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Feature Article

Integrity Management: Reducing Hydrocarbon Releases

AUTHOR:

Ben Coutts



A Hydrasun surveyor inspecting the condition of flexible hose assemblies.
Hydrocarbon releases (HCRs) have long been a hazard to offshore operations. Not only do HCRs represent a potential precursor to major accidents and cause unplanned shutdowns and asset downtime, they are also a key indicator of the effectiveness of asset integrity management across the industry.

In 2010, the U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Offshore Division (OSD) launched their strategy for Key Programme 4 (KP4), the Ageing and Life Extension (ALE) Inspection Programme. The ALE Inspection Programme aims to promote awareness and management of the risks associated with aging plants in the offshore oil and gas industry in support of four identified priority areas: asset integrity, competence, safety culture and leadership.

In support of this, the Step Change in Safety group, comprising senior managers and officials from member companies, industry-related trade associations, trade unions and the HSE, introduced a target for a 50 percent reduction in HCRs by the end of March 2013.

Although reductions in HCRs have been achieved in the last few years, fluid connectors, hose and small bore tubing (SBT) combined, accounted for 27 percent of unplanned HCRs between 2008 and October 2010, according to an analysis by the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

The oil and gas industry has focused on these areas as a key element of KP4. Hydrasun (Aberdeen, Scotland), in conjunction with operators, service companies and industry bodies, has been at the forefront of implementing initiatives and programs to further reduce the instances of HCRs. This includes developing and carrying out robust planned maintenance and inspection routines, participating in the Energy Institute’s steering groups for the development of revised integrity management guidelines for both hose and SBT assemblies, and, with the Step Change in Safety group, developing a qualification in SBT, accredited by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB).


Need for Change
Hydrasun identified the need for an even sharper focus in the integrity management of hose assemblies, particularly SBT and instrumentation assemblies, following research that identified the key contributors to HCRs to be incorrectly fitted equipment, improper operation and noncompliance with existing procedures—mainly human-factor related issues and incorrectly specified equipment.

Simplifying SBT assemblies wherever possible can reduce complexity, leak paths, human error and National Pipe Taper (NPT) threaded connections. Hydrasun has implemented an alternative and innovative approach to the traditional methods associated with the design and management of instrumentation systems, developing a portfolio of the latest technologies, combining them with enhanced training, competency assessment and integrity management programs. Through this alternative methodology, leak paths are engineered out of systems, and the likelihood of human factor issues contributing to HCRs is also greatly reduced.


Effective Integrity Management
Effective integrity management of hose and SBT assemblies is essential to reducing HCRs successfully. Hydrasun’s established hose integrity and SBT management philosophies, in conjunction with industry initiatives, have been an important factor in reducing instances of HCRs and other emissions from flexible hose assemblies (FHAs) and SBTs across the U.K. Continental Shelf (UKCS).

In addition, competent personnel are vital to assuring the effective integrity management of fluid power, process control, instrumentation and hydraulic system hose and SBT assemblies. Hydrasun utilizes its OPITO accredited and Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) approved Learning and Development programs to ensure personnel are fully trained in the technical and other core skills required to deliver according to the industry’s and the HSE’s demanding requirements. To continue this article please click here.


Ben Coutts is the director of engineering and research and development at Hydrasun, a leading specialist provider of integrated fluid transfer, power and control solutions to the global energy market. He has been an active member of the Energy Institute’s steering groups on the development of integrity management guidelines for both hose and small bore tubing assemblies. He has supported the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board in the development of a national occupational standard for the installation and maintenance of SBT assemblies.



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