The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Using Procedures to Reduce Risk in Shale Gas

Graham Marshall - Thursday, January 19, 2017

The anti-shale gas extremists in the UK and elsewhere like to promote the notion that the Shale Gas industry is unregulated and out of control.

In reality, of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Like all long-term established industries - remember - Shale Gas and Oil has been around since the 1940s; the industry uses a range of standard and accepted techniques to reduce risk to a level as low as reasonably practicable and in line with Government Regulations and community demands.

One area of control that is standard in the Shale Gas sector relates to the use of written Procedures.

Procedures not only show workers how to undertake given tasks in a safe manner; they also help to demonstrate HOW any company is complying with the Health, Safety and Environmental legislation.

Here are just some examples of the massive range of Procedures, Guidelines and Standard Work Practices that are used to manage and minimize risk within the shale gas sector.



How to Control Surface Spills on Unconventional Gas Wells

Graham Marshall - Thursday, December 11, 2014

I'm fortunate to work with some very bright people who care passionately about protecting our environment; and at the same time, meet our community energy needs through the exploration and production (E+P) of unconventional hydrocarbons in the form of clean-burning gas.

So it is particularly annoying to have a rat-bag group of NIMBY protesters telling outright lies to the community about our industry's so-called pollution risk to soils, ground water, and health.

I am proud to work in the unconventional energy business - as an Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) specialist - with a very real focus on absolute minimization of risk in our business.

The safety of our people, and the protection of our environment are paramount values amongst the people with whom I work.

Having said all that, one of the common lies told  by opponents of Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation ("frac") is that spills of chemicals on the surface will pollute ground water for thousands of years, and cause untold adverse health problems for local people.

Let me share with you some photographs of the simple, yet effective ways in which we aim for "Zero Loss of Primary Containment" (0 LOPC).

It all starts with the way we construct the drilling location at the start of the Frac process.

As you can see in the picture above, we make a very large non-porous impermeable membrane that covers the whole of the frac-location before work begins.  The impermeable layer is designed to contain any liquid spills and allow time for a Vac-truck to be called to location to suck up the spill before it gets beyond the containment barrier.

Of course, the impermeable barrier is just one of several "layers of protection" that we ensure are being used before the frac begins.  The first layer of protection is to make sure that primary containment of any liquids is always sound.

By primary containment, I mean things like the actual fuel-tanks on generators, or the hoses on engines.  These items of equipment are frequently checked to make sure they are able to contain liquids within the equipment.  But where possible, we used secondary containment (often called "paddling pools" or "duck ponds")  to surround any equipment that contains its own liquid sources (e.g., fuel tanks, light plant, etc).  The paddling pool is the first line of defence if a spill does occur.

So, contrary to the lies of the anti-frac brigade, we make enormous effort to ensure that spills and leaks from primary containment are prevenented.

But a significant part of our risk management efforts is to ensure we have plans in place to ensure that spills which do occur, do not get beyond the secondary containment of the paddling pools or the tertiary containment of the location liner.

Finally, if that fails, we have contingency plans in place which ensure a rapid clean-up is put in place.  This  ensures that all contaminated soil is either treated on location, or removed for treatment at an approved waste facility.

Taken together, the prevention controls and the emergency mitigation and recovery controls I have outlined above mean that there is zero-risk to the earth where we frac; zero risk to the water-table directly below frac locations; and zero risk to community health in the local community in the areas where we work.

Please don't believe the lies of the rat-bags who oppose our drive to create energy-security, cheaper sources of energy, and more high-paying jobs for local people.

There is another side to the story which the Frac-free groups won't tell you.

How Can a Fracked Well Fail?

Graham Marshall - Monday, December 08, 2014

Opponents of the drive to create energy self-sufficiency and energy-security in Britain will often call on the alleged threat to drinking water as a reason not to develop British gas resources through the process known as hydraulic fracture stimulation.

Here is a typical example of the frightening propaganda used by opponents of unconventional gas; in this case from the "Frac-free Ryedale" website: "Our drinking water would become contaminated if one of the wells leaks, as they are likely to do over time. It is estimated that one in four wells will leak within five years, and 50% of all wells will leak within 15 years."

Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I'd like the folks at Frac-free Ryedale answer two simple questions:

Firstly, how, does one in four wells leak within five years?

Secondly, how do 50% of all wells leak within 15-years?

You see, the problem I have with these claims, is that they are simply nonsense: let me show you how a gas well is constructed to prevent any risk of failure and you can work it out for yourself.

When the drill-rig drills the hole into the ground - anywhere up to a depth of 9,000 - 12,000 feet below the surface, and a further 9,000 - 12,000 feet "lateral" (horizontal), an outermost "conductor casing" is inserted.  This conductor casing is a steel tube which fits into the drill hole.  Surrounding the conductor casing and filling the space between the steel tube and the wall of the drill hole is a cement liner. So this provides the outermost barrier between the inside of the well-bore and the outside rock.

Inside of the conductor casing, another steel liner is then inserted into the bore-hole - called the "surface casing".  The gap between the surface casing and the conductor casing is then filled with another layer of solid cement.  So this provides a second barrier inside the well-bore to help prevent any hydrocarbons escaping from inside the well; and prevent any contaminants from migrating  from the outside rocks.

If that wasn't enough protection, there is then a third steel liner - the intermediate casing - inserted into the well-bore inside of the surface casing.  The gap between the intermediate casing and the surface casing is, once again, filled with hard-setting cement.

So, that is now three layers of steel tubing, and three layers of solid cement between the outside rocks and the inside well bore.

But we're not done with protecting the aquifers just yet; inside those three steel rings and three cement walls, the well completions folks then insert a penultimate barrier - called the Production Casing. Outside the Production Casing is another layer of cement.  Inside of the Production Casing is a gap (called the annulus) and inside the annulus is the final protective barrier inside the well.  This is the Production Tubing.

The Production Tubing is a steel pipe that allows gas to flow from the bottom of the well all the way to the surface. The gas (or oil) stays inside the Production Tubing at all times.

So, as you can see, it is practically impossible for any hydrocarbons to escape through five layers of steel tubing and four layers of reinforcing cement and contaminate groundwater aquifers.

Put quite simply, the claim that 25% of wells will fail within 5 years and 50% will fail within 15 years is nonsense.

Safety Program in Ohio

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

 

Risk Tool Box is currently rolling out a safety program to three drilling rigs in the Utica play in Ohio. 

The focus of the program is on improving five key areas of HSE performance.

These five focus topics are use of procedures, better JSAs, improved hazard spotting by rig-crew, housekeeping and PPE compliance.

We're doing a lot of on-site coaching and mentoring and so far, the response from the rig crews is pretty good.

Should we frac in theNorth York Moors?

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, April 01, 2014

You've probably never heard of Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation.

But I expect that you have heard of "frakking" or "frac"?

That's because those folks with a "not for shale" bias have worked out that the word "frakking" sounds nasty and evil.

And they know they're on to a good thing in convincing British people not to develop our Nation's unconventional natural gas resources.

A Question of Paradigms

Now then, when you've got an anti-shale World-view ("paradigm") that resources are finite, and soon to run-out; if that paradigm is confronted by conflicting evidence, you can only do two things.

1   You can alter your World-view to the new reality; or

2   You can try - somehow - to make the new reality fit your World-view.

So after 50+ years of telling us the Malthusian tail that "peak-energy" has passed; and we'll soon run-out of hydrocarbons; those folks with an anti-shale agenda are confronted by the new reality that we've got more natural gas available than ever before.

"How can this be" those folks might ask?

Frakking and Directional Drilling

It is because the two smart techniques of Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation (HFS) - "frakking" - and Directional Drilling have allowed for a game-changing transformation of energy recovery.

We can now exploit clean natural gas locked in shale and coal-seams below Britain; and in such vast quantities that even ten-years ago were considered unattainable.

My own paradigm - I'll admit freely - is that smart and clever people, using their brain power are the "Ultimate Resource" in solving all problems.

Think how Alan Turing and the other brilliant British cryptanalyst's broke into Hitler's Enigma codes - seemingly impossible - but achieved by clever people using brain-power!

And I believe that clever people will always discover new and better ways to solve environmental "limits to growth" using human ingenuity.

HFS and Directional Drilling show exactly how the ultimate resource of human ingenuity has, and will continue to succeed in finding and developing new sources of cleaner energy for a brighter future.

That's what I call sustainable development.

Imposing Artificial Limits to Growth

But those folks with an anti-shale agenda have another answer to this new dilemma of boundless unconventional gas.

Because of their depressing paradigm of a World with finite resources, their answer is to call for a moratorium on "frakking"; and to blanket ban the exploitation of new sources of British natural gas.

Only by banning the exploitation of new sources of energy can those folks with an anti-shale agenda selfishly ensure that gas does, in fact, become "finite"; and force reality to match their paradigm.

Using that extreme psychological sleight of hand; they can then force upon us all the reality of dwindling resources to match their depressing view of the World.

The problem, of course, is that the unconventional gas that lies below the surface of Britain is not "finite" in any meaningful way; but if the push to ban its exploitation succeeds, then energy supply will indeed "run-out" over time.

And then we'll all really be stuffed!

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One

Listed below are my own reasons for supporting Britain's drive to exploit our unconventional natural gas resources using HFS and directional drilling.

1.  In order to remain a Sovereign Nation; with the economic, political and social capability to determine our own destiny; it is vital that Britain develops unconventional sources of gas; these will free our Country from the enormous risk posed by a reliance on energy supply from the Russian's.

2.  Unconventional energy sources - shale gas and coal-seam gas (CSG), and to a lesser degree oil - are readily available for exploitation below the British mainland in vast quantities.

3.  Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation (HFS) is not a new technique.  It is a long-established technology with a history of use in the UK, America and Australia going back at least 50-years.

4.  The environmental and worker-safety hazards posed by HFS are well-known and easily managed using current technology and existing hydrocarbon management planning techniques.  And technology will continue to improve in the future; bringing ever safer operations.

5.  When compared to the huge economic and social benefits created by the jobs and investment from unconventional gas, the tiny environmental and worker safety risk posed by HFS is negligible. 

6.  The specific risk to surface-waters and ground-water aquifers - as highlighted by opponents of HFS - is, in fact, negligible.  The risk is also easily managed using current Well drilling, frakking and Well-completions techniques.

7.  Modern directional drilling, when combined with HFS means that Wellhead locations at the surface can be located several miles from the underground fracture zone; meaning the necessary surface infrastructure for each Well can avoid ecologically important lands or urban areas.

8.  The chemicals that are used in the HFS process would typically be found under the kitchen sink or in the bathroom of nearly every home in Britain, and in all hardware stores and most hospitals; meaning they're not dangerous when used properly.

9.  The sand that is used during HFS operations as a "proppant" is either regular silica sand (similar to the sand you'd find at the beach at Whitby) but selected for its purity, specific grain-size, and absolute roundness; or it is a manufactured inert clay ceramic made for ideal size and roundness.

10. When compared to existing coal-powered electricity stations, the use of shale gas and CSG create the opportunity for clean-burning, low-emission electricity generation.

11. The surface "land take" for a typical shale gas or CSG Well is very small; and Wells in production are unobtrusive and not particularly noisy.

12. Contrary to what opponents of unconventional shale gas would say, not a single property in the UK or elsewhere on Planet Earth has ever been damaged by an "Earthquake" resulting from the use of HFS.

13. Again, contrary to the "Not for Shale" Agenda, the jobs and prosperity that the exploitation of new sources of unconventional gas bring to any area means that overall community wealth increases; and local home owners will likely see good increases in property values.

14. All things being equal, the price paid for electricity resulting from "gas to power" projects should become cheaper following our exploitation of unconventional sources of natural gas.

15. Finally, I'd suggest that the wealth generated from the future  exploitation of unconventional gas makes our country more - not less - able to protect our wonderful natural environment and National Parks.

What Should We do?

My own feeling is that local communities around Britain that are smart about unconventional natural gas have an historic chance to band together for real local benefit.

Communities should come out in favour of unconventional gas projects; but demand a better deal for "royalty" payments from the gas-field operators and the Government.

In America, where land-holders own the mineral rights to their properties, the energy businesses have turned thousands of owners and farmers into multi-millionaires through royalty payments.

In Britain, communities and parishes should band together to maximize the payouts coming to the local community with a pro-frakking stand.

Money from royalty payments to local communities could be used for a wide range of community-development initiatives; job creation for young people, libraries, walking and cycling routes, history interpretation, environmental protection schemes - all sorts of projects could be funded from royalty payments from frakked-gas.

It is in everyone's interests for Britain to develop our unconventional natural gas resources using frakking technology.

The downside environmental risk is negligible and easy to manage; and the upside social, economic and political benefits - sustainable development - stand to be enourmous.

Or we can all just sit-by and let the Russian's supply our energy-needs.

As the Ukrainian people have just discovered, we'll need good luck with that one...

Happy April the 1st.

Well done to Santos

Graham Marshall - Friday, March 14, 2014

The Greenies reaction to the news of aquifer contamination - which actually occurred several years ago - at a location recently purchased by Santos in NSW shows how these people try to create a climate of fear around low-risk and low-impact events.

In response to the leak, NSW Labor put out a press release stating that: “The O’Farrell Government’s Memorandum of Understanding with Santos to fast track the approval process for Coal Seam Gas mining in the Pilliga forest should be torn up in light of revelations of contamination of the water aquifer.”

And the Greens exclaimed that this event meant it was "game over for coal seam gas”.

Which is, of course, their ultimate aim to achieve.

Many environmental groups have also leapt on the bandwagon to justify their opposition to Coal Seam Gas (CSG).

But what actually happened - and more importantly - what is the risk?

Several years ago a retaining dam was constructed in the Pilliga Forest, near Narrabri, to hold produced water extracted from wells drilled in the search for CSG.

The dam was not lined properly and it leaked.

The leaking water then entered an aquifer.

According to the NSW EPA, the contaminated aquifer - being inside the Pilliga forest - was not used for livestock, crop irrigation or human consumption.

But the leaking water contained NORM - Naturally-occurring Radioactive Materials - and other naturally-occurring minerals found in bedrock through which the drill-string passed (e.g., lead, arsenic and barium).

Fast forward to a couple of years ago - when Santos purchased the legacy asset from the original owners.

In looking over the asset as part of its due-diligence process (a good way to identify environmental issues so they can be managed properly), Santos themselves discovered the problem with the dam.

You'll recall that the dam was constructed by the prior owner of the operation before Santos acquired it.

Being a good corporate citizen, however, Santos then reported the leaking dam to the EPA.

For whatever legal reason, the NSW EPA fined Santos $1,500 because the dam leak (which occurred prior to Santos' ownership) had contaminated the aquifer.

Maybe fair enough I guess.

But the Greenies jumped on the story and the minor fine to beef-up the talk and transform the issue of NORM into "Uranium" poisoning in drinking water and lead, arsenic, and barium toxicity.

The Greenies know that "Uranium" holds a special place of fear in the human psyche due to its association atomic bombs.

So they'll stoop to any level of fear-mongering in their desperate attempt to convince the Australian population that Santos and the search for CSG is evil.

The reality, in this case, is that a small and relatively low consequence spill, with absolutely low-risk consequence to animal or public health should not be allowed to stand in the way of a billion-dollar industry that creates tens of thousands of jobs for Australians.

And Santos should be congratulated for its environmental practices; firstly discovering the leak, secondly reporting it to the EPA, and finally, in remediating it!

Well done Santos!

2013 Unconventional Resources and Exhibition

Graham Marshall - Monday, October 28, 2013

SPE is hosting a international conference for industry players to discover and learn about the latest technological advancements in unconventional oil and gas.

The 2013 SPE Unconventional Resources Conference and Exhibition will be held at Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Queensland Australia from 11-13 November 2013.

Over 100 papers are expected to be presented in more than 20 technical sessions and e-poster presentations covering:

• Advancements in Petrophysics;

• Delivery of mega-projects;

• Exploration areas and evaluating stimulation effectiveness; and

• New standards for reserves work in practice and on sharing unconventional resources industry experience.

For further information and bookings, telephone 61 7 3308 3000.

Danger of Dropped Casing

Graham Marshall - Thursday, September 19, 2013

Here is another in the excellent series of Safety Alerts put out by APPEA. This time, highlighting the need for good procedures when TIH or TOH with casing during rig operations.

Talk to us about writing good Procedures for completions operations.

2nd Offshore Process Safety Conference in Houston

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Six oil and gas operators and over 200 renowned industry experts  from leading firms will gather at the 2nd Offshore Process Safety Conference in Houston, 11-12 Sep 2013.

This is a major collaborative effort to enhance process safety and HSE risk management for drilling and  production operations; making this conference the largest and most important meeting places for offshore senior decision-makers in 2013.

Critical reasons to attend this year's premier process safety conference include:

+  Regulatory updates from COS and USCG about new developments in the GoM;

+  Six Operators and over 25 of the industry's leading experts will be sharing exclusive strategies for implementing successful SEMS programs and audits, along with the tools you need to build a robust safety culture;

+  Enhance Process Safety for Drilling Operations to ensure safe, reliable and compliant operations; and

+  Networking with  senior delegates form operators and contractors.

November 15th 2013 is a major deadline for operators and thousands of contractors to complete audits of their Safety and Environmental Management Systems. By attending you will receive the latest strategies for enhanced SEMS compliance, safety culture, leadership, drilling process safety and contractor management.

Limited speaking and sponsorship/exhibition opportunities are available. To register your interests please contact:

 Adam Minkley
 Project Director
 DecomWorld
 Tel: +44 (0)207 375 7239

Hydrocarbon Releases in the North Sea for 2012

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hydrocarbon releases in the UK sector of the North Sea reached a record low last year according to new figures from the Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE).

There were 97 incidents reported to the UK HSE in 2012.

This is down from 133 reported incidents in 2011 and continuing a long-term downward trend.

The figures reveal a 48 per cent reduction in the number of hydrocarbon releases over the last three years – just short of the target the industry set itself in 2010 to halve releases.

The target was set following pressure from the UK HSE to improve performance.

In 2009 there were 187 hydrocarbon releases, of which 86 were classified as significant or major (84 significant and two major).


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