Keeping an Eye on Critical Assets During Extreme Weather Events

Tropical storm preparedness for offshore and nearshore energy projects.

31 March 2021

Energy

There are few natural disaster events that can compare to the frequent devastation brought to bear by tropical storms. In the US, ‘tropical storms’, a collective term that categorizes the extreme weather events of Hurricanes, Cyclones and Typhoons , have been increasing in frequency and intensity, with 13 severe storms reported in 2020. Over the course of the last 40 years, tropical storms have caused $997 billion dollars¹ in losses to the US economy, the equivalent of 5% of the country’s GDP. The threat to critical assets is real and for offshore operators being able to monitor and respond to natural disasters with agility is key to resilience as well as driving cost reductions across operations.

This article aims to highlight the key vulnerabilities of projects that are situated in the Gulf and are exposed to high wind speed events, providing typical mitigation procedures that can be checked as means of protecting the asset. It covers useful insights about mitigations at the design, construction and operational phases, which flow together to provide a complete story, with the balance of the weight on operations.

As extreme weather systems approach human settlements, governments issue orders to their citizens to prepare and evacuate to safety. The same is true for remote offshore facilities. Weather events are tracked and when they pose a threat to assets, the operators evacuate their personnel to safety. With no one left on the facility, asset managers are completely reliant on remote monitoring systems to keep an eye on the asset as weather systems pass over.

Offshore facilities are complex, with many interdependent systems for power, communications, and sensors for data collection. Often, failure at any one point can lead to the shore-based teams being left blind to the events unfolding. Therefore, operators install remote monitoring systems that are independent of day-to-day operating systems. 

Jeffrey Lewis, Technical Advisor at BMT, has been helping offshore operators monitor their assets during hurricane season for almost 20 years. He said,

“Our independent remote monitoring systems get used in line with operator’s hurricane plan and its phases as the weather system approaches. There's a phase where we become aware that the hurricanes are in the Gulf and as the hurricanes start to approach, non-essential personal are evacuated off the platform and measurement systems enter standby mode. We start to see the data coming through the monitoring system and we start collecting that data as the hurricane is approaching.

At the point when all personnel are evacuated, we then switch into hurricane mode and now it becomes the eyes of the platform. It is capturing all the videos and images and the system is in full swing at that point, collecting data and bringing that data onshore for visualization on BMT DEEP, our online data management platform. As the hurricane hits the platform, we are monitoring what is happening with the extreme values. Once the event has passed and the platform is re-manned, we return the system to its normal state”.

The key to remotely monitoring unmanned assets is the quality of the data and the ability to validate and extract insight. Soma Maroju, Head of Data Services at BMT explains.

“Having frequent measurements of sensors is important to fully resolve the motions and forces that assets are experiencing. On our systems we typically sample the data at frequency high enough to capture the responses during an extreme weather event. This high resolution enables us to capture the impact of extreme waves and wind on the platform. Moreover, the data is transmitted frequently unlike during normal operations. We are also able to validate this data using machine learning and compare it against third party sources such as NOAA’s network of weather monitoring buoys”.

BMT Deep also helps reduce the load of several users remoting into the offshore system. The data and information are consolidated from multiple sources into one place and all stakeholders can access this information in a secure way. BMT Deep is an online platform that stores and processes data from remote monitoring systems and enables operator’s severe weather response teams to monitor multiple assets.

From the onboard systems collecting the data through to our online data platform, BMT is enabling teams of engineers and asset managers to keep a watchful eye on their offshore assets when extreme weather hits.

To find out more about becoming Hurricane Ready, you can listen to our podcast series here.

¹ https://coast.noaa.gov/states/fast-facts/hurricane-costs.html

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