There are few feasible options for sorbents, which can be quickly manufactured and deployed in the event of a major oil spill and so every oil spill is an ecological disaster. This paper aims to provide an understanding of what a realistic, full-scale crude oil spill solution would look like based on the performance of the best sorbents currently available, their costs, and their advantages.
Adsorbent materials or “sorbents” described here have been a recent target for research toward applications in environmental cleanup, remediation, and hazardous material containment. These materials contain many compositions, syntheses, and practical manufacturing parameters that make most of them practically and logistically unfit to tackle quantities much larger than a single barrel of oil. Different properties of crude oil and nonpolar materials, such as their viscosity, density, and weathering, can also make these materials seem attractive on a lab scale but underperform in field testing and in practical applications. This review addresses the challenges, advantages, and disadvantages of different technical applications of the superior sorbent materials and material types in the literature. In addition, we discuss the different costs and manufacturing challenges of sorbent materials in real oil spills and what a feasible containment sorbent material might look like.