The Egypt Petroleum Show (EGYPS 2019) HSE in Energy Forum took place on the final day of the three-day Show, on February 13. It gathered industry experts and provided a platform for discussing the best practices in creating healthier, safer, and more sustainable working environments, as well as the role of smart digital solutions.

Smart Digital Solutions

The digital revolution is a game changer for HSE processes, and industry leaders are capitalizing on smart digital technology to establish safer working environments. The increased collection and efficient use of data and developments in industrial automation are paving the way for reduced workplace incidents, greater savings, and increased environmental protection.

“Digital solutions are all we have ever dreamt of in this industry,” said Jim Andrews, Vice President for HSE at Schlumberger. The effective use of data analytics can better detect incidents, pinpoint errors in machines, and increase companywide communication for greater safety. Smart technology and effective and integrated use of data analytics “leads to increased connectivity between workers, management, backroom workers, and to engineers out in the field,” said Giorgio Guidi Senior Vice President for Safety, Environment and Quality at Eni. This facilitates knowledge sharing in real time and “shorter intervention time in case of emergency,” Guidi added.

Increased data collection and use has enormous potential for improving HSE in oil and gas companies. Panelists stressed that these technological advancements are dependent on the capacity and training of workers. Ultimately, “the machine is considered safe, but the human elements is where the majority of incidents take place,” said Sergey Peresypkin, HSE Director for Middle East and Asia Pacific at Baker Hughes, a GE Company (BHGE). The human factor is at the core of these advancements and understanding this is fundamental to properly capitalize on smart solutions. Increased capacity training and education for workers to use “digital solutions in a smart way” was stressed by Andrews.

The potentiality of digitalization and HSE practices merging is enormous and can penetrate all multiple layers of an oil and gas company to improve health and safety standards. One way to achieve this is using technology to increase workers engagement with HSE training material. However, the increased use of technology may lead to complacency by workers, who may become less alert and focused, and place full operational dependence on the machines. Strong leadership, proper training, and a company culture championing HSE are ways to mitigate this.

On the technical side, digitalization and smart solutions are being implemented directly in oil and gas infrastructure to reduce the risks of costly malfunctions or attacks. Ibrahim Abdel-Aal, HSE and Energy Conservation General Manager at GASCO shared how the use of smart digital solutions such as “scanner systems, geographic network systems and pipelines are being made to be safer while being controlled by a qualified user”. With these advancements, it is possible to determine the status of issues in a pipeline and immediately take action to mitigate risks and resolve problems.

Smart digital solutions in HSE within the oil and gas industry have had positive impacts through effective use of data analytics, novel digitalization strategies to engage workers, and implemented technology to reduce environmental issues. Top-management can utilize these smart technologies in practice while enforcing a companywide HSE culture in continued efforts to strive for HSE excellence.

HSE in Egypt, MENA and Mediterranean

The oil and gas companies operating in Egypt, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and the Mediterranean are progressively working on HSE standards. Panelists agreed that top management embedding and enforcing a culture of workplace safety is a priority. In order for a culture of HSE to flourish, it needs “strong leadership, vision, and a commitment to achieve goals, and for leaders to work with middle management to increase their capacities,” said Bruce Basaraba, Head of HSSE and Sustainability at Dana Gas.

Top management serving as role models and reproducers of workplace culture must demonstrate that HSE is a core value of their companies. This sentiment was reflected by Jaap Klein Nagelvoort, Managing Director at Bapetco. “Leadership reflects culture and safety is my most important value – I expect everyone to go home safely,” he stated. It was acknowledged that to get people on board with HSE culture, continuous effort and progress needs to be made and there is no final destination, as practices can always be improved.

Part of this includes strengthening stakeholder engagement in all areas of HSE. Osama Elsaadawi, Modernization Team Leader, Research & Development (R&D) Manager at Oil & Gas Skills (OGS) said that “safety is the responsibility of everyone.” He also noted that all stakeholders must be involved in building a commitment to a safety culture.

Included in this discussion is the ongoing issue of how companies can work in alignment with contractors to achieve desired results. Gamal Fathy Mohamed, CEO Assistant for HSE at EGPC, pointed out that “93% of issues in the petroleum industry comes from contracting.” One way to address this is to be diligent in selecting contractors, “to make sure that they are committed and complied with HSE standards and to work to increase awareness and education with the contractors,” he said.

Basaraba shared a best practice of holding meetings with contractors to review incidents, lessons learned and discuss positive ways to move forward. Elsaadawi also stressed the need to engage contractors by “setting guidelines that are in alignment with financial stability because the risks of accidents are costly.”

Panelists agreed that investing in education and training to raise confidence and build capacities for contractors is a valuable best practice. Nagelvoort shared how utilizing blacklists, more intensive pre-selection processes, and working with contractors to follow up on plans together can also reduce incidents.

The positive impacts that digitalisation and technology is having on the HSE were reaffirmed. Jaap stated that “there is a lot of things that technology can do to take people out of harms away.” Basaraba said that “automation of the industry is helping to minimize exposure of people in hazardous places” but “situational awareness is still needed” and this is why a reinforced  companywide culture of safety is important.

The need for management to be directly engaged with ground level operations, serve as role models, to listen and speak directly with workers, and to engender strong leadership and ownership qualities was highlighted. Finally, Basaraba said that working on HSE should be a never-ending journey and there are always ways to get better in the objective of achieving a zero incident rate.

Safety Cultures and Management Systems

Panelists also discussed positive steps in HSE policies and practices. They agreed that international oil companies (IOCs) and national oil companies (NOCs) must both ensure that all stakeholders, from top management to engineers, and external partners maintain a continued practice so that their organizational culture champions HSE values and guidelines. Management and leaders have a duty to work towards achieving greater occupational safety within their organization and to raise their employees’ awareness through ongoing training and education, panelists said. In addition, strong leadership must be engendered by management to ensure HSE policies are adhered to within all levels of the company. Companies must also develop and utilize safety management systems, tap into efficient new technologies, and allow room for constant iterations along the way in the goal of zero incidents in the workplace.

Enhanced Working Environments

Different HSE tools and approaches are required depending on the occupational hazards that may be encountered at the upstream, midstream, and downstream operations. Leaders and HSE managers must be aware of the unique HSE challenges at each stage of the value chain. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs may serve as a good guiding framework when developing strategies that will ensure more sustainable oil and gas operations. Innovative technology such as predictive maintenance technology can be utilized in efforts of bolstering HSE standards. Industry leaders strive to develop sustainable strategies and operations keeping in mind an awareness of the environmental impact of the oil and gas industry has.