BOP System Reliability and Industry Improvements - Are we there yet?
Why improving BOP reliability requires competent, trained subsea technicians, carrying out effective RCM and predictive maintenance.
As a major player in the rig survey and training market, improving BOP reliability is one of our highest priorities. But even with equipment improvements implemented over the years, BOP system reliability is still at a level that other industries would find intolerable.
Recent industry announcements, such as GE Oil & Gas taking ownership and management of four new BOP systems for Diamond Offshore, and NOV’s and Cameron’s new BOP condition monitoring systems “RigSentry” and “Cognition,” respectively, are moves in the right direction. Yet none will address fundamental weaknesses in our current maintenance:
- Outdated time-based preventive maintenance,
- Non-implementation of modern predictive maintenance tools,
- Poor-quality and non-standardized maintenance procedures,
- No industry-standard recruitment and training policies,
- Inadequately trained maintenance personnel.
Concentrating efforts to improve these areas would have an immediate effect on BOP reliability. Focusing on training our personnel and modernizing our maintenance philosophy would significantly mitigate these weaknesses cost effectively.
Since the early ‘60s, subsea drilling equipment has used time-based, as opposed to condition-based, overhauls and replacements to maintain system reliability; an expensive, wasteful and ineffective method. During this time, other industries have changed their maintenance philosophy by employing reliability centered maintenance (RCM) to reduce costs and improve reliability. They also employ predictive maintenance tools, applying modern technology to monitor equipment condition.
To move the industry to a RCM system requires a number of steps, of which the first is to gather reliability data from the field. The joint industry project (JIP), announced earlier this year and sponsored by the IADC, will do just that. Composed of all the major drilling contractors, manufacturers and operators, the JIP will compile a reliability database of components from data gathered in the field. The data will then be analyzed to formulate changes in maintenance practices to maximize equipment reliability. However, this will take time, during which maintenance personnel must be trained and become educated in RCM and its benefits. Training will also be required in the use of predictive maintenance tools, such as ultrasound and infrared profiling, fluid-condition monitoring, hydraulic signature profiling, laser metrology, etc. These tools can identify changes in equipment condition and thus enable corrective actions to be taken before failure occurs.
Our surveys have shown that maintenance procedures for equipment can vary depending on the drilling contractor, as there is no standardized maintenance protocol across the drilling fleet for the same equipment. Existing procedures are insufficiently detailed and do not have effective quality checks or verification methods in place. Training personnel in procedural maintenance and using the same high standard of procedures used in other industries, such as aerospace or nuclear, would improve the quality of maintenance procedures, avoiding many simple errors that adversely impact reliability.
In addition, subsea BOP equipment maintenance is often performed by personnel without the necessary core skills or equipment training, which inevitably leads to errors. For example:
- Incorrect hose selection, assembly and installation – hoses fail.
- Incorrect hydraulic fitting selection and assembly – fittings leak.
- Incorrect component assembly – components fail.
- Lack of hydraulic hygiene – failures throughout the hydraulic system.
- Poor fault-finding skills – guesswork instead of event driven disciplined analysis and deduction, wasting time and money.
- Low standards of workmanship – disorganized, poor planning, poor procedural discipline, etc.
The lack of an industrywide standard for recruitment and training of subsea technicians has led to positions being filled with little regard for previous experience or qualifications, and learning on the job has become the norm. This can be an effective way to train someone, but the quality relies on the skills and knowledge of the teacher, and without an industry standard curriculum, there is no control. Accredited training courses, however, offer a guaranteed level of quality training, and technical colleges offer nationally recognized vocational training courses. Personnel who have gained a vocational qualification in industrial maintenance and have received equipment training will be far more competent.
Improving BOP reliability requires competent, trained subsea technicians, carrying out effective RCM and predictive maintenance. Contact us for BOP systems audits, inspections, testing, and field support.