Photos by Brian Merchant
In order to protect the coastline at Dauphin Island -- a site where tar balls have made landfall and hundreds of fish are washing up dead on the beach -- the US Army has launched a highly experimental plan to prevent any oil from reaching its shores. It plans on trapping the oil in Hesco baskets and then applying a chemical called CI Agent, turning the oil into a gelatinous solid. That solid, comprised from oil from the gulf spill, will then be collected and turned into asphalt. Watch how the agent works:
Here's Dan Parker, the CEO of CI Agent Solutions, demonstrating how the chemical solution works:
That's oil in its first step to becoming asphalt.
After it's in a solid form, there are a number of other potential uses for the new polymer, Parker explains:
Alright, so there's a new (to most of us, that is -- Parker has been developing the chemical for 12 years) miracle solution that turns oil into gelatin. So how does that translate into coastal defense on a large scale? Here's Captain Matt Kelly of the US Army, explaining how the solution will be deployed to protect Dauphin island:
The chemical is contained in the boxes, which will be filled up with gelatin if and when the oil hits Dauphin's coast.
Questions remain, of course: though both Parker and Captain Kelly affirm the chemical is safe for wildlife, it's never been used or tested on such a large scale and in this manner. But considering that BP is dropping hundreds of thousands of experimental chemical dispersants in the Gulf as we speak, this is a drop in the bucket by comparison -- and if cleaned and contained properly could be an interesting solution to watch for in the future.
I'm traveling around the Gulf of Mexico reporting on the continuing oil crisis. Stay tuned for the latest developments and breaking reports from the scene.
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