Archive for February, 2011

Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest offshore oil driller, may attempt to recover some or all of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded and sank during last year’s Macondo well disaster. Bloomberg

U.S. Attorney Steve Overholt told District Judge Carl Barbier that testing of the failed blowout preventor (BOP) that led to the Deepwater Horizon oilrig explosion should be done by the end of this week. Louisiana Record


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The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) today approved the first deepwater drilling permit since the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill. Noble Energy’s application for a permit to bypass is for Well #2 in Mississippi Canyon Block 519, approximately 70 miles south east of Venice, La.

Many thanks to Gary Gentile, Platts, for bringing this to our attention.

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Good Nola.com article on the well containment systems

Comments on well capping and containment:

  1. Capping and containment systems, while important and necessary, are for blowout response, not blowout prevention. Their use, successful or otherwise, would only occur after a series of unacceptable failures.
  2. Having two capping and containment consortia in the Gulf of Mexico (and none anywhere else in the world) does not seem to be very cost effective or efficient.
  3. What are the plans for subsea capping and containment systems elsewhere?
  4. A capping/containment capability would not have saved a single life on the Deepwater Horizon. Verified barriers must be in place to prevent flow from the well bore.
  5. The well responsible for our other major drilling blowout spill (Santa Barbara – 1969), was capped at the surface by closing the blind ram on the BOP shortly after flow began. However, capping doesn’t work if you don’t have a competent well bore. The well flowed through numerous channels back to the seafloor.
  6. Capping subsea wells is safer than capping surface wells.
  7. Capping the Montara blowout (2009) in only 80m of water was neither safe nor technically feasible because of the way the well was suspended. Despite the complete absence of a capping option at Montara, the capping of surface wells has received little attention.
  8. The more critical, but less publicized, post-Macondo initiatives pertain to well design, construction, and verification. In that regard, important new standards, including the Well Construction Interface Document, are scheduled to be completed soon. That work must not be delayed.
  9. While capping stacks and containment systems will only be used in the event of a series of major failures, design and construction procedures are critical every time a well is drilled. The importance of the initial design decisions continues into the production phase and beyond, even after the well has been plugged and abandoned.

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This is a must read letter from Gustavo Coronel, petroleum geologist and former member of Venezula’s Congress, to Alí Rodríguez Araque, Venezuelan Minister of Electric Energy.

You recently spoke in the National Assembly and challenged anyone who opposes the government’s petroleum policy to speak openly.

I take this opportunity to do so. I feel qualified to do this because, when you were a member of the Venezuelan guerrillas during the 1960’s, in charge of blowing up oil installations, I was active in building them. During much of my life I have produced oil while you have lived off the oil we have produced.

On the Aban Pearl:

The renting of offshore drilling barges, such as the Aban Pearl, which sank last year in Venezuelan waters, has been full of irregularities that I have denounced in much detail without any action being taken, so far.

Just a few days ago at an advisory committee meeting, some of us were talking about what an outstanding company PDVSA used to be. At Penn State, we had some very bright petroleum engineering students from Venezuela who went on to work for PDVSA.  I am sure they have some very interesting stories to tell about their careers and the changes in Venezuela’s oil industry.

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Add Sonangol, Angola’s state-owned oil company, to the intriguing list of companies that will be involved in Cuban exploration:

“We have signed agreements with Cupet (the Cuban state-run oil company) to explore and develop two blocks,” said Mateus de Brito, a member of the corporate executive committee. El Universal

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These hearings should be interesting:

The JIT expects to hold another set of public hearings the week of April 4 to focus specifically on the BOP and findings from the forensic examination. BOEMRE and the USCG expect to issue a joint release regarding the investigation by mid-April.

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Giant metal shears successfully sliced and closed pipe full of runaway crude in the early moments of last April’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, but the oil blasted through rubber gaskets around the blades and unleashed the nation’s largest spill, according to sources familiar with an ongoing investigation. Houston Chronicle

That would be consistent with the video evidence recorded on the Q4000, but we still need a lot more information about the timing of the shear ram closure, the position of the ram and drill pipe before and after shearing, maintenance, and other important BOP issues.

Kudos to the Chronicle for their ongoing coverage of Macondo issues.

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from Offshore

Mark Kaiser (LSU) has published a nice summary in Offshore Magazine of the damage to Gulf of Mexico facilities from recent hurricanes and the associated decommissioning challenges.

Comment: Hurricane issues were an enormous challenge for the offshore industry and regulators in the five years prior to Macondo. Did the focus on hurricane damage and repairs increase the risk of a drilling incident? Not directly, but hurricane issues were the primary concern of industry and governmental personnel during that period. Resources that might have addressed other identified needs (e.g. cementing standards) were necessarily involved with hurricane projects.

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Few Cabinet Secretaries are scientists or engineers, and none has been a Nobel Prize winner. We expect Secretary Chu to be different and yesterday’s meeting with DOE’s Ultra-Deepwater Advisory Committee was not your typical Washington “hit and run” performance. Rather than making a quick speech and running along to his next appointment, Secretary Chu engaged in technical dialogue with our committee for a full hour, offering insights and responding to questions. Among the topics discussed were BOP instrumentation and monitoring, well integrity, ROV/AUV issues, and Macondo findings.

Kudos to Secretary Chu for his commitment to offshore safety.

Gary Gentile published this report on the meeting in Platts Oilgram News. (click on the story to enlarge)

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“Our internal investigation into the events of that tragedy is nearing completion,” Newman told investors during a conference call to discuss Transocean’s fourth-quarter earnings. “In light of continuing delays and obtaining information on the third-party testing of the Horizon’s (blowout preventer), we expect to release findings in the next month or two.” Fox Business


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