Hey, BP: Supertankers Could Clean Up Spill

They suck up vast quantities of polluted water; oil is filtered out in port
By Caroline Miller,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2010 1:15 PM CDT
Hey, BP: Supertankers Could Clean Up Spill
The Liberian-flagged supertanker MV Sirius Star is at anchor, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008 in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Somalia.    (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 2nd Class William S. Stevens)

A former Shell Oil president has some advice for BP: Use supertankers to suck up the oil fouling the Gulf of Mexico. He says the Saudis used it in a hush-hush cleanup project after a spill in the early '90s dumped hundreds of millions of gallons. The Saudis "figured out how to deploy supertankers that had the ability to both intake and discharge liquids in vast quantities with huge pumps," John Hofmeister tells Fast Company.

They siphon up millions of barrels of seawater and oil and head for port, where they discharge it into tanks where the liquids can be separated—and the oil used or destroyed. An engineer who saw it used says it recovered 85% of the oil from that Saudi spill. "The only downside is that you tie up oil tankers," he says. "That's why we think that BP won't listen to us. They don't want to spend that extra money." (More Gulf oil spill stories.)

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