API, others form oil spill response assessment task forces

Three major US oil and gas trade associations have formed two new task forces to address offshore oil spill preparedness and response.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 11 -- Three major US oil and gas trade associations have formed two new task forces to address offshore oil spill preparedness and response. The task forces will review subsea and surface spill response actions and issue recommendations, according to the American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, and National Ocean Industries Association.

“A recurring theme raised by the ongoing spill in the Gulf of Mexico is that the technology exists to drill successfully in deeper and deeper water, but the technology to respond to the release of oil in these environments appears not to have kept pace,” said NOIA Pres. Randall B. Luthi, who introduced the idea for the task forces when he testified before the US House Natural Resources Committee on May 27.

“These new task forces will address that question and others,” he indicated. They will seek input from top scientists, federal and state agencies, other trade associations and other groups, Luthi said on June 10. Findings will be shared with Congress; the presidential commission investigating the Macondo well blowout, rig explosion, and subsequent oil spill; the oil and gas industry; and the general public, he said.

Noting that independent producers hold 90% of the leases on the US Outer Continental Shelf, IPAA Pres. and Chief Executive Officer Barry Russell called offshore energy production a safety net against increased US reliance on foreign oil. “But with this production comes important responsibilities like protecting the safety of our workforce and employing every technology possible to care for the environment,” he said, adding, “These new task forces will help us achieve these goals while creating jobs, producing American energy, and creating an important revenue stream for local, state, and federal treasuries.”

Cross-industry effort
“As an industry, we are continually reviewing our practices and improving where necessary, all areas of operations, especially in light of this tragedy,” said American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard. “We will be working across our industry, bringing together experts and specialists, to improve safety and environmental performance by learning from any gaps identified in the handling of this spill.”

The task force focusing on subsea well control and response will address technologies and practices for controlling the release of oil from its source. It also will review equipment designs, testing protocols, research and development, regulations and documentation, and make recommendations for improvements. Among other things, it will look at various well-control procedures, including the “junk shot,” coffer dams, “top kill,” and other subsea containment and collection methods.

The spill response task force will review existing response processes and technologies, identify gaps, and seek options to address them through recommended practices and procedures, as well as research and development. Among other things, it will look at planning and prestaging of assets, mechanical recovery methods, dispersants (including their toxicity and application), shoreline protection issues, bio remediation, unconventional response technologies, wetlands protection, and the use of volunteers.

Gerard noted that the two new task forces supplement two others, developed with API’s assistance and set up in May, which focus on offshore equipment and offshore operating practices.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

More in HSE