Reliability Gap Assessment – A Critical Step to Improve Unit Reliability

Reliability Gap Assessment – A Critical Step to Improve Unit Reliability

Every Refinery whether small or big, isolated or a part of a larger group generally has practices to improve reliability of operations.  However, refineries who are known to be world class performers have well defined Reliability Management Systems (RMS) which focus on improving equipment reliability for piping, pressure vessels, rotating equipment, electrical distribution system, instrumentation and analyzers.  The RMS Standard often has programs to monitor equipment performance and integrity in a sustained manner.  The standards include process for corrosion prediction and control, Best Practices for Operating Envelopes, and metrics for Unit reliability performance.  These Standards drive Asset integrity decisions, machinery reliability practices, and equipment upgrades, and aim to maximize run lengths of critical Process Units. 

Leadership vision and commitment to reliability are essential prerequisites to achieve pacesetter performance.  A Comprehensive Gap assessment of Safe Operations / Maintenance practices, is required as the first step to achieve pacesetter performance.  The Assessments helps to truly identify the scope of incorporating technology opportunities, Best Practices, and leveraging these to make a refinery competitive.

The motivation for conducting a refinery wide Gap Assessment is often the result of poor reliability performance of Process Units, and /or a history of incidents requiring unplanned unit shutdowns which sometimes impact the surrounding community.  Becht Engineering has a Knowledge Based Gap Assessment Process which has been used in North American refineries.  The Becht Process utilizes a team of world class experts each having greater than 30 years’ experience in Refining Operations, Maintenance and Engineering with a broad range of expertize in equipment and process technologies.

For one major refinery, Becht’s team of experts evaluated 35 key elements covering Management Systems & Work Practices and Equipment Reliability & Integrity Programs.  The work plan was completed over 3 months and included in-office preparation and on-site work with refinery teams engaged in Operations and Maintenance.  The team identified Gaps (major deviations in practices from normal industry benchmarks and standards) and assessed their severity using a scalar system of “High”, “Medium”, “Low” and “None”.  Timeframes to implement actions for gap closure were recommended, including recommended action tasks for implementing Best Practices.  A snapshot of the Assessment Summary is shown in the Tables.

BechtBlog ReliabilityGapAnalysis Figure1

BechtBlog ReliabilityGapAnalysis Figure2

The Gap assessment also covers “Unplanned Outage Data & Analysis” for key process units.    This analysis is Consequence based for different types of impact (i.e.  business, safety, health and environment).  The pie chart illustrates the business impact due to unplanned shutdowns for major refinery’s key units (CDU, VDU, FCCU, and Hydrocracker) for the period 1980-2004.  This helped the refinery to focus on continuous improvement of equipment reliability.

BechtBlog ReliabilityGapAnalysis Figure3

A principal outcome from the Gap Assessment was the need to develop a Reliability Management Standard (RMS) for the refinery.  Becht Engineering worked with the Refinery Leadership to develop an RMS Standard which linked people, work processes and reliability technology.  Implementation of RMS is a multi-year program but immediate benefits have been gained with a significant reduction of unplanned incidents and helped the refinery to improve its Safety & Reliability performance.  RMS standards are needed to keep pace with technology advancements and ever changing industry best practices in the refining world. 

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About The Author

Radha's career has spanned over 45 years of worldwide involvement in the petroleum, chemicals and oil producing industries, including service with Shell Chemicals, Exxon Corporation and with ExxonMobil Corporation. At Exxon his R&D contributions included development of equipment technology for synthetic fuels (DOE) and the development/implementation of storage tank design and construction practices for atmospheric and low temperature services. His career has included a diverse range of technology assignments relating to capital projects, commissioning of new facilities, R&D, trouble-shooting, and incident investigation.

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