Emergency plant shutdown comes at a heavy price to all involved. When a fugitive emission occurs of a significant release rate or concentration level an asset must isolate the leaking equipment, or shut down completely, for obvious safety reasons.
Significant gas releases are often dealt with very promptly and reported as protocol and there is plenty of information on the HSE database on these, some great analytical data can be pulled from that source.
Historically (and surprisingly), one trend I have noticed over the years is that we can often be quite dismissive of leaks that fall under the reportable level.
Maybe the weeps are so small they pose no threat at the time. Often they are added to a platform register, sometimes not. There is a real variation in terms of how duty holders react when a leak is found.
Clearly technology for detection has improved, but let’s not dismiss that whilst the technology is better, it can only benefit us as an industry if we are proactive to what we are finding.
I want to explain why we should pay attention to the minor gas weeps.
Cumulative effect is critical. Leaking gas in very close proximity to each other is dangerous. In these scenarios, each leak should be considered as one and should be risk assessed accordingly, based on the combined release rate.
Minor weeps can escalate over time, like a crack in a wall and with no proper mitigation, they will cause major problems in the future. When weeps do escalate, they become an immediate safety risk to those in the vicinity. Fatalities have occurred in the past and it is important to prevent them occurring again.
Carbon footprint, leaking methane damages our environment and each weep adds up to an often-substantial combined leakage into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas and is 84 times more potent than Co2 in the short term, in other words, when it leaks it absorbs infrared radiation, contributing to global warming.
Financially, shut down costs millions of pounds of potential lost sales per day for an asset and often shutdown can last several days.
In an ideal world, we would have no gas leaks on our platforms but let’s face it, they happen, and they occur frequently and one would be unwise to consider themselves exempt.
My point is this… At what cost do we allow these small weeps to continue?
Why should we care, at what point will it affect us?
Thanks for reading.