Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"A Whale" - Pay by Barrel Recovered, Not by the Day

Boomed marshes containing oil spill (NOAA Photo)

UPDATE - Video from CNN here - make me a little more optimistic

UPDATE 2 -FAQ Has the Unified Command considered using supertankers to help clean up the oil spill in the Gulf?

When I first saw a photo of the vessel "A Whale"  (Massive oil-skimming ship makes stop in Norfolk) it seemed so unlikely that I though someone had photo-shopped the slots in the side. But is is for real, so here are some questions/thoughts:

In order for it to work at all, the slots must be kept at the proper depth. The ship's draft will have to be controlled carefully. As the ship fills with oil, ballast would presumably be discharged to maintain the proper draft.

The sea state will change the relationship between the depth of the slots and the surface. Swell will cause the ship to pitch and roll which will constantly change the depth of the slots.

From the article:
A Whale could handle 500,000 barrels of oily water a day, or slightly less than what all the skimmers now in the Gulf have gathered in more than 60 days on the job, Su said.

A skimmers effectiveness cannot be measured only by bbl of oily water/day. The area skimmed is important, this design seems very limited in that regard. Perhaps it could be fitted with booms to increase the area swept.

From the article again:
Because the vessel is Taiwanese and was built in South Korea, it needs an exemption from the Jones Act, a federal law requiring commercial ships doing business in U.S. coastal waters to be American-flagged

I think this is a red herring issue, already discussed to death below.

"Bureaucracy shouldn't stand in the way of cleaning up our coastline," Overton said. "

This is another way of saying we want BP to cut us a big check and we don't want to have to answer a lot of questions.
Overton said. "We need help. So I encourage them to just go down there and not take no for an answer. I mean, seriously, how can it hurt?"

It can hurt by consuming resources ineffectively and by displacing more effective methods.

My recommendation to BP is put them to work, but pay them by barrels of oil recovered, not by the day.



Anonymous said...

Glad to see you're getting a bit more optimistic about some possible alternate response methodologies.

Agree that maintaining the proper sea level (and possibly needing booms to direct fluid, etc.) look like challenges, but that's what the trial and error process is all about.

I don't mean this to come off as America-bashing...but this is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking and problem solving that "we" as a country used to be good at, and sadly, it's now Asian and other developing countries that are far more ingenious and industrious than the USA.

I also agree that if this were to drain resources that could potentially be used more efficiently or effectively, then it may not be such a good idea. However, I do not believe that is the case in this instance, or with many of the other possible responses that aren't being used.

Besides, sometimes (especially in times of emergency, or battle), you just have to throw a bunch of stuff at the problem and see what works.

I think it was Patton that said something to the effect of "A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week."


Anonymous said...


One of the quotes from that article:

"Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander for the oil spill, acknowledged recently that "Skimmers are our critical mass right now. We need to put those wherever we can get them. And we want to get them from wherever they are available.""

Of course, one of the latest facts to come to light is that there are hundreds of vessels throughout the country that haven't been sent to the Gulf, because of laws that require them to be in their home ports to respond to possible spills there. To go back to the fire department analogy, this is like not bringing in the fire department from the neighboring towns, because there might be a fire in that town. This is moronic in the extreme.

Anyway, the rest of article is full of unbelievable stories of assets that have been turned down, or not called upon, and is well worth a read.


Bill said...

I'm wondering how the ship will maintain steerage, suction and progress as it "cuts a swath" through the slick. Something this size is going to need a lot of working room. Should we expect to see them utilize booms off each bow to herd the oil towards these slots? Outside the box, oh yeah, effective? remains to be seen. The weather isn't going to cooperate for much longer.