FPSO Cargo Tank entry doesn’t have to be dangerous

In the context of the recent fatal accident on the an FPSO in West Africa where 2 workers lost their lives whilst working in an FPSO Cargo Tank, I feel it is important to point out that confined space entry in cargo tanks, ballast tanks and void spaces of FPSOs and FSUs doesn’t have to be dangerous. There is plenty of experience and guidance on how this work should be approached, planned and executed such that no harm occurs to personnel or the asset. MTL has been managing teams of 2 to 30 personnel working inside the hull tanks of producing FPSOs almost continuously for the last 15 years, without any lost time injuries or fatalities.

Isolations, training and planning

The key elements of safe entry into hull spaces are: isolation, atmosphere testing, trained personnel, emergency response planning, rescue planning, ventilation and lighting. These aren’t just tickboxes. It is important that each of these elements is effective for the space being entered, and that the effectiveness is proven by testing. For example, to achieve effective isolations, multiple valves may need to be locked in the closed position, pipe spools removed, and pressure rated blinds fitted. It is important that the correct materials are available on site so that the team charged with carrying out the job don’t have to “make do” with what is available.

Know the rescue plan

The rescue plan is always a critical component of every confined space entry. It needs to be appropriate for the space being entered and use the resources and equipment which is available on site. On all MTL managed work , we carry out a rescue exercise as soon as the space has been made safe for entry, any necessary in-tank isolations have been applied and free liquids removed. The rescue exercise proves that we have a plan that works, that all the equipment is available on site, the equipment is in working order and the people involved in the rescue know what to do. It also sends a message to the whole tank team that we are taking their safety seriously.

When workers lives depend on the plans we put in place for confined space entry, we cannot take shortcuts. It is not true that confined space entry is always dangerous, it doesn’t have to be. As MTL have proven over the last 15 years where we put robust controls in place and ensure that they are effective, working in FPSO hull tanks is not dangerous.