A Managed Approach to Ageing Assets Can Avoid Unnecessary Capital Investment

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David Stanier

David Stanier, Principle Lead Consultant for ABB Global Consulting in the UK, speaks to Oil and Gas IQ’s Bryan Camoens on the challenges faced when trying to achieve sustainability of offshore topside assets, benefits and disadvantages of considering both safety and integrity throughout the asset lifecycle and untapped opportunities in offshore life extension.

What are some of the challenges faced when trying to achieve sustainability of offshore topside assets?

Many offshore assets are being required to operate well beyond their planned design lives, yet have suffered from a lack of sustained preventative and fabric maintenance during their operation. This is a common problem, made worse by the cyclic nature of oil prices. When oil prices are high, production requirements tend to take precedence, and when price is low—maintenance and rejuvenation is seen as a costly burden, which can be deferred.

Design of assets also has a part to play. Lack of bed space for maintenance is often sited as a key reason why fabric maintenance and inspection plans run behind schedule. Clearly work has to be prioritised.

Issues often include a lack of a common understanding of the sustainability issues. For offshore installations this is particularly prevalent, due to the added complexity of communication between onshore and offshore teams. In addition the common trend towards the contracting out of design, construction, maintenance and inspection services can lead to reduced common understanding by the asset owner of the sustainability issues. Inadequate training, knowledge, and experience of service providers is also a factor that can reduce the effectiveness of maintenance and inspection programmes, leading a reduction in reliable asset life.

What are some of the key aspects of an integrated and sustainable approach to offshore asset life extension?

Having robust processes to help recognise and gain a good understanding all the key issues; asset condition, appropriateness of systems, and competence of personnel is necessary to allow smart decisions to be made, balancing the differing and sometimes conflicting requirements of production, safety and integrity.

Integration of the sustainability requirements into a long term production plan is essential if the required actions are to be managed.

What are some of the benefits and disadvantages of considering both safety and integrity throughout the asset lifecycle?

Many of the key decisions about life extensions are in fact economic, not technical. "What-if" questions such as: What if we didn’t replace or refurbish this item, what would be the business impact, what would be the safety impact that needs to be considered, i.e. the cost of not doing the work. This helps to prioritise short v long term actions.

What are some of the untapped opportunities that companies are facing when it comes to offshore asset life extension?

A managed approach to ageing assets can avoid unnecessary capital investment by allowing older assets to be sustained well beyond their original design lives. In addition experience shows that many equipment items are not subject to ageing related deterioration. Recognising when and where investment is required, and thereby optimising the maintenance, inspection, and replacement plans can reduce workload, and minimise the investment requirement.