How has technology helped us in offshore emergency response preparedness?

18 June 2020

A blog by Paul Love

On 20th April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig suffered a blow out causing an explosion, resulting in the largest oil spill disaster in history. 4.9 million barrels of oil was released in the ocean causing unprecedented devastation to wildlife, loss of human life and reportedly $65 billion in costs. It took 87 days to install a Capping Stack on the failed Subsea BOP, meaning the spread of oil was seen over 92,500 miles. As a result of the major incident, new initiatives were introduced to aid emergency response preparedness. 10 years on from Macondo, what role has technology played in ensuring that as a community of shipping professionals, we are better prepared?

When responding to an emergency at sea, information and the dissemination of information is key, and regulators have played a large role in pushing the offshore industry forward to ensure that both are being provided quickly. There are now stricter oil spill regulations which require operators to develop Response Time Models (RTM) as part of their plans to prepare an effective emergency response plan. In 2019, the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) Wells Expert Committee produced report 594 Source Control Emergency Response Planning (SCERP) which provided a standardized process and toolkit for RTM around Subsea Capping and as a result, international preparedness has become more aligned. In a digital world where information can be shared at the touch of a button, there is a general expectation that the industry utilizes standard digital tools in line with RTM to demonstrate preparedness and provide faster response times.

Whilst regulators may set the benchmark of what is satisfactory, they do not offer the solutions. This is where software and technology providers have a role to play as they excel in innovative problem-solving solutions. Maritech first released Sea/response in 2018. It was, and still is, the only tool of its kind to meet the expectations set by IOGP and form part of an operator’s SCERP toolkit.

As a cloud-based progressive web application, Sea/response enables operators to identify well locations and, should there be an emergency, suitable nearby vessels of opportunity that are capable of assisting. The module goes one step further to identify where additional equipment and kit is located which might be needed for specific response missions and generates visualised calculations around how quickly the incident can be addressed. This real-time data allows emergency management to review multiple targeted response missions, a technological leap from the strategies used a decade ago with Deepwater Horizon.

Sea/response is used by Oil Spill Response Limited’s (OSRL) SWIS (Sub Well Intervention Services) members which includes the likes of BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxonmobil, Equinor, Petrobras, Shell, and Total. In summary, our technology has provided oil majors with:

  • Instant access to up-to-the-minute data on vessels of opportunity
  • A central repository for
    • vessel specifications and equipment aboard vessels
    • OSRL equipment and their staged locations
  • The ability to run scenario-based missions, and save outputs for quick access when needed
  • Multi vessel visualised estimations, routes and calculations for ease comparison and faster decision making.

We live in an age where digital solutions are developed and deployed quickly and as a result we are met with a plethora of options that tend to be targeted towards short-term trends, rather than focused on long-term implementation. When it comes to digital solutions to meet requirements in the offshore response market, it is important that Maritech fully understands the needs of the industry in order to create solutions that deliver real value for its users. OSRL is a leader in the promotion of global standardization in preparedness for subsea well response in the Offshore Oil and Gas industry . They recognise that Sea/response is one of the key tools that can help bring the market together by using a single platform to share insight and best-in-class planning tools. We work closely with SWIS members and OSRL to get to grips with the pressures and challenges that operators face to ensure the new features available in Sea/response are a significant improvement for the user and for the industry as a whole. This collaboration has been hugely successful and continued feedback means that the tool is always evolving in response to industry demands and regulation changes. In having OSRL on board, it really demonstrates the confidence that there is in technology to meet regulatory requirements and appetite in minimising impact of the offshore oil and gas industry on the environment.