ABS Says Aging FPSO Fleet is Creating New Safety Challenges 

safety challenges as FPSO fleet ages
The FPSO Cidade do Rio de Janeiro cracked in 219 (file image courtesy Brazilian Navy)

Published Aug 15, 2021 12:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

The global fleet of Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels is aging creating increasing safety challenges as many of the ships are nearing or now at the end of their design life. According to ABS, more than half of the ship type vessels are over 30-years-old and a quarter is over 40-years-old.

There have already been several high-profile incidents involving FPSOs or calls for urgent action to head off a potential environmental disaster. In August 2019, Japanese offshore platform operator MODEC reported cracks in the hull of the FPSO Cidade do Rio de Janeiro causing a small oil leak. The FPSO was one of the many offshore production facilities that Petrobras reported it would be decommissioning at maturing oil fields, but others remain in service around the globe.

“The offshore industry is faced with an evolving risk profile,” said Christopher Wiernicki, ABS Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, but he notes there are opportunities to enhance protocols and systems to address these risks. “With almost 60 percent of the global operating fleet of FPSOs classed by ABS, we are committed to addressing these issues and ensuring the ABS-classed fleet remains the safest and best performing fleet in the world. The challenges surrounding maintenance and structural fitness of aging FPSOs is not just a Class concern; rather, it is an industry challenge that requires the involvement and cooperation of all of the industry players.”

ABS reports that it classed the first FPSO vessel in U.S. waters in 1978. Today, their analysis shows that there is a total of 55 FPSO units in the global fleet that are reaching the end of their design life in the next five years. Five vessels already have life extension in place, with a further 19 currently being evaluated for life extension.  

To address the challenges, ABS has brought together leading companies in the sector forming a new working group that will review the current issues and produce outcomes that assist with the evaluation and potential acceptance of life extension. The working group consists of Chevron, Shell Trading Company, Petrobras,  MODEC, and SBM, as well as The Bahamas Maritime Authority, the Republic of the Marshall Islands Registry, and the U.S Coast Guard 8th District.

“Structural Integrity is one of our main Process Safety Barriers and we all face the same challenges on aging units," said Ivar Houthuysen, SBM Assets Integrity Director. “It is of utmost importance and in everybody’s interest to share experience, knowledge, ideas and that we agree on a best way forward to maintain structural integrity in a safe and efficient manner.” 

The group will undertake five projects aimed at using technology to tackle a range of FPSO safety issues. The issues to be reviewed include composite materials repairs for offshore structures, life extension of wire ropes, gauging management software, applications of photogrammetry and 3D Lidar Laser Scanning, and the role of artificial intelligence in corrosion analysis.