Evolving integrity management to maximise operational efficiency
Mike Young, director of Marsol explains how advanced systems integrity management is essential to optimise performance
Our operational integrity management programmes follow a proven, phased methodology that allows us to measure a client’s current operational efficiency and the asset’s integrity, reliability and availability. We benchmark the existing terminal activities against industry best practice and the client’s future needs. We identify areas of improvements associated with the environment, design, assets, operations and risk.
Without adequate inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM), an asset will begin to deteriorate. This deterioration accelerates as the asset becomes older, and the operating environment changes, so integrity based IRM programmes must be implemented to ensure the system operates safely and efficiently, in all aspects, in order to maximise its operational life.
By applying integrity-based IRM and creating an asset history we can modify operation and maintenance programmes in line with any changes caused by external factors and unusual events thus reducing risk to the client’s operation. This is particularly relevant for infrequently used systems, where a preservation maintenance programme is required rather than the standard maintenance programmes.
Advanced asset management
We devised our advanced systems integrity management services with particular focus on SPM hoses, which are one of the biggest consumables and they are expensive. To achieve efficiency in this, we collaborated with a hose manufacturer and deliver a two-pronged service – it is advanced systems and integrity management.
In order to deliver effective integrity management, we need to have advanced systems that gather the data that can be analysed to determine the site-specific factors and components that we need to look at for the integrity management services.
SPM owners are focused on their operations; they just want to load / offload tankers. If they use them every day that's great, they make a significant contribution to the bottom line. If they use them once a year then, as they don’t have dedicated resources, it becomes an inconvenience and they don't want to know about it or give it the attention it deserves: “it just has to work when needed”. Integrity management isn't really something that's being used as a word or as a concept for SPM's, it's a critical component and we’ve been advocating it for a long time.
For instance, hoses are like the tyres on your car, it is not sensible to do any brand mixing. You don't want to put a Goodyear tyre, a Bridgestone tyre and a Yokogawa tyre on your car all at the same time; you really want to keep them all the same. The same applies to the hoses and specifically, the subsea hoses. If something were to go wrong with the subsea hoses, you need a costly and time-consuming intervention to replace them. Some clients have bought new hoses from various manufacturers, and they want to mix them up because the price of the new hoses they bought are cheaper than the existing hoses.
There is a common misconception that money can be saved by purchasing cheaper hoses, but the impact of that is understated because the hoses are not the same. When we adopt advanced systems, which includes the engineering, the modelling, and then the integrity management, we look at it as a total package (considering lifecycle costs and risk) to make sure that is all comes together.
Marsol recently explained to a client who had purchased cheaper hoses that before they embarked on a mixed hose operation route, they needed to model the system with the new hoses to verify its performance. If the results were not optimum, then the best solution would be to replace hoses like for like. However, the purchasing manager had already bought the hoses, and the client was not prepared to make further investment in ensuring that they were the right choice. Unfortunately, the consequences of that choice, will only be revealed in time and when it’s too late. The problem in the field is that by trying to save $10,000 in procurement costs they ventured into the unknown, opening the door for significant consequential cost ranging from $50,000, to assess the suitability of the changes, to millions of $ to clean up and restart operations in the case of an incident, made more possible by mixing hoses.
Integrity management and the environment
What we found on the big terminals, those that load tankers every day, is that some often only pay lip service to environmental issues, especially in parts of the world where less emphasis is given to this issue and a couple of drops of oil here or there makes no difference. They just want to make sure that the tanker is loaded because there is cost to the tanker that is coming in and the next set of tankers are already lining up. The environmental considerations can sometimes become restrictive if applied strictly by the book which, in most instances, is very generic anyway. Our approach is to “write our own book” based on actual site-specific data and, by definition, bespoke for the site. The result is the certainty that the considerations given to the environment are relevant and effective.
Time for maintenance is often constrained, therefore it is critical that operators invest in a system that allows them to reduce risks and maintain the intrinsic value of the facility. It is important to minimise the interruption and to ensure that risk is reduced, not just to your operating practice, but also to the environment.
Our experience has shown that there is a way that one can optimise and reduce the Opex costs. If operators focus more on the critical parts of the facility, based on a holistic assessment of the assets, operations and environment, and get these right then both cost and risk can be reduced, now and in the future. Continuing doing what they have been doing is not the optimum way.
A plan of action
Our driver is to create value through optimisation. That optimisation comes from the entire lifecycle of all the components as well as the whole business lifecycle. We look at all components and where there are areas for improvement and optimisation.
There is big pressure on operating companies to reduce their operational spend, especially if oil prices come down again. It is the responsibility of any asset management system to identify opportunities for optimisation along with risks and either maintain the current risk profile or improve on it. That is the real benefit of putting in a structured system that enables managers to fulfil their fiduciary duty and make informed decisions.
The first step would be to conduct an audit that would identify the current condition of the complete terminal operation. This involves a physical buoy condition assessment, looking at the operating practises as well as assessing things like the skill of the people they employ, their budget constraints and their procurement processes; it is a holistic process. Armed with the information of the current status we would work with the terminal owner/operator and define where they want to be.
We benchmark their performance against the rest of the industry. Sometimes we discover that they are already outperforming industry norms which would allow us to reduce the base practices.
The challenge that we face is that there is often limited historical data and its credibility is often questionable. By installing the advanced systems, we can analyse the gathered data and make sure that what we record is consistent. Then we start to gain confidence that the data is relevant and meaningful.
One of the benefits of working with Marsol is that, aside from our consultancy, we work on the buoys, carrying out the operations and their maintenance; that is very much our university. When we come to do the consultancy, we know where we are coming from because we have the hands-on experience from the operator and maintenance perspective.
We put all the systems in place, upgrade them, work with the client to identify his risk areas. Part of the initial assessments will be around cause and effects, on which we completed multiple studies. These tell us what could happen if an operator does or does not carry out a certain procedure; if something has happened, we will identify the effect and the potential causes.
It is critical for us to have the right information, so we can model it, identify the root causes and define the appropriate remedial actions. Not all companies are the same, so we work within the company's risk profile and within the budget. At the end of the day, whatever we provide needs to enable the management to fulfil their fiduciary duties and make informed decisions.
The benefit that we deliver is for us to maintain the intrinsic value of the facility. In the past I have climbed on facilities that are only seven-years-old, but they look to be 20-years-old because nothing had been done. On the other hand, facilities that we have maintained that are now seven-years-old, still look like they have only been operating for one or two years.
Maintaining the intrinsic value is a critical component for us, as well as minimising unavailability of the facility and the interruptions while you are loading tankers. Another major benefit is to enable safe operating practises that are specific to the operator's needs. Safe operating practises that are tailored for a client is key to minimise the risk. You can only minimise risk if you are able to quantify the risk. That's where the advanced systems integrity management comes in, that ability to really know your facility and quantify risk which allow management to make informed decisions about it.