Federal Government Ignores Long-Term Solutions for Gulf Coast Remediation
A biological technology previously approved for oil spill mediation by the U.S. Coast Guard was rejected after the Gulf leak was stopped at the well head last week.
Floating Island International, a U.S. based company with an environmental solution to the spill, was approved by the U.S. Coast Guard for remediation of the spill.
The BioHaven floating island embodiments—which are constructed from post consumer recycled materials—clean large volumes of water while utilizing natures’ food chain to clean up the oil containments. Their technology is based on biomimicry, or the ability for humans to mimic processes that nature has perfected.
“It is FII’s view that the dispersant applied to the oil has resulted in separation of its various components, and that a large volume has settled deep into the gulf,” said Bruce Kania, FII’s founder and CEO. “This oil will only very slowly biologically degrade under the anaerobic conditions occurring there.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. Coast Guard suddenly cancelled the approval of FII’s bio-islands once the Macondo well was partially sealed, despite the fact that relief wells still aren’t complete. Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen “is no longer giving a timeline for completing the final stages of plugging BP’s runaway well,” AP recently reported.
Where’d All the Oil Go?
On the same day as Adm. Allen’s vague announcement, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco finally decided to respond to the warnings of independent researchers who insist that the oil spill is a bigger mess than the government claims and that a lot of crude is lurking deep below the surface.
Lubchenco stood by the government reports that 74 percent of the oil had been captured, burned, skimmed, evaporated, dissolved or dispersed, although she did admit that the remaining 26 percent of the oil was on or just below the surface, had washed ashore or was buried in sand and sediments.
Lubchenco also admitted that “dilute and dispersed does not mean benign.”
Earlier this week, Reuters reported that results of two new scientific studies directly contradicted these optimistic estimates of how much oil has been removed from the water. Researchers at the University of Georgia and the University of South Florida both conducted their own studies and found that “three-quarters of the oil from BP’s blown-out Macondo well was still lurking below the surface of the Gulf and may pose a threat to the ecosystem.”
A serious weather, water or geologic event, could resurrect the oil and result in another phase of this disaster, and the negative impact on long-term dissolved oxygen availability is likely to be dramatic and ultimately contribute to the growth of dead-zone in the Gulf.
Pollutant-Sucking Islands and Other High-Tech Possibilities
The floating islands proposed by FII are constructed from a non-woven matrix made of recycled plastic, and injected with foam for initial buoyancy. Tiny matrix fibers provide an expanded surface area for microbes to colonize – aerobic microbes which consume phosphates and ammonia, and anaerobic microbes which convert nitrates to harmless atmospheric gas.
When the island is launched, a microbe biofilm begins to grow inside and around it. When water is circulated through and across the island (often through the use of Inexpensive solar- and wind-driven pumps, the biofilm starts to attack pollutants.
To date, over four thousand of FII’s floating islands have been launched in both fresh and marine water, primarily in water quality polishing and fisheries/wildlife habitat and enhancement applications. An embodiment of floating island capable of processing a million gallons of oil tainted water per minute was been proposed for long-term biomediation work in the Gulf.
But the FII floating bio-islands aren’t the only kooky-sounding solution that has been tossed around concerning Gulf clean-up efforts.
Utah-based Refill Energy has developed a patent pending technology able to convert organic material into synthesis gas (SynGas). Using this technology, any materials derived from plants, animals and hydrocarbons (like coal, oil or oil based materials including plastics and synthetic fibers, etc.) become the building blocks for the creation of new energy.
“The technology we have at our disposal can greatly assist the numerous areas affected in the Gulf, as we can use the oil sludge or hurricane debris as feed stock for the Refill gasifier and convert it to clean synthesis gas which can create electricity or Dimethyl Ether (DME), Mit Ebeling, President of Refill Energy, stated.
While being able to transform resident hydrocarbon/biomass into sustainable, renewable energy would be the closest thing to a win/win situation for Gulf State residents, the company’s claims that the process produces “only environmentally-safe emissions” have raised some eyebrows. A quick browse of their website also reveals several mentions of “clean coal” technology and partnerships with coal companies, increasing the fear that these are merely the energy industry’s latest greenwashing attempts.
While both science and industry struggle to come up with a way to mitigate the disaster at hand, some are already beginning to construct readiness plans for when, not if, the next oil disaster strikes.
Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has personally donated a $1.4 million purse for the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE, a contest meant to inspire entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists to develop innovative, rapidly deployable, and highly efficient methods of capturing crude oil from the ocean surface.
Desperate residents of the Gulf Coast will simply have to wait and see if containment attempts will ever be successful enough for them to begin putting the pieces back together. Until the relief wells are completed and tested, it will be impossible to declare the former Deepwater Horizon well “dead,” which leaves the region open to a repeat disaster.
“We believe it is a tragic mistake for our government to relax in applying realistic and affordable measures to uptake and treat this oil-impacted water,” said Kania, “Even trace amounts of oil have been associated with serious, long-term and potentially disastrous impacts on fish, waterfowl and wildlife. If these life forms are impacted, rest assured, there will ultimately be impact on humans as well. We are disappointed and worried about the U.S. Coast Guard’s handling of the remarkable biomimetic technology option we represent.”
More information on BioHaven’s technology: