Field Research Using Herders to Advance In Situ Burning

Research Report

Integrated Igniter/Herder Application System

In-situ burning (ISB) has been considered a viable spill response option for oil spills in Arctic waters since offshore drilling began in the Beaufort Sea in the 1970s.  Technologies developed over the past few decades have provided robust booming systems that can withstand the intense heat and stresses while containing oil during combustion.  Ancillary support by means of vessels and personnel has been an accepted requirement to initiate and maintain in-situ combustion during a burn.

More recently, a concept has been developed that includes the application of a chemical herding agent around the periphery of a spill. The chemical herder causes the oil to contract, resulting in the thickening of the spilled oil. Once oil is thickened beyond a critical thickness, it can sustain combustion because heat losses to the water below the burning oil are insulated by the oil layer.  A helicopter deployable system of herder application followed by ignition was demonstrated in 2015 at a purpose built test tank outside of Fairbanks, AK. These tests required two flights: one to apply the herder and one to drop igniters into the herded oil with a helitorch.  These tests validated the concept, allowing ultimate burning of slicks without the need for mechanical containment and the ancillary equipment associated with that task.

The present research project, initiated in 2015, advances oil spill remediation technologies by developing a combined unit incorporating a herder sprayer and spill igniter dispenser that is helicopter deployable.  This report describes the development and testing of the integrated herder / igniter system.

Research Report Aerial Application of Herders

This report provides a comprehensive review of the five tests carried out during late April of 2015, in a custom-built test basin located 50 km northeast of Fairbanks AK. The overall aim of the project was to determine if a helicopter could be used to first apply herding agents to crude oil slicks in open water or very open drift ice conditions, and then ignite the herded oil slicks using a Heli-torch™.

The overall goal of this research is to develop a rapid response aerial system that enhances responders’ ability to use offshore ISB in drift ice or open water conditions. Validating the aerial delivery of herders followed by ignition in the Alaska trials is a key step to developing a new operational response tool for the Arctic offshore, and to facilitating future agency pre-approval of herders and application techniques.