Thursday, June 3, 2010

How to fix the Gulf oil leak. Seriously.

  I wasn't going to do this.  Because it seems such a waste of time; first, tons of good people thinking hard, and second; the thousands of idiots yelling moronic ideas about how to fix it make any sensible suggestions impossible to hear.

  But.  It occurred to me today that I have US, Chinese, and Canadian patents on a metallurgy process.  Which is based on the work of brilliant engineers.  Who totally failed to see; or even look; outside their narrow focus.

 They can do that.  And watching them today, carefully grinding down the cut off pipe so it will be nice and neat- I'm thinking  WTF!!!!!!??????

  The focus on precision is a disaster; it's why they keep failing; and it's utterly unnecessary.  If you just think in a different direction.

  Now.  For any serious engineer readers.  This is not a technical spec sheet.  It's a broad concept.  Don't let me catch you knee-jerking "that won't work because...".  When you spot a problem, ask instead, "ok, how do we get around that??"  Because I assure you- I've thought of it- and there are ways around.  Enumerating them would make this incomprehensible.

  For technical critics:  keep in mind: US Patent Office certified thinking here; on a very technical process where very bright people failed to understand their own work.

  In a nutshell:

  DO NOT try to fit a pipe onto that sawed off riser.

  Instead- think of the riser as the nozzle on a tank full of helium.  And put the equivalent of a balloon onto it.


  The crude is coming out at something like 9,000 psi, yes?  And what is the pressure of the oil about 30' away from the pipe; after exit?  Why- zero, relatively speaking, and velocity is reduced to the speed of oil rising due to differing density.

  Seriously.  Go get a big hot-air balloon, today; the big ones have a capacity of over 200,000 cubic feet; around 1.28 million US gallons; about 30,000 barrels.

  The point to the balloon is to create a large reservoir, with lots of buffering capacity.  You hook your FLEXIBLE and OVERSIZED pipes up to it, and then hook up to suction pipe, and take it to the surface.

  You could easily have a capture envelope big enough to allow gases and liquids to separate; so you could suck gas out of the top of the envelope, say, and liquids out of the middle regions.

  Ok.  Really?  A hot air balloon is not big enough; or strong enough; but it gives you the idea.  And you could practice with one today.

You make the envelope out of industrial neoprene; with a mouth about 60 feet wide.  I'd make mine about 300 feet tall, and 200 feet wide, to start.  Bigger is better, but manipulating it and mooring it are better learned smaller.  You move the mouth over the plume at a distance of 20 feet or so, and then move it down; and moor it to the floor in 5 places. The envelope will  inflate; just like your helium balloon.  You, of course, have 8 different flexible suction hose ports already attached to the envelope in different places.

  Hook up, and suck.


  Could this be done so it doesn't work?  Hell yes.

  Could it be done so it DOES work?  HELL YES.

  You'll probably have to try a couple times to figure it out.

  Beats the bloody hell out of what's going on now.


Folks; if you think this has merit; pass it on.  Who knows; eventually the right person might see it.


  Oh, yeah.   An expected reaction to this is "Why, that's obvious.  I'm sure they've already thought about THAT.  Must not work for some reason."

  You may want to check on that.  Totally obvious ideas have gone unthought of for millennia; in fact, that's the usual path of progress.


Sharlene T. said...

OMG. A perfect plan...but, they won't use it because it would work and then no one would get paid for the overtime and their children would starve and it would be all your fault...It's so obvious, I know they didn't think of it...Now, try mentioning solar cooking for mainstream chefs...

MiscellanyEsq said...

Why don't you go to the BP website where they're actually soliciting ideas?!

here's the link:

It sure sounds feasible to me.

Also, sorry to hear about your stomach issues, and almost more sorry that your doctor and you weren't able to figure out what it is!

Greenpa said...

Paul- I've done things like that in the past, and the chances are lousy they'll actually pay attention. Their first thing is - "we'll send you a form to fill out..."

And I'm up to my ears here; saving the world in other ways. :-)

BUT - ANYBODY who wants to nudge this idea forward is more than welcome to do so, any way you want. Would be nice if you linked people here; but it would be nicer if the oil got stopped.

VHMPrincess said...

Also if you reply (from an open twitter account) to their twitter account they should see your idea.

Aydan said...

And if anyone wants to take Greenpa up on his offer, here's a link to the form to save the calling step:

enjanerd said...

I filled out the online form and referenced this blog entry. I think this is a good idea and am willing to address technical questions if they actually respond to this (I'm a naval architect -- ship design -- but am familiar enough with general engineering that I think I can convey the idea), but please let me know if you would prefer to answer anything directly. I can point them your way.

Greenpa said...

enjanerd- wow. I'm delighted and honored to have a naval architect give it a thumbs up. Thanks.

sdmccain said...

The problem really isn't the oil, its pressure, or how fast it's coming out.

The problem is the natural gas mixed in with the oil. The same thing that happened initially when they first tried the loose "cap" would happen even faster with this suggestion: the natural gas freezes into methane ice instantly when it comes out of the nozzle -- when it is released from the pressure it is under -- clogging the pipe, the seafloor around the pipe, the cap, etc. Gases cool when they expand. At the temperatures at the seafloor, it freezes almost instantly.

With your balloon, the interior of the bag would most likely be instantly coated in methane ice, the balloon would collapse, and it would sink and slip off the pipe.

Expect this attempt to be stymied by the freezing gas problem as well.

The big problem with all these "solutions" is that nobody is questioning BP's desire to continue retrieving the oil once they "stop" the blowout. I'm willing to bet there are many ways to permanently seal that pipe...if they simply wanted to close it off.

Roberto said...

sdmccain- I think you're pretty seriously misconstruing a lot of things.

What he's suggesting is not a kids party balloon; it's a moored, supported, undersea neoprene oil reservoir. It doesn't float; or have to. Once the mouth of the reservoir is over the blowout "preventer" - you don't have to just leave it hanging loose.

All that pressure you're talking about will push everything into the tank; ice or not, makes absolutely no difference.

Incidentally- where is all the methane ice from the leak now? Should be a big pile of it there, blocking everything, if your understand were correct.

A 30,000 bbl tank would hold 6 days worth of leak; if BP's estimates were correct, which we know for sure are crap. Even if it were a mere half-day's worth- that would be a huge gain. In a tank that big; all the parts would have plenty of time and space to segregate- then you deal with the fractions separately.

Way easier than trying to pump gas and oil at the same time.

I love it! It'll work.

Unknown said...

I can't believe this I just Googled PSI of the oil leak and found this blog. I own a canvas shop had this idea and built a small scale mock up before I read this. I'm sure there are a 100 reasons this could fail but I think a polyester reinforced vinyl with H F welded seams could work. You are correct about the clean cut on the pipe it would be better to have something to hang onto.

cwimarty said...

in the clips i've seen on the news, i've noticed that where the pipe was cut off, there is a bolted flange on top of the blowout preventer. why not unbolt the pipe flange from the preventer, lower down a large valve that can handle the PSI, of course it would need to be in the open position, then bolt the valve to the flange on the preventer. then all you'd have to do is closse the valve.

Robj98168 said...

Or just put an inflatable device IN THE PIPE and inflate. Stopper. OR BETTER YET shove Dick Cheney in the pipe and inflate. Don't know if it will work but man watta show!

Anonymous said...

Google the plan that Alia Sabur proposed.

enjanerd said...

Their response:

Your submission has been reviewed for its technical merits. Unfortunately, the team has determined that your idea cannot be applied under the very challenging and specific operating conditions we face.

Plus some other polite filler. Well, we tried.

Greenpa said...

enjanerd- Thanks for the effort. Sad that I was correct.

At this point- they are technically correct; now there's a pipeline to the surface in the way. Wasn't there when I made the suggestion.

Of course, the pipeline is only catching about half the oil (according to latest low estimates); and everyone including BP would be enormously ahead if they'd unhook the inadequate pipe, and immediately slip a big balloon-like envelope over the cap.


Unknown said...

I have a solution:

Here's the description:

Using Marine Drilling risers to control the physical properties of Hydro-stasis, the pressure of the source is reduced. The solution is the same as the process of Oil extraction, with modifications to the Drill Casing; allowing the release of excess pressure from the Wellhead. Warming the "Bell", reduces the formation of Hydrates. Controlling buoyancy of the "Bell" is paramount to correct positioning; achieved using Ingots and a Gasoline filled Ballast. The Perforated Casing is positioned into the "Bell" before placement in the water, or it can be lowered over the casing to create a sealing "Flange" where the two meet. Once in place, the Oil pressure will create a "locked" position for the two parts. The Casing is lowered to the wellhead, then anchored to the Seafloor. The Outer Casing then acts as a "sleeve" around the Marine Drilling Riser that contains the "String", or Drilling Mud. As the Oil pressure increases, it flows out of the perforations and allows for the volumetric pressure to be gradually decreased by pulling the "String". Remaining Inner Casing and Marine Drilling Riser is then slid down to the wellhead through the bell, completely stopping the oil from leaking out of the perforations

gefdevelopment said...

Place a balloon type device on a pipe and stick it in the broken pipe. Then using seawater as a hydraulic fluid, pump the balloon until it fits tightly in the pipe. By using seawater for a fluid, if it leaks, it won't hurt anything !

Anonymous said...

"The big problem with all these "solutions" is that nobody is questioning BP's desire to continue retrieving the oil once they "stop" the blowout. I'm willing to bet there are many ways to permanently seal that pipe...if they simply wanted to close it off."

Drill 200 feet under the leak - set off a small nuke pop the 200 feet of seafloor reconfigures into a terriffic plug.

Redrill for the oil later

mysophia said...

Try about 20,000 psi, yep, that's more like it.

mysophia said...

psi....somewhere between 20,000 to 70,000. Unbelievable....they do not have the technology in place to handle oil coming at that pressure.

Brad K. said...

Um, I emailed Senator Coburn (OK) about this today. I also threw in a kicker idea of mine - instead of making a balloon, knock a hole in a tank or oil tanker, and set it down over the well, then tap it the same way as the balloon scheme. It just seemed simpler to produce . . .

Greenpa said...

Brad K - could be; though I think huge "portable" neoprene tanks already exist.

Partly the issue with using any large rigid tank is maneuvering it; the robots they have down there are not big, and there are some currents to cope with. The advantage to any un-inflated envelope there is that it should be easy to manipulate and get in place- and it would be moored solidly before currents get significant.

TRYING any of these directions would be a really good idea. You could even do a trial in relatively shallow water; set up a water pump to model the oil gusher just using local seawater- and try it out.

inspiral said...

All of the efforts so far have been hampered by the water pressure factor. At 5000 feet it would be around 2000 psi (pounds per square inch) if they could take that out of the equation they might have some success. A tube that was gas and water permeable (allowing flow of water and gas) would have equal pressure inside and outside, allowing the larger oil particles to be channeled away to the surface for collection.
As for the tubing don't think steel think fabric, plenty of suitable material must be available or easily manufactured. There are plenty of company's who have expertise in this field, one springs to mind it is an anagram of ToreGex...

William Zappa said...

I've been thinking along the lines a a large solid bell. With a pipe coming from the top to the surface. I have no idea how big the area is that they are working on down there at the bottom of the sea, but a big bell shape made of plastic, say and weighed down on the bottom edge by sand bags even. I mean how big is the area?

I guess the balloon idea could work but something more solid could be easier to put into place.

Where do we go to suggest things? This is just so awful and sad.

Anonymous said...

There really is no problem at all. It's actually a very easy fix but these morons won't listen I have been telling them for weeks now. It can be done in 48 hours and all that is needed is to put a new oil rig in place of the old and make a few modifications to a few simple components. I have a design that uses three parts and is attached to an oil rig but they won't listen. Their response to me was ... Due to the conditions/evironment your idea is unsuitable. So with that statement as I understand it... they're telling me that an oil rig and it's associated technology is not up to the task... They may be right... Otherwise there wouldn't be a leak. I have contacted the White House... to no avail. I left a message today at the prime minister of Canada's office (I'm from Canada) in the hopes that maybe here in Canada there is less beaurocracy in getting someone important to listen... My hope is that Mr Harper will have the gumption to make a phone call to the President of the US and tell him that there is this Canadian dude who says he can close it 100 percent guaranteed.

Marc Larouche
Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

Brad K. said...

Marc L.,

Apparently, you completely misunderstand how the world (in Obama's world, anyway), works.

Nothing worth listening to (for Obama/Pelosi), ever comes from anyone *except*
1) Chicago slum lords and corrupt politicians
2) Organized labor (notice how that reads almost like organized crime) bosses
3) ACORN and other vote-buying schemes

As long as you persist in solving this essentially public relations and reelection incident with a mundane solution, of course you will be unsuccessful.

You are solving the wrong problem for the people that have the power, like the anus, to choke up every contrary action.

At this point, nothing will be useful unless it gets Pelosi, Reid, and a majority of Democrats elected come November.

J. Gaines said...

SCORA System (Self-Contained Oil Retrieval and Anchoring System)

I’ve read estimates of the pressure from the well-head ranging from 3,000 psi to 50,000 psi. The bottom line is, pressure of that magnitude from a large diameter pipe is nearly impossible to stop, even temporarily, and more difficult to cap efficiently. The only way to fully contain the oil is to utilize and make the pressure the primary driver of a system. This system does exactly that.

My SCORA System design is basically a pipe with a funnel/bell-shaped flange at the base of the riser, used to catch oil from the well-head. The other end of the riser will have the umbilical tubes to connect to the semi-submersible rigs and tankers already in place. Inside the pipe is an impeller which is connected to a shaft, driving a gearbox/transmission that provides rotation to 3 compressors. These compressors are the “air pumps” used to create a vacuum anchor system to hold the makeshift riser to the sea floor. In essence, the stronger the pressure from the well, the stronger the system holds. Blow-off valves may be connected to the compressors to maintain consistent pressure in order to prevent collapse of the anchor pipes. The blow-off valves are controlled by a pressure regulator, which also engages/disengages a clutch allowing each individual compressor’s turbine shaft to engage the compressor, or spin freely. The hydrates formed could possibly hinder the system, but should be easily counter-acted with a large heating mechanism inside the bell. The heating mechanism could be from a series of peltiers and powered by the rotation of the impeller or turbine shafts.

I sent this idea to the response effort, which informed me that a similar idea is being planned for implementation. If that is the case, I’m amazed that someone else has thought of it, but I’m sure it’s a template letter used to make me quit sending them the same idea.