Friday, March 02, 2012




Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Deepwater Horizon - Six Centralizers Were Enough

When we last discussed the Deepwater Horizon on The American Thinker, Halliburton Under the Microscope, there were some comments about how the blowout could not be Halliburton’s fault because BP used only 6 centralizers instead of the recommended 21 centralizers. I can understand the confusion because the Obama administration blocked the Interior Department lead investigator, who did have subpoena power, from testifying before Congress on the results of their investigation so the word did not get out. So let me quote from page 49 (pg 53 of the PDF file) of the investigative report itself.

The Panel found no evidence that BP’s decision to use 6 centralizers rather than the 21 recommended by Halliburton was a cause of the blowout.

Notice how unequivocal that statement is! Also note that this was issued by Ken Salazar’s Interior Department, he of the illegal six month drilling moratorium , who boasted that he would “keep our boot on the neck of British Petroleum” . The Deepwater Horizon has already cost Energy Czarina Carol Browner her job and has Energy Secretary Steven Chu in hiding as his Solyndra problems pile on. Could Ken Salazar be next on the path to the ash heap of history?

Let’s delve into the engineering facts! The public was fed a story based on some internal BP emails that was consistent with the Halliburton excuse, the cement failed because BP used too few centralizers. The tone of one email by BP drilling engineer, Brett Cocales, was tone deaf to how the public would react if it heard it, particularly when the government truncated the email to destroy its full meaning. What the public was given read

“But, who cares, it’s done, end of story. Will probably be fine and we’ll get a good cement job.”

The truncated part reads

“I would rather have to squeeze than get stuck above the [wellhead]. So Guide is right on the risk/reward equation.”

So the decision regarding the number of centralizers came down to a choice between using 21 centralizers and risking getting a 13,000 foot long production casing stuck in the well and being unable to move to free it, or using 6 centralizers where they might have to do a routine remedial “squeeze job”. Either choice carried extra costs, but the 21 centralizer scheme had greater risks while the 6 centralizer scheme had the minimal risk of having to perform a routine task entailing only extra costs in time and money. That was not the way the media ran with their government sourced story. Of course we are all still waiting for the likes of Scott Pelley to run the detailed reasons why the Interior Department investigation came to its new conclusions on the Evening News. Perhaps the media suffers from the opaqueness of the Obama Administration, which has hidden the transcripts of the Joint Investigation Team created by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement and Regulation (BOEMRE) and U S Coast Guard! Go to the Interior Department’s press release and they direct you as follows

More information regarding the JIT investigation can be found at:

Which takes you here which tells you

This site is not available to the public at this time. Please log in if you are an authorized user.

Gee guys, this kind of obfuscation could make a fellow doubt your claim about being the “most open administration in history”!

Never fear dear readers of AT, we can find the video on C-SPAN! While the videos are quite long, I can help all you TV producers by directing you to some of the pull quotes! From the second of two videos of Halliburton’s engineer who made the 21 centralizer recommendation, Jesse Gagliano, we get this gem in a question posed by retired Federal Judge Wayne Andersen to Mr. Gagliano starting at 1:54:36 and ending at 1:55.27

Judge Wayne Andersen: I want to make sure I understand. The reason you thought there should be 21 centralizers was that if there were fewer centralizers then that might result in additional expense because you’d have to re-pour cement and extend the time before that portion of the job was completed, correct?

Jesse Gagliano: Correct. My concern with running the 6 centralizers was channeling. And my concern with that was doing a remedial job, having to perforate and squeeze the production casing. (emphasis added)

JWA: Right. So at that particular time, in listening to your description of it, I’m not hearing that you were afraid that that gas would cause the whole well to blow up.

JG: No.

JWA: Was that a concern in your mind at that time?

JG: No, channeling does not indicate the blowout of a well. My major concern was, having to do remedial work on this well. (emphasis added)

So Mr. Gagliano of Halliburton shared the exact same concerns regarding the cement job as both Mr. Cocales and Mr. Guide of BP, but he did not understand the practical consequences of the decision BP faced. So he preferred his own uninformed choice over that of BP’s drilling engineers.

BP will finally get its day in court on February 27, 2011. Between now and then BP and its contractors will face decisions regarding potential settlements. To this point both Halliburton and the drilling contractor, Transocean, have been hiding behind an indemnity clause in their contracts with BP that BP is now actively fighting, having removed Ken Salazar’s boot from their neck. Each claims the other is fully responsible for the blowout, but there is plenty of blame to share around! They all would still have to deal with Judge Barbier (“who was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1998 and who served as president of both the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association and the New Orleans Bar Association earlier his career” according to the New Orleans Times Picayune).

Now if you TV producers want to really get into the good stuff, the kind of thing that must give Ken Salazar nightmares, go to 1:56:23 to 1: 58:19 where a board member questions Mr. Gagliano

Board Member: I had a couple of follow ups. I still don’t think we fully understand the lift mechanism. Could you just explain briefly again what you talk about when you say the well would experience some lift? And how much lift under 200, 300 psi would indicate channeling?

Gagliano: You are referring to lift while the heavier fluids are moving around?

Board Member: Yes. I don’t think we fully understand that and the implications to channeling. Could you briefly explain it?

Gagliano: Based on the OptiCem modeling, with the 21 centralizers, cement would be, in this case about 17,3(00) would be the planned top of the cement. (emphasis added) With the 21 centralizers in there, you minimize or limit the channeling to get your cement top about where you want it. With the 6 centralizers, channeling occurred. So you are not displacing all the mud out of the well. You see you are actually displacing the cement higher up the well bore because you are leaving mud behind which would increase your cement lift pressures you would see on the job (emphasis added). Did I explain that well enough?

Board Member: Is there some specific lift number you’d be looking for to define channeling? Someone mentioned that Halliburton reported 100 psi.

Gagliano: Again it would kind of hard to determine what the lift was and what the friction pressures were. You know. It would be difficult to see that. I mean, the main concern with the additional lift was we were exceeding the ECD (Equivalent Circulating Density – Ed) at TD that was given to me by BP. I was given 14.7 to stay below that, and the model predicted channeling and it showed that with the channeling we would go over that limit.

The technical explanation of the relevance of this discussion is that if the cement had developed channeling the top of the cement would be above a depth of 17,300 feet. When the government finally completed the relief well, the intersection took place at a depth of 17,200 feet, a mere 100 feet above the predicted top of cement. They found only drilling mud in the annulus when the intersection was made. So there was minimal to no channeling of the cement in the annulus above the pay zone. The cement that failed was below the pay zone where it was subjected to the 999 psig negative pressure test!

The whole government meme of an inadequate number of centralizers and the resultant channeling is a red herring! It did not happen and the government knows that, but does not care to allow those who might recognize that fact testify before Congress.

MacondoGate anyone???

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deepwater Horizon - NAE Report

FIGURE 2-7 Uncontaminated cement compressive strength tests (DP = differential pressure). Source: Committee.

The most definitive report yet on the Gulf oil spill has just been released. This long awaited report by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) on the causes of the Gulf oil spill has been buried like a document dump on the Friday before Christmas. This is the final report by the NAE. It was initially empowered to do this investigation by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who then promptly ignored its preliminary findings when he imposed his unilateral drilling moratorium in May 2010. Combined with the juicy news that BP has alleged in federal court that its cement contractor, Halliburton, has engaged in the destruction of physical evidence, a claim Halliburton has denied, this is guaranteed to become a hot button issue. The NAE report provides support for BP's claim and a motive for Halliburton's alleged improprieties. The most important new information is a detailed examination of the nitrified cement that was used. A careful reading of the discussion of Compressive Strength of Foamed Cement and Un-Foamed Cement on pages 22-23 of the report is quite revealing.

The properties of Class H cement are well known. The properties of foamed cement are not well known and not easy to measure because of the compressibility of the foam. In principle, the compressive strength of foamed cement should be less than the compressive strength of unfoamed Class H cement, given the same curing conditions and additives. Testing has shown this to be true. The compressive strength of foamed cement has been shown to be approximately 35 percent of that Class H base cement under the same curing conditions (Gardner 2010). Testing done by Chandler Engineering (Sabens and Maki, Jr 2002) has shown that foamed cement begins to establish compressive strength at about the same time as the base cement (Class H in this case), but the strength of the foam continuously lags that of the base cement as curing time increases. Accepting these trends as representative, the committee created Figure 2-7 to show the compressive strengths of the various cement slurries. The Chevron (protocol 1) and Halliburton base slurry curves are taken from the laboratory testing done on those two un-foamed slurries. The curves for the two foamed cements are not from direct measurement, but assume the foamed cement compressive strength is reduced according to the foam protocol used in the Chevron test software (by a factor of approximately 35 percent). [SNIP]
Figure 2-7 shows the time at which the negative pressure test was started after cement slurries were pumped into the Macondo well. The figure also shows a differential pressure of about 999 psi that was created between the reservoir pressure and the reduced hydrostatic pressure inside the casing during the negative test (see Appendix C for the calculation). Figure 2-7 indicates that the foamed cement using the Chevron data would have just barely established the strength required to resist crushing under the differential pressure imposed by the negative test, assuming that the cement was not contaminated or altered by other events. The foamed cement using the Halliburton base data and the foam algorithm would not have achieved sufficient compressive strength.

In simple English, when the crew of the Deepwater Horizon replaced the drilling mud in the riser above the blowout preventer and upper section of the production immediately below (down to a depth of about 8,300 feet) with lighter sea water, they created a hydrostatic pressure at the very bottom of the well (in the shoe track) that was 999 pounds per square inch less than the pressure of the formation. As you can see in figure 2.7, the Halliburton foam algorithm (HAL Foam Algorithm) line is below that value at the time the test took place (about 900 psi at 16.4 hours after the cement was pumped into place). It is also apparent that allowing more time for the cement to cure had little additional effect. Contrast that to the curve for the un-foamed Halliburton cement (HAL base Cmt). At 16.4 hours the foamed cement has a compressive strength of about 900 psi and is steady but the un-foamed cement is about 2700 psi and rising, peaking at about 23 hours. So experience would have made them expect a compressive strength of 2700 psi when all they had was 900 psi.

It was the failure of the crew to recognize this dramatic reduction in compressive strength that led directly to the blowout. The cement was not strong enough to withstand the 999 psi pressure differential and broke during the negative pressure test. While the transcripts of the Joint Investigative team (JIT) have been hidden behind a firewall making linking impossible, the gist of the testimony by the various witnesses was that none of them had used foamed cement at the depth of this well, 18,000 feet. Combined with an abnormally high percentage of nitrogen in the mix, which resulted in a lower compressive strength, they were in totally uncharted territory. Add in that very few of the men had ever performed a negative pressure test because the standard practice was to wait until the well was being completed, at a later stage of construction, before going to an “underbalanced’ condition and it is no surprise that the crew was confused. They did try to close the blowout preventer after mud was spewing onto the deck, but the gas had risen above the blowout preventer so it had no way to stop the gas that had already flowed past it. The crew’s fate was sealed when the diesel engines sucked in the flammable natural gas/air mixture, over-revved and exploded.

The most obvious lessons learned ought to be:

1) If no one has done the procedure before, get qualified technical experts to teach you how before attempting to do it! Ask questions!!
2) Never use a nitrified cement with such a high percentage of nitrogen in it a pressure barrier!
3) If you have never done a negative pressure test before, you have never actually confirmed the quality of the cement job in the shoe track. This is why the prevalent cement failure mode is an annular blowout, negative pressure tests were quite rare and by the time you unbalance a completed well you want the gas to flow, so it matters not whether the flow is through perforations in the production casing or U-tubing up through the shoe track.
4) A huge amount of effort was wasted on the expectation that this was an annular blowout, when it was a “wet shoe” blowout. A timely attempt at a “top kill” would have succeeded and stopped the flow of oil into the Gulf in mid-May.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Impeachment? Eric Holder's Next Big Problem

Remember President Obama dispatching attorney General Eric Holder to be the enforcer during the BP oil spill. The kind of guy who would “kick ass”, or in Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s phrase keep a “boot on the throat” of BP? Well it seems there is a little tiff developing in federal court in New Orleans between BP and the left’s favorite bête noir Halliburton. The Wall Street Journal reports

BP’s alleging that Halliburton co. destroyed evidence in the weeks following the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010 that demonstrated that the cement formula the firm used on the drilling operation was flawed. The claim, made Monday in a federal civil-court filing in New Orleans, is the latest in a continuing volley of accusations between the companies as they face potentially huge civil and criminal penalties stemming from the 2010 accident in the Gulf of Mexico that killed a total of 11 people and led to the largest offshore oil spill in the U.S. history.
Halliburton has previously said that it believes the cement mix it recommended that BP use on the well was stable. It has argued that the well failed because of poor engineering and design choices made by BP.

Destruction of evidence, Oh My!!! Reading through the article you will discover that BP is alleging that Halliburton destroyed test samples meant to replicate the exact mixture of the cement used in the ill-fated Macondo well. This would seem to be the perfect opportunity for a grown-up to intercede. And the logical candidate would be Attorney General Holder as he is supposed to have in his possession the fragments of the actual cement used in the shoe track of the well. Those fragments ended up on the deck of the support vessel, the Damon Bankston, which played such a critical role in the rescue of the crew of the Deepwater Horizon, fragments of the actual failed cement job from a total depth of 18,000 feet, below one mile of ocean and two and one half miles of solid rock! What a key piece of evidence that must be!

Now one is inclined to marvel at the “target rich” environment Mr. Holder finds himself in. But, like a confused bluefin tuna approaching a shoal of baitfish, will he become confused, decide to lead from behind and go hungry? (As an aside the WSJ also reports that the bluefin tuna population survived the spill).

As AT’s publisher Thomas Lifson asked me, wouldn’t this seem to be a heaven sent opportunity for Eric Holder to add Halliburton to the demonization list of evil corporations? While at first glance that might seem to be the case, but the test results proving that the mixture of cement and nitrogen was a little “thin” is confirmation of the observations that I made in my August 4, 2011 blog post here on AT.

Given that the chief counsel to the president's commission on the oil spill agrees that the blowout occurred through the cement in the shoe track, it is unacceptable that no administration official has yet commented on what the commission's own researchers have discovered. Here's the link to the Halliburton experts on nitrified cement who state in their last paragraph "Typically, only 2 1/2 to 5 % of gas by volume is required downhole to produce enough compressibility to help prevent gas entry into the cement column." Per Halliburton's OptiCem program, Macondo was allegedly
going to suffer "severe gas flow potential" at 19% gas by volume!
Even a novice ought to be able to imagine what the consistency of the cement would be with about four times too much gas in the mixture!

Oh the humanity!!! All those $1000 per hour litigators, government regulators, mainstream media reporters and other elitists failed to find a problem that is obvious to a fifth grader. And they do not like to lose when playing Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

The Courage to Make a Decision

Regular readers of the American Thinker know that I was employed by Grumman Aerospace during the summer of 1969 when the corporation’s Lunar Excursion Module Eagle carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Sea of Tranquility and then re-inserted them into lunar orbit to begin the journey home, in JFK’s immortal phrase “return them safely to the Earth”. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I like to watch the original videos of the Apollo 11 mission. I recently found one on YouTube that brilliantly illustrates what we have lost since those days. It only lasts 9 minutes and 50 seconds, but it is a real time record of decision making at its finest.

To get the context of what you will see it is necessary to become familiar with the story of Jack Garmin. Here is the relevant history taken from his Wikipedia page

In 1966 at the age of twenty-one Garman was hired by NASA. He chose to specialize in onboard computing and was assigned to the Apollo Guidance Program Section where he worked with MIT, supervising the design and testing of the Apollo Guidance Computer.
During the Apollo missions Garman worked in a support role, advising flight controllers in Mission Control on the operation of spacecraft computer systems. A few months before the Apollo 11 mission he suggested that simulation supervisors at Mission Control test how flight controllers might react to a computer error code. Guidance officer Steve Bales responded to the simulated error by calling an abort, which was found to be a needless reaction for that particular code. As Garman later recounted, "Gene Kranz, who was the real hero of that whole episode, said, 'No, no, no. I want you all to write down every single possible computer alarm that can possibly go wrong.'" Garman made a handwritten list of every computer alarm code that could occur along with the correct reaction to each of them and put it under the plexiglass on his desk.
An error in procedural protocol went undetected during simulations and during the final descent of Apollo 11. This led to a switch in the lunar landing module (LM) being set to the wrong position. As a result, (and unknown to anyone at the time), the onboard guidance computer was needlessly processing data from the rendezvous radar. Then, as the LM descended, its separate landing radar acquired the lunar surface. Now processing data from two radars instead of only one as intended, the computer's duty cycle grew heavier than expected and a series of "1202" and "1201" alarms began signalling an executive overflow, meaning that the computer did not have enough time to execute all tasks so lower priority tasks were being dropped. Several seconds after the first alarm Neil Armstrong, with some concern apparent in his voice said, "Give us a reading on the 1202 program alarm." Meanwhile, given his knowledge of the computer systems, Garman had already advised Steve Bales the computer could be relied upon to function adequately so long as the alarms did not become continuous.[1] Bales, who as guidance officer had to quickly decide whether to abort the mission over these alarms, trusted Garman's judgement and informed flight director Kranz. Within seconds this decision was relayed through CAPCOM to the astronauts, Apollo 11 landed successfully and Garman received an award from NASA for his role in the mission.
Bales later recalled, "Quite frankly, Jack, who had these things memorized said, 'that's okay', before I could even remember which group it was in".[2]

As you watch the video you will get the first hint of an anomaly at 0:45

“We’ve got data dropouts. You’re still looking good.”

The 1202 program alarm appears at 1:58

“Give us a reading on the 1202 program alarm.”

Steve Bales gives them the “reading” they need at 2:04!

“We’re go on that alarm.”

The alarm re-appears at 2:24.

“Same alarm and it appears to come up when we have a 1668.”

Having isolated the problem Neil Armstrong tries to go back to automatic control at 3:22.

“Okay, I’m still on slew. So we may tend to lose as we gradually pitch over. Let me try auto again now and see what happens. Okay looks like she’s holding.”

Houston answers at 3:34

“Roger we’ve got good data.”

Contrast that to a President who wants to wait for all the data to come in before he begins to mull over his options and do the polling before making a decision. I know that Tom Brokaw likes to call the World War II generation, “The Greatest Generation”. I’m satisfied being a part of the Apollo Generation, a junior thermodynamicist for Grumman at age 20 during the Summer of ’69. And I am also certain that there is a succeeding generation soon to arrive from the Association of Independent Technological Universities.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Sirius Thinks That's Interesting, Wait 'Til He Sees Fukushima on TheOiIDrum

Sirius made a positive comment about my post "Plagiarism Masquerading as Leading From Behind" below

Now that the real facts about the Fukushima Nuclear crisis are starting to come out in the Wall Street Journal , he ought to read the various Fukushima threads on The Oil Drum site!

Start here

It will be worth the effort!!!!

EDIT - 12/3/11 - The Wall Street Journal has a column today about Tepco's internal investigation of the accident. They obviously STILL don't get it! So read my comment to their article for more info

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What Allah Might Do For the Persian People

Adding to the previous post, I can imagine what Allah might do for the Persian people. He could send a sandstorm that would abrade an oil export pipe line, just as if it were sandblasted by a human hand. The blowing wind would induce a static charge, which would be likely to ignite the spilled oil.

Oooops, a blown pipeline burning wildly in the desert and a country under trade sanctions which prevent calling in the well control specialists. I guess it will just keep burning for a while. Saddam Hussein's revenge using his favorite type of vandalism, sabotaging oil infrastructure.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

What Iranians Should Do

Anonymous posted a comment regarding the post below Iran's Electric Grid. I've linked above to a post I made at The Belmont Club with suggestions as to what the Libyan people should do with their new found freedom. Here's an edited version for Iran.

Here is what the United States ought to expect of the newly freed Iranian people.
1) They should guarantee “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to all Iranians.
2) They should collect all MANPADS and other anti-aircraft missiles into a centralized storage area accessible to American inspection as there is no legitimate need for such weapons under an American no-fly zone. They should do this for free, specifically rejecting Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that they would need to be bribed to do the right thing.
3) They should declare Nov 11, 2011 as American Veterans' Appreciation Day and hold parades with bands playing Souza Marches and other patriotic American songs with everyone expected to join the parade, not just watch it. Some samples are &
4) They should start a Persian Spring Cleaning to neaten up the mess that currently exists to make their land presenable for guests to visit.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Plagiarism Masquerading as “Leading From Behind”

“Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan.”

The Obama administration has a modus operandi that has become quite familiar. They lurk in the background and wait to see how an operation develops before committing to ownership of the decision making process. If the process is working they claim credit for it, if it isn’t working they place blame elsewhere (It’s Bush’s fault!). Personal responsibility is not in their playbook. Given the size of their media microphone, an ownership claim on their part drowns out any claims by the real leader, the one truly out in front in real time. In effect the plagiarist becomes the author in the public eye by co-option.

One can see this strategy at play in the issue of America’s energy policy. Note that the current Obama energy strategy is not all that different from Rick Perry’s. Note this collection of stories from the Wall Street Journal

BP Moves to Return to Gulf
BP PLC won approval from U.S. officials on Friday to look for oil at new sites in the Gulf of Mexico, the company's first exploration plan in U.S waters to get the go-ahead since the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The approval represents an important step in the company's efforts to return to the good graces of federal regulators. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it approved a plan in which the U.K. oil giant proposes to drill up to four wells in a part of the Gulf of Mexico known as Keathley Canyon.
U.S. to Resume Lease Sales for Oil Drilling in the Gulf
The Obama administration said Friday it would sell leases for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since last year's oil spill and subsequent six-month drilling ban…
Earlier this month, the Interior Department gave Royal Dutch Shell conditional approval of its plan to drill in the Arctic Ocean next summer. In May, President Barack Obama said the administration would hold annual lease sales in Alaska's National Petroleum reserve.
Shell Closer to Arctic Drilling
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removed a longtime obstacle to Royal Dutch Shell PLC's Arctic offshore drilling plans, granting the company final air-quality permits to drill for oil and natural gas off the coast of Alaska.
The permits will allow Shell to operate the Discoverer drill ship and a support fleet of icebreakers, oil-spill response vessels and supply ships for up to 120 days each year in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea Outer Continental Shelf starting in 2012, the EPA said.

Issuing drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico, selling more offshore oil and gas leases and reining in the EPA, what more could Rick Perry do than what Obama has already done? Of course to do this has taken a considerable mid-course correction that has left the Democrats in Congress apoplectic. Ed Markey (D-MA) is fit to be tied.

A Case Study – the BP Macondo Well

From my own personal experience, I can illustrate this technique. Last year the explosion and oil spill caused by the blowout of the BP Macondo well put the administration in a tight spot. Not desiring ownership of the spill, they quickly began using BP as their scapegoat, an honor richly deserved by BP and its drilling contractors. They got a big assist from BP’s chairman Tony Hayward whining about getting his life back. For over a month they got away with just acting macho, putting Ken Salazar’s boot on BP’s throat and having the president himself looking for asses to kick. But then the mood shifted as the public decided they weren’t as interested in who was responsible for creating the mess, they just wanted to know who was going to “plug the damn hole”. As U S Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told them, the federal government did not have the resources to plug the hole and it needed to rely on BP and, more importantly, BP’s well control contractors to do the job. Note that the people responsible for causing the accident were totally different from those who were in charge of fixing the problem.

To carry out the scam the administration needed the cooperation of a compliant press dependent on insiders to feed them leaks to publish. These useful idiots can’t afford to speak truth to power or they will lose their edge and have to make a living the old fashioned way, by doing hard hitting investigative journalism instead of puff pieces. The benefit to us is that these advocacy journalists can document the administration’s viewpoint quite accurately as a result of having such detailed inside information. I will use the Washington Post’s blogger Joel Achenbach as our mole into the minds of the administration through his account of events in his book A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea.

The proximate issue at hand was the debate that took place after BP has installed the capping stack and stopped the flow of oil into the gulf on July 15, 2010. One would think that this success would partially mitigate BP’s culpability for its part in causing the spill. But the bullies of the administration couldn’t resist denigrating this milestone. And being the cowards so many bullies are, they wanted to deny BP any credit for its efforts at all. Given the hysteria surrounding the blowout, particularly on MSNBC, there was a concern that keeping the well shut in would cause the sea floor to erupt into an underground blowout that could not be controlled. There was disagreement over how to interpret the results of the well integrity test. Achenbach described the situation this way (Pg 215)

The expectations management strategy of the government and BP had been all too effective. The Sisyphean task of fighting the well had become so familiar to the public that the breakthrough moment was met with disbelief. The plume was gone---and indeed, it was never to be seen again---but optimism had not yet infiltrated the narrative of the nightmare well and the incompetent oil company and the ineffectual government. The Macondo rules still applied, for now, at least in the national conversation about this oil spill response, this festival of fecklessness. Success was not yet a plausible option.

That was where the situation sat as tropical storm Bonnie caused an interruption in the well control efforts. It was during this interregnum that the issue continued to be debated online on the Peak Oil website, The Oil Drum. Here is my contribution to the debate

Just pump the mud in slowly. Let us consider the ramifications of starting a new 24 [hour] well integrity test with the shut-in pressure rising at a rate of 1 psi per hour. So to stay within the agreed boundaries, they would end the 24 hr period with the pressure 24 psi higher than when they started. So pump in the mud at 20 psi above the starting pressure (4 psi below the agreed pressure limit) for 24 hours.

Given that the diameter of the kill line is about 2", the pressure differential is 20 psi, the weight of the mud is 16 ppg (SG = 1.9) we go to our handy-dandy calculator and presto-changeo we can flow 197 gallons per min, or about 5 barrels per minute or 300 barrels per hour or 3000 barrels in 10 hours. I believe the well bore is about 3000 barrels max. So you could kill the well and drop the pressure at the BOP to 2250 psi, the same as the sea water at the mud line in less than half a day
Anybody think killing the well and relieving the pressure on the BOP before the next technical briefing might be a good thing (excluding Matt Simmons of course, as he'd lose his ass on his BP stock short position and the media who would be left looking totally clueless once again)?

That is a concise description of what would come to be called “the static kill”.

Picking up the story with Achenbach again (Pg 230)

The relief well, as Thad Allen never failed to remind everyone, was the ultimate solution to the crisis. But BP surprised everyone with a new idea (I wonder where they got it??? - Ed): Even before the relief well intercepted Macondo, BP would try to kill the well from the top again in what amounted to a do-over of the top kill. This would be a “static kill”, because the well would not be flowing. In the new procedure, the mud wouldn’t have to be pumped furiously into the well but could mosey into the well at a leisurely pace (5 barrels per minute perhaps?? –Ed). After an initial rise in pressure, the well would see pressures fall as the mud pushed---or “bullheaded”-oil down into the reservoir.

Chu (Steven Chu – Ed) and some of the other scientists had little enthusiasm for the new plan. Chu felt jerked around by BP. The company had surprised the government with the static kill idea…

Garwin was adamant BP shouldn’t attempt the static kill…Gizmologist Alex Slocum, echoing Garwin, argued that the smart path forward would be the production of oil from the reservoir. Rather than trying to plug the Macondo well, why not drain the reservoir in a controlled fashion…

There was another factor on BP’s mind: the engineering protocol for the relief well operation required that the Macondo well be reopened briefly at the top---flowing anew into the gulf---just prior to the bottom kill. There were sound engineering reasons to vent the oil from the stack, and it wouldn’t be much oil compared to what had leaked already. But the plume would be back. The plume! The hideous oil geyser from the depths of hell! It would surely incite an epic foofaraw in the news media…

Chu finally decided that the static kill was worth the risk. The operation was a go…

On August 3, the 106th day of the crisis, BP performed an “injection test”, putting a fluid known as base oil into the well from the top. The pressure increased only slightly, then began to drop---just as the engineers had hoped (More like predicted Mr. Achenbach! –Ed). P quickly followed with a heavy drilling mud. The pressure continued to drop. At eleven o’clock that night, Macondo was chocked with mud. On the night of August 4, BP followed the successful mud shot with a massive dose of cement.

Macondo now had a mile of cement in its gullet

And nobody from the administration even had the common decency to say “Thank you!”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Marx Was Right - Woodstock to Zuccolli Park

Conservatives may disagree with Karl Marx’s economic theories, but they must agree that he was right when he said “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. The Occupy Wall Street protestors are a pallid echo of their forebears at Woodstock during August 1969. At least at Woodstock there were real injustices about, such as 19 & 20 year old draftees being sent to Vietnam without ever having a say in that decision via the ballot box. Does anyone think the OWS protestors know that it was President Richard Nixon who on June 22, 1970 signed an extension to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requiring that 18 year olds be given the vote in all federal, state and local elections? This right was ultimately ratified by the states to become the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution at a signing ceremony held July 5, 1971. But the right to vote was not won by the draft dodgers at Woodstock, rather it was won in the rice paddies of Vietnam by draftee grunts.

But the similarities between the dreamers of Camelot generation and those of Hope & Change are interesting and illuminating. Both were inspired by a president who as a young U S Senator had gained the public’s attention through the publication of a very well ghostwritten book. JFK’s Profiles in Courage was written by Ted Sorensen, and Obama’s Dreams of My Father by Bill Ayers. Both men were young and photogenic with nice looking young families. Both could play on an unassimilated alienation from mainstream America, JFK as the Irish Catholic immigrant, Barack Obama as the son of a Black Muslim father. And both made their mark by communicating a message from their ghostwriters as if it was their own, JFK by study and a skill at extemporaneous speech, Obama with the help of a TelePrompter because he is lazy.

Both groups’ protests have been marked by traffic jams, free admittance, piling garbage, poor sanitation, music (or at least drumming) and an orgy of bathos (or should that be need-a-bathos?). And the one complaint that resonates with the broader public from the OWS protest is the need for jobs. Many of the poor pitiful protestors can’t find jobs in their chosen fields after graduating from college! Boo-Hoo! Let me tell you a real sob story.

Like the rest of my generation, I was aware of the Woodstock Festival, but I did not attend. I had a job.

As I mentioned once before, I spent the summer of 1969 working for Grumman Aerospace (nee Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp). In August 1969, we were all basking in the glow of successfully carrying men to the surface of the Moon and back home again in our gloriously successful Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), the Eagle. I was a 20 year old junior thermodynamicist, a computer literate slide rule engineer of the Apollo Generation working on the A-6E Intruder designed to provide all-weather close air support for those grunts in Vietnam. I and others had heard the call of our generation’s creed, “We chose to go to the Moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. I wasn’t just feeling sorry for my contemporaries (and more so for myself) by protesting in the mud, I was doing my best to help them in their worst hours of need. Actions speak louder than words.

Well the politicians could not find a way to fund guns and butter and space exploration, so the Apollo program was scheduled to get the budget axe. As the last hired you can guess what my hiring prospects the next year would be at graduation (Last hired, first fired?). As an added fillip, the government decided to end all draft exemptions and hold a draft lottery for 1970. No longer would a trained, somewhat experienced Apollo Generation aerospace engineer be given an occupational deferment upon graduation. So having drawn a draft number that was in line to be called late in 1970, I found employers did not want to hire me, spend money on me and then have me called away in December after they’d made an investment in me. I couldn’t get a job because I was due to be re-classified 1-A. As things turned out, Richard Nixon’s Vietnamization program ended the draft calls earlier than expected and I was not drafted.

So all I had to do was re-tool my career and turn swords into plowshares. As I previously noted, I ended up helping Ray Kroc and his engineers globalize the McDonald’s French fry. The string of jobs that sprung from that is history; teenagers who couldn’t boil water became fry cooks. Potato farmers found a huge new market, truckers carried the potatoes to the food processing plants to be cut into fries, more truckers carried them through the distribution chain to the stores, where they met the cardboard sleeves that provided employment to lumberjacks and pulp mill workers and printers who’d emblazoned them with the McDonalds’ logo. The counter clerks sold the finished assemblage to eager customers whose money flowed into the paychecks of those workers, and the coffers of the franchisees and their accountants and thence to the coffers of local, state and federal governments.

So my question to the OWS protestors is this, “Any of you still feeling sorry for yourself?” Want my advice? Get a job, any job!

P.S. That Arab Spring you are so enamored with, why do you think the 2011 Libyan Revolution began in Benghazi with calls for American air power? Could it be that the inhabitants remember Operation El Dorado Canyon, where that A-6E I had helped design in 1969 kicked Gaddafi’s butt in 1986? The Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) reads, Jamahiriyah barracks 68 hits & 2 misses, Benina airfield 60 hits, zero misses.

Guess those Libyans learned something 25 years ago! For those who don’t get the connection, the successors to those Grumman employees of long, long ago now make the Global Hawk drones. The bad guys can run but they can’t hide!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Government Gone Soft, Recalling the International Geophysical Year

In a classic example of the projection of the left, President Obama has claimed America’s manufacturing sector has gone “a little soft” when it is actually government that has gone flaccid. Let us look at the record from International Geophysical Year July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958. In the aftermath of the Suez Crisis and the brutal repression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, America’s government led a peaceful expansion of the world’s body of knowledge about our home planet. Two of the associated efforts of that era echo through time right up to today’s headlines. Atmospheric research and offshore drilling are outgrowths of that time period.

Given the debate about anthropogenic global warming, the actual database of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the Keeling Curve, is based on a continuous monitoring that has taken place at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since 1958. Al Gore would not have any slides for his PowerPoint presentation without that data. Of course global warming (Oooops, “climate change”!) enthusiasts don’t have much respect for respectable data collection what with “hiding the decline” etc. And they certainly do not wish to debate The Granularity of Climate Models. So could it be the government scientists that have gone a little soft, not the nation’s engineers?

The offshore drilling industry that reached the headlines with the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon is the direct descendent of Project Mohole. While actual drilling operations began is 1961, the work on the drill ship CUSS1 began in 1956.

CUSS1 taken from Wikipedia

My father did the design work on its dynamic positioning system that allowed the ship to drill through the Earth's crust into the Mohorovičić discontinuity, and to provide an Earth science complement to the high profile Space Race. The project was initially led by the American Miscellaneous Society (AMSOC) with funding from the National Science Foundation. As the Wikipedia article notes, CUSS1 was owned by Global Marine, a company that gained a bit of notoriety for another ship, the Hughes Glomar Explorer. Which under the cover story of searching for manganese nodules on the seabed recovered part of a sunken Soviet ballistic submarine, the K-129, from the floor of the Pacific Ocean in 1974. The water was more than 3 miles deep. The ship still exists and is now owned by Transocean. Of course, it is an old war horse that has largely been superceded by Modular Offshore Drilling Units (MODU) like the Deepwater Horizon.

So can you tell us once again exactly who it is that has gone a little soft?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Job Creation Primer for Paul Krugman

New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate in Economics Paul Krugman caused quite a stir with his recent comments on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS suggesting that inflation and an expansionary monetary policy to meet an attack by space aliens would pull us out of the economic doldrums in 18 months.

KRUGMAN: Think about World War II, right? That was actually negative social product spending, and yet it brought us out. I mean, probably because you want to put these things together, if we say, "Look, we could use some inflation." Ken and I are both saying that, which is, of course, anathema to a lot of people in Washington but is, in fact, what the basic logic says. It's very hard to get inflation in a depressed economy. But if you had a program of government spending plus an expansionary policy by the Fed, you could get that. So, if you think about using all of these things together, you could accomplish, you know, a great deal. If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, oops, we made a mistake, there aren't any aliens, we'd be better –
ROGOFF: And we need Orson Welles, is what you're saying.
KRUGMAN: No, there was a "Twilight Zone" episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time, we don't need it, we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus

It seems Mr. Krugman needs some serious re-education regarding the nature of the creation of jobs to man Franklin Roosevelt’s “Arsenal of Democracy”. I expect that he and most readers would agree that the massive shipbuilding programs undertaken during World War II created a lot of jobs, as well as technological advances and improved America’s competitive advantage in global trade. I have some personal knowledge of those shipbuilding programs learned from my father Robert Thompson. He was a marine engineer with the naval architecture and marine engineering firm, Gibbs & Cox. Here is a very brief summary of their work during World War II from the company website

The company was founded on June 29, 1929 by lawyer and engineer William Francis Gibbs, his brother Frederick H. Gibbs and Daniel Cox, a noted yacht designer. Mr. Gibbs was a lawyer by education but a ship designer by avocation. Prior to forming Gibbs & Cox, Inc., Mr. Gibbs had extensive experience in shipbuilding. During World War I, he was the Assistant to the Chairman of the Shipping Control Committee. In 1922, he and his brother formed Gibbs Brothers, Ind. to convert the liner Vaterland to the Leviathan.

Gibbs & Cox designed the famous, standardized cargo-carrying Liberty ships of World War II and was instrumental in the implementation of modular construction, centralized material and equipment procurement, and design-for-production features that are the foundation of cost-effective shipbuilding today. The firm developed and implemented many improvements in ship design and construction based on fleet feedback during World War II, constantly improving the designs of surface combatants and other ships throughout the war.

During World War II, Gibbs & Cox was a leader in the shaping of the U.S. maritime forces. Over 5,400 ships were built to Gibbs & Cox, Inc. designs during the War. These
included destroyers, destroyer escorts, light cruisers, landing ships and amphibious assault vessels, liberty ships, minesweepers, icebreakers, tankers and tenders. In addition to the design work, Gibbs & Cox, Inc. was also responsible for the central procurement of all materials and equipment. At its peak, the firm issued 10,000 blueprints a month and 6,700 purchase orders per day.

That was a lot of jobs! Especially relevant to my father’s career, and presumably counter-intuitive to Mr. Krugman, is this sentence

Since 1933, the firm has designed every class of destroyers built for the U.S. Navy, with only one exception.

That’s right Mr. Krugman, at the height of the Great Depression, FDR permanently outsourced the design of the most numerous type of naval surface warship to civilians working in the private sector, rather than designing them inside the government itself, specifically the U S Navy’s design and construction bureau. I like to think much of that was due to the talents of my father, the Valedictorian of the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture Class of 1932! Those new designs increased the pressure and temperature of the steam boilers with a resultant increase in power and fuel economy, increasing a destroyer’s range by 25%, a significant advantage over the Japanese in combat over the vast reaches of the Pacific War.

Let us also consider the Liberty ship program that produced 2,620 10,000-ton cargo vessels for the war effort. In addition to design work, Gibbs & Cox did what would now be called supply chain management for the industrialists, such as Henry Kaiser, who first built the shipyards in “green fields” located in Oakland California and Vancouver Oregon, and then built the ships in those new yards. At its peak in September 1942, one of Kaiser’s yards laid down the keel of Joseph N. Teal, launched her ten days later and delivered her four days after that. Those Liberty ships carried 75% of the cargo tonnage of World War II and they were rapidly designed and built by the private sector. Their design innovations, such as welded rather than riveted construction, allowed previously untrained workers to learn the trade of welding and thereby earn a living and contribute to the war effort (Rosie the Riverter worked for Henry Ford in aircraft production!). After the war, those ships allowed America to become the world’s pre-eminent trading nation.

Indeed, it was with a conversion of the C-2 cargo ships of World War II that Malcolm McLean used to create the first scheduled container fleet with his Sea-Land Service. Those ubiquitous containers of today’s international shipping market got their start during the post war period on ships built during the Great Depression. Nowadays over 90% of all American trade travels by sea, much via container ships.

But could a Henry Kaiser build a shipyard in mere months today, or would government regulation throttle the effort in the cradle? The August 16 edition of the Wall Street Journal had an editorial illustrated the governmental obstacles to job creation . It noted that during the construction of the 682-mile Ruby Red natural gas pipeline, the owner El Paso, had to employ 215 archeologists in the field to ‘mitigate affects to cultural resources’, as required by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. New technology jobs will not be found in archeology texts!

To the extent that the past is prologue, it demands that we downsize government and remove regulation, not simply print money and cause inflation. Mr. Krugman, take your place in the Nobel Laureate Hall of Shame alongside Steven Chu, Barack Obama and Al Gore!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Evaluating the National Command Structure

Under a White House gag order not to publicize it, the Coast Guard posted the report of its Incident Specific Preparedness Review Group (ISPR) for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to its website on March 18, 2011. Given the intense scrutiny of the parts BP and its contractors played in causing the accident, this is the first serious insider effort to evaluate the government’s role in the containment efforts, once it took over command of the situation as a Spill of National Significance (SONS).

Who Was in Command

The report clearly discusses the command structure. The short answer is Janet Napolitano was in command. The government has two models of crisis responses, one is the traditional natural disaster response model that is familiar to all as the declaration of a disaster area under the Stafford Act, a so-called NSF, the other model is the National Incident Command (NIC) structure, which was originally derived from federal forest fighting efforts. The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) specifies the use of the NIC structure for spills of national significance.

For oil spills in the coastal zone, the President of the United States delegates removal authority without abdication in Executive Order 12777, Section 3, FWPCA 311(c) to the DHS Secretary. HSPD-5, paragraph 4, establishes the DHS Secretary as the PFO and focal point regarding natural and man-made crises and emergency planning. Pursuant to HSPD-5, the DHS Secretary is always the PFO for domestic incidents. The amount of governance the DHS Secretary chooses to exercise is scalable to the scope of the event. From the first day of the Deepwater Horizon incident, the DHS Secretary exercised governance, without delegation, in coordination with the National Response Team (NRT) and U.S. Coast Guard Commandant (later, the National Incident Commander).

External Communications

During the incident, there were complaints that no one was providing effective communications to the states, local governments, media or the general public. The Coast Guard report nails the problem, a top down micromanagement style run out of the White House designed to provide “plausible deniability”.

Prior to the Deepwater Horizon incident, the Coast Guard successfully employed the National Response Team (NRT) Joint Information Center (JIC) model as its crisis communications structure for hundreds of incidents, including Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, and the Tintomara collision/oil spill on the Mississippi River.
• The Unified Area Command (UAC) JIC, and its subordinate JICs, were prohibited from
releasing information or imagery without prior approval by the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) Office of Public Affairs (OPA).
• The decision by the White House and DHS to create a centralized National Response
Framework (NRF) crisis communications construct negatively impacted the Coast Guard’s
establishment of a more decentralized JIC within the response organization.
• Several layers of review and approval by the White House and DHS prevented timely and effective crisis communications and hindered the Coast Guard’s ability to meet National Contingency Plan requirements for keeping stakeholders informed about the status of the Response.
• The National Incident Commander served as an effective spokesman for the response
organization and “whole of government” effort during the incident. The National Incident Commander and the National Incident Command (NIC) organization assisted the UAC by responding to many of the information needs of elected officials and senior level Government officials.

Crisis Management

The Coast Guard’s description of a good crisis manager (Command Presence, Authoritativeness, Integrity, Stamina, Strategic Thinking and Command of Detail, Stress Management, Decisiveness, Responsibility-Accountability & Authority, Enhanced Leadership Skills and Ability to Inspire) certainly is an accurate job description (and shares much in common with the U S Navy’s description of a salvage officer). Given the poor public reception to the government’s efforts, one is left with the question as to whether the nation would have been better served by putting an Eagle Scout in charge (Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent). Who knows, he may have even put his reverence to use and offered a prayer for Divine Guidance! The Coast Guard offers these “Lessons Learned”.

• During crises similar to the size and scope of the Deepwater Horizon incident, the public
expects there to be one authoritative figure who is “in charge” of the response to the incident.
• There is a need to have fully qualified leaders in place who are well trained and experienced
in crisis management and who are ready to effectively and forcefully answer the “who’s in
charge” question when a significant national incident occurs.
• The National Incident Commander concept proved to be successful in dealing with the
national-level concerns of the response, including presenting the public with the “face” of the
• Superb crisis leadership is essential for effective response to a major national domestic
• The characteristics necessary for crisis leadership are well documented and identifiable.
• Leaders who are expected to perform as crisis managers need to be trained and experienced
in crisis management, and should not be placed into such positions without applicable
Many Federal, State, and local officials and industry executives do not have crisis leadership experience and training or are not temperamentally suited to the role of crisis manager during a significant oil spill incident. (emphasis added)

Spill Containment

Aside from the management questions addressed above, a key question with regard to the Coast Guard, is how well did they do in containing the spill with an eye toward improving future performance. The overall picture is that most of the spill was not in fact contained and that the primary success in source control and containment was due to BP’s various efforts from the cofferdam through the riser insertion tool, the “Top Hat” and ultimately the “capping stack” which allowed them to perform a “static kill” and stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The Coast Guard’s capabilities in source control were negligible. This brings us to spill containment, something that the Coast Guard has as a direct part of its mission. The lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez were to use skimmers with containment boom and in situ burning (ISB). The Coast Guard deployed millions of feet of boom. But of that total only 23,000 feet was fire boom.

The Regional Response Team (RRT) VI ISB Plan lists quantities of fire booms available from the Texas General Land Office as well as fire booms located in Alaska. The BP OSRP catalogs quantities of fire booms in Louisiana and in Florida, in addition to fire booms available from the Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC) “for purchase” from unspecified locations. Additionally, the Region IV ISB Plan lists slightly different quantities of fire booms from similar locations as those in the Region VI ISB Plan. Fortunately, the diversity of ISB equipment inventory did not appear to affect the effectiveness of the ISB operations for this incident. More than 23,000 feet of fire boom were ultimately used during this response, involving five different boom types, far in excess of that which was in stock in the Gulf, but made available by cascading the equipment to the incident.

The use of ISB for this incident, coupled with dispersant applications, significantly reduced the amount of oil that might otherwise have impacted near-shore habitats and environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs). Of the estimated 206 million gallons reportedly released, approximately 5 percent (10 million gallons) was reported to have been removed by ISB operations. In comparison, mechanical recovery (i.e. skimmers) removed approximately 3 percent (6 million gallons) and approximately 8 percent (16 million gallons) was dispersed. Some residual oil remained following burn operations and efforts to recover it were unsuccessful. The amount of residual oil is unknown.

There were a total of 411 burns initiated during the Deepwater Horizon incident, of which 376 were determined to have burned a significant quantity of oil. The longest duration burn lasted for more than 11 hours, and there was some limited night burning. Sixteen ISB operations were conducted on June 18 alone, accounting for the removal of approximately 2.5 million gallons of oil. The typical “window of opportunity” for the use of ISB was significantly expanded in this response due to the continual renewal of fresh oil from the well.

Two ISB Task Forces were established for the operation, consisting of a command and control vessel, a fire boom supply vessel, safety and ignition teams, and aerial spotters. Hand-held igniters were used for ignition; no “burn agents” (surface collecting agents or demulsifiers) were used for these burns. Site safety plans were developed for each unit and air quality was monitored with portable gas detectors to ensure worker safety. Additionally, EPA monitored air quality in accordance with their prescribed procedures. A protocol was developed to standardize estimates of oil burned. Spotter aircraft were used to direct ISB operations to the heaviest concentrations of oil. Wildlife monitoring, including the use of qualified turtle observers, was conducted.

Vessels of Opportunity (VOOs) were provided for in the Region VI ISB Plan and were utilized extensively during the Deepwater Horizon incident. Additional training was required for crews of VOOs conducting ISB, and it was judged that use of such trained crews enhanced operations. The ISB Application for the Deepwater Horizon incident indicates that ISB was to be conducted 40 miles offshore. Visual reports indicated that black smoke from burning operations dissipated less than three miles from the source of the burn. No impacts or visual opacity were reported in shoreline areas. Monitoring of air emissions exceeded what was necessary to establish safe air quality levels for exposed shoreline populations, which increased the complexity of the response by increasing the risks posed by additional response operations. It was noted that some of the policy for ISB in various plans dates to as early as 1994 and, at least, needs to be revalidated or updated to include current doctrine regarding ISB. Additionally, equipment inventories need to be re-examined in light of the intensive and highly successful use and subsequent depletion of ISB equipment; most ISB equipment is designed for multiple use, but will not last indefinitely.

The relative ineffectiveness of skimmers is largely due to limiting them to areas where the oil has thinned to the point of becoming a very thin sheen. It takes only three barrels of oil to cover a square mile of water to a typical depth of one-one thousandth of an inch. So skimming sheen will collect next to nothing, as demonstrated by the actual results. The key is to burn the oil before it spreads. This is an area where the use of burn agents to light large areas would be of great advantage. It is helpful to compare fighting oil spills to fighting forest fires. There are several counterintuitive actions that are commonly used to fight fires, such as backfires in preference to air dropped fire retardant. Given that Coast Guard regulations for pleasure power boats differentiate between gasoline engines requiring bilge blowers and diesel engines which do not, one assumes they understand the relevance of the flash point of the oi.l Gasoline has a sub-zero flash point. Diesel oil and the crude oil flowing from the Macondo well have a flash point above 105 degrees. So to get the oil to burn it is useful to use a “burn agent”. This is similar to charcoal lighter fluid.

Burn agents are sometimes used to facilitate and enhance the effectiveness of ISB. They are defined by the NCP as those additives that, through physical or chemical means, improve the combustibility of the materials to which they are applied. Their acceptability is determined by the National Products Schedule, which is maintained by EPA. Neither the RRT VI ISB Plan nor the BP Oil Spill Response Plan (OSRP) identifies burning agents for use in ISB applications. Under the NCP, pre-authorization for burning is only required if burning agents are employed; however, other statutes, such as the Clean Air Act, apply as well. As a result, many RRTs have undertaken to establish pre-authorization protocols to assist FOSCs in determining if ISB is a viable oil spill response tool for their area of responsibility (AOR) and under what conditions.
Further, burning agents cannot be used unless they are listed on the National Product Schedule. However, none are currently listed on the National Product Schedule or are known to be commercially available.(emphasis added)

Once again, one longs for an Eagle Scout who lives the Scout motto, “Be Prepared”, to have been in charge! I’d bet he could find a burn agent! I’ll even offer a suggestion complete with a training video! All he needs is someone over 21 to buy it for him.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Cross Examining Fred Bartlit of the Oil Spill Commission

The Chief Counsel for the President’s Oil Spill Commission (OSC) Fred Bartlit Jr. released his Chief Counsel’s Report 2011 without the usual fanfare and definitely without questions from the press or the American people. At some point the Congress needs to have him testify regarding both the Commission’s Report and his own report. Both ought to be given a thorough examination, but having read them I can give the Congress a sort of Cliff’s Notes on how to conduct the cross examination.

Flow Path

Mr Bartlit has now definitively come down on the side of the flow path being up through the shoe track and production casing, though in Chapter 4.1 he describes three possible alternatives. He is now in agreement with the scenario presented in a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal by Mr. Terry Barr, Managing Director of Samson Oil, on June 11, 2010. (The WSJ editorially criticized Mr. Bartlit on his failure to catch up with Mr. Barr’s observations on Jan 13, 2011). So when it comes time to grade all of the various players, we now know the identity of the A+ star of the tale, Mr. Barr was the “curve buster”, against whom almost everyone else looks pathetic. Of course, he has extensive experience in the oil business. But he is a geologist, not a drilling engineer, so like most of the others in our little story, he just plays one in the media.

Understanding the real, versus the imagined, flow path is critical to understanding why it took so long to control the well. Loyal AT readers have seen much of this before, but all of you will find it easier if you print the well schematic taken from the Secretary of Energy’s website and published in AT on July 19, 2010, four days after the day the OSC noted, the flow of oil into the Gulf had stopped “almost unnoticed” by the National Incident Command. The area of interest is the lower left corner of the drawing. You can see that the 9-7/8” Liner extends down to 17’168’ Measured Depth (MD) which is also 17,157’ Total Vertical Depth (TVD) as the hole is not perfectly straight or vertical. You will see a gray shaded area on the outside of the liner which represents the cement pumped into the annular space between the liner and the rock face of the well bore. The cement extends upward to the Top of Cement (TOC) at 15,934’ MD. Below that, you will see the 7” diameter “shoe” of the production casing extends downward to 18,303.92’ MD and the bottom of the drilled hole extends beyond that down to a total depth of 18,360’ MD. That space between the end of the shoe and the bottom of the drilled hole is open directly to the rock and is called the “rat trap”.

You will see shaded gray cement both inside the production casing between the float collar at 18,114.93” MD and the end of the “shoe track” at 18,303.92’, and in the annular space between the production casing and the TOC at 17,3000’ MD. The M56 pay zone has been measured two ways. It is shown as between 18,083’ and 18,206’ as measured by Drill Pipe (DP - like the other measurements were) and between 18,066’ and 18,1890’ MD Wire Line Measured (WLM), a secondary measuring technique. We can ignore the wire line measurement for this discussion. The final piece of information is the Pore Pressure of 12.6 Pounds Per Gallon (PPG) which at a depth of 18,066’ equates to a formation pressure of 11,837 pounds per square inch (PSI). You can convert from depth and mud weight by a simple formula, depth times mud weight times a conversion factor of 0.052 yields the pressure (18,066 x 12.6 x 0.052 = 11,837).

So the two prime alternatives for the flow path were the annular path, directly up from the top of the pay zone at 18,066’ through 766’ of presumably channeled cement to the TOC at 17,300’ and then freely through the open annulus to the Blowout Preventer (BOP); or Mr. Bartlit’s actual path, downward through 98’ of cement in the annulus from the bottom of the pay zone at 18,206’ to the end of the shoe at 18,303.92’, then U-Tubing up inside the shoe track through another 189’ feet of cement in the shoe track to the float collar at 18,114.93’, and then freely upward through the production casing to the BOP. According to Mr. Bartlit, other than Mr. Barr (whom he did not cite) the universal prevailing opinion among all the actors (BP & its well control contractors, the Coast Guard and the Science Advisory Team et al.) was that the annular flow path was the most likely option. In other words, everyone was wrong! Perhaps that’s the reason he did not hold a press conference.

So how do we assign grades to the rest of those actors? I would suggest that we rank them by the date at which they came to the realization that the cause of the blowout was the failure of the primary cement job and the flow of oil along the path through the shoe track. By that measure, BP gets a “B”, Thad Allen gets a “C”, Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Steven Chu gets a “D” and the Chairwoman of the Flow Rate Group, Marcia McNutt, is the DUNCE. Please note that the cement contractor, Halliburton, still has not accepted Mr. Bartlit’s flow path, but as a potential criminal defendant, it has not yet fully presented its defense and is therefore scored “Incomplete”.

An impartial observer would note that a failure of the primary cement job (provided in both cases by Halliburton) was not only the cause of the largest oil spill in American history, but it was also the cause of the largest oil spill in Australian history, the Montara well. Perhaps the oil industry ought to take the possibility of a [primary cement job failure much, much more seriously.


Mr. Bartlit acknowledeges that government investigators have cement fragments in their possession recovered from the deck of the workboat Damon Bankston which was covered in drilling mud while alongside the Deepwater Horizon, before it was ordered away by the DHW dues to the well control event taking place. So the fragments are almost certainly from the failed primary cement job and sit, unexamined in some evidence room.

Blowout Preventer

We all know that the BOP sat outside at NASA’s New Orleans facility rusting and unexamined for two months, before it was subjected to a forensic examination. The report on that exam is already a month overdue, even after allowing for that two month delay in starting the exam.

Total Size of the Spill

As noted above, the government’s estimate on the size of the spill is based on the work of the Flow Group, chaired by The Dunce! Please note that National Incident Commander Thad Allen confirmed to David Hammer of the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the YouTube videos previously posted on AT are real.

BP says the government's flawed assumptions "very likely led to fundamental, pervasive and cascading errors" in its official calculations. The company's report notes that video of the inside of the blowout preventer stack shows major erosion of closures and holes in the metal walls, suggesting that highly pressurized oil and gas forced its way out in greater volumes as time went on.
When The Times-Picayune asked the Justice Department, the Interior Department and Det Norske Veritas -- the government contractor performing forensic analysis of the blowout preventer -- to confirm the authenticity of videos showing those phenomena, they declined to answer. But experts consulted by the newspaper said the videos, which include outside views from the deck of the vessel where the blowout preventer was raised as evidence, looked authentic. When a reporter showed one of the videos to retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the man who ran the government's spill response, he said the images were consistent with other videos of the inside of the blowout preventer that he viewed when it was still at the bottom of the sea.

It ought to make for a very lively hearing!

Friday, February 04, 2011

An Open Letter to Malia Obama

I see that you will turn thirteen this coming Fourth of July. Like nearly all of your peers, you are doubtless beginning to realize how embarrassing parents can be. Being First Daughter of the United States (FDOTUS) makes your plight unusually public. So I want to offer you some help in what has already been a remarkable effort to minimize the embarrassment your father causes you. First, I think it is best to publicly recognize three instances where you have made progress in reducing his embarrassment quotient (EQ).

Your greatest success was to get him off the dime and issue a clear, forthright and appropriate directive on how the government ought to address the Deepwater Horizon spill, “Plug the damn hole”. Just as you cannot choose your parents, it is also true that you could not control the efforts of the Ivy League elitists your father had appointed to key Cabinet posts. They mangled your Peter of Haarlem (the Little Dutch Boy) intervention strategy into a Jack & Jill bucket brigade collection strategy with predictable results (Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after).

Your next success was to get him to watch something on TV besides sports, to the point that he expressed his innate vanity to challenge the Mythbusters to replicate Archimedes. He and they failed, thereby bringing his ego down another peg. Which then allowed you to advise him to announce in his State of the Union address that we face a “Sputnik moment”. That is mostly just standard liberal projection of their own shortcomings onto the world at large thereby preserving their fragile egos. But it is further proof that you are undermining his massive ego with its implicit justification for him to continue to boss you around, simply because kids need to obey grownups “Just because”.

So I have a plan for you to continue this campaign with the assistance of a 15 year old reality TV star from the Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush Alaska hit show. It has to be real if people can watch it on reality TV! The plan is to revisit the after effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill and to use your common sense to upstage the Oil Spill Commission appointed by your father and find a solution for an effective containment plan for offshore drilling, thereby allowing the industry to get back to work providing oil, jobs and taxes that are currently sitting on the sidelines. First, you’ll need to gather the self-confidence to do the job. That ought not to be too big a hurdle. Just remember that the most qualified technical expert on the commission is a Harvard engineer. What an oxymoron, “Harvard engineer”, everyone knows that the real engineers in Cambridge all attend MIT! Instead of following your commonsensical plan, they started substituting what they felt would work. You cannot allow them to get away with such insolence! So what the situation calls for is a resurrection of your plan with a few enhancements. Fortunately for you, such a plan was presented in real time during the spill and was ignored by the powers that be. You just need to co-opt it for your own and call it the “Malia’s Marbles” plan. Co-opting from the private sector is the raison d’etre of the government!

The plan appeared as a thread on the oil industry blog The Oil Drum. You can take my word on it that during the crisis more TV producers were reading The Oil Drum than even Journolist! The finger in the dike was to fill the Macondo well with ½” diameter glass marbles. That’s it for the duties required of Peter of Macondo!. It is not a complete solution, but then neither was Peter of Haarlem’s finger. It took some follow up remediation to fully restore the integrity of the dike.

An independent expert fdoleza had this to say
Well, I ran my model and if you can fill the well with marbles, the marble matrix has a permeability of 200 darcies, and the tube length is 13,000 feet, then you do get one hell of a pressure drop, the well flow would be restricted to less than 500 BOPD.
Dropping the flow from 62,000 BOPD down to only 500 BOPD seems to be a major advance! That means that what had been one day’s flow would now take 124 days, enough time to drill a relief well! Note his big “…if you can fill the well…”, but the practical example of hailstones informs our confidence. You know that growing hailstones remain aloft only until they grow big enough to fall against the viscous uplift inside the thunderstorm. And we observed from the “junk shot” that the golf balls sank rather than rising into the mostly closed shear ram in the blowout preventer. A golf ball sized hailstone weighs only a tiny fraction of what a golf ball does, and the marble is nearly twice as dense as a golf ball. We can be confident that the marbles will sink. Admittedly there were skeptics of which Sticks was the most cogent
The Formation is porous sandstone - and if you look at it through a magnifying Glass it looks like millions of Teeny weenie marbles all stuck together, and between all these teeny weeny marbles there is even smaller teeny weeny spaces. Now that pesky oil is nice and hot and thin and can flow quite freely through these teeny weeny spaces - So at a guess - I would think it would flow right past your marbles.
Even if you kept reducing the size you would have to get down to the size of mud particles before you could stop the flow, and if you already filled the tube with marbles you have to get the mud stacked up real high on top of pile marbles - Couple feet of mud on top of marbles wont do the job - you still got have the mud column high and heavy enough to generate the pressure to stop the oil flow..
Drawing Board that way ---------------->
I think the plan needs a little bit of adjustment.
But notice that he chose a porous sandstone when the glass marbles are impermeable, which is why glassware is the global standard for science labs. And slklinecam interjected a voice of experience
They do this already, Marbles that is. Called a Gravel Pack isn’t it? Designed for Sand control and increasing the flow.
But an open question is whether the follow on technique of injecting progressively smaller glass particles to form a plug will work. Which is where our young expert from Gold Rush Alaska comes in. He advises the adult miners of the flaws in their duplex jig.

So it seems our younger generation is capable of doing common sense science. What we need is for adults to encourage their learning process while keeping their own know-it-all attitudes to themselves. I recommend that you act quickly to assert your independence (suitable for a Yankee Doodle Dandy Girl born on the Fourth of July!) because your parents are likely to continue to devise ways to remain the bane of your existence. I’d bet your mother is plotting with her cronies (or is that her friends, the crones?) to impose the Chinese Tiger Mother nonsense upon you. As Oprah would put it, “You go girl!”

Best regards,

Bruce Thompson

P.S. It may find the story of raising the plume to kill the oil fires of Kuwait interesting too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Conservative Reply to the Oil Spill commission's Report

January 20, 2011 marked the nine month anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon accident. The President’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling (the “Oil Spill Commission” or OSC) has recently issued its final report. The offshore drilling moratorium has nominally been lifted, but the issuance of new permits has been negligible amid concerns regarding spill response plans. The government’s last spider hole to hide within is a legitimate subject of debate, how should we deal with the next spill? The co-chairmen of the commission just reported to Congress. How should conservatives challenge the report? Consider these points…

The report’s two most important parts are Chapters 4 “The Macondo Well and the Blowout” and Chapter 5 “Response and Containment”. In essence they become, how did the BP and its contractors screw things up so badly that the accident occurred in the first place, and how did the government screw up the ad hoc spill response under the authority of the presidentially appointed National Incident Commander? The commission was funded by the Secretary of Energy to investigate and its report definitely show signs that the staff was loathe to criticize the hand that fed them, particularly when the Secretary of Energy was the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Team and interposed himself into the chain of command to stop the “top kill” effort in late May. I have no such compunctions. Co-Chairman William Reilly tried to assure the press that this was no “Obama’s Katrina”, the Congress and the public will make that determination.

There is not much new in Chapter 4. They repeat the finding from previous public meetings that the blowout occurred due to a failure of the cement in the shoe track section of the long string production casing. That failure provided a flow path from the formation downward in the annular space between the rock face of the borehole and the outside of the production casing, thence U-tubing up inside the shoe track and then upward via the production casing straight to the wellhead, blowout preventer (BOP) and riser to the Deepwater Horizon (DWH). Those conclusions are similar to those BP presented in their Bly Report and have not been effectively challenged by either Transocean or Halliburton, which have yet to issue their own investigative reports. In their defense, one is sympathetic to their complaints about the government’s custody of two vital pieces of evidence, the BOP and the fragments of cement that landed on the deck of the Damon Bankston, which was alongside the DWH went the well started to blow out. So there remain some very important facts yet to be confirmed, but the outline of the accident time line is getting clearer. The issue is why the government’s two investigations, the OCS and the Marine Board Investigation (MBI) have been on such a glacial pace to bring forth the key evidence? Which brings us to Chapter 5 and beyond.

After heaping well deserved criticism upon BP and its contractors in Chapter 4, the staff found it impossible to objectively evaluate the boss in Chapter 5. The report states that the only intervention strategy in BP’s pre-existing response plan was to drill a relief well. That is all well and good but ignores the fact that BP started introducing a whole series of alternative efforts to first contain and then intervene in the well. The “top kill” option was under active implementation by May 5th as reported in AT.

An impartial observer should note that the government latched on to the relief well option and doubled down by requiring BP to utilize a second drill ship to drill a backup relief well, when that ship might have been more useful with the direct well intervention effort. The best projected date for the relief well to intersect the Macondo was mid August when, as things turned out, the well had been shut in a month earlier on July 15th. Which brings us to the poor quality of the engineering decision making by the National Incident Command, a weakness the commission admits. Dave Barry of the Washington Post summed it up this way

The perfect symbol for the awfulness of 2010 was the BP
oil spill
, which oozed up from the depths and spread, totally out of
control, like some kind of hideous uncontrollable metaphor. (Or "Jersey Shore.")
The scariest thing about the spill was, nobody in charge seemed to know what to
do about it. Time and again, top political leaders personally flew down to the
Gulf of Mexico to look at the situation firsthand and hold press availabilities.
And yet somehow, despite these efforts, the oil continued to leak. This forced
us to face the disturbing truth that even top policy thinkers with postgraduate
degrees from Harvard University -- Harvard University! -- could not stop it.
The leak was eventually plugged by non-policy people using machinery of some
kind. But by then our faith in our leaders had been shaken…

The administration deployed “top policy thinkers” not engineers (AKA the non-policy people using machinery). Even the OCS now regrets that decision and has called for the regulators (BOEMRE nee MMS) to find a well paid engineering hotshot to lead the organization in the future. Conservatives should call that bet and raise them one. Chairman Reilly has been involved in the Exxon Valdez accident, the Kuwait oil fires and now the Deepwater Horizon. Somewhere along the way one hopes he has run into enough capable engineers to know one when he sees one.

Let’s start with the greatest well intervention of all time, the Kuwait oil fires. Saddam Hussein’s troops sabotaged over 750 wells setting most of them alight. The then EPA Administrator, Chairman Reilly, had contact with the specialized well control contractors called in the fight the fires. The first thing to recognize is that the oil companies, such as BP, contract well control out, they have limited in house knowledge or capability. The most famous of those contractors was Red Adair, whose legend was so big he had to be played by John Wayne in the film Hellfighters. When those august experts arrived in country they sent out a public appeal for suggestions as the task was so daunting as to make even them blanch. An interesting factoid, unknown to the general public, is that both the first and last fires extinguished were deliberately relit. The first well fire was initially fought by the standard water deluge technique which failed, so the contractor Boots & Coots tried one of those suggestions now known as raising the plume. It worked so well that they relit the fire to try the technique several times to learn its subtleties.

Chicago Tribune-April 8, 1991
Author: Associated Press.

A Texas firefighting team on Sunday extinguished the first of 500 oil-well fires set by Iraqi troops, and declared a ``small victory`` that could mark a turning point in the operation. The team from Houston-based Boots & Coots, using liquid nitrogen and
water, extinguished a small fire on its second attempt Sunday morning.

``I think it`s very important,`` Boots Hansen said of his team`s achievement. He said the method-injecting nitrogen into the fire through a large cylinder attached to a giant bulldozer while spraying water at the base of the cylinder-was less time-consuming than other methods, such as the use of dynamite.

``It`s a small victory,`` said Larry Flak, a Houston oil engineer coordinating the entire firefighting effort. ``Now we can go from well to well to well without a lot of rigging up or preparation.`` Sunday`s operation was experimental. After the initial success, the team
re-lit the oil spewing from the well a few more times, and again put the fire out to refine their techniques. Eight days earlier, Boots & Coots failed in an attempt to put out a blaze using only water. Hansen estimated that the nitrogen method, which deprives the fire of needed oxygen, probably could be used on half the fires set by Iraq in late February, before allied troops liberated Kuwait. Flak said the Iraqis blew up about 600 oil wells in Kuwait. Most have been on fire since then, blackening the sky across vast areas of the emirate, while about 80 wells were spewing oil without burning. More than 20 of those wells have been capped. Kuwaiti officials estimate they are losing 6 million barrels of oil a day, worth more than $100 million. Fighting the fires will cost an additional $1 million to $2 million a day. Oil Minister Rasheed al-Amiri says it could take two or more years to quell the fires

By the end of eight months, the innovations and experience of the contractors had become such a part of the effort that after the last fire was extinguished, it was relit in order for the Emir of Kuwait to have his chance to put it out by merely throwing a switch while appearing on TV. The political leader of Kuwait could now join the pantheon of heroes alongside John Wayne, and he did do one vital task, he signed the checks.

In only eight months, 750 wild wells had been capped, very few of them by use of a relief well. The technique of choice was put out the fire, install a new BOP and shut in the well, essentially the same technique that succeeded on the DWH, except on dry land rather than at a depth of 5000 feet. Why the government would become so wedded to the relief wells in the face of the Kuwait experience is something the Secretary of Energy ought to be asked under oath. There was a strong tendency to suggest that the well was flowing upward through the annulus past the production casing hanger, a theory eventually discredited by the photographs taken of the lockdown sleeve and later by the intersection of the relief well with the annulus. Why did they believe this well was flowing through the annulus when Occam’s Razor would suggest the problem was the failure of the shoe cement, the most common type of failure? The administration seems to be hiding the inconvenient facts, whether they are the state of the shear ram in the BOP (closed) or the density of the cement fragments. Over the past nine months, the government has failed to even provide photographs of those cement fragments recovered on April 20th. They seem to be taking foot dragging to a high art. The whole issue of whether the additional number centralizers recommended by Halliburton was relevant has been left open as a conclusion, if not as a subtitle to Chapter 4, “But who cares, its done, end of story [we] will probably be fine and we’ll get a good cement job.” Since the flow did not go up the annulus, the number of extra centralizers is indeed moot. The OSC staff implies that BP was uncaring in choosing to omit the extra centralizers when they fail to draw the obvious conclusion that the omission did not make a significant difference. They are spinning to shift blame onto BP while evading the government’s own responsibilities. The Bly Report was more self-critical than this OSC report is.

The lesson to be taken from all this is that decades of nanny state group think and political correctness have eviscerated the government’s ability to make timely, effective engineering decisions. It wasn’t always so. There was a time when those conservative virtues of self-reliance and personal responsibility allowed public-private collaborations to accomplish great things.

Probably the greatest shock to the body politic of the Twentieth Century was the Day of Infamy. No one had pre-planned the destruction of much of the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Yet within nine months thereafter, the U S Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage working with private companies such as Pacific Bridge and Merritt-Chapman and Scott had put out the fires and rescued the surviving crewmen, patched the damage to the battleships Pennsylvania, Maryland & Tennessee, the cruisers Honolulu, Helena & Raleigh, the destroyer Helm, the seaplane tender Curtiss and the repair ship Vestal and sent them on their way to the West Coast for permanent repair. They cut off the damaged bow of the destroyer Shaw, installed a false one and sent her to Mare Island. They refloated the Floating Drydock Number Two. They patched and pumped the battleship Nevada, and raised both the sunken battleships California and West Virginia and had them in drydock by August 6, 1942. All that in nine months!

We could do great things, we don’t need more laws and regulations as much as we need the men to effectively implement what we already have. The outline can be found in the Introduction to the U. S. Navy’s Salvage Engineer’s Handbook. How is this for a job description?

The salvage officer . . . must know sufficient naval architecture to be
thoroughly conversant with the subjects of ship stability, buoyancy, and trim.
He must know something of the strength of ships so that he can estimate the
stress that can be placed on a ship’s structure with safety. He should be an
engineer conversant with the laws of mechanics, of the strength of materials and
of gases, especially those pertaining to compressed air. He must know about the
nature of soils and rocks upon which a vessel may strand and he must be most
thoroughly versed in the principles of salvage. He must know something of the
valuation of ships and of their cargoes, for, in addition to salvaging ships, he
will have to decide whether or not a ship offers sufficient salved value to
warrant the expense and risk involved in its salvage. The salvage officer must
be a man of experience and decision. He will have no time when he arrives at the
scene of a wreck to make long surveys and to consider a plan of action. He will
have to decide upon this very quickly and he is not apt to hold his position
long if he makes many mistakes.

What is his legal authority to act?

Public Law 513 (10 U.S.C. §§ 7361 et seq) authorizes the Secretary of the Navy
to provide "by contract or otherwise, necessary salvage facilities for public
and private vessels upon such terms as he determines to be in the best interest
of the United States." As unnecessary government competition with the salvage
industry would not be in the best long-terminterest of the country, peacetime
salvage services provided by the Navy and other military services are
limited to salvage of government owned assets. Salvage services may
be provided to nongovernment assets if commercial salvors cannot or will not
provide the required services. Salvage operations conducted by military forces
and assets during peacetime generally
fall into one of the following
· Salvage of publicly owned vessels and clearance of Federally
controlled harbors.
· Salvage assistance to allied navies/governments.
Clearance of critical waterways at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard or U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers.
· Salvage or removal of vessels presenting a severe
pollution hazard, when no commercial assets are available, and when requested by
the U.S. Coast Guard.
· Salvage of vessels that present a unique training
opportunity, as determined by the Supervisor of Salvage.
· Recovery of
aircraft components to support mishap investigations as required by military and
civil agencies.
· Recovery of valuable or sensitive objects belonging to
government agencies.
· Support of oceanographic research.
· Assistance to
state and municipal governments.
· Salvage of commercial vessels when no
adequate commercial assets are available and the government is contracted by the
vessels’ owners.

More Big Government is not the answer, a public-private alliance of big men with confidence, experience and knowledge is.

BTW - I originated the “raising the plume” concept mentioned above, which cut the time needed to snuff out an oil well fire down to only 33 seconds, as can be seen in this video between 5:30 and 6:03.