A new nonwoven fabric for beach protection against oil spills has been developed by European high-tech companies; it can be deployed short-term in large quantities.
The current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is causing major damage to open waters and coastal regions, an acute problem that will persist for months, if not years. Given the magnitude of the oil release, no existing technique alone is able to grant full protection against the oil, which will eventually end up on beaches, rocks and land. Once oil is on land the contamination can be even more severe, and the cost and effort associated with the cleanup tremendous.
The vast coastal eco-system impact of the oil spill was the driving force for HeiQ Materials AG, a Swiss high-performance textile effects company, and TWE, a leading German manufacturer of nonwoven fabrics, to develop, produce and launch an oil-absorbing nonwoven fabric called Oilguard. Rolled out on beaches, Oilguard specifically contributes to beach protection due to its built-in capability to absorb oil while repelling water at the same time.
Oilguard was developed by HeiQ under extreme time constraints in a joint effort with Swiss partner company, Beyond Surface Technologies, and the TWE Group in Germany. The nonwoven fabric can be up to six yards wide and hundreds of yards long. The companies’ current production capacity corresponds to 20 miles of new beach protection every day.
“Currently we are in the process of organizing live testing in collaboration with U.S.
authorities, and will then be able to rapidly contribute to help mitigate the oil contamination of the coastline,” says Jörg Ortmeier, CEO of TWE. Large-scale deployment tests of the Oilguard fabric are planned to take place in the coming weeks, aiming at providing guidance to the relief workers who will ultimately use the product.