Researchers at Maryland University have shown that creating a tornado of fire over an oil spill on water might be a viable solution to dealing with oil spills.

Image Copyright University of Maryland

Surely this is madness? The research team found that under controlled conditions a fire whirl was the most efficient way to burn residual hydrocarbon fuel. If you think about it, the concept isn’t too different from what fire fighters already do with controlled fires on land to prevent greater damage.

Previously when simply burning off the slick was suggested as a method for dealing with oil spills the resulting combustion would release tons of pollutants into the atmosphere. But with a cleaner flame, like the fire whirl, an oil slick could be cleaned up more responsibly.

In a press release by Michael Gollner, co-author of the paper, he states: “Fire whirls are more efficient than other forms of combustion because they produce drastically increased heating to the surface of fuels, allowing them to burn faster and more completely. In our experiments over water, we’ve seen how the circulation fire whirls generate also helps to pull in fuels. If we can achieve a state akin to the blue whirl at larger scale, we can further reduce airborne emissions for a much cleaner means of spill cleanup”.

The full paper can be found via the PNAS website here.

Categories: Industry update

By: Atmos International
Date: 15 April 2019