To grow our liquefied natural gas (LNG) business, it is absolutely essential that we manage our industrial risks. So several years ago we introduced a special procedure for evaluating LNG terminal infrastructure, with the aim of reducing risks to the LNG carriers we charter. Although similar practices have been established industry-wide, we’re one of the few companies to maintain such a structured, systematic control methodology.
Loading and offloading LNG cargoes is a critical step in the natural gas value chain, since a leak of any size could seriously endanger both personnel and goods. Therefore, before we send a ship to a terminal, we want to be sure that potential sources of risk to that ship have been eliminated. The location of the site, the seaport characteristics, the design of the facilities, the level of safety management and personnel training are all factors that contribute to a terminal’s risk level.
We were initially prompted to take action by the rapid rise in the number of ships converted into floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs). Our technical teams drafted a procedure for evaluating the risks posed by this new breed of terminals. Having evaluated some of those FSRUs as early as 2010, we decided to expand the initiative to include every type of terminal — not just the LNG import terminals associated with regasification plants, both onshore and offshore, but also the LNG export terminals connected with liquefaction plants. That procedure must now be followed before we sign any delivery agreement, so as to ensure an acceptable level of risk for loading and offloading operations.
A Procedure Built on Industry Best Practices
As part of our methodology for evaluating LNG terminals, we review the design of the facilities and their safety features. We also look at how those safety features operate and the risk mitigation systems in place. That methodology draws on our in-house safety guidance and the latest international norms and standards, including:
- The rules and regulations set by the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO).
- The documents issued by the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), and particularly the International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals (ISGOTT).
- The recommendations published by Det Norske Veritas (DNV).
- The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) published by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
More than 100 LNG Terminals Evaluated
Led by our multi-disciplinary Technical, HSE and Shipping teams, the evaluation procedure has two parts:
- An initial reporting process
A standard questionnaire is sent to the terminal that is being evaluated. The company operating that terminal may also be asked to submit the facility’s recent risk assessment reports or test results for its safety equipment. Inspectors review a total of 17 essential risk management criteria.
10 Maritime Safety Criteria
- Access channel dimensions.
- Number and type of tugs.
- Presence of an escort vessel.
- Terminal location.
- Adoption of acceptable operational limits.
- Turning basin dimensions.
- Approach conditions for the ship.
- Length of the LNG carrier jetty and its proximity to other jetties.
- Presence of standby tugs.
- Annual maritime traffic.
Seven Infrastructure Control Points
- Identity of the terminal owner.
- References for the terminal’s engineering, procurement & construction (EPC) service provider.
- Terminal experience in number of years of operation.
- Terminal experience in number of operations per year.
- Type of technology, infrastructure and safety equipment used, including the location of gas detectors, the use of cut-off valves, control room blastproofing, etc.
- The country’s HSE regulatory framework.
- Proximity of the jetty to nearby communities, processing facilities and other industrial sites.
- Subsequent inspection at the site
When it is impossible to determine from the documentary evidence whether the terminal offers an acceptable risk level, we conduct an onsite inspection. Our inspection of the terminal under normal operating conditions lasts two to three days and can identify any aspects of the terminal that could pose a risk to the LNG carrier, or vice versa.
Audit guidance, specially developed for these inspections, outlines a variety of controls. We arrange for meetings with onsite personnel, a tour of the facilities, a document review and even testing if necessary.
Detailed Risk Mapping
Once the evaluation process is complete, the risk level is characterized for each infrastructure and on that basis we can decide whether the terminal is appropriate for use. To date, our teams have evaluated two-thirds of the world’s LNG terminals. Five percent of those terminals were classified as posing too great a risk. Risk mitigation recommendations were issued for about 15 terminals, which will need to comply with those recommendations to work with TotalEnergies. We discuss mitigation measures directly with the local operator when we inspect the site, to generate as much buy-in for the changes as possible. It’s then up to the charterer to verify that those measures have been properly implemented before making the delivery.