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Working group says ageing FPSO fleet poses evolving safety challenges

16 August 2021

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has brought together leading companies in the Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) sector to address the safety challenges produced by a fleet where more than half of the ship type vessels are over 30-years-old and a quarter are over 40-years-old.

FPSO Cidade do Rio de Janeiro - Image: MODEC
FPSO Cidade do Rio de Janeiro - Image: MODEC

The working group, consisting of Chevron, Shell Trading, Petrobras,  MODEC and SBM as well as The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Registry, and the U.S Coast Guard 8th District, led by ABS has already seen the creation of five Joint Industry Projects (JIPs) aimed at using technology to tackle a range of FPSO safety issues.

JIPs will tackle composite materials repairs for offshore structures, life extension of wire ropes, gauging management software, applications of photogrammetry and 3D Lidar Laser Scanning, and the role of artificial intelligence in corrosion analysis.

Several FPSO-related process safety incidents in recent years have led to calls for improved safety and action in order to prevent environmental disasters and fatalities. One such incident involved a cracked hull on the Brazilian FPSO Cidade do Rio de Janeiro in August 2019 which caused an oil spill around 130km (81 miles) off the coast of Brazil in the Espadarte oil field in the Campos Basin.

“The offshore industry is faced with an evolving risk profile, with opportunities to enhance protocols and systems to address these risks. With almost 60 percent of the global operating fleet of FPSOs classed by ABS, we are committed to addressing these issues and ensuring the ABS-classed fleet remains the safest and best performing fleet in the world. The challenges surrounding maintenance and structural fitness of aging FPSOs is not just a Class concern; rather, it is an industry challenge that requires the involvement and cooperation of all of the industry players,” said Christopher J. Wiernicki, ABS Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.

“Structural Integrity is one of our main Process Safety Barriers and we all face the same challenges on ageing units. It is of utmost importance and in everybody’s interest to share experience, knowledge, ideas and that we agree on a best way forward to maintain structural integrity in a safe and efficient manner. Therefore, we are fully committed to support and participate in this initiative," said Ivar Houthuysen, SBM Assets Integrity Director.

ABS has also developed its rules, with a significant number of changes applicable to FPSOs, both for existing units and for new facilities. These Rule changes are intended to address many of the risks related to ageing FPSOs from both a design and a maintenance perspective.

A total of 55 FPSO units in the global fleet are reaching the end of their design life in the next five years, a further five already have life extension in place, with a further 19 currently being evaluated for life extension. The efforts of this working group will produce outcomes that assist with the evaluation and potential acceptance of life extension.

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