Taking a page out of the U.S. Navy’s playbook, Chevron Corp. came up with a safety certification program in 2012 that was implemented to eliminate containment issues, the company’s Vice President David Payne said at the 2014 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. Payne discussed the success of the program, and how it had become a part of the company’s philosophy to prevent oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and other waters around the globe.
The inspiration behind WELLSAFE was SUBSAFE, a quality assurance program that the U.S. Navy started in December 1963 as a response to the loss of the USS Thresher, a submarine that was lost at sea 8 months earlier, Payne said. The sinking of Thresher took the lives of 129 crew members and shipyard personnel. Prior to SUBSAFE, 16 submarines had been lost between 1915 and 1963. Following SUBSAFE, the Navy has lost only one non-SUBSAFE-certified submarine. No SUBSAFE-certified submarine has been lost since the program went into effect.
WELLSAFE came partly as a response to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon at the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. While WELLSAFE is global in nature, it is narrowly focused on well control, and with an emphasis on education, rather than training, so that the personnel have a deep understanding of their jobs, Payne said.
WELLSAFE includes ongoing written requirements covering all of the personnel involved in operations, and is administered in a staged approach. The program was designed to deliver the maximum reasonable assurance that well control will be maintained, while reducing the potential of an oil spill during drilling operations, Payne said, adding that safety has to be a part of the company’s culture and philosophy.
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