05.12.10 1:14 AM ET
11 Extreme Oil Spill Solutions
With a successful cut into an integral riser pipe yesterday, a system to abate the flow of oil spilling into the Gulf may be closer than ever. The accomplishment was heralded as “a significant step forward,” especially considering the disappointment of “top kill,” “junk shot” and that wayward containment dome. If this attempt finishes in failure, there are still a surplus of suggestions from around the world - ranging from nearly logical to lunatic
Garbage, fire, nuclear bomb explosion—these are possible solutions to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? The Daily Beast looks at 11 of the most out-there ideas proposed so far.
Is the fact that it worked in Norway a good reason to give peat moss a try? The hyper-absorbent moss has been used to generate moisture, and the panhandle county of Escambia, Florida, has proposed dropping it into the Gulf. Kallak Torvstrøfabrikk, a Norwegian company, developed a series of products based on peat moss to be used in oil spills, after it was used to clean up a spill off the coast of Norway in 2009.
BP’s engineers have suggested a giant underwater cone, but one amateur engineer has a different solution: to create a permeable cone placed over the leak. By creating the malleable cone, Rick Lewis hopes it reduces pressure in the deep sea environment. In this model, some of the oil will leak out from the structure.
State and local officials in Louisiana started dropping sand bags in the water, and U.S. National Guard teams in Alabama arrived on Dauphin Island, a tiny barrier island, to build a sand berm, intended to back the oil from moving any closer to the mainland.
Don’t laugh: BP’s COO proposed creating a chamber over the leak and shooting garbage into the space to plug it. Plans to create a four-story dome to cap the leak fell apart after crystals formed when the gas combined with water, so officials hope the smaller chamber filled with garbage will be a stronger structure. Newsweek also has a post up highlighting some of BP’s crazier schemes.
Norway offered one solution; here’s another from Russia . Komsomolskaya Pravda, a major Russian daily, suggests an old Soviet trick: small nuclear blasts. According to the newspaper, it’s such a useful solution that it was used five times by one company in the Soviet Union.
A scientist from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis proposes spraying these soap-like substances, which would work like dishwashing liquid. Dr. Gabriel Filippelli said surfactants disperse the oil in the water and work as a nutrient for the bacteria.
The much-publicized hair solution has been proposed by a California-based ecological charity. Philippine officials initially came up with the idea in 2006 but backed out at the last minute. Instead, rice stalks were attached to bamboo poles and used as makeshift brooms.
Green Energy Recourses Inc. offered 100,000 tons of wood chips for containment. The company proposed placing woodchips inside a containment boom and through honeycomb structures to absorb the oil as well as collect it. One difference from peat moss: It won’t sink to the bottom; it would need to be collected from the surface. But the woodchips could help generate electricity at power stations.
Stop gas with fire? It’s not the most extreme idea out there. BP conducted five controlled burns last week to try to burn the oil off.
Walton County, located on the Florida panhandle, has already started spraying hay into the water if it arrives at the shoreline. A popular YouTube video has surfaced this week showing viewers how to use hay to disperse oil.
Another solution from BP: Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) would be used to tap into the riser and pump oil out of it and onto the surface through a pipe. It’s admittedly more dangerous, as it drills another hole into the rig.
Correction: This story originally referred to surfactants as suracants.