TRAVELING THE WORLD TO SHARE HIS EXPERTISE ON
HEALTH, SAFETY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
BY GENILEE PARENTE
When BP’s board declared that the company had to find a way to reduce fugitive emissions 20 years ago, Barrie
Kirkman was part of the team that implemented benchmarking and other emissions and safety steps.
“At the time, we had no idea that the activities we put into
place would have such a global impact,” says Kirkman, whose
career with BP spanned 33 years before he went out on his own
as a consultant six years ago.
The processes and practices the company effected “are often
seen in the market today as other end users tackle valve emissions,” Kirkman adds.
They also helped to form his long career with the company.
Kirkman, whose core discipline in school was mechanical engineering, began with BP in pressure equipment—
pressure vessels, storage tanks, heat exchangers,
etc. When BP consolidated its engineering
department, his responsibilities moved into piping systems, where he was tasked with finding
new technologies for resolving issues with maintenance and operations.
He went on to become responsible for overseeing the commercial/technical aspects of all of
the company’s valves and other fabricated equipment—leading many global, regional and local initiatives in this
area. That included serving as chairman of the Valve Emission
Network in the mid 1990s, a BP-led effort to share experience
among end users who were tackling emissions and other health,
safety and environmental issues.
Eventually, his efforts were rewarded by the company
through several major awards, including the BP Global HSE
(Health, Safety and Environment) Chairman’s award.
Kirkman brought his extensive technical and procurement
expertise out into the world of consulting in 2004, and today he
works with many end users including Shell, BASF, Ineos, as well
as BP and other worldwide companies.
“Clients want to understand the processes and lessons
learned when tackling valve issues and fugitive emissions,”
Kirkman says. “For example, they want to know how you
achieve environmentally friendly valves cheaper than standard
valves,” he explains.
He continues to be active in standards development and was
recently asked to work on API 622: Fugitive Emissions Standard. He is a frequent speaker at worldwide events such as the
recent ARAMCO Technical Exchange in Houston, and he writes
frequently for industry trade publications.
In 2008, he was asked to serve as an associate director for
the software company, 4hSolutions, where he helped to evaluate
radio-frequency identification (RFID) tagging.
“I am a supporter of RFID tagging, and I believe it to be
something that will be a part of the future. It’s already being
used on valves to ensure quality and traceability,” he says.
He also is frequently asked to share his expertise in other
countries and is often in China assisting manufacturers there in
evaluations and process improvements.
“Much of what we deal with today is a result of industry
moving from western to eastern manufacturing over the last 20
years,” he says. “The continuing drive by end users for cheaper
valves has resulted in sourcing from new suppliers in developing
As a result, “Issues arise at plants in maintenance and opera-
tional areas such as hydrotest failures, casting leakages, valve
bypassing and poor impact properties,” he said.
For example, poor impact properties can lead
to a brittle failure of the valve during service,
which could release hydrocarbons to the atmosphere causing a major safety issue. Valve bypassing occurs when hydrocarbon seeps through a
closed gate valve. In that case, an operator might
open up a pipeline downstream of the valve and
release hydrocarbons to the atmosphere.
Here in the U.S., he says that fugitive emis-
sions “are well controlled and maintained.” However, “The need
to successfully test the valves to API 622 will increase to show
the authorities that the best technologies are being used effec-
tively,” he adds.
And awareness of the issues is definitely increasing in other
countries, as well, helped along by the fact that those U.S. companies are spreading their influence.
“Several corporate end users drive initiatives to reduce valve
emissions across their global operations,” Kirkman explains. As
a result, many countries are now looking at requirements that
would be driven by use of best technologies, he says. And international valve fugitive emission standards are being developed
and gradually applied within the industry. But all of this has
been slowed down by the world’s economic woes, he adds,
because the bottom line is affecting decision makers.
Still, “it goes without saying that there is a move within the
industry to adopt best technologies,” he says.
One way to quicken the process might be to make fugitive
emission standards mandatory within current valves standards
such as API 600 and API 602, he says.
“Eventually, as in the 1990s when asbestos was replaced by
graphite packings, graphite packings may be replaced in the
future with engineered packings,” he concludes. VM
“Clients want to
understand ... how