The Coast Guard's Research and Development Center conducted an "Oil-in-Ice Demonstration" in the Mackinac Straits, near St. Ignace, Mich., Feb. 19–23, 2013, as part of an ongoing effort to evaluate new procedures and technologies for responding to oil spills in cold water regions. Using oranges and peat moss to simulate oil, the Coast Guard employed a variety of promising technologies – including two skimmers, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), and an aerostat – to meet the objective of demonstrating techniques for recovering oil from ice.
The Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock (WLB 214) supported the demonstration, along with two contract tugs and a 210-foot barge. With eyes in the sky (aboard the aerostat) above the simulated spill and beneath the water (aboard the ROV and AUV), the demonstration team helped the cutter crew maneuver near the ice floes to contain the spill and deploy the skimmers.
The research team also demonstrated an ice radar, which helped the Hollyhock’s crew capture new sensor data with their shipboard radar in order to generate a high-resolution image of the ice field. This capability allowed the crew to identify more stable ice from a distance and to select a demonstration location for both days of the event.
While the weather and sea conditions continue to prove challenging in cold-water environments, these demonstrations are invaluable in providing lessons learned and potential solutions to mitigate spill incidents in the Arctic Ocean and other regions.
The service is conducting a series of demonstrations as part of the agency’s Research and Development Center’s Project 4701, Response to Oil in Ice, which seeks to develop an accepted group of methodologies to minimize damage to the environment caused by spilled oil in extreme cold regions, including the Arctic and the Great Lakes. Later this year, the Coast Guard plans to conduct additional demonstrations in waters off the Alaskan coast.
The February event marked the third such trial of new procedures and technologies in oil spill response. Previous demonstrations have occurred in Alaska during the summer of 2012 and in the Great Lakes in January 2012. Each of these events has showcased systems, sensors and equipment, some not currently in the Coast Guard’s inventory, but which may prove useful in future operations.
For more information on the Coast Guard’s Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Program, including RDC activities, please visit: http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/rdc.