NAM and Hint keep process safety in prime condition

How do you translate data into information? For the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM, the Dutch Petroleum Company), this is a
major challenge while managing the safety systenam 6ms and other safety barriers of the more than one hundred gas and oil production locations in the Netherlands. The systems are tested periodically to ensure process safety. Test data are analyzed annually to identify any trends. NAM’s Land-locations department is supported by Hint, that enhances the relevance of the test results by preparing an overall asset annual report in which any deviations are analyzed and classified, and advice is given for improvement. Together, the two companies work towards one goal: to monitor the technical integrity.

NAM is engaged in the exploration and production of natural gas and oil in the Dutch soil. This involves hundreds of locations, both onshore and offshore, across six provinces, from Groningen to South Holland and the North Sea. The age of the different locations varies: some have already been in use for decades, but NAM also builds new extraction sites, such as the Schoonebeek oil field in 2010.

Safety before production
The large age differences between sites requires different maintenance and management strategies. However, safety is the top priority for NAM at each site. At NAM’s
Land-locations department, Control & Automation Engineenam 5r Henry Wilpshaar is responsible for the test instructions for the safety instrumented systems. He discusses the importance of safety at NAM: “Safety instrumented systems play a major role in the security at our sites. We also strive to ensure that management and operation give the least possible inconvenience to local residents. Maintaining contacts with locals and other stakeholders is essential in this.”

To ensure the process safety at the locations, several Layers Of Protection are in place. Essential process variables are automatically controlled and monitored. If process variables are liable to go beyond their “operational limits”, the operators will usually first be alerted. The installations are adjusted so that, in the worst-case scenario, they will switch off by themselves. All these “barriers” must be in prime condition and are tested periodically. To better demonstrate the good condition of the instrumented safety layer, NAM has been collaborating with Hint since 2007. This Hattem-based company specializes in Control & Automation and Information Technology for the oil and gas industry.

Collaborating on error reduction
Hint analyzes the test data from safety instrumented systems at more than 130 locations of the NAM Land organization. The facilities at these
locations have different safety systems: mechanical and instrumental, with the lattenam7r being divided further in alarms and instrument protective functions. The safety functions are tested periodically. Annually, more than 10,000 safety functions are tested. The results are reported for each location, meaning current test values and any discrepancies are recorded. Hint provides comprehensive reporting of all annual tests, classifies the errors and findings and, together with NAM, determines whether overall safety is guaranteed.

Wilpshaar: “We want to know exactly whether there are errors in the installations, and if so, how serious they are. We are trying to discover
trends and to find out why certain components fail. If certain equipment fails above average, we need to make improvements. Thus, we create a closed loop. For example, if out of one hundred instruments of type x, several will fail each year, we then should consider whether we should replace these instruments with an alternative.”

The test results are provided to Hint by NAM. The annual report is prepared and NAM discusses the draft report with Hint’s authors. Wilpshaar: “Together, we examine the interpretations of the data and draw our conclusions. Then, a final report is drawn up. Together, we translate data into information. We also compare the results or reports from several nam 8earlier years to check for improvements or less favorable trends.
Hint, knowing what we are looking for, supports us in the analysis and possible solution. For example, by additional testing of error-prone equipment or a replacement. Thus, we work together to increase the reliability of our safety equipment.”

Fresh look
For NAM, this cooperation is very valuable, e.g. because of the proper reporting and the collaboration method. “These people know our business. This works very well. Safety is key and we want to be able to demonstrate that it is in optimal condition. We also use this information with (internal) audits,” said Wilpshaar.

For NAM, the added value of Hint’s work consists of the fresh look the company provides in addition to their knowledge. “This adds a certain independence to the advice on our operations. Hint takes a fresh look at the test results, enabling them to spot certain trends more quickly.”