The most recent Petrotrin oil spill, beginning on the afternoon of 23rd April 2017, has put a very clear spotlight on the issue of asset integrity. On that afternoon, the base of tank 70 failed and there was a significant release of fuel oil into the environment. Petrotrin was unable to fully contain the fuel oil and over the next 24 to 48 hours, approximately 300 barrels of fuel oil flowed into the sea around the company’s port facilities. 

Since then, the company has been involved in significant clean-up and remediation efforts, which were still ongoing at the time of publication. 

Fitzroy Harewood, President of Petrotrin, has described asset integrity as the biggest challenge facing the company. Talking at the Energy Chamber’s recent luncheon, he revealed that it may cost the company upward of TT$16b to address all of the problems with asset integrity with their tanks, pipelines, berths and other assets. He said that given the huge investments needed and the tough financial position facing the company, they will have to prioritise their approach to identify which assets pose the greatest risk and require immediate attention. 

The issue of asset integrity has been much discussed nationally over the past few years and has been the subject of a major study by respected international consulting and certifying firm, DNV GL. 

The DNV GL national sector-wide asset integrity study was initiated after the previous major Petrotrin oil spill in 2014 but covered all major energy sector companies, 30 in all, all of their major assets. DNV GL outlined their major findings in a special workshop at the January 2017 Energy Conference. While they were unable to report on specific company audit scores, they reported that there was a large variety in the outcomes of their audit between different companies operating in Trinidad and Tobago. In some companies, they reported that they found robust asset integrity management plans, which were being optimised and actively implemented. 

However, in other companies they found inconsistent implementation of asset integrity programmes, which were “frequently not fully developed and typically do not adequately address the types and magnitudes of the risks that need to be managed.” They reported that in these companies, asset integrity programmes were typically reactive, rather than trying to avoid incidents in the first place. 

While DNV GL did not reveal the audit scores of individual companies against their audit criteria, they did report that joint venture companies had the highest scores. This is not a surprising finding, as in a joint venture arrangement there will be typically be more visits and assessments by a number of different experts representing different shareholders. The next highest scoring companies were publicly listed companies, typically the major multinational operator companies listed in the UK or USA. Trinidad and Tobago state-owned companies scored on average lower than either the joint venture or publicly listed companies.