Deepwater Horizon Fix Could Rely on Submersibles with Embedded Systems
An unparalleled disaster occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig owned by Transocean and leased by British Petroleum exploded. Eleven crew members are missing and presumed dead. Three were injured severely, and the remaining 115 were evacuated safely. Two days later the rig sank.
Oil continues to pour from three leaks caused by the explosion at a rate of roughly 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, a day. The location of the leak is over 5,000 feet below sea level, and below the depth at which manned submersibles can operate. Any repair at this depth will require the use of remotely controlled submersibles with on-board embedded systems.
Deep-sea oil wells, including the one Deepwater Horizon was parked over, come equipped with blow out preventers (BOP), which keep leaks from occurring. For some reason the BOP on this well did not deploy.
On April 25th, unmanned submersibles with robotic arms attempted to activate the blow out preventer. Unfortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, and oil continues to leak into the Gulf at a staggering rate.
British Petroleum (BP) has announced plans for two recovery options. In scenario one, they have begun building chambers or holding tanks to encompass the leaks. Pipes will connect the tanks to the surface so oil can be siphoned off. This remedy will take at least two weeks to complete, and has never been attempted at depths of 5,000 feet.
Should option one fail, BP has begun working on a second option. The plan is to drill a relief well to take the pressure off the original one resulting in a decrease in flow. However, a relief well could take 90 days or more to drill, and is extremely difficult.Continued on the next page