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13 Sep 2016

Report Focuses on Growing Threats of Extreme Weather, Energy/Water/Food Nexus, and Cyberattacks

Emerging physical, financial, and virtual risks pose an ever-greater threat to the security and supply of energy. The transformation of markets and business models, driven by climate-change policy commitments, are putting unprecedented strain on the energy sector at a critical time, says a new World Energy Council report. It contends that energy systems must be smarter, not just stronger, to withstand diverse emerging risks and be more resilient.

The findings come just a month before the 23rd World Energy Congress in Istanbul, where high-level discussions exploring these energy resilience issues will be led by Satoru Katsuno, president and chairman of Chubu Electric Power Company, and Juerg Trueb,  managing director for environmental and commodity markets with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. They will look at the risks to the industry and, crucially, what policy solutions are needed to adjust to the new normal.

The Road to Resilience: Financing Resilient Energy Infrastructure, launched at the International Economic Forum of the Americas (IEFA) Toronto Global Forum on 13 September, focuses on three critical emerging risks—extreme weather events, energy/water/food nexus, and cyberthreats. It provides an overview of the Road to Resilience series developed in collaboration with project partners Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and Marsh & McLennan Companies and finds

  • Energy is the second-most water-intensive industry after agriculture, with 98% of power supply dependent on the availability of water
  • Extreme weather events have increased by a factor of four over the past 30 years; frequent and severe weather events can affect energy infrastructure across the value chain and often lead to higher demand
  • The sophistication and frequency of cyberattacks is growing and continues to keep energy leaders in Europe and North America awake at night; by 2018, the oil and gas industries could be spending USD 1.87 billion each year on cybersecurity

These threats affect both the physical structures and the capital returns that are needed to advance energy systems to a more sustainable future. Therefore, successfully managing these risks has become crucial for energy leaders globally, bringing the need for resilience to the forefront.

Christoph Frei, secretary general of the World Energy Council, said, “With accelerating energy systems integration, resilience is no longer just about returning single assets to full operation after a disruptive event. When interdependent parts of a system are blacked out, the system as a whole is at risk of being deadlocked.

“The different risks to resilience have very distinct meanings and priorities in different regions. Yet, the imperative to cope with these risks is a powerful catalyst for innovation with transformative global impact: innovation in technology, system design and management, cross-country and -value-chain cooperation, the required policies, and, last but not least, financing concepts. Securing the future investments to expand and transform the sector is the critical challenge ahead.”

Jeroen van der Veer, executive chairperson for Road to Resilience and former chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell, said, “For the financial sector, our resilience work highlights both risks and opportunities. Missing out on deep understanding of the shifting resilience landscape will expose short-sighted investors, while a variety of financing mechanisms are available and under development to better cope with emerging risks.”

Over 2 years, the series of reports examined the evolution of these risks and their effects on energy infrastructure and identified measures required to increase resilience of and improve the financing conditions for investments in energy infrastructure that are able to cope with these new challenges.

Key recommendations within The Road to Resilience: Financing Resilient Energy Infrastructure include

  • Smarter design of energy systems: Energy systems must be smarter, not just stronger, to withstand diverse emerging risks and be more resilient.
  • Encourage diversity within the energy sector and related industries: Diversity increases flexibility and helps to avoid and mitigate the implications of potential threats.
  • Increased private finance infrastructure: Resilience is vital in attracting a more-diverse group of investors, including institutional investors, to the energy sector.
  • Improved regulation and market guidance: Policymakers must develop clear, transparent, predictable legal frameworks to ensure resilience and stimulate finance.

A frontier session on Day 2 of the 23rd World Energy Congress, The Road to Resilience: Managing and Mitigating Extreme Weather Risk, will be held on 10 October.

Read the report here (PDF).


12 Sep 2016

Ghana’s Growth Draws Professionals to HSE Conference 

Health, safety, and environment professionals in the oil and gas industry will meet next month in Ghana for the SPE African Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference and Exhibition. The conference will be held 4–6 October at the Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra with the theme “Guided by History, Shaping the Future; Protecting People and the Environment in Africa.”

HSC Africa 960x960 Social Media web banThis conference is the largest gathering in Africa designed to create opportunities to network with professionals and key stakeholders and enhance knowledge in the health, safety, environment, and security practices. The 2014 conference saw more than 200 registered attendees from 17 countries and offered nine technical sessions presenting 27 technical papers. This year’s conference will present 30 papers in nine technical sessions. Session topics include

  • Overcoming security issues faced in Ghana
  • Lessons learned from infectious disease outbreaks in Ghana
  • Ensuring operational safety in the midst of volatile regulatory changes and uncertainty

Government officials and oil and gas leaders will take part in the main panel sessions on each day. The speakers for the opening ceremony and keynote speech session will be 2017 SPE President Janeen Judah, Thomas Manu with the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, and Sherry Ayittey with the Ghana Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development.

Kwame Boakye-Agyei, director of environment, health, safety, and security at Kosmos Energy Ghana, is cochairman of the conference committee along with Manuel O. Graças de Deus of Chevron.


Q: Accra will host SPE’s HSE Africa event in October. Can you tell us a bit more about the conference and why Ghana was chosen to host it?

Boakye-Agyei: This SPE conference is the largest HSE gathering in Africa designed to create opportunities to network with HSE professionals and key stakeholders globally and very much provide the platform for experts and stakeholders to enhance knowledge in the health, safety, environment, sustainability, and security practices.

This year’s SPE African Health, Safety, Security, Environment and Social Responsibility Conference and Exhibition is focused on leveraging our diverse and unique industry expertise to better understand the emerging futures of oil and gas opportunities and to build capacity while addressing the daunting operational challenges faced by the industry.

Ghana was chosen because of its interesting and unfolding history as an emerging and bourgeoning oil and gas country in Africa. Home to the famous Jubilee superfield discovered by Kosmos Energy in 2007 and operated by Tullow Oil, Ghana remains welcoming to new investors and offers a pleasant conferencing and learning atmosphere.

Q: As you know, the industry is currently facing enormous challenges, particularly from low oil prices. We have seen far-reaching cost cuts and mass lay-offs. To what extent have these developments affected or compromised health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility?

Boakye-Agyei: Certainly, a challenging time for industry. However, safety cannot, in any way, be comprised when striving for cost efficiency. It has become evident that companies and contractors who choose to cut health, safety, environment, and security budget risk suffering serious consequences and even greater cost implications. It takes enormous resources and strategic behavior to sustain a good HSE behavior, and to cut resources mostly ends up undercutting efficient operations. Although the oil prices have plummeted in recent times, there is increasing evidence that HSE advances are being made to improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of operations. This means that competence in asset integrity, training for workforce and leadership engagement continues to be as important as always, even against the backdrop of lower oil prices.

It is interesting to know that the choices that companies make right now would determine how successful they would be able to effectively resume operations when prices pick up again. In every way, safety outcomes have a direct impact on the company’s bottom line.

Read the full interview here.

Read more about the conference here.

Register for the conference here.

9 Sep 2016

PetroTalk: The Value of Water

SPE recorded several presentations from the 2016 International Conference on Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility held in Stavanger and is presenting them as PetroTalks. These insightful presentations were captured from experts within and beyond the oil and gas industry in order to bring the conversations to a larger audience.

Stuart Orr with WWF International talks about how we can begin to think about water on the resource level, saying that the value of water should be considered beyond simply its cost. He says that it is important to “focus not just on your impacts but how you are impacted by water management, because it is the ultimate shared and managed resource.”

9 Sep 2016

Safety Improvements in Unconventionals Require Situational Awareness

Past experiences with problematic situations often drive the decision-making process, and, while experience may be helpful, it can also lead to the development of biases that hamper an organization’s ability to manage dynamic environments such as unconventional projects. As unconventionals have grown in complexity, the effects of critical errors on safety and production have grown in magnitude. In order to have a strong error-management system, companies must emphasize situational awareness in their operations, an expert said.

In a presentation held at the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference in San Antonio, Wayne Jackson discussed how a focus on situational awareness can help operators improve on-site safety and operational efficiency. Jackson is president of Cougarstone Solutions, a technology company based in Calgary.

Jackson said the severity of an incident on a project is often judged less on the error that initiates the incident and more on the consequences of the incident, as an error that triggers an incident may have occurred numerous times in previous operations without incident. Because of this, he said error management should center around improving the efficiency of the manual systems and infrastructure on a project.

“As an organization, we must always focus on error reduction across the board,” Jackson said. “This is a systems problem. It’s not a problem with people and their lack of understanding or their lack of training.”

Task saturation is one of the biggest obstacles organizations face when confronted with problems, as employees are being asked to accept an increasing number of responsibilities for tasks, events, and jobs happening simultaneously on a project. Operators must be mindful of the workloads being assumed on projects. Jackson said that, when their staffs reach a point of task saturation, operators must be prepared to reassess, or even abandon, additional tasks they wish to assign.

“We have to remember, as leaders of our organizations, that every person has a limit where task saturation occurs,” he said. “At that point when task saturation occurs, something has to give, or it must not occur.”

1 Sep 2016

PetroTalk: Complexity of Water as a Resource

SPE recorded several presentations from the 2016 International Conference on Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility held in Stavanger and is presenting them as PetroTalks. These insightful presentations were captured from experts within and beyond the oil and gas industry in order to bring the conversations to a larger audience.

In this PetroTalk, Will Sarni with Deloitte Consulting talks about the complexity of water as a resource, including the energy/water/food nexus and water’s current scarcity trajectory. His talk examines our relationship with water and our role as stewards of water. “I view water as a business issue, economic development issue, and ecosystem and social wellbeing issue,” he said.

15 Aug 2016

Column: The Human Factor—Watch Out For the Five Behavioral Traps

This article will look at how to overcome the five behavioral traps that lead people to make decisions that lead to actions that result in people being hurt.

Bill Robb

Keep It Simple—With a Behavioral Case Study
Unfortunately, many people who write about and promote human factors use complex and sometimes vague terminology such as, “cognitive dissonance,” “cognitive biases,” “cognitive ergonomics,” “heuristics,” “models,” “paradigms,” “frontal cortex,” “the limbic system,” and “behavioral marker system.” Human factors is often defined as covering almost everything to do with what human beings think and do and what influences that thinking and doing. Of course, this does not help us help people on the frontline stay safe.

A more effective way to improve and sustain safety performance is to show people how their own behaviors hurt them and others. The best way to coach people to overcome the behavioral traps is by using short case studies.

Here is an example:

At about 0810 on a Monday morning, at a construction site, a person was offloading rolled sheet metal insulation casing from a truck to enable another team to start its job. The team supervisor explained that his guys had been waiting since 0730 and asked the person to please help by unloading the metal as soon as possible. This task was done every Monday morning. The person was wearing ordinary work gloves when the procedure required Kevlar gloves. The person was distracted by his friend shouting something about the football match on Sunday. The person’s right hand was trapped between the sharp edge of casing and the side of the truck, resulting in severed tendons on two fingers requiring an operation.

What can we learn from a mini-investigation?

Behavioral Trap 1: The Fear Factor
Why would an experienced, well-meaning person choose not to wear the correct personal protective equipment (PPE)? The answer: There was none in the storeroom because the ordering system used was ineffective. (Yes, we know that accidents always have some causes remote from the worksite). However, without the right PPE, why did the person not stop the job and plan another method? The answer: He did not want to let down the other team who needed the metal. Why do we not want to let people down? We are afraid of being accused of being unhelpful or not a team player or even upsetting the supervisor and being shouted at or disciplined. Here are some of the other natural human unhealthy fears injured parties say drove them to do the wrong thing:

  • Afraid to be seen as lazy
  • Afraid to be seen as a “bad person” (not helping, not a team player)
  • Afraid to be seen as a trouble maker
  • Afraid to admit that we do not understand
  • Afraid to be seen as incompetent
  • Afraid to be seen as weak
  • Afraid of upsetting workmates
  • Afraid of losing our jobs
  • Afraid of looking stupid

Behavioral Trap 2: Unintentional Pressure From Supervisors and Workmates
In the old days, the pressure from supervisors was intentional—shouting, mocking, and even saying, “Do it or you are fired!” Nowadays, the pressure is mostly unintentional, such as asking people nicely to help. Here are some other examples of unintentional pressure:

  • Not giving enough or clear instructions
  • Not setting an example
  • Body language indicating threats or displeasure
  • Unreasonable time pressures
  • Asking people to help when they are not trained or experienced enough
  • Asking people twice how long they will be on a job
  • Making jokes about a person’s appearance or the way he or she works
  • Comparing one crew (or person) against another

Remember, unintentional pressure can also come from workmates who may be in a hurry and put pressure on a colleague to cut corners to get things done.

Behavioral Trap 3: Lack of Awareness
The friend shouting was not really aware of the effect he was having on the person. Perhaps the injured person was not aware enough of the sharp metal casing and the positioning of the truck. Many accidents today are caused merely by people just not seeing, hearing, or smelling that something is not right.

Behavioral Trap 4: Loss of Concentration
Do you agree that, in the case study, concentration was lost in two ways? First, listening to his friend took concentration away from the job and onto football. Second, because this was a routine job done every Monday, the injured person may have been on autopilot and thinking of something else. In some accidents, the lack of concentration has been caused by fatigue, worry about bad domestic/financial situations or an ill child or elderly parent, or worry about being made redundant.

Behavioral Trap 5: Wrongly Diminishing the Risk
Diminishing the risk is a mental trick we play in our minds. We know something is not right, but we convince ourselves it is OK to go ahead because

  • “It’s only a small one.”
  • “It will only take 5 minutes.”
  • “We’ve done it many times before.”
  • “We’ll be extra careful.”

Can you see the trap we set for ourselves? So what if it’s small; it may weight 45kg. You can die in 1 minute, never mind 5, and, even if we have done something 100 times, maybe today’s conditions are different.

How Do We Avoid the Behavioral Traps?
In almost every accident, some of the five behavioral traps are at work. The challenge is how to translate this knowledge into practical coaching to help people avoid the traps. Lectures do not work; you can take the horse to the trough, but you cannot force it to drink. The best way is to hold short workshops based on accident scenarios and ask people to suggest recommendations to prevent similar accidents. Then, have an extended discussion about why people might not follow those sensible recommendations. In the discussion, the five behavioral traps become evident.

Also during the discussion, how to overcome the five traps is discussed as follows:

  • Work on becoming hyperaware. Be more inquisitive and get used to asking questions about anything that does not seem right.
  • Think before you speak to or act with others. For a few microseconds, consider the effect on others of what you are about to do. Consciously think about reducing the fear factor where you work.
  • Know that 80% of our human fear is not real; we only think it is so. Real fear (fear of dangerous equipment and crossing the road) are good; they help us survive. However, fear of looking stupid or lazy is only what we think others will think. Build more courage to do the right thing. Test whether or not your negative fear is real.
  • Supervisors should know their people well enough to know if some personal issue is causing so much stress that they cannot function safely. In those rare instances, and depending on the task, get someone else to do it or postpone the job. For you and me, if we know in our heart of hearts that we cannot function, we should admit we feel we cannot do the job safely. Unfortunately, there is nothing to help you; it is a judgement call on part of the supervisor and the employee.
  • Train yourself to hear when you and others make excuses to go ahead. Listen in toolbox talks, in risk assessments, and as the job progresses for “It’s only …” or “It’s just …”. Stop and ask people why they are saying that. It may be nothing, but they could be diminishing the risk.

 It Is Easy To Understand but Needs Discipline To Effect Change
We know why, despite all the safety efforts, experienced, well-intentioned people do things that lead to accidents. I am sure you agree the solutions are simple and low-cost. However, they require a different mind-set from traditional training—simple exercises to bring people to their own realization that, in the end, it is their own behaviors that hurt them and others. This ultimate personal responsibility—no matter what—is a tough realization for us humans. Once we get over the initial shock, it leads to even better performance, not only in safety but also in life in general.

12 Aug 2016

Creating a Safety Culture: What It Is and How To Get There

Safety culture can be distilled into nine characteristics predictive of safety outcomes. By tracking performance across these characteristics, companies can measure their performance against the world’s most successful safety organizations, both within the industry and without. More importantly, they can identify gaps in their culture and breakdowns in their safety performance, thereby establishing clear goals to overcoming them and achieving safety objectives. To improve safety performance and create lasting change in organizational culture, leaders can focus on developing 10 safety-specific leadership capabilities.

A strong safety culture means more than just better injury rates. Organizations good at safety have been shown to do better across all performance areas. With improvements in safety comes greater employee commitment to company goals, more discretionary effort, better team functioning, and a healthier bottom line.

A high-functioning safety culture is defined by a clear vision from leadership that articulates actionable steps and specific behaviors leading to the desired state. When people know the goal and what is required of them to achieve it, they will not get lost in vague mandates that fail to motivate or that fall short of galvanizing individuals around safety improvement.

Culture change requires a leadership team that is committed to the vision and capable of guiding the organization through obstacles and the inevitable pushback that occurs with any initiative. Leaders can learn skills and develop capabilities that will move the organization in the desired direction and build performance across the nine culture characteristics indicative of world-class safety performance. With visible commitment to safety, leaders will gain credibility with the workforce and engage people in the process.

Culture Characteristics Predictive of Safety Outcomes
Procedural Justice. This characteristic reflects the extent to which the individual perceives fairness in the supervisor’s decision-making process. Leaders enhance perceptions of procedural justice when they make decisions characterized by consistency across people and time, lack of bias, accuracy (decisions are based on good information and informed opinion), correctability (decisions can be appealed), representativeness (the procedure reflects the concerns, values, and outlook of those affected), and ethicality.

Leader/Member Exchange. This dimension reflects the relationship the employee has with his or her supervisor. In particular, this scale measures the employee’s level of confidence that his or her supervisor will look out for his or her interests. Leaders can enhance perceptions of leader/member exchange by developing positive working relationships with their reports and getting each person to see how achieving organizational goals can be fulfilling both to the leader and to the employee.

Transformational leadership exerts influence principally through relationships with employees. In a work group, the supervisor develops relationships with each of the workers. The leader exerts influence by getting each person to see how his or her objectives support the larger objectives of the organization.

Management Credibility. Management credibility reflects the perception of the employee that what management says is consistent with what management does. Leader behaviors that influence perceptions of trustworthiness include consistency, integrity (telling the truth and keeping promises), sharing control in decision making and through delegation, communication, and benevolence (demonstration of concern).

Perceptions that a manager is competent seem to be a necessary but not sufficient basis for development of trust. That is, workers are unlikely to trust a manager who is seen as incompetent, but competence alone does not necessarily lead to trustworthiness.

Perceived Organizational Support. This characteristic describes the perception of employees that the organization cares about them, values them, and supports them. The extent to which employees believe the organization is concerned with their needs and interests strongly influences the likelihood that they will “go the extra mile.” Leaders can demonstrate organizational support by engaging in and communicating efforts that go well beyond what is required.

Perceived organization support is not the same as job satisfaction, although the two are often related. Employees who believe the organization cares about them are more likely to be satisfied. Perceived organizational support is an overall perception by employees of organizational commitment to them, whereas job satisfaction is an affective (positive/negative) response to specific aspects of the work situation (e.g., pay, physical working conditions, work schedules).

Teamwork. Teamwork measures the perceived effectiveness of work groups to function as an effective team. Group process affects whether people will talk to one another about safety, and it is directly related to safety outcomes such as level of at-risk behavior and injury reporting. It also influences perceptions of communication around safety and of organizational value for safety.

Work-Group Relations. The work-group-relations characteristic reflects the degree to which coworkers treat each other with respect, listen to each other’s ideas, help each other out, and follow through on commitments made. Work-group relations are related to supervisor fairness as well as to worker/supervisor relationships. These beliefs influence whether employees will speak up to one another about safety issues and raise safety concerns with the supervisor.

Work-group relations are affected by the leader of the group. Supportive and trustworthy behavior by the leader is likely to lead to trust among members of the group.

Organizational Value for Safety. This dimension relates to perceptions of the extent to which the organization ­values safety as represented by the prioritization of safety compared to other concerns; how informed management is about safety issues; and the willingness of management to invest time, energy, or money in addressing safety issues. The higher the perceived value for safety, the more likely it is that workers will raise safety issues, work safely, and not cover up incidents and injuries.

Upward Communication. This characteristic addresses perceptions of the quality and quantity of upward communication about safety, the extent to which people feel encouraged to bring up safety concerns, and the level of comfort in discussing safety-related issues with the supervisor. The climate around communication influences the willingness of workers to speak up to one another about safety, the level of at-risk behavior, and the number of reported injuries.

Approaching Others. The approaching-others component addresses beliefs about the likelihood that workers will speak up to a coworker who they think is at risk for injury, pass along information about safety, or step up to help a coworker do a job more safely. The more likely workers are to speak up with each other, the higher the level of safe behaviors in a work group.

Approaching others is related to both leader/member exchange and the commitment of the team leader (supervisor) to safety. The quality of the relationship with the supervisor is related to the willingness of team members to speak up. If the leader values safety, the subordinate can reciprocate high-quality leader/member exchange by speaking to others about safety.

What Sets High-Performers Apart?
Experience working with companies around the world in some of the most demanding environments has led to the identification of key practices and organizational capabilities that set organizations that excel at safety apart from others. Among these practices, great safety organizations define a clear vision for safety; create a comprehensive network of communication and education across departments, levels, and sites; and gain the buy-in and commitment of employees.

Organizations that perform high in safety are created at the top by leaders who are serious about culture change, know the role they play in creating culture, and who work with their teams on a daily basis to cultivate the culture they want to see. These leaders set the tone for the entire organization, back up what they promise, and talk about safety improvement in terms of exposure reduction rather than injury. A previously published article identified 10 characteristics that distinguish great safety organizations. They are

  • Understand the real safety objectives of the organization’s leadership.

It is possible to identify, track, and measure the characteristics that make up great safety organizations. Because of this, in turn, it is possible to create a discernible and actionable path toward safety improvement across a host of cultural scales. There is no silver bullet in safety, and culture cannot be changed overnight. But, with leadership commitment starting at the executive level and extending to line leaders, a climate of change can be created that supports and sustains a truly great safety ­organization.

11 Aug 2016

European Commission Strives Toward Reasonable Shale-Gas Regulation

Following years of deliberation, the European Union (EU) released a recommendation on unconventional hydrocarbons and a related communication in 2014. Although these documents are not legally binding on member states, they are nevertheless of great significance because they indicate, for the first time, the current and likely future stance of EU institutions on the regulation of unconventional hydrocarbons. This paper traces the origins and development of these documents, which provide vital clues for the road ahead in European shale-gas regulation.

The potential threats of groundwater contamination, irresponsible disposal of flowback, the repercussions of significant land use, and increased emission of greenhouse gases have been named in recent scientific studies as main potential threats of shale-gas extraction. The current European law framework on environmental protection, mainly consisting of directives and regulations, entails some gaps and does not cover these issues comprehensively. Thus, the EU took recent action to develop shale-gas-specific regulation in order to close the identified gaps in the existing general framework.

Because the existing secondary law norms were elaborated at a time when shale gas extraction was virtually unknown in Europe, one would suspect that they entail provisions that do not sufficiently cover the specific potential threats of this technique. Indeed, there are a number of issues. Probably the most important one is that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are not compulsory for shale-gas projects. Although member states have the right to require an EIA for specific, individual shale-gas projects, this discretion does not appropriately match the level of potential environmental hazards of shale-gas extraction.

The paper does not engage in an analy­sis of the pre-existing EU regulatory framework but focuses on the EU’s efforts to close the gaps in the framework that have been discovered previously. The EU introduced nonbinding, soft-law measures in this regard to create a level playing field among all member states in the form of the 2014 Shale Gas Recommendation and the 2014 Shale Gas Communication.

The paper highlights the main features of the recommendation and the communication and considers whether they are sufficient to close the gaps in the EU secondary law framework. Overall, the ­author concludes that these measures go a long way in addressing the perceived gaps, although they do not succeed in closing all of them.

Despite that rather favorable assessment, the recommendation and the communication have been criticized because of their legal guise as nonbinding soft-law norms. The fear that individual states could simply ignore the recommended measures if they do not fit in with their respective agendas on shale-gas extraction was expressed by some scholars. This peculiarity, they argued, could lead to a “race to the bottom” of environmental standards, as one member state may try to undercut the others  on environmental standards in order to attract investors.

However, this paper concludes that the described race to the bottom would be a rather short one and would not put the environmental standard in the EU into any real danger. The existing environmental directives and regulations of the EU constitute the ultimate bottom line, below which member states are not allowed to operate. Because of the high standard and elaborated nature of this bottom line, there currently is no real danger for environmental standards in Europe to be lowered to any significant extent. Moreover, member states would be ill-advised to take a chance and simply ignore these recommendations. A considerable number of legally binding EU directives started their existence as recommendations in the past. In line with this history, the 2014 Shale Gas Recommendation explicitly threatens member states with the introduction of legally binding norms if the EU is not satisfied with the domestic implementation of the recommendation. Thus, it is not unlikely that the recommendation could turn into an EU directive or regulation.

Although the 2014 Shale Gas Recommendation and the 2014 Shale Gas Communication go to some length in addressing current gaps, they do not cover all of them. Even more importantly, the 2014 measures are not legally binding on member states. However, this paper concludes that the nonbinding legal character could be an advantage because it provides member states with the greatest possible leeway to implement shale-gas regulation that is tailored to their individual needs.

Both documents recommend to member states that wish to engage in shale-gas extraction a set of measures and ­operating standards in order to create a level playing field among those states. The measures indeed go some way in closing some of the pre-existing gaps. The framework urges member states to carry out a strategic environmental assessment before issuing licenses that may lead to shale-gas extraction. The 2014 Shale Gas Communication entails a pledge of the EU to look into the issue of a specific best-available-technique reference document for shale-gas extraction under the Mining Waste Directive. This action is designed to ensure that waste is appropriately handled and treated and that the risk of water, air, and soil pollution is minimized.

Moreover, the framework ­reinforces the monitoring requirements under the Water Framework Directive and the Groundwater Directive. Baseline studies of shale-gas sites with regard to water, soil, and air quality, and other issues, should be conducted; their results should be benchmarked against future results of comprehensive monitoring exercises. Furthermore, the framework calls upon member states to apply the provisions on environmental liability to all activities taking place at a shale-gas-extraction site. This request shall be understood explicitly as including strict liability for greenhouse-gas emissions and overbearing use of land, which currently do not fall under the scope of the Environmental Liability Directive.

However, the European Commission failed to close some other gaps. Most notably, it called upon member states to ensure that an EIA is carried out for each shale-gas project but took no action to insert shale-gas projects into Annex I of the EIA Directive. This move would have made EIAs obligatory for all shale-gas projects, already at EU level. By simply passing the ball back to member states, the EU did not adequately address the main gap in EU EIA legislation.

However, the 2014 framework on shale-gas extraction does not actually implement the described measures but merely recommends to member states to take these measures into account. The framework has been molded into a recommendation and a communication, secondary EU law measures with no direct binding force.

The nonbinding nature of these EU regulations on shale-gas extraction became the main point of criticism. It was argued that nonbinding legislation is an ineffective way to create a level playing field for shale-gas extraction for all member states because individual states are allowed to ignore the measures outlined in the recommendation if the measures do not fit in with their respective agendas. This could lead to a race to the bottom of environmental standards, because one member state could try to undercut another on environmental-compliance costs for foreign investors. However, this race to the bottom could not last indefinitely because the existing ­environmental-law framework of the EU constitutes the bottom line for member states.

A review of the effectiveness of the framework shall be conducted within 18 months of its coming into force. Depending on the outcome of this review, the commission is going to determine if further, more-stringent, regulatory action on shale-gas extraction is required. In fact, this is the way in which a considerable number of directives came into force in the past.

Ultimately, the nonbinding character of the 2014 Shale Gas Recommendation is in some respects an advantage. The principle of subsidiarity, under which member states should take responsibility for matters that can be decided at their level, is honored. Subsidiarity must also be viewed in the context of proportionality. The principle of proportionality requires the use of nonbinding instruments (e.g., recommendations) in EU environmental legislation, wherever possible.

10 Aug 2016

Service Company Explores Pathways To Make Driving Inherently Safer

In risk management, an inherently safer approach implies an attempt to eliminate, or at least reduce the severity and likelihood of, incident occurrence through careful attention to fundamental design and layout. This paper examines whether this approach can be applied and be effective in managing transportation safety concerning which, historically, most of the responsibility for safe driving has been placed on the individual driver and less on the design of the transportation system and features of the equipment.

As is often the case for change management, this undertaking was motivated by a tragic motor-vehicle accident in Saudi Arabia, which resulted in three fatalities, two employees and a third-party driver. Transportation-­management systems were implemented and in place, including a contractor-selection process, journey-management program, ­defensive-driving training, and in-­vehicle monitoring systems, but, as sometimes happens, compliance with planning and executional requirements was inadequate. The ­accident-investigation findings uncovered a number of gaps that existed in the transportation-management system and that eventually led to the catastrophic event. These revelations, coupled with the vision that “all motor-vehicle accidents are preventable,” presented an opportunity to revisit the way transportation safety was managed. The entire life cycle of the journey was reviewed and reorganized, from the planning stage of the journey to journey’s completion. Such an approach posed a challenge to the company definition of “preventability” for motor-vehicle accidents, which states that a preventable accident is a vehicle accident in which the driver could have driven (but failed to do so) in such a manner as to identify an accident-­producing situation soon enough to take reasonable and prudent action to avoid such an accident. This definition places the primary responsibility for preventing a vehicle accident on the driver and his ability to anticipate road hazards, assess the risks, and take actions to avoid the accident through the ability to challenge the process, including questioning the need or timing of the journey itself.

Instead of the instinctive quick-fix reaction of placing responsibility solely on the driver, the new perspective dictated that responsibility for preventing accidents lies with the company management and its ability to create a system that would comprehensively combine the management of all transportation aspects under one umbrella, including:

  • Human factors and driving behaviors
  • Journey management, with all necessary reviews and approvals
  • Vehicle speed and other driving characteristics
  • Vehicle condition and conformance to standards

Inherently Safe Driving-System Framework
What makes a system robust and inherently safe, and what must it look like? In the world of computer science, robustness is defined as “the ability of a computer system to cope with errors during execution” and also as “the ability of an algorithm to continue operating despite abnormalities of input or calculations.” To build a robust operating system, computer companies study many possible inputs and input combinations, program against every point of possible failure, and make the system intelligent enough to handle all possible error states. The goal for a new system is for it to be robust enough to monitor proactively (without direct involvement of humans), prevent any known or assumed compliance failures or violations, and enforce compliance during driving. The pillars of the conceptual inherently safe and robust driving system are intelligence, visibility, compliance, and proactivity, which rest on the foundation of independence and automation.

Intelligence. This is the ability of the fleet and journey-management software to build connections independently and automatically between the movements of vehicles and applicable journey plans, run compliance checks against their approval levels, run compliance checks against driver competencies, and highlight and send any potential breaches to designated personnel for them to audit.

Visibility. This is the ability to provide accurate, real-time information on movements of vehicles, journeys being undertaken, and their associated information such as driver, vehicle, and trip progress. In addition to the operational data, which is required to monitor execution, the system is required to provide visibility of current trends in various driving aspects (e.g., at-risk driving behaviors, journey-management breaches, fleet utilization, and night driving).

Compliance. This is the ability to ensure compliance of all elements of the driving process (i.e., driver, vehicle, journey route, and plan), either before or during the journey, to the standards within the preapproved criteria. The system must be set up to prevent selection of an unfit driver or vehicle for an intended journey, and, if the journey must progress according to a preapproved route, any deviations must be identified and corrected immediately.

Proactivity. This is the ability of the system to prevent potential breaches through predetermined controls or check points. Examples of this would be the inability to select an approved light-vehicle driver for a heavy-­vehicle trip (even if a person possesses a ­commercial-vehicle driving license) or the ability to alert a driver to stop and rest at predetermined intervals.

Independence and Automation
This driving system rests upon two primary features—automation and independence. Automation is intended to minimize the human-to-system interaction, whereas independence implies freedom from operational factors that may influence the safe operation of vehicles.

Independence. Day-to-day priorities influence operational activities. Deadlines must be met, and, often, these priorities conflict with values. It takes integrity and commitment to follow the rules, but, as is commonly recognized, the human factor is often less reliable than ­others. To avoid possible conflicts of interest, provide uncompromising independence from operational factors, and provide sufficient available resources, a new department was created called the Transportation Office. The entire purpose of this department is to oversee all transportation aspects of employees and contractors in support of the company’s work activities. This office directly manages all transport vehicles, drivers, Road Journey Management Center operations, and the Journey Management Plan process, and performs regular audits of the entire system.

The Transportation Office has responsibility and full authority for final approval of any journey to take place. Even if a journey has been approved by the driver’s manager, it will still require approval from the Journey Management Center.

Automation. Fleet-Management Improvements. In-vehicle monitoring systems are used to control compliance with speed limits and to monitor and correct drivers’ behaviors (e.g., harsh braking and harsh acceleration). However, it was determined that the system could provide more proactive control points to improve the fleet-management process for earlier detection of possible noncompliance and intervention.

Improvements were made to make the system less dependent on drivers’ attitude toward their safety. The system automatically alerts and, if required, enforces the expected behavior, and it provides new data for trend analysis and required further improvements.

e-Journey Management. Making improvements in the management of drivers’ behaviors and vehicle movements was an important step toward the “zero motor-vehicle accidents” vision but was not enough to eliminate vehicular incidents. Failures in the journey execution were a common cause and were responsible for a large percentage of motor-­vehicle accidents. To address this issue, a project was created to develop a solution that focused on “management by exception” through the integration of fleet management and automated journey monitoring. This electronic system is designed to be sufficiently intelligent to run a constant monitoring of vehicle movements and verify the compliance of their execution to their preapproved conditions. If any breach is identified, the system will alert Road Journey Management Center personnel for immediate intervention.

Passive Controls. Considering the risks of possible rollovers, a decision was made to reinforce vehicles with rollover protection. All company-owned vehicles must meet international automotive safety and quality standards, including applicable safety and crush tests by manufacturers, and must be currently safe to use.

Driver Training. A competence-­management concept was adopted regarding driver training. The driver training program has been revised to address critical defensive-driving fundamentals, company-specific driving hazards, and safe-driving expectations. The Core Defensive Driving course covers 25 specific defensive-driving skills, and a student must demonstrate not only academic knowledge of the defensive-driving material but also practical mastery of the defensive-driving skills taught.

9 Aug 2016

The Influence of Communication About Safety Measures on Risk-Taking Behavior

Risk-taking behavior is an important contributing human factor to incidents and is notoriously difficult to influence. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people have a hard-wired optimal perceived risk level. People compensate for risk-reducing measures by behaving in a riskier fashion until the desired level of risk is reached again. This study looked at the effect of the number of shields of protection and uncertainty on the risk-taking behavior of the participants.

The main aim of safety research is to identify ways to prevent accidents and to ensure the safety of workers. Human error—or, in other words, unsafe behavior—has been found to be a major cause of accidents, and its elimination, therefore, is a prime goal for improving safety. The human factor is most effectively addressed by tackling the organizational system instead of focusing on incorrect actions by individuals. An effective strategy is to increase the level of protection or the number of safety barriers. The concept of the safety barrier features most prominently in the Swiss-cheese metaphor of accident causation. The Swiss-cheese model describes accidents as being caused by unchecked hazards that are allowed to cause losses. A series of barriers is placed between the hazard and that which may be harmed. The barriers keep the hazard under control and prevent it from causing harm. However, these barriers are always less than 100% adequate and contain weaknesses or holes. The barriers, therefore, often are compared to slices of Swiss cheese. Unlike real Swiss cheese, the holes in the barriers are dynamic and open and close at random. When these holes in the barriers are aligned, a path is created, leading to a potential accident.

Intuitively, one would assume that safety improves proportionally both to the protection measures taken and to the improvements in the design of such measures. The more protective equipment given to the workers, the safer they will be, either because of a reduced risk of accident or because such measures mitigate the effects of accidents. This approach assumes that human error can arise from unintended actions such as memory lapses and attention failures. However, it can also be attributed partly to intended actions such as risk taking. The question addressed in this paper is related to the extent to which people’s risk-taking behavior was influenced by their awareness of the numerous preventive interventions in place. The pivotal issue that arises is whether people adapted their risk-taking behavior as a result of their awareness of the number, and of the effectiveness, of the barriers in place.

Risk Taking
Alteration of behavior is a recurring theme in the safety literature and is described in a variety of ways—“risk compensation,” “risk homeostasis,” or the Peltzman effect. When people feel safer, they tend to take greater risks. People do not want to reduce risk to an absolute minimum but, rather, to optimize it. People are willing to accept a certain level of risk if risky behavior (e.g., breaking a barrier in the Swiss-cheese model) comes with benefits.

There is virtually no behavior without a certain measure of risk attached to it. Therefore, the challenge is to optimize rather than to eliminate risk. This optimum, also known as the target level of risk, is the level that maximizes the overall benefit. Previous studies suggest that people constantly compare the amount of risk they perceive with their target level of risk and that they will adjust their behavior in order to eliminate any discrepancies between the two. This psychological mechanism constitutes a case of circular causality.

The mechanism is similar to a thermostat, where there are fluctuations in the room temperature but where such fluctuations are averaged over time; the temperature will remain stable unless set to a new target level. The risk homeostasis theory (RHT) transfers the homeostatic effect of a thermostat to risk behavior. RHT posits that, similar to a thermostat that has a target temperature, people have a target level of risk. People will change their behavior in order to maintain their target level of risk.

Research Questions
Previous research has given some indications that people compensate for safety measures such as barriers or shields by behaving in a riskier fashion. However, besides such anecdotal evidence, no systematic research has been carried out to consider the effect on behavior of informing people of the number of safety barriers in place for their protection. This paper sought to answer two questions:

  • Do people indeed compensate for greater layers of, or more effective, protection by behaving in a riskier fashion?
  • How do people behave when they are uncertain about the number of shields of protection?

The Experiment

Screenshot of the game.

A side-scrolling videogame was custom made for this experiment. It required the player to navigate a small spaceship through an asteroid field, with asteroids moving from right to left after materializing randomly on the y-axis. The spaceship was controlled with the arrow keys on the keyboard. The up and down keys moved the spaceship up and down, and the right and left keys increased and decreased the speed, respectively. Five different speed levels ranged from 1 (default) to 5 (maximum). The number of shields left was indicated as can be seen in Fig. 1. Whenever the ship crashed against an asteroid, the player lost a shield. This process continued until there were no shields left. A collision at that point would end the game. In circumstances where participants did not know the number of shields the ship had, a question mark was displayed in front of their spaceship. The game measured the time a player spent on each shield and the total amount of points a participant scored. Points were gained by staying alive. The faster a participant flew, the more points he or she gained per second. Such bonus points acted as an incentive for participants to increase speed in order to achieve higher scores.

To test if the layers of protection and the uncertainty about their number had an impact on the risk-taking behavior of participants, an experimental design was chosen. This design allowed for the determination of causal relationships. This experiment focused on the relation between the number of shields (maximum five) and the level of risk taking. There were 104 students participating in the experiment. Participants were randomized to participate in two out of six possible sets of conditions:

  • Condition 1—Zero shields
  • Condition 2—One shield
  • Condition 3—Two shields
  • Condition 4—Three shields
  • Condition 5—Four shields
  • Condition 6—Unknown number of shields (actually four shields)

The data were analyzed, and univariate analyses of variances (ANOVAs) were used to analyze the different trends to evaluate four hypotheses.

Hypothesis 1. The average mean of speed is different for varying conditions: The higher the number of barriers to which participants are exposed, the greater the degree of risk they take in flying.

A univariate ANOVA was calculated to see if the average speed was different for the varying conditions. Condition 6 was excluded. A significant difference was found, with a significant upward linear trend. Hypothesis 1 was confirmed.

Hypothesis 2. The average mean of time spent per shield is different for varying conditions: The fewer shields participants are exposed to, the more time they spend per shield.

A univariate ANOVA was calculated to see if the average speed was different for the varying conditions. Condition 6 was excluded. A significant difference was found, with a significant downward linear trend representing the data best. In Condition 5, players spent less time per shield than in Condition 1. Hypothesis 2 was confirmed.

Hypothesis 3. In conditions of uncertainty, participants fly more slowly than in conditions where they know how many barriers they are exposed to.

A repeated-measures ANOVA with a Greenhouse-Geisser correction determined that the average speed of play throughout Condition 6 differed significantly statistically between shields. A significant upward linear trend represented the data best. Hypothesis 3 was confirmed.

Hypothesis 4. In conditions of uncertainty, participants spend more time per shield than in equivalent conditions where they know how many barriers they are exposed to.

A repeated-measures ANOVA with a Greenhouse-Geisser correction determined that the average time played per shield throughout Condition 6 did not differ significantly statistically between shields. Hypothesis 4 was not confirmed.

When participants entered the game with five shields, they played in a significantly riskier fashion than when they entered with only a single shield. This is a highly relevant finding, considering that costly risk-assessment techniques may be of little value if improvements in safety systems are outweighed by the risks introduced by changes in operator behavior. However, removing safety features might not be a very ethical move. One suggestion could be to hide protection mechanisms from the system operators until needed. This goes toward creating a feeling of uncertainty or ambiguity among workers concerning their safety, which could be accompanied by a communication strategy emphasizing this uncertainty. Putting a greater number of layers of protection in place was not rendered ineffective completely by increased risk taking. Although the limitations of this study should be recognized, organizations might reconsider the practice of giving information to their employees on the number of safety measures that are taken. Preserving ignorance among employees concerning the enhanced protection in place creates a stronger safety buffer because it reduces risk-taking behavior and improves employees’ efforts to make sure that the presumed last layer holds.

8 Aug 2016

Making an E&P/Fisheries Management Plan Work in Ghana With Multiple Stakeholders

Ghana’s fishers and coastal communities have raised concerns over the effects of offshore oil exploration and production relating to the giant Jubilee field. In 2014, the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency initiated an independent study of marine conditions as a key step forward, with the endorsement of the Ministry of Fisheries. The study included extensive participation from fishing groups, oil companies, government officials, nongovernmental organizations, and other interested parties, and produced a number of recommendations. This paper describes the process and results of the multistakeholder approach to solving marine-zone conflicts.

Following the discovery of the Jubilee field in 2007, the rapid development and launch of the offshore commercial oil production have attracted major oil and gas companies, with huge capital injection into the national ­economy as well as related sorely needed social investments and developments in communities of the Western Region and other sectors.

Offshore-resource development has raised expectations and has fueled speculation and confusion about the actual environmental effects of the oil and gas activities. A resulting backlash, including blame of oil and gas activities for myriad problems associated with fishing and the marine environment—such as declining fisheries and poor landings, frequent beaching of whales, algae nuisance, presence of tar balls, and contamination of fish—indicated a clear need for scientific study and research-based action to reveal the actual environmental situation and trends.

Independent Study
An independent study was commissioned in 2014 by Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency and Kosmos Energy Ghana to explore stakeholders’ environmental concerns and evaluate the extent to which marine environmental challenges could be linked to or mitigated by oil and gas industry action. The study focused on six major themes:

  • Fishery and fishing decline
  • Whale mortality
  • Algal blooms
  • Tar balls
  • General marine environmental conditions
  • General coastal socioeconomic conditions

After a review of nearly 200 studies, extensive stakeholder consultation, and independent analysis of existing research and data, the joint international/Ghanaian study team found that some of the concerns raised were not directly attributable to the offshore oil and gas activities, while others appeared to be. The study made 13 general recommendations for addressing these major issues and concerns, whether attributable to oil and gas activities or not. The recommendations were prioritized further to facilitate specific immediate actions and included

  • Management plans to mitigate the effect of an exclusion zone
  • Strengthened capacity for governance of fishing activities
  • Additional measures to minimize harm to whales
  • Marine-noise study and management practices
  • Algae source study and management plan
  • Tar-ball fingerprinting analysis and management plan
  • Continuous improvement in waste management
  • Continuous improvement in oil-spill prevention and response
  • Integrated, participatory, and transparent baseline data compilation
  • Additional measures to minimize effects on fishing activities

Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee and Action Plans
To ensure the effective implementation of adopted recommendations, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) established a Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MFAC) with the mandate of formulating sectorwide action plans.

The action plans that were developed are the result of focused efforts, research, and consultation by the members of the MFAC. Each of the action plans represents a brief and focused response to the priority recommendations raised by the independent study. The plans are intended to be strategic and high level, providing description of key activities and objectives. Appropriate institutions/organizations were identified to perform the next step of detailing the stated actions for implementation where feasible. Otherwise, contracting arrangements and options have been indicated for selecting contractors or consultants to elaborate on the actions for execution.

MFAC assumes responsibility for coordinating the implementation of the action plans, per its charter, under the ­auspices of an Inter-Ministerial Oversight Committee (IMOC) through MoFAD. MFAC’s overarching mission (under the direction of IMOC) includes supporting MoFAD and other ministries in

  • Ensuring strategic coexistence of oil and gas and fisheries sectors
  • Harmonious use of marine space and seabed
  • Promoting intersectoral management of marine resources
  • Coordinating information sharing and decisions on fishing and other industries that use marine resources

Membership of MFAC reflected the view that successful marine-sector management would require an inclusive strategy in order to ensure that a broad array of interests were represented.

The action plans are intended to inform a 2-year initial design, launch, and implementation period, which will be followed by review, realignment, and follow-on activities coordinated by MFAC.

The seven broad areas covered by the action plans are

  • Governance of the marine sector
  • Stakeholder awareness on oil-development and marine-resource issues
  • Marine environment research in support of resource protection
  • Marine spatial planning for integrated management
  • Marine- and coastal-data generation and use
  • Land-based sources of contaminants and degradation of coastal waters
  • Livelihood diversification in coastal fishing communities

The action plans include objectives and activities for each of the seven focus areas, as well as scope, timeline, implementation strategy, and potential lead and supporting organizations. A summary version of the integrated action plans follows.

Action Governance.
Primary Objectives.

  • To ensure coastal- and marine-policy coordination is placed at the highest ministerial level
  • To facilitate sector integrated management
  • To promote streamlined regulatory functions
  • To facilitate effective institutional working relationships and collaboration
  • To promote efficient access to sector data

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Formation of new, intergovernmental coordinating bodies
  • Establishment of a marine-database center

Stakeholder Awareness.
Primary Objectives.

  • To develop evidence-based information targeted at specific stakeholders
  • To disseminate the information
  • To facilitate prompt reporting of environmental challenges, such as beached whales or sighting of tar balls

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Carrying out awareness activities and dissemination through public forums, focus-group discussions, seminars, public announcements, video documentaries, radio or television programs, websites, and other means
  • Developing material and delivering training

Marine-Environment Research.
Primary Objectives.

  • To introduce conservation practices in support of improved fisheries and sustainable fishing efforts
  • To ensure continuous monitoring of cetaceans and investigation of causes of their mortality in Ghanaian waters
  • To intensify investigation on the beneficial uses of green algae

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Designation of potential marine parks, conservation areas, and spawning and feeding grounds
  • Fish stock assessment and study and introduction of closed seasons
  • Cetacean migratory monitoring and documentation
  • Tar-ball sampling, documentation, and reporting

Marine Spatial Planning.
Primary Objectives.

  • To determine and designate areas for streamlined multiple use
  • To promote integrated management of marine resources and space
  • To ensure peaceful coexistence between fishers and the industry
  • To publicize the national Marine Spatial Plans (MSPs)
  • To enact appropriate legislation to back the MSPs

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Review and study of existing designated areas
  • Specialized site studies
  • Development of a safe-sea-access strategy
  • Stakeholder review of prospective MSPs and sites

Marine and Coastal Data.
Primary Objectives.

  • To create a centralized coastal and marine database
  • To facilitate consistent time-series monitoring
  • To support the use of data generated (both baseline and monitoring) for national use
  • To conduct trend analysis to interpret events in the marine and coastal sector

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Baseline survey on fisheries value chain
  • Coastal socioeconomic survey
  • Marine-environment baseline data collection (e.g., water quality and chemical indicators, fish tissue analysis, and chemical constituents)

Land-Based Sources of Contaminants/Coastal Degradation.
Primary Objectives.

  • To establish extent of land-based pollution loading on coastal waters
  • To support preparation of district land-use schemes and local plans

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Sampling and monitoring of coastal waters for chemical pollution
  • Developing district land-use planning schemes focused on agricultural use and waste management
  • Waste management, including waste segregation and recycling awareness

Coastal Livelihood Diversification.
Primary Objectives.

  • To enhance access to education
  • To promote higher education for children, particularly in fishing communities
  • To promote complementary livelihood opportunities and skills development

Major Milestones and Activities.

  • Comprehensive scholarship scheme
  • Implementation of access-to-education projects
  • Development of livelihood-skills projects

It remains to be seen how successful Ghana’s multistakeholder approach to marine and fisheries management will be; the research and stakeholder-informed action plans have just been launched. But the effort has been noteworthy in its explicit recognition of the need for government leadership, industry support, and civil-society cooperation and collaboration in order to tackle a critical environmental and socio­economic challenge. Ghana’s marine environment and fisheries are of paramount importance to its coastal population, and a successful collaborative model could represent an approach that has global applicability.

7 Aug 2016

New Optical Gas-Imaging Technology for Quantifying Fugitive-Emission Rates

Optical gas-imaging (OGI) technology has been developed and can be used to detect leaks of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from process equipment. Using OGI to detect leaks is more effective than using the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Method 21 because OGI is visual, making detection faster, and can survey an area instead of one component at a time. Although OGI can be very effective in detecting leaks, it does not provide a quantitative measure of leak rate (LR), hindering its adoption as a true alternative to Method 21. This paper describes development of quantitative OGI (QOGI) technology.

Method and Preliminary Results
Approaches have been proposed to establish a quantitative relationship between the pixel intensity difference with and without a plume (ΔI) and the product of concentration in ppm and path length in meters (ppm·m) for a gas column represented by a pixel in the infrared (IR) image for a given temperature differential (ΔT) between ambient air and the background. This quantitative relationship has been confirmed with a study showing that there is a monotonically increasing relationship between ΔI and concentration for uniform black background that was temperature controlled. That study’s data also showed that ΔI increases as the temperature of the background increases for a specific gas concentration.

The working principle of the QOGI can be described as briefly follows:

  • IR images of a leak are analyzed for intensity on a pixel-by-pixel basis.
  • Each pixel represents a column of hydrocarbon vapor between the IR camera and the background.
  • Pixel contrast intensity (ΔI) is defined as the intensity difference at the pixel level between the background with and without the absorption because of hydrocarbon molecules.
  • ΔI is a function of the temperature difference between the background and the plume (ΔT).
  • At a given ΔT, the intensity is proportional to the number of hydrocarbon molecules in the vapor column.
  • The LR is reflected in both pixel intensity and the number of pixels that have a ΔI higher than a certain threshold. Inversely, the combination of intensity and that number determines LR.

On the basis of this methodology, a computer program has been developed that captures raw IR data from an IR camera and analyzes it for LR. The IR camera must be radiometrically calibrated to make it capable of measuring temperature at the pixel level. To analyze the IR images, the user must also enter an estimate of ambient temperature and distance from the component being tested into the IR camera. All other variables required for determining LR are preprogrammed. With the captured IR images and the two ­user-provided input parameters, the program will calculate the mass leak rate in pounds per hour (lbm/hr).

Accuracy of QOGI on the basis of 80 tests for propane.

Work to date has measured the component leak rate using QOGI technology on accurately controlled releases, with the focus on propane. Flow rate, or LR, was set using a calibrated mass-flow controller. The IR camera was positioned approximately 10 ft away from the release point. All of the tests performed to date (80 total) were conducted in an outdoor, open-air environment. The types of backgrounds tested included a uniform temperature-­controlled metal board, a building wall, and gravel. These tests were conducted in sunlight and in shade, in ambient temperatures from 37 to 95°F, in relative humidity from 50 to 90%, and in various moderate wind conditions. Because the true LRs were known in these tests, the accuracy of this method can be assessed by comparing the true LR and the LR measured by QOGI (Fig. 1). Eight LRs were tested, represented by eight pairs of bars in Fig. 1. The green bars represent the true LRs, with the number indicating the rate. The purple bars represent the average LR measured by the QOGI method. The red error bars represent ±1 standard deviation from the average. Within these 80 tests, the measured LRs were between -17 and 43% from the true values.

A limited number of tests have also been performed for methane and ethylene. Leak rates were determined for these materials using IR response factors (RFs) developed on the basis of the IR spectra of methane and ethylene relative to the spectra of propane. Measured LRs used RFs developed from these known spectra (vs. direct RF measurement) and indicate good agreement between the true and measured rates for the set of tests conducted.

The accuracy of the QOGI method as discussed previously pertains to a limited range of conditions, and more-­comprehensive tests are planned to characterize QOGI accuracy under a broad range of environmental conditions. The initial results are encouraging, especially when comparing measurement accuracy with inherent uncertainties in Method 21. The uncertainties associated with the current Method-21-based methodology come from three potential sources:

  • Measured screening values (SVs)
  • Compound and instrument-specific RFs
  • Correlation equations that are applied to the SVs to estimate emissions rate

The SV is a concentration measurement that uses a probe to examine a component to determine the maximum concentration for a small set of components that potentially could leak. Concentration is not proportional to the LR but is presumed to be for estimating LR by use of Method 21. Factors such as the geometry of the leaking component, the pressure inside the equipment, wind speed, and atmospheric turbulence will affect the concentration measurement (or SV reading). For a small leak area (i.e., from a single point), the concentration measured by use of Method 21 will be much higher than that for a more-­diffuse leak. This will produce significantly different SVs with Method 21, even if the leaks are controlled to the same rate.

Another source of error for Method 21 is the RF for each compound in the gas leak, which corrects detector differences for each compound in the emitted gas. The portable detector used for Method 21 surveys is calibrated with one compound, but actual material leaking may be a different compound or a mixture of compounds. To determine the true concentration of the leaked compound, an RF is applied to account for differences between calibration gas and the emitted gases. RF is a predetermined ratio between the reading of the calibration gas and the gas in question.

The EPA has compiled RFs for approximately 200 compounds. The RFs can vary by an order of magnitude for different compounds or from one instrument type to another. Per the EPA’s 1995 Protocol, if RF is less than 3, no adjustment is required. This means that the measured SV could have up to a 200% error if the SV is not applied per the protocol. In addition, if the RF does not reflect the actual mixture of compounds emitted, additional error in the estimate of LR is introduced.

Even if the SV is perfectly accurate, the potential for error exists when correlation equations are applied to the SV to estimate mass emission rate. The correlation equations were developed on the basis of field tests in which SVs were determined by Method 21 and actual mass emission rates were determined with another technique. The correlation between these paired data sets was not very strong, as indicated by low R2 values from 0.32 to 0.54. As a result, the ratio of LR predicted by these correlation equations to the measured LR ranges from approximately 0.2 to greater than 4. As such, errors in the LRs estimated with the EPA protocol for Method 21 could be in the range of -80 to 300% using ­Method 21 when all of the potential sources of error are propagated.

With Method 21, the concentrations are measured and emission rates are estimated. In comparison, QOGI directly measures mass LRs. In the tests reported in this paper, the errors in the QOGI results are substantially smaller than those that would be expected from application of Method 21.

It has been demonstrated, with initial but compelling data, that QOGI is technically feasible. QOGI directly measures emission rates. This is fundamentally different from Method 21, which estimates emission rates using concentration measurements, SVs, RFs, and correlation equations. With a QOGI commercial product, operators have to enter only ambient temperature and the distance from the leak site into the IR camera. The QOGI product can then capture the IR images for approximately 30 seconds and provide the operator with a measurement of the mass emission rate. Consequently, it is expected that QOGI will be able to reduce significantly the time to complete a survey while providing more-accurate measurement of emission rates.

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper IPTC 18471, “New Optical Gas-Imaging Technology for Quantifying Fugitive-Emission Rates,” by Hazem Abdel-Moati, ExxonMobil Research Qatar; Jonathan Morris and Yousheng Zeng, Providence Photonics; Petroula Kangas, ExxonMobil Chemical Europe; and Duane McGregor, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, prepared for the 2015 International Petroleum Technology Conference, Doha, Qatar, 7–9 December. The paper has not been peer reviewed. Copyright 2015 International Petroleum Technology Conference. Reproduced by permission.