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Blog: Reducing Offshore Personnel for a Competitive Future

David Steed, Alex Parker & Joel Maisey

In order to play a constructive part in the Energy Transition, Offshore Oil & Gas needs to adapt. With increasing scrutiny on its environmental impact and its cost competitiveness being challenged, the sector has to change.


One such area for improvement is looking at how offshore facilities are crewed. Offshore personnel, and their supporting infrastructure, are a major contributor to OPEX, CO2 footprint, and facility CAPEX. With a change in mindset, it is possible for operators to limit offshore headcount, reduce risk, and offer both lifecycle cost savings and environmental benefits. Crondall believes that adopting a reduced personnel approach to offshore facilities can be a key factor in maintaining the future relevance of Offshore Oil & Gas, as part of a diverse global energy portfolio.


In this blog post I will aim to outline a strategy framework that can be used by operators to reduce offshore complement, and the potential benefits that may be realised by doing so. Over the coming weeks I will be publishing more blog posts, going into further detail around each strategy within this framework.


The impact of offshore personnel


Looking at the OPEX breakdown for a typical North Sea facility (below), offshore crewing costs are the largest cost contributor, at approximately one third. Aside from the crew, when also considering the logistics infrastructure required to support these personnel, these costs account for almost half of facility OPEX.


Although the financial impact of offshore crewing is significant, it is also important to consider the direct link between offshore manhours and the socio-environmental impact of a project. Placing more people offshore requires more helicopter flights, which in turn carries a personnel safety risk and emissions penalty. Supporting a large operations complement offshore requires ancillary staff, a larger living quarters, power generation and lifesaving equipment. The effect of having even one or two extra technicians offshore is quickly compounded.

Strategic rethink – reduced manning framework


By successfully simplifying facilities & utilities, managing the integration of digital solutions, and selecting appropriate strategies to minimise fabric maintenance, it is possible to function with a new operational model, on a normally unattended basis.


Inspection and maintenance activities can be pinpointed to specific ‘bad-actors’ with a track record of failure, allowing crews to concentrate efforts where they are needed most. At the same time, onshore personnel can monitor facility health remotely, using newly developed technologies, and can deploy fast-response walk-to-work corrective maintenance teams to avoid production outages.


Delivering savings


Using the above framework to guide design and enact operational change, Crondall is now advising operators and vessel owners on innovative ways to reduce their own crewing requirements for greenfield and brownfield facilities alike. Whilst removing all personnel from an offshore facility is a significant undertaking, best suited for greenfield projects, a gradual reduction in manning is possible through a revised mentality and a willingness to adopt emerging technologies – an approach that is particularly appropriate for existing facilities.

During a recent study, Crondall worked with a client during the pre-FEED of a large FPSO project to identify and implement opportunities to reduce offshore complement. Crondall was able to halve the annual maintenance burden of the vessel and reduce the number of permanent offshore crew by 65%. This, combined with a willingness on behalf of the operator to adopt new thinking, is a promising step forward on the path to an unmanned facility.


Whether during concept feasibility studies, FEED, or mid-life redevelopment, we aim to assist our clients to realise the financial savings and HSE improvements that can be made on their developments. We believe that this initiative is an exciting step towards a future of unmanned offshore installations.

Closing thoughts

As I’ve written this post over the past couple of weeks, the situation around COVID-19 has worsened. The potential ramifications of those offshore not being able to carry out their duties are serious. Reducing offshore complement, combined with facilitating a remote inspection programme, would significantly reduce the exposure of facilities to virus pandemics. Whilst I hope that this situation will not repeat itself, it does seem pragmatic to consider the possibility of future virus outbreaks, and how we might mitigate their effects.

I'm hoping to publish the next blog post in about a fortnight. This post will explore how offshore inspection, maintenance and repair can be managed on a normally unattended platform.

Acknowledgement

Pulling together blog posts isn't an individual activity. Many thanks to Alex Parker, Joel Maisey and the wider team at Crondall for helping me pull this blog together and in advance for your support on the coming posts.

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