Colin McKenzie, Senior Project Manager at LR Marine and Offshore, explains the many benefits of TIV, and why its value goes far beyond just compliance.
In territories where offshore regulation is less prescriptive, operators have limited guidance around safety and performance standards beyond their own prior experience. Technical Integrity Verification (TIV) services can help to provide the assurance needed, but can also provoke concerns about unnecessary expense and over-regulation.
No matter whether you work solely in-country or across multiple territories, offshore regulation can be difficult to navigate. In the UK and US, where tragedies such as Piper Alpha and Deepwater Horizon made international headlines, governments have introduced stringent legislation in order to limit the possibility of such events occurring again. In other locations, particularly emerging markets, regulation is less well developed.
This absence of a unified set of guidelines requires operators to define standards of safety, environmental protection, and more. In some cases, oil and gas companies have tried to take legislation such as that laid down by the UK Health & Safety Executive and US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and apply the principles elsewhere. The results have typically been poor. While the intention is to introduce a goal setting and flexible framework, all to often it reverts to being a prescriptive regime that fails to map to the specific in-country environment or requirements.
Technical Integrity Verification (TIV) schemes were established in an effort to bridge that gap, providing operators and their stakeholders with the assurance that they are following good practice when it comes to the construction and performance of their assets. In essence, they provide a guarantee of responsible behaviour even when no legal requirement for that guarantee exists.
In spite of the focus on assurance, though, TIVs haven’t always been perceived in a positive light. Common concerns are that they can be over-prescriptive, introduce new obstacles that can only be overcome at greater expense, and focus on the negative or “non-compliant” aspects of an operation rather than those that meet the determined standard.
In our experience, which includes long-running programmes providing Independent Verification Body (IVB) services to Shell and the North Caspian Operating Company, nothing could be further from the truth. TIVs are not there to create unnecessary barriers. Instead, they give our clients the reassurance that they are doing everything they can to limit risk exposure, maximise performance and productivity, and to address the very specific project requirements in the territory within which they operate.
One of the main factors to address is the technical risk inherent in today’s operations. Many sites today are constructed in multi-risk environments that operators may not have encountered in combination, and the cost of failure for a single element may be catastrophic. TIVs can offer the scrutiny needed to ensure that no such issues occur and that scrutiny stretches all the way from the initial specification and purchase of parts through to physical certification of their authenticity and implementation.
Another key benefit of TIVs is that they provide a standard of integrity as defined by a third party. When several stakeholders are involved, this can help to ensure the smooth management of a project; rather than one dominant stakeholder dictating the requirements, or differing viewpoints resulting in a slowdown, TIVs offer an element of neutrality that all parties can agree on as a minimum requirement.
From a reputational standpoint, TIVs can provide a major safeguard against the damage caused by accident or failure. From assuring local communities that you are following – or even leading on – best practice, to maintaining a global standard even where there is no in-territory requirement to do so, TIVs ensure that operators and their shareholders can rest easy in the knowledge that they have done right by the nations in which they work.
TIVs can have a positive impact on long-term performance. By encouraging the minimisation of environmental and safety risk, TIVs also protect operational efficiency – dramatically reducing the likelihood of a gap in operation as the result of an incident. Moreover, the “verification” that a TIV can provide goes beyond just one moment in time; as professionals, we are trained to look at the long-term performance of a project that starts from the moment it is conceived and stretches far into the future.
At LR, we believe that TIVs should not be seen as a barrier but as an enabler. Rather than limiting or hampering what they can achieve, they in fact provide a flexible, market-sensitive springboard from which oil and gas companies can refine and revolutionise the potential of their operations.