18 Oil Disaster Solutions (And Why None Of Them Will Work)

The BBC asked readers to submit their ideas on how the Gulf oil disaster might be resolved. Iraj Ershaghi, USC's director of petroleum engineering, went down the list and briefly explained how each idea would fail. We're pretty much doomed.

The 18 proposed solutions run the gamut, including some you've heard of (nuclear blast; polystyrene beads) and some you probably haven't (epoxy warhead; umbrella pump). But what the solutions have in common is that they're not really solutions at all—Ershaghi doesn't see much hope for any of the ideas, either because BP failed to implement them early enough to be effective or because they're just ineffective to begin with.

Some solutions, worse than simply failing to stop the oil leak, would exacerbate the situation. Here's the summary, and Ershagi's dismissal, of the epoxy warhead option:

Epoxy might be a better top kill method than mud, and in any case a heavier solid is needed - try bismuth and/or iron shot. Delivering the resin and catalyst into the well requires two tubes, though an intermediate pulse of isopropyl alcohol may have a chance or separating the two liquids in a single feed tube, there'd be a risk of simply clogging the feed tube before it reached the well.

Another alternative plug is a torpedo, wire-guided, with a low speed mode (or restrictor) for manoeuvring into place, and an extended warhead holding just enough charge to split containers of epoxy monomer and catalyst." - Jeremy, New Jersey, US

Prof Ershaghi says: A torpedo or any warhead entering the casing would have made this a major catastrophe as the loss of casing integrity would have resulted in a crater with continuous and uncontrollable oil flow for the next 30-40 years depending on the amount of oil in the reservoir.

The takeaway here? BP's containment dome, which is managing to siphon about half of the leak's oil to the surface, might really be the least bad solution they can come up with at the moment. [BBC]