Thursday, July 1, 2010

Schmiege's Chimney Solution - for deep water Horizen type oil leaks.

I hope to attach my sketch later but for now I will write what I think is obvious and simple solution for containing the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from British Petroleum's disaster, called the Horizon deep water rig.

1. Don't stop or cap the leak, just keep it from mixing with the Gulf water.
2. Simply put a chimney over the leak.

* This is ideal as:
  1. Does not increase risk of natural earth cap rupturing further.
  2. Works at any depth.
  3. May work anywhere in the world problem arises.
Overview:  In the same way a household uses a chimney to guide the smoke through the house without letting it mix with all the air in the house. The pressure is equal or nearly so inside and out side the chimney.

The only question is how strong to build the chimney to survive the transitional forces in one mile of water in the gulf.  Now here we discuss options, this is where detailed engineering analysis should be taking place in the public discourse and designs submitted, but it's not.  Why, what is going on?

The most obvious solution which was not tried is, weld a new open valve over the pipe and then close the valve.  Or bolt it on.   If pressure can not be held then the chimney effect is all you can do.

The key here is that your guiding the oil and water together, not containing it by force in a tube under pressure.
When the oil reaches the surface it will begin to 'fill up' the top of the chimney, this is where one naturally draws off the oil and seawater mixture, while its necessary to suck up the mess the added benefit is that the top of the chimney can be built to act as a natural oil and water separator.
Now what to build it out of.
At first, the first few days after the spill when I thought of this solution (a solution that was so obvious that it would be implemented asap) I thought the lightest possible material for an emergency chimney was needed for expedience, I will get into this, however now having months to address they could have built the chimney out of concrete, steel, plastic and so on.

So the idea was to take the lightest strongest synthetic material, perhaps similar to a sail or parachute and rig a frame with wire rope and secure it in place over the leak.  One end would have a float the other strapped down over the leak.  The oil would flow up the tube, the tube would be a large enough diameter so there would never be any buildup of ice or anything else.  The tube could even be made in multiple overlapping sections so if one, 'got away' it did not take down the entire chimney.  Submarines, cables, tug boats and robots could hold the chimney vertical and in place while a more durable chimney was built.

Any amount of chimney helps reduce the amount of mixing between the gulf water and the oil, creating a denser patch for skimming from the top.

Final thoughts, in this day and age these failures are difficult and they are POLITICAL failures not engineering failures.  However the after the fact failure to coordinate a technology team is nearly unbelievable.  Nay I say it is unbelievable.  Where is the list of solutions on the web showing each proposed solution and it's pros and cons.  Where is the list of vetted engineers that serve on the committee evaluating this.  Where the *uck is NASA.  One of there mandates is to help companies develop technological solutions to their problems.  They got a robot on Mars but they cant help here?  What, they don't have the presidents number?

We need a worldwide emergency technical response team.  One that's disconnected from local, national and corporate politics.  One that's 100% transparent and online in real time.  With zero political control from any government.  What if we face a catastrophic meteorite, or a rogue nuke, or worldwide epidemic, all systems of technical organization will fail us.  We must develop new tools now before the next crisis.

Leonard Schmiege,
Disappointed Floridian

Hands Across the Sand - St. Pete Beach, FL