Once the far north was untouched by anyone except explorers. Now that there is more activity in the Arctic there is a need to protect it from oil spills.
The Arctic region is opening up to more human activity. Climate change and advances in icebreaker technology are making the idea of a northern passage for commercial shipping a reality. More resources are being spent on studying the Arctic, meaning there are more research ships in the region. The melting ice is also making oil and gas drilling possible. All this increased activity has also increased the risk of oil spills, and cleaning up oil spills in Arctic conditions is not a simple matter.
Rule #1: Respect the Arctic
The cold is brutal and unforgiving during oil spill recovery operations. Ice can hide the location of oil spills, so finding it can be the first problem. Ice flows make it hard to get to oil spills and can batter or crush equipment. Wet equipment can freeze solid when you hoist it out of the water. The oil itself becomes thick in the cold, almost like tar, and can be difficult to collect.
The Arctic is a diverse place, even in the winter. In the Baltic we might find the crushed ice left behind by icebreakers. Off Norway we could have open water. In other places we could have ice flows. Conditions can also change rapidly. A switch in wind direction can cover open water with a solid sheet of ice within minutes. The Arctic demands respect.
Arctic oil spill response (OSR) is constantly evolving, which is why Lamor works with groups like the EU and the Finnish State to study and test the best cold-weather oil recovery ideas. For example, in the Grace project we studied how oil moves under solid ice and how to retrieve it. Some of the results were presented in the seminar Oil Spills in Arctic Areas. In the LO-ICE project we partnered with the icebreaker operator Arctia and received R&D funding from Finland to test both equipment and operations. Here we examined how a vessel-mounted mechanical recovery skimmer could work in different ice conditions.
There are a variety of organisations which are interested in protecting the Arctic from oil spills. These include the national coast guards of northern countries, supranational organisations like the European Maritime Safety Agency, companies like Gazprom and industry organisations such as Alaska Clean Seas.
The main thing Northern groups need is OSR equipment and procedures which will work in their particular Arctic situations. They need equipment they can rely on to perform in these locales, which are often remote.
We at Lamor believe we need to focus on three key areas to protect the Arctic from oil spills:
- Simple, robust high-quality equipment that can withstand high stresses.
- Methodology: how to operate successfully in ice.
- Heating so the equipment will not freeze.
We have developed different types of innovative solutions for different types of challenges. The Sternmax is a big, state-of-the-art solution that can work on icebreakers. It is so strong that it can even crush ice in order to access the oil under the surface. The Oil Recovery Bucket LRB 150 W is a smaller, efficient and versatile solution which is used by the majority of Nordic countries, while the Arctic Skimmer LAS 125 can operate from a crane or be fitted with floats to be used in open water.
Our equipment has proven effectiveness for Arctic conditions, and we are continually developing even better solutions. If you are looking for OSR equipment or services for Arctic conditions, please get in touch and let us know what you need.