Industry task forces submit offshore spill proposals to DOI

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 7 -- Two US oil and gas industry task forces presented more than 50 recommendations to prevent offshore oil spills, enhance spill response, and improve subsea well control to the US Department of the Interior. The recommendations were part of an industry-wide effort to strengthen all aspects of offshore safety, said officials at the American Petroleum Institute and the National Ocean Industries Association.

The industry launched a comprehensive offshore safety review after the Apr. 20 Macondo well blowout and rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and subsequently set off a massive oil spill, according to Erik Milito, API’s upstream director.

“Safety is our first responsibility, both to the millions of men and women who work in America’s oil and gas industry, and to the public that depends on the energy they produce,” he said as the groups presented their recommendations to a US Bureau of Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement forum in Houston on Sept. 7.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America, International Association of Drilling Contractors, and US Oil & Gas Association also participated in the two industry task forces dealing with oil spill preparedness and response, and subsea well control and containment.

“This report is an indication of the tremendous effort and cooperation among industry and their trade organizations in response to the accident,” said NOIA Pres. Randall B. Luthi, who first announced plans for forming the task forces while testifying before the US House Natural Resources Committee on May 27.

‘Not the end’
“It shines a light on the path forward, but it is not the end of the journey,” he maintained. “Continued study, evaluation, and financial resources are part of the recommendations.”

The latest recommendations range from quicker and more effective methods for capping a blowout to recommendations on how to better remove oil from the water and keep it from coming ashore, Milito said.

He noted two other industry task forces provided recommendations to DOI in May dealing with operating procedures and equipment. One followed up with a new recommendation for offshore operators and drilling contractors to employ a well-construction interfacing document that would integrate all aspects of safety management systems, he said.

API is reviewing all of its offshore safety standards and recommended practices, and is preparing a new deepwater well design standard, Milito continued. The industry association began its standards and practices program in 1924.

NOIA noted one of its former chairmen, Oceaneering International Inc. chief executive T. Jay Collins, co-chaired the spill preparedness and response task force with Keith Robson, Marathon Oil Corp.’s corporate safety, security, and emergency preparedness manager. Sixty members from 30 companies examined spill response plans, oil sensing and tracking, dispersant use, in-situ burning, mechanical recovery capabilities, shoreline protection and cleanup, and alternative response technologies, the trade association said.

Actions of many
It said the task force’s preliminary findings include indications the actions of many organizations and groups kept all but a fraction of the nearly 5 million bbl of crude released at the Macondo wellsite from actually reaching shore. This does not mean that response and containment technology and methods can’t be improved, it continued.

Dispersants and in-situ burning proved to be more effective than skimmers, vacuums, and other mechanical recovery methods, and more research in all three approaches clearly is needed, the task force indicated.

It also said while great advances have been made in observing, sensing, and scanning spilled oil offshore, further research should be pursued in surface and subsurface oil sensing. Research priorities should be identified with funding from the industry, both collectively and as individual companies, and jointly with state and federal governments and research institutions, it suggested.

Milito said recently intensified inspections and monitoring by regulators and the industry, including successful inspections of all 33 deepwater drilling rigs in the gulf, have strengthened offshore safety already.

“We will continue to build on what has been achieved since the accident, and we must remain vigilant,” he said. “However, producing the energy our nation needs and creating jobs are also important. It is time to end the deepwater moratorium that has sent many gulf workers to the unemployment lines. People are hurting and have to get back to work.”

Contact Nick Snow at

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