(Source: The Seattle Times)
BP considers shredded tires and golf balls to stop oil spewing from well


The world has seen accidents before when tankers have run aground and leaked massive amounts of oil. The most recent oil spill is occurring right now in the Gulf of Mexico and was the result of the deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The explosion killed several workers on the rig and the oil platform sank after the resulting fire.

The oil in the well a mile under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico continues to pour out of the well into the waters of the gulf at a rate of about 210,000 gallons of crude oil each day equating to about 5,000 barrels of crude. So far, BBC News reports that the oil slick from the well has covered about 2,000 square miles of gulf waters and is now threatening the coasts of several gulf states and coastal wetlands where several animal species breed.

The owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig is BP, a London-based company, and BP is trying everything it can think of to stem the flow of crude oil into the gulf. Reuters reports that the robotic vehicles that BP tried to use to close valves on the well piping at a depth of nearly a mile under the surface of the gulf have failed.

Doug Suttles, COO of BP said, "We've essentially used up all those options," speaking about attempts to use robotic submergible vehicles to turn valves designed to prevent oil from escaping in to the waters.

The Associated Press reports that BP also tried to use a larger containment dome to funnel the crude to ships on the surface but the done had failed because of "large hydrate volumes" that clogged the dome. A smaller dome is being readied that should be able to avoid the clogging issue of the larger dome.

The only permanent fix for the oil that is spewing from the broken pipe at the deepwater well is to drill relief wells nearby to remove pressure. The AP reports that these relief wells are expected to take three months to complete.

BBC News adds that BP is also considering a method to block the blowout preventer with debris to stop the flow of oil. This method would have the company injecting shredded tires and golf balls into the pipe under extreme pressure in an attempt to block the oil in a manner similar to blocking up a toilet.

Suttles said, "We have some pipe work on the blowout preventer, and if we can open certain valves on that we could inject basically just rubber and other type of material into [it] to plug it up, not much different to the way you might plug up a toilet."

So far the spill has cost BP an estimated $350 million and some estimates expect the final bill after clean up to run into the billions of dollars. The spill is expected to be the worst in U.S. history surpassing the damage done by the Exxon Valdez.


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