A major exercise focused on cleaning up ocean oil spills is bound to be popular with the wildlife of a Norwegian fjord.
Instead of creating a mess of sticky crude, the experts are dumping popcorn.
“We didn’t want to spill real oil, but wanted the exercise to be as realistic as possible while also being environmentally friendly,” operation adviser Kaare Joergensen told The Associated Press by telephone Tuesday.
When popcorn absorbs water it forms an emulsion that is very similar to spilled oil, and mimics the effect of ocean currents on oil. Joergensen said they had tried it before and it worked well.
They plan to dump 175 cubic feet of popcorn, enough to create a roughly 330 by 660 foot slick, just off Norway’s west coast on Wednesday, he said.
Then about 300 people in more than 30 boats, plus observation aircraft, will respond as they would if it had been a real oil spill from one of the many offshore oil platforms that make Norway the world’s third largest oil exporter.
The boats will use oil spill booms to contain and clean up the popcorn at sea, while people on shore will practice cleanup techniques on land.
Joergensen said the best thing about using popcorn is any part of the spill that gets past the human clean up crews will vanish anyway.
“It’ll end up as a little food supplement for fish, birds and wildlife,” he said.
The exercise, which lasts through Thursday, is being held near the western city of Molde, some 230 miles northwest of Oslo.
It’s organized and funded by the Norwegian Clean Seas Association for Operating Companies, an organization of 13 oil companies operating in Norwegian waters.