Solutions

The US Coast Guard and British Petroleum have tried various different methods to solve the oil spill’s issues, by trying to, at first, stop the leaking, and secondly, removing the oil that has polluted the water:

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Containment – placement of dome like structures to capture the oil being released from the well. The major disadvantage with containment is that the oil being held becomes inaccessible, and in effect useless.

  • BP placed a 125 ton, 31 meter, dome shaped containment vessel above the well, however the high amount of gas coming out of the oil reservoir was too much, and eventually the containment failed.
  • BP went on to make a large and stronger dome which was put into place by BP engineers. Although not the best solution, the Containment bought BP some time.
  • Eventually, through the design of a three valve closing, the BP engineers were able to fully seal the oil leaking well. (Gates)

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Skimming – ships that basically collect the mixture of oil and water, which include machines that separate the oil from the water conventionally. The negative aspect of skimming is that only 10% of the mixture collected is oil, which in effect makes it really ineffective. Another con of using skimming is that only oil that has risen to the surface can be collected, and the massive amount of oil submerged under water, won’t be removed.

  • BP and the US Coast Guard have deployed 30 skimming ships, however the process of skimming has not collected sufficient amounts of oil to be considered as economically valuable. (Gates)

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In situ Burning – burning of the crude oil that is on the surface of the water. The problem with this method of cleaning is that it causes a lot of air pollution, as the burning of crude oil releases a lot of toxins into the air, which can be both harmful to humans, and contribute to global warming.

  • Some studies suggest that burning crude oil can be more harmful than the regular burning of petroleum, which is a refined oil product, used as fuel for vehicles. (Gates)

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Chemical Dispersants – these unnatural chemicals are put into water in order to break down the oil into droplets that can be dissolved by naturally occurring bacteria. If used excessively or incorrectly, Chemical Dispersants will cause serious environmental issues, as seen in the Torrey Canyon Oil Spill.

  • The US Air Force and Coast guard deployed millions of gallons of chemical dispersants to clear up the oil underwater, however a huge amount of Oil still remains deep under the surface of the ocean. (Gates)

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On Shore Cleaning – manual labour that collects oil contaminated beaches by digging up the soil, and removing it from the beach.

  • BP hired around 15,000 workers to help clean the beaches of Louisiana and Alabama to clear up the oil that had washed up onto the shore. (Gates)

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