With the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas industry expected to grow over the next few years, Petrofac Training Services recently opened a second training facility in Houston's Energy Corridor to meet the growing need to prepare workers for emergencies that can occur during exploration and production operations.
The new facility allows Petrofac to conduct five Major Emergency Management (MEM) training courses at the same time. The simulation training offered at the facility is a mix of classroom and simulation learning, or what Petrofac officials call "reality without the risk". The idea behind simulation training is to immerse people into an environment similar to the environment in which they would be working offshore, Paul Groves, managing director of training services for Petrofac, told Rigzone.
At Petrofac's training facility, new and current employees who have found themselves transferred to an emergency response role are put under the stresses of managing people, information, as well as noises such as bells and radios under different emergency scenarios.
Trainees can be taken through 22 different scenarios, such as collisions or multiple fires, which are set against situations that can include bad weather. In the simulation exercises, the trainees must keep track of worker evacuations, whether to evacuate a worker by helicopter or boat, and when a rig should be abandoned. Multiple teams can also interact in the exercises.
The exercises typically take between 30 to 45 minutes. Two or three courses, which typically last four to five days, take place at the facility each week. The training courses are limited to eight people, which is the most the environment can handle.
Petrofac seeks to provide realistic training without the risk.
In one instance, a rig manager must decide how to respond to a helicopter crash and fire on the rig's helipad. The manager is placed in a room with other "rig workers" who relay information to him. Ninety-nine percent of the roleplayers, who are Petrofac employees, have backgrounds in firefighting and marine and industrial settings.
At the same time, lights, noises and other stressors that would occur in a real emergency are also played out in the scenario. Amidst this chaos, the rig manager must decide where to route workers in an evacuation, how to go about extinguishing a fire, and how injured workers would be medevac'd ashore if the helipad is not available to receive new flights.
The training room is set up similarly to an offshore rig control room, with a desk, phones and muster, event and other informational charts on the walls. In the room with the trainee are people playing the role of offshore rig workers to help provide a more realistic experience for the trainee. The trainee must successfully manage the other workers, delegating tasks and gathering information from each of them in order to make decisions.
Observing the trainee and roleplayers on the other side of a one-way mirror is a team of experienced emergency response managers who are running the exercise. They can change the game scenario as the exercise progresses, throwing new challenges at the trainee when deemed necessary.
Petrofac's team comes from many different backgrounds, but all come with levels of Crisis Management backgrounds, bringing a full range of experience to give the highest quality training environment. Their knowledge and experience are applicable because principles of emergency management are the same regardless if it's on board a drilling rig or at a refinery, with locating workers and protecting the environment [as] top priorities, said Tony Littler, Petrofac's regional director of the Americas.
One team member assesses the rig manager's performance, providing feedback; roleplayers also relay information to the assessor on the trainee's performance. The simulation training not only helps the rig manager understand his role, but the role of the other workers on the rig. That way, the rig manager can learn to coach and manage workers when he is back offshore, said Littler.
An offshore rig training exercise underway at Petrofac's training facility.
Petrofac officials look for two things in the trainee—whether they are being assertive with the other workers, and whether they are delegating responsibility, Littler added. Petrofac wants trainees to succeed, but at the same time, won't sign off on someone who is not ready.
Industry Seeks to Raise Bar on Offshore Safety Training
Founded in the early 1970s in the UK, Petrofac has been operating in Houston for the past seven years, and has offered major emergency management courses throughout this period. While generic training is available, much of the training Petrofac conducts is custom built. In the case of rig managers, when they act out a scenario at a Petrofac facility, the exercise is based on the actual rig and emergency plans of the rig they manage.
"We took what was appropriate from our international experience and fit-for-purpose for the Gulf of Mexico, cognizant of new regulations, and tailored it for the Gulf of Mexico," said Groves. "We are training for the standards we think will be [used] in the Gulf of Mexico."
Petrofac, which has global master service agreements with BP and Shell, is seeking to raise the bar on offshore worker training.
In the past, training was mostly classroom-based, with students watching Power Point presentations. Today's training has shifted to a more hands-on approach and workers must actually demonstrate competencies in subject areas, said Littler.
Petrofac is also looking to expand its safety training to U.S. onshore operations and downstream refineries, Littler said.
Petrofac Training Services is part of the Integrated Services Division of Petrofac Group, a global service providing to the oil and gas production and processing industry. Last month, Petrofac Training Services was named International Training Provider of the Year at the 2012 OPITO Safety and Competency Awards in Abu Dhabi.
The need for more training has grown and will continue to grow as the oil and gas industry expands its Gulf of Mexico operations. The oil and gas industry added 100,000 jobs in the Gulf of Mexico over the past two years, according to the National Ocean Industries Association. It is expected to add another 80,000 jobs by year-end 2013, bringing the total to 430,000.
The revival in deepwater Gulf drilling activity following the Macondo incident is expected to continue, with operators forecasted to invest over $70 billion by 2030 on exploration in the region, Wood Mackenzie reported in October.
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