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Research Papers: Offshore Technology

Hydrodynamic Simulation and Optimization of an Oil Skimmer

[+] Author and Article Information
Shaoyu Ni, Anran Zhang

Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science,
Memorial University,
St. John's A1B 3X5, NL, Canada

Wei Qiu

Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science,
Memorial University,
St. John's A1B 3X5, NL, Canada
e-mail: qiuw@mun.ca

David Prior

Extreme Spill Technology,
Halifax B3H 0B2, NS, Canada

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Ocean, Offshore, and Arctic Engineering Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF OFFSHORE MECHANICS AND ARCTIC ENGINEERING. Manuscript received March 13, 2013; final manuscript received November 7, 2014; published online December 18, 2014. Assoc. Editor: Sergio H. Sphaier.

J. Offshore Mech. Arct. Eng 137(2), 021301 (Apr 01, 2015) (10 pages) Paper No: OMAE-13-1025; doi: 10.1115/1.4029211 History: Received March 13, 2013; Revised November 07, 2014; Online December 18, 2014

Oil spills can cause severe environmental damage. In situ burning or chemical dispersant methods can be used in many situations; however, these methods can be highly toxic and fail in slightly rough seas. Oil recovery techniques have also been developed to recover oil using skimmer equipment installed in ships. The challenges arise when a vessel is operated in heavy sea and current conditions. An oil skimmer has recently been developed by Extreme Spill Technology (EST) Inc. for automated oil recovery using a vacuum device installed in a vessel. Initial tests have shown that the prototype vessel is efficient in oil recovery. This paper presents the numerical and experimental studies of the hydrodynamic performance of the vacuum tower installed in the oil skimmer developed by EST. While the principle of the vacuum mechanism for oil skimming is simple, the hydrodynamic aspects of the recovery process is very complicated since it involves multiphase and multiscale moving interfaces, including oil, water, atmospheric air, and attenuate compressible air on the top part of the vacuum tower, and moving interface of oil slick, oil droplets, and air bubbles of different scales. The recovery process was simplified into a three-phase flow problem involving oil, water, and air and was simulated by using a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) method. The volume of fluid (VOF) method was employed to capture the moving surfaces between the fluid phases. Model tests were carried out to simulate the oil recovery process and for validation studies. Numerical results were compared with the experimental data. Studies were also extended to optimize the geometry of the tower for maximum oil recovery.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

The prototype catamaran equipped with an oil skimming tower

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Fig. 2

Trim tank and the oil skimming model

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Fig. 3

Computational domain and grid distribution

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Fig. 4

Comparison of oil flow patterns at time instant of 2.0 s using four grids

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Fig. 5

Comparison of oil flow patterns at time instant of 5.0 s using four grids

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Fig. 6

Computed volume of skimmed oil using four grids

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Fig. 7

Comparison of oil flow patterns in the tower at speed of 0.527 m/s (left: numerical, right: experimental)

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Fig. 8

Comparison of oil flow patterns in the tower at speed of 0.216 m/s (left: numerical, right: experimental)

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Fig. 9

Volume of skimmed oil in the tower at speed of 0.527 m/s in terms of time and traveled distance

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Fig. 10

Comparison of oil flow patterns in original and modified towers at time instant 6.0 s

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Fig. 11

Computed volume of skimmed oil in original and modified towers

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Fig. 12

Comparison of oil flow patterns in original and modified towers at time instant 10.0 s

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Fig. 13

Computed volume of skimmed oil at two service speeds

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Fig. 14

Comparison of oil flow patterns at two service speeds and at the same traveled distance

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