Tablet-based software for Ex inspections and maintenance

René Larsen

November 1, 2015

René Larsen, of Inspection and maintenance software specialists SafeEx, discusses how Ex inspection software was deployed on a gas compression jackup rig destined for the Cantarell field offshore Mexico.

Data collection, such as registration of equipment is done directly on the tablet.
Photos from SafeEx.

Before any rig or offshore production facility is put into production, International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) regulations require that first initial detailed Ex inspections are carried out. On average, a jackup rig contains up to 1500 individual pieces of Ex equipment, making such a task daunting.

Initially, SafeEx started as an interim management company supplying engineers and technical personnel for the oil and gas industry. The people behind SafeEx were performing Ex inspections manually and realized the challenges caused by this traditional method.

For example, information was collected with a pen and paper and subsequently entered into a computer, which is a time-consuming method. It also means a high risk of errors, if the report is not given to the right personnel or in time to fix any crucial issues. Likewise, the safety inspection personnel must physically bring various documents required to conduct Ex inspections such as Ex register, drawings, certificates, checklists, etc.

Moreover, the traditional method does not provide any proof of the inspector’s presence by the equipment, which offers the possibility for neglect.

Therefore, in 2008 SafeEx launched its first version of the SafeEx Software, which in 2015 was launched in a second-generation tablet-based version. SafeEx is DNV GL-verified and the software is among others used at BW Offshore, Seadrill, Petronas, Dong Energy and by Mexico’s TRESE.

One advantage of the system is that it can be fully integrated into the facility’s ERP system and then used to maintain the Ex inspection data, negating a need to install or implement a separate additional inspection system.

How it works

Scanning the RFID chip initiates the inspection and creates an electronic time-stamp.

With the SafeEx software, the inspection procedures are converted to electronic tasks on layout drawings, which the inspection personnel conduct guided by a handheld tablet. Each piece of equipment has an RFID chip approved for Ex zone 1 installed, which enables the software in the handheld device to create an electronic time-stamp and full electronic audit trail.

Certificates, drawings and other important attachments are accessible on the tablet and regularly synchronized. Photos are taken with the tablet giving instant capture of equipment defects or non-conformities as inspection and maintenance work is executed. Even registering new equipment or the repositioning of existing equipment is easily done directly on the layout drawing.

Each RFID chip has a unique ID connected to the customer’s Ex register, thus enabling the software to recognize the specific piece of equipment in the system when scanned – and displaying the checklists, values and documents linked to the specific piece. Information entered under inspection is synchronized with the web system, where it is instantly visible to those, who need to diagnose any issues and determine follow-on actions. The checklists in the software by SafeEx are in accordance with the IEC 60079-17.

Implementation offshore Mexico

Each equipment is fitted with an RFID chip, approved for Ex zone 1. 

Earlier this year, the firm won a contract with Mexican engineering firm TRESE to supply the SafeEx software system on a gas compression jackup rig. The rig has just left the yard in China, heading for the Cantarell field in the Mexican sector of the Gulf of Mexico.

The gas compression jackup, supported by four 122m tall cylindrical legs, unit is based on CIMC’s Taisun 200B design and is scheduled to be in production by year’s end. The unit is capable of operating in up to 55m water depth.

“With SafeEx’s software we found a modern and efficient work tool, which not only reduces the use of man-hours, but also increases safety by providing a full overview of the condition of the onboard equipment,” says Ricardo Silva of TRESE.

Since 30 July, SafeEx’s mother company Offshore & Marine Contacts has had a team on board the unit in order to make the system ready for use. Furthermore, the software is being translated into Spanish. Some 1000 pieces of equipment had to be Ex inspected on the jackup.

Once fully integrated into the unit’s ERP-system, the system will be used to conduct further inspections and planned maintenance, such as fire and gas checks, dropped objects and various frequent checks.


René Larsen
started his career as a ship-builder at Orskov Yard in Frederikshavn, Denmark. In 2002, he got an education as a chief engineer and went on to being a sales and project manager for Aalborg Industries, a marine boiler company. In 2008, after 21 years in the marine industry, where he gained both administrative and offshore practical experience, René Larsen started an interim management company: Offshore & Marine Contacts. Seeing the need for technology to conduct inspections and maintenance, SafeEx was shortly after created.