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Water Management Grows in Importance for Oil and Gas Industry

Emmanuel Garland of Total addresses the topical luncheon audience.

The increasing global scarcity of water means more companies need to see and begin treating water as an asset, said Emmanuel Garland, environmental expert with Total, during a topical luncheon titled “Water Management—Change of Paradigm: Water as an Asset.”

“Water is already a crucial issue and will shape the future,” he said. “Water is a need before being a waste.”

Globally, 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, said Garland, senior environmental adviser at Total E&P, “and climate change will probably make it even worse in the future.”

As the global need for energy increases, oil and gas companies will continue to expand operations to meet demand. And “production of oil and gas requires … huge quantities of water,” Garland said.

“Consequently,” he said, “it is the responsibility of the oil and gas industry to ensure that water is adequately considered … in the decisions of the companies.” The industry’s handling of this responsibility—its ability to develop innovative means to reduce water uptake and maximize use and recycling—could affect companies’ social license to operate, he said.

As responsible users of clean water for oil and gas production, companies need to work on reducing the need for clean water in operations, Garland said, adding “that is a real challenge.”

In addition to reducing the need for clean water, companies also need to examine how they handle water produced by oil and gas production operations. “Handling water in a responsible manner is not only good business,” he said, “it is critical for our future.”

Water produced from wells must be treated before it is disposed, and “treatment has been designed for many years for disposal in the environment,” Garland said. Many techniques exist for treating produced water; Garland mentioned that there are at least 80 proven techniques. The number of proven techniques, he pointed out, shows that no single technique works for every situation.

“The move today is now to treat for reuse and not to treat only for disposal,” he said. “If you can reuse it, that is much, much better.”

Human Factors Integral to Project Design

Another environmentally themed session examined the need for “human factors” to be considered at the beginning of projects and not as an afterthought. Six technical papers at the Human Factors Technical Session examined the role of human factors in offshore projects.

“We can relate about 80% of accidents and incidents in the marine industries to human error. It is very important that we get involved and that we get involved very early in the design,” said Julie Pray, senior engineer in safety and human factors at ABS. Pray presented her paper on “Implementing Human Factors Engineering in Offshore Installation Design.”

But having the human factor considered during the planning phase of a project is not always easy. Benjamin Poblete, chief consultant at Atkins, said, “It is always difficult because what happens is (the human factor) is often sold as a separate issue, a separate thing, which is like what HSE (health, safety, and environment) was. … It took us 20 some-odd years to get back in to it, and I think human factors has to do the same thing. It has to blend right in so that everyone is speaking the same language during design. … We have to get in early.” Poblete presented a paper on “Human Factors in Hazard Analysis.”

The industry has a way to go to integrate human factors in the front-end engineering and design of projects, but tracking the human role in accidents is an important step.

“I don’t think, in the offshore industry, that we are even remotely close to where we should be in human factors,” said Dave Hollaway, human factors engineering manager at ABS Consulting, while presenting his paper “Human Factors Analysis and Classification System: Investigatory Tool for Human Factors in Offshore Operational Safety.”

Hollaway went on to build on the axiom “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” The system outlined in his paper is designed to do just that—measure the human factors involved in a project. The system uses a set of user-defined codes to categorize and analyze errors that have led to accidents.

The system is free to download and is designed to be simple to use. “It is not so complicated that the average HSE or human factors person could not use it,” he said.

Brian Craig, professor at Lamar University, presented another paper concerned with tracking human factors, in this instance in the form of reported near-miss incidents. His paper, “Reporting Practices for Close Call (Near Miss) Reporting Systems,” discussed the creation of a database of 44,000 of these incidents. “Basically, we are looking to identify best practices based on what the industry is currently doing,” he said. “One of the goals of these projects is to share this data, these lessons learned, and corrective actions across the industry.”

The creation of the database is part of a larger safety initiative that has as one of its goals the standardization of how near misses are reported.

Water Management Grows in Importance for Oil and Gas Industry

Adam Wilson, Special Publications Editor

01 July 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 7

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