100% Oil-free bubble curtain to prevent salinization of the North Sea Canal in the Netherlands

March 18, 2019

Atlas Copco Rental supplies oil-free compressed air for Rijkswaterstaat, commissioned by Van Doorn Geldermalsen BV 

On Saturday, September 1, two bubble curtains were installed in the Northern Lock in IJmuiden, the Netherlands, to curb the salinization of the North Sea Canal.

One of the consequences of the drought of the last few months, despite the more recent rain showers, is that the water level of the Rhine has sunk to a historical low, disrupting the fresh water supply and causing salinization problems.

The Rijkwaterstaat (Dutch national water management bureau) must now take additional measures to further prevent salinization in the Netherlands. To create these bubble curtains, which generate an air flow with 100% oil-free compressed air (ISO 8573-1 CLASS 0), Rijkswaterstaat, SPIE and Van Doorn Geldermalsen BV collaborated with Atlas Copco Rental.

A bubble curtain is a screen of air bubbles, which is generated by compressors.

For these bubble curtains, Atlas Copco Rental Nederland supplied two PTS 1600 100% oil-free compressors that will provide a total air flow of 90 m³/min for a minimum period of four weeks. To prevent contamination of surface water with oil, they opted for 100% oil-free compressed air, minimizing the risk of oil entering the system, as no oil lubrication is necessary in the air compressing process.

Salinization process

Rijkswaterstaat installed this bubble curtain in the Northern Lock in the North Sea Canal to prevent salinization, as salt and fresh water could mix in the lock.

Since salt water is heavier than fresh water, the salt water in the lower layer of the water flows into the lock when the lock gate is opened. This means that the fresh water is back in the upper layer. When the lock is opened on the other side, the salt water then flows back out of the chamber to the fresh side, and the chamber is filled with fresh water.

Without a bubble curtain, virtually all the fresh water in the lock chamber would be mixed with salt water within a short time (see also: Rijkswaterstaat Installs Two Extra Bubble Screens to Prevent Salinization). A similar bubble screen was also used during the Delta Works, and examples can be found in the locks of the Afsluitdijk and in Terneuzen, also in the Netherlands.

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