Human factors in oil and gas process safety (April 2014)

New report from the SPE finds poor IT/data systems ‘increase risk of human error.’

The Society of Petroleum Engineers’ new report, ‘The Human Factor: Process Safety and Culture,’ provides guidance on reducing upstream operational risks and improving safety. The report derives from a July 2012 meeting of a steering group of subject matter experts. Section 6 of the 23 page report focuses on the use of information technology in safety which ‘faces challenges as to what information to present to individuals and teams.’ IT is often ‘unclear in its support, appearing to be confrontational or confusing.’ Information overload in the operational environment is a ‘serious and growing issue.’ Another problem is an over-emphasis on the presentation of sensor data rather than usable information. Poor integration of data sources and of different stakeholders’ IT systems ‘unnecessarily increases the risk of human error when making key operational decisions.’ IT systems also often present information in a way that is incompatible with the way people process it. Remote onshore operators lack the sensory feedback experienced on the rig.

The authors are ambivalent on the effects of automation. Safety automation systems can contain dangerous situations but have a high cost when a shutdown is triggered unnecessarily. Drilling IT requires sophisticated intelligence because of the different nature of drilling compared to refinery operations. The report does not mention products or vendors with the curious exception of Ureason’s operational advisories model. Read the full report on 2102 and visit the SPE HF technical section.

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