Mark McHugh

How to Stop the Leak – MAGNETIC JUNK SHOT

In BP Oil Spill, Government, Open Thread on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I know I said I’d wait until Friday before publishing the Gulf oil leak solution, but I don’t see any point in waiting, especially because I don’t believe the govenment or BP is even the slightest bit interested in solving this problem.

I was never able to get an answer about how high off the sea floor the broken pipe is,  so I am presenting two scenarios here:

Scenario #1-

  1. A Heavy metal open cylinder (no ends) is lowered around the leaking pipe.  The cylinder should probably be tapered at the top.
  2. Once in place, you start attaching the biggest baddest neodyium magnets you can find.
  3. Fill with ball bearing, more magnets etc.
  4. Cap with large disc and/or concrete.

 Scenario #2 (if pipe is high enough above ocean floor) –

  1. Apply big magnets directly to pipe.
  2. Shoot magnetic junk into pipe.

So there’s a cheap easy fix, but I don’t expect to see it implemented.

Cap and Trade, here we come…..

(We are in deep trouble America)

Upon further review….

After kicking the concept around with a few friends, and poking around the web a little, I’ve decided this is probably a better illustration:

  1. Interesting Mark… Have any idea what the pressures are? You might be onto something.

  2. No, I couldn’tfind that info either, but figuring the flow boils down to about 6.4 gallons per second out of an 18″ pipe. I don’t know how to calculate pressure from that. But those neodyium magnets are so freaking strong, I’m thinking that if you dropped things like chains down there, making good contact with the sides, I doubt the pressure could blow it out. Basically, you want a big, tangled, magnetic mess to smother the leak.

    Obviously, I think it’s worth a shot, but like you said, they don’t want it stopped. They’re going to use this to shove cap and trade down our throats.

  3. Neodymium magnets have a very powerful but concentrated/short magnetic field. If the idea requires that field to span to the center of the cap I’m not sure if it would… then again I guess all of the junk to be sunk could be Neodymium… wish you had a budget and a crew to give it a try.

  4. Thanks Jochra,

    I was thinking the paramagnetic effect of the “junk” would bridge the center. If not, as you suggest, you’d just add magnets to the junk.

    It has occurred to me that the junk itself might be unnecessary. Once you magnetize the cylinder, you might just beable to slap a lid on it.

    To me, the only question is where the line between overkill and ridiculous is. I’m ok with overkill. You don’t get any points for elegance or efficiency when the stakes are this high. If it were up to me, I’d let the eggheads kick the numbers around for 8 hours, then take a shot.

  5. Maybe some sort of heavy aperture ring with thick steel blades, that way the outer ring could be easily affixed despite the pressure and then be gradually closed. Basically a valve, attach an open valve and then close it… if the magnets are powerful enough to hold that amount of pressure anyway. Yeah I would doubt their bridging strength though, and you know how I like to play with neodymiums. I just think introducing that many breach points would leave too many opportunities for a leak.

  6. Another problem may be the lack of control of where your steel junk and magnets to be dumped fall, they will be drawn together by that paramagnetic force you described, but also forced out and away from the flow. I know gravity greatly influences their alignment but I’m not sure how the much greater the flow pressure would affect them. might end up looking like this…

  7. Right, I know… I should keep my thoughts together…

    But we don’t want to wind up getting “screwed” even more as the name of that magnetic sculpture warns… can you imagine trying to swim down against millions of gallons of black cloudy pressure into chains and steel junk jutting out in all directions?

    Then again I’m not sure if a lid would be possible either. I was lucky enough to be in a lot of pools lately and as I try to flatten my hand against the jet coming from the filter pump I realize that every inch closer delivers exponentially more resistance.

    You are right though, there has to be some overkill method quite a bit short of a nuke.

  8. After pondering it a little more…..

    I think this is an even better strategy. Imagine a giant inverted funnel, with bars crossing the opening. It would also have openings near the bottom. You place the funnel, attach the magnets on the top half of the funnel, then shoot the junk from the bottom, letting the pressure drive the junk into place.

    I would prefer to keep neodyium magnets out of the junk if possible (I think a lot could go wrong). I still like the idea of dropping the cylinder first the applying relalativly few magnets in a carefully controlled manner.

    I’ll draw it up, if I can find time

  9. Yeah, they’re not even doing a good job pretending to be concerned…

  10. I like it… not that it matters.

    Maybe another issue is the pressure and a tight seal against the ocean floor, I guess it might require some weight, an anchoring system and possibly a gasket assuming you just can’t get a tight seal against the sediment. I’m probably missing something, but how do the junk holes not become another exit for oil? Why does a cap with mechanically sealable port not work?

    Really, there must be something we are missing, right?

    Just keep dropping bigger and heavier caps on top of each other until the damned thing is contained, like Matryoshka dolls.

    I appreciate your efforts. It’s just something you can’t help thinking about and trying to fix… like a leaky pipe in your basement, you can’t stop thinking about it knowing that it is there.

  11. You should submit this idea to Mythbusters!

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