Oil Spill Technology Research Continues for Arctic Exploration

The JIP also concluded that the oil and gas industry has a role in helping countries with Arctic jurisdictions understand the benefits of having a regulatory process in place to approve the use of dispersants and ISB for oil spill response.  

Of the Arctic and sub-Arctic countries studied, only the U.S. state of Alaska has a documented procedure for approving ISB as a response technique. Two regions in Canada have established guidelines for using ISB; work is underway to clarify the guidelines for use in contingency plans related to proposed Canadian Arctic developments. The JIP found that, in other countries, there has been little serious thought given to ISB and/or a general antipathy towards its use. The countries surveyed included Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russia, the United States and Sweden.

“A robust regulatory regime that acknowledges the potential of all three Arctic oil spill response technology options remains essential to ensuring an effective and coordinated response,” the JIP said in a statement. “Through analysis of the regulatory requirements and permitting processes currently in place, the JIP and its partners have also identified gaps in some national policies and procedures to approve the use of dispersants and ISB during an incident and that, in most jurisdictions, ISB has not been given serious consideration.”

The findings of the two recent reports and six research reports released by the JIP last fall build on decades of research and testing already conducted on techniques and technologies available for responding to oil spills in Arctic conditions. The research findings, focused on ISB, dispersants and remote sensing, continue to reinforce the industry’s capabilities in Arctic oil spill response.

ISB has been considered a viable, primary spill response option for oil spills in ice-affected

waters since offshore drilling began in the Beaufort Sea in the 1970s, according to the JIP research report. Field trials at that time demonstrated on-ice burning of spilled oil offered the potential to remove almost all of the oil present on an ice surface with only minimal residue. Since then, a great many studies and trials have been undertaken to investigate and document the burning of crude oil slicks (both fresh and emulsified) in cold open water, slush ice, drift ice, pack ice and on solid ice.

In-situ burning has rarely been used on marine oil spills, but its successful use during the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon response increased interest in further investigating its potential value as a technique to manage spilled oil. In 2010, controlled burning of spilled oil with fire booms eliminated between 220,000 and 310,000 barrels of oil that could have otherwise reached shorelines and other sensitive resources in the Gulf of Mexico.


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