"Top Kill" Has FAILED In the Attempt to Plug the Oil Leak Using Mud ... Now BP Will Try to Add Some "Junk" to the Mix to Try to Seal the Holes → Washingtons Blog
"Top Kill" Has FAILED In the Attempt to Plug the Oil Leak Using Mud ... Now BP Will Try to Add Some "Junk" to the Mix to Try to Seal the Holes - Washingtons Blog

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Top Kill" Has FAILED In the Attempt to Plug the Oil Leak Using Mud ... Now BP Will Try to Add Some "Junk" to the Mix to Try to Seal the Holes

Here's the scoop: BP's attempt to stop the oil spill using the "Top Kill" method has failed.

How do I know?

Well, as the New York Times notes:

BP officials, who along with government officials created the impression early in the day that the strategy was working, disclosed later that they had stopped pumping the night before when engineers saw that too much of the drilling fluid was escaping along with the oil.
Indeed, BP stopped pumping "mud" for more than 16 hours (the material gushing out of the leaking riser didn't stop during that time).

Basically, BP has failed in trying to drive enough "mud" down the well to provide enough weight to tamp down the oil gushing out. It didn't work.

Indeed, BP's "re-starting" Top Kill really means that Top Kill Version 1.0 was tried and failed, and now BP will try Top Kill Version 2.0 - adding "junk" to the mix.

Unless BP can get very lucky and plug the holes with miscellaneous junk, Top Kill 2.0 won't be any more effective than Operation Sombrero.

As the Guardian explains:

Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, insisted that the operation was going to plan, but admitted: "What we do know is that we have not yet stopped the flow."

He said BP engineers would soon use additional materials to try to plug the well, suggesting heavy mud deployed so far would not work on its own.

And the Guardian's oil spill blog (a great resource which I just discovered) notes:

6pm CDT: Doug Suttles makes an appearance on CNN ....

Asked by CNN what had happened, Suttles said: "Too much of the mud is exiting the riser as opposed to going down the well bore." This could be fixed in several ways, including the infamous "junk shot", using a more viscous mud type, or finally restarting pumping at very high rates.


7.30pm CDT: The Washington Post has more details on BP's stop-start top kill process, and mentions that BP is considering a "junk shot" tonight:

Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, said that on Wednesday the company had blasted high-pressure mud into the leaking well two times, trying to force the oil down in a procedure compared to using one firehose against another.

After doing it twice, Suttles said, the company stopped about midnight Wednesday, and spent Thursday assessing the plumes still shooting out of broken machinery. He said that company officials believed the two efforts had probably made some progress.

"I think some people believe it has. Some people believe it's less obvious it has," Suttles said. "What we do believe we've done is successfully pumped some mud, some of this drilling mud, into this wellbore."

But, Suttles said, oil was still coming out, despite these efforts: "What we do know is that we have not yet stopped the flow."

He said the company would try the procedure again Thursday evening and might add chunkier debris such as rubber balls to the mix in hopes of clogging the leaking pipe. That procedure is known as a "junk shot."


  1. You're premature calling this a failure. The New Zealand Top Kill took five attempts. The pracrise of stopping and assessing phases of pumping is quite normal. We need to be patient. For a counter perspective (though perhaps over optimistic where you are pessimistic) read: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/27/bp-oil-spill-top-kill

  2. Thanks GW, you appear to be the only one saying it at this point...but oilpocalypse is continuing

    You might want to direct people to Booming 101 youtube video, because our only hope right now is stopping the use of toxic dispersant's and proper booming, where they can (because, of course, there are not enough booms) until relief well is in place.

  3. My assessment about the “top kill” it is futile because of the questionable cementing done on the production casing. Reports of not letting it set long enough, hours instead of days and the fact that a cement bond log was not run. Check this report out about the Schlumberger logging crew, who left the rig just before the explosion because of dangerous conditions,


    Also the supposed “live” feed (I have seen convincing evidence that this is just a loop type broadcast) shows 4 plumes coming from the well head area. To me this means that the flow has already breeched the casing otherwise you would see only one stream of oil (the inside casing). Unless they are going to pump mud down the 4 points simultaneously, it will not shut off the oil. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why they have waited this long to do something besides contain the oil.

    Concerning the containment box: I suggest putting it to a new use. Place it over the top of the well head and let it sink into the sea floor. Then pump cement into the box, displacing the water and oil out the top. This should smother the blow out and seal off the flow around the well head area. Continue drilling the directional relief well to permanently kill the well at the bottom to take the pressure off of the containment box concrete plug at the sea floor. A 1000 ton concrete box or whatever weight it is is a large mass covering a wide area. Why would this not work?

    Comment about using bombs.

    Finally, the idea about using a bomb in the hole or on the sea floor surface is crazy. These are soft sediments that they drilled through, really nothing but soft sand and clay. A down hole explosion would create fractures and fissures throughout the area. Sounds like a good way to release the entire contents into the Gulf through a half a mile wide conduit.

  4. @rtaylor71101: The sombrero method failed because the thing was filling up with gas hydrates, and besides clogging the hose with methane ice crystals, that also nearly floated it.

    I called Deepwater Horizon Response and gave the following suggestion: Cover the entire area with a large steel dome-like sieve. Being a sieve, the oil pressure will not interfere with the placement. Once it is placed, bolt it down into the seabed with 50-foot bolts. Once it is bolted, start pumping it full of cement containing an aggregate which is BIGGER than the holes in the sieve. Eventually, the flow is stopped. They could even cement it externally just to be sure.

    I hope they take my suggestion into consideration. It may be the only way. I don't see them being able to lower ANOTHER blowout preventer on top of the existing damaged one. And even if they do that successfully, who's to say that the damaged one isn't already breached beyond repair, only to rupture when they close off the new one?


  5. Thanks rtaylor for you input, I was guided to the Schlumberger website after reading this blog
    (or search nakedcapitalism.org for Sunday May 9 2010.)
    I was wondering about the creation of a log and had commented on it.

  6. Hello and Yes:

    BP or anyone else has no experience dealing with a task of a whole 100 miles or more down in the ground(the person on 60 minutes who jump 90 feet knows) Please ,stop airing bad news were BP is talking just air them when its fixed ; out of work Thank You


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