Availability & Safety in the Oil & Gas Industry

How Availability & Safety in the Oil & Gas Industry can go hand-in-hand
through Asset Performance Management

In these bearish oil markets, the Oil&Gas industry continues to face challenges to optimize process safety and contain high operating costs while ensuring higher return-on-investment with aging assets in hand. Globally, companies in the downstream segment are also struggling to maintain production operations from older assets which make asset availability an issue of paramount importance. The quick solutions to mitigate these issues in operational risks & equipment downtime are: deepening cost cuts, improving asset lifecycle and avoiding an unplanned shutdown. Companies want to stay profitable while maintaining dividends while the oil supply glut continues to push back a probable recovery in the crude oil price. However, quick-fix solutions to tackle asset related challenges aren’t enough. Offshore drilling platforms, terminals, refineries and other plant facilities are costly to build and operate. Safety of assets in operations is of critical importance as equipment failures and pipeline leaks are still common challenges in production activities. It’s crucial that plant operators keep tight control over the lifecycle cost of all plant equipment. Gone are the days when only plant personnel’s had to face the consequences of sudden equipment failure and unplanned downtime as heightened pressure is on board directors to deliver business performance for stakeholders which can only be fulfilled with efficient integration of asset-related management into the business plan. This asset management couldn’t be just limited to financial assets but also include valuable physical assets. According to a 2015-16 survey conducted among Oil&Gas executives globally, “operational efficiency” and “increasing the lifespan of assets” figured among the top concerns for industry’s innovation and profitability. Now, operational efficiency has to go through various regulations and compliances in different plant environments which can only be satisfied through optimum safety performance. And if equipment availability is good, it definitely increases the lifespan of assets. For example, finding a perfect synchronization between safety & availability is of critical importance to LNG companies seeking ways to improvise tank terminal profitability and efficiency.

Thereby, nowadays maintenance, reliability, and predictive monitoring are the key topics going on a trend among the industry executives. But seeking separate solutions to promise safety & availability can make the job tough for the business organizations as large volumes of asset data are involved in analyzing the desired answers. Therefore, an effective approach would be following a system which analyses “big data” across the organization to identify bad actors & incidents before they occur. The name of the game is – Asset Performance Management – a meticulous framework to manage & predict recurring operational failures and equipment nearing outages. It has got huge potential as it connects people; systems, processes and physical assets for identifying dormant threats which can help minimize safety risks in parallel
with ensuring higher asset utilization. Thousands of assets produce an enormous volume of data from a multitude of systems which can either be leveraged to make smart decisions for the assets or can leave the asset vulnerable to mishaps. The asset performance management gives business organizations the ability to determine which asset information is pivotal to achieve optimum asset health. By automated analysis of specific asset data, a ranking is generated for priority assets and actionable recommendations are integrated into the digital environment for organization-wide risk management. In many companies, process & maintenance documentation lacks visibility on their critical assets, which can be rectified with the help of Asset Performance Management. Too often, it’s seen that companies perform maintenance that does not carry risk mitigation benefit; which ultimately increases operational cost. That’s why; asset performance management equips plant operators with asset strategy which can even recognize potential failure risks that do not have any safety program or monitoring mitigation in place. Some of the unique proposition APM can serve to Oil&Gas industry are seen below, Gartner forecasts that by 2018, 50% of asset-intensive organizations will rely on Asset Performance Management (APM) to help them optimize the performance of their critical assets.

The APM has the power to combine real-time data with rich knowledge feed of plant professionals, and through connectivity and analytics; an actionable loop of analysis is created to detect safety risks and uptime threats. Advanced APM software’s have made effective implementation of APM principal in asset-intensive industries and the trend is picking up as the global companies face ups and downs of Oil&Gas markets. Oil&Gas organizations can achieve significant improvement in reliability, availability, and safety by providing employees,
personnel’s with usable tools that allow them to achieve meaningful operational & business oriented goals. The asset performance management software’s deal with daily operational challenges by optimizing monitoring (predictive rather than reactive); inspection and driving maintenance efficiencies and thereby fulfills important attributes like safety, asset longevity, availability and cost control.

A quick look at how Asset Performance Management can perform to facilitate safety and availability – Petrochemical plant production line has assets like boilers, pipelines. Each asset requires unique maintenance policy & schedules. Assets generate Big Data. Combining historical data with real-time data prepares Asset data repository. APM comes into play – It compares different process variables with real-time asset data, & plant operators could review the asset’s operating condition. Over the time, based on data analysis & analytics, predictive condition monitoring can be done as maintenance issues are identified beforehand. For improved safety & availability, FMEA (Failure Mode Effects Analysis)could be used to ensure steps for planned maintenance of priority assets. This automated loop is then reiterated for the next line of critical assets.

In terms of business case, justification of investment in APM software is important for Board level executives as its implications can affect P&L metrics in a balance sheet. Generally, maintenance activities are seen in different zeal and are later recognized as critical activity due to lack of vision in aspects related to asset safety and availability. Sooner or later, it has to be realized that unnecessary exposure to safety risks and equipment failure can have a major impact on revenue and production output. The asset performance management is the only system that can simultaneously predict and assess the impacts of bad incidents combined using effective methodologies like RCM (Reliability Centered Maintenance), RBI (Risk-based Inspection).

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