BY MICHEL OLIVER

While the intent of this blog series is to focus generally on gas and hazardous liquid pipeline operations, regulatory compliance and (particularly) on various elements of the PHMSA Control Room Management (CRM) Rule, I thought I’d interrupt that thought process for a related topic – last month’s API Pipeline Conference and Control Room Forum in Phoenix.

I attended the conference and forum, along with 600 or so pipeline operators and fellow service providers, and very much enjoyed the presentations and follow-up discussions. I particularly enjoyed the key note speaker, Dr. Will Miller, who offered his thoughtful and highly-entertaining insights on coping with stress and the importance of developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships. Dr. Will really hit home (for me) with his observation that too many of us, when moving from place to place during our work life, fail to take the time and expend the energy necessary to create a “village” environment in our new home cities – but, instead, fall into an isolation trap and surround ourselves with technology and “Facebook friends.”

The pipeline conference on Tuesday and Wednesday morning offered various tracks, including asset integrity, community outreach, risk management, new technologies, construction management and workforce development (human factors) – and I enjoyed as many presentations and panel discussions as one person could manage covering topics as diverse as Risk Mitigation, Geohazard Assessment, Depth of Cover Data Collection, Pipeline Safety Management Systems, Public Awareness, Satellite Data Analytics, Operator Qualification, Lessons Learned Programs, Quantitative Pipeline Risk Modeling, Leveraging Human Performance Tools, and API Certifications. I look forward to further reviewing these presentations on the API website – and using much of the information provided to be smarter and better informed than I am today.

On Wednesday afternoon (and through Thursday morning) is when the Control Room Forum kicked off – and, probably because I have spent much of the last few decades working in and around control rooms, this is when the conference came alive for me. Again, I enjoyed as many presentations as one person could manage – Operator Alertness Self-Assessment; Team Training Challenges; Alarm Management for Emergency Response; CRM as a Collaboration Tool; Console Workload Analysis; and Benefits of API RP 1165 Compliant SCADA Displays – but wished I could have cloned myself and attended each of the others, as well.

This was my first API Conference – and I noticed one key difference from the AGA and SGA conferences I am used to. At those conferences the associations have formed well-established committees that conduct open, round-table forums to discuss proven solutions to shared challenges. While I was able to horn in on a few post-presentation discussions during breaks in the exhibit hall and at the end-of-day receptions, I honestly missed the more formal, focused and inclusive discussions offered by the other associations – and wonder if this might be something the API folks will consider adding to their get-togethers going forward.         

Note: This is the second in a series of blog entries on gas and hazardous liquid pipeline operations, process safety and regulatory compliance – and more-specifically, on Pipeline Controllers, control room operations and the key elements of the PHMSA Control Room Management (CRM) Rule.