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Earth Science

Cloth Successfully Separates Oil From Gulf Water 327

Chinobi writes "Di Gao, an assistant professor at the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, has developed a method of separating oil from water within just seconds using a cotton cloth coated in a chemical polymer that makes it both hydrophilic (it bonds with the hydrogen atoms in water) and oleophobic (oil-repelling), making it absolutely perfect for blocking oil and letting water pass through. Gao tested his filter successfully on Gulf Oil water and oil and has an impressive video to demonstrate the results." This is a laboratory demonstration; the technology hasn't been tested at scale.

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Cloth Successfully Separates Oil From Gulf Water

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:34PM (#32499844)
    How do you clean and reuse your cloth? This guy: just pour the oil off the cloth and repeat. Yours only allows for a small amount to be collected before some kind of complicated rinse has to be done.
  • Nothing new here (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tisha_AH ( 600987 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:34PM (#32499848) Journal

    I worked in the oil industry in the 80's and 90's (for Amoco coincidentally) and we had adsorbent spill control diapers and booms that we could run through a ringer to extract the oil. Every facility had a stockpile of these things.

    I took an oil spill control class in Pueblo Co one year and we trained on boom deployment, oil recovery and cleanup. This was one of the tools we had available to us.

    Now maybe the hype is that these new products are made of treated cotton (sounds nice and eco-friendly). Once anything picks up oil it is not so eco-friendly and just becomes another piece of hazardous waste.

  • Re:Nothing new here (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tisha_AH ( 600987 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:37PM (#32499904) Journal

    Here is an example of those booms; []

  • Re:Nothing new here (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bakkster ( 1529253 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nam.retskkaB.> on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:43PM (#32500040)

    You have it backwards. Booms and diapers absorb the oil, this cloth does not absorb oil. It does the opposite, allowing water to pass through while the oil pools on top or in front.

    In other words, booms and diapers act like sponges, while this cloth acts like a filter.

  • by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @03:07PM (#32500426) Journal

    like, perhaps hair? []

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @03:13PM (#32500504)

    Worth pointing out that the safety valve that was supposed to prevent this thing, all the plans to stop the flow at the source, and all the dispersants being used to reduce the effects of the oil... all those had never been properly tested either. I think the safety valve had been tested at half the depth it was being used at? So if we make sure it's not going to do any -harm- then we're at least -improving-, even if we don't test efficiency first before we deploy it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @03:19PM (#32500602)

    Easy oil isn't gone. It's just banned.

  • by tsalmark ( 1265778 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @03:28PM (#32500746) Homepage
    Deepwater Horizon drilled a hole under 5000 feet of water. The depth of the drill hole through bedrock is 30,000 feet. While the bole hole is a feat, the trouble capping the well is more related to the depth of the water above the well not the depth of the well itself.
  • Re:Good point (Score:3, Informative)

    by tristanreid ( 182859 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @04:10PM (#32501320)

    When oil droplets are small enough, they're eaten by naturally-occuring bacteria. That's the main reason for dispersants.

    That's also the reason that naturally-occuring oil seeps don't pose a threat to wildlife, because in a seep the oil comes out slowly and spread out, rather than shooting out in a massive non-stop plume.

    I don't put it past BP to have the ulterior motive you're describing, but there's not enough evidence to convict on this particular charge (so to speak).


  • by Vancorps ( 746090 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @04:26PM (#32501538)

    Wow... simply wow... Ixtoc 1 [] would beg to differ. That was in 160 feet of water and it took them 9 months to cap it. I know you wanna blame the liberal environmentalists but that is simply not the reason oil is being moved offshore. You ever wonder why the current rig we are dealing with is licensed in a foreign country? The Marshal Islands [] is home-base for the revenue which is conveniently not taxed.

    Given that Ixtoc 1 happened 30 years ago and they are using the same exact techniques to deal with it I have zero faith that it would have been resolved by now if this spill were in 500 feet or less of water.

    It's amazing the depths of rationalization going on in BPs favor. They have a history of bad behavior and somehow you come to the conclusion that it's the environmentalists forcing them to take risks? Just four years ago [] BP was shown to be negligent in many of the same ways. It appears little has changed from what should have been a dramatic wake-up call. Regulations for offshore drilling exist for a reason and it's not to make drilling near shore expensive.

  • by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <`gro.derdnuheniwydnarb' `ta' `em'> on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @05:43PM (#32502684) Journal

    The Dutch (I believe it was) have ships that do something similar (I don't know the specifics actually, but they suck in oil and water, and spit out water).

    They were not used as it is illegal to dump the water back if it is contaminated, and the ships are not perfect.

    Miraculously, I don't appear to be totally full of shit: []

    Laws against half-assed cleanup have an un-intended consequence. I wonder if honest reports of the actual amount leaking could have gotten these in quicker.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @05:54PM (#32502796)

    You know, I'm not usually combative, but when I see the level of bullshit like the one in your post, It pisses me off, especially, when it is modded +5 insightful. The Ixtoc I oil spill that happened in 1979 in the Gulf of Mexico was only in 160 of water. It took them nine months to fully plug the well. They used techniques such as a top kill, a junk shot, and a sombrero. Rename the sombrero to a top hat and you have exactly what BP is trying today. It took them nine months to stop the Ixtoc I well in 160 feet of water. Now, we have an out of control oil gusher a mile under water and we are using the same techniques from 1979 to try and stop it. You're right though, obviously, if the well was in only 160 feet of water, it would make all the difference.

  • by winomonkey ( 983062 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @06:49PM (#32503372)
    I am speaking as the son of a commercial fisherman who still typically takes some vacation time from the office life to work the black cod fishery here in Alaska, and as a person who has gone through the SERV's training to get my HAZWOPER Tier 1 certification (basically, taught how to do crude recovery on open water and near-shore operations). I have spent time both in the class and on the water drilling emergency response up here.

    One of the things discussed during our breaks was that the survival rate of rescued birds and mammals was somewhere around 10% during the Exxon disaster. That does not include all of the wildlife that was missed ... these were the lucky ones. Not to say that saving 10% of the recovered birds (at a very high individual cost) is a bad thing, mind you.

    Perhaps the best quote of the day on this topic basically boiled down to "pictures of people scrubbing ducks is just good PR."

    The whole process of what you described as "skimming" (which is very different in the recovery lingo - means using a floating pump system to recover oil, not dragging stuff through the water) would likely kill all animals that were captured. Critters would be submerged within a cloth net of oil and gunk. Regular trawling is damaging enough to them ... surface trawling with this would only make it that much worse. That said, it would be a great way to do animal body recovery, getting the toxin-laden animals out of the food system and away from the scavengers that would eat their remains.
  • by Anonymous Struct ( 660658 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @08:38PM (#32504702)

    How big is the biggest oil spill we should be prepared to contain? Keep in mind that the bigger the thing gets, the more ships and people you need, and it's not the kind of problem that increases linearly in resources required. On top of that, keep in mind that it costs money to be prepared for that great big oil spill every single day, even when it's been thousands and thousands of days since the last oil spill. I'm not really surprised that a line was drawn at a relatively conservative size.

    It's just like when I get in my car every morning and buckle my seat belt. I'm hoping another car doesn't run into me, and if it does, I'm hoping my seat belt is enough of a precaution to keep me alive. I *could* install a roll cage, but I don't. And that's my life I'm gambling, too. Compared to that, this oil spill is small potatoes.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban