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IGEM - 11/17/2009 10:03 AM

IGEM Workshop – Dublin

Managing Energy Emergencies On 21 October 2009 IGEM ran a ‘Managing Energy Emergencies’ workshop in the Bord Gáis Networks offices in Finglas, Dublin. There were delegates from the Republic of Ireland and from Northern Ireland, including both industry and government representatives. The workshop built on the session held in 2008 that reviewed the developing gas emergency arrangements across Ireland and the interactions with the electricity industry. Report from Michael Gilbert OBE, Director, Steelhenge Consulting. uring the latest workshop, in addition to providing an update on the operation of the emergency arrangements in the South and the North, we reviewed the Irish experience of participating in the recent Network Emergency Coordinator (NEC) exercise, Quartz. In the session we looked at the impact of external disruptive challenges on the energy industry, in particular pandemics and fuel supply emergencies. Such events have major impacts on the industry and arguably can threaten gas supplies as significantly as pipeline or plant failures. On a practical level all energy companies, as responsible operators, have in place comprehensive emergency policies and procedures to manage the impacts of a wide range of events. However, an aspect that can be overlooked is how to structure the emergency response and the critical role of leadership during an incident to ensure efficient and effective management of an incident. As part of the workshop we looked at best practice in organising emergency response teams and the critical role of the team leader. The input to the workshop was provided by Bord Gáis Networks, Phoenix Natural Gas and Steelhenge Consulting. To conclude the session there was a presentation from Keelin O’Brien of the Republic’s regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). In addition to providing an update on the development of the Common Arrangements for Gas (CAG) project to establish a consistent commercial framework for the gas industry across



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Ireland she also reviewed the potential implications of the proposed EU Security of Supply Regulations. In this brief paper I have focussed on some of the key points that came out of the discussions during the workshop.

Exercise Quartz Exercise Quartz took place on 14/15 October 2009 and was intended to test the effectiveness of the NEC arrangements for managing a network gas supply emergency (NGSE) in Great Britain resulting from a failure of beach gas supplies. A disruption to gas supplies in Great Britain has a profound impact on gas supplies to both the Republic and Northern Ireland. They are dependent on gas imported via the two interconnector pipelines to the South and the Scottish Northern Ireland Pipeline (SNIP) to the North. In excess of 60% of power generation in Ireland is gas fired and any disruption to gas supplies can potentially threaten the electricity

network. The National Gas Emergency Manager (NGEM) in the South and the Northern Ireland Network Emergency Coordinator (NINEC) chose to test their procedures during Exercise Quartz. The exercise tested the communications between all key players and in particular the contacts with large non-domestic consumers required for effective firm-load shedding. Although in the South the contacts were 75% successful there was concern that this figure, although good, could and should improve. There was discussion on the potential benefits of providing better communications with consumers and possibly workshops for large consumers as part of a broader education process on emergency arrangements. The session also highlighted the critical importance of close cooperation between gas and electricity companies in the South and the North to optimise the operation of the system in an emergency and make best use of limited available gas supply to protect domestic and priority users.

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Disruptive challenges The H1N1 ‘swine flu’ virus arrived in the UK in the early summer and rapidly spread across to the Republic of Ireland. The worst impacts were suppressed by the summer holidays, as schools act as an important mechanism for the spread of the disease, and by September the first wave was over. This initial period gave both industry and government time to further develop their pandemic emergency arrangements and to more accurately assess the potential

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local and national government resilience bodies. Useful guidance on responding to disruptive challenges can be found on the Cabinet Office UK Resilience website.

Leadership All emergency teams face the same set of challenges during an incident; • Information Management: to obtain and assess information on the emergency, • Decision Making: to determine an appropriate course of action, and • Communication: to communicate and monitor progress. This can be achieved through a common structure for the emergency response or incident team. The actual names given to each position may vary to fit with the needs of the particular organisation but the function of the position is the same. The Incident Controller provides leadership and direction to the team and is supported by the Assistant Incident Controller to provide direct management. The Information Manager gathers and assesses incident information and the Briefing Manager produces both internal and external communications. On face value the roles may seem similar but they require distinctly different skills. The Operations Manager ensures the team has everything it requires to operate, from facilities to communications. In any major incident the Log Keeper is an essential role to maintain a record of the incident as well as master copies of all documentation relating to the emergency. The key role in the incident team is the Incident Controller who has responsibility for all aspects of the emergency response and who should have appropriate authority to activate the team, escalate the response and approve the necessary actions to manage the emergency. As with all roles on the team that of Incident Controller requires specific capabilities including the ability to holistically assess situations and make decisions based on limited information and within restricted timescales. It is not

a role that everybody can effectively fulfill and a good manager is not necessarily a good Incident Controller. A programme of training targeted at Incident Controllers can be effective in developing individual capability.

Future Issues In the final session of the workshop we looked at future issues and perhaps the most significant for the gas industry is the proposed Security of Supply Regulations. This specifies an infrastructure standard and a supply standard: • Infrastructure Standard ‘To ensure that in the event of disruption of largest gas supply infrastructure, remaining infrastructure has the capacity to deliver necessary volume of gas to satisfy total gas demand during 60 days of high gas demand during coldest period statistically occurring every 20 years.’ • Supply standard ‘Competent Authority to ensure gas supply to protected customers in the case of: a) extremely cold temperatures during a 7 day peak period statistically occurring once every 20 years; and b) any period of 60 days of exceptionally high gas demand during coldest weather periods statistically occurring every twenty years.’ Clearly much work is required to understand the intent of the regulations and their implications for both the UK and the Republic of Ireland gas industries as this could be significant. However, a very positive step included in the proposal is an increased role for the Gas Coordination Group in helping to manage a pan-European gas supply emergency. There are effective emergency arrangements within industry and developing coordination between industry and government. What has been missing, given the increasingly international nature of the gas industry, is effective coordination between governments. Operating within an appropriate framework this is a role that the Gas coordination Group could fulfil at an EU level. The aim of this very brief snapshot of what was a full day of detailed presentation, discussion and syndicate sessions is to give a flavour of the key issues that face the gas industry in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The unique situation of Ireland provides an opportunity to rehearse many of the cross border challenges that other EU member states will face in managing major gas supply emergencies. gas international


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impacts. It is clear that we are now in the second wave of the pandemic and it could peak towards the end of the year. The potential impacts of the pandemic, particular for those with underlying medical conditions, is being mitigated by the increased availability of anti-virals and the implementation of a vaccination programme supported by enhanced communications. The greatest threat is that the current strain will mutate into a more aggressive and dangerous virus resistant to anti-virals and rendering the current vaccine ineffective. As such, flu pandemic continues to be a major threat to the energy industry because of potential staff shortages and if absenteeism levels in excess of 30% were realised then the impact on all parts of the supply chain as well as key service providers would be considerable. The workshop concluded that all industry participants should continue to review their pandemic arrangements and ensure that they have robust monitoring measures in place. It was again highlighted that industry arrangements need to be coordinated with the government emergency response in order to provide the best possible mutual support. The threat of a fuel supply emergency seems to have receded, with the Grangemouth industrial action and the Buncefield fire a distant memory. However, the potential for such an emergency is still very real and could be precipitated by a range of events including fuel protest and even pandemic as well as a major incident at a refinery. Regardless of cause, the approach to assessing the risk is essentially the same: • Have all critical activities been identified? • Have all essential staff been identified? • Have all essential supplies/suppliers identified? • Have all essential service providers been identified? • Has the fuel usage for all locations been assessed? • Has the availability and status of all fuel storage been identified? Even if an organisation has in place mitigation measures and emergency arrangements to address the identified risks it is important that the arrangements are communicated to all key people within the organisation and they are tested in conjunction with the

Volume 49 Issue 10 December 2009


IGEM - 11/17/2009 10:03 AM

Managing Energy Emergencies  
Managing Energy Emergencies  

Published in Gas International, December 2009. Michael Gilbert OBE reports on gas emergency arrangements across Ireland, and its interaction...