x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UAE team on standby to tackle oil spill

Thirty experts with $1m worth of the latest equipment are ready to head to the Gulf of Mexico to assist in clean-up operations.

Oil around Redfish Bay in Louisiana's Bird's Foot Delta, where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil around Redfish Bay in Louisiana's Bird's Foot Delta, where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

ABU DHABI // A UAE team of oil spill experts with $1 million worth of equipment is on standby, ready to head to the US to assist in the clean up of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. "Everyone and everything is ready. We are just waiting for that one phone call," said Craig Buckingham, the leader of the Crisis Management Team overseen by the Supreme Petroleum Council and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).

Speaking yesterday at the Crisis Management Center in Abu Dhabi, Mr Buckingham broke down the team's track record, which included successful oil spill clean up operations in Lebanon and Egypt, and the equipment and expertise that will be heading to the US. "A team of 30 people, six Emiratis and the rest from Egypt, Sudan, Algeria and the Philippines, all fully trained in oil spill response, have cancelled all their plans and leave in preparation for the trip to Louisiana," he said.

Every member of the team has on-site expertise, besides their own specialisations in marine engineering, chemistry, environmental studies and IT. "This will be a great chance for us, the UAE, to show how we can help in international disasters and that we have what it takes," said Ayedh al Masaabi, 28, an Emirati marine engineer. If the call comes, he said, "I would be heading to the waters itself as well as overseeing the co-ordination of our team with the rest of the teams there ... We are ready to get our hands dirty in the effort to save the environment and the livelihood of the people affected by the oil spill."

Besides its skilled manpower, the UAE is offering the latest technology to tackle oil spills of this scale. Four skimmers, recovery units that suck out the oil, 2,000 metres of onshore boom and 400 metres of offshore boom, as well as two helicopter spray pots to disperse chemicals, are waiting to be mobilised. "We have been in direct touch with the US authorities, and have presented all our documents and passports to the US embassy. Now we are just hoping we will get the chance to learn and help in the clean up in one of history's worst oil spills," said Mr Buckingham.

A stream of oil has been pouring into the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 employees. The spill is the largest in US history, with its daily flow estimated at 12,000 barrels. The latest efforts by the oil company BP to seal the hole in the damaged well include a "top kill" operation, in which mud-like drilling fluid is pumped into the well to tamp down the gusher and then seal it with cement. Yesterday, BP said the operation had not yet worked and the company was looking at other ways to plug the leak.

The UAE has already sent an Adnoc dispersant report to the Joint Response Center in the US. The report shows the effectiveness of various dispersants on different varieties of oil. "It is not a matter of a country or an isolated incident anymore, this disaster has impacted the entire oil industry and caused everyone to reassess their safety and response measures at their own oil fields," Mr Buckingham said.

The offer of help from the UAE comes at a time when the US president Barack Obama has pledged a tripling of manpower in the affected coastal areas. The UAE is the latest country to join 14 other countries and the United Nations in offering to assist with the clean-up. @Email:rghazal@thenational.ae