My name is Kimberly Bittler and I am a 2014 Knauss Fellow with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) at the Department of the Interior. BSEE regulates offshore energy activities including oil drilling and renewable energy development, making sure that these activities are safe for workers and the environment. BSEE enforces our regulations, conducts rigorous inspections of offshore operations, and invests heavily in research to prevent incidents and in the technologies used to respond to oil spills. As a fellow at BSEE, I am able to work on both sides of the research program.
My Master’s research was all about blue crabs, and how they can find the estuary during droughts. While other members of my lab conducted research on the effects of oil and dispersants in the environment, I had not worked with oil very much before starting at BSEE. Attending the IOSC was an amazing experience to learn! There was an open exhibit hall, with tons of the equipment used to clean up oil spills. The coolest part of the entire conference was the aerial and on-water demonstration of the state-of-the-art technologies used to respond to oil spills.
BSEE has funded research to develop oil sensing instruments that can be mounted to drones (such as those above, see video from a lead-up demonstration below). These drones can help first responders know the properties of a spill quickly and safely, so the best and safest response can be used.
The on-water demonstration at IOSC also included some more conventional responses including booms and skimmers. Overall, I learned a ton and had a great time meeting so many professionals in the oil spill response field during my week in Georgia at IOSC. Right after IOSC, I hopped on a plane to Houston, Texas to attend the first workshop of the Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI). Check back soon to hear about that trip!
PS: Thanks to Deron Johnson of BSEE for providing the event photos