Health and safety rules drive new industry initiatives

Paul Boughton

Evolving health and safety regulations are prompting a broad range of new initiatives within the industry, including a subsea well incident response project, novel landing string assemblies, and new guidelines to make offshore support vessels safer.

Nine of the world’s leading oil and gas companies – BG Group, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Petrobras, Shell, Statoil and Total – have launched the subsea well response project (SWRP), an initiative designed to enhance the industry’s capability to respond to subsea well control incidents.

Acting on the recommendations of the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers’ (OGP) Global Industry Response Group (GIRG), the companies have signed an interim joint development agreement, with Shell as the operator.

The project team will: design a capping toolbox with a range of equipment to allow wells to be shut in; design additional hardware for the subsea injection of dispersant; and further assess the need for and feasibility of a containment system for shared use (Fig. 1).

The SWRP participants have appointed Keith Lewis, former vp of front-end studies for Shell in the Americas, as manager of the project.

“OGP has brought forward a comprehensive set of recommendations for intervention on flowing wells following a well control incident. SWRP will now work to deliver on these objectives over the course of 2011. Designing systems that can be deployed effectively in different regions of the world is an immense challenge but member companies have assigned leading specialists to the task,” Lewis said.

The SWRP is a not-for-profit joint initiative, and the project team consists of technical experts and senior management from nine of the major oil companies. SWRP’s objective is to manage the selection and design of caps and associated equipment to enhance industry capabilities to respond to well control incidents, and recommend a model for international storage, maintenance and deployment of this equipment.

Safety awards

For the seventh year in a row, Expro has received an award from the UK Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) in recognition of its safety record.

The RoSPA commendation is awarded to companies who can demonstrate outstanding safety management and performance. This is achieved by a consistent management and employee focus on health and safety processes across the business globally. Expro has received a number of awards from RoSPA in the past six years, achieving a gold award in 2005 and then winning the Oil & Gas sector award in 2006 and retaining it in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2010, the company received a gold medal in recognition of six years of industry-leading health and safety performance and commitment.

David Ford, Expro's group HSEQ manager, said: "Expro's commitment to achieving no injuries or occupational health incidents during our operations is absolute. We continue the development of a strong safety culture throughout our global workforce by ongoing communication."

The RoSPA scheme looks not only at accident records, but also entrants' overarching health and safety management systems, including important practices such as strong leadership and workforce involvement.

David Rawlins, RoSPA's awards manager, said: "RoSPA firmly believes that organisations that have demonstrated their commitment to continuous improvement in accident and ill-health prevention deserve recognition. Expro has shown that it is committed to striving for such continuous improvement and we are delighted to honour it through the presentation of an award."

In a separate move, Expro highlighted the health and safety aspects of some of its latest technologies at this year’s Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas.

In terms of deepwater developments, for example, the company’s range of landing string assemblies and subsea control systems are specifically designed to minimise risk in subsea completion and intervention operations and achieve secure well status in the event of an emergency. The latest landing string technology development to be offered by Expro – the ELSA-EA Express system – incorporates a number of enhanced safety and efficiency features, further building on what the company describes as its market-leading position in subsea safety systems.

A model and 3D animation of Expro’s AX-S deepwater intervention system was also on display at OTC. AX-S brings safer, deeper, faster and cheaper intervention to wells in up to 10,000ft. Its aim is to deliver a full range of wireline intervention services in deepwater wells at substantially less than the cost of using a rig.

Also on display was the company’s recently-introduced downhole video camera, HawkEye IV, which can store 1000 images and offers operators a cost-effective way to view downhole problems and improve understanding of wells through enhanced data. A range of Expro’s cameras, calipers and logging tools assisted in demonstrating Expro’s global wireline intervention capabilities and its ability to offer BOP and riser inspection services.

Expro’s ceo Charles Woodburn said: “Our presence at this year’s OTC demonstrates our continued investment in developing the technologies to meet both customer and industry needs. With a firm focus on safety and quality, we continue to enhance our portfolio to position Expro as a global provider of solutions from exploration and appraisal through to abandonment.”

He added: “We are committed to developing the technologies and processes to make wells safer, in line with the high expectations of our customers. This year’s OTC provided a flavour of the investment we continue to make to keep our products and services ahead of the field.”

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New guidance for OSVs

Increased sophistication within the offshore support vessel (OSV) market has prompted leading classification society ABS to develop standalone guidance for these more specialised yet multi-functional vessels. Newly developed criteria and relevant existing rule requirements have been consolidated into the ABS ‘Guide for Building and Classing Offshore Support Vessels’.

 ABS classes approximately one-third of the worldwide OSV fleet and in the past had reviewed these specialised vessels by following the ABS ‘Rules for Building and Classing Steel Vessels Under 90 Metres (295 feet) in Length’. The new OSV guide will be applicable to OSVs of all sizes and includes specific guidance for the various segments of the global support vessel market.

"Today's support vessels are a far cry from previous designs sharing the same name," says Mike Sano who leads the society's OSV market sector group. "As the search for oil and gas moves into deeper waters, along with increased activity in the renewable offshore energy market, more specialised and technically advanced types of OSVs are needed for various support roles."

ABS engineers are reviewing plans for some of the most technically advanced OSVs being proposed. Recent specialised multi-purpose designed vessels carry out maintenance and repairs on platforms, facilities and subsea piping, equipment and systems. The new requirements from ABS are tailored for these new generation vessels.

"The guide takes a comprehensive approach toward OSV design," says Wei Huang, ABS manager, offshore technology and principal author of the guide. "New categories of offshore service types such as well intervention and oil spill recovery vessels are included along with updates for advances in specialised equipment."

The OSV guide consists of four major sections: scope and conditions of classification; hull construction and equipment; machinery and systems; and offshore support services. Material and welding, strengthening for navigation in ice, and survey during and after construction are referenced from the ABS ‘Rules for Building and Classing Steel Vessels’. The intent here is to evolve the ABS ‘Guide for Building and Classing Offshore Support Vessels’ into rules during the society's next rule making cycle.

Included in the OSV Guide are explanations of notations reflecting specialised capabilities such as transportation of supplies and equipment, towing and anchoring of offshore structures, fire fighting, diving, oil spill recovery, safety standby rescue, pipe laying, handling heavy surface and subsea loads, well intervention, well stimulation, well test and wind farm support.

Intelligent inspection completed on key Welsh gas pipeline

Text: TD Williamson (TDW) has successfully completed an inline inspection of a key gas pipeline for EON in Wales. The operation was carried out on the 30-inch line that stretches 2.6km from Burton Point AGI to Connah's Quay power station. This intelligent inspection and associated pipeline service operation was carried out in association with a multi-site contract that was awarded to TDW by EON last August as part of its strategic programme to ensure the integrity of company pipelines and assets.

The scope of work included pipeline preparation, cleaning, geometry and corrosion inspections, global positioning system (GPS) mapping and cathodic protection/coating surveys. Using resources and equipment from the TDW centre of excellence in Swindon, and by partnering with sub-suppliers, in just four days the entire scope was carried out smoothly, with no disruption to the normal operation of the pipeline. The result of seamless communication, careful preparation and planned execution translated easily into high-quality inline inspection results that confirmed the integrity of the pipeline for continued operation.

TDW used a number of its high-resolution inspection tools to inspect the pipeline. They include the deformation (DEF) tool for geometric anomaly inspection, the gas magnetic flux leakage (GMFL) inspection tool for corrosion inspection, and the XYZ inertial measurement unit for GPS pipeline mapping.

Following this success, TDW is now preparing to carry out a similar inline inspection on a 10-inch pipeline attached to E.ON's Killingholme power station in Lincolnshire, England.

Fig. 1. One of the project aims is to design a capping toolbox with a range of equipment to allow wells to be shut in.

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