INCREASINGLY competitive global markets and stringent regulations require UK chemical companies to make continued strides in terms of plant efficiency, availability and safety. Plant maintenance strategies, which impact all three of these aspects, present an opportunity to make improvements. In this regard, predictive intelligence is key.
Within chemical processing environments, equipment is under high stress due to continuous operation with aggressive substances, and high temperatures and pressure. This places greater demands on plant maintenance teams, who are required to implement strategies that reduce downtime, extend periods between services, and lower maintenance costs – often with fewer resources. Typically, chemical plants suffer 5–7% unplanned downtime losses due to poor maintenance practices. Optimised reliability practices, such as increased condition monitoring and analysis-based maintenance activities, help to increase efficiency and drive down costs. Unsurprisingly, reliable operations are also safer than unreliable operations, with safety incidents far more likely to occur when equipment is in a transient period, such as during startup, shutdown or an abnormal event.
Condition monitoring of a greater number of important assets is preventing unexpected downtime and increasing production availability and performance. Predictive intelligence is vital to increasing availability and improving the reliability of assets. For major production assets such as turbomachinery, regulations and plant insurance require American Petroleum Institute (API)-certified shutdown systems to bring them to a safe point should an issue occur. Increasingly these systems feature embedded predictive intelligence (which helps to simplify implementation) for advanced warning of developing problems. This leads to increased availability, safety, and reliability of operations.