Archive for the ‘IRF’ Category

An international regulatory colleague brought this puzzling RigZone article to my attention. Quotes:

“From one perspective, one can look at the overall absence of risk – from this perspective, we can easily say that either the United Kingdom’s North Sea or Canada’s Nova Scotian continental shelf is the safest region for offshore oil and gas operations right now,” Robak told Rigzone.

“Canada’s offshore industry accounts for approximately one million barrels per day, and its geographic location along the Nova Scotian continental shelf has been a benefit in that there is little to no risk to its continued operation on a day-to-day basis,” Robak said.


Scotian shelf

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Raphael is a highly regarded offshore safety leader and a positive force for continuous safety achievement in Brazil and internationally.

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Upstream image

After 8 outstanding years with Australia’s offshore safety and environmental regulator, Stuart Smith has announced that he will be departing NOPSEMA in September. Stuart was a highly effective CEO and an important contributor to international offshore safety initiatives. Best wishes to Stuart!

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Trinity Spirit FPSO

Six weeks after the Trinity Spirit fire, there is still no public accounting of the number of fatalities and injuries. The initial reports were incomplete and inconsistent, even with regard to the number of people on the vessel at the time of the incident.

SEPCOL, the FPSO operator, no longer has a website and has issued no public statements on the incident since the day afer its occurrence. The company’s status is thus uncertain. The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission website only advises that the fire was extinguished as of 4 February.

The absence of timely information on major incidents reflects poorly on the offshore industry and those who regulate it. This is not just a Nigerian issue. It’s past time for an international standard that identifies incident information to be publicly disclosed and specifies the timeframes and methods for releasing this information.

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The above slide is from the excellent presentation that Jan de Jong (Inspector General, State Supervision of Mines, the Netherlands) never got to deliver in Vancouver. As session chair, Jan graciously yielded his time to his panelists.

Jan’s presentation notes the growing importance of international cooperation. This trend has the potential to improve regulatory capabilities, expand data availability and access, reduce regulatory costs through the sharing of resources, reduce costs for industry through greater international consistency and regulatory certainty, and improve international relations.  The Netherlands, Russia, Norway, Cuba, the US, and everyone else should be on the same team when it comes to offshore safety and pollution prevention.  Some near-term suggestions follow:

  • Except where regional conditions dictate otherwise, the same standards should be applied worldwide.  Government and industry should be collectively questioning, testing, and improving these standards. Remember that the goal is continuous improvement, not mere compliance.
  • An international information system should provide for the collection and verification of incident and performance data.
  • Using international data and expertise, a cooperative risk assessment program should be initiated.
  • An organized international audit capability should be established to evaluate operators and regulators.
  • To improve access to expertise and reduce costs, a network of specialists should assist regulators worldwide.
  • Industry training requirements should be uniform and consistently applied, and regulator training programs should be consolidated regionally or internationally.
  • The international research network should be expanded.
  • To ensure that accidents are investigated independently and to minimize the potential for political influences on the investigation process, an international accident investigation capability should be established.
  • The safety culture message should be promoted worldwide.  Successes and failures should be cooperatively examined.

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The above slide is excerpted from Torleif Husebo’s presentation at the Vancouver conference.  Since Piper Alpha in 1988, offshore safety leaders have been gathering and assessing hydrocarbon release data.  Norway, the UK, Australia, the Netherlands and other nations track these data because they are an important indicator of fire and explosion risks. The IRF reports these data as part of their performance measurement project.

Obviously, when hydrocarbons are unintentionally released at an offshore facility you have the potential for a very dangerous situation.   However, because of objections voiced when the MMS updated incident reporting requirements 5 years ago, the US government does not collect the detailed information needed to track the size and cause of these releases.  The US is thus unable to monitor trends and benchmark against other nations around the world.

Offshore companies have done well in responding to the drilling issues raised following the blowout.  However, the post-Macondo offshore industry needs to provide broad safety leadership.  A commitment to collecting performance data and assessing risk trends at OCS oil and gas facilities is absolutely essential.  A good place to start would be to initiate a cooperative hydrocarbon release data gathering program.

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Vancouver, BC, Canada


The program for the International Regulators’ Offshore Safety Conference has been updated to include keynote presentations on the Montara and Macondo blowouts, and roundtable sessions that will address the lessons learned and how they should be applied by operators, contractors, and regulators.  The presentations, discussions, and debates are sure to be thought provoking and informative.  If you would like to participate, visit the conference website for more information.

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Measuring and comparing international safety performance is not possible without consistent, verifiable data.  Most existing data sets suffer from one or more of the following shortcomings:

  • Some workers (e.g. contractors) are excluded
  • Dependent on voluntary submissions
  • No verification process
  • Inconsistent definitions and classification procedures

The International Regulators’ Forum has taken a major step forward in measuring and comparing safety performance.  Detailed definitions and guidelines have been established for classifying offshore safety incidents and compiling the data.  These criteria are now being used to compile incident data for IRF countries. The IRF definitions and classification procedures could be broadly applied by industry and regulators to better assess safety performance and identify operational concerns.  Learn more.

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The acronym is awkward but the International Committee on Regulatory Authority Research and Development is a great source of information about offshore safety and pollution prevention research.  If you need more information about a design, operational, or management issue, there’s a good chance that an ICRARD member has conducted a relevant study.  Go to the ICRARD site and give it a try!

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