May 13th, 2010
12:01 PM ET

Making a mountain to stop the oil

See this island? It wasn't here yesterday.

The Louisiana National Guard poured in tons of sand and rock to fill a 700 foot gap in a barrier island to stop the oil from reaching the estuaries.

The gap was the result of hurricane damage in Elmer's Island, just across the bridge from Grand Isle.

Filled in, the island will now be a part of the last line of defense in Louisiana's scramble to protect it's ecologically sensitive coast. The area is also an important breeding ground for shrimp.

"It's ecologically and economically very important to the local community," Lt. Kyle Galloway told CNN.

soundoff (338 Responses)
  1. Dwhite

    i think it is a great idea but u can burn it because it will just go out u hav to think u r burning things underneath water

    May 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Al Kahaulik

    Who here thinks that Purnell #163 is a Right Wing Republican?

    I do! Silly Purnell always making jokes.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    A note to those of you thinking BP is trying to save the well: its gone. The relief well that is being drilled IS the new well. If there was an easy way to blow up the well to stop it, they would. One thing to note, the BOP IS stopping oil, just not completely. If they do something to damage the BOP they might have 50,000 barrels of oil a day rather than 5,000.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Wizzard

    You know the funny thing is a lot of these ideas would work IF (and this is the big IF) the break wasn't under 5000 feet of water. Ever wonder why the ice crystals formed on the last "hat" they tried? Because at that depth and pressure, the temperature is actually below freezing but the pressure keeps it from going solid. That's why the crystals formed once they were allow to expand inside the dome. Not something you typically think of when trying to solve a problem and something that was relatively unknown by most until a few days ago (why they kept saying they had doubts about it working).

    And for all those people that think BP is more concerned about the oil and the well, they could care less about that. The oil in the ground isn't going anywhere (once they plug the leak) and they can drill another hole next to it and start all over. They already lost a half billion dollar platform and are losing at least tens of millions a day in real and future costs. If they had a fast way to cap it (blow it up, seal it, etc.) they would do it. BP has already accepted that this is a total loss, they just want to fix the problem. BUT they don't want to make it worse in doing so.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Matt

    Alan. You're seriously suggesting taking a small nuclear warhead and detonating it by the oil well? Are you a complete idiot?

    May 13, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Leak? What leak?!

    Its all a consipiracy! Just like the Lunar Landing. The government is feeding you all lies. there is no oil spill. There was no lunar landing. But there are aliens at Area 51.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. DrewInPortland

    I need to understand where this is comiong from.. Is this a pipe laying on the bottom of the gulf, that several rigs drill into? Or is it a direct tap to an underground reserve... If it is the first, where does the pipe begin? I assume that if it starts somewhere, couldn't it be shut off from that location? I need to learn more about the origins of this...

    May 13, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MCW

    Dan – I posted a similar idea but for some reason it didn't take. I'd make it out of steel though as concrete may not stand up at the temperatures and depths required. Attach it to the end of the drill stem and lower it into the hole. The conical shape would allow you to guide it into the leaking pipe with less resistance and the weight of the drill stem (5000 ft of drill pipe) ought to hold it in place. Then again, I'm no engineer and not familiar with the physics of the situation, so the rest of these commentors may blow this plan out of the water (no pun intended) but they're no experts either. I wonder if the experts have bandied this about?

    May 13, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. inspiral

    wizzard. Take a look at the idea i posted @68 and think of how scuba divers fill 'lift bags' and tell me it couldn't work.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Matt

    #130. Who care sif it isn't in the top 10 of oil spills. You're an idiot to think that just b/c it isn't the largest ever it's no big deal. Look at how much damage the Exxon Valdez did (still doing) to the the local population. Now in the gulf where numerous states use the Gulf for the tourist will lose out on Billions of Dollars of revenue. Think before you type.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tom

    The water pressure 5000 feet deep is over 2300 pounds per square inch. Despite this high pressure, watch the video of the leak and you you see oil and gas bursting out of the pipe. The pressure inside the well must be tremendous. As gas expands it cools. Is it the cooling of the expanding gas what caused the freezing problems with the first effort? If so, could a system be designed that would separate the gas from the oil and allow the gas to vent, at least temporarily? Or perhaps incorporate a means to continually capture and purge the hydrate crystals before they plug the pipe to the surface? I wouldn't give up on putting a lid over it just yet. It was a simple idea that had a lot going for it. Maybe it just needs to be tweaked some more.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MCW

    It looked like the BOP was blown off the well in the pictures I saw, is that incorrect?

    May 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CJ with the Chemical Enginnering Degree

    I couldn't just sit by and say that it was patently obvious that piping air down to burn the oil underwater was ludicrous, even though it took no effort on my part to be absolutely certain of that position. I figured it might be enlightening to do a little chemistry and mathematics to see just how unworkable it would be. This is strictly back-of-the-envelope, but there's no point in doing extremely fine calculations once the order of magnitude is apparent:

    According to "Green Power Equivalency Calculator Methodologies" from the US EPA, there are about 0.43 metric tons CO2 produced per barrel of oil consumed. Given atomic weights of carbon (12) and oxygen (16), that's (0.43 * 12 / 44) metric tons of carbon. As a first-order assumption, the oil is composed of simple -CH2- chains, so the chemical equation will be 2 CH2 + 3 O2 -> 2 CO2 + 2 H2O. So, for each metric ton of carbon, we'll need (3 * 16 / 12) = 4 metric tons of oxygen. Running the numbers all the way through, that comes out to 0.47 metric tons of oxygen per barrel of oil burned.

    Using the ideal gas law, you can easily find that oxygen gas at normal sea level conditions occupies about .76 liters per gram, or about 27600 cubic feet per metric ton. Of course, you wouldn't have pure oxygen, you'd naturally just compress air, which is only 20.9% oxygen. That gives you 132000 cubic feet of air per metric ton of oxygen.

    Now, let's say that the leak is about 8000 barrels of oil a day (just under 250000 gallons). There are 1440 minutes (24 hours * 60 minutes/hour) in a day. That means you have to burn 5.56 barrels of oil per minute. 5.56 barrels * 0.47 metric tons of oxygen per barrel burned * 132000 cubic feet of air to compress for each metric ton of oxygen = 345,000 cubic feet of air per minute.

    If you have a compressor capable of sucking all the air of of a box the size of a 73.4-foot-tall basketball court (94 feet * 50 feet * 73.4 feet) every minute and compressing it to a pressure of slightly more than one *TON* per square inch (it's about 2200 psi at 5000 feet deep in seawater), *then* we can talk about the insanely difficult engineering involved in keeping the fire burning and contained.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bill

    IXTOC 1, a Pemex well of the coast of Mexico in the Gulf of Mexico released 50,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil a day for 9 months, from 1979 to 1980. Massive clean up efforts were not launced. Tar made it all the way to Texas. I bet most of the experts on here don't even remember or know about it. Of the coast of California, there is currently a 20 mile long oil slick, from a leak releasing 150-200 barrels of oil a day for the last 200,000 years. Its naturally occuring oil seepage. More oil is in the Gulf of Mexico each year from natural seepage. Oil in the water just isn't that big of a deal. The only reason its a big deal is the Exxon Valdez, which dumped heavy oil straight onto the shore. This is light crude out in open water which evaporates very quickly. It'll leave tar balls, it'll kill a few birds (wind turbines kill 40,000 birds a year in the US, installed windows on buildings kill 2,000,000-10,000,000), it'll get cleaned up and in a couple of years it won't even be a big deal.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alan

    Matt, I'm only part idiot – YOU on the other hand, are a FULL BLOODED IDIOT!

    May 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
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