Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Oil Response Field Course Teaches Responders How to Protect Natural Resources

Published: August 24, 2015

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Oil Response Field Course Teaches Responders How to Protect Natural Resources

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Thirty-six students in the “Oil Spill Prevention and Response” class from the National Spill Control School at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi demonstrated techniques on August 14 which are used in response to an oil spill. 

This exercise in the Corpus Christi Marina was part of a five-day seminar in “Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response for Oil Spill Response” (HAZWOPER), enacted by both students and individuals currently working in the industry.

“About half of the class is made up of A&M-Corpus Christi graduate and undergraduate students, while the other half work with companies including Citgo, Refinery Terminal Fire Company, Flint Hills, Valero, and the Port of Corpus Christi,” said Tony Wood, Director of the National Oil Spill Control School at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “It’s a great opportunity for students to network with those already in the industry, and it also allows for those in the industry to identify some of the students who might be graduating and looking for a job.”

The 40-hour course provided a variety of techniques to divert oil away from sensitive habitats, as well as training on how to skim and collect oil off the surface of the water. The course allowed participants to conduct hands-on exercises such as responding in situations where there may be a leak in a submerged pipeline, and learning what to do if an aircraft or ship has crashed and may be leaking fuel.

“Throughout the week, we spent time in a classroom setting, learning how to perform the procedures, and at the end, we gained hands-on involvement in the procedures,” said student Garrett Thering. “Considering oil spills are always possible, it is extremely important for people to know how to respond.”

Participants of the course used boats and yellow booms, which are designed to contain a spill and keep any hazardous materials from entering sensitive beach or wetland areas.  These exercises are demonstrated throughout the course to insure that natural resources can be protected in the event of an oil spill. Practicing these techniques teaches responders the knowledge they need to be efficient in a crisis. Each university boat had an employee on board to offer guidance during the exercises.

The Kvichak/Macro, a rapid-response oil-skimming vessel, was donated to the National Spill Control School by BP after the Deep Water Horizon Spill. The vessel was used this year by course participants for the first time. The $350,000 vessel is able to collect up to 1,000 gallons of oil in 20 minutes. The National Spill Control School has been providing oil spill training programs since 1977.