Within a culture of safety, the rig’s operational performance should not be a dirty word

Safety and operational performance are not mutually exclusive; they should be synonymous with each other. That’s the message that Alan McLeod, manager of engineering for ENSCO’s Europe and Africa business unit, recently took to the 12th North Sea Offshore Cranes & Lifting Conference in Stavanger, Norway.

“If you handle tubulars safely and effectively, you’re also handling them with a high degree of operational efficiency,” he said. “That’s why it was important to go to what was effectively a safety conference and say that operational performance is not a dirty word.”

For the broad spectrum of industry professionals in the audience, which included regulators, manufacturers, operators, service companies and drilling contractors, Mr McLeod provided a “driller’s perspective. It’s not often the drilling industry gets to present our side of the story.”

A vital element of safe tubular handling is an effective safety-management cycle. Figure 1 shows the tubular handling cycle, and Figure 2 illustrates the safety management systems that drilling contractors use to manage the cycle effectively.

Under the Management Commitment method, policies and procedures rule, though this method alone does not bring a high success rate. Under the Personnel Commitment method, each individual focuses personally on safety. The third method, Team Commitment, looks at group behavior and encourages a culture of team interdependency. The North Sea has been very successful at using a 3-pronged approach combining these methods to reduce the number of offshore incidents, Mr McLeod said.

Another critical component is maintenance effectiveness. Regulators such as the UK Health & Safety Executive (UK HSE) consider many factors in determining that effectiveness:

• Backlog – status report.

• Deferrals – status report and procedure.

• Temporary repairs – register and procedure.

• Reporting of maintenance performance.

• Reports on integrity status prepared for senior management.

• IT role in knowledge-sharing.

It is generally acknowledged that there is a skills gap in the industry among new personnel. One way ENSCO is addressing that gap is to facilitate experience bridges for maintenance personnel. Through a web-based maintenance module, IT can play a critical role for its maintenance staff all over the world.

“If a rig in Tunisia, for example, runs into equipment trouble, the mechanic can go online and find out which other rigs in the fleet have had the same problem and how they solved it,” Mr McLeod said.

Other benefits include:

• Dedicated web portal provides a single point for all preventive maintenance (PM) references.

• Trend analyses facilitate equipment condition monitoring.

• Maintenance routines can be categorized into Safety Critical and Asset Critical Routines.

• Accurate monitoring of overdue PM routines.

• “Problem” equipment and common failure modes can be identified, and preventive measures can be taken.

• PM program is enhanced with pre-formatted reports and trend charts, with focus now on improving data input.


The North Sea is a highly regulated operating area where contractors and operators focus on continuous improvement across boundaries. Figure 3 shows that drilling contractors, as the duty holder, must comply with all regulatory pillars.

Recently, the UK HSE has been taking a “campaign” approach to compliance with 2 key programs: Programme 2 addresses lifting/handling, and Programme 3 addresses asset integrity. Mr McLeod noted that these campaign approaches work well, yet often aren’t given enough time to reach full effect. “Two years are not enough. At least 5 years are needed to make sure that companies are in compliance,” he suggested.


Drilling contractors are facing increasing challenges from its clients, including improved lifting and handling performance:

• Increased lifting capability.

• Minimize “tandem-lift” operations.

• Promote dual-lifting (primary/secondary means).

• Simultaneous well operations (e.g., coiled tubing, wireline).

• Specialized well operations (e.g., underbalanced, extended-reach, HPHT).

Complex drilling operations require more people, more and heavier equipment and therefore more lifting operations and increased lifting capability. All this must be done safely.


Over the past few decades, the North Sea’s E&P industry has improved dialogue with regulators. Conferences/workshops facilitate communication, and industry/regulators have collaborated on safety efforts. One such effort was the IADC Tubular Handling Appraisal Project, which brought together industry and the UK HSE to create a risk-assessment for tubular handling. The document is widely used today in the North Sea.

Efforts such as this, plus the spectrum of regulations already in place, provide a solid ground for drilling contractors in the North Sea, Mr McLeod said. Now, focus must be on compliance.

Service companies must continue to invest in support and recognize that equipment/personnel constraints inhibit operational performance. New products/services must be developed once the service level for existing equipment is satisfactory. The objective is to jointly work to reduce supply side constraints and minimize system downtime.

Regulators must continue to liaise with industry to share best practice and build on knowledge from targeted initiatives. “For the future, everyone — contractors, operators and regulators — must focus on compliance with existing regulatory requirements in target areas. Efforts must be followed through and monitored over a sufficient timeline,” Mr McLeod said. “Once that happens, we can achieve the right balance between safety and operational performance.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check This Out
Back to top button