Tuesday Poem

Dynamic Positioning

It is dynamic positioning that
Allows a semi-submersible the

Ability to hover there over
The well. It is a thirty-six inch tube,

A casing, that extends down to allow
The drill and bit to be rotated there;

The drill then spudding in; the seafloor, dark,
And giving way. It is a thick column

Of drilling mud that keeps natural gas
And oil beneath the seafloor while the well

Is capped and it is a cement that
Fills in the casing so the drill pipe stays

Unmoving, stable, in this ever moving sea.
It is a sort of drilling mud that is

Then pumped through the drill pipe and out through
The drill bit then up through the casing and

Then back up to the oil rig in the space
Between the drill pipe and the inner wall.

It is a blowout preventer, a series of valves
That seal off the excessive pressure should

The wellhead kick then blowout. There are all
These variables. Various valves. Pressures.

Buoyancies. Mixes of cements. Currents. Claims.
Humans. Bow spring. Top plug. Shoe track. Floatshoe.

I could go on and on here calling the
New muses of innovation, common

Vocabulary, that covers over the
Elaborate simplicity of this,

This well, Macondo well, was drilled by
Deepwater Horizon and it went through

Five thousand feet, through the abyssal zones,
The epipelagic with its sunlight

The mesopelagic with its twilight
The bathypelagic with its midnight

Then where the sea meets floor, the deep ocean,
A blowout preventer there with the fish,

The darker fish, the large detritevars
That feed on the drizzle of the moulted

Exoskeletons, the carnivores, snipe eels
Big lantern fish, and zooplankton, corals.

This well then went on reaching for the oil
Another thirteen thousand feet. When it hits

The pay zone, down through it, down deeper, deep.
This well, Macondo well, was exploratory.

This story then begins with other wells,
But I will tell the story of This Well:

In April twenty ten, the setting south
And east of Louisiana's long coast.

It begins with a round of tests, some done
And some avoided. An environmental

Impact and blowout plan declared to be
Not necessary. Drilling easy. Then

On April twenty, bled off five barrels
Of fluid, reduced drill pressure. No flow.

At noon, a drill pipe goes in hole so as
To begin mud displacement. Seawater

Then pumped in to displace mud. Kill line
Not bled. It goes on like this. Partial lab

Results, a circulation pressure that
Did not yet match the modeling results

And yet cement job pumped. Fluid returns
Observed. Bottom plug ruptured. Still the

Cement is pumped so it bumps top wiper plug
At twelve thirty. Then two pressure tests.

The drill pipe run in hole to eight thousand
And three hundred and sixty seven feet.

So mud displacement starts, the seawater
Is pumped, then the spacer, then the fresh

Water. The kill line opened and pressure then
Decreased. Drill pipe pressure increased.

The kill line shut in. Mud offloading done.
It goes on. Drill pipe pressure. Kill line open.

Then drill pipe pressure high again. Then sea-
Water is pumped. Kill line full. Kill line

Opened, bled to mini trip tank. Flow
Is stopped. Kill line monitored. It

Is then open. No flow. Considered
A good test. Blowout preventer open-

Ed, seawater then pumped down the drill
Pipe to displace the mud and spacer from

The riser. It is nine o'clock. The flow
Out from the well increased. Trip tank then

Emptied. Then fluids discharged overboard. Pumps
Restarted. Drill pipe pressure on constant

Increase. It goes on like this. Pump number
Two started. Pressure spike. Then pumps two, three,

And four are shut down. Pump one still online.
Then pumps three, four restarted. Pressure build-

Ing, pump two. Pumps shut down. First pump three, four,
Then one. Then drill pipe pressure fluctuates.

Increases. Then decreases. Then again
Increases. Then held briefly, then again

Decreases. A repair begins. At some
Moment hydrocarbons enter the bot-

Tom of the well undetected and rise
Inside the wellbore, growing quickly as

They meet the lower pressure of the sur-
Face, heavy drill mud, other fluids, sea-

Water, all pushed by the rising and
Expanding gases followed by more,

By high pressure oil, gases, other flu-
Ids, all there rising, swelling in

The wellbore, all there, pushing from the
Reservoir. It is almost at ten

O'clock when mud begins its overflow-
Ing of the line and then on the rig floor.

It is almost at ten o'clock when mud
Then shoots up through the derrick. It is almost

At ten o'clock, diverter shut so that
The gas and drilling fluid could be routed

To the baffle plates, the poorboy degass-
Er, then the lower annual prev-

Enter is activated. The drill press-
Ure, the volumes of gases, fluids, drill-

Ing mud, seawater, then is steadily in-
Creasing. And it begins again. Or be-

Gins some more. First as mud. A mud that roar-
Ing, rained. Then the gas as it discharge-

Ing, hissing, the poorboy degasser fill-
Ing. Next the first gas alarm then the oth-

Ers. It was then almost close to ten o'
Clock, still when next a roaring noise, a vib-

Ration, engines began rapid increase-
Ing as also the drill pipe pressure rap-

Idly increasing as the rig then los-
Ing power, shut down processes then fail-

Ing. First explosion on five seconds aft-
Er. Then explosion again, ten sec-

Onds later. It was not yet ten
O'clock when the mayday call was first made.

The Deepwater Horizon gutted stem
To stern. What happens next ends with eleven

Dead. The rig tethered still to the deepwell.
The shrapnel. The lightbulbs then popping. The

Heat. Hot fireballs. The lifeboats smoke filled ovens.
Some lifeboats left, not yet full. Those left

Behind then jumped in to oil-covered,
Still water and so swam away. Some died:

Jason Anderson. Bubba Burkeen. Shane
M. Roshto. Donald Clark. Wyatt Kemp. Karl

Dale Kleppinger. Gordon Lewis Jones. Keith
Blair Manuel. Dewey Revette. Adam

Weise. Stephen Ray Curtis. I will not tell
You their lives, their loves, their young children, their

Relationship to oil. Our oil. The well
Exploded. They then died. Some swam away.

Some floated away in boats. Donald Vidrine,
Curt Kuchta, Jimmy Wayne Harrell. I did

Not die. I watched it then burn on a
Flat screen. Anthony Brian Hayward, Steven

L. Newman, David Lesar watched. And
Susan Birnbaum too, watching.

by Juliana Spahr
from That Winter the Wolf Came
Commune Editions, 2015