In the Oil & Gas sector, any shutdown of a process facility is a highly undesirable event. Below we set out some best practices and technologies to ensure that countermeasures are effective.Attention to safety is a key factor in the Oil & Gas sector, where the nature of the processes and tasks involved requires extraordinary precautions to be taken. For sector stakeholders, it is crucial to maximize operational efficiency and safety while reducing risks, protecting the environment and corporate assets, and complying with regulations. Downtimes, breakdowns and shutdowns are one of the main sources of hazards and financial losses at process facilities. However, a few overall general strategies can help to avoid or minimize such events. Let's look at them together briefly.
1. Access to real-time data. Latest-generation IT and HMI/Scada platforms can handle real-time data even in web architectures, distributed via standard connectivity from any access point. This makes it possible to connect the various sections of a process facility or pipeline, transport system, measurement or accounting system, refinery or off-shore platform.
2. Remote control. Revamping, maintenance, process facility management and data collection operations mean optimizing processes via remote control and other monitoring tools, in a Web 4.0 system. The roots of such a vision are firmly entrenched in the promising IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technology market.
3. Edge Computing. Edge computing is a cloud-based IT service environment, managing information on the edge of the network, where the data are produced. This enables Edge technology to be used in distributed environments typical of the Oil & Gas sector, at installations and at the sources of data, thus reducing delays and transforming management models.
4. Control, safety and diagnostics systems. In order to maximize efficiency, reliability and safety, extraction systems, oil pipelines and gas process facilities in general are becoming increasingly integrated. This involves using connectivity and control systems in compliance with the strict regulations governing the sector and supported by powerful diagnostic and supervisory tools.
5. Updating or replacing obsolete systems. Failures and downtimes of obsolete systems affect order delivery times and lead to unbudgeted additional costs. It is therefore crucial to check the wear on electronic components in the system by defining availability/repairability/replacement for obsolete components, drawing up revamping plans and installing performance detection sensors.
6. Predictive maintenance. Oil & Gas work is generally carried out in critical environments using complex KPIs. Intelligent use of data and predictive maintenance employing mathematical models to identify faults in advance offers better overviews of the status of process equipment, reducing downtimes and unplanned interventions.
7. Inverters and speed variators. Obsolete, old or damaged electric motors can be highly inefficient, compromising the performance of the system, even leading to shutdowns. Installing inverters, speed variators and specific, high-efficiency soft starts help to improve motor performance and durability.
8. Safe design. Designing process facilities in compliance with the IEC 61511 standard is the correct approach to deal effectively with Oil & Gas-related safety and reliability issues. This makes it essential to draw up a comprehensive risk analysis policy that will include configuring, installing and commissioning of the SIS (Safety Instrumented System), allocating SIFs (Safety Instrumented Function) to protection levels and determining the corresponding SILs (Safety Integrity Levels).
9. Training. The drivers of transformation, even in the crude oil sector, can be found in the technological evolution and in the staff training required, involving sensors, remote control, software and condition monitoring. Training must also preserve and pass on best practices and guidelines arising from the experience handed down by users, builders, maintenance engineers and engineering companies. For example, in the functional safety area, GM International offers courses compliant with the FSE (Functional Safety Engineering) certification scheme adopted by TÜV Rheinland for safety instrumented systems (SIS) according to IEC 61508/61511 standards.
10. Security. The Oil & Gas sector is a particularly attractive target for cyber criminals. There are many different access points that could be used to attack critical infrastructures and many targets where tampering could lead to large-scale disasters. Oil & Gas companies have to carry out massive information gathering and security-by-design operations to prevent and minimize the impact of cyber attacks.