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PREGIS CORP'S MICROFOAM low-density polypropylene (PP) sheet foam offers benefits for oil boom containment manufacturers looking for exceptional flotation core performance.

An oil boom is a curtain-like device deployed around or across the path of a drifting oil spill. The curtain is weighted on the bottom edge to hold it a about 40 cm below the surface and has floats on the upper edge to hold it about 40 cm above the surface. The floats are typically made from a series of vinyl sleeves – each encasing a buoyant core material. The objective is to surround the oil as quickly as possible to prevent spreading and facilitate removal.

Microfoam's closed-cell construction, light weight, flexibility and ability to repel water make it an ideal material for oil boom cores. The PP product is 50 per cent lighter than competitive polyethylene (PE) alternatives which results in superior buoyancy.

"The oil boom's primary objective is to surround and contain an oil spill. Superior buoyancy is critical to keeping the boom above the oil slick," said Chris Frawley, Microfoam business manager, Pregis. "Additionally, Microfoam's lighter weight means it is more cost-effective to ship vs. polyethylene. This minimises the number of truckloads it takes to deliver the same amount of core material. Less fuel and labour is used which also helps the environment."

Microfoam PP arrives at the containment company in mumbo rolls of sheet foam (183cm wide x 1,000 m long). The roll is loaded onto a spindle and unrolled, then rerolled, until it reaches the required diameter (most commonly, 15 cm). Then the 2-m long core is encased in vinyl.

The roll's jumbo size means fewer changeovers and its light weight makes it easy for plant workers to handle.

"The other benefit to using PP sheet vs. PE profiles is that there is no ageing process involved. PE typically requires five to seven days of 'degassing' at the manufacturing plant to stabilise the material before it is shipped. That can be a big deterrent to manufacturers who need to get containment booms out of their plants fast," said Frawley.

Additionally, Microfoam is recyclable, photodegradable and has a high melt point of 160°centigrade.