Predictive maintenance can save billions
Experts from the industry on how to maintain your valuable assets
Predictive maintenance and organised workforce can make shutdowns less cumbersome
Petrochemical projects today are getting more expensive by the hour. Not many years ago a few billion dollar spend on a single project made breaking news.
But not anymore, as it has become the norm in the industry to have multi-million dollars invested into one single mammoth complex of refining, petrochemicals and auxiliary industries.
But when such humungous amounts are spent, it is only wise to maintain the facility in robust shape.
Gone are days when engineers sat around waiting for a disaster to happen, to try and fix it. Predictive maintenance is the way forward is the ‘mantra’ of the services industry for some years now.
But how does one predict maintenance? Are the smart tools a bit too smart these days are the questions we at Refining and Petrochemicals Middle East asked professionals from across the industry.
We believe that there is a strong need to prioritise assets as early as the FEED stage to justify the cost of predictive technologies.
When assets are ranked according to priority, then a more legitimate decision can be made on purchasing instruments with higher predictive capabilities, says Bill Broussard, Business Development Manager ME&A, Emerson Process Management.
So how does this actually work? Broussard explained that first a group of systems and their related assets are identified. Then business criteria such as safety considerations, regulatory compliance, product quality, process throughput, and operational cost are presented and scaled according to the response of decision makers.
The asset priority methodology yields insight on two numbers: Operational Criticality and Maintenance Priority.
The difference between what operations and maintenance might say would only reflect how problematic the asset is (i.e., maintenance might say “we touch that analyzer every two weeks” whereas operations says “not an issue for us”).
The resulting numbers can be visualized in spreadsheet and sorted by priority. The first and second quartile assets justify predictive technology to lower risks.
Third and fourth quartile assets are not as important and can be procured without additional predictive technology, he explains.
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Broussard says Emerson has found that this method removes the emotional decision-making process that often occurs during the FEED project when choosing instrumentations to be equipped with extra capabilities.
Selling the right instrumentation is where the job seems to begin for most of these companies. Endress+Hauser’s chief operating officer, Michael Ziesemer who was in Dubai recently said the company was involved in the Sadara project for almost seven years now.
“We were involved in Sadara, as it is called now, for almost seven years now. We have seen the project go through name changes and suspect we will be involved for seven more years.
Selling the instrument is just the first step, we need to ensure that these plant run reliabily for generations to come. So the most important aspect, according to us in maintenance, is training the customers in using the instruments.
The instruments we supply maybe state-of-the art and researched for many years before they hit the market, but if the clients don’t understand what to do with them, there really is no use.”
Ageing workforce and the downstream industry’s general reticence to the uptake of new technology could be worrying factors.
But E+H COO says the engineers in the downstream are today as aware of the technological advancements as their upstream counterparts. So with predictive maintenance has plant asset management really changed over the years?
Broussard says as more predictive intelligence has become available in the field, the industry is now going through a process of not only finding ways to manage and use this information, but also of looking at the consequent changes in their organizational work flows.
“This means that when an organization begins to use a technology with predictive intelligence, they must come up with an efficient procedure to handle alerts and resolve issues. This has placed a new focus on roles and responsibilities.”
Additionally, the key performance indicators being used to show bottom line improvement are becoming another challenge today. For example, new failure codes and tracking need to be implemented into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, such as SAP and Maximo, so that the correct improvement metrics can be actually identified, he adds.
David Hewitt, business development manager, Endress + Hauser says what is happening today with asset management is that predictive maintenance is extending the period between instrument maintenance schedules.
Reinstalling instruments after a shutdown could rise to errors and having fewer instruments to check during a shutdown helps the client concentrate on the larger issues, he says.
Broussard agrees with this and says Emerson has been successful at helping companies in reducing the number of equipment included in the turn-around list.
This also allows the company to detect potentially dangerous situations. Broussard cites the example of a situation at client’s that potentially saved them valuable assets and money.
“In one of our customers’ sites, some control valves with a low supply pressure issue were discovered through the facility’s plant asset management predictive software.
The issue was investigated by the instrumentation team, conferred with operations as a potential performance problem, and resolved quickly before a safety issue occurred.
The early detection of this problem raised the question of changing the plant’s safety application design, since traditional corrective procedures could easily perform a ‘valve close’ action that would result to a shutdown.
Such proactive findings are now making an impact to instrument reliability in relation to critical safety applications,” he says.
Lesser instruments to check during a maintenance schedule will definitely be good news for engineers working on massive projects.
Also the consensus among the service companies seem to be that now the customers in petrochemical sector need to fully utilize their plant’s predictive diagnostic capabilities, optimise work procedures, and capture results for making sure they get their money’s worth.
Maintaining the electrical equipment safely
In an industry where electrical equipment is subject to the harshest and most hazardous environmental conditions, the safe repair, maintenance and inspection of such equipment is paramount to the success and on-going safety of any operational plant.
Where electrical equipment is required to operate within a flammable gas atmosphere or hazardous area, special considerations and appropriately selected certified equipment must be applied.
Many end users apply stringent regulations upon selection and installation of explosion protected - Ex certified equipment, but do not take into account the requirements for maintaining validity of the relevant ATEX/IECEx certifications, said Kevin Murphy, service and maintenance manager, SpecServe.
There are various types of protection techniques applied by Explosion Proof (Ex) equipment manufacturers such as flameproof, increased safety and intrinsic safety which are intended to remove the source of ignition from the potentially explosive atmosphere and as such, significantly reduce the risk of explosion within the plant.
Any damage to or failure of these Ex protective systems or their components may have catastrophic effects emphasizing the requirement for suitable preventative maintenance and inspection plans to be in place and executed by competent certified personnel.
Murphy says there are three grades of inspection defined within EN/IEC 60079-17 which provides guidance for the detail and frequencies of the inspection to be performed. These are visual, close and detailed inspections.
The grade and frequency of inspection required will vary depending on the risk associated with the product and the conditions of installation.
Whilst the vast majority of Ex certified equipment inspections can be performed during operational cycles, planned plant shutdown opportunities can be maximized for gaining access to equipment which is either difficult or hazardous to access during operational periods, or crucial to the plants ongoing operations.
Replacement of such Ex certified equipments which are found to be defective can be repaired or replaced during the shutdown period.
While being a well adopted practice in Europe, “Ex equipment inspections” are still relatively new to the Middle East market. With experiences gained through working with many leading oil and gas operators and service providers globally, Specialist Services is one of the few companies that is pioneering the programme in the Middle East region.
“We are confident with a proven track record of improving overall plant safety, this programme will embrace a considerable high demand in the foreseeable future in the Middle East market,” Murphy concludes.