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Oil well top kill: Mud beating oil

What this oil spill crisis in the gulf needs is a scoreboard. We need to know what quarter it is, who is winning, the stats of the various participants. Until yesterday, the oil seemed to be not just dominant but threatening to become dynastic. That, however, has changed. What I know about engineering barely fills a coffee pot, but it looks to me as if the top kill is working and that this well is going to be dead by nightfall or perhaps dawn tomorrow -- with a cement stake through the heart.

A key clue is that the stuff coming out the cracked riser -- this is a series of four little holes in the riser where it is bent just about 5 feet from the top of the blowout preventer -- looks like mud.

Last night, during the teleconference, I snuck in a question near the very end and asked BP Chief Operating Office Doug Suttles to confirm that the stuff was mud. He did, and that's the quote that the Today Show led with -- looks like mud, not oil, coming from the riser. (Soon after the top kill began, it looked to me as if the material from the end of the riser, the main leak, had also turned muddy, but that video feed was taken down because the water became too cloudy to see anything.)

BP cautions that you can't jump to conclusions based on appearances at the sea floor. The mud is still battling the oil as we speak (Bob Dudley, BP's managing director, and another in what seems to be an endless series of low-key, astronaut-looking middle-aged guys working for BP, said this morning on TV, "it is a little like arm wrestling.")

So we'll merely tip-toe toward a conclusion: It's working.

And it's gonna kill that well!

It doesn't seem to be a trivial fact if the well is no longer emitting oil in any visible quantity. It suggests that the mud, which was pumped from two ships at the surface at up to 64 barrels a minute, has overcome the pressure from depth. Ideally, it is migrating its way to the bottom of the well and will render it static. Then comes the cement. Somehow in all this, the blowout preventer is staying in one piece (cross fingers).

Then all we got is a giant freakin' mess, but something less than the end of the world as we know it (not to jinx it or anything!).

Obama will hold a news conference today to discuss the gulf oil spill and announce cancelations of some offshore drilling permits. Interesting question: If this top kill works, will the president call BP folks and congratulate them for their Apollo 13 moment?

Or will he say "What took you so long?"?

This has all been so awkward for Obama and the feds: The bad guys who caused the problem have to be the heores who plug the well. We're all "collaborating." And meanwhile Salazar says, "We have them by the neck," another phrase we'll put on his citation when he enters the Bluster Hall of Fame.

--

Here's my news story this morning on the top kill.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 27, 2010; 7:37 AM ET
 
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Next: Top kill: BP keeps us in the dark

Comments

Good morning, everybody.

I've said it before, but now I really mean it!

May this be the day that this nightmare ends.

Posted by: slyness | May 27, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I kinda figured that no matter what happens, BP will look even worse as a result:

(1) Top kill fails: "How could those idiots do such an incompetent and stupid thing that makes matters even worse? Those bastages! This is all about BP's profits!"

or

(2) Top kill succeeds: "What took them so long? This was obviously the right thing to do, and they should have done it right away. Those bastages! This is all about BP's profits!"

One important point: of course this is all about BP's profits. They wouldn't be drilling oil at all if it weren't about profits. They sell it -- we buy it. That's the way capitalism works. Right now, BP is losing gigantic amounts of valuable oil into the water, and incurring vast costs in environmental and economic damage to the Gulf region. We've always relied on the idea that "it's all about the profits" as the primary motivator to get oil companies and others to do the right thing and clean up after themselves.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 27, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

From the last boodle..

Good morning all. Looks to be another scorcher here today. Beats 4 feet of snow to shovel. And DC doesn't look like a pink Michelin man as she heads out the door to school.

YJ, I found it very easy to follow your thoughts, and PBKs are not known for their acumen on scientific matters. Using a round number *for illustrative purposes* sometimes makes it easier for someone not familiar with the nuances to follow. Oftentimes, when explaining a concept, I use the figure 100 and hack away from there, when really everyone knows I'm talking about hundreds of thousands, and not a number that ends in zeros. Once they see what it is I'm doing, I go back and punch in the real numbers for them. Because of the way you explained it, I can get a mental snap of what the math looks like and know that it's not as simple as multiplying by 2.

Having said that, I have a few questions...like how do they know the pressure now if they know the readings they were getting just prior to the big boom were wrong, and even if they successfully cement the thing shut, what are the chances it will become like a bad bottle of homemade wine that explodes all over the inside of the wine closet. But no one likes being ridiculed for asking questions (that's absurd!) so I'll wait until next time there's a glass of wine in front of me and a beer in front of you.

Mudge, did you misplace your glasses? Here...you can borrow mine. That was me, LiT, who complained about condescending tones, not YJ. You know...the tall brunette with the shoes. Sheesh. YJ and I don't even look alike.

Hopefully today will be a happy day for all. TTFN.

Posted by: LostInThought | May 27, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

I think you nailed the central dilemma for the Feds quite nicely, Joel. I think the solution is for the Feds to stress that while certain portions of BP are to be commended for their efforts, others need to be held accountable for getting into this mess to begin with. Unfortunately, this is a tricky concept because it requires people to comprehend that BP isn't a monolithic entity.

In this, the Apollo 13 analogy is continued. On the one hand NASA, in the form of those steely-eyed fellows who brought the crippled craft home, were heroes. But buried somewhere within NASA were individuals who mucked up the wiring to begin with.


Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Mud is good.
Mud glorious mud.
Have a muddy day, all.
Muds up.

Posted by: Windy3 | May 27, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the tune cootie Joel, "It's the End of the World as we know it (and I feel fine)" REM, love that song.

Fingers crossed that the well gets sealed and efforts move to the clean up.

Posted by: dmd3 | May 27, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I feel ou are leaving the state of Louisiana out of the equation. Even if they kill the well, how many gallons of oil are floating out there waiting to destroy our wetlands? How come NOAA collaborates with BP in underestimating the amount (5000 barrels a day is a joke). How come Obama can't tell the Army Corps to permit building berms? Why is NO ONE working right now to keep the oil out of the marshes. The anger down herein Louisian is incendiary. Obama is clueless. Left, right and middle all are united now her ein Louisiana. For us, this isObama's Katrina all over again. Same arrogance and indifference and cluelessness..

Posted by: NOLAdefender | May 27, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

...The wildly fluctuating number isn't the 64 (water density varies imperceptibly with pressure), it's the 2. 'Twice' is such a wildly loose term that it could be anywhere between 1.5 and 2.5. You can never be more precise than the term with the fewest significant digits. ...

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 12:00 AM |

So it is true then that 2+2=5 for very large values of 2? (Paste BIG smiley face here)

DLD

Posted by: DLDx | May 27, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

yello, thanks for your clarifying comments in the previous Boodle.

RD, the survival of the crew of Apollo 13 was indeed a triumph of will, engineering and creativity, and also serves as a reminder to me to never go anywhere without a roll of duct tape. (Am considering putting a sealed Tupperware container of high-density mud in the trunk of my car now, just in case.)

LiT, I think it's very possible people on the rig were aware of anomalies in pressure readings. What was or wasn't done with that information and knowledge in relation to the activities on the rig, the results of them and the legal repercussions of the whole situation... well, I'm repeating myself, aren't I? Apologies.

If this top splat works, I may just have to have a celebratory mudslide beverage this evening.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

The First Law of Plumbing is "[Stuff] flows downhill." To generalize even further, material ALWAYS flows from a higher pressure to a lower pressure. The pressure at the oil reservoir is about 14,000 psi. In the BOP it is about 5,000 psi. At the seabed it is around 2400 psi.

To get more technical, the rate of flow is proportional to the square root of the pressure differential. To double the flow rate, you need to quadruple the pressure.

To just stop the oil, you need to pump the mud at at least the pressure in the BOP. To force the oil back down the riser you have to get to a pressure greater than the reservoir. So by tripling the pressure, you increase the flow leaking out the cracks in the BOP by 67%.

The fear is that the BOP which is already damaged can't handle the higher pressure (Picture Scotty screaming "I'm giving her all I got Cap'n but she's breakin' up!") Then you have a real mess on your hand because the restrictions you did have are gone.

And as rd mentioned last kit, there is also a mass balance to take care of. You have to pump at least as much mud as you were leaking oil. Oil Drum reports that they were pumping as little as 20 barrels per minute. Assuming that is the break-even rate, the leakage rate was about 30,000 barrels per day.

To go from 20 barrels per minute to 64 barrels/minute requires you to increase the pressure ten fold (as well as 30 times the motor power).

Part of the problem is a jargon gap. These oil drillers work in a different set of units and nomenclature (although the Bomming School terms are pretty universal) which makes translation to more easily understood paradigms complicated.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

NOLAdefender - it is true that even if the top kill works there is a whole lot of mess to clean up. But the accusations you make are pretty baseless.

First of all, the notion that nobody is trying to defend the coastline is obviously untrue. The problem is that the techniques being used, the boons, burn-offs, and surface skimming, haven't been as effective as one would like. Partly this is because of the scale of the leak, but a big part is because so much of the oil is underwater and not on the surface.

That there was collusion between NOAA and BP is simply an unfounded assertion. Show me a memo or something proving that NOAA and BP agreed to knowingly lie and then you have a case.

Regarding the berms. There is a legitimate issue here. One person's red tape is another person's prudent oversite. Are permanent berms a legitimate solution, or will they cause more problems than they solve? I don't know. This is a complicated question that takes time to resolve. Is it taking too long? Maybe. But I do know that the answer to this technical question shouldn't be driven by one's political orientation.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

fpa.

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

DLD,
Perzactly.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

If this works all the bakers of boodledom should submit their personalized recipes for mud pie. Please include historical background, such as the riverbank or sandlot where the mud was gathered and if it's an old family recipe handed down from Grandma Gunk or Auntie Sludge.

Posted by: talitha1 | May 27, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, y'all.

Warm muffins, coffee and OJ on the table.

Mr. A, I think there's a misspelled word in the last paragraph of the kit. Or maybe heores is Spanish slang for "top kill".

I'm not into the heroes analogy thing here. This is BP doing its job. If one reads articles written in the early days of deep water drilling, one finds they are filled with mishaps, snafus, and unexpected events. This one has far larger consequences, but it's just one in a long string of:
1) not anticipating critical factors in advance;
2) incomplete or substandard work; and/or
3) failure to assess risk.

As to the coastlines getting covered in goo, I still don't understand why there aren't back-up Plans B through Z to capture at least some of the oil the booms miss before it gets to shore.

Must be off to prepare lunch with 3-D friends. Chicken curry salad w/ walnuts and cranberries on mixed greens, orange bread, and more blackberry shortcake.

Posted by: MsJS | May 27, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

this lede from the lat reports that Adm. Allen believes the mud plug has stopped the flow of oil. this has yet to be officially declared by government personnel, nor anyone from bp.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-top-kill-works-20100528,0,4282960.story

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Will worm dirt work as good as mud?


My brother still doesn't use any(Esso) Exxon products,some 20 years later.

As for BP's reputation,maybe a free fillup day at the pump!!!! might win back a few customers.

Paint the porch today or wait till after the storms? any thoughts?

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 27, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

yello, good explanation. I was discussing this with someone this morning, and described it as opening a bottle of champagne. When I open it, the pressure inside the bottle tries to equalize with the ambient pressure to get to an equilibrium. You can restopper the bottle while gas and champagne are still coming out if you're strong enough (and have enough mud with force). As great as the pressure at 5000 ft is, it's less than the pressure of the oil and gas 13,000 ft. under *that*. So the oil and gas are trying to equalize with the Gulf one mile under just as the champagne and co2 are trying to equalize with my kitchen. Trying to stopper up the pressure coming out of that well from 18,000 ft. down, that's a tall order IMO. As you point out, it's not even a nice clean hole we're dealing with, either, but pipes with a variety of holes. So this shot is slamming enough glop in there with enough force to clog the whole thing up. [Hmm. Did anyone think of putting toilet paper in that mud?]

I'm not going to get into the effects of thermodynamics and hydrostatics on the media (oil, water, gas, flow, etc.) in this situation -- don't need to give myself a headache.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

(2 +/- 0.5) + (2 +/- 0.5) = 4 +/- 0.7, assuming the twos are independent variables, otherwise it is 4 +/- 1.

(64 +/- 3%) * (2 +/- 0.5) = 128 +/- 32, or more appropriately 130 +/- 30 to the correct significant digits.

http://teacher.pas.rochester.edu/PHY_LABS/AppendixB/AppendixB.html

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

a gallon of gas has dropped $0.12 in the past two weeks. i don't recall a similar price drop preceding a holiday for many, many years.

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

tp for the big holes, black pepper for the small ones. at least it worked in the radiator on my '66 valiant. ran for years after that fix. can't kill a slant 6.

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Since "pounds per gallon" is the form used in the US, I will express it that way. Water weighs 8.31 lbs. per gallon at 25 C., (room temperature) a temperature reasonable to quickly check accuracy of drilling mud scales used to weigh it. Mud density measurements are not normally calculated with more precision than 0.1 lbs./gal, although that density is expected to be attained when the mud engineer specifies it and the rig workers are good at achieving this consistently.

The exact mud density for that well was reported only as "about 17 lbs./gal." I will suppose 16.8 to 17.4

The mud density was between 2.02 and 2.10 times the density of water.

Whether they pumped denser mud beginning yesterday, I don't know. They would not have increased the density very much out of fear that it would fracture some rock and escape. There are materials such as cotton seed hulls routinely added to prevent the mud from escaping far into the rock if that overbalanced condition occurs.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 27, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

bc,
I like the champagne bottle analogy. Now imagine that the champagne bottle is a bar cola dispenser stuck open and you have to stop the cola for spraying everywhere by holding a seltzer dispenser up to the nozzle. You are going to create as big a mess, only with seltzer instead of coke.

Substitute golf balls for TP and you have invented the junk shot.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Jumper,
Thanks. I hadn't seen an actual numerical value for the mud density.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Berms are a "sounds good" idea, but not likely an idea that will, you know, work.

Berms would only keep oil out if they kept all water out. That wouldn't happen unless you bermed the entire circumference of a marsh. That would stop the lifeblood from flowing into the marsh... water.

As far as a barrier berm, the water would go around it and enter behind it from different points. Meanwhile the berms would cost time and effort and do environmental damage themselves.

But, stick with the berms as a silver bullet solution, if you like.


Regarding the top kill: if we get to the cementing operation, I am assuming that they will put MORE cement and perhaps BETTER cement in this time? After all, they did a very similar thing to this earlier... and it led to the problem. Sure, the other plug that failed was below the BOP, but it is still the same process.

Posted by: steveboyington | May 27, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

interesting benthic fish, commonly called handfish:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/05/photogalleries/100524-new-species-handfish-walk-science-pictures/#new-handfish-species-fish-ziebells_20880_600x450.jpg

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

It is of interesting to know why this seemly simple idea of using mud to stop leak on sea bottom has not been investigated and experimented before by U.S. government, academic and corporate technology personnel. Is it because there is no priority assigned and money supporting this effort or technical management people are discouraged by environmentalists to work on this oil drilling related topic ?

Posted by: ypcchiu | May 27, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

On the litigation front, a BP worker has taken the "Fifth" out of fear of criminal prosecution:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/05/26/94884/bp-could-be-held-criminally-liable.html

And the oil has reached Sanibel Island Florida:

http://www.capecoralbarometer.com/features/130-oil-spill

Both links courtesy of Oil Drum.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

yellojkt -

You don't have to pump at the reservoir pressure because of the static pressure arising from the height of the well bore. All you have to do is exceed the oil pressure at the particular point you are at and the mud will replace the oil. Once the mud starts flowing into the well bore the height of the bore column above the oil will add to the pressure acting to replace the oil. Since mud is about 3x heavier than oil once the mud starts flowing down the bore things should accelerate.

Posted by: otbricki | May 27, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

The Coast Guard Admiral addressed the issue of berms on CSPAN yesterday morning. It is going to take more time for the EPA to finish an environmental impact assessment, its not clear they will approve the idea. And then it will take 6 to 9 months to construct the berms.

Posted by: HuckFinn | May 27, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

otbricki,
You're right. If the oil reservoir is another 13,000 feet down, that's 6,000 psi you don't need to pump. You can let gravity do the job. I would love to see some reporting correlating the flow rates to the pressures.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

My precious Sanibel. This place I never mention online to keep it secret for my peeps. I will never mention it online again, either.

One thing not noted previously is that drilling mud itself is considered a pollutant and its release into the water was a bad thing except insofar as it prevented worse. I expect this latest variety was water-based unlike the oil-based mud most in-the-know are assuming. (Can't recall if this was published or just assumed.)

The link yesterday to the foul-mouthed but refreshingly plain spoken oil boom expert makes me wonder if the Coast Guard's boom operation was corrected since the piece was written. I hope so.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 27, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

In fact, a 13,000 foot column of mud with a specific gravity of 2.1 would exert 12,000 psi. Added to the 2400 psi hydrostatic pressure at the sea floor, this would counter the 14,000 psi reservoir pressure. Maybe somebody does know what they are doing. Once the differential in the BOP hits zero, they can play with the flow rates all they want and start pumping cement down.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Don't you already subscribe to "Flow Rate Correlation Daily," yello? :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 27, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

from the consequence department: the head of MMS has been relieved

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/27/AR2010052702054.html

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Joel,
I've been listening to the press briefings and I thought you had the best question last night - one of the few journalists that displayed an understanding of the science and its implications for the top kill (finger's crossed) finally working.

Posted by: xazp | May 27, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

My eyes are glazing over the brilliance (putatively, of course) of the boodlers who can discuss this stuff without crossing their fingers (unlike BP). I studied physics in college, oh, maybe 45 years ago and still have reminiscences (vaguely) of how things work - or don't - mathematically. Glad I don't have to remember this stuff now, but I do have appreciation for those who can and must. For those who must and can't, well, there are not enough words to describe my feelings about *that*!

Mudge -- glad you finished the second book. Now you *must* get into the third. Interesting that you liked it. In that regard, I suspect the third one with send you into the screaming abdabs of enjoyment. Or, something like that.

Sneaks, have you started the third book yet? Ivansmom, have you started the second one yet?

I'm just so impatient today.

Posted by: -ftb- | May 27, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I'll wait and see how much mud is actually going down, and not up and out of the leaking pipe.

Posted by: youba | May 27, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I throw away my Pollution Equipment News every month. I have no idea how I got on their mailing list, but this month's has a good article on oil/water separators. Check out this gizmo:

http://megator.com/amphibious_vehicle.htm

But for true open water stuff, you want one of these:

http://www.slickbar.com/lamor/response_vessels/

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Thanks to yellojkt for supplementing JA's coffee-pot engineering. Between the two, I almost understand what's going on down there.

Whenever I hear about "low-key, astronaut-looking middle-aged guys" called in for damage limitation, I wonder where they were before the damage needed limiting. It doesn't seem like they just thought up this fix, so people in the industry must have anticipated the hazards and possible solutions in this kind of drilling.

The moral of this -- and many other -- stories is that regulators have to get past the corporate executives and "government relations" types, and start talking to the trouble-shooters employed by corporations. No access to those experts, no permit.

Posted by: cbustard | May 27, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I had a boss who once raked me over the coals for reporting some average results of a test which was only good to one decimal place, which I reported to 3 places "for accuracy." It worked well because I learned to do it right. I think. Were the second decimal places on my ratio of mud weight to water incorrect? Should I have rounded off there?

"Not Jumper1.675"

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 27, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

The feller's on *fire* I tells ya.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/27/AR2010052701957.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I'm afraid to go out side. The weather page says 85º feels 90º.

Also it's Opposite Day. If I say "I don't want a Margarita" will I get one? If I say "no more" will I get another?

aye aye ayi

Posted by: omni3 | May 27, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Robert Kaluza. What do we know about him?

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 27, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Since Louisiana has a rich French cultural history, perhaps they could call the savior structures.... the Maginot Berm.

Posted by: steveboyington | May 27, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Pray, keep your fingers crossed, caste a spell. ... everyone do whatever you do and let's hope this is going to finish that daxx thing off.

Posted by: James10 | May 27, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

jack, amen. Slant sixes are as indestructable as such things get.

Reminded me of a friend who was racing one (also in a Valiant) -- noticed him under the hood fussing with things, asked him what was wrong. He pulled the dipstick, and what registered looked like thickish coffee with cream. He opened the radiator cap, and there was the same liquid - likely a head gasket failure allowed the normally seperate oil and cooling (water) to become a single system. We laughed, he kept racing for the rest of the day and took the car home, still running.

Told him if he needed more fluid on the way, he should add red wine vinegar.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

bc!!! I was out running an errand this morning and was walking down the street and ran into Carlos Arana from Louisiana Kitchen and told him that we were thinking about an outing for breakfast. He loved the idea and hopes to see us soon.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 27, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I made the mistake of looking at the comments attached to Joel's article. . . . .

Whew! Nice to be back among friends.

But just in case, how are we in the bunker supply area, slyness? Mudge, how are our finances? Is there enough for a long run?

Posted by: -ftb- | May 27, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Actually, the fluid looked more like chocolate milkshake, now that I think about it.

Jumper, I get dinged from time to time for reporting info to three decimal places as well. I try to rationalize that it could be considered a cost-cutting measure -- less space consumed in data storage, less paper and ink to print, and less time needed for some people to read.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I hope this is working -- it certainly appears to be -- but I'm still puzzled why this wasn't tried weeks ago, instead of the pathetic attempt to capture some oil.

Posted by: postfan1 | May 27, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I wasn't brought up on muck-raking literature, so, when I hear tell of corporate avarice, I don't immediately think of Upton Sinclair (_Oil_ or _There Will Be Blood_). Instead, I recall Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin:

The earth is pure muck,
(Muck's a good thing.)
And oozing with mud.
(Mud is just fine.)
It's drownin' in bog,
(Bog is good luck.)
And crawlin' with crud.
(Crud's a good sign.
The poor, they got hope;
The rich can buy soap.)
The rainbows they got a pot of
And I ain't got a spot of
A few feet down there's a lot of....

• Lerner, Alan Jay, lyr. "The Best Things in Life Are Dirty." Libretto. _Paint Your Wagon_. Music by André Previn. Malpaso, 1969. 27 May 2010 <http://lyrics.astraweb.com/displayp.cgi?f=paint_your_wagon..musical_ost..best_things>.

Posted by: Entenpfuhl | May 27, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

cool, rt. Been thinking about popping in there soon. Catch me offBoodle and we'll set something up.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand...

Front Page Alert.

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 27, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

postfan - that's a legitimate question and one that we will doubtless be seeing a lot of.

I think the answer is that this wasn't tried earlier because it is both relatively risky and takes a lot of preparation.

There is a chance (and still is) that the force of the mud would make things much worse by enlarging the existing leaks or, potentially, making new ones. BP, evidently, decided to try the less risky approaches of the containment dome and insertion tube first. Whether this approach has been prudently cautious or shamefully timid will, doubtless, be debated for some time.

Further, a lot of equipment and material had to be hauled out, positioned, and tested before this was even a possibility. All of this took a lot of time.

Of course, that there were reasons for the slow pace of this response doesn't make it an acceptable model for the future.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/05/ap_sources_minerals_management.html

Good, one head rolling. Consequences at last. Salazar should go next. He didn't fix this mess...

Posted by: NOLAdefender | May 27, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

To Joel's latest article, that job of operating the Top Kill -- running the pumps and valves, watching the pressures and volumes, and calculating exactly when to introduce the cement (not too soon or too late), to manage and/or to stop the flow enitirely without causing further problems anywhere in the system does indeed sound like a pretty stressful gig.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I was watching the CNN coverage of the top kill yesterday. Their animation seemed to indicate that there would be cement pumped into the BOP... and would harden within the BOP to stop flow.

Anyone know if this is true? If so, that gives an obvious reason why it hadn't been tried before. It will largely disable/destroy the BOP. My guess is that is a costly piece of equipment.

Posted by: steveboyington | May 27, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

My toes hate all mud;
My nose knows how dog-made
that mud spot may be...

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

@RD Padouk

NOAA put out estimate of 5000 barrels which BP used. WHY COULDN'T the US GOV on DAY ONE demand that BP provide technical information, whatever is needed.
See here:
http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/05/scientists_say_gulf_of_mexico.html

Also, why isn't there a back up plan to clean up the coastline all written down and filed before you drill such wells? That's a Federal responsiblity isn't it, to make sure that happens. It didn't and doesn't.

If booms or berms don't work, and dispersants are toxic, why isn't there a safe and reliable contingency plan drawn up. There are 4000 plus wells in the Gulf. This is gross Federal irresponsibliity in regard to oversight, along with gross greed on the part of BP and other operators.

Also where are the researchers? Why don't we have top quality environmental people in the marshes right now? Why does the state of Louisiana need permission to defend itself?

Posted by: NOLAdefender | May 27, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I guess the question now is can they push the oil back far enough and get a concrete plug down there. Because right now at best the oil spill has been replaced with a mud spill (I'll guess and hope this is an improvement). And they have to be able to keep pumping mud until they plug it or the oil will just well back up. Hopefully they don't run low or rip the leaks wider in the meantime.

I was wondering about the physics of getting a plug down that tube. If there is a section of concrete (or other material) in the mud column making it's way down, will that cause a larger drop of pressure from the head up top as compared to just mud? Might the oil begin to push back up as the concrete works it's way down?

Posted by: qgaliana | May 27, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Eagerly awaiting Obama's press conference. I'm still thinking about that article about booms and wondering why there hasn't been more press on the subject of placing them properly.

ftb, no, I haven't bought the third book yet but I will soon. Looking forward to it very much.

Posted by: badsneakers | May 27, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Please let this top kill work! $$$$ I wonder why they didn't try this tested method a month ago instead of trying to save the well with new containment methods? $$$$

Posted by: Papka | May 27, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

NOLAdefender -

But those are different issues from what you originally presented. Your original position is that NO ONE (your caps) was concerned with Louisiana, which is clearly not the case. Now you are asserting that the response hasn't been up to the challenge, and clearly that is true.

The problem is than there really doesn't seem to be any realistic way to deal with deepwater spills of this size, which is why greater safety measures are needed to prevent these from happening. And that there is federal culpability in not mandating such safety measures is why the head of MMS is out of a job.

That the berms haven't been approved is because there is legitimate concerns that it will just make things worse.

Again, there are legitimate issues here. It is the over-the-top absolutist tone, and the "Obama's Katrina" assertion, which implies an analogy that simply doesn't hold up, that I was objecting to.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Sheesh. Matt Damon is getting the American Cinematheque Award for his contributions to film. This comes on the heels of Tina Fey getting the Mark Twain prize. 40 is the new 70. I can't wait for the Justin Bieber retrospective. That and the Dakota Fanning Lifetime Achievement Award.

Posted by: kguy1 | May 27, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

qgaliana - the way I understand it is that the weight of the mud column combined with the lack of upwards momentum of the oil column will eventually reach a place of near-static equilibrium. That is, the upward force will pretty much drop to zero. When this happens they will pump in some concrete and seal the thing up for good.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I don't recall reading or hearing anything about the possibility of "the mud" and/or cement causing a pressure buildup that could explode or break the sea floor elsewhere. Perhaps days, weeks or months after the top kill.

Posted by: perryneheum | May 27, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

perryneheum - that's an interesting point. But The mud and cement aren't really increasing the pressure as much as replacing the earth and rock that was previously there. Oil companies have been sealing wells for decades without any problem.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Lets hope that this can stop it.

Cleanup and damage mitigation need to take the focus as soon as possible.

Posted by: trident420 | May 27, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

RD, the problem is that doesn't look like static equilibrium. There is still a leak in the riser/BOP. So even though the mud column may balance out the upwelling oil, they have to keep sending mud down to balance the mass that will leak out the holes.

I know from the BP explanation it sounds like everything just cancels out. There could be some theoretical point where the counteracting oil pressure equalizes things but it's hard to imagine it being very stable. There's gonna be some very stressed not very static guys manning pumps up top I think. They're probably just as much at risk as an oil platform, maybe more since this looks kind of improvised.

Posted by: qgaliana | May 27, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I do remember something about one of the layers that the well goes through is largely salt and that if the well shaft seals were to break in this level the oil could migrate horizontally at that strata and eventually ooze out fissures to the sea floor. This seems to be why they are digging the relief wells so deep so as to get under this strata and seal the well at a deeper level as well.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

From the AP,
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2010/05/27/apnewsbreak_new_giant_sea_oil_plume_seen_in_gulf/


As I know nothing about the science or engineering of oil spills, I hope that this isn't as alarming as it appears.

Posted by: rickoshea11 | May 27, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Howdy. Thanks to Joel, his articles and fine links, and some of those provided by Boodlers, I find that I am more well-informed about this disaster than I thought. I take the scope of my information for granted but find that it is not all common knowledge.

I have admired and enjoyed the technical and sometimes contentious discussion of pressure, but find myself drawn to RD's simplified "garden hose" analogy.

I have not yet begun Larssen's second book. I will, I will! But I just began re-reading Stephenson's Diamond Age,which I had pretty much completely forgotten, and now I have to finish it first.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 27, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I certainly hope it is working, but I am skeptical. Those 4 holes are 4 places where all the pressure can escape. There is no reason for the mud to go down the well if it can go out the holes.

It is also possible the mud is simply clouding the oil coming out and making it look like mud.

I hope I am wrong.

Posted by: jeff20 | May 27, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/water/usf-researchers-confirm-massive-underwater-plume-from-gulf-oil-spill/1098093

Yuk. But maybe the University of South Florida's longstanding efforts in oceanography might finally get a bit of deserved attention.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

This from the 1pm chat with Greg McCormack Director, Petroleum Extension Service, University of Texas-

Palo Alto, Calif.: A little technical information is always interesting, and your guesses would be nice if you lack the actual data: What was the pressure at the wellhead prior to the start of the top kill, what pressure might have been imposed by the kill mud pumping, and what flow rates down hole might have been achieved in the first hour, and then say at hour 12? Thanks.

Greg McCormack: I will guess that the formation pressure was between 8,000psi and 10,000psi therefor the presure near the top of the well will be below that since it is not shut in. The kill mud obviously needs to be higher than that. The initial flow rates of the mud were in excess of 2000 gallons per minute. 7,000 bbls of mud were pumped in the first few hours. I dont have access to the well bore pressures so I am unable to estimate the amount that is going downhole and the amount that is going up the BOP stack.

Posted by: kguy1 | May 27, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Got to see the movie version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Hacking, in multiple ways. I liked the cameo appearance of Heinz ketchup.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The giant plume is almost certainly the remnants of the spill itself.

As far as oil channeling into other parts of the sea floor from any particular well, I won't say it's impossible but physics indicates mostly likely if this were to occur it would be quite near the original well if not directly behind the cement of any of the casing strings. Since natural seeps don't occur on this magnitude even after earthquakes, etc., (as far as I ever heard!) it seems to me the likelihood is low.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 27, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

jeff20, there is reason for hope. The process of killing a well by brute pressure is known as "bullheading" and has been done before. It will actually push oil and gas back into the rock it came from. WE know there is room for it there, because that's where it came from.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 27, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

"hacking" Dave? What do you mean? Yeah, I noticed the Heinz ketchup, too, but Stockholm has had 7-11s for decades. We ship our carp everywhere.

Posted by: -ftb- | May 27, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

7-11 is of course a Japanese corporation that originated in Dallas.

The movie is Mac-friendly.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

On my way to unlock the bunker, ftb, I think we are good to go. Unless Mudge and bc got into the cellar over the weekend, we have enough of everything.

I hope I have to break out the champagne for celebrations later. That would be the perfect ending for the day.

As always, I can attribute all I know and understand about this catastrophe to Joel and the Boodle. The knowledge and wisdom here know no bounds.

Posted by: slyness | May 27, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

7-11 is of course a Japanese corporation that originated in Dallas.

The movie is Mac-friendly, only the Macs do more adventurous things than mine.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Like Ivansmom, I find that the information from Joel, various links and the expertise of knowledgeable Boodlers has given me a leg up in understanding this disaster. Many folks I know who sincerely care and diligently pay attention have told me your resources have been invaluable. I pass along what I can.

We all know that knowledge assuages fear. Doesn't mean we don't worry our heads off and get angry at the senselessness of all this but it sure beats ignorance.

Posted by: talitha1 | May 27, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Sorry about the double post. Something hiccuped.

Florida has a tomato glut right now. Glorious UglyRipes are selling for commodity prices. For the future, a University of Florida breeder has come up with what looks like a genuinely tasty tomato for the mass market.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, it seems that the things I have read on the "second plume" are saying just what you are. The plume originated at this leak. My guess is that the use of dispersants breaks the oil into pieces so small that it can stay in suspension in the ocean water more readily?

I remember the old saying in water/wastewater treatment class. The solution to pollution is dilution.

I don't know if this works here, though. Wouldn't we rather have 1,000,000 gallons of unfouled seawater and one gallon of oil floating atop it.... instead of a million gallons of lightly-fouled seawater?

I have no idea the concentration of the dispersed oil in the "plume"... my million to one statement is a guess of epic proportions... and is based on something I remember about how much fresh water is deemed unusable/undrinkable when you dump a gallon of gasoline in a lake.

Posted by: steveboyington | May 27, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

slyness, we echoed one another there! I have extra champagne if needed . . . hoping it will be.

Posted by: talitha1 | May 27, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Steveboyington, petroleum floats and is largely hydrophobic (doesn't mix with water), which is a problem for seafowl feathers, blocking out sun and breathing room for algae, etc.

So if you can sink or break up some of that, it could well help. It's not going to "evenly mix" with seawater, or we wouldn't be seeing such horrific pictures.

Another point is that petroleum will evaporate. Those fumes are flammable and poisonous, causing problems for algae, seafowl, etc. Emulsification can slow down that rate.

http://www.slross.com/publications/AMOP/1995-EmulsionEvaporation.pdf

Hope this helps.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Imom, I haven't reread 'Diamond Age' since it came out, wonder if it holds up as well as 'Snow Crash,' 'Cryptonomicon' or the Baroque Cycle. Given current events, may consider rereading his eco-thriller 'Zodiac,' and not just because he gives love to Dodge Omni GLH Turbos (I still race one from time to time).

Stephenson's 'Anathem' has been staring at me from my night table for too long, and is next up on my reading list.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, that makes complete sense. There must be long-term bad effects of the short-term gain, though.

Posted by: steveboyington | May 27, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Probably; it's best not to have spilt the oil in the first place.

Binding it to floor mud, though, is promising especially in the Gulf because there's probably enough mud coming down from the Mississippi delta that in a few decades the oil-rich mud could be overlaid completely.

It's the short-term disruption in the next few years that will really hurt. You could say that spreading the toxin from top to bottom is going to hurt Gulf life the most, especially short-term.

Still, we come back to the fact that the marine food chain depends on two sources: sunlight, found only at the top few feet of the ocean, or at places where tectonic plates meet, deep sea hydrothermal vents (not the case in the Gulf as far as we know).

So the main thing, I think, is to reduce the impact on surface life ASAP, because everything else depends on that.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Oh my mistake, cold seeps apparently can support chemosynthetic communities in the Gulf.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_seep

All the more reason to sink the oil to the bottom, not the top.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I luv me some neo-Victorians. They need to come up with a A Young Gentleman's Illustrated Primer for the non-distaff youth.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Steveboyington, I believe I'd read that there has been use of chemical treatments at the sources of the plumes, and that this caused the oil to clump up and sink to the bottom (for not-so-convenient recovery and sale later? Or just a slower release into the Gulf? I don't know). I hesitiate to call Corexit a dispersant in this case since it seems more like a coagulant.

Reminds me of attempts to make bernaise or hollendaise gone very wrong.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I can also highly recommend "Diamond Age."

Corexit (itself a petroleum product, IIRC)? Not so much.

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 27, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

My Mom had a Dodge Aspen SE with a slant 6. Man that car had ooomph. it could have been a better car, a much much better car if it was standard. auto bites

My opposite schtick did not go over well at all. oh well

In other news I told a joke in english that got a coca cola spewing snort

A friend asked when was the last time I had sex. I was completely baffled by this question completely out of the azure

pause

My answer was: Last night I put on a dress and played with myself ... Does that count?

The friend just looked at me incomprehensibly, but the Bartender giggled and the the waitress ... wait for it ... snorted coke all over everything

Posted by: omni3 | May 27, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I thought my "Jump in the Line" YouTube post was uplifting and ironic given the circumstances. today it dawned on me that almost every time I post a link some one follows up with another without any explanation or description of where the link goes to

I try to always give a heads up so you all know what you are in for

If I am annoying you all with my tastes in YouTube links let me know and I'll stop

For Wilbrod

Shake, shake, shake, Senora, shake your body line
Shake, shake, shake, Senora, shake it all the time
Work, work, work, Senora, work your body line
Work, work, work, Senora, work it all the time

My girl's name is Senora
I tell you friends, I adore her
And when she dances, oh brother!
She's a hurricane in all kinds of weather

(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) OK, I believe you!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) OK, I believe you!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) OK, I believe you!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) Whoa!

Shake, shake, shake, Senora, shake your body line
Shake, shake, shake, Senora, shake it all the time
Work, work, work, Senora, work your body line
Work, work, work, Senora, work it all the time

You can talk about Cha Cha
Tango, Waltz, or de Rumba
Senora's dance has no title
You jump in the saddle
Hold on to de bridle!

(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) OK, I believe you!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) Rock your body, child!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) Somebody, help me!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) Whoa!

Shake, shake, shake, Senora, shake your body line
Shake, shake, shake, Senora, shake it all the time (Whoa)
Work, work, work, Senora, work your body line (Yep)
Work, work, work, Senora, work it all the time

Senora, she's a sensation
The reason for aviation
And fellas, you got to watch it
When she wind up, she bottom, she go like a rocket!

(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) OK, I believe you!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) Hoist those skirts a leetle higher!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) Up the chim-en-y!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) Whoa oh oh oh!

[break]

Shake, shake, shake, Senora
Shake your body line
Work, work, work, Senora
Work it all the time
Dance, dance, dance, Senora
Dance it all the time
Work, work, work, Senora
Work it all the time

Senora dances Calypso
Left to right is de tempo
And when she gets the sensation
She go up in the air, come down in slow motion

(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) OK, I believe you!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) Somebody, help me!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) OK, I believe you!
(Jump in de line, rock your body in time) Whooooa!

Shake, shake, shake, Senora, shake your body line
Shake, shake, shake, Senora, shake it all the time
Work, work, work, Senora!!

Posted by: omni3 | May 27, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

omni, my source for "unique holidays" says that May 27th is sunscreen day. Maybe you could try that since it's so danged hot outside. ;)

Posted by: talitha1 | May 27, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Good for you, Omni for your chutzpah answering such a nosy question. Made me laugh.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

And yet, there will still be those who insist that Environmental Impact Statements are unnecessary, that environmental regulations and regulators are anti-business, and that we must open up our most pristine and sensitive areas to exploration in the name of "energy independence"...

BTW, does anyone know what year the permits for this well were approved? My understanding is that these things take years to move forward...

Posted by: wdrudman | May 27, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

The final Okey Dokey on the Macondo well was issued in spring of '09. The MMS waived the EIS requirement at that time because there had already been three studies completed in '07 and none of those studies concluded that the project was particularly risky as far as a blow out goes. Opponents of Obama have made much of this (yeah, like they're all such eco-nuts and he's a tool of Big Oil!)

Posted by: kguy1 | May 27, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

omni -

attract opposites
let the ladies laugh with you
and work the Spanish

Posted by: talitha1 | May 27, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Been enjoying the bee-you-tea-full day with friends and fam.

And now back to the boodle.

http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-448728

This post cites several studies regarding the effects of the chemicals in drilling mud on sea life. And none of them are good.

Posted by: MsJS | May 27, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Wilbrod Now you have me laughing with you

talitha, I brought my hand held battery operated fan with me, which helped. it really wasn't as bad as I thought. maybe after all these years I am finally getting a little bit used to it

I heard this summer is supposed to be a record breaker scorcher for the Mid Atlantic

I wonder if that is said because of the three near blizzards, or because something to do with the rat bastard of the Pacific son

little girls are to nice so I can't blame it on la Niña

Posted by: omni3 | May 27, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

talitha, excellent Senryū in the form of Haiku

Posted by: omni3 | May 27, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm so glad I'm not drinking anything sprayable while backboodling.

Posted by: MsJS | May 27, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

@kguy1

Thanks. So if three studies had been completed in '07, then the initial application and review had to have begun even earlier. And it's not like this is the first off-shore permit.

My point being that the climate of lax regulation began long before Obama and Salazar arrived on the scene.

Never been a big fan of deregulation, myself. Always seems like a good idea until the plane crash, the oil spill, or what have you.

Stringent oversight, due diligence to the best of our abilities upfront. Let the "true cost" of our endeavors be reflected in the price. I guarantee it will be cheaper in the long run.

Posted by: wdrudman | May 27, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

*hiding brush behind fan*

Posted by: talitha1 | May 27, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

wdrudman, you are making sense. you clearly belong here

stick around and tell us a joke or an interesting anecdote

we also like recipes, stories of travels, knitting, baseball and hockey and pretty soon I'm sure Copa de Mundo ... oh the list goes on and on


Posted by: omni3 | May 27, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of hockey, 51 hours until game one of the Stanley Cup finals.

Posted by: MsJS | May 27, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

It is with a heavy heart that I report that the cardinal I mentioned yesterday has abandoned its perfectly constructed nest.

Damn that blue angels!

Posted by: rickoshea11 | May 27, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm so sorry, ROS.

We have two sets of cardinals nearby. Stop by, relax on the balcony and enjoy!

Posted by: MsJS | May 27, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Are they STILL playing hockey? No sporting event should take place on ice after Memorial Day or Victoria Day.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Hello, friends. Just getting in, been to Florence, SC all day. I had to take my dad. He broke a tooth. We got lost, but spent most of the time in the waiting room.

Please someone tell me, is it working? I hope so. I saw the President Obama's new conference, but the television didn't have caption, so don't know what was said. I thought the President looked tired.

JA, I must confess, your reporting of the oil spill has been nothing but excellent. Although I don't understand every sentence, I'm happy to know you. Keep up the good work.

Have a good evening, folks, and love to all.

Posted by: cmyth4u | May 27, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

NYT reporting Top Kill troubles

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/28/us/28spill.html?hp

Not saying it's failed but that there are problems.

Posted by: Awal | May 27, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Yello, one could ask that question near the end (or sooner) of any pro or big-college sport season.

College baseball, for many of the southern schools, started in mid-February and the playoffs will run through the end of June.

Posted by: MsJS | May 27, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

ROS, we also have extra pairs of cardinals. The families tend to congregate in multi-gen clans around here. And the hummers' mates arrived last week. They sent out scouts in April to be sure our feeders were up and ready.

Posted by: talitha1 | May 27, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else listen in on the "top kill" news conference? I thought I heard them say that they hadn't pumped any mud since 11:00 PM last night. That doesn't seem consistent with the reports that have been coming out today. Did I mis-hear the news conference, or has the reporting been a little more optimistic than might be warrented?

Posted by: ElJocko | May 27, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

I was reading earlier in the day NOAA's prediction for hurricane season, similar to the year of Katrina, that cannot be good for the oil spill situation.

ROS wish I could send some of my cardinals your way, I love them but we have so many I could share, lots of Mourning Doves as well.

The other day I came home from work to a Dove sitting on top of the fence and a woodpecker about a foot away from the Dove attempting to poke at the fence, I have a vine that grows on that fence and it was a beautiful scene.

Posted by: dmd3 | May 27, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Book report for the day:

Reading "This book is OVERDUE! How Librarians and Cybarians Can SAVE US ALL" by Marilyn Johnson, and enjoying it.

Lots of blog references. And juicy coverage of the truth behind the Patriot Act and libraries.

Sky report for the day:

Blue with brushstroke clouds;
light breeze, cold shade, fresh-mowed lawns
--and fishy rivers.

-Wilbrodog, Skye Report Terrier-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Thunderboomers w/lightning out west of DC all of you who might be affected. Heads up and may you be spared.

Posted by: talitha1 | May 27, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Sanibel,Jumper, is likely to get oiled and Ding Darling is probably doomed. The BP spill will make Exxon Valdez look like a puddle and Sarah Palin can console Bobby Jindal as they jointly chant the Republican mantra: drill baby drill.

Posted by: shilohgun | May 27, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

shiloh, long time, no see, do you have any oil up in your area?

Posted by: -CB- | May 27, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

periwinkle or celedon?

Posted by: talitha1 | May 27, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

No oil yet, CB, but waiting. Moved from Cedar Key (Levy County) to Ft Myers (Lee County) about two months ago. I expect the loop currents to bypass CK and dump on the FTM beach and out islands - Sanibel-Captiva-Bokeelia, etc., as the slick heads into the Gulf Stream on its way to the Florida Keys. But, I'm a few miles up the Caloosahatchee River and don't expect any local slick. Word from CK is that local boater and tourism traffic has slowed to a trickle. The eco (logical) (nomic) effects will be a problem for some time.

Posted by: shilohgun | May 27, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

I would guess if Sanibel gets oiled so would Captiva, watch the sunsets there was so incredible, a shame if either place are damaged (or anywhere else).

Posted by: dmd3 | May 27, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

The 4:21 pm underwater oil story by Fahrenthold and Eilperin (I hope spelling is correct) impressed me.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/27/AR2010052703667.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Joel's latest update to his ever-modified 'top kill' article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/27/AR2010052701957.html?hpid=topnews

Yes, looks the reporting was over-optimistic. Tip-toe back, Joel. Leave no footprints. Oil still coming out. Joel's article does not say whether the flow was slowed down, but BP reports it's still coming out.

Son of a b!+¢h.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 27, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

OK. Long crazy day.

ElJocko, you heard right: They pumped NO mud all day and, um, forgot to tell anyone. Suttles semi-apologized on CNN for overlooking that little fact. But I pestered BP today and they wouldn't say anything. Yeah, they're busy, but mostly they really don't want people to know what is happening in real time. They want to control the message.

Oh, about my "top kill is working" blog item today: I still believe!

Just not as much as I believed this morning.

And fyi, I spent most of the day trying to make sure we didn't make too much of Thad Allen's statement that the thing had worked. Not sure we got it exactly right but I think we did okay.

More tomorrow...

Posted by: joelache | May 27, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I still believe too. Look, the BOP didn't collapse, and they have a strategy for combining this with the junk shot. It's just gonna take a while, I think.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

interesting. i guess that morning lede from the lat may have been written to compel site visits.

nah. why would anybody do that?

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

hey shiloh. good to have you back.

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

thanks, Jack. I've lurked for a while, popped in a few times, but feel closer to this issue than most.

Posted by: shilohgun | May 27, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

It's good to hear from you, shiloh!

Good thing I didn't put the Moet on ice just yet. Tomorrow, please let it be tomorrow...

Posted by: slyness | May 27, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey, shiloh!

Sounds like BP wins another dissembling award for not mentioning to anybody that no mud had been pumped all day.

Anybody know whether the wrenches the ROVs use are Craftsman or Snap-On? If this top-junk-kill-shot works, I smell endorsement deal.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse

TY, Sly.
"More Moet"should be the cry at every celebration.

Posted by: shilohgun | May 27, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Yo, Yello! Let me know when the oil slick laps the Eastern Shore.

Posted by: shilohgun | May 27, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

lurking oil worries me. conspirators would contend that bp ran a video loop like they do in the tv spy shows.

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Just read the plume article again. Sounds like what my hot tub used to look like after going a week without daily treatments.

Boy, I miss the old hot tub.

Posted by: steveboyington | May 27, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Shiloh, earlier today I was looking over a 2004 survey of hurricane damage, including the Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte area. Looks as though tile roofs are really big generators of flying debris. Unglamorous shingle roofs are looking pretty good. Another study in the bundle reports a study of the popular belief in Pensacola that trees protect houses from wind. Seems they do, quite effectively.
http://www.dca.state.fl.us/fbc/commission/FBC_0606/index.htm

The University of Florida has lots of advice on what trees to plant, how to look after them, and when to remove them.
http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/treesandhurricanes/

Kind of interestingly, southern magnolias and crape myrtles do well in wind.

"The Essential Guide to Creating a Chinese-Style Garden: Design a Landscape for the Soul in Your Own Backyard" arrived today. An elegant 179 pager loaded with drawings and photos by the author. It's from Shanghai Press. The University of Hawai'i Press apparently just became Shanghai's US distributor. Looks like a promising collaboration, except that this book, at least, seems better suited to a commercial distributor.

Totally unrelated, William Finnegan's horrifying story on the Mexican state of Michoacán in this week's New Yorker uses the word "gunsel," which I know of only because it appears in the Humphrey Bogart movie "The Maltese Falcon."

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

The Loop Current is definitely Hot Tub, with tanning oil and soap.

Back to that book on making a Chinese garden in your backyard: only if you have Larry Ellison's budget (his backyard is Japanese).

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

dave, did you see that article about corn? i forgot about Beadle until i read it. nice piece of research.

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Otter swimming lessons:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpTqV6LPl8c

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Very cute Yello.

Posted by: dmd3 | May 27, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

If you have not buried your snow shovels too deeply in the back f the garage, you might want them to fax them to Yoki. Sounds like it is going to be bad down in her neck of the woods.

It is going to miss us, but the weather is really cold. The begonias and tomatoes are coming in the house tonight.

Sorry for being MIA. Extra work with a couple staff out and I'm just too pooped to party.

Posted by: --dr-- | May 27, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Hey y'all. Lots of loud booming thunder and 2-to-3-seconds-away lightning right now. Yikes.

This is what the G family has been addicted to since last night. Daughter started us on it and now Dr G and I are hooked.

I'm warning you: click at your own risk...

http://shygypsy.com/farm/p.cgi

Posted by: -TBG- | May 27, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Wow... this is quite a storm.

Posted by: -TBG- | May 27, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

jack,
I'm reading Noel Kingsbury's "Hybrid: the history and science of plant breeding" (University of Chicago Press). It covers the amiable rivalry between Beadle and Manglesdorf almost at the start. Beadle was indeed correct about the origin of corn, though it took further work to nail down the details.

One puzzle was the ear--it's an utterly strange bit of plant morphology. You wouldn't think it could have evolved from anything that previously existed. Kingsbury notes that the ancient Mexicans could not possibly have toiled at corn breeding with the preconceived idea of giving us sweet corn. They just saw that proto-ears, then ears, made harvesting easier.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

ArrroooOOOOOOOOOO!
Ar-ar-ar-aroooooo000000000000!

Get your pets inside -- I'm hunggggggry...

Grrrrrr....

ArrrrrrooooOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

bc

Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

yeah, dave science is fraught with a lot of luck. mutation, cross and selective breeding to yield a viable hybrid to get from a grass to corn was quite a leap of faith that the cross would produce something productive. the prototypical sticky note phenomenon.

Posted by: -jack- | May 28, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

*emerging from the corner*

Hello, shiloh. talitha here, and glad to meet you.

A place of peace. Shiloh.

Posted by: talitha1 | May 28, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

'evening, talitha.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8dwWYBa1i4

Posted by: -jack- | May 28, 2010 12:36 AM | Report abuse

You can't have my dinner, bc.

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 28, 2010 1:02 AM | Report abuse

*backboodling*

Yello, thanks for the otter POV.
Today is the day I became a mother
So many years ago.

Posted by: talitha1 | May 28, 2010 6:35 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all. Please tell me there is good news in the Gulf.

We may not realize it at the time, Talitha, but holding one's baby for the first time is the greatest thrill Earth has to offer, and the day we become parents is the happiest we'll ever know. (If only to be UNpregnant!)

Since we'll be on the other side of the pond on her actual birthday, we celebrated Elderdottir's day Wednesday. She had expressed a wish for a netbook at lunch some days before; Geekdottir and I could hardly keep our faces straight because we had bought one several months ago. Such a joy to see delight on a child's face, even when she's an adult! The netbook is red, to boot.

Posted by: slyness | May 28, 2010 7:05 AM | Report abuse

slyness, I've done many things in my 58 years, but no day eclipses *that* day.

Thanks for helping me celebrate!

Posted by: talitha1 | May 28, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

bc, don't forget to gather up all the... excess fur. Ya never know when they might revive that "hair boom" idea.

Great to see ya, shiloh, even under these circumstances! :-)

JA, continued thanks and applause for doing all the "in the trenches" work to get us the best available info.

*sooooooooooo-looking-forward-to-a-long-weekend-even-with-the-to-do-list Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Happy Friday everyone. Although, I fear, making it a truly happy day will depend upon events on the ocean floor. Let's hope the junk-shot-top-kill does the trick.

Because if it does, I am creating a boot-to-the-head cocktail in its honor.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 28, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Let it be.

Today is the 40th anniversary of
Beatles on the roof.

Posted by: talitha1 | May 28, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

And why am I so not surprised to see a certain Post reporter absent from the "unplugged" Style feature? :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

The headline for this kit is becoming increasingly inaccurate. Not only has mud not beaten oil, mud is probably couter-productive by eroding the the existing holes larger.

Once you stop a top-kill operation, like they did a day ago without telling anyone, you have to start all over again. Maybe the first try was just a dress rehearsal, but I don't know how many chances you get at this rodeo.

Meanwhile Pearlstein is effusively praising BP for Doing The Right Thing and Taking Responsibility:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/27/AR2010052705591.html

I think like "Mud beating oil", this statement is perhaps a bit premature.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 28, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Pearlstein disappointed me.
Mud is mud.

Posted by: talitha1 | May 28, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

And the final dead tree version of Joel's latest article adjusts upward the leak estimate to 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day. Can't we just call it 16,000 +/- 20%? Which is a number I believe is way too precise and not particularly accurate either.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accuracy_and_precision

My latest POOMA estimate is 20,000-30,000 based on various numbers pertaining to the top kill that have slipped out as well as a general "BP is bunch of lying bast@rds" adjustment factor.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 28, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

New kit.

With the head "Feel screwed over by BP?" on the front page that should generate traffic.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 28, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

Scottynuke, you know I'm pretty good at cleaning up after myself. Even after one of *those* nights... trying to rehydrate today from all the running and marking territory.

I was trying to ignore the headline as well, yello, and your comment about the top shot mud eroding the existing holes reminded me of an extrude hone service I've used from time to time to port intake and exhaust manifolds. The goal of the process is to remove material from the insides of pipes or conduits in order to to smooth and control flow, and sometimes increase volume by increasing the area (enlarging ports, etc.) with a predetermined finish. It's accomplished by pushing an abraisve media (ranging from almost-toothpaste to almost-wet gravel) through the inside of the pipes/manifolds under pressure - I'm curious about the composition of that top shot mud and it's abraisve properties under the conditions and prolonged use. No doubt they're wondering how much they're weakening the pipes/risers/etc as the internal material is worn away.

So now they're stepping up to the junk shot, adding some clogging and binding agents to the mix? A flip suggestion would be to mobilze an army of teenage boys wielding thousands of cases of toilet paper. Call them the Cartman Brigade.

Seriously, this is a tough problem, frought with risk.

Finally, I enjoyed Joel's use of the word "glom" in his piece this AM.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | May 28, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

There was some sort of explosion or burst; the ROV (the one they deign to allow public monitoring of) backed away fast. Speculation that top of riser blew off/ tore /something.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 28, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

This whole thing reminds me of the Little Dutch Boy with his finger in the dike...LOL!!!


Posted by: demtse | May 28, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

This whole thing reminds me of the Little Dutch Boy with his finger in the dike...LOL!!!


Posted by: demtse | May 28, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

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