Mary Kay O’ Connor Process Safety Center Selected to Lead $5 Million Ocean Energy Safety Institute

November 7, 2013
| By: Aubrey Bloom

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) announced today that a team of Texas institutions led by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station's (TEES) Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center has been selected to manage the Ocean Energy Safety Institute.

United States congressman Bill Flores (R-Texas) attended the press conference and praised the collaboration between government and academia.

"The offshore energy industry has significant impact upon our energy security and the national economy," Flores said, "and it is imperative that government, industry and the scientific community work together to address challenges and encourage innovation through technology, risk management, safety and environmental protection. Any government oversight must be rooted in evidence-based research to ensure a sound decision-making process and I believe by including academic partners, this initiative will succeed."

The five-year agreement, with $5 million in total funding from BSEE, will provide a forum for dialogue, shared learning and cooperative research among academia, government, industry and other non-government organizations in offshore-related technologies and activities that help ensure environmentally safe and responsible offshore operations. TEES is partnering with Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston to manage the institute.

"We are tremendously proud that TEES and the other Texas university partners have been recognized for their significant contributions to deep water technology and safety by being chosen to manage the institute," said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. "I am confident that this team will lead offshore-related activities into a period of transformation."

BSEE Director Brian Salerno traveled to College Station for the announcement and toured facilities and spoke with university professors, TEES researchers, and officials from the University of Houston and University of Texas.

"I look forward to working closely with our partners at the Institute on finding ways to improve safety offshore," said Salerno. "The Institute will develop a program of research, technical assistance and education that serves as a center of expertise in offshore oil and gas exploration, development, and production technology, including frontier areas, such as high temperature/high pressure reservoirs, deepwater, and Arctic exploration and development."

The Institute stems from a recommendation from the Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee, a federal advisory group comprised of representatives from industry, federal government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the academic community. The Institute will be an important source of unbiased, independent information and will not have any regulatory authority over the offshore industry. It will be a collaborative venture that will also include involvement on science and technology issues from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

"The three partner universities represent a unique combination of capabilities and resources needed to address the needs for the Institute," said Dr. M. Sam Mannan, director of the Mary K. O'Connor Process Safety Center and PI for the project. "We applaud BSEE for supporting this major undertaking of national importance that will impact ocean energy safety for the nation and world for years to come."

The Institute will provide recommendations and technical assistance to BSEE related to emerging technologies and the best available and safest technologies (BAST). In addition, it will develop and maintain an equipment failure monitoring system and train Federal employees to enable them to remain current on state-of-the-art technology. The Institute will also promote collaboration among Federal agencies, industry, standards organizations, academia, and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Information on issues related to offshore research and best practices will be shared with industry, government, and the public through Institute held forums.

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