Oil Spill Update: BP to Switch Disperants; Will Kevin Costner Save Us All?

By Andrew Moseman | May 21, 2010 2:59 pm

WaterworldBy now, more than 650,000 gallons of chemical dispersant have gone into the Gulf of Mexico to try to break up the oil. But after giving BP the go-ahead to use the chemical, and to inject it undersea, the Environmental Protection Agency changed course yesterday and demanded that BP switch to a less toxic dispersant. From the EPA statement:

While the dispersant BP has been using is on the Agency’s approved list, BP is using this dispersant in unprecedented volumes and, last week, began using it underwater at the source of the leak – a procedure that has never been tried before. Because of its use in unprecedented volumes and because much is unknown about the underwater use of dispersants, EPA wants to ensure BP is using the least toxic product authorized for use.

EPA gave BP until today to pick an alternative, and then another 72 hours after that to begin using the alternative in the Gulf. A couple weeks ago we covered the concern that Corexit—the dispersant BP has been using all along—could have toxic side effects, and that a less toxic (and possibly more effective) alternative could be available. With the EPA order, BP is finally moving in that direction.

U.S. Polychemical of Spring Valley, N.Y., which makes a dispersant called Dispersit SPC 1000, said Thursday morning that it had received an order from BP and would increase its production to 20,000 gallons a day in the next few days, and eventually to as much as 60,000 gallons a day [The New York Times].

The pressure came on the EPA to change its dispersant rules after the use of Corexit, manufactured by Nalco, came under fire in Congress.

BP’s dispersant of choice was a hot topic during a House Transportation and Infrastructure hearing Wednesday, as lawmakers repeatedly challenged the company’s decision to go with Corexit. Several questioned whether corporate ties between BP and Nalco prompted the choice. Nalco’s board of directors includes Daniel Sanders, the former president of Exxon Mobil Corp., and Rodney Chase, a nearly four-decade veteran of BP [Houston Chronicle].

Meanwhile, as BP’s solutions to stopping the leak and cleaning up the spill continue to struggle, a new savior has stepped up: Kevin Costner. Yes, the prince of thieves and builder of cornfield baseball stadiums is, in real life, an avid environmentalist, fisherman, and greentech entrepreneur. While making Waterworld in 1995, Costner was troubled by oil spills like the Exxon Valdez and started developing a system to cruise the surface of the sea and clean oily water. His business partner, John Houghtaling, says:

“The machines are essentially like big vacuum cleaners, which sit on barges and suck up oily water and spin it around at high speed,” Houghtaling said. “On one side, it spits out pure oil, which can be recovered. The other side spits out 99% pure water” [Los Angeles Times].

BP and the U.S. Coast Guard plan to test six of the massive devices next week.

Recent posts on the Gulf Oil Spill:
80beats: Gulf Oil Update: Good News for Florida, Bad News For Louisiana’s Wetlands
80beats: Scientists Say Gulf Spill Is Way Worse Than Estimated. How’d We Get It So Wrong?
80beats: Testimony Highlights 3 Major Failures That Caused Gulf Spill
80beats: 5 Offshore Oil Hotspots Beyond the Gulf That Could Boom—Or Go Boom
80beats: Gulf Oil Spill: Do Chemical Dispersants Pose Their Own Environmental Risk?

Image: Universal Pictures

  • http://google Leo Dugas

    I have a solution, but no one to listen to it. I am a retired deputy from Mn., and am very serious about stopping the flo of oil. If I can get your email address, I will send all the details to you.
    Thank You

  • D. Brecese

    Plant matter has been used in ALL kinds of oil spills to soak up the oil and then it can be collected and wrung out to use the oil afterwards, norwegian peat moss is a method that can protect the shorelines and soak up oil. ALL these methods are NON TOXIC and ALL these methods should be being used! What are we waiting for here people???

  • Jo-ski

    I just wish there was some central Website/petition where We the People could raise our voices in utter disgust, horror, and protest over how the Gulf oil spill is being handled!! E.g., see the report CNN aired on May 21, 2010 about chemical dispersants:


    The report focuses on how BP has been using the highly toxic dispersant, Corexit, when all along, it could have been using the far less toxic compound, Sea-Brat 4–no EPA, etc., permission necessary (contrary to BP’s lies that permission was necessary). Unfortunately, what’s not included in the above-cited video clip is the after-remark about the obscene profits made this year by the manufacturer of Corexit. IT’S CRIMINAL!!!


  • Terry Tabor

    Three cheers for Kevin Costner. I just hope it works.

  • rolfiowa

    We can unite our voices at Boycott BP on Facebook. Find like minded activists and discuss the issues.

  • Joan E. Parrish

    Please pray that it gets taken care of soon. I hope Kevin Costner’s idea works. The idea is a brilliant one and seems like a logical way of taking care of it. Expensive but, in my opinion that should be BP’s problem. It seems to me that if someone is going to drill, that they would be aware of this sort of problem and have several “Proven” back up plans to take care of the situation. Not just rake in the profits and “not worry about it until it happens attitude”. Our government really needs to step on them hard about this.

  • http://juliekinnear.com/blogs/green-lifestyle Julie K.

    @Rolfiowa: you can try to boycott BP on Facebook, but that’s all. Companies like BP are the heart of our economies; once the oil prices will go up, people will forget everything and will hunt for the best offer. Exxon Valdez for forgiven and forgotten, Deepwater Horizon will be too. We have to change our entire way of life, to prevent such accidents.

  • Bailey

    It’s time for folks to march on Washington to put an end to the CSA (Corporate States of America) ruining every fabric of our society, economy, and the environment. However, the hopeless part of it all is that clueless, materialistic Americans as of last week still thought oil drilling was good idea by a vote of 60/30! We are so out of touch with nature that we don’t deserve to be on this planet.

  • SusieQLa

    Bring in the Navy….along with Kevin Costner. Talk about a movie!

  • http://DoveBiotech.com Graham Weatherspoon

    The dispersants will truly kill marine life after the oil appears to be gone.
    Dove Biotech’s “Organozorb” utilizes nano technology which changes the molecular construct of the oil. It is not longer oil and is then consumed by the microbes which leave the water clean and safe for all life. The remaining residue is fertilizer which can be consumed by marine life. Organozorb can correct the oil and dispersant problem.
    The process used organic materials only. There is no chemical pollutant involved.
    Universal Biotech Disttributors of Allentown, N.J. market the product

  • Don Williams

    Very strange that BP has had top kill on it’s list of options from the start but still doesn’t have enough mud on hand as of 5/22/10.

    One might conclude that BP has doubts about the ability of the BOP to handle the mud without failure or even detaching from the bottom casing.

    BP has provided only sparse information about the BOP and the 3 (or more) casing breaks amd leakpoints.

    Come clean BP!

  • http://none harry mansell

    the above replies all demonstrate [1.] that democratic citizens want a voice in the economy; and, [2.] that profit making businesses (like BP) lack the intelligence and the humility needed to seek better answers to their technical disasters, even when those answers are OUTSIDE their profit-making BUSINESS system. A competition-based economy like ours is racing toward disaster and failure when it refuses to look to the “competition” for solutions and to use those solutions appropriately, inspite of the competiton mentality. There are some very good solutions above, including Kevin Costners. Competition should be tempered by non-self-interested COOPERATION.

    To: BP executives; smell the roses [not the oil]! reduce your prideful egoism! get cooperative help from others NOW or else!!!! or else you will be replaced by better thinkers and doers.

  • Gilmer Maness

    You know I am in agreement with the amount being recovered by BP through their 4” Pipe.

    OK this means the velocity is 10 ft sec. 56,393 gpd

    This means without the 4”pipe the flow will be 14,098,284 Gal per day. BP knows they cannot possibly overcome=the 10’ sec flow. I feel it is about time to stop the possibilities that the best minds fix. I know I know the answer swag tool. Period.

    I am not in any way blaming BP S**t Happens I am without doubt that BP is a conscious company and works to provide the most efficient and ecological method of doing business.

    BP Must give up the fear and the Bulls**t.

  • Scott kingston

    This is an old tried but true method…Spray hot wax or paraffin using modified COAST GUARD water cannons .The oil floating on the ocean surface …will be immediately absorbed by the hot wax sprayed on it….THE WAX CAN THEN BE PICKED UP BY SKIMMERS .Then the oil and the wax can be separated using a refining process.

  • Zachary

    There sadly is a fault with any of the more sane solutions. They lack teeth, why would BP do anything other than what serves their profit margins? They are a business, and as such are concerned solely with making money. They will refuse to change tactics unless their bottom line is threatened.

  • Guy

    I don’t know why they used detergents except that it has the appearance of working. Its seems like it would be more effective to use a slightly heavier than water absorbent to soak up the oil then sink to the bottom where it can biodegrade through natural processes.

  • jumblepudding

    Mr. Costner, I hope these efforts work out better for you than your efforts to learn a British accent.

  • Bob

    I have a solution, but no one to listen to it.

    I am a Nigerian prince, and am very serious about stop the flow of oil. If I can get your banking information, I will send all the details to you.

    Thank You

  • Scott

    Someone said :

    “I am not in any way blaming BP S**t Happens I am without doubt that BP is a conscious company and works to provide the most efficient and ecological method of doing business.”

    Why would you say that ?

    1) Was BP prepared AT ALL for anything like this ? – No. I believe “virtually Impossible ” was what they said.
    2) Bp uses the difficulties of working at 5000 ft depth as an excuse now but apparently it wasnt so much of a problem when the risk assessments were done, or should I say “completed” I doubt they were actually done.
    3) What about skipped tests and failed tests that they themselves admit to ?
    4) S**t does happen, however PROFESSIONALS are prepared for it and have the knowledge tools and guts to undo it. Blowouts aren’t S**t, they are common enough to have a device to prevent them. Where was the redundancy ?

    Simple fact – Corners are only cut for one reason – to save money and increase margin.


  • Scott

    Why are dispersants even being used ? If you are intending on picking something up, wouldnt it be easier if it isnt’ dispersed ?


  • RJ

    To Leo Dugas, the Nigerian Prince and anyone else with a proposed solution, here is a link you might find interesting (they are taking suggestions):


    I recall reading that Dutch skimmers were turned down by the EPA because they were only 90% efficient. Is it really that important that Mr C’s skimmers are 9% better? What volume x .9 could already have been cleaned up by now.

  • http://??? Anthony Reilly

    the person who doesn’t blame bp. two words . HOLY CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://na Randy Bell

    I have a contractg on the Gulf spill to provide skimmers, Maybe i can help you. Randy Bell Bell-Tech oil spill consultants of Valdez Alaska. Call or e- mail. Phone 907-602-0111

  • Another sad one

    EVERYONE !!!!!

    Everyone who got a idea for stopping the oil spill should go at http://WWW.BP.COM !!
    There you can send your ideas to them !
    Please propose every little idea you got.

    Hope they get a crip on it soon.


  • Shelly Denniston

    Great News!

  • MediaMentions

    On a bit of a tangent, I’d like to point out that even the most obscure political topics are not affected by the spill. (Here’s an example: http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=DZRFG9S4ZP21&preview=article&linkid=22fca471-b41d-476c-b492-7550ecd577d2&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d). Never thought that scope would reach this sort of proportion.


  • Gilbert Vachon

    HI, I don’t know how I can get in touch with Kevin because if he ‘s realy concerned as I can see, well I have something that can help to stop the splil and we could join our effort together and help to stop and clean the gulf for the good of all. Environnement, wild life, our kids and for each of us.
    We are destroying the gift that GOD gave us…lets fix it now with his help…

  • Laurie Kehl

    I agree with Gilbert, this is god’s gift and America’s gift that we are letting British Petroleum to destroy, they need to pay all the people they have put out of work the fishing, tourism industries, restaraunts and everyone in this country that is going to pay the price for this in the short and long run. If I had stock in that company I’d feel disgraced by their actions and the lack of!!!

  • Robert Brown

    The oil leak can be TOTALLY controlled in half a week. Replacing the flange atop the BOP with a riser is absolutely possible,even in that blast. A pre-assembled guide—four 40 ft pcs drill pipe— with a five ft diameter band connecting the top ends, and solidly mounted on the BOP flange below,will steer the new riser perfectly, over the drill pipe stub and down, with 2 tapered pins on the new flange, precisely aligning it for bolting. A manifold with 4 lines to the surface completes it,redundantly accomplishing more than the cap, only with positively NO leaking at all, and no sea water to “freeze”. After working the giant shear, these tasks,including clamping before unbolting, and trimming projections on the flange,etc. are comparatively simple for the robot operators. Please hurry.

  • http://N/A Wanda

    It seems like there is finally some good news with the spill. The Houston Chronicle reports, U.S. ships were being outfitted earlier this month with four pairs of skimming booms airlifted from the Netherlands and should be deployed within days.” Finally a good sign. For all those feeling pretty gloomy about this situation, I recommend a good laugh… Here’s a funny joke, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3j7uSbccSc

  • Lenny

    There is no more “we the people”. It is now ” We the Sheeple”. These scumbags do whatever they want and however they want. BP is still running the show and its June 30…. 70 days later…. Just so you all of you understand this “leak” is not a “leak”. It’s a VOLCANO, it is coming out of the ground at 100,000 PPSI ( pounds per square inch). We don’t have technology that can stop such a pressure, end of story.

  • ERIN

    Being a local citizen of Alabama, why can’t we stop the political debate and let this group from Alaska train our locals to clean this disaster. They have the expertise in oil spills!! We have the expertise in hurricanes. Come on people….we need these companies like Bell Tech to provide us with jobs AND safely clean OUR community!!!


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