Public outreach more important than ever

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Canada’s oil and gas industry has a lot of experience. Working in some of the toughest conditions on the planet, we have become experts in finding and producing oil and gas safely and efficiently, while protecting people, animals and the environment. Over the past 100-plus years, our industry has continually improved on science, technology and training, to ensure we operate within, and often above, the most stringent regulations in the world. In short, we do a top-notch job of supplying Canadians and others with the vital energy they rely on every single day.

So why do we sometimes get a bad rap? Because the one thing we haven’t been quite as good at is communication. We haven’t been good at talking about what we do, why we do it and how. We haven’t been good at answering questions or addressing concerns about our operations or performance. And we haven’t been good at showcasing our innovations and successes. That’s changing now.

New Era, New Initiative

This year, the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC), along with several of our members from the service, supply and manufacturing sector, are reaching out to stakeholders with a new program called the Working Energy Commitment.

The program, officially launched in late February 2013, is named in honour of the more than 80,000 PSAC member-company employees who are on the front lines of the Canadian oil and gas industry. These hard-working people drive rural roads to access remote locations, get their hands dirty when they have to, and do their highly skilled jobs at all hours and in conditions some would call unworkable. As such, they truly personify the concept of “working energy”.

The Working Energy Commitment program’s goal is to increase public confidence in these people—and our industry—by listening to public concerns about oil and natural gas development and addressing those concerns with facts and honesty. The program is also designed to bring greater transparency to the efforts that service companies and their skilled employees put into health, safety and the environment, whenever and wherever they work.

Fracturing First

PSAC’s Working Energy Commitment is first going to focus on hydraulic fracturing, which has been much in the news of late. Many of the public’s concerns stem from a lack of information—or misinformation—about hydraulic fracturing: what it is, why it’s needed, how it works and how any risks are mitigated. Tackling this topic first is a must because hydraulic fracturing is a critical part of our industry’s business. Without hydraulic fracturing, our industry—and Canada’s access to many of the proved reserves of oil and natural gas resources—could grind to a near halt, with no road to recovery and tens of thousands of jobs lost.

No surprise then that 10 PSAC member companies, all involved in hydraulic fracturing, were the first to sign on to the Working Energy Commitment. They are: Baker Hughes Canada Company, Calfrac Well Services Ltd., Canyon Technical Services Ltd., GasFrac Energy Services LP, Halliburton Group Canada, Nabors Well Services Canada Ltd., Iron Horse Energy Services, Sanjel Corporation, Schlumberger Canada Limited and Trican Well Service Ltd. These companies are leaders for stepping up to the plate.

With support from PSAC, the 10 pumping companies started by developing and committing to a Working Energy Commitment Statement of Principles (see sidebar) that reflect how they operate every day.

Their next task is to develop a hydraulic fracturing code of conduct, which will bring these high-level principles down to the ground level. It is expected that this code of conduct will define mutual expectations for working with stakeholders, and reflect standard practices for sound technical and environmental performance when fracturing a well.

Because of its very nature, a code of conduct like this should not, and will not, be developed in isolation. Rather, PSAC and its pumping company members are holding a series of public engagement sessions to gather stakeholder input into the code of conduct.

These public events, taking place this year in key operating centres throughout Western Canada, will provide local community members with the opportunity to meet and speak directly with representatives from hydraulic fracturing companies, as well as local representatives from producing companies and regulators.

We recognize that not all regions of Western Canada are as supportive of our industry as others. We may be asked some tough questions. But PSAC and our members are confident about how well our industry operates and about our commitment to health, safety and the environment, so we welcome the opportunity to answer questions and address concerns as a way to build public trust. We fully believe that with the productive dialogue from these sessions, we will be able to draft a comprehensive and respected hydraulic fracturing code of conduct, and release it by year end.

Online outreach

As part of the Working Energy Commitment initiative, PSAC is also reaching out to stakeholders via our public information website www.oilandgasinfo.ca. The site provides users with key information about Canada’s oil and gas resources and industry. Fracopedia, a new section developed for the site, provides more detail about hydraulic fracturing operations. Another new section will act as the home base for updates about the Working Energy Commitment program, the public consultation sessions and the hydraulic fracturing code of conduct. These website updates are still in their infancy, but will grow in content and scope along with our program.

 

Building Momentum

Our Working Energy Commitment builds on another successful public outreach program we launched in 2010. Along with the support of the other major Canadian oil and gas associations, PSAC created Community Partners, in direct response to public feedback about how we operate as an industry. Community Partners, still managed by PSAC, is an industry-wide in-the-field courtesy program that commits companies, their employees and their contractors to be good neighbours.

Each of the companies leading the Working Energy Commitment has also signed on to the Community Partners program. That commitment demonstrates to local stakeholders that we are starting this year’s public consultations from a place of sincerity. Dozens of other producer and services companies have also signed on to the program since it launched. (For more information, please visit: www.communitypartners.ca.)

How PSAC members—and the industry as a whole—operate is very complex and technical. But it’s no longer enough to operate safely and responsibly. We have to communicate about it. We have to help the general public and residents of communities most impacted by our operations understand how and why we do what we do, so we can strengthen relationships and build valuable support of our industry.

PSAC is the national trade association representing more than 250 of Canada’s leading service, supply and manufacturing companies in the upstream industry.  Our members employ more than 80,000 people, and contract almost exclusively to exploration and production companies.

For more information, please visit: www.psac.ca. A PDF of the Working Energy Commitment statement of principles can be found online here:   http://www.oilandgasinfo.ca/images/Postcard.pdf.

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