Q&A: The world comes calling for U.S. experience

Rapid expansion of the oil and gas industry in the United States has inspired a lot of interest in the energy business worldwide.

And that means a lot more work for Houston native John Modine. Recently elevated to vice president at the American Petroleum Institute, Modine oversees the trade group’s global industry services department. The unit focuses on promoting standards and best practices worldwide.

While the institute is known widely as the oil industry’s lobbying group, it also drafts standards for the energy business that help guide workers in operating massive drilling machines and refinery units.

More than 5,000 volunteers work on the group’s standards, and Modine’s department is responsible for promoting, and in some cases selling, those standards to companies worldwide.

He spoke with FuelFix by phone from Washington. Edited excerpts:

Q: Your department has become very busy lately. What’s driving that?

A: I think, first and foremost, the world has learned about how the United States and the American Petroleum Institute lead the world in terms of ability to create standards for the oil and gas industry. The oil and gas industry in the United States is leading in developing technology associated with the industry. We are the largest natural gas producer now, we are going to significantly increase our ability to produce crude oil, and also we have been reducing our carbon footprint and our emissions, which are now at a 20-year low.

And so these technologies and these standards — and the ability to translate and provide these kinds of standards and services around the world to other countries that are developing oil and gas as well — they’ve really seen the benefit of these programs and services. So that’s really why we’ve grown so fast. It’s our ability to not only do it here in the U.S., but (to) show the world the gold standards by which we’ve been able to do it and start providing those types of standards and programs around the world.

Q: What areas are energy companies internationally most interested in learning about?

A: Typically the basic drilling, production and refinery operations. When an emerging economy is building or growing in whatever region around the world, there’s almost like a timetable where the first thing they’re interested in is: We need to get it out of the ground. And so the first thing they’re interested in is drilling and production programs and services. And then obviously you’ve got to transport it and refine it as well. They’re not as technologically advanced as the U.S. is in terms of shale development and things like that. They’re really focused on the basics of getting drilling and production standardized and refinery operations standardized.

Q: Are any trends in the United States causing you to consider fleshing out any standards?

A: We’ve got new and ever-changing standards for deep-water drilling, and so those types of standards are always being evaluated and updated, and I know our standards group is doing a really good job in staffing those committees to make sure they are updated and relevant. Obviously shale development and hydraulic fracturing types of standards and well control standards are always being looked at and updated. Those are standards that are also being looked at and adopted overseas, because the U.S. is the leader in terms of its technology and standardization efforts. They want to take as much as they can and learn as much as they can from those operations.

Q: Why are these standards important?

A: It ultimately boils down to safety. If we have an industry that is following the best practice and the best standards possible written by the world’s leading experts, obviously we’re going to be much more reliable and safe as an industry. I guess at the end of the day if you think about everything we do in my group, it’s to ensure that we are operating in the safest, most efficient and reliable way so that we all can go home at the end of the day. You know, API standards are really second to none. There is really no other organization around the world that establishes these practices and thankfully we have nearly 5,000 volunteers that come from the industry to help us draft and maintain those standards, so they’re incredibly important for not only the industry, but for our communities.