Potent chemicals fight oil slick

2010-05-05 12:49

kalahari.com

  • Renewable Energy
    New, thoroughly updated fourth edition of the authoritative field guide to the entire Renewable... Now R1,350.00
    buy now
Robert - A massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has become the testing ground for a new technique where a potent mix of chemicals is shot deep undersea in an effort to stop oil from reaching the surface, and scientists are hurriedly weighing the ecological risks and benefits.

Crews battling the spill already have dropped more than 590 525 litres of the concoction - a mix of chemicals collectively known as "dispersant" - to try to break up the oozing oil, allowing it to decompose more quickly or evaporate before washing ashore.

The technique has undergone two tests in recent days that the US Coast Guard is calling promising, and there are plans to apply even more of the chemicals.

Needs approval

But the effect of this largely untested treatment is still being studied by numerous federal agencies, and needs approval from a number of them before it can be rolled out in a larger way.

"Those analyses are going on, but right now there's no consensus," said Charlie Henry, the scientific support co-ordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"And we're just really getting started. You can imagine it's something we've never thought about."

Chemical dispersants carry complex environmental trade-offs: helping to keep oil from reaching sensitive wetlands while exposing other sea life to toxic substances.

Works like dish soap

The concoction works like dish soap to separate oil and water, but the exact chemical composition is protected as a trade secret.

The use of chemicals to break up the oil is just one of many techniques being used to try to prevent as much of the slick as possible from reaching land and contaminating sea life in the Gulf of Mexico since an oil rig exploded and collapsed, killing 11 workers and posing a hazard to a fragile ecosystem.

The undersea well has been spewing 757 000 litres a day since the explosion aboard the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon.

BP, the operator of the rig, has been unable to shut off the well, but crews have reported progress with using chemicals to reduce the amount of oil that reaches the surface.

During a test over the weekend, the dispersant was shot into the well at a rate of 34 litres per minute, according authorities. About 11 360 litres total were dispensed during the experiment.

No good options

More than 870 645 litres of dispersant are available, and more is being manufactured by Nalco Company of Naperville, Illinois, for use in the Gulf.

Neither Nalco, BP, rig owner Transocean or the Coast Guard have specified how much of the chemical brew will be needed to handle this spill.

One of the chief agents being used, called Corexit 9 500, is identified as a "moderate" human health hazard that can cause eye, skin or respiratory irritation with prolonged exposure, according to safety data documents.

The company says Corexit contains no known carcinogens or substances on the federal government's list of toxic chemicals.

Even some of the most ardent environmentalists, while concerned about the potential effects, aren't suggesting that the chemical concoction shouldn't be used in this case.

"It's basically a giant experiment," said Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser with Defenders of Wildlife. "I'm not saying we shouldn't do it; we have no good options."
- AP
Read more on:    bp  |  us  |  environment  |  us oil slick
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
/Dewani Trial
 

Red Bull Lionheart trail run - not for the fainthearted!

Entries are open, so what are you waiting for?

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Adventure holidays for your bucket list
Top 10 water sports to try before you die
6 impressive camping tips
LOL! The 8 stages of marathon running

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

PHP Developer

Western Cape
Cozens Recruitment Group ( Western Cape)
R25 000 - R40 000 Per Month

Marketing Analyst

Cape Town
Paracon

Senior Engineer

Cape Town CBD
GT Recruitment
R20 000 - R30 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is an easy social flow and the need to blend in, yet you may not feel entirely comfortable. Something beneath the surface...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.