- Posted May 22, 2010 by
New Orleans, Louisiana
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Track the oil disaster
Oil Spill Solution
It has been over one month since a massive oil spill was created in the Gulf of Mexico by the explosion, deadly fire, eventual capsizing and sinking of the rig Deepwater Horizon taking the lives of 11 workers. This horrendous catastrophe has devastated the American Gulf states fishing industries, created embarrassing situations for the ill prepared relief effort of the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service, concern over the possibility of reaching other Gulf island coasts (Cuba), spreading with the anticipated encroachment of oil into the environmentally fragile bayous and marshes (which has now happened) and eventually carrying oil eastward toward the Loop Current and the Florida Keys, then up the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.
On May 20 2010, British Petroleum Plc. announced that only 2,200 barrels of oil were being siphoned off this spill instead of the 5,000 barrels previously announced. More accurately, the volume spewing from the riser into the Gulf today ranges between 12,000 and 15,000 barrels every 24 hours. There is now a growing concern by the federal government and with public allegations of a deliberate cover-up by BP. The most conservative estimates put the Deepwater Horizon spill at about 160,000 barrels and counting. The real figure could already be higher and surpass by 75 times the MMS worst-case-scenario prediction. The Exxon Valdez spill was conservatively estimated at 10.8 million US gallons or 250,000 barrels. If this spill in the Gulf is not stopped, it will eclipse that of the Alaska spill and become the worse spill in US history of which it now has that distinguished spot.
In recent days, BP has used a substance called Corexit EC9500A and Corexit EC9527A as a dispersing agent by flying and releasing this agent over the oil slicks. BP applied 600,000 US gallons on the surface and 55,000 US gallons underwater. Interesting to note, Britain had banned the use of Corexit 10 years ago, yet the use of this solvent was applied on the Gulf waters in and around American jurisdictions. Somebody, somewhere was asleep at the switch allowing this banned agent to be used as a dispersing agent. BP senior executive vice president Kent Wells said on May 16, 2010, that an attempt to inject golf balls, tire fragments and other materials into the well to clog it up, known in the industry as a "junk shot." will be tried as an alternative if other solutions do not work. For a company the size of British Petroleum with years of scientific and research development expertize, this solution is one of grasping at straws and shear incompetence. Nine out of ten people interviewed by this journalist cringed at the thought of such a recommendation.
Consider these two scenarios. When you or I cut our arm or have a gushing leak in our water hose, what do we do to stop the flow? If we have a broken water valve, what is the best alternative? We clamp the hose. The cut on our arm? We put pressure on the artery or vein with our fingers. Again like a clamp. Guess what? We have stopped the flow until we put something permanently on it. The pipe letting the flow of oil out is no different than the hose or the artery. They are conduits for the flow of a fluid. It’s that simple. The question is, where can we find a company that has this capability to clamp the pipes which created this massive leak in the first place?
A company, and yes, a wholly owned American company called Wild Fire Technologies based in Middle River, Minnesota developed and patented a clamping/vice system (quencher) in 1992 that can gently squeeze a steel or rubber pipe to the point of total blockage. This hydraulically operated device would be attached to a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and guided by an operator at the waters surface. A scissor like configuration at the front of the quencher guides and allows the system to be positioned correctly the first time. Water current is not a factor as the ROV just directs itself towards the leakage point of the pipe. With the scissor shaped claws as the guide, the ROV is now in position and allowing the hydraulic jaws to take over. The first of the two jaws is manoeuvred up and over the pipe and takes a position opposite and directly parallel to the pipe on the opposite side or jaw number one. When both jaws are in parallel positions and relative to each other on opposite sides, they are hydraulically brought together gently squeezing the pipe shut. The pipe has been clamped and the crude oil release fully contained. The ROV then detaches leaving the pipe clamped and secure. It then returns to the surface to start the procedure all over again securing the opposing pipe at the well head. This can be a temporary or permanent solution confirms WFT.
According to Jason Chaplinski, CEO of Wild Fire Technologies, “We invented and patented a hydraulic clamping system that can produce up to and exceed 1.2 million pounds pressure creating a force of 5,000 psi enough to close off the riser pipe and other pipe leakages.” Kim A. Stelson, Associate Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota, was instrumental in the analysis and forces required to deform a pipe 15 to 18 inches in diameter. Wild Fire can increase this pressure up to and above 1.6 million pounds of pressure which would close the 21 inch riser pipe leaking crude at the bottom of the Gulf.
But, will this quencher system work at 5,000 feet? Chuck Chaplinski, Wild Fire Chief Engineer and designer of the unit said, “A modified gasket will have to be installed first, preventing the salt from doing damage to the hydraulic system and in addition, putting a floatation device on the ROV to compensate for the additional weight of the clamping system, but that’s it.” He added, “The ROV we require would be the same type currently being used at the bottom of the Gulf, so that is not a problem. If that ROV is not available, we have a backup at the University of Louisiana that will be at our disposal at a moments notice.”
Contacting Senators, British Petroleum, Congressmen/women and the United States Coast Guard has brought little success for Wild Fire executives. One exception was Senator John Cornyn of Texas who showed a definite interest in this application. Jared Newnam, COO of Wild Fire said “We’ve sent emails, letters and made a number of calls regarding our proposal. We received feedback saying we should contact those that we had already contacted. It just kept going around in circles.”
But as time goes by, more crude is being pumped into the ecosystem causing further devastation. My question is, why hasn’t a technically advanced, yet simple solution, such as what Wild Fire Technologies has suggested and offered, not been seriously considered by the powers to be? WFT has been aggressive in approaching those who make the decisions and has offered all assistance with it’s knowledge and expertise all to no avail.
Nobody seems to be listening. Why has BP now asked for the public’s assistance when the solution has already been in the forefront. There seems to be negligence on many fronts regarding this spill. The eventual congressional and senate hearings concerning this catastrophic leak will bring to light the real facts. The public and the world at large deserve the truth.