Drilling Ahead: Today’s interesting times spawn puzzles, challenges

Posted on 08 November 2011

By Mike Killalea, editor & publisher

An apocryphal Chinese curse threatens, “May you live in interesting times.” Curse or no, few would argue that today’s E&P industry does not epitomize interesting times. Responding to technical puzzles and new HSE challenges, industry initiatives are multiple and multifaceted – the opposite of few and far between.

IADC stands in the vanguard of progress and has for 71 years. This issue, published on the eve of the 2011 IADC Annual General Meeting, examines the dazzling array of issues and initiatives IADC is working. Read about them here and here.

Take HSE to start. Improving HSE practices and performance underscores IADC’s mission. Here at DC, HSE is featured in every issue, through HSE Corner and in longer features. Personal safety has always been hugely important. But IADC and industry have also ramped up initiatives to improve process safety, particularly after the 1988 explosion and fire aboard the UK production platform Piper Alpha.

The judicial enquiry into Piper Alpha resulted in a major step change in E&P process safety, both for industry and regulators. The concluding recommendations called for less emphasis on prescriptive regulations (i.e., X number of lifeboats and Y number of fire extinguishers per Z number of workers) in favor of developing integrated plans to protect health, safety and the environment.

IADC’s efforts to develop these “safety case templates” ultimately resulted in two sets of IADC HSE Guidelines, one for onshore, one for MODUs.

Most recently, safety and environmental management systems (SEMS) were mandated in the US by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Again, IADC is at the center of work to help industry comply by the 15 Nov deadline, not long after this edition of DC hits the street.

This issue provides a detailed look at the new requirements and the work of the industry SEMS Task Force, comprising IADC, Offshore Operators Committee and the Center for Offshore Safety, to facilitate compliance with the new regulations. The resulting SEMS Toolkit features multiple documents, templates and explanatory PowerPoints and documents, all freely available here.

Anyone for technology? Look where we’re going in drilling automation. Ron Ayllon of Schlumberger Integrated Project Management summed it up pretty well at the 2011 IADC Advanced Rig Technology Conference in September: “Drilling automation is an enabler for us to reproduce our best performance through the consistent application of all our best practices and lessons learned.” Or, as DC managing editor Linda Hsieh wrote in our September/October edition, tongue firmly in cheek, “Drilling Automation: Is Resistance Futile?”

Yes, Linda, resistance is futile, and IADC is on automation like white on rice. Our IADC Advanced Rig Technology Committee works energetically to advance drilling technology for today and tomorrow.

The ART Committee has thus far convened only in Houston. IADC encourages global participation via WebEx and conference calling to its West Houston headquarters. But time zones still conspire to confound our zeal to reach out globally. So like Willie Sutton, the thief who robbed banks because “that’s where the money is,” ART will go where the members are.

On 12 June, the IADC ART Committee will hold a half-day meeting cum workshop in Barcelona, Spain. This is the afternoon preceding one of IADC’s most well-attended events, IADC World Drilling 2012. I hope to see you there.

In times this interesting, we have multiple opportunities to improve our performance and our bottom line. If that’s a curse, shine that evil eye on me.

Mike Killalea can be reached via e-mail at mike.killalea@iadc.org.

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