Proof of Concept Testing of a Self-Propelled Oil Skimming Vessel

During the week of April 12, 2021, Oversea, LLC of Orange, Texas brought the Balaena prototype skimming vessel to Ohmsett to evaluate the performance of the novel oil collection technology. Using the near real-world conditions of the Ohmsett test tank, the team was able to use significant volumes of actual oil to collect data on the recovery rate and efficiency of the system.

The Balaena Express vessel has been in development for about 10 years. The concept for the design came from technical gaps identified during the team’s involvement while responding to previous oil spill events. “During my personal experience as Command Post Coordinator on the Alvenus oil spill in 1984, and then observing the Macondo spill in 2010, it became clear the need for significant improvements in the mitigation of these potentially catastrophic events,” said Russell Covington, Oversea president.

What makes the Balaena Express different from other skimming vessels is that it utilizes ambient water to transfer the floating oil. It can operate both as a stationary skimmer and as a self-propelled recovery vessel. “Since it does not rely on oleophilic technology, it is effective with light to heavy viscosity fluids, and with oils in various stages of emulsification,” said Covington. “It can store and transport the oil collected, to the extent of recovered oil tank capacity, or discharge the recovered oil to transport barges with no interruption to the spill collection process.”

The objective of the week-long test at Ohmsett was to evaluate the proof of concept, to identify opportunities for optimization, and evaluate the clean water discharge. With the skimming vessel moored in the test tank to ensure stability and proper operations in the stationary mode, a boomed area was deployed in front of the skimmer mouth to act as a controlled oil slick. A total of 12 tests were performed while recording recovery rate and efficiency as the skimmer recovered oil in calm water. “After testing was complete, we made some observations of the vessel’s reaction in various wave heights,” commented Covington.

“The test vessel is currently undergoing some minor modifications/improvements resulting from our test experience,” Covington said. “And with proof of concept, we’re initiating Front End Engineering Design (FEED) of Generation II, which will focus on improved performance, operator efficiency, and the option for full remote control function.”

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