A while back I was talking to the CEO of a North Sea operator. He was telling me a tale of one of his assets – it had been off-line for a large proportion of the last year. He was beyond annoyed and had become “resigned” to the situation.
At first the he was off-line because the gas it imported from a nearby platform to power his water injectors was not available due to that operator’s maintenance schedule. Almost as soon as this came on-line his export route into CATS was suspended – again due to maintenance. (Here’s another example of an operator affected by CATS maintenance [Link]). Well blow-me if – when that came on-line – he didn’t face a gas-turbine maintenance problem on his own platform.
This interlinking of assets and reliance on others’ actions is becoming more common – for example here is what Enquest say about the Heather installation: “The Heather installation is designed to accept production fluids from Heather field and Broom field via subsea tieback. The production fluids are processed and separated into oil, gas and water. The processed oil is exported to the Sullom Voe Terminal via Ninian Central platform, while the gas is routed through compression trains for lift gas purpose.” [Link]
For years operators have battled to schedule maintenance on their own platforms so that work can be conducted in the most economic sequence. They aim to maximise capacity, up-time and utilisation. In this new interconnected world of small fields and infrastructure operating beyond its design life, companies must take into account the maintenance schedules of others.
One way is to be ready to work when the unexpected windows occur – that’s true even when you are a lone operator – but planned maintenance is a different matter.
Bob Spence, founder of Capital Project Partners, and member of the Bestem Network says that among the things he would consider are to: establish a common vocabulary across the supply chains of all operators; develop common definitions of how plans are communicated and progress measured and reported; find ways to deliver real-time reporting; and use predictive analytics to generate insight.
Lars Sandbakk, a leading light at Safran Software Solutions and expert in project planning tells me that from a technology perspective the issue boils down to: different software and their embedded methods; different project management philosophies; different terminology; and the lack of sensible data that can be easily exchanged without exposing more about your operation than you want.
He tells me that there is a cross-company initiative called ILAP (Integrated Lifecycle Asset Planning Standard) is being worked on and has been submitted as an ISO Standard.
Of course, while information and technology may be part of the solution, to make this work will require changes to commercial agreements and changes in the ways people actually work. These things are difficult to achieve and, without properly aligned incentives or new regulation and enforcement they are unlikely to take hold.