Can You Afford Not to Apply R&M Principles on Your Next Capital Project?

By Robert Motylenski

During the past few years, most refineries and chemical plants have concentrated on improving profitability by reining in operating cost, and moving from reactive maintenance to proactive maintenance to equipment management programs, while either sustaining or improving plant availability.  With the potential for new investments to meet the increased demand for petroleum products and environmental regulations, companies need to utilize a work process for ensuring that reliability and maintenance (R&M) are considered during project development.  This will assure that the new facilities do not jeopardize the profitability gains already achieved and that they will operate reliably and with low maintenance costs.  If reliability and maintenance are not considered, the past efforts to better control operating expenses will be jeopardized and plants will have to undertake new initiatives in the future to curb unacceptable operating costs and poor reliability.

A proven work process is available whose prime objective is to ensure that the inherent reliability imparted to the design is compatible with that needed to achieve the required operational availability, meet business objectives, and achieve the planned return on investment.  This needs to be accomplished at minimum investment cost and without jeopardizing future plant availability.  A second objective is to ensure that the plant will remain competitive with regard to maintenance cost and resource requirements by including equipment maintenability in the work process.

To maximize the benefits from the work process, involvement needs to begin as soon as project screening and early planning are underway.  This reduces the potential for cost and schedule impacts from changes made later in project development, since the cost of design changes geometrically increases as a project moves from one phase to the next.  Another reason for implementing the work process during screening is that about 95% of the life cycle cost of a project is established upon completion of detailed engineering, and any changes that are required after the design is finalized will impact schedule and cost.

The key aspects of the work process are:

Many people believe that by focusing on reliability, project cost will escalate.  That is not necessarily true.  Additional engineering effort will be required in most cases, but the overall life cycle cost will be reduced, resulting in improved profitability.  As an example of success, a grassroots refinery consciously made an additional capital investment of 5 to 10% for improved reliability and better maintainability.  The results over a 15-year period were an average reduction of 36% in maintenance cost and a 29% reduction in unplanned downtime.  Other examples available show that additional upfront engineering effort results in higher plant reliability and lower maintenance cost.  The project front-end loading (FEL) process being implemented by many companies also necessitates the need to work R&M early in a project.

If you are interested, here is how Carmagen Engineering can help: