Alaska Clean Seas

Based in Anchorage, Alaska Clean Seas (ACS) is a nonprofit oil spill response cooperative of 11 member companies engaged in oil and gas exploration, development, production or pipeline transport activities on the North Slope. It was formed in 1979 as an equipment cooperative, and in 1990, was restructured into a full-response organization that provides personnel, material, equipment and training to its membership.

ACS aims to be recognized as the world leader in arctic land and marine oil spill response and is well on its way to achieving this goal, President and General Manager Ron Morris says. “We want to make sure we stay ahead of the curve on new initiatives that will make our spill response capabilities better and more efficient,” he states. “Our employees work really hard, and the level of expertise they bring is unmatched in the industry.”

No spill is too large or too small for ACS, he maintains. Generally, oil spills are categorized as Tier 1, 2 or 3. Unlike many other oil spill removal organizations that only respond to large spills, ACS covers the gamut, “whether it’s cleaning up a diesel spill in a parking lot or using equipment skimmers to remove oil from the ocean,” Morris describes.

Safety Comes First
Although ACS’s 79 employees are on hand to provide support in the event of an oil spill, the majority of their time is spent training members on how to respond to an oil spill safely and environmentally while also taking preventive measures. “One of our core values is safety,” asserts Morris, who was been president and general manager of ACS since July 2006. Previously, he was responsible for performing safety audits in the U.S. Coast Guard. “I got to this outfit thinking I knew safety, but safety here is on a whole other level,” he remarks.

ACS abides by a proactive, behavior-based safety culture that focuses on safety prevention. The organization has enjoyed 10 successive years without a lost-time incident. In 2008, it became the 14th business in Alaska – and one of the smallest at the time – to achieve VPP Star status in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program. Other sources of pride for ACS are its innovation and R&D efforts.

“It’s not that we create the science that gets it done, but we do enjoy opportunities to work with new equipment,” Morris says. This includes the Oil Spill Recovery Institute’s infrared surveillance camera and tethered balloon system to provide day and night observations. “We tethered the balloon to an ACS system and found a potential new tool in the arsenal for detecting spills.”

When Duty Calls
If authorized by its board of directors, ACS may also respond to non-member spills outside of Alaska. Such was the case in April 2010 with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, which drilled on the BP-operated Mocondo Prospect. At the time of the well blowout, ACS was providing support for ExxonMobil’s winter drilling program in the Greater Prudhoe Bay area and getting ready to assist Shell in its drilling program in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

“Alaska Clean Seas’ employees found themselves in a very different part of the nation as our expertise and some of our equipment was requested to help in the response to the Gulf spill,” Morris recalls. “We shipped thousands of feet of boom and skimmers and support equipment to the Gulf and then initiated a large equipment replacement program to backfill for the equipment that was sent.”

A total of 44 ACS employees were deployed to the Gulf to assist in the relief efforts. “They needed people who knew how to lead in spill response, and there were folks in our organization who were well trained and willing to go,” Morris says. “We prepared them with skimming systems, trained the people to run the program and also did aerial observations. It was a great opportunity for ACS to share our experience and to gain some experience in that complex spill response.” EMI