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Hundred-Ton Dome To Collect Oil Spill 565

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the big-fire-go-boom dept.
eldavojohn writes "After failing to contain the Gulf oil spill any other way, a massive containment dome had the finishing touches put on yesterday. It amounts to a giant concrete-and-steel box made by Wild Well Control that is designed to siphon the crude oil away from the water. They expect an 85 percent collection with this device. It's not a pretty situation as Google Earth illustrates."
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Hundred-Ton Dome To Collect Oil Spill

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  • Man. (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Pojut (1027544)

    Here's to hoping it works. This is one major clusterfuck, and a really unfortunate one at that. If this concrete dealy doesn't work, what other options do they have?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721)

      Pay politicians more money to make sure they can continue drilling.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Shakrai (717556)

        What's wrong with offshore drilling? Please tell me you aren't someone who is going to condemn an entire industry because of one accident. No human enterprise ever attempted managed to get underway without mistakes. The important thing here is to learn what went wrong and take steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again in the future.

        For better or worse human civilization can not exist without environmental impact. The knee-jerk reaction to this unfortunate incident by certain politicians is disappoin

        • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:56AM (#32099438) Journal

          Who pays for the mistakes? Who pays for the environmental impact? If BP were forced to shoulder the entire cost of this mistake, they would go bankrupt. And so, as usual, it is the rest of us who will have to pay. Socialism for the rich, paid for by the poor.

          If you and I lived next to each other, and I ran a pipe from my toilet into your yard, you would be pretty pissed off, wouldn't you? You'd probably demand I stop shitting in your yard. And I would say, "Human civilization can not exist without environmental impact, shit happens, get over your knee jerk reaction and get used to it, hippie."

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Shakrai (717556)

            Who pays for the mistakes? Who pays for the environmental impact?

            You are welcome to try the alternative of not living in an energy intensive society if that would better suit your needs. I hear that sub-Saharan Africa is wonderful this time of year.

            If BP were forced to shoulder the entire cost of this mistake, they would go bankrupt.

            Got a citation for that or are you just making assumptions?

            If you and I lived next to each other, and I ran a pipe from my toilet into your yard, you would be pretty pissed off, wouldn't you?

            Bad analogy, because that implies a deliberate decision was made to cause this oil spill. A better analogy would be that your sewer pipe fails for whatever reason and floods my yard with shit. In that instance I would expect you to clean up the mess and fix the pi

            • by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:11AM (#32099718) Homepage

              Who pays for the mistakes? Who pays for the environmental impact?

              You are welcome to try the alternative of not living in an energy intensive society if that would better suit your needs.

              When did 'energy intensive society' come to mean 'poor people pay when the rich screw up'?

              A better analogy would be that your sewer pipe fails for whatever reason and floods my yard with shit.

              No, a better analogy is that his sewer pipe fails and covers the entire neighborhood with shit...and because cleaning that up would bankrupt him, everyone affected is told to pitch in and give him money for cleaning up his own mess. Screw that.

              • by PhilHibbs (4537) <snarks@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:34AM (#32100154) Homepage Journal

                No, a better analogy is that his sewer pipe fails and covers the entire neighborhood with shit...and because cleaning that up would bankrupt him, everyone affected is told to pitch in and give him money for cleaning up his own mess. Screw that.

                That analogy fails because his shit pipe is not serving a purpose for the rest of the neighbourhood. Oil drilling is keeping our civilization going - whether you think that's a good thing is another debate, but there are circumstances when society has to take the risks for the critical processes that it depends on. I'm all for reducing our dependence on oil and I'm all in favour of wind farms and tidal generation and orbital solar panels beaming power down by laser and nuclear power plants and thermal funnels and all that, but we are where we are right now and what means we need oil, and to a certain extent we must accept the risks that go with it.

            • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:15AM (#32099784)
              Why exactly is it that the corporate apologists *always* fall back on either a strawman or a false dichotomy? As if there was no alternative between drilling for as much oil as we can get our hands on and living in sub-saharan conditions. As for the cleanup in the Gulf - you realize that the liability of BP is capped by law at a ridiculously low amount? As always, the profit is funneled to the corps, mostly bypassing taxation, while the externalities are offloaded on society. If all those investments into drilling for oil under ever more extreme conditions, which were largely funded by tax-breaks and deregulation, would have been directed to alternative energy sources and infrastructures, we would be quite a bit closer to the point where we could finally stop squandering a valuable chemical resource like oil by burning it.
              • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @12:27PM (#32101244) Journal

                you realize that the liability of BP is capped by law at a ridiculously low amount?

                I find it amusing that the industry thought they could get away with that one. That they thought such a law could withstand the will of hordes of enraged and ruined people. No, BP is going to pay far, far more than $75 million. If they could stop the leak right now, and gather up all the spilled oil before it does any more damage, they could live this one down. It may turn out not as bad as feared. Seems unlikely from what I've heard.

                No one has forgotten the Exxon Valdez. If this is worse, and every indication is that it will be much, much worse, this will never be forgotten either. What's a big company's reputation worth? A lot more than a paltry $75 million. To this day, I still sometimes avoid Exxon gas stations. Corporations have learned that they absolutely cannot afford such epic mistakes, no matter what technical limitations in liability they've won with lobbying. There were safety measures they could have taken to avoid all this. Union Carbide didn't survive Bhopal. Piper Alpha is the biggest oil platform disaster ever, but Occidental survived. This one doesn't have as many deaths. But it may be bigger. If that oil leaks for another 3 months, BP's downfall may be the least of the consequences. The entire Mississippi delta, Florida's coast, west and east, and who knows where the loop current and gulf stream might ultimately transport the mess?

                The industry has really shit its nest this time.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Lumpy (12016)

              Really? so the oil industry is paying the full costs to clean this up? 100% costs, they are writing a check to the Feds for all the costs of the coast guard, navy, etc?

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by illumin8 (148082)

              Who pays for the mistakes? Who pays for the environmental impact?

              You are welcome to try the alternative of not living in an energy intensive society if that would better suit your needs. I hear that sub-Saharan Africa is wonderful this time of year.

              That's a false dichotomy. You make it sound like we have only 2 choices: Either deal with oil spills like this, that could have been prevented if BP had installed a $500,000 blowout valve on the well, or live in a tribal village with no electricity or oil.

              What

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Wyatt Earp (1029)

            BP can handle it.

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/7640072/BP-Gulf-clean-up-could-cost-200m.html [telegraph.co.uk]

            Cost of clean up, $200 million

            http://www.investmentu.com/IUEL/2010/May/the-gulf-of-mexico-oil-disaster.html [investmentu.com]

            $2-7 billion

            BP
            Revenue - $246.1 billion (2009)
            Operating income - $26.43 billion (2009)
            Net income - $16.58 billion (2009)

            http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/STAGING/global_assets/downloads/B/bp_fourth_quarter_and_full_year_2009_results.pdf [bp.com]

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by ArcherB (796902)

            Who pays for the mistakes? Who pays for the environmental impact? If BP were forced to shoulder the entire cost of this mistake, they would go bankrupt. And so, as usual, it is the rest of us who will have to pay. Socialism for the rich, paid for by the poor.

            If you and I lived next to each other, and I ran a pipe from my toilet into your yard, you would be pretty pissed off, wouldn't you? You'd probably demand I stop shitting in your yard. And I would say, "Human civilization can not exist without environmental impact, shit happens, get over your knee jerk reaction and get used to it, hippie."

            If your shit would power my car, I'd welcome it!

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            If BP were forced to shoulder the entire cost of this mistake, they would go bankrupt.

            All BP's operations on US soil and offshore in US waters should be nationalized.

            If corporations want to have all the rights of people, of US citizens, then they have to be ready to accept all of the responsibilities. A corporate "death penalty" for a screwup of this magnitude is not unreasonable.

            Right now, corporations get to privatize the profits but socialize the risks.

            Human civilization can not exist without environmen

        • Re:Man. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Duradin (1261418) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:06AM (#32099630)

          "condemn an entire industry because of one accident" ... one accident and their complete lack of preparedness for it.

          If it was some fly-by-night corp, this would be expected. BP is a bit bigger and more established and should have had measures in place to deal, or attempt to deal, with this sort of scenario. And considering they seem to cook off a rig or two (in the event hurricanes don't do it for them) when ever it looks like oil prices aren't where they want them to be at they should at least be prepared to deal with the cleanup.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by LWATCDR (28044)

            Actually they really where prepared pretty well for it.
            There where and are many thousands of feet of booms prepositioned and ready to go.
            What no one really seems to be talking about is what happened to the blow out preventor?
            That is the huge question and no one really seems to be asking.
            This should have never happened. The blow out preventor has no less then three ways to shut off the oil and ALL of them have failed?
            This has never happened before! Every rig has one of these and if their is some design flaw

          • Re:Man. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @01:24PM (#32102312) Homepage

            I think a lot of people are very interested to learn why the Blowout Preventer failed, given that they have multiple failsafes, and are built to account for this exact sort of incident, including two "shear rams" that should have been able to cut through anything stuck in the valve to seal it.

            BP's got a poor track record, and should be sued into oblivion if we find out that they tampered with or disabled safety measures on the BOP.

            However, there's no evidence of this just yet, and several companies were involved with this particular rig at the time of the incident.

            From what I've been reading, the BOP failure could either be narrowed down to a complete, colossal screw-up by BP, or a Rube Goldberg series of events that prevented the BOP from working.

            Obviously, we'll be seeing many new safety measures installed on all current and future BOPs, as well as ROVs that can supply sufficient hydraulic power to close the shear rams in the event of a multiple system failure.

        • by r_naked (150044)

          Fuck you very much....

          It is all about risk versus reward, and let's see, risk: major oil spill that is really going to fuck the eco system up for a long time (potentially world wide). Reward: none. Yep, ZERO reward. Oil should just go away already. As long as it sticks around, the longer we are NOT going to have alternative fuel sources taken seriously.

          Now I am not some eco-nut that is against everything that could damage the environment. Hell, come build another 10 or so nuke plants in my backyard and I wi

        • Re:Man. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by piquadratCH (749309) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:17AM (#32099826)

          Please tell me you aren't someone who is going to condemn an entire industry because of one accident. No human enterprise ever attempted managed to get underway without mistakes.

          If it's an industry where one mistake translates to environmental and economical damage on the scale we are witnessing at the gulf coast right now, then yes, condemning (and perhaps even abolishing) said industry may be the right thing to do.

        • Re:Man. (Score:4, Informative)

          by rrhal (88665) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:18AM (#32099858)

          What's wrong with offshore drilling? Please tell me you aren't someone who is going to condemn an entire industry because of one accident. No human enterprise ever attempted managed to get underway without mistakes. The important thing here is to learn what went wrong and take steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again in the future.

          What went wrong was believing the the oil companies when they said they had a plan in the first place. When ever there's a mistake we get boned. Every time - this isn't just an isolated case - the industry has a 100% track record with major oils spills. The contingency plan that was supposed to keep this from happening didn't get implemented or just wasn't sufficient.

          For better or worse human civilization can not exist without environmental impact. The knee-jerk reaction to this unfortunate incident by certain politicians is disappointing to say the least.

          It is unfortunate that the knee-jerk reaction of a certain number of politicians is going to be to defend the oil companies and their actions will predictably be enough to keep us from making any real progress.

          • "What went wrong was believing the the oil companies when they said they had a plan in the first place... the industry has a 100% track record with major oils spills."

            Let me tell you why your claim is busted thinking.

            There are hundreds of spills that you don't hear about that could have been major spills. However, the oil companies have detailed plans and procedures for how to deal with them. As a result, these spills don't become major ones, and they don't count in your grand analysis. Of course the
        • Re:Man. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:28AM (#32100048) Journal

          I'm would be all for off-shore drilling if:

          1. There was a constant inspection regime paid for entirely by the industry. In other words, there is an armed government official with absolute power to stop drilling, and his salary paid entirely by whoever owns the well and the platform.
          2. All caps on liability were removed and the owners of the well and platform were forced to pay all costs of a spills, without limit of any kind.
          3. Any evidence of ignoring of safety requirements would lead to lengthy prison sentences for all involved, and a ban on the companies involved in the accident of no less than five years from any extraction.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Rufus211 (221883)

            1. There was a constant inspection regime paid for entirely by the industry. In other words, there is an armed government official with absolute power to stop drilling, and his salary paid entirely by whoever owns the well and the platform.

            So similar to the Mine Safety and Health Administration? Or how about the SEC? We've seen how well those have worked out. Any time you have a small regulatory body working in a single industry you end up with conflicts of interest. Industry players come into the agen

          • by sjbe (173966)

            1. There was a constant inspection regime paid for entirely by the industry. In other words, there is an armed government official with absolute power to stop drilling, and his salary paid entirely by whoever owns the well and the platform.

            Bit of a conflict of interest there don't you think? Do you seriously expect an inspector to readily shut down production on the person that pays their salary? If so you are FAR more optimistic and trusting of human nature than I am.

            2. All caps on liability were removed and the owners of the well and platform were forced to pay all costs of a spills, without limit of any kind.

            I'm not aware that there are any caps on liability (please cite if you know of any) other than the flesh eating lawyers employed by the oil companies. Given the results of previous litigation the oil companies seem to be able to defend themselves rather effectively.

            3. Any evidence of ignoring of safety requirements would lead to lengthy prison sentences for all involved, and a ban on the companies involved in the accident of no less than five years from any extraction.

            Sounds gre

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dragonslicer (991472)

          Please tell me you aren't someone who is going to condemn an entire industry because of one accident.

          Because of course this is the first major incident that has dumped vast amounts of oil into the environment.

    • Re:Man. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:42AM (#32099160) Journal

      If this concrete dealy doesn't work, what other options do they have?

      My understanding is that the only other option is to drill a relief well. Unfortunately it will take months before they have the equipment and logistics in place to do that.

      I'd like to know how this dome is supposed to work in rough seas. The oil is going to be contained within the dome and brought to a surface ship. What happens when that surface ship can't maintain position due to inclement weather? Hurricane season starts in another few weeks....

      • by codepunk (167897)

        They are just going to drop that containment dome over the blow off valve. It is not going to be suspended by the ship.

        • by Abcd1234 (188840)

          They are just going to drop that containment dome over the blow off valve. It is not going to be suspended by the ship.

          I thought they were also planning to siphon off the oil... I wouldn't think this dome would be heavy enough to contain the immense pressures inside that well, particularly when combined with the bouyancy of the oil itself.

      • Re:Man. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Abcd1234 (188840) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:06AM (#32099636) Homepage

        I'd like to know how this dome is supposed to work in rough seas. The oil is going to be contained within the dome and brought to a surface ship. What happens when that surface ship can't maintain position due to inclement weather? Hurricane season starts in another few weeks....

        Probably the same way the original rig [wikipedia.org], which was a semi-submersible, dynamically positioned platform, was controlled: via a system of computer-controlled engines which maintain the vessel's position over the drill site.

    • Re:Man. (Score:5, Funny)

      by eln (21727) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:56AM (#32099448) Homepage
      If this doesn't work, their next option is to wall off the Gulf of Mexico, drain the water, and let the entire thing fill with oil like a gigantic bathtub. Then, we'll get a bunch of old hippies together, throw in a giant effigy, light the whole thing on fire, and have the best Burning Man festival ever!
  • 85% (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:35AM (#32099058) Homepage Journal

    That number would be more encouraging if the amount coming out were not so massive. This spill is going to create a lot of suck for years to come.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by houstonbofh (602064)
      But look on the bright side. Jersey Shore can now have crude oil wrestling!
    • by ejtttje (673126)
      Hopefully they'll be able to do something about the remaining 15% after they get the majority under control. :(
      I don't understand why they don't have skimmers for harvesting the oil off the surface of the water instead of trying to burn it or break it down with even more chemicals.
  • Good luck with that (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Huntr (951770) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:39AM (#32099114)
    Never been tried > 350 feet of water [washingtonpost.com]. And the wellhead is a mile down. Fingers are crossed, tho'.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't understand why they can't just bury it under 100 tons of concrete.

    And that structure looks nothing like a dome.


    Does't the oil business have contingency plans for this kind of thing?! And companies that specialize in this kind of work?! America is filling the Gulf with FAIL.
  • by fantomas (94850) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:44AM (#32099192)

    Can anybody tell me about the chemical dispersants? what happens to the 'dispersed' oil plus these chemicals? This is a naive question, please educate me but surely this means you now have oil+chemical in your water rather than just oil in your water - is the dilution level so low that it doesn't affect the sealife that is later caught to eat, does it combine with the oil to something that it relatively innocuous that breaks down in sunlight, or something that sinks to the sea bed etc?

    Information welcomed, just curious about what happens to that oil if its not skimmed off the surface or burnt off, but chemically treated and left in the ocean and left there. Maybe it's just so dilute it doesn't matter, I don't know. Any knowledge on this, folks?

    • by halivar (535827)

      The oil droplets descend to the bottom of the ocean. Some ecologists think this is worse than letting it sit on top of the ocean. You can clean birds, but you can't clean the plankton that feed the bottom of the food chain.

      • by AndersOSU (873247) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:00AM (#32099524)

        Those who think letting the oil sink is a bad idea are a distinct minority.

        Sure, if there wasn't oil in the water we wouldn't want to dump dispersants in, but there is, so this is the lesser of two evils.

        The sea floor is a veritable desert compared to the ocean surface. The food chain starts in the first 10' of water, where plankton have access to sunlight.

        There are creatures that will be effected by oil on the sea floor like crabs and such, but it's still better than letting it run ashore.

        Briefly, oil on the ocean floor or dispersed in the water column is bad. Oil on the ocean surface is worse. And oil on the ocean surface at the shoreline and in the estuaries is an ecological catastrophe.

        • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:40AM (#32100292) Journal

          Those who think letting the oil sink is a bad idea are a distinct minority. ...
          There are creatures that will be effected by oil on the sea floor like crabs and such, but it's still better than letting it run ashore.

          I don't think you understand the full consequences of oil on the sea floor.

          Every time a big storm comes through,
          (and this is the Gulf of Mexico... hurricane central)
          the sea floor gets stirred up and oil gets carried to shore.

          The gulf coast is going to have oil contaminations problems for years.

          • by AndersOSU (873247) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:49AM (#32100464)

            The gulf coast is going to have oil contamination for years regardless of whether the oil is dispersed or not. Many years of lower concentration contamination is likely favorable to saturating the swamps and estuaries with oil now.

            Further, my understanding is that agitated dispersed oil is likely to spread out in the full 3 dimensions of the gulf of Mexico, which isn't good, but it's less bad than having it bob to the surface or concentrate on the bottom where it bio-accumulates in the few deep sea bottom feeders.

            Remember when your high school chemistry teacher told you that dilution isn't the solution to pollution? Well when containment isn't an option - like with an oil spill, dilution is preferable to concentration.

      • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:20AM (#32099898)
        Actually, you basically can't clean birds. It is just a feelgood measure. At the point where you pick them up, they have been trying to clean themselves already, thereby ingesting a huge amount of crude. Even if you get them clean and they don't die from the stress, they die of organ failure due to the toxicity rather sooner than later. The average survival time for a cleaned bird is 1-5 days, from the last data I have seen. It would be better to just euthanize them.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by vbraga (228124)

          Interesting. Do you have a source for this?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            I can only give you a German source [spiegel.de]. They cite German biologists, who speak from their experience from an oil spill in the North Sea, amd some World Wildlife Fund guy who has data from the "Prestige" spill in spain, where an intensive cleaning effort was made. He is basically saying "If you can catch them at all for cleaning, they are already too far gone."
            • by KevinIsOwn (618900) <herrkevin&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @03:07PM (#32103678) Homepage
              This is a great article, so here are some of the main points for those who don't speak German:
              • Birds will attempt to clean themselves with their beak and tongue even despite the terrible smell and taste of the oil. Birds surviving cleaning then generally suffer from kidney and liver problems resulting from the oil ingestion.
              • On the Spain and French coast, thousands of birds were captured after an oil spill and cleaned. Of those, only 600 survived the cleaning and of those 600, many were dead within 7 days.
              • The WWF confirms that birds covered in oil are generally not savable once they've been captured.
              • The survival rate of birds depends heavily on the type of oil and the amount of oil that is on the birds.

              The article does not report this, but other articles have noted that this oil is mostly mixed with water (more than previous spills). This could give hope that more birds than normal can actually be saved.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Just Some Guy (3352)

          The average survival time for a cleaned bird is 1-5 days, from the last data I have seen.

          You misread the report. "Cleaned bird" is the internal code name for a line of Seagate hard drives.

    • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:02AM (#32099572)

      Can anybody tell me about the chemical dispersants? what happens to the 'dispersed' oil plus these chemicals?

      See wikipedia "Bile" entry... Similar concept but in an ocean rather than the guts.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bile [wikipedia.org]

      To make a very long story very short, oil naturally biodegrades over time by water internal-chemistry organisms, not oil internal-chemistry organisms. At a rate directly proportional to the surface area of the drop. Giant "ball" of oil the size of a football stadium will take much longer than a nearly infinite cloud of little microscopic droplets.

      If a life form existed on earth with oil based protoplasm rather than water, you wouldn't need the dispersant because that life form could live inside the volume of the oil as opposed to upon the surface...

      Think about bio sources of oil in the ocean. if there were no way to degrade oil, the oceans would be full of cod liver oil and whale oil. Similar with natural seeps of crude.

      Much like radioactivity, crude is mostly harmless when properly distributed at an extremely low level in a large volume... its concentrated stuff thats the problem.

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:34AM (#32100162)

      Sorbitol esters. Basically modified sugar alcohols. An example of this class of compounds is the Polysorbate 80 that is used to emulsify mild fats in ice cream.

      Extremely biodegradable and pretty unlikely to cause any environmental damage.

  • D'ome! (Score:2, Funny)

    by JustOK (667959)

    They tried it on Springfield.

  • "...is designed to siphon the crude oil away from the water."

    Really?

    siphon
    - a tube running from the liquid in a vessel to a lower level outside the vessel so that atmospheric pressure forces the liquid through the tube.

    - A pipe or tube fashioned or deployed in an inverted U shape and filled until atmospheric pressure is sufficient to force a liquid from a reservoir in one end of the tube over a barrier higher than the reservoir and out the other end.

    - To draw off or convey through or

    • Really. The third definition fits nicely--"as if through a siphon". The pipe will not technically be a siphon tube, but the oil will flow through it in a similar manner.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        Yeah, I find it really hilarious that they'd go to the trouble to quote the definition but not realize that one of them works.

        Pedantry failure: Reboot semantic centers of brain and try again!

        I think most people understood that the word was used in a non-literal sense to imply the intent of getting the oil from under the dome, not the actual mechanics.

    • by AndersOSU (873247)

      you know ... they're probably going to attach a tube to the dome. And buoyant forces will force the liquid through it (though they'll probably pump too).

    • by zero_out (1705074)

      Yes, really.

      Siphoning is the act of using a tube with different levels of pressure at each end to transfer a liquid from one end to the other. Using atmospheric pressure or different elevations is just one method of siphoning.

      The greater level of water pressure at the bottom will push the oil (mixed with water) up to the lower level of pressure at the top of the box/tube contraption, where it will be whisked away in a controlled fashion (rather than dispersing into the Gulf).

      It's much like sucking water ou

  • The cofferdam, although not being tried in this deep of water is really their best option at this point.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Cofferdam" would confuse techtards, although the term was common in schools a few decades back when bridge construction was still considered worthy of understanding.

  • by spike2131 (468840) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:54AM (#32099422) Homepage

    I've been amazed at the Oil industries apparent inability to do any contingency planning. If this dome technology is known to be the best quick-fix for containing this type of oil leak, they should have had a few of them already built and sitting on a back lot in Port Arthur, just in case.

    Instead, they have to construct them from scratch when the emergency presents itself. That's resulted in a huge waste of time as the clock is ticking and the environment becomes more and more damaged.

    Having spares would have been a cheap insurance policy. Don't these people even think about risk mitigation?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shakrai (717556)

      Don't these people even think about risk mitigation?

      They did. They had a blowout valve in place that was supposed to kill the oil flow. It failed. Not something that has ever happened before and not something that could have been predicted.

      We could conduct offshore drilling for the next hundred years and probably not see another failure via this route.

      • by spike2131 (468840) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:14AM (#32099764) Homepage

        So they put all their faith in a blowout valve that apparently had an unanticipated failure mode. That's not risk mitigation, that's as assumption that, since you don't recognize the risk, there is no risk.

        One layer of protection here was far to thin. In Norway and Brazil they require that wells also have remote control shutoffs. That would have been another layer of protection.

        Keeping extra domes around would have been another layer of protection - a relatively low cost "when all else fails" measure. Seems like they didn't do it because they had too much confidence that all else couldn't possibly fail.

        They were wrong.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Abcd1234 (188840)

        They did. They had a blowout valve in place that was supposed to kill the oil flow. It failed. Not something that has ever happened before and not something that could have been predicted.

        We could conduct offshore drilling for the next hundred years and probably not see another failure via this route.

        If that's the only failsafe they had, that's a problem.

        They were drilling at extraordinary depths, here, and they must've known that, if something catastrophic *did* happen, it would be exceptionally difficult

    • by canajin56 (660655) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:13AM (#32099744)
      Risk mitigation implies you believe there is a legitimate risk, which scares voters, which scares politicians. And, after the fact, it's way easier to say "We had know way of knowing X could happen resulting in Y damages" than "We had a contingency plan in place, so X only resulted in Z damages". No matter how much smaller Z is than Y, people will hate you more for it. Because you knew it could happen, therefore, you LET it happen, you are a villain! But if you were "caught totally unawares", you're the victim. Hell, you're the hero if you even slightly mitigate the damages.
  • Fun things to watch (Score:5, Informative)

    by vlm (69642) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:29AM (#32100066)

    Fun things to watch in the news coverage:

    Pressure creep. A gross estimate is about a PSI per foot of well depth. Its unlikely the actual pressure at the bottom of the well could exceed 20K PSI. Whats squirting out the top, order of magnitude less. Maybe, extreme cases, you can go plus or minus 50%, maybe. So, people whom know what they're talking about, knowing the drilling mud was around 18 pounds per gallon, and roughly how deep the well is, pretty much know how much pressure the stuff is boiling out of the well. However, the breathless journalists and political hacks feed on each other and one up each other for dramatic reasons. The wildest screamers blew thru 100K psi about two days ago, and I think we're well on our way to nuclear fusion pressure range in journalist-land.

    Flow rate creep. An entire modest oilfield might produce 100K barrels per day. Real flow rate out of this well is probably in the range of 2K to 10K bpd. The screaming journalists and hacks recently blew thru 60K bpd, some beyond 200K bpd. We are rapidly approaching the point where the journalists-types will report figures better suited to the entire production of the country of saudi arabia, etc.

    Unit changes. The flow is probably a modest 5K BPD. That doesn't sound as cool, so a couple days ago the journalists switched to gallons per day. As the flow decreases, I expect the screamers to switch to pounds per day, finally maybe milliliters per day, just to keep the numbers up.

    Flow rate exaggeration. 5K BPD is like a firehose, vaguely. Journalists, over the past few days, have worked their way up on top of each other from adjectives like "dribbling" up to descriptions more in line with a Saturn-V rocket motor at full blast. Its going to flutter the "dome" around like a garden hose hitting a gnat. Uh huh, Yeah right.

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