Deep Water Horizon encourages collaboration between the offshore industry and the authorities when it comes to disaster control.
The Emergency Response Plans of the offshore industry must harmonize more with the calamity organization of the North Sea. In order to be better prepared for the consequences of an oil drilling or gas rig disaster, the authorities and the industry should also carry out joint training exercises more often. Together with the Department of Waterways and Public Works North Sea (RWS Noordzee), the State Supervision of Mines (SodM) is going to supervise this and they will come up with a framework for the offshore industry’s Emergency Response Plans. These measures have been formulated in response to the Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
In April 2010, eleven crewmembers were killed during the tragic accident with the Deep Water Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Subsequently it took four months to seal the leak in the well at the bottom of the sea and to stop the flow of oil and gas. An amount of oil equalling the content of approximately five million barrels resulted in an enormous amount of environmental pollution, the direct consequences of which are disastrous both for the ecology and the economy. It is as yet not clear what the long term effects of this largest oil disaster in history will be.
In the oil spill clean up, our country contributed in a small but important way with materials and know-how. The Department of Waterways and Public Works North Sea sent six sweeping arms, the business community made people available who were able to explain how they work to the Americans. For the U.S. this was a totally new approach to oil spill clean up and it impressed them and has since led to orders with the Dutch manufacturer.
Since the disaster with the Deep Water Horizon, the offshore industry is being monitored scrupulously and the call for measures and better supervision is getting louder. President Obama even declared a temporary moratorium on deep sea drilling in the waters around Alaska. And in Europe Member of the European Commission Oettinger called upon the EU members to ask the offshore companies that are active in their waters what the risks are there and which safety measures they are taking. In the meantime Germany has ensured that deep sea drilling is also on the agenda of the OSPAR Commission and that OSPAR is getting more powers when it comes to deep sea drilling and offshore activities on the North Sea.
Worst case scenario
In the Lower House questions have been asked to the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, as coordinating supervisory organ of the North Sea, and to the State Supervision of Mines (SodM), as supervisory body of the offshore industry. For its part the State Supervision of Mines (SodM) has asked the offshore industry to report on how they control their drilling and wellhead activities and how safely these activities are taking place. They also had to describe their worst case scenario and determine to which degree the Emergency Response Plans and all the provisions mentioned therein are adequate. The directors of the companies came to the State Supervision of Mines (SodM) to personally present their findings. The reason for all this was the Increased safety measures for energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf report that the American Secretary of the Interior sent to President Obama after the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Joint training exercises
Because the Department of Waterways and Public Works North Sea are assessing the offshore companies’ Emergency Response Plans for the
State Supervision of Mines (SodM) as far as oil spill clean up is concerned, some Department of Waterways and Public Works North Sea staff members had been invited to be present at various of these presentations. The general conclusion was that the mutual expectations regarding oil spill clean up must be better geared to one another and that the Emergency Response Plans must harmonize more with the calamity organization of the Department of Waterways and Public Works North Sea.
In the coming months the Department of Waterways and Public Works North Sea, together with the State Supervision of Mines (SodM), will draw up a framework which the Emergency Response Plans must comply with. Also joint training exercises must take place more regularly so that the various organizations will make a good team together. This should prepare the governmental calamity organization better for dealing with calamities with drilling activities on the North Sea.
Geerd Drost(Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment,
Department of Waterways and Public Works North Sea)
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