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A slinky answer to the oil leak?

Published: 7:43PM Thursday June 24, 2010 Source: ONE News

As oil giant BP pledges billions of dollars to clean up the Gulf oil spill, two Kiwi entrepreneurs think they may have the answer with their home grown invention.

According to United States government estimates, up to four million barrels of oil have spewed into the ocean since April 20, when the rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 workers and rupturing BP's well.
The spreading oil slick has shut down rich fishing grounds, killed hundreds of marine life and soiled the coastlines of four states.

It has quickly become the worst spill in US history and is now also one of the one of the world's biggest ever environmental disasters.

However Kiwis Simon Moore and Dan McElrea say they have come up with the answer and it's about as Kiwi-can-do as it gets - based on the common slinky.

The idea came from a product they designed to contain water under pressure for a garden hose and now their company Puku, is working flat out on the concept.

Central to the rupture, is that the broken oil pipe has a jagged top which nothing will seal.

And that's where the Kiwi entrepreneurs think they have found the solution.

"You need something you can drop in, release and it grips," says Moore.

"In one direction it gets smaller and then you put it into a pipe at bottom of sea and release will jam against the inside pipe," says McElrea

Tests show a basic slinky can even hold a man's weight.

The Kiwi concept is also getting some serious backing.

"It's a good principle, a very robust one, I think it certainly merits further consideration," says Grath Woodhouse, Fluid Connectors Specialist, Hydraulink.

The disaster underwater is a challenge, but now their biggest problem is getting heard by BP.

BP certainly needs the help, but while it says it's considering the ideas submitted, all 20,000 of them, they say it's extremely difficult to get through.

Moore says the situation is very frustrating.

"I think we've got an answer that is conceptually very strong," he says.

"The key to design is sometimes a bit of ignorance," says McElrea.

"If you have a PhD in advanced marine engraining, you know an awful lot, but you know about the systems, and methods that have been taught&sometimes the really great ideas seem silly to start with," he says.

As the oil keeps spilling, all they can do is carry on testing and trying to get through.

"We've got a solution that we know will work and we can't get heard," says Moore.