The Basics of Oil and Gas Maintenance

Oil and gas are critical industries. These utilities fuel modern society through transportation, heat, and electricity. In order to operate efficiently, save costs, improve safety in a hazardous field, and provide these essential resources, the industry must engage in effective maintenance strategies. 

In this article, we’ll explore the industry’s challenges, various maintenance strategies to improve operational efficiency and technologies that assist with those maintenance strategies. 

Risks and challenges of oil and gas maintenance

The oil and gas utility industry presents its own set of challenges when it comes to maintaining equipment performance and personnel safety. Effective oil and gas asset management strategies can help improve and mitigate some of these challenges. 

Harsh Operating Environments

Due to the hazardous nature of oil and gas, operations in this industry often take place in remote environments. These locations, sometimes offshore, are often prone to harsh conditions, extreme temperatures, weather challenges, and corrosive atmospheres. 

The conditions make maintenance and safety challenging and often require maintenance teams with specialized knowledge to execute tasks properly. 

Asset Complexity

The oil and gas industry has complex, large-scale assets. These include pipelines, drilling vehicles, refineries, storage facilities, and more. To keep up with the complexity of these assets, a well-organized maintenance strategy is required. 

Stringent Regulatory Requirements

Oil and gas is a heavily regulated industry. Maintenance teams must ensure they meet strict standards when planning and executing maintenance activities. With regular inspections and audits, this industry experiences a high level of scrutiny and must ensure proper documentation and record keeping to demonstrate compliance.

Safety Hazards

Due to the combustible and hazardous nature of the materials involved, oil and gas maintenance presents some safety concerns for personnel working in the field. Maintenance teams must take extra care and keep up with maintenance activities to improve safety. 

Asset Degradation Over Time

Many oil and gas facilities have been operating for years. Over time, infrastructure and equipment wear and deteriorate. A proactive approach to maintenance is needed to prevent or slow the effects of aging equipment or to know the best time to replace equipment to minimize production downtime. 

Financial Constraints

The volatility and constantly fluctuating prices within this industry put a financial strain on maintenance teams as they face budget constraints. Cost pressures can make it difficult to keep assets running in top condition. 

Importance of regular maintenance in the oil and gas industry

Regular maintenance is a necessity in the oil and gas industry. It contributes to the safety of workers in this field and keeps assets running efficiently. Organizations that use more sophisticated and nuanced maintenance strategies will see benefits including: 

  • Longer equipment lifespan
  • Lower risk of unexpected breakdowns and unplanned downtime
  • Fewer accidents and environmental hazards
  • Adherence to regulatory standards
  • Higher production efficiency
  • Culture of reliability and accountability among personnel
  • Smoother operations overall

Types of maintenance approaches used in the oil and gas industry

Maintenance strategies for oil and gas facilities may look different across companies. The type of strategy an organization uses is also very dependent on the equipment they deal with on a regular basis. 

Here are some common maintenance strategies the industry uses: 

Reactive

Reactive maintenance involves responding to maintenance concerns as they arise. When a piece of equipment breaks down, only then will a maintenance worker oversee and fix the problem. This approach is common on inessential equipment, when repair costs are low, or for old equipment.

Reactive maintenance is great as part of a maintenance strategy, but it doesn’t do well if not complemented by other strategies. Over time, only reacting to maintenance concerns as they arise is costly, dangerous in certain fields, and can inhibit production. 

Preventive (or preventative)

Preventive maintenance (PM) is a more proactive approach to tackling maintenance concerns. With this strategy, maintenance teams plan regularly scheduled maintenance tasks to keep assets running optimally for as long as possible. 

PM prevents equipment from breaking down and minimizes safety risks in fields like the oil and gas industry. 

Condition-based

Condition-based maintenance (CBM) falls under the preventive maintenance umbrella. It is an approach that involves monitoring critical assets to proactively address signs of failure. CBM aims to ensure maintenance teams can schedule maintenance tasks that will prevent failure before reactive maintenance is needed. 

Predictive 

Predictive maintenance (PdM) is another proactive approach to equipment maintenance. PdM uses software and sensors to track equipment performance and identify potential signs of impending failure. Maintenance teams can address these concerns through early detection and take action, if needed. 

Effect maintenance strategies in the oil and gas industry take a proactive approach and utilize a combination of these methods. Being proactive in a hazardous field is essential to improve safety and keep assets running in optimal condition. 

Benefits of preventive maintenance in the oil and gas industry

Preventive maintenance strategies, including condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance, are critical for safe and effective operations in the oil and gas industry. Plus, organizations reap several other benefits when using a proactive maintenance strategy. 

Reduced downtime

Proactively tackling maintenance tasks—like regular inspections and filter replacement—can prevent equipment failure, reducing unplanned downtime. It takes a lot less time to fix a leak, replace a filter, or swap a corroded part than it does to deal with the aftermath of a breakdown, particularly if that breakdown causes harm to workers. 

Improved safety

The number one priority for oil and gas companies should be personnel safety. There are strict regulations in place to enhance employee safety in this field. Preventive maintenance is one way to improve safety and adhere to compliance laws. 

Better productivity

With less downtime and fewer chances for accidents, productivity improves. With scheduled maintenance, machines can run longer before a breakdown. Plus, equipment runs more efficiently, allowing it to operate on time or ahead of schedule for important projects. 

Reduced costs

Waiting to fix an asset after it breaks down or dealing with potentially hazardous consequences of an unexpected breakdown is much more costly than running a proactive maintenance strategy. 

There may be some heavier costs upfront to ensure you have the personnel, technology, and resources to implement a preventive maintenance strategy. But in the long run it will be more cost-effective than constantly trying to keep up with repairs and breakdowns. 

Using technology for preventive and predictive maintenance

To get the most out of a preventive maintenance management strategy, oil and gas facilities should take advantage of technology designed specifically to improve asset management. These include: 

  • Internet of Things (IoT): IoT uses the internet and communication networks to share data between assets and management systems.
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): IIoT is the industrial application of IoT and involves using sensors and software to monitor asset performance and production.  
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): AI is constantly evolving and becoming a more prominent aspect of maintenance strategies. It can sort through large amounts of data and help determine downtime and part replacement schedules. It can also help improve current processes by making recommendations for scheduled maintenance.  
  • Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS): A CMMS is software programmed to help with almost every aspect of a maintenance strategy. It organizes work orders, centralizes maintenance processes, and provides quick communication between all team members. 

Improve your oil and gas maintenance strategy today!

Your operations are only as good as your maintenance plan. Ensure your organization has a strategy to improve maintenance costs, enhance employee safety, and help you exceed industry benchmarks. 

A CMMS can streamline maintenance processes for oil and gas operations. Contact us to learn more, or start a free trial today.

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