DIRECTOR’S NOTE: In the early morning hours of 3 December 1984, a large amount of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas was released from a Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant, which swept over a large, densely populated area south of the plant. Thousands of people were killed including some at the railway station 2 km away.
I was an employee of Union Carbide Corp. (UCC), the US parent company of UCIL at the time of the accident. There is a great deal that we will never know about the accident. It is difficult to investigate a catastrophe of this magnitude. Most investigations focused on the technical story. We know that, although significant safeguards were designed into the plant to prevent an MIC release, or at least to minimize its impact, all of the safeguards were bypassed, out-of-service, or otherwise rendered ineffective.
But there is a social story that is just as important. Four social drivers form the backdrop to the tragedy: (1) the appeal of socialism in India, (2) an extreme anti-expatriate legal system, (3) general national poverty with abject localized poverty near the plant, and (4) the lack of a safety culture. All of these made it difficult to operate a plant of this sort in India at that time.
Financial factors were important as well; the plant was not making money. UCIL had decided to permanently shut it down, thereby significantly affecting operator morale and exacerbating maintenance deficiencies. The plant was in its last production run at the time of the accident, working off the last batch of MIC.
Much has changed in the process industries as a result of Bhopal including many things that we take for granted, such as hazard and operability analysis, management of change, permit to work, and dispersion modeling. There is an important lesson that we have not learned – effective use of SOPs. The oil and gas industry needs to catch up with the airline and space exploration industries to instill an effective safety culture and to make following SOPs an absolute priority.
I am frequently struck by how little people know about this accident. I think it is important to not only remember those killed and injured in the accident but also to resolve that nothing like it will ever happen again.
Join us for the Flow Assurance Technical Section Luncheon on Thursday, 20 November from 1100–1300 at the Norris Conference Center–CityCenter in Houston, Texas, USA.
Renew before it ends on 31 December 2014.
Facilities engineers are old-school engineers that have a good handle on all the engineering disciplines. They are often called on to troubleshoot, debottleneck, and optimize process plants. To do this, they need to understand the interactions between the instrumentation and service systems that affect control systems, the control element itself, safety systems, chemicals, rates, pressures, and temperatures.
Facilities engineers have to have broad experience and broad shoulders. The position is responsible for systems integration, processes, and the economic aspects of decision-making. The tasks can require mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and controls, or configuration and field development knowledge. The facilities engineer can’t detail design it all and needs to turn to others for support. SPE offers that support with training, knowledge transfer, and online technical communities, which are monitored by experienced engineers ready to offer advice and solutions.
PTI Deepwater (Subsea Processing)
SPE has formed a new Technical Section for sharing technical knowledge, experiences, best practices, and solutions in Drilling Performance Simulation and Prediction. This new section will address major challenges affecting the safety and efficiency of drilling operations.
Share your expertise and get recognized at the SPE Latin American and Caribbean Health, Safety, Environment, and Sustainability Conference .
Submit your proposal by 28 October 2014!
SPE has formed a Technical Section to give members the opportunity to focus on Carbon Dioxide Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS), an area of interest for petroleum engineers worldwide. Industry interest in CCUS as a way to reduce emissions and for sequestering or storing carbon dioxide, has increased over the past decade. In response, SPE has stepped up programming in this area.
Carbon dioxide capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) involves capturing CO2 emissions from large point sources such as power plants and either reutilizing or storing the emissions to keep them from entering the atmosphere.
Expanded Career Opportunities for Petroleum EngineersPossessing the know-how for evaluation, selection, and monitoring of underground storage sites garnered through decades of experience in the fields of CO2-enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and gas storage operations, the E&P segment of the oil and gas industry is anticipated to play a major role in the advancement of CCUS including broader application of CO2-EOR.
Moreover, lessons learned in the ongoing commercial activities within the oil and gas disciplines of underground gas storage and CO2-EOR are directly transferrable to CCUS, thus expanding career opportunities for petroleum engineers.
Join the CCUS Technical Section
This SPE group seeks to bring the abovementioned activities together in one place for those interested in this developing subject. You will have opportunities to deepen your learning and share your insights through online discussions, web events, virtual meetings, forums, and workshops, and enjoy the benefits of at least one face-to-face meeting a year.
I joined SPE in June 1987, on the recommendation of a senior staff scientist at Conoco. I had just finished overseeing the design and construction of a water technology test centre in Scotland’s Orkney Isles, and I was lucky enough to be invited to attend an SPE Forum on water treatment in Crested Butte, Colorado. The discount that SPE membership provided was more than offset by the discount given when attending this event, which taught me early on that SPE membership gives good value! The 5 days I spent in stunning Colorado surroundings was one of the richest learning experiences I have encountered, and I started to build a strong network of colleagues who remain friends and business associates in the international oil and gas industry to this day.
I have since attended various SPE fora, applied technology workshops and similar events, which have all proved valuable learning experiences. The events are established by engineers, for engineers, with the very professional support and coaching of SPE staff. SPE has also been an important part of providing quality and value for an increasing number of industry conferences and exhibitions, including of course OTC and Offshore Europe.
My career has now spanned 31 years, all of it associated with technology and intellectual property management. I spent the first decade of my career working in Scotland, after which I moved to Norway, which has been my home for 21 years. I have seen “both sides of the fence”, having worked for a research and development organisation and then an equipment supplier, before moving to positions with several international operators, including my current employer Statoil, where I have been since 2009. I have travelled extensively with my work, and have met members of the “SPE clan” all over the world.
As my career has developed, it has been a pleasure starting to pay back what was so generously given to me in my early work years. I have presented at and participated in SPE conferences and workshops all over the world. Something that gives me particular pride is the opportunity to chair or co-chair the first four SPE advanced technology workshops on subsea processing, held from 2006–2012 in Italy and Norway. This baton has now been passed on to new and (slightly) younger talent! The next event will be held in Brazil in 2015, which emphasises the international nature of our industry, and the global span of SPE. I remain a member of the SPE Projects, Facilities, and Construction Advisory Committee.
I fully intend to remain an active and supportive member of SPE in my future career, and have just noticed that the year in which I am scheduled to retire is the year I will reach the 50-year SPE Legion of Honour (or Honor, for my US friends)! I look forward to the next two decades of SPE membership, and hope that this testimonial inspires others to join SPE and become active members, with all the benefits that this can provide.”
Attend a web event on
Human Factors in Drilling: Are there practical tools for use at the wellsite? presented by John Thorogood on 12 November. The purpose of the webinar is to present the concept of Threat and Error Management to the audience, to engage with them and to seek their feedback as to whether this approach is viable in today’s operational climate.
Attend a web event on
Meeting the Challenges of Effective Occurrence Investigations presented by Maury Hill on 5 November. Occurrences (accidents and incidents), whether they take place in the transportation industry, health care settings or in highly industrialized plants, occur regularly and all too frequently, sometimes with fatal and disastrous results. Occurrences place a great burden on organizations, their workers, and at times the general public. This web event will be of interest to all those interested in developing an effective investigation system, and in developing skills in effectively investigating the causes of accidents, incidents and unsafe conditions in their environment.