BP's Latest Attempt to Slow Oil Disaster May Be Working, Our Readers' Ideas Keep Flowing

Gulf oil spill

A modicum of good news on the BP spill front: After weeks of failed attempts at slowing the flow of oil from the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil company successfully cut off the damaged portion of the riser pipe and put a containment cap on top. Now BP reports that oil and gas is being received onboard a ship on the ocean's surface—roughly estimated at a rate of 1,000 barrels per day. But BP warns against too much optimism in a recent press release:

It is expected to take one or more days for flow rates of oil and gas to stabilize and it is not possible at this stage to estimate how much oil and gas will be captured by this containment system. All of these operations are complex, involve risks and uncertainties, and have to be carried out by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) at 5,000 feet under water. Systems such as the LMRP containment cap never before have been deployed at these depths and conditions. The containment system's efficiency, continued operation, and ability to contain the oil and gas cannot be assured.

Like the failed "Top Kill" method before it, this procedure might just look like it's working. Even if it does work, the containment cap can't possibly harness all the oil. That means BP's relief wells are still the best hope for success—and those may not be completed until August. That's a frightening prospect considering the size and potential release of the oil plume into the Atlantic (video above).

Gulf oil spill

In the meantime, FastCompany.com readers are still sending good ideas our way. Some of the most recent: Benjamin Grynol suggests pumping a mix of motor oil and cornstarch down the pipe to make the oil too viscous to flow upwards; SJ Green believes that an underwater flash burn at the leak opening at the leak opening could cut down on surface oil, and Michael Garrett suggests using a hydraulic balloon to block the pipe (pictured above). Keep offering up your ideas—we're listening!

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Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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  • Don Lineback

    Think of water going through a culvert in flood stage. Anything you do to plug it up will increase the pressure and blow out any attempt. The riser must be restored and placed on top with a lead seal. I have been trying to explain this to them with no interest. Maybe they will listen when the relief wells fail as they did in the Ixtoc spill. It leaked for 3 months after the wells were drilled. This well could have been fixed in one week after the blowout. Just to give you an idea what idiots they are - they are using diamond for cutting steel instead of a cold saw. (the low RPM blade never sparks and would not matter when there is no O2) Just like cutting with a chain saw - a pipe can pinch if you have no experience. You know they are desperate when they ask for free help from the public.

  • Carolyn Ingle

    I think it should be possible to inject dry ice or another refigerant into the bore of this well causing the oil and water and hydrates to begin to freeze. as this freezing happens it will create an orfice which will cause the hydrates to freeze blocking the pipe. bennie ingle

  • M.

    The first order of business is to reduce or stop the flow of crude oil from the ocean floor. This can be accomplished by deploying what Planet Recource calls the “Pagoda”, a designed capture structure we’ve had ready to fabricate for well over a month. The Pagoda will rest over the top of the leaks capturing a majority, if not all the oil coming from the ocean floor. A Pagoda can be planted over all current leaks. The primary benefits of using the Pagoda stem from the fact that BP can continue to make all necessary repairs to permanently stop the leaks. Because of the design of the Pagoda, none of the previous problems associated with Top Hats or containment dome will cause a problem. The flow of oil and water combined can be brought to the service assisted by a series of high gallon per minute pumps. The oil being recovered by the Pagoda can be treated with PetroLuxus™, Planet's proprietary 'Green" reclamation solution, as the crude oil makes it way to the surface allowing for the immediate separation of the crude oil from the sea water. Where Planet's other partner, CETCO Oilfield Services can take the oily water residuals and thoroughly remove any remaining oil before discharging the captured sea water back into the Gulf. more information about this amazing technology is on the companies website planetresource.net

  • Geoffrey Parker

    For future disasters I wonder if it would be possible to have a large impervious sheet or curtain suspended from the surface to the floor of the ocean a bit like a huge fishing net to create an oil silo. This could contain the spill and concentrate it enough to allow the oil to be pumped out to tankers for some later separation on shore. Hopefully this could be stored in key offshore oil centres for use in emergencies. This could be deployed in such a way as to allow other vessels to enter the area to perform other actions to mitigate flows or shut of the system by use of a floating lock gate.
    The Pontoons holding the top curtain could be fare enough above the surface to limit the area affected.

  • Fred Knapton

    I think if you were able to bring all the oil to the surface by inserting a pipe inside the existing pipe, and then have it contained in either an ocean type blanket or massive satelite dish (supported by the ocean itself ), you would then be able to load it directly onto a line of continuous tankers which would give you time to consider a permanent repair. You could place 4 tankers in a square formation as a permanent base for this operation which could support the free standing pipe in the middle somehow, then have tankers pull alongside to offload the oil. Hope this helps, Fred