BP's Big Box Solution

More

>The latest installment in unprecedented technology BP is using to try to staunch the Gulf Coast oil spill is a 98-ton, four-story steel box.

A team of Louisiana engineers frantically constructed the box -- which, despite its right-angled profile, is being referred to as a "containment dome" -- and is planning to lower it nearly a mile into the ocean today. The plan is to use the box to trap the two remaining leaks and funnel the gushing oil up to the surface and onto a ship.

Like the chemical dispersants BP is pumping into the ocean, the containment dome is not a new technology. But just as the dispersants have never been used in these quantities before, containment domes have never been used in waters of this depth. Risks include ice that could plug the funnel, weather that could hinder containment efforts, and unpredictable and potentially explosive mixtures of gas, oil, and water. Experts suspect that the original rig explosion was caused by gas shooting up through the oil well -- could a similar effect occur within the containment dome?

David Clarkson, BP's vice-president for project execution, told the New York Times, "I'm worried about every part."

If everything goes as hoped, the dome could collect up to 85 percent of the leaking oil. Since there are no prior attempts to evaluate, however, BP would not rate the technology's chance of success.  

Continuing containment efforts include controlled burns of oil on the water's surface, the drilling of relief wells to halt the flow of oil, and miles and miles of booms.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Sad Desk Lunch: Is This How You Want to Die?

How to avoid working through lunch, and diseases related to social isolation.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In