Arvid Bertelsen of Riise Underwater Engineering (RUE) provides some insight into how sub-sea processes can streamline production procedures and improve your bottom line.
Which sub-sea related aspects should be focused on in order to minimise downtime and avoid production loss?
Arvid Bertelsen. The key words are planned maintenance systems (PMS) and knowledge from present and past experience within this field of expertise.
Every platform, sub-sea installations, vessel and subsystems to such assets has a requirement for PMS. Unfortunately, PMS in the context of sub-sea operations has in many instances been neglected, with substantial economical and technical consequences.
RUE has learned this from the North Sea, which in many ways was the cradle of sub-sea completion systems and sub-sea installations maintenance.
When the North Sea slowly but surely was filled up with sub-sea completion systems, focus on new installation and commissioning to a certain extent took away the fact that the already installed and aging systems needed follow up and maintenance. For many sub-sea completion systems no maintenance program was prepared, and no specialized vessels, maintenance assets, sub-sea tooling or maintenance engineering were in place. Hence, the sub-sea IMR industry and the oil majors struggled to catch up with insufficient assets to perform the explosively growing maintenance and repair tasks.
How can the above mentioned challenges be mitigated?
AB. With regard to IMR sub-sea engineering, which is our main field of operations, the challenge is to maintain a consistent level of competence on our offshore and regional onshore key personnel. The main fall back is the lack of long-term perspectives and long-term contracts to contain the specialist personnel.
Planned maintenance and IMR is long term achievements were you build up experience in the field and installations you are working. You constantly improve assets, methods and personnel as you get more familiar with the field and its installations. Continuity in contracts is the key to cost efficiency for IRM programmes.
Implementation and training of indigenous sub-sea engineering capability is another challenge. To reach an accepted professional level for an IMR sub-sea engineer one has to start with a basic structure engineer and educate him step by step. On the job training and coursing is a time consuming and costly endeavour, so it is important that the oil majors take their part of the local responsibility and ensure that education of personnel is a part of their overall IRM strategy.
Why is the IRM sub-sea engineer so important to ensuring that operations run according to plan?
AB. Once main installations are in, and commissioning of a new field is done, the next step is the IMR sub-sea engineers. This role is what we characterise as the "stayers", because the IRM phase of a field lasts until it is depleted and decommissioned.
We have learned from the North Sea that skilled IMR engineers are a true asset to any oil company as well as the contractor: putting together inspection plans, following up the performance of the plans, producing the inspection reports, proposals for upgrading by first hand input, producing maintenance procedures and repair procedures and follow up of such. This makes the IMR sub-sea engineer the main mechanism in any planned maintenance and repair process for any oil field. This also underlines the importance of securing this personnel long term by investing in their profession.
Does RUE have any specific advice to West African oil companies?
AB. RUE is positioned in the West Africa region and prepared to take on sub sea maintenance planning, execution of maintenance and any repair to the sub-sea completion systems or installation.
When RUE moved its focus and fields of operations to West Africa in 2005, we experienced the same attitude among the oil majors as we saw in Norway; a naive-like attitude that these installations hardly require any follow up and PMS. RUE's advice to West African oil majors is not to make the same mistake as was made in the North Sea.
Arvid Bertelsen has a broad education background from diving, maritime and management schools. He has been working the last 11 years for RUE. Prior to this he was over 20 years at Stolt Offshore/Stolt Comex Seaway, where he held positions such as Saturation-diver, Bell Diving-supervisor, Offshore Manager, Diving-operation Manager and Operation Support Manager.