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.