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Spotlight on technology: Aqua-Guard Spill Response

Posted on May 8, 2017 by Nigel Bennett  |  248 Views

Aqua-Guard is a Metro Vancouver company with an international perspective

Aqua-Guard manufactures oil skimmers, containment booms and associated recovery equipment in a variety of sizes — everything from large offshore systems that capture 600 cubic metres of oil per hour to 35 cubic metre portable units for inland waterway cleanups. The large units get an extended sea trial in the Vancouver harbour before delivery to an international roster of clients.

Since it was incorporated in 1992, Aqua-Guard has connected with 3,000 clients in more than 100 countries to provide oil spill response training, equipment and services. Those clients are oil companies, oil spill response organizations, pipeline companies and marine authorities including ports, coast guards and navies.

In November 2016, Aqua-Guard was a standout among more than 2,000 Canadian and US companies attending NextCon16, an annual business innovation conference in Arizona. A panel of judges chose Aqua-Guard to win a ‘Rule Breaker’ Award for best established business.

“Aqua-Guard continually leads the path to innovation for the protection of our world’s oceans and our greatest resource, water,” Aqua-Guard founder Nigel Bennett said in accepting the award.

The company’s most recent innovation, announced in April 2017, is a specialized skimmer that literally chews through and lifts weathered, solidified, ultra-heavy oil from large pits and water separation ponds — the first step in remediating those areas.

Recently, Bennett and Aqua-Guard Production Manager Lee Marshall provided some visitors from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project with a tour of the company’s manufacturing facility in a Coquitlam business park. The head office is in North Vancouver and there’s also a manufacturing facility for large-scale skimmers at an industrial site in Port Kells.

The core company itself is small, with about 20 full-time employees. But its workforce is effectively several times larger because it sub-contracts portions of its manufacturing work to other companies in Metro Vancouver.

Innovation is central to the company’s vision — for example, it is working with Trans Mountain parent company Kinder Morgan Canada on tests of the interaction of diluted bitumen and water. Collaboration with industry partners is also key.

“We’re at the very beginning stages of work — computer designs — with some responders to come up with new designs for skimming systems that can be transported to remote places, and used it in several different environments by a variety of vehicles and vessels,” Marshall said.

The company began with Bennett’s father in 1968, providing oil spill contingency planning to an international client base. In 1992, Nigel Bennett and his business partners decided to break away and shift into manufacturing, creating Aqua-Guard Spill Response.

“With our overseas experience, we started manufacturing oil spill response equipment — mostly for our overseas market because we already had clients overseas,” Bennett said.

“Eighty-five per cent of our business is overseas. We’ve probably got equipment with anybody that’s moving oil on the surface of the water or near water.”

Locally, Bennett added, Aqua-Guard has worked with “pretty much every oil handling facility on the coast of British Columbia.”

Marshall said the company has “lots of experience building equipment that can take the oil off the water in an efficient manner.”

“Our equipment is built in BC — with majority of the materials and labour being local,” Marshall said. “Because we do the testing here, and because we’re familiar with our coastal waters, our equipment has been designed for many years to work efficiently on the British Columbia coast.”

Bennett compared production of Aqua-Guard’s equipment to auto manufacturing — where the finished product incorporates parts from many independent suppliers.

“We’ve got all kinds of local companies involved but you don’t see that if you look just at a finished product here in our Coquitlam plant. No one has any idea that we do this here in Vancouver — which is interesting because when we go to Kuwait or some other country, everybody knows us.

“We are always looking for other Canadian technology to couple with ours that we can leverage and sell overseas.”

Bennett said the company’s “number one priority” is to protect the BC coastline and provide technology to support that. “Our equipment has been designed, tested, run and certified and built here in British Columbia before it’s used internationally. So, everything we design here is run and tested for our environment.

Featured in:  Trans Mountain Today May 4th, 2017

About Aqua-Guard

Aqua-Guard provides a range of state-of-the-the-art oil spill response solutions including the URO Skimmer System and the RBS TRITON™ range of oil skimmers—all built on Aqua-Guard’s patented RBS TRITON™ technology to deliver some of the highest efficiency and recovery rates in the industry.