Managing maintenance

Audrey Leon

January 1, 2017

Audrey Leon speaks with Lloyd’s Register about a new cloud-based software aimed at optimizing maintenance programs and reducing operational expenditures by up to 40%.

Image from iStock.

Managing maintenance in the current climate is a tremendous challenge. To help reduce costs, downtime and lost production there is pressure to defer activities where possible, but can this be done safely and what are the true operational and bottom line benefits? There’s no denying optimizing maintenance schedules for older assets could produce positive results in the long-term. With work to be done, analysts Douglas Westwood anticipate a recovery in maintenance, modifications and operations expenditure out to 2021.

“The market is forecast to witness expenditure increasing from US$81 billion in 2017 to $95 billion in 2021 for the world’s global offshore platform population of approximately 8700 fixed and floating assets. This forecast expenditure will be comprised of asset services (60%), which focuses on the repair and maintenance of structural, mechanical and electrical systems on platforms,” the firm said in December.

Many companies are looking to advise operators on how to improve aging asset performance. Lloyd’s Register recently acquired RTAMO Ltd. in October 2016, a company that was formed by Dr. Neil Arthur in 2014. RTAMO (Real-Time Adaptive Maintenance Optimization) is a standalone cloud-based software-enabled service that is based on a 10-year development program including government funded academic research, which culminated in establishing predictive algorithms linking planned maintenance to economic and reliability outcomes. In some cases, RTAMO has been able to achieve an up to 40% reduction in operational maintenance expenditure, Arthur says.

“Maximizing economic recovery” is certainly an industry buzz phrase as of the last few years. With this in mind, Arthur says there has been a huge amount of effort undertaken to challenge both the need for shutdowns and the scope and content, because cutting down or eliminating shutdowns helps to increase the recovery factor and reduce operations costs for the facility.

RTAMO technology

Source: Lloyd's Register.

Arthur says RTAMO is different for three main reasons – one, it’s a technology that has been developed from academia; two, it’s a cloud-based platform, which makes it very scalable and easily adopted; three, the speed of implementation. Arthur says RTAMO can be easily implemented, typically undertaking optimization from start to finish in around four months for a typical facility.

RTAMO, which does not need to integrate with operator’s maintenance management systems, takes data from a computerized maintenance management system, as well as some commercial information about the facility, uses the algorithms within its engine to optimize the activity set and pushes that back out to the enterprise asset management system, Arthur says.

“RTAMO is essentially a commercial model of the facility so that at any point in time, if something changes, – be it oil price, labor rate, or the reliability of a piece of equipment – the maintenance changes in direct response to that,” he says. “It’s called Real-time Adaptive Maintenance Optimization, but as quickly as you implement the change in RTAMO, you can quickly implement the change in the corresponding maintenance program. For example, the maintenance program today would look very different in six months’ time if the oil price rises or production reduces.”

Mid-to-late life management

Most engineers will tell you that the best time to optimize a facility is in the design stage. However, once the facility is built, operators have to roll with the punches as they come.

“The best time to optimize maintenance is at all times because things change all the time,” Arthur points out. So far, in response to the low oil price environment, Lloyd’s Register has found that most of its implementation of RTAMO has been carried out on mid-to-late life operations.

“Quite honestly – the maintenance that is carried out on a facility that is 20 years old can often be the same maintenance that was carried out at the start of the production facility life,” Arthur says. “There’s no rational explanation for me why you would maintain equipment with the same cost base and same effort when you are producing 5000 b/d opposed to 105,000 b/d.”

Arthur says that operators need to look at, not just reducing the cost of maintenance, but, being more targeted to the pieces of equipment that require the maintenance. “We reduce maintenance on less critical equipment and, if necessary, we introduce more maintenance for production critical equipment to maximize throughput.”

One of the issues plaguing operators is the volume of data that amasses throughout the life of a facility, which is too difficult for a human to manage. The key, Arthur says, is being able to take the volumes of data and turn that into information that allows the asset operator to make decisions. This is a true implementation of ‘Big Data’ concepts.

What if you don’t have data? There are plenty of reasons why a facility may have missing historical information (changing operating companies, etc.). Arthur says that there are industry standard data sets (libraries) that can be used for reliability calculations. “We built in proprietary standards so you can still build it in for your facility if nothing exists,” he adds.

Lloyd’s Register implemented RTAMO on a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) unit in the UK North Sea, some 100km from Aberdeen, at 120m water depth.

Lloyd’s conducted the optimization project with the operator, seeking site-specific assistance with the offshore community, Arthur says.

“We reviewed and optimized the entire maintenance program on the basis of RTAMO technology and implemented the changes into the maintenance management system itself,” he says. “That had the full backing of the team. That included all the necessary approvals from the operational team prior to deployment.”

The six-month project involved data downloading, data cleansing, optimization scope rationalization, and optimized maintenance plan upload. Arthur says, the operator is reporting significant benefits in terms of streamlined maintenance burden and a reduction to the maintenance backlog.

Arthur says a huge focus for the oil and gas industry right now is dealing with the volume of maintenance that is being generated from management systems, which can result in a significant backlog.

“Quite often we have found that tuning the maintenance strategies, and the work coming out of the maintenance management system, can help with the ability to manage the maintenance backlog,” Arthur says.