Safety Optimization Crucial to Industry DevelopmentWed, 01/22/2020 - 15:03
Q: What areas of opportunity have you identified at worksites in the Mexican oil & gas industry?
A: A prominent opportunity involves our work with marine moving assets, where we can implement safety technology specifically tailored for ships, both in a general sense, including merchant ships, as well as specifically oil and gas vessels. This is relevant for the Mexican context because most of the facilities that will be used in deepwater are going to be vessels. This includes FPSOs, FSOs and even a few floating platforms, although they will probably not be the technology of choice; if they were, PEMEX’s strategy would represent a kind of unusual blend. These kinds of choices represent specific fire safety needs. When you are offshore in a vessel, you do not typically have access to many water pumps. In fact, the available supply of water for fire suppression is limited because the amount of water that you are allowed to throw around on the ship is limited. In these cases, suppression is achieved through a technology called HI-FOG Water Mist Fire Protection. These systems use small particles of water to cool down the environment and end fires that way. It is specifically tailored for complicated environments within vessels and platforms, such as engine rooms. We have a great deal of experience in the installation and maintenance of this and other systems designed specifically for floating facilities.
Q: What is the most important challenge you tackle when adapting to the current needs of ongoing projects?
A: The biggest challenge is tailoring the cost to the environment, especially since the cost structure and complexity for a deepwater fire suppression system is completely different from that of an office building, tower or shopping mall system. In our case, having experience in all types of cost structures and projects, we have been able to create a general cost structure that can be adapted to these different projects; nevertheless, it is extremely challenging and the planning involved is complex.
Q: How are you preparing for a scenario in which stricter safety regulations clash with the goal to increase production?
A: In our experience, there is a general tendency for Mexican safety norms to become more stringent over time without necessarily being applied to all fields equally. Most of the latest norms in terms of fire safety, explosions and spills are focused on the midstream sector rather than the upstream. For example, we do a lot of work in terminals and we have been working with newer and stricter regulations specific to these types of infrastructure. Meanwhile, in upstream fields both active and inactive, we continue to work under old PEMEX norms, many of which have not been revised or replaced. We hope that the optimized midstream safety standards start being applied to the upstream sector. Since upstream activity has been focused on drilling, not many new permanent facilities have been built by the private sector that could benchmark new safety standards. There has not been a great deal of urgency in terms of establishing new regulations. However, we expect PEMEX will change its standards as new expectations emerge. PEMEX used to work in a way that facilitated the de-prioritization of safety standards. If you are investing a lot of money to increase production, corresponding safety and security investments tend to lag by a couple of months or years. This is a problem for a number of reasons, among them is the fact that conditions change in those facilities that increase capacity.
Q: How are these scenarios affecting the issue of maintenance as a safety factor?
A: If you devote many resources to CAPEX and expanding infrastructure, there will be a corresponding decrease of OPEX and maintenance expenses. Fortunately, we are not seeing that in PEMEX operations. If you look at the basic list or set of activities that PEMEX issued in March 2019, there are about 50 items, including oil production, compression, pumping, well heads, well maintenance and other similar categories. Of those items, there are eight to 10 activities specifically related to fire and gas safety, such as rehabilitation and maintenance of suppression systems and the rehabilitation of sensors and other preventative systems. These items are proof that PEMEX will not disregard maintenance.
KDM Fire Systems is a Mexican distributor of Kidde products. It also provides consultancy, engineering, installation and maintenance services for fire prevention systems and solutions in oil and gas facilities, often working directly with PEMEX.