56 Alaska Business | May 2018 www.akbizmag.com
Nand protecting it is incredibly important to our lives and our livelihood. And the vessels are a
significant improvement over our current fleet,
which is already best in the world,” she says.
Though there doesn’t appear to be a great deal
of advancement in what is being used as dispersants (a mixture of emulsifiers and solvents
that work to break down oil into small droplets, which then disperse more easily through
a body of water and may be more readily biodegradable) in Alaska, OSRI pushed last year
to better understand how certain products on
the market work in Alaska waters.
“Chemical dispersants are receiving increased
research attention, but there has not yet been
a thorough scientific evaluation of the heavily
marketed bioremediation product Oil Spill Eater
II [OSEII] in any marine environment, includ-
ing in Alaska,” OSRI’s 2017 report states.
To that end, last year OSRI launched a three-year project to evaluate the effectiveness of OS-EII on crude oil and marine diesel degradation
and detoxification in Arctic and sub-Arctic
seawater, determine its modes of action, and
compare its efficacy to that of chemical dispersants as well as to assess effects on indigenous
Though researchers continue to look into
the impacts of dispersants in Alaska waters, the biggest advancement in the use of
dispersants in the state comes from a push
to streamline the approval process for dispersants and ensure the safeguarding of resources and stakeholders.
“It’s more how and where, those are the
biggest changes,” explains Dr. Richard R. Bernhardt, a scientific support unit manager for
the Prevention, Preparedness, and Response
These big changes came in the form of updating the “Dispersant Use Plan for Alaska”
for the first time since 1989.
In many ways, dispersants are considered a
last resort or an alternative countermeasure.
“The primary response technique would
be mechanical response, and that’s getting
booms and skimmers out there in the field,
trying to corral and collect the oil. And so, in
our obligatory plan, it specifically states that...
non-mechanical response techniques never
replace mechanical response techniques as
long as they are effective,” Bernhardt says.
If mechanical measures are ill-suited for a
situation, dispersants became an essential tool.
However, USCG can only expect actors in the
industry to have dispersants in the theater if
there is a preauthorization plan in the region.
“The time frame that dispersants can be
effective is limited already. If dispersants are
going to be a viable option, you have to have
a streamlined process to get that approval,”
Bernhardt says. Thus representatives of the
Alaska Regional Response Team (which provides federal, state, and local government
agencies with the means to respond to spills
and other pollution incidents), along with
representatives from the Department of Environmental Conservation, USCG, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of
Commerce, and the Department of Interior,
began an effort to update the “Dispersant Use
Plan for Alaska.”
“Preauthorization is not the same as preapproval,” Bernhardt notes. “We don’t have
N a t u r a l R e s o u r c e D e v e l o p m e n t – T o u r i s m–OilFieldServices–GovernmentContrac t i n g .
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