Components exported by bellows and machinery protection specialist Beakbane are playing an important role in cleaning up oil in the Mexican Gulf after the explosion on BP’s exploration rig.

The Kidderminster-based company is supplying the world’s three leading manufacturers of oil skimmers with bespoke flexible bellows – essential components for the systems that are being deployed in the aftermath of the 4 million barrel oil spill.

These skimmers float on the sea and, using a powerful pump, create a vortex that sucks up the viscous heavy oil and debris from the surface of the ocean and pumps it through a discharge hose to a nearby vessel.

The bellows connect the pump and discharge pipe to the floating oil intake, allowing it to move freely in all directions and stay level with the surface of the water. As they are submerged during operation the bellows have to be resistant to sea water and crude oil and also be tough and durable to cope with heavy-duty demands over years of service.

To meet these requirements, the components – which range in size from 500mm to 800mm diameter – are moulded from Beakaprene, a poly-chloroprene coated nylon fabric that is resistant to oil, dirt and aggressive environments.

The material was developed in-house by Beakbane as part of its research and development programme of materials and products for demanding applications and environments. Other applications include industrial installations such as steelworks and railway rolling stock, where it is important to protect equipment from dirt, grit and liquid contaminants.

To make the bellows, the Beakaprene is moulded around a simple and relatively low-cost metal tooling before being cured in an oven. This makes it a very cost-effective process for one-off or small batch components but also allows production to be easily scaled up for larger orders.

This ability to scale up production proved to be crucial when Beakbane had to react quickly to meet a 600 percent rise in demand from overseas-based oil-skimmer manufacturers. Following the oil spill in the Gulf, its customers faced an unprecedented demand for their products.

Beakbane supplied more components over a two-month period than it did in the previous year, but was able to meet all its customers’ deadlines. In some instances it flew components directly to end users working in the Gulf.

Beakaprene bellow fitted to an oil skimmer

Beakbane is the UK’s leading manufacturer of bellows, concertina covers and telescopic slideway covers in materials that include fabric, polymers, sheet metal and composites. Its products are used in industries that range from machine tool building and medical equipment to nuclear power and security equipment.

A key part of its service is to be able to solve customers’ specific problems by creating bespoke solutions that draw on its wide range or materials, products and applications expertise.

Beakbane’s Managing Director Barry Reeves said: “We have created bespoke solutions for all of the world’s leading oil skimmer manufacturers – all of them export customers – and have been supplying them for a number of years. When we suddenly had a tremendous increase in demand for these units we rose to the challenge and were able to meet their tight deadlines.”

Click here for further information on Beakaprene bellows.

This press release was featured in the following publications:-

PRW – August 2010
UK firm supplies oil spill cleanup equipment.

Engineeringtalk – August 2010
Beakbane bellows used on Gulf cleanup skimmers.

Kidderminster Shuttle – August 2010
Gulf oil clean-up boosts demand at Kidderminster firm.