The Weekly Reflektion 52/2021

Do you understand the value of the coffee machine and the informal discussions that often arise there?

Could a coffee machine prevent a blowout?

Mike and I at Reflekt would like to wish all our readers a Happy New Year and no Major Accidents in 2022.

A few years ago, I was working in the Operations Department supporting two offshore facilities. There was a lot of excitement in the organisation as a field had been discovered only 9 km from one of the facilities. The Drilling and Wells department proposed an extended reach well to be drilled from the facility that would be the longest well of its type in the world. This meant that the well would be completed as a platform well and easily connected to the process facilities.

One morning after the morning operational meetings I set off for the coffee machine and a cappuccino. A fair reward for the early start and the effective handling of the days’ operational challenges. As I waited for the machine to make the coffee, I met the engineer responsible for the completion of the well. We talked about the discovery and the well and I mentioned that the additional production would be challenging due to the high gas oil ratio of the oil. He agreed and mentioned that the high reservoir pressure and the lighter composition of the oil would also make completing the well more difficult. The shut-in wellhead pressure could be as high as 450 barg, however this wasn’t a problem since the wellhead and Christmas treewere rated to 690 barg. I nearly dropped my cappuccino as I said. ‘But the topsides facilities are only rated to 360 barg, how were you thinking of producing this well?’. He replied, ‘Well actually, I wasn’t thinking about producing the well, I was only thinking about completing the well’. 

This is unfortunately quite common in organisations that create silos, either by design or by practice. The barriersbetween the different departments don’t allow for discussions across disciplines and these often prevent the dialogue that gives the organisation a holistic understanding of the ongoing activities and their consequences. Two of the most effectivebarriers are administration and budgets. The process for speaking to people outside anyone’s own department is often formalised and the bureaucracy puts people off following the procedures. Contacting people outside the department costs money and the hours used need to be included in the timesheet against the appropriate cost code and then allocated to the budget. When formal discussions become discouraged and communication lines are broken it’s perhaps only the informal discussion around the coffee machine that are left. In today’s COVID times the coffee machine meeting and the informal discussions are not practicable. In the current environment of home office and Teams meetings the informal discussions have not however lost their importance and companies need to find other ways to maintain good communication.

We did resolve the well issue. Further studies revised the estimate for the shut-in wellhead pressure to 420 barg and we managed to upgrade the production flowline and replace the instrumentation to meet the 420 barg requirement. No production loss and no unfortunate incidents. How do you encourage the people in your organisation to talk to each other?

Reflekt AS