Developments in UK Asset Integrity Management

Oil & Gas IQ

The UK oil and gas industry is already the safest major operating region in Europe, according to the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers Annual Statistics Report from May 2005.

However, the government wants Britain to become the safest place to work in the world by next year and asset integrity management is a key element of this aim.

This article, the second in a three-part series on safety process management, looks at what the government's 10-year strategy for improving asset integrity management in the oil and gas industry.


Health and Safety Challenges

In 2000, the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) challenged the sector to reduce fatal and major injuries across all sectors by 10 percent by 2010 and 5 percent in 2004. The offshore industry had already achieved a 10 percent reduction in 2004 and 2005.

The industry is also meeting the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and industry-agreed target of a10 percent year-on-year reduction in combined major and significant hydrocarbon releases.

In 2004, the HSC's Step Change Leadership team drew up a revised strategy focusing on three strategic areas for all stakeholders in the industry to address from 2005 onwards.

These included recognising hazards and reducing risks, personal ownership and safety and asset integrity management.

Focus on Asset Integrity Management

Between 2000 and 2004, the HSE's Offshore Division (OSD) ran a major programme aimed at reducing hydrocarbon releases and focusing on the integrity of process plant. During that time, the OSD became concerned about what it saw as a general decline in the condition of some installations.

Its response was to introduce Key Programme 3, which was directed more widely at asset integrity management, which it carried out between 2004 and 2007.

Then last year, in a debate to mark the 20th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster, the secretary of state for work and pensions commissioned the HSE to review progress made by the UK offshore oil and gas industry since it last reported on asset integrity management in November 2007.

Industry Cooperation

The report from two years ago raised significant concerns at the time surrounding asset integrity management and set challenges for the sector, but was nevertheless accepted as valid by UK offshore oil and gas operators.

"No one in this industry is in any doubt about the importance of asset integrity, which is the key not only to the safety of our installations but also to the longer-term sustainability of the industry in the UKCS [United Kingdom Continental Shelf] and the security of energy supplies for the country," said Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK.

"We have therefore been working in close cooperation with the HSE for several years throughout this project," he added.

"Over the last three years, industry has spent more than £3 billion in the area of asset maintenance and we have done much to highlight and shift the focus to process safety and asset integrity management," Webb continued.

Reducing Hydrocarbon Releases

In July this year, the HSE published its latest findings on asset integrity management, saying that its review found evidence of "considerably raised awareness" of the need for effective process safety management and major hazard risk of controls.

"It is clear, however, that further progress in the management of asset integrity is required," the HSE said.

"The industry must also focus effort on greater reduction of significant hydrocarbon releases to build upon progress already made," it continued.

In the next piece on asset integrity management, the most up-to-date developments will be covered, including further analysis of the HSE's July 2009 report.

Click here to read part three and here to read about the history of health and safety covered in part one.