A question for the industry is whether a combination of aging installations, a big maintenance backlog and pressure to make savings will boost risk. Statoil, Petoro and the PSA agree on one thing at least: safety-critical upkeep must have priority.
Keeping up with upkeep
More efficient operation is being sought in all parts of the petroleum sector as a consequence of falling production and rising costs.
Through its Step programme on technical efficiency, Statoil is taking the lead among companies which have initiated change process to curb spending.
This means in part a revision of Statoil’s approach to maintenance management in order to make it even more condition-based.
“We have good control over and management of safety-critical maintenance and monitoring, says Øystein Arvid Håland, head of safety and sustainability for the NCS at the oil company.
In his view, the media attention paid to Statoil’s commitment to upkeep this autumn reflects a confusion over terminology.
“We see that a lot of misunderstanding exists about the difference between ‘planned but not executed’ and ‘pending’ where such activity is concerned,” he says.
“None of our safety-critical maintenance is in the ‘planned but executed’ position today. We’re meeting the targets set, and monitor them closely on a monthly basis for all facilities.
“The goal for other preventive maintenance is also that nothing should be planned but not executed, and we’re well placed here too for all our facilities.
“The high figures published in the press relate to pending corrective work reported to our maintenance system over time.”
Statoil has implemented a big clear-up of such maintenance, with much of the work done this summer. It is now sorting through this portfolio and conducting risk assessments to determine which jobs should to be done first and which are unnecessary.
“We check carefully that we’re not delaying maintenance which could worsen the technical condition of our facilities,” says Håland. “Regularity and safety are usually closely related.”
Petoro, the biggest licensee on the NCS, is keeping a close eye on efficiency improvement work in the industry, reports Kjell Morisbak Lund, its vice president for licences.
“We’ve long argued that cost cuts are needed to maintain profitability in the industry. We want to see that all spending can be challenged, but that cost cuts are achieved by improving efficiency rather than reducing activity.
“Our own analyses show that great scope exists for improving efficiency in most areas, and we believe this could yield both operational and safety improvements.
“An important condition for this is that the changes made are subject to relevant risk assessments, both at the level of the action to be taken and as part of the overall picture.”
As a licensee, Petoro follows up operators where maintenance is concerned on the basis of indicators which reveal the status and progress of such work.
It also helps to ensure that current efficiency projects are taken into account in work on managing major accident risk. The workshops conducted by Petoro with the operators on the latter subject provide an important arena here.
“It’s important to ensure that we understand the consequences of postponing and cancelling planned work,” says Lund. “But our primary concern is that we have the safety-critical part of pending maintenance under control and that this work is pursued continuously.
“I also expect efficiency improvements to contribute to reducing the total amount of pending maintenance through greater productivity.
“Big variations exist between the fields in this area, and I take this as a sign that a big potential exists for both improvement and learning across companies.”
Acceptable maintenance has been a priority at the PSA for many years, and this is further accentuated when over half the installations on the NCS are more than 20 years old.
A growing number of facilities are also being used beyond their original lifespan, with modification and replacement needs increasing as they age.
“That the companies want to get control over cost developments is understandable,” says supervision coordinator Semsudin Leto at the PSA.
“But it’s important that they get more efficient at the maintenance work which must be done, rather than eliminating it in the name of efficiency.
“Maintenance is indissolubly linked to safety, and failing to do such work can be a contributory factor in production shutdowns, occupational injuries and, in the worst case, major accidents.”
He notes that much upkeep occurs on the NCS, amounting to more than 12 million hours in 2013, and a lot is also being done to reduce pending work on safety-critical equipment.
“In that context, it’s important that the industry has a good understanding of what constitutes safety-critical equipment so that its maintenance can be given priority.”
Leto highlights good and appropriate risk analyses as an important tool. “The companies must have a solid decision base in order to establish an overview of what they can cut.
“At the same time, we want to ensure that the industry has a sufficiently good grasp of how pending maintenance collectively affects safety. When you’ve a lot which hasn’t been done, the risk that something big could happen increases.
“Good maintenance is also good economics. Investing in it means spending not only on safety but also on regularity. Equipment must be in order if production is to go as planned.”
“Safe late life” represents the PSA’s new main priority for 2015, and aims to help ensure that fields and facilities in this phase are operated prudently and in compliance with the regulations.
“Maintenance management in late life is one of the most important of our main priorities next year,” says Ingvill Hagesæther Foss, one of the PSA’s directors of supervision.
“The scope of pending maintenance on the NCS is a challenge, and we’re particularly concerned that the companies don’t look a job in isolation, but at its contribution to overall risk.”
She adds that modifications are another key area. “Although we appreciate that the companies set stricter priorities for maintenance when they see a facility is near the end of its useful life, they mustn’t downgrade modifications which are important for HSE.
“Safety must be maintained all the way until a facility has been acceptably removed. Good long-term planning for both field and facilities is therefore an important criterion for modification and maintenance.”