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Lula exercise: a breakthrough in oil spill response

When producing hydrocarbons, the risk of a spill – whether minor leaks or full-scale blowouts – is always at the back of the mind. It is impossible to completely remove the risk of a leakage, but thorough preparation can make sure that if it does happen, the effects are kept as minimal as possible.

Total has been taking spill preparation to new levels in recent years, developing Lula – a full-scale exercise, involving real-time reaction drills from wellhead to shoreline, to make sure everyone at the French major’s fields is fully prepared in case the worst does happen. Ahead of showcasing the exercise at the Caspian Oil & Gas exhibition and conference in Baku, Total’s VP Environmental, Security, Societal and Health Dieudonné Ganga told Market Insights about the exercise and how it can be used to keep the Caspian safe.


Mr Ganga, can you summarise what Lula is and how it works?

Lula is the name of a very large-scale exercise (Tier 3 level, organised by Total Group and international resources) with the objective of testing the ability to define, implement and manage the response to a major oil spill resulting from a subsea blowout. It included the mobilisation of the newly developed SubSea Dispersant Injection (SSDI) system from Norway and its deployment in Angolan deep offshore waters.

Following a year of preparation and liaising with the Angolan national authorities and oil industry partners, the Lula exercise took place from 12 to 15 November 2013, putting the Total E&P Angola oil spill response strategy into practice in a 50,000 bpd blowout scenario in the Angolan deep offshore, 1,500 metres below the surface.

Lula offered an opportunity to try and test various aspects, including:

• The management of a major emergency through the mobilisation of the entire Emergency Response Organisation of Total Group, in liaison with Angola’s National Oil Spill Response Organisation
• Offshore subsea response involving dispersant injection via OSRL’s SSDI system, by a newly designed Light Well Intervention Vessel
• Offshore surface response, including:
- Monitoring and modelling the oil slick after the release of 5 m3 of crude oil, using a combination of technologies (drifting buoys, oil spill fate and behaviour modelling, satellite imaging, tethered balloon equipped with IR and visible camera, etc)
- Dispersant spraying, containment and recovery, plus storage of the recovered oil
• Onshore response, through the simulated implementation of an onshore response plan, encompassing shoreline protection and cleanup, waste management and oiled wildlife response.

The Lula full-scale exercise was a success in all aspects, including the use of some innovative techniques and technologies.

Has anything like LULA been organised before?

This is the first time this kind of exercise has been organised with such resources, including real deployment of SSDI, which is new equipment for the industry, and mobilising the full logistics chain form the storage location in Norway to the 1,500m deep subsea wellhead.
There has been a worldwide oil and gas industry effort to improve response to major oil spills. How do you think Azerbaijan can improve spill preparedness?

The main concern for Azerbaijan is logistics matters; how to bring in a reasonable time all the equipment and resources needed to fight against a major spillage. One of the ways to improve spill preparedness is to position some of the resources in this area, to quickly intervene if a spill happens and to perform regular drills. Coordination between authorities and operators is also crucial, both during preparation and during an oil spill response: agreeing and facilitating fast procedures for external operational support (customs for equipment, immigration for international expertise, etc.), clarifying roles and responsibilities, and participating in joint exercises.

Dieudonné Ganga will speak at Day 2 of the Caspian Oil & Gas conference in Baku, Azerbaijan on 3 June 2016, giving a presentation entitled ‘Lula, a full-scale exercise: response to a major oil spill’. To find out more about the conference and the wide range of speakers, ministers and senior industry figures taking part, visit the website.

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