Operators push towards 'Goal Zero'

Safety first: Wael Sawan (R) of Shell and Melody Meyer of Chevron aim for zero incidents

There are so many facets to successfully and safely delivering giant gas projects and one key aspect of the safety culture is that all people involved feel empowered and accountable to intervene if they see potentially dangerous practices.

This sentiment was shared by the speakers at a key industry session on Tuesday at the 21st World Petroleum Congress.

"We have a goal zero," said Wael Sawan, managing director of Qatar Shell companies. That means the target is no injuries to people and zero hydrocarbon leaks, he explained.

Safety is an ever-present focus. Sawan told delegates that he was shocked to learn that as many as 25 people were expected to be killed in the budgeted 500 million man-hours needed to complete Shell's Pearl gas-to-liquids project, according to study work during the design phase.

"If you look statistically as an industry what the fatality rate would be, we were expected to kill around 25 people on this project," Sawan said.

"Just think about that: The team is taking a decision to invest in a project where potentially 25 people – if we achieved global benchmarks – would lose their lives," he said.

"The team said this is unacceptable."

Melody Meyer, president of Chevron Asia Pacific E&P, said safety is also a key focus for the US supermajor. Chevron and its partners are investing around $80 billion in the Gorgon and Wheatstone liquefied natural gas projects in Australia.

Meyer told attendees that the company had provided some 400 personnel with an average of 215 hours of safety training in an effort to inculcate a safety culture throughout its global workforce.

"Every employee and contractor has the authority and responsibility to stop work at any time at any operational phase where he or she sees a hazard," Meyer said.

"We're already seeing evidence of this intense focus on safety paying off for us," she continued, recounting a rigger on the Gorgon project who intervened when he noticed another contractor's load was not properly secured thereby preventing a potential accident.

One of the more practical challenges Shell faced during construction of its Pearl GTL project was in respect to the quality and consistency of work performed at the various fabrication yards around the world.

Overseeing fabrication work at yards in different countries is also proving a challenge for the Gorgon LNG project, Meyer said, adding that because of the modular construction of the plant, fabricated units and structures have to be delivered to the Barrow Island in a preordained sequence for installation.

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