Plugging the Leak

The BBC is reporting a possible short-term solution that BP is cooking up to stem the oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico — a rusty metal box.  The 40-foot-tall, 98-ton iron cap — being built by Wild Well Control…no joke — will be lowered onto the leaky valve and the oil will be funneled up to a ship on the surface, hopefully as soon as the end of the week.

Similar devices were used after Katrina, but, as CNN reports, this would be “by far the deepest attempted use ever of such a containment chamber.”  Needless to say, this presents numerous engineering challenges. The leak is 5,000 meters under the surface, where pressure is roughly 50 times what it is on the surface.  So, they’ll have to use unmanned submarines. Also, as Steve Clemons points out, there’s still a sizeable oil rig still down there.

And, if successful? Oil flow could be reduced by 80 to 85 percent.  It has been suggested that 5,000 barrels of oil a day are spewing into the Gulf. If it really takes another three months to construct a permanent solution (as Interior Secretary Salazar has suggested), that rusty metal cap could keep north of 382,000 barrels (or around 16 million gallons) out of the water, much more than the 11 million that the Exxon Valdez put into Prince William Sound. So, keep your fingers crossed.

The most shocking part of these reports…25 engineers are working on this “round the clock” in “12-hour shifts.” Seriously?  I’m sure these guys are working hard, and my hat is off to them, but I have friends in finance who have spent weeks in the office, coming home only to shower and brush their teeth. And, Lady Gaga told Esquire that she employs 100 people just to craft her image. How about we get some more folks working on this project? 

*Photo: BBC