[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/03/tom.static.kill.jpg caption="Tom Foreman tests out a model of how the static kill operation will work."]
Tom Foreman | BIO
Editor's Note: See Tom's full report tonight on AC360 at 10pm eastern.
The latest long awaited attempt to kill that leaking oil well has started deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico, and I know we’ve said this before but the authorities are hopeful. All the tests they ran this morning came back positive, suggesting as they pump that heavy drilling fluid, or mud as it is called, into the well it may indeed be able to finally contain the explosive power of all that oil trying to rush up into the water.
It is, as you might guess tricky work and even the name demands a little explanation.
“Static” in this case refers to a condition of “not moving.” So how does that apply?
Look at it this way: Right now the oil is far from static. It is wildly active. Even though it is capped off at the blow out preventer, it is desperately trying to force its way free. It is pushing up from the reservoir two miles below the Gulf floor, pushing up through the main pipe, and pushing very hard against that cap with about 7,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Once they start pumping the mud in at the top of that pipe, however, the mud will start bearing down on that oil. Unlike the cap, which just sits there, the mud will exert its own counter force…pushing the oil back down into its lair.
At first, this will happen very gradually and will only be possible because the mud is being pumped in under enormous pressure. But as the hours tick by and the mud starts filling the top end of the pipe, engineers will be looking for a critical milestone to be reached. The mud is heavier than the oil. So at some point, the weight of the mud alone will become enough to hold the oil down. There will be no need for pressure gauges and pipes and pumps; in truth, if it works, there would be no need for even a cap on the well at that point. Simple physics, the weight of all that mud will contain the oil. The force of the oil up, will be perfectly countered by the force of the mud down; neither one moving; a static condition. At least in theory.
But with all that pressure, all the theories are going to be put to a very stiff test.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with