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Special Chemical Used to Contain Oil Spill

Michelle Lodge
Monday, 3 May 2010 | 12:03 PM ET

A chemical compound that reduces oil to droplets so that bacteria can eat it may be part of the solution to Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Weathered oil collects on surface of water after explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.
AP
Weathered oil collects on surface of water after explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.

“It’s a dispersant that breaks down the oil into small enough particles that the oil becomes a nutrient for the naturally occurring bacteria,” Nalco CEO J. Erik Fyrwald told CNBC Monday.

The company’s product has been tested at the oil leak's well head on the ocean floor and is now being used on the surface, both to positive effect. The federal government and BP are buying the product from Nalco.

Oil Spill Chemical to Help Clean Up the Gulf
J. Erik Fyrwald, chairman and CEO of Nalco, discusses how his company's chemical is playing a big role in the oil spill clean-up off the Gulf Coast.

Fyrwald said his Chicago-based company, which provides water treatment services, chemicals and equipment programs for industrial and institutional applications, has sold its entire inventory of the product and is ramping up production to make more of the compound, using proprietary chemicals from Nalco’s suppliers.

As a result, Nalco’s stock price has climbed; BP’s has tumbled.

The compound can be applied a number of ways, including from boats and from crop-duster equipment using aerial sprays.

Analysts are estimating that the oil spill could cost $14 billion, according to Reuters. Since the explosion that caused it almost two weeks ago on the Deepwater Horizon rig, a scenario has emerged with hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil pouring unchecked into the Gulf and traveling northward to the coast.

Observers also say that in a worst-case scenario, the oil spill could spread down to the Florida Keys and up the East Coast.

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