Updated: Oil spill a boon for oil boom industry


In a bid to meet unrelenting demand, oil boom manufacturers are working around the clock to supply their product to the Gulf Coast oil spill, with the ecological disaster creating opportunities for plastics sheet foam in particular. Protective and flexible packaging manufacturer Pregis Corp. (Deerfield, IL) has seized on the opportunity to promote its Microfoam low-density polypropylene (PP) sheet foam, looking to beat out polyethylene (PE) alternatives. "Boom manufacturers are putting on second and third shift production crews and still cannot meet demand for oil containment products," Chris Frawley, Microfoam business manager at Pregis told PlasticsToday. "With oil continuing to spill into the Gulf of Mexico, and an increasingly larger geography affected, the demand for new oil booms will continue to be high for quite some time."

Pregis says that in addition to the foam's closed-cell construction, which allows it to repel water, the PP foam is 50% lighter than PE, resulting in superior buoyancy. In addition, during production, PP foam, unlike PE versions, doesn't require butane off-gassing, shortening its lead time. PE foams can require five to seven days of degassing at the manufacturing plant to stabilize the material before it's shipped, causing delays when the booms are urgently required. Frawley said Pregis has been "proactively reaching out to all of our oil boom customers," pointing out the benefits of obviating off gassing. "The two things that are most critical right now are performance and speed," Frawley said.

Pregis Microfoam polypropylene foam
Pregis is promoting its PP Microfoam for use in oil booms.

Deployed around or across the path of a drifting oil spill, oil booms are a curtain-like device that's weighted on the bottom edge to hold that section below the water's surface with floats on the upper edge to keep the top portion above the surface. The floats are typically made from a series of vinyl sleeves, with each encasing a buoyant core material.

In addition to its benefits in operation, Pregis says its Microfoam's lighter weight allows more product to be delivered. The foam is delivered to containment companies in jumbo rolls of sheet, measuring 72 inches wide and 3600 ft long. Rolls are loaded onto a spindle, unrolled, then rerolled, until they reach the required diameter, which is most commonly about 6 inches. A 6-ft-long section of core is then encased in vinyl. Pregis says the roll's jumbo size means fewer changeovers in production, while its lighter weight makes it easy for plant workers to handle. Pregis says Microfoam is recyclable, photodegradable, and has a high melt point (320°F). [email protected]

 

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