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A Whale Tests Show Dispersants Hurt Skimming Process

The A Whale will not be deployed by the Unified Joint Command in The Gulf of Mexico because it could not effective collect significant amounts of oil as it scooped up millions of gallons of oily water. On Friday, the A Whale concluded its final battery of tests in close coordination with the US Coast Guard. The ship demonstrated that it can bring substantial volumes of capacity to bear in addressing oil spills, and can do so quickly and with great maneuverability. The particular conditions present in the Macondo spill did not afford the vessel the opportunity to recover a significant amount of oil. In large measure, this is due to the highly dispersed nature of the oil in the Gulf. When dispersants are used in high volume virtually from the point that oil leaves the well, it presents real challenges for high-volume skimming.

There has been much learned much over the last several weeks about how to build a high-volume super-skimming task force capable of addressing oil spills wherever they may occur in the future. The experience shows that future oil spill response protocol should deploy super-skimmer capacity as soon as possible and as close as possible to the source of the spill. In this fashion, effective organic containment of oil can be undertaken without substantial use of chemical dispersants. Thereafter, and in more judicious application, dispersants can be used as needed. (Frank Maisano)