Taking stock of a several years’ worth of safety performance reports, Maersk Oil has embarked on an ambitious and expansive campaign to improve process safety across the business. The four operated Business Units (BUs) have committed to new Five-year Process Safety Plans.


The need for a comprehensive overhaul of the approach to process safety is clear to those involved in creating the plans. “We have had too many HIPO (high-potential) Process Safety Incidents. In all cases, if another couple of barriers had failed, they could have led to extremely serious accidents,” explains John Mossman, Director,  Process Safety.


Genesis of the Plans

Analysis of HIPO incidents and of Process Safety Integrity Reviews over the past three years, revealed areas of weakness. While corrective work to tackle specific findings has always been ongoing, it was felt that more could be achieved, by implementing a co-ordinated, integrated approach which prioritised the highest risk items. This also, importantly, gave better visibility of the wide range of improvement actions.


“The idea was to comb through a list of items or subject matter areas. Then create an action plan recognising broad leadership and technical aspects in wells, subsurface, operations, projects,  maintenance, contract management, procurement etc. to identify which items presented the greatest risk in a particular BU, or in a particular asset,” says Mossman. In the formation of these priority actions, it became clear that across the BUs there were common themes which could be codified and tackled in a more structured way. The essence of the five year plans is that in order to deliver good process safety, all the different functional areas have to “get it right first time”. Weaknesses in any one function inherently undermine other functions and can compromise the integrity and safety of our assets. Co-ordination and integration is essential in ensuring a water-tight approach to the process safety puzzle.


Global Themes

“Good process safety is the outcome of doing many things very well. When we started looking at ways to improve Process Safety, it became apparent that rationalising and connecting a lot of what we already do would have a positive impact,” explains Graeme Mackie, Vice President, Global Safety & Operations (GSO).


In identifying areas for improvement which would have the highest net impact on process safety and pulling them together into one single plan, four key global themes emerged as common areas for improvement across our global business.


1) process safety competence

2) control of Work

3) integrity and reliability

4) Incident-Free


Within each of these four global themes, several work streams emerged as the backbone of the plan. “Although the business units are operating very different assets, across onshore Kazakhstan drilling campaigns, through shallow offshore waters in the Arabian Gulf, and FPSO operations in the wild North Sea, there is more commonality than you would think,” explains Steve Haden, Vice President, Drilling & Well Services.

“There is a lot of value in having these simultaneous work streams which bind the priority items we’re going after. It’s easier for us to stay on track because as new things come up, which they will, then we can identify whether they are in service of what we have prioritised in the Plans. “Yes it is - or no it isn’t” helps everyone understand what it is that you are striving to achieve.” An example of that commonality can be drawn from looking at the UK and Kazakhstan. “These are very different businesses, yet across both we see the need for a reliable and effective “Control of Work” system. In fact, that is an identified gap in all of the Business Units,” says Mackie.


Country Ownership

In order to ensure that the highest risk items in the business units are tackled first, the plans are tailor-made in each Business Unit. There is a clear focus of what needs to be done in 2015.


“The Business Units will have things which are more important to one than another, so one of the advantages of having four tailored plans is that it allows the right and most pressing items to be prioritised in-country. These items have been high-graded and we needed to allow that kind of flexibility in the planning process,” states Haden.


Each Business Unit now has its own plan, delivery of which is ultimately owned by the BU Managing Directors. The plans build on and enhance the work that was already ongoing in the BUs. Clear accountability in the assets and in the functions is essential to delivering such a comprehensive plan, it needs to be clear who is doing what – and by when. “This can’t just be the functional heads and Managing Directors trying to deliver this. We all have to really own this plan, run this plan and be proactively performance managing it. That’s when it will work,” adds Haden.

Technical Authority Model

One of the key work streams is the implementation of a Technical Authority model across all the technical functions. By conforming to a common model across disciplines and BUs, the planning and execution of work carried out globally will adhere to a uniform set

of standards.


“Ultimately all the BUs should work in

a similar way with the same standards, same tools, same terminology and so on. This sort of convergence is critical from

a safety oversight perspective, but it is also important to companies like Maersk Oil, which want to grow efficiently,” reflects Mossman.


“In setting up a new BU, it would be great if we have a full suite of Maersk Oil standards and competencies – but we are not there yet. Ideally any new location should have the same basic systems, tools and standards as we do in Qatar, Kazakhstan, the UK and Denmark, for example. This then enables people switching between locations to transfer easily. It’s efficient, and it improves safety,” he adds.


Staying on Track

Keeping it simple and making the execution efficient is vital, reflects Glenn Brown, Vice President, Corporate Subsurface. “We need to make sure we don’t get blown off course by other things breaking into the plan and stealing resources. Having a uniform plan which is committed to and can be performance managed will help, and the corporate function heads need to stay responsive. We need to be able to identify if a business unit needs support in order to deliver on these commitments, then we need to provide that,” he states.


Mindset Matters

Although sponsorship and promotion of the Five Year plans has come from the corporate centre, the process has been an exercise in collaboration with the business unit management and function heads in-country, leading on from the work that was already in progress.


“We have to provide assurance to the leadership that these plans are the right plans and that they are being executed effectively. We are working closely with the BUs to help ensure that the plans are tailored and prioritised  in order to provide the biggest process safety wins for the BU in question," says Mackie.


Steve Haden echoes these thoughts:“You can look at an expansive  plan and say: Wow, I’ve got a lot to do. Or you can look at the outcomes and say: Wow, I’m glad I found that out now. I think the mindset in Maersk Oil is more in the latter. This is an opportunity to learn and to improve our operations overall,” he concludes.