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How to Clean Up An Oil Spill

Oil spills can wreak havoc on the environment. If animals ingest or inhale the oil-contaminated water, it can kill them. It can also coat the bodies of animals, thus destroying their ability to maintain their body temperature. Oil spills also affect humans by causing skin irritations, respiratory problems and mental health issues in children.
 
But quick detection of oil spills is imperative to decrease negative effects on the environment. And last week, we wrote about the different technologies that detect oil and gas spills. Some of the detection technology include: synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and infra-red (IR) camera.
 
Oil and gas clean-up solutions
 
How to clean up an oil spill varies depending on the type of oil spill and the weather. Crude oils vary in their chemical and physical properties, which affects their behavior in water and how they should be cleaned up. Weather impacts oil spills by influencing tides, currents, wind speed and sea temperature, which can spread the oil and make it difficult for crews to safely clean up the disaster.
 
Ways to clean up an oil spill:
 
Floating booms are mechanical barriers that prevent oil from spreading further into the ocean. They can be used to contain contaminated water, divert the contaminated water to a collection point, or deflect the water away from harbour entrances or biologically sensitive areas.
 
Skimmers work to remove oil after floating booms have collected the contaminated water. There are three types of skimmers:

  1. Belt skimmers: a stainless steel belt is dropped into the water and is cleaned by wiper blades, which remove the oil from both sides of the belt as it goes through.
  2. Drum skimmers: a revolving drum moves through the water pushing the oil into a containment chamber within the skimmer.
  3. Mop skimmers: a rope dips into the contaminated water and like wringing a mop, the rope is squeezed to get the oil out.

VOSS (VESSEL OF OPPORTUNITY SKIMMING SYSTEM (FOR RELEASE)
source: A skimmer and floating boom
 
Sorbents are used after skimming or in areas skimmers can’t access. Sorbents obtain oil either through absorption (the oil is pulled into porous materials) or adsorption (the oil adheres to the top of the sorbents). Sorbents come in natural organic materials like peat moss and sawdust or synthetic sorbents like polypropylene, polyester foam, polystyrene and polyurethane.
 
sorbents
source: Sorbents
 
In situ burning works to eliminate oil by burning the oil collected by booms. The slick needs to be at least two millimetres thick to be effectively burned.
 
Gas-eating bacteria or methylocella silvestris, discovered by scientists at Britain’s University of East Anglia, feast on both methane and propane. The scientists suggest that the microbes “could help mitigate the effects of the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere from both natural gas seeps in the environment and those arising from man-made activity such as tracking and oil spills.” The scientists are still unsure of how much volume the bacteria can consume.
 
Oil-gobbling sponges were developed by Swiss scientists to absorb any floating oil film. In lab tests, the sponges absorbed about 50 times their weight in mineral oil and engine oil. The sponges are made from a silylated nano cellulose gel, which makes is absorbent, floats, and biodegradable.
 

TNphoto Tatsuya Nakagawa
Tatsuya Nakagawa is the VP of Marketing and co-founder of Castagra Products, a storage tank and wastewater coatings manufacturing company that is highly acclaimed for its sustainable coatings, cold weather tank coating applications, and its durable frac tank coatings. Castagra is used by the world’s top oil and gas field services companies.