In Situ Burning of Oil in Ice – Development of Aerial Ignition Systems for In Situ Burn Operations

Research Report

REPORT: Conceptual Design for a Long Range Aerial Ignition System for In Situ Burning

Following the success of preliminary ground testing, the JIP sought contractors to conduct research investigations to develop a long-range aerial ignition system to facilitate the use of ISB in offshore Arctic environments, including situations where safety concerns preclude the use of vessels as a nearby base for helicopter ignition operations or where there is a need to carry  a much larger volume of gelled igniter fuel than possible with a helicopter. The JIP contracted Waypoint Aeronautical Corporation, Everett, Washington, with contribution from SL Ross Environmental Research, Ltd., Ottawa, Canada.

In this report, Waypoint presents a conceptual solution for a long-range aerial ignition system for in situ burning. The report identifies suitable aircraft (fixed wing and rotary), presents a conceptual design for a long-range aerial ignition system, presents the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)/European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification process and presents proof of concept flight test plans and locations. Following careful review of candidate aircraft, the fixed-wing Casa 212 and rotary wing Sikorsky S-92 were chosen as the aircraft best-capable of meeting design and operational requirements. The design, manufacture and certification of the proposed long-range ISB system would take approximately 1 1/2 to 2 years.



This review summarizes the technologies available for initiating in-situ burning. The focus of the report has been on oil spill igniters reported in the available open literature, which encompasses North American and European research and development efforts. Much of the technology was conceived as a result of in-situ burning attempts at specific spill incidents. For example, the Torrey Canyon incident in 1967 prompted considerable research on both sides of the Atlantic on the subject of oil slick ignition.

Over the intervening 50-year period a greater understanding has developed of the processes involved in the ignition, steady burning, vigorous burning, and extinction phases of in-situ combustion, and this has led to a refinement of existing ignition equipment and new tools and techniques. The recent Deepwater Horizon (Macondo) response has already generated a new round of technological refinements and operational guidelines for open-water burning of oil.

The purpose of this review is to provide technical guidance for the development of an oil-slick ignition system to be combined with a recently developed herding agent application system for helicopters. The system is to be designed so that a single helicopter can first contract and later ignite and burn oil slicks without the need for booms or surface vessels. The concept of contracting slicks in open water and in drift ice conditions with herding agents and then igniting them offers the possibility of a rapid aerial response to spills.