The discovery of new sources of best available and safest technologies (BAST) candidate ideas serves the motivations of both industry and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). In this chapter, a number of key advanced technology sources are examined. Ideas and technologies can be introduced (or pushed) through company-sponsored or collaborative research and development, regardless of the original research objective (productivity, expanded drilling regimes, etc.). In addition, potential technology solutions for safety issues can be identified (or pulled) through analyses of drilling systems and systematic assessments of safety incidents and near misses.
A combination of factors drives exploration and development activities in drilling and production. They include deepwater discoveries of hydrocarbon reservoirs, favorable economics of high-producing deepwater wells, and the advancement of field-ready deepwater-capable technologies.1 Offshore exploration, development, and production, particularly in deep water, pose demanding technical challenges, among them high-temperature, high-pressure well characteristics. In addition, low temperatures and high ambient pressures at the sea floor present demanding conditions for the operation of production facilities. As technologies mature, the industry deploys novel technology into production, creating an inherent “push” dynamic of new candidate technologies, including those that enhance safety.
The industry trend to pursue exploration and production activities in deeper waters can be tracked in overall oil and gas production statistics. In 2007, federal offshore tracts accounted for roughly 27 percent of all oil and 14 percent of all natural gas produced in the United States. In 1985, Gulf of Mexico (GOM) deep-
water production accounted for just 7 percent of all offshore production. By 2011, deepwater production accounted for 78.6 percent of oil and 46.8 percent of all GOM offshore gas production.2 The investments required to construct these deepwater wells have favored economies of scale, with larger offshore drilling and exploration companies, supported by equipment manufacturers and service providers, supplying technologies that increase the productivity and safety of operations.
Generally, such research and development (R&D) activities are developed and sponsored in-house. Successful ideas progress through a series of technology readiness levels before being deployed. However, outer continental shelf (OCS) activities generally demand large capital outlays, and operators sometimes amortize R&D risks, pool resources, and shorten time-to-field by cooperating with each other on joint industry projects (JIPs).3 JIPs can take various forms and afford the additional benefit of fostering best-practice sharing and acceleration of candidate technologies. JIPs offer the advantages of providing a multiparty collaborative approach and an intellectual property regime that promotes broader cross-industry collaborative candidate technology R&D.
The industry, with the large operating companies in the lead, is providing the most significant injection of new ideas, capabilities, and funding for bringing these ideas to field-ready status. There are many examples of evolutionary or revolutionary “step-change” ideas and technologies that have enabled the deepwater trend. Two examples of safety-enhancing technology are three- and four-dimensional seismic imaging and remote monitoring. In the first, seismic imaging enables more accurate “well-specific” planning to advance drilling techniques for deeper and safer casing programs. Remote monitoring serves as an example of broadly applicable technology that affords greater operational efficiencies and enhanced safety through real-time, 24-hour monitoring of topside and subsea systems from onshore facilities.
As illustrated by the previous two examples, many R&D efforts that provide BAST candidates are initially primarily motivated by productivity gains.4 Active efforts by the industry in the OCS have triggered increased spending on technologies and approaches that could be candidate technologies or systems for BAST. Since the Macondo well blowout, the industry has increased its focus on safety-enhancing R&D. One major deepwater equipment supplier of blowout preventers estimates that its percentage of BAST-specific R&D has risen as high as 25 percent.5
2http://www.data.bsee.gov/homepg/data_center/production/production/summary.asp. Accessed September 25, 2013.
3http://www.offshore-mag.com/articles/print/volume-70/issue-50/drilling-_completion/dual-gradient-drilling.html. Accessed September 25, 2013.
4Bob Judge, GE Oil and Gas, presentation to the committee, May 30, 2013.
5Bob Judge, GE Oil and Gas, presentation to the committee, May 30, 2013.
In accordance with industry practice, proven candidate technologies join other BAST innovations and techniques already published in a particular operator’s general practices documents. To be included, technologies must have matured and demonstrated positive effects on safety, earning their way into the company’s modus operandi. A company’s general practices represent a summary of the company’s best and safest well-specific or broadly applicable technologies and systems that are considered field-proven.6 ExxonMobil estimates that 10 to 15 percent of these practices involve BAST-related technologies.7
Government-sponsored R&D, including government-reimbursed R&D and government-sponsored small-company targeted R&D, is not prevalent within industry. BSEE, via its Technology Assessment and Research (TA&R) efforts, typically has a budget of $1.5 million to $2.0 million per year and covers a variety of research topics.8 In contrast, private industry funding of related offshore R&D is orders of magnitude higher. The details of R&D spending categories by individual companies are not available, but public records show that ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips combined have annual worldwide expenditures for all types of R&D of about $3 billion.9 The amount spent on offshore and deepwater R&D is not ascertainable, but the importance of the offshore opportunities in each of these companies’ portfolios suggests a significant percentage. While the committee recognizes the safety-enhancing contributions of the TA&R program,10its impact is limited by budgetary constraints. BSEE should consider focusing its TA&R efforts on basic and forward-looking collaborative R&D initiatives, where limited funds can provide better leverage. These efforts should seek to include smaller participants, such as engineering houses and smaller independents. These types of funding activities would allow BSEE to leverage the development of candidate technologies through company-sponsored research or collaborative research and development (Recommendation 2-1).
Understandably, most R&D efforts within the industry are closely guarded. However, there is ample opportunity for BSEE to find avenues of common interest, specifically with regard to sources of candidate safety-enhancing technologies.
6Roald Lokken, ExxonMobil, personal communication, May 30, 2013.
7Roald Lokken, ExxonMobil, personal communication, May 30, 2013.
8http://www.bsee.gov/Research-and-Training/Technology-Assessment-and-Research/tarprojectcategories/index.aspx. Accessed September 25, 2013.
9http://www.rdmag.com/articles/2012/12/industrial-r-d%E2%80%94energy, http://www.statista.com/statistics/245897/research-and-development-costs-of-exxon-mobil, http://www.reports.shell.com/investors-handbook/2011/projectstechnology/rdexpenditure.html. Accessed September 25, 2013.
10http://www.doi.gov/deepwaterhorizon/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=33598. Accessed September 25, 2013.
The decades-long story behind oil and gas production from shale formations in the United States is an example of government and industry each doing what it does best.11 Although it is concerned with promoting production technology, the example has relevance to the development of technologies that focus on safety. Driven by declining U.S. gas production concerns in the 1970s, early basic research in shale fracturing was done by the U.S. Bureau of Mines and predecessors of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Energy Technology Laboratory, which led to the first demonstration of massive hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells. Nearly a decade later, a joint DOE–private industry venture completed the first multistage fracking job in a horizontal well. Joint industry funding through the Gas Research Institute led to completion of the first successful wells in the Texas Barnett Shale, which after several years of further development led to the first commercial production and the “gas boom” that followed. In short, basic research was carried out by federal agencies and national laboratories in response to a national need. A commercial opportunity was recognized by an oil company, and the technology was adapted through joint public–private research and then developed and deployed successfully with industry funding. In addition, early production was aided by favorable tax treatment.
When the early-stage research was initiated (early 1970s) and the tax credit was established in law (1980), there was no expectation that the two would combine to help create the resource boom of today. They were both small elements of larger programs that did not attempt to forecast the future of technology and pick winners.
BSEE should consider applying the model for promoting oil and gas production from shale formations with regard to BAST offshore (Recommendation 2-2). Modest government research budgets can be greatly leveraged by focusing on basic research and early technology development. With the level of spending by industry on offshore exploration and production, the skills and expertise that will apply new technologies to industry challenges will be developed within the operating companies, service companies, and equipment manufacturers. The operating and service companies are expected to be aware of ongoing research around which they will develop commercial models and a value proposition for their further development and deployment.
Two other organizational models deserve discussion as potential mechanisms for R&D activities for developing BAST candidates.
1. DeepStar, created in 1991 by Texaco to prepare the industry for the move into deep water, continues to be a premier JIP for deepwater subsea technology development. Its membership has changed over the years, but it currently has 11
11See “Where the Shale Gas Revolution Came From,” http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/energy-and-climate/where-the-shale-gas-revolution-came-from. Accessed September 25, 2013.
participating members and 75 or more contributing members.12 In 2013, some 30 projects with a value of about $7.5 million were overseen by separate technical committees—Geoscience, Reservoir, Flow Assurance, Subsea Facilities, Floating Facilities, Drilling and Completion, Metocean, and Systems Engineering.13 DeepStar is managed by Chevron, with technical input and future scenario guidance from an overview committee made up of technology managers and leaders from the participating companies.14
2. The Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) operates under the guidance of the Secretary of Energy. It is a consortium that includes representatives from industry, academia, and research institutions. RPSEA has developed a broad-ranging and comprehensive advisory structure that includes program-level and technical-level advisory panels, with industry—large and small companies—and environmental groups represented. The annual budget of approximately $30 million is split about evenly between onshore studies and ultra-deepwater studies. The offshore research emphasizes the understanding of system risk and risk reduction by using real-time information and the development of advanced technologies.15
BSEE should consider the DeepStar and RPSEA models in multiparty collaboration for insights into how best to utilize the Ocean Energy Safety Institute and the TA&R efforts in implementing BAST (Recommendation 2-3).
After most major offshore incidents, such as the losses of the Piper Alpha and the Deepwater Horizon (Macondo well), extensive investigations are conducted to identify the causes that led to the catastrophes and thereby suggest corrective actions to avoid similar events in the future. These investigations, as well as the systematic analyses of operations and near misses,16 often provide insight into safety issues that warrant focused attention. Such focus areas can serve to “pull” technology applications that can enhance safety and serve the objectives of BAST. The committee notes that the range of such technologies can be broad, from advanced instrumentation to human factors, an area often underappreciated in importance.
12http://www.deepstar.org/attachments/wysiwyg/3140/DeepStar_Supplement_2013-FINAL(1).pdf. Accessed September 25, 2013.
14http://www.deepstar.org/attachments/wysiwyg/3140/DeepStar_Supplement_2013-FINAL(1).pdf. Accessed September 25, 2013.
15http://www.rpsea.org/attachments/contentmanagers/3234/2012%20Annual%20Plan%20Final%208-9-12.pdf. Accessed September 25, 2013.
16http://www.gulfpub.com/product.asp?PositionID=&ProductID=2745. Accessed September 25, 2013.
Lessons Learned from Accidents
The Piper Alpha and Macondo well offshore disasters are cases in point for which human factors were identified in the accident chain of events. For example, an analysis done by Paté-Cornell (1993) of the Piper Alpha accident concluded that most significant causes were “rooted in the organization, its structure, procedures and culture.” Similarly, there was common agreement across Macondo well blowout study reports with regard to human factors, including (a) pressure to complete well abandonment operations quickly at the risk of safety, (b) conduct of simultaneous operations accompanied by poor work team communications, (c) misinterpretation of well pressure test data, and (d) failure to follow best practices for well drilling and abandonment procedures (Deepwater Horizon Study Group 2011; NAE and NRC 2012).17 Offshore accident data also show evidence of human errors, including the use of an unsafe procedure (37 percent), unsafe acts (44 percent), improper equipment design (8 percent), and other errors (11 percent) (Christou and Konstantinidou 2012).
In other words, offshore oil and gas accidents often were caused by mistakes made in the organizational decision processes and the failure to follow best practices or standard procedures—the causes were, in fact, human failures. The facts concerning offshore disasters and accident statistics support the idea of paying closer attention to organizational and human performance factors as essential in the effective implementation of the BAST regulatory oversight, rulemaking, and approval processes. Such consideration would also help achieve the objectives of BSEE’s Safety and Environmental Management Systems regulations to manage the overall safety and environmental aspects in offshore oil and gas operations.18
Areas of Human Factors Concern
First, it is believed that the offshore oil and gas industry will experience substantial growth in the application of remote sensing and control systems used to observe well conditions. These control and display systems are complex in operation and maintenance. Some pose a possibility of human error due to complicated control and display interfaces that have a high potential for erroneous user inputs and misinterpretation of data displays. Operators will base critical risk decisions on data obtained from remote sensing and display systems. As in the case of the Macondo well blowout, decisions based on well measures (pres-
17http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-OILCOMMISSION/content-detail.html. Accessed September 27, 2013.
18http://www.bsee.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Safety-and-Environmental-Management-Systems---SEMS/Fact-Sheet.aspx. Accessed September 25, 2013.
sure and chemical composition of well fluids) can have serious consequences for health, safety, and the environment if they are wrong (Deepwater Horizon Study Group 2011).
Second, advanced computer-driven algorithms that sometimes include artificial intelligence (intelligent agents) are increasingly used to reduce operator workload and to improve task efficiency. The introduction of high levels of automation historically has led to some operator complacency (because of the assumption, based on the high reliability typically observed in automation, that the automation is working as intended, when it sometimes does not) and to operator confusion concerning system operating modes and automated functions (Parasuraman and Riley 1997).
“Human factors” are factors or variables in the human–system interface that affect the performance of individuals, work crews, and organizations in a work environment. The intent of human factors engineering is to reduce the frequency of human error by systematic design and management processes at all levels of personnel performance. The following factors are taken into consideration:
• Individual worker—personnel qualifications, training, and experience;
• Environment and equipment design—worker task complexity, work space design and working conditions, workload and fatigue, local supervision (Salvendy 1997; Wickens et al. 2004; International Association of Oil and Gas Producers 2011);
• Crew or team—crew composition (mix of skill sets, national origin, language, and culture), workplace supervision, on-the-job communications and task coordination, team or crew resource management training (Helmreich and Merritt 2000; Bjellos 2012); and
• Organization—leadership style, commitment to safe operations versus production, adequacy of resources (time and materials), working conditions, organizational and safety cultures19 (Ciavarelli 2007; Roberts 1993; Weick and Sutcliffe 2007; NAE and NRC 2012; TRB 2012). An emphasis on safety culture by an organization’s leadership recognizes inherent operational risks and takes appropriate measures to ensure the safety of key operations.
As part of BAST implementation, BSEE should appropriately consider human factors aspects given their impact on recent offshore disasters worldwide. All too often there is a tendency to focus on component technologies (Recommendation 2-4).
19On May 10, 2013, BSEE issued a safety culture policy statement. http://www.federalr egister.gov/articles/2013/05/10/2013-11117/final-safety-culture-policy-statement. Accessed September 25, 2013.
Reporting Near Miss and Accident Data
Christou and Konstantinidou (2012), in their extensive review of offshore accidents, stated that there is a critical need for a robust safety reporting system that documents incidents (near misses) as well as accidents. The reporting system should maintain a database for analysis of trends and for use by industry in conducting risk management activities leading to BAST candidate identification. The following are some of the main hazards and risks that should be addressed:
• Unintended release of hydrocarbons,
• Loss of well control,
• Failure of a safety-critical element,
• Vessel collisions or near collisions,
• Helicopter misses and crashes,
• Fatal accident or serious injury,
• Evacuation of personnel in response to non-weather-related events,
• Release of hazardous materials beyond some specified de minimis level, and
• Damage to the environment apparent in the short term.
The authors identified common sources of worldwide data available now. Among them are
• Health and Safety Executive, United Kingdom;
• SINTEF (Stiftelsen for Industriell og Teknisk Forskning), Norway; and
• International Association of Oil and Gas Producers.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is an example for BSEE to consider in creating a nonpunitive system for workers to report safety incidents (near misses) anonymously. ASRS has served in alerting members of the aviation community to events that might compromise safety for more than 35 years. The idea is based on the fact that there are many more close-call incidents than accidents, and the type and frequency of incidents provide a valuable database for judging risks associated with the safety of flight and related aviation activities (ASRS 2013). All major aviation organizations can use ASRS as a universal nonpunitive close call or near-miss reporting system. ASRS is sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (regulator) but administered by NASA as a third-party “neutral” organization that protects the identity of individuals reporting and retains confidentiality of the data.20 The following are key functions and uses of ASRS:
20L. Connell, Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS): Program Brief. Prepared for the committee, 2013.
• Alert bulletins and “for your information” notices serve as a “front line” for alerts concerning safety issues or hazards that affect many aviation users.
• Safety reports are from pilots, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, maintenance technicians, and others describing aviation safety events.
• Quick response studies support government organizations such as FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board, and Congress during rulemakings, procedure and airspace design efforts, and accident investigations and in other ad hoc circumstances.
• Operational research: ASRS has conducted and published numerous research studies since the program’s inception. ASRS research has always been designed to examine human performance issues in real-world operations.
• Database search requests: Information in the ASRS database is available to interested parties at no cost under Freedom of Information Act provisions.
BSEE executed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (August 2013) to develop a confidential near-miss reporting system for use on the outer continental shelf.21,22
Additional and New Data Sources
The offshore oil and gas industry has long depended on sophisticated computational processing and storage systems. The role of seismic imaging and its continued enhancements have provided evidence that “more data are better” (Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier 2013, Chapter 5). The adoption of multiphase subsea meters is one deepwater OCS trend contributing to exponential data growth faced by operators. In this example, images and detailed characterization of the hydrocarbon flow at the seabed level join traditional discrete-data-emitting temperature and pressure sensors.
Remote monitoring and capturing of housekeeping data enable probability modeling to improve estimates of mean time between failures of safety-critical equipment.23 Similarly, new sources of subsea telemetry enable better at-seabed, closed-loop processing, which allows faster-acting pressure control equipment to increase safety through an enhanced seabed infrastructure.24 These can serve as sources of BAST candidates.
22The prepublication version of this report, which was issued in October 2013, indicated an agreement had been reached between BSEE and NASA to create a safety reporting system. However, information received after the prepublication report was issued indicated that BSEE executed an agreement with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to develop a safety reporting system.
23http://www.barringer1.com/pdf/Chpt1-5th-edition.pdf. Accessed September 25, 2013.
24http://www.gereports.com/ge-oil-gas-launches-smartcenter-for-subsea-wells. Accessed September 25, 2013.
The recent advent of high-speed, subsea-to-shore communication networks and sophisticated sensor packages has helped bring about the establishment of real-time operations centers (RTOCs) by the majors, independents, and providers of deepwater equipment. RTOCs can also be applied to well-specific situations: “In the Gulf of Mexico, a fit-for-purpose use of RTOCs means there is a focus on the prevention of nonproductive time—trouble associated with well control, lost circulation, borehole stability.”25
Many of these facilities will also provide scenario-planning simulation capability. This will afford trainees the ability to simulate actuation of topside and seabed equipment or respond to simulated emergencies and see effects at a system level. BSEE should consider the use of RTOCs and simulators to assess decision capabilities under stress (Recommendation 2-5). (Also see NAE and NRC 2012, 156, Summary Observations 4.12 and 4.13.) The aviation industry, for example, has used recent advancements in desktop and full-scale simulators to provide realistic simulations. They allow a failure to be simulated in a matter of days after an incident.
Risk assessment highlights areas where candidate technologies for BAST would materially improve OCS operation safety. Although many variants exist, risk assessments largely fall into either matrix-based approaches or probabilistic risk-based approaches.26 Generally, OCS operators rely on matrix-based risk assessments that examine the likelihood and severity of failures.27 These matrix-based approaches are adapted to “broad technology,” “category-specific,” and “well-specific” scenarios because they are more easily applied in the context of inherent uncertainties and system dynamics faced in real-life drilling and other OCS operations.
New data sources offer the ability to grow data sets significantly and potentially provide additional quantitative sources to enhance risk assessments. Normalized and aggregated cross-industry data would provide empirical and quantitative inputs critical to the development of better baselines for in-use BAST. BSEE should consider supporting efforts that provide normalized approaches across certain technology classes to obtain inputs for development of better baselines (Recommendation 2-6). As the Macondo experience suggests, data concerning risk assessment and the use of particular technologies
26Charlie Williams, Center for Offshore Safety, presentation to the committee, May 30, 2013.
27Charlie Williams, Center for Offshore Safety, presentation to the committee, May 30, 2013.
are lacking. BSEE can raise the overall value of risk assessments by considering explicit requirements for data reporting. Broader industry participation in risk assessment normalization and standardization would amplify technology development by exposing BAST deficiencies.
Additional Sources from Other Industries
Many technologies used within the oil and gas industry have been developed elsewhere. BSEE should consider engaging adjacent industries to accelerate the discovery and enhancement of candidate technologies (Recommendation 2-7). (“Adjacent industries” are industries facing challenges similar to those of the oil and gas industry.) The U.S. aviation industry’s top 10 R&D spenders invested $18 billion in 2010 and 2011 combined.28 Leveraging just a portion of this investment through BSEE-sponsored cross-industry cooperation is one way to access a larger candidate technology R&D pool. For example, advancements in avionics can benefit subsea and topside controls, and well-proven and broadly applicable technologies such as data recorders may have applicability in the OCS (also see NAE and NRC 2012, 156, Recommendation 4.9). Further aviation-specific examples of potential candidate sources include telemetry, closed-loop automation, advanced materials, coatings, advanced testing, safety systems, and modeling techniques.
The U.S. mining and pipeline industries offer technologies that could be used within the oil and gas industry. Mining and offshore drilling face many similar challenges, including uncertainties in geology, highly capable pumping technologies, and gas detection equipment.29 Other adjacent industries focused on inspection technologies and software could also help in better utilization of new data sources discussed previously and require further investigation through a BSEE-led process of rigorous discovery.
The committee notes that there are significant challenges in adapting technologies from adjacent industries. To be effective, BSEE will need to engage stakeholders in oil and gas and targeted adjacent industries to drive cooperation. BSEE leadership will have to determine the best approach for each interindustry engagement, which might include interindustry JIPs and engagement of national laboratories, academia, and government agencies (e.g., NASA, FAA).
Fostering an understanding of the technologies available and used within adjacent industries offers another potential source of candidate technologies. Given the capital- and resource-intensive nature of OCS-related R&D, even accelerated efforts involve multiyear R&D sponsorship from participating parties.
28http://www.rdmag.com/articles/2012/12/industrial-r-d%E2%80%94aerospace/defense/security. Accessed September 25, 2013.
29As a further example of OCS and mining technology leverage, seabed mining equipment has been developed by combining technologies from both industries. See http://www.nautilusminerals.com/s/resourceextraction.asp. Accessed September 25, 2013.
The committee believes that a portfolio of efforts is needed for BSEE to find and solicit advances in candidate technologies and systems. Such efforts can accelerate the introduction of candidate technologies and lead to a key role for BSEE in influencing technology development. For example, BSEE could engage in multiparty collaborations and could focus TA&R efforts on basic and forward-looking collaborative R&D initiatives, where limited funds can provide better leverage. As discussed in the next chapter, better exploitation of these sources of ideas and technologies demands significant additional BSEE resources (including in-house technical domain and program management and personnel training) so that results can be achieved and a higher level of engagement with industry can be sustained.