For offshore safety and operational planning on North Sea oil rigs, the weather conditions have a large part to play in decisions relating to project completion, efficiency and safety.

It's a given that oil rig platforms can withstand a lot – they are built to last. But there is a definite risk associated with working on one, and adverse weather only adds to it. Offshore safety equipment can only do so much, so choosing the right weather window for external maintenance, deliveries and (on the rare occasion) evacuations can minimise risk.

Everything from extreme storms and low visibility can impact the safety of your employees on an oil rig. How can operations managers meet deadlines and minimise the risk to everyone and everything involved?

How weather forecast providers increase offshore safety

To make operational planning decisions, you need weather forecasts for North Sea oil rigs that contain in-depth information on wind speeds and gusts, wave heights and overall conditions. So, is a general weather service enough? Or is a more bespoke location-specific forecast the better choice?

Optimise the forecast for your operation
The main difference between a professional marine weather forecast provider and a general weather forecast is the ability to optimise the forecast for your operations. After all, not all operations or vessels have the same weather requirements – for example, helicopters are less affected by wave height. And not all projects will need the same conditions either.

Vessel selection based on weather windows
With a professional, operational-focused and requirement-specific report, you can set up multiple projects (each with individual weather requirements) and view forecasts and weather windows customised to each one. Allowing you to select the vessel that meets all safety requirements during a certain weather window.

Customisation with weather thresholds
Some professional providers also offer additional levels of customisation called weather thresholds. These are the limits of weather conditions each vessel or operation can withstand, and you should be able to adjust them as and when needed. Once chosen, the forecast can then indicate the best days to plan activity for that specific operation or alert you when you need to halt all operations to maintain project safety.

How Chevron used adjustable thresholds
Several years ago, Chevron, at the time an energy company with oil rigs in the North Sea off the UK, needed a weather window to support critical crane operations. Since the crane was on an oil rig and 100ft+ above sea level, the impact of extreme gusts and sustained wind needed to be considered. To determine the best window in given different scenarios, they adjusted the thresholds in their customisable weather forecast dashboard and used the forecast produced to complete the operations safely and efficiently in the optimal weather window. It was a simple adjustment that had a significant impact on optimising their planning and keeping the crew safe.

Increase accuracy of marine weather forecasts
Forecasts can help Operational Managers choose the best possible periods to minimise both safety risks and downtime of an oil rig operation. That is, when you have an accurate weather forecast at hand. Here’s how professional forecast providers increase accuracy of marine weather forecasts.

Most providers use a combination of automated and expert data collection and comparison techniques to generate an optimal forecast. Data sources used include:

  1. Readily available historic data for assessing typical weather range conditions in a given period.
  2. Readily available forecast data on global and regional scales for forecasting deep water and offshore conditions.
  3. Dedicated forecast model grids to refine data to local scales when needed.
  4. Ensemble weather simulations to assess weather variability.
  5. (In-situ) Observations to validate the latest available data and make adjustments as needed.

Multidisciplinary teams then assess the data and comparisons to prepare and issue an optimal forecast.

To optimise the suitability of a forecast, you should consider using a service that allows you to customise the thresholds by the work requirements. In addition to this, you should choose one that can:

  • Translate the general offshore conditions to your project site of interest
  • Provide insight into weather variability
  • Uses in-situ observational data to verify and calibrate algorithms.

Using these tools, your resulting forecast should be highly detailed and show the probability of scenarios happening. Is there is any chance of thresholds being exceeded? Your weather forecast will tell you. Is severe weather expected due to the topography in the project area? Your forecast will tell you. Are you sheltered from the storm on your location? Your forecast will tell you as well.

Learn more during our webinar
Would you like to learn more on How to integrate weather data to optimize offshore supply logistics? On the 1st of December we’ll discuss how additional supply costs, schedule disruptions, crew fatigue and extra emissions can be avoided with weather forecasts together with our guest speakers from Spirit Energy and Peterson Energy Logistics. Sign up now to save your seat!

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Photo: Adobe Stock / Arild