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Prelude alarm bells should be ringing at Shell HQ


With reference to the published info from Bill regarding the very serious operational shortcomings on the Prelude NGL vessel.

It may be worthwhile publishing the entire notice as if it read by senior people in the Hague central offices there may be a sounding of very loud alarm bells if not there should be as Prelude represents an enormous investment and a leap into the future.  The root cause of these issues requires to be identified and a root and branch analysis of how and why this state of affairs has been allowed to evolve, I believe it is a cumulative pressure from many sources over many months and not just the recent inspections, its much deeper than that. We can only speculate and read with a degree of horror the findings of the Australian Regulator.

My own very personal feelings and questions are, how much of the iceberg is being seen in the public domain and how much more of the “laundry is still in the washing basket”???

New plant and processes are always fraught with difficulties during the initial phases of live commissioning and ramping up to nameplate capacity.  At the same time, the planned product off-take scheduling is likely been to have been approved to the most optimistic estimates. Realism goes out of the window. The net result is shortfalls of product for sale, sourcing product from elsewhere to meet the contractual commitments, chartered offtake tankers, all three types, waiting many days for the nominated cargos ramping up demurrage charges.  The list is almost endless.

The outcome for the people at the “sharp-end”, both on and offshore, is constant unrelenting pressure to produce the volumes expected as that is what they are paid for.  How do front line staff manage this apparent mayhem?  The answer here is to respond by not always keeping to the “Operating Standards” that should be adhered to.  It starts off, with good intention, in a low key manner with one or two local “exemptions”  and moves up rapidly and gets out of control.

Areas that the Australian Regulator may consider asking questions about during the next visit or during the scheduled meeting as outlined in Directive 2(e).

How are deviations to the SMS approved recorded, communicated and managed?
How many potentially hazardous activities are permitted concurrently?
How is the use of process overrides approved recorded, communicated and managed?
How are fire and gas inhibits approved recorded, communicated and managed?
How many inhibits of all types approved recorded, communicated and managed?
How many inhibits are permitted to be in use simultaneously approved recorded, communicated and managed?
What is the status of the emergency shut down systems including TPS tests along with visual inspection everything has functioned as per design?

This list if not complete by any means but represents just some of the high-level Key Performance Indicators of prudent operational management.

I hope you do publish the entire notification as it is most direct instruction I have ever seen from any regulatory authority.

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