NJR Down Under

Eighteen months of intensive joint industry, agency and response organizational planning efforts came to fruition in the middle of September 2019 when NJR facilitated a complex 400+ person exercise in Perth, Australia across multiple time zones and great distances between command posts.  The exercise scenario involved a well blow out, and an explosion and subsequent fire on a Light Well Intervention (LWI) vessel which not only resulted in a secondary spill of IFO, but also one simulated fatality and 22 simulated injuries.  Three command posts were established; one by our client in Perth, one by Western Australia Department of Transportation (WA DOT) in Fremantle, and lastly one by the federal government Department of Industries and Innovation (DIIS) 1,900 km / 1,200 miles away in Canberra, the nation’s capital.

Responders were challenged by all aspects of the incident, as it occurred offshore in a remote gas field in the Browse Basin.  The nearest point of the Western Australian coast was 200 km / 120 miles away, but the nearest logistics base was 500 km / 300 miles away, as no infrastructure that can support a response or even daily offshore operations exists any closer.  Those distances translate into 2.5 hours flight time each way, or 24 hours sail from Broome, the nearest port.

Responders initially had to focus on the Search and Rescue of the crew of the LWI which included one man overboard.  The fatality and 22 injured were transferred to a nearby floating liquid natural gas platform, while the 80 non-injured crew members were transported via ship to Broome.  This reactive phase of the exercise was played one week before the full-scale exercise was played and represented Day 1 of the incident.  It involved our client and various government agencies and contractors.

Following this exercise, the design team sent our daily sitreps for six days updating the responders who would be participating in the full-scale exercise.  Scripted overflights were provided as well as resource status updates which allowed the responders to get in the game so to speak before the exercise had started.  These sitreps were based on trajectory design and a three-day source control workshop which had been held earlier in the year as the logistics and engineering of the source control would otherwise have consumed the entire exercise.  This information was then incorporated as having been completed on Days 3-5, with our exercise beginning on approximately Day 6 and played for an additional two days.  All in all, six days of activity were conducted before the main exercise providing the responders with comprehensive products already in the works.

The exercise was complex, and much was learned by all.  Participating government agencies are already evaluating how they can better integrate their personnel in an Incident Command System (ICS) structured organization as Australia does not currently, dare we say yet? use ICS.