By Abbie Yarger
More than 60 members of the Industrial Fabrics Association International are preparing products for clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico following the April 20 explosion of the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The oil gusher at the source of the spill, located 5,000 feet below the ocean surface and about 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast, is emitting an estimated minimum of 210,000 gallons of oil per day with a possible maximum of more than 10 times that amount. Attempts to contain the spill and protect shoreline are in effect at several staging areas in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Textiles and containment
Fabric components play a crucial role in oil containment efforts. Oil skimmers made of PVC separate oil from the surface of a body of water. Geotextiles and PVC-coated fabric are options for creating turbidity curtains, which can prevent oil from spreading. Hanesbrands Inc., Winston Salem, N.C., donated a less technical solution—50,000 pairs of pantyhose—for making booms filled with human and pet hair to absorb and trap the oil.
A more traditional containment tool manufactured using PVC or urethane is the oil containment boom, which creates a floating barrier to contain oil and protect shoreline. More than 1 million feet of containment boom has been deployed to the GOM site.
IFAI members supply oil boom containment materials
Several IFAI members are providing materials and equipment for oil boom containment production to help meet the growing demand for booms. Miller Weldmaster manufactures machines that produce oil booms and has increased supplies of these machines for immediate use at the GOM site. “The requests we are getting for production are for hundreds of miles of product,” says Jeff Sponseller, executive vice president of Miller Weldmaster, Navarre, Ohio. Three T-300 machines can produce a combined total of 675 feet of oil boom per hour.
“Value Vinyls is supplying tens of thousands of feet of 22-ounce coated vinyl to boom manufacturers, as well as securing additional capacity to prepare and ship hundreds of thousands of feet for these new and urgent requests,” says Randy Busch, president of Value Vinyls, Grand Prairie, Texas.
Cooley Specialty Products, Pawtucket, R.I., also designs quality fabrics specifically for oil booms. “Critical applications, such as maritime spill containment, require materials that will stand up to rough weather and harsh climates,” says Darius Shirzadi, business manager at Cooley. Cooley products for oil booms include Coolthane® thermoplastic urethane, Coolguard 24-ounce with DuPont Elvaloy® and Coolguard HRL 35-ounce membrane with Elvaloy.
How IFAI members can help
IFAI continues to update its website and LinkedIn page with the latest news and discussions of the spill. A list of suppliers involved in efforts to contain the spill is available here and on the IFAI website. To be added to the list, contact IFAI’s Information and Technical Services Manager Juli Case. Members can also call the BP hotline at +1 281 366 5511 to register as consultant, contractor, vendor, or to submit information on alternative response technology, services, products or suggestions pertaining to the spill.
What happens next?
Demand for fabrics will continue after containment materials are in place. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration is working with BP to provide equipment to protect the more than 2,000 volunteers and 3,000 personnel working on or near the site from hazardous materials.
Once the booms are removed, they will need to be disposed of properly. Many bags of debris from the Exxon Valdez spill on March 24, 1989 in Prince William Sound, Alaska, were sent to a hazardous waste landfill in Arlington, Ore. A similar facility will be utilized to store waste from the GOM spill and will require geosynthetic materials to properly line the landfill. IFAI and Specialty Fabrics Review will continue to track this story and the important role of fabrics in the spill recovery.
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