In 2014 Statoil’s Mongstad Refinery, Norway, took an innovative approach to providing confined space rescue cover during operations for inspection and repairs, implemented for the RS14 turnaround.
Due to the large volume of works planned in the FCC, multiple work teams had to be assigned to perform numerous maintenance tasks at various elevations in confined spaces within the Reactor and Regenerator. A vast range of critical activities were required to be carried out in parallel to meet the T/A schedule, this complex project therefore required a detailed risk assessment and comprehensive review of existing rescue and escape plans. Axess was instructed to oversee the completion of this safety review and to provide its expert involvement in offering a rational solution to the situation at hand.
After careful consideration, Rope Access Technique was recommended by Axess and an outlined plan was presented to Statoil Safety Department. With Axess expertise in working at height and in confined space work, the proposed Rope Access rescue and work solution was decided upon as the best solution.
Rope Access Techniques for carrying out inspection and repairs have become a common practice on offshore production installations. Over the past decade, more & more refineries are turning to this method of access to provide these services as a compliment to in-service inspections and maintenance. The Mongstad RS14 turnaround, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, was the first time these techniques had been used for the purpose of providing this type of complex rescue and work access solution.
In collaboration with Statoil’s on-site Fire & Rescue and HSE Department’s, Axess was then requested to provide a solution for safe egress to all areas under consideration. All parties agreed on a methodology utilizing Rope Access Techniques, so that at any given moment in the process of egress or carrying out tasks, the rescue of personnel from any area inside the units could be efficiently extracted. Most critically this included the ability to retrieve potentially injured persons from inside the reactor and regenerator cyclones.
Extensive risk assessment and scenario planning was carried out prior to implementing the rescue plan for work, including simulated worst case scenarios involving dummy rescue by the Rope Access team to demonstrate in real time the proposed methodology for escape and rescue retrieval – should the need arise.
The Psychological Factor
One of the key areas highlighted during the risk assessment was the need to ensure that work parties entering particularly tight confined
spaces such as cyclones felt safe in both their work position and in carrying out the task at hand. There are few work spaces in the industry
that are as psychologically challenging to work in as those found inside FCC units. In order to promote a feeling of safety for personnel,
Axess ensured a thorough pre-entry briefing for personnel, and in addition, specialist climbing equipment such as harnesses, industrial
climbing helmets and head torches were supplied to personnel entering areas highlighted as complex confined spaces.
Job specific training was provided focusing attention to detail, personal safety management, and developing confidence in the capability of
the rescue team. The training focused on:
- Inspiring confidence in the workers entering the space;
- Techniques to manage personal safety whilst working in hazardous conditions; and
- Instilling knowledge of the protocol and drills undertaken by the expert rescue team to reassure workers that the team had the expertise bring a worker back out of the space to safety quickly, in an emergency.
As inspections and remedial works progressed, it became clear that workers were becoming more confident in entering previously
daunting areas to perform tasks more efficiently.
Efficiency and Progress
The benefits of this effective training enabled Statoil, after conducting a further risk assessment with Axess, to deploy personnel deeper into areas requiring refractory repair works. This ability to deploy further personnel led to an increased work rate, especially with regard to refractory repairs that were unforeseen prior to discovery inspections. Ongoing monitoring of repairs by the onsite inspection team was further enhanced by the Axess team being able to lower inspection personnel into areas of concern, to evaluate repair quality and suitability for the next run. This method also led to minimized & unnecessary use of scaffolding to carry out inspection activities.
The overriding effect of utilizing Axess specialist services on site in Mongstad, led to increased safety and productivity during the turnaround. The success of this approach has resulted in Statoil re-evaluating its previous methodology for future rescue from confined spaces in other areas of the refinery.