An oil tanker which sank to the Atlantic ocean floor six months ago is to have its cargo of 10,120 tonnes of oil pumped to the surface by the owner, French oil company TotalFinaElf.
The Erika broke into two pieces and sank to a depth of 120m about 70km off the Brittany coast, releasing over 20,000 tonnes of crude oil which killed some 100,000 sea birds.
Another 10,000 tonnes of crude remains on board. To recover it TotalFinaElf has set up the £50m Atlantic Coast Mission, in which two teams of nine divers and a robot submarine will work on the ship’s two sections.
Specially designed pumping platforms will be sent down to retrieve the oil by pumping sea water into the tanks, building up enough pressure to send it to a surface ship, where the oil and water will be separated.This is the first time that this method has been used to retrieve oil.
Subject to weather conditions, the operation should start in July and be completed by September this year.
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