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Beyond Compliance Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry The offshore oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico is among the most developed in the world. It provides thousands of jobs in the Gulf Coast region and supplies a sizable portion of the U.S. energy requirement. Oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is expect- ed to account for 18Â percent and 21 percent of total forecast U.S. crude oil production in 2016 and 2017, respectively, even as oil prices remain low. Drilling offshore for oil and gas can, however, be a dangerous business. Logistical, oceanographic, operational, and economic challenges complicate deepwater exploration and development. The number and variety of contractors operating on a single facility can increase the challenges associated with sustaining a common safety culture, manag- ing personnel effectively, and carrying out the responsibility for maintaining safe work- ing conditions. inga spenCe/alamy
2 Beyond ComplianCe Incidents with extensive repercussions, such as the Macondo well blowout of 2010, are unlikely. Yet when they do occur, they can have severe consequences for offshore workers, people in the communities that support the oil and gas industry, those whose livelihoods are affected, the assets of the operator and its contractors, the environment, and the indus- try as a whole. The Macondo well blowout led to an explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that resulted in the deaths of 11 crew members, injuries to others, and the spilling of an estimated 3.19 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In the end, the incident will cost BP more than $30 billion in fines, penalties, operational response, and liabilities.1 The magnitude of the disaster and its substantial economic impacts on the Gulf Coast region as a result of lost revenue, profits, and wages have led to intense public scrutiny of the safety of offshore drilling and production. Prior to the Macondo event, many in the industry found it difficult to imagine an accident in the United States that would result in a major oil spill, loss of lives, injuries, and the sinking of the rig. This point is il- lustrated by the aftermath of the 2009 blowout and fire on the Montara wellhead platform and subsequent oil spill in the Timor Sea (northwest of the Western Australia coast). Following this incident, many of the public 1 According to the Wall Street Journal (April 26, 2016), BPâs total bill is more than $56 billion to date and continues to increase. u .s . C o a sT g u a R D ph o To B y peTTy o ffiC eR 3R D C la s s a n n m a R ie g o R D en
Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry 3 statements from the U.S. oil and gas industry focused on explaining why a Montara-like blowout could not happen in the United States, rather than expressing the industryâs intent to learn more about the Montara incident and its causes and share that knowledge industry-wide. As it happened, the root causes of the Macondo and Montara blowouts were similar: both involved failures of management systems and processes. Had industry made a greater effort to understand the causes of the Montara event, the suspension of the Macondo well might have been managed better, with less damage. Multiple investigations of the Macondo well blowout, rig explosion, and oil spill attributed the cause of the blowout to a series of mistakes made by the operating company, the drilling contractor, and the contractor for the cementing job. Ultimately, those mistakes are indicative of system- atic failures in risk management, and call into question the safety culture of the offshore oil and gas industry. Indeed, the various investigations led to a common conclusion: that a lack of process safety and deficient safety culture were primary causes of the accident. This consensus conclusion signaled a significant change in how the causes of such catastrophic ac- cidents are understood. philip goulD/geTTy
Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry 5 Government, industry organizations, and individual companies have taken many actions to improve safety over the past several years. None- theless, more work remains to be done to effect safety improvements throughout the U.S. offshore oil and gas industry. To help respond to that need, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened an expert committee to identify ways in which the offshore oil and gas industry, government, and other stakeholders can strengthen the industryâs safety culture.2 The committeeâs full report,3 issued in 2016, outlines what government, industry, and other organizations can do to strengthen safety culture. This companion publica- tion summarizes those portions of the full report that are directly relevant to offshore industry leaders, the off- shore workforce, and salient professional organizations. After briefly reviewing actions taken by companies, industry associations, and regulators that serve as the foundations for future safety efforts, the report argues for the need for a new approach based on building a strong safety culture, whose essential characteristics are then defined. Next is a discussion of recommended ac- tions for improving safety culture, including developing a vision for appropriate regulatory oversight and a stra- tegic plan for achieving safety and environmental objectives, and creating an independent industry safety organization. The report then describes the challenges entailed in implementing change in offshore safety culture, along with strategies for overcoming those challenges. The final section addresses assessment of progress in safety culture to facilitate improve- ment. The discussion herein is based on the main findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the National Academies committee. Readers interested in additional information on these topics should refer to the full report. 2 The committeeâs work was supported with funds designated for the National Academy of Sciences as a community service payment arising out of a plea agreement entered into between the United States Attorneyâs Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Company. 3 Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry, available at http://www.nap. edu/catalog/23524/strengthening-the-safety-culture-of-the-offshore-oil-and-gas-industry. niColas Russell/geTTy