GIRG: Responding to Deepwater Horizon

Where were you when the Macondo blowout and oil spill occurred?

It was a day everyone in the oil and gas industry will long remember.

On 20th April 2010, a blowout on the Deepwater Horizon, drilling at the Macondo prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, killed 11 crew and caused a major oil spill.

Given our unique role as the global voice of the upstream oil and gas industry, members looked to IOGP to take an important role in the aftermath of the incident.  The result was the creation of the Global Industry Response Group (GIRG) in July 2010.

Global Industry Response Group

GIRG’s remit was to identify, learn from and apply the lessons of Macondo and similar well incidents such as Montara off the coast of Australia.

GIRG drew on the experience and talents of more than 100 technical experts and senior managers – many of them full-time – drawn from some 20 companies.  The project lasted some nine months. The value of that freely-donated expertise came to tens of millions of dollars.

GIRG divided its work into three core areas:

  • Prevention: to improve drilling safety and reduce likelihood of a well incident
  • Intervention: to decrease the time it takes to stop the flow from an uncontrolled well
  • Response: to deliver effective oil spill response preparedness and capability
International recommendations for a global industry

In May 2011, IOGP published a comprehensive set of GIRG recommendations and proposed that three entities be created to manage and implement them.

  • The Wells Expert Committee (WEC): to analyse well incident report data and share lessons learned, advocate harmonized risk-based standards, communicate good practice, provide a permanent improvement well control teams’ competence and behaviours and promote continued improvement in BOP reliability and efficiency.You can learn more about the committee at Wells Expert Committee
  • The Subsea Well Response Project (SWRP): a consortium of operators to investigate, design and deliver improved  capping response with a range of equipment for shutting in wells; to design additional hardware for the subsea injection of dispersant; and to further assess the need for and feasibility of global containment solutions.You can visit Subsea Well Response Project to learn more
  • The Oil Spill Response Joint Industry Project: to manage the recommendations on oil spill response – develop new recommended practices, improve understanding of oil spill response tools and methodologies and to enhance coordination between key stakeholders internationally.Visit for more information.

The GIRG recommendations


  • Create of a new, permanent, OGP Wells Expert Committee
  • Introduce a 3-tier review process
  • Promote human competency management systems to ensure individual staff and management teams always have the skills they need
  • Promotion a culture that fosters adherence to standards and procedures
  • Recognize existing internationally and nationally agreed standards as a baseline for industry improvements
  • Improve existing and establish new technical and operational practices for the overall governance of well construction
  • Recommend to industry and regulators that a “two (independent and physical) barrier” policy is in place during the life of the well
  • Consider a blow-out preventer (BOP) as a barrier for the purposes of such a policy during the drilling, completion and abandonment phases of a well
  • Create a consortium to investigate and deliver improved capping response


  • Create a consortium to manage the concept selection and design of caps and associated equipment that could be deployed internationally and then to manage the selection and design of subsea dispersant hardware that could be deployed internationally
  • Use consortium equipment to supplement existing intervention capability
  • Do further study further into the need for, and feasibility of, global containment solutions
  • Investigate and develop procedures for specific operational issues related to the capping and containment of hydrocarbons released from a well blowout event
  • Coordinate consortium activities with the Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC), Helix Well Containment Group (HWCG), Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG) and other equivalent initiatives


  • Create a JIP including IOGP and IPIECA to improve coordination between key stakeholders (Oil Spill Response Organisations [OSROs], governments and companies) internationally and with all responsible representative bodies
  • Establish principles on dispersant use with key stakeholders
    − document the effectiveness and value of the use of surface, aerial and, in particular, subsea dispersants
    − recommend how best to deploy dispersants
    − obtain regulatory pre-approval for their use
  • Promote research that advances understanding and response methodologies and risk assessment models
  • Enhance existing recommended practices for in situ burning
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