A stainless-steel water cannon developed by John S. Melbourne is being used to clear gallons of oil, spreading throughout the Gulf of Mexico, after a BP well exploded on April 20, causing 11 deaths.
The 70-year-old, who runs JS Melbourne Controls in Bayswater, has spent eight months working with Newcastle’s CI Agent Solutions and its specially designed food-grade polymer, which is able to turn oil into a rubbery mass. CI Agent Solutions Australia Pacific managing director Barry Sim said its US branch had been employed by BP to help clean up the disaster.
The C.I.Agent Solidifying Polymer is a revolutionary oil spill cleanup product and is an integral part of most of the products we create and manufacture
But it was Mr Melbourne’s invention that allowed the polymer to be effectively dispersed.
Since May 12, six cannons have been operating as the last line of defence along an eight-kilometre stretch of coast off Dauphin Island and more are likely to be used over the next three months.
“Not only can we throw the polymers out with the cannon but we can also suck the rubbery material back in,” Mr Sim said.
“You can’t just use a normal hose; John’s cannon has a vortex nozzle that allows us to do what no one else has done before.”
Mr Melbourne, who lives in Blackburn, said his desire to develop the cannon stemmed from oil spills in Queensland and Western Australia last year.
“Nobody was cleaning them up, so I wanted to find a way to do something about it,” Mr Melbourne said.
He said after meeting with employees at CI Agent Solutions and learning about the polymer he realised he could convert a previously designed fish-feeder into the cannon.
“I’m thrilled about this and we will finish selling them around the world just in case this happens,” he said.
He would not discuss how much money this new deal was worth.
Mr Melbourne, who left school at the age of 13, said he had been inventing for most of his life.
Boasting more than 30 awards across the globe, he has developed a number of items including a hopper-feed valve and hydro-sheer mixer.
Knox Council chief executive Graeme Emonson acknowledged the tremendous achievement.