Governor’s coalition seeks prevention of future oil drilling disasters

SMU will play a key role in the Gulf Project initiated by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to address drilling concerns.

Off-Shore Rig

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced at SMU July 7 the formation of the Gulf Project — a coalition of university and industry scientists, government officials, policy experts and stakeholders who will work to protect Texas against another environmental and economic disaster like that stemming from the British Petroleum rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Bruce Bullock
Bruce Bullock

“I think we have all watched with great frustration…as one attempt after another failed to stem the oil. We must do better,“ Perry said, adding that industry needs better technology, better monitoring and trained spill management teams.

“The Maguire Energy Institute at SMU Cox has been a leader in the study of management, policy, workforce development and other issues,” said Bruce Bullock, the institute’s director. “We are delighted to participate in this initiative.”

SMU, the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, the University of Houston, Rice University, Texas Tech University, the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), Texas General Land Office and Texas Railroad Commission are participating and may be joined later by other experts and institutions of higher education.

Bullock addressed reasons for the project, as well as its goals:

What is the goal of the governor's initiative?

“The goal is to make drilling in Texas, both onshore and offshore, safer and to protect the health, safety and environment of the citizens and the state.  Texas is the energy capital of the world. We hope this effort will help us to continue that status.”

Off-Shore DrillingWhat is the role of the Maguire Energy Institute in the consortium?

“We will focus in two areas.  First, we will be an integral part of the project’s effort centered on workforce development and training.  Second, we have developed quite a bit of expertise in the economics of shale gas exploration and production.   We will be an integral part of the project’s examination of the challenges in shale gas exploration and production.”

What does the Maguire Energy Institute offer that other university participants do not?

“We bring a set of unique capabilities as part of a leading business school. In the area of spill response, the grandest plans are only as good as the operational execution.   Companies and managers will need the managerial tools to execute spill response plans.  We have seen the challenges in the BP situation of trying to turn a large engineering-focused organization into a logistics-focused company.  Thus, training and development will be a key component of this project.  

"Similarly, in the Deepwater Horizon situation, managers made certain critical decisions with very unfortunate results. What kind of business factors and environment led to those decisions? A number of the warnings from other companies on the rig allegedly went unheeded.  What kind of team environment and training is necessary to ensure that decisions are made that do not endanger human life and the environment?  These are the kinds of issues a business school can best address.”

Will energy companies be involved in the project?

“Energy companies will be involved as team members, but not in the initial phases.  Once research gaps are identified, appropriate energy company partners will be identified to assist us.”

What is the timetable for the project?

“The initial roadmap is to be completed in the first quarter of 2011.  Phase Two will then begin.  We don’t have a timetable for Phase Two at this point.”

Will the group report its findings independent of the governor's office?

“The report will be independent of the Governor’s office.”

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