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Top kill seems to have made leak worse

SgtRock

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They say that what we are seeing now is drilling mud comming out not oil.
 

tacomancer

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I hope this works. BP's response has been inept so far and it would be good to shut this problem down and focus more on cleanup efforts.
 

The Uncola

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I hope this works. BP's response has been inept so far and it would be good to shut this problem down and focus more on cleanup efforts.
I'm with you. From what I've been hearing, whether it's actually working won't be known until at least this evening. However, so far the reports are if not fully positive, at least not negative.
 
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pragmatic

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They say that what we are seeing now is drilling mud coming out not oil.
Am looking at the live feed (from the CNN link) now. Appears to me that the leak is stopped. Not seeing anything flowing out.

Giving the effort a tentative "high five". :)


(update: Oopsie....different angle now. Yep, something is still coming out of the pipe...)


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pragmatic

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I hope this works. BP's response has been inept so far and it would be good to shut this problem down and focus more on cleanup efforts.
The problem faced is a new situation that has never been encountered. Major challenge dealing with a "structural problem" under the weight of 5000 feet of water. Not sure how you conclude that the lack of success to this point translates to ineptness??


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tacomancer

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The problem faced is a new situation that has never been encountered. Major challenge dealing with a "structural problem" under the weight of 5000 feet of water. Not sure how you conclude that the lack of success to this point translates to ineptness??


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Because it is not a new problem. We have had underwater leaks in the past.
 

pragmatic

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Because it is not a new problem. We have had underwater leaks in the past.
The situation is unique. Just can't spin your way around it....



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tacomancer

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RightinNYC

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Because it is not a new problem. We have had underwater leaks in the past.
I was under the impression that this leak was unprecedented in terms of its depth and volume. Is that not the case? (Serious q)


As to the video: Yea, it looks terrible but the brown stuff is mud, not oil.
 

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Hog wash. Never have we had a leak at this kind of depth, and that is the problem.. it is so deep. It like having a problem in orbit.. you cant fix it over night and getting there is not easy.
 

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At depth, the ocean pressure presumably would help contain a blowout. The problem is, however, it is insufficient plus it is at depth, making more difficult to deal with purely from a mechanical standpoint, so the net difficulty is much greater overall.

Here are some calculations based on conversion constants I found on the web:

1 atm = 14.7 psi. Water column pressure increases about 1 atm/10 meters. 1 foot = .3048 m.

Therefore, 5000ft = 1524 m which means water pressure at that depth would be about 152.4 atm
or 2240 psi

The problem is oil is blowing out at a reported 8000 to 10000 psi. That static pressure however is driving a turbulent jet, so a static counterbalancing mud weight won't work by itself. So it's not that surprising the "top kill" method failed. Ixtoc back in 1979 had similar stats minus the help from the deep water pressure, and top kill failed on it also. Ixtoc was finally capped after 9 months when a relief well was drilled.

I'm sure they will now try out some new tech, it will also probably fail, and then they will drill a relief well. Maybe they may try nuking it like the Russians do when they screw up. I'm sure that will be so wonderful for the Gulf ecosystem. With luck, the radioactive isotopes will enter the Gulf current and be swept across the Atlantic to the shores of Britain. Poetic justice.
 
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1069

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Not to sound like an imbecile, but can't we just run a big tube down there and pour hot molten metal into it or something?
Or drop a giant boulder into it, or, I dunno.... how big is this hole anyway?
Surely there's some way we can plug it up or block it, at least temporarily, while we think of a more permanent solution.
 

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I was under the impression that this leak was unprecedented in terms of its depth and volume. Is that not the case? (Serious q)


As to the video: Yea, it looks terrible but the brown stuff is mud, not oil.
I looked into it. Previously with some stuff I read was that the Russians had dealt with leaks in the past at a similar depth. However, their preferred method (nukes) would be a PR disaster.
 

tacomancer

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Not to sound like an imbecile, but can't we just run a big tube down there and pour hot molten metal into it or something?
Or drop a giant boulder into it, or, I dunno.... how big is this hole anyway?
Surely there's some way we can plug it up or block it, at least temporarily, while we think of a more permanent solution.
At that pressure, you are going to have to keep the metal extremely hot to keep it molten. Much, much hotter than having it molten at sea level. I can't find the calcs though.
 

Kernel Sanders

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Not to sound like an imbecile, but can't we just run a big tube down there and pour hot molten metal into it or something?
Or drop a giant boulder into it, or, I dunno.... how big is this hole anyway?
Surely there's some way we can plug it up or block it, at least temporarily, while we think of a more permanent solution.
I believe that the plan was to seal it with concrete once the top-kill stopped the flow. With the oil flowing out I don't think it's feasible to get any kind of sealant into the well.
 

metreon

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Not to sound like an imbecile, but can't we just run a big tube down there and pour hot molten metal into it or something?
Or drop a giant boulder into it, or, I dunno.... how big is this hole anyway?
Surely there's some way we can plug it up or block it, at least temporarily, while we think of a more permanent solution.
Well that is essentially what a nuke would do: it would compress a massive amount of rock against the well, shutting it. Part of the problem was that BP initially wanted to see if it could salvage the well since it already drilled it. So they used a lot of standard methods to conservatively shut off the leak. Every method used so far has been exactly what was used back in 1979 for the Ixtoc blowout. All those methods failed then, and likewise, they all failed now. The technology has not changed, only the willingness to take more risk with the environment. Ixtoc if you remember, spewed out of control for 9 months until a relief well could be drilled. 140 million barrels was spilled in that disaster.
 

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Part of the problem was that BP initially wanted to see if it could salvage the well since it already drilled it. So they used a lot of standard methods to conservatively shut off the leak.
That's what I suspected.
I suspected they were trying to salvage the well.
I was just talking to my husband about that today.
Damn them.
 

metreon

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That's what I suspected.
I suspected they were trying to salvage the well.
I was just talking to my husband about that today.
Damn them.
History will probably show BP's response will be only a prologue in their book of sins. Additionally, BP has a fiduciary responsibility to its stockholders to underestimate and minimize the size of the spill as much as possible. And now you know why third-party scientists independently have calculated the rate of flow to be 5 to 20 times higher than BP's estimates.

How does this benefit BP? Because one of the ways in which BP will pay damages is according to the number of barrels spilled. For example, current US law calls for a barrel tax on every barrel spilled as if it were sold, which is also why last week Congress introduced legislation to quadruple the barrel tax to 32 cents per barrel. Civil damages will also be awarded in some cases on the basis of barrels spilled, and it's estimated BP may end up paying nearly $5000/barrel spilled by the time this is all over.

Given that the 1979 Ixtoc well blowout was a similar sort of disaster and spilled 140 million barrels before it was capped, even if only 100 million barrels are spilled, BP is looking at potentially a 5 trillion dollar payout. Courts might limit damages below that though, although one never knows for sure. No one is taking chances, though, as I read Transocean's insurance company is already seeking a preliminary injunction to limit its damages at only 27 M. The sky is the limit on the financial damage here, and everyone is trying to weasel out. I just hope US taxpayers don't end up with the bill again.
 
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metreon

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A quick calculation correction: potential claims could be as high as 15 billion-50 billion, not 5 trillion. (Sorry, I got off a magnitude or two, once because of a math error, and once because of a data error: I just looked up a couple sources on the Ixtoc spill that indicate only 3.5 M to 9 M barrels were spilled in 1979). And that much only if one assumes the well keeps spewing for 9 more months like the Ixtoc. BP will hurry to seal it off ASAP, but chances are it will still take a few months. So far the direct out-of-pocket costs for one month have been a billion, but that does not include civil claims and damages which can dramatically raise their liability.
 
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RightinNYC

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History will probably show BP's response will be only a prologue in their book of sins. Additionally, BP has a fiduciary responsibility to its stockholders to underestimate and minimize the size of the spill as much as possible.
How do you figure? There's no fiduciary responsibility to lie.

How does this benefit BP? Because one of the ways in which BP will pay damages is according to the number of barrels spilled. For example, current US law calls for a barrel tax on every barrel spilled as if it were sold, which is also why last week Congress introduced legislation to quadruple the barrel tax to 32 cents per barrel. Civil damages will also be awarded in some cases on the basis of barrels spilled, and it's estimated BP may end up paying nearly $5000/barrel spilled by the time this is all over.
This is all true, but damages will be based on actual figures. This will have nothing to do with the current short term estimates. BP's eventual liability is unlikely to be reduced simply because they lowballed the figured now.

Given that the 1979 Ixtoc well blowout was a similar sort of disaster and spilled 140 million barrels before it was capped, even if only 100 million barrels are spilled, BP is looking at potentially a 5 trillion dollar payout.
I'm not sure how you arrived at this number, but that's absolutely not possible. BP's market cap is only $130b. Total actual damages in the Exxon Valdez case were only $287m, so unless this spill is 17000 times worse than that one, costs won't approach $5T.
 

metreon

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How do you figure? There's no fiduciary responsibility to lie.
True, but you have to prove they were lying rather than simply calculating conservatively. There is a lot of room for manuevering in making estimates. Someone would have to define the point at which lowballing becomes lying. For example, the range of some independent estimates runs from 20,000 barrels per day to 80,000+ barrels per day, a range of plus or minus 30,000 barrels. That's a big range.

Also there is a huge new dimension of the problem: the deep water spill has introduced a split layer of oil. The vast bulk of the oil is still deep in the ocean, not on the surface. There is no precedent for estimating the damage, if any, that should be assigned to that. As far as I know, at least. The surface oil is just the "tip of the iceberg" so to speak. No one yet knows how the vast lens of oil beneath the surface will be dispersed and what actionable damage it might do.

I'm not sure how you arrived at this number, but that's absolutely not possible. BP's market cap is only $130b. Total actual damages in the Exxon Valdez case were only $287m, so unless this spill is 17000 times worse than that one, costs won't approach $5T.
I already made the corrections, but you must have missed them. I got off a couple magnitudes, from a combination of errors, one arithmetic, one from baseline data. I double-checked the data after that. Just so you know, the error was the number I remembered was the gallons figure, 140 M gallons, not barrels. That changes the number quite a bit. Add to that a decimal place slip and you get a double magnitude error. But as you pointed out, it was an obvious high number which I quickly double-checked and fixed.
 
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Kernel Sanders

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Who originally made the 5000 bbl/day estimate? I was under the impression that it was a government source. Granted BP happily went along with that estimate long after it became clear that it was far too low, but I didn't think they were the ones doing the underestimating
 
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