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Offshore Environmental Risks - Spills

Spills from offshore facilities can occur due to leaks, equipment failure, accidents, or human error. Develop a spill prevention and
control plan. Additional spill prevention and control measures specific to offshore oil and gas facilities include:

  1. Conducting a spill risk assessment for offshore facilities and support vessels
  2. Design of process, utility, and drilling systems to reduce the risk of major uncontained spills
  3. In the event of an emergency, install valves, including subsea shutdown valves, to allow early shutdown or isolation
  4. Ensure adequate corrosion allowance for the lifetime of the facilities and/or installation of corrosion control and prevention systems in all pipelines, process equipment, and tanks
  5. Develop maintenance and monitoring programs to ensure the integrity of well field equipment. For export pipelines, maintenance programs should include regular pigging to clean the pipeline, and intelligent pigging should also be done
  6. Install leak detection systems. Use of sub-sea pipelines measures, such as telemetry systems, SCADA6 systems, pressure sensors, shut-in valves, and pump-off systems, as well as normally unattended installations (unmanned) facilities to ensure rapid detection of loss of containment
  7. For facilities with potentially significant releases, install an Emergency Shutdown System that initiates automatic shutdown actions to bring the offshore facility to a safe condition
  8. Adequate personnel training in oil spill prevention, containment and response
  9. Ensure spill response and containment equipment is deployed


All spills should be documented and reported.

Following a spill, a root cause investigation should be carried out and corrective action should be taken. A Spill Response Plan is required along with the capability to implement the plan. The Spill Response Plan should address potential oil, chemical, and fuel spills from offshore facilities, support vessels including tankers, and pipeline ruptures. The plan should also include:

  1. A description of operations, site conditions, current and wind data, sea conditions and  water depth, and logistical support
  2. Identification of persons responsible for managing spill response efforts, their responsibility, authority, roles and contact details
  3. Cooperative measures with government agencies
  4. Spill risk assessment, defining expected frequency and size of spills from different potential release sources; including assessment of foreseeable scenarios
  5. Oil spill trajectory modeling with oil fate and environmental impact prediction for a number of spill simulations (including worst case scenario, such as blowout from an oil well) using an adequate and internationally recognized computer model with the ability to input local current and wind data
  6. Clear demarcation of spill severity, according to the size of the spill using a clearly defined Tier I, Tier II and Tier III approach
  7. Strategies for managing Tier I spills at a minimum, from the offshore installation and support vessels
  8. Arrangements and procedures to mobilize external resources for responding to larger spills and strategies for deployment
  9. Full list, description, location, and use of on-site and off-site response equipment, and the response times for deployment
  10. Strategies for containment and recovery of floating oil, including use (and limitations) of chemical dispersants
  11. Maps identifying sensitive ecological areas (seasonal / monthly) prepared using sensitivity mapping of the environment at risk
  12. Identified priorities for response (with input from potentially affected or concerned parties)
  13. Shoreline cleanup strategies
  14. Handling instructions for spilled oil, chemicals, fuels or other recovered contaminated materials, including their transportation, temporarily storage, and disposal.


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