Interview with Deepwater Horizon Rig Survivor

Edger (from DailyKos) had a diary up yesterday with some very good information in it on the developing Gulf Rig disaster.
Animation: Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Growth and Movement

There was a very good interview linked to in Edgers tip jar which I have transcribed, because it had a very important message in it.


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Um James, Dallas Texas, WBAP, Go right ahead sir.

Um, just wanted to clear up a few things with the petroleum engineer.
Everything he said was correct. I was actually on the rig when it exploded and was at work.

Alright lets Slow down, woah woah, woah woah, hold on....
So you were working on this rig when it exploded.

Yes sir.

OK. Go ahead

We had set the bottom cement plug for the inner casing string, which was the production liner for the well and had set what's called a field assembly in the top of the well.

At that point the BOP stack, that he was talking about, the Blow Out Preventer, was tested
Don't know the results of that test, however it must have passed, because at that point they elected to displace the riser, the marine riser from the vessel to the sea floor, they displaced all the mud out of the riser, preparing to unlatch from the well two days later. So they displaced it with sea water.

When they concluded the test of the BOP stack and the inner liner, concluded everything was good...

All right let me, let me slow you down, let me slow you down.
So they do all these tests to make sure that the infrastructure can handle what's about to happen.

Correct, we're testing the negative pressure and positive pressure of the well, the casing and the actual(axel?) marine riser.

OK...I'm with you, go ahead.

So after the conclusion of the test they simply open the BOP stack back up..

And the test, and the test as best as you know was sufficient.

It should have been, yes sir, otherwise they would never have opened it back up

OK next step, go ahead.

Next step, they open the annular, the upper part of the BOP stack....

Which has as it's purpose, why do you do that?

So that you can gain access back to the well bore. When you close the stack that's basically a humungous hydraulic valve, that is closing off everything from below and above. Its like a gate valve on the sea floor.
Thats a very simplistic way of explaining a BOP, it's a very complicated piece of equipment....

OK basically it's like a plug

Once they open that plug, to go ahead and start cementing the top of the well, the well bore, we would cement the top and then basically we would pull off, another rig would slide over and do the rest of the completions work.

When they opened the well, is when the gas, the well kicked and we took a humungous gas bubble kick up through the well bore, it literally pushed the sea water all the way to the crown of the rig which is about 240 feet in the air.

OK so gas got into it and blew the top off of it. Now don't hang up I want to continue with you, because I want to ask you some questions related to this. OK?

Including, including has this sort of thing ever happened before and why you think it might have happened?

Right back to James, that's not his real name, Dallas WBAP.
I'm not going to give the working title of what you did there, either James but I wanted to finish..
So the gentleman was right about the point that obviously some gas got into the, I'll call it the funnel..

And that's not uncommon Mark, anytime you're drilling an oil well there is a constant battle between what the mud weight, the drilling fluid that we use to maintain pressure on the well bore itself.
There's a balance of the well's pushing gas one way and you're pushing mud the other way. There's a delicate balance has to be maintained at all times to keep the gas from coming back in these, what we call kicks.

We always get gas back in the mud, but the goal of the whole situation is to try to control the kicks.
Not allow the pressure differential between the vessel and the well bore.

In this case obviously too much gas got in.

Correct. And this well had not a bad history of producing lots of gas. It was touch and go a few times, but it's just not terribly uncommon, you're almost always going to get gas back from a well. We have systems to deal with the gas...

So what may of happened here?

The sheer volume and pressure of gas that hit all at once was more than the safeties and controls we had in place could handle.

And that's not.. is that like a mistake on somebodies part, or maybe its just Mother Nature every now and then kicks up, or what?

Mother Nature every now and then kicks up. The pressure that we're dealing with out there, you know, drilling deeper and deeper, into deeper water, deeper overall volume of the whole depth itself, you're dealing the 30-40,000 pound per square inch range. Serious pressures....

By the way, not to offend you, we just verified that you are who you are. Which I'm glad I'm sure you already knew that.
I would like to hold you over until the next hour because I want to ask you a few more questions about this as well as what happened exactly after the explosion during the explosion and can you wait with us?

Sure. I don't know how much of that I can share, but I'll do my best.
Alright, I don't want to get you in trouble. So to the extent you can, fine, the extent you can't, we understand.

We're talking to a caller under an assumed name, who was on the rig when it blew up, and we've been talking about how it happened. And now James I want to take you to the point when it happened, what exactly happened, you were standing where?

Well obviously the gas blew the sea water out of the riser. Once it displaced all the seawater out, the gas began to spill out on the deck, up through the center of the rig floor. The rig, yet to imagine a rectangle about 400 feet by 300 feet with a derrick sitting directly in the center. As this gas is now heavier than air it starts to settle into different places, from that point, something ignited the gas. Which would have caused the first major explosion.

Now what might ignite the gas?

Any number of things Mark, all rig floor equipment is what they consider intrinsically safe, meaning it cannot generate a spark. So that these types of accidents cannot occur.

However, as much gas came out as fast as it did it would have spilled over the entire rig fairly rapidly. Within a minute I would think the entire rig would be enveloped in gas. Now a lot of this stuff you can't smell, you can't taste it, it's just there. It's heavier than Oxygen. As it settled in, it could have made it to a space that wasn't intrinsically safe.
Something as simple as static electricity could have ignited the first explosion, which set off of course, a series of explosions.

hm mm So what happened, you're standing where, you're sitting somewhere, what happened?

Well I was in a location that was a pretty good ways from the initial blast, wasn't affected by the blast, I was able to make it out and get up forward to where the life boats.
The PA system was still working, there was an announcement over head that this was not a drill.
Obviously We have fire drills every single week to prepare for emergencies like this, fire and abandonment drills.
Over the intercom came the order to report to lifeboats 1 and 2 that this was not a drill, that there is a fire and we proceeded that way.

So the eleven men who died, were they friends of yours?

Yes sir they were.

Did they die instantly?

I would have to assume so, yes sir. I would think that they were directly inside the bomb when it went off.

How did you get off there...

The gas being the bomb..

OK, So the bomb being the gas explosion you're talking about.

Correct. They would have been in the belly of the beast.

We have to be careful of what we say because people will run wild with ideas. So I just want to make sure, so let me ask you this, by the way, why would the government send in a SWAT team to a rig? What's that all about?

Believe it or not, funny you should mention that, Transocean maintains a SWAT team, the drilling company. That, their sole purpose, they're experts in their field. The BOP, the Blow Out Preventer, they call that subsea equipment, they have their own SWAT team that they send out to the rigs to Service and maintain that equipment, highly specialized, highly trained....

What are interior SWAT teams, what is that?

The interior, from the government, now that I don't have any idea about that, that's beyond me.

And the other gentleman also mentioned that the USGS, that comes out and does the surveys,
I've been on that particular rig for three years, off shore five years, and I've seen the USGS, one time.

What we do have on a very regular basis is the MMS, which is the Minerals Management Service...

They're all under the Interior Department

Matter of fact, we were commended for our inspection record, from the MMS, we actually received an award from them, for the highest level of safety and environmental awareness.

Well I thought you were going to receive that award, didn't they put it on hold?

No we have actually received that award, we received it last year.

We may have been ready to receive it again this year.

Let me ask you this, the life boats, how did you get on the life boat, where are these life boats?

Theres actually four life boats, two forward and two aft depending on where the emergency or tragedy is taking place..

I mean did you wind up jumping in the water to get on these life boats, sometimes you have to do that?

I'll just say that there were five to seven individuals that jumped and the rest went down in lifeboats.

Alright I wont ask because you don't want to identify yourself that clearly. Good Point.
How fast were rescue efforts, how fast did they reach you?

It's common to have a very large work boat standing by. Bringing tools out, bringing groceries, bringing supplies. It's a constant turnaround, so we actually had a very large vessel real close by. He was actually alongside with a hose attached taking mud off of our vessel onto his own. That had to disconnect, in the emergency he disconnected and then pulled out about a mile to stand by for rescue efforts. So it was fairly quick.

How quick till the Coast Guard got there?

Mark, it's hard to say, between 45 minutes to maybe an hour when I recall seeing the first helicopter.

Which is actually pretty fast because you were 130 miles off shore, right?

Correct, if you look at the nearest bit of land which would be Grand Isle, Louisiana, somewhere in that area, we were maybe about 50 miles as the crow flies. But from civilization such as New Orleans it would be 200 miles.

A place where there was a helicopter, was more than likely 80 to 100 miles away.

You're going to be beset by lawyers, with the government, others looking for an opportunity to make money. It's going to get very, very ugly, and um, officials are going there, they really have no background or experience, climate change and so forth. To what extent is that going to help anything, silly?

To me it just seems to be all knee jerk. The number one focus right now needs to be containment. I like the idea of the boom they're going to try to lower down in the water to capture the leak.

But how long might that take? I've been reading about that and it could take 30 days to do that.

It very well could. You gotta remember the challenging environment, you know its 5,000 feet deep.
Theres a tangled wreck of a rig with all that marine riser still connected and twisted up into a big wad down there. Its going to take some time to get all that stuff in place. The engineering has to be there. Obviously you don't want to rush into it, you want to move expediently.
You're risking the lives of those men that are going to go out there and try to attempt this.

I was just going to say that, that's very dangerous, right, extremely dangerous?

Absolutely, absolutely. Theres going to be oil there's going to be natural gas. There's all the same things that cause us to explode, are still present, they're there.

The pressure has been cut off dramatically, from the simple fact of the folding of the riser. They've basically taken a great big garden hose and kinked it over several times.

How old is this rig, how long has it been there?

It was put in service in 2001, so its a fairly new rig.

→ What is the sense of shutting down every rig in the Gulf of Mexico in response to this? ←

Absolutely no sense whatsoever. This was a literally could be once in a lifetime freak accident or it could be negligence. That's for other people to figure out.
From my position, it just seems like, you know every now and then, you can't win against Mother Nature. She throws you a curve ball that you're not prepared for.

→ But to shut down every rig? I mean in response to this... ←

These BOP tests are literally mandated from the Mineral Management Service and they're conducted like clockwork. I mean if anyone of those tests ever failed, they would immediately stop the operation, seal the well up, pull the BOP stack back up on the deck which is 48 hours minimum. And make the necessary repairs or replacement parts, and then go back down, reconnect, retest and keep testing it until it passes or keep repairing it till it passes.

So this was, I mean this must have been incredibly harrowing to you, I mean to experience something like this?

That's putting it mildly. Very mildly.

Anything else you want to tell me?

I had got in the truck to make a short trip and I heard the gentleman say something about possible terrorism, I wanted to put all that to bed now. I understand you have a large audience, I appreciate your point of view, I try to listen to you as much as I can,

It is just...
Terrorism and all that needs to leave everyone's mind and lets focus on the 11 men that are dead, and the survivors. That's what the focus for this country needs to be right now.

Alright my friend, well look, we wish you all the best, it's really God's Blessing that you survived. It really is.

Yes sir, I completely agree.

Alright James.

We're here for a purpose.

Thankyou very much for calling in, we appreciate it.

Thankyou Mark.

Alright God Bless.

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In my opinion, the media needs to stop spinning this, see what I've bolded from the interviewer and think carefully about their role in uniting Americans in addressing this challenge. Because this catastrophe will be very challenging and is bad enough without concocting theories intended to distract and divide.

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for the transcription. Thank you.

great thanks for doing so!

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