BP details supply chain response to oil spill

11 May 2012

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11 May 2012 | Rebecca Ellinor in Baltimore, US

In addition to mobilising a supply chain of emergency goods on an unprecedented scale, the BP supply chain team had to contend with opportunistic suppliers in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

Clint Wood, then a critical resources programme manager, described the manner in which the organisation responded to the disaster to an audience at the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) 97th annual conference in Baltimore in the US this week.

Working with various Oil Spill Removal Organisations, the US Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, BP operations and other departments, the supply chain team was among 48,000 people that assisted with the response to the accident in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The supply chain challenge was the near and offshore response,” he said. The team had to buy everything from mealworms to feed wounded birds, to booms (that float in the water and stop further spread of oil), to dispersant and sorbent materials to remove the waste. A total of 6,500 vessels were used in the clean up and as of the end of 2011, BP had spent $14 billion (£8.6 billion) on its response.

Wood said some of the goods the supply team was chasing were not produced in big enough quantities. “Dispersants was one of the first things we had a problem with. There were about 300,000 gallons of dispersants in the world, we quickly got up to needing 50,000 a day. You say, ‘that’s okay, ramp up production’ but the people who make it only make 500 gallons a week.”

Following safety and operational risk considerations, he said his team was focused on assuring quality of supply to avoid an operational interruption, using local and diverse suppliers, and to, where possible, optimize total costs.

The latter was particularly challenging and in some cases he said they experienced ‘suppliers’ who were springing up and claiming they could provide certain goods and charging inflated prices. Equally, he said, the company had huge support and he thanked all those involved in the effort.

Wood said it was important to have preparedness and prevention plans and BP had, and continue to frequently practise drills. “We had been celebrating seven years without an incident on that rig when it happened,” he said.

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