Inventors at Rowan University have developed a system for effectively managing the flow of crude oil and natural gas from an uncontrolled undersea oil well. The system comprises a plug and valve assembly encased within a housing that is propelled and steered underwater to the damaged wellhead. Once at the repair site, the plug assembly is propelled into the well to the desired depth and anchored to the inside of the well. Then, the valve system can be used to stop or control the flow from the well. The system can be launched from any surface or subsurface marine structure or vessel, such as an oil rig or a ship barge. The housing features a propulsion and steering system that is used to guide the device to the repair site with the assistance of GPS and on-board cameras. The valve system within the plug assembly comprises a series of internal plates, which are aligned to allow water to pass through the device as it is navigated to the repair site, thereby reducing drag and making the device more maneuverable. The plug assembly features a conical head and a hollow finned tail section with rearward-facing jets or nozzles that aid in the control of the assembly as it is propelled into the well. The assembly is anchored to the well using one or more deformable members, and the plates in the valve assembly are rotated by the pressure inside the well to effectively restrict oil and gas flow and seal the well. One significant benefit to this design is that it can serve as either a permanent or temporary fix since it allows the well to be put back into operation once repaired.
Underwater oil well leaks, such as the Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, can cause loss of life, long-lasting catastrophic environmental damage to the marine ecosystems, and economic damage to the industries that rely on the waters for fishing and tourism (as well as the oil industry itself). What makes incidents such as these particularly disastrous is the inaccessibility of much of the pipelines, which makes any repair or service attempts both difficult and time consuming. Furthermore, the lack of proven and rapidly deployable remediation systems forces the response teams to react quickly to develop and execute customized solutions, which can be particularly challenging due to the time sensitive nature and often remote location of the disaster. Therefore, there is a significant need for an effective and rapidly deployable system for plugging a gushing deep-sea oil well, particularly one that will allow the well to remain functional.
The global oil, gas, and petrochemical market plays a significant role in the US and world economies, with over 400 active upstream projects in 2014. For deep-water projects and technologies in particular, approximately $223 billion is expected to be spent over the period from 2014–2019. Rowan University is looking for a partner for further development and commercialization of this technology through a license.
|Original language||English (US)|
|State||Published - Oct 2018|