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EM&I discusses the future of offshore asset integrity management

Published by , Editorial Assistant
Oilfield Technology,

Danny Constantinis, Executive Chairman of the EM&I Group, the international asset integrity specialists, discusses the future for offshore asset integrity management.

Editor (Ed): What major developments do you see for asset integrity in the energy sector over the next few years?

Danny Constantinis (DC): Doing more for less and safely is the key to success in this business. Robotics and digitisation will play a big part in helping us to achieve this objective. Robotics will enable us to reduce the risks of using people in hazardous areas such as underwater, at height or in confined spaces and digitisation will help us to analyse the vast archives of data we have accumulated over many years to safely reduce inspection workscopes, predict trends more accurately and improve maintenance efficiency.

Danny Constantinis

Knowing what to inspect and when, and targeting critical components is the essence to finding anomalies, ‘in-time’ remedial action and thus keeping assets ‘fit for purpose’ at minimum cost.

Ed: What sectors of the energy industry are you focused on?

DC: We started with fixed installations but are mostly focused on floating production and drilling assets. The floating gas market is exciting and we are already involved in developing a Joint Industry Project (JIP) to bring operators, regulators and service sector companies together to study challenges in the FLNG and FSRU sector.

Deepwater wind farms and CALM buoys are also on our short-term horizon and it is interesting to see how technologies developed in diverse industries such as nuclear, gas, aerospace and forestry are being adapted to the floating production and alternative energy markets.

For example, we recently used a NoMan® robotic camera system, designed to inspect FPSO tanks, to inspect a gas terminal without rope access teams and then used the same NoMan system to inspect large pressure vessels without man entry.

Image 1: LORIS Mooring Chain Inspection Equipment

We are adapting ODIN robotic underwater inspection methods to measure mooring chain loads on CALM buoys and potentially Tension Leg mooring systems for deep water wind farms.

Ed: How do you decide what integrity challenges there are, and how important are the industry JIPs (Joint Industry Projects)?

DC: The JIPs are critical in this respect as they decide on the need for new technologies, set the performance parameters, monitor research and development, and observe demonstrations before giving approval on a ‘case by case’ basis if they are satisfied with the technology concerned. This means that the technologies are ‘industry driven’ which is the best way to produce what operators and regulators want, when they want it.

Ed: What has your company done to meet these challenges?

DC: We have developed a number of new technologies, many of them driven by the HITS JIP who aimed to reduce diver intervention, man entry into tanks and the need for tank cleaning.

The ODIN® diverless inspection system is used for hull and valve inspections and repairs where needed.

Image 2: ODIN In-Service Valve Inspection

NoMan® robotic cameras are used for remote tank and pressure vessel inspections and we are working on technology that minimises the need to clean tanks for inspection. Other new technologies are driven by industry needs; for example, HullGuard® is a diverless ICCP system and ExPert™ enables detailed internal inspection of Ex electrical equipment without having to shut the system down, while LORIS™ is a subsea robot designed for inspecting, and maybe even repairing, mooring chains in future.

However, not all new technologies are robotic based; the ANALYSE™ method uses advanced statistical analysis to reduce pressure system inspection workscopes by over 50%.

Ed: How do you test the new technologies for technical and business readiness?

DC: There are industry standards to guide on assessing technical and business readiness which we have adapted to our use. It is important to provide Operators with quantified safety and commercial benefits of new ideas.

This information is far more valuable if the benefits and technical readiness have been independently assessed by an independent industry group such as a JIP.

Ed: Why are new technologies so difficult to introduce?

DC: The oil industry has traditionally been slow to accept new technologies, even when these have been proved in other industries. This conservative approach is understandable in an industry where mistakes can be catastrophic and cost lives. However, times are changing as the new technologies can offer significant cost and man hour savings over traditional techniques and are much safer. This has been particularly welcome during the downturn over the last 3 years.

Ed: How do you decide on the benefits of new technologies?

DC: This is difficult because new technology often offers benefits across traditional boundaries, for example ODIN, the diverless under water inspection in lieu of drydocking (UWILD) method, reduces the inspection budget but also reduces POB by around 70% which benefits the maintenance budget.

Other technologies such as NoMan reduce inspection cost by 10%, but reduce tank preparation costs by around 80%, as well the less tangible costs of improved safety and increased production uptime.

Probably, the best way to assess commercial benefits is to use the independence of a JIP to calculate the various pros and cons and thus provide a balanced view for operators to use when selecting new methods versus old.

Ed: How do you introduce clients to new technologies?

DC: Our experience is that ‘seeing is believing’, so we regularly host demonstrations at our Technology Centre in Cumbria where clients and regulators can see first-hand how the systems work and are free to discuss ideas, applications and potential improvements with colleagues, regulators, and class societies.

Image 3: EM&I's Technology Centre

Often the outcome of these demonstrations is to move to a trial or pilot scheme on an offshore operating asset to validate the idea technically and commercially.

Ed: Can the oil industry learn lessons from other industries?

DC: Yes – we have adapted technologies from the nuclear, civil engineering, aerospace, forestry, and medical professions, as there is no point in reinventing the wheel when these industries have already solved similar problems with well-proven technologies.

Ed: What does the future hold for EM&I?

DC: I am excited and positive about the future of the energy industry and EM&I’s role within it. There is never a shortage of challenges and opportunities to stimulate us and we grew steadily during the downturn and are still expanding during the current upturn. We have experienced senior management and highly trained technicians to deliver a first-class service and value for money. This is backed by a high investment in R&D to provide a pipeline of continuous improvement. Over the years I have learned that working closely with our clients and the regulators creates the best environment for a successful and innovative business.

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