Cleaning of oil spills

Cleaning of oil spills

August 22, 2008

When an oil spill has occurred it is important to contain and recover the oil as quickly as possible. Norut Narvik has studied various sorbent materials.

The deployment of sorbent material that can soak up the oil and make it easier to collect is vital. Norut Narvik has performed a Interreg IIIA Nord Kolarctic project investigating the performance of different types of sorbents and the potential for improving the technology currently used.

Increasing petroleum activity in Northern Norway and the Barents region, coupled with recent accidents resulting in oil spills has increased attention on technologies for coping with oil spills. From TV coverage of oil spills most people are familiar with oil booms for containing and skimmers for sucking up excess oil. A second line of defense is to absorb the oil to a material (particulate or sheets) that prevents the oil depositing on other surfaces (beach or birdlife) and makes the collection and handling of the oil easier.

Absorption capacity

Norut Narvik has recently completed a project looking at the performance of different types of sorbents for oil spills. Coarsely milled tree bark is used commonly in Norway as a sorbent for oil spills. Alternative products were obtained including mineral, peat-based and different types of fibre. The starting point for the project was contact with two Russian companies who had developed sorbents for oil. Sorbent products were compared in terms of parameters of relevance to their practical application, such as sorption capacity, water resistance, floatability and oil binding.

Method development

The first problem that had to be solved was finding a method for comparing the sorption capacity, as the commonly used standard methods were found to be unsuitable for use with thick oil and oil-water emulsions and/or fine sorbent particles. Two methods were developed for use in the project: one as a rapid method for investigating the influence of variables, and a second method for investigating in more detail the performance of the sorbents with skimming and pressing.

Potential for improvement

The results confirmed that there is potential for improving the handling of oil spills by using other types of sorbent products. A major drawback for the bark sorbent was that it had a moisture content of 50%, which makes it prone to freezing, gives poor floating properties and a low absorption capacity. However even when the bark was dried, and ground to finer particles, it did not manage to match the performance of the other products.

The project was financed by the Interreg IIIA Nord Kolarctic programme, StatoilHydro/ENI Norge and Nordland and Troms fylkeskommune.

For more information, contact Ross Wakelin tlf.: 76 96 53 63