Gallery: Giant Underwater Dome Could Contain Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill


The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is growing worse, with 1,000 barrels pouring into the ocean every day over a span of 28,600 square miles. As the spill creeps closer to Louisiana‘s coastline, which contains 40% of the country’s wetlands, scientists continue to scramble for a solution. One possible fix: a giant underwater dome that could be placed over the leak to suck up the oil.

Photo Credit: US Coast Guard

BP engineers are working on designing and lowering a giant dome over the leak in an attempt to suck up oil and stop the gusher from reaching the coastline. The idea isn’t new — it was first tried and abandoned in a 1979 oil spill after two months of sustained damage from harsh seas. Domes have been used since then, but never at the depth of the Gulf of Mexico spill (5,000 feet).

Even if the dome idea does work, it can’t come fast enough. Scientists expect the oil to hit the coastline in a matter of days, and a dome isn’t likely to be ready for at least two weeks. Still, we have to hope that the dome will make some sort of difference — it’s the only hope for the fragile Louisiana coast.

+ BP

Via Wall Street Journal


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  1. Rudyrdz1R June 28, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Sink an oil tanker with a hole in the bottom of the tanker on top of the oil gushing, hopefully the oil leaking will fill the tanler and help keep the tanker in place, and open relief valves which should already be on the tankers since they normally have to unload oil at ports. Connect relief valves to ships, hopefully this idea can buy some time for other ideas.

  2. James Emblen May 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    I think the good people at hoover or maybe even bissel should hold some solutions to containment and surface pumping of the oil off of the water in the gulf!If the whole hole can be covered with a fabic that could cover the rupture enough to allow pvc lines to direct the oil to the surface we then could dig a holding station inland and have the oil pumped there!Then truck it or even rail it to refineries..It can work!!!A floating pipe line thats right I didn’t say it would be easy,but it wouldn’t take two months to put into operation.It may also take some the sting out losing millions even billions of dollars!Hey its worth a shot…

  3. bikerbob May 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Have the robot attach a cable to the pipe and from the top,wench the pipe out of the oil pocket.

  4. Dallebach May 11, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Wow, if you knew what I know. We’re in trouble, no one’s listen. Good luck getting any where. If you can find ships to suck up oil tell Pres. Obamo and Governors. Don’t think any one will listen, could tell you more .,But wouldn’t !! (maybe FBI would help) David Allebach Phila

  5. matt scott May 11, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    listen people, first you need to control the leak then you stop it. i have a solution to the problem.fabricate a frame that will set over top the leak.tripod would work,at the same time fabricate a larger pipe diameter a mile long with heating elements.Using the tripod line up over the leak and drive the pipe straight over the leak.this will direct the flow.when the oil reaches the surface you can then control the leak using a large enough valve or one that can relieve that much this time you can start to hold oil in some type of holding tanks.if you simply need to stop the leak you need to do it in the rock a mile or two below the sea floor.this will take time.If you could drill in the rock close to the other hole then drive a rod perpindicular of the leaking hole.Im not sure we have this technology.the leak started in the rock this is where it needs to stop.

  6. henry dehraaf May 11, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Design a coupler that unfolds when it reaches confirmed leak or leaks. Flexible tubes with Fiber optics combined to view complete area. We can go to the moon and we can design and correct this situation.

  7. justsomeguy May 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    It’s a pipe — right? Can’t the submersibles be used to guide some type of specially created line down the pipe? Once in the pipe, anchor pins open up from the line to anchor it to the sides of the pipe — still allowing most of the oil to flow by — don’t want the flowing oil to push the line out of the pipe. With the anchors in place, screw style mechanisms build into the line screw closed to shutoff the flow of oil.

    The big issue is trying to get this line into the pipe with the rushing oil. Some type of guide mechanism could be anchored around the pipe at several locations on the ocean floor. Or some type of clamp could be guided around the pipe — there are alot of clamps in the world that fit easily around a pipe and then are screwed or racheted to the pipe — viola, anchor. Or cover the pipe with a big honkin dome as they are proposing — have the line or clamp setup inside the dome before it is lowered — then try to get the line or clamp in place once the flow is oil is slowed by the cap.

    If you can get some type of anchor over top of the pipe, I would think that it could be used as the base for some type of mechanism that closes over the pipe to shut it off. Or as I said previously, it could be used to guild something into the pipe to close it off from the inside. That is assuming the pipe isn’t mangled to the point that the line won’t go into it.

    And the last suggestion is to crush the pipe to either stop or severely slow the flow of oil. Not sure if the pipe can be easily crushed without cracking, but I am sure there are various types of underwater torches that could be used to heat it up before crushing it. Make it alot more difficult to find a torch that works 5000 feet under, but…

    My question is if the pipe is actually broken off at the seafloor which is 5k feet down, is the pipe broken off at 5k feet down but the seafloor is actually deeper, or is the pipe broken off say at 2k feet down and the seafloor is 5k feet down.

  8. nmwander May 3, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    The damage is done. But, maybe I’m missing something.
    Why are we still applying 1970’s era practices to cleaning up oil spills??
    If a giant puddle of oil is floating towards me…..isnt that similar to having a pot of gold actually show up at the end of a rainbow???
    I think I’m going to Mobile, AL today, rent a tanker and a giant pump.
    Oil is at approx 85/bbl! If I can get General Purpose AFRAmax tanker capable of holding 25,000 tons(a bbl is close to 0.135tons)…..thats close to 18,000 bbls!
    One small tanker can haul in close to 21M dollars!!

  9. 2up May 3, 2010 at 11:39 am

    The cone’s not a bad idea but it may not contain the pressure at 5000 ft. This is a major obstacle for BP or anyone at this depth. That’s why it has to be either a small heavy walled small cube or a dome as they have prescribed. The dome takes much longer to engineer, construct and install. The smaller cube pressure vessel containment idea is much easier to fabricate and could actually be constructed from large existing oil field skids or structural wall panels. Or at least they could use components that are readily available and require less engineering and fabrication time. The cube could actually be lowered almost fully assembled. The big question is can they get a huge amount of cement to actually rest securely on top of the chamber. It may actually require a second large steel ring or box barrier to be assembled around the chamber to contain the cement as it builds. If anyone else has some ideas, throw them out here. Maybe someone at BP or Washington is reading it too. Some of the best ideas are simple and are agitated to birth by desperation. That’s what we have here. We need some desperate ideas to fix this problem and people in Washington need to back these people with the funds to do it. BP is our best hope at fixing this. It’s their backyard and they know every inch. So we need to just promote our ideas to them and hope they’re listening. Good Luck BP. I hope you’re listening and you can fix this soon. Best wishes.

  10. mmmary May 3, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Is there no one in the oil industry that can figure out what to do here? How about getting a group of people like 2up together immediately to try and get a viable plan together. All we hear is that the leak is getting bigger and bigger but there seems to be no action being taken. How about Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, Jim Macinvale, Red Adair\\\’s company, and any other rich innovators try to meet and use their resources and work ethic to get something done.

  11. ANN FLORIAN May 3, 2010 at 12:51 am


  12. bundski May 2, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Anchor a cone made from oil tight and resistant fabric around the oil well. The top/narrow end of the cone is the inlet for any pump/device to ships/tanks etc. to capture oil until they fix the leak.
    Can’t think it would take more than a couple of days to get something made pronto….

  13. 2up April 30, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    There should be a faster way to contain this leak than a dome. They should cut the pipe to the seabed, install a cube (four walled) chamber with four 20′ x 10″ pipe extensions with 10″ subsea valves on the ends, one in each wall. Then open the valves to allow displacement of the line pressure and hydraulically slide a top in place and bolt. Then pack concrete around it in a dome shape. Connect lines to the 10″ valves and bring it to the surface to be collected by a production vessel until a more permanent solution can be engineered. Use the valves for pressure control inside the dome.

    Sounds a little far fetched but at this point we should be trying something.

  14. onlyfloorplans April 30, 2010 at 7:56 am

    I have the design for the underwater dome…easy to make, east to transport and quite easy to mobilise…but its a nightmare trying to get through to anyone at BP or Horizon……I am ready to go and make it for them………

  15. Cynthia111 April 29, 2010 at 8:05 am

    The recent Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is spilling massive amounts of crude oil into the sea and is threatening the environment and those people who depend on the wetlands for their livelihood, such as fishermen and lobstermen. There is also the issue of a possible loss of revenue for the hospitality industry and other industries in which people are affected and wages could be lost, all of which lead to potential damage claims. Sadly, other oil rig workers are leaving the site and losing wages, but they have valid fears that the spill will catch fire. The tragedy is also raising very serious environmental concerns, and could threaten the fragile ecosystem of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, which serve as nurseries for fish and shrimp and habitat for birds. The disaster is in violation of a number of environmental acts, including the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act and is among the worst offshore drilling disasters in recent U.S. history, and could be the deadliest. More information on this tragedy and its devastating effects on our environment can be found at

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