BP update: “Top kill” started, stopped, restarted - Macleans.ca

BP update: “Top kill” started, stopped, restarted

Company touts success in face of failure


Yesterday, BP gave itself a big pat on the back. Its “top kill” technique—which involved pumping drilling liquids into the leaking Gulf of Mexico well to lower the pressure of gushing oil—seemed to be working. Things are “moving the way we want it to,” Robert Dudlley, BP’s managing director announced Thursday morning on NBC. “The top kill procedure… is moving along as everyone had hoped,” Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen told CNN—also on Thursday morning. But it turns out that on Wednesday night, around 11 p.m, BP halted the “top kill” operation because it had stopped working. But the company only acknowledged this publicly late Thursday afternoon, after touting its success all day. No explanation has been provided.
BP is now saying that it restarted the “top kill” effort on Thursday night. In the meantime, government experts have revised earlier estimates of how much oil is leaking; they now say this current spill is the worst in U.S history.

New York Times

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BP update: “Top kill” started, stopped, restarted

  1. Why use mud and cement to pour down the tube when these materials have water content that is affected by cold temperature and takes time to set? I believe using glass marbles, which are made of heavy solid and slippery material that would travel down the tube much faster, and followed by cement at the top to seal the hole are better feed.

    • According to CNN, if the "top kill" doesn't work BP will try a "junk shot": Instead of pumping mud and cement, BP would pump "material like golf balls, pieces of tire and pieces of rope into the blowout preventer."

    • Drilling cement is very different from the stuff you'd set to make a sidewalk. It actually requires very little if any water, sets very fast, and has a low viscosity and thus can be pumped at very high pressures. Water boils rather easilly down a borehole, so you generally can't use water based muds and cement- especially so in deep wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

      I think they're going with this method, rather than the marble idea because they want to fill the entire borehole. With larger objects and materials, there is a higher risk of blockage.

    • because it's not mud, it's drilling liquid, which has properties similar to a corn starch and water mixture. It siezes when there is any sort of shearing action placed upon it

  2. The apparatus is designed only for certain materials. Besides, if BP really was concerned with the environmental issues rather than saving their site/investment they could blast the shaft closed

    • Somehow, I just don't believe that blasting the pipe would close the leak. More likely it would destroy the equipment and any possibility of shutting down the leak.

    • An explosion would most likely blast the hole even wider. Remember, this isn't just a leak, we're talking about thousands of atmospheres of pressure pushing oil out of the hole. If you blew it up, you only have gravity pulling the hole shut, vs the extreme pressure pushing the hole open. No bueno.

  3. It blows my mind about how hard it is for them to fix this problem. That they were not prepared for something like this to happen.

  4. why cant they couple togehter segments of large pvc type pipe, then lower it over the plume. this would get the oil to the surface where it could pump onto barges while they drill a relief well.

  5. So “top kill” failed. Big deal.
    One must ask does the spill matter any more? Probably not.
    There are an increasing number of very smart people who say the oceans — and the planet — have slipped beyond the irreversible tipping point, also known as the threshold, after which there is no way to restore the global environment to the previous state that maintained life as we know/knew it.
    It doesn't all collapse at once, but takes a few years and decades –very few — following the tipping point. Unfortunately, the real collapse — global warming being a large part of it — caused by centuries of environmental degradation that is now peaking, began in earnest in the late 1980s.
    The best we, humans, can hope for is to slow down the final collapse, is to slow it down a few decades, provided we all chip in to delay the inevitable. Remember, we have passed the irreversible tipping point.
    Is that scary? No. After a while the inevitable is accepted. There is no other option.