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4 Jun, 2010 04:48

Russian company ready to plug product – into Gulf leak

In their latest bid to stop oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, British Petroleum has maneuvered a cap over the ruptured undersea well.

Company executives have said it will be between 12 to 24 hours before it is known whether the operation has been a success.

The environmental disaster began over a month ago when an offshore rig sank following an explosion. Since then, the oil giant has made several failed attempts to plug the leak, which sprang after the blast.

Anger has been mounting in the US as oil has continued to spill on to local beaches, endangering wildlife and the livelihoods of many nearby fishermen.

Like its pipe, 5,000 feet below sea-level, BP is feeling the pressure from the public and the Obama administration, who are demanding swifter action and compensation. The situation is such a disaster that BP has turned to the public for help by posting a “tip line” on its website.

Across the pond in Russia’s capital, two entrepreneurs have made that call.

“We understand this is a terrible catastrophe. We watch TV, and we see fishermen who are now going bankrupt. So we would be happy to help if we can. We want to make a contribution to the common cause,” says Murad Khalov from Nitinol, Ltd.

The contribution is called the Nitinol Packer. The device is meant to overcome the oil flow by blocking it. The key is a wire alloy made of nickel and titanium called Nitinol. It is essentially a morphing metal that is shaped by using extreme heat. After it cools, it can be pulled and twisted into another figure, but add just small amounts of heat and it snaps back into its original form.

Murad Khalov and his partner Eduard Avanyan have patented their invention, but say they would be willing to help BP and those on the Gulf Coast for free.

“Unfortunately, such accidents will happen, and we would be very happy if our technology helps minimize the damage. We are ready to do all we can to this end,” Eduard said.

But no matter how BP manages to put an end to the mess that has consumed the region, the clean up goes on – and so does the guesswork over the disaster’s possible long-term effects.