Oil and gas industry regulatory regimes are evolving, allowing both active and planned offshore operations to progress efficiently, while ensuring that due attention is given to health, safety and environmental (HSE) performance
Discussion of the history and future for regulation around the world is described in a new DNV GL report: ‘Regulatory Outlook: The way forward for offshore regulatory safety regimes’. It outlines possible future developments and what DNV GL believes an effective offshore safety regime should look like.
Occupational safety has improved greatly in recent years, explained Graham Bennett, business development manager for UK & Sub Saharan Africa, DNV GL - Oil & Gas. “Our analysis of data from companies’ annual and sustainability reports shows a ten-fold reduction in reportable incidents per 200,000 man hours over the last 20 to 30 years when lost-time injuries are excluded. The industry deserves to be congratulated for this.”
“However, while occupational safety as measured by reportable incidents has improved in general, major accidents and near-misses still happen, and more could be done to reduce the risk of these occurring,” he stressed. “The industry should also strive to learn and share more from what it is successful at in major accident management.”
Analysis of the European Union (EU) major accident report system (MARS) and the US Environmental Protection Agency risk management plan-star (RMP-Star) databases shows a steady frequency of major accident events and no reduction in their level of severity. Similarly, insurance broker Marsh examined insurance claims for property damage losses in the hydrocarbon industry between 1974 and 2013, and found no clear reduction since 1994.
Statistics from the country performance project of the International Regulator’s Forum (IRF) for Global Offshore Safety also supports this picture. Fatalities per million hours worked from 2008 to 2012 do not show a unified trend towards global improved performance.
The findings of more than 20 major inquiries following the 2010 Macondo incident are summarised in a newly published DNV GL report. “The data points to the need to identify new ways to reduce major accident hazards,” Bennett said. “Social, political and economic frameworks for regulation vary considerably worldwide and may evolve in different directions,” he added. “Therefore, oil and gas companies operating globally must not only increase oversight where requirements are less developed, but also proactively align global operating standards and procedures towards unique local regulatory changes.” In its ‘Regulatory Outlook’ report, DNV GL assesses offshore regulatory frameworks in Mexico, Brazil, the EU, Angola and Australia. It also covers the Arctic from an international regulatory perspective, as well as nationally for Alaska (US), Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia.
“The report discusses possible scenarios for regulatory developments in these jurisdictions. The company mapped these scenarios to its safety model to identify key factors that could help reduce major accident hazards (MAHs) in each region.
The DNV GL safety model incorporates six interconnecting performance levers and dependencies which, if recognised, should lessen the probability of a major accident occurring. In no particular sequence, these are:
- Existence of performance-based regulations and independent verification
- Clear roles and responsibilities for safety, including ensuring that stakeholders share common goals
- Information sharing from monitoring safety performance
- Advanced barrier management that includes mitigating as well as preventive barriers
- Stakeholder access to a tool that records up-to-date risk identification and provides a complete view of risk exposures for an asset, asset cluster, project or company
- Interaction between people, technology and the organisation.
“We cannot say with certainty how national or regional regimes will develop, but we have been able to present a range of possible future developments and our views on what an effective offshore safety regime should look like,” Bennett said.
A global safety scenario, where each major accident is reviewed and lessons learned by all regulators and industry players, includes many elements of DNV GL’s preferred approach. This scenario also envisages large fines for MAHs, and harmonisation of HSE regimes to reduce compliance costs and administration.