Expert: No way to clean up oil spill under Arctic ice

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In the wake of the Gulf Coast disaster, serious questions are being raised about the ability of oil companies and government responders to clean up a major spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic. Photograph by: CNS

By Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News Service June 15, 2010, OTTAWA — There is no known way of cleaning up a major oil spill under the Arctic ice of the Beaufort Sea, a parliamentary committee heard Tuesday.

Canadian regulators have been closely monitoring ongoing efforts to clean up the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But a senior official with a Canadian firm that specializes in oil-spill response told the House of Commons natural-resources committee that many of the techniques being used in the Gulf would be useless if a big spill were to occur under the Arctic ice.

“There does not exist today technology that can recover oil from ice,” said Ron Bowden, manager of international sales with Aqua-Guard Spill Response, a company based in North Vancouver.

Offshore oil production in the Canadian portion of the Beaufort Sea remains at least several years away, although licences have been granted in recent years to companies such as BP and Exxon Mobil to conduct exploratory drilling. In the wake of the Gulf Coast disaster, serious questions are being raised about the ability of oil companies and government responders to clean up a major spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.

The last company to drill an exploratory well in the Beaufort was Devon Energy in 2005. But that well was drilled only about 10 metres deep, whereas the BP and Imperial leases are at depths of several hundred metres.

Bowden said traditional methods of cleaning up spills, such as the use of containment booms, would be ineffective at capturing oil trapped under the ice.

“You can’t lay boom on ice,” he said. “You can’t recover oil from the surface, because it’s hampered by the ice or under the ice, so it’s quite a different scenario, and there is really no solution or method today that we’re aware of that can actually recover oil from the Arctic.”

Carl Brown, an Environment Canada official who has conducted extensive research into spill response methods, also told the committee that recovering oil in the Arctic would be challenging.

“Our main conclusions are that response in the Arctic is difficult because of the limitations that we have on available resources and infrastructure,” said Brown.

Drilling off Canada’s Arctic coast is regulated by the National Energy Board, an arm’s-length agency accountable to Parliament through the minister of natural resources.

A senior official with Natural Resources Canada told the committee that regulators such as the National Energy Board, which has launched a full-blown review of its environmental-protection standards, have taken a number of steps since the Gulf Coast spill to reinforce Canada’s already robust regulations.

“The bottom line is that we have a strong regulatory system in place,” said Mark Corey, assistant deputy minister of the department’s energy sector.

However, some opposition members of the committee did not appear satisfied with the safeguards in place against a major spill off Canada’s coastline.

Rene Grenier, deputy commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, said his agency has roughly 90 kilometres of booms that could be deployed to clean up a spill.

“The U.S. has deployed more than 2,000 kilometres of boom so far, with another 700 kilometres of boom on hand. Our coast is 10 times the length of the U.S. coast. Why do we have so little boom capacity?” said New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/clean+spill+under+Arctic+Expert/3158005/story.html#ixzz0r0YVqjfv

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One Response to “Expert: No way to clean up oil spill under Arctic ice”

  1. Andrew M Crawford Says:

    In reply to Expert: “No way to clean up oil spill under Arctic ice”
    By hornorkesteret Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News Service June 15, 2010, OTTAWA

    I would like to say that I totally agreed with Carl Brown, an Environment Canada official when he says that “Our main conclusions are that response in the Arctic is difficult because of the limitations that we have on available resources and infrastructure,” it is difficult but not impossible. The comments of your “expert” Ron Bowden, a salesman based in North Vancouver,are wholly misleading and not founded on fact. A lot of work has been done to develop equipment that will recover oil under ice and a lot of organisations are equiped with this equipment to recove oil under ice. Please contact us if you have any questions about this technology and we will be happy to share our information with you.

    Andy Crawford
    Vice President Global Business Development
    Lamor Corporation Ab
    Porvoo, Finland
    andy@lamor.fi

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