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Sep 182010
 

How on Earth do you explain what happened in the Gulf of Mexico without bamboozling people with science?

Well, it seems you get a fish tank, some acrylic tube and some mud. At least that’s what Plunge did when the BBC asked us to create a demo for their series Bang Goes The Theory.

They wanted to explain the use of heavy mud in the oil industry. It is used to counteract the high pressures from deep sea oil reserves.

In a fish tank we created a cross section of the ocean and ocean floor with a pressurised oil reserve at the bottom under a layer of acrylic. Then we mounted a drilling hole above it so that Jem Stansfield could drill into it, thus releasing the oil.

In order to prevent a blow-out of the pressurised oil, heavy mud is used. For our demo we mixed clay powder and saline to create a heavy mud solution with a specific gravity of 1.75 (or 75% ‘heavier’ than water). This was used to fill the drilling hole prior to the drill breaking through to the pressurised oil. When the drill hits the oil, the weight of heavy mud prevents the oil bursting out.

We also created a second demo to show how BP planned to fix the leak and block the hole permanently. They drill in to the leaking drill hole from the side and force heavy mud into it from the bottom. As the mud is forced up it’s weight becomes greater than the pressure of the oil and the leak is stopped.

Well done heavy mud.