Operation and maintenance 2010

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
An operation and maintenance (O&M) department has been responsible for operating each of the Statfjord platforms and for corrective repairs since 2009, following a reorganisation.
— Two workers servicing the main generator at Statfjord B. Photo: Shadé Barka Martins/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

That means it runs the installation, the process facilities and all utilities with the exception of drilling and cranes. The former is managed by the drilling and well department, and the latter by the logistics team.

The operations section is split between process technicians out in the process area and operators in the control room. A platform is divided into five areas, each with a process technician assigned to it on both day and night shifts.

This technician runs the equipment, adjusts and checks it, opens and closes valves, inspects and maintains the area, and reports possible faults. They also authorise maintenance work in their area and ensure that this is done in a safe manner.

Two operators staff the control room at all times. They have an overview of the whole process, all safety systems and every alarm. They also issue and record all work permits (WPs)

Work permit

The WP is a key element in the organisation of activities on the Statfjord platforms. It provides written permission to execute a defined job in a specified location under given conditions in a safe manner. WPs are divided into two grades – WP1 and WP2. The first covers jobs with a high level of risk, such hot work, entering tanks, work over the sea, dealing with radioactive sources and so forth.

A WP2 is issued for work of medium risk, such as erecting scaffolding, painting and insulation, or a number of mechanical, electrical or automation jobs which do not need safety systems or part of the process line to be disconnected.

Approving a WP is an extensive process. This must normally be done in advance on the day before the work is to be carried out, but sometimes has to be completed more rapidly.

For a WP1, the responsible area technician must first approve the job. It must then be verified by the safety manager before final approval by the platform manager. All such permits are reviewed in an afternoon meeting attended by the departmental heads, managers for the major contractors, the drilling supervisor, the health, safety and environmental coordinator, the safety manager and the platform manager.

Before starting a job, the worker concerned must first go to the responsible area technician. The latter must sign a declaration that the area is readied for work to start. The process technicians are responsible for ensuring that all work in their respective areas is coordinated, done safely and accords with its WP. That applies to both permit grades. For a WP1, the responsible area technician must also report to the control room that the work is now starting, and register it.

The control room has an overview on a dedicated display of all active WPs at any given time. When the job has been completed, the WP must be signed out again by the control room

Maintenance during production

A new operational model was introduced on all Statoil platforms as part of the reorganisation following the merger between the company and Hydro’s oil and energy division. The maintenance section of O&M has a limited number of employees, but these collaborate closely with the planned maintenance (PM) department.

All platforms are supposed to be organised in the same way, but variations do exist. While PM on the Statfjord platforms is responsible for day-to-day management of maintenance resources, a clearer separation has been adopted elsewhere with O&M managing its own resources on a daily basis. Differences also exist between the three Statfjord platforms, but the primary model is that the PM leader assigns work to all maintenance personnel on a day-to-day basis, regardless of whether they are employed by O&M or PM.

O&M is only responsibility for critical or high-priority maintenance – corrective work which must be done to avoid loss of production or reduced safety. It can then draw on resources from PM.

The department also has a laboratory technician who checks the quality of all oil, water and gas on the platforms. In addition comes a technical manager. This is not a foreman’s job in the traditional sense, since it involves no personnel responsibility or resource management. Its holder acts as a resource for the technical discipline and has a role in coordinating planned work.


Regardless of reorganisations in Statoil and on the platforms, the same jobs need to be done. More production personnel were available in the early 1990s, and were divided between a larger number of technical departments. Organisations were more hierarchical, with working foremen.

The trend during the 1990s was to merge departments, and the working foremen disappeared during the decade. O&M was given a flat organisation under its supervisors. Immediately after 2000, an attempt was made to adopt a team model called “the industry’s best production operator” (IBD). Production operators and maintenance technicians were to collaborate in self-governing teams.

Statfjord was not ready for this type of solution, and created a new division of functions which became in many respects the forerunner of the model adopted on all Statoil-operated installations after the merger with Hydro. This comprised a basic staffing covering operations and some maintenance, later O&M, and a team called project-based maintenance. The latter became PM.

The new operational model involved the re-introduction of the technical manager, a survival of the working foreman post. Statfjord’s organisation had included operations assistants who participated in planning, and it won acceptance in the Statoil system for divorcing personnel responsibility from this post. So the technical manager was freed up to handle long-term planning and act as a technical resource who could provide guidance for colleagues.

Each employee on Statfjord today has been given great responsibility. They must write their own WPs, and obtain the components and tools required for a job. That contrasts with the earlier system where working foremen organised everything and the technicians simply did the job as instructed.

Much of the work is done today through a process-oriented management (Apos) system and an A standard. Adopted in the autumn of 2009, Apos is Statoil’s system for governing documentation and derives from the former Hydro system. It is designed to clarify roles and responsibilities, and provides an overall view of the work and information flow.

The A standard requires those doing a job to participate in assessing risk and finding solutions which can eliminate or reduce hazards. This is also known as “team assessment”.

Over-58 challenge

Statfjord, and Statfjord B in particular, was hard hit by the Statoil-Hydro merger, the new operations model and the “over 58” agreement. The last of these allowed all employees aged 58 or above (in other words, born in or before 1950) to take early retirement on 70 per cent of their former pay.

The field had many people in this age group, particularly in operations. The platform organisations lost a great deal of expertise and are still struggling to make this up. (Note! The article is several years old.) It also demonstrates that personnel turnover had previously been low.

O&M managers

Two O&M leaders are present at all times on each of the three Statfjord platforms. The operative leader works from 06.00 to 18.00 and the administrative leader from 12.00 to 00.00. An operative leader runs production for the whole of their shift, and concentrates primarily on activities for that day and the next.

The administrative leader takes over operative responsibility at 18.00, but devotes the time before then to administrative tasks. They focus to a greater degree on planning in a longer perspective. Tours for the leaders are organised so that one changes every week. They spend the first week of a two-week tour as the administrative leader and the second as operative leader.

Sea and land – hand in hand

The Statoil system includes an offshore skilled worker pool (OFS), which supplies technicians to the installations as and when required. If a Statfjord platform needs more resources than the model prescribes as a result of high levels of absence or activity, it can “borrow” activity-driven people from land.

Such personnel, who are unfamiliar with the platform, can be a challenge for O&M. A process technician normally requires three tours before being able to take independent responsibility for their area. If new people are constantly being sent out from land, substantial resources will be locked up in training.

Mirror organisation

The platforms were self-sufficient in operations and maintenance resources as well as a number of engineering services during the 1980s. Constantly improved and simplified communication meant that more and more jobs could be shifted ashore.

Today, O&M has its own “mirror organisation” on land, with an O&M leader, technical managers, planners, and production and maintenance engineers for each platform. This team supports day-to-day operations, and is also primarily responsible for planning both maintenance and operation on the platforms. It is headed by an operations leader. Daily video conferences are held to support collaboration, and each person offshore is in regular dialogue with the holder of the corresponding post on land.

However, a key requirement is that the managers of the land organisation know the platform they work with. This has led to the introduction of a rota system which ensures that all O&M managers spend a year at the Vestre Svanholmen office in Stavanger, where the Statfjord division is located.

Late life

The late life project on Statfjord in 2005-12 called for considerable additional resources. Process facilities on all three platforms have been converted to operate in the future with a high proportion of gas.

Since the platforms remained in full production throughout the period, this was burdensome for the process technicians. Nor was the conversion phase necessarily over when the project ended.

The major conversions mean that a good deal of maintenance, modification and replacement of equipment and facilities not directly related to the late life project has been postponed. This work will begin in 2012 and, with existing planned and approved projects, the backlog for both maintenance and operation will take a long time to clear.

Published November 14, 2019   •   Updated January 24, 2020
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