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Double Vessel System for oil and gas

Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response

The Newfoundland and Labrador offshore industry works diligently to prevent oil spills through engineering, process controls and well design, drilling and production practices, and specific purpose-built technologies. For example, drilling rigs and production platforms are equipped to prevent incidents that can cause spills using technology such as blowout preventers and specially designed off-loading systems.

From the earliest stages of planning to the end of production, offshore operators take many precautions to prevent incidents. Before any activity is undertaken, operators identify and analyze potential risks to people and the environment. Procedures are put in place to reduce or eliminate identified risks, and workers are trained to recognize and respond to potential emergencies. Redundancies are built into offshore operations with the goal of preventing incidents. Comprehensive management systems identify potential risks, which operators work to reduce and mitigate. Automated and manual monitoring mechanisms are located throughout offshore facilities to control shutdown systems. Facilities are also required to have a backup for those systems.

Operators conduct detailed preventative and corrective maintenance to ensure equipment remains in safe working order.

Offshore facilities must meet the safety standards of Transport Canada and/or the appropriate federal-provincial regulatory body (Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) and Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB). Mobile Offshore Drilling Units must also meet international rules and undergo inspections of their design and capability by international agencies, such as the International Maritime Organization.

Although prevention is the primary focus, operators are also ready to respond should a spill occur. Offshore operators conduct drills and exercises to test equipment and ensure key personnel and external resources are trained and prepared to respond. To prepare to respond to an oil spill, operators develop extensive oil spill preparedness and response programs that include:

  • Risk identification and assessment of potential spill scenarios including tide and current modeling.
  • Understanding of the regulatory requirements.
  • Detailed oil spill response and contingency plans.
  • Definition of roles and responsibilities, including response management structure, both offshore and onshore.
  • Operational preparations and procedures, including training and exercise requirements for responders.
  • Mutual emergency assistance agreements with other operators.
  • Contracts with oil spill response organizations (locally and internationally).
  • Availability and maintenance of response equipment.
  • Continuous improvement plans to review/enhance response capability as necessary.
  • Support for research and development.

The industry is committed to continuous improvement of its spill response capability. Operators continue to assess opportunities to enhance equipment, processes, and training as new research and technology become available.

Spill prevention and response

The Newfoundland and Labrador offshore oil industry has access to world-class spill response capability. International best practice is a tiered approach to spill response that effectively scales up depending on the size and nature of a spill.

  • Tier one is comprised of operator-owned equipment and resources that are maintained offshore on the installation or supply vessel, which may include sorbent booms, single vessel side sweep systems and satellite tracker buoys;
  • Tier two includes operator-owned equipment and resources as well as Eastern Canada Response Corporation (ECRC) equipment and resources that are maintained onshore which can be mobilized to support the offshore response. In Newfoundland and Labrador this includes two operator-owned Norwegian Standard Systems, each consisting of a 400m Norlense 1200 self-inflating boom and TransRec 150 skimmer, which are considered the largest available in the world in terms of sea states. The Canadian Coast Guard also maintains a significant quantity of oil spill response equipment; and
  • Tier three is comprised of equipment and resources that can be accessed nationally or internationally. Offshore operators have the capacity to call in additional resources from international response organizations such as Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL). Both ECRC and OSRL are members of the Global Response Network which enables them to access equipment, processes and personnel from other oil spill response organizations in Canada and internationally.

CAPP, working with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and One Ocean, hosts the annual Offshore Environmental Forum. The most recent event was held November 20 and 21, 2023. The forum brings together local and international oil and natural gas industry experts, regulators and governments, research organizations, Indigenous groups, and the fishing industry to explore advances in research and technology, as well as lessons learned.


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