Stony Brook helps design system to cap oil spills
Stony Brook University and a Houston-based business have joined to design a system that they think could have capped the gushing oil of last April's Gulf of Mexico BP disaster.
The university and a Subsea Oil Technologies consultant filed a patent application last month on a cone-shaped structure of carbon steel as a method of containing oil and gas spills. A small prototype is expected to be built and tested at Stony Brook to determine how well it can withstand deep-sea conditions, such as those that flummoxed BP for months as it tried to cap a faulty "blowout" preventer.
"It comes down to a pressure management problem," said Devinder Mahajan, one of two professors from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences working on the project.
The structure would consist of cone-shaped modules and be placed over the gush with the narrow point up, he said. The modules' shape - wide bottom to narrower top -- helps the pressure gradually decrease, he said. The venture began last year after the U.S. Interior Department asked for proposals on how to respond to oil spills.
Scott Wolinsky, a Stony Brook graduate and inventor at Subsea, had contacted the university for help in meeting the Jan. 24 federal deadline. He wants to be among the first with technical expertise in spill responses. "The U.S. government was helpless," said Wolinsky, who grew up in Commack. "It was totally preposterous how long it was taking."
The other researcher on the project, professor Miriam Rafailovich, called the project a "clever solution."