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Explainer-Why is it so hard to clean up an offshore oil spill? By Reuters


© Reuters. Newport Beach harbour is closed off by workers in response to a significant oil spillage. Oil from California has been traveling southwards along ocean currents and will eventually reach Newport Beach, California (USA), October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Oil leakages into the ocean are subject to wind and tides, spreading quickly over large areas and making it difficult to cleanup.

The weekend-long spillage of 3,000 barrels of oil off southern California’s coast is not as devastating as massive explosions such as the Deepwater Horizon, which sent thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The liquids may move quickly and can harm wildlife.

The federal and state response teams deploy divers to tackle oil spillages. These containment booms are floating barriers which help stop oil from reaching coastal shorelines. Even so, the spillage was spread over many miles into the Pacific Ocean.

Jeannine Shaye of the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday that oil is moving faster and the cleanup area will expand. She spoke to press at a Monday conference. We have 14 vessels in the water, all of which are being hired by oil spillage response agencies.

Containment booms usually contain as much crude petroleum as possible. This is done by using a skirt, which hangs into the water, and is then weighed down with a chain or cable.

Booms use a freeboard, which is a piece that extends above the waterline. This prevents oil from escaping the containment area. Booms may not be as effective in high-powered storms and waves that crest the equipment’s top.

Orange County residents claimed that they witnessed tar-like objects washing up on beaches. Dispersant chemicals can be used in some instances to disperse oil clumps, especially when the spillage is further offshore or difficult to contain. This was evident in the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

Two new databases were created by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil leakage. They can be used to identify oil pollution and determine where oil is moving.

Responders may use a special ship to recover from large-scale oil spillages. It pulls along the containment zone, captures crude, and pumps it into tanks.

Remote-operated skimmers can be used by recovery crews to scoop oil from the top and then store it. According to the EPA, skimmers work best in calm water and may remove more oil than they can extract.

When thicker crude oil grades need to be absorbed, sorbents are a type or pad that absorbs. They are not as effective in capturing lighter grades of crude oil.

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