Oil Containment Boom FAQs

Oil Containment Boom FAQs


Below you will find a series of industry frequently asked questions concerning the main components of oil spill containment boom. Read on to find out more information about oil spill containment boom or contact us today with your oil spill containment boom question or request.


What are the main components of an oil spill containment boom?

There are 6 main components of oil spill containment booms. These components include:

  • Floatation Chamber
  • Freeboard
  • Skirt
  • Tensions Member
  • Ballast
  • End Connectors

The majority of all containment booms will include a combination, if not all, of the components stated above. ACME can custom manufacture the five components of oil spill containment booms to meet your specific needs.


Are there additional components for oil spill containment boom?

Yes, there are additional support components that can be added to the standard oil spill containment boom. These additional support components include:

  • Anchor Points
  • Tow Bridles
  • Handholds
  • Hinges
  • Lifting Points
  • Stiffeners

These components are usually specific to the end use of your containment boom. ACME can custom manufacture the five components of oil spill containment booms to meet your specific needs.


What is the purpose of the floatation chamber?

The floatation chamber allows for the oil spill containment boom to float on the surface of the water. Larger volumes of float will be required for oil spill containment booms used in rough seas which need more buoyancy to remain on top of the water. The floatation chamber maintains the desired freeboard and draft of the oil spill containment boom. It is very important that the floatation chamber balances the forces exerted on the boom by the weight of the containment boom components such as the ballast and downward forces caused by currents and waves. Floatation elements can be flexible or rigid. Most floatation chambers are divided into equal sections along the length of the oil spill containment boom. This allows for the oil spill containment boom to provide better boom wave-following characteristics.


How do I specify freeboard?

Freeboard prevents oil from washing over the top of the boom. If the freeboard specified is too shallow for the application, the oil spill containment boom will not perform properly. Adversely, if the freeboard specified is too deep, the oil spill containment boom will be greatly affected during events of high wind. The freeboard must be maintained while in the open water and in high waves. The oil spill containment boom should be able to rise and fall with the waves and maintain proper freeboard for containing the oil.


What skirt length do I need?

The skirt provides a barrier to contain the oil. There is an optimal skirt length for each oil spill containment boom application. The deeper the skirt depth, the more effective the skirt can be during an oil spill. However, the force of current on the boom is proportional to the skirt area which will place large loads onto the tension members of the oil spill containment boom. An optimal skirt length will allow for efficient boom deployment and oil spill containment.


Does the water depth effect what length of skirt I need for my oil spill containment boom?

The rate of failure of 0.7 knots is assumed that deep water is underneath the containment boom. If the water depth is only twice the depth of the submerged portion of your containment boom, the water velocity rate will be doubled underneath the boom. Therefore, the failure velocity will occur sooner at a failure of less than 0.7 knots. Short skirts are needed in shallower water and as a rule of thumb, the depth of water under the boom should be at least five times the draft of your oil spill containment boom.


What is the purpose of a tension member?

Tension members are the cables and ballast used in oil spill containment booms. These tension members run along the skirt and/or freeboard of the boom. Tension members carry the axial loads imposed onto a boom by forces such as currents, wind and towing. A tension member will increase the strength of your boom during deployment and containment. ACME personnel advise that oil spill containment boom with 6 inch floatation chambers or larger deployed in a combined section greater than 800 feet should be equipped with tension members.


What is the purpose of a ballast?

Ballasts are applied to the skirt to improve the performance of the boom. Ballasts, typically chain or individual weights attached to the skirt, allow for the skirt to remain vertical during deployment and containment. Typical ballasts include 1/4”, 5/16” and 3/8” chain as well as lead weights attached directly to the skirt.


How do oil containment booms work?

Oil containment booms float at the surface where oil has been spilled, containing an oil slick. They are one of the first tools used in oil spill control and cleanup, creating a flexible barrier that can be used to protect certain environments and property from oil spills.


What parts make up an oil containment boom?

The three main components that make up the oil containment boom are the float, skirt, and ballast. The float rests at the water surface. Floats are typically made of closed cell, polyethylene foam, which is highly buoyant and will not take on water. Depending on the needs of the spill, the containment boom float size will vary between 2-1/2 inches in diameter, to over 18 inches. The other component of the oil containment boom is the skirt, which is made of a heavy-duty, highly durable fabric extending below the float. The boom skirt size will also vary with the needs of the cleanup job. The ballast is a weight, typically a chain at the bottom of the skirt, which keeps the boom vertical in the water. A tension member, usually a cable that carries tension loads, may be required.


How are oil containment booms beneficial?

Oil containment booms offer many benefits in oil spill control and cleanup. Once of the first steps of oil cleanup is containing the spread of the slick by using oil containment booms. Once deployed, oil containment booms are used to contain an oil slick. Oil containment booms are highly effective and easy to customize.


How are oil containment booms categorized?

When discussing oil containment booms, it is important to understand the operating environment of the spill. Offshore or open water environments will require specific oil containment booms. These typically have larger floats, longer skirts, and heavier ballasts. Locations that typically have limited waves, tides, or harsh conditions can usually be taken care of with inland or near-shore oil containment boom. Perma Booms are specialized oil containment booms built to last when the situation calls for long-term use.


Can oil containment booms be used anywhere?

Oil containment booms are designed to be used in aquatic environments, and can be used in many operating environments. Stagnant, shallow, or slow moving environments can be cleaned up using super mini oil containment booms. Inland or near-shore oil containment booms are designed for use in most standard situations, including lakes, ponds, small rivers, or protected harbors. High wind, large wave, or fast moving current locations will benefit from open water containment booms.


How do I know what type of oil containment boom to use?

Once an oil spill occurs, the first step is to choose the correct size of oil containment boom for the cleanup. Cleanup crews should evaluate the situation, taking into account wind patterns, wave height, water depth and current speeds. Moderate conditions call for inland and near-shore oil containment booms. Extreme conditions including large waves, high wind, fast moving currents, or generally unpredictable locations are best suited for open water oil containment booms.


What types of fabric are available for oil containment booms?

For standard applications, AMCE’s oil containment booms are made of Jaton coated fabric. Our standard nylon coated fabric helps oil containment booms stand up against tears, punctures, or other damage. Jaton coated fabric is available in standard orange or international yellow. For oil containment boom used in areas with excessive hydrocarbon or UV exposure, consider our Jaton Plus coated fabric. The heavy duty fabric comes standard in orange and provides superior protection, helping extend the life of the oil containment boom by up to 50%.


What options does ACME offer for customized oil containment booms?

When selecting an oil containment boom, it is important to have a product that precisely matches the needs of the job. ACME offers several options for customization to help make that possible. Some of our options for customization include floatation sizes, skirt lengths, chain ballast sizes, fabric types, tension cable and type, and connector type. Contact us today to discuss your customized oil containment boom needs.


Does ACME carry oil containment boom accessories?

Yes, ACME supplies a full line of oil containment boom accessories. For those looking for oil containment boom storage, we carry reels and storage box options, as well as customized trailer packages. We also carry several anchoring systems to keep boom in place when needed. Many accessories can be customized to suit individual needs.