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OLF FPSO Project 2002

A summary Report on

FPSO Lessons Learned, gathered from 5 Norwegian FPSOs - May 2002

20 September 2002

Prepared for the Norwegian Oil Industry Association, OLF

The Offshore Management Centre, Robert Gordons University, Aberdeen

OLF FPSO Project 2002


In 2001 OLF formed an Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) Experience Transfer Workgroup. The group’s objectives are to facilitate experience transfer between Norwegian FPSO operators and potential operators to reduce capital and operating costs and improve overall effectiveness.

A decision was made in 2002 to interview Operating and Project staff

involved in the 5 Norwegian FPSOs. The contractor RGU had been involved in

a similar study in the UK and was therefore able to make comparisons

between UK and Norwegian experience. A team from RGU, OLF and Marintec

conducted the interviews and prepared the interview summaries. consisted of;

The team

Mark Capsey (RGU) David Llewelyn (OLF) Erik Dyrkoren (Marintek)

The OLF workgroup members provided the essential guidance and support for the interviews and can be contacted if further information is required. The workgroup members were;

Torbjørn Huslende (ExxonMobil) Nils Kjær (Norsk Hydro) Stig Mjøen (Statoil) Erik Vogsberg (Enterprise/Shell)

Stavanger 20.9.02

David Llewelyn Workgroup Facilitator OLF

OLF FPSO Project 2002



Executive Summary






Aims and objectives






Key Issues Raised and Resolved / Lessons Learned



Industry Challenges



Norwegian FPSO Successes



UKCS FPSO Lessons Learned



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Table 1

Summary of Key Issues, Lessons learned and Challenges


Table 2

Database of Norwegian FPSO Key Issues & Lessons Learned


Table 3

Norwegian FPSO Successes


Table 4:

Most widely reported issues/problems relating to UKCS FPSO’s


Table 5:

UK FPSO Checklist


OLF FPSO Project 2002

1. Executive Summary

In April/May 2002 the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) initiated a research project to collect specific lessons learned from the operation of five Norwegian Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessels (FPSO’s).

Using a structured survey tool the project team interviewed 23 representatives of ExxonMobil, Norsk Hydro, Statoil and DNV.

Interviewees included 3 OIMs, 5 Maintenance Superintendents, 2 Production Supervisors, 2 Operations Superintendents, 6 FPSOs specialists, 4 Project Management specialists and 1 DNV representative.

The findings were jointly written up by the project team against 64 topics and categorised for importance and underlying causes.

The major output of this exercise to date is the creation of a comprehensive database of issues and problems that the Norwegian FPSO sector has faced up to and resolved and the key lessons learned.

The most significant of these issues and related lessons learned are summarised in Chapter 5 and the Appendix Table 1.

More comprehensive details of the issues/problems, remedial actions and lessons learned are presented in the Appendix, Table 2.

Approximately 350 FPSO related issues/problems were reported. Where the primary underlying cause was identified the percentage number of attributions were design issues (63%), operational issues (16%), construction issues (12%), and commissioning issues (9%). It would appear that during the first 18 months problems are often down to poor construction and commissioning after that issues are usually attributable to design.

Respondents highlighted 21 significant challenges that the FPSO community faced. It is recommended that each of these issues presented in Chapter 6 and Appendix, Table 1 should be the subject of further consideration to determine the best way to jointly overcome that challenge.

Most lessons learned arise from the experience of problem resolution. Although selected feedback on Norwegian FPSO successes is presented in Chapter 7 and Appendix, Table 3; this was not the primary emphasis in the information collection and respondents feedback.

A similar research exercise into lessons learned was undertaken for UKCS FPSO’s in

2001. In Chapter 8 and Appendix Tables 4 and 5 some general and selected

links have been drawn between the Norwegian and UK experiences.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

2. Introduction

The Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) initiated this preliminary research exercise. It was undertaken by David Llewelyn (OLF Project Manager, Stavanger), Mark Capsey (General Manager, Offshore Management Centre, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen) and Erik Dyrkoren (Research Engineer, Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute, Trondheim).

3. Aims & Objectives

The purpose of this joint industry initiative has been to collect lessons learned from the experiences of operators of Norwegian Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessels (FPSO’s). Information was collected from three operators responsible for five FPSO’s; ExxonMobil (Balder & Jotun A), Norsk Hydro (Varg) and Statoil (Asgård & Norne) and the DNV. The objective has been to ensure that project and operating experience is not lost but that generic lessons learned are widely disseminated to allow continuous improvement, to assist common problem resolution and to seek to minimise repetition of mistakes.

4. Methodology

The project team together with contributions from the participating company representatives identified a suite of categories of FPSO issues for investigation. These were formatted into a survey tool under seven main headings: Hull & Marine; Turret; Layout; Project Management; Operations & Support; Codes/Classification; Manning & Safety. The survey tool invited respondents to identify issues/problems related to FPSO’s, to rank their relative level of importance, and to identify the underlying cause as either design, construction, commissioning or operational related. Where remedial actions had been undertaken comments on the effectiveness of these were invited. Finally respondents were asked to comment on any lessons learned.

Experience suggests that the most valuable feedback is derived from respondents who have had a chance to consider the subject matter in advance. Therefore the survey tool was issued for completion to the interviewees some days prior to their formal interviews as a catalyst for meaningful discussion. It was observed however that the majority of participants had not completed the form before their interview, but preferred to ‘brainstorm’ on the day.

Between 22-26 April 2002 the project team met with and interviewed 23 representatives of ExxonMobil, Norsk Hydro, Statoil and DNV in Stavanger, Sandvika and Stordal plus a videoconference with Harstad.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

The project team would like to thank all the participating companies for the excellent timetabling arrangements and the useful feedback supplied by all their representatives.

Once reviewed the interviewee’s comments were collated by FPSO Company. These were then returned to each participating company for any additional feedback comments and amendments. To maintain client confidentiality in this final report all indications of information source including specific FPSO references and mentions of vendors have been removed.

Part of this project has also involved linking the Norwegian FPSO experience with information collected by the Robert Gordon University, Offshore Management Centre for a UK FPSO research exercise conducted in 2001.

In this exercise a substantial amount of information related to FPSO operations has been gathered. To best review the data it is recommended that the Appendix be viewed on-line. A large number of hyperlinks have been created to assist users to move from one data set to another. The Norwegian interview notes have been evaluated and synthesised by the project team and compiled into a simple MS Excel database. From this considerable information set a summary of the key issues, lessons learned and challenges still to be faced have been compiled in Table 1. The bulk of the raw data on which this interpretation is based is presented in Table 2. Where given, insights into the perceived successes of Norwegian FPSO projects are documented in Table 3.

The most widely reported issues/problems relating to UK FPSO’s are presented in Table 4. A particularly useful output from the UK research exercise was a checklist of design, construction, commissioning and operational issues, which if acknowledged might assist avoidance of decisions, and actions, that potentially could lead to problems during start- up and operations. A version of this is reproduced in Table 5 with hyperlinks to the Norwegian case study material.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

5. Key Issues Raised & Resolved / Lessons Learned

In identifying issues/problems faced in the operation of their FPSO’s, respondents were asked to rank them from 0 (not an issue) to 4 (critical issue) with respect to their overall level of importance. Summaries of those issues perceived as critical (4), major (3) and moderate (2) are given below and have also been highlighted in the appendix.

Hull & Marine

A total of 172 hull and marine related issues/problems were reported. Where the primary underlying cause was identified the number of attributions were design issues (97), construction issues (20), operational issues (16) and commissioning issues (3).

Green Water (Critical)

Green water has affected 4 out of 5 FPSO’s. Waves over the bows have damaged stairways and broken accommodation windows. Waves along the side have damaged ancillary equipment including fire stations, cable trays and pipework. Model testing and environmental predictions appear to have been inadequate to allow designers to eliminate these green water effects.

Retroactive repairs/redesign including the fitting of side panels, raising bow walls and moving sensitive equipment appear to have reduced the problem. In some cases cargo limits have been imposed. A joint North Sea workgroup including the authorities and classification societies has now led to a greater understanding of green water design requirements.

Hull - Strength (Critical)

3 out of 5 FPSO’s have experienced internal cracks between tanks. Cracks were detected through minor leaks. No leakage has occurred outside the hull. In each case a programme of inspection and repair has been initiated. This involves taking the affected tanks and adjacent tanks out of service, making a manned entry and after cleaning, fitting appropriate stiffeners.

Conventional hull design and basic fatigue analysis has been unable to eliminate FPSO hull cracking in service. While this is not unusual for trading vessels the operational problems and costs of offshore repair make this situation undesirable. Future hull designs should make use of fatigue analysis in all critical and high-risk areas with construction detail subject to high levels of control.

Accommodation (critical)

The situation is

worsened by recent proposals from the unions that two people should not sleep in the

The FPSO accommodation has insufficient beds (4 out of 5 FPSO’s).

OLF FPSO Project 2002

same cabin simultaneously. This lack of beds seriously hampers summer maintenance programmes and delays major repairs or upgrades.

The economic impact of limited accommodation on operations and project (start-up and upgrades) is likely to be significantly greater than the cost of the extra beds and facilities. Future FPSO’s should have 100+ usable beds and/or have provision for temporary expansion.

Ballast & Cargo Pipework (Major)

Construction standards for cargo and ballast pipework have proven inadequate for FPSO’s. Problems have included weld failures, leaks and corrosion. GRE pipework has had to be reinforced due to inadequate jointing.

Since experiencing a number of failures in Cargo/Ballast pipework built to marine standards in the Far East, DNV have tightened their inspection standards. This combined with more attention to material selection; inspectability and access should mitigate the problem.

Corrosion & Coatings (Major)

Coatings are required in the base of tanks to minimise corrosion from free water. If this coating fails or cracks SRB can build up causing significant pitting. This is a very difficult area to inspect, so damage might become quite extensive before detection.

Operators should have an ongoing inspection programme of tank bottom coatings and wall thickness measurement. Highest risk areas are slops tanks, areas under solids build up and locations where coatings may crack as a result of hull strains.

Cranes (Major)

The choice of cranes - solid boom for 4 out of 5 FPSO’s was not optimum. These heavily built booms are strongly affected by the wind and due to their weight, are insufficiently responsive when offloading a supply vessel or for working on equipment. The general view is that these cranes were not designed for active load handling but for in-port offloading.

A number of upgrades have been made or considered - increased hydraulic power, installation of coolers, emergency power pack, boom arc limit switches. However these modifications have only partially solved the problem.

Helicopters (Major)

The forward positioned accommodation and helideck on all Norwegian FPSO’s is not optimum for helicopter landing - misaligned approach, no forward visual reference-point and increased vertical movement (cf. aft helidecks). However it does have the advantage of clean air (no vessel-induced turbulence and no take off obstructions.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

Installation of large helidecks on certain FPSO’s and provision of high-powered lighting has helped pilots. FPSO’s can often turn across the wind to facilitate a 45-degree approach upwind. Reliable weather and heave monitoring equipment should always be selected. Future FPSO Helidecks should be designed and specified in consultation with helicopter operators to take account of lessons learned on existing FPSO’s.

Hull Capacity (Major)

Typical shuttle tanker (ST) capacities are 900,000bbls. For commercial reasons and to make best use of the ST, Operators have wanted to fill the shuttle tanker. In several cases the storage capacity of the FPSO requires the ST to wait and complete loading with a second hook up. As well as risking failure to connect due to weather, the extra waiting time is expensive.

The cost benefits of increased FPSO storage volumes should be considered at the earliest opportunity in the design phase. It is likely that matching storage volumes to the size of the planned shuttle tanker will prove the most cost-effective option.

Inert Gas System (Major)

One FPSO was designed with Hydrocarbon blanketing to replace inert gas. Following successful proof of concept, this is now being extended to others. As well as eliminating venting or flaring, it reduces use/maintenance of the inert gas generator.

This newly introduced technology has proven successful. Note: a key aspect of hydrocarbon blanketing is O2 detection. This instrumentation must be kept in service and backed up at all times.

Moorings (Major)

Different approaches have been taken by Norwegian FPSO’s. Use of individual anchor winches has the advantage of facilitating winter installation, allowing active management of the mooring system and enabling movement of the chain wear point. The permanently stopped design is simpler with reduced maintenance and lower capex.

It is not yet known if wear will be a problem for the permanently stopped design, however there is as yet no straightforward method to inspect the top of the chain and service the fairlead. Good experience with such a design may lead to increased use of this lower cost approach. To date (other than minor drilling rig damage - better monitoring is required here) there have been no problems with the mooring lines and anchors.

Motion Assumptions (Major)

Motion has not been a significant problem for production regularity in Norwegian FPSO’s. The key has been selection of effective level control instrumentation. Longitudinal separator placement has been successful. One FPSO was able to maintain full production in 12m significant wave heights.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

However operating experience for at least one FPSO has shown roll limits to be under- estimated. This has required an upgrade of the topsides fatigue design.

PAU Structures, Supports & Interfaces (Major)

There have been a number of problems with PAU supports. These include excessive vibration of reciprocating compressors and pumps transferring noise too the hull, flexing of compressor supports, excessive PAU stiffness leading to cracks in the deck, pipework stresses due to moving independently from the PAU.

PAU design, supports and associated pipework are a critical area. Design must take full account of vessel movement, machinery vibration, vessel role, wind and live liquid loading and construction tolerances.

Power Generation (Major)

Each FPSO has a different engine combination. Wartsilla diesels while reliable and flexible have the disadvantage of design challenges for dual fuelling, high levels of maintenance and noise. LM 2500 engines have been the most successful for FPSO’s. The larger and newer LM 6000s have proven inappropriate for offshore use with variable loads (from thrusters) and the demands of low nox emissions and dual fuel use.

3 out of 5 FPSO’s have either inadequate power or incorrect engine sizes for efficient running. The best solution seems to lie in smaller gas turbine packages in combination with a large back-up diesel generator. Gas turbines also provide ample waste heat for crude heating. The use of reciprocating diesels for main power has only been considered appropriate for smaller FPSO’s.

HVAC (Moderate)

There have been a number of examples of poor HVAC design. The most serious was the level of noise, which failed to meet Working Environment rules. Modifications after construction are expensive and disruptive. Other problems are balancing difficulties, lack of external air locks; poor access for maintenance, stuck dampers and excessive dryness in the air.

HVAC design is a key area of design as a safety critical system. A contractor familiar with North Sea conditions and Norwegian Working Environment legislation should manage the work.

Selection of Marine Equipment (Moderate)

Shipyards will normally fit butterfly valves on penetrations through the hull, however their life is limited and they are easily damaged by marine growth. On FPSO’s these should all be replaced by gate valves, and provision made to blank these off externally for service

OLF FPSO Project 2002

Workshops (Moderate)

Workshop design and locations vary on the FPSO’s. The most successful are accessible via forklift, on the same level and close to stores, well equipped with mechanical handling equipment, separate from the accommodation (for noise) and in a safe area allowing welding (forward).

Getting the workshop design right is important for maintenance efficiency and crew morale. The working environment, access and conditions in the workshop will reduce repair costs, as the crew becomes confident to repair and service equipment on board.


A total of 30 turret related issues/problems were reported. Where the primary underlying cause was identified the number of attributions were design issues (15), operational issues (5) and construction issues (2).

Turret Location (Critical)

The turret location is a key design issue. With the turret at greater than 75% of overall hull length from the stern, the vessel weather-vanes free. At around 65% (4 out of 5 FPSO’s), thrusters are required to maintain/control heading. The controlled heading FPSO’s have the advantage of being able to lock the turret and thereby reduce bearing and swivel wear. However this places a demand on the thrusters (which are safety critical) and the crew to mange turret repositioning.

Experience to date from the single Norwegian FPSO with a free turret indicates lower maintenance and crew involvement than with the other FPSO’s. In addition that FPSO has managed to achieve adequate safety of the accommodation forward of the turret, by using a firewall. Current experience suggests that a free turret with swivel and thrusters used for offloading only, results in the lowest Opex.

Turret Design (Critical)

Three types of turret bearings are used by the 5 FPSO’s. 2 out of 3 types have been troublesome. The wheel and rail type have proven unsatisfactory due to high point loading from the wheels, excess construction tolerances, vessel deflection, poor rail heat treatment leading to surface cracking and inadequate wheel lubrication. The hydraulic turret bearings have suffered from pad wear, high starting friction, gripper failures, hydraulic imbalance and difficulty to access and repair components.

Turret bearing design has evolved over time. While simple rails and wheels have proven inadequate, heavy duty rails and multiple bogies with rubber pads to spread the load have proven an effective solution. Hydraulic pads were selected to deal with high mooring loads on a large turret. While this has been effective leading to no downtime,

OLF FPSO Project 2002

maintenance has been excessive. A key learning from all designs is the need to make all components easily serviceable and replaceable.

Risers (Major)

Risers are a critical component of the FPSO system. Damage to the outer sheath and seawater ingress can reduce fatigue life significantly. Gas permeation can have

unexpected effects including collapse, and HP gas flow can cause vibration or loosening

of the inner carcass. To date however, there have been no catastrophic failures of risers.

Good riser design and operational management is a key success factor. Monitoring

systems, the ability to flush the annulus and protect the riser from damage, particularly

on installation are needed to ensure long and trouble free life.

Swivels (Major)

Overall the performance of swivels on the 3 FPSO’s has been good. There have been no significant leaks; the only major problem was two failures and an explosion in the oil filled 11KV-power transfer swivel. This was due to water entering the insulation oil medium.

Initial worries about swivel reliability have now been reduced. However, only one FPSO has continuous swivel movement (free turret) and this has only been in service two years, so long term wear concerns and repair methods remain untested.

Drag Chains (Major)

2 out of 5 FPSO’s have drag chains as an alternative to a swivel. Specific problems experienced include hose and electric cable failure due to wear from bending, wear pads worn out, difficulty of access, and damage caused by running into the end stops. In addition the drag chain limits the free rotation of the vessel requiring thrusters to be serviceable at all times.

While simpler than swivels, high maintenance and operability problems have indicated that swivels would have been a better option. This is endorsed by one FPSO where the operator has elected to replace the gas transfer hose with a swivel.


A total of 19 layout related issues/problems were reported. Where the primary

underlying cause was identified the number of attributions were design issues (12),

commissioning issues (2) and operational issues (1).

OLF FPSO Project 2002

Layout (Critical)

The layout of equipment on an FPSO is a critical design phase. Concerns noted include placing main generators too close to the accommodation, poor mechanical handling solutions, exhaust and flare radiation problems, module overcrowding when others are very spacious, poorly placed vents, access and escape routes restricted by cable and pipework, poor workshop and store locations.

It is recommended that when a basic FPSO layout is outlined more time is spent with all

interested parties both informally and through formal design reviews to ensure the best

compromises are achieved. Relevant specialists must carefully consider all Capex, Opex and Safety issues.

Vents & Exhausts (Moderate)

All FPSO’s have had problems with cold venting of hydrocarbons tripping the process. Modifications have involved routing all vents up the flare stack or, on the thruster controlled FPSO’s, on the downwind side.

More attention should be paid at the design stage to any source of hydrocarbon venting. This requires a significantly different approach from a trading tanker. Minor releases can be cold vented but lines need to be located and sized to minimise any risk of explosion or tripping gas detectors under any weather conditions.

Project Management

A total of 29-project management related issues/problems were reported. Where the

primary underlying cause was identified the number of attributions were design issues

(11), commissioning issues (6) and construction issues (4).

Capex Overruns and Schedule delays(Critical)

On only one FPSO capex over-runs were avoided. In this case contract terms were followed with minimum change. This kept costs under control, however the Operator admits quality was poorer than expected and opportunities to improve the design at low cost were missed. On the remaining projects costs over-ran significantly but the quality was higher than the original specification and design improvements implemented.

Almost all FPSO projects in the 90s were underbid by the main contractor. The Operator can either participate actively implementing upgrades when poor quality or low cost solutions are offered, or impose the contractual terms. In general an optimum balance

can be struck by working with the contractor to maintain quality and provide assistance

to improve efficiency.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

Construction Management (Major)

In several cases the build contract specified functional requirements, however the design contractor and shipyard were unable to interpret these correctly. In addition they failed to manage builders and suppliers to adequate quality standards, or to keep within budget or time schedule.

Functional specifications generally give the yard and designers too little guidance. More work should be done up front on the selection of key equipment and specification of quality. In all 5 cases the operator has had to provide significant resources to support the project or in 3 cases take over responsibility for completing the project.

Project Input from Other Groups (Major)

There is evidence that builders and contractors learn a great deal during projects. There

is therefore a real advantage in building a second or third vessel in a yard, where many

of the original problems have been worked out. However this learning appears to be short term, as people and teams are often moved to other areas of activity.

There are advantages in repeat orders due to organisational learning, however if workloads are high, there is the risk that a new team with little experience will have to start at the bottom of the learning curve again.

Operations & Support

A total of 74 hull and marine related issues/problems were reported. Where the primary

underlying cause was identified the number of attributions were design issues (20), operational issues (17) commissioning issues (9) and construction issues (4).


A). (Critical) 3 out of 5 FPSO’s had serious compression problems (gas seal failures, repeated bundle change-outs and cracked pistons) due to undersized scrubbers and liquid carry-over. Upgrades, improved instrumentation and online equipment monitoring solved problems. The cost of these failures which includes; service costs, spares, CO2 tax, substitute diesel fuel, and lost gas export income was substantial.

A number of factors contributed to these problems, poor instrumentation, and vessel

movement reducing efficiency of separation train, liquid hold up in pipes and slugging and poor performance of internals. It would seem a good investment to install larger scrubbers than normal to provide a safety factor for unknowns.

B). (Major) Vibration from reciprocating compressors can be a serious problem. On one FPSO poor mounting of the compressors and failure to fit bellows and flexible hoses has led to an ongoing sequence of high potential leaks and failures. Vibration has also

OLF FPSO Project 2002

affected the drive motors with isolating pads coming loose and damaging rotors. Noise is also a problem for personnel.

Reciprocating compressor vibration is a key design issue. Only a competent supplier with experience of packaging such units offshore should design such systems. An independent review of noise and vibration levels is recommended.

C). (Moderate) One FPSO achieved Gas Compression start-up 7 days after first oil. This is probably an industry record. This was achieved through comprehensive pre-start-up commissioning work and operator training.

Gas plant commissioning should be fully completed before sailaway. Equipment should be run on load with simulated gas. Operations staff involvement with commissioning, use of plant tuning simulators also with a rapid start-up.

Uptime Performance (Critical)

Overall performance has been excellent. 4 out of 5 FPSO’s are delivering 95% or more of available volumetric production. The 5th is at around 90%. While these figures were lower in the first 18 months production, regularity has generally exceeded industry expectations.

There is a lack of fully objective data and it is too early to fully evaluate the success or failure of different FPSO designs and operating strategies. To date high performances have been achieved but often at the expense of major modification and/or ongoing repair programmes. Opex data was not available for the review.

Shuttle tanker / offloading (Major)

FPSO/Shuttle tanker offloading has been very successful. One high potential and one minor incident occurred out of approx. 1000 offloadings – the first was a contact when some light structural damage was sustained and the second a rope round the thruster. Incidents of missed loadings due to weather have also been very few.

Lessons learned include the need to identify contact zones at the rear of the FPSO to ensure damage escalation risk is minimised, improvements to hose care when sliding in and out of the shute, better procedures for handling the messenger line and identification of critical components for maintenance/sparing.

Submersible Offloading Pumps (Moderate)

Many Problems were experienced with hydraulic submersible pumps in the early phases of operation. Problems were related to debris in the tanks and pipework and pipework leaks.

Hydraulic submersible pumps are highly sensitive to debris and any weaknesses in the pipework. This should be an area of special focus during commissioning. Simpler methods to access and repair submersible pumps should be also implemented.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

Process (Moderate)

There is often inadequate provision for sand and solids in the separation system. Although wells are predicted to be sand free, when water arrives they often produce sand. It is also useful to be able to clean up wells directly through the test separator, which should have sand jetting installed.

Provision for sand and solids’ handling is generally a good long-term investment, despite optimistic predictions from the reservoir engineers.


A total of 16 codes/classification related issues/problems were reported. Where the

primary underlying cause was identified the number of attributions were design issues (4), and commissioning issues (2).

Manning and Safety

A total of 7 manning and safety related issues/problems were reported. Where the

primary underlying cause was identified the numbers of attributions were operational issues (3) and commissioning issues (1).

Safety - General (Critical)

There is no evidence that FPSO’s are less safe than other installations. A number of FPSO’s reported that with a smaller crew than a platform, relationships, communication and morale are better.

There is evidence that active attention to and reporting of hazards improves safety awareness and thereby performance.

Crew (Major)

All FPSO’s operate with a base crew of 35-40. This required a number of staff particularly crane operators and mariners to be multi-skilled. However most FPSO’s carry typical POB levels of 55-70. This can cause significant problems for major maintenance or upgrade projects.

A significant realisation has been importance of carrying multi-skilled mariners within

base crew. Their experience is particularly important for emergency situations, cargo management/offloading and maintaining equipment exposed to sea spray and corrosion.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

Motion effects on people (Moderate)

Seasickness has not been reported as a major problem. People suffer for a day or so

but seem to adapt. Many people use stick-on patches as a cure.

problem however for visiting service personnel, and crews sent out to work in enclosed spaces such as tank cleaning.

It can be more of a

FPSO management must continue to be sensitive to the problem this can pose for certain individuals. Again this underlines the importance of having a core crew of mariners on board.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

6. Industry Challenges

Respondents highlighted a number of challenges that not only they, but also the FPSO community in general faced.

Hull & Marine

Accommodation (Major)

A means is required to increase FPSO accommodation for short periods (say 2-6

months) for project or major repair/remedial work. The upgrade would have to meet all applicable safety requirements including the provision of recreation space, lifeboat, refuge and escape facilities.

The design option selected is likely to be different for each FPSO - these may range from an additional deck mounted module to beds installed in unused rooms. Lifeboat and escape facility upgrades will also be required. Close and early consultation with the workforce will also be essential.

Caisson Systems (Major)

Placement of sea water pumps deep in the hull (forward or aft of the main tanks) presents three main problems, cavitation when the vessel is at shallow draft or in rough weather, cost of installation in the hull and difficulties with access and maintenance of the engine.

An evaluation should be conducted into the practicality of using inboard mounted caisson installed pumps for delivery of seawater direct to the end user. The advantages would be reduced pipework, easy access to fire pumps, less cavitation and simpler pump maintenance and marine growth removal.

Mechanical Handling (Major)

Mechanical handling for all operation and maintenance activities has been strongly criticised on all 5 FPSO’s. Cranes are not optimum for working on FPSO equipment. "As built" handling systems for equipment in the hull are often inadequate. In general the vessel layouts are poorly optimised for equipment handling and storage.

It is suggested that the best practices developed from experience with - choice of

cranes, use of forklifts, layout, storage and landing areas and protection, hydraulic

manipulators, lifting beams and appliances in the hull should be documented in a "code

of practice" so in future contractors can design and optimise handling systems from the


OLF FPSO Project 2002

Hull Shape (Major)

Hull shape involves a number of compromises. A sharp bow increases green water as the hull cuts through the waves, but it reduces mooring loads. However a sharp bow leaves little space for machinery, reduces storage volumes and increases complexity for building. The transition zone has also been a source of cracking. Alternatively a blunt bow increases spray and wave impact and mooring loads.

Lessons have been learned with the compromises in hull shape for harsh environment FPSO’s. These lessons need to be documented and in combination with improved model testing and environmental data used to design and specify the optimum FPSO shape for each situation.

Painting (Major)

All 5 FPSO’s have suffered from inadequate paintwork. The underlying problem is lack of priority and time allocated to this activity. Quality control of preparation and finishing has also been lacking. Painting in Singapore has been particularly poor due to the humid conditions. There has been a serious problem on several FPSO’s with a topsides paint system failure in Norway - premature thickening of the paint, that has led to extensive remedial work.

Painting of FPSO’s is a critical area to ensure a low maintenance facility over a long period offshore. The inability to dry dock the vessel and its limited accommodation demand that the initial paint finish is to the highest standard. However this work is often conducted late when the pressure for sailaway is high. The challenge is to develop painting technology and methods compatible with project demands and a 20- year offshore life.

Thrusters (Major)

Service or repair of thrusters is a major challenge, particularly as reliability has not been as high as expected. Most FPSO’s require thrusters at all times; a failure in winter could impact safety and production. Most thrusters have to be withdrawn externally and ROV work is weather sensitive and high risk. Use of FPSO cranes while helpful, is not always feasible due to thruster weights and position.

Methods for removal and repair of thrusters in field need to be developed and shared. One solution for the future is that thrusters are not safety critical (this is true of one FPSO), and thrusters should be designed for internal retrieval and service. This design has been achieved on one FPSO.

Painting (Moderate)

Painting the hull in the area of the water line will present a challenge as this is normally done at 5-year dry dock. The vessel can be raised under light ballast however the work, if required, will be very exposed with no provision for scaffolding.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

The challenge is to devise a methodology to safely clean, prepare and paint FPSO hulls

at the splash zone while the vessel is on location and in production. The work must be

conducted by a small crew so minimising impact on other summer maintenance activities.

Tank entry (Moderate)

Entry to tanks for inspection and repair is proving very costly both the time and resources. Primary problems include tank washing, gas freeing, solids removal, tank and pipework isolation, and personnel access, repair and recoating methods.

Crude and ballast tanks should be designed to facilitate maintenance. This involves special provisions for cleaning, venting and access. For existing FPSO’s, tools and methodologies should be developed to improve the safety and efficiency - best practice should be shared.

Produced Water Disposal (Moderate)

Produced water with 20ppm oil content (within allowable limits) can create a sheen

when discharged from an FPSO in still water. This is in conflict with industry aspirations

of minimum environmental impact.

Work is required into the emulsification of produced oil in seawater and reasons for the formation of a free oil sheen. Studies should indicate an appropriate mitigation and provide guidelines on when it's use should be necessary.

Sea Chests (Moderate)

Marine growth in sea chests is a problem on all FPSO’s. It is an ideal location for marine growth and is difficult to clean. The ability to blank off the sea chests is also required in the event of a leaking main seawater valve. Fitting blanking plates is also time consuming and weather sensitive. In addition the safety risks of relying on a single blanking plate may be considered unacceptable.

The need for sea chests (normally used in vessels underway) needs to be reconsidered.

Options that reduce opportunities for marine growth and allow blanking off in the event


valve failure are required. Consideration should also be given to submersible pumps


a caisson - (see above).

Power Generation (Moderate)

Warstilla diesels are required to run on diesel and gas. This has proven difficult in practice. Main concerns have been safety related, whereby HP gas has to be routed into an engine room where the risk of fire is already high. HP fuel gas compressor design and reliability has also been a concern.

A solution is required to fundamentally improve the safety and reliability aspects of

running diesel engines on Natural gas.

OLF FPSO Project 2002


Swivels/Tie-backs (Major)

Increasingly opportunities to tie back new fields are being considered. This allows volumes to be maintained while the primary field reaches tail end production. There are a number of constraints including available riser slots, swivel capacity or paths, ability to produce separate streams, metering and control upgrades.

Typically the swivel and turret are the most challenging areas for upgrade. A low cost method is required to upgrade swivel capacity and pull in new risers with minimum shut down time.

Swivels (Moderate)

While swivel repairs have not yet been required, a methodology to simplify repair and seal replacement is required. At present a repair to a key seal may take up to 5 days.

Project Management

Design Input from Operations (Major)

It is agreed that Operations input a key to good design, however on 4/5 FPSO’s staff consider operations input inadequate. Reasons are lack of an operating organisation, lack of operations experience, concern at capex over-runs, lack of data for operations to justify more expenditure and information provided too late.

The challenge for operations staff is to be able to provide a reasoned justification for Capex vs. Opex trade offs based on past operating experience. Data must be presented in a quantitative way and early enough to support investment decisions in appropriate design and quality requirements.

Operations & Support

In Situ Repairs and Modifications (Critical)

FPSO’s are placed on location for the duration of field life typically 7-20 years. This means that all-major repairs, inspections and maintenance must be carried out in situ. Marine standards and codes assume periodic visits to port and occasional dry-docking.

The challenge is to revise all aspects of marine standards including quality control, material specifications, coatings, fatigue analysis, subcontractor management, and mechanical handling to take account of the need for minimum maintenance and in field repair.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

Process (Major)

Failure of separator or coalescer internals due to sloshing is a common problem of FPSO’s (reported by 3 out of 5). Reason is fatigue of internals due to poor support. The cost of such failures is very high - shut down and repair costs.

It appears that suppliers have not adequately understood loads associated with separators on FPSO’s. Work is required to define fluid loading and build an industry specification for moving separation equipment to eliminate the problem.

Role of Vendors / OEM (Major)

Primary equipment vendors have little involvement in the operation of equipment. This has two drawbacks, the Operator has difficulty accessing adequate specialists to assist in problem resolution and the supplier has little opportunity to learn for operational experience.

The challenge is to secure a commitment for technical support or a minimum performance level when the equipment is competitively bid and purchased. This requires expectations to be set up front by the Operations team. If the supplier refuses to offer a performance level, another supplier should be preferred.

Solids Disposal (Moderate)

Disposal of high solids content fluids is always a problem on an FPSO. The ability to clean up a new or treated well via the FPSO would add value over field life. In the event of paint stripping or tank cleaning these solids could also be routed to the solids tank.

Consideration should be given to a third slops tank specifically designed for high solids fluids and solids drop out. The tank would have easy cleanable surfaces with jetting lines and solids/slurry handling pumps.

Documentation (Moderate)

Every Operator has complained of inadequate documentation. Primary problems have been late documentation from suppliers, missing data from subcontractors (particularly marine suppliers), inability to get paperless systems up and running even one year after start-up, missing as built drawing and loop diagrams, incompatible tags and poor links to maintenance databases.

The problem appears to arise from inadequate specification of documentation requirements at order placement. It is also a low priority for suppliers after the equipment is delivered and paid for. Follow up is often inadequate. Different specifications from Operators are also a problem. This is an opportunity for a joint industry initiative, perhaps building further on Norsok standards.

OLF FPSO Project 2002

Standby Vessels (Moderate)

All FPSO’s are using SBV’s in different ways, including storage, firefighting, ROV inspections, tug support during offloading and one FPSO is sharing with a Platform 60kms away - and holds a large daughter craft on board.

The challenge is to share best practices and agree a common role for the vessel and it's specifications so that every FPSO can get best value from the vessel and achieve appropriate standby cover at most economical price.


Approvals & Safety Verification (Major)

While all FPSO’s were built to Class, 4 out of 5 have now dropped Classification. Their view is that there is little to be gained from remaining within the "marine" inspection and approval regime offered by leading classification societies. NPD do not require ongoing classification.

There is potential value in classification, but there is a view that the societies have not kept up with the demanding design, build and manning requirements of FPSO’s. The challenge is for Classification Societies and Operators to tighten FPSO’s class specifications so they become fully effective both for Operators, builders and regulators, in both build and operation phases.


Norwegian FPSO Successes

Evidence suggests that what goes wrong is more likely to be remembered than what goes right. In both the Norwegian and the UK research exercises the interviewees were more forthcoming with information about problems and challenges faced, solutions identified, remedial actions undertaken and lessons learned. People were often reticent or unsure about classifying something as a success or a potential best practice. This is often in part because of the difficulty people have in comparing their experiences with those of others and then coming to an informed conclusion as to what is a good or bad practice or performance relative to a norm. It is hoped that these type of knowledge exchange initiatives will in future assist FPSO specialists to report both positive and negative experiences relative to established best practice.

Reported Norwegian success stories are highlighted in Table 3 of the Appendix. These include:

Hull & Marine

Inert Gas Systems (Major)

One FPSO was designed with Hydrocarbon blanketing to replace inert gas. Following successful proof of concept, this is now being extended to others. As well as eliminating venting or flaring, it reduces use/maintenance of the inert gas generator.

Motion Assumptions (Major)

Motion has not been a significant problem for production regularity in Norwegian FPSO’s. The key has been selection of effective level control instrumentation. Longitudinal separator placement has been successful. One FPSO was able to maintain full production in 12m significant wave heights. Motion effects on people has been reported as a minor issue, particularly for people coming from fixed platforms.

Mooring Integrity (Major)

Mooring integrity appears to have been better resolved in Norway compared with their UK counterparts where a recent Noble Denton study suggested this was a major problem area.

Material Selection (Moderate)

Material selection strategies that started early have had good results. Another FPSO reported that the hull is mainly carbon steel, several exotics- titanium seawater and GRP pipe have both been a success.


Swivels (Major)

Overall the performance of swivels on the 3 FPSO’s has been good. There have been no significant leaks; the only major problem was two failures and an explosion in the oil

filled 11KV-power transfer swivel. medium.

Project Management

This was due to water entering the insulation oil

Project Learning/input (Moderate)

There is evidence to suggest that a number of Norwegian FPSO projects benefited significantly from knowledge sharing of lessons learned from other projects in development at the same time. Operator’s staff and nominees working in the yards during construction and commissioning phases appear to have been adept at seeking out and implementing good practices from other operators and the DNV.

Operations & Support

Uptime Performance (Critical)

Where reported uptime performances have been excellent.

Compression Start-up (Major)

One Norwegian FPSO had gas compression up and running 7 days after first oil. This was claimed as an industry record and was attributed to comprehensive commissioning work and operator training.

Shuttle tanker/offloading (Major)

FPSO/Shuttle tanker offloading has been very successful. Only two minor incidents occurred out of approx. 1000 offloadings - one contact when some light structural damage was sustained and one rope round the thruster. Incidents of missed loadings due to weather have also been very few.

Manning & Safety

Crew Organisation

Decision to have good professional marine competency onboard has been beneficial. OIM is mariner, plus additional marine superintendents. Onshore management has strong confidence in offshore team to use their judgement to maintain stability and routinely undertake vessel related activities e.g. tank cleaning.

Safety Performance

All operators reported good FPSO safety performances, backed up by proactive safety cultures to enhance and extend good safety practices within project contractors and shipyards.


UK FPSO Lessons Learned

In 2001 the Offshore Management Centre at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen completed a similar knowledge sharing research exercise on behalf of the FPSO committee of the United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA). Part of the research involved the collection of lessons learned from the first 12-18 months operation of FPSO’s on the UKCS. Like the OLF project a number of specialists representing ten FPSO’s were interviewed and their views collated. Whereas the emphasis and information reporting in the UK study were slightly different, it is worthwhile trying to align some of the experiences and lessons learned from the two areas.

The main conclusions from the UK work were as follows:

It appears that the majority of problems arose because of the way the projects were structured and managed.

Decision and actions taken in the design and construction phase are the most probable causes of problems in commissioning and early operation.

Problems have also been caused by lack of communication between isolated groups involved in design.

The misapplication of functional specifications has led to operational problems.

It appears that the responsibility for QA/QC was not clear and this has led to problems with equipment delivered which was not fit for purpose.

A major cause of early operational problems was that FPSO’s were sailed to their location before their construction was complete and before their systems had been fully tested.

Knowledge of lessons learned does not seem to be shared readily across the UK FPSO industry. A change of attitude will probably be needed before the situation will improve.

A synthesis of the most widely reported issues/problems relating to UKCS FPSO’s is

shown in Table 4. Also shown in Table 5 are a checklist derived from information collected during interviews with UK operators of FPSO’s in September and October 2000. The checklist was produced to assist the avoidance of decisions and actions, which could lead to problems during start-up and operations. Where appropriate, hyperlinks have been created between the UK suggestions in Table 5 and related Norwegian experiences documented in Table 2.

A significant majority of FPSO related problems are attributable to the design phase.

There is clear evidence from both the Norwegian and UKCS research of the existence of communication problems in the design process and that input from personnel with operational experience has been undervalued at this stage. Emphasis on initial capital cost control and fast-tracking has lead to poor design decisions negatively impacting for years to come on the operational efficiency of a number of FPSO’s and their workforce.

It is essential that lessons learned feedback from knowledge sharing initiatives such as this are channelled back to the FPSO design companies and their staff. It is equally important the customer maintains an adequate degree of internal competency and understanding to ensure the operational design specification is fully fit for purpose.

There have been a number of problematic issues common to both Norwegian and UK FPSO’s. These have included:

Crane design and mechanical handling issues. Many FPSO’s have been designed with inefficient cranes, poor crane coverage and inadequate lay-down areas, bumper bars and mechanical handling capabilities. This appears to be due to lack of familiarity of operational needs by designers.

Both Norwegian and UKCS FPSO’s have struggled with accommodation POB restrictions. Prioritisation of construction and engineering work presents real challenges because of limited POB flexibility.

There are examples from both the Norwegian and UK project experiences that too much faith can be placed in the knowledge of the supplier. This can be a significant problem if functional specifications are not clarified down the supply chain. There are many examples of suppliers and even constructors not appreciating the distinctive nature of FPSO operations i.e. assuming that the vessel can be taken off station and brought into port if there are any problems. Designers have not adequately faced up to the challenges of simplifying failed equipment removal mechanisms for FPSO’s. The change out of power generation systems and thrusters has and will continue to represent a major operational challenge.

Both Norwegian and UK FPSO’s have had experiences of poor quality painting and coatings during the construction phase. When not properly addressed at the time this factor has the potential to create significant POB scheduling problems at a later stage.

Some problems attributable to the effects of motion have been reported from both Norwegian and UK FPSO’s. These appear to be mainly where there has been insufficient attention to the effects of sloshing inside tanks and damage to separator internals as a consequence of fatigue.

Vessel orientation and location of venting problems resulting in exhausts and other emissions being blown over vessels have been experienced in both the UK and Norway.