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Production and Facilities

Twenty-five years after the Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea, process safety continues to be a subject of great interest to the oil industry. A distinction should be made between occupational safety and process safety. Occupational safety deals with personnel safety and incidents affecting individual workers, such as slips and falls. The focus of process safety is on major hazards that can result in catastrophic accidents such as the Texas City explosion, the Buncefield tank farm fire, or the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

There are well-established indicators to measure occupational safety performance. A commonly used one is lost-time injuries (LTIs). However, such an indicator is not a reflection of process-safety performance. An excellent LTI record does not necessarily mean that all is well in process safety. Developing performance indicators for process safety is a rather complex issue. Efforts are being made by the industry to develop practical and representative indicators. See, for example, American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice RP 754, the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers Report No. 456, and the Centre of Process Safety publication on process-safety leading and lagging matrices.

Throughout the oil industry, operators are promoting process safety. Some companies have launched major-accident-prevention programs with a series of awareness and knowledge-sharing sessions. Others are making process safety an integral part of senior-management tours of oilfield facilities. Managers are coached on how to address process-safety issues during management walkabouts.

Making the case for sustained investment in process safety may not be straightforward. However, experience reminds us that the human and financial costs of major accidents in the oil industry far outweigh any saving in investment related to process safety. Indeed, oil companies’ commitment to process safety should go beyond regulatory compliance.

In reviewing papers for this month’s Production and Facilities feature, I found many papers on process safety presented at various SPE conferences, not just SPE health, safety, and environment conferences. This is, perhaps, because many of those working in the field of process safety tend to come from process-engineering and facilities backgrounds. The selected papers, as well as those recommended for further reading, cover different aspects of process safety such as developing the business case, raising awareness, best practices in process-safety leadership, and implementing process-safety programs. I hope that you will find them interesting.

This Month's Technical Papers

The Business Case for Process Safety

Abnormal-Situation Management in Offshore Operations

Implementing a Process-Safety Program

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 163742 A Precise Process Safety Information: The Fundamental Building Block for a Strong Safety-Management Program by Sandipan Laskar, Clean Harbors

SPE 164992 A Plant Simulator to Enhance the Process Safety of Industrial Operators by Davide Manca, Politecnico di Milano, et al.

SPE 161616 Increasing the Agility of Process-Safety-Management Systems by Brian Rains, DuPont Sustainable Solutions

Hisham Saadawi, SPE, is vice president of engineering for ADCO, Abu Dhabi.  He has some 35 years of experience in the design, construction, startup, operation, and project management of oil- and gas-processing facilities. Saadawi is an SPE Distinguished Lecturer and SPE Course Instructor and is a recipient of the SPE Regional Award for Projects, Facilities, and Construction. He currently serves on the JPT Editorial Committee. Saadawi holds a PhD degree from the University of Manchester, UK, and is a Chartered Engineer in the UK and a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers.

Production and Facilities

Hisham Saadawi, SPE, Vice President of Engineering, ADCO

01 December 2013

Volume: 65 | Issue: 12

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