BP Oil Blunders

We received a very interesting “hack” today from our good friend [Jonny Dryer] that really got us thinking, but first a little background.

For those that live only inside of a box on top of a mountain (we know who you are), there was an explosion of a British Petroleum oil rig about 40 miles southeast of Venice, LA. Being proclaimed by Carol Browner as “probably the biggest environmental disaster” – stated a month after the accident.

And the oil is still spewing. Now, we’re not ones for criticizing how this event is being handled; no, we left it to the experts.

Back to our point, [Jonny Dryer’s] sent us his plan for slowing the oil spill, by using liquid nitrogen, pretty genius if you ask us. And we were wondering what possible solutions other readers had come up with? Share your thoughts on this situation in the comments.

255 thoughts on “BP Oil Blunders

  1. I suspect that BP is deliberately letting this oil spill continue so that they can come up with a method that will allow them to salvage the well for future use.

  2. The problem with the liquid nitrogen approach is that the oil is moving so quickly through the riser that it’s unlikely to cool any particular bit of oil enough to cause it to obstruct the flow before it’s blown out into the Gulf. Ice plugs generally form only when the flow is stopped, which is why dripping your faucets keeps the pipes from freezing in cold weather.

  3. i came up with one, lower an explosive charge wrapped in hard heavy metal down the well past the breach. when set off the metal expands and blocks the pipe like a cork.

    Also reduces the likelihood of leakage from elsewhere that a larger charge might cause.

  4. Remove the bolts that attach the ruptured pipe to the well and bolt on a cap like you would in normal plumbing. Or just pump fast dry cement into the pipe and surrounding area. The list goes on and a combination of several would work a charm instead of trying just one at a time

  5. Keep in mind that whatever fixes you’re going to try, you still have A MILE OF OCEAN IN THE WAY! The temperatures down there are already to the point where the first cap they tried to put on the thing got covered in ice crystals. Everything’s got to be done with robots because of the pressure, and visibility sucks until you pop out the bottom of the huge petroleum cloud.

    I doubt liquid nitrogen in any portable amounts would help. Trying to pipe it down would result in the nitrogen thawing by the time it got to to the pipe, which produces engineering problems of its own.

    I’ve seen at least someone suggest detonating a low-yield fission bomb on the pipe, which is about the worst possible solution you could use: it’s like trying to fix a bullet wound with a firecracker, plus clean-up crews would have to wear radiation suits, and wildlife would no longer have to touch the oil to suffer ill effects.

    Even if the proposed liquid nitrogen idea were to work, it would be a temporary solution at best, and likely get in the way of any attempts at permanent solutions.

    If the solution was easy, it would be done already. The simple fact is, BP is running out of ideas. Everyone’s running out of ideas.

  6. My suggestion is to make a large concrete slab on a floating rig. Perhaps using the large ships they use to raise smaller ships out of the water and carry them. Sink the slab and then drag it over the top of the well with tug boats. Mabye use several slabs and lock them together. You could then extract oil through a whole cut in the top and cover the slabs with sand.

  7. The best minds in the world are already working on this and HAVE been working on it nearly since the beginning. They haven’t succeeded yet not because they aren’t trying but because the problem is incredibly hard. BP has already spent over a billion dollars on this. I wonder how much of it is spent vetting the asinine ideas that people keep submitting and would get all up in arms if their ideas weren’t listened to.

    The only thing that the BP oil spill has taught me is that the average population has no respect for scientists and engineers.

  8. Literally the smartest people on the planet have failed to stop it already..I find that hilarious..and we think we know about physics and space..to make stuff to sale maybe like cellphones, computers etc..

    genius fail

  9. Nuke the near top of the pipe. resulting in the pipe and the ground being sealed again. I don’t have the source but I believe the Russians have done this many times before.

  10. Anyone who thinks this will ruin BP doesn’t quite grasp the concept of just how much money these companies make, or how much of that money they spend on lawyers. It is naive to think that they are not putting a priority on continuing to profit from this well while they stem the flow. Even at only 30,000 barrels per day, that’s over $2 million per day of oil spewing out of that well. Obviously there’s additional costs involved in the recovery, but it’s easy to see that BP has a huge incentive to not simply “plug the well” as soon as possible. And since they’re running the whole show, there’s no way of knowing what better, quicker options there are for capping it.

  11. I’ve read through these comments, and I’m no engineer, no chemist, no petroleum worker.

    But do people SERIOUSLY think that detonating explosives, EVEN under water, around THAT much oil is SMART idea?

    Not to mention the instability caused in the well itself from the shock wave of the explosion, might cause it collapse.

    Unless there’s a way to create an equal ammount of pressure to hold it in, nothing will stop it from flowing I believe.

    He solution would seem to me then that you need to have several other holes drilled into the same oil pocket to relieve and control the pressure flow, then drain the oil in a controlled manner, while controlling the pressure though the other wells, and THEN cap it.

  12. @SpyingWind: As I said previously, that’s like trying to seal a bullet wound with a firecracker. Plus the clean-up crews now have to wear radiation suits.

    Do you know how much a radiation suit weighs?

  13. @lbase:Worse case scenario they get fined hundreds of millions or a billion, which as you said is pocket change considering their income stream and demand.

    It’s the same with NFL players getting fined 50k or 1mil when a bench warmer makes at least 8mil every 6 months. I can apply the logistics to a lot of things..

  14. So, now that the ‘Top Kill’ attempt has failed, What will they name the next idea?

    And, in my opinion, this whole thing should have never happened, regardless of who is at fault.

    Even as a Sophomore in high school I’ve had enough instruction to know that high pressures and low temperature will contribute to making a gas either more soluble or force it to change state. And betting that methane was down there would be a safe idea, because the common occurrence of methane pockets with oil lead to the process of harvesting natural gas. And I even happen to know that the chemical reaction in plaster of paris and quik-crete makes it a little warm.

    I don’t mean to rant, just saying that I wish more thought was put into our organized attack against nature before it became a disorganized disaster against people and nature.. Best of luck to the people working on a solution.

  15. @BigBubbaX:
    Box of tissues: $2.45

    Human greed causing catastrophic environmental disaster based around ignorance of elementary science and smartest minds known to man failing to stop it’s continuation: Priceless

  16. I agree that BP has handled this about as bad as they possibly could and it never should have happened. No goverment should be chipping in to fix it as its entirely BP’s fault. They should be made to pay for the cleanup and everything else plus more. I think there are many ways to takle the problem but without details its a waste of time.

  17. Remember that the oil is at around 3-5 thousand psi, and that, is after the BOP, if you remove the BOP it will be unrestricted. Nobody knows how much pressure the oil would be coming out at if there were no restriction.

    The relief wells don’t collect oil, some people are under the impression that these wells are being drilled to get oil. The relief wells are being drilled the intercept the original drilling hole and then cement it in. This will permanently seal off the drill site. The second relief well is just a fail safe in case the first one fails.

    I wish BP luck and appreciate their efforts this far. I would like to see the other parties who have ties to this step up to the plate.

    Transocean – owners of the rig and their employees were operating the rig
    Hyundai Heavy Industries – manufacturers of the rig
    United States Department of the Interior – approved the rig for use
    Coast Guard – inspected the BOP in 2005 and said that it was good to go.

    Sorry about the wall of text, this hits very close to home for me, literally.

  18. Here’s a kicker for you that I haven’t seen anyone else bring up.

    The “escaped” oil is floating on the ocean surface yes?
    The “escaped” oil is fairly dark in color yes?
    What happens as this oil sits on the surface of the ocean collecting some sun?

    The temperature of the water at the surface will increase.

    More rain anyone?

  19. BTW BP website even has live streams up showing oil still pouring out down there like a motherfucker

    Wait till it gets to mainland water supplies then all the ignorant suburban slobs will either die from radiation or blood poison or get scared as hell..interesting times to come..oh and expect it to get around 1000 miles in within months..have fun America..you wanted oil you got it

  20. Peter,
    Just making something big doesn’t always work, you still need to do a bit of math.
    Just some guessed numbers: well pressure 140 Kg/cm2, concrete density: 2.4 (1.4 under water!), so you need a concrete “slab” 1000 m think to equal the well pressure. making it bigger instead of thicker does not help, because the area under the slab will increase by just as much.
    For the same reason dumping anything else on top of the well isn’t going to stop it.
    What does work is replacing to (low density!) oil in the bore hole with something with a high density (like drilling mud). once you pump the mud deep enough, the column of mud will equal the well pressure. I think this is also how they keep the oil in while drilling new wells. They did try pumping mud back down, but could not get it deep enough to make a column that equaled the well pressure, so it all came back up.

  21. Remember the palm islands that were built in Dubai ? They dumped tons and tons of rock and then covered it with sand to create islands where there were none. I wonder rocks , lowered several tons at a time over the spot if it would not stop the flow. Rock has the benefit that it is easy to get, low cost , low tech and heavy. Some of the ships that they used in Dubai were the size of oil tankers that could drop the full load inside them filled with rock and gravel within minutes. It wouldn’t take long to bury the well with so much rock that both the weight and the restriction of the flow would slow the flow down so that something like portland cement could be used which hardens under water. Or use large granite slabs of rock. The oil pressure is not great enough that it can push 2-300 ton slabs off of it.

    Rock is what keeps oil in the ground naturally so why not use it to stop this leak ? I think people are thinking too high tech and need to start thinking low tech because it is such an inaccessible depth.

  22. It very simple, you blast the leak with phasers from outer space. I know it works because I’ve seen them do it on Star Trek and it works every time. Problem solved!

  23. I have yet to see anyone say “here this is what BP did wrong that was so stupid and caused the accident” People make a lot of assumptions about greedy companies, etc, etc, but if you’d ever been on a BP rig (I’ve been on several, installing VSAT), you’d be able to see first hand just how much care and attention are paid to safety and environmental concerns. They don’t even let you fish off their rigs ffs. They KNOW that accidents on rigs or deep undersea are much more costly than any potential profit gained by hasty or unplanned actions.

    As for the LN plan, it sounds interesting, but I think that the cooling is probably too slow, even if the engineering issues surrounding the proposal could be overcome. a massive concrete box, that would sink into the seabed a few feet, and had a conical roof to allow the oil to be siphoned off the top, is probably the best brute-force, quick solution. It can be constructed so as to float until flooded, so it could be towed out to the site and then lowered. Later on, it could serve as a platform to anchor a hydraulic ram system that could force a plug into the wellhead.

  24. All that needs to be done is to contact the Justice League. Superman fly quickly in vertical loops causing the air current to force the crude washing ashore on the east coast of TX back out to sea, The Flash can dash up and down the shore in LA causing wind currents to force the washed ashore crude back into the water. Aquaman will use his powers to control all of the sea life to make swim in one direction forcing a change in the water currents causing the crude to wash back to the point of origin. The Green Lantern will use his rings to reverse the flow of oil back into the ground. Superman will use his LASER vision to weld the vents shut. Wonder Woman can Golden Lasso the PR people from PB to begin telling the truth behind all of their double-speak. Batman can use the Batjet, Robin the Batcopter, the Hawkman and Captian Marvel can use their own ability to fly to round up all the injured bird life for rehab.

    The solution is THAT simple.

  25. @BigBubbaX: Oil isn’t radioactive? Want to bet? http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4615794.html

    My America stereotype doesn’t hold merit? Wasn’t one of the first efforts upon invading Iraq containing 3 oil tankers that made there way back to docks in NY under strong military protection? A lot of innocent people were killed by US bombs too in that country..if a ‘god’ does exist what is happening now is probably just a balancing act.

  26. As a geology student I find BP to be some of the DUMBEST people on the planet.

    Trans-Ocean had a huge dogfight over rig policy with BP just before the rig went up. The fight in which as stated by Trans-Ocean, BP accepted all responsibility for the removal of the drilling mud from the hole.

    Mistake #1: BP decided to remove the drilling mud from the hole. Drilling mud in this case is one safety measure that was in place.
    Mistake #2: The cement job on the hole was botched. Ships near the rig got showered with cement.
    Mistake #3: Some idiot drilled a hole in the blowout preventer, which I suspect was partially closed and malfunctioning to begin with. (chunks of rubber was ejected from the hole)

    Solution #1:
    A water well drilling manual states in a situation like this: they need to put a pipe into the well with a screen and dump lead bearings/shot down the well. That would stop the well up by increasing the resistance to fluids moving up the production pipe.

    Solution #2:
    There is a flange on top of the blowout preventer that has the old pipe still attached to it. Un-bolt the old pipe from the top of the blowout preventer and put on what is called a “tree” on top of the pipe and bolt it down. Then close the valve on the tree. Then cement the hole shut. Replace the blowout preventer. Then, drill out the cement plug and put the well into production.

    In short BP violated policy by removing the drilling mud from the hole, and in doing so they removed one of the safety measures in place to prevent this from happening.

  27. I realize that I don’t know the circumstances of the topography around the well, or how much pressure that the well is producing. My suggestion is has more to deal with bypassing those difficulties.

    You build tube, slide it over the top of the leak, secure it to the bottom, then start plans that WORK assuming that you have the top of a pipe to deal with instead of a rough ocean bottom.

  28. @xorpunk
    Pointing at a patent doesn’t actually prove anything, it proves someone paid some money to have their idea patented, that’s all. You can get a patent for just about anything, including stuff that doesn’t work (except perpetual motion machines and maybe a few other things) but in general, it’s not the patent office’s job to verify all the claims made on a patent. Look up the “patented” cure for AIDS, that’s another one the conspiracy nuts love.

  29. Can’t they make a huge tapered rod that can be dropped in the well? I’m talking about solid steel a few hundred meters long. It would be heavy enough to stop the flow and is simple enough to install in a matter of hours. Once the rod is all the way in they can weld it to the pipe.

  30. I’m no scientist or physicist or smart person for that matter but dropping rocks and sand wouldnt stop it. Oil will still seep through the pores and openings between the rocks/sand and I would imagine the sea bed would start to get saturated with oil and it will come out that way. If it doesnt go up then it will go the path of least resistance. I do think it would slow it down though.

    If I had to come up with a solution I would go the bomb route. Not a nuke or fission or whatever that would radiate everything but a shaped charge down the center of the pipe. When it is well below the seabed, like halfway between it and the oil resevoir detonate it. The pipe and the surrounding dirt/mud/rock/earth/whatever will implode plugging it up. There will still be a leak like I mentioned above but it will slow it down enough for a proper cap to be installed and the relief well to be dug.

    Like I said, I am not smart so something like this might not work but I would think it is a better option then golfballs.

  31. I believe that this is completely out of our (meaning us readers) control. I think postulating what could result from this spill is much more constructive, and preparing ourselves accordingly.
    @drake’s comment stood out to me. If the oil does locally raise the temperature of the Gulf, what could that mean for hurricanes?
    Worst case scenario, a couple of Category 5 hurricanes wreck the coast.

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