HANOVER, N.H.— The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) is partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center and the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific and Atlantic strike teams to test an aerial drone to determine how effective the device is for measuring air quality and environmental impact of burning oil on water.
“We’re monitoring the combustion efficiencies and burn efficiencies through the in situ burning of crude oil,” said Brandon Booker, a CRREL research physical scientist. “What we’re doing here is testing new equipment using a drone to carry the gas monitoring equipment, this is a new approach for the EPA and Coast Guard.”
Booker said that CRREL is comparing the sensor readings from the aerial drone to the Coast Guard’s ground sensors, checking the readings from both devices to ensure they are reading the same density of smoke.
“The EPA likes to monitor any sort of in situ burn events that go on,” said Booker. “They want to make sure that anybody downstream is not getting over exposed.”
The idea of burning oil on the water may seem contrary to effective cleanup, but Brian Gullet, a research engineer for the EPA, said that is actually a standard practice.
“It’s an acceptable environmental solution to burn oil when there’s a spill to prevent further ecological damage,” said Gullet. “Burning oil is just one of the practices used for cleaning up oil spills and other hazards. So, we’re just trying to understand how the emissions amount and how to do it more cleanly.”
Oil spills in the ocean are environmental hazards which should be avoided at all costs, however, they do happen. This is why the government agencies like the EPA partner with CRREL to ensure they are using the most effective means of cleaning up the environmental hazards.
“CRREL is a unique facility because it’s probably one of two in the country where this kind of work can be done,” said Gullet. “These guys are really well experienced, they have complementary skills that we just don’t have in terms of handling and dealing with the oil and actually combusting it, it’s been a great partnership.”