Digitizing Risk-based Integrity Management of FPSOs

October 23, 2020

Image courtesy ABS
Image courtesy ABS

Industries are adapting to an increasingly digitalized landscape. The floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) industry is no different. As concerted efforts are made to improve project economics Matt Tremblay, ABS Senior Vice President, Global Offshore, discusses how digitalization can increase safety, reduce costs, and build robust technical and operational capabilities.

No one could have predicted what a challenging year 2020 would become. Offshore production activity fluctuated dramatically with changing market economics and a global pandemic, the fall out of heightened geopolitical tensions, not to mention new IMO regulations introduced at the beginning of this year.

On the horizon, however, is positive news. Markets are beginning to evolve, and an example of this is Brazil, where both Petrobras and international oil companies are again active. Increased activity is also taking place in the North Sea, and in Australia. New entrants are making strong headway in regions such as Mexico, where Petroleum Reform is opening offshore exploration and production to foreign companies.

Evolving FPSOs through the influence of digitalization
With these positive developments, the Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) markets and the assets themselves, continue to evolve.

With the largest fleet of classed FPSOs, ABS has supported their development in both size and complexity. At its core, an FPSO is simply a production, storage, and offloading system. While the basic design concept hasn’t fundamentally changed, what is evolving are the technologies, systems, and tools available for an FPSO to optimize its design and operation.

Influencing this change are the fundamentals of how asset management can be applied to achieve leaner, cost-effective operations and reliable exploration activities. There is a primary focus on improving maintenance scheduling and performance, reducing human factor involvement, and increasing the lifetime use of the FPSO asset, safely. The importance of digitalization is increasingly becoming a priority on the boardroom agenda of many operators, particularly with industry-wide initiatives toward net-zero carbon.

Managing complex assets
Managing the integrity of an FPSO poses a particular set of challenges, and integrity management is still often managed using outdated, labor-intensive spreadsheets or other basic systems.

However, mindsets are changing with increasing awareness on how data can be leveraged to help provide real-time answers to common maintenance, operations and performance questions.

One of the benefits of digitalization is the increase in performance and productivity that can be achieved with a minute-by-minute visibility of how an FPSO is operating. Giving an owner-operator the opportunity to clearly track the change in asset condition over time, from construction through to late-life, helps make more informed decisions, supported by more reliable data, making the industry safer.

Considering the challenges of FPSO operations, fewer, more focused inspections that reduce the need for tanks or equipment to be physically examined while maintaining safety standards, represent a compelling proposition. As does an optimized maintenance system to improve uptime and increase reliability. Combine this, and you have a simpler way to manage maintenance crews on board, optimize turnarounds, simplify logistics, streamline the POB, and improve operations. The end result leads to safer operations, a reduction in OPEX, and improved profitability.

The trick is how to avoid adding unacceptable risk. It’s why ABS has moved to develop solutions using data science as the basis for an informed and targeted decision-making process, using predictive analytics to guide operational decisions. Examples include analysis of early corrosion detection and coating failures using machine learning and pattern identification intelligence, and real-time monitoring and transparency into how a vessel’s operational profile and loading patterns are affecting its structural integrity, providing predictive alerts for detected anomalies to reduce the risk of unplanned downtime and improvement in maintenance strategies.

The goal in moving to a condition-based system is that you are letting the condition of the asset – such as the FPSO hull – tell you how often you need to inspect and maintain it. For example, consistent hull inspections showing no corrosion may allow you to increase your inspection interval.

It starts with collecting data that will be processed and analyzed. Most of this data is something we already have, such as the original design information, the engineering assessments and analysis, the inspection records, and survey results. Environmental data may be acquired from industry sources or measured onboard. Operational data such as loading patterns, production profiles, failure modes, maintenance data, are also available by manual intervention and measurement, or through sensor-based monitoring systems.

When you combine all this information with diagnostic and potentially prognostic models, can then detect health and performance anomalies in the form of impending failure or performance degradation at an early stage.

This provides valuable information for corrective and preventative actions by allowing both onboard and onshore management teams to observe the condition and status of their vessels’ integrity. This information empowers operators to develop appropriate strategies for maintaining their assets, optimizing decision-making, and managing integrity and maintenance as efficiently as possible to avoid unexpected downtime and productivity loss in operations.


Image courtesy ABS


Creating your data ecosystem
With any offshore unit, and in any operation, there are different kinds of data generated. There is data generated from the operational side, such as oil and vibration testing. There is data generated from repairs, maintenance, warranty claims, CMMS data, as well as met-ocean conditions and environment data.

All these data configurations are very diverse and were traditionally kept in silos. Today, we’re able to combine data sets from multiple sources together with technologies that help operators make better and more informed to-the-minute decisions. Combining multiple data sets generates big data analytics, which is the concept of using different data sources to create penetrating new insights.

Auditing your data and applying digital technology will automate the translation and data analysis process.

Digital solutions can then be used to visualize the status of that asset, and monitoring tools can be used to help you focus on the big picture. For example, combining data analytics with Artificial Intelligence (AI) can investigate the ‘what if scenarios’ and provide future insights, enabling operators to begin to answer not only what happened, but also what will happen.

Building a Digital Asset Framework
“Digital Twin” is a familiar term, but it is a term that is hard to define. For example, if you assessed 10 separate projects, each with their own Digital Twin, all 10 of them would give you a different description of what it is, what it does, and what it delivers.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, and in reality, no two projects will be the same, particularly in the design and operation of FPSOs where there are vast technical challenges that require numerous detailed process, control, safety, and flow simulations to maximize production, from subsea to offloading.

In a Digital Twin, physics-induced data are used to mirror and predict the status and life of its corresponding physical twin. This enhances the operation of an FPSO by helping to both visualize and predict the performance of that asset. As the digital twin is designed to continuously collect and process operating data from sensors and other data sources, it presents a constantly evolving picture of the FPSO’s living status at all times.

While you may not need all of the potential analysis capability available today to support a new FPSO that has just been installed, it is beneficial to deliver a new FPSO with a robust condition model to allow you to begin the full lifecycle of the model alongside the physical asset. Ultimately, it allows operators to better calculate and forecast the remaining life of their asset.

Applying Digital Twin technology as part of a “Digital Asset Framework”, allows for a single source of truth that can be shared with stakeholders, including owners, operators, project financiers, insurance providers, and regulators alike. Everybody can access the same reports, data, and insights in a way that makes sense through data visualization.

Digital-driven business outcomes
The digital solutions applied to an FPSO impact its entire value chain, from equipment and inventory to operational efficiency, including optimization of inspections and onboard activities. Coupling these digital solutions with traditional risk-based inspection and maintenance planning techniques has shown a 10:1 return on investment opportunity over the total asset life due to optimized repair and inspection planning.

In early project CapEx planning, condition models, sensor data ingestion tools, remote inspection technology, are all aspects of what should be looked at to ensure an FPSO is future-proofed, so that in 10 years from now, an operator can apply the latest predictive analytics techniques to forecast its remaining asset life.

Where operators manage a fleet of multiple offshore units, using the right digital tools and data insight offers benchmarking that helps compare one offshore unit’s performance against another in the fleet. This gives further opportunity to improve asset management activities through the efficient allocation or re-allocation of resources resulting in streamlined scheduling of fleet maintenance activities that are focused and specific.

A connected future
The transition from legacy systems to Digital Twin driven operations will be incremental, which will naturally incorporate a range of digital solutions to improve asset management and optimization.

The digital tools now entering the market allow operators to ingest, store, track, and analyze condition data in a way that was never possible before. These are technologies we are both building and implementing, focused on three primary goals; improving asset reliability, streamlining the Class process on offshore operations, and ultimately, supporting the improved profitability of the industry. Of course, this is all rooted in a framework of safety and quality spanning an end-to-end solution.

ABS has developed several innovations to support the monitoring and management of structural, machinery, and condition metrics needed for asset management and regulatory compliance.

ABS Condition Manager is just one of a suite of advanced new digital services and applications launched by ABS that offer unprecedented understanding of the status of an asset. A compartment-based, digital visualization of an asset’s condition, including inspection and repair history, as well as critical area monitoring using Class and operational data, the ABS Condition Manager application is a good example of how digital technologies can empower users with insights surrounding structural health, anomaly impacts and maintenance opportunities. The ability of Condition Manager to seamlessly integrate with onboard CMMS systems can result in up to a 50% reduction in effort to prepare annual maintenance work plans.

ABS is also exploring practical applications of AI-enabled inspection capabilities in areas such as corrosion detection, machinery performance, and monitoring, through to accumulated fatigue damage on structures based on asset-specific data, and even metocean route planning.

As we continue to move deeper into a condition-based and ultimately predictive approach, we are looking towards more sophisticated AI and using additional data from onboard sensors for advanced monitoring of vessel health, from the hull structure to whole-life integrity support with ‘live’ operation decision support.

From the design concept, through to construction, operations, and end of life, Class is connected to the asset, and the digital tools and technology that support it are transforming the future of FPSO operations.

This article has been published in the September/October 2020 edition of Offshore Engineer magazine

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