Shutdowns And Turnarounds – 8 Steps To Maximise Uptime And Minimise Downtime

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Tim Haïdar

1. Move Away From Preventative Maintenance

While preventative maintenance is a step forward from the traditional practice of reactive maintenance, it is by no means the most efficient or cost effective system for the current climate in the oil and gas industry.

Companies should therefore move towards a system of reliability-centred maintenance, to ensure maintenance is carried out at the most opportune moment to ensure performance and reliability is maintained and they are spared from the burden on resources caused by unnecessary maintenance.

2. Invest in Condition Monitoring

For a system of reliability-centred maintenance to work, companies must make the necessary investment in monitoring and analysis equipment. By constantly recording the state of the equipment, companies will be able to determine the point where maintenance should be carried out.

Condition monitoring holds particular benefit for the upstream industry, particularly offshore, due to the high costs associated with accessing assets. Condition monitoring holds the advantage of maximising component life, allowing trends in equipment wear to be tracked, create an efficient maintenance schedule and reduce downtime by indentifying problems before they occur.

3. Deal With Redundancy

Redundancy is a vital tool in ensuring systems remain running in the event of component failure, particularly in the oil and gas industry where the human cost of failure is high.

Indeed, in some cases the inclusion of redundant parts in a system is a safety requirement and this is an issue thrown in the spotlight since the blow out at the Macondo well, with industry insiders predicting new rules could be brought in on dictating the inclusion of redundant blind sheer rams.

However, problems arise when there is redundancy for redundancy's sake. All decisions on redundancy should be based on a cost/benefit analysis, including the human cost if a system fails.

In certain circumstances, a strong recovery plan is a better solution than redundancy in the event of a fault, and sometimes gets overlooked when backup systems are heavily reliant on redundant parts.

4. Address Alarm Systems

Alarm systems are an essential part of any safety system, but too many alarms can cause as many problems as too few, particularly when it comes to unplanned shutdowns.

The amount of data now being produced and the number of processes being monitored means operators are being faced with an increased number of alarms and this causes overcomplexity and confusion, leading to both unnecessary shutdowns and negatively impacting safety.

Figures from a report into shutdowns and turnarounds by Control Global show before the Texaco refinery explosion at Milford Haven operators received 275 alarms, while the Esso Longford gas plant explosion in Australia revealed to investigators that operators regularly ignored alarms as no negative impact had been seen in the past.


5. Upgrade Legacy Systems

Legacy systems contain huge levels of data which in some cases is not correctly utilised for want of an upgrade. Software and hardware vendors are increasingly realising this and providing ways to harness this valuable information while not compromising the reliability of systems which continue to perform the task they were created for.

6. Invest in Digital Communications

Digital communications play an important role in transferring the data from the monitoring equipment to the operator or location where it is most needed. The HART protocol is already being used by oil and gas companies across the globe to achieve improved operations, lower costs, and increased availability.

Gabor Bereznai, head of instrumentation control and electrical at the Danube Refinery, which recently won an award for its use of HART in predictive diagnostics, summed it up by saying: "It is always more cost effective to eliminate a problem before it develops than to replace a malfunctioning asset."

7. Regularly Review Safety Systems

A regular review of safety systems will ensure processes are still in working order to detect faults, while removing the need for redundant actions which do not improve safety. By ensuring unplanned shutdowns do not occur companies can save themselves significant falls in production and the associated dent on the bottom line.

The current shutdown at Shell's Singapore refinery is thought to be costing the local gasoline market in the region of 500,000 barrels per day, as the company was forced to declare a Force Majeure following a fire, the cause of which is not yet known.

8. Improve Analysis

Having ever greater amounts of data is of little use unless it is analysed correctly. Improving the analysis of information will allow for better predictive maintenance strategies, while also allowing for a better workflow in the plant, optimising production and reducing the chances of systems being overwhelmed, leading to a shutdown.

Enjoyed this article? You might be interested in our guide to shutdowns and turnarounds.


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