Monday, July 5, 2010 and Gulf Oil Disaster - Sticky Solutions?

A week into the Gulf oil disaster I posted the following thoughts ending with this statement:

America's finest conservation moment and ongoing challenge is about to happen. Let's consider putting aside other conservation efforts and instead turn our focus on the Gulf.

Once in a great lifetime conservation is called upon to act as one, to respond as one, and to rise to great challenges that transcend local and regional efforts.

This is that moment, and this is that challenge. Where will you be?

When I wrote this I was on South Carolinas outer banks with some smart friends talking about the various phases the oil disaster would go through and how my company might help.

Owning a commercial shark diving company does not limit our ability to look at oceans issues and react beyond sharks.

Bio Remediation

Since the Exxon Valdez disaster bio remed or the use of bacteria to eat oil has come a long way. The critter of choice is in a family of bacteria known as the
pseudomonads. I decided to look into the business of Pseudomonas putida propagation in the US and discovered three companies who produced about 1500 gal a week in total. Clearly the capacity could not only be boosted but brought to the front lines where it was needed.

Next Steps

Over the next six weeks I put together a small team of folks from the Gulf to California who know about bacteria propagation, bio remed, and equipment. We came up with a realistic plan to produce 500,000 gal a day using 10 mobile reactors that could be moved up and down the Gulf coast region to respond to the disaster. These are tank to tank operations. Once the bug is brewed, it is then moved to hand sprayers and deployed. One of the neat thing about bio remed is the bugs ability to work in places traditional oil capture cannot, such as sands, rocks, and marshlands.

The bug, as it turns out, can be brewed using waste oil from fryers something the Gulf region has plenty of.

The Gulf Oil Response

Having been involved in the Gulf oil response intimately for the past two months I am a bit surprised at how slowly front line ideas and help are not making it to where it needs to be. This is not so surprising due to the sheer numbers of agencies involved, local, state, federal, and of course BP who has overall command (don't let anyone tell you differently).

Getting help to the region outside of what BP understands (COREXIT) is like herding cats. Cats that are on fire. In fact many of the folks we have been dealing with went on vacation this week.

The oil did not take a vacation.

Our bio remed project is a case study for how America responds to disasters under the corporate lens. I have met with other folks and seen about two dozen great ideas that are slowly making their way though the chain along with our team. Our time line from the word "go" is six weeks with the first three of ten bio reactors up and producing product.

Sticky Solutions

No one said this was going to be easy. But anyone who knows me, knows that I often "go out into the wilderness" to make things happen with other smart people. As long as the Gulf region could use the help we'll keep moving ahead with this project. The oil is not going to take a break, nature will need every advantage it can get, and we are ready with a viable solution from nature that has been several million years in development.

Patric Douglas CEO

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