"Top Kill" Stems Oil Leak....For Now

Officials say BP's "Top Kill" has stemmed the oil leak...for now.

The next 12 to 18 hours are critical and it could take 48 hours for a final assessment of Top Kill's success. The Times reports this is the biggest oil leak in history, bigger than the Exxon Valdez. Obama is in Louisiana today.

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    From what I am seeing and reading, it (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Anne on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:01:05 PM EST
    does not appear to me that the top kill worked or that the leak has been stemmed.

    From "Washington" over at Yves Smith:

    Here's the scoop: BP's attempt to stop the oil spill using the "Top Kill" method has failed.

    How do I know?

    Well, as the New York Times notes:

    BP officials, who along with government officials created the impression early in the day that the strategy was working, disclosed later that they had stopped pumping the night before when engineers saw that too much of the drilling fluid was escaping along with the oil.

    Indeed, BP stopped pumping "mud" for more than 16 hours (the material gushing out of the leaking riser didn't stop during that time).

    Basically, BP has failed in trying to drive enough "mud" down the well to provide enough weight to tamp down the oil gushing out. It didn't work.

    Indeed, BP's "re-starting" Top Kill really means that Top Kill Version 1.0 was tried and failed, and now BP will try Top Kill Version 2.0 - adding "junk" to the mix.

    Unless BP can get very lucky and plug the holes with miscellaneous junk, Top Kill 2.0 won't be any more effective than Operation Sombrero.

    As the Guardian explains:

    Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, insisted that the operation was going to plan, but admitted: "What we do know is that we have not yet stopped the flow."

    He said BP engineers would soon use additional materials to try to plug the well, suggesting heavy mud deployed so far would not work on its own.

    And the Guardian's oil spill blog (a great resource which I just discovered) notes:

    6pm CDT: Doug Suttles makes an appearance on CNN ....

    Asked by CNN what had happened, Suttles said: "Too much of the mud is exiting the riser as opposed to going down the well bore." This could be fixed in several ways, including the infamous "junk shot", using a more viscous mud type, or finally restarting pumping at very high rates.

    7.30pm CDT: The Washington Post has more details on BP's stop-start top kill process, and mentions that BP is considering a "junk shot" tonight:

    Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, said that on Wednesday the company had blasted high-pressure mud into the leaking well two times, trying to force the oil down in a procedure compared to using one firehose against another.

    After doing it twice, Suttles said, the company stopped about midnight Wednesday, and spent Thursday assessing the plumes still shooting out of broken machinery. He said that company officials believed the two efforts had probably made some progress.

    "I think some people believe it has. Some people believe it's less obvious it has," Suttles said. "What we do believe we've done is successfully pumped some mud, some of this drilling mud, into this wellbore."

    But, Suttles said, oil was still coming out, despite these efforts: "What we do know is that we have not yet stopped the flow."

    He said the company would try the procedure again Thursday evening and might add chunkier debris such as rubber balls to the mix in hopes of clogging the leaking pipe. That procedure is known as a "junk shot."

    Also, see the live feed and see what you think.

    Both The Oil Drum and Monkeyfister have excellent information and updates; the NYT, it seems, is in a place it knows well: public relations.

    Placing quotation marks around "mud" (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by KeysDan on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:45:50 PM EST
    is important and appreciated.  It is surprising that TV anchors and others use the term drilling mud without mentioning what it is, or, more accurately, what it might be.  Other than for those in the oil industry drilling mud is not an everyday word; BP is ready to use a million gallons of drilling mud, which needs to be dense and heavy. Apparently, BP is using a water-based slurry of probably bentonite clay which is claimed to be non-toxic. But not much more information seems to have been made available (Oil Drum has similar comments).

    I think you are using old (1.00 / 1) (#6)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:52:46 PM EST
    sources. The one that is in the link is dated 5/28.

    Link dated 5/28 is an old source? (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by MO Blue on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:16:05 PM EST
    Isn't today 5/28?

    this was funny actually (none / 0) (#22)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:51:18 PM EST
     I think you are using old (1.00 / 1)

    by jimakaPPJ on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:52:46 PM EST

    sources. The one that is in the link is dated 5/28.


    Well (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:53:17 PM EST
    PPJ comes from the future, that is why he is almost always wrong.

    Sent here by Dr Jones (none / 0) (#27)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:57:43 PM EST
    from the University, for reasons he has yet to fathom..

    Whose link? One that is in the (5.00 / 4) (#16)
    by Anne on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:18:17 PM EST
    post from Naked Capitalism, or the one Jeralyn cited?  The only links I independently provided were to The Oil Drum and Monkeyfister - the links embedded in the quoted NC post were not "mine."

    The live feeds clearly show nothing that I would consider a "stemmed" leak.

    As far as I can determine, both The Oil Drum and Monkeyfister are following this situation in as close to real time as possible, so I don't know what you mean by an "old" source.  

    This is not, as you know, a static situation; it's very much a moving target.  What does not seem to be in dispute is that for quite some time BP allowed the public to believe that their top kill efforts were ongoing, when, in fact, they had been stopped.  And this has been the pattern from the beginning; they knrw early on that the leak was much, much greater than the estimates they were giving - do you ever wonder what the government's response would have been had BP been honest about the extent of the leak from Day One?  Of course, this is a company that has not been honest about its role in how this happened at all, so I guess it is not surprise that their initial response was to downplay the severity.

    It's still leaking, new leaks have been discovered, so I don't know how that could fit into the BP-has-stemmed-the-leak message in the NYT link that Jeralyn cites.

    But, I'm happy to hear your thoughts and if there is something wrong with one or more of the links, you might want to leave a comment at Naked Capitalism.


    I think it is going as planned (none / 0) (#28)
    by waldenpond on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:58:07 PM EST
    BP stated again today, that it would be 48 hours.  They pumped mud Wed, stopped, evaluated.  They pumped mud and added some junk Thurs, stopped, evaluated.  It was interesting watching some of the junk get blown out. The flow looks darker so they may have stopped pumping today.

    It hasn't failed yet either.  It is ongoing.  Oil Drum guy (Rockman) thinks they should start prepping the pipes for cutting as that will be the next step whether the kill works or not.

    I wish the BP feed had vocal so we could hear (like shuttle launches).  :)


    Glub, glub, glub? lol (none / 0) (#32)
    by Joan in VA on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:20:32 PM EST
    What I heard early on (none / 0) (#50)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri May 28, 2010 at 04:06:05 PM EST
    is exactly that they would do this, pump "mud" for a while, then stop and do measurements and calculations, then either start up again or start adding "junk" or go straight to cementing.

    I don't think that came from either a BP or government source, though, but from some outside people knowledgeable about the process.  BP and the government are doing a LOUSY job of explaining the details of any of this.

    Meantime, I can fully understand now why BP didn't want to make the video access available because all kinds of people, including some of us here and vast numbers of people on television who don't know squat about any of this, are drawing unsupported conclusions from what they're seeing.


    There are ALWAYS some people who (none / 0) (#51)
    by ZtoA on Fri May 28, 2010 at 04:10:10 PM EST
    understand and some who don't. Is that a good reason to deny transparency or to restrict factual information? Guess BP thinks so, and I'm sure they have their reasons. Guess Obama administration backs up BP - for what reasons?

    Whether it's a "good reason" or not (none / 0) (#63)
    by gyrfalcon on Sat May 29, 2010 at 12:20:24 PM EST
    isn't my point.  Nor did I so much as suggest that I thought it should be.

    BP certainly thinks so, and as a private corporation, they have neither the obligation nor the motivation to be transparent.  The government is another story.

    No idea what you mean by "the government backs up BP" in this context.  The video was made publicly available because of the insistence of government, against BP's strong (and I say understandable) wishes.

    Whether the video feed constitutes "factual information" or not is highly debatable.  It provides close to zero factual information to the general public, and even the oil people watching over at the Oildrum site can make very little sense of what's going on most of the time.

    Those incomprehensible plumes of something or other help keep public emotions high, and more importantly, provide the dramatic-looking visuals necessary for TV to keep covering the story.


    If the "Top Kill" had worked, (none / 0) (#47)
    by MKS on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:38:42 PM EST
    they wouldn't have gone for a "Junk Shot."

    It does seem very troubling.....We have gone through the "Top Hat," the "Top Kill" and now the "Junk Shot."

    Not looking good at all.


    As I understand it (none / 0) (#49)
    by ZtoA on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:48:47 PM EST
    the top kill could be aided by one or more junk shots. Helps clog up holes and leaks and therefore lets the pressurized "mud" (drilling fluid) push down the oil and gas. The junk shot in itself is not an indication of failure. There are a lot of conflicting reports right now. EVERYONE wants - prays and hopes - this well can be killed asap.

    Actually, it does not look good. As to how bad it really is - there's just speculation.

    On a funny note the folks at Doomers have been glued to the live feed cams and have just decided everyone needs t-shirts saying "Camtards"


    "Camtards" (none / 0) (#55)
    by MKS on Fri May 28, 2010 at 05:20:44 PM EST
    That is the first time I've laughed in connection with this whole ongoing fiasco....

    Yeah, human humor (none / 0) (#57)
    by ZtoA on Fri May 28, 2010 at 05:32:36 PM EST
    survives many disasters and the deep too!

    from that site:

    "Could someone be kind enough to do a quick recap of what was seen today?"

    "Same Old Stuff.  ROVs go here, go there, jets change color occasionally.  "

    Guess you've never poured concrete (none / 0) (#53)
    by BTAL on Fri May 28, 2010 at 04:19:45 PM EST
    or understand the value or purpose of aggregate.

    You'd be wrong (none / 0) (#56)
    by MKS on Fri May 28, 2010 at 05:29:17 PM EST
    I went to college to get away from the lime.....still have the scars on my hands from chemical burns....

    This unending need to be snotty......


    Snotty? (none / 0) (#58)
    by BTAL on Fri May 28, 2010 at 05:42:21 PM EST
    Come on....

    The concept of a Junk shoot is to add aggregate to the mud providing additional surface bonding advantage.

    Don't be so thin skinned.


    Thicken the mud? (none / 0) (#59)
    by MKS on Fri May 28, 2010 at 05:45:56 PM EST
    Got it....Except that is not how they presented it.....The junk shot was a plan E, F or G....

    But, whatever, if it works.....


    I would expect that the engineers (none / 0) (#60)
    by BTAL on Fri May 28, 2010 at 05:53:16 PM EST
    are already playing with the mud consistency.

    Yes, what ever works, but the Junk shot does add aggregate that may help with or without changing the consistency.


    Hmm. I dunno. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Kimberley on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:10:58 PM EST
    Please, somebody correct me if I'm mistaken about any of this, but I don't believe the characterization of having partially stemmed the leak can possibly be anything but an artful depiction of what's going on down there.

    There is some tiny buildup of "junk" crimping one of the jets of flow of mud or crude on top of the bent riser but that's not very significant since the BOP is the thing that really needs to be clogged and the flow through it continues unabated.

    Of course, they're having to walk a fine line blowing bridging material into this crippled system because they can't put so much in that it keeps mud from entering the drilling column, since that's where they're going to have to create a true shut in with mud kill (to reverse and hold the pressure of rising crude and gas) and a cement pill (to seal it in).  My understanding is that if they seize this well at the BOP with cement they'll never be able to completely shut it in.

    As of now, though, the well runs apace.

    That's my understanding of what's really going on.

    Thad Allen (5.00 / 6) (#5)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:51:14 PM EST
    Thad Allen is the source of the disinformation reported by the Times.  I say disinformation because yesterday Allen reported that the Top Kill was working -- at a time when the Top Kill had been stopped for several hours because it was failing (more mud was leaving the hole than was entering).  Today, he is apparently telling different media different stories because MSNBC/NY Times and the AP are saying different things -- or at least interpreting Allen differently.

    The AP article says the following: (Link)

    COVINGTON, La. - BP kept pumping heavy mud into its blown-out well beneath the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, but the company's chief executive cautioned it will be two more days before anyone knows if the latest fix attempt will end the uncontrolled flow of crude that has already become the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

    BP CEO Tony Hayward had projected a resolution to the so-called "top kill" as soon as Thursday afternoon, but an 18-hour delay in the injection of heavyweight mud scuttled those plans. Though engineers had stopped pumping hours earlier, BP and coast Guard officials assured the public Thursday morning that the process was going as planned.

    Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Friday that heavyweight mud was able to push down the oil and gas coming up at great force from underground, but it has not overwhelmed the gusher or stopped the flow.

    Today Mr. Obama is in Louisiana.  Carville had suggested that if he wants to see what's really happening, he needs to stay away from Grand Isle, where BP has their concentration of workers positioned as a dog and pony show to make the cleanup effort seem more robust than it is. He needed instead to go to marsh areas, estuaries, etc. where cleanup is not occurring. Where did Obama go?  Grand Isle.  This will make for a nice photo op of success, but all you have to do is look at aerial views to see that it isn't reality.

    I think the coverup can only go on for so long, but it's apparently still ongoing.

    Coverup? (5.00 / 4) (#7)
    by Emma on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:52:52 PM EST
    I think the coverup can only go on for so long,

    It will go on as long as BP and Obama need it to.


    I think (5.00 / 4) (#8)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:55:21 PM EST
    more and more people will start screaming....like a slow motion Katrina.

    But NOBODY (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by Emma on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:59:39 PM EST
    and I mean NOBODY in the press, on the blogs, or anywhere else, has any interest in exposing the incompetence, the cronyism, and the WH's failures.  There's little bits of stuff, sure, but I don't see that there'e going to be anything close to the media storm about this that there was about Katrina.

    Maybe we need a Rosalynn Carter to maunder on about how the underprivileged brown pelicans are actually better off in captivity having oil cleaned off them they were in the ghettoes they occupied in the wild. Maybe that will motivate some left bloggers to say something.


    And of course (5.00 / 5) (#13)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:10:49 PM EST
    we have reports of BP -- with the help of local and federal authorities -- keeping the press out.  One would think the prez would order that this be stopped....but the article has been out there for days and nothing's changed. I assume the feds want it this way.

    Link, of course


    YUP (none / 0) (#61)
    by Militarytracy on Sat May 29, 2010 at 01:17:28 AM EST
    makes sense (none / 0) (#9)
    by CST on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:58:44 PM EST
    partly because the human face to an oil spill is much more slow moving than the human face to a hurricaine.

    It's sad but that's what it usually takes for people to wake up about this stuff.

    I had dinner with a friend yesterday.  She confessed she hadn't even heard about the oil spill until I brought it up in a conversation last weekend.


    BTW (5.00 / 5) (#12)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:07:43 PM EST
    Firedog Lake is calling it Grand Isle Cleanup Theater and talks about workers being bussed in to Grand Isle for the photo op.


    What was shocking was that Carville said Grand Isle cleanup was for show.  Even then, as the showpiece, they only had 12 or so workers on the beach...now, of course, the buses are bringin' more!


    If that's the only place he goes, (5.00 / 4) (#36)
    by Joan in VA on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:34:09 PM EST
    I expect Carville will totally lose it on his next CNN appearance. The oil isn't even there yet so there's no oiled wildlife or oiled marsh to see. Cleanup Theater, brought to you by BP, indeed.

    but there is no (none / 0) (#42)
    by CST on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:49:49 PM EST
    oil see... they are doing such a good job cleaning it up!

    Rock and a hard place time (5.00 / 2) (#52)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri May 28, 2010 at 04:16:29 PM EST
    One of the increasingly loud cries of despair coming out of the Gulf Coast is that their tourism/visitor traffic has completely evaporated, even though most of the coastline is unaffected, at least as of yet.  Businesses are going under from the false perception that the whole area is a toxic wasteland as a result of the spill.

    So I'm thinking if I were Obama et al, does it make sense to go to one of the worst affected places and do the photos ops about how horrible everything is?  I genuinely don't know the answer to that, but it certainly is a question in my mind about whether it makes sense to do even more economic damage to places that aren't otherwise affected-- again, not affected so far.

    Worth thinking about, seems to me, before we jump to the conclusion that it's all a big cover-up.


    There is so much conflicting information (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by ZtoA on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:55:39 PM EST
    out there it is hard to know what is actually happening. Sometime we will know, and perhaps it will come out that BP and Obama administration are covering up. Maybe. Just don't know for sure at this point.

    I'm losing my patience and temper about this. This is incompetence. Not only BP and but Obama. Pols are pols, sure, fine. But we expect them to be competent pols.

    I have been (5.00 / 3) (#30)
    by Zorba on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:08:07 PM EST
    ping-ponging between despair and anger over this.  I realize that plugging the leak, if it is indeed possible, has been/is going to be very, very difficult.  We are at the edge (if not over the edge) of our technological capabilities here.  I understand that it's not easy.  But what I deeply resent is not being told all the facts, having essential information withheld, having things minimized, essentially being treated like children who can't handle the truth.  Tell us everything, including the bad news.  And by that, I mean both BP and the White House (and if the White House isn't being told everything by BP, then they need to send a whole bunch of experts of their own there ASAP, to find out what's really going on, and what has gone on).

    I can't even bring myself to (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by ZtoA on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:01:40 PM EST
    quote from this piece.  YA THINK ???

    You can't handle the truth! (none / 0) (#46)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:09:35 PM EST
    Did you order the code Red?
    You're God damn right I did!

    Maybe we should send (none / 0) (#48)
    by Zorba on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:40:42 PM EST
    Jack Nicholson down there to find out the truth.  Although I'd rather send his character, PI Jake Gittes, to the Gulf as opposed to Col. Nathan Jessep.   ;-)

    Please correct (none / 0) (#1)
    by me only on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:39:31 AM EST
    This is nowhere near the largest leak in history.

    It is not the largest in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Worst spill (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:37:42 PM EST
    Worst spill in US history is what she should have said.

    Hence (none / 0) (#11)
    by me only on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:06:52 PM EST
    my request for a correction.

    You didn't (none / 0) (#14)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:12:40 PM EST
    ask for that correction.  You just said her information was wrong.

    A correction was asked for, but (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by KeysDan on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:34:25 PM EST
    it would seem to be rather easy to add why a correction was needed and help with the information flow, which God knows we need. Otherwise, a cryptic request for a correction may come across as an attempt to minimize or compete for worst disaster--after all, the world has seen worse kind of thing, so get over yourselves.

    Title of the comment in question is (none / 0) (#17)
    by Anne on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:19:27 PM EST
    "Please correct," which you may have missed.

    daddy, have you plugged the hole yet? (none / 0) (#18)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:26:14 PM EST
    quite unbelievable.  even for Beck.

    what the hell has happened to our country?

    I don't believe in Heaven and Hell..... (5.00 / 3) (#23)
    by vml68 on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:51:49 PM EST
    but at times like this, I fervently hope they exist.
    It takes a special kind of @sshole to mock a child.

    well particularly (none / 0) (#24)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:53:16 PM EST
    when, if you click on the other link in that piece, you see him shedding crocodile tears about that awful media not leaving Saras family alone.

    Piccaninny (none / 0) (#33)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:21:14 PM EST
    is probably the word Beck would be more comfortable with..

    I wish that word was not offensive (none / 0) (#34)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:24:19 PM EST
    because strictly from a linguistic point of view it is a great word.

    Then by all means use it... (none / 0) (#35)
    by kdog on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:29:17 PM EST
    words alone aren't offensive...it is context and intent that can be offensive.

    Words Are Never Alone (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:34:16 PM EST
    They do not exist without the utterance or penning.

    Nice thought though, that words can somehow exist on their own, like rocks or something neutral.


    You first, k (5.00 / 2) (#38)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:36:24 PM EST
    And dont worry, when you do, we'll all be somewhere right behind you.:)

    When the need arises... (none / 0) (#40)
    by kdog on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:43:16 PM EST
    I'll let you all know, I believe no tool in the wordsmith's toolbox is off limits.

    Well, context (none / 0) (#45)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:06:00 PM EST
    which includes a given word's history, is everything.

    But as the dervish poet said: "say whatever your loving tells you to say..through you a whole world is freed"


    Pettifoggery (none / 0) (#39)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:39:11 PM EST
    is another great one, particularly at a lawyer site.

    Love that word.


    Flibbertigibbet (none / 0) (#41)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:44:35 PM EST
    Isn't so bad either..

    That word was invented (none / 0) (#43)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:55:00 PM EST
    for a couple of my daughter's friends.

    Olive Oyls? (none / 0) (#54)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 04:26:52 PM EST
    Hyperkinetic (none / 0) (#62)
    by jondee on Sat May 29, 2010 at 08:47:21 AM EST
    Olive Oyls..

    All they need are the big, clunky shoes with the brass buttons going up the side..


    Morons in high places (none / 0) (#20)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:35:09 PM EST
    make the Texas Board of Education feel better about themselves.

    Journalist on presser too (none / 0) (#29)
    by waldenpond on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:02:35 PM EST
    David Corn said a journo at the presser asked him cynically if David believed the Pres.  David said yes as his kids ask.

    Mine does too.  My 17 year old has me giving him rides every morning to discuss this with updates at dinner time.  It's weird. He hasn't cared about anything but WOW for 2 years.


    thats great news (5.00 / 2) (#31)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:15:51 PM EST
    actually.  about yours I mean.