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Situation Awareness and Crude Unit Turnaround Work Execution

By Greg Alvarado at Inspectioneering Journal. September 18, 2014

This blog post is the second in a series about situation awareness (SA). The first part of this series introduced SA (defined as the gathering and utilization of data in real time and using it to improve work processes) and introduced an example of how real-time SA can be applied to plant turnarounds to better achieve your turnaround objectives. Now, let’s jump into a deeper example.

Engineer-Working-On-Computer

Turnaround Planning for a Crude Unit

This example focuses on turnaround (T/A) planning for a refinery’s crude unit. Crude units are critical from both safety and business perspectives. These units are where the refining process starts. If they are not in operation, the owner must purchase replacement product to feed the numerous units downstream of them. This is not a desirable state of business as it is more costly and presents additional market risks.

In this example, T/A planning for the crude unit starts nearly 20 months prior to the turnaround itself. Prior to the T/A, various lists are compared to begin scope planning. Inspection, maintenance, operations, and HS&E lists, among others, are considered within this scope. Work is planned based on preventative maintenance schedules, risk assessments, OEM recommendations (especially for rotating equipment), issues observed since the last T/A, as well as other considerations. Sometimes owner/operators look to accomplish smaller Capex projects for de-bottlenecking, expansions, changes to improve the efficiency and/or yields, or to modify instrumentation systems, etc. You can see why effective and “crisp” coordination between discipline areas is so critical to achieve optimum effectiveness and efficiencies.

Next, the lists are challenged by knowledgeable teams to determine if the work is actually necessary and as a check to make sure nothing was omitted from the list - a credibility check based on experience and recollection of past issues. Oftentimes today, the list is checked using risk- or criticality-based methods but could still be done the old-fashioned way, depending largely on memory and experience, as they can be quite subjective.

The on-stream inspection program (i.e. preventative best practices like RBI, FFS, damage mechanisms reviews, IOWs, and data gathered by strategic NDE inspections) should provide extensive information on the equipment and issues that need to be addressed during the T/A in order to avoid surprises and help accurately anticipate the damage states of the equipment. This can include pressure vessels, piping, heat exchangers, day tanks, receivers, and air coolers. In addition to this, there are other areas to be followed up, such as rotating equipment, safety instrumented systems, PHA “hit list” items, and other work that can only be addressed during an outage or T/A. This of course helps planners line up the crafts, materials, contractors, equipment, and any other resources needed to run the T/A as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Contractors include, but are not limited to lagging, scaffolding, OEM teams (compressor refurbishment, for example), NDE, inspection, equipment, equipment contractors, engineering and consulting, coatings, field welding, QA/QC, electrical, pipe-fitting, EPC, contract field maintenance, and heat treatment professionals.  Many different disciplines and workers, with various levels of supervision, converge on owner/operator coordinators and other overseers.  All are converging on the close of the T/A, when equipment is returned to operations for “feed in.”  The T/A team should reserve all of the necessary manpower support and materials in advance of the T/A.

For this example let’s focus on inspection, which can involve a lot of related crafts to ready the equipment for inspection, and execute repairs if necessary. Typically, the work list is uploaded to a T/A planning tool used to coordinate activities from a relatively high level (e.g. atmospheric crude tower – Has it been prepped for inspection? Has the inspection been completed? etc.). These tools typically stop short of details including, but not limited to:

  • whether that particular work has started
  • whether or not it has been completed
  • where is it in its task execution cycle
  • whether or not an unanticipated problem been encountered
  • whether or not resources have been deployed to deal with unanticipated problems expediently
  • whether or not scheduled maintenance work has started
  • the status of such scheduled maintenance work
  • whether or not anything has happened that would delay turnaround completion
  • where the various teams are at any given time during work execution
  • whether any surprises have just been discovered

Now roll all of these considerations up just for inspection, and include all the other tasks and activities that are not inspection related. Where are they in their completion cycle?

Another important task is estimating how complete activities are at any point during the T/A. This is critical for many reasons including:

  • Estimating whether you are going to hit the T/A endpoint target. Are you on  track to do this?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to know the overall, with confidence at any milestone within the T/A (impossible without details in systematic context)?
  • Wouldn’t it also be nice to have assurance that the right people have been deployed, that they are doing the right things (implementing best practices the way the subject matter experts and best practices recommend), at the right times? And knowing that no critical safety steps have been missed?
  • Wouldn’t it also be nice to reduce, or even eliminate, re-work during the T/A, minimize delays, and overcome the time wasters associated with working in series instead of concurrent or parallel paths?
  • Wouldn’t it also be nice to have full documentation and traceability at the desired level of detail to ensure everything was done right?
  • Wouldn’t it also be nice to have all of the data, after the fact, in hand, to identify performance trends based on key parameters so you can be even more successful with future T/A’s?

What’s Next?

The next installment of this series will dive into the details of taking work lists from their coordination platform(s) and connecting them with a central mobile system to guide tasks and activities by equipment and synchronize them with the existing platform(s). I’ll demonstrate how having all of your data in a centralized system can create work efficiencies and provide some interesting connections between your existing platforms.


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