Volume: 1 | Issue: 5

Safe Operations Require Fluency in Personal and Process Safety


Process safety is attaining a higher profile in the energy business. It has been critical for as long as we have been processing oil and gas, but I am noticing the term becoming more prevalent in daily dialogue across our industry. I think we are continuing our safety journey and improving our practices and fluency, moving beyond personal safety into integration as a core part of the project, facilities, and construction (PFC) landscape.

Process safety is not new to many of us. I was taught the core elements as an undergraduate chemical engineer under the banner of loss prevention. What is new, I believe, is that the principles and practices of process safety are being more broadly and deeply woven into the fabric of our business. This is good to see; many experts identify safety culture and fluency in process and personal safety as key to the industry’s continued success.

If you need an indication that process safety is a hot topic, check out So far in 2012, more than 50 published papers address the topic. I encourage you to browse one or more of these to sample the latest thinking in process safety management for oil and gas production.

This leads me to remind everyone of what an excellent resource is. It has journal papers, conference papers from the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), NACE, the Offshore Technology Conference, the Society for Underwater Technology, and 13 other publishers that cover all aspects of our industry. It should be your first stop when looking for technical information on topics in the PFC portfolio.

We have several SPE conferences coming up in October that illustrate the global nature of its activities, including the Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) in San Antonio, the Russian Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Technical Conference and Exhibition in Moscow, and the Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference in Perth. These conferences allow SPE members to share successes and lessons learned through technical papers, to discuss priority topics of the day through panel sessions, and to provide a venue for all sectors of our business to meet.

These events advance my personal growth and provide an opportunity to meet PFC engineers who are facing the same challenges and opportunities as I do in my job. For those of you attending these meetings, I encourage you to leave the conference having learned at least three new things—be they from listening to a technical paper presentation, quizzing exhibitors on new technology, or attending a panel session. My mentor posed this challenge to me during my first attendance at ATCE a long time ago, and it has served me well to stay engaged and get the most out of my attendance.

I look forward to expanding my knowledge in San Antonio and Perth—and, hopefully, one day I will get to Moscow.

I will end this month’s column by returning to the subject of PFC study groups, which I covered in the first issue of our magazine (February 2012). I have received several emails from members wishing to start PFC study groups in various parts of the world. This is great news and will be beneficial to the local PFC communities. I have personally been involved with the study groups in Houston and Perth, and the latter may be a model to consider in some parts of the world.

Perth’s PFC study group is a collaborative venture between SPE and Engineers Australia and is governed by members of both organizations. This joint effort brings together facilities engineers from both communities to share ideas and network, through monthly meetings and targeted 1-day events. It has worked well in Perth and may also work well in other parts of the world where our SPE numbers are limited or a section is small or newly formed. The value of having a local study group can be enormous because it can provide an instant peer group, an extended consulting network, and an opportunity to gather and discuss the latest technologies and trends in facilities engineering, capital projects, and process safety management.

Paul S. Jones is the subsea manager at Chevron and a past SPE technical director for Projects, Facilities, and Construction. He is a member of the Editorial Board of Oil and Gas Facilities.



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