August 27, 2015
How To Prevent Oil Spills As A Business
Oil spills are similar to airplane crashes: You rarely see them on the news, but when you do, they are usually devastating. In most people"s minds, oil spills are a rarity that occurs when an oil tanker crashes or an offshore pipeline ruptures. For those of us in the reliability industry, we know that there are many types of oil spills and that they occur more often than the average Joe might like to think.
Not every facility manager has to worry about oil spills, but for those of us who do, they are usually something we want to avoid at all costs. On the smallest level, they are an indication of a problem that needs to be fixed and a mess to clean up and contain. On a much broader level, they can have a huge environmental impact and can threaten not only marine life but residential areas as well.
Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) oil spill is the Exxon Valdez, which occurred in 1989 off the coast of Alaska. Nearly 11 million gallons of oil washed up on the shores of our 49th state. Unfortunately, at the time, officials and crew members were woefully unprepared for response and cleanup efforts.
The majority of oil spills happen because of an accident that involves an oil tanker, rig, pipeline, or storage facility. The cause of the accident can be a number of issues, including machinery or equipment breaking down, carelessness by employees or handlers, or a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or typhoon. In the most insidious cases, oil spills are caused intentionally by rogue nations at war or as an act of terrorism. Oil spills can also be attributed to vandalism, pipeline theft, and "oil dumpers" seeking to dispose of crude through non-traditional channels.
The biggest impact oil spills have (regardless of their cause) from an environmental standpoint is on marine life and mammals within the impact zone as well as any offshoots once the spill begins to spread. They also harm plant life and can ruin coastlines, the soil in the affected area, and water tables.
While there are many methods and regulations for cleaning up in the aftermath of an oil spill, the best way to handle them is to prevent them in the first place. Facility managers can prevent oil spills in a variety of ways, most of which involve proper training and education for staff.
Properly maintaining equipment and performing routine inspections is another key area for facility professionals to focus on, as equipment breakdowns and ruptured pipes are two primary causes of oil spills in a facility. Not only are these good prevention practices, but they should be part of your normal maintenance schedule as well.
Sometimes, however, no amount of preventative or proactive maintenance can prevent oil spills from taking place. A prime example of this is when a particularly strong hurricane hits. In these cases (and all cases, really), having a disaster recovery plan that involves proper chemical and oil cleanup and containment (as defined by regulatory and compliance statutes) is pivotal. If your team can respond quickly enough, you can often mitigate the amount of impact an oil spill will have, saving your company oodles in fines and cleanup costs., not to mention you will be doing Mother Nature a solid!