Methanex’s vision of sharing the company’s own journey towards safer processes, assets and operations, demonstrates commitment to Responsible Care, and to safety within the petrochemicals sector. Methanex Egypt, in partnership with the Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company (ECHEM), held the second Process Safety Management (PSM) Conference to highlight the topic’s importance within the oil and gas sector. This year’s version of the conference was titled ‘Modernizing Process Safety Management: Sharing the Vision’, was held on September 9, 2019 at the JW Marriott Hotel. The conference was held in attendance of ECHEM Chairman Chemist Saad Helal, Methanex Egypt CEO and Managing Director Mohamed Shindy, as well as more than 350 key leaders and top executives from the petrochemicals and downstream oil and gas industry.

Additionally, the event presented keynote speakers including President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and Chairman of the UK’s Control of Major Hazards (COMAH) Strategic Forum Ken Rivers, Senior Principal Consultant in BakerRisk’s Process Safety Group Mike Broadribb, and Director of Process Safety Management at Methanex Corporation Jason Clement.

Inaugurating the event, Helal delivered the opening remarks welcoming the conference’s guests, and seized the opportunity to point out the increase in the number of attendees in this year’s PSM conference. Helal noted that, “the companies’ performance is getting better thanks to the clarified vision we have now which determines our upcoming steps and what we need to develop to cope with the PSM standards we seek reaching.”

Helal delivered a message on behalf of H.E, Eng. Tarek El Molla, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources to conference attendees. “During last year’s workshop which was attended by over 300 of key industry leaders, our discussions began raising the importance of developing the process safety system within the sector’s companies to be in line with the vision of the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral resources and to cope with the international standards,” Helal said on behalf of El Molla. It was also noted that these discussions tackled different elements of process safety and various PSM standards, which, in turn, could lead to envisioning a road map for the future of PSM development.

Helal pointed out that this fits with the Ministry’s vision for safety within the sector, adding that “the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources launched a program to enhance the abilities of the oil and gas sector’s young employees who are working in safety and health management, as part of the Modernization Project, to develop young calibers. The program included 74 engineers and chemists from different companies. The participants of the program completed the first phase which allows young calibers to cope with the sector’s development.”

Concluding the minister’s speech, Helal pointed out the minister’s key message stating that “today’s conference aims to continue the discussions and to exchange experiences to provide recommendations for process safety management.”

The conference continued with Mohamed Shindy presenting the conference’s welcoming speech, in which he thanked all the guests and speakers for attending. It was also pointed out that “this [conference] comes as a reflection of our commitment to sharing our own vision towards safer processes, assets, and operations,” Shindy noted.

“Methanex Egypt and many petrochemicals companies are already on a journey to adopt and embed PSM within our systems. Process safety will only be achieved in our sector when we work together as industry leaders through standardizing sharing experiences and lessons learnt and starting rich discussions and initiatives that help create a solid PSM commitment and culture within our sector companies,” the CEO further noted.

Leadership in Process Safety

Ken Rivers presented the first session of the conference, highlighting leadership as a cornerstone of the PSM development and change within the sector, and “ensuring leaders aren’t blind-sided by catastrophic risks and what they can do to make the difference.”

“For me, when I talk about process safety, I do not just talk about the intellectual understanding of a business issue. I talk about the emotional and deeply profound meaning of actually keeping people safe,” Rivers said.  Rivers continued to mention that “the interesting thing is by now, with all that learning, we know how to prevent these accidents from happening,” adding that “if you do that continuously, consistently and comprehensively, then you will avoid these accidents that can destroy your business.”

Rivers mentioned that as “for the vast majority of us, we have to get hold of safety, and with an improvement engine, you learn how to move from unconscious competence to conscious competence.” Rivers pointed out that the unconscious incompetence is a state of mind where everything is in a fantastical state, yet “when I take a mission and the results of it were not as expected, the mind moves to a state of conscious incompetence where I have to think about what I am going to do at this stage. Then, after putting processes, procedures and systems in place, we move to the conscious competence. But this is not the end of the journey as the mind can move to a state of unconscious competence because of values, behavior and mindset”, Rivers stated.

During his presentation, Rivers also stressed the importance of the principles of process safety leadership; that process safety leadership is at the core of managing a major hazard business and is vital to ensure that risks are effectively managed.  Moreover, engagement of the workforce is needed in order to achieve satisfactory levels of process safety management. Additionally, sharing best practices across industry sectors and learning lessons from relevant incidents in other organizations, are important to build and learn from past corporate knowledge and competence.

Rivers continued, mentioning the mental model where “good practice = common practice,” noting that one of the main challenges faced that “we end up talking to the already committed, but the question is how do we reach people not in the room?” Thus, outreach presents one of the most important issues as we need to communicate both horizontally and vertically throughout the organization hierarchy, until new information becomes relevant to all major hazard operators. Additionally, better understanding is necessary to eradicate the barriers to involvement, engagement and the spreading of good practice.

Concluding his presentation, Rivers noted one must not wait for the next incident to happen, rather one must make good practice the everyday common practice.

Process Safety and Cultural Lessons

Mike Broadribb presented the second session tackling process safety and cultural lessons from major incidents. Broadribb witnessed the occurrence of catastrophic disasters in some of the petroleum and chemical industries, stated that “that is why I am passionate, like Ken, about process safety because I want to try to make a difference, so I spent a lot of my time investigating why these things happen and to help companies avoid them” Broadribb affirmed that the lessons learnt from those incidents are equally applicable to all operations.

Broadribb continued to state that “some of the other lessons [learned] were the enhanced leadership competencies and empowerment” of which leaders and each staff member has to be ready to deal during any state of emergency to handle it successfully. Furthermore, Broadribb added that he “would like to see our operators empowered to stop work whenever they feel it is unsafe,” stressing that, “you can never get risks to zero, but we need to lower it as much as we can.”

At the end of his session, Broadribb pointed out that “incidents have an impact on workforce and authority,” clarifying that human factors influence incidents, and the success of incidents’ investigation.

Jason Clement delivered a session entitled ‘Sharing Learning from our own Journey,’ discussing safety evaluations, which encompass potential scenarios of major accidents, adequacy of safeguarding measures, appropriateness of management system, and emergency awareness. Clement highlighted the importance of engaging senior leaders in process safety by stating, “what I have focused on in Methanex to get our leaders more engaged in process safety is helping them to understand how their role influences process safety and therefore what they are accountable for because we are accountable for our influence”. Clements continued, adding that “process safety is not something that we can delegate, we cannot say process safety engineer or process safety function, we all are responsible for the influence that we have on process safety management.”

Moreover, Clement mentioned that Methanex was working on “helping our leaders to understand exactly what we want to create in terms of organizational capabilities”. Clement stressed that leaders, “need to have a systematic program of activities in our business that is looking into what we do and how we do it to understand what are the hazards we find in our business.” Clement noted that leaders need to understand risks scenarios that result from these hazards to bring these risks down to a level where we feel safe afterwards.

Clement concluded his session by pointing out that Methanex has encouraged “many senior leaders to engage in the topic of process safety and they are driving the development of the organizational capabilities”, over the course of the last 18 months.

ELNG Journey Towards PSM

The conference continued with Mohamed Magdy, QHSE Senior Managements at the Egyptian Liquefied Natural Gas Company (ELNG), presenting an informative session on the journey of ELNG entitled ‘ELNG Journey Towards Process Safety Management.’

Magdy showcased the historical journey of ELNG in creating a well-established process safety management system. From 2002-2004, the project implemented the UK safety approach, which resulted in developing two studies. The first case study discussed safety, “which is a very good and robust document that covers things if we handle them properly, many incidents will not happen,” Magdy commented. The second case study incorporated the Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA). Then, Magdy spoke about an incident that occurred in 2005 which helped raising a serious question about safety culture.

“We had to assess our hazards in all LNG plants in Egypt. We acquired a third-party assistance in building a system to assure that in case of incidents, we have the right resources to act,” Magdy said.

Magdy Clarified that their safety revolution began in 2015 when a simple incident happened because of a reporting delay and “the company took many procedures to assure transparency and to deliver a message that it is not about numbers, it is about people.” Magdy highlighted the main message, which was that ELNG “has the best systems, the best assets, but people are the key”.

Ending the session, Magdy noted that the process safety journey is a continuous one that requires consistent aspiration, drive of leadership, and culture towards excellence.  “We may have systems for process safety, but we need to work together to do the function of process safety”, Magdy concluded.

Open Discussion

Concluding the conference, a panel for open discussions was held with, Mohamed Fouad, Egypt Oil & Gas CEO, as the event’s panel moderator, hosting the conference’s three keynote speakers, Ken Rivers, Mike Broadribb, and Jason Clement.

Kicking off the discussion, Fouad asked about the safety case entailment and how it can be implemented. Broadribb commented that “in the North Sea, safety case involves the company’s systems and contractors. It is a document that identifies current hazards based on measures of oil and gas risks,” adding that, “the safety case explains why the platform is designed the way it is.” Broadribb continued, stating that since risks cannot be completely eliminated, then “we need to have the tools required to limit risks throughout the life of the facility”. “

Rivers also commented on Fouad’s question, stating that “if I am going to make process safety an important thing within my organization, then it is something that people need to hear me talk about,” adding that, “for me, it starts with high standards of leadership and leaders will come out and having this conversation to make sure that people know that this subject is important.”

Following this, Clement discussed the factors affecting safety culture, noting that engagement is one of the critical factors as leaders to be more engaged to PSM. Additionally, transparency is crucial “as we need to have a common understanding of risks that we are running with at the  coalface and at the top of the organization. So, achieving transparency is critical,” adding that another important factor is accountability which is considered a challenge in the safety space. Thus, “transparency, leadership engagement and accountability are the main block”, Clement summarized.

The panel also gave the conference’s guests an opportunity to ask questions to the panelists. One of the guests asked about the way to build a two-way courage and trust between leaders and work force. Broadribb was the first to comment, stating that “many leaders are leaders because they are good at giving directions, but also they need to learn to listen to the workforce, their concerns and their problems.” Building on that, Rivers said “I think what we can do as leaders that we become more self-aware and I think part of that learning can actually happen when leaders talk to other leaders and through these dialogues, they will learn to listen”. Clement also added that “it requires courage from both sides to escalate bad news and to deal with them, so leaders need to be vulnerable and want to know about problems.” Another question was raised on how to efficiently develop a structured PSM system. Broadribb pointed out that “the foundation of any PSM is your knowledge, your experience and the design documentation of your facility, so once you understand the design, it is the hazard analysis of that design.”

Closing the discussions, Fouad asked for one critical piece of advice each speaker could give the audience with regards to PSM. Broadribb’s advice was for leaders to be more aware of the surrounding hazards and risks to do whatever it takes to ensure the success of process safety activities. Rivers’ advice was for leaders to note the profound difference one can do by being more curious about process safety, adding that “the opportunity that you have by not just pulling your individual insights but your companies’ insights and bringing them all together and pulling that knowledge into a greater vision where you would like the Egyptian process safety to be.” Clement’s final advice was to “look at your colleagues to contemplate what they mean to you and how you will feel if something happens to your colleagues and use that feeling as a fuel for courage to escalate values and hear bad news to do more.” With that, Fouad concluded the conference by thanking all attendees for their participation, and hoped that everyone had learned something that could be applied in their companies to make a difference in process safety management.