The Coast Guard gave BP the go-ahead this morning, and the latest attempt to seal off the Gulf oil leak that is quickly turning into the biggest ecological disaster in history began at 2 p.m. eastern time. And as BP scrambled to get its controversial "top kill" underway, the media scrambled to figure out exactly how to describe this riser-capping procedure to the public.
But (perhaps unexpectedly) CNN went directly to the best possible source for all things technical, a video explanation so thorough that we've included it below. The top kill, as explained by Bill Nye The Science Guy.
Of course, the chances of the top kill succeeding are good but not great; BP's CEO admits the chances of stopping the oil flow with a drilling mud/concrete one-two punch sit somewhere between 60% and 70%. If it fails, it could make the environmental mess even worse, releasing the toxic materials present in drilling mud -- which can be a variety of things but usually includes some trace amounts of elements like zinc, nickel, chromium, copper, lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury -- into the Gulf's ecosystem. Check out the live feed of the top kill below and keep your fingers crossed.
If the top kill doesn't work, BP will have to turn to yet another backup plan. Right now, it seems that plan is to use what's known as a low marine riser package (LMRP) to try to seal off the flow of seawater into the well. Even if engineers can't keep the oil in, they might at least be able to keep the seawater out, preventing the formation of the methane ice that thwarted the earlier effort of deploying the containment dome.
Why hasn't BP already deployed the LMRP? That's unclear. In fact -- and we're not trying to demonize here, but it is getting a bit annoying -- BP doesn't seem very receptive to ideas coming from outside the company. The public has drummed up a range of solutions, everything from deploying oil absorbent materials laced with petrol-eating microbes to the SQUID, an admittedly condom-like system that seems like it could quickly help contain the mess (perhaps it's worth noting that the success rate for the average Trojan is better than 60%).
BP says it could be a couple of days before we know if the top kill was a success. If not, it's on to the next idea (which happens to sound a lot like most of the old ideas). Since BP doesn't seem to be doing much thinking outside of the containment dome, feel free to share your leak-plugging schemes in the comments.
The major issue seems to be the expulsive pressure at the outlet, so what if we drilled another at an angle into the tube (oil holes are a series of tubes?). We wouldn't have to go THAT deep, just underneath the current mechanical apparatus.
Here are some other fun thoughts (although some of them may have been tried):
1. Put a turbine down there and use the force of the oil coming up to generate electricity...I mean let's not let it go to waste...
2. Liquid nitrogen bomb? Oil doesn't expand as it freezes, so a well place freeze ray or bomb should be able to slow down flow at least temporarily, so as another cap could be attempted.
3. The vacuum cleaner from Spaceballs(tm), and a centrifuge to separate the oil out (again, a shame to waste the oil).
Maybe we should wait and see what the actual effects are before we start saying things like "turning into the biggest ecological disaster in history." This is absolutely a disaster and absolutely bad for the environment, but so far the oil slick has done very little damage to shorelines. Apparently we're not sure what damage it's doing in the middle of the Gulf.
Just like the "boot on the neck of BP" and similar comments from the blamethrowers in the White House, it isn't helpful. How about we team up and fix the problem THEN we get all hot and bothered about how bad it is and who to blame...if anyone is to blame.
By the way, on what evidence do you claim that "BP doesn't seem very receptive to ideas coming from outside the company?"
Good luck to BP. They seem to be the only ones actually doing something to stop the disaster.
why didn't they just ask Bill Nye how to fix this.. or at least send the magic school bus in.
so their idea is to clog up the pipe with sand and cement....wow....only took them a month to come up with an idea a 3 year old could have thought up.
we could nuke it
a glass plug would stop it yes it would be radioactive thats still better than oil killing absolutly every thing besides then it could be covered with a leaded cement cap over the plug to stop hundreds of years of radiotion.
I understand that BP can do a lot to help clean up the accident and to stop the flow. But out of curiosity, would any other company be in a better position to stop the oilflow?
Basically what I'm asking is, is it BP's fault that this problem is still going on, or would another company have been able to stop this by now?
The Oil is leaking from pipes right?
Why can't they just squeeze the pipe close near the end with something like jaws of life and close it or at least slow it down?
the Soviet Union used nuclear weapons to shut down oil-well blowouts five times between 1966 and 1977. "The underground explosion moves the rock, presses on it, and, in essence, squeezes the well's channel,"
obviously we can't use nukes, but 2-4 of our biggest Bunker Busters should do the trick.
i meant the equivalent of 2-4 Bunker Busters. (conventional explosive) obviously would have to be packaged differently for the depth.
@Eschersand And why can't we use a very small tactical nuclear device?
The ocean has more weapons grade nuclear material in it than we have in the entire world's nuclear stockpiles.
Could ? .. charges set for different 'times' be sent down ? First one explodes deep in earth BEFORE the other two which would be set to go off AFTER the first charge is set off. So in effect one would have THREE seperate explosions. First one at extreme depth in the hole .. second charge in a shallower depth in the hole and the third charge set to go off after the second charge. The effect would be to 'collapse' the hole around itself in three different places ? Bam bam bam ..?
I've been told that every problem can be solved by throwing money at it... BP is doing a great job of throwing money at it. Maybe they should have come up with a solution to this problem BEFORE they started drilling. Seriously, if you survey the area and go "wow, that's deep", maybe you should have something in place in case this stuff happens.
I think it would be a good idea for the drilling companies to lower down a Concrete and Steal base to all drilling sites prior to drilling. Then from the center of the massive base, they lower their drill heads into the ground. They can raise and lower it by filling it will diesel fuel as it's buoyant and non-compressible. This way, if the pipe breaks they can simply close the hole at the base with a gate or valve rather than scratch their heads after the fact.
Eschersand is the only one on the right path but Sjak is also right. The oil is flowing upwards through a relatively small hole which extends hundreds or thousands of feet down to the oil formation. A nuclear weapon would collapse the hole and seal it with thousands of tonnes of rock. The bigger the better so a nuke is the obvious choice. There have been thousands of nuclear weapons tested, underwater, underground, in the atmosphere and on land. One more will make no difference compared to the ecological damage the spill will create.
Also to Laurenra7, you have to be insane, if you think this amount of oil released into the gulf is no problem then go take a swim in it. Biggest disaster in history maybe not but I've worked for many an oil company and I'll tell you those guys deserve a boot on their neck and a boot up their a#$.
I sure hope this top kill works. Waiting months for those relief wells could go make things go from bad to horrible in light of the approaching hurricane season.
Contributor @ www.slotrecovery.com
they should of mixed a large volume of thin iron wire (2-12 inches) and pipe cleaners in with the mud used after the junk shot. I know they have tried fibers to thicken it, but at that pressure you need something a little stronger and heavier.
think of the iron wire and pipe cleaners as 'dust'. as the comparison to air is pretty appropriate.
why not just build a gigantic concrete slab and just drop it onto the hole? or better yet just make a giant steel drill that's bigger than the hole and use it to tap that thing! or still better yet, why not just put a giant donut around where the oil is and build a floating refinery on top? idk maybe bp is just owned by satan and he really is just trying to d3stroy the world...
hopefully massive reinforced concrete slab with thick rubber pad at bottom to seal any sea bed irregularities will work.