Discovery Guides Areas


Deep Sea Oil Spill Cleanup Techniques: Applicability, Trade-offs and Advantages
(Released August 2010)

podcast link 
  by Pam Graham  


Key Citations






From accurate, real-time detection to quick deployment of the right containment and cleanup methods at the right location, oil spill response is a largely low-tech endeavor that hasn't changed much over the years. According to U.S. Coast Guard incident operations coordinator Doug Helton, there are improvements and efficiencies on the edges, but oil spill cleanup still relies on heroic efforts and a lot of dirty, messy labor. [44]

Robert Bea, a University of California engineering professor and an expert on offshore drilling, worked for Shell Oil on the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969; the Bay Marchand, LA, spill in 1970; and for the Mexican oil company Pemex on the huge Ixtoc spill in 1979. Bea said today's booms are better, and new materials absorb more oil than the straw that once was used, but in the years since those spills, the technology of cleanup hasn't changed substantially. For the most part, the only ways to get rid of the majority of the oil are old ones - corralling it, burning it, mopping it up and letting nature break it down. [45]

oily water and sun
Oil spilled from the single-hulled oil tanker Prestige washes up on the beach as the sun rises in Caion, Northern Spain

Oil cleanup remains an inexact science fraught with guesswork for a number of reasons, including greater industry investment and emphasis on better drilling technologies, the difficulty of simulating massive deep-sea oil spills for controlled research, the uniqueness of each disaster, and a federal funding preference for research programs that promote oil and gas production over those that focus on safety and accident prevention. [46]

© 2010, ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.

List of Visuals


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  6. Corchado, J.M., Aitor Mata, Francisco de Paz and David del Pozo. A Case-Based Reasoning System to Forecast the Presence of Oil Slicks. IADIS European Conference Data Mining, 2008

  7. Mullin, Joseph. Remote Sensing and Surveillance of Oil Spills. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, July 2010

  8. First Response. Kolda Corp.

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  12. Mundt, Bret. Oil Skimmers - Simple and Effective. Ezine Articles, June, 2010

  13. The Basics of Oil Skimming ? How It Gets Done with the BP "Big Spill/Leak" in the Gulf. Skimoil, Inc., June, 2010

  14. Kietzman, Shannon. What are Oil Skimmers? WiseGeek, June 2010

  15. Megator Oil Skimmers. Megator Corporation, 2004

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  17. Thompson, Derek. How Does Kevin Costner's Oil Cleaning Machine Work, Exactly? The Atlantic, June, 2010

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  19. Calderin, Alessandra. A Slick Fix: Oil-Eating Robots Could Mop Up Ocean Disasters. Popular Science, July, 2010

  20. Spangler, Steve. Oil Spill Absorbing Polymer. Steve Spangler Science

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  22. Dispersants: A Guided Tour - Part Five. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), April, 2005 (revised October, 2008) %28entry_
    subtopic_topic%29=entry_id,subtopic_id,topic_id&entry_id%28entry_subtopic_topic %29=159&

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  25. Ross, S.L. Literature Review of Chemical Oil Spill Dispersants Herders in Fresh and Brackish Waters. U.S. Department of the Interior. Minerals Management Service, January, 2010

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  27. Marine Board, Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems. Using Oil Spill Dispersants on the Sea. National Academy Press, 1989

  28. Dispersants: A Guided Tour - Part Four. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), April, 2005 (revised October, 2008) %28entry_

  29. American Chemical Society; Questioning the effectiveness of oil dispersants in Gulf oil spill. Energy & Ecology. July, 2010

  30. Oil-Spill Answers: Are We Going to Use Microbes to Destroy the Oil? If So, How Would That Work? Newsweek, 2010

  31. Upson, Sandra. Oil-Eating Microbes for Gulf Spill. Discovery News, June 11, 2010

  32. The Great Unknowns in Gulf Oil Spill. Newsweek, 2010

  33. Radermacher, Matt. Bioremediation of Marine Oil Spills. Iowa State University

  34. Winter, Allison. Gulf Oil Spill Creates 'Giant Experiment' in Marine Toxicology. New York Times, May, 2010

  35. Response and Rescue Plans for Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles Impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  36. Viegas, Jennifer. Animal Clean-Up After Oil Spill: A Lengthy Process. Discovery News, Apr 30, 2010

  37. Just little bit of oil on a bird can be deadly. International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), 2010

  38. Viegas, Jennifer. For Oiled Wildlife, Dawn Cleans Best. Discovery News, May 11, 2010

  39. Marine Mammal Rescue and Cleaning. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

  40. Case Histories - E. The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited (ITOPF), 2010

  41. Milton, Sarah and Peter Lutz. Oil and Sea Turtles: Biology, Planning, and Response. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), August 2003.

  42. Bell, Debbye Turner. Gulf Wildlife Rescue Efforts Only Just Beginning. CBS News, June 7, 2010.

  43. Pincetich, Chris. Daily Updates: Oil Spill Jeopardizes All Sea Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. Sea Turtle Restoration Project, August, 2010.

  44. Terdiman, Daniel. Gulf Coast Oil Spill Responders Employ Latest Tech. CNET News, April, 2010.

  45. Schoof, Renee. Despite Gulf cleanup efforts, nature will have to do most of it. July, 2010.

  46. Michaels, Dave. House Votes to Change Focus of Oil Research from Promotion to Safety. The Dallas Morning News, July, 2010.

Websites accessed in June and July of 2010