Here’s a rundown of some of the headlines in the news in the last week:
- Rail Disasters Prompt U.S. Crackdown on Risky Oil Shipments
- (Senator) Boxer warns Keystone pipeline will cause cancer
- TXDOT Warns Motorists About Oilfield Driving Dangers
- Mississippi River Closed at New Orleans After Barge Crash Prompts Oil Spill
So whether by rail, pipeline, highway or maritime, every oil and gas transportation mode, with the possible exception of pony express and airmail, has come in for a black eye in the media.
For the industry, it is a reminder that its reputation is a cradle-to-grave proposition. The public will judge oil and gas companies’ commitment to safety and protecting the environment for every step of the process, including transportation incidents that may happen dozens or even hundreds of miles from the oilfields. It also means that critics will pounce on incidents that are unrelated to drilling and production to limit those activities.
In some ways it is not very different from the early days of U.S. drilling. Back then oil was plentiful but the country lacked the infrastructure to transport the it from the oilfields. Today, drilling is taking place in more than 30 states and in communities that have no experience with the industry’s activities. It reminds me of a conversation I had with an industry veteran once about why some Gulf of Mexico port cities weren’t jumping off points for offshore oil and gas activities. He said, “what do you think the garden club would say when a thousand trucks roll down main street every day?”
For HSE professionals, it is a reminder that safety doesn’t stop at the wellhead. That is one of the reasons that safety management systems, like SEMS, need to encompass the chain of custody issues in the supply chain. An upstream safety manager with an oil company or a service company may not be able to control trains, pipelines and barges, but any safety professionals who aren’t beefing up their driving safety programs are missing the handwriting on the wall.