International Forum to Discuss Recovery of Oil in Mishaps


The United Kingdom-based International Spill Control Organization is heading to Detroit next month to host the first international forum dedicated to sinking oils, which are heavier than water and, therefore, more difficult to recover in an accidental oil spill, specifically in water sources such as lakes and rivers.

“The difference (between a heavy oil spill and other oil spills) is that it’s not on the surface,” says Dave Usher, chairman of ISCO and Detroit-based Marine Pollution Control. “It’s oil that sinks, and the recovery of oil that sinks is just as important at the bottom as it is on the surface.”

Examples of sinking oils include oil sands, Dilbit, Bitumen, and Lamp Black, materials often used in the refining of fuels. And the event — scheduled for Sept. 9-10 at the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority — will discuss the challenges these types of oils present, specifically in the case of an accidental oil spill.

Usher says Marine Pollution Control has played a role in the cleanup of sinking oil spills about once a year for the past 18 years. “It takes special equipment, and in some cases, we’ve even used divers,” he says, adding that his company has also invented a two-person submarine capable of traveling depths of 180 feet for the recovery of such oils. “We are working toward capabilities of up to 1,400 feet down and eventually more.”

In an effort to share best practices with other professions in the oil and gas industry, the conference will bring together more than 20 speakers to talk about topics such as the technology and most up-to-date countermeasures available for such cases.

One session, for instance, will discuss the response techniques used in the submerged oil recovery that occurred in 2013, when a freight train accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec spilled more than 1 million gallons of oil and leaked into the Chaudière River.

“There has been a dramatic increase in the exploration and drilling efforts of these type oils in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and throughout the world,” says Michael Rancilio, the forum’s event manager. “This production increase presents unique challenges to the oil and gas industry and regulatory communities in the storage and transportation of these oils.”

More than 100 people are expected to attend the two-day event. For more information about the International Forum on Group V (Non-buoyant) Oils, visit