Archive for August, 2011

I didn’t know what to expect when I kicked off this independent blog 18 months ago. I wanted to share some fun stuff, most notably the “Not My Job Award” favorites and the long list of “rigs-to-reefs” spinoffs. The blog was also a good way to follow and comment on emerging offshore energy issues and events.

Things didn’t go quite as planned, and two major accidents shaped our commentary and discussion. During the early days of the blog, attention was focused on the Montara hearings.  Each day’s transcripts were posted within hours by the very efficient Montara Inquiry staff, so we were able to read the transcripts in the early morning hours (US eastern time). Our small band of Montara watchers commented daily on the events and received mention during the hearings.

Next came Macondo.  The tragic fire and explosion killed 11, and the pollution spectacular that followed was streamed live for a worldwide audience. While officials in the US and around the world were busy solving problems that had yet to be identified, true offshore safety leaders were closely monitoring the investigations to learn what happened and why. Unfortunately, important gaps in our understaning of the accident still remain.

In light of increased personal and professional commitments, I have decided to discontinue BOE.  The blog will be removed from the web on August 12th.  I want to thank those who have visited the blog. Surprisingly, our obscure site had lots of visitors in the US and around the world.

In particular, I would like to thank Odd Finnestad and Cheryl Anderson.  Odd is an expert on regulatory policy who helped shape Norway’s highly respected offshore safety program and has advised governments around the world about regulatory and safety issues. Odd has been an important contributor to BOE from the outset. Cheryl is the world’s leading authority on oil spill occurrence rates and causes, and has contributed numerous entries to the blog.

I also want to thank JL Daeschler, a pioneering subsea engineer, for his insights and commentary. In addition to being an outstanding engineer, JL is a very talented artists whose works are now on display at prestigious galleries in Edinburgh, Scotland.  In you visit that wonderful city, make sure you view some of JL’s artwork.  There are others who have made major contributions to BOE, but have chosen to remain anonymous.  You know who you are; thank you for the support!

For good coverage of offshore safety issues, I encourage you to monitor Platts, Upstream, Fuel Fix, and Nola.com.  I hope these or other professional sites develop tracking systems for offshore accidents and hold operators and regulators accountable for publishing updates and reports in a timely manner.  I will continue to push for improvements in the collection and reporting of incident data.

I also recommend that you monitor the regulators’ websites. The site of the Petroleum Safety Authority of Norway (psa.no) provides timely information, reports, risk assessments, and updates on activities in the Norwegian sector, and is an excellent example of what a safety regulator’s website should look like.

In closing, I want to say that I am very optimistic about the future of offshore oil and gas operations in the US and around the world. I continue to be amazed by the dedication, competence, and commitment of offshore energy professionals. Although we don’t agree on everything, we are all committed to safety and pollution prevention. We can’t change the past, but we can shape the future. The world needs offshore energy, and it’s our job to respond to the challenge.

Feel free to contact me at edanenberger@gmail.com if there are any matters you wish to discuss.

Offshore to the future!


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Phil Rae piece in Fuel Fix

  1. The well clearly had losses through the shoe during the initial displacement of the heavy spacer with seawater, immediately prior to the negative test.
  2. Allowing for, and accepting, losses of ~80 bbls during spacer displacement, explains ALL pressure and flow anomalies without the need to create or invoke undocumented and unsubstantiated valve closures or manipulations that contradict witness testimony of events. It also eliminates the need to adopt unrealistically-low pump efficiencies for the rig pumps, hypothetical washed-out tubing and ridiculously high viscosities for the drilling mud, in an effort to fit questionable computer models.
  3. Despite extensive examination by investigators and the publication of several reports, the fact that the well experienced losses, making it even more severely underbalanced than was planned, has been given little credence or has received little or no attention, despite several clear indications that this was the case. While this statement regarding losses may be self-evident, its significance on the outcome at Macondo merits closer examination since it explains many previous, apparently-contradictory aspects of the disaster.
  4. Under-displacement of heavyweight spacer, as a result of losses during displacement, caused U-tubing and partial evacuation of the kill line, the lower end of which was later refilled with heavyweight spacer, driven by pressure and flow from the formation. The vacuum, initially, and subsequent invasion of heavy fluid rendered the kill line useless for monitoring the well since the line was effectively blind to pressure changes in the well.
  5. While initial flow into the well was through the shoe, pressure above the casing hanger seal during the negative test was reduced to levels that could have allowed the casing to lift, compromising the seal and possibly also allowing flow from the external annulus.
  6. The well encountered further losses during the second displacement (to displace the riser), after completion of the negative test. These losses, which were perhaps as much as 200 bbls, effectively replaced heavy mud with sea water in the casing below the drill pipe. This further underbalanced the well to the point that it was being kept under control only by pumping friction pressure. As the pump rate was reduced prior to shut down for the sheen test, effectively reducing system backpressure, the now severely underbalanced well began to flow.

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oil-eating bacteria

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientists have published important new findings on the rapid bacterial degradation of the Macondo spill.

They found that bacterial microbes inside the slick degraded the oil at a rate five times faster than microbes outside the slick—accounting in large part for the disappearance of the slick some three weeks after Deepwater Horizon’s Macondo well was shut off.


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Cheryl Anderson forwarded this interesting Anchorage Daily News update on hydrate production research and linked information about the specific Department of Energy research projects.

The methane – carbon dioxide exchange project is particularly interesting and is summarized nicely by the Daily News:

Conoco Phillips will try injecting carbon dioxide into the hydrate. Laboratory tests show that injecting carbon dioxide displaces methane, which comes out of the hydrate as a gas. The idea is that the carbon dioxide molecules take the place of the methane molecules in the hydrate, keeping it stable.

This could be neat, if it works. Carbon dioxide would be permanently sequestered, or stored, underground, while the methane is extracted and the hydrate is left intact.

One question the Conoco Phillips production test will attempt to answer is whether this reaction in the hydrate can occur fast enough for methane production to reach practical volumes.

The comment below is an understatement, but the enormous energy potential justifies the research.
This isn’t a slam dunk, though. The technical challenges are considerable.

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Dauphin Island tarballs, May 2011

Cheryl’s update after reviewing the latest reports:

  • There is a USCG unified command specific to BP spill residue after storms.
  • The tarballs are not considered toxic, just an unattractive nuisance.
  • Tarball cleanup on Dauphin Island was halted on May 1 to protect nesting birds.
  • BP estimates a total Macondo spill volume of about 4 million bbl as opposed to the government estimate of 4.9 million bbl.
  • BP estimates that 850,000 barrels were captured, burned or skimmed off the water.
  • 1,260 people remain employed in spill cleanup as of [July 14, 2011], down from a peak of 48,200 a year ago

Articles of interest:


WALA New Orleans

Bloomberg Business Week 

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