Saturday, May 08, 2010

Oil's Well that Ends Well

Looks like some smart engineers and iron-workers have designed and built something that will cap the leaking oil well. That's great news, though hardly unexpected. American engineers have always shown an impressive capacity for creating solutions to big problems when the pressure is on.

Inasmuch as the search for oil and gas now means we must drill deeper and drill in more hostile settings, it is time to give more study to preventing and stopping catastrophes that can occur at these remote and hazardous sites. In addition, we need to develop better methods for removing leaked oil from seawater. Because we are driven by our need for oil crossed with our need to keep sea habitats healthy, this technical dilemma, like every technical problem we face, will succumb to the innovation of American engineers.

Robots position giant box over oil-spewing well

May 7 02:09 PM

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO (AP) - Underwater robots positioned a giant 100-ton concrete-and-steel box over a blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico on Friday as workers prepared to drop the device to the seafloor in a first-of-its-kind attempt to stop oil gushing into the sea.

A spokesman for oil giant BP PLC, which is in charge of the cleanup, said the box was suspended over the main leak just after noon EDT Friday and was being moved into position.

Several undersea cameras attached to the robots were making sure it was properly aligned before it plunged all the way to the bottom.

"We are essentially taking a four-story building and lowering it 5,000 feet and setting it on the head of a pin," Bill Salvin, the BP spokesman, told The Associated Press.

If the device works, it could be collecting as much as 85 percent of the oil spewing into the Gulf and funneling it up to a tanker by Sunday. It's never been tried so far below the surface, where the water pressure is enough to crush a submarine.

Once the device in place later Friday, the robots will secure it over the main leak at the bottom, a process that will take hours.

The seafloor is pitch black, but lights on the robots illuminate the area where they are working and they have found no problems so far. The cameras are off to the side, not in the path of the oil, Salvin said.

An estimated 200,000 gallons a day have been spewing ever since in the nation's biggest oil spill since the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989.

The containment device will not solve the problem altogether. Crews are still drilling a relief well and working on other methods to stop the well from leaking.

The quest took on added urgency as oil reached several barrier islands off the Louisiana coast, many of them fragile animal habitats. Several birds were spotted diving into the oily, pinkish-brown water, and dead jellyfish washed up on the uninhabited islands.

"It's all over the place. We hope to get it cleaned up before it moves up the west side of the river," said Dustin Chauvin, a 20-year-old shrimp boat captain from Terrebonne Parish, La. "That's our whole fishing ground. That's our livelihood."

Out at sea, the crew of the semi-submersible drilling vessel Helix Q4000 waited hours longer than expected to hoist the containment device from the deck of the Joe Griffin supply boat because dangerous fumes rose from the oily water. Joe Griffin Capt. Demi Shaffer told an Associated Press reporter aboard his boat the fear was that a spark caused by the scrape of metal on metal could cause a fire. Crew members wore respirators while they worked.

Conditions were safe enough to allow the crane to lift the device into the Gulf after 10 p.m. CDT, dark oil clinging to its white sides as it entered the water and disappeared below the surface.

The box—which looks a lot like a peaked, four-story outhouse, especially on the inside, with its rough timber framing—must be accurately positioned over the well, or it could damage the leaking pipe and make the problem worse.

BP spokesman Doug Suttles said he is not concerned about that happening. Underwater robots have been clearing pieces of pipe and other debris near where the box will be placed to avoid complications.

"We do not believe it could make things worse," he said.

"I'm worried about every part, as you can imagine," said David Clarkson, BP vice president of engineering projects.

If the box works, a second one now being built may be used to deal with another, smaller leak from the sea floor.

Seas were calm Friday, and the Coast Guard hoped to continue skimming oil from the ocean surface, burning it at sea and dropping chemicals from the air to break it up.

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Blogger SNAKE HUNTERS said...

Sir no_slappz - Another good reporting job; let the nay-sayers do something besides whine.


2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


" A novel but risky attempt to use a 100-ton steel-and-concrete box to cover a deepwater oil well gushing toxic crude into the Gulf of Mexico was aborted Saturday after ice crystals encased it, an ominous development as thick blobs of tar began washing up on Alabama’s white sand beaches."



Observable slick and sheen covers 4,683 square miles (12,129 km2). Thicker, fresh-looking oil is apparent in the vicinity of the leaking well, and still appears to be entrained in a counterclockwise gyre (a circular current):


i hope you are happy watching the ruining of fisheries, beaches and wildlife

but then again you have your money and insulated life so you could give a shit

8:25 AM  
Blogger no_slappz said...


Yeah, it's unfortunate that BP's attempt to put a cap on the well failed. I expected it to work.

Another option is to drill a second well to relieve the pressure forcing oil out of the leaking well.

As always, we -- our technology -- will prevail and our mistakes corrected.

Adjust yourself. Planet Earth will continue to burn oil until all the oil has been consumed. However, we will eventually depend far more on nuclear power. We know what to do, but Energy Illiterates like you get in the way and impair life for everyone with your uninformed beliefs.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A new analysis of seafloor video indicates that nearly 70,000 barrels are gushing out every day, NPR reports. That is at least 10 times the U.S. Coast Guard's original estimate of the flow, and "the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez tanker every four days."

you write

but Energy Illiterates like you get in the way and impair life for everyone with your uninformed beliefs.

sadly it is people like you that will ultimately destroy earth. i hope you win cause you will have the most money when we cant inhabit the place.

you truly are one of the reasons this country is in so much trouble.

9:58 PM  
Blogger no_slappz said...


The oil leak will be plugged. That is certain. Other than the 11 killed in the explosion, no one else will die. Maybe a few birds and fish. Big deal.

On the other hand, in Africa EVERY YEAR, drinking impure water kills FIVE MILLION people.

If you are worried about humanity, get those African dictators to buy water-treatment facilities from those who know how to do what needs doing.

It's an easy job -- for America and Europe. But millions of humans die needlessly every year because African governments have ZERO concern for human life.

10:26 PM  

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