ThoughtStream: Post-Macondo, attitudes still need to change

David Price

April 1, 2014

Many positive changes have taken place in response to the International Oil and Gas Producers Association (OGP) recommendations for well control training, following the Macondo tragedy, but a culture shift in behavior and attitude is still needed.

The investigations found that, through the chain of events, processes where people could question, challenge or take action were not always followed.

New training standards to improve knowledge and competency are being introduced, but unless people involved in well operations feel empowered to act, they will never have the desired effect. This change in behavior needs to come from the top down and goes even further than empowerment.

We need to be demonstrating an expectation that those individuals will take the step to shut the well in if they deem it to be necessary–and they need to feel supported in their decision.

As an industry, we often put the cart before the horse with a culture of safety training, rather than teaching people how to do their jobs properly and safely, because the two go hand in hand. If we focus on the safety critical role of each individual in ensuring process safety as a whole, then perhaps we can achieve more.

We’ve still got some way to go for this to happen, but steps in the right direction are being made.

International Well Control Forum (IWCF) already had procedures for accrediting training through a global network of providers with candidates, assessed via independently invigilated, centrally generated examinations and a practical assessment program. However, overnight, Macondo placed a global spotlight on standards and hit home the need for more consistency in training.

We had already introduced audits for training providers, but post Macondo we took the step to increase the frequency and make them more robust.

We now have a system of four yearly audits, supplemented by spot checks when we’ve had a complaint or have a concern about a particular center. With 210 centers, we are carrying out one audit per week, using qualified auditors who we have trained internally to consider a number of factors including facilities, equipment, human resources, lesson observations, practical assessments, and management systemsIf we focus on the safety critical role of each individual in ensuring process safety as a whole, then perhaps we can achieve more.

It is a significant undertaking for IWCF, as a not-for-profit organization, but we see the importance and in the future would like to be in a position to further increase the frequency.

Most centers have welcomed the audits. When needed, we will issue improvement notices and return to focus on areas of concern. We have in the most severe cases, removed accreditation from centers. It is only because we are fully independent that we can take that step. At the end of the day, the training being delivered should protect not just that person when they turn up to work but every one of their colleagues. We witnessed a sharp spike in course take-up following Macondo and the scrutiny it brought has enabled us to make further changes that would never have been accepted before.

The syllabus was reviewed with new subjects introduced around assurance of well integrity throughout the lifecycle of the well, particularly around barrier management, casing and cementing and risk assessment, contingency management and implementation.

New levels to training programs are being introduced including a basic introduction course at level one that could even be taught in schools and universities and also a vocational competency qualification at level five for skilled engineers.

Ultimately, we want to move well training from a system where a candidate turns up on the day, sits a test and is handed a licence to a more continual style of learning.

What Macondo made the industry realize is that it’s not just about having a piece of paper saying you can work. It’s about the welfare of everyone on the installation; it’s about big organizations being made bankrupt; it’s about the environment and it’s about whether governments will allow us to continue to drill.

David Price became CEO at IWCF in 2009 after a career of more than 30 years in the drilling industry.

Price previously worked as a consultant, primarily teaching and advising on well control matters for organisations such as SedcoForex, Santa Fe, Shell and BG. He worked in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia with a variety of organisations including operators, drilling contractors, training providers, universities and academic institutions.