BP oil spill: Five outside-the-box solutions to capping and cleanup

BP is sorting though 8,000 suggestions from people around the world on how to cap the well and clean up the oil. Here are five suggested solutions to remedy the crisis caused by the BP oil spill.

Jae C. Hong/AP
A supply vessel passes through an oil sheen near the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Louisiana, on Monday.

With BP still struggling to cap the runaway Macondo oil deposit deep in the Gulf of Mexico, possible solutions – some of them quite explosive – are coming in from far and wide.

Here are five players and their bright ideas.

1. "Nuke the well." Former nuclear submariner Christopher Brownfield, now at Columbia University in New York, writes recently in the Daily Beast that the US government should use nuclear or conventional explosives to "destroy the well and put the matter to rest." The Russians have four times used nukes to kill runaway wells, CNN has reported.

That option has not publicly been considered by the team of BP and government scientists leading the effort to cap a well that started spewing soon after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11, and then sank two days later. But a process that involves drilling a bedrock hole next to the pipe, lowering an explosive, and then detonating it to crush the pipe walls is likely being considered by the White House. On Wednesday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) of Florida urged President Obama to engage the Department of Defense in the oil spill fight.

2. Get James Cameron to direct. "Titanic" and "Avatar" director James Cameron, a deep-sea buff, met with government officials in Washington on Tuesday to discuss possible fixes. Mr. Cameron has offered to lend BP his fleet of deep-sea subs that he has owned since using them to film "Titanic" in 1996-97.

3. Get Kevin Costner to build a giant vacuum. OK, 1995's "Waterworld" wasn't that great, but it inspired actor and director Kevin Costner's interest in the deeps. Mr. Costner has invested $24 million in a 15-year project to create what is, in essence, a giant water-bound centrifuge that strips out pollutants from water. No deal with BP has been finalized for use of the technology.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, Costner's machine isn't the first from a movie star inventor. In addition to Costner, the paper lists "Tigger" voice actor Paul Winchell, who patented an early artificial heart in the 1960s, and movie star Hedy Lamarr, who co-invented an unjammable radio system for use in World War II.

4. Call in the Dutch. A month after the Dutch government offered to make available six of its oil-catching "sweeping arm systems" for use in containing the growing oil spill, that equipment is now making its way to the Gulf. The system has been successfully used to fight oil spill disasters involving the Sea Empress in 1996 off the coast of Wales and the Prestige accident off the coast of Spain in 2002.

5. Houston's "MacGyver" to the rescue? Houston inventor Steven Dvorak says he has begged BP to take note of his as-yet-unpatented contraption, which he calls SQUID. That's short for Super Quick Undersea Incident Device. It's a "heavy ring attached to a soft reinforced tube to gather the oil as it floats up to the surface," reports Sarah Rufca, from Culture Map Houston.

Here's Mr. Dvorak explaining how it works on YouTube.

BP is currently wading through more than 8,000 suggestions from people around the world on how to kill the well and corral the already-released oil.


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