Coming together to separate oil and water

After the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, it was clear to Mark, Stephen and Michael Neal that it was time to revive an oil-containment boom system (now called the XBOOM) invented by their parents.

The Neals and their company, The Canadian Floating Fence Corporation, approached researchers at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s Applied Research and Innovation Services department for help in refining the boom.

“Coming to SAIT was an amalgamation of great minds working together,” said Stephen Neal. “We had the basics and they maximized and improved upon it — and the results were startling.”

Environmental technologies researchers in the Applied Research department began with validation testing to verify the XBOOM did, indeed, have a 94-per-cent containment rate. Then the department’s design, testing and fabrication researchers furthered the prototype design, creating a unique spar-anchor system that can withstand wind, waves and water currents.

The XBOOM comprises a vertical support system and a composite filter barrier that can separate water and oil. It filters large and small floating objects, bitumen, crude oil and other water-borne debris. This versatile technology can contain hydrocarbon spills in rivers, lakes and oceans. It is designed to divert, redirect and ultimately contain effluent in preparation for skimming and recovery.

The XBOOM has been used by the City of Edmonton to mitigate algae in a park pond, to prepare it for hosting the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series and by the James Smith Cree Nation to contain and absorb an oil spill in the Saskatchewan River. Farther from home, it was used in Trinidad and Tobago to remediate an oil spill and at a North Carolina power plant as an effluent river-control barrier.

The Canadian Floating Fence Corporation is committed to job creation, and is establishing a licensee to manufacture and market the XBOOM system in Australia, where one of the local government’s criteria for approval is guaranteed job creation. At home, Canadian Floating Fence is working to partner with an engineering firm and an Alberta-based First Nation to manufacture the XBOOM on the nation and bring 33 new jobs to indigenous workers.

Industry: Environmental

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