Oil dispersal: making it easier to get it right
“The use of dispersant for oil is controversial,” said John Hughes of Ayles Fernie. “If you pour dispersant into the sea, it just creates another issue on top of your original problem.”
“So, you need to do it in a responsible way, not overdosing or missing the target,” he said. It comes to control of the spray: “What you want are droplets that are not moving too quickly or too heavy so they don’t just smash through the oil spill on the surface and into the water underneath.” However, he added: “Equally we don’t want a mist, as that will just be carried off by the wind.”
Therefore a lot of work has been focused on the head of the device. “We know that if we put a particular flow through this nozzle, the backpressure will generate droplets between 300 and 800 microns,” he explained. Still, the industry has been a little slow to recognise that effectiveness is little to do with the size of the pump: “We still get specifications asking for something that will deliver 300l a minute,” he said.
While Ayles Fernie has developed units to be integrated into dedicated oil-spill response vessels and even one that can be used from the air, the company’s Ecospray 80 is designed to be mobile and used from workboats. The engine driving the pump is a lightweight Yanmar L48 so the whole thing only weighs 65kg and it comes on its own trolley, making it easy to transport. When stowing, the frame simply folds over forwards.
The Ecospray 80 has, at its heart, an ‘AFEDO’ nozzle. “That stands for Ayles Fernie Even Drop Out,” explained his colleague Danny Matthews. “It means you can take a cup and stand underneath this spray for a minute at two metres away, then do it again at four metres distance... and you’ll still see exactly the same amount in the cup.”
More, it’s designed to be put to work by a single crewman: the instructions are marked clearly on the front, in English, Chinese, Arabic and Spanish. Set up is just a matter of connecting the hoses, most importantly, just two handles adjust the proportion of dilution: it will supply between zero to 50% dilution by turning one handle, and 50% to 100% just by turning another.
“The fixed output flow takes out the possibility of operator error,” concluded Matthews.
By Stevie Knight
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