Can we separate oil and water with a centrifuge?

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Paul Anderson

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Can we separate oil and water with a centrifuge?
« on: 29/05/2010 03:30:03 »
Paul Anderson  asked the Naked Scientists:
Regarding BP and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hi Chris and team,

I thought of firing torpedoes at the hole in the sea bed, but on reflection, that would only loosen up the surrounds and possibly make it worse.

As far as cleaning up the mess, I thought if they had submersible (and therefore waterproof for wild open sea situations) drones which drove back and forth across the surface sucking in sea water and oil, passing it through a centrifuge where the oil and water is separated, the water being sprayed out over the barriers and the oil either funnelled through an umbilical cord to a mother ship, or put into floating containers which can be gathered up and emptied into a mother ship.

If the above idea caught on, then the Americans could start a sport in Louisiana where they race water scooters up and down the coast, and the water scooters could also be set up to suck up water and oil, centrifuge separate it and store the oil in a container.
I know the above are just superficial ideas that I dream up as I am having my morning shower (but I don't go running down the street yelling "Eureka").

This raises another question, do water have a soothing effect which promotes the flow of ideas?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 29/05/2010 03:30:03 by _system »


Offline Atomic-S

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Can we separate oil and water with a centrifuge?
« Reply #1 on: 29/05/2010 05:59:42 »
The idea appears conceptually valid. Of course, like with many things, practice may prove more difficult than theory. One issue to be dealt with is the volume of liquid that must be processed and stored.Also, I hear that some of the crude in the gulf has turned out to be heavier than water.