Thursday, Nov 12 -Brian Dresel from Black Hills Energy joins the show and talks about Abnormal Operating Conditions, among other things.
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Jim Schauer: [0:09] Good morning, energy community and LinkedIn community to this week’s episode of “Coffee with Jim & James.” I have to tell you, I could barely sleep last night.
[0:20] When I think about Black Hills Energy and over a million customers served in the United States, that’s first and foremost. All of a sudden I thought back. James, you’re gonna like this, back to my heyday, back to the day of traveling. I 90 West on my Hog, my bike. Wind blowing my hair, well, I used to have hair blowing back, on my way to Wall Drug. I mean my bike was fearless Kawasaki 125.
[0:46] I made it to the rally. The bikers started be a cute wall decoration. I hope that bikes doing well. It was a long Greyhound bus ride home. Anyways, that’s a tangent.
[0:55] James come in get me off this tangent. Let’s get us back on track my co‑host, as always the yin to my yang, Mr. James Cross. James. How are you today?
James Cross: [1:05] I’m good, you know for those that don’t know or recording on Election Day. So when this airs, you know, we’ll figure out what this was all for, but we are almost almost giddy and nervous to have our guest on today. Mr. Brian Dressel from Black Hills Energy Brian. Good morning.
Brian Dressel: [1:27] Good morning. Thanks guys. That’s that’s quite a build up that mean I hate to hate to think about anybody being nervous about talking to me.
James: [1:35] Brian’s been a long friend of ours in the industry. You know, I can go back a my tenure with EWN ends them as long but I by proxy I feel like I knew Brian before I knew him before I even met him, but we’ve had a lot of run‑ins since then, but we’re super excited. Have you on board today.
[1:59] For those that don’t know Brian’s pretty much an expert at these if we rewind the back when Coffee with Jim & James started Brian would have had more podcast under his belt than Jim did.
Jim: [2:11] I had zero.
James: [2:12] No pressure. No pressure Brian, but we spent quite a bit from you.
Brian: [2:18] I’ll try not to disappoint. Thanks for that. [laughs]
Jim: [2:22] Brian. Let me let me throw in the softball here and if I can ask Ask a question really just to give a little bit of your background because it is a unbelievable background of depth and breadth you just give our audience a little bit about you and who you are and where you can’t come from and what you’ve experienced?
Brian: [2:41] All right. Yeah, Jim I’m happy to do that. I’ve been around the gas industry since 1990. So I’m going back to before we even had operator qualification which seems like a long long time right now, but I’m currently the technical training and operator qualification manager for Black Hills Energy and I’m based in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
[3:03] Before I came to Black Hills, I spent about 25 years with a gas company in the Kansas City, Missouri area. So a lot of experience in Kansas City than I worked for PHMSA, pipeline and hazardous materials safety administration, for a few years, which was a wonderful experience. I learned so much more about code and what other operators are doing out there. So it was a great experience.
[3:25] I ended my time with PHMSA as an instructor in their Inspector Training and Qualification Center in Oklahoma City where I got to train state and federal pipeline safety inspector, so it was a great experience.
James: [3:41] Brian has you just told us and in that quick history in the industry and just your back variety of experiences given, you know, really you and unique perspective when it comes to operator qualification. So we go back to the origin of the OQ rule and all the way through the current and even looking into the future.
[4:02] What do you see and can you speak a little bit on that evolution and where you feel? The biggest opportunities might be moving forward for our industry’s growth and OQ.
Brian: [4:13] Sure James. Yeah in a lot of people don’t realize this but the OQ rule really goes all the way back to 1992 when it was mentioned in the Pipeline Safety Act in 1992. It wasn’t fully implemented until 2002 and you know, a lot of good things I think about OQ. There was one sort of an unfortunate thing to it.
[4:37] As the regulatory agency started putting more and more emphasis on qualification some of the operators that were out there with really good training programs. They started to dedicate less and less resources to training is they shifted toward a more of a qualification based program, which was somewhat unfortunate because that wasn’t the intent of the OQ rule. It was just to add the qualification layer on top of training.
[5:02] So operators in recent years, probably in the 2010. And so I really figured that out and that they needed to dedicate, you know, a balanced amount of resources really to training and qualification. So that’s a really good trend in the industry. And you know, we’re we hope that continues.
[5:21] We’re certainly investing a lot of resources and training here at Black Hills Energy, which is you know, greatly improving our programs. We’re really happy about that. So, you know one aspect of OQ also is that you know, when it first came about the regulatory Sorry folks were pretty or pretty lenient, you know when it came to OQ violations. That’s somewhat changing as well because OQ’s been around for nearly 20 years.
[5:49] So the regulators are more aggressively enforcing OQ violations, which that’s not a that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe we need to make sure that work in compliance with the rule.
[6:02] Another aspect of OQ. That’s interesting. It was interesting to me is one of the supervisors that Work with it PHMSA. He told me that nearly every incident or accident that you investigate whether it’s a regulatory inspection or operator conducted inspection. If you dig hard enough and thorough enough, you’re going to find some sort of a either a training or an OQ issue.
[6:26] So that’s a really interesting thing. I agree that there’s usually some sort of a training qualification issue and those incidents but you really have to look for them. So that’s a good thing for operators to be looking for as well.
[6:37] And you know when we’re talking about the current state of OQ, there’s really a couple of issues that operators really need to be looking at one of them span of control and the others contractor management. So span of control was really intended as a training tool.
[6:53] So that’s the best way to look at it. Is that as a training tool in contractor management the days of operators just getting records from their contractors and then filing them away. Those days are really gone. Now you operators need to be more Involved in that and actually audit the contractors and you’ll make sure they’re doing what they need to be doing to be in compliance with your OQ plan.
[7:15] So the state of OQ now is much more advanced from what it was, you know, 10 20 years ago. So it’s that we’re on a good trajectory.
Jim: [7:25] Brian, let me let me you you hit a nerve with me when you were talking about the training and education the knowledge skills ability all that not just internal but external and it also raised a point. I was making fun today about my travels across I‑90 but I‑90 as we know is a corridor that has very extreme conditions.
[7:45] Extreme conditions for you up. There are very different for you know it right now and I’m in Southern Florida. We have different conditions and then our industry known abnormal operating conditions or AOCs how big of a affected those have in your daily life as far as training to make sure that the people that are in your systems know what you guys have that’s unique to you that may not be the same for us in the Gulf Coast?
Brian: [8:11] Yeah Jim, that’s a great question and you know AOCs are really unique to each operator. And that’s why we can’t I have like a list from the industry. Maybe we could have a list but then operators would need to customize that list to there. Operations.
[8:26] In the training world the challenge that we have in training and evaluating for AOCs is that they’re dangerous. So, you know, it’s pretty hard to to evaluate how someone’s going to recognize and react to an AOC and that’s what the regulatory requirement is. We can’t just start a fire next to someone and then evaluate how they react to it because we might hurt that person.
[8:48] So there are new technologies out there now, which is really awesome virtual reality augmented. Reality things like that. And so there’s Binder’s out there. No Energy Worldnet’s involved in this, GTI that are building applications for the industry that allow operators to really safely create that AOC and then you can determine how the individual recognized and reacted to it.
[9:15] A really quick little kind of an analogy. I like to use when I’m talking about AOCs is right now in the industry, we use knowledge testing, you know, pretty much across the board to assess how someone’s going to recognize and react to an AOC.
[9:28] If you take a situation, that’s not a pipeline AOC. It’s something that’s kind of similar though. Like if if you gave me a Knowledge Test and he said Brian I’m going to ask you how are you going to recognize and react to the situation? The the situation is you’re driving your vehicle down the road. You see a snake come out from under the seat of your vehicle as you’re going 70 miles an hour down the interstate. How are you going to react to that?
[9:50] Then my answer is going to be well, I would apply the brakes slowly turn on my signal, make my way to the shoulder. Put it in put the vehicle in park turn on my four‑way flashers exit the vehicle safely.
[10:01] That’s not what I’m going to do in a real situation at all. I’m going to probably wreck my vehicle, you know, somebody’s going to they’re going to need the jaws of life to get me out of my vehicle because I’m probably gonna go right off the road because going to scare me.
[10:11] So by being able to recreate these AOCs and I’m safe environment we can you know, really do a more accurate assessment of you know, how someone’s going to react and how they’re going to recognize and react to that AOC. Oh and also get them to understand, you know, this is something that could occur you can by going through that simulation. New technology is really helping us a lot in that environment.
James: [10:34] Brian where you and I both and Jim even Jim to to have donned a headset and you know experienced that firsthand and been a part of this kind of beta portion of it and there’s there’s really nothing like it. You know that freedom to fail as we talked about You know, which it sounds like a negative term but really being able to be in that situation, you know, get your bearings understand it, you know, feel it.
[11:05] I just can’t explain to people when you don that headset what it feels like I mean, it feels like you’re there and and you know, when we think back of watching videos or taking those knowledge assessments, it’s there’s no comparison to it.
[11:20] Brian you’ve been behind the curtain a bit on on this ramping up in our industry. You know what? How do you feel about that? How do you feel VR is going to change at least how AOCs function?
Brian: [11:36] Well, I think it’s going to really help better prepare. The individuals are performing tasks out there, you know, if you think about it, like if you can create a fire in that virtual reality situation, you know other folks may look at this and say well it’s not realistic. Well, it feels very realistic because the immersive nature of the technology.
[11:57] If you can have someone where they’re actually performing a function and then that fire breaks out or whatever happens. It’s pretty realistic and then you get to go through the same adrenaline rush everything as the person responding to it as you would if it was happening in real life only there’s no danger. So I think it’s going to really better prepare our workers in the industry for the challenges. They face from AOCs.
James: [12:20] It’s really an equalizer out. I’ve put it on I put the headset on, you know, we’ve been at shows whatever. It had it out and you know had people come up to I never did that. It’s just video game stuff, you know are my my grandson has one of those or whatever that you know, comment might be.
[12:37] I tell them I just give it one second. Just put that headset on look around and I tell you it’ll change your mind and it’s funny how quickly it really does it in levels that playing field when it comes to that experience.
[12:51] Brian you guys are doing innovative things. There’s no question I got One more question for a very important question most important question of the day no doubt about it.
Brian: [13:01] [laughs]
James: [13:01] So hopefully you studying for this one Brian. Do you love what you do?
Brian: [13:08] Oh, absolutely. It wouldn’t be doing it. If I didn’t.
James: [13:12] That might be the shortest answer. I just knew you couldn’t go off down down a path for us, but he’s so succinct.
[13:19] There’s there’s no question and what you’ve already done for the industry, you know being a recovery a recovering as Steve Allen always says a recovering regular regulator very important for us to be able to see see what you’re doing doing the great things you’re doing out there. We appreciate you. Keep doing those with thankful. You were on the show today. Any parting thoughts?
Brian: [13:47] Well, I just use something occurred to me. We were talking about virtual reality is we did a demonstration and it was where we went up in a lift, you know, and it’s a virtual reality simulation. Our feet are on the ground went up in this lift and it’s some individuals who are afraid of heights and you can actually see their their knees start to shake because of the, you know, realism of it. That tells you how realistic that is.
[14:13] I think that are, you know, a lot of great things happen in our industry right now. And I’m excited to be a part of it and appreciate the opportunity to visit with you guys today.
Jim: [14:22] It’s absolutely our pleasure. If we don’t have anything more James I can wrap this up and down the road so we can get on with the great date. Brian, thank you on behalf of James and I for joining us today again long time alliances friends.
[14:40] We appreciate you. We appreciate everything that you’re doing in the industry. I would absolutely encourage. Our audience to definitely connect with Brian follow Black Hills Energy see all the good things that they’re doing.
[14:53] They want the best for our industry our people and first and foremost. I’ll put these words. I’ll probably you know, put them in Brian’s mouth, but safety first, let’s do everything safe. That’s you know, that’s a cornerstone the keystone to everything.
[15:09] So again, please connect with Brian, follow Black Hills Energy. We hope that you all stay safe have a great day. God bless you. God bless her industry. ‘Till next time on Coffee with Jim & James. Have a great week. Take care everybody.
James: [15:25] Bye‑bye.