Maximum asset availability with minimal risk has long been the goal for oil and gas operations. However, achieving it has historically been more of an art than a science for many companies because they lacked a crucial component: insight into equipment performance metrics.

A shortage of operations and performance data is no longer the issue. Many operators are collecting an abundance of data as they create a digital oil field. Oil and gas producers are eager to take it to the next level and use data from their equipment, devices and systems as part of reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) programs to identify and programmatically and methodically address failures before they occur.

However, an RCM strategy isn’t simply about collecting data. Operators need to make sure they get the right data from the right sources. Moreover, they need to consistently monitor and perform analysis to create a continuous improvement approach to reliability maintenance. This approach will help workers track health and performance of systems and equipment, identify and address failures before they occur, reduce operational risks and ultimately achieve the desired business results.

The journey to proactive and predictive maintenance can be a bumpy road, especially when there are hundreds of thousands of devices in the field. Other challenges, like an aging workforce, security risks and decades-old equipment, only complicate matters further.

There are ways to simplify the effort. An effective, data-driven RCM strategy can help operators maximize equipment performance, minimize downtime and reduce safety, security and environmental risks.

Understand the installed base

Operations grow and evolve. As a result, there might not be a complete picture of all the devices and assets deployed across a company’s operations. That is why an analysis of installed equipment and systems is a critical first step. The output of this analysis is an inventory of all the operator’s equipment assets and devices, maintenance practices and failure modes. An evaluation of the installed base will identify what specific technologies are in place and identify the status of each of these technologies as current, legacy or obsolete. In addition, it can help determine the condition of critical assets and devices.

It is important to remember that analyzing the installed base can take several months to complete, especially when equipment spans multiple oilfield sites and fields. Support providers, like Rockwell Automation, have deep industry expertise and can complete an analysis across multiple sites in mere weeks.

Get the right data

The identification of equipment failures and common failure modes from existing work order data is a key outcome of the installed-base analysis. It gets to the heart of the RCM strategy: learning from past failures to help predict future failures. Combined with ongoing condition-based monitoring of assets, the strategy will allow for proactively addressing failing assets rather than reactively responding to failures.

The proliferation of Industrial Internet of Things devices in oil and gas, from sensors to smart machines, allows users to automate data collection from virtually any point in their process. A unified network architecture, built on technology like EtherNet/IP, can help avoid “islands” of information. Moreover, it can give workers real-time access to that information from anywhere at any time. Finally, analytics software can combine real-time performance data and historical maintenance data into useful, contextualized information for workers.

Many technologies and services are available to help manage information and support onsite staff. Service providers, such as Rockwell Automation, offer ways to automate data collection processes to collect identity and health data from networked devices. Data are then modeled with assetmanagement information to trigger events and send alerts for proactive maintenance. Remote monitoring services also can watch dispersed assets from a central location, alert personnel of issues as they happen and even walk them through solutions.

Tackle top challenges

With failure-mode findings in hand, real-time production information accessible and industry experts from a third-party service provider available, building an RCM strategy can be simple.

The first step is to identify priority equipment and systems to monitor and examine performance. Installed-base analysis findings will help pinpoint which assets are most critical. The second step is to build improvement plans into the road map. A successful RCM program will determine which failure modes and conditions to monitor and then identify what oil and gas analytics are applied to each asset. An outline is developed of the actions that workers will need to take to correct issues before they lead to failures.

Proactive approaches already in use

One major oil and gas company’s business unit needed to centralize information gathering and monitor its control assets across rural California. It also needed a master inventory of all devices on its oilfield process control network to comply with a new, companywide cybersecurity policy.

The business unit chose a diagnostic reliability solution from Rockwell Automation. The software-as-a-service technology identifies, interrogates and monitors control hardware. The managed service team also reports on network anomalies to help manage security risks.

The move to proactive maintenance has helped the business unit yield more barrels of oil per day and lower its labor costs in the field. The solution also helped the business unit comply with the company’s cybersecurity policies.

Through integrated, automated device identification and tracking, companies using the diagnostic reliability service can realize approximately 70% reduction in manual data collection time.

A smarter maintenance strategy

Most failure modes in oil and gas operations are reoccurring. However, even the most disciplined calendar-based preventative maintenance programs will not perfectly resolve these issues. Unexpected downtime can still occur. Traditional time-based maintenance typically creates additional costs and work and does not necessarily identify the root cause of the failure mode. Service providers can help implement an RCM strategy to provide an understanding of the health and performance of an operation and assets, so the team can focus on production issues that improve performance rather than reacting to unplanned events.