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Deloitte and NASA bring space age risk management to the oil and gas industry

In a move designed to bring advanced risk-management capabilities to America’s energy industry, The Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions and the NASA Johnson Space Center have entered into a strategic alliance to offer services to oil and gas companies.

These services, which include several operational risk-management offerings, are aimed at companies looking to minimise the risk of catastrophic failures – the kinds of dramatic mishaps that, while highly unlikely, can occur in remote and harsh environments.

Activities like deep-water drilling, undersea production and pipeline operations all face the same kind of "black swan" events that pose a threat to space exploration. The strategic alliance with NASA will integrate the space agency’s 50-plus years of experience preventing and recovering from catastrophic accidents in human space flight into Deloitte’s advanced-risk strategies – applying state-of-science capabilities to oil and gas companies.

Ultimately, proactively identifying and mitigating low-probability yet high-impact events can save lives, resources, money, reputation and environmental disruption.

As part of the alliance, Deloitte and NASA will jointly offer a range of services in the quickly evolving risk-sciences arena, such as risk modelling and simulation, to help oil and gas companies eliminate blind spots in their decision making.

Such services apply sophisticated risk-modelling and simulation tools and techniques like Bayesian networks and agent-based modelling to reduce uncertainties in engineering and operations at oil and gas companies – in much the same way NASA has done with its space programme.

Deloitte and NASA also expect that oil and gas companies will find Deloitte's risk-sensing services valuable in emerging risk identification - a set of complex tools and techniques, like precursor analysis and event-occurrence trending, to highlight changes in risk likelihood. NASA used these techniques when it was having problems with the space shuttle's altitude-control thrusters, which could limit the ability to control the position of the shuttle while in orbit. Because the thrusters could not be tested on the ground, precursor analysis was used to determine leading indicators and surrounding events preceding thruster usage - allowing the space agency to resolve the problems before future missions.

Deloitte and NASA's offerings will also include dynamically improving risk-management techniques, such as artificial intelligence tools applied to remote decision-support systems. In addition, Deloitte and NASA will offer services aimed at helping oil and gas companies measure and monitor the effectiveness of their risk culture among their employees and contractors - enabling them to detect whether their work environments and processes are increasing the likelihood of a risk occurring. NASA regularly measures its own safety culture using these same techniques, including assessment reviews to identify warning signs of "cultural deterioration" that could lead to poor risk decisions.