Thanks For Your ‘Great North’ Support!

We’re back from the Lake District after another successful Great North Swim weekend.  The caravan’s been emptied, the roofbox has been removed from the car and nearly all of the washing has been done.  There’s just one more job to do – to say a massive ‘Thank you’ to all of you who gave your support.

CJB AF GNS19 Accl
‘Game face’ on as Charlie gets back out of the water, following the acclimatisation phase, just before the start.

This year was the fifth year we’ve attended the ‘Great North Swim’, held around the north-east shores of Windermere.  With the exception of the 2017 event, we had some of the worst weather we’ve experienced there.  Lower temperatures, higher winds and heavier rain all made for a more challenging weekend – and that’s before anyone got in the lake!  With higher waves for the swimmers to contend with, the organisers took the decision to reduce the length of each event, to allow them to be set out over a more sheltered part of the course.

As Charlie’s only fourteen, even though he began the weekend a veteran of two previous GNS events and countless training swims over the distance, he was still only able to enter the half-mile distance.  The organisers insist on a lower age limit of 16 for the mile swim so the same issue will occur next year.

Unlike the last two years, where he was ably escorted around the course by Warren and Aaron, this year they’d decided to swim at their own pace.  That made things slightly trickier for spectators and photographers because in a field of mostly front-crawlers, Aaron’s breaststroke always made it easier to spot the three of them.  As they were cheered into the water and began to swim away from the watching crowds, it was clear that they were swimming apart and both Charlie and Warren would be harder to spot.

The high winds had led to the course being reduced to 500 metres, approximately two-thirds of the scheduled distance.  With Charlie hoping for a sub-twenty-minute half-mile, maths suggested that we could expect him home in thirteen minutes.  Interpolating further, that would suggest, he’d reach the turn on the course at around six and a half minutes.

I trained my binoculars on the turn at around the six minute mark and looked for any of the three of them.  Separated, as they were, there would at least be three times the chance that I’d see one of them, I thought.  And yet after a whole minute had gone by, none of the swimmers I saw looked familiar.

Wondering what the problem was, I began to track my sights backwards along the ‘back straight’ and drew a similar blank.  The only other thing to do was pan along the ‘home straight’ to the finish line.  Surely they couldn’t be that far into the course with only seven minutes gone.  And then I saw the unmistakeable bobbing action of a breaststroker.

IMG_2651
Aaron’s give-away breaststroke action makes him easier to spot – but where was Charlie?  Spoiler alert: see the splash right at the bottom of the picture…?

It was definitely Aaron.  Surely, Charlie would only be a short distance from him – but again, logic seemed to be a stranger to the unfolding events.  I scanned the waters behind Aaron, to the left and then to the right.  We were coming up to eight minutes on the timer and neither Charlie nor Warren were anywhere to be seen.

And then I looked in the waters ahead of Aaron.  There had been a few training swims where he and Warren had said they’d struggled to keep up with Charlie but I’d expected that they were mostly saying it as motivation.  Surely, today, with all the adrenaline pumping, that wouldn’t still be the case – would it?

It was.  Far further ahead of Aaron than I’d dared imagine, I finally spotted his laconic crawling style.  Not only was he so far ahead, he was actually nearing the finish.  I trained the camera on him and began to click away, making up for lost time.

IMG_2653
Charlie approaches the ramp that leads from the water to the finish line

In no time at all, he reached the ramp that leads to the finish line, got to his feet and virtually sprinted to the line.  His official time was ten minutes eighteen seconds but his time in the water was nine minutes forty.  A combination of the shorter distance, the watching crowds and perhaps a little competitive spirit enabled more of a sprint but even so, it was an impressive time.

Minutes later, Aaron and then Warren crossed the line and all three of them gathered in the finishers’ zone for the obligatory photographs.  Once again, they’d all completed the course!

IMG_6168
The three amigos – in the order that they finished

As a result of their efforts, I’m delighted to confirm that Charlie and Warren have managed to beat their £500 sponsorship target for Amelia’s specialist support.  As I type, the appeal has reached £665, a third more than they’d hoped to raise.  Of course, don’t let that stop you adding to that figure, if you wish to.  Every pound raised is as important as every other.  Once again, thanks to all of you who made that happen!

To see how the sponsorship money helps – and to add to it – have a look at Warren & Charlie’s JustGiving page.

Willacy: A Crude Warning to Diversify?

Posted on willacyoil.com on April 20th 2018

https://willacyoil.com/2018/04/20/crude-warning-diversify/

“…Oil…Black Gold. Texas Tea.” – maybe you’ll remember the TV show that included that line in its opening credits.

Back in the monochrome 1960s when ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ was made, the world seemed a much simpler place: find oil, make millions, never need to worry again. Even twenty years later, we were still being enthralled by all the scheming and back-biting at the Oil Baron’s Ball in ‘Dallas’. For most of the last century, the very mention of oil in the media has usually been as a shorthand for money, power and glamour.

Larry_Hagman_as_JRToday, as we all know, when it comes to oil, there’s a lot more to be considered than just the trappings it brings. Emissions are monitored as never before and the quest to replace it with more sustainable energy sources has become the new frontier for the century ahead.

For that reason, oil has entered a phase in which it expects to fall from the favour it once had, a process that’s already beginning to be mapped out. Last year, the UK government announced it would ban the sales of all new cars, powered by petrol or diesel, from the year 2040. This is a date which may still conjure images of floating buildings and flying cars, reminiscent of that other big hit of 1962, ‘The Jetsons’ but when you do the maths, it’s a different story. 2040 is only 22 years away – which is probably less than the amount of time it’s been since we last saw repeats of Jed, Jethro, Granny and Elly May on terrestrial TV.

More pressing is the recent announcement from the World Bank that it will cease to finance fossil fuel extraction from 2020. Forget the undated, stereotyped “future” that old TV shows used to promise us, of silver jumpsuits and Moonbases, this is a date that’s more or less in the here and now. Inevitably, similar deadlines from other regulatory bodies will follow and many will have a similarly short horizon.

It all adds up to a warning to all those who’ve defined themselves by their involvement in the oil industry that the heady days personified by the Clampetts and the Ewings are starting to seem as dated as the width of JR’s lapels.

Naturally, at Willacy, a company once inextricably linked with the oil industry, it’s clear that our growth is unlikely to arrive as a result of us depending solely upon oil. While we will of course continue to provide all the services we’re well known for to those in the oil industry, we have to recognise it’s a sector that many people may feel is one whose days are numbered – even if that number is still in the many thousands.

Over the years, we’ve developed a number of unrivalled technologies and techniques to survey, treat and rejuvenate oil infrastructure in Britain and many other countries around the world. In recent years, we’ve increasingly transferred that capability to water-based applications. Our recent development of sonar-driven tank surveying is a prime example of oil-based technology being adapted for use in water-based environments.

With our competence in the aqueous sphere established, the door is opened to other establishments that store and process matter of various descriptions. Already, we’re working with abattoirs and other food industry sites. Research from The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) suggests there are now over 250 sites in the UK where food waste can be processed to provide biofuel and other resources. The growth and proliferation of this sector, still in the early stages of its development contrasts markedly with the consolidation and concentration of the much more mature oil industry.

As we’ve learned from various instances over the years where our services have occasionally been required in other fields, while the medium (the type of stuff in the tanks) may change, many of the problems and processes involved – the basic practicalities of getting the job done – are exactly the same. Different substances may alter the operational parameters but fundamentally, it’s not that different a task – if you know what you’re doing.

Aside from maximising our potential by applying our skills to other, more abundant, less restrictive markets, we’re actually making the most of the knowledge and capability that we have – and that others struggle to match. In modern parlance, it was indeed a ‘no-brainer’ for Willacy to diversify in this way but even so, is there a helpful sign, a handy lesson from history to encourage us in this strategy?

Interestingly, ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ (1993) and ‘Dallas’ (2012), were both re-booted many years after the height of their success and in each series, the main characters, Jed Clampett and JR Ewing were relieved of their fortune, facing an uncertain future, without the security of a status based on oil. Could that have been a warning, perhaps? Neither sequel did well in terms of reviews or ratings but you can’t help wondering if the storylines at least got that bit right…

CSG: Putting a Good Spin on Wastewater

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on July 3rd 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/putting-a-good-spin-on-wastewater/

Centrifugal force is one of the more entertaining laws of physics. Many of us have swung a bucket of water around our heads (hopefully, without spilling any) in an attempt to impress small children – indeed you may even remember it being demonstrated to you when you were young. Later on, you may have been amazed to watch the ‘wall of death’ motorcycle stunt in which a rider emerges unscathed after riding a motorbike around the vertical wall of a circular pit.

For die-hard devotees, there’s even a fairground ride, the fearsome ‘Hearts & Diamonds’, where brave souls stand unharnessed in a giant circular cage, to be whizzed around such that the entire cage can be rotated to almost 90 degrees. The sight of 50 or so screaming people seemingly stuck to the walls of an oversized washing machine drum is something that tends to live long in the memory, acting as a firm inspiration either to ‘definitely’ or ‘never’ try it for yourself. Either way, most people would agree that watching it is more fun than your average physics lesson.

When it’s not thrilling funfair riders on a Saturday night, centrifugal force has a day job – and it’s one that we really couldn’t do without: separating solid matter from water. Many industries use large quantities of water to carry out a number of processes, whether it’s washing potatoes or to apply a glossy coating to some types of paper. Having completed its process, the watery substance can’t simply be flushed away. It needs to have the solids removed – which has the secondary benefit that the water is left in a re-usable state.

How do you reliably remove potato earth or kaolin paper gloss (or a multitude of other substances) once it’s been mixed with water? You’ve guessed it – a centrifuge, albeit quite a specific type, much more sophisticated than the ‘washing machine drum’ you might initially imagine.

With such a significant demand and in so many places, it’s no surprise that there’s a need for a fleet of the things, with different capabilities and all able to visit your site in order to do their thing. In recent years, CSG have developed their oil-based expertise and have become a leading exponent of cleansing and clarifying fluids in the water-based world.

CSG’s selection of mobile centrifuges are available for hire, lease or even purchase. They can take upto 98% of the solid matter out of its watery suspension, which as a minimum, leads to its more efficient disposal or, in some cases, enables the only way to dispose legally.

With throughput rates of 20,000 litres up to 60,000 litres per hour achievable with some machines, they can guzzle through some serious quantities of sludge – and very often, they need to, as some customers require entire lagoons to be cleaned. Lagoon-clearance is a significant undertaking that may even require a roving dredger or a floating pontoon to literally suck the matter from the lagoon floor and pump it to the centrifuge at the waterside to separate it from the water.

With so many different kinds of application, surely there are limits to the types of location that such sensitive machinery can be taken to. Not so, says Pete Smith, CSG’s Technical Sales expert:

“Many of our most remote locations are at drinking water treatment sites, which can only be reached down quite winding lanes. Our biggest machines are transported on 30-foot trailers so if the lanes are too narrow or if there isn’t room to turn the vehicle around, we can send smaller systems, which will fit in the back of a van.”

The equipment is designed well enough that it can be operated with minimal training, although an experienced CSG operator is an optional extra to whoever wishes to hire it. Pete is keen to point out that ‘cleaning’ water does not make it potable, suitable for drinking, merely clean enough to be regarded as re-usable or fit for discharge.

Whatever the type of customer, their application and whatever the specific type of solid matter, CSG seem to have a centrifuge and a method for the job. While techniques can change significantly if the matter is coarser (grains of sand or grit) or finer (dissolved powders), the primary principle is always the power of separation afforded by centrifugal force, perhaps also the most environmentally-friendly law of physics.

CSG: To Boldly Clean Where No Man Has Cleaned Before

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on March 15th 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/to-boldly-clean-where-no-man-has-cleaned-before/ 

On an unremarkable industrial estate just past Queensferry in North Wales, less than a mile from the English border, lies an operation that can claim to be at the very frontier of industrial cleaning.

w1
Photo: CSG

Willacy Oil was established in 1989 by George Willacy to clean the parts of the oil industry that other cleansing companies couldn’t reach. If you’re familiar with that part of the world, you’ll know it’s dominated by the huge Stanlow refinery, the second-largest in the UK. It’s not surprising that as specialist a service as this should have flourished in such an important petrochemical area.

Over the years, Willacy’s excellence in cleaning tanks and lagoons of waste oil and sludge meant that their reputation grew far and wide. As a result, they found their services were required around the world. How these tasks are performed, often in restricted areas, hazardous to humans, requires a level of technology that’s the envy of many an overgrown schoolboy and was enough to persuade CSG to add Willacy Oil Services to our growing roster of businesses back in early 2015.

The tour of the facility starts in one of the workshops. Various machine parts await installation or servicing. The surroundings are clean and organised, slightly more ‘lived in’ than the clinical minimalism of a Formula 1 garage, but certainly a world away from the greasy, blackened den that many people might expect to see.

My guide is Mike Evans, affable and knowledgeable in equal measure. He patiently explains the intricate details of the processes and parameters of a screw pump that’s currently being installed onto one of the machines in the second, larger workshop. In theory, safely removing large quantities of toxic sludge is a simple enough process – it’s only incredibly difficult in practice.

In a far corner sits a tracked machine, partly dismantled, looking like a more agricultural version of ‘Johnny 5’ of ‘Short Circuit’, the 80s family film. In reality, the machines used for these ‘special ops’ cleaning missions are more akin to the army’s remote-controlled devices for de-fusing bombs as they perform the very manual task of sludge-clearing without the need for a human to be there. When you consider the fact that many of the jobs they’re required to do will be in areas that offer poor access, poor lighting and ventilation and may involve harmful substances, it’s clear that there are serious safety reasons for all this technology and it’s far more necessary than merely an excuse to indulge a wish to use remote-controlled toys.

In addition, tank-cleaning can be an eye-wateringly expensive overhead for the client to absorb, especially when you consider the impact that downtime can have on profits. For this reason, it’s a task that may only be done every ten to fifteen years for any given tank. With such high stakes, the job has to be done perfectly and as quickly as possible, however unfavourable the conditions may be.

Willacy’s machines are not just made here at Sandycroft, they’re constantly being maintained, serviced, modified and re-fit in an effort to continually increase their capabilities. Through a strict adherence to the Continual Improvement Process, it may be said that Willacy’s machines have actually evolved over time to become better adapted to work more efficiently in their various environments. Not for the first time, it strikes me how similar all of this is to the hit TV show ‘Robot Wars’.

As we continued around the yard, we encountered an array of similar-looking, subtly different machines, each suited to its own particular task. Open-air lagoon cleaners can be taller and are liable to be utterly submerged while closed tank cleaners must maximise their access capability by being reducing height as much as possible. Pumping capabilities differ, as do the snow-plough-like sludge-pushing attachments.

Of course, where oil is concerned, getting the troublesome sludge out of the tank is only half the exercise. Next, it has to be re-processed, which means pumping it to another, rather anonymous-looking, machine. To most people, it’s a blue box; to anyone who knows anything about the process, it’s very obviously a centrifuge.

A centrifuge is necessary to spin the waste matter around and split any residual oil from all the clogging sediment. Again, it’s easy to be misled by all the chunky machinery – it may all look rather unsophisticated to the untrained eye but in practice, it’s vital to know what type of oil is being reclaimed because each variant will have very specific settings in the centrifuge to physically coax it away from the unhelpful foreign solids. Depending upon the oil type, the centrifuge is set to a specific number of revolutions per minute (rpm) – just like you’d choose a particular setting for a spin cycle to suit absorbent woollens or more water-resistant polyesters.

Having been successfully separated, the reclaimed oil is sent to be re-refined (yes, that is the correct term) while the sediment cake is correctly disposed of. The client now has a clean tank, which can be thrust back into action and a quantity of valuable oil back in a usable state.

There are wider opportunities to utilise many of these techniques beyond the oil industry, with water-based cleansing being the most obvious application. Originally referred to simply as ‘non-oil’, this may be the sector that affords Willacy the greatest opportunities for growth.

It’s easy to see why the oil market alone has served Willacy so well over the years but it’s also interesting to learn that they’re constantly embracing technology to ensure their services are as sought-after as ever in other markets. Mike shows me their latest innovation – a water-based variation of Sonar-mapping device which can show, to within a centimetre, how deep the sludge is, and how evenly spread, within a tank.

“The original sonar device [known as SPOT – Sludge Profiler for Oil Tanks] was developed around 1996 so it’s been around for 20 years – and has been tweaked and improved during this period”, Mike explains. “Our latest innovation is a re-development of the original SPOT technology – which was designed for oil within enclosed crude oil tanks – to apply it to water environments. The sonar tool and software can now be used to map the levels of sludge at the bottom of lagoons, interceptor bays, or any other open stretches of water where there may be forms of sludge or waste settled. This will help us diversify and use our skills and knowledge developed and gained within the oil industry and adapt that into water and other industries.”

The more the client knows about the scale of their sludge problem, the better able they are to manage their assets. The need to monitor sludge levels isn’t new but the technology allows a far safer and more accurate means of testing than the old-fashioned ‘person with a stick’ method.

Another sign of Willacy’s eye on the future comes in the form of their new website, currently still in development but due to be launched in the next month or so. You can be sure there’ll be an announcement as soon as the site goes live!

Whatever the future holds, you can be sure that with CSG’s dynamism and Willacy’s focus on excellence, the innovations that originated in this unassuming Deeside facility will continue to impress clients around the world for many years to come.