The Joy of Statistics


The UK Continental Shelf Offshore Workforce Demographics Report 2014 was recently published and makes for very interesting reading. Given that the oil and gas industry is spending a lot of time and money on Intelligent Operations (IO), or digitisation of functions to bring the data to the individual, it is surprising to see that the total number of people travelling offshore in 2013 increased by 8.6% on 2012. In total 61,892 people went offshore, with the Core Crew Personnel increasing by 7.7% on 2012 as well. This trend has not changed in the time since the records were started in 2006.

The IO initiatives and reported statistics seem at odds with each other, since IO is intended to reduce offshore people and enable remote staff to make more informed decisions. However, it seems even more interesting when the crude price (down $3 a barrel from 2012) and the age demographics are analysed – in 2013, there was an almost 14.7 per cent (from 7,940 to 9,111) rise in workers in the 23-to-28 age bracket and a nine per cent (from 3,083 to 3,362) increase in those aged between 60 and 65. Less revenue and more people of all age ranges working offshore. In the last three years, the North Sea has seen a 38 per cent decrease in production and also a reduction in drilling activity, so the question is – what are these people doing?

The answer is simple, really – it all comes down to the investment that has been made in the North Sea. A total of $14.4bn was invested in 2012, which of course requires construction and commissioning and therefore accounts for a large percentage of the additional people. With projects and expansions coming on line this year, this anomalous trend should reverse next year with fewer people and increased production. What will be telling, however, will be the trend of personnel on board once the investment starts to drop – will the IO demonstrate the efficiencies and reduction in flights that are intended?

The fact that these statistics even exist demonstrates the value of an IO type system. Through the use of the Vantage Card People On Board system, data is available on every person passing through any of the heliports – their home location, nationality, platforms visited, days offshore, and more. All of these metrics can be trended, turned into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and more importantly analysed to determine root cause. Such a system, related to the assets, is indeed the intent of the whole IO initiative. Being able to track the People On Board (POB), lifting cost, Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), operational issues and compare assets on a like for like basis is the goal for many companies. What has delayed the rollout and delivery of many of these initiatives is implicit in the investment figure – many people are too busy performing jobs with a tangible delivery to get involved in the delivery and commissioning of digital systems – even though these systems will make more effective use of their time and effort and allow closer coordination.

The benefits are plain to see – white papers and studies on IO deliveries such as Shell in New Orleans have substantiated the benefits. The question will be how fast and how quickly the systems are implemented and adopted once the current activities start to tail off. Will there be a double whammy with the increased efficiency and decreased activity dropping the people requirement?

One thing is clear from this report. Although Mark Twain may have stated, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics,” there is no escaping the truth. Visibility into the industry will increase and effectiveness will improve; the only question is when. Perhaps when we are less busy being busy?

About the Author
Andy Coward is Senior Director, Business Solutions at P2 Energy Solutions.

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