The U.S. federal government requires all offshore oil and natural gas operators to implement a Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS) and complete a SEMS audit every three years to protect the health and safety of workers, the public and the environment. SEMS requirements have become more comprehensive – growing from 13 required elements in 2013 to 17 in 2016.
In 2016, the Neptune Spar in the Gulf of Mexico underwent a SEMS audit. Early preparation to identify and address gaps from new regulatory requirements and to follow up on gaps identified in the previous audit resulted in a highly successful audit with only minor follow-up action required.
We also completed a successful SEMS audit for the Tamar platform in the Eastern Mediterranean. In recognition of this achievement, we received two certificates of compliance to SEMS standards, one of which we presented to the Israel Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water, in recognition of our partnership with them for safe and responsible operations.
Our focus on emergency preparedness is ongoing. Major activities in 2016 included both full-scale emergency simulations and tabletop drills to test readiness, as well as improvements in response planning and capabilities.
In our Israel operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, we successfully completed a no-notice simulated event drill as well as a full activation response drill simulating a hydrocarbon release. We also conducted three required oil spill readiness and response exercises and held training exercises for our onshore terminal staff and other shore-based personnel. We completed annual reviews and updates of our emergency plans.
We also conducted our first tabletop cybersecurity drill in Israel, bringing together our IT, security and operations departments to assess our ability to maintain production during a cybersecurity incident. Upon completion of the drill, Israel's National Information Security Authority awarded Noble Energy with a level one certification for completing the first milestone of its cybersecurity program.
In the Republic of Cyprus, our incident management team held a tabletop drill as part of the annual incident management plan training. The pre-drill training included a comprehensive session on the capability of available emergency telecommunications. The incident scenario included overcoming telecommunications challenges as well as other issues that could occur during various offshore emergency scenarios. The team also managed the set-up of a simulated receiving station for the injured in one of the ports and facilitated their transfer to inland hospitals.
Noble Energy also participated in several joint emergency exercises with the Cyprus Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) under the Ministry of Defense. The “Nemesis” exercise was organized by the Ministry of Defense through JRCC and was a large-scaled aeronautical multinational exercise with participation from Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, United Kingdom and United States. A separate “Argonaut” exercise was a multinational civil-military exercise organized by the Ministry of Defense with the participation of Greece, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, Italy and Hungary.
In Equatorial Guinea, we conducted several incident simulations to test our responses to a mass casualty event as well as other scenarios involving safety, security and communication. Our most significant milestone was the opening of an in-country dedicated Incident Command Center, our first such facility internationally. The fully equipped center will enhance our ability to monitor and respond to emergency situations.
We also conducted planning meetings with the other oil and natural gas operators within Equatorial Guinea to ensure notification and response measures are available for mutual aid opportunities. We completed annual reviews of our emergency plans, in the process identifying new efficiencies to be implemented for our oil spill response operations.
In the DJ Basin, we conducted emergency drills at five facilities during the year, as well as a training session on our incident command system. We activated our incident management team in May 2016 to assist in response to a well control event experienced by another operator in the vicinity, with no resulting injuries and minor environmental impact.
In the Marcellus Shale, we conducted a drill at our Town Square Center office and a training session on our incident command system. We activated our incident management team at partial levels in response to a major winter storm and in response to a fire at Town Square Center. Neither event resulted in injuries or loss of production.
In our Texas operations, we conducted two training sessions on our incident command system and developed an emergency action plan for this new operating area.
Helping Mariners in Need
On the morning of August 29, 2016, off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, a Noble Energy support vessel – Swire’s Pacific Victory – was traveling from the floating production vessel Aseng to the Luba Freeport when the crew observed a distress flare in the distance. Responding, the Pacific Victory crew discovered a fishing boat with engine trouble. The crew attached a tow line to the boat and proceeded on their original route to Luba. The fishing vessel, Santa Marta, had 11 crewmembers onboard and had been drifting for five days after an engine breakdown. The crew of the Santa Marta and the Luba port officials all expressed their gratitude at the quick actions of the Pacific Victory crew.