Process Safety in Oil and Gas Operations- Past, Present and Future Direction

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  • Topic: Safety, Material safety data sheet, Safety engineering
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PROCESS SAFETY MANAGEMENT IN OIL AND GAS OPERATION: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE DIRECTION 1.0Introduction
Process safety management system (PSM) has received greater attention in the oil and gas industry because of the major memorable accidents that have occurred within the industry and the severity of their impacts on stakeholders. The Bhopal gas tragedy which occurred in December 1984 from the release of methyl Isocyanates (MIC) where over two thousand people died and the Flixborough disaster which also happened on 1974 where about twenty eight workers were killed and thirty six workers suffered from serious injuries alerted the essence of PSM in the operations of not only oil and gas activities but in other process industries (Hackitt 2010). The application of PSM has been steered by organizations like the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; Center for Process Safety, as a management system to manage hazardous processes. PSM is a proactive approach which seeks to identify and manage hazards, risks and safety during operational activities in order to prevent process and equipment failure, major injuries and fatalities (Harry 2003).It is aimed at developing plants and processes to prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals (HHC) during operations which could lead to dangerous effects, fires and explosions (Bureau Veritas 2010). PSM addresses matters that relates to operability, stability and quality of processes and its merit goes beyond prevention of accidents to increase productivity, quality improvement, waste and cost reduction (Cockburn 2011). The mention of major accidents within the oil and gas industry brings one question to mind- what went wrong? And in response, it is obvious that their occurrences are connected to issues concerning PSM systems. This article discusses process safety management in oil and gas operations: the past, present and future directions. Referrals to major accidents would be made to exhibit the trend of process safety in oil and gas operations. 2.0Process Safety Management in Past Operations of Oil and Gas Companies The oil and gas industry has experienced numerous catastrophic events which their occurrences could have been prevented. A greater percentage of accidents that occur during operations are process related accidents of which their extreme impact has led to the drains of financial resources and reputation of most oil and gas companies. A typical example cited is the Piper Alpha disaster in 1984 and the explosion at British Petroleum (BP) Texas Refinery in 2005.

2.1Oil and Gas Companies Mistook Process Safety for Personal Safety Most oil and gas companies concentrated largely on personal safety than process safety and for this reason; mistakenly perceived that records of no loss time injury, no recordable injury frequency were indicators of standard process safety performance (Baker et al 2007). Hackitt (1993) comments that the insufficiency measurement of process safety led to the believe that rarely do new accidents occur however accidents are repeatedly happening because people leave the company and take the knowledge about process safety with them. From this, it could be deduced that the knowledge about process safety was lacking within the industry. Again, oil and gas companies perceived safety to be concerned with personal safety but not related to their processes. This could be that they relied much on information system manufacturers’ provided about their systems and for that matter failed to provide additional safety in their systems and processes. 2.2Poor Process Safety Culture and Unsafe Work Practices

A typical example can be cited from the events surrounding the Piper Alpha disaster where a relief valve in the pump was removed for maintenance and a blank was loosely installed as a replacement of the relief valve on the piping flange (CCPS 2005). In addition, the culture of ignoring near misses and incidents as...
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