Saturday, May 29, 2010


Biloxi Shipyard could help clean the BP spill

I was thinking, instead of just worrying about the cleanup after it hits, why not do something more pro-active. So I threw together some stuff I remembered from way back when I was in the Navy as a 3rd Class MM.

First of all, instead of just waiting around for the oil spill to dissipate on its own - cleanup could go faster if you started actively skimming it. There is existing technology that could be put together in a relatively crude manner on short notice that should make an effective skimmer. Everything that you'd need to do it should be available or readily obtainable at a shipyard. Biloxi is convieniently close to the problem area, so if you were to do emergency production of spill skimmers that's the place to start cranking them out.

To build a single example of a quick and dirty skimmer we need two barges, one as a platform and the other is a collection tank barge. Then you need some drums (like oil barrels), steel tubing/framing, a large generator, air compressor, some marine grade electric powered pumps, about a dozen DeLaval-type centrifugal separators, fiber felt, squeegies (can be fabbed from stiff neoprene), various schedule piping and non-collapsible hoses.

To make the surface skimmer portion, you wrap the steel drums with fiber felt with the fuzzy side out. Then you rivet the fiber felt onto the drums. Then you tack weld the drums so they rotate about an axle. This axle is attached to an armature that goes on the side of the float barge. It is setup so the drum is about half immersed below the water's surface. You then attach a motor to it so the drum rotates at a moderate pace. You then put on another armature with squeegies pressed up against the drum. Below this you put on a collection trough. You angle the trough into a collection area. In that you place a reciprocating air powered pump ("whiz-bang") and its output goes to the collection tank.

The subsurface skimmer is made by making a collector basket. It has a flat bottom with a sump pickup, and a cage around the perimeter to keep out debris. It should be kept about 3ft or so below the surface. You then pump from the collector basket to a holding tank. The holding tank feeds to your array of DeLaval centrifugal separators. One output from the separator should yield fairly clear seawater, and the other will get a lot of the oil. (These things are used for removing water from a ship's lubricating oil in a maritime application, and are fairly effective. I don't see that big a reason why they wouldn't work as good in a reverse application.) You will need somebody on the barge to operate these things and clean them out periodically, but the overall volume of water cleared of oil should make it worthwhile. A decent shipyard engineer should be able to workout the flow rates and manifolds to make this work to some degree. The concepts should be familiar enough already, it's just a matter of application.

The whole setup on the barge of course is powered by some generator, most likely a diesel. Then over the top, you put a tent over half the barge so the sun and weather doesn't get to the separators and the guys running them. But nothing too tight, there's fumes and whatnot so it should be able to ventilate.

I think that something like this could be whipped up in a week, provided enough phone calls and experienced shipyard workers got on the job. Now how many could be produced in a row and how much ocean they could skim of oil is another question, but I think unless somebody trys - that'd be hard to answer. Also if they do work to some degree, a more refined version could be built for later emergencies.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010


The Oily Mess

The reason why the U.S. government has been quiet in regulating wells in the Gulf of Mexico is that basically it has been colluding with the companies based there. There's actually a whole lot more carrying capacity in the gulf wells than we've been letting on. (From my understanding, a person I knew that used to do wildcatting said a lot of the wells that were capped in the 1980's still had more than good output capacity.) This is so we can go about milking the oil supply out in the rest of the world while we quietly sit on a nearby reserve.

Unfortunately with the screwup that's happened, the chickens have come home to roost so to speak. Hopefully they'll get it capped, but there really needs to be more investigation into what has been going on there. The environmental cost may be more than what that oil is worth.

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