Innovative Multi-Layer Composite Enhances Hydrocarbon Separation in Electrical Utility Transformer Substation Berms

Efficient Solution for Oleophilic/Hydrophobic Polymer Powder Encapsulation


Electrical utility transformer substations play a crucial role in ensuring reliable power distribution, but they also present a risk of oil leaks and spills that can contaminate the environment. Oil is used as a cooling and insulation medium, but can leak through faulty seals and gaskets, corrosion, mechanical defects, or over pressurization, among other causes. When an oil leak occurs, effective methods for separating oil from water in transformer substation berms are essential to mitigate these environmental risks. In this case study, we explore the development and implementation of an innovative multi-layer composite solution to address that essential need.

The Challenge

The challenge presented was to establish an efficient method for encapsulating 20 ounces per square yard of an oleophilic/hydrophobic polymer powder between needle-punched nonwoven layers, while ensuring a flow rate of greater than 10 gallons per square meter per minute. It was essential to create a durable bond that would not negatively impact the polymer’s ability to filter water and capture hydrocarbons.

Innovative Approach

The Shawmut technical engineering team first identified an appropriate thermoplastic polyester adhesive and carefully blended it within the oleophilic/hydrophobic polymer powder at a ratio that achieved the optimal bond and performance of the polymer. This adhesive blend served as a critical component in ensuring the durability and effectiveness of the final composite.

Secondly, the technical team then engineered a precise lamination process methodology that allowed for the uniform dispersion of the blended adhesive and polymer. This method not only facilitated the bonding process but also provided for an optimum flow rate of water through the laminated structure, with limited loss of the polymer during lamination and post-processing. This innovation was a game-changer in achieving the desired flow rate and maintaining the polymer’s hydrocarbon capture performance.

Results and Impact

The implementation of Shawmut’s multi-layer composite solution offered numerous benefits. By encapsulating the oleophilic/hydrophobic polymer powder with the tailored thermoplastic polyester adhesive blend, the decontamination berm now effectively allows water to pass through while efficiently absorbing oil leaked from nearby transformers, delivering several key advantages:

  1. Enhanced Hydrocarbon Separation: The innovative composite efficiently captures hydrocarbons, preventing their release into the environment, and provides reliable protection against oil contamination.
  2. High Flow Rate: With a flow rate exceeding 10 gallons per square meter per minute, the composite ensures rapid drainage of water, reducing the risk of flooding.
  3. Durability: The bond achieved through the blended adhesive ensures the longevity of the composite, even under harsh environmental conditions.
  4. Sustainability: By capturing and containing oil, the solution contributes to environmental sustainability by preventing oil pollution in water bodies.


The development and implementation of this innovative multi-layer composite addressed a critical challenge in electrical utility transformer substation berms. By encapsulating oleophilic/hydrophobic polymer powder with a precisely engineered adhesive blend and lamination process, Shawmut has achieved an efficient, durable, and sustainable solution that enhances hydrocarbon separation and environmental protection. This case study exemplifies the success of innovative engineering in mitigating environmental risks in critical infrastructure.

Want to Explore a Project with Shawmut?

Project Details


Multi-Layer Composite for Hydrocarbon Separation in Electrical Utility Transformer Substation Berms

Capabilities Applied/Processes:

  • Adhesive Powder Coating
  • Thermal Lamination
  • Slitting
  • Sheeting

Industry for Use:

  • Oil Remediation
  • Industrial

Materials Used:

  • Polyester needle-punch
  • Oleophilic/hydrophobic polymer powder

Equipment Used:

  • Stork Hot Roll
  • Thermal Laminator

In Process Testing/Inspection Performed:

Application weight of oleophilic/hydrophobic polymer powder


Up to 82″


Continuous Rolls

Standards Met:

Customer Requirements

Contact Us for more information