The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Continually Raising the Bar on Safety

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted May 8, 2014

Highlights from API President and CEO Jack Gerard’s remarks at the 2014 International Oil Spill Conference (IOSC) in Savannah, Ga.:

  • The United States’ rise to energy superpower status, built on surging oil and natural gas production, will demand increased energy infrastructure.
  • Greater demand for energy will spotlight the oil and natural gas industry’s ability to develop reserves, but also how well industry transports and stores the energy it produces.
  • Continuing to add to and improve industry’s ability to prevent and prepare for spills, as well as its response if incidents occur, will be key to sustaining America’s oil and natural gas renaissance.

Jack Gerard addressing at IOSC

Gerard said thanks to advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling there is an ongoing revolution in U.S. oil and natural gas production. By 2020 natural gas production from shale and other tight-rock formations is expected to total more than 13 trillion cubic feet or 46 percent of U.S. dry gas output, he said. Similarly, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that U.S. crude oil production rose for the fourth consecutive year in 2012, increasing by 15 percent to 33 billion barrels, putting the U.S. on track to lead the world in crude output. This energy development is creating jobs, adding to the economy and creating new opportunities for the next generation of industry workers.

Energy development is increasing the need to build on safe practices and to improve infrastructure, both of which are critical for the U.S. energy surge to continue and to grow. Gerard:

“In order to achieve our nation’s full potential as a global energy leader all of us have to work together to ensure that our energy infrastructure is capable of safely, reliably and efficiently transporting ever-increasing amounts of domestically produced energy, whether by truck, barge, pipeline or railcar. The oil and natural gas industry’s ability to keep leading job creation in this country and driving the 21st century North American energy renaissance is directly tied to how safely and reliably we develop our nation’s energy resources. Because, how well our industry responds to the infrequent, but usually highly publicized incidents is what drives public perception and impacts regulators’ confidence in our ability to safely manage our nation’s game-changing energy resources.”

Industry is focused on safety and is demonstrating safety improvements that let the public and regulators understand that “we understand the challenges of what we do,” Gerard said. He noted that after the 2010 Macondo incident, industry swiftly put together task forces to examine safety and response.

One of these groups concentrated on improving spill planning, use of dispersants, shoreline protection, oil sensing and tracking, in-situ burning, mechanical recovery and the development of alternative technologies. Industry also has increased transparency on how it prevents and responds to spills and other incidents through the OilSpillPrevention.org website, he said, making it possible for anyone with a computer to see what is being done.

The IOSC’s goals, exhibits, speeches, academic papers and discussions fundamentally strengthen this aspect of industry’s overall mission. Gerard:

“It is critical that our enhancements to prevention methods, our response techniques such as dispersants, in-situ burning and improvements to training and exercises are part of the energy policy discussion. Getting to zero incidents will take the long-term commitment to working collaboratively with all stakeholders and applying all of our best science, research and real-world data in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.”

Conference attendees and associated workers around the country and the world are to a large degree “setting the energy policy direction for years to come,” he said. Industry’s response to accidents has a “direct and long-lasting impact on how we are allowed to operate and the public’s opinion of our industry.”

This effort – advancing safety, prevention, preparedness and response capabilities – is never done. Improvements and advancements will keep build on the uses of equipment, technology and know-how that were on display at this year’s IOSC. Gerard:

“No matter how safely and effectively we operate, when talking about our spill response framework, three words you’ll never hear are ‘that’s good enough.’ … This is what truly sets us apart: how we learn from setbacks and continually raise the bar on safety.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.