Managed Pressure Drilling Software Controls FMECA
A major offshore drilling contractor engaged Athens Group Services surveyors to conduct a Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) on the control system software for a managed pressure drilling system deployed on ultra-deepwater drillship in the Gulf of Mexico. The system had acted in an unpredictable manner during a rapid well influx, causing immediate mitigation action onboard to control the well. Operator, contractor, and MPD control system OEM recognized Athens Group’s unique qualifications and experience executing FMECAs on software control systems, and all agreed to participate in the FMECA workshop.
This FMECA was held virtually during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a first for all participants. A ten-day virtual workshop conducted via Microsoft Teams was agreed upon. Successful Athens Group Services FMECA workshops do require undivided attention and collaborative communication. This environment creates an interactive “call and response” dialogue between drilling operator’s, software design engineers and Athens Group’s FMECA workshop specialist. All participants were required to adhere to strict guidelines, longer overall workshop schedule with shorter daily sessions facilitated by Athens Group Services surveyors.
A project kickoff call was held to introduce everyone and define the objective, scheduling and discuss delivery of all initial relevant documentation that was made available to Athens Group from the ship owner and MPD control system software OEM. After the first call, Athens Group Services surveyors specialist analyzed the documentation and produced an initial list of over 700 possible failure modes (FMs). This list was reduced to 338 FMs for evaluation during the workshop.
To assist in the evaluation process, the workshop attendees were given access to the OEM’s Hardware in Loop (HIL) testing facility. The access to the HIL testing environment allowed for specific test cases to be run on the production software in question.
The workshop reviewed the list of 338 Failure Modes (FMs) and recorded results in an Athens Group Services proprietary FMECA workbook. Of these, 111 were scored, and the remaining 227 were discussed. At the end of the workshop, the group determined a cutoff ranking for Top Failure Modes, producing a total of 22 items across eleven different control modes. It was observed and noted several times during the workshop of all participates engaging in honest and open dialog by exposing their past “war stories” or incidents that were used as learning tools moving forward during this workshop.
Athens Groups Services FMECA approach created a comfortable, collaborative workshop environment between all participants and disciplines. The client stated the following – “This FMECA has proven to be an effective tool in assessing and improving the quality of the MPD control system. It has also validated the need and effectiveness of HIL testing for MPD solutions and finally, that quality cannot be built in a vacuum. If nothing else is learned from this FMECA, uncovering and ranking the fault modes was worth our time, money, and efforts.”