Ways to Clean Up Oil Spills

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Oil is an important ingredient used in our daily activities. Oil is the mining material that many miners are looking for in high value. But the process of mining oil sometimes has its own challenges. The most frequent and detrimental to many is the oil spilled in the ocean. Not only miners who are harmed, but the environment also participate because the oil spilled oil will spread wide and difficult to clean. Moreover, marine life creatures that could have drunk sea water that mixed with oil. So, these are some of the techniques—both traditional and non-traditional—that could be used to clean up the oil spill?

  1. Surface Dispersants

Chemical dispersants, which have been used throughout the oil spill, are sprayed by boats, aircraft and workers on the shore. Chemical dispersants pull apart oil particles suspended in water, reducing the oil slick to droplets that can be degraded by naturally occurring bacteria.

The major benefit of this technique is that the dispersants can be applied over a large area from specially-fit airplanes or helicopters. When the chemicals are applied, dispersed oil is significantly less toxic. However, because the chemical properties of leaked oil will change over time, dispersants may lose their ability to break apart the oil. There are also concerns about the dispersants themselves , which are also toxic, damaging the environment.

  1. Underwater Dispersants

The use of underwater dispersants was purely experimental when the BP oil spill first occurred. Similar in nature to traditional dispersants, the idea is that underwater dispersants attach to the oil before it can reach the surface, thus minimizing the amount of oil that eventually lands on shore.

This technique, however, requires the use of remote vehicles to apply the chemicals, which may be less effective at extreme depths. Being that this technique is not completely tested, critics worry that breaking up oil at extreme depths may release more toxic components into the water and could potentially damage the underwater ecosystem.

  1. Controlled Burns

Controlled burns have been conducted throughout the oil spill. A fireproof boom corrals leaked oil into smaller, more dense pockets that can be ignited remotely from the air and burned off. The process of burning removes large portions of oil from the water’s surface, keeping it away from the shoreline.

This technique must be conducted soon after the oil has been spilled, however, and can be severely affected by bad weather. During the current spill, controlled burn operations had to be postponed when waters made this technique dangerous. Controlled burns also produce columns of smoke, which shift the environmental impact from the sea to the air.

  1. Booms and Skimmers

Another technique is using booms and skimmers to remove oil from the water’s surface. Booms are used to collect oil in concentrated areas, while skimmers separate the crude from the water.

The efficiency of skimmers is highly dependent on sea conditions and the presence of debris, which can both pose serious roadblocks to these techniques.

  1. Marsh Cleanup Techniques

The report suggests several methods that have been used to clean up oil spills in the past, but notes that each carries individual risks and in most cases, mere human interaction and mobilization of equipment damages the environment in other ways. Several major techniques include:

a. Vacuum/pumping, which removes pooled oil on marsh sediment or the surface of water

b. Low-pressure flush, which pushes oil towards collection points where other equipment is operating, like skimmers or vacuums

c. Vegetation cutting, in which plants are cut and removed so that other techniques can be effectively employed, however, erosion and damage to fragile sediment and existing roots may limit or even delay recovery.

d. Bioremediation, a potential low-impact cleaning technique, uses microorganisms and their enzymes to facilitate decomposition. Nitrate or sulfate fertilizers are used to facilitate decomposition.

6. Manual/Mechanical Cleanup

Used in nearly every oil spill, the methods of manual or mechanical cleanup are the down-and-dirty techniques employed when oil spills get particularly messy. Manual cleanup consists of placing workers on the coast, armed with shovels, rakes and gloves to collect oil that has run ashore. Mechanical cleanup requires heavy machinery and is used in areas that are plagued by heavy oiled beaches, or areas which are thick in debris.

Although time-consuming, manual cleanup is preferred, as unskilled workers with minimal training can be employed in large numbers to clean affected areas. The use of heavy machinery can quickly clean up large areas, but the use of bulldozers, trucks and digging equipment can damage the affected areas in addition to the oil.