Shore-side command centers are the hub for offshore communications and rescue coordination efforts. Images from McMurdo Group.
McMurdo Group’s Remi Julien discusses how different technologies can converge to create a holistic offshore safety solution.
Offshore engineering offers many opportunities, but it can be fraught with challenges as well.
Whether operating an oil rig, monitoring a remote wind farm, building a marine pipeline or constructing a tidal energy facility, safety and reliability have extra layers of complexity when work takes place up to hundreds of nautical miles from shore.
Today, the various health, safety, environmental and quality (HSEQ) policies implemented rely on disparate, fragmented, and, in many cases, antiquated systems. Paper-based documents and maps are frequently used rather than software-based electronic forms and charts, standard definition cameras are still used instead of high-definition, infrared or night vision alternatives, or solutions from a multitude of providers just don’t work together efficiently or accurately. Monitoring and ensuring the safety of activities offshore, as well as keeping an eye on any potential environmental impacts, also involves a vast array of services, including maritime search and rescue, traffic monitoring, maritime borders and zone surveillance, environmental protection services, and so on.
Too often, these services collect data independently and are not aware that sometimes they are processing the same information, reducing the ability to react effectively.
Due to the high costs involved in offshore oil and gas production and the potential risk to personnel safety, many oil companies, platform operators and rig owners use various asset protection systems to safeguard equipment and employees from a wide range of potential threats, from accidental collisions and illegal trespassing to intentional attacks.
An asset protection system can include fleet management, intrusion detection, employee safety, and environmental (oil spill) protection equipment. However, they are often treated as separate, distinct assets, owned and implemented by different departments. Fleet management, for example, may be an IT-sponsored project whereas intrusion detection is security-led and employee/environmental safety might be more regulatory driven.
In addition, offshore personnel and equipment work together in a highly intricate environment. With many HSEQ products and solutions available, creating harmony in this complex world requires interoperability and standardization —or convergence—of the different elements.
Through the convergence and connectivity of the various applications, technologies, and processes, an HSEQ “ecosystem” can be created, and can be an integral part of day-to-day operations both offshore and onshore, as part of a tightly integrated asset management, security, and safety solution.
As an example, a large oil producer has offshore installations at risk of damage from fishermen, thieves, terrorists, and industrial sabotage. Security incidents have meant lost production days, risk to personnel, and threats to the company’s corporate reputation in the region.
A proposed solution would be to implement an asset protection system incorporating the latest “detect, warn, and deter” capabilities to anticipate and react to potential safety and security threats. The system could combine different elements of fleet management, intrusion detection, employee safety, and environmental protection into a single system, which could be viewed and controlled from a centralized operations center.
|Left: Fleet management software solutions provide real-time monitoring of vessels, traffic and activity in a designated area. Right: Man overboard beacons can send immediate notifications to nearby vessels and first responders to expedite rescues.|
In practice, this would involve:
- Using fleet management tracking and monitoring software, the location, activities, and movement of nearby boats, ships or other maritime vessels could be monitored in real-time. Geo-fencing and other perimeter control software features can help detect unauthorized entrance into secure zones.
- Information from traditional intrusion detection systems, such as radar, automatic identification systems, cameras (visible and infrared), and sonar can augment the view of vessels, and aircraft, in the area.
- In the event of a man overboard (MOB) situation, MOB beacons can set off alarms with both fleet management software and AIS transponders for increased employee safety and faster response and recovery.
- In the case of an environmental emergency, marine tracking buoys can be used to track and warn of oil spills or other navigational hazards.
Intrusion detection systems can be integrated with fleet management software to enhance security and safety.
All the consolidated data is sent real-time via satellite communications or long-range radio to a shore-side command operations center, which uses vessel management software, data analytics, and 3D charting to determine the proper course of action. In the event of a security area breach, for example, warning or deterrence activities, such as security personnel dispatch, high-intensity spotlights or long range acoustic devices (LRAD) may be triggered. All of this activity can be recorded and stored for future usage.
Convergence is happening today
While there is still a long way to go before true interoperability is seen between solutions from different vendors, convergence, similar to the solutions outlined above, is taking place today with oil companies and rig operators from the Gulf of Mexico to the Middle East. By integrating features of historically different technology platforms into a cohesive HSEQ ecosystem, a more comprehensive, cost-effective, and interoperable solution is created—one that can streamline operations, protect assets, and save lives.
Remi Julien is vice president, Corporate Development for McMurdo Group. He was previously CEO of Signalis, a maritime surveillance systems company. Julien is a graduate from Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Nationale Supérieures de Techniques Avancées and holds a Master’s in signal processing.