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Friday, July 16, 2010

Booming Feynman's Ghost: Don't test that well!!!

Fishgrease: Booming Feynman's Ghost

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Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:18:09 AM PDT

Boomers! Yesterday! A date which will live in f**kery.
"It has been indeed f**kery most foul."
-- Kossack Onomastic in yesterday's Gulf Watchers ROV liveblog diary.
Yesterday, Our Government bought in to BP's lies and maneuvering. Yesterday, Our Government approved the Integrity Test. That test is now underway. If anything bad happens, and there are many many bad things that can happen, Our Government will be visited by the Ghost of Richard Feynman.
I'm not going to spend much time here introducing you to the late, great, and much loved Richard Feynman. To me, besides his being one of our finest intellectuals, scientists, theorists and technicians (from back in the day when a person could be all those things at once), Richard Feynman was one of the better humans to ever breathe God's air. This was a good man.

Dr. Feynman pretty much defined modern disaster forensics with his work on the Presidential panel which investigated the Challenger disaster. From Wikipedia:
Feynman played an important role on the Presidential Rogers Commission, which investigated the Challenger disaster. Feynman devoted the latter half of his book What Do You Care What Other People Think? to his experience on the Rogers Commission, straying from his usual convention of brief, light-hearted anecdotes to deliver an extended and sober narrative.
Feynman's account reveals a disconnect between NASA's engineers and executives that was far more striking than he expected. His interviews of NASA's high-ranking managers revealed startling misunderstandings of elementary concepts. He concluded that the NASA management's space shuttle reliability estimate was fantastically unrealistic. He warned in his appendix to the commission's report, "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."
You can read the full text of Feynman's Personal observations on the reliability of the Shuttle, HERE. I encourage everyone interested in the current BP Gulf Oil Leak Disaster, and the possibility of more deep drilling in the Gulf, to read that. I would like Thad Allen to read it. I would like Secretary of Energy Chu to read it. I would like President Obama to read it... RIGHT NOW.

Last Sunday, I was doing an informal sound check with Jay Ackroyd for my upcoming, August 5th appearance on Virtually Speaking. Jay mentioned Feynman's work on the Challenger disaster and how he thought it related to this present mess and future messes. So HAT TIP... JAY!

My friend Bob Cavnar wrote an excellent piece for The Huffington Post today. You've probably seen Bob on with Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and other shows on MSNBC. He's their go-to guy on this BP Leak Disaster and they could not have picked anyone more knowledgable, more experienced or more level-headed. I've talked with Bob quite a lot these last couple of weeks and I can tell you that this fellow knows his shit about oil and gas drilling and production. When Kossacks have a question about oil & gas, many of them ask me. When I have a question, I ask Bob Cavnar.

Robert L. Cavnar -- Well Integrity Test - Where Did That Come From?
I enourage you to read the entire article. It's one of the very best technical critiques I've read since... well, since Richard Feynman.
I'm sorry, but I have to ask, What the hell are they doing?  We now have an ability to capture all the oil and stop this massive pollution of the Gulf (as well as measure it).  We have great weather to get the relief well completed.  We already know, without the "well integrity test," that they have severe damage to the BOP and other surface equipment and casing.  If that weren't true, the damn thing wouldn't have blown out in the first place.  We also know that between the "capping stack" and the old BOP that there is a non-wellhead rated piece of equipment, known as the flex joint, along with the riser adapter, that we've talked about before.
This piece of equipment, that normally sits above the BOP, is not rated to nearly those pressures encountered by wellhead equipment.  All of the other components in this BOP are rated to at least 10,000 psi (new, off the shelf, and undamaged); this piece is by far the weakest link in the chain, especially since it took severe stresses as the rig sank and 5,000 feet of riser torqued it as it sank.  Yesterday, Adm. Allen announced they were going to take the stack, including this flex joint, to as high as 9,000 psi for up to 48 hours.  I have been unable to learn the model and rating of the flex joint here, but Oil States advertises their LMRP flex joints to be rated 600-6,000 psi, far below the 9,000 to which Adm Allen said they would potentially go; even with the 2,200 psi of hydrostatic pressure on the outside of the compenent caused by it being in 5,000 feet of water, it's still at least 1,000 psi differential pressure over the rating of the component.
We later received information that the Oil States FlexJoint actually in place is a Model 5, and therefore has a MWP (maximum working pressure) of 5000 psi. So now, the pressures Our Government has signed off on applying, are at least 2,000 psi differential pressure over the rating of the component! We can sense the Ghost of Richard Feynman perk up his ears.

I've been battling comments that, surely, this component has a "safety allowance" well above its rating. Boomers, this is pure horseshit. When you're pressuring up against metal with hydrocarbons, the "maximum" in "maximum working pressure" fucking means MAXIMUM. Purposefully exceeding MWP is, in fact, criminally actionable. MWP is enforced in the Oil & Gas industry with perfect vigor. There is no tolerance for exceeding MWP. None. Never. Ever.

You. Don't. F**king. Do. It.

BP is PLANNING on doing it! They would not and could not do it without the U.S. Government taking full responsibility, in the name of Thad Allen, for the consequences of over-pressuring the FlexJoint. We can see the Ghost of Richard Feynman raise an eyebrow and look at us over his glasses.
More from Bob's excellent HuffPo piece:
This morning, we learned that, even thought the stack has now been set for 3 days, they actually haven't hooked up the two new valves.  He [BP's Wells] also announced that yesterday, they pulled all of the ships off site to run a seismic survey, and, alarmingly, have  stopped drilling the relief well, which is now only 4 feet away laterally from the blowout well.  Since Dudley's letter to Adm. Allen last Friday laying out the relief well timeline, they have made little progress and have only 34 more feet to drill before they get to casing point for the last string of pipe. 34 feet, and they stopped.  They're just sitting there circulating on bottom at 17,840.  Just sitting there.
That's alarming enough, but there are many bad things that can happen when you're just sitting there circulating on bottom at 17,840... FOR DAYS. Now that they're having problems with the choke on the capping stack, it might easily be DAYS AND DAYS. You can lose circulation and get stuck. You can lose a mud pump for a matter of minutes and get stuck. You can lose the section of un-cased hole you just drilled (which is at a critical point for the intercept) and make directional control much more difficult getting it back. There are more, and worse things that could happen, but I won't mention them because the crew and equipment on that relief well are the absolute best, and none of those worse things will happen.

But why take these risks? For what? The first relief well is SO close (now stopped)! They have the ability to capture and measure ALL the oil! We already KNOW there is damage downhole! Why would the Government of the United States of America sign off on, and take responsibility for this foolishness?

To avoid a single Drudge headline:
I need to include here that I think this "test" is probably a good political and public relations bet for both the Obama administration and BP. It's really not a test at all and has no chance of actually testing anything about the well, except their ability to shut it in with no surface leaks. They want to shut in the well and get it off the nightly news. They want that so badly they're willing to risk anything for it. That's both BP and Our Government. They shut in the well and Thad Allen is a hero. They fail and he's no more of a moron than he has been for the last three months. If they succeed in shutting it in or not, any damage they've done in the "test" that makes the kill operation more difficult, or even impossible, will be a matter of opinion. This bet is against the citizens of the United States of America being smart enough to figure any of this out. It's not a bet on actual physical outcomes. It has nothing at all to do with what's the best plan for stopping this disaster.
Politics. Public Relations.

If any of these bad things happen, look for the Ghost of Richard Feynman to show up at the investigatory hearings. He'll be easy to spot. First, you'll hear bongo drums. With a relaxed look at everyone in attendance, Dr. Feynman will ask us how this could possibly happen. Don't people learn from disasters? Then he'll get down to the job of figuring it out. He'll find a target-rich environment.
"I was gung-ho for this test and I remain gung-ho for this test."
-- Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen
(ht - Kimberley)
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."
-- Richard Feynman
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