IOGP’s Normally Unattended Facilities guidelines.

‘Analytics’ to replace offshore personnel. NUF-compatible standards envisaged.

A new, 30-page white paper* from the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) addresses the specificities of ‘normally unattended facilities’ (NUF) i.e. offshore platforms where operations are ‘either completely automated or operated remotely, with no personnel typically onsite’. The publication examines the technological, logistical, financial and regulatory challenges that a ‘broader application’ of NUF would bring and how they could be approached.

The report provides a top level overview of enablers including remote monitoring and remote site support functions enablers. One key enabler is data. The facility must have sufficient data capture points from fixed and mobile sensing to enable remote analysis and to replace local human situational awareness. Required data should be determined by failure mode analysis for all elements of the equipment and facility so that people are not required to attend the site to capture data.

The NUF model proposed is decidedly high-tech, one of sensors, imagery, videos and other real-time data streaming over ‘robust high capacity communication networks’ for onshore analysis. NUF recommends data formats designed with redundancy and security in mind, and stored in the cloud to enable analytics and decision-making.

Telecommunication should be high bandwidth, stable, and redundant. These may include fiber optic cables to connect the facility to the support center, high penetration/high capacity wireless coverage (Wi-Fi, LWAN, 4G/5G, UWB) across the facility that will allow field devices to communicate with the network.

Analytics will allow for ‘high level problem solving’ without human intervention and lead to the reduction of on-site personnel. Analytics will enable predictive and corrective maintenance, artificial intelligence will enhance alarm management. ‘Enhanced diagnostics’ for complex packages will shorten maintenance campaign duration.

Without onsite personnel, reliable, remotely activated intervention is required, through automation, teleoperations and ‘task-specific or multipurpose systems’. The IOGP envisages a NUF that is kitted out with plethoric goodies, multispectral cameras and sound detectors (to identify gas leaks), self-calibrating cameras and remote monitoring systems, self-validating pressure, temperature, level, and flow instruments, remotely operated cranes, unstaffed pigging systems and more. Robotic systems for mobile sensing or physical interaction on-site, including drones (aerial and underwater) complete the picture. Onshore, a dedicated command center can operate multiple robotic systems remotely.

IOGP observes that the NUF ‘would be greatly facilitated by some level of standardization’ and gives its own JIP33 a plug (CFIHOS is conspicuously absent). But the NUF philosophy ‘may make many standards unsuitable, several regulations and regulatory documents may need to be amended or updated’. To which end, the IOGP Is investigating ‘possible encumbrances within current codes, standards and regulations’. Ultimately In terms of standardization, equipment providers should produce equipment with a ‘NUF compatible’ label to align procurement with NUF objectives. NUF concludes that ‘although technical challenges remain, there are no showstoppers that prevent the pursuit of normally unattended facilities in the very near future.

* NUF V 1.0 May 2021.

Comment: the IOGP paper would appear to be drafted from a North Sea viewpoint where operational de-manning is ongoing. It would have been interesting to add some Gulf of Mexico context to the study where the NUF concept is perhaps more mature. NUF ideas are something of an operator’s Arlésienne, see for instance this paper from Shell, ‘Remote Operations—A Remote Possibility, or the Way We Do Things Round Here’ which demonstrates that, ‘for Shell, remote operations is not a remote possibility, but is in the process of becoming a reality across our global upstream operations’. And that was in 2011!

Click here to comment on this article

Click here to view this article in context on a desktop

© Oil IT Journal - all rights reserved.