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Cutting costs through condition-based maintenance

15 September 2015

Gordon Ellis, operations director at XPD8 Solutions, discusses how an effective condition based maintenance programme can cut costs, increase safety and improve productivity in the oil & gas sector.

With low oil prices causing headaches for everyone in the oil & gas industry, the focus has turned to cutting costs and maximising efficiencies without compromising safety. However, even taking into account this push to drive down spending, for those carrying out work on platforms or floating production storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) there will always be a requirement for effective monitoring and maintenance programmes.

Ultimately, it is about providing an assurance that machinery is being looked after to a high standard and will enable work to continue to operate with minimal waste. The most reliable way to achieve this is through successful data collection and using this information to ensure the integrity of critical machinery.

Condition based maintenance (CBM) – the science of determining the optimum time for machinery to be repaired or replaced – is one way of achieving this. It is able to identify, through the use of collected data and its analysis, the required actions to keep equipment performing at the most efficient level and is an important aspect of making certain that production continues at its desired rate.

The CBM system has numerous benefits when compared with more traditional methods such as planned maintenance. By tracking the performance of a machine, CBM highlights when an item is not operating at a desired level and remedial work is required. This means repairs are carried out as required, rather than on a planned maintenance regular schedule, which may mean repair work is not warranted and can also lead to machines being vulnerable to earlier than expected breakdowns.

Offshore production critical machines regularly have inbuilt spare capacity in the form of a second back-up machine sitting alongside the working appliance. This is due to the potentially large revenue losses if the platform is unable to operate. In the case of a gas turbine generator (GTG) being unavailable, for example, the spare capacity will prevent long-term losses. However, if the duty GTG fails without warning, the likeliest outcome would still be a production upset caused by the switch over. Typically, this will equate to a loss of production for anything from between 24 and 48 hours.

CBM provides sufficient warning through the data gathered to highlight potential machinery failures. This will enable the spare capacity machinery to begin operating and gradually take the strain completely from the failing machine. This changeover, in a controlled manner, can eliminate any downtime or disruption to proceedings and is considerably more cost-effective than the lost-time and repairs that would otherwise occur.  

XPD8 has recently been involved in work on a high-speed compressor. Routine monitoring identified an issue with the vibrations of the machinery. The fault was not immediately threatening to the compressor although it would have shortened its life considerably if the issue had not been discovered and addressed. Had the compressor gone out of commission, capacity at the plant would have been greatly reduced and it is likely the plant would need to flare gas to keep running. Effectively surveying the machinery meant this did not happen.

Technology used in CBM has moved forward in recent years and the introduction of wifi offshore now allows data to be monitored in real-time from land and eliminates the need for a trained person to collect the data offshore.


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