When exploration and production companies operate in the Arctic – both on shore and in the waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, they turn to the Alaska Clean Seas (ACS) team. Organized with a culture similar to a professional fire department, it is ready to respond 24/7. Additionally, ACS has been called upon to support spill response activities outside of Alaska, including the Gulf of Mexico, California, Oregon and internationally.
Prudhoe Bay, Alaska-based ACS provides spill response services to crude oil exploration companies and producers on Alaska’s North Slope and along the first 167 miles of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. ACS started as a not-for-profit equipment cooperative in 1979.
In 1990, ACS transitioned into a full-scale, oil spill response organization. “Today, the company has a team of 89 full-time employees, a valued team of contractors that support us during peak operational seasons, and a portfolio that includes both national and international spill response research and development projects,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd praises ACS’s entire staff, from the newest employees to those 15 personnel who have been with it for well over a decade. “We have interns, sponsored by our member companies, from local villages that do an exceptional job for us,” he says. ”We also have employees that have been working on the Slope for more than 30 years and have an incredible depth of knowledge and experience.”
He adds that ACS has nurtured a low-employee turnover rate for a host of reasons. Recognized the world over for its expertise in extreme environments, the team takes great pride being part of the ACS family.
The company recently launched an effort to take its successful slope-based safety culture home. There is a strong focus on open communication – a key core value. Over 85 percent of its employees participate in their physical fitness program, and innovation and teamwork is strongly encouraged and rewarded at all levels.
Slope-based employees work what outsiders may consider a grueling schedule – two weeks on/two weeks off, 12-hour days plus call-outs for spill responses. ACS’s culture is customer focused – both externally to its member companies as well as considering every member of its team an internal customer. “Regardless of who walks into your work space – whether it’s the chairman of our board or our newest intern, the same level of courtesy, professionalism and assistance is provided,” he says.
Many of the ACS professionals have worked on the same sites for years, developing an in-depth knowledge of operations and providing weekly spill response training to member company personnel who participate in the 600-person North Slope Spill Response Team. Additionally, its training staff frequently travels to remote communities across the Slope to train volunteer members of the Village Response Teams who actively participate in drills and actual responses.
Though significant spills are infrequent, the culture of the North Slope oil companies is to maintain respect for the pristine environment so responding to even the most minor event, whether it’s a few drips or a spill of a larger quantity is standard. “Prevention is preferred so our personnel actively support member companies by inspecting operations and projects to identify situations that could result in a response,” he says.
But ACS’s employees do not have easy jobs. Instead, “During the winter, the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon and wind chills of 50 to 60 degrees below zero are not uncommon,” he says.
“Our people know how to conduct operations safely in that type of environment. Our summers, are pretty brief,” he says with a smile, “though it means our fleet of nearly one hundred vessels including airboats, offshore vessels and landing craft need to be flawlessly maintained and our people highly trained to safely operate in streams, rivers and deeper waters.”
The workers’ challenges aren’t limited to the weather, darkness and the tundra. They also must know how to cope with the original North Slope inhabitants, including polar bears, musk ox and caribou along with smaller wildlife, such as wolves, foxes, birds and the occasional wolverine.
ACS personnel train with specialized equipment to discourage curious wildlife during frequently held drills or during a spill response. “We work with both federal and state regulatory agencies, the Alaska Zoo and Alaska Sea Life Center to train, prepare and safely respond when called,” he says.
In a Good Position
Lloyd joined ACS as its president and general manager last year after 28 years in the Coast Guard. There, he specialized in response operations, crisis management and commanded multiple ships conducting operations.
He sees more success ahead as he leads ACS. “The value oriented, cooperative approach, along with exceptional customer service has resulted in an industry and regulatory reputation for excellence. In order to maintain their commitment to meeting their customer’s needs, ACS is an active participant in research and development – both nationally and internationally in order to ensure the latest technology is available in oil spill prevention and response techniques,” he says.