Challenging Controversies: A Prospective Analysis of the Influence of New Technologies on the Safety of Offshore Drilling Operations



Integrated operations (IO) is an operating mode in the offshore oil and gas industry that is expected to lead to safer, faster and better operations. This article presents an analysis of the anticipated impacts of increased instrumentation on the safety of drilling operations. The instrumentation is related to the change process of IO, and is exemplified by a group of IO tools for interpretation, diagnosis and automation. An important finding in the study is the identification of a set of controversies that reflect characteristic challenges of drilling operations. These controversies involve the quantity and accessibility of information, the issue of centralized and decentralized control, the relation between standardized and unique interpretation of data, and the heterogeneous nature of engineering work. It is argued that the impact of the IO tools on safety will depend on how these controversies are taken into account when the tools are adopted. It is also argued that the cognitive control of the operations is distributed across a range of human and nonhuman actors and that the impact of the IO tools thus depends on how they are adapted to the system of distributed cognition rather than on the properties of the tools themselves.