The actor Kevin Costner has been investing his own money as well as some he has raised from other investors in technology installed on skimmer barges to suck up oil from large spills before it can cause long-term environmental damage. The largest barge is 250 feet long and is said to have a capacity of skimming off one million gallons of oil and water in a single day. Technology on the barges separates spilled oil from salt water and then stores the oil onboard, while releasing the cleaned water back into the ocean. There is also a smaller forty-foot barge that can navigate in smaller spaces and shallow water like the ones found in marsh areas and it can remove thousands of gallons of oil per day from those ecologically sensitive habitats. A series of twenty-three barges have been outfitted as oil skimmers and ocean water cleaners. This information may sound dated, however, his point now is that the technology has been proven, and yet has not been officially adopted or funded.
Mr. Costner says the oil companies should purchase the oil skimming fleet for rapid deployment to remove oil from the ocean before it ever gets to shorelines. He also said it may have been possible to collect up to ninety percent of the oil that reached the surface. Dispersants he noted, actually caused the oil to sink so it couldn’t be skimmed off. Maintaining a fleet of oil skimming barges could cost about fifty million dollars a year, and that investment should be shouldered by the oil companies as insurance against further environmental damage.
The cost of the Gulf oil disaster is in the billions, so fifty million is next to nothing compared to this enormous financial burdern – to say nothing of the environmental damage that can’t be calculated because the full extent is still unknown, and ongoing.
Scientist Kerry St. Pé, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, said Mr. Costner’s oil skimming technology does work, but not when waters are rough, and it isn’t always easy to find the oil slicks in large expanses of open water.
The first video shows Kevin Costner, and Placquemines Parish President Bill Nungesser talking about the skimming and oil/water separation technology to be deployed on the Chouest offshore supply vessel Ella G.
Image Credit: Noaa.gov