Letter from 2010 SPE President to Members

Dear SPE member:

The Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico is very much on the minds of the leadership of SPE, as well as our members.  SPE’s Board of Directors and staff have had extensive discussions about what expertise SPE can contribute to best serve the industry and the public in this current crisis.

The conclusion of our discussions is that SPE can be most useful in addressing technical issues resulting from the accident and facilitating the sharing of best practices that will emerge from the ongoing investigations.  

SPE as a society is not participating in the emergency response. There are a large number of qualified people from the industry, including SPE members, who are working with BP and the government agencies to resolve the situation and to provide the news media with unbiased information about the challenges of doing so. 

SPE can help the industry to learn from this incident through our conferences and publications, and will provide a forum for discussions on changes needed in equipment, operating practices, training and other recommendations on how to prevent or reduce the impact of future oil spills.

SPE also provides factual resources for public energy education, and we are reviewing what basic information we can add to SPE’s Energy4me.org website to educate the public, teachers and students about offshore drilling, safety and environmental protection.

As an energy professional, you may get questions from your family and neighbors about the oil spill, or face public questions if you make classroom or other presentations over the coming months. This incident has greatly damaged the public’s confidence in the safety of offshore drilling and impacted the image of oil and gas industry. We encourage you to help by offering factual information in these conversations.

To assist you in answering questions about the oil spill, we are sharing information presented by contributors and reviewers of the US Department of Interior’s “30-Day Review” of the Macondo oil spill (INCREASED SAFETY MEASURES FOR ENERGY DEVELOPMENT IN THE OUTER CONTINENTAL SHELF, MAY 27, 2010). These engineering experts were recommended by the National Academy of Engineering, and included SPE Board members Kenneth E. Arnold, National Academy of Engineering member, and Ford Brett, managing director of Petroskills. See the questions and answers.

This tragic event in the Gulf of Mexico has been a stark reminder of the risks and challenges in offshore operations, and how vigilant we must always be about safety and environmental protection. When all of the contributing factors are known, we will work together to keep an accident like this from ever happening again, anywhere in the world.

Thank you for your continuing participation in SPE.

Best regards,

Behrooz Fattahi
2010 SPE President

3 thoughts on “Letter from 2010 SPE President to Members”

  1. There is an important lesson to be learned here to those willing to listen. As a Petroleum Engineer often times entrusted with the safety of others and/or the safety of the general public it is imperative to always do the right thing. This of necessity must be regardless of pressures from management, who often times do not understand the danger or other professionals who are simply trying to look good and save money.

    Best practices are wonderful, and we simply need knowledgeable engineers who are willing to do the right thing regardless of personal cost.

  2. There is a presumption in this letter that ‘best practices’ will need to be updated, which ignores the possibility that existing best practices are actually fine and that the problem with Macondo was that BP failed to follow them.

    Perhaps the present focus for SPE should be on the cause of the accident. Once this has been established, it can decide what learnings to share with the membership.

  3. Sadly, this tragedy was avoidable. My sense is that investigations may reveal that BP made egregious decisions to cut corners rather than to apply the best practices of our industry. If so, we must give careful attention to this terrible accident and never allow this to happen again.

    As engineers, we must ALWAYS think of the safety of our co-workers and the health of our environment regardless of the pressures of our management.

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