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Reliability-Centered Maintenance: Drive Out Downtime With Data

An RCM strategy built on asset data can help you get ahead of failures, improve reliability and reduce risks

Maximum asset availability with minimal risk. This has long been the goal for oil and gas operations. But, achieving it has historically been more of an art than a science for many companies because they lacked a crucial component: insight into equipment performance metrics.

Nowadays, a shortage of operations and performance data is no longer the issue. Many operators today are collecting an abundance of data as they create a digital oilfield. Oil and gas producers are eager to take it to the next level and use data from their equipment, devices and systems as part of a reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) program – so they can identify, and programmatically and methodically address failures before they occur.

However, an RCM strategy isn’t simply about collecting data. You need to make sure you get the right data from the right sources. And, you need to consistently monitor and perform analysis to create a continuous improvement approach to reliability maintenance.  This approach will help your workers track health and performance of systems and equipment, identify and address failures before they occur, reduce operational risks and ultimately achieve your desired business results.

The journey to proactive and predictive maintenance can be a bumpy road, especially when you have hundreds of thousands of devices in the field. Other challenges you face – like an aging workforce, security risks and decades-old equipment – only complicate matters further.

But there are ways to simplify the effort. An effective, data-driven RCM strategy can help you maximize equipment performance, minimize downtime, and reduce safety, security and environmental risks.

Understand Your Installed Base

Operations grow and evolve over time. As a result, you may not have a complete picture of all the devices and assets deployed across your operations.

That’s why an analysis of your installed equipment and systems is a critical first step. The output of this analysis is an inventory of all your equipment assets and devices, maintenance practices, and failure modes. An evaluation of your installed base will tell you what specific technologies you have in place, and identify the status of each of these technologies as current, legacy or obsolete. It can also help you understand the condition of your critical assets and devices – including the network technologies that your operations increasingly rely upon.

It’s important to remember analyzing your installed base can take several months to complete, especially when equipment spans multiple oilfield sites and fields. Support providers, like Rockwell Automation, have deep industry expertise and can complete an analysis across multiple sites in mere weeks, helping you more quickly launch a full RCM strategy.

Get the Right Data

The identification of equipment failures and common failure modes from your work order data is a key outcome of the installed-base analysis. It gets to the heart of your RCM strategy: Learning from past failures to help predict future failures. This, combined with ongoing condition-based monitoring of assets, will allow you to proactively address failing assets, rather than reactively responding to failures.

But none of this is possible if you’re not getting the right data, from the right places, and delivering it to workers in the form of useful information.

Historically, oil and gas operations have manually collected data from their operations. But today, that’s neither necessary nor efficient in the digital oilfield.

The proliferation of IIoT devices in oil and gas – from sensors to smart machines – allow you to automate data collection from virtually any point in your process. A unified network architecture, built on a technology like EtherNet/IP™, can help you avoid “islands” of information. And it can give workers real-time access to that information from anywhere, anytime. Finally, analytics software can combine your real-time performance data and historical maintenance data into useful, contextualized information for workers.

Many technologies and services are available to help you manage your information and support on-site staff. Service providers, such as Rockwell Automation, provide ways to automate data collection processes to collect identity and health data from your networked devices. Data is then modeled with asset-management information to trigger events and send alerts for proactive maintenance. Remote monitoring services can also watch your dispersed assets from a central location and alert your personnel of issues as they happen, and even walk them through solutions.

Tackle Your Top Challenges

With your failure-mode findings in hand, real-time production information accessible and industry experts from a third-party service provider available, building a RCM strategy can be simple.

Step One: Identifying priority equipment and systems to monitor and examining their performance. Installed-base analysis findings will help pinpoint which assets are most critical to your financial, safety and environmental performance. The following questions help you get the most out of the performance data:

  • Is this asset doing its job?
  • Is it producing the value it should?
  • Is it operating at the availability level it should?

Step Two: Improvement plans can be built into your roadmap.

  • For each asset, a successful RCM program will determine which failure modes and conditions you will monitor. On a compressor, for example, you may want to track suction and discharge pressure, temperature, vibration and power.
  • Next, oil and gas analytics that you can apply to each asset are identified.
  • Lastly, an outline of the actions workers will need to take to correct issues before they lead to failures is developed. This could include instructing a technician to schedule a device repair or replacement by a certain date.

Unsure if an asset was configured correctly in the first place? You can find out if proper engineering practices were applied in a processor’s code just by monitoring its performance. You can identify if the process is operating outside its optimal performance level and investigate why it’s happening. You can then resolve the questionable operating modes and mitigate potential failures that those modes may create.

Your RCM strategy can also help you better manage labor costs. For example, you can create a predictive maintenance program for offshore platforms and automatically generate work orders in your maintenance system. This can help you minimize costly and risky travel to the platforms.

Proactive Approaches Already in Use

Some oil and gas companies are already using data to drive proactive decisions in their operations.

One major oil and gas company’s business unit needed to centralize information gathering and monitor its control assets across rural California. It also needed a master inventory of all devices on its oilfield process control network to comply with a new, companywide cyber security policy.

The business unit chose a diagnostic reliability solution from Rockwell Automation. The software-as-a-service technology identifies, interrogates and monitors control hardware. The system informs technicians, for example, if a processor has a low battery so it can be replaced before a failure occurs. The managed-service team also reports on network anomalies to help manage security risks.

The move to proactive maintenance has helped the business unit yield more barrels of oil per day and lower its labor costs in the field. The solution also helped the business unit comply with the company’s cyber security policies.

A proactive maintenance strategy helped this company, and it can also help yours. Through integrated, automated device identification and tracking, companies using the diagnostic reliability service can realize approximately 70 percent reduction in manual data-collection time.

A Smarter Maintenance Strategy

Most failure modes in oil and gas operations are reoccurring. But even the most disciplined calendar-based preventative maintenance programs won’t perfectly resolve these issues. Unexpected downtime can still occur. Traditional time-based maintenance typically creates additional cost and work, and does not necessarily identify the root cause of the failure mode. Service providers can help you implement a RCM strategy to provide you an understanding of the health and performance of your operation and assets, so your team can focus on production issues that improve performance rather than reacting to unplanned events.

For more information on reliability-centered maintenance services, click here for more information.

EtherNet/IP is a trademark of ODVA Inc.


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