The North Sea recreated in a chilly garage

Maersk Oil has worked with Maersk Training to build a simulator that mimics the real working environment offshore as closely as possible. 460 people will be training here in conditions that are safe and secure, reinforcing classroom learning with hands-on experience.

In a chilly garage in the Danish countryside, used parts from various oil platforms have been brought together to build a simulator that is as close to real life as possible. In a corner, there is a large box of broken parts. A little part of the North Sea has been recreated.

Claus Kofod Jørgensen, Maersk Oil’s Offshore Installation Manager for the Dan F in the Danish North Sea, and his team have collaborated with Maersk Training in building a copy of a production separator unit – and associated valves, pumps and instrumentation – in the security of an outbuilding.

Offshore workers are the first barrier for safety, says Claus Kofod Jørgensen, Offshore Installation Manager for Dan F.
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The facility at Maersk Training in Svendborg, Denmark allows offshore workers to plan and carry out jobs in as close a replica of real-life as possible, learning with their hands to reinforce the lessons from the classroom in a completely safe environment. All maintenance and production staff, including some engineers, in Maersk Oil’s Danish Business Unit will pass through three days of training here, along with those onshore employees who work directly with them.

The idea came to mind as Maersk Oil considered ways of reinforcing safety and when Jørgensen saw the work MaerskTraining was doing with drilling simulators.

“We’re used to being out in the fresh air and using our hands,” says Jørgensen,looking on as a team of four and an instructor plan jobs and apply for a work permit, then hold a toolbox talk and finally carry out the work – exactly the same procedure they would follow on a platform. “It’s great to have it in-house. Maersk Training is very flexible and they have a lot of ideas.”

Before working with the simulator, those on the course put on full protective clothing. And the box of broken parts in the corner waits as examples of what can go wrong – and to be used as props in how to avoid it.

“It is about process safety, and a lot of this has to do with understanding and applying procedures,” says Per Larsen, the instructor from Maersk Training. “That can be quite boring, but being able to give hands-on experience definitely boosts motivation, and shows that they actually understand the procedures and it really helps people to retain the information.”

Nicolai Pedersen, Production Assistant has been on many training courses, but this is the first one that is set in the real world.

A separate control room adds to the offshore feel. Heated and more comfortable than the more austere surroundings of the rest of the garage, it is just like the accommodation on the platforms.

“I’ve been on lots of courses where we made plans on paper, but never before one where it was set in the real world,” says Nicolai Pedersen, Production Assistant onshore the Halfdan Asset. “Sometimes it can be a bit heavy to use and learn the operational safety procedures – this way, theory and practice go hand in hand and it’s a great combination.”

First safety barrier

As the most experienced person on the course, Søren Würtz Elberg, Production Assistant on Halfdan, has plenty of advice to pass on to the others. Nevertheless, there is still plenty more for him to learn. Elberg was part of the group that had the idea for the simulator, along with Jørgensen.

“Of course I can pass on a lot because I have a lot of stories from my time out there. I can also learn from them – they see things in another way and ask me questions that I’ve never thought of,” he says. “Now we can see it in the real world, it’s fantastic.”

There are eight on a course with the simulator at a time. For Claus Kofod Jørgensen, this is the tip of the iceberg. There is space to expand and other machinery can be introduced, such as a subsea structure, known as a Christmas tree, that monitors and controls production.

“The people who write the procedures can train here, and look into whether those procedures work in real life,” Jørgensen says. “Bringing our people out here gets them to really share their experience and knowledge,” he says.

“The people training here, they are our first barrier for safety.”