Okay, so we gave BP’s TopKill a chance and it is most plausible that the apprehensions I previously mentioned ( see “I Hope Not…But BP’s TopKill Could Be A Disaster”) played out as I feared. Rising critical pressure levels were detected which caused an 18 hour pause in mud pumping and a subsequent failure in the jumpshot (where we would’ve had all those golf balls )that caused the whole plan to be aborted.
Plan B would now involve (a) cutting off the riser (that’s the broken bent pipe coming out from the blowout preventer – which didn’t work.) so that it would appear cleanly cut like a straight pipe jutting out ( instead of the bent piece of pipe with a damaged opening at the area of the bend – which is where the oil is gushing out). By converting the “bent pipe” into a “straight pipe”, it would make its encasement with a smaller containment dome with the help of undersea robots, more manageable.
At first play, the Plan sounds good, but let me rewind a little and play the devil’s advocate here, just to be sure we know what to expect. From news accounts where a University Professor first made his calculations from a video analysis of the amount of oil leak (17-25,000 barrels a day) challenging BP’s initial assertion of 5,000 barrels a day, we learned that the diameter of the pipe was 20 inches. To have that large of a pipe bore patent to hold oil flow and withstand the intense pressure 5,000 feet under the sea, its casing must be pretty thick – thick enough not to be readily cut by a pair of wire cutters or tin cutters usually handled by these mini-sub robots. So, how do you cut this riser pipe cleanly ? Well, there’s undersea oxyacetylene cutters , for one. A small problem , though, is how the combustible spewing oil would react to these welders/cutters. Well, as long as one important component for combustion is absent in these undersea depths – oxygen, maybe we can get away with it. Maybe. Hydrogen and oxygen pockets have been known risks for explosion in underwater cutting/welding procedures. Of course, a cutting drill could also work, perhaps more safely. In any case, implementing it will take sometime ( a few days…weeks ?). In the meantime , the pollution of the coast completes itself.
It’s probably time for Plan C which aims to stop the environmental pollution at the soonest possible time even while attempts to implement definitive repair of the damaged oil pipe (Plan takes place. Plan C learns from the past attempts done by BP which were abandoned basically because the analysis of why it failed was erroneous. I’m talking about using the huge containment dome initially attempted by BP to cover the oil spillage site. Figure this out. The huge containment dome with a narrow opening in its roof, is dropped on the oil leak site and is shown on video to be spewing oil from its sides ( between its walls and the seabed floor) The reason given by BP for its failure was “ice crystals “ which “precipitated” and “clogged” the containment dome’s roof outlet. Granted that at these undersea depths, lower temperature (freezing?) is expected , there is one factor that seems to have been left out in this narrative – the presence of the oil gusher. The video of the oil gusher is quite similar to the videos taken of undersea volcanoes at our deepest oceans where its surrounding warmer temperatures harbor life. The oil reservoir located deeper than 5,000 feet depth undersea is closer to the earth’s core and is definitely warmer as it gushes out, making the surrounding sea environment warmer - not freezing. When trapped within the confines of a containment dome, the temperature within this dome will rise, not drop mainly due to the factor of turbulence, created when one confines, say, an ordinary lawn hose running water within a bucket. There can be no freezing temperature within this containment dome as it was dropped to cover the oil gusher site. The announcement of “precipitated ice crystals” in the dome roof’s outlet was a convenient and complete fib. What really happened is the containment dome had a flawed design: (1) its roof opening was too narrow and (2) its floor space contained the adjacent seabed which kicked off a lot of debris – which when mixed with the oil was enough to clog the narrow roof outlet as the turbid mixture under pressure from the oil gusher, worked its way out from the dome.
Knowing why it failed, it is easier to understand that the solutions to make it work should be: (1) enlarge the roof outlet (at least 3X the diameter of oil pipe riser) (2) Seal the adjacent seabed from the oil pipe gusher. This can be done by means of a plastic mat tailored to leave an opening for the oil pipe gusher .This plastic mat can be fixed down initially by tent pegs then later by the weight of the containment dome. We don’t have to construct anything new since the huge containment dome is already there. We just have to modify it, like so:
(At this point I wasn't successful in copy-pasting the design I had in mind. I'll try later to link it somehow)
By constructing a female ring on the dome roof outlet with handle bars that can be easily grasped and turned by undersea robots, the male tip of the transition tube that will carry the oil flow to tankers on the sea surface can be guided by another set of robots grasping its guide handles to fit the dome roof opening.
The enlarged dome roof outlet (can actually be even 5X larger than pipe diameter ) should fit the exit/entry of 3 mini-sub robots (lowered one after another) with its control cables from the sea surface. into the containment dome to work on Plan B. The transition tube containing the outflowing oil would offer a resistance to the lowered mini-sub robots but this would be overcome by the weight of the undersea robots, the robot’s motor, the greater diameter of the outlet and gravity which would also counteract the head pressure of the oil as it flows out vertically to the sea surface. As soon as the undersea robots reach the adjacent matted sea floor surrounding the oil gusher within the containment dome, there will actually be lesser turbulence and better vision since the flow from the oil gusher has been directed upwards and seabed has been sealed by the plastic mat. Work can now continue with Plan B even connecting the riser with a smaller tube lowered from the sea tanker using the same transition tube. During implementation of Plan B, the pollution will be contained by the direct transport of the oil flow from the gusher to the sea surface using the same transition tube.
We can do this.