One of the most important planned events for any onshore or offshore facility is when production and operation are halted completely. This process, known as a turnaround, shutdown or outage, is a major exercise in scheduling and organization, often planned up to a year in advance. It is during this period that operators conduct regular and necessary maintenance, modifications and servicing that is not possible while the facility is online and operational.

The highly volatile process of oil and gas extraction and petrochemical refining means that safety takes precedence and staffing numbers are strictly controlled. The facility shutdown and evacuation of all potentially hazardous materials allows operators to fully focus on their planned projects and complete them in one concentrated period of time.

 

Manpower Makes the Difference

Senior Construction Manager for GIS, Steve Westcott has been on secondment with BP for more than a decade. A turnaround specialist, Steve is very aware of the prior planning that is vital for a shutdown’s success:

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“Here in the Gulf of Mexico, there are facilities of all ages from newly commissioned platforms to facilities that are hitting their third decade of operation. Turnarounds are crucial for the continued performance and safety of the site. Some minor repair projects, providing they fall into the safety parameters stated by the regulatory authorities, are conducted while the facility is operational. But the more dangerous, intricate and major upgrades need to be prearranged and scheduled during a turnaround.”

Logistics and scheduling of turnarounds are intense, especially offshore where accommodating additional workers is a constraint.

 

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Steve continues:

 

“The hazardous nature of the oil and gases extracted and stored on site is not the only limiting factor, the fundamental difference are personnel numbers. The extra requirement of people needed to execute the work in an offshore facility is the biggest constraint. It’s tied to the number of beds that are available. When additional specialist staff are essential to complete the work, it is impractical to ferry them to and from the facility and shore.”

But for every problem, turnaround specialists like Steve engineer a solution.

“For a major event we use what is known as a ‘flotel’ – a floating hotel,” he says. “When you’re conducting a turnaround, you have two full shifts working round the clock to complete projects in the shortest, scheduled time.”

 

Time Is of the Essence

And it is this key point, the scheduled time, that is most important of all for turnarounds. Should a planned shutdown of, say, thirty days go over time, even by one day, the impact can be significant. This deferred production can have a negative bearing on a company’s planned cash flow.

It is therefore an unprecedented fact that turnarounds must stay on schedule to remain on budget. But what are the factors that determine the success of an on-time turnaround?

 

Data Driving Predictability

 

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Steve believes that accurate, prior planning contributes to the delivery of a positive result. Accuracy of timeline estimates is something the sector does well.

 

“There are many elements that make a significant impact on turnaround schedules,” he says. “Once the finalized scopes are agreed, an estimated time for each job can be calculated. Those who calculate the length of time it will take to complete each task are very good at it. So, it’s not the accuracy of estimation that is the issue.”

 

What is the issue, Steve says, is the intricacy and complexity in information management. The logistics of getting essential components offshore can be problematic and lead to delays.

 

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He goes on:

 

“Completed work packs for each scope have an itemized and detailed material list and the management and tracking of these materials is crucial. Delays and budget overruns are a given, should a vital piece of equipment be missing, especially when miles out at sea on offshore facilities.”

Technology, says Steve, is the key to future success:

"Several of the major energy sector organizations have embraced digital transformation of their practices and processes.”

 

Digital transformation, the conversion of manual and/or paper-based information management systems into digital format, streamlines communication, minimizes errors and – when cloud-based – ensures easy access to real-time turnaround status.

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Steve is a convert, and can speak first-hand to the benefits of digital turnarounds.

 

“I personally would not want to return to the ‘old ways’ of paper-based tracking and documentation,” he says. “It was slow and inaccurate. Efficiency and effectiveness was not consistent.”

 

When all stakeholders have access to accurate, up-to-date information, turnarounds become transparent processes. Steve says, “In our business, we strive for predictability. Using digital technology and specialist software helps us do that.”

 

Quality Scanning Gives Confidence

Digital turnarounds can take advantage of both software and hardware technology. Steve integrates laser scanning and dimensional control (DC) into his upgrades and maintenance.

“When we started using laser scanning combined with dimensional control for planning a refit or repair,” he explains, “suddenly our accuracy went to 100 percent.”

Flawless accuracy is difficult to contest. With digital tools, the headache, time and cost savings make turnarounds achievable to a higher standard.

 

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Steve continues:

 

“Superior quality data from the first stage of turnaround planning mitigates any massive errors later on in the process. We know that what we’ve measured will fit first time. This gives managers a huge amount of confidence.”

It’s clear that Steve’s well-vetted turnaround expertise would cast a critical eye on any new method. He lauds MODS digital tools for keeping his turnarounds predictable.

“I’ve used MODS software solutions during several major turnaround projects. The various products help with materials management, project visualization and all the way through to commissioning.”

These software solutions have revolutionized Steve’s approach to turnarounds.

“It is a faster and more accurate turnaround when using digital software, especially when it is all connected together.”

The benefits, he says, speak for themselves.

“There’s less data entry, less paperwork, everyone can view what’s going on from anywhere in the world, signoffs are must faster. And the crucial factor is that using digital software results in accurate, consistent data that drives predictability – and that is what is needed.”

 

 

Better Foresight

 

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Steve elaborates as to exactly what predictability means in turnarounds and why it’s so critical:

 

“And what I mean by predictability is that at every stage of the turnaround from planning, pre-TAR preparation, completing the scopes, all the way to commissioning, I don’t want any surprises.”

Surprises mean, for example, missing components or equipment that are needed offshore before sequential activities can continue. Digital materials management proactively avoid such bottlenecks.

“It is imperative that all the equipment and tools ready to go. By using barcodes and QR codes, you can scan and track where every single item is with material management software. And you can see, much further in advance, where any delays might be and adjust the schedule or find alternatives.”

 

Reaping the Rewards

Predictability. Accuracy. Confidence. These are all things that digital solutions bring to turnarounds.

 

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“When working a turnaround,” says Steve, “we want to know what’s going to happen and when. We want the security of knowing everything will fit and all the components are there – predictability. And this ability to have better foresight is invaluable and ultimately saves the Operators time and money.”

And this – saving an Operator time and money – is what converts turnarounds from a headache into a success.

But Steve is nothing if not pragmatic, it comes from being seasoned in his field.

“It would be naive to think that there are no surprises during the planning, preparation, and executional phase of a turnaround. Best practice ensures there’s a contingency plan incorporated into the schedule during the initial estimation phase.”

Digital tools can help identify potential problems in advance so that turnarounds are proactive instead of reactive.

“Digital software,” explains Steve, “without a doubt, shortens schedules, improves efficiency and communication, and gives clarity and confidence to all involved. Operators who have embraced digital technology have no doubt reaped the rewards.”

With the onboarding of technological tools, Steve says,

“Turnarounds become more predictable than ever before. Without specialized software, you cannot be certain that your turnaround will be on time and on budget. A data-driven turnaround is the future, the only way forward to ensure first time success and that schedules stay to plan.”

 

Ensure your Turnarounds success with MODS Connect.

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