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  1. If there's one thing without which modern society would seize to exist, it's oil. (Well, living without Internet will also positively suck, but that's a whole different story right here.) Realistically speaking, for the time being, despite the billions of dollars that are being put into the development of green technologies, oil remains essential to the proper functioning of our lives. Oil supplies our factories and makes our means of transportation move, it helps trade, makes manufacturing and transportation of goods, including food and medicines, possible. All in all, we need oil to survive. But the huge demand for oil we've experienced since the Second Industrial Revolution comes at a great cost for the planet and respectively, for the entire human kind. Each year we drill about 14 trillion liters of oil. That alone has tremendous environmental consequences which are next to impossible to be countered because, hey, "Drill, baby, drill!". But there's another negative side of oil consumption, and it's the fact that during transportation a significant quantity of oil is spilled, thereby destroying entire ecosystems, polluting the habitat of all kinds of plant and animal species. And because oil is mostly transported across oceans, this is where most spills occur. The results are both immediate and long-term, so looking for ways to eliminate the spill and counter its effect is crucial for the preservation of Earth's oceans. But cleaning something so vast as an ocean is not an easy task. Luckily, technology has evolved and continues to rapidly do so to such an extent that we might already have a working solution to the issue – drones. We've seen drones being deployed in various places, efficiently handling all kinds of situations. Recently a startup in the Netherlands even introduced a project which aims to develop a fully functional house cleaning drone. So if the technology could be utilized for the needs of home cleaning, it's only natural for it to be used in the quest of preserving our oceans. Airborne Emergency Response to Oil SpillsHere's where AEROS (Airborne Emergency Response to Oil Spills) comes into play. Essentially, AEROS is an unmanned, robotic system which locates oils spills and deploys robots and inflatable booms at spill sites by an airplane. Once in the water, the booms inflate themselves and surround the spill. Then the unmanned robots start purging the water. The water-cleansing robots suck the contaminated water in and spin it inside. The swirl that forms leaves the oil at the center and then collects it in a special bladder, while it pushes the pure water outside. Each robot has an incredible capacity, filtrating over 7000 litres per minute. And the oil that is recovered, up to 90% of the spill, is later collected from the bladders and can be later sold as an additional stream of revenue. Just in comparison, the methods that is being used by far could only filtrate and recover about 5% of the oil. Protei ProjectThe Protei Project is another promising startup which aims to counter oil spills. The people behind this large-scale international project have developed a shape-shifting sailing robots which will patrol the oceans, clean up oil spills and collect plastic waste. The autonomous robots will essentially sail upwind, using the power of the wind, and pull a long boom-tail which will absorbs oil. What makes the Protei boat prototypes so innovative is their hulls which are flexible and are made to move left and right like a fish. That movement allows the drone boat to utilize the power of the wind to the fullest and never lose power, easily pulling the heavy boom tail. Large oil spills like the Deep Water Horizon in the Mexican Gulf don't happen too often, but when they do, the effects to the environment are catastrophic. And as I already mentioned, at that point in time it's impossible for oil companies to cease oil transportation, however, they can use technology to contain the spills and counter the negative impact of the spills. For now the technology is not market-ready, but with some backing it will be there we we most need it.
  2. Where did the wildlife go? That's a scary question, but one that scientists and observers are posing in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The solution deployed to clean up the 210 million gallons of Louisiana crude spilled was the oil dispersant Corexit. Three years later, the evidence suggests that this wasn't the right way. Those who've come in contact with the substance are reporting disturbing symptoms - nose bleeds, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, and others. Wildlife in the area is also suffering; fish eggs and coral larvae are reportedly dying as a result. The long-term impact on a multitude of organisms that depend on the health of this region's ecosystem, will undoubtedly demonstrate similarly disastrous results. Are there oil spill remediation solutions that do not compromise the health of the local ecosystem? There are. The following are some of environmentally-sustainable ways to respond to the next man-made environmental disasters. Let there be Hair! One innovative solution is to stuff nylons with human hair and place them at the site of an oil spill (as was the case with the BP Deepwater Horizon). The idea came by a chance viewing 11 years earlier of a similar technique used to clean up oil after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. They used fur and the viewer conjectured that if fur could do it, maybe hair could as well. When tested, hair picked up "a gallon of oil in less than two minutes for about $2." Putting the Functional in Fungus Certain oil-munching mushrooms are natural absorbents used to clean up oil spills. This is a process called bioremediation, in which native or introduced organisms absorb oil, break it down and render it much easier to clean up. G-Clean uses a similar technology of bioremediation, via a plant-based, bioremediation agent. This solution relies on colloidal chemistry. Micelles are formed which penetrate and immediately begin breaking down long-chain hydrocarbons into smaller units. Once this occurs, resident bacteria are able to ingest and biodegrade via bioremediation. The product is ranked as Ultimate Biodegradable, the highest biodegradability ranking as determined by ASTM Standards (2.1 ASTM D-5864). Pine Shavings to the Rescue! Who knew that pine shavings, the stuff generally discarded at lumber yards, could have such a useful second-life? Like hair, pine shavings are an effective (and environmentally-friendly) oil spill absorbent option. The one drawback is its smell, which can cause respiratory problems for some wildlife. Making Hay out of the Beach Another naturally helpful substance for oil spills is hay, which can also provide a nice sideline for local farmers. Bees are Amazing! We need them for flowers and plants and now it turns out these workhorses can help us with cleaning up oil spills. Beeswax balls (or microcapsules) have hydrocarbons that stick to and "eat" oil. Once the maximum oil has been ingested, these balls explode, releasing enzymes, water, and carbon dioxide -providing a healthy snack for marine organisms. Bonus: Peat Moss This soft, fuzzy, almost cute stuff is tough. Impenetrable and sponge-like, peat moss is natural soil erosion control. Used for oil spill cleanup, it serves as a natural catcher's mitt that collects oil and makes it easy to retrieve. Sources: "11 Eco-Friendly Ways to Clean Up American's Next Oil Spill" from Takepart: "G-Clean Industrial Cleaner" from E&B Green Solutions:
  3. Crude oil, a product of millions of years of compounding, biological processes, refers to the chemical byproduct of fossilization, which is untreated and unrefined. When oil storage tanks develop accumulated contaminants, which then settle at the bottom, this sediment in create problems and outflow. Formation sands, or naturally occurring solids, rust, piping scales and other hydrocarbons build up in the bottom of a storage tank, it becomes the sludge. Typically, these consist of sediment, water, hydrocarbons, and paraffin. These can accelerate corrosion and inhibit oil storage tank capacity. What’s that Sludge? Both inorganic freighted tank bottom sludge and paraffin-based crude oil sludge can form when the conditions are right. Dipole forces called London Dispersion Forces, or Van der Waal bonds, create molecular aggregation. When hydrocarbons flocculate (those that are predominantly heavier C20+ hydrocarbon molecules), they become liberated from suspension within a static fluid, accumulating as a viscous gel on a tank’s floor. Eventually, this gel stratifies, with volatile components flashing from the gel out as changes occur in temperature and pressure. This expulsion of volatile components concentrates heavier fractions within the sludge, which results in increased density, viscosity, and decreased mobility, creating a vicious cycle. Plant-based, and environmentally-friendly solutions for affective oil storage tank cleaning are now available. Periodic cleaning of oilfield storage tanks may be done to comply with state or federal regulations as well as to ensure optimal production. In California, for example, Assembly Bill 1960, requires oil tank inspections. Maintaining routine oil tank cleaning is also useful for making repairs or to reconfigure or even remove from service. G-Clean allows oil storage tank cleaning crews to work with a biodegradable cleaner that effectively and efficiently traps harmful, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), thereby supporting the safety of oil field personnel as well as the local community. Common Applications Include: Internal and external cleaning Transport tanker cleaning Piping and equipment located in tank batteries cleaning Sources: “Major Work Activities for Tank Cleaning Operation” from OSHA: “G-Clean Storage Tank Cleaner” from E&B Green Solutions: