IADC/SPE: Drilling contractors, operators boost process safety

Oil companies and drilling contractors alike are responsible for convincing the public that industry can drill safety and without causing environmental damage, said panelists during a Mar. 6 plenary session of the IADC/SPE drilling conference in San Diego.

“We have worked on improving personal safety for a long time. I think we have to make a similar journey on process safety,” said Martin Vos, Shell International vice-president of deepwater wells.

Shell’s business plan includes improvements on process safety, Vos said, adding Shell’s approach is to prevent reoccurrence of industry’s major incidents such as the Apr. 20, 2010, blowout of BP PLC’s Macondo well.

The blowout triggered an explosion and fire killing 11 crew members on Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilling rig. The semi later sank, and a massive oil spill resulted in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.

Offshore safety regulations have become more stringent, and operators also have implemented new safety regimes of their own.

Shell, as well as BP, now require contractors to use subsea blowout preventers (BOP) having at least two blind shear rams. Faulty BOP maintenance and problems with the Deepwater Horizon’s blind shear ram were identified as contributing factors in the Macondo oil spill.

David Payne, Chevron Corp.’s vice-president of drilling and completions, said Chevron and others in the oil and gas industry have looked toward the airlines, nuclear power industry, and the military for examples of how to drive improved safety discipline.

Chevron drilling managers recently visited military bases in Seattle to learn about the US Navy’s submarine safety programs, he said.

“Good isn’t good enough,” Payne said. “We have to get to a different level” through operators and contractors working together.

Operators also need to demand higher standards of one another, he said, adding this is being done in the Marcellus shale play. Industry needs to be “relentless and consistent” about its safety expectations, he said.

“Our license to operate comes from the public,” Payne said. Although he acknowledged the role of regulators and other government entities, he said it’s the public that ultimately decides if drilling operations are acceptable in particular communities.

Chad Deaton, Baker Hughes Inc. chairman, president, and chief operating officer, said industry needs to get beyond a competitive approach when it comes to cooperating and sharing information to prevent reportable incidents and any environmental consequences from drilling operations.

“If we don’t do it, then government will do it,” Deaton said.

Kevin Neveu, president and chief executive officer of Precision Drilling Corp., said one side effect of the Macondo incident was that operators shifted some capital from offshore drilling to onshore drilling, particularly unconventional onshore drilling.

Operators want service companies to provide reduced risk and optimized drilling costs, he said. In particular, operators want repeatable results done safety, Neveu said.

Payne agreed, saying Chevron has worked toward more standardization in the deepwater gulf where industry drills what he calls some of the most complex wells worldwide.

Onshore, industry is keen on drilling wells on a manufacturing schedule, Payne said. Chevron repeatedly drills wells in 3-4 days in the Piceance in Colorado from multiwell pads that support 22 wells.

Contract Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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