Inventor's Corner: Simple blow-out preventer cuts and seals oil-well drill pipe

Oct. 6, 2011
The blow-out preventer replaces the traditional hydraulic system with a measured explosive charge

According to inventor Karl Payne, last year’s Macondo Well disaster in the Gulf was either the result of a failure of the blow-out-preventer (BOP) or, more probably, a failure of the power source for the BOP because it partially worked. Traditionally, a BOP is designed to cut and seal the drill pipe and is powered by hydraulic pressure, which is provided by an electrical pump through hydraulic hoses. “All of this is a mile under the ocean in the most-hostile environment imaginable,” he says. “My idea is to replace the hydraulic system with a measured explosive charge, which would accomplish the same result but be faster and more dependable.”

He claims his invention is pretty simple. “In a single-ram BOP of this configuration, explosive force would power the cutter in place of hydraulic pressure,” says Payne. “An explosive charge is a self-contained power source not affected by pressure, temperature, or how long it’s been in place. It is also cost effective, easy to manufacture and, because of its simplicity, more dependable. Consider the World War II bombs still being found in Europe and are just as deadly after 60 years.”

A sudden back pressure in the drill pipe would trigger the charge. The explosive charge for his model is powered by a 12-gauge shotgun shell (without buckshot). “It took some experimentation to determine the amount of powder to cut a ½-in. pipe,” says Payne. “The thickest and largest-diameter pipe that could be cut with my invention would depend on the size of the explosive charge and have to be determined experimentally.”

Payne says he is not trying to reinvent the wheel, maybe just one of the spokes. He got his idea after seeing the ejection device on a pilot’s seat. Payne can be reached at [email protected].

© 2011 Penton Media, Inc.

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