The U.S. oil and natural gas industry is made up of a wide array of companies and individuals. From small to large exploration and production companies to geologists and engineers, the oil and gas industry is composed of hardworking men and women dedicated to the advancement of American energy development, the creation of innovative new technology, and above all, the ability to provide the energy we all rely upon each day in a safe and secure manner for the environment, workers, and communities.
Safety is not a word that is tossed around lightly in our industry. After all, the people who work every day on well sites, rigs offshore, and seismic vessels are the same people who live, work, and raise their families in those communities. To promote the highest safety standards, companies provide briefings and training for employees; hire large teams focused solely on the environment, health, and safety of a project; and encourage continued technological advancements to reduce potential risks on-site. This advancement is showcased offshore, where oil and gas producers are deploying new, innovative solutions to ensure that U.S. offshore energy production is the safest in the world.
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One incident is one too many, and that is why the energy industry has no greater priority than the safety of our workers and environment. With the Obama Administration’s Offshore Well Control Rule recently released, and as many look back at the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon incident, it is important to understand the dedication and continued safety improvements being made by this vital industry.
Significant steps have been taken over the past six years to enhance offshore safety. Thanks to the use of advanced computers, sensors, and automation tools, companies can track and monitor operations more efficiently than ever. Engineers now read information from sensors in digital form, enabling them to make real-time decisions about the reservoir, well conditions, and instantly make adjustments as needed. Oil and gas companies also use remotely operated underwater vehicles, known as ROVs, to support and enhance their ability to monitor and control every moment of development. Prior to and during operations, companies run extensive tests, such as cement testing to ensure materials used in the building of the wellbore are able to withstand high levels of stress during operations.
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New programs and best practices have been developed in recent years to enhance the industry’s ability to respond to potential incidents offshore. The Marine Well Containment Company and Helix Well Containment Group, for example, were formed by oil and gas companies in an effort to develop more advanced systems for controlling and responding to potential wellbore failures. The groups have worked with regulators from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the U.S. Coast Guard to help enhance safety measures and to provide well containment equipment and technology for offshore operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The industry also has over 244 exploration and production standards for offshore operations, over 100 of which are new or revised since 2010.
Development of our offshore resources is critical to our 21st Century economy, providing well-paying American jobs and supporting small businesses across the country. And as a result of these new standards, practices, and technological innovations, offshore energy production has never been safer. According to the Center for Offshore Safety’s Safety Performance Indicator data, no fatalities or incidents resulting in five or more injuries occurred offshore in 2014.
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Energy development is an industrial process and, like any other industry, there are risks. But enhancing offshore safety from beginning to end is our top priority. Our industry’s unwavering commitment to the highest safety standards possible is helping to ensure that U.S. oil and gas production will continue to grow and support the economy while keeping our workers and environment safe. This type of economic activity is a win-win for our nation and coastal states, and American energy producers are working every day to ensure this development occurs safely and securely offshore.
— Barry Russell is president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), Randall Luthi is president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), and Nikki Martin is president of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC).