New oil recovery locations are spawning a need for new technology. To prepare the petroleum industry for oil spills, one small company in Northern Norway has made innovative strides in oil boom technology.
Funded partly by the PETROMAKS programmet at the Research Council of Norway the objective of NorLense AS has been to develop a versatile new system for oil spill contingency that can perform in coastal areas and farther out to sea -- as well as in rough weather and difficult currents.
Boom, separator and skimmer
NorLense's system consists of multiple components: a boom designed to function in concert with a separator and a skimmer for coping with oil partially submerged by breaking waves.
The concept's most important innovations are a separator integrated into the boom and the method by which discharged oil is collected and pumped, together with water, into tanks on board a collection vessel, which may well be an ordinary fishing vessel.
For use in coastal marine areas and on shorelines, lighter equipment that can be combined with various absorption agents is being developed. This equipment will improve preparedness to launch response operations quickly at contaminated coastal sites and facilitate tailoring of contingency measures to local conditions. In NorLense's home district in Northern Norway, for instance, the local peat serves as a good oil absorption agent.
Small company, top-notch expertise
Although NorLense is a small enterprise, enjoys an excellent reputation within its scientific field, both in Norway and abroad. The company possesses highly-specialised expertise and a world-class product -- but customers, research groups and institutions are all found far from its location in Nordland County.
"With our location and a narrow international market," says Terje Olav Hansen, CEO of NorLense, "we have to maintain top expertise, keep developing over time and innovate constantly in order to make a profit and stay on top in our field."
NorLense has supplied the market with innovative equipment for oil spill containment and preparedness for over 30 years.
Partners are essential
The effort to design the new generation of oil-spill contingency products began in 2008 as a collaboration between NorLense, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and oil-spill contingency consultants Reninor AS. In addition, the Research Council and several petroleum companies such as Statoil, Shell and North Energy have played important supporting roles in the development process.
"It's easy to feel small when dealing with the giant petroleum companies and institutions that are our customer base," admits Mr Hansen. "But throughout the development process, our regular contact with the Research Council, various research groups and other commercial players has encouraged us to keep at it. We gain confidence from knowing we can depend on others for the backing we need."
New locations require new technology
"Quicker and more effective management of oil spills is given high priority under the PETROMAKS programme," explains Senior Adviser Tarjei N. Malme of the Research Council of Norway. "As the Norwegian petroleum industry expands its activities to new geographic areas with potentially different weather conditions and new operating conditions, we must ensure that we keep pace by developing technology and building competence to prevent and contain acute oil spills."
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