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The ideas pour in

BP's 'top kill' operation has failed to plug the oil leak in the Gulf. The company is now planning to cut off the damaged riser from which the oil is leaking and cap it with a containment valve. (May 29)

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Monday, May 31, 2010

With their strategies for plugging the well failing and oil still billowing out of the Gulf of Mexico's floor, BP has now received more than 30,000 phone calls from people with ideas for either plugging the leak or sopping up the oil. Callers were asked to submit the ideas in writing, the company said, and 8,000 did so.

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The ideas are then examined to see whether BP is already using them, and -- if not -- to see whether the solution is available now. In all, just 227 ideas have made it past that stage and been screened more closely or put through field-testing. BP spokesman Graham MacEwen said he did not know of any suggestions that had actually been put into practice yet.

Many people, including some inventors frustrated with BP's process, have taken their ideas to the public. Their solutions are as simple as wads of cotton and as drastic as a nuclear bomb.


A Fort Myers, Fla., newscast interviewed a local man who proposed firing cotton bales into the hole, believing they would soak up the oil, expand, and plug the leak. He said he had tried out the concept with a lawn-sprinkler pipe.


The Russian television channel RT described how Soviet authorities used underground nuclear explosions to seal off leaking gas pipes. The idea is that the explosion shears the leak closed for good. "That's not something we're considering. It would be far too risky," said BP's MacEwen.

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