The Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC) announced that it has completed its Gulf of Mexico expansion program, known as Deep Blue. The new response capabilities created under this program are now ready to respond to an oil spill incident, if and when necessary.
The key objectives of this expansion program include increasing the effectiveness of mechanical recovery through expanding the number of dedicated oil spill response and recovery platforms in the Gulf of Mexico; increasing the ability to utilize commercial Platform Supply Vessels (PSVs) and Multi-Purpose Support Vessels (MPSVs) to reinforce MSRC’s existing dedicated platforms; enhancing the ability to find and encounter oil on the water’s surface; increasing the effectiveness of other key response tools, including expanding dispersant capability and expanding controlled burning capability.
To meet its objectives, MSRC repositioned one of its 210 foot Oil Spill Response Vessels (OSRVs), now renamed the Deep Blue Responder, from the Atlantic Coast to its newest equipment site in Port Fourchon, LA. A total of seven Responder Class OSRVs are now pre-positioned within 60 hours of the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico operations.
In addition, MSRC pre-engineered its five storage barges in the Gulf of Mexico as dedicated skimming barges. Staged from Ingleside, TX, to Tampa, FL, these barges have (on average) approximately 48,000 barrels of temporary storage capacity, as well as newly enhanced on-board skimming capability.
MSRC has also contracted with Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) and Hornbeck Offshore Services (HOS) to modify five PSVs and MPSVs for potential use as OSRVs. MSRC’s contracts with these two premier offshore operators recognize that commercial PSVs and MPSVs can contribute to effective spill response, if properly outfitted in advance with pre-engineered skimming equipment on board and if vessel personnel are trained and certified in advance to respond appropriately.
These PSVs and MPSVs vessels have each been equipped with permanently installed skimming systems, ocean boom and a boom-tending vessel. They have modified below-deck storage capable of handling recovered oil, thus taking advantage of the significant storage available on board these vessels, and providing for the safe collection of oil.
The large size of these vessels, along with the capabilities that the MSRC modifications create, provide a significant reinforcement to MSRC’s fleet of dedicated OSRVs. Under normal circumstances these five PSVs and MPSVs will continue to support the companies to which they are chartered; however, in the event of a significant spill incident, the intent is that they would be released from such service and mobilize to respond for MSRC’s customer. With the addition of these PSVs and MPSVs, MSRC can now support its customers with 17 open ocean response and recovery vessels within 60 hours of the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico. MSRC also has other open ocean response capabilities that can be cascaded during a significant release, as occurred during Deepwater Horizon in 2010.
MSRC has also made other program enhancements as part of its Deep Blue program. To enhance the ability of skimming vessels to locate oil, and to enhance the encounter rate for removal, MSRC has invested in X-Band and Infrared technology on each of the marine platforms in the Deep Blue project. This technology has the potential to better locate oil in low-visibility conditions. In addition, MSRC has invested in an additional 65,000 feet of ocean boom to potentially expand encounter rates through enhanced skimming techniques.