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How Lloyd's Register helps oil and gas

Friday, May 25, 2018

Risk based inspection, supporting in-house technical experts, and helping get new technologies adopted - some of the ways that Lloyd's Register is helping the oil and gas industry.

Lloyd's Register (LR), a compliance, risk and technical consultancy company working in the shipping and oil and gas industry worldwide, is developing a number of interesting services for the oil and gas industry, including supporting risk based inspection, and helping demonstrate that new technologies are fit for purpose.

'Risk based inspection' is a method of optimising the amount of inspection or the timings of inspections you do (for example of a piece of offshore equipment), based on a judgement of whether the inspection is needed.

Oil companies spend a lot of money on inspections which do not find anything wrong, and which can themselves be disruptive to plant operations. Some of this money is wasted, but not all, because there is a risk that something could have been wrong or that equipment was degraded more - or less - than expected. The question is to try to get better at spotting the unnecessary inspections in advance or in planning inspection activities in the least disruptive way.

Risk based inspection is all about how to do inspections 'at a cost which makes sense', says Richard Nott, head of Offshore and Global Projects with Lloyd's Register. 'We look at ways we can do inspection in a more effective way.'

But it is a task which involves expert judgement, someone to take responsibility for it, and also knowledge about failure modes, so you can make a good assessment of whether the inspection is needed or can be more effectively programmed.

LR employs experts who work for many different clients in the same sector, and sometimes different types of equipment for the same client, and so is able to gather a large amount of understanding, allowing fully informed decisions to be made.

The judgement can be supported by a large amount of analytics work, to assess the likelihood that something is going to be close to failure, based on past experience and advanced engineering techniques. In this way, Risk Based Inspection might be considered 'technology supported decision making.'

Not all clients assess risk in the same way, and their risk policies can be used to adjust the software's suggestions.

The service could be improved if oil companies were more comfortable about sharing data between each other, because then the analytics supporting the decision making process could be even better.

The oil and gas industry has been sharing safety data for about 10 years - but now it is looking at sharing more of its data (such as maintenance). 'That has been a revelation,' Mr Nott says.

LR also offers a similar service to make decisions about the right time between regular maintenance work, called RTAMO (Real Time Adaptive Maintenance Optimisation).

The system can share knowledge developed by different operators about the best time intervals between maintenance tasks. If the time interval is too short you waste money doing unnecessary maintenance, but if the time interval is too long, your risk of a component failure, and subsequent downtime, is higher.

Both services help the industry meet its challenges of trying to expand activity while maintaining lower costs. The true identifier in cost savings is in the way inspections are prepared and how inspection programmes are deployed to avoid the disruption that can be caused to plant operations - especially if a plant has to suffer downtime to enable the inspection to be carried out, which can be costly on a number of levels.

'There will be focus on making the most effective use of people,' says Mr Nott. 'We help give confidence in new technologies to an industry which can be very traditional in some areas of operations and also in its outlook.'

New technologies

LR also helps the industry to figure out where different technologies can provide more value and where they can be used safely.

For example it is looking for ways companies can do more with drone technology, which 'has more applications than we might currently appreciate,' says Phil Edwards, director of consulting.

Until now drones have been seen in the industry as 'a bit of a toy', but the industry is waiting to come across a useful solution at the right price.

LR is also looking at Additive Manufacturing (3D printing), and recently issued the first component certification for oil and gas use of an additively manufactured product.

After the oil price crash, clients are proving more open to technology driven solutions, Mr Edwards says. And we are experiencing a strong 'joint industry projects' focus, where companies collectively join together to develop new technology and new solutions and pooling the costs through new Joint Ventures. We are also seeing M&A activity on the rise which is indicative of a new industry model evolving for a changing energy mix.

About Lloyd's Register

Altogether, LR's contribution to the oil and gas industry could be described as helping companies to do more with their in-house technical experts, supporting them with its own.

'We work in technical partnership with clients,' says Phil Edwards, director of consulting.

The company's work in energy could be put in 3 service groups - consulting, supporting operations (compliance) and low carbon power. It has a breadth of scope, including solar, wind, tidal and wave energy, nuclear power generation, and oil and gas (onshore and offshore). It has a specialist focus on subsea and pipeline surveys through to everything above the water line.

The company has a major technology and innovation core at the heart of its business which is helping industry to drive through new change with the advancement of applications such as Virtual Reality training, Additive Manufacturing and Unmanned Aerial Systems for internal and external inspections.

Its range of software products are changing how clients are able to achieve better decision making through predictive risk-based maintenance programmes. Lloyd's Register's stance on Industry 4.0 is helping better control the maintenance of operating plant and infrastructure, minimising risk to the environment, to a company's reputation and to the people that work the equipment every day. It also acquired Senergy, a company specialised in subsurface oil and gas analysis in 2013.

LR recently moved its Aberdeen operations including the acquired Senergy business into one site at the new Kingswell Prime Four business park in Aberdeen - it previously operated across a number of different sites around the city.

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