State University of New York Institute of Technology
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Cleaning up the Gulf Oil Spill?

Although it's been out of the main stream news as of late, the aftermath conerning the Gulf Oil spill is still looming.  I began wondering what they're doing to clean up the oil.  With all the modern technology we posses I assumed that there must be some crafty and revolutionary way to clean up this oil.  Unfortunately there isn't, and the majority of the methods they are using are the same as used in the Exxon clean up effort.  They are:

1.  Boats use moplike polyethylene skimmers which basically mop up the oil. 

2. Burning the oil can apprently get rid of 90% of the oil that you can find on the surface.

*The problem with these two methods is that they are only effective if the oil has not mixed with too much water causing a process called emulsification.  This spill is unique in that by the time the oil gets to the surface, the majority of it is already emulsified.  Most oil leaks in the past happened above water so the oil wasn't emulsified yet.  So what are they trying.

3.  The "new" thing they are trying is called underwater dispersion. In the past planes have sprayed oil dispersion chemicals on large surface leaks.  The dispersion chemical, basically acts like soap and breaks down the oil into smaller particles.  So it doesn't really get rid of it but helps break it down.  What they are trying now is underwater dispersion where they spray the chemical at the oil plume as it comes out of the pipe.  As of yet, there is no clear evidence whether or not this is working.


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