Turk File

The Bright Side of Deepwater Horizon

by Patrick Flanagan

Once the "Wild Wild West" when it came to complying with safety regulations, the oil and gas industry has made great strides since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

By Patrick Flanagan
Oct. 15, 2013

Once the "Wild Wild West" when it came to complying with safety regulations, the oil and gas industry has made great strides since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The immediate response to the 2010 spill came in the form of a federally-issued moratorium on deepwater drilling, and though it would eventually be lifted and deepwater operations would resume, the domestic oil and gas industry found it would have to learn to live within the confines of a more stringent regulatory environment.

Scott Rainey, second from left, conducts an offshore training session.

Yet, despite grumbling from some industry insiders, the changes haven't been all that bad, according to Scott Rainey, president of the Lafayette-based Global Training & Environmental.

"The industry really was like the Wild Wild West, but after the Deepwater explosion, the feds said, That's it' and put the liability for everything on that one single operator, which I believe is now pushing this drive for increased safety and compliance," says Rainey, a retired landman who purchased Global from its founders in 2012. "The feds are actually making sure everyone's doing what they say.

Nowadays, you really have to live and breath safety. You can no longer just say it, but you actually have to follow these safety policies because the government actually requires documentation now. Since 2010, it's become an enforcement-driven industry, whereas in the past it was production first and safety last."

Rainey says business has been good for the company, which he describes as a "small start-up" that grossed right under $1 million in his first year at its helm.

Global's business, says Rainey, is split 50/50 between providing Health, Safety and Environment training for the personnel of various companies and writing safety policies "tailor-made" to an individual company's specific operations, which also includes maintaining databases/federally-required documentation, and internal audits to ensure a company's workforce is complying with regulations.

"We work with everyone from domestic to international companies, but primarily with service companies in the oil and gas industry," explains Rainey. "A single company may have a safety manual that's 300 pages long, so it's much easier for them to hire us to come in and handle it all for them. Deepwater Horizon showed that not being safe is tremendously expensive."

Change, however, can sometimes be a slow process, says Rainey, who describes it as a "cultural problem" that if left unchecked will result in another Deepwater Horizon. The bright side, he says, is that the culture is changing, largely because of cost and a general unwillingness within the industry to becoming the next BP.

"For BP, they've paid billions, whereas if they'd spent the money on the proper training, it would have equalled pennies in comparison," notes Rainey. "Training does take a tremendous amount of time, but if it prevents another major incident, it ultimately betters the bottom-line."

Though Global is still a relatively young and small company - the staff consists of three full-timers and two contracted employees - Rainey says over the next five years he anticipates growing the business by about 50 percent, adding his plans include opening a second office in West Texas and eventually crossing over into the less-regulated onshore drilling industry.

"Onshore just doesn't have the same level of regulation as offshore, but I believe the big operators in the industry itself are going to start self-regulating," Rainey explains. "Regulation has to be crossed-over, but right now onshore just isn't receiving the same level of enforcement because OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] is just so stretched thin. The bright side is there's also a lot of pressure coming from the public at-large after Deepwater Horizon, and companies, whether onshore or offshore, know they cannot have incidents, because basically in this environment, it will crush a company. Why do business with a company that's continually hurting people?"