Local engineer devises ‘cork’ for BP well

RICHARD STOVER, a retired petroleum engineers, talks Tuesday about his idea for capping the damaged BP well in the Gulf of Mexico.

It should be possible to squelch the well spewing oil at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, a retired Grand Junction engineer says.

Not easy, just possible.

Richard Stover likens the job to “putting a cork in a bottle of sparkling wine.”

Stover, 84 and a Grand Junction resident for 18 years, is no stranger to finding engineering fixes. He worked as a petroleum engineer, as well as an engineer for several aerospace companies, and worked in marketing, advertising and gold mining. He also writes screenplays and, of late, has been captivated by the pictures of the constant flow of oil from the bottom of the gulf.

Another way of looking at the problem is: “It’s like trying to put your finger in the garden hose,” he said.

Controlling the flow is key to the job, Stover said. To accomplish that, his idea calls for a 1,000-pound, doughnut-shaped hunk of concrete or metal to be lowered 5,000 feet below the surface.

In the doughnut hole, Stover suggests a carefully designed tube. The bottom end would be slightly conical so as to fit into the oil-spewing riser. It might not even be necessary to cut off the jagged piece of pipe.

The conical plug-pipe would simply slide along the inside of the broken pipe on its way to a snug fit inside the failed blow-out preventer.

The top end would be fitted with a butterfly valve that could be left open to allow the crude to continue bubbling until the doughnut and lower end of the pipe were set snugly into the oil-spewing riser.

Then it should be a simple matter to close the butterfly valve mechanically or electronically, plugging, at last, the million-gallon-a-day leak.

Although there is no mistaking the pressure that’s driving oil up from the earth and out into the Gulf of Mexico, the pressure can be overcome, Stover said. The 1,000-pound doughnut anchor would be all the heavier under the pressure of 5,000 feet of water driving it down, he said. The doughnut could be maneuvered by submersibles into position. Then gravity would be allowed to do its work, he said.

“It’s a quick fix,” Stover said. “This thing could be done in a week.”

All for a cost he estimates to be $100,000, which, considering the millions of gallons of oil that have flowed into the gulf since April 20, is a pretty small price, Stover said.

However the leak gets plugged, the lessons of what has happened in the gulf since the blowout need to be remembered, Stover said.

“Because if it happened once,” he said, “it can happen again.”

Stover has not tried to contact the oil well’s owner, British Petroleum, with his idea to stop the leak.


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