As some my recall, I have posted here at DKos since 2004—mostly with a singular focus on the Abramoff Scandal and the Culture of Corruption that Jack swam in. Over the years as I followed this research obsession I often thought of my father. I grew up watching his obsessions as he researched and learned everything he could about any subject that caught his eye. I guess what they say is true; the nuts don’t fall far from the tree.
While my great obsession has been Abramoff, my Dad's was and is siphons and the ways that liquids and gases act under pressure. When it comes to the way that pressure impacts the flow of gasses and liquids he is a bit of an unaccredited expert. He is also an inventor and has come up with a possible solution to controlling the flow of oil and gas from the BP Oil Disaster and a prototype to demonstrate his idea.
The key to stopping the spill is to control the pressure and manage the flow of liquids and gases from the damaged well. For that, a new cap is needed.
I’ll let Maurice (my dad) explain it on the jump...
Around 60 years ago, my dad was almost finished getting an Engineering degree from the University of Detroit when he switched his major to Education so that he could study more of the humanities. He became science teacher in the Public Schools of Detroit. In the mid-Sixties he began working at Detroit Edison and spent the rest of his work life developing and teaching various employee training programs. And in the evenings and on weekends he would work on his inventions. Since he retired about twenty years ago his research has been full-time.
I grew up with various contraptions and inventions around the house. Of these, it was my father’s work with siphons and the flow of liquids and gasses under pressure that became the dominant research project. His research revolved around fish tanks and ways to use siphons to fill water bridges between tanks or to fill towers soaring from them.
In 1973 his early research led to a US Patent. For forty plus years, my Father’s house has been filled with an endless progression of refinements to his early prototypes. Here is a tank with a tower that he sent one of his grandkids last year:
The basement is his lab, filled with tanks, ongoing experiments and a workshop where he makes and refines prototypes to test various theories and ideas. A few years ago he was working on a way to use siphon bridges to move fish around damns. Using tanks, water bridge/tunnels and siphons he built a scale model that showed how the idea could work.
On a visit last year he explained to me how siphons can be used to move both liquids and gases, so I was not surprise to hear that he was working on a model to show how to build a better containment cap for the BP oil leak.
The problem as he sees it is that the current cap is inadequate to the job at hand because it does not even try to manage the outflow or to reduce the pressure. To lower the pressure you need to reduce the speed of flow. If you enlarge the pipe the flow moves through it slows down and the pressure is reduced. If you add more openings you have more ways to manage the flow and reduce the pressure. There is a reason why so much oil/gas can be seen escaping from the current loose fitting cap—it only designed to capture a small fraction of the outflow and does almost nothing to try and control the flow and manage the pressure. And so most of the oil/gas keeps leaking.
Stopping the spill is a matter of controlling the flow from the damaged well. The flow will be stopped when the relief well is done, but that could be a couple of months away if all goes well and longer if things continue to go wrong. In the meantime the only way to stop the leak is to control the outflow and reduce the pressure from the vent on the top of the damaged blowout preventer. This will need a new cap. They way to manage that flow and pressure is to have a cap with multiple vents of the same size as the vent on the blowout preventer. In his video you can watch such a cap reduce the pressure and manage the flow in a small scale test.
At this point, it is time to let Maurice (my dad) explain his idea in this two part video:
Unless a new cap is designed to manage the outflow and control the pressure of the flow this leak will continue until August or later. One Hundred years ago the Lakeview Gusher Number One blew in Kern County, California. The oil companies had no idea how to manage the flow and the well leaked for over a year. The land surrounding that spill is still dead from the oil. This link will take you to CNN report on what is still the worst oil leak in US history. Of course I think the BP leak will soon surpass Lakeview Gusher because water has increased the ranged and destructive power of the leak.
It is 100 years since the Lakeview Gusher and the oil industry still has no idea about how to manage the flow of oil and gas when the pressure is greater than expected. This is yet another example of the failure of the extractive industries to solve core problems. It indicts the simple thinking of the extractive industry mind—from oil spills to mountain top removal to tar sands to hydraulic fracturing—it is all about getting in and pulling it out regardless of any consequences. Any messes, destruction and harm from the extraction are left off the balance sheet and left for somebody else to fix. No wonder these industries are so "profitable".
Fixing this—hell even mitigating the worst impacts of this spill—will be a defining part of the American story for the next hundred years. We need new thinking and new rules. The hidden costs of the extractive industries need to come into the sunlight. The massive profits of these industries are based on hiding the damages and costs of the process and forcing indigenous peoples, the poor, the environment and taxpayers to pick up the tab.
It is pirate capitalism gone wild and it is time to demand that these weasels put the true cost of their extractive industries on their balance sheet.
Like most folks I have been appalled by the failure of BP to get this under control. They are an oil company and what they know is extraction trough brute force. Despite the immense water pressure one mile below the surface and the incredible force of the gas/oil leak they seem to think they can contain it with one pipe that is the same size as the pipe at the source. It is the simple thinking of the extractive mind.
Maurice’s research and model shows that this is folly. You can watch on the video as his prototype containment cap with multiple exit pipes gradually reduces the force of the flow to a point where it can be controlled. You can watch it happen. He also shows how the gas can be separated from the oil in the containment cap and captured though separate tubes.
Maurice has given me a ten-point checklist for a new cap that might have a chance to stop the spill:
- A secure anchorage.
- Blowout protection.
- Pressure reduction.
- Multiple outlets.
- Gas & oil separation.
- Collect outflow.
- A tight seal of the new cap to the damaged vent.
- Measurement of the pressure and flow.
- Control of the pressure and flow.
- Complete and install a new cap ASAP.
As he says in the video, he does not know if this is the answer, but it makes more logical sense to me than the nonsense BP has been trying so far.
I do not know if my dad is onto something or not. I do know that he has studied how liquids and gasses move under pressure for decades. Take a look and please pass along the idea if it seems to makes sense. I think it does, but I come to this with some real bias in favor of the source of the idea.