Nican Holdings Ltd. manufacturer of In-Viro-Drum™ remote access equipment
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Rethinking Oil Spill Response

With new challenges that are facing the energy industry we have to rethink our approach to oil spill response and remediation.
Oil spills are becoming more complex to deal with as we drill in more remote locations, have increased regulations and come under more environmental pressure from the public. It has also been recognized that in some cases when we are bringing in equipment into remote locations we are doing more damage to the environment getting to the spill than the spill is actually causing.

It has always been the case that every oil spill and clean-up is unique, but given that breadth of locations we are now seeing we are also seeing more challenging situations. A lot of the equipment we have been using to respond to spills is not up to these new challenges. It is also the case that we are seeing the effects of aging transportation and production facilities.

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Often the first challenge is getting to the location. As we are gathering resources from more remote locations this has brought along the challenge of getting to remote spills. In the past the options were ‘how are we going to get a vacuum truck to the location?’ This may have meant clearing a road or building a road with rig matting. Both of these options create a considerable environmental impact and there maybe instances, such as building a road across boreal muskeg, that will cause more damage than the actual spill itself. Additionally rig matting roads can also be quite expensive.

The ideal situation to access a remote site is via helicopter, however, often the cost and availability of helicopters makes this option nonviable. There are also an increasing number of incidents where it is simply is not possible to get larger equipment to the site.

With newer technologies, such as the In-Viro-Drum Heli-Portable Vacuum units, equipment can be transported to site via Helicopter, atv, track vehicle, or even boat. Depending on the volume of traffic, light weight atv vehicles will have a minimum impact on the environment and traces of the equipment’s path will often be restored within a season.

Another important aspect of reducing the impact of the spill response equipment is to consider both separation and treatment of material onsite. The less material that has to be removed from the site the less trips that will be made over temporary roads or fragile environments. The less material that has to be transported will also reduce disposal and transportation costs.

The first line of attack is to use a method that removes mostly hydrocarbons and takes as little extra water and other material as possible. It is important to train your front line recovery workers to skim the surface of water taking mostly hydrocarbons or to only take the minimal top layer of soil. One of the challenges with traditional equipment, such as vacuum trucks, back hoes, or other heavy equipment is that it is very hard to be very discrete with what you are collecting and it is not uncommon to get 90% water or dirt and only 10% hydrocarbon. With equipment such as In-Viro-Drum™ Heli-Portable units we are able to collect 90% hydrocarbon and only 10% other materials.

You can further reduce the amount of hydrocarbon that has to be transported out by doing further onsite separation and treatment. In a recent recovery job we recovered water and hydrocarbon into a 10,000 litre oil tank brought in by a haglund. We let the recovered material sit for a few hours allowing for the hydrocarbon to float to the surface. We further skimmed this hydrocarbon off the tank and were left with water with a light hydrocarbon sheen. We then used an In-Viro-Kleen unit to further remove the sheen from the water getting it to an acceptable level to discharge the water back into the environment.

Using this method we were able to transport just hydrocarbon from the spill.  Depending on the spill locations this can be a significant reduction in the damage caused by transporting material out of the site and a significant reduction of the overall cost.

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