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Field Testing a Non-floating Oil Barrier System in Lake Huron

JUNE 8, 2018 — On May 29-31, Great Lakes Scientific Support Coordinator LT Michael Doig and Jacqui Michel from RPI joined members of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Research and Development Center aboard the USCGC Hollyhock to field test a non-floating oil barrier system in Lake Huron.

Man posing for photo on the deck of a ship.
Great Lakes Scientific Support Coordinator LT Michael Doig aboard the USCGC Hollyhock. Image credit: NOAA.

The underwater barrier system is specifically designed for deployment in offshore environments and large lakes to minimize the spread of oil on the lake bottom either by deflecting it to a collection area or away from sensitive areas. 

Although no oil was used, the test provided an opportunity for the Research and Development Center to evaluate deployment and recovery of the barrier as well as gauge its potential effectiveness in sunken oil containment and recovery in an offshore environment. Some of the parameters that the Research and Development Center monitored were the barrier’s position, motion, sag, scour and tension over a period of 18 to 24 hours. 

The prototype barrier was 200 feet in length and consisted of four, 50-foot sections. Each section of the barrier was weighted along the bottom and used floats along the top to assist with holding the barrier upright when deploying and installing. The crew deployed the barrier off the side of the USCGC Hollyhock and divers were deployed to position the barrier in a U-shape and install the supporting posts and anchors. 

Divers, sonar, and a ROV were used to observe and record how the barrier system performed in the environment. The system was left in the lake overnight and re-observed and recovered the following day. 

Multiple federal, state, and local agencies observed portions of the test including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representatives, staff from the office of Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and the St. Clair Sheriff’s Department.

On April 23, 2018, the Research and Development Center conducted a similar test of an underwater barrier system designed to mitigate the impacts of sunken oil traveling along a river bottom in the Kalamazoo River

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Last updated Friday, June 14, 2019 2:49pm PDT