With more than 1000 offshore oil and gas operations in European waters, safety has never been higher on the agenda. Nobody needs to be reminded of the devastation that last year’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico triggered, which killed 11 men working on the platform and seriously injured 17 more. Not to mention the harm that the 4.9 million barrels of crude oil caused to the wildlife and environment, as well as the fishing and tourist industry.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in the UK alone the average number of ‘major injuries’ caused by offshore-related incidents is around 42 per year, with a staggering 85 reported incidences between 2009 and 2010.
This is hardly surprising when you think of oil and gas workers who are on shift for an average of 12 hours a day dealing with highly combustible materials. In addition, they are situated on a platform where cranes swing heavy equipment constantly overhead, typically in extremely remote locations.
The risk to workers is grave enough, but the financial implications of an incident – from the painful expense of replacing damaged equipment to the launch of a major clean-up operation – should not be forgotten.
Early warning systems have repeatedly been cited as a vital preventative measure, and the only way to detect potential problems is to put monitoring in place. These electronic eyes and ears can pinpoint signs of stress that would typically have gone unnoticed.
Machinery needs to be accurately and consistently monitored for shock and vibrations, during both transit and operation to ensure it does not become vulnerable to damage. Without monitoring that damage may not become apparent until it is too late.
Yet the offshore industry has traditionally posed particular challenges when it comes to remote monitoring, not only due to difficult geographical locations, but also because of the dangers associated with deploying electronic equipment on oil and gas rigs or within chemical plants.
In response to the industry’s demands for a safe solution, a wide range of new technology has been developed to provide users with an alert when key pieces of equipment in hazardous locations are subjected to potentially damaging shocks or vibrations.
Lamerholm’s own ShockLog monitoring technology has been designed to ensure that devastating events do not occur by providing a flexible combination of features to allow continuous monitoring during both the operation and the transportation of critical equipment on oil and gas rigs.
Significant research had to be carried out to enable us to determine what is required to enable oil and gas operators to anticipate problems at an early stage.
As is so often the case, preventative methods are at the forefront of the issue. Not only should there be an emphasis on the avoidance of explosions, but precautions should be taken in the event of an accumulation and subsequent ignition of a flammable hydrocarbon-air mixture.
The ability to detect shock and vibration when drilling offers a huge advantage in terms of protecting equipment. For example, continuous monitoring of top drives can offer extremely useful surface-level feedback.
What is absolutely vital is that monitoring systems are intrinsically safe. Potential buyers should look for instrumentation that has ATEX, IECEx and cCSAus approval for worldwide use within a zone 1 environment.
Another key consideration is how the data is delivered. On the frontline, it might be important to have an alarm system that sounds when a predetermined vibration or shock level is exceeded, for example.
Meanwhile, higher up the managerial chain, the live transmission of data to a central point can be a vital advantage. Flexibility of communication should offer USB, Ethernet and Wireless RF options.
In this way, users are able to create direct connections to web hosted systems and direct inputs into local PCs and networks through the Ethernet, or create networks of multiple units for structural monitoring through the use of the RF option. Easily-integrated software is another must, allowing users to programme their own warning and alarm levels, frequency of data collection and the setting of ranges in terms of acceleration or velocity.
Such systems are not just about flagging up potential problems. Taking a broader view, you can gain an insight into areas of improvement in how operational, shipping and handling processes are commonly conducted.
Similarly, when looking retrospectively at the reasons for any damage, the ability to determine exactly where and when an incident occurred will help identify accountable parties.
The deployment of monitoring instruments such as our ShockLog 298Ex, can act as a hugely effective visible deterrent against improper handling or incorrect operation. The ShockLog systems were exhibited in September at the SPE Offshore Europe 2011 conference in Aberdeen. A growing interest in new technology to protect workers and machinery was a noticeable feature of the event.
In record time, more than 300 leading figures from the oil and gas industry booked seats for a breakfast briefing to hear about the challenges involved in tackling unplanned oil and gas leaks offshore. The event, run by industry body Oil & Gas UK, brought a mix of the industry’s top technical and safety professionals together to learn how tackling leadership challenges can help them play their part in collectively meeting the industry-set target of cutting the number of hydrocarbon releases by 50 per cent.
Speakers included Brian Kraus, ERM’s managing partner for global performance and assurance practice; Eric Sirgo, general manager of operations at Chevron Upstream Europe; and Steve Walker, head of the offshore division at the HSE.
Oil & Gas UK’s health and safety director Robert Paterson said: “The fact that we had such a phenomenal level of interest in this event – even if it is during Offshore Europe – demonstrates just how determined the oil and gas industry is to share ideas and learn in order to tackle hydrocarbon releases. The industry is less than a year into the three-year challenge it set itself to reduce the number of hydrocarbon releases by 50 per cent. The HSE’s most recent offshore safety statistics showed we have managed to reduce the number of major and significant releases significantly in the last year – down to 73 from 85 the previous year. There’s still a long way to go to achieve the target but it’s clear that information sharing and learning – and events such as these – can help play their part.”
Under scrutiny like this, remote monitoring technology is likely to have an increasingly vital role in improving not only the resilience but also the reputation of the industry.IMC Group
The IMC Group, is a world-leader in the design and manufacture of damage deterrent equipment. The IMC Group was formed in 2007 by the amalgamation of Lamerholm Electronics, Hanwell Instruments and Jekyll Electronic Technology. More recently, IMC acquired Silvertree Engineering Ltd. The group has over 100 years of experience and offers a comprehensive range of instrumentation and communication systems.
For further information please visit: www.the-imcgroup.com
or call 0844 815 6227