Few will need to be reminded that next month marks the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster. As the world’s worst offshore incident, it claimed the lives of 167 men and cast a dark shadow over everyone and everything connected to oil and gas for a long time afterwards.
For those of us old enough to remember, the images on the news of the burning platform will stay with us forever.
A quarter of a century later, however, many of the younger people working in our industry have little or no recollection of the tragedy.
Many will also be unaware of the deep impact it had on communities and the transformational effect it had on the industry and the way it is regulated. Similarly, many may not be aware of how the type of culture which was prevalent at the time was turned around in order to eradicate the various failings which led to that awful tragedy.
The same hazards which existed back then still exist now – but how we manage them effectively and safely is now crucially different and improved.
The oil and gas industry has been on a journey of improvement over the last 25 years. We’re continuously learning how to make things safer by studying incidents not just in our own back yard, but globally and from other industries too.
This year Oil & Gas UK decided to host an event which would not only mark the anniversary of Piper Alpha in a reflective way, but would function as an event where real learning and sharing of valuable information can take place in an open forum.
We expect over 700 people from all over the world to join us for this special event. We are delighted to be able to welcome Lord Cullen as Piper 25’s keynote speaker. Lord Cullen conducted the Public Inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster and delivered the seminal Cullen report. He will stress the importance of strong leadership in how safety is managed offshore.
Piper 25 will also feature high profile international speakers from a diverse range of backgrounds who will share their knowledge and expertise. These include: the Hon Mr Justice Haddon-Cave QC, who conducted the review into the loss of an RAF Nimrod in Afghanistan in 2006; the Health and Safety Executive’s chair Judith Hackett and head of strategic interventions Steve Walker; as well as RMT’s regional organiser Jake Molloy.
From Australia we welcome: Jane Cutler of the Australian National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), who led the regulatory response to the 2009 Montara well blowout; Miranda Taylor of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), who is a member of the Montara Taskforce which is now established as a permanent Well Safety and Integrity Committee; and renowned academic, Professor Andrew Hopkins of the Australian National University.
From the US we welcome: BP’s executive VP, safety & operational risk, Bob Fryar, who will discuss safety and operational risk management focusing on sharing learning from Macondo; John Bresland, former chairman of the US Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board; and Thad Allen, the former commandant of the US Coast Guard and the incident commander of the Deepwater Horizon response.
The event will also see high profile senior oil and gas industry chiefs share their leadership experience, including: Wood Group chief executive Bob Keiller; Geoff Holmes, the chief executive of the event’s sponsor Talisman Sinopec Energy UK Ltd; and Stephen Colville, president and CEO of the International Association of Drilling Contractors.
In addition, around 65 other expert speakers will speak at the three-day conference during the five parallel sessions covering broad themes such as: safety management systems and control of work; major hazard management and safety technology; human and organisational factors, emergency preparedness and response; and advances in fire and explosion engineering.
Besides reflecting on the past and the progress made since 1967 the event will also provide a valuable knowledge-sharing experience. One of the fundamental purposes of this event will also be to galvanise the oil and gas industry on the cause and further continuous improvement on safety.
We believe we have met the recent target to halve the number of hydrocarbon releases and look forward to confirmation of this data. However, there is no room for self satisfaction or complacency here and we hope the Piper 25 event will be a catalyst to re-energising and re-focusing the industry’s determination to continuously improve safety performance to ensure we never again see a disaster such as Piper Alpha.
Piper 25 is for everyone with an interest in safety – whether you have a direct interest in Piper Alpha itself or in offshore safety more generally. We hope to see you and your colleagues there.
Piper 25 takes place at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre over June 18-20. For more information and to book your place please visit www.oilandgasuk.co.uk/piper25
Malcolm Webb is CEO of Oil & Gas UK