Already operating in some 40 countries, Norwegian oil company Statoil has ambitious goals for further worldwide growth. And Synergi is the group’s risk management system wherever it goes – regardless of geography, language or even the ability to read and write.

Statoil has always had an international orientation, but the character of its operations has been changing lately. Much respected for its deepwater drilling expertise, the group has primarily been a partner to other operators outside the Norwegian continental shelf.

Over the last few years, however, it has been acquiring operatorships in various countries, including the US Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Canada. The overall health, safety and environmental (HSE) strategy thereby becomes Statoil’s responsibility and allows it to explore some new challenges.

“We’ve been a big Synergi-user since the beginning, and we get a lot of good output,” notes Arne M Martinsen from Statoil. “Continuous improvement of this user-friendly tool is vital for a successful rollout into new areas.”

He knows what he is talking about. Involved in exploration and production since the 1980s, Martinsen now heads the department for analysis, monitoring and support in the group’s international exploration and production business area, and Synergi is part of his everyday life.

“We have no exceptions in Statoil: everyone uses Synergi in every country,” Martinsen explains. “If they don’t have PCs, we must accept that they need to use paper forms. And if they can’t read and write, we’ll have to solve that as well.”

One example of the latter is presented by seismic survey operations on land in Iran, where some workers are being helped by safety specialists to file reports using Synergi. “And Iran is actually the best when it comes to reporting,” Martinsen adds.

“That’s because a key criterion for success in the HSE area is a country manager who’s dedicated to HSE work and who realises the importance of goodquality reports,” he says. “This particular enthusiast in Iran has now been nominated for our internal HSE prize.

“A lot of information is gathered in the central Synergi database,” says Arne Martinsen, who is responsible for HSE analysis, monitoring and support in Statoil’s international exploration and production business area. “Combined with the high level of user-friendliness, that makes it a powerful tool for a global business like ours.”

Since Statoil has used Synergi for such a long time, it works hard on the quality of the data being entered because of its crucial significance for further analysis. One of the group’s basic values is to be open. Where Synergi is concerned, this means that even the chief executive has access to every single case entered in the system and can look into the details if he feels the need to do so.

“We’re generating statistics on a monthly basis and checking the validity of the input beforehand,” Martinsen says. “A group of people with the relevant operational background open each case and, in an unaggressive way, send an e-mail proposing some adjustments to the people who haven’t got it right. That works.”

He adds that simply reporting near-misses and accidents is not good enough either. “If we notice that the reporting culture somewhere fails to accord with internal or external expectations, we initially have to provide support for a cultural improvement. But we also follow up the progress being made through regular verifications.”

To manage risk is to understand risk. That is what Synergi helps Statoil do. Working in so many different cultures makes it essential to comprehend the different contexts which may be involved in a single drilling operation.

Martinsen talks about a more unusual risk, very different from those experienced in the North Sea. Small fishing vessels use production platforms in the Persian Gulf as a good spot to fish and secure protection in bad weather, entirely unaware of the risk when cooking their food over open flames.

Synergi has been and will remain a useful tool in Statoil for managing risk. However, different cultures, practices and environments constantly present new challenges, which call for constant evolution and improvement in a tool originally designed for use on the Norwegian continental shelf.