The Kyung Shin went down in 1988, carrying almost 1 000 tons of oil. This is how its oil was removed two decades later.
By Eric Limer
Imagine there is a tanker resting on the sea floor more than 300 feet beneath the surface of the waves. The ship itself is mostly intact, as are the tanks holding the oil it was carrying, but some of that pollution has been slowly leaking out through small cracks and fissures. It is your job to remove the rest of that oil from underwater without letting any more of it escape into the ocean.
How salvage the Kyung Shin’s oil?
If this were just a riddle it might have a simple answer, but it was a real engineering problem in the real world, so the solution is a little more complex. This video from SMIT Salvage, which pulled off the procedure in 2010 and 2011, demonstrates at least one of the ways you can go about it, with fascinating detail.
In short, the Kyung Shin-project consists of two parts: drilling into the Kyung Shin’s hull to insert hoses and a heater, then pumping a heated, sufficiently fluid oil-water mixture up to the surface for separation.
Pretty much every step of the process required delicate care and precision, but perhaps none more than the act of actually drilling into the tanker itself, making clever use of plugs and air pressure to ensure the oil would not escape to the one place physics would push it: out and up. All in all, a pretty sweet setup. Bet you wish you thought of that.
This article was originally written for and published by Popular Mechanics USA.