In the wake of four major pipeline accidents in June, emergency preparedness is taking center stage. IRM Systems notes that these incidents are a dramatic reminder of the random threats that can affect pipelines, and the urgency for having an Emergency Pipeline Repair System (EPRS) in place.
“Operators must have an EPRS that offers the shortest possible time between the incident and re-commissioning. They must also achieve the highest possible level of post-repair integrity, at the lowest possible cost,” said Rutger Schouten, General Manager of IRM Systems.
Since 2011, IRM Systems has provided customised EPRS programs to pipeline operators, helping them to make certain that in the event of an incident, they are prepared and that appropriate contingencies are in place.
Advances in emergency preparedness reduce recovery time by months
IRM Systems has announced two important advances in EPRS practice that will save clients time and significantly reduce the financial impact. First, by using a structured, process approach to emergency repair planning during an unplanned repair, the timeline from incident to re-commissioning can be dramatically compressed, minimizing downtime. The process is driven by the operator, can be applied to any pipeline and, in and of itself, costs nothing.
To illustrate, IRM Systems developed an EPRS for a client responsible for a remote deepwater pipeline in Asia Pacific. In the event of an unplanned repair, the client was faced with the prospect of an unacceptable repair delay that would have a considerable negative impact upon business.
“They wanted to source a safer, faster option that would provide the highest level of post-repair pipeline integrity,” said Schouten.
“We developed a modular solution that used vessels of opportunity to reduce the planned recovery time for a major repair by more than 250 days, representing a dramatic reduction in downtime and lost production.”
Based on a thorough understanding of the risks and repair scenarios for an asset, combinations of repair methods are selected. Procedures along the critical path – from isolation of the damaged section to re-commissioning – are optimized, and smarter contracting strategies for equipment and services are determined. Finally, roles of personnel and departments are aligned around the repair plan, so that each party works together during an emergency.
“EPRS is about implementing a sustainable capability which, hopefully, will never be called upon,” said Schouten.
Procurement strategy key to delivering the best value for money
A central element of any EPRS is sourcing long lead-time items and putting service agreements in place so that providers are ready to respond immediately in an emergency. The second advance in EPRS strategy is a procurement approach that tailors the relationship between technologies, contracting methods, and supplier reimbursement, to the realities of the local repair market. This reduces costs associated with an EPRS, increasing its attractiveness as an investment that will consistently deliver value throughout the pipeline’s life.
IRM Systems applied this approach on behalf of a pipeline operator seeking to build EPRS- and contingency-thinking into operations for a new subsea trunk-line in Russia. By considering EPRS at the design stage, the operator wanted to optimize risk management throughout the pipeline’s lifecycle, while at the same time minimizing the associated costs.
IRM Systems facilitated this preparation by providing the decision-makers the analysis they needed to balance the cost of an EPRS, against reductions in long-term risk and pipeline operational cost. These risks include reputational effects, damage to share price, and higher insurance premiums. By integrating contingency planning and emergency preparedness into the operator’s ongoing inspection, repair and maintenance program, the way is paved for greater freedom of choice in procurement. Because IRM Systems operates independently, it is not tied to a specific brand of equipment, vessel or technology thus helping operators use these methods to identify the best solutions in the market at the right price, and tailored to specific asset requirements.
Looking ahead, IRM Systems is confident that methods such as those announced will increase the number of operators taking advantage of the cost and time savings achievable through smarter EPRS.