Volume: 3 | Issue: 5

Project Safety is Critical in Construction and Commissioning

With events such as the BP Macondo blowout in the US Gulf of Mexico (2010) and the Pemex Ayatsil-C platform accident (June), the safety risks inherent in oil and gas projects are evident. While there is no foolproof solution to fully eliminate these risks, companies are working to establish the proper protocols to help mitigate them.

In a webinar sponsored by the SPE Gulf Coast Section’s Health, Safety, and Environment study group, Steve Frampton, construction and commissioning manager of Marathon Oil’s global project organization, outlined a road map using his experience with the company’s front-end loading system as a template. He laid out the keys to improving on-site safety, emphasizing the importance of a clearly defined scope of work in every stage of the development process from engineering to design to construction and beyond. He said getting all stakeholders involved and invested in the early stages is important to the success of any project, as is the staffing of competent and experienced personnel.

Frampton highlighted the importance of a realistic schedule for project delivery. In many cases, the commissioning and hookup phases may be rushed because of an aggressive schedule, which can be dangerous. “Consider the back end of the project right at the beginning,” he said. “Rushing during commissioning and startup is typically when the unexpected happens and safety is compromised.”

Similar to other project management processes, projects must undergo checks at eight “stage gates” or levels of development, when the company can review decision quality: identification, acquisition, exploration, appraisal, selection, definition, execution, and operation.

At each stage, a project team categorizes the opportunities available, confirms deliverables, and assesses the project’s progress. An outside group then performs a peer review, after which it can recommend that the company moves the project to the next stage, recycle it through the previous stage, or abandon it altogether.

Construction continues on the topsides of a compression platform at
Marathon’s project in the Alba field offshore Equatorial Guinea.
Startup is planned for mid-2016.
Photo courtesy of Marathon Oil.

Frampton said that establishing the safety culture with builders is crucial and is made a priority with every project. “We want to influence the safety culture wherever we are, even on construction yards and we make that very clear from Day 1. We have standards and we want to maintain those on the yard, not just for our own people but for our contracted people as well,” he said.

Frampton stressed the importance of certifying that the completed construction work was done to the desired specifications and maintaining records of all aspects of construction through every discipline. These include material records, quality control records, operative records, and mechanical completion checks. “There’s a whole slew of paperwork,” he said. “Don’t underestimate the resources needed to collate and review and maintain these records.”

In the installation and hookup phases of a project, companies must evaluate whether the site in question is a green- or brownfield. If it is a brownfield, they should engage the operator early to determine what assets are already present above and below the surface. Regardless of the type of site, Frampton said field safety procedures should be established and observed, and there should be alignment between the installation contractor and the field operator.

The installation process typically involves much work done in a short period of time, so it is important to consider the associated risks. Like every phase, a successful hookup phase involves detailed planning and successful execution. By this point, the operations team will be heavily involved in the project, and Frampton stressed the importance of involving the operations team in the planning of the hookup. Adequate resources must be allocated for a proper project closeout.

Incorporating “lessons learned” into the front end of future projects has become a priority within the industry. Frampton noted how, in the past, the inclusion of lessons learned was “a real afterthought” and not very thorough. But now, companies produce reports from the project closeout sessions that can help with project management processes.

“Learning from the past is essential, and that goes back to the experience and the competent people as well. The demographics of the industry are such that a lot of people within this industry are retiring, and leaving the legacy of lessons learned can only help the next generation of people,” he said.



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