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Director’s Note: Public Acceptability

Oil and gas companies are making long-term investments around the world in costly, technically complicated projects where unanticipated community concerns can significantly reduce the return on investment.  One of my goals as HSSE-SR Technical Director is to convince technical decision makers with a deep understanding of the project they are working on that success can depend on something outside the realm of the design specifications and engineering—PUBLIC ACCEPTABILITY.  Many project delays are the result of non-technical issues.  For a variety of reasons, there is not always a straight-forward path to address these issues early in the project life cycle.  Some ideas to better prepare the industry include:  (1) dealing with sustainability issues beyond regulatory requirements, (2) recognizing issues outside the workplace or outside the normal bounds of exploration, development production, which will require attention, and (3) understanding that what works changes from place to place.  In June 2015, the first SPE Health and Social Responsibility Forum will be held in Miami, Florida.  This forum will explore the role of the oil and gas industry in community health and include experts from outside the industry in health, technology, and academia.  Health impacts are a very real community concern.  The issues can range from the impact of noise and emissions associated with high volume unconventional development in the US to dealing with the health issues created when an oil company brings in people to remote places with few medical professionals.  These issues can have a profound impact on pubic acceptability of our industry.  One can lead to fights over drilling bans.  The other can mean lost time for workers out sick or caring for their loved ones.  Both point to the local nature of issues in this realm.  This is not a generic issue but a very specific sustainability issue that can significantly impact projects and local perceptions.  SPE will offer its first sustainability training program at its 2015 E&P HSSE Conference—Americas in Denver, Colorado.  My priority is to instill in operations leaders that sustainability needs to be integrated into the very way they think about their projects.

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