Ohmsett, the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility is the largest oil spill response test facility in North America. Ohmsett's 667 foot long test tank is 65 feet wide and filled to a depth of 8 feet with 2.6 million gallons of saltwater, which is maintained at open ocean salinity. A computer controlled wave generator at one end of the tank creates waves up to 3 feet high, while an adjustable wave-damping 'beach' system at the opposite end of the tank helps control the shape of the waves. The system can generate numerous wave types, from sinusoidal and harbor chop to more complex waveforms, such as those based on Pierson-Moskowitz spectra. Three rail-mounted movable bridges span the width of the tank and can tow equipment through the water at speeds up to 6 knots, simulating a vessel towing response equipment such as booms and skimmers.
Testing, training, and research are conducted using full-scale response equipment to recover real oil. Tests are conducted year round, during daylight hours and at night. During recent winters, sea-ice and chillers have been used to conduct tests in simulated arctic conditions. In addition to testing mechanical containment and recovery equipment, extensive dispersant and chemical herding agent tests are conducted in both temperate and cold water conditions. Ohmsett is also used to test sensors to remotely detect spilled oil and measure slick thickness.
BSEE continuously invests in Ohmsett to maintain its position as the premier oil spill response test facility in the world. The wave generator system has been regularly upgraded to create more sophisticated types of waves, and BSEE is funding a study to redesign the 'beach' system to enhance its ability to control the waves and minimize wave reflection. Ohmsett is utilized by federal and state government agencies, multi-national corporations, start-up companies, and academia to improve oil spill response, and visitors from over 36 countries have observed and participated in testing and training exercises at Ohmsett in a controlled, realistic, and safe environment.