Hay: A Common-Sense Solution to BP Oil Clean-Up?

Oil spill cleanup idea

American ingenuity at its finest!  Clean up the Gulf oil spill, employ the displaced shrimp and charter boats, create additional revenue for farmers, and generate energy – what’s not to like?  While BP and the U.S. Coast Guard are focusing on stopping the continued leak, two men from Florida have figured out how to protect the coastline they love.  Darryl Carpenter, the Vice President and 25 year employee of Florida-based CW Roberts Contracting and Otis Goodson, a sub-contractor, are stirring up the internet with a YouTube video that now has over 700,000 hits (see below to watch the video).   While C. W. Roberts is a 35 year-old asphalt contractor in Tallahasse, Florida with no experience in oil spill clean-up they are proof positive of the old adage, “where there is a will there is a way!”

Carpenter’s common-sense and old-fashioned solution hands-down trumps the hi-tech, ecologically unfriendly ideas used to date.  In the six and-a-half minute video he and Goodson demonstrate the effectiveness of using ordinary hay.  They start with two metal bowls filled with water.  They simulate the spill by adding motor oil to each bowl.  One bowl is filled with Bermuda hay and the other with Bahia hay.  A ladle size strainer is used the push the hay around, simulating the action of waves in the ocean.  In just a few seconds they lift the oil soaked hay out of the pans.  The results are astonishing; the water is back to being clear and drinkable.  They go on discussing the possible methods for collecting the oil-soaked hay – skim booms, shrimp nets, dump truck on the beach.   The waste hay even has benefit – it can be burned in refuse-to-energy plants.  Oil and water don’t mix but hay and water make for a really effective combination.

The result of using hay to soak up oil

According to Chris Sumners, CFO of C. W. Roberts Contracting, the posting of the video was not their idea.  The video was posted by the Walton County (FL) Sheriff’s Department.  According to Sumners, “a lot of our employees are weekend fishermen.  They are concerned about the impact on the coastline and the wildlife.”  Cleaning up the oil is “important for Florida – it will help companies that are struggling, put people back to work, and protect our beaches.”

The video was taped while Carpenter and Goodson were demonstrating their idea to representatives of the Walton County Sheriff’s Department, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, BP, and the U. S. Coast Guard.  While the Florida DEP is ready and willing to try the idea, they cannot get involved until the spill comes within nine miles of the Florida coast.  The company is hoping that BP or the Coast Guard will act sooner.  Sumners says he is “scared about waiting too long.  June 1 is the start of hurricane season.  The clean-up will be so much more difficult if we get hit with an early storm.”

The company has never tried the idea in open waters but it certainly seems worth a try, even if it is only half as successful as the video.   The company has simply asked BP and the U.S. Coast Guard for the opportunity to demonstrate their solution on a 10 acre site.  They don’t want to be hired to clean up the entire spill, but they do want to protect the Florida coastline that is near and dear to their hearts.  Unfortunately, “the current focus is on stopping the leak, not on clean-up” so as of today no one from BP or the Coast Guard has contacted C. W. Roberts about implementing its idea.

While containing the oil spill is important, it seems equally important to mitigate the resulting spill damage.  Now is a good time to test every reasonable idea no matter where it came from.  An idea from Florida that employs people displaced by the spill, brings revenue to farmers,  uses natural ingredients, does not produce toxic waste, and can produce energy is an idea that deserves a chance.

Critics of the plan suggest the spill is just too vast. But could it still be worth a try? See the video for yourself below:

Jennifer is a CPA, CMA, CIA, CFF with a passion for how sustainability can improve a business. She is the owner and President of The Sustainable CFO, making the world better one business at a time. The Sustainable CFO provides consulting, on-demand CFO services, and business coaching to sustainably themed small business. Jennifer has 24 years of experience improving the business operations for a variety of companies in industries such as construction, legal services, and hi-tech. She also teaches finance in the Green MBA program at Antioch University New England. You can visit the website at www.sustainablecfo.com or follow her on twitter @sustainablecfo.

55 responses

  1. We need to empower the creative capacity of the entire world to efficiently develop solutions to this crisis. I think a good way to do that is through use of a wiki like Wikipedia. http://oilspill.wikia.com is a site doing that but is not well known.

    The best solution is for the Unified Command to set up such a wiki and we should all call our reps in congress and demand as much. We should also demand that all relevant engineering data be released to give the motivated engineers and laypeople alike the information they need to develop the best solutions.

    Not until we’ve done these things and empowered the collective intellect of the world can we begin to say all resources have been brought to bare on the crisis. The congressional switchboard number is (202)224-3121. You can call that and ask for your representative. The Unified Command suggestion number is 281.366.5511.

  2. There are so many common sense solutions that could be tried right now. RP Siegel wrote about Adria Brown's Golden Retriever product in the article he mentioned above. Her company http://recoveryiinc.net/ is ready to respond to the need, too, like these 2 men here are.
    Ultimately, those who are really serious about getting rid of the oil spill or any other unwanted conditions in their life need to look inside their heart and soul and ask: Am I willing to be from this unwanted condition? If so, by when?, and for how long? This means actually being willing to create inner freedom from the negative emotions triggered by the conditions under consideration, since it is those emotions that really make those conditions unwanted (only when you feel bad about something does it become unwanted). Once freed up from the emotional triggers, it becomes very easy to assess situations with a clear mind, and act effectively accord with the need at hand. One becomes able to really respond–or said in an other way, one becomes response-able (responsible). Always pointing the finger to others or circumstances is the perfect way to not be responsible, to not be able to respond.

    Fantasy logic that told BP this would never happen and they didn't need to worry about
    the line seal that was broken for weeks, the 3rd plug that was unfinished, the crap cement they used on it,the work-around procedure they used to take the blocking “mud fluid” out of the line and allow the oil to flow uncontrollably, not to mention the safety valve ol' Cheney the Devil told them they did not need…all to get oil out faster….

    Ridiculous solutions like: 10 story boxes? a freakin' “top hat”? a straw that can only get 20% of the oil!
    Putting chemical dispersants in the water that only make this disaster worse! Stuffing tires and other crap in the hole?!
    If BP really cares about a solution, they should be boating the hay or HTP out there already and doing what they need to to clean it up instead of just remaining in a frickin' tailspin of denial- with their main concerns being lost oil and cash. No attempt to spin this catastrophe will work…unless we just all just give up and let them get away with it. Kind of like the last 8 years of hell under Cheney.

    America and specifically, these Southerners are LOSING EVERYTHING IN THE GULF and beyond into the ocean, and this solution deserves some serious attention NOW , not smug defeatist denial.

    1. How about the shrimpers who are having their whole livelihood destroyed? They could get their boats out their with their nets. Get a whole friggin' armada of 'em.

      1. I think this idea is worth exploring as a way to contain the spill. And although it's not politically popular (people are still hoping for a magic bullet, I think), it seems to me that the best solution from a long-term perspective is to contain the spill, prevent it from making landfall, and otherwise leave it alone. In a decade most the oil will have biodegraded if we leave it alone.

        1. Are you thick? Does Alaska not come to mind? That ecosystem is still dealing with the effects of the Exxon Valdez spill. Oil does not simply biodegrade and disappear in 10 years as you so naively think. The spill here is killing plant and animal species every day, as well as the livelihoods of all the people who make a living working those waters. If you truly think leaving it alone is the best solution, please get off my planet.

    2. They gave several ideas for that in their presentation… Shrimp boats, who are now out of work, could use their nets to help collect the hay. If it makes it all the way to the beach the same people and equipment that are used to clean the beaches daily could pick up the hay. This seems like a great idea to me, and it makes me really angry that BP isn't as focused on the clean up as they are on stopping it. Seems like both are too important to ignore or wait on.

      1. There is machinery that will clean beaches as well as specialised balers that would be able to make round bales of the material…I have made mention to several agencies…that I have equipment to try….NO interest or response…. BP is not interested in cleaning the mess…They figure the USA govt will do it….

  4. Jennifer,

    Don't let your enthusiasm destroy your credibility. I'm referring to your comment that after treatment with the hay the water is drinkable. Where did you get that? It's not necessary to exaggerate. Just removing the majority of the oil is the point. I'm convinced that I need to watch your posts carefully now. Too bad. Probably easier to just disregard them.

  5. As opposed to pouring hundreds of thousands of gallons of poison from airplanes into the gulf this could be a God Given Solution! It would occur to me that hay is much cheaper than any chemical!
    The shrimpers can use there nets to capture the oil soaked hay and be paid by the pound for it, until they can return to shrimping. They could also work on barges that carry the hay out to the spill for dispersement into the water. Hay that does end up on the beaches can be raked. We need to do this NOW! Like many Disaster Relief efforts it may come down to a Big Government Contract. It will then cost Tax payers 10 times what it should as it is subed out down the line. The Parishes that are effected should call the shots on who will do the work. They should be allowed to Choose the most effective solution at their disposal right now! They are the victims of big oil..now they should get to choose how to clean it up. Their People will depend on it!

    1. I have been saying this since the spill was made public, this is a GREAT idea..we can use the dried hay for fuel after the pick has dried..everybody wins from this, a great disaster ecologically speaking.

  6. Hay was used to sop up the oil at Santa Barbara decades ago. It seemed effective and was scraped up from the beaches and scooped up at sea. That spill was well studied and we can probably get a proper evaluation of the technique at sea rather than in a pot in a garage.

  7. How to Stop the oil spill! Solution” Make a giant Suringe with a giant rubber holes connected to it and guide it into the whole.The wieght of the heavy lead tip suringe will automatically wedge itself into the whole and feed the oil to the top onto the ships. Its thats simple…. In other words (Hollow tip needle)


  9. my only question is whether this technique has been attempted using saltwater in the demo. did I miss that somewhere? I'm no scientist but am guessing saltwater vs fresh water might make a difference in the efficacy of using hay.

    1. Have you ever been on a beach? The next time you are there, look around in the water. Hay, Straw and grass will float just like sea weed.

      1. I live a mile from the Gulf, thanks. but i haven't seen oil clinging to hay, straw or grass there… yet. my query deals with the adhesion of oil to such vegetation when it's floating in saltwater. given the Gulf's complex currents, can we count on the hay to simply surround all the oil and drag it to shore? or should adhesion be part of the process?

  10. About the catastrophe, among ideas that has been said already, it's missing the big part of it,… the application,… the “doing it”. Among the ideas, collect not only from a little town who wants to do a nice quit part, NO, it has to be a US National collection as a “Situation of war against a world wide catastrophe” at the level of BP or any other petrolium companies are able to do as catastrophe.
    Yes, as said before, Tchernobil, Russia, was as catastrophe, there is many other type of real bad catastrophe that can be done, this one is propably worst because it touches many other people who “were living” of the sea that now are going to find a job inside coast USA. It seems that it could be worst than that cause know that the “Tornedos'period” are coming and that all that polution could be spread around USA. At what level? Well,.. let see…
    Even if I'm a canadian, I understand that it's a really really bad period and I really wish that Americans, USA (First), supported by Canadian and even south americans could help in collecting our own public hear national wide, and encre then to the button up the ocean and to find a way a technic to change the “Hear Spung”… adding to it, to add bacteries that eats petrolium. It would be a long terme period of “nature repear” but, IT HAS TO BE DONE.

    Now who as the courage to do so.
    All the best to you all, I sincerely wish the best solution for the USA people who are living there.


  11. It's me again,

    Again … you know what's great about hair is that you are not obliged to wait until the season of harvesting hay. We must create a new department, a person who will manage the collection of hair from town to town. As hair grows steadily, it is possible to have a good harvest management of hair. And as the cleaning should be done on a large time he got to be a natural resource and constant … as hair.

    About the cap is being sought to plug the pipe BP, you need a rod that goes into the pump pipe so deep, this will stem from any expansion using the same pressure as you exit the oil. The pressure being equal, they cancel each other.
    The stem is equipped with rubber. In receiving the oil, these are a form of rubber stopper.
    The stem is attached to the outside of the pipe and the rod remains in place as long as the pressure is balanced between the rod and the pressure of the oil.

    The rest will be harvested and the ink sponge hair in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. I wish it were as easy to write this but it's easier to start doing that to do nothing and wait for our politicians or supposed engineers


  12. I like the idea of getting fishing crews back to work and hay may play a part in that. if you have patrols off the shore to prevent oil slicks making it there I suggest something like the hesco baskets lashed together at the waterline of shrimp boats etc. and filled with the hay. then troll until the oil cannot be adsorbed anymore. Then there should be a barge to refuel and also receive the baskets as they are swapped out for fresh ones. If you are close enough to roads then maybe a dump truck at the beach access.

    God bless you all to know that he will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth” and “will make all things new” Revelation 11:18 and 21:3-5 Even now the earth will recover on its own, but with wisdom maybe we can make it happen sooner for the bayou. No chemicals just hay and maybe some microbes.

  13. enny Snow May 30, 2010 at 10:51 am
    Very ingenious, and effective! It gives me hope there are lots of great resources out there, and the internet allows BP to tap a huge supply of brain power and experience.
    Our family has some farmland we grow and harvest hay on-for personal use and small sales out, locally. I don’t know a lot about the hay industry, but I do know we had a worrisome hay shortage recently, and that got me thinking about the national picture and this method.
    I am thinking, if I have the numbers throughout this comment right, that 0.25 lb of hay appeared to soak up about a pint of oil (2 cups), so to soak up a gallon of oil would take 2 lbs. of hay. Every 30 days it seems at least 15 million to 25 million gallons of oil is entering the gulf water. This would mean 30 million to 50 million pounds of hay o(15,000-25,000) tons of hay would be required to soak up 30 days worth of spilled oil, (for the sake of example I am pretending it is all accessible to the method) The U.S. produces about 150, 000,000 tons of hay per year. So 30 days worth of oil takes only a small percentage of the U.S. hay crop. Unfortunately in recent years there has been a national hay shortage due mostly to drought, so even small percentages probably matter. Some states faced hay shortages that caused the loss of upwards of 8000 or more beef cows in the course of the year, and of course there are other animals and product as well. Animals also were fed less than optimum levels, compromising their ability to produce offspring and making them more susceptible to illness. High prices for hay also became a problem, and drove up prices for agriculture products. So, it may be that using hay has at least some effect on feed and seed supplies, if in fact a drought occurs. This should be factored into planning, so that among other things, we make sure that no state sells too much of its hay supply for the oil spill clean-up (such as states close to the site). Hay is harvested during the summer, so this time of year is actually a time when national hay supplies are low, as the stored supplies have been used over the winter. Availability of the hay to use it for the spill is a question: this time of year is precisely when hay is low, after last year’s hay has been used over the winter, and before hay is harvested again, in the mid summer. Also, 30 to 50 million pounds of oil soaked hay per month would require careful planning to safely remove and dispose of. The oil soaked hay would have to be contained in the same way the plain oil would be, because it is not a good thing for it to disperse in the ocean either.
    Using the hay “just” to protect the wetlands and coastline is a thought, if fire hazards are factored in. I’m picturing flaming hay charring the wetland grasses. Hay filled booms might help contain the oil so that there is more time to pull it off the ocean’s surface, a good way to delay it’s movement and buy time but control the hay. So I think as an overall strategy it has great potential to help in aspects, but as a huge, widespread tactic to clean the oil, there are issues that could lead to future problems. Is it possible also that winds and even hurricanes could spread oil soaked hay, causing a widespread fire danger? I would worry about that.
    Then again, the long term impact of the oil seems much worse than the short term effects of a hay shortage or problems with disposing of the oil soaked hay, except for fire risks. It’s just that the method has to be applied very carefully.
    Penny Snow

  14. What would it really hurt to try this? If it does not work, at least it's an option that was tried. If it does work, the only thing I see hurt are the egos of the high paid engineers that are scratching their heads wondering what to do next.

  15. Why not try to insert some kind of umbrella inside the pipe, once deployed the pressure should help closing the leak, then just fill the pipe with ciment to hold the umbrella in place.

  16. If these people from CW Roberts love their coastline so much then they should get the hay onto the water without waiting for someone to pay them or give them approval. That ocean belongs to the planet and the people of the planet. Watch Whale Wars and you will see people who are not being given approval to protect the whales of the ocean; they are doing it because it is the right thing to do. Cleaning up the oil even if it is still flowing out of the hole is a problem of the planet not just BP. Stop the leak, clean up the oil then get to charging BP for negligence, if it is right to do so. I don't live in the area and can't bring hay down there from my property but if I did have property near there with hay on it then it would be taken to the ocean at my own expense to save the planet!

  17. Why not throw baled hay (clean no chemicals) around barrier islands and marsh, secure the perimeter of the baled hay, use it for PRO-tection…PRE-ventitive qualities. Let them soak up the oil that would be reaching the marsh/grasses BEFORE it soaks in, and disposal couldn't be too difficult if all the hay is baled or baled loosely. Come on……This oil gets past the horn of florida and up the east coast,,,forgetaboudit. Am also surprised that we haven't all had a “national prayer” about it. Remember the rain in Georgia? My prayers go out to all who have been, are being, and will be, touched in anyway by this terrible pollution. God Bless.

  18. It also seems as though there should be some use for oil-soaked hay. Perhaps the oil could be extracted from the hay. There must be a way to make the oil release from the hay. What if we could soak up the oil with the hay, release the oil, and send the hay back out again? There's a lot of money's worth of oil out there killing everything in it's path.

    I rod with air bags that inflate while in the well will block the leak. My vision is to have a pole with 100 bladders deflated is inserted into the well.the opening can have a funnel over it to protect the “airbag rod”. The funnel can be two halves that connect.Each airbag is separate and independent of the others. This bladder system can stop the flow completely. It is the pressure of 8 fire hydrants. Even at 1 mile down we have the technology to hold that pressure back. Mars rover landing airbags were strong enough to withstand Temp. and Durable enough.BUILD IT BIG QUICK AND CORRECT>>>>>NOW .contact me for anything I can do.


  20. It doesn't hurt to try but I would be skeptical. Oil in clean fresh water might stick better to hay than oil in dirty salt water. The oil that's on the surface of the gulf is a thick muck of oil/dirt etc. I'm not sure it would stick to the hay at that point. Still wouldn't hurt to try in a small area like the farmers want.

  21. Why don't we just stick a giant deflated bladder over sawed off riser… Like large enough to capture say, 5 times the anticipated flow in a month. And if the bladder naturally wants to float, weigh it down or make it big enough to hit the surface…

  22. It's the “not invented here” syndrome. Just do it without anyones approval. Send the byproduct to a coal fired power plant and burn it. What is the worst that can happen, other than hurt ego's?

  23. you can fool some of the people some of the time but you can't fool all the people all of the time ….. welcome to the black sea ….. let freedom of speech live **********************
    June 10, 12:32 AM

  24. Where is all the hazmat gurus that harass the big companies and make them all get stand by crew and equipment just in case something bad happens. This is as worse as it gets. they should send at least half of all the standby equipment and personel down to the gulf and earn their keep. This is the mother load of their buisness and all the money we spent for them to stand by all this time can pay off now. Every State has piles of the clean up stuff standing by. They can't expect a disater to happen in their state that is worse than this which can hurt the entire US. Get them out there.
    Also when making estimates on how much and what they need in the future to plug and contain and get tankers for the oil that they are catching from the broken pipe, they should always go for the MAX Estimate + 10 % rather than making a good estimate. is that not how they make estimates on Profits?

  25. i've thought of a simple and cheap separator tube that can be integrated in any boat or ship. have a look at http://autodelusion.com/oil-spill/ for a schematic on how it can be done. It basically uses a submerged tube to allow oil to float above the water, and the weight of the oil pushes the water away back into the sea.

  26. Pingback: Want $10 Million? X Prize Foundation Announces Prize for Gulf Oil Spill Solution | cDiver.net - The Commercial Diving Network
  27. The biomass like hay, corn cobs, grass, or human hair etc… should be refined back into a liquid biofuel or into electricity, biochar, heat/clean water with the mobile omni biomass machines that Innovatus Energy has. They take waste biomass and stuff like those petroleum encrusted biomass plus those cleanup pads and converts it into useable biofuels right on site. Since they are mobile, once a waste area is done those trucks are just driven to a new location. You are talking mobile refinery. You are talking mobile electricity/power generation.

  28. Fossil fuels pollute in so many ways and are often the cause bitter wars – we should really consider stopping economic and commercial activity. Could we live without cars and consumerism??

  29. wow wow , hair ,corn ,hay , not bad but the solution i got is a lot easyer and more effective than any other idéa in the world , it`s a plant that grow all over north america , its water proof and the retention of ALL PETROLUM LIQUID is phenomenal, it work on water , under water , on earth , it can be transform on multiple way , like Net for fishing to glove and mitten to clean bird and other animals, that plant suck the oil ,gaz , fuel IN SECOND, and can be reusable , its natural ecologic and it dont hurt the environment case its a natural plant ,,, who want to play with me and save the planet, i already made a video of my invention , i work on this plant for 2 years , done some test , and its amazing how effective it is

    HEY, COAST GUARD , BP , AND all OTHER time loser WAKE UP its time to clean the planet before its to late


    carl Lavoie

  30. When I think about the environment, I mostly think in terms of fat-soluble, water soluble, warm, cold, acidic, alkaline, safe, man made,flammable, non-flammable, Walmart fish section, oil pipes from the MidEast (at least once upon a time) and more. Thoughts on digestibility, first aid and more all ‘make my brain roll’ and I act fast.

  31. I don’t know if my note popped up, but talk about inflammable, fat absorbable, water absorbable, man made, digestible, flammable, acidic, warm, alkaline, MidEast pipe line stories or maybe even around Saudi Arabia we had at one time delivering over here, boats with gas, playing the ‘game’ fairly, Walmarts fish section for repairing, the fact that sharks don’t like you to pee in the water and oil smells bad,….Lots of things. Now, instead of going about a bunch of vacuums and more, why don’t you go about doing something more REAL??

  32. Pingback: 11 Extreme Oil Spill Solutions | ThinkQuest

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