Egypt petroleum sector experienced a dynamic liveliness within the QHSE field after the Gulf of Mexico oil leak made headlines and attracted the full intention, but the question still insists: Is it enough?

In spite of the efforts exerted to prevent the pollution of environment, some spills continue to occur. When this happens, it is necessary to ensure that effective and co-ordinated response mechanisms are in place and an adequate liability and compensation regime is available to recompense those affected. However, the previous incidents internationally and locally proved that the successful preparedness and response relies on good co-operation between government and industry.

Hence, despite the existence of the technologies and knowhow, pollution still takes place whether in air or water. So, prevention, which is always believed to be better than cure, only decrease the possibility of the crisis to occur. For instance, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, considered as the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, which flowed for three months in 2010 and resulted from a Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion.

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the marine pollution caused by ship accidents represent 63% in the period from 1974 to 2006, while the Mediterranean Sea occupied the first place internationally in terms of the high rates of pollution, which amounted to more than 50%.

“What happened in the Gulf of Mexico could have occurred anywhere at any country worldwide,” stressed Eng. Samy Merae, Echem’s QHSE Advisor and former Chairman’s Assistant for QHSE at the same company.

“I am not defending BP or U.S.A because it is a fact the company is one of the leading companies worldwide while the country is famous for its restrictive policies. So, such kind of pollution incidents cannot be fully prevented.”

In fact, the vast majority of spills are small (i.e. less than 7 tons) and data on numbers and amounts is incomplete due to the inconsistent reporting of smaller incidents worldwide.
[Figure 1: Quantities of oil spilt from 1970 – 2009]

Last June, the Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum said crude oil that washed ashore at a major Red Sea beach resort area near Hurghada was leaked by a passing tanker or may have seeped from the ground due to a heat wave, but was not from any of its rigs. Moreover, in September, the Nile River witnessed two river barges sank in the river near Aswan, southern Egypt. One of the accidents caused a leak of some 100 tons of fuel.

Due to the increase of such incidents locally, a Petroleum International Manoeuvre, which aimed to combat incidents of marine pollution by oil, was organized under the direction of Eng. Sameh Fahmy, the Egyptian Petroleum Minister, in the 1st of November. The manoeuvre, called ‘Ra Atom 7, was held in the SUMED Port in the area of Sidi Krier in Alexandria in cooperation between the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), Petroleum and Environmental Services Company (PESCO), Saudi Aramco in addition to a number of countries and international institutions concerned with the affairs of environment.

Answering a question about what hinders the field of QHSE in Egypt, Samy Merae said, “The number one concern in most of the operating companies locally is the volume of production whether it was oil or gas. Thus, the QHSE should be superior instead. Indeed, we need each company’s chairman to be aware and convinced by the importance of the QHSE and as a result this field will be developed in all companies and consequently in Egypt.”

“On the other hand, one of the major problems that face the petrochemical industry in general regarding the QHSE is the erroneous idea or misconception of citizens and some officials about such industry as it is a polluting activity.

“We try our best to change such idea by using the most advanced technologies. In addition, we stick to the transparency policy while operating by displaying all of our activities to all officials and Environmental Affairs Agency and the competent authorities after two years of studying of each project to make sure of its safety” he explained.
On the other hand, there is a continuous improvement of the QHSE policies within the companies that aim to increase QHSE awareness and culture.
“We have to work as a team, where ‘team’ stands for ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’,” said Adel Wafi, QHSE Manager of MISWACO.

“We have empowered our employees to take charge of their own QHSE responsibilities. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that all of our staff returns home safely without being injured,” Wafi added.

Hence, it is a fact that the Egyptian companies have begun to attribute more attention to the vitality of QHSE to the sustainability of operations, leading to higher achievements and success. Despite the straightforward meaning of the QHSE concept, in fact, it acts as the pilot guiding any business towards the land of success and high achievements. If it is implemented in the most efficient way, the QHSE guidelines create a risk-free working environment, adjust operations flow without accidents, keep the personnel in good health condition and at the same time avoid any dreadful harm endangering the environment.

One of the confrontations that had a bad effect on the progress of the QHSE field was the economic crisis.
“In general, the global recession has affected many partners and was reflected on their budgeting,” stressed Eng. Osama El-Shenoufy, Weatherford QHSE Manager.
“We have focused on reinforcing the price on non-conformance (PONC) on quality deliverables and HSE outputs that could severely affect the organization revenue and reputation,” El-Shenoufy explained.

He also added that this was mainly achieved through proper planning and agreement on mutual specific targets. Additionally, this was conducted through the ongoing management program through bridging documents that spells the QHSE requirements in details, monthly QHSE performance follow up and corrective / preventative actions upon deviation, El-Shenoufy added.

Moreover, the gaps between theory and execution are also a challenge, which needs more focus and studying.
“One of the main challenges for the multinationals, putting the QHSE as one of their main drivers, is to study the gaps between theory and implementation on the ground and to focus on the enhancement of the resources as well as practical status.”

“On the transportation field, the general traffic situation carries great challenges related to the conditions of the roads, the enforcement of law and the poor education of the available drivers in the market. In spite of the efforts that have been conducted, the gap is still huge,” El-Shenoufy confessed.
He believes that the regulations that still ban the use of a fully GPRS with satellite coverage for monitoring the vehicles continuously is not enhancing the full utilization of IVMS to monitor drivers’ performance online.

As for the major obstacles facing the QHSE field in Egypt, El-Shenoufy clarified that one of the main problems is the lack of specialized institutes in the major of HSE in Egypt.
“The resources recruited needs to be developed through a long program to cover all the required theoretical in addition to the practical background. This comes in spite of the huge need in the Egyptian market for such competencies,” he included.

“Another aspect, which is essential in 2011, is the full implementation of environmental laws to proactively manage any

potential environmental incidents where our regulations are more than sufficient for such purpose.”

By Ahmed Morsy

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