May 8th, 2010
03:33 PM ET

Effort to place dome over oil well dealt setback, BP says

[Update 3:58 p.m.] Read the full story

[Posted 3:33 p.m.] The effort to place a containment dome over a gushing wellhead was dealt a setback when a large volume of hydrates - crystals formed when gas combines with water - accumulated inside of the vessel, BP's chief operating officer said Saturday.

The dome was moved off to the side of the wellhead and is resting on the seabed while crews work to overcome the challenge, Doug Settles said.

Suttles said the gas hydrates are lighter than water, and as a result, made the dome buoyant. The crystals also blocked the top of the dome, which would prevent oil from being funneled to a drill ship.

"What we had to do was pick the dome back up, set it over to the side while we evaluate what options we have to actually try to prevent the hydrate formation or find some other method to try to capture the flow," Suttles said.

He said two options officials are looking at are heating the dome or adding ethanol to dissolve the hydrates.

soundoff (211 Responses)
  1. Steven

    Of course, let's don't forget, Broussard, that the tires were made of rubber, DERIVED FROM OIL!!!

    May 8, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. guuuue

    @ 163

    Is it greed that puts food on the table and heat our houses? Is greed the root of the of the social problems and riots in Greece? People are rioting in socialist Greece because they are "greedy" and want their free social programs, instead of doing what's right for their country by reducing their expenses. Is it greed that allows BILLIONS of hard earned US taxpayers money to foot the bill for social programs in Greece? I guess when you say love of money, you really mean "... the love of spending other peoples money." Right?

    May 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. joe lacona

    Suggest cosideration of collection and separation on ocean surface . A large collection area could be constructed using a number of stationary ships and floatig fences .Oil would be concentrated in the collection area and then separated .

    May 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Steven

    @167 I did not say that MONEY is the root of all evil. It isn't wrong to use money to take care of your family, or to heat your home, or whatever. GREED, LOVE OF MONEY is WRONG! Yes, I drive a car back and forth to work, so I am guilty of padding BP's pocket. I am NOT, however, using my paycheck to make a massive profit off of whatever I can get my hands on to sell. THAT is the difference between LOVING MONEY and using money as a necessity to get by in life

    May 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. durox

    in a way this should bring out a discussion about the way they (all the big oil companies) solve this type of problems: the current situation is close to US, all the media are on it, and yet they have no clue what they are doing. now imagine how they are dealing w/ same kind of problems in all the poor countries.

    BP has big adds on tv about their care and love for the people and environment, yet they have law suits all over the globe regarding negligence, ecological disasters, deaths, etc..

    May 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Herb

    There must be a lot of BP shills on this topic – defending the failure and defending the accident itself. If you're telling everyone to stfu and you know it all, then perhaps you should be out there offering your expertise.

    May 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff

    If the dome technology doesn't work, and if BP or another company or some arm of the government do not have multiple backup solutions ready to be employed, this will be an act of gross negligence or incompetence on the part of all the aforementioned parties. I sent an email to joint command last Saturday, May 1st emphasizing the need for multiple oil-capture plans in case the dome technology doesn't work. I have to be one of many people who have articulated that view over the last couple of weeks. And, I've been clamoring for multiple oil-capture technologies for the past week to national media, the White House, and my Senator and Congresswoman. BP already pulled one unannounced trick, which was to cut off the end of the pipe to cap one of the three leaks. I sure hope they have some other oil capture response technology up their sleeves that they haven't let anybody know about.

    But, I'm still hoping they'll work the dome approach out. That would be the most effective oil sub-surface oil capture approach.

    Also, on the surface, there are around 270 boats working on a 100+ mile long oil slick. That seems like an unreasonably small number of boats for such a broad area of sea. In the end, if it comes out that 500 to 1000 boats working on skimming the gulf waters could have been safely managed, I feel this would also classify as a failure to do all that is necessary. And even though BP classifies this as a "massive reponse," it clearly will not have been massive enough.

    May 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. guuuue

    @ 169

    Oil companies make allot of money but they also have allot of expenses. Oil companies only make a small "percentage" of profits of their total revenues. It's true that it come oild companies profit is in the billions. If we start telling Oil companies to stop making so much money, then who is going to invest in new technologies, search for new reserves, In fact most of the money that an Oil company spends... goes to the terrorist who are trying to kill us. If you want to see oil companies profits drop, then we need to increase domestic output so that we don't send our money overseas to other countries which are charging US oil companies $100 a barrel, instead of spending $40 to produce 1 barrel of domestic oil. Furthermore, I'd rather have a US business get the $100 a barrel than send that money overseas to terrorists.

    May 8, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. You reap what you sow

    What did Jesus say: You reap what you sow? This can explain the whole fiasco, from politics to economics and engineering. Let's hope that this can be sorted out quickly before the US and possibly the whole greedy world get engulfed by too much oil. Share God given resources and this will not happen.

    May 8, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. chem eng

    Hooray & a Prize to the only person on here who has at least a simple understanding of the chemistry involved in this chemical engineering problem...- Glenn !!!

    .not only is PRESSURE a factor at these great depths, but TEMPERATURE, and VOLUME must be considered......the VOLATILITY of the compound.........& the P, Temp & Vol change as the depth changes when the compound is being removed from the bottom to the surface of the Gulf. AND that's ONLY a STARTING POINT. The equipment, it's material properties, suitability to the various depths, interfacing of equipment & materials between various depths...well, it's COMPLEX isn't it?

    Perhaps the US Naval Engineers could be of some help to these deep thinkers...they're used to engineering at great ocean depths. Perhaps they have some equipment that could be of some use.

    It's not a "Philosophical" problem, It's not a "Religious" problem (& to those Catholic haters, go eff yourself, & join the Taliban against the Jews, Women, Children, America, etc),

    It's Definitely an Engineering problem, An Environmental problem, An Energy problem, & a Political problem in that the lack of response from the EPA, the Energy Dept, & the inefficient response from Pres Obama & his Administration (note: not "His" Administration, as he is NOT God, or Savior as some purport) & his use of Napolitano ("FEMA") is "Obam-inable"...& you can quote me – you heard it here First.

    so, thank you: glenn – May 8th, 2010, 4:02 pm ET

    "The crystals are explosive if heated to a gas. Worst they will become bouyant. From news reports today the original cause of the explosion was a methane gas bubble that rose from the well and as it expanded blew out seals and perhaps the riser itself. A small methane crystal one down would expand to a huge volume by the time it reached the surface."

    May 8, 2010 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jon

    Calm down ya'll. This is the real world. Here, things happen sometimes, and we respond. Can't plan for everything. They're doing their best, and they sure as hell got better people working on it then the people who're here complaining about their inability to contain this.

    What I think will happen as a result of this is stronger regulation put into place on both domestic and foreign oil rigs in US waters. What is so sad about this is that the rig is UK owned. As far as I know, US inspectors can't even get on foreign rigs.

    It appears BP could have installed a safety valve or shutoff valve to potentially prevent this disaster. There were other problems as well (too much mud at the wrong time). The result is that the industry as a whole will soon be required to pay for increased safety features. Historically, this is how it works. For example, Oil cargo containers, in the past, were not required to use inert gas to reduce explosions. After a series of explosions, which were treated as a random confluence of rare events, at least individually, together served as the impetus for tighter regulation. As a result, all of them are now required to utilize intert gas to stop a flammable source from igniting a fire in the container. This is just one small example of how things will get better as a result of this disaster.

    May 8, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Steven

    @176 apparently, you haven't done your homework. There WAS a safety valve installed @ the bottom of the ocean. It FAILED, according to Tony Hayward, BP chief executive officer, who said learning why the blowout preventer didn't activate was a key question in the investigation.

    The thing here is to stop the leak and THEN figure out what went wrong. There's no sense investigating the cause if you can't stop the effect.

    We as human beings are destructive, both with the Earth, and with each other. We kill each other over things that in 100 years will not matter. We are ripping the earth apart to get oil, coal, or whatever else we can. Yes, I am guilty, too, because I take advantage of the fossil fuels that BP, Shell, Chevron, Exxon, etc put into the tanks @ various filling stations to move my vehicle from point a to point b. But, with or without my 30 gallons/wk being put into my car, the oil drilling will continue, and as a result, the earth will continue to get torn up bit by bit. The world has gone and gotten itself in a big damn hurry, and the only way to keep up is to use automobiles to get around.

    My point, however, is that MAN has been making this mess for centuries, and there is very little we can do to reverse the damage.

    May 8, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. michael nyc

    comment #115
    thanks for your response

    it is not proposed to use "hair" skimmers, but hoses that submerge and as water/oil mix is pumped into tanker/barge it is replaced by same.
    there are many tankers/barges currently in service to other gulf rigs.
    as the tanker hold fills separated water from the bottom is pumped back.
    there are single super-tankers that can hold the total spill.
    many tankers can be used and return to refineries

    i leave the missile to the military and expect they can explode several miles down.

    reiterate of comment #107

    dome is not necessary and wasting time – oil floats to surface and can be pumped into tankers/barges –

    employ a floatation of existing tankers/barges starting at epicenter of shaft leak to recover (pump skim off surface oil)

    possible "stop leak" would be explosion deep in old shaft using a missile

    thank you

    Michael Gruters – former faculty physics Princeton late 60'

    p.s. the use of dispersing chemicals make surface removal impossible and poisons the sea – really stupid....

    May 8, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joel47

    Drill Baby Drill. The song of the addicted. We cant stop our addiction and the suppliers are getting too rich. So, who cares? It is just the Golf. Lets forget about any plugging operation. We should be focusing on more drilling to feed the American way of life. Drill Baby Drill.

    May 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Priority Manager

    Wow! I have read all of the comments posted here and believe that we as a species, must surely be doomed!

    But before 2012 or however we do it, maybe we should just get these wells capped and let BP drill again after they solved the problems. Just stop them from using the Gulf as a testing ground for new and untried ideas.

    Let's not wait to seal the holes, that should be done now! Stop the environmental damage from getting worse. This should be the priority, not saving the wells.

    May 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
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