The Fourteenth Banker Blog

July 20, 2010

Back to BP

Filed under: Running Commentary — thefourteenthbanker @ 7:18 PM

It seems like a waste of time to discuss BP these days. What has not already been said?  But let me take up my sad refrain one more time. According to this ProPublica piece, in testimony today about the actions on the rig leading up to the blowout, BP pumped fluids into the well in an attempt to effectively “dump” them without normal environmental restrictions.

BP had hundreds of barrels of the two chemicals on hand and needed to dispose of the material, Lindner testified. By first flushing it into the well, the company could take advantage of an exemption in an environmental law that otherwise would have prohibited it from discharging the hazardous waste into the Gulf of Mexico, Lindner said.

The procedure mixed two substances. “It’s not something we’ve ever done before,” Lindner said.

So, someone decided to pump this junk into the well in advance of the clearing of the well bore of drilling mud. It would seem that the flooding of sea water would then have blown this stuff right back out into the ocean??  Or it would seep out at some point?  Jerry, can you help on this point?  This chemical dump would have to have been either done in accordance with company practices to externalize costs, or would have been the rogue action of an employee. If the rogue action of an employee, which I find unlikely, we should ask what incentives and pressures that employee was under that would cause them to callously contaminate the environment further. Perhaps the contamination of the environment at these sites is already so extreme that it makes no difference.  Comments welcome.  I suspect that a few hundred barrels of a toxic chemical does make a difference.

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7 Comments »

  1. Anything pumped into a well to clear it of drilling mud would , along with the mud, be forced into cavities opened between the drill bore and the delivery pipe. Think of a pencil. The casing is the entire wood part of the pencil and the delivery pipe for oil recovery is the lead. Vastly more complex though. Remember, the outside well casing could be 24 inches in diameter or more at the top with the casing telescoping and getting ever smaller until it reaches the well head in the payback zone. The actual pipe that brings up the oil is probably only four inches or so in diameter. so there is a cylindrical doughnut space with the oil/gas pipe say 20 inches in diameter at the top that is nearly nothing at the well head in the pay zone. The drilling mud and goop that was being disposed of is in between the outer casing and the final oil producing piping. This is a very simple exposition and the reality is very complex.

    So, yes, a bunch of junk could be dumped this way.

    Might there have been a chemical reaction that stove in the casing? Then too, the casing might have blown apart and the entire mess was pushed back up to the drill ship by gas pressures way, way, above expectations. The pressure must have been enormous.

    My bet is we have a rogue act here. I have spent a lifetime with Project Managers and cowboy’s do abound. A few hundred barrels in a column a mile deep would be quite small.

    The stories I can tell about PM shenanigans would fill a book. This kind of behaviour happens when the Project Executive involved is like minded.

    Comment by Jerry J — July 20, 2010 @ 9:16 PM | Reply

    • A lot of details about the Macondo exploration well are sparse. I may be wrong, but I thought that the blow out happened before they put the delivery pipe in place. They ” cement” in the deivery pipe with special muds. These ” Muds” are sand and cements and a lot of other things that enable the delivery pipe to be centered inside the casing as the muds secure the delivery pipe. When wells are reworked, the old delivery pipe is pulled up as the old muds inside the casing are re drilled out. The reworked well may then be deepened to penetrate a deeper pay zone as would be the case in fields with residual oil zones. Reworking will be very big in a number of basins like the Permian and North Slope of Alaska.

      In Macondo, they did not get that far. So, I take it the mud was blown under pressure inside the casing , thus allowing an irregular orifice for the very high gas pressured oil to escape and do in the drill ship. That takes pressures totally unanticipated. That is to be expected in a field being opened for the first time. The Drill Ship operators were obviously totally surprised and done in. Like Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor.

      Comment by Jerry J — July 20, 2010 @ 9:41 PM | Reply

  2. The Macondo well was in the process of being ” cemented” in. That is, the delivery pipe was being centered and drill mud either being extracted and replaced with fresh ” mud” , AKA cement, AKA grout. There is a huge loose terminology in oil. The oil dictionary is huge and very expensive.

    If , as bandied about in the media, the well was nearly ready for production, the full casing would have been cleared and a fresh mix of ” cement” pumped back in to surround the delivery pipe being installed. These chemicals would have been mixed into the ” cement” and thus would only be recovered when the well went through a ” makeover”.

    This cement is roughly similar to cements used to jack up , or jack in, sagging house foundations. Mostly fine sand with very loose binding agents like portland cement. This stuff when the chemical reaction of the portland cement is finished is like pumice. The mud in the well would be to specs that secure the delivery pipe but allow later reworking of the well.

    Who knows what happened ? But, the chemicals dumped into the mud may have altered the specs of the mud causing a shift in the delivery pipe. There was media ballyhooing that centering devices were shorted causing a shift and break in the delivery pipe. Add in the dumped material and there may have been unforseen consequences of both short cuts.

    Comment by Jerry J — July 21, 2010 @ 10:50 AM | Reply

  3. Take a look at the pictures in the media showing the oil spill in China. Note how the Chinese just go in near naked to work on securing the leak. They get pulled out covered with oil like the Brown Pelican’s in the Gulf. Compare that to the Americans clad in all sorts of gear just to pick up tar balls on the beach. The Americans are so high tech bureaucracy gussied up they keel over from the heat.

    Who are the weak and who are the strong? Certainly, the bureaucracy in China understands the American’s need to spend money to be gussied up. Or are the Chinese just callous?

    My father would have cheered on the Chinese and laughed at the American sissies.

    Ahh , generational differences.

    Comment by Jerry J — July 21, 2010 @ 11:10 AM | Reply

  4. It’s just a heat wave. Drill baby drill ….

    Comment by tippygolden — July 23, 2010 @ 7:13 PM | Reply

  5. I ran across a piece today on Henry Blodget’s Business Insider that the whole Macondo spill was over blown. A few days ago, there was a flap about how irate the Government of Canada is over Sierra Club interference in allowing actual US consumption of Syncrude because it violates , in their view, US environmental law that prohibits refining of pollutant oil secured from outside the US. At the same time, Canada is moving to ship Syncrude via Pacific export facilities to China. China is obviously gleeful about securing this oil source. Remember that the State Department approved the Alberta- Superior Pipeline a year ago. Upgrading plants are in various stages of construction planning / early execution as far away as Michigan. Major expansions are underway already at major Mississippi Valley refineries to process upgraded Syncrude. They get the Syncrude via pipeline from Duluth – Superior. We are talking 2 million bbl a day of added capacity for delivery and refining.

    Policy must be settled.

    Comment by Jerry J — July 23, 2010 @ 11:49 PM | Reply

  6. ABC News is running an internet piece tonight that clean up crews cannot find the spilled crude in the Gulf. The slicks should be the size of Kansas and all they can find is tiny New Hampshire. The stuff is not inland either according to ABC News.

    Today, their is an editorial on 321 energy .com about Matt Simmons saying it is all on the floor of the Gulf and that a hurricaine will bring it all ashore including the huge 40 % complement of natural gas. I presume the natural gas is in hydrate form as was demonstrated in the first BP attempt at remediation with the tall bird house. The big tall birdhouse immediately clogged up with Methane Hydrate the same way pipelines do. Anyway , Simmons says the coast will be asphxiated for many miles inland in case of a hurricane according to the editorial which quotes a piece by Kunstler. The author of the 321 Energy editorial sought clarification from the government agencies involved. The Government said their facts indicated no oil on the floor of the gulf. Here, I presume there are pre-existing Methane hydrate deposits just as there are on the Atlantic coastal shelf and deeper.

    So where did the oil go? They cannot find it on top. The government says it ain’t below. Interestingly a 40 % gas concentrate in an oil column is eight times normal. So,did most of the oil was gas, light oils that almost immediately evaporated into the atmosphere and what is left is tars on the gulf floor or methane hydrate?

    Some very interesting lessons might be learned here .

    Comment by Jerry J — July 26, 2010 @ 8:23 PM | Reply


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