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Sink the oil!

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(+5, -1)
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On the one hand, the Gulf of Mexico is bebothered and vexed with crude oil which, being floaty, tends to float.

On the other hand, there are plans to try seeding parts of the oceans with iron compounds in order to promote plankton growth as a means of sequestering carbon.

If, inter alia sim podium, we combine these two concepts, we arrive at a third.

It is possible to create iron salts of aliphatic (oily) molecules (see link). These compounds have been proposed as oil additives to reduce soot formation, and they work because they are soluble in oil.


If we can douse the Gulf of Mexico with enough of these compounds (or pump them in to the rising plume of oil), we will kill two birds with one stone. (OK, bad choice of metaphor.)

The aliphatic iron salts will preferentially dissolve in the oil, thereby increasing its density. At some point, it will sink to the sea bed, where it will do a lot less harm than it does on the surface, and where it will be less likely to wind up on beaches, pelicans and TV. The oil will eventually degrade, with a bit of luck.

As the oil breaks down, it will slowly leach its ironic compounds back into the ocean, thereby trickle-feeding local plankton with what they need (assuming that currents eventually bring the irony water back towards the surface) and helping to sequester all that CO2.

Win win!

(I had hoped it would be possible to harvest the iron-enriched oil with a big magnet, but this seems unlikely even by the lax standards of the HB.)

MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 22 2010

Oil-soluble iron compounds. http://www.patentst...88/description.html
[MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 22 2010]


       I dunno Max.... I could see stronger arguments for not suppressing its tendency to make its way to the surface. Coating the sea bed with this muck seems to me to more damaging long term. I'll ask Greenpeace.
xenzag, Jun 22 2010

       It's easier to clean a halibut than a pelican.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 22 2010

       I think you'd just be making a poor man's lava lamp. Wouldn't the iron salts desolve rather quickly leaving you with a longer time released oil spill to deal with?   

       And just out of curiosity, why aliphatic?   

       Who cleans the halibut? Haliburton of course.
xenzag, Jun 22 2010

       Um, coral reefs?
RayfordSteele, Jun 22 2010

       Aliphatic means carbon chains with no crazy ring structures. Basically all the oil. Aliphatic salts are, presumably, ionic compounds formed when molecules bearing an aliphatic chain interact with oppositely charged ions such as Fe3+.   

       The problem I see with this idea is that the aliphatic ion is charged via monocarboxylic acid. So, how are you gonna throw this functional group on the end of a bunch of regular old alkanes?
daseva, Jun 22 2010

       // how are you gonna throw this functional group on the end of a bunch of regular old alkanes?// I's found me someone who can do the throwin'. See link.   

       //Um, coral reefs?// I think adding coral reefs to oil to make it sink is a possibility - especially given the large surface area of dead coral - good thinking. But iron salts may be cheaper.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 22 2010

       From the article: "An amount of a C6 to C8 monocarboxylic acid at least equivalent to the amount of magnesium oxide to be reacted is dissolved in the iron carboxylate solution as the reaction medium. This acid can be straight or branched chain and, in particular, is α-branched. Examples of such acids are 2- ethylbutyric acid, 2,3-dimethylbutyric acid, 2- methylpentanoic acid, 2-ethylpentanoic acid, and 2- ethylhexanoic acid, 2-ethylhexanoic acid being preferred. For best results, the excess of acid should not be more than 30%, advantageously from about 10 to 30%."   

       So you see, they are inventing something that can dissolve in oil, but it does not react with the oil. It reacts with the aliphatic monocarboxilic acids. Now, let's go find an enzyme that converts alkanes into monocarboxilic acids? Something something carboxilase?
daseva, Jun 22 2010

       Not exactly what I was referring to. I was hoping not to kill off the coral reefs with heavy oil contaminants.
RayfordSteele, Jun 22 2010

       //they are inventing something that can dissolve in oil, but it does not react with the oil.//   

       Yeah but, like, that's the point. We make the aliphatic monocarboxylic acids in a big aliphatic monocarboxylic acid factory. Then we dump then into the oil, and they dissolve in it, increasing its density. Enzymes schmenzymes.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 22 2010

       [rayfo] Oh, OK. If that's really what you want to do.....the heavy oil would probably not make it into the shallows where corals are most abundant, maybe.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 22 2010

       Oh, I see. Use oil to sink oil. That's the part my head wasn't comprehending; Why not use the oil already there as a reactant in making the heavy stuff whereby it sinks with some of the non heavy oil and eventually it's all sunk?
daseva, Jun 22 2010

       I like the approach. My understanding is that something of the sort is already happening: heavy components of the oil form underwater plumes, light components come to the top. Maybe a chemical could dissove the oil in itself more perfectly so it does not stratify.   

       I think that what is needed now is for Max to order some of these compounds and make a youtube video showing how they cause greasy oil on water to sink. Plus if the video narrator has an english accent, Americans will figure it has to do with the BBC which means it is smart.
bungston, Jun 23 2010

       Yeah, but they'll also figure out it has to do with the English who, I believe, are none too popular down Gulf of Mexico way... In any case, alas, I have a yachting race to prepare for...
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 23 2010

       //sim podium// I daresay you would.
pertinax, Jun 23 2010

       I like the idea of heavy fertilizer. You could also shoot in some oil chomping bacteria while you're at it.
ldischler, Jun 23 2010

       Well before you sequester CO2, you might want to read what 31000 scientists just petitioned the UN to quit deluding the world about CO2 and supposed man-made impact on this huge planet more affected by the rising 2011 sunspot and solar flare activity peaking every 11 years... And please read how the plant life on this planet only contributes to less than 4% of the oxygen as plants USE oxygen and GIVE OFF CO2 to breathe at night when the sunlight quits falling on plants and trees... Over 96% of your oxygen we breath comes from cosmic bombardment in the upper atmospheric phenoms.
GTJon, Jun 25 2010

       If you can get BP to SINK PROFITS from 10% of their earnings last year, there could have been 20-tankers encircling the floaties and an inverted reservoir trapping oil (high) and pumping out reasonably purer water (low) as for the greatest percentage of recovery... I believe, based on my already holding 4% rights to an oil/water separator a farmer invented in 1980 for things similar to safety-clean tank fluids immediate high volume separation. It is nothing more than an inverted U-Tube with outlets at appropriate heights to separate oil from water as is possible with varying conditions, as fast as the diameter of the outlets allows.
GTJon, Jun 25 2010

       I really can't believe that four people have bunned this. Sheesh, you guys...
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 25 2010

       //Over 96% of your oxygen we breath comes from cosmic bombardment in the upper atmospheric phenoms.//   

       Say what? And what are phenoms?   

       I know that land plants contribute a minority of atmospheric oxygen, but the upper-atmosphere-bombardment business I'm not at all sure about. Reference, please...
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 26 2010

       GTJon: please, no greenhouse conspiracy trolling.
BunsenHoneydew, Jun 27 2010


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