Oil spill preparedness and response

We are working to continuously improve how we control, contain and clean up oil spills should they occur

Though our priority is to prevent oil spills, they can still happen. We take steps to improve our ability to respond to spills, including through simulation exercises, using technology to enhance our response capability and updating our oil spill response plans. Our performance over time suggests that our focus on response plans and spill exercises have helped improve our ability to respond to oil spill events.

Oil spill response exercises

We regularly conduct oil spill exercises at locations around the world. For example, we worked with state and federal regulators in the Gulf of Mexico to assess the ability to treat or remove oil using dispersant, in-situ burning and mechanical means . We also tested the ability to maintain a cohesive response should the team command physically move from one facility to another during a response , which is often done to work more closely with federal, state and local government officials.

In Alaska nearly 400 participants, including federal and state government and industry representatives, took part in a two-day exercise hosted by BP. The exercise tested the time taken to bring equipment and vessels from outside the immediate area, as well as working in changing weather conditions, and the transition of roles and responsibilities during the response.

We also worked with government authorities, local administrators, fishing communities and our industry peers as part of a shoreline exercise in Angola. We were responsible for the practical deployment of some of our shoreline and on-water equipment and having a number of observers present. The exercise demonstrated that both BP and the sharing of regional response resources continue to improve.

New and emerging technologies

We investigate and test the applicability of emerging technologies into our oil spill response capability. For example, in the Middle East, we have trialled the use of satellite imagery as a way to monitor for potential oil spills over large land areas and track clean-up response time.

We tested the use of unmanned sea gliders in the UK as a means of collecting environmental data in real-time during a response. This allows us to better understand environmental conditions during a response, helping us to focus our response efforts.

Common operating picture

We are working to incorporate a common operating picture - a single picture of all response related activity and resources at a given moment in time - into any BP oil spill response scenario. We use a tool that gathers multiple layers of geospatial data to create an integrated picture, which includes information on infrastructure, vessels, environment, incident features, weather and climate data, and predictive modelling. This helps us to better co-ordinate and manage our resources and improve real-time decision making for a more efficient and effective response.

Incorporating learnings

Our requirements for oil spill preparedness and response planning incorporate what we have learned over many years of operation.

We updated our oil spill response plan requirements in 2012 to incorporate learnings from the Deepwater Horizon accident. Revised response plans include elements such as specialized modelling techniques to help predict the impact of potential spills, provision of stockpiles of dispersant and the use of technologies like aerial and underwater robotic vehicles for environmental monitoring. This is a substantial piece of work and our operating businesses with the potential to spill oil are on track to complete updates by the end of 2016.

Our performance

Number of oil spills

The number of oil spills over one barrel (159 litres, 42 US gallons) that reached land and water, decreased to 55 spills (2014 63 spills, 2013 74 spills).

Volume of oil spilled

In 2015, the volume of oil spilled increased to approximately 432 thousand litres (2014 400 thousand litres, 2013 724 thousand litres). Approximately 142 thousand litres of oil remained in the environment after recovery operations in 2015 (2014 155 thousand litres, 2013 261 thousand litres).

Total number of oil spills (≥one barrel)

Volume of oil spilled (thousand litres)

Gulf of Mexico: Environmental restoration

In October 2015 settlement agreements were filed with the federal court in New Orleans to resolve all US federal and state government claims arising from the Deepwater Horizon accident and spill. The $18.7 billion settlement includes over $7 billion to address claims for natural resource damages. This is the largest single element of the settlement and is in addition to the $1 billion already committed for early restoration. The settlement is pending final court approval.

Natural resource damage assessment

Scientists funded by BP, government agencies, academia and other organizations have studied a range of species and habitats to understand how wildlife populations and the environment may have been affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill. Some of the study data informed the draft assessment of injury to natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico that was prepared by federal and state trustees (NRD Trustees). BP had no role in developing the draft assessment or accompanying restoration plan.

In addition to the settlement agreement, BP has agreed to provide $37 million to the federal government to develop a publicly available Gulf of Mexico environmental data management system.

Early restoration projects

As at December 2015 BP and the NRD Trustees have agreed on 64 early restoration projects that are expected to cost approximately $832 million; BP has funded $762 million to date. Work includes efforts to restore and enhance wildlife, habitats and the services provided by those habitats.

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative

In 2010 BP committed to pay $500 million over 10 years to support independent research to improve society’s ability to understand, respond to and mitigate the potential impacts of oil spills on marine and coastal ecosystems. As at the end of 2015 the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative had awarded approximately $391 million in grants for research in areas including the ecological and human health aspects of spills, and the development of new technology for future spill response, mitigation and restoration.


The information on this page forms part of the information reviewed and reported on by Ernst & Young as part of BP's 2015 sustainability reporting. View the full assurance statement.

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