Operational risk management on FPSOS, a continuous priority

Personal safety is a major concern, which is why Total deploys appropriate, scientific means on its FPSOs to manage any type of risk. We talk to Jacques Monne, Manager of the Safety Methods and Engineering Department for E&P, and Philippe Reffinato, Head of the Site Support Department of the Operations Division.

Why does safety on FPSOs call for a scientific approach?

Philippe Reffinato: On an FPSO, hundreds of people are confined out at sea on a huge, floating refinery, with almost two million barrels of oil stored under their feet. This is an extraordinary situation. Our main priority is to guarantee everybody's safety. This calls for a highly specific approach because the risks need to be controlled and we need to be able to manage any degraded situation with complete independence.

Jacques Monne


Philippe Reffinato


How is risk management organized in practice?

Jacques Monne: Safety on an FPSO relies on a specific inventory of the risks identified. This inventory is continuously updated and results in the selection of the critical safety systems that need to be deployed. These systems are then inspected and tested at regular intervals using strict monitoring tools. We can therefore ensure the continuous control that guarantees the availability and efficiency of an FPSO’s safety systems throughout its life.


How are risks monitored?

J.M.: A centralized management system gives us an overview of the main risks and the integrity of the installations. Monitoring is based on "control" and "predictive" safety indicators and defined objectives. A methodology enables supervisory staff to maintain risk at a level that is ALARP (As Low as Reasonably Practicable), in the event of untimely failure of a critical safety-related system, until normal service is resumed.

P.R.: Operational safety management is also based on the systematic maintenance of the FPSO installation, as well as the implementation of an inspection and maintenance plan and regular testing of critical safety systems. This approach enables us to anticipate the deviations of certain components and to take corrective action. Routine maintenance is carried out directly by teams on board the FPSO. Major maintenance campaigns are also planned with the involvement of specific teams.


What safety training do employees get?

P.R.: Each person working on site receives mandatory safety training, supplemented by more specific modules depending on their role on board. A signed work permit is required for any task that needs doing on an FPSO. It precisely describes the measures to take and the resources available to make the operations safe. Employees familiarize themselves with it before they start work. This systematic education is, in our opinion, fundamental to awareness and prevention. We also offer supervisors, superintendents and certain operators general training on installation design. This five-day course gives them an overview of the safety barriers, automation, etc. In Angola, it is now mandatory.


What makes simultaneous operations safety different?

J.M.: Most SIMOPS (simultaneous operations) are construction operations that are carried out at the same time as traditional operations. These additional activities involve new risks and often need staff reinforcements (the number of people exposed to the risks can be multiplied by a factor of three or four); they increase the level of risk on the installations. It is therefore essential to step up the safety arrangements. A specific analysis results in the adaptation of safety barriers and operational practices: ensuring the suitability of fire-fighting equipment, modifying evacuation plans, managing additional staff, introducing dedicated SIMOPS HSE coordinators, reinforcing supervision, etc. Communication with the teams is essential for integrating these new rules.


What is the added value of this tailored approach?

P.R.: This simultaneous operations safety approach enables work to be done as quickly as possible, improving installation commissioning times. It saves a lot of time, with no increase in the number of accidents, while maintaining optimum production levels. Total has recognized expertise in SIMOPS safety and a wealth of operational experience, acquired in particular through the Rosa Brownfields projects and the integrity campaigns on the Girassol FPSO in production in Angola, on Ofon 2 in Nigeria, and on Moho in the Republic of Congo.


What purpose do the emergency plans serve?

J.M.: Despite the implementation of proven safety engineering rules and careful management of critical systems, accidents can still happen. It is therefore important to have effective emergency plans in place. Their aim is to minimize the potential consequences of a major event. Their organization and their implementation are established based on the main representative scenarios of major events, identified beforehand by a Technological Risk Assessment (TRA).


How do the teams prepare?

P.R.: Weekly on-board drills are organized with realistic simulations in order to test the teams and the equipment, and of course to ensure efficiency should a major event occur. These drills are like role plays, with pre-established training scenarios. Every year, large-scale drills are also conducted at the subsidiary level. These test the effectiveness of the emergency plans on a large scale and detect anything that might have been overlooked. For instance, the FPSO oil spill exercise, carried out in Angola in 2015, identified the need to have strategies for promptly delivering large quantities of dispersants to the site in the event of an emergency.


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