Contractors Unlimited

Oil Spill Workgroups Get Underway on Early Review of UK Practices

The work of the UK's new Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG) is now firmly underway with two of its review groups having agreed their work plans. Both the technical and the indemnity and insurance review groups met this week, with members of the teams including senior representatives from the production companies, drilling contractors, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

OSPRAG was set up at the end of May by Oil & Gas UK, the industry representative organisation. Its purpose is to review the sector's offshore drilling practices in the UK continental shelf (UKCS) in light of the events unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico and assess the industry's readiness to respond to a major event in this country. On 2 June, its steering group, chaired by Mark McAllister, chief executive of Fairfield Energy Ltd, established four work groups to look at technical, oil spill response capability and remediation, insurance and pan-North Sea response issues.

Mark McAllister said:

"A good start has been made this week, but there is a great deal of work to be done. We are going to be rigorous in our testing and questioning of what we have in place here in the UK, not because we think our practices and procedures are not up to standard but because we cannot be complacent in the face of what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. The tragic events there compel us to look afresh at what we do and how we operate; we have to prove to ourselves, and to the world at large, that we are managing risk in a comprehensive and fully informed manner."

The technical review group (TRG) will carry out a comprehensive assessment of the industry's practices with the key areas for analysis identified as:
  • Subsea containment equipment and systems
  • Competency and standards for key onshore and offshore leaders
  • An inventory of blowout preventers (BOP) and remotely operated vehicles (ROV) currently employed in the UKCS, including function testing, operating capabilities, modifications and secondary control system requirements
  • The well examination process
  • The verification process
  • An inventory of all wells and their flowing status
The findings from the investigations will be captured in a formal Oil & Gas UK guidance on well control to be published as soon as the work is completed.

TRG leader and Oil & Gas UK's supply chain director, Brian Kinkead, said:

"The TRG made good progress at its first meeting and the areas for review that were identified will focus on the well control activities during drilling, completion and intervention operations. They will look closely at the change management process, for example carrying out a thorough assessment of existing BOP equipment, including certification, maintenance records and equipment modification procedures.

"Importantly, the TRG will also continue to monitor the lessons emerging from the Gulf of Mexico incident and ensure that implications for the UK continental shelf (UKCS) are considered within the group's activities."

The second group to meet this week, the indemnity and insurance review group, is currently reviewing the potential remediation and compensation costs associated with a range of different oil spill scenarios, from minor leaks to major incidents.

Published 17/06/2010

OSPRAG was established by Oil & Gas UK on 25 May 2010. OSPRAG includes senior representatives from all sides of the industry, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the trade unions, RMT and Unite.

Oil & Gas UK is the leading representative organisation for the UK offshore oil and gas industry. Its members, which number over 100, are companies licensed by the Government to explore for and produce oil and gas in UK waters and those who form any part of the industry's supply chain.

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