Contingency Planning Requires Service Providers
Alaska private oil spill response companies show capabilities
CCI Industrial Services LLC spill responders lay out containment boom to isolate the spill and use pumps to remove the oil sheen off the water surface.
Photo courtesy of CCI Industrial Services LLC
The narrative to the evolution of private oil spill response begins with the contingency plan. Before a company’s response team and equipment are deployed to counter a spill, the instrumental playbook on how to handle such a complex undertaking comes in the form of a contingency plan.
“Disasters always seem to get the headlines, but why aren’t the billions of barrels of oil processed and handled safely, efficiently, and without incident making headlines?” wonders ARCTOS LLC’s Kirsten Ballard. “It’s far more cost-effective from the standpoint of safety, environmental protection, and public image to ‘keep the oil in the container.’ If this made headlines, then budgets would reflect proactive prevention instead of reactive emergency response.”
ARCTOS specializes in spill prevention and response planning. The company focuses on helping clients avoid any kind of emergency spill response by providing services for emergency response planning such as the preparation of Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plans, or “spill drills” (discharge exercises), along with Incident Management Team Training and Support to help clients maintain compliance with the preparedness aspects of state and federal requirements.
Ballard and husband Randy Pysher founded ARCTOS in 2007 and have a full staff to complement their expertise. The company specializes in staying current to changes in regulation to ensure that clients are aware of the stringent standards. Contingency plans are voluminous, complicated, technically challenging documents to compile and write but facilitate an oil spill being remediated expeditiously and with success. ARCTOS and a few other firms specialize in this niche market.
Their clients include companies like Brooks Range Petroleum Corporation, Cook Inlet Energy LLC, Bluecrest Alaska Operating LLC, NordAq, CardnoEntrix, MagTec, Peak Alaska Oilfield Services, and Weatherford. Everybody in the industry needs contingency plans, and when policymakers, administrations, and regulators rotate, the interpretation of the rules becomes an arduous task in contingency plan compliance, according to Ballard. She says Alaska’s statutes and regulations are the most stringent in the world when it comes to spill prevention and response preparedness.
A bookshelf of ARCTOS LLC contingency plans.
Photo courtesy of ARCTOS LLC
The Worst-Case Scenario
Responsibility and caution are integral in preventing oil spills or leaks, yet sometimes spills and unplanned oil loss occurs. Human error, technical failure, and equipment flaws are but a few of the culprits. Private companies in Alaska are ready and waiting to be the first responder to resolve the problem.
When it comes to private oil spill response businesses with a long history in Alaska, Bristol Bay Native Corporation subsidiary CCI Industrial Services LLC is a seasoned veteran with nearly twenty-five years in the industry. CCI has ten to fifty of its employees engaged in this activity on any given day. It provides a full suite of oil spill response, clean-up, and decontamination services, including an Incident Command System-trained contractor workforce that responds to incidents at facilities or near infrastructure.
The company’s core oil spill response and mitigation capabilities include short-notice response teams (both land-based and marine); on-scene coordination; safety specialists with hazardous materials focus; decontamination of tanks and marine vessels; equipment and marine operators with full crew support; response curriculum development; training and response drills; and logistical support and contingency plan assessments.
“I am proud of our company’s long history in helping to protect not only the environment, but the people at CCI Industrial, our customers and their employees, and the residents of the communities where we work,” says Ben Schoffman, president and CEO. “Safety is our top priority.”
CCI not only assists with clean-up operations once a spill occurs, but the company also works closely with its customers to make sure potential oil spills and releases are prevented. Averting such problems comes from providing personnel to assist in ongoing construction, drilling, and other projects in the oil fields, ensuring safe, clean operations on a day-to-day basis.
CCI is currently contracted with four of the state’s five Oil Spill Response Organizations to provide contract labor for daily operations and/or short notice emergency response services in the event of a spill or release. The company provides experienced and qualified HAZWOPER personnel to handle environmental issues small and great—from ounces of fluids to the largest spills of hydrocarbons and other materials—across Alaska.
Schoffman notes that the company’s largest response was in 2006 with the Selandang Ayu cargo vessel in the Aleutian Islands, where the company had as many as eighty responders deployed on-site.
Behind Every Spill Response
Envision the “war zone” of a spill clean-up site. Whether it’s in water or forest, on snowy tundra or beaches, gravel and dirt or asphalt, the list of equipment, tools, and technology necessary for a response team to be successful is diverse.
Spill Shield has been in the business of oil spill and discard response and prevention for more than twenty years and under its current owners for over four years. Ken Bauer has managed the company for the past three years and has twenty years of experience in facility management, including disaster oil spill response preparation.
Bauer admits the trite phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is still extremely relevant in the spill prevention arena. He notes that “being prepared and having the necessary spill products on-hand can help prevent spills from spreading and becoming huge problems costing many, many times more to clean up. Spill response and preparedness is everyone’s responsibility.”
Even with the best contingency plan and stellar response team, equipment and product resources are integral.
Bauer notes that Spill Shield offers myriad kits and packages, as well as single items for oil spill response companies. The company recently relocated to increase warehouse space and now stocks a wide array of absorbent pads, rolls, boom, socks, duck ponds, and spill kits. These kinds of absorbents, in the oil garage, under a pipeline, or in a harbor or marine highway, make a positive impact and huge difference in stopping, isolating, and ultimately cleaning an oil spill.
Workers practice deploying spill boom on the North Slope of Alaska.
Photo courtesy of PENCO
Pacific Environmental Corporation (PENCO) has been in business since 1985 and is an oil field services company specializing in spill response and recovery, tank cleaning, and environmental support. PENCO brands itself as a cost-effective “one-stop” source for environmental response and remediation, with equipment, supplies, and staff expertise in the company’s Hawaii headquarters office and Alaska regional office, which opened in 1994.
“When supporting our clients we cover the state, and while we have a presence on the North Slope, we may also be called out to other rural Alaskan communities to respond to an incident at any moment,” says PENCO Alaska Regional Manager Brent Porter. “Last summer we supported our clients on a number of vessel responses in Bristol Bay, Prince Williams Sound, and Valdez.”
For successful companies like PENCO, it comes down to the ability to receive an emergency call and respond promptly and to have the necessary equipment and experienced technicians and staff. The company is diverse in clientele, serving oil service and production companies large and small, in addition to state and federal agencies. The menu of services is comprehensive, including oil spill response, containment and clean-up, hazardous material emergency response, filtering, bilge pumping, oil tank cleaning and disposal, and preventative marine containment booming. From sub-surface oil recovery to trenching and excavating, PENCO provides twenty-four-hour emergency response.
Porter takes pride in the fact the company has a staff with substantive knowledge in all aspects of oil spill response and recovery. He urges companies looking for spill response assistance to consider the team to be used and experience as primary criteria, as well as actual availability and how fast they can assist.
“I remember we had a call-out on a late Saturday evening December 2013. I was concerned that our crews wouldn’t be available, but they all answered the call, arrived at the shop immediately preparing plans and equipment to deploy, and then successfully worked all night long supporting our client,” says Porter. “That level of dedication and competence speaks volumes for our team and what they stand for. We wouldn’t be successful without them.”
Tom Anderson writes from Alaska.