Predictive Assets at Refinery Kickstart Reliability

A large-volume refinery leans on its connected instruments to fully embrace a predictive maintenance strategy that is showing big returns.

Delivering a clear, scalable, functional reliability plan can be a daunting task, and organizations often stumble in getting reliability programs off the ground. The starts and stops of a reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) program—a systematic approach to optimize uptime for individual machines and systems within an enterprise or company—are all too familiar.

Studies show the need for predictive maintenance to improve uptime and move away from preventive or even reactive approaches. Only 18 percent of machine failures are caused by age, according to a survey from NASA and the U.S. Navy. The remaining 82 percent are random failures, showing the need for predictive maintenance approaches, says Ralph Rio, a former maintenance department manager and vice president at ARC Advisory Group.

A large global oil refinery—with predictive maintenance instruments in place—solicited a third-party site assessment from Emerson Reliability Consulting that identified considerable downtime attributed to rotating equipment failures, such as compressors, pumps and turbines. The refinery also learned that its reactive maintenance approach for rotating equipment was seriously hindering availability. Adding insult to injury, the refinery’s reactive maintenance was being conducted despite the availability of predictive maintenance data via existing devices.

The refinery then turned to management to implement a customized reliability culture program to instill an uptime ethos and procedure for better asset management.

Building blocks for a predictive maintenance approach were present at the plant via Emerson Process Management’s CSI 2130 Machinery Health Analyzer and AMS Machinery Manager software. Also, the refinery is continuously adding smart instruments, such as flow instruments.

The Machinery Health Analyzer determines the health of rotating machinery by integrating multiple data points—including vibration and oil analysis, thermography, alignment and balancing—into a single database. The health manager at this refinery uses a dual-channel option for vibration analysis, which allows for quicker decision-making.

Culture change
The operations and maintenance culture had to change before predictive maintenance became a de facto procedure, so the refinery targeted 2016 to fully implement the reliability culture program. The reliability team was created to begin a plant-wide buy-in effort, which included managers at all levels of the organization. This comprehensive technical and culture reliability project included workshops and maintenance application videos in the first eight months to spur engagement.

From a purely operational viewpoint, the refinery began building its case by revealing large asset inefficiencies from the third-party audit assessment. Specific assets were costing up to 80 percent of the budget, along with failing equipment and bringing operators to the plant in the middle of the night.

The refinery created a reliability screening committee to drive implementation, which included timelines, initiatives, monitoring progress and providing support. Out of this committee came a rotating equipment reliability roadmap with budgeting, explanations and recommendations. A business case was to be developed for each device.

With the Machinery Health Analyzer software in place, the reliability committee focused on vibration monitoring for rotating equipment. “The refinery vibration program uses PeakVue measurements in their vibration surveys,” says Asad Malik, reliability solutions sales leader for Emerson.

Pump deterioration can be caused by imbalance, corrosion and wear, fouling, sediment buildup or poorly lubricated parts. The vibration measurement at the refinery transmits directly to the control room and works by focusing on impacting, rather than traditional vibration signals. This provides an accurate indicator of the overall asset health for pumps, fans, motors or any other rolling element bearing machine.

“By using this vibration data technology for anti-friction bearings, the refiner has not only avoided sudden failures by detecting early symptoms of bearing deterioration, but has also identified degrading lubricant conditions,” Malik says.

Along with implementation, the reliability committee enacted key performance indicators (KPIs). The results are impressive: Rotating equipment is now enjoying more than 100 percent improvement in mean time between failure, with increases of more than 150 percent for compressors and turbines and more than 50 percent for pumps. Overall, mechanical availability for the plant has jumped to 98 percent.

The program has saved several million dollars in energy waste, driving double- and triple-digit increases in identifying defects and the efficiency of certain energy systems.

This comprehensive RCM program has only just begun, with more plant modernizing plans coming with more smart instrumentation. According to the refiner, the program provided an efficient way of using plant data and in the process changed the culture at the refinery. Now employees can convert available data to information, use that information to make decisions, and use those decisions to create value for everyone at the plant.

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