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Oil tankers, not icebergs, a water scarcity solution?


Table of Contents:

  • Towing icebergs to ease water scarcity is yesterday; transporting water in supertankers is today.

Also in the 1970s, Mohammad al-Faisal, a member of the Saudi royal family, tried to tap French engineer Georges Mougin’s iceberg ideas in a massive undertaking. Al-Faisal wasn’t quite P.T. Barnum, but he did manage to command the attention of popular culture with promises that quickly faded. From Fast Company: “Faisal planned on wrapping a 100-million-ton iceberg in sailcloth and plastic and tugging it from the North Pole to the Red Sea, though the cost was estimated at an exorbitant $100 million. For a swank conference on "iceberg utilization," he even managed to ship, via helicopter, plane, and truck, a two-ton "mini-berg" from Alaska to Iowa, where the giant block of ice was chipped apart to chill delegates' drinks. According to a Time report from October of 1977, Faisal predicted that he'd have an iceberg in Arabia ‘within three years.’”

In 2011, the iceberg movement caught fire again when Mougin and a group of French engineers claimed simulations showed iceberg towing might work under opportune conditions. They said it would take five months to pull a sleeve-insulated iceberg from Newfoundland to North Africa and 60 percent of a 7-ton iceberg would remain after the trip — but at a cost of $10 million. Not exactly prime bait for potential investors.

Georges Mougin is not giving up his plans to harvest icebergs — at 88, he still believes his basic principles on towing are correct, and success is a matter of time and detail.

As for Gudnason and Aqua Omnis, they believe they’ll have their water fleet running within three years.


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*Photo courtesy of Kim Hansen, Wikimedia Commons

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