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Integrated Operations must ensure better HSE

The petroleum industry's focus on integrated operations (IO) affects technological, human and organisational aspects and has an impact on the interaction between them. The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (the PSA) feels that it is important to draw attention to the fact that these changes could have both a positive and negative impact on the risk level on the Norwegian shelf.

All papers presented at the conference are in Norwegian language only. Go to the Norwegian version of this article to find links to these papers

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway has clear expectations that the industry will emphasise the objective of HSE improvements as a driving force for the development of IO. This message is also clearly expressed in OLF's (the Norwegian Oil Industry Association's) recommendations to its member companies.

The PSA focused on Integrated Operations and HSE at a well-attended conference in Stavanger on 19 June. One of main topics of the conference was the issue: How do we achieve a good balance between the industry's ambition to make the Norwegian petroleum activities a world leader within Integrated Operations, and the stated political goal that Norway must also be a pioneer country within HSE? IO opens new opportunities and challenges in the interaction between people, technology and organisation (MTO), and consequently the activity on the Norwegian shelf may be managed and organised in a fundamentally different way.

"Introducing IO may influence the risk of major accidents in a negative way, but it may also contribute to the opposite. IO has a potential for reducing the danger of major accidents. The challenges related to the most important changes that accompany IO will only to a small degree be captured by traditional risk analysis methods applied by the industry so far", said Director General Magne Ognedal of the PSA when he opened the conference.

New requirements for leadership, management and organisation
The programme gave a comprehensive picture of the possibilities of IO development and its challenges in relation to HSE, with contributions from the authorities, operating companies and the supplier industry, trade unions and OLF. In their speech, Paul G. Bang and Eirik Bjerkebæk from the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway focused on the managerial challenges relating to MTO interaction. They presented main findings of a report prepared by SINTEF regarding the central MTO changes in IO, and the conditions for implementing risk assessments of such changes using current methods.

One of the PSA's main priorities for 2008 is directed at IO. A separate project group will follow the development of IO within the industry. Vital HSE aspects are being challenged by integrated operations. Work processes are standardised, the decision processes become more efficient, more operational and maintenance work is monitored and controlled from onshore, and emergency response plans are influenced and developed further. All of this places new demands on leadership, management and organisation.

Bang and Bjerkebæk pointed out that the industry only to a small degree has focused on risk related to major accidents in connection with IO. They also pointed out that the SINTEF report's emphasis of vital MTO aspects in connection with leadership/management did not appear to have been prioritised. They stressed that development of new work processes and work methods raises many questions to which there are very few set answers. One important aspect relates to decision-making, and how IO will affect an organisation's ability to make use of relevant safety information to make the right decision at the right time.

A panel discussion with four of Norway's leading safety researchers gave certain perspectives as to what we know and what we need to know more about. Central topics in the discussions were:

- How do we operationalize what we know about IO changes and the risk perspective in specific risk assessments of the changes?

- How do we balance technological development with the needs of the users?

Several of the researchers and industrial leaders pointed out that the biggest changes in organisations and work methods probably would come onshore, while parts of the land-based organisations will become more operational. It is therefore important that this is reflected in the operational risk management.

A challenge for ICT safety
ICT safety is becoming an increasingly important prerequisite for HSE. This was emphasised by Torleif Husebø of the PSA, and the message was exemplified and reinforced by a speech made by Marius Aarset from ABB on the suppliers' new roles in operations. Enhanced understanding of how the ICT development affects various event scenarios, and training in handling such incidents will be central activities. Husebø underlined that the greatest uncertainty relating to how ICT development influences HSE is the fact that we do not have sufficient understanding of and possibilities to test how the various systems and networks affect each other.

Lars Chr. Bacher from StatoilHydro and Tore Holm, Shell stressed the need for dialog, good management of change and cooperation in order to create the necessary confidence and trust in change. Both referred to the fact that IO is not just a vision for the future, but is about to become a fundamental characteristic in the mode of operation. Knut Thorvaldsen from OLF pointed out the opportunities and challenges involved in introducing IO safely, while Einar Ellingsen from the union IndustriEnergi pointed out some important prerequisites and limits which the union feels should be placed on new solutions and the pace of change. Both sides expressed the need for exploiting the opportunities offered by a good tripartite cooperation in reaching the IO goals in a good way, and to ensure that important HSE considerations are evaluated.

Bjørn Emil Madsen and Pål Næsje, both from Sintef, discussed to what extent new ways of working in IO would impact safety and the working environment.

Eirik Bjerkebæk concluded the conference by emphasising that today it is not possible to answer in general terms how IO will influence the risk level. It is, however, clear that IO provides opportunities to influence HSE in a positive direction. This assumes, among other things, a further development and extension of methods for risk assessments in design and operation of new solutions. Although the conference did not give any set answers, it will hopefully provide a basis for asking better questions, thus contributing towards stimulating the development work required within the industry and new ideas in the research communities.


All papers presented at the conference are in Norwegian language only. Go to the Norwegian version of this article to find links to these papers

Contact in the PSA:
Grete Løland
Email:  grete-irene.loland@ptil.no