Robot in place to contain oil spills


RobotA new robot has been introduced at the Port of Gothenburg to deploy booms in the event of an oil spill.

The Port of Gothenburg is the site of the largest energy port in Scandinavia with crude oil being brought in and refined into petrol, diesel, asphalt and other products. Despite very strict safety stipulations, an accident could occur resulting in an oil spill.

“What is most important is that the oil is contained as quickly as possible to allow clearance to begin,” said Dan-Erik Andersson, Head of Operations at the Energy Port in Gothenburg.

For this purpose, the Port of Gothenburg has invested SEK 3.5 million in an automatic GPS-controlled boom. In the event of a spill, a member of staff at the Energy Port office presses a button on the wall. This activates a torpedo-like unmanned craft that travels around the dock towing a 400-metre-long boom. The automatic boom is made of plastic and is half a metre below water and 20 cm above water.

“The robot tows the boom from one pier to another. It could be said that it forms a large bag in which the oil is collected. It has already been in operation once for testing and the results were good,” said Mr Andersson.

Compared with the customary approach – towing booms manually using boats – the automatic boom saves time. It takes approximately 10 minutes to contain a spill compared to half an hour when the booms are towed by boat.

“These are valuable minutes if we are to limit the spill as much as possible,” said Mr Andersson.

It is the Gothenburg-based company SP Marine, together with the Port of Gothenburg, that has developed the automatic boom. The project commenced five years ago.

“It has taken a long time to adapt the robot to the conditions in the Göta Älv river and at the Energy Port and that is why it feels particularly gratifying now that development has been completed,” said Mr Andersson.

Similar robots are used in Malmö and are being developed in Stenungsund and up to now this technology is unique to Sweden.