Public perception and environmental awareness place increasing demands on the petroleum industry to facilitate fast and efficient oil spill containment and recovery to mitigate environmental damage. HSE legislation also places increasing demands on Oil Spill Response Organisations to ensure a safe working environment for responders. This paper looks at the trade-offs facing oil spill response planning from the perspective of occupational exposure to Total Volatile Hydrocarbons (TVH).

TVH is a term used to represent a large group consisting of hundreds of chemical compounds that derive from crude oil. Under certain circumstances, in-situ response measures represent a significant risk to local air quality and human health. Mechanical and manual oil spill recovery in close proximity with TVHs place spill responders and potentially the general public at an increased risk from fire/ explosions as well as acute and chronic health implications.

Over the course of a spill, physical and chemical processes are continuously changing TVH composition. This requires rapid on-scene monitoring and/ or predictive modelling to optimise spill counter measures and responder safety. The use of personal and area TVH monitoring equipment is discussed in a practical spill recovery context, and an overview is provided of portable gaseous testing equipment with respect to key criteria such as; conformity, configuration, user-friendliness and robustness. Current developments in TVH monitoring models are reviewed and their contribution to future oil spill contingency planning assessed.

Consideration is given to hazardous vapour exposure and the resulting health and safety issues that were faced by OSRL during the Tasmin Spirit and an inland well-blow out in Georgia.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Author notes

1 DISCLAIMER: The opinions and views expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of any other party.