Contrasting oil spills in Brazil and Norway demonstrate the importance of preparation when it comes to controlling and mitigating a disaster
The importance of stocking oil spill response equipment on offshore installations and OSVs was again highlighted in the wake of spills in Norway and Brazil last year.
In the last four months of 2019 and into 2020 two large oil spillages (not thought to originate from offshore facilities) have threatened catastrophe for Brazilian beaches and ecosystems.
When spillages occur from offshore installations they are mostly dealt with quickly, confined and then soaked up. But when they originate from other maritime sources this is not always the case. Brazilian authorities have still not identified the source of two spillages that struck the coast in Q4 2019.
In Norway, two much smaller hydrocarbon spillages from the Statfjord field in the Tampen area of the North Sea were controlled and cleaned up rapidly in 2019. However, the country’s Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) had to investigate how these incidents could occur from the same installation that was also struck by an OSV in 2019 – Equinor’s Statfjord A platform.
The latest of these hydrocarbon spills, on 26 November 2019, produced a discharge of about 40-80 m3 of oil. PSA said this leak came from one of the cells in Statfjord A’s concrete gravity base structure and produced an oil slick on the sea surface alongside the North Sea platform.
The oil spill on May 2019 came from a different source. PSA said the oil leak came from an offshore loading facility associated with Statfjord A while it was loading a shuttle tanker. During investigations into these incidents, PSA says it will:
PSA has already completed its investigation into the collision of Skansi Offshore’s Sjoborg supply ship into the Statfjord A facility on 7 June 2019. This occurred when a power failure struck two of three bow thrusters as Sjoborg was loading/discharging alongside Statfjord A.
The vessel’s dynamic positioning system failed and it drifted off its position and collided with the platform. It suffered damage to the mast and equipment above the bridge and denting to its starboard side aft.
Sjoborg also damaged the lifeboat station of Statfjord A, reducing lifeboat capacity and resulting in Equinor evacuating 218 people by helicopter.
Equinor lead investigator Kenneth Bård Persson will present the key findings and lessons from the Sioborg/Statfjord A incident during Riviera Maritime Media’s European Dynamic Positioning Conference, in London on 4 February. In his presentation, Mr Persson will explain how the collision occurred and outline areas of improvement in terms of system integration and operations.
There were no hydrocarbon spillages from this incident, but the potential for disaster highlights the importance of stocking oil spill containment and recovery equipment on vessels.
The global offshore oil industry prepares for different levels of oil spill via the industry-owned co-operative Oil Spill Response Ltd (OSRL). In 2019, OSRL responded to 28 oil spills, including 11 from offshore upstream installations and 10 from inland upstream and downstream operations; the rest were from pipelines, shipping and ports.
OSRL chief executive Robert Limb says the organisation is making improvements in its response and services via its Vision 2020 strategy. Further developments are planned for the period 2020 to 2025, which OSRL calls ‘Beyond the Horizon’.
“In 2019, we continued to execute the project programme,” says Mr Limb. This included “restructuring the global OSRL organisation to facilitate improved member engagement and
outreach with all stakeholders.”
OSRL also implemented a new subsea well intervention service (SWIS) governance structure, revised supplementary agreements for capping, containment, offset installation equipment (OIE) and initiated a mutual aid frame agreement.
“OSRL is now fully responsible for the subsea services following the conclusion of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers’ sponsored Subsea Well Response Project (SWRP),” says Mr Limb. SWRP well capping equipment is stored and maintained at OSRL bases in Norway, Brazil, South Africa and Singapore.
“We continued to expand the SWIS offering through a comprehensive group of alliance agreements, giving access to a broad portfolio of subsea and related services for subscribers,” says Mr Limb. This includes access to Clarkson’s vessel tracking software.
In 2019, OSRL completed delivery, training and commissioning for bow wave service-level agreement equipment to improve surface response capabilities.
It launched the West Africa Surveillance Platform, giving subscribing members access to two dedicated surveillance aircraft based in Togo and Gabon.
“We expanded the leadership and teamwork development for all OSRL staff to ensure we
continue to have the skills and talent to provide value to all our partners,” says Mr Limb.
OSRL also made changes to its software and IT. This included implementation of the Netsuite enterprise resource planning system and Mimecast cyber security. “We introduced spam filtering, phishing tests, website traffic filtering and educational content. We
changed IT provider to ITLab,” says Mr Limb.
This project included the addition of managed assurance services, vulnerability scanning cyber security health checks and a security-operations centre for monitoring network activity.
Some of the major incidents OSRL responded has to include a key port in the Bahamas following the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Dorian. OSRL provided SWIS equipment to assist a Brazilian spill in Q4 2018 and responded in 2019 to a spillage incident in Venezuela.
It sent a technical advisory team to Nigeria to assist an inland oil spillage and a team with two
Skimmers to contain an offshore well blowout in Indonesia. This equipment collected more than 900 m3 of oil in 26 days.
The Resolve Marine Group also responded to the devastation following Hurricane Dorian by sending teams and equipment to Freeport, Bahamas. It surveyed the harbour with a vessel, helicopter and drones and cleared the port’s entrance ready for emergency response traffic. Resolve also deployed a barge transporting a water purifying plant to Freeport, providing 5,000 gallons of potable water daily.
Salvage group Ardent provided urgent assistance to the FPSO Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, offshore Brazil in H2 2019. Its offshore team assisted the client in disconnecting the floating production ship from its mooring and riser systems and for towage to port. This FPSO arrived safely at Jurong Aracruz Shipyard in Brazil in November 2019.
OSRL responses – 2019
11 from offshore upstream
8 from inland downstream
3 in ports
2 from shipping
2 from pipelines
2 from inland upstream