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Offshore oil rig communications: The Microsoft Teams impact

offshore oil rig at sunrise

Offshore oil rig communications: The Microsoft Teams impact

Having worked in the offshore oil and gas industry for a number of years, I witnessed first-hand the importance of great teamwork and how this can impact on offshore oil rig communications.


On one of my last assignments offshore, the pressure of oil in the reservoir was in excess of 1000 bars and the impact of a series of bad decisions could have resulted in catastrophic failure. For me, the offshore team represents the ultimate team where communication, collaboration and coordination are paramount in achieving success to ensure that all personnel return home safely to their families.


The emergence of Microsoft Teams gives this ultimate team a powerful tool to take collaboration to the next level. Outlined below are three potential use cases where Teams can be used to enhance offshore oil rig communications and safety


Oil Rig


Shift Handovers

Deepwater Horizon


The importance of a thorough shift handover was highlighted in many major oil & gas incidents including Piper Alpha and the Deepwater Horizon. The Cullen report following the Piper Alpha disaster inquiry clearly mentioned, as one of many factors that contributed to the incident, the failure of transferring information in shift handover. In fact, information that a pressure safety valve had been removed and replaced by a blind flange was not communicated between shifts. In addition to that, there was no written procedure for shift handover and information that was written in a shift handover logbook was left to the lead operator’s discretion. All communication is prone to error and misunderstandings are an inevitable feature of human communication. Reliable communication is highly critical to safety, and shift handover falls into this category. Effective communication during a shift handover provides a strong layer of protection in preventing major incidents.


Using Microsoft Teams chat functionality as the means of communication for shift handovers gives many benefits:


  1. A digital searchable record of the handover conversation when taking place between offshore and onshore.
  2. Conversation data is stored in the cloud and backed up so that it is safely archived and could be reviewed in an investigation if needed.
  3. Teams chat enables you to log events during your shift to raise during a handover.
  4. Persistent chat meaning you can look back over previous handovers to check on conversations and see what has happened.
  5. In the example below there is clear communication that a pump is offline and the part number and exploded diagram can be shared.


offshore oil rig communications: Microsoft Teams


Data Capture during critical incidents


Single Source of the truth (SSOT) is a concept used to ensure that everyone in an organisation bases business decisions on the same data. I once worked on a project where an annulus from a previous hole section was showing to have pressure. There were three different individuals capturing data from the annulus all with differing values. This could have resulted in the wrong decision being made on how to deal with the well control event. In situations where there are well control incidents and critical data is being stored, it is important that there is absolute clarity on the data values and all personnel at the rig site and onshore are in agreement on the figures. Using Microsoft Teams to co-author an Excel spreadsheet to collect data means there is a single source of the truth. A number of different personnel across different shifts are collecting data on the pressure in the annulus and the volume of fluid bleed off. This provides a critical data point in the decision process on how to proceed and the next best steps to control the oil well.


Data Capture


Offshore oil rig communications: Digitalisation

At the rig site, thousands of observation cards are registered each year, providing hand-written details of reactive reporting (for near-misses, incidents, unsafe acts and observations) and proactive reporting (positive reports and suggestions for improvement). These cards are often difficult to read, and can experience delays of up to 24 hours between a card being written (by hand) and being registered in the system. Such delays inevitably reduce the time offshore managers have for their core work of addressing hazards on the go. Using Microsoft Forms embedded into Teams means data can be captured in a digital format of the cards. A simple QR code posted at the rig site means a URL can easily be accessed to capture the data; this eliminates many of the problems with paper cards and the need for paper resources. The forms have a simple and consistent layout, and reduce the average time spent on collecting, inputting and processing cards, thus freeing offshore managers to concentrate on issues on the rig  and to contribute quicker to discussions on managing safety. Data from the cards can be surfaced into a Microsoft Teams Channel and would be available to display in Excel and Power BI. This would mean additional insight could be obtained from the data and therefore help to enhance offshore oil rig communications, safety culture and reduce incidents.


Safety Cards

QR Codes


QR codes could easily be placed throughout the accommodation at the rigsite and personnel would very easily be able to submit observation cards digitally from their hand held devices. On offshore installations where hand held devices are not permitted the form can easily be accessed from a browser. The QR code below takes you to a Microsoft Form as an example.


QR code


Stay Safe.


Please do get in touch with Changing Social as we would welcome a discussion on how Microsoft Teams could impact on your offshore oil rig communications.



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