By | August 1, 2019

This article originally appeared in OGV Energy Issue 22:

An Operational Risk Management Digital Twin can help connect previously disparate business processes in ways that just haven’t been possible until now. It can relate the collective performance of process safety systems to the real, cumulative risk impact on operations at any given point in time.

ORM Digital Twin capabilities are not an aspirational vision of what the future could be, they are already used in production today. Here we share how a major international oil and gas industry operator has implemented ORM Digital Twin capabilities.

Improving the Quality of Technical Risk Assessments and Modeling Their Cumulative Risk Impact

A major international oil company operates multiple platforms offshore in the U.K. Continental Shelf (UKCS). This operator has a mature management system and a well-defined approach to process safety, asset integrity management and work control. By implementing an Operational Risk Management platform, a technical manager sought to further improve the risk assessments that are undertaken when critical equipment is not meeting its performance standard.

The existing practice was to immediately carry out an operational risk assessment once such a deviation had been identified from formal inspection, maintenance, or operator activities. This initial risk assessment was approved by the local offshore installation manager and would be discussed with the engineering support team onshore.

A general criticism of the UKCS regulator (not specific to the operator) was that such risk assessments in practice rarely identified the true hazard related to the failure of the protective function of the critical equipment.

This operator had a well-defined approach to managing safety-critical elements (SCE) and associated components and equipment. A performance standard was defined for the identified SCEs on each installation, which is related to the risk reduction credit taken in the regulatory safety case.

To improve the quality of the initial risk assessment, the operator used Sphera’s Operational Risk Management software to present the assessor with templated risk assessments based on the type/category of SCE impaired. The templates helped to:

  • Define the true hazard that the non-conforming equipment as a class gives rise to
  • Provide typical mitigating measures for the assessor to consider minimizing risk based on the equipment class/function
  • Present relevant SCE performance standard content as checklists – which encouraged the assessor to,
    • Identify the level of safety or integrity criticality the deviation represents
    • Consider other protective functions that might compound the problem – that is, other deviations that also impact the area and major hazard under management

Sphera’s ORM also helped the assessor define if the impairment would impact a local area of the facility, or the whole platform. For example, a single gas detector may have a localized risk impact, whereas firewater pumps unable to deliver the required capacity could impact the entire installation.

The system was also used to manage all permitted activity on the operator’s facilities. This provides a combined view of all equipment risks and all activity risks on the barrier model, highlighting major accident hazard pathways.

Technology Has Caught Up With Ambition and Aspiration

Organizations are now increasingly using Digital Twin capabilities in their operations to reduce risk, improve productivity, and optimize costs. Digital Twin technology can help companies transform the way operations are managed by delivering a real-time, digital replica of the asset that simulates the operational reality.

The benefits of digital transformation for process safety management are tangible and make the IIoT possible in an increasing number of organizations. With the single, shared view of the operational reality, Digital Twin technology enables organizations to close the gaps between how process safety is intended and the reality of operations.