The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Making Offshore Operations Even Safer

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 9, 2015

Three zeroes stand out in the first annual performance report by the Center for Offshore Safety (COS), the oil and natural gas industry-led initiative to promote continuous offshore safety improvement following the 2010 Macondo incident: Zero fatalities, zero loss-of-well-control incidents and zero oil spills equal to or greater than 10,000 gallons in Gulf of Mexico operations.

Based on data collected from COS members about their 2013 operations, the report highlights key indicators of safety performance, lessons learned from incidents and information from the first cycle of safety audits now required by federal regulations – audits based on an industry standard developed by API covering Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS).

Key report findings:

  • On average, 96 percent of planned critical offshore maintenance, inspections and testing were performed on schedule.
  • All eligible COS members successfully completed audits of their SEMS – which companies use to track how well their safety and environmental programs and procedures are working.
  • The three zeroes mentioned above came during more than 42 million work hours in the Gulf’s deepwater.

API President and CEO Jack Gerard talked about the COS report and overall safety during a conference call with reporters:

“In the five years since the tragic events at the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, America’s oil and natural gas industry and our regulators have kept our commitment to make offshore operations safer than ever before. Immediately following the incident, the industry launched a comprehensive review of offshore safety measures and practices. We identified areas for improvement to strengthen accident prevention, intervention and response capabilities, and we have relentlessly pursued that work.”

Gerard noted more than 100 new and revised standards developed by API for well design, blowout prevention equipment, worker safety and other components of energy exploration and production – as well as the launch of the COS in 2011. All are key in industry’s focus on continuous enhancement of offshore safety. Gerard:

“The industry’s overall safety record was strong before Macondo, and the co-chairs of President Obama’s national spill commission were absolutely right when they said that offshore drilling is now even safer. We will continue to build on these achievements because our goal is zero accidents and zero spills. Our daily commitment is one of constant improvement until that goal becomes reality.”

Industry’s first safety goal is prevention, but a great deal of work has also been done to strengthen accident containment and response. Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, highlighted one of those efforts on today’s conference call:

“Industry invested in two deepwater containment systems -- the Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC) system and the HWCG containment system. Both can operate in water depths up to 10,000 feet, cap an incident well, and process 100,000 barrels of liquids per day and 200 million cubic feet of gas per day. These equipment resources stand ready to respond today.”

COS Executive Director Charlie Williams said the findings his organization’s report provides a baseline for future comparisons of year-to-year performance and safety improvement. Williams:

“This is the first report of its kind to be published by U.S. regulators or industry. Our strong culture of safety continues to grow along with advances in technology and industry standards. So long as there is any room for improvement, our work at COS will never be complete. This is our livelihood, and our work is critical to America’s new energy renaissance.”

Based on the report, the top three areas identified by COS for further improvement are safe mechanical lifting, such as the use of cranes and hoists; process safety, with an emphasis on risk management and maintenance, inspection and testing; and the effectiveness of and adherence to operating procedures and safe work practices, especially the quality of work plans and preparation.

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.