Managing risks across the mining and oil & gas lifecycle

Managing risks across the mining and oil & gas lifecycle

Jul 19th, 2017

I had the honour to chair one of Managing risks across the mining and oil & gas lifecycle conference in London last week. The session’s title was Managing our wastes for the long term.

Managing risks across the mining and oil & gas lifecycle

The conference was held at the Imperial College within the frame of The Geological Society “Year of Risk” and the Institute of Risk Management. The conference’s aim was to bring together Mining and Oil & Gas professionals to discuss their respective and common risks, including how the industries manage their wastes for the long term.

Managing our wastes for the long term

In the session’s introductory talk I used the Giant Mine to set the scene of Managing risks across the mining and oil & gas lifecycle.

The table below shows the cases presented during the session.

Orphan mines

Active Energy


Giant (gold), Introduction


Balangero (Asbestos), Riskope


UK (Coal), R. Orwath


FERC Hydro Dams, D. Durkee


Gas extraction, I. Otalega


Shale gas pumps, A. Josifvic


Interesting to note, other sessions, with different titles draw opposite majority, i.e. more oil & gas than miners than the presently discussed one.

Exercises were performed splitting the delegate into two groups: Engineers and Public.

A case history was presented and the groups were asked to come up with the preliminary steps of a risk assessment, i.e. performance criteria, system definition and hazard identification. The outcome was extremely interesting and clearly showed the asymmetry in the requirement from the two groups. It became apparent to all participants that reaching consensus early on in the risk assessment procedure represents a viable mitigation to reduce later chances of confrontation and dismissal of the results.

Common thread and session’s comments

The common thread among the presentations was that systems have to be described and defined before sensible risk assessment and decision-making can be undertaken. Managing risks across the mining and oil & gas lifecycle requires, to start with, holistic approaches and well defined glossary.

That came together with other points, summarized as follows:

  • Simplistic solutions can be nefarious, either at modeling level or mitigation level
  • There is major confusion even in basic definitions of risk and uncertainty…within a single industry, or, even worse, across industries.
  • Both industries need simple approaches but not simplistic ones.
  • We should not use words such a never, nil, especially when talking about risk.
  • Instead credibility levels (10-5 or 10-6) should be used.
  • What is generally considered long term may be very short, especially in front of climate change driven events.
  • …. perpetuity may be an awfully long time.
  • Censoring and biasing reality are lurking “mortal” sins. Finally,
  • CSR and SLO  (Corporate Social Responsibility and Social License to Operate) dictate ethical behaviour and correct evaluation and presentation of risks.

Final comments

Did we achieve the our goal within the conference objective? Managing risks across the mining and oil & gas lifecycle?

I’d answer positively to that question and take this opportunity to thank again the organizers.

That being said, I find it frustrating to see that, despite everyone agreeing that changes and enhancements from common practices are badly needed, everyone seems to prefer status quo.

Recurring phrases heard at the conference were: “we would like to…., but for this reason…….., we can’t” or “we would like to…., but we do not know how”. In fact, you can solve both difficulties by going away from obsolete recipes. Go away from common risk assessment practices. Use scientific methods to evaluate holistic risks. Include social and environmental consequences.

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Category: Risk analysis, Risk management

One response to “Managing risks across the mining and oil & gas lifecycle”

  1. John Ancock says:

    In terms of waste management, the Oil Industry dodged the bullet in NOT discussing the decommissioning of seriously contaminated oil platforms.
    The big concrete platforms are much too big and heavy to take away to shore sites for clean re-cycling. As they have mostly used concrete tanks as storage for crude oil they have accumulated very nasty polluted ‘sludges’ and coatings on tank walls. The concrete substructures are proposed to be ‘left in place’ . . . for future generations to deal with or just forget . . . The contamination can include low level radioactive waste concentrated in the sludge.

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