The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Sustaining Energy Development and the Environment

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted May 8, 2014

At the heart of the 2014 International Oil Spill Conference (IOSC) in Savannah, Ga., is the exhibitors’ hall where the latest equipment, technologies and services – for spill prevention, preparedness, response and restoration – are on display. This is cutting-edge technology and know-how that’s key to industry’s environmental commitment and sustaining energy development.

Exhibit Hall

BalloonsThe conference hall echoes with conversation. Aisle after aisle is stocked with dozens of display booths featuring the latest in skimmers, scoopers, soakers, detectors, boom manufacturers, deployment equipment, containment receptacles, pumps, amphibious tractor/crawlers and consulting services – including one outfit, Exponent, whose display table giveaway is a light gray, palm-sized squeezable tension/anxiety reducer shaped like a brain. Gray matter. And there’s more, much more. A few examples:

Polar Bear Arctic Skimmer – Desmi

Peter Newsom, Desmi’s rep at the conference, explains that the company has developed a special skimmer for Arctic conditions, should one ever be needed there. The orange, six-sided system with a protective cage is designed sweep up oil on surface waters with special brushes that collect oil but not water. The oil is swept up into a recovery bank and then can be pumped away. Newsom:

“You can plunk it down in the oil in a sweep system or wherever it might be and it’s working 360 degrees. … You’re collecting oil from all 360 degrees. We’ve hardened it for Arctic use by essentially building a cage around it – a cage you can literally use as a headache ball to break ice if you should need to or to shoulder ice out of the way.”

The floating device has hydraulic thrusters for maneuverability, controlled through an umbilical. It’s equipped with heating systems to keep the hydraulics functional in frigid waters.

Peter polar bear skimmer

Manned Submersible Recovery System – Marine Pollution Control/Seamagine

Walt Putnam of Detroit-based Marine Pollution Control (MPC) points to a video monitor showing a two-man submersible, equipped with a hose tipped with a skimming nozzle that can vacuum oil from coastal, river and lake beds. The craft can dive 200 to 300 feet, Putnam says.

Connected to a recovery vessel with an umbilical, the system is the result of a partnership between MPC and Seamagine Hydrospace Corp., which builds the submersibles. Putnam says the system includes technology to detect oil and side sonar to guide it underwater. Recovery systems are part of industry’s commitment to environmental safety and response. Putnam:

“When you do these technologies, extracting oil or doing any of these processes, you need to have the pieces in place to arrest those situations. That’s all part of a pre-planning approach.”

Leakwise Oil Sheen Monitoring System – GE Power & Water

The Leakwise system for detecting oil on water surfaces is a couple of decades old, but the unit Caryn Cullen shows is equipped with the latest technology, including a solar panel to run the onboard systems and communications components that send alert signals to cellphones and computers alike.

Caryn GE sensorThe system typically is moored in locations upstream of desalinization facilities, drinking water plants, as well as downstream from refineries and tank farms that could discharge oil, Cullen says. The technology is used, for example, near Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, which at one time was used to store oil.

A sensor sits in the middle of the triangle-shaped equipment, half submerged to detect the presence of an oil sheen and its depth. Cullen says the system can sense up to a 0.3-millimeter sheen on oil and a depth of up to 20 millimeters. 

Again, these are just a few examples of the dozens of pieces of equipment, technologies and services showcased at this year’s IOSC. Prevention, preparation, response and restoration have significant parts to play in keeping industry’s operations – onshore and offshore – safe, and to allow companies to swiftly and effectively respond if an incident occurs.

The conference and these technologies reflect a commitment to protect the environment as a foundation for sustained oil and natural gas development.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.