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Answering the call

Miller Products played pivotal roll in stopping BP oil spill

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 9:32 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 11:43 a.m. CDT
Caption
OST photo by AMY HANSEN This is an example of the special oil boom pin that was used to help fix the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

When the emergency call was made, Miller Products came to the rescue.

The year was 2010 and a man-made disaster was occurring — the BP oil rig explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.

The BP oil spill, which killed 11 people, is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

To stop the flow of oil, professionals needed something they couldn’t find — a special oil boom pin.

That’s where Miller Products stepped in.

The pin

Jack McFarland, president of Miller Products, said the company is well known around the globe because of the Internet and marketing as a manufacture of special pins and fasteners.

Miller Products received a phone call shortly after the oil spill from an engineer who was looking for a special oil boom pin that was used in a cuppler, which was used for every 50 feet of boom. Boom is the absorbent floated all the way around the spill — by many, many miles.

“There were none of these special pins in the world, apparently,” McFarland said. “We didn’t make it as a standard pin, but yes, we would be glad to quote it and make it as a special for that application. We literally went from a phone call on Thursday afternoon to production by Tuesday, delivering parts two and three times a day to the airport in Des Moines to be shipped to the user.”

Ramping up production

A week and a-half after the call, Miller Products was producing 1,000 special pins a day. Employees were working 10-12 hours a day, plus putting time in on Saturdays.

By the end of the second and third weeks, they were producing 2,000 special pins a day and working 16 hour days and Saturdays.

Miller Products also has a shop in Tucson, Ariz., and work on the special pins was being done there, too. This meant that eventually 3,000 oil boom pins were being produced a day.

“There, again, because of our size and our flexibility, we can do that,” McFarland said. “We didn’t have to have a big committee. We didn’t have a planning group. We just sat down in the engineer’s office and he sketched it out.”

McFarland added, the salesman at the time of the spill wrote a blog about the special oil boom pins, which got him phone calls all night long from people looking for that pin.

After it stopped

Oil gushed into the ocean for months with an estimated total discharge of 4.9 million barrels. The spill was finally sealed in September 2010.

When the oil spill was fixed, the need for the oil boom pins ended. However, production on the pins couldn’t just be stopped overnight, and revenues were lost. There are still 15,000 pins sitting in Miller Products warehouses.

However, there still is a need for the special type of oil boom pins.

McFarland said, recently, Miller Products has a new customer buying a version of the special pin for a special application in cranberry production.

“Every now and then, we sell 50 or a couple hundred to somebody that’s got some oil booms to put together to clean up a spill,” he said.

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