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Braving the Elements: -46°C Brings a New Challenge to Cold Weather Oil Spill Response Training

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Braving the Elements: -46°C Brings a New Challenge to Cold Weather Oil Spill Response Training

OSRL returned to Canada in 2023 to participate in the Oil in Ice training program, developed over the past decade in collaboration with Eastern Canada Response Corporation (ECRC) and Alaska Clean Seas (ACS). After two years of absence due to COVID-19, it was an excellent opportunity to reconnect with ECRC and continue building the strong relationship established over the years.

The training was led by a team of instructors from OSRL and Eastern Canada Response Corporation (ECRC-SIMEC), with delegates from various organisations, including The Norwegian Clean Seas Association for Operating Companies (NOFO) and Alaska Clean Seas (ACS). Over the week, attendees practised a range of techniques for oil spill recovery on and under the ice. 

One unique aspect of this year's training was that all theory sessions were conducted before the training, allowing for more hands-on, practical experience on the ice. We formed teams, and participants could try different oil spill recovery methods on and under the ice. These methods included cutting dry pits, using plywood boards to create a crude weir skimming system, and using a rope mop to recover oil from under the ice. 


The freezing weather challenged participants on the final day of the week, with temperatures reaching as low as -46°C with wind chill. The extreme conditions provided a realistic experience of the difficulties in responding to an oil spill in a harsh, cold environment, where frostbite can occur within minutes and equipment can freeze instantly. 

Despite the challenging conditions, the team kept warm with the help of a warming tent and hot chicken broth, making for an entertaining and memorable experience. 

Ice Cutting Dry Trench Cold Weather Training.jpg

Cutting a dry trench in the ice (13 inch ice thickness)

Overall, the Oil in Ice training was a great success, providing valuable hands-on experience for oil spill response in cold weather conditions. The Response department is planning further cold weather training in March in Norway, where they will continue to enhance their cold weather capabilities.  

Author Bio(s)

George Stafford

Dispersant Advisor | Senior Response Specialist

With more than five years of experience in the oil spill industry, George is a Senior Response Specialist at OSRL. Before joining OSRL, George worked as a chemical engineer for a global oil and gas engineering consultancy, gaining valuable experience. During his tenure at OSRL, George has participated in spill response operations across the globe and is an active member of the Cold Weather Response core group, which has taken him on oil spill exercises in remote regions like Antarctica.