Crude oil is perhaps one of the first things that pop-ups in our mind when we discuss about energy sources. Thanks to its uneven distribution, oil is transported to various parts of the world using ships and pipelines.
Inevitably, there have been several oil-spill accidents that lead to the contamination of seawater due to both human error and natural calamities. These oil spills often happen when crude oil is being transferred to a vessel in a harbor, or when it’s being transported across seas, or when a pipeline breaks.
Today, governments have enacted stringent regulations to prevent such accidents and companies are putting their best efforts to make this world a better place. These efforts include a thorough cleaning up of past human errors that have led to an ocean full of toxic elements. Thankfully, since oil density is much lesser than water, it tends to float on the water surface, which makes it easier to clean.
There are many oil spill clean-up methods that are now available right from oil absorbents to spill kits, the range is quite extensive. You and read about a few methods listed below:
Oil spill cleanup methods that you should know about
Oil booms are perhaps the simplest and most used form of oil spill clean-up products. There are equipment called ‘containment booms’ available in the market, which can be used as a fence to ensure that oil does not spread or float away further. It might be a popular clean-up method, however, it is only effective when oil is spilled in one spot and when the area of damage is accessible easily within a few hours.
Oil booms float over the water surface and usually include three parts: a freeboard, a skirt, and a cable or a chain.
- Freeboard is the piece that can be seen above the surface of the water. This is the part that contains oil and also prevents it from splashing everywhere else.
- Then comes ‘skirt’. It is attached right below the surface and ensures that the oil is not squeezing out and escaping from under the booms.
- The last is a cable or a chain that is responsible to make sure of the strength and stability of the boom.
When the spill damage cannot be controlled with the help of booms, dispersants come into the picture. Dispersants or dispersal agents are nothing but chemicals that are sprayed on the contaminated area to chemically disintegrate the oil spill.
These agents are often transported to the location of the spill on either an aircraft or a boat. These chemical substances help to get rid of the spilled oil by naturally breaking down its components. Dispersal agents allow the oil to bond with water chemically as it increases the surface area of molecules. With this, they ensure that oil does not float over the water surface and thus, it becomes easier to degrade by microbes.
Skimmers a.k.a oil scoops are machines that come into the picture once you have used containment booms to confine the oil. This method is used to eliminate the contaminants that are floating on the water surface.
The skimmer machine has been specifically designed to work as a vacuum cleaner and suck up the oil spills from the surface of the water. With this method, the idea is to separate water from oil so that oil can be collected, processed, and then reused. It is perhaps one of the most economically viable options that many can use.
It is true that oil spills contaminate one of the largest natural elements of the earth. However, due to the advancement in science & technology, there are now plenty of methods that can be used to clean up the oil spills and maybe reuse the collected oil as well, leading to lesser wastage of energy sources.
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