Maintenance of both onshore and offshore facilities is a complex and demanding discipline. Maintenance can be viewed as a solely technical discipline, with little commercial consideration given to determining an appropriate and sufficient maintenance regime. Given that the cumulative cost of maintaining a facility over its lifetime can rival the capital costs required to design, construct and commission the facility, it makes the commercial context of maintenance noteworthy.
In a low oil price environment operators are pressured to maintain uptime and production, postponing non-essential maintenance and stalling shutdowns and turnarounds. This is compounded by offshore accommodation limitations, the perpetual reduction in people resource to undertake tasks and uncertainty relating to the rationale for existing maintenance programs. However unjustified deferral is only a short term gain, affecting the medium to long term reliability of equipment, production levels and ultimately safety.
Operators struggle under this unattainable maintenance burden, which leads to escalating maintenance backlogs and facility unreliability, often combined with an inability to liquidate production-enhancing or important asset integrity workscopes.
This challenge isn’t a new one. As an industry we’re accustomed to fluctuating prices and poor alignment in priorities. In 2008, the then US Chemicals Board Chairman (CSB), John Bresland, released a video safety message calling for Industry to remain focused on process safety and accident prevention during recession. He noted that the CSB investigation of the 2005 Texas City refinery disaster linked the accident to corporate spending decisions in the 1990s, when low oil prices triggered cutbacks in maintenance, training, and operator positions at the plan.
In the UK, the issue is highlighted in numerous industry reports including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) KP3 and KP4 reports which focus primarily on the maintenance management of Safety Critical Elements (SCEs), Integrity Management and aging assets.
It is becoming more widely recognised that there are substantial gains to be realised through the optimisation of maintenance activity sets, and in gaining the maximum value from the deployment of valuable resources, both human and material. Engineering expertise and new technologies offer a means to leverage the abundance of industry data and historical asset data to rationalise and focus maintenance efforts based on criticality, product price and total cost of ownership, cost of maintenance and consequences of failure.
The maintenance burden
For a typical offshore installation with an operational life of 30 years and approximately 50,000 maintainable equipment items, in the region of 750,000 Work Orders will be generated, leading to some 9,000,000 hours of activity. In total this can represent a cumulative expenditure of up to £2 Billion and, with many facilities exceeding their original design life, the costs of maintenance can continue accumulating significantly beyond that which was originally anticipated.
Up to 25% of offshore personnel can be engaged in the management, supervision, preparation and execution of maintenance activities on an offshore installation. Performing only the correct maintenance at the correct time is of paramount importance in order to maximise the utilisation of every available offshore bed.
The requirement to perform only appropriate maintenance is further reinforced when it is considered that 27% of all offshore injuries are associated with maintenance, and that 10% of all Hydrocarbon releases are directly ascribed to maintenance activity.
Conversely, over-maintaining offshore equipment is also prevalent, compounding the backlog issue and introducing unnecessary personnel risks. Many assets operate with a maintenance strategy and plan which are a legacy of a past economic era, and have typically remained constant over the asset life, irrespective of changing production and commercial realities. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations can go unchallenged resulting in unnecessary maintenance burdens which place significant pressure on asset teams and operational budgets.
Similarly, it is seldom the case that equipment with a safety-related function are maintained such that the required Functionality, Availability, Reliability or Survivability (FARS) criteria are easily able to be demonstrated, or intervals modulated according to the changing performance of the equipment.
Backlogs occur when maintenance hasn’t been carried out when due. The issues can be attributed to factors including:
- The volume of Planned Maintenance (PM) work being discordant with the available resources,
- Increased volumes of Corrective Maintenance (CM) due to facility ageing
- Inappropriate remedial timescales associated with CM activities
- The prioritisation of other workscopes
The ability to refine maintenance in response to changing criteria is key. Maintenance has to evolve as plants age and, as set out by the HSE, should take into consideration:
- Changes to operating parameters and other relevant modifications.
- Experience gained in the operation of equipment (condition findings, failures, efficiency of performance etc).
- Improvements in technology through the equipment’s life-cycle (eg equipment design, maintenance and inspection techniques).
- The tolerability of failure and risk may change.
- The inclusion of commercial criteria when optimising maintenance.
Determining an optimal planned maintenance program that marries both technical and commercial considerations, and quantitatively determines the optimum periodicity for planned maintenance help abolish the burden and safely reduce operating costs. Read the full white paper to understand how to optimise maintenance in pre-operations and operations.
Does your maintenance strategy fit your commercial and safety objectives? The full white paper can be downloaded here.