Ageing North Sea oil and gas platforms in the spotlight

Gas platform off Norfolk

Gas platform off Norfolk - Credit: Archant

Oil and gas operators must share ideas to manage ageing North Sea platforms as safely, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, industry leaders have been told.

About 70pc of installations and equipment in the Southern North Sea are older than their expected 25-year lifespan. The oldest has been standing for 48 years – 23 years longer than it was built to do – as demands have grown to extend their use.

More than 61,000 people work offshore and ensuring that their safety is the priority for the UK oil and gas industry was the focus of an event at Carrow Road, Norwich, organised by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR).

Howard Harte, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offshore operations manager, energy division, called for better 'stewardship of ageing assets' by improved collaboration across the industry to manage change.

The event was staged to discuss the ageing and life extension inspection programme, a key focus of HSE's energy division, to develop strategies for the management of risk associated with ageing infrastructure in the North Sea.

The issue affects the whole industry and was highlighted by a three-year inspection programme examining the condition of 33 offshore assets and infrastructure that led the HSE to make recommendations for operators to develop strategies to better manage ageing infrastructure.

Ideas discussed at the event included operators and suppliers sharing ideas of how they used new technology to manage ageing assets.

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Ian Moulton, from Perenco, said new technology was key to managing old assets. He gave the example of how platforms were painted via rope access and scaffold and asked if there was another way.

An ageing workforce overly-accustomed to working with ageing assets also posed safety concerns, as did new entrants lacking experience.

Celia Anderson, executive director of Skills for Energy, said that improved knowledge management was crucial as well as addressing the skills concerns.

Tom Milne, of Oil & Gas UK, outlined the asset ageing and life extension (ALE) group set up to share issues and experiences about asset life extension.

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