Engineers build giant dome to contain US oil spill

Apr 27, 2010
This US Coast Guard image shows fire boat response crews as they battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon April 21. Engineers began constructing a giant dome to place over a leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico to contain a growing spill threatening the US coast, officials said Tuesday.

Engineers began constructing a giant dome to place over a leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico to contain a growing spill threatening the US coast, officials said Tuesday.

"It's a dome that would be placed over the leak and instead of the leaking into the it would leak into this dome structure," US coast guard spokesman Prentice Danner told AFP.

"They started working on the fabrication of this dome structure fairly recently and its estimated it will take two to four weeks to build."

British energy giant BP leases the Deepwater Horizon rig that has been gushing an estimated 42,000 gallons (160,000 liters) of oil a day into the sea since sinking last Thursday, still ablaze two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers.

The spill has created a slick measuring 77 kilometers (48 miles) by 62 kilometers (39 miles) at its widest points and located 50 kilometers (30 miles) off the ecologically fragile Louisiana coast.

BP has been using four robotic submarines to try to fully activate the blowout preventer some 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) down on the and cap the oil well.

But almost two days of efforts have yielded no progress so far and the giant dome is now being suggested as the best short-term solution. Officials said its exact dimensions were still being determined.

Vessels are also on stand-by to create relief wells that could permanently shut off the oil supply but BP officials say those operations would take two to three months.

"The dome would capture or gather the oil and allow it to be pumped out of that dome structure," explained Danner.

"If you could picture a half dome on top of the leak and the oil collects inside of this dome and is pumped out from there, that is the idea behind it."

Danner said the dome would be similar to welded steel containment structures called cofferdams used in oil rig construction, but stressed this would be an original design.

"This is the first time this has ever been done. This idea didn't exist until now. It has never been fabricated before."

Explore further: Big data confirms climate extremes are here to stay

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

BP struggles to cap leak as US oil slick spreads

Apr 26, 2010

British oil giant BP used robotic underwater vehicles Monday to try to cap a leaking well and prevent a growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico from developing into an environmental disaster.

'Major oil spill' as rig sinks off US coast

Apr 23, 2010

A blazing oil rig has sunk into the Gulf of Mexico, sparking fears of an environmental disaster two days after a massive blast that left 11 workers missing.

ESA's Envisat monitors oil spill

Apr 27, 2010

These ESA Envisat images capture the oil that is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico after a drilling rig exploded and sank off the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, USA, on 22 April.

Dome away from home

Mar 09, 2010

After more than three decades of service to researchers and staff stationed at the bottom of the world, the dome at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station was deconstructed this austral summer.

Recommended for you

Big data confirms climate extremes are here to stay

21 hours ago

In a paper published online today in the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature, Northeastern researchers Evan Kodra and Auroop Ganguly found that while global temperature is indeed increasing, so too is the variab ...

Peru's carbon quantified: Economic and conservation boon

21 hours ago

Today scientists unveiled the first high-resolution map of the carbon stocks stored on land throughout the entire country of PerĂº. The new and improved methodology used to make the map marks a sea change ...

How might climate change affect our food supply?

22 hours ago

It's no easy question to answer, but prudence demands that we try. Thus, Microsoft and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have teamed up to tackle "food resilience," one of several themes ...

Groundwater is safe in potential N.Y. fracking area

22 hours ago

Two Cornell hydrologists have completed a thorough groundwater examination of drinking water in a potential hydraulic fracturing area in New York's Southern Tier. They determined that drinking water in potable ...

User comments : 11

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Caliban
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 27, 2010
Just think of all the BP execs and shareholders losing all those dollars...oh, the Humanity!!!!

Wait- we'll just jack up the price! We'll make MORE MONEY! I wouldn't be surprised to see the futures market hit 250USD a barrel.

Anyone out there still want to argue that alternative energy production can't, and therefore, shouldn't be deployed to replace fossil-fuel derived energy, to whatever degree it is currently possible, and until fossil fuel is TOTALLY replaced?
Mayday
5 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2010
Wouldn't a powerful suction hose be so much simpler? Attach a large(10 meter) funnel(could be simple plastic with a strong wire screen over the opening) at the end and lower it to the well-head. Drive the thing with high-pressure pumps and sort out the oil from the sea water once you've pumped the mix into a large tanker on the surface. I find it difficult to believe that the kind of pumps necessary are not easily found. I mean, 42,000 gallons per day is not that high of a pumping rate, is it? If needed, have two or three of these suction devices at the scene. If the funnel can not reach a narrow vertical flow due to debris, stack them in the rising column of oil. You'd obviously get a lot of water to separate out, but you'd also bring in a very high percentage of the oil.

The big dome sure seems like an additional accident going somewhere to happen.
ormondotvos
not rated yet Apr 27, 2010
A good bilge pump that draws only 10 amps at 12 volts will pump 1000 gallons per hour.

A farm catalogue will sell you a silo for a few thousand bucks, or airlift an existing tank from an oil refinery. Attach lead weights from fishing boats, lower it down with a 4" hydraulic hose. Pump at the top.
ormondotvos
not rated yet Apr 27, 2010
So the hose is heavy. Attach crab trap floats at appropriate intervals, and for deeper locations, hollow steel balls or alloy compressed gas tanks. Think!
ormondotvos
not rated yet Apr 27, 2010
You should be able to guide the cap with sonar, since oil has a different density than water.
edpql
not rated yet Apr 28, 2010
So, have any of you worked on a DP vessel with ROVs?? Are you all thinking about the different ocean currents, temperatures, salinity levels, water density? This leak is a almost a mile below sea level. All of of those variables fluctuate constantly. Easier said than done. I'm pretty sure the oil companies might have a few bucks to spare on some engineers that know more than all of us combined.
NotAsleep
not rated yet Apr 28, 2010
How about using duct tape...
LuckyBrandon
not rated yet Apr 28, 2010
These guys have been watching too much of the simpsons movie recently...this is absolutely the most ridiculous idea I've ever heard of..

hey i got it guys, lets spend a sh*tload of money to build a gigantic freakin dome, then just drop that son of a b into the ocean to collect all that oil...

On the bright side, if it works, they may have stumbled onto a way to more safely mine method hydrate from the ocean floor...
Chef
not rated yet May 02, 2010
It is actually being reported that there are three separate spots it is leaking from, with 200,000+ gallons being release per day. But by all means, let's keep drilling for more. Fools!
MikeLisanke
not rated yet May 03, 2010
Anybody know if oil salvage would become the property of the salvage/clean-up crew?
Eric_B
not rated yet May 29, 2010
men with guns are stopping journalists from examining and reporting on spill site.
http://www.huffin...592.html