Oleksa and Associates was founded by its President, Paul Oleksa, and incorporated in the state of Ohio in 1997 as a small, flexible pipeline safety consulting company dedicated to providing professionalism and integrity in resolving pipeline safety issues throughout the United States and the world. Services include pipeline safety audits, procedures and manuals, and expert witness.
A modern and efficient pipeline infrastructure will be critical in meeting rising demand for product. How can oil and gas companies ensure the smooth operation and maintenance of their pipeline infrastructures?
Paul Oleksa. There are many factors involved in having an efficient pipeline infrastructure, and they are all important. These factors include good leadership, good staff, an understanding of the regulatory requirements, and a good grasp of both typical industry practices and the changing technology.
After having good leadership in place, having the right personnel on board is essential (see Good to Great by Jim Collins). A great company needs both seasoned veterans and sharp youngsters. Often, the seasoned veterans, while having an excellent grasp of the company's body of knowledge, do not have the ability to express that knowledge succinctly - either verbally or in writing - therefore a great deal of time is required to develop new talent. Time is not always available, and it is very costly. One way to increase the efficacy of this knowledge transfer is to capture that body of knowledge in very well-written procedures, so that a very talented but somewhat inexperienced person can find needed information when it is needed, quickly.
By carefully documenting its body of knowledge, a company can help to ensure the consistent, smooth operation and maintenance of its pipeline infrastructure over time.
What traditionally have been the limitations and challenges in effectively inspecting and measuring pipeline points of concern?
PO. Dr. W. Edwards Deming emphasized that to effectively manage something, it is important to be able to measure it. Often, we have not analyzed what information is being measured. Is that particular measurement really effective in measuring what we need to know? For example, if we measure whether valve inspections are performed when required, we know whether the company is in compliance, but we still do not know whether that inspection frequency is rational or cost-effective. It is important to think outside of the box of mere compliance.
The integrity management concept (both IMP for transmission pipelines and DIMP for distribution mains) requires a company to identify threats, and to develop a program to minimize those threats. This takes much more thought and effort, but the results can be very beneficial in obtaining information that can help the company to establish an effective inspection schedule and to minimize operating costs.
As companies are scrutinized ever more closely by outside parties, good procedures are becoming more important than ever before. What is the value of having the right procedures in place?
PO. Companies today are scrutinized much more than ever before by a variety of outside personnel, including the public, regulators and plaintiff attorneys. Compliance with regulations is essential. However, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and limitation of risk and liability may be even more important.
The public's perception of a company can translate quickly and directly to the value of the company's stock, particularly if segments of the public organize to oppose particular projects or activities. Obviously, this can have a huge impact upon any firm. This perception is often impacted by how employees and contractors perform in field situations. Field activities must be based upon well thought out and clearly written procedures.
Companies today do not have the luxury of providing employees long periods of on-the-job training to become qualified. To maintain efficiency, consistency and cost-effectiveness, personnel must be trained using good procedures.
Regulators are examining a company's procedures in ever increasing detail. Well-written procedures can help to minimize problems that may be encountered. Plaintiff attorneys may not have a good understanding of company operations. They may misread the procedures. Well-written procedures would minimize the opportunity to be misread, and thus greatly benefit a company during litigation.
While compliance with state and federal regulations is essential, it is equally important to provide appropriate direction to personnel, and to limit risk and liability. Why is it important that procedures are written correctly in order to take such concerns into account?
There are many standards that might be used to determent whether procedures meet a company's requirements. Of course, compliance with regulations is essential. However, procedures might be compliant, yet still not effectively limit risk and liability. Limitation of risk and limitation is a much higher standard, and it is not easily accomplished. Nevertheless, limitation of risk and liability can save companies huge amounts of money that would otherwise drain profits.
Procedures must be easily read and understood in order to minimize human error. Therefore they need to be clear and easy to read. Since there is training that accompanies the procedures, it is more effective to use proper wording than to write procedures to an arbitrary (say, ninth grade) level of writing that may not clearly cover all the nuances. Field personnel require clear instruction, yet the written words need to address all the concerns of the attorneys. The correct balance is a matter of professionalism.
How can properly thought-out procedures enhance emergency response planning and incident investigation? Why is this so important?
During an emergency there is very little time to think. Therefore it is necessary for as much of the thinking as possible to be performed ahead of time. This advance thinking is first captured in the procedures, and then through training. Training must be based on the procedures. Finally, this thinking becomes part of the company's body of knowledge.
By capturing this body of knowledge in the procedures, personnel can use their time much more effectively during an emergency occurrence. This is extremely important because emergency response and incident investigation can be very costly activities, and there is only one opportunity to get it right.