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article imageGiant 'super skimmer' a bust in BP oil spill cleanup efforts

By Lynn Herrmann     Jul 17, 2010 in Environment
The giant “super skimmer” sent to help BP’s efforts at cleaning up its Gulf of Mexico disaster has turned out to be a bust, US Coast Guard officials announced late on Friday.
After giving the Taiwanese-owned supertanker an “extended trial period” for providing help in BP’s Gulf of Mexico debacle, Federal On-Scene Coordinator Admiral Paul Zukunft announced late Friday the vessel would not be deployed as a part of the oil spill response.
“While its stature is impressive, ‘A Whale’ is not ideally suited to the needs of this response,” Zukunft said in a statement. “We appreciate the ingenuity of the TMT team to try to make this innovative system work under these unique conditions. This is the largest oil spill response in our nation’s history and we will continue to attack the oil as far offshore as possible with our fleet of hundreds of skimmers, controlled burns, and effective use of dispersant.”
“A Whale,” a 1,115 foot long modified supertanker, sailed to the spill area from Lisbon, Portugal, bringing with it high hopes of skimming massive amounts of oil from the Gulf’s waters. Instead, the amount of oil it was able to recover was “negligible,” according to the Unified Command news release.
The supertanker skimming vessel underwent extensive review by a multiagency team directed by the US Coast Guard and concluded that, after “significant effort,” the only oil found in the cargo tanks was a sheen.
At a news briefing earlier on Friday, Zukunft said: "The results are the amount of oil recovered by the A Whale is nil."
Because the leaking oil on the Gulf's surface is found in a high number of small patches and numerous ribbons, smaller skimmers with more agility have been found to be better suited for the recovery efforts.
According to the Deepwater Horizon Response site: “Nearly 33 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered and 387 controlled burns have been conducted, efficiently removing an additional 11 million gallons of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife.”
As of Friday, approximately 1.84 million gallons of total dispersant have been applied for treatment of the oil. That number includes 1.07 million gallons on the surface and 771,000 applied subsurface. Many scientists now believe the toxic dispersant is cause for much of the oil remaining below surface, far away from public view.
In addition, the large plumes of underwater oil have begun creating huge dead zones in the Gulf. Scientists earlier this week provided discouraging news the oil spill has begun altering the food web.
Scientists also reported this week the largest pelican nesting area along the Louisiana coast, Raccoon Island, has been hit by oil, affecting 300-400 brown pelicans and hundreds of terns. Federal officials have concluded only 68 pelicans are coated in oil in the area.
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