Questions BP Needs to Answer

We all know that BP and the US government have been doing everything they can to get the blowout well off of the television news.  We’ve been talking for weeks how it was also to BP’s advantage to not measure the flow from the well before killing it so they can argue lower fines.  Since Adm Allen ordered BP to set the “capping stack” on July 8th, they have gone through one machination to another to avoid actually producing the well to the surface so the volume could be measured.  Here are some of those actions that BP has (or not) taken to avoid measuring the flow since May.  I’ll note that all actions were taken with the blessings of the US government.

  • Massive containment structure: Set 600 feet from wellhead over only one leak from wrecked riser.  Result: Complete failure due to hydrates.
  • Riser insertion tool to capture flow from wrecked riser.  Result: Mostly a failure, capturing less than 8,000 barrels per day.
  • Top kill with wrecked riser still attached.  Result:  Complete failure after going radio silent for 16 hours and Adm Allen mistakenly saying that kill was being successful.
  • Tight top cap after removing riser.  Result:  Compete failure – rather than removing riser flange, attempt to cut riser with wire saw fails.  Finally cut riser with hydraulic shear.
  • Top hat to capture flow without removing riser flange.  Result: Partial failure, recovering less than 50% of flow from well.
  • Limited application of dispersants:  Result: Massive application of a million and a half gallons of dispersant (banned in the UK), over half at the wellhead which had never been tested. Result: Gigantic plumes of dispersed oil deep in the water column.  Extent of damage unknown.
  • Capping stack:  Stack completed late June.  Sat on the dock until Adm Allen ordered it installed on July 9.  Finally set on July 12, with plan to connect containment ships.
  • Well integrity test: Sudden announcement on July 11 that BP would perform a 6 to 48 hour “well integrity test”.  Result:  Unknown due to lack of meaningful data.  Integrity test continued for weeks past deadline at pressure below which BP had announced integrity existed.  BP moved the integrity goalpost from 8,000 psi to existing pressure.
  • Static kill: Announced suddenly when containment vessels were scheduled to be ready to receive production from well.  No rational, cogent explanation.  Result:  Unknown.  BP announced well “static” on August 4th, without disclosing pressures or volumes.  Pumped cement 2 days later, pressures undisclosed.  Announced that kill went down the casing with no evidence, no disclosure of treating pressures.
  • ROV feeds:  Consistent early on after demanded by Markey.  During static kill, critical feeds removed. Feeds restored only after Daily Kos Gulf Watchers asked Adm Allen publicy why the feeds had been removed. After “static kill”, most feeds removed again, other feeds blurred to point of being uninformative.
  • Four risers with containment vessels to capture the flow:  Deadline: second week of July.  Result: Never completed.
Since announcing success (sort of) of the static kill, MSM attention has dropped to virtually zero, though the well is obviously far from static, judging from the huge clouds in the water around the wellhead and manifold, as well as numerous ROVs surrounding the wellhead, providing no feeds to the public. The media has payed virtually no attention to these feeds and has asked no questions of Adm Allen or BP.  BP has stopped briefing the public daily.
Last week, a joint report from NOAA and the USGS surprisingly concluded that most all of the 5 million barrels of oil have disappeared, even as waves of tar balls and oil continue to roll ashore across Louisiana.  Anxious to put this catastrophe behind them, the Obama administration rushed out the report, supported by the President, his press secretary, Adm Allen, and the rest of the bureaucracy, trying to make it all go away in advance of the mid-term elections.  The problem is that there are lots of questions that remain unanswered.  Here’s what I want to know:
  • Is the well dead?
  • What is the pressure on the well?  Now?
  • If the well is open to the surface, what is that pressure?
  • What was the pressure during the “static kill”?  Did it change at any time?  What was total volume pumped?
  • What was the pressure during the bullhead cement job?  Did you do the “hesitation squeeze” that Kent Wells mentioned in passing? What was displacement volume?
  • How do you know all the cement went down the casing?
  • What was the pressure on the well after the job?
  • Why is the flex joint flange leaking?
  • Why are the ROV feeds no longer provided in a decipherable resolution?
  • Why are some ROV feeds not being provided?
  • Has the well kicked since the bullhead cement job?
  • What pressure did the bullhead cement job test to?
  • Have you had to pump mud into the well since the bullhead cement job? How much?
  • Why are clouds of debris continuing to obscure the view several days after the well was supposedly “static”?
  • Were the rams of the old BOP opened for the static kill or bullhead cement job?
  • If so, could you tell if the drill pipe fish stuck in the BOP dropped into the well?
  • Can you close the blind shear rams now?
  • What is the damage to the rams in the old BOP?
Until these questions are answered by BP, we have no real information to tell us that the well is dead, or even safe.  As long as they continue to stonewall critical data, I’ll only continue to believe that the well is not “static” or safe.


  1. ioinkthere4iham says

    Twenty-nine unresolved questions by my count. Just to round things out to an even thirty, I suggest one more rhetorical question. Why was BP, suspected of gross negligence and with clear legal and financial conflicts of interest, allowed to remain the technical lead?

  2. says

    Obama’s Gulf War –
    “Needing A Nanny”
    BP plc?
    If ever a driller was needing a Nanny,
    You know that that driller’s BP plc
    But Salazar’s background was not Flushing, Queens,
    So he’s been bamboozled by BYOBOP.
    To Bring Your Old Blowout Preventer seemed fine.
    The fact it was ‘used’ prob’ly meant it would work.
    That he didn’t inquire when they’d last had it tested
    Must have been met with a corporate smirk.
    And BP’s still smirking as they’re working around
    A deepwater drill ban they claim can’t apply
    To any relief wells they’re ordered to drill.
    Are they just for relief? You think BP would lie?
    Those deepwater cameras don’t belong to Obama,
    And what would they tell us, supposing they did?
    Unless we’ve a mole in the BP hierarchy,
    We won’t know what’s under a cemented lid.
    Salazar playing nursey remains at their mercy.
    Parental controls? They’ll flaunt when they can.
    So how will we know that it’s safe to go fishing
    And enjoy eating seafood? When their Nanny’s a ban.
    Bob Carlson
    To “The Nanny Named Fran” – The Nanny Lyrics
    To ‘BP May Re-Tap Reservoir, Citing “Lots of Oil”‘
    To ‘MMS’s Ken Salazar’
    To ‘British Petroleum Incompetence’
    To ‘Questions BP Needs to Answer’

  3. et tu says

    Hey Bob – I regularly read the BP press releases as well as this blog to get some kind of “balanced” view, so thanks for providing the counterweight. I have to point out, though, that BP may have answered some of these questions (or at least claimed to answer them) during the latest Kent Wells Technical Updates (are these what you call the McBriefings?). Anyway, can you clarify your position on these claims:
    - The Aug. 6 briefing claimed that 500 barrels of cement were pumped into the casing, where 200 were estimated to have gone into the formation. I assume you are skeptical about the claim “pumped into the casing” with no explanation?
    - 2300 barrels of mud were pumped during the static kill, but at the time of that briefing (Aug. 4th) they were still pumping 75 barrels once every six hours to “keep everything turning”. Is 2300 barrels not credible? I suppose what is missing is what fraction of that volume had been pumped when they supposedly hit the reservior, which would support or refute the claim of well integrity?
    - The static kill claimed to achieve a pressure of zero at the water surface (Aug. 4 briefing). The pressure at the well was not specified, but is assumed to be equal to the weight of the column of mud. Other than lack of information, is there another issue with this claim?

  4. Bob Cavnar says

    Actually, no they haven’t answered these questions, at least in context. They will throw around discrete numbers like the 2,300 barrels and the 500, with 200 inside and 300 outside. Inside the casing that’s one thing, but if it’s down the backside, or both, that’s another thing altogether. Without a real report, it’s all meaningless. Adm Allen said they would pump an oil spacer first. How much was that? How much mud did they put behind that? What was the weight of the cement? How much did they use to displace? What weight? Have they pumped since? What’s the pressure on the wellhead? If there is pressure on the wellhead, it’s not dead. If it’s leaking hydrocarbons, it’s not dead.
    Without the real data, they can say what they want. They claim that it all went down the casing. The only way they can really know that is to go in with wireline or tubing and tag it, which they can’t do. Otherwise, they’re only guessing based on pump pressure and injection rate. I’d like to see that so I can make my own judgment.

  5. et tu says

    Hmm, that’s a good comment. It sounds like it’s not technically possible for BP to be certain about some of the claims that they are making, so they are asking us to trust their professional opinion without publishing the data that they used to form that opinion.
    Man, that sure smells bad. I expect I’ll be fully outraged when I read your book, but I’m looking forward to learning more details.

  6. Dick - not Cheney says

    The booby, Thad Allen, now says there is a low probability that the relief well will not be needed. He can’t be that indecisive in the last hours. The relief well is needed to get cement into the bottom of the well. We have no idea how much cement is in there now, what its composition is (gripping sides of the pipes), and how far down it got. Now Allen begins, once again, to open the door to let BP sail through and save more money. Of course, that crew (BP-Allen) may know something we do not know. Maybe there is a real risk of drilling into the bottom of this well. It would be bad politics to get the public all worried during an election cycle.It is better to lie than risk a politicians job.

  7. Mike Shellman says

    The BP well is dead as dead can be, y’all need to quit kicking this dead horse and move on. Mr. Cavanar can’t move on because he is trying to sell a book. Kicking BP has more or less made him an overnight sensation.
    My industry began 100 years ago drilling wells by banging heavy bars in the ground to make hole; we made our first drilling mud by running cattle thru a water pond. Now we can drill amazingly complex wells in 10,000 feet of water using extended reach engineering that can put a bit into the top of a 55 gallon drum 4 miles deep and 3 miles out. There is no where in the world that we cannot go to find and produce oil and natural gas, for the benefit of mankind. Over the past 100 years we have had a multitude of blowouts that have caused terrible harm to human life and to the environment. It is a dirty business, oil; mama nature often has suprises for us down there in the dark. But technology and equipment, engineering and know-how has gotten better and blowouts don’t happen very often anymore…because we don’t want them to happen. We try to avoid blowouts whenever possible; they make a mess, ruin families and cost big bucks to fix. So, we, my industry will get better, smarter, safer after this BP accident; we all paid attention, trust me. We’ll get safer internally, by our own choosing, and changes will occur from within my industry, not because the federal government is going to put more kids out on rig floors with political science degrees to regulate us, watch us because we cannot be trusted, or we fear the rath of MSNBC and Bob Cavanar.
    So, the answer to your question, sir, is that BP has brilliant engineers; they hired other brillant engineers from external sources, from other oil companies, they hired the two best well control and relief well companies in the world. They were left in charge because they knew what they were doing. Nobody, no other company, certainly not the government, could have responded to this blowout better than BP. The engineering feats they accomplished to get this well contained, capped, then killed were nothing short of amazing given the sub-sea issues at 5200 feet of water depth and government intervention, with public sentiment against them. Truthfully I think they would have cut the riser at the top of the annular preventer two months ago to cap the well then had they been allowed to by the government and had those stupid streaming videos been unplugged from every television set in America.
    In any case, its over. My industry will sort most of this out, trust in that the best you can, sir. Most of the crap you hear in the media is just speculation, and most of those people speculating have an agenda.

  8. Bob Cavnar says

    A couple of questions for you:
    1. If the “well is as dead as dead can be”, why does it have 4,200 psi on it, 2,000 psi more than seawater hydrostatic, and 600 psi more than 14 ppg mud hydrostatatic from the riser?
    2. If the well is dead, why are they now “pressure testing” said dead well?
    3. Agreed they have one of the best well control specialists in the business on the DDIII. Why won’t they let him finish? On July 13, he was 34 feet from casing point of last liner. They’ve stopped him twice, costing at least a week each time for the other nonsense to get, as you say “unplugged from the television”. If they had let him work this would all really be over.
    4. Tell me EXACTLY what went wrong with the BOP on the Horizon and how it’s going to be fixed. EXACTLY. If you don’t know, then, why do you advocate going right back to doing the same thing?
    5. You seem to revel in the business being “dirty”. I don’t because it gets people killed, which you don’t seem to mind.
    6. No doubt some of the feats of engineering have been marvels. Why did it take the largest environmental catastrophe in US history to get that done? I’ll answer that for you…there’s no money in it.
    If you’re going to come on my blog hurling insults and propaganda, at least spell my name right. CAVNAR
    I want my hate mail at least correctly addressed; it’s the least you can do.

  9. amy says

    I second the comment re: BP – the criminal – controlling the story of the outcome of the “crime”. As for people who keep asserting that this is beating a “dead horse” – you are simply mistaken in your assumptions – Unless:
    1. You are on-site and can answer all of the questions posed in this post.
    2. You can “remote view” the entire ocean floor of which our human species still does not have “perfect” ability to monitor/map, etc.
    I am so tired of “armchair experts” who think they can decide when and where to stop questioning anything. Further, BP did not have “brilliant” engineers as they did what can only be described as pathetic response to clean-up and mitigation of damage in response to human error and mother nature. BP and other Big Oil companies don’t care about the environment or Nigeria would not be polluted and an “action plan” would have been much better implemented.
    Give me a break. No plan for clean-up after screw-up? Then the engineers must be too focused on getting the oil than knowing what to do with it after screw-ups occur.

  10. Mike Shellman says

    Sir, I apologize for spelling your name wrong; that is offensive. It was a mistake and I did not mean anything by it.
    I would hardly say that my comments toward your continuous bashing of BP and your desire to to sell your book is “propaganda;” you are the one with all the television time every night and the blog, not me. I am just a dumb ‘ol roughneck. I do not hate you, sir, and if you consider my disagreeing with the way this blowout has been sensationalized, by you and the rest of the media an insult, perhaps you should seek another, more private line of work. Most of the public is buying your cookies, I am not.
    I on the other hand am highly offended, and insulted, at you suggesting that I am not bothered by men dying as a result of this BP accident. I have been in the oil business for 50 years, and not in an office or behind a camera, and have seen many good men die and get burned to death on blowouts and fires. I’ll let your comment go with the belief that you do not know who I am and were simply reacting emotionally, as I often do when I feel my industry is getting dumped on unnecessarily by people telling other people what they want to hear for self-serving reasons.
    It may be constructive to you to speculate on every aspect of BP proceedures but what I think the public needs to hear is the well is not blowing oil into the Gulf of Mexico anymore and in another week or so the well will get plenty full of cement when our friend Mr. Wright stuffs it in the butt. In the mean time it is sure acting dead to me.
    I would guess, I am not sitting the well, that BP is holding pressure on the WH and the stack because they can, and it is prudent, because the government is telling them to, to monitor casing and casing hanger integrity up and down the hole and to error on the side of caution in the event the relief well kill causes some kind of early hiccup. Thats what I would do if I could with all that iron, hold pressure on it. Why not? Pressure below the capping stack, induced or maintained, does not mean BP is hiding something evil and it absolutely does not mean the well is still alive behind pipe set to blow oil and gas up thru 13,000 feet of sand and shale miles away from the wellbore into a giant plume that can be seen from Burbon Street. Somethings in life actually are what they appear to be and this well sure appears dead to me.
    Are you ready for them to rig the BOP down so you can have a look? I hope not.
    If there have been delays in the relief intervention I believe it is because of storm delays and regulatory demand for storm packers, etc., and when the static kill was undertaken. I do not know who you mean “they” is; if you are suggesting BP is intentionally delaying I do not believe that. It is a painfully slow process ranging and orinenting the last casing shoe toward the target and Lord knows they have tested the shoe and casing integrity, etc, until it cannot be tested anymore. BP is in charge of that, and our friend, I trust in that. If a big wind was coming and I was having to pump thousands of barrels of mud and cement in twenty foot seas I beleive I’d hold up a minute too. I think it is probably as simple as that.
    I don’t know why the BOP did not close, neither do you, sir. Maybe we will find rams missing or wrong side in, maybe the stack is full of balled up drill pipe and seal assembly, maybe there are tool joints across the shear rams, maybe the BOP did close or partially close. The point is that BOP’s do work, they work all the time, this one may or may not have worked for pilot error reasons, we’ll find out soon enough. BOP’s are the last line of defense in pressure control situations and the real deal is downhole where kicks should stay. This blowout, it seems, but we do not know for sure, was caused by some well design and well supervision no-no’s.
    If you have some good ideas about new subsea BOP’s I think you should go to Cameron, not MSNBC. Or, instead of focusing on BOP’s why don’t we say, focus on getting more petroleum engineers graduated and on the rig floor? In 2008 33,000 lawyers took the bar exam and 118 petroleum engineers graduated from college in the U.S. Eighty two of those PE’s went back to third world countries to develop their oil reserves. Now that sir is a big problem.
    My industry, your industry, will get better at this deepwater stuff. Safer. We will do so by our own intiative. Inciting the public, people who 110 days ago did not know or care where they’re cheap gasoline came from, creating doubt and suspicion does not help solve the problem and it is not productive. Creating some level of confidence in our industry by emphasizing the positive, the incredible engineering response that BP made to this blowout, they’re fault or not, re-building trust is what we need from folks like yourself.
    You have the floor sir, help the public understand our industry; there is no point whatsoever in creating more fear or mistrust in a vital industry in our country that is essentially loathed already. America needs it’s crude oil and natural gas, people need to know that we can deliver it safely. This was a single accident, be it of immense proportion, but hundreds of thousands of wells in this country, offshore and on, deepwater, shallow, in the mountains or downtown Los Angles have been drilled and produced safely, without incident, for decades. Americans should be proud of the oil and gas industry as it represents American know-how and can-do spirit.
    Thank you for the opportunity to be heard.
    Mike Shellman

  11. bubbabobcat says

    Um NO Mr. Shellman. Kicking BP is easy and well deserved and practiced by any armchair quarterback and superficial and ADHD/ADD mainstream media.
    Bob has asked the hard questions and provided his experience, expertise and analysis combined with his ability to explain it in layman’s terms so that we in the general public who are NOT oilfield experts can have a clue and get the truth and not the self serving propaganda spin and lies from BP that Thad Allen appears to be swallowing at face value. THAT has made Bob an overnight sensation.

  12. Mike Shellman says

    Mr. Bubba, it is a difficult business to understand, oil and natural gas, very complex in many ways with a great deal of unknowns to deal with down there, in the dark. People that do not understand it believe that exploration and production, well control in post blowout situations is an exact science, that there should be no room for errors of any kind. I cannot think of many things in life that do not occasionally end up badly for some reason or another; space flight, trains colliding, food recalls, the wrong patients getting the wrong surgery, running a stop sign, accidents happen and most of the time folks are harmed because of them. I know too that you hate BP for this accident, likely all oil companies in general and because of that you are prone to be skeptical and mistrustful of BP and anything that has happened in they’re response to this blowout.
    Mr. Cavnar is a smart man and knowledgeable about all this, granted. But he is not the voice of reason in an otherwise corrupt industry full of liers and cheats, trust me. His speculations and interpretations of the problems BP have had are no more true or correct than anybody elses simply because he is on television every night and he makes it seem a little simpler to understand.
    If Mr. Cavnar was on MSNBC touting the accomplishments that BP made in responding to this blowout, partial containment, more containment via a better seal to the riser connection, capping the well, killing the well, all in 5200 feet of water where human beings would be crushed like a strofoam cup, in the dark, using robots with headlights, interesecting the blowout well, a target of about the size of a beach ball, with an 18,000 foot relief well, and was able to make that easy to understand I wonder if he would still be voice of reason you say he is. He would not be on MSNBC, thats for sure. Or is he simply saying things to an otherwise uneducated public that people want to hear because they are angry and suspicious of BP, of oil, or corporate America in general anyway. Mr. Cavnar says BP is lying and decieving you, that is what you want to hear, so he is correct and Adm. Thad Allen is not? No, sir.
    Mr. Bubba I am not wishing to use Mr. Cavnar’s space here to criticize him, that is not right. He’s made a niche and I admire him for that. I would simply like you to know that I have been there, done that, and BP, whatever they’re mistakes, has performed admirably in they’re response. That a subsea blowout of this magnitude was capped and killed within 100 days is remarkable. They have bellied up to the bar, sir; the money they have handed out so far, the clean up, the effort…nobody could have done it better. If it was going to happen, and it probably was, it was a good thing it was BP and not somebody else. Geeze, Anadarko can’t even pay they’re share of the bills as part owner.
    The well looks dead to me, it is not making black stuff anymore into the water, the proceedure was sound, BP says it is dead or dying, the relief well is on target and being piloted by the best engineer in the world, thats good enough for me. I beleive it. I also believe that my industry will figure out what happened and likely not make the same mistakes again, on its own initiative, for the right reasons.
    I want you to beleive that also, sir. Give it the best try you can.
    I want you to know also that Mr. Cavnar was wrong in suggesting that I did not care about good men dying on that rig floor; that is not true. I often see and hear men like that in my dreams, sir.

  13. Bob Cavnar says

    You seem obsessed with the fact that I’ve been invited on television some and have been asked to write a book in the last couple of weeks. You’ve ignored my other writings, for YEARS, supporting responsible offshore drilling and a comprehensive energy policy that includes hydrocarbons, renewables AND nuclear. You also apparently haven’t bothered to read my bio or my writings about my career, which are publicly available, describing my oil and gas experience going back to the mid seventies, including the injuries and death, and even my own flirtations with fire, hand smashing elevators, and catline chains. I find your dismissal of my experience insulting, even as you tout your own, especially since you don’t know me. I appreciate your experience probably more than most, since I’ve been there. Like you, I’m too old and broken down, but still like going to the field when I can. My best days were on drilling rigs. I’ve made more money since, but the satisfaction was then.
    The goal of my writing has been to ask the hard questions. We had at least 9 safety systems fail on April 20th. Transocean had alarms turned off as well as the overspeed shutdowns. BP’s casing design was faulty from the beginning. Hell, even Shell pointed that out. BP is famous for it’s arrogance and its cost cutting. Those things cost lives. And, BP screwed it up for everybody else.
    I disagree with you that our business is a dirty business, it doesn’t have to be. I’ve seen too much to know that the industry, left on it’s own, won’t always do the right thing. They won’t do the right thing without being pushed. If that means hiring a few more inspectors, fine, if it keeps more from getting killed.
    BTW, most of the delays on the DDIII are not due to weather. It’s from shut downs for the “well integrity test”, “the injectivity test”, repairs on the capping stack, and now the “static kill”. Not weather, though there have been a few days for that. Had it not been for all that nonsense, Wright would be done. Oh, and that successful top kill? They now admit they don’t know where the cement went and are “unsure” how it’s going to affect the relief well kill. I rest my case.
    You may not like what I say on television or this blog, but I challenge you to point out where I’ve been wrong.
    Most of the time, I don’t answer hate mail or diatribes. I gave you the benefit of the doubt because you’re oilfield. Just like me. I ask you to give me the same consideration.

  14. Fishgrease says

    I, like, Mr. Cavnar, have been in oil & gas for over 30 years. You’ve yet to write anything here that leads me to believe you know ANYTHING about the technical issues with this well. Standing up for Thad Allen and BP does not prove to me you’ve ever been anywhere near a well.
    They froze their chokes off this morning. The ones atop the Capping Stack. If you think that means this is a dead well,
    1. You don’t know anything about oil, and/or gas wells.
    2. You’re an idiot.
    3. Both

  15. bubbabobcat says

    Mr. Shellman, you may have unfortunately found this blog fairly late in this oil well tragedy timeline. And if you were truly open minded, you would take the time to read Bob’s previous blog postings in the context of the events as they were unfolding and with the information that was available and/or released/intentionally parsed out at the time. Bob has earned his credentials with his prescient analyses, predictions, and probing questions BEFORE the mainstream media seized upon those issues, if at all. It’s a shame you didn’t have the opportunity to read Bob’s blogs unfolding in real time in juxtaposition with the uninitiated mainstreams media’s clueless fluff coverage, questions and their accepting the PR at face value.
    And if you will peruse the archives, Bob was invited to appear on right wing Fox News also.

  16. Engineer says

    Mike, I have to disagree with what seems to be your blind faith in the BP engineers. They may know very well what they are doing, but engineers don’t make the decisions in these situations. They just do what they are told, keep quiet or lose their jobs, and take the blame from people like Amy for a “pathetic response” when things go wrong. I am not a petroleum engineer, but my general knowledge of engineering tells me that the answers we have gotten are evasive at best. Mr. Cavnar has been one of the few sources of information that I have found credible. No, I am not anti-BP. In fact my family has stock in the company, and I am hoping they recover.
    What disturbs me the most is the astonishing level of information control, and even censorship going on. The number one question I have had from day one is why didn’t they connect a new riser and bring all the oil to the surface, where it could at least be burned, if not collected. I got answers like – it would be too unsafe to burn that much gas and oil. I suggested a floating flare, well away from any personnel, and I got nothing but riducule from what appear to be oil industry shills. I sketched up a design, and asked if any experts could find safety or other problems, and my account was cut off.
    These comments on blog postings are not the right place for a forum-style discussion, but you are welcome to join us at It’s one of the few forums where you will find open and respectful discussion of engineering issues the public needs to understand about blowouts.

  17. Todd F says

    couldn’t agree with you more.
    Mr. shellman is probably more knowledgeable than 99% of americans on this topic and yet his view of this couldn’t be more sterile…
    ingnorance is bliss but lack of awareness of ones own ingnorance is like a freight train of knowledge to the contrary smacking you accross the face. it’s sad that some people choose to expose themselves without proper research and a thorough understanding of the issues. A slap in the face to those of us that have been on top of this issue from early on. in time the truth will expose itself even to the untowards.

  18. Mike Shellman says

    Mr. Cavnar, I have obviously stirred everybody’s oatmeal the wrong way by disagreeing with you on your blog. I assumed, I guess incorrectly, that comments meant an open forum for disagreement. My one time participation in this blog I beleive is far from “hate mail” as you have said twice now, or “propaganda.”
    I never questioned your credentials, sir, and I appreciate the fact that you are not mine. What your loyal followers think of my well experience matters little to me.
    I simply believe that you are shoveling coal into the furnace of discontinent and mistrust toward my industry in this country with your allegations toward BP and the never-ending questioning of everything they do and don’t do on. It serves little purpose in my opinion. The questions you ask are good ones but you are not going to recieve all the answers you need before your publishing deadline (do we ever in loss of well control and related down-hole matters?), or want, essentially because you are not entitled to them yet, if ever. Those dark clouds on the horizon now for BP and the other service folks involved in this tragedy are lawyers and lawsuits 100 miles deep; I respectfully suggest that if you were at the BP helm at the moment you would not want to be pulling your pants down around your knees either with press conferences and question and answer time followed by finger sandwiches and punch.
    You asked me, here you go: I think this well is plugged with a big wad of cement and is not blowing anymore. I think BP wants to know where to intersect the blowout wellbore with the relief well and when they do they will put another big wad of cement into it’s backside and that will be the end of it. I do not believe that there is a sub-surface blowout under way, I think BP has made a lot of stupid mistakes to cause this tragedy but nobody could have responded better or faster to get the well back under control. I think that BP employs a lot of folks in the GOM and pays lots of royalty and enormous sums of taxes to the US cookie jar, produces a lot of American oil, that it is not in the best interest of the good people of Louisiana or America to run them into the dirt and out of North America. You chose to focus on BP’s failures, they’re top kill for instance, I chose to believe this was a subsea mess that nobody could have ever planned for completely (what two blowouts do you know are ever the same?) and that all and all lots of smart folks worked long, stressful hours to get this blowout under control.
    I think this was a wake up call for deepwater, exploration and subsea well control issues, that everyone in the world has been watching and learning and that things will get better and safer as a result of this tragedy, that most of that will come from within my industry, not thru public awareness of issues that 2 months from now won’t matter to anyone. By November America will be back to hating each other’s political parties instead of BP.
    And lastly, sir, I think that everyone that NEEDS to know what happened out there on that rig, will know, all there is to be known anyway. All this constant speculation and second-guessing, what might have happened that didn’t, is simply keeping folks angry and mistrustful of an industry that essentially has been very trustworthy in providing a valuable source of our nation’s energy needs.
    Good luck with your book, sir. I have to go check wells now…and get dirty.
    Mike Shellman

  19. says

    If you were a regular reader, you would find that this is very much a forum for disagreement. The disagreements just have to be fact-based. Here we go:
    1. I’m not shoveling any “coal into the furnace of discontent” about your (and my) industry. I’m actually calling ‘em as I see ‘em.
    2. I’m questioning BP because they DO owe us answers. You claim that “The questions you ask are good ones but you are not going to recieve all the answers…essentially because you are not entitled to them yet, if ever.” I call bullshit. These are federal leases, owned by the federal government, meaning you and me. I am absolutely entitled to the answers due to the fact that I am an owner. Also, they have fouled our Gulf costing tens of billions in damage. They lost their right to secrecy and we all deserve answers.
    3. If the well was plugged with “a wad of cement” then there wouldn’t be pressure on it.
    4. This test has nothing do do with where they intercept. They’ve already admitted that they could intercept at any time, primarily because the hole is likely washed out to the size of a Volkswagen.
    5. The taxes? They just claimed a $10 billion credit for clean up. That’s coming out of OUR pockets. As well they get huge tax credits for drilling, and Transocean avoids taxes by being incorporated in Switzerland. The also avoid hiring Americans by being flagged in the Marshal Islands.
    6. You claim this was just an accident. I disagree. This was caused by bad design and poor judgment. Also, zero dollars had been invested in deepwater containment until now.
    7. The questioning keeps the issues to the forefront. You just said that BP is motivated to not be forthcoming. Now you’re defending them not being forthcoming right after you said everyone NEEDS to know what happened.
    You’re a little confused, and apologizing for a company that just made life harder for everyone. You should be mad at them, not me.
    BTW, wear your hardhat. Oh, and are you wearing FRC, or just jeans?

  20. Scott Barzilla says

    I think you misunderstand the meaning of an open forum. If I go onto someone else’s blog and disagree with their assertions then I open myself up to others disagreeing with my assertions. It’s one of the funny things about free speech. Yes, I can say what I want to say, but others can react as they want to to what I say.
    I’ve certainly disagreed with Bob and others on this board before, but I also have the advantage of knowing him for a couple of years now. I know where he is coming from and that gives me insight into his opinions as he has insight into mine.

  21. Engineer says

    Mike, I think the core of the disagreement comes down to your statement that “nobody could have responded better” than BP. There are a number of simple things they could have done, even after the rig sank, and if they had responded better, not even superbly, just better, we could have avoided the environmental disaster.
    I could be wrong, of course, and that is why I try to have discussions with experts like yourself, who disagree. Unfortunately, my comments here are not being accepted, and I have no way to contact you, or engage in an extended discussion through these blog comments. So I will be as brief as I can. I would like to hear why you think BP couldn’t have connected a new riser immediately after the rig sank. Please join our discussion at
    Mr. Cavnar, I am not trying to hijack your blog. In fact, if you would like to start a discussion forum, I will use that rather than the one I started on Google.

  22. Mike Shellman says

    As I have not engaged before in these sorts of open discussions I now believe you are absolutely correct, it is Mr. Cavnar’s blog and I jumped into unfriendly grounds. I have taken a lickin’ for simply wanting to offer a more optimistic view on the current status of the well and why I believe my industry will sort this out and be better for it, thank you for at least being cordial.

  23. Mike Shellman says

    I too need to not take advantage any longer of Mr. Cavnar’s blog.
    I have had my own blowouts and was in the well control business for awhile; I have seen lots of bad things happen and accordingly refuse to pass judgment on anyone’s intial response to a catastrophe of this magnitude. The well caught fire, there were people unaccounted for, boats came and sprayed water on it hoping to get people off. I’d done the same thing if I was in those work boats. In 30 something hours the rig sank; it was a big, very hot oil fire, I think the rig was going to sink anyway. But I am speculating and I don’t want to do that.
    I am not sticking up for BP. They had one of the two best well control companies in the world on the well within hours; I am humbled enough by the stuff I have seen to never second guess those guys, ever.
    Had that well been on land you are absolutely correct, the cattleguard would have gotten shut with a armed deputy on it to keep people out, stuff would have gotten cut off, set aside, new stuff put on and the well controlled. In this case nobody knew exactly how to do that with robotics in 5200 feet of water.
    I have studied hundreds upon hundreds of control efforts, some of the things that were tried and failed, tried again, absolutely weird ideas; no two blowouts are the same and no two control efforts are ever the same. I liken this job to big blowouts that occured in the early years when people were feeling they’re way around as to what to do with them, probing, learning, trying this and trying that, fabricating stuff right there on the location. Numerous large blowouts in history accordingly took months and months, even years to control. We learned then and we will learn from this one if it ever happens again, God forbid.
    I would suggest to you that immediate public involment in this blowout, the incredible media exposure, streaming videos and all that, the fact that it was in federal waters, it must have had a direct affect on the control effort and each successive step that was taken. But I am speculating again and for the sake of Mr. Cavnar’s blog and the families of those men that perished I do not want to do that anymore. I ain’t too popular round these parts anyway. Thank you.

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