Free Markets, Free People

Top Kill fails

Well it looks like I was a little premature, and I should have known better than to believe an LA Times story.

Live and learn.

The bottom line is that everyone, to include the President and a whole host of politicians (and me) thought the deep water oil leak had been plugged.

In the most serious setback yet in the effort to stem the flow of oil gushing from a well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico, BP engineers said Saturday that the “top kill” technique had failed and, after consultation with government officials, they had decided to move on to another strategy.

Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer for exploration and production, said at a news conference that the engineers would try once again to solve the problem with a containment valve and that it could take four to seven days for the device to be in place.

“After three full days of attempting top kill, we now believe it is time to move on to the next of our options,” Mr. Suttles said.

Apparently the pressure of the escaping oil and gas was just too powerful to overcome and the disaster in the Gulf continues. BP’s next option is apparently a variation on the containment dome option they tried previously.

The new strategy is to smoothly cut the riser that the oil is leaking from and then place a cap. Pipes attached to the cap would then take the oil to a storage boat waiting at the surface.An effort at a containment dome was tried earlier this month, but failed when gases escaping from the oil, froze and blocked the pipe. Mr. Suttles said, however, that BP had learned from that experience and now believed that this cap, which is custom fitted to the riser, will be more successful.

Let’s hope they’ve figured out a way to prevent the causes of the failure the last time they tried to use a dome.

Option 2 is to attach another blowout preventer to the non-functioning one already at the wellhead.

If that doesn’t work, we’re most likely looking at a relief well (which will definitely stop the leak) sometime in August.


If that’s true it is fair to say that Obama and his daughter will be having a few more bathroom conversations and that “plug the hole” failed.

In all seriousness though, this presents a big problem for the administration. Thinking they were past the leak and faced only with the clean up (a daunting problem, but not as visible as the leak), most of the building criticism of the way the President and his administration had handled the leak was subsiding. And, the President made an late PR effort by visiting the LA coast to blunt further criticism before heading to Chicago for the Memorial Day weekend.

All for naught now. Per the NY Times:

The latest failure will undoubtedly put more pressure — both politically and from the public — on the Obama administration to take some sort of action, perhaps taking control of the repair effort completely from BP — and increase the public outcry.

And what do we get from the Prez?

“It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking,” Mr. Obama said in a statement, “and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole.”

Manmade disaster? Wait I thought that’s what we were calling terrorism now. It’s all so confusing. As for the statement from Mr. Cool, Calm and Collected – a little over-dramatic maybe? All a part of keeping their boot foot on the neck of BP one supposes. In the meantime, the rest of us hope and pray that the “next option” BP tries succeeds. And we also have to hope that the government won’t “push BP out of the way and take over” or we’ll be out of options.



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17 Responses to Top Kill fails

  • If nothing else we have a perfect example of “Undersea Contingency Operations”

  • Heh…anyone who thinks these idiots, the politicians, are worth the money, should have their wrists permanently TIG welded to their ankles in 316 stainless steel bracelets, an inch thick and then summarily taken, over and over again by Aids infected lowlifes who enjoy their work.  Does anyone else here feel like they’ve been the continuous victim of an elitist gang rape for the last couple of decades?  ivy league floor scrubbers, these guys need to be put into jobs they’re good at.

    My God, we are Rome in full flame.

  • Obama owns this 100% now.  By his own words.

    Someone here noted that Obama was quick to rush out and make a show of taking “ownership” just as top kill was thought to work.


    • True that.
      This will go down as Obama’s MISSION ACCOMPLISHED moment, and for a LOT better reasons than applied to Bush.

  • This is why you don’t want to be president. Yes, he could do more, and people sure will expect him to do more, but it looks more like an engineering problem, which often can only really be tested by trial and error. Sure, there were some preparation issues and management issues which are more under his actual control, but I doubt any President enters office and says “OK, have everyone review every oil facility in the country and start setting up a crack team to think of things that the oil industry hasn’t already thought of…”
    Also, its very tricky to know when to let your team do something on their own, or when to step in, or when to replace people, especially when you are a lawyer vs. an engineer. I do want to see if they fire the Nobel prize winning physics Dr. Chu guy. Its sounds incestuous, but maybe putting an oil exec in that position might have been wiser – more executive experience with tough decisions, more industry experience and contacts. You will note that Obama’s team is severely lacking in business experience, and choosing Nobel Prize in Physics looks great in the Media, but you have to wonder about his actual executive skills.

    • Respectfully, this is why you don’t pretend to be god.  In Obama’s case, he does not think it pretense.  Wonder what he’s telling Malia today…

  • Wait…  The next option is to cut the pipe and cap it?  Why the holy hell wasn’t that option 1?  Why didn’t they try that weeks ago?
    “Guys, we need a really big hacksaw, and one of the biggest threading dies ever made…”
    Seriously, wtf?  These are the people with degrees, folks…  Degrees in science…  And their first, best bet to shut this off what pack it with mud and pave over it.
    “Well sure, when you put it that way it sounds stupid…  But we were going to use really heavy mud…”
    I wouldn’t be shocked if the first names of the three top scientists were Larry, Mo, and Shemp.

    • I’m going to take a shrewd guess you have no oil field experience or expertise.
      Wild well control is not something you do well from an arm-chair, and the best people in the world are on this…have been for weeks.
      I thought the top  kill would work, too.  It IS approaching fool-proof.  But one thing you…or people with responsibility…had to figure was a possible rupture of the surface casing (the casing run the BOP is attached to), which would be WAY worse than what we seem to have now.  The mud doesn’t just flow into the well; it is pumped under enough pressure to counter the formation pressure (which is honking, apparently).  So, you risk over-pressuring the casing, causing a rupture.
      While the casing is intact, they have options.  This capping operation is just one.  It wouldn’t have been my first choice, and I have doubts it’ll work.

    • There aren’t too many times I hear people make that much of an ass of themselves, like you just did, Scott.
      The steel was under enough stress to tear, and it tore until the stress was just under what was required to propagate the tear.  Packing the bore full of heavy mud raises the pressure where the oil and gas are entering and lowers it at the point the steel tore.  That’s a good thing, makes every thing else easier and more likely to work.
      Cutting the apparatus off below the failed portion and having been unable to fill the bore with mud, the leakage into the gulf will be at a maximum–completely unrestricted–until the can get a new christmas tree welded on.

      • Seems to me, that someone at the onset of this thing knew it was going to be a relatively long term operation to fix this thing.  At that depth the pressure exerted on the end of the pipe by the sea is huge, and yet it still blowing oil like a fire hose; the output pressure must be tremendous. Obama and his crew should have immediately done what they are paid to do; protect our assets until this ruptured pipe is repaired. Every empty tanker and known means to stave off the encroachment of the oil slick should have been put into place.

        Instead, almost 40 days into this tragedy, we get a Clintonesque moment of Obama kneeling on the beach picking up an oil ball and pontificating about how mad he is. Doing this after setting himself up for political gain as being the “man in charge” if “Top Kill” would have worked. 

        This is about as disgusting as it gets. Anyone, would be hard pressed to find a worse example of political leadership.

      • From what I can gather, there is at least SOME restriction via the BOP, and maybe some down-hole restriction, as well.  What they appear to be planning is to cut what on a land rig we call “conductor pipe” above the BOP.  That will allow them to control ONLY the flow coming out of the well.  It will not control the well, which I think you’d have to continue to call “wild”.
        It isn’t a fix, but another remediation effort.  If they have the capability, I would want to positively pump the effluent out of their cap, which would cause a slight incursion of sea-water around the gasket, rather than a release of oil.  I suspect that the next step in the process…if the capping works…is the relief wells coming on-line, which will relieve the formation pressure.
        I have no way of knowing this, but the kind of “loss of circulation” I understand the drillers experienced is one of the “oh, spit” moments you have on a drilling rig.  Sometimes, it is caused when you drill into a void, and all your drilling fluids are just gone.  If that happens at the same time you hit a productive formation, you get a wild well.  That’s when you BOP (which is usually at least a triple-redundant system) comes into play.  Somehow, that appears to have failed, too…which is EXTREMELY rare.

        • So, they could get a cap on it and just have it blow somewhere else? I was having a hard time with their “Top Kill” method because of how much mud it would take to overcome the pressure differential. On the face of it, and not fully understanding the situation, it would seem almost impossible. I think you’re right, these are most likely all stop-gap measures until the relief wells are in place. What a mess.

          There’s a market here, though.

  • And let’s hope in November we correct the first man made disaster in Congress, and the second man made disaster in 2012.   Then we can get on to seeing to it that the country “unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster [is] made whole.”

    Oh, the spill isn’t his fault, but his reaction to it, ALL his.

  • The Obama Administration takes responsibility …

    White House energy and climate adviser Carol Browner said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” broadcast. “At the end of the day, the government tells BP what to do,” Browner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”