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SPE Publishes Technical Report on Human Factors

Published March 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the report from OnePetro here.

Plenary Session Identifies Transparency as Key to Social License to Operate

Published March 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International HSE Conference Opens With Redefinition of Leadership

Published March 17, 2014

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

Leonard Marcus

Leonard Marcus

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

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

Eric McNulty

Eric McNulty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovative Vehicles Ensure Safety While Transiting Through Red Zones

Published March 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Workshop Examines Technology of Social Responsibility

Published March 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International HSE Conference Opens 17 March

Published March 6, 2014


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

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

Conference Web App

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about the conference here.


International HSE Conference Offers Event for Young Professionals

Published January 30, 2014

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

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

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


SPE Opens Human Factors Report for Comment

Published January 28, 2014

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

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

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


Risk Conference Set for 5 March in Aberdeen

Published January 22, 2014

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

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

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

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


Journey Continues for International HSE Conference

Published December 18, 2013


A Message From the Executive Committee and Program Chairpersons

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

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

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

Kathy Kanocz, vice president, Statoil, executive committee chairperson

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



Searching for Opportunities in Environmental Trouble

Published December 12, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.