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An informal dialogue focused on solutions IDS Offshore is developing. Detailed design features and performance characteristics will be published in technical briefs and reports. Please contact IDS Offshore with any questions or comments.  

Oil Spills: Risks & Response Options

posted Nov 20, 2012, 4:33 PM by IDS Info   [ updated Nov 29, 2012, 12:31 PM ]

Options are useful when responding to any crisis. This is especially true for large oil spills because of their proportions and complexity.

Oil and water don't mix well. Oil is toxic, especially when unrefined; and the ocean is a sensitive network of living creatures and matter that we don't fully understand, and can't accurately model for predicting impacts. Or weather for that matter. But we rely heavily on both oil and the ocean. Oil for energy and it's chemical parts, and on the ocean for sustenance and transport among other things. The greatest proportion of living matter on earth also depends on the ocean. And after the sun's influence, our global thermal and climate and weather cycles are most greatly affected by the ocean.

Transportation and production of oil at increasing volume makes for persistent high spill risk; hopefully offset to some extent by improving technology and skills, acting to reduce the likelihood of operator at-fault incidents leading to spills.

Exploration, production and associated sea transport of oil is reaching further and deeper into hostile and sensitive environments such as the Arctic, and extreme ocean depths, adding to the existing risk of normal oil transport and production noted above.

Freak weather events, and rogue operators with decrepit tankers and equipment remain a threat. As do conflict, terrorism, sabotage and piracy. All very real but difficult to quantify added risks.

Public awareness of our role as stewards to the resources we rely upon is reaching a point of political force in many parts of the developed and developing world. When oil spills occur for whatever reason, we respond to the best of our ability. Clearly, our efforts usually fall well short.

Oil spills are often marred in legal, jurisdictional and propaganda battles from the get-go, and response is usually not at full capacity until well into the event. Coastal areas are often hit hard by spills because we can't contain and collect oil in time, or because conditions are too harsh for any response at the time of the spill.

Principal at-sea oil spill response techniques include containment and recovery (the only method that actually attempts to remove the pollutant), in-situ burning (creates toxic smoke and precipitant) , and chemical dispersants (adds chemicals to ocean but helps break down oil).

Source: Government of Canada report
Fig. 1: Oil Spill Response Methods   (Source)

Time is an important factor in oil spill response. Unless physically restrained by land or containment systems, all but the heaviest types of oil will spread at a rate proportional to sea currants and wind. Recovery of oil becomes ineffective when spill area increases beyond response capacity; dispersants (if approved for use) must be applied over an increasingly large area as oil spreads; and in-situ burning (if approved for use) becomes impossible as oil weathers.

Fig. 2: Oil Spill Response Effort & Costs Over Time (IDS)

Containment and barrier boom systems can help limit the spread of oil and impact on sensitive shorelines, especially when deployed quickly in suitable quantity. 

With containment, more response options remain available: With more highly concentrated, contained oil, in-situ burning remains a possibility for longer; dispersants need be applied over a smaller area; and collection and removal effectiveness is greatly improved. The more quickly containment systems can be put in place, the better. 

Aircraft can deploy hundreds or thousands of tonnes of spill response equipment, as necessary, to a spill site from central locations at speeds much more quickly than any ship could hope to travel. This combined with reliable autonomous and remote control technologies it is possible to put equipment to work even before people are there, or in the case of highly hazardous situations be used to prevent people from having to face unnecessary danger.

Fig. 3: IDS Offshore - Unmanned Spill Response Vessel (USRV) (IDS) 

We think that aircraft can help put operating response equipment at a spill site quickly "In time to make a difference". The air deployed oil spill response systems presently under development by IDS Offshore first began in 2005 as an engineering design project. For more on our story, see 'About'.


Copyright IDS Offshore Inc. All rights reserved.


Figures


Fig. 2 - Oil Spill Response Effort & Costs Over Time: IDS Offshore Inc, free for re-use.

Fig. 3 - Unmanned Spill Response Vessel (USRV): Copyright IDS Offshore Inc. Re-use with permission only.

Links of Interest

Why use aircraft for oil spill response?

posted Nov 9, 2012, 4:29 PM by IDS Info   [ updated Nov 29, 2012, 12:24 PM ]

Aircraft travel much faster than ships, and speed can make a difference when it comes to oil spill response. 

With the IDS Offshore aircraft delivered first-response systems, continent wide coverage for response within hours is possible using limited airbases selected for optimal coverage of all coastal and island areas including the Arctic. 

Response speed is important when it comes to oil spills because oil spreads with time due to sea currents and wind - the larger the spill area, the greater the response effort and cost. 

Air deployment of heavy equipment is reliable and commonplace in operations ranging from humanitarian aid to frontline military operations. 

By using high-capacity aircraft in the preliminary response, tens or hundreds of tonnes of equipment (as necessary) can be put into action quickly. 

The IDS Offshore air deployed Unmanned Spill Response Vessels (USRV) will be available in configurations for oil spill containment at sources such as oil rigs, blowouts or shipwrecks, and as barrier boom for protecting coastal areas from spill impact. 




Copyright IDS Offshore Inc. All rights reserved.

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