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Editorial comment

“In the five years since the tragic events at the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, America’s oil and natural gas industry and our regulators have kept our commitment to make offshore operations safer than ever before.” Jack Gerard, API President and CEO, noted in his opening statement delivered at a recent press briefing on industry improvements to offshore safety. Thankfully, the facts back this up, and the offshore industry has indeed become a safer place to work and produce. Since 2010, API has published over 100 new and revised exploration and production standards; these include standards on well design, blowout prevention equipment, subsea equipment, and worker safety.

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Additionally, in 2011 the Center for Offshore Safety (COS) was formed to nurture innovation, share best practices in safety and environmental management and help improve offshore operational safety.

COS just published its first annual performance report, revealing that its member companies did not suffer a single fatality or loss of well control during more than 42 million work hours in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico in 2013.1 The report also underlines that on average, 96% of planned critical maintenance, inspections and testing were performed on schedule.

While zero incidents in 2013 is highly noteworthy, there is always room for improvement. Areas to focus on included safe mechanical lifting and process safety. COS plans use the findings of this report as a baseline for future comparisons of year-to-year performance and safety improvement.

It’s encouraging to see that the industry has moved forward and is making the best from this tragedy, the ensuing drilling moratorium and increased public scrutiny and regulation. Of course, now the bigger challenge facing operators and service providers alike is the low oil price. Our regional report this month (p.10) takes an in-depth look at the Gulf noting that although a few ventures have been delayed, all operators are pushing ahead with existing projects and seem to be focusing on maximising production from already producing fields.

Our April issue will, as always, be distributed from our booth (#4076) at the Offshore Technical Conference. This year, I’m expecting a different, perhaps more somber mood at the show, but there truly is no better time than now for companies with innovative, cost-efficient technology and services to step into the spotlight. Judging by my inbox, quite a few of you are already making some noise.

New for this year is the OTC d5 event, which will debut on 8 May 2015 at the University of Houston. Themed ‘The Next Big Thing,’ this event is about connecting oil and gas professionals with thought leaders and experts from non-energy industries. The programme line-up includes speakers with expertise in areas as diverse as astronautics, academia, political science and 3D printing.

In the words of Art Schroeder, d5 Program Committee Chairman: “Technology is changing so fast outside of our industry. We’re trying to get some of that speed injected into [oil and gas].” I’m sure some pretty interesting conversations will come out of this varied collection of experience, knowledge, technology and ideas.

Speaking of combining experience and assets, I can’t ignore the big news this week – Shell’s bid for BG Group. It’s early days yet and countless analyst reports are being produced every hour. However, it’s clear that Shell’s big gains will be in the LNG market and in the deepwater pre-salt offshore Brazil. As a leader in the Gulf of Mexico deepwater sector, Shell’s experience should help ensure success as it expands into other basins around the world.

Some predict that this is the first in a wave of mega-mergers, although in this uncertain time it’s hard to say what will happen. I do believe that the Gulf of Mexico will remain an important part of the US energy production in the future. Operators here have proven to be good at listening, learning and adopting new technological solutions. And who knows, a few years from now 3D printing across the supply chain could become the norm.

Center for Offshore Safety, ‘Annual Performance Report for 2013 Reporting Year’ (April 2015).