In light of the recent oil leak/disaster, many people have come to wonder why there aren’t any means of simply sucking the oil/water mixture out of the ocean, separating the two, dumping the oil into a tanker and the water back into the sea. It’s a complicated answer that requires some history.
When people first discovered they could burn oil to produce energy, they began scouring the earth for places to dig for oil, because there were big profits to be made. Then, as more uses were found for oil and demand increased, scientists were sent out to find ever more places that oil might be found under the surface. At first all these attempts were on dry land where it was relatively easy to drill a well to see if there were oil down below. But as people began to burn oil at an ever increasing rate, more oil was needed than could be found by simply digging holes in the earth where people thought oil might lie. So, new techniques were invented; whereby special ground radars were developed that could more accurately judge whether there was oil under the surface. This worked so well that demand surged even higher, causing some energy producing companies to wonder if there might not be oil under the oceans as well. As it turned out, there was, and is. Thus, those same energy giants began spending massive amounts of money developing the technology that would allow them to dig down under the seas, no small feat when you consider the depths of the water that they had to pass through first. But, it all worked out in the end, as platforms were built on all of the world’s oceans and oil was pumped up in unheard of quantities. And things were good for both the oil companies and their profits, and the consumers who wanted to drive their cars wherever and whenever they chose.
But that wasn’t the end of the story, because all oil executives know that every well they drill, whether below land or sea, will soon run out of oil and they will be left high and dry if they don’t have other places to drill in mind, and new wells being dug all the time. And all of this took more money than most small countries spend on their GDP.
So, this is why there are no machines for removing oil from seawater; because every single one of the oil companies have been spending all their reserve cash on finding new places to drill, and then drilling and pulling up oil. Not one red cent was allocated to figuring out how to get oil out of the ocean should one of their wells spring a leak. There was simply no money in it.
So, why wasn’t the government working on it? Because government by its very nature is designed to work on problems only after they become problems, like now. The goods news though, is now we know that underwater oil leaks can happen, and so you can bet that there are a lot of smart people right now working on new technology that they can sell to the government the next time there is an undersea oil leak and the oil companies still haven’t spent any money on ways to fix it.