How we did it
With resources at hand, the team constructed reservoir systems, including 200 lagoons, each filled with a million gallons (nearly 3.8 million liters) of seawater, and 90 miles (145 kilometers) of pipeline to deliver 20 million gallons (nearly 67 million liters) of water a day to the firefighting effort.
Project personnel dammed the flowing oil and prepared a new road to each wellhead.
With the lagoons in place, and using the right combination of pumps and hoses, firefighters could throw on a blaze (and on themselves because of the tremendous heat) 6,000 gallons—nearly 23,000 liters—in a single minute. Shielded by sections of corrugated steel, crews used explosives, mud-like well sealant, and even a jet engine mounted on a military tank to extinguish the fires. One by one, the fires went out and the blowouts were brought under control.
In the meantime, a Bechtel engineer directed the development of an experimental recovery pond with skimming devices and a rudimentary system to clear contaminants from the oil. It was a big success, aiding Kuwait environmentally and monetarily.
We mobilized a fleet of wide-body jets that made 200 trips to Kuwait to deliver 9,000 orders of equipment and supplies, ranging from bulldozers and cranes to terrycloth towels for mopping up oil and fire-resistant underwear for crews fighting the blazes, burning at more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,100 degrees Celsius).