Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Secret, 700-Million-Gallon Oil Fix That Worked — and Might Save the Gulf

(Image, Esquire: Workers on the Arabian Gulf overlook a supertanker owned by Saudi Aramco, the oil company that used a suck-and-salvage American technology to recover 85 percent of its previously unreported spill in 1993 and '94.)


"There's a potential solution to the Gulf oil spill that neither BP, nor the federal government, nor anyone — save a couple intuitive engineers — seems willing to try. As The Politics Blog reported on Tuesday in an interview with former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, the untapped solution involves using empty supertankers to suck the spill off the surface, treat and discharge the contaminated water, and either salvage or destroy the slick

Hofmeister had been briefed on the strategy by a Houston-based environmental disaster expert named Nick Pozzi, who has used the same solution on several large spills during almost two decades of experience in the Middle East — who says that it could be deployed easily and should be, immediately, to protect the Gulf Coast. That it hasn't even been considered yet is, Pozzi thinks, owing to cost considerations, or because there's no clear chain of authority by which to get valuable ideas in the right hands. But with BP's latest four-pronged plan remaining unproven, and estimates of company liability already reaching the tens of billions of dollars (and counting), supertankers start to look like a bargain.

UPDATE (June 4): Nearly 50 Supertankers Are Waiting for BP (and On the Cheap)

UPDATE (June 1): BP Executives Skirt Around Supertanker Questions

UPDATE (May 27): Obama Glances Over Supertanker Question as BP, Coast Guard Fail to Respond

UPDATE (May 26): The Pragmatic Oil Spill Fix That BP's Still Waiting On

UPDATE (May 24): Sources Say BP Looking Beyond 'Top Kill' with Supertanker Fix

UPDATE (May 21): Why the Supertanker Fix Works at Depth... but the Government Won't Listen

The suck-and-salvage technique was developed in desperation across the Arabian Gulf following a spill of mammoth proportions — 700 million gallons — that has until now gone unreported, as Saudi Arabia is a closed society, and its oil company, Saudi Aramco, remains owned by the House of Saud. But in 1993 and into '94, with four leaking tankers and two gushing wells, the royal family had an environmental disaster nearly sixty-five times the size of Exxon Valdez on its hands, and it desperately needed a solution." More>>>>

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