A caricature made in protest of the
spill in the Gulf of Mexico along Louisiana
Highway 1, in Lafourche, La.
(Photo by Nicholas Moroni)
Due to the gulf spill, industry terminology is now part of the public discourse; but, what does "bottom kill" mean?
By Nicholas Moroni
Four months after the disastrous explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in Gulf of Mexico waters off the coast of Louisiana - one that led to a failed oil well that was only recently tamed - both BP and the federal response have supplemented news coverage of the oil spill with a slew of industry terminology. But, what is the difference between a "static kill" and "bottom kill?" And, didn't they already try the latter? No, that was the failed "top kill" method."
Provided below is a list of some of the methodologies employed in the wake of the spill, concise definitions, and whether or not they were successful in stanching the 4.9 billion gallons of crude that gushed into the gulf between April 20 and July 15.
- COREXIT Dispersants - The federal government allowed BP to spray between 1 and 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants from the company COREXIT (COREXIT 9500 and COREXIT 9527). The use of the product is controversial because the effects of its chemical compounds are largely unknown. The EDF cites a study that claims the dispersants do have levels of toxicity; while the EPA has offered a classification of "non-toxic". A company spokesperson claimed the dispersants largely comprise "detergents." (A fisherman in Cut Off, La., near the Gulf of Mexico, told this reporter that a friend of his that had been hired by BP to lay booms and spot oil had been exposed to the dispersants. Toxins in COREXIT allegedly poisoned the man's bloodstream. The fisherman, who at the time was receiving emergency payments from BP, asked that his name not be disclosed, because he claimed "it was in his contract" with BP not to speak negatively about the company. "I can't say what I want to say," he muttered.) The federal government claims that 75 percent of the oil at water level has dissipated, largely due to the use of dispersants.
- Cofferdam - A dome intended to collect the leaking oil. The effort failed after icy, crystallized gas blocked pipes in the structure, preventing it from garnering the gushing oil.
- Top Kill - BP attempted to stop the oil by pumping mud down the well from the top. Because of the high pressure of the gushing well, this effort was unsuccessful.
- Junk Shot - After the Top Kill effort failed, BP attempted to shoot debris such as shredded rubber tires and golf balls down the well. The plan was then to pump mud and cement down the well to seal it once the oil was stopped, or the pressure quelled by the "junk." This too was futile.
- Static Kill - Similar to top kill; it's only "static" because the oil leaking into the gulf had been halted after a cap was placed upon the failed blowout preventer (the device that is supposed to seal the well in the event that it malfunctions) in July. The static kill might have been successful in plugging the well because the mud that was flushed down the well did not have to contend with an out-of-control well.
- Relief Well - There are two wells in the general proximity of the failed Macondo well that, if all goes according to plan, when the weather in the gulf improves this week, and operations continue, will diagonally intercept the flow of oil from the once-gushing well.
- Bottom Kill - BP and government response teams have hailed this tactic as a silver bullet ever since announcing the drilling of relief wells in June. The process entails pumping mud and cement into the well's sides through the diagonally drilled relief wells. The bottom kill occurs subsequent to the interceptions from the relief well.
- Gentle Tug - This week BP will also attempt to remove the original blowout preventer that failed and caused the April 20 explosion, as well as the cap stack that was placed atop it in mid July to reduce the amount of oil leaking out of the well.