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Apparently, during/after the first Gulf War, many of the damaged wells were eventually killed with packsetters. Packsetters are inflatable bladders that are made of very robust material and have pressure fittings attached. The basic procedure is: jam the empty bladder down the blowout, (presumably
using the inflater pipe as a handle), and then inflate it.
The Kuwait oilwells, being on fire, required extraordinary measures before they could be reached by packsetter-wielding riggers. I believe it was the use of very brisant explosives to blow out the fires.
In the case of the latest oil spilling disaster, the extraordinary aspect is the extreme pressure at the ocean floor - too deep for peeps and most subs.
So I imagine a tethered (or otherwise remote-controlled) submersible robot that is designed for deep sea diving, and is equipped with a packsetter on the end of an extendable proboscis. The probe would also have mechanisms to adjust the angle and position for best insertion. Killerbot also has clamps (or clamp-like devices) to anchor it to the intact well casing below the rupture. Other essentials: a pump to inflate the packsetter, and probably a few gallons of grout to squirt into the hole once the flow stops.
The procedure would be: dive down to the leak, latch on, align and insert the proboscis, inflate the packsetter, and backfill with grout.
[swimswim, Jun 14 2010]
Article suggesting 'packers'
scroll to the bottom [afinehowdoyoudo, Jun 15 2010]
World Oil Tools casing packer
[afinehowdoyoudo, Jun 15 2010]
Just 'cause I mentioned them... these wouldn't do it [afinehowdoyoudo, Jun 15 2010]
||perhaps a series of "packsetters"... first one down (say) 30' into the pipe just constricts it a bit, next one up constricts it more, etc. etc. until the last one just has to curtail a couple gal/sec outflow.
||Sorry - 'packer', not 'packsetter'. A packsetter is an inflatable bag with fittings used to fill gaps and cracks, for example in mines or other excavations. A packer (see links) is a different inflatable device, designed to seal up oil well pipes or the annular space between concentric pipes.
||FT, I think the packers in the link have steel 'slips', which are sliding wedges that theoretically hold the device in place, so your suggestion could work in that situation. But since the well casing in question has been sheared (after sawing failed) I wonder if a 'clean' solution like that would fit into the hole. This idea relies on the inflatable plug lodging in place inside the well casing, which implies that it would be inflated with enough pressure to not collapse under the pressure of oil and have enough friction to not get pushed out... all of which implies that it would be one plug to kill the well.
||decrease the pressure enough and the clathrates will clog it up all by themselves. Once formed the crystalline structure of the clathrates will hold the pressures, as they have done all over the world (for millions of years), so far.