SPE Technology Updates

Industry and Society news grouped by SPE technical discipline

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Director’s Note: Lessons Learned from Bhopal

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. 

Web Events

New Web Event on Shale Formation Re-Fracturing

Join the 17 February web event on “Shale Formation Re-Fracturing; Why do it, What is Needed and How?” presented by Ibrahim S. Abou-Sayed.  Multi-fractured horizontal wells in Shale plays exhibit, sometimes dramatic, performance decline due to deterioration in completion efficiency. This decline is caused by one or more physical processes. These processes cause an adverse impact on the effective fracture dimensions and are controlled by pressure changes.

Web Events

New Web Event on Crude Oil Separators and Systems

Join the 14 January web event on “Upgrading Crude Oil Separators and Systems for Mature Oil Fields” presented by Graeme Smith. This web event will consider original end of field life design constraints on crude oil separators and in a logical progression illustrates how hidden capacity in a separator can be identified and used to upgrade the separator, both by maximizing the use of available volume in the separator and also by the use of upgraded process internals.

Web Events

New Web Event on Global Decommissioning

Join Jim Christie on 3 February as he discusses global decommissioning. How do you go about decommissioning three interconnected offshore platforms in the UK North Sea, comprising almost 100,000 tonnes of topsides and 40,000 tonnes of jackets, together with abandoning over 100 wells and hundreds of kilometers of pipelines? Carefully, and unless you want to break the bank; differently! There are three important “C’s” to consider: Compliance, Collaboration, and Contracting. Read more »

information

New Web Event on Cyber Espionage

Join the 28 January web event on “Target, Havex, Shamoon, Night Dragon: How Cyber Espionage Impacts the Oil and Gas Industry and How You Can Make a Difference” presented by Betsy Woudenberg. This web event will review recent cyber campaigns and how and why cyber adversaries have their sights set not only on IT systems, but also engineering systems, control systems and industrial devices of some of the largest companies in the world, including manufacturing and energy.

Chris Shaw

What our members are saying…

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.

Chris Shaw
PTI Deepwater (Subsea Processing)

Projects, Facilities, and Construction

Projects, Facilities, and Construction Dinner

Join us for the Projects, Facilities, and Construction Dinner on Monday, 27 October from 1900–2200 in Ballroom A&B at the Hilton Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Over the next several years, the E&P industry faces a major challenge in the increasing number of platforms that will be decommissioned. Executing these projects in a way that is economical, safe, socially acceptable, and environmentally sound will present many technical, operational, and project management problems.

This panel discussion will bring together leaders from the major oil and gas companies to discuss the facilities, project and construction related issues involved in:

  • The various phases of a decommissioning project
  • Developing robust standards and procedures for execution
  • The facilities design features that can greatly simplify and facilitate eventual decommissioning
  • The important factors that control the timeline and economics
  • How to capture and implement learnings, and how to achieve continuous improvement
  • The associated hazards and risks
  • Environmental factors that must be overcome and which must be met

To purchase your PFC Dinner ticket in advance: Go to the ATCE registration page, click on “Attendee Registration” followed by “Next” and choose the “Complete/Edit Your Existing Registration” option to log in. You can then add and pay for your PFC dinner ticket.