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27 Jul 2016

Post-Deepwater-Horizon Research Consortium Announces First Project Awards

The Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence has announced more than USD 2 million in research projects to address priority problems affecting the health and well-being of the Gulf of Mexico and those who depend on it. Texas OneGulf is led by the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

The Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence has announced more than USD 2 million in research projects to address priority problems affecting the health and well-being of the Gulf of Mexico. Photo credit: Getty Images.

These projects, funded by the Office of the Governor, represent the first major allocation of research dollars from the Texas OneGulf consortium, which was created after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to direct funding in support of programs, projects, and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast region. The projects tackle a variety of issues that directly affect the Gulf of Mexico and its residents, including studying the effect of red tide blooms on human health and the health care infrastructure and using underwater gliders to search the coast for hypoxic dead zones.

“We are very appreciative of the governor’s support of Texas OneGulf as it has allowed us to fund these diverse and innovative projects,” said Larry McKinney, director at HRI. “What happens in the Gulf of Mexico affects the health and economic wellbeing of Texas citizens on a daily basis.”

A consortium of nine Texas institutions, Texas OneGulf is a unique multidisciplinary team of marine science, socioeconomic, and human health researchers united to promote collaborative research and problem-solving actions.

The projects, helmed by a variety of institutions across Texas, are

Gulf of Mexico Report Card Prototype for Texas
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, USD 550,000
Collaborating institutions: Harwell Gentile and Associates and the University of Delaware
This project will develop a prototype Gulf of Mexico report card by evaluating the overall ecosystem health of the Texas Gulf Coast. Workshops of scientists, stakeholders, and Texas environmental managers will convene to identify the pressures and stressors that impinge on coastal Texas ecosystems and define long-term sustainability goals.

Restoring and Enhancing Structurally Complex Nursery Habitat To Enhance Reef Fish Populations
Texas A&M University at Galveston, USD 223,752
Collaborating institutions: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
This project will develop a structurally complex nursery habitat using both natural and man-made materials to improve the early life survival and recruitment success of reef-dependent fish and gather baseline biological information on the fishery benefits of creating and enhancing these habitats in the northwest Gulf of Mexico.

Isotope Geochemistry of Texas Coastal Waters
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, USD 220,365
Collaborating institution: Texas A&M University
Texas has 400 miles of coastline, and growing evidence shows extensive areas of hypoxia (critically low oxygen) as well as a buildup of nutrients within this complex coastal ocean of bays, estuaries, and barrier islands. This project uses an underwater glider to conduct sampling, providing an early and late summer overview of coastal Texas water column carbon and nitrogen source variations, and examine how they contribute to water column hypoxia. This project will complement sampling scheduled for summer 2016 under a separate grant.

Developing a Predictive Ecosystem Model for the Lower Laguna Madre
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, USD 213,956
Collaborating institution: Texas State University
This project will develop an ecological modeling system for sustainable management of the Lower Laguna Madre, a data-poor yet ecologically important region of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Marine Microbiome as a Sentinel for Ecological Health and Resiliency
The University of Texas Medical Branch, USD 186,224
Collaborating institution: Texas A&M University at Galveston
This project will establish a baseline of diversity and species composition in microbial communities, microscopic populations of bacteria, fungi, algae, and other microorganisms, in near-shore Gulf of Mexico environments, and monitor changes associated with oil pollutants.

Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence Pilot Project Program
Texas A&M University Health Science Center, USD 150,000
Collaborating institution: The University of Texas Medical Branch
The Texas OneGulf Disaster Research Response Program will create, for the first time, an infrastructure to support disaster research response encompassing environmental, human health, and economic assessment capabilities. The project will provide seed money for pilot projects that can be deployed rapidly to assess the effect of disasters along the Texas Gulf Coast in real time.

Socioeconomic Indicators for Coastal Community Disaster Response and Resilience
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, USD 125,060
This project will identify socioeconomic indicators that can be used in disaster response assessments by bringing together leading expertise in this area to populate a searchable database of indicators for community and human well-being, working with the Gulf of Mexico National Estuarine Research Reserves to apply these in a local context, and publishing online and in print a guide to socioeconomic indicators for disaster response and community resilience.

Red Tide Data Integration Project
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, USD 103,650
When harmful algal blooms such as red tide algae grow and disintegrate along the Texas coast, their neurotoxins may become an aerosol, causing adverse effects that can significantly increase emergency room traffic and visits to doctors. The Texas Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) Data Integration Project will team up Texas researchers with expertise in HABs and medical researchers familiar with data about the effects of HABs on humans to work together to better prepare first responders, emergency rooms, and the medical system in responding to red tide events, minimizing human health risks.

Texas OneGulf Network of Experts Communications
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, USD 81,390
Collaborating institution: Amazee Labs
This grant will develop and implement a communication strategy that includes the existing Gulf of Mexico web portal GulfBase.org to enhance the ability of the Texas OneGulf Network of Experts (TONE) to inform all Texas stakeholders about its capabilities and expertise. TONE is a network of more than 150 Texas experts in human health, science, marine policy, and related fields convened to work to tackle Gulf problems. The goal of this tool is to facilitate communications among researchers, policy makers, and the general public.

Impact of Environmental Criminal Enforcement on Disaster Response
University of Houston Law Center, USD 80,251
Collaborating institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
This study will aid future responses to environmental incidents and releases in the Texas Gulf region by shedding light on the true risks of environmental enforcement after disasters and offer suggestions on how best to promote effective and speedy disclosure and cleanup in light of those risks. This research will assemble a database of all major industrial disasters in the United States since 2000, focusing on incidents that have occurred in the Texas Gulf region.

Species Identification Training for Effective Monitoring and Management of HABs
Texas A&M University at Galveston, USD 60,000
Collaborating institutions: Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System
Effective monitoring and management of HABs, over growths of algae that can affect ecosystems and human and animal health, relies on accurate and timely identification of the species involved. However, many trained in this specialty are either retired or retiring. This program will provide critical comprehensive training in identification and taxonomy for scientists, technicians, and managers.

21 Jul 2016

Insider Threats Discussed at Cybersecurity Panel

Despite the significant and growing threat of cyberattacks oil and gas producers face, there is a persistent lack of awareness and understanding of the vulnerabilities present in the industrial control systems used for energy production and distribution operations. A panel of experts discussed the potential cybersecurity risks companies face from malicious actors, as well as risk mitigation strategies and emerging security standards in a session, “Cyber Security Assurance: Data and Critical Infrastructure Protection,” held at the 2016 Offshore Technology Conference.

Andrew Howard, director of the Cyber Technology and Information Security Laboratory at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, said cybersecurity risk is a pressing concern for all sectors of the industry, and that companies should not place the burden of handling cyberthreats solely on their information technology (IT) departments.

“It’s no longer just an IT problem,” Howard said. “It’s a multidisciplinary problem that covers just about every field. When we talk cybersecurity to complex organizations, it’s no longer about the IT channel. It’s also the upstream, the downstream, and the finances. It’s in human resources. It spreads over the entire organization, and it’s everyone’s problem.”

A common misconception companies have with regards to cybersecurity is that the “air gap,” or the physical isolation of a secure computer network from unsecured networks, is an effective strategy. Howard said a dedicated security protocol focused on physical systems must include basic cyberhygiene and asset inventory capabilities, even if it is not connected to unsecured networks.

Dawn Cappelli, vice president of information risk management at Rockwell Automation, said the biggest security threats companies face are from insiders, typically disgruntled former employees with technical knowledge and a personal predisposition to cause harm.

“People will cross that ethical line and steal your information because they rationalize in their mind why it’s OK: ‘I created that, that’s mine.’ Most people will not cross that ethical line, but the people who do tend not to get along well with other people. You have to walk on eggshells around them. They don’t take criticism well,” Cappelli said.

21 Jul 2016

Early Implementation Key To Combating Cybersecurity Threats

By Stephen Whitfield, Oil and Gas Facilities Staff Writer

The business networks and technological systems that make up data-driven oil fields are susceptible to outside attacks and potential failures. As cyberattackers find ways to exploit the vulnerabilities in present security systems, the industry continues to develop more robust cybersecurity controls to protect its assets. It is important to implement these controls early in the project life cycle, an expert said.

During a Society of Petroleum Engineers webinar, “Protecting the Digital Oil Field From Emerging Cyber Threats,” Ayman al-Issa outlined various controls companies may put into the designs of their digital infrastructures. Al-Issa is the chief technologist of industrial cybersecurity at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Al-Issa said the nature of the cybersecurity threat has expanded beyond the spread of viruses and stealing data. Hackers now possess the capability to, among other things, increase pressure in a pipeline, change the parameter settings of field devices, close and open motorized valves, and cause a denial of service attack within an incident command system. An effective process control security system could be critical to preventing a disaster.

Companies help open the doors for potential attacks by incorrectly assuming a low security risk. Al-Issa said that, among other things, some companies presume they are not likely targets or that their business is not interesting enough to attract attention from hackers. They believe that having a proprietary production system, or isolating that system from other systems, provides an extra layer of security. However, as some sectors in the industry develop a more technologically integrated ecosystem, al-Issa said the risk of attacks will continue to increase.

“We need to realize that these attacks are not science fiction. They are realistic. Companies have started to realize the concern with critical infrastructures. We do have to take things more seriously, and we have to find ways to secure those critical infrastructures,” he said.

Read the full story here.

View the webinar here.


15 Jul 2016

Hazardous Industries: Expanding the Culture of Safety




When banks began to investigate the potential offered by the Internet some 20 years ago, forward-looking experts saw how products and services could be tailored to individual customer wishes. By analyzing online behavior, they could provide advice and suggestions perfectly in line with individual clients’ needs. However, a significant number of people from the banking industry were certain this would never happen. People would be far too concerned about sharing personal information or conducting transactions online.

This assumption was soon proven wrong. What’s more, the vast uptake of social media has shown that most people don’t think twice about sharing their—often very personal—data. There is an ongoing debate about security and reliability and the measures being taken to guarantee them. The public, the press, government bodies, Internet providers, financial institutions, and security experts are engaged in a lively debate. Threats are publicized, and measures taken are communicated and evaluated.

More than Measures
How does this approach compare to industries that deal with hazardous substances? Here, stakeholders including managers, employees, the press, the government, shareholders, and the general population have a real need for current, reliable information on safety and the measures taken to enforce it. The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens. Companies have an obligation to protect their employees. Insurance firms and shareholders and the general public also have a keen interest in closely guarded safety measures. Consequently, you might think there would be as much debate on the topic of industrial safety as there is around online privacy, identity theft, cybercrime, or hacking. Instead, the consensus seems to be that safety is not an issue, as long as there are sufficient protective measures in place. Most people seem to assume all is well when it comes to the safety of potentially hazardous industrial installations. But exactly which measures are in place? Just how secure are they, really? How are they deployed and updated? Which technological tools and controls are used to check their effectiveness? How are the people using them trained?

Check and Double Check
Consider this: A fire at a chlorine plant can affect the safety of an entire large city. Imagine a few dozen chemical companies and utilities placed close together, as is the case at countless industrial location worldwide. At each of these, thousands of safety-related actions are carried out every day.

Of course, in hazardous industries, safety is paramount. Procedures are in place, rules are scrupulously observed, ongoing education and dialogue are stimulated, reporting is transparent, and every company actively strives toward a culture of safety. Best practices are shared, and trade associations, executives, and employees are aware of risks and correct procedures. However, there is often a real risk that information is not accurate and outdated documentation doesn’t reflect the current situation. What’s more, decisions that need to be made can be incredibly complex. One might have to weigh processes dependencies, current status of work, the consequences of delaying work, and much more.

The only way to be absolutely certain nothing goes wrong is to carefully check and double check each individual action. That is why processes are continuously monitored, with alarms and sensors at every step.  However, it is vital that we realize that, although information technology is closely monitored, the human intervention required to carry out maintenance is not. In a tightly regulated area such as industrial safety, even the slightest error can have far-reaching consequences. During shift handovers, somebody, at some point, is guaranteed to forget to pass on important information. All too often, hazardous industries rely on informal processes and manual reporting.

In practice, a plant manager or operations manager, who is responsible for security processes, has to balance many different tasks and responsibilities around the clock. If you have to handle hundreds of work permits a day, you cannot cross-check each of them manually. Those responsible for safety have limited options in the area of software and tools that help them carry out their jobs properly. Of course, companies have huge volumes of processes documentation and guidelines. But this actually has an adverse effect. Because everything is written down, a false sense of security is created.

Root Causes
However strict the measures taken and the awareness of all those involved, industrial activities can never be completely free of risks. There is a huge difference between simply laying down guidelines and actively pursuing a culture of safety. The latter includes checking whether rules are followed and taking immediate action when this is not the case.

Risks need to be analyzed and mapped in the greatest possible detail and appropriate mitigation measures must be taken. However, safety management, monitoring, and control should not be added as an afterthought. These elements are just as important as the measures themselves. Without the right tools and controls in place, precautions have very little practical value. Embedded software, for example, can make the difference between simply listing guidelines or actual constant monitoring and improvement.

Companies should dedicate substantial time and resources to constant evaluation and updating of safety processes as well as finding root causes and acting upon them immediately. Technology, such as permit-to-eork and control-of-work software, is pivotal in supporting decision making by providing reliable access to the right information at the right time.

In addition, there must be an ongoing dialogue between all stakeholders. Not only should companies, investors and safety experts be open and transparent, the press, national and local governments, special interest groups, and the general public should voice their concerns and expect these to be addressed. As one hazardous industry employee put it: “Every day is another narrow escape.” In 10 years, I believe we will look back and wonder how this easy-going attitude to safety regulation was possible. Not unlike how the financial industry might look back at the initial concerns regarding online security.

eVision Industry Software is the global leader in control-of-work software. It helps high-risk industries improve control over their operational processes by delivering fully auditable, real-time corporate risk management as well as increased operational efficiency. eVision has clients on every continent and is headquartered in The Hague, The Netherlands, with offices in the Middle East and Australia and a global partner network.

12 Jul 2016

New Guidelines Published for Transferring Personnel Offshore


A new guidance document published by the Marine Transfer Forum, “Offshore Personnel Transfer by Crane—Best Practice Guidelines for Routine and Emergency Operations,” aims to support an international market that performs more than 5 million passenger transfers every year.

Personnel are transferred to an offshore rig using a crane. Photo credit: iStock.com/AndrCGS.

Personnel are transferred to an offshore rig using a crane. Photo credit: iStock.com/AndrCGS.

Developed by EnerMech, DNV GL, Reflex Marine, and Seacor Marine, the guidelines benefit from a range of expertise reflecting the key roles in ensuring safe and efficient marine transfer operations.

The development of the guidelines involved a period of detailed industry consultation. The International Marine Contractors Association, the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), and Damen Shipyards also made key contributions, ensuring the guidelines reflect best practices and are relevant to the growing marine renewable energy sector as well as traditional offshore sectors.

Simon Hatson, chairperson of IOSH’s Offshore Group, said, “We welcome the publication of these new guidelines. The offshore industry is one in which workers face many inherent risks, but all workers, irrespective of their industry, should be covered by a culture of care. These guidelines will assist operators in continuing to protect the safety and health of employees who face risk on a daily basis. IOSH is delighted to have been able to have an input in their development.”

“Market conditions, new technologies, evolving logistics demands in offshore wind, and increasing industry trends toward marine- vs. helicopter-based logistics all bring the case for marine transportation methods into sharper focus,” said Robin Proctor, client support manager with Reflex Marine and the company’s main contact for the Marine Transfer Forum. “This guidance will help operators review the options and implement the most appropriate solutions.”

View the guidelines here (PDF).


Read more about the Marine Transfer Forum here.

7 Jul 2016

Symposium Focuses on a Sustainable Circular Economy

A symposium set for 18–19 February 2017 in Denver is reimagining the global economy in a circular, sustainable way. The Engineering Solutions for Sustainability: Materials and Resources Symposium carries the theme “Towards a Circular Economy.”

In a circular economy—an alternative to the traditional linear economy of “make, use, dispose”—resources are used for as long as possible with the goal of extracting maximum value from them while in use. And, at the end of service life, they are recovered, reused, recycled, or stockpiled until economically viable recycling technologies are available. The importance of recycling resource efficiency and intersecting life cycles will be examined for materials and manufacturing sustainability within areas of societal need.

The symposium is designed to focus on approaches for providing the resources and materials needed to meet basic societal needs in critical areas of minerals and metals, energy, water, transportation, and housing through a circular economy.

Abstract submissions are being accepted for the symposium until 31 August. Submissions are invited on pertinent topics with a focus on the circular economy, including the following:

  • Basics of a circular economy and an integrated materials and energy flow
    • Raw material and energy inputs
    • Efficient raw materials and energy production and delivery
    • Materials and energy efficient design
  • Feasible engineering solutions to address challenges and improve effectiveness
    • “Low-waste” production, remanufacturing, management, and resource recovery
    • Enhanced distribution systems for input materials and energy, manufactured goods, and materials recovery and reuse
    • Addressing challenges of use, consumption, reuse, repair, and waste
    • Improved waste collection and recycling systems
    • Performance metrics
  • Interdependence of sectors and vision for sustainable development
    • Cross-sectoral flows and linkages
    • Water/land/energy nexus and bridging philosophical gaps
    • Effective public policy measures
    • Education and research
    • Integration of sustainability in an organization’s business plan
  • Case studies from energy and mineral fuels, industrial minerals, stone and aggregates, chemicals, metals, food, bio-based materials, and other industries

Read more about the symposium here.

Submit an abstract here.

7 Jul 2016

President’s Column: Minimizing Impact


Last December, I had the pleasure of returning to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and touring the giant Manifa oil field. Manifa produces a heavy, sour crude oil from six, long (up to 40 km), stacked reservoirs in shallow water. The shallow waters have abundant sea grasses and corals and are teeming with marine life. Shrimping and fishing are important parts of the local economy. The development of the Manifa field is a fascinating story showing how creative solutions can minimize impact on the environment.

Manifa was discovered by Saudi Aramco in 1957. The discovery well targeted both the shallower formations productive in the large Safaniya coastal field and the deeper Arab formations so productive onshore. Neither zone was productive; however, the discovery found excellent productive layers in between, including three that were only produced in small volumes onshore and three that had never before proved productive. The heavy, sour crude was similar to Khursaniyah, one of the three major types of crude present in large quantities in the kingdom. Demand was less for this crude than for Safaniya and Arab crudes, but the market for heavy sour crudes was improving. The first development was in 1962, and the field was brought on-stream in 1964. The field produced for 20 years before being mothballed in 1985 because of low demand.

Manifa’s history can be contrasted with that of Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. While specific reserve estimates for Manifa are not public information, both fields are very large. The Prudhoe Bay field was discovered in 1968 and did not begin production until 1977. Prudhoe production peaked at approximately 1.5 million BOPD in 1989. Prudhoe Bay crude averages 27.6 °API and had a significant domestic market to serve. Manifa crude is 26–31 °API and has from 2.8 to 3.7% sulfur content, with less of a market at the time. It is fairly astonishing that roughly comparable fields would go down such radically different paths.

Manifa would remain mothballed until 2006. Saudi Aramco redeveloped the field consistent with a very long life production time horizon for its large reservoirs. But the old way of approaching shallow offshore fields would not be acceptable.

The design and operations practices of the Manifa oil field enable high production with minimal environmental impact.

The use of jackup rigs in these shallow waters would have required excessive dredging, and the size of the reservoir eliminated the possibility of effective development from the shore. A new approach to development would be needed. A creative plan to develop man-made islands connected by a causeway would allow conventional onshore rigs to be used to develop this offshore field.

A long causeway was considered, but early designs would have decreased water circulation vital to distributing nutrients and oxygen vital to marine life. With more than 4 million man-hours of work in the design phase, a solution was developed to build 27 man-made islands connected by 41 km of causeways. To ensure needed water circulation, the causeway does not go all the way across the bay and 14 bridges were built into the causeway to further improve circulation. Production commenced in 2012 ahead of schedule and under budget in a development that earned a UNESCO Environmental Responsibility Award nomination.

It is an impressive development, of which Saudi ­Aramco is rightly proud, with eventual production capacity of 900,000 BOPD or more. As our helicopter approached the massive processing facility, I looked at the three large flare stacks. There was nothing being flared. Was the field shut-in? No, the design and normal operations of the field use all of the produced gas, and creative operations practices mean that almost no gas is flared. Excess electricity produced by the facilities goes into the power grid.

Walking to the edge of the offshore islands, I looked into the crystal blue-green waters. They were much clearer than the waters at the Pacific island resort I had come from a few days earlier. I was struck at how small the impact of a 900,000‑BOPD facility could be.

This production volume is comparable to the individual Eagle Ford, Bakken, and Permian Basin unconventionals. Not a fair comparison to be sure, but the contrast was striking. As I have flown over the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the vastness of the surface impact of more than 16,000 wells is notable. Major unconventional plays cover huge areas, and most wells to date have not been drilled from multiple-well pads.

Individual well productivities and reserves for unconventionals are far lower than in the Middle East, or even Alaska, requiring orders of magnitude more wells to develop comparable reserves or production. In 2014, the combined production of the Bakken/Three Forks (North Dakota) and Eagle Ford (south Texas) plays was more than 2.4 million BOPD, with proved reserves of just under 11 billion bbl of oil. These reserve estimates are likely to grow, perhaps one day equaling or exceeding Prudhoe or Manifa. Subsequent drilling will need to minimize impact through techniques such as these:

  • Making better use of pad drilling to decrease surface impact
  • Minimizing traffic
  • Optimizing the use of flowback and produced water for subsequent hydraulic fracturing operations
  • Eliminating fugitive methane emissions and flaring

Close cooperation with regulators is one step forward. As regulators use both “carrot” and “stick” approaches to reducing impact and maximizing economic and technical recoveries, operators should be able to see clear priorities for subsequent developments. With current prices, activity levels and capital investments have dropped dramatically. This decrease in activity provides us a chance to carefully analyze our own performance and identify ways of improving performance when prices recover to acceptable levels.

A significant number of unconventional wells drilled have not proved commercially viable. How can we find ways either to improve their performance—through better geosteering, alternative completion approaches, or otherwise—or to eliminate their drilling? The well that is not drilled has the least environmental and economic impact of all. Some production logs have indicated that a significant number of hydraulic fracture stages contribute very little to wellbore inflow. These logs may be misleading, or perhaps those apparently non­producing stages helped to increase the production at subsequent stages. But guessing is not good enough. Existing integrated natural fracture, hydraulic fracture, geomechanical, geological, and reservoir flow models continue to have incomplete physics. Now is the time to solve these problems and find ways to produce the massive unconventional fields in North America more safely and economically, with minimal environmental impact, and to make unconventional fields around the world more viable.


5 Jul 2016

New DNV GL Hazard Awareness Training Center Spearheads Joint Industry Project

Testing at the DNV GL Spadeadam Testing and Research center. Photo courtesy of DNV GL.

More than GBP 3 million has been invested in the Spadeadam Testing and Research center to enhance its offering to perform rarely available trials in a controlled and secure real-life environment. The site features some of the world’s most advanced destructive and nondestructive test facilities. The new training and conference facility will enhance experiential learning for the oil and gas, chemical, utilities, and security industries.


Elisabeth Tørstad, chief executive officer for DNV GL Oil and Gas, said, “While the industry is understandably preoccupied with generating shorter-term value, we must be vigilant in ensuring safety remains as a top priority. Our challenge is to continue giving the message to clients that cutting costs without understanding the bigger risk picture can end up being ineffective and ultimately very costly to the business.

“The primary role of the Spadeadam Testing and Research center,” Tørstad said, “is to provide our clients with the knowledge and understanding to ensure risks are reduced and operations are safer. It is the availability of this infrastructure that allows Spadeadam to respond so effectively across a number of sectors.”

The Rt Hon The Lord Cullen of Whitekirk KT, who opened the center on 29 July, said, “I welcome the creation of this conference center for the support of training. Hazard awareness is essential for the successful management of safety in the interface between people, plant, and equipment with which they have to work.”


Spadeadam will run full-scale experiments, using available test rigs, for a new DNV GL-led joint industry project, CostFX, to investigate cost-efficient explosion load descriptions for process areas. The project, which is still open to new participants, is driven by a need to improve and align knowledge between the health, safety, and environment and structural disciplines on explosion load criteria. The aim is to reduce complexity and overdesign in current models and methodologies for explosion protection while balancing demand for valid, accountable safety margins. The results will be used to generate standards and guidelines to allow structural engineers to predefine design explosion loads for standard installations, mitigating the need for costly, specialist analyses. For nonstandard installations, a direct link from complex explosion load assessments to structure response and design analyses will be provided. Overall saving in project execution, duration, and steel thickness is foreseen, while areas where increased safety is needed will be identified, providing both increased safety and reduced cost.

Work carried out at the site, which is the largest facility of its kind in the UK, consists of confidential, large-scale, major hazard tests, including flammable gas dispersion, fires, explosions, pipeline fracture tests, and blast and product testing in a safe and secure environment.

Hari Vamadevan, DNV GL Oil and Gas regional manager for UK and West Africa, said, “The demonstrations today, showcasing an explosion simulation and a pipeline failure, have been a real testament to the capability of the center at Spadeadam. The ability to show first-hand the reality of these types of scenarios shows just what can happen when things go wrong. Our highly specialized hazards awareness courses demonstrate how this can be prevented and that the experience and variety of work being carried out is unrivalled.

“Although the oil and gas and other industries are facing challenging times,” Vamadevan said, “safety is one area which cannot be compromised, and it is important that we provide an environment where research and training can be conducted safely, securely and confidentially.”

22 Jun 2016

World Energy Council Report Points to Innovation as Key To Drive Sustainability

The energy sector is at a transition point and faces a number of growing challenges. Innovative policies and technologies are the key to addressing these challenges, according to a new report by the World Energy Council.

The report was presented to ministers and government representatives as they met at the seventh Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM7) in San Francisco on 1 June.

The World Energy Trilemma 2016, “Defining Measures To Accelerate the Energy Transition,” published by the World Energy Council in partnership with global consultancy Oliver Wyman, has identified five focus areas to drive progress on the energy trilemma of sustainability, security, and energy access and meet the goals of 2020 and beyond. The report will provide the foundation for many discussions at the 2016 World Energy Congress in Istanbul in October 2016.

Joan McNaughton, chairperson of the World Energy Trilemma study group, said, “The Paris agreement has raised the bar on what countries must do to have a sustainable energy policy—one which delivers not just on energy security, access, and affordability but is also capable of delivering the Paris commitments. Having a high GDP (gross domestic product) or great natural resources can help, but good policy with a clear sense of strategic direction, implemented well, is what really drives good trilemma performance.

“More substantive dialogue with business leaders and the investment community will help policymakers to produce policies which are robust in a world of fast-changing dynamics of energy supply and demand and an accelerating pace of technological and business change. The sooner countries start on the transition, the cheaper it will be.”

The report highlights five key findings emerging from innovative policies, interviews with policymakers and private sector energy leaders, and an analysis of 5 years of the energy trilemma index:

  • Transforming Energy Supply. Policymakers and decision makers must set clear energy targets and provide clarity to the market.
  • Advancing Energy Access. Countries are reforming regulatory frameworks to decrease the cost of doing business and increase private investments in modern infrastructure expansion.
  • Addressing Affordability. While subsidies can be vital for low-income consumers in the short-term, long-term subsidies can erode the profitability of utilities.
  • Energy Efficiency. Cost savings alone are insufficient to stimulate the adoption of energy efficiency standards. Performance ratings, incentives, and labeling programs also encourage consumer energy efficiency.
  • Decarbonization. Dynamic and flexible renewable energy investment policies are the key to responding to evolving market dynamics and technological developments.

Speaking ahead of the CEM7 meeting, Christoph Frei, secretary general of the World Energy Council, said, “Solely expanding infrastructure is not enough. Countries must look to a range of innovative mechanisms that enable access for people to utilize the benefits of modern energy for income-generating activities. Pay-as-you-go business models and mobile banking solutions to promote the take-up of renewable powered energy services are examples of such mechanisms.

“Investment and policies intended to change demand and supply at national level will either take time to deliver visible progress or likely will be disruptive. Countries must act now to progress on the trilemma with secure, equitable, and environmentally sustainable energy to support a thriving energy sector, a competitive economy, and a healthy society. In San Francisco, a great focus will be on innovation to achieve these objectives. We will take into account any outcomes and lessons learned at our World Energy Congress later in the year.”

Many of the sessions at the 2016 World Energy Congress in October will revolve around how business and government can innovate in order to balance the trilemma. For example, two sessions—Innovative Business Models: The New Frontier and Enabling the Energy Transition: Benchmarking 150 countries—will look at how innovations in energy technology such as e-storage or changes in business priorities can help balance the trilemma and deliver a shift to a low-carbon economy. The focus of Day 3 will be on policy, with approximately 100 ministers and up to 10,000 delegates discussing policy action to drive the energy transition.

Francois Austin, global head of energy practice at Oliver Wyman, said, “Many emerging and developing economies continue to struggle to expand their energy infrastructure to support advanced energy security, reliability, and access. To increase private sector investments in infrastructure expansion and modernization, countries should, and are, beginning to reform regulatory frameworks to decrease the cost of doing business and increase competitiveness in the electricity market.

“To ensure policy and regulation keeps up to date with changing business models and evolving consumer, industry, and government expectations, policymakers should stimulate broader industry engagement, including the energy sector, new entrants to the energy industry, and with businesses that are transforming their energy consumption profile.”

Read the full report here.

9 Jun 2016

HSE Now Reader Survey

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In 2012, the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) recognized the need to better serve its members within the health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility (HSSE-SR) discipline. SPE created HSE Now as a way to meet that need and disseminate technical information within the HSSE-SR discipline. In 2013, HSE Now launched with both original content and content curated from sites throughout the Internet.

Since that time, HSE Now has continued to grow. It is our goal to continue that growth and to continue to provide quality, relevant content for HSE professionals. This survey is your chance to help us guide this resource to best serve you.

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24 May 2016

Call for Papers Opens for SPE’s North America HSE Conference


The 2017 SPE Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference—North America will be 18–20 April in New Orleans.

Since 1993, this conference has brought together HSE professionals for knowledge sharing, learning, and networking. Experts from industry, government, and academia attend to share insights and best practices. The event will include presentations and discussions to help attendees address the health, safety, security, and environmental challenges facing the exploration and production industry.

Paper proposals are being accepted until 31 May. Papers are being accepted in more than 75 categories.

Read more about the conference here.

Submit an abstract for consideration here.

5 May 2016

Lloyd’s Register Sees Improvements in Offshore HSE

Six years after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig incident, has safety and environmental protection of offshore oil and gas drilling in US waters improved? Lloyd’s Register believes improvements have been made. Expertise in health, safety, and environment (HSE) best practice and regulations is adding value to American drillers and operators in their efforts to mitigate and manage their HSE risks.

“I know I sound like a broken record,” said Brady Austin, Lloyd’s Register’s quality, health, safety, and environment (QHSE) group service owner based in Houston. “But operators and/or lessees are required to assess their operations and put into effect a management system to maintain and keep those offshore operations safe. Every operator in US waters has to have a detailed plan to assess those offshore operations, and the SEMS (Safety and Environmental Management Systems) plan goes into great detail.”

Last month marked the sixth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig accident and the onset of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Postspill reforms continue 6 years later, with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issuing well-control rules and new regulations on blowout preventers (BOPs). Meanwhile, a lot of work is moving forward with American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Center for Offshore Safety (COS) on SEMS. The word on the ground highlights that both industry and regulators are proceeding much more harmoniously.

“The SEMS is very much collaborative,” Austin said. Work on SEMS was one of the earliest initiatives to move forward postspill after the former Minerals Management Service was reorganized into three independent agencies: BSEE, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

Largely based on recommendations by the API, SEMS aims to steer the industry toward tight and highly regimented workplace safety management practices while trying to keep the initiative with the industry itself, rather than see industry forced to simply respond to the government’s commands.

As an example, offshore operators must submit to third-party audits of their SEMS program. Where auditors find opportunities for improvement, companies must inform BSEE what their corrective action plan is to reduce systemic issues within the effectiveness of their SEMS plan. SEMS audits and the COS aim to identify industry opportunities for improvement and elevate these possible recommended practices through API committees, formalizing what API and others deem as suitable safety standards, with BSEE playing an advisory role.

Lloyd’s Register, which has recently expanded its offshore equipment training capacity in Houston, has been conducting SEMS training and has been working closely with BSEE and the COS to conduct SEMS audits. Austin agreed that the oil and gas industry and BSEE are on the same page with the direction of SEMS. The company’s HSE and operational experts’ specific understanding of best practice and regulations enable teams across the world to add value to support operators in their efforts to mitigate and manage their risks. Considering the current market, audits are a proactive way to reduce risk when properly implemented.

“When you’re dealing with technical issues, you can get technical,” he explained. “But, when you’re dealing with a management system, you are assessing how a company deals with technical implementation, because every company does things differently, and, even though they all work toward the same guidelines and understand what must be done, they’re not told how to do it.”

“SEMS rule and the implementation of the SEMS audits and industry participation in it is definitely improving things,” Austin said.

While documentation is important to the audit, it should focus on other evidence such as records, interviews, and observations. “Opportunities for improvement will be identified during an audit, the real management commitment comes in at the corrective/preventive action implementation,” Austin said.

“The regulator has stated many times at various conferences that they are focusing on what a company does to improve, not so much the identified opportunities for improvement,” he said. “Those are good things.”

The information gained from COS member-company SEMS audits is anonymously shared within the oil and gas industry to improve safety and environmental practices continually and reduce potential incidents in US waters. Non-COS member companies can elect to have this information shared as well.

Read more about Lloyd’s Register here.

Read more about Lloyd’s Register courses and training here.