More Oil Spill Solutions: From SQUID to Oil-Eating Microbes

If BP's upcoming attempt to plug the Gulf oil spill with drilling mud fails (the so-called "top kill" approach), perhaps the oil giant should consider taking some tips from our readers. We've received a number of creative ideas for cleaning up the spill in the past few days. Below, a few of our favorites.

Reader Rene Sugar directed us to Ed Corpora's HTP, a water-repellent product that solidifies and encapsulates oil on contact. It can reportedly absorb ten times its weight in oil-based materials. The product also features oil-eating microbes that require only warm weather, moisture and oxygen to work. "It's not just an absorbent and bioremedial product. It also contains indigenous microbes that literally consume oil," Corpora explains to FastCompany.com.

HTP has actually been used by BP before. About five years ago, the oil company used HTP for soil remediation in Trinidad. But Corpora tells us that BP rejected the product this time around. "They just outright turned me down, which is absurd because at this stage in the game they're in a desperate situation and they need all the help they can get," he says. Check out the video below to see HTP in action.

Tim Johnson tells us about a slightly different solution: the SQUID, a heavy ring attached to a reinforced tube that collects oil as it floats to the ocean surface. SQUID's website explains:

The scale of the SQUID can be altered, based on the size of the sea floor leak site and depth needed at the rig site. Current prototypes are 48' in diameter, easily assembled on site (sea surface) by divers and tug boats. The ring is delivered hollow; once it is assembled, a heavy agent will fill the inner ring, allowing the ring to sink, while deflating the flotation devices holding the ring above water. The ring then sinks to cover the leak site, draping the high strength plastic around the leak site, creating a guided flow to the surface. The connection points between the ring and plastic are porous, allowing divers and equipment to flow freely in and out of the shroud, facilitating work to fix the leak or build anew.

But like Corpora, Johnson hasn't had any luck getting BP to pay attention. He tells us in the comments, "[SQUID] has been vetted by engineers and major oilfield service companies are trying to get this into BP's hands, but BP is running around like a chicken without a head. Getting this idea in front of BP has been like a 3-ring circus." Video is below.

We've been hearing the same refrain over and over again for awhile now—BP won't even give a moment's consideration to promising ideas. (We posed a bunch of questions to BP spokespeople days ago but have yet to hear back.) The oil company has set up a tip line, but clearly it can't handle the volume of ideas coming its way. Surely there must be a better solution.

 

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Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by e-mail.

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3 Comments

  • Lisa Sikes

    If the issue is the force of the oil coming out of the pipe that is preventing it being capped, then how about this idea. I believe a cap should be made that had a grid over the end of it to allow the oil to continue to flow, giving an opportunity for it to be attached without the force of the oil pushing it off. Then we could take about 16 foot long heavy steel 1.5" to 2" diameter rod, with small "heads" on each one, (similar to straight pins, but gigantic ones) and insert these one at time into the end of the cap, and incrementally the flow of oil will slow down, until the end cap is packed full of "pins". Once the flow is so reduced, then a more permanent solution can be pursued.

  • Daniel Parker

    I have thought that they should have been drilling five or six holes around the leaking well hole to place shaped charges into, if they were placed the full lenth of a hole a thousand feet deep at a stand off distance far enough to implode enough material to shut of the flowing well while not opening up another leak source. I also noticed the well riser has a bolted on flange that connects the ruined pipe to the surface pipes, why not just unbolt the old riser and clamp another one with a new valve.

    Daniel Parker www.parkerbronze.com

  • GREENandSAVE

    What do people think about hiring US Navy submarines and asking them to fire torpedoes into the Gulf floor at a perimeter around the well and force massive ground soil up and over the leak?