Bonding the industry

Over the last few years Oil Spill Response Ltd (OSRL)has taken an ever more central role in the provision of preparedness, response, and intervention services. The Southampton-based organisation, owned by 43 participant members, and numbering another 100+ associate members, is the largest international industry-funded co-operative and responds to oil spills worldwide. “We have welcomed many new members in recent years, as the industry takes the need for rapid and reliable response to oil spills seriously and businesses want to have access to these services,” reasons OSRL’s CEO, Robert Limb.

Since 2013, the company has enhanced its proposition significantly, the highlight undoubtedly being the development of a range of subsea well intervention services (SWIS). “There are three distinct types of services we offer in this area – capping, containment, and, since the beginning of this year – offset installation, which enables responding personnel to remove debris or install capping or related equipment at a safe offset distance from an incident site,” Robert explains.

Enhancing its offering, OSRL has recently developed a new airfreightable capping stack capability for its members to take advantage of, which will prove a game changer, according to Robert. “There are indeed other capping systems that are airfreightable and even we could airfreight ours previously, but the real difference here is that we can now ship the capping stack fully assembled, something that was impossible before. The value of the service lies in the considerable reduction in response times, as there is no longer the need to take the stack apart and put it back together again prior to its mobilisation.

“With the capping stack weighing close to 100 tonnes and being very compact, the main challenge for us was to develop a system that can spread the load evenly and ensure that the aircraft’s centre of gravity is preserved in all flight operations,” he discusses. “We worked with Ukrainian manufacturer Antonov, deploying its AN-124 aircraft, as it was the only large enough and readily available machine to carry a capping stack of this size. In the meantime, we partnered with L+M to design and build a relatively lightweight carrier. When this was done, we ran an exercise from our Stavanger base to Stavanger Airport where we loaded the capping stack on an aircraft and flew the aircraft for a short flight. It has been encouraging to see that the new capability is being very well-received by the industry, especially in countries like Canada and Australia.”

In another ground-breaking initiative, OSRL collaborated with British aviation and engineering firm 2Excel Aviation to modify and deliver two Boeing 727 jet aircraft in the middle of 2016, this has resulted in a faster, improved aerial dispersant capability for industry. “The specially adapted aircraft are truly a firstof- a-kind capability for the oil and gas industry and they are instrumental in our timely response to an oil spill,” Robert remarks. After five successful years of collaboration, in which the two British companies have developed the unique TERSUS dispersant delivery system, in July 2018, they agreed on the extension of the service for another ten years, assuring the continuity of the aircraft through to 2028.

“Speaking of dispersants, we have also added a Global Dispersant Stockpile (GDS) service to complement the capping, containment, and offset installation services. We have 5000 cubic metres of dispersant in different locations around the world that is readily accessible and easily mobilised in the event of an incident. It is a critical service, because you may need quite a lot of dispersant, particularly for a major subsea incident,” Robert points out.

Surveillance is increasingly being recognised as key to effective response to oil spills and OSRL is constantly reviewing the potential benefits the latest response technology can have on further negating the impact of a spill incident. In late 2016, the company launched a new surveillance aircraft and has since been working closely with suppliers of unmanned aerial systems and unmanned underwater vehicles to potentially further extend its offering in the near future. “Last year, we carried out an offshore oil on water exercise to test and validate the possibilities that these technologies can give us,” Robert adds. “It is paramount for us to continue keeping a careful eye on technological developments to ensure we can provide the most effective response and meet any new regulatory requirements. One specific area of interest is with regards to water column monitoring, to address these needs, we have it on our agenda to launch a new monitoring service next year.”

Strategic alliances
A staunch believer in exerting joint efforts towards a common goal, OSRL has always promoted collaboration as the most effective means for the oil and gas industry to achieve its targets. A couple of years ago, the company played a leading role in the preparation of a Good Practice Guidance for surface response. “Co-operating with the leading industry associations is an important part of what we do and our expectations are that we will continue to work closely with bodies such as the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) and the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) in the years to come,” Robert maintains.

Closely related to the previous point is the organisation’s formation of strategic alliances, part of its commitment to provide end-to-end services to operators. “This past summer, we signed one such alliance with Trendsetter and Halliburton for integrated subsea well-capping response solutions, thus broadening the service capabilities for our members. I am convinced that the industry’s different entities can all work together without duplicating each other’s efforts to bring the best solutions to the table in the event of an incident. These strategic alliances are a big step forward towards providing a more holistic response, and we are eager to engage in future activities that enhance co-operation and enable industry to continually expand its capabilities,” the CEO enthuses.

Over the past five years, OSRL has expanded its geographical footprint significantly. Today, the business has bases in 12 countries worldwide that present a solid infrastructure for the organisation’s future development. “We have moved closer to our members, which is key nowadays, as more focus is being placed on the preparedness side of the business. Looking forward, we are seeing an increase in new projects particularly in deep water subsea drilling, chiefly in Latin America, and we anticipate this trend to continue in 2019 and 2020. Meanwhile, we are planning to utilise some of the aforementioned new technologies, to ensure that the industry has all the tools to respond efficiently to any oil spill around the world,” Robert wraps up.

Oil Spill Response Ltd
Services: Preparedness, response, and subsea well intervention services