Italy's capabilities to fight oil desasters

Posted in Europe , Other , Energy Security | 28-Jun-10 | Author: Piero Laporta

Patrol ship Cassiopea

A senator from the Italian parliamentary opposition, Paolo Giaretta, really surprised Stefania Prestigiacomo, Italian Minister for the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea, with a question relative to the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Giarretta surprised Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa even more, and caused considerable discomfort for Admiral Bruno Branciforte, Italian Navy CNO.

Giaretta, in his inquiry, reminded all the above that a company in his city, O.C.S., headquarterd in Padova, is a world leader in equipment for cleaning up the seas of pollution from hydrocarbons without the use of chemical agents, but with the Float Discoil technology, already used with great success in several environmental disasters, such as the Agip Abruzzi and Moby Prince in the Leghorn harbor, the Haven oil tanker in the port of Genoa, and always with total success.

Actually, Float Discoil has been adopted by most of the Italian refineries and by many more in other countries. There are more than 500 of these systems operating throughout the world, and some of them have been in continuous use for more than 30 years without any breakdowns. Discoil operates by the mechanical recovery of crude oil in water. The crude sticks to large discs rotating vertically in the water, then is shaved off to a pumping unit which sends it to a storage tank or a tanker. This mechanical separation allows to skim and pick up the oil only, leaving the water behind. Not only, but the recoved oil can be recycled and reused. The latest jewel created by this technology is the Float Discoil 300. The number refers to the capability of the machine. It means that it can skim from the surface of the sea and send to storage, hear...hear, 300 tons of crude oil an hour!

Very well, getting back to the question posed by Senator Giaretta, there is a line in it which has thrown in disarray the halls of the Italian Defense Ministry. Giaretta writes: "Our own Italian Navy has this technology mounted on 14 patrol ships". Absurdly, this is all true, but no one from the Navy has come forward to inform the government of this extraordinary opportunity to enhance the image of Italy and its industry.

The environmental disaster in the gulf happened on the 20th of April. Three weeks passed and Admiral Branciforte, Italian Navy CNO, had not yet communicated anything to the Defense Minister concerning the availability of these 14 patrol ships mounting Discoil technology; technology paid for by Italian taxpayers, heralded so many times in publications and Italian Navy websites, showing naval exercises involding clean-up of the sea. This would have been a beautiful opportunity to promote Italian industry in the world and exact a high tribute from the now desperate BP for the use of this skimming capability.

After the questioning on the part of Giaretta, Admiral Branciforte "fell off a tree", seemingly taken by complete surprise. It now appears that undersecretary of defense Guido Crosetto used expression which cannot be repeated to censure the admiral and his people for not letting it be know that the Navy had this capability. In the meantime, no one in the government is actively trying to promote with BP or with the United States Government the adoption of the Discoil technology.

Had Discoil intervened a month ago, the task would have been infinitely simpler. Now it is enormously more difficult - thanks to the silence of an admiral - but not impossible. The recovery of thousands of tons of crude a day from the Gulf of Mexico could be an undertaking of extraordinary significance, present and future.