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Strike It Rich with Preventive Maintenance in the Oil and Gas Industry

By Jonathan Davis | July 15, 2019

Desert heat and arctic winds. Shifting political landscapes and unpredictable markets. Oil and gas will always be a tough industry, but a CMMS-backed preventive maintenance program protects profits and people. Is your company leaving opportunities untapped?

Life without preventive maintenance

In Processing Magazine, Martin Phillips suggests oil and gas has always been slow to adopt new technologies, and this means they've been slow to start preventive maintenance programs. Generally, they're often still relying on the run-to-failure model. According to Phillips:

"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."

Philips main point: Because they're not using PMs, scheduled preventive maintenance work orders, the industry is wasting a lot of energy.

PMs help you avoid serious problems

As an extreme example, he points to the complete shutdown and restart at Westlake Chemical Corporation's Calvert City complex in Kentucky, which you can read about in Oil and Gas Journal. The key takeaway is that it cost the company $40 million and affected two full financial quarters.

The cause of the shutdown? One mechanical failure. But you only need one to bring a system to its knees. According to Inspectioneering Journal:

"...equipment availability plays a vital role in running a plant in line with the expectations of top management. For all operators, a system made up of a variety of equipment must be available to carry out continued operations. Because this equipment is interlinked, shutting down one piece of equipment often affects the availability of other equipment.

PMs also help you avoid common problems

Back to the same article in Processing Magazine. Phillips offers another example of a problem, this one much more common, that preventive maintenance tackles: dropped objects.

He explains that, "Dropped objects rank among the top 10 causes of fatalities and serious injury. More than 70 percent of dropped objects in the oil and gas industry are from equipment parts or unsecured objects resulting from aging equipment on older rigs and material degradation... Routine inspections can be effective at identifying problematic areas and — with regard to an oil rig’s old age — regular preventive maintenance should be carried out."

Rigs, in fact a lot of assets and equipment in oil and gas, tend to age relatively quickly. For starters, they're exposed to all kinds of chemicals at very high pressures and either very low or very high temperatures. On top of that, they tend to be located in extreme environments, from the scorching heat of the desert to the freezing winds of the Arctic. So, they age from heavy use. But, oddly enough, they can also age from not being used. When energy prices dip below a certain point and it's no longer profitable to run rigs, they're stacked. Once the market goes back up, they're brought back online. But in the meantime, maintenance of any kind is kept to a minimum to cut costs.

So far, we've got a good argument for preventive maintenance. But what does setting up and scheduling PMs involve?

 

Setting up preventive maintenance, step by step

Back to Inspectioneering Journal. A lot of the steps are laid out in Integrating and Planning Maintenance Activities in Oil and Gas Installations, by Tata L.N. Murthy, assistant GM at Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Ltd. It's not an exhaustive list and we won't even go through all of his points, but it's a good start.

For most of the steps, a full-featured, user-friendly CMMS is going to make your life a lot easier.

Choose the PMs

His first suggestion is to a decide which assets and equipment to include, and then for each one make a list of preventive maintenance. The trick is to ask around different departments for advice and insights. You'll also want to talk with your more experienced technicians, who through direct experience and trial and error, now know more about some of the machines than the people who designed them.

Collecting this information and keeping it in a CMMS is a great way to guard against the loss of institutional memory, a common problem across industries. In the past, companies could lose a lot of know-how with a key employee's retirement unexpected departure. But once information has been entered into a CMMS, it's safe and accessible.

Coordinate the departments

Next, you should go through the PMs looking for opportunities for departments to work together. Murthy gives an example: "... a HP (high pressure) separator for a crude oil train is shut down for a planned maintenance turnaround. This work can be initiated by the mechanical integrity department, but the instrumentation department may need to work on the level controls, pressure sensors, temperature gauges. The corrosion and inspection departments may need to replace probes, corrosion coupons, and prepare sample points."

Although the CMMS will mostly be used by the maintenance department, a good one will allow for unlimited users and have an intuitive portal request, allowing anyone you choose to submit tickets and receive work orders. You can also give them access, limited or complete, to your calendar module, so they can see all the scheduled work orders. This should make coordinating the different departments much easier. If work needs to be done in a specific order, being able to track work orders from when they're generated to close-out helps your department maximize its time. You'll never send out technicians out on a PM only to have them stand around and wait until another department is done with an asset.

Establish the procedures

Once you've decided which PMs you're going to do, you need to decide how to do them. Murthy suggests a complete set, from start to finish. "Releasing equipment for maintenance, maintenance activity sequences, completion, startup, etc., checklists should be prepared in advance and be used at every stage of the project." The benefits? "By having a systematic approach in place, operators can save time and money during a maintenance event and increase the repeatability of their employees’ activities."

Unlike older pen-and-paper or spreadsheet-based work order systems, a good CMMS backed by cloud-computing delivers data-packed PMs anywhere, at any time. So, the PM has everything the technician needs to close out, including:

  • customizable step-by-step instructions

  • digital versions of O&M manuals

  • associated parts and materials lists

  • asset work order history

A really good CMMS will even have interactive floor maps.

Keep a record

The next suggestion is to keep detailed notes on all the work that was done, including how long it took and the materials used. The suggestion is that, "All of these details should be recorded and kept in a central location at the facility."

The keeping a record part is great advice. Overtime, you can use this data to fine-tune your preventive maintenance program. But the "central location at the facility" might not be a great idea. It's much better to keep all this information safely offsite, inside a cloud computing-backed CMMS. Remember, your CMMS provider is the ultimate babysitter for your data. They're going to make sure it's protected and backed up. And just like any other babysitter, they return what's yours when you ask for it.

Next steps

Preventive maintenance software helps oil and gas companies avoid costly wastes of energy. And a full-featured, user-friendly CMMS makes setting up and running a preventive maintenance program much easier. If you don't have one yet, or you have one but it's not delivering as promised, now is the time to start talking with providers. Make sure to ask them about unlimited users and the request portal, two important features that help you coordinate across departments.

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Jonathan Davis

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan Davis started out writing for textbooks before branching out to video games and marketing collateral. He has a master’s degree in journalism and a certificate in technical writing.


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