Fast Company

Power Plant Waste Could Clean Up Oil From BP Disaster

fly ash

After over 100 days, the BP oil leak finally appears to be plugged. But while the White House claims that the vast majority of oil has evaporated or been cleaned up with burning, oil skimmers, and dispersants, there is still plenty of the sticky stuff lingering just below the ocean's surface. One potential solution: power plant waste.

Sudipta Seal, the director of University of Central Florida's Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis and NanoScience Technology Centers, has figured out a way to turn power plant waste material (aka fly ash) into an oil cleaning agent. Seal believes that fly ash could be placed in mesh packaging, dropped in the water, and left to soak up oil. The collected oil could then be sent to a coal power plant to fuel production. Fly ash could have a similar use on land--it could clump up scattered oil, making it easy to gather and reuse.

The process is, according to PhysOrg, both cost-effective and easy to scale up. And since the National Science Foundation recently gave Seal a $67,000 grant to develop the technology, there's a decent chance that it might end up in the Gulf, if not at future oil disaster sites.

Seal's idea is far from the only cleanup tactic available. Our readers alone have suggested dozens of solutions, but well-funded solutions like the fly ash fix are most likely to be deployed. Let's hope they work.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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