5 Steps to Minimizing Downtime During Shutdowns & Turnarounds

The simplistic view of operational shutdowns and turnarounds is that they are maintenance events. A more realistic approach considers that the impact and scope of these events extends far beyond the mentioned functions. They can command significant capital, time, and operating budgets. They also attract the attention of the board of directors, shareholders, and have a significant impact on inventory supply chains. It is important to follow these 5 steps in general in order to minimize downtime.

  1. Better Strategic Planning

Organizations tend to base shutdown and turnaround cost on past performance, without taking the time to consider inflation or the changes in price since the last event. For example, some turnaround management teams choose to add a 10% contingency buffer to the costs of previous shutdown tasks when setting the budget for the upcoming one. They could discover that turnaround cost grew by approximately 50% over the last four shutdowns, even though the scope was essentially the same.

Another example includes the price of nickel, a critical component in many shutdowns and turnarounds. Over the past five years, nickel has risen and fallen to over $9.00 a pound at its highest and just under $4.00 at its lowest. Those who need large quantities of alloy materials containing nickel may find that these fluctuations greatly affect their budgets.

  1. Advanced Scope Development

Organizations may establish a structured scope process that reviews the value, as well as the cost and risk associated with each proposed task. Cross-functional teams focus on cost reduction, as well as prioritizing tasks that meet desired equipment reliability criteria. An important change in scope development is “challenge out” to “challenge in.” This approach requires each task to be justified, rather than assuming it should automatically be included in the scope.

  1. Reconsider Preventative Maintenance

Preventative maintenance is a step up from the traditional practice of reactive maintenance. In some instances, it is not the most time or cost-efficient means for the current climate, especially in the oil and gas industry. Experts are recommending plants move towards reliability-centered maintenance. This is the practice of ensuring all possible maintenance tasks are carried out at the most opportune time and not necessarily waiting for a shutdown. This will guarantee performance and life cycle are maintained and that the shutdown is free from tasks that are performed too late or early.

We recommend having purchasing contingencies for mass transfer tower components in place long before the shutdown or turnaround. This includes items such as trays, packing, and hardware in advance, which will allow you to avoid expediting fees or extending down time due to delivery waits.

  1. Invest in Tech

Condition monitoring is one of the latest and most productive developments in technology. This happens when a monitoring and analysis technology constantly records the state of equipment, making it possible to determine the ideal point when maintenance should be carried out. It is especially useful in the upstream and offshore oil and gas industries where accessing assets comes with a high cost. The technology also allows you to extend your component life, tracks trends in equipment wear, can generate a maintenance schedule, and minimizes downtime by alerting you to problems before they happen.

We recommend comprehensively reviewing the performance of your existing tower internals. This will allow you to consider adding new technology to your tower that could lengthen and improve the run of existing equipment versus repairing or replacing current components.

  1. Safety Always

Safety systems should be reviewed to ensure your processes are working correctly to detect faults while removing redundancies that do not improve safety. Plants can save themselves from lost production by ensuring unplanned shutdowns do not occur in this manner. One such company did not do so, a fire ensued, and the shutdown cost them 500,000 barrels a day – with no known cause for the fire in the days that followed it.

AMACS is a trusted, global supplier to the refining, chemical, petrochemical, and gas processing industries. AMACS engineers are leaders in offering industry solutions in the design and manufacture of separation and mass transfer equipment. AMACS offers customers a seasoned consulting team to advise the correct “replacement in-kind equipment” of hardware, trays, packing, and mist eliminators for towers, regardless of the original manufacturer. The team is available 24/7 to quickly service planned or unplanned shutdowns while manufacturing items quickly from our Houston or Monterrey facility.