4 Ways Engineer Consultants Can Help Your Business

Published by Stewart Technology Associates on May 20, 2016

Maleo Producer - Mat-Supported Jack-Up on Dry Tow

Maleo Producer, a mat-supported Jack-Up rig converted to a gas production platform (MOPU) owned by Global Production Systems, with structural design and foundation dynamic analysis by Stewart Technology Associates.  The platform is shown during a dry tow to the site in Indonesia on board the heavy lift vessel Black Marlin.

Side view of mat-supported jack-up Maleo Producer showing deployment stages for Roson.

Side view of mat-supported jack-up Maleo Producer showing deployment stages for Roson.

4 Ways Engineer Consultants Can Help Your Business

There are many challenges in the off-shore oil and gas industry, from operating in an unforgiving marine environment safely, to offloading oil and gas efficiently and designing drilling rigs, risers, moorings and other equipment that can withstand the punishing environmental forces at play. No matter how well-rounded and diverse your team is, eventually, you will run into an engineering problem or situation beyond your knowledge and expertise, or something that requires a different discipline or skill set.

While expanding your team is one option, finding someone with the necessary skills can be difficult, time-consuming, and potentially costly, and it may not be worth the effort if you need only temporary or intermittent assistance. In these situations, the most convenient, cost-effective option is to use outside engineer consultants who can work closely with your team to achieve the desired results, while bringing a unique set of skills and fresh viewpoints to the task at hand.

Here are a few of the ways that engineer consultants, like the team at Stewart Technology Associates, can help your off-shore exploration or production operation:

#1 Structural Design and Analysis

Designing equipment and structures that can stand up to the rigors of a marine environment, including forces such as rain, snow, wind, wave action, tidal forces, deep sea pressures, corrosion and chemical reactions, can be a difficult process. It can include thousands of hours of design, simulation, prototyping, testing and analysis work. Even with a highly-qualified team and large budget, it can be a grueling process fraught with pitfalls and mistakes. By working with experienced engineer consultants, you can eliminate guess work and get the project finished and into production in a timely manner. Some of the structural projects that engineer consultants can help you with include:

  • Fixed platforms
  • Tension-leg platforms
  • Jack-ups
  • Liftboats
  • Semi-submersible platforms
  • Drillships
  • Barges
  • Bouys
  • Moorings
  • Single-point moorings
  • Pipelines
  • Risers
  • Anchors
  • Foundations

Engineer consultants can help throughout the design process; from the initial planning of the structure, to creating the final design and selecting the appropriate materials and construction methods. Using software such as ORCAFLEX, ASAS or ABAQUS can employ finite element analysis and model how your structure will behave in real-world conditions by simulating the effects of vibration, heat, fluid movements and other variables. This will determine where likely failure points are, allowing design to be improved before production. The software can also be used to improve existing designs and model previous failures to avoid future incidents.

By working with engineering consultants during the design process, you can avoid common problems that lead to structural failure, safety problems and increased maintenance, and you can develop a reliable, long-lasting structure that will serve your needs more thoroughly.

#2 Hydrodynamic Analysis

Anything in a marine environment is bombarded by waves, tidal forces, inclement weather, high pressures, corrosion and electrochemical processes. These forces cause wear and stress on marine structures and equipment, leading to increased maintenance requirements, higher operational costs and structural failures or safety issues. Engineer consultants use hydrodynamic analysis tools, like OrcaFlex, to model the hydrodynamic forces at work on your structure, allowing you to improve the design, increasing durability and reducing maintenance costs. Hydrodynamic analysis improves the performance of equipment and marine structures, including:

  • Drilling rigs
  • Production platforms
  • Mooring systems
  • Anchors
  • Anchor points
  • Mooring lines
  • Anchoring hardware
  • Underwater pipelines
  • Floating pipelines
  • Risers
  • Tankers

Engineer consultants can help your marine equipment and structures perform as expected, and keep workers safe.

#3 Fluid Dynamics Analysis

Systems designed to store and transport fluids like oil must be designed to avoid leaks, eliminate bottlenecks that reduce transfer efficiency and move fuel safely. Engineer consultants use software like OrcaFlex to model the behavior of liquids in equipment like risers, pipelines, pumps, swivels and tanker ships, leading to improved designs.

For pipelines, risers, and swivels, the software determines where there are impediments to flow, allowing you to create a design with higher flow rates. It also shows the forces at work on the seals, allowing you to design seals that are more resistant to leaks and other failures.

An analysis of fluid dynamics can also be used on pumps to increase flow rates and to make them operate more efficiently, reducing energy usage and costs. In tankers, it can help design holds that minimize the movement of oil and prevent sloshing, leading to greater ship stability during transit, increased safety and reduced fuel costs.

#4 Other Areas

In addition to these basics, there are other ways engineer consultants can improve your oil and gas operations:

  • Risk Assessment: Engineer consultants can examine your overall operations and suggest improvements to increase safety, efficiency and financial health. They can also report to insurance agencies to evaluate your operation and so that a project can move forward.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Engineer consultants can design safety systems, equipment and strategies that keep employees protected and minimize liability during emergency events, like inclement weather or fire.
  • Marine Simulation and Training: Engineering consultants can design training programs, software and equipment that helps employees learn to use marine equipment safely, effectively and efficiently, including systems like jack-ups or liftboats.
  • Forensic Analysis: Engineer consultants use tools like hydrodynamic and finite element analysis to determine the cause of an accident, and how to prevent it in the future.
  • Oil Cleanup: Engineer consultants can develop effective oil cleanup procedures and equipment that minimize costs and environmental damage in the event of a leak or a spill.

Engineer consultants offer a wide range of valuable knowledge and skills that help your oil and gas operation design better structures and equipment, improve operations, enhance safety and increase profits.









Things to Look for When Hiring Engineer Consultants

[Posted on November 2, 2015 by Bil Stewart]

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Things to Look for When Hiring Engineer Consultants

There may come a time when your firm needs outside help from a consultant. More than likely this is good news in that you have landed an account or a project that is sizable in scope and is more than your team can handle efficiently. When that day comes, you need to be aware of what to look for in a consultant or an engineering consulting firm. At STA, we want to help you in your search, so we have put together some tips and advice to help you make an informed selection. Here are our thoughts on the matter:

It Starts With Research

There are many ways to find a suitable consultant. Usually, it is a combination of a few things. You can speak to your colleagues in the industry, you can search the internet, and you can advertise in the online trades and journals. Once you settle on some names, there are some things that you should find out that should facilitate a choice:

• How long have they been in business?

• What services do they offer?

• What are their credentials?

• Are they licensed?

• How large is their firm?

• Review client testimonials.

• Check their references.

• See where they stand with the Better Business Bureau.

These are by no means the only questions to ask or items to look for on their resume, but they provide an excellent starting point.

Unusual versatility – Example of seismic analysis of a mat-supported jack-up in the time domain using ABAQUS.  This work was performed by Sage USA for Stewart Technology Associates.

Partial Resume for Bil Stewart:

Professional Engineer, Registered in State of Texas, 1983, retired 2006.
Chartered Engineer, Registered in the UK and Europe, 1977.
Member of Royal Institution of Naval Architects.
Member of Society for Underwater Technology.
Member of Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME).
Member of IMarEST, Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology.
Member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
Member of American Society of Civil Engineers, D. OE (Diplomate of Ocean Engineering, ASCE) 2013.
Member of Society of Petroleum Engineers.
Past Member of Marine Technology Society.
Associate Member of the United States Naval Institute.
Technical Editor for Society of Petroleum Engineers (1982-1987).
Secretary & Past Chairman, Houston Chapter, Offshore Mechanics & Arctic Engineering (ASME).
Member, SNAME Offshore Committee, Chairman 1993.
Member, SNAME Technical and Research Committee, 1993.
Member, SNAME Panel OC-1, Stability and Motions, Chairman, Liftboat Task Group, 1991.
Member, 1990 to 1993 OTC Program Committees.
Member, 2002 to date NOSAC (USCG National Safety Advisory Committee).
Member, 2007 to date API RP 2RD Geotechnical Sub-Committee.
Chairman, 2009 to date, ASCE COPRI Marine Renewable Energy Committee.
Board Member ASCE COPRI 2014.
Vice President COPRI Board, 2016, President-elect for 2017
Member IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) US TC 114, 2012.

The Fee Should Not Be the Main Issue

You want to hire the best engineer that you can find. Trying to shop for the least expensive may be asking for trouble in the long run. Whatever you save initially, could end up costing more in time and effort. You are in the market for a professional engineer to assist your project and help deliver it on time and budget. You likely have a lot riding on the job, including your reputation. You take your car to the best mechanic. You want your kids to go to the best schools. You may be under the gun financially, and budgeting concerns could drive the hiring process, but if you can, don’t let the final decision be about the fee.

Uses the Latest Technologies and Software

The firm or individual consultant that you are considering should be well-versed in the latest technology and software that relates to your project. He or she should be able to train your staff in any new software that will be used, and get them up to speed in an efficient manner. They should be aware of the latest trends and the best way to implement the tools required for the job.
Knowledge in a Specific Discipline

Clearly, the consultant must have a background in the area of engineering that is needed for the project for which you hire them. They should be an expert with plenty of experience working within the confines of the particular discipline. They should be able to show a demonstrable knowledge of their field as well as ongoing education. You wouldn’t hire a Marine Engineer to consult on a onshore structural job. However, as we show in the next section, they should have a broad knowledge of other disciplines.

General Knowledge of Other Disciplines

A good consultant will know their field in and out. A superb consultant will be able to talk intelligently about a broad spectrum of issues. This is essential to thoroughly understanding the client’s needs. To better serve the potential client a consultant should be able to guide them towards completing the project, even if it means recommending that the client goes in another direction.  Typically a mid-sized to a large firm is better equipped for multi-discipline abilities and can offer more than a sole proprietor.

Confidence in Their Abilities

When you have narrowed your list to a few firms and are in the interview process, look for confidence in their abilities. If they are confident in their work, it will show through when you talk to them. You are looking for poise and a level of self-assurance that is obvious. You may be asking yourself ”what does this have to do with their abilities?”. The answer to that question is that pragmatic and cool-headed individuals can think on their feet during crisis situations. They will not be afraid to tell you what they think instead of what they think you want to hear. These are the type of consultants that you want on your team if you run into trouble, and every job has its share of problems.

A Problem Solver

A consultant should be positioned to make critical decisions and be able to provide you with multiple problem-solving options. They should also be willing and able to go above and beyond the scope of the job they were hired for and make recommendations for solutions beyond what you ask them to do. They should be capable of “seeing the big picture.”

The Right Consultant for the Right Job

If you have a particularly large project, you may need to engage the services of a sizable firm. If, on the other hand, you are adequately keeping up with the job but could use the additional expertise, then a single consultant might be appropriate for your needs. A mid-size company is often the best overall option for your requirements. They typically cover a broad range of engineering disciplines and are staffed well enough to respond to your needs promptly. The point is that most consultants and consulting firms don’t provide a “one size fits all” solution so keep that in mind as you search.

It will take time to find the right engineer or firm. As we mentioned above, it starts with research. As long as you do your homework and implement the suggestions as we have outlined them above, you should find a more than satisfactory consultant. Once you do, you will have a relationship that you can turn to whenever you need extra help.

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