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Throwback 30: From conception to completion – the Subsea Well Response Project (Part 1 of 2)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Oil Spill Response Limited, we are publishing a series of articles covering our milestones.

In part one of this article, James Burroughs, Subsea Well Intervention Services Manager, and Chris Hammick, Operations and Logistics Lead share about the establishment of Subsea Well Intervention Services.



James Burroughs

Subsea Well Intervention Services Manager


Chris Hammick

Operations and Logistics Lead



The Subsea Well Response Project (SWRP) is a non-profit joint initiative between several major oil and gas companies working together to enhance the industry’s capacity to respond to subsea well-control incidents.

SWRP was established in 2011 on the recommendation of the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP). In light of the serious oil spill incidents at that time, such as Macondo, in the Gulf of Mexico, IOGP created a dedicated Global Industry Response Group, which examined how the oil industry could further improve the prevention of, and response to, subsea well-control incidents. SWRP is one part of a wider industry effort that took forward these recommendations.

The SWRP team had four core objectives:

  • Design and develop a capping toolbox with a range of equipment to allow wells to be shut in
  • Design and develop a subsea incident response toolkit for the subsea injection of dispersant
  • To collaborate with Oil Spill Response Limited on an international deployment mechanism so that the equipment could be made available to the wider industry
  • Complete studies to determine the feasibility of global containment system


Capping Stack Systems

OSRL was selected by industry to store and maintain the capping and Subsea Intervention Response Toolkit (SIRT) equipment and OSRL’s initial task was to identify suitable storage locations. Initially there were only three OSRL staff members working on the project (Simon Dewhirst, Matt Clements and Tuny Oyegunle). The team quickly grew as it was apparent that more personnel were required to meet the demands to identify and build suitable storage locations and the associated infrastructure for the capping stacks in a demanding time frame.

The storage facilities had to have the following core features:

  • Close proximity to the quayside for easy access for a deployment vessel
  • Facilities to allow maintenance of the capping stack system
  • Close proximity to suitable service providers to support maintenance
  • Ground strength to allow the lifting and transportation of the capping stack

Shortly after OSRL were tasked with developing the storage locations, a team of personnel were assembled to carry out assessments of each of the regions and identify suitable areas. Whilst a range of sites were identified, only one (Norway) was found to be suitable without modification. The facility in South Africa required the roof to be raised in order to house the cap and 25 ton gantry crane, a new shelter was required in Brazil, and as part of a co-location project in Singapore, an entire warehouse was rebuilt and office facilities updated. All of this work was carried out concurrently and required a great deal of travel from the team in order to support the development of the sites.

The philosophy behind the mobilisation of a capping stack meant that it had to be stored fully assembled (to reduce mobilisation time) when transported to the quayside. This would require the use of heavy goods transportation equipment. Each site had either a heavy duty trolley that required a prime mover or a SPMT (Self Propelled Modular Transporter). An important task for the SWIS team was to identify suitable transportation systems in order to safely mobilise the capping stacks to the quayside.


Subsea Incident Response Toolkit (SIRT)

Oceaneering were identified by SWRP to design and develop a toolkit that could be used to:

  • Apply dispersant at subsea level
  • Attempt to shut in the incident owners' blowout preventer (BOP)
  • Inspect the site and remove debris to allow the capping stack to be utilised

SWRP had confirmed that Oceaneering would store and maintain the equipment in Stavanger (Norway) and Macae (Brazil).



In addition to the development of the facilities, personnel for each location were required. SWRP had confirmed the delivery order of the capping stack systems would be Norway, Singapore, South Africa then Brazil, which assisted in prioritising recruitment at the sites. It was acknowledged that a combination of skills would be required to ensure that a storage facility could safely and effectively support the service companies to maintain the equipment – including Trendsetter who carried out the core maintenance, and also be able to prepare equipment and the required paperwork to mobilise and export the packages should the need arise. Whilst technical skills are required to maintain the hardware, OSRL would utilise service companies to maintain the packages and therefore more logistics biased people would be required to successfully mobilise equipment. OSRL employed a range of skill sets across the bases and central team which included:

  • Freight forwarding
  • Logistics
  • Vessel experts
  • Offshore supply logistics
  • Service provider management
  • Emergency / Oil Spill Response

These skills are invaluable to support a member company in the deployment of hardware during an incident and fulfil OSRL’s objectives to support the project.


Capping summary

There were many challenges faced during the establishment of the capping project. Building four bases in a short time frame put extreme pressure on the team to meet the needs of industry. Not only was the establishment of the facilities of this nature something OSRL have never completed before, but the building of four capping stacks also presented new challenges:

  • Development of HSEQ procedures
  • New engineering considerations
  • Revised document control and management procedures
  • Regional regulations
  • Establishment of new business
  • Gaining import and export licenses

This was a real team effort and many parts of the business were used outside of the SWIS team (finance, legal, HR to name but a few).

(Continue reading part two: The Containment project)