Preparing for operation of a major oil and gas facility is a daunting task. Prior to first oil we need standard operating procedures (SOPs), maintenance procedures, spare parts and trained operators just to name a few. And yet Operations Readiness efforts frequently start too late and are frequently inadequately resourced.

Consult A Specialist

Sean Liburd


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Operations Readiness systems developed late in a project and in silos can’t reach the potential of becoming the powerful tools that they were developed to be. This is the Industry Culture Change that GATE has set out to implement. To change the Industry Culture of Operations Readiness, we changed the process and GATE mindset for development of ALL Operations Readiness Tools/Systems.

GATE provides the following services related to Operations Readiness:

  • Operating Philosophy (Subsea & Topsides)
  • Operability Reviews
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Initial Startup Planning and Procedures
  • Operating Guidelines (Well, Subsea & Topsides)
  • Pre-startup Safety Reviews
  • Process Hazard Analysis (HAZID, HAZOP, SIL, LOPA)
  • Maintenance Planning (CMMS, Spares)
  • Spare Parts Data Development
  • Equipment Criticality Ranking
  • Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) Studies
  • Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA) Studies
  • Innovative Operator Training (Scenario Games, Tactical Decision Games)
  • Control System HMI Screen Development
  • Control System Tuning (Based on First Principles – Not Short Cut Methods)

Standard Operating Procedures

Of these, we consider Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be particularly important. SOPs are frequently developed late in the project and used mainly for operator training. But they can be so much more. Generated early enough, they have the potential to be an integral part of the design process and to become a catalyst for a culture change. Generating SOPs early allows the rare opportunity to design a facility to be operated, as opposed to the current norm of figuring out how to operate a facility after it has been built.

GATE uses an innovative phased approach.  High level SOPs are developed early based on the PFDs. These are then matured to mid-level and finally to detailed procedures as the project matures.

Effective integration of the SOP development effort via a Systems Engineering Team yields other significant benefits.  Coordination with the control systems design efforts can provide valuable guidance to HMI design to mimic how the facility will be operated.

Effective SOPs can dramatically simplify the development of final commissioning and initial startup procedures.

The development of the CMMS and Preventive Maintenance Schedules is more effective if done concurrently with the SOPs. Maintenance tasks can be specifically created and scheduled to reflect the equipment’s planned operability. Spare Parts will be set with valid Min/ Max levels based on the scheduled maintenance tasks, possible unexpected corrective maintenance tasks and logistical hurdles which may require to be overcome.

These are all powerful arguments to put more effort and earlier effort into SOP development, but we seek a still higher goal – Culture Change.  Effective SOPs that are diligently used by operators may be the driver for the next step-change in process safety in the industry.  But this cannot reasonably be accomplished unless we start writing procedures that are more user friendly; procedures that the operators will actually want to use.


The GATE Stream-Based HAZOP Process

HAZOPs are not fun!  Maybe that’s not a problem, but they also don’t achieve what they could and that is a problem. Why don’t we learn what we should from HAZOPs? 

  • Tunnel vision.  The focus on small nodes obscures the big picture.    
  • Guideword excess – Flow, pressure, temperature, and level are usually discussed in the HAZOP.  But flow deviations cause most pressure, temperature and level deviations. 
  • HAZOPs are supposed to identify operability issues, but they really don’t.
  • Risk assessment in HAZOPs is typically difficult, ambiguous and not repeatable.
  • HAZOP reports are difficult to read and are of limited use.
  • Most people don’t enjoy HAZOPs and that impacts participation.

GATE Systems Engineering Manager Howard Duhon has been developing this process for the past 20 years.  The GATE Stream-based HAZOP process avoids these pitfalls via some novel modifications to the process.

Stream-Based Nodes

The main difference between the GATE Stream-Based HAZOP and a typical HAZOP is that we define nodes based on ‘streams’ for the FLOW deviation discussions.  For this purpose a stream is a continuous flow of fluid across piping and equipment items.  For example: oil production from the reservoir all the way to the dry oil tank can be considered one stream-based node.  A change in flow anywhere in the node affects the flow everywhere, or at least downstream.  This allows us to ask much more interesting questions that are hard to tackle in a typical HAZOP with small nodes.  Issues like startup, shutdown, commissioning, sampling, chemical injection, spec breaks, recycle are much more meaningful at the stream-based level. 

Equipment-Based Nodes

We do, however, have to resort to the typical equipment-based nodes for the temperature, pressure and level deviation discussions.  But we do all the stream-based node discussion first and that populates almost all the causes of pressure, temperature and level deviation.  So the pressure, temperature and level discussion are crisper and more efficient.

Read More about the GATE HAZOP Process in the April 2015 GATEKEEPER: What’s Wrong With HAZOPs & What We Can Do About It

Initial Startup Planning & Procedures

Our initial startup planning involves incorporating the subsurface, subsea, and topsides aspects of the project, so eliminating any and all potential gaps.

The initial startup of a production system is one of the most challenging periods in field life; it is the first time the whole system has to work together. GATE believes development of effective planning strategies will minimize the risks. We have a broad knowledge in generating plans for the initial startup of wells, subsea tie-backs and new platforms.

GATE engineers have extensive experience in writing commissioning, initial startup and operating guidelines and procedures. During the procedure writing effort, design errors and omissions are frequently discovered. In order to eliminate these problems, GATE believes that procedure writing should be handled in stages, begin early in the project and start as a high level procedure that gradually matures along with the design. Processes should be designed to be operated; operation shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Keys To A Successful Initial Startup

  • Start Early: Planning For Startup Should Start Early In The Project
  • Use A Multi-Disciplined Team
  • Use A System Approach
  • Build The Plan In Stages
  • Risk Management
  • Training

Recent & Key Projects Involving Operations Readiness & Initial Startup

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GATE formed and led the Systems Engineering Team for the Aseng Project in offshore Equatorial Guinea.

The GATE Systems Team was responsible for the Initial Start-up Plans and Procedures for the development. This included the flowback of the main gas injector for final commissioning/dewatering of the subsea system as well as the start-up of the water injection system prior to starting-up production.

Detailed Initial Startup Plans and Procedures were developed and then executed offshore during the Final Commissioning and Initial Start-up phase of the project.

In addition, the GATE Systems Team also developed the detailed subsea operating procedures. Offshore support was also provided for subsea operations and GATE provided onsite support for approximately 8-months post first-oil.

Subsea Operating Guidelines developed by the GATE Systems Team were also utilized to aid in operator training, subsea control system configuration, initial start-up planning, and ultimately detailed standard operating procedures and initial start-up procedures.

GATE providedOperating Philosophy documents, system studies, managed the project risk register and MOC processes, wrote the SubseaSOPs, reviewed the topsides SOPs, coordinated operator training on the Subsea SOPs and flow assurance issues, attended the topsides HAZOPs, conducted subsea procedure HAZOP, and conducted SIL assessments on selected systems.  

Noble Alen

GATE providedOperating Philosophy documents, system studies, managed the project risk register and MOC processes, wrote the SubseaSOPs, managed development of the topsides SOPs, coordinated operator training on the SOPs, facilitated the topsides HAZOPs, conducted the subsea procedure HAZOP. GATE also assisted in development of the Presartup Safety Review (PSSR))methodology, participated in the PSSR, provide offshore assistance for initial startup, tuned the process control loops and provided offshore operations support for the first few months of operation.

Shell Bonga

GATE developed the dynamic models and participated in the development of the Operator Training Simulator (OTS), developed the operator training program implemented on the OTS, managed the development of the SOPs, conducted SOP testing on the OTS and participated in numerous operability studies over the course of the project. GATE provided offshore support for commissioning and initial startup.

Chevron Tombua Landana

GATE developed the Master Equipment List with associated equipment attributes, QA/QC the EPCI’s Asset Register, developed spare part information for loading into JD Edwards, worked with local operations team to set Min/Max levels and utilized visual basic macros to streamline processes.


GATE work on Shenzi included reviews of the SOPs and developed the initial startup procedures based on the SOPs.  GATE wrote and implemented the Waterflood commissioning procedures. We also conducted system studies, souring, scaling and chemical system studies, attended project HAZIDs and HAZOPs.

GATE was responsible for the Final Commissioning and Initial Startup Plans and Procedures for the Shenzi Development offshore GoM. This included export system final commissioning plans and procedures for the oil and gas systems.

Umbilical final commissioning procedures were also developed and executed offshore.

Detailed Subsea Operating Guidelines were also developed for this project and were subsequently utilized for the development of subsea standard operating procedures.


GATE was responsible for the Final Commissioning and Initial Startup Plans and Procedures for the Neptune Development offshore GoM.

Commissioning Procedures of the surface facilities in particular developing detailed Leak Testing Procedures were developed.

Detailed Subsea Operating Guidelines were also developed for this project and were subsequently utilized for the development of subsea standard operating procedures.


GATE provided support in the development of the Initial Startup Plan and Procedure for a subsea tieback to the Nansen Spar offshore GoM. This included three oil wells and one gas production well.

GATE also developed the umbilical displacement plans and procedures for this system.


BHP Billiton Manifold K was also to the Marco Polo TLP. GATE produced a series of Subsea operating guidelines to address well integrity for startup, Reservoir Management, flow assurance, requirements of the Subsea System, Routine and Non-Routine Operations for the all wells on this manifold. This included:

  • Wells and manifold Startup plan and procedure to handle warm or cold startup.
  • Detailed overview of the chemical system for Shenzi fluids present on the Marco Polo TLP. This allowed fluids to be treated consistently so that both Anadarko and Shenzi wells could be treated adequately.


GATE was commissioned by Anadarko to commission two wells that would be tied back to the Marco Polo TLP. Under the scope of work, GATE produced:

  • Startup plan and procedures for the Green Canyon (GC) 518 Well #1.
  • Startup plan and procedures for the Genghis Khan (GK) Well #2.
  • Subsea operating guidelines that includes all aspects of operation including chemical treatments for flow assurance, shutdown, startups and normal operations that will ensure the integrity of the wells and the entire system. By using a systems approach and taking into consideration every aspect of the production, the manuals will serve as a go by for the entire platform production.

GATE undertook all activities associated with the Anadarko Marco Polo tie backs considering all other simultaneous and dependent operations and executed the startups without hitch.