ISO action plan proposes Standards to combat oil spill disasters

Issue 29 – July 2011

ISO has developed an action plan on international Standards that could help the oil and gas industry prevent or mitigate disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and the Montara oil spill off the coast of Western Australia in 2009. Drawing on the lessons learned from the two disasters, the plan provides an inventory of relevant Standards that are already available and proposes a programme to develop new Standards or improve existing ones.

The action plan covers drilling, well construction, and well operations Standards relevant to the Deepwater Horizon (also known as Macondo) and Montara events. It has been developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 67, 'Materials, equipment and offshore structures for petroleum, petrochemical and natural gas industries'. Neil Reeve, Chair of ISO/TC 67, comments, 'As an international industry, the lessons learned from an accident in one country must be transferred globally. International Standards developed by ISO/TC 67 are one way of achieving this.'

The inventory includes 71 existing Standards and related documents available from ISO or other organisations, particularly the American Petroleum Institute (API). The programme proposes 31 Standards or related documents for development or update by ISO, the API, or other organisations.

The ISO/TC 67 management committee states, 'In the Macondo and Montara accidents, our industry lost 11 colleagues, caused much environmental damage, and caused material, financial, and reputational loss. Standards bodies such as ISO (via its ISO/TC 67), API, and others have developed and maintained Standards that are intended to facilitate the defence against such accidents. In order to continue with this, it is now essential that the recommendations identified are implemented in the 'international Standards portfolio.'

ISO/TC 67 underlines the importance of implementing the Standards: 'Developing and maintaining consensus-based international Standards is only the first step. These remain only as paper and electronic documents, until implemented in or by a particular country project or user.'

Hundreds of experts from 30 countries participate in the work of ISO/TC 67, with another 30 countries as observers. Currently, the TC's portfolio comprises 150 new or updated Standards. They are not only being increasingly adopted by regional or national Standards bodies in North and South America, China, Europe, the Gulf States, Kazakhstan, and Russia, but also increasingly referenced in national regulations.

Read the action plan.

Published in energy.