The Top Kill failed – On with Top Cap!

Well, if you’ve read what I’ve posted about the Top Kill before, you know I was thinking it would work. And now we know it didn’t. We do know that they pumped a hell of a lot of heavy weight mud down to the BOP stacks, and we can guess that some of the mud did force the oil and gas column down, but as it turns out, they’d have to use way too much mud and pump for way too long to make any headway. They then tried the junk shot(s) and apparently that failed as well.

I really did think that if they could flood the BOP stack with junk they could slow the oil down. I am still not sure the particulars of why that didn’t work.

Little ROVer looks on as BP tries another Hail Mary

What comes next? The Lower Marine Riser Package is essentially a mini BOP stack that is at the ready and will be used to attempt to clamp down on top of the failed BOP stack. To do this, they’ll have to cut off the broken and bent riser, pretty much where we’ve been watching the video of the four mini plumes all this week on the BP video streams.

Between the two items, the one from the ship hanging 5000′ down, and the BOP on the floor of the Gulf, will be a “sealing grommet” or something donut shaped made out of squishy material. All three items will be clamped together.

Of course, to do this the riser has to be cut fairly cleanly. They’ll use a diamond wire saw and cut both the riser and the drill pipe inside of that.

The methanol line is there to add some solvent that keeps the gas from forming ice on the way up the new riser. Since there’s little sea water expected to make it into the stream with this design, the gas shouldn’t have a chance to form too many ice crystals. But as is with many oil and gas streams, the expanding fluids will get cold and what can ice up will.

The whole procedure should take about four days. Like the other methods already tried by BP, this one is not a certainty. If it works, people will complain it wasn’t tried sooner. I agree. But let’s get it working first. Time to cross your fingers again.

One note. Again, take everything that BP says with a grain of salt. But one thing was discussed in the news conference about this latest attempt. Prior thinking had the bent up riser “restricting the flow” of the oil, and thus the thinking went that if the riser was removed, the flow of the oil would double. Apparently, the Top Kill and the Junk Shots gave some information, and what info the previous attempts provided matches with the theory that the main blockages to a complete unhindered flow of oil from the well are within the well itself, and/or within the BOP stack. The riser, it seems, is blocking very little of the flow, and if it’s removed, the flow of oil shouldn’t rise too much. This was one reason that this Top Cap idea wasn’t tried sooner.

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Walt

Geologist writing SciFi