Offshore Safety, Refinery Process Safety

There are more than 7000 offshore platforms around the world, with 4000 of them are located in the Gulf of Mexico. Since 1975, there have been more than 10 fatal offshore accidents including the Piper Alpha disaster (1988). Hazards associated with offshore drilling include, fires and explosions (jet fire, pool fire, BLEVE), smoke, blowouts, falling objects, collisions, structural failure and extreme weather and oceanographic conditions. Given these potential hazards, there is a great need for more research on process-safety in offshore industries.

Some current and potential process-safety research for offshore applications include facility siting and layout, LOPA/SIS and SIL application in offshore facilities, QRA of offshore facilities (drilling and production), fire protection system (air curtain, water curtain, deluge, expansion foam), fire suppressant agent, and human error assessment.

The necessity of having a workable set of process safety leading and lagging indicators largely came into attention after Texas City Refinery explosion in 2005. The Baker panel investigated the overall safety culture of major companies and came up with several recommendations including – “Develop, implement, maintain, and periodically update an integrated set of leading and lagging performance indicators for process safety both for its refineries and for more general use across the refining and chemical industry” (Baker Report 2007). CCPS published a guideline on ‘Process Safety Leading and Lagging Metrics’ in December 2007 and identified process safety metrics as leading metrics, lagging metrics and near-miss metrics. Later in 2010 API published ‘API RP 754: Process Safety Performance Indicators for the Refining and Petrochemical Industries’ and in 2011 International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) published a report on Process Safety, Recommended Practice on Key Performance Indicators, where a guideline was proposed based on the framework built by API RP-754, UK HSE, CCPS and Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD). Despite all these approaches and guidelines there are still opportunities to improve the practice of implementing leading and lagging indicators for determining process safety scenarios to prevent process safety incidents. One major unexplored area in terms of safety indicator-based approach would be offshore industries. Due to harsh weather, complex structures and limited resources the risk is largely magnified in offshore conditions. So having workable set of process safety indicators is needed to prevent unwanted situations. Again, recent studies and experiences revealed that relying too much on lagging indicators or personal safety measures i.e. TRIR, LTIR over leading indicators or process safety parameters, is in fact a very risky practice. Lagging indicator data might be useful for organizational benchmarking purposes, but it lacks the potential of revealing true process safety information and safety culture. Several offshore incidents including Macondo have exposed that lagging/personal safety indicators can be very misleading in terms of high-consequence incident prevention.

MKOPSC Research Efforts:

Leading Indicator Analysis for Offshore Operations with Emphasis on Drilling

This research work primarily undertakes the task of defining and analyzing leading risk indicators specific to offshore operations emphasizing drilling. Blowouts and gas kick incidents have been analyzed to identify key causal factors divided into four categories – technical, operational, human and organization and system of organizations. Primary focus is on validating technical and operational aspects of leading risk indicators with available drilling safety and reliability data. With the proposed set of leading indicators and physical observables interactive algorithms will be constructed relating the indicators with causal factors and other process elements.