How OWM takes the risk out of water management (Part 1)

How OWM takes the risk out of water management (Part 1)

In this two-part series Russell Caldwell, Director and Technical Consultant at OWM, explains the six elements that ensure a safe, efficient and compliant water management programme.

All employers should be aware of their duties regarding the welfare of their employees and although different regions may have different customs and practices, when it comes to water there are two definitive requirements – ensuring water is fit for purpose and being able to demonstrate this.

Most of the teams working in the Oil & Gas and Marine industries will be aware of times where water has caused problems offshore. From a bad taste or smell to actual contamination, the interruption to operations can be significant.

Emergency measures, quarantining tanks and de-manning personnel are all scenarios that have come about from poor water management. Not forgetting the real health and safety risks that can rise from poor quality water. Recent Legionnaires disease cases should remind us all that water quality and water management cannot be taken lightly.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Serious problems are scarce and most offshore locations will have some measures of control in place. A site may incorporate a UV unit, carry out a temperature control regime or perhaps use one of the many chemical disinfection techniques available. With the use of such controls, companies go a long way to achieving safe water, though these alone will not satisfy legal requirements.

Treatment control on its own is no guarantee of good water. In order to ‘demonstrate a site’s water is fit for purpose’ a satisfactory water management program must be in place. Although differing from site to site, an effective water management program will include, in some shape or form, the six elements described below.

Step 1. Responsibilities and competencies

Whatever the task, those involved in the management program should understand their responsibilities. Although the overall responsible person will normally be the platform OIM or Vessel Master, there will be several additional personnel and roles involved.

As the water system covers many areas all the relevant disciplines should be included. Engineering, Facilities, Logistics and Mechanical, as well as Health and Safety and Occupational Hygiene departments should all understand the overall goals of a water system and should be fully aware of their responsibilities. Many incidents associated with mismanagement of water derive from relevant disciplines being excluded from the goals of a water management program

As well as understanding their roles they must be able to carry them out. They should have the time, resources and most importantly the competency to carry out their tasks. In most cases competency will simply be ensuring they understand and follow defined procedures, but for some this will require specific training. Appropriate training will empower those involved in the management of the process increasing their confidence to identify problems and implement improvements and solutions. Site personnel will always be better placed than offsite personnel to manage the process.

Step 2. Evaluating the risk

An important part of any program is identifying and understanding the potential risks, in order to initiate control procedures. Many sites will involve an external consultant to help initiate the evaluation correctly and completely, as OWM do for many of our clients globally. However, if managing this in-house, there are two main differences between offshore and onshore water, and both will have a major impact on the risk.

Offshore water does not come direct from the mains supply and the storage time offshore is much greater than that onshore. These two differences alone make the risk of contamination more likely and therefore it is not unreasonable to expect greater controls offshore. Other areas that should be considered in the risk are design (connections with non-potable system), system age (deterioration of pipework), refurbishments and alterations to the system.

Step 3. Control

Probably the most documented element of the six. The suitability of these control measures will be down to factors best recognised by on-site personnel. The choice of controls will come mainly from the original evaluation, although site-specific constraints such as available space, personnel, urgency and fund availability will all have an impact on the final decision.

There are however some standard pros and cons for each option that should be considered when making the choice (See below table).

As well as the main control strategy, additional measures can be put in place to minimise the risk. If bunkering, ensure the source of the water and its quality are known. If the site produces its own water, then ensure that all equipment is working as specified by the supplier and within the operational parameters. The site should also look to control temperature within both the hot and cold-water domestic systems. Although not always possible, cold should be less than 20˚C and hot above 60˚C. It is often overlooked that 50% of a site’s water distribution system is hot. This can be controlled simply by maintaining temperature above 60˚C. Controlling dead legs and all other areas where stagnant water may be found will also reduce the risk of microbial growth and initiating a simple flushing regime would normally control this.

Other measures such as inspection and cleaning should also be included. Overall there may be several levels of control in place ideally complimenting each other. Although, in order to see if they are working, monitoring is required.

In part two, Russell will cover the final three elements: monitoring, record keeping and review.