Using asset integrity to enhance the bottom line

Gregory Hale

December 1, 2015

Gregory Hale discusses how operators can get more out of their current assets, and add more to the bottom line.

All images from Honeywell.

Systems on a platform floating in the middle of the ocean were running the same way it had been from the heady days of oil coming in at over US$100/bbl.

Those days, however, are gone and looking like they will not be back for a while, if ever, so the operator knew they needed to remain profitable, they had to squeeze as much out of their technology to cut costs, reduce the human footprint and increase the ability to visualize the equipment on the platform.

Engineers knew what they had to do. To get more out of what they had, they felt predictive and proactive monitoring of the process and equipment health was paramount. Instead, though, they had islands of monitoring systems.

The operator needed to focus on the sustainable performance of the organization and on boosting economic viability. Faced with the enormity of technical, regulatory and competitive challenges oil and gas producers need to ask:

“The platform had standalone performance monitoring, electrical health monitoring, their condition monitoring for vibration, diagnostics information for smart devices,” said Bart Winters, product director for asset management solutions at Honeywell Process Solutions. “What they wanted to do is to effectively monitor and assess the health of the systems on the platform remotely to bring it in to a central overarching monitoring environment.”

While those standalone monitoring systems worked individually, they were just not efficient in getting relevant information in the hands of the right people to make quick, real-time decisions. In a down market where profits remain tight, operators need to get the most out of every single asset. That is why the time is right to create a smarter environment to get the biggest return on producing assets while ensuring a safe environment.

“Production for the most part is up, but producers are planning on oil prices staying low,” said Dan O’Brien, global director of production management at Honeywell Process Solutions. “They are going to survive and maintain profitability by increasing production efficiency and cost savings. The game changer is software and technology, which is going to derive so much (information) in the next few years for production efficiency and cost savings. Software driven technologies matter.”

Gaining more visibility into what is happening in the process not only allows for greater asset usability and less unplanned downtime, but also a safer environment.

With over 6700 platforms in operation around the world, at least 30% have been in operation for more than 20 years – working way beyond their original design. That means operators have to make sure an asset can perform its required function effectively, safely and productively.

Add to that industry averages suggest 5% of production capacity is lost each year due to unplanned downtime and in a down market those numbers can add up. More than any other reason, equipment failures are the most common culprit. When you combine this with fewer people and money, keeping the operation running can be daunting.

“Producers need to look at three main areas: Get the most out the assets running today, a relentless focus on safety and take advantage of operational improvements in operations,” O’Brien said.

Asset optimization has multiple data points to pull information to every part of the enterprise. 

Three other areas to boost operational integrity include:

“There is increased complexity in the equipment we are monitoring and the processes and the time to respond to information to make decisions,” Winters said. “Another challenge we see is the aging workforce and the skills shortage. There is more demand for remotely hosting and providing support for facilities remotely with subject matter experts. We see a lot of firefighting instead of proactive optimization and proactive or predictive maintenance. Instead of planning effectively, we see a lot of emergency work, which means more time and money is involved to get resources to the platforms.”

Squeezing out cost

When operators are using a planned comprehensive optimization program, there are positive results.

What we have seen is a reduction in operating and maintenance costs by $15-30 million a year by reducing downtime operating costs by being able to proactively predict pump and compressor failures as well as shut ins,” Winters said. “The indirect savings are up to $50 million a year by reducing the staffing requirements and other things.”

Just finding information available for a compressor has its challenges, Winters said. How does an engineer know and understand the health of that equipment? Operations may report a problem and then the engineer has to ask if the issue can wait until the next turnaround, then what is important for me in the next turnaround from a maintenance standpoint, and am I really operating efficiently right now? To find answers to those questions, today that engineer has to go to a variety of resources to find answers.

“Capturing data that is available and capturing it in the context of the asset is important,” Winters said.

By integrating real time process data with online and offline condition monitoring, it is possible to identify, define and monitor process parameters that extend assets’ lives and result in more reliable operation.

Let’s face it, process changes have a significant impact on equipment behavior and reliability, which in turn show up in the process data. It is now possible to see how process parameters affect asset performance.

Keep systems running

One of the challenges with asset integrity and equipment effectiveness is to reduce unplanned downtime.

“One user believes they have upwards of 50% of their maintenance costs coming from misoperation of equipment,” Winters said. “By being able to identify those behaviors and practices and improve on them, you will see an improvement on the lifecycle and reliability of the equipment.

“Being able to identify behaviors and practices, we see an improvement in the lifecycle and reliability of equipment. We also see the safety challenge. Processes that are more reliable are safer process and safer places to work.”

Technology to help hike production

Norway’s Statoil needed to offset declining production levels, so it went about incorporating new technologies into production processes to transform, streamline and improve them. Compared with a worldwide average recovery rate of 35%, Statoil sought to increase its rate to 55% for subsea platforms and 65% for fixed platforms.

Statoil partnered with IBM, ABB, Aker Kvaerner and SKF to create a new process framework that links advanced real-time sensing capabilities in the field to make collaborative and analytical resources accessible across the enterprise.

Boosting the recovery rate of existing fields could add billions in revenues.

The plan’s objectives were: