It's never a question of if oil spills will happen but rather when they happen, how often, and how large. Writing the journal Energy & Fuels, scientists say they have demonstrated a "complete solution" for oil spill cleanup. It's a super absorbent material capable of soaking up 40 times its own weight in oil. The material could then be shipped to an oil refinery for recovery of the absorbed oil.
e! Science News sums up how it works:
[The] polymer material...transforms an oil spill into a soft, solid oil-containing gel. One pound of the material can recover about 5 gallons of crude oil. The gel is strong enough to be collected and transported. Then, it can be converted to a liquid and refined like regular crude oil. That oil would be worth $15 when crude oil sells for $100 a barrel.
(And there's the commercial application...)
The material is being positioned as being able to "dramatically reduce the environmental impacts from oil spills." True enough, assuming the material could be brought to bear on the spill quickly, and even then not reducing the spill impact to zero.
Read the original research here.