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Emergency preparedness more critical in remote, harsh operations


Jim Walker

Altor Risk Group

ecent offshore incidents in the Gulf of emergency response plans, a comprehenIn addition, emergency response planMexico and the North Sea highlight sive safety infrastructure offshore, and a ners are required to consider business conthe crucial importance of effective trained workforce whose prime responsibil- tinuity scenarios and to tie them into future and prompt emergency response. As ity is safety. The sector represents industry arrangements. Other factors to be examined the oil and gas industry continues to best practice, and is being looked at as an include insurance requirements against explore further into increasingly sensitive example by other nations around the world. damage to property and third parties, plus frontier locations, such as the Arctic, the Much of the improvement can be contribut- injuries or worse to employees or others. ability to react promptly and effectively is ed to the introduction of a highly regulated The significant number of unseen and often critically important to minimize the effects environment. The introduction of Design uninsured risks should be considered, inof any adverse situation to human life, the Control Regulations along with Prevention cluding clean-up, legal and public relations environment, and the business itself. of Fire Explosion and Emergency Response costs, man-hours lost in working through Oil and gas is a high-risk industry in any- Regulations for offshore, and the Control of the investigation, and loss of business conones estimation working with high pres- Major Accident Hazard regulations for on- tinuity and assets. sures, volatile liquids, flammable and Comprehensive planning can only toxic gases, heavy equipment in reprovide the foundation for an effecmote and harsh conditions, and often tive response. Organizations should miles away from emergency services. ensure that the necessary physical As a result, the importance of preparresources and people are available to ing for, responding to, and managing support the procedures in place. This emergencies should not be underestiincludes the preparation of facilities mated. equipped with relevant command, conExtreme weather, areas of conflict, trol, and communication systems. Inand political instability add to the chalcluded in this are response equipment lenges of working in regions where and the logistics required for a rapid incidents could have a catastrophic imdeployment. The importance of such pact on the environment. Challenges equipment can prove crucial for oil like this push the boundaries of techspill response, fire fighting, or fast resnology and human capability, and sigcue. The scale of logistical effort that nificantly increase the risk profile. can be required was vividly illustrated Potential dangers can, however, be during the Macondo incident. minimized, and risks can be anticipat- A management center can help deal in an organized manner The Gulf of Mexico disaster also ed and mitigated to prevent disasters with the variety of events involved in emergency response. highlighted the need to plan for and and operational solutions put in place have available highly specialized equipto avoid the worst from happening. At the shore, have all been embraced by the oil and ment and the expertise required to deal root of the process is the assessment of gas industry. with the complexities of working in hostile risk, reducing this risk, and identifying what Improvement is also due partly to the em- locations. Here it was the depth of the water actually needs to be prepared to deal with powerment of the offshore installation man- which prompted massive innovation, as enincidents. A detailed strategy that examines ager on a production platform to shut down gineers rushed to quickly design and build all emergency scenarios which could occur oil and gas production. Combined with ad- the capping equipment required. If only the as a result of the operational Major Accident vancements in global positioning and com- incident had been planned for and the right Hazards allows a company to tackle the fac- munications systems since 1988, the chance equipment had been available. It could just as tors capable of triggering a crisis. Through of an offshore installation with an emer- easily be extreme temperatures, high presthis it is possible to design and implement gency situation being out of touch with the sures, or extreme weather. Proper emergensafety systems and to prepare the workforce. mainland, emergency services or its parent cy response planning, therefore, requires the Significant progress was made in safety company is greatly reduced. The impact of engineers to think out of the box. in the UK after the Piper Alpha disaster new EU legislation on the highly regarded Prior to Macondo, no operator had approin 1988, and there has been an increase in UK system is yet to be determined. priate capping equipment available for such scrutiny of the regulatory environment in It is long established that oil and gas opera- incidents. Now, through a huge cross-industry many locations since the Macondo incident. tors must have procedures in place to satisfy effort and legislative requirements, most do. The UK oil and gas industry has a com- legal and statutory requirements. As well as However, the question everyone should be prehensive and effective legislative environ- establishing the companys response to inci- asking is what else could happen like this, and ment for both offshore and onshore. The dents, it is essential while developing these what other steps should be taken to respond Safety Case regime demands that each off- plans to consider how the organization com- more effectively. It is better to innovate now, shore oil and gas installation in the UK have municates with emergency services, commu- rather than during the next major incident. a personalized safety case with detailed nities, media, stakeholders, and relatives. As more small and midcap companies
76 Offshore January 2013 www.offshore-mag.com
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play increasing roles in the offshore industry and take leading roles in high-risk exploration, it can be a difficult task for these businesses to have the right number of staff with enough knowledge to provide cover during an incident. Even large organizations rarely have the huge resources on hand to manage a long-running situation. One option is for these companies to organize their resources and to consider outsourcing additional expertise, and to have these arrangements in place before an incident occurs. This coordination is at the heart of any effective response. Companies wishing to improve their emergency response plans in remote locations are increasingly seeking external expert consultants who can deploy the appropriate, experienced resources anywhere in the world at a moments notice. In addition to robust procedures, training plays an essential part in ensuring key people, like offshore installation managers or those fulfilling mission-critical roles, are fully prepared. Where in the past operators relied on guidelines for emergency response and crisis management, they are now putting in place standards which must be met. This, then, provides a benchmark against which projects and operations can be authorized to proceed

and, as importantly, provides standards for operations and for training purposes. This allows the competency of key people to be developed and regularly assessed. Exercises should be run as part of the training program, not only to allow people to practice, but also to realistically test facilities and equipment to iron out potential issues. Separate evaluation exercises also should be run to test the procedures, facilities, and communications with external agencies. Public perception also needs to be considered, since it plays a significant role in establishing the way any incidents will be handled. It is no longer about simply considering press statements. A strategic approach to communications with all stakeholders, including the media, and taking cognizance of all communications channels, particularly social and digital, must be adopted. Environmental impact should be an important factor in an organizations plan, and the clean-up process should be thorough, immediate and publicly acceptable. Dispersants like detergent might look responsible and effective, but leaving nature to take its course and wash light oil away naturally is often a more environmentally sensitive response than providing treatment. Today, the industry is generally better

prepared to manage the risk associated with offshore and onshore operations. However, recent incidents, from Macondo to Fukushima to the Arab Spring, have shown that its necessary to think the unthinkable. As the drive to increase reserves and the production of oil and gas continues, so does the need to work in remote locations, with reduced access to resources. This amplifies the need for a clearly mapped-out process to identify and reduce risk by producing coherent plans supported by the required equipment and competent responders.

About the author


Jim Walker is founder of Altor Risk Group. Altor Risk Groups Global Response Network provides access to over 150 experienced emergency response and crisis management specialists. The risk management company has offices in five countries, and people based in a further 12 countries, and also designs, builds and operates Incident Management Centres on behalf of industry. Altor staff and associates have been involved in crisis management incidents all over the globe and provided services primarily to the Energy Sector, including national and international oil companies.

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