This article first appeared in Processing Magazine on December 13, 2017
With an increase in global demand, volatile prices and stringent environmental regulations, the oil and gas industry must make moves to reduce costs, optimize the performance of its industrial assets and improve its environmental footprint. Among a number of other approaches, implementing a proper preventive maintenance strategy should be the first consideration for oil and gas companies — choosing to be proactive and not reactive in reducing operational risk.
To remain competitive and make a profit in the oil and gas industry, operators must realize the value in protecting company assets. Managing company assets efficiently and effectively has become a critical business reality, and oil and gas operators need to initiate an aggressive asset management program. A successful strategy will both protect and enhance the value of assets, while making sure that due care is taken in their daily use. A proper strategy will also improve maintenance productivity, reliability and asset longevity, while improving the technical and administrative skills of the workforce.
A costly breakdown
Historically, the oil and gas industry has been reluctant to adopt modern technologies and practices for the management of oil and gas sites, a mindset that is often still applied to maintenance strategies. A high percentage of all maintenance time, cost and energy is spent on reactive activities with many companies continuing to fix equipment issues as they occur. Typically, reactive maintenance is 60 to 70 percent less efficient than planned and scheduled maintenance, and it is estimated that an emergency repair job requires three to four times more manpower, time and money than a scheduled repair. Maintenance costs can be hidden, too, such as the cost of shutting down a smaller unit for repair or the cost of deferred production and disrupted schedules.
A complete shutdown can consume a yearly maintenance budget in less than five weeks, with the complexity of the shutdown often increasing over time, becoming even more costly and difficult to manage.
In July 2016, Westlake Chemical Corporation’s Calvert City complex in Kentucky underwent a complete restart procedure as a result of a mechanical failure. The financial consequences of the outage were estimated at $40 million, affecting revenues for more than six months.
The primary goal of maintenance is to avoid or mitigate the consequences of equipment failure. But focusing on preventing failures before they occur is a relatively new realization for the oil and gas industry.
Condition-based monitoring (CBM) is a maintenance strategy that monitors the condition of an asset to decide what maintenance needs to be done and when. CBM dictates that maintenance should be performed when certain indicators show signs of decreasing performance or upcoming failure. It is designed to preserve and restore equipment reliability by replacing worn components before they cause an issue.
Operators taking a CBM approach through remote asset monitoring can significantly minimize the risk of plant shutdown. Live data feeds offer a real-time overview of operations, enabling passive ongoing monitoring until intervention is required. As soon as a change in condition is identified by the remote monitoring location, it can be analyzed and, if necessary, an engineer can be sent with all of the required equipment and parts to solve the issue.
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