Myths of the BP Macondo Blowout
by Mark Ramsey on June 30, 2010 at 9:20 AM
There are numerous sources of bad information, misinformation, intentionally distorted information, and even outright lies circulating in media and government circles regarding the accidental BP Macondo blowout in the Mississippi Canyon block 252 well. In today’s installment, I will try to clear up some of the more egregious falsehoods.
Myth: BP is dragging its feet on the well-capping and cleanup operations and should be doing more.
Reality: While with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight BP may have made errors that caused the blowout (time and additional data will tell,) the attempts to stop the well and clean up the blowout effects started immediately, have been ongoing, continue to be massive, and continue to progress and expand. Unlike Washington bureaucrats and others, companies involved were initially organizing both rescue efforts and large, well-qualified engineering, science, and operations teams within hours of the initial explosion shortly before 10:00 pm on April 20, 2010. Do the math: a friend confided he first was called into action about 2:00 a.m.
Remote operated vehicles (ROVs—sophisticated robots that can operate underwater at extreme pressures), additional floating drilling vessels (some of the most complex and highly engineered machines on our planet,) aircraft, personnel, and watercraft were mobilized. “War rooms” were set up at BP headquarters off the Katy Freeway in Houston, with real-time data links (think NASA-like, only higher resolution and more difficult conditions) from the vessels and even from the ROVs themselves (sitting on the perma-dark ocean bottom a mile deep) being streamed in live. Some of the ROVs are being directed via pilots on ships getting instructions from Houston personnel, who are serving as mission controllers for about 15 ROVs deployed, as many as 12 at the same time.
At the wellhead, within days BP was injecting dispersant directly into the spewing BOP, since this is an absolute “no-brainer” in terms of being more efficient and effective than the government-preferred aerial spraying of dispersant (fixed wing and helicopters) once the oil spreads out and reaches the surface. Attacking the source is always better.
“Houston we have a problem.” In rare and unforeseen events, innovation and resources to quickly develop solutions and apply them on the fly is critical. Fortunately, BP has the technical horsepower, corporate will, and financial resources to do this. BP has already tried numerous solutions, some with success others not. That is the very nature of innovation. For each system deployed, there are numerous others still being evaluated and readied. BP has managed to develop systems to recover half or more of the oil spewing, with plans to collect another 40% or more. The suggestion by environmental ideologues that 100% of possible failures should have solutions already designed, engineered, built, and tested is not only absurd, it is impossible. Just ask NASA.
At the surface, BP began burning oil thick enough to do so (much of it was and is so thin it is barely detectable, much less burnable). A barrel burned at sea is far better than cleaning a barrel off a bird or a beach.
At the beach, BP began mobilizing plans and personnel weeks before the oil even reached the coast. The very fact that the amount of beaches and birds soiled by the crude oil remains small is a huge testament to the outstanding effort BP has ongoing in dispersing, collecting and burning oil before it gets there.
At last counts, BP was employing over 5,000 vessels of opportunity and over 100 aircraft resources to help monitor, contain, burn, skim, boom, vacuum and clean oil once it reaches the surface. BP is spending nearly $40,000,000.00 per day on the cleanup…not including the despicable $20 billion Chicago shakedown at the White House. Over 15,000 BP and other oil industry personnel are employed on cleanup and capping operations, while another 15,000 volunteers are involved.
Additionally, there are TWO relief wells being drilled as rapidly as possible to literally intersect the Macondo blowout. Each of these wells will cost BP around $100,000,000.00. Some in government have exposed their complete lack of understanding of our industry by naively suggesting that whenever an exploration well is drilled, a relief well should be simultaneously drilled. This demonstrates stunning ignorance, as it would, as pointed out by Exxonmobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson, simply double the risk and more than double the cost of such operations. A “relief well” is simply another well, but one that targets the blowing one. Note that the first BP relief well is ahead of schedule and as of late last night was within 20 feet of the blowing wellbore. It will be turned parallel to the blowing one and has another 900 feet of such parallel drilling before literally intersecting the blowing well (a 7” target over three miles from the rig at the bottom of a mile deep ocean,) when a “kill” might be attempted.
Though dated by a few weeks (efforts have continued to increase since then,) please check out the Kent Well Tech Update video and the Relief Well Operations video to see examples of the massive efforts BP is putting forth. The notion that BP isn’t doing enough is an outrageous lie propagated by the White House and their lapdog media cohorts.
Please note that BP had all of these efforts in place and going forward before our President decided after day 50 to find out “whose a__ to kick”. How…ummm…Presidential. (The noticeable difference since then is the Chicago shakedown when he finally met with BP behind closed doors at the White House.)
As mentioned before, the cause of the terrible accident remains unclear and will likely be an absurdly unlikely sequence of events including both human error and equipment failure—that is the very nature of rare catastrophes. This is the very first deepwater blowout in some 25 YEARS of deepwater drilling. But to treat some of the finest deepwater drilling companies in the world as if they are shooting from the hip is unconscionable. To further imply that these same five-star and blue-chip companies (with safety and environmental records that are far superior to other industries,) are somehow dragging their feet is a malicious attack against Capitalism itself.
Second in a series of articles... Stay tuned.