​Data analytics helping upgrader, refinery operators reduce maintenance spend without compromising safety: EY

Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

A new market study has found that leading industry practices are allowing operators to sustain or even exceed average asset availability without compromising safety.

“Safety remains paramount and continues to be a driver in maintenance and operating decisions despite cost pressures,” EY says in its report, Evolving asset challenges and opportunities in Canada’s oil and gas downstream sector.

EY noted a general trend toward longer maintenance intervals among refinery and upgrader operators across Canada.

Part of what makes this possible is the collection of more and better quality of data and the use of analytics to provide better decisions on equipment maintenance.

A number of business consultancies have now published papers on how to capture a deeper layer of process efficiencies through the application of more sophisticated IT solutions.

Making the most of the data many companies already collect but don’t adequately analyze is a logical first step that can reduce the need for human monitoring, or even extend maintenance intervals based on actual, rather than presumed, equipment condition.

But not all companies have faith in IT solutions that promise improved cost efficiencies.

“We found that 86 per cent of respondents use real-time monitoring sensors and software to collect and analyze data, as opposed to manual measurement,” says EY’s Lance Mortlock.

“However, many operators are still risk averse in implementing new technology or processes.”

Apart from the better use of data and analytics, EY noted three other leading practices to reduce outages and improve safety:

  • Reduce and simplify the scope of planned turnarounds: This leads to shorter turnarounds with less disruption to the facility, fewer critical paths that could cause delays and better resource planning, particularly around manpower.
  • Perform routine inspections and act on issues identified in a shorter time frame: Taking critical equipment offline for repairs at a specific interval could prevent longer outages in the future. Detecting issues earlier can prevent additional “found work” during turnarounds, which is a huge factor in cost overruns, according to EY.
  • Retain or employ a consistent workforce: By retaining institutional knowledge of the facility, operators waste less time on locating under-performers and reduce mistakes attributable to unfamiliarity with unique assets. Regular workforce planning should also identify the gaps between current and future workforce needs.

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