Building a System in a Service Company To Assure Technical Integrity and Institutionalize Organizational Learning
- M.G. Rixse (Halliburton Energy Services) | J.L. Thorogood (BP-Amoco)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Drilling & Completion
- Publication Date
- March 2000
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 67 - 71
- 2000. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 7.5.2 Personnel Competence, 1.6.1 Drilling Operation Management, 1.6.6 Directional Drilling, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 5.1.2 Faults and Fracture Characterisation, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 1.1 Well Planning, 7.6.6 Artificial Intelligence, 1.1.3 Trajectory design
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A service company and operator worked together to build a system to assure technical integrity within the service company's field operating unit. They created systems and procedures to address how the service company was organized; how it performed design, how it executed the service, and how it managed the logistical issues associated with performing the service. The procedures were structured to facilitate the gathering and application of new knowledge.
The process was initially tackled from an ISO 9000 quality management standpoint, but the result lacked usefulness and was rejected. A more direct and universal approach was adopted that emphasized the safety-critical and cost-critical processes that are paramount requirements of an oilwell service operation.
Development of these systems required extensive thought to define the exact scope of the issues that needed to be addressed. The system had to be structured so that it would be actively utilized and not become a bureaucratic burden. Significant organizational culture changes were required to encourage personnel to learn and operate within the defined procedures. Using commonly available computer software, systems were implemented that provided access to the policies and procedures actively used by both the operator and the service company. The computer software furnished a simple framework to promote learning within the contractor's organization.
The Piper Alpha disaster occurred in the North Sea in 1988. This one event was responsible for starting a complete transformation in the way that operators managed the integrity of their operations.1 In the case of the U.K., the government moved from a prescriptive to a goal setting regulatory regime now defined in the Safety Case and Design and Construction Regulations. This new regime removed the responsibility of the regulator to check and approve the correctness of, say, a well program. Instead, the burden of proof was placed upon the operator. He had to demonstrate that he was conducting his operations with competent people and technically sound processes and equipment. In other words, his organization possessed technical integrity.
The motivation for the work described in this article arose directly from the growth of alliancing and partnering initiatives that sprang up throughout the industry during the late 1980's and early 1990's. A characteristic of this period was a trend toward outsourcing of work from the operators to the contractors. This trend occurred primarily because operators were continually looking for ways to improve drilling performance. It was based on the premise that, when contractors assumed more responsibility, operator personnel would then be able to devote a much larger portion of their time to value-creation activities rather than to quality assurance activities.2
Directional drilling contractors were increasingly asked to take more responsibility for well planning design and rig site operations. Given the change in attitude toward safety that was also taking place, such transfers of responsibility could only take place if the contractors themselves could demonstrate that they were capable of carrying out their responsibilities competently. They, too, had to possess technical integrity.
Background to Technical Integrity
Thorogood3 described the concepts of technical integrity and license to operate. He stated that, "license to operate" encapsulates the notion that oil companies can only function when they have the consent of their shareholders and the society in which they operate. Respecting the environment, native culture and being a good citizen all play a part. The quickest way to lose the license to operate is to be the cause of a catastrophe that is demonstrably avoidable. It is for this reason that where the operator delegates responsibility, the recipient has to be able to demonstrate technical integrity. Thorogood went on to state that any system for technical integrity will have the following five key elements:
a definition of process and content;
a means to identify critical functions;
a system of technical authorities;
a system to demonstrate compliance;
competent execution of work by trained staff.
In this article we describe how a system embodying these five elements was developed for a directional drilling operation in Alaska.
Issues Involved in Transferring Responsibility
Before an operator considers the outsourcing of a critical activity, he may want to consider two issues associated with such a transfer of responsibility, namely, does the contractor have proven systems in house to control the technical integrity needed to preserve the operator's "license to operate" and does the contractor have systems to facilitate the transfer and utilization of project data.
Drilling teams operate in two cycles. First, they study the outline of the problem to assess feasibility, optimum design and installation; second, they perform a number of detailed design calculations to establish precise details of the well to be drilled. The directional drilling contractor's field office is mostly involved in the design of the precise details.
Directional drilling contractors are very knowledgeable about the processes associated with directional drilling. Their expertise generally adds significant technical value to a drilling project, especially where intricate well profiles are required to reach small targets. But the fact that a directional drilling contractor has significant knowledge and a successful history of drilling directional wells does not necessarily prove that he operates in a technically rigorous and safe manner. The operator will benefit if a contractor can demonstrate that his design and operations are technically sound because it will relieve him of the overhead involved in carrying out detailed checks. Indeed, it may be that the operator is resource constrained or, simply, lacks the competency to perform such work.
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