Job Security For Oil Spill Cleanup Crews

Cleanup School For Oil Spills

Anyone in pursuit of job security should take a look at the oil spill cleanup business. With about 10,000 spills on America’s waterways every year — or one spill every 53 minutes — there’s plenty of work. And if you count chemical spills, the numbers triple.

Dr. Roy Hann, Jr. has been leading the fight against these disasters for more than twenty years. Applying his hands-on experience with tanker, pipeline and facility spills, Hann started the world’s first oil spill cleanup school at Texas A&M University in 1974. He also has directed oil spill courses for the United Nations, Brazil, Chile and India.

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“The job market for our graduates is booming,” he said. “Since the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, our enrollment has doubled. We’ve even got a backlog of students trying to get into the program.”

Like most problems, it’s easier to prevent a spill than clean one up, Hann said. Prevention saves both time and money in the long run, as well as the environment.

“Most companies know what ought to be done,” he said, “but don’t actually do it.”

That’s why he stresses a system called the “prevention cycle” — a thought process that starts with ship and facility design and considers all aspects of the business, including construction, maintenance and training.

Since Texas A&M’s campus at College Station is landlocked, only research work is done at that site. The actual school is conducted through an extension program on the Texas coast at Galveston.

Many of the school’s graduates find jobs in the oil industry or government, working on both prevention and cleanup issues. Hann’s graduates earn either a Master’s or Doctor’s degree in civil engineering, with an emphasis on environmental engineering.

“In many cases, they’re going to companies we never would have expected,” Hann said. “McDonald’s, banks…..it’s almost unlimited.”

Currently the school is limited to 40 or 50 new students each year. Expanding the program is being considered, Hann said, but will depend on funding and grants.

Still, Texas A&M’s popular program remains one of the few oil spill clean-up schools in the world.

Earth Stat: The world’s worst oil spill occurred off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago on July 1, 1979, and was nearly ten times worse than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

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