Kevin Costner’s oil cleanup machine will process 200 gallons of water a minute, that around 300,000 gallons of water a day. Some estimates have the oil spill rate at two and a half MILLION gallons of day. That’s of oil, not water!
If you assume 25% dilution of the oil in the water (and it’s way more diluted than that) the that means these machines would have to process around TEN MILLION gallons of water per day just to keep up with the current flow.
So in theory around 33 machines could clean the gulf of it’s oil which is handy because BP has just bought 32 of these machines. On paper it looks good, stop the leak, give them a couple of months and the Gulf will be all clean again.
You just ‘know’ it’s not that simple though. The Gulf is bloody huge, the oil is spread out over a vast area. These machines are only going to cover one small area at a time. The oil is far more diluted than 25%, more like 1% or less in places. Does not sound a lot but that means that to process 2.5 million gallons of oil (one day’s worth) they would have to process 250 million gallons of water. At 300,000 gallons per machine per day, it would take those 32 machines 26 days to do that.
Oh, and the wind and currents are moving the oil and water around so they’d probably have to do a lot of the water more than once.
Once you look at it realistically it makes little sense. It’s going to be about as effective as ‘duck and cover’ was during the cold war era (and we know how stupid that looks now). They might as well go and find some Dutch kid to go down to the well and stick his thumb in the leak as follow this course of action.
Sure it will do ‘something’, like pissing on a California wildfire will do something. It’s just not going to be a lot.
I suppose it just reflects on the management style at many companies (and governments) where it is better to be seen to be doing something, no matter how ineffective or badly thought out it might be, rather than to actually stop and think for half a second about a ‘real’ solution to the problem. Is that why top execs get paid the big bucks?