One of the cool things about living in the most educated city in America is that when you stop in for a beer at happy hour, as I did earlier this evening, you may end up chatting with somebody really smart, as I also did this evening when I plopped down at the bar next to a guy we call Doc. Doc graduated at the top of his class at Johns Hopkins, has invented a bunch of stuff, and probably has an IQ of 300.
Along with baseball and hockey and other normal guy stuff, we got to talking about the gulf spill. I told him my thought that, although certainly no engineer would wish for a disaster like the gulf leak, it is also a dream situation for an engineer, in that there was a difficult problem to solve and unlimited funds to do so. Well, Doc, who has a company that makes a product that soaks up oil that he expects to sell a lot of to BP, told me that he knew of one BP wouldn't pay for. Doc says that there was a spill in the gulf off Saudi Arabia in the 90's that was even bigger than this spill that was kept secret. The oil was soaked up by a fleet of tankers, who were not only able to suck the oil out of the water, but were also able to salvage most of the oil. He said BP was not willing to pay for it.
Well, I had to check this out, and discovered THIS STORY IN ESQUIRE about the American, Nick Pozzi, who worked on that Aramco accident, and has tried to get through to BP and the government to help now. I was unable to find any mention that BP or the government had balked at the cost, but instead it appears that bureaucracy and red tape had kept anyone from trying this the methods used by the Saudis. But the fact that this spill occurred, was kept quiet, and was cleaned up by a fleet of tankers appears to be true.
I can't imagine there is a price tag on any solution to this problem that would be too high. But then, I can't imagine people would be so reckless as to allow this to happen in the first place.