Analyzing Deepwater Horizon

Deborah Venable



If you are reading this and do not recognize the title as the name of the floating oil rig that caught fire and sank in the Gulf Of Mexico last month, how well informed are you?


The news media have gone out of their way to present the event as a crisis of epic proportions.  The environmentalists are in a feeding frenzy that would rival that of a shark in a goldfish bowl.  Politicians are in full flack politicize armor, guns blazing and name calling - safeties off. 


On April 20th the Deepwater Horizon caught fire and on April 22nd it sunk into the Gulf Of Mexico.  The human tragedy is that eleven human souls, (crew members) were lost.  Do we know who these people were?  Do we know their stories? 


Trans Ocean Memorial Service on May 25th..



McClatchy Account names Gordon Jones.



Wall Street Journal Account names others.



ABC News Account focuses on important feeling of families. 


This is May 25th – more than a month after the accident.  The Trans Ocean Memorial Service just happened today.


Some time ago I received some information that probably has some facts not found elsewhere, and would, therefore be considered “confidential and privileged” information: 


You may have heard the news in the last two days about the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig which caught fire, burned for two days, then sank in 5,000 ft of water in the Gulf of Mexico. There are still 11 men missing, and they are not expected to be found.


The rig belongs to Transocean, the world’s biggest offshore drilling contractor. The rig was originally contracted through the year 2013 to BP and was working on BP’s Macondo exploration well when the fire broke out. The rig costs about $500,000 per day to contract. The full drilling spread, with helicopters and support vessels and other services, will cost closer to $1,000,000 per day to operate in the course of drilling for oil and gas. The rig cost about $350,000,000 to build in 2001 and would cost at least double that to replace today.


The rig represents the cutting edge of drilling technology. It is a floating rig, capable of working in up to 10,000 ft water depth. The rig is not moored; It does not use anchors because it would be too costly and too heavy to suspend this mooring load from the floating structure. Rather, a triply-redundant computer system uses satellite positioning to control powerful thrusters that keep the rig on station within a few feet of its intended location, at all times. This is called Dynamic Positioning.


The rig had apparently just finished cementing steel casing in place at depths exceeding 18,000 ft. The next operation was to suspend the well so that the rig could move to its next drilling location, the idea being that a rig would return to this well later in order to complete the work necessary to bring the well into production.


It is thought that somehow formation fluids – oil /gas – got into the wellbore and were undetected until it was too late to take action. With a

floating drilling rig setup, because it moves with the waves, currents, and winds, all of the main pressure control equipment sits on the seabed – the uppermost unmoving point in the well. This pressure control equipment – the Blowout Preventers, or ‘BOP’s” as they’re called, are controlled with redundant systems from the rig. In the event of a serious emergency, there are multiple Panic Buttons to hit, and even fail-safe Deadman systems that should be automatically engaged when something of this proportion breaks out. None of them were apparently activated, suggesting that the blowout was especially swift to escalate at the surface.


The flames were visible up to about 35 miles away. Not the glow – the flames. They were 200 – 300 ft high.


All of this will be investigated and it will be some months before all of the particulars are known. For now, it is enough to say that this marvel of modern technology, which had been operating with an excellent safety record, has burned up and sunk taking souls with it.


The well still is apparently flowing oil, which is appearing at the surface as a slick. They have been working with remotely operated vehicles, or ROV’s which are essentially tethered miniature submarines with manipulator arms and other equipment that can perform work underwater while the operator sits on a vessel. These are what were used to explore the Titanic, among other things. Every floating rig has one on board and they are in constant use. In this case, they are deploying ROV’s from dedicated service vessels. They have been trying to close the well in using a specialized port on the BOP’s and a pumping arrangement on their ROV’s. They have been unsuccessful so far. Specialized pollution control vessels have been scrambled to start working the spill, skimming the oil up.


In the coming weeks they will move in at least one other rig to drill a fresh well that will intersect the blowing one at its pay zone. They will use technology that is capable of drilling from a floating rig, over 3 miles deep to an exact specific point in the earth – with a target radius of just a few feet plus or minus. Once they intersect their target, a heavy fluid will be pumped that exceeds the formation’s pressure, thus causing the flow to cease and rendering the well safe at last. It will take at least a couple of months to get this done, bringing all available technology to bear. It will be an ecological disaster if the well flows all of the while; Optimistically, it could bridge off downhole.


It’s a sad day when something like this happens to any rig, but even more so when it happens to something on the cutting edge of our capabilities.


I would like to bring your attention to the fact that these few paragraphs are much more informative than anything you have probably seen or read from media reports on the incident.  I would gladly give the person, who wrote this, full credit for this account, but I do not know his or her identity.  I have ascertained that the person is very knowledgeable, through the use of my own common sense, and, therefore, decided to post it in its entirety.


You are likely to hear much of the ongoing political blather for many weeks and months to come.  My personal favorite among the absurdities is that Sarah Palin’s “Drill Baby Drill” has been turned into, “Spill Baby Spill.”  How intelligent is that, huh? 


Our president, (on it from the start – when was that?) is pointing fingers and taking names and will “hold accountable” all guilty parties.  (Never let a crisis go to waste, eh, Barack?) 


My home state is Alabama.  We have an absolutely beautiful coastline in danger from the fallout of this disaster, as well as that of the livelihoods of many Gulf Coast Alabama residents.  We can look at this thing in a purely economical light, if you wish, but that would be a catastrophic mistake.  We could look at it in a pure ecological light, if you wish, but that, too, would be a catastrophic mistake.  We could go on for eons trying to liken it to Katrina, if you wish, but that would be purely stupid.  The only thing in common is the area of devastation at the moment.  Louisiana took the brunt of both calamities. 


When are individual Americans going to (really) wake up and realize that the measure of an individual’s worth is measured in how that individual handles adversity? 


Identify those that are hurting and offer your condolences.  If you don’t mind getting dirty, help with the cleanup.  If you do, help at least pay for it.  If you are worried about the animals, go save a few.  If you think the oil companies are to blame, boycott the stuff!  (Good luck on that one.)  If you want to point fingers at the politicians, pay more attention and vote them out! 


If you don’t think you should be bothered, make sure you don’t depend on any of the people responsible for making sure that you can fill up your tank at the pump, use any petroleum derivative products, or enjoy anything provided by those who supply such products. 


In memory of those who make their living doing the hard jobs that provide those sometime hated products that we all depend on, including all those who support the massive effort required to supply those products, thank you – and may God Bless hard working souls everywhere.



Home    Rant Page    Email DebV