Smart polymer technology is delivering a new generation of pollution prevention products. It provides a low cost yet uniquely effective method of neutralising hydrocarbons.

Green Rhino has pioneered the use of smart polymers in two key applications, spill control and bund drainage. The blend of smart polymers absorbs and solidifies a wide range of hydrocarbons such as petrol, diesel, engine oil and HVO. This proprietary blend has been deployed in a range of products which offer significantly improved pollution prevention over the most commonly-used alternatives.

On construction sites, the leakage of engine oil and refuelling spills is a key environmental risk.

The most common approach to this is to use absorbent spill trays which are placed underneath motorised equipment. These products are demonstrably flawed. Absorbents act like a sponge – soaking up hydrocarbons. When it rains, however, the absorbent becomes saturated – flushing out the contaminants. What you end up with is a spill tray full of contaminated water. This waste water should be disposed of responsibly in a hazardous waste bin but more often than not is left to overflow or emptied out onto the ground.

Most Environmental Managers and Site Managers openly admit that these products do not prevent pollution. 

To overcome these problems, Green Rhino has developed the EnviroPad® spill mat. EnviroPad contains a layer of smart polymer which attracts and solidifies hydrocarbons – turning them into a rubber-like substance. The solidified contaminants are locked inside the pad permanently. They won’t leak out and they can’t be flushed out by rainwater of jet washing. 

Whereas absorbent-based products require sidewalls to hold in the contaminated water, EnviroPad doesn’t. This means that you can drive vehicles on and off – making it an ideal solution for refuelling stations. The EnviroPad spill mat is rugged enough to handle the attentions of even large tracked vehicles like excavators.

A related area in which smart polymers can offer improvements in performance is in spill pillows and booms. Pillows are used to clean up spills on standing water while booms are used on rivers, lakes and the sea.

Again, the drawback of absorbents is that they don’t retain contaminants when saturated. Green Rhino’s smart polymer pillows and booms absorb and solidify hydrocarbons trapping them inside. This has a number of advantages.

Firstly, saturation won’t cause hydrocarbons to be flushed out of the product – either in situ or when removed from the water. In fact, Green Rhino’s spill pillows and booms can be wrung out to remove excess water. Secondly, the products can be reused until all the smart polymer has been activated.

The other area in which smart polymers have been successfully applied is bund drainage, particularly transformer bunds. 

Transformers contain hundreds, often thousands, of litres of transformer oil. As the transformer ages, this oil starts to leak out and mixes with rainwater in the transformer bund. The traditional approach is to build an oil-discriminating pump into the bund at the construction stage. This will pump rainwater out of the bund, filtering out oil and diverting it to a storage tank. This approach adds significant costs, requires a power supply, and will require regular maintenance. It also generates a reservoir of used oil which will need to be removed by a waste disposal contractor.

The Green Rhino Oil Removal Cartridge is a small, low-cost device which fits to a simple drainage outlet in the bund wall. The cartridge allows rainwater in the bund to drain out naturally whilst smart polymers inside the cartridge filter out oil to non-detect levels.

When all the polymer in the filter has been activated by oil, flow is naturally blocked so no leakage can occur. This means that the cartridges deliver a failsafe response in the event of a catastrophic breach.

It’s a simple, elegant solution which requires no power and minimal maintenance. 

It’s an ideal solution for new transformers where the risk is low. As the risk increases, you can scale up by fitting larger cartridges or installing additional ones until the level of leakage requires a more substantial solution. 

Disclaimer: The information provided through Greenham Pulse is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Greenham Pulse is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.