Oil & Gas: How the industry can start taking care of its future self

    By Nicolas Landriere, Project Manager, Oil Applications, Trelleborg Oil and Marine

    Taking stock of the current state of the oil and gas industry, as we emerge from three tough years of freezes and cuts, reports show that we are now starting to see a growing confidence among oil and gas professionals in some parts of the industry, with increased capital and innovation spending. While companies may be taking a more cautious approach than they did before 2014, two thirds of respondents to a recent survey by DNV GL, an internationally accredited registrar and classification society, said their company would maintain or increase capital spending this year, compared to 39 percent last year.

    This new-found optimism in parts of the oil and gas industry marks the beginning of a new discussion on renewed growth. This year, we expect to see more of a focus on long-term efficiency through accelerated investment in capex and innovation, as companies look towards new solutions that support smarter and more cost-effective ways of operating, rather than looking for short-term costs to cut.

    However, we know from human psychology that people are uniquely bad at thinking about their future selves. Hal Hershfield, a social psychologist at UCLA Anderson, explores how human behaviour can be modified by bringing people closer to their future selves. “When people think of themselves in the future, it feels to them like they are seeing a different person entirely,” he explains, “like a stranger on the street.”

    This explains why, for instance, people are bad at saving for retirement, or find it hard to give up bad habits that impact their future health. It is easy to see how this can come through in the world of business as well – why spend now, just to avoid an expensive replacement years down the line?

    Therefore, it is vital that transfer solution suppliers adopt a consultative approach with customers to ensure that we supply the most suitable and cost-effective solution for each application, whatever the environmental and operational conditions. By getting to know our customers and the environment they work in, we can provide solutions that offer maximised safety and reliability for the longest time possible, while increasing profit margins through reduced operating costs. These savings come through effective lifestyle optimisation, including fewer upgrades; reduced downtime and degradation; minimal maintenance costs and labour requirements; and reduced insurance premiums.

    With a range of options on offer, there are many different factors to consider in the selection of a solution – following a detailed analysis of the environment in which a solution will function.

    Key factors to consider at the selection stage are mechanical characteristics, such as the bending stiffness of an oil hose. This determines how much movement a hose will be able to withstand without affecting its performance (see fig. 1). This is a crucial metric of performance for products that will either function for extended periods of time, or in particularly harsh environments. With Wood Mackenzie anticipating a trend of focused exploration, looking for ‘deepwater sweet spots’, it will be vital to consider how products will function in environments with heavy wave and weather conditions. Similarly, with many project replacements and upgrades having been delayed for some years, companies will need to think carefully about whether selecting solutions with longer service life can lead to healthier operational expenditure (opex) in the long term – particularly for subsea hoses, where replacement procedures involving divers can be particularly complex and expensive.

    Other properties related to oil hoses include tensile and torsion strength, as well as bending and axial load resistance, which also affect the range of environments and length of service life that can be specified. A key differentiation here is the difference between nipple hoses and nippleless hoses. Single or double carcass nipple hoses are often the most suitable solution for non-harsh, low-cost extraction environments. In this design, binding steel wires fixed to the nipple flange attach it to a hose body structure made with textile layers and reinforced with a steel helix. This type of hose is the most commonly used in today’s market, in both floating and submarine configurations.

    A nippleless hose excludes the stiff metal connector used in nipple hoses, to increase flexibility. Instead, it carries a flange, which is embedded in the rubber itself. This reinforced flange design, combined with an integrated bending stiffener, can then be used to create a hose that survives harsher conditions for longer.

    We need to work closely with our customers to answer the questions that will determine their long-term success. For instance, is it worth using a standard design qualified to the GMPHOM 2009 recommendations, or does the solution require a customized design, certified to API spec 17k for a longer service life in harsher condition

    s? Is there a value to be found in an extra two, three or more years of service life? How much can you save by reducing the need for maintenance?

    It’s clear that as the industry gains confidence, it’s adjusting to a ‘new normal’, and building for resilience in the face of a future that, while likely brighter, is still uncertain. It’s up to suppliers to act in a consultative manner and show the value of their expertise as much as their products if we are to help the industry carefully consider what’s best for its future self and ensure that we cater to their best interests.

    Images courtesy of Trelleborg.

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