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Keeping the coasts clear

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Oilfield Technology,

Over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. It is one of Earth’s most precious natural resources. With globalisation placing increasing demands on maritime shipping, when accidents occur, the consequences to the environment can be catastrophic. Tankers leaking oil, vessels dumping their refuse inadvertently without regard for aquatic life or coastal residents; the negative environmental impact is real – for fauna, flora and humans alike.

An innovative concept

As experienced during disasters such as Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989 or the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, clean-up efforts are monumental tasks and their success depends on how fast authorities can intervene and whether they have the appropriate equipment to do the job.

From France’s Brittany, Eric Vial and Robert Gastaldi, co-founders of Ecoceane created in 2003, decided to boost the efficiency of vessels that are used to collect the liquid and solid waste floating in the water. They realised that despite significant means and efforts employed to recover hydrocarbons after an oil spill, very few hydrocarbons were recovered at sea before reaching the coastlines and causing irreparable damage. They invested more than 10million euros and seven years in research and development to come up with an innovative concept that would tilt the odds in favour of clean-up operations forever.

Their patented technology equips clean-up vessels that can collect more oil and waste per hour and with a capacity ten times that of traditional vessels. A revolution.

“Our customers are government agencies, harbour managers, ship-owners and shipyards and their needs vary,” said Eric Vial, President of Ecoceane. “We therefore design and build waste-cleaning boats for different situations: from harbour,lake and river clean-up and coastal protection to out-of-port operations to recover all floating waste and oil spill monitoring and recovery in high seas.Our technology is unique and our boats are the only ones capable of collecting hydrocarbons at sea up to a wind and sea force of 6 or 7 on Beaufort scale and at speeds of 4 to 5 knots. Our competitors are limited to a wind force level of3.” The company’s founders invented an innovative way to separate water from hydrocarbons that prevents emulsion. “With our technology, we avoid a mayonnaise-like emulsion when collecting hydrocarbons that would otherwise require a specific process to separate the hydrocarbons from the water before they can be stored in tankers. We gain in efficiency this way.” Its vessels transfer only pure emulsion-free hydrocarbons into tankers as they work. Once a tanker is full, another can take its place. “This continuous exchange of storage means our vessels have an unlimited 24/7 recovery capacity during a clean-up operation,” Vial said. “More than 80 vessels have been sold in over 25countries around the globe since Ecoceane was created. There is strong demand for our technology.”

Ecoceane provides its customers with end-to-end design to production services. “We tailor the design of each vessel to a customer’s specifications and then have the boat built at one of the shipyards we work with around the world, a solution that satisfies customers’ need for proximity,” Vial said.

Harnessing the power of integration

To develop its vessels, Ecoceane uses Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE platform, with CATIA for design, SIMULIA for virtual product simulation, DELMIA for digital manufacturing and 3DVIA for communication with shipyards and customers.

“For structural steel shipbuilding design, CATIA has built-in job-related features such as sheet metal and structural steel design, that save us a lot of time,” said Benjamin Lerondeau, Ecoceane’s naval architect. “As a result, we have more time for innovation.”

The link between CATIA and SIMULIA enables Ecoceane architects to seamlessly use the 3D Digital Mock-Up created in CATIA to run simulations of the boat performing under working conditions as it sucks up water and pollutants into the vessel. “We virtually simulate the vessel collecting water and hydrocarbons and visualise the flow of these liquids through the different compartments of the boat where filters separate the hydrocarbons from the water,” Lerondeau said. “The hydrocarbons are then eventually transferred to a tanker and the water released into the sea. We want to avoid releasing the pollutants into the sea instead of the water. With SIMULIA we can see if the vessel functions properly before it is built. The virtual simulations are so realistic and precise that we could eliminate physical prototypes, which are expensive and time-consuming to produce.”

Engineers use SIMULIA for stress analyses and the results are used to adjust the 3D design in CATIA if needed. “Working on the same platform means there are no gaps and no interruption in the development chain,” Lerondeau continued. “When the simulation and analysis phase is complete, we then transfer the 3D model to a virtual production environment in DELMIA to digitally prepare all manufacturing operations, including the sheet metal cutting plans and assembly procedures. We then use 3DVIA to create assembly instructions in 3D for the shop floor. With 3D, we eliminate misunderstandings that can lead to errors.”

Ecoceane’s sales force uses 3DVIA for their customer presentations and to allow future boat owners to experience their vessel before it is completed. “It has changed our relationship with our customers,” Lerondeau said. “They are excited to be involved in the design of their vessel and it saves us time since we know what they want from the early design stage, before it is too late or too costly to implement changes,” he added. “Enabling designers, manufacturing staff and customers, each with their own ideas, expertise and know-how, to participate on a project is the best way to create the most efficient design.With everyone working on the same integrated platform and digitally interacting and exchanging on the same master data, we have reduced project development time by up to 50%.”

Dassault Systèmes’ partner Keonys was involved from the very start of Ecoceane’s interest in the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform applications and was instrumental in helping Ecoceane implement the appropriate solutions for its development activities. “They began by assessing our installation and analysing how we could improve our productivity,” Lerondeau said. “They proposed the applications from the 3DEXPERIENCE platform that best suit our line of work and then provided the necessary training that would enable us to make the most of each application. Their expertise was essential to the success of our implementation.”

With its latest line of pollution-cleaning vessels – ReverseGlop–Ecoceane proposes a way for shipyards to incorporate its technology in the stern of any boat under construction that is more than 25 m long. Its technique preserves the vessel’s normal functions in the aft and transforms it into an oil spill response vessel when the boat shifts into reverse. “This configuration means any service – military, cargo or even ice-breaking – vessel can be transformed into a pollution clean-up boat,” Vial said. “More than ever, we need a robust solution to help meet our development and sales objectives. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform is a fully-fledged part of our strategy and I believe that together with DassaultSystèmes, we can do great things for the protection of our earth’s waters.”

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Adapted from a press release by David Bizley

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