It's All About the Condition!


Looking through a recent edition of the Journal of Petroleum Engineering (JPT), my eye was drawn to an article about Condition and Performance Maintenance. Whether you know this as Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM), Condition and Performance Maintenance (CPM) or simply just Asset Management (AM) the concept is still the same. It's all about taking data from different systems, identifying any change from the norm and then taking action to rectify this deviation before it becomes an equipment failure.

This is nothing new, I can hear you mutter. That is true – this is not a new concept. But then innovation is often about using existing technology in a new way – see the inspirational story about the car part incubator.

The JPT article looks at data from subsea production systems. This is an extremely salient point since it goes beyond equipment that is normally monitored (such as pumps, heat exchangers or compressors) and into the sphere of hydraulic and electronic elements, valves and even the performance of the sensors themselves.

The crux of the issue is not just about identifying when equipment is deviating from its normal state, however. There have been condition-based monitoring programs for rotating equipment for many years (how many times have you seen a forlorn PC sat in the corner of a control room, that is monitoring the performance of a compressor?). The big issue has always been – and remains – getting the data and information from the asset (which could be in a remote location, or offshore) to the expert, rather than the other way around. Fewer experts, a greater focus on removing risk and the logistical all explain why the PC typically looks so forlorn!

At a recent conference a key point was made in regard to data and the cost of transferring this between a remote asset and the main office. Fibre links provide a cost-effective way of doing this, but where they are not available then we have to rely on more costly satellite links. That said, if that satellite infrastructure prevents experts travelling or the loss of even one day's production, what return on investment would that provide?

Systems exist to take real-time data and compress it then enable this to be sent in "bursts" back to the beach. This provides a mechanism to get near real-time data that experts can get to work on at a company’s offices – or even geographically dispersed teams working together. The key thing is to get people reviewing the changes flagged up, intepreting the information gleaned and then taking action. That is the step that is currently missing – although some companies are moving down that route.

"If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got."

The software engines to identify changes in the state of equipment from data – and take action – exist. The technology to enable people to review this information in a contextual way exists. The technology to inform and engage people exists. And every company certainly has smart people! So what stops the wider adoption of this preventative approach to equipment failure?

Condition-based maintenance is possible today and shows huge potential benefit on all aspects of production – subsea, topsides and pipeline monitoring. Where change is needed is in the mindset and alignment of people to drive this within an organisation. As Winston Churchill once said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

About the Author
Andy Coward is Senior Director, Business Solutions at P2 Energy Solutions.

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