OSRI and oil, gas companies develop spill technology

The Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC), through its Oil Spill Response Institute (OSRI), has partnered with oil and gas companies and others to develop a remotely operated surface vessel for oil spill responses.

The first version of the surface vessel, a heavily modified jet ski, is designed to deploy a chemical herder to thicken the oil and an ignition system capable of starting in situ burns, which involves burning the floating oil at sea to remove large amounts of it from the surface, PWSSC reported in the January edition of its publication “the Breakwater.”

Another version has additional remote sensing capabilities, including a volatile organic carbon detector that can determine if the spill is safe enough to send human responders to. The vehicles are nearing completion and PWSSC officials expect to do their first major testing at a tank near Fairbanks and then with sea trials in Juneau by August of this year.

The jet ski platform was chosen because it has proven to be fast, durable and relatively small, making it a good platform to deploy by ship or helicopter or even driven from land to a remote spill. The platform was modified to allow remote operation by radio or satellite. It includes several cameras, radar and other gear to allow the operator to safely control the vehicle. A tethered drone provides an aerial view of the vehicle operations.