Evolution of safety clothing and equipment in the energy sector
The frontline professionals in the energy sector are exposed to numerous life-threating activities and hazards. Danger lurks around every corner, right from working in well foundations, to erecting lease tanks to chemical treatments or hydraulic fracturing wells. Even in the presumably safe environments like refineries, certain activities pose threats like process sampling, handling or recharging catalyst or inspection. Also, the off-shore drilling offers risk due to hydrogen sulfide gas, use of heavy metals and the presence of benzene in the crude. Even during shutdowns and repairs, the risk is high. The workers are also exposed to fires and flames and hence require comprehensive safety measures and equipment to work without risk.
Evolution of Personal Protective Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), is referred to the equipment that is worn by workers to minimize the exposure to workplace related hazards and injuries. It includes but is not limited to respirators, hard hats, gloves, safety harnesses, safety glasses, earplugs, bodysuits, and steel-toed shoes. During the industrial revolution, the PPE was put in place to minimize the workplace injuries. However, with time it has become more efficient at protecting the overall well-being of the workforce. So, let us track the evolution of some key safety equipment and clothing in the energy sector over the period:
· Back in the 1900s, industrial workers used hemp or natural fiber body belt to protect from injuries. However, these belts did not have shock-absorption properties.
· In 1959, shock absorption property was incorporated into the safety belts. This helped the workers to reduce or eliminate injury caused due to fall.
· In the 1990s, there were more improvements such as snap hook connectors, D-rings, and full-body harness. It transformed the fall prevention system for better
· As per the article published in Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) magazine, the gold miners created the bowler hat to protect themselves from the debris that falls while working in the mines. It had rounded brims and hard exterior, while the interior was stuffed with cotton.
· The Golden Gate Bridge project is considered as the first major project that made it compulsory for all the workers to wear a hard hat. The hat was crafted using canvas and it had an internal suspension system.
· After some time, an aluminum hat was introduced but was soon discontinued due to its side-effects: corroding and electricity conduction.
· In 1950’s thermoplastic was used to construct hat; these hats were easily molded and hence uniformity in the hats was introduced. Hard hat has not been improved much, however additional accessories like earplugs or Bluetooth technology has been introduced to enhance the comfort level.
· Roman Empire created the first respirator which was made out of the animal bladder and was used by the miners to prevent inhalation of iron oxide dust.
· In the middle of the 1800s, the charcoal gas filter mask was introduced. After two decades it was further improved and was known as “fireman’s respirator.” But, the respirators were not widely accepted until 1900.
· In the 1970s, the safety equipment manufacturers created Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR) which comprised of a blower and filter inside a helmet. It was widely used in the areas where the face and eye contamination were the concern.
· However, most respirator even today use simple technology that helps in respiration. PAPR is still in the growing stage.
· Do you know the earliest reference to the earplugs were found in Greek Drama, The Odyssey? During those times, it was used to block the songs of the siren. The sailors used beeswax as earplugs.
· In the early 1900s, earplugs were used in the densely populated neighborhood and was made of cotton and wax. These benefits were then marketed to the industry.
· In the 1960s, foams were used to make earplugs and after a decade, polyurethane was used.
· Some years later, the thermal plastic elastomer was used as it was easier to shape the earplugs and it offered better comfort and fit.
· In the recent years, numerous technological advancements have been made with noise cancellation technology, mic, recorders and extra grip earplugs. The idea is to encourage workers to use it to eliminate any chance of hearing impairment.
· Safety glasses were first introduced by a tribe in Alaska which used it to prevent snow blindness. Later, this idea was adopted, and the safety glasses were used to protect the eyes from various contaminants such as dust, splashes, heat, glare, and wind.
· In the energy sector, the workers are expected to wear it full-time. Now, it has been aesthetically designed to make it more fashionable. Even the prescription-based safety glasses have been introduced. Just by wearing glasses, a lot of vision-related injuries can be avoided.
Since the mid-20th century, safety clothing and equipment have evolved significantly. The standardization and safety policies have also helped in encouraging workers to use the PPE which in turn has helped in reducing the rate of injuries and illness at the workplace.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 18 March 2019 – Brent: US$67/b; WTI: US$58/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
Risk and reward – improving recovery rates versus exploration
A giant oil supply gap looms. If, as we expect, oil demand peaks at 110 million b/d in 2036, the inexorable decline of fields in production or under development today creates a yawning gap of 50 million b/d by the end of that decade.
How to fill it? It’s the preoccupation of the E&P sector. Harry Paton, Senior Analyst, Global Oil Supply, identifies the contribution from each of the traditional four sources.
1. Reserve growth
An additional 12 million b/d, or 24%, will come from fields already in production or under development. These additional reserves are typically the lowest risk and among the lowest cost, readily tied-in to export infrastructure already in place. Around 90% of these future volumes break even below US$60 per barrel.
2. pre-drill tight oil inventory and conventional pre-FID projects
They will bring another 12 million b/d to the party. That’s up on last year by 1.5 million b/d, reflecting the industry’s success in beefing up the hopper. Nearly all the increase is from the Permian Basin. Tight oil plays in North America now account for over two-thirds of the pre-FID cost curve, though extraction costs increase over time. Conventional oil plays are a smaller part of the pre-FID wedge at 4 million b/d. Brazil deep water is amongst the lowest cost resource anywhere, with breakevens eclipsing the best tight oil plays. Certain mature areas like the North Sea have succeeded in getting lower down the cost curve although volumes are small. Guyana, an emerging low-cost producer, shows how new conventional basins can change the curve.
3. Contingent resource
These existing discoveries could deliver 11 million b/d, or 22%, of future supply. This cohort forms the next generation of pre-FID developments, but each must overcome challenges to achieve commerciality.
Last, but not least, yet-to-find. We calculate new discoveries bring in 16 million b/d, the biggest share and almost one-third of future supply. The number is based on empirical analysis of past discovery rates, future assumptions for exploration spend and prospectivity.
Can yet-to-find deliver this much oil at reasonable cost? It looks more realistic today than in the recent past. Liquids reserves discovered that are potentially commercial was around 5 billion barrels in 2017 and again in 2018, close to the late 2030s ‘ask’. Moreover, exploration is creating value again, and we have argued consistently that more companies should be doing it.
But at the same time, it’s the high-risk option, and usually last in the merit order – exploration is the final top-up to meet demand. There’s a danger that new discoveries – higher cost ones at least – are squeezed out if demand’s not there or new, lower-cost supplies emerge. Tight oil’s rapid growth has disrupted the commercialisation of conventional discoveries this decade and is re-shaping future resource capture strategies.
To sustain portfolios, many companies have shifted away from exclusively relying on exploration to emphasising lower risk opportunities. These mostly revolve around commercialising existing reserves on the books, whether improving recovery rates from fields currently in production (reserves growth) or undeveloped discoveries (contingent resource).
Emerging technology may pose a greater threat to exploration in the future. Evolving technology has always played a central role in boosting expected reserves from known fields. What’s different in 2019 is that the industry is on the cusp of what might be a technological revolution. Advanced seismic imaging, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, the cloud and supercomputing will shine a light into sub-surface’s dark corners.
Combining these and other new applications to enhance recovery beyond tried-and-tested means could unlock more reserves from existing discoveries – and more quickly than we assume. Equinor is now aspiring to 60% from its operated fields in Norway. Volume-wise, most upside may be in the giant, older, onshore accumulations with low recovery factors (think ExxonMobil and Chevron’s latest Permian upgrades). In contrast, 21st century deepwater projects tend to start with high recovery factors.
If global recovery rates could be increased by a percentage or two from the average of around 30%, reserves growth might contribute another 5 to 6 million b/d in the 2030s. It’s just a scenario, and perhaps makes sweeping assumptions. But it’s one that should keep conventional explorers disciplined and focused only on the best new prospects.
Global oil supply through 2040
Things just keep getting more dire for Venezuela’s PDVSA – once a crown jewel among state energy firms, and now buried under debt and a government in crisis. With new American sanctions weighing down on its operations, PDVSA is buckling. For now, with the support of Russia, China and India, Venezuelan crude keeps flowing. But a ghost from the past has now come back to haunt it.
In 2007, Venezuela embarked on a resource nationalisation programme under then-President Hugo Chavez. It was the largest example of an oil nationalisation drive since Iraq in 1972 or when the government of Saudi Arabia bought out its American partners in ARAMCO back in 1980. The edict then was to have all foreign firms restructure their holdings in Venezuela to favour PDVSA with a majority. Total, Chevron, Statoil (now Equinor) and BP agreed; ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips refused. Compensation was paid to ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, which was considered paltry. So the two American firms took PDVSA to international arbitration, seeking what they considered ‘just value’ for their erstwhile assets. In 2012, ExxonMobil was awarded some US$260 million in two arbitration awards. The dispute with ConocoPhillips took far longer.
In April 2018, the International Chamber of Commerce ruled in favour of ConocoPhillips, granting US$2.1 billion in recovery payments. Hemming and hawing on PDVSA’s part forced ConocoPhillips’ hand, and it began to seize control of terminals and cargo ships in the Caribbean operated by PDVSA or its American subsidiary Citgo. A tense standoff – where PDVSA’s carriers were ordered to return to national waters immediately – was resolved when PDVSA reached a payment agreement in August. As part of the deal, ConocoPhillips agreed to suspend any future disputes over the matter with PDVSA.
The key word being ‘future’. ConocoPhillips has an existing contractual arbitration – also at the ICC – relating to the separate Corocoro project. That decision is also expected to go towards the American firm. But more troubling is that a third dispute has just been settled by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes tribunal in favour of ConocoPhillips. This action was brought against the government of Venezuela for initiating the nationalisation process, and the ‘unlawful expropriation’ would require a US$8.7 billion payment. Though the action was brought against the government, its coffers are almost entirely stocked by sales of PDVSA crude, essentially placing further burden on an already beleaguered company. A similar action brought about by ExxonMobil resulted in a US$1.4 billion payout; however, that was overturned at the World Bank in 2017.
But it might not end there. The danger (at least on PDVSA’s part) is that these decisions will open up floodgates for any creditors seeking damages against Venezuela. And there are quite a few, including several smaller oil firms and players such as gold miner Crystallex, who is owed US$1.2 billion after the gold industry was nationalised in 2011. If the situation snowballs, there is a very tempting target for creditors to seize – Citgo, PDVSA’s crown jewel that operates downstream in the USA, which remains profitable. And that would be an even bigger disaster for PDVSA, even by current standards.
Infographic: Venezuela oil nationalisation dispute timeline