Monday, May 3, 2010

To fix an oil spill?

How to cap a leaking oil well at 5,000 feet below sea level?

Here’s what BP has in mind.

Their dome isn’t really a dome at all; it’s a rectangular strong box with a vent at the top. It has what they call “mud flaps” to help seal the device to the ocean floor.

The block system I’ve been describing could be used for this application.

First, it would be critical to use the ‘dimp’ design, with appropriate tensile elements (e.g. steel cable, carbon fiber) woven into the structure. It is necessary to have sufficient strength from inside pressure to hold the dome together.

Second, it would be important to have concentric shells of domes, each using the ‘dimp’ design, arranged like layers of an onion. This configuration greatly increases the strength of the dome from inside pressure which could cause a blow out. Each layer of concentric block must be woven together with the tensile elements which ‘dimp’ design allows for.  Each concentric shell staggers the joints, to maximize toughness.

Third, the dome must be sufficiently anchored to the ocean floor. This could be done with proper foundation elements using piles driven into the bedrock. The tensile elements of the domes would be anchored to these piles.

Finally, Proper choice of high-strength concrete is critical. We could specify HPC’s (high performance concretes) with strengths in the range of 20,000-30,000 psi, and tensile elements with appropriate strengths. A bladder or series of bladders (“onion skins”, between concentric spheres) could be used. These could be Kevlar, carbon fiber, etc.

This dome structure would be assembled on land, shipped to site and sunk, using robotics at depth to achieve anchoring and footing.

I contacted BP and steered them to this very blog.

Let’s hope we come up with a solution fast. Maybe this might help.

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