In April 2010 we were reminded that Drilling operations are amongst the most hazardous in the world, having the potential for Major Incidents, with the Deepwater Horizon rig fire and explosion. This incident resulted in 11 lives being lost, almost 5,000,000 million barrels of oil being spilt into the Gulf of Mexico over an 87 day period and significant financial loss for bp. This Major Incident also served to remind us that while traditional "Personal Safety" programs are important to achieve safe drilling operations, these alone cannot effectively manage Major Incident Hazards. E&P Operations can learn valuable lessons from the Process Industry in this regard.

This paper looks at how "Process Safety Management" implementation, aimed at reducing the potential for Major Incidents, has commenced at an onshore E&P operation. It also discusses the challenges of integrating the culture of Process Safety into existing company culture for operations involving over 60 land rigs comprising both local and international Drilling Contractors and Service Companies.

Process Safety Management system is used to describe those parts of an organisation’s management system intended to prevent major incidents arising out of the production, storage and handling of dangerous substances (UK HSE, 2012). It addresses the potential release of these substances caused by:

  • Mechanical Failures

  • Process Upsets

  • Procedures/Human Error.

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