Examination of Witnesses (Questions 227-267
Mr Roland Festor, Mr Richard Cohagan, Mr Brent Cheshire
Chair: Good morning and welcome. Would
you like to just introduce yourselves briefly, please?
Mr Festor: Good
morning. I'm Roland Festor, the Managing Director of Total. Macondo
happened six months ago, but it's never too late to express some
sympathy with all the people who had problems because of it. I
would just like to start by saying that we will be totally open
and ready to help you as much as we can in what you are trying
to do. Total has now been working in the UK for more than 40 years.
We are one of the big operators here in this country, producing
between 10% and 20% of the production in this country. We are
mainly gas producers, and I think we have always professionally
done our job in this country. Of course, we have to recognise
that Macondo happened and we have done all we could to understand
what happened, why it happened and we have tried to take all required
actions to benefit from the lessons learned. This is what we have
tried to do in the past month and we are continuing to improve
Mr Cohagan: I'm
Rick Cohagan with Chevron. I'm pleased to be here today. I think,
as most of you know we're currently drilling an exploration well
in deep water West of Shetland. It's 160 miles north of Shetland.
The well was spudded about four weeks ago and we have gone through
a very enhanced level of scrutiny by the regulators. You might
be interested to know that we are making good progress on the
well. In fact, we're running riser and the BOP as we speak. I
also want to let you know that there is quite a bit of technical
information that may come out today. If there is some follow-up
that we need to do with some of our technical experts to answer
more detailed questions we're happy to do that.
Mr Cheshire: My
name is Brent Cheshire. I'm the UK Country Chairman for DONG Energy
in the UK and Managing Director of their exploration and production
operations in the UK.
Q227 Chair: Would you
like to tell us what challenges there are in drilling in the West
Mr Festor: Drilling
similar exploration wells West of Shetland, we have discovered
some gas reservoirs during many years, not big enough to make
a project out of them. We have then worked in the frame of a taskforce
under the leadership of DECC by grouping all the operators working
West of Shetland to try to work out something that could create
the conditions to make the project economical both for the companies
and for the country. During that process, we made a discovery
called Tormore. Laggan plus Tormore was judged big enough under
the frame of the conditions prevailing here in this country to
make a project.
In March 2010, we got field development approval
from DECC and we have decided to develop the first gas production
development West of Shetland, which you all know. It is called
Laggan-Tormore and is in 600 metres of water. We have now signed
most of the contracts and not later than tomorrow we are going
to sign the contract for a gas plant to be built on the Shetland
area onshore. In the meantime, we continue to undertake exploration.
Normally, if everything works well, we hope to start producing
gas West of Shetland in 2014.
Q228 Chair: Mr Cohagan,
I was really trying to tease out what kind of difficulties might
Mr Cohagan: There
are quite a number of difficulties, most of it around metocean
and weather conditions. There's no question also that West of
Shetland is still a relatively unexplored area. There are areas
where we have found production and we're currently producing,
but there are still large areas where we still have not explored
yet. That's one of the things we're doing now with the well we're
drilling north of the Shetlands. We do experience weather and
bad ocean conditions that make it difficult to get people and
supplies out there. Normally, we do get enough break in the weather
to do that, but we have to take that into consideration. Also,
when we're drilling, we will get conditions in the oceans, heaves
and waves, where we will have to shut down drilling because of
the operation we're doing at the time. In fact, on the well we're
drilling right now, in the last two weeks we've been down for
about eight days just waiting on weather. But that's something
we expect and take into account and we continue to tell our people
who are working offshore on these wells, "If you have any
doub, shut it down and make sure it's safe, because we want to
make sure that we drill this well right".
Q229 Chair: Have you
changed in any way since the Deepwater Horizon incident?
Mr Cohagan: I don't
believe that we have fundamentally changed in any way. We have
gone back and looked at the design of our well and tested it against
the information that came out from the Bly Report, the
report that BP did, and the Salazar recommendations that came
out. We also went back and looked at our well design, the procedures
and the processes against those recommendations. We wanted to
make sure that everything we were doing was correct. There were
a few things that we strengthened, just to make sure everything
was in place that we needed. But we have found, overall, that
most of the design and the processes we use are very robust and
they fit very well with the recommendations that have been coming
out of the Gulf of Mexico.
Q230 Chair: How did the
worst case scenario in the environmental statement you submitted
in March compare with what happened in Macondo?
Mr Cohagan: We
did go back and we looked at the worst oil spill condition we
might have. When we went in and we looked at the pour pressures,
the pressures down-hole in the well, and we looked at what seismic
has shown us might be the producing interval, we calculated what
the largest spill rate could be. We came up with a very large
spill rate in that condition of about 77,000 barrels a day, which
is more than Macondo. We've looked at that to test it and say,
"What would we do in those cases?" We tested our spill
response plans against that. Again, the one thing I'll point out
is that, although that is a worst case, this is an exploration
well. So there's a one in 10 chance of it being a success, which
means nine out of 10 times it won't be a success. In those times
that it is a success, it probably will be smaller than what we
have modelled as a worst case, but we do try to look at that to
make sure we know what we're getting into.
Q231 Laura Sandys: I
just wondered whether you felt that the $250,000 limit for the
Offshore Pollution Liability Association programme is going to
be adequate when you talk about the spillage that you could predict
might happen in West of Shetland?
Mr Cohagan: Obviously,
as a very large company, we're going to stand behind whatever
happens out there. The $250 million OPOL limit per incident is
kind of what the industry has said; that's what we will make sure
is that we have as a stopgap. But I think Chevron, like most large
companies, understands that if we have a large spill we're going
to need to stand behind that. As a large company, we have a global
corporate insurance package which covers all of the various issues
we might get into around liability. Like most companies, we benchmark
that against others. We also look at what self-insurance limits
we need to have. Because we are a large company, those are fairly
high but we do feel like we have the necessary insurance, the
necessary backing, should anything happen.
Q232 Laura Sandys: Just
to clarify, you self-insure or you are insured by third parties?
Mr Cohagan: It's
a package and there are some parts of it that have self-insurance
elements and there are parts of it that have third party.
Q233 Laura Sandys: One
of the concerns that we discussed with our last panel members
is the fact that if you have multiple operators, you would spend
more time, in many ways, creating litigation issues between each
other than coming to a settlement with the community or the United
Kingdom; depending on who should be the beneficiary.
Mr Cohagan: I think,
similar to what you saw in Macondo, you get to a point where what
you have to do is take care of your responsibilities, first and
foremost, and then try to sort out the various impacts of that
between the partners. But we also know, as an industryand
I think that's one reason we're spending so much time as an industry,
whether it's through OSPRAG, whether it's through OGP or whether
it's the work going on in the USthat the actions of one
of us and any problems that one of us might have reflects on all
of us. Therefore, we all have to do the right thing and make sure
that we're putting the right processes and procedures in place
so we don't have these spills in the first place. We're spending
a lot of time trying to get it right.
Q234 Sir Robert Smith: One
of the earlier witnesses talked about how, when you're managing
systems offshore, the profit motive is driving the manager. But,
in a sense, isn't the consequence of a safety failure even more
expensive than ignoring the safety risk?
Mr Cohagan: Absolutely,
and that's one thing that we spend a lot of time onnot
only with our own people but with the contractors who work for
us. We talk to them all the time about stopping work if they see
anything that might be an indication that there's something wrong.
I've brought a card that I'll be happy to leave. This is our stop
work authority card. When we go out to talk to our crews offshore,
when we have turnarounds where we shut down work on our platforms
to talk, I go to those meetings where we bring all the contractors
in to talk about the work. We hand these cards outit's
got my name, my signature hereit says, "Not only do
you have the duty but you have responsibility, if you see anything
going wrong, to stop the work." I tell the folks, "If
anyone gives you any problems, you call me because this is what
I want you to do and this is why we're giving it to you".
You are absolutely right, if we have any issue offshore and we
have a problem, the impact of that is normally far worse than
any kind of lost productivity from slowing down a little bit.
Mr Festor: I would
like to comment a little bit on what Rick said. When I was a young
engineer, my first job was working in the North Sea 30 years ago.
I never heard my boss talking one day about safety. It was not
a concern. I came back 30 years after and I discovered that here
in the UKCSbefore Piper Alpha and after Piper Alphait's
another world. And also in the meantime I have been working on
all the continents in several subsidiaries of Total. I've never
seen one place where the safety is of priority as it is here.
In all that we do with the work force, in the communication with
the work force, in our procedures I can guarantee you that safety
here is concern number one.
Mr Walker from HSE was here before. He is not always
making our life easy, but he is my big support because I am the
Managing Director of Total here in the North Sea and, okay, when
they come and they inspect and tell us, "You should do this,
this, this and this", for me as Managing Director it's a
Q235 Dr Whitehead:
All operators are required to have an OPEPoil pollution
emergency plan. What changes have you made in your OPEPs since
the Deepwater incident and its gravity became apparent?
Mr Cohagan: With
our OPEP, as I mentioned earlier, we went back and we first looked
do we have the right size spill model, because we saw from Macondo
what could happen in a large spill. We then went back and said
what are the resources that we have to call upon. I think, based
on what we saw in the Gulf of Mexico, we saw that there were cases
where sometimes OPEPs or different plans that were being used
in response to spills weren't as strong as they needed to be.
We tried to make them strong, but we found some gaps after Macondo
and we said, "We'd better make sure we have the necessary
facts and figures and that we have thoroughly looked at it",
and that's what we've done with the OPEP. We've gone back and
we've looked at it in terms of those situations that we've seen
in the US, as well as our own situation here, and we've tried
to make sure that they were modelled correctly and that we had
the right information in them and that we could use them in the
case of the response to take care of any size spill that we might
Q236 Dr Whitehead:
Is it fair to say, however, that the fact that you have revisited
OPEPs and had a look at worst-case scenarios indicates that the
industry as a whole had not placed those worst-case scenarios
into its OPEPs before Deepwater Horizon? Why do you think that
Mr Cohagan: I think
Deepwater Horizon gave us a new perspective on how bad things
could be. I think any time you have an incident, whether it's
something like the Deepwater HorizonRoland referred earlier
to Piper Alphayou get a new perspective and you think,
"How bad could some of these things be if we actually had
them?" I think that always causes us to think about it and
adjust our thinking and that's what we need to be doing. We need
to take all these learnings and make sure we get them implemented
into the things we're doing. It's not unlike what's going on with
OSPRAG right now or some of the work that OGP is doing. As we're
getting information in, whether it's the Bly Report or
any other reports that will be coming to us in the near future
from the Gulf of Mexico, we're going to take that information
and we're going to say, "What do we need to modify or change?
What can we learn from this and how do we implement it?"
So I think it is back to the situation we have with the regulatory
regime in the UK. It is goal-setting; it is non-prescriptive,
which means we have to continually demonstrate that we're doing
everything we can to keep our risk as low as reasonably practical
and make sure we're working that new information and any new best
practices and learnings that we get into our plans.
Q237 Dr Whitehead:
Has part of that learning process been looking at the question
of the power and availability of remote operating vehicles? One
of the issues in Macondo was that those vehicles were either not
available and, when they were, they didn't appear to sufficiently
powered for the tasks that faced them. Is that an issue West of
Shetland or is it something that you think is already well covered?
Mr Cohagan: I can
tell you from the work that we've done on the well that we're
currently drilling, we've taken all the lessons from Macondo and
we've looked at what we need to do to modify it. When we were
getting ready to run our BOP yesterday, we had the ROV operators
as well as the BOP manufacturer, Cameron, on site talking about
if there is a problem what do we need to do with the ROVs to make
sure they can access the BOP subsea if there was an issue like
they had at Macondo. So we feel like we've tested everything.
We've looked at everything on the ROV as well as the other equipment
to ensure that we won't see those kind of issues.
Q238 Dr Whitehead:
Mr Cohagan, you've given, I think, an impression that, as it were,
all bases are covered. That might be a description of what you
have said this morning. Is that the view of everybody on the panel?
Mr Cheshire: I
think from our point of view you produce an OPEP when you're operating
a well or about to drill a well. At the moment, we're not operating
a well, so that is not something that we're working on at the
moment. But through the OSPRAG analysis that's been done on this,
that will be accommodated when we do drill our next well. Also
we're revisiting the last operated well that we drilled, Glenlivet,
last year. We will take that information and rerun our OPEP in
the light of that and see what we could have done differently,
what will be done differently next time. So we're fully aware
In terms of all bases being covered, I agree with
the other comment that was made earlier about the risks of not
doing that being so high that we are, as an industry, checking
things through extremely thoroughly, more vigorously than ever.
Every eventualitycan we imagine what that might be? Possibly
not, but we're modelling every scenario and we, as a partner of
both Chevron and Total, are also, with extreme rigour now watching
what they're doing to make sure that our interests are covered
as well and we've been very satisfied to date.
Q239 Sir Robert Smith:
If you're drilling a gas well, what kind of pollution concerns
would you have compared with drilling a mixed well or an oil well?
Mr Festor: Laggan-Tormore
is going to be gas production. So the problem of having a blowout
is not very much different than what you have when you drill an
oil well. But in case you have one, the treatment is completely
different because you would not have a spill of the type you had
on Macondo. You would have gas bubbling through the seawater and
you would have, of course, what we do not like: greenhouse gas
emissions. But the problem of treating a spill would not exist
because these kinds of wells are producing very little liquid,
very light liquids, which would evaporate very quickly in the
conditions of West of Shetland. So for Laggan-Tormore, it's not
so much a concern. The concern would be: how can we close the
well. To come back to the fundamentals, Macondo has fundamentally
nothing to do with Deepwater. The real problem is a problem of
well control, so somewhere the operator has lost the control of
the well. This can happen on an onshore well. On any well you
drill, if you are not careful, this can happen. The best we can
do is prevention. And prevention is the capability to be sure
you have barriers avoiding what happened in Macondo. You come
back to the fundamentals of drilling. You have two barriers, one
is mud and one is the BOP, and I think the big lesson for all
of us is to come back to fundamentals: make sure at any moment
we have the two barriers; make sure we have the competent people
understanding what is happening with your well; make sure your
BOP is working. It's something we all know in our industry but,
okay, we have been reminded how important it is to permanently
have two barriers working. If one is not working you are in a
downgraded situation and you have to find a second barrier. Whatever
the type of wells, for me these are the fundamentals and we are
completely mobilisedand I am sure my colleagues are alsoin
our procedures, in our operation. Everywhere we have a well, we
have those two barriers.
Q240 Dr Lee:
Moving on to the prevention is better than cure line, Mr Cohagan,
you mentioned the Bly report. Were you surprised that a proper
root cause analysis was omitted from that report?
Mr Cohagan: I think
the Bly report is the first report that we're going to be seeing.
There's going to be a number of other reports that are going to
be coming out from the incident in the Gulf of Mexico. I think
that the Bly report has given us some information that we didn't
have before that we can now take and look at and say, "Do
we have all the proper actions that we can learn from that report,
implemented into the wells and the way we do things?" I think
you will eventually get to the point where you will see more information
around what happened, different perspectives. You may eventually
get a root cause analysis type of report coming out.
Q241 Dr Lee:
Do you think it's already taking place?
Mr Cohagan: I'm
Dr Lee: Do you think they've
already done it, just not published it?
Mr Cohagan: I haven't
heard specifically that it will be done. I know that was a question
that was asked of BP and I think that they were trying to get
information out on this and sometimes the root cause analysis
can take quite a bit of time to make sure you get to the bottom
line. If you really want to do a thorough root cause analysis,
it is a very time-consuming process.
Q242 Dr Lee: It
has been suggested to me that there was an absence of anybody
on the well who had the responsibility to switch it off. With
regards to your own, does that person exist on every well 24 hours
a day, 365 days of the year?
Mr Cohagan: When
we drill a well, we
Dr Lee: You have your
card. What I mean is, is there somebody who can say, "Right,
we're stopping now"? Is there someone present on the spot
in West of Shetland now who has the authority to switch it off?
Mr Cohagan: We
have people on the well at all times that have that ability. We
have our drill site manager and the ones that we have drilling
on our well right now have over 25 years' experience. They know
that their fundamental job/duty is to monitor that well and, if
anything looks like it could go wrong, to shut it down. So we
do have that on all the wells that we drill.
Q243 Dr Lee: Moving
on to the response plans, it is well known and I've asked many
questions about it. I've had access to the one at Macondo. May
I ask a question about how you go about getting a response plan?
Is this a third party company? Is this a company that Chevron
or Total or BP pays somebody to provide them with a plan? Is that
what happens or is it in-house?
Mr Cohagan: I guess
I would say it's a mutual working that goes on. We do have people
from the outside that help us. We also have our own internal people
that are involved with it. So we work it both ways.
Q244 Dr Lee: So in terms
of liability, if there are errors in those plans that then contribute
towards a poor response, shall we say; where does the liability
Mr Cohagan: We
feel that the responsibility rests with us.
Q245 Dr Lee: Specifically
with regards to dispersant usage, infamously being used subsea
in Macondo without any apparent evidence for its efficacycertainly
not in the public domainwould you countenance doing the
same thing yourself if you had a spill?
Mr Cohagan: I think
if we had a severe spill that was of the magnitude that the Macondo
spill was, we would bring to bear everything we could and, if
we thought subsea dispersant would be something that would be
a positive attribute to help disperse it, we would bring that
forward. I will say thoughand it has probably already been
pointed outin West of Shetland, with the wave and the wind
action, there is a much more physical breakup of any oil
spill that would occur, relative to a place like the Gulf of Mexico.
That would have a positive effect. You have the negative effect
of colder water but the positive of more aggressive wave action.
Q246 Dr Lee: Have you
had discussions with relevant authorities here that that would
be your intention? Have you said that to the agencies we've just
Mr Cohagan: I think
that in our oil spill emergency plan, we've identified that as
a possibility. I don't think we have actually said that's what
we would do. I think we would be looking at it on a case-by-case
basis. I will say that with the work being done by OSPRAG with
looking at a capping stack if there's a problem, the work that
BP has done in bringing over two containment caps in case there's
a problem, there will be the ability to apply dispersant down-hole
if that is something that people decide is the right response
Q247 Dr Lee: Just one
final question on a broader issue. Is there anybody on the boards
of Chevron and Total who have an environmental consultancy background?
Mr Festor: In Shetland,
we are drilling gas wells fundamentally. So we have not had so
much concern in respect of the consequences of big oil spills
because, with what we have to manage today, as I said before,
we would not be in the situation where we could have to face this
kind of spill.
Q248 Dr Lee: So that's
a "no", yes?
Mr Festor: Sorry?
Dr Lee: That's a "no", is it?
Mr Cohagan: I will
say, from the Chevron side that I'm not aware of anyone on the
board but I'd have to check that.
Q249 Dr Lee: Because
it's interesting that we have Chevron, Total, BPmost of
the oil industry, the big onesand not one board member
has an environmental consultancy background. I just wonder whether,
in view of the factsyou have made reference to the huge
costs of a spillthat might be something that the oil industry
Mr Festor: I think
from the OSPRAG process, the industry has really mobilised all
together to implement solutions in case something happened. As
Rick said, we have been working a lot on the capping system. We
are also working a lot on the response in case there is a spill.
Clearly, we have to recognise we were not as ready as maybe we
should have been for all these kinds of questions. But I must
sayand this is really something I discovered in this countrythe
industry has strongly mobilised, very quickly, less than a few
weeks after Macondo happened. We were all togetherall the
operators, the coastguards, the OSV teams, the Department of Energy
and Climate Changeand we have worked out a work programme.
We are working on it. Of course, we are not able to give answers
a few weeks or even a few months after, but what I can guarantee
is that we do all we can to get the adequate knowledge to minimise
consequences in case something like this happens. Again, for me,
as I said before, prevention is the attitude No. 1 we have to
Q250 Christopher Pincher: I
think you've all mentioned the Bly report and that you've read
it carefully. The Bly report says that the responsibility for
the disaster lies with multiple companies and work teams and indeed,
when Mr Hayward came before this Committee I think last month,
he said, "I think the investigation makes it pretty clear
that this was not an issue of well design; it was a whole series
of failures that came together". I think Transocean would
take a somewhat contra view and probably Halliburton as well.
I wonder, given that there seems to be some disagreement about
the conclusions of the Bly report, do you think it is appropriate
that the Department for Energy and Climate Change uses that report
as a basis for assessing new licences, particularly licences for
deepwater drilling West of Shetland?
Mr Cohagan: I think
the Department of Energy and Climate Change should use all reports
that come out and look at the information contained in all of
it because I think there's always information from those reports
that can be helpful. We have taken the Bly report and we've looked
at each of the recommendations and we've compared that to what
we're doing on the well that we're currently drillingin
fact, I brought a copy of that report, if the Committee would
like to have it; we can leave itand how it addresses it.
I think we all have read through it. We probably all have opinions
on whether everything in the report really gets to the root cause
of the accident but I think we're going to continue to need to
look at other reports that come out. Building on what Roland
said, I will say that we are also of the opinion that if you have
the right processes, the right procedures and the right well design
and you do those things, you should never get to the point where
you're having an issue with a spill. I think that's something
that has been reinforced with the work that we've done in comparing
what the recommendations were in the Bly report with what we're
doing on the well that we're currently drilling.
Q251 Christopher Pincher: What
is your analysis of the Bly report? Do you think that the design
of the well played a part in the blowout at Macondo?
Mr Cohagan: I will
say this. BP was designing the well so that they could use it
as a producing well and that's one reason that they had a long
string in the well. Most exploration wells that we drillin
fact all the recent exploration wells that I'm familiar withwe
drill them as wells that will not be used. We will drill them,
get the information and then plug them. Because of that, we use
a different design in these wells. We tend to use more liners
where we have larger physical barriers and multiple physical barriers
from the producing formation to the surface.
The design that BP had has been used successfully
in a lot of wells worldwide. So I'm not saying that the design
was at fault. All I'm saying is that the way we design wells,
it is different. They used nitrified cement on it. We would not
use that when we get into wells of this depth because of fear
that the nitrogen might break out and you wouldn't have a good
cement job. I think this is part of the technical issues around
Q252 Christopher Pincher: Can
I ask why there are technical differences between what you would
do and what BP does? Surely there must be one view based upon
geological formations, depth of well, that should be followed
rather than different companies taking their own view of what's
Mr Cohagan: I think
what all companies do when they get ready to drill a well, they
look at the conditions that they're drilling in, they look at
what do they haveas far as whether it's water depth or
the geologic formationand, depending on what the conditions
dictate, they try to design the right well for their conditions.
In the case here, I think BP was trying to design the right well
for their conditions. It's back when we look at it, we've said
our design would be different.
Q253 Albert Owen: Can
I push you on that? What Dr Hayward said to this Committee was
that there was a whole series of failures that came together and
what was alarmingand I paraphraseis that the industry
wasn't prepared for this at that time. Mr Festor, you said basically,
it's all down to how we prepare for it and then you go on to contradict
yourself and say, "But we learn from disasters." Is
this a disaster then or is it prevention? I'm a little confused.
With regards to the Gulf of Mexico, you're saying Chevron would
have done things differently. Isn't the flip side to that BP did
Mr Cohagan: Let
me say we've seen one report that has come out from BP; the Bly
report, and we've looked at that and we've tried to analyse that
and we've tried to look at how we're drilling our well versus
that report. There are going to be other reports that will be
coming out that will have other information, so it's very difficult
right now to guess at all the things that might be surrounding
the reasons for the accident.
Q254 Albert Owen: I understand
the sensitivity of different reports but my understanding iscorrect
me if I'm wrongthat your company and other companies, when
they went in front of the American Senate and Congress, basically
said it wouldn't happen to them. That was what we took from that.
Therefore, did the industry have serious faults that are now being
rectified when it comes to deep drilling?
Mr Cohagan: I believe
what our company said is we would have designed the well differently
and, with the design that we have for our well, we don't think
we would have seen the problems that Macondo saw.
Mr Festor: I can
just confirm what Rick said. The Macondo well, if it has to go
through the technical references of Total, the design would have
been different. It's a high-pressure well. We would have drilled
top of the reservoir, set the casing and then set the liner for
the reservoir. Secondly, we would not have used the type of cement
BP has used, which was quite a very big surprise for us when we
saw the type of cement used. I do not know what the organisation
of BP is but cement has always been a top technical, important
point in our organisation. In Aberdeen, I have three cement engineers
and I have one cement specialist on each of our platforms. I do
not know if that is the case of BP, but it has been quite a surprise
for us that they used this kind of nitrogen form cement in front
of a high pressure reservoir.
The next point is that we would never have considered
that the cement in the shoe trap of a well is a barrier. So there
are several points that we do not know why but that should not
have been in the design if we had had to design this well with
our organisation. Now, I have worked with BP several times in
my life. It is a reasonable and good company but, okay, this happened.
Why, I do not know, and we are also waiting. We saw the Bly report.
We would like to see the Transocean report and we would like to
see the Halliburton report before having a final comment on why
Q255 Chair: Do you have
a comment, Mr Cheshire?
Mr Cheshire: We
don't operate outside of Europe, so familiarity with the Gulf
of Mexico is not something, from a company point of view, that
we have. In terms of our procedures and design, given where we
operate, that would not be the way that we would design a well.
But that's driven largely by the geological conditions and the
subsurface pressures and temperatures that we encounter particularly
in the West of Shetland. What I would also sayand I think
it's very importantis that when we design a well, we also
have the independent well examiner; we have our own procedures;
we have an independent peer review within our own company of specialist
drilling engineers to check our design by the people who've done
it; we have the independent well examiner and then we have the
HSE. I'm confident that that well design would not have got through
that procedure in the UK system.
Q256 Albert Owen: One
final point, if I may, Chair. Do you think the whole licence regime
will now change as a consequence of what happened in the Gulf
Mr Cohagan: The
licence regime here or in the Gulf of Mexico?
Albert Owen: Both. Will
we learn from that and will it change there and will we learn
from it here?
Mr Cohagan: Based
on what I'm hearing, it sounds like there is a high probability
that the regime is changing in the US and will continue to change
as they try to learn from this and implement. I think the fact
that the UK regulatory and licensing system is being referenced
over there to a great degree is, "Here is where you have
had success of not having issues", and I think they are looking
at that to say, "How much do we want to follow along with
what places like the UK and Europe are doing?" As far as
here is concerned, I thinkagain, it has been alluded to
earlierthat the regulatory agencies here are always looking
to what they can learn from it and if they think they need to
modify and change, I think they will. Having said that, it is
a very robust regime here that has worked extremely well and I
think most of what we are seeing is other people trying to copy
what is going on here. So I think if there are changes, I hope
everyone will be able to have that discussion and make sure the
changes are for the benefit of the industry and the public to
make sure that we do the right thing there.
Q257 Albert Owen:
Do you agree, Mr Festor?
Mr Festor: I fully
agree with what Rick said. The approach we have in this country,
which is a risk-based approach, requires us to concentrate on
what we do. So if we are doing something, we have to demonstrate
that what is being done brings the risk to a minimum, so you concentrate
on what you do. When you have a regulationvery prescriptive,
telling you that you have to do thisyou have a tendency
just to do this, but you are not completely sure that it is the
best for the problem that you have. This is the big difference
here between what I have seen anywhere else. Again what I said
at the beginning, HSE is not making our life easy every day but
they are of great help and each time they go offshore they bring
confidence to me as managing director.
Q258 Sir Robert Smith:
Can I just ask on the well designit has come up before
in other evidence sessions, I mean obviously you should have batteries
that work in a blowout preventer and you should test your blowout
preventerwould there have been any benefit in having a
second set of line shear rams or is that something that you ever
do in your designs?
Mr Festor: What
you need is to have shear rams which shear and which work. If
you have one or two what you need is to be sure that you have
a system that works, and here in the UK it is mandatory to test
your BOP every two weeks. So we test the BOP every two weeks.
Function: does it open-close, open-close and then under pressure.
So we put pressure from the kill line and we check all our rams
every two weeks. Of course we do not shear every two weeks because
this is just almost noticeable, but we check if the BOP we use
is able to shear before we use it. So there are two ways to do
that. You have document certifications giving you the guarantee
that the BOP is able to shear or, if notit is one of the
lessons learned for us from Macondobefore we start drilling
we will shear.
Mr Cohagan: We
also are looking at this whole issue around the BOP and redundancy,
through not only OSPRAG but also OGP and the work they're doing
as well as what's going on in the States. I think the thing that
we are going to have to look at when we start asking those questionsthe
BOPs are very large pieces of iron. Some of the BOPs that we are
using offshore are three storeys in height. So adding an additional
line shear is not something that you do quickly. You have to look
at it and make sure you understand exactly what it would be doing.
The BOPs that were used at Macondo, as well as the ones that are
used here, they've served the industry well for thousands and
thousands of wells. We have successfully drilled them with the
BOPs, but that's not to say we can't learn and we can't also improve
on it and I think that's something that's going to be looked at.
We just need to do it in a way that takes into account the risk
and whether there is anything that you're doing that might hurt
you if you add redundancy to it.
Mr Cheshire: I
think that's our analysis as well. Realistically, you have to
plan for the wells on a well-by-well basis what is the most appropriate
risk. As Rick has just said, if you make something ever bigger
it imposes extra loads on the subsurface when you're putting the
casing in, when you're actually running these things. These huge
pieces of equipment have to be handled on the rigs and so on.
So it is possible, if it's not the appropriate piece of equipment
for the specific well and it's just an extra comfort level in
fact, that you are taking more risks with individuals handling
these at the surface and the HSE impact of that. So it is something
that needs to be thought through very carefully and, as an industry,
this is exactly what we're looking at, at the moment.
Q259 Sir Robert Smith:
But testing and making sure it actually works is the fairly obvious
thing that goes on here that should be going on.
Mr Cheshire: Yes.
Mr Cohagan: And
we do. We spend quite a bit of time trying to do exactly that.
We were bringing the Stena Carron, the drill ship that's currently
drilling our exploration wellit had drilled here in West
of Shetland for three wells. We then sent it to Canada to drill
two wells. When it was coming back, the BOP was tested before
we ran it. We pressure tested it again. We're function testing
every seven days on this well and we're pressure testing every
14 to 21 days trying to make sure. Then, in addition, we've gone
back to the BOP manufacturer and we've done bench tests to make
sure that it can shear when it's required to. But you're right,
all those things have to be checked and checked thoroughly because
they are complicated pieces of equipment.
Q260 Dan Byles:
I'm fascinated by this discussion about the difference in well
design and I'm particularly interested to know how the local regulatory
regime impacts on well design. We're familiar with the differences
between the UK regulatory regime and the US regulatory regime.
Mr Cheshire, I'm very interested in your suggestion that the Macondo
well design would not have passed UK muster. I'm curious to know
whether the rest of the panel agree with that analysis. Do you
think that the Macondo well design would have been approved here
in the UK under our regulatory regime?
Mr Cohagan: Again,
I don't know if I know enough about all the details. I've seen
the one report, the Bly report, so it's a little bit difficult
for me to respond. Probably some of our technical experts would
be in a better place to respond to that. I will say that with
the technical reviews that go on, not only similar to probably
Total and DONG, Chevron also has a complex well group in Houston
that does nothing but look at these wells that are very complicated
to say, "Is the design the correct design for the area?"
Q261 Dan Byles:
I am particularly interested in the impact of the local regulatory
regime on the well design, because we seem to be coming up with
a picture here of different companies having a different approach
to well design, but only Mr Cheshire has mentioned the impact
of the regulatory regime on that well design.
Mr Cheshire: Just
to clarify what I actually said was that, given the geological
conditions that we have and the areas that we work in, this sort
of well design would not be appropriate for what has been done
in the West of Shetland. But I think and what I understand from
the Bly report is that there were changes to the programme and
so on that would have been addressed by the well examiner and
things may have been done in a slightly different way. So, as
I understand it, our processthe different levels of control
before you can change things or make changes to designthat
is something that our system would address.
Q262 Dan Byles:
We have had more than one witness tell us it probably couldn't
have happened here, that our regulatory regime is different. People
have suggested it is better. I am just really curious about this,
because most of your companies operate all around the world and
I am very curious to know just how much well design varies from
regulatory regime to regulatory regime; not necessarily as a result
of the geographical differences but as a result of what you are
and are not allowed to do. Would you say that you apply higher
standards in countries where the regulatory regime demands it
than you do in countries where it doesn't, for example?
Mr Festor: Thanks
to the help of my drilling manager sitting behind me, he is just
giving me the answer to it. The standards of designing a well
are much tighter here in the UK than in the US. One very fundamental
difference is that when you design the casing programme of a well
in the UK, you have to assume that the well is closed at the top
and is full of gas, which means that the pressure that is just
below the well head is much higher than what is used in the US
where you consider that half of the well is full of liquid and
that the remainder is full of gas. So it is a little bit technical
but when you have a column of gas the remaining pressure at the
top is much higher than when it is liquid, because the weight
of liquid is compensating. So in the case of the UK, it is a well
full of gas which is taken in consideration to define the load
that is applied on the casings. So it is a part answer to what
you are asking. The standards are much more difficult here in
the UK than in the US.
Mr Cohagan: May
I just add that Chevron, as a company, does not have a different
standard depending on where we're operating? Now, there are regulatory
requirements that sometimes necessitate doing things different
but what we do when we look at a well, whether we drill it here
or whether we drill it anywhere else in the world, we apply the
same standards to that well to make sure it is drilled properly.
Mr Festor: Which
is also the case for Total, used worldwide.
Mr Cheshire: And
indeed DONG Energy. We have a standard well design which is driven
from our experts in Copenhagen and that approach is taken throughout
so we have one standard across all our operations. First and foremost,
our well design has to pass our own internal examination and peer
review process and every well we design as a project, that has
five clear stages where we have independent examiners from our
own company who come in and check that design and make sure it
meets those standards that have been set across the company.
Q263 Albert Owen:
You have touched on most of the questions that I wanted to ask,
but I will just ask a general question. We hear that Norway has
suspended licences. What would the implication and the impact
be on the UK if there was a ban, a moratorium, on licences?
Mr Cheshire: Can
I answer that first of all? I have spoken to my Norwegian colleagues
and Norway is one of the main areas that we operate. In fact,
there was no moratorium. What was stated by the Norwegian energy
minister was that when he came to announce the licensing round,
he wanted to fully understand the implications from the Deepwater
Horizon incident, but that round was announced almost exactly
on time as it would have been without that, and also the drilling
has continued. I believe there are a number of wells that are
going on at the moment that are being drilled.
Q264 Albert Owen:
Are there any new ones that have been given a licence at this
moment in time?
Mr Cheshire: The
licensing process is ongoing at the moment. So, as we do, there
is a routine time when they will be issued and that is the process
that is continuing. That process has not been stopped. From DONG
Energy's point of view, I think we focus entirely on the West
of Shetland in the UK. If there was a moratorium, what we have
seen and I think my colleagues have mentioned it, is that there
is only a limited amount of equipment available that is of sufficient
quality and standards to operate in this area. In addition, we
try and operate at the best time of the year. When we don't and
it is in the winter, things take a lot longer. What we would see
is there would be a very significant delay on the ability to deliver
projectsthat has a very significant financial impactand
also on the ability to get the information. The knock-on effect
would be quite dramatic and I think, from our point of view, it
would certainly make some of the projects that we were looking
at look a lot less attractive than if we lost one or two years
because of that ability to have the equipment available and to
be able to drill in the right weather window.
Mr Cohagan: The
same answer for us. I think that, when you look at the remaining
resource in the UK, there are still 20 billion barrels possibly
to find. A large part of that will be West of Shetland and if
you did get to the point where you said there was going to be
a moratorium for a period of time, I think that would have very
much of an effect on the industry. When we are drilling the well
that we are currently drilling, we have to contract for drill
ships years in advance. We have to pay for the drill ships whether
they are working or not. We have to find places for them to work.
If we can't drill here it would be necessary for us to find some
place in the world where they could be used.
Mr Festor: Economic
problems, of course, but we have to be coherent and say that safety
comes before economics. But for me where it would really be counterproductive
is the risk of losing the competent people because what we need
is competent people and here in the UK we have very good people.
But if we stopped drilling, there are plenty of places in the
world where they would be welcome and if they went, to bring them
back would be a very big challenge. I think it would be really
very counterproductive if there was a moratorium on drilling.
Honestly, I do not understand the moratorium on licences, because,
okay, you don't give new licences but you continue drilling on
existing licences. I do not really understand it. For me, the
important thing is to keep the know-how in the countrythe
people who know the North Sea, who know how our operation is being
runand make sure that they do not go for somewhere else.
Q265 Dan Byles:
It is interesting you touching on that. Would you say that there
would be an impact on UK's energy security? You referred to 20
billion more barrels potentially out there to be found. If we
were to say that UK deepwater oil and gas drilling is too difficult,
too dangerous or too expensive and we are not sure we want to
be doing it, what sort of impact do you think that would have
on energy security for the UK? Is that the sort of thing that
you, as commercial companies, look at or is that the politicians'
Mr Cheshire: I
think, if I can answer that, from a DONG Energy point of view,
we are in the full energy chain. We're a power generator, power
from coal and from gas. We're also the world's largest offshore
wind farm installer and operator, so we've got a lot of experience
about the energy balance. What I would say is our analysis, on
a European basis, leads us to believeand this is why we
are focused on gas in the West of Shetlandthat that gas
from the West of Shetland is incredibly important, and not only
for the UK's energy security. Our major shareholder is the Danish
Government. The Danish Government's view is that energy security
is extremely important as well and that indigenous-sourced gas
is an extremely important part of that, not least because the
more windmills you build, the more gas fired power stations we
need to cope with the intermittency of supply. When the wind doesn't
blow, we need to be able to generate the electricity from flexible,
modern, relatively green power stationsmuch greener than
coal-fired power stationswhich means new gas-fired power
plants. So our own company point of view is that it is very important
to have that indigenous supply to be able to literally support
the move towards the green energy from wind power.
Q266 Dan Byles:
Obviously you are commercial companies and you don't necessarily
have to worry about UK energy security. Is it a consideration
that your board will ever look at, the energy security of the
countries you operate in?
Mr Cohagan: We
look at it all the time and we like to have a balance. If you
get to the point where some areas of the world are closed off
it makes it more difficult to achieve that balance. So it is extremely
important to us and that's one reason we have such a large operation,
not only in the UK but also in Europe, and we have a lot of people
working on trying to increase the supply here in the UK for that
Q267 Dan Byles:
Do you think there is an opportunity cost of chasing ever-deeper
oil and gas when perhaps that money could have been used to invest
in research in alternative energy sources?
Mr Cohagan: I think
there is a place for both. I can speak for Chevron. We're looking
over the next three years in investing $2.3 billion in renewables
and energy efficiency. So for us it's not either/or, it's that
we have got to have both. It's important. Even for the foreseeable
future, oil and gas are going to continue to be an important part
of the energy mix, even as more and more renewables come on. I
think it's something where you have to have all sources of the
energy in order to get us to where we need to be to supply the
world with energy.
Mr Festor: We are
totally in line with what my colleague from Chevron said. But
you must have realised that I am French and, being French, we
look at the UK and we are very jealous of the fossil oil and gas
you have in your country. When you look as an engineer at numbers:
yes, we need oil, gas and renewables. We need, very strongly,
oil, gas and renewables. In your country, if you look at the numbers,
we have already produced 40 billion equivalent barrels of oil
and gas and we see remaining potentialnumbers can change
a lot if you are pessimistic or optimistic, but there remains
20, 25 maybe 30. So it is a huge asset you have in this country,
a fantastic asset, and I think we cannot avoid continuing exploring
in this country and we at Total think it is an interesting country
to work. There is a strong supply chain, there is a strong and
competent workforce. And so that is the reason we are here and
we have never invested as much as these days in this country.
Chair: We do not often
hear such praise from a Frenchman, and we are very grateful to
you, Mr Festor. I think we are running out of time now. Thank
you very much. It has been a very helpful session from our point
of view and I am very grateful to all three of you. If we have
any further points obviously we will come back to you as well.