Leveraging existing systems for SIS data collection

As the offshore oil and gas production industry evolves, more requirements are being placed on the industry to provide reports and collect data on how it is performing.

Edward M. Marszal
President and CEO

As the offshore oil and gas production industry evolves, more requirements are being placed on the industry to provide reports and collect data on how it is performing. This requirement is not unique to offshore; it's been a trend in all of the process industries. But as most people involved in offshore development will attest, there is a bit more scrutiny being placed on this industry than most.

Regulations requiring data collection for safety-critical equipment, including instrumentation and controls, are not new. Even back when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) was just the Minerals Management Service (MMS), there were regulations that required operators to keep track of whether or not safety-critical equipment – such as shutoff valves – were tested at the required frequency, and what the results of those tests were. And those regulations were strictly enforced.

With the advent of performance-based standards, such as ISA 84.00.01 / IEC 61511 for safety instrumented systems, operators that strictly adhere to these standards are required to not only track tests of safety critical instrumentation, but also to statistically analyze the performance of these instruments in actual service to verify that their performance is consistent with design assumptions. This can be done by entering the results of instrument-proof tests that are documented on printed procedure worksheets into a spreadsheet. But it is more efficient and more effective when done electronically using database software.

In addition to performance-based safety instrumentation standards, BOEMRE has engaged in a vigorous outreach program to have offshore operators adopt Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS). A SEMS program, in accordance with API RP-75 Development of a Safety and Environmental Management Program for Outer Continental Shelf Operations and Production Facilities, also requires a large amount of data collection, analysis, and reporting. While the scope of SEMS is larger than just safety instrumented systems, the objectives and level of detail are significantly different.

While compliance activities are an essential part of offshore processing, day-to-day maintenance activities still need to be completed. After all, products don't get to market because a report was presented to regulatory authorities. Normal daily maintenance activities in the offshore industry include preventive maintenance, corrective maintenance, calibration, testing, and inspection. All of these activities require work orders to be placed, personnel to be engaged, spare parts and consumables to be taken off storeroom shelves, and results to be documented. Even though no regulation requires it, normal maintenance activity is often performed with the assistance of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) simply to be able to handle the massive amount of information and coordination that is required to keep an offshore facility producing product on a steady basis.

You will note that we have just presented three cases where database systems are either already employed or are desirable. The really unfortunate thing that is occurring in industry as a result of these initiatives is that multiple special-purpose computer applications are being developed to fit very narrow and prescriptive niches, when a single unified platform could and should be utilized to meet the needs of all of the stakeholders. It is a simple matter of leveraging investments in existing systems to meet new purposes.

In order to accomplish this task, the most flexible and powerful systems should form the basis for unified solutions. While some vendors offer database solutions dedicated to tracking safety instrumented system performance in a comprehensive fashion, these solutions are limited in their capabilities. These systems are often desktop applications that are not readily configurable. Similarly, many SEMS dedicated software solutions are purpose-built for SEMS compliance reporting, and are not readily configurable to perform the data analysis that is required for safety instrumented system (SIS) performance-based standards.

Unlike the purpose-built compliance-driven software applications, CMMS appear to be a robust solution to everyone's requirements. While many users may have horror stories about using CMMS of one variety or another, often the problem lies in the configuration and setup of the software, and not the software itself. Most reputable CMMS platforms have several advantages that make them ideal for the unified data collection, tracking, and reporting platform. First off, these software applications have been in use for many years, and in some cases decades. As such, the applications are robust and proven. Most of these applications are multi-user, multi-site client-server architectures – which is essential for this type of application where many users in many locations will simultaneously be accessing the application for different reasons. Finally, these applications can be fairly easily configured to meet almost any process requirement. Often, much of the functionality that you need is already built into the software; it is just not being used.

While the unified operational software platform is within reach, deployment is critical. It is important that all data collection needs are going to be met with the final application. This means that a lot of thought and planning needs to go into how the system is set up. If set up properly, the amount of effort expended in testing and maintaining critical equipment, such as safety instrumented systems, should be minimized because the technicians performing the tests should only need to interact with a single software application, instead of entering the same data in multiple locations because it needs to be reported to different people. In addition, better designed systems should result in better data collection. Using that data will then make offshore workplaces safer because statistics on the "real" operation of safety critical equipment can be analyzed sooner, or even in real time. This type of capability allows operators to replace or modify components with poor operational histories, before their failure leads to disaster.

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