Development is working on a smart approach to
containing the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
We need your help.
Update July 20,
2010:This page was originally posted on
June 3rd, 2010. in the mean time, BP has been able to
shut off the flow of oil and is nearing complete containment
of the leak. We still feel this idea has merit as a
back-up measure for the possibility of future spills.
If you would like to know more about our approach, please
Update June 25, 2010: The cross-section
of the skirt has been made "aerodynamic" to
reduce the drag forces of the sea current.
Update June 16, 2010:We have
narrowed the frontal area of the skirt to minimize the
sail effect based on the calculated expansion of the
gases over the mile-long distance. The top of the buoy
is no longer teathered to the sea floor, instead flowing
freely with the current whereby each incremental section
flows with the current rather than fighting it.
Update June 10, 2010:The methane
gas is captured with the top section of a baloon over
the top of the buoy. Oil and gases are pulled from under
the canopy for further processing.
Launch June 3, 2010:After many
weeks of having the idea in mind, we have decided to
publish this approach on our website.
The Oil Containment Buoy uses
a flexible membrane with weights and floats to contain
the oil spill close to the source.
The oil is leaking, and there is no
current method to capture all of the leaking oil. By
corralling the oil and coaxing it to the surface, the
oil is no longer running wild.
A flexible membrane in a conical or similar increasing
cross-sectional shape is buoyed at the top and weighted
at the bottom. The bottom is weighted to the floor and
surrounds a leaking oil well, the top sits on the surface
of a body of water. The membrane does not allow oil
to escape into the body of water. Oil is collected at
the top. The bottom allows fresh water to enter to help
carry the oil to the surface.
need to move from the beaches closer to the source so
that we reduce the volume of water from the ocean in
general down to a small corral."
By containing the oil as close to the
source as possible, we can keep it from further destroying
Anyone who has tried to put a garden hose onto an open
spigot knows that it's a difficult task. The oil well
in the Gulf of Mexico does not even have the benefit
of a threaded connection or a clean cut to connect a
pipe to. However, taking a bag and putting it over the
same spigot makes the escaping water manageable.
The natural solution is to shut it off, but until we
figure out how to do that, we need to contain the oil
that is escaping. Right now, we are attempting to contain
the oil at the beaches and wetlands. This is way too
far away from the source, and does nothing for the plumes
lurking in the water column.
The oil must be contained, but we are working at two
extremes. One at the beaches, and one at the well head.
BP is working on the well head and we all wish them
God speed in getting it done. However, we need to move
from the beaches closer to the source so that we reduce
the volume of water from the ocean in general down to
a small corral.
By containing the oil leak to the smallest area without
causing blowouts and ice crystals, we can eliminate
further damage to the environment.
principles relating to fluids and gases changing pressures
[back to top]
"Ice crystals accumulating
in 'Top Hat' was a foregone conclusion before it was
A reduction in pressure will cause
a reduction in temperature.
Anyone who has ever used an aerosol can knows that
the can gets cold as you use it. The basic principle
is that that when pressure is released, temperature
drops. The ideal
gas law is:
Where P = pressure, V = volume, n = the amount of substance,
and T = temperature. R is a constant. As we look at
the mixture of oil and gas leaving the damaged oil well,
the variables that change are P and T. So as the pressure
reduces when the oil and methane gas leave the well
head from 18,000 feet below seal level to 5000 feet
and onward, the temperature will naturally drop. This
drop is very sudden at the well head as is evidenced
by the massive amount of oil leaking from the well.
A quick reduction in pressure will lead to ice crystals.
This sudden pressure drop leads to a quick temperature
drop, enough to cause the gasses to liquefy and solidify
crystals. Now jam a bunch of ice crystals into an
inverted funnel and you will have a problem. Ice crystals
accumulating in the "Containment Dome" (not
to metion the same experiment with "Top Hat")
was a foregone conclusion before it was ever attempted.
Working with the laws of physics will allow us to
contain the oil
If we instead allow the oil and gas mixture to find
equilibrium within the immediate water column, it will
be easier to work with. It's much the same as corralling
sheep or cattle. You can force each animal by putting
them all on one leash, or you can corral them to move
where you want them to.
The Oil Containment Buoy is designed with a small but
generous area at the ocean floor. As the oil flows up
the column (since it is lighter than water) it is allowed
to expand. Once it reaches the surface, it can be collected.
The rate of collection at the surface must exceed the
rate of oil flowing from the damaged well head. When
this happens, fresh water is allowed to enter through
the base of the Oil Containment Buoy. This fresh water
helps lift the oil up the column and keeps the oil from
escaping through the bottom of the Oil Containment Buoy
The top challenge of this approach may be containing
the methane gas. A big bubbly collection of oil with
natural gas may be very volatile. We do not know enough
about this aspect, but it seems possible to contain
the gas as it rises up the column.
As we continue to develop this concept, we envision
a floating oil rig with a skirt as described extending
to the sea floor. Just below the surface of the water
would be an inverted bowl that gradually captures the
gas and oil to separate and process them.
Circus tents are the first thought. There are many
capable manufacturers able to create sections of tent
that can be locked together as the Oil Containment Buoy
What about currents?
A mile-long skirt used in this concept would effectively
become a very large sail. The ocean
current would exert huge forces on the side walls.
The good news is that the current is quite slow at the
Deep Water Horizon site. Nonetheless, provisions must
be made to allow the skirt and buoy to sway with the
current. In addition, the overall frontal area must
be minimized to reduce the sail effect.
The Oil Containment Buoy Project is
an effort to quickly and effectively eliminate further
damage to our environment by containing the oil leak
as close to the well head as possible. Time is of the
essence. We all need to work together towards a solution.