UT sophomore patents innovative oil spill prevention device

Lisa Nhan

Petroleum engineering sophomore Karan Jerath officially filed a patent for his oil spill prevention device last week.

Jerath spent more than 800 hours developing his design for an improved cofferdam, one of the tools British Petroleum utilized during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Jarath’s cofferdam started as a high school science fair project, but he has since been featured on the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30: Energy list and selected as a United Nations Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals for his invention. 

A cofferdam sits over the oil spill to prevent spreading. BP’s cofferdam failed because it only had one outlet valve which was choked because of methane hydrate formation.

Jerath’s design has six outlet valves that allow water, oil and gas to be immediately separated and recycled. It prevents methane hydrate from forming, and includes separate pressure, temperature and density sensors located throughout the device to make proper adjustments during the separation.

Shahid Ullah, Jerath’s mentor and a member of the UT Engineering Advisory Board, said Jerath’s patent is a viable solution for the oil industry.

“There’s a lot of expensive ways to advert oil spill situations, but if you can have something that is not that expensive yet could be a preventative tool, it could be very valuable,” Ullah said. “(Jerath’s invention) is a simple method that could prevent future disasters.” 

After seeing the differences his invention could make, Jerath became inspired to push for more youth involvement within the energy field.

“I think that it’s very important for people to realize that you don’t have to be an expert in your field or have multiple college degrees,” Jerath said. “As long as you allow your ideas to become a reality and continue to pursue them, the world will sit up and notice.”

Jerath is also creating a pitch competition called the Energy Olympiad, set to happen at UT in February 2018. Pitch ideas will be related to one of the U.N. sustainable development goals, a list of goals created by the U.N. for their young leaders to tackle. 

Management sophomore Vivianne Tu, deputy managing director of Energy Olympiad, said the competition will provide a chance for students to become leaders in energy innovation.

“I’m really just hoping it brings a sense of pride to UT students, knowing that their university not only just says, ‘What Starts Here Changes the World,’ but we’re actually doing something that actually will help change the world,” Tu said.