Gulf Oil Boom Recycled Into Volt Parts

What to do with all that boom that sopped up oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico this past summer? It could be incinerated or tossed into landfills. But General Motors had a better idea: The company developed a way to convert an estimated 100 miles of the material into 100,000 pounds of plastic resin for use in manufacturing under-hood parts for the Chevy Volt.

In a press release, GM said it worked with several partners to make this seeming public-relations department fantasy a reality.

Recycled Gulf oil booms, Chevy Volt parts, GM

image via General Motors

“Heritage Environmental managed the collection of boom material along the Louisiana coast,” the company said. “Mobile Fluid Recovery stepped in next, using a massive high-speed drum that spun the booms until dry and eliminated all the absorbed oil and wastewater. Lucent Polymers used its process to then manipulate the material into the physical state necessary for plastic die-mold production. Tier-one supplier, GDC Inc., used its patented Enduraprene material process to combine the resin with other plastic compounds to produce the components.”

GM said 25 percent of the material for the parts, which deflect air around the vehicle’s radiator, comes from the booms and an equal amount from recycled tires. And it anticipates enough boom material will be gathered to allow it to be used as components in other Chevrolet models.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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