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Searching for Opportunities in Environmental Trouble

Published December 12, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Egos a Main Obstacle to Intelligent Energy Implementation—And Can We Get Around Them

Published December 9, 2013

Most of the information in this column is wrong.

I don’t plan to waste your time—I believe that I have useful ideas here that could make a big contribution to offshore safety.

But when the CEO of a Norwegian oilfield services company said to me last year that “most people are wrong most of the time,” I thought, well, he’s right in the sense that I cannot think of anyone who is right most of the time. So, that probably goes for me, too.

I also want to make the point that, as reflective individuals, we do have the capacity to train our egos; and, if we believe that egos are the source of many obstacles to achieving safety, perhaps we can solve the problem at the source.

To start explaining what I mean, I would like to tell you about some talks that were presented at a breakfast forum at Offshore Europe in September 2013, about 2 weeks after the Sumburgh helicopter disaster in Scotland when four people lost their lives.

The speakers included Martin Rune Pedersen with Maersk Oil UK; Judith Hackitt, chairperson of the UK’s Health and Safety Executive; and Ian Sharp, chief operating officer for Fairfield Energy.

Pedersen explained that, every time a new drilling rig is brought to Maersk, the company organizes 2-day workshops with the drilling company staff that include team building exercises and technical discussions. Maersk values “humbleness,” which it says is “about listening and learning and giving space to others.” It also values what it calls “uprightness,” where people stick to their word.

Judith Hackitt advocated a mindset of “constant unease,” which she said “means never thinking the problem is fixed.” “Constant unease means never being complacent, being prepared to ask hard questions, and not seeking reassurance from what you know is right.”

Meanwhile, Sharp presented a result of a survey into worker engagement in the North Sea, which showed expected results on first glance; but, when examined more deeply, some questions emerge. For example: Why do site leaders feel less personally engaged in the site’s safety culture than workers do?

I am trying to pull out a common thread between all of these points—that all speakers were actually focusing on ego, a main threat to safety, and how to stop it causing problems and help us work more intelligently.

The ego, which tells us that everything is fine when it is not, the ego, which stops us questioning too hard, and the ego, which arises in difficult personal discussions when we get defensive talking to people we don’t know very well.

Defining Ego

I should probably try to define what I mean by “ego” if we are going to discuss it.

I am skipping over Wikipedia definitions of ego and coming up with one of my own, which I think you will recognize: when we create a kind of storybook self as a kind of defense.

Our actual selves can use the full force of our subconscious minds to weigh situations and figure out the best response and judgment for the benefit of everybody involved in a situation, what you want when trying to mitigate risks or find the best response after an accident.

Meanwhile, our storybook selves are worrying about how we have been treated, if the way someone spoke to us is compliant with our idea of what the storybook self wants. Our storybook self cares far more about our position in the organization and feels that being asked to change could be a sign that someone else has power over us.

But living behind our storybook selves can be easier if our real selves are not strong, or have not had enough exposure to gain strength. It is easier to see things as we would like them to be.

Drilling Rigs and Fighter Pilots

At the Integrated Operations forum in Trondheim in October 2013, I heard a talk by

Arent Arntzen, project manager for Statoil’s Arctic Drilling Unit and a former fighter pilot with the Royal Norwegian Air Force for 22 years. In it he spoke about how his pilot experience is relevant to his role now.

Much of the air force training is about avoiding the negative effects of the ego so people can do what is best for the organization, not themselves, he explained.

By contrast, oil and gas drillers make most of their decisions around not looking bad, he said. “Drillers are all mortally afraid of doing something foolish. If you know that, you can probably handle them.”

Arntzen was asked what advice he had for the oil and gas industry as to how to better manage people’s egos. In the air force, “every mission is briefed and debriefed,” he said. “When you debrief, everyone is subjected to his or her errors during this mission. That tends to shave away your ego every time.”

“Because, whether you are colonel or lieutenant, it is the same thing; you are all the same when you debrief, there is no hierarchy when you are debriefed.

“This is part of becoming an integrated team. You are able to put your position in the military hierarchy to the side. Because you were a team at the time. When you leave it, you shut the book and you back into the other structure.

“This takes some practice. And that will help with your ego.”

Lord Cullen

At the Aberdeen Piper 25 conference in June 2013, we heard from Lord Cullen, who conducted the enquiry into the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster. One of Lord Cullen’s key observations was that it is important to have people in a position to question the people who make safety decisions.

He might have said (although he did not) that this is a good way to prick people’s egos.

The “safety representative” idea was introduced in 1989 after Piper Alpha. In this idea, people elected by staff, not management, have powers to carry out investigations and can put safety concerns to senior managers without worrying about their jobs.

Companies should also have to present safety cases, or structured argument, showing that their system is as safe as reasonably practical. And this should be subject to interrogation by someone with expertise and indepednence.

Andrew Hopkins

Lord Cullen’s talk was followed by Andrew Hopkins, professor of sociology with Australian National University, who explained the critical factors with making safety cases work and why they fail.

The important features of a safety case regime, are (1) it must have a risk/ hazard framework, (2) there must be workforce involvement, (3) you must be required to make the case to a regulator, (4) the regulator must be engaged, and (5) there must be a requirement of duty of care, he said.

There is little point in introducing a safety case regime unless all five components are in place, he said.

“The US has 1 and 2, but Items 3, 4, and 5 are lacking. People say, which should you do first. My argument is this system won’t work unless you see it as a package. The safety case is not worth the paper it is written on unless it is presented to regulator for scrutiny.”

The “as low as reasonably practicable” (ALARP) requirement means that people can’t hide with the security that they have complied to a requirement because the requirement can change as soon as someone finds a less risky way to do it.

“One of the really tragic outcomes of the Macondo accident is that the US Department of Justice is prosecuting two of the wellsite leaders on the rig, who are basically foremen, low-level managers in the role they performed. In the US, we are seeing a “clumsy and misdirected prosecution,” Hopkins said.

“These are the only two individuals the Department of Justice is going to prosecute for criminal negligence. That seems to me to show a complete misunderstanding of what is going on and what the causes are.”

Hopkins also argued that the decentralization of BP, which happened after around 2000, with (for example) local drilling engineers reporting to the local asset manager rather than the company’s most senior drilling engineer, could have led to problems.

And (he might have said but did not), the senior drilling engineer has the most expertise and is maybe best able to prick the egos of his juniors, rather than the asset manager who might, if anything, just end up in a conflict over who is right, leading to inflated egos.

Intelligent Energy

We hear a lot about “management of change” as a main problem with digital energy implementations when we really mean “trouble convincing people to accept a change,” which sounds like the ego is in the room. The ego doesn’t like the idea that someone else can tell it what to do or to do things differently.

We’ll hear about conflicts people get into, which can be driven more by the ego wanting to get its own way.

We hear a lot about people given petty rules to follow, which feel like, and maybe are, someone with more power trying to show it to satisfy their egos.

We’ll also hear about people who don’t notice things as though they are more in their storybook world.

Four years ago at Intelligent Energy, I heard a great quote from Satish Pai, then vice president of operations with Schlumberger, about how so many people in the oil and gas industry want to save the world and want to convince their colleagues that the technology that they work on, or their expertise, is vital for saving the world. This also sounds like the ego in the room. Perhaps the real self doesn’t care if it saves the world or not.

Manage Ego

We are an industry that loves to manage things. Perhaps the ego is one more thing to manage; and, perhaps if we actively thought about it, we could do it very well.


Karl Jeffery is editor and cofounder of Digital Energy Journal. He is also publisher of Carbon Capture Journal and Tanker Operator, and cofounder of Digital Ship, a publishing and events company covering digital technology for the deep sea maritime industry. Jeffery holds a BEng degree in chemical engineering from Nottingham University.

Quality Is Becoming an Integral Part of HSE

Published November 28, 2013

Cohen Guidry, Global QHSE Manager, InterMoor

The Q in QHSE

In the US oil and gas industry, quality, health, safety, and environment (QHSE) have been an integral part of what we do over the past 30-plus years. Originally, the QHSE systems in the industry were safety-driven—basically not hurting people and keeping them safe. As we grew as an industry, health, environment, and quality became more important in the system. Now, the quality aspect of QHSE has especially become an integral part of it.

Integrating quality into QHSE leads us to be a better industry, but it is a very challenging aspect from a smaller-company standpoint. To become ISO 9001 certified is quite expensive. It is also a very cumbersome task to achieve, but it is doable. Not all companies have to go through the cost that it takes to implement that system. They can be ISO 9001 compliant for a lot less money. What the ISO process brings to the table, though, is that it allows a company to set goals and objectives. Establishing such a system can be very hard and, at the same time, very useful for companies that do not really know how to or have not been exposed to the systems, procedures, or policies.

What we have seen is that companies will set a zero-lost-time-accidents goal. And I think it is nice that we try; everybody should shoot for zero lost-time accidents. But shoot for one day at a time. Goals have to be measurable, and they have to be achievable. Shoot for attainable goals. Allow yourself as a company to first have some key elements. Every aspect of your quality-management system, your safety-management system, and your environmental-management system has to have some key functions and has to be driven by clear policies.

The Trickling Effect

Such policies have to start with top-driven support. This begins with the senior person in a company and moves to the people who work for that person, the president, the managing director, general manager, or however the rank structure may run. The senior people have to be committed, and they have to be involved. They have to be part of what the system actually is. They push it down to their managers and to their vice presidents, and, therefore, it trickles down. The trickling effect is more effective than anything.

Attitudes are contagious, and you have to ask yourself sometimes, is mine worth catching? We tend to want to have a great system, yet it seems always to be somebody else’s responsibility to run.

A lot of companies have these systems—safety systems, quality systems, environmental systems—and they all have policy statements. All of these manuals detailing how things should be done are stacked up on a shelf somewhere. The companies basically have guidelines, and those things are important; you must have them to run your system. However, if it is not part of daily activity, if it is not part of everybody’s daily routine, it is not going to be effective. The idea is similar to having things laying around, whether it’s at home, at work: Once you step over something a third time, it becomes part of the landscape, invisible. So, when you change the culture, everybody’s daily routine, you really are starting to work toward new goals.

Culture is a key element in this. You must have a good quality culture; you must have a good safety culture. These things drive each other. Quality and safety become engrained in the culture when people work toward them not only because their bosses tell them they should but also because they know it is the right thing to do. It becomes something that happens time after time, like putting on your seat belt. The seat belt analogy is very effective. Those of you who are old enough to remember, before we had to wear a seatbelt, it was a choice we all made, and not many people used them. Then the law came into effect that we had to use seat belts. Now, putting on a seat belt is second nature. It is just something we do because it is proven that it saves lives. A good safety program and a good quality program work the same way. That’s why you have to have measurable. That’s why you have to be able to have goals to achieve. You set your goals, and you set your measurables, your key performance indicators. Then, you measure those items on a short-term basis. It is very difficult for a company to go out there from Day 1 and say it is going to be the best company that it can be in the world, in the country, or in the industry.

Break it Down

If you take your goal, break it down into quarters, and then look at what is measurable, it becomes more achievable. If you have a less-than-desirable safety program or safety statistics, you have to take it one day at a time. First, you have to get the commitment from the top then drive it down through the ranks to the employees, until the employees realize, “all I have to do is get through my shift today doing things the right way.” They must commit to doing things in accordance with programs, policies, and procedures: “I have to not get hurt myself, or get injured, and I must watch out for my fellow worker.” The idea of getting through one day at a time is where it all starts. \

Nobody has the ability to see a year down the road, and often that is what QHSE goals try to do. You must be realistic with yourself if you’re going to measure things and if you’re going to try to achieve them. The idea of simply forecasting out a year without incidents is not effective. You must break it down into realistic day-to-day goals.

You know your company must have a quality safety program and you must implement a strong quality management system. What that means is you will need to work them into your daily activities and make sure they become part of your daily routine and your culture. Your system will grow and mature as your company does.

Cohen Guidry joined InterMoor in 2006 as HSE manager to complete the QHSE team. He served in Guidrythe US Army from 1988 to 1992 and is a Desert Storm veteran. He graduated from Nichols State University in 1996 after obtaining a BS degree in business. He has more than 20 years of experience in the offshore oil and gas industry, 14 of which were focused on quality, health, safety, and security. During the past 6 years, he has been working as InterMoor’s West Africa Operations Manager, where most of his attention has been given to the development of the company’s business in Nigeria, Ghana, and Angola and coordination of MODU mooring systems installations. He has recently been appointed global QHSE manager for InterMoor and is based in Morgan City, Louisiana.

Registration Opens for International HSE Conference

Published November 22, 2013

The biennial SPE International Conference on Health, Safety, and Environment will be 17–19 March 2014 at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center in Long Beach, California. Planners say the goal of this year’s conference, which has the theme of “The Journey Continues,” is to reach beyond the oil and gas industry by introducing relatable presentations, special topical sessions, and networking opportunities unavailable anywhere else.

BannerRegistration is open now, and early-bird registration ends 11 February. SPE members who register by the early-bird deadline save USD 150 on the cost of onsite registration, while those who register before 16 March will save USD 100.

More than 1,200 health, safety, and environment professionals are expected to attend this year’s conference. Technical sessions, which will run all three days of the conference, will present more than 250 papers on a variety of topics within the HSE discipline. These topics include health and the working environment, personal safety, security and emergency response, HSE management, environment, and social responsibility.

The keynote address will be delivered by Leonard Marcus, lecturer on public health practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. The opening session following the keynote presentation will examine the future of HSE in the E&P industry. Three plenary sessions, one each day of the conference, also are planned. A gala dinner is scheduled for 18 March and will be held aboard the Queen Mary, the legendary ocean liner that is retired at Long Beach.

Two events have been organized for young professionals, those just beginning their careers. The Young Professionals Reception will be held the evening of 16 March, and the Young Professionals Luncheon will be held on 17 March.





Management: Stark Realities of Managing Cybersecurity Risk

Published November 12, 2013

Worldwide, the cybersecurity threat is real and growing. The oil and gas industry’s technological critical infrastructure has been especially hard-hit, absorbing 40% of all cyber attacks globally. Yet the realities are not resonating effectively with industry executives because many companies have yet to put comprehensive protection plans into action.

This issue is potentially so devastating that it figuratively shouts for a short course about the chances that companies are taking, what vendors and purported experts are advocating, the grave risks, the unvarnished truth about hackers and company vulnerabilities, and how waiting for disaster is a dead-end choice.

Largely because of its worldwide exploration and production scope and the vast population dependent on energy, oilfield companies cannot simply blend in with the landscape and become unrecognizable as a major cyber target. For example, Telvent, which makes a control system for smart grid networks, was recently hacked. Project files for its supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system were accessed and malware was installed on its network in the attack.

Other attacks have occurred against Saudi Aramco, which required 10 days to get its network back online after a Shamoon Wiper malware cyber attack disabled more than 30,000 workstations in a supposedly politically directed action by a group of hackers called the Cutting Sword of Justice. In a costly move only possible with a sovereign nation, the company sequestered its entire network while determining the cause of attack and fully restoring service. Meanwhile, the Chinese military has been accused of attempts to hack all types of industries, with a particular focus on oil and gas, according to the Mandiant Intelligence Center Report.

Gaining Support Is Key to Overseas Success

Published November 4, 2013

James Reese, CEO, TigerSwan

The marketplace for natural resources is truly global. As a multinational business traveler in search of new business, you may find yourself investing considerable capital and resources in unfamiliar areas. Ensuring the safety and security of your personnel and property is paramount, and taking steps to establish support from the local community can help you mitigate risk and execute a successful investment project.

It is often the perception of local citizens that multinational businesses arrive in their countries and rob them of natural resources and local revenue without adding any value or contributing to the economy. This type of practice leaves the host nation community with no vested interest in the well-being or success of your project. So, how do you win over the locals and get them to buy into your project emotionally and financially? Demonstrate outwardly that you are excited to be there to assist in the community. If you can do this, you will be less likely to face resistance or opposition.

There are a variety of ways to establish rapport with local communities in order to gain support. Some best practices include:

  • Engage local communities and eliciting their support early in the process of project startup. This will often prevent misunderstanding and provide a channel for communication.
  • Coordinate with local law enforcement before the project team arrives.
  • Hire locals to help with the project and teach them valuable skills and best practices.
  • Invite locals to use commodities within your self-contained facility such as medical clinics and primary schools.
  • Where possible, source food supplies and raw materials locally, thus contributing to the local economy.
  • Establish and execute a plan that transfers some of the business investment, infrastructure, and equipment to the local community upon your exit.

Without the support of the local community, you are likely to spend more on long-term security to combat risks such as protests, attacks, and theft at your project site. At TigerSwan, we often are called in to fix a problem when there is already an issue. Ideally, we would like to provide the tools and support to prevent these issues in the first place. As our best practices suggest, we recommend hiring a consultant such as TigerSwan who has extensive knowledge and knows how to engage local communities to help navigate the diverse cultures across the globe and provide appropriate recommendations for optimal security solutions in foreign regions. Our experience has shown that active, soft security solutions such as community engagement are not only cost effective, they also enhance the corporate reputation of companies working overseas.

By employing these best practices, you can change the perception of foreign business and establish goodwill in new communities. With minimal costs to you and your company, you can effectively establish rapport, support the community, and open the door for future business in the region.

James Reese

CEO and founder James Reese has 31 years of demonstrated success leading, managing, and organizing complex and multifunctional organizations. His leadership roles have spanned international and multicultured organizations and achieved success in areas of stability, instability, and high threat. He led TigerSwan from a two-person business, to an international, multiasset, global stability company with 250 personnel worldwide. Reese previously spent 21 years of his 25-year career in the Army Special Operations and was a decorated combat leader within the discreet Delta Force. He culminated his career after multiple combat tours working with host nation communities and government and business leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Founded in 2007 by former members of the US Army’s elite special operations unit Delta Force, TigerSwan specializes in corporate solutions across the entire spectrum of vulnerability management. TigerSwan’s Guardian Angel membership is an international corporate security program that enables you to travel safely and conduct your business globally. When travels take you to unfamiliar, unstable or even dangerous regions, your safety is paramount. Guardian Angel membership services range from client tracking and monitoring to cultural liaisons and low-profile security details—anytime, anywhere in the world. For more information, please visit www.TigerSwan.com.


Call for Papers Opens for SPE’s First African HSE Conference

Published October 14, 2013

The call for papers has gone out for the SPE African Health, Safety, Security, and Environment and Social Responsibility Conference and Exhibition, which will be 10-12 June 2014 at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

The deadline for submissions is 24 November.

The following is a message from Conference Chairperson Peter S. Nmadu.

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the 2014 Program Committee, it is a great pleasure to introduce the first African Health, Safety, Security, and Environment and Social Responsibility Conference and Exhibition, hosted by the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Please accept our invitation to attend this unique conference and share your research and professional experiences with colleagues from around the globe.

Aiming high, we believe we have set the appropriate conference theme: “Protecting People and the Environment: Getting it Right for the Development of the Oil and Gas Industry in Africa.”

For more than a decade, SPE has organized conferences on this increasingly important area of the oil and gas industry. By submitting a paper to this conference, you will be providing invaluable opportunities for sharing knowledge, experiences, best practices, and research findings. You will also have the opportunity to network with professionals and key stakeholders in the industry.

The situation in Africa is unique. Culture, sensitive ecosystems, poverty, infectious diseases, infrastructure and services, and security challenges are parts of everyday life. When you consider the activities of insurgents in some areas, it becomes clear that the health, safety, and environment areas of our industry face enormous challenges. It has also become obvious that the lives and skills of personnel must be protected, not only at work, but at all times. Social responsibility remains a major challenge. And, though expectations of communities and oil companies may sometimes diverge, finding common ground is an essential component of our mission.

Fortunately, the industry has knowledge and experience that, when applied, can make a positive difference.

We look forward to a truly international audience, and we hope to facilitate rich and robust interactions among oil and gas companies, service companies, regulators, civil societies, professional organizations, host communities, and government ministers.

Paper proposals can be submitted online through 24 November 2013. With Nairobi as its backdrop, this event promises to be stimulating and productive.

I look forward to meeting you next year.


IPIECA Strives To Boost Industry’s Environmental, Social Performance

Published September 23, 2013

As an introduction to the IPIECA, what follows is an interview with executive director Brian Sullivan.

What is IPIECA?

We are a global oil and gas industry association that works with our members to improve the environmental and social performance of the industry. We have a wide membership which includes 36 individual companies, who together are responsible for more than half of the world’s oil output, as well as 16 associations, forming a network that represent more than 400 oil and gas companies.

Why was IPIECA formed?

IPIECA has been around for almost 40 years. Back in 1974, when the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was created, industry was asked to identify central points of contact. The petroleum industry was one of the first to act on this request, and, although there were already existing national and international associations concerned wholly or partially with environmental affairs, none of them covered all petroleum operations in a global context. As a result, in March 1974, IPIECA was established as the channel through which all parts of the industry could efficiently communicate with UNEP and subsequently with other related intergovernmental agencies involved in the implementation of the system-wide environment program.

Today, we remain the only global association involving both the upstream and downstream oil and gas industry on environmental and social issues and continue to be the industry’s principal channel of communication with the UN.

What does IPIECA do?

IPIECA provides leadership on environmental and social issues for the oil and gas industry by enabling performance improvements by developing, sharing, and promoting good practices and solutions, informing global policy and external stakeholders on relevant issues, and anticipating challenges for the industry by scanning and assessing emerging issues and developing actions.

Through IPIECA, our members work together to address a wide range of issues within three broad themes: climate and energy, the environment, and social responsibility. Specifically, we run working groups made up of around 500 representatives from our member companies focusing on issues including biodiversity, climate change, health, oil-spill preparedness, operations and fuels, sustainability reporting, social responsibility, and water. These individuals volunteer their time to progress industry knowledge and performance on these key sustainability issues. Furthermore we engage with external initiatives on behalf of the industry such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and many more. We also use our consultative status with the UN to represent the industry at the global level on environmental and social issues.

What does your name stand for?

One of the enduring legacies of our ’70s birth, or perhaps burden depending on how you look at it, is our name, IPIECA. Originally standing for the somewhat lengthy, International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association, from 2008, in recognition of the addition of social issues to our work program, we dropped the full title and became known simply as IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues.

What have been your key achievements over the past couple of years?

There are many, but I’ll just highlight a few here, including our ongoing work on water management, business and human rights, oil spill response and sustainability reporting, as well as our input into the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (also known as Rio+20).

The IPIECA Water-Management Framework. IPIECA launched a new onshore Water management framework at World Water Week 2013 in Stockholm on 3 September 2013. Designed to enable oil and gas companies to prioritize and address key water management issues, foster best practice, and standardize data collection, the framework also provides a platform for broad external communication of achievements, goals and progress.

While the oil and gas sector consumes lower volumes of water than many other global industries, it remains a significant user, and recognizes the need for responsible management of water resources as a contribution to global sustainability efforts. To help companies across the industry address and respond to water management challenges, this framework has been developed to provide a practical cyclical process of planning, implementation, evaluation, and management review.

The Business and Human Rights Project. As SPE members know, the oil and gas industry operates in complex environments where human-rights issues are a central concern. In June 2011, IPIECA launched a 3-year project to provide members with a forum for sharing good practice on human rights due diligence and grievance mechanisms and to help oil and gas companies implement new and emerging international guidance on business and human rights.

This project, building on a decade of activity by IPIECA on business and human rights, focuses on peer learning, industry guidance, and participation in external initiatives. During the last 2 years, we have launched a number of publications designed to enhance the capability of oil and gas companies to manage human rights issues and their impacts in business operations including:

  • Human Rights Due Diligence Process—A Practical Guide to Implementation for Oil and Gas Companies.
  • Operational Level Grievance Mechanisms—IPIECA Good Practice Survey.
  • Human Rights Training Tool (Third Edition)
  • Guide on Integrating Human Rights Into Impact Assessment in the Oil and Gas Industry.

Fig. 1

The Global Initiative: Partnership for Enhanced Oil Spill Response. The Global Initiative (GI) program was established in 1996 by IPIECA and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and today continues to expand its work on reducing global oil spill risk in priority locations. The program helps countries to develop national structures and capability for oil spill preparedness and response. In recent years, the GI has continued to build its existing programs in the Mediterranean, Caspian, Black Sea, and central Eurasia and west, central, and southern Africa, as well as expand into new regions including southeast Asia and China (Fig. 1). We are also currently scoping the potential for a specific program in East Africa.

Rio+20. At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, ‘Rio+20’, held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders joined 50,000 representatives from governments, the private sector, NGOs, and other groups to discuss how to reduce poverty, advance social equity, and protect the environment on an ever more crowded planet.

Fig. 2

IPIECA coordinated the oil and gas industry’s contribution to Rio+20 and the wider preparatory process leading up to it. From a process that began in June 2010, a set of messages and fact sheets were developed, demonstrating the industry’s commitment to sustainable development and describing how further goals can be achieved in the future. The oil and gas industry messages were presented at Rio+20 during an IPIECA session at the Business Action for Sustainable Development (BASD) Business Day. A panel (Fig. 2) offered a number of examples of how the industry is working to meet the challenge of providing essential fuels in ways that are environmentally and socially responsible.

Sustainability Reporting. Oil and gas companies have been among the pioneers of sustainability reporting and have provided leading examples of good reporting practices since the mid-1990s. In 2011 IPIECA, together with the American Petroleum Institute (API), and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP) issued the second edition of the Oil and gas industry guidance on voluntary sustainability reporting. The Guidance provides a flexible framework which enables companies to effectively communicate material impacts to their stakeholders. IPIECA is now working to ensure that the Guidance remains up to date with progressing industry and external trends and developments, and will be releasing a 2014 edition with a number of revised and new indicators.

What’s next?

As well as maintaining and building on our existing work programs, IPIECA is continually considering emerging issues to add to our portfolio. Recent additions include examining the social dimensions of gas from shale projects; deliverables will include peer-learning workshops and guidance on managing community issues unique to shale gas development. Later in the year, we will be holding a workshop looking at the role of short-lived climate forcers in climate-change-mitigation strategies. Publications still to come in 2013 include guidance on mercury-emissions management, waste management and remediation, as well as an online compendium of energy efficiency practices for operations, which aims to improve industry knowledge of available measures.

Next year, we reach an important milestone; IPIECA will celebrate 40 years of championing best practice on environmental and social issues across the global oil and gas industry. Our anniversary celebrations will include a conference and gala dinner in London to showcase how IPIECA has harnessed the power of partnership to address key environmental and social challenges around the world. Building on the progress that has been made over the past 40 years, the conference will look ahead to what more can be achieved through IPIECA’s leadership in the 10 years to 2024, when we will celebrate our 50th anniversary. The event will feature high-level experts and industry leaders from around the world as speakers and will include interactive discussions among participants to help develop a strong vision for the future.

Learn more about IPIECA here.


Brian Sullivan joined IPIECA as the executive director in 2011 following a 23-year career with BP. He graduated in metallurgy and materials science from Imperial College London and was recruited into BP’s Refining and Marketing international graduate program in 1986. Over the course of 23 years, his career included assignments in London, Copenhagen, Budapest, Athens, and Johannesburg and business experience in more than 60 countries. During his time with BP, he has had a varied career of technical, commercial, financial, and leadership roles across the downstream value chain, including crude and products trading, marine fuels, lubricants, and alternative energy.


The Business of Kidnapping

Published September 16, 2013

Kidnapping is a serious and real threat when you travel to emerging markets and high-risk parts of the world. Criminals generate large profits and operate like a business. Kidnappers not only target executives for ransom or political gain, but also Western business associates from lucrative industries including oil and gas.

The number of reported kidnapping cases continues to grow each year. According to industry experts, there has been a dramatic increase in reported kidnappings in high-risk countries from 2012 through the first six months of 2013. The current top high-risk countries are Nigeria and Mexico. Mexico had 555 reported kidnappings between January and April 2013 compared with 417 incidents during the same time period last year. Yemen also placed particularly high on the list this year as its government remains unable to enforce its justice system or any authority.

Kidnapping can describe a wide spectrum of scenarios. Aside from the most common form of abduction, kidnap for ransom, criminals also engage in express (lightning) kidnappings where victims are temporarily detained and their bank accounts drained through coerced bank transactions. More disturbingly, kidnappers have begun abducting individuals and selling them to terrorist organizations who use the victims for political gain. Your company cannot afford to put you, the most precious commodity, in a vulnerable position.

Kidnappers look for easy targets. They observe and prey on travelers who create patterns and habits such as taking the same routes to and from work. Cell phone records, travel itineraries, and background information are often collected in dangerous countries with help from telephone service providers and corrupt local law enforcement. Something as simple as a tweet or Facebook post from a corporate employee or family member mentioning your whereabouts can lead to an attack.

The following simple steps can be taken to deter kidnapping while traveling internationally:

  • Establish a crisis-management plan with your company before traveling abroad
  • Learn about the geopolitical situation in the region you are traveling to
  • Employ security professionals who can provide security-risk analysis and country-specific response plans before travel
  • Conduct comprehensive due diligence on the individuals and companies you will be meeting with
  • Arrange for qualified security to pick you up from the airport and provide secure transportation throughout your travels
  • Maintain consistent communication with your colleagues while overseas
  • Remain alert and aware of your surroundings while traveling abroad

It’s no secret the oil and gas industry is high-risk. You must travel to unstable and often third-world regions in order to maintain and expand your business. Talk to experienced professionals and conduct the necessary research and planning before traveling overseas. Safety is your No. 1 priority.

James Reese

James Reese

Creating a Common Safety Culture

Published September 9, 2013

Most people who work in the oil and gas industry know what a “permit to work” is. A blue permit indicates that it covers “cold” work—work with no potential to create a naked flame, hot surface, spark, or explosion. Having a permit ensures that the job site is safe for the team to do its work, that the team understands the potential risks of the work it is planning to do, and that it agrees to put suitable controls in place.

I spoke recently at the Piper 25 Conference, a 3-day event held in Aberdeen to mark the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster that killed 167 people on board the oil platform in the North Sea. On display at the conference was a copy of Cold Work Permit 23434. The tattered paper was found in the accommodation module that was recovered from the seabed. The permit was for the replacement of a relief valve on the B condensate pump. It was this work that was at the heart of the initial release and explosion when the operators tried to start the pump even though it was not ready. The rest, tragically, is history.

It begs an obvious question and a supplementary one: Could something similar happen again, and, if so, can we do anything to reduce the chances of it happening?

The oil and gas industry has made huge advances in safety management over the past 25 years. The goal-setting regime, safety cases, and verification schemes have been hugely beneficial.

We have greater collaboration and everyone now talks about safety as being important and most people genuinely believe it. However, the industry is still experiencing too many serious events that, if we are unlucky, could easily result in another tragedy.

We are a global industry in which good practices are shared across our operations. The loss of life in any country has to be as unacceptable as a tragedy on our own doorstep.

Over the past 25 years since Piper Alpha, there have been more than 25 multifatality accidents in our industry. In June, two people died in an accident on a gas platform in the Dutch sector of the North Sea. Last year, three died in an explosion in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and 11 died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the GOM in 2010.

Can we do anything to make these situations less likely? Are we controlling the risks to our people in a joined-up way?

Recommendation 67 of Lord Cullen’s Report on the Piper Alpha disaster called on the industry to institute common systems for alarms and warning lights. Unfortunately, at the time, the industry could not reach this position voluntarily and legislation was needed to create new regulations.

Surely that would not happen today because we have a unified approach with strong, clear leadership across the industry that understands the benefit of common systems and approaches and are not hung up on insisting that only their corporate systems will do. We are happy to agree on common standards for survival training, we have a common system for tracking people traveling offshore, and we have agreed on standards for use of personal locator beacons on helicopter flights.

These are all good. But we are not so good at agreeing to common standards in other areas, such as work control, isolation standards, risk assessment, and safety observation programs. We are good at creating guidelines, but are reluctant to make any hard-and-fast safety rules for the step change “safety club” because few clubs allow membership to choose which rules to follow.

Why not introduce a common permit to work? A common job safety assessment? Common observation programs? Common isolation standards? What a signal it would send to the offshore workforce about our genuine commitment to their safety.

Who Gets the Learning?

More contractor personnel get hurt offshore than operator personnel because there are more of them and fewer work in offices or control rooms. So, when an accident happens and a contract worker is injured, you might think that the contractor company has at least as much to learn as anyone else; yet, often the company does not hear about the accident straight away, is refused access to participate in the investigation, and does not see the findings unless the operator is faulting the contractor.

The right to be informed of any and all accidents, the right to participate in investigations, and the right to see all findings should be part of the industry’s standard contracting terms. We all have a legal duty to take care of our employees and a legal obligation to cooperate in ensuring the safety of others affected by our activities. So, it is not unreasonable to check the work site where our staff may be working, yet many operators take offense at being asked to demonstrate workplace safety.

Leadership Is the Key

So, what can we do about this?

Although we can have better systems, more competent people, higher standards, and better training, the key and common ingredient is leadership.

There are hundreds of books on leadership and a thousand different models—each one has merits, and many have evidence to support them. So, if we cannot get a common idea of leadership, what is the chance of obtaining a common idea of safety leadership?

Leadership shapes culture, culture shapes behavior, and poor behavior is the common factor that can undermine competent people, good design, and strong processes.

It comes down to three basic building blocks.

Things you need to know. A safety leader needs to be informed about what is happening in the business and be aware of any and all accidents and near misses. To know these things, you need to ask and check—all the time. You need to know the bad news, the concerns, and the complaints and have a culture that does not filter these out.

You also need to know the risks faced by your people, as well as contractors, subcontractors, vendors, and other specialists. You need to know that all of these people are competent. You need to know that risk controls are in place and are effective. And you also need to know that people will do the right thing in an emergency.

Things you need to say and not say. It is said that the primary role of leadership is about setting the tone. It is more than that; it is about repeatedly providing clear and direct messages that reinforce a commitment to safety. Being clear is far from easy—messages need to be repeated, received, credible, and not drowned out or undermined.

Things you need to do and not do. Actions need to match the good words. People see actions—often they do not hear the words. If actions do not match the words, then credibility disappears in an instant. Safety leaders need to be aware that their actions, and sometimes their inactions, are visible and send a bigger message than all the words combined.

Bob Keiller became chief executive officer (CEO) of the John Wood Group in November 2012. Previously, he was CEO of Wood Group PSN and CEO of Production Services Network before its acquisition by Wood Group. He has also served as chairman of the Offshore Contractors Association, the UK Helicopter Issues Task Group, the Entrepreneurial Exchange, and cochairman of Oil and Gas UK. Awarded the Aberdeen Entrepreneur of the Year in 2006 and 2008, he was also named Scottish Businessman of the Year in 2007 and Grampian Industrialist of the Year in 2008. Keiller received a master of engineering degree from Heriot-Watt University and is a chartered engineer.

A Social License To Operate: Overcoming the Culture Clash

Published August 30, 2013

The takeover of a public park in Turkey to build a shopping mall. The raising of the public bus fare in Brazil. The government closing Greece’s major newspaper. What do these events have in common with the Keystone XL pipeline proposal? The authorities in these situations made a decision to impose a project solution without talking with the people who would be affected by the decision.

The Turkish government decided to take over a small public park to build a shopping mall without seeking input/feedback from the community. In Brazil, raising the bus fares (mostly affecting poor people) seemed to be a reasonable approach to raise revenues for the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games. In Greece, the shutdown of the government newspaper and the firing of a couple of dozen workers were done to demonstrate austerity to the European Union.

In the United States, the route of the Keystone pipeline, proposed to carry tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada, to Houston for refining, was planned to run across Nebraska’s Ogallala aquifer and sandhills, which are sacred cultural icons.

The problem? These decisions were made from the top-down on the basis of internal considerations, revealing a lack of capacity for dealing with emerging social realities across the globe. The decision makers neglected to understand that citizen engagement is a key to business success in today’s volatile world, where people are insisting on managing, predicting, and controlling their environments.

Small acts that seem inconsequential to government and industry can spark revolts and reactions that, in the cases of Turkey, Brazil, and Greece, have the potential to bring down the governments. The Keystone project could be lost because of the groundswell against the project stimulated by the routing mistake.

Ten years ago, in a more formally structured world, these decisions would not have mattered. These days, when citizen resistance and mobilization are becoming routine and global, these decisions matter.

The JKA (James Kent Associates) Group has been tracking this emerging global trend for 30 years and has termed it “citizen-based stewardship.” It refers to citizens who claim ownership of geographic places and take it upon themselves, with or without government or corporate partners, to ensure that their families and communities are healthy and safe.

Transmission line corridors, alternative energy sites, and the proliferation of oil and gas development have improved our energy outlook, but have also affected people across the US. In particular, the hydrofracturing of wells for natural gas production has caused concerns in recent years. It is not difficult for a concerned public to find cause for alarm. The fracturing issue has now fused in national perception and become widespread throughout hydrofracturing areas, while also spreading turmoil to more traditional oil and gas activities.

Resistance has developed because much of the hydrofracturing is being done in geographic areas where citizens are not familiar with fossil fuel development. Their cultural experience and practices have done little to prepare them for the onslaught of drilling activity. When people have no mechanism in their daily lives to deal with intrusive change, their only avenue for relief is reaction and resistance. Studies such as the one cited earlier add fuel to the fire when the development company has no citizen connections or engagements to rely on for interpretation of the findings. With no mechanism for communicating, the company is vulnerable not only to local resistance, but also to national groups that will use these studies to benefit their causes.

The top-down approach to project design is still in place. Projects are designed by engineers from locations miles away from the site. It is common practice to expend extensive engineering effort early in a project during the front-end engineering and design (FEED) phase. This design process leads to only the technical issues being addressed. The engineering culture wants the design firmly in place, with all the technical details worked out, before going public for review.

Companies prefer to hold their cards close to their chests to avoid revealing information to residents who they fear could stimulate conflict. For example, the people who negotiate the rights-of-way for projects have an incentive to keep things quiet while they interact with landowners. Public relations personnel recognize that failure to be transparent invites suspicion and mistrust, yet they are constrained by corporate cultures that emphasize control of the development process.

Such approaches are no longer productive or profitable. Corporate neglect of citizen engagement is a costly affair for everyone.

Clash of Two Cultures

The situations described illustrate cultural clashes between the communities’ horizontally organized systems vs. the corporations’ vertically organized authority—clashes of perceptions and practices. The community is oriented to caretaking and survival, and the industry is oriented to economic gain.

In this article, we show that the cultural clash is not inevitable. The two systems must come into harmony if the oil and gas industry is to remain productive and profitable. When dealing with communities, it is essential to recognize that the adage “one size fits all” is not applicable. Just as each project is technically different, each community is different—with different histories, beliefs, and issues.

In any cultural system, life is predictable through routines and language. As change occurs, people need time to adjust within their cultural settings. People continually deal with emerging issues and solve them. It is when there is intrusion, without recognition of how the culture has previously handled change, that projects are at risk.

The old (traditional) approach is to design in isolation, propose the design, and then defend it against opposition. This approach is depicted as a wedge into the community, fostering disruption and mistrust, and creating local issues. If these issues go unresolved, they offer outside groups the opportunity to take advantage of unresolved citizen issues in the pursuit of their own agendas, leading to formal opposition groups such as occurred with the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The new model gives residents a voice and emotional ownership, which, in turn, gives the company a social license to operate. If intentional efforts are made to resolve legitimate citizen issues early in the design stage and to optimize the local benefits of a project, citizen ownership through absorption will serve as a buffer for the project against outside forces.

Preventing the Escalation of Emerging Issues

The key to understanding culture from a practical point is to learn about the issues that are currently present in the community or that the project may create. Community issues do not begin as uncontrollable events that are guaranteed to stop projects. Instead, they emerge as legitimate questions that citizens have about a proposed project.

It is not the case that the local community has formed a steadfast or universal opinion. Rather, people are simply seeking answers to basic questions, including: What will this project do to my property value? Will it increase traffic? How will it affect air and water quality? How many people will be hired locally? Will the project enhance the growth of local businesses? Will community- based training programs or college curriculums be offered to prepare our citizens and youth for employment and advancement opportunities? Will the company ensure local benefits from the project, such as reduced electric rates? Will there be assistance for establishing businesses to service the project?

When the basic questions are not addressed, emerging issues can easily escalate to actual ones. By this point, people have formed their own opinions, and the community dialogue changes from seeking information to developing positions. The questions turn to negative statements, such as: This project will ruin our property values. The traffic and noise from this project will be unbearable. Children and seniors with asthma will suffer, and the incidence of cancer will increase. They will not be contracting or hiring locally. Local businesses will not benefit from this project and may actually lose revenue. The skills necessary for employment are beyond most of our citizens. The company just wants to exploit our community for profits.

These sentiments may not be based on facts, but, without community engagement, perception becomes reality.

If the actual issues are not addressed effectively, events will only become worse. Community opposition is often joined by opportunistic ideological groups, followed by political positioning. Polarized positions are taken toward the project, and the opposition quickly moves it into a disruption. By this point, the project proponent has virtually lost the ability to resolve the individual and community issues. The issues that could have been resolved, had the citizens been engaged in the early phases, are taken over by outside forces who oppose development at anytime, anywhere.

The Solution: The Social Ecology Approach

The social ecology approach involves attention to the community on three concepts: a descriptive approach for understanding informal networks and their routines; understanding human geography, or the ways that residents relate to their neighborhood and community areas; and issue management, which creates alignment between citizen interests and company interests. Social ecology is a science of community based on cultural processes operating in any geographic area or in any resource company.

The following five rules help in gaining an understanding of local cultural issues:

  1. You, as a project proponent and an outsider and guest of the community, have a responsibility to learn about the community before acting.
  2. People know more about their environment than anyone else. It is the job of the project manager to bring forward this knowledge and perception to make use of it.
  3. The project proponent must ensure that citizens can predict, control, and manage changes in their environment so that the effects of the project are absorbed into the fabric of the community and the benefits are optimized.
  4. People trust day-to-day and face-to-face communication, which is essential if the project is going to fit the community.
  5. Whoever understands the human and physical geography that creates the community’s sense of place controls the project outcome.

Procedures to implement the five rules of culture change are:

  • Contact and engage with citizens early to avoid surprises. Community engagement must be at parity with technical disciplines in tactical and strategic project decision making. For example, extensive technical work during FEED should be accompanied by extensive community engagement.
  • The objective of early engagement with the community should be learning. Learn the informal networks of a community and its communication patterns as the basis for engagement. Learn the language that people use to communicate on a routine basis and use that in project development language.
  • Engage the affected people directly. Do not rely on formal groups or stakeholders in understanding community interests. Do not use public meetings as a means of initial citizen contact. Use the gathering places of a community to foster effective project communication and as a means to become an insider to the culture.
  • Understand human geographic mapping systems that reflect cultural boundaries, or the ways that people identify and relate with their landscape, to foster responsive siting of facility and corridor projects.
  • Deal with citizen issues at the emerging stage of development when the costs of time and resources are lowest, rather than allowing issues to reach the disruptive stages.
  • Make use of local company staff, when possible, at the design and implementation stages and provide management support in assisting them to create an approach from the bottom to the top.


The social risk to project success has become too great for the oil and gas industry not to recognize formally and systematically act upon the underlying causes of how citizens’ participation often moves from support to active opposition. Whether the project is on public or private land, it deserves this level of attention.

Because community relations are now linked to project success, upfront engineering should include upfront community assessment and the establishment of an informal word-of-mouth communication system. Knowing about culture and its influences on citizen behavior presents a creative and successful way for industry leaders to steer their projects around pitfalls and other surprises that cause delays or stop projects altogether.

Understanding the culture of a community facilitates collaboration in a manner that directly benefits the citizens and keeps a project on schedule, saving time and money. The true currency of the present and future is the sustained goodwill that a project creates and maintains with the communities it affects.

Experiments on Large-Scale Fires Reveal Benefit of Greater Water Deluge

Published August 17, 2013

A series of 56 large-scale fire experiments in the range of 40–120 MW has been carried out in a generic offshore module. The effect of deluge fire-water application has been measured for different setups. Both deluge nozzle type and water-application rate have been varied in the experiments.


The use of water-spray systems for firefighting is standard for most offshore oil and gas intallations. The requirements to and guidelines for control and mitigation of fires are stated in International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 13702, Petroleum and Natural Gas Industries—Control and Mitigation of Fires and Explosions on Offshore Production Installations—Requirements and Guidelines. Appendix C in ISO 13702 lists the recommended fire-water-­application rates for areas and rooms on an oil- or gas-­production installation. Typically, the minimum recommended water-­application rate is listed as 10 (L/min)/m². NORSOK Standard S-001, applicable for installations on the Norwegian continental shelf, states that the effect of deluge may be taken into account for process equipment and piping, provided that there is proper documentation of the fire-water effect (and that there are requirements to the reliability of the fire-water system).

In order to document the effect of the recommended fire-water-application rate, a set of full-scale fire experiments with application of fire water was carried out at SINTEF NBL.


Today’s design of oil- or gas-production installations includes deluge-fire-­water systems as standard. These are costly and may require extensive maintenance. Despite the costs involved, little knowledge is available on the actual effect of fire-water systems under different operating conditions.

Appendix C in ISO 13702 recommends a typical water-application rate of 10 (L/min)/m². National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 15: Standard for Water Spray Fixed Systems for Fire Protection recommends a design objective for control of burning of not less than 20 (L/min)/m². NORSOK S-001 refers to NFPA 15 but prescribes 10 (L/min)/m² for process areas and equipment surfaces and 20 (L/min)/m² for the wellhead area. American Petroleum Institute (API) 2030, Guidelines for Application of Water Spray Systems for Fire Protection in the Petroleum Industry, prescribes 20 (L/min)/m² where pumps are present and 10 (L/min)/m² for pipe racks and piping. To what extent do these water-­application rates actually affect the fire?

Quantification of Fire Loads

The characteristics of a fire are not trivial to measure. Different ways of measuring fire characteristics include

  • Ability to extinguish fire
  • Total heat-release rate (HRRtot), kW
  • Convective heat-release rate (HRRcon), kW
  • Total flame volume, m³
  • Maximum flame temperature, °C, K
  • Flame volume above a defined temperature (e.g., V at >1000°C), m³
  • Maximum local heat fluxes, kW/m²
  • Maximum global heat fluxes, kW/m²
  • Flame volume above a defined heat flux (e.g., V at >250 kW/m²), m³
  • Surface emissive power of a flame, kW/m²
  • Temperature or temperature rise of flame-exposed objects, °C, K; or °C/s, K/s
  • Smoke production, m³/s, g/s

In a full-scale field experiment, many of these parameters are difficult or impracticable to measure. How­ever, most of them are possible to derive from fire simulations using suitable software.

Experimental Setup

The 56 fires were in the range of 40–120 MW. The experiments were carried out in a 15×10×10-m generic process module (Fig. 1). 

Experimental-test rig.

The process module was equipped with nearly 200 thermocouples, 100 of which measured gas temperature. The rest measured temperature of equipment, structure, and exhaust gas.

Parameter variations addressed during the experiments were

  • Hydrocarbon media (propane, diesel)
  • Hydrocarbon leak rate (1 kg/s, 3 kg/s)
  • Leakage location
  • Leakage direction
  • Water-application device (medium-velocity nozzles, high-velocity nozzles, high-capacity nozzles, and monitors)
  • Water-application rate [10 (L/min)/m², 20 (L/min)/m²]
  • Enclosure
  • Wind
  • Additives

Pictures of a 3-kg/s diesel-spray fire before and after activated deluge can be seen in Fig. 2. 

Pictures of a 3-kg/s diesel-spray fire before (left) and after (right) deluge activation.


Here the fire-water effects are presented at a semiquantitative level on the basis of measured values before and after deluge water application.

The effect on maximum gas temperature is measured as K/K as an average of the 10 thermocouples with the highest readings. The effect on isotemperature volumes is a qualitative assessment based on ratios calculated as m³/m³ for volumes with temperatures higher than 1100 and 1000°C. The effect on isoheat-flux volumes is a qualitative assessment based on ratios calculated as m³/m³ for heat-flux levels larger than 250, 200, and 150 kW/m². The effect on external radiation level is based on ratios of heat flux derived from simulations.

A “negligible” effect indicates a factor of 0.95–1.00. “Small” indicates a ­factor of 0.80–0.95. “Clear” indicates a factor of 0.50–0.80. “Significant” indicates a factor lower than 0.50. The effects are presented in Table 1 for situations with little or no wind.

Comments and Discussion

As for equipment cooling, the experimental results vary to a large degree, from good effect to no effect. For jet fires, deluge water has no effect on the temperature in the hotspot of the flame. Results also vary with the flame shape and location of deluge nozzles.

It is not possible to conclude whether medium-velocity deluge nozzles or high-velocity deluge nozzles should be preferred. In general, medium-velocity nozzles seem to have their strength in reducing isoheat-flux volumes and external radiation. Isoheat-flux volumes are important because they are indirect measurements of heat-flux exposure of equipment and structure, possibly affecting the probability of escalation. High-­velocity nozzles seem to have their strength in equipment cooling and during windy conditions. As for wind, the differences in effects are significant in favor of high-velocity nozzles in the wind-speed range of 2–10 m/s, most likely because of higher nozzle discharge velocity.

In retrospect, the experiments would benefit from a narrower range of parameter variation and better-planned placement of thermocouples.

Deluge Water-Droplet Size

It would be of great interest to study the effect of an actual deluge system design from simulations. To allow for such simulations, one has to have an idea of water-droplet size, distribution, and velocity. Deluge water-droplet size and velocity have often been measured by phase Doppler anemometry (PDA). However, PDA has some weaknesses when it comes to measurement of nonspherical droplets. Statoil, therefore, is sponsoring a doctorate-level study at Telemark University College to develop a method for classification of deluge water droplets by photometry.

Summary and Conclusion

A total of 56 large-scale fire experiments with fire-water application have been conducted, with a wide range of parameter variation. The main findings are

  • Deluge-water application has better effect on liquid-spray fires than on gas-jet fires.
  • A deluge water-application rate of 10 (L/min)/m² will have negligible or little effect on the highest gas temperature in the fire.
  • A deluge water-application rate of 20 (L/min)/m² has a documented more-favorable effect than an application rate of 10 (L/min)/m².
  • For gas-jet fires, the flame-hotspot temperature will persist, independent of deluge configuration.
  • The choice of medium-velocity or high-velocity deluge nozzles depends on the fire scenario.
  • Medium-velocity nozzles have their strength in reducing heat fluxes and isoheat-flux volumes, thereby reducing the amount of equipment and structure exposed to high radiation load.
  • High-velocity nozzles have their strength in equipment-cooling ability and a lower vulnerability to wind.

This article, written by Editorial Manager Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 164973, “The Effect of Deluge Spray Systems on Large-Scale Fires,” by Stian Høiset and Eli Glittum, Statoil, prepared for the 2013 SPE European HSE Conference and Exhibition, London, 16–18 April. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at www.spe.org/jpt.