World’s Largest Oil Skimmer Reaches Gulf of Mexico (Update: Tests “Inconclusive”)

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UPDATE: As of Monday, “A Whale” is not ready to take on the Gulf oil spill after “inconclusive” testing, according to a statement from TMT Shipping.

The world’s largest oil skimmer has arrived in the Gulf of Mexico, and has been conducting a 48-hour test since yesterday to see how it fares in cleaning up the April 20 oil leak, which continues to spew millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf daily. Straightforwardly named “A Whale,” the Taiwanese vessel is a retrofitted oil tanker from TMT Shipping. And it – is – colossal.

According to its makers, the 10-story high and 3.5-football-fields long vessel is able to process up to 21 million gallons of oil-dirtied water a day.  500 skimming boats would take 2 months to collect the same amount.

Though the spill now spans over hundreds of miles, the Whale is first working on a 25-square-mile test site north of the Macondo Deepwater well. The U.S. Coast Guard and BP selected an area close to the wellhead, as opposed to the coast, as they believed it would be most effective where the oil is thickest.

“In many ways, the ship collects water like an actual whale and pumps internally like a human heart,” TMT spokesman Bob Grantham told the Daily Caller in an e-mail. Twelve 16-foot-long vents on either side of the Whale‘s bow work to pull the oily seawater into the ship’s hull, separate the oil, and pump the cleaned ocean back into the Gulf.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the vessel’s billionaire owner Nobu Su said the ship would travel across the Gulf “like a lawn mower cutting the grass.”

Um, why wasn’t this mammoth thing called in earlier?  The Washington Post reports that it wasn’t until mid-June that the American government officially tapped foreign countries for aid, as U.S. skimmers lacked the capacity.

(via The Daily Caller; title image via Green Diary)

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