DURHAM, N.H. – Oil spill expert Nancy Kinner, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Hampshire, is available to comment on the grounding of the Shell Oil drilling rig Kulluk in the Gulf of Alaska Monday (Dec. 31, 2012). As UNH director of the UNH/NOAA Coastal Response Research Center, Kinner has led workshops on spill response in the Arctic.
Nancy Kinner is available at email@example.com or 603-862-1422. UNH has a ReadyCam® broadcast studio on campus.
“This incident is symptomatic of how difficult moving equipment and materials in these waters is, even under the best of circumstances,” Kinner says, noting that danger to crew or equipment in this situation is mitigated by the proximity of the disabled rig to Kodiak, Alaska, site of the nation’s largest Coast Guard station, and by its relatively southern position, below the Aleutian Islands. “The reality is, the Arctic is a very hard place to work, especially in the winter. There are big storms, relentless seas, cold temperatures, and very little daylight.”
The Kulluk was being towed to Seattle when its tow ship lost power and towing cables parted. In seas up to 35 feet, the rig was separated from its tow ship and was grounded on the uninhabited Sitkalidak Island, off the southwest coast of Kodiak Island.
The UNH/NOAA Coastal Response Research Center has worked extensively in spill preparedness, response, assessment, and implementation of optimum spill recovery strategies in the Arctic. In addition to the recent Barrow workshop (http://www.crrc.unh.edu/workshops/nsb_12/index.html), the center hosted a workshop in Kotzebue, Alaska, in May, 2012, for which a report was recently released (http://www.crrc.unh.edu/workshops/nwab_12/NWAB_workshop_report_appendices.pdf). A 2008 workshop called “Opening the Arctic Seas” focused participants on several disaster scenarios; one hypothetical incident was very similar to the grounding of this rig (towing a barge that breaks loose and is stranded on an island in the Bering Strait; read the report here: http://crrc.unh.edu/workshops/arctic_spill_summit/arctic_summit_report_final.pdf).
During the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Kinner was sought after for her expertise by hundreds of national media outlets and testified before federal lawmakers three times. In addition, she has taken a leadership role in creating and disseminating scientific knowledge in support of clean-up efforts, convening several high-level meetings among spill responders, scientists, and other stakeholders in the Gulf of Mexico spill region.
The Coastal Response Research Center (CRRC) and the Center for Spills in the Environment (CSE) at UNH are focused on developing new approaches to oil spill response and restoration in marine and estuarine environments through research and synthesis of information.
The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.
A photograph of Nancy Kinner is available to download: http://www.unh.edu/universityevents/speakersbureau/images/Nancy_Kinner.jpgCredit: UNH Photographic Services