GULF SPILL: A sustainable energy company
The Thermal Taming Chamber designed by deep sea current, wind and wave energy company Ecomerit
First published in El Mundo, Thursday, June 16, 2010
When Jim Dehlsen, chairman of Ecomerit Technologies, heard about the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf, he set his top engineers to dedicate themselves to a plan to avoid a huge scale disaster. In less than a month, the wind and wave turbine development company had a solution on paper (see an animated version here). Once approved, the invention, baptized as a Thermal Taming Chamber (TTC), would intend to have construction completed before August, when the relief wells are scheduled to be delivered.
The system would capture oil and natural gas by means of a containment chamber to drive the crude up a flexible tube around ten feet in diameter, with propulsors and a heating element in each joining segment of the conduit.
The TTC is relatively simple, utilizing a Venturi tube, a constricted cylinder. This tube causes an increase in the velocity of the flow of a fluid and a corresponding decrease in the liquid pressure that is used to create suction, as in a vacuum pump.
The Venturi is used together with a high-powered heating element, and with the injection of hot water and methanol, to prevent the formation of hydrates that freeze the system, which was the main challenge with the other systems used previously.
The containment chamber lowers first to 500 feet above the sea floor, to avoid the turbulence of the gusher. From there, it lowers a tripod of legs surrounding the hole, thanks to onboard jet propulsors that direct them with precision, aided by remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs).
“We send down a chamber with a Venturi inside, which goes down over the leak that’s releasing oil and natural gas, and it injects methanol, which acts as antifreeze,” explains Dehlsen. “At this depth, the water’s very cold. The natural gas has an underground pressure of 10,000 pounds, until it reaches the ocean floor, which is 2000 pounds; this makes it expand rapidly, freeing energy and causing a great cooling effect. For this we inject heated water and methanol, before lowering the inner proboscis with a five-megawatt heating element.”
As it comes out the natural gas changes from being almost liquid to gas. The Venturi directs bubbles of gas vertically to the chamber and later directly to the surface, by means of the conduit. With those bubbles the crude also rises, now in an organized manner, rather than chaotically.”
The process to organize the flow is slow, but necessary. Once this column of bubbles and crude has been created, a cylindrical curtain slowly lowers in three stages from the chamber to the sea floor as a barrier to keep water out, which reduces the quantity of water such that it’s easier to separate the oil from natural gas and water at the surface.
“It works by a natural convection of bubbles pushing the oil to the surface, where the natural gas recovered is used to generate the energy to feed the heating elements,” explains Dehlsen.
The heavily-credentialled Ecomerit team, already recipients of grant awards from the US Department of Energy for wave and undersea current energy projects, gets advice from Dr. Ira Leifer, a researcher at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Marine Institute and specialist in bubble dynamics. He also forms part of the government committee to measure and analyze the spill. “This is the worst oil spill in history, by a large measure,” said Leifer. Let’s see if their idea can begin to reduce the impact. Push it around to your circles to grow it as a possibility.