Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Deepwater Horizon movie review

So, last night I went to the most subsidized film in Louisiana history, Deepwater Horizon. Each Louisiana taxpayer spent $8 on the film.


The film is good overall, but there were lots of little things that, as someone who has worked offshore, irked me. For example, Mr. Jimmy [OIM] asks, "What's the Bankston [OSV] doing here?" An OSV (Offshore Service Vessel) next to a MODU (Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit) is a more common sight than not; MODUs are hungry beasts that must constantly be replenished with food, fuel, and drilling supplies. It's in furtherance of showing the audience of BP's impatience with finishing the well, so most of the little annoyances are forgivable. Another scene has a crewman throwing a coin down the moon pool and the camera following it to the BOP on the seafloor and it's a nice shot that shows what's going on (in reality wanton littering offshore is verboten). There's also the seafloor belching gas as the reservoir acts up, which is total bullshit, but scares the shit out of the audience.

There were a couple of changes made from reality that served no purpose in the story that I question. For example, in fighting the kicks, the movie drill crew diverts to overboard. In reality, the crew went to the mud gas separator instead. There are some differences between the two (diverting overboard has slightly more capacity but risks sheening), but for a blowout of that magnitude on that still a night, they probably would have blown up either way (not even the overboard divert lines had enough capacity for this size blowout). If it made no difference, why change the movie if it doesn't further the story? A small change, but one I noticed. There was a bit too much foreshadowing and it was heavy handed (the oiled pelican on the bridge of the Bankston annoyed the piss out of me).

Overall, the crew was depicted as professionals who who got overwhelmed and pressured, but then did the best they could humanly manage in the aftermath. There's some horsing around that's common in reality. A VERY realistic line: "Have you gone Democrat? It's pronounced Slum-BURGER!" (making fun of the pronunciation of the oil services company Schlumberger, pronounced, Shlum-bear-jay). There's also a fictional scene where a crane operator runs up and applies the brakes on a swinging crane to save the evacuation, only to be blown out the cab after success to fall to his death. A noble portrayal, but reality was more ordinary. The crane operator was transferring supplies back and forth between the Bankston and the MODU when the explosion happened, was knocked down, and died.

Some of the most touching scenes are the wife calling the emergency contact number and finding out her husband's rig is on fire. I'm not going to lie: I thought of my wife at that moment. It was really touching. Also the USCG getting call after call about the rig on fire sent chills up your spine.

Donald Vidrine's character, played by John Malcovich, was scary. Personally, I don't quite think he nailed the "Cajun" accent, but he came very close. Vidrine's character was diabolical, yet in a fairly mundane way. His veiled threats are, unfortunately, very realistic.

The film contained a very, very realistic depiction of a vapor cloud explosion. The jetfires I think they even underplayed. There were some action sequences that were a bit too drawn out. The real disaster happened much faster than depicted. There is a lot of action and suspense in the film and they sustain it quite well as the movie unfolds. The Deepwater Horizon was a middle aged drilling rig that had been worked hard and had a lot of overdue maintenance it was pointed out, but they missed a biggie in the film: one of the DP thrusters was kaput.

This was definitely a "Hollywood-ized" version of events, but overall I liked it. The fictionalized parts were mostly for storytelling purposes and generally didn't detract from the big picture of what really happened.

One last thing: Popular Mechanics writer argues who should really be responsible for the Macondo Blowout.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Sunrise on vacation

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods park in Colorado.


See that mountain with all the antennas on it? Cheyenne Mountain. I kept thinking about Russian thermonuclear warheads raining down.

I wonder where the Stargate is kept.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Best book review I've ever read

"The Worst Book Ever Written on Hurricane Katrina" - LGM

Full review at the Boston Review .

From LGM:
Even Cowen’s admissions of error are designed to promote an agenda to destroy traditional education. Noting that New Orleans lacks the well-trained citizenry that will attract many corporations, he gives a half-hearted nod toward a liberal arts education yet calls himself “partly to blame” for training students in “medieval French literature, or higher math, or even critical thinking” because many jobs do not require these skills.
A public apology for supporting the humanities and critical thinking from a university president. You can imagine how this sent me through the roof.
The Inevitable City is one of the worst books I have ever read. Lucky for me I have an outlet when I face that situation. I read it so you don’t have to.

I actually skimmed the book once in a bookstore. There's actually 2 full pages in there where he attacks Ashley Morris as a 'dangerous person from the Internet.'

Reading that review gave me a happy.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

BP's estimate of the Macondo Blowout

What Did BP think the flowrate of Macondo was while it was still flowing into the Gulf?

Well, there’s now an answer to that question.  This document is related to the Riser Insertion tool where dispersant would be injected into the wellhead.  You want to inject dispersant at an optimum ratio to the oil flowing.  For example, let’s say for every 10 barrels per day flowing, you want to inject 1 gallon of Corexit.  If you’re planning on injecting 10 gallons of Corexit, you then probably think there’s 100 barrels per day flowing. 

Take a look at Page 4 (and also note the document is dated July 6th, while the well was still flowing):

Bingo.  BP’s working assumption on the flowrate of the Macondo blowout DURING THE BLOWOUT was 53,000 Barrels per Day, which, by the way, also happens to be nearly spot on to the government’s spillrate calculation during the trial.  

UPDATE: I've had this conversation a few times with people.  Most everyone assumed BP lied about the flowrate during the blowout.  I paid very close attention and, if you watched closely, it usually wasn't BP making the "5,000 Barrels per day" estimate of the flowrate. It was usually a USCG officer saying, but they were always standing right next to BP, especially Doug Suttles:

I've repeatedly told folks that, if you paid very close attention, BP didn't actually lie about the flowrate. They used a USCG officer as a shield to save themselves a few nickels.  That's not lying; that's far worse.  It's cowardice.

Book Review: Bob Cavnar's "Disaster on the Horizon

I've read quite a bit about Macondo.  There's "Fire on the Horizon", "A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea", and now Bob Cavnar's "Disaster on the Horizon".  

The book is billed as 'an insider's take' on Macondo.  Cavnar worked in the field for 10+ years and has 30+ years of total industry experience.  He's been a Company Man on a drilling rig.  

The first half of the book, frankly, is completely skippable.  It's lots of summary of things that have been written better elsewhere.  Furthermore, Cavnar's background is more on the drilling side of things.  The further away from the wellhead he is, the less accurate some of his book is.  For example, he misses the 'how big is bubba's butt' problem with the survival capsules (both left full to the brim, but with less than their rated capacity because they were designed with IMO human factors guidance instead of 'Gulf of Mexico personnel' weight and space in mind).  The book also skips around a lot; sometimes its chronological, sometimes it's organized by topic.  A better editor might have gotten him to stick with one or the other.  

When you get to the second half of the book, things get much more interesting.  It also gets closer to Cavnar's real background.  One thing I especially like is how he tracks how carefully BP, particularly Doug Suttles, parsed his words to where he wasn't technically lying, but he sure as hell wasn't clearly communicating critical information.  

Cavnar also goes through some of the political implications.  He was a generally left/center member of the oil patch (a rarity), but he was also involved in a lot of lobbying activities.  He is dismissive of API's Gerard as a Republican hack who gives donations to money to politicians who will vote the industry's way anyway.  He also thinks that Tom DeLay really shot the industry in the foot with the "Permanent Republican Majority" project where senior, southern, centrist, industry-friendly Democrats were knocked off with gerrymandered districts in places like Texas and Louisiana and replaced with junior, backbench, Republican nobodies.  When Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006, instead of having industry friends on key committees, they had folks like Ed Markey controlling them.  Oops.  Cavnar is also surprisingly complimentary of Markey, who could see long term that repeated disasters would kill the offshore industry faster than any regulation; Markey was, at some level, just trying to get industry to swallow their medicine.  

The one big problem that I see with the later part of Cavnar's book was he thinks the Liner Hanger vs. Long String casing design was a fatal mistake.  While not trying to get too bogged down in the weeds, in my opinion, while it complicated the response to the blowout, it had little influence on the blowout itself and was a tertiary issue.  

In summary, there's some real value in the second half of this book, but the first half should be skipped through as fast as possible.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

20th Maine

The extreme left flank of the 20th Maine at the Battle of Little Round Top.

The 20th Maine regiment, under the command of Col. Joshua Chamberlain, held off two regiments from Alabama, exhausting their ammunition supply. Out of ammo with the Confederates massing for another push, Chamberlain called for a wheeling bayonet charge that shattered the Confederate attack and captured large numbers of opposing infantry.


View from the McMillan Woods towards Cemetery Ridge. 15,000 troops under General Picket charged the US Army under General Hancock.

General Longstreet, the Corps commander was so convinced that the attack would fail, he bordered on insubordination trying to convince Robert E Lee to call off the attack. When it came time to issue the order, Longstreet was in tears and only nodded his head.

Pickett's division was slaughtered by rifles and canon fire as they slogged uphill over open, exposed ground.

Virginia Monument in the foreground.

Play ball!

Port Engineering in a nutshell