A lot of recent talk surrounding domestic oil production is centered on hydraulic fracturing, but it's important to remember how offshore drilling continues to play a major role in the industry's growth.
Though it poses more complications than drilling for oil on land, offshore developments promise more potential resources - and perhaps a more sustainable return on investment.
That is, as long as operational risk is managed appropriately.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill that greatly impacted the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 profoundly changed the discussion concerning offshore drilling safety. Since then, rig operators and government agencies have been working to ensure that better prevention methods are in place so that all future accidents can be avoided or, at the very least, minimized.
"Operators must take responsibility" for their drilling rigs, said Brian Salerno, director of the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).1 Salerno, who spoke at the International Offshore Safety Conference in Newfoundland on November 13th, emphasized how companies should focus on shifting their technology towards more wholly integrated, connected systems and programs. Salerno also stressed how the success of safety programs ultimately rests in human hands.
"The one thing that holds true - regardless of the regulatory system in place - is that there is no escaping the importance of the individual operators’ commitment to safety. It has to be real, not just a plan on a shelf."
"Most accidents we see develop from the human element, so philosophies must start from the top," he added, according to an article in the Oil & Gas Journal.
A drilling operation should be a cohesive system with safety as a central foundation rather than a branch of concern. It's crucial for these companies to emphasize operational risk management issues, emergency response preparation and environmental remediation strategies in order to avoid spills and potential liability.