With increased world consumption of oil, drilling in remote locations and tanker-based transport of oil and chemicals across vast distances, mishaps are inevitable. When tankers sink or oil spills occur, it is crucial that help be dispatched quickly and efficiently in order to facilitate clean-up efforts and minimize damage.
Many Norwegian companies have offices and equipment strategically located in the market, considerably reducing response time, and thus, environmental impact. Norwegian emergency response measures are based on cooperation between companies, which makes it possible to provide complete solutions from a single national source.
In addition to supplying products and services related to mechanical oil recovery, Norwegian companies are developing equipment for the use of chemical dispersants. Used as a supplement to mechanical recovery, or as an alternative during minor oil and chemical spills, chemical dispersants represent a field of growing interest.
The research institute SINTEF has been deeply involved in the development of a new underslung helicopter bucket. SINTEF's Oil Spill Contingency and Response model system (OSCAR), designed for response analysis and contingency planning, takes into account the capabilities of the helicopter bucket as well as different types of mechanical recovery. The OSCAR system is based on established strengths in hydrocarbon chemistry, encompassing a coupled set of databases and models in order to deliver comprehensive contingency planning and response support services, and will be a useful tool in Norway's future contributions to this field.
Norwegian companies such as Abtek AS and Sphagnum AS offer environmentally-sound chemical solutions, with products based on natural materials, such as pine bark and the sphagnum plant.
October 2000: Carrying 6,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals, the Italian tanker Ievoli Sun sank intact off the coast of Normandy, France. The ship's cargo included 4,000 tonnes of styrene, a highly toxic carcinogenic. A few days later a styrene slick was observed at the wreck site.
However, testing determined that only a small amount had floated to the surface, and that the rest had remained in the tanker. The pollutant recovery contract went to Smit Tak BV, in association with Frank Mohn Flatøy AS. The operation was based on deploying the Remote Offloading System (ROLS) to recover the chemicals. This system is based on transporting a remote-controlled boat down to the sunken vessel, attaching it to the vessel, drilling through the hull, and pumping out the chemicals and oil. The operation was successful, and the tanker's cargo was recovered without leakage by June 2001.
In late 2000, there were two incidents of cargo vessels running aground along the coast of Norway. About 400 m3 of oil leaked from the Green Ålesund, 100 m3 of which reached shore. The John R grounded on a reef and broke in two, but only small amounts of oil leaked to the sea. Emergency offloading of the vessels' tanks was used with success during both these incidents.
March 2001: In the early hours of the morning, an explosion rocked the Petrobras 36 (P-36) platform in the Roncador field in Brazil, leading to immediate suspension of operations and the deployment of an emergency brigade, as well as the implementation of a contingency plan for monitoring oil spills. A second explosion occurred shortly thereafter, and the P-36 was subsequently evacuated. As the world's largest oil platform in the world sank, floating production storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) were chartered from international actors. Petrobras benefited from the expertise of the Norwegian Oil Spill Control Association (NOSCA) members, who worked together to offer their oil recovery solutions to collect oil from the platform. Following the incident, Det Norske Veritas was hired to serve as an independent consultant to supervise the work performed by Petrobras' investigative commission.
April 2001: A 30" pipeline running from Veracruz, Mexico to the United States, broke over an area 88 km2 wide, spreading 15,000 barrels of crude oil. The oil covered a swamp area full of tropical vegetation, and superior absorbents were required to ensure effective cleaning. After intensive in-house testing of absorbents, the client settled on the use of oil-absorbing bark from pine trees, manufactured by Abtek. Twenty tonnes of pine bark, and Abtek Bark Spreaders were shipped to Mexico in August for the clean-up effort, and Abtek also sent staff to Mexico to provide training and consultancy on the use of its product.
Norwegian oil spill and chemical recovery technology has been tested and tried worldwide, and the success of its implementation is a guarantee that these innovative solutions will be used in future operations.