Alternative Oil Spill Response Technology: Results from the Deepwater Horizon Response
- Michael J. Cortez (BP) | Hunter G. Rowe (BP)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- September 2012
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 60 - 68
- 2012. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Oil spill response technology progressed significantly as a result of innovations and experience gained during the Deepwater Horizon response in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, particularly in areas related to surveillance, controlled in-situ burning, booming, skimming, mechanical oil/water separation, and sand cleaning. During the response, the Alternative Response Technology (ART) team, under the direction of the Unified Area Command, screened approximately 43,000 spill response technology ideas submitted by the public. The ART team’s work was done alongside, and consistent with, the US federally directed Interagency Alternative Technology Assessment Program.
The ART team field tested or evaluated in detail about 100 of the 43,000 ideas, resulting in at least 45 ideas being recommended for use in response operations. The successful ideas are listed in Table 1.
Of significance was the number of ideas that came from other industries and were adapted to spill response needs. For instance, the team field-tested at least 10 sand cleaners for beach cleanup, and the most notable was the Sand Shark (Fig. 1), a technology that was adapted from the road maintenance industry (material loader). The Sand Shark could clean a mile of beach per day, using its sifting process, down to a depth of approximately 12 in.
Another successful sand-cleaning technology was the Gravely Rapid E Sand Cleaner. The Chicago-area Gravely Co., which makes industrial lawn mowers, had adapted its technology into a one-person sand-cleaning machine that could get in and out of hard-to-access beach areas for cleanup. Its use was proposed by a distributor in Illinois, who saw the larger sand-cleaning machines on a newscast and reasoned that the smaller machine would be useful to responders.
The Boom Blaster (Fig. 2) was a technology adapted from the car wash industry and was able to clean 600 ft of boom per hour, which far exceeded what could be cleaned manually. During the response, more than 13 million ft of boom was deployed, thus saving considerable time and manpower in cleaning boom for storage.
These and other technologies adapted from other industries—including the Parachute Surf Skimmer (a pool and pond cleaner proposed for tar ball capture), Yates Boom Cleaner (another automated process with dishwasherlike water jetting), and the M-I Swaco sand cleaning plant (adapted from tar sands production operations)—have been added to the industry’s toolbox. One key lesson learned to aid in future spill clean-ups is to open the search for technology outside of industry and to be willing to think creatively.
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