Follow the construction of
the flexible filtering environmental barge
The Flexible Environmental Barge is the world's first of its kind, and some features of the barge are so unique that FLEX-FEB has obtained patent on the barge.
The page will be updated as the project progresses.
The story behind the Flexible Environmental Protection Barge
The idea of the Flexible Environment Barge originally popped up due to the fact that there is currently no capacity for collecting oil in shallow waters and effective control of oil pollution in the shallow-water zone along the Danish coasts.
Once the oil hits the coast, significant amounts of sand and other material must be collected (up to 60 times the amount of oil) and subsequently destroyed; and if the oil hits a rocky shore, it must be cleaned manually, which is extremely costly, and often creates a new pollution scenario. In addition, the oil causes severe damage to the coastal zone's fauna and flora.
Thus, we set out to develop a vessel that
• Can operate in shallow waters (down to 0.6 m).
• Is easy to operate and does not require special training.
• Is easy to store, transport and handle on land and at sea (and by air if necessary) with commonly available equipment.
• Quick and easy to deploy when needed (anywhere in the world).
• Has low CAPEX and OPEX (cheap in procurement, operation and maintenance).
The Flexible Environmental Protection Barge
FLEX-FEB soon realized that in order to operate in shallow waters, a vessel with small and constant draft is required, and that this is best achieved by making the vessel's collection/storage capacity and the surrounding water "communicating vessels", which is why the vessel had to feature holes in the bottom. To prevent the collected oil- contaminated water from running back into the surrounding water, the vessel had to be equipped with a filter that stops the oil.
We performed a series of "kitchen table experiments", which showed that the solution with holes in the bottom and a filter actually works.
As the vessel had to live up to the term "functional equipment", and meet the above- mentioned criteria, it was clear that the solution was a vessel without engine, navigation and communications equipment, and permanent crew, etc. A barge - an "Environmental Protection Barge" - which must be so flexible that it can be equipped with additional functional equipment as and when required - The Flexible Filtering Environment Barge - FLEX-FEB.
It is important that the barge impact the environment as little as possible in both operation and maintenance, and when it may be obsolete and be disposed of in many years down the road. The environmental barge is therefore built in aluminum, which is 100% recyclable.
During the development process, FLEX-FEB discovered a parallel need for collecting seaweed and eelgrass, as well as (obviously) plastic and other types of surface waste. Thus, the FLEX-FEB concept is scalable. The horizontal scalability embraces equipment and function - collection of oil, seaweed/eelgrass, plastic, etc. The vertical scalability includes the barge’s size, volume and collection capacity.
The "core product" in the FLEX-FEB concept is FEB-I (the Filtering Environment Barge - with a volume of approx. 4 m3).
From idea to reality - FEB-I is constructed
As the flexible environmental barge must be deployable at short notice, it is important that it can be handled easily without the use of special equipment. FLEX-FEB has therefore chosen to design FEB-I in a size compatible with the 20 'ISO shipping container format, so the barges can be handled anywhere in the world with already available equipment.
In order to achieve the maximum collection capacity in relation to storage and transport volume, FEB-I is constructed internally stackable, so that four FEB-I units stacked in a "cradle" have the exact dimensions of a 20 'ISO container, which facilitates both storage, transport and handling of the FEB-I.
FEB-I is built in marine grade aluminum, which is not only recyclable but also maintenance-free. Thus, the FEB-I can be left as a contingency capacity without ongoing monitoring and maintenance until deployment. Alternatively, you can choose to use FEB-I for other tasks such as collecting seaweed / eelgrass or plastic and other surface waste during periods without oil pollution.
FEB-I is constructed symmetrically, which enables a flexible and easy configuration and rigging of the barge with different functional equipment.
FLEX-FEB has developed a unique multi functional belt skimmer for collection of oil and other types of waste from the water surface. The belt skimmer, which is mounted in one of the bows of the barge, is powered by powerful lithium batteries located in the pontoons of the barge.
FEB-I is also able to operate with other available oil collection equipment, such as conventional brush skimmers, overflow skimmers, pumps and excavating equipment.
Due to the low draft, low weight and modest dimensions, FEB-I can be used in both shallow waters, close to the shoreline, in lakes and in rivers. During operation, FEB-I can be towed by one or two small vessel(s), towed in conjunction with oil booms, mounted with outboard engines and sailing autonomously, or anchored, depending on what is most suitable in the given scenario.
Alternative uses of the FEB-I
The main purpose of FEB-I is to provide a simple, efficient and flexible contingency capacity for emergency response in case of pollution. However, FLEX-FEB is of the opinion that, in addition to the emergency response and on-site filtering capacity capacity, the alternative applications of the barge are attractive to municipalities, local communities and private enterprises.
This may for instance be:
Collection of seaweed / eelgrass.
Collection of greasy/fermented seaweed
Collection of plastic waste.
Collection of surface waste in general.
Collection of blue-green algae.
Work platform, for example for painting and diving operations.
Filter for pumping fresh water (the FEB filters contaminated water from outside the barge and clean water can be pumped up from the inside of the barge).
The first FEB-I is built at Søby Shipyard
The first FEB-I was built at Søby Shipyard in NOV 2021, and after a few minor outfitting tasks FEB-I was ready for handover from the yard in FEB 2022, and actual sea trials could take place during the spring and early summer of 2022.
This is a fully functional test platform, which will be used to test the seaworthiness and functionality of the environmental protection barge in various scenarios, as well as installation and functionality of the additional functional equipment such as oil booms, skimmers, electrical systems, controls etc.
The sea trials demonstrated that both FEB-I and the functional equipment performed well, which confirms that the concept of one or more flexible environmental protection barges operated together with already available vessels is just right. At the same time, some opportunities for improvements were also identified, which was precisely the purpose of FEB-I as a test platform and the tests at sea.