It’s been nearly a full month since the Costa Concordia ran aground just off the Tuscan island of Giglio, and after two weeks of delays salvage workers yesterday began pumping operations aimed at recovering most of the half million gallons of fuel aboard the badly listing Italian cruise liner. Roughly 84 percent of that fuel is stuck in 15 large tanks, and pumping that volume out of the ship will likely take another month--and that’s with the pumps running around the clock.
Pumping fuel from a capsized and largely unstable vessel the size of the Costa Concordia isn’t going to be a simple chore. First, valves must be fixed to the tops and bottoms of each of the tanks beforehand--much of this preparation has been underway for weeks--and hoses attached to each. Then, the fuel must be heated to reduce its viscosity and get it to flow easier. Fuel then goes out via the top valve, and seawater is piped in the bottom to fill the vacuum left by the exiting fuel.
That's only half the battle. From there, salvage workers have to figure out how to deal with 500,000 gallons of potentially hazardous petroleum fuel.
• 11,905 barrels full.
• About 72 standard tanker cars.
• 32,258 beer kegs full.
• An Olympic-sized pool holds 660,000 US gallons, so just 76 percent of that.
• Or the capacity of a 50-foot-diameter globe, like this one:
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.