Plume Balloon

below is my White Paper provided under my personal Deep Water Horizon Response - Sola Roof Guy

COPYRIGHT 2010 RICHARD NELSON, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED; NOTWITHSTANDING, The USA Government is granted a paid-up, nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license in this White Paper to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies to the public, and perform publicly and display publicly, by and on behalf of the Government.

In referrence to the below Request For Proposal:

Research Opportunity Number
Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) HSCG32-10-R-R00019
Amendment 0001 Agency: United States Coast Guard (USCG) Research and Development Center (RDC)
1 Chelsea Street, New London, CT 06320 Research Opportunity Title: Deepwater Horizon Response Program Name: Interagency Alternative Technology Assessment Program (IATAP)

BY OFFEROR: Richard Charles Nelson

Responding to: Oil Wellhead Control and Submerged Oil Response



White Paper, Titled: PLUME BALLOON authored by Richard Nelson, 9th June 2010

Background of this White Paper:

An Alternative Response Technology is specified in this proposal wherein a soft fabric envelope is the key system component, which is proposed to receive the rapidly expanding blowout and contain it; preventing any mixture of the hydrocarbon plume with any seawater. Previously I proposed a large diameter layflat, coated fabric tubing in continuous length that could function as both a deep reservoir and/or be a conduit for the hydrocarbons to flow from the source all the way to the surface. This previous proposal was submitted on 8th June 2010 by means of the Alternative Technology Response Form (at: This present Plume Balloon proposal was also first submitted through that same process on 9th June. The Plume Balloon proposal is now additionally submitted by way of the your RFP, as a White Paper under the gap area: Oil Wellhead Control and Submerged Oil Response

Brief Discription of the Plume Balloon:

The Plume Balloon is a containment system to completely capture the blowout plume of hydrocarbons and minimize any mixing with seawater. This alterrnative technology will not stop the blowout but will contain the explosively expanding flow at the source. There is an advantage to operate at the seabed, which is that the deepwater pressure will help to control and contain the blowout while allowing the release of super pressure into a soft envelope called a Plume Balloon, which is a large envelope into which is directed all the blowout hydrocarbons, both expanding gases and liquid fractions. The coupling to the existing cap minimizes any water from mixing into this flow. This method will not stop the flow but will contain it and prevent pollution. Some sea water may be entrained with the hydrocarbon flow and if so, then this water together with the liquid fraction of the hydrocarbons can be pumped to the surface and separated as a secondary step.

Section A: Technical Proposal

The blowout flow is directed into the Plume Balloon, which starts in a flat state expands to its' 3D volume as the blowout gas and liquid flows in and separates into a gas fraction in the hemisphere at the top and a liquid fraction in the conical section. The gas at the top of the structure is allowed to vent to the surface such that the over-pressure in the Plume Balloon containment envelope will not exceed envelope strength. Concurrently the liquid below is pumped out at a rate that maintains a steady state of volume of liquid within the Plume Balloon structure.

The removal of gas from the Plume Balloon will limit the volume of the gas bubble and the over pressure within the Plume Balloon. Venting the blowout into this structure will be controlled until an equilibrium of inflow and the venting of gas and pumping of the liquid hydrocarbons to the surface is established. At that point release of the blowout to the ocean is minimal and the pollution will stop.

A large ballast and/or seabed anchor is needed to hold the Plume Balloon envelope in position at the seabed. The Balloon is a large volume of envelope that will contain the liquid and gas phases of the gushing hydrocarbons. The blowout enters at the base of the balloon - in a hot air balloon this is where the hot air goes in. Like a hot air balloon the Plume Ballon has a conical lower section and this volume will fill with the liquid fraction of the flow. The gaseous fraction will blow through the liquids and collect in the upper volume of the hemispheric volume at the top of the Plume Balloon. The volume of the space within the Plume Balloon needs to be optimized to create the space for a reservoir of liquid in the lower conical section and a separate gas pocket above. Both the gas and the liquids are then removed - with the oil pumped at a rate that results in a steady pool of liquid and the release of the gas at a rate that prevents excessive over-pressure (compared to the seabed water pressure) that could exceed the strength of the envelope. This process handles the blowout pressure and allows for the release of pressure - that is: going with the flow and containing but not resisting the pressure release but channeling the flow and preventing any mixing with water.

Materials Required

The Plume Balloon is a strong fabric envelope with the approximate shape of a Hot Air Ballon, that is: a conical lower volume and a hemispheric volume above this section. The envelope materials are such that they can hold in significant pressure and can resist any chemical attack on the fabric strength and impermeability. This tension fabric structure is fabricated, flattend with all air vaccumed from the envelope, folded and rolled to a package that can be brought to the depth of the seabed. The Plume Balloon is fabricated with strong fabric material such as glass fabric and coated with hydrocarbon resistant material. The rapid fabrication of such a large envelope with an upper hemisphere diameter of about 50 meters, containing approximately 80,000 M3 and having a surface area of fabric of about 10,000 M2 is within the capacity of the proposed manufacturing partner, CHEMFAB.

Equipment Required

This is a large tension structure and the gas fraction will stress the fabric and create lift force on the structure due to buoyancy of the gas contained in the structure. A ballast anchor or seabed footing is required to tether the Plume Balloon to the seabed and adjacent to the source of the blowout. A coupling is required and I would recommend a dual system for redundant safety as well as an option to vent the blowout to the ocean in the case where the Plume Ballon is not functioning as planned.

Expertise Required

The Plume Balloon is a large tension fabric structure and the materials technology and engineering capacities exist to handle the design and engineering but we recognize that specialized consulting support will be needed to handle the problem statement in the context of the seabed conditions. Please note that the extreme pressure at this depth are not a problem for such "soft structures", since only the pressure difference (which would be controlled) will impart stress into the tension structure. The Plume Balloon can be manufactured by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, (701 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, NH 03054 Tel: +1-800-243-6322 Email: or similar manufacturer with current production capacity. The couplings from the source to the base of Plume Balloon and the structural anchor to the seabed can be developed by MARINTEK, Norway or others. Extraction of the gas fraction and pumping of the liquid reservoir that will form in the base of the Plume Balloon requires fine tuning during start-up.

If called upon to deliever on this proposal I will immediately form a teaming arrangement with the company Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, known also as CHEMFAB, is now evaluating my proposal. I have talked with Anne Hardi, Director of Research, last Friday and tomorrow I will speak to Marcel Dery, VP Manufacturing and initial feedback is that the materials and fabrication methods are on-hand for production of the Plume Balloon, which would contain the blowout and prevent pollution - but which is not a strategy for stopping the blowout.