Technology

Does current technology allow us to know if there is tar at great depths?

The Prestige devastation was twenty years old this Sunday, November 13, This disaster is etched in everyone’s memory as it is one of the worst environmental events ever experienced by the entire planet, but especially our country.

In addition to some political conflicts, which today are embroiled in this dark episode of Spanish history still have doubts whether we could have done anything more at a technical level to rectify the situation,

in spain We have a number of companies that build technology capable of accessing these destructive environments: “We have a wide range of naval companies, manufacturers of manned and unmanned vehicles. Air, land and submarines (unmanned underwater vehicles, UUVs). However, the problem lies in intelligence. most of them robots They have very little autonomous capabilities and are machines teleoperated by humans”, reports Victor Mayoral Vilches from Acceleration Robotics.

In his opinion, “it takes more than teleoperation to resolve these catastrophe scenarios.”

‘Prestige’ mark. Where the Prestige tanker sank, a layer of oil was detected.
Juan Jose Gonzalez / EFE

For their part, marine biologists Laura Volta and Verónica García from the Nubica Veterinary Training Center explain that there are currently several techniques that can be used to reduce the impact in the event of an oil spill, such as Self-priming containment barriers, use of ‘skimmers’, dynamic collection and cleaning systemsAs well as marine absorbents when the spill is small.

loss Skimmers or skimmers are devices that mechanically collect hydrocarbons dispersed in water., These may be oleophilic, ie they separate water from the hydrocarbons with brushes, discs or drums, or they may be overflow type with floating rings.

This DESMI BELT technology was used during the famous Prestige spill, which allowed the recovery of semi-solid hydrocarbons by remote control. The DESMI screw pump of this skimmer does not emulsify oil with water, so it can systematically separate both elements.


Gibraltarian authorities have put in place a floating barrier to try to contain the fuel oil spill.

Is the area recovered?

Doctor in biology, research professor and head of the National Reference Laboratory for Bivalve Mollusc Diseases, Antonio Figueras was called to be a part of it. Scientific Advisory Committee for Prestige DisasterThe only Galician in the hard core of that group.

They have been interviewed by Vigo Lighthouse and experts confirm that it is “difficult to know” how the recovery of the coast and fauna in Galicia has gone after the tar. “I can speak for what I saw. In half the year, from December to June, on the Cies beach which was covered with oil, it was already full of mussels: The recovery had begun. But the effects were not as large in areas of A Costa da Morte, which were also more inaccessible to cleanup.”

,The Galician coast is vast and it is difficult to critically assess the impact of recovery, First, because there was no reference, a conscientious inventory work of marine resources and ecosystems prior to Prestige. I guess the recovery was odd: let’s remember there were actual oil roads under the sea, which were dredged. A continuous monitoring system of animal and plant witnesses should have been made, so that this question could be answered after any event.”


The oil tanker Prestige sank off the coast of Finisterre (Galicia) in 2002.

Is the tar at great depth? The wreck has not been surveyed since 2007.

reputation It carried 70,000 tons, some 40,000 dumped and some 25,000 extracted.

The wreck – the remains of a shipwrecked ship – has not been reviewed since 2007. We must remember that a year ago, In 2006, fuel leaked out of the hull and had to be resealed,

previous revision had spotsFigueras says. “I’m not saying it flows, but that it would be nice to look at it from time to time,” he stressed, adding that “descending to Prestige, more than important, I think it would be ethical. You can Run a campaign with underwater robots and tell public opinion: there is no danger. It’s about being transparent with society”.

When asked what should be done with the ship now, his answer is emphatic: “Best thing to do is not move it.,

In an interview with EFE for the tenth anniversary, Demetrio de Armas, responsible for the expedition of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography to the sinking area, assured that The technology available at that time did not allow us to know whether there are coal tar deposits at great depths of the ocean. In the area of ​​the Prestige spill.

“A study would have to be done at a depth of 300 or 400 meters – to find out if the recovery is complete – but probably technology, If there are piles of tar, you can see under the sand Judging by the improvement in fishing conditions, we understand that there is no problemDe Armas commented.

At the time of the leak, analyzes showed that the aromatic hydrocarbon content was approximately 400 times higher than that of barnacles, sea urchins or wild mussels (the latter used as sentinel species). Six or eight months after the oil spill, “they were the sameThe scientist concluded.

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