"Top Kill" solution to oil spill fails, moving to... Plan F?

File this under: Almost but not quite.
File this under: Almost but not quite.Courtesy 84user
Last week, BP attempted again to stop the oil flowing from the Deepwater Horizon borehole, this time through something called the "Top Kill" method. BP engineers hoped to slow the oil by pumping heavy drilling mud into the hole, and then cement everything shut. (Drilling mud is used by drilling rigs to cool the equipment, wash away bits of rock, and counteract the upward pressure of underground gas and oil.)

Things seemed to be going well—underwater fountains of mud appeared to have replaced the oil leaking from the well—and then...

BP announced on Friday that despite pumping 30,000 barrels of drilling mud into the well, the oil couldn't be stopped, and so the attempt to "top kill" the well was a failure. Nuts.

BP already has yet a new plan, which sounds kind of like one of the first plans; they're putting another cap over the leak, to contain the spill, and siphon off most of the oil.

This time, they're going to be cutting off the remains of the riser pipe and the top of the blowout preventer assembly, to have a single, clean source of the leak. Then they will be lowering the "Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) Cap Containment System."

The LMRP is supposed to seal around the severed pipe, and it will send the oil up a riser to another drill ship. (The operation should look something like this.)

In the meantime, BP is continuing to drill a relief well to intercept the original borehole, which should allow them to clog it up. As of Friday, the relief well was at 12,090 feet. The press release on the status of the relief well didn't say how deep it would have to be before it intercepted the original hole, however. Less than 18,000 feet, I suppose, seeing as how that was supposed to be the depth of the reservoir (I think).

Check back on Science Buzz for updates on the oil spill.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Thor's picture
Thor says:

There has been a lot of finger pointing about who's to blame for this problem and who's responsible to clean it up, but my ah-ha moment on this topic came over the weekend when I realized there aren't lots (actually any) of ideas from non-involved parties on how to solve this problem. If ever a situation cried out for the best and brightest minds of science and business to come together and develop a creative new solution to a problem, this is it, I think.

posted on Tue, 06/01/2010 - 1:24pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

You know, I started to wonder the same thing, except I kinda think that there are probably tons of ideas from non-involved parties for solving this problem. I bet engineers the world over are grinding their teeth in frustration. The problem is that implementing any solution is going to be costly and complicated, and, more to the point, who's going to do it? The issues of responsibility and authority seem to be becoming trickier by the day, with the government first saying that each and every thing BP does goes through them first, and then saying that BP isn't following their instructions. Adding another party to the mix would be difficult, and I don't supposed BP has a suggestion box sitting out in front the corporate headquarters.

That said, I think that BP probably does have some of the best and brightest working very hard on this problem. It just would have been nice if somebody* had gotten around to investing that thought before this happened.

*Regarding that "somebody," I'm sure there there are folks out there who genuinely deserve the tremendous anger that's building over the disaster, but I feel like everyone is kind of calling the kettle black. Not to drag out the shrill "We're addicted to oil!" argument, but, seriously, this is something we might have to expect if we're going to continue to rely so heavily on oil in the future. We should do everything in our power to make sure that accidents like this don't happen, but they do happen. I mean, maybe I'm not giving human ingenuity enough credit, but when you've got a huge, floating platform in thousands of feet of water, connected through miles of pipe and drill to a giant reservoir of explosive gas and flammable liquid, something could go really wrong. That is, something will go wrong, because someone will get lazy enough or greedy enough, or something will happen that we just didn't expect, and then... a disaster. It's frustrating, but it seems to me like it's kind of part of the deal, and we tend to forget that pretty easily. (Or at least I do.)

I'm not saying that we should necessarily stop doing stuff like this, I'm saying that we shouldn't act all surprised when when something that was a possibility from the start actually happens. Again, it seems to me that this is part of the deal, and if it seems like a bad deal now we should make a real effort to change the deal, like by using less oil, or investing a lot more time and a lot more money into making this sort of thing into an impossibility.

It occurs to me that this is an easy and self-righteous argument to make in Minnesota with no big ties to the oil industry—as horrible as it is, the direct effects of the BP oil spill will probably not be very noticeable to me. Someone living on the Gulf Coast, or someone who lost a family member on the Deepwater Horizon, has a lot more cause to be really, really angry, and to want someone to own up to ruining their life. Being told that they should have been driving a more efficient car wouldn't be particularly helpful.

Hmm. Like everything else, it's really complicated.

posted on Tue, 06/01/2010 - 1:57pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Use large Electro magnets on the out side of the blowout preventer and an iron based junk shot. The magnetism from the Electro magnets will hold some of the iron based junk shot. The more Electro magnets placed on the blowout preventer the more iron based junk shot can be held in the blowout preventer. When these Electro magnets are turned off a large amount of junk will be available plus the junk shot coming into the blowout preventer to overwhelm the piping and start the bridging process witch will stop the oil flow. The video http://www.youtube.com/user/CajonLiving#p/a/u/0/ydF808xnzFE

posted on Tue, 06/01/2010 - 3:29pm
little thinker's picture
little thinker says:

i totally think that all of the oil should just be either burned off or sucked up with like a super hydro vacuum or something...they have those right?

posted on Tue, 06/01/2010 - 4:44pm
little thinker's picture
little thinker says:

Or actually I've got an even better idea. Make some pvc pipes that fit the hole. Make them in sections, and put a plug on the first one. then start putting more and more pipes on until you can hook them up to some sort of container or something to hold all the oil. Then the oil isn't wasted and it solves the problem. All that's left is clean up.

And we can leave that to the hippies. :)

posted on Wed, 06/02/2010 - 11:43am
Paul Waltemeyer's picture
Paul Waltemeyer says:

Seems to me that if they are able to insert a pipe to pump drilling mud and other debri into the well, they should try another technique. Familiar with a catheter? Well, my dad used catheters and the version they used employed a ball which was inflated with liquid after the catheter was inserted ; the purpose of this inflatable ball was to prevent the catheter from being accidentally disloged or pulled out of the bladder. BP should get a company to design and manufacture an inflatable bladder, possibly made out of kevlar and rubber for strength which could be inserted into the well head which could be rapidly inflated by pumping a viscould liquid into it under a lot of pressure. This should seal off the leak and hold it until the relief wells can be drilled which will relieve the pressure on the damaged well head.

posted on Tue, 06/01/2010 - 11:20pm
shela's picture
shela says:

i think they shoud of not been drilling there any ways so they should fix it quickly or the people that live by the gulf of mexico should sue bp company for lots of money and still make them fix it.

posted on Wed, 06/02/2010 - 12:07pm
Walt Rusch's picture
Walt Rusch says:

This is my answer to shutting off the oil pipe. go to base of main pipe and cut half way through. Then insert a larger sheet of steel carved on one side to diameter of inside of uncut half pipe and equal to thickness of blade that made original cut. Now only oil that gets out is from gap that was needed to allow steel insert to slip in. This would then allow you to cut off all above pipe and remove from area. Once area is cleared drop the 100 ton cap over the base pipe and remove any escaped oil from top of the 100 ton cap.

posted on Wed, 06/02/2010 - 9:44am
Breanna Barilec's picture
Breanna Barilec says:

If they are able to put in a pipe then they should be able to plug it up or take it out.

posted on Wed, 06/02/2010 - 1:57pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The government needs to step in and stop letting the oil company do more damage...if we can go to Haiti and help them, why can't we help ourselves

posted on Wed, 06/02/2010 - 2:30pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How is it even possible to clean up all that unnessasary oil? We have to invent something to run our cars on except oil. Hydrogen?

posted on Thu, 06/03/2010 - 10:12am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

get a riot of people and clean up the world

posted on Thu, 06/03/2010 - 11:28am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

stop poluting our world where we live

posted on Thu, 06/03/2010 - 11:34am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Hopefully some good will come of this, if it helps convince people to move to non-fossil-fuel sources of energy.

posted on Thu, 06/03/2010 - 12:35pm
drake miller's picture
drake miller says:

what i think our world should do is ride bikes or something for short distances; because people are always taking their vehicles for/to/on short distances! it makes me mad because the pollution is getting even worse than it ever was!; or even if we are doing short distances we should carpool or something just like that, because when we carpool it still makes some pollution, but its better for our earth; because we are taking more people on that ride or carpool which is less gas that we are using, but also that gas makes pollution so if we use more factories and vehicles we are going to live in a really bad polluted earth! and that pollution is turning into smoke and if we are not use to smoke we will get very very sick and die probably the chances of surving smoking(as in just plain old smoke too) are about 1 in 1,000,000 which is about 89% of the time we don't have a chance against living so please please think or pick up a friend before you drive somewhere! help our earth please and be safe have a good day bye!

posted on Thu, 06/03/2010 - 12:42pm
maryjane's picture
maryjane says:

stop polluting our world

posted on Thu, 06/03/2010 - 1:05pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think that we should do something to help stop the spill so animals don't have to die.

posted on Thu, 06/03/2010 - 4:35pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

pollution is bad for our communites and our world

posted on Fri, 06/04/2010 - 9:40am
jonathan lopez pantoja's picture
jonathan lopez pantoja says:

I think so to like the oil spill we should chean it up

posted on Fri, 06/04/2010 - 12:16pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The oil spill is very bad for the envirmit. we should save the world

posted on Fri, 06/04/2010 - 3:20pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think we should boycott bp gas stations until they clean up there mess

posted on Fri, 06/04/2010 - 4:10pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

yeah i agree, who needs cars anyway??? all i need is my bike and i'm all good

posted on Sat, 06/05/2010 - 6:13pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Sat, 06/05/2010 - 12:15pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Sat, 06/05/2010 - 12:16pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I've heard this suggestion before, but I'm not sure it makes much sense—I think BP gas stations are independently owned, so boycotting them wouldn't directly hurt BP.

Also, oil is fungible. That means that you can't really boycott only BP oil. It's sort of like there's a giant pot of oil that all companies pour into, and you can't distinguish where the oil you get comes from. So not buying oil from BP is like not buying oil from everybody. But maybe that's ok, if you're trying to make an impact on how we get our fuel. (BP, after all, isn't the only company that uses deep water oil wells. They're just the ones that screwed up this time.)

posted on Sat, 06/05/2010 - 1:00pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

do you reallythink theywanted this to happen???

posted on Sat, 06/05/2010 - 6:37pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

boycotting BP stores just hurts the small business owner, not BP corporation

posted on Sat, 06/05/2010 - 7:48pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

the spill is very bad for the environment and it should teach companies to not take shortcuts.

posted on Sat, 06/05/2010 - 12:58pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

All oil companies need relief wells to prevent disasters, similar to what Canada requires. But oil companies don't want to foot the cost of construction and daily operation.

posted on Sat, 06/05/2010 - 6:20pm
UdyRegan's picture
UdyRegan says:

I just happened to stumble on this article while trying to read up more on the BP spill and honestly I only have one thing to say about the whole hooha that happened - and that's that corporations are pretty darn evil. It's a good thing that things managed to get settled in the end, but this is one disaster that's going to be remembered and archived in storage as amunition for activists for every next accident that's going to happen.

posted on Wed, 10/15/2014 - 9:27pm

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