Golf balls, new containment dome on deck to stop Gulf oil spill
BP is open to suggestions from the public on how to plug the well gushing thousands of gallons of oil per day 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
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The first is a smaller containment dome BP is calling the “Top Hat.” The four-by-five foot, two-ton dome works in much the same way as its larger version, but according to BP senior executive vice-president Kent Wells, it will do a better job separating water from the gas. Mr. Wells says operating a smaller dome “will be a little more tricky,” but it will “pump methanol in [the well] to stop hydrates from forming. You couldn’t do that in a large vessel, but in a smaller vessel, we believe it will work.” He said engineers are prepared to lower the device by the end of this week.Skip to next paragraph
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In Pictures Louisiana oil spill
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The following week officials plan to try the “Junk Shot,” a procedure that involves diverting the flow of oil with several blasts of material including golf balls and rubber tire shards, and then cementing over the opening once it is plugged. “There’s a little bit of science in it even though it sounds odd,” Wells said.
At the center of the recovery effort are two relief wells, which are being drilled 40 miles off the Louisiana coast and will be used to pump cement into the leak and seal it. Drilling of the first well started last week and will take 90 days to complete. The drilling of a second well will start next week.
The risks include unpredictable weather, since the wells will be operational at the start of hurricane season. The wells are also being drilled into the same mix of oil and gas that caused the original explosion, and operating two wells in the area creates the potential of igniting a second explosion that is more powerful. On Monday Bloomberg reported that in BP’s regulatory filing to drill the wells, it included the estimation that a second blowout would release up to 240,000 barrels of oil a day into the ocean.
When asked about these possibilities Monday, Mr. Hayward said “the relief wells ultimately will be successful.”
BP is assembling a global team of scientists and oil industry experts in its US headquarters in Houston to test solutions. Because the situation is unprecedented, BP is considering all possibilities, which includes soliciting ideas from the public. So far BP has received “literally thousands” of ideas from outside the company, Wells reported.
“We take all of them … we appreciate what we’re getting externally,” he said.
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