IOSC 2021 – Working Together for Safety, Success, Sustainability
Posted May 11, 2021
Every three years the International Oil Spill Conference (IOSC) brings together professionals from the private sector, government and non-governmental response community to discuss the science and advanced technologies of preventing incidences, responding in the rare event of a spill and restoring affected areas. IOSC 2021 is occurring virtually this week, again focused on four pillar themes: prevent, prepare, respond, restore. Below, conference remarks by API President and CEO Mike Sommers.
Online or otherwise, this particular gathering is more than just a typical industry event that pops up on our calendars every few years. Instead, this conference provides a special and unique opportunity for our industry to meet with fellow collaborators in government and non-governmental organizations alike.
What brings us together is a common purpose: preventing oil spills and “getting to zero.” To accomplish that, API is proud to help convene an event dedicated to exchanging ideas and sharing lessons learned from around the world as we collectively work toward a safer, cleaner, better future.
I want to take a moment to recognize and thank the other permanent members of the International Oil Spill Conference committee. Working alongside API are our government partners at EPA, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration under the Department of Transportation. We also have the U.S. military through the Coast Guard; and international collaborators through IPIECA and the International Maritime Organization.
It's an honor to stand alongside these important stakeholders, making measurable progress toward a shared goal of zero incidents and renewing our collective commitment to science, data and continuous improvement.
More than 50 years after its start in 1969, this conference continues to provide a powerful platform to promote “safety first, safety always.”
We know that last year disrupted the energy industry in a number of ways, including the unfortunate cancellation of this event, which would have coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon incident.
That tragic, unforgettable event has rightfully played a critical role in this industry’s recent history. The incident served as the catalyst for a slate of new industry standards, regulations and reforms that have strengthened safety and sustainability in the 11 years since.
Today, offshore energy development occurs using state-of-the-art standards and a safety management culture, due in large part to industry leadership and the hard lessons learned a decade ago. API is proud to be part of the progress that’s taken shape over the past 10-plus years, including 250 new and revised offshore safety standards, with 100 of those now included in federal regulations. That work has yielded real results.
Let me put it into perspective: A leading tanker insurance group recently reported that, in the last decade, there were on average less than one-tenth of the significant spills experienced in the 1970s. While any spill is one too many, it’s clear that we’re making progress.
Such developments are important because petroleum shipments account for 40% of all U.S. waterborne trade and offshore activity accounts for 15% of all U.S. oil production. These activities play an important role in making sure we continue to supply the affordable, reliable energy American families and businesses need.
Our nation’s energy security depends on the continued steady flow of domestic resources, so it’s critical that we produce, transport and refine petroleum products safely and responsibly.
Innovations in infrastructure and deep-sea equipment; rigorous training; comprehensive safety protocols; and the management tools to ensure those protocols are effective … all reflect our industry’s commitment to preventing incidents like Deepwater Horizon.
Center for Offshore Safety
Immediately following Deepwater Horizon, API responded by establishing the Center for Offshore Safety. Based in Houston and widely known as “COS,” it’s a non-profit open to all industry participants that works to do three things: promote systems that drive offshore safety progress; analyze offshore safety data to identify opportunities for improvement; and facilitate development and sharing of good practices that advance safety and environmental protection for all.
COS also works closely with regulators at BSEE and the U.S. Coast Guard in analyzing trends and as the accreditation body for auditors that assess compliance with important federal government rules.
Now in its second decade, COS remains focused on safe operations for the offshore workforce and implementing improvements to prevent – and eliminate – safety and environmental incidents at all times. This is done through leadership and systems approaches, as well as the promotion of a safety culture.
The Center’s director, Russell Holmes, brings a unique perspective as a former industry regulator with the U.S. Coast Guard. This experience and expertise has guided API’s member company programs related to Safety and Environmental Management Systems and facilitated stronger relationships with government regulators, including the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The creation of COS, of course, coincided with the government’s creation of BSEE as well as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which all together marked a veritable sea change in how the industry operates and collaborates with government. And this conference itself serves as a shining example of a shared public-private commitment to safety.
API Energy Excellence
Fast forward to this year, and our industry’s commitment to workplace safety and environmental performance – both onshore and offshore – can be seen in the launch of a new program called API Energy Excellence.
This program represents a unified approach to safety and operational improvements among API’s hundreds of member companies, enabling the industry to accelerate progress toward sustainability while still meeting the world’s growing demand for affordable, reliable and cleaner energy. It also codifies many API standards and programs developed in the last decade into clear practices that are now adopted across the industry that drive collective safety, health and environmental progress.
The 13 core elements of API Energy Excellence are applicable to operators and facilities across the natural gas and oil value chain, and cover long-view areas including … Leadership Commitment and Culture; Planning and Risk Management; Incident Investigation, Evaluation, and Lessons Learned; and Emergency Preparedness and Response … all of which combine to bolster our efforts on safety and incident prevention.
Meeting energy demand requires safe and responsible production, transportation, refining and exports managed by a skilled and diverse workforce. It also requires continuously improving our performance by incorporating new technologies and approaches informed by sound science and performance data.
The API Energy Excellence program does both. It demonstrates that a combination of private-sector initiatives, technological innovation and cross-sector collaboration can advance a cleaner energy future.
Climate Action Framework
API Energy Excellence is also a key component of API’s new Climate Action Framework – the final item I want to touch on today.
Incident prevention isn’t just about one area of focus or a handful of standards. It’s a culture. It’s safety, continuous improvement and total transparency. It’s learning and sharing from others’ experiences and building on progress both onshore and offshore.
We know that this industry has work to do, because ultimately, success isn’t just a future with zero oil spills. It’s responsibly meeting demand in the face of global growth. And it’s limiting emissions of all kinds across the natural gas and oil value chain. Consider this:
The world’s population will increase to nearly 10 billion people in 2050, and energy demand will grow with it – particularly among many emerging economies that struggle today to alleviate energy poverty. The world needs solutions that advance human and economic development … and satisfy worldwide energy needs in ways that are compatible with reducing emissions and achieving environmental progress.
That sounds like a lot. But the circumstances require speedy collaboration.
For example, the IEA projects energy demand will return to pre-COVID levels in early 2023 and increase nearly 10% by 2030, led by demand from developing economies. This demand growth will continue against the backdrop of humankind’s quest for a lower-carbon future – in which energy production, transportation and use by society are aligned with global climate objectives.
Our industry is at the center of this challenge. Natural gas and oil will be leading energy resources for decades to come. We’re developing these fuels in ways that address the risks of climate change: yes, that certainly includes spill prevention, but also lowering emissions, increasing efficiency, advancing technological innovation, modernizing pipeline infrastructure and more.
Meeting this challenge and accomplishing these goals require new approaches, new partners, new policies and continuous innovation.
I encourage you to visit API.org and read our Climate Action Framework. It lays out what government can do, what our industry will do and what policies will allow us to ensure energy delivery and emissions reductions.
This industry will never stop innovating to further reduce production-related emissions and to make energy systems and consumer products that achieve environmental progress.
Bottom line: We share with industry leaders the goal of preventing oil spills. We also share with global leaders the goal of reducing emissions across the broader economy and, specifically, those from energy production, transportation and everyday use. Both take everybody: Governments. Businesses. Workers. Communities.
It’s a combination of policies, innovation, industry initiatives, people. It’s a partnership of government and economic sectors. No single approach can achieve it. But if we all work together, we can provide a better and safer future.
Today, we have the opportunity to address one important aspect of our shared agenda – building toward zero spills or incidents – but we also know that this dialogue impacts the entirety of our operations.
The panel that follows will elaborate on collaboration between stakeholders, the progress that’s been made, and the improvements to come. So thank you all for being here today and for joining us in this critical conversation as we work together toward safety, success and sustainability.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.