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Risk Management In Offshore Oil And Gas Production

Introduction

The accidents which have happened in the past have necessitated safety and risk management systems in the offshore gas and oil industry. An example is the sinking of the drilling rig known as Ocean Ranger in Canada in the 1980s and the Piper Alpha fire explosion incidence. In order to ensure that risks are minimized, and safety ensured, precautionary measures and necessary policies covering risk preparedness and assessment, standards and procedures, procurement, training and qualifications, organizational structure, and emergency preparedness.

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Maximization of usage of facilities, equipment, and resources in the offshore industry has called for a system that is automated and integral (Evans, 2008). Tiers in the hierarchical decision-making, i.e., objectives, policies, planning, programming, and projects, can also be applied in Strategic Environmental Assessment in the gas and oil offshore operations (Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, 2007). The necessary measures include putting in place the necessary equipment, preparedness, control and monitoring systems, and response to the disaster.

The oil and gas industry generates dangers in the following major areas;

Air emissions: the main sources of these emissions include combustion from generators, reciprocating engines, flaring and venting of hydrocarbons, combustion emissions realized in the use of helicopters and supply vessels. These emissions are potential sources of pollutants like sulfur oxides, hydrogen sulfides, toluene, xylenes, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxides, among other compounds.

Exhaust gases: gas and fuels may emit exhaust gases after or during combustion in engines involved in oil and gas export, compressors, boilers, and turbines.

Venting and flaring to the atmosphere: this is a disposal mechanism for gas brought to the surface with crude oil. Although it is a potential source of greenhouse gas emissions, it is applied as a precaution for the safe disposal of gas and hydrocarbons at the offshore oil and gas facilities in case of failure of equipment like power equipment, at an emergency, among other problems.

Fires and explosions: this is a result of the emission and release of flammable gases.

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Injuries and deaths: Experienced by workers during the time of machine operation and in the face of fire, explosions, and other dangerous incidences.

These and other possible sources of danger need to be checked, monitored and the necessary measures put in place as precautionary measures and response during the time of danger. Various measures are described below;

Emergency preparedness and planning

The preparedness and response workforce should be a well-described organization with known distributed roles and management. There should be a description of the procedures, all requirements, location, and type of equipment available, and other important details. Planning is one of the most important things that can be accomplished as the initial stage of measures. In order to ensure that the whole system accommodates risk and safety management, planning would be necessary for terms of what objectives to achieve, which safety systems should be used and at what processes or stages can they be applied. Planning also involves the strategy for implementation, control, replacement, maintenance, targets, and the timing for all these.

The risk assessment and appropriate preparedness should facilitate the identification of possible areas of risks like fire and explosions and their analysis carried out. This should be put in place to deal with incidences of fire, injury of workers and employees in general. Preparedness for an emergency will require the necessary facilities and equipment to be put in place. The facility necessary includes human facilities and hardware. Lifeboats should be enough in number, fire resistance, and operated by a trained workforce. In addition, ice vehicles for the purposes of evacuation from frozen waters need to be availed where necessary. Other equipment necessary includes survival suits, lifejackets, communication and alarm equipment, and lifebuoys.

In addition to the availability of the workforce and the equipment, there is a need to train staff and the employees and carry out practices on evacuation activities, procedures, and processes. The workforce should be trained to deal with various instances as a mandatory undertaking for every worker (Health and Safety in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry in Atlanta Canada, n.d.).

Equipment and systems

Equipments are the necessary gadget and hardware that seeks to help the company reduce, eliminate, or cope with the risk. In the oil and gas offshore industry, the organization must make sure that it has invested in the gadgetry and equipment that increase their efficiency for response in time in case of an emergency, or that which helps them reduce or eliminate the possibility of a risk to the maximum. The company will require equipments to help prepare and train for emergencies and risks. Training equipments have been dealt with in the preceding section. Other areas of possible dangers that require specialized systems and equipments include the release of gases as exhaust or leakage. Some of the gases are dealt with through venting and flaring equipment and systems.

Venting is not advisable in the current system, and although optimized and efficient flaring production design equipment is a potential alternative to it, continuous flaring is also discouraged if alternatives are possible. Optimization of the whole flaring system would involve use of an equipment that meters flare gas, scheduling maintenance of the burner and the whole system, use and maintenance of a reliable pilot ignition system, use of devices to reduce purge gas, inert purge gas, using efficient flare tips and correct number and size of burning nozzles, and locating the equipment at a safe distance from accommodation units. The alternatives to flaring include gas injection for maintaining reservoir pressure, export to market or a neighboring facility, and for energy production.

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Equipment that fully facilitates safe emergency gas venting can be put in place to cater for emergency instances where flaring of gas are not an option after an emergency. Examples of such incidences is when the gas stream has insufficient hydrocarbon content to support combustion of the gas, and lack of enough pressure to push the gas stream to the flaring system.

In addition to having efficient flaring equipment, the reliability of the equipment in the plant should be set as high (e.g. 95%), provision for sparing and plant turn down provided so as to reduce events of flaring.

A system need to be provided to keep records and report flaring instances and volumes for necessary measures. Other equipments that need be availed are for fire extinguishing and training equipments in this field.

Fugitive Emissions: the appropriateness of the equipment may determine whether it emits fugitives from tubing, flanges, vents, pressure valves, compressor seals and pump seals, among other parts. The equipment should be appropriately designed and methods for control of the fugitives allowed in the design. Selection of parts should be a precaution against possible leaks, in addition to implementing detection and repair programs.

Wastewater

Large volumes may be present in oil reservoirs and smaller volumes found in gas reservoirs. In addition to the formation water produced in the hydrocarbon production, water added to maintain pressure or maximize production do form wastewater in the offshore oil and gas industry. Hydrocarbon production process utilizes chemicals whose compounds or elements may be present in the formation water, which becomes produced water when it comes at the surface. These components are mainly the residual chemical additives like corrosion and scale inhibitors, organic and inorganic substances (Babusiaux, 2004).

The equipment to treat the wastewater should be provided if there are no alternatives to dealing with this water. These alternatives include the use of this water together with seawater to maintain reservoir pressure and disposal to a well. A combined chemical treatment and mechanical separation system consisting of a skim tank or a parallel plate separator that is placed in line with a gas floatation cell or hydrocyclone may be used for these purposes. The treatment system can be put in place to cater for failures of the alternatives mentioned above (World Bank Group, 2007).

Fire and explosion prevention and control

Release of flammable gases and leakages are potential sources of fire hazards in the offshore facilities. In addition, places of potential ignition can cause danger if located near flammable material. One of the guidelines that should be used to classify the offshore facilities as hazardous or not is the likelihood for the equipment installed there to emit flammable gases. The prevention and control measures are discussed below;

Fire protection: The management should consider investing in equipment that provides passive fire protection on load bearer structures in addition to having fire rated partitions to separate rooms and firewalls. Attention can be paid to blast rates for walls and the explosion loads of load-bearing structures during their construction. The assessment report and recommendations on characteristics of equipment to achieve fire protection and blast-resistant should be included in the design of these materials. Accommodation facilities, safe area facilities and places like wellheads should be specially considered for protection when locating the explosion venting equipment. This is by locating them at a distance or by using the firewalls (Glendon, Clarke and McKenna, 2006).

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Safe location of fire systems like control room and fire water pumps either by storing in a room with a fire protection or by a distance separation should avoid explosions. Proper and efficient reporting systems that ensure that fire occurring at unmanned areas is reported, for example, use of control systems should be put in place. These systems should be efficient in reporting and response. In addition, automatic and manual fire alarm equipment would be needed for alerting purposes at the time of need. Fire suppression equipment and systems should be readily available and strategic to ease and quicken response. These include the extinguishers-portable or fixed, firewater pumps with appropriate delivery rates among others.

Control systems and monitoring systems

These are important components of the whole system that can help in disaster management and risk planning, disaster prevention, preparedness, and response. They refer to the mechanisms put in place to help the management detect flaws in the system that has already been designed and implemented to avoid danger and counter risks. Control systems and monitoring systems have actual output values compared to the expected or the ideal output. Thus it may be necessary to define the standards and the expected outputs for these systems to be helpful. They may be manual, mechanical, or electronic systems to detect flaws and malfunction of equipments like failure of shutdown mechanisms of engines, leaking engines, and faulty measuring equipments. In addition, they may be put in place to monitor working conditions like temperatures, water, gas and oil volumes, valves pressure, spills and leakages, and air quality detection mechanisms (Health and Safety in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry in Atlanta Canada, n.d.).

Spill risk assessments can be helpful in the industry to help avoid dangers associated with spills. Leakages can be detected by using such mechanisms like telemetry and SCADA (World Bank Group, 2007). Sensor mechanisms can be used to detect leakages that are not easily visible. Computer modeled oil spill trajectory system can help predict undesirable spills.

Putting in place shutdown valves and an emergency shutdown system may be necessary so that in case of an emergency, the machine can switch off early.

Regular and intelligent pigging for cleaning pipelines may be necessarily (World Bank Group, 2007).

Response

This refers to the actual activity at the time of a disaster. Although the most important part in the modern systems trend is the prevention, the response should also be as efficient to avoid damage. Usually, response may be determined by the preparedness. Explosions, fire incidences, spills and leakages, sinking, injury, deaths are some of the instances where response may be necessary. These response activities include evacuation at instances of serious fire, rescue operations and transport to safety. The equipment necessary for these activities include a first aid kit, health facilities with trained staff, ambulances, rescue helicopters and fire resistance lifeboats and lifejackets, ice vehicles, and communication equipments (World Bank Group, 2007).

References 

Denis Babusiaux (2004) Oil and Gas Exploration and Production: Reserves, Costs, Contracts. New York: TECHNIP.

Evans Gareth. The Digital Revolution-Technology for Oil. 2008. Web.

Glasson, J., Therivel, R. & Chadwick, A. (1994). Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment. London: UCL Press Ltd

Health and Safety in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry in Atlanta, Canada. Web.

Ian A. Glendon, Sharon Clarke, Eugene F. McKenna (2006). Human Safety and Risk Management. New York: CRC Press.

Jan E. Vinnem (2007). Offshore Risk Assessment: Principles, Modelling and Applications of QRA Studies‎. New York: Prentice-Hall.

Kent W. Muhlbauer (2004). Pipeline Risk Management Manual: Ideas, Techniques, and Resources. London: Gulf Professional Publishing.

Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. Strategic Environmental Assessment and Offshore Oil and Gas Activity. 2007. Web.

Christian Holmes (n.d.). Sustainability and offshore oil and gas exploration and production.

World Bank Group. Environmental, Health, and Safety Guidelines for Offshore Oil and Gas Development. 2007. Web.

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