Offshore Oil&Gas Corrosion

At Strategic Corrosion Management, we have been working in support of Oil & Gas operators now for more than 33 years, across the world.

In the early years, when corrosion management was in its infancy, the term ‘integrity management’ was yet to be coined, and Risk & Reliability were far from the minds of the “Big 7” companies. It was all about the Oil & Gas boom, get platforms and refineries built and slap on some paint to stop them looking rusty! Over-engineering was the name of the game back then, but with a life expectancy of only 10 to 15 years for most of these plants, corrosion failures were never excpected to be a challenge!

So, that’s where we started from with the likes of the BP Forties field deployments (Alpha in 1979 for example). Our task in those days was to ensure the coatings systems applied were designed to keep the plant alive and productive for that time-frame. Minimum maintenance was obviously a benefit but productivity was ‘all’.

Fast forward to 2016. That same Alpha platform, now owned by another company, is still in place and operational. That is 22 years BEYOND its original planned life expectancy. Over-engineered it may have been but the challenges the teams have faced in maintaining production have been immense – not least of which the challenges from external corrosion. They are not alone in this situation, few of the assets developed and put on station during that time have yet been fully decommissioned and removed. Most seem to have a an endless life expectancy with smaller and smaller deposits of oil and gas becoming economical to drill or tap.

This has changed the kinds of expectations Operators now have and how they view Corrosion Management in general, integrity in particular. In addition to being dedicated to the security and safety of their on-site personnel and the environmental effects their production can generate, they now have all kinds of legal and regulatory challenges to hurdle. Not the least of which is the constant and in depth analysis of everything they do by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and other bodies.

Bringing together the necessary threads to ensure an operator’s Corrosion-Management met all requirements, supported the business objectives and yet still formed a logical, justifiable and cost effective series of physical practices, was a mind-numbing experience for many a Corrosion Engineer. Even describing the essential elements of a potential solution became fraught with difficulty and bogged-down in the details of competing techniques and technologies.

In 2010 we at SCM decided to go back to first principles. It was difficult to navigate the thought process of multiple operators, with their own focus and priorities, perhaps shaped through specific environments or geographical location. We knew there had to be a single approach that, with additions and modifications, would allow us and our clients to focus sharply on the ‘base’ requirements of controlling and managing corrosion.

There are a number of absolute base requirements for any organisation to state they have proper and complete control of their facility corrosion and integrity process.

  1. No unanticipated failures should be experienced from external corrosion
  2. All maintenance must be demonstrated to be effective, justifiable and offer a valuable contribution
  3. The mechanisms used to set priorities for maintenance and inspection must be demonstrable and shown to cater for all eventualities likely to be experienced.

Combining all of these aspects into one overarching and guiding principle was  challenging in and of itself. However we believed (and still do) that making this easy to understand and focus upon was the key to generating a better and more demonstrable corrosion management framework to benefit all.

We tested our theory in 2011, and we coined the term ‘Objective Evidence’ as an easy to recall name for the process. We met with 4 of our clients and asked each of them just three questions. Those 3 targeted questions proved a powerful mechanism to refocus attention. In each case I believe they were surprised at both their own responses and then how simple the Objective Evidence process helped them to shift their attention.

We asked:

Do you know the exact corrosion condition of every component part in your plant;

Simple question, yet just a moment’s thought would reveal that they understood the general condition of their plant but had little idea of the ‘exact’ condition of every section of the facility. This question expands…

Do you know where, in your plant, you should expect the next external corrosion failure or near miss? 

Again a pretty simple question, but as you might guess very few in industry in general (and no one among this group) could answer yes to those two parts of the same question! And finally, for the sections of their respective plant where they did fully understand the substrate condition, we asked… 

Can you demonstrate this plant condition to regulatory bodies?

That was probably the ‘final straw’ for most attendees. The driver for all operators and facility managers is not only doing things right but, under regulatory load, being seen to do things right! The thought of demonstrating to HSE, for example, that they knew where to anticipate the earliest corrosion failures, and justify why that would be the case, horrified most of the audience. None felt it was possible, right then, or even feasible with their current methodologies and technologies to positively answer those questions.

Obviously the second and third questions were moot, since they already recognised that, even though they were investing £ millions per year in corrosion and integrity management, they had so little control over, or understanding of, their own plant corrosion condition.

Resolving these questions positively is the true “ultimate” aim of all of the corrosion management and mitigation processes we have developed over the last 2 decades at SCM, and we call  this ‘Objective Evidence of Control’ (O_EofC). If we can answer affirmatively to each of these three questions then we can truly hold up our heads and say we have control of our facility condition, the production capability and the management of safety for our personnel and the environment.

We asked each of our audience one further question during these presentations; If you could answer ‘YES’ to each of those questions, would that completely satisfy your requirements for corrosion control? You can probably guess the answers. A resounding YES from every member of the audience. Though for some more detail is essential, all felt the guiding principle, if satisfied, would result in true corrosion control.

Using the O_EofC pattern offers a clear-cut approach to the design, implementation and application of a correctly focused Fabric Maintenance and Integrity Management approach to corrosion control. After all, the target of maximum productivity, minimum failures and cost effective maintenance has a very positive and important impact upon the safety of personnel and the environment.

Objective Evidence of Control (O_EofC) comes down to these three questions:

  1. Do you know the exact corrosion condition of every component part in your plant; can you demonstrate it?
  2. Where your plant is in poor condition, do you have a plan in place to mitigate EVERY failure; can you demonstrate it?
  3. Where your plant is in good condition, do you have a plan in place to maintain it as such; can you demonstrate it?

Any answer other than ‘yes’ to either of the first 2 questions should at least trigger a moment of deep-contemplation in all but the most laze fair Engineering Manager! For more than 20 years at SCM, we have been developing tools and techniques, which make it possible for plant owners and managers to answer all three questions affirmatively, offering the opportunity to become corrosion-risk free for the very first time.

degRATE® is the External Degradation process created by SCM, which facilitates O_EofC, as well as a range of complex analyses not otherwise possible.

References: degRATE®, 360integrity®, RISCm®, Fabric Maintenance, Confidence Factors, Fabric Projections

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