Cajun Ingenuity

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 broad opening, as in the shrimp nets, would allow intake of large volumes of oil-laden water.

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,


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  1. Somebody needs to make sure that fellow – or someone with this information in hand – makes it to this meeting . From today’s Houma Courier Online:

    THIBODAUX — Fishermen and other vessel owners interested in getting hired by BP to help clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill can attend a special meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Larose Civic Center, 307 E. 5th St.

    Officials from BP and Laforuche Parish government will be present to answer questions about the program and about claims in connection with losses relating to the spill.

    Vic Lafont of the South Louisiana Economic Council, which organized the meeting, said it will be held in the Civic Center’s Bouvier Room.

    For information call the South Louisiana Economic Council at 985-448-4485.

  2. I heard on WWL radio that BP was looking for ANY ideas people had out there for stopping the spill. I would think they’d accept ideas like this also!

  3. Blu thinks those stupid golf courses and suburban sprawl types could send their grass clippings to Loozy. Make a nice matted floating ring around the well. Keep adding clippings. See what develops.

  4. I agree that this deserves widespread attention. When I first read about it, I shared it with a friend of mine who writes for a blog that focuses on the environment and a healthy ecology.

    For some reason, it only just occurred to me that I might be able to help spread it a little bit wider if I thought a little bit bigger. I have since shared it on a few national media and political Facebook pages. The next step is to find the email addresses for state and national politicians and journalists.

    If you’re interested in really getting the word out, I’d suggest emailing your state and national politicians, TV stations, newspapers, and just about anyone who will listen. Let them compete for who gets the scoop on the story. Let’s get Alex’s phone ringing off the hook. Or buzzing out of its holster, as the case may be. 🙂

    Look, I know that the spill is HUGE, far bigger than anyone could have imagined when this article was first posted. And it’s clear that skimmers like this would only make a tiny dent in the vast mess that has been created by BP’s leak. But the reality is that a small dent is better than no dent at all, and if BP (or the government or private donations or someone!) could put forth some money to provide the equipment to build these skimmers and the fuel to run these boats, then let it be so!

    And let’s not forget about the people who own and operate these boats, whose livelihoods have been put on hold, whose families are learning to live with less or live without. They need to be paid for the time they’re sitting at home and NOT out catching the shrimp and fish they sell and feed their families.

    There isn’t a lot I can actively *do* from where I am, but I *can* make posts on other blogs and political and media Facebook pages, and I *can* email and call journalists and politicians to make them aware that there are real, live individuals who are willing and able to do whatever they can do to make a difference down there at the scene of the disaster.

    1. Dinky, we are inundated with oil leak news 24/7 down here and we HAVE TO GET AWAY from it to protect ourselves from depression, anxiety, worry, and basic insanity. We assume that others in the rest of the nation are inundated, too, but I recently found out that folks across the country think the leak was stopped weeks ago. Yep. They do. It’s easy enough to find plenty of online and up-to-the-second news on all this, especially since the President is making his fourth visit down here today. Must be scooting down from Arkansas after that tragic flood there, God rest their souls and give peace to the survivors. Thanks so much, though, for your care and concern. I try to be real here, but also maintain a balance between the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the hopeless and the hopeful. Come back soon! BW

  5. Stumbled on this story. Good work Cajun! I sent the story link to the White House & pushed it to twitter. I hope it helps.
    Best wishes & good luck
    A neighbor from the west coast.

    1. Matthew, I’m sorry that I don’t readily have an answer to your question and I will have to consult with my expert in Cajun linguistics! BW