Web Exclusive: Specialized valve helps cap BP oil leak

Everyone knows about the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. But what many don’t know is that hydraulics has played a role in helping to cap the leak in recent weeks.

Edited by Mary C. Gannon,
senior associate editor

Continental Hydraulics

A modified hydraulic valve from Continental Hydraulics was used to help cap the BP oil well leakage.

Everyone knows about the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. But what many don’t know is that hydraulics has played a role in helping to cap the leak in recent weeks.

One such instance was with a modified valve from Continental Hydraulics, Minneapolis, which played a key role in the capping of the well by helping a water jet system unclog the containment dome that BP had placed over the well.

Recently, hydrate ice crystals formed inside BP’s 40-ft tall containment system aimed to capture leaking oil — and ultimately clogged the system. Hydrate gases crystallize like ice in cold waters and high pressure deep beneath the ocean’s surface.

Continental Hydraulics, in partnership with Jet Edge Inc. and Chukar Water jet Inc. developed a solution to help fight the problem. The company’s DO8 valve was used to operate Jet Edge’s water jet pump, enabling the jet stream to blast away the hydrate crystals.

According to Continental Hydraulics general manager Jeff Brandt, Continental Hydraulics’ DO8 valve was well suited to operate Jet Edge’s reciprocating water pressure intensifier pump because the DO8’s valve spool design provides a smooth transition for the intensifier actuator as the valve spool shifts from port to port. As a result, there is consistent stream of ultra high-pressure water for the water jet nozzle.

Continental Hydraulics’ DO8 valve

Continental Hydraulics’ DO8 valve was modified to withstand high pressures, and the harsh effects of salt water.

Additional modifications were made to the DO8 for the Gulf project deep-sea application, including keeping the external pressure of 2300-psi seawater at the 5000 ft depth level out of the valve interior. Seawater introduced into the valve would have caused valve failure in a very short time.

“The timeliness and schedule was intense — but we were pleased to deliver a modification to our product capable of withstanding the harsh undersea environment and enormous water pressure at a depth in excess of 5000 feet,” said Brandt said.

The off-the-shelf DO8 offers nominal flows of 50 gpm, with a maximum of 125 gpm. It is normally rated for operating pressures to 5000 psi maximum.

Jet Edge’s custom engineered water jet intensifier pump was dropped into the sea to power a robot-operated water-jetting lance — eliminating the hydrates. This equipment is the first-known water jet system capable of operating in water depths in excess of 5000 ft, opening a new frontier for water jet technology.

water jet system
This water jet system (in yellow), from Jet Edge, was deployed 5000 feet below the sea to help unclog water crystals that had formed in BP’s containment dome.

Chukar Water jet Inc. general manager Bruce Kivisto said, “We worried about 2300 lb of force and the harsh exposure to that valve. Continental Hydraulics recognized the importance, the challenge and delivered a critical component to our success.”

Kivisto provided onsite application and engineering services throughout the project, recently returning from several weeks aboard a boat just 50 yards away from the Discoverer Enterprise. He says the solution appears to be working and will continually be monitored.

For more information, visit www.continentalhydraulics.com.