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How do you solve the problem of ageing assets in the North Sea?

COLLABORATION IS KEY

Despite being direct competitors in the region, it was highlighted by speaker Howard Harte of the HSE, that collaboration between operators could improve the state of the industry.

After calling for “better stewardship of ageing assets”, the offshore operations manager stated that operators and suppliers should come together and share their ideas of how to use new technology to manage assets.

This isn’t the first time the industry has been told about collaborative working either. Back in April 2014, it was PwC’s Northern Lights report which highlighted the benefits, stating:

“We believe that by adopting collaborative working practices and working with a ‘one business’ mindset, the UK North Sea supply chain can develop sustainable long-term strategies for competitive advantage. There has never been a more urgent need to do so.”

But would operators and suppliers come together as ‘one business’ for the sake of the North Sea?

From a financial point of view, businesses have got a lot to save in light of the £35 billion decommissioning bill – and multi-operator subsea well abandonment campaigns, such as those carried out by Claxton and OIS using the SWAT tool have long-proven the cost savings involved.

AGEING WORKFORCE

At ONS 2014 Statoil promoted their vision for an investment-led ‘renaissance’ in the Norwegian North Sea – could the same thinking apply to the entire region?

It would be dismissive of operators if they didn’t count their ageing workforce as a problem too.

More than 61,000 people work offshore in UK waters and 375,000 are employed in the oil and gas industry, as well as continually protecting them in a dangerous environment, operators need to think about a solution to their old workforce.

In this instance, it could be suggested that both ageing assets and an ageing workforce go hand-in-hand. Reliance on assets over 25 years old means businesses are having to rely on the older worker as they are accustomed to using the equipment – new entrants would simply lack experience.

Bringing younger talent into the industry is required, but is the ‘ageing’ façade of oil and gas a big enough pull for the next generation of engineers? This image problem is particularly important – will engineers be tempted into oil and gas at all? Even if they are, will the pull of the Far East and the Americas draw them away?

FINAL THOUGHTS

Clearly, the industry needs to invest both in assets and the next generation of the workforce if they are to sustain and grow the output levels in the North Sea.

Although engineering solutions to extend asset life are available through Claxton in the form of slot recovery, replacement conductor guide arrays, repair and other solutions, the industry needs to sit up and take action on the North Sea’s age-old problem.

Taking some cues from Statoil would be one easy route, the Norwegian NOC has recently been promoting its efforts to build sustainability in the North Sea offshore industry beyond 2050.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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