A Plea for Standards

Standards affect every area of our lives. The food we eat, cars we drive, clothes we wear, toys children play with, and technology we use all conform to particular standards, often agreed internationally. They have been created by groups of industry experts with oversight from other stakeholders including national governments, supranational organisations and members of the public.

Why are they important?

In fact, standards cross the realms of manufacturing, science and technology, and safety & security. They’re a big part of everyday life. Standards enhance the safety of industry operations, assure quality, help keep costs down, reduce waste, and minimize confusion. They help speed acceptance and bring products to market quicker. They also avoid having to reinvent the wheel every time a product is manufactured.

Standards in the oil and gas industry

Oil and gas industry standards have been around since Det Norske Veritas (DNV) was founded in Oslo in 1864 by maritime insurers trying to establish a set of standardised rules and procedures. Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN), established in 1917 as the Standardisation Committee of German Industry, is the German national organization for standardization, now acting as the German ISO member body. The American Petroleum Institute (API) was founded in 1919 to set standards across oil production in the United States, promote the oil industry, and influence policy. In 1947 the International Standards Organisation (ISO) was established by delegates from 25 countries, reflecting the growing move towards standards that could be applied across the globe.

While today API, DNV-GL, ISO, and ASME standards are probably the most widely recognised standards across the oil industry, there are also numerous others including the British Standards Institute (BSI), International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP), Oil and Gas UK (OGUK), and the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO). In Romania the national body is ASRO (“Asociația de Standardizare din România”). Although the proliferation of standards can seem daunting and confusing, in reality it reflects the intense industry focus on safety, reliability and efficiency and shows the growing international collaboration between organisations.

Standardisation allows the oil and gas industry to operate safely and reliably all over the world. It helps operators manage and reduce risk, provides information vital for training workers, improve public trust, meet higher performance levels and increase efficiency. It also lowers business costs. Once standards have been established and adopted across the industry, everyone benefits from cheaper, readily available and standardised products and from improvements in best practice.

Improving safety and efficiency

Standards are especially important in the pipelines sector of the oil and gas industry where, since the 19th century pipelines have carried hazardous substances over long distances, often buried underground or below the seabed. Transporting substances can be dangerous and occasionally pipelines have leaked, cracked or otherwise failed, with enormous consequences. Oil and gas operators are keenly aware of the costs involved in pipeline failure and invest heavily in prevention and repair.

Standards are also important to piping, or electrical equipment, to mention only a few of significant industrial sectors. Committing to upholding international standards is a key part of ensuring safety and integrity. This emphasis on standards is reassuring to stakeholders such as governments, insurers and the general public, but places a considerable compliance burden on operators. Safety requirements now cover every aspect of the industry from pipe welding to new coatings to maintenance, and are continually refined and improved.

As pipeline technology has advanced so have safety standards in the oil and gas industry, there are now comprehensive regulations covering all aspects of production from drilling equipment to delivery to fuel stations and everything in between. Standards also govern business processes, management systems and many other behind-the-scenes industry practices.

Working together for improved standards

The oil & gas industry uses standards to enhance technical integrity, improve safety, enable cost reductions and reduce the environmental impact of operations worldwide. The work in promoting the development and use of international standards is crucial, not the least following historic well incidents.

The existence and application of such standards is equally important for national regulators who have a significant role to play in the process of standards development. For example, this could include the selection of topics for standardization, the development of new standards and the use of completed standards as part of the regulatory landscape with the benefit of harmonization and reducing the differences in the many national regulations companies are facing in operations around the globe.

The future is standard

Today’s oil and natural gas industry reaches around the globe, touching the lives of millions of people every single day. It’s an industry that relies on high-quality equipment, materials, and methods that meet the industry’s growing demands worldwide. It’s an industry that also relies on standards to get the job done right. In today’s environment of increased workload and decreased human resources, standardization has become a paramount concern of the world’s oil and natural gas companies, equipment manufacturers, and suppliers. One can argue it’s standardization that keeps the oil and natural gas industry moving forward, allowing it to operate safely and reliably anywhere in the world.

Standards are the distilled wisdom of people with expertise in their subject matter and who know the needs of the organizations they represent. Through standards we transmit and deliver knowledge.

(to be continued)

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