Oil Spills Response
Kwinana, Western Australia
How Do Oil Spills Occur
Despite all care being taken, oil spills may occur as the result of a
combination of actions and circumstances. The majority of oil spills are small
and easily contained, however large spills do occur occasionally which require
greater effort in containment and clean-up operations.
BP Refinery in Kwinana aims for zero oil spills, and our track record is
improving year on year. In 2003, four spills over 1 barrel in volume occurred,
most of them on land. BP reports to the Department of Environment
whenever it causes a spill to water.
The major causes of oil spills around the world are:
• routine operations such as refuelling, loading or unloading
• mishaps and collisions between vessels or tankers and other
• ships running aground
• ruptured pipelines
• oil exploration activities
• mechanical failure of oil collection and storage equipment
This document outlines the activities by BP and others to manage oil spills
within Cockburn Sound.
Factors that Determine the mobility, however coastal marine mammals such as
seals, reptiles and turtles may be susceptible due to
Impact of Oil Spills their need to surface to breathe and their requirement
There are many factors that determine the impact of breeding on land.
that oil spills have on marine life and the
environment. These may include the type and volume Plants and animals on the sea bed may be
of oil spilled, immediate environment of the spill, susceptible to sinking oil as toxic components can
season of year, local temperature, weather and tidal cause damage to coral reefs, mangroves, and
conditions, and effectiveness of oil spill response. associated communities. Seagrass beds are
susceptible to oil pollution, with mortality and
defoliation resulting from the smothering and toxic
Environmental Impact of effect of the oil on the seagrass.
Oil spills can have a serious impact on marine
organisms such as shellfish, fish, marine mammals,
waterbirds, and aquatic plants. The immediate threat
posed to marine organisms by an oil spill is that of
physical smothering, whereby the oil coats all
surfaces in a thick slick. This may eventually lead to
the death of organisms due to their inability to
normally feed, reproduce, breathe and move.
All organisms which contact an oil slick surface are at
risk, and these may include marine mammals and
reptiles, aquatic birds, shoreline marine life and any
intensive rearing or fishery operations in the
immediate area such as aquaculture pens. Seabirds
are particularly susceptible to oil spills, with many
Water birds rest on an oil spill boom
deaths resulting from loss or damage of plumage.
The secondary threat posed to marine organisms is Oil Spill Response Technology
the chemical composition of the oil. The most toxic There are many techniques that can be adopted in
components of oil are soluble and highly volatile, so the clean-up of an oil spill. These may include the use
animals are most at risk directly after the spill, with of booms, skimmers, and absorbent materials;
recovery of oil for recycling; aerial application of
dispersants; hot water washing of rocks and walls;
burning of excess oil and debris; removal of
contaminated sand using heavy equipment; and
towing the damaged vessel to a safer area. These
techniques may be used in isolation, or in
combination, depending on the maritime and
environmental conditions of the area.
BP Refinery Kwinana Oil Spill
Around 160 dolphins live in Cockburn Sound
BP Refinery Kwinana has an extensive oil spill
response plan in place in the event that a spill occurs
the risk decreasing over time. The ability of near the Refinery. This plan details the responsibility
organisms to survive oil contamination varies. For of each of the emergency response group personnel,
example, species that have mechanisms to avoid the steps to be taken if a spill does occur, and lists
adverse conditions, such as intertidal animals, may each item of oil response equipment that is available
simply shut their shells until the immediate threat has within the Refinery.
passed, whereas the eggs, larval and juvenile stages
of organisms may be highly susceptible to oil The refinery has a purpose built boat available for
pollution. The risk to large swimming animals such as response to oil spills. It is used for quick response to
dolphins and whales is usually low due to their high any spill. This boat is used to provide initial estimates
of the size of the spill and monitor the area affected
until other vessels reach the scene.
available within the Refinery.
a spill does occur, and lists each item of oil response equipment that is
of each of the emergency response group personnel, the steps to be taken if
event that a spill occurs near the Refinery. This plan details the responsibility
BP Refinery Kwinana has an extensive oil spill response plan in place in the
The boat is made of aluminium,
resembles a Zodiac in design, and is
painted a bright yellow colour for
easy visibility in dim lighting
conditions. This boat has been
specifically constructed for oil spill
response and has a number of
special features. An intrinsically safe
BP Kwinana Refinery’s purpose built oil motor powers the boat; this motor
contains no electrical parts and
therefore is incapable of producing
The compressor starts the motor of
the boat using air from the
atmosphere, which means that even
whilst in the presence of volatile
gases there is no risk of combustion.
This boat has a maximum speed of
8 knots, and it excels at producing
large amounts of power needed for
pulling heavy boom through the
water to contain any spills.
Surrounding the boat are large
floats, which ensure stability even in
the roughest water conditions, and
the interior provides enough room to
enable the carrying of absorbents,
BP's Komara Mk II Skimmer removes oil equipment and containers for
from the water’s surface holding the retrieved oil.
The refinery also has a Komara Mk II Skimmer, which is used for removing
oil from the water’s surface. This is a disc skimmer, which has oleophilic (oil
loving and water repelling) discs rotating through the water column. The oil
adheres to the discs, is scraped to a central collection point and is then
pumped to storage. This device floats on the water surface and is very
successful in removing oil from the water. Large quantities of absorbent
material are available, including mats, pillows, nylon string, and sausage
booms. Inflatable “zoom boom” is also stored on site, which consists of
inflatable buoyant tubes on the water surface with a skirt attached below,
and facilities for weight attachment located on the bottom of the skirt. This
is used to contain spills in a localised position or prevent them from entering
environmentally sensitive areas. Large quantities of dispersant are stored on
site as part of the National Plan (see below for details of the National Plan)
however the use of dispersant is not employed due to the sensitive marine
communities and relatively shallow water surrounding the Refinery. Fast
tanks are also stored on site, these resemble a steel swimming pool when
constructed, and can be utilised to store any oil removed from the water.
Each tank holds approximately 10,000 litres.
Regular training exercises are conducted at the refinery in oil spill response
using the boats and booms, and a crew of fully trained emergency response
personnel are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to any
incidents. Regular refinery training sessions are conducted each year for all
emergency response personnel, and additional training courses are
conducted at the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre (AMOSC) and with the
Department of Planning and Infrastructure.
The British Beech is one of BP's new fleet of double hulled ships
Additional Oil Response
The National Plan to Combat Pollution of
the Sea by Oil (National Plan) is Australia’s
contingency and response plan which
involves the joint efforts of the State,
Commonwealth and Territory governments
and the oil, exploration and shipping
industries to meet the threat of oil spills to
Australia’s marine and coastal environment.
The National Plan is managed by the
Australian Maritime Safety Authority
(AMSA), a Commonwealth Government
organisation, with guidance provided by the
National Plan Advisory Committee, which
has commonwealth, state and industry
The WA Oil Spill Response Team was
formed by the Department for Planning and
Infrastructure in 2001 following a review of
State oil spill preparedness arrangements.
The team consists of representatives of
the Department, various port authorities
and the state’s oil and gas industry
including BP Refinery (Kwinana).
Team members participate in regular
training exercises to ensure they are well
Oil spill response exercise in
equipped with the skills required to North Fremantle
respond to an oil spill emergency along our
coast or on one of our many waterways.
The hands-on training includes the deployment and
use of a variety of booms, skimmers and other oil spill
The Department for Planning and Infrastructure
coordinates membership and ongoing training for the
team and liaises with other agencies and community
organisations often called on in the event of a spill.
BP Refinery (Kwinana) Pty Ltd
The Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre (AMOSC) is a PO Box 2131
private company owned by the Australian Institute of
Rockingham, Western Australia 6168
Petroleum (AIP), with members from the oil industry.
The role of AMOSC is to administer the Marine Oil
Spills Action Plan (MOSAP), through which an Telephone: (08) 9419 8500
individual company can obtain assistance from other
Facsimile: (08) 9419 9836
oil companies in responding to large spills.
Depending on the size of the spill, BP Refinery
(Kwinana) may call upon a number of organisations to
assist. In all emergency situations within the vicinity
of the refinery, the refinery’s emergency response
group will respond, as will Fremantle Ports, as they
are the agency which has statutory authority and
responsibility for all oil spills occurring in Cockburn
Sound. Other organisations that can be contacted for
assistance are the Department of Planning and
Infrastructure, the Australian Maritime Safety
Authority (AMSA) and the Australian Marine Oil Spill
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