Current status of the Field – prevailing the inefficient technologies
Due to the ever increasing oil consumption and growing sea traffic the question saving of marine environment is becoming more and more important. In this context it is becoming increasingly evident that the current state-of-the-art technology for neutralizing and liquidation of oil spills is not efficient enough to meet the requirements. The most common method is the physical localization and collection of oil by using fleet of small vessels with special equipment. This method is relatively environment-friendly, but is still very labor intensive and unhandy, not allowing to tackle the problem operatively enough. Many different chemical agents have been created for neutralizing the oil, but the usage is limited mostly due to their harmful impact on the environment. Different types of adsorbents and absorbents for fixing oil, as well as facilitating collecting have been created. Collecting oil this way is still relatively labor intensive and is not free of certain environment damages.
Biao-absorbents – potentially the perfect solution
Such absorbents have been invented, which do not need to be collected, because of their ability to neutralize the oil by reprocessing (recycling) it into the inert substance, harmless to the environment. These are the so-called bio-absorbents (Sorbent), containing the oil consuming bacteria, which have been initially in inactive condition, but to get activated by the oil absorbed through the pores of the sorbent’s granules. Bacteria will recycle all the oil in a relatively short period of time (up to 2 hours). (If not collected,) finally the Sorbent granules will immerse because of saturating with the recycling products and water.
As a positive example of such an efficient Sorbent there is the Ukraine-produced Ecolan-M. This Sorbent was used as the basic component by working out the impulse-distribution technology (by the working group related to PulsTech).
The current status of using the Sorbents
Using of sorbents is potentially the far most efficient and environment-friendly method of liquidation of oil spills. Still, there is currently a crucial obstacle by their effective using – there is not a reliable effective method for its spreading. As the sorbents are very light (average 150-200g/L), in form of relatively large granules, the air resistance is heavily counteracting to its launching it over longer distances. Mechanical and pneumatic devices for spreading the sorbents have been invented, but with extremely modest capabilities, without any apparent perspectives for a qualitative step-up. The prevailing practice is still that the sorbent is spread manually, throwing it with shovels over the board of the vessel. This way the sorbent will reach only up to ca 3-4m distance, the spreading is extremely unequal and as average only 10-15% of sorbent will occur effectively “working”. Also by such spreading method the vessel has to go repeatedly into oil spill, fragmenting it and aggravating herewith substantially the liquidation process.
Creating The Powerful Technology – By combining the Sorbents with the Impulse-Distribution
The basics of this launching technology has been worked out in the former USSR. It was tested also in real life, by liquidation of oil spills in the Black and Caspian Seas. For this purpose, some experimental devices have been built.
One of these devices is taken as the basis for development of the conceptual device for this project. The conceptual device is able to distribute Sorbent over distances 55…60m and to cover with a single launch uniformly ca 450m2 area. The technology is designed the way that the launching will not cause any substantial damage to the relatively fragile Sorbent granules and to the bacteria inside. The Sorbent will be loaded into the device within the special pre-loaded containers (cassettes).
The complex system of oil liquidation and safety
The main part of the System consists of special sea vessel(s), equipped with the multi-barrel impulse-launcher(s). The System will be complemented with the aerial carriers (the drones) for delivery of vertical impulse-launching containers and for surveillance. The System will be integrated via GPS.
Some of the Systems are reasonable to be built as dual-purpose ones – for liquidation of the oil spills and for fire-fighting. The switching of the system from one purpose to the other will be implemented by changing the set of cassettes/containers used in the device(s) and with changing the algorithm/programs of the operating system.
Exceptional efficiency of the System
The preliminary calculations show that the direct costs by liquidation of the oil spill on the water body by using this System will be in range 3…6 EUR/m2. By using the traditional methods – this figure is ca 40 EUR/m2 as average.
The results of the experiments carried out reveal that the difference of time needed liquidate the oil spill may reach 20 times in favor of the System and the difference of the preparatory operations needed can be even bigger – up to 50 times.
The confining factor of using the System is that the bacteria will “work” by above-zero temperatures only (most effectively starting 4…50C), but absorbing of the oil by the Sorbent granules will proceed under all temperatures. The System will enable to proceed the liquidation works also by relatively big waves, which is a real obstacle for using the most of the traditional methods.