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Process Safety Culture & Key Trends in O&G Industry

The safety element is a key factor for stable and reliable facility operation.

Technical advances move forward at a very high pace: looking back at the last 5 years a number of important changes have occurred in the downstream sector, including:

  1. Important refining & petrochemical feedstock price fluctuations
  2. Important impact on Market of the Shale Revolution – traditional crude importing countries became export countries almost overnight
  3. Natural gas revolution – a whole new market of LNG
  4. Higher utilisation rates of APG (associated petroleum gas)
  5. Commissioning & start-up of new large-scale processing facilities in oil production regions
  6. Geographical expansion of business, including the Artic areas, etc.

Looking further back - 10 or more years, we can add the following:

  • Development & implementation of new quality standards and specification for oil and petrochemical products
  • Emerging advanced technologies
  • Replacement of retired and/or inefficient assets and equipment
  • Tightening of environmental standards for process facilities & measures to reduce negative impact

Monitoring the market and ongoing projects as well as best industry practices, we observe that the most successful projects, both in terms of implementation (construction) and operation, are those where strong focus is put on achieving and sustaining high level of process safety.

The most successful projects are those in which the emphasis is on achieving and maintaining a high level of process safety.

The safety element is a key factor for stable and reliable facility operation. Every year complexity of equipment and processes increases, needing upgraded operation guidelines and procedures. Some of these requirements are set by state regulations, but also by taking action to implement best HAZOP practices allows not only the use of latest technologies, but also the improvement of economic efficiency of a project - via higher level of operational readiness.

High safety standards embodied in a well-defined safety culture with a well-appointed operations team ensures that best practices, up-to-date solutions for safe operations are taken into account at the facility, and that needed competencies are gained in process safety management and emergency response areas.

In order to better illustrate the economic benefits of implementing HAZOP studies, it shall be compared to potential financial losses from unit shutdown for maintenance, environmental penalties, fines, social payments in case of incidents, product losses, etc.

Cost advantages can be calculated based on a number of scenarios – lack of measures taken following a HAZOP study is a premise to incident probability increase. Each incident that occurs leads to substantial clean-up costs.

picture of a fireman Regretfully, there have been a number of accidents in the industry in recent years - these accidents have resulted in severe losses, and in some cases fatalities. Since refineries and petrochemical plants are qualified as high fire- and explosion-hazardous facilities, all aspects relating to fail-free and safe plant operation should be prioritised. All companies, without exception, pay special attention to HSE issues and allocate extra funds to install safety barriers (LOP), ensure high-quality works performance, and required staff training.

One of the instruments lately being frequently used globally is RCA – analysis of incident causes and consequences, and also HAZID – failure and potentially hazardous events investigation and analysis.

Both techniques helped to improve the development and sustainability of Process Safety levels and changes of corporate safety culture.

HAZOP analysis is the most widely spread method used in different business processes of O&G industry. Many potential challenges and issues can be identified and resolved through the research of brand-new, reintroduced, amended and functional procedures, design solutions and processes with the use of the structural approach of the HAZOP study process.

For the HAZOP Study to reach maximum efficiency it requires the involvement of target-oriented, experienced and competent team members with skills required for this activity.

training It is important to understand that process safety culture is not an independent function – it usually is a result of integrated team-work and effort, and also personal consciousness, dedication and involvement.

Culture of safety of the process, is the result of complex teamwork and effort, as well as personal consciousness, dedication and participation.

Leadership is a cornerstone of this approach. One should always keep in mind that a manager cannot convince his team members of the necessity of safe work practices if he or she personally neglects the requirements put forward, i.e. wearing protective overgarment, helmet or eye-shield.

Leadership with regards to safety within the company provides an opportunity to convey high standards of PS to shareholders, investors, state institutions and supervisors through Roadmaps to Sustainable Development& regular financial reports. As a result of these activities, mutual trust and confidence in safety of operations introduces additional benefits like more attractive conditions of external financing and new prospective partners.

Another key point concerns the transparency of data reporting and statistics on hazardous events, incidents, accidents, and near misses. Company personnel at every level of hierarchy should be motivated towards identification, analysis and elimination of hazardous events. However, the most obvious instruments like financial incentives (bonuses or maluses) are not as efficient as, for instance, team spirit and sense of belonging.

Company personnel at every level of hierarchy should be motivated towards identification, analysis and elimination of hazardous events.

A good example and a proven method is the right to ‘say no’ to unsafe works performance and ask an occupational safety engineer for clarification in case the worker has any concerns regarding his task or lack of essential information for safe operation. It is unnecessary to remind that in this case a worker should not be sanctioned or limited in his/her right next time it happens.

A remarkable and efficient approach within downstream companies is the distribution of unified and typical standards and statistical records among its contractors. This is especially crucial for these facilities since works are performed on site with high class of danger.

To summarise, it is not particularly easy to assess a company’s expenses in sustaining corporate safety culture, but the involvement of each and every employee can really contribute to the success of this concept. Despite changing macroeconomic situation and market volatility, project budgets and schedules being re-evaluated, the most reliable and commercially successful projects in company’s portfolio are usually those that ensure high levels of PS and compliance with HSE industry standards.

EURO PETROLEUM CONSULTANTS logo Euro Petroleum Consultants is a technical oil and gas consultancy with offices in Dubai, London, Moscow, Sofia and Kuala Lumpur. Euro Petroleum Consultants also organises leading conferences and training courses worldwide. For further details please visit www.europetro.com.

Published by:

March 2018