Kip, S.H., Sarawak Shell Bhd/Sabah Shell Petroleum Co. Ltd. (Malaysia)

Introduction

Oil spill contingency planning is an essential feature required in present day activities involving oil and gas exploration, production and transportation. A well thought out Contingency Plan will not only eliminate or minimise the sense of panic, normally associated with oil spill emergency, but also can minimise damage and cost involved.

Simply put, oil spill contingency planning is a process of predetermining a response to an oil spill emergency. The process of preparing a contingency plan varies but the final plan is normally produced into a document, to be followed in an oil spill emergency. With this document prepared and agreed by all concerned parties, the approach and response to an oil spill should be more organised. It is also generally accepted that an organisation with the necessary contingency plan in place is better prepared to handle an emergency that one without a contingency plan.

Oil spill contingency planning is a feature of Shell Group policy. Sarawak Shell Berhad (SSB)/Sabah Shell Petroleum Company Limited (SSPC) produced an Oil Spill Contingency Plan in 1978 which has undergone a number of modifications and updates. Drills and exercises are also conducted with a view to improve the company preparedness to tackle oil spill emergencies.

OPERATING ENVIRONMENT

SSB/SSPC is the main oil and gas exploration and production company operating offshore in the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah. With an average production level of approximately 200,000 barrels of oil per day. Shell produces about 45% of Malaysia's total crude oil production.

All or the Company's producing oil and gas fields and concession acreage are situated offshore. Currently it operates 27 production stations offshore which feed into the crude oil terminals in Bintulu, Lutong and Labuan. The geographical spread of more than 600 km between the northern most field and the southern most field provides an extensive coverage for oil spill contingency planning.

Sarawak and Sabah coastline runs in the northeast - southwest direction with the South China Sea in the north and land to the south. The production stations offshore are generally between 15 to 100 km from the shoreline. General weather variation is affected by the Northeast Monsoon from November to February and Southwest Monsoon from July to September with October a transition month and March to June generally calm. Currents are not generally strong except at specific locations, caused by unusual bottom topography.

In Malaysia, the spiller is responsible to tackle and cleanup an oil spill. However, the government via the Marine Department of the Ministry of Transport and the Department of Environment, Ministry of Science Technology and Environment can be requested to assist or can intervene in an oil spill emergency. The government can in turn recover the full cost of its cleanup operation from the responsible party.

FEATURES OF THE PLAN

Like any other Company's procedure document. the Oil Spill Contingency Plan is required to be fully discussed within SSB/SSPC, agreed by relevant parties and approved by senior management. This is because it establishes the authority to take oil spill control measures.

The Plan has also received the relevant concurrence of the Malaysian National Oil Company (PETRONAS) and the Department of Environment.

Lessons learnt from previous experience are incorporated into subsequent updates of the plan. Most of the features that can be considered as "unique" in the contingency plan evolve from in-house experience.

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