Paul (Red) Adair breezed in here from Houston, Texas, today and briskly announced that he would tame the runaway North Sea gusher "in a couple of days or sooner."
Adair, boss of the Red Adair Oilwell Fire and Blowout Co., claimed: "We got a bunch of trick." his targer is the week-old blowout at the Phillips Petroleum Co. well that has already deposited 108,500 barrels of oil in the heavily fished water.
"We'll fix it," Adair said confidently. "I got a meeting Monday in Houston."
In fact, his deputies, Asgar (Boots) Hansen and Richard Hatterberg, have been on and off Philips' Bravo rig since Sunday in a futile effort to cap the gusher.
"Things happen," Adair explained airily. "It's the breaks of the game."
Once again today his aides, 170 miles out int he North Sea, were preparing for a fresh try at taming the gusher. Adair flew out in a helicopter this afternoon "to go up there and get dirty with them."
A fast-talking, ruddy-faced Texan who admits to being in his 50s, Adair, dressed in red shirt and blue denm suit, is a public-relations' man's dream. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that his suddent arrival here was dreamed up by the Phillips public-relations specialists.
Several days before Adair's arrival and before the special well-sealing equipment got here from Scotland and California, Phillips ordered its most important public-relations aides across the Atlantic to Stavanger. They are James Fycock, the company's director of public relations in Bartlesville, Okla., Sidney Gross, who heads his own public-relations firm in New York City. Both have made clear their distress over the course of the twice-daily meetings of the press with Gordon Goering, the Phillips chief in Norway, and with Norwegian officials.
Today attention shifted to the colorful, quotable, irrepressible Adair, who minimized his own role.
"I just came to support Boots a little bit and give him a bit of support," he said. "I've come out to be Boots' hand. I know bBoots is going through hell. He's gotten sick. He's going blind. His ears swell up."
This last is likely no exaggeration. Hansen and his crew work on Bravo under a relentless stream of oil and gas, pouring out at the rate of 28,000 barrels a day.
He was asked about yesterday's unsuccessful effort to seal off the gusher, using an upside-down stopper.
"We'll just take another step and put something on top of it," Adair shot back.
He laughed off a question about his fee, reputedly in the high five figures for each day, and stolidly praised the safety record of Phillips, his lavish client.
Reminded of his statement three weeks ago that oil companies in the North Sea were skimping on safety equipment because it produces no profits, he answered diplomatically; "The hardest thing in the world is to sell safety equipment."
Adair and hisc rew are trying to get ready for a second major push after yesterday's defeat, but they flunked a preliminary test today. A special pair of pistons designed to choke the escaping jet down to spurt of two inches in diameter could not hold. Still another set of rams to accomplish this job are to be flown from Californial Saturday.
If these work, the crew will try to swing four tons of machinery on a single bolt through the narrowed stream. Oil will be exploding from the well at a speed of 880 miles an hour, rouhgly the speed of sound.
Non one here can point to any precedent for such a feat. If it succeeds, the machinery will cover the rigging on top of the well and the gusher will be closed off with a strong valve.
The Norwegian government continued to minimize the effects of the blowout today. After evaporation, Phillips calculates that it has dumped 108,500 barrels on the waters in one week. Specialized vessels trying to skim or collect the goo have picked up only 1,400 barrels, it was acknowledged today, less than 2 per cent.
Officials admitted that this was "disappointing." Their forecasts had called for a 20 per cent figure.
Moreover, the figure of 1,400 barrels is less than half of what Phillips had led the government to believe the boats were removing. The larger Phillips figure, cited repeatedly by the environment minister, included water as well as oil.