View Full Version : Oil Spills and Their Clean Up
01-08-2003, 07:24 PM
What with the various oil spills having been in the news in the past few months, including new court hearings in the Exxon Valdez case, I've been wondering something. Let's say you have an oil tanker that springs a leak several miles off-shore and sinks, spewing oil out into the ocean. The oil slick stays on the surface, and generally makes its way towards shore, despite the efforts of hundreds of folks in boats with booms, mops, paper towels, and whatever else they use to try and clean up the slick, before it can get to land and starts killing wildlife like a card carrying member of the Sahara Club. (Yeah, I know, it kills birds and fish on it's way into land, I'm makin' a joke here, folks.) What I'm wondering is: Since oil floats on water and is flammable, why don't they simply set it on fire? It wouldn't work in all situations, of course, and not all of the oil would burn, I'm sure, but I'd think that if they torched the oil, it'd get rid of more of it than they'd be able to with the methods they seem to be using now.
01-08-2003, 07:44 PM
It's called "In-Situ" (http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/oilaids/ISB/ISB.html) burning. It's done, when approved. Everything you want to know about it, is easily found on the above link and other sites on the web. Recently, the CG tried to burn off the oil of the grounded tanker New Carissa (http://www.oregonlive.com/special/newcarissa/)
Not all oil floats, that depends on the oils specific gravity. Heavier crudes will sink.
IIRC, burning off the surface isn't as easy as it may seem. The fuel source in a liquid fire is primarily the vapors. Plus, you need heat to sustain a fire. As the oil is resting in a cooling agent (water), the amount burned off is often limited. I seem to remember hearing that chemical barriers are needed to divide the oil from the water to effect a successful burn, depending on the product, wx, etc. The burning can be quite effective, though.
01-08-2003, 07:56 PM
More info than you could possibly ever want on in-situ burning. (http://www.nrt.org/production/nrt/home.nsf/docs?SearchView&Query=isb&Start=1&Count=20&SearchOrder=1&SearchWV=FALSE&FuzzySearch=FALSE&SearchMax=0)
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