2014 Finalist: Outstanding Achievement in Environmental Technology And Innovation sponsored by Agrium Inc.

 Hydrocarbon Containment System Protects from Oil Leaks and Spills

When it comes to environmental technology innovation, there are two main components. There are the technological leaps that must be made for greener innovation, but there must also be the willingness to make a change.

For the XBOOM hydrocarbon containment technology, both better materials and necessity have come together to create a product that can make a difference in oil spill clean up.

Developed by Canadian Floating Fence Corporation in cooperation with the Environmental Technologies research team at SAIT Polytechnic’s Applied Research and Innovation Services, XBOOM can contain spills across bodies of water.

The upright floating fence has a unique design that allows water to flow through it while enabling the effective containment, collection and redirection of spilled oil or debris in preparation for skimming and clean up. XBOOM is currently in the development stages, with live spill testing the next phase of the process.

Years in the Making

Mark Neal, president of Canadian Floating Fence Corporation, says the initial concept for XBOOM came from his father in the 1970’s. His father was appalled by a spill off the east coast of Canada and he used it as motivation for the first designs that would eventually become XBOOM.

“(My dad) used window screens and J-cloth, the technology of the 70’s,” Neal says. “Now we’re using semi-permeable nylons, polyethylenes and geotextiles that they didn’t even have in the 70’s.”

By using improved materials the team has created a technology that could change the consciousness of the market. Neal calls it an “interruptive” technology.

“It entails everybody having to change the way they (approach oil spills) now by virtue of a new technology. Now we’re able to deal with this challenge (differently). It interrupts what’s being done,” Neal explains.

As environmental consciousness continues to grow there will be an increasing need for technologies that assist in better clean up post-production. XBOOM has been setting itself up to fill that role.

Improving on Existing Technology

The XBOOM isn’t simply providing a solution to an important problem; it is doing so more effectively than other products. While traditional booms typically fail to contain hydrocarbons effectively in water at more than 0.7 knots, the XBOOM successfully contains spills at an estimated 2.0 knots. During oil spills the key is to contain the spill before it spreads and the XBOOM technology is demonstrating increased efficiency by capturing spills moving at a more rapid rate.

XBOOM is made of high-density polyethylene, which is lightweight, buoyant and unaffected by acids, alkali or UV radiation. While current booms are large, bulky and time consuming to deploy, a single person can deploy a 50-metre XBOOM roll in under a minute. Furthermore in small-scale preliminary prototype trials, the XBOOM is capable of containing 99.6 per cent of crude oil in still water and 94 percent in water moving under one knot.

Although more testing is underway the technology is proving to be effective and efficient.

“Oil is going to be around for another hundred years at least before we develop other cleaner energy and with that in mind we can save an awful lot of beaches from just twenty years of remediation of Mother Nature,” Neal says.

“We’re all part of the problem but we can all be part of the solution in one little dimension,” he adds.

On the Horizon

The technology will continue to go through tests at SAIT Polytechnic and as more data is collected the potential of the XBOOM technology will be definitive.

Neal says that in the immediate future the team is looking to go into BC to work with a company to clean live spill tests and implement the XBOOM technology. He envisions the use of the XBOOM to surround a spill and then towed against the current to keep the oil contained in a single location for recovery.

“The next step is to allow (industry players) to play with it in the field and see what they feedback is,” he says.