Severe weather poses a myriad of dangers to drilling operations, particularly when offshore equipment is involved. In the past, managers of oil rig operations had to rely on forecast thresholds for general areas in which their assets were located. Being able to carry out a proper weather risk assessment using the right suite of weather forecast and reporting tools has become essential.
WeatherOps equips you to properly evaluate and continually assess the potential weather risk for each projected drilling operation. You will never need to be in doubt about upcoming weather events. You can use the WeatherOps platform to protect your global drilling fleet.
Oil rig hazards
Offshore drilling has numerous potential hazards, and being part of a work crew working outdoors in all conditions, including high winds, is not for the faint of heart. Workers are exposed to the elements while working with dangerous heavy equipment. Furthermore, workers are working with dangerous equipment on the water and are responsible for very costly subsea equipment, such as drilling risers and blow out preventers.
Given that conditions can be hazardous and even life-threatening, proper risk assessment is vital to ensure health and safety.
The principles of risk assessment include identifying the hazards, deciding who might be harmed and how, evaluating the risks, and taking action to prevent accidents on an ongoing basis.
Being able to recognize potential hazards is a critical step in preventing accidents. Some general hazards for the drilling industry are listed below.
- Struck-By/ Caught-In/ Caught-Between
- Explosions and Fires
- Confined Spaces
- Ergonomic Hazards
- High-Pressure Lines and Equipment
- Electrical and Other Hazardous Energy
What about the hazards for offshore oil rig work activities in particular?
Offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and other locations produce millions of barrels of oil each day and explore for billions more. The companies that manage them support the economy, creating high-paying jobs. On the other hand, offshore oil rigs present an increased risk to workers because maritime conditions create a particularly hazardous environment.
Accidents on offshore oil rigs are frequently fall-related. Rigs are multi-level structures elevated high above the surface of the water. Crew members must climb up and down ladders as they travel from one deck to another. Despite proper footwear and other safety gear, falls are the most common cause of injury.
A secondary danger is falling objects. Although hard hats are worn, a heavy tool or section of pipe dropped from a great height can cause severe injury and damage to expensive gear and other equipment.
A third significant cause of injury is worker fatigue. Long work shifts of between 8 to 12 hours or more, coupled with schedules that require several days in a row without a break, can lead to high fatigue levels. A fatigued worker is susceptible to poor judgment and slower reaction times. This has been statistically linked to a higher frequency of accidents.
Fires and explosions are a fourth, and probably the most costly, risk. The combination of the flammable nature of petroleum and the chemicals used to extract oil, as well as other factors, equals a potential for fire and explosions. In rare cases such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the consequences can be catastrophic. The cost of cleaning up millions of barrels of oil that spilled out into the Gulf of Mexico has been tens of billions of dollars.
Weather forecasting and oil rig safety
Given the factors discussed above, it is no surprise that when preparing for a drilling project, a lot must go into the planning and the handling of potential hazards. One factor that exacerbates all the other risks is the weather. Drilling crews need to know weather conditions in advance, constantly monitoring changing conditions in the immediate area of operations and the surrounding areas to ensure optimum safety.
Offshore oil rigs are billion-dollar floating or fixed assets, and those in charge of their successful and safe operation are understandably risk-averse. With both the safety and economic ramifications firmly in mind, WeatherOps has developed a complete suite of weather tools that allow you to optimize the weather forecast for your operations.
Whenever a storm threatens, our team will access an array of sophisticated tools to create custom forecasts that offer a range of solutions for offshore clients. For example, forecasters can prepare contingency plans for worst-case scenarios like Hurricane impacts, ensuring you are ready even if the forecast deviates. Periodic reports will provide ample warning, clearly advising your operations in advance when a decision must be made to protect your fleet.
The importance of knowing in advance
Although dynamic positioning vessels (DPVs) use powerful engines to maintain their position in the water, they need timely advance notice about changes in wind speed and direction. Side winds pose a particular danger, prompting the need for watch circles for example.
Facing an incident and the resulting costs when this could be avoided with the help of reliable weather information would be poor risk assessment on the part of your management team. WeatherOps is a cost-efficient and effective way to minimize risk. It provides the vessel operator with the required forecasts and real-time alerts to make the necessary decisions.
Even the most solidly built offshore drilling units and platforms need weather warnings to protect crews during their work activities. Selecting an appropriate weather window for those crews to carry out specific tasks is important and minimizes time lost from delays and canceled operations.
When operational planning is taking place, in-depth weather data and analysis of information on wind speeds, wave heights, and other factors must be on hand and accurate. A professional marine weather forecast provides all this and the ability to tailor this information to your operations. For example, helicopter flights will be impacted by a different set of weather parameter constraints.
Not only does the WeatherOps platform allows you to manage your assets, users, forecast thresholds, and alert settings, it also provides six months’ worth of archived reports and configurable map displays. DTN offers both a Web-based administrative tool and display and a companion mobile app that grants access from anywhere.
Using WeatherOps means you’ll never be in doubt about upcoming weather events.