Redefining plant maintenance- reducing shutdown times in the petroleum industry
Table of Contents
A shutdown is an expensive predetermined phase in a refinery in the oil and gas sector. During this period, many operations are shut down because facilities are being examined and updated. Not only the equipment and workforce required for a shutdown are expensive, but the revenues lost as a result of shutting down production elements can contribute to a major chunk of a yearly budget. Shutdowns frequently produce more challenges than envisaged, rendering them challenging to manage and necessitating the use of skilled and experienced staff.
Shutdowns are an essential element of the refining process today that the world is fully dependent on oil and natural gas. These shutdowns can be caused by the need to repair, renovate, or adapt infrastructures — which happens every four years on average. Shutdown activities necessitate a well-organized workforce and technology for a few months, with shifts being the most common unit of measurement. Most installations will be inspected during shutdowns, and their shutdown time may be prolonged if more concerns are discovered.
Gas shortages, price rises, or both may arise from prolonging shutdown efforts. Suppliers are put under more pressure to meet targets, and turnarounds that escalate into shutdowns can be disastrous for the supply chain. Preventative and predictive maintenance, routine corrective maintenance of the equipment, total replacement and overhaul, and preservation are all examples of shutdown activities.
Shutdowns do not always take place as planned. Refineries and petrochemical facilities will frequently come to a complete halt if oil and gas or other substances required for gasoline production are in short supply. If natural resources are scarce or costs are just too costly – frequently due to the other – these supplies may be deficient. Catastrophe, natural calamities, terrorist threats, and political changes can cause shutdowns and turnarounds.
When dealing with any form of disruption, the objective should be to go back to business as soon as practical (which might be difficult during outages), on budget, with minimal injury to employees, and with as little unscheduled labour as possible. A forward plan, which should strive to increase the time between shutdowns and outline how to undertake shorter, targeted maintenance intervals, is sometimes included as an additional goal. Shutdown d managers are hard to come by, and a seamless shutdown and restart of operations are tough to achieve.
2 Planning a successful shutdown
Robust planning is frequently the secret to success, and this is no different when it comes to shutdowns and turnarounds. Major shutdowns, which last between 3 and 6 years on average, rely on the study into previous such occurrences within the organisation and among similar operations, collaboration across departments and teams, and the most up-to-date industry expertise. All major oil and gas firms are dedicated to improving their technical and operational understanding, guaranteeing that shutdowns focus on what is best for the technological and client standpoint.
All equipment that requires maintenance, restoration, or replacements should be recognised ahead of time, and the requisite facilities, resources, and employees should be provided as a result. A refinery’s baseline assessment will provide an insight into the extent and length of any required shutdowns and turnarounds. Last-minute tweaks and adjustments are possible, but aberrations can be safely accepted with thoughtful preparation.
The simplest option to prepare for a shutdown or turnaround is to analyse it as early as it’s finished. This will help an organisation learn from its failures and have a strategy in place years ahead of time. These events are not just driven by engineering and maintenance, but they also substantially impact all aspects of the organisation, from shareholders to vendors. They may greatly affect companies, goals, expenditures, outcomes, and entire organisations as business events. Because they are periodic, these interruptions should be addressed comprehensively rather than just as a halt in routine operations.
3 Strategies to minimise shutdown time in the petroleum industry
As it is ascertained that the prolonged and unplanned shutdowns have a huge impact on the productivity and finances of the oil and gas refineries. Firms across the globe always strive to minimise the shutdown times to mitigate these losses. Following are some of the strategies which firms could implement to reduce the shutdown time.
3.1 Reliability-centred maintenance (RCM)
The oil and gas sector should adopt a reliability-centred maintenance system to ensure that maintenance is performed at the most opportune time to ensure that the system’s efficiency and trustworthiness are maintained while avoiding the waste of time and resources caused by unwarranted maintenance. Even as preventative maintenance is a move away from the traditional practice of reactive maintenance, it is far from the most useful or cost-effective system for the current oil and gas sector environment .
Determining the best feasible maintenance plan for each resource in an organisation is reliability-centred maintenance. The guiding principle is that distinct units necessitate different maintenance and management designs. Some require constant high-tech supervision, whereas others are better left to run to failure. The procedure of determining the best strategic plan usually starts with reviewing the breakdown record and the steps taken to repair and maintain every system independently. Then the best maintenance plan is chalked out in light of this analysis. The ultimate goal of reliability-centred maintenance is to have a consistent and dependable level of reliability while spending the least amount of money .
3.2 Condition monitoring (CM)
Oil and gas companies must invest in tracking and analysing the equipment for a reliability-centred maintenance system to function. Firms will be able to ascertain the point at which maintenance should be performed by continuously documenting the condition of the machinery. Because of the high costs of accessing resources, condition monitoring is especially beneficial to the upstream industry, especially the offshore assets. Condition monitoring has the added benefit of extending the life of the components, tracking patterns in machinery wear and tear, creating an effective maintenance plan, and reducing downtime by identifying problems in advance.
Figure 1 Condition Monitoring (CM)
3.3 Redundancy management
In the oil and gas sector, where the human cost of failure is substantial, redundancy is a critical step in ensuring infrastructures remain operational in the occurrence of equipment damage or failure. Undoubtedly, sometimes, including redundant components in a structure is a safety precondition. This concern has gotten much attention since the Macondo well disaster, with industry professionals forecasting new regulations requiring the incorporation of redundant components like blind sheer rams .
Redundancy just for redundancy, on the other hand, causes issues. All redundancy decisions must be based on a cost-benefit analysis, including the human cost of failure. When backup systems are highly dependent on redundant components, a robust contingency plan is often a better alternative than redundancy in the event of system breakdown.
3.4 Implementation of efficient alarm systems
Alarm systems are an important component of every safety mechanism, but having too many can end up causing just as many issues as having very few, especially when it comes to unexpected shutdowns. Because of the steadily increasing amount of information being generated and the number of processes being monitored, contractors are seeing an upsurge in alarms, which leads to complexity and ambiguity, resulting in unwarranted blackouts and a negative impact on human safety and safe operations .
According to official numbers from a Control Global report on shutdowns, operators received around 300 alarms before the Texaco refinery explosion in Milford Haven. In contrast, experts at the Esso Longford gas plant explosion in Australia discovered that contractors routinely ignored alarms because no adverse effect had been seen in the past. Therefore, oil and gas firms should invest in efficient and effective alarm systems to address these issues.
3.5 Regular up-gradation of systems
Large amounts of data are stored in existing systems, which are sometimes not properly utilised due to a lack of an upgrade and improvement. Manufacturers of hardware or software are starting to recognise this and are offering ways to utilise this valuable data without jeopardising the reliability of the systems that continue to execute the task for which they were designed .
3.6 Upgrade communication systems
Digital communication plays a critical role in getting data from monitoring systems to the operator or site where it would be required the most. Oil and gas sector companies worldwide are already using the HART methodology to improve operations, reduce costs, and improve availability. It will always be more economically efficient to completely remove trouble before it develops than to replace a malfunctioning resource .
3.7 Improvement in safety systems
Periodic monitoring of safety mechanisms will ensure that procedures are still in good condition to detect failures while also eliminating the need for repetitive actions that do not improve safety. Companies can avoid significant reductions in manufacturing and the resulting damage by preventing unexpected shutdowns. Shell’s Singapore refinery is currently closed, likely to cost the local gas market in the range of 450,000 barrels per day after the corporation was forced to acknowledge a Force Majeure due to a fire whose cause is unknown even to the expert’s .
Figure 2 Safety Plan
3.8 Improvement in the analysis of the data
Possessing already larger volumes of information is useless unless it is analysed properly. Continuing to improve the data analysis will allow for better proactive maintenance techniques and a better plant process flow, which will optimise production and reduce the likelihood of systems overloading, resulting in a shutdown.
4 Use of technology and artificial intelligence for reducing shutdown time:
The asset performance management technology can provide advanced warning of breakdowns through a combination of predictive and prescriptive analytics facilitated by integrated software that integrates artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The above type of system gives you a detailed view of all machinery, structures, infrastructure, and systems, allowing the company to make better decisions faster.
The practical implication is that the operators could see accurately how well a judgment that keeps changing any process affects the entire establishment when they have the opportunity to prepare around anticipated shutdown time and a broad understanding of the procedure. They’ll know right away how it affects planning and work schedules, how it influences which sources are procured, how it impacts stockpiles, and how it affects the sales department and the possibility of overlooked orders.
The appropriate technology can imitate the effects of any incident on the structure, procedure, or resource. Technicians and operators can work collaboratively to start making the least risky and most profitable decisions when the result is known in advance; they can collaborate to develop an effective plan. That strategy has become a clear blueprint for investing money to maximise the return on investment. The innovation can even be ramped to involve various facilities across a geographical area, allowing researchers to examine how installations are linked and understand better their interdependencies .
This technology reduces the danger across the operations by reaching the best choices, and there is an accepted benefit. Clients are being advised concerning digitalisation for prescriptive maintenance and management systems by some insurance providers, who are also driven by data. They’re working to promote these technologies as a way to cut down on unscheduled maintenance and related events, as well as a way of reducing their insurance premiums. The capacity to see far and big opens up new business opportunities. The instruments needed to analyse and interpret the data accessible at the enterprise-scale are being delivered through information technology, breaking down data silos.
Increasing the organisations’ digital capabilities is the first step in realising this level of technological interconnection. Companies in every industry can now use high-performance computer technology, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics to gain greater insight from their operational data. Thanks to this data-driven knowledge and insight, only simulation programs can accurately measure the value or cost of any restoration or improvement project, maintenance, operations improvement, or distribution network limitations. This technology employs quantitative sampling methods to forecast a system’s future performance by analysing equipment behaviour and estimating time to failure.
Plant staff members can be made aware of anticipated breakdowns and understand the possible impacts on larger systems thanks to simulation programs’ broad view of operations. Operators can also simulate pipe flow and tank levels and the units’ used and available capacities. This is how one can figure out which events will probably cost money or have a devastating effect on efficiency, such as causing environmental concerns. The company can allot finances and put people where they are needed with a prioritised list of every event in the business that impacts performance.
Another factor to consider is the safety of the workforce. According to the Centre for Disease Control, oil and gas sector employees have engaged in around 600 occurrences, around 500 hospital admissions, and more than 150 amputations over two years. Remote monitoring of the facility can assist lower these figures with predictive maintenance, allowing employees to know where the problem originates and whether the area is safe to enter and address it.
The industrial internet of things elevates risk mitigation to a new level by reducing the need for experts to conduct needless harmful inspections. Maintenance staff can pinpoint exactly what and where the problem is by employing massive data to perform predictive modelling. Workers can also use monitoring systems to ensure environmental safety. After the operation is completed, resource data can be used to evaluate the efficacy of the operation before restarting machinery, preventing accidents and unnecessary downtime.
Figure 3 Advantages of Predictive Maintenance
Adopting a predictive maintenance policy can be difficult for companies that have never used it previously in their oil and gas operations. It is, however, unquestionably a game-changer. Organisations that embrace these technologies first will have a strong competitive advantage. They will achieve new growth and profitability while also preserving their social license to operate, as evidenced by enhanced safety and compliance performance. Many are already implementing ways to help them avert the most hazardous conditions, reduce carbon emissions, and run their businesses more efficiently. The need for adaptability may be higher than ever as industries face increasing pressures from shareholders, regulatory agencies, and consumers. So is the need for sustainable development and environmental safety. Industries can put themselves in a better winning position in the consumer market of tomorrow by minimising uncertainty and risk through the application of advanced technology solutions available today. Predictive maintenance is critical for companies that manage many-valued physical resources. To avoid equipment failures, oil and gas companies cannot afford to rely solely on preventive maintenance. Oil and gas businesses must search for any cost-cutting opportunity to obtain a competitive advantage given the industry’s unpredictability. The easiest approach to avoid a financial disaster caused by ageing infrastructure is to invest in automation tools to optimise business asset management.
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