The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

A History of Offshore Safety

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted April 30, 2010

As southeasterly winds push oil into the Louisiana marshes today, several government agencies, the Navy, the oil and natural gas industry and wildlife experts are working to protect sensitive habitats.

BP, the company leading the clean-up, also is seeking volunteers to help along the Gulf of Mexico coastline.

Meanwhile, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) is sending inspectors to all Gulf exploration rigs in hopes of reducing the possibility of any similar accident. The rigs are inspected regularly by MMS staff, and the Deepwater Horizon was inspected less than two weeks before the accident. Blowout preventers also are tested on a regular basis.

As we've mentioned in this space repeatedly, the oil and natural gas industry is heartsick about the accident, the loss of the 11 missing men, the injuries to the other crew members, and the spill's environmental impact. The industry also takes seriously its role in finding and producing energy for American consumers.

While the incident could have significant environmental and economic impact, we are hopeful that these can be mitigated by the combined response efforts of BP and others:

  • More than 1,900 personnel are involved in response efforts both offshore and onshore, with additional resources being mobilized as needed.
  • 300 response vessels are in place and continuing recovery efforts, and more than 217,000 feet of boom barrier has been assigned to contain the spill.
  • Five staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines, including Pensacola, Fla.; Theodore, Ala.; Pascagoula and Biloxi, Miss.; and Venice, La; and a sixth staging area is being set up in Port Sulphur, La.

For many years, the industry has examined its equipment, operations, training, safety and environmental practices with the goal of continuous safety and operational improvement.

In fact, one of the primary reasons for the formation of API in 1919 was to establish industry standards. The first standard, which set specifications for drill pipe threading, was produced in the early 1920s. Since then, hundreds of standards and best practices have been developed.

More than 45 of the API standards relate to offshore oil and natural gas operations, and not one is allowed to become out-of-date. As technologies become more advanced, and as investigations are conducted into unanticipated incidents, the industry's best minds work together to improve, update and republish the standards to provide the best possible guidance worldwide.

This week, API made several of its offshore safety and environmental protection standards available online. API also has posted a new Web page where additional resources can be found, including a Questions-and-Answers document relating to the Deepwater Horizon accident.

No one wants to spill oil or sully the environment, certainly not any of the 9.2 million U.S. workers who are employed or supported by the industry. Like you, we want to identify the cause of this tragic accident and make sure it never happens again.

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Update on April 30, 2010: President Obama today released a statement on the spill saying, "I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security..." Read more here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.