Petrotechnics Improving Production Efficiency & Lowering Operational Risk Wed, 21 Sep 2016 20:51:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Refining Business Processes Wed, 29 Jun 2016 20:37:13 +0000 Petrotechnics_Gas Processing_Gulf Publishing_June 2016_Refining Processes

Refining Business Processes for Plant Operations

Remove the Gaps Between Planning, Maintenance, and Operations

By: Mike Neill, Petrotechnics President – North America

With infrastructure at capacity, new construction already at a high pace, and aging infrastructure requiring constant maintenance and repair, gas processors are left with a dilemma. Operators must often manage the conflicting demands of operating and maintaining infrastructure while constructing new additions to minimize outages. Furthermore, operators must ensure that ongoing operations minimize conflicts and disruptions while demonstrating internal and external compliance.

Indeed, gas processors are tasked to achieve safe, efficient and sustainable operations. Competing priorities for work often challenge the ability to balance the needs of all functions within their organizations.

As assets age, this becomes more critical, not only due to the lifespan of equipment but also to the change in demand on the facility. In these instances, risk to the operation escalates and can further manifest in terms of unplanned shutdowns, incidents, accidents, injuries and potential fatalities.

To ensure safe, efficient and sustainable production, operators must close the gaps between maintenance, planning and the operational reality of the plant. Through improved integration of planning, maintenance and operations, plant operators can better prioritize and select activities that have the lowest level of operational risk.

There has never been a more critical need in the industry to address processes surrounding plant operations.

Gas Processing CTA

]]> Making Safety Decisions without a Blindfold Thu, 12 May 2016 14:00:02 +0000 Petrotechnics_Process Safety Management_Making Safety Decisions without a Blindfold_Header

Making Safety Decisions without a Blindfold

By: Mike Neill, Petrotechnics President – North America

I recently presented at the 2016 AIChE Spring Meeting and 12th Annual CCPS Global Congress on Process Safety, in Houston. This prestigious conference had over 2,600 high-level attendees across hazardous industries, including Oil, Gas, Chemical, Utilities, Pharma and more. Among the many process safety management insights at the event, this statistic stood out:

“80 percent of people believe safety takes a back-seat to production.”

This is a curious statistic since executive management in most companies today firmly communicate safety as their number one priority. The trouble is priority decisions often do not include clear cases of what is safe and what is not. Corporate policies, guidelines, and procedures involve degrees of interpretation, and, executive management cannot be on hand to provide clarity for every decision! Margin calls become necessary where guidance from policy may be ambiguous, and the determination of risk is not absolute. Frequently decisions are forced due to a sense of urgency to restore equipment to service or bring the plant back onto production. Is this a case of frontline workers openly defying corporate priorities on safety? Is it Management speaking out both sides of their mouth? More often than not, these dilemmas arise through a lack of information and data.

Consider this analogous situation. You are standing on the edge of a cliff with a 200-foot drop. You can see the consequence of falling is certain death, and even if you think the likelihood of falling is low, you consider the overall risk as high because you cannot take your mind off the severe consequence. In this situation, you know if you move away from the edge, you will decrease you chances of falling so your decision on how to act is easy to make. If, however, you are wearing a blindfold, the situation is different. You may sense danger but have no hard facts to confirm it. Therefore, you may decide to proceed cautiously, considering any risk to be acceptable. In practice, the lack of information, for example – loss of vision, should warrant alarm. Very often we ask our frontline personnel to make decisions on risk without ample information or data needed to make a good decision.

Around 46 percent of safety barrier failures occur because of uncomprehensive hazard analysis or communication programs. In other words, decisions are made without a proper understanding of the risks. Operations teams are frequently forced to make critical decisions without a complete picture of priority and consequence. Without a clear and comprehensive definition of activities, decision-making is a functional, piecemeal process leading to exposure to risk as well as inefficiencies in the execution of work.

It is an imperative that everyone, from the boardroom to the frontline, understands work priorities based on a common parameter – such as risk – instead of opinion. By introducing a common language of risk, teams at all levels of the organization have the insight they need to prioritize the right, most impactful work. With enterprise-wide visibility into the real-time health of process safety barriers, everyone across the business can quickly and easily understand and manage exposure to Major Accident Hazard (MAH) risk. When this happens, suddenly process safety is in the driving seat, shaping operational actions that decrease risk and increase productivity.

But before we rush to judge our workers or the management of our hazardous plants, let’s make certain those who are making critical decisions have access to the right data and information. Let’s remove the blindfolds so the correct decisions can be made that actively drive productivity, without exposure to unnecessary or unacceptable risk.

To learn more, please visit my team and me this summer at the following events:

The Future of Offshore Risk Management Wed, 11 May 2016 17:37:42 +0000 Petrotechnics Offshore Magazine Offshore Risk Management May 2016

The Future of Offshore Risk Management

By: Mike Neill, Petrotechnics President – North America

Many operators face a dilemma. Production rates, or revenue sources, are only a fraction of what they were when fields were producing at their peak rate. Now, a majority of facilities are approaching or have exceeded their design life, and each year costs for maintenance and repair increase while the revenue stream to fund it diminishes. Factor in the precipitous fall in oil prices over the last 18 months, and it would be no exaggeration to say mature offshore fields are facing a crisis.

There has never been a more critical need in the industry to address risk management in offshore facilities.

Petrotechnics_Offshore Magazine_Pennwell_May 2016_The Future of Offshore Risk Management_CTA


Big Changes for Big Oil Wed, 27 Apr 2016 14:15:46 +0000

Big Oil has weathered its fair share of turbulence in recent years. But to what extent is the low oil price impacting the performance of supermajors? And, importantly, how can the effect on operational excellence be minimized?

The ‘reserve-replacement ratio’ is a commonly used metric indicating the performance of Exploration and Production companies. It compares the volume of proved reserves with the volume of oil and gas produced in a single year. For years, the long-term sustainability of an organization was judged by its ability to exceed simple replacement of the reserves they produced, indicating an ever-increasing reserves base and growing future cash flow. In recent years, many companies have been unable to find reserves to replace production, which indicates the difficulty of gaining access to prospective acreage. Last year, the seven biggest publicly traded energy companies realized a reserve-replacement ratio of just 75 percent.

Low oil prices have hit capital budgets this year, resulting in cutbacks to drilling programs. We can only assume the level of new reserves discovered and proved this year will suffer – further lowering last year’s ratio.

What’s more, just last month Marsh, an insurance broker and risk adviser, highlighted a  pattern of oil price drops followed by an increase in the frequency and size of major incidents. So, the industry is faced with two linked but distinct challenges: performance is down, and the risk of incidents is up.

But in every challenge, there is an opportunity. The oil price is cyclical – we expect it will recover…eventually. Now, more than ever companies must maintain operational excellence. That way, when prices recover, they are in the best position to reap the benefits.

One way supermajors can maintain healthy operations is by employing enterprise software to help mitigate incidents, increase productivity, and improve operational and financial performance. If employees are enabled to work more efficiently together – regardless of department, position, or location – then everyone across the organization is empowered to make smarter, safer, and better-informed decisions – giving executives confidence in the operation of their assets across the board.

NOW is the time to provide decision-makers the tools they need to achieve operational excellence, reduce overall risk, and ultimately improve performance. The future of the industry depends on it!

Managing Offshore Operational Risk in a Low Oil Price Environment Mon, 25 Apr 2016 18:54:11 +0000 Petrotechnics_OGFJ_April 2016_Offshore Risk

Offshore Risk: Managing Offshore Operational Risk in a Low Oil Price Environment

By: Mike Neill, Petrotechnics President – North America

ONE YEAR AGO, I shared how operators were adjusting their operational risk management initiatives to lowering oil prices (OGFJ, April 2015). Since that time, prices have continued to fall, and the industry is now accepting this downturn will be protracted.

Many operators are taking a conservative view. ConocoPhillips’ CEO Ryan Lance stated in February, it was smarter to plan “lower for longer.” He also added ConocoPhillips is “…trying to drive [its] portfolio down to as low cost of supply as [it] can,” a tactic which, no doubt, will be repeated by most International Oil Companies (IOC).

Producing basins are squeezing lifting costs, rationalizing capital spend, and disposing assets with minimal operating margins at prevailing prices. It is a familiar pattern which many of us veterans in the industry have seen repeated during such cycles.

Unfortunately, the threat of Major Accident Hazards (MAH) does not turn down with the oil price; so, how should we behave to properly manage our risks?

Petrotechnics Editorial - OGFJ - April 2015 - CTA2


Friends or Foes: Safety, Productivity, and Today’s Oil Price Tue, 29 Mar 2016 12:11:47 +0000 Petrotechnics MNeill Process Safety Management Friends or Foes

Friends or Foes: Safety, Productivity, and Today’s Oil Price

By Mike Neill

Over the past 18 months, the declining oil price has forced oil and gas companies to make critical operational changes. These adjustments – which can be seen in the form of budget cuts, project deferrals, and layoffs – are putting safe, productive operations under pressure. With reduced resources at companies’ disposal, it is vital to understand how to manage tighter budgets and improve operational efficiencies while managing the dynamic between safety and productivity.

For operators who are trying to do more with less, safety can become marginalized, particularly when it comes to prioritizing operations and maintenance schedules. Under increasing cost and productivity pressures, operational decisions can lead to inadvertent risk-taking with Process Safety Management (PSM) and barrier health. It’s precisely these times that we need to consider changing PSM culture so that it becomes a critical enabler for ensuring safe, reliable production.

The fact is a safer plant is a more reliable plant. And a more reliable plant is a more productive plant. But how do operators know, with confidence, the real-time health of their plant?

The oil and gas industry needs to find new ways to holistically understand how operations and maintenance activities and risks work together to impact potential exposure leading to a major accident. Process Safety barriers are designed to prevent or mitigate the consequences of major incidents. These barriers include hardware equipment, ranging from vessels and pipe walls, to safety instrumented systems – such as pressure and level switches or automated valves. All require regular inspection, testing, and preventative maintenance to ensure they perform as designed.

With cost pressures driven by the low oil price, there is temptation for operators to prioritize simple, obvious work that presents the lowest threat to ongoing operations. Instead, operators should focus on scenarios that pose the biggest overall risk to productivity and safety – and, as a minimum, they need to inspect and maintain the associated barrier systems. Without a complete understanding of the consequences of each and every risk on the plant, as well as cascading risks, operators could potentially increase their exposure to process safety-related incidents.

It can be nearly impossible to evaluate and prioritize risk across an asset and throughout an organization, as each department will have its strategies and priorities. Maintenance data is collected through separate, autonomous inspection, testing, and enterprise systems – adding unknown risk to each team’s understanding. What is often seen in an industry downturn, operators will defer costly preventative maintenance – creating backlogs that prove difficult to reduce – and, more crucially, elevating risks across the plant.

For example, an offshore operator could save millions of dollars by deferring a plant shutdown when executing platform or equipment maintenance and upgrades. But, if operators continue to stretch their maintenance schedules to the limit – only executing the bare minimum – this can result in major operational and safety issues down the line. Unfortunately, the degree to which risk is increased is not always obvious, which is perhaps why some of these cost-saving decisions are made.

As operators continue to tighten their budgets, they need access to more sophisticated tools to improve insight and ensure better operational decisions. A solution that can widely communicate the real-time exposure of Major Accident Hazard (MAH) risk and prioritize operational tasks based on an enterprise-wide language of risk can help operators manage safety and productivity in a simple and effective way.

By understanding how to get more of the right work done, at the right time, in the right way – operators can make smarter, cost-effective decisions to ensure a safe, successful, and sustainable future.

To learn more, please visit my team and me at the 2016 AIChE/CCPS Global Congress on Process Safety. More information on the event can be found here.

Safety Matters Thu, 17 Mar 2016 11:34:07 +0000

Technology has penetrated almost every aspect of refining and petrochemical operations, with many believing it has made them safer, more secure and less harmful to the environment. Process automation now more than ever allows workers to perform their duties without even leaving the control room, while smart equipment can deflect, predict and prevent potentially life-threatening situations.


‘Adopting technology has brought about a number of health and safety improvements since I started in the industry 30 years ago, and we can see the benefits today,” Bernard Sanseau, drilling manager at Total Abu Al Bukhoosh, told RPME.


“Automation brings additional layers of safety. Now it is possible to work remotely from a ‘cyber chair’. It is a completely different way of looking at things. At Total Abu Al Bhukoosh, we marked 1000 days without a single Lost Time Incident (LTI) and automation has played an important role.” Sanseau added


The oil and gas industry, especially the refining and petrochemical ones, have been known for their conservative approach to adopting new technologies, but those days are long gone now. Both refiners and petrochemical producers are operating under new and much more challenging dynamics, with worker safety, increasing productivity and improving environmental footprint occupying a prominent role within the organisation.


Technology one again is seen as the key enabler to achieve these targets leading operators to drop their scepticism and embrace the latest innovations on the market.


“This is not simply due to the availability of technologies, but also because of the increased capabilities of technology providers to proof test the new technologies more quickly with improved reliability.” Said Ghassan Barghouth, vice president, oil & gas and industrial segments, MENA, Schneider Electric.


“Safety and security have always been a top concern for the industry, particularly in terms of ensuring the safety of plant, equipment and people, as well as meeting environmental standards.


“With telecommunication networking at such an advanced stage of saturation on existing platforms, process automation system implemented with safety and security provides immense benefits for operators not only monitor their operations in real-time , but also to perform all necessary controls on remote and unsecure locations from a central hub,” Barghouth added.


One of the main causes for accidents is an industrial environment is the lack of understanding when it comes to risk. According to Ken Ume, director of product marketing at Petrotechnics, innovative uses of technology can help operators visualise and better manage operational activity and risk.


“With this kind of technology, organisations explore opportunities for improvement that can easily get lost in the complexity that makes up most modern operational environments. All too often deviation in process safety, where barriers become impaired, can be lost or misunderstood because it is difficult to connect them to daily operations. Deviations in process safety barriers can lead to increased downtime and in the worst cases – to major accidents.”


Stuart Douglas, regional manager for Petrotechnics in the Middle East, added: “We have a product called Proscient. It is a software application that brings a common language of risk, or a common view of the risk across an organisation’s operations from the frontline activity right up to the board.


It allows everybody to collectively see what the risk is to safety and what the risk is to business. Once you have looked at all that operational common view of risk and made sure you have mitigated it all through your barrier management and so on, it gives an operation a more streamlined process.


On the back of that, what it will do is, it will give the management of an organisation the chance to prioritise maintenance, or what they really need to get done on the plant in a more efficient and safer manner, which again, brings optimal performance and a heavy return on investment.”


Click here to read the article in full.

Petrotechnics drives rail sector growth with strategic hire Tue, 15 Mar 2016 11:52:05 +0000

Rail subject matter expert brings over 15 years’ experience to Petrotechnics


Aberdeen, UK, 10 March 2016 – Petrotechnics, the leading provider of enterprise operations excellence management solutions, has appointed Michael Brown as rail subject matter expert to support its expansion in the sector.


Brown has 18 years’ experience in the rail industry. Having worked on major infrastructure projects including London Thameslink and Crossrail, Brown was most recently seconded from Balfour Beatty Rail into Network Rail on their ‘planning and delivering safe work’ programme.


Operating in Europe, Brown will be responsible for the optimal configuration of Petrotechnics’ flagship solution Proscient for rail clients. His role will also be to act as a conduit between the rail industry and Petrotechnics, including developing HSEQ best practices.


“I’ve seen the UK rail industry go through many changes since privatisation,” comments Brown. “Joining Petrotechnics has given me a fresh perspective on the sector. The company has a wealth of experience in optimising operations and managing risk for hazardous industries. I’m delighted to take up this new post and to be driving Petrotechnics’ expansion in the rail space.”


In 2015 Petrotechnics was awarded its first rail contract with a major UK rail infrastructure operator to reduce complexity and bring more focus to managing operational risk. The company has ambitious plans to expand its global footprint of rail clients.


“Petrotechnics’ solutions allow operators to get more of the right work done safely. We are thrilled to be expanding our rail team and are confident that this hire will support the growth of our client base in the sector,” adds Iain Mackay, Executive Vice President of Petrotechnics. “Michael’s expertise, unique insight and understanding of rail operations from an HSEQ perspective will make him an invaluable member of the team.”

Securing Vital Operations with PSM Tue, 08 Mar 2016 09:28:26 +0000

By Simon Jones, Head of Professional Services, Petrotechnics

Petrotechnics was privileged to chair and present at the Fleming Gulf Process Safety Kuwait event from 16th to 17th February. Attended by senior oil and gas industry professionals, the event explored the role of Process Safety Management in securing Kuwait’s vital operations.


While most of the audience believed they had – or were on the path to – strong PSM disciplines, the precipitous drop in oil prices has resulted in many challenges. In a nutshell: companies are under immense pressure to reduce costs, improve operational efficiency and increase productivity – but safety still needs to be a priority.


The impact of these challenges were discussed and debated by many industry players during the event. Many reported difficulty in getting an accurate picture of barrier health. These barriers are the warning signs, procedures and processes that are put in place to prevent a minor safety breach from becoming a major hazard.


Concerns were also voiced around having the right tools to communicate the problem to all levels of the company in a common way. Often it wasn’t until a compliance issue, unplanned shutdown or near-miss occurred that PSM became a focus.


The key to successful PSM is for all workers to have the same picture of barrier health and the associated risk regardless of whether they are on the frontline or in the boardroom. Once a common view of risk is in place, much of the complexity is removed, enabling more effective collaboration and coordination across the organisation.


By visualising this risk and connecting it to daily operations, operators can improve risk awareness and mitigation from planning through to execution and prioritise resource allocation accordingly. Risk can be placed at the heart of all of operational decision-making and barrier health awareness and maintenance can be properly integrated into daily operations. With this insight, operators can dynamically prioritise work and maintenance according to risk to get more of the right work done, at the right time – ensuring a safe and sustainable future for the industry.


About Simon Jones

Simon Jones has 24 years’ experience in chemical, oil, and gas industries. Simon is Head of Professional Services at Petrotechnics where he leads the consulting practice in the fields of operational management, safe systems of work and operational risk management in client oil and gas facilities around the world.


Simon’s background is in process safety – he holds an engineering Master’s degree in Process Safety and Loss Prevention from Sheffield University in the UK. Before joining Petrotechnics, Simon was Manager of Operations in an engineering centre undertaking benchmarking of process safety practices in downstream and chemical companies across Europe.


Simon is a member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and the Royal Society of Chemistry and is actively involved in the Centre for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) European Regional network.

PETROTECHNICS AWARDED CONTRACT WITH MAJOR LNG OPERATOR Thu, 25 Feb 2016 11:11:29 +0000 North American LNG operator strengthens operations and risk management programs

Houston, Texas – February 25, 2016Petrotechnics, the leading provider of enterprise operations excellence management software solutions, has been appointed by a major LNG operator to deploy its Proscient platform at the operator’s Gulf of Mexico facilities. Petrotechnics’ software will help improve operations and risk management at the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal by standardizing initiatives, policies, processes and procedures across its operations.

The operator has received approval from the US Department of Energy to export domestically-produced LNG and is in the process of expanding its natural gas liquefaction and export facility to support commercial operations. Proscient will support the operator’s objective to safely and efficiently increase overall export capacity – making it one of the highest volume exporters in the United States.

Proscient enables better operational decision-making by providing stakeholders with a new way to visualize and manage operational risk and activity. The operator will integrate its SAP work management data with process safety management principles and internal best practices to ensure operations and risk management are standardized and systematized across the business. Proscient will enable the company to understand how to best reduce its risk profile and optimize operations throughout commissioning, facility modification, and ongoing work activity.

“We are proud to announce Proscient’s deployment to support LNG operations in North America,” said Mike Neill, North American President at Petrotechnics. “Proscient enables LNG operators to align their work culture and processes while standardizing operations and risk management practices across the business. Crucially, our software helps them achieve their strategic goal of safely, efficiently and sustainably increasing their overall export capacity.”