The UK’s safety regulator has warned of serious concerns over the integrity and management of mooring systems on the Haewene Brim FPSO, which serves Shell’s newly redeveloped Pierce field.
In a lengthy improvement notice the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) pointed to a series of failures around inspections and integrity management of the vessel’s mooring lines, and warned there is currently “a serious risk of [the] FPSO losing position” which could put it and other installations at risk.
Bluewater Energy Services operates the Haewene Brim floating production storage and offload (FPSO) vessel via a UK subsidiary, Pierce Production Company Limited, to whom the notice was served.
Bluewater said it was aware of the issues and had made a “precautionary shutdown” of the vessel prior to the notice and that work was now ongoing to address the issues.
Inspectors visited the vessel on 8 August 2023 and 28 September 2023, during which time they found the operator could not show it had suitable arrangements in place to maintain the integrity of unit’s mooring systems, nor had it made arrangements for periodic reviews.
The regulator reported eight areas of concern, including a lack of evidence to show the assessment of bolts used to secure cover plates for a mooring line. These lines connect the vessel to a submerged turret production (STP) buoy – floating equipment which links the field’s wells with the FPSO and help maintain its position.
Bolts and securing plates for a further two mooring lines were found to be “missing”, and “significant movement of the securing pins” was observed “compromising the station keeping capability of the FPSO.”
Inspectors also reported that guidance on anomaly criticality assessment for the mooring system was “non-existent.”
The HSE found there was “no evidence” of any inspections carried out for parts of the mooring system from the touchdown to the anchor piles since their installation in 2018.
Finally, it said there was no evidence that the failure modes of various components of the mooring system have been assessed and that a suitable inspection regime was in place, nor could the operator show any periodic integrity review of the mooring system by competent persons.
In a statement the operator said: “Bluewater Energy Services B.V., confirms it received an HSE improvement notice regarding the floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel Haewene Brim.
“The safety of our people and assets are our first priority and Bluewater Energy carried out a precautionary shutdown of the vessel, prior to the notice being received. Work is ongoing to resolve the recommendations from the HSE.”
The company has until 29 March 2024 to address the issues.
Pierce was discovered in 1975, with oil being produced there since 1999. A redevelopment project was sanctioned by Shell in 2019, with estimates it would increase production to 30,000 barrels per day.
During this process, the FPSO stopped producing in October 2021 and returned to dry dock in Norway for a suite of upgrades which would enable it to also produce gas, which had previously been re-injected into the reservoir.
The field resumed full production April this year, and was tied into a new subsea gas export line connecting to the SEGAL pipeline system, which brings gas ashore at St Fergus.
The FPSO is currently under charter at the field until 31 December 2026.
Alongside Haewene Brim, Bluewater also leases two other North Sea FPSOs: the Aoka Mizu, currently serving the Lancaster field west of Shetland, and the Bleo Holm stationed over Repsol Resources UK’s Ross and Blake developments.