As oil and gas developments go deeper, the risk related to lifting operations is increasing. “Existing standards and regulations don’t sufficiently meet this challenge and this is why DNV now has initiated a joint industry project to ensure a unified safety approach. Fourteen key international offshore players have joined the project,” says Robert A. Oftedal, DNV’s Business Development Leader, Cranes & Lifting.
The development of subsea cranes and lifting appliances has been driven by constant demand for increased lifting capacity, operations in greater water depths and motion compensating systems. This has introduced several technological challenges related to ensuring the reliable execution of subsea lifting operations so that objects can be safely placed on and removed from the seabed.
Ensuring proper design and correct operation, as well as regular inspection and maintenance, is crucial for not only the reliability of a lifting appliance, but also the safety of the personnel and equipment involved.
According to DNV, subsea lifting standards and regulations have not followed the steep curve of technological progress. “Instead, the required safety level has been defined by clients’ specifications, technological boundaries and manufacturers’ considerations, rather than regulatory documents acknowledged by all the stakeholders involved. Some client specifications may also be based on vessel-to-platform lifting and not subsea lifting. This situation is a challenge when contracting new equipment,” Oftedal explains.
While various measures are undertaken by different parties, implementing standards and regulatory requirements has proven to be one of the most efficient ways of reducing the risks involved in offshore operations.
“This is why DNV has invited the industry to develop a unified approach concerning important aspects of subsea lifting. The aim is to increase efficiency and safety during the equipment’s design, operation and maintenance phases,” he says.
Fourteen key industry players have joined the project and will present their conclusions in a Recommended Practice within a year. The participants are: Statoil, Petrobras, Lundin Norway, Marathon Oil Norge, Technip, Subsea7, SAIPEM, Heerema Marine Contractors, Cargotec, Liebherr Werk Nenzing, TTS Energy, Huse Engineering (incl. Rolls-Royce), SamsonRope and W. Giertsen Services.
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On October 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an air pollution permit for the Kulluk drill ship that Shell Offshore Inc. plans to use in offshore oil drilling efforts that could begin as early as next summer.
Yesterday, on behalf of the Native Village of Point Hope, Resisting Environmental Destruction of Indigenous Lands (“REDOIL”), Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council (“NRDC”), Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society, Earthjustice filed an appeal with the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board challenging a similar EPA permit for the Discoverer drill ship that the agency approved last month.
The following statement is from Earthjustice attorney Colin O’Brien:
“The EPA essentially is green-lighting dangerous Arctic Ocean oil drilling by approving the air permit for the Kulluk drill ship. Shell Oil has proposed a massive drilling operation in one of the most remote places on the planet. Each year, this fleet of ships could emit 30 tons of particulate matter, 240 tons of nitrogen oxides and 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Not only is oil drilling risky, these ships would double the amount of global warming pollution produced by roughly all of the North Slope Borough households.
“This permit for the Kulluk marks the beginning of a wave of potential offshore industrial activity in the Arctic. Unfortunately, on the eve of a potentially massive influx of oil company development, the EPA has turned a blind eye to the cumulative impacts that would be harmful to the health of Alaska Natives and the environment for years to come.
“The EPA unfortunately has already approved another drill ship permit, for the Discoverer. That permit ignored the impacts these drill ships will have on air quality in the region and we filed an appeal today with the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board challenging the Discoverer permit.
“Arctic Ocean oil drilling is simply a bad idea. In an area with 20-foot sea swells, walls of ice 6 feet thick, and complete darkness two months out of every year, the thought of cleaning up an oil spill is ludicrous. The EPA’s decisions on these air permits moves us closer to the inevitable disaster that would be a large oil spill in the Arctic Ocean.”