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Ensuring Public Protection From Toxic Gas Releases

Published July 14, 2014

The expansion of the oil and gas industry comes with inevitable coexistence with communities. Several health concerns result from this proximity—for instance, contact with contaminated water or polluted air. One hazard, however, stands out: the potential release of toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide or hydrogen sulfide.

“Through the years, companies have been developing solutions for safer operations of oil and gas facilities that face toxic gas risks, often learning lessons the hard way. Organizations typically plan for any potential leaks and have measures in place to protect their site employees and contractors. With an increasing number of operations occurring in highly populated areas, there is now more focus on community protection measures,” said Elie Daher, executive vice president of United Safety.

What can companies do to ensure the safety of surrounding communities in the event of a toxic gas release?

The first point is ensuring operations are run as safely as possible, in order to avoid incidents. Safety personnel ensuring compliance with safety policies and adequate safety equipment should be on site. If toxic gas is present in drilling, production, or refining operations, companies should ensure all workers are oriented on site-specific hazards, emergency preparedness, and responsibilities and that people accessing critical zones have the proper training.

Nonetheless, even with precautionary measures in place, unplanned releases may still happen. In order to minimize external effects, companies need to work on community protection.
The first step is to determine the reach of a potential release. As toxic gases leak in the air, solar heating/radiative cooling determined by cloud coverage and latitude from the equator, wind speed and direction, surface roughness, terrain, and height from the ground are all factors that will affect where the plume will be headed and whether it will reach a populated area in a concentration that is harmful to the community. In addition, density of population in the area, access and egress routes, and source elements such as diameter, initial jet density, velocity, proximity, obstacles, and fallouts are important when estimating or predicting the dispersion of this toxic gas and its effect on a nearby community.

Map of emergency planning zone.

Map of emergency planning zone.

Several types of dispersion models exist, and many computer programs exist to create the models. Selection depends on input complexity and output requirement. The result of the dispersion study determines an emergency planning zone (EPZ), carefully delimited to ensure the safety of the public near the site.

Based on the specific characteristics of the EPZ, an EPZ monitoring plan and an emergency response plan (ERP) are crafted.

The execution of the EPZ monitoring plan requires incredible coordination to be effective. Checkpoints and road block locations need to be set up. It is a good measure to assign road block personnel to brief all people approaching with the correct information and status of the area and keep a log on transient people entering the EPZ. As part of the EPZ monitoring plan, mobile air-monitoring units are deployed to track ambient conditions and establish plume tracking in the event of a gas release. Stationary gas-monitoring equipment must be deployed at strategic places such as community perimeters or road blocks to be able to generate continuous condition reports. The placement of the air monitoring stations should be based on prevailing wind conditions and aligned with dispersion modeling results.

Community perimeter monitoring with Quazar.

Community perimeter monitoring with Quazar.

Communication technology such as wireless, general packet radio service, or worldwide interoperability for microwave access communication can be applied to gas monitoring and public protection. Innovations such as the Quazar from United Safety use both radio and Web technologies to get the right information at the right time to the right people. Data such as gas readings, wind speed, wind direction, global positioning satellite coordinates, unit identification (location), and distances from project/work site or other designated points are transmitted through wireless technology to the base, which, in turn, processes and averages data in order to facilitate well-timed decisions.

In the event of a release, the ERP will be executed. It should be quick, effective, and appropriate to protect the public, in addition to employees and contractors. It is crafted on the basis of different levels of emergency and provides the preparedness and response to the release. It should contain details on emergency definition and action, responsibilities of company and local authorities, evacuation and sheltering places, ignition procedures, resident information, maps, and more. A warning and public alarm system that is both visible and audible also needs to be in place. This ensures early notification so a timely community evacuation can be performed.

Another important factor on ensuring community protection is public relations. Media attention and intense public pressure make the ability to communicate within the response team as well as with stakeholders critical. A communications process/plan must be implemented and tested during drills.

The community must receive air monitoring data and activities schedules regularly, establishing confidence in the functionality of the safety program. EPZ personnel can also be used to communicate with residents. Another best-practice is distribution of a resident information package with a brief summary of the proposed activities, evacuation and ignition procedures, emergency telephone numbers, and a description of the hazards of the toxic gases present.

“Public protection still has some catching up to do when compared with onsite technology and safety measures,” Daher said. “To minimize impacts of toxic gas releases, companies should take into consideration the integration of gas monitoring and alarm equipment, communication, analysis of data, and dispersion modeling, culminating in a solid ERP plan. This is key to sustain long-term protection of the public living near oil and gas operations.”

To learn more on community protection in oil and gas, sign up for United Safety’s premium content here.

Webinar Lays Out Issues of Transporting Crude by Rail

Published June 25, 2014

On 29 July, SPE will present an online seminar that will examine issues presented by transporting crude oil by rail.

In May, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers Association (AFPM) delivered the results of a survey of Bakken crude oil characteristics to the US Department of Transportation (DOT). The report summarized findings based on analysis of the more than 1,400 Bakken crude samples that 17 AFPM members submitted in response to a survey. The survey results show that Bakken crude oil is appropriately classified as a flammable liquid based on DOT and international transportation requirements.

The SPE online seminar will review the findings of the AFPM report. In addition, AFPM will discuss its support of a holistic approach to improving the safe transportation of crude oil by rail. According to the AFPM, the regulatory process underlying these goals must be data-driven, based upon sound science, subjected to a robust cost/benefit analysis, and developed in a transparent manner involving all stakeholders.

AFPM will also provide a brief update on the DOT Emergency Order of 7 May that requires railroads transporting more than 1 million gal of Bakken crude oil (approximately 35 tank cars) to notify state emergency response commissions about the expected movement of such trains through counties in that state.


The presentation will be delivered by David N. Friedman, vice president of regulatory affairs for AFPM. As AFPM’s regulatory affairs vice president, Friedman is responsible for formulating and implementing the refining and petrochemical industries’ environmental, fuels, safety and security missions, including the development of association’s policy on Congressional legislation and regulatory matters. Before being named environmental affairs director in 2006, he was in charge of directing advocacy activities for the association’s petrochemical membership, identifying, formulating and communicating industry policy positions to legislative and regulatory policymakers. AFPM’s members include more than 400 companies, including virtually all US refiners and petrochemical manufacturers.

Oil & Gas UK Releases Annual Health and Safety Report

Published June 20, 2014

Oil & Gas UK published its annual Health & Safety report on 19 June. As in previous years, the report sets out a summary of industry health and safety performance across a range of indicators and describes many of the issues and activities influencing that performance.

Industry health and safety performance during the last year presents a mixed picture; while progress has been made across certain areas, some safety indicators have deteriorated compared with the previous year.

The report confirmed that there has been a 49% reduction in the number of reportable hydrocarbon releases over 3 years to the end of March 2013—narrowly missing the 50% industry target. Despite the decrease in the number of major and significant releases continuing a welcome 5-year downward trend, the remainder of 2013 saw an overall increase in total number of releases. There was also a slight increase in the frequency of reportable injuries and dangerous occurrences, reversing the trend of improvement in previous years.

“Despite the ongoing and encouraging decrease in major and significant releases over the last year, the industry is not yet where it needs to be,” said Robert Paterson, Oil & Gas UK’s health and safety director. “Industry, working closely with the regulators and the workforce through Step Change and other bodies, is refocusing attention on preventative strategies and programs to maintain and enhance momentum in this crucial area.”

SPE Workshop Examines Environmental Stewardship

Published June 16, 2014

In September, SPE will present the workshop “Environmental Stewardship in Oil and Gas Development,” in Austin Texas. The workshop will be held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.

The 3-day workshop, running from 23 to 25 September, will present eight sessions, each reviewing a different aspect of the industry’s interaction with the environment and each presented by industry experts.

  • Session I—Applying Science to External Studies
  • Chairs—Denise Tuck, Halliburton Energy Services, and JoAnn McMahon, Baker Hughes
  • Good science is described as a system of knowledge that covers the operation of general laws obtained through valid scientific methodologies. However, now there is an abundance of literature available in the public domain concerning the potential effect of oil and gas development on health, safety, and the environment. Therefore, it is often difficult to distinguish between studies that apply good science vs. findings that do not pass the scrutiny of scientific examination. This session reviews recently published information on the effect of natural gas production, the importance of an unbiased approach to experimental design, and the need for critical thinking on interpretation of empirical data.
  • Session II—Water Source Operations
  • Chairs—Miranda Cruttenden, Talisman Energy, and Tekla Taylor, Golder Associates
  • Strategies around water sourcing for hydraulic fracturing operations can vary depending on a number of factors. Factors include the location of the operations, characteristics of the play, availability of resources, emerging technologies, stakeholder concerns, regulatory framework, and corporate water management objectives. In particular, the use of freshwater for hydraulic fracturing has become an issue in areas where supplies may be limited or at risk, leading to the implementation of innovative water management solutions. This session will present some of the approaches taken by operators to reduce freshwater use and economically manage water source operations.
  • Session III—Managing Flowback
  • Chairs—George King, Apache Corporation, and Matt Mantell, Chesapeake Energy
  • Discussion in this session will include methods of monitoring and enhancing fracture stimulation to help optimize fracture performance while actively reducing fracturing fluid volume and chemical.
  • Session IV—Chemicals
  • Chairs—Donnie Graves, Schlumberger, and Bridget Todd, Baker Hughes
  • Emphasis has been placed on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing within the US. This emphasis has spread globally and, as such, it affects which chemicals come to market. This session will explore the use of tools to screen products, the effects of regulations on taking a product into the market, and how much influence international regulations have on the use of products in the US market.
  • Session V—Utilizing Dynamic Water Management Tools to Optimize Surface Operations
  • Chairs—Nathan Kunert, Devon Energy, and Kay Cawiezel, BP America
  • Dynamic water management tools and models can both optimize operations for the entire water lifecycle process and reduce the environmental footprint. Variables including sourcing, treatment, storage, conveyance, transportation, and disposal must be analyzed holistically and in the context of dynamic regulatory requirements and increasing stakeholder concerns.
  • Session VI—Subsurface Operations Excellence
  • Chairs—Demarco Jones, XTO Energy, and Scott Anderson, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Protecting the environment during subsurface operations begins with sound wellbore construction and awareness of potential effects to the surrounding area. In order to achieve subsurface operations excellence, understanding environmental risk is key. This session will provide an overall review of well integrity and focus in particular on the importance of cementing, the effects of well interference, and the phenomenon of “frack hits.”
  • Session VII—Air Emissions: How “Air” We Doing?
  • Chairs—Danny Durham, Apache Corporation, and Michael Hurey, Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation
  • Air emissions from unconventional resource development have been drawing increased attention by many concerned parties including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the states, industry, and the public. EPA regulations are being implemented to quantify the emissions from shale operations and control the emissions of pollutants and contaminants. Industry is taking action to minimize emissions while the public is concerned with potential health effects.
  • Session VIII—Public Outreach and Education: Risks
  • Chairs—Grant Farion, Trican Well Service, and Pete Eichelberger, Shell
  • In recent years the proliferation of natural gas development in North America has been followed by increased awareness from the media, land owners, environmental groups, and the general public. As public awareness has increased, the gap between the perceived steps and the actual steps involved in natural gas development has also widened leading to an increased need for public education and outreach. This session will focus on what has been done and the risks associated with public outreach and education.

Online Presentation Examines Human Error

Published June 1, 2014

The SPE Gulf Coast Section is holding a presentation on human error on 17 June in Houston. For those unable to attend, the presentation will be broadcast online for free.


Andrew Dingee, Global Wells Learning Advisor with BP and chairperson of the SPE Human Factors Technical Section, will present a detailed look at human error as it is considered in safety management.

The human element is the most flexible and adaptable part of a company’s management system, but it is also the most vulnerable to influences that can adversely affect its performance. With the majority of accidents resulting from less than optimum human performance, there has been a tendency to label them as human error. However, the term “human error” is of little help in safety management. How do you fix human error? Although it may indicate where in the system the breakdown occurred, it provides no guidance as to why it occurred. An error attributed to humans may have been design-induced or stimulated by inadequate equipment or training, badly designed procedures, or a poor layout of checklists or manuals. Further, the term “human error” in accident reports allows concealment of the underlying factors that must be brought to the forefront if accidents are to be prevented. The workplace needs an understanding of the factors and conditions affecting human performance.

For a company to shift its philosophy of being reactive, it needs an understanding of human error when it comes to shift their management system to a preventive system. Incidents and accidents can not be labeled simply as human error. The safety system must understand the root of human behavior and the errors in the workplace.

The presentation will cover the levels of performance behaviors and review a case study from a US airline accident. The presentation discusses a number of studies that draws upon a growing understanding of how skilled experts are driven by moment-to-moment task demands, the availability of information, and social and organizational factors and ultimately continue with a plan even when the environment alerted them that another course of action should have been sought.


Online Event Looks at Industry’s Handling of Human Rights

Published May 29, 2014

An online event planned by the SPE Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Advisory Committee set for 9 June will examine the consideration of human rights in the oil and gas industry.

This event includes four presentations.

One presentation will be “Evolving Expectations of Oil and Gas Companies for Human Rights: Example of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights,” which will review the international framework for business and human rights with an emphasis on expectations of and opportunities for companies in the extractive sector. An illustration will be provided of evolving expectations and opportunities relating to business engagement with indigenous peoples.

The four speakers will be Roper Cleland,senior manager for the Social Responsibility Working Group at IPIECA; Yadaira Orsini, political scientist from Javeriana University; Ursula Wynhoven, general counsel and chief of governance and social sustainability for the United Nations Global Compact, the UN’s corporate sustainability initiative; and Nili Safavi, human rights specialist at BP.

SPE Americas HSE Conference Opens Call for Papers

Published May 26, 2014

A call for papers has gone out for the 2015 SPE E&P Health, Safety, Security, and Environmental Conference—Americas. The conference will be held 16–18 March in Denver, and the deadline for paper submissions is 21 July. Papers are being accepted in more than 100 categories.

Building on the success of SPE’s 2014 International Conference on Health, Safety, and the Environment, the 2015 conference carries the theme of “Striving for Excellence—It Takes All of Us.” The theme of the international conference, held in Long Beach, California, was “The Journey Continues.”

The theme of the international conference did not just set the tone for the meeting, it set a trajectory for the sessions, reflecting the health, safety, and environment (HSE) advances for which the industry strives.

Each session of the conference in Long Beach moved the attendees further along the journey. The opening session keynote set the theme and focused on future HSE challenges. From then, each plenary session told part of the story for addressing these challenges. The closing session keynote then reviewed the highlights from the previous sessions and addressed the role of effective leadership in addressing these challenges.

The SPE Americas HSE conference will continue the trajectory started in Long Beach. “The theme of the Americas 2015 Conference … not only builds upon the story line of the ‘Journey Continues’ from Long Beach but also reaches out in an inclusive way to recognize that it really does take all of us,” said Terry Thoem, conference committee chairperson.

The 2015 conference in Denver marks the first time since the conference’s inception in 1993 that it will be held outside of Texas, and planners anticipate significant local and regional participation.

Planning for the conference is well under way. A total of 57 people have come together to form a program committee, which has 15 subcommittees.

Several aspects of the conference are being designed to reach out to young professionals and students, Thoem said. The conference is being designed to engage attendees through questions and polling and voting tools. A student HSE contest is being designed, and a social event is planned to be held in conjunction with the Denver SPE section. Additionally, a movie screening, probably on hydraulic fracturing, will be held the night of the social event.

The keynote speaker for the first day is scheduled to be Helge Hove Haldorsen, 2015 SPE president and vice president of strategy and portfolio for Statoil Development and Production North America.


Security Concerns Postpone African HSE Conference

Published May 24, 2014

The SPE African Health, Safety, Security, and Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference and Exhibition, scheduled for 10–12 June 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya, has ben postponed. SPE has been closely monitoring the security situation in Nairobi over recent months, and, because of heightened security risks in Kenya, the society has postponed the conference.

The meeting will be rescheduled at a different location in the next few months. Planners hope to have details on the new location and dates within the next couple of weeks.

Delegates who have registered for the June conference will receive a full refund and will be offered a reserved place for the new dates.

More than 250 leading oil and gas experts were expected to gather to share their knowledge and experiences associated with sensitive ecosystems; unique infrastructure; supply chain; and significant health, safety, and security issues.

The conference was to feature three plenary sessions.

Read more about the conference here.

Register for the conference here.



Webinar Examines Human Factors Technical Report

Published May 19, 2014

An online seminar set for 28 May will look at SPE’s recent technical report on human factors in the oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) industry.

In July 2012 SPE held a 2-day summit on human factors to create a common understanding of the strategic challenges for the E&P industry, to identify what is known and unknown in the field, and to explore possible actions to accomplish the needed change indicated by the US National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling report.

The result was a technical report based on discussions and conclusions at the summit intended to provide guidance on the human factors risks in E&P operations and offer solutions for reducing those risks and increase safety.

The challenges the industry faces as it tries to move further toward a culture in which process safety is as well managed as personal safety is currently in the industry is defining what a safety culture is and working on human factors risks that could affect this culture. In civil aviation, a series of major accidents led to the introduction, mandatory requirement, and acceptance of human factors methodologies called crew resource management (CRM). Similarly, the nuclear power industry identified and acted upon the concept of its safety culture after a small number of major incidents. The challenge to the E&P industry is to achieve a similar breakthrough by confronting the human factor as an issue in process safety both onshore and offshore.

The speakers for the seminar will be Kenneth E. Arnold, a consultant with more than 45 years of industry experience, including 16 years at Shell; J. Ford Brett, a consultant in the area of petroleum project management; and Andrew Dingee, safety consultant for BP and chairman of SPE’s human factors technical section.



SPE Plans First African HSE Conference

Published May 9, 2014

The SPE African Health, Safety, Security, and Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference and Exhibition will be held 10–12 June 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya. More than 250 leading oil and gas experts will gather to share their knowledge and experiences associated with sensitive ecosystems; unique infrastructure; supply chain; and significant health, safety, and security issues.

The conference will feature three plenary sessions. On 10 June, the plenary session will focus on environmental concerns and will include two presentations—Response to a Major Oil Spill From a Blowout Incident: The Very Full Scale Exercise “LULA,” presented by Cedric Michel from Total E&P Angola, and Application and Use of the Site-Specific Assessment Tool, presented by Alex Mutiso from Tullow Kenya BV.

The plenary session for 11 June will focus on safety and will include the presentation Managing Safety of Oil and Gas in Operations in a Wildlife Area by Suripno Suripno from Total E&P Uganda.

The third plenary session, on 12 June, will examine health, sustainability, and social responsibility. Social Investment Monitoring and Evaluation Pilot will be presented by Andrew Olleveant from Afren.

In addition, the technical program will address the major topical areas and showcase 40 paper presentations.


Water Management Grows in Importance for Oil and Gas Industry

Published May 7, 2014

The increasing global scarcity of water means more companies need to see and begin treating water as an asset, said Emmanuel Garland, environmental expert with Total, at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

“Water is already a crucial issue and will shape the future,” he said. “Water is a need before being a waste.”

Garland spoke at a topical luncheon titled “Water Management—Change of Paradigm: Water as an Asset” on Tuesday.

Globally, 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, Garland said, “and climate change will probably make it even worse in the future.”

As the global need for energy increases, oil and gas companies will continue to expand operations to meet this demand. And “production of oil and gas requires … huge quantities of water,” Garland said.

“Consequently,” he said, “it is the responsibility of the oil and gas industry to ensure that water is adequately considered … in the decisions of the companies.” The industry’s handling of this responsibility—its ability to develop innovative means to reduce water uptake and maximize use and recycling—could affect companies’ social license to operate, he said.

As responsible users of clean water for oil and gas production, companies need to work on reducing the need for clean water in their operations, Garland said, adding “that’s a real challenge.”

In addition to reducing the need for clean water, companies also need to examine how they handle the water produced by oil and gas production operations. “Handling water in a responsible manner is not only good business,” he said, “it is critical for our future.”

The water produced from wells must be treated before it is disposed, and “treatment has been designed for many years for disposal in the environment,” Garland said. Many techniques exist for treating this produced water; Garland mentioned that there are at least 80 proven techniques. The number of proven techniques, he pointed out, shows that no single technique works for every situation.

“The move today is now to treat for reuse and not to treat only for disposal,” he said. “If you can reuse it, that’s much, much better.”

Papers Present Human Factors as Integral to Project Design

Published May 6, 2014

The human factor needs to be considered at the beginning of projects and not as an afterthought, according to presenters at the 2014 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. Six papers that examined the role of human factors in offshore projects were presented Monday morning at the Human Factors Technical Session.

“We can relate about 80% of accidents and incidents in the marine industries to human error. It is very important that we get involved and that we get involved very early in the design,” said Julie Pray, senior engineer in safety and human factors at ABS. Pray presented her paper “Implementing Human Factors Engineering in Offshore Installation Design.”

But having the human factor considered during the planning phase of a project is not always easy. Benjamin Poblete, chief consultant at Atkins, said, “It’s always difficult because what happens is (the human factor) is often sold as a separate issue, a separate thing, which is like what HSE (health, safety, and environment) was. … It took us 20 some odd years to get back in to it, and I think human factors has to do the same thing. It has to blend right in so that they’re speaking your language during design. … We have to get in early.” Poblete presented his paper “Human Factors in Hazard Analysis.”

The industry has a way to go to integrate human factors in the front-end engineering and design of projects, but tracking the human factors of accidents is an important step.

“I don’t think, in the offshore industry, that we’re even remotely close to where we should be in human factors,” said D.M.A. “Dave” Hollaway, human factors engineering manager at ABS Consulting, while presenting his paper “Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS): Investigatory Tool for Human Factors in Offshore Operational Safety.”

Hollaway went on to build on the axiom “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” The HFACS outlined in the paper he was presenting was designed to do just that—measure the human factors involved in a project. The system uses a set of user-defined codes to categorize and analyze errors that have led to accidents.

The system is free to download and is designed to be simple to use. “It’s not so complicated that the average HSE or human factors person couldn’t use it.”

Brian Craig, professor at Lamar University, presented another paper concerned with tracking human factors, in this instance in the form of reported near-miss incidents. His paper, “Reporting Practices for Close Call (Near Miss) Reporting Systems,” presented the creation of a database of 44,000 of these incidents. “Basically, we’re looking to identify best practices based on what the industry is currently doing,” he said. “One of the goals of these projects is to share this data, these lessons learned, and corrective actions across the industry.”

The creation of the database is part of a larger safety initiative that has as one of its goals the standardization of how near misses are reported.

The other paper presented during the session were “Art, Science, and Engineering of Managing Offshore Field Development Economics and Risks” and “Jack-St. Malo Marine Operator Training Simulator.” All of the papers are available at the OnePetro online library.

  • Paper 25130 “Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS): Investigatory Tool for Human Factors in Offshore Operational Safety”
  • Paper 25167 “Implementing Human Factors Engineering in Offshore Installation Design”
  • Paper 25078 “Reporting Practices for Close Call (Near Miss) Reporting Systems”
  • Paper 25280 “Human Factors in Hazard Analysis”
  • Paper 25344 “Art, Science, and Engineering of Managing Offshore Field Development Economics and Risks”
  • Paper 25125 “Jack-St. Malo Marine Operator Training Simulator”