The Canadian federal government recently announced investments of $2.89 million for four projects to enhance marine incident prevention and responsiveness along Canada’s ocean coastlines.
Centre for Cold Ocean Resources Engineering (C-CORE)
Through its Oil Spill Response Science (OSRS) program, the federal government provided $991,500 to C-CORE, a St. John’s-based research and development company, to increase the efficiency of existing mechanical oil recovery systems for heavy oil products in harsh, cold environments. The government of Newfoundland and Labrador will also provide $428,500 to the project.
“This project leverages C-CORE’s expertise in analytical modeling, computer simulation and large-scale physical tests to assess and optimize technology performance in harsh environments,” Mark MacLeod, C-CORE president, and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The main intermediate outcome of this project consists of an improved oil spill collection and separation system that can be integrated in an efficient response technique including a specially designed vessel. The system will be based on the established concepts and proven technologies for the recovery of heavy oil spills from seawater in cold and ice prone ocean environments.
The long-term outcome of the project will include specialized vessels with the required detection, storage, and spill removal systems, tested and proven in real-life conditions.
Project partners with C-CORE include Elastec, Eastern Canada Response Corporation Ltd. (ECRC), and InnovatechNL.
University of Toronto
A further $400,000 will go to a University of Toronto project that will develop a sorbent-based direct oil collector (called In-Situ Foam Filtration System or ISFFS) for use in oil spills. This system will be capable of directly reclaiming the dissolved, emulsified, dispersed, and free oil from marine spill sites. To meet this objective, the development of advanced functional foams (sorbents), implementing a bench-top system, and design and optimization of in-situ filtration process as a proof-of-concept will be undertaken.
The ISFF will directly collect the oil from the spill site by pumping through an oil sorbent bed, which serves as the filtration media. For this type of foam, there is no need for high oil-sorption capacity thus, functionalizing the foam with toxic and expensive elements can be avoided along with minimizing material costs. Moreover, the in-situ filtration will make the oil sorption process continuous, simplifies oil collection, making oil spill response quicker and more cost-effective. A process like oil filtration may not be the easiest to understand, but finding out that contamination levels can be lowered, as well as reducing mechanical wear are just a few of its benefits, checking out sites like MT Mechelec could be something worth looking into.
Project partners include Tetra Tech, Polaris Applied Sciences Inc., Dr. Foam Canada, Gracious Living Innovations Inc., and ShawCor Ltd.
University of Alberta’s Advanced Water Research Lab
The OSRS program will be contributing $600,000 towards a $1.65 million project be undertaken at the University of Alberta. The project involves the development of an on-board membrane based hybrid oil/water separation system. If successfully developed, the system will significantly increase the capacity of recovery vessels that physically collect oil spilled at sea, thereby reducing the cost and spill response time for cleanup. The technology can be directly and easily incorporated into existing rapid deployment spill clean-up systems mounted on ships or barges. It would be ready to commercialize for manufacturers of existing oil spill clean-up tankers, making the research easy to implement for large or small-scale spills and for potential use in future high-risk areas of development.
BC Research Inc.
Finally, the federal OSRS program committed $925,000 to BC Research Inc., a company with a broad experience in chemical product development, to further develop a hybrid spill-treating agent (STA) that will help slow or prevent the spread of an oil slick on water.
If the R&D project is successful, a hybrid STA will be commercially available that can be used to combat marine oil spills at large scale. The hybrid STA would have both gelling and herding properties, to prevent or slow down the spreading of an oil slick by rendering it into a thickened (gelled) state, as well as to use it as a herding agent, to facilitate either controlled burn or skimming operations.
Current oil recovery rates for spills on water are estimated to be in the range of 10-20%. With current STAs, there are few options to prevent or slow down weathering processes, including spreading and dispersion. Delaying the spreading and weathering process would potentially facilitate cleanup and improve the degree/rate of oil removed.
Project partners include NORAM Engineers and Constructors and the University of British Columbia.