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Efficient Cleaning up of Sea Oil Spill: Innovative Solutions

Ilya Kulikov
director FBU «State regional Center for standardization, metrology and tests in the Murmansk region»

Russian and Norwegian authorities have been working for several years at creating common base for cooperation in the sphere of sea oil spill response operations in the Arctic region.

According to words of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Murmansk is the goats to the Arctic zone. Further the city could even become one of the main bases for research of Arctic natural resources to provide world energy and to protect the environment. Murmansk was chosen among others for realization of the complex project concerning creation of the oil spill response system according to knowledge of changing oil physicochemical properties as well as of observing oil performance in the sea water within different meteorological conditions at oil spill and its further movement (2006-2011).

Support was provided by Norwegian company “Statoil” and Norwegian Institute of Materials and Chemistry “SINTEF”. Participants of this system are “Murmansk CSM”, Marine Rescue Emergency Service and Hydrometeorology Service. In 2008 the Laboratory for researching oil according to methods of Norwegian Institute “SINTEF” was opened on the base of “Murmansk CSM”. Hydrometeorology Service installed new programs “SINTEF” such as oil weathering model (OWM) and oil spill contingency and response (OSCAR). Marine Rescue Emergency Service got modern equipment for collecting oil.

Those researches were developed in 2012 with the support of the international project «Enhancement of Oil Spill Response System through Establishing Oil Database» which had been implemented within the framework of «Kolarctic ENPI CBC Programme 2007-2013» in Murmansk region. By the way, «Kolarctic ENPI CBC Programme» is financed by European Union, Russia, Finland and Norway and is going to finish in December, 2014. The project has allowed studying 12 oil samples from Russia; making models of oil changing in the

Barents Sea both in winter and summer time; organizing international training; going further in formation of oil database. Those results will be used to form practical recommendations for Russian oil companies which sphere of activity is to plan and organize oil spill response operations. The main idea of that instruction is necessity to take into account information about oil nature and characteristics according to different meteorological conditions and time in sea water.

The laboratory researches base on physicochemical changes of oil and its performance in sea water. When oil spill happens, there are some typical processes such as oil spreading, evaporation, formation of oil-water emulsion, dispersion of oil in the water. Now all processes with different types of oil are reconstructed in the laboratory. These studies are radically different from those of State Standard. Scientists form weathered oil samples by reducing of crude oil in various periods of time the oil is on the water surface. Researches are made in imitated sea area (using sea water, assessing wind velocity and temperature difference of water).

According to the results, scientists make a computer model how oil properties change in sea water. This model compares oil properties with chosen conditions (for example, oil density, wave conditions, water temperature, and wind velocity) and predicts the changes of oil and its performance in the water. Nowadays laboratory of Murmansk CSM possesses three analytical rooms for carrying out researches of oil physicochemical properties, 2 climate rooms for modeling and studying of oil performance in low temperature (0° and above). The laboratory is equipped with modern specialized units, all employees have studied in the institute “SINTEF”. Total amount of oil probes is 25 (2008-2014). The results form oil data base which includes various information about physicochemical properties (oil density, flash point temperature, pour point temperature, hydrocarbon type composition, water saturation and dynamic viscosity at low temperature), information about oil in sea water emulsion (stability of oil-water emulsions, efficiency of demulsifying agent, dynamic viscosity at low temperature); data of maximum viscosity for chemical dispersion.

Nowadays the Laboratory is planning further development of studies at physicochemical properties (they are pressure of condensed vapour, hydrogensulphidecontent, chlorides, methyl and methylmercaptans, mechanical particles) in order to get precise model of oil properties changes and its performance in sea water. There is also such possibility as to study physicochemical characteristics of blended (bunker) oil taking into account a wider spectrum of tests and probes as well as employing techniques of blended oil identification like chromate-mass-spectrographic technique, gas and liquid chromatography, IR spectrometry, atomic absorption for being able to make more detailed research of oil properties.

So, what is the mechanism of OSR system with oil database? There is an oil spill, the system identifies the type of oil according to database, chooses the plan of further actions and oil drifting in definite meteorological conditions for concrete period of time, information is passed by response forces. The prediction also gives the information about necessary forces and measures allows choosing the most effective way to liquidate oil spill with minimum environmental damage. According to Government Regulation of Russian Federation № 613 from 21.08.2000, current OSR system does not take these data into account. However, all oil and gas companies who carry out their operations in the Arctic region should put the environmental safety on the first place, in other case new OSR technology will not be in demand.

Both Russia and Norway, two neighboring countries which live and have business activity in the Arctic zone, are interested in prevention of natural resources of High North. Russia and Norway have been cooperation in the sphere of prevention of northern seas from oil pollution for the long period of time. By the way, Norway has got impressive experience in organizing oil spill response operations. This experience bases on knowledge about changes of oil properties and its performance in sea water. These pieces of knowledge are not only useful for development of oil spill response operations in this country but they also help to improve international cooperation in that sphere.

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