Finally – Real Journalism Start on Deepwater Horizon Blowout

Posted: May 24th, 2010 by: h2

Took a while before we saw some decent attempts at journalism being done, here’s a new article from the Orlando Sentinel. Make sure to read ROCKMAN’s response at the end of this posting.

By Kevin Spear, Orlando Sentinel
11:55 a.m. EDT, May 23, 2010

Oil company BP used a cheaper, quicker but potentially less dependable method to complete the drilling of the Deepwater Horizon well, according to several experts and documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

“There are clear alternatives to the methods BP used that most engineers in the drilling business would consider much more reliable and safer,” said F.E. Beck, a petroleum-engineering professor at Texas A&M University who testified recently before a U.S. Senate committee investigating BP’s blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico.

He and other petroleum and drilling engineers who reviewed a log of the Deepwater Horizon’s activities obtained by the Sentinel described BP’s choice of well design as one in which the final phase called for a 13,293-foot-long length of permanent pipe, called “casing,” to be locked in place with a single injection of cement that can often turn out to be problematic.

A different approach more commonly used in the hazardous geology of the Gulf involves installing a section of what the industry calls a “liner,” then locking both the liner and a length of casing in place with one or, often, two cement jobs that are less prone to failure.

The BP well “is not a design we would use,” said one veteran deep-water engineer, who would comment only if not identified because of his high-profile company’s prohibition on speaking publicly about the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon or the oil spill that started when the drilling rig sank two days later.

According to the Deepwater Horizon’s well ticket, that struggle defined almost every foot of progress made by the rig — until the Gulf’s geology finally won.

In late February, the rig was losing mud in a weak formation, according to the well ticket. Among the variety of tricks drillers have at their disposal when that happens, the most reliable is to continually reinforce a well with permanent sections of casing or with liner and cement. Deepwater Horizon did that nine times.

In early March, the rig experienced a double dose of trouble, according to the well ticket: The pressure of the underground petroleum temporarily overwhelmed the mud, triggering alarms on the rig. At nearly the same time, the rig’s drill pipe and drill bit became stuck in the well.

Just one or the other of those occurrences would amount to a bad day for any rig.

Deepwater Horizon recovered, but only after losing hundreds of feet of drilling pipe — likely at an equipment cost of several million dollars — and losing nearly two weeks of rig time.

The rig then progressed an additional 4,955 feet before again losing mud to a weak formation.

By mid-April, Deepwater Horizon reached the well’s total depth of 18,360 feet — more than 3 miles — where it again encountered a formation that swallowed mud.

Rig workers twice lowered measuring instruments connected to steel cable into the well. The tools should have passed smoothly to the bottom, but instead they hit obstacles near the bottom — more evidence of an unstable well.

That’s just some news that shows all is not as it seemed with BP’s handling of this well. Tsk Tsk.

Information still being processed, ROCKMAN posted this remark about that article:

ROCKMAN on May 24, 2010 – 11:03am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | [Parent subthread ] Comments top

Pete — Not arguing how well BP takes care of business, there are some blatant errors in that report. Above all else running a continuous casing string from the bottom of the well all the way back up to well head is far more expensive than just running a liner part way up. Easy to understand: running 18,000′ of casing is more expensive than running a 3,000′ liner. It’s also makes for a much safer well: the continuous casing covers all the previous exposed casing and casing cement jobs which could fail at some point.

Sticking drill pipe, losing drill pipe, taking a kick and having to shut the well in and kill the flow: all normal events when drilling in DW…happens to all operators. This is not a risk free effort by any stretch of the imagination despite what any spin doctor might pitch. OTOH, we know how to handle these problems. BP also knew but took chances that were not necessary and now they and the rest of us will pay the price. In general BP followed the same procedures the rest of the industry follows. They just did a very poor job of it.

Interesting stuff, hard to keep up with it all though if you ask me… now, what’s going on with the Euro again? And our Commercial Real Estate meltdown about to kick in big time? So many places to look, but everywhere I turn I see the same thing. How about you?

4 Responses to “Finally – Real Journalism Start on Deepwater Horizon Blowout”

  1. funk william says:

    worked as arough neck north sea we drilled in to a high pressure salt water zone so we thought turned out to be biggest gas find in north sea history did not have the right mud weight and our blow out preventers failed also cant tell you why on the web all i can say that its all about turning to the right shut down time is a no – no for drilling rigs now we have to suffer worked out of cameron la golden meadows la and grand isle have a lot more to say but cant on the web

  2. funk william says:

    god help us

  3. funk william says:

    worked on a semi and ajack up rig have a lot more to say

  4. h-1 says:

    Well, say what you can say, that is true and known to you personally, or to people you know. You don’t have to be specific.