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May 4, 2010

Dr. Michael Bruno on Minnesota Public Radio: Oil-Spill Containment Technologies

In the wake of the environmental disaster involving the explosion, sinking and massive oil leakage of an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico owned by British Petroleum (BP), experts are turning to technology in the face of extreme conditions to remediate the environmental effects.

Dr. Michael Bruno, Feiler Chair Professor & Dean, School of Engineering & Science at Stevens Institute of Technology, appeared on Minnesota Public Radio yesterday to offer his insights on the specific methods in use and illustrates exactly why this cleanup effort is so difficult.

Located 40 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, BP's "Deepwater Horizon" drilling rig operated in 5,000 feet of water. The sheer depth provides one of the greatest challenges in the cleanup effort - as humans are physically unable to operate in these conditions.

Dr. Bruno describes BP's implementation of containment domes, concrete containment chambers of the drill pipe risers which stop the oil from flowing into the water. "Essentially these structures channel oil to the surface where it can then be retrieved in a safe manner," said Dr. Bruno. The difficulty however is once again the depth. BP employs the use of remote robotics to install equipment and navigate in these extreme conditions. BP's CEO describes this incredible challenge by likening it to "attempting to perform open heart surgery at 5,000 feet, in the dark." On top of the control issues are the less-than-optimal surface conditions that crews have experienced. With frequent storms and high seas, the remediation effort is that much more difficult.

As the underwater wells continue pumping out crude oil at an alarming rate, relief workers must also use more traditional technologies to absorb and remove the spilling oil. These include skimming vessels, detergents and spill containment booms, of which Stevens has been at the forefront of innovation.

This crisis is truly a global event and all possible efforts must be made to help minimize its impact. To learn more about Dr. Bruno's thoughts on technology as it applies to this scenario, check out his audio interview!

For more information please contact:

Dr. Michael Bruno
Feiler Chair Professor & Dean, School of Engineering & Science
Edwin A. Stevens
Room E-216
Phone: 201.216.5338
Fax: 201.216.8214

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