May 2017

Columns

Editorial Comment: Maintenance—a value-added expense

This issue of Hydrocarbon Processing tackles one of the most integral aspects of the downstream industry (or any industry, for that matter): maintenance and reliability. These two terms go hand-in-hand and help to ensure efficient and safe operations.

Nichols, Lee, Hydrocarbon Processing Staff

This issue of Hydrocarbon Processing tackles one of the most integral aspects of the downstream industry (or any industry, for that matter): maintenance and reliability. These two terms go hand-in-hand and help to ensure efficient and safe operations. Since maintenance and reliability are crucial to facility operations, operators dedicate a sizable portion of their budgets for maintenance activities. However, we have seen maintenance activities delayed due to the drop in oil prices over the past two years. Many refiners around the world held off, or delayed, scheduled maintenance/turnarounds to take advantage of high margins.

In 2017, the editors of Hydrocarbon Processing forecast that the hydrocarbon processing industry’s capital, maintenance and operating budgets will exceed $321 B. Nearly $70 B is expected to be spent on maintenance activities (TABLE 1). This forecast for maintenance spending represents nearly 22% of the total spending projected for the downstream industry in 2017.

Maintenance expenditures are a proactive and necessary expense. As one of the key components in maintaining a facility’s efficiency and maximizing profits, routine maintenance programs and the accompanying expenditures monitor equipment health to identify potential problems, proactively correct any issues before a failure occurs and allow processing units to run at top condition.

The budget allotted for facility and unit maintenance, equipment and materials is crucial to maintain reliable, efficient and profitable operations, as well as to extend the lifetime of vital and often expensive equipment. Maintenance procedures and programs are not only vital to crucial pieces of equipment, but also to the safety of refinery and plant personnel.

While set-schedule equipment maintenance is an accepted industry practice to preserve uptime and reduce costs, many refining and petrochemical facilities are transitioning from preventive to predictive maintenance. With the digitalization of the plant, sensors on equipment can notify plant personnel in advance of needed maintenance. Different companies have developed—and are perfecting—multiple tools and resources to aide plant personnel in all facets of operations. These resources are ensuring the move to better, more efficient maintenance programs, actionable items and operations.

Improving reliability and equipment conditioning is beneficial to any organization. Maintenance programs should not be viewed as a “cost of doing business,” but rather as value-added service to ensure the optimal use of equipment. These topics are the focus of this month’s issue of Hydrocarbon Processing. The Special Focus section consists of five technical articles exploring innovative methods and programs to keep facilities operating at optimal performance. HP

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