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25 Apr 2017

SPE President Presents Industry’s Responsibility to Communities

The oil and gas industry’s role in changing lives around the planet is not limited to providing energy. The lives of those living in areas where the industry operates are affected directly by those operations. During a keynote luncheon speech at the 2017 Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference—North America, Janeen Judah, SPE’s 2017 president, highlighted the industry’s efforts and desires to improve the lives of people in the regions in which it operates.


“Generally, when we go into a foreign country as an operator or as a joint venture, we have an obligation to provide community development,” she said.

Judah pointed out the immense effect the industry can have on a community and the responsibility that comes with that.

“When we go in and we drop a billion dollars or 5 billion dollars, or 10 billion dollars in a local economy, that place will never be the same,” she said. “We’re going to change that place for 20, 30, 50 years, and we want to be good citizens. But, we also want to be able to be sustainable in what we do.”

Working with local governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), she said, is the best way to provide that sustainable development.

“Our business is not delivering health care or delivering primary education, so we need to partner with NGOs and local government to be able to make that sustainable and make a better life for the folks who live in the places where we operate,” she said.

Judah asked the audience if the industry can improve its collaborative efforts.

“Can we, as an industry, over all, partner more with NGOs and direct-aid agencies in countries where we operate? Can we do a better job of partnering with other organizations?”

Ultimately, she suggested, the industry can improve.

“I think often we can, and here’s really the reason: We’re often in countries that have little or no infrastructure,” Judah said. “We are committed to community investment.”

This commitment to investing in the community and its infrastructure, Judah pointed out, goes beyond profit.

“We really don’t have a profit motive from that,” she said. “We’re going to make money from the oil and gas we produce. It’s not like a toll road authority that might build a toll road and then try to generate revenue off that and try to pay it off. We don’t really want to make money off of it. But, we have an obligation to the country that we’re in.”

Meeting that obligation, however, often comes with its own set of challenges. Judah used the example of providing education.

“Sometimes, we have to think about creative solutions around education because, often, the ministry of education doesn’t have the ability even to pay the teachers,” she said. “So, that’s often an issue, but there is always a need everywhere we operate to have more schools.”

To read more of Judah’s thoughts on community involvement, read her recent JPT President’s Column.

24 Apr 2017

BSEE International Standards Workshop Looks at Integrity Management

“Integrity Management” will be the theme of the 2017 International Standards Workshop held by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) on 5 May. The Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI) at the University of Houston will be the host of workshop.

Topics for the workshop will be integrity management of pipelines and risers and fatigue assessment and life extension.

The workshop will be held at Lloyd’s Register Training Center in Houston, and registration is required.

The agenda includes presentations by representatives from industry and regulatory agencies, including Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority and the UK Health and Safety Executive.

Two breakout sessions will examine the topics of “Subsea Pipelines and Risers” and “Fatigue and Life Extension of Fixed and Floating Facilities and Mooring Systems.”

Registration will close on 1 May or once the number of reservations has reached the room capacity.

Read the agenda here (PDF).

Register here. 



20 Apr 2017

Understanding the Brain’s Social Aspects Can Help Guide Organizations

The 2017 Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference—North America continued into its second day with an expansion of the brain-centric discussion that started it, moving from analyzing the individual brain to analyzing brains in groups.


“We are social creatures,” said  Susan Koen, organizational psychologist and the first of two speakers at the session. “Our social brain is a key part of our survival and our thriving,” she said.

Koen spoke about the neurological aspects of social interaction, pointing out that the connections made between human beings go beyond psychology. “This is not just psychological,” she said. “This is neurological.”

Koen added that what we know about the how the brain works is changing rapidly because of advancing technology. “We now know that, literally, people will rewire their brains to a new normal to align with the others in an organization and particularly in their immediate work team.”

This rewiring, she said, has implications for leadership and company structure and performance. “Anyone in your organization who has the power to punish you, dismiss you, ostracize you, in any way negatively come down on you, is someone who your brain is going to be very attuned to,” she said. “So leaders very definitely have the power to steer the organization for right or wrong.”


Koen was followed by John Carroll, professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. Carroll reiterated that our brains are social. “The brain is a conversational brain,” he said. “We are either in conversation with others or we are in conversation inside.” He then went on to praise the brain’s social aspect. “People are not the problem,” he said. “People are, in fact, the source of all the good stuff we’re talking about as well.”

Looking at the social aspects of the brain is not, however, simply academic. “We have to understand how people think …,” Carroll said, “so that we can take action to maintain and improve our organization.”

The third day’s plenary session looked at the practical applications of the ideas presented in the first two. Nada Wentzel, one of the speakers from the first day’s plenary session, was the moderator. The three speakers were Carla Santamaria, safety manager for ExxonMobil; Geoff Walter, director for environment, health, and safety for Owens Corning; and Krystal Sexton, epidemiologist for Shell.

20 Apr 2017

New Occupational Health Hazards Emerge in Unconventional E&P

In 2010, the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) launched the Field Effort to Assess Chemical Exposures in Oil and Gas Workers to determine the chemical exposure risks workers faced during drilling, completions, and servicing operations. So far, the agency has identified a number of chemical compounds and substances that carry significant exposure risk, particularly in unconventional exploration and production (E&P).

At a presentation hosted by the SPE Gulf Coast Section’s Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility (HSSE-SR) Study Group, Bradley King discussed some of these risks, as well as other research NIOSH has performed as part of the its field effort. King is an industrial hygienist at NIOSH and is a commander in the US Public Health Service.

One of the first areas NIOSH researchers examined was the exposure of respirable crystalline silica dust during hydraulic fracturing operations. The agency conducted exposure assessments at 11 hydraulic fracturing operations in five states. Full-shift exposures were found to exceed occupational exposure criteria set or recommended by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), and NIOSH.

King said the best way for companies to limit exposure is to incorporate controls wherever possible, focusing on the sources of silica dust like thief hatches on sand movers. Onsite dust control measures may include changes in storage, handling, and delivery of proppant; the use of ceramic or coated sand proppant; dust collectors with filters; or a personal decontamination booth.

Regardless of the control, King said it was imperative for companies to ensure its reliability by examining data collected from the field.

“There are controls being developed, and our best recommendation is to do your due diligence. When looking for a type of control, make sure that whatever control you’re looking at has had the data collected to show that it’s actually doing what it says it’s doing,” King said.

Read the full story here.

19 Apr 2017

Panel Examines Methane Regulations and Opportunities

Three experts from different sectors discussed the challenges of methane and regulation at the first panel session of the 2017 SPE Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference—North America in New Orleans.

From left, Mark Boling, Hillary Hull, and Ramesh Narasimhan present their views on the challenges and opportunities of methane regulation. Credit: Adam Wilson/SPE.

Mark Boling, executive vice president of Southwestern Energy; Ramesh Narasimhan, a partner with Environmental Resources Management; and Hillary Hull, a senior research analyst with the Environmental Defense Fund, gathered on stage to present their perspectives on “Methane and Other Greenhouse Gases: What Do We Do Now?”

As moderator Brian Boyer pointed out at the beginning of the session, methane is not only a pollutant, it is also a product. Limiting fugitive emissions, therefore, makes not only environmental sense but also economic sense.

Hull’s talk examined the importance of research in gaining “a foundational understanding of methane emissions in oil and gas,” which is necessary to address the issue. And she pointed out that the 80/20 rule applies to methane emissions; 80% of the emissions come from 20% of sources. Many of those sources are what are known as super-emitters. Focusing on the super-emitters, she said, can have a significant effect on reducing methane releases.

A frequent theme of the talk was the uncertain regulatory environment brought about by the new US presidential administration. Narasimhan gave the example that, when the Trump administration took over from the Obama administration, the US Environmental Protection Agency was set to expand source performance standards from applying only to new or modified facilities to existing facilities. The new administration has put a halt to that.

Narasimhan said that, despite regulatory uncertainty, opportunities exist for companies looking at the issue of methane. These opportunities, he said, include chances for reduced loss of product and a boost in brand perception with stakeholders and the public. Controlling methane release also will have the added effects of reducing the release of other traditional pollutants, such as other greenhouse gases and particulate matter, and meeting additional regulations.

Narasimhan said that working to control methane also will present the opportunity of innovation, a claim reiterated by Boling.

Boling said he thought that regulation was not a solution to the problem of methane. “This will be solved by innovation, not regulation,” he said. “It’s an issue that can be solved, and it will be solved with science and innovation. And that’s what we plan to do.”

19 Apr 2017

SPE Americas HSE Conference Begins With a Blast

Airhorns blasted through the first plenary session of the 2017 SPE Health, Safety, Security, and Social Responsibility Conference—North America, interrupting the talk and surprising attendees despite the prominent warning signs outside the venue warning of the potential noise. “How many of you actually expected airhorns to be used,” asked Tom Knode, the moderator of the session. Very few people raised their hands. The surprising stunt illustrated the ways our brains can disregard clear warnings.

From left, Susan Koen, Nada Wentzel, and Tom Knode discuss the brain’s role in safety during the first plenary session of the 2017 SPE Health, Safety, Security, and Social Responsibility Conference—North America conference in New Orleans. Credit: Adam Wilson/SPE.

Enhancing safety by understanding how the brain works was the premise of the session, and the following days’ plenary sessions will build on this brain-centric analysis of safety.

Speakers Nada Wentzel and Susan Koen presented an examination of the brain and its blind spots and how they apply to safety. Wentzel is global solutions director of The Jonah Group and started the conversation by looking at how the brain works and how an understanding of this can enhance safety.

“The bulk of our behavior is based on unconscious decisions,” she said. “So, consider that the real opportunity is for us to get interested in how we make decisions so that we are actually enabling people to be safer, to be better.”

Koen continued the brain discussion by demonstrating blindspots in the brain’s ability to detect hazards. Repetitive actions and fatigue can lead to the brain failing to register important information. “People have to actually learn the skill of noticing,” she said. “It has to be taught.”

Koen expanded the theme as a speaker at the second plenary session on the second day of the conference. She was joined by John Carroll, professor  from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

The Day 2 session, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast: Group Behavior and How To Reach the Culture Tipping Point,” expands the brain-centic view of safety from the individual to the group.

11 Apr 2017

2017 SPE Americas HSE Conference Focuses on Sustainability

Sustainability will be a driving concept for the 2017 SPE Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference—North America, which is scheduled from 18–20 April in New Orleans. Three plenary sessions and several special sessions will branch out from the theme “Sustaining Our Future Through Innovation, Collaboration, and Capital Efficiency.” A technical program will see 46 papers presented in 14 sessions.

Plenary Sessions
The conference will be anchored by three plenary sessions, one on each day.

The first, titled “What Were They Thinking? A Look at How the Brain Works and Why That Is Important to HSE Professionals,” will examine the mechanisms of the decision-making process with a view on how hazard assessment can be introduced into it. Speakers will be Nada Wentzel from The Jonah Group and Susan Koen from Round-the-Clock Resources.

Koen will also be a featured speaker for the second day’s plenary session, titled “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast: Group Behavior and How To Reach the Culture Tipping Point.” John Carroll from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management will be joining her. Their presentation will build on the brain science presented in the previous plenary session and will consider how understanding social science and human behavior in groups can lend insight into effectively shaping a desired culture.

Wentzel will wrap up the plenary sessions on the third day with a look forward to implementing the concepts presented the previous two days. The third plenary session is titled “Now What? Practical Application of the Concepts To Achieve Best-in-Class HSSE Performance.” Examples of how brain and social science concepts have been applied will be the focus of this discussion and will give attendees ideas for putting the theory into action.

Panel Sessions
In addition to the three plenary session, the conference will feature four panel sessions:

  • “Methane and Other Greenhouse Gases: Now What Do We Do?” with speakers Mark Boling from Southwestern Energy, Ramesh Narasimhan with Environmental Resources Management, and Hillary Hull from the Environmental Defense Fund
  • “Navigating the Security Kaleidoscope in a Lean Operating Environment,” with speakers Ken Keiser from Parsons Corporation, Kenneth Carter from Exxon Mobil, and Robert Ream from BHP Billiton
  • “Can Someone Help Us Understand the Proposed Environmental Rules?” with speakers Steven Roche from Cimarex Energy, Dustin Van Liew from the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, and Terri Thomas from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • “Shaping Our Industry’s Next Chapter … ,” with moderators Jack Hinton and Wendy Harris, both from Baker Hughes

Student Challenge
Returning for the third time, the student challenge gives university students interested in health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility careers the opportunity to test their knowledge in a tournament-style quiz contest. The contest includes quick, definitive lightening-round questions and longer thought-provoking questions for each university team. Points are awarded for each correct answer, with the winning team announced at the end of the challenge. The six teams participating this year are Colorado School of Mines, Louisiana State University, Oklahoma State University, Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas Tech University, and the University of Oklahoma.

Read more about the conference here.

Register for the conference here.

7 Apr 2017

Newfield Exploration To Build New Water Recycling Facility

Newfield Exploration announced it has broken ground on a water recycling facility located in its Sooner Trend Anadarko Basin Canadian and Kingfisher Counties (STACK) play in the Anadarko Basin, located in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma. The complex, named the Barton Water Recycle Facility, is expected to process approximately 30,000 BWPD upon completion early in the third quarter of 2017.

“The new Barton facility will be capable of recycling both the flowback and produced water currently generated from our STACK wells and hydraulic fracturing operations,” said Newfield chairman Lee K. Boothby. “Today’s innovative technologies are allowing us to more cost-effectively recycle and reuse the water we produce from our operations. This is good for our economics and good for the environment.”

The Barton facility will utilize aerated biologic treatment technology to convert produced water into recycled water for hydraulic fracturing operations. The treatment process uses natural and enhanced bioremediation, or good bacteria and nutrients, to separate and breakdown any existing impurities that may be contained in the produced water. The end result is a high-quality water primarily free of impurities—very similar to what is initially found in the reservoir rock.

Read the full story here.

30 Mar 2017

SPE Kicks Off New Technical Section for Unmanned Systems

The newly launched Unmanned Systems Technical Section will provide a central hub for questions, answers, discussion, collaboration, and networking around unmanned marine, air, and land vehicle systems, software solutions, and power systems for the oil and gas industry. Unmanned systems include remotely operated, autonomous surface, autonomous underwater, unmanned underwater, unmanned aerial, and autonomous aerial vehicles.

Source: Getty Images.

Remotely operated vehicles have been used by the oil and gas industry for approximately 40 years for subsea operations. Over the last several years, drones are just starting to be used for a number of applications such as surveying and inspections. In the near future, autonomous cars, trucks, ships, and aircraft will change the logistics landscape in ways we can only begin to imagine. Ultimately, it’s not the hardware or software, but the solution that these existing and new technologies bring to the oil and gas industry to improve safety and the efficiency of operations.

Read the full story here.

30 Mar 2017

Nanotechnology Could See Big Future in Water Cleanup

Nanotechnology could have a big future as a tool for upstream oil and gas and other industries to use to clean up contaminated water, Professor Michael S. Wong of Rice University, Houston, told the SPE Gulf Coast Section’s R&D Study Group recently.

A catalyst made of nanoparticles of gold on alumina with palladium atoms successfully treated chloroform-contaminated groundwater and is effective in treating other water contaminants such as nitrates, nitrites, and nitrophenol. Source: Rice University.

Wong, chair of the university’s chemical and biomolecular engineering department, said that the multidisciplinary nanotechnology field has sufficiently matured to enable researchers and practitioners to envision real prospective solutions to water contamination problems.

Water is by far the largest byproduct of the fossil fuel industry. Wong’s presentation noted that in the US, oil industry well operations produce in aggregate approximately 10 times as much water as they do oil, and in Canada the water/oil ratio is 14 to 1.

Catalytic Conversion
Wong focused on progress that has been made in developing catalysis methods—catalytic conversion—for water pollution control, a prime area of his research that involves the Catalysis and Nanomaterials Laboratory at Rice. Within the oil industry, catalysis plays a major role in petroleum refining operations such as cracking and reforming. In addition, Wong said, “An exciting new role for catalysis is in the treatment of produced water for reuse.”

Introducing a catalyst into a chemical process can bring about or speed up a chemical reaction, with the catalyst remaining unconsumed in the reaction and thus able to act repeatedly. Only tiny amounts of catalyst are needed to achieve these effects.

Wong stressed the advantage of catalytic conversion techniques over the established methods of activated carbon adsorption and air stripping that are used to remove many contaminants from water. By changing the chemical composition of the contaminated water, catalyzed reactions can break down and eliminate the contaminating agent. With the other processes, the contaminant is removed but disposal issues remain. Catalysis methods will also work much more quickly than the other techniques, Wong said.

Read the full story here.

30 Mar 2017

Symposium Examines Shifting Toward a Circular Economy

Nearly 60 experts from the oil and gas industry, academia, government, and nongovernmental organizations gathered for a multisector symposium in February with the objectives of networking and sharing best practices. The symposium, Engineering Solutions for Sustainability: Materials and Resources, focused on the concept of a circular economy.

Credit: Getty Images.

A circular economy is described as an alternative to a linear economy, in which goods and resources are disposed at the end of their useful life. In a circular economy, goods and resources are used for as long as possible to extract their maximum value before they are recovered. A circular economy requires

  • Raw material and energy inputs
  • Feasible engineering solutions
  • Cross-sectoral flows and linkages
  • Effective policy measures
  • Education and research

This event was the third in a series on sustainability that started in 2009. The 2009 symposium was influential in the creation of SPE’s sustainability technical section. Key focus areas from the two earlier workshops included

  • The engineering system must be affordable and protective of the environment, and it must be consistent with public policies that adequately address the technical challenges across sectors.
  • The system must meet the user’s needs over its life cycle, and it must ensure that both short- and long-term operational goals are appropriately considered.
  • The system must be acceptable to those affected by its existence.
  • Innovation is needed in how resources are produced and managed.

Building on these themes, the various panels at the symposium explored the interdependent roles each play in bringing about a sustainable future. The outcome of these discussions resulted in a vision for a sustainable world where affordable and reliable resources support the social, economic, and environmental needs of a growing population. Key points from the third symposium include

  • The role of science and technology has to be better valued by the society as one of the more important pillars of sustainability and circular economy.
  • Design and manufacture should be undertaken with disassembly or recycling in mind.
  • Mineral resources have byproducts that should be captured and used (e.g., produced water), which can drive the need to shift from primary to secondary resources to move from a linear to a circular economy.
  • Companies require a probusiness approach for the circular economy that is integrated as part of the business plan, is adaptive, and reflects an understanding of the cost/benefit relationship of various initiatives. Business as usual will not get us to where we want to be.
  • Keep the message simple so everyone knows how they fit.
  • There is a need to re-envision technical subdisciplines. New methodologies and tools are needed to share with working professionals.
  • When consuming water, out of sight is not out of mind. A focus should be placed on the importance of groundwater.
  • Innovation is needed to advance the principles of sustainability, yet it can be stifled by standards and regulations. Regulators and industry need to be partners.
  • Do the right projects and do them right (e.g., focus on the outcome). Define the problem and solve it with a diversity of thought, experiences, and professions.
  • There is a call to action for multidiscipline and multisectoral professional societies and regulators.
  • Universities need to lead and participate in educating professionals with this multiperspective view.

Find additional details on the symposium here.


29 Mar 2017

First Workers Complete OPITO’s New Onshore Safety Training Standard

The first downstream oil and gas workers have successfully completed safety-critical training under a new industry standard that has been developed using the same criteria used to train offshore workers around the world.

Wild Geese instructors work on practical scenarios in Malaysia. Credit: OPITO.

Wild Geese Group in Malaysia is the first company to earn OPITO’s approval to deliver training as part of OPITO’s Onshore Petroleum Processing and Refining Facilities Standards, which were launched in November 2016.

The training provider is the first to be approved to deliver plant-manager and incident-commander initial response training and assessment training after meeting the strict criteria set out by the industry safety, standards, and workforce development body. Personnel from a Nusapetro onshore plant have been the first to undertake the training and assessment.

OPITO’s emergency response framework for onshore personnel encompasses key specialist roles whose function is to manage any emergency, coordinate the response, and respond to instructions around controlling an incident. These include control room operators, plant managers, incident commanders, and fire and emergency response team leaders.

OPITO’s upstream standards are delivered to workers in 45 countries and, in 2016, saw a record number of new approvals awarded to training provider companies.

OPITO Interim Chief Executive John McDonald said, “This is a great success story of a training provider responding to the needs of the operators in its region and getting itself into a strong position to be able to deliver OPITO’s standards and further ensure the safety of those working in the onshore downstream sector.” Expanding on the role of OPITO, he added, “On the wider global stage, we are increasingly seeing companies moving into the onshore arena where the challenge for operators has been that they potentially have a multinational, multigenerational workforce from different international and local organizations working across their campaigns. The onshore and offshore workforce share a lot of synergies in their safety requirements, so ensuring they have fit-for-purpose safety training and competency standards is arguably the most significant factor for their workforce.”

Wild Geese Group Chief Operations Officer Mike Herrmann, said, “I am very proud to have had the opportunity to be able to deliver the world’s first OPITO Plant Manager/Incident Commander course from our Malaysian Emergency Response Service Centre in Kuala Lumpur. I am also proud of our team as I appreciate how much hard work and effort is required to both achieve and maintain approval to deliver an industry standard to the quality demanded by OPITO and the sector.”

Read more about OPITO here.