Investing in Living QuartersWed, 01/22/2014 - 14:40
“Living quarters on oil platforms are crucial for the wellbeing of workers and must be addressed at the earliest planning stage,” says Terry Browning, Mexico’s Country Operations Manager of HB Rentals. By investing in safety, design, and comfort for its equipment, HB Rentals has become a global leader in onsite accommodations. The company has been working in the Mexican market for well over 15 years and opened an office in Ciudad del Carmen in 2012 to improve customer service and shorten response times for its repair services. “Waiting until a tender for living quarters has been issued is not a good idea as there is a high probability that a competitor has already helped the involved companies develop specifications in advance,” he explains. Browning uses the example of Cantarell, for which most infrastructure was built in the 1970s. Industry and technology standards have come a long way since, but platforms in this area still reflect industry standards of past decades. Browning says that his company has come up with solutions that can be adapted to old platforms. “For example, oil companies can remove the drilling packages and topsides on old platforms and install accommodation units instead. This strategy highlights the importance of getting involved at the engineering stage of a project to be able to implement innovative strategies,” says Browning. “PEMEX is set to increase its rig count to eighty offshore rigs by late 2014, and is about to kick off a five-year program aimed at phasing out its older equipment. The Mexican oil industry saw two significant booms in jack-ups, one in the 1980s and the other one in the 1990s. A lot of the rigs built during the 1980s are going to be eliminated or replaced with newer ones, including semi-submersibles. This explains why many companies that have been off the radar are getting involved in the Mexican industry again. New generation floating drilling platforms will have larger accommodations, giving HB Rentals the chance to sell units for recently bought jack-ups.”
Browning points out that many onshore living quarters that have gone offshore do not meet international specifications. “The weight of United States Coast Guard ABS A60 Accommodations range from 30,000 to 40,000 pounds. This is a problem because fixed platforms in the area usually have a 20,000-pound limitation on the cranes. HB Rentals, however, has a Class I Division 2 cabin that falls within the weight limit for cranes and complies with hazardous area regulations.” HB Rentals’ development plan is based on a minimum classification of Class I Division 2, certified according to international standards, as rigs and well sites are considered hazardous areas. In fact, HB Rentals shares PEMEX’s view on rigid safety standards. Units under this classification include interior gas and fire detection systems but their most important is the building structure. HB Rentals limits the use of combustible materials in construction, using aluminum paneling interiors instead. “Many of our competitors use wood in the constructions of their units, which they treat with a flame-retardant chemical. The standard we follow for Mexico does not permit similar practices because no degree of flame-retardant chemicals can keep wood from burning if enough flame and heat is applied,” he argues. A similar approach is taken for air conditioners, which have enclosed components so that the system does not produce sparks. Insulation specifications are imperative in construction too, as these indicate the number of minutes people have to evacuate before materials start to ignite. HB Rentals builds containers with the same material specifications as vessels, but the company’s safety requirements are prone to change according to environmental conditions. Clients in the North Sea request Class I Division 1 classification standards on deepwater rigs, meaning everything has to be pressurized. This is due to the presence of H2S and other toxic gases. Furthermore, the units’ blast rating, which indicates how many millibars of pressure a containerized building can withstand, has also become a prevalent criterion in the US. “These specific issues are driving the market over costs. Human resources are the most valuable resource, and companies have to protect their people,” says Browning.
“Deepwater is a key area for HB Rentals since we are the only provider for offshore containers and accommodations in Mexico that has Class I Division 1 units in its fleet,” says Browning. “HB Rentals has the capacity to pivot to meet the needs of the different types of rigs that are used in exploration activities, such as office space, laboratory space, and well testing cabins. These units are currently used by Schlumberger for well testing, but although this is a significant market, accommodations for fixed offshore platforms remain HB Rental’s biggest business in Mexico.”