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29 Jul 2015

Communication, Education Key To Discussions About Radioactive E&P Waste

Naturally occurring radioactive material from deep in the Earth is sometimes a byproduct of exploration and production (E&P) in the oil and gas industry. Although some experts say currently produced levels are not a cause for concern, Alex Wagner of Buckhorn Energy and Robert Morris, a radiation safety expert with M.H. Chew and Associates, are working to stay ahead of the curve and educate the public about technologically enhanced, naturally occurring radioactive materials (TENORM).

Wagner and Morris have analyzed recent developments in the management of TENORM. “Right now is a very confusing time,” Wagner said. “The industry as a whole, and regulators, are just starting to learn how to manage this problem.”

“We need to be regulating smartly,” he added, pointing to the public’s generally limited understanding of radiation and the resulting fear, which he called “radiophobia.”

“It’s imperative that the public understand how their regulators with the help of the industry are managing this waste stream,” Wagner said. “We hope that we can address current and future concerns with fact-based discussions rather than rumor or misinformation.”

“The fracturing debate is a good analogy,” he said. “The public is in arms over fracturing, as a result of the lack of publicly available information regarding the process. The oil and gas industry’s attempt to address this has been met with mixed results, likely because it came too late.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently reported preliminary findings of its nearly 2-year-long effort to understand the exposure potential for TENORM. The report can be read here. The report is being revised and will be reissued later this year.

One thousand samples were analyzed from drill cuttings, muds, proppants, sludges, soils, sediments, and flowback and produced water. Natural gas was sampled for radon, and exposure-rate surveys were made on equipment and at operator locations.

The results of the study show that wellsites have low worker-exposure potential but that the potential exists for environmental impact from spills. The majority of conclusions from the report say that more study is needed. “Science is paramount here,” Morris said. “You have to understand what you have before you can regulate it.”

North Dakota is making news for its proposed rulemaking that would allow landfill operators to apply for increased concentration limits for TENORM in existing E&P landfills. Currently, the North Dakota concentration limit is 5 pCi/g, including background. The proposed limit is 50 pCi/g. Argonne National Laboratory prepared a study for the state in order to establish the safety basis for the proposed limit, which can be found here.

A patchwork of regulations covers TENORM, Wagner and Morris said. With a few exceptions including hazardous material transportation, diffuse TENORM, the kind found in E&P waste, is not regulated by the US government because the authority is reserved for states under the Atomic Energy Act.

Because the regulatory, industrial, and public-interest factors vary, the regulations are different in each state. Many states, for example, North Dakota, allow TENORM to be disposed in landfills only if the concentration is less than 5 pCi/g. Montana has a similar rule except for specially permitted landfills that accept E&P waste with total radium concentrations of up to 30 pCi/g. A large fraction of the waste from the Bakken formation is being disposed in eastern Montana.

Texas allows TENORM waste with total radium concentration of up to 30 pCi/g to be disposed in any E&P landfill. Since 1996, Michigan has allowed any landfill to accept TENORM of up to 50 pCi/g. The Michigan limit was reviewed by the state’s TENORM Disposal Advisory Panel. Its recent report, which can be read here (PDF), endorsed the current limit and provided several other recommendations.

“Every state is taking a different approach and learning different things,” Morris said. “The problem is managed as a function of the hazard. In Pennsylvania, it’s a big deal. In Wyoming, it’s not.”

“The bottom line,” he said, “is that you cannot come up with a scenario that approaches a danger point for the public. There are a few workplace situations, especially during natural gas pipeline maintenance, in which workers could be exposed to important levels of radioactive materials. Proper management is necessary to ensure TENORM does not create an environmental and long-term health hazard, and communication is a key to success. TENORM is not nuclear waste from reactors or weapons, and it is a mistake to let any misconception go unanswered.”

28 Jul 2015

SPE Adds Understanding Communities to Expanding Training Courses

SPE is expanding its course offerings in the Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility (HSSE-SR) and Projects, Facilities, and Construction (PFC) disciplines in time for its Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE). Two new course will be offered at the conference, which will be held 28–30 September in Houston.

Within the HSSE-SR discipline, SPE is offering the course Understanding Communities, another in a series of courses under the Sustainability Professional Development Program. The objective of this course is to provide participants with tools and an approach to study and better understand communities in which they operate.

During the past few decades, the general public has become progressively more resistant to development projects in their backyards. This is particularly true today of oil and gas developments involving hydraulic fracturing.

Engineers tend to view this as an education problem, believing that an informed public will understand and align with the industry’s perspective. But there is another piece to this puzzle. Design and operations teams need to understand the communities in which they operate, yet no part of typical engineers’ educations prepare them for the study of local communities. Effective engagement with local communities is now key to project success in onshore developments, especially where hydraulic fracturing is involved.

This course, developed and presented by social ecologists with decades of experience studying communities, provides a proven approach to understand local communities.

The instructors will be James Kent, president of JKA Group and a global social ecologist and advocate for using culture-based strategies when introducing site/corridor projects to local communities, and Kevin Preister, director of the Center for Social Ecology and Public Policy of the JKA Group.

Within the PFC discipline, SPE is offering a course on Separator Design Considerations and Operations. This course will expose the participant’s to different types and functions of a separator.

Separators are typically installed immediately downstream of the wellhead and are responsible for the initial, gross separation of well fluids. They are pressure vessels, often capable of handling fluids from high-pressure wells. The purpose of this course is to develop a working knowledge of production separation systems and the associated science. Understanding the principles behind separation of gas, oil, and water is important, and attendees will gain a valuable understanding of the concepts involved.

The course instructor will be Valmore Rodriguez, director of curriculum of surface facilities and competency assessment champion with NExT-Schlumberger.

Both course will be offered 26 and 27 September in conjunction with ATCE.

Read more about and register for the Understanding Communities course here. http://bit.ly/1MwjPc4

Read more about and register for the Separator Design Considerations and Operations course here. http://bit.ly/1MTC2gF

28 Jul 2015

PetroTalk Pilot Opens Door to Online Presentations

In an effort to create Web-delivered content that addresses some of the more challenging issues in the oil and gas industry, SPE is considering the implementation of PetroTalks, a platform for SPE to share major presentations from key conferences, applied technology workshops, and summits.

Designed to support competency development and knowledge transfer, PetroTalks will capture presentations made by academic thought leaders and subject-matter experts addressing current and future industry challenges. The pilot PetroTalk is a presentation made by Jennifer Cross, a sociology professor at Colorado State University and invited speaker on sustainability at the 2015 SPE E&P Health, Safety, Security, and Environmental Conference—Americas. Cross’ presentation addresses changing behaviors and ways that the industry can improve the effectiveness of communication.

Cross is a community sociologist who regularly works with public schools and community agencies on a variety of community-based participatory research projects centered on health promotion and community development. Her current projects include research on land conservation decision making, energy conservation and sustainability in public schools, and behavior-change campaigns among college students.

Cross has provided evaluation and research technical assistance to grantees in the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative funded by the United States Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice. Cross holds a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Davis.

Watch Cross’ PetroTalk here.

22 Jul 2015

Oil & Gas UK Updates Guidelines for Safe Well Abandonment

To improve cross-industry understanding of well-related issues on the UK continental shelf, Oil & Gas UK on 21 July released updated guidelines for the abandonment of wells together with accompanying guidance on generating cost estimates to support this activity.

Oonagh Werngren, Oil & Gas UK’s operations director, said, “The first guidelines on well abandonment were produced in 1994, and the documents published today are testament to the industry’s collective and continuing commitment to regularly review and improve safety and performance in all aspects of well practices.

“Oil & Gas UK developed this fifth issue of the guidelines with well operators from member companies and other stakeholders to clarify good practice. These guidelines represent just two of over thirty peer-reviewed guidelines published to date by Oil & Gas UK to raise the professional standards of the industry—an outstanding contribution the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining recognized when it presented the Premier Award Medal for Excellence to the trade association last week.

“As the sector steps up its effort to tackle its cost base and improve efficiency, the guidelines on well abandonment cost estimation provide industry with a common framework in which to generate more consistent and complete cost estimates. Oil & Gas UK has now produced nine separate guidelines on aspects of well operations including competency, relief-well planning, and blowout prevention, to outline good practice to improve safety and performance throughout the life cycle of wells. In producing the guidelines, Oil & Gas UK’s intention is to provide guidance, rather than standards, to support the regulations and associated advice issued by the regulator.”

Find the guidelines for well abandonment here.

Find the guidelines for well abandonment cost estimation here.

13 Jul 2015

Public Perception Is Vital to Success of Oil and Gas Industry Operations

Public perception is one of the most important variables in determining the success of oil and gas operations, and companies must do more to help shape this perception, an expert said.

At the IHS CERAWeek in Houston, Bill Shireman discussed the ways in which public opinion shapes government policy, and the methods that energy companies should use to shape the public’s opinion of the industry. The speaker is the president and chief executive officer of Future 500, a nonprofit advocacy group that works with private sector industries.

Shireman spoke about the combative relationship between the oil and gas industry and environmental groups. He said “demonization” of the industry is the most effective way for advocacy groups to attract media attention, volunteers, and funding at the grassroots level.
This relationship, he said, is an example of the adversarial nature of most political discourse today, and the rise of social media in recent years has helped exacerbate tensions between the two sides. He said the groupthink fostered by social media makes it more difficult for the industry to reach out to its opponents.

“Social media allows people to choose their own communities, so they can hang out digitally with people that they already agree with,” Shireman said. “They don’t have to confuse themselves with truth or complexity, and it is very easy to enforce purity within your community if you’re in a digital world where any variation from groupthink norms can be flamed.”

Christopher Hansen, director of Energy Insight at IHS and the moderator of the discussion, noted a correlation between social media conversations and voting patterns on energy legislation. He said that the industry must get up to speed on measuring public sentiment through social media.

In support of the statement, Shireman said environmental groups are acutely aware of the correlation and use it to their advantage.

“It is easy in that environment to build opposition to every fossil fuel, every oil and gas company, every project, every pipeline. It is comparatively easy to trigger the media and the public to oppose and believe the worst about the industry, and even to feel that the industry itself lacks a reason to be,” he said.

Shireman said the defeat of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, in the United States Senate was a crucial development in the environmental movement.

Environmental groups collaborated with the oil and gas industry on the bill, which would have established a cap and trade system on greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed legislation had the support of a number of the groups, including the Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Sierra Club.

Shireman said the bill’s failure sent the environmental movement into “a real tangible depression,” which ultimately led to the development of a different working relationship with the industry, characterized by the following behaviors:

  • An emphasis on lobbying the US Environmental Protection Agency for stricter regulations
  • Opposition to any project proposed by the industry
  • Further demonization of the industry

In response to the shift in behavior, Shireman said the industry made a few critical mistakes in its approach to environmental groups. The first mistake was that operators took their specific complaints too rationally, presuming that a thorough explanation of the scientific and engineering work on exploration and production projects would be sufficient to quell any concerns. They did not sense the anger within the conservation movement and were not in a position to anticipate their tactics.

The second mistake was the industry’s out-of-hand dismissal of the concerns of radical environmentalist groups once the depth of their concerns became clear. Shireman said that once it realized that the more passionate environmental groups were seeking to “put fossil fuels out of business,” the industry erroneously figured that engaging with them was pointless. In his experience, Shireman noted, many industry opponents are open to discussion.

“Most of the people out there who rhetorically express the idea that the fossil fuel industry shouldn’t even exist are just following an impulsive or intuitive line of logic,” he said. “[Most] of them will change their minds once it becomes clear that there’s a different, better path, and so it’s way too early to give up on the environmental community and assume you can’t engage even with the folks who say they want to put companies out of business.”

The third mistake was the industry’s attempts to discredit the conservation movement in the hopes of swaying public opinion, Shireman said.

“What the environmentalists need, and what I think the industry needs in many ways, is a positive, optimistic environmental narrative, a hope-based narrative that is … founded on fact and offers a positive vision of the future. It does not raise funds very well, but it does bring these communities together,” he said.

Building that narrative requires a humanizing effort. Shireman said the industry must avoid behaving in a “mechanistic way” when engaging with communities, and that companies must show the general population that they care about their concerns no matter how irrational they find them. Heart, he said, must come before rationality.

“There are a lot of things that we can explain as to how [projects] work, but the core thing is that they won’t care what you know until they know that you care. They have to know that you care. That’s where you connect. Once you’ve connected there, then your job is 80% easier from there on out,” Shireman said.

Beyond that, he said the industry must get the support of nontraditional parties of interest. These include funders and “outside-the-Beltway” advocacy groups, or groups not based in Washington, DC.

Shireman said it was essential for companies to talk to the financial backers of environmental groups early, before they have engaged in an effort to oppose a specific project. He said that while companies should not try to stop funders from supporting environmental groups, they should see the things these funders want accomplished and connect them with people in the industry who are working toward similar goals.

“Don’t reach out to the funders when you’re trying to stop them from funding a particular group or when you realize that they are against you,” he said. “That’s a little late. Engage with the funders as collaborators to take on these social challenges and share ideas and share notes with them.”

In addition, Shireman said companies can have a more productive dialogue with funders if they meet on an individual basis as opposed to a large group setting.

“You can’t have a human conversation like that,” he said. “The groups are all competitors with one another. They can’t really engage with you, and you can’t say anything that your lawyers won’t let you say in a public setting. But, you can get together for a beer, for dinner, for coffee, and chat. When we’ve had these chats, we’ve found extraordinary areas of opportunity where one of the major funders questioned its assumptions.”

The industry must shape a more positive narrative of itself when talking with environmental groups, Shireman said. It is important to sell them on the value of an “evolutionary path” toward a low-carbon economy and convince them that the industry serves a vital role in the world. By paying attention to opponents’ grievances and granting them an audience, he said the industry will change minds.

“You’ll find much more receptivity even within groups that express the idea that the fossil fuel sector shouldn’t even exist,” he said. “Those are rhetorical [positions]. They are not literal policy positions. They only become so if you assume that they are.”

7 Jul 2015

New Version of Oil and Gas Pipeline Systems Standard Expands Requirements for Safety

CSA Group, a standards development organization and a global provider of testing and certification services, has released CSA Z662-15: Oil and Gas Pipeline Systems, the seventh edition of Canada’s primary standard for conditions typically encountered in the wide array of environments that make up the oil and gas industry.

New and extensively updated sections focus on loss-management systems, integrity-management programs, and engineering-assessment processes. A new annex has been added to provide guidance on the development of qualification and welding procedure specifications.

“CSA Group has almost 50 years of history developing standards for the oil and gas industry,” said Gianluca Arcari, CSA Group executive director for standards and vice president. “The new standard will also be our second standard available in an interactive version that can be downloaded to any mobile device and accessed remotely, on the job, when you need it. We’ve had some excellent feedback on our interactive versions, and we plan to continue to modernize and make standards easier to use and more accessible.”

CSA Z662 covers the design, construction, operation, maintenance, deactivation, and abandonment of oil and gas industry pipeline systems used for

  • Liquid hydrocarbons, including crude oil, multiphase fluids, condensate, and liquid petroleum products
  • Natural gas liquids and liquified petroleum gas
  • Oilfield water and steam
  • Carbon dioxide used in oilfield enhanced recovery schemes
  • Gas

A thorough understanding of the requirements of CSA Z662 is a critical element in the safe design, construction, and maintenance of pipeline systems across Canada. CSA Z662 is referenced in legislation by provinces, territories, and the federal government, making it a critical component for industry professionals to understand and apply this standard to help improve safety, reduce risk, and boost productivity in the field. The new edition includes expert commentary directly in the standard document, making it a comprehensive resource when working on pipeline projects in compliance with this national standard.

Key Updates to Z662 include the following:

  • Updates and revisions of the requirements for safety and loss-management systems, integrity-management programs, and engineering-assessments process
  • Expansion of Annex M to address system control, monitoring, and protection for all hydrocarbon pipelines
  • Clarification of requirements for steam-distribution pipelines and high-temperature pipelines
  • Clarification of the sour service requirements for gas-free pipeline systems for crude oil, crude oil blends, and low vapor pressure condensate
  • New Annex to provide guidance on the development of qualification of welding procedure specifications
  • Addition of reference to new standard CSA Z245.30: Field-Applied External Coatings for Steel Pipeline Systems

Read more about the standard here.

Read more about CSA here.

7 Jul 2015

Analyst: Conflict Continues To Stifle South Sudan’s Oil Sector

Continued armed fighting, trade disputes, and low oil prices are having a considerable negative effect on South Sudan’s oil industry, with existing asset holders reducing investments and potential investors being deterred by instability in the region, says an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.

According to Jonathan Markham, GlobalData’s analyst covering upstream oil and gas, reported production in South Sudan was approximately 240,000 B/D at the end of 2013, before the start of the conflict, but this is believed to have fallen to approximately 165,000 B/D in 2014.

At current oil prices of USD 60–65/bbl, South Sudan is earning approximately USD 100 million in profit per month from oil exports, approximately 90% of the government’s income. However, it is likely that 2015 production will fall even further following the recent conflict escalation around the oil regions.

Markham said, “Neither government nor rebel forces are in full control of the locations in key oil regions. Ineffective ceasefire agreements and declining oil exports mean operations in South Sudan will continue to be affected in the short to medium term. Damage to infrastructure will set the country back at least 7 years, with production not expected to return to 2013 levels, of approximately 240,000 B/D, until 2020.

”Furthermore, despite proven reserves of 3.5 billion bbl and potential for further exploration, oil companies are not willing to invest until the political and security situation in South Sudan improves.”

The situation is further exacerbated by South Sudan’s reliance on two Sudanese pipelines to export crude oil. While the government has explored the possibility of building new pipelines through Uganda and Kenya, these plans have not progressed past the feasibility study because of the ongoing conflict.

Markham added, “South Sudan pays between USD 9.1 and USD 11 per barrel to use Sudan’s facilities and an additional UD 15 per barrel as compensation for the country’s lost oil revenue after independence.

“The country currently has no other export routes if the existing pipelines are cut off. Without alternative routes, South Sudan will remain vulnerable to shutdown threats and unfavorable transportation contracts.”

Read more about GlobalData here.

6 Jul 2015

OESI Forum Aims To Take SEMS to the Next Level

The Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI) will facilitate dialogue between industry, academia, regulators, and nongovernmental organizations in a forum to discuss “Taking Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) to the Next Level.” The forum will be 29 July at Michael J. Cemo Hall of the University of Houston.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is looking for opportunities to ensure continuous improvement in the ability of SEMS to manage known and new risks associated with offshore oil and gas activities. BSEE and the industry are in search of ways to ensure that SEMS can be a regulatory tool as well as an operational management tool, to help further enable safe and environmentally responsible ocean energy operations.

Attendees will interact with presenters and participate in facilitated discussion in order to share their thoughts and ideas on a future SEMS—what it could be, what it could include, and ways it could be used. Presenters and facilitators will include representatives from industry, academia, and government who are experts in SEMS and, most importantly, what SEMS can be in the future.

Registration will include continental breakfast, lunch, and refreshments throughout the day as well as event proceedings.

Read more about the forum and register here.

Read more about OESI here.

25 Jun 2015

Paper Deadline Extended for International HSE Conference

The deadline for submitting a paper for the 2016 SPE International Conference and Exhibition on Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility has been extended to 27 July. The conference will be 11–13 April in Stavanger, Norway, and the theme is “Sustaining Our Future Through Innovation and Collaboration.”

StavangerThe conference is the oil and gas industry’s premier global event highlighting best practices and challenges. In 2016, this biennial conference will celebrate 25 years of bringing together experts from all over the world to share new ideas, process improvements, technological advancements, and innovative applications to enhance HSE performance. It also provides a neutral forum where a wide range of perspectives and concerns from a variety of stakeholders can be explored. Since its inception in the Netherlands in 1991, this conference has been held in 11 countries, a testimony to its global scope and application.

This year’s conference will focus on the need for collaboration and—in light of the current global climate—the imperative to maximize HSE programs and help achieve the needs of shareholders and stakeholders alike.

More than 1,200 professionals are expected to attend the 2016 event. Alongside the conference, an exhibition will showcase the latest technologies, products, and industry services from around the world.

Papers are sought in the following categories:

  • Health in Communities and the Working Environment
  • Occupational and Process Safety
  • Sustainability
  • HSE Management
  • Environment
  • Social Responsibility
  • Conference Topics

Authors are encouraged to develop papers featuring multidiscliplinary approaches that highlight HSE benefits such as innovation, collaboration, and value creation. Additionally, authors may consider proposing a paper that features these HSE benefits within specific elements of the oil and gas sector value chain.

The conference also features a special drilling track, so authors are asked to indicate if their abstracts relate specifically to drilling.

Read more about the conference here.

Submit an abstract here.

24 Jun 2015

Situational Awareness, Cognitive Biases Affect Decision Making

Decision making is a complicated human behavior that affects every level of an organization’s operations. The common practice is to focus on outcomes when judging the validity of decisions. However, it is more important to examine the process by which the decision was made, an expert said.

In a presentation, “Decision Making: What Makes a Decision Good,” held by the SPE Human Factors Technical Section, Margaret Crichton discussed the factors that affect individual and group decision-making strategies. She is an industrial psychologist and managing director at People Factor Consultants.

Effective decision making begins with the establishment of situational awareness, which Crichton characterized as a three-step process. The first step of this process is the collection of information from the surrounding environment. She said it is important for decision makers to obtain as much information as they can handle and to follow through with the second step in the process, which is determining which actions must be taken to interpret that information properly.

“We have to understand what’s going on around us,” Crichton said. “It’s what we hear. It’s what we see. In many cases, especially on a drilling rig or a production rig, it might even be what we smell. It’s information that we see in reports or in emails. It’s information that we hear as we’re given verbal information from the people around us.”

The final step of the process is anticipating possible future scenarios based on the information provided and preparing for contingencies. Crichton said individuals and organizations should not constrain themselves to only one solution. They must be prepared to constantly review their interpretation of the information and adjust their predictions if they receive new information.

“We are preparing ourselves for different avenues that a situation might take, so that even when we make our decision, we are prepared to be able to go back and modify that decision if we see that the situation has changed slightly. It’s only after we have gathered as accurate an understanding of the situation as possible that we should then move on to actually making a decision,” she said.

Crichton presented four decision-making strategies:

  • Intuitive. The decisions contain one known, unquestionable solution. Intuitive decisions are often “gut feelings” so ingrained in an individual’s consciousness that he or she may not be aware that a decision is being made. For example, a driver stopping at a red light at a traffic signal.
  • Rule-based. Decisions are made after the application of a standard procedure. The procedure can either be prescribed by a superior in an organization or developed through time and experience. These decisions are not quite as second nature as intuitive decisions because they require the consultation of an outside source.
  • Choice. The decisions hold several possible solutions. They take more effort because the decision maker has to devise the possible solutions and compare them.
  • Creative. Decisions are borne of unusual circumstances that the decision maker has no experience in handling. They require significant effort because the decision maker must think of a unique solution to a new problem.

The institutional knowledge needed to make a rule-based or intuitive decision generally derives from experience, Crichton said. Because these decisions take place in familiar situations, they require a lighter cognitive output and have a lower stress effect; it takes less effort for a person to make a decision that he has made several times in the past.

Conversely, creative and choice-based decisions are less affected by experience because they are usually made in situations that an individual has little experience in handling. The lack of experience leads to increased cognitive workload and higher stress levels.

Rule-based and intuitive decisions are the most common types of decisions made. Crichton said they account for 80% to 85% of all decisions made in a given situation. Because creative and choice-based decisions require the most effort, they are often the types of decisions people remember making.

“Decision makers can actually use each of these decision-making strategies,” Crichton said. “It all depends on the situation that you find yourself in, and we have to have the ability to modify our decision-making process to make best use of the decision-making strategy that is relevant to the situation you are in.”

A decision-making process by a group is subject to challenges such as poor communication and members who feel inhibited in speaking their mind. Crichton said an effective process reduces the effects of cognitive biases on decisions. It also accounts for different agendas, motives, perceptions, and opinions among the members of a team and will often combine more than one perspective of information source.

Additionally, organizations must develop systems for reviewing their decision-making procedures and protocols.

View the webinar here.

11 Jun 2015

Monitoring System Makes Confined Spaces Safer

Confined spaces are areas that have limited means for entry or exit and are not designed for continuous occupancy. Confined spaces include pipelines, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, and ductwork. A number of workers are injured or killed each year while working in confined spaces, and an estimated 60% of the fatalities reported were would-be rescuers.

Ensuring safety within confined spaces is one of the more challenging aspects of maintenance projects. This considerable level of danger calls for extra safety measures, such as constant monitoring and record keeping of confined-space work by an attendant positioned at the opening. However, the duties of the attendant are restricted to the outside of the vessel. So how are activities conducted within the confined space actively monitored?

The answer lies in leveraging technology. United Safety recently launched the TeQ Shield, a confined-space monitoring solution, at the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary on 9 June 2015.

From the TeQ Shield command center, the safety operator has continuous awareness of all confined-space work.

From the TeQ Shield command center, the safety operator has continuous awareness of all confined-space work.

One of the key benefits of the TeQ Shield is the ability to monitor the inside of a confined space remotely. From the command center, the safety operator has continuous awareness of all confined-space work. He analyzes visual input of work being performed and the surroundings, monitors gas levels, controls worker access information, and can communicate with personnel outside and inside the vessels. In the event of an emergency, he is able to convey valuable information to the rescue team before its arrival.

“With the TeQ Shield, the safety operator can rely on a solution that combines gas detection, video surveillance, two-way communication, access control, and a command center to effectively monitor confined spaces, improving safety without delaying projects or increasing costs,” said Sher Alizander, technical service manager for United Safety.

The TeQ Shield has a host of features. Cameras with day and night vision installed outside and inside vessels allow for clear visibility in a wide array of environmental conditions. Video is recorded along with gas-detection logs. The data stored can be used in training or investigations.

Two-way communication—outside and inside of the confined space—keeps personnel in constant contact with the command center. It can be used to answer questions of access control, to correct safety practices remotely, or to speak with personnel during emergencies.

The TeQ Shield is also equipped with continuous real-time gas detection. If a toxic atmosphere is detected, audible and visual alarms ensure proper evacuation. Additionally, an access-control feature uses site badges to allow only authorized individuals to enter a confined space. This enables an accurate count of who is present in the space.

The TeQ service line can be extended to cover a wide range of applications, including body cameras, monitoring of employee wellbeing, and facility-access control. The possibilities and applications will only grow as the technology evolves.

“By combining technology with safety expertise, we redefine confined-space work safety while improving the overall productivity of the event,” said Tim Wallace, executive vice president–western hemisphere for United Safety.

Read more about TeQ Shield here.

11 Jun 2015

Corporate Social Responsibility Vital to Industry Operations

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are now a critical part of oil and gas project development. As companies continue to work in more densely populated communities, they have gotten better at working with local authorities to protect the interests of the people their operations affect. However, plenty of work remains to be done to improve CSR efforts, a group of experts said.

Houston, TX - OTC 2015 - Panel speakers during the Corporate Social Responsibility: Technical Sessions at the Offshore Technology Conference here today, Thursday May 7, 2015. The OTC hosts the meeting at the NRG Park which has over 90,000 attendees from around the world to see the latest technology in the energy industry. Photo by © OTC/Nathan Weber 2015 Contact Info: todd@corporateeventimages.com Keywords: 15OTC_Technical Sessions

Panelists discuss corporate social responsibility at the Offshore Technology Conference on 7 May 2015.

In a panel discussion held at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, representatives from five national and multinational companies discussed the role CSR programs will play in the industry moving forward.

Mary-Grace Anderson said that, as the global demand for energy increases, CSR will become even more essential to industry operations. She is the vice president of safety, environment, and social performance at Shell.

Anderson said operators need to exploit a variety of energy sources to meet the rising global demand, and this need will force them to work more frequently in urban environments. Focusing on CSR will make it easier for operators to mitigate the possibility of unexpected issues happening within these environments, and early engagement with local communities will help build trust and allow operators to better share in the benefits of a project.

“In developing projects and in operating our facilities, we need to balance short- and long-term interests,” Anderson said. “Integrating societal and environmental considerations with our technical, operational, and commercial considerations into our project management processes and our business decisions from the earliest stages of our projects … is where we can make the most difference.”

Anderson spoke about the need for further collaboration between operating companies, local communities, and governments, focusing in particular on Shell’s global investment programs. Shell spent approximately USD 160 million on voluntary social investment in 2014, and a big part of its work was in the development of science, technology, engineering, and mathematical programs for students, parents, and educators. It also has spent more than USD 3 billion on goods and services from minority- and female-owned businesses in the last 3 years.

“Our intention is to … help each project become sustainable in the long term through collaborative efforts with communities and partners, and this can involve corporations, academia, and regulators. We find the larger the collaboration we can have, typically the better solutions we get,” Anderson said.

Natalie Stirling-Sanders, a global manager of local content, supplier diversity, and sustainable procurement at ExxonMobil, discussed her company’s plan for sharing the benefits of local content with the local community.

Stirling-Sanders said two of the key elements of developing a CSR program were understanding the needs of the local community and assessing those needs at an early stage. By finding out what the community wants early on in a project, the company can then customize its front-end definition to fit those wants. It is also crucial to maintain a regular flow of information with people in the community and maximize the existing resources.

A well-executed CSR program is not the same as a philanthropic effort, Stirling-Sanders said.

“In a lot of situations, the industry finds itself with communities that want more than philanthropy,” she said. “They want jobs, contacts, better infrastructure, and better education. When CSR is done well, there can be a symbiotic relationship between businesses and community.”

Ana Paula Grether presented the outline of Petrobras’ CSR policy. Grether, an advisor in social responsibility guidance and practices with the company, said it has launched social investment initiatives in select areas of operation that focus primarily on job protection, community relations, and environmental conservation.

Grether said that, through these initiatives, the company created more than 20,000 jobs in the last 8 years and conserved more than 935,000 hectares of wildlife habitat in Brazil, numbers that highlight its goal to improve the communities in which it works.

“For us, social responsibility is a mechanism for integrating management of Petrobras business and activities in its relations with our communities,” Grether said.

Geneviève Mouillerat, vice president of global projects and construction at Total, spoke mostly about the work her company has done to support local content on the CLOV project offshore Angola. Mouillerat, who directed the project, said CSR efforts centered on creating shared value for both the country and the company, in part by establishing employee pride in the work being produced.

Training programs are at the heart of Total’s efforts to build value. Mouillerat said the company trained Angolan employees for 2 years before hiring them to work on its floating production, storage, and offloading unit. The company also hired Angolans to work in its fabrication yards at an early stage in the project.

“In-country value is evolving to include the individuals working in the country,” Mouillerat said. “Personally, I’m proud to be part of this challenge and part of this project where we had so many Angolans trained and working on the facilities.”

Paulino Jeronimo, an executive administrator at Sonangol, said that, despite these improvements, there is still plenty of work needed to make local content in Angola more economically viable for the country.

“In terms of quality, we are almost there, but we’re still missing one important point, and that is the pricing. We want to continue working with operators to help become more competitive,” he said.

The panelists each talked about the importance of establishing a clear strategic emphasis during the late stages of a project that accounts for the needs of the local community. Stirling-Sanders said ExxonMobil had developed a system to address the social issues that arise in the shift to the production stage. However, she said communities must be prepared for the economic realities that come with post-project stage work, as the shift to production means the loss of construction jobs typically filled by local content.

“There is a lot of short-term work and lots of construction activity in [the project phase], and, especially for the community, it’s a huge adjustment when you move into production. I think one of the keys is helping all the stakeholders understand that that’s what it looks like from the very beginning and assure that the expectations are understood,” Stirling-Sanders said.

Stephen Whitfield is a Staff Writer for Oil and Gas Facilities.