Prevention holds key to clean environment

DUBAI — Prevention and appropriate practices are the best and cheapest means of maintaining a healthy and clean marine environment, stressed offshore experts participating in the three-day Offshore Arabia 2004 conference which opened on Monday.

By Eman Al Baik

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Published: Wed 1 Dec 2004, 11:21 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:22 PM

On the second day of the conference, 29 experts from different international and regional establishments dealt with three topics — oil spill preparedness and training, oil spill management, tanker discharges and regional reception facilities, integration for protection of the Gulf environment, and marine protection efforts.

Captain Awad Saeed, Coordinator Oil Spill Response, Kuwait Petroleum Company pointed out that prevention remains the cheapest and best possible cure and companies must give priority to maintaining and upgrading methods of oil spill preventions, accordingly.

"However, should a spillage occur, a rapid and effective response will be critical in minimising the resulting pollution," he stressed, adding that plans should be drawn to reduce ecological damage.

Mark Leigh, Director, Asset Integrity, Dubai Petroleum Company (DPC), said that the company has developed an aggressive asset and operating integrity when it performs as intended and is operated and maintained within its design parameters at an acceptable risk over its entire service life.

"It is essential for an oil production company to have a well-coordinated programme to sustain integrity, particularly as the asset ages," he stressed.

The DPC programme was more than a mechanical integrity inspection and maintenance, he said, noting that it addressed concerns regarding the potential for minor releases from pipelines, vessels and minor platform failures when these facilities were beginning to show the wear and tear of operating more than 30 years.

"Hazards were identified, critical elements were selected and performance standards were prepared to mitigate the potential for oil spills and insure that response measures, if needed, would perform as intended," he elaborated.

Mechanical integrity issues, after an initial rise due to more inspections, are beginning to decline and emergency response capabilities have improved, added Leigh.

Speaking on fire prevention and firefighting and their relationship to protecting the offshore environment, Craig H. Shelly, Fire Protection Adviser at Saudi Aramco, said that protecting the offshore drilling and producing platforms from fire and the resultant environmental damage require adequately maintained systems and must not overlook the human elements of fire prevention.

Oil rig fire protection conditions are similar to those of land-based refineries, he noted warning that an uncontrolled hydrocarbon release may overwhelm any supervision system, firefighting efforts must be performed by on-site personnel, and facility evacuation has entirely different risks than land-based facilities.

"Offshore fire protection by necessity has to place more emphasis on avoiding the fire in the first place and in providing better training to responding personnel, including those on the platform," added Shelley.

Abigail Findlay, Technical and Environmental Advisor, Oil Spill Response Limited, UK, said that the bulk of the world's oil is transported by sea, thus putting the marine environment at risk.

Although spills may occur in the open ocean, the action of currents, winds and tides will often result in the spilled oil impacting a shoreline resulting in large quantities if waste generated in a very short period, she noted.

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