Nobu Su, the wealthy owner of TNT shipping, had a great idea: convert a supertanker into a giant skimming vessel that can suck up oily sea water, siphon off the oil and put the clean water back into the ocean. The shipping mogul, whose net worth is ten figures, did exactly that, spending $160 million right after the April 20th explosion of the Deepwater Horizon to convert a supertanker into the world's largest oil skimming vessel. The 10-story tall ship, dubbed "A Whale," can process 21 million gallons of oily water a day, close to the 28 million gallons processed over the last two and a half months by 500 smaller skimmers in the Gulf of Mexico. After its retrofit, Su dispatched the giant ship to the Gulf of Mexico to help with the BP oil disaster, hired the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani to negotiate federal contracts and launched a media blitz to drum up public support for using the ship. The blitz worked, and the Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency agreed to test A Whale's effectiveness at cleaning Gulf sea water. Gulf coast residents had high hopes for the vessel's effectiveness, but the project was dumped after tests showed the ship was inefficient at sucking up oil from Gulf waters. Why did it fail? Because BP's high-volume use of chemical dispersants, added at the point where oil exited the gusher, has rendered the oil in the water too dispersed for the Taiwanese supertanker to process it.
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