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Process integrity: Inherent hazards

Petroleum operations in the far north face a different risk picture in several areas, and this must be dealt with effectively. Positive measures in one area must not be negative in others.

Photo of Torleif Husebø
Torleif Husebø, head of process integrity

The process integrity discipline covers such areas as hydrocarbon processing with the aid of piping, pressure tanks, valves and rotating machinery.

Key areas of expertise are also fires and explosions, process control and safety systems (emergency shutdown, fire and gas detection, process security), fire-fighting, electrical installations, and barrier and risk management.

“Activity on the northernmost NCS can be seen as an extension of operations further south,” observes Torleif Husebø, head of process integrity at the PSA.

“But it’s clear that certain new conditions and challenges emerge in the Barents Sea, making it very important to take an integrated approach to risk.

“The industry must ensure that any measures it adopts lead to an actual reduction in the overall level of operational risk, and don’t merely shift it from one area to another.”

He emphasises that all challenges encountered by the petroleum sector in the far north must be dealt with from a risk management perspective.

“Uncertainty in determining risk is greater in several parts of the Barents Sea than further south on the NCS. Handling such uncertainty robustly in their assessments will be a challenge.”

Husebø identifies the consequences of winterisation as a case in point, and notes that safeguarding facilities against low temperatures is often synonymous with enclosure.

“Enclosing areas on a facility offers great advantages in protecting people and equipment. But it also presents challenges related to the risk of fire and explosion.

 “Traditional design is based on an explosive atmosphere being dissipated by wind and weather – natural ventilation, in other words. That’s eliminated in an enclosed environment.

“So extensive winterisation can significantly increase explosion pressure while permitting new ways for fires to develop and intensify.

“The industry must take account of such consequences when seeking to protect against winter conditions. A coherent approach and risk management are the key terms.”