Fire BP, Remove Them from the Crime Scene and Let a Team of Experts Fix This Mess on BP's Dime → Washingtons Blog
Fire BP, Remove Them from the Crime Scene and Let a Team of Experts Fix This Mess on BP's Dime - Washingtons Blog

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fire BP, Remove Them from the Crime Scene and Let a Team of Experts Fix This Mess on BP's Dime

BP was criminally negligent in drilling the well which blew out. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

It has bungled everything it has done since. Indeed - as discussed below - it has made things worse.

And BP has tried to cover up its blunders by lowballing spill estimates, keeping reporters out of areas hardest hit by the oil (and see this, this, this and this) and threatening to arrest them if they try to take pictures, hiding dead birds and other sealife, telling cleanup workers they'll be fired if they use respirators, and using dispersants to hide the amount of spilled oil (the dispersants are only worsening the damage caused by the spill).

Given the enormous stakes (don't forget that we are starting a potentially "extremely active" hurricane season), why are we letting BP continue to be in charge of containment operations?

Drilling Relief Wells is Tricky

Remember, there is probably damage beneath the sea floor. A misstep by BP could make things much worse.

Drilling relief wells is extremely difficult.

As I wrote on June 5th:

Many technical experts have said that the first attempts to complete the relief well in August could miss entirely on the first try, as it is difficult to intersect the blown-out well at the precise location and angle needed.

As PBS notes:

Several experts have compared [intersecting the leaking well with the relief well] to hitting a target the size of a dinner plate two miles underground.


The ... challenge is to exactly intercept the original well bore, which is only about a foot across. If they miss on the first attempt, they'll need to back up slightly, plug the hole they just made, and try again. Each attempt could take several days. [David Rensink, the incoming president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists] says that the chances that they'll hit the well bore correctly on the first try are "virtually nil."

"If they're within 20 feet of it, that would be pretty good," he says. However, each attempt will reduce the uncertainty and get them closer, and Rensink says that he's "very certain" that the relief well will work eventually.

"The reason is that they're going to keep at it until they make it work," he says.

If the current relief wells fail, it could be until December or early next year until a correctly-positioned relief well can be completed.

Indeed, ABC News implies that even after the relief well is completed, the Gulf oil may keep on flowing for months. Specifically, ABC points out:

Past experience in the Gulf of Mexico has been sobering. In 1979, a Mexican-owned rig called Ixtoc-1 suffered a blowout and collapsed, and 140 million gallons of oil escaped into the water. Pemex, the Mexican oil company, drilled two relief wells -- and even then oil kept escaping for three months after the first one was finished.
Similarly, MSNBC writes:
If the [Ixtoc] disaster serves as a precedent, the BP spill could continue even after the two relief wells are expected to be finished in August.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich writes:

A petroleum engineer who’s worked in the oil industry tells me [that] a recent blow-out off the coast of Australia required five pressure relief wells to successfully shut it down.

And Spiegel reports today that there are many dangers with completing the relief wells:

Independent experts warn that relief wells, like any well, are not without risk. "More oil could leak than before, because the field is being drilled into again," says Fred Aminzadeh, a geophysicist at the University of Southern California. Ira Leifer, a geochemist at the University of California in Santa Barbara, voices similar concerns: "In the worst case, we would suddenly be dealing with two spills, and we'd have twice the problem."


Leifer is a member of a team of experts deployed by US President Barack Obama to estimate the volume of oil currently flowing in the Gulf of Mexico.


BP's most recent efforts to stop the flow of oil have only made the situation worse, says Leifer. The engineers' attempt to seal off the well from above, using a method known as "top kill," failed and only enlarged the borehole, according to Leifer. Now, he adds, there is almost nothing stopping the oil from flowing out of the well.


As straightforward as it sounds, this approach [i.e. killing a spill by drilling relief wells] has not always been easy to implement in the past. The disaster in the Timor Sea, for example, ended in a debacle. It took engineer five tries to even find the borehole under the sea floor. Shortly before the end, the West Atlas oilrig went up in flames, after all.

Repeat of History?

Another case is also a warning sign for BP. In June 1979, engineers with the Mexican oil company Pemex lost control of the Ixtox I, an exploratory well in the Gulf of Mexico. Just as BP is now attempting to do, engineers at the time drilled two relief wells.


Is history repeating itself? The spill in the Macondo oil field could also continue to gush uncontrollably well beyond BP's August deadline. Pemex Director Carlos Morales, currently providing BP with technical advice, expects the spill to continue for another "four to five months." Leifer also believes that the disaster on the sea floor could drag on "until late fall."

Although the BP engineers have already completed two-thirds of the first relief well, it is extremely difficult to find the out-of-control well in the middle of the bedrock, says David Rensink, incoming president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

"You're trying to intersect the well bore, which is about a foot wide, with another well bore, which is about a foot wide," Rensink said recently. Hitting it with the first attempt, he adds, "would truly be like winning the lottery."

Instead, the engineers will presumably have to repeatedly pull back the drill head to adjust the direction, Rensink predicts. "If they get it on the first three or four shots, they'd be very lucky."

More Caution

Rensink is particularly concerned that BP, in drilling the relief wells, will penetrate into precisely those rock formations in which extreme pressure and temperature conditions facilitated the April blowout in the first place. Gas bubbles and gushing oil from the depths are real possibilities. "Any relief or kill well needs to be drilled with more caution than the first well," Donal Van Nieuwenhuise, a geologist at the University of Houston, told the New Orleans daily Times-Picayune. "You don't want a repeat performance."


Indeed, the engineers aren't only facing a formidable technical challenge. Weather will also play a significant role. Forecasters have already predicted that this hurricane season, which began this month, could be one of the most active on record. Drilling would have to be ceased for the duration of each strong storm.

An oil industry geologist adds:
[There are] lots of potential complications [in drilling relief wells]. A big one would be using too high a mud weight/pump pressure and fracturing thwe rock around the [relief well] and losing it. Also instead of the mud building a tall colume inside the well bore and stoping the flow it might escape out of ruptured [casing] or failed [cement] shoes. Then they might not ever be able to build enough back pressure to stop the flow. I suspect many of these possible problems won't reveal themselves until the actual kill process begins.
BP is Not the Only One with Expertise

Government spokesmen have said that BP's technical knowledge and equipment are superior to the government's. But that is misleading.

The U.S. government might not have expertise, but many private companies do. For example, Norway's Statoil is the largest offshore operator in the world, with enormous experience in deepwater drilling. Chevron, Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and other companies also have substantial experience in such operations.

These companies are not without their own - although smaller - history of spills. But BP's safety record is the worst. See this, this, this and this.

And because other companies don't have a huge, direct legal and financial interest in trying to underplay this spill (BP could be fined between $1,100 and $4,300 per barrel of oil released, and oil industry expert Matt Simmons believes that BP will be driven into bankruptcy), they will likely be somewhat more motivated to protect the Gulf and less motivated to try to cover their backs by hiding the evidence and pretending everything is fine. Moreover, group-think will likely be less if a diverse team drawn from different companies is involved, instead of a bunch of guys within the same company - BP.

Numerous countries have also offered to help. See this, this, this and this, but BP and the U.S. government have rejected their offers.

And the offers from many private citizens - many with relevant expertise - to help clean up the oil pollution have been rejected by BP as well.

Indeed, it is no longer just the U.S. threatened by this catastrophe, but also Mexico, Cuba, and possibly many other countries as well.

Fire BP

The government shouldn't let the knuckleheads who caused the blowout and have made everything worse drill the relief wells and control the mitigation and cleanup efforts.

The White House should, instead, remove BP from the scene of the crime and appoint an international team of experts to drill relief wells, kill the spill, and clean up this mess on BP's dime.


  1. The US (Big Oil and World Banksters) doesn’t have the modern technology or the ships rigged for an oil spill response. Why should they, it is easier to buy politicians and illegal dispersants than to be prepared for a spill.

    The Belgian firms DEME and Jan De Nul Group contends they can clean up the oil with accuracy at a depth of 6,000 feet.

    BP and Obama turned the European offers down!

    Today, (a month and half to late) there are US tankers that are steaming to the site with four pairs of modern skimming booms that were airlifted from the Netherlands and should be sucking up oil at the flow site within days.

    Each pair can process 5 million gallons of water a day, removing 20,000 tons of oil and sludge.

    If those skimmers were in place when they were offered a month ago, each pair could presumably recover 4.4 million barrels of oil.

    Four pairs of the state of the art tanker skimmers would be able to suck up 17.6 million barrels in a month, although they will not be able to reach the depths of the plumes that are floating away with the illegal dispersants.

    There is no rational reason for the oil not to be sucked up before it drifts 48 miles to shore!

  2. There is very little reporting on the media blackout on the oil spill. Those who have seen it say it is much worse than portrayed in the media. This might be an interesting topic to cover.

  3. What about this mess, who will help the Nigerians against Shell? This spill is 50 years old, it is a crime. A crime that will go un-noticed...

    BODO, Nigeria — Big oil spills are no longer news in this vast, tropical land. The Niger Delta, where the wealth underground is out of all proportion with the poverty on the surface, has endured the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every year for 50 years by some estimates. The oil pours out nearly every week, and some swamps are long since lifeless.

  4. What I find so utterly obscene is the near total lack of ANY realistic perspective.

    BP CEO Tony Hayward has just committed one of the most heinous crimes of the new century.

    Hayward's crimes are no different than the crimes committed by Countrywide Financial CEO — Angelo R. Mozilo, by Bank of America CEO - Kenneth Lewis and a host of other -greed-is-good criminals whose sorry-stories are increasingly -the story of our time.

    This stuff is hideously historic, like the Robber Barons were historic, and like the American Reconstruction was historic after the American Civil War. They called them "Carpetbaggers".

    I call these guys "coke addicts".

    Barack Obama has just addressed the nation in a fireside chat of sorts. He boldly lied, saying, "BP will pay,", while announcing a disguised 20 billion dollar bail-out of Tony Hayward's BP.

    What Obama announced were loan guarantees for BP intended to defer and realign the mounting burden of rapidly accruing damages and recovery costs -onto the shoulders of the American Taxpayer. Yes, that is what he did.

    I call these guys "coke addicts".

    According to Obama's deal with BP's Hayward, both the clean-up and the compensation of successfully litigated claims sought for the very real, ongoing and life-shattering damages resulting from Hayward's crimes are going to be paid for with borrowed taxpayer money, if at all, -EVER-.

    This is being done on the hope and prayer that no more of BP's offshore oil disasters hit the near-proverbial-fan into which they have been flung, AND ALSO, in the impossible hope BP will make enough money, someday, to happily recompense taxpayers for the financial helping-hand we are being told we are giving to these criminals, no "ifs", "ands", or "buts".

    This is a response that we have almost grown accustomed to seeing in these dark times.

    It is another bail-out OF the criminals.

    No one ever goes to jail.

    No one can pull the plug on derivatives markets OR this clearly disastrous off-shore oil drilling.

    Everyone and everything is TOO BIG to get in the way of, for the sake of "progress" and "economic recovery".


    Meanwhile the country's poverty-stricken natural-born citizens are still recovering from the shock-and-awe of the watermelon-sized hailstorms of greed-is-good crimes that seem to keep popping up like Oklahoma thunderstorms have the propensity to pop up in April and May...

    Come-on, folks, wake up. We are half-way through June.

    And in the mean time, a heroin-addicted, Kenyan impostor is still being allowed to sit in the seat of our government in Washington D.C. as the country is run by Israeli dual-nationals looking to start the next world war so they can completely wipe-out -the chosen neighbors-, the Palestinians, half-a-world away.

    Let me say it again... No, not, "God is good."

    What I find so utterly obscene is the near total lack of ANY realistic perspective.

    Just getting rid of BP isn't near enough of anything we might consider -something of a solution-.

    Pray a very large comet or asteroid is headed our way -and better yet, -headed straight at Washington D.C.

    The oil in the Gulf will eventually clean itself up, -after a couple of hundred years, -if we just get the ongoing crimes under control.

  5. There's not many times in life when the Greenies and pro business groups can get together and sing kumbayah but this may be it. Oil is so hugely important to all our lives that it is effectively a commonwealth good. Private oil companies should be considered to need to operate with the same gravitas that banks do (I mean organizationally/operationally). Now working in my fifth bank I can say the level of security checks, protocols and oversight is always impressive (again - I mean at the operational level). No-one can override any operational system or insist on "going faster". Rules is rules. These same standards and culture need to be shot into BP's operational butt.


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