New Report Helps UK MCA Prepare for Offshore Oil Spill Challenges

Credit: Xodus Group
Credit: Xodus Group

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency's (MCA) future oil spill response plan will be informed by a new report that maps out possible threats to the UK's coastal areas, marine life, and traffic as a result of hydrocarbon releases from energy industry operation and shipping.

The report on the review of the hydrocarbon release risk on the UKCS over the next decade was delivered for the MCA, by Xodus Group, in association with London Marine Consultants.

The review evaluated the risk of a serious mineral oil release occurring in UK waters from vessels of more than 1,000 gross tonnage (GT), including oils carried as cargo, bunker fuel, and from offshore installations.

It includes the nature of risk and the likelihood of a serious hydrocarbon release in UK waters considering developments in ship and rig design and operations, and analysis of historical releases and near misses. The report also provides a look-ahead during the 2020s, to anticipate how changes in the industry, aging infrastructure, and/or decommissioning will affect the level of risk.  

The review will inform the MCA’s oil spill preparedness planning and associated activities for the next decade and consists of five reports: Oil cargo and bunkers; Qualitative review of the spill risk from ships; The offshore risk, overall assessment of the risk and a summary report for the project.

Xodus said it had established a multi-disciplinary team of geospatial specialists, marine architects from London Marine Consultants, safety engineers, environmental modelers, environmental impact assessors and economists with a wide-ranging knowledge of the upstream oil industry and shipping to deliver the project.

Claire Hughes, Director of HM Coastguard said: “Predicting the potential environmental and geological impacts of hydrocarbon releases in UK waters is crucial to the ongoing development of our national response strategy. Studies of this type help to inform the work that our teams do in preparing for a ship or installation-based oil spill.”

Offshore oil and gas: Tangible but manageable threat

Offshore Engineers reached out to Xodus to get more insight into the findings of the study, especially from the perspective of spill risk from offshore oil and gas facilities in the UK.

Xodus said: "This review concluded that in light of ship design, navigational safety measures, and trends in the offshore hydrocarbon industry, the risk to the UK from marine pollution remains a tangible but manageable threat. 

"The study was able to predict that there was likely to be a 28% decrease in oil spilt to sea but that a potential worst-case spill from the loss of a vessel  still remained a low possibility. 

"However, while the names of the vessels and installations involved in large oil release incidents are rightly remembered by the general public, that list is relatively small if considered in the context of the volume of hydrocarbons that have been produced on the UKCS and transported on (and adjacent to) UK territorial waters in the last 60 years."

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