News / Middle East

Saudi Arabia May Have Answer to Gulf Of Mexico Oil Leak

Greg Flakus

As the oil continues to leak from the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico, hundreds of boats are working in the area around the spill trying to keep the noxious slick from reaching shore. Frustrated citizens in the Gulf region have been calling for more effective measures and one expert believes a better solution could be provided by the oil-rich nation of Saudi Arabia, which he says contained a similar oil leak in the Persian Gulf in 1993 using supertankers.

The United States should ask the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a supertanker or two to clean up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Nick Pozzi, a former pipeline engineering and operations manager for Saudi Aramco. He says he helped that state-run company deal with a similar disaster in 1993.

Pozzi says an accident caused millions of liters of crude oil to spill into the Persian Gulf.  He was on the team that developed a plan to remove the crude using Saudi-owned supertankers.

"The supertankers in Arabia have the ability to suck or discharge, so they can pump or suck," he said. "What we could [what amounts of oil we could extract] we ran through a centrifuge to separate the oil from the water. We put the water back in the Gulf, because we wanted to get the oil out first, get it out of the water."

Pozzi says the operation cleaned up 85 percent of the total oil spilled.  His idea to use supertankers in the Gulf of Mexico has been endorsed by a number of prominent figures in the oil-and-gas industry, most notably John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil, who has urged the Obama administration to pursue it.

BP officials cite logistical problems with the proposal since it would be difficult to maneuver such a large ship into the area near the leaking deepwater well site, but Pozzi says there are ways of working around that. The other problem is the Jones Act, a part of U.S. maritime law that prevents foreign vessels from working in U.S. waters, but the president has the power to waive that law in the case of an emergency.

Another problem is that the Saudi operation in 1993 involved a spill that was limited once the source of the leak had been plugged, whereas the BP well is leaking vast quantities of oil every day and the best hope of stopping it could be months away, in the form of relief wells that are to be drilled nearby.

Nick Pozzi is skeptical about the relief well plan, because he says the flow of oil is so strong.

He says the pressure of the outflow at the well head is so great that BP engineers have not been able to overcome it.  Pozzi says he and other experts have examined video from the site to calculate the pressure.

Among the more exotic proposals to stop the leak is the use of explosives, including nuclear bombs. The Russians reportedly have used small nuclear devices to cap runaway wells at least four times. But Nick Pozzi says he does not believe such a measure would work at the BP site because the pressure of the outflow would prevent the proper placement of the explosives in the opening.

Nick Pozzi has launched a private company called WOW Energy Solutions and is working with people along the Gulf coast in Alabama to prevent oil slick damage to their beaches and fisheries.  He says if either the US government or BP calls him, he is ready to do what he can to help them contain the catastrophic oil spill.

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