Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (Continuation)
Nikolay Shpakovsky

May 30, 2010
A staff of elimination of failure has reacted to our article Disaster in Gulf of Mexico. They have noticed, that the prime problem for them is how to close a pipeline.

An oil well failure usually causes an entire tangle of problems. These problems can be divided into two groups: 


  1. Problems which need to be solved for localizing the oil spread in the sea.
  2. Solving the second group problems will fully eliminate oil leak from the pipe.


The first group problems should be solved immediately after a failure, without a minute’s delay. It is only after eliminating oil spread that we will be able to set to the elimination of the pipe leak.


Of course, using a flexible envelope can neither remove nor minimize the oil leak from the pipe. A flexible envelope (especially in its mobile version) is designed for covering the leak place and preventing free spread of oil. If such a shell were prepared in advance as part of emergency equipment, it could be unfolded very quickly, within 5 to 10 hours after a failure. In this case, all oil would be accumulated on the area of 300 300 m and could be easily removed therefrom, instead of traveling 300 km in the sea.


As to the removal of the oil leak itself, solving these problems should be started from the problem situation analysis.


There are a number of questions appeared.
However, to answer them, it needs to ask many additional questions and obtain much information. It is necessary to have a clear idea of the well design, to understand how it operates and to know pipe breakage place. What are, according to the specialists, the causes of the pipe breakage? All this requires a thorough study of the failure site, technical documentation and consultations of specialists. I will hardly find any effective solution to a problem of this scale without such information. 

And, the most important thing, it needs to know when and why the pipe rupture took place. And one more thing. Why did this pipe rupture in this particular place and not anywhere else?


How to close the oil pipelene?
It is difficult to do now. It is impossible to say something specific having no exact structure of breakage place. If imagine the pipeline is broken and we have straight opened pipe the best way would be using something look like a cannon.



A barrel with explosive and “core” has to be moved down and established in opposite of end of the pipeline. After shooting the “core” will close the end of the pipeline. Design of the “core” is very important. In my opinion it has to be look like a fir cone. The core must go to pipeline well but have high resistance in opposite direction. The material of the core must be a little softer than material of the pipeline.

This is what I can say after casting a glance over the problems.


Measurements problems:
1. How can define the crash place location? 
2. How can predict a new possible crash place?  

These problems can be combined into one and solved by using sensors that detect the frequency of natural oscillations of the “pipe oil flowing in the pipe” system.  Sensors should be arranged densely on the pipe.  If the natural oscillation frequency starts to differ on some portion of the pipe, this may be the indication of the breakage place.


Modifications problems:
1. How can reduce the leakage?
2. How can stop the leakage?


Emergency cocks should have been mounted on the pipe in advance.
Maybe now the pipeline can be frozen if it is possible by temperature and oil flow conditions.


3. How can prevent a leakage of the crash place?

While mounting a well, it is necessary to construct a strong spherical dome over the pipe exit. The pipe exit place should be equipped with a device for cutting the pipe off in case of breakage and with a reliable gate.  Also, a possibility should be provided for a dome to be connected to an emergency oil-removing pipe.


One is obvious for future: it is necessary to change a chink design. At least to provide there the reliable emergency crane. 


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Authors: Nikolay Shpakovsky, Elena Novitskaya