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FLNG and FSRU industry could learn lessons from FPSOs

Published by , Editor
LNG Industry,

Danny Constantinis, Executive Chairman, EM&I Group, looks at lessons that the FLNG and FSRU industry could learn from FPSOs.

The FPSO business is well established and has a Global Research Forum that has been meeting twice a year for over 20 years to discuss common problems and set up joint industry projects (JIPs) to solve them.

The FLNG and FSRU industry is starting to work on setting up something similar to agree common challenges and solutions, particularly as far as asset integrity management is concerned to avoid the risk of a major integrity incident slowing down the pace of growth.

EM&I has been in the asset integrity management business for over 35 years and has experience of more than 175 assets globally. This helps gain an insight into asset integrity challenges particularly for FPSOs, MODUs and other floating oil/gas assets.

This has produced some groundbreaking innovations and technologies

EM&I has also led a JIP called HITS (Hull Inspection Techniques & Strategy) on behalf of the FPSO Global Research Forum for the last six years. This has produced some groundbreaking innovations and technologies which have all been ‘industry driven’ as the JIP includes oil majors, operators, class societies and academic research organisations.

The strategy of the HITS JIP has been to minimise the need to put people at risk; for example, divers and personnel working at height or in confined spaces. EM&I has managed to introduce robotic technologies that achieve these objectives and support these innovations with better use of data by digitisation so that inspection and maintenance scopes are reduced as a result.

The company’s approach to meeting industry challenges is firstly to understand the parameters of the issues from the viewpoint of all key stakeholders. It then seeks technical solutions from industries that have solved similar challenges and uses its broad knowledge of the industry to adapt these methods to our own industry’s needs.

This has enabled new robotic solutions to be fast tracked

This has enabled new diverless robotic solutions to be fast tracked to many common challenges, such as inspecting hulls and mooring systems underwater and using specialised ‘nuclear industry’ cameras inserted via specialised ports, to inspect critical valves while the vessel is on station, on hire and in operation. Where valves need remedial action, valves can be isolated for repair or replacement using inflatable bladders or other such robotically inserted devices. Many floating assets have similar challenges where a diverless solution brings significant safety, operational and cost benefits.

The ODIN® diverless UWILD (Under Water Inspection in Lieu of Drydocking) is particularly useful for hull, mooring system and valve inspections.

A further major challenge is to avoid man entry for inspection of tanks

EM&I has developed the NoMan® system, which uses remotely operated high-performance cameras and 3D laser technology to meet class requirements for tank inspection without man entry. This has been successfully deployed on both FPSOs and MODUs to date. ‘Synchronous Laser’ technology developed for remote thickness and structural measurements has now been trialed on an operational FPSO with highly positive results.

This means that visual inspections for tanks to a class approved standard are available today and that technology will be available in a few months to avoid human entry even where gauging and dimensional measurements are now required meaning tank inspections can be completed in a fraction of the time, cost and safety risk required for rope access teams to achieve the same result.

Other technologies such as ExPert™ for the non-intrusive inspection (NII) of Ex items and ANALYSE™ to safely reduce inspection workscopes are also helping to improve the efficiency of asset integrity management for all floating assets. There are usually thousands of Ex items on many floating assets, taking a significant amount of time to inspect, as they usually have to be dismantled for inspection and then reassembled. Electrical systems have to be isolated for this to happen and mistakes in reassembly can often occur. ExPert avoids these penalties using an advanced method of radiography, which has been proven in onshore trials and will now be trialed offshore in summer 2019.

There is no substitute for experience and engineering judgment

The move to digitisation and robotics is helping to improve efficiency and safety and brings better data on which experience and engineering judgement can be better applied to optimise the asset integrity management process. Data only becomes useful information when it is interpreted and that requires engineering judgment in all but the simplest cases.

Where are we focusing R&D over the next few years?

The floating gas industry has a number of challenges to solve and is growing rapidly, meaning that we have to work swiftly to understand and solve issues before they arise, preferably with technologies adapted from other floating asset methodologies.

For example, FSRU vessels are often moored in river estuaries so water clarity and strong currents are a problem for underwater inspections using divers. FSRUs are often moored attached to jetties, so the integrity of the combined FSRU-jetty unit are important. EM&I has used the NoMan camera technology to inspect jetties with great success, and on a recent project in the Middle East, managed to inspect a jetty with over 150 bearings in just 10 days with a two-man team. The client conservatively estimated that it would have taken a rope access team many weeks to have achieved the same result with a safety vessel in attendance at all times.

Mooring chains also need to be checked periodically and this is difficult and dangerous for divers

Mooring chains also need to be checked periodically and this is difficult and dangerous for divers in water with limited visibility and strong currents. EM&I has developed a robotic technology called LORIS™ (named after a primate good at climbing), which can move up and down an anchor chain and use photogrammetry to check the links for wear, corrosion, distortion, etc.

There are so many similarities between FPSOs and FLNG and FSRU vessels that lessons learnt from one sector can be used to help improve the efficiency and safety of asset integrity management for all floating assets. The FPSO Global Research Forum has been an outstanding success in this respect and is leading the way for other sectors such as the FLNG and FSRU sectors to come together to establish common standards and procedures.

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