Is the energy industry doing enough to improve safer working environments offshore for people and property?

Source: press release, 11 November 2020

illustration: William Hackett
illustration: William Hackett

Following an industry-wide webinar on Thursday 5th November, speakers called for manufacturers, suppliers, riggers, operators and certification providers to unite and come together.

The webinar, hosted by Lift & Hoist International, and led by William Hackett Lifting Products with speakers from Total, McKinnon Chain, and University of Pretoria in South Africa, completed a major briefing on the impact of hydrogen embrittlement (#HE) and problems associated with hydrogen assisted stress cracking (#HASC) in different material grades that are used in equipment #offshore.

With more than 140 delegates from around the world, the webinar helped to raise awareness on the recognised hazards of varying material grades used in #topside and #subsea lifting applications, and technical insights were provided on material hardness, corrosion and inspection.

Professor Roelf Mostert, Head of the Department of Material Science and Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Pretoria, South Africa says the risk associated with HE and fractures are difficult to detect. The best way to look at this issue is through understanding more about material susceptibility.

Mark Taylor, Specialist Lifting Engineer, Marine Operations at Total called for better recognition and “acceptance” across industry that there is an issue. Historically industry has not accepted there is a major issue with HE and that failures should not be blamed on just overloading. There is more to this and the entire industry must act together.

Francois Strydom, Lead Metallurgist, at McKinnon Chain explained that national and international standards should ideally include some notes/guidelines on the safe use of lifting products in the offshore environment with specific reference to hydrogen embrittlement. Bodies must come to the table and work together to better support industry.

Earlier in the year, research with industry stakeholders and partners identified the need for increased technical guidance on the effects of HE to minimise risk to human life and improve operational integrity. Outcomes of detailed technical analysis identified that as material hardness exceeds 39-40 HRC, the risk of HE and stress induced corrosion cracking increases as the hardness values rise.

The findings of the research show how to:

  • Reduce the risk of operational failures and their frequencies to improve safety.
  • Reduce downtime and increase productivity to ensure better operating margins are achieved.
  • Reduce corrosion rates to extend life-time use, safely and sustainably.
  • Improve confidence offshore by reducing the risk of incorrect material selection.

Dr Emilio Martínez-Pañeda, Assistant Professor at Imperial College London and a world-recognised expert in HE, welcomed the findings of the recently published report. While not directly involved in the report’s findings, Dr Martínez-Pañeda emphasised the challenging nature of HE and its important implications: “Hydrogen is famed for causing notorious structural integrity problems that are difficult to predict, and there is a need for new guidelines and solutions.”

Ben Burgess, Director of William Hackett Lifting Products says, “From the research, we’ve created a technical report that provides a level of guidance for operators globally. But we always want to do more to support industry. The webinar is another way for us to share the research findings and bring industry stakeholders together to discuss their concerns and to ask questions so that we can collectively work together to find better ways on how best to mitigate risks in offshore operations and ensure that the products used are suitable for that environment.”

Speakers discussed why it is critical there is a clear understanding of how a product is going to be used and applied before it is exposed offshore, where steel is used in adverse and often hostile unpredictable weather, with constant dynamic material stresses influenced by the movement of the sea, tidal, wind and lift loads.

“The certification and class societies must start to document the issue of HE in detail, and provide the right level of guidance to industry,” highlights Burgess. “Operators in particular need to ensure that despite commercial pressures, the products used in the offshore environment are fully appropriate for their intended use, and that the environmental conditions, mechanical stresses and material susceptibility have all been assessed rigorously. While manufacturers and suppliers are naturally cautious about the issue of HE, everyone across the supply chain has a critical role to play, and needs to unite and work together to improve safer offshore working environments for people and property.”

Watch the webinar in full at https://lnkd.in/eHpAvJi.

Download industry’s latest report and technical guidance on HE and HASC at https://bit.ly/3kCToWx.