Secret Agent For Hydrocarbon Removal
C.I.Agent® Agent-Q, comprising a proprietary polymer blend quilted between layers of nonwoven fabric, traps and solidifies hydrocarbons while allowing water to flow through freely.
Janet Bealer Rodie, Managing Editor
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico focused global attention on the
urgency of having effective oil cleanup and removal solutions close to the shore as well as out in
the Gulf. Then, in October 2012, Superstorm Sandy came along, causing significant damage and
growing ever larger as it traveled from the Caribbean Sea over Cuba northward into the Atlantic
Ocean and northeastward some distance off the Southeast coast, finally turning northwestward to
ravage the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions. Coastal areas of New Jersey and New York in
particular saw major flooding and other damage and disruption, with water entering underground
areas of utility generating plants and substations in addition to subways, tunnels and underground
storage areas; and those waters often mixed with oil, gasoline and other toxic hydrocarbons. Water
has had to be pumped out of those places, and cleanup solutions have had to include removal of
those hydrocarbon substances from the water as well as from the surfaces of equipment, walls,
floors and other surfaces.
C.I.Agent Solutions, Louisville, Ky., manufacturer of C.I.Agent® — a blend of seven U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved food-grade, environmentally benign polymers specifically formulated to trap and solidify organic hydrocarbons — offers these blends in loose granule form and also contained within nonwoven geotextiles or other containment materials to suit a variety of needs from secondary spill containment to stormwater drainage to filtration to emergency spill response.
According to Tom Downs, who is responsible for R&D on polymer products for C.I.Agent Solutions, the company has been in business for about 35 years and started out offering waste minimization products and services for the automotive and trucking industries. "About 12 years ago, we started tinkering with polymers and blending them and came up with a proprietary blend of seven different polymers that can deal with all kinds of hydrocarbons in temperatures ranging from -30°F to +130°F," he said. "We can solidify the different hydrocarbons based on the mixture of the polymers."
Once the oil is trapped within the polymer granules, the mix solidifies into a rubber-like mass that will not break down, Downs said. "In most cases, it can go straight to the landfill because none of the constituents will ever leach into the groundwater, but it also can be blended with asphalt, used as energy source — it generates about 19,000 BTU of energy — or recycled as a rubber," he explained.
C.I.Agent® Agent-Q (background) comprises a high-strength, lightweight, hydrophilic quilted spunbond composite embedded with a proprietary blend of seven polymers in powder form. Potential applications include (top to bottom) drip pads, sheen booms and filter media.
The first geotextile products, in which the polymer granules are laminated between two layers of a geotextile, have been effective at collecting spilled oil, but they have not been completely satisfactory solutions, as the water flow through them is somewhat restricted and they are not as flexible as one might wish for certain uses. In the company's newest product, patent-pending C.I.Agent Agent-Q, the polymer granules are embedded between layers of high-strength, lightweight hydrophilic spunbond nonwoven fabric that are quilted together via ultrasonic bonding. According to the company, Agent-Q performs the same cleanup function as the earlier products using less polymer — one square meter (m2) of fabric holds 350 grams of C.I.Agent; and water flows freely through the fabric at the rate of 400 gallons per minute per m2 as the oil is taken up by the polymer granules. Downs said 2 pounds of C.I.Agent encapsulates 1 gallon of hydrocarbon.
The company contracted Rakesh Gupta, Ph.D. to help it find the optimal textile material and design the Agent-Q product. Gupta is a Kingsport, Tenn.-based independent consultant who has expertise in fibers, nonwovens and other textile products; product and process development; and other areas. "It is a very lightweight nonwoven, but it has enough strength to withstand the wear and tear of the application, and you can use a number of layers of product depending on the properties you are looking for," he said, noting that the fabric is sourced in the United States.
Downs pointed out that in a filter application, the end-user can install the filter in a containment system and leave the valve open to allow water to process through and not back up in the containment area, while all of the oil is held back. He added that Agent-Q also processes oil sheen and mentioned that multiple layers would be useful for total stoppage of a hydrocarbon substance to keep it from entering a body of water in the first place.
B.J. O'Banion-Daniel, marketing director, C.I.Agent Solutions, noted that Agent-Q is allowing such good flow rates that the company plans to use it with other products as well. "We plan to start using it in quite a few utility products for secondary containment," she said, adding that there are promising opportunities to provide it to original equipment manufacturers that produce a range of products including pleated filters, among others.
For more information about C.I.Agent® Agent-Q, contact B.J. O'Banion-Daniel +866-242-4368; firstname.lastname@example.org; ciagent.com.
November 20, 2012