Oil spill responders train at CRREL to keep the arctic clean

Published April 10, 2013
Arctic oil spill responders place a mechanical skimmer used for oil recovery during their recent training with Alaska Clean Seas instructors, hosted at ERDC-CRREL.

Arctic oil spill responders place a mechanical skimmer used for oil recovery during their recent training with Alaska Clean Seas instructors, hosted at ERDC-CRREL.

Research Civil Engineer Leonard Zabilansky recently provided logistical oversight and technical assistance onsite to representatives of Alaska Clean Seas (ACS) for their training course, “Advanced Oil Spill Response in Ice.”

The Advanced Oil Spill Response in Ice course was completed in two sessions over two consecutive weeks, training approximately 55 spill response personnel representing various oil companies and agencies working the oil fields of Alaska.

The course combines both classroom and hands-on components. 

In the classroom, students reviewed the technology and methodology of recovery, while afternoons were dedicated to hands-on training using CRREL’s Geophysical Research Facility (GRF) and recovery equipment provided and demonstrated by company representatives. 

“The CRREL/ACS partnership is mutually beneficial,” said Zabilansky.  “The hands-on training using Alaska crude provides responders with the opportunity to resolve real-world problems prior to a spill crisis.  Equipment company representatives involved in the training observe the equipment limitations and, through modification, improve recovery efficacy.  Collectively, the responders are better trained and equipped to respond to a spill situation, shortening the recovery operation and minimizing the area impacted.”

The training covers a wide range of topics to include ice safety; delineating an oil spill under ice; deploying and using drum, brush and mop skimmers; and oil burning. 

“The topics are selected and taught, theory and hands-on practice, to provide the responder with a diverse skill set,” said Chris Hall, Alaska Clean Seas instructor.  “It’s all about providing the responder with an opportunity to learn the theory and be able to handle the equipment that is available to them.”

“CRREL offers the only facility of its kind in the world where we can put oil into a controlled, sea ice environment to train responders in our tactics.  Doing the training with oil makes all the difference; all of our participants have used these tools and tactics in hands-on training without oil before.  But few have employed the tactics to recover actual oil from beneath the ice.  Personnel who complete this course will take the lessons learned back to all of our response teams, and serve as force multipliers to enhance our spill response readiness in Alaska,” said Hall.

This is the second year that CRREL has hosted ACS training, the first being a weeklong course in February 2012. 

“Alaska Clean Seas’ partnership with CRREL has been exceptionally beneficial to us,” said Hall.  “In the past two years, we have run three very successful training courses at their facility.  Attendees have included our international partners in the Global Response Network and members of the regulatory community from Alaska.  It is critical that our regulatory officials have a thorough understanding of tactics, expectations and pathways to success before a spill occurs; waiting until an actual event is simply too late.  This course provides that opportunity.”  

CRREL has become a valuable resource to ACS due to the staff’s vast knowledge of ice and the uniqueness of its GRF.

“None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the staff at CRREL,” Hall said.  “We will continue this partnership and look forward to training at the facility next year.”

“This training is helping ERDC to meet the mission of helping others to create innovative solutions for a safer, better world,” said Zabilansky.


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