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BP Prepares Complex "Top Kill" Bid To Plug Well

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the switch-to-healthier-olive-oil dept.

Earth 365

shmG excerpts from the International Business Times: "Government and BP officials are hopeful after extensive preparations, but are not guaranteeing that a complex attempt early this week to cap an uncontrolled underwater oil spill from a well in the Gulf of Mexico will be successful. The so-called 'top kill' procedure that oil major BP is tentatively scheduled to attempt on Tuesday involves plugging up the well by pumping thick 'drilling mud' and cement into it. While it had been attempted on above-ground wells, it has never been tried at the depths involved with this spill, nearly 5,000 feet below the surface."

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DUPE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316696)

yawn [slashdot.org]

It's simple really (5, Funny)

f3rret (1776822) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316700)

Just nuke the damn thing, it's worked before and surely nothing can go wrong.

Re:It's simple really (2, Insightful)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316860)

Did they try nuking a well before? I know they used dynamite back in Kuwait, but surely not nukes were used for this purpose, no?

Besides, nuking a well in the Mexico bay, less than a 100 kms off the coast of the US, is not going to provoke any sort of negative PR and response...
Not to mention the load of methane hydrate sitting there on the bay floor, just waiting for a shock, like, you know, a nuke going off, to release a metric @55load of methane and turn the entire area into a nautical hell-hole, plus catapult the greenhouse effect a couple of years forward in the space of a few minutes.

Re:It's simple really (5, Informative)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316966)

He's talking about the 5 nukes the Russians used, 4 of which succeeded. Of course the Russian oil wells were surrounded by hard, brittle rock, while the leak in the Gulf is surrounded by mud. Different environment leads to different results.

Re:It's simple really (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317016)

Hmmm, good to know.

That aside, there's still a shitload of methane hydrate down there, and it might be in the planet's (and all ships' in the bay area) if BP didn't subject it to the shock of a nuke.

Re:It's simple really (1)

Kymermosst (33885) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317048)

That aside, there's still a shitload of methane hydrate down there, and it might be in the planet's (and all ships' in the bay area) if BP didn't subject it to the shock of a nuke.

I doubt BP has any nukes, so I doubt it would be BP that subjects it to the shock of a nuke.

Re:It's simple really (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317266)

Surrounded by what? The last graphic I saw showed rock. The mud is likely just a few meters deep after which it's the earth crust. Being in the ocean, it's a very hard rock. Maybe it's not too late to nuke it. The damage is as bad but it's going to get a lot worse unless they cap it now.

Re:It's simple really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316988)

Did they try nuking a well before? I know they used dynamite back in Kuwait, but surely not nukes were used for this purpose, no?

Besides, nuking a well in the Mexico bay, less than a 100 kms off the coast of the US, is not going to provoke any sort of negative PR and response...

Not to mention the load of methane hydrate sitting there on the bay floor, just waiting for a shock, like, you know, a nuke going off, to release a metric @55load of methane and turn the entire area into a nautical hell-hole, plus catapult the greenhouse effect a couple of years forward in the space of a few minutes.

Apparently the Russians did it before: http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/05/11/1440206/Oil-Leak-Could-Be-Stopped-With-a-Nuke [slashdot.org]

With a 4 out of 5 success result, though I really do wonder what happened when it didn't work.

Re:It's simple really (0, Redundant)

Redlazer (786403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316996)

The russian's have apparently done it five times or something.

It was featured on the Colbert Report a few days ago.

I don't see why C4 or some other high explosive couldn't work, and indeed, it makes me wonder just exactly who is in charge of this thing.

They should have two separate teams, who know nothing about each others existence. One is drilling the relief well, the other is trying to stop it at the end. Hopefully, they'll work that much harder if they think they're the only team fixing the well, even though BP appears to have a very lackadaisical attitude about it, but then again, all of my news sources are satire.

Re:It's simple really (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317028)

"I don't see why C4 or some other high explosive couldn't work"

Because the two explosions are completely different. Nuclear bombs aren't the same thing as a really large amount of TNT or other explosive.

Re:It's simple really (1)

Redlazer (786403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317098)

Then I'm afraid an explanation is needed.

I obviously understand the difference between nuclear and conventional explosives, but why couldn't we use an equivalent amount of C4 to stop the leak? Isn't it about "resetting" the area, or are we talking about the insane heat generated, which will convert the sand to glass? I find that a pretty risky proposition.

Yes, I'm afraid I just don't understand. Citation needed.

Re:It's simple really (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317172)

Then I'm afraid an explanation is needed.

I obviously understand the difference between nuclear and conventional explosives, but why couldn't we use an equivalent amount of C4 to stop the leak? Isn't it about "resetting" the area, or are we talking about the insane heat generated, which will convert the sand to glass? I find that a pretty risky proposition.

Yes, I'm afraid I just don't understand. Citation needed.

I believe that's the general idea: the heat and pressure from the nuke will glass the bedrock into which the well was drilled, and fuse it shut. Of course, BP would have to sink a new one for another couple million dollars, but at least the leak would be cut. And if they're not careful, a couple of new leaks open up in the hydrate and flood the area with methane, making for a global catastrophe not just local.

Re:It's simple really (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317184)

Or the fact that for an equivalent size blast, you'd displace a rather large portion of the water with the rather large physical volume of the C4 (and you'd need a whole crapload of C4,) versus the rather small physical volume of the nuke, I suspect.

Re:It's simple really (3, Interesting)

Goaway (82658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317622)

You know those wacky "kiloton" and "megaton" numbers they use about nukes? That's exactly the weight of the equivalent conventional explosive charge.

Do you have fifteen thousand tons of C4 lying around somewhere?

Re:It's simple really (1)

justin12345 (846440) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317180)

In this case why would that matter? I believe its the overpressure not the heat (I assume you are referring to the way nuclear weapons release a huge amount of heat over a relatively long period of time) that forces closed the bore. I have no idea if using conventional explosives would be feasible from an engineering standpoint, but if it comes to it, the public would be much more comfortable with a conventional explosive.

Re:It's simple really (0)

gamecrusader (1684024) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317586)

simple cheap effective stopage
1) let flow free
2) dump with several hundred tons of boulders 20 feet thick
3) cover with sand 10 feet thick
4) cover with several layers of plastic
5) cover with several feet thick worth of concrete
6) cover with multiple plastic sheets
7) cover with more more gravel
8) cover with even more concrete

Re:It's simple really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317080)

I don't see why C4 or some other high explosive couldn't work, and indeed, it makes me wonder just exactly who is in charge of this thing.

Not enough Oxygen?

Re:It's simple really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317162)

Does C4 require oxygen? I thought it was triggered by an electrical current.

Which I can see causing trouble, but it's not like we haven't gotten around that one before.

Re:It's simple really (5, Informative)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317316)

Real explosives don't need ambient oxygen. Internal break down of (usually Nitrogen) bonds releases the energy, not rapid oxidation. A few exotic chemistrys exist, such as getting a normally inert noble gas to combine with a reactive gas (i.e. Xenon Trifloride) to store similar levels of energy, but mostly it's Nitrogen. C-4 isn't really the name of an explosive, but Composition 4 is about 90% RDX, which is the high explosive part (also called cyclonite). The other 9 to 10 % is the plasticizer that makes it putty like. No, C-4 does not require outside Oxygen, although it's probably not the stuff to use here. I'm sure the US Navy has some data on what explosives stay safe under very high seawater pressures and still react quickly, hopefully someone will ask them as needed.

Re:It's simple really (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317114)

Dynamite was used in Kuwait to put out the flames (lack of oxygen caused by the explosion), not to plug the well.

They still had to manually plug the hole after the flames were put out on a live well spitting gazes like crazy. Be careful for sparks and get the big wages ;-)

Nuking is a pretty high risk gamble IMHO.

Re:It's simple really (1)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317178)

Did they try nuking a well before? I know they used dynamite back in Kuwait, but surely not nukes were used for this purpose, no?

Yes, the Russians have nuked 5 wells before. The method is to drill a parallel hole and set off an explosion deep underground, crushing the rock around the original well. Deep underground detonations are quite clean.

Four times it worked, one time they were not able to drill close enough because of the gas fires on the surface from the leaking well. "Close enough" means detonating the nuke within 50-60 meters of the original bore for a Hiroshima-size nuke of a few dozen kilotons.

A big drawback to this method, apart from the political ramifications, is that it takes time to drill the shot-hole. Even nukes don't have much of a blast radius under a kilometer of rock...you need to be really precise.

Re:It's simple really (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317078)

I suggest inviting all of the BP officers and managers and then nuking THAT site from the orbit.

The hole can be plugged by other oil companies and the money must be taking from BP corporate and personal accounts.

Re:It's simple really (1)

gamecrusader (1684024) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317534)

this is just mother earth urinating on the rest of the world

Dubble Bubble (2, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316706)

At this point it's pretty obvious that BP is out of ideas - well, aside from a nuke - so maybe chewing gum is the next option?

You know, If I was drilling oil via a pipe that went 5000 ft straight down into the water I'd have made sure there was a pretty much foolproof way to shut the damned thing down before beginning.

Re:Dubble Bubble (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316768)

But you're clearly much cleverer than they are. Either that or perhaps you should stfu if you don't actually know anything about the subject.

Re:Dubble Bubble (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316770)

"You know, If I was drilling oil via a pipe that went 5000 ft straight down into the water I'd have made sure there was a pretty much foolproof way to shut the damned thing down before beginning."

That way is called a blowout preventer (BOP) [wikipedia.org] .

It failed.

Re:Dubble Bubble (3, Informative)

rfuilrez (1213562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316854)

It didn't fail on it's own though. An employee broke it and BP senior execs didn't think it was important enough to delay further to fix it.

Re:Dubble Bubble (2, Insightful)

sleeping143 (1523137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316954)

[citation needed]

Re:Dubble Bubble (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317106)

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7129225.ece

"According to a survivor’s account... blowout preventer...was punctured in the weeks before the blast but nothing was done to fix it.

"a crewman accidentally nudged a joystick, which sent 15ft of the oil pipe through the closed device"

"Mr Williams added that a crewman “discovered chunks of rubber in the drilling fluid”. He thought that it was important enough to bring them into the driller shack. “I recall asking the supervisor if this was out of the ordinary. And he says, ‘Oh, it’s no big deal’

"two control pods that operate the blowout preventer had lost some of its function weeks before the explosion, and the batteries on the device were weak. With the schedule slipping, Mr Williams said that a BP manager ordered a quicker pace. The faster drilling had caused the bottom of the well to split open, swallowing tools. “There’s always pressure [on the crew], but yes, the pressure was increased,” he said. "

Re:Dubble Bubble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317522)

money is the reason. I would bet cold hard cash that each of those 'go ahead and do it anyway' guys had some sort of bonus for under schedule.

'leaking' 25k barrels a day (thats the leak rate not a drill/pump rate). So at 25k* 75 a barrel that is 1.3 billion a year for this one site alone. Yeah this well was a big deal. So instead of making sure it was working right and 'costing' 20 million for a 3-5 day sched slip they blew the whole damn thing right out... Now they are years behind schedule. And 25k is one of the 'lower' leak rate estimates'.

For those of you who think BP will go under for this think again. That was 1 well. Think of the hundreds of other wells they have at 75 bucks a barrel...

For those of you complaining that the 'guberment' should do something. They wont. They never do. They never will. They go into committees and discuss it. They are politicians its their nature. All they are good at is talking. I put my money on the people of LA and TX going and and cleaning it up before the government even gets off its ass to do anything. Our government has demonstrated over and over that it is neither willing or able to prepare or do anything about 'disasters'. All they do is react and usually pretty badly at that. It really makes you wonder what they are doing with the money they get...

Re:Dubble Bubble (3, Insightful)

melikamp (631205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316782)

Yeah, but would you have any cash left to spare for coke and hookers? Didn't thinks so...

Re:Dubble Bubble (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316818)

Actually the blowout preventer does exactly that. When it has not been swapped out for a test fixture and damaged (known at the time) known leaking hydraulic fluid.

The bad cement job was also known to be bad before they replaced the drill mud with salt water.

There were so many things done wrong. All of them had to be bad for this to happen. B.P. knew these were all wrong and went ahead anyway.

They belong in prison and sued out of existence.

Re:Dubble Bubble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317440)

I'd have made sure there was a pretty much foolproof way to shut the damned thing down before beginning.

Actually the blowout preventer does exactly that. When it has not...

Foolproof means all the exception conditions you described wouldn't matter. Every day is a demonstration that a blowout preventer is not foolproof.

And how would you do that? (-1, Troll)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316856)

How would you test it? After all, you can't know something is fool proof, that it'll work no matter what, unless you can test it. How would you test this? Do you build multiple wells, then break them on purpose to see what happens? Not only is that unfeasible, it would create the kind of disaster you want to prevent if something went wrong.

You can't test this kind of shit. It appears that there was a failsafe for this, but it didn't work. Should it have been better? Apparently, but that wasn't known and there wasn't a way to test it.

It's easy to cast blame in hindsight, and certainly there were problems (the biggest being that they didn't have the amount of booming equipment necessary for containment which is a lot, but not that expensive) but it is a complex situation. There is no way to test things, there are no sure fire solutions.

All we can hope is that this disaster acts as a lesson and using the data we are able to prevent it from happening again.

Re:And how would you do that? (5, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316960)

You can't test this kind of shit. It appears that there was a failsafe for this, but it didn't work. Should it have been better? Apparently, but that wasn't known and there wasn't a way to test it.

Then you do what you know how to do and you do it correctly

You keep your batteries charged in the BOP.
You tighten ALL the fittings and TEST them.
You double check everything and write it down, check it again. Stop when you find out you've missed something.
You don't send the crew with the test equipment home before they even start.
You have adequate mitigation strategies and you deploy them correctly.
You ask yourself 'whatcouldpossiblygowrong' and you try to answer the question. You keep the suits well away from engineering decisions.

Just like most man made disasters, multiple fuckups had to happen before the Shit Hits the Fan. This one is just another example of hubris.

Re:And how would you do that? (4, Informative)

PRMan (959735) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317002)

And according to 60 Minutes, when broken pieces of rubber come up which are obviously pieces of the blowout preventer's seal, you don't ignore it and continue, hoping you'll never need your blowout preventer.

Re:And how would you do that? (1, Interesting)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317160)

So what do you do at that point? Remember, the blowout preventer is 5,000 feet down in an evironment where people can't work and there is over 100,000 PSI of pressure on it. Changing it out for a new one is not an option. Neither is disassembling the blowout preventer when it is connected to the wellhead.

So what do you do? Pretty much what they did - cotinue and hope for the best. Because the alternatives are damned few at that point. There is no valve to turn off, mostly because the blowout preventer is the valve. When it was damaged about the only thing that could be hoped for was that a blowout didn't happen because that hope is about all you have.

Which it sounds like is what did happen.

Re:And how would you do that? (5, Informative)

crymeph0 (682581) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317282)

So what do you do? Pretty much what they did - cotinue and hope for the best.

Wrong. You stop drilling and eat the $10 million you've dropped on the well so far. If that's not acceptable to you, don't drill off my damn coast.

Re:And how would you do that? (-1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317454)

Um, they were in the process of capping off the well when it erupted. They were trying their hardest to stop drilling.

(This was a test well, they were going to come back later and set up production.)

Re:And how would you do that? (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317590)

Can you provide a citation for that? It sounds like you are saying they were trying to plug and abandon the well. From what I understand they were running completely different operations intended to prepare the well for production.

I can blame, and will blame, BP for their piss-poor cost saving, PR oriented, and stupid way that they have attempted containment of this problem, but if they really were capping it in response to problems noted in the BOP, then they are much less of the social psychopaths I thought they were.

Re:And how would you do that? (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317342)

Really? That's what you do? Ignore it all, continue and hope for the best? That must be why oil companies all over the place are now making emergency containment vessels to place over their undersea wellheads. Ignoring it was the wrong thing to do. It might be what YOU would do, but it's certainly not what I would do.

Re:And how would you do that? (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317546)

So what do you do at that point?

You fucking plug the well and stop. The last thing you do is act like social psychopaths in search of money at any cost and continue. They KNEW what the consequences were to the environment, the economies of the coastal states in the US, not to mention other countries.

But what the fuck does a BP executive care about a hard working family in Texas, Louisiana, or Mississippi that depends on the ocean for their livelihood? That's right nothing. Saying that is not hyperbole either. If the executives knew of the fragile state of the BOP and continued, they should be put in Prison. Plain and Simple.

Dear God Almighty man. The last thing you do is hope for the best and continue when the consequences of your actions can affect so many many other lives for decades to come. Your plain assertion that they really had no choice in their actions is appallingly offensive.

Of course they had a choice. They could have stopped.

Let's wish them luck (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316916)

Let's wish them luck.

The top kill procedure is well known in the oil fields. Pumping mud and cement is what oil drilling is all about.

Of course, at this depth, things may be more difficult. I read TFA and it makes sense except maybe for this part, which sound too much politically correct:

His agency has been working closely with BP staff to "ensure that procedures are conducted in a safe, environmentally sensitive manner and reduce any risk of additional impact," he told reporters in a conference call on Thursday.

Although he used the term "reduce the risk". There is always risk but this procedure seems the most logical one so far for all I know about oil well drilling. So I wouldn't say that "At this point it's pretty obvious that BP is out of ideas".

In fact, they probably tried to save money with the previous procedures they used ;-)

Re:Let's wish them luck (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317082)

Although he used the term "reduce the risk". There is always risk but this procedure seems the most logical one so far for all I know about oil well drilling.

1) Research the formation pressure vs the burst strength of the casing. They are way too close for comfort. Statically they're technically OK, before you collapse a drilling rig on top of them and have a month long blowout scour them from the inside out. Bad Slashdot Analogy : Its like using a racing engine, after its been in a crash, to power a fire truck. Its not like the theoretical burst pressure limit of the casing is a factor of 100x the internal pressure... They're cutting it close, maybe too close.

2) Contemplate that the root cause of the blowout was a cement bond failure... And cement is crazy weak in tension. So hooking up ultra high pressure pumps to push down extra hard, is not exactly the ideal situation.

So, the relief well is about 1/3 of the way done. It'll work no problemo. Top kill has a modest chance of working, a modest chance of failing without damage, and a modest chance of splitting the casing wide open like a sausage on the grill.

So its a simple game theory exercise:

Solution 1 has a 100% success rate but takes three months. PR folks will vaporize themselves waiting.

Solution 2 has a, lets say, 1/3 chance of doing nothing, 1/3 chance of success, and 1/3 chance of splitting the casing like an overcooked bratwurst, thus increasing the oil squirt rate by a factor of maybe 3. So leak rate is going to zero, stay the same, or increase perhaps a factor of 3, all equally likely.

Meanwhile the longer you wait, the lower formation pressure/leak rate drops. While at the same time sandstone is scraping out the inside of the BOP and casing making the leak larger. And both effects are very non-linear. So, it starts out very slow, gets very big, and gradually declines.

Some supercomputer or whatever calculated the optimum solution is : Wait until the relief well is about 1/3 of the way there.
I have no idea if anyone in slashdot-land can replicate the game theory math that lead to that answer.

Re:Let's wish them luck (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317344)

I generally agree with your point here - just one minor nitpick: How does the tensile strength of cement matter here? From all I learned about the situation, the cement would be subject to lots of pressure, but not to tension. Did I miss something there?

Duct tape (1)

magsol (1406749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316928)

Fixes everything.

Re:Dubble Bubble (1)

Kenoli (934612) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317000)

BP probably doesn't have too many nukes handy.

Re:Dubble Bubble (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317034)

so maybe chewing gum is the next option?

Actually, it is. Just that it’s itself made from oil. (= rubber parts)

Re:Dubble Bubble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317240)

I suppose they could always try and plug it with a flock of waterfowl.

Re:Dubble Bubble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317614)

Oh man, imagine the bubble that hole of pressure could make.

Someone get NASA and Obama on the phone ASAP! We have a new path to Mars!

Really... (1)

fewnorms (630720) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316728)

What could go wrong? All that can happen is that it doesn't work, and then they'll not be much worse off than they are now, besides having exhausted yet another option.
Or in the case of success with the pipes actually plugged, all that might happen is that the part of the riser (or part of the pipe lower down even) NOT plugged could rupture from built up pressure lower down ...
Oh wait ...

Really? (3, Insightful)

ProdigyPuNk (614140) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316730)

You know what I really can't understand ? Why wouldn't there at least be tested methods for this sort of thing? I can't believe that industries are allowed to do things like drill for oil underwater (which is complex and when failure can cost billions USD and human lives) without having set, tested plans in place in case of this sort of catastrophe.

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

DeadPixels (1391907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316784)

Because having set, tested plans costs money.

Re:Really? (3, Insightful)

sl149q (1537343) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317500)

Testing backup plans for a well leak at 5000 feet pretty much would involve a leaking oil well at 5000 feet somewhere..

It would be interesting to try and get permission to setup and run such a test never mind the cost involved.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316802)

So you think it wise to intentionally trigger this sort of scenario just to test a safety mechanism? And if the test had failed, then what?

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317004)

Because nobody ever gets punished.

There is no need for any government regulations, I am a libertarian/objectivist/minarchist, that's my point of view, I am not here to discuss it.

My point is that given the myriad of things that can go wrong in any business, in any industry at any time, the real issue is this: is the private business aware that there will be consequences for its actions, should it cause any damage to private property of others, public property, environment in general or any people.

Government should do one thing: punish severely people and firms that those who cause damage to public property, to environment or to people.

Punishing is the second step, first step of-course must be establishing damage. To do that, Government must use the Justice Department. Government needs to run the Justice Department and the Department of Defense but not to run wars, only really to defend the country.

So the Justice Department must be the main tool to fight against criminals, either persons or businesses. In case of damage to environment and public property, government must start Class Action Lawsuits on behalf of the people, who the Government is supposed to represent.

The Class Action Lawsuits must be started to show that there is damage to public property and environment, and these are all about fines, clean up costs, liability. I believe that corporations are rational machines and if it was known that transgressions are punished by taking away money enough to fix the damage + x10 or x100 or x1000 the amount of damages in liability and punitive damages AND if there was also criminal investigations that would in fact lead to personal responsibility assignment, then corporations would have to behave on both, the system (corporate) level and on personal level. Personal responsibility must include possibility of personal fines, confiscation of money, property and jail time.

A system that ran this way would not need to have government dictated regulations. I understand that many people believe this is unachievable, that only government can set regulations correctly, however I believe this is a misunderstanding.

Government normally does not come up with regulations all by itself in vacuum, most if not all regulations actually come out of best industry practices and standards. So the industry itself Knows how to do its business in ways that minimizes damage but it Chooses not to do so very often.

The reasons for choosing one practice over another is obviously cost.

So it must be made cost prohibitive to run a business in a way, that would allow it to continue operations that are knowingly and/or negligently harming either individuals and/or public property and/or environment.

In such a system the Government's role would be that of a judge/executioner but not that of a regulatory body, as we see that regulations are constantly abused, regulatory bodies are corrupted, regulations are most of the time out of date because the industry moves so fast, it is very costly if possible at all to keep up.

We can use the Internet, the Drug Manufacturing corporations, the Food Manufacturing corporations, the Energy producing corporations, the Tech Corporations of almost any kind as examples of how the government is always behind the current events and how yesterdays regulations are already obsolete by today or tomorrow. The cost and time of running a government that actually is on top of all developments in all industries and for all the players would be bigger than the industries themselves, it is extremely prohibitive and abusive to the Economy.

Of-course the Government would not like or endorse this idea because it would actually mean that the Government would not really get any pie in this action. It would actually have to do its job, it is much easier to observe work of One Government Department than of so many separate regulatory bodies, who knew that MMS was literally fucking with BP staff, taking drugs and money and alcohol and gifts? Well, we could Guess that they were doing it but the actual knowledge was not there. SEC could not and would not regulate Madoff of Goldman Sachs. Fed would print money and give it away for free (they are supposed to 'direct' the economy, it is scary to watch Bernanke say: 'our economy is just fine' in the middle of a credit bubble. He didn't see it coming while he was part of the cause of it.)

So get the government to do the job that it actually can do: run the Justice Department, run the Defence Department, get out of Economics, get out of regulations, instead investigate, sue, punish the guilty to the full capacity of the law, if the law is not good enough, fix it so that it is. Then, if somebody in a corporation still did not care about the possible outcome of getting caught while doing something clearly or possibly damaging, if the business practice was deficient and caused damage, the punish them severely.

I think that a corporation is a rational player but some people in it may be irrational or just not caring at all about any possible consequences. However in the current system those people would not be personally responsible for stepping over any regulations Anyway.

My proposal tries to fix the situation, where the CEO and other management does not care because they don't really own the company, they are only after very short term gains. In the current system or even with any number of new regulations, this still would not be fixed.

My proposal fixes it by allowing to assign personal responsibility, so yes, I am talking about reducing the protections against personal responsibility to the management of the company that the management is enjoying right now because of the way corporations are defined.

Limited responsibility is a serious problem, which really caused the problem of not caring about anything that can and does cause damage to society by damaging persons, other businesses, public property and environment.

Re:Really? (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317046)

I'm not going to claim that BP (and the other oil companies) haven't done anything wrong in this situation, but how exactly do you propose that they have tested any solutions prior to this? Their failure is that the safeguards they had in place weren't sufficient to stop the problem from happening in the first place, not that they didn't intentionally cause such a disaster earlier so they could do testing to determine the best way of stopping it after the fact.

Re:Really? (1)

phoenixwade (997892) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317174)

Their failure is that the safeguards they had in place weren't sufficient to stop the problem from happening in the first place

That appears to be a bit of disingenuous spin. You might be right, the safeguards that were SUPPOSED to be in place might have been insufficient, but we'll never know, since even the safeguards that were supposed to be in place were not, and they knew that and continued anyway.

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317148)

without having set, tested plans in place in case of this sort of catastrophe.

Oh, they have plans. They're working like an anthill stirred up with a stick. Seriously.

What you meant to ask, but didn't, is why they don't have set, tested plans to fix this kind of thing "instantly" or "within hours" or at least sooner than its going to take.

Well, that's because no such technology exists. So you simply make failure impossible via paperwork. You need a perfect cement bond job, so you require one. You need a perfect and tested BOP so you require one. The odds of both failing at the same time are astronomical. Which, as you can see, does not mean its impossible, just very rare. I suspect we'll never see an identical failure, its just too unusual. Oh we'll see other failures, just not exactly like this.

Re:Really? (2, Interesting)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317154)

There are set, tested plans. They are a) let the blow-out-preventer do its job so that the whole event ends up at the bottom of page 19 and b) if the blow-out-preventer fails, drill a relief well. Well they did a) and it failed spectacularly, so now they're doing b) which takes 3 months. They are also doing a lot of crazy things from c) through z) which weren't ever planned, but that's better than everyone thinking they are doing nothing at all.

Re:Really? (1)

RicktheBrick (588466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317268)

How about building the structure that they have at the bottom on land out of clay. Than place a very large box(say 100ftx100ftx40ft) over that model. Than fill box with cement. Lift box off model and take and cover leak with the box. It should be a very tight fit than cover box with lots of heavy rocks.

Re:Really? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317378)

Then all they have to do is maneuver 15,000 tons with better than 1 foot precision at the end of a 1 mile cable.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317280)

"Why wouldn't there at least be tested methods for this sort of thing?"

Generally speaking, people don't like starting oil gushers at 5000 feet depth to find out if they can subsequently contain them. I suppose it might be experimentally possible to duplicate somehow, but it would be pretty difficult. It's kind of the engineering equivalent of crashing a plane to see what will happen -- technically possible but rarely done, and certainly not a routine thing for every new type of plane. Most of the "testing" is done by carefully studying accidents after they happen. They do extensively test blowout preventers, they do test out "kill shot" methods, but the tests back in the factory inevitably have limitations over the "real thing", and every well behaves a little different. When approaching technical limits they will encounter new conditions too, and at at 5000 feet water depth they are indeed pushing the engineering envelope.

Greedy Assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316744)

How much better off would we have been if they had just aimed to kill the well from day one instead of trying to capture it for a month? But nooooo they didn't want to drill a new well cuz that costs money so instead tried everything but killing it.

Re:Greedy Assholes (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317506)

They likely started work on the relief well (which is intended to cap it off) when it became clear that the blow out preventer had failed, a day or two after the explosion.

None of their other attempts have hindered that process, it just takes time to do it.

will they pay ? (2, Interesting)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316756)

i just want to see how long, or _if_, it's gonna take for the authorities to stick a huge, multi-billion dolar fine on BP.

but it's not going to happen, right ?

the way these corporations learned to manipulate the legal system, the way they're in bed with politicians, is just sickening.

Re:will they pay ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316792)

Here is what will happen: BP will suffer some bad PR, but this will all be forgotten and people will be *BEGGING them to continue drilling if gas gets more than $5.00/gallon at the pump.

Re:will they pay ? (5, Informative)

fewnorms (630720) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316798)

They will and are already paying [thehill.com] .
As they should....

Re:will they pay ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317018)

Mmm, I wouldnt be so sure. I will be believe it when I see it.

Re:will they pay ? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317116)

They will and are already paying.
As they should....

Correction, "they" are not paying. They simply sell gas to us at a higher cost. "we" are paying.

Re:will they pay ? (1)

welcher (850511) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317362)

I dont think that BP can unilaterally raise the price of gas given that some competition exists.

Re:will they pay ? (1)

Pulzar (81031) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317516)

Correction, "they" are not paying. They simply sell gas to us at a higher cost. "we" are paying.

How do you figure? BP is going to sell their oil at a higher price than other oil companies (who's going to buy it from them)?

The whole "they will just pass the cost to the consumer" argument only works when every company in an industry is hit by something...

Re:will they pay ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316810)

They'll just form a sub-corporation, transfer the liabilities to it, and bankrupt it. I bet BP never pays a cent.

Re:will they pay ? (2, Interesting)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317336)

BP is a corporation. What's the point of suing them or making them pay? All that's going to happen is an increase in your petrol prices (orchestrated together by all oil companies). I think charging BP/subcontractors of criminal negligence is more likely to be a deterrent.

Re:will they pay ? (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317512)

Although this old pseudolibertarian meme seems to always come up, that's not actually how markets work. BP is a corporation with a variable rate of profit, in a competitive market in which they have almost no pricing power (oil prices are set in a global market whose price is controlled much more by OPEC than by western oil corporations). The most likely outcome is that BP's shareholders will be the ones to ultimately pay, through lower profits.

Re:will they pay ? (1, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317386)

The funny part is watching people desperate to fine BP... Apparently, because they have the most money. Ambulance chaser culture at its finest.

No one mentions fining Haliburton the cement company, no one mentions fining the owners of the drilling platform, no one mentions fining the govt inspectors whom may have not done their job. No one mentions fining the families of the 11 dead men, whom might have been the cause. Just, suspiciously, fining the company that happens to be the richest. While carefully avoiding the two issues of whom exactly screwed up (its possible BP did nothing wrong), and the issue of whom will pay (that being us, the gas station consumers, of course). Ethics and morality at its finest, I guess.

Oil Spill?? (2, Informative)

this great guy (922511) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316780)

There is an oil spill in the Gulf?

Re:Oil Spill?? (1, Informative)

magsol (1406749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316866)

I was going to mod you +1 Funny, then I saw your sig and decided against it.

Re:Oil Spill?? (1, Funny)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316892)

Not really a spill, but more of an oil "menstruating hemorrhage" by the earth (man induced). Perhaps Tampax can step in, they do have some experience in the absorption arena.

Re:Oil Spill?? (0)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316920)

You're probably joking, but Slashdot is really the only source where I've heard of the spill.

Re:Oil Spill?? (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317030)

'Spill' is not the correct term. 'Innovative distribution by a world class leader in energy services' is the preferred phrase.

Re:Oil Spill?? (1, Insightful)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317324)

From the summary, since nobody seems to get it:

... early this week to cap an uncontrolled underwater oil spill from a well in the Gulf of Mexico ...

Those of us familiar with English grammar might expect definite articles, in a sentence describing a well-reported current event. Or, maybe I'm the one who doesn't get it.

Re:Oil Spill?? (4, Funny)

StormReaver (59959) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317360)

No, there isn't an oil spill in the Gulf. There is a slight water spill in the Gulf oil pit.

Nuke the site from orbit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32316794)

It's the only way to be sure...

is it just me or... (1)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316902)

does this seem really stupid? They should have smart people working on this kind of thing - the types of people who would be able to take the known variables, plug them into a computer, and predict the results. I'm guessing they didn't do this the first time because the government wasn't all over them, and they didn't want to lose a large reserve. However, this could make the leak much worse.

@This great guy... are you serious? You don't know about the oil leak in the gulf o mexico? If they don't stop it soon, its going to ravage the whole surrounding area.

Re:is it just me or... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317054)

does this seem really stupid?

Unfortunately, BP is doing something very intelligent . . . they are wiping their hands from the affair and trying to disassociate themselves from the whole disaster. "What?!?! Liability?!?! Not us!"

It reminds me of when in a soccer (football) match when a player commits a serious foul. What is the first thing he does? He puts his hands up in the air and shakes his head at the referee, with a look, like, "I ain't done nuthin'!"

Small children, and large corporations are excellent at this. They say "It's not my fault!" and "It's not my problem!"

BP needs to change their company slogan to: "Most of the time we're somebody's else's problem."

Hey, accidents can happen, but when they do, it is not the right time to sit around with your head up your ass, trying to avoid blame.

Re:is it just me or... (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317170)

Unfortunately, BP is doing something very intelligent . . . they are wiping their hands from the affair and trying to disassociate themselves from the whole disaster. "What?!?! Liability?!?! Not us!"

Seriously? All I've heard from them, over and over, was they're not going to hide behind the legal liability limit. If you can provide any actual quotes that their position is now to do the exact opposite, that would be very insightful.

Re:is it just me or... (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317108)

So you are suggesting that someone with experience with this create a computer model so that various approaches can be tested out before doing something to the wellhead itself?

Sounds like a really good idea. There is one minor problem with that idea though. Nothing like this has ever happened. Nobody has any idea of what the real conditions are at the wellhead other than with a few measurements and visual observation. A model could be constructed based on what is known, but that would be a very incomplete model indeed.

Nobody really knows anything about this situation and the only way anyone is going to learn about it is to try out some stuff that sounds like it might work. It is quite true that there may be conditions at the wellhead that make this "top kill" approach completely unviable. But the problem is that nobody has any idea what those conditions might be until they try it and see what happens.

The pressures involved are completely beyond the experience of almost everyone. It is also very, very cold down there which is why the first containment failed rather unexpectedly.

Nuke the site from orbit! (0, Redundant)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 4 years ago | (#32316904)

It's the only way to be sure.

Re:Nuke the site from orbit! (1)

phoenixwade (997892) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317210)

So, are you suggesting we shove Paul Riser into the well head first?

Re:Nuke the site from orbit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317486)

So, are you suggesting we shove Paul Riser into the well head first?

Nah. The oil is bad enough without adding an unlimited amount of bullshit.

lanceness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32317086)

Dynamite is used to take the oxygen away from a wellhead on fire and put it out so it can be sealed off with a replacement wellhead. This one is not on fire so any explosive would not be needed and would only open up the oil to flow freely and further tank the gulf. I don't understand why they do not cut the pipe off and lower down another BOP.

Stop fracking around (1)

Boandlgrama (300771) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317104)

And just nuke the damn thing...
A smal tactical nuke should do the trick...

Re:Stop fracking around (0, Redundant)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317214)

Hilarious subject line for your post, since the process of "frac-ing" aka "fraking" the well is a production technique used to greatly increase flow rate, using explosives to crack the oil-bearing rock.

So, that's the question. Are we better off with a sharp huge release of the entire formation in one big gulp, or better off letting it slowly trickle out as we've been doing?

The other hilarious part, is nuke obsessed Americans never notice the only thing untouched in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was buried concrete and steel building foundations... You know, just like ... oil wells...

Other than being a big orgasmic kaboom, setting of a nuke would do either jack nothing, or make it much worse.

Also the kill well we're digging probably would need to be bigger to fit a nuke instead of pumping mud. So it'll go slower.

Oh, and we have no deep sea underwater nukes.

Other than that, great idea.

Are there any submariners here? (1)

nido (102070) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317260)

The U.S. Navy used to have a research submarine that could go down to 2500 feet: NR-1 engineering and research submarine [wikipedia.org] . This sub was recently deactivated, presumably because they've got something better, probably classified.

What kind of resources does the USN have that they could use in this situation? It's certainly more than what BP can call into service...

Leave BP in charge of drilling the relief well. The Navy should direct efforts to stop the gusher, and bill BP for the services rendered. BP will never be able to afford the total bill to New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Cuba, so the company should be sent into receivership [wikipedia.org] now.

They need to work harder (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317304)

How about instead of wasting resources giving the world a streaming feed of them polluting the ocean they spend that time and money on actually stopping it.

BTW, the feed for those that like to see loads of oil pumping into the ocean. http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/globalbp_uk_english/homepage/STAGING/local_assets/bp_homepage/html/rov_stream.html [bp.com]

Why is this taking so long? (3, Insightful)

Turzyx (1462339) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317370)

Pretty much everyone has condemned the way BP has tried to 'save' the well during their attempts to 'solve' the problem, instead of taking a more direct approach, but it cannot be stressed enough. The oil rig explosion was on the 20th April. It's now the 23rd of May. For a company which is in control of, basically a WMD, there should have been contingency after contingency lined up.

No dice on the blow off valve? Next day try the cap, next day try the plug, then the current 'top kill' method; we'd be at the current progress within a week. At the moment it seems BP is making it up as they go along, that may be all they can do at the moment, but it is unacceptable that there was no preparation or protocol for a worse case scenario, which even this isn't. A tanker full of cement and rubber could have been there within a few hours, this is a disgrace.

It's going to be a long time before new drilling is permitted in the Gulf of Mexico, I hope that time is spent drafting up legislation that sets up some sort of oil spill crisis management that has direct authority to intervene immediately when something like this happens. This sort of task absolutely should not be in the hands of people who have such a blatant conflict of interest.

Re:Why is this taking so long? (1)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317582)

BP is taking "a more direct approach" of drilling relief wells, but that takes months to accomplish...

In the meantime, BP is trying all sorts of things, in hopes maybe one or more will work, but mainly to placate the public - most people, understandably, would be very upset, if BP looked to be doing nothing for the next few months while waiting on the relief wells to be drilled.

Ron

Not THAT 'Top Kill', awwww, shucks! (1)

Ultimate Heretic (1058480) | more than 4 years ago | (#32317572)

Rats, When I read they were going to "Top Kill", I thought maybe the US finally was serious about dealing with the BP execs. No such luck, alas.
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