Military Scientist Proposes Massive Blast to End Oil Leak

Daisy Cutter

Daisy Cutter. DoD photo.

by DAVID AXE

He pushed for blast-proof trucks to protect against roadside bombs — years before the military embraced them. He advocated small flying drones, now considered indispensable, at a time when many officers were skeptical. He has helped lobby for an affordable near-orbital space transport system just as the technology is emerging to make such a thing possible. Franz Gayl, a former Marine and military science adviser, is a one-man technology-reform shop. Now he’s calling for the military to study a surprising but potentially workable solution to the nearly two-month-old oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here’s Gayl:

My idea relates to shutting down the leaking oil well in the Gulf using a very specific “green” tool. It’s probably been thought of, but then again, maybe not. …

There has been a lot of chatter about what the Russians have done in the past to shut down errand undersea oil wells using small nuclear weapons. While I am sure that it probably worked, that idea seems very unrealistic, making a potentially bigger environmental mess with radiation, and then treaty and all manner of social controversy to boot.

That said, the physical principles of an explosion-induced shock wave are very good. We have “green” explosive tools to do just that and seal the well shut today. At Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, I suspect there is a supply of  GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) bombs. According to Wikipedia, the MOAB contains 18,700 lb (8,500 kg) of high explosives.

In addition to the MOAB at Eglin there are also likely quite a few remaining, retired, BLU-82B Daisy Cutter bombs, each with a 15,000 pound (6,800 kg) of HE.

Either one of those proven, safe, and “green” (because they are conventional and consume all of their own fuel) bombs can be enclosed in a simple pressure shell, that is augmented with several tons of liquid oxygen canisters, and lowered to just a few meters above the leaking well head. An oxygen-enhanced MOAB or Daisy Cutter detonated at a water depth of 5,000 feet will indeed have an interesting effect on all the well-related plumbing and equipment that is above, at, and slightly below the sea floor.

The ambient water pressure at 5,000 feet is already immense, measuring in at 147 Atmospheres. One Atmosphere of pressure equals 14.67 pounds per square inch, so the ambient water pressure at 5,000 feet equals 2,156 pounds per square inch. It can be compared to being encased in liquid steel under pressure causing a crushing effect on any lower pressure cavity. That is the purpose of the pressure vessel encasement for the trip down, to allow the bomb and its oxygen enhancement to survive the dive intact. Once detonated, the bomb will be completely “tamped” or contained and under the immense water pressures exerted against it.

If you explode such devices above ground the released energy would be observed as a huge blast that moves outward through the low pressure and “squishy” (i.e., highly compressible) air. However, at a depth of 5,000 feet, the blast bubble will be quite small in volume, even at detonation, and as the gases rapidly cool they will of course shoot towards the surface 5,000 feet above.

So, the obvious question is what becomes of the tremendous amount of released energy in the detonation, if there is no huge blast, as one would get above ground?  The answer is an absolutely incredible shock wave that will in a fraction of a millisecond crush every volume that it encounters that is less than the pressure of the water shock front through which it is propagating.

Think back to old World War II movie clips of under-water depth charge explosions against submarines. As you may recall from those movies, the blast bubbles are small and localized at the moment of the explosion, but highly destructive to submarines, divers, etc., because of the intense shock wave.  Now take that phenomena to a depth of 5,000 feet where even manned submarines would normally implode due to the crushing water pressure. The exploding MOAB or Daisy Cutter would have an incredible implosive-sealing effect on oil plumbing within the immediate vicinity of the detonation.

That devastating shock wave will treat any metal cavity like soft Play-Doh, sealing every perceived cavity with a crushing force thousands of times greater than even the ambient water pressure. The oil plumbing is filled with rapidly flowing oil that has at any moment a lower density than the surrounding and effectively incompressible water through which the shock wave moves. Not only is crude oil less dense, but it also is compressible, unlike the water surrounding it. At 5,000 feet depth the shock wave will therefore have the effect of a concentric fist crushing every inch of plumbing and instantaneously sealing the full length of exposed pipe, but seal it permanently.

The reason that you keep the MOAB or Daisy Cutter elevated a few meters above the well head at the moment of detonation is so that you do not unnecessarily sever the plumbing with the very localized blast bubble. I say this to answer any skeptics who say the problem would be made worse if the pluming is sheared or ruptured.  So, for the sake of skeptics make sure that only the high pressure shock wave contacts the equipment, not the blast bubble.

BP wouldn’t like that option because they wouldn’t be able to reopen that particular well. Fortunately, I think the President and the public are at the point of saying this is a national emergency (actually international) and the the business case for preserving the well is trumped by the emergency. The Department of Defense and the Senate Armed Services Committee could play a bigger role. Again, this solution is completely green. It can be repeated until any residual leakage is sealed, though I believe one shot will do the trick. The shock wave will obviously destroy any near-lying equipment on the sea-bed (like robots, cameras, lights, etc.). Those items would have to be moved to the surface during the operation.

I am fairly certain that this green technique will shut down the leak permanently. It can also be modeled very quickly to optimize the parameters of detonation height above the plumbing, oxygen canister/accelerant ratio, and pressure vessel requirements. Please share this with any and all who might be interested. We can take care of this leak at the source before the first hurricanes roll in this summer. I am guessing that with the proximity of Eglin to the problem this could all be accomplished in less than a week.

I would be glad to help in any way I can. It is, after all, science and technology related — i.e., the reason I was hired. I would very much like to help solve this crisis.

“I am not trying to be a spring butt on this, but I have bounced the idea below off of several folks informally, and consensus is it might work,” Gayl added. “I, like you all, and everybody else just want to see the disaster end.”

This entry was posted in David Axe, English.

13 Responses to Military Scientist Proposes Massive Blast to End Oil Leak

  1. Pingback: War Is Boring » Offiziere: Military Scientist Proposes Massive Blast to End Oil Leak

  2. An other idea from Johann van den Noort, a dutch inventor and engineer: How to stop the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico within a few days.

  3. This set of slides from Franz Gayl describs how the MOAB vs. spill operation might work. Thanks to Danger Room.

  4. Pingback: The BP oil spill in the Gulf: any Naval options? - Page 2

  5. Update from the June 10th 2010 (by David Axe)

    Yesterday, famed Marine Corps science adviser Franz Gayl proposed capping the two-month-old Gulf oil spill … by blowing it up, using one of the Air Force’s massive conventional bombs.

    Now David Hambling, a longtime Danger Room contributor, points to a Yahoo! Answers post discussing potentially dangerous flaws in the bomb plan. “If you were going to do it, explosive charges designed for underwater use would make more sense than air munitions,” Hambling writes.

    Here’s the Yahoo! post, elaborating on the risks:

    First off is the competing pressures … you’ve got the downward force of over 2,000 PSI because of the depth. This means that the oil coming out of the well is coming out at greater than ambient pressure (the oil plume is shooting, not oozing), which is (mostly) an upward force. This would mean that an explosion would not be able to be directed — force would move outward from the explosion area in a curved path, instead of directionally — and here’s why that would be important.

    The substrate is made of “soft” stone — limestone and other porous material, layered with other rock types — not uniformly dense, and not of a single nature.

    Now, the oil is trapped in the rock’s crevices and pockets in a giant oval-or-round overall shape profile. The wellheads are scattered around the top half of this area, spread over miles — the wellheads don’t need to be in the main area of the pocket of oil, as the available oil isn’t accessible from any one place — it takes multiple well sites to get at this pool of oil.

    With all this variability in the substrate around the wellhead, coupled with the enormous upward-and-downward pressure, a couple of things could happen if you were to set off an explosion in the well. The force of any explosion would mostly be directed upward, of course, from the ambient pressure within the wellhead. This could be counteracted by shaping any charge to explode mostly downward, but the pressure gradient of an downward facing explosion would be a physics problem — there would be a resultant vector to the directionality of the pressure wave — it would act in a curve, for the most part. This would result in an expansion of the well diameter in the vicinity of the explosion in a V shape. Since the substrate is porous, it would be unlikely that the explosion would have the intended consequences, and there is no way to optimize the results.

    The gamble involved is why blowing the well shut is low on the list of options.

    Gayl responds point by point:

    Read the rest at War is Boring.

  6. Julia Odegard says:

    Shockwave at 5,000 feet?
    What is the possibility of a Gulf tidal wave?

  7. Russell Seitz says:

    The comments are even more bizarre than the proposal.

    Nothing but technical difficulty is gained by using a cryogenic fuel-liquid oxidizer explosive when higher energy densities are available from, for example, solid octol or cubane explosives

    The reservoir pressure is over a kilobar, and a shock wave encountering the already compressed flow in the pipe will increase its pressure Hugoniot by shock heating. Like the riser, the well liner is too thin to contain the ~ 18,000 psi reservoir pressure without external support- this is a pipe, not a howitzer barrel.

    Rupturing the casing to a greater depth by shocking the volatile flow within it risks aggravating the hemorrhage of oil by converting a narrow axial channel into a porous rubble bed- the case of the Indonesian gas well that incompetent completion turned into an ongoing mud volcano is cautionary .

    5 is especially funny , as the reservoir is over three miles below the seafloor, and beyond the reach of even high yield thermonuclear excavation.

    What’s next ? A proposal to aim another K-T asteroid at the long suffering Gulf seabed?

  8. Pingback: Marine Techie: End Gulf Oil Spill With ‘Mother of All Bombs’ « The Observer

  9. Franzi says:

    To all readers who have commented on the article and the proposed idea, your feedback is very helpful. I have learned much from you and this helps me to articulate my thoughts better and to improve the idea with new information. My main purpose in fielding the idea quickly before it was fully developed was in response to the time-sensitivity of this tragedy. It remains thoughtful guesswork at this point as to my knowledge it has not been modeled.
    As a part of this feedback, one important point that has been brought to my attention by an independent oil industry expert relates to British Petroleum’s (BP’s) intentions for the well in question. Specifically, it has been brought to my attention that the well was a field “delineation well,” i.e. it was not supposed to be one from which product was to be produced. It has been explained to me that in order to set up a production platform plan after an initial discovery a field developer must drill some delineation wells to fully understand the volumetric distribution of the reservoir and the pressures therein, as well as the pressures to be encountered on the way down to the reservoir zone. These delineation wells are not the ones from which product will be produced, but they enable the design of the production platform, from which many penetrations will drain the reservoir, to be calculated. The delineation wells are then permanently plugged, which is what BP was about to do when the accident occurred. BP wouldn’t be concerned if the well plumbing at or below the seafloor were permanent because they probably intended to permanently themselves. I had expressed an assumption that BP might not being happy with not being able to go back into the well after sealing it with the proposed implosion technique because oil product could not continue to be extracted from that site. While I do want to make useful suggestions, I can’t do so if I am ignorant of the technical nuances of the drilling profession. I now have a better understanding of the purpose of BP’s efforts at this site and realize that is not the case, and I stand corrected. Sealing that well was a part of BP’s plan even before the accident.
    What follows are my responses to many comments that have been posted over the past few days in response to the proposed well sealing technique. When reading the comments it quickly became clear that I had not communicated the idea well, and certainly not in sufficient detail. This was my error; the result of haste in reacting to the on-going catastrophe. In addition to responding to the comments I am improving the .ppt presentation so that graphic depictions and cartoons make more sense and the presentation can stand on its own as self-explanatory. In improving the slides I borrowed many graphics from BP’s website, as they are so much better that what I could draw myself.
    In the end, I like every reader and every other suggester just want to help in some small way to end the crisis in the Gulf. I am probably just one of many observers who have thought of non-nuclear devices like the MOAB as tools for shutting down the well. Nevertheless, I wanted to say something on the remote chance that I had something to offer the mix of ideas, so that in the future I don’t have to regret that I could have done something but didn’t. I do not consider myself an expert on any aspect of this topic, but rather a jack of a few trades with a bias for action in solving the problem, just as a concerned fellow citizen. In the end the solution may look completely different, and the proposed idea may be the wrong one, but at least the discussion is started, and I thank the many commenters for that.
    So, here are responses to many comments:

    Commenter on Yahoo:
    First off is the competing pressures … you’ve got the downward force of over 2,000 PSI because of the depth. This means that the oil coming out of the well is coming out at greater than ambient pressure (the oil plume is shooting, not oozing), which is (mostly) an upward force. This would mean that an explosion would not be able to be directed — force would move outward from the explosion area in a curved path, instead of directionally — and here’s why that would be important.
    The substrate is made of “soft” stone — limestone and other porous material, layered with other rock types — not uniformly dense, and not of a single nature.
    Now, the the oil is trapped in the rock’s crevices and pockets in a giant oval-or-round overall shape profile. The wellheads are scattered around the top half of this area, spread over miles — the wellheads don’t need to be in the main area of the pocket of oil, as the available oil isn’t accessible from any one place — it takes multiple well sites to get at this pool of oil.
    With all this variability in the substrate around the wellhead, coupled with the enormous upward-and-downward pressure, a couple of things could happen if you were to set off an explosion in the well. The force of any explosion would mostly be directed upward, of course, from the ambient pressure within the wellhead. This could be counteracted by shaping any charge to explode mostly downward, but the pressure gradient of an downward facing explosion would be a physics problem — there would be a resultant vector to the directionality of the pressure wave — it would act in a curve, for the most part. This would result in an expansion of the well diameter in the vicinity of the explosion in a V shape. Since the substrate is porous, it would be unlikely that the explosion would have the intended consequences, and there is no way to optimize the results.
    The gamble involved is why blowing the well shut is low on the list of options.
    My responses:
    The pressures are not competing. Instead, they are additive leading to the extreme tamping effect of the effectively incompressible water. Force directed spherically outward from the device remains compressed within a relatively small bubble. But, the energy leaves the detonation primarily as a shock wave through the water. It is the shock wave, the momentary peak water pressure, that passes over the plumbing in the blink of an eye that is significant. The fact that the oil pressure is high coming out is fine from the perspective of equilibrium. The key is the density difference between the crude oil and the water, and the relative incompressibility of water.
    The force is directed spherically outward from the detonation, and so too the shock wave. Directionality of explosive force such as we intuitively relate to surface explosions is not relevant here. In fact, because of the extreme tamping at depth there will be relatively little lateral translation of any water, except for right around the small blast bubble that will quickly recoil back on itself as gases move up. The local translation of water as a function of propagating the shock wave is probably be millimeters, maybe microscopic. Not much observable water motion at all. But the peak pressure of that shock front as it passes over any perceived cavity will be irresistible. The cylindrical plumbing will have nowhere to go but ”in.”
    We are not after the pocket of oil or anything at any meaningful depth below the sea floor. When the spherical shock wave hits the seafloor most of the energy will be reflected and dispersed — impedance from sea floor/water density differences will permit limited transmission, though there will be some. But the seafloor is less important. We are only seeking to pinch off the plumbing that is exposed to the water. That plumbing is clearly visible day after day on TV.
    All meaningful forces are spherically concentric, implosive or explosive, in this approach. Ambient water pressure is spherically inward/crushing, not upward or downward. So too will be the passing shock wave. Up and down have meaning for leaking oil, expanding from a compressed state in motion and then at lower density rising to the surface of the Gulf. However, it has little meaning for the instantaneous peak pressure exerted by the shock wave front on the plumbing. If the localized blast bubble of the exploding MOAB does not intersect the plumbing (much less the seafloor) there will be no large displacement of material (water or metal) such as to cause a V shape.
    Answers to specific questions that have been asked:
    How long-lasting would the MOAB method be – would any additional techniques be required to secure the oil well longer-term?
    “If the implosive forces generated by athe passing shock wave are sufficient to collapse metal plumbing and related low density cavities the desired deformation would be permanent. It is not known whether or not the collapse of pipes and cavities would be absolute with one detonation. Continued leakage, though reduced, is conceivable. After assessing the effects of the first detonation the technique could be repeated to further constrict residual flow. However, once the released flow becomes negligible other non-explosive encasement techniques could be employed to decisively seal the well. Modeling must proceed immediately to better define shock wave requirements, and predict effects in this regard.”
    Also, how confident are you that this would work – is there a way you can quantify that?
    “The technique must be modeled in order to get a ballpark estimate. Several variables can be relied upon up front. The explosive force and dimensions of the MOAB, the explosive force of the cocktail of liquid oxygen, aluminum powder, and other potential accelerants added to augment the MOAB, the dimensions of the pressure vessel, the ambient water pressure, and the exact construction of the well head and all equipment in direct contact with the flow. Other quantities that would need to be known for the model include the composition and structure of the seafloor immediately surrounding the well head out to the distance at which the radially expanding shock wave loses its peak pressure potency. Also, the distance between the seafloor and the oil reserves below it would need to be considered to avoid unintended consequences., Finally, the effect of the oil plume, having different acoustic properties than the water, would have to be understood as this will effect shock wave propagation. It is noteworthy that as reported on CNN on 10 June the Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) has modeled interactions of interest using different devices in the past and this data can be used to guide to new models. In summary, quantification of the workability of the idea depends on that modeling.”
    Are there any other potential outcomes from using the MOAB which could make the problem worse? How likely are they compared to the model you have proposed?
    “The composition of the seafloor and the distance of oil reserves below that floor are key considerations. Without caution one could fracture natural containment structures if the oil is a shallow depth below the seafloor. Also, if any man made structures in contact with oil flow are brittle, such as concrete, ceramics, etc. a lack of caution could crack those structures undesirably. Finally, modeling will have to determine whether it is advantageous or disadvantageous to have the relatively small blast bubble of the enhanced MOAB intersect the targeted equipment. It is a safe prediction that metal plumbing will collapse under implosive forces of the passing shock wave. However, it is less predictable what shearing, heat, and blast effects would have on that equipment if it is encompassed by the blast. It could improve the outcome, or it could be counterproductive. Again, quantification of unintended consequences also depends on modeling.”
    Just lastly – how quickly could a MOAB system be deployed to the leak?
    “Educated guesswork leads me to believe that given the will this could be done within one to two weeks. This is based entirely on the following assumptions, that 1) MOABs exist, 2) a pressure vessel can be found, converted, and/or constructed easily, 3) the easy accessibility of several tons of liquid oxygen canisters and several tons of sealed canisters of powdered aluminum (or magnesium), 4) the rapid availability of known MOAB data from the Air Force Research Lab and the contractor of government armaments manufacturer, and 5) the willing assistance of the Department of Energy to provide past lab data on similar tests as well as in conducting the modeling of the present idea.”
    Answers to more comments that have been posted, some of them on this site:
    Comment 1 states:
    “Liquid oxygen would offer much more resistance during the dispersion phase than air. The whole bursting charge and phase would need to be re-developed.”
    My response to 1:
    There is no dispersion phase in air. The MOAB is not a fuel air explosive (FAE) device. Also, for its employment in sealing the leak the MOAB is not intended to be detonated in the atmosphere. Instead it will be detonated at the crushing water depth of 5,000 feet, in close proximity to the leaking well head. The device proposed here can well be described as a two-stage device, and the concept that the MOAB is employed as a “bursting charge” is not a bad one. The liquid oxygen (LOX) is not intended to enable the MOAB to function. The MOAB is a big High Explosives (HE)-based bomb. The HE cocktail within it contains its own oxygen and it will blow up with or without the canisters of LOX, and it will do so within a pressure vessel at a depth of 5000 feet.
    Instead, the tons of LOX canisters are there to be fractured and mixed with the tons of powdered aluminum that is also containerized and intermixed with the LOX canisters throughout the pressure vessel. Under the explosive conditions enabled by MOAB detonation the reaction ignition of the instantaneously released oxygen and aluminum will be throughout the momentarily intact pressure vessel. The pressure vessel is already concentrically tamped and contained by the external, inward pointing, ambient, water pressure of approximately 2400 psi. The MOAB, powerful in its own right, will serve as the blasting cap for the second stage oxygen/aluminum reaction. This second stage can be compared to the accelerants that are often added to HE IEDs to make their blasts more powerful, though in this case the oxygen/aluminum accelerant can be considered HE itself in detonation velocity.
    Comment 2 states:
    “Normal explosives can easily be stuffed into a simple container and explode without a complicated two-stage process. Modern explosives have their oxidizer included.”
    My response to 2:
    My interpretation is that most explosive detonations are at least two stage processes, with a blasting cap serving as the initiator. In this example the MOAB is essentially the blasting cap for an even bigger explosion, though its own contribution to the resulting water shock wave is significant. It should be noted that oxygen and aluminum reactions are normal military explosives, in fact the MOAB contains aluminum as a component of its own fuel. It is true that one could employ a number of HE options to achieve the same result. The proposal is just one field expedient mix of easily acquired components. MOABs are probably located at Eglin AFB, not far from LA. Tons of LOX are available almost anywhere, as is powdered aluminum (which are a uniquely explosive pound-for-pound mix of reactants). You could put two, three, or more MOABs or other big bombs in a pressure vessel and get a similar result, though the pressure vessel size requirement may grow, and this will lead to complications. Anyway, the comment is fair. I would just argue that the field expedient technique of combining a MOAB and easily obtainable accelerants can be modeled and executed more rapidly, and perhaps more safely.
    Comment 3 states:

    “Blowing up a charge above the spill seems to be pointless. The objective is to block the drilled hole, that can much more easily be done by blowing a charge up a few dozen meters deep next to the hole.”
    My response to 3:
    The detonation is intended to create an irresistible high pressure shock wave to collapse the well head plumbing. That said, digging a hole of some depth next to the well is indeed a viable solution. The detonation at some number of meters depth and relatively near the well will indeed crimp the well in such a way as to reduce or cut entirely the flow to the well head. This technique was proposed during Desert Storm to extinguish the oil well fires before friendly forces actually occupied the oil fields. In that case precision guided munitions (PGMs) dropped from high altitude and equipped with delay fuses were proposed for ground penetration and below-ground crimping. Also, according to the blog of David Axe, the Russians have used this technique to extinguish natural gas well fires in the past, using nuclear weapons to achieve better results. The issue with the hole in this particular case is the challenge of digging it quickly to stop the catastrophe. Perhaps the shock wave collapse and the sideward crimping techniques can be pursued concurrently to reduce the risk that one or the other might fail.
    Comment 4 states:
    “High water pressure has an extreme containing effect on underwater explosions because of the marginal compressibility. The greatest effect to be had from deep underwater explosions are shaped charge (or similar) effects (as in modern torpedoes) or bubble effects. Simple blast effects are being dwarfed.”
    My response to 4:
    The extreme tamping and containment of the high pressure water is a key enabler of this idea. Also, the point is missed that blast effects that one intuitively associates with explosions are counter-productive in this idea. The comment is reinforcing the strengths of idea. High water pressure and “dwarfed blast effects” are central to the creation of an irresistible high pressure shock wave to collapse the well head plumbing. Shape charges and directionality are irrelevant to this idea, as the outwardly expanding shock wave is spherical.
    Comment 5 states:
    “MOAB and Daisy Cutter don’t “consume all of their fuel”, at least not under all atmospheric conditions.”
    My response to 5:
    The MOAB is employed as a blasting cap for the larger explosive mix of LOX and powdered aluminum. Under the tamped conditions of the pressure vessel at depth, it will indeed cause all the explosive fuels to be consumed. The only reason I mentioned complete fuel consumption was to demonstrate the green attractiveness of this conventional enhanced bomb. No radiation such as associated with a nuke, and no residual toxins such as those that might be associated with H6 or other bomb parts. Finally, LOX and aluminum are certainly environmentally friendly if something went wrong.
    Comment 6 states:
    “This has already been debated at length. The hole is reinforced with casing so odds are that you would blow up the malfunctioning blow out preventer device sitting on the hole making the hole into a giant oil spewing crater.”
    My response to 6:
    As noted earlier, the detonation of the device will take place at a height above the well head to be determined by simulations. It is important that the blast bubble not be permitted to intersect the seafloor or the well head. Therefore, there will be no “giant oil spewing crater.” The sole intended product of the explosion is an intense shock wave that collapses plumbing in on itself.
    Comment 7 states:
    “A fuel-air explosive works by disseminating a fine mist of fuel and then igniting it. It depends on the fuel being widely dispersed to achieve its effect. How would that even work underwater?”
    My response to 7:
    Neither the MOAB nor the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter is a fuel air explosives (FAE). They are both conventional bombs that include their own oxidizers. The BLU-82 uses explosive ammonium nitrate and aluminum, incorporating both agent and oxidizer, and the MOAB uses Composition H6 RDX, TNT, and powdered aluminum. In fact, H6 is said to be extremely conducive to underwater applications.
    Comment 8 states:
    “I was wondering the same thing, but the article said it would include sending canisters of liquid oxygen down with it. So, it’s possible that it would work, and it would certainly be interesting from a scientific point of view, but the odds of a massive catastrophe occurring are probably too high for it to ever be tried.”
    My response to 8:
    One of the key risk mitigating elements of this idea is that it lends itself to modeling in preparation in order to minimize unintended consequences while maximizing the intended effects. Also, the explosives and materials proposed are exceptionally reliable and predictable. The MOAB, like all modern ordnance is safe to handle. Likewise, sealed LOX and powdered aluminum containers are safe to handle. A massive catastrophe is therefore improbable.
    Comment 9 states:
    “This is the most fundamentally unsound idea that I’ve ever heard. Conventional explosives fragment rock. I’m not aware of any instance in which conventional explosives have fused rock the way that a nuclear explosion can. The temperatures involved just aren’t high enough.”
    My response to 9:
    The sole purpose of the proposed underwater conventional detonation is the creation of a high pressure shock wave through water to collapse metal plumbing. The intent of the detonation is not to fuse rock or create a nuclear-like glassed-over seafloor, nor is it the intention of this idea to generate the required temperatures for those effects. Even the fragmenting of rock is not an objective of the detonation, though seafloor damage would be irrelevant in this environment since the oil reserves are actually 13,000 feet below the seafloor at the site under discussion, according to BP’s website. Again, the sole purpose of the proposed underwater conventional detonation is the creation of a high pressure shock wave through water to collapse metal plumbing.
    Comment 10 states:
    “All that will be accomplished by the exercise is to turn the hole into a porous pile of rubble on the sea floor. Oil will continue to leak through the rubble, and control of the leak will then be nearly impossible to resolve because there will not be one point of control as there is now.”
    My response to 10:
    My response to 10 and similar comments can be found in 12 and 13 below.
    Comment 11 states:
    “The other problem, as others have mentioned, is that the MOAB works by distributing a fine mist over a wide area. The MOAB gets its explosive force by detonation of the resulting vapor. The MOAB is unlikely to work underwater because the mist won’t develop and won’t be able to convert into vapor. Give it all the oxygen you think it needs, it still won’t work. The dynamics underwater are all wrong for this type of bomb.”
    My response to 11:
    The MOAB is fueled by a cocktail of High Explosives (HE) that contains its own oxygen for burning, i.e. for the explosive reaction. The MOAB does not get its force from the distribution of a fine mist of fuel and recombination with pre-existent atmospheric oxygen. This is apparently a common myth as many think MOAB is a “Fuel Air Explosive (FAE),” an anti-personnel and anti light structure weapon that parasitically employs air to produce over-pressure and oxygen deprivation effects. MOAB is a big HE bomb.
    Wikipedia states:
    “The MOAB uses 18,700 pounds of H6 as its explosive filler. At 1.35 times the power of TNT, H6 is one of the more powerful explosives used by the U.S. military. H6 is an explosive combination of RDX (Cyclotrimethylene trinitramine), TNT, and aluminium. H6 is typically employed by the military for general purpose bombs, and is an explosive composition which is produced in Australia. H6 is a widely used main blast charge filling for underwater weapons such as mines, depth charges, torpedoes and mine disposal charges. HBX compositions (HBX-1, HBX-3, and H6) are aluminized (powdered aluminium) explosives mainly used as a replacement for the now obsolete explosive, known as torpex.[1] HBX-3 and H6 have lower sensitivity to impact and much higher explosion test temperatures than torpex. The warhead is designated the BLU-120/B.”
    In fact-checking wikipedia, GlobalSecurity.org states:
    “The 21,700-pound [9,500 kilogram] bomb contains 18,700 pounds of H6, an explosive that is a mixture of RDX (Cyclotrimethylene trinitramine), TNT, and aluminum. H6 is used by the military for general purpose bombs. H6 is an Australian produced explosive composition. Composition H6 is a widely used main charge filling for underwater blast weapons such as mines, depth charges, torpedoes and mine disposal charges. HBX compositions (HBX-1, HBX-3, and H6) are aluminized (powdered aluminum) explosives used primarily as a replacement for the obsolete explosive, torpex. They are employed as bursting charges in mines, depth bombs, depth charges, and torpedoes. HBX-3 and H-6 have lower sensitivity to impact and much higher explosion test temperatures than torpex. The MOAB weapon produces a very large explosive blast, with lesser fragmentation effects due to a thin-walled aluminum casing. Contrary to some published claims, it most certainly is not an Ethylene-Oxide Fuel-Air Explosive (FAE)…”
    Comment 12 states:
    “Sadly, this is an unworkable idea that would likely make the situation much much worse, and indeed likely irreparable. Recall that the rising oil is naturally pressurized – about 12,000 psi(!). Oil like this will easily force its way up through any fractured rubble and rock. Explosives (even a nuke) would only create a local zone of fractured rock and would break up the strata below. Such micro-fissures are all that’s needed for the oil to begin bubbling out from the whole area. Think one pipe is hard to stop? Try plugging up an acre or two.”
    My response to 12:
    According to BPs own published data, the oil reserve below the leaking well head is 13,000 feet below the seafloor. This is why the digging of relief wells will take until at least August. Even if there were fractured rubble and rock (which there won’t be for all of the aforementioned reasons) it would have no impact on the release of oil through fractured rock. With a 13,000 foot solid rock separation between the seafloor and the pressurized oil reserves “zones of fractured rock” would have a shallow, meaningless impact on the thousands of feet of rock strata below. Oil would not come bubbling out of whole areas permeated with micro-fissures. The ambient water pressure at 5000 feet depth, the incompressibility of water, and the consequent blast bubble containment will cause the actual displacement of water to be negligible (perhaps confined to millimeters or less of motion) – no blast intersection with the seafloor. If the blast bubble radius does not intersect the equipment or the rock floor there will be no rubble of any sort. The sole purpose of the carefully tailored conventional blast is to create a spherically expanding shock wave of irresistible peak water pressure. It becomes irresistible when it encompasses/encounters a volume of lower density or compressibility, such as crude oil rapidly flowing through a pipe.
    Comment 13 states:
    “The reason BP doesn’t just cap the pipe with a strong valve is because this extremely high pressure – stopping the flow, once started, is can be very hard if the structure of the pipe deeper inside the well is compromised (which it appears to be). Stopping the top would just shatter the pipe down inside the ground. If they screw this up, there will be no stopping the oil at all. This is why “Let’s just nuke it” ideas are unworkable. Even a glassed over seafloor would eventually (~6 months) have microfractures enough to be an become unstoppable leak.”
    My response to 13:
    The 10-12,000 psi is overcome by the hundreds of thousands psi (probably much more – only modeling can predict a figure) of the passing shock front. For that sub-millisecond the oil indeed has somewhere to go, namely back down the pipe, even if only for the blink of an eye, just enough for the plumbing to crush inwards under the irresistible force of the shock wave. Contrary to the oil which retains up and down options in the well, the water has nowhere to go but “in,” i.e. concentrically inwards around the pipe. This can be modeled over a relatively short period of time to optimize the construction of the device and its exact position upon detonation.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is stupid. “Oxygen-enhancement” ? That sounds like these bombs need oxygen to detonate. If so,they wouldn’t explode under water. Maybe the Russian method is better>


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  12. Pingback: U.S. Marine Corps Suspends Technology Reformer Franz Gayl | Offiziere.ch

  13. Pingback: War Is Boring » Offiziere.ch: U.S. Marine Corps Suspends Technology Reformer Franz Gayl

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