Thursday, May 27, 2010

'Top kill' method 'slows BP oil leak' in Gulf of Mexico

Oil has been gushing from the well for the past five weeks BP has slowed the flow of oil and gas from a ruptured well into the Gulf of Mexico, a US official told local media.

The company's "top kill" effort has "stabilised the wellhead", Coast Guard commander Admiral Thad Allen said.

But he cautioned it was too early to declare success. This is the first step in BP's plan to seal the well for good.

'Low pressure'
Footage from BP's underwater camera
Adm Allen told US media the "top kill" procedure, which began on Wednesday, has pumped enough drilling fluid to block some of the oil and gas escaping from the well.

Adm Allen told National Public Radio that BP engineers had "been able to force mud down and not allow any hydrocarbons to come up."

It was the first positive official assessment of BP's latest attempt to plug the well, after previous efforts failed.

BP shares were up more than 5% in London trading following the announcement.

BP has not yet commented in detail on the situation, saying merely that its "subsea efforts [were] advancing on several fronts".

Live Feed Ocean Floor from BP

BP: Top Kill Operation - Animated - May 26, 2010

Animation showing the Top Kill process designed to stop the flow of oil from the well. Heavy "kill mud" is pumped down a drill pipe, then through hoses that go through the manifold on the seafloor. The mud then moves through another set of hoses attached to the Deepwater Horizon blow-out preventer's choke and kill lines, then into the well.
Animation showing the Top Kill process designed to stop the flow of oil from the well. Heavy "kill mud" is pumped down a drill pipe, then through hoses that go through the manifold on the seafloor. The mud then moves through another set of hoses attached to the Deepwater Horizon blow-out preventer's choke and kill lines, then into the well.
Click here to see animation on YouTube.

Deepwater Horizon Response

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kevin Costner oil spill cleanup idea interests BP

By Mark Guarino

Film star Kevin Costner is joining the ranks of scientists, engineers, and lawmakers in an international effort to figure out how to contain and clean up oil streaming into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 210,000 gallons a day.
Mr. Costner appeared in New Orleans last week to demonstrate a $24 million oil extraction device he is pitching to BP and Coast Guard officials. Costner says the device will clean oil from the water at a rate of 97 percent. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Wednesday that his team will test the device next week.
Costner's involvement in helping solve oil spill crises is not new. The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Alaska motivated the actor to help fund a consortium of scientists to develop technology that mitigates oil-infected water before it hits the coast. The technology is ready to combat the BP spill, he told reporters last week.
"It's not anymore about talk," Costner told WWL-TV in New Orleans. "It's about doing the walk, and that phrase was probably invented down here."
Costner's company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, provides multiple machines designed to address spills of different sizes. The largest can clean as many as 200 gallons per minute, Costner said. The company reports it has 20 such machines ready to be employed.
"The machines are basically sophisticated centrifuge devices that can handle a huge volume of water and separate [the oil] at unprecedented rates," Ocean Therapy Solutions CEO John Houghtaling said last week.

Costner said the machines work by drawing in the infested water where it then breaks it down, allowing the oil to discharge through a separate pipe. His audience, a gathering of local parish presidents, appeared eager to get the device to the Gulf.
"To me, this is a major tool for a tool box that should be tested," said Craig Taffaro, St. Bernard Parish president.
Besides saying that Costner's device will be tested next week, BP's Suttles said his company and the Coast Guard have been collecting ideas from the public since Day One of the crisis. The command center receives 100 ideas a day, Suttles said.
Costner said his decision to fund the technology was a result of needing to use the wealth he was "lucky" to accumulate instead of "piling it" for no real purpose.
"We all make decisions about what we want to be a part of. I'm just one person focusing on a specific problem and throwing a little resources to a lot of talent and manpower ... to come up with what is a [solution]," he said.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gulf Spill: The Blame

May 19, 2010: While politicians and environmental groups step up to posture in the face of the Deep Water Horizon disaster, the company who is taking the brunt of the criticism has not been afforded the right to a fair hearing of facts in the press.

Since the well blew in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th, several things have happened that warrant a clear and concise explanation.

In what stands to be one of the biggest oil spills in the history of the United States, the cause of the spill now appears to be an unauthorized modification of the blow out prevention (BOP) valve.

The Blame

BP's Deep Water Horizon oil rig exploded and sank off the cost of Louisiana last month. Eleven rig workers are missing, which was operated by Swiss-based Transocean Ltd, the largest independent driller in the world.

Meanwhile, the BOP failed to stop the flow of oil as it should have after the explosion and allowed oil to pour into the Gulf of Mexico. Fingers are being pointed at BP, even though Transocean was the sub-contractor.

Eventually, BP will be exonerated. But first we will all have to play a game of cover our asses.

From the subcontractor who reportedly modified the BOP without the knowledge or permission of BP, to the government regulators who okayed the modified BOP, to the Obama administration who wants to look tough on BP even thought they had no culpability, everyone is running for cover.

After the BOP was installed, the modifications made after the fact are assumed to have prevented the part from operating properly.

These modifications were discovered by remote operated vehicles whose pictures transmitted to engineers trying to find out why the BOP didn't activate, showed the part had been altered.

Government Response

Meanwhile, the Federal Government responded by splitting up the regulating and revenue collecting functions of the Minerals Management Agency, to as President Obama described, break up the cozy relationship between regulators and the oil industry.

However, the action to split up the functions draws attention to just who was responsible for permitting the BOP that failed to work. Could it have been that an MMS inspector didn't properly follow through with the BOP test monitoring?

BP's Safety Record

Much has been written since the well blew four weeks ago about BP's safety record. But that says nothing about the company today and the focus on safety they have made the last two years.

While many press accounts recall the explosion at BP's Texas City refinery in 2005, and the spill at Prudhoe Bay a year later, those incidents occurred before BP's current CEO Tony Hayward assumed control.

Since the spill, Hayward has been a visible point man for BP. He wasted no time in appearing on major network news shows to describe the situation on the ground. He has mobilized 2,500 workers to the site, including several from Anchorage, and he has accepted full responsibility for the disaster.

This shouldn't be surprising. After all it was Hayward, who in 2005 won accolades from BP employees for speaking out against the way the company was handling the Texas City disaster, criticizing his bosses for "a leadership style that is too directive and doesn't listen sufficiently well."

The Politics

The politics are bare knuckle.

The spill has given fodder to environmentalist to once again raise a ruckus about offshore oil & gas drilling. Congressmen, one right after another, attempting to look tough, are demanding answers from BP they already have received. And the White House continues to posture on the real issue which is; energy supplies come at a risk.

But the fact is the Gulf of Mexico accounts for almost a third of America's oil production and has been where most of the new finds have been for oil companies.

Furthermore, before the April 20th disaster, there hadn't been a leak from an offshore well in 40 years.

As the Economist recently opined, "If Americans do not want to hand more money and clout to the likes of Iran, Russia and Venezuela, the argument runs, they should not curb offshore drilling."

The impacts have reached Alaska. The spill has set off another round of opposition to offshore drilling in Alaska and age old worries about a spill in the Arctic conditions. But these concerns are unfounded.

Currently, as a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, Alaska has the toughest regulations in the world. Companies like Shell Oil who are exploring off Alaska's shores are required to abide by and held to a much higher standard of prevention and response then anywhere on the globe.

The more and more you hear of the Deep Water Horizon tragedy the more you'll learn that it was a careless contractor who set the stage for the disaster. And as I said, at the end of the day BP will be exonerated in my opinion.

Let's hope for the future of our nation's energy security we don't use one bad incident in 40 years as an excuse to stop offshore drilling.

And let's hope we get bp: beyond posturing.

Andrew Halcro's blog

Friday, May 14, 2010

Obama scolds BP

President Obama vented his frustration Friday during a statement to the press he issued from the White House Rose Garden.

Flanked by cabinet members and other administration officials overseeing the federal response to the blow-out, he lit into industry representatives who appeared at congressional hearings on the spill earlier this week.

"I did not appreciate what I consider to be a ridiculous spectacle during congressional hearings into this matter," he said. "You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else."

Nor did federal regulators escape the tongue-lashing. The president criticized what he termed "a cozy relationship" between oil companies and federal regulators in which "permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from oil companies" and oil companies exploited loopholes that "allowed some oil companies to bypass some critical environmental reviews," Obama said.

Part of the challenge – and the frustration – in coping with the blow-out lies in determining just how much oil the submarine gusher is releasing.

Official estimates from the federal government and BP, which owns the oil lease the Deepwater Horizon was working, place the leak rate at some 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of oil a day. That alone is has been enough to trigger a regional emergency response.

But independent experts say the leak rate is likely to be much larger.

A week ago, Florida State University marine scientist Ian McDonald put the leak rate at around 25,000 barrels a day.

And in a report Friday morning, National Public Radio cited estimates from three independent scientists who say at least 50,000 barrels of oil a day are flowing into the Gulf waters. That would imply that the Deepwater Horizon disaster could be releasing at least the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill every five days.

These estimates have wide margins of error, cautions Timothy Crone, a scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.

In an email exchange, Dr. Crone, one of the three scientists NPR contacted, noted that his approach honed on estimating the material spewing from deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

He says that videos of the blow-out taken by robotic cameras at the well head lack the detail needed for more precise estimates of the flow. Moreover, the material emerging from the well head is a mix of methane, mud, and oil.

Taking all that into account, he puts the flow rate at roughly 50,000 barrels of oil a day.

"My numbers should be viewed with caution," he warns, but adds, "the flows are almost certainly higher than 5,000 barrels a day."

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Hayward applauds President's statement on oil spill
Release Date: 02 May 2010
“The US government leadership here has been excellent since day one. I agree with the President that the top priority right now is to stop the leak and mitigate the damage. I reiterated my commitment to the White House today that BP will do anything and everything we can to stop the leak, attack the spill off shore, and protect the shorelines of the Gulf Coast. We appreciate the tireless efforts of the many federal, state and local responders and the volunteers, men and women who have worked tirelessly since the date of the accident to mitigate the damage. Our teams are working hand in hand and we look forward to hearing more recommendations for action from the President’s visit today.”

-Tony Hayward, from Houma, Louisiana

Hayward Comments on President Obama's Statement
Release Date: 14 May 2010
Tony Hayward, BP Group Chief Executive, today said:

“We absolutely understand and share President Obama’s sense of urgency over the length of time this complex task is taking. We want to thank the President and his administration for their ongoing engagement in this effort.

“BP - working closely with scientists and engineers from across the whole oil industry, from government agencies and departments, and with local officials along the Gulf Coast - is focused on doing everything in our power to stop the flow of oil, remove it from the surface, and protect the shoreline. We are working with state and community leaders to mitigate the impact on the lives and livelihoods of those who have been affected.

“And while we continue in these efforts, we are participating fully in investigations that will provide valuable lessons about how to prevent future incidents of this nature.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Riser Insertion Tube

Graphic depicting the Riser Insertion Tube method to contain oil leaking from the riser of the Deepwater Horizon Well. This technique is one of several that technicians and engineers have developed to slow or stop oil from leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.

For information about the response effort, visit

BP says Gulf blow out preventer had been modified

WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) - The blow-out preventer that was supposed to help protect against the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico had been modified, BP America Inc (BP.L: Quote, Profile, Research) President Lamar McKay told a senate panel on Tuesday.
"I have reason to believe the BOP had been modified," McKay told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource, which held its first hearing into the causes of the spill that killed 11 workers and caused a leak that is still releasing thousands of barrels of oil per day.

Steven Newman, the president and chief executive of Transocean Ltd (RIGN.S: Quote, Profile, Research) said the blowout preventer had been modified in 2005 at the request of BP.
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WASHINGTON – Rep. Henry Waxman says that his committee's investigation into the Gulf oil spill reveals that a key safety device, the blowout preventer, had a leak in a crucial hydraulic system.

The California Democrat said in a hearing Wednesday that the investigation also discovered that the well had failed a negative pressure test just hours before the April 20 explosion.

He cited BP documents received by the Energy and Commerce Committee that showed there was a breach in the well integrity that allowed methane gas and possibly other hydrocarbons to enter the well.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

BP stops one of three Deepwater Horizon oil leaks

"We made good progress yesterday, including the cap on the drill pipe," BP spokesman John Curry wrote in an email, referring to shutting off one of the leaks.

Doug Suttles, BP chief operating officer, had said on Tuesday that although the undersea repair work on the riser pipe was expected to plug one of the three leaks, "I don't believe that will change the total amount leaking".

US authorities and BP are racing to try to contain a huge oil slick from the ruptured well that is threatening four Gulf coastal states.

BP stems one of three Deepwater Horizon oil leaks, US coastguard saysWork unlikely to reduce overall oil flow into the Gulf of Mexico, but will ease efforts to contain the slick

Boats with oil booms try to contain oil spilled from the explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

The US coastguard says BP has managed to cap one of three leaks from its stricken deepwater oil well, but the work is not expected to reduce the overall flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The work should reduce the number of leak points that need to be fixed on the ocean floor, making it easier to drop a containment dome to bottle up the disastrous oil spill threatening sealife and livelihoods along the Gulf Coast.

Since an explosion on 20 April, 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, the Deepwater Horizon well has been spewing at least 800,000 litres a day.

Experts say the best short-term solution is to drop a specially built giant concrete-and-steel box designed to siphon the oil away over the breach.

Crews for Wild Well Control, a contractor, are putting the finishing touches on the 100-ton containment dome, which is expected to be taken to the leak site today. John Curry, a BP spokesman, said it would be deployed on the seabed by tomorrow.

It's the latest attempt by BP engineers to stem the oil from the rig, which killed 11 workers when it exploded. It sank two days later, and oil started pouring into the Gulf. BP is in charge of the cleanup and President Barack Obamasays the company is responsible for the costs.

Officials said that capping one of the three leaks was a step towards stemming the flow. "It doesn't lessen the flow, it just simplifies the number of leak points they have to address," David Mosley, a coastguard petty officer 1st class, said.

A rainbow sheen of oil has reached land in parts of Louisiana, but the gooey rafts of coagulated crude have yet to come ashore in most places. Forecasts showed the oil wasn't expected to come ashore until at least tomorrow.

"It's a gift of a little bit of time, I'm not resting," said Mary Landry, a US coastguard rear admiral.

In their worst-case scenario, BP executives told members of a congressional committee that up to 9.5m litres a day could spill if the leaks worsened, though it would be more like 6.5m litres.

The worst oil spill in US history resulted from the 1989 grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker in Alaska. It leaked nearly 11m gallons (41 million litres) of crude.

Containment domes have never been tried at this depth, about 5,000ft (1,500m) because of the extreme water pressure. The dome, if all goes well, could be fired up early next week to start funnelling the oil into a tanker.

It was not clear whether the equipment would work, said Bill Salvin, a BP spokesman. "What we do know is that we have done extensive engineering and modelling, and we believe this gives us the best chance to contain the oil, and that's very important to us."

Yesterday seas calmed allowing more conventional methods to contain the spill to get back on track as businesses and residents kept an eye on the ocean currents, wondering when the sheen washing ashore might turn into a heavier coating of oil. Crews put out more containment equipment and repaired some booms damaged in rough weather over the weekend. They also hoped to again try to burn some of the oil on the water's surface.

Chemical dispersants piped 1,500m to the main leak have significantly reduced the amount of oil coming to the surface, BP said. The company also hoped to shut off one of the smaller of three leaks, though it may not reduce the flow very much, said Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer.

From the air yesterday, the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion looked similar to a week ago, except for the appearance of a massive rig brought in to drill a relief well to shut off the spewing oil. However, that would take months.

People along the Gulf Coast have spent weeks living with uncertainty, wondering where and when the oil may come ashore, ruining their beaches and their livelihoods.

The anxiety is so acute that some are seeing and smelling oil where there is none. And even though the dead turtles and jellyfish washing ashore along the Gulf of Mexico are clean, and scientists have yet to determine what killed them, many are sure the flow of crude is the culprit.

The rig was owned by Transocean. Some of the 115 surviving workers aboard when it exploded are suing the company and BP. In lawsuits filed yesterday, three workers say they were kept floating at sea for more than 10 hours, while the rig burned uncontrollably. They are seeking damages.

Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for Transocean, defended the company's response, saying 115 workers got off alive. Two wrongful death suits have also been filed.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

A subcontractor Transocean reportedly modified the BOP without the knowledge or permission of BP

Exclusive from Andrew Halcro

In what stands to be one of the biggest oil spills in the history of the United States, the possible cause of the spill now appears to be an unauthorized modification of the blow out prevention (BOP) valve.

Oil rig explosionBP's Deep Water Horizon oil rig exploded and sank off the cost of Louisiana last week. Eleven rig workers are missing, which was operated by Swiss-based Transocean Ltd, the largest independent driller in the world.

A subcontractor Transocean reportedly modified the BOP without the knowledge or permission of BP, to the government regulators who okayed the modified BOP, to the Obama administration who wants to look tough on BP even thought the company had no culpability, everyone but BP is running for cover.

New evidence shows BP will eventually be exonerated.

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This document is also packed full of information concerning the blast aa well as pictures of the Horizon