Top Scientists Propose to Test Oil Spill Clean-up Technologies in the Arctic: The video provides the rationale for conducting controlled oil spill experiments in the Arctic by the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research (COOGER) with international collaborators, to assess the environmental risk of oil spills, and to develop and validate improved remediation technologies.

Transcript of Video

Ken Lee
What power the ocean has. There are a lot of emerging challenges in the field that we work in looking at energy in the marine environment.

Right now with the emerging industries in terms of offshore oil and gas, mining, increases in shipping traffic, global climate change, we want to make sure that we have the capability to respond to oil spills should they occur. I’ve conducted experiments around the world cleaning up oil spills and testing various remediation technologies. The Arctic is a real challenge for me. It’s something I’ve been looking at for a number of years. How do we test these technologies in the actual arctic environment and compare it to other technologies that are also being developed. What we’re looking at is bringing the best minds together in science internationally that are interested in oil spills in the Arctic and how we can work together to gain as much knowledge as we can.

The worst spill that I’ve seen was in the Gulf of Mexico. You’re looking at a situation where the Oil is coming out of the bottom of the ocean at 1500m depth. We worked on two research vessels that had scientists from BP, NOAA, the US EPA and ourselves, and we all worked together, we were all trying to do the best thing that we could. Since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a lot of people are concerned about the risk of offshore oil and gas exploration and production operations.

One of the things we all realize is oil is being depleted around the world. And for that reason we are looking at new exploration; and with that comes new environmental risks that we have to consider. People want to make sure that we have ways to mitigate spills should they occur.

I haven’t been up in the arctic for a while. It’s always fun to leave port; it’s always fun to come back. And it’s always nice to be out at sea, and wake up early in the morning and watch the sun rise. It’s unique. Being a Canadian I realize this is something that’s very important to us and we have a capability right now to take a leadership role in the Canadian Arctic looking at new technologies that we are developing.

One of the things that I notice when I’m up in the arctic right away is just the quality of air.  You feel that it is special there is no doubt about it, because there hasn’t been that much development up there, there isn’t the air pollution up there, the habitat is different and that habitat is unique. The current challenges for us are working in cold water and harsh environments. There has been research done, and what we want to do is to conduct controlled experiments. We are releasing known amounts of oil, so if and when a spill occurs do we have the tools to respond? And we are starting to develop those tools and to make sure that they do work, and understand what the negative impacts of applying those tools could also be.

So there are various methods of cleaning up oil spills. You can actually try to physically recover it by booming and skimming. You can try to burn the oil, you can add spill treating agents either mineral fines like we have done or chemical oil dispersants used in the Gulf of Mexico. We are fully prepared to physically recover any oil that is released from the experiments. We all realize the Arctic is a very sensitive environment and we all want to protect it. So we want to make sure that if we are doing experiments we’re consulting with the communities in the Arctic as to where we’re going to conducting the experiments. We want to have their input in the experiment, because one of the things that’s important is local traditional knowledge because there are things in the Arctic environment that they may understand that we may not.  In terms of for instance local regional currents and where things are going. At the same time there is an education component where we can bring in younger people to get them interested in what we are doing in science and the opportunity of science as a career for them in the future.

What we are looking at is multi-disciplinary studies to understand as much as we can about if we have an oil spill in the Arctic, what are the environmental effects, what techniques can we use to clean it and how do  we make sure that the environment recovers in case of a spill event. There are these feelings that the Arctic is more sensitive, but of course what we want to do is conduct the science to actually look at the facts.