IADC-SPE: Safety, recruitment remain priorities in oil-price slump

The oil and gas industry needs to maintain a competent, well-trained workforce and emphasize safety to keep up the quality of current operations during the oil-price downturn, various speakers told the IADC/SPE Drilling Conference in Fort Worth on Mar. 1.

“Our industry always is facing risks,” whether they are economic, environmental, or technical, said Randy Cleveland, XTO Energy Inc. president. “Managing the risks requires an extraordinary workforce. Innovation doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. Sometimes it comes in the most subtle changes.”

Thomas Burke, IADC chairman and chief executive officer of Rowan Cos. Inc., also urged companies facing tough times to avoid slashing budgets for training and employee development. He noted that industry’s safety record shows lost-time incident rates have fallen 98% compared with the 1960s.

“Managing all costs, particularly training cost, is important right now,” Burke said. He also advised industry to engage with regulators and lawmakers to ensure “smart regulations that make sense.” For IADC, communication between industry and regulators regarding blowout preventers and well design is an ongoing process, he said.

Nathan Meahan, SPE president and Baker Hughes Inc. senior executive advisor, said technology innovations often happen during oil-price downturns. Operators and contractors will come up with innovations to make operating costs lower and production more efficient, he said.

“We need to assure 100% wellbore integrity,” Meahan said. “We cannot have spills.”

Leigh-Ann Russell, vice-president of performance for BP PLC’s global wells organization and chair for the 2017 drilling conference, said volatile oil prices are normal. Meanwhile, significant oil and gas production will be needed to meet world energy demand in 20 years, she said, adding that industry has a long-term role to play despite near-term hardships.

“We will emerge leaner, fitter, and more sustainable when it comes to safe, compliant, and reliable operations,” Russell said.

She noted that high safety records and delivery performance often go hand-in-hand. “It’s important to attract top talent,” she said. “BP is committed to maintaining key university relationships and to hiring graduates.”

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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