Keeping afloat

Seeking efficient solutions: keeping the FPSO market buoyant. By Mark Tipping

Industry downturns present the operators and supply chains that work within it, the chance to radically assess their own operating models and costs. The floating production and storage and offloading (FPSO) community is no exception to this. Recent market economics has pushed companies serving this market to radically re-address their cost structure. It has also given rise to an assessment on what operating models need to be deployed in the future to ensure the FPSO market remains competitive.

There are some distinct and significant trends that have started to develop in this area:

  • Increasing awareness in the value of predictive analysis on facilities, and the benefits that can be gained in using this analysis on marine structures and in operating processes
  • A desire to reduce the number of people on facilities both from a cost perspective but importantly to improve safety by negating the need for human intervention
  • There has always been a push for life extension, but there is now a growing interest in this area as the hiatus in new projects brings in to question how aged assets can be safely managed with the expected facility replacements.

Of course, none of this comes without a price tag and the industry remains very sensitive to both CAPEX and OPEX, which means any new concept or cost efficiency idea is coming under a great deal of scrutiny and not just from the perspective of implementation or the physical application, but critically in the area of demonstrable returned value.

So, what is it we are seeing in terms of technology trends? It is the buzzword that has been rattling around for a few years – digitisation. Digitisation has so far had a mixed track record in the offshore industry and a degree of industry ‘uncertainty’ with the breadth and scope of how digitisation can be implemented across any number of operating parameters. Given the number of different digitising options and the amount of data that can be retrieved, this can seem daunting at first. But there are huge benefits to be gained particularly in using technologies to help predict when decisions need to be made, and done in the right way has the capability to revolutionise every aspect of an operation:

  • Predictive analysis aims to achieve a deep understanding of an assets current and future condition. This is happening today and to a greater extent than ever before. The sensors that are now embedded for minimal cost in equipment e.g. pumps, GT’s, compressors, etc. does give us a data rich environment in which to work. Linked with industry wide experience of example pieces of equipment, we are now able to predict with high accuracy failure modes and timing. This means we can truly develop predictive models that allow optimised maintenance of equipment and the scheduling of these activities to occur at a point in time where the operator can plan in schedules for maximum efficiency.

Products such as RTAMO™ are giving clear returns on the investment to clients. RTAMO™ (Real-Time Adaptive Maintenance Optimisation) is a standalone cloud-based software-enabled service that is based on a detailed development initiative, that culminated in establishing predictive algorithms linking planned maintenance to economic and reliability outcomes. Of course, this is not the only upside to this investment; a properly instrumented process plant also shows how efficiently it is running and any bottlenecks that may be occurring. Consequently, we already see a degree of maturity developing around process equipment and machinery. With floating structures, the industry is still early on in development where there are many ideas and concepts that are being floated, developed and pitched as the ‘solution’ to all the problems that may be encountered. It is in the structures element that gives us a real opportunity to further reduce operational costs. And, you cannot ignore the number of digital twin solutions that are being directed at the offshore industry, but we are still at the very early stages of development as the models themselves are expensive and they either perform for structural analysis or integrity management – but not for both. The direct absorption of inspection data is also patchy and still at risk of duplication across the range of stakeholders requiring it. This is an area that we feel will develop very quickly.

  • As we improve our maintenance regimes and interventions we are by default becoming more efficient in the use of man power on FPSO facilities. This has resulted in a range of stakeholder groups looking at ‘how can we move to reduced manning or unmanned facilities’. This is a laudable trend as the best way to safeguard safety is to remove people from hazardous environments. There is, however, a big difference between a small facility and a complex FPSO meaning that while we are experiencing progress in this area, the steps being taken are still incremental and measured. Unmanned fixed platforms already exist so the leap for the simpler facilities is not so large.
  • The life extension of facilities has always been on the cards even in the heady days of $120-barrel oil where operators were looking to squeeze as much revenue as possible. The drivers have not changed – what is different is the reduced pool of assets and the diminishing availability to get oil out of the ground. This is leading those involved to look very carefully at how to model and extend asset life. This invariably links back to the ideas around detailed asset knowledge and cost-effective models.

In all cases optimisation of maintenance has invariably led to a net reduction in annualised maintenance costs. Example projects such as the recent announcement on AkerBP performing test maintenance optimisation programmes on its Skarv FPSO is testament to how companies are using technology to optimise maintenance activities and reduce costs.

The adoption of a reliability-based approach can also help take into account the relative costs associated with equipment functional failure. Determining the reliability of equipment is a key component in the calculation of revised inspection and testing intervals and the use of software such as RTAMO™ gives a high degree of understandability and transparency to FPSO operators. Certain operators have been able to achieve up to a 40 per cent reduction in operational maintenance expenditure. Similar savings have been experienced in projects run by major operators across the world.

A topic that is often raised is that assets are in the main only managing to liquidate safety critical maintenance tasks, while other maintenance often transfers to backlog. In many cases, ‘optimising’ helps to address this balance and frees up technicians from unnecessarily repetitive tasks, to address this maintenance backlog.

Case study:
Software helps to optimise OPEX to increase operation efficiencies for Bumi Armada Berhad on its Armada Olombendo FPSO.

Bumi Armada has used Lloyd’s Register’s (LR) riskbased inspection services and technical software to help to develop quantifiable risk profiles. These profiles give critical knowledge and insight for Bumi Armada Berhad’s management team on how best to approach short and long-term CAPEX/OPEX decisions.

The scope of work covered corrosion risk assessment and risk-based inspection expertise for the hull, topside structures, pipelines, turret, mooring system, pipework and pressure safety valves.

The built-in risk inspection strategies used in the contract with LR also provides a robust template for Bumi Armada Berhad’s baseline inspections and maintenance programme while ensuring resources are focused on the high priority items first.

Karimulla Shaik, Procurement Co-ordinator – FPSO (OPS) at Bumi Armada Berhad, says: “It is important to us to continue on our journey to be the preferred provider of offshore production and support services which is why we chose LR for this contract. They know our business and what it takes to be successful at this critical and challenging time in the market.”
Bumi Armada Berhad is a Malaysia-based
international offshore energy facilities and services provider with a presence in over 17 countries spread across five continents, supported by over 1600 people from over 30 nationalities.

LR has worked on similar projects for Bumi Armada Berhad including the FPSO Kraken, and as Independent Verification Body during the design phase for Armada Claire as well as its latest Armada Olombendo vessel.

The Armada Olombendo FPSO will be located in about 450 m water depth at the South East end of the Cabaça North field and North East of the Cabaça South East fields off Angola.

Lloyd’s register
Mark Tipping is Offshore Technology Manager, Lloyd’s Register (LR). Lloyd’s Register (LR) started out in 1760 as a marine classification society. Today, it is one of the world’s leading providers of professional services for engineering and technology – improving safety and increasing the performance of critical infrastructures for clients in over 75 countries worldwide. The profits generated fund the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, a charity which supports science and engineeringrelated research, education and public engagement around everything the company does.

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