To address the uncertainty in both the monitoring and the forecasting of the environmental conditions for offshore operations, DNV recommends the use of Alpha factors. These factors are defined for the environmental conditions in North Sea and the Norwegian Seas. Since no localised Alpha factors are available for regions outside of North Sea, these factors are conservatively applied everywhere in the world. In a region with benign weather characteristics such as the Mediterranean, this could be overly conservative for the selection of operational weather windows. A deterministic weather forecast is sufficient to assess weather risk for short term operations; nonetheless, uncertainties of longer term predicted weather should still need to be addressed.
Shore float-in of umbilicals and cables requires a number of sequential activities with associated durations that build up to a total timeframe. This timeframe is beyond what can be accurately assessed using only deterministic weather forecasts. The operational activities are also very sensitive to tidal, current & sea-state variation; particularly associated with the use of personnel in the water like divers and waders for the removal of floats and the use of small crafts for control of the of the product alignment.
The use of Ensemble Forecast which utilises probabilistic approach compared to the deterministic approach, addresses the uncertainty of long term weather forecasting and remove artificially added conservatism such as the Alpha factor. This forecast is derived from multiple simulations, each with minor variations of initial conditions and slightly modified weather models.
Ensemble Forecast has been applied in offshore operation planning and execution in a project offshore Egypt in Mediterranean; particularly for a shore float-in of a main umbilical. It was used to define the main operational window, the start of the operation and weather risk beyond deterministic weather forecast.
The use of the Ensemble Forecast for selection of overall weather window has been shown to optimise operability, reduce the risk of product being damaged, provide added confidence in the offshore operational safety for the personnel involved while minimising waiting on weather.
The strategy of defining storm riding configuration for umbilical could enhanced overall operability. When the operational restrictions relating to limiting activities are anticipated to be surpassed but remains still within the storm riding sea-state, these activities could be safely halted and product held in place in stand-by mode until the weather conditions improved without affecting its integrity or overloading installation equipment.