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This is a brief diary which is more of a pictorial explanation than anything else.

To me, not an engineer but with a science background, the top kill idea didn't make any sense, with that riser kinked and leaking where it comes out of the BOP. The idea initially shown below is that under very high pressure a dense and viscous substance ("mud") would be injected into the "kill" and "choke" ports, and that this pressurized substance would force the oil back down the well, and then would be cemented over. However, it seemed to me that firstly, the mud could not be injected very rapidly through the small hoses, and, secondly, the mud would just come flying out the top and rip the already leaking riser pipe into shreds.

oil

Now I have run across an animation/explanation which makes the scheme seem more reasonable.

This animation (Flash Player required) shows that there is a plan to remove the leaking riser and seal off the top of the BOP, prior to injecting the mud.

The idea is to set up a sort of drill press over the top of the BOP, and ream it out, and make a seat for a seal which would then be forced down on top of the BOP. I'm not so sure how they can put a cap down on top of the huge gusher that will be coming out at that point. Most likely this cap will actually be a valved pipe, and the valve will be initially open. If this pipe can be seated successfully, then the valve will be closed.

If this capping procedure is successful, and the BOP and the wellhead hold together, this would stop the flow. This would also in theory allow for successful injection of mud through the "choke" and "kill" lines at high pressure. Now this latter assumes that these two lines in the BOP are in continuity with the well, and that BP engineers can successfully jack into these lines and force mud down them. Obviously the whole thing depends on their ability to set up this giant drill press thingy over the BOP. Not easy at a mile under the ocean. It really reminds me of "The Right Stuff."

Speculation:
It seems obvious that this top kill runs the risk of completely opening up the well. I'm wondering if BP is going this route because it is becoming increasingly clear that the leak is already just about as big as it could get, and is getting worse all the time, because of erosion of the riser and/or other parts of the train. If my hunch is right, the chances of success might actually be rather low, but since the consequences are no worse than the status quo, BP is going ahead. If it fails, they will just say, the flow was already huge. If it succeeds, obviously they will be "heroes."

I welcome comments from those who have real expertise, and apologize for any inaccuracies in the diary.

Update: the top kill attempt has been "delayed". There are indications (see comment by taonow, below) that conditions may be changing down there, but one expert, at least, is confident that the well can be capped.

Originally posted to seesdifferent on Mon May 24, 2010 at 06:01 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Rigzone Newsletter from April 30th (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      seesdifferent

      with the engineering data from this Deepwater Horizon wellhead -- seems to be at odds with the basic assumptions of this proposal.

      Mike Lynch at GLG with analysis of Halliburton statement from April 30

      What comes out is that Halliburton's people measured 14,000 PSI at the 21" pipe wellhead prior to backing off the mudpack.

      14,000 PSI * (pi * 10.5" * 10.5") = almost 5,000,000 pounds total pressure.

      A jet of 14,000 PSI ejecta (with gas and oil combined) is really beyond anything you're going to cap with mud. Same for loose golf balls, even if you had 100,000,000 of them.

      ***************

      The bleeder well has similar problems.

      It can reduce flow. It can recover oil and make money for BP.

      But at the best this strategy is going to reduce the flow, not cut it off. The new well will be competing for flow with the gusher.

      ***************

      The one and only reliable strategy to seal 100% of this 14,000 PSI and 21" diameter gusher is to pinch off the pipe stem.

      That means drilling down 400 meters, inserting a high-yield device, then setting off a very large blast at approximately 50 meters from the 21" pipe.

      A 2 kiloton blast would likely succeed. A 15 kiloton blast would surely succeed and such devices are available off-the-shelf and small enough to fit in a pressure-resistant container that would make the descent.

      The alternatives are iffy. Untested. Not based on pinching off the damn pipe.

      One plan, one operation, no tears.

      Angry White Males + Personality Disorder delusionals + Career criminals + White Racists + Pro-Life Christians =EQ= The GOPer Base

      by vets74 on Mon May 24, 2010 at 07:52:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Calculated 16,000 PSI from that previous footage (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vets74

        based upon 6.25:1 expansion of the gas on exit from the pipe.

        But riddle me this -- wouldn't a large blast just shear the pipe off and let everything out unrestricted?

        You need something to apply compression to seal the pipe, and then one has to ask about how brittle the pipe is and whether it can survive being compressed/crimped.

        Personally, I expect the BOP to explode as it is filling with mud.

        Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
        I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
        -Spike Milligan

        by polecat on Mon May 24, 2010 at 08:47:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, indeed, the BOP/top-stem blows. (0+ / 0-)

          Mike Lynch and the GLG guys got 14,000 PSI from the Hallie crew's measurements. Maybe a little conservative.

          Backing out mud, then, was parallel to flying Challenger against the engineers' post-freeze warnings.

          *******

          Pinching off the 21" pipe at 400-meter subfloor depth gives more than enough overburden.

          Using a nuke makes it safer. The heat from the blast also makes a clearer cap at the stem, while the blast wave going down has to pinch off the stem.

          Effectively, the 21" pipe ceases to exist in the blast cavity, then the roof of the cavity collapses. The pinch-off below the cavity is sealed with 400 meters of sand and rock.

          Angry White Males + Personality Disorder delusionals + Career criminals + White Racists + Pro-Life Christians =EQ= The GOPer Base

          by vets74 on Mon May 24, 2010 at 09:06:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A nuke would fracture the sea floor -- this is (0+ / 0-)

            sedimentary rock, not granite.  

            What kind of yield are you talking about?  And how do you make a device survive 2400 PSI prior to being set off?  If it is small, conventional explosive would be better, and can be shaped.

            Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
            I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
            -Spike Milligan

            by polecat on Mon May 24, 2010 at 10:40:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Good questions. Answers as follows -- (0+ / 0-)

              -- A nuke would fracture the sea floor -- this is sedimentary rock, not granite.

              Not exactly. That is why the 400-meter depth is needed to assure containment. It doesn't hurt that a mile of water is pushing down on the 400-meters of rock.

              Venting a small level of radioactivity is the risk, which is less significant so far from a population center. The geology of the Gulf is unique:

              ...the Gulf of Mexico. Recent models using gravity and seismic data have shown that the basement rock (believed to be metamorphics and igneous rocks) are at depths as deep as 50,000 feet (15 km). This was reported at the recent Coast Association of Geological Societies meeting in October, 2007. (Bird, D.E. et al, Integrated Seismic and Gravity Data Modeling: Basement Structure in the Gulf of Mexico, AAPG Bulletin, Vol 91)
              See:
              search.datapages.com/data/gcags/d...
              In the Gulf of Mexico, the basement rocks, beneath the sedimentary rocks are basalts, felsic and putonic igneous rocks in the Eastern Gulf near Florida, and metamorphic rocks of schist, phyllites, and gneiss in the Western Gulf of Mexico near Mexico. (source: Salvador, A. and J. Muneton, 1989, Gulf of Mexico Basin: Stratigraphic Correlation)

              Other major sedimentary basins are likely to have sedimentary rocks of similar depths. The Ganges River delta, the Niger River delta, the Mekong River delta, and many others may have sediment piles of similar or greater depth.

              As for the deepest borehole, for a single borehole drilled in sedimentary rock, this may be the the Bertha Rogers well in Oklahoma This gas well stopped at 32,000 feet when it struck molten sulfur. A deeper well, the Kola well drilled by the Soviets, reached 40,000 ft but was drilling into metamorphic and igneous rocks.
              See: www.gi.alaska.edu

              If we're talking 3 grams/cc -- 3,000,000 grams/cu. m. -- 3,000 kilograms/cu. m. -- then you're getting 1,200,000 kilograms per meter square.  

              Exactly 300,000 PSI to eleven decimal places. Plus the water. And granite might fracture, but sediment in the Gulf goes down as far as 50,000 feet below the water. (Interesting place.)

              -- What kind of yield are you talking about?  And how do you make a device survive 2400 PSI prior to being set off?  If it is small, conventional explosive would be better, and can be shaped.

              A deep water submersible can be modelled easily enough. Pipe runs 21". The nuke runs to significantly less for diameter. So the nuke can be kept at 1 atmosphere.

              I'd like to see a 2 kiloton device used. Livermore has plans for damn near anything.

              There is a 15 kiloton device on the shelf. Small enough if needed. If needs be.

              And no, conventional HE isn't going to do this one. The near 50:50 heat/blast performance of the nuke is a big positive for sealing off this mess.

              Melt everything you can at the cap site, down 400 meters.

              Angry White Males + Personality Disorder delusionals + Career criminals + White Racists + Pro-Life Christians =EQ= The GOPer Base

              by vets74 on Mon May 24, 2010 at 02:00:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  It's all just a big experiment at this point (7+ / 0-)

    I hope it works. We are still something like 60 days away from a releif well that can stop the flow.

  •  I think we are way past time for anyone at BP to (9+ / 0-)

    be considered a hero no matter what they do, but I do get your point.

    Let's hope it works.  

    In a progressive country change is constant; change is inevitable.

    by funluvn1 on Mon May 24, 2010 at 06:07:42 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the clear concise explanation (7+ / 0-)

    Im sure its better than anything I'll hear from Wolf Blitzer and the Bestest Ever News Team on TV today.

  •  They are trying this now (7+ / 0-)

    because they are completely desperate.  This procedure runs the very real risk of blowing the well head completely out which would create a completely unchecked gusher.  The crimped risers and pipes are slowing the flow some at this point.

    ~War is Peace~Freedom is Slavery~Ignorance is Strength~ George Orwell "1984"

    by Kristina40 on Mon May 24, 2010 at 06:17:40 AM PDT

  •  Won't happen (13+ / 0-)

    According to monkeyfister the "kill" has been delayed. His blog notes that over the last 24 hours or so there have been some pretty major "explosions" at the bottom (as seen on the live webcam), perhaps indicating that the casing has given way.

    Also more strange goings on with the webcams. The BP one shows no problem. The one on CNN (supposedly of the same scene) shows something quite different. I have been watching both supposed "live cams" and they are not showing the same "time". One is wrong (manipulated?).

    I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

    by taonow on Mon May 24, 2010 at 06:26:14 AM PDT

    •  Closed loop feed fake live cams (5+ / 0-)

      sounds just like something BP would do.

      In this modern age of sohisticated photo analysis, if they are faking it, they will get caught.

      If cats could blog, they wouldn't.

      by crystal eyes on Mon May 24, 2010 at 06:32:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Delayed top kill (8+ / 0-)

      Link

      A plan to use drilling mud to stop the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico could be put off another day to allow engineers enough time to run tests, a U.S. Coast Guard official said Sunday afternoon.

      Rear Adm. Mary Landry also criticized BP for allowing some equipment that could aid in efforts to block or clean up the spreading oil slick to sit unused, even as oil is washing up onto the Gulf Coast.

      "There is really no excuse for not having constant activity," Landry said.

      Officials expect to conduct the "top kill," now seen as the best method of stemming the flow of oil into the gulf, on Wednesday, Landry said during a conference call. The procedure, which involves shooting drilling mud into the well and then sealing it with cement, was originally scheduled for late last week and later moved to Tuesday.

      I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

      by taonow on Mon May 24, 2010 at 06:34:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The 14,000 PSI jet of ejecta.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      polecat, seesdifferent

      has to be expected to tear hell out of anything in the way of casing and valves.

      Quickly.

      What's in the way of that flow gets trashed out.

      Angry White Males + Personality Disorder delusionals + Career criminals + White Racists + Pro-Life Christians =EQ= The GOPer Base

      by vets74 on Mon May 24, 2010 at 07:58:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How are they going to connect that contraption (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    seesdifferent, minerva1157

    to the well? It seems they'd first have to cut the pipe near the seafloor, then deploy this mechanism over it. To me it looks like it has about as much chance of working as the dome. Maybe BP will claim they have a time machine as a backup plan to this. It'll be only slightly less believable.

    Wal*Mart isn't the root of all evil but you can buy the plastic, cadmium-tainted, Chinese knock-off of it there for $4.27

    by ontheleftcoast on Mon May 24, 2010 at 06:29:21 AM PDT

    •  Its just another dome. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      seesdifferent, ontheleftcoast

      And they don't have the balls to admit that we're going to have to pinch off the stem.

      Once a nuke gets lit up, there's going to be a wave of anti-drilling political cowardice. The objective may will be sensible/economically sane/correct. But the real motive for stopping would be cowardice.

      Meanwhile, the Gulf is going to die from this thing.

      That's not a "risk." It is a certainty.

      Angry White Males + Personality Disorder delusionals + Career criminals + White Racists + Pro-Life Christians =EQ= The GOPer Base

      by vets74 on Mon May 24, 2010 at 08:03:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  read today here: (8+ / 0-)

    "Rash use of brute force on this thing can lead to very undesirable results. I bet killing this well is very risky business. If they break that BOP, the leak could blow out oil and gas in a magnitude far, far greater we are currently experiencing.

    It is obvious that not enough research and planning was done on safety. But desperate action now could REALLY make this much worse."

    http://www.nola.com/...

    The Addington perpwalk is the trailhead for accountability in this wound on our national psyche. [...you know: Dick Cheney's "top" lawyer.] --Sachem

    by greenbird on Mon May 24, 2010 at 06:30:11 AM PDT

  •  Needing to do something fast (5+ / 0-)

    for the first time and not having the right tools....

    I know from my do-it-yourself adventures,
    This is when I make things worse.  

    I'm getting a bad feeling about this top kill plan.
    Injecting dense material into a high pressure tube sounds like it's a projectile machine.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't.

    by crystal eyes on Mon May 24, 2010 at 06:40:17 AM PDT

  •  BP took the playbook out of "Speed" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, seesdifferent, lostboyjim

    I can't wait for the moment that Dennis Hopper realizes the bus is on an endless loop.

    What was the general consensus on Nick Pozzi's Supertankers ? I mean if there's 25 of them, each capable of holding 85 million barrels, needing to travel a few hundred miles to Texas to unload before coming back, and each having the experience to do it, what's the problem ?

    The other scary thing is Professor Overton of LSU (the closest thing we have to the scientist character who explains everything in Godzilla or other monster movies,) said that since the oil is freezing at those depths, we may face a 100 years of oil balls coming up and washing up on the coast - or whatever's left of it.

  •  Thanks. Tipped and rec'd nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    seesdifferent, vets74, jeanette0605

    I am so down in the dumps about this and so many other things.

  •  good diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, seesdifferent

    thanks

    Things are symbols of themselves. Chogyam Trungpa

    by bob zimway on Mon May 24, 2010 at 08:19:16 AM PDT

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