Gulf Oil Spill Could Have Been Stopped 48 days Earlier

For 48 days and nights, the Deepwater Horizon well spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico, when it could have been shut down. We now know this:

It is very likely that if the top kill had been designed to deliver more than 109 bpm of 16.4 ppg drilling fluid below the BOP stack for a sustained period, the Macondo blowout could have been stopped between May 26-28, 2010. Given that the well was successfully shut-in with the capping stack in July, and that the subsequent bullhead (static) kill was successful, certainly a higher rate top kill would have been successful at that time.

That is the pull quote from a research paper submitted to the President's Oil Spill Commission by Dr. Mayank Tyagi et al. of LSU. The Commission's Chief Counsel's Report 2011 puts the onus on BP for discontinuing the top kill attempt. Dr. Tyagi uses a New York Times illustration as his figure 2, indicating some faith in their reporting. The New York Times reported that Energy Secretary Steven Chu was responsible for stopping the effort against BP's wishes.

His role gradually deepened as he assembled a team of scientists from the Department of Energy laboratories, universities and other government agencies. By late May, his confidence had grown and he was giving orders to BP officials, including his demand to stop the top kill effort even though some BP engineers believed it could still succeed.

"A lot of us said ‘don't start it,' and he was the one who said ‘stop,' " said a BP technician who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the company. "But having done all we had already done, I thought we should have completed the final two operations. He was not keen to listen. BP people said, ‘Let's try these last two steps,' but he said, ‘No, stop.' "

We know from the factual record that the last joint National Incident Command - BP press conference was held on May 27. The next press event by the NIC did not occur until June 1 and BP was not invited. Somebody has some explaining to do!