Blogmocracy in Action!
Guest post by: Bagua!
It was quite shocking to have a first look inside the Deepwater Horizon Fail-BOP. After months of speculation, contemplation and debate, we actually get a look inside at guts of this failed leviathan. This was a surprise, the Fail-BOP was going to a warehouse for forensic inspection, yet that begun while still at sea on deck of the magnificent Helix Q4000.
First we see the Cameron Annular Preventer, with the crimped piece of drill pipe. This device uses a rubber packer that seals around the drill string. Pretty chewed up this one, but not surprising, pipe was stripped through it and a tremendous amount of erosive fluid and sand passed by.
Next, the camera moves below the Annular Preventer to examine the blind shear rams, the most critical component. We note that they did in fact close, perhaps completely. Yet at the corner of each pair of rams, we see channels that look like they were cut with a torch.
Remember back to the early days of the leak. First, there were claims that there was no leak. Later a small leak. Then talk of 1,000 bbl a day, then 5,000. The number kept being revised up, with the narrative that BP was hiding the truth. Yet a first look at the shear rams tells a different story. Once the rams closed, there was likely a tiny leak, just enough to force through a jet of sandy oil. With a high pressure differential below and above the leak, the velocity would cause a sand blaster effect.
The small leak grew, and there was a noticeable discharge. As the erosive sand and oil flowed, the size of the hole grew, as did the quantity of oil, gas and sand flowing through. The leak grew steadily as this hole in the shear rams grew.
While it was fascinating to see the failed rams, what else did we expect? Had they closed fully there would be no leak, surely we didn’t expect them intact and fully closed. When the shear rams were opened in this next video, lo and behold, there was the sheared off “fish”, as a piece of broken drill pipe is called. But what is the surprise in seeing a sheared pipe below a shear ram? It’s what they do. But the surprise is seeing the components, with every piece uncovered answering one question and posing three new ones.
In the final video, the Fail-BOP camera goes below the shear rams, to inspect the pipe rams, which are opened. Lower still, we see the fish appears plugged with mud or cement, and resting in mud or cement.
So who’s responsible? BP is desperate to shift some blame, salvage their devastated share price, stave off further losses. Well Cameron made the Fail-BOP, yet Transocean maintained it, and BP had it serviced and altered, in China no less, earning the Fail-BOP a sub-nickname of China-BOP. Is there a forensic clue left intact? Again, the erosive nature of the long duration of uncontrolled flow resulted in the interior being chewed up. A definitive answer is doubtful, and will be easy to contest.
The Blow Out Preventer failed to prevent. Yet had the cement job not failed (Halliburton), there would have been no kick. No need for the BOP to prevent. Why did the well come in when it did and not, say the day before? The heavy mud in the 5,000 riser was displaced with water just over 5 pounds a gallon lighter. It was the mud weight that held back the well before there was a cement job to fail. So we blame the riser displacement (BP with the approval of the MMS, the government regulator). Yet cement jobs fail, wells kick, this is not so unusual. But the mud was not properly monitored which would likely have caught the kick in time to react (BP offloading the mud instead of processing it on board, Transocean? The mud contractor?)
So the well began to come in, mud shoots out, yet the mud, oil and gas continues to the onboard mud/gas separator, why wasn’t it diverted overboard protecting the ship and men? (Mud engineers, Transocean, Tool Pusher?) Why wasn’t the mini-BOP activated when the fail-BOP was activated, this would have stopped flow up the drill string, though not the riser. Why didn’t the emergency disconnect work, which would have disconnected the Deepwater Horizon from the riser and fuel source, saving the ship, perhaps even some of the men.
This list is not exhaustive, there is much more, and other components that failed (several manufactures.) Any one of these weak links could have prevented, and thus “caused” the blow out. Of the two most famous, the BOP itself and the riser displacement, each of these has a variety of procedures, components, and contractors who could have primary or contributory responsibility.
The sum total gave us 11 men dead and the spill itself. Let’s take a moment to honour their memory at this memorial.
While each failure point was critical, it was the combination that was fatal. Which of these failure points was preventable? Reacted to incorrectly? Is any one company, piece of equipment or man responsible? With the money at stake and the avalanche of law suits, governmental investigations, and companies seeking to determine or divert blame, we have the making of years of court proceedings, debate and controversy.
The oil dissipated, or dispersed, or decayed at a rate that surprised even the optimists. Turns out Tony Hayward was right in saying “that the overall environmental impact is likely to be very, very modest” will he get his job back, or an apology from the Media? Let’s not hold our breath waiting for that. Yet we won’t really know how much, or how little effect there was on the environment until the studies are completed and next year’s catch is compared with previous years.
****sep 11 ‘where were you when it happened’ thread is Saturday morning 0800-1200, we will collect and share some memories…write your story for everyone****
please return to your regularly scheduled thread.