Simplicity From Complexity: A Systematic Risk-based Approach to Managing Marine Biofouling in the Petroleum Industry

Peach, Deborah (Woodside Energy Limited) | Box, Tegan (Woodside Energy Limited)



The petroleum industry in Australia has an important role to play in minimising the spread of marine pests by contributing to the effective management of biofouling on contracted vessels, rigs and immersible equipment. The introduction of Invasive Marine Species into sensitive coastal waters has the potential to cause significant social, economic and environmental impacts. Woodside Energy Ltd (Woodside) has developed and implemented a systematic risk-based approach to the management of marine biofouling within Australian waters. Most recently, the risk management process has been reviewed and expanded for application to Woodside's expanding international portfolio.

The risk assessment methodology assesses the likelihood that a vessel, rig or immersible equipment has been infected by invasive marine species of concern by evaluating its prior operational and maintenance history. A semi-quantitative scoring system is used to determine whether further management measures such as inspections, cleaning or treatment of internal seawater systems are required.

The approach simplifies the management of invasive marine species into a standardised toolkit including a management plan, risk assessment tool, inspection procedures and a contractor information pack. The fit-for-purpose process is embedded in Woodside's systems, procedures and contractual requirements and is consistently applied to all marine operational activities.

Since implementation of the process in 2009, 230 risk assessments have been carried out on a range of vessels, rigs and other immersible equipment using Woodside's methodology. Verification of the effectiveness of the tool has also been undertaken by proactively inspecting all 20 vessels used for the offshore Western Australian North Rankin Complex Redevelopment Project, in parallel to using the risk assessment tool. The data from this project verified the methodology is delivering excellent marine biosecurity and environmental outcomes, whilst targeting effort and resources to areas of greatest concern.

The approach is applicable and transferable to activities beyond the oil and gas industry. Woodside has openly shared its simple methodology and tools with other petroleum companies, regulators and educational institutions. New challenges arise internationally due to the lack of baseline data and knowledge of local species in some areas. Woodside's approach allows for increased flexibility while maintaining the same level of management control and prevention of marine pest introduction.

The effectiveness of Woodside's approach has been formally recognised by receiving the inaugural Western Australian Department of Fisheries Excellence in Marine Biosecurity Award in 2014 and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) 2015 Health, Safety and Environment Award.

This paper will outline the key drivers for managing marine biofouling and detail Woodside's risk-based approach to preventing the introduction of invasive marine species both in Australia and internationally. The data gathered to verify the effectiveness of the approach, case studies and learnings will also be detailed.