Just last May, a ruptured pipeline in California leaked over 100,000 gallons of crude oil along the coast of Santa Barbara.
According to the US Environmental Protection agency, tens of thousands of oil spills occur every year, and the prevention technology to deal with their aftermath has not changed in over three decades. Recovery rates continue to hover just below 15 percent, a figure that has not improved much over the years either.
The existing containment booms are considered bulky, sometimes weighing up to 10 kg per meter. Teams typically take at least 10 hours to respond to a crisis, a time frame too long to be efficient.
Israeli startup company HARBO Technologies aims to tackle this devastating environmental problem using an easy-to-use “floatie” it has developed, which can contain an oil spill in less than one hour. It simply circles the spill and “encapsulates” it; then, the oil “stain” is lifted and disposed of – away from the water.
HARBO says its solution is less bulky, easier to operate, and requires minimal training for on-site personnel, This, in comparison to traditional oil booms, would be able to cut response time down from hours to just about 20 minutes. The size of a lifeboat, HARBO’s oil containment technology is optimized for any type of wind, current, or wave conditions.
HARBO’s 100-foot prototype “boom” (floating barrier) contains up to two tons of crude oil overnight, without leaking, according to the company. In the future, each location will have 6,000 feet of boom, which can contain 800,000 gallons of oil (25,000 tons). This new tech is an alternative to the traditional technology used to respond to oil spills in the ocean.
In order to prove its concept, HARBO’s team put their solution to the test in late 2014 in the Ohmsett testing facility in New Jersey, which is operated by officials from the US Department of the Interior to test oil spill solutions and response methods. After that initial test proved successful, HARBO is now approved to provide oil spill solutions in several US areas.
HARBO has passed the initial phases of patenting its technology, with patents pending in 30 countries – including the US, Canada, China, and most of Europe. The first patents are expected to be granted within the next 12 months.
By the end of 2016, HARBO expects to have its technology commercially available, at which point a price will be set. There are over 50,000 potential installations for HARBO technology – including oil rigs, tankers, large ships, and coast guard response teams, which means a huge potential to save our oceans.