BSEE Completes 1st Unannounced Oil Spill Drill

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has completed the first unannounced oil spill drill since the reorganization of the former Minerals Management Service was completed on Oct. 1.

The table-top drill, which took place last week, was led jointly by BSEE in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard and the State of Louisiana and tested Stone Energy Corporation's ability to assess a subsea well control situation and mobilize the proper subsea containment/intervention equipment in a timely manner. A final evaluation will follow when analysis of all documentation is completed.

"The Unannounced Spill Drill Program provides an effective tool that helps us ensure operators are appropriately trained in effective containment deployment and that the necessary equipment and resources are truly in place to implement the approved response plan," said BSEE Director James Watson. "This program is one of many diverse activities we employ within our agency to ensure operators are able to fully execute their oil spill response plans."

The Unannounced Spill Drill Program, initiated in 1989, tests an operator's ability to notify the appropriate entities and personnel in the event of a spill, including federal regulatory agencies, affected state and local agencies, internal response coordinators, and response contractors, and to take appropriate action to implement their response plan.

If the decisions made during the drill do not align with the approved oil spill response plan, it provides an opportunity to determine what needs to change in the response process.

Last week's drill tested Stone Energy Corp. with a scenario that was premised on a hypothetical blowout experienced by one of its deepwater exploratory wells.

The selection of an operator to participate in an unannounced drill is based on such factors as the number of oil producing facilities, the volume of oil production, and proximity to sensitive areas. With an eye to the operator’s current activities, a location is chosen and a spill scenario is developed. Simulated weather conditions provided to the operator during the drill are used to produce a hypothetical trajectory of the spill.

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