Rig managers intimidated by politically correct scared cows.

This article looks at how offshore contractors let sacred cows eat their lunch. Against today’s backgound of slow cash flow and idle offshore assets, we look at what contractor’s operational priorities really need to be. We use drilling rigs as an example, though the take home lessons apply to barges, DSV’s and work boats too.

Here we try to look past the larger question of management talent, to examine the context of the social pressures that pushed the contractor’s operational priorities into throwing a ton of money down the drain, mainly to please the PC police.

The recent flood of hundreds of new rigs, boats and barges
came with an equally big flood of new rig managers, many of whom who lacked the experience and self confidence to fight the safety fascists, a weakness which is costing offshore contractors millions in otherwise avoidable asset inspections and service charges.

As an experiment, a couple of weeks ago (02 Feb 2016) we posted a query to Oilpro.com asking how contractors are servicing a critical but mechanically simple rig hoisting component, i.e. : “What should be done at the five year service on crown blocks?

Some of the answers given to this question, illustrates the grim hold of safety dogmatism over the drilling industry.


The basic design philosophy of rig hoisting equipment was settled upon over a century ago. Rotary rigs are based on massive over engineering, especially that of hoisting equipment used in the load path. A rotary drilling rig is a
shining example of American technical prowess at it’s finest. In the case of crown and travelling blocks, simple tests and visual inspections have served for a century to confirm that hoisting equipment is safe to use. Wire rope and roller bearings are well oversized for their application; they are meant to fail progressively, not suddenly; they give off signs that tell the observant user that they are about to break, well before they break.

Sheaves for rig hoisting equipment being overhauled in-house.

API Recommended Practice 8B states that:
“Equipment shall be: Disassembled in a suitably equipped facility to the extent necessary to permit full inspection of all primary load carrying components and other components that are critical to the equipment.”

This overlooks that a competent rig mechanic can safely and
efficiently dismantle and inspect the crown sheeves right there in the derrick and the travelling blocks right there on the rig floor. It also overlooks the design intent, that water tables come with a gin pole expressly intended to allow crown blocks clusters to be dismantled insitu.

I don’t know if this is written in any book, but there was a time when rig crews used to track wear of the fast line sheave grooves (as well as bearing free play) knowing that when wear was reaching it’s limits, they would plan a sheave swap for the time a new drilling line had to be installed. After dereeving the old drill line, the crown blocks sheaves can be dismantled and MPI’d (not all that hard to do, as sheave bearings are a simple slip fit on the shaft). Swap the worn fast line sheaves with the lazy ones at the dead end of the cluster. Send any sheaves with any bearings or seals that need changing, to be pressed out at the mechanic’s workbench . (Usually only a few need changing).

Rigs on which such procedures are done, may have been drilling for years, so we are talking about well engineered equipment which lasts for decades.

Could the newer rig load path hoisting machinery be more flimsy and prone to sudden breakage than the old stuff? Is there an increase in the number of bad incidents in recent hoisting equipment incident reports?

There is something odd about this relatively recent trend to
over-inspect rig equipment. Some well heeled offshore contractors have even taken to removing perfectly good crown and travelling blocks and sending them as a compete assembly to outside workshops for a Cat IV inspection. The expense can exceed 6 figures. A big bill to what end? One or two new bearings, some new oil seals, a coat of paint and an API monogrammed inspection report? In today’s business environment, how long can offshore contractors afford to pay these kinds of prices?

Travelling blocks are easily overhauled even when still reeved up.

Why is there not a big fuss about companies who run cars or trucks for 10 – 15 years without inspecting wheel bearings? After all, if a wheel falls off a truck, it could crush some innocents in a passing car.

Hoisting equipment is just one example of the need for a more mature approach to critical systems, where the contractor himself acknowledges that he has a responsibility to monitor and maintain his own equipment. He needs people who are skilled in these systems and who are motivated to share their knowledge. Getting in third parties to inspect and repair company assets should be considered to an expensive last resort. (This raises the matter of OEMs who use tricks such as PLC passwords to “lock in” owners to expensive service contracts – a topic for another day.)

When barges or rigs are idle, cash in the bank takes on a different priority, as contractors look at what they need to do to survive a downturn of unknown duration. Two new priorities include how to use limited cash to maintain the integrity of mothballed assets and how to keep stacked assets as “drill ready” or “work ready” as possible. We need to understand what technologies could help us “think outside the box” such as adopting inspection and preservation practices from other industries. We want to keep our idle assets in good working condition, without excessively spending down our cash reserves.

Today’s offshore contractors are in a race against time to stop a rising flood of red ink, to carefully use what remains of cash reserves to:
1] preserve idle assets in contract ready condition; and
2] to be seen to be complying with as many mandatory 6, 12 , 24 and 60 monthly routine tests and inspections as crew levels and mothball budgets allow.

Our mindsets have to adapt to new circumstances. Future articles in this series look in closer details at these new priorities.

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2 comments to Rig managers intimidated by politically correct scared cows.

  • Craig Rosier

    I agree with this article 100%. I hope, as the author states, that some degree of sanity will return to the industry as Drilling Contractor Management will be more inclined to resist the absurdities during these tough times. The Original Equipment Manufacturers railroaded these policies to ensure only they milked the cash cow while the Safety Departments also saw both CYA insurance aspects as well as opportunity to further their influence & strength within their organizations, thus perpetuating their influence & security.

  • Evan

    Comments (36)reposted from http://oilpro.com/post/22552/rig-managers-intimidated-politically-correct-scared-cows

    Killian Kirk · 19d ago · Reply · Like · 10
    In most circumstances that I have encountered, whether it be drill pipe, rental tools, or rig equipment, the cost of a failure far outweighs the cost of inspection before even factoring in safety, PR, quality control, auditability, or downtime concerns. It is easy to dismiss preventative measures when they are doing their job and you don’t see the failures. However, if cost is the primary concern, cutting corners up front will more than likely only delay that cost and potentially amplify it down the road, and in this environment if there was a catastrophic failure resulting in environmental or personnel damage, you will be underwater very quickly.

    Dave Eade · 19d ago · Reply · Like · 9
    I agree with Evan 100%, with most rigs these days we keep a good PM system in place to stop equipment failures, this works great. Every 5 years we have a SPS where the equipment is checked, but taking your hoisting equip ect to a machine shop to just check it out, is not in the contractors best interest due to the excessive costs when it can be done by experienced rig hands, this is a plus for the rig at all times. Too much CYA these days!!

    Evan Jones · 19d ago · Reply · 7
    Correct, the cost of a failure far outweighs the cost of inspection. API Recommended Practices (plus common sense) should be adhered to at all times. Users should be trained and qualified to inspect their equipment to predetermined standards. This is the basic principle of crane and cargo handling equipment: the user is responsible that his equipment is safe and suitable. The oil boom bought with it, an over reliance on third parties.

    Rob Young · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 4
    So very true Evan. Excellent post by the way. I do think this is an area that has become a financial casualty of the boom and bust cycle. Old and experienced hands operated upon established procedures and guidelines. Bosses at every level all went through the same learning processes and tragic accidents were by and large avoided. Enter the MBA who decides to save money by purchasing cheaper items via China. Or the newer better rig with parts manufactured by the cheapest supplier. Everything designed to save money, maximize profits. Until a part failure. We needn’t look at other similar industries too closely as every now and again and jet falls from the sky. The aviation industry is highly regulated and for good reason. This is a double edged sword where there should be regulations but with a balance so as to not impede productivity or impose undue and unnecessary financial hardship.

    Shaun Smithers · 19d ago · Reply · Like · 7
    Some very good points Evan, especially “signs that tell the observant user that they are about to break, well before they break” and “a competent rig mechanic can safely and efficiently dismantle and inspect”. And there’s the rub! Unfortunately on rigs today in many cases the crew are no longer observant nor competent enough to do what for us would be a simple maintenance task. My area is subsea and I’m horrified and disappointed that it has come to the point where rig managers would rather hire very expensive “specialist” hose companies whose hands are of unknown or verified competency to maintain the hoses on the subsea stack instead of the subsea “technicians” on the rig because of a short-sighted failure of management to ensure their own subsea hands 1) have adequate previous experience in a hydraulic and mechanical maintenance role and 2) that their trained skill set includes being able to competently manufacture hose assemblies on the rig and install them correctly! None of these changes to specialist service companies have had any significant impact on BOP reliability except giving the management someone else to blame when another hose fails or fitting leaks.
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    David Blackmore · 18d ago · Reply · Unlike · 1
    @StephenWatkins: Stephen I agree – “Management” are the key and they simply make or break a well thought out policy – most of the leading drilling contractors advocated an RMS or PMS system of some description and a lot of Big Oil tender documents actually specify that the contractor must have some kind of preventative maintenance system in place or you will not qualify for the tender! Evan makes a lot of good points about using observation and common sense to be on the look out for potential failures but I fear that with the advent of RMS and PMS a lot of good folk with the necessary skills (both manual and observational) were essentially forced from using their well developed experience into following the RMS/PMS set time limits of “proactive” maintenance periods and bearing/filter/oil/seal change outs! And some contractors (who shall remain nameless so as not to embarrass them) actually penalized crews if they did not follow the prescribed time lines down to the hour! Also, a key element is to remember that on major overhauls these are API recommended practices – emphasis on the word recommended – and I believe that there is room to challenge by going to the API committee and presenting the “common sense” case before them – in these austere times why should the mechanics be forced into wasting perfectly good bearings if they do not need changing! And I totally agree that in many respects it appears that management have lost the plot entirely if they are willing to sanction sending equipment to 3rd party inspection house or mobilizing 3rd party “experts” in to do work that well trained rig personnel could do for a fraction of the cost! I am not against RMS/PMS or any good preventive maintenance system and fully support them as long as it’s application is governed and guided by good practical common sense.

    Evan Jones · 17d ago · Reply
    @DavidBlackmore: David is “not against RMS/PMS or any good preventive maintenance system and fully support them as long as it’s application is governed and guided by good practical common sense.” Good point, worse than badly thought out PMS tasks (I’ve seen plenty), is a top-down PMS program with no mechanism for user comment or modification. The topic of how PM should be managed and supported needs it’s own debate.

    Evan Jones · 14d ago · Reply
    @DavidBlackmore: Another good comment of David Blackmore: > in these austere times why should the mechanics be forced into wasting perfectly good bearings if they do not need changing! David, a colleague commented on your response yesterday; he told us of a set of crown bearings from a hard working drillship, that had been in service for 20 years. Upon examination, there was nothing wrong with them, so all were put back into service. The crew felt that at least the old bearings had no manufacturer’s defects. (This happened 15 years ago). Those original bearings stayed in service until the rig was eventually scrapped. This is case is not unique.

    Timothy Davis · 18d ago · Reply · Unlike · 6
    After 13 years, I got out of the oil field to run my own water well drilling company, when economics wiped that out I returned to the oil field in 2011 and I was appalled at the incompetence on rig crews, from Rig Manger on down. Some, of course, were very competent, but most weren’t. They used third party for almost everything and changed things on a time frame, rather than doing good inspections, knowing what to look for, etc. There was a malaise that I was unused to; a sense that they change it on a time frame so it will not malfunction. The whole culture had changed. Okay, so while I expected it to be safer, I was unprepared for the lack of knowledge, even how to change a drawworks chain. I mark most of this up to the 14 on 14 off rotation (domestically) as one might not move the rig for over a year, while others move it every month. I expect now, with oil dropping to prices not seen since I got out of it the first time, that will change and these hands will get the training born of economics the way most of us did in decades past.

    L.w. Brittian · 18d ago · Reply · Unlike · 6
    Dr. R. Bea suggest a balance between production and protection. Yes we imperfect humans can carry things a bit too far in both directions. What are we talking about when we point to “social pressures? To “tons of money down the drain”. To “please the pc police”. To infer it is all due to “Safety Fascists” —-is in my humble professional opinion is a bit too far. Dr. Bea has a good point in my professional opinion, but that is just my opinion– and not one of the 12 laws given to some old guy on a smoke covered mountain.

    I suggest the reader please make better decisions that some of us old hands have made in the past. I suggest that they invest some of their most precious asset their time and review the history that got us to “third party inspections”. The history of the O&G industry is filled with lessons learned, and that includes the pros and cons of third party inspections.

    I suggest that the reader review the following and see what they can learn that will aid them in obtaining in making better decisions– to achieve a balance between production and protection.

    Triangle Shirtwaist Factory 1911 New York city
    The U.S. Navies’ radar tower Texas Tower # 4 in 1961
    The Ocean Ranger tragedy off the shore of Canard’s Newfoundland in 1982
    The deadly Bhopal, India gas leak tragedy in 1984
    The three incidents occurring in rapid secession at Grangemounth Scotland facility in 2000
    The Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy over Texas in 2003
    The Deep Water Horizon environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010
    San Bruno, California a 30 inch gas pipeline number 132 explosion 2010
    Savar Building Collapse, Savar Bangladesh
    My best wishes to Mr. E. Jones!

    L. W. Brittian

    Chris Lothian · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 2
    How can you forget Piper Alpha on that list?! That was the real game changer, in the UK at least.

    Evan Jones · 13d ago · Reply
    Very good points Mr Brittian and I do admit to using strong terms such as safety fascist for reasons which were discussed in the Comments appended to this Oilpro post: http://oilpro.com/post/21838/three-sensible-safety-trends-we-would-like-to-see

    Somebody pointed us to the problem of unexpected outcomes in complex systems, such as what happened in some of the disasters, which you list above.

    Complex systems deserves it’s own article, though briefly:

    A complex system exhibits complex interactions when it has: Unfamiliar, unplanned, or unexpected sequences which are not visible or not immediately comprehensible Design features such as branching, feedback loops Opportunities for failures to jump across subsystem boundaries.

    A complex system is tightly coupled when it has: Time-dependent processes which cannot wait Rigidly ordered processes (as in sequence A must follow B) Only one path to a successful outcome Very little slack (requiring precise quantities of specific resources for successful operation) https://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codeq/accident/accident.pdf

    The definitive book on the topic is Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies by Charles Perrow. The aviation industry, BTW, accepts that total elimination of all accidents is not possible.

    James Moody · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 4
    The weakness of the article is experienced and well trained rig crews. In 1986 operators followed by drilling rig contractors decided to cut staff and eliminate experienced people to cut cost. They instead decided to rely on contractors to do a lot of routine maintenance so they did not have to keep expensive machinist and mechanics along with the engineers and other technical managers to supervise them. They instead chose to hire and provide minimal training so they minimized labor cost, ramp up and layoff quickly with minimal cost. This policy results an sending things out for routine maintenance that was done in house in the past increasing these costs and increasing down time. The recent downturn will only increase this kind of executive thinking. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Chris Lothian · 18d ago · Reply · Like
    I dunno if you have the expression in the states but we call it cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    Evan Jones · 18d ago · Reply · 1
    @ChrisLothian: We saw this happen among manufacturers of top line oilfield products during 80s, when a new breed of Wall Street asset strippers started buying up America’s industrial heartland. The new owners sent in the MBAs bean counter wrecking crew to lay off a whole generation of awesome old guys who knew everything worth knowing about their company’s products. Service and technical support declined to the poor levels that we still see today. One of those original asset strippers, Sir James Goldsmith, later felt remorse for the harm he had done, which he outlined in his book The Trap.

    Chris Lothian · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 2
    @EvanJones: Ah yes the 80s, a decade with a lot to answer for! Like you Evan I blame much of what we face today on the union busting, privatizing, market deregulating policies of the Thatcher/Reagan era.

    Unfortunately, as you say, these new whizzkids on the block knew the cost of everything yet the value of nothing, or no-one. Knowledgeable and experienced employees became just another unnecessary expense. After all why employ someone who knows what they’re doing when some new kid will do the same(sic) job for a fraction of the cost and so what if they make a couple of mistakes along the way!

    These new owners were answerable only to their investors and the markets, and the markets are concerned with only one thing. With their derivatives and ETFs, credit default swaps and collateralized debt they destroyed and are still destroying everything in their path. I’ll bet you most of them don’t even know what the hell they’re doing. They just push a button and hope that an algorithm does the rest but now even the algorithms are overloaded! Can you believe that, these maniacs have actually managed to make the computers throw in the towel!

    Turns out that one of the characters in the Wall street film was actually based on James Goldsmith but what’s even worse (and pretty damn scary!) is that the Gordon Gekko ‘greed is good’ character actually INSPIRED many future traders and seeing as these psychopaths grew to positions of financial and corporate power, and seeing as there is a revolving door policy which includes Washington, Wall street, big oil, pharma, agro-chemicals, etc. ( a revolving door which includes Europe by the way) I’d say our futures don’t look particularly bright.

    Not only that but the geniuses in Washington have seen fit to let these people regulate their own crimes, imagine that!


    William Corcoran, Phd, PE · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 4
    For every underreaction there is an equal and opposite overreaction.-Dave Lochbaum, UCS

    Evan Jones · 19d ago · Reply · 2
    Shaun wrote of subsea techs who cannot make up a hydraulic hose. Yes, in this labor market, now is the time to weed out the duds. A subsea hand on a stacked rig should be busier than a working rig. If he cannot name BOP hose and fitting type /size /rating by eye, he shouldn’t be there.
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    Evan Jones · 18d ago · Reply · 2
    @RobYoung: There is never going to be a school that can teach someone how to effectively drill a well or run the 200+ systems on a modern offshore rig. Top line crewmen and company men take advantage of the wealth of technical data at the work location, to learn about those systems themselves, instead of watching TV. The best people in oil and gas operations are those who never stop learning. In a downturn such as this, HR can take the existence of such people as an opportunity for the company to upgrade itself by finding out who these self-motivated individuals are, and giving them room to grow.

    Chris Lothian · 18d ago · Reply · Like
    @EvanJones: How long do you think that’ll continue though Evan? I was speaking to someone from a recruitment agency at a subsea exhibition the other week who told me that they’d just put out an ROV supervisor to some job in the middle east at less than 1/3 of normal wages. There’s an old maxim that says if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

    Chris Hart · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 1
    @EvanJones: Fully agree Evan, the tools and information are there for the taking if you want them. Hopefully those making the most of the opportunities given to them make it through the hard times and continue to pass their knowledge down. I think the biggest problem with lack of experience has been personnel being promoted too quickly out of necessity or perception of it. And you’re right about the best people being the ones that never stop learning; there’s definitely no substitute for experience.

    Leslie Cook · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 2
    Compliance to mandatory equipment inspections like the hoisting equipment example…is this more geared towards rigs working in the US Gulf of Mexico or do you see the same level of costly inspections also being required offshore West Africa and Brazil?

    Shaun Smithers · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 3
    Leslie in my experience here in Brazil, in a lot of cases yes the rig will send capital items such as the crown block, travelling block etc. to a third party workshop for inspection and repair. But there are factors involved such as other ongoing work in the derrick and rig floor that may not provide conditions on the rig to do a disassembly and inspection onboard. Inspections such as these are usually programmed to be done during a rig shutdown for major maintenance where a lot of other equipment is being serviced. Because of this the rig mechanic is usually involved with many other overhauls at the same time and may not be available. There are some advantages in having the work carried out by a third party company as the inspection, overhaul and any repairs will be adequately documented which has been the biggest change over the years especially for critical load path items. Most senior rig mechanics I’ve met still have a good handle on the state of there equipment as do most of the subseas I meet but there is a creeping movement to rely too much on third party contractors for a lot of work outside the 5 yearlies that should really be done by the rig crew themselves if they are competent enough and have the tools and resources to do it.

    Evan Jones · 18d ago · Reply
    Leslie asked whether “do you see the same level of costly inspections also being required offshore West Africa and Brazil?” A good question, which has two aspects to the answer. 1] The first aspect is often related to mobile nature of employees of the oil majors. Engineers employed by Big Oil are often nurtured in their careers in well developed operation in US / Norway or Australia, after which they are sent to places like Angola or Indonesia, where exactly the same lip service is paid to quality and safety. To use polite language, they will come learn the difference between the officially sprouted company line and what actually happens in the field at their new location. This could the topic of another post. 2] The second aspect is to understand the difference between the literal words of class rules (which are often ambiguous and badly written anyway) and the intent behind those words. I have always found the people from classification societies to be more than reasonable to listen to suggested ways which avoid costly dismantling of systems and equipment. Sometimes, you have make a bit of presentation to make your case and obviously, you have to take responsibility in writing for the procedure and outcome. A couple of day’s effort to prepare a well presented case, could save a million dollar dry docking.

    Jim Stein · 18d ago · Reply · Unlike · 2
    I think you could have made your point a little better; your experiment looks like more of a set-up for those entering the conversation in good faith. Sure, inexperience is hired while in a rush to spend a bunch of investors’ money, this is part the nature of the oil and gas industry. With inexperience, compensation is made with more formal (and expensive) protocols to maintain equipment and process safety. Right now, I would guess that a lot of more experienced hands are either unemployed or underemployed in favor of some perceived serendipity to those still growing into their shoes.

    At the same time, I can appreciate the challenge to adapt to the current reality with determined steps to stay competitive and solvent – and this does require good, competent experience.

    Mark Van Velzor · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 1
    If one disagrees with API practice and you have valid sound reasons get on the API committee involved and make your case.

    It doesn’t mean that you’re right or wrong; however, these requirements were implemented based on past disasters (tombstone requirements) among other reasons.

    Piper Alpha among others resulted in the requirements that we now have.

    The question is how much is a life or limb worth saved cost?

    Where are the economics and is anyone out there so lacking in a moral compass to want to justify those profits at the expense of those cost.

    Rob Young · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 1
    I think the airline industry faces similar such issues. Trying to balance out potential disaster with costs and profits.

    Jack Satterfield · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 1
    One question always comes to my mind when someone even mention safety. Is the person who now uses words as “dogma, sacred cows and PC” know just how the industry arrived at this overly sensitive safety ideology we are at today?

    Danny Felder · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 1
    Rather than maintain equipment at API standard many services like 10k iron on a 5k well where implemented as a safety standard for SOP with a lot of companies. Then there is the wind safety on crane use, it was not an issue of force against object, just wind speed over this or that. There are some lifts when no wind is wanted. Was seeing a lot of things called safety which where unsafe in that use.

    David Cherbonnier · 18d ago · Reply · Like · 1
    I would like t raise one caution. While it may have been true that oilfield equipment was over-designed that is not the case anymore. With the advent of CAD and FEA that’s not necessarily the case. Minimum structure, i.e. material is often prescribed to specifically meet design criteria. That is one reason furnace time may become critical for BOP’s. Similarly in cranes, some design, while meeting minimum standards, are on the cutting edge which brings in the need for load moment indicators, etc.

    Evan Jones · 18d ago · Reply
    Good point David. Some colleagues were involved in load testing a new class of semi sub rigs in Korea not that many years ago. On the first rig’s load test, the entire crown block assembly crashed out of the derrick onto the rig floor. It turned out to be an error in structural engineering. It is also not comforting that some class rules only require offshore cranes to be proof load tested to a close margin of the Safe Working Load, a requirement which fails to take into account, the dynamic loading effects, when a crane picks up cargo from boats heaving in rough seas.

    Jan Tucker · 17d ago · Reply · Unlike · 1
    I agree that there is a direct link between the lack of experienced hands and the inability to formally challenge the status quo (in terms of over-zealous Regulators). Any challenge is healthy and, if the argument is sound, it should convince those that make these decisions to consider making changes themselves. If this round of down-sizing has been done properly, then the most experienced hands should be those who have survived and the current environment they are working in should also encourage development of practical, formal challenges (e.g. through Industry Bodies) to achieve further cost reduction – including frequency of inspections, tests etc. As an example, I recall how the frequency of proof-load testing & inspection of offshore containers & lifting equipment changed under UK Legislation a couple of decades ago following such formal & sound challenge. From a standard 12 month 100% proof load (which never really proved anything & cost a great deal) to a much more realistic inspection-based frequency. I can never agree on terms such as “safety facists” though – practically all of the other comments reference failure-based decisions being behind changes in such frequencies (“bodies along the runway” in aviation terms). To undo this apparent hurt, it is better to use your experienced hands to develop factual, engineering-based, historical performance type arguments to formally challenge through industry bodies. It is always better to lobby than just go on a rampage & hunt witches….

    Kenneth Roberts · 14d ago · Reply · Unlike · 1
    One of the factors in the inspection decision is day rates. At very high day rates economics of maintenance tend to go out the window. I was involved in an UDW drillship with a crown failure (bearing). The crown block was an integral component of the crown mounted compensator. The block was rated for 1000 st.

    This failure involved many people on 3 continents. Sourcing sheaves and bearings was a problem. These were eventually found in the US, the replacement crown was built in the UK and the repairs done in South Africa. The day rate was over $600k. Amazingly all this was done in 12 days. You can figure out the lost revenue alone was enormous.

    Avoiding these types of failures is paramount and why many contractors take every precaution such as having the crown rebuilt in a proper shop under controlled conditions with expert input. This particular contractor also had a major spares program and the crown, travelling block & top drive completely changed with rebuilt spare units at 5 years during the Special Periodic Survey required by class societies.

    These large crown blocks cannot be rebuilt or disassembled and inspected on the crown and it is even very difficult to do on the drill floor. The Out of Service periods for the SPS has to be kept to a minimum.

    One thing that is creeping into the maintenance of critical equipment is condition monitoring with instrumentation such as vibration and oil/grease analysis. Class societies are now accepting fully instrumented thruster monitoring the running conditions. In many cases the condition data is transmitted ashore for analysis. This has allowed contractors to improve reliability, reduce maintenance and extend class inspections from 5 years to 10.

    The crown and travelling blocks are in the critical path. These are two equipment that would benefit enormously from the fitting of condition monitoring instruments. The most common failure mode in these blocks are bearing failures. Early signs of bearing failure can give weeks or even months of notice so that any repairs can be planned. The Top Drive is another equipment that can benefit from fitted condition monitoring instrumentation.

    API RP 8B is a recommended practice and provides guidelines. Section 5.3.3 on Frequency of Inspections clearly states: “The user/owner of the equipment should develop schedules of inspection based on experience.” “As an alternative, the user/owner may use (the frequencies in) Table 1 guidelines.”

    In many cases persons assume that these API RP documents are absolute standards that must be followed when it comes to maintenance and inspections. Many contractors are then forced to undertake unnecessary work or to spend a large amount of time defending their inspection strategies.

    Taking some of these API RP documents that deal with maintenance and inspection as absolute requirements hinders the development and implementation of sound maintenance programs and condition monitoring systems. This can and does lead to unnecessary waste of money and time while not enhancing safety at all. In fact disturbing equipment unnecessarily can lead to premature failure and reduced safety.

    One thing I have noticed over the years is a change in the attitude of rig managers for drilling contractors. In the old days when a client wanted things done or changes made that were considered exceptional, then they were forced to pay the costs. This seems to have gone out the window and anything a client wants is done and the contractor assumes the costs. There is hardly any push back anymore. Couple that situation with inexperienced company men and engineers and it can become a big problem with added wasteful costs and in many cases reduced safety.

    I agree with Evan Jones when he says “Hoisting equipment is just one example of the need for a more mature approach to critical systems, where the contractor himself acknowledges that he has a responsibility to monitor and maintain his own equipment”. The airline industry knows maintenance practices very well. They develop their own maintenance programs which are continually evolving and being adjusted. There is no requirement for them to send their airplanes back to Boeing for re-certification.

    Evan Jones · 14d ago · Reply
    Kenneth wrote: > ” One thing that is creeping into the maintenance of critical equipment is condition monitoring with instrumentation such as vibration and oil/grease analysis. Class societies are now accepting fully instrumented thruster monitoring the running conditions. In many cases the condition data is transmitted ashore for analysis. This has allowed contractors to improve reliability, reduce maintenance and extend class inspections from 5 years to 10.”

    Your remarks highlight a trend that can only accelerate. Existing thruster condition monitors are looking at oil condition and particles in the oil, temperature, oil cooler performance and vibration. No doubt, ultrasonic parameters will one day be included too, as ultrasonics predict the condition of machinery before wear even starts to occur. There is a useful discussion about this issue, going on right now at http://oilpro.com/q/3242/anybody-inspecting-assets-ultrasonic-acoustic-emission-nde.

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