Column: Is the Oil and Gas Industry Serious About Asset Integrity? Source: Oil and Gas iQ | 8 November 2013
In the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, is BP and the rest of the industry genuine about wanting change? I firmly believe that the answer is yes, but another more important question remains unanswered. Are they likely to be successful in making that change? I am afraid that the answer to that question is no, not because of a deliberate disregard for integrity but because of a cultural inability to fully embrace what needs to be done.
The search for asset integrity is not new and is not unique to BP. Great progress was made in the decade after Piper Alpha, but in the late 1990s the focus shifted, even at operational level, from assuring integrity to assuring analysts that there was nothing that could remotely threaten growth and share price. Most worrying was that operators began to believe their own spin and manage assets on the assumption that everything in the garden really was rosy. Oil and gas production is a risky business and operations people know that the game is about assessing and managing risk. It is not helpful if the world has to believe that those risks just do not exist.
Texas City offered BP a unique opportunity to put things right, but Macondo points to the chance having been missed. Even after Deepwater Horizon, the approach, once again, seems to be a big hugely expensive, top down initiative which will take years to bear fruit, be unlikely to motivate staff, and may well prove ineffective.
Asset integrity relies on many people doing many things right. We all know about the importance of maintenance, engineering, inspection, data management, and the rest, but that is not the whole story. Things are often ignored or done incorrectly. Even when all the procedures are followed and everything is signed off, many problems remain. Often the only hope is that somebody spots these problems and does something. Increasing the level of audits etc. will not help because the problems still remain hidden from everyone except for those in the front line. The answer is to create an organization and culture that allows and encourages staff to manage the unforeseen problems. There is simply no other way to provide any increased level of assurance.
Read the full column here.