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Preparedness in the Arctic

Our primary focus is prevention.  We must also be prepared in the unlikely event of an incident and have had the industry’s only sustained, dedicated, in-house oil spill response research program since the 1970s. We have the technical expertise, qualified responders and access to response equipment that enable us to be prepared for the most effective and safe response.


The environment has developed natural ways to process hydrocarbons because they have been naturally seeping into the oceans for millions of years. Biodegradation is a natural process whereby microorganisms use crude oil as a food source.

oil seep and biodegradation infographic

  • History of natural seeps: Natural seeps have occurred for millions of years in all oceans, and our environment has acquired natural means to degrade oil.
  • Natural seeps: Natural oil seeps are one of the largest sources of oil entering the oceans, contributing annually between 4 and 14 million barrels.
  • Natural seeps and biodegradation: Biodegradation has been occurring for millions of years and is a natural process whereby microorganisms use crude as a food source and ultimately break it down to mostly carbon dioxide and water.
  • Microorganisms: Microorganisms are adapted to their environments. Thus, arctic microorganisms are able to degrade oil at much lower temperatures.

Flexible response options

We have researched how oil behaves in different ice coverage and have extensively studied the various response options.


  • Can be an effective way to enhance natural biodegradation.
  • The presence of ice increases the time window within which dispersants can be used effectively.

In situ burning

  • The presence of colder temperatures and calmer sea conditions in ice-covered areas can increase the time available for treatment because of slower evaporation rates.
  • Can be used on most surfaces and can rapidly eliminate more than 90 percent of encountered oil.

Mechanical recovery

  • Ice can act as a natural containment system.
  • Various types of skimmers, containment booms and vessels have been developed specifically for mechanically recovering oil in ice-covered regions.

table of dispersant application

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    We work with leading experts within industry and academia to collect and analyze the highest quality data. For example, we actively participate in an international collaboration with industry partners dedicated to expanding knowledge about the Arctic.