Current evidence suggests that improved procedures and techniques and greater awareness by all concerned has considerably reduced the probability of oil spills, both large and small, from offshore operations. Nevertheless co-operative and individual company activity, has increased to meet the very small but finite possibility of accidents occurring.

The response to an oil spill, in nearly all cases, must be rapid to minimise economic and ecological effects. The right people have to be contacted st the right time to organise the correct response to the situation. This can only be done quickly and efficiently if there has been prior planning. prior planning. This paper describes the process of setting up a contingency plan. It attempts to simplify, by showing diagramatically, the complex interrelationship between the many company and external interests which must be considered. The schematic approach is then developed to describe a response in a real situation. Important elements of planning and response such as consultation and communications are discussed.

The current state of oil spill clean-up techniques is briefly reviewed and the need for adequate training for all contingency plan personnel emphasised.

Introduction

Techniques for offshore oil exploration have been developed over many years. Not surprisingly in an extremely sophisticated field, development has not been without its problems. Many lessons have been learned, and as a result both problems. Many lessons have been learned, and as a result both technical and procedural improvements made, such that today the probability of oil spills is very low. Nevertheless, operators probability of oil spills is very low. Nevertheless, operators are aware of their responsibilities, and in many parts of the world have attempted to set up systems to meet this small but finite possibility of a spill.

The response to an oil spill must be rapid to minimise economic and ecological effects. The right people have to be contacted at the right time to organise the correct response to a situation. The key phrase is "speed to response". This can only be guaranteed through prior planning. Contingency planning is complex and must be fitted to the nature and location of the particular operation. particular operation. This paper attempts to summarise the experience of an oil company in the contingency planning field. The steps taken to set up a plan and to run a spill clean-up operation are shown diagramatically, and important elements discussed in some detail. However, should an accident such as a blowout occur it is important to recognise and accept that oil spill clean-up will be one part of a large counter-operation extending beyond oil industry boundaries. The fullest cooperation and co-ordination must be organised between the oil spill experts and those engaged in fire fighting, safety and source elimination. This will include oil industry personnel and contractors. Externally, contacts with government bodies and research interests will be essential to ensure an effective and smooth operation.

B. CONSTRUCTION THE PLAN

It is recognised that for many offshore developments a cooperative approach between operating companies is desirable. This is true in the UK sector of the North Sea, where stocks of equipment are available to members of the UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA). However, this should not mask the need for companies to determine their individual organisational and planning needs to utilise these common resources.

Setting up and running a contingency plan for an offshore operation will involve many departments within the main structure of an oil company. While that structure will vary in detail from company to company, the general lines of consultation and communication will be similar. Also, although the requirements by each company for a contingency plan will differ, the broad processes and stages in setting up an plan will differ, the broad processes and stages in setting up an appropriate plan are common to most offshore operations. Thus it is possible to draw up a diagram showing a route which should be applicable to any company constructing an oil spill plan for offshore work. Such a diagram is shown in Figure 1, Phases 1 and 2. Phase 1 is the planning stage leading to recommendations to management, and Phase 2 is the implementation of those recommendations. The steps, contacts and sequence of events indicated in Figure 1 are by no means meant to be immutable: the diagrams are merely a guide. However, they do emphasise the need for consultation, coordination, and above all the need to think through the problem clearly. Organisationally, every step must be logical problem clearly. Organisationally, every step must be logical and the result of adequate discussion and agreement. It is only too easy for relevant personnel both internal and external to a company to be consulted either inadequately or not at all.

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