Stored Energy and Corrosion – An Accident Waiting to Happen?
The HSE’s Offshore Division (OSD) who undertook an External Corrosion Management Inspection Project from July 2007 to March 2010 concluded that there is significant room for improvement in ensuring all operators follow best practice guidelines in maintenance management systems for non-safety and safety critical equipment. Mick Beavers is all too aware of the fact that if the structural integrity of a corroded valve actuator casing is compromised then the actuator could release the stored energy and cause a major incident or accident.
The HSE project covered 30 inspections of the physical condition of specific plant and equipment including valves, and assessed whether maintenance was an effective part of the management system controls for external corrosion. The state of plant varied significantly between good and poor but the general consensus is to continue to improve upon the measurable acceptance criteria for external corrosion published by the Energy Institute in June 2008.
Whilst the HSE’s report primarily focussed on the general fabric of the installations like walkways and stairways, Mick Beavers believes the corrosion of valves and actuators is extremely significant because of the potential force within an actuator that could result in a serious accident or even fatality if the corrosion causes the bolts or casing to fail.
Further dangers with the release of the actuator force lie with the process, if the actuator is not keeping the valve shut or open there are many dangerous scenarios and potentially serious consequences.
Mick Beavers agrees with Steve Walker, Head of HSE's Offshore Division who recently commented on the report: “offshore installations that progressively deteriorate and corrode, with hazardous walkways and poorly supported pipes or other infrastructure are not only putting workers at risk of serious injury, but in the event of a major incident can exacerbate the consequences. The report shows that the industry still has a way to go in this, and given the ageing nature of our offshore platforms this is not an issue that can be ignored.”
A combination of factors is pinpointed in the report that will make for a safer, more secure and a sustainable working environment. The CVS Valve Manager already assists operators in carrying out much more effective planned maintenance based on the real time data collected. Any early signs of actuator casing being corroded would be flagged up with the CVS Valve Manager and the appropriate action taken. The platform operator ultimately decides whether to go for a replacement or a complete overhaul but CVS Valve Manager allows people to make an objective decision on plant based on real time data analysis so that lifelong valve management can be an integral part of a planned maintenance programme.
In the HSE report overview there was an emphasis on planned and not just risk-based maintenance, independent audits, improving and adhering to standards as well as better employee communications. All the findings will form part of some good practice guidance for the industry that will be spearheaded by Oil & Gas UK and the Energy Institute Corrosion Management Working Group.
Mick Beavers added “This report warns about the potential impact of corroded plant so everyone involved in the oil and gas field needs to work together to achieve the right balance between basic repairs with the need to carry out comprehensive maintenance programmes.” He continued: “I can understand that the industry may feel that service repair companies will be quick to call for the overhaul or replacement of equipment but I don’t believe this to be the case. I am passionate about stored energy and corrosion and really want to make a big difference to what I believe is a serious situation.”
With HSE inspections set to continue into 2011 CVS will be working hand in hand with its clients to follow good practice industry guidelines and promote CVS Valve Manager in maintaining safety critical equipment and preventing accidents.
With all this said however, Mick Beavers believes manufacturers have a big part to play in safety awareness of actuators. New warning signs may be considered explaining the dangers of hidden or stored energy. Training should also be made available on a regular basis and promoted to end users about the potential risks.
Perhaps then platform staff like the one taking the picture below, will think twice about standing on a badly corroded actuator with forces capable of causing severe damage to them and their work environment in the event of it failing.
To view the full HSE Report visit: www.hse.gov.uk/offshore/corrosion-report.pdf
Control Valve Solutions Ltd, Tel: 01224 583116 / 0151 531 1501