Nonwoven Technology Aiding In Containing Gulf Oil Spill

CARY, NC – June 4, 2010 – An industry more known for its baby diapers, household wipes and medical
products is making a vital contribution to the containment and cleanup of the massive BP oil spill
in the Gulf of Mexico.

Among the many materials and devices being utilized to protect the sensitive Gulf Coast from
the largest oil spill in history are adsorbent “booms” primarily made from polypropylene nonwovens.
These booms basically consist of a nonwoven tube filled with a number of different polypropylene
materials, primarily made from a nonwoven process known as meltblowing. The booms are laid down in
the water and their properties attract and adsorb the oil from the water better than any other
known similar product.

INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, whose members include the companies that
supply products ranging from baby diapers and feminine hygiene pads to medical nonwoven gowns to
household wipes, says its members are playing a crucial role in the desperate effort to contain the
BP oil spill that threatens hundreds of miles of sensitive coastline.

“Nonwovens companies are producing the products that are proving most successful in adsorbing
the oil that is flowing out of the BP well,” says Rory Holmes, president of INDA. “Many have
stepped up production to meet this incredible, unforeseen demand for meltblown nonwovens.”

From a technical perspective, polypropylene meltblown nonwovens are proving to be
particularly effective because their specific gravity is lighter than water, so the booms are able
to float on the water’s surface. In addition, polypropylene has an affinity for oil that allows it
to adsorb the oil in great quantities. The products utilize meltblown polypropylene as the oil
adsorbent because the meltblown fiber diameter is extremely fine and cumulatively presents a large
surface to attract and hold onto the oil.

The extremely fine meltbown fibers can adsorb much more oil than most other products – up to
25 times its weight, compared to clay oil absorbent granules, which only absorb up to three times
their weight – due to greater surface area of meltblown per a given unit. They work by collecting
the oil on the surface of the fibers. “This meltblown technology is playing a vital role in the
cleanup efforts and in slowing the spread of this massive oil spill,” says Holmes. “Our member
companies are working diligently to meet this unprecedented demand.”  

As another option to deal with the massive oil spill, raw cotton acts a lot like meltblown
polypropylene and does not absorb water, floats on the surface of water and has a great affinity
for oil.  Several nonwoven processes can convert raw cotton into very effective oil sorbents.

A demonstration of how this meltblown technology and these products work is available at For a list of companies making products that are
being used in the cleanup and containment of the Gulf oil spill, go to

Posted on June 17, 2010

Press Release Courtesy of INDA