JIP Updates Efforts on Arctic Oil Spill Research

Dispersants are effective in cleaning up Arctic oil spills and can be more efficient in treating oil spills when ice is present versus open water, according to a recent report by the Arctic Oil Spill Response Technology Joint Industry Program (JIP).

This key finding was part of JIP’s first of six reports, which cover in situ burning (ISB), dispersants, and remote sensing. The JIP’s initial study for these reports also found that the presence of ice can increase the time window within which dispersants can be used effectively.

The research also confirmed that technology exists to conduct controlled ISB of oil spilled in a wide variety of ice conditions and that ISB is one of the response techniques with the highest potential for oil spill removal in Arctic conditions.

“There is a considerable body of scientific and engineering knowledge on ISB to ensure safe and effective response in open water, broken pack ice and complete ice cover, gleaned from over 40 years of research, including large-scale field experiments,” according to the JIP’s Oct. 16 update on its research efforts.

Researchers also concluded that most of the perceived risks associated with burning oil are easily mitigated by following approved procedures, using trained personnel and maintaining appropriate separation distances.

Additionally, the JIP confirmed that current remote sensing technology has a range of airborne and surface imaging systems used from helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, vessels and drilling platforms that have been developed and tested for the “oil on open water scenario” that can be used for ice conditions.

The JIP was launched in January 2012 to research and improve current technologies and procedures used in Arctic oil spill recovery. The six reports cover current state-of-the-art technologies available for remote sensing above and below the water; operational limits of dispersants and mineral fines in Arctic waters; identification of regulatory requirements and permitting processes in place; available technology and lessons learned from key ISB requirements; and a summary of the regulatory landscape in place to obtain approval to use ISB in Arctic/Sub-Arctic countries.

“Through this initial research, we have affirmed our confidence in the techniques that the industry and its partners have developed over the decades of research and development to respond to oil spills in ice,” said Joseph Mullin, program manager for the JIP, in a statement. “By 2015, the JIP is looking to launch an additional 18 reports covering all six areas of research.”

The JIP will conduct research over a four-year period in six areas related to oil spill response preparedness, including dispersants, environmental effects, trajectory modeling, remote sensing, mechanical recovery and in-situ burning. JIP members include ConocoPhillips, BP plc, Eni S.p.A, Chevron Corp., ExxonMobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell plc and Statoil ASA.

Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at kboman@rigzone.com

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