By Mike McNulty, Rubber & Plastics News Staff
Carmi, Illinois -- Elastec/American Marine Inc.'s top officials haven't let notoriety go to their heads.
Thrust into the spotlight for months as it took the lead in the massive effort to halt the spread of oil in the Gulf of Mexico-after the Transocean drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded on 20 April 2010-the company today remains what it has always been: a producer of a variety of products that for the most part operates under the radar.
Only it's now much bigger than it was two years ago.
The polyurethane, rubber and vinyl containment boom maker has added a factory in Fairfield, Illinois, to accommodate its expanding production capabilities and growing customer base. Spanning close to 50 000 sq.ft (4645 sq.m), the facility has a work force of about 40 and the firm plans to add to that as the business grows.
E/AM primarily will make booms for the containment of pollutants on water along with storage tanks used for oil collection at the new facility, according to Greg Cassell, vice president of the Boom Division.
Not all of the booms are off the shelf, Marketing Director Linda Henning said. "We do a lot of custom booms."
Headquartered in Carmi, where its main complex consists of three buildings, the company also has a three-building factory site in Cocoa, Florida. Previously all containment booms were made in Cocoa, said Cassell, who heads up both the new Fairfield and Florida operations.
E/AM's new factory will free up needed space to manufacture other products in Cocoa, he said.
The Fairfield facility was needed because E/AM has been growing rapidly in the last two years, Cassell said. "We need a lot of volume and we need inventory. And after the spill in the Gulf we needed more space because of new business and for potential emergencies."
Elastec was launched by entrepreneurs Donnie Wilson and Jeff Cantrell in 1990 in the middle of the Illinois basin, a hotbed for oil and gas production, according to Henning.
Its patented rubber urethane Hydro-Fire Boom and American Fireboom systems are used when pollution control is needed, and especially when oil spills occur. Other equipment E/AM makes also is utilised in such situations, including skimmers, incinerators, custom tarps, vacuum systems, disbursement systems, containment curtains and workboats.
E/AM also makes PermaFence/NetBoom, often used to block jellyfish from jamming water intake filters of power plants. The heavy-duty system is constructed from specially moulded, foam-filled floats surrounded by ultraviolet- and abrasion-resistant high-density polyurethane.
The company, which has sales offices worldwide and distributes its products to 145 countries, moved from virtual obscurity to the front lines two years ago after BP America's Deepwater Horizon burst in the Gulf of Mexico, ultimately becoming the largest oil spill in US history.
A response team of E/AM officials-including Wilson, Cantrell, Alex Smith, Charles Storey, Shon Mosier, Don Johnson, Salih Kilercioglu, Brian Orr and others-headed to the Gulf a few days later.
The company's Hydro-Fire Boom-an inflatable fire resistant, water-cooled boom designed to contain surface oil and burn it offshore-had been requested to help manage the controlled burns. The US Coast Guard selected the boom for a test it conducted in an attempt to control the oil floating on the water's surface. It worked.
BP America and the Coast Guard then authorized controlled burning and every available fire boom was called into action, with E/AM and its team of officials in the lead, to clear the oil and reduce the impact on the shoreline and the Gulf's ecosystem.
The company's crews often worked 16 hours a day for months overseeing, containing and igniting the majority of more than 400 controlled burns in the sea, according to Smith, product development engineer for E/AM.
The majority of the burns were conducted with the firm's booms, he said, as the crews from E/AM worked for three months to control the oil spills and fires.
"We often worked from 5 am to 9 pm burning oil in the sea," he said. "We went out hunting oil every day, driving around in our small boats lighting fires, containing spills and cleaning up."
On 10 June 2010, alone, between 50 000 and 70 000 barrels of oil were removed from the Gulf using E/AM's systems and between 219 000 and 309 000 barrels of oil were estimated to have burned.
E/AM's Hydro-Fire Boom proved to be the most effective for burning oil, company officials said, while its American Fireboom system was the second-highest performer.
The full version of this story first appeared on our sister publication, Rubber & Plastics News