Should BP crowdsource potential solutions for the Gulf oil spill?
Clifford Krauss of the New York Times reports on BP’s latest effort to cap the oil leak, called ‘top kill’. He notes the following:
“The consequences for BP are profound: A successful capping of the leaking well could finally begin to mend the company’s brittle image after weeks of failed efforts, and perhaps limit the damage to wildlife and marine life from reaching catastrophic levels.
A failure could mean several months more of leaking oil, devastating economic and environmental impacts across the gulf region, and mounting financial liabilities for the company. BP has already spent an estimated $760 million in fighting the spill, and two relief wells it is drilling as a last resort to seal the well may not be completed until August.”
Let’s hope for the best. Given the challenges of the previous efforts, it sounds like it will take a monumental effort to stop the leaking well.
Which begs a question…should BP be tapping a larger set of minds to help solve the leaking well? Can they crowdsource a solution?
In a way, they’re already doing it. Sort of. You can call an idea hotline to suggest ways to stop the oil. They even have the number posted on their home page.
But why not take it a step further? A formal crowdsourcing effort. I’ve heard that the folks at Innocentive asked this on an NPR report. Another vendor also pitched its idea management software, however BP didn’t bite. Spigit hasn’t pitched BP, but would certainly be willing to help.
There are some very good reasons to open it more publicly, and cast a call across the globe for ideas:
- Diversity of ideas increases the odds of finding something that will be useful
- While no one idea may solve it, visibility (as opposed to private phone calls) increases the odds of finding parts of ideas that lead to viable solutions
- The brain power of enthusiastic participants across the globe is a good match to BP’s in-house experts
- Potentially a good PR move, as the company demonstrates that it’s leaving no stone unturned to solve the leak
Crowdsourcing has proven its value in other endeavors, such as products, government services, technical problems and marketing. Surely it could do well here. But what might hold BP back? Three reasons:
- Little previous experience with crowdsourcing
- Deep technical domain experience is required
- Site becomes a place for public criticism
Are they valid? Let’s see.
Little Previous Crowdsourcing Experience
If a company hasn’t previously mastered open innovation and crowdsourcing, a crisis is a hell of a time to give it a go. This is far from comprehensive, but I did find a couple examples of BP’s forways in the world of crowdsourcing and open innovation.
Headshift wrote up a case study about BP’s Beacon Awards. The internal awards recognize innovative marketing initiatives, and BP created a site for employees to submit ideas and vote on them. This example has a couple elements of note:
- It’s an internal effort, where “mistakes” can be made as the company gets comfortable with the process of crowdsourcing
- It was for marketing ideas in a time of relative calm, not time-is-ticking ideas during a crisis
BP also touts its open innovation efforts. Open innovation means working with others outside your organization to come up with new ways of tackling problems. In a post on its website, it discusses its work with partners:
The need to work with others to solve tricky problems has most likely been around since humans learned to communicate, pooling their skills to achieve a desired mutual goal. In today’s world, collaboration between partner organisations has become highly sophisticated, particularly so in the energy industry where new challenges abound, be those in security of supply, cleaner energy sources, or the bringing together of different scientific and engineering disciplines to focus on a common problem.
Certainly the oil spill qualifies as a tricky problem.
So BP has experience in crowdsourcing internally on marketing ideas, and in open innovation with academia and industry partners. Not too shabby, and that argues for their having a favorable disposition toward crowdsourcing.
Deep Technical Domain Expertise Is Required
OK, I’ll admit. I have no idea how I’d stop the oil leak. Maybe I could come up with an idea as I give my kids a bath (“so you take the rubber duckie, and move it over the drain…”).
The BP oil leak occurred deep underwater, an area subject to different conditions than oil companies have had to deal with. BP is sparing no level of expertise to fix the issue, reports the New York Times:
Several veterans of that operation are orchestrating technicians in the Gulf of Mexico. To lead the effort, BP has brought in Mark Mazzella, its top well-control expert, who was mentored by Bobby Joe Cudd, a legendary Oklahoma well firefighter.
Didn’t even know one could be a legendary well firefighter. But the challenges of doing this in the Gulf are different. Popular Mechanics has a scorecard of each previous effort by BP to stop the leaking well. Do you remember one effort called “The Straw”? It is capturing a part of the oil, siphoning it to a surface ship. But it’s not without its risks:
The real gamble was in the original insertion – the damaged riser’s structural integrity is unknown, and any prodding could have worsened the spill, or prevented any hope of other riser- or BOP-related fixes.
Given the highly technical nature of these efforts, and the myriad complexities, does it make sense to crowdsource? I’d say it does, in that a proposed idea need not satisfy all elements of risk mitigation and possible complications. That puts too high a burden on idea submitters. Start with the idea, let the domain experts evaluate its feasibility.
Keep in mind that people outside a company can solve technical challenges. Jeff Howe wrote in Wired about the guy who tinkers in a one-bedroom apartment above an auto body shop. This guy solved a vexing problem for Colgate involving the insertion of fluoride powder into a toothpaste tube.
Site Becomes a Place for Public Criticism
If BP were to set up a public site that allows anyone to participate, I can guarantee that some percentage of ideas and comments will be devoted to excoriating BP. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if much of it became that. A free-for-all that has nothing to do with solving the oil well leak.
A public forum receiving press attention during an extreme crisis presents angry individuals with a too-tempting target to make mischief. BP could spend more time deleting or responding to comments than getting much from it. The anger is too strong, too visceral on the part of many across the world.
Charlene Li talks about meeting criticism head-on in her book Open Leadership. Perhaps one way BP could handle this would be to set up a companion forum where criticism could be moved to. Keep an idea site dedicated to just that…ideas.
But I can see how BP understandably would not want to deal with such a site, as it potentially becomes a major PR pain on top of the existing maelstrom.
This reason strikes me as the one most likely to keep BP away from a crowdsourcing initiative to complement their other efforts. What do you think? Should BP be crowdsourcing solutions to the Gulf oil spill?
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Hutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.
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My take is that crowd-sourcing is definitely going to help such crises. There are a lot of holes in the way communication goes on between large corporations and others. The company in the rush oftroubles may not be able to see simple yet good solutions.
Managing PR public-political pressure goes into a nightmarish mode and a lot of energy is lost defending one’s focus in the noise following critical failures.
I even opened a free crowdsourcing community for Deep Water Horizon group who are now looking into using such a solution for overall exercise around the oil spill. While crowdsourcing may not be great to find highly technical solutions to the deep oil bore, but good amount of volunteering can happen for simpler on-shore or surface tasks such as helping the fish or birds.
Have a look on the system that I have deployed here:
Looks like there would be some way to bend or crimp pipe before trying to fill it, its still steel.Robots can put pressure bands on ,squeeze tight then fill with tires and concrete?
SEAL GULF OIL LEAK
THE ONLY MAN ON THE PLANET WHO CAN DO THE JOB
PERMANTLY IN SHORTES POSSIBLE TIME
Mail id :email@example.com
Web Site ;www.sureshchawla.com
I have developed a most trust worthy technology by way of which it is now possible to float all kinds of R.C.C. structure Be it floating Ports, Oil Rigs, Floating Bridges etc. of any size and weight very easily including R.C.C. pipes of any diameters. Please visit my web site and look for 7/10 technology capable to—– icon at Top Right side providing photos of RCC slab being floated as per photo provided here under as well.
View shows a man standing on R.C.C. Cube of 3ftx3ftx3ft weighing 800 kg
Now it is possible to flat R.C.C. Structures of any size and weight & even RCC Pipes
For Gulf oil leak all we need is to create R.C.C. pipe of required Diameter and keep on sinking every two hours about 10 meter of pipe after R.C.C. for every 10.m. – is set.
Diagrammed here under provides a look at the method to be adopted
The pipe will be created by Slip-Form method as is done for RCC chimneys in Thermal Power plants. The pipe will keep on sinking by floating and sinking with increase in weight at top as per calculations of Archimedes Principle- till the mouth of pipe reaches the leaking point. Once mouth is placed in position. Cement concrete mix will be filled on the Sea bed through multiple funnels provided at the bottom to permanently seal the leak. For more details I can be contacted on mob Phone 09350248154.(India)
Looking from the outside in one could see such things happening as the supposedly smartest and brightest people develope such equipment . I work every day fabricating the products that engineers have designed and see the flaws which start first from a 22 year old who passed all the university exams and now figures their the be all end all and have never seen anything other than whats on a computer screen.
I also see a government who is talking calm and cool about a situation which is going to wind up unbeleivable soon.
There are so many old guys out there who know exactly what to do with their own hands yet unable to say it with words so no one listens.
my suggestion is to get a big bag sorta thing, and start lettign it leak into that. this will capture alot of the oil, but not all of it, and then on the other end of the bag have a vaccume pump type tube so that you can sorta direct the oil out of the bag and to a storage facility. it will at least contail alot of the oil and minimize the spill while they figure out how to completely capture it all or cap it off.
or wait, a better idea might be this: about 5o feet before the spill set up a new line. do this by settign up a drilling mechanism to start to beach the leaking line at that new place. then affic the new line over the drillign elemet area and seal it in. when the drill breaches the line it will force oil into the new secure line, then the oil will flow into the new line and not so much will be flowing out the old end. then they can cap the old line and also start using the oil fomr the new line. Yes, this is definately the solution, i see it now. Please tell them asap, its on your shoulders now. Thanks.
Desculpas por não enviar o texto em inglês, porque não tenho domínio do idioma. Sou estudante de engenharia elétrica da Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora – MG – Brasil; e tenho uma sugestão para tentar conter o vazamento de petróleo no golfo do México. Se for introduzido no buraco do vazamento um balão grande de material emborrachado vazio com uma mangueira ligada a um navio ou submarino, para se encher o balão com a lama, ele após cheio poderia tampar o buraco empurrado pela própria pressão do óleo. O balão seria introduzido vazio pelos robôs, o que não seria um problema.
There are ways to plug this leak. I can give a suggestion with 90% chance. I am a chemical engineer with 37 years experience in all sorts of chemicals with a lot in oil and gas domain.I stay at Cochin, India. My phone number is 0484 2334590(India).
I only hear about BP, the US Government and the people reacting to the impacts. Why is the oil industry not engaged in supporting BP and the US government in identifying, testing and implementing a wider variety of methods to lessen or cap the leaks and to mitigate the damages. The biggest failure of government so far from my perspective is to look for BP alone to solve the problem and to spend most of their time with transparency and the media. Most elected officials and business executive are headlong into assessing and assigning blame. First and foremost must be “solve the problems”.
Have other oil companies come to aid in this catastrophe? Are they helping, hindering or doing nothing? Can they afford to not take an active role in making the best of a very bad situation for everyone, regardless of the liability issues.
The US government as well as other countries, the global industry experts and the best scientists, environmentalists and engineers need to be collaborating. Where is this century’s Red Adair for the oil industry and disaster response? Did we really think this would not be possible in deepwater drilling and extraction?
As this continues, governments must foster and engage our scientific community, educators and businesses to anticipate and solve problems. Only when we can rely on this type of planning and response can we embark on new technologies to solve our global needs for resources. Risks must be understood and managed.
Here is an idea, might be useful.
Build a cement pipe that is big at the bottom and small at the top. Add a steel section to the top so that a cap can be attached.
Drop the pipe to the spot of the leak. Seal the pipe to the sea floor by dumping a lot of cement around it, leaving the cap open for the moment. Close the cap at the top of the pipe when the cement mature.
I don’t think BP should be ignoring any avenue for solving the problem. A few people assigned to managing crowdsourcing may not find the solution, but it can help manage their image. Asking for help is a good way to look like you are doing what you can to solve the problem.
Place a tanker obove oil leak,drop a solid pipe with a large flange lined up and anched to ocean floor over leaking pipe,start sucking with vacuum pump (diesel engine)on tanker above water to contain oil and save the GULF? OIL CAN BE TRANSPORTED TO PROPER FACILITIES AND SO ON! NORM DAVIS NIAGARA FALLS ONTARIO.
Kurt Thompson makes a very good point, this problem could well affect the future of the oil industry and to use it to score points, be they political or business is not helpful.
With it appearing likely that I will be two more months until a relief well can lower the oil being plumed into the Gulf, I have an idea that can eliminate most of the oil leaking out in the mean time.
BP or the Federal Government, or BOTH should utilize the following resources and combine them:
-1 base supertanker above the site with multiple high volume vacuum systems to pump oil & water from the leak sources into large empty tanks on board.
-ROV’s connected to flexible high volume tubing to be placed over the leak sources, pumping into the base tanker.
-On board the base tanker, up to 31 of the large volume Ocean Therapy Solutions centrifuges which have been shown on TV to separate 99% of the oil from water.
-A fleet of empty tankers to receive the separated oil from the base tanker. This oil should be taken to market and the proceeds used to help pay for clean up. The clean separated water can be pumped overboard as news reports indicate the water is clean.
In the absence of being able to shut off the leak, which everyone wants, we have to deal with the fact that it’s not stopping and the oil is going to keep coming. In that regard, this makes sense as it utilizes technology and combines resources from several sources so that the Gulf region can start cleaning up what is already out there without worrying about an never ending black tide still to come.
If we can put a man on the moon, we can surely do this and help protect our nations vital natural resources along the Gulf.
We manufacture soft hyperbaric chambers. One 2″ in diameter greater than the pipe diameter, (we can make them any size) inserted into the pipe and inflated would stop the leak. One mile down is 2600 PSI of pressure. My chambers will go to 20 PSI. the trick is pressure differential. With 2600 PSI outside and 2610 inside the chamber the actual pressure on the chamber is 10 PSI. It gets hard as a rock at 10 PSI. Inside the pipe no oil could get past it.
Food for thought. I wrote BP offering my services for free.
Hutch’s thoughtful call for open innovation misses one point: the most essential innovations required should have happened some time ago:
1. Switch to a non-petro-based economy.
2. Nationalize the domestic oil supply, a vital national treaure, thereby instituting continuous monitoring and regulation — and hopefully mitigating silo’ing that takes place between and within corporations.
3. Require oil exploration and drilling firms to satify requirements similar to EIRs — environmental impact reports — required in virtually every other aspect of civil engineering and construction.
4. Put public representatives on the boards of petrochemical-product producers.
5. Require periodic reporting to a regulatory agency of all activities with potential environmental impact. In this case, there was such an agency, so the innovation would have been required at a higher level: ensure an Administration that was not corrupt to its core.
Everything else is nattering around the edges. Hutch’s own excellent proposals run up against the petro corporations’ utter fear of public oversight and involvement because in fact they are often breaking the law or courting catastrophe in pursuit of mega-profits.
Obama should have nationalized this well and applied the full resources of the Federal government _and_ the universe of expertise identified by Hutch and the other commenters. His inability to authetnically assume authority and responsibility means that he now has zero authority and all the responsibility. Come the next election, sadly, we will not have learned the lesson Hutch proposes but instead will punish ourselves further by abandoning hope, becoming cynical, and getting used to oil wells and other environmental catastrophes. America’s collective attention-deficit disorder suggests that once a hurricane arrives and distributes the loose oil wildly, we will have gotten the thrill and figure that leaks are business as usual. No doubt this is BP’s greatest innovation: Welcome to Bladerunner World.
Explosive charges on a cable could be lowered into the pipe at 300ft, 200ft. and 100ft from the top of the pipe (leak) Explode the one at 300ft first, then the one at 200ft and finally the one at 100ft. This would seal the leak with the debre from the lower one on up.
As a now-retired engineer (who also has a BSc in ecology), I have submitted a radical capping idea directly to BP, and I only hope they use a great think-tank such as NASA, MIT and/or Stanford University to do a quick feasibility check on submitted ideas – I’m sure somone will have a viable solution. This is too big a problem to allow egos to get in the way of a solution.
Feed three (3) 30ft steel pipes 1/3 the width of the well pipe deep into the well , these pipes are connected to thick rubber hoses that reach the surface and are connected to Huge Super Pumps that each pump at twice the pressure coming out of the well, have them pump directly into each its own tanker awaiting on the surface . Now there is very little petro gretting past theses pipes so a Top-Kill would work . Concrete those pipes in place, turn off the surface pumps and drain the Well till no more positive pressure exists. Try this in a computer model . What’s to lose ?
Thanks for listening
Yann Cramer has posted an interesting response to Hutch’s article here on the site today:
Editor, Blogging Innovation
I am wondering If liquid oxygen pumped into the broken blowout preventer might not accomplish the required stopping of the pipe as the oil in contact with this cold would immediately gel and then freeze. The success of the attempt might be dependent upon the volume and pressure of liquid oxygen deliverable to the blow out preventer. If great enough volume and pressure were available at the broken preventer the technique might succeed. The preventer is a heavy device and should stand the stress of the intense cold.
At this point the cameras might be watched for signs of thawing if or when it occurs you should then begin pumping the heavy muds into the blow out preventer to permanently seal well. The mud might then be able to do its job.
Or continue to periodically freeze the preventer until relief wells are drilled.
Just an thought, not an engineer. might be quick to try.?
Don’t believe everything you hear.
Without knowing all details what is going on at the oil leak site. Here is my penny-worth idea: I was cutting a palm tree in the yard yesterday. I have noticed how strong is the trunk with layered structure. I am wondering if BP has tried to use such technique by ‘weaving’ layers of net, cloth, ribbons or some kind fiber element along multiple directions with anchors/holding element at both ends. Such technique has been developed to strengthen cylinders for high pressure applications. Why not give it a try if other technology does not work?
Hey guys,this is not rocket science.Once the pipe is cut off even,lower a OPEN valve over the pipe.Attach however you are able,weld,bolt,whatever will secure the valve onto the pipe that you can do at that depth.With the valve being OPEN the pressure will no be an issue while these tasks are being done.Once the valve is secure CLOSE IT.
Lower a very large cone shaped mesh net of steel the edges of which are heavily wieghted and reach the ocean floor. The mesh net should be lowered to within 200 to 300 meters of the vent. Add gradually a series of finer mesh steel nets. This will disipate the pressure. Finally add an impervious steel cone with large pipes to collect the mixed water and oil. Allow the much reduced pressure to drive the oil into tankers or use a venturi to creat suction. As the pressure lessens, draw the bottom of the mesh cone tighter. The oil and water once captureds can be separated later.
PARALLEL VERTICAL UNDERWATER WELL/UNDERWATER CONVENTIONAL EXPLOSIVES CHARGE TO STOP HORIZON LEAK: A second carefully controlled well drilled parallel to (also vertical) and a short distance from, the subject leak well, yet far enough away to allow drilling of the well to occur without oil from the leaking well to seep into this new Explosives Charge Well. Yet this new well would need to be close enough to affect the subject leak well with a powerful conventional underwater explosive charge. The conventional underwater explosive charge could be set off, say 2/3 to 1/2 the way down. If set off lower, say 2/3 the way down, a chance to set off another charge could shortly follow in time by the explosives team, say 1/2 the way down. Engineers/geologists familiar with the well could carefully make the decisions. It would bring soil, rock and otherwise heavy/large movement of substantial earth onto the subject leak eliminating the current well/pipe, preventing oil from passing through the current well and/or pipe. The existing pipe and passage will be simply crushed inward by substantial earth movement, at perhaps many levels near the lowest points that are practical to place the charge. In effect both wells ultimately will be crushed inward at a point of depth somewhat well above the levels that the oil sits. The distance we can surmise of the beginning of drilling of this new explosives well, can be say 8 feet (or other distance) from the subject well, though geologists and engineers at the site, who are familiar with the current well can decide, along with the best explosives experts, to make sure the subject leak well is crushed in at as many levels as possible. Depth of the explosives charge well also to be carefully determined by all including geologists on site familiar with the Horizon well. Army corps and industry have experts, including those on site have access to new suitable rig and drill, equipment, expertise, materials. Some sensible improvising of placement of the conventional underwater explosives will be needed by explosives experts, with army corps overseeing effort.
Insert inverted ‘Y’ connectors in two parallel risers (for relief wells) currently being drilled. Then using either current “vented” LRMP cap or a suspended cone, pressure on any 1 collection system would be reduced by 1/3, thereby reducing the risk of potential failure. Provides 3x the capacity for conveying and processing at 3 surface points.
Crowd-sourcing will be done by some enterprising team, unfortunately too late to take the above and evaluate, refine, discard, etc.
THINK OF THIS AS A PLUMBING PROBLEM !!
If you take a long shaft of a lessor diameter with a prefixed ball valve at the top,and left open so there is no back pressure when inserting the shaft and later extraction pipe.Assembly of a one direction only head that has a expandable rubber between two disks that can be tightened from just under the valve.After the installation of the pipe or shaft,The valve can be turned off.This way the oil does not prevent the installation of a device.To end this Global event.
I wonder what took to build the pyramids?
Teams of federal and industry scientists and engineers who are using cutting-edge technological resources and innovative ideas to find solutions to containing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and protecting Gulf Coast communities.”Look around he said!”
Certified Blue collar tradesmen&women would be down thire by now.
Spill originates from a deepwater wellhead 5,000 feet (1,500 m) below the ocean surface. federal team of scientists.hope fulley to do this
BP has tried and failed repeatedly-unleash more oil .BP has been trying to save the OIL….not!
ALL of theSouthern coast.They had it right the first time with the big can (cheap fix) If they the (mobilised industries) built two automated dome (50′-100′) subs (cost 10 BILLION) done! They will need them again.( I am not the only one saying this.) – set down on Tons*110′ akor washer with attcaching vent,pressure,electrical line to the surface
Regardless of criticism and or comments of other oil companies as well as of individuals, we post a solution to the current situation on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to coolaborate with solutions and not criticism, the rationale of the matter is not to work specifically on the basis of the output of the spill, as give time to drilling to be undertaken on the same well to decrease the pressure of oil flow, if you are able to create a kind of balloon the material oil which do not break it with a large enough area to which the outgoing oil is deposited in that great mass or balloon rises to the surface which will have a hose that may be more of a certain width and may be assigned to each tanker or extractor in specific this may prevent the spreading of oil at sea of the gulf and come to its shores in large numbers, this balloon was the moment that could be set free on the inside with salt water and / or any material from the sea and there will as the flow spilled in the closed mass did not create the pressure that is currently in the mouth or from the damaged pipe, this will give you all the time for opening of drilling operations elsewhere in the same well and at last able to cover low pressure and robotics damaged pipe, finishing is a great mass of the globe or outputs derived hoses to the outside, only need to analyze the diameter of the spill and build, I think this idea works to stop pollution.
sorry for mistake in translation
I would perform an industrial angioplasty. Insert a high pressure balloon up into the pipe and inflate.
OK – I’m not an engineer, but here’s a thought. Tremendous pressure from well-head. Approach from the side with a split high pressure pipe that can be bolted together. The based has an extended horizontal base flange with fixation holes. After placing the two halves around existing wellhead (diameter sufficient to avoid immediate high pressure flow, stabilize two halves. Then fix base flange essentially with very large TapCon type fixation devices, based on nature of sea floor. Supplement with marine cement. At no time in this process is the assembly under pressure.
The pipe device is also made with a large top flange designed to lock a cap which is split into 3 segments, each fixed to the top of the pipe by an articulating base. The three segments, attached to the fixed vertical containment pipe are then closed using hydraulic cylinders and secured.
Come on you boilermakers, you could design and build in less than a week.
Well guys heres an idea, Im hearing that the pressure emitting from the well head is 16000psi, well its obvious you cant just drop a weight on the hole
So I was thinking this
If you made a huge wagon will with 4 large spokes with a hub in the middle to use as a guide, this is to be mounted on 4 legs at a height above the well head to a point where the pressure is dissapating
You then make up a large hollow tapered column wall thickness to be thick for added weight, the length may have to also be quite long eg 30 meters
the block valve is mounted halfway up the tapered tube
Then the whole tube is lowered down through the wheel hub and into the well head the weight being the force that seals off the well head
Im sure if the 4 columns holding up the wheel are anchored into the sea bed then other mechanical means can be used to jack the tapered wedge with even more force
Do BP people track down the people who helped them out in a crisis siuation,or compensate the individuals that helped in minmizing thier collateral damage, Probably Not, would be nice , but at least we have new innovation from the public think Tank, and once again we are smarter than fifth graders, and i would say even with out the nice certificate on the wall and all the protocal we all came through (all of us) with ideas aand innovation thinking to resolve not a hang nail situation but a enviromental diasater, and responded
to the call
so now you know, we really are connected for greater good
Instead of Retiring the USS Enterprise put her to a new call of Duty, Turn her into a Floating international University on the the high Seas also a Floating Command center for ocean disaster, like oil spills , just a thought