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Drastic Measures for the Gulf

The thirst for drastic measures in the Gulf. We look at out-of-the box ideas for handling BP, stopping the oil and cleaning up the mess.

A rig and support vessels surround the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Louisiana. (AP)

Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron wants to help. Kevin Costner has an idea. Robert Reich wants to take over BP.

Tens of thousands of Americans – from top physicists to regular Joes – have been brainstorming how to stop the sickening oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yesterday, we saw the latest failure, when BP’s diamond-studded saw stuck in the sea-floor pipe.

The Gulf is filling like a sad bathtub with deadly oil. A relief well is months away. Everybody’s desperate for a fix.

This Hour, On Point: we’re talking drastic measures for meeting the oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico.

Guests:

Antonia Juhasz, energy and corporate policy analyst at Global Exchange, an activist organization where she is also director of the “Chevron Program,” launched last year to raise awareness of the growing power of Chevron and the oil industry. She is author of “The Tyranny of Oil: the World’s Most Powerful Industry and What We Must Do To Stop It.”

Tad Patzek, chairman of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin.

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is author of “Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy and Everyday Life.”

More:

We harvested some of the ideas for addressing the Gulf crisis posted over the past week or two by our online listeners. We’ll reprint them below (some are edited for brevity). We hope you’ll add to them.

Explosion
Explosively imploding the well should be “relatively” safe and “easy” (as easy as doing anything is under 5000′ of water and then a bunch of mud). A well is a relatively fragile structure, it doesn’t take a nuke to break it. 100 lbs of explosives a few hundred feet away would send a shock wave (a wave of energy) though the ground Upon hitting the well bore, the discontinuity in the speed of sound would result in huge stresses on the wall of the well, breaking off pieces. Subsequent seismic waves would further shake the dirt up and the well would collapse with the weight of dirt above it. BP is trying to FIX the well, so they can control it. But we all know that its much easier to break something than fix it. BP is proposing to drill into the existing bore. It would be far faster and easier to just drill near the well, place a small amount of explosives there, and let the shaking and entropy BREAK the well.
-Brian

Bigger Pipe
Why don’t they put a bigger pipe 50 or 60 feet long over the leak let it start to flow up that pipe and then cap it at the connecting pipe? Then connect other pipes to the 50 or 60 foot pipe and start pumping the oil into a tanker? Yes they’ve tried to put a box over it.. Didn’t work. Yes they put a smaller pipe inside the larger pipe. It wasn’t enough. Try bigger over smaller.
-Susie

Parallel Fixes: Dome, Straw
As an engineer I understand the value of “parallel processing” – doing several things simultaneously. Why didn’t the Obama Administration require BP to prepare their attempted fixes in parallel? Build the big dome while they were building the little dome while they were preparing the “straw” while they were preparing to shoot the mud, etc? That way they could have a line of ships waiting in queue at the site so the moment it became clear that one trick had failed they could instantly try the next one! Instead we have days of delay between each experiment, while they prepare the next one. Obviously BP would object because doing it in parallel is more expensive and if the first trick worked the rest of the cost would be wasted. But who cares? I’m not going to worry about BP’s money, compared to OUR environment!
-Peter

Bigger Box
After only a day or two of hearing about the mess occurring in the Gulf Of Mexico, it seemed to me that a big box over the well head with several different kinds of tap-in connections would be the first thing for BP to do. A box was perhaps what BP did do, but one does not send a boy out to do a man’s job. The box was only 15 or 20 feet wide….(a boy)….The box should have been 200 feet wide with a number of flanges with four-inch bolt holes to screw on the pipes that should be attached after the “MAN’S BOX” is in place. Too small, too cheap, too late…
-Rodney

Heavy Cone
I have an idea to plug the well with a very long very heavy cone shaped concrete plug. A cone shaped needle if you will. For that matter it could be a way to re-tap the well, and act like a cone shaped hypodermic needle with its own blow out preventer, and hollow core to reconnect to a surface vessel.
-Bronson

Coupling and Pipe
Why can’t BP control this thing? With the undersea robots, it would seem possible to fabricate a section of pipe 21″ in diameter, with a quick coupling at one end, and then tapering to 16″ at the other, coated with a thick layer of rubber, and slotted, to relieve pressure as it was inserted into the existing well line. Photos show a coupling about 10 feet from the end of the ruptured line. Open the coupling, insert the tapered pipe, and continue inserting until sealed. Use the quick coupling at the other end to hook up to the new pipe to bring to the surface. Or, if BP likes clowning around, buy a 75 ft circular circus tent, install over the leaks, hook the circular opening for the pole to a large flexible pipe to the surface, and pump up the rising oil. (Bad humor)
-Andrew

Care Neeeded on Injections
This oil is coming from a salt dome about 4 miles beneath the surface of the water. It is shooting out a 20″ pipe at such force that it can blow away a building sized concrete structure. Two methods (1. injections from an intersecting well now being drilled 2. forceful injections of mud, concrete and debris) are now in preparation to stop it. A shallower but similar accident Pemex had more than twenty years ago took ten months to cap. The flow rate may be as high as 95 thousand barrels a day so that, even at this advanced juncture, time is critical. Stopping this flow too suddenly or at the wrong point could produce a larger, less manageable blowout. Careful preparation and care are in order.
-Grady

Criminal proceedings, New technologies
Let’s call for open Congressional hearings on the topic of the technologies currently on the black shelves of suppression by the oil corporations (BP and others) which would get this whole planet off oil, gas, coal or nuclear sources of energy altogether. Open public Congressional hearings and criminal proceedings against the oil corporations would force the end of our use of fossil fuels and nuclear sources because the use of advanced technology would be available for use by the whole human race…
-Eric

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