How It Works

How are oil spills cleaned up?

How are oil spills cleaned up?

From Yan Hu

Three main techniques are commonly used to limit the spread of oil after a spill: skimming, dispersants and in situ burning. First of all booms  (floating barriers) are deployed to physically contain the oil, which floats on the water surface. Skimmers are absorbent materials or boats that collect oil. Chemical dispersants act like washing up liquid, splitting the oil up into tiny drops that bacteria can break down further. Finally, in situ burning involves setting fire to the oil. The most appropriate method depends on the environment, weather conditions and type of oil.

Answered by Alexandra Franklin-Cheung for Brain Dump in How It Works issue 105

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