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bin bags for crude oil

Crude oil to be transported in plastic bags in tankers
  [vote for,

Another oil slick, more environmental destruction when an oil tanker runs into trouble.

So why not put the crude oil in plastic bags in the tanks. Then a ruptured tank would cause some bags to break but most would float out onto the ocean so could be scooped up later.

Result: cleaner beaches, fewer dead seabirds.

John Youles, Jan 22 2001

oil tanker safety article http://seattletimes.../oill_19990322.html
Sounds like double hulls are the way to go, if you can get companies to retire their single hull ships. [PotatoStew, Jan 22 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]


       Nice thought. One of the problems: Filling, storing, and emptying a bunch of little plastic baggies is hopelessly difficult and uneconomical compared to just pumping oil in and out of a hold.   

       Crates do seem like a better idea from the loading / unloading perspective (and the possibility of modular transport may help offset the cost, though there is a container shape/type issue there), but small bags are lighter and can deform without breaking and are also more certain to float. Building lots of small sealable cells into tankers might do the same thing without requiring much retooling, but might also create even worse recovery problems.   

       I wonder whether there are more practical solutions. Pump oil (and this isn't one) into a hold full of sponges which can then be compressed (all at once) with a garbage-compactor mechanism to extract it? Otherwise suspend or isolate it, chemically or mechanically, without sacrificing so much capacity that it becomes hopelessly expensive (which the rather silly sponge idea would certainly do)?   

       Some of the broader problems:   

       1) Oil shipping is a very low-margin business, so expensive solutions are impossible without binding, universally-observed and well-enforced international agreements which...   

       2) Do not really exist, making enforcement of any new design problematic (though a national gov't like that of the U.S. could perhaps impose requirements on tankers using its ports).
Monkfish, Jan 22 2001

       ...Or maybe something like this could be made to work. Fill the hold with a permanent arrangement of large, sturdy bags (made not of plastic but of some appropriately thick, strong, durable, elastic material) linked with connections which can be sealed by remote control or which are self-sealing under certain circumstances. A horizontial series of tall, thin ones might be best. To fill, stick a hose into the appropriate one and open the connections. When finished, seal them off. To empty, reverse the process.   

       Ideally, these could be left loose rather than being attached to the hull, but then there might be problems with shifting weight, especially in tankers only partially full.   

       (Then again, I'm not even certain what the cost -- in terms of money, political goodwill, jobs, environmental damage, and so on -- of retrofitting all the world's oil tankers with new safety systems would be, and whether the reduction in risk and harm would justify it. New regulatory approaches -- limiting traffic on routes near ecologically sensitive areas and so on -- might be more reasonable.)
Monkfish, Jan 23 2001

       Make the device similar to a sausage maker. You essentially have one giant plastic tube and a way to crimp it closed every so often. Of course I think tankers are designed like this already...on a very large scale. Isn't the hold of a tanker separated into different spaces so that if there is a hull breach that you do not lose the whole load? Or am I thinking of the Titanic?
blahginger, Jan 23 2001

       Baked - didn't anyone see the episode of Seinfeld when Kramer was going to make a ba-zillion dollars using huge rubber balls to hold the oil during shipment.   

       However - an excellent idea, if someone could figure out how to really ake it work. Best guess - double hulls which will not be economically embraced.
chili2k, Jan 31 2001

       How about not using oil? It's bloody horrible stuff to begin with.
ChadValiantJnr, Sep 25 2001

       Might be a silly idea but how about lining the ship with expanded polystyrene or some other insulation (between the inner and outer hulls). Then cool the oil sufficiently to solidify it.   

       The ship would then be very dificult to sink! I accept that a major accident might still be difficult to clear up but hopefully it would provide much more time to tackle it.   

       Oh - and unloading might be fun. Gently warm for several days/weeks before pumping out. Hmmmm...   

       Maybe just have emergency liquid nitrogen injection when something untoward actually occurs?
snagger, Sep 25 2001

       Bin bags for crude relatives?
pottedstu, Sep 25 2001

       How about adding something to the oil so it sinks instead of floating about, making the place look untidy. Out of sight, out of mind...
darndog, Sep 26 2001


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