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View Full Version : OT: Landing a submarine to plug a hole


Smiley
06-05-2010, 09:30 AM
Is it that crazy a thought to take a sub that's near short term to be put out of commission and land or better sink that sucker over the 6-8 inch gushing pipe in the Gulf. Not a Navy guy but I can't help thinking that that could act as a measure to plug a hole. You certainly could put some pressure on the hole and slow the flow down. What am I missing as I am sure we have some Navy guys out there.

93legendti
06-05-2010, 09:40 AM
Seems plausible. Any subs fit the bill?

FWIW, if the rig was in shallow waters, divers could have plugged the hole within hours...

mschol17
06-05-2010, 09:47 AM
What you're fighting is the pressure differential. A mile plus of rock has been removed off the top of the oil deposit. That missing weight is what needs to be replaced, so a sub isn't going to work.

The last giant spill in the Gulf was under like 150 feet of water, and it took them months to plug it.

Lifelover
06-05-2010, 10:06 AM
So you want to take a Navy submarine with an active Nuclear Reactor and sink it on top of a pipe that is spewing oil and natural gas?

This is why BP has been refusing the "help" that everyone offers.

Smiley
06-05-2010, 10:24 AM
So you want to take a Navy submarine with an active Nuclear Reactor and sink it on top of a pipe that is spewing oil and natural gas?

This is why BP has been refusing the "help" that everyone offers.
Nobody said a nuclear sub, the fleet has a few older ready to be decommissioned subs and we could buy one from another country cheap and sink her.

Dekonick
06-05-2010, 10:42 AM
I do not understand why they can't blow it up with explosives. Speaking of nukes, perhaps a small tactical nuke? (kidding about the nuke but it would probably work...)

cp43
06-05-2010, 11:18 AM
I do not understand why they can't blow it up with explosives. Speaking of nukes, perhaps a small tactical nuke? (kidding about the nuke but it would probably work...)

I forget where I read it, but that's exactly what the Russians suggested. Apparently they've tried it 5 times, and it worked 4 times.

Chris

BengeBoy
06-05-2010, 11:25 AM
I believe one of the concerns they have is that the well casing shows signs of weakness far below the sea floor (I think I read 1,000 feet). If you do anything *too* dramatic at the top of the well (on the seabed), it will cause pressure to build up lower in the well and it will just blow out the walls of the well casing. Then, the oil will escape out the sides of the well and then come to the surface through the sea floor who-knows-where. Which would be worse than what we have today because you have potentially multiple leaks across the sea bed.

So even though the well as drilled has failed, they need to preserve it until they can properly relieve the pressure and then cement it.

That's one reason they stopped the "top kill" operation -- they couldn't get a grasp of what was going on in the blowout preventer and lower, and worried that if they sent too much pressure back down the well without the capacity to stop it they could make a bad situation worse.

BumbleBeeDave
06-05-2010, 11:39 AM
. . . . and the oil is coming out under enough pressure it will simply work it's way around whatever is on top and come out the sides--in many different places and be even harder to stop. The problem is not only the oil--it's the pressure that it's coming up at. I am assuming that's one of the reasons they are drilling relief wells to try and intersect the current well. Suck out the oil coming up, relieve the pressure, and once the pressure goes down as whatever oil reservoir below empties, then they can pump something back down the well to plug it up.

Also coincidentally, they can take the oil they suck up and sell it.

BBD

Lifelover
06-05-2010, 11:50 AM
I do not understand why they can't blow it up with explosives. Speaking of nukes, perhaps a small tactical nuke? (kidding about the nuke but it would probably work...)

I think you are confusing putting out well fires with stopping the leak.

Explosions are used to deny the fire of oxygen. Not sure how an explosion is used to stop the flow out of a pipe.

Lifelover
06-05-2010, 11:51 AM
Is this thread a hoax?

BdaGhisallo
06-05-2010, 11:57 AM
I think you are confusing putting out well fires with stopping the leak.

Explosions are used to deny the fire of oxygen. Not sure how an explosion is used to stop the flow out of a pipe.

Apparently the Soviets uses nukes to cap some natural gas wells, not oil. Their logic in using nukes was that the heat generated would literally melt the rock surrounding the well, turning it into glass-like formations and thereby creating a huge plug that stopped any flow.

dnades
06-05-2010, 12:27 PM
what is creating the pressure? the weight of the water and earth on the oil/gas mixture or is the pressure generated from below?

it seems like a long shot that they are going to hit the original well with a new one. I still think capping the well with a structure is the best solution. Drill a series of shafts around the hole - fill with concrete so that they stick above the surface - connect shafts together with more concrete to form a circular wall. Attach lid. Done. You could even make the lid so that you could pump out the oil. Easy to say and I am sure technically this would be an incredible achievement at the depth it is at but....

happycampyer
06-05-2010, 12:33 PM
Apparently the Soviets uses nukes to cap some natural gas wells, not oil. Their logic in using nukes was that the heat generated would literally melt the rock surrounding the well, turning it into glass-like formations and thereby creating a huge plug that stopped any flow.Makes you wonder which is worse, a leaking well (that one attempts to cap by non-nuclear means) or a sealed well and and giant underwater Chernobyl?

BdaGhisallo
06-05-2010, 12:43 PM
Well the Soviets invariably chose the expedient route, effects on their citizens and others be damned!

BengeBoy
06-05-2010, 12:44 PM
what is creating the pressure? the weight of the water and earth on the oil/gas mixture or is the pressure generated from below?

it seems like a long shot that they are going to hit the original well with a new one. I still think capping the well with a structure is the best solution.


The pressure is from the methane gas in the formation where the oil was found. From what I have read, this area is a well known area of high pressure gas formations. Other stories have suggested the the operators of the well had been reporting that they had a near "out of control" well on their hands for *weeks* before the actual blowout.

As for hitting the original well, there was an excellent story in the NY Times yesterday describing the relief well-drilling process. Because of advances in underwater imaging and horizontal drilling, the industry has been able to drill "directional" wells for many years now, and they are getting better and better at placing the bottom of a well pretty much where they want it. Since they just drilled the well that has blown out, they know *exactly* where that well is. All they have to do is aim to hit it.

One guy was quoted in the NY Times as say, "I will be very surprised if they don't hit it in the first try."

The most recent episode has certainly called into question the oil industry's ability to clean up a disaster at 5,000 feet under the ocean. But in terms of *getting* to oil, the industry's capabilities are pretty amazing.

People not in the industry may think of oil as sitting around in "pools" under the water. It's actually hidden in folds, fractures, cracks and seams in funny places. The whole point of today's drilling technology, as I understand it, is to snake a little straw through the earth until the end lands in exactly the right point to intersect the formations where the oil (and gas) is likely to be found. Then, as the initial pressure of the oil goes down as the oil is produced, they apply a lot of very high tech techniques to keep the oil flowing over the life of the well.

The amount of computer modeling and engineering that goes into underwater oil prospecting and drilling is significant. The free enterprise system works pretty well in this regard: *lots* of capital has been invested in learning how to extract oil; not so much into cleaning up the mess.

Do some online research on "geophysical prospecting" and/or "horizontal drilling"; it's pretty interesting.

Truly a case where the profits are private, the risks are social. Just ask this guy...

http://i45.tinypic.com/dvq3r7.jpg

sn69
06-05-2010, 01:53 PM
Nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. ;) Still, our submarines don't go that deep. And it's the depth of this pig that poses the challenges (BP's stupidity notwithstanding). If we tried to sink a sub, what about the nuclear fuel still in the reactor? How does one get the sunk sub to sink directly on the pipe? Then what, since it'll either teeter off or its weight will crush the structure making more of a leaking mess? Nor does our Fleet have any non-nuclear submarines, not even the older soon-to-be decommissioned ones.

Sorry to say, but this isn't the solution, no matter how novel the approach might seem.
Scott



Is it that crazy a thought to take a sub that's near short term to be put out of commission and land or better sink that sucker over the 6-8 inch gushing pipe in the Gulf. Not a Navy guy but I can't help thinking that that could act as a measure to plug a hole. You certainly could put some pressure on the hole and slow the flow down. What am I missing as I am sure we have some Navy guys out there.

SoCalSteve
06-05-2010, 04:41 PM
Nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. ;) Still, our submarines don't go that deep. And it's the depth of this pig that poses the challenges (BP's stupidity notwithstanding). If we tried to sink a sub, what about the nuclear fuel still in the reactor? How does one get the sunk sub to sink directly on the pipe? Then what, since it'll either teeter off or its weight will crush the structure making more of a leaking mess? Nor does our Fleet have any non-nuclear submarines, not even the older soon-to-be decommissioned ones.

Sorry to say, but this isn't the solution, no matter how novel the approach might seem.
Scott

Thank you for putting the reality of this idea in perspective.

Steve

Dekonick
06-05-2010, 11:45 PM
Makes you wonder which is worse, a leaking well (that one attempts to cap by non-nuclear means) or a sealed well and and giant underwater Chernobyl?

Oh here we go again... ever been to a nuclear reactor? Ever seen the cobalt blue WATER tanks? 100 feet deep... and the deadly nuclear material they house are 100% shielded by WATER. You can swim in it and be safe...

Now just how deep is this mess? 5000 feet?

I can deal.

The ocean is by far the safest place for anything nuclear to be...

Sorry for the rant, but everyone is so quick to bash anything that has the N word... NUCLEAR is not BAD! This oil mess is far worse than anything else to this point...

Dekonick
06-05-2010, 11:52 PM
Well the Soviets invariably chose the expedient route, effects on their citizens and others be damned!

What is the risk? Seems to have worked and harmed a LOT fewer folks than what BP has accomplished thus far... :crap:

happycampyer
06-06-2010, 12:30 AM
Sorry for the rant, but everyone is so quick to bash anything that has the N word... NUCLEAR is not BAD! This oil mess is far worse than anything else to this point...The suggestion was/is to detonate a nuclear bomb underwater, not build a nuclear power plant. I should have said "underwater Hiroshima," but that was only an atomic bomb, and the Soviets weren't responsible for that one.

BdaGhisallo
06-06-2010, 05:44 AM
What is the risk? Seems to have worked and harmed a LOT fewer folks than what BP has accomplished thus far... :crap:

IIRC correctly, all of the wells the Soviets used the method on were on land and not offshore.

Having said that, I am totally with you on nuclear. Folks go on about how bad and dangerous nuclear power is, trotting out 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl as the clinchers. But they were 31 and 24 years ago. A lot has changed, technology wise, in that field and if anyone is serious about weaning off of fossil fuels for electricity generation, nuclear HAS to be a part of that solution - a big part. Wind, with its need for nat gas backup generation capacity is not the solution, nor can solar hope to do it. It's all about energy density, and nuclear along with the traditional sources of energy, have it.

oldpotatoe
06-06-2010, 08:03 AM
Nobody said a nuclear sub, the fleet has a few older ready to be decommissioned subs and we could buy one from another country cheap and sink her.

The US 'fleet' of subs include no conventional, non nuke subs.

Karin Kirk
06-06-2010, 09:47 AM
Folks go on about how bad and dangerous nuclear power is, trotting out 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl as the clinchers. But they were 31 and 24 years ago. A lot has changed, technology wise, in that field...True, but didn't a prominent public official recently (around March, iirc?) make exactly this point about offshore oil drilling?

and if anyone is serious about weaning off of fossil fuels for electricity generation, nuclear HAS to be a part of that solution - a big part. Wind, with its need for nat gas backup generation capacity is not the solution, nor can solar hope to do it. It's all about energy density, and nuclear along with the traditional sources of energy, have it.Agreed about energy density. Although I don't think you can so quickly dismiss the capability of solar or wind to make up a significant chunk of our energy. I'm not anti-nuke, but I'd really like to see a cost comparison of nuclear energy that includes waste disposal. (I just spent about 30 minutes looking for such data but it seems nobody likes to do the math that way.) The gov't spent $13B so far and we don't even have a place to store the waste yet. The estimates for operating Yucca Mountain is something like $50 to $100 billion. You can't just overlook that when you make a case for nuclear energy.

Squint
06-06-2010, 09:52 AM
http://www.horizonedocs.com/artform.php

Knock yourself out.

nm87710
06-06-2010, 09:54 AM
The US 'fleet' of subs include no conventional, non nuke subs.

Maybe we can borrow one from N Korea? They seem to have some that work just fine.

goonster
06-07-2010, 12:36 AM
A few days ago, during breakfast after a long ride, I had to listen to the proprietor of the diner, rolling his eyes at another customer while expounding on how he thought the leak should be fixed.

"All dey gotta do is blow it up wit' a ****load of explosives. Dat's all dey gotta do!" etc.

Everybody seems to think they know how to fix an oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf, but I ask you this:

If a very important person that everyone cares about (say, the world's cutest child) were bleeding out internally, and the surgery is broadcast live on TV, and is not going well initially, who do you want in charge, making the key decisions in the OR?

a) An experienced surgeon
b) The CEO of the hospital
c) The Governor
d) The President of the United States
e) Proprietors or diners, and good folks from various other walks of life
f) James Cameron

pbjbike
06-07-2010, 01:26 AM
g) McGruber!

Dekonick
06-07-2010, 09:54 AM
A few days ago, during breakfast after a long ride, I had to listen to the proprietor of the diner, rolling his eyes at another customer while expounding on how he thought the leak should be fixed.

"All dey gotta do is blow it up wit' a ****load of explosives. Dat's all dey gotta do!" etc.

Everybody seems to think they know how to fix an oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf, but I ask you this:

If a very important person that everyone cares about (say, the world's cutest child) were bleeding out internally, and the surgery is broadcast live on TV, and is not going well initially, who do you want in charge, making the key decisions in the OR?

a) An experienced surgeon
b) The CEO of the hospital
c) The Governor
d) The President of the United States
e) Proprietors or diners, and good folks from various other walks of life
f) James Cameron

a) the CEO of a company that has its main interest in profits
b) the President of the US (who has shown more than once he may be a lawyer, but sure as heck isn't an economist and definitely isn't an engineer...)
c) a collective of field experts that do not have any profit motive - ie save the well...

My vote is C. Oh, people from various walks of life sometimes have solutions experts don't... just ask anyone who uses Lorenzo's oil... so don't dismiss an outside opinion just because you don't like it. Thinking outside the box sometimes requires someone who is really outside the field and does not have the same instilled rigid and ingrained thinking many experts do.

As for the nuke bit, my rant has more to do with irrational fear people have of the mighty atom.

nahtnoj
06-07-2010, 11:34 AM
BP has no interest what so ever in plugging the leak. There is serious damage to the casing at various points down the well. Too much pressure and oil/gas starts leaking into the bedrock, making containment more difficult and risking additional explosions. Long story short, downward pressure is not their friend right now.

Their strategy is to keep the flow open. Yes, there will be some leakage, but this is triage and it is the least risk option.