A new method is available which purports to stop the spread of major oil spills in offshore areas. It involves a floating ring-like device called Protection Ring Offshore Environment (PROE) that encircles the drilling rig. It has a curtain suspended vertically from the ring bottom that is designed to retain the oil spill. PROE is self-propelled and is submersible, meaning it is able to ‘chase’ oil spills if necessary. When not in use it can be submerged 50-ft. below marine surface traffic. It may also be divided into several parts in case the spill accumulates in several areas. PROE was developed following the BP Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The American Energy Investment Group, a Houston independent oil company, reports it is implementing PROE, the oil spill retainer system shown in Figure 1. American Energy is the developer and owner of the PROE patent, which was issued in 7.5 months.
PROE is assigned continuously to the rig during all drilling and completion operations. In the event of a blowout or other accident PROE is surfaced, the two ends are locked together to encircle the rig and the retainer curtain is deployed as shown in Figure 2. Set-up operations are estimated to require less than one hour. The azimuth thrusters provide the force necessary to move PROE into the correct position and maintain that location with the aid of GPS. Depending upon the circumference of the system and curtain height, PROE developers claim that it can contain in the order of about 2.5 to over 5 million barrels.
(As published in the May 2014 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News - http://magazines.marinelink.com/Magazines/MaritimeReporter)