ABS introduces new standards and notations for drillships and MODU’s

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abseagleResponding to the increased technical sophistication of drillships and other mobile  offshore drilling units and with the greater regulatory oversight of offshore drilling, ABS has developed new classification standards and notations intended to provide MODU operators with increased confidence that their operations are being conducted to the highest demonstrable standards.

“ABS is the leading provider of classification services to the offshore sector,” said ABS President and CEO Christopher J. Wiernicki. “We have been talking with the industry, regulators and others with related interests. This has helped us to clearly define existing standards that can be improved, and to also identify those new areas that would benefit from having an independent, third party set of standards that properly address the new technologies that are being incorporated into the latest designs of drillships, semis and jackups.”

That research has indicated a broad range of both design and operational aspects that warrant additional guidance, according to Ken Richardson, ABS Vice President, Energy Development. “Obviously enhanced standards for the classification of drilling systems are key components,” he noted, “but operators are also looking for a more holistic approach to the maintenance of their assets and we have developed new notations that can be used by an operator to demonstrate the effectiveness of their maintenance programs.”

Richardson also emphasized the need, expressed by many of the ABS MODU operators, for an effective independent standard that addresses the integration of the ubiquitous, and increasingly complex, software programs that are essential for the operation of the unit as a whole. “The offshore sector has always been a leader in developing and adopting new technologies and novel concepts,” Richardson added. “There is a lot of innovative thinking that goes into the development of the individual components that are brought together in the modern drillship. The key to the safe and seamless operation of the unit is the ability of all these components to function together in a manner that can be controlled by the operational team on board. That is the basis of a lot of our research and the development of our new software notations.”

New notations that have been developed by ABS for the drilling sector include Integrated Software Quality Management (ISQM), Systems Verification (SV), DRILLSHIP, Asset Integrity Management (AIM) and Rapid Response Damage Assessment (RRDA). Existing notations that have been enhanced include Classification of Drilling Systems (CDS), Hull Inspection and Maintenance Program (HIMP), Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), and Environmental Protection (ENVIRO-OS).

ISQM is a risk-based software development and maintenance process built on internationally recognized standards. The ISQM process validates the software installation on the unit and then monitors for consistency when there are software updates or a change in hardware. ISQM provides a process to manage software over the offshore unit’s life.

“There is growing recognition within industry that organizations will need to institute a change management process for software,” says Bret Montaruli, ABS Vice President, Offshore Technology. “Industry has traditionally focused on structures and equipment. However, software has become such an important component in the operational phase particularly since control systems for offshore installations and units become more complex. Successful implementation relies heavily on the integration of software developed by multiple vendors.”

The ABS ISQM Guide places emphasis on the verification and validation of the multiple software packages. The benefit to owners and operators is an increased level of confidence in software reliability with the goal of decreasing downtime and reducing the risk of software related incidents.”

The SV notation allows operators to benefit from verifying that the software has been developed in a recognized process that meets the operator’s needs and performs as expected. Upgrades and new releases that are routinely made by vendors and which may introduce errors into the system and increase downtime or cause other operating problems are also subject to verification prior to installation.

Award of the DRILLSHIP notation indicates that the vessel has been designed and constructed to the standards contained in the Guide for Drillships. As the principal classification society for drillships, ABS is taking the lessons learned and is clarifying the criteria for these specialized vessels.

Asset Integrity Management is a concept that is well established within the offshore sector and has received renewed attention. “Operators are looking for third party confirmation that the day to day maintenance and management of their units conforms to a clear, industry accepted standard and the new ABS AIM notation provides them with such verification,” says Richardson. “It builds on the existing Hull Inspection and maintenance Program (HIMP) requirements that several operators have adopted, taking a more holistic approach to the overall management of the MODU.” A key element of this is the addition of a state-of-the-art loads and configuration approach that provides the operator with a tool to better understand the operational loads to which the unit is subject.

While HIMP is directed at the inspection and maintenance of the unit’s structure, the companion Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) notation addresses the manner in which the machinery and equipment on board the unit is maintained, including replacement and repair strategies that are pre-emptive in their approach.

The ABS RRDA program and notation is a well established offering within the shipping industry and has now been enhanced and made available to offshore operators. “The technical assessment of an offshore structure can be much more complex than for a ship such as a tanker,” explains ABS Chief Technology Officer Todd Grove. “Many offshore units are unique in their architecture so that the necessary modeling of the unit is similarly complex and the programs must be specifically tailored to the unit. Incidents affecting offshore units over the recent past have highlighted the importance of having the ability to quickly evaluate the unit in the damaged condition so that pro-active response strategies can be implemented that may be able to stabilize the situation preventing or minimizing the possibility of loss of life or ensuing pollution.”

ABS has offered the voluntary CDS notation for many years. ABS has revisited the standards with industry and other interested parties to identify those areas that should be strengthened or clarified. The newly issued Guide for the Classification of Drilling Systems includes these enhanced standards and takes a more holistic approach to the entire drilling system from the drill floor to the wellhead including the blow out preventer.

The ENVIRO-OS or ENVIRO-OS+ denotes adherence to enhanced standards for environmental protection. The notation takes into account procedures and requirements for ballast water and sewage management, anti-fouling applications, airborne pollutant discharges, fuel oil and the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems, refrigerants and the Green Passport for ship recycling.

May 4, 2011

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