Key chal­lenges in re­li­able and safe down­stream as­set op­er­a­tions

The cur­rent trends in pro­duc­tion, trans­porta­tion and pro­cess­ing of hy­dro­car­bons open a whole new range of op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth and de­vel­op­ment of global busi­nesses, com­ment and

Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East - - OPINION - Eka­te­rina Ka­li­nenko Kon­stantin Stezhko

When analysing the ma­jor trends that are shap­ing the global oil and gas in­dus­try, we can see that a num­ber of th­ese are hap­pen­ing in par­al­lel: (i) the en­ergy bal­ance mov­ing to­wards nat­u­ral gas and as­so­ci­ated surge of Lng-re­lated projects (of dif­fer­ent scales); stricter govern­ment and global en­vi­ron­ment stan­dards and re­quire­ments – also evolv­ing fuel spec­i­fi­ca­tions; (iii) the prof­itabil­ity of crude pro­cess­ing as­sets ‘slow­ing’ af­ter the boost of 2016-2017, and, as a con­se­quence, petro­chem­i­cal in­dus­try pro­gresses.

With­out doubt, the start-up of new projects is al­ways good news for the in­dus­try – the geo­graph­i­cal spread of th­ese projects high­light the di­ver­sity of hy­dro­car­bon sources, and of new emerg­ing mar­kets. To­day, the pro­duc­tion of LNG from the north of the Arc­tic Cir­cle to Equa­to­rial Asia is pos­si­ble and in some cases eco­nom­i­cally vi­able.

We are also see­ing a change from the oil and gas com­pa­nies in their project re­quire­ments – due to modern eco­nomic pa­ram­e­ters and also in­creased com­pe­ti­tion in mar­kets, there is a no­table move to­wards in­creased au­toma­tion – con­trac­tors and sup­pli­ers are asked to pro­vide au­to­mated process and safety sys­tems in their pack­ages. This can mean re­duced man­power re­quire­ments.

In process de­sign doc­u­men­ta­tion and op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures, the com­mon prac­tice is to have a min­i­mum guar­an­teed as­set life­time of 20 years. How­ever, if we look at LNG and cer­tain petro­chem­i­cal tech­nolo­gies, th­ese have been de­vel­oped over the last 10 years – also some of the most in­no­va­tive and com­pet­i­tive are of­ten im­ple­mented for the first time on a pro­duc­tion level.

De­creas­ing down­stream mar­gins

Con­struc­tion and com­mis­sion­ing of LNG ter­mi­nals for the de­vel­op­ing mar­kets such as Africa and Baltic re­gion is also as­so­ci­ated with hu­man re­sources deficit due to length of train­ing re­quired and the im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment of the in­fra­struc­ture. Against this back­drop, there has been a ‘pause’ put on a num­ber of ‘tra­di­tional’ re­fin­ing projects.

Many ex­perts have ex­plained that this slow­down in ac­tiv­ity is due to de­creas­ing down­stream mar­gins. If we fo­cus on in­ter­na­tional oil com­pa­nies, this fac­tor is not a rea­son for them to stop pro­duc­tion.

For in­stance, one large oil and gas com­pany in the CIS re­gion has put on hold the con­struc­tion of over 20 process units. Th­ese units have a cur­rent com­ple­tion sta­tus rang­ing from 20% to 70%. This means that th­ese are un­likely to be fin­ished – at least in the near­est fu­ture. On the flip­side, there are still many process units with a life pe­riod of more than 35 years still in oper­a­tion in many parts of the world.

One im­por­tant as­pect when look­ing to im­ple­ment th­ese types of highly au­to­mated projects is the way in which HAZOP stud­ies are per­formed. Suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented projects of this kind re­quire low im­pact of hu­man fac­tor and a rel­a­tively low num­ber of per­son­nel on site. Nev­er­the­less, if we look into the course of ac­tions to be taken in the event of an emer­gency, it is clear that the only op­tion for th­ese work­ers would be to leave the dan­ger zone.

In the case of a full shut­down of the power sup­ply, the au­to­matic per­for­mance con­trol (APC) sys­tem could be se­verely im­pacted and have a knock on ef­fect for equip­ment, ma­chin­ery, cat­alytic sys­tems, and peo­ple. This is a key con­cern with re­gards to highly au­to­mated plants – in terms of main­te­nance and oper­a­tion.

Es­tab­lish­ing a sta­ble work­ing sys­tem

An­other fo­cus area when in­vest­ing in projects and in par­tic­u­lar the con­struc­tion phase is con­trac­tor man­age­ment and

en­sur­ing safety within the site. For ex­am­ple, an ap­proach to look up to is the one that Bahrain Pe­tro­leum Com­pany (Bapco) has im­ple­mented and was re­cently pre­sented at the Gulf Safety Fo­rum in Bahrain.

Bapco has used a 6-phase model for es­tab­lish­ing a sta­ble-work­ing sys­tem. Phase 1 of this model is con­trac­tor pre-qual­i­fi­ca­tion (based on ex­pe­ri­ence, health and safety pol­icy, safety statis­tics, le­gal in­for­ma­tion, fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion, etc.); then comes con­tract def­i­ni­tion and award (risk as­sess­ment to be done); Phase 3 is pre-com­mence­ment (an­other risk con­trol, in­clud­ing per­mit to work, skills ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and equip­ment); then comes con­tract im­ple­men­ta­tion (au­dit­ing, reg­u­lar per­for­mance re­views, mon­i­tor­ing and in­spec­tion); Phase 5 is han­dover and ac­cep­tance (re­ceiv­ing all rel­e­vant doc­u­ments and con­firm­ing that no new haz­ards were cre­ated); and, fi­nally, close­out and re­view (eval­u­at­ing con­trac­tor’s health and safety per­for­mance to de­ter­mine its in­clu­sion into ap­proved con­trac­tors’ list).

With this pro­ce­dure and model, Bapco man­aged to suc­cess­fully un­der­take sev­eral projects and up­date the cor­po­rate con­trac­tors’ database to sim­plify fur­ther the ten­der process for its fu­ture projects.

When we turn our at­ten­tion to LNG trans­porta­tion projects, from the out­set, the most ad­vanced so­lu­tions in the mar­ket were im­ple­mented in such projects – in terms of oper­a­tion in a low tem­per­a­ture en­vi­ron­ment and also with re­gards to process au­toma­tion. As a re­sult, th­ese projects demon­strate an un­prece­dented level of hy­dro­car­bons trans­ported and/or stored per worker. Th­ese so­lu­tions – in­cluded dur­ing de­sign stage – al­low for safe and re­li­able oper­a­tion of the as­set against en­vi­ron­men­tal hos­til­ity (weather ef­fect, equip­ment unit fail­ure, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, etc.).

Th­ese also take into ac­count the im­por­tant struc­tural changes in the in­dus­try that have hap­pened in the last five years – cer­tain po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic risks that in­flu­ence the mar­ket, for ex­am­ple, trade and fi­nance sanc­tions, con­flict­ing in­ter­ests of dif­fer­ent pro­duc­ers and con­sumers, mar­ket seg­men­ta­tion, etc.

Th­ese of­ten re­sults in one party hav­ing some ben­e­fit from a par­tic­u­lar de­ci­sion, and gain com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage (al­though the ef­fect usu­ally is short-last­ing), while the other par­ties seek op­por­tu­ni­ties in other mar­ket sec­tors and ar­eas – one of which is in­ter­nal in­ten­sive de­vel­op­ment.

Roadmap for im­prov­ing process safety

Based on the Hse-re­lated events that Euro Pe­tro­leum Con­sul­tants have re­cently held in the Mid­dle East and CIS re­gions, and the prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence our ex­perts have through work­ing on dif­fer­ent cases over the years, we can try to sum­marise the strat­egy that can be ap­plied on both cor­po­rate and process fa­cil­ity lev­els (with cer­tain amend­ments), us­ing a Rus­sian in­ter­na­tional oil com­pany roadmap for im­prov­ing process safety level:

Step 1 – changes in or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture (sep­a­rate process safety depart­ment, train­ing em­ploy­ees on­site, and in­tro­duc­tion of spe­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion for the pur­pose of es­tab­lish­ing proper process con­trol). A good ex­am­ple is IASK (Im­prove Aware­ness, Skills and Knowl­edge) learn­ing pro­gramme, de­vel­oped and im­ple­mented at Saudi Aramco, with which the com­pany achieved sig­nif­i­cant re­sults.

Step 2 – doc­u­men­ta­tion con­trol and sup­port, use of ex­pe­ri­ence (ac­tu­al­is­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion, anal­y­sis of cur­rent reg­u­la­tions and changes, re­view of the best com­pany prac­tices with sim­i­lar scope and func­tion and – learn­ing from cases from other in­dus­tries – i.e., IT, avi­a­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ing, re­tail, etc., cor­rect­ing the ex­ist­ing man­age­ment sys­tem).

Step 3 – ef­fi­ciency im­prove­ment (check­list de­vi­a­tion con­trol, rang­ing and de­vel­op­ment of an in­te­grated database; shar­ing the ideas and in­for­ma­tion with other com­pa­nies to help trou­bleshoot­ing and in­spire fu­ture de­vel­op­ment; max­i­mum use of avail­able IT re­sources for stor­ing and analysing data; and in­creased top man­age­ment in­volve­ment in the process of im­prove­ment).

Step 4 – en­sur­ing high level of process safety – should be fol­lowed again by Step 3 on an on­go­ing ba­sis (risk pri­ori­ti­sa­tion, elim­i­na­tion of high-pro­file risks, de­vel­op­ment of tar­get pro­grammes, fi­nance con­trol and sus­tain­ing suf­fi­cient level of HSE fund­ing, and con­trol of safety mea­sures dur­ing main­te­nance and turn­around).

In the past, a lack of fo­cus with re­gards to HSE is­sues could have been un­der­stand­able – it was not al­ways con­sid­ered top-pri­or­ity for com­pa­nies. Com­pa­nies were more likely to di­rect their re­sources to new con­struc­tion, or mar­ket ac­tiv­i­ties, thus leav­ing other el­e­ments of the sys­tem un­der­fi­nanced.

The mar­ket struc­ture changes im­ply that spe­cial anal­y­sis and eval­u­a­tion of projects are re­quired from an HSE stand­point. To en­sure zero level of ac­ci­dents, it is im­por­tant to im­ple­ment proven and ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions, in ad­di­tion to con­tin­u­ous re­view of lessons learnt. Risk regis­ter does not limit it­self to tra­di­tional points, it could – and def­i­nitely should – be ex­tended and based on ac­cu­mu­lated ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence.

The en­ergy bal­ance is mov­ing to­wards nat­u­ral gas and as­so­ci­ated surge of Lng-re­lated projects of dif­fer­ent scales. (Im­age for il­lus­tra­tion only)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.