Oil Spill Cleanup

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More Research for Better Oil Spill Cleanup Technology Urged

[Posted on 04 Feb 2013 by Bill Stewart]

Yes, there is already oil spill cleanup technology in use, but some say that it is not as efficient as it could be. While the world’s oil supply slowly diminishes, the world’s oil companies vamp up production. This means drilling in increasingly more remote and exotic places. It also means the potential for more disasters like the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill. Even after that horrific spill, the race as on to try to find a better method for spill containment in the affected areas before more extensive damage than the initial impact can occur.

However, as with most major disasters, enthusiasm for improving oil spill cleanup and prevention methods only seems to flare up for a time after it happens. Eventually things return to a normal pace of research or are forgotten about completely. According to Reuters, that is why scientists are being urged to focus on better cleanup and prevention methods for oil spills. The search or more oil keeps going forward, but disaster technology is not keeping up with the efforts. In fact, the same tactics for dealing with a major oil spill disaster have been in play for over two decades, since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

Despite the research setbacks, there have still been plenty researchers plowing away at task of finding a better oil spill cleanup method. For instance, researchers at Pennsylvania State University have developed a gel that absorbs oil, but not the water it is placed in. Aside from saving those participating in the cleanup effort the dreadful task of having to separate the oil from the water, the gel can absorb about 40 times its own weight worth of oil without the cleanup waste that typically ends up buried in landfills, unlike the typical methods used now. Current oil spill cleanup absorption methods include the likes of straw and corncobs, both of which are messy, can only hold up to five times their weight, and must be buried in landfills for disposal.

“Had this material been applied to the top of the leaking well head in the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 spill, this. . .could have effectively transformed the gushing brown oil into a floating gel for easy collection and minimized the pollution consequences,” the Pennsylvania State University scientists reported in a paper about their revolutionary gel material.

The development of new disaster cleanup methods such as these has the potential to save the environment from much unnecessary pollution in the event another oil disaster does occur. Not to mention, the billions of dollars in cleanup efforts and fines that can potentially be saved with newer, more advanced oils spill cleanup methods such as these. Imagine the possibilities if research such as this continues, or even if research such as this is encouraged enough that new methods continue to come forth. Though, it would be ideal not to have a major oil spill in the first place, there is a very real possibility that it can happen again. Is it not better to have the best technology available or damage minimization when it does happen again?

Supporting Documents… (PDF Files)

Estimating the Spill Volume…

From examining the above two NOAA documents showing the extent of the spill, it is estimated that around 650,000 barrels, or 27 million gallons of oil are on the water surface.
This would be an equivalent to an oil flow rate of 22,000 barrels, or 900,000 gallons per day for 30 days.

Underwater video of main spill location on May 21st, 2010

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See Also: YouTube Video – BP Slick THE SOURCE 05.07.10.mov