Low oil prices. High operating costs.
These are the issues at the forefront for those in oil and gas operations.
The challenges are compounded by the need to stay competitive and yet keep costs under control.
In many ways, it all comes down to maintenance.
But while oil and gas facilities are costly to build and operate, they’re also pricey to maintain.
In fact, the cumulative cost of oil and gas plant maintenance over its lifetime is nearly equal to the expense of designing, constructing and commissioning it.
Here’s what you need to know.
The effect of low prices on oil and gas refinery maintenance
The bottom line is that low oil prices tend to have a negative effect on maintenance practices.
In an effort to save money, oil and gas refinery maintenance that is considered “non-essential” is put on the backburner, including planned turnarounds and shutdowns.
This practice may reduce costs in the short-term, but it’s not worth it for the long haul.
There are several issues that can result from postponing plant maintenance.
In addition to a maintenance backlog, equipment reliability over the long term suffers. Machinery that isn’t taken care of properly won’t last as long as it should.
In a domino effect, as equipment starts to fail, production suffers, and finally, safety becomes an even greater concern.
2005 Texas City refinery disaster
On March 23, 2005, an oil refinery in Texas City, Texas exploded.
Fifteen workers were killed, 180 were injured and the refinery itself was severely damaged.
Years later, the U.S. Chemicals Board noted that the 2005 disaster was the result of poor corporate spending decisions in the 90s, when oil prices were low.
Specifically, cutbacks were made in the areas of maintenance and training.
The right maintenance at the right time
Not only should maintenance be a top priority, it’s crucial that the tasks being performed are the appropriate ones.
In oil and gas operations, over-maintaining is a common problem, too.
Not only does it compound the backlog issue, it poses unnecessary risks for personnel.
Considering 27% of injuries are associated with performing maintenance tasks, over-maintenance is a credible danger.
Failure to remain current
Many oil and gas refineries don’t change their maintenance methods despite shifts in production and market trends.
Operators are still following Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations, which results in unnecessary maintenance.
This puts a strain on workers as well as the budget.
Optimizing plant maintenance for the oil and gas industry
The answer to the issues of improper and over-maintenance lies in optimizing maintenance efforts.
Of course, the goal of any gas pipeline maintenance program is to effectively care for equipment for the lowest possible cost.
It’s a hard standard to uphold when the target is constantly in motion.
Economic considerations, production capabilities, technology and personnel competence are always changing.
So, an oil pipeline maintenance program that’s optimal today may not be in the future.
A recent solution comes in the form of reliability-centered maintenance (RCM).
It uses mathematical formulas to determine appropriate gas refinery maintenance activities.
This approach has several benefits.
- Processes can be finetuned quickly in response to fluctuating economic conditions.
- Oil and gas pipeline maintenance tasks can be planned based on the business benefits they create.
- Makes it easier to balance maintenance needs with actual capabilities to perform the tasks.
Pipeline and refinery maintenance matters
The bottom line is that appropriate, regular oil and gas maintenance is vital.
Not only in terms of economics but for the safety of personnel, as well.
Low gas prices may make cutting corners on oil and gas refinery maintenance seem like a good idea, but the consequences are never worth it.
When you’re creating a reliability-centered maintenance program for your oil or gas facility, consider partnering with a trusted vendor for expedited shipping and emergency transportation needs to get the part you need on time, every time.