February 23 - A report released this month by the Arctic Oil Spill Technology-Joint Industry Program discusses the in-situ burning of spilt oil in detail. Research has been conducted on this method since the 70s and has demonstrated on-ice burning of spilled oil could remove almost all of the oil present on an ice surface with only minimal residue.
Each season presents different drawbacks and opportunities for in-situ burning, states the report. Mid-winter, although associated with long periods of darkness and cold temperatures, provides a stable ice cover that not only naturally contains oil within a relatively small area but also provides a safer working platform for surface oil removal. For spills under or on fast ice, there are a range of effective burning options which can result in very high removal effectiveness. Options to deal with spills in moving pack ice are more limited and likely to result in highly variable removal values depending on a variety of natural conditions and logistics constraints. In these conditions it is often only possible to track the oil until it is released from the ice the following spring and ignite and burn it then.
Environmentalists remain concerned about the oil spill management measures that have been proposed to date. Environmental organization Oceans North says spill response could be delayed for weeks at a time due to the often hazardous conditions, especially during the winter. Oil persists in Arctic environments longer than anywhere else. It can become trapped under sea ice. It also evaporates at a slower rate in cold temperatures. The environment al conditions that characterize the Arctic–sea ice, subzero temperatures, high winds and seas and poor visibility–influence the effectiveness of clean up strategies and how much oil is recovered.
(ISCO, Edited by Topco)