Industry veteran sees good come from changes following Macondo incident, but says industry needs to 'practice what it preaches' on safety.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Greg Williams, who is raising funds for a documentary film about “the real heroes” of the Deepwater Horizon incident. Williams told me that his time on the Deepwater Horizon from 2002 to 2008 made a huge impact on his career. His time on the rig – where he worked up to the driller position – taught him most of what he knows about managing people. Williams told me he uses the lessons he learned from working with BP and Transocean in his own business, Houston-based Contechnix LLC.
Williams told me he believes the industry as a whole is doing better in terms of addressing the problems that led to Macondo, including the adoption of recommendations outlined in BP’s Bly Report. Some good things came out of the reforms – including the formation of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and new regulations. But Williams believes that, had the industry practiced what it preached, the incident wouldn’t have happened. Then the guidelines would not have needed a full workover after Macondo.
What kind of lessons should the oil and gas industry learn from Macondo? Williams, who’s worked in the oil and gas industry since 1994, believes that drilling contractors and operators should do a better job on well planning and form a more cohesive team.
“It’s most commonly a ‘them-versus-us’ dynamic that we don’t want to come out, but sometimes it does,” said Williams. “Some of the projects we pursue are advanced and in-depth. They should … invest their time to ensure that everyone agrees on the drilling program, and, if they don’t, then do as they tell the world and stop operations.”
The impact of the Macondo well blowout – which killed 11 people on board the Deepwater Horizon, destroyed the drilling rig and unleased the United States’ largest ever oil spill – is evident in operations today. Williams said he knows a whole generation of drillers who, when mud comes above the rotary table, will disconnect the blowout preventer without a second thought.
“The faster you react, the better,” said Williams, adding that planning between the contractor and the client is paramount. No matter the problem, an investment of time is needed, not walking away and hoping the problem will fix itself, he said.
I agree with Williams’ assertion that industry needs to practice what it preaches. Why have rules and regulations in place if they aren’t followed? I’ve heard at many industry conferences about the need for safety in operations. But ensuring safe operations involves more than just giving speeches; it also involves hanging company culture and operations. Ensuring that all parties are on board with drilling plans – and that employees feel they can say stop if something isn’t right – is critical to preventing future incidents like Macondo.
I also agree with his idea of telling the stories of other survivors of the Macondo incident. I did catch an early screening of the movie Deepwater Horizon, and I can say that Williams’ assumption about the movie is correct: the film’s budget and capabilities of today’s computer-generated imagery resulted in a well-filmed movie. I agree that the film focused on honoring the people who lived through Macondo, not the companies involved. But Williams was right that the movie focuses on one person’s perspective. There are many more stories to be told by the survivors’ and victims’ families. I wish him luck in ensuring that the stories of the survivors are available to the next generation.
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