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Safer Offshore Energy Systems Grant Awards

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Safer Offshore Energy Systems Grant Awards
Image: Jocelyn Augustino, FEMA

Safer Offshore Energy Systems Grants 4 (Awarded 2019)

Topic: Advancing Safety Culture in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry
Total Awards: 8 projects totaling $7,255,570
Grant Type: Research & Development
Grant Type Description: Grants of up to 36 months to support research that will advance understanding and facilitate improvement of safety culture in the offshore oil and gas industry.
Press Release

Bringing High-Reliability Safety Culture Decisions into Focus: Training with Interactive Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping
Award Amount: $684,054
Project Director: Antonie Jetter (Portland State University)
Project Team Affiliation: Portland State University in cooperation with Louisiana State University
Overview: Several studies have called for offshore oil and gas workers to adopt best practices from other high-risk industries, including the nuclear power plant and air traffic control industries. However, frontline managers remain unaware of these external best practices, or have trouble customizing them for offshore oil and gas operations. Inspired by so-called “management flight simulators,” this project creates an interactive online platform that allows users to model responses to everyday safety threats. The platform, FOCOS (Fuzzy Operational Cognition of Safety Culture), lets users add, intensify, or stop interventions, and see how their decisions impact the overall system and safety culture. To inform future research and pilot programs, FOCOS will also collect data on uncertain and controversial safety practices and differences in training needs among different users (by role, professional background, and years of experience).

Employee Well-Being and Mindfulness as Predictors of Process and Personal Safety
Award Amount: $828,113
Project Director: Christiane Spitzmueller (University of Houston)
Project Team Affiliation: University of Houston in cooperation with Robert Gordon University
Overview: Mindfulness exercises are shown to improve employee mental and physical health, but there has been limited work to leverage mindfulness exercises for offshore safety. This academia-industry partnership project will examine how mindfulness affects safety culture, focusing on perceptions of supervisory safety culture, worker situational awareness, employee burnout and well-being, and employee participation in and compliance with safety behaviors. The team will develop 90 minute “train-the-trainer” programs, along with survey tools to measure program effectiveness so supervisors can guide their employees through mindfulness techniques they can use before their shifts and before high-risk situations.

Safety Reporting Action Program for Offshore Oil and Gas Industry in the Gulf of Mexico
Award Amount: $755,851
Project Director: Daniel Adjekum (University of North Dakota)
Project Team Affiliation: University of North Dakota in cooperation with United States Coast Guard
Overview: In the offshore environment, minor workplace accidents tend to go unreported because individuals fear blame. However, several minor unreported safety risks can be precursors for catastrophic accidents, as was the case with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Offshore oil and gas safety regulators have recognized the need for a more proactive reporting system – and a culture shift – that encourages workers to report mistakes and near misses, identify the potential for error, and even stop work when needed. This project will assess the viability of an offshore safety action reporting system modelled after the aviation safety action program (ASAP) by using focus groups, interviews, and a quantitative survey of about 1,500 personnel. It will also assess gaps between the perceived level of safety reporting culture and the actual level of safety reporting in the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas industry.

Measuring and Improving Blended Project-Safety Culture in Operations of Offshore Oil and Gas Facilities
Award Amount: $733,631
Project Director: Ivan Damnjanovic (Texas A&M University)
Project Team Affiliation: Texas A&M University in cooperation with Proactima
Overview: Measuring organizational commitment to safety is particularly challenging in the offshore oil and gas industry, as 80 percent of personnel are third-party contractors. The industry’s reliance on external contractors means team members may not share the same training, experiences, and even language. Rather than measuring safety culture in broad terms, this project aims to develop quantifiable measurements of safety culture improvements that are specific to three categories: activity, team (for example, contractors versus onshore-based specialists), and the type of offshore installation. It will also provide a tool for measuring safety culture while work orders are being planned and executed; and a tool to help offshore plant managers specify project requirements (for example, communication requirements) that could improve safety culture.

Aggregating Essential Exposure Data to Enable Meaningful Analysis of Safety Incident Rates Around the World
Award Amount: $739,992
Project Director: Xiaozhi Wang (American Bureau of Shipping)
Project Team Affiliation: American Bureau of Shipping in cooperation with Safetec
Overview: Historically, government agencies, industry groups, and companies from around the world have collected offshore incident data to help understand and improve safety conditions. However, these datasets were collected at different times and used different terminology and data languages. This project aims to provide recommendations for viable data science technologies that could be employed to aggregate these disparate datasets, and establish common goals and metrics, to improve understanding of safety risks and trends in the Gulf of Mexico. The desired final product — a comprehensive global offshore incident dataset — will help set a foundation for predictive modeling initiatives. The data could inform government and industry decision-making processes such as permitting emerging technologies, setting new regulations or policies to mitigate risk, and choosing exploration projects.

Development of an Evidence-Based, Multilevel Safety Culture Assessment Battery for the Offshore Industry
Award Amount: $1,130,591
Project Director: Scott Tannenbaum (The Group for Organizational Effectiveness)
Project Team Affiliation: The Group for Organizational Effectiveness in cooperation with the University of Connecticut, Rice University, McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, and Offshore Operators Committee
Overview: Safe behavior in the oil and gas industry is influenced by individual safety readiness; the team’s safety assumptions, values, and beliefs; team leader and team member behaviors; and the organization’s safety practices and policies. This project will develop a set of evidence-based assessment tools to diagnose, measure, and track these four factors. It will also provide actionable tips and guidance for addressing potential deficiencies, which existing measurement tools lack. The team’s deliverables will be made publicly available to interested organizations, associations, and researchers.

EMPOWER Safety Dashboards: Evaluate, Measure, and Promote Offshore Worker Engagement and Readiness
Award Amount: $943,008
Project Director: Stephanie Payne (Texas A&M University)
Project Team Affiliation: Texas A&M University in cooperation with Upstreams Forensics LLC
Overview: Traditionally, safety culture is measured with a lengthy annual employee survey. Survey methodology is fraught with limitations including low response rates, considerable time required to summarize and interpret data, and failure to capture meaningful changes between surveys. This project aims to develop and test field-friendly measurement tools, including experience sampling methodology and wearable devices; and to design, develop, and evaluate the value of a dashboard called EMPOWER (Evaluate, Measure, Promote Offshore Worker Engagement and Readiness). The EMPOWER dashboard will display worker psychological (safety culture) and physiological (lack of fatigue or readiness) data on an interactive interface that supervisors can access daily to support organizational decision making. The research team will evaluate the extent to which supervisors value and anticipate using such previously unavailable data in real time; as well as the data’s impact on hypothetical offshore scenario-based decision-making.

Developing an Integrated Offshore Energy Industry Safety Culture Evaluation, Benchmarking, and Improvement Toolbox
Award Amount: $1,440,330
Project Director: Kevin McSweeney (American Bureau of Shipping)
Project Team Affiliation: American Bureau of Shipping in cooperation with Lamar University and the University of Houston
Overview: There is a general perception in the offshore industry that more rules, regulations, and procedures are unlikely to improve safety performance. Instead, the industry needs a better understanding of the social and organizational factors that foster professionalism during routine and emergency situations. This project aims to develop a roadmap that the industry can use to evaluate and improve organizational safety culture, reduce unsafe behaviors, improve individual performance, and reduce management system failures, near misses, and accidents. Deliverables will include a safety culture evaluation toolbox, and data gathering and analytic methods to identify what actions have been, or could be, successful in improving safety.

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Grant Awards SOES 3
Image: Jocelyn Augustino, FEMA

Safer Offshore Energy Systems Grants 3 (Awarded 2017)

Topic: Preventing the Next Spill: Understanding Systemic Risk in the Offshore Oil and Gas Environment
Total Awards: 6 projects totaling $10,760,346
Grant Type: Research & Development
Grant Type Description: For projects that advance fundamental science or provide a basis for new technology development.
Press Release

Advanced Cement Characterization and Modeling to Evaluate Novel Additives to Improve Wellbore Integrity
Award Amount: $670,720
Project Director: Geir Hareland (Oklahoma State University)
Project Team Affiliation: Oklahoma State University
Overview: Cement is a major material component in the construction and sealing of hydrocarbon wells. Well leakage through cement is a problem that increases maintenance costs and poses threats to surrounding communities and the environment. This project aims to improve characterization and understanding of well cement mixtures to better predict leakage potential and investigate cement additives that could reduce leakage potential and improve wellbore integrity. This information will improve modeling capability of wellbore integrity and guide designs that can be used to reduce leakage.

Experiments on Multiphase Flow of Live Muds in a Full-Scale Wellbore with Distributed Sensing for Kick and Gas-in-riser Detection/Mitigation
Award Amount: $4,910,159
Project Director: Wesley Williams (Louisiana State University)
Project Team Affiliations: Louisiana State University in cooperation with Texas A&M University and Weatherford
Overview: Pressure barriers provide the primary means of preventing uncontrolled hydrocarbon releases in offshore wells. However, these barriers are only effective if they have been designed, properly operated, and maintained for the conditions of the environment in which they are employed. The project focuses on gaps in understanding about the behavior of riser gas under high temperature and pressure. Testing will be done using an existing well retrofitted with pressure and temperature sensors to produce data for validating and verifying riser gas models that inform design of pressure barriers and techniques for preventing uncontrolled hydrocarbon releases.

Hydrocarbon Influx Behavior within a Deepwater Marine Riser: Implications for Design and Operations
Award Amount: $1,185,963
Project Director: Ramanan Krishnamoorti (University of Houston)
Project Team Affiliations: University of Houston in cooperation with Mulberry Well Systems LLC
Overview: Formation and management of gas within deepwater marine drilling risers poses a variety of challenges and hazards for offshore energy operations. Uncontrolled riser gas build-up and release were major components of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. This project aims to improve understanding of riser gas formation and unloading (i.e., the processes involved in managing riser gas) through the development, calibration, and implementation of modeling to describe the dynamics pertaining to riser gas under different situations and operating conditions and the assessment of instrumentation that could be used to detect riser gas properties and behavior.

Mitigating Risks to Hydrocarbon Release Through Integrative Advanced Materials for Wellbore Plugging and Remediation
Award Amount: $2,614,143
Project Director: Mileva Radonjic (Oklahoma State University)
Project Team Affiliations: Oklahoma State University in cooperation with SINTEF, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Texas at Austin
Overview: Leaky wellbores with inadequate well plugging materials can allow for the release of hydrocarbons into the ocean at low rates for decades, resulting in cumulative damage to surrounding areas. The goal of this project is to advance capabilities for the prevention and remediation of wellbore leakage in offshore hydrocarbon-producing wells. The project will develop and test new materials to improve or replace current materials used in the plugging and abandonment of wells and develop new methods for placing such materials.

Passive Acoustic Technique for Detecting, Locating, and Characterizing Hydrocarbon Leakages
Award Amount: $591,060
Project Director: Zhiqu Lu (University of Mississippi)
Project Team Affiliation: University of Mississippi
Overview: As offshore deepwater oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico continues to grow and expand, the risk of underwater oil spills resulting from both natural events and human accidents also increases. Real-time monitoring could help provide early detection of spills that is critical for minimizing impact. Existing monitoring techniques have significant limitations and cannot achieve real-time monitoring. This project launches an effort to develop a functional real-time monitoring system that uses acoustic technologies to detect, locate, and characterize undersea hydrocarbon leakages over large areas in a cost-effective manner.

Unobtrusive Assessment of Macrocognition Processes in Team Decision Making
Award Amount: $788,301
Project Director: James Driskell (Florida Maxima Corporation)
Project Team Affiliations: Florida Maxima Corporation in cooperation with Institute for Energy Technology and University of Central Florida
Overview: Workers in the offshore oil and gas industry operate in high-stress situations where faulty communication or decision-making can have severe consequences. This project aims to develop a tool that passively monitors and assesses verbal output in real-time communications to provide information on the cognitive states of speakers. This information could help with detecting issues that could affect decision-making processes and inform intervention and mitigation efforts to address those issues.

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Grant Awards SOES 2
Image: BSEE

Safer Offshore Energy Systems Grants 2 (Awarded 2016)

Topic: Scenario Planning to Advance Safety Culture and Minimize Risk in Offshore Oil and Gas Operations
Total Awards: 4 projects totaling $1,202,831
Grant Type: Exploratory
Grant Type Description: For projects that jumpstart innovations and transformative ideas for novel approaches, technologies, or methods in their early phases.
Press Release

Collaborative Modeling with Fuzzy Cognitive Maps: A Novel Approach to Achieving Safety Culture
Award Amount: $407,113
Project Director: Antonie Jetter (Portland State University)
Project Team Affiliations: Portland State University in cooperation with Michigan State University, Northeastern University, and Vanderbilt University
Overview: Researchers plan to develop and test a scenario-planning toolkit that oil and gas industry stakeholders can use to explore the factors that strengthen or detract from their organization’s safety culture. They will consider how these factors can be modeled collaboratively, whether modeling can address uncertainty about these factors and their causal relationships, if this exercise helps participants understand what bolsters and hinders safety culture, and whether their participation results in actionable outcomes. Researchers hope this project will produce a modeling approach that organizations can use to develop context-specific safety culture training that is tailored to their unique needs.

Developing a Systems-Theoretic, Cross-Disciplinary, Scenario-Based Approach to Reducing Risk in Offshore Oil and Gas Operations
Award Amount: $213,049
Project Director: Nancy Leveson (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Project team affiliation: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Overview: Building on work that characterizes accidents as processes that involve complex interactions among social and technical factors, the project director plans to incorporate additional managerial, regulatory, environmental, and community preparedness factors into her new safety engineering approach. She proposes to strengthen cross-disciplinary efforts to prevent accidents such as Deepwater Horizon by creating tools that non-technical stakeholders can use to contribute relevant environmental and social knowledge to scenario planning, preventative design, and accident response activities.
Final Report: View PDF

Factoring in the Human in Offshore Operations: Forces for Scenario Planning
Award Amount: $199,398
Project Director: Ranjana Mehta (Texas A&M University)
Project Team Affiliations: Texas A&M University in cooperation with the University of Texas at Austin and Benchmark
Overview: Researchers plan to explore how fatigue affects workers’ performance during simulated offshore drilling scenarios. They also plan to identify which methods drillers would be most likely to adopt to reduce fatigue during their shifts. By characterizing drillers’ cognitive performance across shifts and capturing the physiological impact of maintaining performance, this project could help planners develop scenarios to prevent or mitigate human (or systems) error that align more closely with workers’ capabilities.
Final Report: View PDF

Virtual Reality Offshore Operations Training Infrastructure: Enhancing Expert Containment, Decision Making, and Risk Communications
Award Amount: $383,271
Project Director: Saeed Salehi (University of Oklahoma)
Project Team Affiliation: University of Oklahoma
Overview: The project team plans to develop training modules to evaluate and strengthen workers’ decision-making skills by developing tools and modules that simulate loss of well control scenarios in the offshore oil and gas environment. These modules could enhance process safety in offshore oil and gas operations by helping operators, training organizations, and regulators assess and manage preventable risks related to human factors.

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Grant Awards SOES 1
Image: BSEE

Safer Offshore Energy Systems Grants 1 (Awarded 2015)

Topic: Exploring Approaches for Effective Education and Training of Workers in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry and Health Professions
Total Awards: 6 projects totaling $814,742
Grant Type: Exploratory
Grant Type Description: For projects that jumpstart innovations and transformative ideas for novel approaches, technologies, or methods in their early phases.
Press Release

Identifying Critical Middle-Skilled Positions and Career Pathways in the Upstream Oil and Gas Industry
Award Amount: $138,265
Project Director: Madeline Burillo (Houston Community College)
Project Team Affiliation: Houston Community College
Overview: By identifying the most safety-critical jobs in the Gulf Coast of Mexico, project partners intend to help industry standardize and prioritize training programs that enhance safety culture and reduce risk during offshore drilling. Partners also plan to develop a training program for one of the jobs identified. Project team members include upstream oil and gas industry partners, industry associations, and higher education partners across the Gulf Coast.
Final Report: View PDF

Immersion Simulation: Interdisciplinary Training for the Gulf of Mexico Workforce (ISIM)
Award Amount: $124,931
Project Director: Joan Hendrix (Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College)
Project Team Affiliation: Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
Overview: The project team will work to train oil and gas workers and health professionals to better understand, communicate, and work with each other in simulated emergency environments, enhancing their ability to respond to medical and environmental emergencies in the Gulf of Mexico. By addressing existing gaps in interdisciplinary training for these two groups, the project team intends to build a cohort of Gulf-based responders who are prepared to collaborate with one another during future disaster response scenarios. This training program may also be useful in other U.S. coastal areas where oil and gas production occurs.
Final Report: View PDF

Linking Energy Production Technologies to Human Health Protection: A "To and Through" Approach to the Interdisciplinary Training of a Middle-Skilled Workforce
Award Amount: $125,000
Project Director: Maureen Lichtveld (Tulane University)
Project Team Affiliations: Tulane University in cooperation with Fletcher Technical Community College and South Central Louisiana Technical College
Overview: The project team will work to build a safer workforce in southeastern Louisiana by identifying key environmental health and disaster management knowledge and skills and teaching them to community college students and current workers in oil production, marine operations, and nursing. Project partners plan to develop educational products that other organizations can adapt and use. The project team will work to ensure that key practical skills and training products are relevant to workplace settings by drawing on the expertise of its members, which include educational institutions, industry groups, and employers.
Final Report: View PDF

Preparing Underserved Communities for Career Paths in Energy, Environmental Health, and Restoration
Award Amount: $176,546
Project Director: Minor Sinclair (Oxfam America)
Project Team Affiliations: Oxfam America in cooperation with Limitless Vistas, Inc.
Overview: To improve economic opportunities, promote resilience, and fill workforce gaps, the project team will work to train underserved minorities and women in low-income Gulf Coast communities for high-demand, higher-wage work with local employers in energy, environmental health, disaster response, and ecosystem restoration. Team members plan to develop relationships with these employers to cultivate opportunities for program participants. By growing this program designed to build employment equity in the workforce, the project intends to help communities be more resilient in the face of future disasters.
Final Report: View PDF

Using Problem-Based Learning to Develop a Future Labor Force of Environmentally Knowledgeable and Safety-Certified Workers
Award Amount: $125,000
Project Director: Jabaria Jenkins (Mobile Area Education Foundation)
Project Team Affiliations: Mobile Area Education Foundation in cooperation with the University of South Alabama, Sarpy and Associates, LLC, Mobile County Public Schools, and AH Environmental Consultants
Overview: This project team will work to cultivate future safety leaders for the energy and maritime workforce in Mobile by creating an environmental health and safety leadership program for high school students. This program will train students in risk analysis, occupational safety regulations, emergency scenarios, and leadership skills. The project team plans to assess the program’s performance and share lessons learned, empowering other schools and training organizations to use this work to develop their own student safety leadership programs.
Final Report: View PDF

Virtual Offshore Safety Awareness (Vosa) Site
Award Amount: $125,000
Project Director: Rich Haut (Houston Advanced Research Center)
Project Team Affiliation: Houston Advanced Research Center
Overview: This project team will work to enhance oil and gas workers’ ability to prevent and respond to offshore disasters by developing an interactive, virtual training tool. Workers will be able to use this “virtual rig” tool to identify situations and then practice how they may avoid or respond to an emergency offshore. This tool aims to help reinforce knowledge in areas like spill containment and response, equipment maintenance and repair, personal safety, and environmental protection. It will incorporate input from industry subject matter experts, environmental organizations, and other key stakeholders. The tool, the Virtual Offshore Safety Awareness (VOSA) website, is free to use.
Final Report: View PDF

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