Five Questions: Nigel Bennett

Spill International regularly speaks to specialists in the oil spill sector. We put the same questions to all of them, and ask them to respond clearly and concisely. This time: Nigel Bennett, Aqua-Guard Spill Response, Inc.

Name: Nigel Bennett
Function / position: Co-founder/Principal
Company/ Institute: Aqua-Guard Spill Response Inc.
What has been your most rewarding professional experience so far in the oil spill business?
I have been in the oil spill response business for over 30 years and have been involved in some capacity in most of the largest oil spills in recent history, from the Exxon Valdez in 1989 to the BP Deepwater Horizon Macondo spill in 2010. Being involved in an industry that truly makes a difference protecting the environment and the world’s most precious resource - water - is truly rewarding.
Who has been an example for you in the field in research or industry?
My previous business partner Lawrence Pertile and our R&D team here at Aqua-Guard, truly some amazing people.
What do you consider to be the best solution now available for the prevention of future oil spills?
Tighter regulations, audits and more accountability.
What do you expect to be the biggest development in the field of oil spill prevention or response over the coming five years?
Prevention would be to reduce the global thirst for oil but unfortunately this is not going to happen any time soon. Therefore better planning and environmental assessments are required prior to project approval.
On the response side of things, the 'spray and burn' method needs to be questioned. For example, there are reports that between 1.8 million and 3.2 million gallons of dispersant were sprayed during a 3 month period and a lot of oil was burned over the clean-up period of the BP Deepwater Horizon - Macondo spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Weather conditions during most of this period were perfect for conventional containment (booming) and mechanical recovery (skimming). So why was so little oil recovered by conventional methods during this spill? It is understood that there simply was not enough equipment available for such a massive response. Therefore the default was to ‘spray and burn’. But as most of us know, once dispersant is sprayed on a spill it virtually makes conventional ‘oleophillic’ skimming useless.
What is your message for the community of spill professionals?
We are all very fortunate to be in this industry as we are making a difference - not a lot of people in other industries can say this. We all need to keep in mind 'why' we do what we do; is it all about the bottom line? Or is it to create value while making a difference which allows us to make a healthy bottom line? There is a big difference.

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