believe anyone in the area had a means of working at that depth. Also, you can't just turn a valve under the blowout preventer - it is pretty much the bottom valve. So replacing this isn't an option - you are pretty much stuck with it unless you are prepared to do something drastic.

    On land, you could (possibly) remove everything from the well head and accept the massive leak that would occur. I do not believe there are many land-based wells where the outflow pressure is anywhere near 150,000 PSI. So changing the blowout preventor is nasty, going to spew oil everywhere but is at least possible. At 5000+ feet of water and with the entire Gulf squeezing the oil out through that pipe changing the blowout preventer is simply not possible.

    You folks do understand that the weight of the water above the well is what is causing this problem, right?

    Another silly point people seem to be hung up on is that BP is working on this and the government isn't. Well, the government as a regulator has some involvement but about all they can do is make rules. There is no government oil well rescue service. The facilities do not exist within the US government, and probably for good reason - it doesn't happen all that much. The US could, I suppose, nationalize BP because of this. The problem with that idea is that a lot of other companies, oil and otherwise, would take this as an immediate indication that any US presence was no longer safe. The same thing happened in a lot of Central and South American countries upon nationalizing companies. The reason a lot of companies are in the US is because it is convenient to be close to a large market and a well educated labor force. Make noises like assets aren't safe from being nationalized and a lot of companies will take their assets elsewhere.

    You folks also understand that this well is in international waters, right? The US can drill there or any other country. The US has attempted to claim 200 mile nautical boundaries before, but that is pretty much a joke today. The fact that the oil is there means it will be taken out by someone. We get to choose whether it is the US or someone else. I'd say Venezuela or Mexico are likely candidates if we abandon drilling in the Gulf. At this point I would say complete abandonment of US offshore drilling is likely, regardless of the economic consequences.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by n dot l (1099033)

      With the pressures and temperatures involved this is actually a very difficult problem to solve.

      Obviously. That's why BP has billions of dollars to hire as many of the world's best engineers as they need.

      Also, you can't just turn a valve under the blowout preventer - it is pretty much the bottom valve. So replacing this isn't an option - you are pretty much stuck with it unless you are prepared to do something drastic.

      You know what you can do when the bottom valve partially fails? You can stop whatever you're doing and wait for the engineers to figure something out. Maybe you add another safety system that makes up for what the BOP can no longer do. Maybe you abandon the well and make a not to not fuck up the BOP next time.

      What you can't do is rush the remaining work, increasing the odds of something catastrophic h

  • by pongo000 (97357) on Friday May 21, 2010 @03:56PM (#32297824)

    ...is something of a misnomer. A lot of what passes for "engineering" is actually processes proven empirically, through years of experience, rather than grounded in solid theory. Petroleum engineering is taught based upon what has worked for 80+ years. And petroleum engineers sit in office cubicles, not the rigs. Rigs are supervised by workers who are very experienced at what they do, but really have no way to handle situations "outside the box" because there isn't a drilling manual to consult when things go wrong. Rig workers depend upon the initial calculations of the engineers, and their own experiences of successful drilling operations. I suspect things on the BP rig happened so quickly, and were so outside the norm of crew experience, that there wasn't much chance of recovery. Like they used to teach us in the oilfield, if the mud comes out of the hole, you've got a problem. If the mud disappears in the hole, just wait: you've got an even bigger problem.

    And yes, IAAPE.

  • by uncqual (836337) on Friday May 21, 2010 @03:57PM (#32297844)
    I believe the summary misstates the article (I know that's shocking).

    The summary:

    A vessel at the surface will use 30,000 horsepower pumps to slam kill mud and clay into the well's bent riser,

    The article:

    It will use the BOP's three-inch-diameter choke and kill lines, which open into the space between the well's casing and the drill pipe that runs up the riser. The lines are being cut and spliced into hoses connected to the Q4000, a vessel on the surface, whose 30,000-horsepower pumps will drive a dense mix of clay and other substances called kill mud into the lines.

    The kill line is part of the BOP. Nothing is being forced back down the riser (the bent, broken, patched, leaking mile long pipe now laying on the ocean floor).

    Here's [blogspot.com] nice graphic showing what they seem to be trying to do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2010 @04:09PM (#32298014)

    "After attempting many options to allow the continued collection of crude oil, BP is finally considering a 'top kill' option that will kill the well."

    Why are people coming up with this fantasy that BP wants to keep the hole viable, and wants to continue collecting or be able in the future to collect oil from this hole? Some people have developed the misconception that the only reason BP hasn't tried to plug the hole is that they want the oil to flow -- i.e. $$$$$$. It's total nonsense. Why?

    A) the hole at depth and the equipment on top of it is damaged. It would be foolhardy and inconsistent with industry practice in a situation like this -- especially if instability in the hole due to melting hydrates is an issue at depth in the well -- to try to keep the hole operational. The plan was, and always will be, to stop the flow from the hole and then cement and abandon this hole once it is stopped. To produce this field they will have to drill new holes. That was and always will be the case, and BP said that was the case from the start;

    B) they deployed various collection devices earlier because they are faster to deploy and do not depend on being certain about the state of the deeper borehole or the blowout preventer (BOP), both of which had to be thoroughly assessed before attempting techniques that would plug the well, especially when it was known that the BOP failed to perform the way it was supposed to and the hole was unstable. You don't fiddle with things like this when they are in an "unknown state". If they proceeded to try a "top kill" without that assessment they would run the risk of making things worse if a subsurface blowout occurred when pressures built up (i.e. the pipe failed below the sea bottom) or something failed in the BOP;

    C) the oil coming out (even with upward-revised numbers) is a piddling amount compared to normal oil production rates in these types of wells when they are working properly, and the value of the oil is dwarfed by the costs of collecting it like this. Even if it were flowing at 10000 barrels a day and they collected it all, that's a "mere" $700000/day (10000 * ~$70 USD/barrel), which wouldn't cover half the daily costs of all the vessels and other gear they have on-site trying to fix the problem ($500k/day is routine for ONE rig when you add in all the materials, personnel, and support. Here are costs for just the rig contract alone [rigzone.com] -- the Semisub 4000'+ WD is the relevant one at $411k/day). Usually a rig or subsea production system in this setting will be producing from multiple holes simultaneously -- that's the only way it is economic. It would be economically stupid to try to produce from the well in its current state and with the setup they have on site. Get a clue, people!

    Anyone who thinks the delay in resorting to a "top kill" solution is due to some kind of ulterior financial motive on the part of BP doesn't understand the technical challenges of doing any of this stuff at extreme depths or what the real economic situation is. They're resorting to a "top kill" now because they've finished the X-ray and gamma-ray studies of the damaged BOP that give them confidence the whole thing isn't going to blow up in their face when they try to plug it. The other techniques were worth trying in the interim. That's the whole explanation for what they've done. It's nothing nefarious.

    Hold BP and other oil companies responsible for accidents. Remember that they are drilling at the ends of the Earth to satisfy *your* demand for this resource, so perhaps try to cut back a bit. Beef up safety regulations and inspections. Diligently work on alternative energy sources. But for god's green Earth's sake, leave the stupid conspiracy theories out of it. This "they haven't plugged it because they want the oil to flow so they can make money" one doesn't make a speck of technical or economic sense.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      This is a fantastic comment, but it leaves something important out. I've also been very impressed with BPs actions after the accident, they've been trying everything anyone can think of and aren't skimping. Before the accident, it's another story.

      They acted absolutely appallingly which allowed this to happen in the first place. Always putting speed above safety and a culture of shifting blame is the real cause of this. Watching the 60 minutes episode on this, it's absolutely disgusting how they acted. I hop

  • New solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by T Murphy (1054674) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:04PM (#32299784) Journal
    Just start selling Hummers to all the fish- they'll use up all that oil in no time.

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