February 2018

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Viewpoint: Standards professionals are crucial to business and industry success

Businesses throughout the oil and gas industry use technical standards—specifications, test methods and guides, among others—as part of the foundation for developing the best processes and products. For example, standards are deeply integrated into how petroleum is refined, tested, stored and transported.

Morgan, K., ASTM International

Businesses throughout the oil and gas industry use technical standards—specifications, test methods and guides, among others—as part of the foundation for developing the best processes and products. For example, standards are deeply integrated into how petroleum is refined, tested, stored and transported.

This industry’s most frequently used standards are published by a not-for-profit organization called ASTM International, where I serve as President. Our biggest group of members—the committee on petroleum products, liquid fuels and lubricants—includes approximately 3,000 experts and leaders in the field.

That committee (known as D02) and its subcommittees meet in person twice a year to create and update consensus standards. They interact regularly in between those meetings with online tools.

As someone who has been working in the global standards community for my entire career, I know that the key to D02’s success is the wide array of professionals and organizations that participate: refiners, test laboratories, government officials, engine manufacturers, associations and many other stakeholders. Their collective wealth of knowledge and expertise helps ensure that standards are high-quality and market-relevant.

For the benefit of individual businesses and for the future of this industry, I believe it is crucial that all of us work together to nurture, mentor and invest in the next generation of people who want to be active in standards organizations.

We need more stories like Dr. Rebecca Boudreaux, President of Oberon Fuels. In 2012, Dr. Boudreaux knew that having an ASTM International specification for using dimethyl ether (DME)—a clean-burning alternative to diesel—as a fuel was crucial to commercializing it. She joined a D02 subcommittee, created a task group, found mentors, worked through challenges with experienced members and drafted the standard.

The specification (D7901) was published in February 2014. A year later, California allowed DME to be sold as a fuel, a key milestone for Oberon. Today, Volvo and Mack trucks are testing DME, and Ford is developing a passenger car powered by DME.

Dr. Boudreaux’s story is just one of many examples of how standards professionals help drive entrepreneurship and innovation. We must continue to support a standardization community where budding leaders like Dr. Boudreaux can learn, grow and make contributions to the future of this industry.

That is exactly what ASTM International is trying to do with its new Emerging Professionals program. Like many organizations, ASTM International has noticed a growing number of Baby Boomer retirements of our active members. To help those members with knowledge retention and succession planning, we launched the Emerging Professionals program over the past 2 yr. One of the first cohorts came to the 2016 D02 meeting in Boston.

The program participants were paired with a mentor at subcommittee meetings. They received professionally-led leadership training and learned how standards are created and revised.

Abdullah Alsamraie, one of the participants, said, “The program provided a different, very interesting and deep insight into the standards developing process…In addition, meeting and networking with other participant-colleagues from different parts of the industry gave me the chance to better understand the application and use of standards and the needs for new standards.”

Emerging Professionals program participants will make a difference in this industry in the years ahead. They will help us understand, test and analyze new technologies; uncover new approaches that make their companies more efficient and effective; and serve as leaders both in the standards community and in the energy industry. Let’s do all we can to support them. HP

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