Have we used the techniques that we used for the BP oil spill cleanup before?



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    Yes of course, with the valdez-exxon oil spill. There have been cleanup companies that have been formed out of that spill mandated by the federal government. These companies have done these sorts of things before, but never at this magnitude. 

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    Common techniques that have been used in previous spills and are being used in this current BP spill include containment and skimming. This is usually the first step when oil is thick and accumulated in dense thickets on the ocean surface. This technique utilizes floating booms to contain the oil until containment ships can suck it back up. Dispersants are also used to break up the oil particles. However, the side effects of using dispersant chemicals is not completely known and in the BP case, they have been under scrutiny for using a certain kind of dispersant not approved by the EPA. While some oil spill clean up techniques are similar, with the Deep Water Horizon (BP) spill, the oil is spilling out of the ocean floor unlike out of a tanker in the case of the Exxon-Valdez spill. Because the oil is leaking close to a mile below the ocean surface, BP has been trying new techniques to block the spill. Some that have failed include the containment dome where oil was supposed to be collected in a dome and siphoned up and the top kill method where oil flow was supposed to be halted by pumping heavy drilling fluids into the broken pipeline. 

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    According to Dr. Gerald Graham, a 30 year veteran of oil spill clean ups, the tactics used to clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill remain essentially the same as those used in the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska back in 1989. Both clean ups involved three main strategies: constructing booms to deflect and corral oil and then remove it from the ocean with skimmers, using dispersants to break up oil in the water, and to burn corraled oil when it’s thick enough. What has changed since then has mostly been improvements to how these three tactics are implemented, including more resilient booms, less toxic dispersants, and better information technology to more effectively track the oil and determine how serious the situation is in a given area.

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