Chris Walker
Mexico Country Manager
Axess Group
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View from the Top

Lower Offshore Maintenance Push Toward Innovation

By Pedro Alcalá | Thu, 09/10/2020 - 11:56

Q: What is the state of demand for maintenance and asset integrity evaluation services?

A: Maintenance requirements have not changed in our industry. However, our clients have become more receptive to innovative approaches that allow us to maintain asset integrity while remaining cost-effective. Axess' approach to bundling maintenance programs helps drive efficiencies, which again reduces cost. Even though the requirements and the need for support remain the same, the margins in which our clients are operating are substantially lower, causing smaller budgets. Addressing these challenges in the market with innovative solutions is our value proposition. We offer multiple models to address the needs of our clients. Nevertheless, over the last six years, maintenance budgets have been reduced, causing backlog that will need to be addressed to keep offshore and onshore installations safe to operate.

Q: How would you describe the history and path of global expansion that led Axess Group to the Mexican oil and gas industry?

A: The journey from our startup in Norway in 1998 to the company we are today has been an adventure. We have grown from being two passionate entrepreneurs to an international player with talented staff, pushing in the same direction to secure reliable, productive and safe installations for our international customers. Our headquarters is located in Molde, Norway, but we since have expanded with branch offices in many other countries, including Brazil,  Houston (USA), St. John's (Canada), Dubai (UAE), Mumbai (India), Ciudad Del Carmen (Mexico), Perth (Australia), Busan (South Korea), Africa (Cape Town, Luanda, Accra) and Singapore. Last year alone, we opened four offices. Our mission statement is to help our clients to reach their goals while maximizing their productivity. We form strong partnerships by treating the client's goals as our own.

Axess has been working in Mexico since 2010. We started off with BW Offshore's Señor Del Mar FPSO. The company contracted our personnel in Norway to provide risk-based inspections programs for the top side. After this, we supported various international drilling companies when they brought drilling units into Mexico.

Over the past year, Axess North America has participated in several Mexico projects through its office in Houston. These projects have demonstrated an opportunity for Axess Group. Our philosophy has always been to grow our footprint by following existing clients. The benefit for our existing clients is that they can continue to deliver the same quality service, and then our goal is always to grow our portfolio to also include existing players in the markets we enter.

Q: What is your approach to maintenance issues for new and old infrastructure in Mexico?

A: The approach is the same regardless of it being new or old infrastructure. For the new, you want to implement maintenance programs that prevent the infrastructure from needing costly repairs. These expensive repairs can be mitigated by having a proper maintenance program. For older assets, it becomes more of a priority and managing risk. As an asset owner, you want to have a safe operating asset while getting the most out of your maintenance budgets. In Axess, we deliver something we call total asset integrity programs; these programs were originally developed for life extension programs for aging assets in the north sea. The philosophy behind these programs has proven to work very well and are also very much applicable to aging assets in Mexico. What we have observed from our visits on various platforms in Mexico and from speaking with asset owners is that there is a need to look at the whole asset when establishing maintenance programs. There are also ambitions to increase production, which also means that life extension programs could be very attractive.

Q: What is your evaluation of the general state of Mexican oil and gas infrastructure and organizational culture surrounding maintenance issues?   

A: There is a lot of innovation happening in the international oil and gas market. We have already begun to implement some of these solutions in the Mexican market. There are lacks in the maintenance programs, which represents an opportunity to improve them and at the same time optimize the efficiency of the client's budget, which combined with new foreign technologies will boost the country's development. The need to be smart about how budgets are spent in the current market will ensure the ability to invest and develop in the coming years. Mexico has a great future, and Axess is committed in sum efforts to achieve it.

Q: What have Axess Group's inspection operations in Mexico revealed about the gaps between Mexican and global infrastructure standards?

A: The prevailing method for maintenance strategies is the Run to Failure (RTF) method; experience has proved that an approach skewed toward RTF is costly in terms of resource planning and exposure to risk. Downtime with production loss which leads to financial loss. Another gap relates to the regulatory environment in Mexico. Many of the most important regulations can be considered static documents, where working revisions date to more than ten years ago. This can lead to the development of internal practices that do not measure up to global standards and practices. A further effect is the loss of opportunity to leverage new knowledge and methods and tools to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of activities related to asset integrity.

The fast pace of change worldwide requires a dynamic approach to regulatory development. This regulation will provide a body of global standards that produces more accurate information regarding the state of operational performance. Inconsistent application of standards and best practices can cause conflict both internally and, in the market's own performance standards. Axess's goal in Mexico is to bridge those gaps through active, intelligent, consistent and comprehensive applications of international regulations, standards and best practices. To that end, Axess will bring to bear its global expertise in regulatory environments, as well as its experience related to installations and assets.

Q: What role do digital tools, software and automation play in asset integrity monitoring and management?

A: Creating software and new technological solutions allow us to achieve our long-term goal and reduce the amount of time our inspection engineers spend offshore, while also reducing the cost for our clients. Our long-term plan is to reduce the required offshore mobilization with the assistance of remote monitoring systems. These systems allow engineers to gather data on the actual state of installations, transform them into actionable information and solutions.

An example of one of our products is the ALPA Double Secure Winch (DSW), which allows platform operators to lift equipment over-pressurized systems without having to shut-in wells. This decreases downtime and reduces CO2 emissions from flaring during maintenance periods. The DSW has been installed in multiple locations around the world. This is a solution that has proven to reduce emissions, increase uptime, and reduce risk related to HSE for the offshore personnel.

 

Axess Group is a Norwegian engineering firm founded in 1998 and specialized in asset integrity management, maintenance, testing and repair. Its presence is now global and focused on the offshore energy industry. 

Pedro Alcalá Pedro Alcalá Journalist and Industry Analyst

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