UK: Call for better stewardship of ageing assets

Oil & gas operators must share ideas and information to manage ageing North Sea platforms as safely, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, industry leaders were told by a UK HSE manager.

According to East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), about 70 per cent of installations and equipment in the Southern North Sea are older than their 25-year life expectation.

The oldest has been standing for 48 years – 23 years longer than it was built to do – as demands have grown to extend their use.

More than 61,000 people work offshore and their safety is the priority for the UK oil and gas industry, the event organised by the EEEGR discussed, and an ageing workforce was as much of a major concern as ageing assets.

Howard Harte, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offshore operations manager, energy division, called for better “stewardship of ageing assets” by improved collaboration across the industry to manage change effectively.

Information including how much operators lost on individual projects because of the old assets they were dealing with could be shared, Harte said.

The event was staged to discuss the Ageing and Life Extension Inspection Programme (KP4), a key focus of HSE’s Energy Division  to raise awareness and develop strategies for the management of risk associated with ageing infrastructure in the North Sea.

The issue affects the whole industry and follows a three-year inspection programme examining the condition of 33 offshore assets and infrastructure that led the HSE to make recommendations for operators to develop strategies to manage their ageing infrastructure effectively.

Ideas discussed at the Norwich event included operators and suppliers sharing ideas of how they used new technology to manage ageing assets, EEEGR explained.

Ian Moulton, from Perenco, said new technology was key to managing old assets. He gave the example of how platforms were painted via rope access and scaffold and asked if there was another way.

Companies that had found new, more efficient practices should share for the benefit of the industry.

An ageing workforce overly-accustomed to working with ageing assets also posed safety concerns, as did new entrants who lacked experience.

Celia Anderson, executive director of Skills for Energy, said that improved knowledge management was crucial to the industry as well as addressing the skills concerns.

Tom Milne, of Oil & Gas UK, outlined the Asset Ageing & Life Extension (ALE) group set up to collaborate and share issues and experiences about asset life extension.

Dr Cameron Stewart, from The Energy Institute, talked about how the Energy Institute offers help and guidance to the technical side of ALE.

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