Bosphorus reflections

By Gordon Ballard, IOGP Executive Director 

Gordon Ballard, IOGP Executive Director
Gordon Ballard, IOGP Executive Director

Recently back from the World Petroleum Congress (WPC) in Istanbul, I’ve been thinking back on both its setting and the themes that emerged.

Just over a century ago, Istanbul (then Constantinople) was the capital of an empire that encompassed what are now several of the world’s major producers of oil and gas.

Today, the city – no longer a capital – remains Turkey’s economic and cultural centre and serves as a unique bridge between east and west.  Meanwhile, the Bosphorus itself has become a major oil supply route, with an average of 3 million barrels of oil passing daily through the link it provides between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

So Istanbul was an ideal place to 5,000 participants from 65 countries to gather and talk about a wide range of topics, including leadership, high standards, ethical business practices and the vital role of oil and gas in the world’s energy future.  I was there, as Executive Director of IOGP, to lead a panel discussion devoted to operational safety and security in exploration and production (E&P).

After all, those topics are at the core of IOGP’s activities – as they have been since the Association was founded over 40 years ago.   IOGP’s Safety Committee, for example, has  produced some excellent industry good practices, covering areas as diverse as road transport and aviation safety and contractor safety management.

We have done, and continue to do, this sort of work in good times or bad. Because when it comes to safety and security, we don’t believe in compromise – or complacency.

Last month, for instance, we issued what’s come to be regarded as IOGP’s flagship publication:  our annual Safety performance indicators report.  This 31st edition is based on the analysis of 2.9 million work hours of data across 103 countries, submitted by 43 of IOGP’s operating companies.  The results were mixed.  While the number of fatalities went down from 54 in 2015 to 50 in 2016, so did the number of hours worked – by 22%.  So, against that background, the fatal accident rate has gone up by 19% compared with 2015.

As I said in Istanbul, this is a sobering statistic, made more disturbing given that for the first time in the 31 years of collecting these data, we have had two consecutive years of increasing fatal accident rates.

Which is why we’re already addressing the issues raised by this unwelcome indicator.

IOGP’s Safety Committee has just launched Project Safira. Working with other Industry bodies we are developing a series of tangible guides, actions and behaviours designed to eliminate fatalities from our Industry. We at IOGP believe it is unacceptable that fatalities are still happening in the workplace in 2017, and so we are moving from a position of zero fatalities as an aspiration, to zero fatalities as a minimum expectation.

As for security:  given Istanbul’s sensitive geopolitical location, that was naturally an important part of our panel discussion.  I cited two of our Security Committee’s most recent reports:

Participants on the panel I led at WPC were

  • Monika Hausenblas, Shell’s Executive Vice President Safety & Environment
  • AbdulHameed Al-Rushaid, Saudi Aramco’s Executive Director, Drilling & Workover
  • Leo Simonovich, Vice President, Global Cyber Strategy, Siemens
  • Charlie Williams II, Chair of the Governing Board for the Center for Offshore Safety

Together, we explored the challenges the industry faces in E&P operations – and the opportunities we can seize the make our business safer and more sustainable in a world that will still rely on oil and gas for decades to come.  In the shorter term, I look forward to the next WPC in Houston in 2020.  There, I’m confident that we’ll be able to report on operational safety and security challenges met and opportunities maximized.

For more details about the Instanbul WPC,  visit https://www.22wpc.com/

Photo credit: Bosphorus Bridge Purple by Zhirayr Nersessian/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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