Inspectioneering Journal

Inspection: A Critical Element of Turnarounds, Shutdowns and Outages

By Stephen Thomas, Change Management Subject Matter Expert at PK Companies. This article appears in the November/December 2018 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


Within the process industry there are a great many companies that operate on a 24 hours a day, or continuous seven days a week basis. This makes conducting certain types of maintenance extremely difficult because the equipment cannot be taken out of service. Plants that operate in this fashion (i.e., on a predetermined cycle) conduct what are referred to as turnarounds, shutdowns or outages; different names for the same thing dependent on the industry in which you work. For the sake of simplicity let’s call them outages. These outages occur on regular cycles, some of which can be as long as five years or more between events. The whole point behind these major events is to conduct equipment inspection, repair, catalyst change outs, and machine overhauls in a planned manner; restoring them to full functionality and enabling them to run for another cycle, safely and reliably. The frequency in which a planned outage occurs in a plant or process unit is very dependent on equipment condition as monitored during operation and the level of risk that a company is willing to take. Companies that don’t properly schedule outages must recognize that if you don’t take care of the equipment it will fail and shut down your process at the most inopportune time, i.e., unplanned outages. These unplanned failures result in lost production and profit as well many other potential problems.

There are many driving forces behind outages; regulatory issues that must be satisfied, reliability of the equipment over the long-term (which, if not addressed, could negatively affect production), safety issues or even environmental concerns. To address these issues, equipment must be shut down to allow repair. And regardless of why it occurs, an effective outage requires an efficient work effort, driven by a detailed work scope. This is where the Inspection Organization plays a major role.

An outage work scope has numerous inputs, such as Operations identified problems, equipment cleaning, open maintenance items, capital projects, items added to the scope for environmental or safety reasons, and many more. However, the scope submitted by the Inspection Organization is often the most critical piece to long-term reliable, safe and environmental operation of the facility. Why? Because the inputs from all other organizations are the result of known concerns about failed equipment that need to be corrected while the plant is offline. While these inputs are important, the inspection input is quite different and needs to have a higher priority in the development of the outage scope. Inspection is the one group that continually tracks developing asset related failure mechanisms and forecasts potential issues that, if not addressed, could cause serious problems. Some of these concerns can be addressed during operation, but with regard to fixed equipment or process piping, these corrections need to be undertaken during the plant outage.

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Comments and Discussion

Posted by Mohd Azrul Azman on February 27, 2019
Very good article that give important information... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Christos Christoglou on February 28, 2019
Thank you for this article. In our case, when I... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

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