Title:
Magnetic connector for spill boom
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A magnetic connector assembly for attaching spill boom to an otherwise featureless coated steel surface comprises a flexible plate having a front side and a back side, at least one magnet mounted to the plate to assert a magnetic field over the back side of the plate, and a connector for the boom mounted to the front side of the plate. The at least one magnet is sized to retain the magnetic connector assembly in a fixed position on a vertically positioned ferromagnetic wall with a force requiring at least 5 pounds to break.



Inventors:
Herzogenrath, Keith W. (Hitchcock, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/983478
Publication Date:
05/14/2009
Filing Date:
11/09/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
114/218, 405/60
International Classes:
E02B15/04; B63B21/04; E02B15/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SINGH, SUNIL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
John R. Casperson (Pensacola, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A magnetic connector assembly for providing a fast-deployment attachment point for an oil spill boom on a ferromagnetic wall, said magnetic connector assembly comprising a connector element for releasably retaining an end of an oil spill boom, said connector element having a front side and a back side, and a plurality of magnets resiliently mounted to the back side of the connector element, each of said plurality of magnets having a flat pole end and having sufficient magnetic field strength to bring the flat pole end into conformance with a surface of the ferromagnetic wall.

2. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 1 further comprising, in combination, a ferromagnetic wall having a substantially flat outer surface, wherein the flat pole end of each magnet is drawn flat against the wall.

3. Apparatus as in claim 2 wherein the ferromagnetic wall comprises a portion of a vessel, a barge, a dock, or a bulkhead having a waterline alongside, and the connector assembly is positioned near the waterline.

4. A magnetic connector assembly for providing a fast-deployment attachment point on a ferromagnetic wall, said magnetic connector comprising a flexible plate having a front side and a back side, at least one magnet mounted to the plate to assert a magnetic field over the back side of the plate, and a connector mounted to the front side of the plate, wherein the at least one magnet is graded with a pull force of at least 30 pounds.

5. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 4 wherein the flexible plate is formed from a material selected from the group consisting of nylon and polyurethane, and wherein the flexible plate has a thickness in the range of 0.02 to about 0.20 inches.

6. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 4 wherein the connector is a boat cleat.

7. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 6 wherein the cleat comprises a central section attached to the plate, and a pair of horns extending in opposite directions from the central section which are spaced apart from the front side of the plate, and wherein the central section of the cleat comprises a pair of spaced apart pedestals which are attached to the plate.

8. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 7 wherein the plate defines a centrally located unoccupied through-hole located between the pair of spaced apart pedestals.

9. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 4 wherein a pair of magnets is mounted to the back side of the plate, and wherein the plate defines a centrally located unoccupied through-hole.

10. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 9 wherein the plate is generally rectangular, having a first end and a second end, and wherein a magnet is mounted near each of the first end and the second end of the plate.

11. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 10 wherein each magnet is carried in a cup having an upper end wall and each cup is mounted to the plate with a screw which penetrates the upper end wall and the plate, the upper end wall being positioned adjacent to the plate.

12. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 11 wherein each magnet comprises a neodymium/iron/boron magnet.

13. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 12 wherein each magnet is graded with a pull force in the range of 40 to 80 pounds.

14. A magnetic connector assembly as in claim 13 wherein the plate is sufficiently rigid to provide the assembly with dimensional stability during ordinary conditions of handling and storage, sufficiently flexible to be deformed during conditions of use by action of the magnets against a ferromagnetic substrate, and sufficiently resilient to rebound to substantially its original configuration when removed from a ferromagnetic substrate.

15. A method for bounding a spill area of floating hydrocarbon or petrochemical on water, said method comprising positioning a first magnetic connector assembly for providing a fast-deployment attachment point on a first ferromagnetic wall partially bounding the spill area at a location near the waterline, said magnetic connector comprising a flexible plate having a front side and a back side, at least one magnet mounted to the plate to assert a magnetic field over the back side of the plate, and a connector mounted to the front side of the plate, wherein the at least one magnet is sized to retain the magnetic connector assembly in a fixed position on the ferromagnetic wall with a force requiring at least 5 pounds to break, attaching a first end of a floating boom containing an oleophilic material to the connector, said floating boom having a first end and a second end, positioning the floating boom to form a boundary for the spill area, positioning a second magnetic connector assembly which is identical to the first magnetic connector assembly on a ferromagnetic wall partially bounding the spill area, said ferromagnetic wall being the same as or different from the first ferromagnetic wall, said second magnetic connector being positioned on the ferromagnetic wall near the waterline, and attaching the second end of the floating boom to the connector of the second magnetic connector assembly to form a boundary for the spill area.

16. A method as in claim 15 wherein the first and second magnetic connectors are attached to a ferromagnetic wall forming a portion of a steel vessel, a steel barge, a steel bulkhead, or a steel dock.

17. A method as in claim 16 wherein the first end and the second end of the floating boom are defined by nautical lines, and the connectors on the front side of the plate are boat cleats.

18. A method as in claim 17 further comprising wrapping a hydrophilic diaper around the first end and the second end of the boom after the end of the boom is attached to the cleat.

19. A method as in claim 17 further comprising inserting the first end and the second end of the boom through a hydrophilic doughnut for a marine fuel nozzle prior to attaching the end of the boom to the cleat.

20. A method as in claim 17 wherein the plates each define a centrally located unoccupied through-hole, said method further comprising threading each nautical line down through a through-hole, passing each line across a back side of a plate to an edge of the plate and up around the edge of the plate, and securing each of the lines to a cleat.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to apparatus and method for controlling spills, particularly spills of hydrocarbonacous fluids on water.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The term hydrocarbonaceous fluids as applied to spills generally means buoyant water-insoluble hydrocarbons or petrochemicals. In common usage. however, such spills are usually simply referred to as oil spills. On a tonnage basis, petroleum and its various fractions are the hydrocarbonacous fluids most commonly encountered in marine spills.

Marine vessels which carry above a minimum amount of fuel or bulk liquids are required to carry spill kits which include absorbent boom which is to be assembled and deployed as a first response to a spill. The spill kits are also found on docks. Absorbent boom, also known as sausage boom or soft boom, is provided in generally tubular sections about 10 feet long and about 5 inches in diameter and the sections are roped together with overlap and deployed as quickly as possible after a spill to mitigate its spread. This was historically done simply by attaching lines to the ends of the boom and tossing the boom into the water.

After more than 20 years in the oil spill business, I felt that there had to be a more efficient and effective manner to deploy absorbent boom. One problem with the traditional method was that the oil that the boom was to contain and absorb would escape around both ends of the boom because there was no way to seal the boom fast to both a vessel hull or a steel dock near the waterline. Responders just ran the boom lines up the side of a vessel or dock and tied the end of the rope to a deck or dock cleat or to a strong point on the deck or somewhere on the dock. Because the fastening point was several feet above the waterline, wind and current action acting on the boom would pull it away from the vessel or dock to the limits of the fastening line, permitting significant amounts of the spill to escape between the vessel or dock and the end of the boom and cause collateral damage by oiling nearby assets or the environment. Because the lines often extended across ordinarily unimpeded walkway areas, they presented a tripping hazard, especially during hours of darkness.

A device to reduce the amount of collateral damage to near by assets and the environment by not allowing oil to escape from the boomed area was clearly needed. The damage to the responsible party's reputation increases where the spill has not been adequately contained. The required cleanup of oiled barges, vessels, docks and the environment costs time and money and results in delays in product delivery by the responsible party and others affected by the spill. Further financial damage occurs to the party charged with the spill because of the idle time brought about in both the responsible party and its victims by waiting for cleanup to occur.

OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of this invention to reduce the flow of spilled products around the ends of a boom.

It is another object of this invention to provide a device to reduce the risk of tripping during spill cleanup operations.

It is another object of this invention to provide a device to reduce the responsible party's financial liability during spill incidents.

It is another object of this invention to provide a readily deployed boom connector for steel vessels, barges and steel bulkheads.

It is another object of this invention to provide a connector for boom which is inexpensive and small in size, making it ideal for spill kits.

It is another object of this invention to provide a connector for boom which conform to non-flat surfaces, such as barge rakes, pipes and uneven vessel hulls.

It is another object of this invention to provide a connector for boom which is reusable and can be deployed at or near the waterline.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of the invention provides a magnetic connector assembly for providing a fast-deployment attachment point for an oil spill boom on a ferromagnetic wall. The magnetic connector assembly comprises a connector element for releasably retaining an end of an oil spill boom. The connector element has a front side and a back side. A plurality of magnets are resiliently mounted to the back side of the connector element. Each of the plurality of magnets has a flat pole end and has sufficient magnetic field strength to overcome the resilient mounting and bring the flat pole end into conformance with a surface of the ferromagnetic wall.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, there is provided a magnetic connector assembly comprising a flexible plate having a front side and a back side, at least one magnet mounted to the plate to assert a magnetic field over the back side of the plate, and a connector mounted to the front side of the plate. The at least one magnet is sized to retain the magnetic connector assembly in a fixed position on a vertically positioned ferromagnetic wall with a force requiring at least 5 pounds to break.

In another embodiment of the invention, there is provided a method for bounding a spill area of floating hydrocarbon or petrochemical on water. The method comprises positioning a first magnetic connector assembly for providing a fast-deployment attachment point on a first ferromagnetic wall partially bounding the spill area at a location near the waterline. The first magnetic connector comprises a flexible plate having a front side and a back side, at least one magnet mounted to the plate to assert a magnetic field over the back side of the plate, and a connector mounted to the front side of the plate. The at least one magnet is sized to retain the magnetic connector assembly in a fixed position on the ferromagnetic wall with a force requiring at least 5 pounds to break. A first end of a floating boom containing an oleophilic material is attached to the connector. The floating boom has a first end and a second end. The floating boom to is positioned to form a boundary for the spill area. A second magnetic connector assembly which is identical to the first magnetic connector assembly is positioned on a ferromagnetic wall partially bounding the spill area. The ferromagnetic wall on which the second connector is positioned can be the same as or different from the first ferromagnetic wall. The second magnetic connector is positioned on the ferromagnetic wall near the waterline. The second end of the floating boom is attached to the connector of the second magnetic connector assembly to form a boundary for the spill area.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a pictorial illustration of a barge having an adjacently deployed spill boom in accordance with certain aspects of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a detailed illustration of a portion of FIG. 1 showing a connector according to certain aspects of the invention.

FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view of the connector shown in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a detailed illustration of a modified connector suitable for use as shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a side view, in partial cross section, of the connector shown in FIG. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of the invention provides a magnetic connector assembly 2, 102 for providing a fast-deployment attachment point for an oil spill boom 4 on a ferromagnetic wall 6. The magnetic connector assembly comprises a connector element 8, 108 for releasably retaining an end of the oil spill boom. The connector element has a front side and a back side. A plurality of magnets 10, 12 (110, 112 in FIGS. 4 and 5) are resiliently mounted to the back side of the connector element. Each of the plurality of magnets has a flat pole end 14, 16 (114, 116 in FIGS. 4 and 5) and has sufficient magnetic field strength to bring the flat pole end into conformance with a surface of the ferromagnetic wall.

Generally speaking, the ferromagnetic wall comprises a portion of a vessel, a barge, a dock, or a bulkhead having a waterline alongside, and the connector assembly is positioned near the waterline. A barge 18 is illustrated. Usually, the vessel, barge, dock or bulkhead will have a rust preventative coating on the outer surface thereof, such as paint or polymer. Generally speaking, the wall will be substantially flat at the attachment point, so that the flat pole end of each magnet can be magnetically drawn flat against the wall.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the magnetic connector assembly comprises a flexible plate 20, 120 having a front side and a back side, at least one magnet 10, 12 (110, 112 to the plate 120) mounted to the plate to assert a magnetic field over the back side of the plate, and a connector 8, 108 mounted to the front side of the flexible plate. The at least one magnet is sized to retain the magnetic connector assembly in a fixed position on a vertically positioned ferromagnetic wall with a force requiring at least 5 pounds to break.

The plate is preferably formed from a polymeric material, and is most preferably hydrocarbon resistant and water insoluble. Nylon and polyurethane are examples of suitable polymeric material. The plate generally has a thickness in the range of 0.02 to about 0.20 inches.

Functionally speaking, the plate is sufficiently rigid to provide the assembly with dimensional stability during ordinary conditions of handling and storage, sufficiently flexible to be deformed during conditions of use by action of the magnets against a ferromagnetic substrate, and sufficiently resilient to rebound to substantially its original configuration when removed from a ferromagnetic substrate. Usually, the plate is rectangular and has a length and a width, with the width being between 10 percent and 40 percent of the length of the plate.

The connector is preferably a boat cleat 22, 122. More preferably, the boat cleat comprises a central section 24, 124 which is attached to the plate, and a pair of horns 26, 28 (126, 128 in FIGS. 4 and 5) which extend in opposite directions from the central section and are spaced apart from the front side of the plate to enable securement of the boom line 52. In the illustrated embodiments, the central section of the cleat comprises a pair of spaced apart pedestals 32, 34 (132, 134 in FIGS. 4 and 5) which are attached to the plate.

In the embodiment of the invention shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the plate 120 defines an unoccupied through-hole 50, preferably centrally located on the plate, and more preferably positioned at a location between the pedestals 132 and 134. The through-hole has a diameter large enough to accept the boom line 52, and is generally in the range of ⅜ to ¾ inches. A through-hole with a diameter of ½ inch has been tested with good results.

In the preferred embodiment, the cleat is constructed of a hydrocarbon and salt water-resistant material, and the ends of the horns are positioned in the range of ½ inch to two inches from the plate. The cleat is connected to the plate with stainless steel fasteners. Where the plate is rectangular, the cleat has a length as measured between the ends of the horns which is in the range of 50 percent to 90 percent of the length of the plate. A 4½ inch boat cleat is expected to provide good results for soft boom.

Preferably, the at least one magnet is mounted to the back side of the plate, and more preferably, two magnets are used. Where the plate is generally rectangular, having a first end and a second end, a magnet is preferably mounted near each of the first end and the second end of the plate.

Mounting magnets have been used with good results. Each of the magnets is carried in a cup having an upper end wall and each cup is mounted to the plate with a screw which penetrates the upper end wall and the plate, the upper end wall of the cup being positioned adjacent to the plate. The cups in the preferred embodiment are generally disc-shaped and have a diameter and a height, the diameter being in the range of from 3 to 10 times the height. Preferably, the diameter of the cup is in the range of from 4 to 8 times the height, and the height of the cup, A, is less than ½ inch.

The magnets carried by the cups are generally disc or ring-shaped axial pole magnets which are sized to be accepted by the cup. Each magnet has a central bore therethrough for accepting the screw and is retained in the cup by an adhesive bedding material.

The magnets preferably comprise a rare earth metal, more preferably, each being a neodymium/iron/boron magnet. Generally speaking, each magnet is graded with a pull force of at least 30 pounds, generally in the range of 40 to 80 pounds, to provide adequate binding strength against its substrate, generally painted steel, in a marine environment. The cup and the magnet are also preferably plated to resist corrosion and rusting due to exposure to salt water or salty air.

Magnets which have been used with good results magnets are neodymium/iron/born, grade N38, having a pull strength of about 60 pounds. The coating on the magnets is Ni—Cu. By using magnets attached to a nylon plate with a nylon deck cleat also attached to the nylon plate it makes for a much improved seal to a steel vessel hull and or a steel bulkhead. When used properly the seal is almost 100% as very little oil can escape around the connection of the boom and vessel or dock where the boom with the magnetic cleat is deployed.

In another embodiment of the invention, there is provided a method for bounding a spill area of floating hydrocarbon or petrochemical on water. The method comprises positioning a first magnetic connector assembly 8 for providing a fast-deployment attachment point on a first ferromagnetic wall 6 partially bounding the spill area at a location near the waterline 7. The first magnetic connector comprises a flexible plate having a front side and a back side, at least one magnet mounted to the plate to assert a magnetic field over the back side of the plate, and a connector mounted to the front side of the plate. The at least one magnet is sized to retain the magnetic connector assembly in a fixed position on the ferromagnetic wall with a force requiring at least 5 pounds to break. A first end of a floating boom 4 containing an oleophilic material is attached to the connector. The floating boom has a first end and a second end. The floating boom to is positioned to form a boundary for the spill area. A second magnetic connector assembly 9 which is preferably identical to the first magnetic connector assembly is positioned on a ferromagnetic wall partially bounding the spill area. The ferromagnetic wall on which the second connector is positioned can be the same as or different from the first ferromagnetic wall. In the illustration, it is the same, wall 6. The second magnetic connector is positioned on the ferromagnetic wall near the waterline. The second end of the floating boom is attached to the connector of the second magnetic connector assembly to form a boundary for the spill area.

By ferromagnetic is meant that a magnet will stick to it. In a marine environment, the ferromagnetic wall is generally surfaced with a non-ferromagnetic coating to resist corrosion and rust and the magnetic connectors are positioned on the coating. The ferromagnetic walls generally form a portion of a steel vessel, a steel barge, steel dock, or steel bulkhead.

The first end and the second end of the floating boom are defined by nautical lines, and the connectors on the front side of the plate are preferably boat cleats. The lines can be attached to the cleats in the usual manner, before or after the cleat is positioned on the wall. However, in the embodiment as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the line, preferably a loop, is threaded down through the hole, across the back side of the plate to the edge, up around the edge of the plate, and secured to at least one of the horns of the cleat. This procedure pulls the end of the boom 4 close to the plate to reduce the gap between the wall and the end of the boom. The small gaps remaining at the ends of the boom can be further reduced, if desired, by wrapping a hydrophilic diaper around the first end and the second end of the boom after the respective end of the boom is attached to the cleat, or by inserting the ends of the boom through hydrophilic “doughnuts,” such as are typically used to surround a marine fuel nozzle during fueling operations, prior to attaching the end of the boom to the cleat.

Typically, emergency spill kits positioned on vessels, barges and docks already contain soft boom and line, usually lightweight polypropylene rope. In the invention, the connector assemblies, which take up only a small amount of room, would also be positioned in the emergency spill respond kit positioned on a barge or vessel for ready access in the event need arises to deploy them.

While certain preferred embodiments of the invention have been described herein, the invention is not to be so limited, except to the extent that such limitations are found in the claims.