Response to BP Spill Continues to Grow as Companies Pitch In

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama laid out his battle plan for cleaning up the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, eight weeks after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and collapsed. Obama said a team led by Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu has advised BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. The President said he expected, in the coming days and weeks, these efforts to capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well.


Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Zane Reser (center), part of a shore safety team, decontaminates the soles of his boots after an environmental training session on the beach in Grand Isle, La., on June 14. Decontamination stations prevent oily waste from spreading to clean areas of the beach. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ann Marie Gorden

During the 36-hour period between Wednesday through noon on Thursday, BP reported that it had collected about 23,000 barrels of oil and flared about 7,850 barrels of oil and nearly 66 million cubic feet of natural gas.

The Development Driller III continued to drill the first relief well to a depth of more than 15,000 feet—11 days ahead of schedule—and is beginning to angle the well at 23 degrees, according to the company's Website. The Development Driller II has drilled the second relief well to a depth of 9,774 feet. The goal is to intersect with the original well at about 18,000 feet. While BP is trying to optimize the Lower Marine Riser Package Cap and the Q4000/Subsea Mud Manifold, other companies are bringing their technology to bear on the problems.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock in Louisiana
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corporation has been engaged as a subcontractor to Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Group to provide dredging services relating to the construction of sand berms off the Louisiana coast.

Shaw has been retained by the State of Louisiana to construct the berms. The sand berms are intended to act as a barrier to reduce the amount of oil reaching the state’s coastal wetlands and marshes. The berm construction process involves dredging the sand and delivering it to a designated berm location.

On June 14, Great Lakes’ cutter suction dredge, the California, began pumping sand at the Chandeleur Islands for delivery to berm construction locations. On June 15, Shaw requested Great Lakes to mobilize its cutter suctions dredges Texas and Alaska, its hopper dredge Liberty Island and other ancillary equipment to work on the creation of these berms. Additionally, Great Lakes has submitted proposals to Shaw for an additional three dredges and ancillary support equipment to be used in the berm construction project. Should Great Lakes proposals be accepted, the total scope of work contracted to Great Lakes could range from four to seven dredges and other ancillary equipment. BP has committed $360 million to Louisiana for this project.

At the request of BP contractors, Vac-Tron last month sent a fleet of equipment to the Gulf region. Now the Central Florida-based company is gearing up to increase production of specially outfitted oil spill cleanup equipment to be deployed immediately for the extensive effort in the Gulf and beyond.

“The industrial vacuum is a safe, simple and cost-effective method of cleaning oil from the surface of the water as well as tar balls that wash ashore,” said Don Buckner, chief executive officer of Vac-Tron. “Using a skimmer held above the surface, the Vac-Tron equipment rapidly collects oil into a tank, which can then be transported to a processing facility. Our equipment is manufactured for mobile use and can easily be parked on barges at sea or used on contaminated beaches to handle cleanup.”

Vac-Tron has developed several new models for this specific type of cleanup including the “Beach Vac” which is mounted on a truck or trailer and collects tar balls and other contaminants that wash up on the beach.

“As the largest producer of industrial vacuum equipment we are prepared to accommodate the growing demand for oil and tar removal solutions,” said Buckner. “The speed and efficiency with which we can deploy the Vac-Tron equipment will hopefully mean a quicker restoration of the Gulf Coast environment.”

Fluid Imaging Technologies
Under the direction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fluid Imaging Technologies' FlowCAM is monitoring the presence of oil and measuring its impact on coastal marine organisms.

Effective in testing samples of sea water, freshwater and/or estuarine water, the FlowCAM particle imaging and analysis system automatically takes high resolution, digital images of every individual oil droplet, particle and waterborne microorganism detected, measures each one based on size, shape and dozens of other parameters in real time and saves the images and data for identification and analysis with a date/time stamp to aid admissibility as legal evidence. Able to automatically calculate the concentration of oil, grease and other particles in water, the FlowCAM is ideal for locating the boundaries of oil spill plumes at varying depths and verifying the effectiveness of dispersants and other remedial activities.

BP has received thousands of suggested solutions to its oil problems in the Gulf. According to the company's Website, Clean Beach Technologies suggested a mechanical solution that separates oil from sand and the oil company tested the idea in the lab and found it to be feasible. Ocean Therapy Solutions presented a centrifuge equipment technology that separates oil from water and this idea also is being tested.

Anyone can submit their ideas through the Alternative Response Technology online form.

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