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Conference Offers Opportunity To Learn About Progress in Africa

Published April 4, 2014

The situation in Africa is unique. Culture, sensitive ecosystems, poverty, infectious diseases, infrastructure and services, and security challenges are parts of everyday life. When you consider the activities of insurgents in some areas, it becomes clear that the health, safety, and environment areas of our industry face enormous challenges.

The SPE African Health, Safety, Security, and Environment and Social Responsibility Conference and Exhibition is themed “Protecting People and the Environment: Getting it Right for the Development of the Oil and Gas Industry in Africa.” The event will bring together over 250 leading oil and gas HSE experts to share knowledge and experience to help companies navigate the diverse challenges of operating in a unique context with cultural, human rights, sensitive ecosystems, human health, infrastructure, supply chain, and security issues.

With support from an industry leading committee, we look forward to a truly international audience, and we hope to facilitate rich and robust interactions among:

  • Oil and gas companies
  • Service companies
  • Regulators
  • Civil societies
  • Professional organizations
  • Host communities
  • Government ministers

Register for the conference here.

SPE Publishes Technical Report on Human Factors

Published March 31, 2014

The SPE board of directors has approved the publication of its first technical report titled “The Human Factor: Process Safety and Culture,” intended to provide guidance on the identification and mitigation of risks associated with human factors in upstream E&P operations.

The findings in the report are based on the discussions and conclusions made by a steering group of subject matter experts who attended a 2-day summit in July 2012 hosted by SPE. Technical reports are published when there is a clear need for an evaluation of the state of technology or technical guidance on issues of importance to the industry.

Roland Moreau, HSSE-SR technical director, said, “This report is a great example of the SPE working toward its mission of collecting, disseminating, and exchanging technical knowledge about our industry. It also effectively touches on the SPE’s strategic objectives, including capability development, promoting professionalism, social responsibility, and educating the public.”

The summit’s goal was to create a common understanding of the challenges posed by human factors and their effects on safety, identify what is known and unknown in the field, and explore possible actions to accomplish the changes indicated in the US National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling report.

About 70 participants in the summit represented a cross section of the E&P industry, including individuals from oil and gas major operators, national oil companies, smaller operators, major contractors, regulators, universities, and consulting organizations. The six topics addressed in the report include:

  • Defining the scope of human factors
  • Safety
  • Training and certification
  • Operational control of work
  • Decision making
  • Information technology

Kenneth E. Arnold, senior technical adviser at WorleyParsons, said, “We hope this technical report will help frame the discussion to improving each organization’s culture of safety. The key to increased safety is establishing that culture at every level of the organization, increasing the probability that people will make the correct decisions under stress with incomplete or conflicting data. This can only occur by considering the human factor, if we are going to take real steps to make changes in safety.”

Download the report from OnePetro here.

Plenary Session Identifies Transparency as Key to Social License to Operate

Published March 18, 2014

Transparency is important to maintaining the oil and gas industry’s license to operate, according to a panel of four on Tuesday at SPE’s 2014 International Conference on Health, Safety, and Environment.

More than 400 people turned out to hear “What Needs To Be Done To Maintain/Retain Our License to Operate,” the subject of the second plenary session at the conference in Long Beach, California.

“It is very important that the oil industry see itself as a force for good in society,” said Michael Engell-Jensen, executive director of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers. “It is very, very important that we show that we wish to contribute to society positively. We do that by engaging in the public debate and addressing the concerns of the public.”

From left, Miriam Potter, Allen Leberg Jorgensen, Michael Engell-Jensen, Stephen Newton, and Jennifer Schneider discuss the oil and gas industry's social license to operate.

From left, Miriam Potter, Allen Leberg Jorgensen, Michael Engell-Jensen, Stephen Newton, and Jennifer Schneider discuss the oil and gas industry’s social license to operate.

Engell-Jensen went on to introduce what turned out to be the major theme of the discussion. “If I had only one word,” he said, “I  would say transparency. Transparency is where we need to get to, and that is a very, very difficult thing. But, we have to do it. We have to take the journey. Why? Because transparency is a prerequisite for trust. We are one of the most mistrusted industries … . It is up to us to change that.”

In addition to Engell-Jensen, the panel consisted of Miriam Potter with the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Robin des Bois; Stephen Newton, chief executive officer of Equitable Origin; and Allen Lerberg Jorgensen, department director for human rights and business at the Danish Institute for Human Rights. The session was moderated by Jennifer Schneider from the Colorado School of Mines.

Potter said that the industry’s reaction to accidents and pollution shapes the way it is perceived by the public. “Concerning accidents … upstream and downstream planning and transparency are key concepts. You must be the first to notice and react,” she said. “If the public reacts, if the public notices before you, if NGO’s notice before you, it’s not good.”

Potter continued by pointing out barriers she sees to a positive public perception of the oil and gas industry. “Your image is not just impacted by major pollution and major accidents … . Your image is polluted by small accidents as well and by people seeing pollution in their daily lives,” she said. “A cleaner image for the industry will only come if the industry itself is cleaner.”

Jorgensen said the social right to operate is entwined with human rights and equated the human rights challenges in the industry with the safety challenges the industry has been addressing for decades.

“In many ways, this is a journey of culture,” he said. “Most of your colleagues down to the lowest operators in your companies will notice a safety incident or a near miss if they see one. Will they know a human rights incident or a human rights near miss if they see one?”

All of the panelists agreed that educating the public about the oil and gas industry is a major step toward improving transparency and maintaining the social license to operate.

When asked if improving public education about the industry is the answer to the challenge of maintaining the social license to operate, Newton answered, “It can’t do any harm, that’s for sure. I think the more people know, the more they’re going to understand. They may never like the oil industry, but at least they will understand that’s how their cars run, that’s how their lights come on.”

“The bottom line is it is increasingly more important for trust between the public and oil and gas companies to be restored,” Newton said.

International HSE Conference Opens With Redefinition of Leadership

Published March 17, 2014

More than 700 people filled the grand ballroom at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center for the opening session of SPE’s 2014 International Conference on Health, Safety, and Environment.

Leonard Marcus

Leonard Marcus

Roland Moreau, Conference Committee chairperson, and Kathy Kanocz, Executive Committee chairperson, introduced Jeff Spath, SPE’s 2014 president, who, in turn, introduced Leonard Marcus and Eric McNulty from the Harvard University National Preparedness Leadership Initiative.

Marcus and McNulty presented the idea of what they call meta-leadership, which is based on their research into the responses to the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, hurricane Katrina, and the Macondo disaster in 2010. Meta-leadership, Marcus said, involves leadership that reaches out “beyond the confines of your particular role or position.”

Eric McNulty

Eric McNulty

Marcus and McNulty said that, during times of crisis, people’s brains respond by “going to the basement.” This refers to the instinctual responses of freeze, flight, or fight. During those moments, McNulty said, “all your brain is focused on survival. You can’t do any complex problem solving. You’re not very productive in terms of figuring out what’s actually going on.” The key to successful crisis management, he said, was to get out of the basement as quickly as possible in order to make sound decisions.

“You, as a crisis leader, have to be smarter than your brain,” Marcus said. This return to rational decision-making can be made by sending a second signal to the brain. This second signal can be as simple as taking a deep breath or counting to 10. With practice, one can build a second neural pathway to speed one’s return to productive thinking.

Crisis leaders must also be able to see the entire situation and realize that every crisis is actually many crises. “Being able to understand the bigger picture is part of the leadership responsibility,” Marcus said. Meta-leaders must also realize that their decisions can create more crises, especially if they are mentally still “in the basement.”

The two speakers also identified a phenomenon known as swarm intelligence from their studies of the response to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Immediately after the bombing, the researchers began studying the leadership responses. They began by asking various responding agencies who was in charge. “The further along we went, the more we came to the conclusion that nobody was in charge,” Marcus said. “And, yet, they worked together so well, with such extraordinary cooperation.”

The speakers attributed the success of the response to swarm intelligence, a concept that began when scientists wondered how termites were able to create huge structures without a central leadership. “There’s not a commander termite with a blue hat on with a big sheet” telling other termites what to do.

Marcus and McNulty said they the response to the Boston bombing was the first time they had seen this behavior with people, “and we think the first time it’s occurred,” Marcus said. “In this event, the leaders were able to achieve something that we’re identifying as swarm intelligence.”

They have identified five aspects of achieving swarm intelligence, all of which were present during the response to the bombing—unity of mission; generosity of spirit; staying in your lane, or doing your job and trusting that others are doing theirs; no ego, no blame; and a foundation of relationships. “Because nobody broke any of those five rules, in 102 hours, they were able to go from two explosions on Boylston Street to apprehension of the two suspects and bringing the community together.”

“One of the great things about you all coming to a meeting like this,” McNulty said, “you get to meet each other and cross organizational boundaries over a cocktail and get to know each other so you can work together when the worst happens.”

Innovative Vehicles Ensure Safety While Transiting Through Red Zones

Published March 17, 2014

Red zones are high-risk areas, usually encountered where oil and gas from high-pressure or highly sour wells are being produced.

The Air Qruise Rover, left, and Solo were introduced at the 2014 International Petroleum Technology Conference in Doha, Qatar.

The Air Qruise Rover, left, and Solo were introduced at the 2014 International Petroleum Technology Conference in Doha, Qatar.

These areas offer increased likelihood of an atmosphere that is immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) because of the presence of toxic or flammable gases. Some of the criteria used to define a red zone are probability or severity of toxic or flammable gas releases, how much gas can be released in a defined amount of time, and location of the site in terms of adjacent work and proximity to local communities overlaid with projected dispersion pattern of the potential release.

Red zones have much tighter safety criteria than the remainder of the work site. While each facility’s parameters for setting or defining red zone’s may be slightly different, it is becoming common policy in H2S red zones that personnel must be under air continuously (made difficult by the fact that these can be vast areas), tools must be explosion proof, and entry is highly controlled.

Despite these strict safety requirements, operations in red zones must go on, and standard or emergency maintenance must be carried out from time to time. In addition, the potential for accidents and personnel emergencies also exists, so significant challenges also exist around executing timely evacuations or rescues.

A major challenge is ensuring that people transiting through or working in these red zones remain safe at all times.

The first solution is gas detection. Equipment has evolved substantially in the past 20 years, and there are currently very accurate means of detecting most toxic gasses before they reach IDLH levels. Early detection is intended to allow personnel time to react to impending IDLH conditions and evacuate or protect themselves accordingly.

When safe evacuation is not possible, the alternative is protection by providing breathing air. Despite numerous improvements in the equipment, cascade system tethered air has limited range, while self-contained air is bulky and has limited capacity and range.

As the industry matures and health, safety, and environment regulations tighten, solutions must evolve through innovation, becoming more agile, accurate, and reliable and allowing for a quicker safety response in any situation that may present itself.

One such innovation is the concept car Air Qruise Rover, launched by United Safety at the 2014 International Petroleum Technology Conference (IPTC), in Doha, Qatar. It uses the same technology of the Air Qruise Trooper, the first vehicle of the Air Qruise family launched at the 2013 Abu Dhabi International Exhibition and Conference. The Trooper is designed to transport people through low- and medium-risk areas, detect hazardous atmospheres, warn the occupants, and provide sufficient air supply for a swift evacuation.

The Air Qruise Rover, however, takes this technology to a new level. It is powered by compressed air and designed to operate safely and reliably in potentially toxic and explosive atmospheres. Equipped with the latest in environmental monitoring, it can track a multitude of sensor inputs, including wind speed, wind direction, location using global positioning satellites, toxic gas levels, vehicle status, and operator biometrics. Information can be transmitted to offsite facilities for monitoring and analysis. The Rover can provide long hours of breathing air without compromising mobility, which is ideal for situations when work needs to be carried out inside red zones.

Another feature that grabbed the attention of IPTC visitors was that the Rover is adapted to carry the Air Qruise Solo, a compact personal transport system that has onboard gas detection, integrated breathing air, and storage space. The Solo is highly maneuverable and ideal for constricted spaces the Rover cannot access.

The Air Qruise line of mobile air safety solutions fills a critical gap in worker safety in IDLH environments because, up until now, there was no optimal way of protecting staff while in transit or inside vast red zones. Elie Daher, executive vice president of United Safety, said, “The technology is highly flexible and can be adapted to an array of vehicles and configuration requirements in terms of breathing air time, sensor types, and range. It considerably increases the protection of workforce inside and near red zones, and we hope it will encourage the development of a new safety standard in the industry.”

 

Workshop Examines Technology of Social Responsibility

Published March 17, 2014

Because social responsibility is growing in importance in oil and gas operations, SPE will conduct an applied technology workshop that will highlights state-of-the-art technologies and their role in social responsibility strategies in extremely sensitive environments.

The multidisciplinary workshop will deal with the most outstanding challenges and achievements in advanced technology as they apply to health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility. It will be held 27–29 May in Quito, Ecuador.

Organizations must understand and communicate social responsibility risks to stakeholders early in the project cycle so that a foundation of trust and good communication is established with the often critical stakeholders affected by development in extremely sensitive environments. Many oil and gas operators have recently learned that social responsibility issues need to be at the front of the planning train in order to establish a sustainable development plan.

This workshop intends to explore and discuss some of these key technologies, what has worked, what has not worked, and areas where future technological innovation is necessary to strengthen the social license to operate in extremely sensitive environments. It will also provide an opportunity to share and learn from the field experiences of successful industry players.

Workshops maximize the exchange of ideas among attendees and presenters through brief technical presentations followed by extended question and answer periods. Focused topics attract an informed audience eager to discuss issues critical to advancing both technology and best practices.

Many of the presentations are in the form of case studies, highlighting engineering achievements and lessons learned. In order to stimulate frank discussion, no proceedings are published and members of the press are not invited to attend.

The workshop will consist of two days of informal sessions with a number of short presentations and a third half day for conclusions and recommendations.

Attendees qualify for SPE continuing education units at the rate of 0.1 unit per hour of the workshop and will receive a certificate from SPE.

International HSE Conference Opens 17 March

Published March 6, 2014

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For more than 20 years, the SPE International Conference on Health, Safety, and the Environment has been the E&P industry’s premier international event highlighting HSE best practices and challenges.

This year’s theme is “The Journey Continues.” More than 1,200 health, safety, and environment professionals, working in and beyond the oil and gas sector, to sunny southern California for this biennial event.

Conference Web App

To help attendees get the most out of the conference, a mobile app has been developed. The SPE International Conference on Health, Safety, and Environment mobile app is a native application for iOS and Android devices. A Web-based version of the application is available for all other Web browser-enabled phones, including Blackberry devices.

In the app, a dashboard provides up-to-the-minute exhibitor, speaker, and event information. A map of the conference center and exhibition floor allows easy location of exhibitors and provides directions to them from a users location.

The My Schedule feature keeps schedules organized and allows for creating appointments with one click. Alerts provide important real-time communications from the event organizer.

The app also features built-in Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn feeds and the opportunity to rate and comment on sessions. A notes section allows attendees to take and email notes on sessions.

Also, all full conference registrants will be able to download the conference papers 7 days before the beginning of the conference.

To download the app for iOS and Android devices, visit the App Store or Google Play on the device and search for “SPE HSE 2014.”

To visit the Web-based version of the app, click here or scan the QR code.

Read more about the conference here.

 

International HSE Conference Offers Event for Young Professionals

Published January 30, 2014

Make plans to attend the SPE International Conference on Health, Safety, and Environment, a leading exploration and production industry event, 17–19 March 2014, at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, Long Beach, California, USA. The event promises to deliver high-quality technical sessions, informative speakers, and engaging special events.

Two events are designed specifically for professionals new to the industry, the Young Professionals Reception and the Young Professionals Luncheon.

The Young Professionals Reception will be 1800–1930 on 16 March. The Young Professionals Luncheon will be 1230–1400 on 17 March.

 

SPE Opens Human Factors Report for Comment

Published January 28, 2014

A draft technical report, The Human Factors: Process Safety and Culture, is now available to SPE members for comment. Technical reports provide information on topics where the membership and the public would benefit from understanding the current technology and challenges. Each report is developed by a subject-matter expert group and posted for SPE member review and comment for at least 30 days before publication.

The report, which contains findings from the July 2012 SPE Summit on Human Factors, will be posted for SPE member comment until 7 February. Comments received will be considered in finalizing the report for SPE Board approval.

Participation in the technical report review process is limited to professional members only.

 

Risk Conference Set for 5 March in Aberdeen

Published January 22, 2014

The oil and gas industry generally states that there is no other asset more important or valuable than its people. However, some would argue that, when it comes to people vs. deliverables, priorities change.

The Another Perspective on Risk Conference, organized by SPE Aberdeen’s Another Perspective Committee, looks to examine the human factors that contribute to risks and accidents but, this time, from a perspective never addressed before, that of the human risk. “One way, one culture, one direction” are long out-dated when it comes to risk perception, identification, and assessment. Where does the technical risk stop and the human one take over?

The conference will be held on 5 March 2014 at the Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre.

Highlights of the conference include a keynote address by Lord Cullen, a panel session, six individual sessions, and a final question-and-answer session with the conference speakers.

 

Journey Continues for International HSE Conference

Published December 18, 2013

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A Message From the Executive Committee and Program Chairpersons

On behalf of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), we invite you to join us at the SPE International Conference on Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) in Long Beach, California, USA. Themed “The Journey Continues,” the conference reflects the path that we are all on, with focus on the great accomplishments we have achieved over time, as well as the lessons learned that affect our future from the perspective of continuous improvement. HSE is a broad area that crosses all discipline boundaries and extends to other parts of the industry—not only our own, but also industries that have experienced similar HSE accomplishments that we can learn from and share with. This theme also builds on our objective to continuously re-examine and question current practices, recognizing the challenges associated with an evolving regulatory climate and stakeholder expectations. So, in essence, we are all on this journey together.

The conference provides an excellent opportunity for professionals from across all aspects of the oil and gas value chain to share experiences with their colleagues and build fruitful relationships with stakeholders. This year’s conference will feature three plenary sessions, 19 panel sessions, and more than 250 papers presented in 44 technical sessions and knowledge-sharing formats. This year, we will also be introducing keynote addresses in both the opening and closing sessions. In addition to the technical content, there will be an opportunity to visit with exhibiting companies for the latest in HSE-related products and services.

This conference has been the E&P industry’s premier worldwide event since 1991, focusing on challenges and advancements toward excellence in health, safety, environment, security, social responsibility, and HSE management. We look forward to seeing you at the conference and helping to continue our long tradition of global excellence.

Kathy Kanocz, vice president, Statoil, executive committee chairperson

Roland L. Moreau, SSH&E manager, ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company, program committee chairperson

 

 

Searching for Opportunities in Environmental Trouble

Published December 12, 2013

More than 4,000 miles of rivers and creeks in Pennsylvania have been damaged as a result of the water draining out of abandoned coal mines. The orange-tinted water and rust-colored rocks are reminders of the damage going on since the days Pennsylvania mines powered the United States’ rise as a global industrial power.

Water laden with iron and contaminants from abandoned mine shafts and piles of coal waste in Pennsylvania.

Water laden with iron and contaminants from abandoned mine shafts and piles of coal waste in Pennsylvania. 

Now producing natural gas by fracturing, the Marcellus shale is driving the state’s economy, and those dead streams could present an unusual opportunity: offering both a source of much-needed water and a way to help clean up of waterways polluted by coal mine waste.

An exploration and production (E&P) company in the state, Seneca Resources, is using the abandoned mine drainage (AMD) water for fracturing. By pumping as much as 500,000 gal/D of water from an old coal mine with low levels of sulfates, iron, and often other metals, it can improve the quality of the water downstream by taking those things out.

“There are a lot of opportunities in the southwestern part of the state,” because there are so many flooded old mine shafts draining into waterways, said Doug Kepler, vice president of the environmental engineering group at Seneca Resources. “There is a lot of activity. A lot of operators are looking into whether they can do that.”

Water used by Seneca requires little treatment because the sulfate and iron levels are low, but that is the exception in Pennsylvania, where chemicals leached from the water in old coal mines and from mining waste heaps can create metal-laden, acidic water that is deadly to fish, insects, and plant life in rivers.

While many E&P companies are interested in AMD water for fracturing, there are technical and legal obstacles to overcome.

Treatment methods are needed for water that is often highly acidic, loaded with sulfates, and high in iron or other metals. The cost of that water has to be competitive with relatively inexpensive freshwater sources, and that amount must cover the cost of disposal of any byproducts. And environmental regulators need to answer a critical question: If an oil company uses mine drainage for a time as a source of water for fracturing, will it be responsible for that water source forever?

The state has said it supports the use of AMD for fracturing, and Pennsylvania environmental regulators have supported a bill limiting liability for AMD use by the oil industry. The US Environmental Protection Agency has remained mute on liability questions related to AMD use, said Tom Gray, energy and natural resources manager at Tetra Tech, who delivered a presentation on the advantages of using mine water for fracturing. “To my knowledge, the EPA has never provided a direct written response.”