How would you clean up the Gulf coast?

May 12, 2010


In supermarket aisles, when a bottle of oil smashes on the floor, a bag of sawdust or kitty litter is hauled out to soak up the mess.

To rescue a favorite silk tie from a dribble of gravy, douse it with corn starch and hope for the best.

How to clean up oil is a reoccurring theme in elevators and Internet chatrooms across the country this week, thanks to the unprecedented, growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico costing BP $350 million in cleanup costs so far, and threatening environmental disaster.

After a handful of failed attempts to stop the leak, there should still be an abundance of possible technologies that apply here. And now that BP and Transcocean are developing “junk shots” — pipes clogged with synthetic materials including used panty hose– these household remedies may not be so irrelevant after all.

“They are actually going to take a bunch of debris — some shredded up tires, golf balls and things like that — and under very high pressure shoot it into the preventer itself and see if they can clog it up to stop the leak,” U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad AllenAllen told CBS News last weekend.

Dog hair clippings from pet stores? Vacuums that filter the oil?  An aquarium skimmer? Is this junk science — or just science?

In Senate subcommittee hearings on Wednesday, BP America president Lamar McKay insisted the “junk shot” containing golf balls was a highly sophisticated technology. “The best minds of the world are working on this 24-7,” he told a congressional panel, including Representative Edward Markey (D), who questioned if BP and rig operator Transocean weren’t  “flailing about with no clue of how to going to get out of this mess,” despite each company being a leader in technology.

So tell us about your Thanksgiving gravy separator, and your mechanic’s favorite way to protect a  garage floor from grease. There’s no time for testing, but who knows where the silver bullet that slays this growing oil slick will originate.


A man hold a plastic bag with oil from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill south of Freemason Island, Louisiana May 7, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria


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controlling the leak is straight-forward: freeze the leaking crude into a ‘jello-o’ by lowering refrigerator units into the vicinity of the leaks. enclose the units with a light enclosure to keep the ambient water temperature at the desired point. then, using refrigerated hoses, suck the crude up to waiting tankers. the whole operation can be powered by a nuclear sub or two. supporting submersibles could herd any jell-o balls that get lose with their props.

of course, this does nothing for the oil already headed for the coasts and the operation will have to continue until the source is exhausted or the relief well becomes operational. you can find more details at my blog.

Posted by jborrow | Report as abusive

Yes! Ice formation already clogged the containment structure … should be able to freeze the oil further up the line.

Posted by DDay2000 | Report as abusive

these guys have a great idea, and it works. check it out… hopefully someone with some decision making power will see this and use this technique. it’s way better than the “dispersant” chemicals. Eo

Posted by cmctx | Report as abusive

look at what these guys have proposed- densified biomass all natural total green pellets-puts the people on the boats back to work dispersing and is developed on real science-pretty cool!

and no toxic chemicals to worry about- and all the oil can be reclaimed-and the leftover biomass product is use as a fuel source at a coal plant A0

Posted by goodguy4life | Report as abusive

How to clean up the Gulf Coast?

Wiping the oily beaches with the cashmere suits of those who polluted them would seem to be a good start.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

BP could cut off bad pipe back to shut off box, leave some good pipe on top as much as they can and put a blow out val on the pipe..or attach at hose to cut off pipe and suck it up to surface

Posted by leland50 | Report as abusive

Well, in my opinion, since plastic is made of petroleum and plastic floats there must be a way to chemically induce this reaction to solidify the oil. Once the reaction occurs then it could be collected from the surface and reclaimed. And since the oil would be in a hardened state the environmental impact would be minimal. I don’t think sinking the oil with emulsifiers is the answer.

Posted by uraxs | Report as abusive

Most people are right, freezing the oil in the pipe would help plugging the exit of the oil. When you drink cold water over a fatty meal, it clogs your arteries so why not a pipe. Chinese drink hot tea with their meals and have few heart attacks,why not consider this and reverse it. How to freeze it is another problem of which I am not competent. To clean up later on would need special barges to suck up the oil if they have anything like that.

Posted by concern | Report as abusive

[…] it up to stop the leak,” U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad AllenAllen told CBS News last weekend. Read more… Share/Bookmark var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname="Recycling To The Nth […]

Posted by Recycling To The Nth Degree | worldwide hippies | Report as abusive

Do what the Russians have done several times at this depth successfully!!

See  /message1056085/pg1

They have stopped oil leaks at similar depths 4 out of 5 times. None of the 5 ran into safety issues. They have detonated a total of 170 underwater nuclear explosions for other various reasons. The pressure & depth make working there extremely difficult. However, that quantity of water can easily block the radiation and similar problems. The US used to test nuclear weapons underwater because it minimized the safety risks.

I’m not a nuclear physicist, but a small explosion/yield would seem to be appropriate. Something which wouldn’t even be noticeable on the surface.

In some nuclear power plants they use much less water to block the radiation.

BP keeps GUESSING at what might work. Do something which has worked!

During the space program, the US spent hundreds of thousands dollars developing ink & a pen which could write in space. The USSR simply used a pencil.

Posted by nickah | Report as abusive

P.S. Try googling russia nuclear oil leak plug

Posted by nickah | Report as abusive

Having had a background in the oilfields, I would stop the leak by forcing rig inspections. Anyone that has ever worked on a rig knows that 99.9% of the time, if an oil rig “blows in”, the blowout preventor will not auto-engage the way they are supposed to. Every time a rig moves, on the “rig up”, floor hands go to the “cellar”, and grease the rams on the blowout preventor. As long as they can manually open and close the rams, they call it good. I cannot honestly say whether or not the same is true for gas well rigs.

Posted by sb0623 | Report as abusive

I think that 24 inch pipes lowered near the leak and then vacuumed out might work, but you have to have a big separator on the tanker.

Posted by fred5407 | Report as abusive

nuke the wellhead – the Russians say that it works!

Posted by pdonohoe3 | Report as abusive

IDEA: drill a new hole nearby to relieve the oil pressure, which may reduce the flow and then plug the leak by pumping down something that is liquid under atmospheric pressure but solid at one mile deep of water or something that would set. Any ideas on what that may be?

Posted by lightsailorx | Report as abusive

From views being shown on video, the point where the oil comes out is self contained and flows out, potentially to/thru a plastic pipeline that can be collected by tankers at the other end. If a pipeline/bag to pipeline can be attached, does anything make sense? If should have been done a week ago – or more.

For the clean up, allowing the oil to flow with the tide into a barrier collection awning that prevents its reaching shore and allows it to collect upon a barrier covered shoreline makes more sense than diffusing it and allowing it to float downward to reach shellfish, etc., and filling the harbor with toxicities.

Because the oil floats, allowing it flow naturally to a collection device would be simpler than trying to divert the natural inclination of the oil to go wherever it is going.

Talk about it is not solving the problem; and that talk has been going on for nearly two weeks now. This problem doesn’t bode well for offshore oil well drilling, and in fact, it should cause the public to question the wisdom of safe space exploration as well. If mankind cannot control its environment, should it be messing with it at all?

Posted by pebr90 | Report as abusive

Here is another proposal using baked peat moss to absorb the oil. tg

Posted by tmartin | Report as abusive

I think have bp or the gov or someone thats got money,hire the people,the fisherman,all the people thats along the golf to get all the boats and clean up all that oil pay the people so much a gallon or bairlle I know oil is like 80.00 dollars barrell so if the boater got the oil and sold it back to the oil co that would make up for what thay lost and it would save the golf

Posted by jrfackrell | Report as abusive

Tires – millions of old tires. I was blown away last year building a web site for a company. They said they converted old tires to a material that removes oil from water. I though – yea right! Then I watched the video they sent me to edit… simply amazing. A material that is thrown away all over the US, capable of removing oil from water and wildlife. uY

Posted by elvislivz2 | Report as abusive

Use Uremel, it is a biodegradable absorbent that works amazingly while stimulating insitu bioremediation of oil.

Posted by bburch88 | Report as abusive

Use Dry Hay to start soaking the oil up!

Posted by Miss.reisinger | Report as abusive

What about magnets? Can’t they fill that metal pipe with magnets, or somehow use them to block the leak?

Posted by RaymondoT | Report as abusive

We manufacture Uremel in Texas where it is used for oil absorption and bioremediation processes. It will also work to clean birds and other wildlife that have been contaminated with the oil. It is the most amazing oil absorbent I have ever seen. 432-296-0711.

Posted by bburch88 | Report as abusive