Repeat of the Past

March 24th, is the 25th anniversary of the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill. In Houston, at the Ship Channel, efforts continue to  clean-up an oil spill that occurred over the weekend. Though the spill was on a smaller scale it still is taking a while to clean up. Oil spills are difficult to clean and there are still remains of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill from 25 years ago. This is why new technology is so important.

They are currently using containment booms and oil-retrieving skimmers to collect this oil. With technology from MIT recovering this oil would be much more productive and would reduce the economic impact of a spill. The idea is to magnetize the oil so that magnets can separate it from the water. The skimmers would collect water that has been contaminated with the oil and then water-repellent nanoparticles (that would be part iron) would be mixed into the polluted water mixing exclusively with the oil. The oil would then become magnetized allowing the oil to be magnetically separated from the seawater. This oil could then still be used  at an oil refinery and the water could be returned to the sea.

Though this solution seems like a more efficient way to collect spilled oil there are many concerns. There is no data on how the nanoparticles could be affect marine life. There are also similar issues with current skimmers in that they are hindered by certain weather. There is also no mention on the approximate cost of the this technology and it’s costs could outweigh the benefits.

Many people think that this is a better small scale solution or should be implemented after the oil has been brought to shore. Overall though this small improvement in technology seems an interesting method to research but it isn’t going to be the revolutionary technology that makes cleaning oil spills a simple task.


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