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The Deepwater-Macondo Oil Spill -- My Opinions

By       Message william hills     Permalink
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Today's date is 6/27/2010 and the oil has been pouring out for more than 2 months. I have made several attempts to communicate with the engineers in charge of stopping or collecting the oil but with no success. If any experienced offshore drilling engineer can tell me why my comments below are all wet, I would sincerely appreciate it. I did get a reply for the US Government (ART) that my ideas were either already considered or not feasible or not possible. They did not say which. The reply took about 1 month. Here is my take:

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1 The Top Kill procedure was sensible, but it did not work because so much oil was coming out of the broken pipe and into the Gulf, that the mud being pumped into the BOP (Blow Out Preventer) just took the same route into the Gulf as the oil. BP could not develop enough pressure in the BOP to make the mud go down to the oil reservoir where it could then be replaced by cement. Before trying the Top Kill, some means was needed to reduce the flow of oil by restricting its passage into the Gulf waters. If this could have been done early after the blowout, much less oil would have ended up in the Gulf.

One way to restrict the oil passage would have been to use a giant pinching device (like a giant vise) to flatten the riser pipe so the oil would only have had a narrow slot to flow through, reducing the flow rate. Another way I heard suggested would be to cut the far end of the pipe clean, then insert a heavy- duty expanding plug into the pipe and expand it with hydraulic pressure from the BOP hydraulic system. The plug would be built like the type of expanding plug you can buy to put in a Thermos bottle, but much heavier. Like a giant Foley urinary catheter.

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2 As of today, there is no longer the original riser and a collector cap has been fitted over the poorly cut pipe just above the BOP. A good seal to the cut pipe or its flange has not been achieved and lots of oil is still escaping. What can be done now? Tony Hayward said recently that it is no longer possible to kill the well from the top. The remaining options are the relief wells and sucking away as much oil as possible with the present collector cap and riser pipe. I do not believe that it is no longer possible to kill the well from the top; more likely it is not safe to kill the well from the top. Many persons speculate that the pipe going from the Gulf floor to the oil reservoir has been damaged and stopping the oil flow from the top will cause the oil to flow out into the earth below, possibly preventing the flow from ever being stopped. If this is true and the BOP did stop the flow as it was designed to do, the disaster might have been worse. I think we are being shielded from this horrible possibility.

3 A good solution is to unbolt the flange just above the BOP and replace it with a new flange which has been welded to a riser pipe, with or without a valve between the BOP and the riser. You now have a new riser all the way to the drilling rig and you can produce all the oil and spill NONE. I am sure the problem is that the robots are not strong enough to undo the big bolts holding the flange in place. Surely some company makes a giant impact wrench like the ones used to change the wheels on your car but much stronger. If the wrench could be put into a canister capable of the 2000 psi pressure at the Gulf floor with only the impact wrench shaft coming through a suitable high pressure seal, the impact wrench would unbolt the flange with no great forces required of the robots. Once you get the flange off the BOP, you can install a big valve and then connect the riser flange to the valve. With all the oil being produced and no more being spilled, you have more time to pursue the relief wells and of course trying to collect all the oil already spilled. I think it is irresponsible of Cameron to sell a BOP with no way to remove this flange at 5000 feet.

4 Regarding the collection of spilled oil, I think this is Obama's problem (to be solved with BP's money), whereas the leak is BP's problem alone. The US Government lacks the facilities and expertise to stop the leak. I have been an Obama fan. I canvassed 800 houses in October 2008 trying to get him elected, but I now see he has no aptitude for engineering and not much interest in living things other than humans. On the other hand I am an engineer and my wife and I are nature lovers. I heard a day or two ago that the world's largest oil skimmer was heading to the Gulf to collect oil. What was Obama waiting for? I heard that 3 days after the spill, the Netherlands offered to fly their skimming equipment to the Gulf to be installed on a vessel here. It is said the offer was rejected because the Netherlands technique recycled the seawater collected along with the oil (but still containing a little oil) back into the Gulf. It is said that the EPA rejected the technique because their rules prohibited putting any oil back into the sea. Duh! It is better to leave all the oil than to remove 95% or it? Obama could have overruled that regulation in a minute.

When I was 9 years old, I was helping my father wash windows at our apartment in Connecticut and we were listening to the radio. It was December 7, 1941 and an announcement came over the radio that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Less than 4 years later, we (with help from many other countries, especially Russia) had defeated the Germans and the Japanese and restored the World to peacetime conditions. Why were we so efficient then and so inefficient now?
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Born 1932, Meriden, CT, 3/4 Irish ancestry. 1937 to 1950 Meriden public schools 1954 graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, B.S. ChE 1954 to 1969, worked at Monsanto nylon yarn plant and research center in Pensacola, FL. 1969 to 1971 (more...)
 

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