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A Comprehensive Spill Response Program: Prevention, Preparation, Response and Restoration


Constructing and operating Oil & Gas pipeline facilities and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive. To be successful, we must proactively seek solutions that prevent releases and reduce impacts when an incident occurs. To do so requires a well coordinated spill response program involving a fully integrated system that incorporates risk reduction with spill response. There are typically four spill response phases. Industry refers to these as: Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Restoration. Spill prevention incorporates upfront risk reduction strategies with comprehensive response capabilities and begins by identifying liabilities and prioritizing areas most at risk. Detailed sensitivity mapping and modeling of spill flow paths for each concern identified during planning helps prioritize areas most at risk. Proper planning requires contingency and mitigation plans that protect highest risk assets and help ensure an immediate and well organized response, thus reducing ecological risk and community disruptions. Preparedness has no distinct beginning or end, but rather is an ongoing process involving proper training, organized teams of knowledgeable and competent staff, and the commitment of a company to be always ready. It includes pre-developed plans and support materials, regular training exercises, and experienced, qualified, and readily available subcontractors with strong backgrounds in health and safety. Response begins with the occurrence, incident notifications, and immediate mobilization of key personnel to the scene. Initial responders assess site conditions; identify additional personnel/equipment to initiate an effective and immediate response; and develop a preliminary containment and capture strategy of any fugitive release to mitigate further transport into the environment. In addition, responders determine if a public relations officer and/or community liaison are needed to assure stakeholders and the public are kept informed. A decision process such as the Net Environmental Benefit Analysis should be used for selecting appropriate response options when considering how and when to initiate restoration. This final phase is the first step in determining the timing and approach for restoring spill impacted areas and any potential impacts restoration activities themselves may contribute. Restoration usually occurs after completing response and cleanup activities, although undertaking early emergency restoration actions during a response often maximizes environmental benefits. In order to survive in the court of public opinion and protect shareholder value, companies must set a goal of responding to a release in a timely and efficient manner, allowing the protection of human health and the environment. This goal – in conjunction with available digital tools and the ICS system - is achievable when using the described approach.