In mid-1972, the Environmental Emergency Branch was formed within the Canadian Department of the Environment. This organization, which is part of the Environmental Protection Service, is responsible for protective and preventative activities related to pollution emergencies, including oil spills. The technology development work carried out by the branch can be divided into two main programs. One is the testing, evaluation, and development of oil spill countermeasures equipment, materials, and techniques. The program for oil spill equipment including skimmers, booms, pumps, and remote sensing systems is being carried out in Hamilton Harbour and Lake Ontario. Much work is also underway on the testing, evaluation, and development of various oil spill treating agents, including dispersants, absorbents, sinking agents, biodegradation agents, combustion agents, and chemical oil herders. The other main responsibility of the spill technology group is to design and develop various countermeasures systems for specific high risk and sensitive areas in Canada. This program involves putting together the various countermeasures equipment and materials described above into integrated systems that can be used to fight spills in specific locations. Four areas which are being thoroughly investigated at this time are Vancouver Harbour, the Beaufort Sea, the St. Clair River, and the St. Lawrence River. These areas are quite different environmentally, and the “custom-designed” countermeasures systems needed for each area are similarly different.
Much of the technology development and research effort in Canada has been directed toward cold environment problems. This includes studies related to drilling blowouts in the Arctic, to pipeline spills under winter conditions, to dyking of storage facilities in the north, and to spills in ice-infested water.