MMS Gulf Region observes 20 years of unannounced spill drills

The US Minerals Management Service is celebrating 20 years of unannounced oil spill response drills in the Gulf of Mexico. It conducted its first such drill on July 25, 1989, and has held another 373 since.

The US Minerals Management Service is celebrating 20 years of unannounced oil spill response drills in the Gulf of Mexico. It conducted its first such drill on July 25, 1989, and has held another 373 since.

The US Department of the Interior agency designed the drill to test an operator’s oil spill response plan and evaluate its spill management team’s response to a simulated spill event.

“While preventing oil spills is our top priority throughout the offshore energy exploration and extraction process, operators must be ready to respond to a spill event,” MMS Director S. Elizabeth Birnbaum said at ceremonies in New Orleans on July 23. “The Unannounced Drill Program enables MMS to monitor and enhance the operators’ response capabilities throughout the Outer Continental Shelf.”

MMS said that it uses three different methods to test an operator’s response to a spill, ranging from a table top exercise to actual deployment of response vessels and dispersant aircraft. It said that every drill tests an operator’s ability to notify the appropriate contacts including federal regulatory agencies, affected state and local agencies, internal response coordinators and response contractors, as well as an operator’s ability to make decisions, respond properly, and take appropriate action.

As part of the 20th anniversary observance, MMS said that it would make a video of its 250th unannounced oil spill drill in the region available online at its website at www.mms.gov. The DVD chronicles the October 2007 drill involving a major oil and gas production facility in the GOM where the operator was required to deploy dispersant aircraft as part of the exercise.

Contact Nick Snow atnicks@pennwell.com

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