Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Technology integration is key to offshore safety

Athens Groups reports what it calls a high rate of schedule delays and nonproductive time (NPT) on highly automated offshore rigs. A recent survey of drilling contractors and operators shows drilling control system failures account for 20% of NPT.

Athens Group helps drilling contractors and oil companies prevent software-related equipment failures that can contribute to NPT, schedule delays, and safety incidents.

Don Shafer, a co-founder of Athens Group, outlined his company’s survey findings during a Mar. 24 speech to an environmental and safety conference hosted by the Society of Petroleum Engineers in San Antonio.

Rig automation is intended to maximize return on investment by reducing NPT, yet automated rigs are experiencing down time and safety incidents. Shafer said everyone involved must integrate hardware and software obtained from multiple venders.

Offshore rigs use complex software-dependent control systems. Shafer said venders cannot ensure that all systems and equipment will work as designed when integrated with other vendors’ new systems and equipment.

Shafer believes drilling companies and operators can reduce NPT by paying more attention to the application of software-engineering processes and equipment standardization interfaces.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wyoming: Leave groundwater regs to state

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed a resolution asking the US Congress to not pass legislation that would diminish the state’s authority to regulate oil and gas well completion or diminish the state’s authority to protect its groundwater supplies.

The resolution stemmed from concerns about hydraulic fracturing. Wyoming lawmakers say they have extensive oil and gas production regulations in place, and that state regulators have the expertise to enforce these regulations.

State Sen. Bill Vasey, a Democrat, was a cosponsor of the resolution, which was sponsored by a bipartisan mix of both House and Senate members in the Wyoming legislature.

“Washington regulators should not be imposing new administrative costs and mandates that would not add to environmental protection,” Vasey said.

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Groundwater Protection Council found no documented cases of groundwater contamination associated with hydraulic fracturing. Nearly 1 million oil and gas wells have been completed using this technology.

Vasey questions the motives of “East Coast environmental groups that are trying to shut down oil and gas development in Wyoming and elsewhere in the West. They think that they can do it by getting Congress to override state authority—and that is just plain wrong. It’s wrong on the science and wrong on the established safety record.”

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Industry to whales: Can you hear us?

The oil and gas industry is very diligently studying how sounds associated with underwater exploration and production activities might influence marine life such as various types of whales.

Meanwhile, the US Minerals Management Service this year issued a notice that it’s considering evaluating potential environmental effects of geophysical activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.

E&P Sound and Marine Life is the name of an ongoing joint industry program (JIP) that includes 13 oil companies and the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers. JIP participants are Anadarko Petroleum Corp., BG Group, BHP Billiton, BP PLC, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, Eni SPA, ExxonMobil Corp., Santos, Royal Dutch Shell, StatoilHydro, Total SA, and Woodside Petroleum Ltd.

In October 2008, scientists attending a JIP program review meeting in west Houston filled a hotel ballroom. They described their progress in studying underwater noise level related to offshore exploration, development, production, and decommissioning activities.

Their conclusion was that a lot still has to be learned about the hearing systems of whales and whether E&P activities influence their behavior.

MMS scheduled a Mar. 23 deadline for accepting public comments on a proposed programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) to cover Atlantic seismic acquisition. Multiple applications for offshore seismic permits prompted the MMS to consider a PEIS, and the agency is seeking input from industry on the scope of the PEIS.

If a PEIS is funded and started in early 2009, MMS estimates the PEIS could be completed by late 2010. Without funding, completion of PEIS is uncertain.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

ExxonMobil funds weatherization training

Oil companies understand efficiency, and they spend a lot of money making their own operations as energy efficient as possible. Now, ExxonMobil Corp. donated $5 million to the National Community Action Foundation (NCAF) for weatherization worker training programs.

It’s the largest private contribution to community organizations that work with the US Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program, said David Bradley, NCAF executive director.

“Weatherization has become quite a hot topic,” Bradley said, adding that weatherization job training will help provide workers with skills that they can use for sustainable, life-long careers.

The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act increases funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program. Bradley said NCAF and ExxonMobil already were discussing a partnership before weatherization was included in the economic stimulus package President Barack Obama signed Feb. 17.

Sherman Glass, president of ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Co., said “energy efficiency and economic development go hand in hand.” He noted that ExxonMobil plans to spend $500 million “over the next few years” improving energy efficiency at its own operations worldwide, both upstream and downstream.

The Obama administrative wants to see 1 million low-income homes/year receive weatherization.

Established in 1976, the DOE's Weatherization Assistance Program enables low-income families to permanently reduce energy bills by improving energy efficiency in their homes. Since its inception, more than 6.2 million homes have been weatherized. In 2008, the program helped create 21,000 jobs.

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