By Alessandra CalderinPosted 07.27.2010 at 12:58 pm 3 Comments
When the Deepwater Horizon rig began leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico in April, the cleanup schemes were underwhelming: fire, dispersants, pantyhose stuffed with human hair. But a new robotic system could corral future spills in hours so that oil never hits the shore.
Aeros (Airborne Robotic Oil Spill Recovery System) is a fleet of airplane-deployed robots that cordon off the oil and use centrifuge-like oil/water separators to collect oil for refining. Each 'bot can purify up to 3,000 gallons of water a minute.
After installing the new cap on the broken Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, and then fixing a last-minute crack in the cap, BP has announced this afternoon that, for the first time since April, the flow of oil from the well has completely stopped.
It's easy not to think much about oil spill remediation technology until something like the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster happens, but materials scientists spend a lot of time thinking about how different materials respond to all kinds of offending substances. In the case of one Texas Tech University professor, a cloth wipe he developed to absorb and contain agents of biological warfare for the U.S. military can absorb 15 times its weight in oil while simultaneously detoxifying it. Paging BP.
The New York Times today has a long, detailed investigation into the concrete causes of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon disaster. It describes how the well was equipped with only one blind shear ram, not a prudent two, and how the shear ram's hydraulic system failed, preventing it from shutting off the flow.
The Coast Guard gave BP the go-ahead this morning, and the latest attempt to seal off the Gulf oil leak that is quickly turning into the biggest ecological disaster in history began at 2 p.m. eastern time. And as BP scrambled to get its controversial "top kill" underway, the media scrambled to figure out exactly how to describe this riser-capping procedure to the public.
But (perhaps unexpectedly) CNN went directly to the best possible source for all things technical, a video explanation so thorough that we've included it below. The top kill, as explained by Bill Nye The Science Guy.