May 8, 2010

Hay vs the Oil Spill: Something Brilliant in Its Simplicity

There are spills and there are spills:


And then there are men who want to do something about them.

Government could never come up with this. Too cheap and straight-forward. Watch these C W Roberts employees demonstrating the use of hay to assist in a defense against the oil spill in the Gulf. It's part of a local country plan.

Will they be hired by the Feds to put their plan into action? Are you kidding? Too cheap and straight-forward.

HT: Curmudgeonly & Skeptical

UPDATE: Never a rose without a thorn. Donald Sensing runs some numbers and says @ Sense of Events: Hay for oil spill is no plan

As most engineers know, "Everyone has a brilliant idea that will not work." And this is one of them, although we must commend these two gentlemen for trying.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 8, 2010 2:03 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

What's with all these whiners anyway?

A few Scout troops out the next few weekends will get 'er done.

Mission Accomplished!

Posted by: Arthurstone at May 8, 2010 3:00 PM

You guys don't understand, this has nothing to do with cleaning up an oil spill. Its all about putting a permanent stop to any offshore oil drilling! Unless there's a dramatic 2 week long main-stream televised cleanup with lots of pitiful dying oily little creatures & billions spent, this 'crisis' will not have been fully exploited.
BP must have a boatload of MIT and CIT consulting engineers working on this. How stupid would they look if two Southern boys solved the problem with hay, a few million bucks and the common sense God gave them?

Posted by: Shooter1001 at May 8, 2010 4:24 PM

I emailed this link to every Senator. They won't pay attention, though.

Posted by: raincityjazz at May 8, 2010 4:33 PM

There are much more effective oil absorbents, by weight and volume, than hay. Hay also absorbs water, while oil-only absorbents do not.

I think these well-intentioned gentlemen badly underestimate the quantity of hay that would be required.

But I think the real difficulty with this proposal is that even after you've blown the hay into the oil slick and the hay has absorbed the oil, all the oil is still in the water. It's not obvious how getting the hay out of the water would be easier (or make more sense) than just sucking the oil out. Furthermore, now you have to haul away not only the mass of the oil, but the mass of the hay as well. This makes for a much more difficult recovery problem than for the oil alone.

Last but not least, this plan presents politicians with no opportunities for graft and influence peddling. So that sinks it right there.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at May 8, 2010 5:34 PM

Human hair does the same thing. I remember reading about it quite a few years ago. Not as simplistic as hay, but it looks like it's back in the news.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at May 8, 2010 5:39 PM

Did a little math. The area of the spill now exceeds 6,000 sq. miles and more than 11 million gallons of oil are in the sea (link).

That means that (rounded) 40,000 tons of oil are in the water (7.29 lbs per gallon of oil).

At 1 lb or hay per eight sq feet of oil (2 oz per sq ft, which seems reasonable), it would require 10,764,547 tons of hay to cover the slick.

In other words, you'd have to haul 269 times more hay by weight to soak the oil up than the oil weighs, and then recover and haul 10,804,619 tons of oil-soaked hay out.

This does not sound like a good plan to me.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at May 8, 2010 6:55 PM

Oh, what the heck, I went on and turned this into a detailed post on my site.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at May 9, 2010 8:09 AM

There are so Many Awesome Solutions! TIME to Use them!! Check out this AMAZING Simple!! Oil Spill Cleanup Method with WAX!! :

Posted by: Dan Nelson at May 9, 2010 1:49 PM

Like the energy crisis itself, there is probably not "one solution". If I were part of a small community along the coast in fear of pollution from this spill, I'd sure as heck have a few tons of straw out front of my harbor and beaches.

Posted by: tonynoboloney at May 9, 2010 1:50 PM

Mr. Sensing's calculations certainly prove you cannot soak up all the oil in the ocean with hay. It is agreed there are higher tech means for absorbing and/or dispersing oil. However, utilizing the absorbent characteristic of hay presents one potential tactical solution for part of the larger problem. For instance, hay might be useful for protecting a specific shoreline area, say a marsh, before the slick penetrates an area impossible to remediate.

Never toss out the practical in search for the elegent.

Posted by: Eric at May 9, 2010 2:03 PM

I posted a follow-up analysis on using hay on a smaller scale. It is done, but there are other substances that are more widely used - hair and pet fur being two.

No single solution serves all circumstances. Hay may have its place, but not for large-scale recovery. For small-scale efforts it's more suitable but even then has stiff competition for efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at May 9, 2010 5:44 PM

This Sensing guy must be a denier or something. If hay doesn't work, we just need a government subsidized program for it. Wait, we've already got a haymaker that doesn't work, ethanol.
What the hey.

Posted by: james wilson at May 10, 2010 8:26 AM

Hay may not be the all encompassing solution, however, used in conjunction with other solutions, it could essentially be a viable aid in a greater solution. Some absorbers work similarly and others work by targeting certain properties of the why not utilize all effective absorbers to target all possible properties? It goes back to the "Not putting all your eggs in one basket" principle. As Sun Tsu says: "Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is waste of time and general stagnation. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources." Though the plans were not laid well ahead, we can still cultivate the spirit of enterprise and hope that those in charge are good generals who will cultivate all their resources!!!

Posted by: Braeden Miller at May 11, 2010 5:31 AM
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