Fighting offshore oil spills has so far generally been a loosing battle. The outcome has often been related to the weather, where a good storm has solved the problem through evaporation and emulsification. Where the emulsified oil ends up nobody knows, but it is generally assumed to be eaten by bacteria. In the Arabian Gulf there is a different situation. Oil spills will eventually be exposed to wind borne sand from the surrounding deserts, and then sinking due to the increase in density caused by the adhering sand. Chemical oil spill fighting resembles the above strategies in that it may move the problem away from the surface, but may again incur more severe ecosystem damage than the oil alone.
Whereas we can hope that the surface is eventually clean again without human intervention or by chemical means, most people will agree that recovering the oil is the thing to do, and much effort has been put into finding good ways to do just that. However, if you try to develop technology to do it, the major challenges are soon enough encountered:
1.Moving, handling and treating large volumes of water and oil is difficult and costly.
2.The slightest turbulence will mix water and oil.
3.Towing a fence (boom) through water at more than 1 knot will cause the oil to slip under the boom.
4.As soon as the weather acts up the oil will mix with the water and disappear from the surface.
5.Offshore operations are costly, cumbersome and prone to failure due to lack of training, unclear command structures, large forces at play and simple fatigue.
6.Technology applied is often not ocean tested and not well enough engineered for the situation.
The task is daunting and only fools would undertake it as long as you alternatively could produce soap or get a regular job. Still there are a number of teams around the world who struggle to come up with new approaches that can be developed into workable systems.
We in the OilShaver Team are in that group. The challenge is our fuel, and the harder it looks the more we are fueled. There have been plenty of setbacks, but we are optimistic and quite arrogant: “If there is a workable solution we will find it”. We think we have found it now, but we also know there will be further setbacks and limitations. But our attitude to challenges is:”Bring them on!”