Floating ideas on security and risk management


As the global FPSO fleet ages, 55 vessels are reaching end of life, and five more have life extensions in place. With another 19 FPSOs being evaluated for life extension, a group of major players are evaluating possible safety issues due to corrosion and other structural integrity issues.

Matt Tremblay

ABS is no stranger to the floating market for production, storage and offloading (FPSO). It ranked the first FPSO vessel in U.S. waters in 1978 and continues to lead safety and innovation with new technology that supports larger, more complex FPSOs operating in ultra-deep water and the pre- Brazilian salt, Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Aging FPSOs are being evaluated for longer life and possible safety issues.

With over 60% of all FPSOs in service classified by ABS and over 70% of FPSOs in Brazil operating under the ABS class, including 30 vessels with a handling capacity of over 100,000 bpd, the global classification provider and Houston-based technical consultancy services to the marine and offshore industries is committed to setting standards of safety and excellence in design and construction. Focused on safe and practical applications of advanced technologies and digital solutions, ABS recently brought together leading companies in the FPSO industry to form a consortium to help address the security challenges posed by a fleet, where more than half FPSO vessels are over 30 years old. years and a quarter are over 40 years old.

This is a bold move that aims to advance industry best practices to protect people and the environment while bringing industry leaders together to address risks within the current FPSO fleet. and planned. Two overarching goals of this consortium include:

  • Identify the critical risks posed to the offshore industry by an aging global fleet of FPSOs.
  • Determine steps to mitigate safety and environmental risks posed by aging FPSOs.

Fig.  2. ABS life extension process.

Fig. 2. ABS life extension process.

Aging units require more maintenance effort to stay in class, and maintenance should increase with age to reduce downtime. Across the industry, it is widely accepted that increasing life extensions increase the burden of maintenance issues on aging assets, Fig. 2.

The new consortium, which includes Chevron, Shell, Petrobras, MODEC and SBM Offshore, as well as the Bahamas Maritime Authority, the Republic of the Marshall Islands Registry and the US Coast Guard’s 8th District, has created five joint industry projects (JIP) aiming to use the technology to address a range of FPSO security issues.

JIPs, which form a large part of the Consortium’s work activity, are essential to help share experience, knowledge, ideas and ways to better manage critical risks from a safety, efficiency and costs. Consortium members are already discussing how the new learnings can be taken into account in the future design of the FPSO, including how the class rules can be improved to provide additional support to designers, new builds and developers. FPSO operators of tomorrow.

This type of approach offers the opportunity for all actors in the FPSO value chain to pool their knowledge, technical expertise and resources to achieve better safety results and to meet a shared commitment to safety. quality, compliance and continuous improvement.

Deep dive into the issues. The efforts of the task force will produce results that will help assess whether the equipment is still suitable for continued service and potential acceptance of life extension. For example, working groups will address composite repairs for offshore structures and include aspects such as extending the life of cable mooring systems, which have been around for 20 years and are nearing the end of their lifetime.

As the FPSO fleet ages, the timely launch of the consortium provides a forum for manufacturers and operators to come together to discuss the risks they identify that are specific to aging FPSOs, particularly risks that were not adequately treated, such as:

  • Hot work during standard operation is difficult.
  • Maritime and task groups are not aligned.
  • Best practices are not currently shared.
  • The design of FPSO units does not correspond to actual use.
  • Competence of staff.

Collectively, members will all work together to determine the best way to mitigate these risks and find concrete actions that will help reduce the risks posed by aging FPSOs. Discussions have begun which include the prospect of a five-year technical audit, which includes a review of the overall structural integrity of an FPSO, investigation and UTM reports to support expert decisions and identify areas that need to be changed. This includes loading conditions, produced water management, meteo-ocean conditions, calculated corrosion rates, residual strength of structure and equipment, and cumulative fatigue damage.

Technology supporting better analysis. It has been determined by marine insurance companies and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that 60% to 80% of loss of life, property or environmental damage is due to human error or human factor.

Taking equipment out of service and examining its external and internal condition is a difficult exercise. One of the JIPs has the mandate to evaluate the use of management software; applications of photogrammetry and 3D Lidar laser scanning; and the role of artificial intelligence in corrosion detection and analysis, particularly in terms of hull and structural integrity. FPSO digital twin lifecycle approaches are essential in this field to help test and validate equipment or structures on a digital asset with that of the asset in the field to accelerate decision making and reduce production downtime. It can be safer, faster and more cost effective, using a digital platform and protecting human intervention for inspection in often harsh or hazardous environments. It moves away from traditional inspection methods and eliminates human intervention, while reducing reactive repairs through corrective actions to preventive and predictive maintenance.

Last year, ABS created an AI tool that has the ability to look at images of equipment and structures and helps assess the actual percentage of corrosion in that item, Fig. 3. This is an important innovation that can also estimate corrosion rates, based on image analysis with a high degree of accuracy. The AI ​​can be “trained” and improved in its functioning with more direct assessments on equipment and structures. By doing so, he can quickly learn about the extent and scope of different image ratings and corrosion rates on various items.

Fig.  3. AI helps assess the actual percentage of corrosion.

Fig. 3. AI helps assess the actual percentage of corrosion.

Make improvements to the class. ABS has evolved its rules, with a significant number of modifications applicable to FPSOs, both for existing units and for new installations. These rule changes aim to address many of the risks associated with the aging of FPSOs, both from a design and maintenance perspective.

The working group oversees the efforts of this JIP, which resulted in more than 40 ABS class rule changes for FPSOs. These changes are already being evaluated for implementation later this year to help reduce the risks associated with aging FPSOs. These changes and improvements will be shared with the launch of new publications and best practice guides for FPSO maintenance and inspection.

Matt Tremblay serves as ABS Vice President, Global Offshore Markets, based at ABS Headquarters in Houston. In his current role, Mr. Tremblay holds overall responsibility for strategic planning and client development in the offshore market sector. During his 25 years at ABS, Mr. Tremblay held various engineering and management positions in the United States and Asia, including Vice President of Operations for the Pacific Division, based in Singapore, and Vice -president, engineering, for the Americas division of ABS. . Mr. Tremblay is a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, with a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering. He is also a member of the American Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.