Four year fall

North Sea oilfields’ efficiency measures cut downtime by a third

BP Clair Ridge

Oil workers have become more efficient

North Sea oilfield operators have reduced the frequency of offshore downtime by 32% in the past four years, fulfilling plans to improve operating efficiencies following the slump in the oil price.

A report reveals that four years ago North Sea oilfields recorded 726 individual months of no production. By 2018, this had reduced to 497. Overall production remained steady in that timeframe.

The trend, measured by the Glacier Production Index, coincides with an industry-wide push to improve efficiency, which according to the Oil & Gas Authority has improved for five consecutive years to 2018.

Scott Martin, executive chairman of Glacier Energy Services, said: “North Sea oilfield operators have made a concerted effort to tackle downtime and maintain high levels of production efficiency. These findings are testament to those efforts and should be seen as a boost to the industry’s supply chain.

“Downtime as a proportion of total production is at its lowest ebb since 2011. As overall production volume declines and the process of decommissioning intensifies, preventing unplanned downtime is becoming a constant preoccupation of operators.”

Despite the industry’s success in combating downtime, levels of zero production remain twice as high as they were 10 years ago. Downtime months hit an all-time low of just 203 in 2007 – less than half what they are today.

A more recent analysis of production in the North Sea over the past 12 months reveals an uptime peak in January 2019 (84%), with a steady rise in uptime since June 2018. Uptime has now been above 80% for five consecutive months.

The key is to be smart about how and when money is spent on maintenance.

– Scott Martin

Mr Martin added: “With more than half of North Sea platforms having gone beyond their original life expectancy, maintenance programmes can take them out of operation for extended periods of time. Rising costs, coupled with lower levels of investment and available liquidity, means downtime is continuing to have a wider impact on production.”

In March, Oil & Gas UK predicted a £5bn investment boost in capital projects in the North Sea but also a two percent rise in operating costs and an eight percent increase in decommissioning spend. According to Glacier Energy Services, operators are now exploring how data and technology can breathe new life into their existing infrastructure.

Mr Martin continued: “The key is to be smart about how and when money is spent on maintenance. There is a growing trend in the specialist equipment rental market, which can improve working capital flows and limit capital expenditure. Smart systems and specialist teams are also in high demand.”

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