Industry view: Embrace the change

Published: 24 Oct 2014

By Steven Plant, managing director, Plant Integrity Management

Innovation and technology have always been used to drive efficiency in the oil and gas industry – from finding new ways to unlock complex oil reserves, to improving the health and safety of personnel.

Simple examples such as computers replacing typewriters or email replacing letters show how the constant evolution in technology can be treated as both an opportunity and a threat to the workforce.

But whatever our reaction, there is no denying that change is unavoidable, and holding on to the past has little value for the future.

Steven Plant

A constant drive for improvement; the availability of smarter, cheaper, smaller technologies and shifts in operational practices due to North Sea exploration becoming ever more challenging – all provide the ingredients and opportunities for change.  

Take asset integrity management. Technological advances are afoot which are already having an affect on the way professionals in the field work.

The importance of managing the integrity of an oil platform isn’t too difficult to understand, even in the challenging environment of the North Sea. Ensuring that important components are successfully monitored for corrosion is a fundamental requirement for an operator.

Historically, the process has been made up of multiple, often disjointed activities: recording the condition of the plant, assessing the integrity of components and systems, and defining optimised inspection schemes. Loss of data, lack of workflow control, and no possible way of knowing real time plant condition are just some of the problems that managers have grown to consider as the norm, and essentially unavoidable.

Capturing integrity data electronically and storing it in digital systems revolutionises how assets can be managed; improving data quality and integrity; allowing workflows to be automated and monitored and providing real time dashboards to highlight bottlenecks and resource issues.

The benefits are huge when you standardise all this information into central databases, from allowing secure access to information from any location, to being able to analyse the performance and maintenance status of any one particular common asset.

At Plant Integrity Management (PIM), we have developed a software product, ‘PIM Relief’, that provides a way to intelligently monitor the workflow cycle for Pressure Relief Valves (PSVs) – which provide a critical safety role offshore in preventing plant over-pressurisation and the consequent release of hazardous fluids. The user interface needed to be simple in its approach so that users would be comfortable using it, while under the bonnet it was working hard to provide a clear picture of the current situation at any moment in time – creating new opportunities for insight, better decisions and ultimately efficiencies.

So how does this affect the workforce? Change in technology naturally means a change in work processes and practices. Retraining to use a new interface for data entry is one knock-on effect. If completed correctly, it can result in a higher appreciation of, and responsibility for, your role in the organisation.

We are seeing this drive for change in all the areas of industry, not just oil and gas. Just as we drive technological innovation, it in turn drives us. As we move to digitise different systems, so must we develop with these changes.

Rather than fight evolution, and risk being left behind, these changes need to be embraced. On the one side, they allow businesses to operate more efficiently, and in more extreme environments and competitive marketplaces, while they also allow us to develop as career-minded individuals.

Steven Plant will deliver a keynote speech: “Successful corrosion management for ageing and life extension in the oil and gas industry through good practice” on Tuesday, October 28 at the Energy Institute’s Asset Integrity Management conference.

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