BP can use all the help it can get in cleaning up the ever-growing Gulf oil spill--even with minor successes this weekend, the oil giant still lacks an immediate solution to stopping the flow of oil altogether. That's why it makes sense to harness the power of the Internet and collect as many ideas as possible from, well, everyone. The UK Guardian did just that earlier today, with exciting results. Below, a selection of promising ideas from the Guardian's solicitation for help.
- Dr. Philip Johnson, the founder of the Construction Engineering Program at the University of Alabama, suggests that BP use a common oil industry practice known as "gas lift" to stanch the flow of oil by injecting gas into a deep point on the pipe. Johnson explains: "The gas lightens the fluid in the pipe and carries it upward. It works at depths far greater than these, and in this case the gas could be air from large surface compressors. If BP can slip a smaller pipe (say 18 inches or so to make it easy) into the open end of the leak and gas lift it, it will collect the bulk of the oil. The lifting process will even pull the introduced pipe firmly into the open end."
- Geologist Perry Hubbard suggests that that BP weld a new pipe with a large cross-sectional area onto a line upstream of the leaks. "The pipe should be threaded on the distal end and several shutoff valves will subsequently be attached to the pipe using the thread. Once this has been completed perforate the leaking line and allow the oil and natural gas to escape through the recently attached pipe. This will reduce the outflow pressure at the leaks and make it easier to effect repairs or attach other controls. Once the new controls are in place at the leaks, close the valves on the recently attached pipe."
- Dr. Rich Pryor, a physicist and former senior policy analyst in the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, thinks a few good explosions could do the trick. He explains, "Drill several small holes around the pipe that is leaking. Place explosives in the holes. Set off the explosives at the same time. The shock wave will pinch the pipe closed. Some analysis would need to be done to determine the position and amount of explosive needed. The analysis could be done at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM."
- Biochemist Walter Vaughan offers up another explosive solution: "This stuff is flammable, so why not pump air or oxygen to the leak site and burn it. I know its sounds crazy but burn it underwater. You could inject oxygen into the pipe before the oil exits and create a giant acytelene like torch."
- Student Richard Van Neste offers BP (and other oil companies) a suggestion to mitigate the impact of future offshore spills. "My idea comes from the use of booms along the coasts to be protected from spills. They appear to have limited use in choppy seas where the oil presumably floats under the 'bumpy boom'. Oil companies must spend vast sums of money on the clean up and fines so why not spend money on this...a floating pontoon that rests above and below the surface of the sea and surrounds oil rigs. When a spill inevitably occurs the spill, or majority of it, would be contained within the immediate area."
FastCompany.com readers have also offered up a few suggestions :
- Bill Makari suggests a solution to the problem of ice forming inside BP's underwater dome: "There are two sources of solution to the ice forming problem. 1: We could introduce a cover in the bottom of the cofferdam. 2: The bottom cover is made of segments that can be opened near the bottom (When the cofferdam reaches near to the spilling broken pipe). 3: We could also introduce a [heater] near the bottom of the cofferdam. The bottom should act as a segmented multi-control valves"
- Karl Baldwin has another use for the massive dome: "Why not use the 98-ton Cofferdam rig to crush the end of the leaking pipe shut. Then raise it and relower it over the other leak and start sucking."
Have a better idea? Let us know in the comments.