Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bill White's Call To Audit The Texas Enterprise Fund

The White campaign has distributed the following email:

Support my call for an independent audit of the Texas Enterprise Fund, so we can have accountability for how Rick Perry is spending public funds.
Sign My Petition
Visit AuditTEF.com Today >>
Rick Perry is using taxpayer dollars from the Texas Enterprise Fund to subsidize companies he selects. He's even drained payroll tax dollars from small businesses and then handed the money to larger competitors.

Texas taxpayers deserve to know whether we have gotten our money's worth from each and every dollar handed out by Rick Perry.

Support the call for an independent audit of the Texas Enterprise Fund -- sign my petition today.

Perry has handed out taxpayer money with questionable results. Some examples:
  • A $35 million subsidy for biotech firm Lexicon Genetics, a company whose investors have ties to Perry's political campaigns. Perry said the subsidy would increase employment, but after the firm received the subsidy, they laid off employees.
  • A $20 million subsidy for failed sub-prime lender Countrywide Financial, a key player in the global financial meltdown.

Texas taxpayers deserve independent, audited answers to important questions. What was the process for awarding subsidies? Were subsidies necessary for their intended purposes? Did companies live up to their promises? Were lobbyists paid to influence decisions about where the money would go? Did subsidized firms compete with other Texas businesses?

Learn more and support my call for an independent audit of the Texas Enterprise Fund, so we can account for how Rick Perry is spending public funds.

Texans deserve a governor who will put our interests ahead of special interests, a governor who will squeeze the value out of every tax dollar.

Pol. Adv. Bill White Campaign

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

70,000 Barrels Of Oil Gushing Into Gulf Every Day


'Angry' Obama
Talks About Gulf Disaster...
SPILL IS 10X WORSE THAN PREVIOUSLY BELIEVED.. 70,000 Barrels Gushing Every Day.. Note: In little noticed comments to McClatchy Newspapers, Ira Leifer, University of California researcher and member of the Obama Administration's Flow Rate Technical Group, said on Monday June 7, 2010 that even BP itself estimated the worst-case flow of an oil leak in the Gulf could reach 100,000 barrels of oil a day. "In the data I've seen, there's nothing inconsistent with BP's worst case scenario," Leifer was quoted as saying.

Equivalent Of Exxon Valdez Every Four Days..

Oil spill could go on for years, experts say

BP Has 'No Certainty' Of Disaster's Scale..

BP CEO Tony Hayward says: the ongoing gulf spill is "relatively tiny"

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) downplays the spill to the Associated Press

Offshore Platform Sinks Off Coast Of Venezuela




PBS Morning Edition
Listen to "Gulf Spill Could Be Much Worse Than Believed"

BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking at the oil gushing out of the pipe. But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing just that.

Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry. A computer program simply tracks particles and calculates how fast they are moving.

Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day. The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent. mp3
The press, for the most part, has been reporting that 5,000 barrels of oil has been spilling into the gulf every day. Until today they have ignored reports from growing numbers of scientists and experts that the flow may be at a rate of at least 24,000 barrels a day.

The press even failed to widely report that on Tuesday, May 4, British Petroleum executives told the Energy and Commerce Committee of the US Congress’ House of Representatives that up to 60,000 barrels of oil per day may be flowing from the well into the Gulf of Mexico.

Analysis of seafloor video, that BP had withheld until two days ago, indicates that approximately 70,000 barrels could be gushing out every day, NPR reports. That figure is at least 10 times the U.S. Coast Guard's original estimate of the flow, and "the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez tanker every four days."

Federal officials are carefully tracking the trajectory of the oil that's made it to the water's surface and, increasingly, on shore. They even put out a daily map.

But there's never been an oil spill this big and this deep before. Nor have authorities ever used chemical dispersant so widely.

As a result, scientists are finding that a lot, if not most, of the oil is lurking below the surface rather than on it, in a gigantic underwater plume the size and trajectory of which remain largely a mystery.

Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.

“There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.”

The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes.

Where is this gigantic underwater plume of oil heading? Oceanographers believe the Gulf Oil Spill Could Devastate U.S. Eastern Seaboard To Canada.

Al Gore has said: Starting 40 years ago, when America's domestic oil production peaked, our dependence on foreign oil has steadily grown.
We are now draining our economy of several hundred billion dollars a year in order to purchase foreign oil in a global market dominated by the huge reserves owned by sovereign states in the Persian Gulf. This enormous and increasing transfer of wealth contributes heavily to our trade and current-account deficits, and enriches regimes in the most unstable region of the world, helping to finance both terrorism and Iran’s relentless effort to build a nuclear arsenal...

Here at home, the illusion that we can meaningfully reduce our dependence on foreign oil by taking extraordinary risks to develop deep reserves in the Outer Continental Shelf is illuminated by the illustration below. The addition to oil company profits may be significant, but the benefits to our national security are trivial.
The small yellow wedge on the top of the graph is the amount of oil available from Continental Shelf oil wells.


Update May 18, 2010 @ 4:55pm
Under pressure from congress BP released two new videos of the leaking riser from their Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well showing the leak after activation of the riser insertion tool. BP claims the insertion tool is siphoning 1,000 barrels of the 70,000 barrels per day flowing from the broken riser pipe.

The first video of the insertion in the end of the broken riser:


The second video (click full screen bottom right of the video frame) the bent section of the riser pipe juxg above the blowout preventer. As was reported to me earlier, it looks like it is definitely getting worse. At about 2:30 into the video, is a closeup -- scary stuff:

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

30% Of Americans Are Unsure If Or Believe Environmentalists Blew Up the Deepwater Horizon Drilling Rig

Ten percent of Americans believe environmentalists intentionally sabotaged the oil rig Deepwater Horizon off the Gulf Coast according to a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling. I'm still hearing some of my conservative friends say liberal environmentalists plotted with Obama's government to blow up the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico to advance their radical environmentalist anti-drilling political agenda!

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh floated the idea on his nationally syndicated talk show. "Think Progress reported on Limbaugh's conspiracy that is intended to shift blame from Big Oil to liberals in general and Obama in particular:
As the scale of the disaster caused by the explosion at an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana became more apparent last week, right-wing radio talker Rush Limbaugh unleashed a conspiracy theory suggesting that someone intentionally blew up the rig in order to “head off more oil drilling” ... "So, since they’re sending SWAT teams down there, folks, since they’re sending SWAT teams to inspect the other rigs, what better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I’m just noting the timing here," said Rush Limbaugh on his radio program
Picking up on Limbaugh’s and oil spill truther's liberal conspiracy theory on fringe websites the Fox News conservative megaphone is also pushing the conspiracy theory that hardcore liberal environmentalist plotted with Obama's government to blow up the rig to advance their environmentalist anti-drilling political agenda. On Fox and Friends, former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino said she was “not trying to introduce a conspiracy theory, but was this deliberate,” wondered Perino.
Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen noted that if "undecideds" are included in the polling results, the number of Americans who are unsure about or believe the environmental sabotage theory rises to more than thirty percent." Just 9% of voters say they think environmentalists caused the spill while 22% are unsure and 69% don't believe they had anything to do with it," Jensen writes.

What really caused the blowout? An account given by two workers on the drilling rig and corroborated to some extent by Transocean, owner of the Deepwater drilling platform claims that BP, owner of the well, made key decisions to cut costs by short cutting proper procedures.

The final short cut was to reverse the order of cementing steps used to seal the well. After, cementing the casing, filling in the area between the pipe and the walls of the well, it is standard procedure to pour wet cement down the inside of the drill pipe, which then sinks thousands of feet down through the drilling mud before the cement hardens into a plug. Then the standard procedure is to wait for the cement plug to harden for a period of six hours before the drilling mud is removed. The account given by the two rig workers says that the drilling mud was removed before the cement was poured down the riser pipe.
Weighted drilling mud fills the pipe to hold back the oil and gas formation pressure while the well is being drilled. Properly weighted drilling mud prevents a blowout during drilling. As the heavy drilling mud was displaced by lighter sea water, without the cement plug in place, the reduced pressure inside the well riser pipe allowed the formation pressure to blowout of the pipe.
According to account, BP asked for and receive permission from the federal Minerals Management Service to displace the mud before the final plugging operation had begun. [WSJ Online]

Why didn't the blowout preventer work after the blowout occured?The blowout preventer had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system that provides emergency power to the "variable bore ram" device that was supposed to cut and seal the pipe to stop the flow of oil, a ram cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through pipe joints that made up 10 percent of the drill pipe, all of which really made no difference because the blowout preventer had been modified so that one of its "variable bore ram" drivers could be used for routine testing and was no longer designed to activate in an emergency. That’s the story told in the WashPost coverage on the devastating opening statement in a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Henry Waxman says that his House Committee's investigation into the Gulf oil spill reveals that the blowout preventer had a leak in a crucial hydraulic system before the blowout. Without hydraulic pressure the blowout preventer's "variable bore ram," intended to close tight around the pipe and seal it, can not activate. And at a hearing in Louisiana on Tuesday, the government engineer who gave oil giant BP the final approval to drill admitted that he never asked for proof that the blowout preventer worked. [Huffington Post]

In the days after the blowout BP engineers tried to activate the blowout preventer, but failed because the device had been greatly modified and the diagrams BP got from the equipment's owner didn't match the device's new configuration, congressional investigators said Wednesday. BP engineers wasted many hours before figuring this out. Who ordered the alterations in the blowout preventer? Transocean, the owner of the blowout preventer and of the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig, said any alterations would have come at BP's instigation; BP, which owns the well and hired Transocean to drill it, said it had never sought the changes.

Testimony given before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said alterations to the blowout preventer prevented the massive "variable bore ram" from activating. This ram is intended to cut the pipe and seal it. The alteration had connected a useless test ram - not the variable bore ram - to the socket that was supposed to activate the variable bore ram. [Kansas City Star, a McClatchy Newspaper]

More:

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Offshore Drilling Outpaced Oil Industry's Safety Knowledge

McClatchy News Picture right - The offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon burns in the Gulf of Mexico shortly before it sank April 22, 2010. More McClatchy News photos. |

Over the past 15 years, oil companies have drilled deeper and farther into the Gulf of Mexico, taking on new risks in the hunt for new deposits of oil.

The dangers of deep water drilling are acute, where deep ocean currents combine with frigid temperatures and crushing pressures to make dangerous accidents more likely -- and much harder to fix.

Yet, oil industry's understanding of how deep water pressures affect drilling procedures and equipment, such as blowout preventers, have failed to keep pace as oil companies moved to deep water drilling.


TheYoungTurks — April 30, 2010


TheYoungTurks — May 06, 2010
Over the years those concerned about deep water offshore drilling have pointed to a series of warnings, malfunctions and near-misses.

Republicans have responded with ridicule and "drill baby drill" contempt to any suggestion by Democrats that oil companies were rushing unprepared and unregulated to offshore drilling leases.

Democrats are concerned about deep water offshore drilling because federal government and industry studies describe the industry's understanding for stanching a major deep water well blowout as "nonexistent with no guidelines or procedures for deep water blowout containment.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles announced in a press briefing announced Saturday that initial efforts to contain the Deepwater Horizon oil gusher with a 100-ton, four-story concrete-and-steel containment dome have failed - due to unforeseen developments.

The containment dome, known as a cofferdam, was lowered onto the leaking wellhead Friday, with the intent of pumping the leaking oil up a pipe to the sea surface a mile above.

After the containment dome was lowered onto the oil gushing wellhead, a slurry of "slush-like" methane hydrate crystals unexpectedly formed on the inside of the dome’s surface. The hydrate gave the dome positive buoyancy and clogged the oil outtake at the dome’s roof. Methane hydrate is natural gas that under the extreme pressure and low temperatures of the 5,000 foot deep ocean floor is compressed into a semi-frozen state. BP had not anticipated that methane hydrates could form within the containment dome at such a rapid rate.

The speed in which the containment chamber filled with hydrate is an indication that the oil flow out of the well could be much higher than the reported 5,000 barrels per day. The volume of oil flowing into the chamber would need be very high for the hydrate to form so quickly. Ian MacDonald, professor of oceanography at Florida State University who specializes in tracking ocean oil seeps from satellite imagery, estimates the daily rate to be 25,000 barrels of oil per day. Another scientist, John Amos, a geologist who has worked as an industry consultant, also says the more realistic number is 20,000 barrels per day.

The containment dome has been moved 200 meters from the disaster site, and is sitting on the sea bed as BP engineers attempt to work out a solution to the rapid methane hydrate formation within the dome.

That same methane hydrate has also been implicated in the oil rig explosion and fire when it "blew out" to the drilling platform surface in its natural gas form. The oil industry does seem to comprehend there are dangerous risks associated with deep water drilling that they do not understand. A publicly available Halliburton PowerPoint presentation from November 2009 contains the statement, "Destabilization of hydrates during cementing and production in deep water environments is a challenge to the safety and economics."


The dangers of deep water drilling have been laid bare by the Deepwater Horizon blowout and growing oil spill. Adm. Thad Allen, the Coast Guard's highest-ranking officer, who was appointed by the Obama administration to take command of the containment effort, acknowledged from the outset that the options were limited by what he called "the tyranny of depth."

Republicans have pushed for years to lift a 1981 ban on offshore drilling, saying it will increase domestic oil supplies. Republicans also want to legalize drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

While advocating offshore and ANWAR drilling conservatives also pushed their agenda of downsizing government by reducing government's oversight role of industry, including the oil industry. Conservatives argue that industry self-regulation is preferable to government having a role in the regulation of business -- That would be socialist government.

We've seen this conservative anti-government agenda manifested in decreasing inspection of agricultural products, which resulted in a surge of food-borne illnesses. We've seen GOP Blind Faith In Unregulated Banks and Wall Street Markets Stoke Economic Crisis, a near-collapse of the U.S. and World economy and a deep recession. And now we that industry self-regulation policy at the root of the growing Deepwater Horizon disaster.

NYTimes:Regulator Deferred to Oil Industry on Offshore Rig Safety
Agency records show that from 2001 to 2007, there were 1,443 serious drilling accidents in offshore operations, leading to 41 deaths, 302 injuries and 356 oil spills. Yet the federal agency continues to allow the oil industry largely to police itself, saying that the best technical experts work for industry, not for the government.
..
Last year, BP, the owner of the well that blew in the gulf, teamed up with other offshore operators to oppose a proposed rule that would have required stricter safety and environmental standards and more frequent inspections. BP said that “extensive, prescriptive” regulations were not needed for offshore drilling, and urged the minerals service to allow it and other operators to define the steps they would take to ensure safety largely on their own.
U.S. Oil Regulator Ceded Safety Oversight to Drillers - WSJ.com - The small U.S. agency that oversees offshore drilling doesn't write or implement most safety regulations, having gradually shifted such responsibilities to the oil industry itself for more than a decade.
Instead, the Minerals Management Service—[for the most part still operating with conservative staff and policies installed during the Bush Administration]—sets broad performance goals for the industry. Oil producers and drilling companies are then free to decide for themselves how to meet those goals, industry executives and former regulators say.
Read more:
mcclatchydc.com
Deepwater Horizon Blowout - The True Story

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mothers Day 2010



Norman Rockwell's
Mother Tucking
Children in Bed
(1921)

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Blowout - The True Story

Have you heard your conservative Republican friends and neighbors wonder out loud if liberal environmentalists plotted with Obama's government to blow up the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico to advance their radical environmentalist anti-drilling political agenda? "Think Progress reports on the latest right-wing conspiracy to shift blame from Big Oil to liberals in general and Obama in particular:

As the scale of the disaster caused by the explosion at an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana became more apparent last week, right-wing radio talker Rush Limbaugh unleashed a conspiracy theory suggesting that someone intentionally blew up the rig in order to “head off more oil drilling” ... "So, since they’re sending SWAT teams down there, folks, since they’re sending SWAT teams to inspect the other rigs, what better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I’m just noting the timing here," said Rush Limbaugh on his radio program
Picking up on Limbaugh’s and oil spill truther's liberal conspiracy theory on fringe websites the Fox News conservative megaphone is also pushing the conspiracy theory that hardcore liberal environmentalist plotted with Obama's government to blow up the rig to advance their environmentalist anti-drilling political agenda. On Fox and Friends, former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino said she was “not trying to introduce a conspiracy theory, but was this deliberate?” ... “If there was sabotage involved,” wondered Perino. Later in the same day's show, host Steve Doocy asked Fox Business’ Eric Bolling to respond to people who have suggested that “there’s a possibility this could be sabotage.” Citing Perino, Bolling engaged in conspiracy speculation:
BOLLING: The question is did they let this thing leak? Did they let it leak a little bit and say, “boy I don’t know.” I mean, the conspiracy theorists would say, maybe they let it leak for a while and then they address the issue.
Another Fox program host Gretchen Carlson called Bolling’s speculation “a humongous accusation.” He agreed, adding, “but if they’re going to try to pull drilling, that may be the way to do it.” Watch video left:

BP America Inc. President Lamar McKay blamed the disaster on [the well blowout preventer on the gulf sea-bed in 5000 feet of water, that he called] “a failed piece of equipment,” in an interview with ABC News yesterday, adding that they “don’t know why it failed yet.” The blowout preventer is a 500,000 pound massive failsafe hydraulic valve intended to cut and seal the well pipe in case of a catastrophic blowout. The disaster occurred as Halliburton was cementing, or sealing, the well bore so that the drilling platform could be moved to a new drilling location.
An offshore blowout is when seawater and drilling mud containing gas from the well spew up from the well pipe onto the drilling rig floor; A blowout preventer (BOP) is a large valve that can seal off the wellhead, when the drilling crew loses control of drilling mud pressure and formation pressure forces oil or gas up to the drilling platform. By closing this valve (usually operated remotely via hydraulic actuators), the drilling crew can prevent a blowout of the well bore.


Oil industry expert talks to
Fox News America's Newsroom
Oil wells do blowout and blowout preventers do fail -- absent any liberal conspiracy to blow up off shore rigs. In fact, Deepwater Horizon blowout is the second such deep water blowout in less than a year.

Just eight months ago, the BOP failed on a deep-water well in the Timor Sea, north-west of Australia. After five attempts and 10 weeks a relief well was drilled and the blowout flow, which was much smaller than Deepwater Horizon blowout flow, was stemmed.

An analysis of incidents in the Gulf of Mexico by the Texas A&M researchers showed that offshore blowouts have continued at "a fairly regular rate since 1960 despite the use of BOPs. A 2007 paper from the Minerals Management Service said between 1992 and 2006 there have been 39 actual blowouts.

Drilling for oil at depths greater than 3000 feet of water was rare a decade ago, but the profit to be made from deep water wells has made exploration economically feasible. Such wells are now common off the coasts of Brazil, Angola and Nigeria as well as in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Deepwater Horizon well head is more than a mile under water on the gulf sea-floor. A report by engineering consulting firm URS Corp. in 2002 concluded that "Technologies used in shallow waters are not adequate for water depths over 3000 feet. Engineering requirements and operational certification procedures for equipment used for deep water drilling are not well understood or tested.


Video of a blowout preventer being landed on a sea-floor well head and control cables connected by ROV.
In 2005 petroleum engineering researchers from Texas A&M University suggested that drilling in the "dangerous and unknown" ultra-deep environment required new blowout control measures: "While drilling as a whole may be advancing to keep up with these environments, some parts lag behind. An area that has seen this stagnation and resulting call for change has been blowout control."

A 2003 report co-authored by the then-director of technology development for Transocean, the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig that caught fire on April 20 and sank two days later, delivered at an industry conference warned that the industry wasn't taking time to find and fix underlying problems that commonly plagued blowout preventers. "Floating drilling rig downtime due to poor BOP (blowout preventer) reliability is a common and very costly issue confronting all offshore drilling contractors," the report said.

A 2008 report authored by officials of BP America and Transocean and published by the Society of Petroleum Engineers raised new questions about whether the blowout preventers on the deep water wells, like that the Deepwater Horizon was drilling, could face a new problem. http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/05/06/1175820/cantwell-2003-report-revealed.html

A 1999 report commissioned by the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling suggests failures of underwater blowout preventers designed to stop oil spills like the massive one threatening the Gulf Coast were far from rare. Citing a Minerals Management Service report, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said there were 117 failures of blowout preventers during a two-year period in the late 1990s on the outer continental shelf of the United States. Sen. Maria Cantwell is the chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee's oceans, atmosphere, fisheries and Coast Guard subcommittee.

The unclassified version of the 1990 report said the failures involved 83 wells drilled by 26 rigs in depths from 1,300 feet to 6,560 feet. A similar report released by the agency in 1997 found that between 1992 and 1996 there were 138 failures of blowout preventers on underwater wells being drilled off Brazil, Norway, Italy and Albania. No additional studies were commissioned by the Bush administration during his term from January 2001 to January 2009.

Horizon.jpgThe Deepwater Horizon was a large semi-submersible (meaning that it floats on large pontoons that actually float below the surface) and contains drilling, completion, cementing, and production facilities all on one vessel.

Transocean Horizon LocatorMap.jpgDeepwater Horizon was drilling an exploration well in a deep-water area known as Mississippi Canyon off of the coast of Louisiana.

Once a exploration well is drilled and a producing oil field discovery is confirmed it is sealed and multiple production wells are drilled. Initial reports of the accident said that the Deepwater Horizon platform drilling crew had set a cement plug deep in the well, to seal the exploration bore hole, and were displacing the weighted drilling mud in the riser pipe from the ocean floor to the drilling platform with sea water to recover the drilling mud.
Weighted drilling mud fills the pipe to hold back the oil and gas formation pressure while the well is being drilled. Properly weighted drilling mud prevents a blowout. The riser was 5,000 feet of 21" diameter pipe, some buoyant, some negatively buoyant.
As soon as the weighted drilling mud was recovered the platform was to be moved to another location to drill a production well in the newly confirmed oil field.

Initial speculation was that one or all of the cement plugs failed, and as the heavier drilling mud was displaced by lighter sea water, the reduced hydrostatic head pressure allowed the formation pressure to blowout of the well riser pipe.

Initial consensus was that the BOP, 5,000 feet below sea level, was irreparably damaged when the drilling platform and 5,000 feet of riser pipe collapsed to the sea floor. ROVs worked directly on the BOP over several days, doing everything that should have activated it but all efforts failed to stop the flow of oil and gas.

---------------- Updated May 12, 2010 ----------------

What really caused the blowout? An account given by two workers on the drilling rig and corroborated to some extent by Transocean, owner of the Deepwater drilling platform claims that BP, owner of the well, made a key decision to reverse the order of cementing steps used to seal the well. After, cementing the casing, filling in the area between the pipe and the walls of the well, it is standard procedure to pour wet cement down the inside of the drill pipe, which then sinks thousands of feet down through the drilling mud before the cement hardens into a plug. Then the standard procedure is to wait for the cement plug to harden for a period of six hours before the drilling mud is removed. The account given by the two rig workers says that the drilling mud was removed before the cement was poured down the riser pipe.
Weighted drilling mud fills the pipe to hold back the oil and gas formation pressure while the well is being drilled. Properly weighted drilling mud prevents a blowout during drilling. As the heavy drilling mud was displaced by lighter sea water, without the cement plug in place, the reduced pressure inside the well riser pipe allowed the formation pressure to blowout of the pipe.
According to account, BP asked for and receive permission from the federal Minerals Management Service to displace the mud before the final plugging operation had begun. [WSJ Online]

Why didn't the blowout preventer work after the blowout occured? The blowout preventer had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system that provides emergency power to the "variable bore ram" device that was supposed to close the flow of oil, a ram cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through joints that made up 10 percent of the drill pipe, all of which really made no difference because the blowout preventer had been modified so that one of its "variable bore ram" drivers could be used for routine testing and was no longer designed to activate in an emergency. That’s the story told in the WashPost coverage on the devastating opening statement in a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Henry Waxman says that his House Committee's investigation into the Gulf oil spill reveals that the blowout preventer had a leak in a crucial hydraulic system before the blowout. Without hydraulic pressure the blowout preventer's "variable bore ram," intended to close tight around the pipe and seal it, cam not activate. And at a hearing in Louisiana on Tuesday, the government engineer who gave oil giant BP the final approval to drill admitted that he never asked for proof that the blowout preventer worked. [Huffington Post]

In the days after the blowout BP engineers tried to activate the blowout preventer, but failed because the device had been greatly modified and the diagrams BP got from the equipment's owner didn't match the device's new configuration, congressional investigators said Wednesday. BP engineers wasted many hours before figuring this out. Who ordered the alterations in the blowout preventer? Transocean, the owner of the blowout preventer and of the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig, said any alterations would have come at BP's instigation; BP, which owns the well and hired Transocean to drill it, said it had never sought the changes.

Testimony given before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said alterations to the blowout preventer prevented the massive "variable bore ram" from activating. This ram is intended to cut the pipe and seal it. The alteration had connected a useless test ram - not the variable bore ram - to the socket that was supposed to activate the variable bore ram. [Kansas City Star, a McClatchy Newspaper]

----------------

Witnesses describe Deepwater Horizon rig blowout -- Video of disaster
It was a calm night, so when methane gas hit surface, being heavier than air, it settled around the drilling platform deck. The gas grew so dense on deck that it began to invade compartments as the blowout strengthened.

As the electric generator engines that run the rig began to breath in the dense gas/air mix, the engines ran away uncontrollably and exploded. The generator explosions ignited the dense cloud of well gas on deck, which in turn ignited the blowout flow from the riser pipe.

Similar explosions happened in the mud pump room, destroying inner walls, which, according to the reported accounts, were unfortunately adjacent to the living quarters. In a strange twist of fate, the off-shift crew was reportedly having a party in the living quarters, celebrating 7 years of accident free performance. It is reported there were 7 BP executives on board the the drilling platform visiting on the rig for the celebration at the time of the blowout.
Houston Chronicle:

More on this Story

Before the blowout, the rig's crew had been replacing heavy and valuable drilling mud with lighter salt sea­water in the top section of pipe known as the riser . Minutes before the Deepwater Horizon exploded in fire, workers on the deck heard a thump, then a hissing sound [as the well began to blowout.] Gas alarms sounded and the rig shook.

Seawater and [drilling] mud containing gas from the well spewed up through the crown of the derrick and rained down on the drilling floor; fumes reportedly moved into the “safe zones” where the electric generators are located. The generators raced out of control as they sucked gas into the air intakes.

When the electric power surged, light bulbs exploded, computers, control systems and other electric systems were destroyed, leaving the rig in darkness except for the light from fires and explosions that ripped apart walls, according to accounts derived from interviews with attorneys representing survivors, missing rig workers and their families, as well as experts in the field of offshore drilling operations.

Kevin Eugene, a steward on the rig, said he was in his bunk watching TV about 10 p.m. when a “big old loud boom” and an alarm went off “almost simultaneously.”

The lights went out. The platform began shaking.

“I thought the place was falling in the ocean, that the whole rig was collapsing,” said the father of four from Slidell, La.

Ceiling tiles, dust and debris rained down from overhead. Clad only in his pajama pants and undershirt, he scrambled down a hallway toward an exit to a stairwell that would lead to a lifeboat up on deck. He heard more explosions, but can't remember how many.

When he got onto the deck, he felt a blast of heat and saw flames about 200 yards away.

“I mean it was the hugest, biggest fire I've ever seen,” Eugene said. “It was just a big old ball of fire up there on the derrick. The whole derrick was on fire. The fire was shooting from out the well over there that the derrick was connected to and you could hear the gas gushing out.”

The deck was covered with oily mud.

...

When the alarms go off “you shut it down,” said Daniel Becnel, an attorney from Reserve, La., who has filed lawsuits on behalf of fishermen, oystermen and other Louisiana residents claiming damages from the spill. “They've got panic switches all over the place.”

Those switches are supposed to activate a blowout preventer on the ocean floor, a huge and complex tower of valves and pipe crimpers designed to shut down a well in an emergency. It didn't work.

Although it had been tested beforehand, BP now says robot submarines have discovered at least one problem with the blowout preventer, though it is unclear whether it caused the malfunction.

“We have found that there are some leaks on the hydraulic controls,” said Bob Fryar, senior vice president of BP's exploration and production operations in Angola, in southwestern Africa.
There is much more. The Houston Chronicle story also discusses the issues around the cementing of the well and how that can lead to blowouts sometimes.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that, after review of satellite imagery and calculations made by experts, the BP Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well may actually be flowing at a much higher rate that the unified command is admitting. According the the report, Ian MacDonald, professor of oceanography at Florida State University who specializes in tracking ocean oil seeps from satellite imagery, estimates the daily rate to be 25,000 barrels of oil per day. He says he has shared his data with NOAA scientists, who didn't dispute his findings.

Another scientist, John Amos, a geologist who has worked as an industry consultant tracking oil spills using satellite imagery, is the one who presented data to NOAA last week, which then raised its estimates from 1,000 barrels a day to 5,000. Amos says the 5,000 barrel estimate is at the "extremely low end" of their estimates. He says the more realistic number is 20,000 barrels per day. If these numbers are true, and it does take 90 days to get the relief well drilled, the oil spill will be 8 or 9 times larger than the Exxon Valdez.

The flowing wellhead pressure may be as high as 10,000 PSI and that, even if the BOP could be closed now, could very well be leaking in the locking mechanism below the stack. Leaks always get worse, not better, as anyone knows who's been annoyed by a dripping kitchen faucet. The only problem here is that this faucet is "dripping" at upwards of 25,000 barrels per day. One industry source, who has knowledge of the operations, said, "[the BOP] isn't closed and In my professional opinion, its not going to close..."

The well has now been flowing uncontrolled for 13 days. These units are designed to slam shut, not be flowed through, at least at these high rates and pressures. Erosion of the ram faces and the bore is now likely severe, further reducing its chances of ever actually shutting the well in and sealing.

Preparations are now being made to cut the riser above the BOP in preparation of installing a containment structure to capture the flow of oil. Essentially, it is a large box structure that is lowered over the source of the leak and connected by a riser to the surface. Oil will then flow up the riser to a ship that will process and collect the oil. It is believed that, if successful, this structure could capture up to 85% of the produced oil. This is a technique that has been used successfully in shallow water, but never this deep. It appears that the containment structure is the only chance BP has of slowing the growth of the spill, at least until they get the well killed by a relief well, or if well bore damage slows the flow by itself.

If the flow of oil can not be stopped soon, experts are worried that the Gulf Loop Current could pick up the slick and carry it toward Florida, through the keys, around the Florida panhandle. At that point the slick will be picked up by the enter the Gulf Stream and move up the eastern seaboard.

The Loop Current begins in the Caribbean and travels clockwise up to the Gulf Stream, which runs along the eastern seaboard of the US and into Canada. But if this oil gets picked up by the Loop Current and carried into the Gulf Streem, the scope of the disaster could broaden, affecting the eastern seaboard as far north as Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.

"If oil is swept up into the Loop Current--which moves at about 3.3 to 6.5 feet (one to two meters) a second--there's essentially no way to stop it," Tony Sturges, professor emeritus in oceanography at Florida State University, told National Geographic. "Once [oil] gets into the loop current, you can bet the farm it will go around to the south" of the Florida Peninsula and into the Gulf Stream." Florida should be bracing for the worst, he added. The noxious oil could get pulled into estuaries, harbors and coastal waterways, affecting nurseries for valuable fisheries.


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The Digital Campaign Trail Is Where Elections Are Won Today

PBS News Hour Ray Suarez reports on how both political parties are connecting with constituents on the Web.
Listen to "Wired White House Looks to Harness New Media" - How Democrats are harnessing new media following President Obama's successful presidential campaign on the Web. mp3
Listen to "Republicans Hope to Maintain Social Media Edge into Midterm Elections" - Republicans Hope to Maintain Social Media Edge into Midterm Elections. mp3
It should be obvious from Obama's 2008 Presidential Election that the web would begin to make a difference in political campaigning. But, there is still hesitation to use the Internet extensively in political campaigns. Many campaigns still focus exclusively on direct mail, phone banking, block walking and television while ignoring Internet mass media audiences. Less than 10% of political consultants believe the internet is an effective channel to reach voters.

What accounts for candidates’ and consultants’ delay in embracing digital strategies, including online web advertising? Many political strategists dismiss the Internet because they think it does not reach the “right” people. For them the Internet is seen as a medium for the younger generation who do not vote in the same numbers as, say, older retired voters.

Yet, according to a October 2009 eVoter Institute research study (PDF) the majority of all voters (87%) today expect candidates to have an official rich media web site and 70% expect them to use it to raise money and for posting videos. 67% of voters expect candidates to use on-line ads, webcasts and campaign video on other sites.

A Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project study conducted in December 2009 shows that while only 38% of U.S. adults age 65+ go online 70% of adults in the next-oldest 50-64 age group regularly use the Internet. That compares to 81% for the 30-49 group and 93% for the 18-29 age group. The study also reveals that 55% of adults across all age groups connect to the internet wirelessly, either through a WiFi or WiMax connection via their laptops or through their hand-held device like a smart phone.

Another Pew Research Center research report titled "The Internet's Role in Campaign 2008," published in April 2009, revealed that some 74% of internet users--representing 55% of the entire adult population--went online in 2008 to get involved in the political process or to get news and information about the election. (More information)

The two most commonly thought of elements of a digital campaign strategy tend to be e-mail and a static bill board Web site. In 2010 that type of limited internet strategy is badly out of date.


YouTube for Politics


Google Adwords


Google Demographic Bidding
To Target Ad Placement

The modern digital strategy employs campaign websites with rich media, videos and plenty of interactivity through social media channels with contextual web advertising to drive people to the rich-media campaign website.

Relatively cheap web ad buys are employed to drive people to the official rich media website to watch streaming video and television-style campaign ads and listen to podcasts.

Persuasion comes in many forms. It happens when people are persuaded to click a web ad to go to a candidate's or advocacy group's media rich website where they can be persuaded to give money, or send their e-mail address and cell phone number for future communication, to follow on Twitter or to even change their mind about a candidate or issue.

The modern digital strategy can be used for reinforcement as well as persuasion, by bolstering other traditional fund-raising and get-out-the-vote programs, including direct mail, phone banking, block walking, yard signs, apparel and old media television and radio buys.

On March 1, 2010, the Dallas Morning News wrote about how Rick Perry is running a new kind of campaign:
Rick Perry's campaign has a radical approach that eschews traditional voter turnout efforts in favor of extensive use of social media networks to win Tuesday's GOP primary.

Haven't seen a Perry yard sign? There aren't any, and Perry has no local office to house them. Dreading yet another phone call from a political candidate? Don't worry; Perry has no phone banks. And you probably won't see supporters with T-shirts knocking at the door.

But you may get a Facebook message from a friend in your social circle. You're more likely to find Perry campaign appeals on Twitter, even Craigs List, than to see his mug on a highway billboard.

The new approaches are largely a response to a changing electorate. Tech-savvy young adults who couldn't or wouldn't vote 10 years ago are more actively involved in the political process, and they're more likely to want to follow a candidate on Twitter than plant a sign in their front yard.

What's more, it's becoming increasing difficult to reach even older voters by phone. With everyone carrying a cellphone, landlines have become a wasteland for solicitations.

Television is a problem as well, with prospective voters using DVRs to speed through commercials. And the cost of advertising on television has never been higher.

"Campaigns are evolving just like people and technology," said Mari Woodlief, president of Dallas-based Allyn Media. "You have to go where the people are, and more and more that's become the Internet."

"We probably don't know what the highest and best use will be, but the Internet and social media has become an effective campaigning and fundraising tool," Woodlief said.

The governor's ground game is mostly devoted to a movement he calls the Perry Home Headquarters program, built on the same framework as social media sites.

That part of the approach is nothing new. In 2004, President George W. Bush developed a grass-roots program that called on a massive voter turnout effort 72 hours before Election Day. The program relied on volunteers to get their friends and neighbors to the polls.

Perry's effort differs in that it's mostly Internet-based. Part-time workers used Facebook and MySpace to sign up potential voters. Others, in it for a buck, used Craigs List, the online classified ads site, to gain an advantage.
The Dallas Morning News apparently has not noticed that since last fall Perry's Democratic opponent, Bill White, has been running a sophisticated Internet-based campaign complete with targeted web ads popping up everywhere for Texas Internet users.

National news blog front page with a web ad targeted only to Texas readers.

White Texas reader targeted FaceBook ad appearing in the FaceBook page for Collin County Commissioner's Court Judge Keith Self, a very conservative Republican


Politicians have long understood the persuasive nature of television and radio ads, yard signs and volunteers handing out literature or walking around the neighborhood. They also understand the ability of cable television ads to deliver targeted messages to specific audiences. Politicians are now learning that the Internet enables them to reach voters that are prohibitively expensive or just plain impossible to reach through old-media printed newspaper, radio or television buys or even phone bank telephoning.

Plus, none of the traditional old-media modes of communication give the viewer or listener a direct and immediate way to respond to a call to action, ask for more information or send money to a campaign.

But, an online ad can immediately turn persuasion into action. While a television commercial can tell you that a candidate needs your help, only an online advertisement can send a viewer directly to a Web site that accepts credit cards. A radio ad can fire you up to spread the candidate’s message, but only an online ad lets you forward the message to your friends.


Statistics Show Reliance On The Internet
Is Bigger Than You Think

The majority of U.S. households now have high-speed broadband connection to the Internet, particularly in Collin Co. Among the entire population the internet has surpassed newspapers and is roughly twice as important as radio as a source of political news and information for voters.

The Internet also continues to make strong gains to displace TV as the dominant information source. Among internet users and young adults, these differences are even more magnified. This provides an opportunity for political candidates to effectively execute Web-based campaign strategies.

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