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Managing safety barriers in real time

Offshore oil and gas operations involve many risks, and ensuring safety is a prerequisite.

MyBarrier is an advanced reliability tool for managing safety barriers during operation. Using real-time information, it is able to quantitatively assess the impacts of detected failures of component failures on the risk of losing a safety barrier.

Over the past 25 years, the oil and gas industry has achieved significant improvement in safety. But offshore exploration and production activities remain potentially hazardous. Major accidents and near-misses still happen despite advances in technology, standards and regulations. This must be addressed, especially as the industry is headed into deeper waters, more remote, environmentally sensitive, and harsher environments.

DNV recommends the deployment of quantitative barrier management. Operators must have sufficient and reliable barriers in place, with continuously verified status. Barriers are very difficult to fix if it means halting production, so operators should weigh up whether they can safely work for some time with a degraded barrier.

Lars Sørum

MyBarrier accurately predicts the time until the barrier failure risk reaches an intolerable risk level and so takes away the arbitrary ‘gut feeling’ approach to traditional barrier management.

  • Lars Sørum,
  • Digital Innovation Director,
  • DNV

Quantitative tool for managing safety barriers during operations

The MyBarrier project is developing a general framework for the management of safety barriers in real-time, providing a rational way to manage safety barriers when component failures occur during the operational phase of the installation. Its main application is in weighing up the need to immediately stop the operation or the possibility of continuing to operate in the case of a degraded barrier. One unique feature is its ability to predict remaining operational duration before the risk of barrier failure reaches an intolerable limit. In all cases, the barrier risk indicators are quantitatively assessed using a time-dependent reliability model, specially developed for the operational phase.

Currently there are three applications of MyBarrier being developed, including the Production Well Integrity Management (PWIM) which has already reached the minimum viable product stage, an application to BOP (Blowout Preventor) safety and reliability in drilling wells, and an application for the management of gas detectors in topsides. Future applications of MyBarrier include high integrity pressure protection systems and dynamic positioning systems for drilling and tankers, and topsides instrumented safety functions to name a few.

The benefits

MyBarrier’s PWIM application, for example, contributes to reducing well downtime after detection of a barrier element failure by indicating for how long the well may safely continue to operate, thus allowing interventions to be better planned, while maintaining good control of the risk of leaks from the well.

Using PWIM implies collecting valuable failure information which can then be used to update its initial failure rates, thus improving the precision of its predictions. It can also measure the impacts of extraordinary measures, to mitigate the effects of the detected degradation of some elements, such as the reduction of intervals between tests for some barrier elements or additional monitoring/inspection actions for some elements. The Test Planner functionality is another significant advance of the PWIM application.

DNV believes there is a need for quantitative reliability models for managing complex safety barriers. The launch of MyBarrier explores this perceived need; DNV thinks demand for all manner of barrier management services will grow, because process safety tends to receive more and more attention in the oil and gas sector.