If oil spill recovery technology were developed to the point of total recovery of an oil spill (regardless of the spill size or sea conditions) an oil spill contingency plan would be very simple. The basics of the plan would involve logistics of transporting the spill recovery equipment and personnel to the spill source, recover spilled oil until the spill source is stopped and develop systems and processes to render the recovered oil sellable.

Unfortunately, the technology does not exist to totally recover all the oil that is spilled at sea. Therefore, we must use today's spill recovery technology along with all the facts at our disposal to develop contingency plans which will minimize the negative impact of oil entering the marine environment. To do this effectively, certain information must be available and certain decisions must be made. This paper will deal primarily with the specific information that should be gathered and decisions that must be made in order to develop an effective contingency plan. "Our biggest plus, if there is one, in contingency planning for a major oil "well spill is that we know the exact location of the potential spill source.


There are four categories of information collected when studying contingency plans to minimize impacts from a major oil well spill. These categories are, 1) the oil spill source, 2) the fate of the oil spill; the factors bearing on it, 3) the movement of the spill, and 4) coastal impact.

The first category deals with information about the site of a spill or potential spill and the rate and total volume of the oil spill. Whether an exploration well or a production platform, the well's exact coordinates are known as well as general data on the geography, hydrography and bottom-depth contours. Complete data can also be developed on a rank exploration well, with the possible exception of the flow rate, gas/oil ratio, and temperature." Finally, time estimates of naturally bridging or drilling a relief well which would stop the source of the spilling oil can be calculated from past drilling experience in the area.

The second set of information is taken from outside the near vicinity of the well, and is primarily concerned with the fate of the oil spill; how much will be recovered, and/or dispersed by man?; how much will naturally disperse? These data include the state of the open sea, the effectiveness of different oil spill recovery equipment and combatant measures, and the composition of the oil spill. These data try to describe the forces acting on the spill, both natural and those induced by man. Information on the state of the sea consists of winds, currents, tides and temperature. These combined factors could determine the choice and effectiveness of recovery measures. Data on the crude oil itself--hydrocarbon composition (heavy vs light ends), gravity, viscosity, and boiling point phaseal relationships, in union with the state of the open sea, provide information on evaporation, spreading, natural dispersion and emulsification.

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