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Possible ways to plug the oil leak

Michael Engineer
User ID: 994919
United States
06/06/2010 08:10 PM
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Possible ways to plug the oil leak
Here are several possible ways to stop the oil leak.

If a long heavy rod can be inserted straight into the open well shaft a variant to consider would be to try to lodge the rod in the pipe as an obstruction using explosives and spines.

If for instance a 100 foot rod can be inserted straight into the pipe (under itís own weight if heavy enough and streamlined), then attach flush with the rod some explosive spines that are attached to the rod. The spines could be attached to the rod itself or attached by cables. If cables are used, build a small net of interconnecting cables to catch debris coming up from below. Use two explosive sites, one near the top of the rod, and one at the middle. Set the explosions off at the same time to drive the rods into the well casing walls. Put some knobby bulb shapes, or grappling hooks on the spine ends to anchor the spines into the wall when the explosions go off. The spines should act like a piton does when rock climbers attach to a rock wall.

Use 8 or 12 spines at each site to help insure that some good anchors are formed.

Build into the lower half of the rod some positive buoyancy pieces that can detach. Wood might work, but someone who knows the affects of the pressure at that depth could recommend the best material to use. Let there be about 200 pieces of buoyant materials that can get caught by the cable webbing and the anchor spines. Attach some of the buoyant pieces together with short cables to help them catch the netting above. The bigger and cabled together pieces should be higher on the rod than the smallest pieces. The bigger pieces will catch on to the netting first and the smaller pieces will fill in the gaps.

Run some detonation cord down to the buoyant pieces to make sure they separate at the time of the explosion.

When the explosion goes off, the rod gets anchored securely to the walls and the netting deploys. The buoyant materials come up with the rising oil and get stuck against the webbing, and the oil leak may become almost completely blocked as a result. Finish with a top kill.

If the rod is long enough and heavy enough to fall under itís own weight, it might be best to let the anchoring occur 1000 feet or so below the surface so that the oil doesnít have a good path through the damaged pipe to rise to the surface.

Regarding the idea of inserting a long tapered rod into the well that has enough weight to fall against the oncoming oil, there is another variation that is interesting to consider.

If there is straight up and down access to the well casing for 100 feet or so, this idea might work.

If the interior diameter of the pipe is 21 inches across, make a steel cylinder 21 inches across in diameter and 50 feet long (or as long as necessary to provide the sufficient weight). Machine it to taper it from 21 inches down to 10 inches or so. On the 10 inch end of it, attach a needle nose that can be inserted into the pipe. Taper that needle nose to the 10 inch end of the cylinder so that it will act as a guide. When the needle nose is inserted into the well, there will be turbulence to overcome, but once the needle gets inside of the well casing, then the shape will act as a guide. There will be more turbulence when the thicker parts start entering the pipe but the guide should keep the device in the pipe. Keep lowering the device into the well, as long as the cylinder weighs enough, as the thicker part starts entering the well, it should be able to keep going in until the 21 inch diameter part is flush with the top of the well. Add some gaskets at around the 19 inch diameter to try to form a good seal. If part of the cylinder remains outside of the pipe that would be fine as the pipe may be strong enough to support any weight that is not being counteracted by the pressure from the oil.

Note that if this device and all the cables are too heavy for a crane to manipulate without risk of the cables breaking, then some bouyancy floats could be attached to the device to counteract the weight and allow a surface crane to position it without breaking the cables. Boayancy floats could be attached to the 5000 foot cable to the surface if that cable would tend to break under it's own weight (5000 feet of cable does weigh a lot). The bouyancy floats could be detached when the plugging object is put in place.

Variations on the guide mechanism can be imagined. 10 or 20 feet from the tip of the needle nose, spines could be tapered out to 19 inches or so, and then attached to a 19 inch diameter cylinder that is long enough and heavy enough to counteract the force of the oil coming out. Attach a plugging device at the top, or let it drop to slow the leak rate, etc.

Note that ball bearings could be attached to the bottom of the rod to help make sure that it doesn't catch any seams in the pipe as it falls into the well.

Another possible option instead of blowing up the pipe would be to attach bladders to the rod that could be inflated deep below the surface which would press tightly against the walls of the well casing. Airbags in cars use a small cap of liquid explosive to inflate the air bags (airbags are like a bladder). Imagine a 1000 foot pipe where 500 feet of super airbags/bladders are attached which inflate on the same principle as an airbag does. If they all inflate in a quick sequence from the bottom to the top, they may provide enough friction in pressing against the well casing to stop the oil, or at least to lower the pressure for a few minutes where other methods could be quickly tried.

I do like my other idea to fracture the pipe better than this one, to tell you the truth, but there may even be some merit to this inflatable bladder idea.

Regarding the idea of trying to sink a very long and very heavy rod into the oncoming oil stream, if that idea is determined to be viable by engineers, then an option to consider would be to attach high explosives to that rod, and to let it sink several thousand feet below the well head, then detonate and let the explosion break the pipe and fracture the surrounding soils to create blockage and obstruction of the path for oil to come up. I would use several explosive charges to go off simultaneously. Use a very large explosive charge at the bottom of the rod, to go off deepest into the well to fracture as much surrounding soils as possible. Use successively smaller charges in several places up the rod towards the surface. At any of the explosive locations, if the well casing is split or tumbled or if soils or slabs of rock get in the path of the oil, the obstructions should decrease the flow rate, making the top kill a more viable option.
A pressure sensitive detonator could be used, or a timed detonation could be used.
Options for making a heavy enough rod to sink against the oil flow would be to encase depleted uranium with steel. Engineers can figure out the best materials.
Obviously if the engineers conclude that a larger diameter metal rod could sink into the oncoming oil flow, the larger the better.

This method could be attempted several times too. Send the first rod as deep as possible, then blow it up. Send the second rod less deep if the first attempt fails.
Note that these attempts should not increase the flow of oil and they would very likely leave the well head intact where other methods of containment could still be tried.
If a long length of metal pipe or rod can be inserted into the well, then it might be best to taper that rod to make it easier to insert. The tip of it should be needle shaped like a jet fighters nose, and then the diameter may be gradually increased over the length of the pipe. If enough weight is hanging in the well, eventually the taper could be widened to the point where the diameter of the rod approaches the diameter of the well. Some rubber or plastic gaskets could be attached at some point to get pulled into the well pipe and form a seal but there would need to be enough hanging weight to hold the seals in the pipe and not have them suspended outside of the pipe because of the pressure while it still leaks some (but at a slower rate due to the obstruction of the rod and stoppers)

No tapering would even be needed if the length of 1 inch rod hanging in the pipe become heavy enough that some wider stopper mechanism could be attached at the top. 1000 feet of 1 inch rod might be enough weight to do the trick. Someone who knows the exact pressure could figure out how long the rod would need to be.

If the rod breaks off and falls down the well pipe, it shouldn't do any harm. It will reach a terminal velocity and go to the bottom of the well 30,000 feet below. Any obstruction at any depth should reduce the pressure behind the oil. Another option is to keep dropping obstructions until the flow decreases significantly. 30 or 40 rods dropped down the pipe should eventually clog it at the bottom or someplace along the way. It may be desireable and possible to lower the rods into the well hole far enough to make sure that it will not be sticking out of the top when it is dropped. Lower them to the point where they can be released, then lower them another 20 feet and pull them back up that 20 feet. Then have the robotics cut them off so they can fall cleanly into the pipe.

A tapered solution may be able to plug the well in one fell swoop if it is long enough and heavy enough.

Imagine a one inch rod of steel that is 300 feet long. It may weigh several tons and it's weight could be enough to overcome the flow of oil coming out if it is dropped into the oncoming oil.

If a heavier metal like depleted uranium is used, a shorter length of rod could used which might be beneficial to the surface operations and the undersea robotics.

If there is straight access available down into the drill pipe for a thousand feet, it may be possible to lower a long steel (or heavier metal) pipe or rod into the well. Since steel is heavier than water, if you get a long enough extension of pipe or rod hanging down into the well, eventually the weight of the rod will have enough force to hold a stopper or plug in place as the hanging weight would be greater than the pressure of the oil coming out. Engineers can calculate how much steel pipe or rod has to be hanging into the well before welding on a stopper. The stoppers could start out as small spheres to reduce the flow progressing to larger spheres. If the flow rate can be slowed this way, then the top kill may eventually work. The long steel pipe could even be cut loose from the surface ships to drop into the pipe once there is enough weight hanging in the well to prevent the pipe from being pushed out by the oil pressure. If piping is used it might be best to put some slots in the pipe to allow oil to escape as the pipe is being inserted.

If may even be possible to slow the leak rate down by dropping very long depleted uranium rods down the pipe. If a 300 foot rod of depleted uranium can be inserted into the pipe, if may be heavy enough to drop by itself into the well. Small diameter rods could be used at first, for example just one inch in diameter. If allowed to drop into the well, this would start restricting the flow as the effective diameter of the pipe available for the oil to flow through would be reduced, and the pressure would reduce. Engineers can figure out how long a rod of depleted uranium would be needed to be heavy enough to fall into the well and overcome the oil flowing out. Dropping 20 or 30 rods into the well eventually may reduce the flow for other methods of containment to be successful.
Michael Engineer (an Electrical and Software Engineer)
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 898228
United States
06/06/2010 08:24 PM
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Re: Possible ways to plug the oil leak
I would prefer to see BP headquaters dropped on it....but what do I know LOL
dave the plumber
User ID: 1006438
United States
06/17/2010 03:04 PM
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Re: Possible ways to plug the oil leak
perhaps a hollow depleted uranium tube with just the right amount of explosive would create an anurysm in the well pipe and lodge the metal inside, thus capping the well?
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 108458
United States
06/17/2010 03:13 PM
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Re: Possible ways to plug the oil leak
Let's try stuffing Rush Limbaugh's enormous head in the pipe, I think he would make a fine plug.