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Over at Core77, designers are brainstorming containment ideas for the BP oil leak:

Are you tired of watching the BP Oil Spill continue to flow unabated, and all anyone seems to be talking about is who is going to pay for the damage that is ongoing with no end in sight?

The relief wells that BP has finally begun drilling to shut off the leak will not be ready until the end of the summer, while the BP Oil leak is producing an Exxon Valdez sized spill every eight days. That’s about 12 more Valdez’s on the way at least!

Where has all of the ingenuity gone? Can industrial Design save the day? Ready, Set…Brainstorm!…

One discussion member pointed to the site for submitting your idea directly to Deepwater Horizon Response, who has “established a process for collecting and reviewing oil spill response solutions from scientists and vendors.” And makers, I presume…

Becky Stern

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is director of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site: sternlab.org


  • Jack Thomson

    I just love the ingenuity displayed with every suggestion I see. Maybe if the BP engineers would think a little outside the box, we’d come up with a solution soon!

  • capt.tagon

    Please read up and understand what BP has already tried, then break out your high school physics and chemistry books before brainstorming.

    Most of the stuff posted tends to be a variant of what BP already tried that didn’t work or is a major fail because it doesn’t even come close to terms with real life forces.

    Plumbers would come closest to fixing it but they don’t have to deal with 2500 psi leaks under a mile of water (human carrying subs like Thresher can’t take the water pressure past about 1300 feet).

  • Carnes

    Use a PNE? It worked for the Russians: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peaceful_nuclear_explosions

    Looks like there are major failures in preventing the oil from making landfall too. Going to put up a great link but it has rough language. It’s about booming: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/5/11/865387/-Fishgrease:-DKos-Booming-School

    We also might have to ban deep sea oil drilling and allow (unban) coastal and shallow water drilling. Not as pretty for beach owners, but when something goes wrong.. atleast we can fix it. The oil must flow! Corporate America doesn’t seem interested in moving to better energy sources, atm. Unless it is subsidized by the Government, of course. Like ethanol.

    I apologize if my views are polar from anyone reading this. Back on topic though. Waiting for the relief well is the best option i think. Let’s not blow anything up or mess it up even more. Unless the engineering feat doesn’t damage the pipe or cause secondary leaks further down or heaven forbid below the sea floor.

  • tmd

    IT WOULD SEEM THAT EVEN PARTIAL CONTAINMENT WOULD BE BETTER THAN NONE….
    SO THE DOME IDEA EXCEPT NOT CLOSED AT THE TOP, PREFERABLY SOMETHING THAT EXISTS, NOT HAVE TO CUSTOM MAKE, AND ALLOW FOR LEAKS ALTHOUGH AT A MUCH SMALLER AMOUNT, SO THE FLOW CAN BE MOSTLY DIRECTED, RATHER THAN STOPPED…THE SMALLER LEAKS AT DIMINISHED PRESSURES CAN THEN BE ADDRESSED VIA MORE CONVENTIONAL MEANS, AND THE FLOW WOULD NEED TO BE MAINTAINED RATHER THAN AN ATTEMPT TO STOP IT…

    I MEAN IT SEEMS THAT THIS WAS UTTERLY PREDICATABLE, AND ITS FURTHER IMPLICATIONS HAVE NOT YET BEEN SEEN, NOT JUST ON AN ECOLOGICAL LEVEL, BUT EVEN GEOLOGICAL AS WELL…

  • Jude

    To be honest I really do not think this is all that hard. First it is obvious that the relief wells are probably the eventual best solution. It is also obvious that they will probably fail on the first attempts. So confinement and mitigation are the areas that makers could have the best impact. Next while 100,000 gallons is a lot spread out on the surface it would fit in a 25′ cube. Finally handling the on the surface would really ease the mitigation of the effects.

    So if I was BP’s guy on the scene I would contact the local commercial roofing company. Have them roll out some of the 100’x50′ rolls of rubber they have. Fold it in half and seal 2 of the 3 open edges creating a giant rubber bag. Next have them run a couple of rows of eye bolts along the open edge and string some aircraft cable through them.

    Tow a coupl of bags to the oil vent (probably open end up so it doesn’t fill up. Have a couple of ROV’s open the bottom of the bag over the vent. Let it fill like a weather balloon leaving enough room for expansion of the methane, oil, water mix. Cinch closed the bag and let it float to the surface. Repeat until well shut down.

    Tow the bag to your shore pumping facility and clean up the mess. At less then $5000 of material per bag you could build as many as needed.

    After the process is prove the design can be improved.

  • Skyler Kehren

    My idea was to take a couple tankers worth of some cement that is really dense and would cure underwater and just start burying the entire site with it. Cover it all right up.

    Second idea, pump in super glue. Then pump in whatever chemicals in human skin that seems to immediately bond to the glue. See if that works better than the drilling mud and shot.

    • Carnes

      I think the chemical needed to bond super-glue is actually water?

  • Zool

    I was thinking the same thing about cement. If they started by dumping ship loads of coarse gravel onto the leak (which is cheap and easy to get) that would greatly help reduce the oil pressure, by forcing the oil to be dispersed over a slightly wider area as it tried to force its way out of the growing gravel mountain being dumped on top of it.

    They could easy lower converted shipping containers over the oil leak and then open the doors to dump the gravel directly onto the leak. Then they just need to pump cement over that whole area. That could be done by another modified shipping container (with the whole floor cut off) to act as a big cement nozzle (with multiple standard cement pumping pipes on it) to force cement directly over the gravel. (They could even weld two containers side by side to give a bigger nozzle). They could also easily reinforce the cement pumping pipes with cables on them to help take the load over a longer length, plus they need cables anyway to lower the containers). Plus when they are lowering it, its all at sea pressure until they start pumping the cement.

    Doing this would bring the flow under control and then they can buy time to drill the pressure relief wells whilst maintaining and growing this large cement patch over the area. The main thing is to stop the leak now. So even if they end up burying it in 20 feet think gravel followed by another 20 feet think of cement extending out to a wider 10 feet think cement patch over an area the size of almost an entire football field, its still entirely possible to do and cheap materials. Plus the building industry can handle tasks this scale (they know how to deal with that amount of gravel and cement) and container ships can easily ship large quantities of materials to the construction site. They could even adapt the container ships to have modified cranes welded to them for the time being.

    The thing that has shocked me the most with this leak is that they haven’t truely tried to totally plug it permanently. They have instead worked to pump the oil away, which suggests they are thinking of saving the oil at some point, not blocking it up completely. Priority one has to be block it totally, then drill the relief wells.

    • Skyler Kehren

      I do understand some of their reasoning though. Right now it’s still a leaking well. Theoretically it could still be possible shut down the well. If something entirely off the wall is tried and the blowout preventer is completely removed it would literally be a crack in the ocean floor spewing oil.

      At this point they are able to contain some of it, so if anything went wrong we would be going backwards.

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