While Otis Goodson was making his barnyard discovery of hay as a crude oil absorbent, a little old Cajun shrimper named Alex Pellegrin was working on an oil pollution solution of his own. His hand-drawn plans are dated April 27, 2010, just seven days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and following oil spill.
Shrimpers in coastal Louisiana are a hard working lot, and are known for their tenacity and resilience. A lifetime of searching for shrimp under all conditions has trained them to hang in there when times get tough. With shrimp prices down at the docks last summer, Terrebonne Parish shrimpers were hoping for a good harvest this year, as well as better prices.
Such is not the case, but with time on his hands and a slick s big as Rhode Island encroaching upon his fishing waters, Alex took his ideas and gave them life. Using shrimp nets and the infamous “blue roof” tarps generously handed out post hurricane by FEMA, Aex designed an oil skimmer prototype.
The nets are designed for use by shrimp boats already equipped with skimmers. The skimming nets would be removed from the three-inch pipes and replaced with the blue oil-skimming nets on each side of the boat.
The forward motion of the boat would move the oil and water toward the tail of the net, which according to Alex’s design, would be connected to 24 HP pump that can move about 20,000 gallons of water per minute.
The tainted water would be pumped into tanks on the boat, and he projects that four boats could move about 200,000 gallons of water per day.
In reality, the nets would be about 40 feet long, and could be hauled by shrimp boats; but ideally, oilfield crew boats would be rigged with the skimmers, as they have more power, fuel and holding capacity.
Cajuns are known for making do with what they have, and that is exactly what Alex has done in a grand fashion. With shrimpers sitting idly at shore side, most of them have the skills necessary to make these oil skimming nets. All it takes is a blue tarp, shrimp webbing, and someone with the skills to do the web work. Because most shrimpers make or repair their own nets, it seems Alex might have hit upon something the frustrated fishermen can do with all their spare time.
Neither Alex, nor the local TV station, nor I know if anyone will pick up on his invention and give it a try. Even if they don’t, this old Cajun shrimper deserves a big pat on the back and hereby receives the Bayou Woman award for Cajun Ingenuity for 2010. Congratulations, Alex, on your invention of the first APOS (Alex Pellegrin Oil Skimmer), and I wish you the best of luck with it.
With great hope,