Family picture at the end of the workshop on Safety in Gabon industry
Family picture at the end of the workshop on Safety in Gabon industry

On 1 June, the oil company Shell Gabon held an important workshop in Port-Gentil on the topic of "global trends in oil industry safety and lessons for the oil sector in Gabon."

According to Osa Igiehon, CEO of Shell Gabon, the main objective of this symposium was to bring all major players in the oil sector (regulators, operators and subcontractors) round a table to discuss safety challenges and share experiences.

Also present at the exchange of views were Alilat Antesleve Oyima, Director-General of Hydrocarbons and Jaqueline Bignoumba, Chair of Union Pétrolière Gabonaise (UPEGA), the Gabonese oil industry federation, plus several companies, in particular Total Gabon, Addax, Sogara and Halliburton. 

Special guest was Executive Vice President Shell Operated Upstream International, Bart van de Leemput. He gave the other oil operators a useful briefing on Shell Group's experience of safety at oil production sites. 

In fact, he explained, the HSSE management system (Health, Security, Safety and the Environment) at Group level provided a management framework for the various sites involved, worldwide. It guaranteed systematic management of safety and the deployment of adequate resources, skills, tools, standards and procedures.

"Our goal is to achieve 'zero accidents.' All Shell companies, and the companies that work for us, as well as the joint ventures in which Shell holds a majority interest, are required to manage safety in accordance with our policy and our HSE commitment," Bart van de Leemput emphasized. "The current market situation, with a low price per barrel of oil, compels us all to review our costs. But this must not be done to the detriment of HSE aspects, which are overriding priorities," he continued.

Alilat Antesleve Oyima, Hydrocarbons Director-General (on the left), Bart van De Leemput Executive Vice President Shell Operated Upstream International (in the middle), Osa Igiehon Country Chair and P-DG Shell Gabon (on the right)
Alilat Antesleve Oyima, Hydrocarbons Director-General (on the left), Bart van De Leemput Executive Vice President Shell Operated Upstream International (in the middle), Osa Igiehon Country Chair and P-DG Shell Gabon (on the right)

The oil industry major has adopted 12 safety rules which have now led to a significant fall in the rate of accidents on its sites round the globe. These rules might therefore inspire the other companies.

Total Gabon, Addax Petroluem, Halliburton and Sogara also shared their experiences of these problems. The country's leading refiner revealed that it had successfully achieved the much-coveted figure of zero accidents in the past few years, by means of strict measures.

"We can achieve better safety, so that the number of accidents at these sites is 0. That is possible: it is not a whim of fashion. But the efforts need to converge. Qualified people must be recruited. The company which comes in must be fit for the purpose, and its HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) management must be effective. This way, we can really enable our companies to achieve better safety," testified Lié Orphée Bourdes, Head of Sogara's HSE Quality and Inspections Directorate.

Reference materials* Hydrocarbons Director-General Alilat Antesleve Oyima considers it urgent nowadays to prevent certain fatal accidents such as that involving Addax at the  Obangué site, by prescribing compulsory reference materials to be used by all oil industry players. "To improve safety at oil production sites, there is a need for the Government of Gabon to establish reference material which prescribes the safety fundamentals which companies must respect. Each company must possess a copy of this standard. It's government work. Let us note that this reference material is already established. The companies will be able to make their amendments and contribute their comments. And the final document will be useful to everyone," the Director of Hydrocarbons explained.

In the opinion of UPEGA Chair Jacqueline Gignoumba, these standard safety rules must be firmly applied and respected by all operators, including subcontractors, as safety is priceless. "There can be no compromise on safety issues. All companies must conform, and bind their subcontractors to do so. It's worth knowing that HSE problems are the central focus of the action undertaken by UPEGA. We have even formed an HSE committee, which works permanently on the subject," stressed the Chair of UPEGA.

This seminar was an opportunity to identify avenues of reflection on initiatives such as: harmonization of the golden rules of survival of all operators, within the limits of the rules specific to their international standards; the institution of a national certificate of aptitude for working on oil production sites, in order to guarantee minimum training in the required HSE standards; more uniform conditions for obtaining work permits for all oil production sites in Gabon; more campaigns to raise subcontractors' awareness of HSE rules/requirements, etc.

In conclusion, the CEO of Shell Gabon thanked all participants for their frank and friendly discussions, and proposed that this meeting should be organized on a rota within the national oil industry.