North Sea oilfields cut downtime by 32% in 4 years

Source: press release, 15 August 2019

Glacier Energy Services Executive Chairman, Scott Martin
Glacier Energy Services Executive Chairman, Scott Martin (photo: Glacier)

North Sea oilfield operators have successfully reduced the frequency of offshore downtime by 32% in the past 4 years, according to the Glacier Production Index.

The index charts the frequency with which oilfields in the North Sea report zero production compared to those exporting oil into pipelines in any given month.

The launch report reveals a substantial decline in downtime in the past four years. In 2014, North Sea oilfields recorded 726 individual months of no production; by 2018, this had reduced to 497. Overall production remained steady in that timeframe, meaning the reduction in downtime converted directly into uptime.

The trend coincides with an industry-wide push to improve efficiency, which according to the Oil & Gas Authority has improved for 5 consecutive years to 2018.

Scott Martin, Executive Chairman of Glacier Energy Services, says, “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,” Martin continues.

Despite the industry’s success in combatting downtime, levels of zero production remain twice as high as they were 10 years ago. According to the Glacier Production Index, 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.

Martin adds, “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 GBP 5 billion investment boost in capital projects in the North Sea but also a 2% rise in operating costs and an 8% 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.

Martin continues, “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.”

The Glacier Production Index uses open sourced data from the Oil & Gas Authority to calculate the proportion of oilfields in the North Sea reporting incidences of zero production compared to those exporting oil into pipelines in any given month. In this way, Glacier aims to act as a barometer for efficiency in the UK oil and gas industry, identifying trends in how producers are managing both outputs and rig efficiency. The Oil & Gas Authority’s Open Data portal can be found here.