The Human Dimensions of the Britannia Development
- R.A. Thompson (Chevron Intl. Oil Co. Ltd.) | J.N. Hall (Pially Ltd.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 2000
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 34 - 39
- 2000. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, , 1.10.1 Drill string components and drilling tools (tubulars, jars, subs, stabilisers, reamers, etc), 4.3.4 Scale, 4.5 Offshore Facilities and Subsea Systems, 7.3.3 Project Management, 5.2.1 Phase Behavior and PVT Measurements
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This paper (SPE 59380) was revised for publication from paper OTC 11014, originally presented at the 1999 Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, 3–6 May. Original manuscript received 10 February 1999. This paper has not been peer reviewed.
A decision was made to underrun a sanctioned tight budget significantly. Such a bold step required a different approach that involved the whole organization. Change on such a scale was a daunting challenge. More than 2,000 people were involved in Britannia, organized in numerous groups and many different companies. A comprehensive communications and education exercise was set in motion. Everyone was enrolled in achieving the common goal. Barriers were removed and improved working relationships developed among all the different companies. People were given the authority, the interpersonal skills, and tools to work in new, improved ways. Finally, achievements were recognized and celebrated throughout the development. The development results were benchmarked and audited externally. A 20% saving was achieved over the tough budget, which equated to a top decile industry performance. The techniques used on Britannia are equally applicable to any organization, not just capital projects.
Britannia is a large gas/condensate field located in the central area of the U.K. North Sea. Ref. 1 provides the details of the reservoir, chosen development option, and the main elements of the offshore facilities. The field was born in an era of tightening margins. North Sea costs had to be reduced. Operators were becoming increasingly conscious this could be achieved only through adopting a different approach. Britannia was not exempt from this.
A very cost-effective development concept was devised. The approved budget that went with the concept showed savings of 17% compared with earlier estimates. Independent benchmarking auditors said the budget would be tough to achieve and had only a 20% probability of success. Conventional strategy would have been to plan to achieve the budget, put in rigorous controls, and place contracts for fixed amounts. Then, the operator's personnel would check everything produced by the contractors.
These traditional approaches showed a trend of man-hour and schedule overruns resulting in increased costs. The reason for the poor performance was not difficult to see. The industry had a history of conflict and poor working relationships. Traditional contracting practices could create a situation where the operator and the contractor had different objectives. Furthermore, most contractor companies saw little advantage in developing closer working relationships with other contractors on a project because, in most instances, they would be direct competitors for the next job. Often, the operator became the go-between, trying to reconcile views. In such an environment, even small changes in work methods were difficult to promote. A step change looked impossible. The problem was how to break out of this mold and attain high levels of performance.
Everyone had to be made aware of the needs, be involved in achieving them, and become aligned to the methods to be used. With more than 2,000 people, enrolling everyone was a considerable task. Changing how everyone worked (with a major shift in work practices and behaviors) was an even harder task. A comprehensive program was gradually developed to achieve these changes.
A shift in behavior started early on Britannia with the decision to form a unique joint-operator partnership. This partnership started with the decision by Conoco and Chevron to work together as operator and form Britannia Operator Ltd. in which the combined strengths of both companies would benefit the development. This new arrangement provided the stimulus to do things differently. One immediate benefit was that no single company could prescribe working practices. Therefore, strategies and work practices that were best for Britannia could be formulated from all available ideas. It released the project from convention.
The new approach pervaded everything done on Britannia. It started by fixing a number of key aspects of the facilities before detail design began. The facility design rate and reliability requirements were fixed on the basis of good reservoir data. A decision was made to use a single steel jacket, integrated deck, four sit-on modules, and a single subsea center. The intent was to fix these key aspects; this was achieved, and no changes were made during the course of the project. Just as importantly, all other detail and work practices also were open to challenge.
Everyone was encouraged to join in and challenge the facilities details. This same "challenge philosophy" was applied even more stringently to work practices and work processes. Responses of "this is the way we have always done it" were not accepted.
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